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Simon Schaffer, 6 April 1995

Sir Hans Sloane: Collector, Scientist, Antiquary, Founding Father of the British Museum 
edited by Arthur MacGregor.
British Museum, 308 pp., £50, November 1994, 0 7141 2085 5
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... judged, because ‘no one would be so ridiculous as to bury their ivory teeth, which are of high price with all nations.’ Sloane’s ‘knick-knackatory’, as it was impiously called, was intimately connected with the emerging status of London as a world entrepôt. Mercantile credit and reputation were keys to public success, as much for Sloane’s ...

Like Colonel Sanders

Christopher Tayler: The Stan Lee Era, 2 December 2021

True Believer: The Rise and Fall of Stan Lee 
by Abraham Riesman.
Bantam, 320 pp., £20, February, 978 0 593 13571 6
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Stan Lee: A Life in Comics 
by Liel Leibovitz.
Yale, 192 pp., £16.99, June 2020, 978 0 300 23034 5
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... to flood the market with similar titles. When Stanley joined the company as an assistant to Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in 1939, the first superhero craze was in full swing, and his bosses were about to launch Captain America, the most successful of several Nazi-punching heroes invented around that time. Comic books got cheaper postal rates if they included ...

Monopoly Mule

Anthony Howard, 25 January 1996

Plant Here the ‘Standard’ 
by Dennis Griffiths.
Macmillan, 417 pp., £35, November 1995, 0 333 55565 1
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... in the morning market. (Incidentally, it was the Standard that pioneered the Murdoch strategy of price-cutting by competitively bringing its price down to a penny in 1858.) Some awkward questions are raised even by this era of its history. There is ample evidence that the Standard was regularly in receipt of subventions ...


Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... suffered the anachronism of his view. Like Larkin, with his perfunctory condescension to ‘A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple’, Thomas, so casually and at times so randomly managing his verse-lines, evinces a far greater contempt for the common man than Yeats or Lawrence or Pound, who so vehemently castigated that man for not being other than he ...

The Mess They’re In

Ross McKibbin: Labour’s Limited Options, 20 October 2011

... responsibility for coalition policies; and the non-ministerial MPs, who include the deputy leader, Simon Hughes, and various spokespeople, and who often act as though the coalition doesn’t exist. Nick Clegg has been an ineffective leader: he made a mess of the negotiations that led to the formation of the coalition, and a mess of the AV referendum (from ...

Baseball’s Loss

Geoffrey Hawthorn: The Unstoppable Hugo Chávez, 1 November 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope 
by Tariq Ali.
Verso, 244 pp., £14.99, November 2006, 9781844671021
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Democracy and Revolution: Latin America and Socialism Today 
by D.L. Raby.
Pluto, 280 pp., £18.99, July 2006, 0 7453 2436 3
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Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s Revolution, Latin America Report No. 19 
by International Crisis Group.
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... championing of the poor), and extended a placating patronage. In the mid-1980s, however, the price of oil fell, borrowings made against future revenue could not be repaid, the patronage dried up, and in February 1989, faced with rising prices imposed in an emergency agreement with the IMF, the poor came down from the barrios in Caracas to riot. Chávez ...


Lawrence Stone, 22 November 1990

The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy 
by David Cannadine.
Yale, 813 pp., £19.95, October 1990, 0 300 04761 4
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... of history, none them less than six hundred pages, have become best-sellers: for example, Simon Schama’s Citizens, Roy Foster’s Modern Ireland. Jonathan Spence’s Search for Modern China. And now here comes another one, 813 pages of it, which is virtually certain also to be a best-seller, at least in Britain. The general outlines of the decline ...

‘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 ...
Stafford Cripps: A Political Life 
by Simon Burgess.
Gollancz, 374 pp., £25, November 1999, 0 575 06565 6
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... watching him leave the room on one occasion: ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes God.’ Simon Burgess has seized the opportunity to present much the most rounded account to date of Cripps’s remarkable political career. This is a well-balanced and well-written book, developing its interpretation in an accessible and generally persuasive way. It ...

Against the Pussyfoots

Steven Shapin: George Saintsbury, 10 September 2009

Notes on a Cellar-Book 
by George Saintsbury, edited by Thomas Pinney.
California, 348 pp., £20.95, October 2008, 978 0 520 25352 0
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... quantified on a 100-point scale. Among the founding fathers of this modern vocabulary were André Simon, Alexis Lichine and A.J. Liebling, whose New Yorker pieces included stuff like the following, about a modest southern French rosé: ‘Tavel has a rose-cerise “robe”, like a number of well-known racing silks, but its taste is not thin or acidulous, as ...

The Only Way

Sam Kinchin-Smith: Culinary Mansplaining, 4 January 2018

... his excellent television programmes. But thanks to some of the cooks cited in his bibliography – Simon Hopkinson, say, whose Roast Chicken and Other Stories (Ebury, £16.99) is a founding text of contemporary cookbook-writing, or Fergus Henderson, whose St John restaurants trained many of London’s newish wave of serious chefs – and to his and Gill’s ...

The Politics of Good Intentions

David Runciman: Blair’s Masochism, 8 May 2003

... get on with the task in hand, in the knowledge that dirty hands, and a soiled conscience, are the price that all politicians have to pay. Responsible politicians will suffer, but they should suffer in silence, because the test of politics is whether you can cope with the knowledge that you are not as good as you would like to be. How easy, though, is it to ...

All the Cultural Bases

Ian Sansom, 20 March 1997

Moon Country: Further Reports from Iceland 
by Simon Armitage and Glyn Maxwell.
Faber, 160 pp., £7.99, November 1996, 0 571 17539 2
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... to a certain B. Mellor, who apparently bought the book in Blackwells, Oxford, in October 1937, price nine shillings. All in all, my Letters from Iceland is a sturdy and well-made object of considerable literary and historical interest, which has sustained numerous readings and spillages, while remaining in excellent condition. ...

Prophet of the Rocks

Richard Fortey: William Smith, 9 August 2001

The Map that Changed the World: The Tale of William Smith and the Birth of a Science 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 338 pp., £12.99, August 2001, 0 670 88407 3
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... for many years – a period throughout which he laboured alone to be a true prophet of the rocks. Simon Winchester has done a considerable service to geology in rescuing Smith from comparative obscurity. It seems extraordinary that Darwin has had several dozen biographies and T.H. Huxley not so many fewer, yet Smith has been celebrated only by his nephew John ...

The First Hundred Years

James Buchan, 24 August 1995

John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... The division of labour, whose language is money, helps us to prosperity and liberty but at the price of atomising our picture of the world. The labourer, Smith writes, is ‘not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment ...

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