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Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh

7 November 2019
A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... As a survey of Waugh’s career this collection is less balanced than William Cook’s anthology of 2010, Kiss Me, Chudleigh, the World According to Auberon Waugh. Attallah, who is chairman of Quartet Books and who bankrolled the Review and Ingrams’s magazine the Oldie for many years, is not unreasonably concerned to focus on his ...

Mauve Monkeys

William Fiennes

18 September 1997
Wilde’s Last Stand: Decadence, Conspiracy and the First World War 
by Philip Hoare.
Duckworth, 250 pp., £16.95, July 1997, 0 7156 2737 6
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... this dark genius has the leanness and meticulous parting of T.S. Eliot, the milky eyes of Enoch Powell, and a monocle that is his signature affectation; the lens of his probity. In March 1916, he became Independent MP for East Hertfordshire, touting protofascist policies: Jewish ghettos and yellow stars; anti-German and anti-alien strictures; moves against ...

I have written as I rode

Adam Smyth: ‘Brief Lives’

7 October 2015
‘Brief Lives’ with ‘An Apparatus for the Lives of Our English Mathematical Writers’ 
by John Aubrey, edited by Kate Bennett.
Oxford, 1968 pp., £250, March 2015, 978 0 19 968953 8
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John Aubrey: My Own Life 
by Ruth Scurr.
Chatto, 518 pp., £25, March 2015, 978 0 7011 7907 6
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... Lord John Russell told him that his father the sixth Duke of Bedford told him that he had heard William Pitt the Younger speak in Parliament during the Napoleonic Wars, and that Pitt had this curious way of talking, a particular mannerism that the sixth Duke of Bedford had imitated to Lord John Russell who imitated it to Bertrand Russell who imitated it to ...

A Revision of Expectations

Richard Horton: Notes on the NHS

2 July 1998
The National Health Service: A Political History 
by Charles Webster.
Oxford, 233 pp., £9.99, April 1998, 0 19 289296 7
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... moment of bipartisanship: in the 50-year history of the NHS, there hasn’t been another like it. William Beveridge’s 300-page report, Social Insurance and Allied Service, was submitted in November 1942. By the end of 1944, it had sold over 200,000 copies. It had been commissioned with postwar reconstruction in mind and was to lead to one of this ...

The Lie that Empire Tells Itself

Eric Foner: America’s bad wars

19 May 2005
The Dominion of War: Empire and conflict in North America 1500-2000 
by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.
Atlantic, 520 pp., £19.99, July 2005, 1 903809 73 8
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... stepped onto the world stage as an imperial power in the Spanish-American War of 1898, President William McKinley insisted that ours was a ‘benevolent’ imperialism, that the conquest of Puerto Rico and the Philippines ought not to be compared to the despotic actions of European powers. Woodrow Wilson insisted that only the US possessed the combination of ...
25 October 1979
... I sometimes​ argue with my friend Heathcote Williams about his use of pornography as a means of attacking his political enemies. It seems to me an irrelevant weapon in any context, and in the hands of a man with Heathcote’s anarchistic, optimistic, nearly utopian convictions it becomes puzzlingly inconsistent ...

We’ve done awfully well

Karl Miller: The Late 1950s

18 July 2013
Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, 1957-59 
by David Kynaston.
Bloomsbury, 432 pp., £25, June 2013, 978 0 7475 8893 1
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... project, it’s also one that stands on its own feet. An affinity with the fiction of Anthony Powell has been caught, but this is not a novel. It is not a memoir, though it eats the memoirs of others, plankton-fashion. It is a species of history – annals, perhaps. Kynaston’s far from copious political judgments are sensible and considerate, though I ...

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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... folksong tradition, from the founding of the Royal College of Music in 1882 onwards. Vaughan Williams, George Butterworth and Ivor Gurney studied there, and all were to produce song-cycles from A Shropshire Lad, as did John Ireland. The appeal of the poems lay partly in their concision and surface simplicity of rhythm and metre, their lack of figurative ...

Conspire Slowly, Act Quickly

David Runciman: Thatcher Undone

2 January 2020
Margaret Thatcher: The Authorised Biography Vol. III: Herself Alone 
by Charles Moore.
Allen Lane, 1072 pp., £35, October 2019, 978 0 241 32474 5
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... there was little they could do about it. Having discovered what her most trusted adviser, Charles Powell, called somewhat euphemistically their ‘ploy’, she moved Howe away from the Foreign Office to become leader of the House of Commons, and a few months later Lawson resigned. The ostensible reason was his inability to work with Alan Walters, Thatcher’s ...

