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A Rumbling of Things Unknown

Jacqueline Rose: Marilyn Monroe, 26 April 2012

... got their money’s worth when they saw a picture of hers.’ One of Monroe’s heroes was Abraham Lincoln. She described a first moment of not feeling lonely in the late 1940s when, still undiscovered, she was walking the Hollywood streets with Bill Cox, a 77-year-old man who had befriended her and who could remember Hollywood as a desert with Indians ...

Good for Nothing

James Morone: America’s ‘base cupidity’, 19 May 2005

Born Losers: A History of Failure in America 
by Scott Sandage.
Harvard, 362 pp., £22.95, February 2005, 9780674015104
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... Beneath which striving lies the same old Calvinist presumption: success reveals virtue. Abraham Lincoln famously recited the market credo when he declared that any man who was ‘industrious and honest and sober’ would win riches. He left the inevitable corollary to preachers such as Henry Ward Beecher: ‘If men have ...

At which Englishman’s speech does English terminate?

Henry Hitchings: The ‘OED’, 7 March 2013

Words of the World: A Global History of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ 
by Sarah Ogilvie.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £17.99, November 2012, 978 1 107 60569 5
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... to the left of the headword. Murray’s successors William Craigie and Charles Onions tussled over whether to maintain this practice. Proofs of the Supplement dated 11 September 1929 retain Murray’s so-called tramlines; in the next proofs, dated 2 July 1930, they are gone. Between these dates, Onions joined the BBC Advisory Committee on Spoken English, where he became acutely aware of the prejudices that led some people to stigmatise new or imported terms; tramlines, he felt, didn’t help ...

The Ugly Revolution

Michael Rogin: Martin Luther King Jr, 10 May 2001

I May Not Get there with You: The True Martin Luther King Jr 
by Michael Eric Dyson.
Free Press, 404 pp., £15.99, May 2000, 0 684 86776 1
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The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr. Vol. IV: Symbol of the Movement January 1957-December 1958 
edited by Clayborne Carson et al.
California, 637 pp., £31.50, May 2000, 0 520 22231 8
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... modes of production, brought hereditary legal servitude to an end. Its national hero, Abraham Lincoln, announced at Gettysburg that a nation ‘conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal’ had experienced ‘a new birth of freedom’ in civil war. But with the defeat of Reconstruction a decade after ...

Street Wise

Pat Rogers, 3 October 1985

Hawksmoor 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 218 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 241 11664 3
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Paradise Postponed 
by John Mortimer.
Viking, 374 pp., £9.95, September 1985, 0 670 80094 5
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High Ground 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 156 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13681 8
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... mystic heptagon upon the map. This is a church dedicated to the classic small-boy victim, Hugh of Lincoln, to be built among the alleys and foul closes of Moorfields. Here the detective comes at the climax of the story, as victim or as murderer. The older world is rendered with total conviction and an unflagging sense of period. Ackroyd is able to do as much ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... On 1 February 2001 eight writers came to pay homage to James Baldwin in the Lincoln Center in New York. The event was booked out and there were people standing outside desperately looking for tickets. The audience was strange; in general in New York an audience is either young or old (in the Lincoln Center, mainly old), black or white (in the Lincoln Center, almost exclusively white), gay or straight (in the Lincoln Center it is often hard to tell ...

Diary

Stephen Sedley: Judges’ Lodgings, 11 November 1999

... grace.’ It was passed to me some years ago during pre-dinner drinks at the judges’ lodgings in Lincoln by the butler, who had sensed that, though formally in charge, I was not to the manner born. I had the same sense of not quite belonging in the Plymouth lodgings last winter. The lodgings, a terraced dwelling of colossal proportions on the Hoe, was once ...

A Broken Teacup

Amanda Claybaugh: The ambition of William Dean Howells, 6 October 2005

William Dean Howells: A Writer’s Life 
by Susan Goodman and Carl Dawson.
California, 519 pp., £22.95, May 2005, 0 520 23896 6
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... the Atlantic. In 1860, he was asked to write a campaign biography for the largely unknown Abraham Lincoln. Drawing on his own boyhood memories as well as the facts of Lincoln’s life, Howells made the story of a young man’s rise from the frontier into a mythic tale. With the money he earned from the ...

