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Dummy and Biffy

Noël Annan, 17 October 1985

Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community 
by Christopher Andrew.
Heinemann, 616 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 434 02110 5
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The Secret Generation 
by John Gardner.
Heinemann, 453 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 434 28250 2
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Two Thyrds 
by Bertie Denham.
Ross Anderson Publications, 292 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 86360 006 9
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The Ultimate Enemy: British Intelligence and Nazi Germany 1933-1939 
by Wesley Wark.
Tauris, 304 pp., £19.50, October 1985, 1 85043 014 4
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... that no spy ever told his masters anything of value they could not have gleaned from the press? Or Malcolm Muggeridge’s chronicles of his wasted time in the farce of paying agents in Lorenço Marques during the war? Perhaps Cyril Connolly said the last word on the spy story when in ‘Bond strikes camp’ he pictured 007 being nearly seduced by a C ...

Boys will be girls

Clive James, 1 September 1983

Footlights! A Hundred Years of Cambridge Comedy 
by Robert Hewison.
Methuen, 224 pp., £8.95, June 1983, 0 413 51150 2
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... at last got a look-in after World War II, the occasional member of genuine literary gifts – Malcolm Lowry is perhaps the most distinguished example – would scarcely have been able to make much of an impact even if he had felt driven to. Mr Hewison drums up what excitement he can out of the high professional standards set by Jack Hulbert in 1913, when ...

Wodehouse in America

D.A.N. Jones, 20 May 1982

P.G. Wodehouse: A Literary Biography 
by Benny Green.
Joseph, 256 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 907516 04 1
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Wodehouse on Wodehouse: Bring on the girls (with Guy Bolton), Performing Flea, Over Seventy 
Penguin, 655 pp., £2.95, September 1981, 0 14 005245 3Show More
P.G. Wodehouse: An Illustrated Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Eel Pie, 160 pp., £3.95, September 1981, 0 906008 44 1
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P.G. Wodehouse: A Centenary Celebration 1881-1981 
edited by James Heineman and Donald Bensen.
Oxford, 197 pp., £40, February 1982, 0 19 520357 7
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The World of P.G. Wodehouse 
by Herbert Warren Wind.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £5.95, October 1981, 0 09 145670 3
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... They get quite excited: ‘The Pothunters. Ten black-and-white illustrations by R. Noel Pocock ... Soon after I estimated The Pothunters at “up to £100” in Collecting Modern First Editions, an American collector offered me $500 for my own copy ... So what is it worth?’ Bibliophiles are like that, always asking what it’s worth, in cash ...

Every Rusty Hint

Ian Sansom: Anthony Powell, 21 October 2004

Anthony Powell: A Life 
by Michael Barber.
Duckworth, 338 pp., £20, July 2004, 0 7156 3049 0
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... was because he was Welsh,’ Barber teases, ‘that Powell pronounced his name to rhyme with Noel and not, as you might expect, with towel.’ Powell was about as Welsh as I am Russian: he had an ancestor, Rhys ap Gruffydd, who ruled much of South Wales sometime around the 12th century. The Welsh thing obviously appealed to a wild, romantic longing in ...
... concentrated form. Just how distinctive the resulting discourse is became plain to me on reading Noel Annan’s Our Age. Here was a stylish narrative – of the English clerisy – which I recognised, and had contributed to in a marginal way. But another narrative was loping alongside, identifying characters in Annan’s story – Reith, Sandy ...

Trouble down there

Ferdinand Mount: Tea with Sassoon, 7 August 2003

Siegfried Sassoon: The Making of a War Poet 1886-1918 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 600 pp., £9.99, September 2002, 0 7156 2894 1
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Siegfried Sassoon: The Journey from the Trenches 1918-67 
by Jean Moorcroft Wilson.
Duckworth, 526 pp., £30, April 2003, 0 7156 2971 9
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Sassoon: The Worlds of Philip and Sybil 
by Peter Stansky.
Yale, 295 pp., £25, April 2003, 0 300 09547 3
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... obsessive literary golfers such as P.G. Wodehouse and Ian Fleming, and only a little inferior to Malcolm Lowry and Patrick Hamilton, who were golfers as well as drinkers of championship class. This devotion to sport went with a declared aversion to women and, at this stage, to sex in any form. He told Carpenter in 1911 that he was ‘still unspotted’, and ...

