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Things Keep Happening

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Histories of Histories, 20 November 2008

A History of Histories: Epics, Chronicles, Romances and Inquiries from Herodotus and Thucydides to the 20th Century 
by John Burrow.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, December 2007, 978 0 7139 9337 0
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What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe 
by Anthony Grafton.
Cambridge, 319 pp., £13.99, March 2007, 978 0 521 69714 9
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The Theft of History 
by Jack Goody.
Cambridge, 342 pp., £14.99, January 2007, 978 0 521 69105 5
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Thucydides and the Philosophical Origins of History 
by Darien Shanske.
Cambridge, 268 pp., £54, January 2007, 978 0 521 86411 4
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... A story, as John Burrow says of his own History of Histories, is selective. It looks forward ‘to its later episodes or its eventual outcome for its criteria of relevance’. Hence a difficulty: The impulse to write history has nourished much effective narrative, and narrative – above all in Homer – was one of the sources of history as a genre ...

Whig History

Sheldon Rothblatt, 21 January 1982

A Liberal Descent: Victorian Historians and the English Past 
by J.W. Burrow.
Cambridge, 308 pp., £19.50, October 1981, 0 521 24079 4
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... but even more so because its sensational image may encourage false, 20th-century expectations. But John Burrow will not mind. He writes to burst joy’s bubble upon the tongue. A Liberal Descent, like the works of 19th-century historical scholarship that it discusses, is written out of a tradition that respects personality (which is not at all the ...

Departure and Arrival Times

Sheldon Rothblatt, 18 August 1983

The History Men: The Historical Profession in England since the Renaissance 
by John Kenyon.
Weidenfeld, 322 pp., £16.50, March 1983, 0 297 78081 6
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... account he gives. One must assume that ‘economic and social history’ means everything from Sir John Clapham and Max Weber to the theory of mental states, the study of working-class culture, anthropology, demography, political sociology and social psychology, urban history, the study of the family, and the history of science and technology. Would Kenyon’s ...

Mr Who He?

Stephen Orgel: Shakespeare’s Poems, 8 August 2002

The Complete Sonnets and Poems 
by William Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 750 pp., £65, February 2002, 9780198184317
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... 1640, 24 years after Shakespeare’s death. That edition, however, involved wholesale revision. John Benson, the publisher, capitalising on the undiminished sales of Venus and Adonis, produced a volume of what looked to be not old-fashioned sonnets but new Shakespeare love poems. The transformation involved both format and erotics: many of the sonnets are ...

Life Spans

Denton Fox, 6 November 1986

The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 211 pp., £19.50, May 1986, 0 19 811188 6
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... in the cycles of year, month and day, and in the linear time of history’. In the second half, Burrow turns from theory to practice, and examines how, in Medieval narratives, people are praised or blamed for conforming, or for not conforming, to the natural pattern of a man’s life. Chapter Three, on the ‘transcendence’ ideal, shows how men were ...

Burrinchini’s Spectre

Peter Clarke, 19 January 1984

That Noble Science of Politics: A Study in 19th-Century Intellectual History 
by Stefan Collini, Donald Winch and John Burrow.
Cambridge, 385 pp., £25, November 1983, 9780521257626
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... Donald Winch has long been known for path-breaking studies of the Smithian and Keynesian epochs. John Burrow’s elegant anatomy of the evolutionary paradigm in Victorian Britain has recently been succeeded by a rightfully acclaimed historiographical work. Though three names appear upon the title page, they have pooled their intellectual capital to a ...

Whiggeries

J.H. Burns, 2 March 1989

Whigs and Liberals: Continuity and Change in English Political Thought 
by J.W. Burrow.
Oxford, 159 pp., £17.50, March 1988, 0 19 820139 7
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... It is doubly appropriate that Professor Burrow’s 1985 Carlyle Lectures were published in 1988, for the year that marked the tercentenary of the revolution whose principles became the touchstone of Whig orthodoxy also turned out to be the year in which, after well over a century, the term ‘Liberal’ lost its separate identity in our political vocabulary, having become merged in a composite destined to be known for short as ‘Democrats ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin, 19 March 2015

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... familiar with both sides of this disciplinary regime; and his references to schoolboys, as Colin Burrow observes, ‘tend to go along with sighing, crying or peevishness’, suggesting that ‘the acquisition of learning [was] a painful business.’ In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Parson Evans attempts to show off William Page’s learning to his mother; but ...

Three Poems

John Burnside, 25 March 2010

... suspicious, or lost, while the arc-lights decayed and the souls of the dead went to dust in a burrow of clinker. Weather Report A chill grey over our heads at summer’s end; the road like a ditch at Beley: aquaplane and sidelights through the smirr of afternoon; yard brushes lost in the mud and carrion hay on the fields, where crows go to pick at the ...

Two Poems

John Burnside, 19 March 2015

... before they blur into the rain, the splay-crack in the ice, the hidden culvert, how anything can burrow to the heart or chill the soul: a black wind off the sea, a confidence misplaced, some casual lie, those days out when the party stays too long and lets the fever in; and yet, till then, he has those blessings he and his can muster, bread and lard, a ...

It’s a lie

Colin Burrow: M.J. Hyland’s Creepy Adolescents, 2 November 2006

Carry Me Down 
by M.J. Hyland.
Canongate, 334 pp., £9.99, April 2006, 1 84195 734 8
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... a while. “So?” “So?” “So?”’ – and so on. The narrator of Carry Me Down is John Egan, an overgrown 11-year-old, who wants to find a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the first ever human lie detector, or polygraph, as he prefers to think of himself. (Hyland’s adolescents have the autodidact’s love of big words.) Bad lies make ...

A Hee-Haw to Apuleius

Colin Burrow: John Crowley's Impure Fantasy, 1 November 2007

The Solitudes 
by John Crowley.
Overlook, 429 pp., £7.90, September 2007, 978 1 58567 986 7
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Endless Things 
by John Crowley.
Small Beer, 341 pp., $24, May 2007, 978 1 931520 22 5
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... John Crowley’s novels are hard to describe. His best one, Little, Big (1981), is probably something you might call ‘fantasy’. It contains talking trout, and little people, and witches in New York, and an attempt by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa to rule the world again, which is thwarted by a family who possess a magic deck of cards ...

Slice of Life

Colin Burrow: Robin Robertson, 30 August 2018

The Long Take 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 1 5098 4688 7
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... myths, and is temperamentally a northern island or isthmus dweller. In that respect he’s like John Burnside, to whom he dedicated his best poem so far, ‘At Roane Head’ (LRB, 14 August 2008), in which there is not just a selkie at the bottom of the garden but there might be a selkie in the bedroom that could cuckold you, or make you kill your children ...

On Les Murray

Colin Burrow: Les Murray, 27 July 2017

... is a set of philosophical meditations which belongs on the shelves next to, say, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. But Murray’s preface explains that ‘natives and some incomers habitually say “on” Bunyah rather than “at” or “in”.’These poems are mostly about the history of Bunyah, its inhabitants human and animal, and what it ...

No Way Out

Colin Burrow: John McGahern, 20 October 2005

Memoir 
by John McGahern.
Faber, 272 pp., £16.99, September 2005, 0 571 22810 0
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... John McGahern is an extraordinary writer of charm and violence. His most recent novel, That They May Face the Rising Sun (2002), has a looseness and a gaiety which it took him nearly seventy years to allow himself. His earlier work marked him as one of the great writers of claustrophobia. His novels tend to evoke small places – single houses or tiny communities – and to crush into those places a set of family and moral ties that make them feel even smaller and tighter ...

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