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How Wicked – Horrid

David Blackbourn: Two Duff Kings, 15 July 1999

Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser’s Early Life, 1859-88 
by John Röhl, translated by Jeremy Gaines.
Cambridge, 979 pp., £45, October 1999, 0 521 49752 3
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... the limits of the biographical genre, especially when the protagonist is not exercising power. But Roy Foster on young Parnell and Drew McCoy on James Madison as an old man have shown that it is possible to brush a lesser known part of a well known life against the grain, to use it as a way of asking questions. Röhl’s ambition seems more muted. His ...

Running out of Soil

Terry Eagleton: Bram Stoker and Irish Protestant Gothic, 2 December 2004

From the Shadow of Dracula: A Life of Bram Stoker 
by Paul Murray.
Cape, 356 pp., £18.99, July 2004, 0 224 04462 1
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... isolated and besieged, haunted by memories of ancient crimes which refused to be decently buried. Roy Foster has persuasively argued that the Irish Protestant fascination with magic and secret societies reflects a sense of social displacement, but also provided a substitute for Catholic ritual and solidarity. Gothic is the most paranoid of literary ...

Hats One Dreamed about

Tessa Hadley: Rereading Bowen, 20 February 2020

Collected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Everyman, 904 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 84159 392 0
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... to Ireland she sent confidential reports on morale to the British Ministry of Information, though Roy Foster says she was ‘warmly defending neutrality’ in them, ‘as an Irishwoman’. Foster has persuasively made the case for Bowen’s thoroughgoing Irishness – ‘as long as I can remember,’ she ...

A Spot of Firm Government

Terry Eagleton: Claude Rawson, 23 August 2001

God, Gulliver and Genocide: Barbarism and the European Imagination 1492-1945 
by Claude Rawson.
Oxford, 401 pp., £25, June 2001, 0 19 818425 5
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... One could find quite as many home-grown examples. Even so, the book could have made more of what Roy Foster has called the distinctive ‘savagery of mind’ of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, its semi-crazed pugnaciousness and crudity of spirit. Behind the vindictive rage of a Swift lies the unstable blend of arrogance and insecurity of a second-class ...

A Magazine of Wisdom

Linda Colley, 4 September 1997

Edmund Burke: A Life in Caricature 
by Nicholas Robinson.
Yale, 214 pp., £30, October 1996, 0 300 06801 8
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The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke. Vol. III: Party, Parliament and the American War 1774-80 
edited by Warren Elofson and John Woods.
Oxford, 713 pp., £75, September 1996, 0 19 822414 1
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Edmund Burke and India: Political Morality and Empire 
by Frederick Whelan.
Pittsburgh, 384 pp., £39.95, December 1996, 0 8229 3927 4
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... the issue of Burke’s Irishness needs problematising. As with those real-life Phineas Finns whom Roy Foster discusses in his essay ‘Marginal Men and Micks on the Make’, it is possible to argue that what was remarkable about Burke was less his angry devotion to Ireland, or the discrimination he suffered on account of this, than the degree to which he ...

Northern Irish Initiatives

Charles Townshend, 5 August 1982

... hostility. It is questionable how far other nationalists may be willing to go with him in this, as Roy Foster pointed out in the London Review of Books earlier this year (Vol. 4, No 1), and it has to be said that even his reasonableness, extraordinary by nationalist standards, is possibly inadequate by the more dispassionate standards of outsiders. He ...

Insurrectionary Hopes

Matthew Kelly: Myths of 1916, 1 December 2005

Easter 1916: The Irish Rebellion 
by Charles Townshend.
Allen Lane, 442 pp., £20, September 2005, 0 7139 9690 0
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... was a purportedly national insurrection that was significant only in the capital. It was, as Roy Foster provokingly but accurately described it, a putsch. A more genuinely national rebellion might have bequeathed a different legacy: a felt need to atone for inaction at Easter was one of the forces driving the subsequent guerrilla war. Having ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... more. It is not accepted, for example, in Joe Lee’s Ireland: Politics and Society 1912-1986 or Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland. Cultural nationalism did not lead to the Rising, though it may have been in part responsible for it; the executions after the Rising certainly inflamed public opinion, but not as much perhaps as the threat of ...

