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Beyond Paris

Richard Cobb

27 June 1991
My France: Politics, Culture, Myth 
by Eugen Weber.
Harvard, 412 pp., £19.95, February 1991, 0 674 59575 0
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... Eugen Weber is the leading American historian of the French Right in the period 1890 to 1914. He is also the author of a brilliant study of the growth of a national identity among the rural population of France in the second half of the 19th century and up to the outbreak of the First World War. As befits the personal angle to the main title of the present collection, the author opens with a charming account of his own haphazard course from Bucharest and other places in Romania, via Paris in the late Thirties, to a period in an unnamed English public school in the early Forties, service in the infantry of the British Army in the later stages of the Second World War, and then to graduate work at Cambridge where he nearly became a Medievalist ...

Cobbery

Julian Barnes

2 May 1985
A Classical Education 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 156 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 7011 2936 0
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Still Life: Sketches from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 161 pp., £3.95, April 1985, 0 7012 1920 3
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... that he doesn’t want to read any more books that don’t begin: ‘A shot rang out.’ Richard Cobb’s second volume of autobiography, nominally about Shrewsbury and Oxford, opens with a man getting off the boat train at the Gare Saint-Lazare wielding (well, almost wielding) a blood-stained axe. The killer, an old schoolfriend of ...

Foxy-Faced

John Bayley

29 September 1988
Something to hold onto: Autobiographical Sketches 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 168 pp., £12.95, September 1988, 0 7195 4587 0
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... Frank Kermode’s lively little book History and Value, and I thought of him again while enjoying Richard Cobb’s Something to hold onto, whose title would itself have been greeted with fellow-feeling by Bagshaw. Anthony Powell’s character is fascinated by things for their own sake, an attitude not common among either believers or men of ...

Tea with Medea

Simon Skinner: Richard Cobb

19 July 2012
My Dear Hugh: Letters from Richard Cobb to Hugh Trevor-Roper and Others 
Frances Lincoln, 240 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 7112 3240 2Show More
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... Who now, other than historians of modern France, remembers Richard Cobb? Cobb’s Wikipedia entry – the canonical index of posterity’s interest – measures three lines; by contrast, Hugh Trevor-Roper, his principal addressee in this collection, gets five thousand words ...

Diary

David Gilmour: On Richard Cobb

21 May 1987
... I first met Richard Cobb at my Balliol interview one late evening in December 1970. The encounter was, by any measurement, a failure. In the ‘interests’ section of my entrance form, I had made the mistake of declaring membership of the Committee for Freedom in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea. Cobb, who was plainly bored at having to conduct interviews after dinner, asked me brusquely which liberation group in Angola I supported and why ...

Cushy Numbers

Neal Ascherson

3 November 1983
French and Germans, Germans and French: A Personal Interpretation of France under Two Occupations, 1914-1918/1940-1944 
by Richard Cobb.
University Press of New England, 188 pp., £10.95, July 1983, 0 87451 225 5
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Still Life: Scenes from a Tunbridge Wells Childhood 
by Richard Cobb.
Chatto, 161 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2695 7
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... the Occupation had not been a matter of black and white moral choices. If this marvellous book of Cobb’s has a spiritual father, then it is not a Frenchman but a German: Heinrich Böll. And the novel of Böll’s which counted was, very plainly, Der Zug war pünktlich – The train was on time – that unforgettable story of a troop train full of German ...

Not a Belonger

Colin Jones

21 August 1997
The End of the Line: A Memoir 
by Richard Cobb.
Murray, 229 pp., £20, June 1997, 0 7195 5460 8
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... Richard Cobb, who died last year at the age of 79, began his career as a historian of Revolutionary France. When I first met him, in 1968, he was widely thought to be able to write only in French, but as time went on a strong personal vein and a taste for high comedy widened the scope of his writing and revealed a highly distinctive English style: intricate perceptions and sensations set down in long, baroque sentences, full of Gallicisms, argot and incantatory lists of French and English place-names ...
20 August 1981
Origins of the French Revolution 
by William Doyle.
Oxford, 247 pp., £12.50, January 1981, 0 19 873020 9
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... the national archivist, who thought that by 1945 all had been said. Confronted with the young Richard Cobb, about to begin his Herculean labours, he advised some alternative field of study. ‘Monsieur,’ he said kindly, ‘vous êtes venus trop tard pour l’histoire de la Révolution Française.’ He was, of course, wrong. The post-war ...

