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One Enormous Room

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Council of Trent

9 May 2013
Trent: What Happened at the Council 
by John​ O’Malley.
Harvard, 335 pp., £20, January 2013, 978 0 674 06697 7
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... seemed to be true of them. But one enormous room had made a world of difference to the medieval Western Church of the Latin Rite, not least that section which remained loyal to the bishop of Rome. John O’Malley illustrates the room in his superb new history of the Council of Trent: the nave of the church of Santa Maria Maggiore in Trent, a bishopric in the foothills of the Dolomites. In that ...
20 May 2004
The Jesuits: Missions, Myths and Histories 
by Jonathan Wright.
HarperCollins, 334 pp., £20, February 2004, 0 00 257180 3
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... a history of the monks and friars in medieval England that was instantly recognised as a masterpiece, but I can’t quite see a Jesuit pulling off something similar – though on a smaller scale John O’Malley’s The First Jesuits (1993) isn’t a bad shot. I’m struck by the fact that the most powerful contribution made by an English historian to Jesuit history, Outram Evennett’s Spirit of ...
15 November 1984
The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion 
by Leo Steinberg.
Faber, 222 pp., £25, September 1984, 0 571 13392 4
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... of visual examples and with a formidable array of learned references. Whether he is right, of course, is another matter: but at least one distinguished historian of Renaissance theology, the Jesuit John O’Malley, who contributes a postscript to the book, seems to find his conclusions broadly convincing, so they deserve to be examined closely. In Byzantine and early Italian art the infant Christ ...

Hillside Men

Roy Foster: Ernie O’Malley

16 July 1998
Ernie O’Malley: IRA Intellectual 
by Richard English.
Oxford, 284 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 01 982059 3
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... move to the East Coast brought him the opportunity to finish his memoir; it was there, too, that he met and married Helen Huntington Hooker. She was rich and well-connected; one brother-in-law was John D. Rockefeller III, another the novelist John P. Marquand. As English remarks, the Hooker family, and the conflicts provoked by Helen’s headstrong ways, read like the plot of a Marquand novel. It ...

Holy Mountain

John​ Holloway

19 March 1981
... In the abyss of distance. You see it   blink at you, graven over our breakfast table, from the open   door where steam from porridge mists the peak of the holy mountain, or so they term it, and I would not lightly   be heavy-handed over the old volcanic cone across that yawn   of bog-blossom, of bee-, of heat-filled emptiness, with sparse birds, and light hazed into dust. Once, Queen Grace ...

Small Crocus, Big Kick

Daniel Soar: Jeffrey Eugenides

3 October 2002
Middlesex 
by Jeffrey Eugenides.
Bloomsbury, 529 pp., £16.99, October 2002, 0 7475 6023 4
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... rooms; an incipient awkwardness; fumblings; a climax in a bursting-forth of his half-understood ‘crocus’; diagnosis (courtesy of a doctor modelled on the currently fanatically discredited John Money, who believed and perhaps believes that gender is socially established in a child’s first two years, and advocated surgery for a normal life); a spell in the wilderness (a San Francisco ...

Keeping Left

Edmund Dell

2 October 1980
The Castle Diaries 
by Barbara Castle.
Weidenfeld, 778 pp., £14.95, September 1980, 0 297 77420 4
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... nicest people in Cabinet, one was the other woman and the other was the right-wing figure of Harold Lever. Apart from myself, two other victims of Barbara’s midnight spleen are Roy Hattersley and John Silkin. John Silkin, a ‘failure’ at the Department of the Environment, is forgiven in a footnote because of his ‘success’ at the Ministry of Agriculture. Perhaps for once she is too generous ...

Wife Overboard

John​ Sutherland: Thackeray

20 January 2000
Thackeray 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 494 pp., £25, October 1999, 0 7011 6231 7
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... irrelevant: ‘This is not a critical biography – critics criticise, biographers write biographies.’ And, one mutters, reviewers carp. For all this, Taylor has a critical parti pris. Like John Carey, whom he admires, he subscribes to the simplifying (and Ray-reversing) view that Thackeray is a one-book author. Or, as Carey brutally puts it: ‘Thackeray’s career as a leading novelist ...

