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Chronicle of an Epidemic

John Ryle, 19 May 1988

And the band played on: Politics, People and the Aids Epidemic 
by Randy Shilts.
Viking, 630 pp., £15.95, March 1988, 0 670 82270 1
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Crisis: Heterosexual Behaviour in the Age of Aids 
by William Masters, Virginia Johnson and Robert Kilodny.
Weidenfeld, 243 pp., £9.95, March 1988, 0 297 79392 6
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The Forbidden Zone 
by Michael Lesy.
Deutsch, 250 pp., £11.95, February 1988, 0 233 98203 5
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... life has radically altered. Actual behavioural change is more difficult to assess. Masters and Johnson and their colleague Robert Kolodny argue in Crisis that sexual behaviour in the United States among both homosexuals and heterosexuals has not yet altered enough to make a significant difference. In addition to the time-lapse between infection and ...

Pretending to be the parlourmaid

John Bayley, 2 December 1993

Selected Letters of Vanessa Bell 
edited by Regina Marler, introduced by Quentin Bell.
Bloomsbury, 593 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 7475 1550 6
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... on grounds of technique; anything feminist or angry or otherwise committed, on moral grounds. Dr Johnson and his contemporaries would not have recognised our use of the word, nor would most 19th-century writers (Dickens or Tolstoy wanted to be ‘true’, not serious). Like ‘discourse’ it seems to have acquired its own seriousness from France, where ...

Wild Words

Stuart Hampshire, 18 August 1983

A History of the Modern World: From 1917 to the 1980s 
by Paul Johnson.
Weidenfeld, 832 pp., £16.50, April 1983, 0 297 78226 6
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... Coolidge is a hero in Paul Johnson’s eyes, and Franklin Roosevelt a villain. The former is quoted with approval: business ‘has for its main reliance truth and faith and justice. In its larger sense it is one of the greatest contributing forces to the moral and spiritual advancement of the race.’ About Roosevelt Mr Johnson writes: ‘In terms of political show-business he had few equals and he had an enviable knack of turning problems into solutions ...

Prisoners

David Saunders-Wilson, 23 November 1989

Inside Out 
by Rosie Johnston.
Joseph, 226 pp., £12.95, October 1989, 0 7181 3115 0
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Life on Death Row: One Man’s Fight against Racism and the Death Penalty 
by Merrilyn Thomas.
Piatkus, 160 pp., £12.95, September 1989, 0 86188 879 0
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... Rosie Johnston, white and privileged; Edward Johnson, black and poor. For several months between 1986-1987 they shared the experience of imprisonment. Rosie Johnston was to emerge from HMP East Sutton Park in June 1987, having been sentenced to nine months for the possession of heroin and for supplying it to her friends at Oxford University (including a Cabinet Minister’s daughter ...

Who’s in charge?

Chalmers Johnson: The Addiction to Secrecy, 6 February 2003

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers 
by Daniel Ellsberg.
Viking, 498 pp., $29.95, October 2002, 0 670 03030 9
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... warned the Government that things would only go from bad to worse.* But Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon were interested above all in the effects the war would have on the elections of 1964, 1968 and 1972 respectively. The source of the revelations was not a long-haired anti-war radical but one of us: a Marine officer, an insider’s insider, who ...

Englamouring the humdrum

Rosemary Ashton, 23 November 1989

Arguing with the past: Essays in Narrative from Woolf to Sidney 
by Gillian Beer.
Routledge, 206 pp., £25, August 1989, 0 415 02607 5
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Samuel Richardson: Tercentenary Essays 
edited by Margaret Anne Doody and Peter Sabor.
Cambridge, 306 pp., £35, July 1989, 0 521 35383 1
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... notion of the anxiety of influence, is a reasonable one, best illustrated here in the essays on Virginia Woolf. Gillian Beer persuasively suggests that in her first novel, The Voyage Out, not only do Woolf’s descriptions of a South American forest echo those of Darwin in The Voyage of the Beagle, but also her characters talk of sexual evolution in terms ...

Angry White Men

R.W. Johnson: Obama’s Electoral Arithmetic, 20 October 2011

... 267 to 225. Carter and Clinton (twice) could not have gained office without the black vote; indeed Johnson in 1964 was the last Democrat to win a majority of the white vote. He used his victory to push through the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, observing that this meant the Democrats would lose the South for a generation to ...

Diary

Tom Crewe: The Queen and I, 1 August 2019

... it would be much more exciting, in some fantasy scenario, to spy Dickens getting into a cab, or Virginia Woolf coming out of the loo, than to sit down to dinner with either?) When I read Ellis I happened to be working in Westminster myself, in Parliament, and it seemed a nice idea to keep track of the people I saw. The list I made while I was there (it was ...

