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Poor Hitler

Andrew O’Hagan: Toff Humour, 15 November 2007

The Mitfords: Letters between Six Sisters 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Fourth Estate, 834 pp., £25, September 2007, 978 1 84115 790 0
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... the writing game, nothing seems as natural as laughter, and nothing as well parsed as dismissal. Lord Curzon was famous for saying a great many untrue things in a very true-sounding way. This makes him a hero of posh prose and many biographies have been written saying how marvellous he was, despite his reputation as an imperialist brute. Superior ...

With What Joy We Write of the New Russian Government

Ferdinand Mount: Arthur Ransome, 24 September 2009

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Roland Chambers.
Faber, 390 pp., £20, August 2009, 978 0 571 22261 2
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... Ransome his entire life savings to pay his legal costs when he was sued by the incurably litigious Lord Alfred Douglas. Edward Thomas was devoted to him. John Masefield drank claret with him at teatime as they sang sea shanties together in Ransome’s mother’s kitchen. And Ransome took to most people; he was not choosy. In fact, he was inclined to instant ...

Why weren’t they grateful?

Pankaj Mishra: Mossadegh, 21 June 2012

Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Very British Coup 
by Christopher de Bellaigue.
Bodley Head, 310 pp., £20, February 2012, 978 1 84792 108 6
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... dams and mines to another British citizen, Baron Reuter (founder of the news agency). Even Lord Curzon was appalled twenty years later when he was told the terms, describing it as ‘the most complete surrender of the entire resources of a kingdom into foreign hands that has ever been dreamed of much less accomplished in history’. Protests by ...

Attila the Hus

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 4 November 1982

Rules of the Game: Sir Oswald and Lady Cynthia Mosley 1896-1933 
by Nicholas Mosley.
Secker, 274 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 436 28849 4
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... Nicholas Mosley’s parents, Cynthia Curzon and Oswald Mosley, were married in the Chapel Royal, St James’s on 11 May 1920: ‘Cimmie’s wedding dress had a design of green leaves in it, in defiance of a superstition that green at a wedding was unlucky: there was also a superstition that it was unlucky to be married in May ...

Footing the bill

Jonathan Parry, 9 June 1994

Aspects of Aristocracy: Grandeur and Decline in Modern Britain 
by David Cannadine.
Yale, 321 pp., £19.50, April 1994, 0 300 05981 7
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... lonely, miserable, embittered failure’; Harold and his wife were ‘marginal people’; Lord Curzon’s political career was ‘an ultimate failure’. These quotations from David Cannadine’s collection of essays, Aspects of Aristocracy, show that, for all his gifts, he would not be a front-runner for the editorship of Country Life. Few ...

Less than Perfectly Submissive

Susan Pedersen: No Votes, Thank You, 20 March 2008

Women against the Vote: Female Anti-Suffragism in Britain 
by Julia Bush.
Oxford, 340 pp., £35, October 2007, 978 0 19 924877 3
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... Poor Lord Cromer. The great imperial proconsul returned to England in 1907 after more than two decades governing Egypt to find his homeland awash with suffragists and socialists, Irish nationalists and trade unionists. The swelling women’s suffrage movement especially appalled him. Few things were more likely to undermine the British Empire, he was convinced, than the entry of women into the Westminster Parliament ...

Superior Persons

E.S. Turner, 6 February 1986

Travels with a Superior Person 
by Lord Curzon, edited by Peter King.
Sidgwick, 191 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 283 99294 8
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The Ladies of Castlebrae 
by A. Whigham Price.
Alan Sutton, 242 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 228 1
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Lizzie: A Victorian Lady’s Amazon Adventure 
by Tony Morrison, Anne Brown and Ann Rose.
BBC, 160 pp., £9.95, November 1985, 0 563 20424 9
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Miss Fane in India 
by [author], edited by John Pemble.
Alan Sutton, 246 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 86299 240 0
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Explorers Extraordinary 
by John Keay.
Murray/BBC Publications, 195 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 7195 4249 9
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A Visit to Germany, Italy and Malta 1840-41 
by Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Grace Thornton.
Peter Owen, 182 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 7206 0636 5
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The Irish Sketch-Book 1842 
by William Makepeace Thackeray.
Blackstaff, 368 pp., £9.95, December 1985, 0 85640 340 7
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Mr Rowlandson’s England 
by Robert Southey, edited by John Steel.
Antique Collectors’ Club, 202 pp., £14.95, November 1985, 0 907462 77 4
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... champagne, even on the high Amazon. The jacket of Travels with a Superior Person shows the young Curzon, resembling a more soigné young Churchill, standing proprietorially before the Pyramids. This is the man who postponed marriage to an heiress for four years in order to travel the world, which he could not ask a wife to do. Elizabeth Longford, in her ...

