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Unhappy Mothers

Judy Dunn, 17 July 1980

Babyshock 
edited by John Cobb.
Hutchinson, 255 pp., £5.95, May 1980, 9780091408305
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Infancy 
by Martin Richards.
Harper and Row, £4.95, March 1980, 9780063181243
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Childhood 
by Sheldon White and Barbara Notkin White.
Harper and Row, £4.95, March 1980, 0 06 318122 3
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... It is hardly a new discovery that becoming a parent is full of problems. In every society there have been at least some parents who have had a huge stake in the survival of at least some of their children. However high the mortality rates of pre-modern societies, we do not know of a time when parents did not often feel acute distress and anxiety over their children’s health ...

Foxy-Faced

John Bayley, 29 September 1988

Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... lively little book History and Value, and I thought of him again while enjoying Richard Cobb’s Something to hold onto, whose title would itself have been greeted with fellow-feeling by Bagshaw. Anthony Powell’s character is fascinated by things for their own sake, an attitude not common among either believers or men of action. Kermode’s sense ...

Tea with Medea

Simon Skinner: Richard Cobb, 19 July 2012

My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others 
Frances Lincoln, 240 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 7112 3240 2Show More
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... Who now, other than historians of modern France, remembers Richard Cobb? Cobb’s Wikipedia entry – the canonical index of posterity’s interest – measures three lines; by contrast, Hugh Trevor-Roper, his principal addressee in this collection, gets five thousand words. Yet Cobb, who died in 1996, was not only a historian of acknowledged genius ...

Not a Belonger

Colin Jones, 21 August 1997

The End of the Line: A Memoir 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 229 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 7195 5460 8
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... Richard Cobb, who died last year at the age of 79, began his career as a historian of Revolutionary France. When I first met him, in 1968, he was widely thought to be able to write only in French, but as time went on a strong personal vein and a taste for high comedy widened the scope of his writing and revealed a highly distinctive English style: intricate perceptions and sensations set down in long, baroque sentences, full of Gallicisms, argot and incantatory lists of French and English place-names ...

Cobban’s Vindication

Olwen Hufton, 20 August 1981

Origins of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 247 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 19 873020 9
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... national archivist, who thought that by 1945 all had been said. Confronted with the young Richard Cobb, about to begin his Herculean labours, he advised some alternative field of study. ‘Monsieur,’ he said kindly, ‘vous êtes venus trop tard pour l’histoire de la Révolution Française.’ He was, of course, wrong. The post-war generation, ...

Still it goes on

Paul Foot, 4 November 1993

Ambushed: My Story 
by Judith Ward.
Vermilion, 177 pp., £9.99, September 1993, 0 09 177820 4
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... the leading counsel on the North-East barristers’ circuit. The top barrister in the Ward case, John Cobb QC, is dead. The second QC brought in to prosecute Judith Ward, then a rising star at the bar called Peter Taylor QC, is now the Lord Chief Justice. From his office and from that of Mr Walsh there has been not a single expression of explanation or ...

Crowing

Michael Rogin, 5 September 1996

Imagineering Atlanta 
by Charles Rutheiser.
Verso, 324 pp., £44.95, July 1996, 1 85984 800 1
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... Atlanta after the 1915 première of The Birth of a Nation and after the respectable citizens of Cobb County lynched Leo Frank. (Stirred up by anti-semitic hysteria, an Atlanta jury wrongly convicted the Jewish pencil factory manager of molesting and murdering a white female employee.) Atlanta was the headquarters of the powerful Twenties’ Klan, which ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2011, 5 January 2012

... to the burning sun, which sends him blind. One other scene stands out. The hero, Harry Faversham (John Clements), fears he is a coward and having declined to go with his regiment to the Sudan goes native in order to prove himself by working unrecognised to assist his ex-colleagues who have sent him the feathers. To corroborate his disguise as a harmless ...

