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British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... and royals (Princess Marina, Queen Victoria Eugénie, the Princess Royal). Vera Brittain, Ivy Williams (‘the first woman to be called to the English bar’) and Rachel Crowdy (she ‘belonged to a generation when women had to possess very obvious strength of character if they were to attain recognition’) are the only women who might be described as ...

Hard Labour

Frank Kermode: Marvell beneath the Notes, 23 October 2003

The Poems of Andrew Marvell 
edited by Nigel Smith.
Longman, 468 pp., £50, January 2003, 0 582 07770 2
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... periodical articles, by no means all of which deserve his, or anybody else’s, attention. Nigel Smith, Marvell’s new editor, remarks that the serious annotation of Marvell’s works began only in 1927, with H.M. Margoliouth’s Oxford edition. That edition might never have been projected but for Eliot’s 1921 essay on the poet, itself the ...


Hal Foster: Reyner Banham, 9 May 2002

Reyner Banham: Historian of the Immediate Future 
by Nigel Whiteley.
MIT, 494 pp., £27.50, January 2002, 0 262 23216 2
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... New Statesman through the mid-1960s, and for New Society until his death. In his expert account Nigel Whiteley divides this career into three phases: the 1950s, when Banham was most revisionist about the architecture of a ‘First Machine Age’ governed by industrial principles; the University College years, when he was most polemical about Pop design in a ...

Upside Down, Inside Out

Colin Kidd: The 1975 Referendum, 25 October 2018

Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain 
by Robert Saunders.
Cambridge, 509 pp., £24.99, March 2018, 978 1 108 42535 3
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... the surviving protagonists of the 1975 referendum – such as the former Europhiles David Owen and Nigel Lawson; Neil Kinnock, a prominent Labour anti in 1975; or Alex Salmond, then a youthful SNP anti-Marketeer – found themselves on the other side of the debate from their former selves. The exception was Jim Sillars. The outspoken Labour anti of 1975 ...

The Common Touch

Paul Foot, 10 November 1994

Hanson: A Biography 
by Alex Brummer and Roger Cowe.
Fourth Estate, 336 pp., £20, September 1994, 1 85702 189 4
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... and mysteriously resigned as Premier. The list, written down by Wilson’s éminence grise, Marcia Williams, on her lavender-coloured writing paper, consisted almost entirely of rich right-wing businessmen who supported the Tory Party. It included the Lord High Buccaneer from Milnsbridge, James Hanson. When Thatcher was returned as Prime Minister in ...


David Norbrook, 18 July 1985

Political Shakespeare: New Essays in Cultural Materialism 
edited by Jonathan Dollimore and Alan Sinfield.
Manchester, 244 pp., £19.50, April 1985, 0 7190 1752 1
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Alternative Shakespeares 
edited by John Drakakis.
Methuen, 252 pp., £10.50, July 1985, 0 416 36850 6
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Shakespeare and Others 
by S. Schoenbaum.
Scolar, 285 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 85967 691 9
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Illustrations of the English Stage 1580-1642 
by R.A. Foakes.
Scolar, 180 pp., £35, February 1985, 0 85967 684 6
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Shakespeare: The ‘Lost Years’ 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 172 pp., £17.50, April 1985, 0 7190 1743 2
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... of his transcendence tends to reinforce conservative political positions. If we are to believe Mr Nigel Lawson, Ulysses’ speech on Degree in Troilus and Cressida exercises a powerful influence on Conservative economic policy. One of the most influential of modern Shakespeare critics, G. Wilson Knight, gave his blessing to Britain’s campaign against ...

The Prisoner

Michael Wood, 10 June 1993

by Edmund White.
Chatto, 820 pp., £25, June 1993, 9780701133979
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... rather than poet, and compares Genet (‘in this respect only’) with Nabokov and Tennessee Williams, ‘whose actual poetry is sentimental but whose prose – animated by suspense, dramatised through conflict, particularised by characters and aerated by dialogue – owes its brilliant sheen to its romantic diction’. This is convincing, and we might ...


