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Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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Eothen 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... Bible into Chinese. (‘He boned up feverishly on Manchu,’ enthuses his other biographer, David Williams, in his schoolboyish way.) Borrow had to argue in Russian with the Tsar’s board of censors, hire and supervise ill-educated Estonian compositors to set up Mongolian print (which, he said, ‘differs little from the Mandchou’) and prepare ...

Vicarious Sages

Michael Mason, 3 November 1983

John Forster: A Literary Life 
by James Davies.
Leicester University Press, 318 pp., £25, June 1983, 0 7185 1164 6
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Mr George Eliot: A Biography of George Henry Lewes 
by David Williams.
Hodder, 288 pp., £12.95, June 1983, 0 340 25717 2
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Johnnie Cross 
by Terence de Vere White.
Gollancz, 153 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 575 03333 9
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... researched study) before the achievement of a controversial or intriguing statement about it. Mr Williams’s book is completely popular in its approach: with no index, no footnotes, no reading-list, masses of colloquialisms, and eye-catching, tendentious judgments at every turn. One reason for the difference is no doubt that, while it is technically true ...

Showman v. Shaman

David Edgar: Peter Brook, 12 November 1998

Threads of Time 
by Peter Brook.
Methuen, 241 pp., £17.99, May 1998, 0 413 69620 0
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... writing is recognisably clean, clear and colloquial, only occasionally falling into what David Hare calls ‘the Esperanto patter of the higher mysticism’. From the start, Brook avoids ‘personal relationships, indiscretions, indulgences, excesses, names of close friends, private angers, family adventures or debts of gratitude’, though there is ...

Shining Pink

Tam Dalyell, 23 May 1985

Death of a Rose-Grower: Who killed Hilda Murrell? 
by Graham Smith.
Cecil Woolf, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1985, 0 900821 76 0
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... and callous murder’ of Hilda Murrell, to use the words of Chief Detective Superintendent David Cole, are complex. So complex that, I am told, the Police have taken some forty thousand or more records, of which over fourteen thousand have been computerised. The death of the 78-year-old Shrewsbury rose-grower is, I understand, the subject of the ...

The Atheists’ Picnic

Julian Bell: Art and Its Origins, 10 June 2010

Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion 
by David Lewis-Williams.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £18.95, March 2010, 978 0 500 05164 1
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... pages of Conceiving God: The Cognitive Origin and Evolution of Religion, the archaeologist David Lewis-Williams examines the earliest records of symbolic behaviour. It is unlikely we will ever pinpoint just when the human habit of investing objects with significance took hold. But for the moment, until fresh ...
... of the manifesto that came to be known as the Limehouse Declaration. When Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and I met together that morning, we were clear in our intention: in breaking the mould of contemporary politics, we would create a new radical centre, push the Labour Party into third place, change the ...
The Socialist Agenda 
edited by David Lipsey.
Cape, 242 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 224 01886 8
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The Future of Socialism 
by Anthony Crosland.
Cape, 368 pp., £8.95, January 1981, 0 224 01888 4
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Politics is for people 
by Shirley Williams.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 230 pp., £8.50, April 1981, 0 7139 1423 8
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... the history of British socialism – into a kind of icon, ‘In The Future of Socialism,’ David Lipsey writes in the first substantial essay in the book, ‘Crosland had erected a towering castle. The rest of his life was devoted to defending it against all comers.’ There is an element of truth in that, but to the extent that it is true it points to ...

A Life of Its Own

Jonathan Coe, 24 February 1994

The Kenneth Williams Diaries 
edited by Russell Davies.
HarperCollins, 827 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 00 255023 7
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... Many people would say – there stands English comedy,’ David Frost is reported to have declaimed, as Frankie Howerd and Kenneth Williams stood side by side on his doorstep. Williams was unimpressed. ‘I thought to myself, “Then many people would be lacking in perception,” but shouted drunken goodbyes and reeled down the street into a taxi ...

