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Enjoying every moment

David Reynolds: Ole Man Churchill, 7 August 2003

Churchill 
by John Keegan.
Weidenfeld, 181 pp., £14.99, November 2002, 0 297 60776 6
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Man of the Century: Winston Churchill and His Legend since 1945 
by John Ramsden.
HarperCollins, 652 pp., £9.99, September 2003, 0 00 653099 0
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Clementine Churchill: The Revised and Updated Biography 
by Mary Soames.
Doubleday, 621 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 385 60446 7
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Churchill at War 1940-45 
by Lord Moran.
Constable, 383 pp., £9.99, October 2002, 1 84119 608 8
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Churchill’s Cold War: The Politics of Personal Diplomacy 
by Klaus Larres.
Yale, 583 pp., £25, June 2002, 0 300 09438 8
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... here – as are the movies and documentaries, with Albert Finney following Richard Burton and Robert Hardy as a screen Churchill. As for approval ratings, in an admittedly contrived phone-poll BBC2 viewers last November voted him the greatest Briton of all time. Most Churchill biographies have been massive: Roy Jenkins’s weighed in at 1.5 kilos and a ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The State of Statuary, 21 September 2017

... Most days​ I eat my lunch sitting under the statue of Charles James Fox in Bloomsbury Square. There are broad steps on each side of the statue, their Portland stone now stained an aqueous green, and I like to sit beneath and between Fox’s feet, looking, with him, down Bedford Place and towards Russell Square. Like most fat men in statuary (and in life), Fox is seated for greater dignity; he is also swathed in a voluminous toga which drips over the edge of his chair – ‘Charles James Fox unconcerned in a bath towel sits on his arse in Bloomsbury Square,’ was how Louis MacNeice put it in one of his last poems ...

Further Left

R.W. Johnson, 16 August 1990

Prepared for the worst: Selected Essays and Minority Reports 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Hogarth, 357 pp., £9.99, July 1990, 0 7012 0903 8
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Blood, Class and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies 
by Christopher Hitchens.
Chatto, 398 pp., £18, July 1990, 0 7011 3361 9
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... for the conventional symbolism of Anglo-culture, dismissing Princess Di as a bimbo, mocking the Rhodes Scholarship with Balliol disdain and generally slaughtering sacred cows like a pocket Rambo let loose with a gun in the cow-shed. For readers of the Nation, and more particularly for the American televiewers before whom Hitchens frequently performs, this ...

A Hard Dog to Keep on the Porch

Christopher Hitchens, 6 June 1996

... the latest leaflet, or procuring another drink. And there were the Americans. I remember James Fenton noticing how they would cluster a little closer together and talk in a fashion slightly more intense. Mainly Rhodes or Fulbright scholars, they had come from every state of the union with what amounted to a free ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids, 21 March 2013

... British king just so that two centuries later it could commune with the spirits of Cecil Rhodes and John Buchan in neo-imperialist seances alongside the set of countries bearing the queen’s head on their coins. But this hasn’t stopped certain Anglosphericals formulating a new mythology of Anglo oneness. In his 2006 book A History of the ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... life – his marriage. Although both his son, who first exposed its extraordinary nature, and Mr James Lees-Milne, who has written the first volume of his biography, refer to it as a great success, it cannot be regarded as anything but a disaster in terms of Nicolson’s public career. Vita Sackville-West was the daughter of Lord Sackville. Had she been a ...

My son has been poisoned!

David Bromwich: Cold War movies, 26 January 2012

An Army of Phantoms: American Movies and the Making of the Cold War 
by J. Hoberman.
New Press, 383 pp., £21.99, March 2011, 978 1 59558 005 4
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... Crowd tells of the rise of a country singer and cracker-barrel politician, Larry ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes, of his authentic talent and the authenticity merchants who sell him, of his contempt for his audience and the self-contempt that grows with his facility at pleasing the people. A Face in the Crowd comes from 1957: a post-McCarthy production, in which the ...

Secret Signals in Lotus Flowers

Maya Jasanoff: Myths of the Mutiny, 21 July 2005

The Indian Mutiny and the British Imagination 
by Gautam Chakravarty.
Cambridge, 242 pp., £45, January 2005, 0 521 83274 8
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... not far from the Red Fort of the Mughal emperors, sits the little visited Anglican church of St James, consecrated in 1836. With its Renaissance-style dome and campanile, and painted a cheerful lemon, this church would not look out of place in Italy. In Delhi it is an oddity, as was its founder, the swashbuckling military adventurer ...

