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Scoring the language game

Roy Harris, 15 October 1981

Language and Linguistics: An Introduction 
by John Lyons.
Cambridge, 356 pp., £15, June 1981, 0 521 23034 9
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... Language is one of those subjects on which it is almost impossible nowadays to say anything worth saying which is not highly controversial. That is why it takes a brave man like Professor Lyons to attempt a book which, in less than four hundred pages, aims to provide a ‘general introduction to linguistics and the study of language, intended particularly for beginning students and readers with no previous knowledge of or training in the subject ...

Tales of the Unexpected

José Harris, 20 November 1986

Marriage and Morals among the Victorians, and Other Essays 
by Gertrude Himmelfarb.
Faber, 253 pp., £15.95, July 1986, 0 571 13952 3
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... argument inexorably leads to a restatement of the question posed by Himmelfarb’s 1974 study of John Stuart Mill: what happens to societies if Mill’s spectre of a moral majority is replaced by a culture whose only categorical requirement is that everyone must disagree with everyone else? What happens if the mothers at whose knees we learn the rudiments of ...

Where structuralism comes from

John Sturrock, 2 February 1984

Course in General Linguistics 
by Ferdinand de Saussure, translated by Roy Harris.
Duckworth, 236 pp., £24, March 1983, 0 7156 1738 9
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Semiotic Perspectives 
by Sandor Hervey.
Allen and Unwin, 273 pp., £15, September 1982, 9780044000266
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... and Literature, and finally, after 1907, professor of General Linguistics. His translator, Roy Harris, is also a professor of General Linguistics, at Oxford, having earlier been professor of Romance Languages there. He is Oxford’s first professor of General Linguistics, not because he has occupied that chair for an indecently long time but because it was ...

New Man from Nowhere

James Davidson: Cicero, 4 February 2016

Dictator 
by Robert Harris.
Hutchinson, 299 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 09 175210 1
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... phylactery shouted out by Verres’ victims pleading for a stay of crucifixion), recycled by John F. Kennedy with unavoidable bathos as ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ This great and by no means guaranteed victory against the establishment, as well as the addition of an entire province to his list of clients, helped ease Cicero’s way. But as consul he was ...

Highland Hearts

V.G. Kiernan, 20 December 1990

On the Crofters’ Trail: In Search of the Clearance Highlanders 
by David Craig.
Cape, 358 pp., £14.99, October 1990, 0 224 02750 6
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... it suffers from. Much has been written on the same subject; best-known among recent works is John Prebble’s The Highland Clearances. Craig is concerned not so much with the Clearances in themselves as with the sort of memories of them that have lingered among later generations. He is from Aberdeen, and has no Gaelic beyond what he picks up by the ...

The Englishness of English

Roy Harris, 6 November 1980

Studies in English Linguistics for Randolph Quirk 
edited by Sidney Greenbaum and Jan Svartvik.
Longman, 304 pp., £18, September 1980, 0 582 55079 3
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... M.A.K. Halliday, Rodney Huddleston, Geoffrey Leech, Jennifer Coates, F.R. Palmer, R.A. Close, John Sinclair, Jan Firbas, Nils Enkvist, David Crystal, Jan Svartvik, Wolf-Dietrich Bald, Nelson Francis, Morton Bloomfield, E.L. Epstein, John Lyons, Archibald Hill, James Sledd, R.I. McDavid Jr, R.K. O’Cain, Linda ...

Their Way

José Harris: On the Origin of Altruism, 12 March 2009

The Invention of Altruism: Making Moral Meanings in Victorian Britain 
by Thomas Dixon.
British Academy, 420 pp., £60, May 2008, 978 0 19 726426 3
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... often waned as Comte’s doctrines were more fully understood (most famously in the case of John Stuart Mill, whose early admiration for Comte’s phenomenalism and rationality gradually gave way to revulsion at his dogmatism, religiosity, ‘moralism’ and hostility to personal liberty). Nevertheless, prominent 19th-century figures who acknowledged a ...

Superchild

John Bayley, 6 September 1984

The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Vol. V: 1936-1941 
edited by Anne Olivier Bell and Andrew McNeillie.
Chatto, 402 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 7012 0566 0
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Deceived with Kindness: A Bloomsbury Childhood 
by Angelica Garnett.
Chatto, 181 pp., £9.95, August 1984, 0 7011 2821 6
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... Turning back a volume or two we come to the dinner party in January 1930 with the Harrises. Bogey Harris was apparently quite a character. In her account, unerring as it clearly is, he ceases to be one, as do his womenfolk and the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, ‘an unimpressive man; eyes disappointing; rather ...

