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Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen

6 October 2011
Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... affiliations but according to an empiricist standard: how adequately it explained particular outcomes such as the decline of Chartism or the nature of Labour politics. Joyce and his student JamesVernon then charged Lawrence and Taylor with a ‘complacent’ desire to appropriate the tools of linguistic analysis while undermining its epistemological radicalism. All the two camps could agree on was ...

The Statistical Gaze

Helen McCarthy: The British Census

28 June 2017
The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker: The Story of Britain through Its Census, since 1801 
by Roger Hutchinson.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £20, February 2017, 978 1 4087 0701 2
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... became vital to the expanding machinery of the modern nation-state. In certain respects, it exemplified the new forms of bureaucracy that sprang up in the 19th century to govern what the historian JamesVernon described as a ‘society of strangers’ in his study Distant Strangers: How Britain Became Modern (2014). Tracking population growth, urbanisation and economic change through regular counts ...

The Lie-World

James​ Wood: D.B.C. Pierre

20 November 2003
Vernon​ God Little 
by D.B.C. Pierre.
Faber, 279 pp., £10.99, January 2003, 0 571 21642 0
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... without telling us why that particular party would be enjoyable or even tolerable. Pierre’s splendour is the creation of a voice, that of a bitter, troubled but smart 15-year-old Texan schoolboy, Vernon Gregory Little. Vernon narrates the book, and hurls his spiked words right at us. At his best, Pierre captures a pathetic combination of defensive cynicism and pain. Vernon hates his stupid ...

She’s a tiger-cat!

Miranda Seymour: Birds’ claw omelettes with Vernon​ Lee

22 January 2004
Vernon​ Lee: A Literary Biography 
by Vineta Colby.
Virginia, 387 pp., £32.50, May 2003, 0 8139 2158 9
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... to become one of the acolytes who received intellectual instruction and an occasional chaste kiss from the intelligent, abrasive and mannishly attired châtelaine of Il Palmerino in Fiesole. Vernon Lee, as Violet Paget was widely known, was then in her early forties. She had recently lost both her mother, from whom she had received scant affection, and the company of her most faithful woman ...

Half a pirate

Patrick O’Brian

22 January 1987
Captain Kidd and the War against the Pirates 
by Robert Ritchie.
Harvard, 306 pp., £16.95, November 1986, 0 674 09501 4
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Richard Knight’s Treasure! The True Story of his Extraordinary Quest for Captain Kidd’s Cache 
by Glenys Roberts.
Viking, 198 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 670 80761 3
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... bring the Junto down: Kidd was of no importance to the Whigs and they dropped him at once. The French passes on which his defence depended were mislaid at the Admiralty, perhaps by accident. As Sir JamesVernon, the Secretary of State, observed, ‘parliaments are grown into the habit of finding fault, and some Jonah or other must be thrown overboard, if the storm cannot otherwise be laid ... Little ...

Things

Karl Miller

2 April 1987
The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories 
by Michael Cox and R.A. Gilbert.
Oxford, 504 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 214163 5
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The Ghost Stories of M.R. James 
by Michael Cox.
Oxford, 224 pp., £12.45, November 1986, 9780192122551
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Supernatural Tales 
by Vernon​ Lee.
Peter Owen, 222 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 7206 0680 2
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The Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural 
edited by Jack Sullivan.
Viking, 482 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 670 80902 0
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Ghostly Populations 
by Jack Matthews.
Johns Hopkins, 171 pp., £11.75, March 1987, 0 8018 3391 4
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... to the howling of ambulances, to shouts in the street, to the speeding cars of a violent Police, may reflect that we have worse things to fear than banshees. But at the end of the last century M.R. James’s head lay easy, pillowed on Eton and King’s. In the introduction to this reissue, ‘Monty’s’ stories are made, by one of the Oxford Book editors, to look like a game which registers a ...

Into Thin Air

Marina Warner: Science at the Séances

3 October 2002
The Invention of Telepathy 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Oxford, 334 pp., £35, June 2002, 0 19 924962 8
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... the legitimate contexts in which it arose, the resonance of the questions it put, and the effect it had on ideas of the self in psychology and literature. Pamela Thurschwell’s fine study of Henry James, Oscar Wilde and George du Maurier1 showed how profoundly the developments in ‘magical thinking’ reverberated in fiction and its portrayal of character and perception; and Malcolm Gaskill ...

