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Possibility throbs

Richard Altick

23 July 1987
Palais-Royal 
by Richard Sennett.
Faber, 274 pp., £10.95, May 1987, 0 571 14718 6
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... the ramshackle structures and erecting in their stead a pair of shining, spacious arcades with iron frameworks and roofs and walls of glass. London’s Burlington Arcade, opened a dozen years earlier, was the partial model for the new Galerie d’Orléans, but this enterprise was far to outdo it in innovative boldness and size. The architect the duke ...
4 December 1980
The Girl in a Swing 
by Richard Adams.
Allen Lane, 397 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7139 1407 6
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... The remarkable literary career of Richard Adams began only eight years ago, but it has already reached substantial dimensions. Watership Down in 1972 was followed by two other works of mystery and imagination, relying more or less heavily on the animal world, and now by The Girl in a Swing, which is ostensibly about human beings ...

Blood on the Block

Maurice Keen: Henry IV

5 June 2008
The Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England’s Self-Made King 
by Ian Mortimer.
Vintage, 480 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 1 84413 529 5
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... unbidden from exile in July 1399 to claim his confiscated inheritance as Duke of Lancaster while Richard II was in Ireland, Henry Bolingbroke was greeted tumultuously as the prospective saviour of the realm. Richard, hurrying home, found himself deserted in mid-Wales and faced with no alternative to putting himself in his ...
18 March 1982
Shell Guide to Reading the Landscape 
by Richard Muir.
Joseph, 368 pp., £10.50, May 1981, 0 7181 1971 1
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The Environment in British Prehistory 
edited by Ian Simmons and Michael Tooley.
Duckworth, 334 pp., £7.95, March 1981, 9780715614419
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Geography, Ideology and Social Concern 
edited by D.R. Stoddart.
Blackwell, 250 pp., £12, May 1981, 0 631 12717 8
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... as these three books attest. They present the geographer as the student of landscape, as the environmentalist and as the ideologist. Richard Muir looks at the landscape as nature’s stage. Ian Simmons and Michael Tooley, with their team of scientists, identify the stages of nature as they have changed through the ...

Mansions in Bloom

Ruth Richardson

23 May 1991
A Paradise out of a Common Field: The Pleasures and Plenty of the Victorian Garden 
by Joan Morgan and Alison Richards.
Century, 256 pp., £16.95, May 1990, 0 7126 2209 8
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Private Gardens of London 
by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
Weidenfeld, 224 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 297 83025 2
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The Greatest Glasshouse: The Rainforest Recreated 
edited by Sue Minter.
HMSO, 216 pp., £25, July 1990, 0 11 250035 8
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Religion and Society in a Cotswold Vale: Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, 1780-1865 
by Albion Urdank.
California, 448 pp., $47.50, May 1990, 0 520 06670 7
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... old gardens. From my last visit to the botanical gardens at Kew a sad memory persists of the huge iron ribs of the Palm House glassless and empty, like the skeleton of a great beached whale. Piles of shiny new ribs awaiting transplantation lay alongside. Now the building is looking magnificent, and full of new, though often younger, plants. Sue Minter’s ...

Doing Some Measuring ahead of Time

Richard Davenport-Hines: Sade in Prison

9 August 2001
Letters from Prison 
by the Marquis de Sade, translated by Richard Seaver.
Harvill, 401 pp., £20, October 2000, 1 86046 807 1
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De Sade's Valet 
by Nikolaj Frobenius, translated by Tom Geddes.
Marion Boyars, 242 pp., £9.95, November 2000, 0 7145 3060 3
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... confinement in the ‘horrible hell’ of Vincennes. ‘I am in a tower locked up behind 19 iron doors, my only source of light being two little windows each outfitted with a score of bars,’ he wrote. ‘For about ten or twelve minutes a day I have the company of a man who brings me food. The rest of the time I spend alone and in weeping.’ The bad ...

Oops

Philip Nobel: What makes things break

21 February 2013
To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure 
by Henry Petroski.
Harvard, 410 pp., £19.95, March 2012, 978 0 674 06584 0
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... There’s a tradition in engineering of analysing deadly accidents in the consequence-free environment of the classroom to scare students into a higher degree of attention in their work. Since the 1920s, Canadian engineers have worn a ring on the little finger of their working hand as a reminder of their undertaking and the results of getting it ...
7 November 1985
Robert Capa 
by Richard Whelan.
Faber, 315 pp., £15, October 1985, 0 571 13661 3
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Robert Capa: Photographs 
edited by Cornell Capa and Richard Whelan.
Faber, 242 pp., £15, October 1985, 0 571 13660 5
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... embroidery made the meaning of a story clearer, or more amusing, Capa would sometimes embroider. Richard Whelan, reasonably enough, is not interested in giving Capa good and bad marks for his conduct, but begs almost all the questions about the morality of photographing sadness, sickness and death when he writes of Capa’s most famous photograph ...

