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6 April 1995
Shark-Infested Waters: The Saatchi Collection of British Art in the Nineties 
by Sarah Kent.
Zwemmer, 270 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 302 00648 6
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The Reviews that Caused the Rumpus, and Other Pieces 
by Brian Sewell.
Bloomsbury, 365 pp., £12.99, November 1994, 0 7475 1872 6
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... artists, but between critics and curators, and the battle-lines are not too clearly drawn. You can make lists. In favour of ‘contemporary art’: Nicholas Serota (at the Tate), Charles Saatchi, SarahKent (Time Out), Richard Dorment (Daily Telegraph, oddly enough). Against: Modern Painters, Brian Sewell (Evening Standard), Giles Auty (Spectator), Glynn Williams (at the RCA) and any number of ...
11 January 1990
King George VI 
by Sarah​ Bradford.
Weidenfeld, 506 pp., £18.95, October 1990, 0 297 79667 4
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... The wonder, however, is not that ‘David’ should have turned out badly but that ‘Bertie’ should have turned out so well. (There were two more brothers, ‘Harry’ of Gloucester and George of Kent, whose capacity for kingship, had the succession moved further down the line, was for different reasons equally doubtful.) Despite the horrors and humiliations of his upbringing as the second son of ...

Elegy for Gurney

Sarah​ Howe: Robert Edric

4 December 2008
In Zodiac Light 
by Robert Edric.
Doubleday, 368 pp., £16.99, July 2008, 978 0 385 61258 6
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... aspirations. At times, Irvine seems almost aware of the symbols thudding all around him. He laughs that the local shipping channels are called the ‘Lower Hope Reaches’: who would have known Kent was an allegorical landscape? Another unfortunate consequence of In Zodiac Light’s dalliance with allegory is the flatness of its villains. The hospital’s hierarchy has Osborne, a shamelessly ...

Odd Union

David Cannadine

20 October 1994
Mrs Jordan’s Profession: The Story of a Great Actress and a Future King 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 415 pp., £18, October 1994, 0 670 84159 5
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... life was more dramatic than any of the parts she played, whether on the stage or off it, and which still possesses the power to captivate, to move, to shock and to anger. Like her near contemporaries Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Farren, Dora Jordan was born (in 1761) in humble circumstances, but with strong theatrical connections. Her parents, Grace Phillips and Francis Bland, were unmarried and her ...

From a Summer to an Autumn

Michael Wood: Julian Barnes

9 May 2013
Levels of Life 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 118 pp., £10.99, April 2013, 978 0 224 09815 1
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... the first, converting a coincidence into a love story. Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Royal Horse Guards – if you google him you will see a fine picture of him by Tissot – flew in a balloon from Kent to Normandy in 1882. Four years earlier the actress Sarah Bernhardt had taken a flight from Paris to the Seine-et-Marne. Along with Nadar, these figures and their companions were, Barnes says, ‘the ...

Diary

John Upton: Damilola Taylor

4 January 2001
... an indication that for all the media coverage, the murder has not found its way wholly into the big sentimental heart of the British Public. It is clear that Damilola Taylor is no Princess Diana or Sarah Payne. I stop to read some of the messages with the flowers. Nearly all seem to be from people who live in and around Peckham: church groups and individuals keen to stress their ties with the place ...

Going Flat Out, National Front and All

Ian Hamilton: Watch your mouth!

14 December 2000
Diaries: Into Politics 
by Alan Clark.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2000, 0 297 64402 5
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The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists 
edited by Irene Taylor and Alan Taylor.
Canongate, 684 pp., £25, November 2000, 0 86241 920 4
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The Journals of Woodrow Wyatt. Vol. III: From Major to Blair 
edited by Sarah​ Curtis.
Macmillan, 823 pp., £25, November 2000, 9780333774069
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... the downfall of mediocre rivals, pretending to take an interest in the squalid misfortunes of constituents. Clark was a volunteer, an amateur who on the tiniest of whims could instantly repair to Kent in order to repair his moat, or to swap a few more of his daddy’s paintings for a few more vintage cars. And as to the politics, here too he was above the dreary fray. He had no real political ...
5 June 1986
Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... stimulated by Agate, whose fine phrases he often quoted, and he himself became a stimulus. Agate was not a university man: he was a North Country cotton merchant and wartime army officer who had seen Sarah Bernhardt when he was 13. ‘Her acting,’ he said, ‘unveiled for me the ecstasy of the body and the torture of the mind.’ When he was 20, Agate went to Paris, to see the actress Réjane and ...

