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1 November 1984
A Radical Reader: The Struggle for Change in England 1381-1914 
edited by Christopher Hampton.
Penguin, 624 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 14 022444 0
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Riots and Community Politics in England and Wales 1790-1810 
by John Bohstedt.
Harvard, 310 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 674 77120 6
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The World We have Lost – Further Explored 
by Peter Laslett.
Methuen, 353 pp., £12.95, December 1983, 0 416 35340 1
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... whose duties kept her busy from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.* Christopher Hampton gives us, in an anonymous 15th-century poem, a lament over women’s perpetual drudgery. His extract from the early feminist Mary Astell, writing in 1721, acknowledges that by comparison with Eastern women, who ‘are born Slaves, and live Prisoners all their Lives’, Englishwomen have an easy servitude, but ‘Fetters of Gold ...

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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... a section of the English intelligentsia called all things in question, and the vibrations were felt for decades. A most un-English moment. But what am I to do now with yet one more Pickering volume, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Political Writings, comprising the Vindication of the Rights of Woman, her Rights of Men, and chapters from her unfinished history of the French Revolution? This is edited by Janet ...

Freaks, Dwarfs and Boors

Thomas Keymer: 18th-Century Jokes

2 August 2012
Cruelty and Laughter: Forgotten Comic Literature and the Unsentimental 18th Century 
by Simon Dickie.
Chicago, 362 pp., £29, December 2011, 978 0 226 14618 8
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... not a horse but a halter, and is promised a noose in return; another says poverty made him destined to steal, and is told he is destined to hang. Dickie has little time for the Marxism of the E.P. Thompson era, but many of these (uniformly unfunny) courtroom jests recall the world of Albion’s Fatal Tree, with its smug, self-interested judges and their crushing response to property crime. Wit usually ...
30 September 1999
Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War 
by Frances Stonor Saunders.
Granta, 509 pp., £20, July 1999, 1 86207 029 6
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... E.P. Thompson called it the ‘Natopolitan’ world: that is, not just Nato plus all the Cold War military and political institutions that were integral to it, but also a mentality whose web extended over a lot ...
2 March 2000
No Other Book: Selected Essays 
by Randall Jarrell, edited by Brad Leithauser.
HarperCollins, 376 pp., $27.50, June 1999, 0 06 118012 2
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Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic and Teacher Randall Jarrell 
by Mary​ von Schrader Jarrell.
HarperCollins, 173 pp., $22, June 1999, 0 06 118011 4
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... mental institution in New York, although Jarrell, we can be sure, had not checked out the destination. So far as he was concerned, he had expelled a nuisance, a non-literary bore. Of all this, Mary Jarrell has observed: ‘except for this one instance, Jarrell had no direct involvement in Lowell’s abnormal states, and he wanted it that way.’ And Lowell, she said, ‘took care to shield ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre

20 December 2018
Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... by Hunt, Samuel Bamford and the newspaper editor Richard Carlile, a ‘free-thinker’. The TLS published an acerbic review of Walmsley’s book whose anonymous author was later revealed to be E.P. Thompson. In The Making of the English Working Class, the second edition of which was published in 1968, Thompson depicted Peterloo as a bloody class conflict orchestrated by the magistrates and, most likely ...

Man Is Wolf to Man

Malcolm Gaskill: C.J. Sansom

13 January 2020
by C.J. Sansom.
Pan Macmillan, 866 pp., £8.99, September 2019, 978 1 4472 8451 2
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... This is Revelation (2008), which Sansom buffs refer to, Friends-style, as ‘the one about the serial killer’, just as they call Heartstone (2010) ‘the one where Shardlake ends up on the Mary Rose’. Some readers find that particular finale a bit daft, but it’s thrillingly done. Shardlake survives, naturally, albeit traumatised in a way that suggests Tudor PTSD.Sansom uses the span of ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber

31 March 1988
... apprentice Hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard, with proper inscription. He composed it in these words, ‘John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money’ with a figure of a hat subjoined; but he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word ...


Ferdinand Mount: British Weeping

17 December 2015
Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears 
by Thomas Dixon.
Oxford, 438 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 0 19 967605 7
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... his immensely readable and often puckish exploration, Thomas Dixon sighs, with reason, that ‘it is impossible to pin tears down.’ Dixon directs the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London. Keats might have thought this rather like a Department for Unweaving the Rainbow. Dixon is no dry-eyed Dryasdust. He confesses that he himself is liable to weep at operas and ...

Wordsworth’s Crisis

E.P. Thompson

8 December 1988
Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years 
by Nicholas Roe.
Oxford, 306 pp., £27.50, March 1988, 0 19 812868 1
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... even to prefer speculations to actual findings. Thus he speculates that an anonymous review (‘The Matter of Coleridge’s Revolutionary Youth’, TLS, 6 August 1971) might have been written by E.P. Thompson, a speculation which could have been translated into a finding at the cost of a postage stamp. But his speculations do not always compel assent. Thus his book is illustrated by a Gillray cartoon of a ...

Grateful Dead

John Barrell

22 April 1993
The Dictionary of National Biography: Missing Persons 
edited by C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 790 pp., £80, January 1993, 0 19 865211 9
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... and testimonials from grateful patients whose every spelling mistake was faithfully preserved. There is a brief life of Butchell in the first Dictionary of National Biography; it was written by Thompson Cooper, who had an eye for such characters, and who contributed over 1400 biographies, more than anyone else to the original dictionary. Cooper made no claims for Butchell’s importance as a ...

Watching Me Watching Them Watching You

Andrew O’Hagan: Surveillance

9 October 2003
... I spent the first of my teenage years living in the grounds of an approved school, a place that faced onto a ruined castle said to have given a night’s shelter to Mary Queen of Scots. The escaping Queen was never there at all, but people preferred to think she had never left: every castle in Scotland seeks to have its part in Mary’s story, and her eyes were felt ...

Toxic Lozenges

Jenny Diski: Arsenic

8 July 2010
The Arsenic Century: How Victorian Britain Was Poisoned at Home, Work and Play 
by James Whorton.
Oxford, 412 pp., £16.99, January 2010, 978 0 19 957470 4
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... whose reputation has stood the test of time are the following: Dr Palmer of Rugeley, Jack the Ripper, Neill Cream, Mrs Maybrick, Dr Crippen, Seddon, Joseph Smith, Armstrong, and Bywaters and Thompson. Orwell discounts Jack the Ripper as an altogether special artisan of murder, but of the remaining eight, six were poisoners. The perfect murderer, he explains, was one who would satisfy the ...


R.W. Johnson

2 June 1988
Passion and Cunning, and Other Essays 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Weidenfeld, 293 pp., £18, March 1988, 0 297 79280 6
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God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Harvard, 97 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 0 674 35510 5
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... minister in the Irish government, O’Brien was a similarly provoking presence. The Left had by then come to assume that the thorn in the flesh of the Nato culture was one of their own, but when E.P. Thompson attempted to presume O’Brien onto his side in the matter of CND there was a predictable and pyrotechnic response, with great carnage in the Thompson ranks. O’Brien is not a man to accept that ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton

5 November 1981
Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... sexuality one is compelled to think of in reading this book. Napoleon’s fat, feminine shape made me suddenly think of Winston Churchill, who loved to wear silk drawers (according to his daughter Mary) and possessed to his dying day the skin and cherubic shape of a Rubens lady – as did Mao Tse-tung. General Richardson’s concern with homosexuality stems from a passionate desire to lessen the ...

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