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Muted Ragu Tones

Michael Hofmann: David Szalay, 21 April 2016

All That Man Is 
by David Szalay.
Cape, 437 pp., £14.99, April 2016, 978 0 224 09976 9
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... two days. Then I bought and read in a similar manner – none took me any longer than two days – David Szalay’s three previous novels: London and the South-East (one of the great mocking titles, up there with Evelyn Waugh’s The Loved One, or Updike’s Memories of the Ford Administration), The Innocent and Spring. I want to say that here is a ...

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 ...

Goethe In Britain

Rosemary Ashton, 19 March 1981

Goethe’s Plays 
translated by Charles Passage.
Benn, 626 pp., £12.95, July 1980, 0 510 00087 8
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The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar 1775-1832 
by T.J. Reed.
Croom Helm, 271 pp., £14.95, November 1979, 0 85664 356 4
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Goethe on Art 
translated by John Gage.
Scolar, 251 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 85967 494 0
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The Younger Goethe and the Visual Arts 
by W.D. Robson-Scott.
Cambridge, 175 pp., £19.50, February 1981, 0 521 23321 6
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... attempts remained slavish. Paradoxically, then, German Classicism arose, abruptly, through a sturdy revolt against the unities in drama and against the tyranny of a foreign culture. In spite of these difficulties of definition, Reed offers a clear, finely written, dramatic account of the double peculiarity of the great age of German literature: the stony ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: 1920s v. 1980s, 17 March 1988

... have consistently displayed a capacity for division of counsel and confusion of purpose in which David Steel would have felt thoroughly at home at any time. ‘An ill-organised miscellany of view-points’ is how Paul Addison, in The Road to 1945, describes it from 1916 on. Or as Neville Chamberlain wrote in his diary for 19 October 1935, ‘our party is ...

Uncuddly

Christopher Tayler: Muriel Spark’s Essays, 25 September 2014

The Golden Fleece: Essays 
by Muriel Spark, edited by Penelope Jardine.
Carcanet, 226 pp., £16.99, March 2014, 978 1 84777 251 0
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... her look at all alike,’ Stephen Schiff wrote of Muriel Spark in 1993. ‘In one she may seem a sturdy English rose, in another a seductress staring down at her prey, in still another an intellectual prankster peeking wryly over her spectacles, and sometimes she looks merely square and oatmeal-faced, grinning wholesomely into too much flashbulb.’ It ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: It's a size thing, 19 September 1985

... his deathbed is wired for sound. A relief, then, to turn from all this deranged big-talk to some sturdy English self-effacement. John Haffenden is steadily becoming the closest we have to a domestic version of the Mansos and Grobels. He has already published a book of earnest conversations with a dozen or so poets and this month he gives it a ...

Diary

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 ...

Vindicated!

David Edgar: The Angry Brigade, 16 December 2004

The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... but Christie’s cheerful iconoclasm appears not only more durable but also morally more sturdy than the Leninism that it sought to supplant. If the Angry Brigade was a left heresy, it’s good to be reminded what the orthodoxy was. The shadow of the 1960s may turn out to be not so insubstantial after ...

What happened to Edward II?

David Carpenter: Impostors, 7 June 2007

The Perfect King: The Life of Edward III, Father of the British Nation 
by Ian Mortimer.
Pimlico, 536 pp., £8.99, April 2007, 978 1 84413 530 1
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... the Wars of the Roses. These views have not gone unchallenged. In the 1950s May McKisack wrote a sturdy defence of Edward (rightly praised by Mortimer). Then, in the 1980s and 1990s, in a series of books and articles based on extensive work in the record sources, Mark Ormrod argued vigorously that Edward had been a conscientious, ‘hands-on king’ who ...

You bet your life

Margaret Walters, 21 April 1988

Oscar and Lucinda 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 512 pp., £10.95, March 1988, 0 571 14812 3
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The Fifth Child 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 131 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 224 02553 8
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Eight Months on Ghazzah Street 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 299 pp., £11.95, April 1988, 0 670 82117 9
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... of the novel’s triumphs, a complex, difficult, convincingly intelligent woman. She has grown up sturdy and unconventional, with a confidence partly learned from a blue-stocking mother, a friend of George Eliot, and partly developed in her solitary childhood. Orphaned at 18, she sets out for Sydney, and uses half her parents’ fortune to buy a glass ...

Masses and Classes

Ferdinand Mount: Gladstone, 17 February 2005

The Mind of Gladstone: Religion, Homer and Politics 
by David Bebbington.
Oxford, 331 pp., £55, March 2004, 0 19 926765 0
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... the vapid tax-and-spend policies they had drifted into. Their new spokesmen – Vincent Cable, David Laws and Mark Oaten – are the first prominent Liberals since Jo Grimond who could seriously claim to be heirs of the Grand Old Man. Political commentators point out that parties make such shifts because otherwise they have little hope of getting ...

How good is it?

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Inside the KJB, 3 February 2011

The Holy Bible: King James Version, 1611 Text 
edited by Gordon Campbell.
Oxford, 1552 pp., £50, October 2010, 978 0 19 955760 8
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Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 
by Gordon Campbell.
Oxford, 354 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 19 955759 2
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The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today 
by David Norton.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 521 61688 1
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The King James Bible after 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic and Cultural Influences 
edited by Hannibal Hamlin and Norman Jones.
Cambridge, 364 pp., £25, December 2010, 978 0 521 76827 6
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Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language 
by David Crystal.
Oxford, 327 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 0 19 958585 4
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... impressive in its folio bulk, though not nearly as bulky as the originals of 1611, which needed a sturdy lectern to bear them, announcing their presence with a swagger equal to the most majestic of England’s medieval church buildings. Inside, Oxford University Press have thoughtfully provided a sticky-back presentation label, since most of these monuments ...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones, 6 December 1984

The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... his children in his own independent way, often on a yacht, all dressed in sailor suits, among his sturdy Suffolk seamen. Both grandfathers wrote very well about interesting subjects: they were learned, clever, efficient, schoolboyish, sportsmanlike. Tap might have been a hero for an H.G. Wells story, while Bertie belongs rather to Rider Haggard and Conan ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond, 15 October 1987

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... David Kohn opens his monumental Darwinian Heritage with a deftly-delivered kick, observing that a study of the wider institutional culture of Darwin’s day seems to be ‘beyond the present ken of historians of 19th-century biology’. It’s a well-aimed blow. Little of the Darwin industry’s capital has been spent on exploring evolution in its social context ...

Damnable Deficient

Colin Kidd: The American Revolution, 17 November 2005

1776: America and Britain at War 
by David McCullough.
Allen Lane, 386 pp., £25, June 2005, 0 7139 9863 6
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... Their resolve fortified by the sturdy civic virtue of Cato and Brutus, and their idea of republican self-government indebted to Greco-Roman models, the founders of American independence deferred to the authority of the ancients, even as they embarked on a revolutionary political experiment. George Washington, for example, identified himself with Cato of Utica, whom the 18th-century British knew best through the medium of Addison’s popular tragedy Cato (1713 ...

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