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On the Window Ledge of the Union

Colin Kidd: Loyalism v. Unionism, 7 February 2013

Belfast 400: People, Place and History 
edited by S.J. Connolly.
Liverpool, 392 pp., £14.95, November 2012, 978 1 84631 634 0
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Ulster since 1600: Politics, Economy and Society 
edited by Liam Kennedy and Philip Ollerenshaw.
Oxford, 355 pp., £35, November 2012, 978 0 19 958311 9
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The Plantation of Ulster: Ideology and Practice 
edited by Eamonn O Ciardha and Micheál O Siochrú.
Manchester, 269 pp., £70, October 2012, 978 0 7190 8608 3
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The End of Ulster Loyalism? 
by Peter Shirlow.
Manchester, 230 pp., £16.99, May 2012, 978 0 7190 8476 8
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... further south in Stranmillis. In Belfast the urban motorway – something that has done much to blight city life across the United Kingdom – has a sinister, though not altogether unhappy significance. As Dominic Bryan argues in his lively essay in Belfast 400, the M2 and the Westlink have served as a bleak cordon sanitaire between some of the rival ...

Dearest Papa

Richard Altick, 1 September 1983

The Correspondence of Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin 
edited by George Allan Cate.
Stanford, 251 pp., $28.50, August 1982, 0 8047 1114 3
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Ruskin Today 
by Kenneth Clark.
Penguin, 363 pp., £2.95, October 1982, 0 14 006326 9
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John Ruskin: Letters from the Continent 1858 
edited by John Hayman.
Toronto, 207 pp., £19.50, December 1982, 0 8020 5583 4
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... the arrival of industrialisation – silk mills, railways, lake steamers, telegraph poles – to blight the Northern Italian landscape. Closer to home, at that moment the stench from the polluted Thames was forcing the Houses of Parliament to sit with canvas over their windows wet with chloride of lime. Father and son compared notes on the impact of ...

Diary

Michael Ignatieff: Canadian Elections, 1 November 1984

... they swung it open and found inside boxes of Agricultural Department leaflets on wheat and potato blight, framed portraits of Mounties on horses, hockey sticks and, in one corner, the holy grail of Canadian identity itself, a life-sized birch-bark canoe. O Canada, our home and native land, True patriot’s love in all thy sons command. Canadians are great ...

Other Selves

John Bayley, 29 October 1987

How I Grew 
by Mary McCarthy.
Weidenfeld, 278 pp., £14.95, September 1987, 0 297 79170 2
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Myself and Michael Innes 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £12.95, September 1987, 0 575 04104 8
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... writing had become a habit quite lacking in relish, intensity or surprise. This strange American blight may, in both cases, be a deliberate effect: but if so, it is a dangerous tactic to adopt in a book of recollection. The reader is more easily seduced by the writer for whom the distance of the past lends enchantment, or at least the appearance of it. With ...
Citizen Lord: Edward Fitzgerald 1763-98 
by Stella Tillyard.
Chatto, 336 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6538 3
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... been created Duke of Leinster – had no intention of allowing the misdeeds of one of the clan to blight their prospects in the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy. Lord Edward paid on both counts for being an aristocrat. Later chroniclers of his socially humbler colleagues in the rebellion preferred to think him romantic and impractical compared to them; while his ...

Trollope’s Delight

Richard Altick, 3 May 1984

The Letters of Anthony Trollope 
edited by John Hall.
Stanford, 1082 pp., $87.50, July 1983, 0 8047 1076 7
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Anthony Trollope: Dream and Art 
by Andrew Wright.
Macmillan, 173 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 34593 2
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... he wrote. In his autobiography he revealed – a notorious insight into his practice that was to blight his reputation until it rebloomed during the Second World War – that early each morning he placed his watch before him and wrote 250 words every quarter-hour toward his weekly quota, which averaged 40 pages. He reckoned up his wordage as matter-of-factly ...

Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas Love Peacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas Love Peacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... Peacock began in the examiner’s office in 1819, working under the Scots economist James Mill and alongside John Stuart Mill (who had been brought into the company by his father in 1823) on a starting salary of £600, which rose with various promotions. It reached £2000 when Peacock succeeded James Mill as ...

The State with the Prettiest Name

Michael Hofmann: ‘Florida’, 24 May 2018

Florida 
by Lauren Groff.
Heinemann, 275 pp., £14.99, June 2018, 978 1 78515 188 0
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... temperate and tropical, man-made and natural. ‘A complex of few interweavings’ is Henry James’s curtly paradoxical summary of the Florida scene. Heavy, stagnant air and violent hurricanes. Paradisiac contentment and accesses of sudden panic. The strange recumbent crescent moons. The deep shadows in the daytime. The snuffling or crisping ...

