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7 April 1994
Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship. Vol II: Historical Chronology 
by Anthony Grafton.
Oxford, 766 pp., £65, December 1993, 0 19 920601 5
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... The first great Scaliger problem is that of distinguishing between father and son. When Swift, in his Treatise on Good Manners and Good Breeding, insisted that fiddlers, dancing-masters, heralds and masters of the ceremony were greater pedants ‘than Lipsius, or the elder Scaliger’, there must have been readers who asked themselves whether he wasn’t confusing Julius Caesar Scaliger, one of the 16th century’s most formidable literary scholars, and his son Joseph, who, as it happens, was successor to Lipsius at Leiden ...

The Skull from Outer Space

John Bossy: ‘The Ambassadors’

20 February 2003
The Ambassadors’ Secret: Holbein and the World of the Renaissance 
by John North.
Hambledon, 346 pp., £25, January 2002, 1 85285 330 1
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... all to itself in the National Gallery; but I doubt if anyone has gone into it so pertinaciously as John North. North is an expert in the history of astronomy and mathematics, so naturally his view of the painting emerges from the jumble, which he does not regard as a jumble, of astronomical and time-telling instruments ...

Star-Gazing

Tom Shippey

12 December 1996
Stonehenge: Neolithic Man and the Cosmas 
by John North.
HarperCollins, 609 pp., £25, July 1996, 0 00 255773 8
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... of the Environment – is not very impressive. Just old stones, in no clearly discernible order. John Fowles, in The Enigma of Stonehenge (1980), quotes a child saying worriedly: ‘Why are there so many doors?’ That is how it now seems: a lot of big doorways leading nowhere. Yet it yields some intimidating statistics. Its outer circle and its trilithon ...
5 May 1983
Wars and Revolutions: Britain 1760-1815 
by Ian Christie.
Arnold, 359 pp., £17.50, June 1982, 0 7131 6157 4
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Augustan England: Professions, State and Society 1680-1730 
by Geoffrey Holmes.
Allen and Unwin, 323 pp., £18.50, November 1982, 0 04 942178 6
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... in the face of a well-nigh insolvent East India Company and a singularly refractory bunch of North American colonists. His account of these events is excellent. The description of the crisis unfolds elegantly as Christie deftly weaves his way through the intricacies of imperial intrigue. The links between the East Indies and ...
19 December 1991
Under Fire: An American Story 
by Oliver North and William Novak.
HarperCollins, 446 pp., £17.99, October 1991, 0 06 018334 9
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Terry Waite: Why was he kidnapped? 
by Gavin Hewitt.
Bloomsbury, 230 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 7475 0375 3
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... a slovenly document which does not even boast an index, starts its story in that year. Col Oliver North, the man who, according to the received version, thought up the idea of selling arms to secure the release of American hostages in Beirut, tells us: ‘My own operational involvement began ... on the afternoon of 17 November 1985.’ The BBC’s Panorama ...

North and South

Raphael Samuel

22 June 1995
Coming Back Brockens: A Year in a Mining Village 
by Mark Hudson.
Cape, 320 pp., £16.99, October 1994, 0 224 04170 3
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... the argument in subsequent writings. A refusal to mourn the passing of the pits in Ashington, Northumberland fairly represents her distinctive voice: Ashington man was the archetypal proletarian, the arehetypal patriarch ... As in the Army and the Stock Exchange, men’s companionship did not produce social cohesion; if fostered power and privilege for ...
5 June 1997
The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-41 
edited by J.F. Merritt.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 521 56041 1
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The British Problem, c. 1534-1707: State Formation in the Atlantic Archipelago 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and John Morrill.
Macmillan, 334 pp., £13.50, June 1996, 0 333 59246 8
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The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture 
edited by Malcolm Smuts.
Cambridge, 289 pp., £35, September 1996, 9780521554398
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Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the 19th Century 
by Joep Leerssen.
Cork, 454 pp., £17.95, November 1996, 1 85918 112 0
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... John Major’s vision of Britain is history by now: a unitary state north and south of the Tweed, secured by consent, subject to one monarch and funded by a non-tartan tax system. When Major first published his views, however, in the punningly titled Historia Maioris Britanniae (1521), his innovativeness upset fellow Scots ...

Among the Picts

John Sutherland

18 August 1994
Stained Radiance: A Fictionist’s Prelude 
by J. Leslie Mitchell.
Polygon, 219 pp., £7.95, July 1993, 0 7486 6141 7
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The Speak of the Mearns 
by Lewis Grassic Gibbon.
Polygon, 268 pp., £8.95, June 1994, 0 7486 6167 0
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... of novels follows the career of a Scotswoman, Chris Guthrie, from childhood on a croft in the North-Eastern coastlands, through the disruption of the First World War and two marriages, to middle age in a soulless city, ‘Dundon’, which combines repugnant features of Aberdeen and Dundee. The first segment, Sunset Song, is regarded in Scotland as a ...

Dr Blair, the Leavis of the North

Terence Hawkes: English in Scotland

18 February 1999
The Scottish Invention of English Literature 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Cambridge, 271 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 521 59038 8
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... had originally intended to offer the job to Sir Herbert Grierson, recent editor of the poems of John Donne. However, he allowed Lloyd George to persuade him that a post of such eminence ought rather to be a party appointment. Without doubt, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944) fitted that bill. He had worked long and hard for the Liberals in his native ...
2 May 1985
... needs little water to blossom. This is just as well, for it is the height of the dry season in the Northern Sudan and the country is experiencing its most severe drought for decades. The waters of the Nile are too valuable to be turned into gold, unless it is the gold of granaries. In the western province of Darfur, towards Chad, famine is driving pastoralists ...

Diary

John Horgan: The Current Mood in Dublin

19 December 1985
... exchanges heard inside and outside Parliament last week brought to mind the language used by the Northern Ireland Unionists and their friends at Westminster at the time of the Home Rule controversy in 1912-1914. A compilation of the more inflammatory remarks of Sir Edward Carson and his allies, published in Dublin in 1918, achieved the unique distinction of ...

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 ...

Black Dog

John Stammers

14 December 2006
... on their toy typewriters; the sea-lions bring down a gazelle; the eels walk on two legs to the north gate and go home. I feel a sensation of overwhelming disgust. I make myself turn and leave the side of the ...
22 November 2018
... house, or Perilous, when flocks of geese rise, month-long, from the fields and arc towards the north, I drown my vows and start again, one heartbeat at a time, till swallows map the lanes from spire to spire with mint and ozone, summering the ...

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