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Physicke from Another Body

Michael Neill: Cannibal Tinctures

1 December 2011
Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture 
by Louise Noble.
Palgrave Macmillan, 241 pp., £52, March 2011, 978 0 230 11027 4
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Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians 
by Richard Sugg.
Routledge, 374 pp., £24.99, June 2011, 978 0 415 67417 1
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... do not accept, and the professor is searching for witch and demon cures which may be useful to us later’. It is to the investigation of such demonic remedies that the groundbreaking work of LouiseNoble and Richard Sugg is devoted. The belief that a wide range of maladies could be cured by the consumption of human remains – principally in the form of so-called ‘mummy’ – persisted in Europe ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: The Other Atticus Finch

29 July 2015
... gone you see it’s fixin’ to come back.’ With this new book, the character is now a man so crippled with arthritis that he can’t hold a razor. He can’t keep a conversation going with Jean Louise, alias Scout, the daughter beloved by him in our memory, without it involving slights about the life she now lives in New York. But what Atticus can hold – and does, rather extravagantly – is a ...

The Real Thing!

Julian Barnes: Visions of Vice

17 December 2015
Splendeurs et misères: Images de la prostitution 1850-1910 
Musée d’Orsay, until 17 January 2016Show More
Elisabeth Louise​ Vigée Le Brun 
Grand Palais, until 11 January 2016Show More
Elisabeth Louise​ Vigée Le Brun 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 9 February 2016 to 15 May 2016Show More
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... and castanets, their hair spangled with gold piastres. Flaubert’s attitude to prostitution was complicated, as one might expect. In 1853 he explained it to – of all people – his lover Louise Colet: It may be a perverted taste, but I love prostitution, and for itself, too, quite apart from its carnal aspects. My heart begins to pound every time I see one of those women in low-cut dresses ...

Something to Do

David Cannadine

23 September 1993
Witness of a Century: The Life and Times of Prince Arthur of Connaught, 1850-1942 
by Noble​ Frankland.
Shepheard-Walwyn, 476 pp., £22.95, June 1993, 0 85683 136 0
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... with no realistic prospect of later rediscovery. Who, today, knows anything about such defunct dynasts as the Duke of Cambridge, the Marquess of Carisbrooke or the Earl of Athlone? The subject of Noble Frankland’s well-intentioned but unconvincing effort at rehabilitation, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and Earl of Sussex, was the ...

Mme de Blazac and I

Anita Brookner

19 June 1997
... which, when finally unveiled, was seen to be small but pleasant, was not so much financial as personal. Mme de Blazac required a complaisant ear, so unfortunate did she consider her fate to be. The noble surname had been acquired, it seemed, for its own sake, since her husband, whom she described as a saint, did not appear from her account to be up to much as a provider, and had left Mme de Blazac ...

Ripe for Conversion

Paul Strohm: Chaucers’s voices

11 July 2002
Pagans, Tartars, Muslims and Jews in Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ 
by Brenda Deen Schildgen.
Florida, 184 pp., £55.50, October 2001, 0 8130 2107 3
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... of a word’s popularity is what you can do with it, or the kinds of discussion and analysis it enables. I first encountered it in a 1986 essay on travel writing and descriptive ethnography by Mary Louise Pratt, in which she points to ‘a very familiar, widespread and stable form of “othering”’ whereby ‘the people to be othered are homogenised into a collective “they”.’ This process ...

Poles Apart

John Sutherland

5 May 1983
Give us this day 
by Janusz Glowacki, translated by Konrad Brodzinski.
Deutsch, 121 pp., £6.95, March 1983, 0 233 97518 7
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In Search of Love and Beauty 
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala.
Murray, 227 pp., £8.50, April 1983, 0 7195 4062 3
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by Sally Emerson.
Joseph, 174 pp., £7.95, April 1983, 0 7181 2134 1
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Flying to Nowhere 
by John Fuller.
Salamander, 89 pp., £4.95, March 1983, 0 907540 27 9
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Some prefer nettles 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 155 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51603 9
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The Makioka Sisters 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Edward Seidensticker.
Secker, 530 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 330 28046 5
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‘The Secret History of the Lord of Musashi’ and ‘Arrowroot’ 
by Junichiro Tanizaki, translated by Anthony Chambers.
Secker, 199 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 436 51602 0
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... sequence, central action or climax. The novel, as it were, is not told: it takes place. Its intensest effects are those of charm and pathos. In the narrative’s front rank are a trio of characters. Louise is familial: she has husband, children and grandchildren. Regi is a social butterfly: she has gigolos even in her incontinent bedridden old age. Other than her childhood friend Louise, Regi sustains ...

