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Sprawson makes a splash

John Bayley, 23 July 1992

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero 
by Charles Sprawson.
Cape, 307 pp., £15.99, June 1992, 0 224 02730 1
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... and up the Grand Canal to his palazzo; and took pride in the fact that he was then still quite hale enough to eat a ‘piece’ and retire to bed with Boccacio and ‘a black-eyed Venetian girl’. On that occasion he had been competing in the swim with a bachelor friend, Alexander Scott, and the Cavalier Angelo Mengaldo, a former officer in Napoleon’s ...

Wolfish

John Sutherland: The pushiness of young men in a hurry, 5 May 2005

Publisher 
by Tom Maschler.
Picador, 294 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 330 48420 6
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British Book Publishing as a Business since the 1960s 
by Eric de Bellaigue.
British Library, 238 pp., £19.95, January 2004, 0 7123 4836 0
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Penguin Special: The Life and Times of Allen Lane 
by Jeremy Lewis.
Viking, 484 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 670 91485 1
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... achievements as a general trade publisher rank him with Archibald Constable, George Smith, John Blackwood, George Routledge, Frederick Macmillan, David Garnett, Ian Parsons, Allen Lane. It was one of the most highly regarded of today’s younger publishers, Peter Straus (now an agent), who commissioned the book. None of these coat-brushers of genius is ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London, 18 November 2004

London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... by the sight of potato-sellers whipping their asses in the street; he visits the theatre to see John Henderson play Falstaff; he takes his family down the Thames to Vauxhall Gardens. He also studies the newspapers, intrigued most of all by the doings of high society. His outraged account of the Gordon Riots of 1780 (‘the worse than Negro barbarity of the ...

Secret-Keeping

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Elizabeth Gaskell, 16 August 2007

The Works of Elizabeth Gaskell 
edited by Joanne Shattock et al.
Pickering & Chatto, 4716 pp., £900, May 2006, 9781851967773
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... Molly. Mrs Thornton in North and South is aggressively jealous of her son’s love for Margaret Hale, while Margaret lovingly serves her father, and is deeply offended by any indication that she is considered as a romantic object. In Ruth, Jemima Bradshaw fights off her incipient love for her father’s business partner in order to resist feeling that she ...

Smuggled in a Warming Pan

Stephen Sedley: The Glorious Revolution, 24 September 2015

The Glorious Revolution and the Continuity of Law 
by Richard Kay.
Catholic University of America, 277 pp., £45, December 2014, 978 0 8132 2687 3
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... is not a later historian’s conceit. It appears to have been coined by the Whig MP John Hampden, grandson of the hero of resistance to Charles I’s ship money, in testimony to a committee of the House of Lords in the autumn of 1689. Hampden was exulting that, in contrast to the Cromwellian revolution of the 1640s and 1650s which his ancestor ...

All that matters is what Tony wants

John Vincent: Reforming the Lords, 16 March 2000

Reforming the House of Lords: Lessons from Overseas 
by Meg Russell.
Oxford, 368 pp., £18.99, January 2000, 0 19 829831 5
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... which uses the Upper House as a clerk might use Tippex. The ‘sober second thought’ which Sir John Macdonald, the first Canadian premier (and a notable inebriate) attributed to senates is largely the stuff of legend. To see what lessons may be learned from abroad, Meg Russell has examined seven upper houses in modern democracies. Rather oddly, she omits ...

The Vicar of Chippenham

Christopher Haigh: Religion and the life-cycle, 15 October 1998

Birth, Marriage and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England 
by David Cressy.
Oxford, 641 pp., £25, May 1998, 0 19 820168 0
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... ceremony, but the culmination of weeks or months of courtship, gift-giving and negotiation. John Hayne of Exeter pursued Susan Henley with godly vigour in 1634: his presents included Arthur Hildersham’s Lectures upon the Fourth of John, a Bible and two books of sermons, as well as ribbons, gloves and green silk ...
... complicated the issue. When debate on Allen’s resolution began the following day, Senator John P. Hale (New Hampshire) proposed an amendment that the French were also to be congratulated for ‘manifesting the sincerity of their purpose by instituting measures for the immediate emancipation of the slaves of all the ...
Martha Jane and Me: A Girlhood in Wales 
by Mavis Nicholson.
Chatto, 243 pp., £14.99, November 1991, 0 7011 3356 2
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Vanessa Redgrave: An Autobiography 
Hutchinson, 300 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 09 174593 4Show More
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... serve Mrs Vigars, Mrs Hill, Mrs Jones, the Misses Gethins, Mrs Harris, Mrs Lane, Mrs Farral, Mrs Hale, Mrs Pike, Mrs Southcourt, Mrs Evans, Mrs Hughes and Mrs Trimnel.’ Or the route she takes as the place expands while she explores it? I counted the streets on the way to the library in Neath Road, the main road. After Mansel, and parallel with it, were ...

Zounds

Frank Kermode: Blasphemy, 14 January 2002

Blasphemy: Impious Speech in the West from the 17th to the 19th Century 
by Alain Cabantous, translated by Eric Rauth.
Columbia, 288 pp., £21.50, February 2002, 0 231 11876 7
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... of the offence in England and America, a history in which that judgment of Lord Chief Justice Hale in 1676, later disputed by Jefferson, figures rather largely. Incidentally, the American record is a good deal less repressive and cruel than the English or the French. Levy remarks that the Supreme Court has never had to pronounce on a blasphemy ...

A Lot of Travail

Michael Wood: T.S. Eliot’s Letters, 3 December 2009

The Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. II: 1923-25 
edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton.
Faber, 878 pp., £35, November 2009, 978 0 571 14081 7
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... that orthodoxy calls most persuasively to those who know, as Christ told the woman of Samaria in John 4.10, that there is no living water in this life. Eliot could state this perception without complaint, and even joke about it in his sober way. He tells his brother about ‘the kink in my brain which makes life at all an unremitting strain for me, and which ...

Eliot at smokefall

Barbara Everett, 24 January 1985

... Yet he, too, makes of the poet what the title of one of his book’s most appreciative reviews, John Carey’s, called ‘The Hollow Man’. Moreover this is not, in Ackroyd’s case, a mere technicality, an unfortunate function of the concept of biography as necessarily external. His Life firmly presents Eliot as characterised by an essential emptiness at ...

Like Unruly Children in a Citizenship Class

John Barrell: A hero for Howard, 21 April 2005

The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for a Free Press 
by Ben Wilson.
Faber, 455 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 22470 9
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... Hone had also just written and published three parodies of the Book of Common Prayer: The Late John Wilkes’s Catechism of a Ministerial Member, The Political Litany and The Sinecurists’ Creed, which satirised the venality of Tory MPs willing to say, vote for and even believe whatever their ministers told them to in exchange for the sinecures and ...

Sitting it out

Paul Sieghart, 2 August 1984

Two men were aquitted 
by Percy Hoskins.
Secker, 221 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 436 20161 5
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... The trial of Dr John Bodkin Adams at the Old Bailey in 1957 was one of the causes célèbres of the post-war years. Apart from sex, it had everything. Adams was a fashionable Eastbourne doctor. Portly. With a chauffeur-driven Rolls. Charged with murdering one of his rich old women patients, for a chest of silver. There were strong hints she was not his only victim ...

About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg, 18 November 2004

The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... a fictional symposium that ran in the paper between 1822 and 1835. The author of the Noctes was John Wilson, who constructed dialogues between his own alter ego (‘Christopher North’) and that of Hogg (‘the Shepherd’). The Shepherd gets the best lines – better, some have suggested, than anything Hogg ever wrote – but he is also made to look a ...

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