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Reproaches from the Past

Peter Clarke: Gordon Brown, 1 April 2004

The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown 
by William Keegan.
Wiley, 356 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 470 84697 6
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... and Curiosities of the Exchequer (1891). Standing in such a tradition, the title chosen by William Keegan, The Prudence of Mr Gordon Brown, is entitled to its whimsical flourish, and he duly begins with a monitory epigraph from Titian’s Allegory of Prudence: ‘The Present does well to profit from the Past, lest Future conduct go astray.’ A ...
... staff members as well – notably the columnist Conor Cruise O’Brien, the financial writer William Keegan, and, in all probability, the political editor Adam Raphael. If he hasn’t sacked them yet, it may only be because he finds himself strapped in by the conditions attached to the sale of the paper. But Rowland is a very determined character ...


Gordon Brown, 2 February 1989

edited by Robert Skidelsky.
Chatto, 214 pp., £18, November 1988, 0 7011 3342 2
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The Hard Road to Renewal: Thatcherism and the Crisis of the Left 
by Stuart Hall.
Verso, 283 pp., £24.95, December 1988, 0 86091 199 3
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... more dangerous notions, in the sphere of economics and social policy, are on the loose. Elsewhere, William Keegan has dismissed the Thatcher years as ‘a rather naive experiment in social engineering’. The roots of the experiment are broadly Poujadist: petty-bourgeois resentment of big government and organised labour; sado-sentimental attachment to the ...

Great Encounters

Patrick O’Brian, 11 January 1990

The Price of Admiralty 
by John Keegan.
Hutchinson, 292 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 09 173771 0
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... John Keegan’s book is about the principles, strategy and tactics of warfare at sea and their evolution as it is exemplified in four great battles, Trafalgar, Jutland, Midway, and a critical period in that long struggle the Battle of the Atlantic. It is a strangely mixed book, some parts being quite remarkably good and quite unhackneyed, others dealing with matters that have been handled again and again, and doing so with no great originality ...


Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound, 6 March 1997

... the message get through. Blair has milked football for all its worth. He has head-tennised with Keegan, kept goal with Alex Ferguson (front page of the in-house magazine, New Labour, New Britain, beaming good intentions: ‘Come On You Reds’). He even has much of the Toon army as his electorate in Sedgefield, and tactfully offered condolences to fans on ...

Lethal Pastoral

Paul Keegan: Housman’s Lethal Pastoral, 17 November 2016

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England 
by Peter Parker.
Little, Brown, 446 pp., £25, June 2016, 978 1 4087 0613 8
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... Popular Ballads between 1884 and 1898 as part of the new national conversation, though not William Allingham’s earlier anthology of British ballads, a copy of which Housman owned, and in whose margins he hazarded alternative readings, his interest piqued by the vagaries of oral transmission. Housman diverted the traditional ballad to his purposes ...

Ticket to Milford Haven

David Edgar: Shaw’s Surprises, 21 September 2006

Bernard Shaw: A Life 
by A.M. Gibbs.
Florida, 554 pp., £30.50, December 2005, 0 8130 2859 0
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... rather than polemic that links Shaw’s characters with his dramaturgy. His early collaborator William Archer saw Shaw’s ‘craving for the unexpected, for the startling, for the paradoxical’ as his great flaw. For Holroyd, putting on the ‘spectacles of paradox’ was one of the means by which Shaw turned the wounds of a loveless childhood inside ...

How to Survive Your Own Stupidity

Andrew O’Hagan: Homage to Laurel and Hardy, 22 August 2002

Stan and Ollie: The Roots of Comedy 
by Simon Louvish.
Faber, 518 pp., £8.99, September 2002, 0 571 21590 4
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... accidentally, ‘always resulting on the wrong hat on the wrong head’, as their filmographer William Everson puts it. Laurel and Hardy are always at their best in the short film; the feature films would be padded out with silly plotlines, elaborate songs and screeching flappers, but the shorts are sometimes perfect, the comedy based on situations rather ...


Jonathan Lamb: 18th-century seafaring, 20 March 2003

Voyages of Delusion: The Search for the Northwest Passage in the Age of Reason 
by Glyn Williams.
HarperCollins, 467 pp., £8.99, March 2003, 0 00 653213 6
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Voyage to Desolation Island 
by Jean-Paul Kauffmann, translated by Patricia Clancy.
Harvill, 177 pp., £14.99, October 2001, 1 86046 926 4
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... been ashamed to put his name to’. In 1793, the year Vancouver completed his definitive survey, William Goldson published a map incorporating Cook’s chart of the Northwest into the draught of an inland sea that covered most of Washington and British Columbia. This ‘mer de l’ouest’ had been dreamed up forty years before by two French ...

Emily of Fire & Violence

Paul Keegan: Eliot’s Letters, 22 October 2020

... in London. Contact with Hale eventually resumed. In 1927 he told a friend (a fellow American, William Force Stead): ‘I had a letter from a girl in Boston this morning whom I have not seen or heard from for years and years. It brought back something to me that I had not known for a long time.’ In October 1930 she came to tea in London. Vivien liked her ...

Hats One Dreamed about

Tessa Hadley: Rereading Bowen, 20 February 2020

Collected Stories 
by Elizabeth Bowen.
Everyman, 904 pp., £18.99, October 2019, 978 1 84159 392 0
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... a few shades more sentimental and simplifying than the words inside. (Bowen in a 1968 letter to William Plomer at Cape: ‘Neither do I want any more of Miss Joan Cassell [sic].’)I read my way through quite a few of Bowen’s books, and when I finished I hardly knew what had happened in them. Her prose was sophisticated, her references depended on all ...

Dropping Their Eggs

Patrick Wright: The history of bombing, 23 August 2001

A History of Bombing 
by Sven Lindqvist, translated by Linda Haverty Rugg.
Granta, 233 pp., £14.99, May 2001, 1 86207 415 1
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The Bomber War: Arthur Harris and the Allied Bomber Offensive 1939-45 
by Robin Niellands.
Murray, 448 pp., £25, February 2001, 0 7195 5637 6
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Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars and the End of the Cold War 
by Frances FitzGerald.
Touchstone, 592 pp., $17, March 2001, 0 7432 0023 3
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... and destruction. Lindqvist draws on an extraordinary array of apocalyptic novels, starting with William D. Hay’s Three Hundred Years Hence, published in 1881. ‘I know what is going to happen to you, since for me it has already happened,’ Professor Meister, its visionary hero, insists. The future on which he reports is to be one of massive population ...

Courage, mon amie

Terry Castle: Disquiet on the Western Front, 4 April 2002

... 1922. And more and more I began investigating the filthy minutiae of 1914-18 trench warfare. John Keegan, the Face of Battle man, was my trench guru. I read all his books. I became an armchair expert on Lewis guns and enfilade fire, shrapnel and mortars, wiring parties, trench raids and listening-posts, the tricky timing of the creeping barrage. I pondered ...

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