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Nothing without a Grievance

P.D.G. Thomas: John Horne​ Tooke

19 August 1999
Gentleman Radical: A Life of John Horne​ Tooke 1736-1812 
by Christina Bewley and David Bewley.
Tauris, 297 pp., £42, June 1998, 1 86064 344 2
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... JohnHorne Tooke enjoyed two distinct political careers, under two different names: as JohnHorne in the age of the American Revolution, and as JohnHorne Tooke in that of the French Revolution. In both identities he attracted notoriety or fame, according to the prejudices of commentators. Extolled as a champion of liberty and mocked as a mischief ...
6 September 1984
Hazlitt: The Mind of a Critic 
by David Bromwich.
Oxford, 450 pp., £19.50, March 1984, 0 19 503343 4
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William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary 
by Peter Marshall.
Yale, 496 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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Burke, Paine, Godwin and the Revolution Controversy 
edited by Marilyn Butler.
Cambridge, 280 pp., £25, June 1984, 0 521 24386 6
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... times like these, Abstract Ideas have great power. David Bromwich does (with proper suspicion) include one or two good anecdotes, to illustrate his points. There is the tale of Hazlitt’s fight with John Lamb, in the course of a dispute about Holbein and Vandyke. I will quote the version in Benjamin Haydon’s journal: ‘They both became so irritated, they upset the card-table, and seized each other ...
24 November 1988
Macmillan 1894-1956 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 537 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 0 333 27691 4
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... his life opposed it has for some time been in decline – a process which the appearance of his official biography would normally be expected to halt, if not reverse. In a graceful preface Alistair Horne says that he at first refused the invitation to be Macmillan’s biographer. Having never before attempted a biography, he was uneasy about his qualifications, though as an outstanding military ...

‘I thirst for his blood’

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Henry James

25 November 1999
Henry James: A Life in Letters 
edited by Philip Horne.
Penguin, 668 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 7139 9126 7
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A Private Life of Henry James: Two Women and His Art 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Chatto, 500 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 7011 6166 3
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... tempering it with qualifications and advice. With a few rare exceptions – an ecstatic response to Conrad’s Mirror of the Sea among them – nearly all the correspondence with writers that Philip Horne includes in his admirable new edition conforms to the pattern. Experienced recipients of such letters must have learned to watch for that ‘but’ and to steel themselves accordingly. Especially ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason

7 September 2000
Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John​ Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... régime was wrapped in subterfuge, artifice and mystery. They saw Burke’s writing, for instance, as an elaborate theatrical spectacle, appealing to the emotions instead of reason. At the centre of John Barrell’s exhaustive study of treason in the mid-1790s is a brilliantly sustained argument about the struggle to fix the character of the word ‘imagination’. Unlike the battle then being fought ...

The Reptile Oculist

John​ Barrell: On the trail of the mysterious John Taylor

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 ...

May I come to your house to philosophise?

John​ Barrell: Godwin’s Letters

8 September 2011
The Letters of William Godwin Vol. I: 1778-97 
by Pamela Clemit.
Oxford, 306 pp., £100, February 2011, 978 0 19 956261 9
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... after the death in September 1797 of Mary Wollstonecraft, six months after their marriage, during the darkest period of his mourning. The volume includes letters to Joseph Priestley, Thomas Lawrence, John Thelwall, Samuel Parr (‘the Whig Dr Johnson’), the great liberal advocate Thomas Erskine, R.B. Sheridan, Charles James Fox, the novelists and dramatists Elizabeth Inchbald, Thomas Holcroft ...
3 April 1986
The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats. Vol. I: 1865-1895 
edited by John​ Kelly and Eric Domville.
Oxford, 548 pp., £22.50, January 1986, 0 19 812679 4
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... Everything, including our politics and our literature, has to be rewritten – i.e. reread. That will enable new writing, new politics, unblemished by Irishness, but securely Irish.’ Opening John Kelly and Eric Domville’s scrupulous and magnificent edition of Yeats’s letters, I readied myself to take a sling-shot at the great Cuchulain – the impulse dissolved in helpless love, chortles ...
18 February 1988
The Road to Botany Bay 
by Paul Carter.
Faber, 384 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 571 14551 5
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The Oxford History of Australia. Vol. IV: 1901-1942 
by Stuart Macintyre.
Oxford, 399 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 19 554612 1
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The Archibald Paradox: A Strange Case of Authorship 
by Sylvia Lawson.
Penguin Australia, 292 pp., AUS $12.95, September 1987, 0 14 009848 8
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The Lucky Country Revisited 
by Donald Horne.
Dent, 235 pp., AUS $34.95, October 1987, 9780867700671
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... privileged, although, judging from his vocabulary, structuralism, semiotics and similar fashions must have had a good deal to do with it. The phrase ‘ways of seeing’ crops up, reminding us of John Berger and his allegedly penetrating double squint. The authorial assumption which remains unquestioned at the end of the book – after 350 pages in which the word ‘spatial’ appears rarely fewer ...

