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Colonels in Horsehair

Stephen Sedley: Human Rights and the Courts, 19 September 2002

Sceptical Essays on Human Rights 
edited by Tom Campbell and K.D. Ewing.
Oxford, 423 pp., £60, December 2001, 0 19 924668 8
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... The United Kingdom is a good place in which to assemble a book of sceptical essays about human rights, but was 2001 a good year in which to do it? True, by then Scotland and Wales had operative devolution statutes which obliged their Governments to observe the European Convention on Human Rights in all they did; and some interesting decisions had already been thrown up north of the border ...

Knights of the Road

Tom Clark: The Beat generation, 6 July 2000

This is the Beat Generation: New York, San Francisco, Paris 
by James Campbell.
Vintage, 320 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 09 928269 0
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... of William Blake intoning ‘Ah, Sunflower’ to him ‘like God had a human voice’. James Campbell, who introduces a note of irony into his reworking of twice-told Beat tales, refers to Ginsberg’s historic undergraduate illumination as ‘hand-held’ – perhaps an allusion to a key detail in what he had said to me: the fact that an act of ...

Editor’s Story

Peter Campbell, 18 November 1982

Of This Our Time 
by Tom Hopkinson.
Hutchinson, 317 pp., £8.95, April 1982, 9780091478605
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... When Tom Hopkinson was nine years old his father called the family together. He had decided, he said, to become a clergyman. Later he told his son that he had been persuaded to take this long-contemplated step by hearing a sermon ‘so distracted and confused that he had realised the clergyman delivering it must be overwhelmed with the burden of his work ...


Tom Shippey, 5 May 1988

Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard 
by Russell Miller.
Joseph, 390 pp., £12.95, October 1987, 0 7181 2764 1
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by L. Ron Hubbard.
New Era, 605 pp., £3.50, February 1988, 9781870451185
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Mission Earth. Vol. V: Fortune of Fear 
by L. Ron Hubbard.
New Era, 365 pp., £10.75, July 1987, 1 870451 01 5
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Mission Earth. Vol. VI: Death Quest 
by L. Ron Hubbard.
New Era, 351 pp., £10.95, October 1987, 1 870451 02 3
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... years later, so they can say: ‘I knew it all along.’ There is also the strange case of John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding, who gave Hubbard his big break by letting him write a ‘fact article’ on Dianetics. Campbell, for all his faults, was sceptical well past the point of iconoclasm: in 1960, for instance, he ...

At Tate Modern

Peter Campbell: Bruce Nauman’s Raw Materials, 4 November 2004

... the floor. There is a cat too, I think, but things take a good deal longer to happen than in Tom and Jerry and I didn’t have time to wait for it. However, I did sit long enough among the jumpy pixellated images to feel, for a while, that there was a self-denying lesson implied – something along the lines that all art is a distraction from proper ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Thomas Girtin, 22 August 2002

... Turner’s remark ‘Had Tom Girtin lived, I should have starved’ is as good a posthumous puff as any artist ever gave another. It’s printed on the back of Tate Britain’s Girtin catalogue.* There it reads as a challenge. It puts you on your mettle as you walk past the many pictures whose original effect must be reconstructed from sheets that time has rendered curiously rusty or unnaturally blue ...

In a Bookshop

Peter Campbell: Penguin by Illustrators, 10 September 2009

... backed at the cover meeting. It isn’t a new phenomenon; in a scene in The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell lowers the necklines on the cover art of an edition of Little Women with, if I remember rightly, sweeping curves of his pen. The design that really offers a ‘subtle and intimate promise of what the writer has contrived’ is rare. Lettering sometimes ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: London 1753, 25 September 2003

... as common then as now. The last plate in Hogarth’s Four Stages of Cruelty shows the cadaver of Tom Nero, hanged for his crimes, being anatomised in the Cutlerian Theatre of the Royal College of Physicians: ‘Those Eyeballs from their Sockets wrung,/That glow’d with lawless Lust!’ The first impression is that cruelty is being met with cruelty: the ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: On being photographed, 15 April 2004

... in paint or on film, by another artist. What makes one go on looking at the selection from Tom Phillips’s collection of fifty thousand photographic postcards, also at the Portrait Gallery, until 20 June, is what Beaton was good at hiding: the heterogeneity of the unmasked human face. In the terms of this exhibition, a ‘photographic postcard’ is ...

I lerne song

Tom Shippey: Medieval schooling, 22 February 2007

Medieval Schools: From Roman Britain to Renaissance England 
by Nicholas Orme.
Yale, 430 pp., £25, June 2006, 0 300 11102 9
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... nothing but ‘monishing and stripes’. Or as an Irish classmate said sadly to C.S. Lewis at Campbell College more than four centuries later: ‘This time last month, I wouldn’t have been going in to Preparation, I’d have a wee tea-cloth laid for me at one end of the table and sausages to my tea.’ ‘Prep’, ‘parsing’, ‘forms’, which were ...

At Condor Cycles

Peter Campbell: The Tour, 19 July 2001

... element in the juxtaposed stories of his cancer treatment and cycling career. The British rider Tom Simpson, who died climbing Mont Ventoux in the 1967 Tour, enters the mythology as a hero falling in battle rather than the victim of a sporting accident. The aesthetics of the bicycle, like that of swords and armour, intimately mixes the heraldic and the ...

Answering back

James Campbell, 11 July 1991

The Intended 
by David Dabydeen.
Secker, 246 pp., £13.99, February 1991, 0 436 20007 4
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by Caryl Phillips.
Bloomsbury, 185 pp., £13.99, March 1991, 0 7475 0886 0
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by Jamaica Kincaid.
Cape, 176 pp., £11.99, April 1991, 0 224 03055 8
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... savage in Conrad’s steamship.’ He could have added that American literature is too, from Uncle Tom to Nigger Jim to Porgy and Bess and Dilsey in The Sound and the Fury. The Americans, under the guidance first of the great W.E.B DuBois, then of the poets Langston Hughes and Sterling Brown, and next a line of novelists headed by Richard Wright, began the ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: Labour’s Best Cards, 29 June 2017

... way of carrying on, however pathetically, her position visibly untenable. Or he could do as Henry Campbell-Bannerman did in 1905 and form a minority government simply in order to call an election. In both cases, the Fixed Term Parliaments Act – scheduled for repeal in the Tory manifesto, but still very much alive and kicking on the statute book – would ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Britney’s Biggest Fan, 21 June 2001

... war on poverty, and poverty won.’ Amiable? Britney Spears – will her oldest fan, Alistair Campbell, help her run for President in 2004? – has co-written with her mother a not-in-the-slightest-bit-autobiographical novel about a teenager who becomes a pop star. Some say, however, that A Mother’s Gift (Boxtree, £9.99) was ghostwritten by ...


Peter Campbell, 5 December 1985

... read what they believed would most please them. The unending duels of the cartoon films – where Tom for ever fails to catch Jerry – are better analogues of the fantasies of children than the manipulative tales of the child-improvers. Jonathan Cott, who makes more extravagant claims for good children’s books than most, also sees more danger in bad ...

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