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Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... wisdom.’ For Bage, the enemies of liberty were to be found closer to home. Hermsprong is set in Cornwall, whose rotten boroughs exemplified the unreformed Parliamentary system that stood in the way of proper representation of the manufacturing areas of the Midlands. The county had seen rioting by tin miners in 1795, and the threat of popular disorder finds ...

No Bottle

Rose George: Water, 18 December 2014

Drinking Water: A History 
by James Salzman.
Overlook Duckworth, 320 pp., £9.99, October 2013, 978 0 7156 4528 4
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Parched City: A History of London’s Public and Private Drinking Water 
by Emma Jones.
Zero Books, 361 pp., £17.99, June 2013, 978 1 78099 158 0
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Water 4.0: The Past, Present and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource 
by David Sedlak.
Yale, 352 pp., £20, March 2014, 978 0 300 17649 0
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... stone structure. The Barrans Fountain was built by the Victorian clothing manufacturer Sir John Barran, once also the city’s mayor. He must have been a man with ambition. A building he constructed in the city centre is Moorish and beautiful, a small glimpse of Granada in the middle of West Yorkshire, though it was nothing more grand than a ...

Liberation Music

Richard Gott: In Memory of Cornelius Cardew, 12 March 2009

Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished 
by John Tilbury.
Copula, 1069 pp., £45, October 2008, 978 0 9525492 3 9
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... to fill in the details of his life, written with affection, humour and perspicacity by the pianist John Tilbury. Tilbury was Cardew’s friend and colleague, and a one-time (and part-time) fellow-traveller on the Maoist road; he has spent a quarter of a century writing this book. Aficionados will love his account; others might have preferred a more succinct ...

Law and Class

Francis Bennion, 1 May 1980

Respectable Rebels 
edited by Roger King.
Hodder, 200 pp., £10.95, October 1979, 0 340 23164 5
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The Judge 
by Patrick Devlin.
Oxford, 207 pp., £7.50, September 1979, 0 19 215949 6
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Human Rights 
edited by F.E. Dowrick.
Saxon House, 223 pp., £9.70, July 1979, 0 566 00281 7
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In on the Act 
by Sir Harold Kent.
Macmillan, 273 pp., £8.95, September 1979, 0 333 27120 3
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Law, Justice and Social Policy 
by Rosalind Brooke.
Croom Helm, 136 pp., £7.95, October 1979, 0 85664 636 9
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Inequality, Crime and Public Policy 
by John Braithwaite.
Routledge, 332 pp., £10.75, November 1979, 0 7100 0323 4
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... home.’ Kent tells a story about Sir Granville Ram, first Parliamentary Counsel and as English as Cornwall. A young Hindu on secondment to the London Office ingenuously inquired if Ram had Indian ancestry. ‘I’m pretty sure it was a joke,’ says Kent, ‘but he perceived from our shocked looks that it was in bad taste and should not be pursued.’ Kent ...

At Tate Britain

Anne Wagner: Hepworth, 26 August 2015

... start, we find Hepworth and the other carvers of her generation – Henry Moore, Ursula Edgcumbe, John Skeaping – making common cause with a slightly older cohort, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Gaudier-Brzeska, Elsie Henderson, Alan Durst. In works produced both before and after World War One, they began to remake the look and feel of the carving ...

Fiction and the Poverty of Theory

John Sutherland, 20 November 1986

News from Nowhere 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 403 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 241 11920 0
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O-Zone 
by Paul Theroux.
Hamish Hamilton, 469 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 241 11948 0
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Ticket to Ride 
by Dennis Potter.
Faber, 202 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 9780571145232
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... Brechtian theory of erst fressen, Caute has also written money-spinning soft-porn thrillers as ‘John Salisbury’.) Like his previous attempt at mixing 100 per cent proof world history with the small beer of English fiction (The Decline of the West, a title to rank with Mel Brooks’s History of the World, Part II), News from Nowhere is a crashing ...

1086, 1886, 1986 and all that

John Dodgson, 22 May 1986

Domesday: 900 Years of England’s Norman Heritage 
edited by Kate Allen.
Millbank in association with the National Domesday Committee, 192 pp., £3, March 1986, 0 946171 49 1
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The Normans and the Norman Conquest 
by R. Allen Brown.
Boydell, 259 pp., £19.50, January 1985, 0 85115 427 1
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The Domesday Book: England’s Heritage, Then and Now 
edited by Thomas Hinde.
Hutchinson, 351 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 09 161830 4
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Domesday Heritage 
edited by Elizabeth Hallam.
Arrow, 95 pp., £3.95, February 1986, 0 09 945800 4
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Domesday Book through Nine Centuries 
by Elizabeth Hallam.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £12.50, March 1986, 0 500 25097 9
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Domesday Book: A Reassessment 
edited by Peter Sawyer.
Arnold, 182 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 7131 6440 9
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... by the Prince of Wales with photograph in naval uniform, carrying off a Domesday role as Duke of Cornwall; the frontispiece is a colour photograph of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a member of the Domesday Committee. By the time we reach p.ix we have been well admonished of our duty to Realm and Church despite or through a screen of advertisements by ...

