Nicolas Walter

Nicolas Walter has been involved in the anarchist movement for more than thirty years and has written a pamphlet, ‘About Anarchism’.


Nicolas Walter, 27 February 1992

We live in interesting times, alas. The new world order isn’t bringing much order to the world. What used to be called ‘actually existing socialism’ is no longer existing in most places, and while capitalism is existing it isn’t doing much better for most people. The warfare state and the welfare state (right or left) are both falling under their own weight, as the economy (market or command) fails to supply their rising demands. Many ‘isms’ are becoming ‘wasms’, and many ‘wasms’ are becoming ‘isms’ again. Old imperialism and Communism are dying, but old nationalism and racialism and older religious fundamentalism and fanaticism are being reborn, and even older despotism and gangsterism are as lively as ever. The Cold War is over, but the hot wars are getting hotter. As the world collapses into what is conventionally called ‘anarchy’, it may be worth taking more serious thought about alternatives to the way we live now, and in particular about what is more correctly called ‘anarchy’. Conveniently, if coincidentally (and indeed curiously), a major Anglo-American publishing conglomerate has produced what is intended to be a new standard book on anarchism. It may not be that, but it was well worth writing and is well worth reading.



24 April 1997

Eric Korn’s review of the second volume of Adrian Desmond’s biography of T.H. Huxley (LRB, 24 April), noting that Huxley ‘constructed a respectable, almost a pious agnosticism’, misleadingly states that he did this ‘while distancing himself from the political atheists Bradlaugh, Watts, Holyoake’, and even more misleadingly adds that ‘when the Agnostic Annual...

Thee and Thuh

2 January 1997

John Lanchester accepts Robert Burchfield’s claim in The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage about the double pronunciation of the word the (LRB, 2 January); but it is surely as false as many of his other claims, which do so much damage to the rest of the book, as they previously did to the Oxford English Dictionary. It is true that the is pronounced thuh (neutral schwa) before words beginning...

Wine and Poses

6 June 1996

Philip French’s memoir of Jeremy Wolfenden stirs other memories, some confirming but others contradicting his version, as Rex Winsbury shows (Letters, 20 June). French speaks as one of the stars alongside Wolfenden in the Oxford firmament forty years ago; but things looked different to those who were closer to the ground, who had neither sought nor received commissions during National Service,...


22 February 1996

Thomas Laqueur’s review of The Facts of Life (LRB, 22 February) regrets that Roy Porter and Lesley Hall didn’t include in their survey of sexual literature ‘Richard and Jane Carlile and their Everywoman’s Book’, and adds a summary of the contribution of ‘the Carliles’ to the birth-control movement. He is right to point out the omission, but wrong about what...
John Simpson complains that the attempt ‘to topple the established authorities’ can be disastrous if it endangers valuable work and that ‘the sporadic undermining of a valuable record is dangerous’ (Letters, 24 August). But the attempt to prop up a national institution such as the OED also has dangers, since the defence is itself open to obvious attack. In my own experience,...

Lone Ranger

9 February 1995

You often give space to academic critics like John Sutherland to complain about the hard time academic critics are having in Great Britain. Now you give space to an academic critic like Elaine Showalter to complain about the hard time academic critics are having in the United States (LRB, 9 February). Could you give some space to the question whether academic critics should have anything but a hard...

The View from on High

24 February 1994

It is good to know from Boris Ford’s letter (Letters, 26 May) that the Chief Rabbi, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a representative of the Archbishop of Westminster do not identify with the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s position on matters of blasphemy; though surely no one imagined that they did just because Christopher Hitchens said so.The Chief Rabbi says that ‘even a fully fledged...


13 May 1993

Jenny Turner (LRB, 13 May) describes Lord Horror (1990) as ‘the now banned British comic book’. For one thing, David Britton’s work isn’t a comic book but a fantasy novel consisting of eighty thousand words of continuous narrative without a single illustration, even on the cover. For another thing, it isn’t now banned, since the destruction order was reversed on appeal....

