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A Spanish girl is a volcano

John Pemble: Apostles in Gibraltar

9 September 2015
John Kemble’s Gibraltar Journal: The Spanish Expedition of the Cambridge Apostles, 1830-31 
by Eric Nye.
Macmillan, 416 pp., £100, January 2015, 978 1 137 38446 1
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... as they did in Keynes and Strachey’s. Most were flagrantly heterosexual (Hallam especially – the idea of sex between him and Tennyson is impossibly far-fetched), and the few who weren’t (like Richard Monckton Milnes, mad about Hallam) shrank from the macho recklessness of the Spanish adventure. So there are no sodomites in Greene’s account, and the only coward, crank and sap-headed dilettante ...

How the sanity of poets can be edited away

Arnold Rattenbury: The Sanity of Ivor Gurney

14 October 1999
‘Severn and Somme’ and ‘War’s Embers’ 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 152 pp., £7.95, September 1997, 1 85754 348 3
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80 Poems or So 
by Ivor Gurney, edited by George Walter and R.K.R. Thornton.
Carcanet, 148 pp., £9.95, January 1997, 1 85754 344 0
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... more and, when he returned afterwards to music, the poetry continued. The asylum cut him off, therefore, from what had been a life of continuous intellectual companionship – in music, poetry and trench-life. In the end, all reasoning had to be here, inside. Outside became for him one vastly simplified establishment of Church and Metropolitan Police, to which he would write long and, if you choose ...

Bogey Man

Richard​ Mayne

15 July 1982
Camus: A Critical Study of his Life and Work 
by Patrick McCarthy.
Hamish Hamilton, 259 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 241 10603 6
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Albert Camus: A Biography 
by Herbert Lottman.
Picador, 753 pp., £3.95, February 1981, 0 330 26262 9
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The Narcissistic Text: A Reading of Camus’s Fiction 
by Brian Fitch.
Toronto, 128 pp., £12.25, April 1982, 0 8020 2426 2
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The Outsider 
by Albert Camus, translated by Joseph Laredo.
Hamish Hamilton, 96 pp., £5.95, April 1982, 0 241 10778 4
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... in Britain by Cyril Connolly’s Introduction to the 1946 translation of L’Etranger, was that he ‘played a notable part in the French Resistance Movement’. The much-photographed figure in a trench coat, with Humphrey Bogart features, certainly looked like Hollywood’s idea of an underground hero. In fact, Camus derailed no more trains than Sartre. What he did do, from the winter of 1943-4 ...

Something of Importance

Philip Williamson

2 February 1989
The Coming of the First World War 
edited by R.J.W. Evans and Hartmut Pogge von Strandmann.
Oxford, 189 pp., £22.50, November 1988, 0 19 822899 6
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The Experience of World War One 
by J.M. Winter.
Macmillan, 256 pp., £17.95, November 1988, 0 333 44613 5
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Russia and the Allies 1917-1920. Vol II: The Road to Intervention, March-November 1918 
by Michael Kettle.
Routledge, 401 pp., £40, June 1988, 0 415 00371 7
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Douglas Haig 1861-1928 
by Gerald De Groot.
Unwin Hyman, 441 pp., £20, November 1988, 0 04 440192 2
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Nothing of Importance: A Record of Eight Months at the Front with a Welsh Battalion 
by Bernard Adams.
The Strong Oak Press/Tom Donovan Publishing, 324 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 9781871048018
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1914-1918: Voices and Images of the Great War 
by Lyn Macdonald.
Joseph, 346 pp., £15.95, November 1988, 0 7181 3188 6
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... mass mobilisation of civilian populations in war production. It was a war of an immense number of extraordinarily intense personal experiences – the terrors of combat and the particular horrors of trench warfare, proximity to suffering and death, bereavement, material deprivation, new work experiences and new social expectations. In one way or another the Great War affected the lives of more ...

Bees in a Deserted Hive

Daniel Soar: Nikolai Gumilev

27 April 2000
The Pillar of Fire 
by Nikolai Gumilev, translated by Richard​ McKane.
Anvil, 252 pp., £12.95, August 1999, 0 85646 310 8
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... In 1916, Private Nikolai Gumilev and two of his superiors came under fire on the bank of the River Dvina north of St Petersburg; the two officers jumped into the nearest trench. Gumilev wouldn’t be rushed: still in range of the battery on the other side of the river, he lit a cigarette and smoked it. Only then did he join the others. He was reprimanded for ‘unnecessary ...

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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... its large complement of significant, message-laden detail could be read inch by inch. Brown’s picture was a product of the easel, and by that much removed from the actual dusty (or muddy) London trench where it had begun. Like Turner and Constable, Scharf could not miss the spectacular opportunity for topical art furnished by the burning of the Houses of Parliament one October night in 1834. He ...

At Tate Modern

Julian Stallabrass: Conflict, Time, Photography

19 February 2015
... between pictures in colour and monochrome, the sheer size of the installation – which could only be displayed in a gallery or museum – and the oscillation in scale (is that the remains of a trench or a line drawn with a finger in the sand?) make it clear that Fait does not simply substitute for the images that censorship prevented coming into existence. The destruction, here, is both vast and ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front

4 April 2002
... is a necrophile’s delight: photograph after photograph, in tiny, eye-straining black and white, of crosses, graves, plaques, inscriptions, bombed-out block-houses converted into monuments, decaying trench relics, dank rows of cypresses, grassed-over mine and shell craters, obscene-looking barrows, and yet more crosses and graves. Some of the photos show boxy 1970s cars parked in the background – a ...

