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Old Tunes

Stephen Sedley, 16 July 2020

... Chridhe’. All of these were played at a stately pace for Mr Justice Cross by an articled clerk, Gerald Pointon, on a piano squeezed into the courtroom. If Curwen was to win, the tune used by Roberton had to be separately capable of being copyrighted and pirated.Since the war, ‘Westering Home’ had become well known as a concert piece. It was pretty ...

Here she is

Frank Kermode: Zadie Smith, 6 October 2005

On Beauty 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 446 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 241 14293 8
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... for killing off perfectly healthy people, say, because he needs them out of the story. Gerald Dawes in The Longest Journey is an example: ‘Gerald died that afternoon. He was broken up in the football match.’ No need for more, though more could easily have been supplied. This is machinery; plots need it and ...

Seven Days

R.W. Johnson, 4 July 1985

The Pick of Paul Johnson: An Anthology 
Harrap, 277 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 245 54246 9Show More
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... and has been imitated by successive New Statesman columnists – Richard Crossman, Paul Johnson, Gerald Kaufman, Matthew Coady et al. (One only has to listen to the Parliamentary speeches of Gerald Kaufman to see how this sub-genre, once picked up, is hard to drop.) The origins of the style lie, only too audibly, in the ...

Between Jesus and Napoleon

Jonathan Haslam: The Paris Conference of 1919, 15 November 2001

Peacemakers: The Paris Conference of 1919 and Its Attempt to End War 
by Margaret MacMillan.
Murray, 574 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 5939 1
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... not just to Keynes’s early polemic but also to such historians as Peter Krüger, Gerald Feldman, Harold James and Niall Ferguson). The core of Mayer’s message was that the Russian Revolution was central to decision-making at Paris; that when the slogan bisogna fare come en Rusia was adopted by the ...

More than one world

P.N. Furbank, 5 December 1991

D.H. Lawrence: The Early Years 1885-1912 
by John Worthen.
Cambridge, 624 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 521 25419 1
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The Letters of D.H. Lawrence. Vol. VI: 1927-28 
edited by James Boulton, Margaret Boulton and Gerald Lacy.
Cambridge, 645 pp., £50, September 1991, 0 521 23115 9
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... most unchanging thing about them. (As it was, one might add, the most unchanging thing about poor James Boswell, another great vita nuova man, ever inclined to exhort himself: ‘Be Samuel Johnson! Be the rock of Gibraltar!’) All the same, despite Svevo’s rule, there have been a few people – Tolstoy, Wittgenstein and D.H. Lawrence come to mind – who ...

Don’t Ask Henry

Alan Hollinghurst: Sissiness, 9 October 2008

Belchamber 
by Howard Sturgis.
NYRB, 345 pp., £8.99, May 2008, 978 1 59017 266 7
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... fate of becoming an accessory to the life of a more important writer. It is his friend Henry James who keeps Sturgis’s novel distantly in view, at the same time as casting a long shadow over it. James read it in proof, and wrote a characteristic sequence of letters to Sturgis about it, beginning with neat praise and ...

Follies

George Melly, 4 April 1991

A Surrealist Life 
by John Lowe.
Collins, 262 pp., £18, February 1991, 0 00 217941 5
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... Am I eccentric?’ Edward James once asked me in the days before I was added to his long list of enemies both real and imaginary. ‘I suppose I am, but I don’t mean to be. I’ve always tried to behave like everyone else.’ We were sitting on the platform of one of the inevitably incomplete concrete follies he was building at enormous expense on a hillside he owned by proxy in a Mexican jungle ...

Sorry to decline your Brief

Stephen Sedley, 11 June 1992

Judge for yourself 
by James Pickles.
Smith Gryphon, 242 pp., £15.99, April 1992, 1 85685 019 6
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The Barrister’s World 
by John Morison and Philip Leith.
Open University, 256 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 335 09396 5
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Advocates 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 305 pp., £15, April 1992, 0 19 811948 8
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... The absurdity of ex-judge James Pickles is not that, the son of a mayor of Halifax and himself an Oxford graduate, he rails endlessly against the domination of the Bench by the Oxbridge upper middle class. There’s nothing wrong with being a traitor to one’s class. As the left-wing QC D. N. Pritt told the right-wing Labour leader Ernest Bevin, it was the only thing the two of them had in common ...

