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The Hagiography Factory

Thomas Meaney: Arthur Schlesinger Jr

8 February 2018
Schlesinger: The Imperial Historian 
by Richard Aldous.
Norton, 486 pp., £23.99, November 2017, 978 0 393 24470 0
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... in Britain and France – Isaiah Berlin and Raymond Aron were more formidable thinkers – Schlesinger had a particularly intimate relationship with power. But one of the fascinating paradoxes of RichardAldous’s biography is how slight Schlesinger’s influence in Washington actually was, despite his own pride in it, when compared to his influence on the American reading public, which he counted ...

Was Ma Hump to blame?

John Sutherland: Aldous​ Huxley

11 July 2002
Aldous​ Huxley: An English Intellectual 
by Nicholas Murray.
Little, Brown, 496 pp., £20, April 2002, 0 316 85492 1
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TheCat's Meow 
directed by Peter Bogdanovich.
April 2002
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... Twentieth-century Huxleys have received less biography than one might have expected. Nicholas Murray usefully fills a gap between Sybille Bedford’s thirty-year-old life of Aldous and the awaited definitive biography by David Bradshaw. With the passing of time, Murray can tell us things prohibited to his predecessor by discretion and the libel laws. At the same time, like ...

I am them

Richard​ Wollheim

7 October 1993
Love of Beginnings 
by J.-B. Pontalis, translated by James Greene and Marie-Christine Régius.
Free Association, 260 pp., £13.95, May 1993, 9781853431296
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... little to bring personality to life. But any reader who comes to the book with these perfectly reasonable interests will be disappointed. Love of Beginnings has none of the factuality of a novel by Aldous Huxley or Simone de Beauvoir. It is about as full of gossip as a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. In composing his autobiography, Pontalis made a very explicit choice of genre. He cast it, deliberately and ...


Ian Hamilton: Sport Poetry

23 January 1986
... and Soracha, whose character Brigit apparently ‘owes the description of her back to the author’s sight of the hindquarters of Nancy Cunard’. For glimpses of the rest of her see Wyndham Lewis, Richard Aldington (twice), Evelyn Waugh, Michael Arlen and Aldous Huxley. As one might anticipate, Nancy Cunard is a favourite with Amos: often copied, and unfailingly good copy. Indeed, he finds it hard to ...

C (for Crisis)

Eric Hobsbawm: The 1930s

6 August 2009
The Morbid Age: Britain between the Wars 
by Richard​ Overy.
Allen Lane, 522 pp., £25, May 2009, 978 0 7139 9563 3
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...  notably about the great 20th-century wars – has grown explosively. Studies of historical memory are essentially not about the past, but about the retrospect to it of some subsequent present. Richard Overy’s The Morbid Age demonstrates another, and less indirect, approach to the emotional texture of the past: the difficult excavation of contemporary popular reactions to what was happening in ...

Tiff and Dither

Michael Wood

2 January 1997
Diaries. Vol. I: 1939-60 
by Christopher Isherwood, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Methuen, 1048 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 413 69680 4
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... That’s me.’ But then who is ‘me’? We learn quite a bit about this fellow. Like his author, he has written a novel called The Memorial; lives with his mother and a younger brother called Richard; works on a movie; has fashionable but uncontroversial left-wing ideas (he speaks himself of his ‘parlour socialism’); confesses to small acts of cowardice. But we know far more about the quality ...
4 January 1996
Stravinsky: Chronicle of a Friendship 
by Robert Craft.
Vanderbilt, 588 pp., £35.95, October 1994, 0 8265 1258 5
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... Each year of the stated period gets a decent amount of coverage; a solid 1994 postscript has been added to each except the last, which is followed by a chapter-length Postlude. Letters to Craft from Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard are newly included. Letters (also to Craft) from Arnold Schoenberg, Luigi Dallapiccola, Glenn Gould and other musical luminaries are also published for the first time; and ...
17 July 1980
Imagining America 
by Peter Conrad.
Routledge, 319 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7100 0370 6
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... America’), Kipling and R.L. Stevenson (‘Epic (and Chivalric) America’), H.G. Wells (‘Futuristic America’), D.H. Lawrence (‘Primitive America’), W.H. Auden (‘Theological America’), Aldous Huxley (Psychedelic America’), and Christopher Isherwood (‘Mystical America’). As the chapter titles suggest, each of these writers is supposed to see America as if it were shaped by a literary ...


