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Diary

Clive James, 18 March 1982

... The old year ends with Cambridge under snow. The world in winter like the Moon in spring Unyieldingly gives off a grey-blue glow. An icy laminate caps everything. Christmas looks Merry if you wish it so. One strives to hark the Herald Angels sing, But at each brief hiatus in the feast A bitter wind howls sadly from the east ...

Socialism without Socialism

Peter Jenkins, 20 March 1986

Socialist Register 1985/86: Social Democracy and After 
edited by Ralph Miliband, John Saville, Marcel Liebman and Leo Panitch.
Merlin, 489 pp., £15, February 1986, 9780850363395
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... preceded ‘Thatcherism’. Hobsbawm’s lecture was delivered in September 1978, before the winter of discontent and before the Conservatives’ coming to power. Hobsbawm drew attention to the decline of the working class, the erosion of its old solidarity, and the accompanying decline of the Labour Party’s electoral support since 1951. ‘We cannot ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London, 10 June 1999

The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... rudiments of a porte-cochère, but about men with mile-long drives, imperial staircases, built-in winter gardens and dining halls where ortolans met their hecatomb in the shimmer of onyx and ormolu. It is about men who bought mountains and islands in Scotland, complete with their populations; men who (like Sir Thomas Lipton) put their yachts at the king’s ...

Schusterism

C.H. Sisson, 18 April 1985

Diaries: 1923-1925 
by Siegfried Sassoon, edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Faber, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1985, 0 571 13322 3
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... my love of horses is deeply rooted, and I had an exiled feeling.’ One does not recall Sir Philip Sidney saying that horsemanship and poetry were alternatives, or the Earl of Dorset complaining that he could not write verses at sea. But Sassoon has the post-romantic disease: ‘How futile my existence sounds! It can only be judged by results (literary ...

Shaw tests the ice

Ronald Bryden, 18 December 1986

Bernard Shaw: The Diaries 1885-1897 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 1241 pp., £65, September 1986, 0 571 13901 9
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... its free desks, paper, pens and warmth, and the company of fellow students such as William Archer, Sidney Webb, Graham Wallas and Edith Nesbit, who dragged him out through the portico on 26 June 1886, to declare her passion for him. (‘A memorable evening!’ he jotted tersely.) The last group, the Fabians, gradually displaced all the others to become the ...

Lucifer

John Dunn, 4 April 1991

Saint-Just 
by Norman Hampson.
Blackwell, 245 pp., £27.50, January 1991, 9780631162339
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... of his role as representative of the Committee of Public Safety to the Army of the Rhine in the winter of 1793-94: J.P. Gross, Saint-Just, sa Politique et ses Missions (1976). The third was a biography, drawing on its author’s doctorat d’état, which greatly extended knowledge of the political and economic life of the little country town of Blérancourt ...

What Sport!

Paul Laity: George Steer, 5 June 2003

Telegram from Guernica: The Extraordinary Life of George Steer, War Correspondent 
by Nicholas Rankin.
Faber, 256 pp., £14.99, April 2003, 0 571 20563 1
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... by the sound of gunfire, took place at the British Legation, the residence of the Minister, Sir Sidney Barton. The newly-weds – the groom wearing a cap belonging to Haile Selassie’s pilot, the bride a trilby and strings of pearls – drank champagne then drove around the grounds in a pick-up truck, blowing on a hunting-horn. Margarita was born in ...
Stafford Cripps: A Political Life 
by Simon Burgess.
Gollancz, 374 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 575 06565 6
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... first Labour Government in 1924, along with his brother-in-law, Lord Passfield, better known as Sidney Webb. What with his father’s example, and the intermittent influence of Aunt Bo (as his mother’s sister Beatrice was known), young Stafford had the makings of a hereditary socialist toff – or so it might seem. He resisted his fate, however, and ...

