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The Stansgate Tapes

John Turner, 8 December 1994

Years of Hope: Diaries, Papers and Letters, 1940-62 
by Tony Benn, edited by Ruth Winstone.
Hutchinson, 442 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 09 178534 0
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... politicians to serve present purposes by rearranging light and shade on the historical picture. Christopher Addison, for example, published an edited version of his war diaries in 1934, just as he was trying to cut a figure as a Labour frontbencher. The originals had recorded the private thoughts of a man who expected to be on the winning side after the ...

The Bart

Gabriele Annan, 10 December 1987

Broken Blood: The Rise and Fall of the Tennant Family 
by Simon Blow.
Faber, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 13374 6
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... my destiny?’ It sounds like another search for identity – ‘the curse of the age’, as E.S. Turner recently remarked à propos of Gloria Vanderbilt’s autobiography. Well, at least this isn’t an autobiography – though perhaps it would be more amusing if it were. The first half traces the Tennants back to their origins as subsistence farmers in ...

Phew!

E.S. Turner, 11 June 1992

Sunny Intervals and Showers: Our Changing Weather 
by David Benedictus.
Weidenfeld, 162 pp., £14.99, April 1992, 0 297 81154 1
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... be caused by the mass voiding of faeces by honey bees?). Other items have seemingly escaped from Christopher Logue’s ‘True Stories’ in Private Eye: not just the tale about the Smethwick housewife but the one about Mr Elephigio Chikwana, of Harare, a spiritual healer whose speciality is to hoe up the ground at the point where lightning strikes and ...

Thinking Persons

John Ellis, 14 May 1992

Addressing Frank Kermode: Essays in Criticism and Interpretation 
edited by Margaret Tudeau-Clayton and Martin Warner.
Macmillan, 218 pp., £40, July 1991, 9780333531372
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The Poverty of Structuralism: Literature and Structuralist Theory 
by Leonard Jackson.
Longman, 317 pp., £24, July 1991, 0 582 06697 2
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Inconvenient Fictions: Literature and the Limits of Theory 
by Bernard Harrison.
Yale, 293 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 300 05057 7
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Reading Minds: The Study of English in the Age of Cognitive Science 
by Mark Turner.
Princeton, 298 pp., £18.99, January 1992, 0 691 06897 6
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Mikhail Bakhtin: Creation of a Prosaics 
by Gary Saul Morson and Caryl Emerson.
Stanford, 530 pp., $49.50, December 1990, 0 8047 1821 0
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... Othello in Addressing Frank Kermode is a particularly bad case. The books by Jackson, Harrison and Turner exemplify in various ways the kinds of problems which occur in a field where theory is so distant from practical reality. Jackson’s starting-point is his conviction that modern literary theory is founded on the work of Marx, Saussure and Freud, and The ...

Lamb’s Tails

Christopher Driver, 19 June 1986

All Manners of Food: Eating and Taste in England and France from the Middle Ages to the Present 
by Stephen Mennell.
Blackwell, 380 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 631 13244 9
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Curye on Inglysch: English Culinary Manuscripts of the 14th Century including ‘The Forme of Cury’ 
edited by Constance Hieatt and Sharon Butler.
Oxford, for the Early English Text Society, 224 pp., £6.50, April 1985, 0 19 722409 1
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The English Cookbook 
by Victor Gordon.
Cape, 304 pp., £12.50, November 1985, 0 224 02300 4
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... centred upon food rather than sex. English diarists – Evelyn as well as Pepys, Thomas Turner as well as Parson Woodforde – confide their meals to paper as readily as their other concerns. One reason why Keats makes better reading than Shelley is that he had a superior gust for eating and drinking, and found a language for it in verse and ...

A Knife at the Throat

Christopher Tayler: Meticulously modelled, 3 March 2005

Saturday 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 280 pp., £17.99, February 2005, 0 224 07299 4
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... another, but his recent novels are more concerned with reconciliation. In Atonement (2001), Robbie Turner – a 1930s Cambridge English graduate who has decided that Eng. Lit. isn’t everything, ‘whatever Dr Leavis said in his lectures’ – plans to go to medical school. He imagines becoming someone who embodies the best of both traditions, literary and ...

