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Fear among the Teacups

Dinah Birch: Ellen Wood

8 February 2001
East Lynne 
by Ellen Wood, edited by Andrew Maunder.
Broadview, 779 pp., £7.95, October 2000, 1 55111 234 5
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... Andrew Maunder’s introduction to his new edition of Ellen Wood’s chronicle of scandalous goings-on among the Victorian middle classes claims that East Lynne may be ‘one of the most famous unread works in the English language’. Very possibly. Yet it was spectacularly successful in its day, and its popularity has turned out to be more durable than that of most publishing sensations ...
10 February 1994
The Age of Innocence 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
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The Age of Innocence 
by Edith Wharton, introduced by Peter Washington.
Everyman, 308 pp., £9.99, September 1993, 1 85715 202 6
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... many-headed social gaze. Throughout these scenes a mocking voice-over – the voice is Joanne Woodward’s – reads some of Edith Wharton’s funniest lines (‘Americans want to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it’), which complicate and perturb the meaning of these already complicated and perturbing ...

The Interregnum

Martin Jacques: The Nation-state isn’t dead

5 February 2004
Empire of Capital 
by Ellen Meiksins Wood.
Verso, 182 pp., £15, July 2003, 1 85984 502 9
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Empire Lite: Nation-Building in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan 
by Michael Ignatieff.
Vintage, 134 pp., £6.99, May 2003, 0 09 945543 9
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Global Civil Society? 
by John Keane.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £40, April 2003, 0 521 81543 6
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Global Civil Society: An Answer to War 
by Mary Kaldor.
Polity, 189 pp., £45, April 2003, 0 7456 2757 9
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... utopianism, the biggest speculative bubble in history, neutral, interest-free globalisation. Ellen Meiksins Wood is guilty in her book of glossing over this interregnum and, even more extraordinarily, of paying scant regard to the Cold War: American behaviour and motivation can, for her, be charted as a straight line ...

Happy Campers

Ellen Meiksins Wood: G.A. Cohen

28 January 2010
Why Not Socialism? 
by G.A. Cohen.
Princeton, 83 pp., £10.95, September 2009, 978 0 691 14361 3
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... Socialism’, Albert Einstein said, is humanity’s attempt ‘to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development’, and for G.A. Cohen ‘every market … is a system of predation.’ That is the essence of his short but trenchant and elegantly written last book – Cohen died last August. His object is to make what he calls a ‘preliminary’ case – a tentative case that may, in the end, be defeated by inescapable realities – for a socialist alternative ...


D.A.N. Jones

18 September 1986
Search Sweet Country 
by B. Kojo Laing.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £10.95, August 1986, 0 434 40216 8
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The Jewel Maker 
by Tom Gallagher.
Hamish Hamilton, 180 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 241 11866 2
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The Pianoplayers 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 208 pp., £8.95, August 1986, 0 09 165190 5
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An After-Dinner’s Sleep 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 224 pp., £9.95, May 1986, 0 09 163620 5
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Coming Home 
by Mervyn Jones.
Piatkus, 263 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 0 86188 525 2
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... set on a moor near Pitlochry, the geographical and theatrical centre of Scotland, between Birnam Wood and Dunsinane, so that it is not surprising that the phantom horseman should be Shakespearean in origin. The plausibility of this tale is strengthened by the appearance of real-life people, not too well-known, and likewise Karen Blixen (to whom the book is ...

Talking with Alfred

Steven Shapin: Mr Loomis’s Obsession

15 April 2004
Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science that Changed the Course of World War Two 
by Jennet Conant.
Simon and Schuster, 330 pp., £9.99, July 2003, 0 684 87288 9
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... firm, subsequently acting as his cousin’s financial adviser, making him even richer through excellent stock-market tips. During World War Two, Loomis was described as Stimson’s unofficial ‘minister without portfolio’, connecting him efficiently with the worlds of business and finance. His marriage in 1912 to ...

Why It Matters

Ellen Meiksins Wood: Quentin Skinner’s Detachment

25 September 2008
Hobbes and Republican Liberty 
by Quentin Skinner.
Cambridge, 245 pp., £12.99, February 2008, 978 0 521 71416 7
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... Is it possible, Quentin Skinner asks, that an entire tradition of political thought, including the most influential conception of freedom in anglophone political theory in the past half-century, ‘has been insensitive to the range of conditions that can limit our freedom of action’? A reasonable question, one might think, not only about Isaiah Berlin’s influential defence of ‘negative’ against ‘positive’ liberty but about the whole tradition of liberalism ...