Subject, Spectator, Phantom

J. Hoberman: The Strangest Personality Ever to Lead the Free World, 17 February 2005

Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief 
by Mark Feeney.
Chicago, 422 pp., £19.50, November 2004, 0 226 23968 3
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... The summer of 1970 was the winter of America’s discontent. Most of the nation’s colleges had been forced to shut down early in the wake of the Kent State massacre; anti-war protesters battled construction workers in the streets of New York; self-proclaimed political prisoners attempted bloody escapes; middle-class students planted bombs and robbed banks ...

Captain Swing

Eric Hobsbawm, 24 November 1994

The Duke Ellington Reader 
edited by Mark Tucker.
Oxford, 536 pp., £19.95, February 1994, 0 19 505410 5
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Swing Changes: Big-Band Jazz in New Deal America 
by David Stowe.
Harvard, 299 pp., £19.95, October 1994, 0 674 85825 5
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... sex. (Nevertheless, the tradition of apartheid was so strong that older musicians like Sidney Bechet forbade his sidemen to fraternise with white women even at Camp Unity, for fear that it might cost him his engagement.) ‘I think they were trying to prove how equalitarian they were,’ thought the admittedly unusual Dizzy Gillespie, who actually ...

Toolkit for Tinkerers

Colin Burrow: The Sonnet, 24 June 2010

The Art of the Sonnet 
by Stephanie Burt and David Mikics.
Harvard, 451 pp., £25.95, May 2010, 978 0 674 04814 0
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... sonnet has appealed to people who think of themselves as innovators or modernists – as Petrarch, Sidney, Dante, Michelangelo and Shakespeare did, as well as more recent experimenters such as Hopkins, John Berryman or the sub-Prynnean Tony Lopez. Donne and Hopkins used sonnets as vehicles for religious anguish because it’s so easy to suggest that they’re ...

He’s Bad, She’s Mad

Mary Hannity: HMP Holloway, 9 May 2019

Bad Girls: The Rebels and Renegades of Holloway Prison 
by Caitlin Davies.
John Murray, 373 pp., £10.99, February 2019, 978 1 4736 4776 3
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... had a list showing the daily prison routine. The day began at 5.45 a.m. in summer and 6.45 a.m. in winter (‘Rise, open ventilator, wash, fold bedding’) and ended at 9 p.m. (‘Sling hammock and prepare for bed … lights out’). ‘The light goes out,’ wrote Sylvia Pankhurst, who was imprisoned at Holloway in 1906, and then ‘darkness, a ...

Bournemouth

Andrew O’Hagan: The Bournemouth Set, 21 May 2020

... pine trees reminded Stevenson of Scotland, the chief territory of his imagination. They knew the winter would be a problem for him, but he got through it, coughing, feverish, staying in several boarding houses before coming into possession of a villa in the new year. Just west of the town, it was a present to Fanny from Stevenson’s parents, who were ...

A Man with My Trouble

Colm Tóibín: Henry James leaves home, 3 January 2008

The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume I 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 391 pp., £57, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2584 8
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The Complete Letters of Henry James, 1855-72: Volume II 
edited by Pierre Walker and Greg Zacharias.
Nebraska, 524 pp., £60, January 2007, 978 0 8032 2607 4
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... of Balzac, Flaubert and George Sand, and alert to the power of editors. After reading Sidney Colvin’s edition of the letters of his friend Robert Louis Stevenson, he wrote: ‘One has the vague sense of omissions and truncations – one smells the thing unprinted.’ In the years after James’s death, his family in the United States was ...

Hinsley’s History

Noël Annan, 1 August 1985

Diplomacy and Intelligence during the Second World War: Essays in Honour of F.H. Hinsley 
edited by Richard Langhorne.
Cambridge, 329 pp., £27.50, May 1985, 0 521 26840 0
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. I: 1939-Summer 1941, Vol. II: Mid-1941-Mid-1943, Vol. III, Part I: June 1943-June 1944 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 616 pp., £12.95, September 1979, 0 11 630933 4
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... their skill at chess. One of them, another Kingsman, was Alan Turing, who, with Gordon Welchman of Sidney Sussex, was foremost among those who decoded Ultra, encyphered on the Enigma machine, and, perhaps more than any single person, helped to save us from defeat in the battle of the Atlantic. When suddenly Japanese linguists had to be found, and there were ...

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