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Looking for a Crucifixion

Robert Alter, 9 September 1993

The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered 
by Robert Eisenman and Michael Wise.
Element, 286 pp., £14.95, November 1992, 0 85230 368 8
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... hinted at in the text, has recently been trumpeted by the journalists Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh in The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception, which is largely a popularisation of Robert Eisenman’s theories. Unsurprisingly, Baigent and Leigh contribute an effusive blurb to this book. Eisenman for his part has ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The Da Vinci Code’, 8 June 2006

The Da Vinci Code 
directed by Ron Howard.
May 2006
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... is a shame, since Dan Brown’s novel, among much ponderousness, has some good gags. The name of Leigh Teabing, his grail scholar who wishes the all-too-human secret of Christ’s straightness to be revealed, alludes directly and by anagram to the authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail: Richard Leigh and Michael ...

Grail Trail

C.H. Roberts, 4 March 1982

The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail 
by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.
Cape, 445 pp., £8.95, January 1982, 0 224 01735 7
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The Foreigner: A Search for the First-Century Jesus 
by Desmond Stewart.
Hamish Hamilton, 181 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 241 10686 9
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Satan: The Early Christian Tradition 
by Jeffrey Burton Russell.
Cornell, 258 pp., £14, November 1981, 0 8014 1267 6
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... In 1891, Bérenger Sauniere, curé of Rennesle-Château, a remote village in the Cevennes, discovered hidden in the structure of his church four parchments, two of them written in the 18th century and partly in code, two earlier and containing genealogies (still not published). There were references to Dagobert II, the Merovingian king, to Sion, and to treasure said to be Merovingian ...

I used to work for them myself

David Leigh, 4 August 1983

British Intelligence and Covert Action: Africa, the Middle East and Europe since 1945 
by Jonathan Bloch, Patrick Fitzgerald and Philip Agee.
Junction, 284 pp., £5.95, May 1983, 0 86245 113 2
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Through the Looking-Glass: British Foreign Policy in an Age of Illusions 
by Anthony Verrier.
Cape, 400 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 224 01979 1
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... only part of a public interplay that developed between newspapers, memoirists like ex-CIA head Richard Helms, CIA staff like Kermit Roosevelt and Wilbur Eveland, and Congressional investigators. The more that came out about the CIA, the more appalled and nervous the British authorities became, and with good reason. What the CIA do is what MI6 do. And what ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: The Portraits of Angus McBean, 3 August 2006

... give a clarity which stood up well to imperfect reproduction in magazines: his idea of how Vivien Leigh should look, which must have been her idea too (‘Vivien Leigh would never have anyone else’), was presented to the world in good order. And perhaps because Leigh’s face came so ...

Ballooning

J.I.M. Stewart, 5 June 1986

The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 377 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 436 13303 2
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... and as a stern moralist as well. He had been wondering whether or not to obtain a copy of Leigh Hunt’s Comic Dramatists of the Restoration – ‘the question being whether the mental pollution arising from Messrs Congreve, Wycherley and Co would be compensated for by the picture of the manners and customs of those days to be gathered from their ...

Olivier Rex

Ronald Bryden, 1 September 1988

Olivier 
by Anthony Holden.
Weidenfeld, 504 pp., £16, May 1988, 0 297 79089 7
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... statement that, after their star-crossed Romeo and Juliet on Broadway in 1940, Olivier and Vivien Leigh went to lick their wounds for a month in Vermont with ‘the Alexander Woollcotts’. The English period equivalent would be a month in the country with the Beverley Nicholses. Holden is sometimes forgetful, evacuating the wartime Old Vic in one chapter to ...
... barefoot or otherwise. I then went to see K. B. McFarlane. My special subject in Schools was Richard II so I had been to McFarlane’s lectures on the Lollard Knights; I also had a copy of some notes on his 1953 Ford Lectures that was passed down from year to year in Exeter. I knew of his austere reputation and of his reluctance to publish from David ...

