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A.J.P. Taylor: Save the Round Reading-Room!

20 February 1986
... The late Professor Tate of Manchester University, I have been told, made his last ascent of Scafell pike at the age of 93. I made my last ascent of Pillar at the age of little more than seventy. I used to go abroad at least once a year ...

In a Box

Deborah Friedell

3 January 2013
... plan so well ahead. ‘The thought of suffocation in a coffin is more terrible than that of torture on the rack, or burning at the stake’ – and all too common, according to the book’s authors, William Tebb and Edward Perry Vollum. A diabetic coma, a trance or catalepsy might make one’s breathing imperceptible; ‘it may even be impossible to see any cloud on a clear mirror.’ Stethoscopes – ...

Dykes, Drongs, Sarns, Snickets

David Craig: Walking England

20 December 2012
The English Lakes: A History 
by Ian Thompson.
Bloomsbury, 343 pp., £16.99, March 2012, 978 1 4088 0958 7
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The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot 
by Robert Macfarlane.
Hamish Hamilton, 432 pp., £20, June 2012, 978 0 241 14381 0
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... still find at Cunsey Forge near Windermere and Witherslack south-west of Kendal. The damming of Leathes and Wythburn Waters to form one lake, Thirlmere, so that water could be piped ninety miles to Manchester – in the teeth of fulminations from Canon Rawnsley, Ruskin and Carlyle – is told in detail but from a managerial or public-speaker viewpoint. There is little about the workers who developed a ...


Michael Neve

3 September 1981
The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas de Quincey 
by Grevel Lindop.
Dent, 433 pp., £12, July 1981, 0 460 04358 7
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... off any attempt at a new approach, and confines himself (particularly odd with this subject) to the most conventional kind of biographical description. De Quincey was born in 1785 at Greenhays, in Manchester, the fifth child of a successful merchant. The beginnings of his career are visible in his parental influences and their fate: his father died when Thomas was seven, leaving a gap in nature that de ...

Holy Terrors

Penelope Fitzgerald

4 December 1986
‘Elizabeth’: The Author of ‘Elizabeth and her German Garden’ 
by Karen Usborne.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £15, October 1986, 0 370 30887 5
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Alison Uttley: The Life of a Country Child 
by Denis Judd.
Joseph, 264 pp., £15.95, October 1986, 0 7181 2449 9
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Richmal Crompton: The Woman behind William 
by Mary Cadogan.
Allen and Unwin, 169 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 04 928054 6
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... These three women writers were mythmakers. Alison Uttley created Little Grey Rabbit (1929-1973), Richmal Crompton thought of Just William and kept him going for 48 years, May Annette Beauchamp invented herself as Elizabeth. All three of them were, and had to be, resilient women, gallant survivors, Elizabeth in particular. As May ...

Trains in Space

James Meek: The Great Train Robbery

4 May 2016
The Railways: Nation, Network and People 
by Simon Bradley.
Profile, 645 pp., £25, September 2015, 978 1 84668 209 4
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... politicians and skilled subsidy farmers, needs reform. The way these two approaches can come into conflict is illustrated by the saga of the Ordsall Chord, a sliver of new line being built in Manchester. It’s only 370 yards long and will cost £260,000 a yard – there’s a new bridge involved – but will, for the first time, link Manchester’s two main stations, Victoria and Piccadilly. This ...
7 March 1991
The Collected Letters of George Gissing. Vol. I: 1863-1880 
edited by Paul Mattheisen, Arthur Young and Pierre Coustillas.
Ohio, 334 pp., £47.50, September 1990, 0 8214 0955 7
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... as the moment of his family’s ‘exile’ and ‘unclassing’, when its always ambiguous status lost any claim to being considered middle-class. At 15 Gissing won a scholarship to Owens College in Manchester, which was at that time still principally an institution for preparing students for entry to Oxford, Cambridge and London. Gissing was a star student until the moment in his third year when he was ...

At the Barbican

Peter Campbell: Martin Parr

4 April 2002
Martin Parr 
by Val Williams.
Phaidon, 354 pp., £45, February 2002, 0 7148 3990 6
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... greasy-fingered, tabloid-reading people who eat in their cars, who shout and brawl’. He has also shown how they themselves can look to an unflattering eye. Parr grew up in Surbiton but studied in Manchester. His tutors were interested in the work of 1960s photographers of celebrity – men like Bailey and Duffy. Parr and his friends were interested in documenting the unglamorous. Their aim was not to ...


Dave Haslam

20 July 1995
The Black Album 
by Hanif Kureishi.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, March 1995, 0 571 15086 1
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The Faber Book of Pop 
edited by Hanif Kureishi and Jon Savage.
Faber, 813 pp., £16.99, May 1995, 0 571 16992 9
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... Britain is almost forty years old. By 1957 ‘Rock around the Clock’ had opened a generation gap, London-based record labels like EMI, Decca and Pye had started to refine the art of hit-making, and Manchester had an import record shop bringing American rhythm and blues direct to Northern youth. By the mid-Sixties Jamaican sound systems in South London, Birmingham and the North of England were playing the ...

