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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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... could do. In 1835, aged 32, he was in St Petersburg, arranging the printing of a translation of the English Bible into Chinese. (‘He boned up feverishly on Manchu,’ enthuses his other biographer, DavidWilliams, 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 ...

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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... locations, after rigor mortis has set in, of their own volition. The events surrounding the ‘brutal 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 ...

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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... delivered in Paris and Kyoto. The new book is a memoir and started out as it is. Brook’s autobiographical 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 ...

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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... it puts the presenting of a full range of information on a new subject (and this is a carefully 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 ...

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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... that the concepts ‘God’ and ‘man’ first arose? That seems to be the implication when, in the opening 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 ...
7 February 1991
... the bridge in the pale sunshine of a winter’s afternoon. This was 25 January 1981, and the launch 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 ...
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.’ What these two Titans of comedy ...
7 May 1981
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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... of the sort. On the contrary, they have managed to turn their mentor – perhaps the greatest iconoclast in 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 ...

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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... to a project set to tell the story of modern Britain (modern England as a rule) from 1945 to 1979; the present 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 ...

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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...  he reads habitually ‘in order to get started; a poetic jump-start for times when the batteries 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 ...

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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... of her grotesque humour, her mocking misery, she likened him to a black, lost soul, doomed to wander 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 ...
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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... the momentum that Grimond and Thorpe had given the Party. But the tangled web that led to Thorpe’s 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 ...

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 ...

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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... like Sellafield. Brunel’s statue adorns Paddington, but where and how would anyone commemorate the 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 ...

Fast Water off the Bow-Wave

Jeremy Harding: George Oppen

21 June 2018
21 Poems 
by George Oppen, edited by David​ B. Hobbs.
New Directions, 48 pp., £7.99, September 2017, 978 0 8112 2691 2
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... foundations of his later reputation as a radical elder who had done his best to ‘make it new’. It included a short, boisterous preface by Pound. Reviewing it for Poetry in 1934, William Carlos Williams called it a blueprint for ‘a new construction’, undertaken with an ‘irreducible minimum’ of means. The icy charm of those poems, 31 in all, one per page, along with their brevity and ...

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