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Suitable Heroes

Susan Pedersen: Home from the War

25 February 2010
Demobbed: Coming Home after the Second World War 
by Alan Allport.
Yale, 265 pp., £20, October 2009, 978 0 300 14043 9
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The Flyer: British Culture and the Royal Air Force, 1939-45 
by Martin Francis.
Oxford, 266 pp., £32, November 2008, 978 0 19 927748 3
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... but also the exceptional experiences of those particular fighters – notably undercover agents and flyers – whose feats did arouse overwhelming public sympathy and veneration. The findings of MartinFrancis’s The Flyer, an illuminating if at times rather earthbound account of wartime and postwar Britain’s romance with the RAF, make more sense when seen in light of this wartime moral economy ...
23 April 1992
Francis​ Bacon, the State, and the Reform of Natural Philosophy 
by Julian Martin.
Cambridge, 236 pp., £35, December 1991, 0 521 38249 1
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... Francis Bacon has had a variety of reputations, which have tended to go up and down in a random or independent sort of way. At the moment he is generally regarded as a master of English rhetoric, an ...

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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... the village Methodist chapel, something Stanley in the end found unsatisfying. ‘I have listened to a thousand sermons, and would like something to counterbalance this. I would like to read about St Francis and St Thomas Aquinas,’ he wrote in his early twenties. He showed an early talent for art, and was sent to the Slade through the benevolence of a local Lady Bountiful. He emerged from it in 1912 ...

Golf Grips and Swastikas

William Feaver: Francis​ Bacon’s Litter

26 February 2009
Francis​ Bacon: Incunabula 
edited by Martin​ Harrison and Rebecca Daniels.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £39.95, September 2008, 978 0 500 09344 3
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... Francis Bacon liked to rail against illustration. ‘If you know how to record it you illustrate it,’ he’d cry. As for ‘illustrational paint’, ughh – the thought of that would set the jowls ...
24 September 1992
Doctor Criminale 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 343 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 436 20115 1
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The Promise of Light 
by Paul Watkins.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 571 16715 2
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The Absolution Game 
by Paul Sayer.
Constable, 204 pp., £13.99, June 1992, 0 09 471460 6
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The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman 
by Louis de Bernières.
Secker, 388 pp., £14.99, August 1992, 0 436 20114 3
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Written on the Body 
by Jeanette Winterson.
Cape, 190 pp., £13.99, September 1992, 0 224 03587 8
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... ending he seems not to know’. The publisher’s blurb laconically informs us that Bradbury lives in Norwich and ‘travels a good deal.’ In form, Doctor Criminale is an old-fashioned quest novel. Francis Jay, a young British journalist – trained in deconstruction and cultural politics at Sussex – is left high and dry when his paper (evidently the ill-fated Sunday Correspondent) folds. Following a ...

Renewing the Struggle

Penelope Fitzgerald: Edward White Benson

18 June 1998
Father of the Bensons: The Life of Edward White Benson, Sometime Archbiship of Canterbury 
by Geoffrey Palmer and Noel Lloyd.
Lennard, 226 pp., £16.99, May 1998, 1 85291 138 7
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... tripos at Cambridge, and since she had been living on an annuity the family faced the future on a little over a hundred pounds a year. He was rescued by the rich and childless bursar of his college, FrancisMartin, who had heard of his troubles, and offered to support him until he could earn his own living. Martin lavished affection on the handsome, hard-pressed young scholar, but, the authors say ...

Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn

27 June 1991
The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... the end that Headingley had a wife and son). Rayner works hard to orchestrate a galloping comedy of sexual hysteria, but can only manage a rather smutty slapstick. Detectable here is the influence of Martin Amis, whose gleeful nastiness in the bedroom has become quite a touchstone for many youngish male novelists. The book is elsewhere littered with sentences that are straight Amisian repro: ‘Then ...


Eric Hobsbawm: My Days as a Jazz Critic

27 May 2010
... Amis wrote in the Observer on a subject about which he obviously knew no more and possibly less than I did, I called a friend at the New Statesman. He arranged a meeting with the editor, Kingsley Martin, then at the peak of his glory, who said ‘Why not?’, explained that he conceived his typical reader as a male civil servant in his forties, and passed me on to the commander of the (cultural ...

A Peece of Christ

Charles Hope: Did Leonardo paint it?