Fair Coppe

11 June 1992

Frank Kermode’s review of A.D. Nuttall’s Openings refers to ‘the Red King’s advice to Alice’. The advice to ‘begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end; then stop’ is given not by the Red King to Alice (in Through the Looking Glass) but by the King of Hearts to the White Rabbit (in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland).


27 February 1992

Readers of my review of Peter Marshall’s Demanding the impossible (LRB, 27 February) should know that it was so drastically and clumsily cut as to be a travesty of what I actually wrote.

Marxist Empires

26 September 1991

If we must have long history lessons from Marxist academics about the final collapse of the Marxist empires, they might at least be accurate. Perry Anderson (LRB, 26 September) attributes the ethnic diversity of Eastern Europe to ‘two opposite historical movements – successive waves of nomadic incursions from Asia, and colonial settlements from Germany’. He thus overlooks two other...

Heart of Darkness

28 June 1990

Readers of the London Review of Books are presumably expected to sympathise with Christopher Hitchens’s account of Conrad Black’s campaign against him (LRB, 28 June). However, although I have virtually nothing in common with Black – certainly not his politics or his wealth or his power or his ruthlessness – I must say that I actually sympathise with his view of Hitchens’s...

Unwritten Novels

11 January 1990

There are two obvious answers to the question asked by Doris Lessing. One is that the sort of people who write novels tend not to know much about the sort of subjects she mentions (radical politics, poverty, war, industry and trade), so that they tend not to write about them – and when they do they tend to write badly. The other is that, if one looks carefully enough, many if not most of the...

First Edition

5 May 1988

Marilyn Butler says in her review of Chris Baldick’s book In Frankenstein’s Shadow (LRB, 5 May) that ‘the text now available’ of Frankenstein ‘is that of the third edition’ of 1831, ‘unless you are lucky enough to pick up a copy or rare reprint’ of the first edition of 1818. The British reprint of 1823 and the American reprint of 1833 may indeed be rare,...


29 October 1987

SIR: Frank Kermode mentions a few of the minor errors which have understandably but regrettably survived to mar Richard Ellmann’s posthumous Oscar Wilde (LRB, 29 October). A less minor error concerns the wording of the Marquess of Queens-berry’s famous card which was delivered at Oscar Wilde’s club in February and which precipitated Wilde’s prosecution of Queensberry and thus...

Seconds Away

8 January 1987

SIR: Sheila Jones’s correction of Lord Kennet’s claim (LRB, 8 January) that the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament was not unilateralist when it ‘was first founded’, at the beginning of 1958, needs some amplification and clarification. He is wrong to say the CND became unilateralist ‘within a year or so’, and she is right to say that all the speakers at the inaugural...

Old Spellings

18 December 1986

SIR: I am not convinced by Barbara Everett’s reply to my letter (Letters, 22 January). She says that ‘it is desirable to have good modern – i.e. modernised – texts of all the older writers,’ but that ‘scholars and critics’ need ‘the earliest printed texts’ or manuscripts. No doubt: but surely any readers who are able to appreciate the older writers...

Irish Extraction

17 April 1986

SIR: Patricia Craig says in her review of Gifford Lewis’s book Somerville and Ross (LRB, 17 April) that the hero (or victim) of the experiences of the Irish RM is ‘an amiable Englishman’. Similar statements were widely made at the time of the recent television series based on some of the stories. Yet Major Yeates himself says at the beginning of his first adventure (‘Great Uncle...


21 November 1985

SIR: Just a brief comment on Donald Hawes’s correction (Letters, 6 March) of my correction of A.N. Wilson. I think there is room for argument about whether someone whose huge output of essays, plays and poems included a couple of hymns may be called a ‘hymn-writer’, or about whether the younger Thomas Arnold was familiarly referred to as ‘Tom Arnold’ like his famous father....

Abusing Carlile

1 November 1984

SIR Linda Colley’s review of Joel Wiener’s biography of Richard Carlile (LRB, 1 November) includes three unpleasant and unsubstantiated remarks about Carlile and sex in successive sentences. She says that ‘Carlile abused his wife.’ If this means that he said rude things about her, it is true, though he seems to have had good reason. If it means that he used violence against...

