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Northern Lights

Rosalind Mitchison

19 April 1984
Literature and Gentility in Scotland 
by David Daiches.
Edinburgh, 114 pp., £6.50, June 1982, 9780852244388
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New Perspectives on the Politics and Culture of Early Modern Scotland 
edited by John Dwyer, Roger Mason and Alexander Murdoch.
John Donald, 340 pp., £15, August 1982, 0 85976 066 9
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Adam Smith 
by R.H. Campbell and A.S. Skinner.
Croom Helm, 231 pp., £12.95, June 1982, 9780709907299
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Sister Peg 
edited by David Raynor.
Cambridge, 127 pp., £15.50, June 1981, 0 521 24299 1
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Boswell: The Applause of the Jury 1782-1785 
edited by Irma Lustig and Frederick Pottle.
Heinemann, 419 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 434 43945 2
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Muir of Huntershill 
by Christina Bewley.
Oxford, 212 pp., £8.50, May 1981, 0 19 211768 8
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... The leading figures in all these books are well-known, and are located in a period of conspicuous intellectual activity in the Scotland of the mid and late 18th century. This was the time when the modern social sciences were created as areas of legitimate study, much of their content for the use of teenage university students. There was also a modest literary revival. The great men of the Scottish ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘North by Northwest’

9 July 2009
North by Northwest 
directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
July 1959
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... in those days the world headquarters of advertising, and crowded with people, including Hitchcock himself narrowly missing a bus. This busy city feeling continues as Cary Grant, playing the ad man Roger Thornhill, appears dictating notes to his secretary. They start to walk uptown, then take a taxi. He gets out at the Plaza, meets some business associates in the Oak Room. Then everything shifts into ...

Banality and Anxiety

Michael Mason

19 March 1981
Thirty Seconds 
by Michael Arlen.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 211 pp., £5.50, February 1981, 0 374 27576 9
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The Crystal Bucket 
by Clive James.
Cape, 238 pp., £6.95, February 1981, 0 224 01890 6
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The Message of Television 
by Roger​ Silverstone.
Heinemann, 248 pp., £14.50, March 1981, 0 435 82825 8
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... to a loss of nerve on the bookish side of the question. Banality has been the theme of some prestigious literary utterances in our culture, some of them directly ancestral to the books under review (Roger Silverstone, for example, frequently acknowledges Roland Barthes on fashion). It is striking nonetheless that only one of them, Michael Arlen’s Thirty Seconds, shows an inclination to regret the ...

Men in Aprons

Colin Kidd: Freemasonry

7 May 1998
Who’s Afraid of Freemasons? The Phenomenon of Freemasonry 
by Alexander Piatigorsky.
Harvill, 398 pp., £25, August 1997, 1 86046 029 1
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... 1989), the dominant genre in Masonic literature has been the ‘exposure’. Rituals, passwords, oaths, handshakes and symbolic imagery pique the curiosity of the uninitiated, or ‘cowans’ in Mason-speak. Yet, despite its exotic paraphernalia, the Craft’s wider influence on British society is perceived to be mundane and narrow in compass. The list of allegations on the dust-jacket of Short ...

Diary

Nicolas Freeling: On Missing the Detective Story

11 June 1992
... juggernaut was there to make the message felt. The heap of Crime Club volumes is now an Assyrian monument; would make a fine pyramid of skulls but who would be bothered? ‘Who cares who killed Roger Ackroyd?’ shouted Edmund Wilson, exasperated, but it would barely be a mutter today. For who, sleepless in the guest bedroom in even the dankest of shires, is going to pounce gleefully upon Freeman ...

Downland Maniacs

Michael Mason

5 October 1995
The Village that Died for England 
by Patrick Wright.
Cape, 420 pp., £17.99, March 1995, 0 224 03886 9
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... linked to Purbeck: Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, James Meade Falkner (who wrote Moonfleet), Gerald Brenan, John Stewart Collis, Fritz Schumacher, John Eliot Gardiner (son of Rolf) and via him Roger Norrington, Lord Hinchinbrooke, Jimmy Edwards, Kenneth Allsop, Tariq Ali, Fenner Brockway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Bill Douglas (who made a film about the Tolpuddle Martyrs in a revamped Tyneham), Mike Leigh ...

Conservative Chic

Michael Mason

6 May 1982
The Politics of Culture and Other Essays 
by Roger​ Scruton.
Carcanet, 245 pp., £8.95, October 1981, 0 85635 362 0
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... regrets what is occurring nowadays, which does not give him very much of our language’s history to play with. It so happens that the first essay in a new collection by that British conservative, Roger Scruton, is about language, and he quotes as a specimen of superior antecedent English a passage from John Evelyn. Linguistic conservatives are obviously a church, not a sect: which is to say, that ...

