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A Man of No Mind

Colm Tóibín: The Passion of Roger Casement, 13 September 2012

The Dream of the Celt 
by Mario Vargas Llosa and Edith Grossman.
Faber, 404 pp., £18.99, June 2012, 978 0 571 27571 7
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... In his book King Leopold’s Ghost, Adam Hochschild describes the stretch of the Congo River as it approaches the sea: Much of the Congo River basin, we now know, lies on a plateau in the African interior. From the western rim of this plateau, nearly a thousand feet high, the river descends to sea level in a mere 220 miles ...

Bats on the Ceiling

James Lasdun: The Gospel of St Karen, 24 September 2020

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife 
by Ariel Sabar.
Random House, 401 pp., $29.95, August, 978 0 385 54258 6
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... 2012 at the headquarters of the Order of St Augustine in Rome. Among the speakers was Karen King, the first woman to hold the Hollis Professorship of Divinity, Harvard’s oldest endowed chair. King had made her name as an interpreter and champion of early Christian texts that asserted the spiritual authority of women ...

At the Morgan Library

Hal Foster: Ubu Jarry, 19 March 2020

... Mère Ubu, his wife, urges her ‘dirty old man’, who has somehow become aide-de-camp to King Wenceslas of Poland, to seize the crown. Unlike Macbeth, Ubu needs no convincing, because he has no conscience: in Ubu cocu (‘cuckolded’), a sequel to the play, he even flushes a character named Conscience down the toilet. This Super-Id – Jarry once ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... in 1904, his daughter Virginia lay in bed, listening to the birds singing in Greek and imagining King Edward lurking naked in the azaleas, shouting obscenities; that same summer she apparently attempted to kill herself by leaping out of the window. ‘I have never spent such a wretched 8 months in my life,’ she wrote to a friend when the crisis had ...

Shorn and Slathered

Christine Smallwood: ‘Reynard the Fox’, 5 November 2015

Reynard the Fox: A New Translation 
by James Simpson.
Liveright, 256 pp., £16.99, March 2015, 978 0 87140 736 8
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... of Reynard the Fox into colloquial modern English. The book opens with the lion, the king of the beasts, calling the animals to court to celebrate the feast of Pentecost. The first thing we learn about Reynard is that he doesn’t want to go. The second thing we learn is that he doesn’t want to go because he has pissed on the faces of the ...

When students ruled the earth

D.A.N. Jones, 17 March 1988

1968: A Student Generation in Revolt 
by Ronald Fraser.
Chatto, 370 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 7011 2913 1
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Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties 
by Tariq Ali.
Collins, 280 pp., £12.95, November 1987, 9780002177795
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Sixty-Eight: The Year of the Barricades 
by David Caute.
Hamish Hamilton, 464 pp., £14.95, January 1988, 0 241 12174 4
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Nineteen Sixty-Eight: A Personal Report 
by Hans Koning.
Unwin Hyman, 196 pp., £10.95, April 1988, 9780044401858
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... The meanings of ‘Fascism’ and ‘National Socialism’ are quite well discussed in Roger Scruton’s cold-hearted Dictionary of Political Thought (1982). For me (born in 1931) and for many of my generation, ‘Fascism’ means a system of government which angers us and reminds us of the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini. A fear of ...

Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell, 22 January 1987

War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 
by G.W. Bernard.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 7108 1126 8
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Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500-1550 
by Alistair Fox and John Guy.
Blackwell, 242 pp., £22.50, July 1986, 0 631 14614 8
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The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 
by Bruce Galloway.
John Donald, 208 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 85976 143 6
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Stuart England 
edited by Blair Worden.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 7148 2391 0
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... levy was designed to allow Henry VIII to take advantage of the defeat and capture of the King of France to prosecute his French claims. The title was not just a piece of newspeak: it expressed a crucial ambiguity in Late Medieval constitutional thinking. The King must not tax without consent, but in a case of ...

Rigging and Bending

Simon Adams: James VI & I, 9 October 2003

The Cradle KingA Life of James VI & I 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 438 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7011 6984 2
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... to facilitate a Spanish invasion of England – caused James major political difficulties, but the King remained loyal to him. On the eve of his death in 1625, James recommended Huntly to his son Charles as ‘the most faithful servant that ever served a prince’. The summer of 1587 also saw the visit to Scotland of Guillaume de Salluste, seigneur du ...

Could it have been different?

