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Hm, hm and that was all

Rosemary Hill: Queen Mary, 6 December 2018

The Quest for Queen Mary 
by James Pope-Hennessy, edited by Hugo Vickers.
Zuleika, 335 pp., £25, September 2018, 978 1 9997770 3 6
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... once accompanied the ageing queen empress to distribute Christmas presents around the estate at Osborne. Handing over one parcel she told the queen it contained a rug. ‘A rug,’ the queen replied, ‘is something one stands on. It can be called a plaid or a shawl, or even a wrap, but not a rug.’ This monologue continued for some time, while the tenant ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... to stray into his territory. Indeed, he goes out of his way to say that ‘I did not do a Harold Wilson and publicly criticise Mervyn, even when on further occasions he volunteered advice on our fiscal policy.’ All he will say is that he called him in for a private chat, and reminded him of their understanding ‘that I would not comment on monetary ...


David Runciman: Thatcher’s Rise, 6 June 2013

Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography. Vol. I: Not for Turning 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 859 pp., £30, April 2013, 978 0 7139 9282 3
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... pygmies compared to the Labour leadership contest that took place the following year. When Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister the candidates lined up to replace him included Jim Callaghan, Roy Jenkins, Tony Benn, Anthony Crosland, Michael Foot and Denis Healey. It was, by any historical standards, an impressive cast list. The Parliamentary Labour ...


Ronald Bryden, 10 December 1987

The Life of Kenneth Tynan 
by Kathleen Tynan.
Weidenfeld, 407 pp., £16.95, September 1987, 9780297790822
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... books. Hence the cut-throat games of vocabulary-flashing and cultural reference pinned down by Harold Pinter and Joe Orton as Britain’s post-war national sport. Tynan, a bookish, unathletic boy, made this kind of competition his own. A compulsive player of word-games, he spattered his early writing with challenges to duels of literacy. A flip through his ...
... Some younger people saw her as a sort of relic – people like the Sitwells and Ronald Firbank and Harold Acton – but all that rather bored her. She was very up to the minute, and would be full of the latest musical comedy or the latest thing that had been written. But she wrote a memoir of Wilde, which I published along with his letters to her in a magazine ...

Lost Jokes

Alan Bennett, 2 August 1984

... inflicting it on an audience. Hugh and Moggie were suggested by – but not modelled on – Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West. In 1968 Nicolson’s diaries had just been published with his passionate account of the fight against Appeasement in the Thirties and how, come the war, appeasers like Chips Channon conveniently forgot to eat their words ...

Don’t Look Down

Nicholas Spice: Dull Britannia, 8 April 2010

Family Britain 1951-57 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 776 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 7475 8385 1
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... not discord but fellowship followed. ‘Class feeling and class resentment are very strong,’ Harold Nicolson wrote in his diary just after the end of the war. With the return of peace, the task of the government was again what it had been and what it would continue to be: how to hold it all together; how to create the illusion of national unity out of ...
... of the back-room Tory ideas men tinkering obscurely with economic models while Edward Heath and Harold Wilson squared off against the unions in the 1960s and 1970s. (Howell was Thatcher’s first energy minister. He is now Baron Howell of Guildford, Foreign Office minister, still in government at the age of 76 under his fellow Etonian David ...


Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... the poem her absent friends: George Devine, Ron Eyre, Tony Richardson, John and John (Dexter and Osborne), and at the conclusion a cake is brought in and Jocelyn is crowned with laurels. It could be thought pretentious but since Jocelyn is so far from pretentious it seems both fitting and moving. I sit on a sofa with Alan Bates and Maggie Smith, thinking ...

You Muddy Fools

Dan Jacobson: In the months before his death Ian Hamilton talked about himself to Dan Jacobson, 14 January 2002

... one-acter? Yes, possibly.Peter Dale told me you once produced a play at Oxford, a small piece by Harold Pinter. I had started another magazine at Oxford called Tomorrow. And for its fourth issue I’d written to Pinter. He had just become prominent then, but I’d learned about him earlier, when I was in Germany. Another of my jobs there had been to work on ...

The Tower

Andrew O’Hagan, 7 June 2018

... housing stock and left councils to pick up the pieces and deal with the housing shortage. George Osborne did more harm than any British politician for a generation when he cut rent revenues and imposed austerity measures. In her rush to be sympathetic, May must have forgotten the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which did yet more to undermine councils in ...

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