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At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Eleanor Birne: ‘A Crisis of Brilliance’, 12 September 2013

... C.R.W. Nevinson, Mark Gertler, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer. Together they are the subject of David Boyd Haycock’s compelling group biography, A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (2009), and now also of an exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery (until 22 September). Gertler became obsessed with Carrington. Nash ...

Abishag’s Revenge

Steven Shapin: Who wants to live for ever?, 26 March 2009

Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Yale, 308 pp., £18.99, June 2008, 978 0 300 11778 3
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... Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat ...

Go and get killed, comrade

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Spanish Civil War, 21 February 2013

Unlikely Warriors: The British in the Spanish Civil War and the Struggle against Fascism 
by Richard Baxell.
Aurum, 516 pp., £25, September 2012, 978 1 84513 697 0
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I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women Who Went to Fight Fascism 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Old Street, 363 pp., £25, October 2012, 978 1 908699 10 7
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... miniatures of the uncontroversial heroism of doomed men. It’s beyond history; it’s myth. David Boyd Haycock’s I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women Who Went to Fight Fascism is a good example of where this Civil War mythology tends to wind up. He replaces Baxell’s careful scholarship with broad-brush sentimentality. They ...

No Such Thing as Women

Madeleine Schwartz: Reproduction Anxiety, 23 September 2021

Heaven 
by Mieko Kawakami, translated by Sam Bett and David Boyd.
Picador, 176 pp., £14.99, June, 978 1 5098 9824 4
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... It’​s hard not to read the title of Mieko Kawakami’s first novel, Breasts and Eggs, as some kind of provocation. I keep seeing them in front of me – a perverted breakfast, breasts over easy, with a side of ketchup. What are they doing there, those breasts and eggs? It turns out this is misleading: the eggs are the kind that give human life. But the title is appropriate ...

Strange Love

William Boyd, 1 December 1983

The Africans 
by David Lamb.
Bodley Head, 363 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 370 30968 5
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African Princess 
by Princess Elizabeth of Toro.
Hamish Hamilton, 230 pp., £9.95, September 1983, 0 241 11002 5
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The Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat 
by Ryszard Kapuściński, translated by William Brand and Katarzyna Mroczkowsa-Brand.
Quartet, 164 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 7043 2415 6
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... states of affairs currently preoccupying and bedevilling the unhappy place. However, after reading David Lamb’s The Africans these responses should be leavened with another one – despair. For this comprehensive and valuable survey of the status quo in sub-Saharan Africa is such a depressing catalogue of human iniquity that the reader experiences the same ...

Manchester’s Moment

Boyd Hilton, 20 August 1998

Free Trade and Liberal England, 1846-1946 
by Anthony Howe.
Oxford, 336 pp., £45, December 1997, 9780198201465
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The Origins of War Prevention: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1730-1854 
by Martin Ceadel.
Oxford, 587 pp., £55, December 1996, 0 19 822674 8
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... words, was ‘special’. In this context, Ceadel notes – but does not sufficiently heed – David Bebbington’s reminder that, for all their emphasis on a religion of the heart, evangelicals worked inside and not outside the Enlightenment rationalist tradition and so appealed to minds as well as hearts. What they shared across the denominations was ...

Wolfing it

Angela Carter, 23 July 1987

Honey from a Weed: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia 
by Patience Gray.
Prospect, 374 pp., £17.50, November 1986, 0 907325 30 0
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A Table in Provence: Classic Recipes from the South of France 
collected and illustrated by Leslie Forbes.
Webb and Bower/Joseph, 160 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 86350 130 3
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The Joyce of Cooking: Food and Drink from James Joyce’s Dublin 
by Alison Armstrong, foreword by Anthony Burgess.
Station Hill Press, 252 pp., $18.95, December 1986, 0 930794 85 0
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... part of my trousseau. It was called Plats du Jour, or Foreign Food by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd, a Penguin paperback with a seductive pink jacket depicting a large family at table – evidently not a British family, for its members, shirt-sleeved, aproned, some of them children, were uncorking bottles, slicing bread, eagerly tucking their napkins under ...

