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The chair she sat on

J.I.M. Stewart, 19 July 1984

Secrets of a Woman’s Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett 1920-1969 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hodder, 336 pp., £14.95, June 1984, 0 340 26241 9
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... novels. The Cambridge dons in Pastors and Masters are distinctly unlike those conjured up by C.P. Snow; and the young Lambs, Staces, Clares and Sullivans wouldn’t readily hit it off with the Swallows, Amazons and Coots. In her novels this sort of realism has been virtually scrapped in the interest of perceptions and compulsions which are at once highly ...

When in Bed

David Blackbourn, 19 October 1995

Reflections on a Life 
by Norbert Elias.
Polity, 166 pp., £35, October 1994, 0 7456 1383 7
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The Civilising Process 
by Norbert Elias.
Blackwell, 558 pp., £50, March 1994, 0 631 19222 0
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... Elias repeatedly emphasises the inner confidence he gained from his early years, enabling him to cope with the war, emigration and long scholarly neglect. He joined the Signals Corps in 1915 straight from school and served on the Western Front. As with so many others, his later memory of the experience consisted only of vivid fragments – the sight of dead ...

Diary

M.F. Perutz: Memories of J.D.Bernal, 6 July 2000

... Laboratory, which was then headed by Lord Rutherford, the discoverer of the atomic nucleus. C.P. Snow described his job interview: Bernal had come into the room and sat down. His head was sunk into his chest ... He sat there, looking sullen ... They couldn’t get anything else out of him. Finally, in despair, Professor Hutchinson, who was in the ...

Charging Downhill

Frank Kermode: Michael Holroyd, 28 October 1999

Basil Street Blues: A Family Story 
by Michael Holroyd.
Little, Brown, 306 pp., £17.50, September 1999, 0 316 64815 9
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... not enjoy a successful business career’. But when he left his commuter train he gave his copy of the Times to the engine driver. Perhaps this was a gesture common among gentlemen, but it seems unlikely, for the driver’s cab would be full of newspapers. Still, it is a rather fine thing to have done. One learns a lot about upper-class behaviour from ...

Era of Wonders

Eric Hobsbawm: Mandarin Science, 26 February 2009

Bomb, Book and Compass: Joseph Needham and the Great Secrets of China 
by Simon Winchester.
Viking, 316 pp., £20, September 2008, 978 0 670 91379 4
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... of science and an attack on ‘literary intellectuals’ by the now almost forgotten C.P. Snow; unjustly forgotten, because his ponderous novels about hope, power and prestige tell us much about the public and academic life of his period. In a sense the debate was about the 1930s, the scientists’ age of glory and the disappointed ...

Momentous Conjuncture

Geoffrey Best: Dracula in Churchill’s toyshop, 18 March 2004

Prof: The Life of Frederick Lindemann 
by Adrian Fort.
Cape, 374 pp., £18.99, October 2003, 0 224 06317 0
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... did not obstruct Watson-Watt’s work on radar, as later alleged by the ill-informed C.P. Snow; what he did do was to annoy the others by sniping at the civil service (to which Watson-Watt belonged), using Churchill’s influence to resurrect matters the others thought they had disposed of, and by pushing ideas for aerial defence (e.g. aerial ...

Is It Glamorous?

David Simpson: Stefan Collini among the Intellectuals, 6 March 2008

Absent Minds: Intellectuals in Britain 
by Stefan Collini.
Oxford, 544 pp., £16.99, July 2005, 0 19 929105 5
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... Berlin – I would have put money on his place in this story, along with F.R. Leavis and C.P. Snow, who also feature sparsely. Many of the exemplary careers it does describe are full of surprises. The account of ‘Mr Facing-Both-Ways’ Eliot focuses vividly on his membership of a group called The Moot, where he crossed swords with Karl Mannheim about ...

Boiling Electrons

David Kaiser, 27 September 2012

Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe 
by George Dyson.
Allen Lane, 401 pp., £25, March 2012, 978 0 7139 9750 7
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... fanned out like so many scattered neutrons inside a nuclear device. At the end of the 1950s, C.P. Snow spoke of a clash between ‘two cultures’, between literary intellectuals and natural scientists. At the institute, von Neumann’s electronic monster brought about a clash along a different faultline: between notions of an independent scholarly life and ...

