This Tedious Priest

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

You will all by now have heard of George Carey’s memoirs, for the simple and unimpressive reason that he has divulged in them private observations on members of the Royal Family that he has been able to make because of his privileged access to them. I shall deal with that regrettable aspect of his behaviour later, […]

A Troubled Sould

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

ULSTER PROTESTANTS ARE mostly regarded by the English populace as not a very bright lot, being invariably caricatured as bellicose, pig-headed, Biblebashing blockheads. At the most benign estimation, Ulstermen are perceived as philistine businessmen and farmers who are suspicious of cultural or bookish pursuits; at the most malign, the ‘danders’ can only see tattooed thugs […]

The Most Cunning Of Presidents

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THIS IS A weighty tome, well over 1,000 pages including the index. It is crowded with detail, much of it of little interest even to Americans, and of none at all to British readers. If the book had been cut by half it would have been much improved. The best bit is the description of […]

The Life and Appetites of a Precocious Emperor

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

EVEN THOUGH THAT doyen of Alexander scholars Robin Lane Fox has been the adviser to Oliver Stone’s forthcoming film about Alexander and will be seen on horseback leading the charges, it will, like all historical films, be rubbish. I strongly recommend Paul Cartledge’s fine new assessment to keep the history in focus.

Lord of the Fortunate Conjunction

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

TYRANTS WREAKING DEATH and destruction are much in the news lately. Saddam Hussein has been charged with crimes against humanity, and will eventually be tried in Baghdad. Slobodan Milosevic, the former Serbian President, is on trial in The Hague, accused of war crimes and genocide in Bosnia. In both cases, the challenge before the prosecutors […]

Rebels With Causes

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

‘I WANT A hero,’ writes Byron in the first canto of Don Juan: ‘an uncommon want, / When every year and month sends forth a new one.. .’ Byron might have become a new one himself had he bled to death in Missolonghi because of battle wounds, rather than leeches. Aristocratic, appositional, misanthropic (and possessed […]

The Pragmatic Populist

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

“WHAT WE CALL the heart”, said Sidonia, “is a nervous sensation, like shyness, which gradually disappears in society. It is fervent in the nursery, strong in the domestic circle, tumultuous at school. The affections are the children of ignorance; when the horizon of our experience expands, and models multiply, love and admiration imperceptibly vanish.” “I […]

The Worst Dictator Since Tamerlane

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY of Stalin’s death last year should have brought about not just worldwide rejoicing, but a torrent of new biographies. The world was, however, distracted by the fall of a lesser dictator, Saddam Hussein, and did surprisingly little to mark the occasion. Moscow’s bookshops were packed with ghastly revisionist pap rehabilitating Stalin and […]

The Greatest Showmen

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

WHAT A MOMENT it must have been. The Washington Star called it ‘electric’. Alistair Cooke, who was there, said it was ‘terribly exciting’. Behind the cluttered desk in the Oval Office were seated the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Barely two weeks had passed since the Japanese […]

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RLF - March