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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 ...

Why we have them I can’t think

Rosemary Hill: ‘Mrs Woolf and the Servants’, 16 August 2007

Mrs Woolf and the Servants: The Hidden Heart of Domestic Service 
by Alison Light.
Fig Tree, 376 pp., £20, August 2007, 978 0 670 86717 2
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... cook to go into the kitchen.’ The uneasy balance of power between domestic servants and their masters and mistresses, especially mistresses, is the theme of Alison Light’s study of the home life of Virginia Woolf, whose complicated relationship with her own cook, Nellie Boxall, involved a degree of intimidation on both sides. The sight of Virginia and ...

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 ...

Pretending to be the parlourmaid

John Bayley, 2 December 1993

Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell 
edited by Regina Marler, introduced by Quentin Bell.
Bloomsbury, 593 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 7475 1550 6
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... and patronised with faint praise. Clive Bell’s ‘Significant Form’ is an aesthetic curiosity, Roger Fry’s influence as a theorist long ago terminated. The pictures and decorative work of the Bloomsbury English Modernists – Bell, Fry, Duncan Grant, Dora Carrington (who can be one of the best) – are rightly and properly admired in art circles, but ...

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 thatIt is self-evident that the Libyan money, still in dollars in Lloyds Bank on 3 December and ...

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 ...

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 ...


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 ...

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 ...


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 ...


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 ...

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 ...

State Aid

Denis Arnold, 22 December 1983

A History of English Opera 
by Eric Walter White.
Faber, 472 pp., £30, July 1983, 0 571 10788 5
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... see the significance of the huge amount of native activity, for which the evidence is assembled in Roger Fiske’s excellent English Theatre Music in the 18th Century (1973). One reason for the failure of Italian opera in London was doubtless that it came too late. In the 1720s the orderly, poetic Metastasian opera was becoming the rage throughout Italy, led ...

Short Cuts

David Runciman: At Blair’s Gathering, 21 July 2022

... Rebellion regarding the politics of civil disobedience. He recommended a YouTube lecture by Roger Hallam, in which the XR co-founder explains that relatively small acts of protest can tip an entire society. Sometimes it just takes tens of thousands of people to refuse to comply with the status quo for tens of millions to reject it. (This is presumably a ...

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