Tethering the broomstick

José Harris, 18 April 1985

Lloyd George: From Peace to War 1912-1916 
by John Grigg.
Methuen, 527 pp., £19.95, February 1985, 0 413 46660 4
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... been yes makes the mystery of Lloyd George all the more intractable. In the two earlier volumes of John Grigg’s biography the full ambiguity of Lloyd George’s character and role in history had yet to be revealed. Volume Three carries us into the heartland of the problem. The book opens in 1912 with Lloyd George at the height of his powers as a reforming ...

Georgian eyes are smiling

Frank Kermode, 15 September 1988

Bernard Shaw. Vol. I: The Search for Love, 1856-1898 
by Michael Holroyd.
Chatto, 486 pp., £16, September 1988, 0 7011 3332 5
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Bernard Shaw: Collected Letters. Vol. IV 
edited by Dan Laurence.
Bodley Head, 946 pp., £30, June 1988, 0 370 31130 2
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Shaw: The Annual of Bernard Shaw Studies. Vol. VIII 
edited by Stanley Weintraub.
Pennsylvania State, 175 pp., $25, April 1988, 0 271 00613 7
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Shaw’s Sense of History 
by J.L. Wisenthal.
Oxford, 186 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812892 4
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Collected Letters of Joseph Conrad. Vol. III: 1903-1907 
edited by Frederick Karl and Laurence Davies.
Cambridge, 532 pp., £35, April 1988, 0 521 32387 8
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Joseph Conrad: ‘Nostromo’ 
by Ian Watt.
Cambridge, 98 pp., £12.50, April 1988, 0 521 32821 7
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... There were already good biographies of Shaw, notably those of Frank Harris and Hesketh Pearson, both of whom knew Shaw and had the benefit of his energetic interventions. Pearson in particular will not be easily supplanted. Nevertheless the archives of the world are full of Shaviana inaccessible before his death, and because there had not been a serious attempt since 1956 – the centenary year – the Shaw Estate sensibly decided that the time had come for a new biography, and invited Mr Holroyd to write it ...

Nutmegged

Frank Kermode: The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 by Martin Amis., 10 May 2001

The War against Cliché: Essays and Reviews 1971-2000 
by Martin Amis.
Cape, 506 pp., £20, April 2001, 0 224 05059 1
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... its texture, its clichés. Over the years Amis has done a lot of virtuous wincing over clichés. John Fowles is a prominent target: ‘He managed a wan smile’; ‘God, you’re so naive.’ No expensive talk about Descartes, Marivaux, Lemprière and Aristophanes can procure a pardon for that sort of thing. Other reviewers may commend Thomas ...

World’s End

John Sutherland, 1 October 1987

The Day of Creation 
by J.G. Ballard.
Gollancz, 254 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 575 04152 8
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The Playmaker 
by Thomas Keneally.
Hodder, 310 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 340 34154 8
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In the Skin of a Lion 
by Michael Ondaatje.
Secker, 244 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 436 34009 7
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The House of Hospitalities 
by Emma Tennant.
Viking, 184 pp., £10.95, September 1987, 0 670 81501 2
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... as a labourer on the great tunnel under Lake Ontario. This construction is the dream of Rowland Harris, a man as gigantically selfish and driven as was Small, who in his perfectionism imports herringbone tiles from Siena for his tunnel’s toilets. Irrationally, these small ornaments radicalise Patrick and although the narrative becomes misty at this ...

Strong Meat

John Lanchester, 11 January 1990

The Bellarosa Connection 
by Saul Bellow.
Secker, 102 pp., £11.95, January 1990, 0 436 19988 2
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The War Zone 
by Alexander Stuart.
Hamish Hamilton, 207 pp., £11.95, March 1989, 0 241 12342 9
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A Touch of Love 
by Jonathan Coe.
Duckworth, 156 pp., £9.95, April 1989, 0 7156 2277 3
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Do it again 
by Martyn Harris.
Viking, 220 pp., £11.95, October 1989, 0 670 82858 0
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... had been only one person who could, without ambiguity, be referred to simply as She’) and jokes. Harris should patent the idea of the Republican Reader, if only to save himself the irritation of seeing someone else do it and make a lot of ...

Diary

Sean Wilsey: Going Slow, 17 July 2008

... eat only in non-chains, never hurry, spend a day in San Antonio meeting a man I’ll call Don Harris, for whom Michael might design a house, write songs to perform at an open mike in Nashville. Charlie would ride in the bed of the truck, and we would have the cab. I tied his long leash to the truck’s roll bar, so he’d know not to jump out. Michael ...

Alien Heat

Jonathan Gil Harris: ‘The Island Princess’, 17 March 2016

The Island Princess 
by John Fletcher, edited by Clare McManus.
Arden, 338 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 1 904271 53 6
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... from the Great Fire in September 1666. But the burning town wasn’t London. The play was John Fletcher’s The Island Princess, a tragicomedy written half a century earlier, and set on the islands of Ternate and Tidore in what is now Indonesia. The opening stage direction, however, states: ‘The Scene India’. The Island Princess is the only ...

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