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Fancy Dress

Peter Campbell: Millais, Burne-Jones and Leighton

15 April 1999
Millais: Portraits 
by Peter Funnell and Malcolm Warner.
National Portrait Gallery, 224 pp., £35, February 1999, 1 85514 255 4
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John​ Everett Millais 
by G.H. Fleming.
Constable, 318 pp., £20, August 1998, 0 09 478560 0
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Edward Burne-Jones: Victorian Artist-Dreamer 
by Stephen Wildman and John Christian.
Abrams, 360 pp., £48, October 1998, 0 8109 6522 4
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Frederic Leighton: Antiquity, Renaissance, Modernity 
edited by Tim Barringer and Elizabeth Prettejohn.
Yale, 332 pp., £40, March 1999, 0 300 07937 0
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... In 1886 there was an exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery of the work of John Everett Millais (Sir John, in fact: he had recently been made a baronet). There were pictures from his Pre-Raphaelite infancy, like Isabella and Christ in the Carpenter’s Shop; anecdotal ones, like My First Sermon (a child ...
18 February 2016
... The body as the sum of all nostalgias. Empire of footfalls; Mother as Script and Ideal – and love no chance event, no accidental stir of wings, or blueprint spiked with hospice. What hymn tunes come to mind at Candlemas, the fence wires rimmed with ice, our plum trees medieval in the first blue gloaming? What carol for the kill-site, sodden plumage scattered in the grass, and beautiful? Always, the ...

Catching the Prester John​ Bug

John​ Mullan: Umberto Eco

8 May 2003
by Umberto Eco, translated by William Weaver.
Secker, 522 pp., £18, October 2002, 0 436 27603 8
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... Somewhere in the skirts of the fabled land of Prester John, late in the 12th century, Baudolino, the protagonist of Umberto Eco’s latest novel, encounters a pygmy. He discovers that ‘the greeting to exchange with him was Lumus kelmin pesso desmar lon ...


John​ Barton

16 March 1989
The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Faber, 504 pp., £32.50, February 1989, 0 571 15446 8
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Adam, Eve and the Serpent 
by Elaine Pagels.
Weidenfeld, 189 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 297 79326 8
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Heaven: A History 
by Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang.
Yale, 410 pp., £16.95, November 1988, 0 300 04346 5
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... of a modern heaven’ cannot be widely appreciated. McDannell and Lang remind us how alien to our ways of thought are many conceptions of heaven that we thought were just like ours. Thus early Christian hopes make sense against an entire system of eschatology which has passed away; the fact that the New Testament can be translated into modern English does not make it a modern book. There is also ...

Christina and the Sid

Penelope Fitzgerald

18 March 1982
Christina Rossetti: A Divided Life 
by Georgina Battiscombe.
Constable, 233 pp., £9.50, May 1981, 0 09 461950 6
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The Golden Veil 
by Paddy Kitchen.
Hamish Hamilton, 286 pp., £7.95, May 1981, 0 241 10584 6
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The Little Holland House Album 
by Edward Burne-Jones and John Christian.
Dalrymple Press, 39 pp., £38, April 1981, 0 9507301 0 6
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... dialogue. What is the use of Ruskin making an appearance to say, ‘All right, then, temporarily I will pay for a suitable room large enough to accommodate her needs,’ or Gabriel adding, ‘Perhaps John and I should talk it over. See if we can come up with a plan that will please you,’ or (about his model Annie Miller): ‘I merely want to state that I have not seen her since you came to Bath and ...

Be Rapture Ready! The end times are nigh!

John​ Sutherland: Armageddon - out of here

5 June 2003
Armageddon: The Cosmic Battle of the Ages 
by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Tyndale House, 398 pp., £15.99, April 2003, 0 8423 3234 0
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... We know that eschatology has filled the vacuum where Cold War ideology used to be. But the Cold War fantasised Mutually Assured Destruction, leaving the faint hope of permanent stalemate; Christian fiction prophesies the coming of the ‘end times’. There is no escape. Prepare. The novels will help. The first sign that the Apocalypse was approaching was the foundation of Israel in 1948. The ...
31 October 1996
Possible Dreams: A Personal History of the British Christian​ Socialists 
by Chris Bryant.
Hodder, 351 pp., £25, July 1996, 0 340 64201 7
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... John Smith was ‘one of them’. Tony Blair is ‘one of them’. And so are Chris Smith and Jack Straw and half the Shadow Cabinet and many more on the backbenches including Frank Field, that one-man ...
14 June 1990
The Formation of Christendom 
by Judith Herrin.
Fontana, 533 pp., £9.99, September 1989, 0 00 686182 2
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... of Medieval history and into the service of Renaissance Europe, Reichenau stands apart. It remains one of the most attractive emblems of the formation of Christendom.’ What went to form the Christian culture which Reichenau symbolises? Everyone knows that it took the careful preservation of Early Christian beliefs and practices through the so-called Dark Ages, and the maintenance along with them ...

