Roads Less Travelled

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Historians of Restoration London know John Ogilby (c 1600–1676) for the marvellous post-Fire survey of the capital that he produced with his step-grandson, William Morgan, which was published in 1677; or as the choreographer of the celebrations accompanying Charles II’s coronation, of which the Earl of Clarendon said, ‘the whole Show was the most glorious […]

Portrait of Pum

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 1923 Robert Gayer-Anderson, oriental secretary to the British high commissioner in Egypt, attended the official opening of Tutankhamen’s tomb. The body of the boy-king, who had been mummified with his penis erect, lay in gorgeous state, surrounded by gods and funerary artefacts, among them toy boats from which Gayer-Anderson correctly guessed his age at […]

Last Words

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At Plymouth last year I visited the home of Charles Armitage Brown, John Keats’s friend and collaborator. Set back behind trees, Brown’s Regency villa resembles Wentworth Place, the home he had shared with the young poet, who died, aged twenty-five, of tuberculosis. For fifteen years Brown thought about writing a memoir of Keats, but was […]

Voice from the Asylum

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Among the bombings that marked the beginning of 2017, one took place on New Year’s Day at the CasaPound bookshop in Florence, an outpost of the Italian neo-fascist or ‘alt-right’ CasaPound movement, which takes its name and inspiration from the American poet Ezra Pound. As Daniel Swift points out in the ‘CasaPound’ chapter of The Bughouse, in December 2011 ‘a CasaPound supporter went on a shooting spree in a market in Florence and killed two Senegalese traders and wounded three more’. He also notes

Hearts of Darkness

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In the wake of the failed student campaign to remove the statue of the controversial empire-builder Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College, Oxford, a book on the colonisation of Africa could not be better timed. It is surely more important to try to understand why men like Rhodes behaved in the way they did, for good […]

Sea Changes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

So obscure is Heligoland these days that one needs a keen historical or geographical knowledge, or experience as a sailor, to know very much about it. To the uninitiated it sounds like the home of some harmless tribe that was railroaded into a European empire during the Scramble for Africa. In fact, it is a […]

The Price of Peace

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This is among the first of what will no doubt be an avalanche of books examining the long-term effects of the First World War as we approach the centenary of the peace settlement in 1919. The ‘guilt’ of the title is the long shadow cast over the post-1919 years by the ‘war guilt’ clause in […]

Courting Disaster

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When I was at a mixed boarding school in the countryside, one of the girls in my house pressed the back-door key into a bar of soap and had a copy made. She and her friends snuck off to drink, smoke and see the boys. They never got caught: where there’s a will – or […]

Uneasy Lies the Head…

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Anglo-Saxon kings suffer from an image problem, or to be more precise they suffer from the problem that the information relating to their lives is so tenuous, the sources so intractable, that for many of them all that is left in the popular historical imagination is a single image: Alfred burned the cakes; Harold died […]

Fish out of Water

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At the age of two years and eleven months, Frank Buckland encountered a live crocodile – or possibly two crocodiles – obtained by his father, the eminent divine Dr William Buckland. When he was not yet four, he identified some fossils shown to his father as ‘the vertebrae of an ichthyosaurus’. Aged seven, he was […]

Hitting the Jackpot

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When Shirley Jackson’s short story ‘The Lottery’ was published in the New Yorker in June 1948, some of its readers, incredibly, believed it to be fact. Set in a village of three hundred people, it tells, in Jackson’s simple, economical style, of a ritual sacrifice in which one villager is chosen by lot to be […]

One Shift in the Life of…

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Few of the millions of gulag prisoners who returned from the penal colony spoke of their experiences; very few wrote about them. Almost none of the million men who guarded, beat, starved and killed those prisoners wrote of their careers. The major exception is Sergei Dovlatov, who as a child in the Second World War […]

To the Bitter End

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When Clara Petacci, known as Claretta, first met Mussolini in April 1932, she was a gushing, busty young Fascist of twenty, with dark hair, a prominent nose and good legs; he was forty-nine, shaven-headed, with a jutting chin, a fleshy mouth and burning eyes, and he had been dictator of Italy for the past eight years

Essays in Nobility

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

One of the greatest game-changers in French literature was the Essais of Michel de Montaigne, which first appeared in 1580. The title itself was a linguistic innovation, announcing the birth of a new literary form in which serious topics would be dealt with in a style that was tentative, ironic and anecdotal

All Shall Win Prizes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Poetry just now is gloriously renascent. That, at least, is the assertion of the poetry editor of Penguin Books, Donald Futers: ‘There’s a strong case for our finding ourselves right now in a golden age for poetry,’ he claimed at the launch of the new series of Penguin Modern Poets last summer. As someone who, […]

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