A City of Sand and Puddles

Julian Barnes: Paris, 22 April 2010

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris 
by Graham Robb.
Picador, 476 pp., £18.99, April 2010, 978 0 330 45244 1
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The Invention of Paris: A History in Footsteps 
by Eric Hazan, translated by David Fernbach.
Verso, 384 pp., £20, February 2010, 978 1 84467 411 4
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... over several years. For instance, I was almost sure I would tackle the distinguished art critic John Russell’s Paris (1960), ‘with photographs by Brassaï’, but never got past the pictures. I had slightly less confidence about Maxime Du Camp’s six-volume Paris, ses organes, ses fonctions et sa vie dans la seconde moitié du XIXe siècle ...

They were less depressed in the Middle Ages

John Bossy: Suicide, 11 November 1999

Marx on Suicide 
edited by Eric Plaut and Kevin Anderson, translated by Gabrielle Edgcomb.
Northwestern, 152 pp., £11.20, May 1999, 0 8101 1632 4
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Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol I: The Violent Against Themselves 
by Alexander Murray.
Oxford, 510 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 19 820539 2
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A History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Johns Hopkins, 420 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 8018 5919 0
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... Bourbons had become archivist of the police records of Paris and hence a benefactor of Richard Cobb and readers of his Death in Paris (1978). The records of suicide caught Peuchet’s eye, and he had a line on it. The line was to defend suicides against the customary condemnation by claiming, like Thomas Hood in ‘The Bridge of Sighs’, that their ...

It’s already happened

James Meek: The NHS Goes Private, 22 September 2011

... the private sector sets aside for corporate sheen, although it does have a museum dedicated to John Charnley, who, almost half a century ago, pioneered the popular benchmark of the NHS’s success or failure, the hip replacement operation. They still do hips at Wrightington, and knees, and elbows, and shoulders. They deal with joint problems that are too ...

Hong Pong

Thomas Jones: John Lanchester, 25 July 2002

Fragrant Harbour 
by John Lanchester.
Faber, 299 pp., £16.99, July 2002, 0 571 20176 8
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... First, let me declare a disinterest. John Lanchester and I are both involved, in different ways, with the London Review of Books, but otherwise have nothing to do with one another. Now that’s out of the way, onto the novels. Lanchester’s first, The Debt to Pleasure (1996), begins: ‘This is not a conventional cookbook’ – a more interesting way of saying that it is an unconventional novel ...

For the duration

John McManners, 16 June 1983

The Oxford Book of Death 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 351 pp., £9.50, April 1983, 0 19 214129 5
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Idéologies et Mentalités 
by Michel Vovelle.
Maspéro, 264 pp., £7.15, May 1982, 2 7071 1289 5
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... with haunted admiration the deceptively innocent lyrical outpourings from his Devonshire vicarage. John Donne, the greatest of the deans of St Paul’s, inevitably ranks first in the list of Anglican clergy (he has seven mentions), but he was dedicated to the theme of death and slept in his coffin – besides, he wrote poetry, a genre which is given an unfair ...

Danger-Men

Tom Shippey, 2 February 1989

A Turbulent, Seditious and Factious People: John Bunyan and his Church 
by Christopher Hill.
Oxford, 394 pp., £19.50, October 1988, 0 19 812818 5
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The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History 
by Anne Hudson.
Oxford, 556 pp., £48, July 1988, 0 19 822762 0
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... He gives short histories of dozens of Bunyan’s contemporaries, noting, for instance, that John Kelyng, the judge who bullied Bunyan in 1661, had done 18 years in prison himself and had ‘grounds for feeling vengeful’; that Paul Cobb, the seemingly feeble Clerk of the Peace who tried to let Bunyan off, went on to ...

Madmen and Specialists

Anthony Appiah, 7 September 1995

Colonial Psychiatry and the ‘African Mind’ 
by Jock McCulloch.
Cambridge, 185 pp., £35, January 1995, 0 521 45330 5
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... in British Africa: he was not a patient, however, but the senior member of staff. Dr James Cobb, who was appointed senior medical officer in 1937, had had experience in British mental hospitals. A friend of the Prince of Wales, he was well-connected in English society, which mattered a great deal in the snobbish world of the settler colonies. Given the ...

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