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Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts, 28 October 1999

The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... Celtic Studies, or Celticism, has rarely been disinterested. In 1884 one James Cruikshank Roger published Celticism: A Myth. The title was ‘intended to express’ his ‘conviction that the assumption of Celtic civilisation and Celtic art is utterly without foundation’. Encouraged by the press reception, Roger showed his hand in the second edition: ‘Let him who will, deduce his origin from the shiftless savage of the British isles, I am content to believe myself of that great Teutonic stock, which has ruled the world in the past, and will rule it to the end of time ...

Raven’s Odyssey

D.A.N. Jones, 19 July 1984

Swallow 
by D.M. Thomas.
Gollancz, 312 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 575 03446 7
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First Among Equals 
by Jeffrey Archer.
Hodder, 446 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 0 340 35266 3
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Morning Star 
by Simon Raven.
Blond and Briggs, 264 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 9780856341380
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... three got the idea from the newspapers. In Morning Star (named after Lucifer, not the newspaper), Simon Raven tells of a Conservative MP whose ‘swallow’ is described as ‘a half-caste tart in India’. In First Among Equals, Jeffrey Archer introduces a Labour MP who is likewise endangered by a young black girl ‘in a white leather mini skirt so short it ...

His Spittin’ Image

Colm Tóibín: John Stanislaus Joyce, 22 February 2018

... his father died. Synge makes an attempted parricide the theme of his Playboy of the Western World; James Joyce describes in Ulysses how Stephen Dedalus, disowning his own parent, searches for another father. Portrait of John Stanislaus Joyce by Patrick Tuohy (1923) Just as Oscar Wilde began to become himself the year after his father’s death, when he ...

Rigging and Bending

Simon Adams: James VI & I, 9 October 2003

The Cradle King: A Life of James VI & I 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 438 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7011 6984 2
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... Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587. English observers, anxious about James VI of Scotland’s reaction to his mother’s execution, were alarmed to discover that the greatest of the Scottish Catholic peers, George Gordon, Sixth Earl of Huntly, was rapidly becoming his chief confidant. In 1588 James arranged Huntly’s marriage to Henrietta Stuart, daughter of his former favourite the Duke of Lennox, thus admitting him into the wider royal family ...

Bonté Gracieuse!

Mary Beard: Astérix Redux, 21 February 2002

Asterix and the Actress 
by Albert Uderzo, translated by Anthea Bell.
Orion, 48 pp., £9.99, April 2001, 0 7528 4657 4
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... life has not yet been immortalised in a strip cartoon. But some years ago the archaeologist Simon James drew a single comic vignette, which has become famous among classicists for encapsulating the new approach to the history of Roman imperialism in the northern provinces. It shows a small native homestead, with a traditional round Iron Age hut and ...

Nostalgia for the Vestry

James Buchan: Thatcherism, 30 November 2006

Thatcher and Sons: A Revolution in Three Acts 
by Simon Jenkins.
Allen Lane, 375 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 7139 9595 5
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... on the queen and no doubt wrote the words as an aide-memoire on the short drive back through St James Park from Buckingham Palace. It is as if on 18 June 1940 Churchill had had before him in the House of Commons a note saying Battle – France – Over – Battle – Britain – Begin. In her 11 years in power, Thatcher duly gave the public all the ...
Goldenballs 
by Richard Ingrams.
Private Eye/Deutsch, 144 pp., £4.25
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... It was for services ‘to exports and ecology’ that Sir James Goldsmith was nominated for a peerage, and then demoted to a knight by the Scrutiny Committee, in what is bitterly remembered as the Wilson Honours List. Was there a connection between Sir James’s elevation and his year-long battle to punish Private Eye and jail its editor, Richard Ingrams – an effort which was supported by Wilson and Lady Falkender, both victims of Ingrams’s harassment, and which petered out in a relatively painless settlement in 1976? Ingrams’s theory is that there was such a connection ...

Round the (Next) Bend

Simon Adams: Sir Walter Ralegh, 6 July 2000

The Letters of Sir Walter Raleigh 
edited by Agnes Latham and Joyce Youings.
Exeter, 403 pp., £45, July 1999, 0 85989 527 0
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... of 1618, Diego Sarmiento de Acuna, Count of Gondomar, Ambassador of Philip III to the Court of James I had a clever idea. For four years the proposal that James’s son Prince Charles should marry the Infanta Maria had been batted to and fro between London and Madrid in an attempt to bring about an Anglo-Spanish ...

