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To Anthony Thwaite at Fifty

Clive James, 4 December 1980

... still I think he was more right than wrong.) ‘Death joins us to the great majority,’ Droned Edward Young. No quarrel there from me. ‘Age,’ Bacon burbled, ‘will not be defied.’ A boring thought that will not be denied, For fatalism, even as a platitude, Remains the only reasonable attitude, While if compounded with inventive verve Its realism ...
... best of the lot. By the Thirties the achievements of Arts and Crafts revivalism were petering out: Edward Johnston and Eric Gill look good, calligraphy after Johnston aimless, laboured and weak. Craft pottery and commercial pottery both stand up very well. Furniture, either in the Gimson tradition, of beautifully-finished joinery with neat carpentered ...

Dynasties

Antonia Fraser, 3 April 1980

The House of Stuart 
by Maurice Ashley.
Dent, 237 pp., £9.95, January 1980, 0 460 04458 3
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... were the ‘Tudor’ characteristics – those possessed in common by Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I? Ruthlessness? At first, that seems a promising answer. After all, even Edward VI before his premature death managed to exhibit his father’s notorious ‘frown’. Unfortunately, the ...

In 1348

James Meek, 2 April 2020

... In​ the middle of February 1348, King Edward III held a royal tournament in Reading. He probably held another one that month in Bury St Edmunds. He held another on 20 April in Lincoln, and three more in May, in Lichfield, Windsor and Eltham. He liked a tournament. His victory over France at Crécy two years earlier and England’s seizure of Calais were still fresh memories for him and the aristocratic chums who’d fought beside him ...

State-Sponsored Counter-Terror

Karl Miller, 8 May 1986

Parliamentary Debates: Hansard, Vol. 95, No 94 
HMSO, £2.50Show More
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... A6s from the American Sixth Fleet would have hit any more.’ Healey and Gilmour – and indeed Edward Heath and James Callaghan – may be thought to have spoken for those two-thirds of poll respondents who decided that Mrs Thatcher had been guilty of a brutal misjudgment: and for the many people who believe that she ...

Bastards

James Wood: St Aubyn’s Savage Sentences, 2 November 2006

Mother’s Milk 
by Edward St Aubyn.
Picador, 279 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 330 43589 2
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... Can you always count on a bastard for a fancy prose style? It is hard to imagine the fiction of Edward St Aubyn stripped of the cool silver of its style. I am not accusing St Aubyn of being a bastard; I mean that he writes very well about bastards, and that both their contempt for the world and St Aubyn’s contempt for them find their best expression in a certain kind of intelligent, frozen stylishness ...

Maisie’s Sisters

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Sargent’s Daughters, 5 August 2010

Sargent’s Daughters: The Biography of a Painting 
by Erica Hirshler.
MFA, 262 pp., £23.95, October 2009, 978 0 87846 742 6
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... John Singer Sargent has often been accused of lacking a soul. Even Henry James, who helped introduce him to the London scene in the 1880s and continued to promote his work, worried that he suffered from a ‘sort of excess of cleverness’. The fact that Sargent catered to a transatlantic clientele of celebrities and nouveaux riches at the height of the Gilded Age only encouraged the imputations of superficiality ...

Stewarts on the dole

Rosalind Mitchison, 10 November 1988

Bonnie Prince Charlie 
by Rosalind Marshall.
HMSO, 208 pp., £8.50, April 1988, 0 11 493420 7
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Bonnie Prince Charlie: A Biography 
by Susan Maclean Kybett.
Unwin Hyman, 343 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 04 440213 9
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Charles Edward Stuart: A Tragedy in Many Acts 
by Frank McLynn.
Routledge, 640 pp., £24.95, September 1988, 0 415 00272 9
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Mary Queen of Scots: A Study in Failure 
by Jenny Wormald.
George Philip, 206 pp., £14.95, March 1988, 0 540 01131 2
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Mary Stewart: Queen in Three Kingdoms 
edited by Michael Lynch.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £25, July 1988, 0 631 15263 6
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The Shadow of a Crown: The Life Story of James II of England and VII of Scotland 
by Meriol Trevor.
Constable, 320 pp., £15, June 1988, 0 09 467850 2
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The Scottish Tory Party: A History 
by Gerald Warner.
Weidenfeld, 247 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 9780297791010
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The Elgins, 1766-1917: A Tale of Aristocrats, Proconsuls and their Wives 
by Sydney Checkland.
Aberdeen University Press, 303 pp., £25, April 1988, 0 08 036395 4
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... in the 19th century: but for most people in England Scottish history means Mary and Prince Charles Edward, whose deaths, one of which was directly caused by England, are associated with ’87 and ’88. This setting in time is unfair on those of us who try to show that Scottish society had its own interesting line of development, a topic which neither of these ...