Firm Lines

Hermione Lee

17 November 1983
Bartleby in Manhattan, and Other Essays 
by Elizabeth Hardwick.
Weidenfeld, 292 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 297 78357 2
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... and ‘ “serious”, eyes-glinting, next-door realism’. These failings are exemplified in productions of Peter Weiss’s The Investigation (‘Auschwitz in New York’) and of Büchner’s ‘noble and complicated’ play Danton’s Death, where for ‘lack of historical feeling’ a ‘sort of coarse tarpaulin fell over the whole enterprise’. By contrast, Hardwick celebrates Peter Brook’s ...

The screams were silver

Adam Mars-Jones: Rupert Thomson

25 April 2013
by Rupert Thomson.
Granta, 312 pp., £14.99, March 2013, 978 1 84708 163 6
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... a frame rather than the story proper) addressing herself helpfully on the second page: ‘at least I’d lived. Fifty-six, though … And the plain, shapeless robes of an abbess – me, Marguerite-Louise of Orléans! Who would have thought it?’ The rather novelettish flavour disappears as the narrative takes hold. A mysterious visitor tells this unusual Reverend Mother his life story, and is ...


Gabriele Annan

7 June 1984
Milady Vine: The Autobiography of Philippe de Rothschild 
edited by Joan Littlewood.
Cape, 247 pp., £10.95, June 1984, 0 224 02208 3
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I meant to marry him: A Personal Memoir 
by Jean MacGibbon.
Gollancz, 182 pp., £10.95, May 1984, 0 575 03412 2
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... when the poor little rich boy is abandoned to an unsympathetic English nanny by his remote father and uncaring worldly mother. The most vivid character and best lay in the story is not the writer Louise de Vilmorin who questioned the Baron about circumcision while running her fingers through his pubic hair, but Charley Brighton, née Charlotte Bouquet, the daughter of a hotel doorman in Grenoble ...

The man who was France

Patrice Higonnet

21 October 1993
At the Heart of a Tiger: Clemenceau and His World 1841-1929 
by Gregor Dallas.
Macmillan, 672 pp., £25, January 1993, 0 333 49788 0
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... What Clemenceau stood for was France and the principles of 1789. A peasant-cum-aristocrat in many of his attitudes – he was a great equestrian and an athlete – he was neither a peasant nor a noble by birth, but the scion of a well-to-do, landowning, impeccably republican family, who became a polished boulevardier. The Clemenceaus were free-thinkers whose politics were formed in 1789. There ...

A Matter of Caste

Colin Kidd: Alexis de Tocqueville

22 March 2007
Alexis de Tocqueville: Prophet of Democracy in the Age of Revolution 
by Hugh Brogan.
Profile, 724 pp., £30, December 2006, 1 86197 509 0
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... provincial members of the noblesse de race they maintained the military traditions of their caste and upheld Catholic pieties. However, Hervé de Tocqueville, the father of Alexis, was to marry Louise de Rosanbo, a granddaughter of Chrétien-Guillaume Lamoignon de Malesherbes, a major figure in the legal and administrative noblesse de robe. As an administrator and judge, Malesherbes had censored ...

Fatal Non-Readers

Hilary Mantel: Marie-Antoinette

30 September 1999
The Wicked Queen: The Origins of the Myth of Marie-Antoinette 
by Chantal Thomas, translated by Julie Rose.
Zone, 255 pp., £17.95, June 1999, 0 942299 39 6
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... disgust. It required one to kneel, not sit, inside a carriage. It required hairdressers who stood on ladders. Indeed, hairdressers were exalted as never before. Until Marie-Antoinette’s day, only noble ladies had touched the royal head. But she employed a man and a commoner, Léonard, and thought so highly of him that she took him with her in 1791 when the royal family tried to escape over the ...


Neal Ascherson

8 February 1996
The Collected Works of John Reed 
Modern Library, 937 pp., $20, February 1995, 0 679 60144 9Show More
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... he cared to join. An earlier journey into wartime Europe, to France, Britain and Germany, had left him miserable; while most of his American friends and employers were already (in 1915) cheering for noble Britain and poor little Belgium in their resistance to fiendish Germany, Reed could see only the triumph of a ruling capitalist class which had deluded the masses into patriotic illusion. In August ...

How stupid people are

John Sturrock: Flaubert

7 September 2006
Bouvard and Pecuchet 
by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Mark Polizzotti.
Dalkey Archive, 328 pp., £8.99, January 2006, 1 56478 393 6
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Flaubert: A Life 
by Frederick Brown.
Heinemann, 629 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 434 00769 2
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... plunge into a world of stale opinions regarding, say, the merits of Sir Walter Scott – how he brings history alive! – or Flaubert’s close friend George Sand, with her ‘fine adulteries and noble lovers’. (Pécuchet is even smitten by Sand’s socialism, and her bénisseuse or benevolent side, which Flaubert, truly fond of her though he was, never ceased to protest at.) In the dénouement ...

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