In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Short Cuts: Harry Goes Rogue

Jonathan Parry

At the DoorPeter Campbell
Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close

Something untoward has happened in our block of flats. Up on the sixth floor a door has been staved in. It has been made safe with a pair of new padlocks and much of the splintered wood has been covered with corrugated iron. The reason could be as simple as a malfunctioning lock, or as sad as the woman who lives there not answering calls. It can’t have been a break-in. The noticeboard downstairs that keeps us up to date with such things – the drug dealers who seem to have been using our bin store, the occasional intrusion of a burglar – would have given details and told us, once again, to check that the front door is shut properly at all times and not to let in strangers.

The front door is a flat’s or a building’s mouth; to see it smashed open, its power to let in and keep out challenged, makes for anxiety. The affront goes deep. Doors are symbolic as well as functional. When council flats were sold off in large numbers in the 1980s you could follow the progress of privatisation by casting an eye over a block and noting which of the original, plain doors had been replaced. Newly empowered owners used panelled hardwood and glazed lunettes to mark their elevation from tenant to freeholder. Even in the best-mannered of London’s enclaves the colour of a door is a personal statement. The estate – public or private – aspires to uniformity, even legislates for it. When constraint is relaxed the door is the first place where individuality breaks through.

Georgian doorway with pediment and ironwork, London

For a couple of hundred years domestic architecture in London tended towards uniformity. Terraced houses stayed much the same for a long time, and what changes there were affected the plan rather than the elevation. Despite variations in the detail of brick and plasterwork, in the depth of window reveals and the size of windowpanes, an early 18th-century house in Meard Street or Queen Anne’s Gate, a late 18th-century house in Bedford Square and a mid-19th-century one in Gordon Square are variations on a common pattern. Their general aspect is little affected by fashion. Doors and their surrounds are different. In Queen Anne’s Gate the richly carved door hoods project far enough to offer protection from the rain; very soon that baroque decoration (the most extravagant example of it in London, two doorways capped by shell hoods, can be found in Laurence Pountney Lane, in the City) gives way to milder emphasis – a pediment, or a carved or cast keystone in the door arch. In general, doorways become less assertive, more correctly classical as a Brummell-like discretion in architectural dress overcomes more flamboyant detail. A modern flush door can seem, on this reading, an evolutionary end point.

Whether they’re emphatic or discreet, it would be odd if the doors of houses weren’t built on a human scale. Cathedral doors, even some church doors, can take up a substantial part of an end wall. When there is no ceremonial reason to open them, visitors, who enter by side doors, or even, like cats, through a small door cut into the main one, are reminded that this is the house of a being on a scale larger than their own. An open temple door is a strong metaphor; I would like to see a modern Temple of Janus, its doors closed only in times of peace, on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square.

The door in one large but essentially ordinary-looking 18th-century front carries more symbolic weight than any other in London. A picture of a mere detail – brass numbers on black – is enough to identify 10 Downing Street. The reshuffled minister is shown the door, the door is opened to new policies when a successor waves to the cameras and passes through. Petitioners don’t exactly have it slammed in their faces, but they usually meet it closed. Eventually one prime minister’s chattels go out and a new lot comes in. Some regular visitors will never darken it again. The door to Number 10 domesticates politics because it is commonplace in its look and scale: we know what it is like to stand on such a threshold, we too do things behind closed doors.

House doors are defensive; bank doors, too, have traditionally and much more powerfully advertised their impregnability: these are buildings designed to project solidity and probity – ‘your money is safe here.’ Soane’s Bank of England was largely demolished in the 1930s, but rebuilding took place within the perimeter wall and much of it is more or less as he left it. The new door inserted within an expanded version of one of the two niches that broke the 135-metre west front – a formidable run of rusticated stonework, high and windowless – seems to expect assaults of military ferocity. But these days money flickers over electronic networks, and while bullion vans doubtless come and go you wouldn’t expect to see much if you hung around next time the Bank made billions available to commercial borrowers. These days electronic vulnerability is met by metaphorical firewalls, and a high-street bank is much like any other shop, now that it no longer has to pretend to be a strongroom.

Very few shops have doors you can’t see through. They want people to come in, so they have glass doors that often open automatically. Modern architecture, and the technology that makes lightness and transparency possible – in this sense 19th-century arcades and department stores are modern – goes well with retailing. Once people have been drawn into a big enclosed mall, store or arcade, the counters can be as open as booths in a fairground. What some modern buildings do less well than old ones is tell you where you are. The stone in, say, the portico of the British Museum is more than decoration. It is a sign – an extravagant one – that leads you to the door. Your progress becomes ceremonial. The Barbican offers few clues of that kind and is notoriously hard to find your way about in. Like a passenger liner, it is easy to get lost in: you can’t stand back and orientate yourself.

One of the pleasures of walking through the streets of the older parts of French towns are the glimpses you get through doorways into courtyards. Sometimes you’re looking through small doors (cat-flaps again) let into double ones that could be opened to let in a carriage. Similar glimpses through doorways in paintings by Pieter de Hooch imply much about the world beyond by showing a little of it. Doors to walled gardens are especially tantalising. Architects have always played the game of calculated display: buildings are seen on the move, revealed in time; they aren’t, like paintings, objects of static contemplation. During the process, doorways open the way into, close off, give early, partial views of spaces and vistas. New, glass-fronted buildings that hide nothing don’t play that game. Yet even the frank display they seem to offer is a tease. Checkpoints and turnstiles lie beyond the welcomingly sliding glass. Things look more open, but high up cameras are tracking you.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Letters

Vol. 30 No. 14 · 17 July 2008

The front door to 10 Downing Street bears painted white numbers and not, as Peter Campbell has it, ‘brass numbers on black’ (LRB, 19 June).

Colin Bloch
West Harptree, Somerset

I used to get fed up, in the days when one was allowed to walk past Number Ten, with the spindly Trajan figures painted in white on its door. Then the uniquely scrupulous Georgian Raymond Erith was put in charge of rebuilding the whole complex. Part of his brief was to restore something of the original appearance. I was preparing a study of what I called English vernacular lettering at the time, and in 1962 approached Erith to suggest that the figures on the door shouldn’t be overlooked: why didn’t we try to get them back to what they might have been in the 18th century? He welcomed the idea and we were going to take it further – then there was silence. The whole project had become tangled up in a labour dispute, and the Ministry of Works moved in, took the project over with military briskness, and put Trajan firmly back on the front door.

When the job was finished, the result was even more dismal than before, with a kink in the capital O that stood in for the zero. Erith apologised for the ‘beastly’ numbers and all the other disasters and said he just wanted to forget the whole episode.

In a sense it didn’t matter. Soon British citizens were forbidden to walk through Downing Street. And then the door was given a makeover, with a glossy coating of black, and the number – still Trajan of course, with its kink, since that had become enshrined in tradition – was crudely emboldened in order to form an iconic background for photo opportunities.

James Mosley
London N16

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.