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Most Curious of Seas

Richard Fortey: Noah’s Flood, 1 July 1999

Noah’s Flood: The New Scientific Discoveries about the Event that Changed History 
by William Ryan and Walter Pitman.
Simon and Schuster, 319 pp., £17.99, February 1999, 0 684 81052 2
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... the oral tradition before it was ever inscribed in clay. Even today, guslars still sing it. This, Ryan and Pitman tell us, was the true Flood, the historical event that we know as the Noachian Deluge. The Flood was the result of an inundation of a huge freshwater lake which became, in a matter of weeks, the Black Sea. It is black because below the top few ...

Not Making it

Stephen Fender, 24 October 1991

The Promised Land: The Great Black Migration and how it changed America 
by Nicholas Lemann.
Macmillan, 410 pp., £20, August 1991, 0 333 56584 3
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... made the ghettos’ ‘tangle of pathology’ (his phrase) seem intractable. Secretary of Labour William Wirtz remembers advising Moynihan not to use it ‘until we can suggest what to do with it’. The report, as Wirtz put it, ‘was very long on detail about the problem and very short on what to do’. What Moynihan was doing, said the Boston Civil Rights ...


Christian Lorentzen: Homo Trumpiens, 3 November 2016

... Hey, everybody,​ how about it, huh?’ Paul Ryan said, coming onto a stage decorated with hay bales and pumpkins in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, on the afternoon of 9 October. ‘Man, good day! Good to see you, what a beautiful day, huh? Welcome to Fall Fest, you guys! Welcome to Fall Fest! Look, let me just start off by saying, there is a bit of an elephant in the room ...

Something to Steer by

Richard Rorty, 20 June 1996

John Dewey and the High Tide of American Liberalism 
by Alan Ryan.
Norton, 414 pp., $30, May 1995, 0 393 03773 8
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... construction. Yet he was as romantic and visionary as any philosopher who has ever lived. As Alan Ryan says, ‘the dominant tone of 20th-century cultural criticism has been exactly at odds with Dewey’s.’ That tone has grown drier and more brittle as the century has grown older. Dewey was, throughout his long life, as wet as they come. ...

Living It

Andrew O’Hagan: The World of Andy McNab, 24 January 2008

by Andy McNab.
Bantam, 414 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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Strike Back 
by Chris Ryan.
Century, 314 pp., £17.99, October 2007, 978 1 84413 535 6
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... ordinarily read have come in great numbers to love the insiderish bravado of McNab and Chris Ryan. Their books are driven by stereotype and cartoon violence, by idiocy, prejudice and unreality, which is why they are inadvertent masterpieces of social realism, for in their garish video-game manners they enclose their subject. McNab and ...

The Voice from the Hearth-Rug

Alan Ryan: The Cambridge Apostles, 28 October 1999

The Cambridge Apostles 1820-1914: Liberalism, Imagination and Friendship in British Intellectual and Professional Life 
by W.C. Lubenow.
Cambridge, 458 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 521 57213 4
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... occur, but schoolmasters and headmasters abound: not just raffish Etonian schoolmasters such as William Cory Johnson and Oscar Browning, but solid, sober headmasters in the High Victorian style, such as Montagu Butler and J.E.C. Welldon at Harrow, afforced by Kennedy at Shrewsbury, Farrar at Marlborough, and Young at Sherborne. Lubenow is interested in a ...

John Stuart Mill’s Forgotten Victory

Alasdair MacIntyre, 16 October 1980

An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy 
by John Stuart Mill, edited by J.M. Robson.
Routledge, 625 pp., £15.95, February 1980, 0 7100 0178 9
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... It is a long time​ now since any undergraduate class used Mill’s An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, first published in 1865, as a set text. But it has happened. George Santayana, who graduated from Harvard College in 1886, has described in Persons and Places the teaching of Francis Bowen: But Harvard possessed safe, sober old professors also and oldest of all, ‘Fanny’ Bowen ...