Such a Husband

John​ Bayley

4 September 1997
Selected Letters of George Meredith 
edited by Mohammad Shaheen.
Macmillan, 312 pp., £47.50, April 1997, 0 333 56349 2
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... observes, she had probably ‘been up to something’. In fact, she seems to have been doing her best to mend her father’s shaky finances, writing on his behalf to Byron’s old friend Sir John Hobhouse, and almost, if not quite, soliciting him for a handout. She was close to her father, probably much closer than she ever was to either of her husbands, or to the lover who succeeded them ...

Arsenals

Nicholas Spice

18 October 1984
On the Perimeter: Caroline Blackwood at Greenham Common 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 113 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 434 07468 3
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The Witches of Eastwick 
by John​ Updike.
Deutsch, 316 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 233 97665 5
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Corrigan 
by Caroline Blackwood.
Heinemann, 279 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 434 07467 5
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According to Mark 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 9780434427420
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... issues about the nature of men and women and the nature of nature: On the Perimeter by virtue of a chilling subject-matter fixed with a steady eye, The Witches of Eastwick through the potency of John Updike’s imaginative release. On the Perimeter records what Caroline Blackwood found at Greenham Common and in the town of Newbury, when she visited the nuclear protest encampments there in March ...

Outside the text

Marilyn Butler

19 December 1985
The Beauty of Inflections: Literary Investigations in Historical Method and Theory 
by Jerome McGann.
Oxford, 352 pp., £19.50, May 1985, 0 19 811730 2
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The Politics of Language: 1791-1819 
by Olivia Smith.
Oxford, 269 pp., £19.50, December 1984, 0 19 812817 7
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... between critics and scholars, free-ranging interpreters versus meticulous, detached researchers and editors. Other leading figures also do both, including, in this country, Christopher Ricks and John Carey. But most critics in good repute don’t seem to want to edit, and wouldn’t be any good if they tried. The provocative element in McGann’s position for them will be his serious belief in ...

Divided We Grow

John​ Barrell: When Pitt Panicked

5 June 2003
The London Corresponding Society 1792-99 
edited by Michael T. Davis.
Pickering & Chatto, £495, June 2002, 1 85196 734 6
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Romanticism, Publishing and Dissent: Joseph Johnson and the Cause of Liberty 
by Helen Braithwaite.
Palgrave, 243 pp., £45, December 2002, 0 333 98394 7
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... Davy, Maria Edgeworth, Olaudah Equiano, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Fuseli, William Godwin, Mary Hays, William Hazlitt, Thomas Malthus, Thomas Paine, Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, Charlotte Smith, JohnHorne Tooke, Sarah Trimmer, Mary Wollstonecraft and William Wordsworth, as well as a number of theologians and religious controversialists, of writers on science and medicine and so on, whose names ...
24 November 1988
Algernon Sidney and the English Republic 1623-1677 
by Jonathan Scott.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £27.50, August 1988, 0 521 35290 8
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Seeds of Liberty: 1688 and the Shaping of Modern Britain 
by John​ Miller.
Souvenir, 128 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 285 62839 9
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Reluctant Revolutionaries: Englishmen and the Revolution of 1688 
by W.A. Speck.
Oxford, 267 pp., £17.50, July 1988, 9780198227687
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War and Economy in the Age of William III and Marlborough 
by D.W. Jones.
Blackwell, 351 pp., £35, September 1988, 0 631 16069 8
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Robert Harley: Speaker, Secretary of State and Premier Minister 
by Brian Hill.
Yale, 259 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 300 04284 1
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A Kingdom without a King: The Journal of the Provisional Government in the Revolution of 1688 
by Robert Beddard.
Phaidon, 192 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 9780714825007
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... the people would naturally do what the nobility told them. The assumption may surprise those historians who describe 17th-century England as a country ridden with class hatred, but 1688 bore it out. John Miller’s Seeds of Liberty, although emphasising the dependence of the Revolution on its acceptance by a broad and well-informed political nation, concedes that the nobles led and the people ...

The Greatest

R.W. Johnson

4 August 1994
Charles de Gaulle, Futurist of the Nation 
by Régis Debray, translated by John​ Howe.
Verso, 111 pp., £29.95, April 1994, 0 86091 622 7
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De Gaulle and 20th-Century France 
edited by Hugh Gough and John Horne.
Edward Arnold, 158 pp., £12.99, March 1994, 0 340 58826 8
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François Mitterrand: A Study in Political Leadership 
by Alistair Cole.
Routledge, 216 pp., £19.99, March 1994, 0 415 07159 3
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... attending the Liberation thanksgiving ceremonies in Notre-Dame, insisted that the Papal Nuncio be withdrawn, and had seven bishops sacked. When the new Papal Nuncio, Monsignor Roncalli (later Pope John XXIII), went to plead the cause of Catholic schools, he took with him a map of France with all the under-funded Catholic schools marked in red. De Gaulle sent him packing: ‘This map is the map of ...

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