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Peter Pulzer, 20 February 1986

The Redefinition of Conservatism: Politics and Doctrine 
by Charles Covell.
Macmillan, 267 pp., £27.50, January 1986, 0 333 38463 6
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Thinkers of the New Left 
by Roger Scruton.
Longman, 227 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 582 90273 8
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The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics 
by George Watson.
Macmillan, 172 pp., £22.50, November 1985, 0 333 38754 6
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Socialism and Freedom 
by Bryan Gould.
Macmillan, 109 pp., £25, November 1985, 0 333 40580 3
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... of redistributive intervention. But the flexibility of liberalism is also its strength. It is, as George Watson argues, a way of making choices, something that is not possible in either Marxist or Hegelian utopias. It prescribes a set of institutions, a framework for action to ensure what Rawls calls ‘justice as regularity’. But there is one ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... the Edinburgh pavement and the causeway; and between the ghosts of the Edinburgh philanthropists George Watson and George Heriot. Fergusson’s poetics are naturally dialogic, confidently mixing genres, styles, Scots and English. This is apparent in another mode Fergusson is drawn to, the elegiac, or, often, the ...

Taking sides

Karl Miller, 17 April 1980

W.H. Auden: The Life of a Poet 
by Charles Osborne.
Eyre Methuen, 336 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 413 39670 3
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... of taking sides. This does not mean, and the present book does not reveal, that, in the words of George Watson in a letter to this journal, ‘like Hitler, if less effectively’, he ‘purposed the death of millions’ when he imagined the defeat of the bourgeoisie. It does mean that we should be no less careful in weighing the matter of betrayal in ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... No anthology offers us the full spectrum of Scottish poetry, but Roderick Watson’s comes closer than any other. This is the first big, general anthology to offer us work in Gaelic, Scots and English (note the word order) from the medieval period to the present. Catherine Kerrigan’s Anthology of Scottish Women Poets (1991), Douglas Dunn’s Faber Book of 20th-century Scottish Poetry (1992), and Daniel O’Rourke’s Dream State; The New Scottish Poets (1994) all offer work in the three languages, but, as their titles indicate, select from specific sectors of Scottish poetry ...


Tom Shippey: The Druids, 9 July 2009

Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain 
by Ronald Hutton.
Yale, 491 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 300 14485 7
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... and burning the groves with their bloodstained altars – a scene powerfully recapitulated in George Shipway’s novel of the occupation of Britain, Imperial Governor (1968). Hutton is sceptical about most of this, pointing out that several authors seem to be copying each other or sources now lost, that Pliny appears to have been ready to believe ...

Radical Literary Theory

John Ellis, 8 February 1990

Fraud: Literary Theory and the End of English 
by Peter Washington.
Fontana, 188 pp., £4.99, September 1989, 0 00 686138 5
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... it is here that he diverges from the ineffective attack mounted by unthinking conservatives like George Watson in his recent The Certainty of Literature.* Rather than argue that there really are certainties, and thereby offer an easy target for anyone who knows perfectly ordinary modern theory of knowledge (as ...


Tom Paulin, 9 May 1996

T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism and Literary Form 
by Anthony Julius.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £30, September 1995, 0 521 47063 3
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... something intractable and frightening which lies at the diseased heart of European culture. George Steiner raised this matter some years ago when he observed in a letter to the Listener that the ‘obstinate puzzle’ is that Eliot’s uglier touches tend to occur at the centre of very good poetry. As Julius shows, neither Ricks in his comments on ...

Shopping for Soap, Fudge and Biscuit Tins

John Pemble: Literary Tourists, 7 June 2007

The Literary Tourist 
by Nicola J. Watson.
Palgrave, 244 pp., £45, October 2006, 1 4039 9992 9
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... in the travel writer, who expounds the eucharistic mystery of place. Too easy, perhaps? Nicola Watson has moved the discussion on. In The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain, she argues that literary tourism is historically and geographically specific. It’s peculiar to the long 19th century and to the territory of its ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... sure whether he should be making high claims for them or confessing to a guilty fondness. J.R. Watson’s The English Hymn is a far more ambitious book, charting the history of the English hymn from its origins in the metrical psalmody of Sternhold and Hopkins in the 16th century through almost to the present day. It is a work of distinction, written with ...

The Positions He Takes

John Barrell: Hitchens on Paine, 30 November 2006

Thomas Paine’s ‘Rights of Man’: A Biography 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2006, 1 84354 513 6
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... identified the authentic or “real” one.’ Quite right too; and if any radical, misled by George Galloway’s description of Hitchens as ‘a drink-soaked former Trotskyite popinjay’, should suggest that this book was written out of vanity, he would surely be mistaken. A vain man would have taken care to write a better book than this: more ...


Rose George: In Dewsbury, 17 November 2005

... it for a pittance, ‘because everyone just saw the mills as places of drudgery,’ says Margaret Watson, the deputy editor of the Dewsbury Reporter, and the child and niece of mill-workers. ‘They were blackened, ugly – who wanted them?’ Bed manufacturers and businessmen, mostly. Stephen Battye, a local businessman, turned Joseph Newsome’s redbrick ...

Vermin Correspondence

Iain Sinclair, 20 October 1994

Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... to Lunch is himself the classic double agent, the turned man. He has a public persona as ‘Ben Watson’ (apologist for his nocturnal self, the crazed poet), columnist for the Wire, broadcaster, and author of the monumental and magnificent folly, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play. Watson, if he wanted ...


Patricia Craig, 2 March 1989

Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival: A Changling Art 
by John Wilson Foster.
Gill and Macmillan, 407 pp., £30, November 1987, 0 8156 2374 7
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... of a servant’. As a gloss on this we have, among other commentaries, the remarks of G.J. Watson in his study of 1979, Irish Identity and the Literary Revival. Joyce, as Watson reminds us, was with this image repudiating not only the fatuities of Victorian stage-Irishness as a literary mode, but also their glorified ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... hostile (more stereotypical Englishness here) to ‘intellectuals’. As his former colleague George Watson observed, ‘The chief purpose of his critical writings, in a negative sense, was the discrediting of 16th-century humanism and 20th-century modernism, both of which he saw as dry, starved and stultifying.’ It says something about Lewis’s ...

One-Man Ministry

Susan Pedersen: Welfare States, 8 February 2018

Bread for All: The Origins of the Welfare State 
by Chris Renwick.
Allen Lane, 323 pp., £20, September 2017, 978 0 241 18668 8
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... did most to shape the welfare state in modern Britain, I just might give the palm to Sir Alfred Watson. He would be an unconventional choice. Short, bald, unassuming, more at home with numbers than people, Watson is well and truly forgotten. But he had strong views on how social services should develop and be funded, and ...

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