The Paranoid Elite

Michael Wood: DeLillo, 22 April 2010

Point Omega 
by Don DeLillo.
Picador, 117 pp., £14.99, March 2010, 978 0 330 51238 1
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... to paranoia. Not the paranoid style in American politics, to quote the title of a famous essay by Richard Hofstadter (how could anyone say farewell to a mode so lavishly on the rise?), but to the paranoid fictions that animated DeLillo’s own novels The Names (1982) and Libra (1988), and went all the way back to Pynchon’s V (1963) and The Crying of Lot 49 ...

Ach so, Herr Major

Nicholas Horsfall: Translating Horace, 23 June 2005

Horace: Odes and Epodes 
edited by Niall Rudd.
Harvard, 350 pp., £14.50, June 2004, 0 674 99609 7
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... David West quite rightly begins the introduction to his translation of the Odes with Patrick Leigh Fermor’s wonderful story, in A Time of Gifts, of himself and General Kreipe reciting the Soracte ode while gazing up at Mount Ida, during the general’s removal from Crete after his capture. Kreipe’s eventual ‘ach so, Herr Major’ immortalises ...

Faint Sounds of Shovelling

John Kerrigan: The History of Tragedy, 20 December 2018

Ladies’ Greek: Victorian Translations of Tragedy 
by Yopie Prins.
Princeton, 297 pp., £24, April 2017, 978 0 691 14189 3
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Greek Tragic Women on Shakespearean Stages 
by Tanya Pollard.
Oxford, 331 pp., £60, September 2017, 978 0 19 879311 3
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Eclipse of Action: Tragedy and Political Economy 
by Richard Halpern.
Chicago, 313 pp., £34, April 2017, 978 0 226 43365 3
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Samson Agonistes: A Redramatisation after Milton 
by John Kinsella.
Arc, 109 pp., £10.99, October 2018, 978 1 911469 55 1
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... In​ the first book of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, the heroine remembers her childhood. Orphaned in Italy and educated by her aunt in an English country house, she was given pious tracts to read, learned some algebra and embroidered a shepherdess who was         lovelorn with pink eyes To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks; Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell Which slew the tragic poet ...

Dry-Cleaned

Tom Vanderbilt: ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, 21 August 2003

The Manchurian Candidate: BFI Film Classics 
by Greil Marcus.
BFI, 75 pp., £8.99, July 2002, 0 85170 931 1
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... past their limits as artists or actors or technicians, and made them propel their material, Richard Condon’s cheaply paranoid fantasy, past its limits.’ And part of the answer is to do with the power of that fantasy, the way in which The Manchurian Candidate links into the enduring pattern of paranoid politics in America. Despite its talk of ...

Bigger Peaches

Rosemary Hill: Haydon, 22 February 2001

The Immortal Dinner: A Famous Evening of Genius and Laughter in Literary London, 1817 
by Penelope Hughes-Hallett.
Viking, 336 pp., £15.99, September 2000, 0 670 87999 1
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... world where high thinking went with ramshackle living. Haydon’s friends, Charles and Mary Lamb, Leigh Hunt, Hazlitt and the young Keats were all, like him, mostly self-educated and chronically short of money. Haydon had also come to know Wordsworth, who was in London in December 1817. On the 28th Haydon invited him to dinner to meet Keats. Charles Lamb was ...

All in pawn

Richard Altick, 19 June 1986

The Common Writer: Life in 19th-century Grub Street 
by Nigel Cross.
Cambridge, 265 pp., £25, September 1985, 0 521 24564 8
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... milieu of the hacks whom Pope had skewered with malicious wit in the Dunciad. Their archetype was Richard Savage, whose profligate life Dr Johnson – himself an industrious, ill-paid hack in his earlier years in London – had narrated in 1744. The Grub Street the Victorians knew was the far-off one described by Smollett in his novels and, in their own ...

Short Cuts

Rosemary Hill: Successive John Murrays, 8 November 2018

... some of the best and most popular authors of their day, from Byron and Walter Scott to Patrick Leigh-Fermor and Freya Stark. It was Murray’s reputation for solid, conservative values that led both the geologist Charles Lyell and then Darwin to publish their potentially disruptive theories under its aegis. No. 50 Albemarle Street became famous for the ...

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