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Cape of Mad Hope

Neal Ascherson: The Darien disaster, 3 January 2008

The Price of Scotland: Darien, Union and the Wealth of Nations 
by Douglas Watt.
Luath, 312 pp., £8.99, January 2007, 978 1 906307 09 7
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... sober gents with much to lose can take leave of their senses. That was already plain by the 1690s. Douglas Watt’s irresistible, clever book about the Darien Scheme, which ruined Scotland and led indirectly to the 1707 Union, introduces figures we instantly recognise. Here is the mesmerising visionary bounding from cloud to cloud with other people’s ...

Two Poems

Robert Crawford, 15 September 1988

... and move them north To celebrate my mother’s sewing-machine And her beneath an eighty watt bulb, pedalling Iambs on an antique metal footplate Powering the needle through its regular lines, Doing her work. To me as a young boy That was her typewriter. I’d watch Her hands and feet in unison, or read Between her calves the clear wrought-iron ...


James Buchan, 14 December 1995

The Life of Adam Smith 
by Ian Simpson Ross.
Oxford, 495 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 19 828821 2
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... tenderness. Adam Smith was born in Kirkcaldy in 1723, the son of a formidable mother, Margaret Douglas, and a dead customs officer, also named Adam Smith. At the age of 14, he went up to Glasgow University which seems, from Ross’s description, to have been in a tumult of religious zeal, a sort of Calvinist University of Cairo; but there he came under the ...


Christopher Ricks, 16 September 1982

Dissentient Voice: Enlightenment and Christian Dissent 
by Donald Davie.
University of Notre Dame Press, 154 pp., £11.85, June 1982, 0 268 00852 3
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These the Companions 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 521 24511 7
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... evocation of places (the West Riding, the Arctic Circle, Cambridge or California) and of people (Douglas Brown, Yvor Winters, an early love, fellow-sailors), his touch in this prose is less secure than in either the kind of prose which he has most practised or the poems which figure within the book as at once asides and nubs. You may say, and believe, that ...

World’s Greatest Statesman

Edward Luttwak, 11 March 1993

Churchill: The End of Glory 
by John Charmley.
Hodder, 648 pp., £30, January 1993, 9780340487952
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Churchill: A Major New Assessment of his Life in Peace and War 
edited by Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis.
Oxford, 517 pp., £19.95, February 1993, 0 19 820317 9
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... A. Craig, America’s Germanist and Prussianologue naturally offering us ‘... and Germany’, Douglas Johnson doing the same for ‘... and France’, and Peter Clarke doing C’s Economic Ideas 1900-1930. WSC was wrong but not as rigidly wrong as the Treasury, which in 1930-31 was doing exactly what it would do again sixty years later, i.e. upholding the ...

Wolves in the Drawing Room

Neal Ascherson: The SNP, 2 June 2011

... in which tier on tier of streets look out across the estuary to the mountains. Not only James Watt, but many painters, novelists and poets began here. After utter collapse, small citizens’ groups are trying to rub the old town back to life, to restore hope: a new theatre, the restoration of the huge ropeworks factory, a protest (why use cobbles imported ...

On the Threshold

Tom Nairn, 23 March 1995

Frameworks for the Future 
Northern Ireland Office, 37 pp., February 1995Show More
Northern Ireland: The Choice 
by Kevin Boyle and Tom Hadden.
Penguin, 256 pp., £6.99, May 1994, 0 14 023541 8
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... Government appears to retain a strong ego-investment in the latter two and (as John Major and Douglas Hurd have repeatedly said) would feel ‘diminished’ if they turned away from England. Ulster Unionists are right to stress the importance of such feelings. They register what is really happening – a psychological withdrawal from Ireland prefiguring ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... and censorious, with Mrs Patrick Campbell, and kept a kindness for scapegraces such as Lord Alfred Douglas and Frank Harris, in whose biography of Shaw the subject had interfered so heavily and helpfully. Being rationally opposed to the entire political, social and sexual order of the times, Shaw was professionally candid on subjects such as sex and ...

Love-of-One’s-Life Department

Terry Castle: The lesbian scarcity economy, 21 October 2004

Wild Girls: Paris, Sappho and Art: The Lives and Loves of Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks 
by Diana Souhami.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 9780297643869
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... go back to women born over a hundred years ago. A late (and much missed) Stanford colleague, Ian Watt, once told me that as an undergraduate at Cambridge he was put in charge of escorting Gertrude Stein when she came to give a lecture in the 1930s. He took her to a tea shop for a snack and Virginia Woolf was sitting at the next table. (Neither great lady ...

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