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The Man Who Never Glared

John Pemble: Disraeli, 5 December 2013

Disraeli: or, The Two Lives 
by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young.
Orion, 320 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86097 6
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The Great Rivalry: Gladstone and Disraeli 
by Dick Leonard.
I.B. Tauris, 226 pp., £22.50, June 2013, 978 1 84885 925 8
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Disraeli: The Romance of Politics 
by Robert O’Kell.
Toronto, 595 pp., £66.99, February 2013, 978 1 4426 4459 5
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... reinvents himself as a Tory: the Tories are now led by his contemporary and old school friend, Robert Peel. At Harrow, Peel was a model pupil; Byron was a madcap, and he still thinks a lot more of Peel than Peel thinks of him. Peel is committed to transforming the Tory Party. He’s out of sympathy with horsey aristocrats, rustic squires, dissolute ...

Westminster’s Irishman

Paul Smith, 7 April 1994

The Laurel and the Ivy: The Story of Charles Stewart Parnell and Irish Nationalism 
by Robert Kee.
Hamish Hamilton, 659 pp., £20, November 1993, 0 241 12858 7
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The Parnell Split 1890-91 
by Frank Callanan.
Cork, 327 pp., £35, November 1992, 0 902561 63 4
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... Ireland – if he did point one out. Far from merely straggling in the wake of a very large field, Robert Kee and Frank Callanan restore freshness to the scent by showing how much can still be quarried from close attention to Parnell’s career, not least to the press, which not only made and unmade his reputation but, alongside Hansard, supplied him with the ...

Post-its, push pins, pencils

Jenny Diski: In the Stationery Cupboard, 31 July 2014

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace 
by Nikil Saval.
Doubleday, 288 pp., £20, June 2014, 978 0 385 53657 8
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... and managers comes together in the form-follows-function mantra, beginning with Adler and Sullivan’s Wainwright Building in St Louis in 1891, although, as Saval points out, from the start it was really all about form follows finance: The point was not to make an office building per specification of a given company … but rather to build for an ...

And They Prayed

Chauncey Loomis, 27 November 1997

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Man Against Nature 
by Sebastian Junger.
Fourth Estate, 227 pp., £14.99, August 1997, 1 85702 720 5
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... the last wire has shorted out, the last bit of decking has settled under the water. Tyne, Pierre, Sullivan, Moran, Murphy and Shatford are dead. The Perfect Storm is reminiscent of Stephen Crane’s ‘The Open Boat’. Crane’s masterful short story, based on his own experience, describes the ordeal of four men in an open boat after a shipwreck. It is ...

Hospitalism

Sarah Perry: Victorian ‘Hospitalism’, 5 July 2018

The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine 
by Lindsey Fitzharris.
Allen Lane, 304 pp., £16.99, October 2017, 978 0 241 26249 8
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... sanctuary in music. Surgeons took pride in aprons so dirty they could have stood up on their own; Robert Liston, who pioneered the use of anaesthesia, stored his instruments up his sleeve between surgeries to keep them warm. The mortality rate among medical students – who were liable to let the knife slip – was high: the surgeon John Abernethy concluded ...

Warthog Dynamism

David Bromwich, 19 November 2020

... Biden has surrounded himself with the conventional advisers of the Clinton-Obama circle – Jake Sullivan, Samantha Power, Susan Rice, Thomas Donilon, Ash Carter, Michèle Flournoy. It is hard to imagine any of them straying far from the Cold War groove of shepherding Nato against Russia and finding a field for occasional military exercise in a humanitarian ...

Antigone on Your Knee

Terry Eagleton, 6 February 2020

A Cultural History of Tragedy: Vols I-VI 
edited by Rebecca Bushnell.
Bloomsbury Academic, 1302 pp., £395, November 2019, 978 1 4742 8814 9
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... education for the city state as a whole, not just a night out for the toffs. As Karen Sullivan notes in the first v0lume, it was also a form in which women figured prominently. During the festival of Dionysus, at which tragic drama was first performed, the city turned itself into a theatre, as the citizens who had learned to assess complex issues ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... George Herbert, Thomas Ken, Watts, Charles Wesley – but many less celebrated names, such as Sir Robert Grant, William Walsham How, William Chatterton Dix: Grant (‘O worship the King, all glorious above’), the Scottish-born English MP who ended his life as Governor of Bombay; Thomas Olivers (‘The God of Abraham praise’), a cobbler who was converted ...

