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A Favourite of the Laws

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 13 June 1991

Married Women’s Separate Property in England, 1660-1833 
by Susan Staves.
Harvard, 290 pp., £27.95, April 1990, 0 674 55088 9
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The Bluestocking Circle: Women, Friendship and the Life of the Mind in 18th-century England 
by Sylvia Harcstark Myers.
Oxford, 342 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 19 811767 1
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Portrait of a Friendship: Drawn from New Letters of James Russell Lowell to Sybella Lady Lyttleton 1881-1891 
by Alethea Hayter.
Michael Russell, 267 pp., £16.95, September 1990, 0 85955 167 9
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Fierce Communion: Family and Community in Early America 
by Helena Wall.
Harvard, 243 pp., £23.95, August 1990, 0 674 29958 2
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... revive his reputation as a writer. There is no dearth of gossip and scandal in Fierce Communion, Helena Wall’s study of the relations between family and community in early America. Like Staves, Wall writes at the intersection of legal and social history, but her book does not so much attempt to criticise the ...

To be continued

Brigid Brophy, 6 November 1980

The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens and Leon Garfield.
Deutsch, 327 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 233 97257 9
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... dead, and the murderer the obvious suspect, John (or, to Edwin, Jack) Jasper. Something is made of Helena Landless’s aptitude for dressing up and something of ‘that great black scarf’ which, as Dickens’s Jasper pulls it off and loops it round his arm, makes his face ‘knitted and stern’. Mr Garfield invents an amusingly lightweight Datchery, who is ...

A Vast Masquerade

Deborah Cohen: Dr James Barry, 2 March 2017

Dr James Barry: A Woman ahead of Her Time 
by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield.
Oneworld, 479 pp., £16.99, August 2016, 978 1 78074 831 3
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... bedsheets when he was ill with malaria, and a laundress who spied on him through a crack in a St Helena bath-house wall. According to an officer who encountered Barry in Trinidad, ‘the impression and general belief were that he was a hermaphrodite, and as such he escaped much comment or observation in places where every ...

Rinse it in dead champagne

Colm Tóibín: The women who invented beauty, 5 February 2004

War Paint: Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry 
by Lindy Woodhead.
Virago, 498 pp., £20, April 2003, 1 86049 974 0
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Diana Vreeland 
by Eleanor Dwight.
HarperCollins, 308 pp., £30, December 2002, 0 688 16738 1
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... Arden, one of the world’s richest women, lined the inside of her shoes with newspaper, or that Helena Rubinstein’s lawyer chose ‘the budget option’ at the funeral parlour after her death until wiser counsel prevailed, or that Diana Vreeland’s hair was so hard that once, when her maid bumped into it with a tray, ‘it clinked.’ 1905 was the year ...

Stalking Out

David Edgar: After John Osborne, 20 July 2006

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us 
by John Heilpern.
Chatto, 528 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 7011 6780 7
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... a marriage in crisis: Jimmy mistreats his pregnant wife, Alison, who is encouraged by her friend, Helena, to leave him; once Alison is gone, Helena and Jimmy have an affair, until Alison returns (having lost her baby) and the couple are reconciled. Jimmy’s friend, Cliff, and Alison’s father, Colonel Redfern, make up the ...

Say no more about the climate

Tom Crewe: Impressionists in/on London, 26 April 2018

Impressionists in London: French Artists in Exile 1870-1904 
Tate Britain, until 7 May 2018Show More
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... Tissot’s small, brutal watercolour of an event he witnessed on 29 May 1871. It shows a high wall, part of the fortifications in the Bois de Boulogne, and a man in the uniform of the National Guard plummeting backwards through the air, jacket gulping, hands feebly gripping, his head bent towards the ground, where 13 broken bodies already ...

I told him I was ready to die

Suzanne Scafe, 16 February 1989

Behind the Scenes, or Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House 
by Elizabeth Keckley.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505259 5
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The Journals of Charlotte Forten Grimke 
by Brenda Stevenson.
Oxford, 609 pp., £22.50, July 1988, 0 19 505238 2
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The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Secole in Many Lands 
by Mary Secole.
Oxford, 371 pp., £15.50, July 1988, 0 19 505249 8
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... Although the third journal, which describes her life as a teacher of contraband ex-slaves in St Helena, one of the South Carolina Sea Islands, is extremely interesting and lively, it also reveals the extent of her unconscious prejudice against the culture of non-assimilated black America. Six couples were married today – Only one had the slightest claim ...

Irish Adventurers

Janet Adam Smith, 25 June 1992

The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7 
edited by Elizabeth Mavor.
Weidenfeld, 187 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 297 81223 8
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... and read such lurid accounts. Off they went, gentry and servants: ‘Lord and Lady Mount Cashell, Helena Jane and me pack’d in the Family Coach, with Mary Lawless, Mary Smith, Blanchois, and William in another carriage, driving full speed, nine Irish Adventurers, to the French dominions.’ Two at least of these Irish adventurers were as ready as William ...

