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Back to Byzantium

John Thompson, 22 January 1981

by Jan Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 19 502708 6
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The Venetian Empire 
by Jan Morris.
Faber, 192 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780571099368
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... York, bathed in the rosy, gauzy haze of a dawn sun. The serenity of it all is deceptive, because Jan Morris is screaming in on a special assignment from Rolling Stone. Her collection of essays touches down in a quick succession of trouble-torn areas – India in the Emergency, post-Watergate Washington, Southern Africa, Panama, even London with its ...

Bitter End

Alasdair St John, 27 October 1988

Hong Kong 
by Jan Morris.
Viking, 304 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 670 80792 3
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... could peddle opium to China (in an interesting chapter on the early days of British rule, Jan Morris observes that the first great seal of the colony depicted beneath the royal crest a waterfront piled high with what were generally assumed to be opium chests). Even today, a large proportion of Hong Kong people sincerely (though quite ...

Gentlemen Travellers

D.A.N. Jones, 15 September 1983

George Borrow: Eccentric 
by Michael Collie.
Cambridge, 275 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 521 24615 6
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A World of his Own: The Double Life of George Borrow 
by David Williams.
Oxford, 178 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 19 211762 9
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Eothen: Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East 
by Alexander Kinglake and Jan Morris.
Oxford, 279 pp., £2.95, November 1982, 0 19 281361 7
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by Alexander Kinglake and Jonathan Raban.
Century, 226 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 7126 0031 0
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... to Eothen. ‘Kinglake’s effect upon the art of travel-writing has been profound,’ writes Jan Morris, for the Oxford edition. ‘His influence may be traced down the generations from Robert Curzon’s Monasteries of the Levant (1849) to Robert Byron’s Road to Oxiana (1937) or Paul Theroux’s Great Railway Bazaar (1975).’ For the Century ...


Raymond Williams, 24 January 1985

The Taliesin Tradition: A Quest for the Welsh Identity 
by Emyr Humphreys.
Black Raven, 245 pp., £10.95, April 1984, 0 85159 002 0
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Jones: A Novel 
by Emyr Humphreys.
Dent, 144 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 460 04660 8
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Wales! Wales? 
by Dai Smith.
Allen and Unwin, 173 pp., £9.95, March 1984, 0 04 942185 9
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The Matter of Wales: Epic Views of a Small Country 
by Jan Morris.
Oxford, 442 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 19 215846 5
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... coming closer to the English condition. It is possible to strike out on a quite different path, as Jan Morris has done in The Matter of Wales. The book is engagingly inward with Welsh landscape and history, though whenever it came very close (as in my case on the Black Mountains) I heard a different, informed and sympathetic but observing, voice. In its ...


Nicolas Freeling: On Missing the Detective Story, 11 June 1992

... into his abundant memories of Sir Gerald du Maurier playing Bulldog Drummond. One wonders how Jan Morris, who so skilfully assembled the imperial nostalgias, came to miss the detective ...


Robert Macfarlane: The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, 4 April 2002

The Mulberry Empire 
by Philip Hensher.
Flamingo, 560 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 0 00 711226 2
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... For the British Empire was itself in many ways a grand pastiche: a de luxe effort of style. As Jan Morris and, more recently, David Cannadine have argued, the British elicited respect from their subjects abroad by spectacle as well as by force, exporting to their various dominions a home-grown instinct for pomp and ceremony, inflected with local ...


Stephanie Burt: My Life as Stephanie, 11 April 2013

... going bald. Transgender, or trans, takes in the narrower categories of transsexuals (like Jan Morris), cross-dressers (like Eddie Izzard, and me), third-gender or genderqueer folks, and people who aren’t sure where they belong, but know that they want to be, or present themselves as, a gender that doesn’t match the body with which they were ...


James Wood: These Etonians, 4 July 2019

... in English, Latin and history. For history, we were given Heaven’s Command, the first volume of Jan Morris’s trilogy about the rise and fall of the British Empire, along with extracts from the other two volumes. The trilogy is a lush, romantic account of the enormous, bloody, dust-filled adventure of empire. ...