The Finchley Factor

Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Thatcher in Israel

13 September 2018
Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East 
by Azriel Bermant.
Cambridge, 274 pp., £22.99, September 2017, 978 1 316 60630 8
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... of a new Jewish nationality. And so Zionists looked for gentile support. When Winston Churchill deserted the Tories for the Liberals in 1904 he was obliged to find another parliamentary seat, in Manchester North West, which had a substantial Jewish electorate. In December 1905 Arthur Balfour resigned after his short, fraught spell as Tory prime minister, and the new Liberal government called an ...

In a Dry Place

Nicolas Tredell

11 October 1990
On the Look-Out: A Partial Autobiography 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 234 pp., £14.95, October 1989, 0 85635 758 8
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In Two Minds: Guesses at Other Writers 
by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 296 pp., £18.95, September 1990, 0 85635 877 0
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... European excursions, he goes north, to an English city, with a university whose Department of Government has granted him a research fellowship, but he finds the city uncongenial, to put it mildly: ‘Manchester is one of those disgraces by which the human race advertises the squalor and turpitude of its mind.’ Theme for an imaginary dialogue: C.H. Sisson, poet, civil servant and student of government ...

Brief Shining Moments

Christopher Hitchens: Donkey Business in the White House

19 February 1998
Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years 1963-65 
by Taylor Branch.
Simon and Schuster, 746 pp., $30, February 1998, 0 684 80819 6
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‘One Hell of a Gamble’: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy, 1958-64 
by Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali.
Murray, 416 pp., September 1997, 0 7195 5518 3
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The Dark Side of Camelot 
by Seymour Hersh.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £8.99, February 1998, 9780006530770
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Mutual Contempt: Lyndon Johnson , Bobby Kennedy and the Feud that Defined a Decade 
by Jeff Shesol.
Norton, 591 pp., £23.50, January 1998, 9780393040784
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The Year the Dream Died 
by Jules Witcover.
Warner, 512 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 446 51849 2
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Without Honor: The Impeachment of President Nixon and the Crimes of Camelot 
by Jerry Zeifman.
Thunder's Mouth, 262 pp., $24.95, November 1996, 9781560251286
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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis 
edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.
Howard, 740 pp., £23.50, September 1997, 0 674 17926 9
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Lyndon B. Johnson’s Vietnam Papers: A Documentary Collection 
edited by David Barrett.
Texas A & M, 906 pp., $94, June 1997, 0 89096 741 5
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Taking Charge: The Johnson Whitehouse Tapes 1963-64 
edited by Michael Beschloss.
Simon and Schuster, 624 pp., £20, April 1998, 0 684 80407 7
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Abuse of Power: The New Nixon Tapes 
edited by Stanley Kutler.
Free Press, 675 pp., $30, November 1997, 0 684 84127 4
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The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy and the Jupiters, 1957-63 
by Philip Nash.
North Carolina, 231 pp., £34.70, October 1997, 0 8078 4647 3
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... television anchor describe the Kennedy gang as ‘American Royalty’, I nod in silent assent. Nor can one object, except aesthetically, to the silly term ‘Camelot’. Mrs Kennedy did indeed tell WilliamManchester, for a fawning profile that he wrote just after the assassination, that her late husband – who loathed the classical music soirées that she arranged at the White House for artists like ...

How to be a wife

Colm Tóibín: The Discretion of Jackie Kennedy

6 June 2002
Janet & Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis 
by Jan Pottker.
St Martin’s, 381 pp., $24.95, October 2001, 0 312 26607 3
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Mrs Kennedy: The Missing History of the Kennedy Years 
by Barbara Leaming.
Weidenfeld, 389 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 297 64333 9
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... she married him, to politics. In the later accounts by writers and journalists, there is a strange defining eloquence, as though they are trying to compete with the camera or the silkscreen print. WilliamManchester, whose book The Death of a President caused her such grief (she believed it had invaded her privacy and compromised her relationship with Johnson), remembered his first meeting with her as ...


Paul Foot

4 August 1988
Britain’s Nuclear Nightmare 
by James Cutler and Rob Edwards.
Sphere, 200 pp., £3.99, April 1988, 0 7221 2759 6
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... came up with a suspect. If something so extraordinary happens once, most people will think it a cock-up or an accident or a coincidence. But what if something rather like that happens again? What if William McRae, a radical Glasgow solicitor, and a prominent objector to the dumping of nuclear waste in the Galloway hills, is found shot dead in his car with the revolver some twenty yards away in a stream ...
5 June 1986
Agate: A Biography 
by James Harding.
Methuen, 238 pp., £12.95, April 1986, 0 413 58090 3
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Subsequent Performances 
by Jonathan Miller.
Faber, 253 pp., £15, April 1986, 0 571 13133 6
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... The Hazlitt of our time’, said the Manchester Guardian, announcing the death of James Agate in 1947. An extravagant compliment, but the famous theatre reviewer did have one or two of Hazlitt’s characteristics. Though his journalism now seems ...

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