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People’s War

John Ellis, 19 February 1981

Tomorrow at Dawn 
by J.G. de Beus.
Norton, 191 pp., £5.75, April 1980, 0 393 01263 8
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The Crucible of War 
by Barrie Pitt.
Cape, 506 pp., £8.95, June 1980, 0 224 01771 3
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Chindit 
by Richard RhodesJames.
Murray, 214 pp., £10.50, August 1980, 0 7195 3746 0
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The Chief 
by Ronald Lewin.
Hutchinson, 282 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 9780091425005
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Special Operations Europe: Scenes from the Anti-Nazi War 
by Basil Davidson.
Gollancz, 288 pp., £8.50, July 1980, 0 575 02820 3
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... Moses and Brian Clough, drove his men harder than most other commanders would have dared, Mr Rhodes James gets this across splendidly, yet even as one reads his harrowing accounts of the long marches and retreats through dense, humid jungle, or the last-ditch stand at the ‘Blackpool’ stronghold, one should not forget that these experiences are ...

Calcutta in the Cotswolds

David Gilmour: What did the British do for India?, 3 March 2005

Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India 
by Elizabeth Buettner.
Oxford, 324 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 19 924907 5
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... most harrowing account of such an exile in his story ‘Baa, Baa, Black Sheep’. But many others, Richard RhodesJames for example, have recorded their experiences as ‘orphans of the Raj, paying the price of empire by a separation from parents’. Parents, too, of course had to pay the price, especially mothers, who ...

The Coburg Connection

Richard Shannon, 5 April 1984

Albert, Prince Consort 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 241 11000 9
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... assumption was that Prince Albert had provided the definitive and approved working model. Robert Rhodes James has written an entertaining and effective but oddly out-of-kilter book about that model. His standard texts appear to be Justin McCarthy and H.A.L. Fisher, historians whose reputations had faded when Mr ...

Finding out about things

Alan Bell, 18 December 1980

Montague Rhodes James 
by Richard William Pfaff.
Scolar, 438 pp., £15, May 1980, 0 85967 554 8
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... Montague Rhodes James is secure in his reputation as a ghost-story writer of almost unparalleled quality. Even general readers of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary will immediately be aware of their strong autobiographical element, the authentic circumstantial detail about the natural that makes the supernatural all the more convincing ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The State of Statuary, 20 September 2017

... Most days​ I eat my lunch sitting under the statue of Charles James Fox in Bloomsbury Square. There are broad steps on each side of the statue, their Portland stone now stained an aqueous green, and I like to sit beneath and between Fox’s feet, looking, with him, down Bedford Place and towards Russell Square. Like most fat men in statuary (and in life), Fox is seated for greater dignity; he is also swathed in a voluminous toga which drips over the edge of his chair – ‘Charles James Fox unconcerned in a bath towel sits on his arse in Bloomsbury Square,’ was how Louis MacNeice put it in one of his last poems ...

Diary

W.G. Runciman: Like a Prep School, 10 January 1991

... introduced Cannadine and Cannadine had given us an encouragingly comical puff for his book, Robert Rhodes James reminded us that Lloyd George, despite doing so much to reduce the Upper House to impotence and discredit, had ended his days as Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, and then led us off down miles of corridors to a cellar under St Stephen’s Hall where ...

A Talented Past

Linda Colley, 23 April 1987

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. I: Survey 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 400 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. II: Constituencies 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 704 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. III: Members A-F 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 852 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. IV: Members G-P 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 908 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1790-1820. Vol. V: Members P-Z 
edited by R.G. Thorne.
Secker, 680 pp., £225, August 1986, 0 436 52101 6
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... by Harold Macmillan and is protected now by the enthusiasm of men such as Roy Jenkins and Robert Rhodes James. But why should those of us who are excluded from this desirable club at Westminster want such an extended work of collective biography? In the case of these volumes one obvious reason lies in the period that they cover. They begin one year ...

A Hard Dog to Keep on the Porch

Christopher Hitchens, 6 June 1996

... In the evenings, after dinner in hall, groups would take shape informally in the quad. There was Richard Cobb’s lot, making for the buttery and another round of worldly banter. There was this or that sodality, taking a cigarette break or killing time before revision. There was my own cohort, usually divided between the opposing tasks of selling the ...

