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Turning Turk

Robert Blake, 20 August 1981

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. 1: The 19th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 455 pp., £20, May 1981, 0 241 10561 7
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... the peace and destroying the good order of the community.’ This was in 1771. Five years later Lord North, who, though not perhaps a figure of the most shining merit, had certainly been ‘soiled’ by much journalistic obloquy, increased the tax on paper by 50 and on advertisements by 100 per cent. Pitt put it up even more. In the first half of the 19th ...

Grand Old Man

Robert Blake, 1 May 1980

The Last Edwardian at No 10: An Impression of Harold Macmillan 
by George Hutchinson.
Quartet, 151 pp., £6.50, February 1980, 0 7043 2232 3
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... of country houses, London clubs and Oxford and Cambridge colleges. The idea, spread by some, that Lord Butler (as he now is) was more ‘middle-class’, and therefore more acceptable to the rank and file of the Conservative Party, than Mr Macmillan with his alleged ‘grouse-moor image’ is rubbish. The difference between Marlborough and Eton means nothing ...

Blake’s Tone

E.P. Thompson, 28 January 1993

Dangerous Enthusiasm: William Blake and the Culture of Radicalism in the 1790s 
by Jon Mee.
Oxford, 251 pp., £30, August 1992, 0 19 812226 8
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... Just under forty years ago David Erdman provided for William Blake historical contexts in abundance in Blake: Prophet against Empire (1954). It was a remarkable work of literary detection, which still dominates the field. Some Blake readers have felt that his attribution of correspondence between text and contemporaneous events was over-literal (as well as hazardous), and Jon Mee is one of these ...

Weathering the storm

Robert Blake, 18 October 1984

Lord Liverpool: The Life and Political Career of Robert Banks Jenkinson, Second Earl of Liverpool 1770-1828 
by Norman Gash.
Weidenfeld, 265 pp., £16.95, August 1984, 0 297 78453 6
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... later in December 1828. By then his successor, Canning, was also dead. Canning’s successor, Lord Goderich, had resigned without even meeting Parliament, and the Duke of Wellington was well into the first year of a premiership which led to the triumph of two causes anathema to Lord Liverpool – Catholic Emancipation ...

A Snake, a Flame

T.J. Clark: Blake at the Ashmolean, 5 February 2015

William BlakeApprentice and Master 
Ashmolean Museum, until 1 March 2015Show More
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... Just​ occasionally in Blake’s engravings there are pictures within pictures, and we get a glimpse of the life he thought images might lead in a better world. The most moving of these visions is Plate 20 of Blake’s Illustrations of the Book of Job. Job has survived his doubts and torments, and is telling the story to his daughters – in an earlier watercolour, they hold the instruments of Poetry, Painting and Music ...

Cruelty to Animals

Brigid Brophy, 21 May 1981

Reckoning with the Beast 
by James Turner.
Johns Hopkins, 190 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 8018 2399 4
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The Social Life of Monkeys and Apes 
by S. Zuckerman.
Routledge, 511 pp., £17.50, March 1981, 0 7100 0691 8
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... William Blake is surely the locus classicus for human sympathy with other-than-human animals. Anyone who is, as I am, seared by the cruelty and injustice humans inflict on their fellow animals will recognise in Blake his own perceptions expressed with unsurpassed accuracy and poignancy ...

So what if he was

Paul Foot, 25 October 1990

No Other Choice 
by George Blake.
Cape, 288 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 224 03067 1
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Inside Intelligence 
by Anthony Cavendish.
Collins, 181 pp., £12.95, October 1990, 9780002157421
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... Here are two more spy books from authors who worked long ago for British Intelligence. George Blake was very left-wing, and is now slightly less so. Anthony Cavendish has always been very right-wing. Both authors write of their profound respect for one of their former bosses, George K. Young. Young, who died recently, was deputy head of MI6 until he joined the merchant bankers Kleinwort Benson in 1961 ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... Tennyson, and his Byron, The Last Phase. A word, too, should be said for his life of his father, Lord Carnock, which he regarded as his best achievement. He wrote with care and in an elegant, limpid style: but there are times when one is reminded of Balfour’s remark about Asquith, whose clarity of speech, he observed, was a positive disadvantage when he ...