Who Runs Britain?

Christopher Hitchens

8 December 1994
The Enemy Within: MI5, Maxwell and the Scargill Affair 
by Seumas Milne.
Verso, 352 pp., £18.95, November 1994, 0 86091 461 5
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... framing of two of my journalist colleagues (Crispin Aubrey and Duncan Campbell – two of the then-celebrated ‘ABC’ defendants) and had written several editorials about torture in Ulster when Roy Mason was Callaghan’s minister for the Province and a Yorkshire area-sponsored NUM Member of Parliament. Forgive me this free association; I’m getting to the point in a second. The Official Secrets Act ...
6 March 1997
Cary Grant: A Class Apart 
by Graham McCann.
Fourth Estate, 346 pp., £16.99, September 1996, 1 85702 366 8
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... a Male War Bride. The more renownedly well-fitting his own clothes were, the funnier he was in someone else’s. In the Hitchcock film, the suit marks a turning-point: having been kidnapped, Grant (Roger Thornhill) is taken to a country house and interrogated by James Mason (Van Damme), who assumes Grant is one George Kaplan. After the bourbon and the car, Grant returns to the scene of the crime with ...

Shoot them to be sure

Richard Gott: The Oxford History of the British Empire

25 April 2002
The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. I: The Origins of Empire 
edited by William Roger​ Louis and Nicholas Canny.
Oxford, 533 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924676 9
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. II: The 18th Century 
edited by William Roger​ Louis and P.J. Marshall.
Oxford, 639 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924677 7
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. III: The 19th Century 
edited by William Roger​ Louis and Andrew Porter.
Oxford, 774 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924678 5
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. IV: The 20th Century 
edited by William Roger​ Louis and Judith Brown.
Oxford, 773 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924679 3
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The Oxford History of the British Empire. Vol. V: Historiography 
edited by William Roger​ Louis and Robin Winks.
Oxford, 731 pp., £14.99, July 2001, 0 19 924680 7
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... construct a positive memorial to Empire, these volumes engage only spasmodically with the ‘post-colonial’ debates of the last twenty years. The editor-in-chief of this immense project is William Roger Louis, an American – though famously Anglophile – scholar. When he was appointed dismay was expressed in conservative newspapers at the thought that a quintessentially British historical ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: Ronnie Kray bows out

8 June 1995
... The hard old men are closer to it, arthritic claws knuckled in sovereigns, throats goitred in gold. All those faces last seen making up the numbers in souvenir snapshots from the Kentucky Club: Eric Mason, Frankie Fraser, Terry Spinks (a cortisone cherub). Ruthlessly ironed handkerchiefs peeping from the gash of a breast pocket. This turnout has been a killing for the car rental mobs, the muscle ...

My word, Miss Perkins

Jenny Diski: In the Typing Pool

4 August 2005
Literary Secretaries/Secretarial Culture 
edited by Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell.
Ashgate, 168 pp., £40, January 2005, 0 7546 3804 9
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... anything, not consciously, anyway, and I have to manage all on my own. I write as I type, or I type as I write (do cats eat bats or do bats eat cats?). ‘Whatever they may do,’ the bibliographer Roger Stoddard has noted, ‘authors do not write books.’ Leah Price and Pamela Thurschwell take up the distinction and declare that their volume will focus ‘on the representation, self-representation ...

Stir and Bustle

David Trotter: Corridors

9 December 2019
Corridors: Passages of Modernity 
by Roger​ Luckhurst.
Reaktion, 240 pp., £25, March, 978 1 78914 053 8
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... not to notice him. Spade has failed to understand that a corridor is less a space than a channel of 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 ...

Touching and Being Touched

John Kerrigan: Valentine Cunningham

19 September 2002
Reading after Theory 
by Valentine Cunningham.
Blackwell, 194 pp., £45, December 2001, 0 631 22167 0
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... t show himself capable of grasping ‘This Living Hand’. Cunningham refuses to join ‘the chorus of mere whingers against Theory, all those mouthy conservatives from (say) Helen Gardner . . . to Roger Shattuck . . . with their romps up and down the glooming critical slopes of the Blooms, Allan and Harold’ – this is a fair sample, unfortunately, of his idea of lively prose. He accepts that post ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord

24 June 2010
... sack’. There was the card-sharp up for ‘cozening Giles Hall at decoy’, and another trickster for ‘cheating a Derbyshire gentleman with counters instead of silver’, and a burglar, Thomas Mason (‘alias Humming Tom’), who had broken into the house of Sir Walter Cope. There was the woman from Finsbury accused of ‘cozening Elizabeth Barnes of certain money for a little powder in a paper ...

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