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Yearning for Polar Seas

James Hamilton-Paterson: North

1 September 2005
The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule 
by Joanna Kavenna.
Viking, 334 pp., £16.99, February 2005, 0 670 91395 2
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The Idea of North 
by Peter Davidson.
Reaktion, 271 pp., £16.95, January 2005, 1 86189 230 6
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... and enjoyed the mise-en-scène of polar bears, white-outs, ice floes and the rest, the word ‘north’ exercised over me little of the magic it has for so many others, including Kavenna and PeterDavidson. ‘The Idea of North’ was the Canadian pianist Glenn Gould’s phrase and the title of a radio documentary he made. ‘I have an enormous compulsion to look upon the polar seas,’ he wrote to a ...

Then place my purboil’d Head upon a Stake

Colin Burrow: British and Irish poetry

7 January 1999
Poetry and Revolution: An Anthology of British and Irish Verse 1625-1660 
edited by Peter Davidson.
Oxford, 716 pp., £75, July 1998, 0 19 818441 7
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... this period, in which conventional elements are graciously reassembled in posies for readers to sniff and to pluck. Consider this delicious morsel of anonymity, ‘On a Lady Sleeping’, plucked by PeterDavidson from BL MS Add. 25,707: Calmely as the mornings soft teares shedd Upon some rose or Violet bedd May your slumbers fall upon you All your thoughts sit easy on you Gently rocking heart and ...

Chucky, Hirple, Clart

David Craig: Robert Macfarlane

23 September 2015
Landmarks 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, March 2015, 978 0 241 14653 8
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... as ‘a field guide to the literature he loves’ – seems to me less valuable, less significant. Most of the chapters are a very personal kind of literary criticism of books by writers such as PeterDavidson (The Idea of North), Nan Shepherd (The Living Mountain), Richard Jefferies (Nature near London), J.A. Baker (The Peregrine), Jacquetta Hawkes (A Land) and Roger Deakin (Waterlog). It’s ...

Christmas Trees

Alice Spawls

5 January 2017
... branches or suspended in clusters like balls of mistletoe. The beauty of the bare and penumbral is harder to find; electric lights have chased away the ‘spectral grandeur of winter in London’, as PeterDavidson describes it in The Last of the Light, his book about dusk (Reaktion, £20). For a long time, the drawn-out twilights of the northern hemisphere were aestheticised; the year’s dwindling ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison

5 December 1985
No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter​ Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... tongue could be civilised and elegant, but in Larkin genteel forms are increasingly played off against the demotic: fuck, balls, cock, cunt – this is Larkin’s equivalent of dialect. Nowadays Peter Reading is offering something similar, inserting into a great variety of verse-forms a language that is coarse, prosey and, some say, as they at first said about Larkin, scarcely the language of ...

Mouse Thoughts

Jerry Fodor

7 March 2002
Subjective, Intersubjective, Objective 
by Donald Davidson.
Oxford, 237 pp., £30, September 2002, 0 19 823753 7
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... I do wish Donald Davidson would write a book. I mean, a proper book with a beginning, a middle and an end, in contrast to the collections of papers of which the present volume is an instance. My wishing so is not invidious ...

Short Cuts

Jeremy Harding: Basil Davidson

5 August 2010
... Writing about Basil Davidson’s work for the LRB blog a few days after his death last month, I’d a sense that there was more to say. The record is magnificent: his sterling work in occupied Yugoslavia for the Special ...

Homobesottedness

Peter​ Green: Love in Ancient Greece

8 May 2008
The Greeks and Greek Love: A Radical Reappraisal of Homosexuality in Ancient Greece 
by James Davidson.
Weidenfeld, 634 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 297 81997 4
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... No one reading James Davidson’s enormous and impassioned book, which barely acknowledges the existence, much less the vast numerical superiority, of Greek heterosexual society, would get the impression that Greek homoeroticism ...
18 September 1997
Courtesans and Fishcakes: The Consuming Passions of Classical Athens 
by James Davidson.
HarperCollins, 372 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 00 255591 3
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... He made money by selling his country; he went around spending it on prostitutes and fish.’ So Demosthenes vilified a political opponent, as publicly corrupt and privately depraved. James Davidson’s concern is with those ancient appetites: food, drink and sex in classical Athens. At one level, he provides a guided tour from bordello to Billingsgate; at another, an essay on the politics of ...

