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Tinkering

John Maynard Smith, 17 September 1981

The Panda’s Thumb: More Reflections in Natural History 
by Stephen Jay Gould.
Norton, 343 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 393 01380 4
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... digits just like other bears. The apparent ‘thumb’ is a modification and extension of a small bone in the wrist. For Stephen Gould, this is a particular and fascinating fact, but it is also an illustration of a general principle. The principle is that evolution proceeds by tinkering with what is already there, and ...

Victorian Vocations

Frank Kermode, 6 December 1984

Frederic Harrison: The Vocations of a Positivist 
by Martha Vogeler.
Oxford, 493 pp., £27.50, September 1984, 0 19 824733 8
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Leslie StephenThe Godless Victorian 
by Noël Annan.
Weidenfeld, 432 pp., £16.50, September 1984, 0 297 78369 6
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... Frederic Harrison once climbed Mont Blanc and found Leslie Stephen on the top. Not an improbable location for the encounter of two eminent Victorians: and they might equally have met in George Eliot’s drawing-room. Whereas Stephen was much the more distinguished mountaineer, Harrison probably knew George Eliot better: he helped her work out the legal plot of Felix Holt, a service for which she may have owed him more gratitude than we need to feel ...

Word-Processing

Stephen Wall, 12 September 1991

Hidden in the Heart 
by Dan Jacobson.
Bloomsbury, 182 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 7475 0981 6
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A Landing on the Sun 
by Michael Frayn.
Viking, 256 pp., £14.99, September 1991, 0 670 83932 9
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... is the last thing he proposed to himself in his Bloemfontein adolescence, reading Joyce and taking Stephen Daedalus’s intention to fly by the nets of nationality, language and religion as a guide. He is too ambitious to be content with becoming a second-rate writer (which is what the poems included tactfully indicate), and settles for a Civil Service career ...

Nuclear Smuggling

Stephen Smith, 10 June 1993

... sore. The skin that isn’t open is a rich vermilion. For an hour last year, Adamski carried two small metal pots in his shirt pocket. He was with a group of ‘Polish businessmen’ in Zurich. He later told police he thought the pots contained some harmlessly indivisible element – it might have been neon, he is quoted as saying in one statement. He was ...

Diary

Stephen Smith: On the Applegarth, 13 April 2000

... couldn’t stop. The tug rolled to port, and under the freezing Mersey. The Applegarth was small but she was solid, dense. She had her hatches open – this wasn’t open sea, after all, but the river, barely a hundred yards from a landing stage where office workers caught the ferry to Liverpool every morning – and her companionways, her cabin and ...

Stepchildren

Elspeth Barker, 9 April 1992

Stepsons 
by Robert Liddell.
Peter Owen, 228 pp., £14.95, February 1992, 0 7206 0853 8
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Farewell Sidonia 
by Erich Hackl.
Cape, 135 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 224 02901 0
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... close ones, she wrote vigorous letters, and especially to Oswald Faringdon, widowed father of two small boys, far off in Egypt. ‘I wonder how you would care for life out here?’ he wrote, intending speculation but absent-mindedly posing a question instead. Elsa believed that she was being offered a new life. ‘Yes,’ she replied. And so by a quirk of ...

The Pain of History

Stephen Brook, 19 February 1981

The Star-Apple Kingdom 
by Derek Walcott.
Cape, 58 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 224 01780 2
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Selected Poems 1961-1978 
by David Holbrook.
Anvil, 143 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 85646 066 4
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Death Valley and Other Poems in America 
by Alan Ross.
London Magazine Editions, 92 pp., £3, June 1980, 0 904388 32 8
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Poems 1955-1980 
by Roy Fisher.
Oxford, 193 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 211935 4
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A.R.T.H.U.R. & M.A.R.T.H.A. 
by Laurence Lerner.
Secker, 69 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 436 24440 3
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... his published poems and prose poems. Until now, his work has been available (if at all) only from small presses. He has nonetheless acquired a substantial reputation, and the publication of this collected volume shows it to be justified. Fisher occupies a curious spot in British poetry: although the dominant influences on his writing appear to be American ...

