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Terry Eagleton: Bishop Berkeley

25 April 2013
The Correspondence of George​ Berkeley 
edited by Marc Hight.
Cambridge, 674 pp., £75, November 2012, 978 1 107 00074 2
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... GeorgeBerkeley’s claim that things exist only when they are being perceived has a lot to do with his Irishness. There are Irish people nowadays who cross the street when they see a priest approaching; but Ireland ...

A Betting Man

Colin Kidd: John Law

12 September 2019
John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century 
by James Buchan.
MacLehose, 513 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 84866 608 5
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... the insurance of life and property, as well as financial systems for managing public debt – although other panaceas were naive or faddish, for example the enthusiasm of the Anglo-Irish philosopher GeorgeBerkeley for the health benefits of tar-water. The phenomenon of projection is parodied by Berkeley’s fellow Anglo-Irishman Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels (1726), where projectors at the ...

Cute, My Arse

Seamus Perry: Geoffrey Hill

12 September 2019
The Book of Baruch by the Gnostic Justin 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 148 pp., £20, April, 978 0 19 882952 2
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... from about a third of the way through, by which time you are probably getting the hang of it: The ‘Irish Salamis’: a commonplace flourish (Yeats) about the clerkly author of Tar  Water (Berkeley). He was sending intelligence out for audition; he believed a win would be good for the nation, the mind of Ireland freed, raw body, old head, albeit Swift died mad. The ‘Irish Salamis’ is a ...

It should have ended with Verdi

John Davis: The Battle of Adwa

24 May 2012
The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire 
by Raymond Jonas.
Harvard, 413 pp., £22.95, November 2011, 978 0 674 05274 1
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... town of Adwa in northern Ethiopia. It was not the first reverse suffered by a European army in Africa, but it was the first decisive African victory. A decade later its earliest historian, Captain GeorgeBerkeley, wondered whether Adwa was ‘the first revolt of the Dark Continent against domineering Europe’. In The Battle of Adwa Raymond Jonas goes a step further. Adwa, he claims, not only ensured ...

Jabs

Richard Horton

8 October 1992
Edward Jenner 1749-1823 
by Richard Fisher.
Deutsch, 361 pp., £20, July 1991, 0 233 98681 2
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... Jenner adopted are able to stimulate ill-tempered debate among members of a normally reticent scientific community. Born on 17 May 1749, he was the second son of the marriage between the vicar of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, and the daughter of a former vicar of the same parish. Orphaned at the age of five, he attended grammar school and soon became apprentice to a local surgeon. At 21 he moved to ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson Lears: The Strange Career of Robert Oppenheimer

20 December 2012
Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... men who had not been shaving for more than a few years were excitedly reading one another’s papers and poring over the results of experiments in Cambridge, Göttingen, Copenhagen and (eventually) Berkeley. This was how Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg and others created the foundations of quantum physics. Yet within less than a decade this moment had passed. Olympian conversations were drowned out by ...

Biting into a Pin-cushion

A.D. Nuttall: Descartes’s botch

24 June 2004
Flesh in the Age of Reason 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 574 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 7139 9149 6
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... The broad brush-strokes, the rapid covering of great tracts of thought are certainly exhilarating, but the strong effect is achieved at some cost to depth of understanding. He tells the reader that Berkeley dismissed matter as a metaphysical chimera and then slides at once into the common misperception of Berkeley, in his own century, as denying solidity, tangibility and the like. What is missing here ...

Pastiche

Norman Stone

21 July 1983
The Invention of Tradition 
edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger.
Cambridge, 320 pp., £17.50, March 1983, 0 521 24645 8
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... performances to the public. This would not have been an easy task, for the performers missed their cues, arrived drunk, took the wrong places and, in some cases, giggled throughout the ceremony – George IV’s coronation being all the more preposterous for the hammering of his ex-wife-to-be at the gates. In those days, there was much anti-royal sentiment, and what appeared to be tradition was richly ...
4 April 1991
After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... When Bishop Berkeley wrote his philosophical treatise linking tar-water, that sovereign cure-all, with the sublimest mysteries of the Christian religion, a lay critic said it reminded him of the man who began by talking ...

