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Michael Dobson

8 June 1995
Edmond Malone, Shakespearean Scholar: A Literary Biography 
by Peter Martin.
Cambridge, 298 pp., £40, April 1995, 0 521 46030 1
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... Malone wrote the book. It is very hard, however, actually to like the prissy, intolerant-looking man whose glinting eyes, in Reynolds’s 1778 portrait, stare fixedly past us from the dust-jacket of PeterMartin’s biography. Indeed the book’s steady prose, for all its professions of admiration, does little to suggest that Martin (the first writer to undertake a life of Malone since 1860) has ...


Martin​ Green

7 August 1980
... at Sadler’s Wells On Saturday afternoons. This was my heritage; And many demonstrations, An infant revolutionary wheeled in a pram – Speakers’ Corner meant more to me Than did the statue of Peter Pan. The first theatre I ever saw The inside of was the Unity; Lenin and Stalin were nursery gods And at night behind the curtain There were meetings, meetings, meetings. At nursery school (Methodist ...


Paul Foot

2 March 1989
The Wilson Plot: The Intelligence Services and the Discrediting of a Prime Minister 
by David Leigh.
Heinemann, 271 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 434 41340 2
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A Price too High 
by Peter​ Rawlinson.
Weidenfeld, 284 pp., £16, March 1989, 0 297 79431 0
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... MI5 officers in particular had fallen under the spell of the imaginative CIA agent James Angleton. Angleton became convinced that Wilson was a Russian agent and he conveyed this certainty to Arthur Martin and Peter Wright. Arthur Martin took on board Angleton’s ‘certainty’ that Hugh Gaitskell, Wilson’s predecessor as leader of the Labour Party, had been poisoned by the Russians so that Wilson ...

The Impostor

Peter​ Burke

19 April 1984
Le Retour de Martin​ Guerre 
by Natalie Davis, Jean-Claude Carrière and Daniel Vigne.
Robert Laffont, 269 pp.
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The Return of Martin​ Guerre 
by Natalie Davis.
Harvard, 162 pp., £12.75, October 1983, 0 674 76690 3
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... The story is simple but compelling. Indeed, it may well be called ‘prodigious’, a term which is prominent on the title-page of the account of the case published in 1561. Martin Guerre was a peasant, of Basque origin but settled in the village of Artigat in the French South-West, between Toulouse and Foix. He married a local girl, Bertrande de Rols, when they were in their ...

At Tate Britain

Peter​ Campbell: John Martin

20 October 2011
... I begin to write about John Martin: Apocalypse (at Tate Britain until 15 January) before looking at the pictures. Maybe, I say to myself, if I set memories of Martin’s pictures against the words in the catalogue (Tate, £19.99), if I learn what he achieved in more than a century and a half of (variable) success, I’ll find that we owe his memory some kind of ...
6 March 1986
Aspects of Feeling 
by Peter​ Vansittart.
Peter​ Owen, 251 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 7206 0637 3
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... Peter Vansittart, novelist, historian and writer for children, has been singled out for praise by critics as diverse as Philip Toynbee, Francis King, Angus Wilson and Andrew Sinclair. All feel that he ...

Pay me for it

Helen Deutsch: Summoning Dr Johnson

9 February 2012
Samuel Johnson: A Life 
by David Nokes.
Faber, 415 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22636 8
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Selected Writings 
by Samuel Johnson, edited by Peter Martin.
Harvard, 503 pp., £16.95, May 2011, 978 0 674 06034 0
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The Brothers Boswell: A Novel 
by Philip Baruth.
Corvus, 336 pp., £7.99, January 2011, 978 1 84887 446 6
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The Life of Samuel Johnson LL.D. 
by John Hawkins, edited by O.M. Brack.
Georgia, 554 pp., £53.50, August 2010, 978 0 8203 2995 6
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... by reminding us how frequently and carefully Johnson revised his work, his readers persist in conflating art with life by imagining him thinking, speaking and writing in perfect print-ready copy. PeterMartin’s introduction to the tercentenary edition of Selected Writings sets up an echo chamber of affirmations of Johnson’s eternal appeal ranging from Ruskin to Beckett to Seamus Heaney to that ...

