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Scarisbrick’s Bomb

Peter Gwyn, 20 December 1984

Reformation and Revolution 1558-1660 
by Robert Ashton.
Granada, 503 pp., £18, February 1984, 0 246 10666 2
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The Reformation and the English People 
by J.J. Scarisbrick.
Blackwell, 203 pp., £14.50, March 1984, 0 631 13424 7
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... Two very different books by two professors at English universities. That written by Professor Ashton is a bad book of a kind that is all too common, that by Professor Scarisbrick is good, perhaps very good, but of a kind that is now all too rare, in that it was written for the simple, old fashioned reason that its author was passionately interested in imparting his views ...

New-Model History

Valerie Pearl, 7 February 1980

The City and the Court 1603-1643 
by Robert Ashton.
Cambridge, 247 pp., £10.50, September 1980, 0 521 22419 5
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... The ‘major reinterpretation’ of City and Crown politics, promised by Professor Ashton in his book on the English Civil Wars, and long awaited, has now been published in a slim volume covering the years from 1603 to the outbreak of the Civil War. Put briefly, his theme runs thus. The city fathers, defenders of monarchy, not Parliament, under James I, and again allied to the Crown from the autumn of 1641, were nevertheless temporarily ‘alienated’ from their natural ally during the 1630s ...

The Fred Step

Anna Swan: Frederick Ashton, 19 February 1998

Secret Muses: The Life of Frederick Ashton 
by Julie Kavanagh.
Faber, 675 pp., £12.99, October 1997, 0 571 19062 6
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... Frederick Ashton was an avid gossip, while also dreading the idea that his life – and his homosexuality – might become matters of prurient interest. He claimed to have destroyed all his personal letters, but Julie Kavanagh found he had kept almost every one. Ashton and Kavanagh, who trained with the Royal Ballet and is now London editor of the New Yorker, became close friends towards the end of his life ...

Snakes and Leeches

Rosemary Hill: The Great Stink, 4 January 2018

One Hot Summer: Dickens, Darwin, Disraeli and the Great Stink of 1858 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 352 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 300 22726 0
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... weaves together the lives of the famous, the obscure and the forgotten. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning plan their elopement. Samuel Rogers entertains the Gräfin Hahn-Hahn, a romantic novelist who has come to meet her English public and disappoints them by turning out to have false teeth and a glass eye. The painter Benjamin Haydon approaches a ...

Metropolitan Miscreants

Matthew Bevis: Victorian Bloomsbury, 4 July 2013

Victorian Bloomsbury 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Yale, 380 pp., £25, July 2012, 978 0 300 15447 4
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Metropolitan Art and Literature, 1810-40: Cockney Adventures 
by Gregory Dart.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £55, July 2012, 978 1 107 02492 2
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... the phylum or the city will end up – or whether the city is making us worse or better. Rosemary Ashton’s Victorian Bloomsbury offers a less vertiginous outlook on the terrain by surveying one corner of it. Her focus is on ‘the activities of an earlier set of Bloomsbury-based pioneers, men and women of the 19th century who fought against ...

Rescuing the bishops

Blair Worden, 21 April 1983

The Religion of Protestants: The Church in English Society 1559-1625 
by Patrick Collinson.
Oxford, 297 pp., £17.50, January 1983, 0 19 822685 3
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Reactions to the English Civil War 1642-1649 
by John Morrill.
Macmillan, 257 pp., £14, November 1982, 0 333 27565 9
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The World of the Muggletonians 
by Christopher Hill, Barry Reay and William Lamont.
Temple Smith, 195 pp., £12.50, February 1983, 0 85117 226 1
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The Life of John Milton 
by A.N. Wilson.
Oxford, 278 pp., £9.95, January 1983, 0 19 211776 9
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Complete Prose Works of John Milton. Vol. 8: 1666-1682 
edited by Maurice Kelley.
Yale, 625 pp., £55, January 1983, 0 300 02561 0
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The Poet’s Time: Politics and Religion in the Works of Andrew Marvell 
by Warren Chernaik.
Cambridge, 249 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 9780521247733
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... made again. Donald Pennington describes the burdens and the dislocation brought by the fighting, Robert Ashton the scant respect shown by Parliament for the liberties it claimed to defend. A similarly dispiriting picture emerges from Ronald Hutton’s excellent essay ‘The Royalist War Effort’, which bears some striking resemblances to his excellent ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... All That, as one literary man’s war memoirs with another’s, I’m struck by the contrast with Robert Graves’s modernity. It doesn’t seem to matter that his was an earlier war, or a different kind of war – Mr Powell’s being much more the contemporary kind we know about – but Graves was modern in that his personal involvement is so much more vivid ...

