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Martinis with the Bellinis

Mary Beard, 31 July 1997

The Roy Strong Diaries 1967-87 
Weidenfeld, 461 pp., £20, May 1997, 0 297 81841 4Show More
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... Two photographs in The Roy Strong Diaries 1967-87 sum up his achievement as museum director: ‘The National Portrait Gallery before, and after’ – before and after, that is, the ‘reign’ (his word) of Strong. The first is a predictably gloomy view of a classically old-fashioned museum: wood-block floor, two benches in the centre of the gallery, paintings crammed onto the walls (20 assorted 17th-century portraits are visible in this shot alone), and no trace of an information panel beyond the tiny labels perched under each picture ...

Looking for a Way Up

Rosemary Hill: Roy Strong’s Vanities, 25 April 2013

Self-Portrait as a Young Man 
by Roy Strong.
Bodleian, 286 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 1 85124 282 5
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... It is difficult not to admire Roy Strong, though there are moments in this account of his first 32 years where he seems to be doing all he can to make it easier. Born in 1935, he became in 1967 the youngest ever director of the National Portrait Gallery. It was a remarkable achievement, but by mentioning it three times in the first seven pages Strong begins at an early stage to try the reader’s patience ...

At the V&A

Brian Dillon: Cecil Beaton, 5 April 2012

... acknowledgment that the whole thing is an absurd sham. In his preface to the exhibition catalogue, Roy Strong – who is keen to remind us that he curated the first major Beaton retrospective, at the National Portrait Gallery in 1968 – tells us that Beaton was ‘an ambitious, complex, vain, observant and deeply patriotic man’. The last quality, if ...

Short Cuts

Paul Laity: Alternative Weeping, 7 September 2000

... reading is, of course, the chance to see and hear David Starkey cheek by jowl with Zadie Smith, Roy Strong, Terry Jones, Michael Holroyd and all the other writers showcasing their various talents this year. Such events certainly seem to be increasing rapidly in number and variety. Cheltenham and Hay-on-Wye (Tony Benn: ‘In my mind, it has replaced ...

Items on a New Agenda

Conrad Russell, 23 October 1986

Humanism in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Maria Dowling.
Croom Helm, 283 pp., £25, February 1986, 0 7099 0864 4
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Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance 
by Roy Strong.
Thames and Hudson, 264 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 500 01375 6
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Authority and Conflict: England 1603-1658 
by Derek Hirst.
Arnold, 390 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 7131 6155 8
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Rebellion or Revolution? England 1640-1660 
by G.E. Aylmer.
Oxford, 274 pp., £12.50, February 1986, 0 19 219179 9
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Politics and Ideology in England 1603-1640 
by J.P. Sommerville.
Longman, 254 pp., £6.95, April 1986, 9780582494329
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... distinction. In Reformation studies, the trend of the past generation has been away from seeing a strong tide of popular feeling in favour of Protestantism, and towards a stress on the view that the Reformation was imposed from above. This has recently gone so far that Professor Scarisbrick was able to write a book on The Reformation and the English People in ...

Perpetual Sunshine

David Cannadine, 2 July 1981

The Gentleman’s Country House and its Plan, 1835-1914 
by Jill Franklin.
Routledge, 279 pp., £15.95, February 1981, 0 7100 0622 5
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... has turned to autumn: the creeper has withered and the sunshine faded. The death toll recorded by Roy Strong, Marcus Binney and John Harris in The Destruction of the English County House tops nine hundred, and few writers set contemporary novels in country houses as they did only a generation ago. One gratifying consequence is that it has finally become ...


Nicholas Penny: Getting Rid of the Curators, 4 May 1989

... shares with the curators she has ‘otherwise accommodated’. She also shares it with Sir Roy Strong (her predecessor), Sir John Pope-Hennessy (Sir Roy’s predecessor), Sir Ernst Gombrich, Professor Michael Jaffé and Denys Sutton, to name only the most eminent among those British art historians who have ...


