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Human Nature

Stuart Hampshire, 25 October 1979

Beast and Man 
by Mary Midgley.
Harvester, 396 pp., £7.50
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... King Solomon’s Ring with the immensely influential On Aggression. Then came The Naked Ape (Desmond Morris) and The Territorial Imperative (Robert Ardrey), which made the idea of aggression in defence of territory a household phrase as the name of an instinct which men, like other mammals, are presumed to possess, and which promised to explain ...

Cleaning up

Simon Schaffer, 1 July 1982

Explaining the Unexplained: Mysteries of the Paranormal 
by Hans Eysenck and Carl Sargent.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £9.95, April 1982, 0 297 78068 9
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Appearances of the Dead: A Cultural History of Ghosts 
by R.C. Finucane.
Junction, 292 pp., £13.50, May 1982, 0 86245 043 8
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Hauntings and Apparitions 
by Andrew Mackenzie.
Heinemann, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 44051 5
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Beyond the Body: An Investigation of Out-of-the-Body Experiences 
by Susan Blackmore.
Heinemann, 270 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 0 434 07470 5
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... not a safe one. Eysenck’s initial interest in hypnotism and astrology matches that of his friend Desmond Furneaux, another ex-physicist, who experimented in amateur hypnotism while fire-watching in 1942. Since then, Eysenck’s concerns have changed but his methodology has not. His programme in psychology has been dominated by the use of the same techniques ...

Football Mad

Martin Amis, 3 December 1981

The Soccer Tribe 
by Desmond Morris.
Cape, 320 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 9780224019354
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... more thoughtful, more bookish. Under no circumstances, however, should the Boss be left alone with Desmond Morris’s new work: he would almost certainly go mad, or else simply die of inanition. In The Soccer Tribe Morris maps out the connection between ‘ancient blood sports’ and ‘the modern ball ...

Sex is best when you lose your head

James Meek, 16 November 2000

Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition and Sexual Conflict 
by Tim Birkhead.
Faber, 272 pp., £9.99, May 2000, 0 571 19360 9
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... In 1853 the Reverend Frederick Morris, an opponent of Charles Darwin’s and a man with a Victorian sense of propriety, urged his parishioners to emulate the fidelity of a small bird called the dunnock. Be thou like the dunnock, he told them – the female and the male impeccably faithful to each other. What would the Rev ...

Comet Mania

Simon Schaffer, 19 February 1981

The comet is coming! 
by Nigel Calder.
BBC, 160 pp., £8.75, November 1980, 0 563 17859 0
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... science. Magnus Pyke and Patrick Moore stay very close to the professional end of this division; Desmond Morris seems to be crossing over; and from Nigel Calder’s evidence the most recent effort by Fred Hoyle seems destined to be seen in the same way. Why? After all, as Calder explains, the work of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe is perfectly ...

Keep Calm

Rosemary Hill: Desperate Housewives, 24 May 2007

Can Any Mother Help Me? Fifty Years of Friendship through a Secret Magazine 
by Jenna Bailey.
Faber, 330 pp., £16.99, March 2007, 978 0 571 23313 7
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... was the only one to take any explicit interest in feminism. Her Descent of Woman, a riposte to Desmond Morris and other ‘male-centred’ evolutionists, appeared in 1972. If the CCC felt any envy (or approval) of the greater opportunities available to their daughters none of them mentioned it, though Cornelia was disappointed to discover that despite ...

Incidence of Incest

Edmund Leach, 19 February 1981

The Red Lamp of Incest: A Study in the Origins of Mind and Society 
by Robin Fox.
Hutchinson, 271 pp., £7.95, January 1981, 0 09 144080 7
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Betrayal of Innocence: Incest and its Devastation 
by Susan Forward and Craig Buck.
Penguin, 154 pp., £1.95, February 1981, 0 14 022287 1
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... between journalism and serious human ethology. These authors include Konrad Lorenz, Robert Ardrey, Desmond Morris and E.O. Wilson. The present work is dedicated to the memory of Robert Ardrey, so the reader should know what to expect. The radical difference between social anthropology and the kind of thing offered by Fox needs to be spelled out since Fox ...

The paper is white

Daniel Soar: Elif Batuman at College, 14 December 2017

The Idiot 
by Elif Batuman.
Cape, 425 pp., £16.99, June 2017, 978 1 910702 69 7
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... by not listening and just repeating what he’d already decided to say. But Selin sits there like Desmond Morris, noting the full choreography of arm-waving and face-making the human animal engages in in the vain hope of being understood. Her depression about the whole charade of communication grows when, needing money and not wanting to ask her parents ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... in the sales, and seemed never to acquire a handbag: acquaintances remember a trusty William Morris carrier, and she took a spongebag, Hermione Lee reports, to the Booker dinner. In her letters she uses the dotty-lady schtick for two main purposes. It’s there to entertain and mollify her daughters, on whom she depended for all sorts of ...

Decrepit Lit

Lorna Scott Fox: David Lodge, 8 May 2008

Deaf Sentence 
by David Lodge.
Harvill Secker, 294 pp., £17.99, May 2008, 978 1 84655 167 3
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... background of impotence. On top of this, the narrator of Deaf Sentence, former head of linguistics Desmond Bates, still living in the unnamed Northern city of his university career, has been going deaf since his mid-forties, about twenty years before the book begins: a long time in which to feel daily more isolated, irrelevant, ‘foolish and ...

Doris and Me

Jenny Diski, 8 January 2015

... Foucault, Canetti, Martin D’Arcy, Derrida, the anti-psychiatrists, even the behaviourism of Desmond Morris and Konrad Lorenz were to different extents the background to the chat for some, while others, Doris among them, relied on a belief in their own grasp of the effects of heart and mind on individual or crowd behaviour. But at that time, of all ...

He shoots! He scores!

David Runciman: José Mourinho, 5 January 2006

Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner 
by Patrick Barclay.
Orion, 210 pp., £14.99, September 2005, 0 7528 7333 4
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... like schoolgirls fighting for an approving glance from their favourite teacher. Barclay turns to Desmond Morris to explain what is going on here, citing the Chelsea players’ body language as evidence that some profound human forces are at work – not just ‘respect’, not just ‘camaraderie’, but something like ‘love’. This may be ...


Theo Tait: Tom Wolfe’s Bloody Awful Novel, 6 January 2005

I am Charlotte Simmons 
by Tom Wolfe.
Cape, 676 pp., £20, November 2004, 0 224 07486 5
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... distillation of the obvious and the obviously false’ – as Martin Amis said of Desmond ‘the Naked Ape’ Morris – are rammed home with the trademark Wolfe intensifiers: caps, italics, exclamation marks. All the while, the reader has the bullied sense that This Is How It Is, because Wolfe has done the ...

Cronyism and Clientelism

Peter Geoghegan, 5 November 2020

... bias’ in overruling planning inspectors and the local council to approve Richard Desmond’s Westferry Printworks development – 24 hours before the introduction of hefty new levies that would have cost the Conservative donor an estimated £45 million. A few weeks earlier, Desmond, the former owner of the ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... it was (English) national rather than merely metropolitan – imbued with the spirit of William Morris, enthusiastic for the new idea of a decentralising, anti-statist, bottom-up Guild Socialism. Ironically, various New Age luminaries, notably G.D.H. Cole, became some of the Statesman’s most prolific and influential contributors. Indeed the New Age, with ...

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