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Keith Thomas: Smells of Hell, 16 July 2020

Smells: A Cultural History of Odours in Early Modern Times 
by Robert Muchembled, translated by Susan Pickford.
Polity, 216 pp., £17.99, May, 978 1 5095 3677 1
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The Clean Body: A Modern History 
by Peter Ward.
McGill-Queen’s, 313 pp., £27.99, December 2019, 978 0 7735 5938 7
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... with strong smells tended to breed acceptance or even dependence. The Elizabethan entomologist Thomas Muffet (now remembered only for his daughter’s encounter with a spider) told the story of a man who used to clean privies entering an apothecary’s shop in Antwerp. He smelled the spices and promptly fainted. Fortunately, a bystander rushed ...


John Sutherland: The crisis in academic publishing, 22 January 2004

... raised the profile and prestige of the institution. It was good PR to have published scholarship brand-named Princeton, or Yale, or Chicago. Two of these legs have now collapsed, throwing the profession into the crisis which induced Greenblatt to issue his profession-wide mailshot. The increasing sophistication of the interlibrary loan system, and the ...

What’s so good about Reid?

Galen Strawson, 22 February 1990

Thomas Reid’s ‘Inquiry’: The Geometry of Visibles and the Case for Realism 
by Norman Daniels.
Stanford, 160 pp., £25, May 1989, 0 8047 1504 1
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Common Sense 
by Lynd Forguson.
Routledge, 193 pp., £30, November 1989, 0 415 02302 5
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Thomas Reid and the ‘Way of Ideas’ 
by Roger Gallie.
Reidel, 287 pp., £42, July 1989, 0 7923 0390 3
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Philosophy and Science in the Scottish Enlightenment 
edited by Peter Jones.
John Donald, 230 pp., £20, October 1989, 0 85976 225 4
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Studies in the Philosophy of the Scottish Enlightenment 
edited by M.A. Stewart.
Oxford, 328 pp., £37.50, January 1990, 0 19 824967 5
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Thomas Reid 
by Keith Lehrer.
Routledge, 311 pp., £35, September 1989, 0 415 03886 3
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... pressed: Nicholas Malebranche (b. 1638), to be inserted between Leibniz and Locke; and Thomas Reid (1710-96), best inserted between Hume and Kant rather than between Berkeley and Hume, on the grounds that his major works are a response to Hume, who was his junior by exactly one year.Rebounding passionately from Hume, Reid founded the Scottish ...

Microwaved Turkey

Thomas Jones: Tim Lott, 7 February 2002

Rumours of a Hurricane 
by Tim Lott.
Viking, 378 pp., £14.99, February 2002, 0 670 88661 0
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... of the real world. But too often it can seem as if the characters are merely performing their brand, reverting to type: loser, bully. This needn’t matter; not all novels need to be character-driven – but novels about relationships probably do. The book is a fairly unremarkable relic of New Lad culture, that 1990s efflorescence of an ...

Would we be any happier?

Thomas Jones: William Gibson, 20 February 2020

by William Gibson.
Viking, 402 pp., £18.99, January, 978 0 241 23721 2
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... a fictional comparison: ‘weirdos from William Gibson novels like that girl hired by Bigend as a brand “diviner” who feels sick at the sight of Tommy Hilfiger’. ‘That girl’ is Cayce Pollard, the 32-year-old protagonist of Pattern Recognition (2003). She isn’t the narrator, quite (the story is told in the third person), but it’s her eyes we see ...

Mrs Thatcher’s Spengler

Tom Nairn, 24 January 1980

An Unfinished History of the World 
by Hugh Thomas.
Hamish Hamilton, 700 pp., £12.50, November 1980, 0 241 10282 0
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... and nourished with intellectual fodder. ‘Those who wish to revive the West,’ concludes Mr Thomas, ‘should recognise that one of the benefits of a study of history is that it is always possible to reverse, as Plato put it, an apparently fatal tendency towards decay, however late the hour …’ The weight of our planet’s unfinished history ...

Farewell to the Log Cabin

Colin Kidd: America’s Royalist Revolution, 18 December 2014

The Royalist Revolution 
by Eric Nelson.
Harvard, 390 pp., £22.95, October 2014, 978 0 674 73534 7
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... However, when it was revealed that the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee for 1972, Senator Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, had been treated for depression, Sargent Shriver, who was married to Edward Kennedy’s sister Eunice, replaced Eagleton as George McGovern’s running mate. The Shrivers’ daughter Maria was later First Lady of California as the ...

