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Honey and Water

Michael Irwin

7 August 1980
The Beekeepers 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 156 pp., £5.50, July 1980, 0 7100 0473 7
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F for Ferg 
by Ian Cochrane.
Gollancz, 117 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 575 02862 9
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Events Beyond the Heartlands 
by Robert Watson.
Heinemann, 241 pp., £6.50, July 1980, 0 434 84200 1
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... about. The narrative is oddly jerky. The focus of interest will shift bewilderingly. We will suddenly be told the thoughts of a character who has hitherto been described only from the outside. RobertWatson seems to have been undecided as to whether to write a realistic, if lurid novel about the problems of family life, or a quasi-allegorical story about the condition-of-Wales question. His book ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert​ Crawford

8 February 1996
The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... No anthology offers us the full spectrum of Scottish poetry, but Roderick Watson’s comes closer than any other. This is the first big, general anthology to offer us work in Gaelic, Scots and English (note the word order) from the medieval period to the present. Catherine ...

A Potent Joy

E.S. Turner

4 July 1985
Hitler’s Rockets: The Story of the V-2s 
by Norman Longmate.
Hutchinson, 423 pp., £13.95, May 1985, 0 09 158820 0
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... rocket was still more than thirty miles from London.’ The General estimated the maximum likely rate of kills at only 3 to 10 per cent of targets engaged. Other experts were more pessimistic; Sir RobertWatson-Watt, the radar authority, rated the chances of interception at a thousand to one. Nevertheless, according to Long-mate, operational trials were conducted and began to look promising. By that ...

Shopping for Soap, Fudge and Biscuit Tins

John Pemble: Literary Tourists

7 June 2007
The Literary Tourist 
by Nicola J. Watson.
Palgrave, 244 pp., £45, October 2006, 1 4039 9992 9
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... of a saint. And it’s just as easy to spot the Protestant pilgrim, whose destination is Jerusalem, in the travel writer, who expounds the eucharistic mystery of place. Too easy, perhaps? Nicola Watson has moved the discussion on. In The Literary Tourist: Readers and Places in Romantic and Victorian Britain, she argues that literary tourism is historically and geographically specific. It’s ...

Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I

10 July 2003
England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... degree of control. What no one, including herself, could possibly have predicted was its longevity: the way she continues four hundred years after her death to conduct, as Michael Dobson and Nicola Watson put it in this engaging book, ‘a posthumous progress through the collective psyche of her country’. Historians, beginning with John Foxe and William Camden in her own time, and extending across ...

Great Tradition

Robert​ Barnard

18 December 1980
Plaster Sinners 
by Colin Watson.
Eyre Methuen, 160 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 413 39040 3
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Photo-Finish 
by Ngaio Marsh.
Collins, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 00 231857 1
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The Predator 
by Russell Braddon.
Joseph, 192 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 7181 1958 4
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... What is this but a Thirties detective story?’ asks the London policeman who finds himself in the thick of the latest Flaxborough murder. It’s a piece of miscalculated self-consciousness on Colin Watson’s part – almost the only miscalculation in the book. The Flaxborough Chronicles embody a great many of the virtues that make the golden-age detective story still one of the most widely read ...

Rosy Revised

Robert​ Olby: Rosalind Franklin

20 March 2003
Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA 
by Brenda Maddox.
HarperCollins, 380 pp., £20, June 2002, 0 00 257149 8
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... now extends even to the lives of molecular biologists. Indeed, molecular biologists have stolen the limelight from physicists and astronomers. Best known among them are the Nobel laureates James Watson and Francis Crick; less well known is Rosalind Franklin, who died in 1958 aged 37. Today many believe that, had she lived, she, too, would have won a Nobel Prize for her pivotal contribution to the ...

Clues

J.I.M. Stewart

5 May 1983
A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert​ Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £7.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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The Agatha Christie Hour 
by Agatha Christie.
Collins, 190 pp., £6.50, September 1982, 0 00 231331 6
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The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Allen Lane, 1122 pp., £7.95, August 1981, 0 7139 1444 0
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The Quest for Sherlock Holmes 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
Mainstream, 380 pp., £12.50, November 1982, 0 906391 15 6
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 128 pp., £8.50, November 1982, 0 436 13302 4
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The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories 
by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green.
Secker, 456 pp., £8.95, November 1982, 0 436 13301 6
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The Life and Crimes of Agatha Christie 
by Charles Osborne.
Collins, 256 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 00 216462 0
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... In the opening chapter of A Study in Scarlet Dr Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes says, ‘How are you?’ and adds: ‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ Watson asks in astonishment: ‘How on earth did you know that?’ and Holmes, ‘chuckling to himself’, answers: ‘Never mind.’ In the following chapter the two men observe through a window ‘a ...

