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Athenian View

Michael Brock

12 March 1992
Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain, 1850-1930 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 383 pp., £40, September 1991, 0 19 820173 7
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... depicts the denizens of the Athenaeum in its great days. T.H. Huxley, having left his umbrella at Matthew Arnold’s, asks his friend to ‘bring it next time you come to the club’. Leslie Stephen, elected in 1877 on the strength of his History of English Thought in the 18th Century, enjoys the irony that this defence of free thought has given him ...

The Warning

Matthew Sweeney

22 November 2012
... the lawn, beneath the totem pole I’d brought back from Nevada, and painted white and black, to ward off ghouls, ghosts and evil men. I had Coltrane playing from the hallway and was humming along. The black cat was poking and hissing at the white cat, when a crow landed a couple of feet away. Both cats scarpered when he opened his beak and cawed, dropping a ...

Misguided Tom

Eric Stokes

5 March 1981
Letters of Thomas Arnold the Younger 1850-1900 
edited by James Bertram.
Auckland/Oxford, 276 pp., £15, August 1980, 0 19 647980 0
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... public life of 19th-century Britain: second and favourite son of Dr Arnold of Rugby, brother of Matthew and William Delafield Arnold, brother-in-law of W.E. Forster, father of Mrs Humphry Ward, grandfather of Julian and Aldous Huxley and of Mrs G.M. Trevelyan. His knockabout career helped enlarge his connections. At ...

The Great Mary

Dinah Birch

13 September 1990
Mrs Humphry WardEminent Victorian, Pre-Eminent Edwardian 
by John Sutherland.
Oxford, 432 pp., £16.99, August 1990, 0 19 818587 1
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... No Arnold can write a novel; if they could, I should have done it.’ That was Matthew Arnold’s reaction to his niece’s first significant attempt at fiction, Miss Bretherton, published in 1884. It can’t have been very encouraging. But Mary Ward was used to the magisterial arrogance of the Arnold men ...


Thomas Lynch

3 October 1996
... has fed no grave, all your people are alive. Seamus Heaney, Sweeney Astray My friend the poet, Matthew Sweeney, is certain he is dying. This is a conviction he has held without remission, since 1952 when he first saw the light, in its grey Irish version, in Ballyliffin, in northernmost Donegal. He knew even then, though he was some years from the ...


Philip Davis: Thomas Arnold’s Apostasies

15 April 2004
A Victorian Wanderer: The Life of Thomas Arnold the Younger 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Oxford, 274 pp., £25, July 2003, 0 19 925741 8
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... life than the term ‘wandering’ suggests. The narrative of this life is in no sense straightforward. It has lost that classic linear imperative that characterised the religious quest of Pilgrim’s Progress. What Matthew Arnold detected in their friend the poet Clough, he also found in his younger brother Thomas: a want ...

This is not a ghost story

Thomas Jones: Nathan Filer

20 February 2014
The Shock of the Fall 
by Nathan Filer.
Borough, 320 pp., £7.99, January 2014, 978 0 00 749145 2
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... advance from HarperCollins for his first novel, getting glowing reviews, winning the Costa Book Award and topping the bestseller lists, he says he means to keep up his registration as a mental health nurse and work occasional shifts. He collected the Costa prize three days after getting married and wore the same suit to both ceremonies. As for the book, the ...
9 October 1986
The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-1980 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Linda Coverdale.
Cape, 368 pp., £25, October 1985, 0 224 02302 0
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Writing Degree Zero and Elements of Semiology 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Annette Lavers and Colin Smith.
Cape, 172 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 224 02267 9
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The Fashion System 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Matthew Ward and Richard Howard.
Cape, 303 pp., £15, March 1985, 0 224 02984 3
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The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art and Representation 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 312 pp., £19.50, January 1986, 0 631 14746 2
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The Rustle of Language 
by Roland Barthes, translated by Richard Howard.
Blackwell, 373 pp., £27.50, May 1986, 0 631 14864 7
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A Barthes Reader 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Cape, 495 pp., £15, September 1982, 0 224 02946 0
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Barthes: Selected Writings 
edited by Susan Sontag.
Fontana, 495 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 00 636645 7
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Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate 
by Philip Thody.
University of Chicago Press, 203 pp., £6.75, February 1984, 0 226 79513 6
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Roland Barthes: Structuralism and After 
by Annette Lavers.
Methuen, 300 pp., £16.95, September 1982, 0 416 72380 2
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by Jonathan Culler.
Fontana, 128 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 635974 4
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... am I?’ but the comic question: ‘Am I?’ This elegant and amused remark goes some way towards explaining why Barthes, who reflected much on his life and published a book called Roland Barthes par Roland Barthes, should not have kept a diary. The comic question can’t be confronted, it can only be circumvented, played with, smiled at. Of course, if ...