Old Gravy

Mark Ford

7 September 1995
Robert Graves: Life on the Edge 
by Miranda Seymour.
Doubleday, 524 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 385 40423 9
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Robert Graves and the White Goddess 
by Richard​ Perceval Graves.
Weidenfeld, 618 pp., £25, July 1995, 0 297 81534 2
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Robert Graves: His Life and Work 
by Martin Seymour-Smith.
Bloomsbury, 600 pp., £25, June 1995, 0 7475 2205 7
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Robert Graves: Collected Writings on Poetry 
edited by Paul O’Prey.
Carcanet, 560 pp., £35, June 1995, 1 85754 172 3
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Robert Graves: The Centenary Selected Poems 
edited by Patrick Quinn.
Carcanet, 160 pp., £15.95, April 1995, 9781857541267
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... to Graves’s cradle: ‘The infant looked up into its mother’s face, and sensed that – without much ambiguity – she wanted to kill him, and not quickly.’ Miranda Seymour (no relation) and Richard Perceval Graves (the poet’s nephew) present Amy Graves in less hysterical terms, but agree that her rigid notions of purity helped inculcate Graves’s sexual difficulties. When on holiday with his ...

Lithe Pale Girls

Robert Crawford: Richard​ Aldington

22 January 2015
Richard​ Aldington: Poet, Soldier and Lover 1911-29 
by Vivien Whelpton.
Lutterworth, 414 pp., £30, January 2015, 978 0 7188 9318 7
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... veered too close to his mother’s fiction. Among Edward Godfree Aldington’s early gestures of rebellion was his rejection of the name his parents had given him: from his teens he called himself Richard. A sparkling-eyed poet who played rugby at school, he caught the eye of many women. In his youth he had a taste for velvet jackets and bow ties; he had studied some Greek, and relished the Romantic ...

With Constantinople as Its Objective

Richard​ Prior and Trevor Wilson: Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill

14 January 2002
Lord Kitchener and Winston Churchill: The Dardanelles Commission Part I, 1914-15 
Stationery Office, 218 pp., £6.99, April 2000, 0 11 702423 6Show More
Defeat at Gallipoli: The Dardanelles Commission Part II, 1915-16 
Stationery Office, 319 pp., £6.99, September 2000, 0 11 702455 4Show More
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... the war against the Kaiser had taken an unwelcome turn by the end of 1914. Although the German Army’s drive to Paris had been halted, it had not been pushed out of France, and the stalemate of trench-warfare had been reached. The means of ending the war were not obvious, and the cost in lives was already daunting. Prominent figures in Britain began to contemplate the possibility of operations ...
21 January 1982
War Diary 1913-1917: Chronicle of Youth 
by Vera Brittain, edited by Alan Bishop.
Gollancz, 382 pp., £8.50, September 1981, 0 575 02888 2
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The English Poets of the First World War 
by John Lehmann.
Thames and Hudson, 144 pp., £6.95, August 1981, 0 500 01256 3
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Voices from the Great War 
by Peter Vansittart.
Cape, 303 pp., £7.95, November 1981, 0 224 01915 5
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The Little Field-Marshal: Sir John French 
by Richard​ Holmes.
Cape, 427 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 0 224 01575 3
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... in her hour of need. What kind of men were they? Predominantly single, young, eager, and without technical skills. Most were channelled into the Infantry, where they could be taught the rudiments of trench warfare in a few weeks. A few of them, however, already possessed the most crucial skill of such a war: the ability to discipline and inspire small bodies of soldiers under nasty conditions. These ...

At the British Library

Peter Campbell: The lie of the land

20 September 2001
... It is unique – all copies were supposed to have been destroyed – and came to the British Library from the Ministry of Defence only in 1995. Even longer under cover was the map on which Richard Oswald, a friend of Benjamin Franklin and secretary to the British delegation which negotiated the Treaty of Paris in 1782, marked in red the proposed frontier between the United States and Canada ...

Dam and Blast

David Lodge

21 October 1982
... view today without too much irony. It is naive, but it is not hypocritical and it is not insensitive. Its effectiveness owes much, no doubt, to R. C. Sherriff’s screenplay, for his classic drama of trench warfare in the First World War, Journey’s End, had much the same strengths and limitations. The feature of The Dam Busters that grates most on the viewer in 1982 is that the hero’s pet dog is ...

Spot and Sink

Richard​ J. Evans: The End of WW1

15 December 2011
With Our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918 
by David Stevenson.
Allen Lane, 688 pp., £30, May 2011, 978 0 7139 9840 5
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... field was 883,000 lower than in March and most units were below strength. One of the few major gaps in Stevenson’s account is his failure to deal adequately with the role of the medical services: trench fever, typhus, gas gangrene and many other, often fatal infections grew more common as the war went on, and must have worsened combat effectiveness and morale. It would have been interesting to have ...

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