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The Idea of America

Alasdair MacIntyre, 6 November 1980

Inventing America: Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence 
by Garry Wills.
Athlone, 398 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 485 11201 9
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... upon a creed,’ but more importantly a central American tradition whose hero and spokesman is Lincoln. Lincoln is for Wills the prototype of the political moralist who is prepared to appeal to the Declaration against the status quo, even the constitutional status quo. From this moralism, so Wills believes, spring many ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?, 17 March 2016

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... On​ their West Country progress in the summer of 1535, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Thornbury Castle near Bristol. Thornbury is an upmarket hotel now, a popular choice for guests working through their bucket list. Now that every narrative is a ‘journey’, TripAdvisor is an illuminating guide to what people expect when they go in search of the past ...
Secret Affairs: Franklin Roosevelt, Cordell Hull and Sumner Welles 
by Irwin Gellman.
Johns Hopkins, 499 pp., $29.95, April 1995, 0 8018 5083 5
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Closest Companion: The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley 
edited by Geoffrey Ward.
Houghton Mifflin, 444 pp., $24.95, April 1995, 0 395 66080 7
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No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War Two 
by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Simon and Schuster, 759 pp., £18, June 1995, 0 671 64240 5
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The End of Reform 
by Alan Brinkley.
Knopf, 371 pp., $27.50, March 1995, 0 394 53573 1
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... my right hand know what my left hand does,’ the President explained to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau (whose own undercutting we can follow in Alan Brinkley’s The End of Reform). This method of human relations worked, paradoxically, better with the women in the President’s private life than with the men in politics. Whereas the men had their ...

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 ...

His Whiskers Trimmed

Matthew Karp: Robert E. Lee in Defeat, 7 April 2022

Robert E. Lee: A Life 
by Allen Guelzo.
Knopf, 585 pp., $27.99, September 2021, 978 1 101 94622 0
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... shows, it was the emergence of the anti-slavery Republican Party that politicised him. On Abraham Lincoln’s election in 1860, seven Southern states withdrew from the Union and proclaimed themselves the Confederate States of America. In April 1861, after an exchange of cannon fire at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, ...

Stick-at-it-iveness

Mary Hannity: Between Britain and Jamaica, 18 March 2021

Imperial Intimacies: A Tale of Two Islands 
by Hazel V. Carby.
Verso, 416 pp., £20, September 2019, 978 1 78873 509 4
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... and sent her to Cardiff to apprentice to a tailor. In 1886, at the age of nineteen, Rose married Henry Williams, a 37-year-old upholsterer, and soon afterwards gave birth to a daughter, Maud. Cardiff in the 1880s was the ‘coal metropolis of the world’; dust from the coal mined in the Rhondda Valley and brought to the docks for export ‘colonised’ the ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

Racist Litter

Randall Kennedy: The Lessons of Reconstruction, 30 July 2020

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 288 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 0 393 65257 4
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... array of reforms undertaken between 1863 and 1877 to refashion a fractured nation.In 1863 Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed all slaves then resident in jurisdictions involved in the rebellion against the federal government. Until this point, Lincoln had gone out of his way to make clear that ...

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 ...

The Corrupt Bargain

Eric Foner: Democracy? No thanks, 21 May 2020

Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? 
by Alexander Keyssar.
Harvard, 544 pp., £28.95, May, 978 0 674 66015 1
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Let the People Pick the President: The Case for Abolishing the Electoral College 
by Jesse Wegman.
St Martin’s Press, 304 pp., $24.50, March, 978 1 250 22197 1
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... who had come second to Andrew Jackson in both the popular and electoral votes, struck a deal with Henry Clay, who came fourth, giving Adams a majority of the House votes. Adams then named Clay his secretary of state. What Jackson’s supporters called the ‘corrupt bargain’ was precisely the kind of political manoeuvring the framers had hoped to ...

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 ...

At the Huntington

Jack Hartnell: Relocating the Yokoi House, 8 October 2020

... of the Huntingdon Japanese garden from 1923. Founded in 1919 by the millionaire rail magnate Henry Huntington, the estate now contains a group of museums that display paintings by Gainsborough and Reynolds alongside Boucher tapestries, the 15th-century Ellesmere Chaucer, the autograph manuscript of Thoreau’s Walden, and documents and letters belonging ...

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