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In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... novel and fifth book; her first books had been biographies, of her father’s famous family and of Edward Burne-Jones. She was 62 when she won the Booker, a widow and the mother of three grown-up children, and although no longer in straits as desperate as those she had drawn on for the novel, she was accustomed to making do ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Looking Ahead, 18 May 2000

... A special 25th anniversary edition of Edward O. Wilson’s Sociobiology: The New Consensus was published in March. Harvard University Press are advertising it together with Richard Lewontin’s new book, The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, Environment, presumably to let everyone know they’re not taking sides. Lewontin and Wilson, fiercely opposed to each other intellectually, used to have labs one directly above the other at Harvard (and weren’t on speaking terms) – an arrangement curiously reproduced in the design of the new ad ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Aristocrats, 20 May 2004

... who ran the country so well for three centuries. Consider the ‘pathetic’ abdication of Edward VIII: ‘For surely, with the benefit of hindsight, we can now recognise that the truly remarkable aspect of the abdication was not the king’s irresponsible hedonism but the establishment’s revulsion – strong enough to force him off the throne ...


Robert Bernard Martin, 4 April 1985

The Collected Letters of William Morris. Vol. I: 1848-1880 
edited by Norman Kelvin.
Princeton, 626 pp., £50.30, April 1984, 0 691 06501 2
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... at Ely and St Albans, and St Mark’s in Venice. In September 1880 he told Georgiana Burne-Jones: ‘I have more than ever at my heart the importance for people of living in beautiful places; I mean the sort of beauty which would be attainable by all, if people could but begin to long for it. I do most earnestly desire that something more startling ...


Edward Pearce, 26 July 1990

A Sparrow’s Flight: Memoirs 
by Lord Hailsham.
Collins, 463 pp., £17.50, July 1990, 0 00 215545 1
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... but a partisan politician of a narrow and trumpeting sort. With a couple of exceptions, Elwyn Jones for one, his comments about opponents are not particularly generous – Hugh Gaitskell is ‘harem-bred’ and ‘tearful’ while Hailsham’s own political tears are recorded as proof of sincere passion. Attlee, rightly cynical about his first essay at ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Pole-Vaulting, 2 September 2004

... in a form of siege warfare is appealing – Welsh hordes flinging themselves over the walls of Edward I’s castles, pitchforks at the ready – but sadly without foundation: at the first modern Olympic Games, in Athens in 1896, William Hoyt of the USA claimed the gold medal for clearing 10'10"; and he didn’t have to carry any heavy weaponry. Even the ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: A Quick Bout of Bardiness, 6 June 2002

... in a bit of avant-garde transvestite theatre. The Queen, obviously, would play the King; and Edward, who after all has a theatrical background, could make an excellent Cordelia. Sven-Göran Eriksson should direct; and if Tony Blair is too busy to play the Fool, perhaps Martin Amis, who has been tentatively sticking up for the Royals in the New ...

The Hierophant

Michael Ledger-Lomas: Servant King, 10 March 2022

George V: Never a Dull Moment 
by Jane Ridley.
Chatto, 559 pp., £30, November 2021, 978 0 7011 8870 2
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For King and Country: The British Monarchy and the First World War 
by Heather Jones.
Cambridge, 576 pp., £29.99, September 2021, 978 1 108 42936 8
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... men who struggled most with life in the dolls’ house. Ridley’s biography of George’s father, Edward VII, showed how as prince of Wales he sank into an analgesic round of gargantuan meals, card playing, shooting and ponderous intercourse with society ladies. Unwilling to become the signing automaton of constitutional theory after his accession, ...

On board the ‘Fiona’

Edward Said, 19 December 1991

In Search of Conrad 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 304 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 173524 6
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... particularly fine episode concerns Schomberg, the rascally innkeeper in Victory, and the devilish Jones, whose traces Young discovers in Pulan Laut in 1977. Along with Young on that trip there is also Wilfred Thesiger, the celebrated traveller who spent years among the desert Arabs; he seems withdrawn and strangely out of place on the yacht Fiona, as it ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Flashman, 9 May 2002

... decline. For America . . . well, a country that could tolerate Clinton in the White House and Edward Kennedy in public view will buy anything, as P.T. Barnum observed, and the transatlantic tendency to embrace the latest craze is one of their more endearing traits, but for Britain to swallow – or at least to accept at ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Bio Insecurity, 5 November 2009

... Is Exporting Fear, Globalising Risk and Making Us All Less Secure (Chicago, £19), Lynn Klotz and Edward Sylvester make a compelling case for a radical and immediate change in America’s biosecurity policy. Since 9/11, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the US government has spent $50 billion on its biodefence programme: Klotz ...

Sweetly Terminal

Edward Pearce, 5 August 1993

by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 421 pp., £20, June 1993, 0 297 81352 8
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... backwards in assuaging their environmental concerns. What he was proposing to do wasn’t just bad PR, it amounted to wilful sabotage. He bounced about in his chair crossly. Conveyed he thought that I was half Red spy, half dogooder academic. Card marked ... I see that everyone’s career is predicated on the horrendous Soviet ‘threat’. But that’s all ...

Shall I go on?

Colin Burrow: Loving Milton, 7 March 2013

The Complete Works of John Milton. Vol. VIII: De Doctrina Christiana 
edited by John Hale and J. Donald Cullington.
Oxford, 1263 pp., £225, September 2012, 978 0 19 923451 6
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Young Milton: The Emerging Author, 1620-42 
edited by Edward Jones.
Oxford, 343 pp., £60, November 2012, 978 0 19 969870 7
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The Complete Works of John Milton. Vol. III: The Shorter Poems 
edited by Barbara Lewalski and Estelle Haan.
Oxford, 632 pp., £125, October 2012, 978 0 19 960901 7
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... sympathies, as many ‘conformable puritans’ did in that period. Some biographers believe, as Edward Jones notes in his learned overview of archives relating to the young poet, that Milton lost sympathy with orthodox worship when an inspection of Horton parish church in 1637 required that the raised pew occupied by the Milton family should be lowered ...

Politics First

José Harris, 19 April 1984

The Chartists 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Temple Smith, 399 pp., £19.50, February 1984, 0 85117 229 6
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Languages of Class: Studies in English Working-Class History 1832-1982 
by Gareth Stedman Jones.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £22.50, January 1984, 0 521 25648 8
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Class Power and State Power 
by Ralph Miliband.
Verso, 310 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 86091 073 3
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... of Chartism as a movement greater than the sum of its parts has, however, never wholly died out. Edward Thompson concluded his The Making of the English Working Class in 1963 by nominating the Chartists as heirs of that new, nation-wide working-class identity which he believed had been forged by the exclusion of the propertyless from the Reform Act of ...

A slower kind of bang

Steve Jones, 22 April 1993

The Diversity of Life 
by Edward O. Wilson.
Allen Lane, 424 pp., £22.50, February 1993, 0 7139 9094 5
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... the skies of the American West, and now does a similar thing to the conservationist conscience. Edward Wilson reminds the jaded viewer that there really is a crisis, and that – just as in 1917 – it is already almost too late to do anything about it. He gives a penetrating historical analysis of what went wrong and even has a New Economic Plan which ...

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