Festschriftiness

Susan Pedersen, 6 October 2011

Structures and Transformations in Modern British History 
edited by David Feldman and Jon Lawrence.
Cambridge, 331 pp., £50, January 2011, 978 0 521 51882 6
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The Peculiarities of Liberal Modernity in Imperial Britain 
edited by Simon Gunn and James Vernon.
California, 271 pp., £20.95, May 2011, 978 0 9845909 5 7
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Classes, Cultures and Politics: Essays on British History for Ross McKibbin 
edited by Clare Griffiths, John Nott and William Whyte.
Oxford, 320 pp., £65, April 2011, 978 0 19 957988 4
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... am an American, one of those interlopers whose contribution to British history has been, in Boyd Hilton’s words, ‘respectable at best’) – I stand at a slight distance from them. The three men honoured in these books seem cast in a common mould. All were born in the early 1940s and did DPhils at Oxford, although McKibbin arrived there from ...

How did they get away with it?

Bernard Porter: Britain’s Atrocities in Kenya, 3 March 2005

Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire 
by David Anderson.
Weidenfeld, 406 pp., £20, January 2005, 0 297 84719 8
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Britain’s Gulag: The Brutal End of Empire in Kenya 
by Caroline Elkins.
Cape, 475 pp., £20, January 2005, 9780224073639
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... and, according to official figures, killed around 12,000 in combat, though the real figure, in David Anderson’s view, is ‘likely to have been more than 20,000’. In addition, Caroline Elkins claims, up to 100,000 died in the detention camps. It is the scale of the British atrocities in Kenya that is the most startling revelation of these books. We ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... other than human life. There’s also a masterly volume of summary and analysis by the editor, David Fisher, who dislikes paragraphs and believes in calling a bastard a bastard. Inevitably, such an exhaustive work of reference answers questions nobody is ever likely to ask. As you leaf through the 6000 double-columned pages you are sometimes overwhelmed by ...

Beefcake Ease

Miranda Carter: Robert Mitchum and Steve McQueen, 14 January 2002

Robert Mitchum: Solid, Dad, Crazy 
by Damien Love.
Batsford, 208 pp., £15.99, December 2001, 0 7134 8707 0
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Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care 
by Lee Server.
Faber, 590 pp., £20, October 2001, 0 571 20994 7
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McQueen: The Biography 
by Christopher Sandford.
HarperCollins, 497 pp., £16.99, October 2001, 0 00 257195 1
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... a habit of dropping his trousers and removing his clothes when provoked and, famously, peeing on David O. Selznick’s carpet (in the middle of a meeting about a film version of A Doll’s House). He was articulate and rude to journalists, which also generated copy. ‘Booze, broads, all true,’ he told hacks. ‘Make up some more if you want to.’ Mitchum ...

A Plumless Pudding

John Sutherland: The Great John Murray Archive Disaster, 18 March 2004

... in 1942. The NLS has been similarly conscientious in its stewardship of the Constable, Oliver and Boyd, and Smith, Elder records. The library’s long-term aim is to create a coherent historical archive of Scottish publishing. Last year, John Murray came to it suggesting a sale of his firm’s archive by private treaty. Founded in 1768, and presided over ever ...

Little Englander Histories

Linda Colley: Little Englandism, 22 July 2010

A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846 
by Boyd Hilton.
Oxford, 757 pp., £21, June 2008, 978 0 19 921891 2
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Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1780-1939 
by James Belich.
Oxford, 573 pp., £25, June 2009, 978 0 19 929727 6
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... because of the chronology he was allotted, these ambiguities become particularly pronounced in Boyd Hilton’s contribution to the series, A Mad, Bad & Dangerous People? England 1783-1846. Trenchant, vivid, massively researched and very well written, it begins in the year that saw both the formal end of what was erroneously called the ‘First British ...

English Changing

Frank Kermode, 7 February 1980

The State of the Language 
edited by Leonard Michaels and Christopher Ricks.
California, 609 pp., £14.95, January 1980, 0 520 03763 4
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... speak, a new loss of life, and so contribute to the renovation of the language. Another professor, David Lodge, says a good word for the English spoken in Marin County, California, as recorded by Cyra McFadden in The Serial. Marin, a ‘high-energy trip with … happening people’, is near San Francisco, ‘the consciousness-raising capital of the western ...

Sisterly

A.N. Wilson, 21 October 1993

Love from Nancy: The Letters of Nancy Mitford 
edited by Charlotte Mosley.
Hodder, 538 pp., £20, September 1993, 0 340 53784 1
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... Mitford’s humour is its preparedness to be cruel. The account in this volume of Alan Lennox-Boyd swelling to twice his normal size because a doctor had mistakenly injected him with elephantiasis would, indeed, make you scream. Here is an other letter which exemplifies her humour: Darling I must describe a visit to the Joneses – the angelic Enid ...

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