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Excuses for Madness

M.F. Burnyeat: On Anger, 17 October 2002

Restraining Rage: The Ideology of Anger Control in Classical Antiquity 
by William Harris.
Harvard, 480 pp., £34.50, January 2002, 0 674 00618 6
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... 11 September undid centuries of Christian teaching and made revenge respectable again, just as William Harris is over the top when he opines: ‘In the United States, views about revenge seem to have sunk to a level appropriate to a neolithic village.’ But it is troubling how much public talk of revenge there is at present. This study of rage ...

Short Cuts

William Davies: Jordan Peterson, 2 August 2018

... sinks back into his black leather regency armchair and turns again to his interlocutors, Sam Harris and Douglas Murray. I’d cheered for the first option, not least because I was interested to know how on earth it was going to work. The O2 was less than a third full, but even so, that’s an audience of six thousand people. This is a venue so vast that ...

It’s good to be alive

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Science does ethics, 9 February 2012

Sex, Murder and the Meaning of Life: A Psychologist Investigates How Evolution, Cognition and Complexity Are Revolutionising Our View of Human Nature 
by Douglas Kenrick.
Basic, 238 pp., £18.99, May 2011, 978 0 465 02044 7
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Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values 
by Sam Harris.
Bantam, 291 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 0 593 06486 3
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The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice 
by Peter Corning.
Chicago, 237 pp., $27.50, April 2011, 978 0 226 11627 3
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... what we would like them to be.’ That, at any rate, is what Douglas Kenrick has to tell us. Sam Harris begins The Moral Landscape in much the same way: ‘The more we understand ourselves at the level of the brain, the more we will see that there are right and wrong answers to questions of human values.’ Kenrick and ...

Ironed Corpses Clattering in the Wind

Mark Kishlansky: The Restoration and the Glorious Revolution, 17 August 2006

Restoration: Charles II and His Kingdoms 
by Tim Harris.
Penguin, 506 pp., £12.99, January 2006, 0 14 026465 5
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Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy 1685-1720 
by Tim Harris.
Allen Lane, 622 pp., £30, January 2006, 0 7139 9759 1
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... had an illegitimate child with Elizabeth Waller, the daughter of the Parliamentarian general, Sir William. The experiments of the 1650s were swept away as king, lords and bishops were thrust back into power with hardly a shot fired. The armies of the Commonwealth melted away, its tortured succession of governments abruptly ended and its chaotic Church ...

Bright Blue Dark Blue

Rosemary Hill: ‘Weatherland’, 5 November 2015

Weatherland 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, September 2015, 978 0 500 51811 3
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... Seasons, the overarching and background reality of life, are older, although as Alexandra Harris explains, ‘spring’ was invented only in the late Middle Ages. Before all that there was just climate and what people thought about it is all but unknowable. In the temperate zones, where the waxing and waning of the year is more noticeable than in the ...

A Resonance for William Styron

Gabriele Annan, 7 November 1985

Savage Grace 
by Natalie Robins and Steven Aronson.
Gollancz, 473 pp., £10.95, October 1985, 0 575 03738 5
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... There are some known names: Cecil Beaton, Jasper Johns, James Jones, John Mortimer, Patricia Neal, William Styron, Andy Warhol. Among the rest are antique dealers, decorators, magazine editors, a ‘freelance music co-ordinator for fashion shows’, a princess ‘internationally concerned with matters of spiritual evolution’, an extraordinarily large ...

Remembering the taeog

D.A.N. Jones, 30 August 1990

People of the Black Mountains. Vol. II: The Eggs of the Eagle 
by Raymond Williams.
Chatto, 330 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7011 3564 6
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In the Blue Light of African Dreams 
by Paul Watkins.
Heinemann, 282 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 09 174307 9
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Friedrich HarrisShooting the hero 
by Philip Purser.
Quartet, 250 pp., £12.95, May 1990, 0 7043 2759 7
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The Journey Home 
by Dermot Bolger.
Viking, 294 pp., £13.99, June 1990, 0 670 83215 4
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Evenings at Mongini’s 
by Russell Lucas.
Heinemann, 262 pp., £12.95, January 1990, 0 434 43646 1
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... of the Vikings’ leader. Moving on 300 years, Williams tells of the fairly notorious William de Braos, the Lord of Brecon in King John’s time: he was said to be always prating of God and putting on pious airs, but he invited the leading Welsh princes to a party at Abergavenny and killed them all, sending men out afterwards to kill their wives ...