Voyagers

James Paradis, 18 June 1981

Sir Joseph Banks 
by Charles Lyte.
David and Charles, 248 pp., £10.50, October 1980, 0 7153 7884 8
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The Heyday of Natural History: 1820-1870 
by Lynn Barber.
Cape, 320 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780224014489
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A Vision of Eden 
by Marianne North.
Webb and Bower, 240 pp., £8.95, October 1980, 0 906671 18 3
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... in 1788 around Linnaeus’s remarkable botanical collection, which was purchased for £1000 by James Edward Smith in 1783 and brought to London over the protest of all Swedish science. By the beginning of the Victorian era, the amateur tradition of the country naturalist and nature-appreciator – a tradition given great dignity and prestige by ...

Hooting

Edward Pearce, 22 October 1992

Beaverbrook 
by Anne Chisholm and Michael Davie.
Hutchinson, 589 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 09 173549 1
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... dies. Journalists who worked for Beaverbrook speak of him with a combination of awe and affection. James Macmillan and John Ellison, who were so much of the Daily Express for so long, describe this slow, mocking North American voice coming over the phone with approbation or a grumble and always creating a frisson. Both have said to me, ‘You would have liked ...

Doing the impossible

James Joll, 7 May 1981

Retreat from Power: Studies in Britain’s Foreign Policy of the 20th Century 
edited by David Dilks.
Macmillan, 213 pp., £10, February 1981, 0 333 28910 2
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... overriding economic considerations. The Foreign Office itself has comparatively little say. In Sir Edward Grey’s day, before 1914, it could operate without much regard for the other departments of government: now this autonomy has disappeared, and foreign policy is only one among several ways in which Britain seeks uneasily to find a way out of her economic ...

Cold-Shouldered

James Wood: John Carey, 8 March 2001

Pure Pleasure: A Guide to the 20th Century’s Most Enjoyable Books 
by John Carey.
Faber, 173 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 571 20448 1
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... who said horrible things about the plebeian Joyce, and about the girls who worked at Woolworths; James Kelman acted like a barbarian at the Booker dinner, and so on. Most of these commentators imagine themselves to be writing a form of intellectual history when they are only pouring gossip into fancy goblets at London book parties. They experience apparently ...

Uncrownable King and Queen

Christopher Sykes, 7 February 1980

The Windsor Story 
by J. Bryan and Charles Murphy.
Granada, 602 pp., £8.95, November 1980, 0 246 11323 5
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... with much literary ignorance. They confuse two very different masters – Lewis Carroll with Edward Lear – and ascribe that ridiculous but famous play What Every Woman Knows to James Bourke! On the credit side, they show real understanding of the man’s character, especially in his later years, and commendably ...

The Art of Being Found Out

Colm Tóibín: The need to be revealed, 20 March 2008

... On 23 January 1894, Henry James entered in his notebook two stories told to him by Lady Gregory, whom he had met first in Rome 15 years earlier. She had given one of them to him, he wrote, as a plot, and ‘saw more in it than, I confess, I do myself’. ‘At any rate,’ he went on, ‘Lady G.’s story was that of an Irish squire who discovered his wife in an intrigue ...

Presto!

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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... Cameron of Lochiel, whose decision, against his better judgment, to come out for Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 won the clans for the Pretender and doomed the ancient culture of the Highlands to extinction. ‘That gentleman, whose rent never exceeded five hundred pounds a year, carried, in 1745, eight hundred of his own people into the rebellion with ...

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