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What is there to celebrate?

Eric Foner: C. Vann Woodward, 20 October 2022

C. Vann Woodward: America’s Historian 
by James Cobb.
North Carolina Press, 504 pp., £39.50, October, 978 1 4696 7021 8
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... and the struggle for racial justice. Yet he was widely considered, to borrow the subtitle of James Cobb’s new biography, America’s historian.Most historians are not very introspective and lead uneventful lives, making things difficult for their biographers. So it’s understandable that Cobb, a historian at ...

Madmen and Specialists

Anthony Appiah, 7 September 1995

Colonial Psychiatry and the ‘African Mind’ 
by Jock McCulloch.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £35, January 1995, 0 521 45330 5
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... to practise in British Africa: he was not a patient, however, but the senior member of staff. Dr James Cobb, who was appointed senior medical officer in 1937, had had experience in British mental hospitals. A friend of the Prince of Wales, he was well-connected in English society, which mattered a great deal in the snobbish world of the settler ...


Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Who Controls Henry James?, 4 December 1980

by Richard Cobb.
Oxford, 158 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 19 211758 0
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... still not recognised at his true worth south of the Channel. Right from the start of his itinerary Cobb gaily mixes everything together. He paints well-behaved Norman children such as one can only dream of meeting these days. He rides his biography backwards, he describes his period as a pion (a supervisor) in boarding-schools run either by priests or by ...


John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... lively little book History and Value, and I thought of him again while enjoying Richard Cobb’s Something to hold onto, whose title would itself have been greeted with fellow-feeling by Bagshaw. Anthony Powell’s character is fascinated by things for their own sake, an attitude not common among either believers or men of action. Kermode’s sense ...

It’s already happened

James Meek: The NHS Goes Private, 22 September 2011

... if a hospital goes bust somebody takes up the slack. Lansley chose 19 July, the day Rupert and James Murdoch had the media transfixed with their testimony to the Culture Select Committee, to let slip that from next April a billion pounds’ worth of NHS services, including wheelchair services for children and ‘talking therapies’ for people suffering ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... his erstwhile fiancée, Ethne. All this gets pretty tedious and repetitive and rather Henry James-like in its moral ramifications. It’s gone through so often that one wonders whether the repetition is because the book came out originally in serial form. Each chapter certainly has a subheading: ‘Durrance hears news of Faversham’; ‘The House of ...

Falling for Desmoulins

P.N. Furbank, 20 August 1992

A Place of Greater Safety 
by Hilary Mantel.
Viking, 896 pp., £15.99, September 1992, 0 670 84545 0
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... When Sarah Orne Jewett sent her friend Henry James a copy of her latest work, a historical novel entitled The Tory Lover, he told her it would take a very long letter to ‘disembroil the tangle’ of how much he appreciated the gift of this ‘ingenious exercise’ of hers, and how little he was in sympathy with historical novels ...


Gabriele Annan, 7 June 1984

Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... between them these two engaging old monstres profanes have produced a book as entertaining as a James Bond novel with the same pace, excitement and high standard of consumer durables, feminine splendour and male chauvinist piggery. The Baron broke all the rules of seduction, he says, with ‘two exceptions. I never deflower and I do not persist if the lady ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: At the Ladbroke Arms, 22 February 2018

... for the bank holiday weekend festival. ‘Committed historians’ was a phrase Richard Cobb used in The Police and the People to describe the police in France at the time of the Revolution. Their reports on crime and violence, in Cobb’s view, made them reliable witnesses, able to state what they had seen and ...

Pleased to Be Loony

Alice Spawls: The Janeites, 8 November 2012

Jane Austen’s Cults and Cultures 
by Claudia Johnson.
Chicago, 224 pp., £22.50, June 2012, 978 0 226 40203 1
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... have not a great deal of ingenuity themselves.’ One of these dull elves was Austen’s nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh, whose 1870 Memoir of Jane Austen captured the public’s imagination with its portrayal of Austen as the masterful miniaturist. Like her novels, Austen has always been read in different ways and Austen-Leigh took full advantage of the ...

Holy Boldness

Tom Paulin: John Bunyan, 16 December 2004

Glimpses of Glory: John Bunyan and English Dissent 
by Richard Greaves.
Stanford, 693 pp., £57.50, August 2002, 0 8047 4530 7
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Theology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan 
by Michael Davies.
Oxford, 393 pp., £65, July 2002, 0 19 924240 2
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The Portable Bunyan: A Transnational History of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ 
by Isabel Hofmeyr.
Princeton, 320 pp., £41.95, January 2004, 0 691 11655 5
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... he would preach the next. Towards the end of his sentence, the Bedfordshire justices sent Paul Cobb, a clerk of the peace, to obtain Bunyan’s submission. Had Bunyan been willing to sue for pardon and to admit that he had wrongfully convened the meeting at Lower Samsell, he would have been freed, but he refused. Bunyan told ...


Richard Usborne: On Cutting P.G. Wodehouse, 4 October 1984

... to a pamphlet: a print-off of an address given by Quentin Bell in May 1976 – his fifth Gwilym James Memorial Lecture at the University of Southampton. I recommend the pamphlet, titled ‘A Demotic Art’. It told me, learnedly and amusingly, just what I wanted to know about the ‘coroplasts of Boeotia’. (The nearest my Shorter Oxford Dictionary comes ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... account of such an exile in his story ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’. But many others, Richard Rhodes James for example, have recorded their experiences as ‘orphans of the Raj, paying the price of empire by a separation from parents’. Parents, too, of course had to pay the price, especially mothers, who were forced to choose between living for years either ...

Dark Knight

Tom Shippey, 24 February 1994

The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Malory 
by P.J.C. Field.
Boydell and Brewer, 218 pp., £29.50, September 1993, 0 85991 385 6
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... the case. If one goes by the records, slowly unearthed in the Twenties and Thirties by Edward Cobb, Edward Hicks and A.C. Baugh, the Malory of Newbold Revel was not ‘little better than a criminal’, he was a criminal, and probably by some way the most distinguished criminal ever to have won a place in English letters. Despite a reasonably secure and ...

Hanging out with Higgins

Michael Wood, 7 December 1989

Silent Partner 
by Jonathan Kellerman.
Macdonald, 506 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 356 17598 7
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‘Murder will out’: The Detective in Fiction 
by T.J. Binyon.
Oxford, 166 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 9780192192233
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Devices and Desires 
by P.D. James.
Faber, 408 pp., £11.99, October 1989, 0 571 14178 1
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by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 287 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 670 82258 2
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by George V. Higgins.
Deutsch, 213 pp., £11.95, November 1989, 0 233 98513 1
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Polar Star 
by Martin Cruz Smith.
Collins Harvill, 373 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 00 271269 5
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... since when did that really matter in crime fiction? – and sternly says that P.D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh, for example, ‘lacks verisimilitude as a policeman, if not as a person’. He also says rather oddly that ‘stories about a criminal, no matter how excellent they are in their own right, can never be as attractive as stories about a ...

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