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Coldbath Fields

Simon Bradley: In Praise of Peabody, 21 June 2007

London in the 19th Century: ‘A Human Awful Wonder of God’ 
by Jerry White.
Cape, 624 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 224 06272 5
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... Moulded in terracotta relief above the door of an austere building in Shoreditch, on the northern fringes of the City of London, is an arresting motto: E Pulvere Lux Et Vis. The ‘light’ and ‘power’ were electrical; the ‘dust’ that was burned to generate them was the refuse from the surrounding streets. Twenty thousand tons of this fuel, most of it horse dung, was gathered locally every year ...

In the City

Peter Campbell: Public sculpture, 22 May 2003

... of Britain. It does for public sculpture (but not sculpture inside churches or galleries) what Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner do for the buildings the sculpture is on (or near) in The Buildings of England volume on The City of London. In a way it does more. While buildings have to be interesting in themselves to get into Pevsner, Ward-Jackson can ...

Trains in Space

James Meek: The Great Train Robbery, 5 May 2016

The Railways: Nation, Network and People 
by Simon Bradley.
Profile, 645 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 1 84668 209 4
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... many times over, in the town where I grew up. Those engines were new in the 1970s. Unlike Simon Bradley I lack the trainspotter’s enthusiasm for locomotives, and I’ve had some horrible journeys on that train. But the theatrical grandeur of its arrival always alters my sense of my surroundings, as if a door had opened, offering a glimpse of an ...

Positively Spaced Out

Rosemary Hill: ‘The Building of England’, 6 September 2001

The Buildings of England: A Celebration Compiled to Mark 50 Years of the Pevsner Architectural Guides 
edited by Simon Bradley and Bridget Cherry.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 128 pp., £9.99, July 2001, 0 9527401 3 3
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... Pevsner’s is more difficult than it looks. It defeats A.N. Wilson in Who Was Oswald Fish?, as Simon Bradley points out in a wide-ranging essay on ‘Pevsner in Fiction, Theatre and Cinema’. Imitation even of the most laconic entries is difficult. Only Alan Hollinghurst, among Bradley’s examples, gets it nearly ...


Alan Hollinghurst: In Houston, 18 March 1999

... reading the wonderful fat new edition of Pevsner’s City of London, revised and expanded by Simon Bradley.* I found myself repeatedly escaping from the shallow architectural culture of Houston (founded 1836, the year of Texan independence) into imaginary rambles through my own city (founded 50 BC); and indulging a slightly self-conscious relish for ...

Our Trusty Friend the Watch

Simon Schaffer, 31 October 1996

Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of his Time 
by Dava Sobel.
Fourth Estate, 184 pp., £12.99, August 1996, 1 85702 502 4
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... or otherwise misused them. There were odious villains, such as the Astronomers Royal, James Bradley and Nevil Maskelyne, who used their Greenwich power base to orchestrate the conspiracy against Harrison. Maskelyne gloried in giving clockmakers ‘a bone to pick that would crack their teeth’. The day was saved by the King himself – mad George was ...

To Be or Knot to Be

Adam Phillips, 10 October 2013

The Hamlet Doctrine 
by Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster.
Verso, 269 pp., £14.99, September 2013, 978 1 78168 256 2
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... In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche gives what Simon Critchley and Jamieson Webster call a ‘fascinating short interpretation’ of Hamlet, from which they take their title. They don’t think much of the book up to that point: it’s when he gets to Hamlet, they argue, that Nietzsche wakes up. This isn’t a view everyone would share, but it’s of a piece with the many assured judgments they make about Hamlet in the play with the most canonically self-doubting hero ...

‘They got egg on their faces’

Leofranc Holford-Strevens: The Oxford English Dictionary, 20 November 2003

The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary 
by Simon Winchester.
Oxford, 260 pp., £12.99, October 2003, 0 19 860702 4
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... of Parliament, I must declare an interest: I am employed by the publisher of both the OED and Simon Winchester’s account of its genesis. However, I have had no involvement with the latter, whose author’s qualities are well known to readers of his previous books, most relevantly The Surgeon of Crowthorne, and little with the former, which hardly needs ...

Rare, Obsolete, New, Peculiar

Daisy Hay: Dictionary People, 19 October 2023

The Dictionary People: The Unsung Heroes who Created the Oxford English Dictionary 
by Sarah Ogilvie.
Chatto, 384 pp., £22, September, 978 1 78474 493 9
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... The result is a panoramic account of 19th-century literary life. ‘Just who were these people?’ Simon Winchester asked in The Meaning of Everything, his 2003 account of the dictionary. Ogilvie follows the paper trail they left, which extends all over Britain, Europe and the Anglophone world.She arranges her chapters, in lexicographical tradition, according ...


Iain Sinclair: Swimming on the 52nd Floor, 24 September 2015

... stone was laid on 18 March 1903. The official opening was on 25 June 1904. Ian Gordon and Simon Inglis’s book Great Lengths: The Historic Indoor Swimming Pools of Britain tells us that E.J. Wakeling, vice chairman of the Shoreditch Baths and Washhouses Committee, animated the occasion by plunging into the pool and swimming a 100-foot length ...

The Reaction Economy

William Davies, 2 March 2023

... the target was dramatically told ‘You’re on Candid Camera,’ to much shock and hilarity. As Bradley Clissold has argued, the success of Candid Camera can be understood in the context of Cold War anxieties over surveillance, providing a humorous release for the pressure of being or feeling watched that was an unsettling new affect in postwar ...

A Girl Called Retina

Tom Crewe: You’ll like it when you get there, 13 August 2020

British Summer Time Begins: The School Summer Holidays, 1930-80 
by Ysenda Maxtone Graham.
Little, Brown, 352 pp., £18.99, July 2020, 978 1 4087 1055 5
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... of knickers to dry in winter.’ These are women with names like Bubble Carew-Pole and Charlotte Bradley-Hanford and Juliet Mount Charles. Women who can say things like ‘My parents chose Wycombe Abbey because it was the nearest girls’ boarding school to Harley Street,’ or ‘My parents chose Heathfield because none of the girls had spots.’ Or, ‘My ...

The Fatness of Falstaff

Barbara Everett, 16 August 1990

... generated in opposition a series of essays implicitly radical in their attitudes. Looking back to Bradley’s very fine, essentially liberal, praise of Falstaff, Auden’s and Empson’s essays, for instance, like Orson Welles’s film, Chimes at Midnight, make a brilliant case, in different ways, for the old knight’s generous, even loving, even saintly ...


Barbara Everett, 31 March 1988

... equally wrong-headed and useful. The practice is summarised in the mocking footnote we attach to Bradley: ‘How many children had Lady Macbeth?’ A similar topic, once much debated though now rarely reverted to, is: ‘How old, exactly, is Hamlet?’ The dimensions of the problem are these. The Prince is introduced to us as an undergraduate. But in the ...

Who Are They?

Jenny Turner: The Institute of Ideas, 8 July 2010

... according to Monbiot the educational charity Sense about Science – a prominent supporter of Simon Singh in his recent dispute with the British Chiropractic Association – has a former LMer for a managing director, and another one as her deputy; the director of the Science Media Centre is Fiona Fox, a former LM contributor and younger sister of Claire ...

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