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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Anomalisa’

20 April 2016
... secure distinction: these figures want to be human but can’t, we are human but don’t behave as if we were. But then sometimes the distinction collapses, or is displaced, as in Charlie Kaufman and DukeJohnson’s stop-motion film Anomalisa, based on a play Kaufman wrote in 2005. When Michael Stone, the author of a bestselling book about improving human relations in business, has a psychological ...

Taking Sides

John Mullan: On the high road with Bonnie Prince Charlie

22 January 2004
The ’45: Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising 
by Christopher Duffy.
Cassell, 639 pp., £20, March 2003, 0 304 35525 9
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Samuel Johnson​ in Historical Context 
edited by J.C.D. Clark and Howard Erskine-Hill.
Palgrave, 336 pp., £55, December 2001, 0 333 80447 3
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... but with only a small kernel of his forces, and the Royal Family, which had been waiting at Portsmouth for news of the battle, sailed into an exile that seemed likely to be permanent. True, the Duke of Cumberland’s army, brilliantly circumvented by the rebels in a diversionary movement on the march south, remained intact, waiting outside Northampton for events to unfold. Yet, as we know from ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’

4 July 2019
... mere humans only dream of. When did you last hear of a historical hangman who decided he would retire when he completed his current task, because ‘after using the silken rope’ required for a duke, he could ‘never again be content with hemp’? Asked how he manages to be so calm on the eve of his death, our murderer says: ‘Dr Johnson was, as always, right when he observed: “Depend upon ...
10 May 2007
William Shakespeare, Complete Works: The RSC Shakespeare 
edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.
Macmillan, 2486 pp., £30, April 2007, 978 0 230 00350 7
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... the firm of J.&R. Tonson undertook to publish The plays of William Shakespeare, in eight volumes, with the corrections and illustrations of Various Commentators; To which are added notes by Sam. Johnson. This edition, with its much reprinted preface and doggedly commonsensical approach to the text, still exerts a palpable influence on Shakespeare scholars: Jonathan Bate’s introduction to this new ...
18 April 1985
Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour 
by Jean Tulard, translated by Teresa Waugh.
Weidenfeld, 470 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 297 78439 0
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Alexis: Tsar of All the Russias 
by Philip Longworth.
Secker, 319 pp., £15, June 1984, 0 436 25688 6
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... have never been unduly admiring of their own great men. All of Thomas Carlyle’s efforts failed to establish Oliver Cromwell securely in the Victorian pantheon. The names of Lord Nelson and the Duke of Wellington summon up public houses rather than heroes. Winston Churchill in this century, like the Elder Pitt in the 18th and the Younger Pitt in the 19th, was buried with ceremony then swiftly ...
12 September 1991
The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 1095 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 297 81207 6
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... Paul Johnson’s thousand-page book is geared to the present age of long print runs and mass marketing. It is one of the currently popular narrative histories written by Britons who position themselves mid ...

It’s Mummie

Jenny Diski

16 December 1993
TheLittle Princesses 
by Marion Crawford, introduced by A.N. Wilson.
Duckworth, 128 pp., £14.99, November 1993, 0 7156 2497 0
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... best they might. Destiny beats powerfully in Crawfie’s breast, and her prose is littered with ‘Little did I know then’s and ‘Fate was marching up on me’s. Once she enters the employ of the Duke and Duchess of York, you are pitched into a world of ineffable middle-class vapidity that reminds you of cloud fluff. Mr and Mr Darling lived there before Peter Pan came and troubled things, and ...

Cads

R.W. Johnson: Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War Two Espionage by Joseph Persico.

4 April 2002
Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War Two Espionage 
by Joseph Persico.
Random House, 656 pp., £24.50, October 2001, 0 375 50246 7
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... semitic and had connections among Nazi sympathisers. Flynn never wore a uniform except in front of the camera. The American journalist Fulton Oursler came to see the President on a mission from the Duke of Windsor, then Governor of the Bahamas. To Oursler’s horror, the Duke had told him that ‘it would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler were overthrown. Hitler is a great man, the right and ...

Cardenio’s Ghost

Charles Nicholl: The Bits Shakespeare Wrote

2 December 2010
The Arden Shakespeare: Double Falsehood 
edited by Brean Hammond.
Arden Shakespeare, 443 pp., £16.99, March 2010, 978 1 903436 77 6
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... which were tinged with the sadness of Prince Henry’s sudden death the previous November. The King’s Men performed the play again on 8 June 1613, at a courtly soirée in honour of the Duke of Savoy’s ambassador, Giovanni Battista Gabaleoni, Marquis de Villa. He was a fan of English theatre – ‘he makes no great dainty of himself,’ the letter-writer John Chamberlain noted, ‘but ...

Why the richest woman in Britain changed her will 26 times

Mark Kishlansky: The Duchess of Marlborough

14 November 2002
The Favourite: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Ophelia Field.
Hodder, 575 pp., £20, June 2002, 9780340768075
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... government officials and the aristocracy, Sarah and her elder sister Frances were notable. In 1673, when she was 13, she joined the household of Mary of Modena, the 15-year-old second wife of the Duke of York (the future James II). She was later transferred to entertain his younger daughter, the emotionally, intellectually and physically challenged Princess Anne. This was hardly a plum position ...

Divided We Grow

John Barrell: When Pitt Panicked

5 June 2003
The London Corresponding Society 1792-99 
edited by Michael T. Davis.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, June 2002, 1 85196 734 6
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Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson​ and the Cause of Liberty 
by Helen Braithwaite.
Palgrave, 243 pp., £45, December 2002, 0 333 98394 7
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... was to educate its members – expected to be artisans, mechanics, shopkeepers – about politics and history, and would function as a pressure group to persuade the Government to adopt the ‘Duke of Richmond’s plan’, the twin reforms of universal manhood suffrage and annual parliaments which the Duke had supported a decade before but had since abandoned. The LCS was never very large: at ...

Lobbying

Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Aristocratic Go-Betweens

17 March 2016
Go-Betweens for Hitler 
by Karina Urbach.
Oxford, 389 pp., £20, July 2015, 978 0 19 870366 2
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... and fecundity made her Europe’s matriarch for much of the 19th century. Her grandchildren included Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; the queens of Greece, Norway, Romania, Spain and Sweden; Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse; the grand duchesses Victoria and Elisabeth and the tsarina Alexandra of Russia; Prince Alfred of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha; Princess Alexandra of Hohenlohe-Langenburg; Princess Beatrice ...

Fetch the Scissors

Colin Burrow: B.S. Johnson

11 April 2013
Well Done God! Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson 
edited by Jonathan Coe, Philip Tew and Julia Jordan.
Picador, 471 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 1 4472 2710 6
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Trawl 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 183 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0036 9
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Albert Angelo 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0037 6
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Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 187 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0035 2
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House Mother Normal 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0038 3
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... Until very recently I had never read any B.S. Johnson. I had a staticky reminiscence of what he might have been, which could be represented, using his own idiosyncratic conventions for marking the lapses that run through our consciousness of the world ...

Bard of Tropes

Jonathan Lamb: Thomas Chatterton

20 September 2001
Thomas Chatterton and Romantic Culture 
by Nick Groom.
Palgrave, 300 pp., £55, September 1999, 0 333 72586 7
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... of Received Standard English. As several essays here make clear, he is the poet who, above all others, forced the early historians of English literature such as Thomas Warton, Thomas Percy and Samuel Johnson to review the grounds of their judgments. He is at the same time the lonely outsider commemorated by Coleridge, Keats, Shelley and (more cannily) Wordsworth. David Fairer maintains that their ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment

5 April 2007
The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of ...

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