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Nobbled or Not

Bernard Porter: The Central African Federation, 25 May 2006

British Documents on the End of Empire Series B Vol. 9: Central Africa: Part I: Closer Association 1945-58 
by Philip Murphy.
Stationery Office, 448 pp., £150, November 2005, 0 11 290586 2
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British Documents on the End of Empire Series B Vol. 9: Central Africa: Part II: Crisis and Dissolution 1959-65 
by Philip Murphy.
Stationery Office, 602 pp., £150, November 2005, 0 11 290587 0
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... on how many whites lived there – that is, whether there were enough to keep the blacks down.) Philip Murphy, the excellent editor of these fascinating volumes of (mainly) official documents, confesses himself at a loss to explain why Nyasaland in particular was ever included, unless it was simply to justify the title of ‘federation’, for which ...

Leases of Lifelessness

Denis Donoghue, 7 October 1993

Beckett’s Dying Words 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 218 pp., £17.50, July 1993, 0 19 812358 2
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... fiction, but in several passages Ricks nearly forgets Beckett, and fixes his attention on Philip Larkin, Hardy, Swift, Coleridge, Sydney Smith, Christina Rossetti or another. I can’t believe that he chose to deliver these Clarendon Lectures as a hodge-podge. It is more probable that he observed the impressionism that Beckett ascribed to ...


Christopher Ricks: Thoughts of Beckett at News of His Death, 25 January 1990

... of Phena at News of Her Death’. It had previously come to mind at news of another death, Philip Larkin’s, because of his once pinpointing essentially the birth of his own art: the moment when he stopped condescending to Hardy’s. ‘As regards his verse I shared Lytton Strachey’s verdict that “the gloom is not even relieved by a little ...

Hindsight Tickling

Christopher Tayler: Disappointing sequels, 21 October 2004

The Closed Circle 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 433 pp., £17.99, September 2004, 0 670 89254 8
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... of bourgeois morality, but The Accidental Woman is clearly the work of a young man who’s read Murphy, Watt and First Love. The allegiance to Beckett is chiefly signalled by a studied disdain for the conventions of realism (‘Here you are to imagine a short scene of family jubilation, I’m buggered if I can describe one’), along with some suitably ...

At the Met

David Hansen: Richard Serra, 30 June 2011

... in Hands Scraping (one Serra’s, the other belonging to his sometime performance collaborator Philip Glass) are drawing in reverse: shovelling, sweeping, picking and wiping up a heap of steel filings. And in Hand Catching Lead, the blackened artist’s fingers snatching at falling shards of metal are at once drawing’s tool and the surface drawn on. The ...

Really Very Exhilarating

R.W. Johnson: Macmillan and the Guardsmen, 7 October 2004

The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made 
by Simon Ball.
HarperCollins, 456 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 00 257110 2
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... of the whip or turn him out of the party. You just say he is a monarchist or has plotted to kill Murphy’ – Macmillan’s American counterpart – ‘and you shoot him off to prison or a Saharan concentration camp. Then, a week or two later, you let him out and make him minister for something or other. It’s really very exhilarating.’ Ball’s picture ...

Failed Vocation

James Butler: The Corbyn Project, 3 December 2020

Left Out: The Inside Story of Labour under Corbyn 
by Gabriel Pogrund and Patrick Maguire.
Bodley Head, 376 pp., £18.99, September, 978 1 84792 645 6
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This Land: The Story of a Movement 
by Owen Jones.
Allen Lane, 336 pp., £20, September, 978 0 241 47094 7
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... a hope rather than a reality. Even at its most functional, Corbyn’s office was chaotic. Karie Murphy, to whom Corbyn eventually outsourced much of his decision-making, is said by one staffer to have declared: ‘This is a left-wing collective. There’s no one leader.’ Murphy insists that she never exceeded Corbyn’s ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... Garfield, Ava Gardner, Judy Garland, Henry Hathaway, Van Heflin, Fritz Lang, Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy, Burgess Meredith, Groucho Marx, Vincente Minnelli, Gregory Peck, Vincent Price, Robert Ryan, Edward G. Robinson, Donna Reed, Nicholas Ray, Robert Siodmak, Frank Sinatra, Sylvia Sidney, Claire Trevor, Franchot Tone, Walter Wanger, Keenan Wynn, William ...

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Andrew O’Hagan: If something happens to me…, 5 May 2005

... against the rain, and Rome seemed a place not of eternities but of passing trade. Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor entered the restaurant in his civilian uniform of open-necked shirt and windcheater, smiling to the waiters and taking his usual table. I didn’t approach him, but took time to notice the high-spiritedness of his friends, happy to be in the ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan, 8 September 2011

Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... possessive woman I have ever known’. She did not get what she wanted. Macmillan’s solicitor Philip Frere pointed out that divorce would be fatal for his political career and recommended a ‘west wing-east wing’ solution, traditional among the estranged upper classes who had houses large enough for the purpose. Until she died in 1966 – suddenly, of ...


Alan Brien, 5 December 1985

Orson Welles 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 562 pp., £14.95, October 1985, 0 297 78476 5
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The Making of ‘Citizen Kane’ 
by Robert Carringer.
Murray, 180 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 7195 4248 0
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Spike Milligan 
by Pauline Scudamore.
Granada, 318 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 246 12275 7
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Nancy Mitford 
by Selina Hastings.
Hamish Hamilton, 274 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 241 11684 8
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Rebel: The Short Life of Esmond Romilly 
by Kevin Ingram.
Weidenfeld, 252 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 297 78707 1
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The Mitford Family Album 
by Sophia Murphy.
Sidgwick, 160 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 283 99115 1
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... rather too well told already – in his books, in his widow’s autobiography and her memoir of Philip Toynbee, in Toynbee’s memoir of Romilly – for the importance of his role in the world. The best of the book, for me, was the section dealing with Esmond in wartime aircrew and his farcical, bumbling attempts to remedy his inborn accident-proneness ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... which the book’s Irish reviewers weren’t slow to point out. In an enlightened spirit, Richard Murphy thought the point was that Ireland might be encouraged to shake off such atavism, the book freed ‘us from the myth by portraying it in its true archaic shape and colour, not disguising its brutality’. Other reviewers took the opposite view, most ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore, 10 August 2000

Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... had become friends with many writers, especially Mordecai Richler; now Moore became friends with Philip Roth and Neil Simon. They divided their time between Manhattan and Long Island. Moore won prizes, sold movie rights and began to achieve a sort of fame, but he lived in those years in a world he grew to distrust: ‘I lived in Greenwich Village ... and I ...


Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... flash and is put in perspective by the next item, a much more extensive piece about how Eddie Murphy invited a transvestite prostitute into his car with a view to putting him/her on the right road.3 May. To the Chicago Art Institute, a relatively modest museum but with superb paintings. It’s Saturday and very busy so I confine myself to rooms with ...

The Olympics Scam

Iain Sinclair: The Razing of East London, 19 June 2008

... Nobody told them this was going to happen.’ The Olympic Park is zoned liked a city under siege: Murphy, Morrison, Nuttall have separate checkpoints and their own private armies. We have to sign our names on clipboard forms at every barrier. We drive through troughs of blue disinfectant. John Hopkins, with his twinkling grey moustache, keeps up the ...

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