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Pseudo-Travellers

Ian Gilmour and David Gilmour, 7 February 1985

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict 
by Joan Peters.
Joseph, 601 pp., £15, February 1985, 0 7181 2528 2
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... his discovery that there were only 1,440 Jews in all of Palestine is not mentioned. The Reverend James Parkes is cited many times, but his evidence that the Jewish population of Jerusalem was less than a thousand in 1827, or that it formed only a third of its inhabitants by mid-century, is left out. For all her ‘bald facts’, Peters only manages to prove ...

Standing on the Wharf, Weeping

Greg Dening: Australia, 25 September 2003

The Enlightenment and the Origins of European Australia 
by John Gascoigne.
Cambridge, 233 pp., £45, September 2002, 0 521 80343 8
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Looking for Blackfella’s Point: An Australian History of Place 
by Mark McKenna.
New South Wales, 268 pp., £14.50, August 2002, 0 86840 644 9
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Words for Country: Landscape and Language in Australia 
by Tim Bonyhady and Tom Griffiths.
New South Wales, 253 pp., £15.50, October 2001, 0 86840 628 7
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The Land Is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia 
edited by Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges and Jane Simpson.
Pandanus, 304 pp., AUS $39.95, October 2002, 1 74076 020 4
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... were put on the Memory of the World Register (the list of documentary heritage launched in 1997): James Cook’s journal of the Endeavour, written in his own hand; and the Edward Koiki Mabo Papers, the record of Eddie Mabo’s landmark case before the High Court, which gave legal recognition to the fact that indigenous land ownership existed before European ...

Things the King Liked to Hear

Blair Worden: Donne and Milton’s Prose, 19 June 2014

Sermons of John Donne Vol. III: Sermons Preached at the Court of Charles I 
edited by David Colclough.
Oxford, 521 pp., £125, November 2013, 978 0 19 956548 1
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Complete Works of John Milton Vol. VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings 
edited by N.H. Keeble and Nicholas McDowell.
Oxford, 811 pp., £125, December 2013, 978 0 19 921805 9
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... who turned to the church only as the next best thing. It seems to have been at the behest of King James I, who valued the theological learning in which Donne was proficient, that he opted for ordination. Certainly the decision was in keeping with the spirit of a royal entourage where scholarly divinity mingled easily with worldly complaisance. He landed a ...

Stop screaming, Mrs Steiner

Wendy Steiner, 17 December 1992

The American way of Birth 
by Jessica Mitford.
Gollancz, 237 pp., £16.99, October 1992, 0 575 05430 1
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... would not have been so shy. Another harrowing story concerns a 19th-century American doctor, James Marion Sims, who was dubbed the ‘Architect of the Vagina’. Because only the poorest women gave birth in hospitals before the 20th century, physicians found in the wards a ready supply of powerless subjects for experimentation. Sims used black slaves and ...

Seen through the Loopholes

David Simpson: ‘War at a Distance’, 11 March 2010

War at a Distance: Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime 
by Mary Favret.
Princeton, 262 pp., £18.95, January 2010, 978 0 691 14407 8
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... and all the way forward to the 20th-century image of the nuclear winter. Favret finds in James Thomson’s The Seasons and in Cowper and other poets a newly heightened sense of winter as the figure proper to modern war. The fall of snow is like the effect of massively destructive weapons; like death it serves, in Cowper’s words, to ‘assimilate ...

Presto!

James Buchan, 14 December 1995

The Life of Adam Smith 
by Ian Simpson Ross.
Oxford, 495 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 19 828821 2
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... In Book IV of The Wealth of Nations, a vantage at which you have already left the economists shivering and huddled in their sleeping bags a thousand feet below, there is a sentence that lets you peer right into Adam Smith’s world. He is talking about Cameron of Lochiel, whose decision, against his better judgment, to come out for Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 won the clans for the Pretender and doomed the ancient culture of the Highlands to extinction ...

In the Sorting Office

James Meek, 28 April 2011

... TNT,’ Leijten said. ‘The postal system is sick.’ On the eve of my journey to Holland, David Simpson, the earnest Ulsterman who is Royal Mail’s chief spokesman, took me to one of the facilities the company is most proud of, the Gatwick mail centre in Sussex. Despite its name, it has nothing to do with the nearby airport. It’s a giant mail processing ...

