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Norman Hampson, 20 August 1992

DiderotA Critical Biography 
by P.N. Furbank.
Secker, 524 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 436 16853 7
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This is not a Story and Other Stories 
by Denis Diderot, translated by P.N. Furbank.
Missouri, 166 pp., £22, December 1991, 0 8262 0815 0
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DiderotPolitical Writings 
edited by John Hope Mason and Robert Wokler.
Cambridge, 225 pp., £30, May 1992, 0 521 36044 7
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... a time, a distinguished French Department in a well-known British university set a question on Diderot in its Final Examination. Owing to a couple of unfortunate misprints, his name appeared as ‘Piderst’. Understandably, it was not a popular question. But it did attract one answer, from a candidate who discussed the merits of Piderst with ...

Vibrations of Madame de V***

John Mullan: Malcolm Bradbury, 20 July 2000

To the Hermitage 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Picador, 498 pp., £16, May 2000, 0 330 37662 4
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... Denis Diderot, the hero of Malcolm Bradbury’s new novel, has one niche in the English language with ‘esprit de l’escalier’, his only entry in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations: ‘An untranslatable phrase, the meaning of which is that one only thinks on one’s way downstairs of the smart retort one might have made in the drawing room ...

The Irish Savant’s Problem

Julian Bell: Diderot on Blindness, 21 June 2012

Blindness and Enlightenment: An Essay 
by Kate Tunstall.
Continuum, 238 pp., £17.99, August 2011, 978 1 4411 1932 2
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... see that such ‘visual primacy was by no means without its complications’. And he refers us to Diderot’s Letter on the Blind for the Use of Those Who Can See, written in 1749. This Letter has now been translated for the first time in more than two centuries by Kate Tunstall, who accompanies it with a stylish and subtle interpretive essay. It was written ...

Handsome, Charming …

David A. Bell: Beaumarchais, 22 October 2009

Beaumarchais: A Biography 
by Maurice Lever, translated by Susan Emanuel.
Farrar, Straus, 411 pp., $26, May 2009, 978 0 374 11328 5
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... advocates’, as Burke called them, to the highest positions of power. Consider the case of Denis Diderot, born the son of a cutler in the small Burgundian town of Langres, who ended his days hobnobbing with some of France’s greatest aristocrats, not to mention his patron Catherine the Great (not to be confused with her Latvian predecessor). Or ...

English Words and French Authors

John Sturrock, 8 February 1990

A New History of French Literature 
edited by Denis Hollier.
Harvard, 1280 pp., £39.95, October 1989, 0 674 61565 4
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... let the title be a warning. But then there is not much sign that the general editor, Denis Hollier, has tried to keep his authors in check, or sent round a reminder that, as the publisher’s foreword squarely promises, this is a literary history directed at the ‘general reader’. The general reader of today will have to be a whole lot smarter ...

Lifting the Shadow

V.G. Kiernan, 15 April 1982

Death and the Enlightenment: Changing Attitudes to Death among Christians and Unbelievers in l8th-Century France 
by John McManners.
Oxford, 619 pp., £17.50, November 1981, 0 19 826440 2
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Mirrors of Mortality: Studies in the Social History of Death 
edited by Joachim Waley.
Europa, 252 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 905118 67 7
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... Englishmen were so remarkable. Even the word ‘suicide’ was coming into French from English. Diderot, one of the pioneers we hear most about, won increasing assent for his ideal of survival, not as a ‘soul’, but in the memories of fellow mortals, and this guerdon was being thought of now as earned, not by warlike glory and carnage, but by service to ...

Old Grove and New Grovers

Denis Arnold, 16 October 1980

George Grove 
by Percy Young.
Macmillan, 344 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 0 333 19602 3
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... combine philosophical articles of the kind Rousseau had contributed to the great Encyclopedia of Diderot and D’Alembert with a biographical dictionary of musicians was to create a new attitude to scholarship. Typically, it was more scientific than Germanic ‘style history’. Ambros and later Riemann, the next of the great music historians, had to create ...

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