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Lost Mother

Michael Dobson

17 February 2000
In My End Is My Beginning: A Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by James Mackay.
Mainstream, 320 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 84018 058 7
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Mary Queen of Scots: Romance and Nation 
by Jayne Elizabeth Lewis.
Routledge, 259 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 0 415 11481 0
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Ancestry and Narrative in 19th-Century British Literature: Blood Relations from Edgeworth to Hardy 
by Sophie Gilmartin.
Cambridge, 281 pp., £37.50, February 1999, 0 521 56094 2
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... subjects are confidently expected to rally. Remarkably, some Scots still find in Mary Stuart an embodiment of their own aspirations – despite modern prejudices against absolute monarchy and murder. JamesMackay, for example, prefaces his own account of the Queen with similar remarks about her current significance: I make no apology for offering this fresh look at Mary. Writing in the aftermath of ...

Diary

Paul Foot: The Buttocks Problem

5 September 1996
... earls and viscounts who were not at all opposed to corporal punishment but who expected a modicum of consistency in its application to their own sons. When Trench turned down the advice of head boy JamesMackay and flogged a couple of seniors for staying out late, Mackay told his father, the Earl of Inchcape. Rough treatment of the appropriately-named Viscount Brocas caused dismay in the household of ...
11 June 1992
Judge for yourself 
by James​ Pickles.
Smith Gryphon, 242 pp., £15.99, April 1992, 1 85685 019 6
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The Barrister’s World 
by John Morison and Philip Leith.
Open University, 256 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 335 09396 5
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Advocates 
by David Pannick.
Oxford, 305 pp., £15, April 1992, 0 19 811948 8
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... The absurdity of ex-judge James Pickles is not that, the son of a mayor of Halifax and himself an Oxford graduate, he rails endlessly against the domination of the Bench by the Oxbridge upper middle class. There’s nothing wrong ...

A Useless Body

David Craig: The Highland Clearances

17 May 2017
Set Adrift upon the World: The Sutherland Clearances 
by James​ Hunter.
Birlinn, 572 pp., £14.99, September 2016, 978 1 78027 354 9
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... James Hunter​ ’s work has analysed with utter thoroughness the culture of the Highlands and the diaspora that was forced on it. In his latest book, Set Adrift upon the World, he doesn’t try to ...

Diary

John Bayley: Serious Novels

10 November 1994
... Both – an apposite title because up to now Amis always has. I enjoyed it, but it was not much favoured by the judging committee. Seriousness goes with choice: significance of specification. Henry James knew nothing of the world of political correctness, but he did insist on the novel being taken very seriously, the significant subject duly chosen, and fleshed out. The result, in his own case, could ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue

4 October 1984
A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James​ Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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Voyages 
by George Mackay​ Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... perceived, As the flute is perceived, at origin, Before creation. The aim is to ripen to a style, as other poets Middleton reveres – Seferis, Trakl, Yeats, Rilke – have ripened, with patience. James Michie’s New and Selected Poems includes Possible Laughter (1959) and a batch of 25 more recent poems, mostly lyrical and meditative work on all sorts of occasions: poems about not being able to ...
5 March 1981
Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to James Boswell to Annie S. Swan, Sir Compton Mackenzie and a thousand others: the subject is God’s own gift to the sifter of anecdotes and the historian of large-scale cultural change. Trevor Royle ...

Heliotrope

John Sutherland

3 December 1992
Robert Louis Stevenson: Dreams of Exile 
by Ian Bell.
Mainstream, 295 pp., £14.99, November 1992, 1 85158 457 9
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... the time’. It was in these months that he conceived what would have been his greatest Scottish novel and wrote part of it down, the fragment of Weir of Hermiston. Ian Bell – like Jenni Calder and James Pope-Hennessy – has written a biography as readable as a romance. Not that Bell surrenders anything to the romantic stereotypes that cluster round RLS. On the dark pockets of Stevenson’s life, he ...