‘Derek, please, not so fast’

Ferdinand Mount: Derek Jackson

7 February 2008
As I Was Going to St Ives: A Life of Derek Jackson 
by Simon Courtauld.
Michael Russell, 192 pp., £17.50, October 2007, 978 0 85955 311 7
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... in warfare, the Window affair is one of the most extraordinary. As early as 1934, Post Office engineers reported that passing aircraft could interfere with radio reception. Less than a year later, RobertWatson-Watt demonstrated by a simple experiment in a field outside Daventry that aircraft could be detected by radio. Radar was born. Remarkably, it was only two years after this that Lindemann ...

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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... Bradley’s own passion for Victorian hymns is freely exhibited, though he never seems quite sure whether he should be making high claims for them or confessing to a guilty fondness. J.R. Watson’s The English Hymn is a far more ambitious book, charting the history of the English hymn from its origins in the metrical psalmody of Sternhold and Hopkins in the 16th century through almost to ...
20 October 1994
Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play 
by Ben Watson.
Quartet, 597 pp., £25, May 1994, 0 7043 7066 2
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Her Weasels Wild Returning 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 12 pp., £2, May 1994
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... and sexual derangement, gutter élitism, afternoon clubs at the interface of Soho and St James’s. Out to Lunch is himself the classic double agent, the turned man. He has a public persona as ‘Ben Watson’ (apologist for his nocturnal self, the crazed poet), columnist for the Wire, broadcaster, and author of the monumental and magnificent folly, Frank Zappa: The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play ...

Rolling Back the Reformation

Eamon Duffy: Bloody Mary’s Church

7 February 2008
... proves anything, to prove quite the opposite. The charge that the Marian regime as a whole had failed to discover the Counter-Reformation is a very old one, first advanced by the Elizabethan Jesuit Robert Parsons. In a lengthy memorandum he composed in the 1590s, sketching out a reform agenda should Elizabeth be succeeded by a Catholic, Parsons suggested that Mary’s attempt to reimpose Catholicism ...

Put it in your suitcase

Nicholas Penny: Sotheby’s

18 March 1999
Sotheby’s: Bidding for Class 
by Robert​ Lacey.
Little, Brown, 354 pp., £20, May 1998, 0 316 64447 1
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Sotheby’s: Inside Story 
by Peter Watson.
Bloomsbury, 325 pp., £7.99, May 1998, 0 7475 3808 5
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... have escaped auction altogether, usually by passing through some other form of public sale or by changing hands privately. I thought this was common knowledge but in Sotheby’s: Bidding for Class Robert Lacey assures us that there had never been a ‘tradition of selling ... classic, museum-quality masterpieces at auction – at Christie’s or anywhere else’ before the end of the First World War ...

A Strange Blight

Meehan Crist: Rachel Carson’s Forebodings

6 June 2019
‘Silent Spring’ and Other Writings on the Environment 
by Rachel Carson, edited by Sandra Steingraber.
Library of America, 546 pp., £29.99, March 2018, 978 1 59853 560 0
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... activity. Today, the accelerating loss of biodiversity is accompanied by accelerating CO₂ concentration in the atmosphere. In a prepared statement, the British chemist and former IPCC chairman RobertWatson, who served as the UN panel’s chairman, put it bluntly. ‘Let’s be quite candid,’ he said, ‘we’re not on the pathway to 2ºC. We’re on a pathway to 3, 3.5ºC.’ But maybe humans ...

Scentless Murder

Michael Wood: Billy Wilder

2 March 2000
Conversations with Wilder 
by Cameron Crowe.
Faber, 373 pp., £20, December 1999, 0 571 20162 8
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... Oh, pity, that,’ Holmes says mildly. Needless to say, Holmes is now the ballerina’s choice, but he has seen his way out: the Tchaikovsky route. He explains that he is not a free man, that he and Watson have been living together for some time, ‘five very happy years’. The impresario is shocked. ‘Dr Watson is . . . your glass of tea?’ Holmes, enjoying himself, is off the hook, and soon ...

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