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Counter-Factuals

Linda Colley, 1 November 1984

The Origins of Anglo-American Radicalism 
edited by Margaret Jacob and James Jacob.
Allen and Unwin, 333 pp., £18.50, February 1984, 0 04 909015 1
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Insurrection: The British Experience 1795-1803 
by Roger Wells.
Alan Sutton, 312 pp., £16, May 1983, 9780862990190
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Radicalism and Freethought in 19th-Century Britain 
by Joel Wiener.
Greenwood, 285 pp., $29.95, March 1983, 0 313 23532 5
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For King, Constitution and Country: The English Loyalists and the French Revolution 
by Robert Dozier.
Kentucky, 213 pp., £20.90, February 1984, 9780813114903
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... the obligation to study past radicalism felt by many socialist historians, and (to borrow one of Roger Wells’s more charitable epithets) ‘what passes for liberal historians’, seems only to have been intensified by resurgent conservatism on both sides of the Atlantic. Thus, according to its publisher’s blurb, the Jacobs’ volume is designed to ...

Picshuas

P.N. Furbank, 18 October 1984

Experiment in Autobiography: Discoveries and Conclusion of a Very Ordinary Brain (since 1866) 
by H.G. Wells.
Faber, 838 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13330 4
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H.G. Wells in Love: Postscript to an Experiment in Autobiography 
edited by G.P. Wells.
Faber, 253 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 571 13329 0
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The Man with a Nose, and the Other Uncollected Short Stories of H.G. Wells 
edited by J.R. Hammond.
Athlone, 212 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 485 11247 7
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... criticising, condensing, and clearing the ground for further speculation.’ So writes H.G. Wells in A Modern Utopia in 1905, neatly envisioning the micro-computer. And there is a lot to be said for the micro-computer. But such ‘glow’ as it possesses is purely literal and mechanical. Indeed, already in Wells’s ...

It’s the plunge that counts

Heathcote Williams: Waterlog by Roger Deakin, 19 August 1999

Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain 
by Roger Deakin.
Chatto, 320 pp., £15.99, May 1999, 0 7011 6652 5
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... Roger Deakin has swum through England. Instead of a travelogue, he has written a waterlog, and instead of being waterlogged, he has moved around the country untrammelled, and often naked. In this seductive book he gives a rare and visionary account of what it means to feel an affinity with the lakes, springs, rivers, streams and seashores of these islands, instead of the motorways, car-parks and Little Chefs that blight the instincts of the traveller who is eager to commune with what is left of raw nature ...

Fellow Freaks

Sam Thompson: Wells Tower, 9 July 2009

Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned 
by Wells Tower.
Granta, 238 pp., £10.99, April 2009, 978 1 84708 048 6
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... of their ordinary lives, and I’m afraid that this makes them irresistible to the novelist.’ Wells Tower demonstrates a similar affinity in his collection of short stories, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. Tower’s Americans are not so grandly freakish as O’Connor’s, but they are poor freaks in spirit: depressed rednecks, failed ...

Bringing it home to Uncle Willie

Frank Kermode, 6 May 1982

Joseph Conrad: A Biography 
by Roger Tennant.
Sheldon Press, 276 pp., £12.50, January 1982, 0 85969 358 9
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Edward Garnett: A Life in Literature 
by George Jefferson.
Cape, 350 pp., £12.50, April 1982, 0 224 01488 9
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The Edwardian Novelists 
by John Batchelor.
Duckworth, 251 pp., £18, February 1982, 0 7156 1109 7
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The Uses of Obscurity: The Fiction of Early Modernism 
by Allon White.
Routledge, 190 pp., £12, August 1981, 0 7100 0751 5
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... preferred The Country House to The Man of Property, which is very hard to explain; he turned down Wells’s The Time Machine, which is less difficult, for he liked ‘Hogarthian truthfulness’ better than fantasy; and he wrote a respectful but dismissive report on Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, saying it needed a lot of work. It was ‘too ...

Gloomy Sunday Afternoons

Caroline Maclean: Modernists at the Movies, 10 September 2009

The Tenth Muse: Writing about Cinema in the Modernist Period 
by Laura Marcus.
Oxford, 562 pp., £39, December 2007, 978 0 19 923027 3
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... refused to supply him with films. Paul also patented a design for a time machine based on H.G. Wells’s short story, in which a series of moving platforms would ‘transport’ an audience to different periods with the help of images projected on a screen and a ‘conductor’ who would lead them back to the present day (he never actually built the ...

