In the latest issue:

Short Cuts

Jonathan Parry

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


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling


Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — 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.

My father​ ’s background in congregationalist Denbighshire was teetotalitarian: his own father took only one alcoholic drink in his life, and that was (fair play) a glass of champagne at my parents’ wedding reception. I imagine him choking it down as if it were sparkling rat poison. The early prohibition left traces: not having a taste for beer, Dad rather disapproved of pubs, but had no objection to drinking at home or on classier premises.

Sometimes I wonder how anyone of his generation got home safely after a party, at a time when refusing an alcoholic drink was bad manners and the breathalyser didn’t exist. One of Dad’s early cases as a barrister, and one of his favourite anecdotes, involved a charge of drink-driving from that ancient time (the 1950s). His client had been charged on the basis of his poor performance at walking a straight line. This was the period’s low-tech gauge of intoxication, a white line drawn on the floor at police stations.

The client’s defence was that he suffered from Ménière’s disease, a problem of the inner ear which affects hearing and balance. His was a severe case, making it impossible for him to walk a straight line. Dad marshalled an expert witness to testify to his medical condition. The crown did the same. The outcome of the case depended, as it so often does, on which of these two carried more weight, whether Tweedledum or Tweedledee excelled in authority and gravitas. The expert witness called by Dad gave evidence that the accused did indeed suffer from Ménière’s disease, and could not therefore be expected to walk a straight line. The crown’s counterpart testified that he did not suffer from the disease. His inability to walk a straight line amounted only to a confession by the legs that unlawful quantities of alcohol had been admitted to the mouth.

The verdict went in favour of Tweedledum, and Dad’s client was acquitted. His driving licence was safe – but then it was officially rescinded, on the basis that severe Ménière’s disease rendered him unfit to drive. This was the bit of the story I liked best, the irony of the trump card turning into the joker. The law is not mocked! Except that Dad’s client asked if there was a mechanism for getting his licence back. Yes, there was. He would need to get a medical expert to certify that he didn’t have Ménière’s disease. A phone call to Tweedledee, and Dad’s client was on his way to a new driving licence. The law is mocked on a regular basis, most heartily by those who make a living from it.

Dad the raconteur, in full flow at the dinner table, was a very different creature from Dad the solemn upholder of his profession, though he was always confident of his own consistency. I don’t think he noticed that this view of the law as an amoral game, which he could pass on with such relish while telling the story, was the same one he so violently objected to if other people advanced it and he wasn’t in the mood to laugh along.

Alcohol amplified something Dad also felt in full sobriety: a sense of disappointment with the way his sons were developing. This was especially true in the mid-1970s, when he was a conspicuous High Court judge and we were coming to the end of our education. Where was our drive, our ambition? We seemed to be coasting at best. He wasn’t so much disappointed as incredulous. We seemed to think the world owed us a living! His ideal was that we would all become lawyers, which would be following in his footsteps in one sense, except that his drive and ambition had taken him very far from the paths trodden by his farming ancestors. To follow him would be very different from being like him, would mean in fact that we were very unlike him. The more we were like him the less we would follow him. All this tangle needs to be kept distinct from the common-sense awareness that we would most likely never emerge from his shadow, that, even if we went on to ‘great things’, it would be assumed that we got our start thanks to his eminence. It was understandable that he wanted us to soar, but how could we do that if we used him as a launchpad?

When the time came for my father to retire, in 1990, my mother organised a retirement party for him at the Garrick. She decided to serve champagne cocktails, the only such drink she herself liked. She also decided to do things properly, improving on the standard catering protocol whereby the drink is topped up with champagne but the other ingredients (a little brandy, a few drops of angostura, a sugar lump) are not reinforced. On this special occasion, there would be no mere top-up but the provision (expense be damned) of a whole new drink.

Surely she knew she was playing with firewater? Even the angostura raises the alcohol content. Only the sugar can enter a plea of not guilty, and even then it can be suspected of aiding and abetting by disguising the potency of the drink with sweetness. Dad had a strong head for alcohol in those days, which is only a way of saying that it distorted him less on the surface than in the depths. In the second hour of the party a woman of my generation, known to him since her birth, a person of great warmth and charm, made some mild inquiries about the ideological assumptions of the judiciary – the sort of thing that might be aired on Start the Week without setting the switchboard alight. She asked him if he thought judges as a group had really taken on board the recent upheavals in society, such as multiculturalism and the transformed position of women.

