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Libel on the Human Race

Steven Shapin: Malthus

4 June 2014
Malthus: The Life and Legacies of an Untimely Prophet 
by Robert Mayhew.
Harvard, 284 pp., £20, April 2014, 978 0 674 72871 4
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... The​ Rev. Thomas Robert Malthus liked to look on the bright side. True, that hasn’t been the usual assessment: his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798) was intended to drench the parade of Enlightenment optimism ...

What Fred Did

Owen Bennett-Jones: Go-Betweens in Northern Ireland

22 January 2015
... Over the years Duddy had contact with various British officials. In 1990 his interlocutor was a former MI6 officer seconded to MI5 who introduced himself as Colin Ferguson and later said his name was Robert McLarnon. Believing in neither name, Duddy called him Fred. The Northern Irish members of the link were relatively optimistic that a peace deal might be possible. The conflict had reached a stalemate ...


Michael Wood

5 May 1983
The Rapes of Lucretia: A Myth and Its Transformation 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 203 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 19 812638 7
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The Rape of Clarissa 
by Terry Eagleton.
Blackwell, 109 pp., £10, September 1982, 0 631 13031 4
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Samuel Richardson: A Man of Letters 
by Carol Houlihan Flynn.
Princeton, 342 pp., £17.70, May 1982, 0 691 06506 3
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... had been drugged and raped in London, ‘Your mind lay open like a drawer of knives.’ All that day, and many days more, no doubt. But then presumably, since the girl later talked calmly enough to Mayhew, the drawer gradually closed, the glint of the knives softened, and life continued. Slums, years, have buried you. I would not dare Console you if I could. If the girl had been a heroine, of course ...


Colin Wallace

8 October 1992
The Red Hand: Protestant Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland 
by Steve Bruce.
Oxford, 326 pp., £25, August 1992, 0 19 215961 5
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... investigation carried out by Manchester Deputy Chief Constable, John Stalker, into an alleged ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy in Northern Ireland. In January 1988, the then Attorney-General, Sir Patrick Mayhew, told the Commons that, given certain ‘considerations of national security’, no charges would be brought against eight named RUC officers for various offences including conspiracy to murder, nor ...
23 May 1996
After Tylor: British Social Anthropology 1888-1951 
by George Stocking.
Athlone, 570 pp., £50, January 1996, 0 485 30072 9
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... of that image, built up as it was from the most diverse elements, and not only from ‘exotic’ sources – he makes much, for example, of the ‘domestic savagery’ reported by Engels and Mayhew. In After Tylor, however, he forgoes multiple contextualisation in favour of straightforward chronology. We begin in 1888, at the high noon of evolutionism, with Tylor delivering a paper on kinship ...


Frank Kermode

16 October 1997
Jack Maggs 
by Peter Carey.
Faber, 328 pp., £15.99, September 1997, 9780571190881
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... the title of Marcus Clarke’s book, published in 1871 and venerated as the first important Australian novel. Clarke wrote about the penal settlements, more recently and more harshly described by Robert Hughes. While Carey’s hero was held in such places he was flogged with unforgettable violence, his back permanently scarred and furrowed, and two of his fingers severed. (There was a specially ...
4 August 1988
Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 400 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3018 0
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Selected Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 330 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 7011 3311 2
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The Poetical Works of Robert​ Browning: Vol. III 
edited by Ian Jack and Rowena Fowler.
Oxford, 542 pp., £60, June 1988, 0 19 812762 6
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The Complete Works of Robert​ Browning: Vol. VIII 
edited by Roma King and Susan Crowl.
Ohio/Baylor University, 379 pp., £47.50, September 1988, 9780821403808
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... be delicious: as good as Virginia Woolf, or John Betjeman, who would have adored subtle pentameters like ‘The irregular line of elms by the deep lane’. And like Sonnets from the Portuguese, which Robert Browning had advised Elizabeth to present as translations, and which were not published as her own until her death, Aurora Leigh is a remarkable tribute to the way in which new female independence ...
4 September 1980
The Films in My Life 
by François Truffaut, translated by Leonard Mayhew.
Allen Lane, 358 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 7139 1322 3
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... as French, Italian and Swedish films burst on Britain. Truffaut devotes long sections of the book to his American heroes – including not only Lubitsch, Hawks, Hitchcock and Orson Welles, but also Robert, Aldrich, Frank Tashlin, Robert Wise and Nicholas Ray. Characteristically, his best remarks about them home in on technique. ‘Hitchcock’s mastery of the are grows greater with each film and he ...
20 June 1985
Firing Line 
by Richard Holmes.
Cape, 436 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 224 02043 9
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The Right of the Line: The Royal Air Force in the European War 1939-1945 
by John Terraine.
Hodder, 841 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 340 26644 9
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The Bomber Command War Diaries: An Operational Reference Book 
by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt.
Viking, 804 pp., £25, May 1985, 0 670 80137 2
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’45: The Final Drive from the Rhine to the Baltic 
by Charles Whiting.
Century, 192 pp., £7.95, March 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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In the Ruins of the Reich 
by Douglas Botting.
Allen and Unwin, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 9780049430365
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1945: The World We Fought For 
by Robert​ Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 371 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 241 11531 0
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VE Day: Victory in Europe 1945 
by Robin Cross.
Sidgwick, 223 pp., £12.95, May 1985, 0 283 99220 4
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One Family’s War 
edited by Patrick Mayhew.
Hutchinson, 237 pp., £10.95, May 1985, 0 7126 0812 5
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Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Selection 
edited by Victor Selwyn.
Dent, 386 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 460 10432 2
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My Life 
by Bert Hardy.
Gordon Fraser, 192 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 86092 083 6
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Victory in Europe: D Day to VE Day 
by Max Hastings and George Stevens.
Weidenfeld, 192 pp., £10.95, April 1985, 0 297 78650 4
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... on our side. War is crazy. It is a crazy thing that we are fighting at all. But it would be even more crazy if we were to have more casualties on our side to save the Japanese. This is quoted in Robert Kee’s 1945 – The World We Fought For. Kee’s method is to construct an account of the year from contemporary newspapers and journals. Its vice is that it can look rather lazily tacked together ...