Julian Barnes: On the Booker, 12 November 1987

... South Coast matinée rather than wrangle with literati over the competing merits of Iris Murdoch, Jan Morris and Keri Hulme.This year the judges did make one interesting – and perhaps influential – early decision. Publishers have hitherto been allowed to nominate four books for the prize, but also submit a ‘B’ list which the judges can call in if ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives, 5 May 2016

... to say, ‘transcending’, as in ‘above’, or ‘in a different realm from’, both. Thus Jan Morris in Conundrum in 1974: ‘There is neither man nor woman … I shall transcend both.’ Even that is not all. If transsexuality is subsumed in the broader category of transgender, as it is for example in the Transgender Studies readers, then there ...


Peter Burke, 19 November 1981

The Building of Renaissance Florence: An Economic and Social History 
by Richard Goldthwaite.
Johns Hopkins, 459 pp., £16.50, April 1981, 0 8018 2342 0
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Public Life in Renaissance Florence 
by Richard Trexler.
Academic Press, 591 pp., £29.80, March 1981, 0 12 699550 8
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Civic Ritual in Renaissance Venice 
by Edward Muir.
Princeton, 356 pp., £10.80, August 1981, 0 691 05325 1
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Venice: The Greatness and the Fall 
by John Julius Norwich.
Allen Lane, 400 pp., £12, September 1981, 0 7139 1409 2
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Ruskin and Venice 
edited by Jeanne Clegg.
Junction, 233 pp., £10.50, September 1981, 0 86245 019 5
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The Stones of Venice 
by John Ruskin and Jan Morris.
Faber, 239 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 571 11815 1
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... Why Florence? What made this particular European city so important for the arts in the Renaissance? It’s a problem many historians have tried to solve. The latest is Professor Goldthwaite, an old Florentine hand who has moved from a study of the ways in which the Florentines made their money to a study of the ways in which they spent it. ‘Never show off your wealth,’ the Florentine citizen Giovanni Morelli anxiously advised his sons early in the 15th century, ‘but keep it hidden, and always by words and acts make people believe that you possess one half as much as you have ...

Playing with terror

Christopher Ricks, 21 January 1982

The Comfort of Strangers 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 134 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 224 01931 7
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... seen if you think of the new abridgment of Ruskin’s The Stones of Venice, docked and decked by Jan Morris; and of her Venice of 1960, which manages, in innumerable ways that are apt to McEwan’s taut enterprise, to soften fierce eroticism into the cosily comfortable (‘Venice remains a sexy city still, as many a ravished alien has discovered. It is ...


Charles Glass: In Mosul, 16 December 2004

... Feisal died in Berne, where he had sought medical treatment, a few months later. Bakr Sidqi, whom Jan Morris called ‘a Kurdish Goering’, was himself murdered in Mosul in 1937. Mosul’s reputation for violence, however, was at an early stage. Its most awful hour came in March 1959, a year after the revolution that deposed Feisal’s ...

Self-Made Women

John Sutherland, 11 July 1991

The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present 
edited by Virginia Blain, Isobel Grundy and Patricia Clements.
Batsford, 1231 pp., £35, August 1990, 0 7134 5848 8
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The Presence of the Present: Topics of the Day in the Victorian Novel 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 854 pp., $45, March 1991, 0 8142 0518 6
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... lines of predilection. Sappho gets in, but not Patience Strong; ‘John’ Radclyffe Hall, but not Jan Morris; Julia Kristeva, but not Elizabeth David (nor Jane Grigson, nor even Mrs Beeton – writing about cooking does not rate high). Betty Friedan gets in, but not Mary Douglas; Hannah Arendt, but not Barbara Wootton. In general, journalists get a raw ...

Black Art

Robin Kinross, 31 March 1988

Twentieth-Century Type Designers 
by Sebastian Carter.
Trefoil, 168 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 86294 076 1
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Letters of Credit: A View of Type Design 
by Walter Tracy.
Gordon Fraser, 224 pp., £16.50, July 1986, 0 86092 085 2
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... been squeezed out by the rise of mechanised processes and of merely economic calculation. William Morris’s Kelmscott Press represented this new impulse most forcefully. Its immediate legacy was the diversion (not at all wished for by Morris) of private press printing: unwanted texts, preciously dressed for the ...

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