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James Meek: Anglospheroids

21 March 2013
... John Norton-Griffiths, ‘Empire Jack’, engineer and strapping essence of imperial British manliness, was sent to Romania in 1916 to destroy that country’s oil industry before the Germans overran it. He had the ...
11 April 2013
Chocolate Islands: Cocoa, Slavery and Colonial Africa 
by Catherine Higgs.
Ohio, 230 pp., £24.95, June 2012, 978 0 8214 2006 5
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... imperial power in 20th-century Africa. Angola was a Portuguese colony, but British capital and missionaries were major presences there. Burtt frequently stayed with missionaries and men such as John Norton-Griffiths, the contractor of the Benguela railway, who beat his African workers so readily that Burtt claimed he was ‘cordially hated by nearly all his men’, all 1700 of them. Another well ...


John​ Mullan: Eric Griffiths

23 May 2019
If Not Critical 
by Eric Griffiths, edited by Freya Johnston.
Oxford, 248 pp., £25, March 2018, 978 0 19 880529 8
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The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry 
by Eric Griffiths.
Oxford, 351 pp., £55, July 2018, 978 0 19 882701 6
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... are increasingly keen to get rid of the job title ‘lecturer’, and make everyone some kind of (assistant, associate) ‘professor’. Until a stroke forced him to retire at the age of 57, Eric Griffiths was a lecturer in English at Cambridge. For him, literary criticism was a form of performance art and his lectures were celebrated for their verbal wit, fierce cleverness and frequent indiscretion ...
1 October 1981
The Struggle for Afghanistan 
by Nancy Newell and Richard Newell.
Cornell, 236 pp., £9, August 1981, 0 8014 1389 3
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by John​ C Griffiths.
Deutsch, 225 pp., £7.95, June 1981, 0 233 97350 8
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... to give serious consideration to a withdrawal. But would the guerrillas really be capable of such an escalation, even if they acquired the weapons that many in the West would like to give them? If JohnGriffiths’s book on Afghanistan is to be believed, the convoy major’s assessment of the Afghans contains some truth. Among the Pathans, Mr Griffiths tells us, ‘generosity and nobility of manner ...
31 August 1989
Tennyson and the Doom of Romanticism 
by Herbert Tucker.
Harvard, 481 pp., £29.95, May 1988, 0 674 87430 7
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Browning the Revisionary 
by John​ Woolford.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £27.50, November 1988, 0 333 38872 0
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Poetic Remaking: The Art of Browning, Yeats and Pound 
by George Bornstein.
Pennsylvania State, 220 pp., £17.80, August 1989, 9780271006208
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The Printed Voice of Victorian Poetry 
by Eric Griffiths.
Oxford, 369 pp., £35, January 1989, 0 19 812989 0
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... and interpreter of his earlier work, might lead one to beware of taking such statements at face value. They are value-laden, and the values are subject to change. Such change is the central topic of John Woolford’s book. He, like Tucker, is interested in ‘the incidents in the development of a soul’ – specifically, the soul of a Victorian poet subject to, and struggling for mastery of ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren

5 November 1981
Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... his bodyguards and lawyers. Poor Mr Ferris actually gives us a list of people who wouldn’t talk about his hero: these include Claire Bloom, Alexander Cohen, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, Sir John Gielgud, Hugh Griffiths, Joseph Losey, James Mason, Vincente Minnelli, Mike Nichols, Rachel Roberts, Daphne Rye, Jean Simmons, and three of his wives, Sybil Christopher, Elizabeth Taylor and Susan ...

Rub gently out with stale bread

Adam Smyth: The Print Craze

2 November 2017
The Print Before Photography: An Introduction to European Printmaking 1550-1820 
by Antony Griffiths.
British Museum, 560 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 7141 2695 1
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... The Compleat Drawing-Book, the print is a training tool for amateurs, but professional artists also needed prints of their works to spread their fame and standing. From 1829 until his death in 1837, John Constable grew increasingly preoccupied with printmaking and collaborated with the young engraver David Lucas to translate his oil sketches and paintings into 22 mezzotints, part of what would become ...