This was never the sort of speculation that Dad welcomed, but perhaps the champagne cocktails played a part in making him so coldly grand. He told her that she had spoiled his party and must leave immediately. She did what she could to make amends, saying that casting any sort of shadow on his special day had been the furthest thing from her mind. She was terribly sorry if she had given offence. Again it may have been the influence of the cocktail, multicultural in its own right, combining champagne and brandy from the Old World, sugar and bitters from the New, which gave Dad’s verdict its austere force. ‘That,’ he said, ‘is something you will have to live with for the rest of your life.’ This was a dismal own goal, taking all the shine off the occasion, a warning that some of Dad’s less appealing behaviour patterns were still some way from retirement.

There were times after he retired when he would have to be helped the two hundred yards home from the Hall at Gray’s Inn, more or less to the point of being carried. This was hideously embarrassing – for my mother, who had to receive this stumbling procession of dignitaries, for me if I happened to run into them as they tried to negotiate the steps – but it was nowhere as bad as it might have been if he had felt any shame himself. Hangdog wasn’t his style, or not until the next morning. He was serene, as if this was the way he always came home, or as if these nice fellows had wanted to give him a treat and he hadn’t liked to say no. The whole charade made it surprisingly easy to play along. Sometimes he would remain roughly vertical until he reached the bedroom, then topple slowly sideways without distress to the floor, perhaps pulling some bedclothes with him in what was more a slide than a fall, a controlled descent with a touch of the maladroit grace of the performers he most admired, Max Wall, Tommy Cooper, Ralph Richardson.

Moderation didn’t come naturally to Dad, and self-discipline needed reinforcement from outside. At various points in later life he went to a luxurious health farm – his favoured establishment was Champneys – to lose a few pounds. The regime also required abstinence from alcohol. These expensive bouts of self-denial could be redeemed if he happened to coincide with a woman who shared his taste and talent for flirting. Flirtation without possibility made the hours speed by. Age didn’t disqualify such compatible women, but neither did youth. The word he used for the second type was ‘sparklers’.

Flirtation as he practised it wasn’t a rehearsal for infidelity but a formal vocal display, lyrical rather than heroic, Wigmore Hall recitals rather than opera house tours de force. When a woman friend of mine paid a visit to the Gray’s Inn flat, Dad called her ‘darling’. My mother was only marginally piqued, but decided to patrol the marital perimeter by asking sweetly: ‘If Frances is “darling”, what then am I?’ In general Dad imposed himself on company by force of personality rather than brute quickness of wit. His preferred style was the polished story, not the dazzling improvisation. It helped that from his perch among the higher ranks of a hierarchical profession he didn’t often have to prove himself at short notice. But now he had to exert steady pressure on the charm pedal if he was to accelerate safely out of danger. ‘Darling One,’ he said, ‘Frances is Darling Two.’ This formula not only smoothed any ruffled wifely feathers but passed into currency. If Frances was visiting, or if Dad answered the phone to her, he would greet her as ‘Darling Two’, and be rewarded, as we all hoped to be, by her throaty smoker’s laugh.

In the absence of sparklers, Champneys could be a bit of a martyrdom, forcing his thoughts inward. I once received a postcard from him saying: ‘No sparklers here this time. You have always been a rewarding son.’ The lack of a logical connection added to the touchingness of the message. Except when in exile from bibulous normality, this was a vein of intimate introspection that he preferred to leave alone.

In retirement Dad was presumably not under as much stress as he was used to, but he could still come up with the odd explosion, so perhaps stress wasn’t a factor in the first place. One detonation was on a birthday of mine, which I had decided to have in the Gray’s Inn flat. My parents were out that evening, so there seemed no reason not to celebrate demurely on the premises.

They came home from their party in time to overlap with mine. My mother socialised for a little while, then started making preparations for bed. At first Dad was genial. Then he took offence at an innocent remark made by one of the guests, and told them all to leave. I pointed out that he could only logically order out people he had himself invited, and that my guests were welcome until I called time – but the mood was no longer festive, and we beat a massed retreat. As I was gathering together the presents I had been given, Dad came up and poked me in the chest. I could have dropped the presents and stayed upright, but like a game-show contestant I was determined to hang on to my trophies. I knew there was a sofa behind me and toppled backwards onto that.

