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John​ Bossy

4 April 1996
The New Oxford History of England. Vol. II: The Later Tudors 
by Penry Williams.
Oxford, 628 pp., £25, September 1995, 0 19 822820 1
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... Taylor’s extra volume on 1914-45, does not much ring in the mind, except for its first two volumes (Collingwood and Myres, and Stenton) and Taylor’s. I doubt if the new one will fare any better. JohnRoberts, the general editor, does not show his hand in detail, and we must keep our fingers crossed about the whole being greater than the parts by giving ‘an account of the development of our ...

The Stealth Revolution, Continued

Bruce Ackerman: Samuel Alito and the Supreme Court

9 February 2006
... in my previous essay,* and tendered stealth nominees whose public records provided few clues as to future performance. Not that this administration was equally in the dark. During the 1980s, both JohnRoberts and Samuel Alito were bright young recruits to the Reagan Justice Department’s efforts to reverse the liberal jurisprudence of the Supreme Court; and their membership of the right-wing ...
21 November 1991
The Soviet Mafia 
by Arkady Vaksberg, translated by John Roberts and Elizabeth Roberts.
Weidenfeld, 275 pp., £19.99, September 1991, 0 297 81202 5
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... A recent interview I had with the chairman of the Russian Central Bank exemplifies the dangerously tense atmosphere within which the politics of the Soviet Union have been conducted since the August putsch – and underscores the importance of what Arkady Vaksberg writes in his uneven, irritating but critically important book. What Georgy Matiukhin wanted to say was that a large part of the developing ...
20 August 1981
Origins of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 247 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 19 873020 9
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... viewing the peasant revolt in purely economic terms. We are left with a financial crisis, and the linked constitutional crisis, which forced the monarchy to call the Estates General. The first, John Bosher has told us, was the result not only of defaultings in tax payments after bad harvests but of the system itself, which was dependent upon the personal credit of innumerable local tax officials ...

Be Dull, Mr President

Kim Phillips-Fein: Remembering Reagan

19 October 2006
President Reagan: The Triumph of Imagination 
by Richard Reeves.
Simon and Schuster, 571 pp., £20, March 2006, 0 7432 3022 1
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... the group has also supported campaigns to replace Roosevelt’s image on the dime with Reagan’s). The lineage of many of the most powerful figures in America today – Dick Cheney, George Bush, JohnRoberts, Samuel Alito – can be traced back through the Reagan administration. Conservatives disaffected with Bush accuse him of the worst sin they can imagine: betraying Reagan’s legacy. Even ...

Inside Out

John​ Bayley

4 September 1980
The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 412 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 09 141000 2
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Selected Poems and Prose 
by Michael Roberts, edited by Frederick Grubb.
Carcanet, 205 pp., £7.95, June 1980, 0 85635 263 2
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... somewhat as it does in Dryden, as an enlightening surprise, and just as the series of witty poems about sex – the purple penises and panties round the ankles – was beginning to pall. Michael Roberts, editor of the original Faber Book of Modern Poetry, was also a poet, but it seems unlikely that his own poems will be remembered, Time, as Auden pointed out, worships language and forgives everyone ...

Beast and Frog

John​ Bayley

4 November 1993
Dr Johnson & Mr Savage 
by Richard Holmes.
Hodder, 260 pp., £19.99, October 1993, 0 340 52974 1
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Samuel Johnson 
by Pat Rogers.
Oxford, 116 pp., £4.99, April 1993, 0 19 287593 0
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... of a foolish face,’ rather than ‘the sickly product’ of ‘faint compliance’. Johnson was shrewd enough to see the possibilities in a life of Savage when he put the matter to his publisher JohnRoberts in 1744, a year after his friend’s death. Everyone who heard about the dead poet at once became interested in him. Sir Joshua Reynolds remembered how he had found a copy of Johnson’s book ...

