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Reading with No Clothes on

Michael Hofmann: Guernsey’s Bard, 24 January 2008

The Book of Ebenezer Le Page 
by G.B. Edwards.
NYRB, 400 pp., £10.99, July 2007, 978 1 59017 233 9
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... stories of his aunts, ‘La Prissy’ and ‘La Hetty’, two sisters married to two brothers (a mason and a memorial mason), his sister Tabitha (‘La Tabby’), his same-age cousins Horace and Raymond. We get two world wars (‘Two is one too many for any man. Now I sit and wait for the third’); one German ...

Hallelujah Times

Eric Foner: The Great Migration, 29 June 2017

A Mind to Stay: White Plantation, Black Homeland 
by Sydney Nathans.
Harvard, 313 pp., £23.95, February 2017, 978 0 674 97214 8
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... more than a million black Americans moved from the rural South to industrial cities north of the Mason-Dixon line. Refugees fleeing grinding poverty, political disenfranchisement, inadequate education and the ever present threat of violence (a comprehensive system of white supremacy known by the shorthand Jim Crow), they found employment on the bottom rungs ...

In Letchworth

Gillian Darley: Pevsner's Hertfordshire, 2 January 2020

... by the Dambusters), a scale model of which still stands in the grounds.A thousand years earlier, Paul of Caen and Robert the Mason began the transformation of the Roman shrine to St Alban, the first British Christian martyr, into a Norman church of handsome proportions, eventually dedicated in 1115. A succession of ...

Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

Arvon Foundation Poetry Competion: 1980 Anthology 
by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.
Kilnhurst Publishing Company, 173 pp., £3, April 1982, 9780950807805
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Burn this 
by Tom Disch.
Hutchinson, 63 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 0 09 146960 0
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... but certainly creditable. And here figure Mairi MacInnes, Miriam Levine (two), Gerry Loose, Paul Coltman, Richard Dankleff, Robin Ivy, Pete Morgan (two), Phyllis Koestenbaum, Barbara Moore, David MacSweeney (one out of two), Randall Garrison, Donald Stallybrass, Ellery Akers, Peter Abbs, John Hodgen, Andrew Motion, Edwin Drummond, Gregory ...

Former Lovers

Michael Mason, 6 September 1984

The Bourgeois Experience. Victoria to Freud Vol. I: Education of the Senses 
by Peter Gay.
Oxford, 608 pp., £18.50, March 1984, 0 19 503352 3
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Austin and Mabel: The Amherst Affair and Love Letters of Austin Dickinson and Mabel Loomis Todd 
by Polly Longsworth.
Farrar, Straus, 449 pp., £18.50, September 1984, 0 374 10716 5
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The Memoirs of John Addington Symonds 
edited by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Hutchinson, 319 pp., £14.95, May 1984, 0 09 154170 0
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... for not ignoble victims of a natural instinct reputed vicious in the modern age’. As with St Paul, hate and love of the persecuted were closely bound up. Symonds speaks of the personal misery flowing from the Vaughan affair in striking vocabulary: ‘It was a severe strain upon my nervous and moral strength – this probing of Vaughan’s case, this ...

Just Good Friends

Caroline Moorehead, 2 February 1984

The Brotherhood: The Secret World of the Freemasons 
by Stephen Knight.
Granada, 325 pp., £8.95, January 1984, 0 246 12164 5
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The Calvi Affair: Death of a Banker 
by Larry Gurwin.
Macmillan, 249 pp., £8.95, October 1983, 0 333 35321 8
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... in British society definite areas – the law, and in particular the Police – where to be a Mason can be a determining element in a man’s career: in the Police, by the late Sixties, it had ‘become hard for non-Masons to obtain promotion above Superintendent in the uniformed branch, and above sergeant in the CID’. Preferment and a blind eye turned ...