This was not the birthday present I would have hoped for from Dad. As my friends and I trooped out of the flat and made our way downstairs, my mother appeared on the landing above us in her nightie, wringing her cold-creamed hands and saying in social agony: ‘It’s all right for you lot – you can leave. I have to live with it.’ She had left the sitting room for ten minutes, the way people do in films about poltergeists, and the next thing she knew her furniture was arranged on the ceiling.

The birthday assault was so out of proportion as not even to be properly upsetting. I decided to make an experiment in apology studies. Better in the circumstances to steer clear of any non-apology, un-apology, anti-apology. If demanding redress from Dad never worked, perhaps I should try a new approach, see if he was vulnerable from a different angle. The best rhetorical move (against a master of rhetoric) might be to say that I didn’t need one. Dad knew the martial arts of argument supremely well, and could turn almost any throw against an opponent, but if I stepped suddenly away he might topple backwards in his turn, from sheer surprise.

The next day I went round to Gray’s Inn and explained that I wasn’t expecting an apology. This was because Dad was a loose cannon when he had drink inside him, so if I put him and my friends together in the same space I had to accept the risk and not bleat when things went wrong. I knew from long experience that Dad’s apologies weren’t worth having anyway. In our teenage years my brothers and I were incensed by the forms of words that Dad would come up with after family rows. They seemed designed to wind up the tension rather than soothe it. They were strange cocktails of amnesia, shoulder-shrugging and indirect accusation. If I had to name a specific cocktail I’d nominate the boilermaker, with its bright and murky liquor floating in layers. An example might be: ‘Your mother tells me that you were upset by something I said last night … I don’t remember what it was, but all I can say is, you can be very annoying.’

Perhaps this was what is known as professional deformation rather than individual difficulty with the idea of being at fault. Lawyers will never be in a hurry to admit liability. For them it must always be a last resort. A.P. Herbert makes a semi-serious point along these lines in one of his ‘Misleading Cases’ for Punch. A. describes B. as not having the manners of a pig. B. demands an apology. A capitulates, saying that B. does have the manners of a pig. Does this count as an apology or as an aggravation of slander?

Dad didn’t exactly topple. He was outraged at this patronising and manipulative manoeuvre, and responded with one of his own. He told me to leave at once; when I didn’t move he made to pick up the phone, saying he would call the police and have me thrown out. This was low-grade bluster by his standards, as was the demand that I surrender my keys and pay no further visits to the parental home. My mother overruled him the moment he said it. I stayed long enough to establish formally that I wasn’t being thrown out, then left him to simmer.

I hoped that my destabilising tactics would enable my mother, who didn’t enjoy the rooted place of alcohol in the household, to make some demands of her own. This was a lot to hope for, given that she hated any kind of ‘atmosphere’ and had never made much headway when it came to influencing Dad’s behaviour. The morning of a hangover was one of the few opportunities she was able to turn to her advantage, reinforcing the self-disgust of Dad’s every lurching cell with a little tender chiding. At other times Dad had a blithe resistance to the virtues he had married, something I’ve seen in other men of his generation.

For a while I only paid visits when she would be alone. Did I wear him down? Not quite. I got a letter that combined different elements of his most characteristic manner: rueful charm and now-look-here-laddie-enough-is-enough. The letter was much closer to an apology than anything I could remember, in speech let alone in writing. It broke precedent in that respect, which is never a step a lawyer takes lightly. Precedent was holy to him, but now, unprecedentedly, fault was being admitted.

The rueful charm emanated from the address given at the top of the page: ‘The Doghouse, Gray’s Inn’. The note of enough is enough was struck by a passage making clear that he did not accept there was a pattern of behaviour attributable to drink. I could have a specific apology but no general admission. It was a lawyerly way of proceeding: an apology ‘without prejudice’, as if he was agreeing to make a payment to an injured party without technically admitting liability. He would accept chastisement so long as he wasn’t expected to abase himself. It was the most favourable settlement I was going to get.

Send Letters To:

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

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.