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Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... liberties, Shakespeare ‘wanted art’, Sharpham, Day and Dekker were ‘all rogues’, Samuel Daniel was ‘a good honest man, but no poet’ – but more importantly it provides the rudiments of autobiography. In Drummond, as in everyone else, there is that uncertain reaction. He is awe-struck yet curiously disappointed. Jonson’s flamboyance is there ...

Voyage to Uchronia

Paul Delany, 29 August 1991

The Difference Engine 
by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling.
Gollancz, 384 pp., £7.99, July 1991, 9780575050730
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... Lords’ appointed for life: Lord Darwin, Lord Bentham, Lord Brunel and above all Lord Babbage. Charles Babbage really lived, of course (though not as a Lord), and really invented merit lordship, the computer, and many other improvements in mechanism. All one needs to accept, to set this novel going, is that Babbage’s genius should be properly recognised ...

Defoe or the Devil

Pat Rogers, 2 March 1989

The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe 
by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 210 pp., £20, February 1988, 0 300 04119 5
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The ‘Tatler’: Vols I-III 
edited by Donald Bond.
Oxford, 590 pp., £60, July 1987, 0 19 818614 2
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The ‘Spectator’: Vols I-V 
edited by Donald Bond.
Oxford, 512 pp., £55, October 1987, 9780198186106
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... reproachful, very English in its good-humoured and long-suffering manner, The Canonisation of Daniel Defoe is in more ways than one a caution. The cautionary tale it tells concerns the unplanned growth of the canon of Defoe’s works, which has sprawled from a hundred items to something like six times that figure in the last two ...

Contra Galton

Michael Neve, 5 March 1987

In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity 
by Daniel Kevles.
Penguin, 426 pp., £4.95, August 1986, 0 14 022698 2
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... and as then amplified in aggressive (or even more aggressive) ways in America, by figures like Charles Davenport, director, from 1904, of the Carnegie-funded Cold Spring Harbor research station on Long Island. The quality of the writing here resides precisely in the area that some historians of science have found wanting: its biographical speculations. In ...

In place of fairies

Simon Schaffer, 2 December 1982

Stolen Lightning: The Social Theory of Magic 
by Daniel O’Keefe.
Martin Robertson, 581 pp., £17.50, September 1982, 0 85520 486 9
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Scienze, Credenze Occulti, Livelli di Cultura 
edited by Paola Zambelli.
Leo Olschki, 562 pp., April 1982, 88 222 3069 8
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... Daniel O’Keefe’s massive survey of magic not only tells us ‘how to do it’ but gives us some policy recommendations too. His book reads like the transcript of a Royal Commission report on the occult. It is not easy reading, but the effort is worthwhile. His advice extends to such fields as politics, economics and war: this scope gives some clue both to the structure and to the theme of Stolen Lightning ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku, 4 April 2019

... who is ideally placed to traffic between the land of her birth and her adopted homeland, the way Charles Simic has done since the 1960s with Serbia (see his anthology of Serbian poetry, The Horse Has Six Legs, and his numerous single volumes of Lalic, Tadic, Ristovic, Salamun and many more). I wish her patience, talented originals, and many ...

Larks

Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... of the Magnet cast: for instance, we are asked to suppose that Frank Richards (his real name was Charles Hamilton, but Hughes affects not to know this), scouring Eton with a literary purpose in mind, came face to face with a boy called Anthony Eden and put him down on paper as Harry Wharton. (In fact, this isn’t too wide of the mark. ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... Most people know that Charles Babbage was a pioneer of the computer. This absorbing, though hagiographical, new life makes very clear how many other things he was as well: pure mathematician, economist, inventor, reformer of scientific institutions, craftsman, even salon host. But Anthony Hyman does not seek to displace the computers from centre-stage in Babbage’s life, and this seems correct ...

Welfare in America

William Plowden, 11 July 1991

American Social Welfare Policy: A Structural Approach 
by Howard Karger and David Stoesz.
Longman, 371 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 8013 0193 9
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America’s Misunderstood Welfare State 
by Theodore Marmor, Jerry Mashaw and Philip Harvey.
Basic Books, 268 pp., $22.95, October 1990, 9780465001224
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The American Prospect 
edited by Paul Starr and Robert Kuttner.
New Prospect, 168 pp., $31
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... actually made things worse. This thesis was popularised in the influential book Losing ground, by Charles Murray, published in 1984. Murray noted the inconclusive findings of social research. He pointed out that since 1965 generous rates of social security benefit had been available to workers and non-workers alike. He claimed that these benefits had ...
... was a reasonable expectation that she would find her place in Poets’ Corner, near the grave of Charles Dickens and the bust of Thackeray. Why has it taken a century to bring this about? In giving notice of her death her husband, John Walter Cross, who had married her in St George’s, Hanover Square, scarcely eight months before, alluded to her wish to be ...

The Ballad of Andy and Rebekah

Martin Hickman: The Phone Hackers, 17 July 2014

... focused on thirty individual cases, including those involving three cabinet ministers, Blunkett, Charles Clarke and John Prescott. Edis told the court that while their papers were busy hacking to find evidence of other people’s affairs – in January 2003 the Sun ran a story calling Andy Gilchrist, then leading the Fire Brigade Union in a series of strikes ...

Gorilla with Mobile Phone

Theo Tait: Michel Houellebecq, 9 February 2006

Houellebecq non autorisé: enquête sur un phénomène 
by Denis Demonpion.
Maren Sell, 377 pp., €20, August 2005, 2 35004 022 4
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The Possibility of an Island 
by Michel Houellebecq, translated by Gavin Bowd.
Weidenfeld, 345 pp., £12.99, November 2005, 0 297 85098 9
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... believed to be the hypocrisy of morality, sentiment, justice and pity. From this point of view, Charles Manson was not some monstrous aberration in the hippy movement, but its logical conclusion.’ ‘I’ve lived my life rather than his,’ Houellebecq’s father admits to Demonpion. ‘But I knew he was in good hands.’ Houellebecq always describes his ...

Thousands of Little White Blobs

Daniel Pick, 23 November 1989

The Crowd and the Mob: From Plato to Canetti 
by J.S. McClelland.
Unwin Hyman, 343 pp., £35, December 1988, 0 04 320188 1
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... on Hobson’s Imperial race. London, the heart of the Empire, as Hobson’s fellow new liberal, Charles Masterman, declared in The Condition of England (1909), was inhabited by that ‘homogeneous substance: the City Dweller’. This creature had strange crowd propensities which were a source of irresolvable mysteries and riddles. Moreover, ‘it is in the ...

Havens

Daniel Kevles, 17 August 1989

Thinking about science: Max Delbrück and the Origins of Molecular Biology 
by Ernst Peter Fischer and Carol Lipson.
Norton, 334 pp., £13.95, January 1989, 9780393025088
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Is science necessary? Essays on Science and Scientists 
by M.F. Perutz.
Barrie and Jenkins, 285 pp., £14.95, July 1989, 0 7126 2123 7
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... rarely figured in modern biological inquiry, at least not in its Anglo-American mode. To be sure, Charles Darwin – despite his protestations to the contrary – had strong theoretical inclinations, but he constantly tested and modified his ideas against an enormous array of observational data. Max Perutz, who was for many years the director of the Medical ...

In Paris

Peter Campbell: ‘The Delirious Museum’, 9 February 2006

... regal expansiveness of Paris if the Whitehall Palace that Inigo Jones and John Webb drew up for Charles I had been built. Then our prime minister might be living not in the modest decency of Downing Street but in something more like the Hôtel Matignon. Passing it and other grand houses given over to government use in the rue de Varenne you are struck by ...

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