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Rough Wooing

Tom Shippey: Queen Matilda, 17 November 2011

Matilda: Queen of the Conqueror 
by Tracy Borman.
Cape, 297 pp., £20, September 2011, 978 0 224 09055 1
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... Stafford’s Queen Emma and Queen Edith (1997), which brackets Emma with her successor, wife of Edward ‘the Confessor’. Stafford’s earlier Queens, Concubines and Dowagers (1983) took a broader view, as does Lisa Hilton’s Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens (2008). If one were to pick out another powerful ruler too often forgotten, one might ...

What nations are for

Tom Nairn, 8 September 1994

The Politics of Dispossession: The Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination, 1969-1994 
by Edward Said.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, July 1994, 0 7011 6135 3
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Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures 
by Edward Said.
Vintage, 90 pp., £4.99, July 1994, 0 09 942451 7
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... recompose. In the dominant storm-centre itself a certain calmness could prevail: a false calm, as Edward Said repeatedly says in these books, founded on arrogance, ignorance and superior military force. The metropolitan view was that Progress was greater than its bearers and destined to triumph, regardless of the particular language it spoke. The Russo-Soviet ...

Weasel, Magpie, Crow

Mark Ford: Edward Thomas, 1 January 2009

Edward Thomas: The Annotated Collected Poems 
edited by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 335 pp., £12, June 2008, 978 1 85224 746 1
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... and eloquently, declared in his ‘Art poétique’ of 1874. The line must have lodged in Edward Thomas’s mind: in May 1914, some six months before his late efflorescence into verse at the age of 36, he wrote to Robert Frost of his longing to ‘wring all the necks of my rhetoric – the geese’. He was referring to the over-elaborate style of ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... and what you get instead are telegraphic put-downs of the man, his Oxbridge associates like C.P. Snow, David Cecil and Stuart Hampshire, and that whole way of life. Twenty or so lines of that, and then you move on to something else; a page later, Berlin is back again, though this time Wilson comments on the tremendous range of his conversation, and poor ...

World’s Greatest Statesman

Edward Luttwak, 11 March 1993

Churchill: The End of Glory 
by John Charmley.
Hodder, 648 pp., £30, January 1993, 9780340487952
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Churchill: A Major New Assessment of his Life in Peace and War 
edited by Robert Blake and Wm Roger Louis.
Oxford, 517 pp., £19.95, February 1993, 0 19 820317 9
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... which stops one short right at the start by quoting one of the silliest pronouncements of C.P. Snow, that unchallenged master of pompous vacuity and sheer nonsense: WSC was ‘the last aristocrat to rule – not just preside over, rule – this country’. In Austin an even greater number of Churchillists had gathered, but not all penned ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Swing Time’, 4 April 2019

... servant or manager; Helen Broderick as the friend who has seen it all before, several times; Edward Everett Horton as the dopey impresario whose every take is a double-take. Horton is missing from Swing Time, soon to be released in a newly restored version by the Criterion Collection, but everyone and everything else is there. Still, I now see all kinds ...

Chianti in Khartoum

Nick Laird: Louis MacNeice, 3 March 2011

Letters of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Jonathan Allison.
Faber, 768 pp., £35, May 2010, 978 0 571 22441 8
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... the existence of a protracted infatuation or love affair with a young man called Charles Thurstan Edward-Collins (the possessor of the ‘grey feminine eyes’). Louis returned to Marlborough to visit after he left for Oxford. (‘I told Charles I wasn’t coming to M.C. any more but I expect I shall. The College is so sordid … Still it is worth it. Don’t ...

How shall we sing the Lord’s song?

Bernard Williams, 2 April 1981

Religion and Public Doctrine in England 
by Maurice Cowling.
Cambridge, 475 pp., £20, December 1980, 0 521 23289 9
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... Cambridge writer, the late Dr Leavis, as do some turgid writing and a violent dislike of Lord Snow. Oddly, since Leavis’s intense moralism is the sort of thing that Cowling most detests: but that only makes it clearer how some spirit of the place managed to affect them both. Leavis is not mentioned in these pages, but many Cambridge figures, past and ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... interested in whether Simon Raven was related to Canon Charles Raven. The character Jago in C.P. Snow’s novel sequence is said to be based on the late Canon, and I found that my ideas of Jago and the real Canon Raven were almost inextricably mixed: this made me recognise that I would find it impossible to ask James Prior about ‘Peter Morrison MP’ and ...


Ronan Bennett: The IRA Ceasefire, 22 September 1994

... liar. What about the man at the centre of the ceasefire – the man whom Guardian columnist Edward Pearce describes as ‘a corporate assassin’ with ‘more to answer for than John Wayne Gacy, executed in the US for a couple of score killings ... a coffin-filler strategically deciding to desist from filling coffins’? There have been some sober ...

No Longer Merely the Man Who Ate His Boots

Thomas Jones: The Northwest Passage, 27 May 2010

Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage 
by Glyn Williams.
Allen Lane, 440 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 84614 138 6
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Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation 
by Andrew Lambert.
Faber, 428 pp., £20, July 2009, 978 0 571 23160 7
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... had already proved impossible: in 1553, the last year of the reign of Elizabeth’s brother, Edward VI, an English expedition had tried to sail to China round the north of Russia. Most of the sailors froze to death near present-day Murmansk, but some of them made it to Moscow, where they struck a trade deal with Ivan the Terrible – nearly as good as a ...

Nature made the house

William Fiennes: Barry Topez, 29 July 1999

Arctic Dreams 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 464 pp., £7.99, January 1999, 1 86046 583 8
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About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory 
by Barry Lopez.
Harvill, 275 pp., £12, January 1999, 9781860465659
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... Collinson erected a billiard table on the sea-ice of Cambridge Bay. The table was fashioned from snow blocks, the cushions from walrus skin stuffed with oakum. The table surface was a finely-shaved sheet of freshwater ice; the balls were hand-carved from lignum vitae. Lopez draws on botany, field biology, ethnography, anthropology, geology, palaeontology and ...

Praise Yah

Eliot Weinberger: The Psalms, 24 January 2008

The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 518 pp., £22, October 2007, 978 0 393 06226 7
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... out of joint; sleep the sleep of death; sweeter than honey and the honeycomb; whiter than snow; oh that I had wings like a dove for then would I fly away; the meek shall inherit the earth; tender mercies; clean hands and a pure heart; I have been young and now am old; my cup runneth over; many a time; clean gone; the days of old; I am a worm and no ...
Daring to Excel: The Story of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain 
by Ruth Railton.
Secker, 466 pp., £20, August 1992, 0 436 23359 2
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... 1970-74 diaries Cecil King records a warm relationship between his wife, Dame Ruth Railton, and Edward Heath. ‘I think he is fond of her,’ he wrote on 6 March 1971 after Ted had been round for tea, ‘and finds the friendship of an intelligent and musical woman, with no possible axe to grind, very welcome.’ Daring to Excel is not the book of ...

Anything but Staffordshire

Rosemary Hill, 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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... which in the early 1850s fired the imaginations of the Oxford undergraduates William Morris and Edward Burne Jones. But De Morgan was enrolled at University College, where there was no scope for picturesque medievalism. The spirit of place did not haunt Gower Street. Having failed to get a degree, De Morgan decided to become a painter. He made friends among ...

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