Isle of the Dead

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

War books are an extraordinary breed of literature. They have an enduring popularity with readers drawn from a vast array of classes and occupations. There is no Brexit here, no division between the haves and the have-nots, no political distinction to separate one from the other. War sells and it always has done. Look at […]

Delusions of a Dictator

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘The day is ours. The bloody dog is dead.’ With this line from Shakespeare’s Richard III, on 1 May 1945 the BBC announced Hitler’s exit to a Wagnerian Valhalla. Seventy-five years later, the dog still keeps us busy. While one of the co-leaders of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), Germany’s radical right-wing party, recently claimed that […]

Gruppenführer on the Run

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Last month, the Vatican opened its archives on Pope Pius XII, the wartime pontiff who has long been suspected of turning a blind eye to the Holocaust and possibly also the postwar ‘exfiltration’ of Nazi war criminals to safe havens outside Europe. The opening of the Apostolic Archive promises to give scholars new

Suffragettes with Stethoscopes

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

When Virginia Woolf demanded a room of one’s own, she knew that women already possessed minds of their own. Men disparagingly spoke of ‘the woman question’ as if the other half of the population were all of one mind, but that was no more the case in the early 20th century than it is now: it was perfectly possible

The Mage of Reason

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Even a brief perusal of the bestseller lists (of books for both children and adults) reveals a continuing fascination with magic. There is, of course, a standard explanation for this fascination: magic offers an escape from the dreary, law-governed realities of our everyday lives. But while it is fashionable to point out that we are […]

A Catholic & a Gentleman

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Anyone who peruses the numerous Tudor groups on Facebook will be well aware that the centuries-old prejudices against Mary I, England’s first queen regnant, are still alive and well. For many people who profess to be interested in the period, the reigns of Mary and her half-sister, Elizabeth I, are still seen as those of ‘Bloody Mary’ and ‘Good Queen Bess’. Elsewhere, Mary

Naked in the Cathedral

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At 11am on Easter Sunday 1950, Michel Mourre, a disaffected and angry young would-be artist, stepped forward towards the altar at Notre-Dame as High Mass was about to begin. He was disguised as a Dominican friar. His plan was to walk up to the microphone and read a prepared text. As well as the massive […]

Where the Houses Have No Names

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The house in the west of Ireland where I spend half my year has no conventional address, although, like every other house in Ireland, it does now have a seven-digit Eircode, the equivalent of a British postcode. But Eircodes were only introduced in 2014 and in my part of Ireland at least, they seem to […]

Writers in Residences

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The theme of this collection – houses and homes of all kinds and our emotional and intellectual bonds with them – has taken on a grim topicality over the last few weeks, as millions of people across the world suddenly find themselves enclosed in dwellings to which they seldom give much contemplative time, beyond wondering whether now might be the moment to have the boiler overhauled. For those of us who usually work from home – which includes most writers – the daily routine has barely changed at all. How odd to hear our friends fret and fuss about a way of life that suits us so well, most of the time. Lives of Houses concentrates mainly on writers and the structures in which they have lived and worked. There are contributions on a few other creative professions, including

How Long Can We Keep Doing This?

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Soon after the invention of printing by movable type, something odd started happening to books. For as long as anyone could remember, books had lain flat on desks or in chests. Their paper fore edges lay outward; their titles were written directly on the edges of the pages or on slips protruding from them. But […]

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Red, White & Green

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For Anatol Lieven, one battle has been won but now begins the hundred years’ war. In Climate Change and the Nation State, he presumes that the climate change deniers have been vanquished and have largely fled the field. So he dismisses their case. He starts from the proposition that this debate has been

Here, There & Everywhere

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

One Two Three Four begins and ends with Paul McCartney counting in the band on stage at the Cavern Club in 1961. In between is a brilliantly executed study of cultural time, social space and the madness of fame. Brown applies to the Fabs the snapshot method he used in Ma’am Darling, his polite demolition of Princess Margaret. Collage is perfect for celebrity biography, since modern fame is less ‘the mask

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Dogs

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788–1824), was, as T S Eliot remarked, ‘certainly a vain man, in quite simple ways’, one of which involved taking tremendous pride in his ancestry. But just as he spent much of his life rehearsing dark, ruinous myths about his lineage, sometimes promising to revive and restore it, Byron also pledged […]

Force of Nature

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For several nights during the Christmas season of 1806, William Wordsworth recited a very long new poem in instalments to the company gathered around the fire: his wife, Mary, his sister, Dorothy, his sister-in-law Sara Hutchinson and his old friend and collaborator Samuel Taylor Coleridge, to whom the poem was dedicated. It was an autobiographical

When in Florence

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On the second floor of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence is the Cancelleria, where Niccolò Machiavelli worked as a secretary. Although now shorn of its original height, shape and much of its natural light thanks to Vasari’s design for the adjacent Guardaroba, with its celebrated cycle of painted maps affixed to wooden cabinets, the room […]

Thirty Years a Slave

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Recent obituaries of the late Kirk Douglas have highlighted his appearance in the title role in Spartacus as one of his most memorable performances. The film is based on the story of the gladiator who led a rebellion of slaves that threatened the very survival of the Roman Republic. Spartacus did not survive his defeat […]

Portraits of Ladies

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In days of yore (a month or so ago), I went to the cinema twice in quick succession. That already feels historical, now that cinemas and all places of public entertainment have closed and we are urged not to leave our houses. While some scholars have been dusting off Daniel Defoe’s 1722 A Journal of […]

A Tale of Two Referendums

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has never seemed so rickety. The combined effects of Brexit, to which 62 per cent of Scottish voters were opposed in the referendum of 2016, and the domination of Scottish politics by the Scottish National Party (SNP) are often pointed to as signals of its likely […]

Fear & Loathing on the Internet

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

To better understand how the far right and alt-right have gained political salience in recent years, a curious observer might seek to examine the ideologues and thinkers at the core of these movements. Alternatively, they might look in the opposite direction, eschewing the bigger philosophical picture to focus on the everyday, exploring interactions among the […]

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