Best Things

Alan Hollinghurst, 20 August 1981

Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation with John Haffenden 
Faber, 189 pp., £7.50, June 1981, 0 571 11689 2Show More
A Free Translation 
by Craig Raine.
Salamander, 29 pp., £4.50, June 1981, 0 907540 02 3
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A German Requiem 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 9 pp., £1.50, January 1981, 0 907540 00 7
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Caviare at the Funeral 
by Louis Simpson.
Oxford, 89 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 19 211943 5
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... child who reacts and the self-conscious father who writes poems has never been so clear. It was James Fenton who first defined the ‘Martian School’, and his brother Tom has printed, very beautifully, these Salamander books. But Fenton’s career and preoccupations have been very different from Raine’s, and his poems have tended increasingly to a ...

Ethnic Cleansers

Stephen Smith, 8 October 1992

Four Hours in My Lai: A War Crime and its Aftermath 
by Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim.
Viking, 430 pp., £17.99, May 1992, 0 670 83233 2
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Tiger Balm: Travels in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Lucretia Stewart.
Chatto, 261 pp., £10.99, June 1992, 0 7011 3892 0
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... Born too late – and that was the least of it – to be James Fenton, I cannot claim to have spent the fall of Saigon hitchhiking to President Nguyen Van Thieu’s palace aboard a Northern Vietnamese tank. By the time I reached the city, more than a decade after the President’s government was toppled, I was also a little late to experience the thrill that the poet and war correspondent had felt in living through its death throes ...

At which Englishman’s speech does English terminate?

Henry Hitchings: The ‘OED’, 7 March 2013

Words of the World: A Global History of the ‘Oxford English Dictionary’ 
by Sarah Ogilvie.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £17.99, November 2012, 978 1 107 60569 5
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... sources where previously the documentation stopped in the 19th century. The present editor, John Simpson, explains that in some cases ‘quotations formerly published in the Dictionary have been silently omitted.’ This could be construed as censorship or ‘deletion’, but plainly it is being done in the interests of balance. No dictionary can be truly ...

Educating Georgie

E.S. Turner, 6 December 1984

Matriarch: Queen Mary and the House of Windsor 
by Anne Edwards.
Hodder, 462 pp., £12.95, September 1984, 0 340 24465 8
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... that identifies Prince Eddy, the Queen’s first fiancé, as Jack the Ripper? Indeed it can. James Pope-Hennessy did not find room to discuss this matter in his 685-page life of Queen Mary published in 1959, possibly because the hue and cry after Prince Eddy had not then gained its full impetus, possibly for other reasons. What can Anne Edwards tell us ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... the strongest emotions. In his book Strange Places, Questionable People, published in 1998, John Simpson, the BBC’s world affairs editor, writes about his early days there. In 1967, he was given the task of preparing the obituary of a famous children’s presenter. He calls him ‘Uncle Dick’. In 1998, and still today, ...

At the Garden Museum

Rosemary Hill: Constance Spry, 9 September 2021

... and Oliver Messel and began to acquire her own celebrity clients. When Beaton photographed Wallis Simpson in 1937 wearing the notorious ‘lobster’ dress by Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí, she posed with branches of foliage supplied by Spry, who later did the flowers for the Windsors’ wedding. Morn­ing glory arrangement, c.1930. Spry herself ...

Naming the Dead

David Simpson: The politics of commemoration, 15 November 2001

... pages put out by the same newspaper on 15 April 1998, in response to the box-office success of James Cameron’s film. The large print captions are devoted to the ‘notable passengers’ and ‘noted men’ on board the ship, and there are extended quasi-obituaries of many of them. But the Times also made an effort to record the names of all the missing ...

Diary

James Lasdun: Police procedurals, 8 September 2011

... to prove any of this). But they acquitted Casey all the same, and the country now has a new O.J. Simpson: an unassimilable conundrum of legal innocence and universally presumed guilt. All of this was instructive to follow, but it couldn’t help me write sentences with gun-names and criminal actions in them, not without feeling like a fraud. Some kind of ...

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