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The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. IV: 1847-1850 
edited by Frederic Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 744 pp., £32.50, February 1989, 0 521 25590 2
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Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction 
by George Levine.
Harvard, 336 pp., £21.95, November 1988, 0 674 19285 0
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... How clever of Nature to ‘choose’ Darwin to teach the world that she has, against the prevailing view of natural theology, no purpose, no teleology, no choice. No one could be more gentlemanly, cautious, desirous of conforming, unwilling to shock or upset – yet no one could be more deliberate, more stubborn in holding to an opinion once embraced – than Darwin ...

Big Ben

Stephen Fender, 18 September 1986

Franklin of Philadelphia 
by Esmond Wright.
Harvard, 404 pp., £21.25, May 1986, 0 674 31809 9
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... and Washingtons, and all the other sages and heroes of [the American] revolution,’ said Sydney Smith in his ‘Who reads an American book?’ piece in the Edinburgh Review (1820), ‘were born and bred subjects of the King of England.’ The Tory Quarterly for January 1814, lamenting the victory in America of ‘democracy and Franklin’, had ...

Darwin among the Gentry

Adrian Desmond, 23 May 1985

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. I: 1821-1836 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 702 pp., £30, March 1985, 0 521 25587 2
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The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea 
by Ronald Clark.
Weidenfeld, 449 pp., £14.95, April 1985, 0 297 78377 7
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... sea devils’ chasing him home. From Tahiti, ‘that fallen paradise’, he travelled to Sydney and platypi-shoots, on to the Cape, where he met Sir John Herschel (‘awful’ manners). Even then, FitzRoy – a stickler for precision – re-crossed the Atlantic to South America for more measurements before heading for Falmouth. Darwin arrived in ...

England rejects

V.G. Kiernan, 19 March 1987

The Fatal Shore: A History of the Transportation of Convicts to Australia, 1787-1868 
by Robert Hughes.
Collins Harvill, 688 pp., £15, January 1987, 0 00 217361 1
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Rights of Passage: Emigration to Australia in the 19th Century 
by Helen Woolcock.
Tavistock, 377 pp., £25, September 1986, 9780422602402
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... Two notables who figure in these pages in a very unfavourable light are that fun-loving clergyman, Sydney Smith, and the then unregenerate Tory, Gladstone. George Arthur, governor of Van Diemen’s Land or Tasmania from 1824, was a puritanically self-righteous person, convinced that mankind is ‘born and saturated in wickedness’ and that his wards, in ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... In 1850 Dickens invented a little game for his seventh child, three-year-old Sydney, the tiniest boy in a family of short people. Initially, in fun, Dickens had asked Sydney to go to the railway station to meet a friend; innocent and enterprising, to everyone’s amusement the boy set off through the garden gate into the street; then someone had to rush out and bring him back ...

Laundering Britain’s Past

Marilyn Butler, 12 September 1991

The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 1095 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 297 81207 6
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... for whom he has no other use. Equally, though the period had its rent-a-quote men, most notably Sydney Smith, he resists the temptation to overuse them. Among the best of his lesser wits is Agnes, estranged wife of the Anglican educationalist Joseph Bell. She persecuted her husband ingeniously by endorsing her letters to him on the outside with jokes ...

The Kentish Hog

Adrian Desmond, 15 October 1987

The Correspondence of Charles Darwin. Vol. II: 1837-1843 
edited by Frederick Burkhardt and Sydney Smith.
Cambridge, 603 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 521 25588 0
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The Works of Charles Darwin 
edited by Paul Barrett and R.B. Freeman.
Pickering & Chatto, 10 pp., £470, March 1987, 1 85196 002 3
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The Darwinian Heritage 
edited by David Kohn.
Princeton, 1138 pp., £67.90, February 1986, 0 691 08356 8
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Western Science in the Arab World: The Impact of Darwinism, 1860-1930 
by Adel Ziadat.
Macmillan, 162 pp., £27.50, October 1986, 0 333 41856 5
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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate 1844-1944 
by Peter Bowler.
Blackwell, 318 pp., £25, February 1987, 0 631 15264 4
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Controversy in Victorian Geology: The Cambrian-Silurian Dispute 
by James Secord.
Princeton, 363 pp., £33.10, October 1986, 0 691 08417 3
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Darwin’s Metaphor: Nature’s Place in Victorian Culture 
by Robert Young.
Cambridge, 341 pp., £30, October 1985, 0 521 31742 8
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... David Kohn opens his monumental Darwinian Heritage with a deftly-delivered kick, observing that a study of the wider institutional culture of Darwin’s day seems to be ‘beyond the present ken of historians of 19th-century biology’. It’s a well-aimed blow. Little of the Darwin industry’s capital has been spent on exploring evolution in its social context ...

