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Is he winking?

Joseph J. Ellis:​ Benjamin Franklin

20 March 2003
Benjamin Franklin 
by Edmund S. Morgan.
Yale, 339 pp., £19.95, October 2002, 0 300 09532 5
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... When Thomas Jefferson was introduced as the new American Ambassador to France in 1784, legend has it that the French minister asked if he was Benjamin Franklin’s replacement, and Jefferson replied that he was merely Franklin’s successor; no one could replace him. Whether or not the story is true, it conveys Franklin’s stature as the only serious rival to ...

Leadership

T.H. Breen

10 May 1990
The First​ Salute 
by Barbara Tuchman.
Joseph, 347 pp., £15.95, March 1989, 0 7181 3142 8
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Sister Republics: The Origins of French and American Republicanism 
by Patrice Higonnet.
Harvard, 317 pp., £19.95, December 1988, 0 674 80982 3
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Inventing the People: The Rise​ of Popular Sovereignty in England and America 
by Edmund Morgan.
Norton, 318 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 393 02505 5
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... Revolutions,’ Barbara Tuchman writes, ‘produce other men, not new men. Half-way “between truth and endless error” the mould of the species is permanent. That is the earth’s burden.’ EdmundMorgan and Patrice Higonnet are less pessimistic. They see the great ideological transformations of the 18th century as a continuing challenge. To be sure, those who dreamed of creating a genuine ...
6 December 1984
Agatha Christie 
by Janet Morgan.
Collins,​ 393 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 00 216330 6
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... At firstsight Janet Morgan does not seem the obvious person to choose as the official biographer of Agatha Christie. She describes herself on the jacket of the book as a ‘writer and consultant’, who now ‘advises  ...

Word of Mouth

Edmund​ Leach

3 March 1988
The Interface between the Written and the Oral 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 0 521 33268 0
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... Press had not put many of his recent writings into a single series, it would be hard to keep track of all the things he has been up to. ‘Studies in Literacy, Family, Culture and the State’ so far contains eight titles, and in every case Jack Goody is author or editor. In four of these works the discussion focuses almost entirely on the problem of how ‘literacy’ affects the structure ...
18 September 1997
Rare Spirit: A Life of William De Morgan​ 1839-1917 
by Mark Hamilton.
Constable, 236 pp., £22.50, September 1997, 0 09 474670 2
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... William De Morgans Life, death and reputation form a curious episode in the history of taste. He died, in 1917, a famous Edwardian novelist, and was almost forgotten. Nearly half a century later he was rediscovered as ...

Tremendous in His Wrath

Eric Foner: George Washington, Slave Owner

9 December 2019
‘The Only Unavoidable Subject of Regret’: George Washington, Slavery and the Enslaved Community at Mount Vernon 
by Mary Thompson.
Virginia, 502 pp., £32.50, January 2019, 978 0 8139 4184 4
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... that George Washington owned slaves. Trump mentioned this in 2017 as one reason for his opposition to the removal of the monuments to Confederate generals that dot the southern landscape. In Trump’s view owning slaves probably enhances Washington’s reputation: like him, the first president knew how to make a buck. Not everyone agrees. In June this year, the San Francisco school board voted to ...
11 December 1997
A History of the American People 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 925 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 297 81569 5
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... more than a thousand pages), Modern Times, a massive chronicle of the 20th century, and lengthy histories of Christianity and Judaism. If succinctness is not his forte, neither is modesty. Johnson’s latest book opens with the claim that it ‘has new and often trenchant things to say about every aspect and period of America’s past’. No one who knows his earlier writings is likely to be ...