Alan Ryan, 9 November 1989

Burke and the Fall of Language: The French Revolution as Linguistic Event 
by Steven Blakemore.
University Press of New England, 115 pp., £10, April 1989, 0 87451 452 5
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The Impact of the French Revolution on European Consciousness 
edited by H.T. Mason and William Doyle.
Sutton, 205 pp., £17.95, June 1989, 0 86299 483 7
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The French Revolution and the Enlightenment in England 1789-1832 
by Seamus Deane.
Harvard, 212 pp., £19.95, November 1988, 0 674 32240 1
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... human nature to Dickens’s surprisingly thoughtful reflections on 1789, 1830 and 1848, and from William Doyle’s opening attempt to divine the ruling principles of the Revolution at one end of the book to Norman Hampson’s engagingly self-mocking attempt to draw out its lessons at the other. But a good many of the essays are sustainedly interesting, and ...

My Feet Are Cut Off

Barbara Newman: Lives of the Saints, 3 December 2009

Gilte Legende Vol. I 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 496 pp., £65, November 2006, 0 19 920577 9
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Gilte Legende Vol. II 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 1036 pp., £65, August 2007, 978 0 19 923439 4
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... for medieval culture. (Readers who prefer modern English can consult the excellent translation by William Granger Ryan, published by Princeton in 1993.) Pious instruction, sensational entertainment, conservative propaganda, erotic titillation, sacred violence – the Golden Legend offered all these and more. Most ...

Keep quiet about it

Alan Ryan: Henry Sidgwick’s Anxieties, 2 June 2005

Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe 
by Bart Schultz.
Cambridge, 858 pp., £40, June 2004, 0 521 82967 4
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... and as to the basis of ethics. The most impressive representative of this view was the Rev. William Whewell, master of Trinity, and a formidable historian and philosopher of science. Mill was deeply contemptuous of intuitionism; it seemed to him to confuse entrenched mental habits with the truth about the world, and to support social conservatism with ...

Do women like sex?

Michael Mason, 8 November 1990

Making sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Harvard, 352 pp., $27.50, October 1990, 0 674 54349 1
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... reputation acquired in the last twenty-five years by the fairly minor Victorian medical figure, William Acton, whom he rescued from oblivion in The Other Victorians. Whatever he feels, he has released a genie of formidable energy. Laqueur doesn’t give a footnote for his quotation from Acton: that would be like footnoting a phrase from Hamlet or the ...

Astride a White Horse

Declan Kiberd: Bridget Clearly, 6 January 2000

The Burning of Bridget Cleary: A True Story 
by Angela Bourke.
Pimlico, 240 pp., £10, August 1999, 0 7126 6590 0
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... that she had been unfaithful to Cleary, who was often away at Clonmel. One possible lover was William Simpson, a man hated by many locals because he worked as a ‘heavy’ for the landlord. Bridget, always a defiant individualist, did his shopping when local grocers refused to serve him. (This may have helped the couple to secure the house from the ...

English Individualism Revisited

Alan Ryan, 21 January 1988

The Culture of Capitalism 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 254 pp., £19.50, August 1987, 0 631 13626 6
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... Lonsdale records, Macfarlane looked at the exploits of a band of coin-clippers and highwaymen. William Smorthwait, his brother and their friends were indeed ‘Insolent and Formidable Felons’ who committed numerous burglaries, perpetrated occasional though rather minor assaults, and for three and a half years boasted that they cared nothing for the local ...

Bertie and Alys and Ottoline

Alan Ryan, 28 May 1992

The Selected Letters of Bertrand Russell. Vol. I: The Private Years, 1884-1914 
edited by Nicholas Griffin.
Allen Lane, 553 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 7139 9023 6
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... Russells. His uncle Rollo began to lose his sight and had to leave the Foreign Office, his uncle William went mad and was consigned to an asylum where he spent the rest of his long life, and his father had an epileptic seizure. In the winter of 1873-4, his parents and his older brother Frank went to Italy. When they came back, Frank had diphtheria; though he ...

The Redeemed Vicarage

John Lennard, 12 May 1994

Pictures of Perfection 
by Reginald Hill.
HarperCollins, 303 pp., £14.99, March 1994, 0 00 232392 3
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... bound together by the rich Renaissance epigraphs, from Shakespeare, Burton, Spenser, and Dekker, William Turner and Pierre Erondell, Drayton and Sidney, which like the buildings of the university town marshal a reader’s progress and whisper, in their proportions and through their gargoyles, of older traditions than our own, and less happy endings than the ...

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