As Many Pairs of Shoes as She Likes

Jenny Turner: On Feminism

15 December 2011
... out with each other in a dingy kitchen, over the foaming horror of the twin-tub washing machine. It doesn’t say so, but this moment comes from a BBC film called People for Tomorrow, made by Selma James in 1971 and now available on open access on the BBC website. The film follows everyday women in Peckham, Belsize Park, Bristol, reflecting on what might change in their lives and how to go about ...

English Butter

David Trotter

9 October 1986
Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... Irish Catholic majority or with the British Parliament, they fell back on an identity beyond politics: the spirit of the Protestant apprentice boys who had shut the gates of Derry in the face of King James. This retrenchment had the effect of removing from Protestant identity the level of political allegiance and negotiation. Any reform was, and still is, construed as an immediate threat to fundamental ...

And That Rug!

Michael Dobson: Images of Shakespeare

6 November 2003
Shakespeare’s Face: The Story behind the Newly Discovered Portrait 
by Stephanie Nolen.
Piatkus, 365 pp., £18.99, March 2003, 0 7499 2391 1
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Imagining Shakespeare: A History of Texts and Visions 
by Stephen Orgel.
Palgrave, 172 pp., £25, August 2003, 1 4039 1177 0
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Shakespeare in Art 
by Jane Martineau et al.
Merrell, 256 pp., £29.95, September 2003, 1 85894 229 2
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In Search of Shakespeare 
by Michael Wood.
BBC, 352 pp., £20, May 2003, 9780563534778
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... 1650s, and the painting follows the mode of child portraiture exemplified in a more aristocratic and accomplished manner, complete with emblematic fruit, by John Michael Wright’s c.1668 painting of James Cecil, fourth Earl of Salisbury and his sister Lady Catherine, now at Hatfield. Unhelpfully, there is no indication on the canvas as to the pear-bearing girl’s identity, and no date either. However ...

Man is the pie

Jenny Turner: Alasdair Gray

21 February 2013
Every Short Story 1951-2012 
by Alasdair Gray.
Canongate, 933 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 85786 560 1
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... upgrade came about at the same time, and are in lots of ways connected: Gray had a brief stint as professor of creative writing at Glasgow University, a position shared with Tom Leonard and James Kelman; and nice gigs as a celebrity designer of murals at Hillhead subway station and at the Oran Mór arts centre. In terms of politics, however, Gray and the new Glasgow are at loggerheads. In ...

Cape of Mad Hope

Neal Ascherson: The Darien disaster

3 January 2008
The Price of Scotland: Darien, Union and the Wealth of Nations 
by Douglas Watt.
Luath, 312 pp., £8.99, January 2007, 978 1 906307 09 7
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... Darien the ‘door of the seas and the key of the universe . . . [it] will of course enable its proprietors to give laws to both oceans.’ Paterson, accompanied by his evasive little sidekick James Smyth, had been trolling around Europe with a Darien plan long before he sold it to his fellow Scots. In Amsterdam coffee houses, he had tried to enthuse Dutch bankers with ‘a Common Wealth and ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance

9 October 2003
... into my pillow and could smell glue in the air of my room. My first book was called The Missing, and I started writing it, in my head, the very second I saw the video footage of the Liverpool toddler James Bulger being led away by the two ten-year-olds who would become his murderers. There was something familiar about the boys – their jackets, their haircuts, their way of inclining their heads to one ...

Above it all

Stephen Sedley

7 April 1994
Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity 
by Abimbola Olowofoyeku.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27.50, December 1993, 0 19 825793 7
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The Independence of the Judiciary: The View from the Lord Chancellor’s Office 
by Robert Stevens.
Oxford, 221 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 825815 1
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... they should overlap.’ This is hardly new, and not necessarily a criticism either. In the famous essay on the question in Issue XLVII of the Federalist the author, who was almost certainly James Madison, singles this out as a feature of the British Constitution on which the American former colonies went on to model theirs. And, as Professor Stevens must know, the American Constitution ...

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