Likeable People

John Sutherland, 15 May 1980

Book Society 
by Graham Watson.
Deutsch, 164 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 233 97160 2
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The Publishers Association Annual Report 1979-80 
73 pp.Show More
Private Presses and Publishing in England since 1945 
by H.E. Bellamy.
Clive Bingley, 168 pp., £15, March 1980, 0 85157 297 9
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... James Hepburn opens his history of literary agency – The Author’s Empty Purse, published in l968 – with the same quotation that Graham Watson uses to conclude his reminiscences of a lifetime spent in the profession: This is the age of the middleman. He is generally a parasite. He always flourishes. I have been forced to give him some little attention lately in my particular business ...

Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... somewhat higher, and they might hobnob with the great in salons and house parties, where, as Henry James sometimes suggests, they were cultivated for their celebrity or their charm rather than for their books – see, for example, ‘The Death of the Lion’. Society was open to the talents, but to have the right background could only help, and MacCarthy’s ...

Fairyland

Bruce Bawer, 2 May 1985

Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald 
by James Mellow.
Souvenir, 569 pp., £15.95, February 1985, 0 285 65001 7
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Home before Dark: A Personal Memoir of John Cheever 
by Susan Cheever.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £10.95, January 1985, 0 297 78376 9
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... paying the Fitzgeralds’ bills for a decade; the friendships with Edmund Wilson, Ring Lardner, Gerald and Sara Murphy, and above all with Hemingway; the insanity that crippled Zelda during the Thirties, and the alcoholism that devastated Scott; the prolonged composition and demoralising failure of Tender is the night; Zelda’s institutionalisation in ...

Carnival Time

Peter Craven, 18 February 1988

The Remake 
by Clive James.
Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 0 224 02515 5
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In the Land of Oz 
by Howard Jacobson.
Hamish Hamilton, 380 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 241 12110 8
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... want to overdetermine to the point of absurdity, but it seems fairly obvious that what Clive James represents is a kind of stylised distortion of what Britain sees itself as: a kind of self-possessed jokey coarseness, very smart and very educated, a sort of sharp-talking deified moron – who then has to be defined (surprise, surprise) as Australian. He ...

Becoming a girl

John Bayley, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: Writer 
by James Booth.
Harvester, 192 pp., £9.95, March 1992, 0 7450 0769 4
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... the head most excitingly takes place. I started to reflect on Larkin and pornography when reading James Booth’s highly effective and detailed study of his poems, though the subject had been put into my head by Anthony Thwaite’s selection of the poet’s letters. Booth, together with Barbara Everett, is among the few critics who have produced real ...

Send them to Eton!

Linda Colley, 19 August 1993

The End of the House of Windsor: Birth of a British Republic 
by Stephen Haseler.
Tauris, 208 pp., £14.95, June 1993, 1 85043 735 1
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The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 211 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 1 85619 354 3
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Royal Throne: The Future of the Monarchy 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Hodder, 189 pp., £16.99, April 1993, 0 340 58587 0
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Diana v. Charles 
by James Whitaker.
Signet, 237 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 670 85245 7
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The Tarnished Crown 
by Anthony Holden.
Bantam, 400 pp., £16.99, May 1993, 0 593 02472 9
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Inheritance: A Psychological History of the Royal Family 
by Dennis Friedman.
Sidgwick, 212 pp., £14.99, April 1993, 0 283 06124 3
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Raine and Johnnie: The Spencers and the Scandal of Althorp 
by Angela Levin.
Weidenfeld, 297 pp., £17.99, July 1993, 0 297 81325 0
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... offered by her fellow royal chroniclers are conspicuously at odds. Haseler just wants a republic. James Whitaker believes that Charles will soldier on magnificently, but only if he shows Camilla the door. Conversely, Anthony Holden and A.N. Wilson want him to step down, but disagree over who should replace him. And Dennis Friedman puts the whole Windsor mess ...

In the dark

Philip Horne, 1 December 1983

The Life of Alfred Hitchcock: The Dark Side of Genius 
by Donald Spoto.
Collins, 594 pp., £12.95, May 1983, 0 00 216352 7
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Howard Hawks, Storyteller 
by Gerald Mast.
Oxford, 406 pp., £16.50, June 1983, 0 19 503091 5
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... his critical judgments on the films are tendentious, his lengthy comparisons of Hitchcock with James, Dowson, Chesterton, Poe and Hieronymus Bosch can be left unread, and his accounts of cultural history are often laughable (‘Artists and writers and even the man in the street admitted that moral values were certainly changing very quickly, and some ...

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