But this is fateful!

Theo Tait: Jonathan Lethem

16 March 2017
The Blot: A Novel 
by Jonathan Lethem.
Cape, 289 pp., £16.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 10148 6
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The Blot 
by Jonathan Lethem and Laurence Rickels.
Anti-Oedipus, 88 pp., £6.99, September 2016, 978 0 9905733 7 1
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... a helpful doctor in the hospital asks. As luck would have it, he does. A flashback to his previous port of call, Singapore, reveals an encounter with an old acquaintance from his high-school days in Berkeley. Despite looking like ‘a street person’, with a ‘warped grin and pigeon walk’ and ‘a posture like a question mark … dressed in layers of baggy, unwashed black polyester’, Keith ...

I am the thing itself

Rosemary Hill: Hooray for Harriette

25 September 2003
Harriette Wilson’s ‘Memoirs’ 
edited by Lesley Blanch.
Phoenix, 472 pp., £9.99, December 2002, 1 84212 632 6
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The Courtesan’s Revenge: Harriette Wilson, the Woman who Blackmailed the King 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 338 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 571 20504 6
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... scandalous. ‘The Marquis of Lorne . . . married Lady Caroline Paget, the divorced wife of the Marquis of Anglesey. Amy had borne the Duke a son . . . [she] retaliated by ensnaring the Honourable Berkeley Paget, Lord Anglesey’s brother, who left his wife and children in order to live openly with her’; ‘also in Paris, having run away with and then from Mrs George Lamb, was Henry Brougham’; and ...
5 August 1982
Trinity College Dublin 1592-1952: An Academic History 
by R.B. McDowell and D.A. Webb.
Cambridge, 580 pp., £35, June 1982, 0 521 23931 1
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... ostensibly great man in Trinity’s past. To be fair, any university that has lasted nearly four hundred years is likely to have some outstanding people on its list. Trinity has its share, including Berkeley, Swift, Rowan Hamilton, Lecky, Dowden, Bury, Douglas Hyde, J.M. Synge, Samuel Beckett. Since 1952, and beginning with McConnell, Trinity has gradually acknowledged its responsibility not only to the ...

In Your Guts You Know He’s Nuts

Thomas Sugrue: Barry Goldwater

3 January 2008
The Conscience of a Conservative 
by Barry Goldwater.
Princeton, 144 pp., £8.95, June 2007, 978 0 691 13117 7
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... In 2004, with the re-election of George W. Bush, the Republicans seemed invincible. Bush’s consigliere, Karl Rove, interpreted the election as the sign of a realignment and pushed for a hyperconservative politics which would create a ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester

8 June 1995
A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... of musicals, but how many musicals are great films? Or, speaking of moments, the killing of Jack Palance by Alan Ladd in Shane is exquisite, but Shane as a whole is a phoney. (But its director, George Stevens, did direct a musical that’s a serious candidate for greatness: Swing Time.) And the problem of evaluating the makers is vastly complicated, as it is with the Elizabethan and Jacobean plays ...

Plan it mañana

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Albert O. Hirschman

10 September 2014
Wordly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman 
by Jeremy Adelman.
Princeton, 740 pp., £27.95, April 2013, 978 0 691 15567 8
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The Essential Hirschman 
edited by Jeremy Adelman.
Princeton, 367 pp., £19.95, October 2013, 978 0 691 15990 4
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... loved or admired any man more, and it was about Colorni and the importance of ‘petites idées’ that he was to talk on the first evening he spent with his future wife at the International House in Berkeley in 1941. Sarah Hirschman, as she soon became, was Russian by origin, and they conversed for years in French. Their many letters are among Adelman’s best sources. Hirschman thought he should join ...

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