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Before Wapping

Asa Briggs, 22 May 1986

Victorian News and Newspapers 
by Lucy Brown.
Oxford, 305 pp., £32.50, November 1985, 0 19 822624 1
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... News was allowed to make drawings of the buildings, the objects inside them, and the crowds. Lucy Brown does not choose this particular example of the demand for press publicity on the part of a Victorian organiser, but she gives many examples from the 1850s and later of the demand for it on the part of politicians, some of whom had to face similar protests ...

Men He Could Trust

Richard J. Evans: Hitler’s Stormtroopers, 22 February 2018

Stormtroopers: A New History of Hitler’s Brownshirts 
by Daniel Siemens.
Yale, 459 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 300 19681 8
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... their sinister attacks by which Germany should be ‘awakened’. The human quality of this brown heap, in which the sons of the German bourgeoisie were trained in gangland methods, illustrated the desolate human decline of the German middle classes.Later historians called the SA a ‘criminal gang with a political accent’, and the ‘most degenerate ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... He discriminates between both periods and authors, drawing out the ‘passion for Heaven’ in Richard Baxter, the ‘clarity and assurance’ characteristic of Watts, Addison’s gentlemanliness, Charles Wesley’s ‘physicality’, Montgomery as ‘the greatest hymn-writer on the difficult subject of prayer’, the whisper and privacy in Keble’s ...

Signs of the Times

Mark Ford, 21 February 2008

... Today,’ wrote Thomas Carlyle As the brown and barge-laden Thames rolled past Cheyne Walk, ‘I am full of dyspepsia, but also Of hope.’ On the Today Show today a dyspeptic interviewer set brusquely about A hopeful minister, and I ingested, along with the dyspepsia And the hope, a story about a dubious collector Of Regency soft toys and Apache Bows, arrow-flints and tomahawks ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Looking Ahead, 18 May 2000

... New Consensus was published in March. Harvard University Press are advertising it together with Richard Lewontin’s new book, The Triple Helix: Gene, Organism, Environment, presumably to let everyone know they’re not taking sides. Lewontin and Wilson, fiercely opposed to each other intellectually, used to have labs one directly above the other at Harvard ...

This Guilty Land

Eric Foner: Every Possible Lincoln, 17 December 2020

Abe: Abraham Lincoln in His Times 
by David S. Reynolds.
Penguin, 1066 pp., £33.69, September, 978 1 59420 604 7
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The Zealot and the Emancipator: John Brown, Abraham Lincoln and the Struggle for American Freedom 
by H.W. Brands.
Doubleday, 445 pp., £24, October, 978 0 385 54400 9
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... and the Emancipator, H.W. Brands has written a dual biography of Lincoln and the abolitionist John Brown, who in 1859 led a band of 22 men to seize the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in the hope of sparking a slave insurrection. The divergent paths chosen by Brown and Lincoln illuminate a problem as old as ...

What did it matter who I was?

Gaby Wood, 19 October 1995

The Blue Suit 
by Richard Rayner.
Picador, 216 pp., £9.99, July 1995, 0 330 33821 8
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The Liar’s Club 
by Mary Karr.
Picador, 317 pp., £14.99, October 1995, 0 330 33597 9
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... Richard Rayner’s The Blue Suit is a memoir, a work of non-fiction. In it his father dies several times: of cancer, in a car crash, missing presumed drowned and, finally, of a heart attack. He makes guest appearances in between, as a sick man in Scotland, as a diplomat in Australia, as a stepfather. These events all form part of a story, a sort of Arabian Nights of the confessional, in which Rayner admits his real life to his girlfriend (‘one confession veiling the next’), and the whole truth turns out to be a narration of the lies he has told ...

No Cleaning, No Cooking

Richard Beck: Nell Zink, 16 July 2015

‘The Wallcreeper’ and ‘Mislaid’ 
by Nell Zink.
Fourth Estate, 168 pp. and 288 pp., £20, June 2015, 978 0 00 813960 5
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... as to pass off her daughter and herself as light-skinned African-Americans. Mireille becomes Karen Brown. Peggy becomes Meg. Mislaid is mostly narrated in Zink’s characteristic tone of sarcastic moral neutrality, but sometimes she passes judgment, or seems to. She introduces Peggy’s theft of the birth certificate with the line: ‘and then she did ...

Reproaches from the Past

Peter Clarke: Gordon Brown, 1 April 2004

The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown 
by William Keegan.
Wiley, 356 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 470 84697 6
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... dismissed (which is pretty much Norman Lamont’s career in a nutshell). Later in the century, Richard FitzNeal, first as dean of Lincoln and latterly as bishop of London, continued in his day job in the church while moonlighting as treasurer ” for an apparently unbroken forty years. It’s as though Jim Callaghan were now preparing to leave 11 Downing ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2013, 9 January 2014

... muddy underfoot, an illicit delight. It’s warm and windless, the stones of the abbey sodden and brown from the amount of moisture they’ve absorbed. Spectacular here are the toilet arrangements, the reredorter set above a narrow chasm with a stream still running along the bottom. Unique, though (or at least I haven’t seen another), is the tannery ...

This Charming Man

Frank Kermode, 24 February 1994

The Collected and Recollected Marc 
Fourth Estate, 51 pp., £25, November 1993, 1 85702 164 9Show More
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... Hill has an Arab headdress, or why Lord Home stands bat in hand before a broken wicket. Craig Brown says that in his caricatures Boxer mixed ‘the base and the suave’, but there is not a lot of baseness here, not much of the Rowlandson; and such fluent drawing can hardly help flattering the sitter. What Brown calls ...

Hammers for Pipes

Richard Fortey: The Beginnings of Geology, 9 February 2006

Bursting the Limits of Time 
by Martin Rudwick.
Chicago, 840 pp., £31.50, December 2005, 0 226 73111 1
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... He did so by meticulous comparative anatomy, contrasting mammoth with elephant, cave bear with brown bear. At almost the same time, relics yielded up from Karnak and Pompeii invited the archaeologist to reconstruct past societies in unprecedented detail – it was only a small additional step to use shells and bones as witnesses to the passage of ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Dining Out, 4 June 1998

... Davies is appointed chairman-designate of ‘SuperSIB’ (or, as it is later christened by Gordon Brown, the Financial Services Authority), as much to his surprise as everyone else’s. He had been on his way to South America in his capacity as deputy governor of the Bank of England, having just been involved in that same capacity in seeking a successor to ...

Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... houses had been.Muriel Spark, A Far Cry from KensingtonOn​ the opening page of Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four, Brian Epstein and his personal assistant, Alistair Taylor, behold the Beatles for the very first time. It is November 1961, in a ‘dank and damp and smelly’ Liverpool basement, and the young band are loud, foul-mouthed, almost ...

Better and Worse Worsts

Sadakat Kadri: American Trials, 24 May 2007

The Trial in American Life 
by Robert Ferguson.
Chicago, 400 pp., £18.50, March 2007, 978 0 226 24325 2
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... On 16 October 1859, a white anti-slavery agitator called John Brown led 21 followers in a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. A previous expedition against a Kansas slave-owning settlement had ended in five deaths, but Brown had far grander hopes for his new enterprise – to start an insurrection across the South ...

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