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Little Nips

Penelope Fitzgerald

26 May 1994
The Moment between the Past and the Future 
by Grigorij Baklanov, translated by Catherine Porter.
Faber, 217 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 571 16444 7
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The Soul of a Patriot 
by Evgeny Popov, translated by Robert Porter.
Harvill, 194 pp., £8.99, April 1994, 0 00 271124 9
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... was banned. ‘As far as the Soviet reader was concerned, Popov was now a non-person.’ I have taken most of these details from the helpful introduction to The Soul of a Patriot by its translator, RobertPorter. The manuscript had to wait ‘in the desk-drawer’ until 1989 before it was published in Russia, and it is the first of Popov’s novels to be published in English. Porter tells us that in ...

Fashville

Robert​ Tashman

9 March 1995
Prêt-à-Porter 
directed by Robert​ Altman.
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... the fashion editors and designers are tough but endearing. Fashion is shown as it was then: a big business, but not, as it is now, a corporate power that crosses national and class borders. Robert Altman’s new film, Prêt-à-Porter, is like La Dolce Vita grafted onto Funny Face. The unaffected and trusting Hepburn and Astaire would be marginalised or crushed in the fashion world portrayed ...

Bad Dreams

Robert​ Crawford: Peter Porter

6 October 2011
The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... love with her father’s locum, Neil Micklem. Their affair lasted for years; Jannice hoped it would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called Peter Porter. He was an Australian immigrant in London, and had written a lot of poems, but published relatively few; she was a nurse who seemed ‘very English’ in accent and tastes, and was admired for having ...
26 September 1991
The Faber Book of Madness 
edited by Roy Porter.
Faber, 572 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 571 14387 3
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... not take up his case. Sylvester was 19 at the time, and speaks of an entirely wasted life – a view shared by the social services who now look after him. It is a tribute to the social historian Roy Porter that he has devoted three books, and any number of articles, to the history of the John Sylvesters of this world. A prodigious historian, Porter has done the work that French historians can only ...

At the Connaught

Robert​ Morley

5 May 1983
An Orderly Man 
by Dirk Bogarde.
Chatto, 291 pp., £8.95, March 1983, 0 7011 2659 0
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... thick and thin is essential, exhausting and sometimes so hard that one is brought to the edge of madness. It is a lesson many actors never learn. Of whom was he thinking do you suppose? Possibly Robert Mitchum. Certainly his own concentration is remarkable. In An Orderly Man there are no less than five colour photographs of his home in Provence. Once a shepherd’s cottage and now the sort of ...

Highway to Modernity

Colin Kidd: The British Enlightenment

8 March 2001
Enlightenment: Britain and the Creation of the Modern World 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 728 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 7139 9152 6
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... England 1660-1750 (1976). This told the story of the assault on orthodox Christianity launched during the Augustan age by a variegated cast of libertine rakes, deists and heterodox theologians. Roy Porter detects in Redwood’s book ‘a decidedly rum case: incapable of mounting a truly rational critique of Throne and Altar, rationalist enemies of the Establishment had, rather caddishly, stooped to ...

Britain takes the biscuit

Gordon Brown and Geoff Mulgan

25 October 1990
The Competitive Advantage of Nations 
by Michael Porter.
Macmillan, 855 pp., £25, May 1990, 0 333 51804 7
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... why some nations are wealthy and others are not, why the average German earns more than the average Yugoslav and why the average Scot earns less than the average English man or woman. Michael Porter’s The Competitive Advantage of Nations is audacious (or foolhardy) enough to offer an answer. Its aim is nothing less than a systematic explanation of the wealth of nations, with 52 pages of policy ...

Lumpers v. Splitters

Ferdinand Mount: How to Build an Empire

30 March 2016
British Imperial: What the Empire Wasn’t 
by Bernard Porter.
I.B. Tauris, 216 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 78453 445 5
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Heroic Failure and the British 
by Stephanie Barczewski.
Yale, 267 pp., £20, February 2016, 978 0 300 18006 0
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... action against the lumpers (it’s seldom the other way round), because the suggestion of mere blindness to the diversity of the facts soon shades into an accusation of wilful distortion. Bernard Porter is a lifelong splitter. His studies in the history of the British Empire are designed to unpack the bundles of accepted theory and to point out, in a manner which usually manages to be both ...

