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... for John Betjeman) Miss Frith was put on processing; that glue And all those labels. Not seven months there, And Mr Mortimer, who always said ‘Miss Frith’ and never ‘Gill’ or ‘Gillian’, Right through the informal Nineteen-Sixties, Rested one day his two hands on her hips As she sat cross-legged on the high stool At the labelling desk ...

A Keen Demand for Camberwells

Rosemary Hill: Location, Location, Location, 21 March 2019

Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain 
by Desmond Fitz-Gibbon.
Chicago, 240 pp., £79, January 2019, 978 0 226 58416 4
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... and how, may be difficult to determine. The Hetling trial made great play with this ambiguity. John Mortimer, for the defence, asked a collector who appeared as a prosecution witness, having bought several ‘Hetlings’, why he had bought them. Was it for investment and financial gain or simply because he thought they were beautiful? The collector ...

Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh, 7 November 2019

A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... it had published which described Jesus having sex with a variety of men, including Pontius Pilate. John Mortimer and Geoffrey Robertson appeared for the defence, but lost. Gay News was fined and its publisher given a suspended prison sentence. ‘I have an open mind about queer-bashing,’ Waugh’s diary reflected, ‘from one point of view it seems ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Bennett’s Dissection, 1 January 2009

... That she was toeing the Party line didn’t occur to me, though it did to my companion, John Scaife, another budding conscript, who was much more scathing on the subject and cynical about the tears. 2 February. Ten days or so ago I did an interview for the Today programme in connection with the revival of The History Boys now playing at ...

At the Party

Christopher Hitchens, 17 April 1986

Hollywood Babylon II 
by Kenneth Anger.
Arrow, 323 pp., £5.95, January 1986, 0 09 945110 7
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Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 
by Robin Wood.
Columbia, 336 pp., $25, October 1985, 0 231 05776 8
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... Washington Confidential, New York Confidential and so on – turned out by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. The fearless duo, shrouded in their macintoshes and trilbies, would bring the naive reader the straight dope from the lower depths. They practised the same combination of rough-hewn populism and right-wing politics as a Mickey Spillane thriller or a ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe: Mrs Oliphant, 16 July 2020

... her ‘reckless rustle over depths and difficulties’, which was very like a man to think.)When John Blackwood, who was publishing Miss Marjoribanks in serial in his magazine, taxed Oliphant with making Lucilla too ‘hard’, she responded: ‘I have a weakness for Lucilla, and to bring a sudden change upon her character and break her down into tenderness ...

Sisters

John Sutherland, 4 June 1981

Tit for Tat 
by Verity Bargate.
Cape, 167 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 224 01908 2
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Watching Me, Watching You 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 208 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 340 25600 1
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Maggie Muggins 
by Keith Waterhouse.
Joseph, 220 pp., £6.95, May 1981, 0 7181 2014 0
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Mr Lonely 
by Eric Morecambe.
Eyre Methuen, 189 pp., £5.95, March 1981, 0 413 48170 0
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... with the pre-Portnoy, and much more reserved, My friend says it’s bulletproof by Penelope Mortimer. But Tit for Tat has none of Roth’s or Jong’s jollity – the secrets are dirtier and much more frightening. Bargate’s narrative tone is traumatised and post-operative. What literary flourishes she offers are flattened by the awful obsession with ...

Our Man

Perry Anderson: The Inglorious Career of Kofi Annan, 10 May 2007

The Best Intentions: Kofi Annan and the UN in the Era of American World Power 
by James Traub.
Bloomsbury, 442 pp., £20, November 2006, 0 7475 8087 1
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Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War 
by Stanley Meisler.
Wiley, 384 pp., £19.99, January 2007, 978 0 471 78744 0
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... or, lower down the scale, theorists of humanitarian intervention from Harvard or Princeton like John Ruggie and Michael Doyle, speaks for itself. But since the real work of the UN is the manufacture not of actions but of legitimations, the two key figures were the set’s ventriloquists, who wrote the speeches and articles furbishing the secretary-general ...

Young Marvin

Frank Kermode, 24 January 1991

A Tenured Professor 
by John Kenneth Galbraith.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 197 pp., £12.95, November 1990, 1 85619 018 8
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Shade those laurels 
by Cyril Connolly and Peter Levi.
Bellew, 174 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 0 947792 37 6
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... set-piece about a dinner party. This occurs on the eve of the birthday of the great novelist, Sir Mortimer Gussage. There is a diagram of the table arrangement and the menu is specified in curious detail. The table-talk is wonderfully recherché and mostly about French 19th-century literature. A mild example: ‘La table élégante est le dernier rayon de ...

Still Defending the Scots

Katie Stevenson: Robert the Bruce, 11 September 2014

Robert the Bruce: King of the Scots 
by Michael Penman.
Yale, 443 pp., £25, June 2014, 978 0 300 14872 5
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... by Edward I of England) were soon established as Robert de Brus, fifth lord of Annandale, and John Balliol, lord of Galloway. Both claims originated in the marriages of the daughters of David, earl of Huntingdon, the youngest grandson of David I of Scotland. Balliol had a claim by primogeniture, as the grandson of Earl David’s eldest ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation, 10 June 1999

England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... among his closest companions, some of whom were proposing to advance the dynastic claims of Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March, against ‘Harry of Lancaster, usurper of England’. Nor had the ghost of Richard II finally been laid to rest. As late as 1419 the King was ordering precautions against ‘that fool in Scotland’, who, the Lancastrians claimed, was ...
Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik 
by Susan Heuck Allen.
California, 409 pp., £27.50, March 1999, 0 520 20868 4
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... as insignificant means to a necessary end. A good example of a lucky archaeologist was Sir Mortimer Wheeler. His talents and self-confidence got him to the top, as did his ability to see to the heart of a problem, but to some of his quieter colleagues he never shook off the alternative name of Flash Alf. Heinrich Schliemann is the extreme case of a ...

Sunshine

David Goldie: Morecambe and Wise, 15 April 1999

Morecambe and Wise 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 416 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 1 85702 735 3
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... with the gloss of apparent spontaneity. Working on this material with them was their producer, John Ammonds, the man who persuaded Morecambe to trust the camera, to play to it with his asides and use it as a mirror for his idiot grin. The other member of the team, their new writer Eddie Braben, was only rarely present. While Hills and Green had entered ...

Sunday Mornings

Frank Kermode, 19 July 1984

Desmond MacCarthy: The Man and his Writings 
by David Cecil.
Constable, 313 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 9780094656109
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... of Life and Letters, and chief reviewer for the Sunday Times. Among his protégés were Raymond Mortimer and Cyril Connolly. Altogether he did as much as anybody to establish or maintain the tone, the interests and the values of weekly literary journalism in the first half of this century. As to whether we ought to be grateful, opinion is divided between ...

The Fatness of Falstaff

Barbara Everett, 16 August 1990

... turning on a pound of flesh.The pound of flesh brings us in sight of that ‘Tunne of Man’, Sir John Falstaff. I’ve been arguing that, throughout Shakespeare’s developing power of characterisation, the physical has a special place: from Crab the dog to Richard Crookback, then to Bottom, then to the magnificently delineated yet isolated Shylock, and ...

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