Inconstancy

Peter Campbell, 20 July 1995

Brancusi 
Pompidou Centre, August 1995Show More
Constantin Brancusi: A Survey of His work 
by Sanda Miller.
Oxford, 256 pp., £45, April 1995, 0 19 817514 0
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Constantin Brancusi Photographe 
by Elizabeth Brown.
Assouline, 79 pp., frs 99, April 1995, 2 908228 23 8
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Constantin Brancusi: 1876-1957 
by Margit Rowell and Ann Temkin.
Gallimard, 408 pp., frs 390, April 1995, 2 85850 819 4
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... her finger on why Elie Nadelman’s entire 1911 exhibition in London should have been bought up by Helena Rubenstein, who used the pieces to publicise her cosmetics, while Brancusi’s effigy (along with those of Matisse and the critic Walter Pach) was burnt by outraged traditionalists when the Armory Show went to Chicago in 1913, and in so doing elaborates ...

Sex on the Roof

Patricia Lockwood, 6 December 2018

Evening in Paradise: More Stories 
by Lucia Berlin.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.99, November 2018, 978 1 5098 8229 8
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Welcome Home: A Memoir with Selected Photographs 
by Lucia Berlin.
Picador, 160 pp., £12.99, November 2018, 978 1 5098 8234 2
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... as well as sounds: clunk, sizzle, hiss. These are the background elements that would persist. In Helena, Montana she learned to read. ‘I believed that Understood Betsy had been written especially for me, that somewhere there was a person who wanted to tell me about her.’ Dates would be helpful here, there, anywhere, but the lack of them adds to the ...

Hitler at Heathrow

E.S. Shaffer, 7 August 1980

The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler 
edited by Michael Unger.
Duckworth, 192 pp., £4.95, March 1979, 0 7156 1356 1
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The Portage to San Cristobal of A.H. 
by George Steiner.
Granta, 66 pp., £1.50
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Young Adolf 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 174 pp., £6.95, November 1978, 0 7156 1323 5
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... Nazi Germany by Hitler’s Armaments Minister. After a few minutes spent considering this Berlin Wall of travellers’ dulce et utile, one would hardly be surprised to find a comic book of the filmscript of Syberberg’s Hitler, or a bag of (used) truncheons for sale. Once ensconced in the plane, a smiling hostess hands one a copy of Esquire for April ...

The Slap

Michael Wilding, 17 April 1986

The Image, and Other Stories 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
Cape, 310 pp., £9.95, February 1986, 0 224 02357 8
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... holds no surprises for the writer. ‘He sat there pale, pondering his own tale. I said, “Helena was still alive, eh?” ’ These old tricks of suspense are still there, but they take a gentler role, so that the more numinous qualities of what is narrated can be dwelt on. It is nice to know how we travel through the story – to see the automobile ...

Rogue’s Paradise

R.W. Johnson: The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova, 16 July 1998

The Russians and the Anglo-Boer War 
by Apollon Davidson and Irina Filatova.
Human and Rousseau/Combined Book Services, 287 pp., £17.99, June 1998, 0 7981 3804 1
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... Wildly excited at the thought that the Boers might at last have created the vital crack in the wall of the British Empire, Nicholas rushed off to see the Kaiser – ‘I intend to set the Emperor on the British, reminding him of his famous telegram to Kruger!’ – while the Russian Foreign Minister tried to interest the French in an anti-British ...

Toxic Lozenges

Jenny Diski: Arsenic, 8 July 2010

The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play 
by James Whorton.
Oxford, 412 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957470 4
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... in a semi-detached house, which will allow the neighbours to hear suspicious sounds through the wall. He should be either chairman of the local Conservative Party branch, or a leading Nonconformist and strong Temperance advocate. He should go astray through cherishing a guilty passion for his secretary or the wife of a rival professional man, and should ...

Deadly Embrace

Jacqueline Rose: Suicide bombers, 4 November 2004

My Life Is a Weapon: A Modern History of Suicide Bombing 
by Christoph Reuter, translated by Helena Ragg-Kirkby.
Princeton, 246 pp., £15.95, May 2004, 0 691 11759 4
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Army of Roses: Inside the World of Palestinian Women Suicide Bombers 
by Barbara Victor.
Robinson, 321 pp., £8.99, April 2004, 1 84119 937 0
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... response: targeted assassinations simply provoke further retaliation (and Israel’s security wall is already proving incapable of deterring attacks). The horror it inspires cannot, however, be explained in terms of the deliberate targeting of civilians: according to McNamara, 100,000 people were burnt to death at the end of the war in the Allied attack ...

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