Memoriousness

E.S. Turner, 15 September 1988

Memories of Times Past 
by Louis Heren.
Hamish Hamilton, 313 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 241 12427 1
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Chances: An Autobiography 
by Mervyn Jones.
Verso, 311 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 86091 167 5
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... for Nuclear Disarmament and, on the first Aldermaston march, ‘walked with Doirs Lessing, Christopher Logue and Kenneth Tynan’. Twice he was arrested and Vicky drew him as a convict in broad arrows. The year 1968 found him with the insurgents in the Sorbonne, but in Britain ‘few shared my enthusiasm for the students of Paris.’ In many ways he ...

Earls’ Sons

E.S. Turner, 20 October 1983

The Man who was Greenmantle: A Biography of Aubrey Herbert 
by Margaret FitzHerbert.
Murray, 250 pp., £15, September 1983, 0 7195 4067 4
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A Classic Connection 
by Michael Seth-Smith.
Secker, 184 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 436 44705 3
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... that biography was an invasion of privacy. Lord Kinross began work on a life just before he died; Christopher Sykes took over, but later withdrew for reasons unexplained. At this point Mrs FitzHerbert, finding time heavy on her hands in ‘Aubrey’s old stamping-ground, the Middle East’, volunteered to tackle the papers; and we must all be very glad that ...

Unmuscular Legs

E.S. Turner, 22 August 1996

The Dictionary of National Biography 1986-1990 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 607 pp., £50, June 1996, 0 19 865212 7
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... Waugh and Wells, remember where they are? (They are no trouble at all, handling Muggeridge, Christopher Sykes and Douglas Cleverdon with tact and perspicacity.) Alan Bennett still smoulders over the tabloid oafs who pursued Russell Harty. He disdains to specify ‘the gravestone vulgarity’ from which Harty ‘never entirely managed to break ...

The water-doctors vanish

E.S. Turner: The social history of British spas, 4 June 1998

British Spas from 1815 to the Present Day: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry and Leonard Cowie.
Athlone, 292 pp., £50, June 1997, 0 485 11502 6
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... the medical pretensions of spas or with the derisive accounts by visitors like Tobias Smollett and Christopher Anstey. They are sober accounts of planning, financing and building, of the labours of improvement commissioners; they offer analyses of population and of the proportion of masters to servants, along with statistics of ...

Aberdeen rocks

Jenny Turner: Stewart Home, 9 May 2002

69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess 
by Stewart Home.
Canongate, 182 pp., £9.99, March 2002, 9781841951829
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... In the current novel, there’s a sharp, unkind analysis of the contemporary English novelist Christopher Burns (‘shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel of the Year 1989’): We discussed the way in which the labour of unsuccessful writers, artists and musicians valorises the bestselling efforts of those who succeed. Burns had negotiated his way through ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... on the Clapham omnibus as readers devoured the Pitman’s Advanced Shorthand version published (as Christopher Matthew reminds us) that year. Jerome would surely have relished such a spectacle; or would he have felt, as the Almighty may have thought when the Bible was first rendered into Pitman’s, that the finer elements of the text must inevitably be lost ...

What’s It All About?

Tom Lubbock, 6 April 1995

Shark-Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the Nineties 
by Sarah Kent.
Zwemmer, 270 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 302 00648 6
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The Reviews that Caused the Rumpus, and Other Pieces 
by Brian Sewell.
Bloomsbury, 365 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1872 6
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... Last autumn, at the award ceremony of the 1994 Turner Prize, Charles Saatchi took the podium at the Tate Gallery. It was a very rare public appearance by Britain’s leading private collector of contemporary art. His words were awaited with interest. Since it opened to the public in 1985, the Saatchi collection in St John’s Wood has become a focus of what’s called the contemporary art debate ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... Montjoy. Marie Mountjoy, of Silver Street, near the Barbican, ran a business with her husband, Christopher, making ‘tires’, ornamental headwear fashionable among ladies at court (‘tires’ were elaborate compounds of wire, jewellery and false hair). Thanks to a lawsuit brought in 1612 by their son-in-law, Stephen Belott, over the non-payment of the ...

Utterly in Awe

Jenny Turner: Lynn Barber, 5 June 2014

A Curious Career 
by Lynn Barber.
Bloomsbury, 224 pp., £16.99, May 2014, 978 1 4088 3719 1
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... scenesters of all professions, the quick brown foxes who understand the game and like to play it: Christopher Hitchens, Michael Winner, Emin again and Jarvis Cocker, whom she wanted to impress so much when he came to her house, she hid the pot-pourri. But she’s a little nervous – though she pretends not to be – around the hedgehogs, such as Hilary ...

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