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Gentlemen Travellers

Denis Donoghue, 18 December 1986

Between the Woods and the Water 
by Patrick Leigh Fermor et al.
Murray, 248 pp., £13.95, October 1986, 0 7195 4264 2
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Coasting 
by Jonathan Raban.
Collins, 301 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 00 272119 8
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The Grand Tour 
by Hunter Davies.
Hamish Hamilton, 224 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 241 11907 3
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... of maps, and hold yourself ready for adventure. The tourist class was invented by Thomas Cook when he assembled an excursion to the Paris Exposition in 1855. Tourists change their places in groups, live as comfortably as possible, take pleasure in gregariousness, obey injunctions, keep to the main roads, and fulfil plans made by tour-promoters in ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown, 19 February 1998

Gordon Brown: The Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... candidate for the safe seat of desperately impoverished Dunfermline East, he co-edited with Robin Cook another series of socialist essays, The Great Divide. In his Introduction, he grappled with the familiar argument that the shocking conditions of the poor could only be improved in times of economic growth. ‘The era of economic growth,’ he ...

Keep him as a curiosity

Steven Shapin: Botanic Macaroni, 13 August 2020

The Multifarious Mr Banks: From Botany Bay to Kew, the Natural Historian Who Shaped the World 
by Toby Musgrave.
Yale, 386 pp., £25, April 2020, 978 0 300 22383 5
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... The vessel was the bark Endeavour; the commander was the bluff, 39-year-old Yorkshireman James Cook, who was also an able astronomer. No one had thought to add natural history to the workload, but Banks got wind of the plan and thrust himself forward. He secured his place on the Endeavour by pulling strings – Lord Sandwich, a former first lord of the ...

Eric’s Hurt

David Craig, 7 March 1985

Eric Linklater: A Critical Biography 
by Michael Parnell.
Murray, 376 pp., £16, October 1984, 0 7195 4109 3
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... that he was) he was awarded the CBE. He earned enough to live in a big house in Orkney with a cook and two maids, and later to move to a beautifully distinctive small mansion (including a 15-acre croft and woods) on the smiling green slopes of Easter Ross. Throughout all this he pleased himself. He did not write to other people’s formulae (or not ...

At Free Love Corner

Jenny Diski, 30 March 2000

Literary Seductions: Compulsive Writers and Diverted Readers 
by Frances Wilson.
Faber, 258 pp., £12.99, October 1999, 0 571 19288 2
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... You can’t do anything else when you read a book. Listen to the radio and you can iron or cook. Watch television and you can (and must if you are to stay entertained) converse. But when you read you make it clear that you have withdrawn your attention from those around you. Perhaps your interest and concern. Who can tell? You are not available. The ...

Gravity’s Python

Raymond Williams, 4 December 1980

From Fringe to Flying Circus 
by Roger Wilmut.
Eyre Methuen, 264 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 413 46950 6
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... is still Not the Nine O’Clock News. But then other memories intrude. The early impersonations of Harold Macmillan seemed at the time to have some political content. But go across from that memory to, say, Mike Yarwood, doing the whole run of political leaders. We still laugh, but with other questions. Isn’t there a certain air of obeisance in this whole ...

Silly Buggers

James Fox, 7 March 1991

The Theatre of Embarrassment 
by Francis Wyndham.
Chatto, 205 pp., £15, February 1991, 0 7011 3726 6
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... newspaper itself was perhaps the best in the world, well financed, brimming with talent and zeal. Harold Evans had taken over as Editor the previous year. Francis Wyndham and I later became close friends but at first he seemed formidable, even a little intimidating. He was already a legend among his contemporaries for his intellectual prowess, which seemed ...

Diary

Thomas Jones: Death in Florence, 21 June 2012

... their sons Robert, Richard E(llis) and Arthur, their daughter Margaret, and three servants – the cook, Sarah Reece, and two teenage housemaids, Emily Lunmir and Ethel Bailey. The eldest son, William, must have already moved out. In his will, my great-great-grandfather ‘desired it to be known that it was by the consent of his eldest son, William Corbett ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Dining Out, 4 June 1998

... chins thrust forward, as if on their way to a Royal Marine assault course. Next appears Robin Cook, who is led aside by Alastair Campbell and rehearsed in conspiratorial whispers about what he is to say to the reptiles waiting across the road. Cook, whom I’ve never met, gives me a quick, suspicious ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: On Trade-Unionism, 5 May 1988

... the same wary pragmatism. It is, I agree, ‘startling’ (the word used by Alan Sked and Chris Cook in their Post-War Britain: A Political History) to find the Director-General of the CBI saying during the General Election campaign of 1974 that the 1971 Act had ‘sullied every relationship at every level between unions and employers and ought to be ...

