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An Enemy Within

Paul Foot, 23 April 1987

Molehunt: The Full Story of the Soviet Mole in MI5 
by Nigel West.
Weidenfeld, 208 pp., £10.95, March 1987, 0 297 79150 8
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... MI5 campaign to root out the traitors in their midst. The finger of suspicion was pointed at Sir Roger Hollis, the hard-working, conventionally-minded former head of MI5, and his deputy Graham Mitchell. Mitchell, Nigel West tells us, had, at some time in his career, ‘gained something of a reputation as a Leftist’. This was a remarkable achievement, since ...

The chair she sat on

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 July 1984

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... a base supplied by Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and topped off perhaps with an astringent dash of Roger Hinks’. Mrs Spurling’s own dealings with these conjectural parenthoods and genealogies are more circumspect, and do – or so I judge – often sensitively illuminate the traffic of the creative imagination with fugitive memories drawn from ...

Short Cuts

Christopher Tayler: King Charles the Martyr, 21 February 2019

... sung before either. The words of 1 Peter 2.18 – ‘Honour the King. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear’ – sounded less commandingly authoritarian when recited at a sustained G sharp. ‘One pair red trousers’, I scribbled, ‘one orange. Woman in Agatha Christie cloche hat.’ Ermengarda Greville-Nugent was remembered in the ...

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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... of the doubt involved here. But, as it happens, having carefully reconstructed the movements of Roger Windsor, the NUM’s chief turncoat, and of Mohammed Altaf Abbasi, the demi-monde’s chief bagman, Milne is able to state with complete forensic confidence that It is self-evident that the Libyan money, still in dollars in Lloyds Bank on 3 December and ...

Not the Brightest of the Barings

Bernard Porter: Lord Cromer, a Victorian Ornamentalist in Egypt, 18 November 2004

Lord Cromer: Victorian Imperialist, Edwardian Proconsul 
by Roger Owen.
Oxford, 436 pp., £25, January 2004, 0 19 925338 2
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... and General Gordon’s nemesis – was no Osama bin Laden. (Interestingly, and diplomatically, Roger Owen describes him as ‘an ascetic and religious devotee’, rather than the usual ‘fanatic’ or ‘fundamentalist’.) Similarly, Egypt’s Ismail Pasha, whom Cromer saw as a ‘monster’, never threatened the world with weapons of mass ...


John Bayley, 19 January 1989

The Amis Anthology 
edited by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 360 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 09 173525 4
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The Chatto Book of Nonsense Verse 
edited by Hugh Haughton.
Chatto, 530 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7011 3105 5
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... has immediate vocal authority. It makes us attend. In a rather memorable and haunting poem, ‘The Masters’, Kingsley Amis stressed the point, substituting other activities for the poetic one, but really talking about the nature of the poem itself. That horse whose rider fears to jump will fall, Riflemen miss if orders sound unsure; They only are secure who ...

My Dagger into Yow

Ian Donaldson: Sidney’s Letters, 25 April 2013

The Correspondence of Sir Philip Sidney 
edited by Roger Kuin.
Oxford, 1381 pp., £250, July 2012, 978 0 19 955822 3
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... At school, children were exposed from an early age to the letters of Cicero and other classical masters. Those nervous or incapable of writing like this, could, as Richardson had discovered to his profit early in his publishing career, purchase volumes of model letters in English, replete with flourishes and sentiments often alien to the sender, but part ...


Nicholas Penny, 19 November 1981

Moments of Vision 
by Kenneth Clark.
Murray, 191 pp., £9.50, October 1981, 0 7195 3860 2
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... of our civilisation is to us. Genuinely at ease with the classics on our shelves and with the old masters in our museums, Clark can convince us that they really are our ‘inheritance’. Eventually he permits himself to be presented as an embodiment of his subject. At the request of his producer he ends with a creed. ‘I hold a number of beliefs that have ...

The Schoolmen ride again

Richard Mayne, 15 May 1980

Cinema: A Critical Dictionary: The Major Film-Makers 
edited by Richard Roud.
Secker, 1120 pp., £25, February 1980, 9780436428302
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The Dream that Kicks: The Prehistory and Early Years of Cinema in Britain 
by Michael Chanan.
Routledge, 356 pp., £12.50, January 1980, 0 7100 0319 6
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... schlock of yesteryear. No: the fact is that movie critics have changed. There was once a time when Roger Manvell’s 1944 Pelican Book, Film, was a central work in most British film-buffs’ libraries. There were the Russian early fathers, of course, all tractors and montage; there was Paul Rotha; there were histories and how-to handbooks; there was Alistair ...

Short Cuts

Chris Mullin: Corbyn the ‘Collaborator’, 8 March 2018

... election, and the paper ran the story under the banner headline ‘Civil War Plot by Socialist Masters’. In 1999 an investigation by the Foreign Office’s chief historian concluded that the letter had been forged by MI6 and leaked to the Conservative Party. It was repeatedly suggested during the Cold War that the Labour Party was crawling with Soviet ...

Sunny Days

Michael Howard, 11 February 1993

Never Again: Britain 1945-51 
by Peter Hennessy.
Cape, 544 pp., £20, September 1992, 0 224 02768 9
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Churchill on the Home Front 1900-1955 
by Paul Addison.
Cape, 493 pp., £20, November 1992, 0 224 01428 5
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... number of them did) but most of them willed the end. They implemented the plans of their Labour masters not only dutifully but often with enthusiasm. It is most improbable, to put it no more strongly, that any social irruption could have produced any better or more effective public servants than Oliver Franks, Edwin Plowden, Robert Hall, Edward ...


Paul Laity: Henry Woodd Nevinson, 3 February 2000

... and William Roberts – and a revolutionary moment in British art. Even to express support for Roger Fry’s Post-Impressionist exhibitions was daring and radical. Nevinson, having seen a contemporary art show in Venice, knew he was ‘bored with the old Masters’. He was ambitious and keen to be liked, but socially ...


Colin Jones: Voltaire’s Loneliness, 25 May 2006

Voltaire Almighty: A Life in Pursuit of Freedom 
by Roger Pearson.
Bloomsbury, 447 pp., £18.99, November 2005, 0 7475 7495 2
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Le Monde des salons 
by Antoine Lilti.
Fayard, 572 pp., £30, October 2005, 2 213 62292 2
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... had lived by writing – and after 1758 the words came just as abundantly. At a shrewd estimate, Roger Pearson calculates in his sprightly and thoroughly engaging biography, some fifteen million words flowed from Voltaire’s pen. The critical edition currently being published by Oxford’s Voltaire Foundation is scheduled to contain 85 volumes. As well as ...

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 ...

Quiet Sinners

Bernard Porter: Imperial Spooks, 21 March 2013

Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire 
by Calder Walton.
Harper, 411 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 0 00 745796 0
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... they concluded, was a far more important factor in Nkrumah’s ideological make-up. Later, it was Roger Hollis of MI5 who brought the unwelcome news to the government of the ill-fated Central African Federation that Soviet communism wasn’t the threat in their part of Africa that they liked to paint it, mainly in order to get American support. This is not ...

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