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Picture in Little

Charles Nicholl: Hilliard’s Trajectory, 9 December 2019

Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist 
by Elizabeth Goldring.
Yale, 337 pp., £40, February 2019, 978 0 300 24142 6
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... in a little: ‘A hand or eye/By Hilliard drawn is worth an history/By a worse painter made,’ John Donne wrote in 1597. By a ‘history’ he means one of those big, populous, often Italian paintings much in demand among Elizabethan collectors – paintings you stand back from to see the drama of some mythological or biblical episode unfold. No one stands ...

Gestures of Embrace

Nicholas Penny, 27 October 1988

Rembrandt’s Enterprise: The Studio and the Market 
by Svetlana Alpers.
Thames and Hudson, 160 pp., £20, May 1988, 0 226 01514 9
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The Light of Early Italian Painting 
by Paul Hills.
Yale, 160 pp., £20, March 1987, 0 300 03617 5
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Italian Paintings in the Robert Lehman Collection 
by John Pope-Hennessy.
Metropolitan Museum and Princeton, 331 pp., £50, December 1987, 0 87099 479 4
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... Professor Alpers devotes much attention to a small etching of 1655. This, she says, depicts a goldsmith in his shop just putting the finishing touches to a figural group representing a woman (Charity, or Caritas) with two children. While his right hand works with a hammer to fasten the metal to its base, the artist lovingly embraces the women with a huge ...

Brexit Blues

John Lanchester, 28 July 2016

... of the Overton window than the referendum on membership of the EU. In 1994, the billionaire James Goldsmith founded a political party whose sole purpose was to advocate a referendum. The Referendum Party was a long, long way outside the political mainstream, and a significant number of its members were openly mad. The party’s one moment of ...

Short Cuts

Glen Newey: Murdoch, 28 July 2011

... and OK! magazine. Not that external regulation has worked either. Recent disclosures, including John Yates’s frank admission that his failure to reopen the hacking investigation in 2009 was ‘pretty crap’, suggest that police action against reporters’ malfeasance is as hopeless as the PCC’s. As Stewart Tendler, a Times crime reporter, put ...

Captain’s Log

John Torode, 21 April 1983

Back from the Brink: An Apocalyptic Experience 
by Michael Edwardes.
Collins, 301 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 00 217074 4
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... in a company of about 198,000,’ Edwardes writes: his secretary, his personal assistant and John McKay, the communications director, all of whom had moved across from Chloride with the boss. It was some time before we hacks cottoned on to the fact that McKay was not an industrial public relations man in the surprisingly thoughtful mould of the motor ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... London house, 46 Lower Belgrave Street, the countess was violently assaulted and her husband, John Bingham, seventh earl of Lucan, disappeared, offer all things to all tastes. The story has the violent glamour of crime fiction with the additional thrill of reality, and the facts are just enough to make a narrative while leaving hugely tantalising areas of ...

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny, 23 January 2020

... why many art historians have found it so difficult to believe that the Florentine sculptor and goldsmith Andrea Verrocchio (1435-88) took up painting relatively late in his career and then abandoned it on recognising the extraordinary ability of his pupil Leonardo. This is what Vasari claims in his biographical account of Verrocchio, and it makes perfect ...

Cultivating Cultivation

John Mullan: English culture, 18 June 1998

The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the 18th Century 
by John Brewer.
HarperCollins, 448 pp., £19.99, January 1997, 0 00 255537 9
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... they were accessible to all who could pay the price of admission. One of the leading characters in John Brewer’s The Pleasure of the Imagination was a visitor to pleasure gardens. Anna Margaretta Larpent was a moderately prosperous lady living in London in the late 18th century, married to the state official responsible for vetting plays before they reached ...

Progressive Agenda

John Brewer, 18 March 1982

The Watercolours and Drawings of Thomas Bewick and his Workshop Apprentices 
by Iain Bain.
Gordon Fraser, 233 pp., £125, July 1981, 0 86092 057 7
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... praises Bacon and Locke, refers to the poetry of Thomas Gray, Allen Ramsay and Oliver Goldsmith, casually mentions that he does not need to read David Hume on miracles, and obliquely compares his own work with that of Milton? There is a paradox here: the more Bewick strove to establish his credentials as an artist, the more apparent it becomes ...

Vanishings

Seamus Deane, 30 December 1982

Selected Poems 
by John Montague.
Oxford, 189 pp., £5.95, May 1982, 0 19 211950 8
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Ghosts at my Back 
by Tom Rawling.
Oxford, 55 pp., £3.95, June 1982, 0 19 211951 6
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A Late Harvest 
by John Ward.
Peterloo, 48 pp., £3, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... John Montague’s Selected Poems reinforce the impression left by his individual volumes: that of a great talent growing increasingly apprehensive at the conditions in which it must be exercised. Since 1958, when his first volume Forms of Exile appeared, he has been renowned for a certain elegance and formality of phrasing, and for a nervous delicacy of rhythm: these bestowing upon his poems an air of fragility which has to survive the often desperate occasions which initiate them ...

Saints on Sundays, Devils All the Week After

Patrick Collinson: London Burnings, 19 September 2002

The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England 
by Peter Lake and Michael Questier.
Yale, 731 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 300 08884 1
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... melancholic Mrs Joan Drake, who fell about when paid a professional visit by the famous divine John Dod because he reminded her of the character of Ananias in The Alchemist. Lake turns the story around. It was because Dod with his great beard and upturned eyes really existed that Jonson was able to put him into his play, even if disguised as a separatist ...

What you see is what you get

Terry Eagleton: Bishop Berkeley, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of George Berkeley 
edited by Marc Hight.
Cambridge, 674 pp., £75, November 2012, 978 1 107 00074 2
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... it from the spiritual. The greatest of Irish medieval thinkers, the ninth-century philosopher John Scottus Eriugena, saw the cosmos as a self-delighting play of pure difference, in which subject and object, perceiver and perceived, were intimately allied. In some ways, his thought is a lot closer to Nietzsche and poststructuralism than it is to Leibniz or ...

A Betting Man

Colin Kidd: John Law, 12 September 2019

John Law: A Scottish Adventurer of the 18th Century 
by James Buchan.
MacLehose, 513 pp., £14.99, August 2019, 978 1 84866 608 5
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... advocacy of slavery was undoubtedly intended as a provocation, but was not necessarily insincere. John Law of Lauriston made his own distinctive contribution to the debate, in Money and Trade Considered: with a Proposal for Supplying the Nation with Money (1705). Law’s panacea was a system of paper money, underwritten not by precious metals or the ...

Barriers of Silliness

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 July 1982

The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... came the Second World War and a sudden upsurge in reputation, with Maurice Bowra, Stephen Spender, John Piper, Kenneth Clark, John Lehmann and others going hysterical about her: a kind of trendy Stringalong situation, we are invited to judge. Then by 1954 it is all over and the balloon deflated for good. Can my dislike of ...

Belfast Diary

Edna Longley: In Belfast , 9 January 1992

... when monolithically conceived, has not always been open, for instance, to Swift, Burke and Goldsmith. Yeats excluded the Anglo-Irish 18th century when he first advocated a ‘national’ literature. The Gaelic ideologue Daniel Corkery went further and excluded Yeats. During the Twenties, when the Southern Protestant population was under pressure, Yeats ...

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