The Fame Game

Alan Brien, 6 September 1984

Hype 
by Steven Aronson.
Hutchinson, 198 pp., £5.95, May 1984, 0 09 156251 1
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Automatic Vaudeville 
by John Lahr.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 434 40188 9
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Broadway Babies: The People who made the American Musical 
by Ethan Mordden.
Oxford, 244 pp., £19, August 1984, 0 19 503345 0
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... a superior version of this need. Some of his best observations, about unusual stars like Barbara Cook or Gwen Verdon, may mean little to British readers since the performers have not crossed the Atlantic, in the flesh or on celluloid. This makes Mordden’s inclusion of a lengthy ‘discography’, over forty pages, all the more useful since it will enable ...

Diary

Wynford Hicks: My Summer with Boris’s Mother, 10 September 2020

... tickets for a benefit concert which starred the cast of Beyond the Fringe. At the gig, Peter Cook performed his Harold Macmillan routine, comparing the four-minute warning before a nuclear strike to Roger Bannister’s mile record (‘I’d like you to know that in this great country of ours a man can run a mile in ...

Do put down that revolver

Rosemary Hill, 14 July 2016

The Long Weekend: Life in the English Country House between the Wars 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 406 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 0 224 09945 5
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... to Bloomsbury tastes emerged at Sissinghurst in Kent, where Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson, found the remains of a great courtyard house that had once played host to Elizabeth I. It was already in ruins when Horace Walpole saw it in 1752 and all that now survived was one low range of buildings and a single great tower. Restoring it was ...

Travels on the left

Paul Foot, 2 December 1993

John Strachey: An Intellectual Biography 
by Noel Thompson.
Macmillan, 288 pp., £27.50, May 1993, 0 333 51154 9
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John Strachey 
by Michael Newman.
Manchester, 208 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 9780719021749
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... his life he bowed to the influences around him. He bowed to Hobson and Keynes. Then he met A.J. Cook, the miners’ leader, and fell on his face in front of him. When he went to Parliament he kow-towed to Oswald Mosley. When he joined the Communists, he grovelled at the feet of their leaders, not one of whom could write half as persuasively or powerfully as ...

Green Thoughts

Colin Ward, 19 January 1989

Seasons of the Seal 
by Fred Bruemmer and Brian Davies.
Bloomsbury, 160 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0214 5
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Whale Nation 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 191 pp., £15, August 1988, 0 224 02555 4
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Falling for a dolphin 
by Heathcote Williams.
Cape, 47 pp., £4.95, November 1988, 0 224 02659 3
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Prisoners of the Seas 
by K.A. Gourlay.
Zed, 256 pp., £25.95, November 1988, 0 86232 686 9
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Progress for a Small Planet 
by Barbara Ward.
Earthscan, 298 pp., £5.95, September 1988, 1 85383 028 3
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Future Earth: Exploring the Frontiers of Space 
edited by Nigel Calder and John Newell.
Christopher Helm, 255 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 9780747004202
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Sizewell B: An Anatomy of the Enquiry 
by Timothy O’Riordan, Ray Kemp and Michael Purdue.
Macmillan, 474 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 333 38944 1
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Early Green Politics 
by Peter Gould.
Harvester, 225 pp., £29.95, June 1988, 0 7108 1192 6
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Dreamers of the Absolute 
by Hans Magnus Enzensberger.
Radius, 312 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 09 173240 9
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The Coming of the Greens 
by Jonathon Porritt and David Winner.
Fontana, 287 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 00 637244 9
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Ecology and Socialism 
by Martin Ryle.
Radius, 122 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 09 182247 5
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... future of socialism may lie more with William Morris than with Herbert Morrison,’ Robin Cook said in 1987. Morris died over ninety years ago, but remains wise and relevant for his insistence on combining social justice with a respect for nature. Can the Left recover his kind of vision, and can it win the support of its fellow-citizens? Or is the ...

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