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The Reptile Oculist

John Barrell, 1 April 2004

... John Taylor, the journalist, newspaper editor and poet, was born in 1757. His grandfather, the legendary ‘Chevalier’ Taylor, had been oculist to George II, and afterwards, so his grandson assures us, to ‘every crowned head in Europe’. He was as famous for his womanising as for his knowledge of ophthalmology, but most famous, perhaps, for his habit of prefacing every operation he performed with a long speech in praise of his own skill, composed in what he claimed was ‘the true Ciceronian’, with each main verb cunningly held back to the end of the sentence ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: ‘Parallel Lives’, 2 April 2020

... private lives considered are those of Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle; Effie Gray and John Ruskin; Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill; Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens; George Eliot and George Henry Lewes. This is the form in which Rose presents the couples, with the ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey, 2 October 1980

This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... what is Mr Playfair doing writing a book about him? For an answer we may perhaps turn to Professor John Taylor, who has known Fred – or rather a mate of his called Uri – from both sides. Eight years ago Uri Geller – ex-fashion model, conjurer and convicted con-man – hit out television screens with a miraculous display of spoon-bending. The effect ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... was intertwined with his. It would be helpful to have explanations of Lucy Porter, Hill Boothby, John Taylor and the Thrales, as major figures in Johnson’s life and letter-writing. The notes are self-referential in a cryptic way, with a delicately archaic use of ante and post; these are not as helpful as the editor thinks, for the reader who is ...

Ropes, Shirts or Dirty Socks

Adam Smyth: Paper, 15 June 2017

Paper: Paging through History 
by Mark Kurlansky.
Norton, 416 pp., £12.99, June 2017, 978 0 393 35370 9
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... In​ 1619, for a bet, John Taylor – prolific poet, proud Londoner, waterman, prankster, anti-pollution campaigner, barman, literary celebrity, palindrome enthusiast (‘Lewd did I live, & evil I did dwel’) – sailed forty miles down the Thames to Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey in a boat made from brown paper ...

There’s a porpoise close behind us

Michael Dobson, 13 November 1997

The Origins of English Nonsense 
by Noel Malcolm.
HarperCollins, 329 pp., £18, May 1997, 0 00 255827 0
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... can be traced directly to this milieu, in fact directly to a single poem, published by Sir John Hoskyns (a former terrae filius at Oxford and author of mock-orations at the Middle Temple, where he was ‘Clerk of the Council to the Prince d’Amour’ for Christmas 1597). This is the set of ‘Cabalistical Verses’ prefaced to Thomas Coryate’s ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Shakespeare’s Faces, 7 January 2016

... that if something is believed in or wanted for long enough, it will eventually materialise. From John Aubrey’s passing remark in 1665 that Stonehenge might have been built by druids, through William Stukeley’s obsessively detailed and almost entirely invented account of the druidic religion it took another hundred and fifty years, but in the early 20th ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... In 1865, a year after John Clare’s death in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Frederick Martin, a former amanuensis of Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare ...
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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... prosecution, never existed. The four men, three arms-dealers called Michael Aspin, Eric Matson and John Taylor and a Lloyds underwriter called William Harper, were tried at the Old Bailey in early 1988. Aspin, Harper and Matson were found guilty and sent to prison – Aspin is still inside. Taylor was ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment, 8 March 2001

Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... Curiously, the first historian to query this complacent picture was the future arch-Eurosceptic, John Redwood, in his Reason, Ridicule and Religion: The Age of Enlightenment in England 1660-1750 (1976). This told the story of the assault on orthodox Christianity launched during the Augustan age by a variegated cast of libertine rakes, deists and heterodox ...

Delightful to be Robbed

E.S. Turner: Stand and deliver, 9 May 2002

Outlaws and Highwaymen: The Cult of the Robber in England from the Middle Ages to the 19th century 
by Gillian Spraggs.
Pimlico, 372 pp., £12.50, November 2001, 0 7126 6479 3
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... secretly or openly. In the late 1470s a redeeming aspect to this brigandage was discerned by Sir John Fortescue, a former Chief Justice of the King’s Bench. Writing on the governance of England he found occasion to compare the bravery of the English and the French. The English were obviously the braver nation, he argued, because English robbers were so ...

Quill, Wax, Knife

Adam Smyth: Collier’s Letter Racks, 18 July 2013

Mr Collier’s Letter Racks: A Tale of Art & Illusion at the Threshold of the Modern Information Age 
by Dror Wahrman.
Oxford, 275 pp., £22.95, November 2012, 978 0 19 973886 1
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... dry Tobacco in’. ‘Great Iulius Commentaries lies and rots,’ the poet and waterman John Taylor wrote, ‘as good for nothing but stoppe mustard pots.’ Sir William Cornwallis kept ‘pamphlets and lying-stories and two-penny poets’ in his privy, and many texts were ‘pressed into general service’, as Margaret Spufford put it in Small ...

Disaster

Ronan Bennett, 16 December 1993

De Valera: Long Fellow, Long Shadow 
by Tim Pat Coogan.
Hutchinson, 772 pp., £20, October 1993, 9780091750305
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... If they remind Catholics to keep Clear of Republicanism, killings like these can be useful, as John Taylor, an MP from the ‘respcetable’ side of Unionism and a Minister of Home Affairs in the days of Stormont, has acknowledged. Another Stormont MP, now very happily deceased, took the logic of his strong feelings about Northern Catholics a stage ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... of ordinariness diverts any readers from the prose of the early 19th-century labourer-poet John Clare, as rooted a resident of his native Helpston in Northamptonshire as Turner was of East Hoathly in Sussex. Clare was not so sustained a diarist as Turner, but he kept a Journal for a year in 1824-5, which Anne Tibble and Margaret Grainger give in their ...

Snob Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Modern Snobbery, 3 November 2016

... The bookseller was a snob about snobbery and thought it was vulgar to talk about class. D.J. Taylor is perhaps a literary snob for Cooper gets no mention in his much less enjoyable The New Book of Snobs: A Definitive Guide to Modern Snobbery (Little, Brown, £16.99). His first mistake is to attempt a definition rather than rely on examples. He suggests ...

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