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But what did they say?

Stephen Walsh: Music in 1853

25 October 2012
Music in 1853: The Biography of a Year 
by Hugh Macdonald.
Boydell, 208 pp., £25, June 2012, 978 1 84383 718 3
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... the scholar is left with the sole comfort of knowing that, even if his discoveries are of little or no conceivable interest to anyone but himself, they are at least factual. This point is reached by HughMacdonald’s Music in 1853. Macdonald might not need consolation. He is the author of books that palpably enrich and illuminate. His Master Musicians Berlioz is one of the best volumes in that ...

La Côte St André

Julian Rushton

22 June 1989
Berlioz 1803-1832: The Making of an Artist 
by David Cairns.
Deutsch, 586 pp., £25, February 1989, 0 233 97994 8
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... received with gratitude, but without surprise, dispassionate assessments of the composer’s life and works in The New Grove Dictionary and Dent’s Master Musicians by the general editor of the NBE, HughMacdonald. Stimulated by his excellent edition of the Memoirs, David Cairns has been at work on his biography for twenty years. This long gestation, although a source of frustration to his potential ...
22 November 1979
Hugh​ Gaitskell 
by Philip Williams.
Cape, 1007 pp., £15
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... If only Hugh Gaitskell had not died when he did. If only he had led the Labour Party into the General Election of 1964. He had at last succeeded in imposing his ascendency over the party – an ascendency ...
14 November 1996
Hugh​ Gaitskell 
by Brian Brivati.
Cohen, 492 pp., £25, September 1996, 1 86066 073 8
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... a line of descent – in a word, heroes. In this respect the Labour Party has always had some difficulty. The obvious candidate would have been the first man to lead Labour to power, but Ramsay MacDonald put himself beyond the pale: indeed, the psychological wound he left as ‘the lost leader’ was of more lasting significance than anything he achieved in power. Oswald Mosley, the most impressive ...

Sir Jim

Reyner Banham

22 May 1980
Memoirs of an Unjust Fella: An Autobiography 
by J.M. Richards.
Weidenfeld, 279 pp., £10, March 1980, 9780297777670
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... In the travel-starved Fifties, when the journey was often more glamorous than the destination. Sir Hugh Casson began one of his Observer articles: ‘As the airport bus rolled along Chelsea Embankment, I looked up and saw a light burning late in the study of the architectural correspondent of the Times ...

Protestant Country

George Bernard

14 June 1990
Humanism, Reform and the Reformation: The Career of Bishop John Fisher 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and Eamon Duffy.
Cambridge, 260 pp., £27.50, January 1989, 0 521 34034 9
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The Blind Devotion of the People: Popular Religion and the English Reformation 
by Robert Whiting.
Cambridge, 302 pp., £30, July 1989, 0 521 35606 7
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The Reformation of Cathedrals: Cathedrals in English Society, 1485-1603 
by Stanford Lehmberg.
Princeton, 319 pp., £37.30, March 1989, 0 691 05539 4
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Bonfires and Bells: National Memory and the Protestant Calendar in Elizabethan and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Weidenfeld, 271 pp., £25, October 1989, 0 297 79343 8
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The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the 16th and 17th Centuries 
by Patrick Collinson.
Macmillan, 188 pp., £29.50, February 1989, 0 333 43971 6
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Life’s Preservative against Self-Killing 
by John Sym, edited by Michael MacDonald.
Routledge, 342 pp., £29.95, February 1989, 0 415 00639 2
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Perfection Proclaimed: Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 
by Nigel Smith.
Oxford, 396 pp., £40, February 1989, 0 19 812879 7
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... asserted his royal supremacy over the Church, he relaxed his persecution of dissent. He needed his royal supremacy preached up and down the land. And who better to preach it than Thomas Cranmer or Hugh Latimer, full of Continental learning, opposed to Papal pretensions, and keen to see Henry as a godly prince who would destroy idolatry and embrace true religion. Henry had not intended to go so far ...

You must not ask

Marina Warner

4 January 1996
Lewis Carroll: A Biography 
by Morton Cohen.
Macmillan, 592 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 333 62926 4
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The Literary Products of the Lewis Carroll-George MacDonald​ Friendship 
by John Docherty.
Edwin Mellen, 420 pp., £69.95, July 1995, 0 7734 9038 8
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... and picture riddles and ways of doing sums which were fun. And he parodied – as in Alice – solemn lessons and high sentiments and lyric poetry. His nonsense upskittled rules and regulations; as Hugh Haughton says in an exhilarating Introduction to The Chatto Book of Nonsense Poetry, writers like Carroll ‘implicitly brought into question the earnestness of being important, and the importance of ...