Zeus Be Nice Now

James Davidson: Ancient Cults, 19 July 2007

Thesaurus Cultus et Rituum Antiquorum 
Getty, 3014 pp., $1,215, March 2007, 978 0 89236 787 0Show More
Polytheism and Society at Athens 
by Robert Parker.
Oxford, 544 pp., £27.50, March 2007, 978 0 19 921611 6
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... Taygetus, the winds carrying the ashes to all four corners of their territory. And the people of Rhodes sent an entire four-horse chariot team into the sea in honour of the chariot-driving Sun, their patron divinity. Sacrifice generally took place not in temples but out of doors. Altars could be huge staired monuments in the shape of a squared U, like the ...

Like a Meteorite

James Davidson, 31 July 1997

Homer in English 
edited by George Steiner.
Penguin, 355 pp., £9.99, April 1996, 0 14 044621 4
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Homer’s ‘Iliad’ 
translated by Stanley Lombardo.
Hackett, 584 pp., £6.95, May 1997, 0 87220 352 2
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Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ 
translated by Robert Fagles.
Viking, 541 pp., £25, April 1997, 0 670 82162 4
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... so different, after all, from what the great tragedians did, or what Ovid did, or Apollonius of Rhodes, putting a new spin on ancient tales. Building on this assumption, we can begin to approach the question of Homer’s originality. From what we know of the other epics, they covered much longer periods and many more fantastic events in many fewer ...

English Butter

David Trotter, 9 October 1986

Englishness: Politics and Culture 1880-1920 
edited by Robert Colls and Philip Dodd.
Croom Helm, 378 pp., £25, June 1986, 0 7099 0849 0
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The Character Factory: Baden-Powell and the Origins of the Boy Scout Movement 
by Michael Rosenthal.
Collins, 335 pp., £15, August 1986, 0 00 217604 1
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Oxford and Empire: The Last Lost Cause? 
by Richard Symonds.
Macmillan, 366 pp., £29.50, July 1986, 0 333 40206 5
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... the spirit of the Protestant apprentice boys who had shut the gates of Derry in the face of King James. This retrenchment had the effect of removing from Protestant identity the level of political allegiance and negotiation. Any reform was, and still is, construed as an immediate threat to fundamental values. Addressing an Ulster Unionist Convention in ...

Like a boll weevil to a cotton bud

A. Craig Copetas, 18 November 1993

New York Days 
by Willie Morris.
Little, Brown, 400 pp., £19.45, September 1993, 0 316 58421 5
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... and idealism is empty. Jack Kennedy is alive. Martin Luther King is alive. Bobby Kennedy is alive. James Baldwin is alive. Janis Joplin is alive. Jack Kerouac is alive. Jimi Hendrix is alive. Lyndon Johnson is alive. James Jones is alive. Jim Morrison and Robert Penn Warren are ...

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 ...

What Is Great about Ourselves

Pankaj Mishra: Closing Time, 21 September 2017

The Retreat of Western Liberalism 
by Edward Luce.
Little, Brown, 240 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 4087 1041 8
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The Fate of the West: Battle to Save the World’s Most Successful Political Idea 
by Bill Emmott.
Economist, 257 pp., £22, May 2017, 978 1 61039 780 3
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The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics 
by David Goodhart.
Hurst, 256 pp., £20, March 2017, 978 1 84904 799 9
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The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics 
by Mark Lilla.
Harper, 143 pp., £20, August 2017, 978 0 06 269743 1
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The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam 
by Douglas Murray.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £18.99, May 2017, 978 1 4729 4224 1
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... Spectator, once suavely edited, now serves as a fraternity house for Douglas Murray, Toby Young, James Delingpole and Rod Liddle; pummelling Muslims and high-fiving on Brexit, these right-wing bros are to the posh periodicals what Jeremy Clarkson was to the BBC. Murray’s book-length screed, The Strange Death of Europe, is full of Trump-style imaginings of ...

God’s Own

Angus Calder, 12 March 1992

Empire and English Character 
by Kathryn Tidrick.
Tauris, 338 pp., £24.95, August 1990, 1 85043 191 4
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Into Africa: The story of the East African Safari 
by Kenneth Cameron.
Constable, 229 pp., £14.95, June 1990, 0 09 469770 1
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Burton: Snow upon the Desert 
by Frank McLynn.
Murray, 428 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 0 7195 4818 7
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From the Sierras to the Pampas: Richard Burton’s Travels in the Americas, 1860-69 
by Frank McLynn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 258 pp., £16.99, July 1991, 0 7126 3789 3
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The Duke of Puddle Dock: Travels in the Footsteps of Stamford Raffles 
by Nigel Barley.
Viking, 276 pp., £16.99, March 1992, 0 670 83642 7
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... in their exotic spear-waving poses. It was some relief to see the paperback of James Fox’s excellent White Mischief with its measured exposure of the shallow callous daftness of settler society circa 1940, popping cheekily up among them. Nairobi is still Africa’s safari capital, where the lucky tourist is offered all kinds of trips to ...

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