Who’s to blame?

Kathryn Tidrick

25 February 1993
The Black Man’s Burden: Africa and the Curse of the Nation-State 
by Basil Davidson.
James Currey, 372 pp., £9.95, September 1992, 0 85255 700 0
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Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa 
by Frank McLynn.
Hutchinson, 390 pp., £18.99, August 1992, 0 09 177082 3
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African Silences 
by Peter​ Matthiessen.
Harvill, 225 pp., £7.99, September 1992, 0 00 271186 9
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... reverted to their ancient way of life as independent farmers in a continent where there had always, overall, been a surplus of cultivable land in relation to the number of people living on it. Basil Davidson argues in his new book, The Black Man’s Burden, that the blight that has settled upon black Africa in the present day is rooted in the nation-state. In developing his argument he spares no ...

Eric the Nerd

Ian Hamilton: The Utterly Complete Orwell

29 October 1998
The Complete Works of George Orwell 
edited by Peter Davidson.
Secker, £750, July 1998, 0 436 20377 4
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... the most moth-eaten of pen-pushers might, I’d guess, feel just a bit nonplussed when faced with a scholarly pile-up of this magnitude, however much he/we might wish to hail the editorial labours of Peter Davison and his assistants. Davison has been working on this edition for almost twenty years and, as he has not been slow to tell us, has had to overcome a succession of irritating setbacks – ...
9 April 1992
The Great Reckoning: How the world will change in the depression of the Nineties 
by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg.
Sidgwick, 531 pp., £20, January 1992, 0 283 06116 2
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... prejudice as from historical, economic and political analysis. Doubtless they would regard such criticism as a slur upon good scholarship as they ramble through everything from the castration of Peter Abelard to 19th-century Wyoming’s gun laws, in their effort to persuade the persevering reader of the imminence of this apocalypse. In order to save ourselves, we must sell our over-mortgaged ...

Horror like Thunder

Germaine Greer: Lucy Hutchinson

21 June 2001
Order and Disorder 
by Lucy Hutchinson, edited by David Norbrook.
Blackwell, 272 pp., £55, January 2001, 0 631 22061 5
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... panegyric on the Lord Protector in an article in The Seventeenth Century, and in 1997 transcriptions of her ‘Elegies’ in an article in English Literary Renaissance. For Jane Stevenson and PeterDavidson, who edited Early Modern Women Poets (1520-1700): An Anthology,* Norbrook’s attribution to Lucy Hutchinson of Order and Disorder makes her ‘one of the most important poets, man or woman ...

Tea or Eucharist?

Anthony Howard

3 December 1992
The Faber Book of Church and Clergy 
edited by A.N. Wilson.
Faber, 304 pp., £17.50, November 1992, 0 571 16204 5
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High and Mitred: A Study of Prime Ministers as Bishop-Makers 1837-1977 
by Bernard Palmer.
SPCK, 350 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 281 04594 1
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... it had become too eager to embrace the spirit of the age, introducing elective democracy into its government, contemporary language into its services, the social gospel into its spiritual message. Peter Simple’s immortal creation, Dr Spacely-Trellis, the ‘go-ahead’ Bishop of Bevindon, personified the popular conception of the modern church leader – until real life played an unfair trick and ...

Short Cuts

Peter​ Geoghegan: Brexit and the SNP

3 November 2016
... would probably lead the unionist cause in a second referendum, look increasingly uncomfortable. The prime minister’s lurch to the right threatens their minor renaissance under the telegenic Ruth Davidson. Better Together is dead in the water. Though victorious in 2014, that coalition proved disastrous for Scottish Labour. The last thing it needs is another referendum. Many party activists say they ...

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