‘Fluent Gaul has taught the British advocates’

Stephen Sedley: Dispute Resolution, 12 February 2009

Early English Arbitration 
by Derek Roebuck.
Holo, 312 pp., £40, April 2008, 978 0 9544056 1 8
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... ascertainable laws and an adequate apparatus of adjudication and enforcement. Simple societies and small communities, lacking this, need other ways of preventing resort to self-help and violence each time a dispute arises. Communal pressure on the parties to find a compromise is one way, akin to modern methods of mediation. Another is to encourage or permit ...

In Memory of Michael Rogin

Stephen Greenblatt, 3 January 2002

... his ever looking around or looking away when we were talking, except to light another of the small cheroots to which he was addicted. And the quality of his attention was remarkable: incidental details and chance remarks dropped away, and suddenly you found yourself confronting something at the centre of your life. Or rather, the chance remarks you made ...

The Ultimate Novel

William Empson, 19 August 1982

Ulysses 
by Hugh Kenner.
Allen and Unwin, 182 pp., £10, March 1980, 0 00 480003 6
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A Starchamber Quiry: A James Joyce Centennial Volume 1882-1982 
edited by E.L. Epstein.
Methuen, 164 pp., £9.50, February 1982, 0 416 31560 7
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... own book. He puts a new idea of his own into both of these books, and it urgently needs refuting. Stephen, he says (Kenner’s Ulysses, p. 152), is practically blind all through the book; his eyes without his glasses focus eight inches in front of his nose, and he broke them ‘yesterday’. This proves that whenever he claims to see anything he is only ...

Short Cuts

Stephen W. Smith: The ICC, 15 December 2016

... That Burundi walked out – it was the first to do so – wasn’t much of a surprise: this small East African state, which neighbours Rwanda, has been under investigation since its president, Pierre Nkurunziza, imposed a reign of terror in order to secure a third term in office, which he was constitutionally barred from seeking. The Gambia, a ...

The smallest details speak the loudest

John Upton: The Stephen Lawrence inquiry, 1 July 1999

The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry 
by Sir William Macpherson.
Stationery Office, 335 pp., £26, February 1999, 0 10 142622 4
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The Case of Stephen Lawrence 
by Brian Cathcart.
Viking, 418 pp., £16.99, May 1999, 0 670 88604 1
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... There are now two Stephen Lawrences. The first, the murdered 18-year-old victim of racism. The second, a cultural balloon with Stephen Lawrence’s image on it: a balloon so large there is barely any space left in which to think objectively about Lawrence, his murder and the subsequent investigations and Inquiry ...

Two Poems

Gavin Ewart, 23 May 1991

... e! I’m flatter, some think, than a quiche but still I have my own small niche; and, with luck, I can bend your ear like Stephen Spend-                                                 er! The Function of Pets In many households the pets are the ...

Narrow Places

Brad Leithauser, 15 October 1987

Selected Poems 
by Molly Holden.
Carcanet, 126 pp., £6.95, June 1987, 0 85635 696 4
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The Player Queen’s Wife 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 78 pp., £8.95, November 1987, 0 571 14998 7
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The Consuming Myth: The Work of James Merrill 
by Stephen Yenser.
Harvard, 367 pp., £21.95, June 1987, 0 674 16615 9
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... brazen music to poems that might well be described as miniatures. Her poems tended toward the small in regard both to subject-manner (birds, bushes, mosses, babies) and duration. Of the 96 lyrics assembled in her new Selected Poems, only seven run to two pages; none extends to three or more. She seems by temperament to have been a direct soul. Her poems ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... Mr Stephen is editing a little dictionary,’ a friend explained to a clergyman foolhardy enough to ask whether Leslie ‘did any writing’. The enterprise in question was the DNB, one of those grandiosely-conceived and indefatigably-executed works of late 19th-century self-regard, comparable to the Victoria County Histories and the Survey of London ...

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