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Histories of Australia

Stuart Macintyre, 28 September 1989

The Oxford History of Autralia. Vol III: 1860-1900 
by Beverley Kingston.
Oxford, 368 pp., £22.50, July 1989, 0 19 554611 3
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The Road from Coorain: An Australian Memoir 
by Jill Ker Conway.
Heinemann, 238 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 434 14244 1
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A Secret Country 
by John Pilger.
Cape, 286 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 224 02600 3
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Convict Workers: Reinterpreting Australia’s Past 
edited by Stephen Nicholas.
Cambridge, 246 pp., $45, June 1989, 0 521 36126 5
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... An older generation of my compatriots would regard an Oxford history of Australia as an oxymoron. Quite early in the preparation of my own volume in the series of that name, I became interested in Bill Somerville, a trade-unionist who for nearly forty years served as the workers’ representative on the industrial tribunal of Western Australia. A skilled craftsman (his union, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, rejoiced in the title of ‘the tin gods’), he grew up, with the Australian labour movement, in the hungry Nineties when troops were used to crush the shearers, miners and transport workers ...

The First Protest

Stephen Frears, 24 May 2018

... drama. I was possibly the only Englishman there. I remember interviewing the American director Nicholas Ray in his small hotel room – he began the interview by sweeping his dressing table clear of all his pill bottles – and I remember a meeting in a cinema in Paris. Renoir was there, bald-headed and wearing a mac, and Truffaut and Simone Signoret with ...


Stephen Smith: What’s become of Barings?, 23 March 1995

... sky to fall. The markets were re-opening after the weekend when the world first heard the name of Nicholas Leeson, the man who broke the bank in Singapore. It’s hard to remember how that dawn felt – now that we have reassured ourselves at the building society, peeped with relief beneath the mattress, patted the nest-egg – but the mood then was that the ...


Nicholas Spice, 1 October 1987

The Child in Time 
by Ian McEwan.
Cape, 220 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 9780224024990
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The Book and the Brotherhood 
by Iris Murdoch.
Chatto, 601 pp., £11.95, September 1987, 0 7011 3251 5
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... more effectively be felt to struggle for breath. The author’s humane values are looked after by Stephen Lewis, celebrated children’s book writer and member of the Parmenter Sub-Committee on Reading and Writing, one of 14 committees detailed to report back to the Official Commission on Childcare, ‘known to be a pet concern of the Prime ...

Let’s to billiards

Stephen Walsh: Constant Lambert, 22 January 2015

Constant Lambert: Beyond the Rio Grande 
by Stephen Lloyd.
Boydell, 584 pp., £45, March 2014, 978 1 84383 898 2
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... was a lot more to him than one-liners and limericks; and if one thing emerges from the thickets of Stephen Lloyd’s excessively long biography, it is that Lambert had one of the finest musical minds of his generation and a critical faculty second to almost none. During his lifetime, you would have come across him as a conductor, either at the Vic-Wells ...

Mailer’s Muddy Friend

Stephen Ambrose, 1 September 1988

Citizen Cohn 
by Nicholas von Hoffman.
Harrap, 483 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 0 245 54605 7
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... with more celebrities than any other American. He did favours for them all, and they for him. Nicholas von Hoffman, a liberal news reporter who had been appalled by the young Roy Cohn who wreaked such havoc as Senator Joe McCarthy’s aide, has fallen into Cohn’s web, become entranced by him, and tries to get away with presenting him as a lovable ...

Mr Who He?

Stephen Orgel: Shakespeare’s Poems, 8 August 2002

The Complete Sonnets and Poems 
by William Shakespeare, edited by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 750 pp., £65, February 2002, 9780198184317
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... was not a great success, and there wasn’t another until 1710, when a supplementary volume to Nicholas Rowe’s edition of Shakespeare’s plays reprinted Benson’s text. Benson’s revision remained the standard text until late in the 18th century; and indeed, these versions of the poems were still being reprinted in the 19th century. The return to the ...


