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Thomas Jones: Radio 3’s ‘X Factor’

14 July 2011
... potential to turn their ideas into fascinating broadcasts’. Announcing the winners, the Guardian called it an ‘X Factor-style talent search’. More than 1000 people applied (10,000 according to PhilipDodd on Night Waves, though I think he must have misread the script). The numbers took the organisers by surprise and led them to extend the judging period, but they shouldn’t have done: the AHRC ...

English Butter

David Trotter

9 October 1986
Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... the Dictionary of National Biography, and so on. Clearly these are important ‘places’ on the ‘map’. But, apart from Brian Doyle’s account of the early years of the English Association and PhilipDodd’s brief discussion of plans for a National Theatre, we learn nothing about them: about the reasons for their establishment, about the way they worked. The preference for mapping over ...

Advanced Thought

William Empson

24 January 1980
Genesis of Secrecy 
by Frank Kermode.
Harvard, 169 pp., £5.50, June 1979, 0 674 34525 8
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... read as if it were a history. Also it is rather unfair to take the chief examples from the Gospels, because there many readers have an extra difficulty about the miracles. A brief paragraph about Sir Philip Sidney, thrown in as an extra, does more to make the position clear. Lying wounded on a battlefield, the aristocratic young officer was brought a cup of water, but handed it on to a wounded trooper ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Master’

11 October 2012
... doesn’t do anything else), are whether charisma can be portrayed and/or inspected and whether a charismatic leader can help anyone who seriously needs help. The answers seem to be yes, no and no. Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of the Master is remarkable because it makes charisma seem so unsteady and so complicated. He is lordly, mischievous, scoundrelly, conniving, bullying, petulant ...


Nigel Hamilton: Writing Books, and Selling Them

23 October 1986
... music and a wooden plot. I close my eyes but cannot go to sleep. Should I give up business and return to the ‘little’ author I was in Suffolk for almost ten years while working on Monty? Philip Ziegler and others have written kindly about the final Monty volume, hoping that I will not abandon writing. I won’t: I have finished the manuscripts of two short novels since finishing the first ...

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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... debates he ‘altered and disguised’ from others’ notes and published as ‘Debates in the Senate of Lilliput’ in the Gentleman’s Magazine, and the ‘Last Solemn Declaration’ of Dr Dodd, the ‘macaroni parson’, who was hanged for forgery. Johnson’s style was as distinctive as his body, transforming the King’s English – which in his Dictionary he regulated, mapped and ...
20 December 1979
An Actor and his Time 
by John Gielgud.
Sidgwick, 253 pp., £8.95
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... small portable projection that was brought onto the stage. ‘I can’t find my plinth,’ she moaned at one rehearsal. ‘Really,’ said the veteran of Holding Out the Apple: ‘Do you mean Plinth Philip or Plinth Charles?’ But I would guess now that it was Oedipus, though rated a failure with Gielgud somewhat out of place in it, that gave him a new lease of life. He has always been a self ...

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