The Dynamitards

John​ Horgan

19 January 1984
Political Violence in Ireland: Government and Resistance since 1848 
by Charles Townshend.
Oxford, 445 pp., £22.50, December 1983, 0 19 821753 6
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... Townshend implies, that the solutions adopted from time to time have been inappropriate, or ham-fisted, or applied in the wrong combinations, and have always been threatened, as the English Liberal John Morley succinctly observed, by the fact that ‘the Irish are more provoked by the extension of force than they are gratified by the extension of justice.’ Townshend concludes: ‘history may ...
6 June 2019
Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee 
by Casey Cep.
Heinemann, 314 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78515 073 9
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... d refused), but the coroner’s finding of natural causes ruled out a murder charge. In due course the reverend submitted insurance claims on his nephew to the Beneficial National, the Vulcan, the John Hancock and the World Wide insurance companies. The reverend, who was black, was assisted in his macabre actuarial pursuits, as well as in his legal battles, by a white lawyer called Tom Radney ...

Moral Lepers

John​ Banville: Easter 1916

15 July 2015
Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 433 pp., £10.99, May 2015, 978 0 241 95424 9
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... as later nationalist piety would insist. It is startling to read, in Charles Townshend’s fine study, The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB) leader, John O’Leary who, in Yeats’s poem, shared his grave with the corpse of ‘romantic Ireland’, observing that the Brotherhood’s ‘propagandist work was … entirely separatist with practically no ...
3 September 1987
Mantegna 
by Ronald Lightbown.
Phaidon/Christie’s, 512 pp., £60, July 1986, 0 7148 8031 0
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The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo Rediscovered 
edited by Massimo Giacometti, translated by Paul Holberton.
Muller, Blond and White, 271 pp., £40, September 1986, 0 584 11140 1
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... editorial professionals from Switzerland, Italy, the United Kingdom and Japan’ for simultaneous consumption in eight different countries. In particular, there is a very full and clear account by John Shearman of the complex building history of the chapel, its liturgical function, the programme of the 15th-century decorations, and of Raphael’s tapestries. There is also an article by Michael ...

Rivonia Days

R.W. Johnson: Remembering the trial

16 August 2007
The State v. Nelson Mandela: The Trial That Changed South Africa 
by Joel Joffe.
Oneworld, 288 pp., £16.99, July 2007, 978 1 85168 500 4
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... decided against asking for the death penalty. This seems unlikely: the political wind was, after all, full of demands for it. But it is also most unlikely that the domineering minister of justice, John Vorster, would have left such a key decision to De Wet. Vorster was Van den Bergh’s boss and the two men were close. It seems far more likely that Vorster, probably after discussion with Hendrik ...

As if Life Depended on It

John​ Mullan: With the Leavisites

12 September 2013
Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... journal Use of English, which provided model lessons and exercises. It also promoted practical criticism teaching in schools, in the Leavis manner, via pairings of admirable against deplorable texts: John Clare compared with ‘a film song’; Mark Twain versus a shampoo advertisement; but also Donne versus Shelley. Because he founded his literary criticism on social criticism, deploring the effects ...

So much for shame

Colm Tóibín

10 June 1993
Haughey: His Life and Unlucky Deeds 
by Bruce Arnold.
HarperCollins, 299 pp., £17.50, May 1993, 0 00 255212 4
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... newspaper owned by the de Valera family, but our neighbours took the Irish Times. Some time in the mid-Sixties we began to make a swap in the evening and thus became acquainted with the writing of John Healy in the Backbencher column of that newspaper. He wrote every week about a new breed of Fianna Fail politician. He wrote with wit and irreverence, but he wrote from the inside and he conferred a ...

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