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Christopher Ricks, 21 November 1985

Gentlemen in England 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 02 411165 1
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... A.N. Wilson is something of an anachronism, and it was timely of him to make anachronism the nub of his new novel about the old days, Gentlemen in England. The title itself, in the England of 1985 where the new right spits even more zealously than the old left on the grave of the gentlemanly ideal, pushes anachronism and dislocation to the point of oxymoron ...

Downhill

David Marquand, 19 September 1985

Years of Recovery: British Economic Policy 1945-51 
by Alec Cairncross.
Methuen, 527 pp., £35, April 1985, 0 416 37920 6
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The Politics of Recession 
by R.W. Johnson.
Macmillan, 275 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 333 36786 3
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The Labour Government 1974-79: Political Aims and Economic Reality 
by Martin Holmes.
Macmillan, 206 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 333 36735 9
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New Jerusalems: The Labour Party and the Economics of Democratic Socialism 
by Elizabeth Durbin and Roy Hattersley.
Routledge, 341 pp., £16.95, March 1985, 9780710096500
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... to do this than parties of the right. Where Kreisky, Schmidt and Palme have all trod, Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan should surely have been able to tread. To some extent, Attlee did. To be sure, his government made appalling mistakes. For the last four of its six years in office it was haunted by the memory of the two great crises of 1947: the fuel crisis ...

Did You Have Bombs?

Deborah Friedell: ‘The Other Elizabeth Taylor’, 6 August 2009

The Other Elizabeth Taylor 
by Nicola Beauman.
Persephone, 444 pp., £15, April 2009, 978 1 906462 10 9
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... Do novelists come nicer than Elizabeth Taylor? Her mother died of politeness – she developed appendicitis over Christmas, and didn’t want to interrupt the doctor’s holiday – but rather than renounce good manners on the spot, her biographer Nicola Beauman writes, Taylor ‘cared about good manners very much indeed’ to the end of her days ...

Boudoir Politics

Bee Wilson: Lola Montez, 7 June 2007

Lola Montez: Her Life and Conquests 
by James Morton.
Portrait, 390 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 7499 5115 3
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... a typical Lola-ism, since she was about as Spanish as a boil-in-the-bag paella. She was baptised Elizabeth Rosanna Gilbert at St Peter’s Church in Liverpool on 16 February 1823, though she was probably born two years earlier in County Sligo. Her father, Edward Gilbert, was a soldier. Her mother, Elizabeth Oliver, was the ...

Labour and the Bouncers

Paul Foot, 4 June 1987

Prime Minister: The Conduct of Policy under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan 
by Bernard Donoughue.
Cape, 198 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 224 02450 7
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Time and Chance 
by James Callaghan.
Collins, 584 pp., £15.95, April 1987, 0 00 216515 5
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... it represented were not the only enemies of the elected government. Like Joe Haines, Harold Wilson’s adviser in the first part of the 1974-1979 Labour Government, Bernard Donoughue finds plenty of important people lurking in the background to defend the existing order from any levelling which the Labour Government might threaten. He reveals that in ...

Rescuing the bishops

Blair Worden, 21 April 1983

The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society 1559-1625 
by Patrick Collinson.
Oxford, 297 pp., £17.50, January 1983, 0 19 822685 3
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Reactions to the English Civil War 1642-1649 
by John Morrill.
Macmillan, 257 pp., £14, November 1982, 0 333 27565 9
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The World of the Muggletonians 
by Christopher Hill, Barry Reay and William Lamont.
Temple Smith, 195 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 85117 226 1
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The Life of John Milton 
by A.N. Wilson.
Oxford, 278 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 211776 9
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Complete Prose Works of John Milton. Vol. 8: 1666-1682 
edited by Maurice Kelley.
Yale, 625 pp., £55, January 1983, 0 300 02561 0
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The Poet’s Time: Politics and Religion in the Works of Andrew Marvell 
by Warren Chernaik.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 9780521247733
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... have recently explored the development of the Church of England over the two long reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, and one of Collinson’s achievements, executed with singular modesty and generosity, has been to draw their conclusions together and to set them in perspective. But the findings which count for most are the author’s own. To the ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee, 17 November 1983

Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... Elizabeth Hardwick’s terms for the mind at work are revealing. In an essay called ‘Domestic Manners’ which begins with the question ‘How do we live today?’ she reminds us of the duplicity and elusiveness of styles. Just as they seem to ‘the defining imagination’ to look like solid historical facts, they shift and collapse ...

