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When it is advisable to put on a fez

Richard Popkin: Adventures of a Messiah, 23 May 2002

The Lost Messiah: In Search of Sabbatai Sevi 
by John Freely.
Viking, 275 pp., £20, September 2001, 0 670 88675 0
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... and Portugal, and the new kabbalistic ideas coming from the school of Isaac Luria in Palestine. John Freely’s lively book is basically a retelling of Scholem’s story enriched by the author’s knowledge of the Ottoman background. His one significant addition to Scholem is his suggestion as to where Sabbatai might be buried. ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics, 6 November 2003

The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... separable. Writers – Sir Thomas More, Sir Walter Ralegh, Samuel Daniel, Ben Jonson, Thomas May, John Milton, Andrew Marvell and many more – moved between history and poetry or drama, finding in them complementary means of instilling virtue and wisdom and influencing events. History, which was seen as a branch not only of scholarship but of rhetoric and of ...

My body is my own

David Miller, 31 October 1996

Self-Ownership, Freedom and Equality 
by G.A. Cohen.
Cambridge, 277 pp., £40, October 1995, 0 521 47174 5
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... of 19th-century socialism lay a vision of a moral world in which men and women would co-operate freely with one another to meet their common needs, a world in which, therefore, neither vulgar material inducements nor orders from on high were needed to get the work of society done. In Fourier’s Phalanxes an elaborate system of co-operative production was ...

Kiss and tell

John Ryle, 28 June 1990

Which of Us Two? The Story of a Love Affair 
by Colin Spencer.
Viking, 258 pp., £15.99, May 1990, 0 670 83076 3
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... the lover (who has, significantly, no credit on the title page). Spencer’s letters to and from John Tasker, an Australian with whom he was involved between 1957 and 1959, when they were both in their mid-twenties, are not, as love letters go, especially interesting. There are routine endearments, doubts, quarrels, expressions of physical desire and gossip ...

A Plumless Pudding

John Sutherland: The Great John Murray Archive Disaster, 18 March 2004

... family, after the takeover of the firm by Smith, Elder & Co (itself soon to be taken over by John Murray). A descendant – loyally named Richard Bentley – had lovingly conserved and catalogued them for posterity. In 1967, the BL acquired a tranche of early Macmillan papers: Harold Macmillan, it seems, was keen that the family firm’s archive should ...

What security is there against arbitrary government?

John Gardner: Securitania, 9 March 2006

Rhetoric and the Rule of Law: A Theory of Legal Reasoning 
by Neil MacCormick.
Oxford, 287 pp., £40, July 2005, 0 19 826878 5
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... he has learned from his friends. MacCormick is constantly welcoming of new ideas and gives credit freely to others for seeing things that he missed. He sees insight and inspiration in everyone else’s work, sometimes to a fault. For example, the book begins with the claim that it is ‘a contribution to the “new rhetoric” pioneered by my late friend and ...

Unwarranted

John Barrell: John Wilkes Betrayed, 6 July 2006

John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty 
by Arthur Cash.
Yale, 482 pp., £19.95, February 2006, 0 300 10871 0
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... claim to be remembered for his efforts in securing democracy, freedom of speech and fairness was John Wilkes, the subject of Arthur Cash’s informative and enjoyable new biography. Now that ‘high politics’ is taught less and less in schools and universities, Wilkes’s great political achievements, which included lowering the tone of high politics, are ...

Vitality

John Cannon, 10 May 1990

A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783 
by Paul Langford.
Oxford, 803 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 19 822828 7
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Voters, Patrons and Parties: The Unreformed Electorate of Hanoverian England, 1734-1832 
by Frank O’Gorman.
Oxford, 445 pp., £40, August 1989, 0 19 820056 0
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... is, I am sure rightly, sceptical of Namier’s declaration that ‘not one voter in twenty could freely exercise his statutory right.’ But the evidence is difficult to handle. In one analysis we are told that if we add voters who were out (and therefore could not be canvassed) to the neutrals and the doubtfuls, as much as a quarter of the electorate might ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: Google Street View, 9 April 2009

... to say exactly why Street View seems to be crossing a line: after all, people’s addresses are freely available via the electoral register. Adding a photo of someone’s house doesn’t compromise their privacy any further. So the sense of invaded privacy is finally hard to defend. Conversely, I can’t really see what Street View is for. Where’s the ...

Sublime Propositions

John Summerson, 17 March 1983

John Soane: The Making of an Architect 
by Pierre de la Ruffinière du Prey.
Chicago, 408 pp., £25, November 1982, 0 226 17298 8
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... This book is about the career of John Soane up to the age of 31. As Soane only started to build when he was 28, as all his important work was done after he was 35, as he practised architecture till his retirement at 80 and died at 83, it will be seen that the biographical coverage is likely to attract the dedicated specialist rather than the general reader ...

Make mine a Worcester Sauce

John Bayley, 23 June 1994

Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... mostly Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The presidential or father figure of the group would be John Buchan, another Scot, whose innings was over before the younger ones started to play, although he was still around as they became famous. This English angle was partly suggested to me at the time when Hughes’s penultimate novel, intended as the first of a ...

Devil take the hindmost

John Sutherland, 14 December 1995

Shadows of the Future: H.G. Wells, Science Fiction and Prophecy 
by Patrick Parrinder.
Liverpool, 170 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 85323 439 6
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The History of Mr Wells 
by Michael Foot.
Doubleday, 318 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 385 40366 6
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A Modern Utopia 
by H.G. Wells, edited by Krishan Kumar.
Everyman, 271 pp., £5.99, November 1994, 0 460 87498 5
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... he opted for schemes that make us shudder today.’ At the same time as Coren’s assault, John Carey in The Intellectuals and the Masses branded Wells an inveterate despiser of the common man. All in all, 1992 was a bad year for the Wellsian cause. Coren’s book was dealt with in this paper by Patrick Parrinder (8 April 1993). Parenthetically ...

The Last Cigarette

John Bayley, 27 July 1989

Memoir of Italo Svevo 
by Livia Veneziani Svevo, translated by Isabel Quigly.
Libris, 178 pp., £17.95, April 1989, 1 870352 40 8
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... in southern Poland, Bruno Shulz, than he is to Proust, with whom his French admirers were soon freely comparing him, or than he is to Joyce himself. Shulz came from a lowlier background but had the same kind of humour as Svevo and the same age-in-the-womb tendencies. Cinnamon Shops, titled in America The Street of Crocodiles, is a kind of provincial cousin ...

Complaining about reviews

John Bayley, 23 May 1985

Mrs Henderson, and Other Stories 
by Francis Wyndham.
Cape, 160 pp., £8.50, April 1985, 0 224 02306 3
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... Sin, Pain, Hope, and the True Way’ and finally finds the quotation he wants. ‘The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice.’ Isolation has no choice either, but art like Francis Wyndham’s can turn it into a fantasy as innocently moving as it is full of gaiety and hilariously precise observation. The same qualities are ...

Living with a little halibut

John Bayley, 8 October 1992

Fraud 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 224 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 224 03315 8
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... produced at the highest level of imaginative intensity, but she manages to make it an asset, as if freely entering and leaving her own novel world. This may indeed be the point which produces her special interest as a novelist, her version of Todorov’s formula of the Jamesian riddle and query: the unsolved query which her art solves is about both her subject ...

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