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Pretty Things

Peter Campbell

21 February 1980
Masquerade 
by Kit Williams.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01617 2
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Beauty and the Beast 
by Rosemary Harris and Errol Le Cain.
Faber, 32 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 571 11374 5
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Mazel and Shlimazel 
by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Margot Zemach.
Cape, 42 pp., £3.95, November 1980, 0 224 01758 6
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La Corona 
by Russell Hoban and Nicola Bayley.
Cape, 32 pp., £3.50, September 1980, 0 224 01397 1
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Cats’Eyes 
by Anthony Taber.
Gollancz, 80 pp., £4.50, September 1980, 0 575 02664 2
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Comic and Curious Cats 
by Angela Carter and Martin Leman.
Gollancz, 32 pp., £3.50, April 1980, 0 575 02592 1
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The Wild Washerwomen 
by John Yeoman and Quentin Blake.
Hamish Hamilton, 32 pp., £3.75, October 1980, 0 241 89928 1
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... she lives in Edgware and eats everything Earnestly.’ The words are by Angela Carter. It is a cute joke, a book to go with the pretty china on the dresser. So one is almost too grateful to turn to JohnYeoman’s and Quentin Blake’s The Wild Washerwomen, and should say at once that the drawings show no astounding virtuosity in the re-creation of textures, that the words have no overtones of ...

Flirting

P.N. Furbank

18 November 1982
The English World: History, Character and People 
edited by Robert Blake.
Thames and Hudson, 268 pp., £14.95, September 1982, 0 500 25083 9
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The English Gentleman: The Rise and Fall of an Ideal 
by Philip Mason.
Deutsch, 240 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780233974897
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... are the abiding features of the English character, traceable in English literature from Shakespeare downwards.’ The profound patriotism of Shelley and Byron, the inability to think logically of John Stuart Mill and Cardinal Newman and Lewis Carroll? No, it won’t do, and Orwell, for once, was talking through his hat – perhaps relaxing in what he considered an ‘English’ manner. It really ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Little England

24 May 2001
... With Yeoman Hague’s election pledge to ‘keep Britain independent’ and ‘give us back our country’ still echoing around the LRB office, a press release arrives on the Short Cuts desk from those brave ...

Casual Offenders

J.S. Morrill

7 May 1981
The Justice and the Mare’s Ale 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £8.50, March 1981, 0 631 12681 3
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... study is intended to elucidate the following points. First, that these felons were respectable men mainly rooted in the land and in the local communities: the Smorthwait brothers were gentleman and yeoman-farmers, one of them served as a high constable and as a grand juryman at quarter sessions in the 1670s; their associate Edward Bainbridge was another yeoman who had served as constable in one of the ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood

22 July 2004
Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... He never loses sight of the myth’s moral ambiguity. In the 1973 Disney cartoon Robin Hood, a voice at the start assures us that Robin Hood robbed the rich to feed the poor. But when Little John (a bear) asks Robin (a fox), ‘Are we good guys or bad guys?’ Robin hedges: ‘We never rob; we borrow a bit from those who can afford it.’ Later in the film, bad King John (a lion) tries to ...

To Be Worth Forty Shillings

Jonah Miller: Early Modern Inequality

2 February 2017
Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status and the Social Order in Early Modern England 
by Alexandra Shepard.
Oxford, 357 pp., £65, February 2015, 978 0 19 960079 3
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... What are yow​ worthe in goodes if all your debtes were payd?’ John Tanner was asked in 1620 when he appeared as a witness at the church court in Chichester. ‘Twenty shillings,’ he answered. He had been called by one Robert Constable to support a case for ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason

5 October 1995
The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... date another vision, or set of visions, of the area was already in place: through the pseudo-archaeological ‘downland’ mania of H.J. Massingham, the neo-paganism of Llewellyn Powys (brother of John Cowper), the symbolist nostalgia of Mary Butts, the Marxist version of village life offered by lesbians Valentine Ackland and Sylvia Townsend Warner, the Luddite organicism of Rolf Gardiner and the ...

The Great Accumulator

John​ Sturrock: W.G. Grace

20 August 1998
W.G. Grace: A Life 
by Simon Rae.
Faber, 548 pp., £20, July 1998, 0 571 17855 3
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W.G.’s Birthday Party 
by David Kynaston.
Night Watchman, 154 pp., £13, May 1998, 0 9532360 0 5
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... a ‘pre-Victorian’ figure who, bourgeois though he was, democratised a game that had earlier depended almost entirely for its subsistence on the landed interest. James’s Grace is a throwback, a yeoman out of the West Country who ‘brought and made a secure place for pre-industrial England in the iron and steel of the Victorian Age’. Which is all very fine, except that there is something ...
20 March 1997
... This is not how things were done when we were at the schools.’ This is not John Major yearning to get back to basics: it is Pope Innocent IV writing to the schools of Paris in the middle of the 13th century. There is nothing new about politicians aching to stick their noses into ...