Boomster and the Quack

Stefan Collini: How to Get on in the Literary World

2 November 2006
Writers,​ Readers and Reputations: Literary Life in Britain 1870-1918 
by Philip Waller.
Oxford, 1181 pp., £85, April 2006, 0 19 820677 1
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... In the early 20th century, literary pilgrims to Stratford-upon-Avon already knew a lot about the great writer they had come to honour. The author’s house in Church St has rather come down in the world since then and is now an outpost of Birmingham University, but in its heyday it was home to a writer with some claims to be the most widely read, in English and in ...
12 May 1994
John Steinbeck: A Biography 
by Jay Parini.
Heinemann, 605 pp., £20, March 1994, 0 434 57492 9
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... Steinbeck, literary criticism is ‘a kind of ill-tempered party game in which nobody gets kissed’. Twenty-five years after his death he receives a big wet one in the shape of Jay Parini’s biography, which comes with much fanfare designed to rehabilitate him as one of America’s great writers. A handsome ‘Steinbeck award’ has been set up by the writer’s widow; a South Bank Show ...
6 November 1986
Tribute to Freud 
by H. D.
Carcanet, 194 pp., £5.95, August​ 1985, 0 85635 599 2
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In Dora’s Case: Freud, Hysteria, Feminism 
edited by Charles Bernheimer and Claire Kahane.
Virago, 291 pp., £11.95, October 1985, 0 86068 712 0
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The Essentials of Psychoanalysis 
by Sigmund Freud, edited by Anna Freud.
Hogarth/Institute of Psychoanalysis,​ 595 pp., £20, March 1986, 0 7012 0720 5
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Freud and the Humanities 
edited by Peregrine Horden.
Duckworth, 186 pp., £18, October 1985, 0 7156 1983 7
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Freud for Historians 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 252 pp., £16.50, January 1986, 0 19 503586 0
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The Psychoanalytic Movement 
by Ernest​ Gellner.
Paladin, 241 pp., £3.50, May 1985, 0 586 08436 3
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The Freudian Body: Psychoanalysis and Art 
by Leo Bersani.
Columbia, 126 pp., $17.50, April 1986, 0 231 06218 4
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... a child, preferably male, as phallus? If H.D. dreamt of a princessstepping down towards water, to find and protect a baby, while she stood by as witness, did this not demonstrate the patient’s longing to possess the penis? Never mind the trauma of childbirth. Did it not recall the finding among bullrushes of that founder who had fascinated Freud since his 1914 essay on Michelangelo’s  ...

Seventy Years in a Filthy Trade

Andrew O’Hagan: E.S.​ Turner

15 October 1998
... a plane goes by. They seem to enter the window-frame just about head height; each one passes through the ears of E.S. Turner, and on from there to some Spain or America. He isn’t bothered. He’s nearly ninety. He’s thinking of things to say about his life. And when he speaks he speaks in a small way. His voice seems aware of the danger it’s in. ‘Mmm,’ he says. ‘My first article for ...

Sailing Scientist

Steven Shapin: Edmund​ Halley

2 July 1998
Edmond Halley: Charting the Heavens and the Seas 
by Alan Cook.
Oxford, 540 pp., £29.50, December 1997, 0 19 850031 9
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... out of his own pocket, and who prepared a précis for personal presentation to the King – one of the earliestscientific soundbites. ‘But for him, in all human probability’, wrote Augustus de Morgan in the mid-19th century, the Principia ‘would not have been thought of, nor when thought of written, nor when written printed’. Halley ‘almost made’ Newton write the book. Halley was alter ...

Cheeky

Norman Page

16 March 1989
Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: Vol. VI, 1920-1925 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 379 pp., £27.50, March 1987, 0 19 812623 9
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Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy: Vol. VII, 1926-1927 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 304 pp., £29.50, October 1988, 0 19 812624 7
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Thomas Hardy: The Offensive Truth 
by John Goode.
Blackwell, 184 pp., £17.95, September 1988, 0 631 13954 0
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The Thomas Hardy Journal. Vol. IV: October 1988 
edited by James Gibson.
Thomas Hardy Society, 80 pp., £2.50, October 1988, 0 00 268541 8
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Hardy’s Metres and Victorian Prosody 
by Dennis Taylor.
Oxford, 297 pp., £32.50, December 1988, 9780198129677
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Collected Short Stories 
by Thomas Hardy.
Macmillan, 936 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 47332 9
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... ghostly volume we are unable to read, for it contains all those letters that have been lost or destroyed. Hence a scholarly enterprisesuch as the Purdy/Millgate edition, now complete, of Hardy’s letters, handsomely produced and impeccably edited though it is – or perhaps precisely because it has such a finished and monumental look – can inadvertently create a false impression ...

The First​ Hostile Takeover

James Macdonald: S.G. Warburg

4 November 2010
High Financier: The Life and Time of Siegmund Warburg 
by Niall Ferguson.
Allen Lane, 548 pp., £30, July 2010, 978 0 7139 9871 9
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... The rise of S.G. Warburg & Co was the moststriking feature of the postwar City. Founded by Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany in the 1940s, the bank was an awkward upstart in the closed shop of London merchant ...

The Ironist

J.G.A. Pocock: Gibbon under Fire

14 November 2002
Gibbon and the ‘Watchmen of the Holy City’: The Historian and His Reputation 1776-1815 
by David Womersley.
Oxford, 452 pp., £65, January 2002, 0 19 818733 5
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... Since two pioneering studies appeared in 1954, Arnaldo Momigliano’s ‘Gibbon’s Contribution to Historical Method’, and Giuseppe Giarrizzo’s Edward Gibbon e la cultura europea del Settecento, the historian of the Roman Empire has himself become the object of serious historical study. It can still be maintained that his work is, in D.R ...

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