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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 ...

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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... 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 Todd, who previously edited, with Marilyn Butler, a ...

The End of the Future

Jeff McMahan, 1 July 1982

The Fate of the Earth 
by Jonathan Schell.
Cape/Picador, 256 pp., £7.95, June 1982, 0 224 02064 1
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The Two-Edged Sword: Armed Force in the Modern World 
by Laurence Martin.
Weidenfeld, 108 pp., £5.95, March 1982, 0 297 78139 1
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Zero Option 
by E.P. Thompson.
Merlin, 198 pp., £10, June 1982, 0 85036 288 1
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Disarming Europe 
edited by Mary Kaldor and Dan Smith.
Merlin, 196 pp., £10, May 1982, 0 85036 277 6
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... his own efforts compared with the brilliantly satirical and justly celebrated review which E.P. Thompson published in New Society some months back. Although it is rather unpleasantly savage in its attacks on Martin himself, the piece is nevertheless immensely entertaining, and its reappearance in a new collection of ...

Counting weapons

Rudolf Peierls, 5 March 1981

Britain and Nuclear Weapons 
by Lawrence Freedman.
Papermac, 160 pp., £3.25, September 1980, 0 333 30511 6
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Countdown: Britain’s Strategic Forces 
by Stewart Menual.
Hale, 188 pp., £8.25, October 1980, 0 7091 8592 8
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The War Machine 
by James Avery Joyce.
Quartet, 210 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 7043 2254 4
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Protest and Survive 
edited by E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith.
Penguin, 262 pp., £1.50, October 1980, 0 14 052341 3
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... by the Civil Defence Pamphlet Protect and Survive) is a collection of essays, edited by E. P. Thompson and Dan Smith, with emphasis on the effect of nuclear weapons on Europe, and particularly on Britain, and on current statements dealing with Civil Defence. An impressive article by Alva Myrdal discusses the function of tactical nuclear weapons, 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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... 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 London Corresponding Society open-air meeting, and in ...

Scenes from Common Life

V.G. Kiernan, 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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... 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 are still Fetters.’ By 1839 there was a ‘Female ...

Ashamed of the Planet

Ian Hamilton, 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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... 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 Jarrell from the romantic or pugilistic behaviour that ...

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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... 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, by the Home ...

Absent Framers

Andreas Teuber, 31 March 1988

... 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 ‘Hatter’ tautologous, because followed by the words ...

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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... 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 travels one way: from drolling judge to desperate ...

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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... 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 physician, or as an innovator in the history of ...

Hey, Mister, you want dirty book?

Edward Said: The CIA, 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 more activity and thought, even in the minds of individuals, than anyone at the time had suspected. Of course there were the revelations in the mid-Sixties about Encounter and the CIA, and later in the US and Britain a stream of disclosures about covert counter-insurgency in every form, from secretly underwritten academic research to assassinations and mass killings ...

Man Is Wolf to Man

Malcolm Gaskill: C.J. Sansom, 23 January 2020

Tombland 
by C.J. Sansom.
Pan Macmillan, 866 pp., £8.99, September 2019, 978 1 4472 8451 2
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... 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 the novels to show how Tudor heresies slowly morphed into ...

Just be yourself

David Hirson, 23 July 1987

Swimming to Cambodia: The Collected Works of Spalding Gray 
by Spalding Gray.
Picador, 304 pp., £3.50, January 1987, 0 330 29947 6
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... candid confessors since Frank Harris’ and ‘An unholy cross between James Joyce and Hunter S. Thompson’. These remarks tend to compound an already severe identity crisis. For almost a decade, Gray has been delivering monologues which chronicle his life from early childhood to the present. Since ‘Sex and Death to the Age 14’ premiered at New York’s ...

Lachrymatics

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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... 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 soap operas, at the triumphs and disasters of Wimbledon and ...

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