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In a Bookshop

Peter Campbell: Penguin by Illustrators

10 September 2009
... old Penguins scattered on the floor in front of the turbaned Indian and his boy on the New Penguin cover of The Mystic Masseur. The urge to decorate at least doesn’t die. Many of the Penguin covers DavidGentleman did, including those for the New Penguin Shakespeare, are wood engravings. The sharp, definite lines, a characteristic of the medium, suits their small scale. The style of some more recent ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays

19 August 2004
The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David​ Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... supplies, the biographers’ Marlowe is always liable to be defined by his death, if only because a sizeable proportion of the detailed evidence we have about him dates from May and June 1593. For David Riggs, coming to the subject of Marlowe after writing Ben Jonson: A Life (1989), the paucity of material must have been fairly dismaying. The long-lived Jonson went out of his way to make things easy ...
15 November 1984
... David Peterley’s Peterley Harvest was first published on 24 October 1960. The book had a curious history and, shortly before publication, stories began to appear in the press declaring it to be an ...
17 October 1985
Balfour: Intellectual Statesman 
by Ruddock Mackay.
Oxford, 388 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 212245 2
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Austen Chamberlain: Gentleman​ in Politics 
by David​ Dutton.
Ross Anderson Publications, 373 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86360 018 2
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... with a great number of his objectives. But that soon changed, and both Chamberlain and Balfour went on to recommend and support the madness of the Lords’ rejection of the Budget. Like Mr Mackay, David Dutton has lumbered his book with a subtitle: ‘Gentleman in Politics’. Austen Chamberlain was certainly in politics and probably a gentleman. But it is not clear whether ‘a gentleman in ...

Taking the hint

David​ Craig

5 January 1989
The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, 1822 
by John Prebble.
Collins, 399 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 00 215404 8
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... of HIS MAJESTY’S VISIT by an Old Citizen’, Scott dubbed a principal event of the visit (the dance at the Assembly Rooms in George Street) a ‘Highland Ball’ and warned all citizens that ‘no Gentleman is to be allowed to appear in any thing but the ancient Highland costume’ – ‘this noblest of all British costumes’. George himself turned up in a field-marshal’s coat and blue pantaloons ...
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, 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 ...

Squealing

Ian Buruma

13 May 1993
Gower: The Autobiography 
by David​ Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... David Gower was this year’s most popular victim, the English underdog, the handsome knight sacrificed by knaves. But good news is at hand: the hero has announced a brilliant season full of runs. In the ...

Sheep into Goats

Gabriele Annan

24 January 1980
The British Aristocracy 
by Mark Bence-Jones and Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd.
Constable, 259 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 09 461780 5
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The Astors 
by Virginia Cowles.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 9780297776246
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Barclay Fox’s Journal 
edited by R.L. Brett.
Bell and Hyman, 426 pp., £8.95, July 1980, 0 7135 1865 0
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... but there is something particularly absurd about aristocrats speaking of themselves as middle-class, as they frequently do these days.’ So Bence-Jones and Montgomery-Massingberd take the word ‘gentleman’ and make it mean ‘aristocratic’: their definitions define not so much what is as what they think ought to be. They begin by closing the gap between the terms ‘nobility’ and ‘gentry ...

The road is still open

David​ Wootton: Turpin Hero?

3 February 2005
Dick Turpin: The Myth of the English Highwayman 
by James Sharpe.
Profile, 258 pp., £8.99, January 2005, 1 86197 418 3
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... off this stage with as much intrepidity and unconcern, as if he had been taking horse to go on a journey’. This contemporary description indirectly acknowledges Turpin’s status as a self-defined gentleman (his father was a butcher), for gentlemen took horse, while the poor walked. For weeks, Turpin had been ‘eating, drinking and carousing’, ‘joking, drinking and telling stories’ with an ...

Disarming the English

David​ Wootton

21 July 1994
To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right 
by Joyce Lee Malcolm.
Harvard, 232 pp., £23.95, March 1994, 0 674 89306 9
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... to the Queen and could only be hunted under licence. Bows and arrows, guns and pistols must normally have been kept at home, but every man carried a knife with which to cut his food, and every gentleman a sword. Fights were common, but the law required you, if attacked, to retreat until your back was against the wall: only then could you kill with impunity. After 1604 one particular weapon was ...

Official Secrecy

Andrew Boyle

18 September 1980
The Frontiers of Secrecy 
by David​ Leigh.
Junction, 291 pp., £9.95, August 1980, 0 86245 002 0
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... I felt it essential to set down this short analysis of the undemocratic, virtually oligarchic cast of mind in Whitehall because, while it is implied throughout his absorbing and well-researched book, David Leigh has refrained from going into the historical origins of Whitehall’s almost pathological obsession with secrecy. A young investigative journalist, with a healthy distaste for oligarchy in a ...

The Pouncer

Julian Barnes

3 March 1983
The Mystery of Georges Simenon 
by Fenton Bresler.
Heinemann, 259 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 434 98033 1
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... I’ve been having these bad dreams about David Plante recently. Sometimes, I am slumped on the lavatory, glued there by gin and self-pity; sometimes, I am watching The Sound of Music on television and bawling shameful tears; sometimes, I am ...

Velvet Gentleman

Nick Richardson: Erik Satie

3 June 2015
A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie 
edited by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville.
Atlas, 224 pp., £17.50, June 2014, 978 1 900565 66 0
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... nothing at all’. He came into some money in 1895, and immediately blew almost all of it on seven identical chestnut-coloured corduroy suits with matching hats, acquiring the nickname of ‘velvet gentleman’ from his friends. A couple of months later he was broke again. In 1897 he managed to finish a piece, the sixth Gnossienne (from gnostic? Knossos?), a series of piano pieces he’d started in 1889 ...

Foxy

Peter Campbell

21 January 1988
Running with the fox 
by David​ Macdonald.
Unwin Hyman, 224 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 04 440084 5
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... long history: fancy persecutions were invented later. In 18th-century Germany fox-tossing was fashionable: ‘foxes were persuaded to run over narrow slings of webbing of which one end was held by a gentleman, the other by a lady. The “players” tossed the fox as it walked the tightrope – a good toss being up to twenty-four feet high. Augustus the Strong of Saxony was an enthusiastic fox-tosser and ...

Is it a crime?

P.N. Furbank

6 June 1985
Peterley Harvest: The Private Diary of David​ Peterley 
edited by Michael Holroyd.
Secker, 286 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 436 36715 7
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... Richard Pennington and offered to the world by him and his first publisher – in what spirit it is for us to examine – as the genuine diary, covering the years 1930 to 1939, of a certain David Peterley, scion of an ancient landed family. Peterley’s diary and other papers, so ran the Foreword by its ‘editor’ Richard Pennington, occupy a large red box in the McGill University Library ...

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