Document Number Nine

John​ Lanchester: Chinese Cyber-Sovereignty

10 October 2019
The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet 
by James Griffiths.
Zed, 386 pp., £20, March, 978 1 78699 535 3
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We Have Been Harmonised: Life in China’s Surveillance State 
by Kai Strittmatter.
Old Street, 328 pp., £9.99, May, 978 1 913083 00 7
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... be spread by cell phone and cable modem,’ Clinton said. ‘We know how much the internet has changed America, and we are already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China.’ As James Griffiths tells us in The Great Firewall of China, his detailed and compelling account of Chinese online censorship, this was an applause line for Clinton in 2000. ‘Now there’s no question China has been ...

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard

25 January 1996
Plant Here the ‘Standard’ 
by Dennis Griffiths.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 333 55565 1
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...  the Standard was by no means alone in allowing itself to be compromised in this way. And, to be fair, at least one of its editors always held his own head high. If the earlier part of Dennis Griffiths’s narrative has a hero, it is William Heseltine Mudford, editor of the Standard from 1874 to 1899. When Lord Salisbury, as Foreign Secretary, imprudently sent him a telegram via his House Steward ...

A Skeleton My Cat

Norma Clarke: ‘Poor Goldsmith’

21 February 2019
The Letters of Oliver Goldsmith 
edited by Michael Griffin and David O’Shaughnessy.
Cambridge, 232 pp., £64.99, July 2018, 978 1 107 09353 9
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... clownish. James Prior’s full, scholarly biography, designed to restore Goldsmith’s dignity, did not appear until 1837 and was quickly supplanted by two popularising and very popular works, John Forster’s The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith (1848) and Washington Irving’s Life of Oliver Goldsmith (1849). Forster and Irving built on Prior’s research to reinstate – ...

Noddy is on page 248

Jay Griffiths: On the streets

10 June 1999
The Penguin Book of 20th-Century Protest 
edited by Brian MacArthur.
Penguin, 440 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87052 8
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DIY Culture: Party and Protest in Nineties Britain 
edited by George McKay.
Verso, 310 pp., £11, July 1998, 1 85984 260 7
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... solidity; you are in safe, if stubby hands. There are also some poignant contributions: the broken dreams of Communism reported by former believers; Rabbi Stephen Wise addressing an anti-Nazi rally; John Galsworthy’s protest about planes being used for war – ‘For the love of the sun, and stars and the blue sky, that have given us all our aspirations since the beginning of time, let us leave the ...

At the Barbican

Jeremy Harding: Pilger pictures

23 August 2001
... Work by 18 of the photographers with whom John Pilger has collaborated over the last thirty or forty years is on show in Reporting the World, at the Barbican Gallery until 30 September. The exhibition is a record of events we remember – vaguely ...


Helen Cooper: The maverick poetry of John​ Skelton

14 December 2006
John​ Skelton and Poetic Authority: Defining the Liberty to Speak 
by Jane Griffiths.
Oxford, 213 pp., £50, February 2006, 9780199273607
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... John Skelton should be one of the great figures of English poetry. He is widely regarded as the most significant poet in the 130 years between the death of Chaucer and the flourishing of Thomas Wyatt; but ...


R.W. Johnson: Magdalen College

19 November 2009
... only with Wolsey, my bursarial predecessor. Like all Oxbridge colleges Magdalen began as essentially a seminary, first for Catholics and then for Anglicans. Although the fellowship included John Foxe, whose Actes and Monuments (1563) was, for several centuries, the bestselling English book after the Bible, there were few scholars of note. But then the purpose of Oxbridge colleges in the 16th ...

Ruling Imbecilities

Andrew Roberts

7 November 1991
The Enemy’s Country: Words, Contexture and Other Circumstances of Language 
by Geoffrey Hill.
Oxford, 153 pp., £19.95, August 1991, 0 19 811216 5
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... to the appreciation of the mannered elegance of Hill’s prose. There is a further change from the earlier volume, suggesting that Hill may have responded to comments made by, among others, Eric Griffiths. In an essay included in Geoffrey Hill: Essays on his Work (1985, edited by Peter Robinson), Griffiths expressed reservations about Hill’s ‘unsteady reliance on religious metaphors’ in his ...

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