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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 ...

Era of Wonders

Eric Hobsbawm: Mandarin Science, 26 February 2009

Bomb, Book and Compass: Joseph Needham and the Great Secrets of China 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 316 pp., £20, September 2008, 978 0 670 91379 4
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... extent, in China itself. That titanic project naturally dominates the lively new biography by Simon Winchester, a writer who has specialised in books tying individuals to great achievements. Its original American title was The Man Who Loved China, and Needham’s life before his energies and emotions were turned to China are dealt with in 23 fairly ...

‘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 ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Chicanery and Fantasy, 6 June 2019

... of Canterbury) and nine wrong. He claimed, falsely, to have written a book called Know Yourself. Simon Winchester blurbs Sisman’s book as an ‘utterly mad and wholly delightful story of chicanery and fantasy … which involves a man who relentlessly duped our most cherished institutions of godly pursuit and higher learning’. This, incidentally, is ...

Outbreak of Pleasure

Angus Calder, 23 January 1986

Now the war is over: A Social History of Britain 1945-51 
by Paul Addison.
BBC/Cape, 223 pp., £10.95, September 1985, 0 563 20407 9
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England First and Last 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 212 pp., £12.50, October 1985, 0 571 13587 0
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A World Still to Win: The Reconstruction of the Post-War Working Class 
by Trevor Blackwell and Jeremy Seabrook.
Faber, 189 pp., £4.50, October 1985, 0 571 13701 6
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The Issue of War: States, Societies and the Far Eastern Conflict of 1941-1945 
by Christopher Thorne.
Hamish Hamilton, 364 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 241 10239 1
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The Hiroshima Maidens 
by Rodney Barker.
Viking, 240 pp., £9.95, July 1985, 0 670 80609 9
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Faces of Hiroshima: A Report 
by Anne Chisholm.
Cape, 182 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 0 224 02831 6
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End of Empire 
by Brain Lapping.
Granada, 560 pp., £14.95, March 1985, 0 246 11969 1
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by Simon Winchester.
Hodder, 317 pp., £12.95, October 1985, 0 340 33772 9
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... of Empire whose people, except for those in Hong Kong, were now especially dependent on Britain. Simon Winchester recently made it his ambition to visit all 16 populated areas still formally under Crown control. He couldn’t get to Pitcairn in the end, but did manage to reach Tristan da Cunha, and he has many good anecdotes to tell. His occupation as ...

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 ...

King shall hold kingdom

Tom Shippey: Æthelred the Unready, 30 March 2017

Æthelred: The Unready 
by Levi Roach.
Yale, 369 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 300 19629 0
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... observation and commemoration with attractively dispassionate analysis. In his entry for 897, the Winchester chronicler concludes his account of the long struggle between Alfred and the Vikings by saying that it had not, after all, been totally overwhelming: the Vikings had been bad, disease and cattle plague were worse, but the worst thing was the high ...

With Great Stomack

Simon Schaffer: Christopher Wren, 21 February 2002

His Invention so Fertile: A Life of Christopher Wren 
by Adrian Tinniswood.
Cape, 463 pp., £25, July 2001, 9780224042987
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... of St Paul’s and the complex of buildings at Greenwich to the abortive plans for Whitehall, Winchester and the rebuilding of the entire City of London. As indispensable accompaniment to this survey, the biography also rehearses Wren’s crucial work in astronomy, medicine and mechanics, most of it conducted even before his assumption of the post of ...


Ian Buruma, 13 May 1993

Gower: The Autobiography 
by David Gower and Martin Johnson.
Collins Willow, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 0 00 218413 3
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... Australians, and Gooch will escort him off the field, brawny arm wrapped around delicate shoulder. Simon Heffer, in the Evening Standard, wrote a more ill-tempered piece, in which he deplored the fact that Mr M. Atherton (Manchester Grammar and Cambridge) was frozen out of Gooch, G.’s secondary-modern circle. The likes of Gooch – the dependable sergeant ...

Costa del Pym

Nicholas Spice, 4 July 1985

Crampton Hodnet 
by Barbara Pym.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 0 333 39129 2
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Foreign Land 
by Jonathan Raban.
Harvill, 352 pp., £9.50, June 1985, 0 00 222918 8
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Black Marina 
by Emma Tennant.
Faber, 157 pp., £8.95, June 1985, 9780571134670
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... his mistake; Anthea Cleveland has her heart temporarily broken by an Old Etonian undergraduate, Simon Beddoes; and Mr Cleveland, Anthea’s father, becomes infatuated with his pupil Barbara Bird, who is quite happy to return the sentiment so long as it does not entail kissing and ‘that sort of thing’. Francis Cleveland’s affair with Barbara is much ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... boats from nostalgic black and white photographs. It was an unoptioned metaphor with its own poet, Simon Armitage, hired to knock up a thousand-line tribute. Time drifted. The 12 minutes of the virtual reality journey in the brochures was actually the time between trains, the time spent enjoying the strange termini in which potential travellers are ...

Fetch the Chopping Knife

Charles Nicholl: Murder on Bankside, 4 November 2021

... This play is also lost, but it was seen at the Rose in early 1600 by the astrologer-physician Simon Forman. His brief account of it, found among his manuscripts at the Bodleian, reveals a farrago of greed and gore: pure pulp melodrama. It begins with John Cox shooting ‘an arrowe thorow his unkells head to have his land’. After Cox’s death the next ...

In the Châtelet

Jeremy Harding, 20 April 1995

François Villon: Complete Poems 
edited by Barbara Sargent-Bauer.
Toronto, 346 pp., £42, January 1995, 0 8020 2946 9
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Basil Bunting: Complete Poems 
edited by Richard Caddel.
Oxford, 226 pp., £10.99, September 1994, 0 19 282282 9
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... and correspondence, that when he refused to eat for a part of his term, the Governor of Winchester jail had a roast chicken delivered to his cell ‘every morning’ of his fast. Pound telegrams the same story in Canto 74: ‘Bunting/ doing six months after that war was over/as pacifist tempted with chicken.’ Although Bunting gave more and more ...

The Party in Government

Conor Gearty, 9 March 1995

... to the business of making money. During the 1989-90 Parliamentary session, the Tory Member for Winchester, John Browne, was suspended from the Commons for 20 days for having failed to disclose various interests and items of remuneration, including an $88,000 payment from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency for a study he wrote for them. He did not fight the ...

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