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James Buchan, 14 December 1995

The Life of Adam Smith 
by Ian Simpson Ross.
Oxford, 495 pp., £25, October 1995, 0 19 828821 2
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... I bet he did). It contains an account of the meeting between Lochiel and Charles Edward at MacDonald of Boradale’s. Lochiel argued long and hard to dissuade the Chevalier, but when he failed, he said: ‘I’ll share the fate of my prince; and so shall every man over whom nature or fortune have given me power.’ The quotation from The Wealth of ...

Make enemies and influence people

Ross McKibbin: Why Vote Labour?, 20 July 2000

... and his domination of economic policy remind one alarmingly of the relationship between Ramsay MacDonald and Philip Snowden in 1931: between a Prime Minister who senses that there is probably a better alternative but who lacks the authority or self-confidence to choose it and a Chancellor of formidable personality who is a rigidly orthodox practitioner of ...

Urgency Is Not Enough

Peter Campbell, 6 April 1995

Don’t Leave Me This Way: Art in the Age of Aids 
compiled by Ted Gott.
Thames and Hudson, 246 pp., £12.95, March 1995, 0 642 13030 2
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The End of Innocence: Britain in the Time of Aids 
by Simon Garfield.
Faber, 406 pp., £17.50, November 1994, 0 571 15353 4
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... so often accompanies that search.’ Another piece, this one by Leone and her associate Jennifer Macdonald called Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down, endeavours ‘to combine the public and private needs of recording loss. In the space of a child’s sandbox, Ashes, Ashes offers the viewer a fragile and indecipherable moment: a braille text in sand that contains ...

The Sun-Bather

Michael Neve, 3 July 1980

Havelock Ellis 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Allen Lane, 492 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 7139 1071 2
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... to his programmatic radicalism. One other figure who flits through this early period is Ramsay MacDonald, already dreaming of being prime minister while running a ‘Fellowship House’ in Doughty Street in Bloomsbury. Ellis left London for a medical practice in Blackburn in 1887, and managed to survive the death of his mother (she died as he was reading ...

In the Potato Patch

Jenny Turner: Penelope Fitzgerald, 19 December 2013

Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life 
by Hermione Lee.
Chatto, 508 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 7011 8495 7
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... And the Pre-Raphaelite line continues, right the way up to The Blue Flower, via George MacDonald, whose Phantastes inspired generations of grot-and-goblin writers, and who was the translator of the Hymns to the Night. In fact, MacDonald was the only English-speaking writer who ‘really understood’ Novalis, as ...

How Does It Add Up?

Neal Ascherson: The Burns Cult, 12 March 2009

The Bard: Robert Burns, a Biography 
by Robert Crawford.
Cape, 466 pp., £20, January 2009, 978 0 224 07768 2
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... compromise or flattery (two supremely silly treatments). And there have been undressed dolls too. Margaret Fuller, the pioneer American feminist, wrote that ‘since Adam, there has been none that approached nearer fitness to stand up before God and angels in the naked majesty of manhood than Robert Burns.’ Catherine Carswell wrote a brave, Lawrentian ...

All Together Now

John Lloyd: The British Trade Union, 19 October 2000

British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. I: The Postwar Compromise, 1945-64 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 335 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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British Trade Unions and Industrial Politics. Vol. II: The High Tide of Trade Unionism, 1964-79 
edited by John McIlroy and Nina Fishman et al.
Ashgate, 389 pp., £35, January 2000, 0 7546 0018 1
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The TUC: From the General Strike to New Unionism 
by Robert Taylor.
Palgrave, 299 pp., £45, September 2000, 0 333 93066 5
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... a credible commitment to moderation, was halted – but by the unions themselves, as much as by Margaret Thatcher. It has given us an economy in which organised labour has very little real corporate power. This is a situation without parallel in any other European state. In different ways, unions in France, Germany and Italy carry a good deal more clout ...

The Reviewer’s Song

Andrew O’Hagan: Mailer’s Last Punch, 7 November 2013

Norman Mailer: A Double Life 
by J. Michael Lennon.
Simon and Schuster, 947 pp., £30, November 2013, 978 1 84737 672 5
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... the writer working and sleeping in the house alone. We spoke on the phone sometimes about Dwight MacDonald and essayists he knew and loved. And one time we had a conversation by satellite at the Edinburgh Book Festival. Norman had a way of delighting audiences and he worked them, playing the old roué, then next minute the fierce political ...


Mary Hawthorne: The Luck of Walker Evans, 5 February 2004

Walker Evans 
by James Mellow.
Perseus, 654 pp., £15.99, February 2002, 1 903985 13 7
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... and Circumstances’. The assignment had an added appeal: Agee would not be obliged to work with Margaret Bourke-White, Fortune’s staff photographer, whose work he scorned. He wanted Evans, a photographer he knew and admired. The FSA agreed to lend Evans for the project, but retained its rights to whatever pictures he produced. Travelling the backroads of ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... Geoffrey Heald, the priest who introduced Olivier to acting at the choir school of All Saints Margaret Street, and played Petruchio to his 13-year-old Katharina in The Shrew, told him to read Dickens – as an actor, he would never want for characterisations. The early chapters of Olivier’s Confessions are written in Dickensian pastiche, even borrowing ...


John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... unerring as it clearly is, he ceases to be one, as do his womenfolk and the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, ‘an unimpressive man; eyes disappointing; rather heavy; middle-class; sunk; grumpy; self-important; wore a black waistcoat’. They all called each other Van, Bogey, Ramsay, Eadie, across the table; engaged in governing England ... Bogey has the ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... same genre as the rumour – even David McKie has been unable to turn up a precise source – that Margaret Thatcher once remarked that anyone who rode a bus after reaching the age of 26 was a failure. It also reminded me of a story Ken Livingstone liked to recite when he was leader of the GLC. One day, he had found himself taking the Underground in the ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell, 2 December 2010

J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... friends – turns out to have had more in common with J.G. Ballard than with Paul Scott, George MacDonald Fraser, M.M. Kaye and other writers of 1970s bestsellers with imperial themes. Like the empty swimming-pools and weed-choked concrete landscapes that appear again and again in JGB’s imagined futures, the collapsing buildings and insanely cherished ...

Wedded to the Absolute

Ferdinand Mount: Enoch Powell, 26 September 2019

Enoch Powell: Politics and Ideas in Modern Britain 
by Paul Corthorn.
Oxford, 233 pp., £20, August 2019, 978 0 19 874714 7
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... There is​ still no plaque at the Midland Hotel, Birmingham (now rebranded as the Macdonald Burlington), to mark the spot where Enoch Powell delivered his famous speech on 20 April 1968. Yet of all the speeches delivered by British politicians in the 20th century, or come to that in the 21st, it remains the most memorable, surpassing even the snatches I can recall of ‘We shall fight on the beaches ...

Neutered Valentines

David Bromwich: James Agee, 7 September 2006

‘Let Us Now Praise Famous Men’, ‘A Death in the Family’, Shorter Fiction 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 818 pp., $35, October 2005, 1 931082 81 2
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Film Writing and Selected Journalism 
by James Agee.
Library of America, 748 pp., $40, October 2005, 1 931082 82 0
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Brooklyn Is 
by James Agee.
Fordham, 64 pp., $16.95, October 2005, 0 8232 2492 9
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... among those who knew him, the puzzle remained: a born writer, but of what? Walker Evans, Dwight Macdonald and Robert Fitzgerald in their memoirs of Agee all describe an enchanting talker and an inspired observer of people. Also of cities, houses, symphonies, books, movies; one who lived hard, drank hard, and knew the force of his own feelings ...

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