Bourgeois Reveries

Julian Bell: Farmer Eliot, 3 February 2011

Romantic Moderns: English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper 
by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 320 pp., £19.95, October 2010, 978 0 500 25171 3
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... Moderns, her provocative critical survey of English cultural life between 1930 and 1945, Alexandra Harris points to Eliot’s lines in ‘East Coker’ about ‘Earth feet, loam feet, lifted in country mirth/Mirth of those long since under earth/Nourishing the corn.’ Harris argues that the poet was thinking about the dead ...

Sour Apple

José Harris, 5 July 1984

H.G. Wells: Aspects of a Life 
by Anthony West.
Hutchinson, 405 pp., £12.95, June 1984, 0 09 134540 5
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Heritage 
by Anthony West.
Secker, 305 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 436 56592 7
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... West’s penchant for black and white judgments is not confined to his assessment of his parents. William Morris, for example, was a purveyor of ‘bogus archaisms and mock heroics’, Beatrice Webb was an ‘arrogant woman of limited intelligence’, Edmund Gosse was the ‘gentleman’s outfitter’ of English literary culture. West’s scorn for the ...

Just William

Doris Grumbach, 25 June 1987

Willa Cather: The Emerging Voice 
by Sharon O’Brien.
Oxford, 544 pp., £22.50, March 1987, 0 19 504132 1
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... for her fine works on Nebraska. We know of her adolescent years before college from ‘Old Mrs Harris’, a story published much later in Obscure Destinies. It reflects the poignant discontent of Victoria (the young Willa), living too close to the crowded miseries of an always-pregnant mother, an improvident father, an obediently slavish Southern ...

Things that are worth naming

Linda Colley, 21 November 1991

A Passion for Government: The Life of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough 
by Frances Harris.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 19 820224 5
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... woman have in the past been numerous but in the main soft-centred, preoccupied – as Frances Harris puts it – with her ‘tempestuous personal relationships’. Harris’s own book, by contrast, is founded on careful research in some twenty-five different archives on both sides of the Atlantic. As a curator of the ...

Tales of the Unexpected

José Harris, 20 November 1986

Marriage and Morals among the Victorians, and Other Essays 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 253 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 571 13952 3
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... was, in fact, quintessential to his political thought and personal identity. An essay on Sir William Blackstone sets out to rescue the great 18th-century jurist from the libellous parody contained in Bentham’s Fragment on Government. Far from being the monster of black reaction pilloried by Bentham, Himmelfarb claims that Blackstone was a pioneer of ...

Greatest Genius

Frances Harris, 23 July 1992

Charles James Fox 
by L.G Mitchell.
Oxford, 338 pp., £25, June 1992, 0 19 820104 4
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... as ‘the phenomenon of the age’: an Infant Phenomenon like his chief opponent and perfect foil, William Pitt, who, Fox’s mother is said to have predicted, would be ‘a thorn in Charles’s side as long as he lives’. David Hume, encountering Fox at 16 during one of his formative visits to Paris, was startled by his intellectual power and maturity and ...

Nature’s Chastity

José Harris, 15 September 1983

Eve and the New Jerusalem: Socialism and Feminism in the 19th Century 
by Barbara Taylor.
Virago, 402 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 86068 257 9
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Virgins and Viragos: A History of Women in Scotland from 1080 to 1980 
by Rosalind Marshall.
Collins, 365 pp., £13.50, June 1983, 0 00 216039 0
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... form of Post-Enlightenment rationalism with a mystic hope of social metamorphosis inherited from William Blake. Over the next fifty years Owen sought to realise his vision in a variety of ways – as a model factory employer, as the founder of socialist communities, as a patron of trade-unionism and workers’ co-operatives, and as the sponsor of a wide ...

Painting the map red

William Boyd, 5 September 1985

The Randlords: The Men who made South Africa 
by Geoffrey Wheatcroft.
Weidenfeld, 314 pp., £12.95, July 1985, 0 297 78437 4
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... silence. This is even more true of the minor figures, such as Rhodes’s henchman Rutherfoord Harris, his partner Charles Rudd, or even Leander Starr Jameson. Paradoxically, there exists a first-rate scholarly account of Rhodes’s involvement with the annexation of Bechuanaland – yet no similar treatment of his life. Even the most recent biography (by ...

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