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Jonathan Rée: Automata, 9 May 2002

Devices of Wonder: From the World in a Box to Images on a Screen 
by Barbara Maria Stafford and Frances Terpak.
Getty, 416 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 89236 590 0
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The Secret Life of Puppets 
by Victoria Nelson.
Harvard, 350 pp., £20.50, February 2002, 0 674 00630 5
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Living Dolls: A Magical History of the Quest for Mechanical Life 
by Gaby Wood.
Faber, 278 pp., £12.99, March 2002, 0 571 17879 0
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... dolls themselves so much as the tales we weave around them. These doll-stories form the topic of Victoria Nelson’s pioneering and wide-ranging book The Secret Life of Puppets. Nelson has Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft rubbing shoulders with Kafka and Bruno Schulz, and Will Self and Lars von Trier with Carrington ...

Victorian Piles

David Cannadine, 18 March 1982

The Albert Memorial: The Monument in its Social and Architectural Context 
by Stephen Bayley.
Scholar Press, 160 pp., £18.50, September 1981, 0 85967 594 7
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Victorian and Edwardian Town Halls 
by Colin Cunningham.
Routledge, 315 pp., £25, July 1981, 9780710007230
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... men during the first three-quarters of the 19th century. The competition to select designs for the Nelson memorial was not held until 1838, and another three decades elapsed before the Trafalgar ensemble was completed with the addition of Landseer’s lions. The first major Wellington statue was placed, King Kong-like, atop Decimus Burton’s arch on ...

God, what a victory!

Jeremy Harding, 10 February 1994

Martyr’s Day: Chronicle of Small War 
by Michael Kelly.
Macmillan, 354 pp., £16.99, October 1993, 0 333 60496 2
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Battling for News: The Rise of the Woman Reporter 
by Anne Sebba.
Hodder, 301 pp., £19.99, January 1994, 0 340 55599 8
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Women’s Letters in Wartime 
edited by Eva Figes.
Pandora, 304 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 04 440755 6
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The War at Sixteen: Autobiography, Vol. II 
by Julien Green, translated by Euan Cameron.
Marion Boyars, 207 pp., £19.95, November 1993, 0 7145 2969 9
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... fiery longevity is the nearest thing to a live link between Christine de Pisan and Kate Adie; Victoria Brittain, now deputy foreign editor of the Guardian, who left the US for Vietnam with a child in tow, in order to explore ‘a sort of obsession’; and, for a time, Marina Warner, who recounts how she stood on the road in Vietnam, after witnessing some ...


John Campbell, 19 December 1985

The Kitchener Enigma 
by Trevor Royle.
Joseph, 436 pp., £15, September 1985, 0 7181 2385 9
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Kitchener: The Man behind the Legend 
by Philip Warner.
Hamish Hamilton, 247 pp., £12.95, August 1985, 0 241 11587 6
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... good legend. Kitchener’s death registered itself in the patriotic mind as a tableau to rank with Nelson expiring in Hardy’s arms at Trafalgar or Gordon’s last stand on the Residency steps in Khartoum. This sort of biscuit-tin iconography cannot be written off as trivial: it is the stuff of immortality. Kitchener was a legend to his contemporaries before ...


Jenny Diski: On Not Liking South Africa, 3 July 2008

... apartheid, I preferred to stay away. But now it had to be a very different place, 18 years after Nelson Mandela walked free from prison, 14 years on from the day when South Africa had its first democratic election. I was going to be there anyway – Cape Town was the end point of another journey – and I thought I’d spend a couple of weeks and look ...


E.S. Turner, 23 February 1995

Edward Lear: A Biography 
by Peter Levi.
Macmillan, 362 pp., £20, January 1995, 0 333 58804 5
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... of the world’s natural uncles’. It used to be said that at any given moment a book about Nelson was on the way, but the Lear industry is putting up stiff competition. Levi in his bibliography does not bother to mention studies by Peter Quennell, John Lehmann, Joanna Richardson and Susan Chitty, among others. He does, however, pay his warm respects to ...

Grumpy in October

Jonathan Parry: The Anglo-French Project, 21 April 2022

Entente Imperial: British and French Power in the Age of Empire 
by Edward J. Gillin.
Amberley, 288 pp., £20, February, 978 1 3981 0289 7
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... borderlands. Did it have any wider meaning? Was it an aberration? On 17 April 1855, Queen Victoria held a ball at Windsor Castle to celebrate the state visit of Napoleon III. Its location was the magnificent Waterloo Chamber, a symbol of Britain’s global ascendancy. If Napoleon III, nephew of the original, minded dancing with George III’s ...


