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Arts Councillors

Brigid Brophy, 7 October 1982

The State and the Visual Arts 
by Nicholas Pearson.
Open University, 128 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 335 10109 7
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The Politics of the Arts Council 
by Robert Hutchison.
Sinclair Browne, 186 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 86300 016 9
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... My fellow members of the Left often seem to have met an entirely different middle class from the one I was brought up in. Left-wing chat about education accepts without challenge the thesis that book learning comes easily to middle-class children because they come from homes conversant with books. Chat (which is rarer) about arts policy accepts that ‘standards’ and ‘quality’ are bourgeois conventions which the middle class has contrived to impose on public patronage of the arts, thereby getting itself, at the taxpayers’ expense, a bonanza of the kinds of art which it happens to enjoy ...

Rembrandt and Synge and Molly

Denis Donoghue, 1 December 1983

The Collected Letters of John Millington Synge. Vol. I: 1871-1907 
edited by Ann Saddlemyer.
Oxford, 385 pp., £30, August 1983, 0 19 812678 6
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... Synge’s origin was solidly Anglo-Irish, Protestant, upper-middle class: his father a well-got barrister, his mother the daughter of a Protestant parson in Schull, County Cork. Presumably it was a financial blow when his father died, but Synge was too young to feel a difference, and besides there was enough money coming from rented estates in Wicklow ...

Making a Costume Drama out of a Crisis

Jenny Diski: ‘Downton Abbey’, 21 June 2012

Downton Abbey: Series One and Two 
Universal DVD, £39.99, November 2011Show More
Upstairs Downstairs: Complete Series One and Two 
BBC DVD, £17.99, April 2012Show More
Park Lane 
by Frances Osborne.
Virago, 336 pp., £14.99, June 2012, 978 1 84408 479 1
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Habits of the House 
by Fay Weldon.
Head of Zeus, 320 pp., £14.99, July 2012, 978 1 908800 04 6
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... Alistair Cooke can be seen in an old TV clip, thanks to the bottomless well that is YouTube, carefully cross-legged, wearing a blazer, a discreetly silver-striped black tie on a pearl grey shirt, and what can only be called slacks. He sits on a high-backed black leather and polished mahogany library chair. Behind him to his right, hung on flocked wallpaper, is an ornately framed landscape painting winking ‘old master’, on the other side an overarching potted palm, between them a window hung with heavy, draped velvet curtains, and beneath his elegantly shod feet (the lasts of which must surely have been made and stored by Lobb’s) a fine oriental carpet ...

One Kidnapping Away

Tim Whitmarsh: ‘How to Manage Your Slaves’, 3 December 2015

How to Manage Your Slaves 
by Marcus Sidonius Falx, with Jerry Toner.
Profile, 224 pp., £8.99, May 2015, 978 1 78125 251 2
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... I remember​ being mesmerised by a shackle displayed in Philadelphia’s Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum of Slavery. It was a terrible object, the bequest of a past that is still too close. There was nothing metaphorical in the cold, heavy iron. To be ‘shackled’ by that instrument of brutality was not to be constrained or inhibited. Iron shackles survive from classical antiquity too, and they are no less menacing ...

Heroic Irrigations

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1990

The English Spa 1560-1815: A Social History 
by Phyllis Hembry.
Athlone, 401 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 485 11374 0
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The Medical History of Waters and Spas 
edited by Roy Porter.
Wellcome Institute, 150 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 85484 095 8
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... In Europe the health-seeker may still go barefoot in dew-treading meadows, as enjoined by Father Kneipp, or sniff the gentle mist from rows of brine-soaked hedges, as at Bad Kreuznach, or wallow in the black mud laid on at almost any decent spa. What the British call sea-bathing is available as thalassotherapy, or, with added sand, as thalassopsammotherapy ...

Literature and the Left

Marilyn Butler, 18 August 1983

English Literature in History: 1730-80: An Equal, Wide Survey 
edited by Raymond Williams, by John Barrell.
Hutchinson, 228 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149820 1
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English Literature in History: 1350-1400: Medieval Readers and Writers 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Janet Coleman.
Hutchinson, 337 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 09 144100 5
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English Literature in History: 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Roger Sales.
Hutchinson, 247 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149830 9
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The Cambridge Guide to English Literature 
by Michael Stapleton.
Cambridge/Newnes Books, 992 pp., £15, April 1983, 9780521256476
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... It is a surprise to find Raymond Williams, in the year of his retirement as Professor of Drama at Cambridge, editing a series called ‘Literature in History’. In a writing career that almost spans the post-war period, he has established himself as this country’s leading critic within academic English of the very concept of ‘Literature’. So much so, that he would have preferred to see English Literature replaced as a core subject in our school and university curriculum by the study of Culture and of Communications ...

Perhaps a Merlot

Ross McKibbin: Go on, have a flutter, 3 March 2005

Regulating Commercial Gambling: Past, Present and Future 
by David Miers.
Oxford, 588 pp., £70, September 2004, 0 19 825672 8
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... Hardly any aspect of British life has combined religion, class, ideology, politics and law more potently than attitudes to gambling – not even attitudes to drink and sex. That is because, as with drink and sex, two strong impulses have contended. On the one hand, the majority of British people have always liked to gamble; on the other, a smaller number, who have had privileged access to political elites, have sought to stop gambling – usually on a priori moral grounds ...