First Movie in the White House

J. Hoberman: ‘Birth of a Nation’, 12 February 2009

D.W. Griffith’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’: A History of ‘The Most Controversial Motion Picture of All Time’ 
by Melvyn Stokes.
Oxford, 414 pp., £13.99, January 2008, 978 0 19 533679 5
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... truth was that Griffith was the embodiment of that magnificent new art: he was to cinema what Henry Ford was to industrial production. Griffith introduced narrative suspense and emotional identification to the movies. He began making two-reel films in 1907, and after turning out hundreds of them he had learned how to use editing to create dramatic ...

You Have A Mother Don’t You?

Andrew O’Hagan: Cowboy Simplicities, 11 September 2003

Searching for John Ford: A Life 
by Joseph McBride.
Faber, 838 pp., £25, May 2003, 0 571 20075 3
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... It’s odd to think that Abraham Lincoln was killed by an actor, because most of the memorable American Presidents to follow him were actors in their blood. Eisenhower excelled in the part of the sturdy veteran who’d come home to tidy the porch, and Nixon was every part in The Godfather rolled into one. But it took Ronald Reagan to drive the matter past the point of absurdity: president of the Screen Actors’ Guild as well as star of Bedtime for Bonzo ...

Cool Brains

Nicholas Guyatt: Demythologising the antebellum South, 2 June 2005

Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South 
by Michael O’Brien.
North Carolina, 1354 pp., £64.95, March 2004, 0 8078 2800 9
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... a Southern Confederacy to preserve the institution of slavery from the meddling of Abraham Lincoln. As a result, the United States was temporarily dissolved, and the North embarked on a war of unprecedented destructiveness to correct the South’s mistakes. The fact that the South played an integral role in both the nation’s founding and its bloody ...

Wall of Ice

Peter Thonemann: Pattison’s Scholarship, 7 February 2008

Intellect and Character in Victorian England: Mark Pattison and the Invention of the Don 
by H.S. Jones.
Cambridge, 285 pp., £50, June 2007, 978 0 521 87605 6
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... It was very unfair to those young men.’ John Henry Newman’s conversion to the Roman Catholic Church in 1845 shattered the intellectual credit of the Oxford Movement. The long struggle – first from the pulpit of the University Church of St Mary, later through the radical pages of Tracts for the Times – to state the case for the Apostolic authority of the Anglican church had ended, as the Movement’s critics had always predicted, in total surrender to Catholic dogma ...

Who Will Lose?

David Edgar, 25 September 2008

Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future 
by Newton Minow and Craig LaMay.
Chicago, 219 pp., £11.50, April 2008, 978 0 226 53041 3
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... fabled three-hour tussles between the Illinois senatorial candidates Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in 1858 (which certainly did involve direct confrontation), all on the single subject of slavery. In the 1920s, the League of Women Voters sponsored a ten-month series of radio debates, not between presidential candidates but between ...

One Enchanted Evening

J. Robert Lennon: Chris Adrian, 17 November 2011

The Great Night 
by Chris Adrian.
Granta, 292 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 1 84708 186 5
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... cast of characters includes, among many invented figures, reimagined versions of both Whitman and Lincoln. Adrian is willing to try anything, or perhaps compelled to try everything. His prose vacillates between stark beauty, as in a description of a photo of dead soldiers (‘their clothes can barely contain them. They lie along a fence in various ...

President Gore

Inigo Thomas: Gore Vidal, 10 May 2007

Point to Point Navigation: A Memoir, 1964-2006 
by Gore Vidal.
Little, Brown, 278 pp., £17.99, November 2006, 0 316 02727 8
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... expanding it the better to coerce others, these are Vidal’s favourite subjects. His versions of Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Emperor Julian are all more or less dictatorial. ‘How candid I am,’ Vidal’s Julian says. ‘I have never admitted to anyone that in my first encounter with Constantius, all that I could think about was how much I should like ...

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