Rotten, Wicked, Tyrannical

Bernard Porter: The Meek Assassin, 5 July 2012

Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die: The Assassination of a British Prime Minister 
by Andro Linklater.
Bloomsbury, 296 pp., £18.99, May 2012, 978 1 4088 2840 3
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... not have been enough. Even if he was the personal and domestic paragon they all claimed he was, Sydney Smith wrote some years later, that didn’t mean he was a wise leader: ‘I should prefer that he … whipped his boys, and saved his country.’ His religion was of a simple kind, relying on his personal relationship with his God, which we now know ...

Was Plato too fat?

Rosemary Hill: The Stuff of Life, 10 October 2019

Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life 
by Christopher Forth.
Reaktion, 352 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 78914 062 0
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... popular while the normal diet grew heavier and indigestion became endemic. Good digestion, said Sydney Smith, ‘is the great secret of life’. The science of nutrition was slow to catch up. The Carlyles’ doctor’s advice to avoid vegetables did nothing to relieve their constipation, as Jane recounted in her journals. In expanding cities space was ...

Urban Humanist

Sydney Checkland, 15 September 1983

Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History by H.J. Dyos 
edited by David Cannadine and David Reeder.
Cambridge, 258 pp., £20, September 1982, 0 521 24624 5
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Themes in Urban History: Patricians, Power and Politics in 19th-Century Towns 
edited by David Cannadine.
Leicester University Press, 224 pp., £16.50, October 1982, 9780718511937
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... either his own or somebody else’s. There is, indeed, much truth in this notion, for, as Adam Smith had implied, the market, together with its twin, private property, was the great invoker of city-building energies and the great though blind mediator of their outcome. But then in the last years of Victoria’s reign the great faults of the cities began to ...

Diary

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

... It was feared that even the mighty yen was in turnaround, so heaven help the poor old pound. Sydney had been up for a couple of hours, and one trader on the cobber bourse was reported as saying that ‘sterling just walked off a cliff.’ In the dealing rooms, they call this kind of talk ‘sentiment’. It seemed as though the safest place to be was ...

White Lie Number Ten

Nicholas Jose: Australia’s aboriginal sovereignty, 19 February 1998

Race Matters: Indigenous Australians and ‘Our’ Society 
edited by Gillian Cowlishaw and Barry Morris.
Aboriginal Studies Press, 295 pp., AUS $29.95, March 1998, 0 85575 294 7
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Aboriginal Sovereignty: Reflections on Race, State and Nation 
by Henry Reynolds.
Allen and Unwin, 221 pp., AUS $17.95, July 1996, 1 86373 969 6
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... that befitted a burgeoning colony. Today the site is the forecourt of the new Museum of Sydney, with the ghostly floor-plan of the original residence picked out in white on the granite flagstones. At its perimeter, adjoining a row of Victorian terraces once used for Customs and Immigration, stand 29 pillars of sandstone, steel, I-beam and ...

Time of the Red-Man

Mark Ford: James Fenimore Cooper, 25 September 2008

James Fenimore Cooper: The Early Years 
by Wayne Franklin.
Yale, 708 pp., £25, July 2008, 978 0 300 10805 7
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... infancy. ‘In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American book?’ the British critic Sydney Smith had asked in the Edinburgh Review in January 1820. By this point, only around eighty American novels had been published, and the best known was Charles Brockden Brown’s macabre Edgar Huntley (1799), although Washington Irving’s collection of ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... on Rhetoric and Belies Lettres in Edinburgh, it was at Glasgow University in 1751 that Adam Smith became the first person to give an official university course in English that dealt with the technique and appreciation of modern writers in that language as well as in the Classical tongues. Hugh Blair, a Church of Scotland minister who from 1762 became ...

The Numinous Moose

Helen Vendler, 11 March 1993

Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It 
by Brett Millier.
California, 602 pp., £18.50, April 1993, 0 520 07978 7
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... thoughts against thoughts in groans grind. For too long, Bishop had lived these moral choices of life/death, right/wrong, male/female: but at last, the early happy years with Lota had made them seem irrelevant, and Bishop, longing for Paradise since her blighted childhood, felt she had found it at Santarém: That golden evening I really wanted to go no farther; more than anything else I wanted to stay awhile in that conflux of two great rivers ...

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