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At Burlington House

Ben Walker: William Smith’s Geological Maps, 7 January 2021

... drew his coloured strata directly onto a base map, made in 1794 by his publisher, the cartographer John Cary, before the fifteen sheets were engraved by assist­ants onto copper plates ready for reprinting – a process that took two years. He made several versions of the map during his lifetime, many of which he neither numbered nor named. Some of these ...

Wadham and Gomorrah

Conrad Russell, 6 December 1984

The Poems of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
edited by Keith Walker.
Blackwell, 319 pp., £35, September 1984, 0 631 12573 6
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... John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, one of the original ‘amorous sons of Wadham’, perhaps took part in writing an obscene farce called Sodom. Dr Walker drily observes that ‘to assert this twenty years ago would have damaged Rochester’s reputation as much as to deny it today ...

‘A Being full of Witching’

Charles Nicholl: The ‘poor half-harlot’ of Hazlitt’s affections, 18 May 2000

... world who would not have recognised her by her former name. For Sarah Tomkins had once been Sarah Walker, also known as Sally Walker; and she was that little ‘lodging-house hussy’ (or ‘poor half-harlot’ or ‘callous jilt’) with whom the great Hazlitt had fallen so hopelessly in love, for whom he had divorced his ...

Jack and Leo

John Sutherland, 27 July 1989

The Letters of Jack London 
edited by Earle Labor, Robert Leitz and Milo Shepard.
Stanford, 1657 pp., $139.50, October 1988, 0 8047 1227 1
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Tolstoy 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 572 pp., £16.95, May 1988, 0 241 12190 6
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... with two unpardonable offences to the estate. Jack, as Stone asserted, was not in fact the son of John London. His true father, Stone claimed, was a vagrant, 55-year-old, incorrigibly bigamous ‘itinerant Irish astrologer’ called William H. Chaney. Chaney and Jack’s mother, Flora Wellman, had a tempestuous and unhallowed alliance in 1874-75, during which ...

Settling accounts

Keith Walker, 15 May 1980

‘A heart for every fate’: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. 10, 1822-1823 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 239 pp., £8.95, March 1980, 0 7195 3670 7
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... June 1823) Byron was settling his accounts with his creditors, with his public, with his publisher John Murray, with his mistress, and making arrangements to settle his accounts with life and fame. Late in this volume we see Byron discussing a collected edition of his poems with J.W. Lake. Elsewhere Byron says he wants to amass enough money to be able to leave ...

Slice of Life

Colin Burrow: Robin Robertson, 30 August 2018

The Long Take 
by Robin Robertson.
Picador, 256 pp., £14.99, February 2018, 978 1 5098 4688 7
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... myths, and is temperamentally a northern island or isthmus dweller. In that respect he’s like John Burnside, to whom he dedicated his best poem so far, ‘At Roane Head’ (LRB, 14 August 2008), in which there is not just a selkie at the bottom of the garden but there might be a selkie in the bedroom that could cuckold you, or make you kill your children ...

At the White House’s Whim

Tom Bingham: The Power of Pardon, 26 March 2009

... in office, President Clinton was more parsimonious in granting pardons than any president since John Adams two hundred years earlier. But he made up for this at the end when he cast aside the ordinary process for handling federal clemency applications and, in the words of the American lawyer Margaret Colgate, ‘enjoyed a final unencumbered opportunity to ...

Unction and Slaughter

Simon Walker: Edward IV, 10 July 2003

Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: The Kingship of Edward IV 
by Jonathan Hughes.
Sutton, 354 pp., £30, October 2002, 0 7509 1994 9
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... the French campaigns of Henry V endowed his subjects with a powerful sense of historical destiny. John Lydgate’s Troy Book provided the defining self-image for Henry’s regime: the British, like the Romans, were refugees from the ruins of Troy and now, like the Romans, they would conquer an empire. This confident sense of imperial mission faded as victory ...

