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30 December 1982
Carl Maria von Weber: Writings on Music 
edited by John​ Warrack, translated by Martin Cooper.
Cambridge, 402 pp., £35, December 1981, 0 521 22892 1
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... rule must be disregarded, for rules only fetter genius.’ Schindler is surely right in identifying the object of the satire as the mysterious slow opening of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony (pace John Warrack, who in his introduction to the present volume raises pedantic objections as to the strict accuracy of Weber’s description of the passage in question): but it is equally clear that, far ...

Family Fortunes

Helen Cooper: The upwardly mobile Pastons

4 August 2005
Blood and Roses: The Paston Family in the 15th Century 
by Helen Castor.
Faber, 347 pp., £8.99, June 2005, 0 571 21671 4
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... aristocratic families, but the Paston letters supply individual voices. The correspondence extends over four generations of both men and women – indeed, her letters make Margaret Paston, wife of John Paston I, one of the most prolific woman writers in Middle English. She repeatedly urged her husband to come home, to pursue the family’s interests from Norfolk rather than London; it is our good ...
4 June 1981
The Lyttelton – Hart-Davis Letters 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 185 pp., £12.50, March 1981, 0 7195 3770 3
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... for teaching English in an inspiring manner is in some degree supported by the subsequent careers of pupils, who included Aldous Huxley, J.B.S. Haldane, George Orwell, Cyril Connolly, Peter Fleming, John Bayley – a literary macédoine to which several other ingredients could be added. As it fell out, I had myself no dealings with Lyttelton at school, knowing him only by sight. He had the air of ...

Bored Hero

Alan Bell

22 January 1981
Raymond Asquith: Life and Letters 
by John​ Jolliffe.
Collins, 311 pp., £10.95, July 1980, 9780002167147
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... was beginning to form by the time of his death. Recollection of promise has until now been all that remained, along with fragrant but sincere declarations from adoring disciples such as Lady Diana Cooper, who ‘loved Raymond hopelessly’ but could scarcely bear to write about him in her autobiography. Most of his admirers noted an ironic, sometimes a callous streak in his nature, which suggested ...

The Shock of the Pretty

James Meek: Seventy Hours with Don Draper

8 April 2015
... over the darkness? What if the vintage fashion-shoot perfection of the Christmas scene leaves a more powerful impression on us than our awareness of the suffering of Betty and her children? Sterling Cooper, the fictional advertising agency around which Mad Men is built, is a caricature of the commercial TV system that produced the series: a pool of creative people in bitter thrall to the accountants ...
20 June 1985
... from what they regard as his bigotry, his snobbery, his cruelty, his infatuation with the English aristocracy, his contempt for all other classes, and his pleasure in reaction. But then, so John Bayley observed, they move an amendment. In order to explain these aberrations, they explain that Waugh was a disillusioned romantic. Graham Greene wrote that ‘he is a romantic in the sense of ...


Stephen Bann

4 November 1982
The Prince buys the Manor 
by Elspeth Huxley.
Chatto, 216 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 7011 2651 5
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by Sheila Ortiz Taylor.
Women’s Press, 120 pp., £2.50, October 1982, 0 7043 3900 5
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Scenes from Metropolitan Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 214 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 333 34203 8
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Constance, or Solitary Practices 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 394 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 571 11757 0
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Mickelsson’s Ghosts 
by John​ Gardner.
Secker, 566 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 17251 8
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Beware of pity 
by Stefan Zweig, translated by Phyllis Blewitt and Trevor Blewitt.
Cape, 354 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 224 02057 9
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... modern version of water into wine? Ms Ortiz Taylor knows what she thinks, and has the formal ingenuity to convey it. But the restless contemporaneity of her vision makes a stark contrast with William Cooper’s impeccable Scenes from Metropolitan Life, written in the 1950s but held back from publication up to the present day for legal reasons. Cooper’s work, falling between the celebrated Scenes from ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Little England

24 May 2001
... this weighs in at almost nothing on the Short Cuts scales of scandal (imperially calibrated, naturally) compared to the discovery that the list of the BWMA’s honorary members – there’s Jilly Cooper, Peter Hitchens, Norris McWhirter, mad Patrick Moore – includes the name of the universally adored J.K. Rowling OBE. Is this not taking the antique Englishness of Harry Potter just a little too far ...
7 November 2019
... the demand on hospitals. Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), the forerunners of ACOs, were pioneered by the US health insurance provider Kaiser Permanente in 1953. President Nixon’s adviser John Ehrlichman explained to his boss the basic concept before the passage of the 1973 HMO Act: ‘The less care they give them the more money they make.’ In May 2016 Jeremy Hunt, then health minister ...

Public Works

David Norbrook

5 June 1986
The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... conservatism: while standing by my own arguments, I would certainly concede that here again the monarchism is in tension with some proto-republican elements. Paulin’s next major monarchist, John Dryden, seems a less ambiguous figure: ‘Absalom and Achitophel’, which Paulin much admires and prints in full, presents the political debate stirred up by the Whigs as a feverish disease of which ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies

26 January 2012
An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... November 16 [1943], six thousand rally at the Shrine Auditorium to celebrate the tenth anniversary of US-Soviet relations, complete with a speech by Olivia de Havilland … The next day, John Wayne learns that the Selective Service board has extended his 3-A deferment. Hot dog! The star celebrates Thanksgiving Day by carving turkeys at the canteen, even as Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin ...

Last Word

John​ Charap

19 November 1981
The Physicists: A Generation that Changed the World 
by C.P. Snow.
Macmillan, 191 pp., £8.95, September 1981, 0 333 32228 2
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... surprisingly intractable. Of these more recent developments Snow has little to say, though he might have gone further had he lived to complete his work. In the excellent introductory essay by William Cooper, we are told that Snow wrote the book largely from memory, and his memory rarely failed him. One error does deserve correction: Werner Heisenberg is unjustly maligned. An inevitable theme in the book ...
6 August 1992
by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 372 pp., £14.99, May 1992, 0 09 174827 5
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... 75th birthday and try to adjust to the news that, after two decades of Cold War, détente with the United States of America is suddenly a possibility. The aged President Kennedy (Joseph P., not John F.) plans to fly to Berlin for a summit meeting. Since all this is conjecture as to how things might have turned out, it can only be assessed against your own, or other people’s, conjectures. The ...
8 November 2018
... had a better view of French troop positions outside Verdun. ‘Do something beautiful,’ Paul Cret, chair of the steering group of the American Battle Monuments Committee, told the architect, John Russell Pope, in 1925: ‘This is the most important monument and for this reason it has been entrusted to you.’ Pope was one of the most successful and visible American architects of the era – ...
18 February 1982
Plotting the Golden West: American Literature and the Rhetoric of the California Trail 
by Stephen Fender.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £15, January 1982, 0 521 23924 9
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Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The 19th-Century Response 
by Lee Clark Mitchell.
Princeton, 320 pp., £10.70, July 1981, 9780691064611
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... that just about from the start (after the War of Independence), America and American life struck writers (and others) as being at once too ‘plotless’ (or, as Washington Irving put it – before Cooper, Hawthorne, James and others – too lacking in ‘association’) and ‘stiflingly, even obsessively over-plotted’. There is a relationship, in Fender’s reading of American literature, between ...

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