A Bit of a Lush

Christopher Tayler: William Boyd

23 May 2002
Any Human Heart 
by William Boyd.
Hamish Hamilton, 504 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 9780241141779
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... John Clearwater, the tormented mathematician in William Boyd’s novel Brazzaville Beach, wants to reduce chaos, flux and turbulence to an elegant set of equations. He’s also an obsessive moviegoer who refuses to watch anything which doesn’t meet his one absolute criterion: ‘he believed, with a fundamental zeal, that a true film, a film that was true to the nature of its own form, had to have a happy ending ...

Baby Face

John Bayley

24 May 1990
William Gerhardie: A Biography 
by Dido Davies.
Oxford, 411 pp., £25, April 1990, 0 19 211794 7
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Memoirs of a Polyglot 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 381 pp., £5.95, April 1990, 0 86072 111 6
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Futility 
by William Gerhardie.
Robin Clark, 198 pp., £4.95, April 1990, 0 86072 112 4
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God’s Fifth Column: A Biography of the Age 1890-1940 
by William Gerhardie, edited by Michael Holroyd and Robert Skidelsky.
Hogarth, 360 pp., £8.95, April 1990, 0 7012 0887 2
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... in St Petersburg. A solid family, despite their later forced exiles and polyglot adventures, and William’s brother Victor, who was to settle down in business in Finland, sounds rather boringly British. William, too, was English in his own way, which may have been one of the things about him that Evelyn Waugh admired. He ...

Between the Raindrops

David Bromwich: The Subtlety of James Stewart

12 December 2002
James Stewart at the NFT 
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... that he was a natural actor. Carole Lombard, who had worked with Fredric March, Charles Laughton, William Powell and John Barrymore, thought him more remarkable than any of them. On screen, his name appeared as James Stewart, and he worked hard at every detail. He was a canny businessman. Before the Second World War, he invested in a small airline. Soon ...

A Cine-Fist to the Solar Plexus

David Trotter: Eisenstein

2 August 2018
Beyond the Stars, Vol.1: The Boy from Riga 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by William Powell.
Seagull, 558 pp., £16.99, June 2018, 978 0 85742 488 4
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On the Detective Story 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 229 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 490 7
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On Disney 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 208 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 491 4
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The Short-Fiction Scenario 
by Sergei Eisenstein, translated by Alan Upchurch.
Seagull, 115 pp., £16.99, November 2017, 978 0 85742 489 1
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Movement, Action, Image, Montage: Sergei Eisenstein and the Cinema in Crisis 
by Luka Arsenjuk.
Minnesota, 249 pp., £19.99, February 2018, 978 1 5179 0320 6
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... But​ where does the Potemkin go?’ That, according to Sergei Eisenstein, was what the people who had just seen his most famous film really wanted to know. At the climax of the film, the battleship’s mutinous crew, having got rid of all its officers and intervened decisively in the first stirrings of revolt in the Black Sea town of Odessa, head out of harbour to confront the rest of the imperial fleet, which has assembled to block their escape ...

Squealing to Survive

John Lahr: Clancy was here

19 July 2018
Black Sunset: Hollywood Sex, Lies, Glamour, Betrayal and Raging Egos 
by Clancy Sigal.
Icon, 352 pp., £12.99, May 2018, 978 1 78578 439 2
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The London Lover: My Weekend that Lasted Thirty Years 
by Clancy Sigal.
Bloomsbury, 274 pp., £20, May 2018, 978 1 4088 8580 2
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... that I’ve read his last books, I wonder who he was playing. Walter Matthau? Spencer Tracy? William Powell?) He wanted all the London news – the old friends, the old neighbourhood, the kids now grown up and, of course, who was writing what – but he kept his own recent private battles with Legionnaires’ disease, insomnia, chronic ...
22 May 1986
The Lamberts: George, Constant and Kit 
by Andrew Motion.
Chatto, 388 pp., £13.95, April 1986, 0 7011 2731 7
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... the great (Diaghilev, the Sitwells), one is often keener to learn of the luck his rival and friend William Walton was having. Walton’s history lurks in the shadows of the Lambertian narrative, and his more succulent achievement stimulates the greater curiosity. As for George Lambert’s overall failure, Motion himself supplies the required epitaph: ‘At a ...

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