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Is It Glamorous?

David Simpson: Stefan Collini​ among the Intellectuals

6 March 2008
Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 544 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 19 929105 5
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... in the Sunday Express, which in the late 1950s had a circulation of four million and paid him up to £100 a time – a very considerable sum. These are among the many striking items of information in StefanCollini’s Absent Minds, whose title appears to accept the myth that the book disputes: that there are no British intellectuals – intellectuals are always elsewhere – or that those who think of ...
4 December 1980
Lewis Namier and Zionism 
by Norman Rose.
Oxford, 182 pp., £9.95, October 1980, 0 19 822621 7
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Personal Impressions 
by Isaiah Berlin.
Hogarth, 219 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 7012 0510 5
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... At All Souls in 1932, Lewis Namier provoked Isaiah Berlin by scornfully dismissing the history of ideas – dismissing it in German, though the rest of the conversation (or rather harangue) was conducted in English – as ‘what one Jew cribs from another’. But for some unpredictable migrations and a few world-historical hiccups in the previous decades, this exchange might have been taking place ...
7 April 1994
After the Victorians: Private Conscience and Public Duty in Modern Britain 
edited by Susan Pedersen and Peter Mandler.
Routledge, 265 pp., £40, February 1994, 0 415 07056 2
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... In the Seventies and Eighties, right-wing think-tanks and their academic lapdogs put about the idea that the ills of contemporary Britain were fundamentally due to its genteel aversion to industrialism and its sentimental attachment to collectivism. The selective accounts of the past that were intended to support this diagnosis traced the aetiology of these ailments back to the late 19th century, and ...

Athenian View

Michael Brock

12 March 1992
Public Moralists: Political Thought and Intellectual Life in Britain, 1850-1930 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 383 pp., £40, September 1991, 0 19 820173 7
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... In seven of the nine chapters in this fine book Dr Collini depicts the denizens of the Athenaeum in its great days. T.H. Huxley, having left his umbrella at Matthew Arnold’s, asks his friend to ‘bring it next time you come to the club’. Leslie Stephen ...

Enisled

John Sutherland: Matthew Arnold

19 March 1998
A Gift Imprisoned: The Poetic Life of Matthew Arnold 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 241 pp., £17.99, March 1998, 0 7475 3671 6
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... letters pages of the TLS). Following the line opened by Lionel Trilling’s ‘biography of a mind’ in America and by Raymond Williams’s Arnoldian meditations in Culture and Society in Britain, StefanCollini produced his impressive Matthew Arnold: A Critical Portrait in 1994. And there have been two cap-à-pie biographies: Park Honan’s in 1981 (with its provocative identification of ...

The Cookson Story

Stefan Collini: The British Working Class

13 December 2001
The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes 
by Jonathan Rose.
Yale, 534 pp., £29.95, June 2001, 0 300 08886 8
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... Reading may not make the world go round but it can make it go away, for a while. If one’s world is dirty, poor, oppressive and unfair, then that may be no small service. Books furnish the mind in a form that the bailiffs cannot repossess. If we could recover the reading practices of past generations, we would be in touch with an experience that was at once intimate and formative, on a par with, even ...

The Tell-Tale Trolley

Stefan Collini

8 September 1994
Townscape with Figures: Farnham, Portrait of an English Town 
by Richard Hoggart.
Chatto, 205 pp., £16.99, June 1994, 0 7011 6138 8
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... Walking along the main street of Farnham one afternoon, Richard Hoggart was accosted by a drunk. He didn’t ask for money or spit ill-focused abuse. ‘I know who you are,’ he slurred, ‘and I’ve got one question for you. Who’s the better writer, you or Raymond Williams?’ Reading this, I found I was disappointed that the level of literary criticism among Farnham’s drunks was so low. Surely ...

Highlight of Stay So Far

Stefan Collini: Beckett’s Letters

1 December 2016
The Letters of Samuel Beckett Vol. IV: 1966-89 
edited by George Craig, Martha Dow Fehsenfeld, Dan Gunn and Lois More Overbeck.
Cambridge, 838 pp., £29.99, September 2016, 978 0 521 86796 2
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... Faced​ with the threatening possibility of hope, Beckett liked to get his retaliation in first. ‘Downhill begins this year,’ he announced with grim satisfaction in 1966. Even this may have been a slip, allowing the possibility of there having been an ‘up’ from which to come down. Usually his defences were in place in advance: ‘All is I suppose as well as can be expected by one with my powers ...

