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John Sturrock: Philosophical Quick Fixes, 31 October 2002

... Paris last year: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life (Faber, £12.99). The author, Roger-Pol Droit, is an academic who’s had a regular spot in Le Monde in which to philosophise for the past thirty years. He calls the book an ‘entertainment’, being an attempt to induce in whoever reads it – that’s to say, whoever reads it in the right ...

Rigmaroles

Henry Day: Ibn Battutah’s travels, 15 December 2005

The Hall of a Thousand Columns: Hindustan to Malabar with Ibn Battutah 
by Tim Mackintosh-Smith.
Murray, 333 pp., £20, March 2005, 0 7195 6225 2
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... of them) and the places he visits with enthusiasm at once wide-eyed and critical. Tim Mackintosh-Smith has lived in Yemen since the early 1980s; his first book was Yemen: Travels in Dictionary Land (1997). A couple of years later, poking around in Sana’s Greater Yemen Bookshop, he came across Ibn Battutah’s memoir, and decided to follow in its ...

Baleful Smile of the Crocodile

Neal Ascherson: D.S. Mirsky, 8 March 2001

D.S. Mirsky: A Russian-English Life 1890-1939 
by G.S. Smith.
Oxford, 398 pp., £65, June 2000, 0 19 816006 2
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... in Moscow. Mirsky was one of the most important Russian literary critics of the 20th century. G.S. Smith, author of this tremendous and impassioned biography, plainly thinks that he was the greatest of them. ‘Mirsky’ is not just a name but an expression, short for his History of Russian Literature which was first published in London in 1927 and which has ...

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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... English English came naturally to Boswell, less naturally but effectively in the sentences of Adam Smith and David Hume, but at the cost of the reservation of the Scottish tongue for casual, domestic or low-life use. Yet, as Daiches reminds us, with an exceptionally happy choice of quotations, the literary endeavours of the upper class were accompanied by a ...

The Strange Case of Peter Vansittart

Martin Seymour-Smith, 6 March 1986

Aspects of Feeling 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 251 pp., £10.95, January 1986, 0 7206 0637 3
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... poet, a poet self-miscast as a novelist? The ‘monster’ of this novel is the career diplomat Roger Kirkland, the ‘high sans peur’ without any feelings (even ill feelings), but with many appetites thus made disgusting. His function here is certainly as the focus of disharmony and inhumanity: yet Vansittart is not satirical about him at all, as he is ...

Doctors’ Orders

Ruth Bernard Yeazell, 18 February 1982

‘All that summer she was mad’: Virginia Woolf and Her Doctors 
by Stephen Trombley.
Junction, 338 pp., £12.50, November 1981, 9780862450397
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... but they can’t put it right. Twenty-one years later, her fictional ex-soldier, Septimus Warren Smith, hears the sparrows sing in Greek, believes that his best friend, killed in the war, speaks to him from behind the trees in Regent’s Park – and prefers death to doctors. Hearing the dreaded Dr Holmes about to burst into the room, Septimus flings himself ...

Hunter-Capitalists

Roger Hodge: The Comanches, 15 December 2011

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanche Tribe 
by S.C. Gwynne.
Constable, 483 pp., £9.99, July 2011, 978 1 84901 703 9
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... from her white family before she died in 1870, ten years after she was recaptured. When Coho Smith, himself a former captive, visited Naudah in east Texas and spoke to her in Comanche, she screamed and threw herself at his feet, begging to be taken home. When Smith refused, she told him that her heart was always crying ...

Tacky Dress

Dale Peck, 22 February 1996

Like People in History: A Gay American Epic 
by Felice Picano.
Viking, 512 pp., $23.95, July 1995, 0 670 86047 6
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How Long Has This Been Going On? 
by Ethan Mordden.
Villard, 590 pp., $25, April 1995, 0 679 41529 7
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The Facts of Life 
by Patrick Gale.
Flamingo, 511 pp., £15.99, June 1995, 0 602 24522 2
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Flesh and Blood 
by Michael Cunningham.
Hamish Hamilton, 480 pp., £14.99, June 1995, 9780241135150
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... fallen crane, a traffic pile-up and, finally, a death – and the 36 years of acquaintance between Roger Sansarc, the novel’s narrator, and his cousin Alistair Dodge, which lead up to that night. Picano’s story pauses in 1954, 1961, 1969, 1974, 1979 and 1985; these pauses are meant to reveal not just significant moments in the lives of the characters ...