Blake Morrison: On the Independent on Sunday , 27 May 1993

... journalists; there wouldn’t be a proprietor pulling the strings. I might have been less naive if Nicholas Garland’s story of the muddle-and-fudge launch of the daily Independent, in his book Not Many Dead, had then been available. I might have thought differently, too, if I’d known that the inspiration for that innovatory Review dummy had been Motorcycle ...

Put it in your suitcase

Nicholas Penny: Sotheby’s, 18 March 1999

Sotheby’s: Bidding for Class 
by Robert Lacey.
Little, Brown, 354 pp., £20, May 1998, 0 316 64447 1
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Sotheby’s: Inside Story 
by Peter Watson.
Bloomsbury, 325 pp., £7.99, May 1998, 0 7475 3808 5
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... and Post-Impressionist pictures, Wilson relied on advance payments to the Parisian dealers Stephen Higgons and his wife, who obtained paintings from other dealers and runners who wanted immediate payment. The full extent of the Higgons account was concealed from the firm’s financial director. Then, during the mid-Seventies, there was a row with the ...
Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature 
by Linda Lear.
Allen Lane, 634 pp., £25, March 1998, 0 7139 9236 0
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... she published. Carson began writing very early. At the age of ten she wrote war stories for St Nicholas, the best children’s magazine of its day; later, she won a scholarship to read English at Pennsylvania College for Women. There, however, she switched to science, under the influence of a brilliant biology teacher, Mary Scott Skinker. Carson paid her ...

Short Cuts

Stephen Sedley: Equality Legislation, 7 February 2019

... James would have got in free; but for her sex Mrs James would have had to pay. In other words, as Nicholas Bamforth’s essay in Foundations of Indirect Discrimination Law points out, pensionable age, which had been adopted by the council as an indicator of hardship, was treated by the judges as a proxy or surrogate for gender. Subsequent court decisions have ...

Not Making it

Stephen Fender, 24 October 1991

The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and how it changed America 
by Nicholas Lemann.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £20, August 1991, 0 333 56584 3
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... to extend their possibilities, and they were willing to uproot themselves in order to do so. Nicholas Lemann’s judicious, well-written study concentrates on the poor blacks of Clarksdale, Mississippi, who moved to Chicago. The invention and production of cotton-picking machines had begun to undercut the value of their work, while Chicago, deprived of ...

Straw Ghosts

Nicholas Humphrey, 2 October 1980

This house is haunted: An Investigation of the Enfield Poltergeist 
by Guy Lyon Playfair.
Souvenir, 288 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 285 62443 1
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Science and the Supernatural 
by John Taylor.
Temple Smith, 180 pp., £7.50, June 1980, 0 85117 191 5
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... are indirectly responsible because it is they who have upset the poltergeist. When it appears that Stephen North, one of the child-star spoon-benders, always gets his best results just as Mrs North interrupts the experimental session by bringing in the tea, Professor John Hasted concludes that Stephen is marshalling his ...

Chattering Stony Names

Nicholas Penny: Painting in Marble, 20 May 2021

Painting in Stone: Architecture and the Poetics of Marble from Antiquity to the Enlightenment 
by Fabio Barry.
Yale, 438 pp., £50, October 2020, 978 0 300 24816 6
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... Butters’s The Triumph of Vulcan (1996), which includes a photograph of the English sculptor Stephen Cox (born 1946), stripped to the waist, caressing the smooth flanks of the quarry on Mons Porphyrites. Cox was the first person since antiquity to obtain porphyry from this source, and a huge chunk of it, partly worked by him and partly by Roman quarry ...

Ne me touchez pas

Nicholas Spice: Debussy’s Mission, 24 October 2019

Debussy: A Painter in Sound 
by Stephen Walsh.
Faber, 368 pp., £15.99, March 2018, 978 0 571 33016 4
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Claude Debussy: A Critical Biography 
by François Lesure, translated by Marie Rolf.
Rochester, 478 pp., £40, June 2019, 978 1 58046 903 6
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... appear more decorative than radical. The shock of the new is hard to feel at a distance, but as Stephen Walsh observes, we expect the music of the modernist generation, of whom Debussy was the first, to be difficult, abstruse, even rebarbative. The works of Schoenberg, Webern, Stravinsky and Bartók continue to present us with a residue of toughness. By ...

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