At the Barbican

Peter​ Campbell: Martin​ Parr

4 April 2002
Martin​ Parr 
by Val Williams.
Phaidon, 354 pp., £45, February 2002, 0 7148 3990 6
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... particularly) make money out of it. Some say these cases spell the end of photojournalism as we know it. A natural history of such uneasy tussles, some vocal, some unspoken, could be illustrated from Martin Parr’s work. His pictures can be seen both at the Barbican until 14 April and in the well-made book which accompanies the exhibition. They can be read as a recapitulation of the history of the ...


Jeremy Treglown

6 August 1992
Writers on World War Two: An Anthology 
edited by Mordecai Richler.
Chatto, 752 pp., £18.99, February 1992, 0 7011 3912 9
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Legacies and Ambiguities: Post-war Fiction and Culture in West Germany and Japan 
edited by Ernestine Schlant and Thomas Rimer.
Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins, 323 pp., $35, February 1992, 0 943875 30 7
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... the coast retreats to a sullen distance at low tide, I would have a vision of the war as a simple, romantic affair of opposing powers. There is inevitably nothing in Richler’s book, either, from Martin Amis’s Time’s Arrow. Amis, too, was born in 1949, and one of the critical objections raised against his novel was that he hadn’t lived through the events which he seemed to be treating so ...

It’s Been a Lot of Fun

David Runciman: Hitchens’s Hitchens

24 June 2010
Hitch-22: A Memoir 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Atlantic, 435 pp., £20, June 2010, 978 1 84354 921 5
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... In his book about religion, Peter Hitchens has a lot more to say about his brother Christopher than Christopher has to say about Peter in his book about himself.* ‘Some brothers get on,’ Peter writes mournfully, ‘some do not. We were the sort that just didn’t.’ He continues: At one stage – I was about nine, he nearly 12 – my poor gentle father actually persuaded us to sign a ...

In Bexhill

Peter​ Campbell: Unpopular Culture

5 June 2008
... Larkin (‘We passed them, grinning and pomaded, girls/In parodies of fashion, heels and veils’) hit the same sweetly rasping note as Tish Murtha’s unemployed man and his family in Newcastle, Martin Parr’s empty, rained-on tables for a Jubilee street party, Tony Ray-Jones’s group on deckchairs making the best of a cold day on Brighton Beach, Homer Sykes’s naked girls in a fairground ...

At the National Gallery

Peter​ Campbell: Fakes

22 July 2010
... bought it was not only accepted – even by some who thought it second-rate – but also cost a third more than Venus and Mars. The reputation of An Allegory soon went downhill; by 1951 the curator Martin Davies wrote that it was by ‘some feeble imitator of Botticelli’. It is certainly, according to all the tests, an old picture: the support, ground, pigments and medium are appropriate for Italy ...

Ripping Yarns

John Sutherland

8 April 1993
by Michael Thorn.
Little, Brown, 566 pp., £18.99, October 1992, 0 316 90299 3
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by Peter​ Levi.
Macmillan, 370 pp., £20, March 1993, 0 333 52205 2
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... new material while arguing for a volcanic adult sexuality in Tennyson who was, like Blake or Ginsberg, a poet for the wild Sixties. A provocative spin was given to the debate by Robert Bernard Martin in his Tennyson: The Unquiet Heart (1980). Martin traced the Tennysonian gloom back to the fear of stigmatising illness. Young Alfred’s formative years, according to this biography, were haunted by ...


Christopher Andrew

22 January 1987
Sword and Shield: Soviet Intelligence and Security Apparatus 
by Jeffrey Richelson.
Harper and Row, 279 pp., £11.95, February 1986, 0 88730 035 9
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The Red and the Blue: Intelligence, Treason and the University 
by Andrew Sinclair.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £12.95, June 1986, 0 297 78866 3
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Inside Stalin’s Secret Police: NKVD Politics 1936-39 
by Robert Conquest.
Macmillan, 222 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 333 39260 4
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Conspiracy of Silence: The Secret Life of Anthony Blunt 
by Barrie Penrose and Simon Freeman.
Grafton, 588 pp., £14.95, November 1986, 0 246 12200 5
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... Even the Kremlin, Sinclair argues, learned more from Cambridge physicists than from Cambridge moles. The key figure in the flow of Cambridge atomic physics to the Kremlin was, he believes, Peter Kapitsa, who arrived at the Cavendish in 1921, became Professor Sir Ernest Rutherford’s favourite pupil and was elected a fellow of Trinity. Each Tuesday at Trinity Kapitsa ran an informal club at ...

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