Catherine Caufield

18 May 1989
Three Scientists and their Gods: Looking for Meaning in an Age of Information 
by Robert Wright.
Times, 324 pp., $18.95, April 1988, 0 8129 1328 0
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Coming of Age in the Milky Way 
by Timothy Ferris.
Bodley Head, 495 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 370 31332 1
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Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St John 
by Isaac Newton.
Modus Vivendi, 323 pp., £800
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What do you care what other people think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character 
by Richard​ Feynman.
Unwin Hyman, 255 pp., £11.95, February 1989, 0 04 440341 0
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... himself to finding a theory that explains it all, that brings everything together, from DNA to slime cells, ant colonies, telephone systems, supermarket chains, television and religion. As his hero, Richard Feynman, might have said, Ed Fredkin is a very interesting guy. He is, among other things, a self-made millionaire without a college degree who became a full professor at the Massachusetts Institute ...


Michael Neve

16 October 1980
My Guru and his Disciple 
by Christopher Isherwood.
Eyre Methuen, 338 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 413 46930 1
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... wisdom. Glimpses ‘behind the veil, behind the veil’, and others that Isherwood himself thinks of as only partially understood. The Vedanta centre is where Isherwood began his training – in Richard Alpert’s expression, ‘to become nothing’. The world is seen as mad, and forces the weary traveller from Europe to subject himself to a difficult regime of retreat and quiet. A ‘homesickness ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons

23 April 1992
Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... said Poe’s was an art for servant girls. Both Henry James and T.S. Eliot used the deadly word ‘provincial’. Auden condemned a sentence from ‘William Wilson’ as vague and verbose, and Aldous Huxley summed up Poe as ‘one of Nature’s Gentlemen, unhappily cursed with incorrigible bad taste ... diamond rings on every finger proclaim the parvenu.’ An admirer should begin by ...

Serious Dr Sonne

Philip Purser

6 December 1990
The Play of the Eyes 
by Elias Canetti, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Deutsch, 329 pp., £14.95, August 1990, 0 233 98570 0
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Yellow Street 
by Veza Canetti, translated by Ian Mitchell.
Halban, 139 pp., £11.95, November 1990, 1 870015 36 3
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... of gossip, scornful of show-offs, he is not averse to showing off himself, always ready to give readings from his unpublished novel or unperformed plays; and as for gossip – wow! up in the class of Richard Aldington, particularly when the target is someone he doesn’t like. Alma Mahler is that ‘noisy, witless woman’ who ‘dominates the scene through boasting, greed and liquor’. At the funeral ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James

26 January 2012
Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... countenance at King’s or Eton were: T.H. Huxley (‘a coarse 19th-century stinks man’), Henry Sidgwick and his philosophy, the German higher criticism, anthropology and comparative mythography, Aldous Huxley, James Joyce, Bertrand Russell, J.B.S. Haldane and John Maynard Keynes (for being a renegade Eton-and-King’s man who thought the college needed shaking up). Lytton Strachey returned James ...

Good Schools

Tessa Blackstone

2 December 1982
The Changing Anatomy of Britain 
by Anthony Sampson.
Hodder, 476 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 9780340209646
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An English Education: A Perspective of Eton 
by Richard​ Ollard.
Collins, 216 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216495 7
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Survival Programmes in Britain’s Inner Cities 
Open University, 224 pp., £6.95, September 1982, 0 335 10111 9Show More
Liverpool 8 
by John Cornelius.
Murray, 177 pp., £5.95, September 1982, 0 7195 3975 7
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The Other Britain 
edited by Paul Barker.
Routledge, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1982, 9780710093080
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... guilt which refuses to face up to the rough tactics of working-class leaders.’ It is, perhaps, a reflection of the hold which Eton has over Britain’s Establishment that a talented writer like Richard Ollard can devote a year or more of his time to a book about a single school during a short period of its history. Where else in the world could such a book be written and not gather dust at the back ...


D.A.N. Jones

12 July 1990
A Sort of Clowning: Life and Times, 1940-59 
by Richard​ Hoggart.
Chatto, 225 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 7011 3607 3
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Tilting at Don Quixote 
by Nicholas Wollaston.
Deutsch, 314 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 233 98551 4
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Finger Lickin’ Good: A Kentucky Childhood 
by Paul Levy.
Chatto, 202 pp., £13.95, May 1990, 0 7011 3521 2
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How Many Miles to Babylon? 
by Adewale Maja-Pearce.
Heinemann, 154 pp., £13.95, June 1990, 0 434 44172 4
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... Wollaston and his family. His bold travelling is presented, in Graham Greene’s phrase, as ‘ways of escape’ – escape from society. Finally (and to be taken foremost) is A Sort of Clowning by Richard Hoggart, perhaps the most usefully class-conscious English writer of our time. He created an accepted general idea of the British ‘working class’ in 1957, with The Uses of Literacy. He developed ...

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