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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 ...

A Damned Nice Thing

Edward Luttwak: Britain v. Napoleon, 18 December 2014

Britain against Napoleon: The Organisation of Victory, 1793-1815 
by Roger Knight.
Penguin, 720 pp., £10.99, June 2014, 978 1 84614 177 5
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... and tensions. An essential aspect of the ‘organisation of victory’ – the subtitle of Roger Knight’s excellent study – was the formation of a cadre of professional British diplomats, well endowed with the necessary skills and tenacity at a time when every journey to a foreign capital was an arduous adventure, even without the predations ...

A Baroque Scot’s Excess

August Kleinzahler, 25 October 2012

... noddie- peak simpletons, turdy-gut shitten shepherds; and still worse, threatening to plunge his Roger into their packet-rackets one by one until they set off a great pioling in the manner of pelicans. And having routed them thus, good Sir Thomas shook himself with a meaty hiccup straight in the air, up nearly a foot, then dropped him smartly on the ...

Uncle Max

Patricia Craig, 20 December 1984

The man who was M: The Life of Maxwell Knight 
by Anthony Masters.
Blackwell, 205 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 631 13392 5
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Unreliable Witness: Espionage Myths of the Second World War 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 166 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 297 78481 1
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The Great Betrayal: The Untold Story of Kim Philby’s Biggest Coup 
by Nicholas Bethell.
Hodder, 214 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 340 35701 0
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... his subject’s date of birth; unlike most biographers, he gets it wrong. Charles Henry Maxwell Knight was born on 9 July 1900, not 4 September, under the sign of Cancer, not Virgo, however tempting it may be, for reasons which become clear in the course of the story, to assign him to the latter. Information about Maxwell ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning, 4 May 2017

... of parasites.’ His regard for the play was shared by Chesterton’s new acquaintance G. Wilson Knight, a schoolmaster and fellow ex-serviceman who sent him essays and accompanied him to plays, after which they would repair to the ‘Dirty Duck’ (the pub was really called the Black Swan). Half a century later ...

Some More Sea

Patrick O’Brian, 10 September 1992

The Oxford Book of the Sea 
edited by Jonathan Raban.
Oxford, 524 pp., £17.95, April 1992, 9780192141972
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... 18th-Century Verse and 18th-Century Women Poets, both edited with great skill and erudition by Roger Lonsdale, and Travel Verse, by Kevin Crossley-Holland. When I say ‘read them’ I mean I have dipped copiously, as one usually does with anthologies, sometimes taking years to digest the whole. They all addressed a finite but considerable field (there ...

Docility Rampant

Margaret Anne Doody, 31 October 1996

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Romance Writings 
edited by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 276 pp., £14.50, August 1996, 0 19 812288 8
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... Trying to rejoin her estranged husband, Docile is captured by corsairs but delivered by the Knight of Malta, an accomplished libertine-philosopher who is pleased to find out that she is not a virgin: ‘Il faut un siècle pour les vaincre, et deux autres pour s’en defaire.’ We are learning to do without those ridiculous notions of Virtue, Honour and ...

A Whale of a Time

Colm Tóibín, 2 October 1997

Roger Casement’s Diaries. 1910: The Black and the White 
edited by Roger Sawyer.
Pimlico, 288 pp., £10, October 1997, 9780712673754
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The Amazon Journal of Roger Casement 
edited by Angus Mitchell.
Anaconda, 534 pp., £40, October 1997, 9781901990010
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... Jessie Conrad remembered his visit: Sir Roger Casement, a fanatical Irish protestant, came to see us, remaining some two days our guest. He was a very handsome man with a thick, dark beard and piercing, restless eyes. His personality impressed me greatly. It was about the time when he was interested in bringing to light certain atrocities which were taking place in the Belgian Congo ...

