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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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... edition of Lark Rise to Candleford shows a small bonnetted figure waiting at a cottage gate overhung with sunflowers; on the cover of A Country Calendar a round-limbed family lounges among ferns. MargaretLane’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 ...

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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... makes any decisions. In Gaskell’s North and South, it’s only when the spectre of centralisation 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 ...

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 ...

On the Road

Alice Spawls

8 February 2018
... and cuts of drains. The language of the roads is standardised but the handwriting varies hugely. It’s 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 ...

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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... off with a march from Trafalgar Square through the East End to Victoria Park, led by giant papier-mâché 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 ...
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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... early part, in the narrator’s consciousness, can be delicious: as good as Virginia Woolf, or John 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 ...

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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... and disappeared on the open heathland around Liverpool. He never forgot ‘the early enthusiasm 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 ...

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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... to exclude one who would become more distinguished than any of them. Blackfriars is an area rich in 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 ...

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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... houses in Grosvenor Square, the story of the life and death of Old Grosvenor House and its subsequent 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 ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London

19 June 2008
... containerisation, restrictive practices, fearful-angry ‘Enoch is right’ marches and the grind of 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 ...
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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... Mr Horse were mated to Mrs Eohippus’. Witty and imaginative, Gilman nonetheless distrusted fiction 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 ...

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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... people managed to complain fairly forcefully about somebody: only a few were stunned into honourable 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 ...

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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... sodomy or desertion. The result was a series of sensational cases which gripped the press and kept the 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 ...

Mother One, Mother Two

Jeremy Harding: A memoir

31 March 2005
... to know more about the past is assigned an adoption counsellor. It was my adoption counsellor who helped me with the machinery of my investigation and informed me of the name of my natural mother – Margaret Walsh – which my adoptive mother had only ever hazarded or garbled. But after a few days in the Family Records Centre in London, it was clear that there’d be work to do: the number of Margaret ...
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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... The Swedish author Eyvind Johnson confessed to inexact, falsified, poeticised ‘memories of memories’ 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 ...

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