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One for the road

Ian Hamilton, 21 March 1991

by Kingsley Amis.
Hutchinson, 346 pp., £16.99, March 1991, 0 09 174533 0
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... Betjeman. Larkin, of course, is the one contemporary to whom Amis is prepared to yield high marks (Robert Conquest, perhaps the most ‘all right’ of Kingsley’s literary cronies, is shunted off into ‘light verse’). Larkin is named as Amis’s second-favourite poet (Housman is tops, though he may not have stayed tops, we suspect, if Amis had ever sat ...

Glittering Fiend

Ian Hamilton: John Berryman, 9 December 1999

Berryman's Shakespeare 
edited by John Haffenden.
Farrar, Straus, 396 pp., $35, February 1999, 0 374 11205 3
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John Berryman’s Personal Library: A Catalogue 
by Richard Kelly.
Lang, 433 pp., £39, March 1999, 0 8204 3998 3
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... most of his off-campus time in the company of mad or near-mad poets like Delmore Schwartz and Robert Lowell. Even the professors he saw most of – Van Doren, Richard Blackmur – published poems and were reckoned to be mildly cranky. Van Doren, for instance, would later advise Berryman that ‘scholarship’ was fit only ‘for those with ...

In the field

Nigel Hamilton, 5 November 1981

Washington Despatches, 1941-45: Weekly Political Reports from the British Embassy 
edited by H.G. Nicholas.
Weidenfeld, 700 pp., £20, August 1981, 0 297 77920 6
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British Intelligence and the Second World War. Vol. II 
by F.H. Hinsley, E.E. Thomas, C.F.G. Ransom and R.C. Knight.
HMSO, 850 pp., £15.95, September 1981, 0 11 630934 2
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Mars without Venus: A Study of Some Homosexual Generals 
by Frank Richardson.
William Blackwood, 188 pp., £5.95, September 1981, 9780851581484
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Soldiering on: An Unofficial Portrait of the British Army 
by Dennis Barker.
Deutsch, 236 pp., £8.50, October 1981, 0 233 97391 5
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A Breed of Heroes 
by Alan Judd.
Hodder, 288 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 340 26334 2
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War in Peace: An Analysis of Warfare Since 1945 
edited by Robert Thompson.
Orbis, 312 pp., £9.95, September 1981, 0 85613 341 8
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... on political/religious/ethnic backgrounds to the many campaigns it covers, it is edited by Sir Robert Thompson and is a first-class military hand book, with brilliant maps and a wealth of illuminating photographs, and of facts and figures. From Korea to Afghanistan, from Indo-China to the latest Gulf War, its brief analytical essays give the gory but true ...

Bugger me blue

Ian Hamilton, 22 October 1992

The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin 
edited by Anthony Thwaite.
Faber, 759 pp., £20, October 1992, 0 571 15197 3
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... or somebody – some murderer – like that. He had probably misread a communication from Robert (The Great Terror) Conquest. Anyway, it is already pretty clear that one of the chief excitements of this publication will be in finding out who has been dumped on, and how badly. Few well-known names escape the Larkin lash and although Anthony Thwaite ...

Young Wystan

Ian Hamilton, 8 September 1994

Juvenilia: Poems 1922-28 
by W.H. Auden, edited by Katherine Bucknell.
Faber, 263 pp., £25, July 1994, 0 571 17140 0
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... can be, and what a torture of guilt it makes breaking away.’ Auden was 15 when his schoolfriend Robert Medley suggested that he might try his hand at writing poems. Kicking a little stone, he turned to me And said, ‘Tell me, do you write poetry?’ I never had, and said so, but I knew That very moment what I wished to do. At 15, Auden knew, too, that he ...

Sorry to go on like this

Ian Hamilton: Kingsley Amis, 1 June 2000

The Letters of Kingsley Amis 
edited by Zachary Leader.
HarperCollins, 1208 pp., £24.99, May 2000, 0 00 257095 5
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... more to be enjoyed than a complicated anyone. For Amis, it became easier to trade limericks with Robert Conquest than to keep up the old banter with a Larkin who, in later years, he rarely saw. The Amis/Larkin correspondence is what makes this book a document worth having and one wishes that perhaps one day these letters might be published as a separate ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Living, Dying and Enlightenment, 22 January 2004

... connections between, say, a Bolivian dance mask and a wooden pillow from Zimbabwe unimportant. In Robert Smirke’s King’s Library of 1828, now divested of the books it was built to house, there is a new gallery called ‘Enlightenment’.* On the shelves and in display cases you find a stuffed toucan, a Chinese brush pot, an engraving of Stonehenge, three ...