Crypto-Republican

Simon Adams: Was Mary Queen of Scots a Murderer?, 11 June 2009

Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by Stephen Alford.
Yale, 412 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 0 300 11896 4
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... auncient weale.’ The precise date is not clear; my own preference is early September, just after James Hamilton, Earl of Arran, arrived in England from the Continent. The phrase reads that if Mary (then living in France) did not accept what Cecil considered a reasonable solution to the Scottish revolt, ‘then humbly they [the Scottish Parliament] may commit ...

What Nanny Didn’t Tell Me

Bernard Porter: Simon Mann, 26 January 2012

Cry Havoc 
by Simon Mann.
John Blake, 351 pp., £19.99, November 2011, 978 1 84358 403 2
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... In Frederick Forsyth’s The Dogs of War, Sir James Manson hires a mercenary called ‘Cat’ Shannon to stage a coup in the tiny West African state of Zangaro – Equatorial Guinea thinly disguised – and replace its tyrannical president with one who will, perhaps, be less tyrannical, and will definitely grant Sir James the highly profitable platinum-mining concession he wants ...

Amigos

Christopher Ricks, 2 August 1984

The Faber Book of Parodies 
edited by Simon Brett.
Faber, 383 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 571 13125 5
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Lilibet: An Account in Verse of the Early Years of the Queen until the Time of her Accession 
by Her Majesty.
Blond and Briggs, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1984, 0 85634 157 6
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... of parodies. This is not it. The superiority of Dwight Macdonald’s old enduring anthology to Simon Brett’s new ephemeral one begins in Macdonald’s not being a sloven. When Pope was imitating Chaucer, he did not write, ‘This sely Clerk full doth lout,’ but ‘full low doth lout’, a line which has rhythm and sense. Lewis Carroll, bent upon ...

Episteme, My Arse

Christopher Tayler: Laurent Binet, 14 June 2017

The Seventh Function of Language 
by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor.
Harvill Secker, 390 pp., £16.99, May 2017, 978 1 910701 58 4
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... directs him to the University of Paris VIII at Vincennes. There he finds a young lecturer, Simon Herzog, teaching an introductory semiology course with examples from the James Bond films – material, at last, that Bayard is at home with, as well as a nod to Umberto Eco’s analysis of Ian Fleming’s narrative ...

A prince, too, can do his bit

K.D. Reynolds: King Edward VII and George VI, 27 April 2000

Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII 
by Simon Heffer.
Weidenfeld, 342 pp., £20, August 1998, 9780297842200
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A Spirit Undaunted: The Political Role of George VI 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Little, Brown, 368 pp., £22.50, November 1998, 0 316 64765 9
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... that the monarchy is, and has been for more than a century, politically impotent and irrelevant. Simon Heffer and the late Robert Rhodes James have thought differently, and rightly so. Recent indignation over the ‘co-option’ of royal events by Tony Blair highlights the uses to which politicians can put the monarchy; it ...

Flat-Nose, Stocky and Beautugly

James Davidson: Greek Names, 23 September 2010

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. V.A Coastal Asia Minor: Pontos to Ionia 
edited by T. Corsten.
Oxford, 496 pp., £125, March 2010, 978 0 19 956743 0
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... christened John and the vast majority of the other men and boys around at the time were Joseph, James, Thomas or William. Around 1850, however, the repertoire of names in regular use began to increase rapidly. As Gothic-looking steeples rose around the country, so medieval-sounding names crowded around the font: Arthur, Walter, Harold and ...

Wasps and all

Philip Horne, 8 December 1988

A Chinese Summer 
by Mark Illis.
Bloomsbury, 135 pp., £11.95, October 1988, 0 7475 0257 9
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Three Uneasy Pieces 
by Patrick White.
Cape, 59 pp., £7.95, October 1988, 0 224 02594 5
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The Captain and the Enemy 
by Graham Greene.
Reinhardt, 189 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 1 871061 05 9
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View of Dawn in the Tropics 
by G. Cabrera Infante, translated by Suzanne Jill Levine.
Faber, 163 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 571 15186 8
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The House of Stairs 
by Barbara Vine.
Viking, 282 pp., £11.95, September 1988, 0 670 82414 3
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... rather than to far-flung travel, that ‘Chinese’ in the title refers. The haunted narrator, Simon, tells us a story which is exotic or romantic only in his head, but is intriguingly so there. Daydreams and hallucinations unsettlingly alternate with sharp noticings. In a seeming paradox he ‘reads the thoughts’ of a fellow passenger on the Tube as ...

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