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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 the ...

The HPtFtU

Christopher Tayler: Francis Spufford, 6 October 2016

Golden Hill 
by Francis Spufford.
Faber, 344 pp., £16.99, May 2016, 978 0 571 22519 4
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... Plenty, 2010). He has also published Unapologetic (2012), an Anglican riposte to the likes of Richard Dawkins that’s subtitled ‘Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense.’ Backroom Boys is billed as a ‘love letter to quiet men in pullovers’, and Spufford often seems to focus on socially or technically ...

Menswear

Philip Booth, 20 July 1995

Drag: A History of Female Impersonation in the Performing Arts 
by Roger Baker.
Cassell, 284 pp., £35, December 1994, 0 304 32836 7
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... died before he could finish the book, but the revision was more or less complete. Peter Burton and Richard Smith have added chapters on film, the gay scene and rock music, for which Baker had left notes. The result is not just about drag, nor yet about female impersonation, and doesn’t even confine itself to the performing arts. Besides the contemporary ...

Political Purposes

Frances Spalding: Art in postwar Britain, 15 April 1999

New Art New World: British Art in Postwar Society 
by Margaret Garlake.
Yale, 279 pp., £35, July 1998, 0 300 07292 9
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Cultural Offensive: America’s Impact on British Art since 1945 
by John Walker.
Pluto, 304 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 7453 1321 3
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... In the same year that the Kitchen Sink artists were honoured in Venice, one of them – Jack Smith – won first prize at the John Moores exhibition in Liverpool, with his Creation and Crucifixion. Thanks to these successes, 1956 could be said to have marked the apotheosis of realism; it was also the year that the death-blow was delivered to the movement ...

Prophet of the Rocks

Richard Fortey: William Smith, 9 August 2001

The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 338 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 88407 3
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... strata in sequence. Once again, a map provided the key; it was published by the surveyor William Smith in August 1815 and it provided the framework for the geological time-scale that is still in use today. In turn, this supplied the millions of years required for the operation of organic evolution. A mere map became the catalyst that destroyed Biblical ...

The Excommunicant

Richard Popkin: Spinoza v. the Synagogue, 15 October 1998

The God of Spinoza: A Philosophical Study 
by Richard Mason.
Cambridge, 272 pp., £35, May 1997, 0 521 58162 1
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Spinoza, Liberalism and the Question of Jewish Identity 
by Steven Smith.
Yale, 270 pp., £21, June 1997, 0 300 06680 5
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... is to see the world from the aspect of eternity, and to achieve the intellectual love of God. As Richard Mason reminds us, Spinoza’s neglect of epistemology made him of little interest to those who insisted that the problem of knowledge as set out by Descartes defined what philosophy was properly about. Spinoza found a little room for that problem only at ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: David Smith, 9 March 2006

... David Smith is often seen as the Jackson Pollock of modern sculpture, the artist who transformed European innovations (in welded steel above all) into an American idiom of expanded scale and expressive power. Like most legends in art history, this isn’t false, despite the immediate catch that his greatest follower, Anthony Caro, is English ...

Hammers for Pipes

Richard Fortey: The Beginnings of Geology, 9 February 2006

Bursting the Limits of Time 
by Martin Rudwick.
Chicago, 840 pp., £31.50, December 2005, 0 226 73111 1
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... ensured that the wider world appreciated his message. Not long afterwards, William ‘Strata’ Smith produced the first good geological map, using characteristic fossils as guides to rock formations. After some difficulties in getting the map published, largely because this honest yeoman tangled with the toffs at the Geological Society, ...

Hello to All That

Martin Seymour-Smith, 9 October 1986

Robert Graves: The Assault Heroic 1895-1926 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 387 pp., £14.95, September 1986, 0 297 78943 0
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... of a projected three-volume ‘definitive’ biography of Robert Graves by his nephew, Richard Perceval Graves. It takes over where the author’s father, Robert’s younger brother John Graves, left off. John, who died in 1980, had been described by Robert as a ‘typically good pupil of a typically good school’ (to which he returned as ...

Let’s eat badly

William Davies: Irrationality and its Other, 5 December 2019

Irrationality: A History of the Dark Side of Reason 
by Justin E.H. Smith.
Princeton, 344 pp., £25, April 2019, 978 0 691 17867 7
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... the only ones hungry for these insights. The popularisation of behavioural economics was led by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein’s book Nudge (2008), which inspired the setting-up of ‘behavioural insights’ teams in governments around the world (with Cameron’s coalition government at the forefront), and has nurtured a view of policy that is attentive ...

Staggering on

Stephen Howe, 23 May 1996

The ‘New Statesman’: Portrait of a Political Weekly, 1913-31 
by Adrian Smith.
Cass, 340 pp., £30, February 1996, 0 7146 4645 8
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... In 1950 a venerable, once highly successful, long-ailing magazine quietly expired. Richard Usborne, the assistant editor in its dying days, later recalled an aficionado’s touching reaction. ‘When the Strand finally folded in 1950, my old sixth-form master wrote to me regretfully: “I loved the dear old Strand ...

Caricature Time

Clair Wills: Ali Smith calls it a year, 8 October 2020

Summer 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 384 pp., £16.99, August, 978 0 241 20706 2
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... Mothers​ have a hard time in Ali Smith’s novels. I mean that Smith gives them a hard time, as well as acknowledging the hard time they’ve had already, just getting this far, in one piece. In Summer, the final novel of Smith’s seasons quartet, the harried mother is Grace ...

Most Curious of Seas

Richard Fortey: Noah’s Flood, 1 July 1999

Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History 
by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., £17.99, February 1999, 0 684 81052 2
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... of Bulgaria and Dalmatia? Legends of a great flood permeated many traditions. In 1876, George Smith published his translations of the cuneiform writing preserved on baked-clay tablets from Mesopotamia – which recorded what we now call the Epic of Gilgamesh. These fragments from the great library of Nineveh spoke, in a language known as Akkadian, of a ...

Suffocating Suspense

Richard Davenport-Hines, 16 March 2000

Cult Criminals: The Newgate Novels 1830-47 
by Juliet John.
Routledge, 2750 pp., £399, December 1998, 0 415 14383 7
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... of pater estquem nuptiæ demonstrant; his consequent misfortunes involve him with a villain called Richard Craufurd, whom Bulwer-Lytton based on the banker Henry Fauntleroy, who had been hanged for forgery before a crowd of 100,000 people at Newgate in 1824. The central male figure in Lucretia is an artist, murderer and forger called Gabriel Varney, who was ...

Bottom

Richard Jenkyns: George Grote’s ‘A History of Greece’, 9 August 2001

A History of Greece: From the Time of Solon to 403 BC 
by George Grote, edited by J.M. Mitchell and M.O.B. Caspari.
Routledge, 978 pp., £60, September 2000, 0 415 22369 5
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... died a week after birth. The sight of Mrs Grote in a turban is supposed to have provoked Sydney Smith to the comment that at last he understood the meaning of the word ‘grotesque’, but she seems to have been an admirable person, and the memoir of her husband that she compiled as a dutiful widow is the best source for his life. He did not have to worry ...

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