Sahib and Son

J.I.M. Stewart

22 December 1983
‘Oh Beloved Kids’: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to his Children 
edited by Elliot Gilbert.
Weidenfeld, 225 pp., £10.95, October 1983, 0 297 78296 7
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... clustered around him. In the book itself there is record of a contrasting occasion. On board a P – O ship bound for Egypt, he writes to his daughter Elsie, who is just seventeen, and to his son John, 18 months younger: I haven’t found anybody interesting yet. There are not many young people and the small ‘Robert’ (who calls himself ‘Wob’) doesn’t mind accepting a box of bricks ...
26 July 1990
A Radical Lawyer in Victorian England: W.P. Roberts​ and the Struggle for Workers’ Rights 
by Raymond Challinor.
Tauris, 302 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 1 85043 150 7
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... of fairness and justice, and that legal ‘radicalism’ needed to be securely confined in the law courts. Most of these gentlemen were not worth an obituary, let alone a biography. Fortunately, W.P. Roberts was something much rarer than a radical lawyer. He was a fighting lawyer, a principled lawyer, a lawyer driven all his life by hatred and contempt for the class into which he was born. He was, in ...
9 May 1996
John​ Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... booted, spurred and bigger than life, his enormous, holstered six-shooter set just below the eye-level of passers-by, welcoming travellers to Orange County. He used to straddle the entrance to the John Wayne International Airport; now, so as not to suffer the weatherbeaten fate of the original, the cowboy statue has sought protection from the elements and taken shelter indoors. Florence has David ...
8 June 2006
Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq 
by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor.
Atlantic, 603 pp., £25, March 2006, 1 84354 352 4
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... turf in time of war. Any prospect of the court confronting this president was seemingly nipped in the bud by the fortuitous retirement of one justice followed by the death of another. In appointing JohnRoberts and Samuel Alito, Bush elevated to the court two jurists with track records of giving the executive branch a wide berth on matters relating to national security. (Once on the court, justices ...

Sad Stories

Adam Begley

5 January 1989
Capote: A Biography 
by Gerald Clarke.
Hamish Hamilton, 632 pp., £16.95, July 1988, 0 241 12549 9
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Jean Stafford: A Biography 
by David Roberts.
Chatto, 494 pp., £16.95, August 1988, 0 7011 3010 5
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... possibly beautiful. On the very last page is a small shot of Gore Vidal, who at the preposterous age of 21 is the author of two novels. Vidal looks directly into the camera, sullen and contentious. John Chamberlain, who wrote the text, declares Stafford the ‘most brilliant’ of the lot. By this time she had published two novels; her career as a short-story writer was just getting under way ...

Diary

A.J.P. Taylor: An Unexpected Experience

6 December 1984
... had already established himself as an authority of the first rank on British political history in the 19th and 20th centuries. He wrote outstanding biographies of such Liberal leaders as Asquith, John Morley and Haldane, concluding with A.G. Gardiner, long-time editor of the Daily News. He then gave up political biography and wrote an enormous two-volume work on The Rise and Fall of the Political ...

Cool Brains

Nicholas Guyatt: Demythologising the antebellum South

2 June 2005
Conjectures of Order: Intellectual Life and the American South 
by Michael O’Brien.
North Carolina, 1354 pp., £64.95, March 2004, 0 8078 2800 9
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... through its turbulent early decades. The republic was governed by Southern presidents for 40 of its first 48 years, a period of dominance interrupted only by the single-term administrations of John Adams and his son John Quincy. Conversely, 24 years after Andrew Jackson of Tennessee left the White House in 1837, the next generation of Southerners led 11 states out of the Union, founding a ...
18 April 1985
The Thirty Years’ War 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Routledge, 340 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 7100 9788 3
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... to Gardiner, to Gibbon or to Clarendon. Each new character who comes onto the stage provides the occasion for a formal portrait. We hear of the florid complexions and the addiction to alcohol of John George of Saxony and Christian IV of Denmark, of the ‘mouse-coloured hair’ and shrill voice of the Elector Maximilian of Bavaria, of the habitual kneeling and hunting of the Emperor Ferdinand II ...

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