Diary

James​ Meek: Waiting for the War to Begin

27 July 2016
... and the why. There are several British officers in the hall. They are scruffier than the Americans, and their hair is longer, which makes the older ones look more bald. A British colonel, Chris Vernon, gets up to make a few remarks. Trying to explain the lack of certainty in the British organisational arrangements he makes various fawning comments to the American colonel. ‘We’re only a little ...

Southern Belle

Russell Davies

21 January 1982
Elvis 
by Albert Goldman.
Allen Lane, 598 pp., £9.95, December 1981, 0 7139 1474 2
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... importance than Goldman), but Elvis grew up to be ‘a lot better educated than his nearly illiterate father’. This looks like a compliment, but Goldman is only using Elvis to bash his father, Vernon Presley. It all depends which of his targets our author happens to be hitting at the time. Twenty pages later, he gets round to emphasising that Elvis’s school speciality was woodwork. You would ...

The Power of Sunshine

Alexander Cockburn

10 January 1991
City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles 
by Mike Davis.
Verso, 462 pp., £18.95, November 1990, 0 86091 303 1
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... make him all the more subservient to his adversary – the absolute power of capitalism.’ This was in essence a heavy-breathing version of the noir fix on Los Angeles which began in 1934 with James M. Cain’s The postman always rings twice, surging through Chandler, Faulkner, film noir, the extraordinary novels of Chester Himes and on towards Rechy, Didion and Bret Easton Ellis. Davis acutely ...

Poor Harold

C.H. Sisson

3 December 1981
Harold Nicolson: A Biography. Vo. II: 1930-1968 
by James​ Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 403 pp., £15, October 1981, 0 7011 2602 7
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... broadcasts on ‘The New Spirit in Modern Literature’. The pamphlet which the BBC published to accompany the series gave me my first sight of the work of T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and I believe James Joyce, though I learn from the volume before me that Sir John Reith, reigning at the BBC, forbade Nicolson to mention Ulysses, then banned. Little encounters of that kind were to be expected in those ...

Tears in the Café Select

Christopher Prendergast

9 March 1995
Paris Interzone: Richard Wright, Lolita, Boris Vian and Others on the Left Bank 1946-1960 
by James​ Campbell.
Secker, 305 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 436 20106 2
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Foreign Correspondent: Paris in the Sixties 
by Peter Lennon.
Picador, 220 pp., £16.99, April 1994, 0 330 31911 6
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The Good Ship Venus: The Erotic Voyage of the Olympia Press 
by John de St Jorre.
Hutchinson, 332 pp., £20, September 1994, 0 09 177874 3
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... Paris figures in the titles of both James Campbell’s and Peter Lennon’s books, but this is a restricted, specialised Paris. Campbell takes us into something called the ‘Interzone’ (the term is odd, and troublesome), inhabited by ...
15 June 2016
What Happened, Miss Simone? A Biography 
by Alan Light.
Canongate, 309 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 1 78211 871 8
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... need inspiration,’ Simone said. In the spectacle she made of herself as well as in her voice – ‘I want people to know who I am,’ she said – Simone became a race champion. In the mid-1960s Vernon Jordan, the head of the Urban League, asked her how come she wasn’t ‘more active in civil rights’. ‘Motherfucker, I am civil rights,’ she replied. She was the first African-American ...
24 August 1995
John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... the Glasgow merchant of Hunting-tower and Castle Gay, is not in the same class of invention, sympathy or wit as Nicol Jarvie; and none of John Buchan’s heroines is in the same universe as Diana Vernon. As for comparison with Stevenson, one need merely look at the first chapters of Prester John and Treasure Island. But John Buchan’s adventure stories and his historical novels have that peculiar ...
6 May 1982
Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... to write and what Uncle Willie thought it reasonable to have to read. That gulf may be measured in several different ways: one of them is simply to juxtapose the popular novels of the day with Henry James’s Prefaces, then in progress. Another is to recall Conrad’s hatred of the public, and all the talk of new techniques, of an ideal novel that might, as Flaubert had wished, be ‘about’ nothing ...

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