Oldham

Frank Kermode, 22 May 1980

The Reign of Sparrows 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 69 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 904388 29 8
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Souvenirs 
by Roy Fuller.
London Magazine Editions, 191 pp., £4.95, February 1980, 0 904388 30 1
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... Forty years ago, Roy Fuller was taking a close look at himself and finding the image unsatisfying, already a little disappointed. This one is remembered for a lyric. His place and period – nothing could be duller. In his new book of poems there is one called ‘On Birkett Marshall’s Rare Poems of the 17th Century’: Coppinger, Pordage, Collop, Fayne, Fettiplace, Farley, Chamberlain – They could be the darling poets of my youth: I almost search among the names for mine ...

Scenes from Common Life

V.G. Kiernan, 1 November 1984

A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England 1381-1914 
edited by Christopher Hampton.
Penguin, 624 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 14 022444 0
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Riots and Community Politics in England and Wales 1790-1810 
by John Bohstedt.
Harvard, 310 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 674 77120 6
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The World We have Lost – Further Explored 
by Peter Laslett.
Methuen, 353 pp., £12.95, December 1983, 0 416 35340 1
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... J.F.C. Harrison has recently told us ‘about the people who are usually left out of history’ – such people as the maid-of-all-work in 1909 whose duties kept her busy from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.* Christopher Hampton gives us, in an anonymous 15th-century poem, a lament over women’s perpetual drudgery. His extract from the early feminist Mary Astell, writing in 1721, acknowledges that by comparison with Eastern women, who ‘are born Slaves, and live Prisoners all their Lives’, Englishwomen have an easy servitude, but ‘Fetters of Gold are still Fetters ...

Russophobia

John Klier, 19 April 1990

... Academician I.R. Shafarevich is a world-famous mathematician specialising in algebra and number theory, a member of the Royal Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Andrei Sinyavsky may dismiss his ideas as ‘ridiculous’ and suggest that he has no significance except as a stalking-horse for the ideas of Solzhenitsyn, but the excitement generated by his musings on Russian society, and especially by his essay ‘Russophobia’ which appeared last year in Nash Sovremennik, would seem to indicate that many Russians respect his role as an ideologue of contemporary Russian nationalism ...

Washed White

Michael Rogin, 10 June 1993

The Rites of Assent: Transformations in the Symbolic Construction of America 
by Sacvan Bercovitch.
Routledge, 424 pp., £40, November 1992, 9780415900140
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Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words that Remade America 
by Garry Wills.
Simon and Schuster, 315 pp., £17.99, April 1993, 0 671 76956 1
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... In a time of mass unemployment, budget deficits, infrastructure decay and economic decline, of ethnic cleansing, mass rape, communal violence and racial polarisation, Garry Wills and Sacvan Bercovitch proclaim the power of language to transform the world. Against one current fashion, both reject punning and the play of the socially detached signifier: they embed American words in American history ...

Probably, Perhaps

Dan Jacobson: Wilhelm von Habsburg, 14 August 2008

The Red Prince: The Fall of a Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Europe 
by Timothy Snyder.
Bodley Head, 344 pp., £20, June 2008, 978 0 224 08152 8
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... Readers with a taste for misfortune and ineffectiveness are more likely than others to enjoy this extended study of Wilhelm von Habsburg, the eponymous ‘Red Prince’. To begin with, Habsburg though he undoubtedly was, and an archduke to boot, Wilhelm hardly cut much of a figure among those closest to the throne occupied by Karl, the wartime successor to the aged Franz Josef and the last of the emperors to rule over Austria ...

Sewing furiously

Rosalind Mitchison, 7 March 1985

The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine 
by Rozsika Parker.
Women’s Press, 256 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 7043 2842 9
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Living the Fishing 
by Paul Thompson, Tony Wailey and Trevor Lummis.
Routledge, 398 pp., £13.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9508 2
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By the Sweat of their Brow: Women Workers at Victorian Coal Mines 
by Angela John.
Routledge, 247 pp., £4.95, February 1984, 0 7102 0142 7
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... Why should embroidery exist? Its aim is the enhancement of fabrics, and so it might be expected to flourish only when the manufacture of such fabrics is confined to plain products. Would there need to be embroidery on the best fabrics of the Persian world, or on the wonderful silks displayed in the Japanese exhibition of a few years back? Perhaps there would: personal or religious symbols might be demanded by persons of special status, and anyone likely to be able to afford the basic fabric would probably consider themselves special ...

Women of Quality

E.S. Turner, 9 October 1986

The Pebbled Shore 
by Elizabeth Longford.
Weidenfeld, 351 pp., £14.95, August 1986, 0 297 78863 9
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Leaves of the Tulip Tree 
by Juliette Huxley.
Murray, 248 pp., £7.95, June 1986, 9780719542886
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Enid Bagnold 
by Anne Sebba.
Weidenfeld, 317 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 297 78991 0
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... Wider still and wider grows the span of authors’ acknowledgements. My forbearing husband/wife, my secretary who corrected my spelling, my patient editor and Lord Weidenfeld Whose Idea it Was – these we have grown to expect and honour. Elizabeth Longford, now in her eighties, thanks two family doctors who ‘made life so secure for us’ (and who themselves survived to 90 and 86 ...

A Magazine of Wisdom

Linda Colley, 4 September 1997

Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature 
by Nicholas Robinson.
Yale, 214 pp., £30, October 1996, 0 300 06801 8
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The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. III: Party, Parliament and the American War 1774-80 
edited by Warren Elofson and John Woods.
Oxford, 713 pp., £75, September 1996, 0 19 822414 1
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Edmund Burke and India: Political Morality and Empire 
by Frederick Whelan.
Pittsburgh, 384 pp., £39.95, December 1996, 0 8229 3927 4
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... Edmund Burke is easily the most significant intellectual in politics these islands ever produced. Infinitely more profound and productive than his nearest 18th-century equivalent, Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, he was also far more prominent in national politics over a much longer span than John Milton or the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury in the 17th century, J ...

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