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Here come the judges

Conor Gearty: The constitution, 4 June 1998

This Time: Our Constitutional Revolution 
by Anthony Barnett.
Vintage, 371 pp., £6.99, December 1997, 0 09 926858 2
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The Voice of the People: A Constitution for Tomorrow 
by Robert Alexander.
Weidenfeld, 214 pp., £17.99, September 1997, 0 297 84109 2
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The Making and Remaking of the British Constitution 
by Lord Nolan and Stephen Sedley.
Blackstone, 142 pp., £19.95, November 1997, 1 85431 704 0
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... Barnett was kicking Charter 88 into life in various basement flats and leftist magazine offices, Robert Alexander accepted ennoblement as a Tory peer in the House of Lords, though his elevation is not mentioned on the cover of The Voice of the People. He is a former leading QC; former chairman of the Bar; former chairman of the City Panel on Takeovers ...

The Dalswinton Enlightenment

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

... vessel, the world’s First steamship is swanning across Dalswinton Loch. A landscape painter, Alexander Naysmith Perches on deck beside his good friend, Robert Bums. It’s a calm, clear morning. The painter will later invent The compression rivet, and work out the axial arrangement Between propeller and engine. The ...

Speaking in Tongues

Robert Crawford, 8 February 1996

The Poetry of Scotland: Gaelic, Scots and English 1380-1980 
edited and introduced by Roderick Watson.
Edinburgh, 752 pp., £19.95, May 1995, 0 7486 0607 6
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... Here (in English translation) are the great Latinist George Buchanan and the Gaelic poet Alexander Mac-Donald. Duncan Ban MacIntyre’s expansive 18th-century Gaelic poem on deer (echoes of which can be heard in Crichton Smith and Les Murray) is juxtaposed with John Davidson’s ‘A Runnable Stag’. This should have been the book which set the ...

Standing at ease

Robert Taubman, 1 May 1980

Faces in My Time 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 230 pp., £8.50, March 1980, 0 434 59924 7
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... guarded a man betrays something by what he admires, and two examples stand out: one is his friend Alexander Dru, for the quality of his mind; the other, among the war leaders encountered, is Lord Portal – apparently for the mildness of his manner as Chairman of the Travellers’ Club General Committee. ‘Portal was indeed a leader for whom one guessed it ...

Paris, 18 October

Alexander Zevin: The New ’68ers, 29 November 2007

... as it turns out, is illegal for public employees in New York State), the union leader, Robert Toussaint, was sent to jail and otherwise ‘progressive’ residents spat venom at their train conductors, platform sweepers and track-layers for daring to walk off the job. During the strike I stayed overnight at a friend’s house because commuting from ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger, 6 April 2006

Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... a soldier and the British consul in Addis Ababa, was a powerful influence on her son’s life. Alexander Maitland introduces this biography with his meeting with Thesiger in Kathleen’s Chelsea flat in 1964: Cocooned in a woollen shawl and an old-fashioned lace-trimmed mob cap, she lay propped up on pillows, with writing paper and books spread out on the ...

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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... thirty sex-starved sailors and a man called Stevenson – who may be based on Borges, who admired Robert Louis Stevenson. Williamson presents Borges’s visit to St Andrews as a coming to terms with his early lost love.The New Yorker writer Alastair Reid, a Scot who was one of Borges’s translators and with whom Borges stayed in St Andrews, mentions the ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia, 3 January 2019

In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... empire. By 332, the idea of Phoenicia in the east came to an end as these cities were conquered by Alexander. Carthage fell to Rome in 146, and was subsequently colonised by Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.The Greeks and Romans admired the fine craftsmanship and navigational abilities of the Phoenicians but also branded them as untrustworthy and alien. It’s ...

What happened that night on the Acropolis?