Poets and Pretenders

John Sutherland, 2 April 1987

The Great Pretender 
by James Atlas.
Viking, 239 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 9780670814619
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The Position of the Body 
by Richard Stern.
Northwestern, 207 pp., $21.95, November 1986, 0 8101 0730 9
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The Setting Sun and the Rolling World 
by Charles Mungoshi.
Heinemann, 202 pp., £10.95, February 1987, 0 434 48166 1
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Conversations with Lord Byron on Perversion, 162 Years after his Lordship’s Death 
by Amanda Prantera.
Cape, 174 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 9780224024235
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... James Atlas’s The Great Pretender is a first novel. But Atlas has some prior fame as the author of a powerful biography of Delmore Schwartz, America’s poète maudit who died tragically unfulfilled in 1966, having lived out the truth of one of his best essays: ‘The Isolation of the Modern Poet’. The Great Pretender tells the story of a tyro versifier, who comes to artistic consciousness around 1966 in Chicago and who hilariously fails to attain any subsequent artistic fulfilment ...

A Life without a Jolt

Ferdinand Mount: M.R. James, 26 January 2012

Collected Ghost Stories 
by M.R. James.
Oxford, 468 pp., £14.99, October 2011, 978 0 19 956884 0
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... Christie or an Elmore Leonard. The formula is simple, repeated with variations in most of M.R. James’s 33 ghost stories, and still guaranteed to give pleasure today just as it did to those fuddled dons and sleepy schoolboys who first heard James read them by the light of a single candle in the provost’s lodgings at ...

Spadework

John Brown, 18 November 1982

Shadow Man: The Life of Dashiell Hammett 
by Richard Layman.
Junction, 285 pp., £9.95, August 1981, 0 86245 027 6
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... for biography, such a delay constitutes a small literary mystery, and in the preface to Shadow Man Richard Layman supplies a terse explanation. It appears that Lillian Hellman, Hammett’s closest friend from 1931 onwards, took steps soon after his death to acquire legal control of all the novelist’s copyrights (despite the terms of Hammett’s will), using ...

Members Only

R.B. Dobson, 24 February 1994

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1386-1421 
edited by J.S. Roskell, Linda Clark and Carole Rawcliffe.
Alan Sutton, 3500 pp., £275, February 1993, 9780862999438
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... of Parliament, Lord Wedgwood certainly deserves most of the tributes he receives from Robert Rhodes James in a Foreword to this work. On the other hand, even in the Thirties it was optimistic of Wedgwood to suppose that the compilation of biographies of Members of the Commons would necessarily reveal the more admirable qualities of those Englishmen ...

Mutual Friend

Richard Altick, 22 December 1983

Lewis and Lewis 
by John Juxon.
Collins, 320 pp., £10.95, May 1983, 0 00 216476 0
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... with whom they were on especially intimate terms), writers (Barrie, Meredith, Hardy, Henry James), and theatrical people (Irving and Ellen Terry). Sargent painted Elizabeth, and Max Beerbohm drew no fewer than seven affectionate caricatures of her husband. Most of the cases Juxon narrates at some length are twice-told tales, and circumstances have ...

We Do Ron Ron Ron, We Do Ron Ron

James Meek: Welcome to McDonald’s, 24 May 2001

Fast-Food Nation 
by Eric Schlosser.
Allen Lane, 356 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7139 9602 1
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... unskilled role with as much speed and efficiency as they could muster. The Front was, as Richard Rhodes put it in The Making of the Atom Bomb, an industrial operation for the manufacture of corpses. Disney and Kroc were great admirers of Ford (as was Lenin) and saw assembly lines as the embodiment of efficiency, order and consistency. These ...

Excessive Bitters

Jenny Diski: The blind man who went around the world, 7 September 2006

A Sense of the World: How a Blind Man Became History’s Greatest Traveller 
by Jason Roberts.
Simon and Schuster, 382 pp., £12.99, August 2006, 0 7432 3966 0
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... world was dimming was not an option. Jason Roberts describes something of the same behaviour in James Holman who, in 1810, suddenly went blind at the age of 25: Once hope of a cure is extinguished in the newly blind adult, there is typically a period of self-mourning, in which the individual retreats from ordinary interaction. Often they speak ...

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