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New Ideas, Old Ideas

Nicholas Humphrey, 6 December 1979

Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity 
by Gregory Bateson.
Wildwood, 238 pp., £7.50
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... At the end of his life, the distinguished biologist C.H. Waddington took part in a discussion about the nature of mind. The circumstances were unusual. Waddington lay flat on his back, and his words were read from a prepared text by a friend. The discussion between him and the other two participants was lively: until, that is, there came a point when Waddington, having momentarily silenced his colleagues, abruptly left the room ...

What is Mind? No Matter. What is Matter? Never Mind

Nicholas Humphrey, 17 December 1981

The Mind’s I: Fantasies and Reflections on Self and Soul 
edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett.
Harvester, 448 pp., £9.95, November 1981, 0 7108 0352 4
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... Both this and the following statement are false. Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel Dennett’s book is well worth £9.95. One does not have to be a philosopher to realise that I have already gone further than a humble book-reviewer should. The value of the book under review is, you might think, a matter of opinion. Not so. It has now been established as a logically necessary truth ...

An Ecology of Ecstasy

Nicholas Humphrey, 17 April 1980

The Spiritual Nature of Man 
by Alister Hardy.
Oxford, 162 pp., £6.95, December 1979, 0 19 824618 8
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... Suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire, and with an extraordinary momentum his vital forces were strained to the utmost all at once. His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold … His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light. All his agitation, all his doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of serene and harmonious joy and hope, full of understanding and the knowledge of the final cause ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey, 2 October 1980

This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... When I was an undergraduate at Cambridge I used sometimes to have tea with the philosopher C.D. Broad, and we would talk about ghosts. Professor Broad lived in Newton’s rooms in Trinity, and his favourite spot for talking and for tea was an armchair placed beside the window where in 1665 Newton caught a beam of sunlight in the prism he had bought at Stourbridge fair and spread it like a rainbow on the floor ...

Getting the wiggle into the act

Colin McGinn, 10 September 1992

A History of the Mind 
by Nicholas Humphrey.
Chatto, 230 pp., £16.99, May 1992, 0 7011 3995 1
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... solved the mind-body problem, since we would understand how consciousness arises from matter. Nicholas Humphrey’s book is a bold and speculative attempt to reconstruct mental history and hence to develop a theory of consciousness. He has a good project, and he is bracingly undaunted by its difficulty. He has a number of interesting and sensible ...

Pictures of Ourselves

P.N. Johnson-Laird, 22 December 1983

Consciousness Regained: Chapters in the Development of Mind 
by Nicholas Humphrey.
Oxford, 222 pp., £12.95, September 1983, 9780192177322
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... of what happened to my father, for this book, too, brings together consciousness and a bomb. Nicholas Humphrey is an experimental psychologist, who is interested in art, culture, politics and the mind; and he tells us that he would have liked to have written a ‘real book’ which brought together all his ideas on these topics. Instead, he has ...

Darkness Audible

Nicholas Spice, 11 February 1993

Benjamin Britten 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Faber, 680 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 571 14324 5
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... the solipsist becomes the creature of another’s solipsism. For once, the subsumer is subsumed. Humphrey Carpenter’s assiduously documented biography leaves no doubt about the centripetal force of Benjamin Britten’s personality. Nor about the centrifugal violence with which people unwise enough to let themselves be sucked into that centre were so often ...

Alan Bennett writes about his new play

Alan Bennett: ‘The Habit of Art’, 5 November 2009

... I started writing the play I made much use of the biographies of both Auden and Britten written by Humphrey Carpenter and both models of their kind. Indeed I was consulting his books so much that eventually Carpenter found his way into the play. His widow, Mari Prichard, was more than helpful over this, though feeling – and I’m sure rightly – that I ...