Robert Cioffi: Hymn to Demetrius, 10 February 2022

Demetrius the Besieger 
by Pat Wheatley and Charlotte Dunn.
Oxford, 496 pp., £100, April 2020, 978 0 19 883604 9
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... the Besieger, son of Antigonus the One-Eyed and one of the generals who fought to succeed Alexander the Great in the late fourth century and early third century bce, had a career of mixed success, but constant intrigue. He won victories on land and sea, terrified cities into submission, married five times, was widowed twice, never divorced and died in ...

Plain English

Denis Donoghue, 20 December 1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four: Facsimile Edition 
by George Orwell, edited by Peter Davison.
Secker, 291 pp., £25, July 1984, 9780436350221
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Nineteen Eighty-Four 
by George Orwell, edited by Bernard Crick.
Oxford, 460 pp., £17.50, March 1984, 0 19 818521 9
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Inside the Myth. Orwell: Views from the Left 
edited by Christopher Norris.
Lawrence and Wishart, 287 pp., £12.50, November 1984, 0 85315 599 2
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The Crystal Spirit: A Study of George Orwell 
by George Woodcock.
Fourth Estate, 287 pp., £5.95, November 1984, 0 947795 05 7
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Orwell’s London 
by John Thompson.
Fourth Estate, 119 pp., £9.95, November 1984, 0 947795 00 6
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... style means that you have something to hide. This implication is clear in such writings as Robert Graves and Alan Hodge’s The Reader over Your Shoulder, Herbert Read’s English Prose Style, and Orwell’s several essays on language and its consequences. Crick names four of these essays: ‘The Prevention of Literature’, ‘Writers and ...


Robert Macfarlane: The Mulberry Empire by Philip Hensher, 4 April 2002

The Mulberry Empire 
by Philip Hensher.
Flamingo, 560 pp., £17.99, April 2002, 0 00 711226 2
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... be stymied. Planned by Lord Auckland, and facilitated by the spying of the handsome Great Gamer Alexander Burnes, the war was fabulously simple in conception. The British would assemble a vast expeditionary force, and march on Kabul. By the time it began its ponderous progress into Afghanistan, the ‘Army of the Indus’ comprised some 16,000 troops and ...

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 ...

Ecclefechan and the Stars

Robert Crawford, 21 January 1988

The Crisis of the Democratic Intellect 
by George Davie.
Polygon, 283 pp., £17.95, September 1986, 0 948275 18 9
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... detailed and sometimes not-so-detailed arguments have been sharply questioned by the historian Robert Anderson. Davie’s emphasis on the importance of Scottish philosophical writings (among which he includes MacDiarmid’s verse) is designed to be controversial. It should be set beside the recent work of ...

An Endless Progression of Whirlwinds

Robert Irwin: Asian empire, 21 June 2001

Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Asia 
by Karl Meyer and Shareen Brysac.
Little, Brown, 646 pp., £25, January 2001, 0 316 85589 8
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Tibet: The Great Game and Tsarist Russia 
by Tatiana Shaumian.
Oxford, 223 pp., £16, October 2000, 0 19 565056 5
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... of India seemed to come from France. In Egypt in 1798, Bonaparte studied the campaigns of Alexander the Great. He had corresponded with Tippoo Sahib, the Sultan of Mysore, and talked of leading the French expeditionary force on to conquer the British possessions in India. In 1800, the Russian Empire’s frontier was still a long way from that of ...

Angry ’Un

Terry Eagleton, 8 July 1993

The Hand of the Arch-Sinner: Two Angrian Chronicles of Branwell Brontë 
edited by Robert Collins.
Oxford, 300 pp., £30, April 1993, 0 19 812258 6
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... the more peaceable kingdom of Gondal in a separatist gesture. The hero of the Angrian myths is Alexander Percy, anarchist and aristocrat, a Branwell in everything but the dope, spinelessness and pen-pushing in a railway station. Like his creator, Percy is a dissolute, self-destructive figure given to grotesque fits of passion; unlike him he is ...

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