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Among the Picts

John Sutherland

18 August 1994
Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. LeslieMitchell.
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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... Lewis Grassic Gibbon (the pen-name of James Leslie Mitchell) is put forward as his country’s great 20th-century novelist: the Scottish D.H. Lawrence. Gibbon’s reputation substantially rests on A Scots Quair (‘quire’ – or ‘gathering of sheets’), also called ‘The Mearns Trilogy’, Mearns being an ancient name for Kincardineshire, now itself an ancient name after the county reorganisation of 1975 ...

Scribbling Rascal

Leslie Mitchell

1 August 1996
John Wilkes 
by Peter D.G. Thomas.
Oxford, 280 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 820544 9
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... on, be rude about and occasionally constrain those in office. To be tolerated by a conservative majority, a Radical should be as patriotic as any right-wing xenophobe, so disreputable in private life and judgment that the country would have no qualms about denying him office, and so good-hearted that the rumour could get ...

Salons

William Thomas

16 October 1980
Holland House 
by Leslie Mitchell.
Duckworth, 320 pp., £18, May 1980, 9780715611166
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Genius in the Drawing-Room 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 188 pp., £8.50, May 1980, 9780297777700
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... Cunard’s gatherings in the Dorchester which lasted into the 1940s. Both deal with an elusive subject-matter. The purpose of the salon was to promote good talk in good company, and neither the talk nor the social qualities needed to draw it out leave much permanent trace. The best talkers tend to lack the inclination to write, and there is no guarantee that ...

Delighted to See Himself

Stefan Collini: Maurice Bowra

12 February 2009
Maurice Bowra: A Life 
by Leslie Mitchell.
Oxford, 385 pp., £25, February 2009, 978 0 19 929584 5
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... his wit: quick, sharp, sometimes riotously inventive, often savagely satirical, much of it (to judge by quoted specimens) exhibiting a rather Wildean posiness. But the talk could also be serious, learned and cultivated, as well as incisive, frank and shocking (he liked to shock). Accounts by admirers, of whom there were many, stress his role in ...
2 October 1997
Lord Melbourne 1779-1848 
by L.G. Mitchell.
Oxford, 349 pp., £25, May 1997, 0 19 820592 9
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... them at their own estimation, and that it will be written by disinterested Solomons, free from prejudice, passion, envy and the desire for fame or money. William Lamb, second Viscount Melbourne, prime minister in 1834 and 1835-41, had no such illusions. He loved reading history because it pricked the pomposity of vain and foolish ‘great men’. But he also ...

Real Thing

John Naughton

24 November 1988
Live from Number 10: The Inside Story of Prime Ministers and Television 
by Michael Cockerell.
Faber, 352 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 571 14757 7
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... do is lose thirty pounds.’ In a country where Presidential politics have been turned into an adjunct of show-business, it is unlikely that any overweight person will ever again be elected to the White House. A necessary (if not sufficient) condition for electoral success nowadays is that one should ‘come over well’ on television. And fat people, by and ...
6 February 1997
Westerns: Making the Man in Fiction and Film 
by Lee Clark Mitchell.
Chicago, 352 pp., £23.95, November 1996, 0 226 53234 8
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... residual significance of the West as the bedrock of American identity was eloquently reiterated, just before the collapse of Soviet Communism, by the panic which attended a Japanese firm’s bid to administer the services at Yellowstone National Park. Like the designated ‘national pastime’ of baseball, the Western is a ...

The Real Thing

Jenni Quilter

20 April 2016
Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter 
by Cathy Curtis.
Oxford, 432 pp., £20.99, April 2015, 978 0 19 939450 0
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... have looked like a painter; ‘when I go out,’ she said, ‘I’m all woman.’ Her work had just begun to sell, and to celebrate she had bought furs, jewellery and handbags. The woman who stepped onto Fifth Avenue looked like she belonged there. Hartigan knew success early. In 1953, during her third solo exhibition at ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture

8 November 2012
... a lot of the Pinky-winky-Doodle-doodle Dum-dum type of name’ – and Gamlin, glad to have a job, didn’t hesitate to overrule what children wanted in order to please Room 432. Lionel Gamlin, born in Birkenhead in 1903, was a Cambridge graduate who came to broadcasting via acting, a profession he turned to in the mid-1930s after he got tired of being a ...

The Leopard

James Meek: A Leopard in the Family

18 June 2014
... as a rug or draped over the back of a sofa, playing a part in our games. I hadn’t worn a leather jacket then and the weight of the once-alive on my shoulders was a primal kick. In my teens we had cats, live domestic ones, but the sensation of stroking the skin of the leopard was different, and not only because it was no longer alive. The fur was ...
25 April 1991
A Passionate Apprentice. The Early Journals of Virginia Woolf, 1897-1909 
edited by Mitchell Leaska.
Hogarth, 444 pp., £25, October 1990, 0 7012 0845 7
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A Very Close Conspiracy: Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf 
by Jane Dunn.
Cape, 338 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 224 02234 2
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... Seven journal-notebooks from Virginia Woolf’s early years, six in the Berg Collection of New York Public Library and one in the British Library, are here reprinted without omissions. The editor has done his job with almost extravagant care, providing quantities of information it is just conceivable somebody might want most of ...

Doctor Feelgood

R.W. Johnson

3 March 1988
Reagan’s America: Innocents at Home 
by Garry Wills.
Heinemann, 488 pp., £14.95, February 1988, 0 434 86623 7
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... Riding a tide of conservative money, Ronnie was duly elected. Then, discovering that the Chief Justice who had to swear him in was a liberal, Ronnie simply broke with precedent, dispensing with the Chief Justice and promoting a conservative associate justice in his place. Although ...

Schadenfreude with Bite

Richard Seymour: Trolling

15 December 2016
This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Mapping the Relationship between Online Trolling and Mainstream Culture 
by Whitney Phillips.
MIT, 256 pp., £10, September 2016, 978 0 262 52987 7
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Gendertrolling: How Misogyny Went Viral 
by Karla Mantilla.
Praeger, 280 pp., £32, August 2015, 978 1 4408 3317 5
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Bad Clowns 
by Benjamin Radford.
New Mexico, 188 pp., £12, February 2016, 978 0 8263 5666 6
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Trolls: An Unnatural History 
by John Lindow.
Reaktion, 60 pp., £9.99, August 2015, 978 1 78023 565 3
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... say anything they can to provoke unwary victims, then delight in the outrage that follows. When Mitchell Henderson, a 12-year-old boy from Minnesota, killed himself in 2006, trolls descended on his MySpace page, where his friends and relatives were posting tributes. The trolls were especially taken with the fact that Henderson had lost his iPod days before ...
15 November 1984
... before publication, stories began to appear in the press declaring it to be an elaborate hoax. The jacket of the book contained the information that David Peterley was the only son of an old Quaker family that had ‘lived in the Chilterns and been neighbours of Milton and the Penns’. He had left college in 1924 at the age of 22 and, despite ‘having been ...

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