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The Media Did It

Neal Ascherson: Remembering the Wall, 21 June 2007

The Berlin Wall: 13 August 1961 – 9 November 1989 
by Frederick Taylor.
Bloomsbury, 486 pp., £20, October 2006, 0 7475 8015 4
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... What you felt on seeing the Berlin Wall depended greatly on the Berlin you had seen before. Frederick Taylor first visited Berlin as a schoolboy in 1965, when the Wall had already been up for some years. He presumably thought of other normal, undivided cities he knew, and was horrified. And anyone who had known Berlin before the Second World War was horrified in the same way ...

Princely Pride

Jonathan Steinberg: Emperor Frederick III, 10 May 2012

Our Fritz: Emperor Frederick III and the Political Culture of Imperial Germany 
by Frank Lorenz Müller.
Harvard, 340 pp., £33.95, October 2011, 978 0 674 04838 6
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... On 18 October 1881, Crown Prince Frederick William of Germany and Prussia marked his 50th birthday with a gloomy entry in his diary. He had been waiting to succeed to the throne for twenty years and his indomitable father refused to do the decent thing. At 84, the old man simply would not die. Worse, his ‘over-mighty subject’ Otto von Bismarck, in spite of constant illness and breakdowns, continued to exercise his power over the old emperor ...

Theme-Park Prussia

David Blackbourn, 24 November 1994

Prussia: The Perversion of an Idea 
by Giles MacDonogh.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 456 pp., £20, July 1994, 1 85619 267 9
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... than several Ruritanian dynasties with an equally grubby record. Lord Vansittart and A.J.P. Taylor can rest easily in their graves. It has proved more difficult to kill off Prussia in the mind. Post-war historians in the Federal Republic were soon busy rehabilitating the Borussian state. Influential figures like Gerhard Ritter insisted that the main ...

Flying the flag

Patrick Parrinder, 18 November 1993

The Modern British Novel 
by Malcolm Bradbury.
Secker, 512 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 436 20132 1
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After the War: The Novel and English Society since 1945 
by D.J. Taylor.
Chatto, 310 pp., £17.99, September 1993, 9780701137694
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... today are government ministers and the right-wing press. A GCSE board’s decision to prescribe a Frederick Forsyth novel a few years ago was subjected to a bruising examination by the tabloids. The press and the politicians take comfort from a scenario in which the threat to the national literary heritage can be represented as coming from a bunch of ...

Raining

Donald Davie, 5 May 1983

Later Poems 
by R.S. Thomas.
Macmillan, 224 pp., £7.95, March 1983, 0 333 34560 6
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Thomas Hardy Annual, No 1 
edited by Norman Page.
Macmillan, 205 pp., £20, March 1983, 0 333 32022 0
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Tess of the d’Urbervilles 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Juliet Grindle and Simon Gatrell.
Oxford, 636 pp., £50, March 1983, 0 19 812495 3
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Hardy’s Love Poems 
by Thomas Hardy, edited by Carl Weber.
Macmillan, 253 pp., £3.95, February 1983, 0 333 34798 6
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. I: Wessex Poems, Poems of the Past and the Present, Time’s Laughingstocks 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 403 pp., £19.50, February 1983, 0 19 812708 1
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... remarks, ‘maybe someone has written it.’ If so, it will not escape the eagle-eye of Richard H. Taylor, of the University of London Institute of Education. Taylor, who each year from now on will provide a survey of recent Hardy studies, remarks happily: ‘Guidance into the rich pastures of Hardy scholarship becomes ...

Imperial Project

Richard Drayton, 19 September 1996

Kew: The History of the Royal Botanic Gardens 
by Ray Desmond.
Harvill/Royal Botanical Gardens, 466 pp., £25, November 1995, 1 86046 076 3
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... within which many political persuasions – from Clarendon, Hume and Macaulay to A.J.P. Taylor and E. P. Thompson – have helped an emerging nation make sense of itself. There are now good reasons, as Linda Colley and Chris Bayly have suggested, to bring the Empire to the centre of domestic history and to show how a wider world changed our ...

Gentlemen and ladies came to see the poet’s cottage

Tom Paulin: Clare’s anti-pastoral, 19 February 2004

John Clare: A Biography 
by Jonathan Bate.
Picador, 650 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 330 37106 1
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‘I Am’: The Selected Poetry of John Clare 
edited by Jonathan Bate.
Farrar, Straus, 318 pp., $17, November 2003, 0 374 52869 1
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John Clare, Politics and Poetry 
by Alan Vardy.
Palgrave, 221 pp., £45, October 2003, 0 333 96617 1
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John Clare Vol. V: Poems of the Middle Period 1822-37 
edited by Eric Robinson, David Powell and P.M.S. Dawson.
Oxford, 822 pp., £105, January 2003, 0 19 812386 8
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... In 1865, a year after John Clare’s death in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, Frederick Martin, a former amanuensis of Thomas Carlyle, published the first biography of the ‘peasant poet’. It laid the foundations, Jonathan Bate says in his new Life, ‘for both the enduring myths and some of the key truths about Clare ...

