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Highbrow Mother Goose

Colin Kidd: Constitutional Dramas, 22 February 2024

The Cambridge Constitutional History of the United Kingdom 
edited by Peter Cane and Harshan Kumarasingham.
Cambridge, 1178 pp., £160, August 2023, 978 1 108 47421 4
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... no surprise that the co-editors of The Cambridge Constitutional History of the United Kingdom, Peter Cane and Harshan Kumarasingham, are an academic lawyer and a political scientist. Nevertheless they steer away from stale orthodoxies and insular complacency, interrogating instead Whig assumptions about English exceptionalism. Tamar Herzog questions ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: ‘Out of Australia’, 16 June 2011

... to hold honey, baskets to catch fish or to hold needles and thread. Bicornual basket of woven cane, from Queensland (early 1900s) Bolton says that the ‘riches’ of the people who made the baskets ‘were and still are intellectual, philosophical and religious’. This did not prevent the skills that went into ...
by Jerry Hopkins.
Elm Tree, 275 pp., £8.95, May 1985, 0 241 11548 5
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Alias David Bowie 
by Peter Gillman and Leni Gillman.
Hodder, 511 pp., £16.95, September 1986, 0 340 36806 3
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... quite as strong as our sense of jubilation, of ‘a giant step for mankind’. Further, as Peter and Leni Gillman suggest (prosaically or poetically), ‘Space Oddity’ sounds like an experience of shooting heroin, and they sternly quote another Bowie lyric: Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, We know Major Tom’s a junkie. Anyway, Major Tom helped to ...


Catherine Hall: Return to Jamaica, 13 July 2023

... the celebrated three-volume History of Jamaica, first published in 1774 and never out of print. (Peter Fryer described Long as the ‘father of English racism’ in Staying Power, his classic study of Black people in Britain from 1984.) I would see Clare and also make a final visit to Lucky Valley, Long’s plantation in Clarendon. Would this mark the end ...


Rory Stewart: In Papua, 20 July 2000

... everyone is a pilot.’ The man who has written most eloquently about the highlanders of Irian is Peter Mathiesson. In 1961 he was allowed to stay with the Harvard Peabody expedition among the North-Eastern Dani, by the Dutch colonial government, on the understanding that the police and the missionaries would arrive a year later to stop the fighting and ...

Just like Rupert Brooke

Tessa Hadley: 1960s Oxford, 5 April 2012

The Horseman’s Word: A Memoir 
by Roger Garfitt.
Cape, 378 pp., £18.99, April 2011, 978 0 224 08986 9
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... or perhaps this book is it. Roger Garfitt in his daffodil-yellow pinstripe suit and silver-topped cane – mingling with the other ‘heads’, boiling up asthma drugs for a hit, talking of samsara and Kropotkin – seems a type as exotic as an Elizabethan dandy: We would split an amp of methedrine between us, sliding the needle just under the skin in a ...

Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... leaves, and others the names of which I do not know were matted together by a trailing bamboo or cane. Here we were more like fishes struggling in a net than any other creature. Huxley writes lovingly about the extraordinary scale of living organisms, from the microscopic to the gigantic: ‘Again, think of the microscopic fungus – a mere infinitesimal ...

Aunt Twackie’s Bazaar

Andy Beckett: Seventies Style, 19 August 2010

70s Style and Design 
by Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £24.90, November 2009, 978 0 500 51483 2
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... Early on in this book there is a photograph of the British architect Peter Cook’s living-room ‘circa 1970’. Cook is now Sir Peter, co-designer of the rather bland main stadium for the 2012 London Olympics. But he was a young adventurer back then, a founder of the archetypal 1960s and 1970s avant-garde architects’ collective Archigram, which came up with never built but influential schemes for futuristic ‘walking’ buildings and ‘plug-in’ cities ...
Stafford Cripps: A Political Life 
by Simon Burgess.
Gollancz, 374 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 575 06565 6
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... cartoons showed him as an invariably severe authority figure – as a schoolmarm wielding her cane, for example – and naturally exaggerated his physical features to fit the stereotypes. Vicky, the most inventive cartoonist of the era, and by no means politically hostile, drew him as a hatstand, as a lamp-post, as a plank stretched across a ravine and as ...

Secrets are best kept by those who have no sense of humour

Alan Bennett: Why I turned down ‘Big Brother’, 2 January 2003

... 4 January. A Christmas letter from Cami Elbow, wife of Peter Elbow, an American college friend who teaches English at Amherst: Life in Amherst is very placid. Even grammatically correct. In December the town decided to encourage shoppers to patronise the downtown stores with free parking. They ordered plastic bags to cover up the parking meters but the bags arrived with the message wrongly punctuated: ‘Season’s Greeting’s ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen, 5 October 2006

In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... and riddles. Her mother, Marie Hansen, had immigrated to the US in the 1880s, and her father, Peter Walker, whom she never knew, was born in the Danish West Indies (after 1917, the US-controlled Virgin Islands). The little that is known about him suggests that he was half-Danish. By any logical account, Nella Larsen was a Danish American. After the death ...

Is the lady your sister?

E.S. Turner: An innkeeper’s diary, 27 April 2000

An Innkeeper's Diary 
by John Fothergill.
Faber, 278 pp., £23.95, January 2000, 0 571 15014 4
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... of Thame. This Folio Society reissue comes in the expected fine binding and with illustrations by Peter Bailey, but without any notes to identify all the one-time celebrities, half-celebrities or ‘significant people’, as Fothergill rates them, who throng the road to Thame. Many famous names are dropped, sometimes no more than dropped. Literature and art ...

Skating Charm

James Wolcott: Kenneth Tynan, 13 December 2001

The Diaries of Kenneth Tynan 
edited by John Lahr.
Bloomsbury, 439 pp., £25, October 2001, 0 7475 5418 8
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... a hobby for Tynan: it was a way of life, a cause, and heavy is the hand that holds the whip (or cane, or paddle). Although some commentators still insist on treating his spanking fetish as if it were a kinky diversion, a naughty bit of English-schoolboy vice, he was engaged in far more than recreational play, as his use of the phrase ‘anally ...


Peter Wollen, 19 October 1995

Sex and Suits 
by Anne Hollander.
Knopf, 212 pp., $25, September 1994, 0 679 43096 2
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... Theirs was a ‘theatre of greatness’, in E.P. Thompson’s phrase, involving wig, dress, cane, bearing, gesture, language, taste and wit. Its metteurs en scène were known as the Ton, the Quality, or simply the World. English nationalism, Newman argues, developed in antagonism to this élite aristocratic World of Fashion and its boundless ...


Nicholas Spice, 22 December 1983

Otto Klemperer: His Life and Times. Vol.I: 1885-1933 
by Peter Heyworth.
Cambridge, 492 pp., £15, October 1983, 0 521 24293 2
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Score and Podium: A Complete Guide to Conducting 
by Frederik Prausnitz.
Norton, 530 pp., £18.50, November 1983, 0 393 95154 5
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The New Oxford Companion to Music 
edited by Denis Arnold.
Oxford, 2017 pp., £37.50, October 1983, 0 19 311316 3
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... those supercooled, Stygian tempi. By explaining the earlier development of Klemperer’s art, Peter Heyworth’s biography places the notorious aspects of its last phase in a proper perspective, and restores balance to a reputation which has become, in England at any rate, lopsided. It teaches us, for example, that Klemperer’s tempi were not always ...

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