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8 November 1979
Jeremy Thorpe: A Secret Life 
by Lewis Chester, Magnus Linklater and David May.
Fontana, 371 pp., £1.50
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... innocently, with people with South African associations. In fact, Harold Wilson, like Lloyd George, has been caught out telling the truth, even if the truth was rather irrelevant. The final pages give a version of what the jury thought, said and voted. The authors know next to nothing of Newton, the man who did the shooting. But then nobody knows. Sins ...

Ballooning

J.I.M. Stewart

5 June 1986
The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... When in December 1926 the creator of Hercule Poirot disappeared the creator of Sherlock Holmes somehow possessed himself of one of her gloves, and at once took it to a Mr Horace Leaf with a result which he describes in a letter to the Morning Post, written on 16 December (ten days, that is, after Agatha Christie had vanished), and now reprinted in the present volume of selections from Conan Doyle’s letters to the press ...
8 October 1992
Fraud 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 224 03315 8
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... is Pip, and what is he after? Everyone can be made to seem both banal and mysterious. The Sherlock Holmes tales exploit both the puzzle and the adventure, and the humdrum oddness of the society in which they take place: but writers who are cunning by nature or naturally fortunate know that mysteries are not there to be solved. Todorov said that Henry James’s ...

By All Possible Art

Tobias Gregory: George Herbert

18 December 2014
Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert 
by John Drury.
Penguin, 396 pp., £9.99, April 2014, 978 0 14 104340 1
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... The world, the flesh and the devil keep coming back, and must be rejected again and again. George Herbert’s poems vividly describe the inner weather of Christian devotion. It’s all there: self-abasement before God; horror at his absence; meditation on the boundless enormity of sin; meditation on the boundless generosity of Christ’s ...

The Great Fear

William Lamont

21 July 1983
Charles I and the Popish Plot 
by Caroline Hibbard.
North Carolina, 342 pp., £21, May 1983, 0 8078 1520 9
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Charles I: The Personal Monarch 
by Charles Carlton.
Routledge, 426 pp., £14.95, June 1983, 9780710094858
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The Puritan Moment: The Coming of Revolution in an English County 
by William Hunt.
Harvard, 365 pp., £24, April 1983, 0 674 73903 5
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... carried messages between Archbishop Laud and the Papal agent at the Court of Henrietta Maria, George Con. Antrim had, as early as the beginning of 1638, presented to Charles I and Henrietta Maria a plan to take an army of his Ulster clansmen (he claimed to be able to raise 10,000) to Scotland to crush Protestant rebellion. When the King needed his help in ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Other Atticus Finch

29 July 2015
... rather extravagantly – is a set of views about black people that might put him on a par with George Wallace, a circumstance requiring you to suddenly un-imagine the noble lawyer, now no longer the decency machine who has long lived in your head as segregation’s mythic antidote. To some commentators, he is the same man, a Southern agrarian fighting ...

Beyond Discussion

Neal Ascherson

3 April 1980
The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial 
by Auberon Waugh.
Joseph, 240 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7181 1799 9
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... at the Old Bailey produced less certainty about who really did what to whom than if Jeremy Thorpe, George Deakin, David Holmes and John Le Mesurier had been invited to take off their shoes and socks and walk along a trench full of glowing charcoal. As with the trench method, the populace gathered to watch or to read about ...

Allergic to Depths

Terry Eagleton: Gothic

18 March 1999
Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Fourth Estate, 438 pp., £20, December 1998, 1 85702 498 2
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... its publication in 1897, with Dracula himself the most filmed fictional character after Sherlock Holmes. An English film, made in 1962, was responsible for five thousand fainting cases in cinemas, 75 per cent of them male. Women presumably see more blood than men, and men no doubt saw even less of it before they were allowed to be present at births. The late ...

Evil Man

Simon Schaffer: Joseph Priestley

21 May 1998
The Enlightenment of Joseph Priestley: A Study of His Life and Work from 1733 to 1773 
by Robert Schofield.
Pennsylvania State, 328 pp., £35.95, January 1998, 0 271 01662 0
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... This halt in the narrative of Priestley’s remarkable career invites comparison with Richard Holmes’s biography of Coleridge, which stopped just as his protagonist set sail in spring 1804 for Mediterranean exile, or with Janet Browne’s recent first volume of a large-scale life of Charles Darwin. Holmes asks what we ...

Mother’s Boys

David A. Bell

10 June 1993
The Family Romance of the French Revolution 
by Lynn Hunt.
Routledge, 220 pp., £19.99, September 1992, 0 415 08236 6
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... culprits at the time, but such is the nature of historical inquiry that even the occasional Holmes among historians failed to make the charges stick for long. Nonetheless, each generation of specialists enthusiastically brought new techniques and methodologies to the same gigantic, confusing mass of clues. Recently, though, many historians of France ...

Who would you have been?

Jessica Olin: No Kids!

26 August 2015
Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids 
edited by Meghan Daum.
Picador, 282 pp., £17.99, May 2015, 978 1 250 05293 3
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... for adoption, although that is certainly another way of choosing ‘not to have kids’.) Anna Holmes’s first pregnancy, at 19, results from ‘the sort of constant, frenzied and, yes, unprotected sex that many of those in the midst of early adulthood know not to engage in but engage in anyway’. Full disclosure: ‘I would become pregnant twice ...

Great Thoughts

E.S. Turner

7 May 1981
The Macmillan Treasury of Relevant Quotations 
edited by Edward Murphy.
Macmillan, 658 pp., £3.95, August 1980, 0 333 30038 6
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... is well represented, but 21 of the 26 references against his name relate to works by the unindexed George F. Woodberry (another English humorist, D. B. Wyndham-Lewis, has his entries indexed under Percy Wyndham Lewis). The genuine Wodehouse entries are not really vintage, which may well be the result of trying to find unhackneyed passages. Indeed, the search ...

Diary

Leah Price: The Death of Stenography

4 December 2008
... reprints of published fiction: Robinson Crusoe, Around the World in Eighty Days, all the Sherlock Holmes stories and even an unabridged run of the Strand Magazine. The depositories of copyright libraries are littered with Victorian shorthand editions of A Christmas Carol, Aesop’s fables, English-Welsh and English-Hindi dictionaries, the Old and New ...
8 May 1997
From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities 
edited by David Wright and Anne Digby.
Routledge, 238 pp., £45, October 1996, 9780415112154
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... caper across the heath of history crying out ‘come not in here, nuncle,’ or who, as with George Austen, achieve a glimmer of reflected glory. Sister Jane left her novels: the mentally defective brother, boarded out with a poor family near Basingstoke and eventually buried in an unmarked grave, no word at all. A few parish records register that he ...

Madly Excited

John Bayley

1 June 1989
The Life of Graham Greene. Vol. I: 1904-1939 
by Norman Sherry.
Cape, 783 pp., £16.95, April 1989, 0 224 02654 2
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... is particularly mechanical, and can seem repellent. Conan Doyle may have identified with Sherlock Holmes and with Watson too, as most of us do, but this is very different from turning oneself into a technique, identifying with a method. Greene’s particular brand of Roman Catholicism becomes a vital part of it, and the part in which the higher ...

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