The Trouble with HRH

Christopher Hitchens

5 June 1997
Princess Margaret: A Biography 
by Theo Aronson.
O’Mara, 336 pp., £16.99, February 1997, 1 85479 248 2
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... tradition’ dated back to the reign of King James II and the rumour about the ‘warming-pan baby’ delivered covertly to his consort, Mary of Modena.) So J.R. Clynes, Home Secretary to Ramsay MacDonald, had to journey to Glamis Castle and wait for 16 days for the waters to break. He passed the time profitably enough being shown around the local estates by Lady Airlie, a lady-in-waiting, who was ...

Appreciating Paisley

Charles Townshend

22 January 1987
God save Ulster: The Religion and Politics of Paisleyism 
by Steve Bruce.
Oxford, 308 pp., £15, November 1986, 0 19 827487 4
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Children of Wrath: Political Violence in Northern Ireland 
by Michael MacDonald.
Polity, 194 pp., £19.50, September 1986, 0 7456 0219 3
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... imitator of Carson – an idea which will be strengthened, presumably inadvertently, by the absurd photograph on Bruce’s dust-wrapper – rather than of preachers like Henry Cooke and ‘Roaring’ Hugh Hanna, men outside the establishment, is symptomatic of the distortion. In fact, liberals would certainly be happier with Paisley if he were a politician bent on power and thus forced to battle, and ...


Andrew O’Hagan

11 May 1995
... methods cannier than the services of good judgment could provide, and some of them were imprisoned in Barlinnie. Michael’s mother was born in Glasgow, but her people came from Belfast. His father, Hugh O’Hagan, trained as an iron-worker and lived on the road where St Mary’s Chapel stood, Abercrombie Street, number 112. Hugh died of bronchitis at his work in 1932: he’d been working as a night ...

Flickering Star

Robert Crawford: Iain Crichton Smith

21 January 1999
TheLeaf and the Marble 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1998, 1 85754 400 5
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... seaman, died of tuberculosis. Iain’s mother brought up her three sons in a Gaelic-speaking household and worked as a ‘herring girl’, gutting fish with her hacked, salt-smarting hands. Murdo Macdonald, who shared a primary school desk with Iain at Bayble Public School in the Point district of Lewis, remembers the small boy as humorous but extremely shy. He read and imitated Keats, Scott and ...


Christopher Harvie: Cars and Cuckoo Clocks

26 January 1995
...  the Calvinist Godly Commonwealth, Catholic socialism, the promotion mechanisms of the ‘empowered people’ – and by an unruly Kynd Kittock’s Land of howffs and good cracks captured in Hugh MacDiarmid’s ‘Drunk Man’ and kept up by the late great John Smith in the saloon of the Night Scotsman. A middle class which in the South went Thatcherite and cocooned itself in a Sunday Times ...

Among the Picts

John Sutherland

18 August 1994
Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. Leslie Mitchell.
Polygon, 219 pp., £7.95, July 1993, 0 7486 6141 7
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The Speak of the Mearns 
by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Polygon, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1994, 0 7486 6167 0
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... the age of 34, in the middle of a creative burst that had produced 16 books (12 of them novels) in seven years. Success eluded him during his lifetime, although some prescient fellow writers, notably Hugh MacDiarmid and H.G. Wells, had marked him as a major talent. Say ‘Scotland’ and few people (and no travel agents) will think of the bleak, windswept, comparatively featureless North-Eastern ...

The Great Escape

Philip Purser

18 August 1994
The Fortunes of Casanova, and Other Stories 
by Rafael Sabatini, selected by Jack Adrian.
Oxford, 284 pp., £15.95, January 1994, 9780192123190
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... Award, and two versions of The Sea Hawk. As indicated by these titles, or even more by the name of Errol Flynn (as star) above two of them, Sabatini was not only a ‘history-teller,’ as George MacDonald Fraser defines his art in a foreword to The Fortunes of Casanova, but one who delighted in a spot of swashbuckling. At the same time he was recognised as a serious historian who had published ...

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R.W. Johnson: Clement Attlee

10 September 2014
Clement Attlee: The Inevitable Prime Minister 
by Michael Jago.
Biteback, 390 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 84954 683 6
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... this wondrous economy of style seems appropriate but it’s hardly surprising that his contemporaries often found it difficult to believe that he could be Labour leader, let alone prime minister. Hugh Dalton called him ‘a little mouse’, and Herbert Morrison endlessly intrigued to displace him. As for Attlee himself, he was always extremely modest about his talents. Of the times he was forced ...

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