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A Whale of a Time

Colm Tóibín, 2 October 1997

Roger Casement’s Diaries. 1910: The Black and the White 
edited by Roger Sawyer.
Pimlico, 288 pp., £10, October 1997, 9780712673754
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The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement 
edited by Angus Mitchell.
Anaconda, 534 pp., £40, October 1997, 9781901990010
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... thinks that we should not – it took place on 3 January 1904 and lasted only one day. Joseph Conrad had met Casement first in 1889 or 1890 in the Congo, when Casement was working for the Congo Railway Company. ‘For some three weeks,’ Conrad wrote, he lived in the same room in the Matadi Station of the Belgian Société du Haut-Congo. He was ...

New Ways of Killing Your Father

Colm Tóibín, 18 November 1993

Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History 
by R.F. Foster.
Allen Lane, 305 pp., £22.50, October 1993, 0 7139 9095 3
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... Land League were presented as non-constitutional headaches for O’Connell and Parnell. Michael Collins was a Treaty negotiator rather than a warlord. Outside in the world there were car bombs and hunger strikes, done in the name of our nation, in the name of history. Inside we were cleansing history, concentrating on those aspects of our past which would ...


Ian Sansom: Jim Crace, 15 November 2001

The Devil's Larder 
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 194 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 0 670 88145 7
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... characters seem to have achieved a state of non-being. In Being Dead this is literally the case: Joseph and Celice are murdered at the beginning of the book and decompose through the course of it. Arcadia begins: ‘No wonder Victor never fell in love. A childhood like the one he had would make ice-cubes of us all.’ Aymer Smith, in Signals of Distress, is ...

You Have A Mother Don’t You?

Andrew O’Hagan: Cowboy Simplicities, 11 September 2003

Searching for John Ford: A Life 
by Joseph McBride.
Faber, 838 pp., £25, May 2003, 0 571 20075 3
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... failure. On the strength of that one film I would love to read a thorough life of Ford (such as Joseph McBride managed for Frank Capra, that other fragile hero). The reasons Ford ‘has such defenders’ are amply supplied in the book McBride has now written about him, which shows how we might do better not to understand our enemies too quickly, how even ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... out to be McCarthy’s last crusade; in a formal and spectacular sense, his career ended when Joseph Welch, a Boston lawyer and counsel for the army, replied to the ascription of Communist connections to a young lawyer on his staff: ‘Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.’ McCarthyism had been ...


R.W. Johnson, 7 July 1988

The Enchanted Glass: Britain and Its Monarchy 
by Tom Nairn.
Radius, 402 pp., £25, June 1988, 0 09 172960 2
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... is always a terribly bad sign when people’s birthdays get to be celebrated, whether it be Nero, Joseph Stalin, Nelson Mandela or the Queen. But it is, above all, the Great Lie at the Centre. It demeans and corrupts our culture by commanding the worship of rank, not merit; of inheritance, not achievement. It makes people accept that sheer humbug is ...

Shakespeare the Novelist

John Sutherland, 28 September 1989

The Vision of Elena Silves 
by Nicholas Shakespeare.
Collins, 263 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 00 271031 5
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Billy Bathgate 
by E.L. Doctorow.
Macmillan, £11.95, September 1989, 0 333 51376 2
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Buffalo Afternoon 
by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer.
Hamish Hamilton, 535 pp., £12.95, August 1989, 0 241 12634 7
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The Message to the Planet 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 563 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 7011 3479 8
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... chosen an artful form of narrative that cannot carry any great burden of exposition. I wish that Collins had appended ‘In Pursuit of Guzman’ to the novel. E.L. Doctorow’s last three novels have returned to the period of his boyhood, the Thirties. Each features boy heroes and mingles daydreams of adolescence with the adult disciplines of Modernist ...

For the Good of the Sex

Susan Eilenberg, 8 December 1994

The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld 
edited by William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft.
Georgia, 399 pp., £58.50, June 1994, 0 8203 1528 1
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... uneasiness about the unwomanly impropriety of erudition. The example of her father’s colleague Joseph Priestley first encouraged her to write verse, but she published no poetry until she was aided (indeed, virtually compelled) by her brother, who sponsored her first prose publications as well. When a volume appeared bearing both their names but containing ...

Secret Signals in Lotus Flowers

Maya Jasanoff: Myths of the Mutiny, 21 July 2005

The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination 
by Gautam Chakravarty.
Cambridge, 242 pp., £45, January 2005, 0 521 83274 8
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... Corbett family, ‘who were murdered During the Massacre of the Christians in Delhi’; to Thomas Collins and no fewer than 23 members of his extended family, ‘all barbarously murdered at Delhi on or about the 11th of May 1857’; to Dr Chimmun Lall, a ‘native Christian and a Worshipper in this Church’, who ‘fell a martyr to his faith on the day of ...


Anne Enright: Mrs Robinson Repents, 28 January 2010

... grace. Let us also hope that he does not vote for the Democratic Unionist Party. She was born Iris Collins in 1949. Her mother was called Mary and her father was called Joseph. He was a demobbed soldier who died, just before her sixth birthday, of a chronic illness contracted on active service in the Far East. Iris, who ...

Why always Dorothea?

John Mullan: How caricature can be sharp perception, 5 May 2005

The One v. the Many: Minor Characters and the Space of the Protagonist in the Novel 
by Alex Woloch.
Princeton, 391 pp., £13.95, February 2005, 0 691 11314 9
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... ways in which we try to understand others. In a different kind of novel we might find out why Mr Collins is as he is, but in Pride and Prejudice it is enough accurately to trace his unique combination of servility and self-importance. Caricature can be sharp perception of a true pattern of behaviour. In Pride and Prejudice, as Woloch notes, ‘Elizabeth can ...

The Finchley Factor

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Thatcher in Israel, 13 September 2018

Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East 
by Azriel Bermant.
Cambridge, 274 pp., £22.99, September 2017, 978 1 316 60630 8
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... and self-help’ but also, Bermant thinks, an affinity with ‘Jewish associates such as Sir Keith Joseph’ (though surely Joseph – scion of a rich Anglo-Jewish family, Harrow, Magdalen, All Souls, wounded in action and mentioned in dispatches – was something of a patrician himself). Her devotees on both sides of the ...

Public Works

David Norbrook, 5 June 1986

The Faber Book of Political Verse 
edited by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 481 pp., £17.50, May 1986, 0 571 13947 7
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... tradition as it continued, albeit in diluted form, in the panegyrics of liberty by Akenside, Collins, Thomson and others. He includes Gray’s Elegy because of its compassion for the poor, but one might expect a radical poet to be a bit less dismayed at the fact that Cromwell was born. Paulin is more at home in the Romantic period: a particular interest ...

Chop and Burn

Adam Mars-Jones: Annie Proulx, 28 July 2016

by Annie Proulx.
Fourth Estate, 717 pp., £18.99, June 2016, 978 0 00 723200 0
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... of a cupboard, hidden beneath her rain cape. This tiny jolt of drama, a moment almost of Wilkie Collins plotting, doesn’t seem extravagant as a long-service award offered – in lieu of a gold watch – to the reader just reaching the 550-page mark, and perhaps considering retirement. It’s another century, and another hundred pages, before this plot ...

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