Jingoes

R.W. Johnson: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War, 6 May 2004

The Lion and the Springbok: Britain and South Africa since the Boer War 
by Ronald Hyam and Peter Henshaw.
Cambridge, 379 pp., £45, May 2003, 0 521 82453 2
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... with an ANC-ruled South Africa, back within the Commonwealth. If the book has a hero it is Sir John Maud, the British high commissioner who advised in 1960 that since a black government must come to power one day, Britain must ‘keep faith’ with the black majority, while at the same time not antagonising the National Party government to no good ...

A Very Active Captain

Patrick Collinson: Henricentrism, 22 June 2006

The King’s Reformation: Henry VIII and the Remaking of the English Church 
by G.W. Bernard.
Yale, 736 pp., £29.95, November 2005, 0 300 10908 3
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Writing under Tyranny: English Literature and the Henrician Reformation 
by Greg Walker.
Oxford, 556 pp., £65, October 2005, 0 19 928333 8
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... palaces were equipped with wheelchairs and specially strengthened beds.) Three years ago, the Walker Gallery in Liverpool brought together in one room four of those giant Eworth/Holbein images (Trinity, Chatsworth, Petworth and their own), which glowered intimidatingly at each other from the four walls. Historians and biographers have never offered ...

A Shyning and a Flashing

Marco Roth: Post-Apocalyptic Folklore, 27 January 2022

The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and the Lion of Jachin-Boaz 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 182 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48571 2
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Turtle Diary 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 193 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48576 7
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Riddley Walker 
by Russell Hoban.
Penguin, 252 pp., £9.99, April 2021, 978 0 241 48575 0
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... celebrated as the author of one of the most ambitious novels of the later 20th century: Riddley Walker (1980). Miserably, though, in much of the English-reading world – including the US, where he was born – he remains best known for his children’s books about Frances the Badger. They have remained continuously in print for more than half a ...

Was it like this for the Irish?

Gareth Peirce: The War on British Muslims, 10 April 2008

... of al-Qaida before 11 September 2001. All of this echoed other wrongful detentions, like that of John Walker in 1974, when the West Midlands police coerced an innocent Irishman into confessing that he was an IRA ‘brigadier’, ignorant of the fact that such a title existed only in the British army. This confession was nevertheless swallowed ...

Johnson’s Business

Keith Walker, 7 August 1980

A Dictionary of the English Language 
by Samuel Johnson.
Times, 2558 pp., £45, June 1980, 0 7230 0228 2
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Dictionary Johnson: Samuel Johnson’s Middle Years 
by James Clifford.
Heinemann, 372 pp., £10, February 1980, 0 434 13805 3
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... professional. In the mid-17th century, the Royal Society established a committee including Dryden, John Evelyn and Edmund Waller, ‘to improve the English tongue’. Nothing much came of this. In 1658, Milton’s nephew Edward Philips had published a New World of English Words which reached its seventh edition by 1720. Swift busied himself with the state of ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation, 10 June 1999

England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... actions would, if unchecked, infect the whole land with error. Hoccleve and his contemporary, John Lydgate, occupy a pivotal position in Strohm’s account. His careful contextualisation of their writing shows how concerned poems like Hoccleve’s Regement of Princes, finished in 1411, and Lydgate’s Troy Book, composed during Henry V’s reign, were to ...

Witchcraft and the Inquisition

Robin Briggs, 18 June 1981

Unclean Spirits: Possession and Exorcism in France and England in the Late 16th and Early 17th Centuries 
by D.P. Walker.
Scolar, 116 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 9780859676205
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The Witches’ Advocate 
by Gustav Henningsen.
Nevada, 607 pp., $24, November 1980, 0 87417 056 7
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... properly integrated into the study of European history in general, and it is here that Professor Walker’s book on possession and exorcism is most helpful. This handsomely produced, if expensive version of his 1979 Northcliffe lectures is mostly devoted to quite well-known cases, such as that of Marthe Brossier in France, and the activities of ...

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