Out of Sight, out of Mind

Frank Kermode: A.J. Ayer’s Winning Ways, 15 July 1999

A.J. Ayer: A Life 
by Ben Rogers.
Chatto, 402 pp., £20, June 1999, 9780701163167
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... exaggerating the poverty of his family, looking at the world, as his widow, Dee Wells, puts it, with ‘big desiring eyes’, and, despite a career of equal brilliance as philosopher and hedonist, often a little anxious about where he stood on the borders of outside and inside. Certainly Oxford, despite that lectureship, was reluctant to ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England, 20 December 2012

The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... that a precarious balance must be kept. As the person walks (or sails, or climbs, or swims like Roger Deakin in the delightfully graphic and immediate Waterlog: A Swimmer’s Journey through Britain), mental notes will inevitably be scribbling themselves; the telling will be flawed if the impulse of the journey is merely to fulfil a book ...

How They Brought the Good News

Colin Kidd: Britain’s Napoleonic Wars, 20 November 2014

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 739 pp., £25, November 2014, 978 0 571 26952 5
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... Uglow notes, a new play, Goody Two Shoes; or Harlequin Alabaster, was performed at Sadler’s Wells; in it a French invasion by balloon is foiled at a lighthouse, in the process confounding our own expectations about what is – or surprisingly is not – anachronism. A rumour circulated that Napoleon’s engineers would construct a pontoon across the ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: My Olympics, 30 August 2012

... of anarchic, free-spirited narrowboats. One of these, the most piratical, proudly flying its Jolly Roger, is a coffin-sized craft belonging to a researcher called Mike Wells. He has made it his business, despite numerous brushes with security guards and large dogs, to record and report every stage of the recent ...

Nabokov’s Dreams

John Lanchester, 10 May 2018

... which subsequently turn out to be accurate. An Experiment seems kooky now, but H.G. Wells took an interest, and so did the Tolkien/Lewis Inklings, and J.B. Priestley, among others. Dunne was an aeronautical engineer and former soldier, and part of the appeal of his book was probably that he dressed his speculations with the correct amount of ...

Wild Hearts

Peter Wollen, 6 April 1995

Virginia Woolf 
by James King.
Hamish Hamilton, 699 pp., £25, September 1994, 0 241 13063 8
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... aphoristic judgment is usually taken to refer to the Post-Impressionist Exhibition, organised by Roger Fry, which opened, in fact, on 8 November 1910. Plainly, this was the moment when the European avant garde shattered the calm of the Edwardian art world. It is still hard to see, however, why it should have changed ‘human character’, or how its ...

Hegel in Green Wellies

Stefan Collini: England, 8 March 2001

England: An Elegy 
by Roger Scruton.
Chatto, 270 pp., £16.99, October 2000, 1 85619 251 2
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The Faber Book of Landscape Poetry 
edited by Kenneth Baker.
Faber, 426 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 571 20071 0
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... that will enable some kind of balance-sheet to be drawn up. Letters from ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ do not meet these requirements. Nor do most of those book-length jeremiads which became increasingly common in the course of the last century. The supposed critical force of such tracts rested on a misty idea of ‘Old England’, ‘the real ...

Modernisms

Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

Pound, Yeats, Eliot and the Modernist Movement 
by C.K. Stead.
Macmillan, 393 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 333 37457 6
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The Myth of Modernism and 20th-century Literature 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Harvester, 216 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7108 1002 4
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The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts 
by Roger Shattuck.
Faber, 362 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 571 12071 7
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... language would come out at about the length of The Waste Land if it was imaginatively designed. Roger Shattuck has an interesting but fragmentary piece in his book about the aesthetics of the fragment, very much to the point. You could now put poems, novels and films together on principles which had hitherto lain hidden. Their realisation called for a lot ...

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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... continually disappointed in one another. Nellie had begun her Bloomsbury career as cook for Roger Fry from about 1912. His house, ‘Durbins’, in Surrey was to his own design, a variation on the Arts and Crafts answer to the Kensington terrace, with a garden by Gertrude Jekyll and a bird bath by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Its ground plan had social as ...

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