Crop Masters

Daniel Aaron

19 January 1989
Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planters on the Eve of the Revolution 
by T.H. Breen.
Princeton, 216 pp., $9.95, February 1988, 0 691 04729 4
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... decline between 1675 and 1725 evoked small concern in the general population, but it provided American revolutionists with a schema. The pervasive influence of Country publicists like Thomas Gordon, John Trenchard, Bolingbroke and Benjamin Hoadly on colonial pamphleteers is now taken for granted. American historians have tested Bailyn’s thesis by extending and particularising it. This is what T.H ...

Dig, Hammer, Spin, Weave

Miles Taylor: Richard Cobden, Class Warrior

12 March 2009
The Letters of Richard Cobden. Vol. I: 1815-47 
edited by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 529 pp., £100, November 2007, 978 0 19 921195 1
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... Anthony Howe’s comprehensive, erudite and superbly annotated edition of his correspondence will take its place alongside Gladstone’s diaries, the letters of Carlyle and Disraeli, and John Stuart Mill’s collected works as an indispensable resource for understanding the Victorians. With the possible exception of Adam Smith, there can be few economic gurus who have been so vulnerable ...

At Norwich Castle Museum

Alice Spawls: ‘The Paston Treasure’

13 September 2018
... its sort in English – means we know the 15th-century Pastons better than we know any medieval king or queen. The letters, first published in 1787, revealed a family on the make. Clement Paston, a yeoman farmer born at the end of the 14th century, set his son up as a lawyer. The lawyer bought land, and his son John inherited more, including Caister Castle, from his wife’s cousin, Sir John Fastolf ...

Robin’s Hoods

Patrick Wormald

5 May 1983
Robin Hood 
by J.C. Holt.
Thames and Hudson, 208 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 500 25081 2
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The Early History of Glastonbury: An Edition, Translation and Study of William of Malmesbury’s ‘De Antiquitate Glastonie Ecclesie’ 
by John​ Scott.
Boydell, 224 pp., £25, January 1982, 9780851151540
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Megalithomania 
by John​ Michell.
Thames and Hudson, 168 pp., £8.50, March 1982, 9780500012611
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... and remarkably good-humoured) debate in Past and Present, a splendid survey of The Outlaws of Medieval England by Maurice Keen, a delightful collection of Rymes of Robin Hood by Barry Dobson and John Taylor, and a constructive reassessment of ‘the birth and setting of the ballads of Robin Hood’ by John Maddicott, have not only cast a flood of light on the origins and significance of the ...

Paper this thing over

Colin Kidd: The Watergate Tapes

5 November 2015
The Nixon Tapes: 1971-72 
by Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 758 pp., $35, July 2014, 978 0 544 27415 0
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The Nixon Defence: What He Knew and When He Knew It 
by John​ W. Dean.
Penguin, 784 pp., £14.99, June 2015, 978 0 14 312738 3
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Washington Journal: Reporting Watergate and Richard Nixon’s Downfall 
by Elizabeth Drew.
Duckworth Overlook, 450 pp., £20, August 2014, 978 0 7156 4916 9
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Chasing Shadows: The Nixon Tapes, the Chennault Affair and the Origins of Watergate 
by Ken Hughes.
Virginia, 228 pp., $16.95, August 2015, 978 0 8139 3664 2
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The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan 
by Rick Perlstein.
Simon and Schuster, 860 pp., £25, August 2014, 978 1 4767 8241 6
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... Henry Petersen, the assistant attorney-general who handled the Watergate investigation, loyally reported his findings to the president and his officials, including the White House counsel, John Dean. As 1972 was an election year, the strategy of the White House focused on containment. In the short term, at least, the president’s men were successful. The break-in did not become a big story ...

Halls and Hovels

Colin Richmond

19 December 1991
The Architecture of Medieval Britain 
by Colin Platt, with photographs by Anthony Kersting.
Yale, 325 pp., £29.95, November 1990, 0 300 04953 6
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... longhouses were single-storeyed still. They were crowded, cheek by jowl, on neighbouring plots. Yet they were as surely on their way to full farmhouse status as their occupants were en route to yeoman farmer.’ He is speaking of Gomeldon in Wiltshire, but evidently wishes us to take Gomeldon for all England. It is ‘surely on their way to’ which gives the game away: Mr Platt is writing to ...

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