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Mares and Stallions

Tom Wilkie, 18 May 1989

Games, Sex and Evolution 
by John Maynard Smith.
Harvester, 264 pp., £14.95, August 1988, 0 7108 1216 7
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... From the peacock’s tail to the quiet of an English rose garden, the dominant message of the natural world is that of sexual reproduction. We are so used to its omnipresence that we seldom question it. Few writers have seriously explored what life would be like in a sexless but otherwise human society, although Ursula Le Guin, in her very effective Science Fiction novel The Left Hand of Darkness has tried to do so ...

Flavr of the Month

Daniel Kevles, 19 August 1993

Perilous Knowledge: The Human Genome Project and its Implications 
by Tom Wilkie.
Faber, 195 pp., £14.99, May 1993, 0 571 16423 4
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The Language of the Genes: Biology, History and the Evolutionary Future 
by Steve Jones.
HarperCollins, 236 pp., £16.99, June 1993, 0 00 255020 2
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... on the scientific front – and raising a variety of social spectres, including the ‘fear’, as Tom Wilkie writes in Perilous Knowledge, ‘that the project may open the door to a world peopled by Frankenstein’s monsters and disfigured by a new eugenics.’ Wilkie, a physicist turned science journalist, provides a ...

A Little Local Irritation

Stephen Wall: Dickens, 16 April 1998

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. IX: 1859-61 
edited by Graham Storey.
Oxford, 610 pp., £70, July 1997, 0 19 812293 4
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... is no evidence of unhappiness. The other child to marry at this time was Katie. Her choice of Wilkie Collins’s younger brother was more acceptable, and Dickens presided genially enough over the pastoral festivities: ‘the people of the village strewed flowers in the churchyard, and erected triumphal arches, and fired guns.’ It was ‘a great ...

My Missus

John Sutherland, 13 May 1993

Popular Reading and Publishing in Britain, 1914-1950 
by Joseph McAleer.
Oxford, 284 pp., £35, December 1992, 0 19 820329 2
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American Star: A Love Story 
by Jackie Collins.
Heinemann, 568 pp., £14.99, March 1993, 0 434 14093 7
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... less about working-class literature than about Lapland. In a much quoted essay twenty years later, Wilkie Collins, after a similar expedition, coined the phrase ‘the Unknown Public’. It was something of a misnomer since the public was well enough known. It was their ‘entertaining literature’ that was the mystery. English society put such a moral ...

Anglo-Egyptian Attitudes

Marina Warner, 5 January 2017

... running the country from the wings. ‘The Daughter of Admiral Walker’ (after David Wilkie) There were many prints of Egypt in our Zamalek flat – picturesque views of the ruins and the pyramids and Old Cairo, from series that had been published in the previous century – and they fascinated me: drowned temples, dhows like drawn bows on the ...

Hoist that dollymop’s sail

John Sutherland: New Victorian Novels, 31 October 2002

by Sarah Waters.
Virago, 549 pp., £12.99, February 2002, 1 86049 882 5
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The Crimson Petal and the White 
by Michel Faber.
Canongate, 838 pp., £17.99, October 2002, 1 84195 323 7
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... of such inversion is George MacDonald Fraser’s Flashman sequence, begun in 1966. Fraser turns Tom Brown’s Schooldays the wrong way up by making a hero out of Harry Flashman – the bully who roasts Hughes’s hero over the dormitory fire. Flashman is subsequently expelled by Dr Arnold after being brought back on a shutter, dead drunk. Perversely (or ...

Taking the hint

David Craig, 5 January 1989

The King’s Jaunt: George IV in Scotland, 1822 
by John Prebble.
Collins, 399 pp., £15, November 1988, 0 00 215404 8
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... the levee at Holyrood, when he had worn ‘full Highland dress’, described by the painter David Wilkie as kilt and hose ‘with a kind of flesh-coloured pantaloons underneath’ and by a Lowland laird as ‘the Royal Tartan Highland dress with buff-coloured trowsers like flesh to imitate his Royal knees, and little bits of Tartan stocking like other ...

Bare feet and a root of fennel

John Bayley, 11 June 1992

Strong Representations: Narrative and Circumstantial Evidence in England 
by Alexander Welsh.
Johns Hopkins, 262 pp., £21.50, April 1992, 0 8018 4271 9
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... they are the better their evidence is, at least in a sense. Welsh shows how the evidence against Tom Jones is seen and manipulated by Fielding as a man of the law, a man accustomed to hearing and weighing probabilities. To judge from the metaphors he uses, Shakespeare had great zest in legal ideology and practice, while there is a sense in which the whodunit ...

Must they twinkle?

John Sutherland, 1 August 1985

British Literary Magazines. Vol. III: The Victorian and Edwardian Age 1837-1913 
edited by Alvin Sullivan.
Greenwood, 560 pp., £88.50, December 1984, 0 313 24335 2
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The Book Book 
by Anthony Blond.
Cape, 226 pp., £9.95, April 1985, 0 224 02074 9
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... review, if asked. In the Leeds University School of English ‘Research Review: 1984’ Professor Tom Shippey talks about the double life of the reviewing academic: Writing reviews is a job with no official rewards. It is true you get paid for them (sometimes); but they do not count as ‘publications’ on a CV, bring no academic credit, and are often ...

Getting high

Charles Nicholl, 19 March 1987

The Global Connection: The Crisis of Drug Addiction 
by Ben Whitaker.
Cape, 384 pp., £15, March 1987, 0 224 02224 5
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... Quieting Syrup. As is clear from the famous opium-users of the day – Coleridge, De Quincey, Wilkie Collins, Wilberforce, Clive of India, et al – the analgesic use of opium swiftly shaded into psychological and physical dependence. On the other hand, no one can read the letters of Coleridge and De Quincey – let alone ‘Kubla Khan’ and Confessions ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... For the next decade or so, intellectual polemicists like Volney and Dupuis; Erasmus Darwin and Tom Paine promoted the notion that in this respect Christianity was originally like other religions and so no better than it should be. Hamilton led the way by writing a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, the Secretary of the Dilettanti, in which he described the ...

Little Englander Histories

Linda Colley: Little Englandism, 22 July 2010

A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 
by Boyd Hilton.
Oxford, 757 pp., £21, June 2008, 978 0 19 921891 2
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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1939 
by James Belich.
Oxford, 573 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 19 929727 6
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... treatment of more radical and deviant players, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Jeremy Bentham and Tom Paine, is noticeably sharper and less evocative, and this points to the main limitation of his analysis. Any survey of such a crowded period of history has to be selective: but here selectivity and boisterous epigrams result, on occasions, in reducing ...

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