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Natural Species

D.J. Enright

6 August 1981
... There’s a law these days against the extirpation of a Natural species ... So John Brown assures himself As he moves with care down the Underground corridors. A poster for panties carries a sticker:     ‘This degrades women.’ For Brown himself is the sole survivor of one such Natural species: the John Brown...

Spadework

John Brown

18 November 1982
Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... a repetition of Hammett’s account, via the character of Casper Gutman, of the Hospitalers of St John – the purpose of which, it seems, is to allow Layman to observe that, contrary to what Hammett/Gutman says, the Hospitalers refused to move from Rhodes to Malta and were given four islands by Charles V, not three. There are some crime novelists (Raymond ...

Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials

24 May 2007
The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... On 16 October 1859, a white anti-slavery agitator called John Brown led 21 followers in a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A previous expedition against a Kansas slave-owning settlement had ended in five deaths, but Brown had far grander hopes for his new enterprise – to start an insurrection across the South ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine

16 August 1990
Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... and virtually absented herself from London altogether. She found consolation in the company of John Brown, and Thompson suggests that there was more to Victoria’s involvement with her Highland servant than it has been usual to suppose. Inevitably, there was widespread and growing dissatisfaction at the Queen’s non-performance of her public ...

Farewell Hong Kong

Penelope Fitzgerald

24 February 1994
The Mountain of Immoderate Desires 
by Leslie Wilson.
Weidenfeld, 374 pp., £15.99, February 1994, 0 297 81371 4
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... father and mother. He believes that he is the illegitimate son of Queen Victoria by her servant John Brown, who must have ‘lifted his kilt’ on some unrecorded occasion. Everywhere, on tea-caddies and biscuit-tins, he looks proudly at images of his mother’s face. Samuel believes it, but we don’t, any more than we believe Pip’s great ...
13 May 2010
The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey 
by Robert Morrison.
Weidenfeld, 462 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 0 297 85279 7
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... of dream and reverie was already familiar. As far back as 1701, the doctor and opium enthusiast John Jones said of the intoxicated (and intoxicating) state it brought about that ‘people do commonly call it a heavenly condition, as if no worldly Pleasure was to be compared with it’; and indeed Jones went further than De Quincey ever would in describing ...

Heart-Stopping

Ian Hamilton

25 January 1996
Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost 
by David Bennie.
Mainstream, 221 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 85158 757 8
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Achieving the Goal 
by David Platt.
Richard Cohen, 244 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 1 86066 017 7
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Captain’s Log: The Gary McAllister Story 
by Gary McAllister and Graham Clark.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 9781851587902
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Blue Grit: The John Brown Story 
by John Brown and Derek Watson.
Mainstream, 176 pp., £14.99, November 1995, 1 85158 822 1
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Kicking and Screaming: An Oral History of Football in England 
by Rogan Taylor and Andrew Ward.
Robson, 370 pp., £16.95, October 1995, 0 86051 912 0
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A Passion for the Game: Real Lives in Football 
by Tom Watt.
Mainstream, 316 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 1 85158 714 4
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... called Not Playing for Celtic: Another Paradise Lost, and, yes, the paradise in question is indeed John Milton’s – or Big John’s (as he is called here):    Beating Airdrie in this year’s final has hardly sent warning shock-waves reverberating around the football giants of Europe, but having witnessed the ...

An Attic Full of Sermons

Tessa Hadley: Marilynne Robinson

21 April 2005
Gilead 
by Marilynne Robinson.
Virago, 282 pp., £14.99, April 2005, 1 84408 147 8
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... by the Congregationalist minister of just such a small, left-behind community, in Iowa in 1956. John Ames is in his seventies, married to a much younger second wife, Lila, and with a seven-year-old son; the novel is written in the form of a letter for the boy to read when he is an adult. Ames adds to the letter day by day; alongside stories out of the past ...

Credibility Brown

Christopher Hitchens

17 August 1989
Where there is greed: Margaret Thatcher and the Betrayal of Britain’s Future 
by Gordon Brown.
Mainstream, 182 pp., £4.95, May 1989, 1 85158 233 9
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CounterBlasts No 3: A Rational Advance for the Labour Party 
by John Lloyd.
Chatto, 57 pp., £2.99, June 1989, 0 7011 3519 0
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... spoke of a ‘credibility gap’ rather than give awful utterance to the thought that the Johnson Administration was systematically lying. To restore its ‘credibility’, that Administration was urged, not to stop lying, but to improve its public presentation. At some stage in the lesson learned from that injunction, the era of post-modern politics ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment

5 April 2007
The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of the quarto edition of David Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects of 1758, handsomely bound in morocco leather ...
30 January 1992
The Birthday Boys 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth, 189 pp., £12.99, December 1991, 0 7156 2378 8
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... that had hung in his nursery, he meets Queen Victoria, seated on a piebald pony and attended by John Brown. (The expedition’s ponies had suffered atrociously.) ‘ “Happy Birthday,” sang the man holding the bridle. And oh, how warm it was.’ This may strike us as well over the top, uncharacteristic of the author, an afterglow from Peter Pan. Yet ...

Brown v. Salmond

Colin Kidd: The Scottish Elections

26 April 2007
... as a nationalist alternative. Nothing exemplified the new political culture more tellingly than John McGrath’s play The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil (1973), which the 7:84 theatre company took on tour round Scotland. The play itself was impeccably socialist; but audiences were more alert to its unintended nationalist message. Indeed, there ...
25 April 1991
... designed to be merely Satanic, in the spirit of Conrad’s melodramatic characters, like Gentleman Brown or Mr Jones. Pinkie is strictly for the book. When the famous record to which the heart-broken Rose listens has stopped playing, he vanishes into limbo. Greene was less than ingenuous when he commented, in the second instalment of his autobiography, Ways of ...

Mr Straight and Mr Good

Paul Foot: Gordon Brown

19 February 1998
Gordon BrownThe Biography 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 358 pp., £17.99, February 1998, 0 684 81954 6
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... The guiding star of his youth has entirely vanished from his firmament. In 1975 the young Gordon Brown compiled, edited and published a socialist manifesto entitled Red Paper for Scotland. At 24, he had just completed a three-year term as rector of Edinburgh University and chaired the University Court in the face of continuous opposition from some of the ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Climate Change

5 April 2007
... change has made one of its periodic appearances in the headlines, with David Cameron and Gordon Brown each making announcements about what he will do when in office. This amounts to a green beauty contest, with the public in the position of the pen-sucking judges. Cameron first. The Tory leader has hitherto, for all practical purposes, said nothing about ...

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