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17 July 1980
Racism and Sexism in Children’s Books 
edited by Judith Stinton.
Writers and Readers, 147 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 906495 19 9
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Babies need books 
by Dorothy Butler.
Bodley Head, 190 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 9780370301518
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... not Literature at all.’ And children would not read it. After the illiberality of those who would no doubt consider themselves liberated, and their negative and destructive attitude towards books, DorothyButler’s Babies need books comes as marvellous relief. Her theme is that nobody is too young for books, that parents can create a close relationship with their babies from the start of their lives ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan

8 September 2011
Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... thing I’ve ever seen’. Macmillan wasn’t one of those not infrequent war heroes who in peacetime are mild and eager to please. He remained dauntless and daunting in politics. He despised Rab Butler for not having fought (he had a withered hand after a riding accident as a child), he sneered at Hugh Gaitskell for not having any medals to wear on Remembrance Day and he loathed Herbert Morrison ...
24 November 1988
Macmillan 1894-1956 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 537 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 27691 4
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... narrative power compiled from an impressive array of sources. Nevertheless the phrase ‘not a very good Tory’ clearly meant different things to biographer and subject. Macmillan’s rival, Rab Butler, chose a biographer from outside his own party, but his and Anthony Howard’s political outlooks may have been closer to each other than Mr Horne’s and Macmillan’s ‘not very good’ Toryisms ...

Grand Old Man

Robert Blake

1 May 1980
The Last Edwardian at No 10: An Impression of Harold Macmillan 
by George Hutchinson.
Quartet, 151 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7043 2232 3
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... There can be no doubt that Mr Macmillan, on his sick bed at King Edward’s Hospital for Officers and despite the aftermath of a major operation, was determined at almost all costs to prevent Mr R.A. Butler succeeding him. His illness would have given him every excuse to resign at once and proffer no advice to the Queen at all on such a matter. Constitutionally, he was not obliged to give it, and Bonar ...
8 September 1994
Early Modernism: Literature, Music and Painting in Europe 1900-1916 
by Christopher Butler.
Oxford, 318 pp., £27.50, April 1994, 0 19 811746 9
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... which coloured lights accompanied the music, with collage techniques taken from Picasso. It was an unprecedented achievement. In his exciting but frustrating book on early Modernism, Christopher Butler discusses the Delaunay-Cendrars work in some detail, with-in the context of simultaneism, but does not mention either Duncan Grant or Vanessa Bell at any point (although her husband Clive, a critic ...

Making them think

J.I.M. Stewart

18 September 1986
G.K. Chesterton 
by Michael Ffinch.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £16, June 1986, 0 297 78858 2
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... paradox must be the chief concern of any biography of Chesterton, for the expounding of it was the chief concern of his life.’ On the following page Mr Ffinch tells of being admitted by Miss Dorothy Collins, Chesterton’s literary executor, to archival material so rich that he ‘remained happily stranded in the attic for twelve hours a day for several weeks’. ‘As each chest, trunk ...
10 December 1998
Between Us Girls 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 1 85459 374 9
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‘Fred & Madge’ and ‘The Visitors’ 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £12.99, October 1998, 1 85459 354 4
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... a comic voice for Susan as the self-styled ingénue in a world of cheap bedsits, desperate gay alcoholics and sexual decadence. Some of the details of Susan’s daily life are borrowed from Dorothy Parker’s Diary of a New York Lady, written in the Forties and subtitled ‘During Days of Horror, Despair and World Change’. Parker’s empty-headed, self-centred diarist has a marriage on the ...

Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen

7 October 2004
The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... on these occasions that he has no medals. However, he supported the war, from Dr Dalton’s side, in the Ministry of Economic Warfare.’ Similarly, the determination of the guardsmen to block Rab Butler from becoming prime minister can only be understood in the context of their response to appeasement – Butler had even sought a separate peace in 1940. Crookshank had been accepted by the Foreign ...


Terry Eagleton

28 April 1994
What a Carve Up! 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 512 pp., £15.50, April 1994, 0 670 85362 3
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... of an age in which capital seems finally to have abolished history. There is Hilary the hard-bitten tabloid columnist. Roddy the heartless art-dealing seducer, Henry the free-market ideologue, Dorothy the profit-mad agriculturalist. As a dynasty, however, these men and women belong to another literary and temporal mode entirely – to the spoof Gothic fiction of Winshaw Towers, with its cartoon ...

Baring his teeth

Peter Clarke

25 June 1992
The Macmillans: The Story of a Dynasty 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 17502 1
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... to the happy couple, rather than to Harold’s elder brothers, with mother in constant attendance as her daughter-in-law’s helpmeet. What could be more idyllic? Quite a lot, it seems. Lady Dorothy, being a Cavendish, made no secret of her loathing for the old lady or of her fast-diminishing marital passion. ‘Harold was not enthusiastic about the grapplings and gropings of the bed ...

A Djinn speaks

Colm Tóibín: What about George Yeats?

20 February 2003
Becoming George: The Life of Mrs W.B. Yeats 
by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 808 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 19 811232 7
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... Her study was as serious and systematic as circumstances would allow, helped by an ambitious mother and a private income, and a knowledge of Italian and Latin. She was a regular visitor to her friend Dorothy Shakespear at her London flat after she married Ezra Pound in 1914; her relationship with the Pounds increased the breadth of her reading as well as offering her, and indeed her mother, an example of ...


J.I.M. Stewart

5 May 1983
A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... home with his uncle, and they discuss the situation at considerable length. They then have a sudden, violent and not very plausible quarrel which is conveniently witnessed by a vastly stereotypic butler. Dermot goes on to a dance; returns at a late hour to his own flat; finds that a revolver has been planted among his handkerchiefs and hard upon this learns that his uncle has been murdered. And so ...

‘I love you, defiant witch!’

Michael Newton: Charles Williams

7 September 2016
Charles Williams: The Third Inkling 
by Grevel Lindop.
Oxford, 493 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 0 19 928415 3
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... resemblance to modern corporate publishing: it was a hierarchical organisation where lesser staff were forbidden the use of the carpeted main staircase; Williams’s boss, Humphrey Milford, had a butler who served drinks on a silver salver. His lyrics found an enthusiastic supporter in Alice Meynell, the Catholic versifier, critic and protector of poets – she and her husband, Wilfred Meynell, also ...
8 December 1988
Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... which examines the genesis and transformation of poetry of ‘social protest’ between 1793 and 1798. Here he was able to take advantage of work already done: by Gill on ‘Salisbury Plain’, by Butler on ‘The Ruined Cottage’, by Jacobus, Jonathan Wordsworth and others. Elsewhere he is less successful. His history is more literary-biographical than intellectual, and he passes by without comment ...


Seamus Perry: Southey’s Genius for Repression

26 January 2006
Robert Southey: Poetical Works 1793-1810 
edited by Lynda Pratt, Tim Fulford and Daniel Sanjiv Roberts.
Pickering & Chatto, 2624 pp., £450, May 2004, 1 85196 731 1
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... that it should hardly possess. Southey’s poems enjoy no such complication: ‘It cannot perhaps be said that any of the characters interest you much,’ Wordsworth delicately remarked, after he and Dorothy had made it through Madoc. The other epics have more exotic settings, but they share Joan of Arc’s animating fantasy of an all-controlling determinism. Thalaba the Destroyer is a textbook example ...

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