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Hatless to Hindhead

Susannah Clapp, 1 May 1980

A Country Calendar 
by Flora Thompson, edited by Margaret Lane.
Oxford, 307 pp., £6.95, October 1979, 9780192117533
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... with sunflowers; on the cover of A Country Calendar a round-limbed family lounges among ferns. Margaret Lane’s introduction talks of ‘small country masterpieces’ and ‘delightful reading’. In Flora Thompson’s case, the less delight, the better the story. ‘Heatherley’ begins with the 20-year-old Flora Thompson arriving at the post office ...

Bus Lane Strategy

Tristram Hunt: London Governments, 31 October 2002

Governing London 
by Ben Pimlott and Nirmala Rao.
Oxford, 208 pp., £15.99, May 2002, 0 19 924492 8
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... is raised that the sturdily ineloquent mill-owner Mr Thornton can rise to the rhetorical level of Margaret Hale: I belong to Teutonic blood; it is little mingled in this part of England to what it is in others; we retain much of their language; we retain more of their spirit . . . We hate to have laws made for us at a distance. We wish people would allow us ...

Come hungry, leave edgy

Sukhdev Sandhu: Brick Lane, 9 October 2003

Brick Lane 
by Monica Ali.
Doubleday, 413 pp., £12.99, June 2003, 9780385604840
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... Brick Lane used to be the home of the dead. For centuries it was part of a Roman burial ground, an unclean extremity lying beyond the walls of the City of London. In 1603, a quarter of a century after bricks began to be manufactured here, John Stow described its buildings as ‘filthy cottages’. Since then, the area, whether one calls it Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, Banglatown, has been a byword for poverty and violence ...

A Common Playhouse

Charles Nicholl: The Globe Theatre, 8 January 2015

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe 
by Chris Laoutaris.
Fig Tree, 528 pp., £20, April 2015, 978 1 905490 96 7
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... Shakespearean associations, invisible but well attested. Down an alleyway running south off Carter Lane lies New Bell Yard. Now dominated by the glass-fronted atrium of the Grange St Paul’s Hotel, this was formerly the site of the Bell Inn. In the 1590s its landlady was a Mistress Greffine or Griffin, and among its frequent guests was a Stratford businessman ...

What’s going on, Eric?

David Renton: Rock Against Racism, 22 November 2018

Walls Come Tumbling Down: The Music and Politics of Rock Against Racism, 2 Tone and Red Wedge 
by Daniel Rachel.
Picador, 589 pp., £12.99, May 2017, 978 1 4472 7268 7
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... models of Adolf Hitler and the National Front’s Martin Webster. The route passed Brick Lane, scene of recurring clashes between the Front and the local Bengali population. Red Saunders was the compère. He had grown enormous sideburns, and wore a hat covered in badges and a ‘Mr Oligarchy’ cape. The punk singer-songwriter Patrik Fitzgerald came ...

On the Road

Alice Spawls, 8 February 2018

... not Transport, the round sans serif typeface designed for highway signs in the late 1950s by Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir. The official script is Pavement, an elongated form of Transport, but it’s only a guide: nearly all the shapes and lettering on road surfaces are hand-painted. Reading the roads every day, you begin to notice the different ...

A Question of Breathing

John Bayley, 4 August 1988

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... Betjeman, who would have adored subtle pentameters like ‘The irregular line of elms by the deep lane’. And like Sonnets from the Portuguese, which Robert Browning had advised Elizabeth to present as translations, and which were not published as her own until her death, Aurora Leigh is a remarkable tribute to the way in which new female ...

Large and Rolling

Penelope Fitzgerald, 31 July 1997

The Scholar Gypsy: The Quest for a Family Secret 
by Anthony Sampson.
Murray, 229 pp., £16, May 1997, 0 7195 5708 9
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... with which I would hail the thin smoke of a Gypsy wagon curling among the trees in some country lane, or the delight I experienced when “drawing out” some venerable Gypsy’. The Gypsy had to be venerable because the Rai had set himself to reconstruct the ‘deep Romani’ which lay behind the broken modern dialects, and could be found only among the ...

Owning Mayfair

David Cannadine, 2 April 1981

Survey of London. Vol. 40: The Grosvenor Estate in Mayfair, Part 2. The Buildings 
edited by F.H.W. Sheppard.
Athlone, 428 pp., £55, August 1980, 0 485 48240 1
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... rebirth, and the account of the 19th-century grandeur, and 20th-century transformation, of Park Lane. The delicious effect of all this is to make the reader an eavesdropper on architects at work and aristocrats at play. We meet Robert Adam giving 26 Grosvenor Square its magnificent 18th-century interiors; J.T. Wimperis concocting his splendid fin-de-siècle ...

Melton Constable

W.R. Mead, 22 May 1986

The past is a foreign country 
by David Lowenthal.
Cambridge, 489 pp., £27.50, November 1985, 0 521 22415 2
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... when he wrote about his youth. A generation later, Harold Pinter, strolling down Memory Lane, identified a past ‘you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend to remember’. At the collective level, the past is continuously altered – indeed manipulated and mutilated – to suit the present. The motives are ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... time which reduces every labour myth to dust, Maxwell Joseph acquired the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane. The brewery – with its stables, cellars, cooperage, cobbled yards – acted, along with the Spitalfields fruit and veg market and Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, as a buffer-reef against the encroachment of the City. A benevolent and paternalistic ...

Mr Horse and Mrs Eohippus

Elaine Showalter, 30 January 1992

The Living of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: An Autobiography 
introduced by Ann Lane.
University of Wisconsin Press, 341 pp., £10.45, April 1991, 0 299 12740 0
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Non-Fiction Reader 
edited by Larry Ceplair.
Columbia, 345 pp., £20.50, December 1991, 0 231 07617 7
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... as too womanish, and in the tradition of such other feminist intellectuals as Mary Wollstonecraft, Margaret Fuller and Beatrice Webb, regarded her stories and poems as sugar-coated pills. ‘I have never made any pretence of being literary,’ she wrote in the autobiography; and even describing her own life did not interest her very much, for ‘my real ...

Speaking for England

Patrick Parrinder, 21 May 1987

The Radiant Way 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 396 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 297 79095 1
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Change 
by Maureen Duffy.
Methuen, 224 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 9780413576408
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Moon Tiger 
by Penelope Lively.
Deutsch, 208 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 233 98107 1
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The Maid of Buttermere 
by Melvyn Bragg.
Hodder, 415 pp., £10.95, April 1987, 0 340 40173 7
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Stray 
by A.N. Wilson.
Walker, 175 pp., £8.95, April 1987, 0 7445 0801 0
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... silence. That was The Ice Age (1977), but there are very similar passages in The Radiant Way. Margaret Drabble’s later novels are settled, capacious, Condition-of-England chronicles, prolonged ruminations on the way we live now. Echoes of the classic novelists are much in evidence. There is an abundance of lists of small facts and of local colour, and ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... specialist scandal sheets in business. One of the most entertaining was Robinson v. Robinson and Lane. Henry Robinson had read his wife Isabella’s diary and found that not only did she dislike him intensely but she had recorded in considerable detail a passionate affair with Edward Lane, the doctor at whose cure ...

Short Cuts

Patrick Wright: The Moral of Brenley Corner, 6 December 2018

... remained, as the Kent county surveyor of the time would later admit, ‘little more than a country lane’. As these belching monsters – which were, of course, small by the standards of the EU’s present European Modular System – ground their way along this scarcely improved turnpike road, they crawled through a string of startled villages before reaching ...

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