Everything is good news

Seamus Perry: Dylan Thomas’s Moment, 20 November 2014

The Collected Poems of Dylan ThomasThe New Centenary Edition 
edited by John Goodby.
Weidenfeld, 416 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 0 297 86569 8
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Under Milk Wood: The Definitive Edition 
edited by Walford Davies and Ralph Maud.
Phoenix, 208 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 724 5
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Collected Stories 
by Dylan Thomas.
Phoenix, 384 pp., £8.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 730 6
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A Dylan Thomas Treasury: Poems, Stories and Broadcasts 
Phoenix, 186 pp., £7.99, May 2014, 978 1 78022 726 9Show More
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... Dylan Thomas’s​ foredoomed premature death feels intrinsic to his late romanticism, part of what made him the ‘Rimbaud of Cwmdonkin Drive’, as he labelled himself. But he could have escaped the legend to which he had devoted such energies. As Paul Ferris’s excellent biography established some time back, while Thomas was certainly in a bad way, his death was down to a medical blunder ...

Lola did the driving

Inigo Thomas: Pevsner’s Suffolk, 5 May 2016

Suffolk: East, The Buildings of England 
by James Bettley and Nikolaus Pevsner.
Yale, 677 pp., £35, April 2015, 978 0 300 19654 2
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... in English architecture – they preferred the low-key and an absence of grandeur. ‘Betjeman’s brand of evocation,’ Harries says, ‘is more about churchgoing than about the churches themselves, and tends to turn the focus on the observer as much as the object observed.’ Pevsner’s researches were more unrelenting, and if close observation reveals the ...

Saving the appearances

A.J. Ayer, 19 March 1981

The Scientific Image 
by Bas C. Van Fraassen.
Oxford, 233 pp., £15, December 1980, 9780198244240
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... just because of their denial that scientific theories mean what they appear to say. His brand of anti-realism commits him to a literal construal of scientific terms, but allows him to maintain that acceptance of a scientific theory need not imply belief in its truth. All that is required is the belief that the theory is ‘empirically ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Adam Elsheimer, 2 November 2006

... as a single frame can come to telling a sequential story. In the opening pages of The Woodlanders Thomas Hardy shows light pulling fragments of life out of darkness in much the same way. A stranger approaches a village: ‘they turned into a half-invisible little lane, whence, as it reached the verge of an eminence, could be discerned in the dusk, about half ...

Genderbait for the Nerds

Christopher Tayler: William Gibson, 22 May 2003

Pattern Recognition 
by William Gibson.
Viking, 356 pp., £16.99, April 2003, 0 670 87559 7
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... neon and rain. But Gibson – ‘very much under the influence of Robert Stone’, as well as Thomas Pynchon and William Burroughs – was among the first to find a centre-stage role for information technology in his future scenarios. His stories were set in a world of porous borders, where multinationals and crime cartels had arrogated most of the powers ...

The Uses of al-Qaida

Richard Seymour, 13 September 2012

... as a single entry; now there are four officially recognised organisations with the same root brand: al-Qaida (AQ), al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI), al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). The list also includes the Abdallah Azzam Brigades, usually described as an ‘affiliate’ of al-Qaida in Iraq. The taxonomic ...

Death in Cumbria

Alan Macfarlane, 19 May 1983

Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England 1500-1800 
by Keith Thomas.
Allen Lane, 426 pp., £14.95, March 1983, 0 7139 1227 8
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... for the wild, the wet and the non-artificial was most developed. Part of the achievement of Keith Thomas’s delightful new book is to explain these paradoxes. His central argument is that these are not real oppositions, but are linked as cause and effect. It was because of the urbanism, the industrialism and the general distancing and control of nature that ...

On That Terrible Night …

Christian Schütze: The wartime bombing of Germany, 21 August 2003

On the Natural History of Destruction 
by W.G. Sebald, translated by Anthea Bell.
Hamish Hamilton, 205 pp., £16.99, February 2003, 0 241 14126 5
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Der BrandDeutschland im Bombenkrieg 1940-45 
by Jörg Friedrich.
Propyläen, 592 pp., €25, November 2002, 3 549 07165 5
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by Gert Ledig, translated by Shaun Whiteside.
Granta, 200 pp., £8.99, May 2003, 1 86207 565 4
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... order had been restored. Nemesis had followed hubris; crime had received its just punishment. Thomas Mann said it, too: everything must be paid for. Expressions of self-pity were rare. Even before 1945, there were rumblings of guilt. ‘Ja, wir tragen unser Leiden mit Geduld, an der ganzen Scheisse sind wir selber schuld,’ people sang under their ...

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