Carry up your Coffee boldly

Thomas Keymer: Jonathan Swift, 17 April 2014

Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World 
by Leo Damrosch.
Yale, 573 pp., £25, November 2013, 978 0 300 16499 2
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Parodies, Hoaxes, Mock Treatises: ‘Polite Conversation’, ‘Directions to Servants’ and Other Works 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Valerie Rumbold.
Cambridge, 821 pp., £85, July 2013, 978 0 521 84326 3
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Journal to Stella: Letters to Esther Johnson and Rebecca Dingley, 1710-13 
by Jonathan Swift, edited by Abigail Williams.
Cambridge, 800 pp., £85, December 2013, 978 0 521 84166 5
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... will actually wish this massive (1066 pages) volume were longer.’ Admittedly, this came from the Virginia Quarterly Review (Ehrenpreis taught at the University of Virginia). But with its formidable documentation and contextual command, Ehrenpreis’s doorstopper was widely accepted as the standard authority on ...

He wants me no more

Tessa Hadley: Pamela Hansford Johnson, 21 January 2016

Pamela Hansford JohnsonHer Life, Works and Times 
by Wendy Pollard.
Shepheard-Walwyn, 500 pp., £25, October 2014, 978 0 85683 298 7
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... anything about it. In the context of all that forgetting, this biography of Pamela Hansford Johnson reads as a meditation on time and fame and oblivion. It isn’t meant to be anything so subtle. It’s the second best kind of biography, the innocent kind, which doesn’t think with much penetration about its subject but doesn’t interfere with it ...

Keith Middlemas on the history of Ireland

Keith Middlemas, 22 January 1981

Ireland: Land of Troubles 
by Paul Johnson.
Eyre Methuen, 224 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 413 47650 2
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Acts of Union 
by Anthony Bailey.
Faber, 221 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 571 11648 5
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Neighbours 
by Conor Cruise O’Brien.
Faber, 96 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 571 11645 0
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Ireland: A History 
by Robert Kee.
Weidenfeld, 256 pp., £9.95, December 1980, 0 297 77855 2
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... Is the Irish obsession with the past a mere romantic consolation, or a practical method, as Johnson has emphasised elsewhere, of prescribing change by reference to an ancient, largely fictitious ‘golden age’ – De Valera’s method of enlisting the imagery of Cathleen ni Houlihan while establishing his narrow-minded, conservative mid-20th-century ...

Wives, Queens, Distant Princesses

John Bayley, 23 October 1986

The Bondage of Love: A Life of Mrs Samuel Taylor Coleridge 
by Molly Lefebure.
Gollancz, 287 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 575 03871 3
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Jane Welsh Carlyle 
by Virginia Surtees.
Michael Russell, 294 pp., £12.95, September 1986, 0 85955 134 2
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... and poetry counted in the general scale of human conduct and doing one’s duty. Nor would Dr Johnson. It was the Romantics who were to become a moral law unto themselves, although, to be fair to them, Wordsworth and Coleridge would no more have seen things in that light than did the virtuous brother-in-law Robert Southey. It is, in fact, curious that, as ...

What if he’d made it earlier?

David Runciman: LBJ, 5 July 2012

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV: The Passage of Power 
by Robert Caro.
Bodley Head, 712 pp., £30, June 2012, 978 1 84792 217 5
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... Lyndon Johnson always believed he would be president. As a boy in Texas, growing up in poor and sometimes desperate circumstances, he told anyone who would listen that he was headed for the White House. He mapped out a plan to get there from which, as Robert Caro writes, ‘he refused to be diverted.’ It meant first establishing himself in state politics, then winning a seat in the House of Representatives, then moving up to the Senate and finally to the highest office ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... unread founder of women’s writing, the figure who had been hymned but effectively dismissed by Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own (1929). ‘All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds,’ Woolf wrote, only to declare Behn’s actual writings to be so much ...

The Sage of Polygon Road

Claire Tomalin, 28 September 1989

The Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Vols I-VII 
edited by Janet Todd and Marilyn Butler.
Pickering & Chatto, 2530 pp., £245, August 1989, 1 85196 006 6
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... and a serious sociological thinker as well as a novelist. Some glory goes, too, to Joseph Johnson, the radical publisher who took on the role of good father, brother and supportive friend, giving her work when she needed it and publishing everything she offered. This inevitably included some hack work; and she might have been still better served by ...

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