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With Only Passing Reference to the Earth

James Hamilton-Paterson: The Martian Enterprise, 22 August 2002

Mapping Mars: Science, Imagination and the Birth of a World 
by Oliver Morton.
Fourth Estate, 351 pp., £18.99, June 2002, 9781841156682
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... In his introduction to this remarkable book, Oliver Morton writes that it is ‘about how ideas from our full and complex planet are projected onto the rocks of that simpler, empty one’. Projection, Morton believes, has determined our thinking about Mars from the outset. The planet had attracted its complement of myth well before the Milanese astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli made his new map of Mars in 1877, and its features, dimly discernible through inadequate telescopes and often obscured by dust storms, had already acquired fanciful names ...

The Most Beautiful Icicle

Inigo Thomas: Apollo 11, 15 August 2019

Reaching for the Moon: A Short History of the Space Race 
by Roger D. Launius.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, July 2019, 978 0 300 23046 8
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The Moon: A History for the Future 
by Oliver Morton.
Economist Books, 334 pp., £20, May 2019, 978 1 78816 254 8
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... German engineer responsible for the V2 rocket, never had launch troubles – amazingly, given what Oliver Morton in The Moon: A History for the Future describes as the ‘ludicrously powerful’ five F-1 engines at its base. At lift-off, the rocket weighed three thousand tonnes. ‘The shell of ice that had clung to the super cool metal,’ ...

Boudoir Politics

Bee Wilson: Lola Montez, 7 June 2007

Lola Montez: Her Life and Conquests 
by James Morton.
Portrait, 390 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 7499 5115 3
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... on ‘both the quality or otherwise of the audience and Lola’s mood each night’, as James Morton writes in his entertaining biography. And sometimes ‘it depended on what money was thrown on stage.’ More or fewer parts of Lola’s body might be exposed during the dance, which was in two parts. In the first, she played the spider, spinning its ...

The Third Suitcase

Thomas Jones: Michael Frayn, 24 May 2012

Skios 
by Michael Frayn.
Faber, 278 pp., £15.99, May 2012, 978 0 571 28141 1
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... pale blond hair’ and ‘soft rueful eyes’. And he isn’t Norman Wilfred: he’s Oliver Fox, who was meant to be coming to Skios with his girlfriend, Annuka Vos, to spend a week in a borrowed villa, but she’s just dumped him, so he asked a woman he met in a bar to come with him instead. But she – her name’s Georgie – has missed ...

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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... as farce or fiction. What is one to make of an organisation whose leaders have names like Dummy Oliver, Blinker Hall, Biffy Dunderdale, Lousy Payne, Buster Milmo, Pay Sykes, Tar Robertson, Barmy Russel and Quex Sinclair (not to be confused with his successor but one, Sinbad Sinclair)? It’s no good reassuring the reader that in the transition from ...

Tolerant Repression

Blair Worden, 10 May 1990

Thomas Starkey and the Commonweal 
by Tom Mayer.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £32.50, April 1989, 0 521 36104 4
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Politics and Literature in the Reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII 
by Alistair Fox.
Blackwell, 317 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 631 13566 9
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The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn: Family Portraits at the Court of Henry VIII 
by Retha Warnicke.
Cambridge, 326 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 521 37000 0
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English Travellers Abroad 1604-1667 
by John Stoye.
Yale, 448 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 300 04180 2
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... reign of Henry VIII’s father. He concludes by recording a wary conversation in which Cardinal Morton declines to speak freely to the Duke of Buckingham about King Richard because ‘I love not much to talk of princes, as a thing not all out of peril.’ An innocent word, warns Morton, may be taken, not ‘as the party ...

Roaming the Greenwood

Colm Tóibín: A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition by Gregory Woods, 21 January 1999

A History of Gay Literature: The Male Tradition 
by Gregory Woods.
Yale, 448 pp., £24.95, February 1998, 0 300 07201 5
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... them. It is easy to argue about the uncertain Irishness of certain writers. Was Sterne Irish? Was Oliver Goldsmith Irish? Was Robert Tressell Irish? Is Iris Murdoch Irish? But the argument about who was gay and who was not and how we know is more difficult. How can someone be gay if, as in the case of Gogol, there is no direct evidence? Yet if you trawl ...

Dear Miss Boothby

Margaret Anne Doody, 5 November 1992

The Letters of Samuel Johnson: Vol. I: 1731-1772, Vol. II: 1773-1776, Vol. III: 1777-1781 
edited by Bruce Redford.
Oxford, 431 pp., £25, February 1992, 0 19 811287 4
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... He could have travelled in his youth had he been willing to put up with great hardship. Young Oliver Goldsmith hiked over the Continent, staying at various universities and earning his way by debating. This was not Johnson’s style: he could endure physical deprivation, certainly, but not the psychic deprivation of loneliness. His expansive centrifugal ...

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