Shopping in Lucerne

E.S. Turner, 9 June 1994

Addicted to Romance: The Life and Adventures of Elinor Glyn 
by Joan Hardwick.
Deutsch, 306 pp., £20, June 1994, 0 233 98866 1
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Mother of Oscar: The Life of Jane Francesca Wilde 
by Joy Melville.
Murray, 308 pp., £19.99, June 1994, 0 7195 5102 1
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... of his 1907 list, stemmed from a liaison Mrs Glyn had been enjoying with a young Guards officer, Lord Alistair Innes Ker, whom she regarded as ‘emotionally sound asleep’. She had ended it because, as her grandmother had insisted, adultery was a deadly sin. But Elinor, deprived of romance, was now ready to commit adultery in print. Baldly, Three Weeks ...

‘Turbot, sir,’ said the waiter

E.S. Turner, 4 April 1991

After Hours with P.G. Wodehouse 
by Richard Usborne.
Hutchinson, 201 pp., £15.99, February 1991, 0 09 174712 0
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... wearing a bowler hat, knocked on his door and came straight in, saying: ‘Usborne? I’m Lord Hastings, y’know.’ The 21st baron signed him on to tutor his son at Melton Constable Park, a Blandings-style establishment in Norfolk. Here he learned to sit on a chair without his back touching it, was served by white-gloved footmen, and for the first ...


A.J.P. Taylor: No doubt I am old-fashioned, 1 April 1982

... that the eastern frontier of Poland should be that devised by the British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1920. The question of Poland’s western frontier was left to the Peace Conference that never met, but it was assumed to be the River Oder and the Western Neisse. The Provisional Government of Poland was to be reinforced by ‘democratic ...

A Bride for a Jackass

Christopher de Bellaigue: Vita in Persia, 25 March 2010

Twelve Days in Persia 
by Vita Sackville-West.
Tauris Parke, 142 pp., £9.99, August 2009, 978 1 84511 933 1
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... the first Western writer to visit this part of the world. In Persia and the Persian Question, Lord Curzon devotes much attention to the Bakhtiaris, though Vita sniffs at his pro-consular tone. (This is naughty of her: Curzon, as foreign secretary, had been her husband’s boss.) She is kinder about the ...

Multiple Kingdoms

Linda Colley: The origins of the British Empire, 19 July 2001

The Ideological Origins of the British Empire 
by David Armitage.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £35, September 2000, 0 521 59081 7
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... from the 16th century onwards, and the evolution of its empire overseas. And as early as 1907, Lord Curzon, then Viceroy of India, drew attention to the parallels between medieval and early modern Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-Welsh border conflicts, as well as the ‘ceaseless struggles’ in Ireland, and the challenges posed by more far-flung imperial ...

Hugh Dalton to the rescue

Keith Thomas, 13 November 1997

The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... the buildings it was required to list and describe had to have been erected before 1714. In 1911 Lord Curzon intervened with his own money to save Tattershall Castle from vandals who had ripped out the medieval fireplaces (on which Pugin had modelled those of the Houses of Parliament) and disposed of the building itself to a dealer for export to ...

Fit only to be a greengrocer

E.S. Turner, 23 September 1993

Rider Haggard and the Lost Empire 
by Tom Pocock.
Weidenfeld, 264 pp., £20, August 1993, 0 297 81308 0
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... sea-fronts. Nevertheless, at a dinner for 250 at the Hotel Cecil, Haggard was sent on his way by Lord Curzon, who described him as a ‘great Empire servant’. The tour left Haggard little time for earning his living, but he was temporarily cushioned by the sale of the film rights to six novels. Everywhere he was personally popular; Canada even named a ...

Perfidy, Villainy, Intrigue

Ramachandra Guha: The Black Hole, 20 December 2012

Britain’s Empire: Resistance, Repression and Revolt 
by Richard Gott.
Verso, 568 pp., £25, November 2011, 978 1 84467 738 2
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The Black Hole of Empire: History of a Global Practice of Power 
by Partha Chatterjee.
Princeton, 425 pp., £19.95, April 2012, 978 0 691 15201 1
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... the Black Hole as ‘an exemplification of Mohamedan insolence, intolerance and cruelty’. Lord Curzon, viceroy of India between 1899 and 1905, took ‘a special interest in memorialising the Black Hole’. He commissioned a new monument, purporting to represent the exact dimensions of the room, to be placed in a prominent location in ...

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