Happy Knack

Ian Sansom: Betjeman, 20 February 2003

John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 736 pp., £25, November 2002, 0 7195 5002 5
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... helps explain why Bevis Hillier has written an enormous biography of a dead English minor poet. John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love is the second volume of Hillier’s proposed trilogy and covers, roughly, the years 1933-58, the period when Betjeman, as Larkin put it, ‘became Betjeman’. The book is 736 pages long. Its predecessor, Young Betjeman, was 477 ...

How did he get it done?

John Jones: Leigh Hunt’s sense of woe, 22 September 2005

Fiery Heart: The First Life of Leigh Hunt 
by Nicholas Roe.
Pimlico, 428 pp., £14.99, January 2005, 0 7126 0224 0
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The Wit in the Dungeon: A Life of Leigh Hunt 
by Anthony Holden.
Little, Brown, 448 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 316 85927 3
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... introduces the poet Bryan Waller Proctor without adding that he wrote under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall. He has an unprofessorial habit of vague assertion: ‘At the close of the 18th century the economic status of the middle class was insecure.’ His logical grasp can’t be relied on. ‘Hunt had certainly not read a word of Blake’s Milton’; ‘Hunt ...

Piperism

William Feaver: John and Myfanwy Piper, 17 December 2009

John Piper, Myfanwy Piper: Lives in Art 
by Frances Spalding.
Oxford, 598 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 19 956761 4
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... a wan light on pews reserved for the use of MPs in St Margaret’s, Westminster, are untypical of John Piper. Normally, his stained glass seethes, particularly in Coventry Cathedral, where a Piper sunburst behind the boulder that serves as a font irradiates a great wall of clunky fenestration. In Westminster though, in a building studded with fanciful ...

Howard’s End

John Sutherland, 18 September 1986

Redback 
by Howard Jacobson.
Bantam, 314 pp., £10.95, September 1986, 0 593 01212 7
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Coming from behind 
by Howard Jacobson.
Black Swan, 250 pp., £2.95, April 1984, 0 552 99063 9
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Peeping Tom 
by Howard Jacobson.
Black Swan, 351 pp., £2.95, October 1985, 0 552 99141 4
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... the furtively libidinous dog, taking his pleasures in dark and dirty places. Peeping Tom is set in Cornwall, a place Jacobson has oddly chosen to live in over the last few years and where, it would seem, he conducts a relentless feud with the National Trust and all it represents. The plot of Peeping Tom is more intricate than that of Coming from behind, and as ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... rucksack,’ the Daily Mirror enthused in a review of two of the 1951 volumes, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall. In less out-doorsy, more self-consciously cultivated circles the new guides, with their unmistakably foreign approach, got a mixed reception. John Summerson, reviewing them for the New Statesman, felt a need to bring ...

Powerful Moments

David Craig, 26 October 1989

Touching the void 
by Joe Simpson.
Cape, 172 pp., £10.95, July 1988, 0 224 02545 7
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Climbers 
by M. John Harrison.
Gollancz, 221 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 9780575036321
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... on the great grey bulging strakes of Scafell’s East Buttress, or the last pale-gold extremity of Cornwall, or the weirdly sculpted spires of the Dolomites. Climbing writers, however, almost never reach beyond the banal when they are concerned with the heart of their experience. It takes epic disasters to rouse their language to levels above the ...

Members Only

R.B. Dobson, 24 February 1994

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421 
edited by J.S. Roskell, Linda Clark and Carole Rawcliffe.
Alan Sutton, 3500 pp., £275, February 1993, 9780862999438
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... of the History of Parliament (devoted to the House of Commons from 1754 to 1790 and edited by John Brooke and Namier himself), admiration for the scholarship of that and subsequent volumes in this extraordinarily learned enterprise has regularly been accompanied by acute uncertainty as to what purpose it is supposed to fulfil. How far the painstaking ...

Down with Cosmopolitanism

Gillian Darley, 18 May 2000

Stylistic Cold Wars: Betjeman v. Pevsner 
by Timothy Mowl.
Murray, 182 pp., £14.99, March 2000, 9780719559099
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... John Betjeman was the voice of postwar Englishness: at best, humorous, quirky and enthusiastic about some of the oddest things; at worst, parochial and smug shading into bitter. How ironic, in view of later developments and the argument of Timothy Mowl’s book, that Nikolaus Pevsner’s first visit to England, in 1930, was to research a new topic: Englishness in art ...

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