Keepers

Andrew Scull

29 September 1988
Mind Forg’d Manacles: A History of Madness in England from the Restoration to the Regency 
by Roy Porter.
Athlone, 412 pp., £25, August 1987, 0 485 11324 4
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The Past and the Present Revisited 
by Lawrence Stone.
Routledge, 440 pp., £19.95, October 1987, 0 7102 1253 4
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Sufferers and Healers: The Experience of Illness in 17th-Century England 
by Lucinda McCray Beier.
Routledge, 314 pp., £30, December 1987, 0 7102 1053 1
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Illness and Self in Society 
by Claudine Herzlich and Janine Pierret, translated by Elborg Forster.
Johns Hopkins, 271 pp., £20.25, January 1988, 0 8018 3228 4
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Medicine and Society in Wakefield and Huddersfield 1780-1870 
by Hilary Marland.
Cambridge, 503 pp., £40, September 1987, 0 521 32575 7
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A Social History of Madness: Stories of the Insane 
by Roy Porter.
Weidenfeld, 261 pp., £14.95, October 1987, 0 297 79223 7
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... The 18th century,’ he confidently announced, ‘was a disaster for the insane.’ It is this long-standing consensus of reformers and Whigs, Foucauldians and Anglo-Saxon revisionists, which Roy Porter’s dazzlingly written Mind Forg’d Manacles aims to upset. Examining the ‘long 18th century’ from the Restoration to the Regency, he attempts to provide the first systematic account of the ...

Subjects

Craig Raine

6 October 1983
Peter PorterCollected Poems 
Oxford, 335 pp., £12.50, March 1983, 0 19 211948 6Show More
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... is subject-matter. Is it true, as it sometimes seems, that certain subjects are inevitably more interesting than others, however much we may protest that they are merely different? For instance, does Robert Lowell’s Life Studies intrigue us more than, say, Tony Harrison’s family reminiscences in Continuous? If so, is it because Lowell’s technique is more sophisticated and fluid than Harrison’s ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits

12 March 2009
... of a stage shepherd to play the pastoral lover. One of the finest portraits is that of Teresa, Lady Shirley, painted in Rome in 1622. The daughter of a Christian Circassian chieftain, she had married Robert Shirley in Persia and is shown draped in a kind of tent of gold fabric – the effect of her clothes is splendidly exotic. Her thin-lipped, quizzical half-smile is less contrived than those of many ...

Even Immortality

Thomas Laqueur: Medicomania

29 July 1999
The Greatest Benefit to Mankind: A Medical History of Humanity from Antiquity to the Present 
by Roy Porter.
HarperCollins, 833 pp., £24.99, February 1999, 0 00 637454 9
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... No one should take comfort from the title of Roy Porter’s shaggy masterpiece of a history of medicine. ‘The Greatest Benefit to Mankind’ – the phrase is Dr Johnson’s – begs for a question-mark, a rising inflection of incredulity, if not ...

Living on Apple Crumble

August Kleinzahler: James Schuyler

17 November 2005
Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler 1951-91 
edited by William Corbett.
Turtle Point, 470 pp., £13.99, May 2005, 1 885586 30 2
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... with the gallery: William de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler, Jane Freilicher, Grace Hartigan, Alfred Leslie, Larry Rivers, Norman Bluhm and Fairfield Porter. It all made for a vigorous little scene, a fair bit of it played out at the Cedar Bar, then on 9th St in Greenwich Village, where, as O’Hara would later write, ‘we often wrote poems while ...

Performing Seals

Christopher Hitchens: The PR Crowd

10 August 2000
Partisans: Marriage, Politics and Betrayal Among the New York Intellectuals 
by David Laskin.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., $26, January 2000, 0 684 81565 6
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... and matrimonial chaos. Diana Trilling outlived Lionel by many a book; Mary McCarthy enjoyed the same revenge on Edmund Wilson; the witches of Eastwick (lacking only their Hardwick) have vented about Robert Lowell. To interview all the exes of Philip Rahv would be an undertaking from which the most committed Boswellian might recoil. (Though it’s fascinating to speculate what might have happened if ...

Before Foucault

Roy Porter

25 January 1990
The Normal and the Pathological 
by Georges Canguilhem, translated by Carolyn Fawcett and Robert​ Cohen.
Zone, 327 pp., £21.95, June 1989, 0 942299 58 2
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... When is a disease not a disease? No quibbling academic riddle this, but a problem increasingly pressing upon medical practice and ethics alike. So many questions crowd in. Is it valid to talk of a person being ill without a disease, or having a disease without being sick? When and how do we draw dividing-lines between conditions, disabilities and abnormalities, on the one hand, and diseases, on the ...

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