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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. RichardBurton 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 ...
21 February 2008
... take – no time at all for the venom to prove, point By careful point, what it meant. I found Myself sweating too, trying To recall the serpentine journeys made by adventurers such as Mungo Park And RichardBurton, and the weeping jungles And empty deserts they traversed. Unsheathed, their bone- Handled bush knives whispered Like settling locusts or long- Promised waterfalls. One sticky morning John ...
4 March 1999
... is to raid the German stronghold in the frozen heights, Mary bewitches the enemy in quieter ways; extracts information with a glance. And why break down the lovely moment when she and her partner, RichardBurton, reunite in an appointed barn, which emanates warmth, and Mary leans back against the haystacks to welcome her lover’s embrace. So much had happened in less than a decade, who knows they ...

Let in the Djinns

Maya Jasanoff: Richard Burton

9 March 2006
The Highly Civilised Man: Richard Burton​ and the Victorian World 
by Dane Kennedy.
Harvard, 354 pp., £17.95, September 2005, 0 674 01862 1
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... to exiles, unknown to almost everybody else. So it was an apt city to serve as the final home of a man regarded as one of the most unreal, isolated and timeless figures of the Victorian era. RichardBurton arrived in the Adriatic port in 1873 as Britain’s consul. He had pretty much seen everything. He had visited sacred centres from Benares to Salt Lake City, with a pilgrimage to Mecca in between; he ...

He wouldn’t dare

David A. Bell: Bloodletting in Paris

9 May 2002
Blood in the City: Violence and Revelation in Paris 1789-1945 
by Richard​ D.E. Burton.
Cornell, 395 pp., £24.50, September 2001, 0 8014 3868 3
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... No other city’s history can offer such an extraordinary mixture of luxury and savagery, and the visitor who delights in the first also thrills, secretly, to the second. In Blood in the City, RichardBurton takes his readers on a walking tour of Parisian sacrifice and slaughter. He moves from the Bastille to the place de la Concorde (where Louis XVI was executed), to the Hôtel de Ville (where ...


Megan Vaughan: Explorers of the Nile

8 March 2012
Explorers of the Nile: The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure 
by Tim Jeal.
Faber, 510 pp., £25, September 2011, 978 0 571 24975 6
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... it would be difficult to know where to stop – perhaps with clouds, and the vapours that composed them? In the course of twenty years in the mid-19th century a group of British explorers – RichardBurton, John Hanning Speke, David Livingstone, Samuel Baker (with his wife, Florence), Henry Morton Stanley and James Grant – slogged out on their respective expeditions through East and Central ...

Imagine Tintin

Michael Hofmann: Basil Bunting

9 January 2014
A Strong Song Tows Us: The Life of Basil Bunting 
by Richard Burton.
Infinite Ideas, 618 pp., £30, September 2013, 978 1 908984 18 0
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... or excessive greatness is dreary). A late flowering is ideal, but not essential. For the former, one might nominate Trakl, Laforgue, Keats and Shelley (I don’t think I breathed while I was reading Richard Holmes’s Shelley: The Pursuit all those years ago); for a rare, artful blending of long and short, one can’t do better than Rimbaud and Hölderlin; and for the latter, Hamsun, Yeats, Shaw – and ...
20 February 1997
Leaving a Doll’s House: A Memoir 
by Claire Bloom.
Virago, 288 pp., £16.99, October 1996, 1 86049 146 4
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... committed adultery with Lawrence Olivier, married Rod Steiger and Hillard Elkins, a Hollywood producer with ‘sadistic’ sexual inclinations, had an ‘incandescent’ affair with a pre-Liz RichardBurton and flirted with Elvis Presley, she might be thought to have quite a lot to offer on the carnal gossip front. But if public notice has seemed to neglect this promising material, it is largely ...
22 March 1990
Cleopatra: Histories, Dreams and Distortions 
by Lucy Hughes-Hallett.
Bloomsbury, 338 pp., £16.95, February 1990, 0 7475 0093 2
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... And some of Hughes-Hallett’s individual analyses are witty and insightful tours de force. Most memorable is the chapter which looks at Joseph Mankiewicz’s film Cleopatra, the Elizabeth Taylor and RichardBurton extravaganza of 1962. Hughes-Hallett shows how the extraordinary popular appeal of this film was related to the personalities – as they were perceived by the public – of Taylor and Burton ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: What’s your codename?

23 June 2005
... Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy.’ RichardBurton could make any code name sound good. The character he plays in Where Eagles Dare, Major Smith, leads an elite commando raid on a Nazi fortress in the Austrian Alps. The aim of the mission is ...

More Fun

Tom Jaine

7 July 1994
The Alchemy of Culture: Intoxicants in Society 
by Richard​ Rudgley.
British Museum, 160 pp., £14.95, October 1993, 0 7141 1736 6
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... One of the aims of anthropology,’ Richard Rudgley says, ‘is to understand the self by way of the other.’ Are we to take it that if the Koryaks of Siberia had a high old time on the fly-agaric – or on the recycled urine of a fly-agaric ...

Perfect Light

Jenny Diski

9 July 1992
Diana: Her True Story 
by Andrew Morton.
Michael O’Mara, 165 pp., £14.99, June 1992, 1 85479 191 5
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Shared Lives 
by Lyndall Gordon.
Bloomsbury, 285 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 7475 1164 0
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Antonia White: Diaries 1958-1979 
edited by Susan Chitty.
Constable, 352 pp., £19.95, May 1992, 0 09 470660 3
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... and in Hampstead, too. Sadly, my vision firmed up quite soon, as they and I got closer to each other, and I recognised the not-quite-extraterrestrial, dumpy, middle-aged forms of Elizabeth Taylor and RichardBurton panting their way up the hill. The glow was not, of course, from their outward perfection, nor their inner beauty and wisdom, but the result of years and years of attention from precision ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners

16 February 2017
Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... by 1800. Nineteenth and 20th-century readers, who continued to read the description of the Ottoman Empire by the Russells’ contemporary Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and later accounts by Sir RichardBurton or Gertrude Bell, ignored the Russells. A new imperial readership expected ‘serious’ writers like Burckhardt (who was sent to Aleppo in 1809 to study how to disguise himself as a Muslim) to ...
25 July 1991
Stanley: The Making of an African Explorer 
by Frank McLynn.
Constable, 411 pp., £17.95, October 1989, 0 09 462420 8
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Stanley: Sorcerer’s Apprentice 
by Frank McLynn.
Constable, 499 pp., £25, January 1991, 0 09 470220 9
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Dark Safari: The Life behind the Legend of Henry Morton Stanley 
by John Bierman.
Hodder, 401 pp., £17.95, January 1991, 0 340 50977 5
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... New documentary sources,’ he writes, ‘include the hitherto unpublished expedition journals of William Grant Stairs and memoirs of Alice Pike Barney’; he also pays generous tribute to Richard Hall’s earlier biography, ‘a model of hard-nosed and painstaking investigation’. Hall was the first to reveal Stanley’s secret engagement to Alice Pike. Unfortunately, his excitement over ...

Arabia Revisita

Reyner Banham

4 December 1980
Travels in Arabia Deserts 
by Charles Doughty.
Dover, 674 pp., £11.35, June 1980, 0 486 23825 3
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... of Arabian history intersecting an aberrant fragment of the development of English literary sensibility, an unrepeatable moment in which everything is already different from the way it had been when Burton penetrated Mecca in drag, and from the way it would be when the Blunts and Gertrude Bell cut their own very different tracks across the Peninsula. So the reader of the 1980s would be well-advised to ...

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