Roger Southall: R.W. Johnson’s South Africa, 8 October 2009

South Africa’s Brave New World: The Beloved Country since the End of Apartheid 
by R.W. Johnson.
Allen Lane, 701 pp., £25, April 2009, 978 0 7139 9538 1
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... but a white plot founded on racist notions of black sexuality. His posturings as a philosopher king and his ruthless centralisation of power smothered what protest there was within the ANC, until international ridicule and the sheer number of deaths forced him to reverse his policy and make antiretrovirals available (although Johnson provides disturbing ...

Ironed Corpses Clattering in the Wind

Mark Kishlansky: The Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, 17 August 2006

Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms 
by Tim Harris.
Penguin, 506 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 14 026465 5
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Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685-1720 
by Tim Harris.
Allen Lane, 622 pp., £30, January 2006, 0 7139 9759 1
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... of the Parliamentarian general, Sir William. The experiments of the 1650s were swept away as king, lords and bishops were thrust back into power with hardly a shot fired. The armies of the Commonwealth melted away, its tortured succession of governments abruptly ended and its chaotic Church dissipated. The people lined the streets to cheer their ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck, 22 February 1996

Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... Dancer from the Dance, George Whitmore’s Nebraska, Edmund White’s Nocturnes for the King of Naples; and a decade since the first Aids fiction started to show up: Robert Ferro’s Second Son, David B. Feinberg’s Eighty-Sixed, Allen Barnett’s beautiful The Body and Its Dangers. Today, as a result of political pressure as well as recognition of ...

Mythic Elements

Stephen Bann, 30 December 1982

Queen of Stones 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 160 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 224 02601 1
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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 
by William Kotzwinkle, based on a screenplay by Melissa Mathison.
Arthur Barker, 246 pp., £6.95, November 1982, 0 213 16848 0
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Tales of Afghanistan 
by Amina Shah.
Octagon Press, 128 pp., £6.50, November 1982, 0 900860 94 4
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The Masque of St Eadmundsburg 
by Humphrey Morrison.
Blond and Briggs, 228 pp., £7.95, October 1982, 0 85634 127 4
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A Villa in France 
by J.I.M. Stewart.
Gollancz, 206 pp., £6.95, October 1982, 0 575 03103 4
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Collected Stories: Vol. III 
by Sean O’Faolain.
Constable, 422 pp., £9.95, November 1982, 0 09 463920 5
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Work Suspended and Other Stories 
by Evelyn Waugh.
Penguin, 318 pp., £2.75, November 1982, 0 14 006518 0
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... brilliance of an enormous circle of flames the homage of the Seneschal in golden robes before his King.’ This is fine writing of a very particular type, hardly conducive to the equable flow of narrative and producing instead the occasional, carefully judged effect of an accelerating pace which falters before the moment of vision. It is a type of writing ...

Fear of Words

Mark Kishlansky: The Cavalier Parliament, 18 December 2008

The Long Parliament of Charles II 
by Annabel Patterson.
Yale, 283 pp., £30, September 2008, 978 0 300 13708 8
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... Patterson displays no moral indignation towards religious intolerance.) This wasn’t the king’s preference, but it was the price he paid for a quiet life, for not having to go ‘on his travels again’. It also led to nearly every political crisis of the reign and ultimately to dependence on secret treaties that were none too secret and to Puritan ...

At the Queen’s Gallery

Inigo Thomas: David Hockney , 2 March 2017

... elsewhere, but the English monarchy has long liked to acquire pictures of artists. Charles I, a king much absorbed by how he was himself depicted, bought, commissioned or was given numerous artist portraits. The Commonwealth sold Charles’s collection, and although many of those pictures were reacquired by Charles II, a Dürer self-portrait, for ...

What are we at war about?

Isaac Land: Nelson the Populist, 1 December 2005

The Pursuit of Victory: The Life and Achievement of Horatio Nelson 
by Roger Knight.
Allen Lane, 874 pp., £30, July 2005, 0 7139 9619 6
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Admiral Lord Nelson: Context and Legacy 
edited by David Cannadine.
Palgrave, 201 pp., £19.99, June 2005, 1 4039 3906 3
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... sea itself seems to wear a different and diminished aspect from the sea of Lord Nelson’s day.’ Roger Knight’s life of Nelson is almost fifty times as long as Conrad’s centenary essay (excluding the appendices, which take up more than a hundred additional pages), but readers may nevertheless conclude that biography too is ‘different and ...

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