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 ...

Hot Dogs

Malcolm Bull, 14 June 1990

Mine eyes have seen the glory: A Journey into the Evangelical Subculture in America 
by Randall Balmer.
Oxford, 246 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 19 505117 3
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In God’s Country: Travels in the Bible Belt, USA 
by Douglas Kennedy.
Unwin Hyman, 240 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 0 04 440423 9
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The Divine Supermarket 
by Malise Ruthven.
Chatto, 336 pp., £14.95, August 1989, 0 7011 3151 9
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The Democratisation of American Christianity 
by Nathan Hatch.
Yale, 312 pp., £22.50, November 1989, 0 300 44470 2
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Religion and 20th-Century American Intellectual Life 
edited by Michael Lacey.
Cambridge/Woodrow Wilson Centre for Scholars, 214 pp., £27.50, November 1989, 0 521 37560 6
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New Religions and the Theological Imagination in America 
by Mary Farrell Bednarowski.
Indiana, 175 pp., $25, November 1989, 0 253 31137 3
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... orientation. In this context, Malise Ruthven’s journey – which begins at the tomb of Roger Williams (the founder of Providence, Rhode Island), takes in memorials to Brigham Young, Martin Luther King and Thomas Merton, and ends at the grave of Thomas Jefferson – has a distinctly antiquarian flavour. Ruthven believes that myths ‘become ...

My Millbank

Seumas Milne, 18 April 1996

The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver? 
by Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle.
Faber, 274 pp., £7.99, February 1996, 0 571 17818 9
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... In politics, Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle explain for the benefit of their less worldly-wise readers, ‘getting your way can require a degree of intrigue and manoeuvring.’ The straight-dealing Tony Blair would, they say, prefer that this was unnecessary and does not really ‘enjoy the modus operandi’. How very fortunate the Labour leader is, then, to be able to count on the services of one whose name has become a byword for political manipulation and deviousness ...

Into the sunset

Peter Clarke, 30 August 1990

Ideas and Politics in Modern Britain 
edited by J.C.D. Clark.
Macmillan, 271 pp., £40, July 1990, 0 333 51550 1
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The Philosopher on Dover Beach 
by Roger Scruton.
Carcanet, 344 pp., £18.95, June 1990, 0 85635 857 6
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... ideologies of economic liberalism. Recent celebrations of the bicentenary of the death of Adam Smith may have prompted other enthusiasts for the free market to grave-robbing exploits of this kind, but Clark is emphatic that ‘chronology alone establishes that neither John Locke nor Adam Smith were preaching ...

The wind comes up out of nowhere

Charles Nicholl: The Disappearance of Arthur Cravan, 9 March 2006

... of his works. (A long-awaited life is in preparation by the leading Anglophone Cravaniste, Roger Lloyd Conover.) This lacuna is curious because although Cravan was Swiss by birth, and wrote exclusively in French, he was a mix of Irish and English by blood. I have long been fascinated by this hyperbolic but ultimately enigmatic figure, and not the least ...

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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... 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 experience was to be in the hands of some renegade colonial. In ...

Bolsheviks and Bohemians

Angus Calder, 5 April 1984

The Life of Arthur Ransome 
by Hugh Brogan.
Cape, 456 pp., £10.95, January 1984, 0 224 02010 2
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Bohemia in London 
by Arthur Ransome, introduced by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Oxford, 284 pp., £3.50, January 1984, 0 19 281412 5
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... of convention. That said, the books are hardly subversive. Father is in the Navy, where John and Roger expect to follow him. Mate Susan, caring and cooking, is training herself for middle-class wifehood. Her mother, though reared in the Australian outback, is (unlike Ransome’s remarkable second wife) very content to employ servants. Through Slump and ...

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