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Speaking British

Thomas Jones

30 March 2000
The Third Woman 
by William Cash.
Little, Brown, 318 pp., £14.99, February 2000, 0 316 85405 0
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Greene on Capri: A Memoir 
by Shirley Hazzard.
Virago, 149 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 1 86049 799 3
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... for the reader of The End of the Affair, it is essential for the novel itself: weaken it, as Jordan does, and the edifice collapses. In order to coincide with the opening of the movie, one suspects, WilliamCash’s The Third Woman appears to have been rushed into print. He was burrowing around in the archives at Georgetown University only last summer, and the idea for a book about Greene’s ...

Cape of Mad Hope

Neal Ascherson: The Darien disaster

3 January 2008
The Price of Scotland: Darien, Union and the Wealth of Nations 
by Douglas Watt.
Luath, 312 pp., £8.99, January 2007, 978 1 906307 09 7
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... recognise. Here is the mesmerising visionary bounding from cloud to cloud with other people’s savings, and the yuppie so thrilled with early success that he persuades himself that the company’s cash is his own. Here are the grave, respected men of substance who dare not admit to one another that in financial reality they are total ninnies, unable to read profit or loss off a stallholder’s ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment

5 April 2007
The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of the quarto edition of David Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several ...
20 January 2011
Newton and the Counterfeiter: The Unknown Detective Career of the World’s Greatest Scientist 
by Thomas Levenson.
Faber, 318 pp., £9.99, August 2010, 978 0 571 22993 2
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... plotter was a scion of the royal house of Orange-Nassau and nephew and son-in-law to the British king, but he had none of the poise and magnificence that were supposed to go with a royal pedigree. William, Prince of Orange was a mousy, middle-aged sociophobe, famous for combining blatant adultery and sanctimonious piety, and loved by no one except, maybe, his docile wife, Mary. But he was a skilful ...

Short Cuts

John Lanchester: The Art of Financial Disaster

15 December 2011
... At the time of its last results, the Rock had a Tier One capital ratio of 30 per cent. That number measures how safe a bank is: it is in effect the bank’s margin for error, showing how much cash of its own the bank has. The higher the percentage, the safer the bank; British banks must have a Tier One ratio of 10 per cent. Virgin has promised that the new combined bank will have a ratio of 15 ...

Miracle on Fleet Street

Martin Hickman: Operation Elveden

7 January 2016
... that a TV presenter has been arrested for assault, or that a prisoner has a 26-inch TV in his cell? Would it be any more or any less improper to pay someone for handing over a photograph of Prince William wearing a bikini? The court cases were scarcely covered by the Fleet Street newspapers, save to complain that they were taking place at all (the Daily Mail described Elveden as ‘a disgraceful ...
15 August 1991
Arms and the Man: Dr Gerlad Bull, Iraq and the Supergun 
by William​ Lowther.
Macmillan, 298 pp., £15.99, July 1991, 0 333 56069 8
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... with a US passport, a wife back home and a mistress in Belgium, was shot dead outside his Brussels apartment with five shots from a silenced 7.65mm pistol. The assassin left behind $20,000 in cash which Bull had in his pockets. Two days later a Belgian newspaper ran a one-paragraph story headlined Meurtre d’un Américain. An extraordinary career had come to an abrupt end. Hélène Grégoire ...
19 February 1987
The Market for Glory: Fleet Street Ownership in the 20th Century 
by Simon Jenkins.
Faber, 247 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 571 14627 9
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The End of the Street 
by Linda Melvern.
Methuen, 276 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 413 14640 5
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... Victor Matthews, moving from building-site to Fleet Street and out again in less than ten years. The free or cut-price offers of dictionaries and flower-pots in the 1930s have given way to bingo and cash prizes. As for content, most of the popular papers are as cheap and nasty as ever, apparently as indifferent to a more educated public as they are contemptuous of the Press Council. When it comes to ...
14 September 1989
Conflict and Control: Law and Order in 19th-Century Italy 
by John Davis.
Macmillan, 308 pp., £8.95, July 1988, 0 333 28647 2
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Feuding, Conflict and Banditry in 19th-Century Corsica 
by Stephen Wilson.
Cambridge, 565 pp., £45, September 1988, 0 521 35033 6
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... in clearly understood gestures which all too often culminated in homicide. But when they did, powerful cultural norms came into play. Blood must be avenged with blood. Nothing else, and least of all cash compensation, was honourable. Thus the virtually inescapable cycle of vendetta began. One of its consequences was that other characteristically Corsican phenomenon, banditry. Ever since Eric Hobsbawm ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Second Novel Anxiety Syndrome

22 August 2002
... this. The 25-year-old Graham Greene didn’t get much for The Man Within (1929), his first novel, or rather his first published novel (he’d already had two rejected). On the back of it, however, William Heinemann offered Greene a three-book contract that was lucrative enough for him to leave his job as a subeditor at the Times. The Name of Action (1930) and Rumour at Nightfall (1931) weren’t up to ...

Cat Poems

Gavin Ewart

25 October 1990
... only searching for her own lost cat. Kindly householders will beat the azaleas for kitty. While she nips into the house. She’s sitting pretty – last year $1 million – her total for 1988!   Cash, silver, jewellery and other expensive goods.Diamond rings and other heirlooms. Her profits are great.   But she’s not one of your ordinary modern hoods. She’s more like a pirate. Lives in New ...

On Jews Walk

Andrew Saint: Eleanor Marx’s Blue Plaque

9 October 2008
... The problem was Edward Aveling, her common-law husband, as clever and fervent a socialist as Eleanor, but a cold, compulsive philanderer, gravely sick himself and dependent on her for care and cash. Nine months before she died, he contracted a secret marriage. The usual theory is that Eleanor killed herself when she discovered it: she had certainly been wretched for months on his account, yet ...

Reticulation

Frank Kermode: Wordsworth at Sea

6 February 2003
The Wreck of the ‘Abergavenny’ 
by Alethea Hayter.
Macmillan, 223 pp., £14.99, September 2002, 0 333 98917 1
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... and society of her chosen moment. Her interest in the wreck of the East-Indiaman Abergavenny arose primarily from the circumstance that its captain was John Wordsworth, brother of the more famous William and Dorothy. His death in 1805 at the outset of what was to have been his last voyage before he retired (at 34) caused convulsions of sorrow at Grasmere, where he had intended to join the family ...

Diary

Frank Kermode: What Went On at the Arts Council

4 December 1986
... t the job they’d signed on for, and in any case it was undesirable and perhaps impossible to bring off. So Shaw had to deal with a mutinous directorate as well as with a difficult chairman, Sir William Rees-Mogg, and a series of unsympathetic ministers. He has lost no time in his retirement in giving an account of what went on. Apart from the business of deciding what is culturally valuable and ...
11 January 1990
Missing Beauty: A True Story of Murder and Obsession 
by Teresa Carpenter.
Hamish Hamilton, 478 pp., £15.95, October 1989, 0 241 12775 0
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Wasted: The Preppie Murder 
by Linda Wolfe.
Simon and Schuster, 303 pp., $19.95, September 1989, 0 671 64184 0
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... Decent people, Teresa Carpenter would assert, aren’t always what they seem. In 1982 William Douglas was working as a cell biologist at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. He was an associate professor on the tenure track, a gifted scientist, and a successful grant-getter. He was ...

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