Slapping the Clammy Flab

John Lanchester: Hannibal by Thomas Harris, 29 July 1999

by Thomas Harris.
Heinemann, 496 pp., £16.99, June 1999, 0 434 00940 7
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... doctor. The person who pulls the wires to get Clarice her new job is Hannibal’s real bad guy. Mason Verger, whom we first heard of on a ventilator in Baltimore, is the last of Lecter’s surviving victims. He is the heir to the Verger slaughterhouse fortune (‘today the Vergers slaughter 86,000 cattle a day, and approximately 36,000 pigs, a number that ...

Moderns and Masons

Peter Burke, 2 April 1981

The First Moderns: The Architects of the Eighteenth Century 
by Joseph Rykwert.
M.I.T., 585 pp., £27.50, September 1980, 0 262 18090 1
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... Charles, Claude Perrault does not normally rate a place in histories of 17th-century thought. Paul Hazard’s classic Crise de la Conscience Européenne (1934) does not mention him at all. Yet Claude Perrault put forward revolutionary ideas in aesthetics. His Ordonnance des Cinq Espèces de Colonnes (1683) ‘broke decisively’ (Wittkower’s ...


E.S. Turner, 22 January 1998

Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Eras 
by Terence Grocott.
Chatham, 430 pp., £30, November 1997, 1 86176 030 2
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... trade at its worst. Even the device of undergirding, or frapping, popularised by the apostle Paul when in trouble off Crete, was still in use – running cables under the keel and tightening them to hold the hull together. The decrepit 74-gun Blenheim was so ‘wretchedly hogged’ that the builders strongly remonstrated against her putting to ...

Surviving the Reformation

Helen Cooper: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, 15 October 1998

The Beggar and the Professor: A 16th-Century Family Saga 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 407 pp., £11.95, June 1998, 0 226 47324 4
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... his father. Even plays were dangerous: the bolt from Heaven intended to spark the conversion of St Paul set fire to the actor’s trousers; the wicked son of Haman was almost hanged in the course of a performance of the story of Esther. And if you survived one hazard, it would not be long until the next one. A mason employed ...


A. Craig Copetas: Yaaaggghhhh, 25 June 1992

... started weirding-out the crowd at the Mitre with stories of pickled sexual organs floating in mason jars and when the Catholic bartender wanted you burned for blasphemy. We made it out of Norwich’s psychedelic underworld alive and intact, but these are different times. You always wrote whipsong fiction and Black Dogs is not different, but I’m ...

Horrid Mutilation! Read all about it!

Richard Davenport-Hines: Jack the Ripper and the London Press by Perry Curtis, 4 April 2002

Jack the Ripper and the London Press 
by Perry Curtis.
Yale, 354 pp., £25, February 2002, 0 300 08872 8
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... evidence as to his age and appearance was contradictory. More than 130 suspects are listed in Paul Begg, Martin Fido and Keith Skinner’s authoritative The Jack the Ripper A to Z (1991). Curtis claims that Ripperologists have ‘brought us no closer to the real culprit than did the exertions of Scotland Yard in 1888’, but he is unduly dismissive of ...


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

... on a courtesy visit to the USSR, as it then was, in 1988, a party which included Craig Raine, Paul Bailey and Timothy Mo. I don’t remember laughing more on any trip before or since; we were a very silly group, so much so that we often mystified our hosts and sometimes behaved disgracefully. Sue – and I even noticed this in the photo the Guardian used ...


June Goodfield, 6 November 1986

Memoir of a Thinking Radish: An Autobiography 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 209 pp., £12.50, April 1986, 0 19 217737 0
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... My first encounter with Peter Medawar revealed something about us both. When he was the new Mason Professor of Zoology in the University of Birmingham I was a student at University College, Nottingham, and one of my tasks as president of the student Zoological Society was to give votes of thanks to visiting speakers ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes, 26 April 2018

Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... can detect echoes of his jaundiced vision in Jordan Peele’s recent horror film, Get Out, and in Paul Beatty’s novel The Sellout. But, as if it were his destiny to remain just beyond the pale of literary approval, Himes, unlike Baldwin, flunks the contemporary ‘woke’ test. As much as he deplored the prejudices of the black bourgeoisie and aligned ...

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