How can we live with it?

Thomas Jones: How to Survive Climate Change, 23 May 2013

The Carbon Crunch: How We’re Getting Climate Change Wrong – and How to Fix It 
by Dieter Helm.
Yale, 273 pp., £20, September 2012, 978 0 300 18659 8
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Earthmasters: The Dawn of the Age of Climate Engineering 
by Clive Hamilton.
Yale, 247 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 300 18667 3
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The City and the Coming Climate: Climate Change in the Places We Live 
by Brian Stone.
Cambridge, 187 pp., £19.99, July 2012, 978 1 107 60258 8
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... burning coal, everything would be more or less OK (it’s almost the only thing Helm and Clive Hamilton agree on). The government in Beijing said in February that China’s coal burning will peak in the next two years. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Nicholas Stern, who wrote a report on the economics of climate change for the British government in ...

‘Someone you had to be a bit careful with’

David Sylvester: Gallery Rogues, 30 March 2000

Groovy Bob: The Life and Times of Robert Fraser 
by Harriet Vyner.
Faber, 317 pp., £20, October 1999, 0 571 19627 6
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... of high culture. An authorised biography has now appeared of an English dealer of recent memory, Robert Fraser, 1937-86. His chequered career, terminated by Aids, lasted as long as it did only because of subsidies from his parents and getting away with not paying his debts, while the world at large remembers him for pictures showing him in a police van ...


Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold Nicolson: A Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... a peer for his services in the Foreign Office as Permanent Under-Secretary 1910-16. Harold’s Hamilton grandmother owned a stately home in Co. Dublin. His uncle by marriage was the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, Viceroy of India. The trouble was not birth but cash, of which the Nicolson family had very little. Money was to be a perpetual problem. Foreign ...


Robert Crawford, 7 December 1989

Perduta Gente 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, £5, June 1989, 0 436 40999 2
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Letting in the rumour 
by Gillian Clarke.
Carcanet, 79 pp., £4.95, July 1989, 9780856357572
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Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman 
by Grace Nichols.
Virago, 58 pp., £4.99, July 1989, 1 85381 076 2
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Studying Grosz on the Bus 
by John Lucas.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 02 8
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The Old Noise of Truth 
by Joan Downar.
Peterloo, 63 pp., £4.95, August 1989, 1 871471 03 6
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... Mr Reading, FUCK OFF. Yrs, The Plashy Fen School.’ But they don’t. Like the independent Ian Hamilton Finlay, and like Geoffrey Hill, to whom the early Reading of such phrasing as ‘congregations/are still here mulched into the cider orchard’ pays his dues, this is a poet who likes to investigate the strains and alliances between violence and the ...

An Urbane Scholar in a Wilderness of Tigers

Robert Irwin: Albert Hourani, 25 January 2001

A Vision of the Middle East: An Intellectual Biography of Albert Hourani 
by Abdulaziz Al-Sudairi.
Tauris, 221 pp., £12.99, January 2000, 9781860645815
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... aware of how much he had learnt from Massignon and Toynbee, as well as from the great Arabist Sir Hamilton Gibb, Hourani was fascinated by intellectual lineages and chains of transmission, and was himself an important source of inspiration to younger historians and political scientists. He was one of a generation of grand, even intimidating historians and ...

Back to the futuh

Robert Irwin, 1 August 1996

The Middle East: 2000 Years of History from the Birth of Christianity to the Present Day 
by Bernard Lewis.
Weidenfeld, 433 pp., £20, September 1995, 0 297 81345 5
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... Wellhausen taught Robertson Smith, Robertson Smith taught Thomas Arnold, Thomas Arnold taught Hamilton Gibb and Gibb was Lewis’s teacher. As for Goldziher, there is a legend that he laid hands on the mystically inspired French scholar Louis Massignon (1883-1962), who was another of Lewis’s teachers. Lewis is steeped in Goldziher. The names of both ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... still rich in hints of the life savoured by its great authors, from Dunbar to Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch. The heyday of its literary, cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to James Boswell to Annie ...


John Upton: George Carman, 9 May 2002

No Ordinary Man: A Life of George Carman 
by Dominic Carman.
Hodder, 331 pp., £18.99, January 2002, 0 340 82098 5
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... his career were household names: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Marco Pierre White and Elton John, Robert Maxwell and Richard Branson. There were also memorable victories against Jonathan Aitken on behalf of the Guardian and Neil Hamilton on behalf of Mohammad Al-Fayed. Aitken sued over various allegations, ranging from a ...

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