22 December 2019
Leonardo da Vinci 
at the Louvre, until 24 February 2020Show More
Leonardo da Vinci Rediscovered 
by Carmen Bambach.
Yale, 2350 pp., £400, July 2019, 978 0 300 19195 0
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The Last Leonardo: The Secret Lives of the World’s Most Expensive Painting 
by Ben Lewis.
William Collins, 396 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 00 831341 8
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Leonardo’s ‘Salvator Mundi’ and the Collecting of Leonardo in the Stuart Courts 
by Margaret Dalivalle, Martin​ Kemp and Robert Simon.
Oxford, 383 pp., £35, November 2019, 978 0 19 881383 5
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... After a brief spell as a military engineer for Cesare Borgia, he returned to Florence. Then came a second period in Milan, a few years in Rome at the invitation of the pope and finally a summons by Francis I to France, where he died in 1519, aged 67. His reputation, already very high in his lifetime, continued to grow after his death, and he regularly appeared in lists of outstanding modern painters ...


John Bayley

4 April 1985
With Friends Possessed: A Life of Edward FitzGerald 
by Robert Bernard Martin.
Faber, 313 pp., £17.50, February 1985, 0 571 13462 9
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... it caught on. FitzGerald’s version of Omar Khayyam, which became the most popular poem of the century, is sui generis in the same way. It also seems to stand outside its author. Although Professor Martin does the best that can be done with him, FitzGerald was not, from the literary point of view, a particularly interesting man. He lacks the artistic quiddity of even such minor Victorian figures as ...


Wendy Steiner

19 October 1995
Gertrude Stein in Words and Pictures 
by Renate Stendhal.
Thames and Hudson, 286 pp., £14.95, March 1995, 0 500 27832 6
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‘Favoured Strangers’: Gertrude Stein and Her Family 
by Linda Wagner-Martin.
Rutgers, 346 pp., $34.95, August 1995, 0 8135 2169 6
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... soirées in Pans and sunny afternoons in the French countryside. There are family pictures, and there are portraits of Stein by Picasso, Man Ray, Jo Davidson, Alvin Langdon Coburn. Félix Vallotton, Francis Picabia, Jacques Lipschitz, Carl Van Vechten, Cecil Beaton. Francis Rose and Elie Nadelman. With Coburn, she is monumental, with Man Ray domestic, with Beaton wistful and, later, desolate. Stendhal ...

Football Mad

Martin​ Amis

3 December 1981
The Soccer Tribe 
by Desmond Morris.
Cape, 320 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 9780224019354
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... me, as he trudged from the park, of the standard, traumatically chinless mod who puts in depressingly regular appearances at South Coast magistrates’ courts after Bank Holiday weekends. Trevor Francis, usually the identikit poet, dreamer and heart-throb of the lower sixth, looked like a mean and frazzled brawler when he missed that easy header in the second half. As for Terry McDermott, who cuts a ...

At the National Gallery

Peter Campbell: Fakes

22 July 2010
... bought it was not only accepted – even by some who thought it second-rate – but also cost a third more than Venus and Mars. The reputation of An Allegory soon went downhill; by 1951 the curator Martin Davies wrote that it was by ‘some feeble imitator of Botticelli’. It is certainly, according to all the tests, an old picture: the support, ground, pigments and medium are appropriate for Italy ...

Saint John Henry

Richard Altick

5 August 1982
John Henry Newman: His Life and Work 
by Brian Martin.
Chatto, 160 pp., £8.95, May 1982, 0 7011 2588 8
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Protestant versus Catholic in Mid-Victorian England 
by Walter Arnstein.
Missouri, 271 pp., £14, June 1982, 9780826203540
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... Protestant soil. In that season of scurrility and obscurantist fury, the shock wave set off by Newman’s conversion to Rome five years earlier finally reached the nation as a whole. As Brian Martin reports, Punch brutally caricatured ‘a thin, emaciated, bespectacled Newman’ alongside ‘a fat, hypocritical Wiseman’ and rumours spread that Newman ‘was married and had locked his wife away ...

A Glass of Whisky in One Hand and Lenin in the Other

Olivier Todd: The end of French Algeria

19 March 1998
The Memory of Resistance: French Opposition to the Algerian War (1954-62) 
by Martin​ Evans.
Berg, 250 pp., £34.99, November 1997, 9781859739273
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... on. Many are still alive but remain reluctant to speak about their experiences with ‘les bougnouls’ – much more so, I think, than Vietnam veterans about their dealings with the ‘gooks’. Martin Evans is absolutely right when he says that the subject of torture in Algeria has for many years been taboo in France. A lot of serious research is going on now, but the story has been slow to emerge ...

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