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Prophet of the Rocks

Richard Fortey: William Smith, 9 August 2001

The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 338 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 88407 3
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... biographies and T.H. Huxley not so many fewer, yet Smith has been celebrated only by his nephew John Phillips in 1844 (Phillips was later to be a distinguished geological professor at Oxford). Since then, there has been a handful of scholarly articles by Joan Eyles, but otherwise Smith seems to have escaped the attention lavished on those who followed and ...


Dave Haslam: Post-Madchester, 25 February 1993

... of Manchester’s cultural past. Mr Thompson didn’t quote Engels. Nor, understandably, John Ruskin: ‘Manchester can produce no good art, and no good culture.’ Despite the presence at the press conference of John Thaw (alias Inspector Morse), the good news announced at the Airport failed to make the front ...


Elizabeth Prettejohn: Walter Pater, 6 February 2020

The Collected Works of Walter Pater, Vol. III: Imaginary Portraits 
edited by Lene Østermark-Johansen.
Oxford, 359 pp., £115, January 2019, 978 0 19 882343 8
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The Collected Works of Walter Pater, Vol. IV: Gaston de Latour 
edited by Gerald Monsman.
Oxford, 399 pp., £115, January 2019, 978 0 19 881616 4
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Walter Pater: Selected Essays 
edited by Alex Wong.
Carcanet, 445 pp., £18.99, September 2018, 978 1 78410 626 3
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... in modern art. Reading Gaston, I was reminded repeatedly of paintings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema and John William Waterhouse. Pater’s interest in these works might help us to understand their appeal not only to his contemporaries, but to audiences today. Queen Margaret of Navarre is first mentioned in the novel with a Greek quotation that links her to ...

Giant Goody Goody

Edwin Morgan: Fairytales, 24 May 2001

The Complete Fairytales 
by George MacDonald, edited by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Penguin, 354 pp., January 2000, 0 14 043737 1
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Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairytales and Femininity 
by U.C. Knoepflmacher.
Chicago, 444 pp., £24.50, June 2001, 0 226 44816 9
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... her. The scene of the rescue, with both prince and princess practically naked, caused the prudish John Ruskin, a friend of MacDonald’s, to chide him for impropriety and moral danger, but MacDonald seems on this occasion to have taken an honi soit qui mal y pense attitude. Anyhow, the princess is so delighted by the experience that she and the prince ...

Unseen Eyes

Julian Bell: The Clark Effect, 7 February 2019

Heaven on Earth: Painting and the Life to Come 
by T.J. Clark.
Thames & Hudson, 288 pp., £24.95, October 2018, 978 0 500 02138 5
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... to Nietzsche at several places in this book, and oftener still to another 19th-century fulminator, John Ruskin. The Veronese essay concludes by hailing the pair as ‘necessary madmen’. Imagine an authorial stance that straddles the two: one that tilts here towards the impassioned granularity of Ruskin’s ...

Showers of Hats

Robert Baird: ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’, 30 March 2017

Lincoln in the Bardo 
by George Saunders.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, March 2017, 978 1 4088 7174 4
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... of a scruple that finds its red line somewhere between marriage and the marriage bed. (Yes, John Ruskin, but this, we’re given to understand, was Vollman’s second wife.) What’s really odd is Vollman’s need to explain a 19th-century wedding in terms meant to flatter a 21st-century sensibility. When Vollman says: ‘I know what you are ...

The Braver Thing

Christopher Ricks, 1 November 1984

T.S. Eliot 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 400 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 241 11349 0
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Recollections Mainly of Artists and Writers 
by Geoffrey Grigson.
Chatto, 195 pp., £12.50, September 1984, 0 7011 2791 0
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... none of that, and it is very bad (differently bad) if this is because they pinioned his arms. John Ruskin wrote to Charles Eliot Norton: ‘So, I know perfectly well that you would work for five years, to write a nice life of me; but I don’t care about having my life written, and I know that no one can write a nice life of me, for my life has not ...