Street-Wise

Richard Altick

29 October 1987
George Scharf’s London: Sketches and Watercolours of a Changing City, 1820-50 
by Peter Jackson.
Murray, 154 pp., £14.95, June 1987, 0 7195 4379 7
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... so were the streets themselves with the constant pounding of horses’ hooves and the rumble of iron-shod wheels. But so was every locality where there was a chance, present or prospective, of money changing hands: the raucous cries of street merchants and showmen with their ‘enormous fat women’, alleged cannibals, hirsute boys and monster Egyptian ...

At the Funfair

Peter Campbell: ‘Winter Wonderland’

7 January 2010
... called sublime. To enter into direct competition with a big waterfall, or the excavations of an iron ore mine, or a blast furnace seen by night, or (something I once saw) a whole factory hall stained by a dusting of blue pigment, is a challenge even large-scale land art can find it hard to meet. Kapoor’s polished steel sculptures are prodigies of ...
8 October 1992
Handel’s ‘Messiah’: A Celebration 
by Richard Luckett.
Gollancz, 258 pp., £18.99, April 1992, 0 575 05286 4
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The Rise of Musical Classics in 18th-Century England: A Study in Canon, Ritual and Ideology 
by William Weber.
Oxford, 274 pp., £35, July 1992, 0 19 816287 1
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... the virtual extinction of original English music for more than a hundred years’. Richard Luckett will have no truck with cultural snobbery of this sort, even if he fastidiously forgets ‘Hallelujah’ when he writes that in ‘For now is Christ risen’ Christ is ‘named for the first time in Messiah’. His quirky, learned, acerbic book ...

Lancastrian Spin

Simon Walker: Usurpation

10 June 1999
England’s Empty Throne: Usurpation and the Language of Legitimation, 1399-1422 
by Paul Strohm.
Yale, 274 pp., £25, August 1998, 0 300 07544 8
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... Six hundred years ago this summer, Richard II lost his throne. Preoccupied by the attempt to shore up his failing Irish peace settlement, Richard unwisely delayed his return to the mainland in order to confront a rumoured uprising, and landed to find his kingdom already slipping from his grasp ...

Done for the State

John Guy: The House of York

2 April 2020
The Brothers York: An English Tragedy 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 688 pp., £12.99, April, 978 0 7181 9728 5
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Richard III: The Self-Made King 
by Michael Hicks.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21429 1
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... claim was by lineal descent from Edward III, and was a strong one if you ignored the deposition of Richard II in 1399. In the mid-1450s, Richard, Duke of York, Edward’s father and England’s pushiest peer, had twice attempted to sideline Henry VI, who suffered from lengthy spells of mental illness and was repelled by the ...

Tick-Tock

Malcolm Bull: Three Cheers for Apocalypse

9 December 1999
Conversations about the End of Time 
by Umberto Eco and Stephen Jay Gould.
Allen Lane, 228 pp., £14.99, September 1999, 0 7139 9363 4
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Apocalypses: Prophesies, Cults and Millennial Beliefs throughout the Ages 
by Eugen Weber.
Hutchinson, 294 pp., £18.99, July 1999, 0 09 180134 6
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Messianic Revolution: Radical Religious Politics to the End of the Second Millennium 
by Richard Popkin and David Katz.
Allen Lane, 303 pp., £18.99, October 1999, 0 7139 9383 9
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... of a thousand years, the first of gold, the second of silver, the third of steel, and the last of iron alloy. Each age represents a decline on the previous one, and the same is true of Hesiod’s sequence, which goes from gold, to silver, to bronze, to iron save that there is an unnamed fourth age, interspersed between the ...

Catchers in the Rye

E.S. Turner: Modes of Comeuppance

3 August 2006
Rural Reflections: A Brief History of Traps, Trapmakers and Gamekeeping in Britain 
by Stuart Haddon-Riddoch.
Argyll, 416 pp., £40, April 2006, 1 902831 96 9
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... the least jokey about the Wednesfield A to Z. It is a painstaking tribute to the blacksmiths and ironfounders of a Staffordshire town who for generations took on the duty of regulating the more tiresome elements of the brute creation; or as Stuart Haddon-Riddoch puts it, producing ‘an ecological balance in our ever-changing countryside’; or, as the ...

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