If It Weren’t for Charlotte

Alice Spawls: The Brontës

16 November 2017
... A wood engraving​ by the illustrator Joan Hassall, who died in 1988, shows Elizabeth Gaskell arriving at the Brontë parsonage. Patrick Brontë is taking Gaskell’s hand; Charlotte stands between them, arms open in a gesture of introduction. We – the spectators, whose gaze Charlotte seems to acknowledge (or is she looking at her father apprehensively?) – stand in the doorway; the participants are framed in the hallway arch, with the curved wooden staircase behind them ...


Perry Anderson

6 July 1989
A Treatise on Social Theory. Vol. II: Substantive Social Theory 
by W.G. Runciman.
Cambridge, 493 pp., £35, February 1989, 0 521 24959 7
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... new practices as the emergence of the Greek polis from the debris of the Mycenaean palace-kingdom (Ellen Wood), of feudal relations from the involution of late-imperial Roman society (Chris Wickham), of capitalist farming from the unravelling of English manorialism (Robert Brenner) – all innovations of central importance to Runciman’s own account of ...


Charlotte Brontë

8 March 2012
... the wise counsels of his father seemed boring to him; the shade and tranquillity of the woods, instead of calming his mind, tired him. He grew impatient to travel and see the world. One fine morning, he arose early, he made up a little packet of cheese and grains, and without saying a word to anyone, the ingrate abandoned his father and his paternal ...

Good at Being Gods

Caleb Crain: Buckminster Fuller’s Visions

18 December 2008
Buckminster Fuller: Starting with the Universe 
edited by K. Michael Hays and Dana Miller.
Yale, 257 pp., £35, July 2008, 978 0 300 12620 4
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... were they forgotten that last year, when the environmental consultants Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger rebuked the environmental movement for neglecting the resources of economic growth and human ingenuity, they seemed unaware that there had once been a movement in America that championed both. Nordhaus and Sh...

Astonish Mould and Mildew

Andrew O’Hagan: Bless this House with Less

10 October 2019
Hinch Yourself Happy: All the Best Cleaning Tips to Shine Your Sink and Soothe Your Soul 
by Mrs Hinch.
Michael Joseph, 288 pp., £12.99, April 2019, 978 0 241 39975 0
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... Clean – scrubbing walls, washing curtains – and a lovely woman called Betty and another called Ellen Lawless used to bring me sweets as I sat reading. There was one book in particular, an illustrated Bible that showed angels going up and down a stairway to heaven, and I can still see their white robes as if they’d just been done with Persil in a boil ...


Alan Hollinghurst: In Houston

18 March 1999
... fanlights, balustrades, other bits of tat. Beside these, the late 19th-century rows of tiny wooden ‘shotgun’ cottages along potholed or unpaved roads exhibit an architectural dignity that is only a part of their eloquence. The type takes its name from the unhappy certainty that the discharge of a shotgun through the front door would pass through the ...

Passing-Out Time

Christopher Tayler: Patrick Hamilton’s drinking

29 January 2009
The Slaves of Solitude 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Constable, 327 pp., £7.99, September 2008, 978 1 84529 415 1
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The Gorse Trilogy 
by Patrick Hamilton.
Black Spring, 603 pp., £9.95, June 2007, 978 0 948238 34 5
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... a letter exculpating her husband as the only good thing in her life.’ Bernard then married Ellen Day, the snobbish daughter of ‘a fashionable London dentist’. Their children grew up in a big house in Hove while Bernard slept off hangovers in his London chambers, spent time with his French mistress and did a spot of writing. His first novel, The ...
22 June 2000
The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper 
by Dominick Dunne.
Crown, 218 pp., £17.99, October 1999, 0 609 60388 4
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Gary Cooper Off Camera: A Daughter Remembers 
by Maria Cooper Janis.
Abrams, 176 pp., £22, November 1999, 0 8109 4130 9
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... Dominick Dunne knew he was washed up. For most of his life he had been trying to get into Hollywood by acting as more than he was. Or without pausing to ask what he was. As a stage manager for NBC TV he’d been picked to work on their 1952 production of The Petrified Forest – with Humphrey Bogart repeating his classic 1936 role, Henry Fonda doing Leslie ...

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