Short Cuts

Jenny Diski: Internet Misfit

18 October 2007
... only to consume the web, and didn’t give up. was set up in 1999 by the programmer Matthew Haughey, as a place where people could put links to the good stuff they found on the web. He describes it as a special kind of group weblog that ‘exists to break down the barriers between people, to extend a weblog beyond just one person, and to foster ...

Was Ma Hump to blame?

John Sutherland: Aldous Huxley

11 July 2002
Aldous Huxley: An English Intellectual 
by Nicholas Murray.
Little, Brown, 496 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 316 85492 1
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TheCat's Meow 
directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
April 2002
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... separate sex from reproduction, and to tilt human psychology away from Darwinian competitiveness towards a universal hedonism (Haldane also anticipated soma, the happiness-inducing drug in Huxley’s novel). Ectogenesis, and the eugenicist organisation that follows from it, stabilises society for ever: no more war; no more social struggle; no more ...


Tobias Jones: The politics of football

7 May 1998
... desire to react to hooliganism by erecting unforgiving steel cages which became coffins’, Colin Ward writes in All Quiet on the Hooligan Front (1996). Lord Justice Taylor produced his interim report on the tragedy on 1 August that year. The chief superintendent in charge, Taylor decided, ‘could not face the enormity of the decision to open the gates and ...
4 May 2016
The Literary Correspondences of the Tonsons 
edited by Stephen Bernard.
Oxford, 386 pp., £95, March 2015, 978 0 19 870085 2
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... upstart crow into national bard; there were theoreticians of ‘original composition’ like Edward Young, who set a premium on the rejection of classical models; there were book-trade entrepreneurs whose huge poetry anthologies cashed in on the landmark case of Donaldson v. Becket, which more or less destroyed copyright law; there were the pioneering ...

The Enlightened Vote

Stefan Collini: Ernest Renan

9 December 2019
‘What Is a Nation?’ and Other Political Writings 
by Ernest Renan, translated and edited by M.F.N. Giglioli.
Columbia, 328 pp., £62, September 2018, 978 0 231 17430 5
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... for his extraordinarily wide reach.To take an obvious example, Renan is everywhere in the work of Matthew Arnold, arguably his nearest British homologue. Arnold quickly recognised the kinship when Renan’s Essais appeared, confiding to one correspondent before the end of 1859 that ‘with respect both to morality and intelligence I think we are singularly at ...

Pure TNT

James Francken: Thom Jones

18 February 1999
Sonny Liston was a Friend of Mine 
by Thom Jones.
Faber, 312 pp., £9.99, February 1999, 9780571196562
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... a doctor who is ‘about to smirk’ when walking in on a couple having sex in the hospital ward is arrested by the patient’s baleful stare – ‘Sonny Liston could give such a look’; a recently enlisted marine regrets his decision to join up when he meets boot-camp disciplinarians ‘most of whom looked like close relatives of Charles ...

Ways of Being Interesting

Theo Tait: Ian McEwan

10 September 2014
The Children Act 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 215 pp., £16.99, September 2014, 978 0 224 10199 8
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... Yet you only have to think of James to realise that there are many more subtle, and perhaps more rewarding, ways of being interesting. Even as long ago as Black Dogs (1992), McEwan acknowledged that the pivotal turning point is a bogus contrivance: ‘Seeing the light, the moment of truth, the turning point, surely we borrow these from Hollywood or the Bible ...

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