About Myself

Liam McIlvanney: James Hogg, 18 November 2004

The Electric Shepherd: A Likeness of James Hogg 
by Karl Miller.
Faber, 401 pp., £25, August 2003, 0 571 21816 4
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Altrive Tales 
by James Hogg, edited by Gillian Hughes.
Edinburgh, 293 pp., £40, July 2003, 0 7486 1893 7
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... then, to mount a rigorous chronological reconstruction of Hogg’s life – to do for Hogg what Roy Foster has done for Yeats – would be neither profitable nor possible. Hogg spent decades herding sheep in a wilderness. He was 40 before he played much of a part in the literary life of Edinburgh, 50 before Blackwood’s Magazine hit its stride. How do ...

Dev and Dan

Tom Dunne, 21 April 1988

The Hereditary Bondsman: Daniel O’Connell, 1775-1829 
by Oliver MacDonagh..
Weidenfeld, 328 pp., £16.95, January 1988, 0 297 79221 0
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Eamon de Valera 
by Owen Dudley Edwards.
University of Wales Press, 161 pp., £19.95, November 1987, 0 7083 0986 0
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Nationalism and Popular Protest in Ireland 
edited by C.H.E. Philpin.
Cambridge, 466 pp., £27.50, November 1987, 0 521 26816 8
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Northern Ireland: Soldiers talking, 1969 to Today 
by Max Arthur.
Sidgwick, 271 pp., £13.95, October 1987, 0 283 99375 8
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War as a Way of Life: A Belfast Diary 
by John Conroy.
Heinemann, 218 pp., £12.95, February 1988, 0 434 14217 4
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... that two ‘introductions’ were thought necessary. The first (the only one so designated), by Roy Foster, is an informed and thoughtful piece which situates the articles in the context of the modern Irish historiographical revolution and provides an excellent guide to further reading. By contrast, V.G. Kiernan’s ill-informed and oddly ...

On Richard Hamilton

Hal Foster, 6 October 2011

... the United States in 1963, where he travelled with his friend Marcel Duchamp, and met Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Ed Ruscha and other young bucks of American Pop art. In My Marilyn (1965) Hamilton adapted, in painting, part of a contact sheet from a photo shoot by George Barris that included her own editorial indications as to which images to cut and what ...

At Inverleith House

Hal Foster: Richard Hamilton, 14 August 2008

... cadaver, a monstrous omen of nuclear horrors to come. Blair, in Shock and Awe (2008), appears in a Roy Rogers shirt, jeans and cowboy boots, with six-shooters and straps that are too big for his short legs. The dioramic space behind him, a fiery purgatory, evokes Baghdad on the first night of ‘Shock and Awe’, but the shock and awe is Blair’s too: they ...


Roy Porter, 4 March 1982

The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. I: 1750-1781 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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The Poems of William Cowper: Vol. 1 1748-1782 
edited by John Baird and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 500 pp., £25, September 1980, 0 19 811875 9
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. II: 1782-1786 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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... had darkly feared. In Cowper’s eyes – as his early writings amply show – lunacy was not the foster-mother of literature. He had learnt this at first hand: from his youth he had been a chronic depressive, suffering four extended periods of breakdown. The last bout ended with his death, and most of them involved suicide attempts. The first crisis, in 1763 ...

The Coburg Connection

Richard Shannon, 5 April 1984

Albert, Prince Consort 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Hamish Hamilton, 311 pp., £15, November 1983, 0 241 11000 9
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... of Lord Randolph Churchill and the brusque treatment that statesman suffered at the hands of Roy Foster comes irresistibly to mind.) Albert liked Peel not only for his high seriousness, sense of public duty and moral commitment to the welfare of the mass of the people: what he also (and more materially) liked him for was the fact that they shared a ...

Lord Randolph’s Coming-Out

Paul Addison, 3 December 1981

Lord Randolph Churchill: A Political Life 
by R.F. Foster.
Oxford, 431 pp., £16, November 1981, 0 19 822679 9
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... and once in a delicate line-drawing of the 1950s, by Robert Rhodes James. But all this time, as Roy Foster’s book makes plain, another Lord Randolph has lain concealed by the conventions of portraiture. Winston, to whom his father was a divinity but also a stranger, wanted to prove that Lord Randolph possessed all the attributes of the ideal ...

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