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John Bayley, 7 August 1986

No, I’m not afraid 
by Irina Ratushinskaya, translated by David McDuff.
Bloodaxe, 142 pp., £4.95, May 1986, 0 906427 95 9
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Shcharansky: Hero of Our Time 
by Martin Gilbert.
Macmillan, 467 pp., £14.95, April 1986, 0 333 39504 2
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The Russian Orthodox Church: A Contemporary History 
by Jane Ellis.
Croom Helm, 531 pp., £27.50, April 1986, 0 7099 1567 5
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... gone up in a small plane with a megaphone at Stalingrad, to try to urge the Germans to surrender. Martin Gilbert’s account of Shcharansky’s struggle is admirably done, as one would expect of the author of so many spare and scholarly historical inquiries, including a definitive study of the Jewish Holocaust. Ratushinskaya and her young husband Igor ...

Half-Way up the Hill

Frank Kermode, 7 July 1988

Young Betjeman 
by Bevis Hillier.
Murray, 457 pp., £15.95, July 1988, 0 7195 4531 5
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... fretfully whether we really need to know this much about Betjeman. Hillier acknowledges what, if Martin Gilbert had been a shade less thorough, might be a record number of helpers and informants. Flagging only in the last stretch of the alphabet, they range from Sir Harold Acton to Douglas Woodruff, and like his subject the author has evidently ‘made ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... emphatic support for many of the arguments about hostility to industry recently expounded by Martin Wiener in his English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit, 1850-1980. Women are another group who seem peripheral to this male and mandarin world. In explaining why there were so few of them in the earliest volumes of the DNB, Lee noted that ...

Lord Cupid proves himself

David Cannadine, 21 October 1982

Palmerston: The Early Years, 1784-1841 
by Kenneth Bourne.
Allen Lane, 749 pp., £25, August 1982, 0 7139 1083 6
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... life to understanding one particular, defunct figure. Cohabitation with the dead is not easy: Martin Gilbert has been living with Churchill for two decades; Dumas Malone has been communing with Jefferson for even longer. The demands of such single-minded scholarly devotion should not be underestimated. Bad biographies may be easy to write: good ones ...

Prime Ministers’ Pets

Robert Blake, 10 January 1983

Benjamin Disraeli Letters: Vol. I 1815-1834, Vol. II 1835-1837 
edited by J.A.W. Gunn, John Matthews, Donald Schurman and M.G. Wiebe.
Toronto, 482 pp., £37.50, June 1982, 0 8020 5523 0
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The Gladstone Diaries: with Cabinet Minutes and Prime Ministerial Correspondence, Vol. VII, January 1869-June 1871, Vol. VIII, July 1871-December 1874 
edited by H.C.G. Matthew.
Oxford, 641 pp., £35, September 1982, 0 19 822638 1
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by Sarah Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £14.95, October 1982, 0 297 78153 7
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Gladstone: Vol. I 1809-1865 
by Richard Shannon.
Hamish Hamilton, 580 pp., £18, November 1982, 0 241 10780 6
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H.H. Asquith: Letters to Venetia Stanley 
edited by Michael Brock and Eleanor Brock.
Oxford, 676 pp., £19.50, November 1982, 0 19 212200 2
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... The first historians to have full access to the original letters were Randolph Churchill and Martin Gilbert in their multi-volume Churchill and Roy Jenkins in his Asquith (1964). Their versions were far more accurate than anything that had appeared before, but copyright remained a problem, for Lady Violet Bonham Carter (Baroness Asquith of ...

Mrs Perfect Awful

Mary Lefkowitz, 17 May 1984

Miss Manners’ Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behaviour 
by Judith Martin.
Hamish Hamilton, 745 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 241 11100 5
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GilbertA Comedy of Manners 
by Judith Martin.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 241 11157 9
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... where Miss Manners, who was really a correspondent for the Washington Post, Judith Perlman Martin, had once read English. But as a rough contemporary (class of ’57) of Ms Martin’s (class of ’59), I can confirm that even those of us who were not born to polite WASP society could not have managed to leave ...

Scaling Up

Peter Wollen: At Tate Modern, 20 July 2000

... in its aftermath the Festival Hall, the National Film Theatre and, on the other side of Giles Gilbert Scott’s Waterloo Bridge, the new National Theatre. The next came in 1977, with the foundation of the Coin Street Action Group when, reacting against a decline in public housing and the proliferation of office blocks, the inhabitants of the area to the ...

