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About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg, 18 November 2004

The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... On a winter’s evening in 1803, James Hogg turned up for dinner at the home of Walter Scott. The man his host liked to call ‘the honest grunter’ was shown into the drawing-room, where a pregnant Mrs Scott was resting on a sofa. Unsure of the protocol in these toney surroundings, and deciding to take his cue from the hostess, Hogg flopped onto an adjoining sofa, smirching the chintz with his dung-spattered boots ...

A Joke Too Far

Colin Burrow: My Favourite Elizabethan, 22 August 2002

Sir John Harington and the Book as Gift 
by Jason Scott-Warren.
Oxford, 273 pp., £45, August 2001, 0 19 924445 6
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... cold seat in the privy, then they ought to be profoundly grateful to Elizabeth I’s godson Sir John Harington, who in his extraordinary pamphlet The Metamorphosis of Ajax (or ‘A Jakes’ – get it?) invented the flushing water closet. The s-bend was beyond Harington’s technological reach (his privy discharged via a valve directly into a vault ...

Wanting Legs & Arms & Eyes

Clare Bucknell: Surplus Sons, 5 March 2020

Gentlemen of Uncertain Fortune: How Younger Sons Made Their Way in Jane Austen’s England 
by Rory Muir.
Yale, 384 pp., £25, August 2019, 978 0 300 24431 1
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... picture of the sorts of punishment meted out to new recruits by midshipmen:The Mids, as oft as John drew nearTo stare about him, seemed to sneer,For John as soon as e’er they saw,They knew was but a ‘Johnny Raw’.As Johnny sleeps on deck, his mattress is ‘lugged clean from under him’ by a neatly thrown fish-hook ...

Richly-Wristed

Ian Aitken, 13 May 1993

Changing Faces: The History of the ‘Guardian’, 1956-88 
by Geoffrey Taylor.
Fourth Estate, 352 pp., £20, March 1993, 1 85702 100 2
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... it was was mercifully unknown to me. Above all, I did not know that the company chairman, Laurance Scott – a Scott of Scotts and therefore a man who could be assumed to be committed to the idea of C.P. Scott’s Manchester Guardian – had effectively lost faith in the paper’s ability ...

Convenience Killing

John Sutherland, 7 April 1994

What’s Wrong with America 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £14.99, January 1994, 0 330 32249 4
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The History of Luminous Motion 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 196 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 33412 3
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Greetings from Earth 
by Scott Bradfield.
Picador, 296 pp., £5.99, January 1994, 0 330 32252 4
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... Scott Bradfield is a campus novelist. Still just under forty, he taught for five years at the University of California at Irvine while getting his PhD in American literature. He then took a job at a worthy but less prestigious school – Storrs University in Connecticut, where he now teaches English. While earning his degree and his bread in the classroom, Bradfield has, over the last ten years, put together an impressive corpus of fiction comprising two novels and a collection of short stories ...

Hit by Donald Duck

Oliver Hill-Andrews: The Red Scientist, 24 May 2018

Popularising Science: The Life and Work of J.B.S. Haldane 
by Krishna Dronamraju.
Oxford, 367 pp., £26.99, February 2017, 978 0 19 933392 9
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... The​ evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith believed that his former supervisor J.B.S. Haldane ‘wasn’t an ordinary mortal’. Haldane moved between the fields of physiology, biochemistry, genetics and evolutionary biology, making contributions to each that would ‘satisfy half a dozen ordinary mortals’, and also wrote scientific articles and books aimed at non-specialists ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Successive John Murrays, 8 November 2018

... the relations between authors and publishers never change. Dear Mr Murray, edited by David McClay (John Murray, £16.99), a collection of letters written to six generations of the Murray family, is full of familiar complaints. Jane Austen was ‘very much disappointed … by the delays of the printers’. Maria Rundell, author of A New System of Domestic ...

Shatost

John Bayley, 16 June 1983

Dostoevsky and ‘The Idiot’: Author, Narrator and Reader 
by Robin Feuer Miller.
Harvard, 296 pp., £16, October 1981, 0 674 21490 0
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Dostoevsky 
by John Jones.
Oxford, 365 pp., £15, May 1983, 9780198126454
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New Essays on Dostoyevsky 
edited by Malcolm Jones and Garth Terry.
Cambridge, 252 pp., £25, March 1983, 0 521 24890 6
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The Art of Dostoevsky: Deliriums and Nocturnes 
by Robert Louis Jackson.
Princeton, 380 pp., £17.60, January 1982, 0 691 06484 9
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... The novel did not invent such reality, but has developed its conjuration into a fine art. Think of Scott, virtually the founder of the great classic novel, and his unemphatic and impenetrable ability to seem to order and control experience, to give a self to history and to men and women in history. From this point of view, ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... history of Shakespearean fiction is long and motley, like Feste’s coat. Arguably, it starts with Scott. Earlier tales about the Bard – his deer-poaching at Charlecote, the drinking bout at Bidford, holding horses at the theatre door – were fallacious rather than fictional. Starved of facts about the national poet, and eager to endorse the little that was ...

The Matter of India

John Bayley, 19 March 1987

... can make pseudo-epic. Does J.G. Farrell take the Celtic line in The Siege of Krishnapur, and Paul Scott follow a more plodding and literal Anglo-Saxon formula in the four-novel sequence of The Raj Quartet?There might be something in that. I suspect, for one thing, that those who cannot read Tolkien find Paul Scott heavy ...

Like Unruly Children in a Citizenship Class

John Barrell: A hero for Howard, 21 April 2005

The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for a Free Press 
by Ben Wilson.
Faber, 455 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 22470 9
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... Hone had also just written and published three parodies of the Book of Common Prayer: The Late John Wilkes’s Catechism of a Ministerial Member, The Political Litany and The Sinecurists’ Creed, which satirised the venality of Tory MPs willing to say, vote for and even believe whatever their ministers told them to in exchange for the sinecures and ...

Paul and Penny

Julian Symons, 25 October 1990

Paul ScottA Life 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hutchinson, 429 pp., £16.99, October 1990, 0 09 173984 5
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Paul Scott’s Raj 
by Robin Moore.
Heinemann, 246 pp., £18.50, October 1990, 0 434 47588 2
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... he was out. I saw instead a harassed long-nosed man in a blue suit who said his name was Paul Scott, and that he was the company secretary. Things were in a bit of a muddle, but he would see what could be done. I can’t remember whether I ever got my money, but Scott had good reason to look harassed, ‘with the ...

Sticktoitiveness

John Sutherland, 8 June 1995

Empire of Words: The Reign of the ‘OED’ 
by John Willinsky.
Princeton, 258 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 691 03719 1
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... nationalist (hence the pre-eminence, as cited sources, of Shakespeare, laureate of England, and Scott, laureate of the Union), and chauvinistically masculine. Jesperson’s luckless observation that ‘the English language seems positively and expressly masculine, it is the language of a grown-up man and has very little childish or feminine about it’ is ...

John Bayley writes about Graham Greene

John Bayley, 25 April 1991

... and told to stand there. In the same context she went to the heart of the matter in saying that Scott becomes true through a sort of invisible familiarity of conviction, even through inert and contingent and comfortable writing that in the end does more than ‘all Mr Stevenson’s dapper little adjectives’. One wonders what she would have said about ...

Big Books

Adam Mars-Jones, 8 November 2018

... language of Callimachus, after all), was expected to buy a very big book indeed: Liddell and Scott’s monumental lexicon, big enough to afford the linguistic granularity you need to write Greek prose in the style of Demosthenes’ orations, with citations to corroborate every word used. A schoolboy could lift Liddell and ...

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