Haley’s Comet

Paul Driver, 6 February 1997

The Envy of the World: Fifty Years of the BBC Third Programme and Radio 3 
by Humphrey Carpenter.
Weidenfeld, 431 pp., £25, September 1996, 0 297 81720 5
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... to determine the tone of the presentation, the rhythm and contrasts of each evening’s schedule? Humphrey Carpenter’s detailed account suggests that the mandarins of the mid-Forties got the Third Programme right straight off. The BBC’s Director-General, William Haley, credited himself with having created the network by two decisions. Programmes should ...


John Lanchester, 16 November 1995

Sons of Ezra: British Poets and Ezra Pound 
edited by Michael Alexander and James McGonigal.
Rodopi, 183 pp., $23.50, July 1995, 90 5183 840 9
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‘In Solitude, for Company’: W.H. Auden after 1940 
edited by Katherine Bucknell and Nicholas Jenkins.
Oxford, 338 pp., £40, November 1995, 0 19 818294 5
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by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 406 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 434 17507 2
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Wystan and Chester: A Personal Memoir of W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman 
by Thekla Clark.
Faber, 130 pp., £12.99, October 1995, 0 571 17591 0
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... wonderful letters to his friend James Stern, together with a biographical essay about Stern by Nicholas Jenkins; a memoir by Stella Musulin, a friend of Auden’s during his years at Kirchstetten in Austria; Edward Mendelson’s bibliography of published letters by Auden; and a symposium on Auden’s great poem ‘In Praise of Limestone’. The overall ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Breathless’, 22 July 2010

directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
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... the running of the thumb across the mouth, the enthralled, dreaming relationship to a poster of Humphrey Bogart: all this effort, this determined Wildean creation of the self as a work of art, and for what? So that you can look and behave not like a tough guy or even a thug but like a loser, the man who read the wrong manual. This is part of the film’s ...

Fs and Bs

Nicholas Hiley, 9 March 1995

Renegades: Hitler’s Englishmen 
by Adrian Weale.
Weidenfeld, 230 pp., £18.99, May 1994, 0 297 81488 5
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In from the Cold: National Security and Parliamentary Democracy 
by Laurence Lustgarten and Ian Leigh.
Oxford, 554 pp., £22.50, July 1994, 9780198252344
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... the time of this historic broadcast the announcers were Sergeant MacDonald and Guardsman William Humphrey Griffiths of the British Army, both recruited from German prisoner-of-war camps. While broadcasting for Büro S, they lived in an apartment in Berlin, wore civilian clothes, were provided with supplies of tobacco and alcohol and, if they liked, were ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: John White’s New World, 5 April 2007

... privateers. The appetite of investors doubtless faded. It was, as Raleigh’s half-brother Sir Humphrey Gilbert put it, difficult to ‘carry over colonies into remote countries upon private men’s purses’. Someone, it seemed, needed to make a record of the good things that had been found and to give substance to travellers’ tales. Among the experts ...

At the Palazzo Venier

Nicholas Penny: Peggy Guggenheim’s Eye, 9 May 2002

Peggy Guggenheim: The Life of an Art Addict 
by Anton Gill.
HarperCollins, 506 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 00 257078 5
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... frank. But ‘frankness’ often conceals something. Here is her staccato characterisation of Humphrey Jennings: ‘He was a young Surrealist painter of 30. He was also a photographer, a poet and a producer of films. He was dynamic and was always bursting with a new idea; but as he had too many, he never got much accomplished. He was a sort of genius, and ...

Burning Witches

Michael Rogin, 4 September 1997

Raymond Chandler: A Biography 
by Tom Hiney.
Chatto, 310 pp., £16.99, May 1997, 0 7011 6310 0
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Raymond Chandler Speaking 
edited by Dorothy Gardiner and Kathrine Sorley Walker.
California, 288 pp., £10.95, May 1997, 0 520 20835 8
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... cultural barriers with Philip Marlowe, private investigator, immortalised on the screen by Humphrey Bogart in The Big Sleep, mortalised by Dick Powell and Robert Montgomery during Chandler’s lifetime, and afterwards by Elliot Gould, Robert Mitchum and James Garner. He was the hero of the most listened to radio detective serial in history, and, by the ...

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