Christian​ v. Cannibal

Michael Rogin: Norman Mailer and American history

1 April 1999
The American Century 
by Harold Evans.
Cape, 710 pp., £40, November 1998, 0 224 05217 9
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The Time of Our Time 
by Norman Mailer.
Little, Brown, 1286 pp., £25, September 1998, 0 316 64571 0
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... in America’, which not only celebrates such working-class heroes as Frank Little and Big Bill Haywood of the IWW, the Communist Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Louis Tikas (a union leader gunned down in John D. Rockefeller Jr’s ‘Ludlow Massacre’ of striking copper miners and their families), but also recognises the corporate and state industrial violence and denial of labour freedom that was a ...
19 June 1997
Paul: A Critical Life 
by Jerome Murphy O’Connor.
Oxford, 416 pp., £35, June 1996, 0 19 826749 5
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Paul: The Mind of the Apostle 
by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 274 pp., £17.99, March 1997, 1 85619 542 2
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... are still being invented. About each, there are stories, doubts, ambiguities. One problem is that Paul is an icon of early Christianity, and of Western culture. His central significance for later Christian theology means that any interpretation of his thought is necessarily grounded in personal belief, or prejudice. Objectivity is neither achievable, nor perhaps desirable. And this problem is ...

Elzābet of Anletār

John​ Gallagher

21 September 2016
This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World 
by Jerry Brotton.
Allen Lane, 358 pp., £20, March 2016, 978 0 241 00402 9
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... of commercial and diplomatic alliances. The English played up their iconophobia, with Elizabeth and her representatives casting the queen as ‘the most invincible and most mighty defender of the Christian faith against all kind of idolatries’, and constantly emphasised the iconomania of their Spanish rivals. Not everyone was convinced by these analogies between faiths: one observer of the Moroccan ...
17 July 1980
... she would find her place in Poets’ Corner, near the grave of Charles Dickens and the bust of Thackeray. Why has it taken a century to bring this about? In giving notice of her death her husband, John Walter Cross, who had married her in St George’s, Hanover Square, scarcely eight months before, alluded to her wish to be buried here. Of her many famous friends, Tennyson, Browning and Trollope ...

Faking the Canon

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Forging the Bible

6 February 2014
Forgery and Counter-Forgery: The Use of Literary Deceit in Early Christian​ Polemics 
by Bart Ehrman.
Oxford, 628 pp., £27.50, January 2013, 978 0 19 992803 3
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... someone told me I had made a silly mistake. I would feel something similar if I had long been enthused by another book called the New Testament, which told me all I thought I needed to know about my Christian faith, and then an American scholar called Bart Ehrman seized me by the lapels to tell me that ‘the most distinctive feature’ of its content was ‘the degree to which it was forged’. That is ...


John​ Lanchester: The Rise and Rise of Ian Rankin

27 April 2000
Set in Darkness 
by Ian Rankin.
Orion, 415 pp., £16.99, February 2000, 0 7528 2129 6
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... pictures, arrangement of letters etc, which suggest the syllables of which it is made up’. In 1987, Ian Rankin’s novel Knots & Crosses introduced us to a tough Edinburgh Detective Sergeant called John Rebus. A series of local girls had been kidnapped and strangled. Rebus – 41-year-old drinker, ex-soldier, failed husband, absentee father, Christian, annual rereader of Crime and Punishment – ...

Did It Happen on 9 April?

Frank Kermode: The Resurrection

20 March 2008
The Resurrection 
by Geza Vermes.
Penguin, 168 pp., £7.99, March 2008, 978 0 14 103005 0
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... interpretation, for the resolution of ambiguities or archaisms or doctrinal obscurities, and interpretation often took the form of amended or interpolated narrative. A well-known example is the early Christian interpretation of the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah, and the way so much that happens in the gospels is said to be ‘according to the Scriptures’. James Kugel, in his book The Bible as It Was ...

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