Made for TV

Jenny Diski, 14 December 1995

Fight & Kick & Bite: The Life and Work of Dennis Potter 
by W. Stephen Gilbert.
Hodder, 382 pp., £18.99, November 1995, 0 340 64047 2
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Dennis Potter: A Life on Screen 
by John Cook.
Manchester, 368 pp., £45, October 1995, 0 7190 4601 7
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... even managed to gain the disapproval of his old primary school teacher who, according to Stephen Gilbert, admired his final interview but was not pleased when ‘he said “God the old bugger” ... I didn’t like that.’ It was such a successful finale that I still expect the credits to roll and Potter to pop up again to instruct us not to assume that ...


John Bayley, 4 December 1986

Evelyn Waugh: The Early Years 1903-1939 
by Martin Stannard.
Dent, 537 pp., £14.95, October 1986, 0 460 04632 2
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... original story ‘The Man Who liked Dickens’ having the rest of the novel dovetailed onto it. Martin Stannard is surely right to point out here that ‘so skilful was Waugh’s literary carpentry that he managed to join the tale to the novel almost without alteration,’ the story’s original typescript being incorporated into the chapter ‘Du côté de ...

Consider the Narwhal

Katherine Rundell, 3 January 2019

... narwhals are descended.’ One of the earliest written accounts of the narwhal dates from 1577. Martin Frobisher, seaman and privateer, led an expedition to Baffin Island, where his men discovered a dead narwhal on the beach. They tested it for magic, using the same method as Ivan the Terrible: On this West shoare we found a dead fishe floating, whiche had ...

The View from the Passenger Seat

Lorna Sage: Gilbert Adair, 1 January 1998

The Key of the Tower 
by Gilbert Adair.
Secker, 190 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 436 20429 0
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... Gilbert Adair the critic writes with feeling and practised bitterness about the anxiety of influence – ‘that looming, lowering pressure exerted, wilfully or not, by those who have already “made it” on those who have not, a pressure cramping, crushing and on occasion castrating the creative energies of the rising generation ...

What ho, Giotto!

Julian Symons, 7 February 1991

Stanley Spencer 
by Kenneth Pople.
Collins, 576 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 00 215320 3
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... hens and ducks. (Geese in the picture.) The dressing-gown itself is one Stanley’s brother Gilbert gave him when Stanley ‘went into hospital for his first gallstone operation’. And the goitre? This is ‘procreative symbolism’, which demands ‘that the saint be huge, female in form, indeed pregnant, his head ... equated in form to the function ...


John Lanchester, 6 October 1994

The Magician’s Doubts 
by Michael Wood.
Chatto, 252 pp., £18, August 1994, 0 7011 6197 3
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... character to be found in the author’s work’; it is the process that turned Evelyn Waugh into Gilbert Pinfold. Though of course, the transformation is never complete, and never succeeds in fully abolishing the old, vestigial, shyer and more likeable self – if it did, it would be less painful. (Gilbert Pinfold could ...


Julian Loose, 11 May 1995

The Information 
by Martin Amis.
Flamingo, 494 pp., £15.99, March 1995, 0 00 225356 9
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... Clearly, for Martin Amis, enough is nothing like enough. To read him is to discover an author as voracious as his characters: like Terry in Success, who specifies that ‘I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that. And I want all that and I want all that.’ Or like the fast-food, fast-sex junkie John Self of Money, who always gets less than he bargains for, yet keeps going back for more: ‘I would cheerfully go into the alchemy business, if it existed and made lots of money ...

Sahib and Son

J.I.M. Stewart, 22 December 1983

‘Oh Beloved Kids’: Rudyard Kipling’s Letters to his Children 
edited by Elliot Gilbert.
Weidenfeld, 225 pp., £10.95, October 1983, 0 297 78296 7
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... gap of a year in such letters from his father as have come their present editor’s way. Professor Gilbert conjectures that this loss, and a similar and later loss to which we shall come, may be attributable to ‘the confusion of moving’ when John changed schools. It is much more probable that the relevant letters have been suppressed or destroyed because ...

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