Poisoned Words

Ian Williams, 5 May 1988

Indictment: Power and Politics In the Construction Industry 
by David Morrell.
Faber, 287 pp., £14.95, November 1987, 0 571 14985 5
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... builders of Chernobyl? For the Kariba North Bank power station, however, there is now a memorial-David Morrell’s Indictment. Mr Morrell is the chairman of Mitchell Construction, the original contractors for the KNB project, and his book breaks ground unturned since Samuel Smiles’s Lives of the Engineers. In his pages, Mitchell Construction, in ...

You’re only interested in Hitler, not me

Susan Pedersen: Shirley Williams, 19 December 2013

Shirley WilliamsThe Biography 
by Mark Peel.
Biteback, 461 pp., £25, September 2013, 978 1 84954 604 1
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... Mark Peel organises his serviceable authorised biography of Shirley Williams around an ostensible conundrum. Why didn’t Williams achieve more politically? Why did the polarising, hectoring Margaret Thatcher, rather than the consensus-seeking, appealing Williams, become Britain’s first woman prime minister? This is a common question ...

Crisis at Ettrick Bridge

William Rodgers, 12 October 1989

A Short History of the Liberal Party 1900-88 
by Chris Cook.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £9.95, August 1989, 0 333 44884 7
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Against Goliath 
by David Steel.
Weidenfeld, 318 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 9780297796787
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Labour’s Decline and the Social Democrats’ Fall 
by Geoffrey Lee Williams and Alan Lee Williams.
Macmillan, 203 pp., £29.50, July 1989, 0 333 46541 5
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Penhaligon 
by Annette Penhaligon.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7475 0501 2
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Citizens’ Britain: A Radical Agenda for the 1990s 
by Paddy Ashdown.
Fourth Estate, 159 pp., £5.95, September 1989, 1 872180 45 0
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... disgrace and departure, and then to a bitter contest for the succession with John Pardoe, gave David Steel an almost impossible task. He was 39, but looked younger, a slight figure with an easy smile, a son of the Scottish manse, neither obviously at home with scholars, like Grimond, or in London society, like Thorpe. ‘The boy ...

Cromwell’s Coven

John Sutherland, 4 June 1987

Witchcraft 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 390 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14823 9
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Without Falling 
by Leslie Dick.
Serpent’s Tail, 153 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 1 85242 005 7
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Outlaws 
by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 360 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 233 98110 1
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... in an eternity of vain research along endless shelves.’ Jump forward seventy years, and for David Lodge’s Pooteresque Adam Appleby, the BM is a cosy, quintessentially safe asylum. Adam’s working life there is a matter of daily comforting rituals, as when he cools his research-fevered brow on the downstairs men’s lavatory cistern. The BM shelters ...

Heavy Lifting

John Palattella: John Ashbery, 7 June 2001

Other Traditions 
by John Ashbery.
Harvard, 168 pp., £15.50, October 2000, 0 674 00315 2
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John Ashbery and American Poetry 
by David Herd.
Manchester, 245 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 7190 5597 0
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... have run down’. The surprise is that instead of lecturing on Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Gertrude Stein and Marianne Moore, all of whom he acknowledges as ‘major influences’, he discusses an eclectic group of 19th and 20th-century poets who for the most part have endured long periods of neglect: John ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s, 18 July 2013

Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... instalment, Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, covers the narrow gap from 1957 to 1959. David Kynaston tells the story in his own measured words, and he also tells it in the often loud and uninhibited words of others – authors, newspapers, diarists, eminent politicians, Mass Observation respondents. Man, it seems, is an indignant animal. Kynaston ...

Book Reviews

David Trotter, 24 January 1980

... There is a poignant moment in the recent New Left Books volume of interviews with Raymond Williams* when he is congratulated on the ‘combativity’ of his writings. Poignant because the neologism, however barbarous, answers to a real scarcity: the scarcity, in our cultural repertoire, of sustained polemical address: Not that our literary pages don’t witness occasional outbreaks of revenger’s tragedy ...

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