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... the Stones, Phil Spector – but also the Duchess of Windsor, Noël Coward, Peter Stringfellow, Malcolm Sargent, Beryl Bainbridge, John Birt, Jonathan Aitken, Edward Heath et al. This isn’t just a confetti of toe-curling names. Brown catches a moment when discrete segments of society were slowly coalescing into an entity called the Media. A living collage ...

Memories of Lindsay Anderson

Alan Bennett, 20 July 2000

... of his life map out his career: Richard Harris (This Sporting Life), Albert Finney (Billy Liar), Malcolm McDowell (If ...) and Frank Grimes. None of them seems to have come across (if that, indeed, was what he wanted). They were all incorrigibly male and not all were over-blessed with imagination. Frank Grimes, around whom Lindsay built much of his later ...

Too Young

James Davidson: Lord Alfred Douglas, 21 September 2000

Bosie: A Biography of Lord Alfred Douglas 
by Douglas Murray.
Hodder, 374 pp., £20, June 2000, 0 340 76770 7
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... by the police, Bosie wasn’t satisfied. A better chance came in the Billing trial of 1918. Noel Pemberton Billing, an MP, had alleged that over two decades German agents had been doing energetic research in England, ‘spreading such debauchery and such lasciviousness as only German minds can conceive and only German bodies execute’. The result of ...

If everybody had a Wadley

Terry Castle: ‘Joe’ Carstairs, the ‘fastest woman on water’, 5 March 1998

The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water 
by Kate Summerscale.
Fourth Estate, 248 pp., £12.99, August 1997, 1 85702 360 9
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... a beautiful man, smoked cigars, and was pursued from race to race by a gaggle of female fans. (Sir Malcolm Campbell of Bluebird fame called her – apparently without irony – ‘the greatest sportsman I know’.) Special ‘friends’ included the lesbian actresses Tallulah Bankhead and Gwen Farrar. Carstairs, the Evening News reported in 1925, could ...

Trying to Make Decolonisation Look Good

Bernard Porter: The End of Empire, 2 August 2007

Britain’s Declining Empire: The Road to Decolonisation, 1918-68 
by Ronald Hyam.
Cambridge, 464 pp., £17.99, February 2007, 978 0 521 68555 9
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The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire 
by Peter Clarke.
Allen Lane, 559 pp., August 2007, 978 0 7139 9830 6
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Forgotten Wars: The End of Britain’s Asian Empire 
by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper.
Allen Lane, 673 pp., £30, January 2007, 978 0 7139 9782 8
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... ship’ was the British Empire; the words are those of the imperial historian Jack Gallagher. Noel Annan believed that the ‘peaceful divestment of the empire’ was ‘the most successful political achievement of Our Age’. The main actors on the British side all came out of it pretty chuffed, too. They must have been encouraged in this feeling by the ...

The Vulgarity of Success

Murray Sayle: Everest and Empire, 7 May 1998

Eric Shipton: Everest and Beyond 
by Peter Steele.
Constable, 290 pp., £18.99, March 1998, 0 09 478300 4
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... swathed in cloud. Just after noon the clouds briefly cleared. The expedition’s geologist, Noel Odell, looking up from two thousand feet below, saw two tiny figures on the summit ridge, ‘going strong for the top’. ‘Then,’ he related in a famous despatch to the Times, ‘the whole fascinating vision vanished, enveloped in cloud once ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... In his remarkable Proust among the Stars, the one study of A la recherche equal to its splendours, Malcolm Bowie observed with justice that while Time in this mode is ‘a “big” controlling theme’, calling forth ‘an impressive philosophical diction’, it ‘levitates too obligingly above the restless detail of Proust’s writing’ in ways that can be ...

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