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House of Frazer

J.W. Burrow, 31 March 1988

J.G. Frazer: His Life and Work 
by Robert Ackerman.
Cambridge, 348 pp., £35, December 1987, 0 521 34093 4
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... Among the Bechuanas it is a rule ... The Borero Indians of Brazil think ... The Huichol Indians admire ... In some parts of Melanesia ...’ And in Bangkok at 12 o’clock? It needs an effort of imagination to think of Noel Coward reading The Golden Bough (popular abridged edition, 1922), but he catches perfectly the scatter-effect of Late Victorian and Edwardian anthopology practised according to the comparative method, above all by Frazer, from whose legendary notebooks the examples rattled in promiscuous handfuls onto the page: Melanesians and Eskimos, Breton peasants, Astarte and Cybele, corn dollies and Balder the Beautiful, the absurd beliefs of the Wawamba, the atrocious behaviour of the Mura-muras ...

In the Iguanodon Diner

J.W. Burrow, 6 October 1994

Richard Owen: Victorian Naturalist 
by Nicolaas Rupke.
Yale, 462 pp., £35, February 1994, 0 300 05820 9
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... At the famous dinner held in the Crystal Palace in 1853, with 22 gentlemen seated inside a reconstructed iguanodon, the head of both the table and the beast was held – as of right – by Richard Owen, universally acknowledged as Britain’s premier anatomist, ‘the English Cuvier’, and arguably the foremost British ‘man of science’ of his generation ...

Whiggeries

J.H. Burns, 2 March 1989

Whigs and Liberals: Continuity and Change in English Political Thought 
by J.W. Burrow.
Oxford, 159 pp., £17.50, March 1988, 0 19 820139 7
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... It is doubly appropriate that Professor Burrow’s 1985 Carlyle Lectures were published in 1988, for the year that marked the tercentenary of the revolution whose principles became the touchstone of Whig orthodoxy also turned out to be the year in which, after well over a century, the term ‘Liberal’ lost its separate identity in our political vocabulary, having become merged in a composite destined to be known for short as ‘Democrats ...

Uncaging the beast

Sheldon Rothblatt, 16 February 1989

Victorian Anthropology 
by George Stocking.
Collier Macmillan, 429 pp., £22, October 1987, 0 02 931550 6
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... the history of ideas are superbly controlled. (Similar praise may be given to the writings of J.W. Burrow, whose very different style of work in the history of the social sciences plays an important role in Stocking’s conceptualisation of his task.) The first is the use of a biographical mode of analysis, employed so that the particular is in the service of ...

Whig History

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1982

A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past 
by J.W. Burrow.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 521 24079 4
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... more so because its sensational image may encourage false, 20th-century expectations. But John Burrow will not mind. He writes to burst joy’s bubble upon the tongue. A Liberal Descent, like the works of 19th-century historical scholarship that it discusses, is written out of a tradition that respects personality (which is not at all the same thing ...

No Theatricks

Ferdinand Mount: Burke, 21 August 2014

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: from the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence 
by David Bromwich.
Harvard, 500 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 0 674 72970 4
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Moral Imagination: Essays 
by David Bromwich.
Princeton, 350 pp., £19.95, March 2014, 978 0 691 16141 9
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... people, whom of all others it ought to be the care and the wish of humane nations to protect, the Jews. Having no fixed settlement in any part of the world, no kingdom nor country in which they have a government, a community, and a system of laws, they are thrown upon the benevolence of nations, and claim protection and civility from their weakness, as well ...

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