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Newspapers of the Consensus

Neal Ascherson, 21 February 1985

The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. II: The 20th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 718 pp., £25, March 1984, 0 241 11181 1
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Lies, Damned Lies and Some Exclusives 
by Henry Porter.
Chatto, 211 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2841 0
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Garvin of the ‘Observer’ 
by David Ayerst.
Croom Helm, 314 pp., £25, January 1985, 0 7099 0560 2
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The Beaverbrook I Knew 
edited by Logan Gourlay.
Quartet, 272 pp., £11.95, September 1984, 0 7043 2331 1
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... for the persecution of those with German names. ‘The fabric of our society is under threat.’ Henry Porter’s book was written in this climate. As its title promises, it is mostly about the lies that newspapers have told in the sample year of 1983-4. You read it with avidity, because the book is fluent and well-researched and appallingly funny, but ...

White Lies

James Campbell: Nella Larsen, 5 October 2006

In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Colour Line 
by George Hutchinson.
Harvard, 611 pp., £25.95, June 2006, 0 674 02180 0
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... the New York Times critic Anatole Broyard, who died in 1990, was unmasked in the New Yorker by Henry Louis Gates. In the early 1950s, Broyard had threatened to sue the publishers of a novel by Chandler Brossard, Who Walk in Darkness, which contained a character evidently based on him. It began: ‘People said ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... scholars habitually refer to Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest, All Is True (Henry VIII) and The Two Noble Kinsmen, all composed between about 1607 and 1613 – between Shakespeare’s 43rd year and his 49th – compound the issue of genre with questions of biography. Given the fates that overtook his colleagues Christopher Marlowe and ...

Woof, woof

Rosemary Hill: Auberon Waugh, 7 November 2019

A Scribbler in Soho: A Celebration of Auberon Waugh 
edited by Naim Attallah.
Quartet, 341 pp., £20, January 2019, 978 0 7043 7457 7
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... not for 14 years. The end came in 1986. Waugh was the victim of a practical joke after his friend Henry Porter, who was working on the Sunday Times, sent him a letter apparently from Claire Tomalin, the paper’s literary editor, asking him to review Mae West Is Dead, Adam Mars-Jones’s selection of lesbian and gay fiction, adding that she would ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter, 6 October 2011

The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... Bruce Bennett, to publish details of the events behind it in Spirit in Exile. In the 1950s Jannice Henry, an 18-year-old doctor’s daughter from Surrey, fell in love with her father’s locum, Neil Micklem. Their affair lasted for years; Jannice hoped it would end in marriage. It did not. She married instead a 30-year-old advertising copywriter called Peter ...

What Marlowe would have wanted

Charles Nicholl, 26 November 1987

Faustus and the Censor 
by William Empson, edited by John Henry Jones.
Blackwell, 226 pp., £17.50, September 1987, 0 631 15675 5
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... Archbishop Whitgift at Croydon. There was an early version of Hamlet, possibly by Kyd; a prototype Henry V, starring Dick Tarlton and William Knell. And, a little later, there were the first ventures of Ben Jonson – Hot Anger Soon Cooled, written with Thomas Dekker and Henry Porter, and Robert II, with ...

Biting into a Pin-cushion

A.D. Nuttall: Descartes’s botch, 24 June 2004

Flesh in the Age of Reason 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 574 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 7139 9149 6
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... how different it would have been if Descartes had written: ‘We think, therefore we are.’ Roy Porter tells the story of evolving conceptions of human nature in the Enlightenment. The basic answer offered to the unstated second question is: ‘Living as we do in an originally Christian culture, we see ourselves as a mixture of flesh and spirit.’ The word ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate, 6 December 1984

The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... of the three hundred Spartans commemorated in Simonides’ epigram on Thermopylae. For Sir Henry Newbolt there is no difference between the words of the school cricket captain with ‘Ten to make and the match to win’ and those of the schoolboy rallying the ranks when ‘the Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead.’ At the beginning of the First ...