Castaway

Roy Porter, 4 March 1982

The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. I: 1750-1781 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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The Poems of William Cowper: Vol. 1 1748-1782 
edited by John Baird and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 500 pp., £25, September 1980, 0 19 811875 9
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. II: 1782-1786 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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... any of us all – mad as a refuge from unbelief – Bacon, Newton and Locke.’ ” Thus William Blake’s memo of a ghostly visitation from William Cowper. But how aghast Cowper would have been at the words put into his mouth! Blake revelled in his own prophetic ravings, soaring free from the mind-forged manacles of the ...

Prime Ministers’ Pets

Robert Blake, 10 January 1983

Benjamin Disraeli Letters: Vol. I 1815-1834, Vol. II 1835-1837 
edited by J.A.W. Gunn, John Matthews, Donald Schurman and M.G. Wiebe.
Toronto, 482 pp., £37.50, June 1982, 0 8020 5523 0
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The Gladstone Diaries: with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence, Vol. VII, January 1869-June 1871, Vol. VIII, July 1871-December 1874 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew.
Oxford, 641 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 19 822638 1
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Disraeli 
by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 297 78153 7
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Gladstone: Vol. I 1809-1865 
by Richard Shannon.
Hamish Hamilton, 580 pp., £18, November 1982, 0 241 10780 6
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H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 676 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 19 212200 2
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... his biography. But I wish I had pursued more energetically the quest for papers at Belvoir Castle (Lord John Manners and George Smythe), Weston Park (Lady Bradford and Lady Chesterfield) and Windsor Castle, where there apparently still exists a notable private correspondence with Queen Victoria alleged by Lord Esher in 1905 ...

Late Deceiver

Robert Blake, 17 September 1981

Anthony Eden 
by David Carlton.
Allen Lane, 528 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 7139 0829 7
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... biography of George VI, who agreed on condition that he would not be expected to publish in Lord Avon’s lifetime. By a tragic irony of events Sir John, who was younger than Eden, predeceased him. Various possibilities have been canvassed since Eden’s death. The choice for the ‘authorised’ biography is said, though I have never seen any public ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Samuel Palmer’s dream landscapes, 17 November 2005

... up far beyond the sphere of our affections – one of the very deepest sayings I have met with in Lord Bacon seems to me to be ‘There is no excellent beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.’ The strangeness of Palmer’s Shoreham pictures depended on more than freedom from the need to sell. The trajectory of his career stutters and veers like ...

At Tate Britain

T.J. Clark: Paul Nash , 2 February 2017

... with all that followed in terms of a settling of accounts with Constable and Turner, and Blake and Palmer, and Crome and the watercolourists and Ford Madox Brown, was at all compatible with being a painter ‘in the 20th century’. The pressure of this last question – or indeed of all three – is not to be collapsed into shorthand of the ...

Persons Aggrieved

Stephen Sedley, 22 May 1997

... the shackles struck from him as his ermine-clad deliverer pronounces judgment from on high – Lord Mansfield proclaimed: ‘The air of England is too pure for a slave to breathe. Let the black go free.’ The truth, as usual, is less dramatic but more instructive. English law, which recognised and enforced slavery until well after the Norman Conquest, no ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... highly readable because animated by all of Grigson’s brilliant erudition and spirit of advocacy. Lord David Cecil’s long chapter in his 1969 book Visionary and Dreamer: Two Poetic Painters (the other one is Burne-Jones) is a more languid affair, but it usefully brought Cecil’s own Romantic instincts to bear on a painter whose inspiration was often ...

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