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Back to Byzantium

John Thompson

22 January 1981
Destinations 
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 ...

Community

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 ...
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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Eothen 
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 ...

Diary

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 ...

Brocaded

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 ...

Diary

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 ...

Diary

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 ...

Diary

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. ...

Who do you think you are?

Jacqueline Rose: Trans Narratives

4 May 2016
... a Gender Recognition Certificate. The House of Commons report Transgender Equality, published in January this year, notes that the medicalised certificate pathologises transsexuality and ‘is contrary to the dignity and personal autonomy of applicants’. Describing the act as pioneering but outdated, it calls for a further change in the law. ‘Not since ...

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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... than men do. Other things being equal, readers of the same sex will be closer to the meaning of Jane Austen, for instance, than their male counterparts. Where there is a choice, women’s commentary is given priority in the attached bibliographical notes. They know best. This Companion is at least two things. Primarily it is a reference book, a convenient ...

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 ...

Façades

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 ...

Diary

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 ...

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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