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Nothing without a Grievance

P.D.G. Thomas: John Horne Tooke

19 August 1999
Gentleman Radical: A Life of John Horne Tooke 1736-1812 
by Christina Bewley and David Bewley.
Tauris, 297 pp., £42, June 1998, 1 86064 344 2
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... John Horne Tooke enjoyed two distinct political careers, under two different names: as John Horne in the age of the American Revolution, and as John Horne Tooke in that of the French Revolution. In both identities he attracted notoriety or fame, according to the prejudices of commentators ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... one or two good anecdotes, to illustrate his points. There is the tale of Hazlitt’s fight with John Lamb, in the course of a dispute about Holbein and Vandyke. I will quote the version in Benjamin Haydon’s journal: ‘They both became so irritated, they upset the card-table, and seized each other by the throat. In the struggle that ensued, Hazlitt got a ...
24 November 1988
Macmillan 1894-1956 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 537 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 27691 4
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... biography would normally be expected to halt, if not reverse. In a graceful preface Alistair Horne says that he at first refused the invitation to be Macmillan’s biographer. Having never before attempted a biography, he was uneasy about his qualifications, though as an outstanding military historian with a rare gift for narrative and a fine eye for ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James

25 November 1999
Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... Conrad’s Mirror of the Sea among them – nearly all the correspondence with writers that Philip Horne includes in his admirable new edition conforms to the pattern. Experienced recipients of such letters must have learned to watch for that ‘but’ and to steel themselves accordingly. Especially later in his career, James found it difficult to separate the ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason

7 September 2000
Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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...  ...

The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell: On the trail of the mysterious John Taylor

1 April 2004
... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us, to ‘every crowned head in Europe’. He was as famous for his womanising as for his knowledge of ophthalmology, but most famous, perhaps, for his habit of prefacing every operation he performed with a long speech in praise of his own skill, composed in what he claimed was ‘the true Ciceronian’, with each main verb cunningly held back to the end of the sentence ...

May I come to your house to philosophise?

John Barrell: Godwin’s Letters

8 September 2011
The Letters of William Godwin Vol. I: 1778-97 
by Pamela Clemit.
Oxford, 306 pp., £100, February 2011, 978 0 19 956261 9
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... darkest period of his mourning. The volume includes letters to Joseph Priestley, Thomas Lawrence, John Thelwall, Samuel Parr (‘the Whig Dr Johnson’), the great liberal advocate Thomas Erskine, R.B. Sheridan, Charles James Fox, the novelists and dramatists Elizabeth Inchbald, Thomas Holcroft, Amelia Alderson, Mary Hays ...
3 April 1986
The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats. Vol. I: 1865-1895 
edited by John Kelly and Eric Domville.
Oxford, 548 pp., £22.50, January 1986, 0 19 812679 4
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... will enable new writing, new politics, unblemished by Irishness, but securely Irish.’ Opening John Kelly and Eric Domville’s scrupulous and magnificent edition of Yeats’s letters, I readied myself to take a sling-shot at the great Cuchulain – the impulse dissolved in helpless love, chortles, delight. The old boy, I realised, has managed here his ...
18 February 1988
The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... must have had a good deal to do with it. The phrase ‘ways of seeing’ crops up, reminding us of John Berger and his allegedly penetrating double squint. The authorial assumption which remains unquestioned at the end of the book – after 350 pages in which the word ‘spatial’ appears rarely fewer than three times per paragraph and sometimes twice in the ...

Such a Husband

John Bayley

4 September 1997
Selected Letters of George Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... entirely refuting, the domestic image of Meredith’s marriage to Mary Peacock concocted by Diane Johnson in her True History of the First Mrs Meredith. In a spirited way, and with a good deal of apparent justification, Diane Johnson signed up Peacock’s daughter in the league of clever persecuted women suffering from ...

Arsenals

Nicholas Spice

18 October 1984
On the Perimeter: Caroline Blackwood at Greenham Common 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 113 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 434 07468 3
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The Witches of Eastwick 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 316 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 233 97665 5
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Corrigan 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 279 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 07467 5
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According to Mark 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780434427420
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... a chilling subject-matter fixed with a steady eye, The Witches of Eastwick through the potency of John Updike’s imaginative release. On the Perimeter records what Caroline Blackwood found at Greenham Common and in the town of Newbury, when she visited the nuclear protest encampments there in March this year, shortly before the town council attempted to ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler

19 December 1985
The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... and timeless. Smith bangs away at the lavish veneration post-war critics have bestowed on Samuel Johnson as a great authoritative grammarian of written English. There’s plainly a controversial aspect to what both are doing, but also a welcome constructiveness. Publishers are flooding the market with rival interpretations, quick to write and easy to ...

Divided We Grow

John Barrell: When Pitt Panicked

5 June 2003
The London Corresponding Society 1792-99 
edited by Michael T. Davis.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, June 2002, 1 85196 734 6
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Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson and the Cause of Liberty 
by Helen Braithwaite.
Palgrave, 243 pp., £45, December 2002, 0 333 98394 7
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... the heroes of 1790s radicalism, though of a variant more polished than that of the LCS, was Joseph Johnson, who was born in Everton in 1738, the son of a Baptist yeoman farmer and small landowner. At 14 he was bound apprentice to a London bookseller; in 1760, aged 22, he opened his own shop in Fenchurch Street; five years later he moved to Paternoster Row, the ...
24 November 1988
Algernon Sidney and the English Republic 1623-1677 
by Jonathan Scott.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £27.50, August 1988, 0 521 35290 8
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Seeds of Liberty: 1688 and the Shaping of Modern Britain 
by John Miller.
Souvenir, 128 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 285 62839 9
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Reluctant Revolutionaries: Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688 
by W.A. Speck.
Oxford, 267 pp., £17.50, July 1988, 9780198227687
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War and Economy in the Age of William III and Marlborough 
by D.W. Jones.
Blackwell, 351 pp., £35, September 1988, 0 631 16069 8
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Robert Harley: Speaker, Secretary of State and Premier Minister 
by Brian Hill.
Yale, 259 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 300 04284 1
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A Kingdom without a King: The Journal of the Provisional Government in the Revolution of 1688 
by Robert Beddard.
Phaidon, 192 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 9780714825007
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... who describe 17th-century England as a country ridden with class hatred, but 1688 bore it out. John Miller’s Seeds of Liberty, although emphasising the dependence of the Revolution on its acceptance by a broad and well-informed political nation, concedes that the nobles led and the people followed. A hundred years later the principle of deference looked ...

The Greatest

R.W. Johnson

4 August 1994
Charles de Gaulle, Futurist of the Nation 
by Régis Debray, translated by John Howe.
Verso, 111 pp., £29.95, April 1994, 0 86091 622 7
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De Gaulle and 20th-Century France 
edited by Hugh Gough and John Horne.
Edward Arnold, 158 pp., £12.99, March 1994, 0 340 58826 8
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François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership 
by Alistair Cole.
Routledge, 216 pp., £19.99, March 1994, 0 415 07159 3
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... is to be found in Gough and Home’s collection of essays, which includes chapters by Douglas Johnson, René Rémond, Julian Jackson, Michel Winock and Serge Berstein. Perhaps the most interesting contribution, however, is Jean-Marie Mayeur’s essay on ‘De Gaulle as Politician and Christian’, for the whole point about de Gaulle was that, although he ...

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