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Michael Howard

25 April 1991
Haig’s Command: A Reassessment 
by Denis Winter.
Viking, 362 pp., £18.99, February 1991, 0 670 80255 7
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... minded, on the one hand, and the most sophisticated, on the other, found very much to say for him. Their lukewarm defence was that he was probably the best of a bad bunch. With this judgment DenisWinter emphatically does not agree, and in Haig’s Command he launches the most devastating attack on Haig’s reputation since the publication of Lloyd George’s self-serving memoirs in the Thirties ...

Sweetie Pies

Jenny Diski

23 May 1996
Below the Parapet: The Biography of Denis​ Thatcher 
by Carol Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £16.99, April 1996, 0 00 255605 7
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... Denis Thatcher is entirely inventable – as John Wells understood: he comes in a flat pack with easy-to-follow instructions, all the components familiar general shapes, all parts from stock, no odd angles ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald

4 December 1986
‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis​ Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... with longing to write of that place before I forgot the spell that bound me to it.’ She was born, as Alice Taylor, at Castle Top on the edge of the Peak District, ‘a snow baby’, in the deep winter of 1884, ‘the cattle shut in their houses’ and the candles alight in the warm kitchen to welcome her. These memories became compulsive, as did the need to preserve them. In Ambush of Young Days ...

I shall be read

Denis​ Feeney: Ovid’s Revenge

17 August 2006
Ovid: The Poems of Exile: ‘Tristia’ and the ‘Black Sea Letters’ 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 451 pp., £12.95, March 2005, 0 520 24260 2
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Ovid: Epistulae ex Ponto, Book I 
translated and edited by Jan Felix Gaertner.
Oxford, 606 pp., £90, October 2005, 0 19 927721 4
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... exaggerated by Ovid, pointing to Constanta’s modern role as a resort and to the hyperbolically and conventionally grotesque language with which Ovid evokes a desolate landscape of unrelieved winter. Jan Felix Gaertner, in the introduction to his commentary on the first book of the second collection from exile, provides a full battery of sobering information to show that Ovid knew what he was ...

Le Grand Jacques

R.W. Johnson

9 October 1986
Jacques Doriot: Du Communisme au Fascisme 
by Jean-Paul Brunet.
Balland, Paris, 563 pp., August 1986, 2 7158 0561 6
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... and a man of anti-clerical views, his mother a devout Catholic who ensured that her son became an altar boy. Jacques, a tall, painfully thin boy, left school early to become a factory worker in St Denis, the most proletarian suburb of Paris. This perfectly ordinary career was changed for ever by his call-up in 1917. He fought heroically at the front – an experience which scarred his life – and ...
16 October 1980
George Grove 
by Percy Young.
Macmillan, 344 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 0 333 19602 3
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... The machine grinds on and on. The sixth edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians will come out next winter, all 20 volumes, 18,000 pages, 22,500 articles, 7,500 cross-references, over three thousand illustrations, over two thousand five hundred music-type examples – if the dust-cover of Percy Young’s ...

Gentlemen Travellers

Denis​ Donoghue

18 December 1986
Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... the state of Britain in our time. In the better old days, his grandmother dined at Stanwell House, Lymington, and ‘moored Fritz, her miniature dachshund, a neurotic dandy in his lime-green knitted winter coat, to the table leg with a round turn and two half-hitches, and bribed him with scraps to stop him warbling like an off-key flute’. But Fritz would not be welcome in the dining-room now. People ...

Seeing it all

Peter Clarke

12 October 1989
The Time of My life 
by Denis​ Healey.
Joseph, 512 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3114 2
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... gets on in the kailyard,’ employed an idiom with which the Army Council was soon to become familiar. When they asked Haldane what sort of an army he had in mind, his reply was: A Hegelian army.’ Denis Healey calls his six years at the Ministry of Defence in the Sixties ‘the most exhilarating period of my life’ and ‘the most rewarding of my political career’. These are, of course, relative ...
25 April 2002
... from the St Louis, rm 14 – or type it, rather, on the old machine, a portable, that I take when I migrate in ‘the run-up to Christmas’. Here I sit amidst the hubbub of the rue de Seine while a winter fly snores at a window-pane. Old existentialists, old beats, old punks sat here of old; some dedicated drunks still sing in the marketplace, and out the back there’s an old guy who knew Jack ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Thomas Girtin

22 August 2002
... spend the spring, summer and early autumn touring in search of scenery, and would take back what he drew and painted on the spot to use as the basis for studio work done (along with teaching) in the winter. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and had a number of loyal patrons. Among his pupils were women of means and influence. The major work of the last part of his life was a panorama of London – ...
7 February 1991
... docklands were still largely derelict, and few vehicles passed that way on a Sunday. So there was no problem for the reporters and television crews who blocked 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 ...

Making sense

Denis​ Donoghue

4 October 1984
A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... in Midwinter’ is a lovely nocturnal upon Saint Lucy’s Day. And ‘Vinland’, propelled by something of the force of Synge’s Riders to the Sea, ends where it has to end: They will say next winter At the fires ‘Leif Ericson went The fool’s voyage.’ A man will sing to a harp ‘Heroes Venture for more than bits of gold.’ An old woman will say To girls at candle time ‘It is that slut ...

In Le Havre

Andrew Saint: The rebuilding of France

6 February 2003
... single French loss of the Second World War. The transatlantic liners that once made Le Havre almost chic have gone, but the sea is still just about the only way to get there from London. On a moonlit winter evening, as the shore approaches, the town lays itself out beneath an electric halo, the Church of Saint-Joseph lifting its lighthouse-like campanile majestically behind. The ferry barges across the ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise

6 June 2013
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... coy on this subject, never telling us exactly how much she drank. She consumed plentiful quantities of whisky and ginger ale, ‘but she was never drunk,’ and she did not get through as much as Denis, who could more or less subsist on gin. She didn’t have hangovers and she didn’t get ill (she sometimes had toothache). Her skin continued to glow and her eye remained fierce. More striking than ...


Peter Clarke

6 July 1995
The Path to Power 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 656 pp., £24, June 1995, 0 00 255050 4
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... for the unwinnable constituency of Dartford in 1949. As usual, she made the most of her chances; she secured the nomination in the 1950 General Election, and in the process met and became engaged to Denis Thatcher, a man whose ‘views were no-nonsense Conservatism’. This was the making of Mrs Thatcher, not only literally, because it gave her the name under which she was to become famous, but ...

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