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Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... savouring of the land – the ‘landscape’ – must overlap with more workmanlike uses of it. Ian Thompson’s history of the Lake District is grounded almost exclusively in the aesthetic. ‘Since the Lake District is an imaginative construction,’ he argues, ‘it has no real boundaries, physical or historical.’ So he is thinking of it as a ...

Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... was echoed a century after her (fictitious) life by the unorthodox biologist D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, whose mathematical investigations of the living world were collected in On Growth and Form, published in 1917. Although they have excited the admiration of some important thinkers, including Alan Turing and the biologists John Tyler Bonner and Stephen ...

Secretly Sublime

Iain Sinclair: The Great Ian Penman, 19 March 1998

Vital Signs 
by Ian Penman.
Serpent’s Tail, 374 pp., £10.99, February 1998, 1 85242 523 7
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... One of the myths that fuzzes the shadowy outline of Ian Penman, a laureate of marginal places, folds in the map, is that Paul Schrader, the director of a sassy remake of Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People, admired Penman’s review so much that he invited him over to Los Angeles to talk product. Penman in California was truly the vision of a man who fell to earth, a pale alien in an X Files landscape ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... its social structure. Lord Lucan and Veronica Duncan on their wedding day, 28 November 1963. Thompson’s book is a mixture of all of these and the result is persuasive and revealing in some parts, absurd and tasteless in others. Yet it is a compelling read. The story doesn’t pall because it has become a myth and myths change with time. As the Lucan ...

Scoop after Scoop

Ian Jack: Chapman Pincher’s Scoops, 4 June 2014

Dangerous to Know: A Life 
by Chapman Pincher.
Biteback, 386 pp., £20, February 2014, 978 1 84954 651 5
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... whom one has been in open conflict.’ In an essay published in the New Statesman in 1978, E.P. Thompson took a different view, imagining Pincher as ‘a kind of official urinal in which, side by side, high officials of MI5 and MI6, sea lords, permanent under-secretaries, Lord George-Brown, chiefs of the air staff, nuclear scientists, Lord Wigg and ...

Armadillo

Christopher Ricks, 16 September 1982

Dissentient Voice: Enlightenment and Christian Dissent 
by Donald Davie.
University of Notre Dame Press, 154 pp., £11.85, June 1982, 0 268 00852 3
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These the Companions 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 220 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 521 24511 7
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... or endemically of the Left; it has often been loyalist and royalist, and the take-over by E. P. Thompson is exposed as the irreligious left-winger’s imperialism. Davie is not only stringent, he is cogent – as only an extended instance of his interrogation can show: Kolakowski, declaring himself Encounter an ‘inconsistent atheist’, had decided that ...

I am the Watchman

Linda Colley: William Cobbett, forerunner of the Sun, 20 November 2003

William Cobbett: Selected Writings 
edited by Leonora Nattrass.
Pickering & Chatto, 2312 pp., £495, December 1998, 1 85196 375 8
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Rural rides 
by William Cobbett, edited by Ian Dyck.
Penguin, 576 pp., £9.99, September 2001, 0 14 043579 4
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... obscured by a succession of socialist expositors from his Fabian biographer G.D.H. Cole to E.P. Thompson. Believing that Cobbett’s life coincided with the Industrial Revolution’s most violent assault on English labouring conditions (something many economic historians would now dispute), this school of writers interpreted his abiding interest in rural ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 2000

No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... from the romantic or pugilistic behaviour that accompanied his affliction’. The critic John Thompson once opined that it was ‘Jarrell’s sense of his own precariousness that made him keep Lowell’s madness at arm’s length’, and this seems plausible. Thompson knew both Lowell and Jarrell at Kenyon College in ...

Half Bird, Half Fish, Half Unicorn

Paul Foot, 16 October 1997

Peter Cook: A Biography 
by Harry Thompson.
Hodder, 516 pp., £18.99, September 1997, 0 340 64968 2
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... and went early to university, where he quickly established himself as a comic genius. Harry Thompson has written a serious and carefully researched biography, and his early pages can be read in perfect silence. Suddenly, however, as it reaches the early Sixties, the narrative is interspersed with indented passages of Peter Cook’s jokes. They creep up ...

Up the Levellers

Paul Foot, 8 December 1994

The New Model Army in England, Ireland and Scotland, 1645-53 
by Ian Gentles.
Blackwell, 590 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 631 19347 2
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... the Army had seethed with democratic ideas. The troops elected ‘agitators’: ‘at the time,’ Ian Gentles reassures his readers, ‘the word “agitator” had none of its modern pejorative ring, and meant simply one who had been empowered to act on behalf of others.’ There was, however, nothing remotely ‘simple’ about such a proposition. The idea ...

Prince of Darkness

Ian Aitken, 28 January 1993

Rupert Murdoch 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 616 pp., £18.99, September 1992, 0 7011 8451 5
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... Daily Express would be a Labour newspaper. I expected all the formidable skills of George Malcolm Thompson – or old Greenwich Mean Time, as we used to call the chief leader-writer – to be directed first to securing the leadership of the Labour Party for my hero, Aneurin Bevan. Thereafter, no effort was to be spared in achieving the election of a Labour ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Malcolm Gladwell, 4 December 2008

... Last month, Ian McEwan announced that we have eight years left to save the planet from global warming. The timeframe seems to be based less on the scientific evidence than on the audacious hope that Obama’s administration will avert the impending environmental catastrophe. McEwan acknowledged that ‘within the climate science community there is a faction darkly murmuring that it is already too late,’ but stood by the ‘majority view’ that doom won’t be certain until Obama leaves the White House ...

Sisters

John Sutherland, 4 June 1981

Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... front line of the war between the sexes. The heroine Sadie (play on ‘sad’ and ‘sadist’) Thompson (play on Maugham’s unregenerate prostitute) is so comprehensively victimised that her only recourse is to victimise herself more shockingly than even her enemies can. And with her self-inflicted wounds she is supposed to win a kind of freedom. We ...

Politician’s War

Tam Dalyell, 3 March 1983

The Battle for the Falklands 
by Max Hastings and Simon Jenkins.
Joseph, 384 pp., £10.95, February 1983, 0 7181 2228 3
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... Terence Lewin, Chief of Defence Staff, Cecil Parkinson, Chairman of the Conservative Party, and Ian Gow, her ever-present Parliamentary Private Secretary, who had been to the Falklands in the autumn of 1978 – who dominated the London end. The figure of Margaret Thatcher towers over the Falklands drama from its inception to the euphoria of the final ...

Paisley’s Progress

Tom Paulin, 1 April 1982

... In 1969, while he was serving a prison sentence for unlawful assembly, Ian Paisley sent this message to his congregation: I rejoice with you in the rich blessings of last weekend. I knew that our faithful God would pour out His bounty. In prayer in this cell I touched the Eternal Throne and had the gracious assurance of answered prayer ...

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