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Chinaberry Pie

D.A.N. Jones, 1 March 1984

Modern Baptists 
by James Wilcox.
Secker, 239 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 9780436570988
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Speranza 
by Sven Delblanc, translated by Paul Britten Austin.
Secker, 153 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 9780436126802
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High Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 198 pp., £2.50, January 1984, 0 14 006505 9
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Hanabeke 
by Dudley St John Magnus.
Angus and Robertson, 133 pp., £6.95, January 1984, 0 207 14565 2
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Train to Hell 
by Alexei Sayle.
Methuen, 152 pp., £7.95, February 1984, 0 413 52460 4
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The English Way of Doing Things 
by William Donaldson.
Weidenfeld, 229 pp., £7.95, January 1984, 0 297 78345 9
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... From Canada comes a beautifully contrived set of parodies of traditional English ghost stories. Robertson Davies (author of many plays and novels, The Manticore being the best-known over here) has been Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, and his High Spirits is a compilation of the ghost stories he used to offer, instead of an ...

Magnanimous Cuckolds

Jack Matthews, 10 November 1988

The Lyre of Orpheus 
by Robertson Davies.
Viking, 472 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 9780670824168
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... No novelist can bring off a committee meeting with quite the flourish and high style of Robertson Davies. So it is good to report that his latest novel, The Lyre of Orpheus, opens (the theatrical metaphor is appropriate) upon a meeting in a Canadian city, presumably Toronto, of the board of the Cornish Foundation ...

Finding out who you were

Paul Delany, 6 August 1992

Murther and Walking Spirits 
by Robertson Davies.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 357 pp., £14.95, October 1991, 1 85619 078 1
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... elements that seem to me to underlie our apparently ordinary lives.’ Dunstan Ramsay, the hero of Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business, says this; but one can assume that Davies is also talking about the reception of his own novels. To reduce character and incident to their ‘mythical elements’ can be criticised as ...

Funny Mummy

E.S. Turner, 2 December 1982

The Penguin Stephen Leacock 
by Robertson Davies.
Penguin, 527 pp., £2.95, October 1981, 0 14 005890 7
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Jerome K. Jerome: A Critical Biography 
by Joseph Connolly.
Orbis, 208 pp., £7.95, August 1982, 0 85613 349 3
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Three Men in a Boat 
by Jerome K. Jerome, annotated and introduced by Christopher Matthew and Benny Green.
Joseph, 192 pp., £12.50, August 1982, 0 907516 08 4
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The Lost Stories of W.S. Gilbert 
edited by Peter Haining.
Robson, 255 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 86051 200 2
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... of his lecture for nearly twenty years. All three items appear in the present Penguin anthology. Robertson Davies’s choice follows closely that of J.B. Priestley, but this is no doubt because large areas of the humorist’s works are undeniably dated. There is a generous helping from Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, the nearest he got to writing a ...

Ghosts in the Picture

Adam Mars-Jones: Daniel Kehlmann, 22 January 2015


by Daniel Kehlmann, translated by Carol Brown Janeway.
Quercus, 258 pp., £16.99, October 2014, 978 1 84866 734 1
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... accomplishment, F seems rather immature when set beside, say, Fifth Business, the first part of Robertson Davies’s Deptford trilogy, published in 1970, which ends with a stage hypnotist’s performance. Davies’s glorious novel takes for granted the fragility of the self that gives Kehlmann such trouble, and ...

Was He One of Them?

J.G.A. Pocock, 23 February 1995

Edward Gibbon: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vols I-VI 
edited by David Womersley.
Allen Lane, 1114 pp., £75, November 1994, 0 7139 9124 0
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... on Gibbon as ‘still our master, above and beyond “date”’, unlike David Hume and William Robertson, who had become classics and were no longer read. Because Gibbon was still a contemporary and an authority, he was not ‘out of date’, and should be consulted and corrected by the historian of late Antiquity, who read him to see where he was right ...

