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Tomorrow they’ll boo

John Simon: Strindberg, 25 October 2012

Strindberg: A Life 
by Sue Prideaux.
Yale, 371 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 0 300 13693 7
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... involved with him for fear of censorship on moral or political grounds. One future bishop called John Personne, the author of Strindbergian Literature and Immorality among Schoolchildren, blamed Strindberg for masturbation among the young. The Bonniers’ business suffered from publishing him and the subsequent rejections fed Strindberg’s ...

Simon Agonistes

Randolph Quirk, 5 November 1981

Paradigms Lost: Reflections on Literacy and its Decline 
by John Simon.
Chatto, 222 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 7011 2601 9
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... metaphors of a writer you dislike. How do you measure decline in literacy? Despite his subtitle, John Simon seems to sidestep this one completely. As well he might. Bombastic English has been vigorously deplored since the time of Sir Thomas More, and it would be difficult to demonstrate that there was relatively more (or less) of it around today. Bad ...

Conservative Chic

Michael Mason, 6 May 1982

The Politics of Culture and Other Essays 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 245 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 85635 362 0
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... but diverse answers to the diverse problems that have composed the muddle. The American journalist John Simon has for some years been writing a column in Esquire in which he takes a conservative view of linguistic change in true dinner-party fashion: opposing almost every innovation in contemporary usage, and mixing up several independent considerations ...

Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

The English Language Today 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum.
Pergamon, 345 pp., £12.50, December 1984, 0 08 031078 8
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The English Language 
by Robert Burchfield.
Oxford, 194 pp., £9.50, January 1985, 9780192191731
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A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language 
by Randolph Quirk, Sidney Greenbaum, Geoffrey Leech and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 1779 pp., £39.50, May 1985, 0 582 51734 6
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Words 
by John Silverlight.
Macmillan, 107 pp., £17.50, May 1985, 9780333380109
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Faux Amis and Key Words: A Dictionary-Guide to French Language, Culture and Society through Lookalikes and Confusables 
by Philip Thody, Howard Evans and Gwilym Rees.
Athlone, 224 pp., £16, February 1985, 0 485 11243 4
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Puns 
by Walter Redfern.
Blackwell, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1984, 0 631 13793 9
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Fair of Speech: The Uses of Euphemism 
edited by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 222 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 19 212236 3
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... of its good and bad angels, the authoritative and the authoritarian. Linguistic conservatives like John Simon, who sometimes seem not only not to mind being disliked but to thrive on it, do not shrink from such acts of authority as will promptly be branded authoritarian – a word wielded in Sidney Greenbaum’s tour de task-force The English Language ...

Short Cuts

Inigo Thomas: Cromwell’s Seal, 4 January 2018

... as the second Great Seal of the Commonwealth, ordered by the Council of State and made by Thomas Simon. Simon had designed the first Commonwealth seal in a hurry, soon after Charles I’s execution and his own elevation: he had become chief engraver at the Mint. On the reverse of the finished 1651 seal is a map of ...

Water, Water

Asa Briggs, 9 November 1989

The Conquest of Water: The Advent of Health in the Industrial Age 
by Jean-Pierre Goubert.
Polity, 300 pp., £25, April 1989, 0 7456 0508 7
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... of dirtiness in the 19th century – and that despite the fact that, in the century before, John Wesley, not mentioned by Goubert, had preached – and was not alone in preaching – that cleanliness came after godliness. Wesley far more than any of his contemporaries also knew about ‘the internalising of standards’. The omission of Evangelical ...

Diary

Conor Gearty: Reasons for Loathing Michael Howard, 31 October 1996

... invariably demeaned by its occupant. Sixty years ago this month, the then Tory Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, chose to announce a new Public Order Bill in the course of an offensive and thoroughly partisan speech at Cleckheaton Town Hall which just happened to be delivered in the same week in which Labour’s annual conference was taking place. The ...

Our Founder

John Bayley: Papa Joyce, 19 February 1998

John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James Joyce’s Father 
by John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello.
Fourth Estate, 493 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 85702 417 6
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... it, the voices rather, and the tones, are those of the old artificer, the father of the tribe, Simon Dedalus, John Stanislaus Joyce. Like the violins of Cremona, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake are the products of a joint concern, a family undertaking. Joyce himself was frank about this. As long as he had escaped he ...

Then came the Hoover

Hugh Pennington: The Allergy Epidemic, 22 June 2006

Allergy: The History of a Modern Malady 
by Mark Jackson.
Reaktion, 288 pp., £25, May 2006, 1 86189 271 3
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... 16th century. And when Sherlock Holmes in the ‘Adventure of the Norwood Builder’ (1903) greets John Hector McFarlane, who has just burst unceremoniously into 221b Baker Street, with the words ‘you mentioned your name, as if I should recognise it, but I assure you that, beyond the obvious facts that you are a bachelor, a solicitor, a Freemason, and an ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: Being a critic, 27 May 1999

... got their first chance in that pub. A few of the celebrants are, or have been, English dons – John Fuller, Simon Gray, Dan Jacobson; but even they arrived by what might be called the bohemian route. There are of course other ways in; anybody can see how much space the dons occupy in the respectable papers and ...

For the Record

Simon Armitage, 21 August 1997

... a dentist might set up his stall at a country fair or travelling circus. I’m also reminded of John Henry Small of Devizes, who put his fist in his mouth but couldn’t spit it out, and the hand was removed, forthwith, along with his canines and incisors. Returning to myself, the consultant says I should wait at least another week before saying something ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler, 17 November 2005

Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... it still Connecticut, the dear deer, the steady lay, the unprivate walls?’ His correspondent, John Hohnsbeen, an art-dealer friend, was having an affair with the architect Philip Johnson, and the ‘unprivate walls’ are those of Johnson’s famous Glass House. Schuyler was 28 and this was his first serious mental breakdown. He had only recently arrived ...

‘My dear, dear friend and Führer!’

Jeremy Adler: Winifred Wagner, 6 July 2006

Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler’s Bayreuth 
by Brigitte Hamann, translated by Alan Bance.
Granta, 582 pp., £12.99, June 2006, 1 86207 851 3
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... your Winnie. Winifred also graced state functions – among them, a dinner for Anthony Eden and John Simon in 1935. Hitler noticed that she had eaten nothing and ordered a carafe of wine and a tray of delicacies for her when the guests had gone. She treasured this as a token of his ‘sensitivity’. Hamann attributes the subsequent cooling in their ...

Bad Timing

R.W. Johnson: All about Eden, 22 May 2003

Eden: The Life and Times of Anthony Eden, First Earl of Avon 1897-1977 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Chatto, 758 pp., £25, March 2003, 0 7011 6744 0
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The Macmillan Diaries: The Cabinet Years 1950-57 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 676 pp., £25, April 2003, 9780333711675
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... where he could hardly bear to hear Italian spoken. Similarly, an already dicey relationship with John Foster Dulles seems to have been ruined beyond repair by Dulles’s hand-on-arm habits and his halitosis. There were otherwise unexplained enmities towards Eden throughout his career which were surely based on the belief that he was gay, but since ...

Coalition Monsters

Colin Kidd, 6 March 2014

In It Together: The Inside Story of the Coalition Government 
by Matthew D’Ancona.
Penguin, 414 pp., £25, October 2013, 978 0 670 91993 2
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... the Liberal Party of Herbert Asquith. Further schisms followed. The Liberal Nationals, under Sir John Simon, joined the National Government of 1931 and continued for the next thirty years co-operating closely with the Conservatives. Under the Woolton-Teviot Agreement of 1947 the Liberal Nationals changed their name, confusingly, to the National ...

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