Last Leader

7 June 1984

SIR: Neal Ascherson says of Ken Livingstone’s political position in his review of John Carvel’s Citizen Ken (LRB, 7 June) that ‘in most ways, he is more of a classical anarchist than a Marxist.’ It is hard to think of any way in which he is a classical or any other kind of anarchist. It is true that at one time in the 1960s he subscribed to Solidarity – although, contrary...

Secrecy goes soft

4 August 1983

SIR: David Leigh says in his review of books on the Secret Service (LRB, 4 August) that ‘the secrecy game started to collapse in the mid-1970s, because of events in the United States.’ He has got it more than ten years late, and back to front. The process began in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and in Britain. Secrecy about both the Security Service and the Secret Service was eroded during...
SIR: Brigid Brophy’s review of Stephen Coote’s Penguin Book of Homosexual Verse (LRB, 21 April) contains a reference to James Kirkup’s poem ‘The love that dares to speak its name’ which deserves expansion and explanation. She says that the book contains ‘a note simply stating why the text of the blasphemy-case poem is not printed’. The note is as follows: ‘Gay...

Black Theodicy

2 December 1982

SIR: The references to Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary in Peter Medawar’s review of Robert Nisbet’s Prejudices: A Philosophical Dictionary (LRB, 2 December 1982) include a general one to ‘the anti-religious, anti-clerical coloration of Voltaire’ and a particular one to what he calls its ‘best-known passage’ in the article ‘Tout est bien’, beginning:...


16 September 1982

SIR: In his review of Dissentient Voice (LRB, 16 September), Christopher Ricks quotes at length Donald Davie’s attack on E. P. Thompson’s assimilation of the terminology of ‘Dissenting Protestantism’ or ‘Old Dissent’ with the ideology of atheist humanism, but he doesn’t comment on the factual status of Davie’s statement: ‘There truly is a point...
SIR: Karl Miller spoils his Diary item on the Falklands War (LRB, 3 June) by claiming that ‘so far, with the impressive exception of E. P. Thompson, Nuclear Disarmers have had very little to say on this subject.’ This is not true. The Ad Hoc Committee for Peace in the Falklands was initiated and has been organised by Nuclear Disarmers in the peace movement and the Labour movement in London,...

A Polish Notebook

4 February 1982

SIR: David Lodge should know better than anyone that simple statements about Catholics are generally misleading, yet there is one in his ‘Polish Notebook’ (LRB, 4 February). He reports that ‘practising Polish Catholics resort to abortion as a means of birth control on a large scale,’ and comments that, ‘whereas British Catholics active in the anti-abortion campaign see...

Good Books

1 October 1981

SIR: Marghanita Laski simultaneously demands and disarms criticism of her generalisations about children’s books (LRB, 1 October), by first making such wide claims and then adding so many exceptions and qualifications. She says that children’s books are or should be good for children – whether in encouraging some kind of ethics or in triggering some kind of ecstasy – though...

The Korda Family

19 March 1981

SIR: One question about Michael Korda’s charming book, Charmed Lives, which was played down in the reviews of the original edition and is left out of David Thomson’s review of the paperback edition (LRB, 19 March), really ought to be asked. This is the reliability of what purports to be a work of fact rather than fantasy about the Korda family. I can’t check any of the central narrative,...

Shelley in Season

16 October 1980

SIR: Richard Holmes remarks in his review of Paul Dawson’s book on Shelley’s politics (LRB, 16 October) that ‘Dawson suggests an intriguing new source’ for Shelley’s famous phrase about ‘unacknowledged legislators’ in ‘Godwin’s Life of Geoffrey Chaucer (1804)’. This may be intriguing, but is not new. It is 34 years since George Woodcock remarked...

Past Master

22 May 1980

SIR: John Dunn’s review of the first batch of ‘Past Masters’ (LRB, 22 May) contains some ill-humoured and ill-informed sneers at Humphrey Carpenter’s volume on Jesus. Among these is the suggestion that a writer about Jesus should decide whether he is divine and must make a judgment about ‘who he thought he was and what he thought he was doing’, and that the ‘indispensable’...

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