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The Irresistible Itch

Colin Kidd: Vandals in Bow Ties, 3 December 2009

Personal Responsibility: Why It Matters 
by Alexander Brown.
Continuum, 214 pp., £12.99, September 2009, 978 1 84706 399 1
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... the subject possesses the greatest allure for social conservatives. However, as the philosopher Alexander Brown shows in Personal Responsibility, the subject is more slippery than politicians imagine. How should society determine whether someone’s circumstances mean that they are deserving of its support rather than its condemnation? The ...

Brown and Friends

David Runciman, 3 January 2008

... Gordon Brown, like all prime ministers, like all politicians, like all of us really, is over-reliant on the advice of a small group of people he thinks he can trust. In Brown’s case, these tend to be men who once worked as juniors in his office, having been hand-picked at a very young age ...

Dream on

Alexander Nehamas, 17 July 1997

Dinner with Persephone 
by Patricia Storace.
Granta, 398 pp., £17.99, February 1997, 1 86207 033 4
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... relevant as any table of economic indicators. Again according to myth, the Gorgona, the sister of Alexander the Great, was transformed into a mermaid. Even today, she stops ships sailing in Greek waters and helps those sailors who assure her that her brother is still alive to arrive at their destination, while destroying those who tell her the sad truth. A ...

Lethal Specks

Hugh Pennington: Polonium, 14 December 2006

... radiation sources, are the only people to have been lethally irradiated in a non-medical setting. Alexander Litvinenko joins them. But his death from polonium-210 is unprecedented. This is the first time – to our knowledge – that someone has been deliberately killed by the administration of a radioactive substance. Marie and Pierre Curie discovered ...

In a Tuft of Thistle

Robert Crawford: Borges is Coming, 16 December 2021

Borges and Me: An Encounter 
by Jay Parini.
Canongate, 299 pp., £14.99, August, 978 1 83885 022 7
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... mentorship, was beginning a PhD at St Andrews on the laconic Orcadian writer George Mackay Brown. Things did not look promising. His PhD supervisor was Alexander Falconer, a wartime naval officer whose ‘masterwork’ was Shakespeare and the Sea (1964), which he had followed up with A Glossary of Shakespeare’s Sea ...

Rough Wooing

Michael Brown: Flodden, 23 January 2014

Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 
by George Goodwin.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86739 5
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... and his nobles at the head of his army, was hacked to death and his 20-year-old illegitimate son, Alexander, archbishop of St Andrews, died alongside him. Nine earls, 13 other peers and many of Scotland’s lairds and clergy were also killed. For Scots, the name of Flodden is associated with crushing national defeat and loss. The battle is the best known of a ...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Adam Shatz: Mass Incarceration, 4 May 2017

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America 
by James Forman.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 306 pp., £21.98, April 2017, 978 0 374 18997 6
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... that an African American would be incarcerated at some point in their lifetime had doubled since Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 Supreme Court decision outlawing school segregation; and more black adults were under the control of the criminal justice system – whether in prison, on probation or on parole – than were enslaved in 1850. Once again, it ...

Flower or Fungus?

Barbara Graziosi: Bacchylides, 31 July 2008

Bacchylides: Politics, Performance, Poetic Tradition 
by David Fearn.
Oxford, 428 pp., £70, July 2007, 978 0 19 921550 8
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... men’s concern for athletics, flute-playing and good times. On the iron grips of shields red-brown spiders spin their webs; rust subdues sharp spears and double-edged swords. There is no noise of bronze trumpets, and sleep – honey for the mind – still soothes the heart at dawn: it is not pillaged from men’s eyelids. The streets are laden with ...

Wolves in the Drawing Room

Neal Ascherson: The SNP, 2 June 2011

... disaster of 5 May have happened if any of its best and brightest – Robin Cook, Douglas Alexander, Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown, even John Smith – had stayed in Scotland to lead the party and the devolved government at Holyrood? Only Donald Dewar took the train back north and became first minister of Scotland ...

Want-of-Tin and Want-of-Energy

Dinah Birch: The lives of the Rossettis, 20 May 2004

The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume One 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 464 pp., £95, July 2002, 9780859915281
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The Correspondence of Dante Gabriel Rossetti: The Formative Years 1835-62: Charlotte Street to Cheyne Walk. Volume Two 
edited by William Fredeman.
Brewer, 640 pp., £95, July 2002, 0 85991 637 5
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William and Lucy: The Other Rossettis 
by Angela Thirlwell.
Yale, 376 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 300 10200 3
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... around his life. Something similar might be said of the woman William married – Lucy Madox Brown, the daughter of Ford Madox Brown and his first wife, Elizabeth Bromley. Lucy seems to have been pushed to the side when Elizabeth died. Relations with Brown’s second wife, Emma, and ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... told tourists that they ‘present an unpleasing exterior’. The ‘two Scottish doctors’, Alexander and Patrick Russell, explained in 1792 that it was particularly the height of the walls which made the streets appear so ‘gloomy’: ‘little better than alleys winding among the melancholy walls of nunneries’. The people of Aleppo, on the other ...

Friend or Food?

Alexander Bevilacqua, 14 December 2023

The Tame and the Wild: People and Animals after 1492 
by Marcy Norton.
Harvard, 419 pp., £33.95, January, 978 0 674 73752 5
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The Perfection of Nature: Animals, Breeding and Race in the Renaissance 
by Mackenzie Cooley.
Chicago, 353 pp., £30, October 2022, 978 0 226 82228 0
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... there is evidence of selective breeding by humans in the preference for llamas with yellow or brown wool. But American and European cultures of selective breeding were by no means identical: plant grafting, for instance, didn’t occur in Mesoamerica before the conquest.By contrast, Europeans could make sense of the role of animals at the Aztec court. The ...

As God Intended

Rosemary Hill: Capability Brown, 5 January 2012

The Omnipotent Magician: Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown 1716-83 
by Jane Brown.
Chatto, 384 pp., £20, March 2011, 978 0 7011 8212 0
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... for the W Front?’ These were the questions he intended to put to Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, then at the peak of his career as the most famous and sought after landscape designer of the day, who had been booked to make an inspection of Burton Constable and give his opinion of its ‘capabilities’ for improvement. Constable’s notes are a ...

Devolution Doom

Christopher Harvie: Scotland’s crisis, and some solutions, 5 September 2002

... ah tell ye, doomed!’ – in order? The Enterprise/Transport/Lifelong-Learning minister Wendy Alexander fled in May, perhaps because McConnell crushed her under all those portfolios, but also, surely, because of the mismatch between her huge responsibilities and her limited powers. Holyrood has, it’s true, turned in good research and policy reports in ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: The life expectancy of a Roman emperor, 3 June 2004

... sacked, but it would be rash of the prime minister to wait for the electorate to sack him: Gordon Brown wouldn’t be the only disappointed person were Tony Blair to be succeeded by Michael Howard. Caracalla was succeeded by Macrinus, a co-conspirator of Martialis, the man who did the actual stabbing and was shortly afterwards caught and ...

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