Bebop

Andrew O’Hagan, 5 October 1995

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters 1940-56 
edited by Ann Charters.
Viking, 629 pp., £25, August 1995, 0 670 84952 9
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... their chosen moments in the history of American airtime. Elvis Presley’s top half on the Ed Sullivan Show; John F. Kennedy’s live debate with a melting Richard Nixon; an early episode of I Love Lucy; a dinner-table scene from The Waltons; Neil Armstrong’s One Small Step; the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald; the pilot show of Roseanne. Each viewer wore ...

In a horizontal posture

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 5 July 1984

The Letters of Elizabeth Barrett Browning to Mary Russell Mitford: 1836-1854 
edited by Meredith Raymond and Mary Rose Sullivan.
Baylor University, Browning Institute, Wedgestone Press and Wellesley College, 431 pp., March 1983, 0 911459 01 4
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Love and the Woman Question in Victorian Literature: The Art of Self-Postponement 
by Kathleen Blake.
Harvester, 254 pp., £25, November 1983, 0 7108 0560 8
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... that Barrett’s poems were unnecessarily ‘obscure’ – a common complaint about the work of Robert Browning which she also repeatedly echoed. Often EBB penitently acknowledges the fault – ‘my obscure devil’ – just as she often insists on the inevitable cloudiness of those who strive after the sublime. Aeschylus, after all, was ‘the sublimest ...

After High Tea

John Bayley, 23 January 1986

Love in a Cool Climate: The Letters of Mark Pattison and Meta Bradley 1879-1884 
by Vivian Green.
Oxford, 269 pp., £12.95, November 1985, 0 19 820080 3
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... Casaubon in Middlemarch; Mrs Humphry Ward gave a vivid picture of Pattison as Squire Wendover in Robert Elsmere, a Victorian best-seller; and Rhoda Broughton, the novelist who knew the Rector best, produced a cruel portrait in her slight and perfunctory novel Belinda. But this, alas, only illustrates the force of Henry James’s passionate statement to a ...

A Glorious Thing

Julie Peters: Piracy, 4 November 2010

Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates 
by Adrian Johns.
Chicago, 626 pp., £24, February 2010, 978 0 226 40118 8
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... out licences, at the risk of being prosecuted as ‘pirates’. A London radio aficionado called Robert Ford began taunting the government with his illegal unlicensed radio listening. The government was initially reluctant to prosecute, but eventually his home was searched, his radio was found, and he was arrested. He insisted on being jailed, proclaiming ...

Shapeshifter

Ian Penman: Elvis looks for meaning, 25 September 2014

Elvis Has Left the Building: The Day the King Died 
by Dylan Jones.
Duckworth, 307 pp., £16.99, July 2014, 978 0 7156 4856 8
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Elvis Presley: A Southern Life 
by Joel Williamson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 19 986317 4
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... His older twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. (There was ugly gossip later that the doctor, William Robert Hunt, might have had a drink; that he might have saved Jesse if he hadn’t been so preoccupied with the surprise appearance of a second child. But the Presleys were satisfied with his work and Dr Hunt received his standard $15 payment from the county.) In ...

Like Cold Oysters

Bee Wilson, 19 May 2016

Edith Piaf: A Cultural History 
by David Looseley.
Liverpool, 254 pp., £25, October 2015, 978 1 78138 257 8
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... This is a book about Piaf and her crowd. Rather than trying to get to the ‘real’ Piaf, as Robert Belleret did in Piaf, un mythe français (2013), Looseley is interested in interpreting the myth itself and drawing out what Piaf meant – and still means – to France and to her wider audience. The final three chapters are about her posthumous meanings ...

High Priest of Mumbo-Jumbo

R.W. Johnson, 13 November 1997

Lord Hailsham: A Life 
by Geoffrey Lewis.
Cape, 403 pp., £25, October 1997, 0 224 04252 1
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... doing away with himself – with Quintin’s shotgun. Quintin’s first marriage, to Natalie Sullivan, was an absurd disaster: he proposed, changed his mind, asked to be released from the engagement; but when Natalie refused to agree he went through with it as a point of honour and spent ten years in misery as a result. The person who elicited his ...

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