Uncle Wiz

Stefan Collini: Auden

15 July 2015
Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, Vol. V: 1963-68 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 561 pp., £44.95, June 2015, 978 0 691 15171 7
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Complete Works of W.H. Auden: Prose, Vol. VI: 1969-73 
edited by Edward Mendelson.
Princeton, 790 pp., £44.95, June 2015, 978 0 691 15171 7
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... Auden​ loved aphorisms, extracts, notes, lists. It was not just the shortness of short forms that he approved of: he liked their refusal of system even more, their acknowledgment that fragmentariness can only ever be papered over, never wholly subsumed. The nearest he came to publishing an autobiography, which was not very near at all, was A Certain World (1970), a commonplace book made up of his ...

How to Be Ourselves

Stefan Collini: Mark Greif

19 October 2016
Against Everything: On Dishonest Times 
by Mark Greif.
Verso, 304 pp., £16.99, September 2016, 978 1 78478 592 5
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... When​ the American journal n+1 was launched in 2004, an editorial in the first number lamented the state of contemporary culture. We are living, it said, at ‘a time when serious writing about culture has become the exclusive province of bullies, reactionaries and Englishmen’. The prominence of a number of male English writers in the leading US organs of opinion had been remarked elsewhere, but ...

Rabbits Addressed by a Stoat

Stefan Collini: Émigré Dons

12 July 2017
Ark of Civilisation: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University, 1930-45 
edited by Sally Crawford, Katharina Ulmschneider and Jaś Elsner.
Oxford, 396 pp., £75, March 2017, 978 0 19 968755 8
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... Where​ would you have found, in 1940, ‘the most elite university in the world in terms of the pool of scholars it contained’? The answer, according to the editors’ introduction to Ark of Civilisation: Refugee Scholars and Oxford University 1930-45, isn’t any of the great institutions that may come to mind, but Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man. As the result of a slightly panicky policy ...

Delighted to See Himself

Stefan Collini: Maurice Bowra

12 February 2009
Maurice Bowra: A Life 
by Leslie Mitchell.
Oxford, 385 pp., £25, February 2009, 978 0 19 929584 5
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... What is the best case that can be made for Maurice Bowra? In his day, and it was a long day, he was the most celebrated don in Oxford, and therefore in England. Born in 1898, he became a fellow of Wadham in 1922; he was elected its warden in 1938, holding that office, astonishingly, until 1970; he died a year later. He wrote or edited some thirty books, mostly semi-scholarly, semi-popular expositions ...

Diary

Stefan Collini: The Marketisation Doctrine

10 May 2018
... But why​ have they done this?’ Standing in the foyer of the National Theatre in Prague, having just taken part in a debate on ‘The Political Role of Universities?’, I had fallen into conversation with a former rector of Charles University, who was asking me to explain the dramatic and – as we both thought – damaging changes imposed on British universities in the past decade. It wasn’t ...

A Lot to Be Said

Stefan Collini: Literary Criticism

2 November 2017
Literary Criticism: A Concise Political History 
by Joseph North.
Harvard, 272 pp., £31.95, May 2017, 978 0 674 96773 1
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... Scanning​ recent academic literary studies for examples of what he calls ‘a genuinely critical impulse’, Joseph North picks out D.A. Miller’s subtle analysis of Jane Austen’s prose. ‘The critical voice speaking here is quite remarkable for the finesse with which it mimics the rhetorical effect it is describing,’ North writes, referring to a passage in which Miller dilates on the apparent ...

The Enlightened Vote

Stefan Collini: Ernest Renan

9 December 2019
‘What Is a Nation?’ and Other Political Writings 
by Ernest Renan, translated and edited by M.F.N. Giglioli.
Columbia, 328 pp., £62, September 2018, 978 0 231 17430 5
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... Whatever may be the judgment of time on the intrinsic value of Renan’s contribution to the sum of knowledge, he can never lose his place among the few great names in the history of letters.’ This assessment from the 1901 edition of Chambers’s Encyclopedia, equally striking today for its confidence and its remoteness, summarises the conventional wisdom at the beginning of the 20th century ...

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