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Plimsoll’s Story

Stephen Sedley

28 April 2011
The Oxford History of the Laws of England 1820-1914: Vol. XI, English Legal System; Vol. XII, Private Law; Vol. XIII, Fields of Development 
edited by William Cornish et al.
Oxford, 3571 pp., £495, February 2010, 978 0 19 925883 3
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... signifies, it is neither academic nor geographical. The chairs occupied by the authors of the final phase are situated in Cambridge, Otago, Keele, London, Middlesex and Cardiff. The doyen of them, WilliamCornish, has a distinguished record both as a legal historian – his and Geoffrey Clark’s Law and Society in England 1750-1950 remains an important work – and as an authority on intellectual ...

Hateful Sunsets

David Craig: Highlands and Headlands

5 March 2015
Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place 
by Philip Marsden.
Granta, 348 pp., £20, October 2014, 978 1 84708 628 0
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... of quartz, like petrified pupae, that stud their surfaces are so useful as we climb the crags west of Newlyn and north of Sennen. Marsden believes that the stone artefacts which crown so many of the Cornish uplands – the circles, henges, quoits and megaliths – were made and placed there because people found those heights important. Natural landmarks were valued, even worshipped, and people were ...

Make-Believe

Patricia Beer

8 November 1979
The Intruder 
by Gillian Tindall.
Hodder, 286 pp., £5.95
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Mother Can You Hear Me? 
by Margaret Forster.
Secker, 269 pp., £5.90
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Treasures of Time 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 199 pp., £4.95
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Wild Nights 
by Emma Tennant.
Cape, 134 pp., £4.50
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... trivial victory. The settings and situations are humdrum to an extent that must have needed a great deal of imagination. In all this realism there is one serious false note: the Trewicks’ name is Cornish and they live in Cornwall, and yet, though it is made clear that they do not speak Standard English, they do not sound in the least Cornish. The book has vitality and staying-power. The chief ...

In Bexhill

Peter Campbell: Ben Nicholson

20 November 2008
... sgraffito on those by Lucie Rie) as to the work of European artists such as Mondrian and Gabo whose presence in England was an obvious source of inspiration. The naive paintings Alfred Wallis made of Cornish harbours and ships offered access to the unsophisticated directness that Parisian artists had found some decades before in African sculpture. The Bexhill exhibition does show white reliefs from the ...

Learned Insane

Simon Schaffer: The Lunar Men

17 April 2003
The Lunar Men: The Friends who Made the Future 
by Jenny Uglow.
Faber, 588 pp., £25, September 2002, 0 571 19647 0
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... Joseph Priestley, the Society was barely visible in print. No learned memoirs appeared under its auspices, no grand assemblies were organised by its fellowship. According to the son of the botanist William Withering, another Lunar man, it was ‘one of the best private philosophical clubs in the kingdom’, broken up, so it was said, when Tory reaction in the wake of the French Revolution brought ...

At the Ashmolean

Rosemary Hill: The Capture of the Westmorland

19 July 2012
... Tour was more socially mixed than it might appear. Basset, the biggest spender among the consigners to the Westmorland, was not an aristocrat but the beneficiary of a recent family fortune made from Cornish mines. By now the Tour was also less of an exclusively male rite of passage. This second generation of tourists often went later in life and took their wives with them. Nor was the cartoon image of ...

Vitality

John Cannon

10 May 1990
A Polite and Commercial People: England 1727-1783 
by Paul Langford.
Oxford, 803 pp., £25, September 1989, 0 19 822828 7
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Voters, Patrons and Parties: The Unreformed Electorate of Hanoverian England, 1734-1832 
by Frank O’Gorman.
Oxford, 445 pp., £40, August 1989, 0 19 820056 0
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... engravings at the end of chapters. The writing is lively and spirited, with glimpses and vignettes of people who do not always turn up in textbooks: Mary Tofts, ‘the rabbit woman’; the Rev. William Dodd, forger; Elizabeth Brownrigg, murderess; the Rev. Augustus Toplady, Evangelical; Elizabeth Chudleigh, duchess and bigamist, and the like. The straight political content is considerably reduced ...