Top Grumpy’s Top Hate

Robert Irwin: Richard Aldington’s Gripes, 18 February 1999

Richard Aldington and Lawrence of Arabia: A Cautionary Tale 
by Fred Crawford.
Southern Illinois, 265 pp., £31.95, July 1998, 0 8093 2166 1
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Lawrence the Uncrowned King of Arabia 
by Michael Asher.
Viking, 419 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 670 87029 3
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... sitter for characters in other people’s novels than he was as a writer. Besides starring as Rafe Ashton in his former wife Hilda Doolittle’s novel Bid Me to Live (1960), and as Robert Cunningham in D.H. Lawrence’s Aaron’s Rod (1922), he may have had the misfortune to furnish the model for Sir Clifford ...

Biographical Materials

Alan Hollinghurst, 15 October 1981

Remembering Britten 
edited by Alan Blyth.
Hutchinson, 181 pp., £7.95, June 1981, 0 09 144950 2
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Britten and Auden in the Thirties: The Year 1936 
by Donald Mitchell.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.50, February 1981, 0 571 11715 5
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... recall, and Blyth’s banalities, are at odds with this discordant factor, and only Sir Frederick Ashton and Robert Tear express an independent disenchantment, the former in something close to bitchiness, the latter in a more technical way: Tear was banished after choosing to sing Dov in The Knot Garden rather than Lechmere ...

Opprobrious Epithets

Katrina Navickas: The Peterloo Massacre, 20 December 2018

Peterloo: The Story of the Manchester Massacre 
by Jacqueline Riding.
Head of Zeus, 386 pp., £25, October 2018, 978 1 78669 583 3
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... from mistakes made by a panicked magistracy rather than from premeditation or government diktat. Robert Walmsley’s Peterloo: The Case Reopened (1969), published on the 150th anniversary, sought to exonerate his ancestor William Hulton, chairman of the Lancashire and Cheshire magistrates. Walmsley claimed the justices were the real victims of ...

At the Royal Academy

Peter Campbell: Philip Guston fouls the nest, 5 February 2004

... course from the Cleveland School of Cartooning – but he didn’t much care for the comparison. Robert Crumb, in his comic book Weirdo No. 7, which makes play with some of Guston’s motifs (the big eye, the soles of nailed boots) and has a narrative, ‘Uncle Bob’s Midlife Crisis’, in which he muses about taking up ‘a fine art career, oil painting ...

Unpranked Lyre

John Mullan: The Laziness of Thomas Gray, 13 December 2001

Thomas Gray: A Life 
by Robert Mack.
Yale, 718 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 300 08499 4
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... of syntax and the personification of abstract ideas (another of Wordsworth’s special hates). Robert Mack, properly enough, sets out to be Gray’s advocate and though not all his vindications of individual poems are persuasive, his biography does add an important consideration to our understanding of Gray’s poetic values, and therefore of his high ...

Boxing the City

Gaby Wood, 31 July 1997

Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell 
by Deborah Solomon.
Cape, 426 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 224 04242 4
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... Queens, a plain middle-class house where he lived with his widowed mother and his younger brother Robert, who suffered from cerebral palsy. He was known in the neighbourhood as a loner who collected odds and ends, as a silent member of the Christian Science Church, as a ‘scary kook’, as a haunted-looking man who was friendly to children. One visitor to ...

Adulation or Eggs

Susan Eilenberg: At home with the Carlyles, 7 October 2004

Thomas and Jane Carlyle: Portrait of a Marriage 
by Rosemary Ashton.
Pimlico, 560 pp., £15, February 2003, 0 7126 6634 6
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... intolerance wearing. For all their social success, for all their celebrity – and, as Rosemary Ashton points out, they attracted more attention than any other couple in England – they had to restock their social circles again and again. To Carlyle success seemed a long time coming and his achievement peculiarly liable to be undone. In 1835, the first ...

Rubbing Up

Michael Church, 7 June 1984

Growing Up 
by Russell Baker.
Sidgwick, 278 pp., £9.95, February 1984, 0 283 99056 2
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Scouse Mouse, or I never got over it: An Autobiography 
by George Melly.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 297 78277 0
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The Haunted Mind 
by Hallam Tennyson.
Deutsch, 238 pp., £12.95, May 1984, 0 233 97618 3
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... seems to have compensated satisfactorily by surrounding herself with stage celebrities (including Robert Helpmann and Frederick Ashton), by indulging in amateur dramatics, and by amusing her family with assorted comic turns, such as a belched version of ‘God Save the King’. Even as a tot, George stuck close to her ...

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