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Tom Shippey, 22 February 1996

Alfred the Great 
by David Sturdy.
Constable, 268 pp., £18.95, November 1995, 0 09 474280 4
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King Alfred the Great 
by Alfred Smyth.
Oxford, 744 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 822989 5
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... of Ragnar Lothbrok’, in the other camp ‘lay a youth who carried in his bosom the Psalms of David’. And he it was who charged up the hill next morning ‘like a wild boar’, in the words of Asser’s De Rebus Gestis Alfredi, to destroy the Viking jarls. Edward Freeman said flatly that Alfred was ‘the most perfect character in history’, more ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The Spectator, 25 January 2001

... going to find someone sufficiently blond to be his successor at Doughty Street (from which sturdy address the organ Johnson currently oversees emerges each week). Blondness might be thought to matter to the Conservatives of south Oxfordshire: what better tonic for the blue-rinse brigade than to trade in Tarzan’s greying mane for Boris’s floppy fair ...

Highland Hearts

V.G. Kiernan, 20 December 1990

On the Crofters’ Trail: In Search of the Clearance Highlanders 
by David Craig.
Cape, 358 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 224 02750 6
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... stupefied or browbeaten look of an abandoned croft-house ... Here was Unnimore.’ Here, too, was David Craig, groping through a wilderness in Morvern in search of a long-abandoned hamlet; his treasure-trove the remains of eight little houses, their stones covered with ‘whiskery grey lichens’. A hundred pages on, our intrepid explorer is being driven ...

Back to Reality

David Edgar: Arthur Miller and the Oblong Blur, 18 March 2004

Arthur Miller: A Life 
by Martin Gottfried.
Faber, 484 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 571 21946 2
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... At a stretch, the metaphor could also stand for the conventional view of Miller’s career: a sturdy quartet of well-carpentered plays that caught the spirit of mid-century America, followed by a long, increasingly unfocused, foggy tail. Rejected in his own country, the one-time toast of Broadway has finally to rely for validation on the subsidised ...

At the Fondation Custodia

Julian Barnes: Wilhelm Eckersberg, 28 July 2016

... was preceded by Paris (1810-13), where he spent a year ‘beneath the eye’ of Jacques-Louis David. Here he received the full stamp of French neoclassicism. But David, whom Eckersberg described as a ‘very rigorous and precise teacher’, was also ‘against submission to one particular overall style’, and ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eleanor Birne: ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’, 12 September 2013

... C.R.W. Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer. Together they are the subject of David Boyd Haycock’s compelling group biography, A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (2009), and now also of an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (until 22 September). Gertler became obsessed with Carrington. Nash was in ...

Principal Ornament

José Harris, 3 December 1992

G.M. Trevelyan: A life in History 
by David Cannadine.
HarperCollins, 288 pp., £18, September 1992, 0 00 215872 8
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... and dominated popular understanding of the nations’s common past for more than half a century. David Cannadine’s characteristically spirited and combative study is more than just an intellectual biography: it is a work of piety, advocacy and passion. He uses the corpus of Trevelyan’s historical writings over fifty years – Wycliffe, Garibaldi, the ...

Sometimes a Cigar Is More Than a Cigar

David Nokes, 26 January 1995

The Invention of Pornography: Obscenity and the Origins of Modernity, 1500-1800 
edited by Lynn Hunt.
Zone, 411 pp., £24.25, August 1993, 9780942299687
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... was a cheap fuck. In one lampoon a patriotic prostitute offers to lower her prices for sturdy citizens: ‘Dix-huit sous, au lieu de vingt-quatre; c’est à quoi se réduit mon con national.’ The Invention of Pornography is a worthy and a scholarly book, though its sober feminist tone does rather have the effect of disinfecting the material it ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... writes his Guide to the Lakes (1835), which idealises the hill farmer as the type of the sturdy Englishman, neither drudge nor parasite. Ruskin is drawn by what he sees as the acme of terrestrial beauty and ensconces himself above Coniston Water as a grumpy sage. With Canon Rawnsley of Wray near Windermere, and following Wordsworth’s lead, he ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Inside Man’, ‘V for Vendetta’ , 11 May 2006

Inside Man 
directed by Spike Lee.
March 2006
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V for Vendetta 
directed by James McTeigue.
March 2006
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... When there’s blood on the streets, buy property.’ This sturdy piece of advice becomes a refrain in Spike Lee’s new movie, Inside Man, where it is ludicrously literalised by the attempt of a bin Laden nephew to purchase an apartment in Manhattan, and grimly moralised in the story of an American banker who made a fortune by trading with the Nazis, and indeed by trading on the suffering of the Jews ...

In Cardiff

Anne Wagner: David Nash, 15 August 2019

... The sculptor​ David Nash has lived and worked in Snowdonia for half a century, and the exhibition of his work currently on view at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff (until 1 September) is a tribute to his time in the region. Born in Surrey in 1945, he moved to the once flourishing slate-mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in 1967, the year he left Kingston School of Art ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... who took it in turns to look after them. In their ancestral country they were expected to become sturdy and sporty and to think British. Kipling, who was sent to a boarding-house and allowed to see his aunts only at Christmas, wrote the most harrowing account of such an exile in his story ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’. But many others, Richard Rhodes James for ...

Up and doing

Susan Brigden, 6 August 1992

Fire from Heaven: Life in an English Town in the 17th Century 
by David Underdown.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 00 215865 5
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... more extreme. The charitable impulses of Dorchester’s citizens were, at the same time, stirred. David Underdown has discovered in Dorchester an outpouring of philanthropy on an extraordinary scale, unrivalled in England. Here was a town of only 2500 inhabitants which gave, in the fight for Christ against Antichrist, £150 for the defence of their ...

All hail the microbe

Lavinia Greenlaw: Things Pile Up, 18 June 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
by David Farrier.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 00 828634 7
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... In​ Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, David Farrier reaches into the past in order to envisage the deep future. This can only ever be an extrapolation of the present – our knowledge, experience, language and ideas – but Farrier is relaxed about this. His focus is on the way life has been recorded in the substance of the world, the ways we can trace human impact and the ways we, in turn, might be traced in time to come ...


David Craig: Moore in Prato, 9 December 1999

... with a baby – the youngest victim, aged four weeks. To one side a huge granite plaque on sturdy alloy stanchions lists the names of all the known dead in raised metal letters, with a note that some of the vittimi could not be identified. The coming of spring is signalled by dark purple flowers under the trees. The spaces between the bare trunks have ...

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