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Termagant

Ian Gilmour: The Cliveden Set, 19 October 2000

The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 277 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 06093 7
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... In twenty years,’ Lady Astor used to say of Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian, ‘I’ve never known Philip to be wrong on foreign politics.’ Though Lothian himself thought much the same, it is, in fact, harder to think of an occasion when he was right. As Sir Robert Vansittart, the strongly anti-Nazi head of the Foreign Office in the 1930s put it, ‘Lothian was an incurably superficial Johnny-Know-All ...

Fuss, Fatigue and Rage

Ian Gilmour: Two Duff Kings, 15 July 1999

George IV 
by E.A. Smith.
Yale, 306 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 300 07685 1
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... George IV was highly unpopular in his lifetime, and almost equally unpopular after it. Nobody regretted his death except his mercenary mistress, Lady Conyngham – the supply of jewels and trinkets had been cut off – and even she was bored with him. Grief was absent at his funeral. ‘A coronation could hardly be gayer,’ noted a peer, and the Times reported that there was ‘not a single mark of sympathy’ in the congregation ...

Diary

Ian Gilmour: Our Ignominious Government, 23 May 1996

... To go to Beirut just when Shimon Peres is doing his uniquely energetic electioneering both there and in southern Lebanon does not seem well-timed. However, a friend in Beirut says it’s quiet there this morning and the weather is good. As the four of us are heading not for the beaches but for the refugee camps on behalf of Medical Aid for Palestinians, the weather is not decisive ...

Sagest of Usurpers

Ian Gilmour: Cromwell since Cromwell, 21 March 2002

Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil Wars and the Passions of Posterity 
by Blair Worden.
Allen Lane, 387 pp., £20, November 2001, 9780713996036
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... Shortly after Oliver Cromwell’s death in September 1658, Dryden wrote some ‘Heroique Stanza’s, Consecrated to the Glorious Memory of his most Serene and Renowned Highnesse Oliver Late Lord Protector of this Common Wealth, &c’. His poem’s sentiments were as reverential as its title. After maintaining that Cromwell’s ‘Grandeur he deriv’d from Heav’n alone’, that all his ‘parts [were] so equal perfect’, and that ‘Peace was the Prize of all his toils and care,’ Dryden predicted that ‘His Ashes in a peaceful Urne [would] rest ...

The other side have got one

Ian Gilmour: Lady Thatcher’s Latest, 6 June 2002

Ideologies of Conservatism: Conservative Political Ideas in the 20th Century 
by E.H.H. Green.
Oxford, 309 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 19 820593 7
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Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World 
by Margaret Thatcher.
HarperCollins, 486 pp., £25, April 2002, 0 00 710752 8
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... In a progressive country,’ Disraeli told his Edinburgh audience after the passage of the 1867 Reform Bill, ‘change is constant; and the great question is, not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of the people, or in deference to abstract principles and arbitrary and general doctrines ...

Out of Bounds

Ian Gilmour: Why Wordsworth sold a lot less than Byron, 20 January 2005

The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period 
by William St Clair.
Cambridge, 765 pp., £90, July 2004, 9780521810067
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... Johnson wrote The Lives of the Poets,’ Elizabeth Barrett Browning grumbled, ‘and left out the poets.’ She exaggerated, of course, but a book of that title which omitted Chaucer and Shakespeare, Spenser and all the Elizabethans, Donne and nearly all the Jacobeans, while including a host of nonentities, such as Pomfret, Stepney, Dyer, Smith, Duke and King, was at the very least defective and misleading ...

I could light my pipe at her eyes

Ian Gilmour: Women and politics in Victorian Britain, 3 September 1998

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire 
by Amanda Foreman.
HarperCollins, 320 pp., £19.99, May 1998, 0 00 255668 5
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Aristocratic Women and Political Society in Victorian Britain 
by K.D. Reynolds.
Oxford, 268 pp., £35, April 1998, 0 19 820727 1
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Lady Byron and Earl Shilton 
by David Herbert.
Hinckley Museum, 128 pp., £7.50, March 1998, 0 9521471 3 0
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... Some body said of the 18th-century Spencers that the Bible was always on the table – and the cards in the drawer. Certainly, that was true of the first Countess Spencer, mother of Georgiana and Harriet. She was conspicuously religious and a compulsive gambler. Up at 5.30 in the morning, she spent an hour at her prayers and a further hour with her Bible ...

Centre-Stage

Ian Gilmour, 1 August 1996

The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle 
by John Ehrman.
Constable, 911 pp., £35, May 1996, 9780094755406
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... In A.P. Herbert’s enjoyable parody of Shakespeare, Two Gentlemen of Soho, there is, I think – unfortunately I no longer possess a copy but had a small part in it at school – the passage: ‘Man, like a pebble on a glacier, moves imperceptibly but always down.’ A.P. Herbert was not being serious, of course, but his words apply to some, perhaps most, of us, mentally, morally and physically as we grow older ...

My Israel, Right or Wrong

Ian Gilmour, 22 December 1994

War and Peace in the Middle East: A Critique of American Policy 
by Avi Shlaim.
Viking, 147 pp., $17.95, June 1994, 0 670 85330 5
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... The foreign policy record of the Clinton Administration has been dismal. Even when the United States has shown more sensible and decent inclinations than Europe, as over Bosnia, the White House has failed to evolve and stick to a consistent policy, leaving an impression of bungling vacillation. In one area, however, the Administration has not only claimed credit for success but has sometimes been awarded it; astonishingly enough, that area is the Middle East ...