At the Shore

Inigo Thomas

30 August 2018
... beach’ is one of them, ‘shingle’ another, ‘pebble’ a third. ‘You’re not the only pebble on the beach’ was the title of a 19th-century song that has become a saying. ‘Dear Henry,’ William James wrote to his physician friend Henry Bowditch, ‘you see that you are not the only pebble on the beach, or toad in the puddle of senile degeneration.’ ‘What is a pebble?’ is the opening ...

Truffles for Potatoes

Ferdinand Mount: Little Rosebery

22 September 2005
Rosebery: Statesman in Turmoil 
by Leo McKinstry.
Murray, 626 pp., £25, May 2005, 0 7195 5879 4
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... The schoolmaster William Johnson is remembered for three things, although not under that name. He wrote the most famous of all translations from Greek lyric verse, ‘They told me, Heraclitus, they told me you were dead ...

Door Closing!

Mark Ford: Randall Jarrell

21 October 2010
Pictures from an Institution: A Comedy 
by Randall Jarrell.
Chicago, 277 pp., £10.50, April 2010, 978 0 226 39375 9
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... system. Of the great modernists of the previous era, only Robert Frost assumed the role of pedagogue to undergraduates, taking his first job at Amherst College in 1917. Pound, Eliot, Wallace Stevens, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Hart Crane all lived by other means; though it’s worth pointing out that the poetry and criticism of Eliot in particular, and to a lesser extent of Pound, played a ...

Praising God

David Underdown

10 June 1993
Going to the Wars: The Experience of the British Civil Wars 1638-1651 
by Charles Carlton.
Routledge, 428 pp., £25, October 1992, 0 415 03282 2
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... sides in Ireland. Carlton estimates that over 40 per cent of the Irish population died war-related deaths (by killing, disease, or starvation) during these dreadful years. This may be a bit high (Sir William Petty put the number at between a quarter and a third), but Carlton plausibly argues that even in England a higher percentage of the population died in the civil wars than died in Flanders during the ...

And Cabbages Too

Patrick Collinson: The Tudors

22 March 2001
New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603 
by Susan Brigden.
Allen Lane, 434 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9067 8
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... was not the same thing, or place, in all those centuries, and for much of the time there was no such historical entity: only a name and a geographical notion. Towards the end of the 16th century, William Camden published his Britannia, the intention of which was to inform learned Continental readers that the modern English nation state, which was increasingly dominant in the British Isles, was the ...

What did he think he was?

Tom Shippey: Ælfred the Great

10 May 2018
Ælfred’s Britain: War and Peace in the Viking Age 
by Max Adams.
Head of Zeus, 509 pp., £9.99, May 2018, 978 1 78408 031 0
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...  pedwar, pump – and in the latter they look like Irish: cathair, cúig. (Old Italic languages show the same division: Latin is Q-Italic, with quattuor and quinque.) In ninth-century Britain, Cornish and Welsh were P-Celtic languages, and so was the language of the people whose heroes in Welsh poetic tradition were the gwyr y gogledd, the ‘men of the North’: that is, the inhabitants of south ...

Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’

23 October 2003
Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... In the summer of 1797, William Godwin set out on a tour of the Midlands. He had hoped to visit, among others, Erasmus Darwin, but finding the naturalist away from home, Godwin asked Darwin’s wife for a letter of introduction to ...

How are you finding it here?

Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts

28 October 1999
The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... The importance of language in ‘Celticity’ reflects the re-emergence of the term in 18th-century linguistics in connection with the discovery that ancient British (the ancestor of Welsh, Cornish and Breton) and ancient Gaulish, which had been known to be related since the time of Tacitus, were also related to the Gaelic language of Ireland and Scotland. The first convincing demonstration of ...

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