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Living like a moth

Michael Ignatieff, 19 April 1990

The Other Russia: The Experience of Exile 
by Michael Glenny and Norman Stone.
Faber, 475 pp., £14.99, March 1990, 0 571 13574 9
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Inferences on a Sabre 
by Claudio Magris, translated by Mark Thompson.
Polygon, 87 pp., £9.95, May 1990, 0 7486 6036 4
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... I have always wondered when my grandparents realised they would never see Russia again. In July 1917, when they locked up the house on Fourstatskaya Street in Petrograd, left the key with my grandfather’s valet and set off with a party of servants for Kislovodsk, a spa town in the north Caucasus, they told the children that they were all going for a summer holiday ...

Short Cuts

Helen Thompson: West Ham Disunited, 26 April 2018

... from the streets where fans-turned-players like Martin Peters, the future World Cup winner, and Mark Noble, a future club captain, first learned to pass a ball. In 2006, the team conceded an injury-time equaliser in the cup final, three minutes away from winning West Ham’s first silverware in 26 years. A few months after that, the families who had owned ...

Mansions in Bloom

Ruth Richardson, 23 May 1991

A Paradise out of a Common Field: The Pleasures and Plenty of the Victorian Garden 
by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards.
Century, 256 pp., £16.95, May 1990, 0 7126 2209 8
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Private Gardens of London 
by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 297 83025 2
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The Greatest Glasshouse: The Rainforest Recreated 
edited by Sue Minter.
HMSO, 216 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 11 250035 8
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Religion and Society in a Cotswold Vale: Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, 1780-1865 
by Albion Urdank.
California, 448 pp., $47.50, May 1990, 0 520 06670 7
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... It is beautifully produced, but falls short of the scholarship of works in this area by F.M.L. Thompson, Mark Girouard and Brent Elliott, to which it owes a great deal. The text represents an extensive trawl of material, which is presented in the form of a verbal scrapbook covering a range of topics, under headings such ...

Back to Byzantium

John Thompson, 22 January 1981

by Jan Morris.
Oxford, 242 pp., £7.95, July 1980, 0 19 502708 6
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The Venetian Empire 
by Jan Morris.
Faber, 192 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 9780571099368
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... of Byzantium upon his nostrils’. Jan Morris complains that the new replicas of the horses of St Mark ‘never saw old Dandolo storm ashore at the Golden Horn’: but neither did she. The subtitle is ‘A Sea Voyage’, which is not only a metaphor for the city’s marriage to the sea, but also a literal description of Jan Morris’s journey around the ...

The Ruling Exception

David Cannadine, 16 August 1990

Queen Victoria: Gender and Power 
by Dorothy Thompson.
Virago, 167 pp., £6.99, May 1990, 0 86068 773 2
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... monarchy comparable in scholarly stature to Denis Mack Smith on the Kings of Italy. Dorothy Thompson’s study of Queen Victoria is thus the more to be welcomed, for she is a writer in a very different tradition from such conventional courtly biographers as Elizabeth Longford, Cecil Woodham-Smith and Georgina Battiscombe. She lectures in history at ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: How to Type like a Man, 10 May 2007

... concerns itself with the likes of Paul Auster, Bram Stoker, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, Mark Twain, Jack Kerouac, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, J.G. Ballard and Hunter S. Thompson: in other words, men. He says more than once that he’s less interested in typewriters as machines (once upon a time the word also ...

All Too Firmly Planted

Bernard Bailyn, 10 November 1994

Mobility and Migration: East Anglian Founders of New England, 1629-1640 
by Roger Thompson.
Massachusetts, 305 pp., £39.50, April 1994, 0 87023 893 0
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Adapting to a New World: English Society in the 17th-century Chesapeake 
by James Horn.
North Carolina, 461 pp., $65, September 1994, 0 8078 2137 3
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... War, race relations, the New Deal and the Cold War. The intersection of two elements seems to mark a new area of peculiarly intense interest: in the early colonial period, much of North America was an immediate part of the British world (and some of its most important records are available therefore only in British archives); and Early Modern migration ...

Can’t Afford to Tell the Truth

Owen Bennett-Jones: Trouble at the BBC, 20 December 2018

... too relentless. But even his strongest critics will enjoy the splendidly intemperate emails to Mark Thompson, Alan Yentob and their ilk in which he set about the hopeless task of urging them to fly economy. Ever since the series W1A appeared, BBC managers have become a national joke. The problem is structural. Many start out as capable and engaged ...

