Regency Psychedelia

Posted on by Zoe Guttenplan

Ah, those fabulous Sixties! Who does not remember exactly what he was doing when he heard the one about Marianne Faithfull and the Mars bar? Philip Norman gets it right: ‘Already, by some mysterious means, a rumour was travelling the length and breadth of England that, when the police entered Keith Richard’s sitting room, they […]

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Some Consolation

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

We almost discount the possibility of another Dark Age of the mind. Of the body; possibly. Nine tenths of human kind could be destroyed by nuclear holocaust. But of the mind; surely the computerised storehouses of our ‘information society’ would remain for the one tenth that also remained? Knowledge has to be secure. There can […]

Masterly Performance

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The forbears whom Evelyn Waugh affectionately described in his unfinished autobiography A Little Leaning were professional men as far back as the eye could see: clergymen (mostly Scotch divines in the earlier reaches of the pedigree), lawyers, doctors, soldiers. His own father, Arthur Waugh, was a publisher and a man of letters of a kind […]

The Princess and the Prussian

Posted on by David Gelber

If you want to savour the brutality of European history when Bismarck ruled and Queen Victoria reigned, this is your book. There is not an ounce of cosiness in it. Unlike Daphne Bennett in her Vicky, Andrew Sinclair always refers to his tragic heroine formally by her title of the moment: Princess Royal, Crown Princess, […]

Female Friends

Posted on by David Gelber

Miss Sarah Ponsonby and Miss Eleanor Butler eloped together in 1778. Dressed as boys, they were pursued by their families and taken home. But at their second attempt, they were allowed to set up home in a Welsh cottage. For fifty-three years they lived happily ever after. ‘[Sarah’s] conduct, though it has an appearance of […]

Spiritual Endeavour

Posted on by David Gelber

The originality of Linda Georgianna’s The Solitary, Self is that it takes the Ancrene Wisse seriously as a highly integrated unity. The traditional view of this early thirteenth-century work is that part of it may have been added from another text, as certain sections have been considered of dubious relevance to the three anchoresses for […]

Spectral Apparel

Posted on by David Gelber

A hundred years ago to be one of a million Englishwomen was to be doomed. Even intelligent and educated girls could not get a post as a governess – there were too many. Hundreds of thousands resorted to plying their needle in the genteel trade of dressmaking for the wealthy middle and upper classes. Ironically […]

Womanly Behaviour

Posted on by David Gelber

There may be a recession but not in the women business. Our shelves are overflowing with encyclopedias devoted entirely to women, while women’s conditions are chronicled in every century down to our own. Indeed I must declare a modest family interest. Ms Fraser is working on ‘Seventeenth Century Woman’, Ms Billington has published A Woman’s […]

Fortress Koestler

Posted on by David Gelber

Last year on March 3rd the bodies of Arthur and Cynthia Koestler were found in their house in Montpelier Square. Koestler’s membership of Exit was well known. His belief in voluntary euthanasia can be traced back to the way he overcame the terror of an operation in childhood. He described in Arrow in the Blue […]

Muddled Muse

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The women behind great men are often rather disappointing. What, one asks oneself, did Eva Braun have that other girls haven’t got. The answer is all too often nothing at all. It is rare to find a consort who merits the attention of a biographer either because her contribution was significant, or because she was […]

Revenge is Sour

Posted on by Tom Fleming

ON FRIDAY March 25 this year, the day on which Greeks celebrate their deliverance from the Turks in 1829, General Markos Vafiadis put down at Athens airport. It was the first time that he had left the Soviet Union since the end of the Greek civil war more than a quarter century previously. In that […]

Military Diplomacy

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Two years ago, while researching this book on the D-Day campaign, Max Hastings was trying to think himself into the minds of the poor bloody infantry who were about to invade Hitler’s Festung Europa. He was then whisked away to cover the Falklands War, to sit in the British Army’s unchanged Landing Craft (Assault) while […]

Sequacious and Robust

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

‘I was overcome with happiness … after 25 years can’t bear to be separate … it is an enormous pleasure, being wanted: a wife. And our marriage so complete.’ This passage from Virginia Woolf’s diary for 1937 is one of many that may cause some vexation to those feminists who have in recent years simplistically […]

Cartland Machismo

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

  It is a sign of the times that the Great Man school of popular history is flourishing once more. The genre goes in and out of fashion according to the swing of the political pendulum. A swing to the Right, and we re-discover Great Men, the vital role of the gifted individual, the times […]

Instinct for Talent

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Such is the irony of fame, that very few people nowadays have heard of Sir Edmund Gosse, except for his autobiographical Father and Son. But, in his heyday, he was one of the most celebrated Victorian literary figures. Other writers could have been the first British champion of Ibsen and Gide, but none could have […]

Returning Delight

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

What is Hilaire Belloc remembered for today? Certainly for his children’s verse, a few poems, parts of The Cruise of the Nona, The Path to Rome and The Four Men. Very few of the historical works, novels and political tracts have survived. Most people have a vague idea that his book on the Jews is […]

Renegade Brilliance

Posted on by David Gelber

‘I finally had an orgasm but my doctor told me it was the wrong kind’. Woody Allen’s joke in Manhattan typifies the delirium of Western industrial societies over their own sexual pleasure which is at the core of the race suicide that Germaine Greer’s brilliant polemic explores. ‘Modern man is profoundly religious’, she writes of […]

Impassioned Attention

Posted on by David Gelber

The smiling, Bermuda-shorted figure on the jacket of John Updike’s new volume of essays and criticism looks engagingly pleased with the world and himself, and the first sentences of his Foreword tell us why: Writing criticism is to writing fiction and poetry as hugging the shore is to sailing in the open sea. At sea, […]

Liberal Illusionist

Posted on by David Gelber

Professor Skidelsky was an excellent choice to undertake the difficult task of Keynes’s official biography; very few could do it, for it needs not only a writer of wide culture and sympathetic human perception, but also an expert knowledge of economics. Roy Harrod had these qualifications for his earlier biography; but he was hampered by […]

Parable of Power

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The author of this marvelous book is a Polish journalist and it so happens that I know him. We met in Mexico in 1972 when he was correspondent there for the Polish Press Agency. I found him a remarkably well-informed reporter with a deep sympathy for the ordinary people of Latin America. Two years later […]

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