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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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... with the highly conscious enjoyment of wild country, although both writers know that the aesthetic savouring of the land – the ‘landscape’ – must overlap with more workmanlike uses of it. IanThompson’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 ...
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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... Thomasina Coverly, the heroine of Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, to her tutor Septimus Hodge. Her question 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 ...
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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... as well as some more thoughtful studies of the case and what it reveals about postwar Britain and 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 ...

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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... from its kidnappers. Dissent was not and is not ‘a stage on the way to enlightened unbelief’, 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 ...

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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... some of his most influential 20th-century interpreters. In particular, his full significance has been 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 ...
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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... in 1948. In 1956, or thereabouts, the similarities dissolved. He brilliantly avoided National Service 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 ...

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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... publicly, over a great department of state and its civil service mandarins and senior politicians with 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 ...
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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... disbandment. Only then did the Army retire, but not far away, to Hammersmith and Putney. For months 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...
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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... abnormal states, and he wanted it that way.’ And Lowell, she said, ‘took care to shield Jarrell 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 ...
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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... And, from mid-April, it was Margaret Hilda Thatcher – supported by a troika consisting of Admiral Sir 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 ...

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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... Tit for Tat is dispatched from the 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 ...
28 January 1993
Rupert Murdoch 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 616 pp., £18.99, September 1992, 0 7011 8451 5
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... The most important of these, I planned to say, concerned the leader-writers. From now on, the 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 ...

Institutional Hypocrisy

David Runciman: Selling the NHS

21 April 2005
Restoring Responsibility: Ethics in Government, Business and Healthcare 
by Dennis Thompson.
Cambridge, 349 pp., £16.99, November 2004, 0 521 54722 9
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NHS plc: The Privatisation of Our Healthcare 
by Allyson Pollock.
Verso, 271 pp., £15.99, September 2004, 1 84467 011 2
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Brown’s Britain 
by Robert Peston.
Short Books, 369 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 1 904095 67 4
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... and practise what they preach, is itself absurd, and likely to breed cynicism and contempt. In an essay entitled ‘Hypocrisy and Democracy’ in his wonderfully measured new collection, Dennis Thompson quotes Judith Shklar, who described the politics of anti-hypocrisy as an ‘unending game of mutual unmasking’, in which everyone is bound to lose. Because democracy is a system of government that ...

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