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Dictators on the Loose

Miles Taylor: Modelling Waterloo, 6 January 2005

Wellington’s Smallest Victory: The Duke, the Model Maker and the Secret of Waterloo 
by Peter Hofschröer.
Faber, 324 pp., £14.99, April 2004, 0 571 21768 0
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... reasons for seeing off Siborne’s tin and lead Prussians – but not many. Blücher was hardly a knight in shining armour. He had wanted to follow up victory at Waterloo by sacking France as revenge for Austerlitz and Jena. And Wellington and his friends at court and in the cabinet remained wary of Prussian ambition long after 1815, preferring to cement ...

One word says to its mate

Claire Harman: W.S. Graham, 4 October 2001

The Nightfisherman: Selected Letters of W.S. Graham 
edited by Michael Snow and Margaret Snow.
Carcanet, 401 pp., £12.95, November 1999, 1 85754 445 5
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... group, Graham’s poetry was little read or appreciated. The links between Graham and the painters Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon, Bryan Wynter, Karl Weschke and Sven Berlin were forged by his understanding of their work: it was his dedication to art, rather than his own art, that impressed them. Hilton said he found Graham’s poems ‘too obscure’, provoking a ...


Colm Tóibín: Sex Lives of the Castrati, 8 October 2015

The Castrato: Reflections on Natures and Kinds 
by Martha Feldman.
California, 454 pp., £40, March 2015, 978 0 520 27949 0
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Portrait of a Castrato: Politics, Patronage and Music in the Life of Atto Melani 
by Roger Freitas.
Cambridge, 452 pp., £22.99, May 2014, 978 1 107 69610 5
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... dressed up in drag by the princess and her girls for fun’. In Portrait of a Castrato, Roger Freitas writes that ‘contemporaries frequently regarded castrati as analogues to boys … The castrato does seem frequently to have taken the boy’s role in sodomitical sex.’ Thus castrati could shift and transform themselves. Everybody, it ...


Joseph Farrell: In Palermo, 14 December 2000

... the glorious city of Cefalú, with its great Norman cathedral built in the 12th century by King Roger II, on the other the beetling cliffs and promontories of the cape. The Aeolian islands, once inhabited by the king of the winds who made the travels of Odysseus so troublesome, are imposing, beguiling forms on the near horizon. The town has always been an ...

To Be Worth Forty Shillings

Jonah Miller: Early Modern Inequality, 2 February 2017

Accounting for Oneself: Worth, Status and the Social Order in Early Modern England 
by Alexandra Shepard.
Oxford, 357 pp., £65, February 2015, 978 0 19 960079 3
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... in or outside the courts. While ‘comming out of the church’ in Hunstanworth (Co. Durham), Roger Doon denied Anthony Ratcliff’s accusation that he was a thief. ‘Although ye be a gent., and I a poore man, my honestye shalbe as good as yours.’ Ratcliff was horrified: ‘What saith thou? Liknes thou thy honestye to myn?’ He ‘lyftyd up his hand ...

Stir and Bustle

David Trotter: Corridors, 19 December 2019

Corridors: Passages of Modernity 
by Roger Luckhurst.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 78914 053 8
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... communication through which people, things and messages pass in both directions. Mind the traffic.Roger Luckhurst’s ambitious and consistently informative cultural history of the corridor makes brief mention of The Maltese Falcon in accounting for film noir’s preoccupation with bleakly anonymous lobbies, passages and hallways. But it’s not the skills ...


Alan Bennett: What I did in 1995, 4 January 1996

... been playing, with, responsible for their suppression, the commissioner of police for Bruges, one Roger de Bris. This gives quiet pleasure as it’s also the name of the transvestite stage director in Mel Brooks’s The Producers, who makes his appearance bare-shouldered and in a heavy ball gown. 7 March. Our pillar box is now emptied at 9 a.m. not by the ...

Literature and the Left

Marilyn Butler, 18 August 1983

English Literature in History: 1730-80: An Equal, Wide Survey 
edited by Raymond Williams, by John Barrell.
Hutchinson, 228 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149820 1
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English Literature in History: 1350-1400: Medieval Readers and Writers 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Janet Coleman.
Hutchinson, 337 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 09 144100 5
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English Literature in History: 1780-1830: Pastoral and Politics 
edited by Raymond Williams, by Roger Sales.
Hutchinson, 247 pp., £13.50, March 1983, 0 09 149830 9
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The Cambridge Guide to English Literature 
by Michael Stapleton.
Cambridge/Newnes Books, 992 pp., £15, April 1983, 9780521256476
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... they are studying polished texts of the alliterative revival, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, or of Richard II’s court, pre-eminently by Chaucer. But, though acknowledging that modern readers are trained to admire Chaucer best among writers of her period, Coleman spends little time on him, and grounds her discussion instead on a more workaday ...

Hinsley’s History

Noël Annan, 1 August 1985

Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... that their advice was rejected for sinister reasons. It is interesting that the contention that Roger Hollis was in the Soviet pay had its parallel in America. One famous American counter-intelligence officer became convinced as he worked and reworked the evidence from defectors that the head of the CIA was a Soviet spy. After such sleuthing it is a relief ...

Uneasy Listening

Paul Laity: ‘Lord Haw-Haw’, 8 July 2004

Germany Calling: A Personal Biography of William Joyce, ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ 
by Mary Kenny.
New Island, 300 pp., £17.99, November 2003, 1 902602 78 1
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Lord Haw-Haw: The English Voice of Nazi Germany 
by Peter Martland.
National Archives, 309 pp., £19.99, March 2003, 1 903365 17 1
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... Aitken and Simon Cowell. On a number of occasions, she connects Joyce’s case with that of Roger Casement, another Irishman hanged for treason in Britain during a world war. The comparison is, to put it mildly, flattering to Joyce, who had a notable effect as a propagandist, but did nothing to earn anybody’s lasting respect. His childhood years in ...

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson: Why would a guy want to marry a guy?, 2 June 2005

The Friend 
by Alan Bray.
Chicago, 380 pp., £28, September 2003, 0 226 07180 4
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... up frequently in Chaucer among all types and classes, most notably perhaps the Thebans of the ‘Knight’s Tale’, Arcite and Palamon. The pair are first found close to death on the battlefield, side by side, wearing the same arms. Taken prisoner, they become rivals for the love of Princess Emily. Their sworn brotherhood was a Chaucerian addition to ...

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