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His Only Friend

Elaine Showalter, 8 September 1994

Hardy 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 886 pp., £25, February 1994, 0 7475 1037 7
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... the cosmic wires have been crossed and could the spiritualist have been talking to Martin Seymour-Smith? For this massive biography of Hardy – or ‘Tom’, as Seymour-Smith chummily calls him – has the vehemence of divine revelation and the fervour of personal mission. ‘I wrote Hardy,’ the author explains in a ...

Collectivism

Richard Jenkyns, 3 April 1997

Art and the Victorian Middle Class: Money and the Making of Cultural Identity 
by Dianne Sachko Macleod.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £65, October 1996, 0 521 55090 4
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... to succumb to the maladie du siècle, deciding that everything in life was dull and hopeless; T.E. Smith, whose wife and daughter both had affairs with the maverick statesman Charles Dilke. As in a painting by Frith, here is a canvas crowded with figures, representing the rich diversity of Victorian life and manners. Through the riot of detail Macleod detects ...

Willesden Fast-Forward

Daniel Soar: Zadie Smith, 21 September 2000

White Teeth 
by Zadie Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 462 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9780241139974
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... from the age of 18 you will, on average, be 700,000 years old before you win the jackpot, and if Richard Branson succeeds in his bid for the People’s Lottery you’re more likely to be a million. The newsagent in question is on Willesden High Road, where every shop that isn’t a newsagent is a takeaway. The streets of low-rise housing go on for ever and ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of the quarto edition of David Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects of 1758, handsomely bound in morocco leather. Boswell believed, Sher ...

Ways to Be Pretentious

Ian Penman, 4 May 2016

M Train 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 253 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6768 6
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Collected Lyrics 1970-2015 
by Patti Smith.
Bloomsbury, 303 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4088 6300 8
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... to remember punk but a neo-hippy these days – recently mentioned she’d been to see Patti Smith, who was touring her 1975 album, Horses, for its 40th anniversary. ‘Patti, yeah! Went to see her at the Roundhouse. Paid £30, which I didn’t think was too bad … Didn’t stay that long, though’ – snip, snip – ‘Went up the front and had a ...

Rolling Back the Reformation

Eamon Duffy: Bloody Mary’s Church, 7 February 2008

... and minds. The Kentish gospeller John Newman explained the matter to the turncoat bishop of Dover, Richard Thornden. He and his fellow gospellers, he declared, had drunk too deep of the teaching of the Edwardine reformers to renounce it simply on command. For, he told Thornden, their doctrine was not beleued of vs sodainly, but by their continuall ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: What’s become of Barings?, 23 March 1995

... The crisis broke on the eve of the country’s budget, presented by the Finance Minister, Richard Hu. Politicians in the G7 must have read him and wept. He forecast growth rates of up to 8 per cent. It’s ironic that the long-term strategy of the Lion City involves exploiting uncertainty over the financial stability of Hong Kong, but Singapore wants ...

Waving

Anthony Thwaite, 27 October 1988

Stevie SmithA Critical Biography 
by Frances Spalding.
Faber, 331 pp., £15, October 1988, 0 571 15207 4
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... she had with Kay Dick in November 1970 (the best source for the flavour of her speech), Stevie Smith remarked: I’m straightforward but I’m not simple ... In some ways I’m romantic but my basic root is profoundly sensible – profoundly sensible. About everything. There is a balance; I am aware of a balance. I know the sort of things that can knock ...

Infidels

Malise Ruthven, 2 June 1983

The Helen Smith Story 
by Paul Foot and Ron Smith.
Fontana, 418 pp., £1.95, February 1983, 0 00 636536 1
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... sixth floor of a Jeddah apartment block in May 1979. There were no other women, except for Helen Smith, a 23-year-old nurse from Yorkshire who worked in the same private hospital as Richard Arnot, a surgeon. What actually occurred at the party is still the subject of dispute, and is related to a pending legal action. But ...

Hawks and Doves

Mark Ridley, 21 July 1983

Evolution and Theory of Games 
by John Maynard Smith.
Cambridge, 224 pp., £18, October 1982, 0 521 24673 3
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... of their opponents. Apparently, however, they do not. Which brings us, at last, to John Maynard Smith. It was in an attempt, ten years ago, to show how the theory of individual selfishness could explain the restrained nature of animal contests that he introduced game theory to evolutionary biology. The explanation so perfectly illustrates his method, being ...

At least that was the idea

Thomas Keymer: Johnson and Boswell’s Club, 10 October 2019

The Club: Johnson, Boswell and the Friends who Shaped an Age 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 488 pp., £20, April 2019, 978 0 300 21790 2
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... for the revolutionary naturalism of his acting style, notably his startling performance as Richard III. Garrick was elected to the Club in 1773; the playwrights Oliver Goldsmith and George Colman were already members and Richard Brinsley Sheridan would be admitted a few years later. The Club wasn’t just full of ...

The Absolute End

Theo Tait: Ali Smith, 26 January 2012

There but for the 
by Ali Smith.
Hamish Hamilton, 356 pp., £16.99, June 2011, 978 0 241 14340 7
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... felt especially sympathetic because one of the books whose absence was most complained of was Ali Smith’s There but for the. Jeanette Winterson said that Smith’s novel, about a dinner-party guest who hides in his hosts’ spare bedroom and refuses to come out, was a ‘wonderful, word-playful’ book left out because it ...

Into the Mental Basement

Thomas Nagel: Science and Religion, 19 August 2010

Natural Reflections: Human Cognition at the Nexus of Science and Religion 
by Barbara Herrnstein Smith.
Yale, 201 pp., £25, March 2010, 978 0 300 14034 7
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... and are thought to override explanations from inside a religious point of view. Barbara Herrnstein Smith’s book defends a contrasting, pluralistic conception, according to which multiple different forms of understanding of religion – as of other human phenomena – are all legitimate, and compatible with one another. This ecumenical conclusion is ...

Guess what? It’s raining

Deborah Friedell: Murder in Florida, 5 July 2012

Injustice: Life and Death in the Courtrooms of America 
by Clive Stafford Smith.
Harvill Secker, 376 pp., £18.99, July 2012, 978 1 84655 625 8
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... weapon was never discovered, but a ballistics expert testified that it had most likely been a 9mm Smith & Wesson. Maharaj’s gun collection had included a 9mm Smith & Wesson though he claimed it had been stolen from him shortly before the murders. The star witness for the prosecution was Neville Butler, a reporter on the ...

Bad Nights at ‘The Libertine’

Keith Walker, 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 ...

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