Fizzles

Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: Who Controls Henry James?

4 December 1980
Promenades 
by Richard Cobb.
Oxford, 158 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 19 211758 0
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... still not recognised at his true worth south of the Channel. Right from the start of his itinerary Cobb gaily mixes everything together. He paints well-behaved Norman children such as one can only dream of meeting these days. He rides his biography backwards, he describes his period as a pion (a supervisor) in boarding-schools run either by priests or by ...

Diary

Patrick Mauriès: Halfway between France and Britain

3 November 1983
... of Time, a detective novel set entirely in a hospital bedroom, which is also an apologia for Richard III. Imagine my surprise when, in the tube from Heathrow, there came in and sat down opposite me a young and rather austere woman who was reading, with the appropriate detached bespectacled air, the latest of the Ricardian Society’s Bulletins. And she ...
11 November 1999
Marx on Suicide 
edited by Eric Plaut and Kevin Anderson, translated by Gabrielle Edgcomb.
Northwestern, 152 pp., £11.20, May 1999, 0 8101 1632 4
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Suicide in the Middle Ages, Vol I: The Violent Against Themselves 
by Alexander Murray.
Oxford, 510 pp., £30, January 1999, 0 19 820539 2
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A History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lydia Cochrane.
Johns Hopkins, 420 pp., £30, December 1998, 0 8018 5919 0
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... restored Bourbons had become archivist of the police records of Paris and hence a benefactor of Richard Cobb and readers of his Death in Paris (1978). The records of suicide caught Peuchet’s eye, and he had a line on it. The line was to defend suicides against the customary condemnation by claiming, like Thomas Hood in ‘The Bridge of Sighs’, that ...

Marriage

Philippe Ariès

16 October 1980
Bastardy and its Comparative History 
edited by Peter Laslett, Karla Oosterveen and Richard Smith.
Arnold, 431 pp., £24, May 1980, 0 7131 6229 5
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... freedom to act as they liked – a mixture which will come as no surprise to such historians as Richard Cobb or Eric Hobsbawm. I am very much afraid that my friend Peter Laslett’s hair will stand on end when he finds out what his carefully swaddled infant has become in my uncouth hands. I must therefore warn my readers that any resemblance between ...
5 November 1981
History and Imagination: Essays in honour of H.R. Trevor-Roper 
edited by Hugh Lloyd-Jones, Valerie Pearl and Blair Worden.
Duckworth, 386 pp., £25, October 1981, 9780715615706
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... Worden shows how the republicans of the Long Parliament ransacked the classics for their examples. Richard Cobb catalogues the fantasy figures which adorned the Jacobin imagination. Biographical essays predominate in more recent times – mostly Whig, I am glad to say. I cannot decide which was the more influential and which was the more neglected ...
18 September 1980
Faith, Reason and the Plague 
by Carlo Cipolla.
Harvester, 112 pp., £7.50, November 1980, 0 85527 506 5
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... the most recalcitrant and ostensibly ephemeral sources, ingenious and gifted historians such as Richard Cobb, Olwen Hufton and E.P. Thompson have produced masterpieces of historical reconstruction in which the lives of the obscure and the downtrodden are given the front of the stage. There was, and is, a serious purpose in viewing élite culture and ...

Dolorism

Robert Tombs: Biography

28 October 1999
Le Monde retrouvó de Louis-François Pinagot: Sur let Traces d’un Inconnu, 1798-1876 
by Alain Corbin.
Flammarion, 344 pp., frs 135, November 1998, 2 08 212520 3
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... readiness to immerse himself in the archives and tease out the meaning of details reminds me of Richard Cobb, though perhaps a more appropriate comparison would be another famous archival mole, Jules Michelet, who also wrote about women and the sea, and tried to unravel the substance from which France was made. As Michelet put it in a famous ...

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