Colin Robinson: Publishing’s Demise, 26 February 2009

... news daily Publishers Lunch reported, there were extensive layoffs at Houghton Mifflin and Thomas Nelson, as well as a pay freeze at Penguin for anyone earning more than $60,000 a year and deferred pay increases at HarperCollins. Random House announced a major reorganisation following the resignation of the heads of two of its largest groups. All of this ...

The Party and the Army

Ronan Bennett, 21 March 1996

... of Sinn Fein councillor Bobby Lavery – within twelve months they had also killed his son; Brian Nelson, a British military intelligence agent, described in court by a Colonel J as a ‘hero’, conspired to murder, among others, Belfast city councillor Alex Maskey – that Brian Nelson escaped multiple life sentences and ...

Under the Flight Path

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Middleton, 19 May 2016

... dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, also brought in by Ransom. The music scene – Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and the ‘outlaw’ country set – was about to get going, and the honky-tonks were beginning to jump. The town itself was becoming a magnet for the counterculture. There would have been few better places for someone like Middleton to ...

Homage to Barbara Cartland

Jenny Diski, 18 August 1994

... legs of their prisoners because it made them better lovers. And according to Dame Barbara, Admiral Nelson of the single arm, was, not coincidentally, a virtuoso in the art of love, as was a very ordinary Guardsman in the Twenties to whom no one paid much attention until he fell from a station platform and damaged both legs. ‘After this he became one of the ...

Truffles for Potatoes

Ferdinand Mount: Little Rosebery, 22 September 2005

Rosebery: Statesman in Turmoil 
by Leo McKinstry.
Murray, 626 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 7195 5879 4
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... this excellent new biography makes a case for him being the first modern celebrity (but what about Nelson?). The music halls rang to the words: ‘Nearly everyone knows me, from Smith to Lord Rosebery,/I’m Burlington Bertie from Bow.’ His daughter Peggy’s wedding drew crowds almost as big as for the queen’s jubilees. Thousands of spectators wore ...

Pipe down back there!

Terry Castle: The Willa Cather Wars, 14 December 2000

Willa Cather and the Politics of Criticism 
by Joan Acocella.
Nebraska, 127 pp., £13.50, August 2000, 0 8032 1046 9
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... citation, and more than happy to let the jargon-mad professors hang themselves. Thus poor Robert Nelson, author of a 1988 book on the novelist, gets mercilessly dinged for writing about Cather’s oscillation between a ‘phallocentric hegemony’ and a ‘vaginocentric’ one. (According to Nelson, as cruelly quoted by ...

Cheering us up

Ian Jack, 15 September 1988

In for a Penny: The Unauthorised Biography of Jeffrey Archer 
by Jonathan Mantle.
Hamish Hamilton, 264 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 241 12478 6
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... disaster: he offers £2000 to a prostitute so that she may go abroad. The deal takes place at Victoria Station, where Archer’s proxy meets the prostitute, who is in league with the News of the World. The story breaks. Archer resigns as deputy chairman, but sues another tabloid, the Daily Star, for libel. The subsequent High Court action, in ...

Sexual Tories

Angus Calder, 17 May 1984

The Common People: A History from the Norman Conquest to the Present 
by J.F.C. Harrison.
Croom Helm and Flamingo, 445 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 7099 0125 9
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British Society 1914-45 
by John Stevenson.
Allen Lane/Penguin, 503 pp., £16.95, March 1984, 0 7139 1390 8
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The World We Left Behind: A Chronicle of the Year 1939 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 369 pp., £11.95, April 1984, 0 297 78287 8
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Wigan Pier Revisited: Poverty and Politics in the Eighties 
by Beatrix Campbell.
Virago, 272 pp., £4.50, April 1984, 0 86068 417 2
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... the Victory, and in which social protest does not prevent her acclaiming ‘the noble lord, bold Nelson’? What about the popular success of Shakespeare’s history plays, or the fame of ‘the People’s William’, Gladstone? Professor Harrison, always patiently sceptical, might reply to these rhetorical flourishes: ‘Well – what? How on earth can we ...

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