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Boy’s Own

Erika Hagelberg: Adam, Eve and genetics, 20 November 2003

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Astonishing Story that Reveals How Each of Us Can Trace Our Genetic Ancestors 
by Bryan Sykes.
Corgi, 368 pp., £6.99, May 2002, 0 552 14876 8
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Mapping Human History: Unravelling the Mystery of Adam and Eve 
by Steve Olson.
Bloomsbury, 293 pp., £7.99, July 2003, 0 7475 6174 5
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The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey 
by Spencer Wells.
Penguin, 224 pp., £8.99, May 2003, 0 14 100832 6
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... so that male customers can identify their paternal lineage. The Y chromosome – the subject of Spencer Wells’s The Journey of Man – is the genetic structure, passed from fathers to sons, that determines maleness. It is relatively large and complicated, and it took scientists quite a time to find markers suitable for its use in population ...

Gynaecological Proletarians

Anne Summers, 10 October 1991

The Charge of the Parasols: Women’s Entry to the Medical Profession 
by Catriona Blake.
Women’s Press, 254 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 0 7043 4239 1
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Women under the Knife: A History of Surgery 
by Ann Dally.
Radius, 289 pp., £18.99, April 1991, 9780091745080
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The Science of Woman: Gynaecology and Gender in England, 1800-1929 
by Ornella Moscucci.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £35, April 1991, 0 521 32741 5
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... flourished in the United States well into the 1920s. In 1891 the eminent British surgeon, Thomas Spencer Wells, expressed his outrage at this state of affairs in images which no contemporary feminist could have bettered. He denounced the ‘gynaecological proletarians’ who performed ovariotomies on unscientific and frivolous grounds: ‘If we hold the ...

Too late to die early

Ruth Bernard Yeazell: Virginia Woolf and Harriet Martineaun in the sick room, 5 February 2004

Life in the Sick-Room 
by Harriet Martineau, edited by Maria Frawley.
Broadview, 260 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 1 55111 265 5
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On Being Ill 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Hermione Lee.
Paris Press, 28 pp., £15, October 2002, 1 930464 06 1
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... proof that her faith in mesmeric treatment was an illusion. Later that same month, Thomas Spencer Wells, a prominent specialist in ovarian diseases, delivered a lecture on the case to the Clinical Society of London, in which he described the growth itself – displayed for the audience together with a specimen bottle of its contents – as common ...
... have also managed to neutralise much of what they show. Buildings like those of Lubetkin or Wells Coates, for instance, were presented as solutions, not creations, and to suggest, as the exhibition must, that other conventions have equal validity undermines the fragile logic that supported their simplicities. A fragment of a Rex Whistler ...

Sidney and Beatrice

Michael Holroyd, 25 October 1979

A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb 
by Jeanne Mackenzie.
Weidenfeld, 148 pp., £5.50
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... pair – ‘two active self-centred people, excessively devoted to the public cause,’ as H.G. Wells characterised them in The New Machiavelli – was the oddest romance in the Fabian calendar and a triumph for Sidney’s policy of gradualism. Beatrice was 34 at the time of their marriage and apparently determined to prove an old maid. Handsome, with huge ...

The Sun-Bather

Michael Neve, 3 July 1980

Havelock Ellis 
by Phyllis Grosskurth.
Allen Lane, 492 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 7139 1071 2
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... and accuracies of the natural sciences. This is as true of the tedious volumes of Herbert Spencer, who needed a special chair, fitted with nails, to stop him falling asleep, as it is of Marxism. It holds, too, for the spate of scientific programmes, many of them German in origin, that were laid down for the attack on the final citadel: sex. Towards ...


Iain Sinclair: My Olympics, 30 August 2012

... proudly flying its Jolly Roger, is a coffin-sized craft belonging to a researcher called Mike Wells. He has made it his business, despite numerous brushes with security guards and large dogs, to record and report every stage of the recent enclosures. He helped to commission two substantial scientific reports on the actual (rather than the ...

Did Lady Brewster faint?