Little Mania

Ian Gilmour: The disgraceful Lady Caroline Lamb, 19 May 2005

Lady Caroline Lamb 
by Paul Douglass.
Palgrave, 354 pp., £16.99, December 2004, 1 4039 6605 2
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... There never was such a Woman!!!’ Emily Cowper (later Palmerston) wrote of her sister-in-law, Lady Caroline Lamb. Lady Cowper was not being complimentary. She later described Caroline as being ‘more termagant than ever’. Such disparagement of the woman, who in 1812 had a notorious affair with Byron and was married to a future prime minister, was not confined to the Lamb family ...

America and Israel

Ian Gilmour, 18 February 1982

The Struggle for Peace in the Middle East 
by Mahmoud Riad.
Quartet, 365 pp., £11.95, October 1981, 0 7043 2297 8
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Palestinian Self-Determination 
by Hassan Bin Talal.
Quartet, 138 pp., £6.95, July 1981, 0 7043 2312 5
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This Year in Jerusalem 
by Kenneth Cragg.
Darton, Longman and Todd, 192 pp., £5.95, February 1982, 0 232 51524 7
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... Arabs often lament that America does not use her ability to influence Israeli policy. Dean Rusk, shortly before he ceased being Secretary of State, warned Mahmoud Riad: ‘Do not ever believe that any future American administration will put pressure on Israel.’ But the Arab cride coeur misses the point. The difficulty is not merely that America does not put pressure on Israel, who is militarily and economically dependent on her, but that Israel effectively controls American policy in the Middle East ...

Terrorism

Ian Gilmour, 23 October 1986

Britain’s Civil Wars: Counter-Insurgency in the 20th Century 
by Charles Townshend.
Faber, 220 pp., £14.95, June 1986, 0 571 13802 0
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Terrorism and the Liberal State 
by Paul Wilkinson.
Macmillan, 322 pp., £25, May 1986, 0 333 39490 9
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Terrorism: How the West can win 
edited by Benjamin Netanyahu.
Weidenfeld, 254 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 79025 0
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Political Murder: From Tyrannicide to Terrorism 
by Franklin Ford.
Harvard, 440 pp., £24.95, November 1985, 0 674 68635 7
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The Financing of Terror 
by James Adams.
New English Library, 294 pp., £12.95, July 1986, 0 450 06086 1
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They dare to speak out: People and institutions confront Israel’s lobby 
by Paul Findley.
Lawrence Hill (Connecticut), 362 pp., $16.95, May 1985, 0 88208 179 9
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... American foreign policy since 1945 has often been a force for good. Much of ‘the free world’ has felt the need of US protection, and some of it has been grateful. In recent times, however, many people have come to regard the United States as a power as dangerous as any other. In reaction to the quietism of the Carter era, American foreign policy has become ultra-activist in both word and deed ...

Napoleon was wrong

Ian Gilmour, 24 June 1993

Capitalism, Culture and Decline in Britain 1750-1990 
by W.D. Rubinstein.
Routledge, 182 pp., £25, April 1993, 0 415 03718 2
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British Multinational Banking 
by Geoffrey Jones.
Oxford, 511 pp., £48, March 1993, 0 19 820273 3
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Going for Broke: How Banking Mismanagement in the Eighties Lost Thousands of Billions of Pounds 
by Russell Taylor.
Simon and Schuster, 384 pp., £17.50, April 1993, 0 671 71128 8
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... Britain emerged from the war still unquestionably a great power, its Prime Ministers Churchill and Attlee considered the equals in negotiations for the post-war settlement, of America’s Presidents Roosevelt and Truman and Soviet dictator Stalin at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences of 1945. By any rational and objective criteria ... Britain’s economy has never performed more strongly in its history than during the past twenty years ...

Inhumane, Intolerant, Unclean

Ian Gilmour, 31 October 1996

A History of Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths 
by Karen Armstrong.
HarperCollins, 474 pp., £20, July 1996, 0 00 255522 0
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Jewish History, Jewish Religion: The Weight of Three Thousand Years 
by Israel Shahak.
Pluto, 118 pp., £11.99, April 1994, 9780745308180
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City of the Great King: Jerusalem from David to the Present 
edited by Nitza Rosovsky.
Harvard, 562 pp., £25.50, April 1996, 0 674 13190 8
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Jerusalem in the 20th Century 
by Martin Gilbert.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, May 1996, 0 7011 3070 9
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Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 
by Norman Finkelstein.
Verso, 230 pp., £39.95, December 1995, 1 85984 940 7
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To Rule Jerusalem 
by Roger Friedland and Richard Hecht.
Cambridge, 554 pp., £29.95, June 1996, 0 521 44046 7
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... What exactly is a ‘holy city’ or, for that matter, a ‘holy see’? If Jerusalem is the prime example of the first and Rome the only example of the second, their holiness clearly does not reside in the behaviour of either their rulers or the ruled. More evil has been done in Jerusalem than in many, if not most, places on earth, and in Rome Papal conduct and government has sometimes been anything but holy – in the mid-18th century the city’s 150,000 inhabitants averaged four hundred murders a year ...

Dingy Quadrilaterals

Ian Gilmour: The Profumo Case, 19 October 2006

Bringing the House Down: A Family Memoir 
by David Profumo.
Murray, 291 pp., £20, September 2006, 0 7195 6608 8
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... It’s all because of our fucking surname,’ exclaimed the exasperated Valerie Hobson, the wife of Jack Profumo, when ‘the Profumo scandal’ was resurrected many years after the event. And perhaps she was right, though that cannot be the reason for their son, David Profumo, once more resurrecting it. Presumably he needed to get it out of his system ...

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