John Sutherland

23 March 1995
Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 474 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7181 3641 1
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... working-class children eked a precarious living, shovelling horse-shit from the path of their betters’ patent leather shoes. There was undoubtedly a lot of it going on, but not that much. As Mayhew testifies, there seem to have been no more than a few hundred juvenile crossing-sweepers in the 1840s and 1850s, mainly congregated around Trafalgar Square. Desmond’s reckless way with incidental ...


Andrew O’Hagan: Orders of Service

18 April 2019
... Painter’s Eye’, a talk by Philip Trevelyan, son of Mary’s late husband, and was followed by an account of her life by Bamber Gascoigne, and then David Attenborough’s reading of two poems by Robert Frost. There appears to have been a Feddenesque delicacy and some well-placed dabs of humour to the whole affair. ‘Very Mary,’ Catherine said. The phrase ‘order of service’ isn’t Catholic ...

Be careful what you wish for

Stephen Sedley: Human Rights Acts

30 August 2018
The Conservative Human Rights Revolution: European Identity, Transnational Politics and the Origins of the European Convention 
by Marco Duranti.
Oxford, 502 pp., £59, February 2017, 978 0 19 981138 0
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... It followed, first, that Franco’s Spain and Salazar’s Portugal, in spite of the Vatican’s desire to see them included, had to be kept out if the project was to have any credibility (though Robert Boothby, another of its protagonists, suggested that Salazar might ‘concoct a special brand of Portuguese democracy’ to get Portugal under the wire). It also followed, particularly in the view of ...


Tam Dalyell: Yesterday’s News

18 September 1986
... ministers, but who knew the difference between right and wrong. Not even that Duke of Newcastle described by Sir Lewis Namier had more patronage at his disposal than Mrs Thatcher has enjoyed: and Sir Robert Walpole and his successors were vulnerable to visits from grandees, who called on him with the word that it was time for a change. As a friend of mine, a Conservative Privy Councillor, put it when I ...


Tom Paulin: Trimble’s virtues

7 October 2004
... the province was on the brink of disaster. The first ‘siege of Drumcree’ confirmed the British government’s suspicion that none of the Unionists could be trusted. Even now, Godson says, Patrick Mayhew, Northern Ireland secretary at the time, describes Trimble’s performance at Drumcree as ‘undoubtedly triumphalist’. He aroused great hostility in nationalist Ireland and among what Godson calls ...

Successive Applications of Sticking-Plaster

Andrew Saint: The urban history of Britain

1 November 2001
The Cambridge Urban History of Britain. Vol. III: 1840-1950 
edited by Martin Daunton.
Cambridge, 944 pp., £90, January 2001, 0 521 41707 4
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... health clinics, libraries and baths from grasping private companies or inconsistently spread and patronising voluntary bodies. Now scholars are less sure. As regards transport and the utilities, Robert Millward points out that councils tended to buy out only enterprises which were in consistent profit, such as gas companies. Councillors’ motives were often not so much to provide an economic or ...

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