Not bothered

E.S. Turner, 29 August 1991

The Bachelor Duke: William Spencer Cavendish, Sixth Duke of Devonshire, 1790-1858 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 234 pp., £19.95, March 1991, 0 7195 4920 5
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... they bolted for the safety of Revolutionary Paris. The party included the Duke’s mistress, Lady Elizabeth Foster, and his four young children, two of them by Lady Elizabeth, whose company Georgiana ‘for reasons best known to herself ... loved more than that of any living soul’. Georgiana’s mother, Countess ...

Short Cuts

Joanna Biggs: At the Food Bank, 5 December 2013

... from someone in his own town who couldn’t afford to eat. Food banks are extraordinarily new. In Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel of the Hungry Forties, Mary Barton, those who are ‘clemming’, or starving, just get used to it. And those who are not can barely imagine it. George Wilson in that novel goes to ask the ...

They Supped with the King

Bee Wilson: Mistresses, 6 January 2011

Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman 
by Elizabeth Abbott.
Duckworth, 510 pp., £20, 0 7156 3946 3
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... to call yourself something else, but there is no guarantee that anyone else will follow suit. Elizabeth Abbott’s panoramic survey contains numerous examples of women who find themselves loving unavailable men but feeling disgust at the label of mistress (how happy they would have been to know that one day they would find themselves in a book subtitled ...

The Cult of Celebrity

Jacqueline Rose, 20 August 1998

... Jack wrote in the ‘Unbelievable!’ issue of Granta dedicated in part to Diana’s death. For Elizabeth Wilson, in ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Diana’ in New Left Review, Diana’s mythic status put paid to any feminist component of her story (as if the two were incompatible). The Left is the last bastion of a form of reason dangerously ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning, 4 May 2017

... circle of parasites.’ His regard for the play was shared by Chesterton’s new acquaintance G. Wilson Knight, a schoolmaster and fellow ex-serviceman who sent him essays and accompanied him to plays, after which they would repair to the ‘Dirty Duck’ (the pub was really called the Black Swan). Half a century later Knight recalled these jaunts as ...

Italianizzati

Hugh Honour, 13 November 1997

A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701-1800 
compiled by John Ingamells.
Yale, 1070 pp., £50, May 1997, 0 300 07165 5
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... virtuoso and Grand Tourist. He was first drawn to the subject by the Roman landscapes of Richard Wilson; published a book on Wilson’s then little-known drawings; and went on to annotate the letters written from Rome in 1757 by a minor British painter who had mentioned Wilson and other ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... In her lifetime she was praised by H.L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, Louise Bogan, but Edmund Wilson said that One of Ours,* her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was a complete failure and that My Antonia ended on the level of a Ladies Home Journal serial. Lionel Trilling called The Professor’s House ‘lame’ and Ernest Hemingway thought Cather had found ...

I told him I was ready to die

Suzanne Scafe, 16 February 1989

Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House 
by Elizabeth Keckley.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505259 5
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The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke 
by Brenda Stevenson.
Oxford, 609 pp., £22.50, July 1988, 0 19 505238 2
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The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Secole in Many Lands 
by Mary Secole.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505249 8
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... novel, and is familiar from the work of other black writers of that period, such as Harriet Wilson, the author of Our Nig. In the sections which describe her life at the White House the stance changes to that of a discreet observer, but even there occasional touches of gentle melodrama still remain. The three chapters (there are 15 in all) devoted to ...

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