Marilyn Butler, 2 September 1982

The New Pelican Guide to English Literature. Vol. I: Medieval Literature Part One: Chaucer and the Alliterative Tradition, Vol. II: The Age of Shakespeare, Vol. III: From Donne to Marvell, Vol. IV: From Dryden to Johnson 
edited by Boris Ford.
Penguin, 647 pp., £2.95, March 1982, 0 14 022264 2
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Medieval Writers and their Work: Middle English Literature and its Background 
by J.A. Burrow.
Oxford, 148 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 19 289122 7
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Contemporary Writers Series: Saul Bellow, Joe Orton, John Fowles, Kurt Vonnegut, Seamus Heaney, Thomas Pynchon 
by Malcolm Bradbury, C.W.E. Bigsby, Peter Conradi, Jerome Klinkowitz and Blake Morrison.
Methuen, 110 pp., £1.95, May 1982, 0 416 31650 6
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... English (which must be more than half of them), students from unlettered backgrounds are at a strong disadvantage. The great selling-point in Leavis’s system was that, on the novel in particular, he was ruthlessly selective. Gone was the eclecticism of turn-of-the-century scholars like George Saintsbury and Oliver Elton, and of surveys like the ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... representation’. One is reminded of the argument of the late Frances Yates, popularised by Sir Roy Strong, about the replacement of the image of the Virgin Mary by that of the Virgin Queen. This brief summary does less than justice to the richness of Greenblatt’s interpretation, or to his skill in interweaving 16th-century texts – Reginald ...
On Historians 
by J.H. Hexter.
Collins, 310 pp., £6.95, September 1979, 0 00 216623 2
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... Oskar Kristeller. I will go so far as to say that the idea of the Renaissance was big enough and strong enough to do without the rejuvenating serum administered to it, with the best of intentions, by these two excellent historians. In fact, it is economic history that has given the Renaissance a new vigour. It now appears, after 30 or 35 years of intensive ...

Living in the Aftermath

Michael Gorra, 19 June 1997

The God of Small Things 
by Arundhati Roy.
Flamingo, 340 pp., £15.99, June 1997, 0 00 225586 3
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... Here, with the cloud of a six-figure advance trailing behind her, comes Arundhati Roy: May in Ayemenem is a hot, brooding month. The days are long and humid. The river shrinks and black crows gorge on bright mangoes in still, dustgreen trees. Red bananas ripen. Jack-fruits burst. Dissolute bluebottles hum vacuously in the fruity air ...


William Rodgers, 30 March 1989

European Diary 1977-1981 
by Roy Jenkins.
Collins, 698 pp., £25, March 1989, 0 00 217976 8
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... was summoned across Whitehall from my office in the Ministry of Defence to see the Home Secretary. Roy Jenkins rose from his chair and said: ‘Well, it’s all over, Callaghan is appointing Crosland.’ He nodded to a handwritten envelope addressed to the President of the French Republic. I knew that it contained a letter declaring his willingness to become ...

Male Fantasies

Eugen Weber, 10 January 1983

Love, Death and Money in the Pays d’Oc 
by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, translated by Alan Sheridan.
Scolar, 608 pp., £17.50, October 1982, 0 85967 655 2
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... Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie is probably the cleverest and certainly the most versatile French historian of our day. Beginning with his thèse on the peasants of Languedoc in Early Modern times, he has ranged back to the everyday life of 14th-century heretics and forward to computers studies of 19th-century conscripts ...

Brideshead and the Tower Blocks

Patrick Wright, 2 June 1988

Home: A Short History of an Idea 
by Witold Rybczynski.
Heinemann, 256 pp., £12.95, March 1988, 0 434 14292 1
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... surely be central to architecture – like justice to law or health to medicine. The point is a strong one, and Professor Rybczynski duly piles it on. Bitterly deprived by his own education, he can only write from a position of ‘ignorance’. As he sets out to discover the ‘meaning of comfort’, he is at pains to differentiate his own ecological ...
... 1981, and the launch of the manifesto that came to be known as the Limehouse Declaration. When Roy Jenkins, Shirley Williams, David Owen and I met together that morning, we were clear in our intention: in breaking the mould of contemporary politics, we would create a new radical centre, push the Labour Party into third place, change the electoral system ...

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