At Tate Britain

Peter Campbell: Van Dyck’s Portraits, 12 March 2009

... Laud, men who had risen to power, show expressions closer to those of Holbein’s portraits of Henry VIII’s functionaries. Laud (the son of a Reading cloth merchant and, like the king, a short man) looks at the painter with raised eyebrows – maybe he will be glad when the session is over. In a double portrait, Wentworth appears determined; his ...

Why Mr Fax got it wrong

Roy Porter: Population history, 5 March 1998

English Population History from Family Reconstitution 1580-1837 
by E.A. Wrigley and R.S. Davies.
Cambridge, 657 pp., £60, July 1997, 0 521 59015 9
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The Savage Wars of Peace: England, Japan and the Malthusian Trap 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 427 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 631 18117 2
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... to draw on a method known as ‘family reconstitution’, pioneered by the French scholar, Louis Henry. Simply put, family reconstitution aims to exploit to the full the fact that parish registers record baptisms, marriages and burials. Where such registers have been conscientiously kept, and if a sufficient percentage of parishioners passed all their lives ...
From Idiocy to Mental Deficiency: Historical Perspectives on People with Learning Disabilities 
edited by David Wright and Anne Digby.
Routledge, 238 pp., £45, October 1996, 9780415112154
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... of halfwits remained all too easy, as was revealed by the pathetic (mid-18th-cenrury) case of Henry Roberts, a simple fellow given to blowing at feathers, exploited by his grasping brothers, greedy for his inheritance. In England there was little call in Early Modern times to institutionalise such ‘natural fools’, and generally they were kept at home ...

I ain’t a child

Roy Porter, 5 September 1996

Growing Up Poor: Home, School and Street 1870-1914 
by Anna Davin.
Rivers Oram, 289 pp., £19.95, January 1996, 9781854890627
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... maker, the washerwoman and her daughter hawking dripping door to door. And, with some help from Henry Mayhew and from modern historians like Stedman Jones, Anna Davin has indeed delivered such segments of the Late Victorian and Edwardian labouring poor from the patronage of friend and foe. She has done so with a strong historical sympathy and a realism that ...

Wild Enthusiasts

Bernard Porter: Science in Africa, 10 May 2012

Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950 
by Helen Tilley.
Chicago, 496 pp., £18.50, April 2011, 978 0 226 80347 0
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... category, a relatively small and diminishing one. Their most prominent representative here is Dr Henry Laing Gordon, an amateur psychologist and early champion of IQ testing, who claimed to have discovered that only Africans given ‘some kind of European education’ exhibited ‘the mental affliction known as dementia praecox’, or schizophrenia; which ...

East Hoathly makes a night of it

Marilyn Butler, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754-1765 
edited by David Vaisey.
Oxford, 386 pp., £17.50, November 1984, 0 19 211782 3
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John Clare’s Autobiographical Writings 
edited by Eric Robinson.
Oxford, 185 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 19 211774 2
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John Clare: The Journals, Essays, and the Journey from Essex 
edited by Anne Tibble.
Carcanet, 139 pp., £6.95, October 1980, 0 85635 344 2
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The Natural History Prose Writings of John Clare 
edited by Margaret Grainger.
Oxford, 397 pp., £35, January 1984, 0 19 818517 0
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John Clare and the Folk Tradition 
by George Deacon.
Sinclair Browne, 397 pp., £15, February 1983, 0 86300 008 8
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... common people going about their daily business. There’s the snatch of conversation in Henry IV, Part I when a couple of carriers grumble about the inn at Rochester, the worst on the road for fleas: ‘Why, they will allow us ne’er a jorden, and then we leak in your chimney; and your chamber-lie breeds fleas like a loach.’ While this is a touch ...

You are the we of me

Joyce Carol Oates: The Autobiography of Carson McCullers, 2 September 1999

Illumination and Night Glare: The Unfinished Autobiography of Carson McCullers 
edited by Carlos Dews.
Wisconsin, 256 pp., £19.95, September 1999, 0 299 16440 3
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... parable-like stories were favourites in the influential Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Awards yearly anthologies. If American Southern Gothic survives as a literary mode, it’s only as parody. The reputations of McCullers and Capote have severely diminished even as the reputation of O’Connor has steadily risen. McCullers may be perceived ...

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