Alan Bennett: Fresh Revelations, 20 October 1994

... voice) no different from when I first met him twenty-five years ago. Dame Judi is here and Michael Williams, Dame Wendy, Lindsay A., Ron Pickup and Anna Massey, Keith Baxter, Percy Harris, who’s 90 herself, and Ralph Richardson’s widow, Mu. I am happily seated between Jocelyn Herbert and Merula Guinness, with both of whom one can be happily silly. ‘You ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... Like Dylan Thomas’s, Larkin’s influence was huge; unlike Dylan Thomas’s, it persists in what Nigel Jenkins has memorably called ‘the routine shibboleths of subject-matter, imagist verisimilitude, experience-fixated “creative writing”, secular common sense and “unique voice” fetishism’. One thing the date-of-birth ordering of these anthologies ...

Did Harold really get it in the eye?

Patrick Wormald: The Normans, 3 June 2004

The Battle of Hastings, 1066 
by M.K. Lawson.
Tempus, 288 pp., £16.99, October 2003, 0 7524 1998 6
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The Normans: The History of a Dynasty 
by David Crouch.
Hambledon, 345 pp., £25, July 2002, 1 85285 387 5
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Domesday Book: A Complete Translation 
edited by Ann Williams and G.H. Martin.
Penguin, 1436 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 14 143994 7
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... and was either (as W. Malbank) Hugh’s tenant for the Nantwich salt-works, or else (as W. fitz Nigel) held the other two-thirds of the two Neston hides directly from the king; all of which would be illuminated by Phillimore’s maps. The experience might incline them to think that they are better off with Phillimore, however superior Alecto’s ...

Narco Polo

Iain Sinclair, 23 January 1997

Mr Nice: An Autobiography 
by Howard Marks.
Secker, 466 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 0 436 20305 7
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Pulp Election: The Booker Prize Fix 
by Carmen St Keeldare.
Bluedove, 225 pp., £12.99, September 1996, 0 9528298 0 0
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... There’s the hardboiled prison yarn (school of Papillon); the sentimental education (Emlyn Williams with attitude); the Brideshead years (revised by Will Self); Kensington decadence (‘We threw a disgustingly lavish party ... The food was limited to caviar and foie gras, the drink to Stolichnaya and Dom Perignon ... Peter Whitehead married Dido ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... cockeyed liberty of the time’. A Tangier acquaintance, a 45-year-old Englishman called Nigel, told Orton he liked young boys. ‘How young?’ ‘Oh very young.’ ‘But how young? Twelve?’ ‘Oh no, about fourteen.’ ‘Oh, perfectly natural.’ The cockeyed-ness is evident when you look at the diaries of Orton’s friend Kenneth ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... remark on his resemblance to Mr Spock or someone from outer space. Actually he looks like Kenneth Williams in one of those roles (Chauvelin, for instance) when the eyes suddenly go back and he goes wildly over the top. The smirking crew around Redwood are deeply depressing, Tony Marlow and Edward Leigh both fat and complacent and looking like two cheeks of ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 2014, 8 January 2015

... she just looked like a Scarlet Woman.15 April. Watch five minutes of Have I Got News for You with Nigel Farage the guest and Ian Hislop and Paul Merton their usual genial selves. I never quite understand why they are happy to sit on a panel with the likes of Farage, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Clarkson et al. Their reasoning would, I imagine, be that this gives ...


Alan Bennett: Allelujah!, 3 January 2019

... Stalinist as no one wants to be the first to stop clapping. Coming out I find myself behind Simon Williams, who has been mentioned by his son as one of Ben’s closest friends and am cheered by the possibility that if Ben could play Ambrose, so could Simon – which happily he does. But ‘lovely Ben’ the overwhelming feeling.24 February. Watching Dad’s ...

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