Light Entertainment

Andrew O’Hagan: Our Paedophile Culture, 8 November 2012

... girls” in leafy Surrey, really require the patronage of “Uncle” Jimmy Savile?’ Dan Davies asks in his unpublished book about Savile: Many of the 25 or so girls in its care at any one time came from comfortable backgrounds and included the daughters of ambassadors and BBC producers. As a Home Office-approved school, funding came from Social ...

Modernity

George Steiner, 5 May 1988

Visions and Blueprints: Avant-Garde Culture and Radical Politics in Early 20th-century Europe 
edited by Edward Timms and Peter Collier.
Manchester, 328 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 7190 2260 6
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... with almost breathless admiration, Auden’s commendation of ‘the necessary murder’. Ritchie Robertson is concise and authoritative on the Zionist impulse in Herzl and Roth. The difficulty, however, is this: in its Bismarckian model, in its espousal of 19th-century nationalism, the Zionist blueprint was almost antithetical to modernity, to the ...

Ghosting

Andrew O’Hagan: Julian Assange, 6 March 2014

... story it was me. At 5.30 the next day Jamie arrived at my flat with his editorial colleague Nick Davies. (Mental health warning: there are two Nick Davies in this story. This one worked for Canongate; the second is a well-known reporter for the Guardian.) They had just come back on the train from Norfolk. Jamie said that ...

Delivering the Leadership

Nick Cohen: Get Mandy, 4 March 1999

Mandy: The Authorised Biography of Peter Mandelson 
by Paul Routledge.
Simon and Schuster, 302 pp., £17.99, January 1999, 9780684851754
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... speaking, Glyn Mathias, a BBC political correspondent, was screaming, ‘Are you gay?’ at Ron Davies, the Secretary of State for Wales, who had resigned after being caught searching for the kindness of strangers on Clapham Common. The Director-General of the BBC, Sir John Birt, was knighted by Tony Blair and worked with and befriended Mandelson at London ...

The Great Scots Education Hoax

Rosalind Mitchison, 18 October 1984

The Companion to Gaelic Scotland 
edited by Derick Thomson.
Blackwell, 363 pp., £25, December 1983, 0 631 12502 7
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Experience and Enlightenment: Socialisation for Cultural Changes in 18th-Century Scotland 
by Charles Camic.
Edinburgh, 301 pp., £20, January 1984, 0 85224 483 5
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Knee Deep in Claret: A Celebration of Wine and Scotland 
by Billy Kay and Cailean Maclean.
Mainstream, 232 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 45 8
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Education and Opportunity in Victorian Scotland: Schools and Universities 
by R.D. Anderson.
Oxford, 384 pp., £25, July 1983, 0 19 822696 9
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Scotland: The Real Divide 
edited by Gordon Brown and Robin Cook.
Mainstream, 251 pp., £9.95, November 1983, 0 906391 18 0
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Wealth and Virtue: The Shaping of Political Economy in the Scottish Enlightenment 
edited by Istvan Hont and Michael Ignatieff.
Cambridge, 371 pp., £35, November 1983, 0 521 23397 6
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... under 18th-century mortality levels. At some point in their lives Adam Smith, John Miller, William Robertson and David Hume began to question the theology in which they had been reared: Camic is convinced that ‘their revolution was a union of circumstances’ – in other words, that it was their rearing which freed them for it. That Adam Ferguson did less ...

Bravo l’artiste

John Lanchester: What is Murdoch after?, 5 February 2004

The Murdoch Archipelago 
by Bruce Page.
Simon and Schuster, 580 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 7432 3936 9
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Rupert Murdoch: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Media Wizard 
by Neil Chenoweth.
Crown Business, 416 pp., $27.50, December 2002, 0 609 61038 4
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Autumn of the Moguls: My Misadventures with the Titans, Poseurs and Money Guys who Mastered and Messed up Big Media 
by Michael Wolff.
Flamingo, 381 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 00 717881 6
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... It’s what was promised in return that one wonders about. But we have glimpses. When Gavyn Davies submitted a report on the future of broadcasting in 1999, it had various anti-Murdoch provisions and recommendations, none of which made it into law. When the House of Lords added an amendment to a communications Bill, threatening to ban ‘predatory ...

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