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Body Parts

Lawrence Stone

24 November 1994
The Making of Victorian Sexuality 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 338 pp., £17.95, April 1994, 0 19 812247 0
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The Making of Victorian Sexual Attitudes 
by Michael Mason.
Oxford, 256 pp., £17.99, October 1994, 0 19 812292 6
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... way around the fact that the novels of Jane Austen were free from the coarse sexual innuendoes of Aphra Behn, Defoe, Fielding or Smollett, while Dickens ignored the subject of sex altogether. Michael Mason’s main problem is to determine how prudery affected behaviour. Was it merely a veneer of hypocrisy, covering up a very different sexual reality? Were there fewer, and less enjoyable, sexual acts ...

Those Limbs We Admire

Anthony Grafton: Himmler’s Tacitus

14 July 2011
A Most Dangerous Book: Tacitus’ ‘Germania’ from the Roman Empire to the Third Reich 
by Christopher Krebs.
Norton, 303 pp., £18.99, June 2011, 978 0 393 06265 6
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... within German society wore different forms of clothing and used varied weapons. Clüver’s picture of ancient Germany was largely a work of the imagination, like Vico’s. But as Florike Egmond and PeterMason have shown in a brilliant analysis, it was also complex in both its motivations and its contents. Though excellent in its own terms, Kreb’s account is so tightly defined that he misses parts ...

Bare Bones

Steven Shapin: Rhinoceros v. Megatherium

8 March 2018
The Rhinoceros and the Megatherium: An Essay in Natural History 
by Juan Pimentel, translated by Peter Mason.
Harvard, 356 pp., £21.95, January 2017, 978 0 674 73712 9
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... What does​ a rhinoceros look like? If you are fortunate enough to have seen one in the flesh, you can can summon up an image from memory. If you haven’t seen one, you will have to conjure a mental image from pictures seen in books or in nature documentaries. There’s at least a chance that in forming this image your imagination will have tapped into a picture that is more than five hundred years ...

The Excommunicant

Richard Popkin: Spinoza v. the Synagogue

15 October 1998
The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study 
by Richard Mason.
Cambridge, 272 pp., £35, May 1997, 0 521 58162 1
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Spinoza, Liberalism and the Question of Jewish Identity 
by Steven Smith.
Yale, 270 pp., £21, June 1997, 0 300 06680 5
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... being. He then worked out a stoic-like ethical system in which the highest good for man is to see the world from the aspect of eternity, and to achieve the intellectual love of God. As Richard Mason reminds us, Spinoza’s neglect of epistemology made him of little interest to those who insisted that the problem of knowledge as set out by Descartes defined what philosophy was properly about ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Conformist’

20 March 2008
The Conformist 
directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.
August 1970
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... There is a fine, far-reaching moment in Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita, handsomely set up by the director and beautifully spun out by the actor. Peter Sellers, as the creepy and protean Clare Quilty, has struck up a conversation with James Mason, as Humbert Humbert. The latter is in no mood for any kind of conversation, since he is just marking ...

Falling Stars

Alan Coren

5 November 1981
Richard Burton 
by Paul Ferris.
Weidenfeld, 212 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77966 4
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Peter​ Sellers 
by Alexander Walker.
Weidenfeld, 240 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 297 77965 6
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... It is not easy to determine which is the better book. Richard Burton was printed by Butler and Tanner Limited, Peter Sellers by the Fakenham Press, and since the one establishment is in Somerset and the other in Norfolk, it is fair to absolve both of them from the sort of catchpenny opportunist hustling which these ...

At the Imperial War Museum

Peter​ Campbell: Eric Ravilious

4 December 2003
... digs about the commission for Coronation mugs) – the biographical parts of Alan Powers’s catalogue essay make that clear.* It was not just that a style developed in the service of Fortnum and Mason wouldn’t work as agitprop. The disengagement which characterised the style Ravilious had developed was both personal and part of the strand in English interwar culture that was wary of rhetoric but ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter​ Campbell: Watteau

31 March 2011
... The women are setting out for a party: She [the ward] forthwith appeared upon the threshold dressed in a crêpe of a kind of violent blue with desultory clusters of white roses. For some ten minutes Mason had the pleasure of being witness of that series of pretty movements and preparations with which women in full dress beguile the interval before their carriage is announced; their glances at the ...

At Tate Britain

Frank Kermode: William Blake

14 December 2000
... with informative if inaccessible commentary adjacent on the walls. The admirable Juliet Stevenson provides an audio commentary. And there are lots of educational backups, some, like lectures by Peter Ackroyd and Tom Paulin, now over, others, including various conferences and courses, still to come. The most visible, and in some ways the most instructive of the exhibits are those which demonstrate ...


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 ...

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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... Monica Ditmas, Anne Stevenson (two) and John Whitworth; from Aidan Carl Mathews (another besides ‘Severances’); from Thomas Shapcott (who may be Australian – we aren’t told) and from Peter Bland (probably, by the same token, a New Zealander); and from U. A. Fanthorpe (two). One of the Fanthorpe poems gets, reasonably enough, the third prize of £500, Bland gets £250, Eaton, Ditmas and ...

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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... certain Christian truths to pagan sages such as Plato and Zoroaster. The argument was later extended to China – for example, by the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher and by the Chevalier Ramsay (another Mason). Perhaps Fischer von Erlach’s admiration for Solomon’s Temple, combined with his interest in oriental architecture, could be accounted for on similar lines. When he lived in Rome, Rykwert tells ...

Enemies of All Mankind

Stephen Sedley: Pirates

24 June 2010
The Treatment of Prisoners under International Law 
by Nigel Rodley, with Matt Pollard.
Oxford, 697 pp., £85, August 2009, 978 0 19 921507 2
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The Enemy of All: Piracy and the Law of Nations 
by Daniel Heller-Roazen.
Zone, 295 pp., £21.95, November 2009, 978 1 890951 94 8
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The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates 
by Peter​ Leeson.
Princeton, 271 pp., £16.95, May 2009, 978 0 691 13747 6
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... a pirate could be. But with pirates the unexpected is everywhere. Although he doesn’t get a mention beyond the title, one recalls that Captain Hook himself, in the prose version, lures the flying Peter Pan into using his foot instead of his dagger to deliver the coup de grâce and tumbles into the crocodile’s jaws with the gratified riposte: ‘Bad form!’ Even better, in the stage version he ...

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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... to procure. It is ‘the book of’ in the prosaic sense that Edwards’s character speaks it (or writes it in his three big notebooks bought for 18/6 at ‘the Press Office in Smith Street’ in St Peter Port); but also ‘of’ in the sense of ‘made into’. It is Ebenezer made into a book. (Bohumil Hrabal’s Too Loud a Solitude comes to mind, with its paper-baler who is finally baled up himself ...

Consider the lions

Peter​ Campbell

22 July 1993
The House of Gold 
by Richard Goy.
Cambridge, 304 pp., £60, January 1993, 0 521 40513 0
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The Palace of the Sun 
by Robert Berger.
Pennsylvania State, 232 pp., £55, April 1993, 0 271 00847 4
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... He picked and mixed. The details of his house are variations or improvements on things which could already have been seen somewhere in Venice, and one must suppose a degree of co-operation between mason and patron on matters of aesthetics which, as Berger shows, a 17th-century architect would not have allowed. The tracery of the Cà d’Oro has grand antecedents in the Palazzo Ducale; the well-head ...

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