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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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... her best to mend her father’s shaky finances, writing on his behalf to Byron’s old friend Sir John Hobhouse, and almost, if not quite, soliciting him for a handout. She was close to her father, probably much closer than she ever was to either of her husbands, or to the lover who succeeded them. Her marriage to Meredith went wrong almost from the start, as ...


Jenny Turner: ‘T2 Trainspotting’, 16 February 2017

... nasty-tasting substance that gets put in household chemicals to stop children from drinking them. John Fletcher MacFarlan was an Edinburgh apothecary who started making laudanum in the early 19th century. T&H Smith moved its flourishing morphine works from the Canongate to Gorgie a century later, and went on to supply both painkillers and sterile dressings to ...

War on the Palaces!

Ritchie Robertson, 19 October 1995

Georg Büchner: The Shattered Whole 
by John Reddick.
Oxford, 395 pp., £40, February 1995, 0 19 815812 2
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Complete Plays, ‘Lenz’ and Other Writings 
by Georg Büchner, translated by John Reddick.
Penguin, 306 pp., £6.99, September 1993, 0 14 044586 2
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... and fiancée. Büchner, it seems, packed a lifetime of intense experience into very few years. John Reddick’s view of Büchner is the polar opposite of that taken by Georg Lukács. In an essay written in Moscow in 1937, ‘The Real Georg Büchner and his Fascist Misrepresentation’, Lukács announced that Büchner’s ‘basic trait was a burning ...

Sonata for Second Fiddle

Penelope Fitzgerald, 7 October 1982

A Half of Two Lives: A Personal Memoir 
by Alison Waley.
Weidenfeld, 326 pp., £10.95, September 1982, 0 297 78156 1
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... was asleep. The writer, the faithful lover, is Alison Waley – at that time, 1955, Alison Grant Robertson. The man whose tears she wiped away with a sock was the remote and fastidious Oriental scholar, Arthur Waley. At the time of this incident he was about sixty years old, ‘one of the most retiring men on earth, a typical scholar, whose real life is ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: FUKd, 22 May 2014

... seats they currently hold (1 Tory, 11 LibDems). One prospective solution has been floated by Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP at Westminster: ‘I think there is a very good case for putting the UK general election back by a year.’ That is almost dementedly high-handed and impractical, an obvious non-starter of an idea. It is also illegal, given the ...

Magnanimous Cuckolds

Jack Matthews, 10 November 1988

The Lyre of Orpheus 
by Robertson Davies.
Viking, 472 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 9780670824168
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... No novelist can bring off a committee meeting with quite the flourish and high style of Robertson Davies. So it is good to report that his latest novel, The Lyre of Orpheus, opens (the theatrical metaphor is appropriate) upon a meeting in a Canadian city, presumably Toronto, of the board of the Cornish Foundation ...

Bad Shepherd

Robert Crawford: James Hogg, 5 April 2001

The Collected Works of James Hogg. Vol. VIII: The ‘Spy’ 
edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 641 pp., £60, March 2000, 9780748613656
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... muse lets rip through the rat-a-tat of Blind Hary’s Wallace; and in the brassy Reformation of John Knox it blares even in the sophisticated George Buchanan’s over-the-top ‘Elegy for Jean Calvin’. The volume remains high in some of Robert Fergusson’s sophistic-performative street-talk, Burns’s on-off, rip-roaring ‘Tam ...


Denis Donoghue, 6 November 1986

Write on: Occasional Essays ’65-’85 
by David Lodge.
Secker, 211 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 436 25665 7
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... American Dictionary, two books – by Dan Jacobson and Robert Alter – on Biblical narrative, Robertson Davies’s The Rebel Angels, William Golding’s The Paper Men, Peter Brooks’s Reading for the Plot, and John Updike’s Hugging the Shore. There are also essays on Ring Lardner, on D.H. Lawrence, and on ...

He shoots! He scores!

David Runciman: José Mourinho, 5 January 2006

Mourinho: Anatomy of a Winner 
by Patrick Barclay.
Orion, 210 pp., £14.99, September 2005, 0 7528 7333 4
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... leave the wishful thinking to the other team. Some of Clough’s protégés were a bit fat, like John Robertson, or a bit clumsy, like Larry Lloyd; Mourinho’s are all lean and mean. But fat or thin, neither manager would ever let any of his players start to believe their own publicity. Both have consistently wanted their teams to believe in the ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... of Britain’s postwar vitality. The Whitechapel Art Gallery became a major venue after Bryan Robertson took over there, and the British Council, founded in 1934, also held important exhibitions, though it operated mostly abroad, becoming, as Garlake observes, an unacknowledged arm of the Foreign Office. Garlake quotes a letter, first brought to light in ...


Sherry Turkle: The Hillary Wars, 22 October 1992

... only just ended, so Clinton gets warm laughter and applause when she thanks Phyllis Schafly, Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan for the attacks that have brought out her defenders in such great numbers. She speaks of an America where women have a right to make choices about their bodies, their careers and their families. She speaks of equality in jobs and pay ...

The End of Labour?

Colin Kidd, 8 March 2012

... by killing nationalism in Scotland ‘stone dead’, in the words of the Labour politician George Robertson. Under the Additional Member System introduced for elections to the Scottish Parliament, regional list MSPs are elected on a formula designed to correct the unrepresentative results which arise from the use of first past the post elections for ...

His Bonnet Akimbo

Patrick Wright: Hamish Henderson, 3 November 2011

Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. I: The Making of the Poet (1919-53) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 416 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84697 132 7
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Hamish Henderson: A Biography. Vol. II: Poetry Becomes People (1954-2002) 
by Timothy Neat.
Polygon, 395 pp., £25, November 2009, 978 1 84697 063 4
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... a Bothy Nicht at the Imperial Hotel in Aberdeen where he heard the ballad singing and stories of John Strachan, an Aberdeenshire farmer who became one of his most important sources. In ‘Journey to a Kingdom’, an unpublished poem written in 1938, Henderson leaves no doubt that these northern excursions were conscious acts of homecoming. In the summer of ...

Sexual Tories

Angus Calder, 17 May 1984

The Common People: A History from the Norman Conquest to the Present 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Croom Helm and Flamingo, 445 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7099 0125 9
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British Society 1914-45 
by John Stevenson.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 503 pp., £16.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1390 8
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The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £11.95, April 1984, 0 297 78287 8
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Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 272 pp., £4.50, April 1984, 0 86068 417 2
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... Twenty-odd years ago I was lucky enough to hear the great Jeannie Robertson, then at the height of her powers as a singer in Scots of anything from ‘classic’ ballads to sheer bawdy. During a sunny lunchtime in Cambridge, after giving a formal recital, she sat outside a pub drinking, talking and singing. One of the ‘travelling people’, turned Aberdeen housewife, subsequently ‘discovered’ and launched as a public performer, she spoke of the time when King James had roamed the country as a gaberlunzie man as if it was just a moment before yesterday ...

Dear Mohamed

Paul Foot, 20 February 1997

Sleaze: The Corruption of Parliament 
by David Leigh and Ed Vulliamy.
Fourth Estate, 263 pp., £9.99, January 1997, 1 85702 694 2
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... boasted about their powerful contacts in the Tory Party and the Government. Greer even mentioned John Major as ‘a close friend’. The programme-makers arranged further such meetings, one in a Spanish castle, to which Greer was asked to invite his contacts. Greer’s network of helpful politicians was about to be exposed when Central Television and its new ...

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