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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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... J’ai horreur de la foule, admitted Hippolyte Taine, author of the vastly influential and vastly hostile history of the French Revolution which appeared in stages during the 1870s and 1880s. Whether we translate foule as ‘crowd’ or ‘mob’ here, English moves the noun from the feminine to the neuter, losing in the process one significant element of the loathing to which Taine confessed ...

Unfathomable Craziness

Adam Phillips: When a body meets a body, 18 May 2000

Svengali’s Web: The Alien Enchanter in Modern Culture 
by Daniel Pick.
Yale, 284 pp., £19.95, May 2000, 0 300 08204 5
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... and psychologists have increasingly turned their attention. As a psychoanalyst and a historian, Daniel Pick is unusually well-qualified to have written this often intriguing book. The intricate complicity between symptoms and cures – and between what people are considered to be suffering from and what they claim to be suffering from – has made the ...

From bad to worse

Raymond Fancher, 8 March 1990

Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c.1848-c.1918 
by Daniel Pick.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £27.50, October 1989, 0 521 36021 8
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Health, Race and German Politics between National Unification and Nazism 1870-1945 
by Paul Weindling.
Cambridge, 641 pp., £55, October 1989, 0 521 36381 0
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... expressed particularly strongly, and some times and places truly worse to live in than others. Daniel Pick’s Faces of Degeneration shows how the general theme of human ‘degeneracy’ assumed particular prominence in European scientific, social and literary thought during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and Paul Weindling’s Health, Race ...

Stewing Waters

Tim Parks: Garibaldi, 21 July 2005

Rome or Death: The Obsessions of General Garibaldi 
by Daniel Pick.
Cape, 288 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 224 07179 3
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... of steps you have to climb to see anyone at all.’ Although it doesn’t mention Leopardi, Daniel Pick’s book is very much about such visits, the dreams Rome inspires and so often disappoints, the city’s place in Italy’s and indeed Europe’s collective psychology. Defeatist by vocation, Leopardi was not the man to do anything about the gap ...

Restless Daniel

John Mullan: Defoe, 20 July 2006

The Life of Daniel Defoe: A Critical Biography 
by John Richetti.
Blackwell, 406 pp., £50, December 2005, 0 631 19529 7
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A Political Biography of Daniel Defoe 
by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Pickering & Chatto, 277 pp., £60, January 2006, 1 85196 810 5
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... Writers do not always know what their best writings are. Daniel Defoe believed his magnum opus to be his huge, passionately political, intermittently philosophical poem in heroic couplets, Jure Divino (1706). Begun while he was imprisoned in Newgate, its 12 books assailed the doctrine of the divine right of monarchs from every angle he could imagine ...


Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... and would rather ‘interrogate connections’ than make causal claims. They have learned, as Daniel Pick writes, that ‘the relationship of economic conditions to cultural production, social action and literary form’ cannot ‘be assumed in advance’. Such connections must rather ‘be researched, case by case’. All this caution makes for a ...

Two Poems

Daniel Kane, 30 April 2009

... and ‘give it a shake’ in case it gets cancelled entirely. If the phone rings, I’ll pick it up on the first chirp – why wait for the second or the third? The desire to impress in this way is depressing. Now is the time to look out my window in case I miss the sparrow. II I talk on the phone to Julie, who wants to meet me tomorrow at ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: The Hitchens Principle, 21 March 2019

... was the misguidedness, stupidity and sometimes dangerousness of religious belief. Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens: over the previous few years each had published a bestselling book condemning religion, and they were all rather pleased with themselves. Dawkins’s The God Delusion alone, with its compelling argument that God ...

At The Hutton Enquiry

Daniel Soar: Hutton’s Big Top, 11 September 2003

... circumstances, and the right hand respects that – so long as the left hand does in the end pick up the pieces. And it will. Downing Street’s first-choice strategy for the outing of David Kelly – writing, semi-publicly, to the Intelligence and Security Committee to offer him as a witness – was vetoed by Ann Taylor MP, the Committee’s ...

Short Cuts

Daniel Soar: Terror Suspects, 8 May 2008

... for 16 August; no, 22 August; no, the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Back then, you could take your pick. But there was no question about the consequences. Flights were cancelled, carry-on allowances restricted and liquids banned; British Airways claimed they had lost £100 million in revenue; Ryanair threatened to sue the government over the security measures ...

Stuck in Sicily

Daniel Trilling, 5 May 2016

... make a living. F tells me to drive to a park on a nearby hillside and stop the car. We get out and pick our way through a patch of scrub until we reach a large rock that juts out from the hillside. At the base of the rock, in a natural cave, are mattresses, discarded clothes and a cooking pot. A half-eaten meal is still inside the pot. The inhabitants are out ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’, 26 May 2022

... Daniel​ Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, the writers and directors of Everything Everywhere All at Once, were worried, apparently, that Covid-related delays might result in their film arriving late for a party at which everyone was already talking about plural possible worlds. Recently it has felt almost impossible to go to the movies without having to engage with some multiverse or other, inhabited by Spider-Man, the Avengers or the Justice League ...

Reader, I married you

Alethea Hayter, 30 March 1989

Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett: The Courtship Correspondence 1845-1846 
edited by Daniel Karlin.
Oxford, 363 pp., £17.50, March 1989, 0 19 818547 2
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... it has diverted attention from the literary excellence of the letters in which it was revealed. As Daniel Karlin justly says in his introduction to this selection, ‘the letters themselves are more interesting than the tabloid version which has predominated from the first outbreak of gossip and which was fixed in the lurid colours of Rudolf Besier’s The ...


Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel, 20 April 2006

Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... to shore against her et cetera, even if neither of them knows what the words mean. The reader will pick them up, though Symmons Roberts takes care not to make too much rest on them in case the joke is missed. In a better world, all these patchwork pieces would be enough to make a book. But Symmons Roberts wants an audience, so there’s also a thriller-like ...

The Dark Horse Intimacy

Daniel Soar: Helen Simpson, 16 November 2000

Hey Yeah Right Get a Life 
by Helen Simpson.
Cape, 179 pp., £14.99, October 2000, 0 224 06082 1
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... George, a girl, appalled at her unstylish mother and the new baby, locks herself into her room to pick apart As You Like It for homework while writing decreasingly sensible drafts of a letter to the boy she admires, extravagantly using the Basildon Bond and stamping the envelopes, flouncing backwards and forwards to the mirror and into a luxurious bath that ...

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