Fellow Freaks

Sam Thompson: Wells Tower, 9 July 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned 
by Wells Tower.
Granta, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2009, 978 1 84708 048 6
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... Energies’, who carries a lifetime’s resentment of his charismatic, self-centred father, Roger. Burt spent his childhood with a crush on his young stepmother, Lucy, and cherished a vague belief that, around his 16th birthday, he would somehow inherit her, perhaps along with his father’s Mustang fastback. But ...

Magnanimity

Richard Altick, 3 December 1981

The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman 
by Mark Girouard.
Yale, 312 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 300 02739 7
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... with arms and armour, the fashionable ‘collectibles’ of the day, the ethic of the mounted knight with sword and shield turned up in innumerable social contexts. From Disraeli’s Young Englanders it passed to Kingsley’s Muscular Christians, bringing workingmen’s colleges and settlement houses to the underprivileged, and thence to the ...

Verie Sillie People

Keith Thomas: Bacon’s Lives, 7 February 2013

The Oxford Francis Bacon Vol. I: Early Writings 1584-96 
edited by Alan Stewart, with Harriet Knight.
Oxford, 1066 pp., £200, September 2012, 978 0 19 818313 6
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... that Bacon composed the works contained in the collection edited by Alan Stewart with Harriet Knight. The Oxford Francis Bacon is a major scholarly project conceived by the late Graham Rees and administered nowadays by an editorial advisory board of 16 experts under the direction of Brian Vickers, the leading Baconian scholar. Early Writings 1584-96 is ...

A Walk with Kierkegaard

Roger Poole, 21 February 1980

Two Ages: The Age of Revolution and the Present Age– A Literary Review 
by Søren Kierkegaard, edited and translated by Howard Hong and Edna Hong.
Princeton, 187 pp., £7.70, August 1978, 0 691 07226 4
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Kierkegaard: Letters and Documents 
translated by Henrik Rosenmeier.
Princeton, 518 pp., £13.60, November 1978, 0 691 07228 0
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... When he did get some point or other straight (or thought he had) he wrote of himself as ‘The Knight of the Three Discoveries’, giving his address as ‘Lyngby, c/o Wiedemann, the baker’. This was too much for Kierkegaard, who disliked a fool even more than a flatterer. In a hail of mutual recriminations and misunderstandings, their ...

Hegel in Green Wellies

Stefan Collini: England, 8 March 2001

England: An Elegy 
by Roger Scruton.
Chatto, 270 pp., £16.99, October 2000, 1 85619 251 2
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The Faber Book of Landscape Poetry 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 426 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 571 20071 0
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... School and eventually to qualify as a teacher, later moving to leafy Buckinghamshire, where young Roger grew up. But Jack Scruton nursed a vivid sense of the grievances of his class. He was not just Old Labour, he was Paleo-Labour: the country was in the grip of a ruling class whose comfortable way of life rested on the exploitation of the workers. Scruton ...

Gaslight and Fog

John Pemble: Sherlock Holmes, 26 January 2012

The Ascent of the Detective: Police Sleuths in Victorian and Edwardian England 
by Haia Shpayer-Makov.
Oxford, 429 pp., £30, September 2011, 978 0 19 957740 8
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... Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?’ snapped Edmund Wilson, writing in the New Yorker in 1945. He refused to find out who did, because he’d already discovered that Agatha Christie’s books were garbage and that he couldn’t put them down. This is what you’d expect. Wilson was a literary prude, and detective stories are literature’s oldest profession ...

So South Kensington

Julian Bell: Walter Sickert, 20 September 2001

The Complete Writings on Art 
by Walter Sickert, edited by Anna Gruetzner Robins.
Oxford, 699 pp., £90, September 2000, 0 19 817225 7
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... be achieved, except with a hand mirror’), and made leery mock-bows at academic savants such as Roger Fry and Bernard Berenson (‘making us feel small, and breaking our heads for years with his “inis” and “iccios”’). This unflaggingly stylish and ebullient performance drew on a well-stocked wardrobe of roles. Early appearances regularly featured ...

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