Eric Korn, 24 April 1997

Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 372 pp., £20, March 1997, 0 7181 3882 1
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... the right. The image is smudged; one has a skull beside him, one may be a woman, one may be H.G. Wells. They are looking up at the camera; after the shutter has closed they will look down their microscopes and see what they are told to see, for microscopy is a mystery and Huxley its magus. In the great age of burgeoning laboratories, designed to turn out ...

Getting on

Paul Addison, 9 October 1986

On Living in an Old Country 
by Patrick Wright.
Verso, 262 pp., £5.95, September 1985, 0 86091 833 5
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Religion and Public Doctrine in Modern England. Vol. II: Assaults 
by Maurice Cowling.
Cambridge, 375 pp., £30, November 1985, 0 521 25959 2
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... assaulting traditional Christianity in the name of science and the religion of progress: Buckle, Spencer, Huxley and Morley among others. After about 1880 we pass into the company of a third group whose most prominent figures include Shaw, Wells, Lawrence and Russell. They form, Cowling explains, a second generation of ...

Chimps and Bulldogs

Stefan Collini: The Huxley Inheritance, 8 September 2022

An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family 
by Alison Bashford.
Allen Lane, 529 pp., £30, September 2022, 978 0 241 43432 1
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... to smuggle some sense of direction or progress back into this account – the ambiguity of Herbert Spencer’s coinage ‘the survival of the fittest’ allowed many to see it as a constant process of improvement – but the strict logic of Darwin’s mechanism didn’t warrant any such comforting inference: chance dictated the appearance of mutations, and the ...


John Sutherland, 23 March 1995

Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple 
by Adrian Desmond.
Joseph, 474 pp., £20, November 1994, 0 7181 3641 1
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... account is designed to sanitise our view of Huxley. It was in his last years that he became, with Spencer, the populariser of vulgar Darwinism and its crude applications to social and ethnic conflict. If one were to take the whole picture, rather than the three-quarter length portrait that Desmond gives us, it might seem logical to see Huxley’s bequest in ...


Iain Sinclair: At Bluewater, 3 January 2002

... In The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells’s Martians had the good sense to make landfall near Woking. ‘Hundreds of observers saw the flame that night and the night after, about midnight, and again the night after; and so for ten nights, a flame each night.’ Technologically primitive Surrey suburbanites were zapped by future war weaponry; it was a horribly unequal contest ...

Oh for the oo tray

William Feaver: Edward Burra, 13 December 2007

Edward Burra: Twentieth-Century Eye 
by Jane Stevenson.
Cape, 496 pp., £30, November 2007, 978 0 224 07875 7
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... one who gossiped most in his art, devilling away at the details like another Dadd. Where Stanley Spencer laced his Cookham scenes with the Song of Solomon and Havelock Ellis, forever explicating in spidery handwriting, Burra made his Burra-Burra pictures speak for themselves – i.e. for him – without notes. Descriptive accounts of a few of them, here and ...

We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... their ‘crafty mingling of accurate observation with metaphorical form’ to the work of Stanley Spencer. Motion is usually perceptive in his sometimes quite elaborate commentaries on paintings (looking at the reproduction of A Sergeant of the Light Horse, I wouldn’t agree, though, with either part of his verdict that it is ‘a masterpiece of ...


Frank Kermode, 22 May 1986

Pound, Yeats, Eliot and the Modernist Movement 
by C.K. Stead.
Macmillan, 393 pp., £27.50, March 1986, 0 333 37457 6
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The Myth of Modernism and 20th-century Literature 
by Bernard Bergonzi.
Harvester, 216 pp., £25, January 1986, 0 7108 1002 4
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The Innocent Eye: On Modern Literature and the Arts 
by Roger Shattuck.
Faber, 362 pp., £15, March 1986, 0 571 12071 7
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... out doing something that made him seem a bit déclassé. Bergonzi discusses Bloomsbury or Bennett, Wells or Wyndham Lewis, Davie or Fredric Jameson, in the same informed, unassertive tone; the most memorable essay is actually an attack on Terry Eagleton, but the manner remains moderate even as the shafts go home. Bergonzi has obviously made a bourgeois ...

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