Cruelty to Animals

Brigid Brophy, 21 May 1981

Reckoning with the Beast 
by James Turner.
Johns Hopkins, 190 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 8018 2399 4
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The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes 
by S. Zuckerman.
Routledge, 511 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0691 8
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... Britain without reference to the superb and painful full-length history of it that the late John Vyvyan published in 1969, In Pity and in Anger. (His notes refer, however, to the sequel, though that carries him beyond his chosen period.) It is flabbergasting that he should do so without mentioning that, when the University of Oxford built a vivisection ...

A Slight Dash of the Tiresome

Brian Harrison, 9 November 1989

The Blind Victorian: Henry Fawcett and British Liberalism 
edited by Lawrence Goldman.
Cambridge, 199 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 521 35032 8
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... intellectuals included some famous names: Bryce, Courtney, Freeman, Lecky, Lowe, J.S. Mill, John Morley. A nervous concern about the consequences of mass franchise, worries about the concessionary mood of the Liberal leaders – especially in the face of violence in Ireland – led many Late Victorian Liberal intellectuals to drift rightwards toward ...

Hugh Dalton to the rescue

Keith Thomas, 13 November 1997

The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... This went badly awry. ‘If a noble family cannot rebuild their own castle,’ thundered John Ruskin, ‘in God’s name let them live in the nearest ditch till they can.’ The popular view that stately homes were part of the national heritage was now challenged by the Radical view that they were the national heritage, wrongly ...


Nicholas Penny, 19 November 1981

Moments of Vision 
by Kenneth Clark.
Murray, 191 pp., £9.50, October 1981, 0 7195 3860 2
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... less grave than the anachronistic and sentimental idea, entertained by the supposedly tough-minded John Berger in his television series, that Frans Hals intended his late group portraits to expose the true horror of bourgeois society. Civilisation certainly extends our sympathies; it may deepen our understanding of European history; but it avoids challenging ...

In Cardiff

John Barrell: Richard Wilson, 25 September 2014

... in the last decades of the 18th century, before Wilson came to be forgotten. The portrait painter John Hoppner, an early adherent of the Joey-Barton-on-Question-Time school of cultural criticism, declared that ‘considering the qualities of Claude & Wilson as He shd. the qualities of two fine Women, He should acknowledge the beauties of Claude but say Wilson ...

The Wildest, Highest Places

David Craig, 17 July 1997

John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings 
edited by Terry Gifford.
Baton Wicks, 912 pp., £20, November 1996, 1 898573 07 7
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... When John Muir, the son of an emigrant from East Lothian to southern Wisconsin, was 16, in 1855, his father lowered him daily down a well shaft on their new farm at Hickory Hill. John cut with chisel and hammer through fine-grained sandstone until he struck ‘a fine, hearty gush of water ...

In praise of work

Dinah Birch, 24 October 1991

Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle 
by Teresa Newman and Ray Watkinson.
Chatto, 226 pp., £50, July 1991, 0 7011 3186 1
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... lighter in tonality, distinctly medieval in mood. Wycliffe reading his translation of the Bible to John of Gaunt, Chaucer and Gower present was started in 1847, a year before the foundation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Nevertheless it has the feel of a Pre-Raphaelite picture. Brown was never a member of the Brotherhood. But his steadfast professionalism ...

Small Special Points

Rosemary Hill: Darwin and the Europeans, 23 May 2019

Correspondence of Charles Darwin: Vol. 26, 1878 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt, James Secord and the editors of the Darwin Correspondence Project.
Cambridge, 814 pp., £94.99, October 2018, 978 1 108 47540 2
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... the seedlings. Delivery was complicated owing to ‘the bulk [that] arises from the bellows’, as John Tyndall, the Institution’s professor of natural philosophy, explained.In such peaceful pursuits, surrounded by his family and struggling, though less than in some years, with the mysterious illnesses that had dogged him for decades, Darwin conformed to the ...

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