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Matrioshki

Craig Raine, 13 June 1991

Constance Garnett: A Heroic Life 
by Richard Garnett.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 402 pp., £20, March 1991, 1 85619 033 1
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... for much in the way of features or waists. In terms of beauty, they have all the allure of a thermos flask in national dress. What they lack in looks, however, they make up for in fecundity. Each holds several increasingly small replicas, one inside another. In their way, they are the perfect emblem for translation – for perfect translation, that ...

Travels on the left

Paul Foot, 2 December 1993

John Strachey: An Intellectual Biography 
by Noel Thompson.
Macmillan, 288 pp., £27.50, May 1993, 0 333 51154 9
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John Strachey 
by Michael Newman.
Manchester, 208 pp., £12.99, September 1989, 9780719021749
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... for Aston, Birmingham issued the following leaflet: £5 Reward! DESPERATE TORIES WILD LIE. Mr John Strachey writes: ‘It has come to my notice that Tory canvassers are making the outrageous statement that I am a foreigner. This is a most serious allegation which the Aston Tory ...

All Too Firmly Planted

Bernard Bailyn, 10 November 1994

Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629-1640 
by Roger Thompson.
Massachusetts, 305 pp., £39.50, April 1994, 0 87023 893 0
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Adapting to a New World: English Society in the 17th-century Chesapeake 
by James Horn.
North Carolina, 461 pp., $65, September 1994, 0 8078 2137 3
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... It is no new thing for British historians to write knowledgeably about American history. They were at work by the early 18th century, wrote significant histories (mainly Tory) of the American Revolution soon after the event had concluded, and in the 19th century produced, in G.O. Trevelyan’s six volumes on the Revolution, one of the magisterial works of Whig historiography, and in the two American volumes of Lecky’s History of England in the 18th Century a masterpiece of balanced judgment, character analysis and comprehension of complex issues ...

Convenient Death of a Hero

Arnold Rattenbury, 8 May 1997

Beyond the Frontier: the Politics of a Failed Mission, Bulgaria 1944 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin/Stanford, 120 pp., £12.95, December 1996, 0 85036 457 4
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... E.P. Thompson, historian and peacemaker, known as Edward to his friends, died at his home near Worcester in 1993. Four years on, Beyond the Frontier is a volume of material set aside far earlier. Indeed, there occurs in it a passing reference to ‘the raw material for half-finished books on William Blake and Customs in Common’, works long since published ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... domesticated. We leave our prints on it, our tracks, and used by generations these become a track, a trail, a trod, a path, a highway. Ever since my memory began I have followed such tracks with foot and ...

Diary

Andrew O’Hagan: Jon Venables, 25 March 2010

... to write down what the case means to me, when so many people believe the young man is simply a lost cause, a person in the grip of evil. The papers have been ringing asking for comment: the messages go to voicemail. Outside, buses pass in quick succession, the passengers reading their newspapers and seeming very sure ...

English Marxists in dispute

Roy Porter, 17 July 1980

Arguments within English Marxism 
by Perry Anderson.
New Left Books, 218 pp., £3.95, May 1980, 0 86091 727 4
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Capitalism, State Formation and Marxist Theory 
edited by Philip Corrigan.
Quartet, 232 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 7043 2241 2
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Writing by Candlelight 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 286 pp., £2.70, May 1980, 0 85036 257 1
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... would reject Norman Cohn’s full-frontal psychopathology of anti-semitism. They probably accept, as true for that decade, Sir Lewis Namier’s vision of the politics of the 1760s as dominated by clique and pique rather than by constitutional principle, but would hesitate about his overarching behavioural conservatism. Call ...

The Partisan Coffee House

Nicholas Faith, 1 June 2017

... It was​ the mention of chili con carne, an exotic dish in the late 1950s, on a menu at the exhibition about the Partisan coffee house at Four Corners Gallery (until 27 May) that provided the appropriate madeleine ...

‘Auntie Mabel doesn’t give a toss about Serbia’

Jo Glanville: The World Service, 25 August 2011

... the BBC agreed to take the funding of the World Service off the hands of the government from 2014. At the same time, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Foreign Office announced a 16 per cent cut – £46 million – in the World Service budget. By the time it leaves its ...

I Will Tell You Everything

Rosemary Hill: Iris Murdoch, 22 April 2010

Iris Murdoch: A Writer at War – Letters and Diaries 1939-45 
edited by Peter Conradi.
Short Books, 303 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 1 906021 22 1
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With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch 
by David Morgan.
Kingston, 143 pp., £13.99, March 2010, 978 1 899999 42 2
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... Iris Murdoch was not dead before the battle for her memory began. Her husband John Bayley’s first volume of reminiscences, Iris: A Memoir, was published when she was in the later stages of dementia, an undignified, soul-stripping illness whose details Bayley did not spare ...

Sea-shells and Tigers

Philip Kitcher, 18 March 1999

Life’s Other Secret: The New Mathematics of the Living World 
by Ian Stewart.
Penguin, 320 pp., £20, June 1998, 0 7139 9161 5
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... for dot, xs against ys in all manner of algebraical relation, and every week they draw themselves as commonplace geometry, as if the world of forms were nothing but arcs and angles. God’s truth, Septimus, if there is an equation for a curve like ...

The Global Id

John Lanchester: Is Google a good thing?, 26 January 2006

The Google Story 
by David Vise.
Macmillan, 326 pp., £14.99, November 2005, 1 4050 5371 2
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The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture 
by John Battelle.
Nicholas Brealey, 311 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 1 85788 361 6
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... Google is the only multi-billion-dollar company in the world that is also a spelling mistake. Back in the palaeolithic era (that’s the palaeolithic era in the internet sense, i.e. autumn 1997) its co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were graduate computer science students at Stanford ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... London house, 46 Lower Belgrave Street, the countess was violently assaulted and her husband, John Bingham, seventh earl of Lucan, disappeared, offer all things to all tastes. The story has the violent glamour of crime fiction with the additional thrill of reality, and the facts are just enough to make a narrative while ...

In Praise of Lolly

Linda Colley, 3 February 1983

The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialisation of 18th-Century England 
by Neil McKendrick, John Brewer and J.H. Plumb.
Europa, 355 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 905118 00 6
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... The American historian J. H. Hexter once complained that the myth of an assertive and ascendant middle class had distorted accounts of almost every century of English history. Yet for the 18th century – a period in which the myth had at least some substance in reality – the charm of the bourgeoisie has proved discreet, indeed has often been discounted ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson, 8 December 1988

Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... I am of that odious class of men called democrats,’ Wordsworth wrote to his friend William Mathews in 1794. Much the same can be said of Coleridge, on the evidence of his letters and publications of the mid-1790s. By the early decades of this century, British, French and American scholarship concurred in finding both poets to be, in the 1790s, republicans and advanced reformers, who then suffered disappointment in the course of the French Revolution and, in different ways and at different times, changed their minds ...

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