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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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... 1960s which helped to make Thompson’s book have receded, its influence and example have not. Indeed the obligation to study past radicalism felt by many socialist historians, and (to borrow one of RogerWells’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 ...

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 ...

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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... A thousand men at a thousand glowing desks, a busy specialist press, will be perpetually sifting, 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 ...

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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... always being interrupted by necessity. The mystery of existence is always showing through the texture 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 ...

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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... it may be surprising to find that Ayer habitually thought of himself as an ‘outsider’ and ‘self-made’, 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 ...
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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... for Galsworthy, though he knew him to be an inferior artist. Of course he wasn’t infallible. He 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 ...

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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... in their Cinématographe. In Britain Robert Paul produced his own camera and projector when Edison 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 ...

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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... to the potential of air war – set up a Compagnie d’Aérostiers. During the invasion panic of 1803, 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 ...

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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... with the extra strand that he knows he is going to write about his journeys. It’s at this point 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 ...

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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... explanatory power to latch onto real change. And, finally, they must appeal to an idea of well-being 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 ...

Nabokov’s Dreams

John Lanchester

10 May 2018
... at the moment of waking was to get evidence for precognition, through a contemporaneous record of dream-predictions 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 ...

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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... Modernisms begins as follows: ‘In, or about December 1910, human character changed.’ Woolf’s 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 ...

Diary

Iain Sinclair: My Olympics

30 August 2012
... alongside the notable bow-fronted wreck of a building beside the garage of Empress Coaches is a nest 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 ...

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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... than anybody had realised, that literature was carrying too much weight, that the longest poem in the 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 ...

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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... demanding. For 18 years she and Virginia Woolf lived together, interdependent in a way they both resented, 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 ...

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