Axeman as Ballroom Dancer

David Blackbourn, 17 July 1997

Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany 1600-1987 
by Richard J. Evans.
Oxford, 1014 pp., £55, March 1996, 0 19 821968 7
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... the axe) at the same time that overall numbers declined. Enlightened absolutist rulers such as Frederick the Great reduced the number of capital crimes. And as executions became fewer, each one became a more sternly ritualised spectacle of state power designed to have an educative effect. These changes caused new problems, which became steadily more ...

Our Boys

John Bayley, 28 November 1996

Emily Tennyson 
by Ann Thwaite.
Faber, 716 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 571 96554 7
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... her father married an American million-dollar heiress of unbending Quaker principles, and became Frederick Locker-Lampson, one of the arch little poets whose presence embarrasses the later pages of Q’s first attempt at an Oxford Book of English Verse. Eleanor sounds a jolly girl, unremittingly flirtatious before and after marriage, and a source of some ...

Baring his teeth

Peter Clarke, 25 June 1992

The Macmillans: The Story of a Dynasty 
by Richard Davenport-Hines.
Heinemann, 370 pp., £18.50, April 1992, 0 434 17502 1
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... the other night, where were Tennyson, Browning, Anthony Trollope, Lord Houghton, Lord Stanley, Tom Taylor, Fitzjames Stephen ... with all of whom I had a pleasant gossip.’ With all of them? But even on such a loquacious evening he still spared a thought for ‘how much better worthy of such company dear Daniel would have been.’ His own receptions, held ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln, 1 December 2011

The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... disloyalty to the troops. Then the Whig Party confirmed its meretriciousness by nominating Zachary Taylor, a returning general, as its presidential candidate for 1848. Lincoln campaigned for Taylor, a Louisiana slaveholder, but was passed over for an appointment when Taylor captured the ...

Liquidator

Neal Ascherson: Hugh Trevor-Roper, 19 August 2010

Hugh Trevor-Roper: The Biography 
by Adam Sisman.
Weidenfeld, 598 pp., £25, July 2010, 978 0 297 85214 8
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... an exaggerated relish that suggests insecurity. In this, he was unlike the much tougher A.J.P. Taylor, who came to Oxford from middle-class Lancashire and was able to view the place with affectionate detachment. Taylor got on sturdily with his work. Trevor-Roper let himself be drawn into energy-sapping college ...

Anxiety of Influx

Tony Tanner, 18 February 1982

Plotting the Golden West: American Literature and the Rhetoric of the California Trail 
by Stephen Fender.
Cambridge, 241 pp., £15, January 1982, 0 521 23924 9
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Witnesses to a Vanishing America: The 19th-Century Response 
by Lee Clark Mitchell.
Princeton, 320 pp., £10.70, July 1981, 9780691064611
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... writers in this tradition were taking risks in their prose beyond anything attempted by Irving and Taylor. They were trying to deal with a fear that gathered strength as the century progressed, that the West would disappear almost before it could be experienced and described.’ This fear – this story – is documentated by Lee Clark Mitchell, who is ...

Make your own monster

Adrian Woolfson: In search of the secrets of biological form, 6 January 2005

Mutants: On the Form, Varieties and Errors of the Human Body 
by Armand Marie Leroi.
HarperCollins, 431 pp., £20, May 2004, 0 00 257113 7
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Jacob’s Ladder: The History of the Human Genome 
by Henry Gee.
Fourth Estate, 272 pp., £20, March 2004, 1 84115 734 1
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... who weighed only 15 pounds. It had been the idea of the Victorian freak show impresario Phineas Taylor Barnum to present him in the guise of ‘General Tom Thumb’. Before long, the general’s imitations – ‘in full military costume’ – of Napoleon Bonaparte and Frederick the Great, and a varied repertoire ...

Sticktoitiveness

John Sutherland, 8 June 1995

Empire of Words: The Reign of the ‘OED’ 
by John Willinsky.
Princeton, 258 pp., £19.95, November 1994, 0 691 03719 1
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... at, and at worst hold up as criminal? Would amateurs with the professional skills of James Murray, Frederick Furnivall, Richard Chenevix Trench – if they exist today – be foolish enough in this post-Thatcherite world to give away the fruits of their labour? Why slave to make future generations of OUP publishers rich? Nor, with the economic short-termism ...

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