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Shell Shock

Margaret Visser, 22 February 1996

The English, the French and the Oyster 
by Robert Neild.
Quiller, 212 pp., £18.50, October 1995, 1 899163 12 3
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... As a child I never saw an oyster, let alone ate one. People ate them in Dickens novels. Tenniel drew them, round and trusting and eager, with little stick legs and laced-up shoes, following and then clustering around the Walrus and the Carpenter, who survey them with interest – the Carpenter already with a napkin spread on his lap. The dreadful deed was ...

Matters of Taste

Peter Graham, 4 December 1986

On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen 
by Harold McGee.
Allen and Unwin, 684 pp., £20, September 1986, 9780043060032
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The French Menu Cookbook 
by Richard Olney.
Dorling Kindersley, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 86318 181 3
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Out to Lunch 
by Paul Levy.
Chatto, 240 pp., £10.95, November 1986, 0 7011 3091 1
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The Good Food Guide 1987 
edited by Drew Smith.
Consumers’ Association/Hodder, 725 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 340 39600 8
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... More and more cooks, and more and more people who like their food (gourmets, gourmands and gastronomes – but please not that appalling neologism, ‘foodies’), are showing an interest in the scientific basis of cooking techniques and the mechanics of taste. Why and how do certain dishes come to taste as they do? The latest edition of The Good Food Guide, which remains, for all its shortcomings (such as an excessive reliance on consumer feedback), the most reliable guide to British restaurants, has an interesting article by two scientists on their work with trained ‘taste panels ...

Burke and Smith

Karl Miller, 16 October 1980

Sydney Smith 
by Alan Bell.
Oxford, 250 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 812050 8
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Burke and Hare 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Polygon, 300 pp., £7.95, August 1980, 0 904919 27 7
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... Sydney Smith and William Burke lived at the same time and in the same country: but at opposite ends of the spectrum of class, ends which rarely met, except in court. Such people were strangers to one another, foreigners, and could hate and suspect one another in the style that has been reserved for foreigners. Smith and Burke lived for a while in the same place, Edinburgh – the city of Calvin and caller air, of metaphysics and foul smells, according to Smith, who claimed, in a typical tease, that he had to detach a passer-by ‘blown flat against my door’ by the prevailing winds, and ‘black in the face ...

Maiden Aunt

Colin Kidd: Adam Smith, 7 October 2010

Adam SmithAn Enlightened Life 
by Nicholas Phillipson.
Allen Lane, 345 pp., £25, August 2010, 978 0 7139 9396 7
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Adam Smith and the Circles of Sympathy: Cosmopolitanism and moral theory 
by Fonna Forman-Barzilai.
Cambridge, 286 pp., £55, March 2010, 978 0 521 76112 3
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... the Scots invented Thatcherism, long before I was thought of.’ The Scot she meant was Adam Smith, a figure popularly identified as the founder of economics, an apostle of capitalism and honoured prophet of the new right. It was exasperating for Thatcher, and a pleasing irony for her opponents, that the nation of Adam ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... Professor Hill’s account slides to and fro from causation to succession. For example: ‘Locke drew on the experiences of the revolutionary decades’ and is thus an ‘intellectual consequence’ of ‘the English Revolution’; and ‘the great revolution in human thought … echoed from England all over Europe … Harrington, Locke, Newton, Hume and ...

The First Hundred Years

James Buchan, 24 August 1995

John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... us to prosperity and liberty but at the price of atomising our picture of the world. The labourer, Smith writes, is ‘not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private ...

What most I love I bite

Matthew Bevis: Stevie Smith, 27 July 2016

The Collected Poems and Drawings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Will May.
Faber, 806 pp., £35, October 2015, 978 0 571 31130 9
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... of a sailing ship on the rough sea coming suddenly alive and sucking in the children?’ Stevie Smith asked, reviewing C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in 1952. She liked depictions of people who disappeared into the objects of their gaze; a couple of years earlier, her poem ‘Deeply Morbid’ told the story of Joan, an office girl who goes to ...

A Country Priest

Christopher Burns, 1 August 1985

... street and stand by the blacksmith’s hearth. Fire glowed and licked in the bed of charcoal. The smith stood beside his forge, his arms bare and his hair wet with sweat. He was said to be cuckolding one of his friends, but I had seen no proof. I was vaguely jealous of him. At times the life of the flesh, untroubled by the rigours of the spirit, seemed to me ...

In the Know

Simon Schaffer, 10 November 1994

Science and the Secrets of Nature: Books of Secrets in Medieval and Early Modern Culture 
by William Eamon.
Princeton, 490 pp., £38.50, July 1994, 0 691 03402 8
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The Business of Alchemy: Science and Culture in the Holy Roman Empire 
by Pamela Smith.
Princeton, 308 pp., £30, July 1994, 0 691 05691 9
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... got dangerous prestige from their success in this ferocious hunt. On this account, modern science drew on the secrets tradition, using its apparently skilful access to the singular facts of nature as a means to legitimate its power. Fifteen years ago, Carlo Ginzburg offered a radical interpretation of this motif of the clue, arguing that techniques for ...

Mad or bad?

Michael Ignatieff, 18 June 1981

Trial by Medicine: Insanity and Responsibility in Victorian Trials 
by Roger Smith.
Edinburgh, 288 pp., £15, March 1981, 9780852244074
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... ourselves. Such help is at hand in a historical work, published by chance during the trial. Roger Smith’s history of the conflict between medical and legal discourses in the insanity trials of the 19th century is ‘relevant’ in a way he could never have anticipated or, in this tragic instance, have wished. His book is more than a history of trials, a ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie SmithA Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am aware of a balance. I know the sort of things that can knock ...

Diary

Elaine Showalter: Even Lolita must have read Nancy Drew, 7 September 1995

... her favourite childhood books: series fiction about daring girl detectives, especially Nancy Drew. Admitting to such low tastes in the Seventies was like confessing a fondness for Hello! magazine today. Graduate schools regarded an interest in popular culture as a sign of intellectual frivolity, and demanded Leavisite vows (or appearances) of poverty and ...

Jerusalem

Penelope Fitzgerald, 3 December 1981

Me Again: Uncollected Writings of Stevie Smith 
edited by Jack Barbera and William McBrien.
Virago, 359 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 9780860682172
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... Stevie Smith said that she was straightforward, but not simple, which is a version of not waving but drowning. She presented to the world the face which is invented when reticence goes over to the attack, and becomes mystification. If you visited Blake and were told not to sit on a certain chair because it was for the spirit of Michelangelo, or if Emily Dickinson handed you a single flower, you needed time to find out how far the mystification was meant to keep you at a distance, and to give you something to talk about when you got home ...

The Whole Orang

Paul Smith, 12 March 1992

Darwin 
by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.
Joseph, 808 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 7181 3430 3
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... any good’). The rest depended on private means. He guided the work of his scientific friends, drew on the scientific exchange of the London societies, held what amounted to seminars at Downe, employed modern technology where it helped, as in the use of photographs to analyse human facial expression, but above all ...

God’s Iceberg

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 December 1986

The ‘ Titanic’: The Full Story of a Tragedy 
by Michael Davie.
Bodley Head, 244 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 9780370307640
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The IT Girls: Elinor Glyn and Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon 
by Meredith Etherington-Smith and Jeremy Pilcher.
Hamish Hamilton, 258 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11950 2
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... dangling from the crow’s nest at the bottom of the ocean. The captain of the Titanic, Edward Smith, had known all day that he was heading into ice. Not only had the weather turned much colder: messages had been received from four other ships warning him that there were icebergs in the vicinity. Just before lunch ...

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