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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 ...
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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... Curiously enough, such a ‘swallow’ appears in both the other novels under review. Perhaps all 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 ...

His Spittin’ Image

Colm Tóibín: John Stanislaus Joyce

22 February 2018
... in his Confessions of a Young Man, blatantly proclaims his sense of liberation and relief when 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 ...

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 ...

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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... without even realising it.’) He decides to seek out an interpreter, and a sniffy person at the Sorbonne 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 ...

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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... minister, 4 May 1979: ‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony.’ Thatcher had just called 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 ...

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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... their lives could – if they wished – continue much as before. This new version of Roman provincial life has not yet been immortalised in a strip cartoon. But some years ago the archaeologist SimonJames 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 ...

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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... Crown and Parliament necessarily mean a decline in the power of the throne? There are those who assert 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 ...

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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... Faber – Faber have published a very good anthology 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 ...

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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... this foreignness, and the need to interpret it, the psychological after-effect of emotional disturbance, 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 ...

Our Founder

John Bayley: Papa Joyce

19 February 1998
John Stanislaus Joyce: The Voluminous Life and Genius of James​ Joyce’s Father 
by John Wyse Jackson and Peter Costello.
Fourth Estate, 493 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 85702 417 6
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... old style of the Nineties. Paradoxically, it is not composed but spoken. The voice that echoes through it, the voices rather, and the tones, are those of the old artificer, the father of the tribe, Simon Dedalus, John Stanislaus Joyce. Like the violins of Cremona, Dubliners, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake are the products of a joint concern, a family undertaking. Joyce himself was frank about this. As long ...

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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... In the summer 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 alliance. It was very much Gondomar’s own ...

Squealing

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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... of Albion will come together in Victory. Gower will return this year to make a century against the 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 ...

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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... summer of 1559: ‘A memoriall of certain pointes meete for restoring the realme of Scotland to the 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 ...

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 ...

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