Benevolent Mr Godwin

E.P. Thompson, 8 July 1993

Political Justice 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, £150, November 1992, 1 85196 019 8
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The Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin 
edited by Mark Philp.
Pickering & Chatto, £395, March 1993, 1 85196 026 0
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Political Writings 
by Mary Wollstonecraft, edited by Janet Todd.
Pickering & Chatto, 411 pp., £39.95, March 1993, 1 85196 019 8
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Memoirs of Wollstonecraft 
by William Godwin, introduced by Jonathan Wordsworth.
Woodstock, 199 pp., £8.95, April 1993, 1 85477 125 6
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... Books will count itself fortunate if it can sell as many. At £150 it will also not be prosecuted. Mark Philp has given himself a more difficult task. He has edited the new seven-volume edition of the Political and Philosophical Writings of William Godwin, having edited previously, with some help from Marilyn Butler, all of Godwin’s novels. Philp is ...

Death in Belgravia

Rosemary Hill, 5 February 2015

A Different Class of Murder: The Story of Lord Lucan 
by Laura Thompson.
Head of Zeus, 422 pp., £20, November 2014, 978 1 78185 536 2
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... studies of the case and what it reveals about postwar Britain and its social structure. Thompson’s book is a mixture of all of these and the result is persuasive and revealing in some parts, absurd and tasteless in others. Yet it is a compelling read. The story doesn’t pall because it has become a myth and myths change with time. As the Lucan ...

In Love

Michael Wood, 25 January 1996

Essays in Dissent: Church, Chapel and the Unitarian Conspiracy 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 264 pp., £25, October 1995, 1 85754 123 5
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... Elmer More whether his God was some kind of Santa Claus. Davie’s eloquent disagreement with E.P. Thompson allows us to see the strength of Davie’s uncompromising position, and also to see what he himself won’t see – or won’t allow himself to say he sees. Davie wishes to divorce Dissent and the Left in Britain, to show that Dissenters in religion ...

Out of Puff

Sam Thompson: Will Self, 19 June 2008

The Butt 
by Will Self.
Bloomsbury, 355 pp., £14.99, April 2008, 978 0 7475 9175 7
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... find yourself thinking in the punchy voice of the continent. Every statement ends in a question mark, the preferred modifier is ‘bloody’, the aboriginals are the ‘bing-bongs’, and the interior is always known as ‘over there’, with a jerk of the thumb over the shoulder. For a travelling companion Tom has Prentice, a fellow convict whom he ...


Alan Bennett: Madness: The Movie, 9 February 1995

... matter, no matter.’ I watch Nigel H. rehearse the pisspot scene, then walk round the garden with Mark Thompson before buying some plants on sale in the potting-shed and coming away. Except then I call in at the church which is full of the sound of hoovering, a friendly grey-haired man, Welsh, who may be the vicar, though I don’t like to ask, seemingly ...

Too Proud to Fight

David Reynolds: The ‘Lusitania’ Effect, 28 November 2002

Wilful Murder: The Sinking of the ‘Lusitania’ 
by Diana Preston.
Doubleday, 543 pp., £18.99, May 2002, 0 385 60173 5
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Lusitania: Saga and Myth 
by David Ramsay.
Chatham, 319 pp., £20, September 2001, 1 86176 170 8
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Woodrow Wilson 
by John Thompson.
Longman, 288 pp., £15.99, August 2002, 0 582 24737 3
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... took stock of the reaction abroad, particularly in the United States. Years later, the journalist Mark Sullivan wrote in 1933, Americans could still remember the moment they read the news. Though not captured on film, the sinking of the Lusitania had the same kind of impact as JFK’s assassination or the attack on the Twin Towers. Today, of course, the ...

Foulest, Vilest, Obscenest

Erin Thompson: Smashing Images, 27 January 2022

by David Freedberg.
Chicago, 332 pp., £32, June 2021, 978 0 226 44550 2
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... All humans have been aroused by art, have cried before it – and destroyed it.In A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain called Titian’s Venus of Urbino ‘the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses’, joking that it was made for a brothel but ‘probably refused because it was a trifle too strong. In truth, it is too strong for any place but a ...

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