What sort of man?

P.N. Furbank, 18 August 1994

The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. I: 1854-April 1874 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 525 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 05183 2
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The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson. Vol. II: April 1874-July 1879 
edited by Bradford Booth and Ernest Mehew.
Yale, 352 pp., £29.95, July 1994, 0 300 06021 1
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... reason that many people who actually knew him, including someone with so good a judgment as Henry James, found him utterly charming. The charm, if one thinks of it, must have lain in a kind of innocence, the insouciance of a born talker. He may have been all the bad things I have called him, but unaffectedly so and without calculation; if he was ...

Father, Son and Sewing-Machine

Patrick Parrinder, 21 February 1985

Garden, Ashes 
by Danilo Kis, translated by William Hannaher.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 9780571134533
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Star Turn 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 571 13296 0
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On Glory’s Course 
by James Purdy.
Peter Owen, 378 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 7206 0633 0
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... into magus and sage, he begins to wonder if his grandiose heresies have not called down a blight on the whole Jewish race. How else explain the pogroms at his door and the forced eviction of his shopkeeping relatives? For a time he takes to drink and then to roaming the woods, living off mushrooms and birds’ eggs and for ever intoning Pantheist ...

Adored Gazelle

Ferdinand Mount: Cherubino at Number Ten, 20 March 2008

Balfour: The Last Grandee 
by R.J.Q. Adams.
Murray, 479 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 7195 5424 7
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... Eleanor Balfour founded Newnham College. In 1896, he joined his brothers-in-law, along with James Bryce, G.K. Chesterton, R.B. Haldane and Sir Oliver Lodge in founding the Synthetic Society, which, in an age of waning faith, set out to contribute towards a working philosophy of religious belief. A decade earlier, several of the same cast had joined ...

What is the rational response?

Malcolm Bull: Climate Change Ethics, 24 May 2012

A Perfect Moral Storm: The Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change 
by Stephen Gardiner.
Oxford, 512 pp., £22.50, July 2011, 978 0 19 537944 0
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... deferred that we must act decisively now. Are these demands reasonable? They might be if – as James Hansen, one of the founders of climate science, has claimed – it is ‘our last chance to save humanity’. But is it? Any change in temperature will inevitably benefit some species and harm others, so it probably is the last chance to save those adapted ...

Strangers

John Lanchester, 11 July 1991

Serial Murder: An Elusive Phenomenon 
edited by Stephen Egger.
Praeger, 250 pp., £33.50, October 1990, 0 275 92986 8
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Serial Killers 
by Joel Norris.
Arrow, 333 pp., £4.99, July 1990, 0 09 971750 6
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Life after Life 
by Tony Parker.
Pan, 256 pp., £4.50, May 1991, 0 330 31528 5
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American Psycho 
by Bret Easton Ellis.
Picador, 399 pp., £6.99, April 1991, 0 330 31992 2
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Dirty Weekend 
by Helen Zahavi.
Macmillan, 185 pp., £13.99, April 1991, 0 333 54723 3
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Silence of the Lambs 
by Thomas Harris.
Mandarin, 366 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 7493 0942 3
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... have recently provided the material for works by artists as different from each other as P.D. James, DV8 Physical Dance Theatre and David Lynch. Stephen Egger, an American academic and former policeman who wrote the first doctoral dissertation on the phenomenon, gives a definition/description of serial murder in Serial Murder: An Elusive ...

Find the birch sticks

R.W. Johnson: A spy’s diary, 1 September 2005

The Guy Liddell Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-42 
edited by Nigel West.
Frank Cass, 329 pp., £25, February 2005, 0 415 35213 4
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... his terms. One notes with despair the presence in Lloyd George’s camp of the News Chronicle’s James Horrabin and Hore-Belisha, the most prominent Jewish politician of his day. One notes, rather more suspiciously, that this initiative was timed to coincide exactly with Hess’s similar bid for a separate peace. A separate peace of any kind would have ...

No False Modesty

Rosemary Hill: Edith Sitwell, 20 October 2011

Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius 
by Richard Greene.
Virago, 532 pp., £25, March 2011, 978 1 86049 967 8
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... very large empty omnibuses on very small wheels’ offered little sympathy. The worst blight of her upbringing, however, was, by her own account, her mother’s violent temper – the sudden unpredictable rages of which her daughter was the main object. Against the staid routine of county society the Sitwell parents’ peculiarities blazed all the ...

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