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Glaswegians

Andrew O’Hagan

11 May 1995
... to make them go all the way, but even with my fingers at full stretch I couldn’t grab the wooden thing behind. There was something there; I knew there was; it had been there for ages. My right hand could just flick the edge of the thing, just about pinch a corner, but there was no grabbing it. In the end I squeezed my body halfway round, and pulled ...

Fire and Ice

Patrick O’Brian

20 April 1989
Fire Down Below 
by William Golding.
Faber, 313 pp., £11.95, March 1989, 0 571 15203 1
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... the other parts being Rites of Passage and Close Quarters. The trilogy is about a voyage to Sydney in 1813, and a bald, merely literal account might run like this ... On the first page the hero appears, Edmund FitzHenry Talbot, an unformed young man of good family who is going out to help govern New South Wales in an aged line-of-battle ship, Captain ...

Get planting

Peter Campbell: Why Trees Matter

1 December 2005
The Secret Life of Trees: How They Live and Why They Matter 
by Colin Tudge.
Allen Lane, 452 pp., £20, November 2005, 0 7139 9698 6
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... In other places and at other times the lopped branches would have been a resource. In Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape (1976), Oliver Rackham makes a distinction between wood and timber. Wood, the renewable crop, the source of staves, bean poles, hurdles, fodder and fire...

Hons and Wets

D.A.N. Jones

6 December 1984
The House of Mitford 
by Jonathan Guinness and Catherine Guinness.
Hutchinson, 604 pp., £12.95, November 1984, 0 09 155560 4
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... elder, grander brother having been killed in action) and David married Tap’s dim daughter, Sydney. David and Sydney did not know how to be Lord and Lady Redesdale: perhaps, as Highland Fling suggests, no one quite knew what lords and ladies were for after 1918. The dim Redesdales produced the six Mitford girls, so ...
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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... of the ‘noble Houses of the Forest, Bliss Castle & Darwin Hall’ (nicknames for the Owen, Wedgwood and Darwin estates), allowing precise assessments of his attitude towards the Church, politics and nature. From such material must come new social reconstructions of Darwinism. The want of a definitive correspondence has been much felt. The Victorian Life ...

Dirty Linen

Patrick O’Brian

4 August 1994
Mr Bligh’s Bad Language: Passion, Power and Theatre on the ‘Bounty’ 
by Greg Dening.
Canto, 445 pp., £7.95, April 1994, 0 521 46718 7
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Admiral Satan: The Life and Campaigns of Suffren 
by Roderick Cavaliero.
Tauris, 312 pp., £29.95, May 1994, 9781850436867
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... return, laden with breadfruit trees, she stopped at an island some three weeks out of Tahiti for wood, water and victuals, including coconuts. Some days later, on 27 April 1789, Bligh came on deck in the morning and said that his personal store of coconuts had shrunk. After a great deal of fuss and hectoring he made all hands turn out their own ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster

10 June 2010
The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... never been so low – certainly not since the 1640s and 1650s. ‘The House of Commons,’ Sydney Smith said in 1819, ‘is falling into contempt with the people.’ Taxes were high and times were bad, and journalists like William Cobbett were radicalising popular opinion by lambasting ‘Old Corruption’. Parliament, Cobbett stormed, was ruining the ...

There’s Daddy

Michael Wood

13 February 1992
Flying in to Love 
by D.M. Thomas.
Bloomsbury, 262 pp., £14.99, February 1992, 0 7475 1129 2
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JFK 
directed by Oliver Stone.
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... of American (and no doubt other) life, of the infestation of conspiracies in the nation’s woodwork. The suggestion is not only that conspiracies are everywhere, but that the appetite for conspiracies is insatiable – that’s why there are so many. This may well be a post-Kennedy perception, part of what the death caused rather than of what caused ...

Now for the Hills

Stephanie Burt: Les Murray

16 March 2000
Collected Poems 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 476 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 1 85754 369 6
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Fredy Neptune 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 256 pp., £19.95, May 1999, 1 85754 433 1
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Conscious and Verbal 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £6.95, October 1999, 1 85754 453 6
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... adolescent: ‘all my names were fat-names, at my new town school.’ Murray went to university in Sydney, married in 1962, entered the Roman Catholic Church the following year, and published his first book of poems (a split volume with Geoff Lehmann) in 1965. In 1975 Murray bought the farm in Bunyah, succeeding where his father had failed; he, his wife and ...

Diary

Maya Jasanoff: In Sierra Leone

11 September 2008
... pulling into Valletta from Benghazi and heavy with men looking for work. I took a seat on the wooden benches of the first-class section. Over in the VIP lounge, the Chinese businessmen from my flight were relaxing over an ample supply of alcohol. But we had entertainment too, flickering across a small TV screen: a dramatic re-enactment of the capture and ...

As if Life Depended on It

John Mullan: With the Leavisites

12 September 2013
Memoirs of a Leavisite: The Decline and Fall of Cambridge English 
by David Ellis.
Liverpool, 151 pp., £25, April 2013, 978 1 84631 889 4
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English as a Vocation: The ‘Scrutiny’ Movement 
by Christopher Hilliard.
Oxford, 298 pp., £57, May 2012, 978 0 19 969517 1
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The Two Cultures? The Significance of C.P. Snow 
by F.R. Leavis.
Cambridge, 118 pp., £10.99, August 2013, 978 1 107 61735 3
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... ructions in Australian universities in the 1960s. These became so intense at the University of Sydney that for several years it offered two separate English curricula: one Leavisite (lots of close reading, dating of unseen passages and Lawrence) and one anti-Leavisite (compulsory palaeography, bibliography and editorial procedure). Oddly, Hilliard does not ...
26 July 1990
The Making of ‘The Golden Bough’: The Origin and Growth of an Argument 
by Robert Fraser.
Macmillan, 240 pp., £35, July 1990, 0 333 49631 0
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... operetta based on a play by none other than Lady Frazer (called, appropriately enough, The Singing Wood) and a display of indoor fireworks. Frazer himself, according to the reports, claimed to have been ‘particularly charmed’ by the fireworks – but, as he was by this date completely blind, one suspects a certain irony in the remark, perhaps even an ...

i could’ve sold to russia or china

Jeremy Harding: Bradley Manning

19 July 2012
The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story of the Suspect Behind the Largest Security Breach in US History 
by Chase Madar.
OR, 167 pp., £10, April 2012, 978 1 935928 53 9
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... the head of the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a written statement for the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this month that he had indeed ‘caused serious harm to US national security and he should be prosecuted accordingly.’ That might mean little in an election year, but what of the alarming trove of email traffic at Stratfor, the ...

In a Cold Country

Michael Wood: Coetzee’s Grumpy Voice

4 October 2007
Diary of a Bad Year 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 231 pp., £16.99, September 2007, 978 1 84655 120 8
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Inner Workings: Essays 2000-2005 
by J.M. Coetzee.
Harvill, 304 pp., £17.99, March 2007, 978 1 84655 045 4
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... a story and tells it to Anya, who understands it so perfectly that she is willing to come back to Sydney and see him as far as the gate of death when the time arrives. The story would be called ‘something like “Desolation”’:One holds on to the belief that someone, somewhere, loves one enough to hold on to one, keep one from being torn away. But the ...

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