Early Kermode

Stefan Collini, 13 August 2020

... I wondered, not for the first time, did the ‘Frank Kermode’ we admired come into being, il capo di tutti capi in the world of reviewing and criticism for more than half a century? During another of my trudges along the forgotten caravan routes of criticism (now undertaken electronically, thanks to lockdown), I ...

Ruined by men

Anthony Thwaite, 1 September 1988

The Truth about Lorin Jones 
by Alison Lurie.
Joseph, 294 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 7181 3095 2
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Latecomers 
by Anita Brookner.
Cape, 248 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 224 02554 6
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Where the rivers meet 
by John Wain.
Hutchinson, 563 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 9780091736170
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About the Body 
by Christopher Burns.
Secker, 193 pp., £10.95, August 1988, 0 436 09784 2
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Stories 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 312 pp., £11.95, July 1988, 0 670 82113 6
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... of continuing it in further volumes.’ ‘Projects and Options’: my notional title has a C.P. Snow-like sound, and there is something of Snow in Wain’s plain-man, matter-of-fact approach to this first large-scale volume; something of J.B. Priestley, too, to go further back, in its genial, faintly ...

Floating Islands

J.I.M. Stewart, 21 October 1982

Of This and Other Worlds 
by C.S. Lewis, edited by Walter Hooper.
Collins, 192 pp., £7.95, September 1982, 0 00 215608 3
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George Orwell: A Personal Memoir 
by T.R. Fyvel.
Weidenfeld, 221 pp., £9.95, September 1982, 0 297 78012 3
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... is exhibited manipulating the governing body of a college, might almost have been written by C.P. Snow, but before we are through, Merlin has returned from the dead (or something like the dead) and marvels are tumbling about our ears. It is as if Brave New World had got mixed up with Lewis’s most extended conception of fairy story. That Hideous Strength is ...

Phantom Jacks

John Bayley, 5 January 1989

Jack: C.S. Lewis and His Times 
by George Sayer.
Macmillan, 278 pp., £14.95, November 1988, 0 333 43362 9
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J.B. Priestley 
by Vincent Brome.
Hamish Hamilton, 512 pp., £16.95, October 1988, 9780241125601
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Eddy: The Life of Edward Sackville-West 
by Michael De-la-Noy.
Bodley Head, 341 pp., £16, October 1988, 0 370 31164 7
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... be adroit at saving the appearances. At a dinner given when he was full of years and honours, C.P. Snow made a long speech referring to him as ‘a whisper of the conscience of England’. Priestley thanked the speakers in a few words and said he hoped they would now join him in walking upon the water. His sense of himself was romantic and naive but also ...

Acapulcalypse

Patrick Parrinder, 23 November 1989

Christopher Unborn 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Alfred MacAdam.
Deutsch, 531 pp., £13.95, October 1989, 0 233 98016 4
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The Faber Book of Contemporary Latin American Short Stories 
edited by Nick Caistor.
Faber, 188 pp., £11.99, September 1989, 0 571 15359 3
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Hollywood 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 543 pp., £12.95, November 1989, 9780233984957
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Oldest living Confederate widow tells all 
by Allan Gurganus.
Faber, 718 pp., £12.99, November 1989, 9780571142019
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... age. Not surprisingly, some adroit new invention is needed, and with each of them Vidal, a C.P. Snow of the Potomac, takes us further into the corridors of power. The principal innovation of Empire was Caroline Sanford, Blaise’s half-sister. Washington DC told us simply that Blaise had ‘bought a moribund newspaper, the Washington Tribune, and made it a ...

At Miss Whitehead’s

Edward Said, 7 July 1994

The Sixties: The Last Journal, 1960-1972 
by Edmund Wilson, edited by Lewis Dabney.
Farrar, Straus, 968 pp., $35, July 1993, 0 374 26554 2
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... trips to New York, Hungary, Paris and the Middle East. Interspersed are several sojourns on Cape Cod, where he had a summer house, and in Talcottville, the little town in upstate New York where he also had a house. Aside from numerous episodes describing the life he led with his wife Elena and various other members of his family (and ex-family like Mary ...

Gaiety

Frank Kermode, 8 June 1995

Angus Wilson 
by Margaret Drabble.
Secker, 714 pp., £20, May 1995, 0 436 20038 4
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... of money. While he was being paid £250 a year, without pension rights, at the Museum, C.P. Snow, we are told, was pulling down £750 plus perks as a young fellow of what is here described as Christ’s Church College, Cambridge (perhaps the salary was as imaginary as the college). Later, and closer to his heyday, his income compared unfavourably with ...

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