Blush, grandeur, blush

Norma Clarke: One of the first bluestockings

16 December 2004
Hannah More: The First Victorian 
by Anne Stott.
Oxford, 384 pp., £20, September 2004, 0 19 927488 6
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... her sister Patty began by setting up Sunday schools in a number of villages near their cottage at Cowslip Green in Somerset, following the well-known examples of Robert Raikes in Gloucestershire and Sarah Trimmer in Brentford. Patty kept a journal of the years 1789-99, published as Mendip Annals in 1859 and clearly intended for general edification. According to Patty, God (‘Providence’) started it ...

Even Uglier

Terry Eagleton: Music Hall

20 December 2012
My Old Man: A Personal History of Music Hall 
by John Major.
Harper, 363 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 00 745013 8
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... Verdi and other composers became a regular part of the entertainment. On one music-hall stage, George Robey, Harry Lauder, Dan Leno and Vesta Tilley rubbed shoulders with the likes of Sir Henry Wood, Sarah Bernhardt and the Ballets Russes. Dickens was fascinated by the performing style of Charles Mathews, a blacked-up minstrel, and put it to use in his own public readings, though without the burned ...

Topography v. Landscape

John Barrell: Paul Sandby

13 May 2010
Paul Sandby: Picturing Britain 
Royal AcademyShow More
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... scene with a rainbow, part Hobbema, part Rubens, is certainly heavy, but it is a sad coda to a career that had been based on deftness, on lightness of touch. A View of Vintners at Bexley, Kent, with Mr Whatman’s Turkey Papers Mills, 1794 Living so long, and exerting the influence he did over the development of watercolour, Sandby was described, when he died, as the ‘father of modern ...
9 May 2002
... the same then as it does now. I was born in Sundershall in 1960. I too am a Northerner then, though the Buntings have no historical connection to the North. My mother came from Devon, my father from Kent. Nor was either side distinguished. Despite my fondness for grandeur, I’m unable to tell you what the Buntings were doing during the Reformation, or even the Counter-Reformation. As far as I can ...

Good History

Christopher Hill

5 March 1981
After the Reformation: Essays in Honour of J.H. Hexter 
edited by Barbara Malament.
Manchester, 363 pp., £17.95, December 1980, 0 7190 0805 0
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Puritans and Adventurers 
by T.H. Breen.
Oxford, 270 pp., £10, October 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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On History 
by Fernand Braudel, translated by Sarah​ Matthews.
Weidenfeld, 226 pp., £10.95, January 1981, 0 297 77880 3
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Sociology and History 
by Peter Burke.
Allen and Unwin, 116 pp., £6.95, August 1980, 0 19 502728 0
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... Professor Breen looks, from the other side, at the particular time and place of emigration from England, and at reasons for emigrating. The vast mass of New England settlers came from East Anglia and Kent, clothing and Puritan counties. Professor Breen rightly refuses to distinguish between economic and religious reasons for emigration: both existed in Laud’s England, often in the same person. The ...

Like Unruly Children in a Citizenship Class

John Barrell: A hero for Howard

21 April 2005
The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for a Free Press 
by Ben Wilson.
Faber, 455 pp., £16.99, April 2005, 0 571 22470 9
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... Republicans and Levellers. Two years later, however, he joined the London Corresponding Society, and remained active in radical politics for the next thirty-odd years. At the age of 19 he married Sarah Johnson, his landlady’s daughter, and she brought him enough money to establish himself in Lambeth as a bookseller and stationer. He campaigned among other things for a new, more humane system of ...

Merely an Empire

David Thomson: Eighteen Hours in Vietnam

20 September 2017
The Vietnam War 
directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick.
PBS, ten episodes
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... made up for that. So we tell ourselves the world is in ferment and if fiction won’t handle it then let’s go with purported fact. In just the last few years we have had the enchanting enigma of Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell (the most Nabokovian film yet made), Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, and the landmark of Ezra Edelman’s O.J.: Made in America, the most complete and scary ...

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