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Bring some Madeira

Thomas Keymer: Thomas LovePeacock, 8 February 2018

Nightmare Abbey 
by Thomas LovePeacock, edited by Nicholas A. Joukovsky.
Cambridge, 297 pp., £84.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03186 9
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Crotchet Castle 
by Thomas LovePeacock, edited by Freya Johnston and Matthew Bevis.
Cambridge, 328 pp., £79.99, December 2016, 978 1 107 03072 5
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... Marilyn Butler​ , whose Peacock Displayed was published in 1979, wasn’t the first to connect Peacock’s name with the showy wit of his satires. It started with Shelley, his friend and patron, who joked in 1820 about ‘the Pavonian Psyche’ (pavo: peacock), as though Peacock himself had the kind of name that he specialised in giving to his characters ...

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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... Published two hundred years ago this year, An Essay on the Principle of Population made the Rev. Thomas Robert malthus into the man of the moment. Malthus’s principle – that population inevitably outruns food resources – was heralded by some as the decisive scientific refutation of the mad perfectibilist schemes of the French Revolutionaries and their English confrères like William Godwin, and damned by others as hardheartedness incarnate ...

A Parlour in Purley

Tessa Hadley: Life as a Wife, 17 June 2021

The True History of the First Mrs Meredith and Other Lesser Lives 
by Diane Johnson.
NYRB, 242 pp., £14.99, July 2020, 978 1 68137 445 1
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... people at the table – a quiet person, now muffled by time, shadowy, whose heart pounded with love, perhaps, or rage, or fear when our writer shuffled in from his study.There is a freshness to her language that comes from a time when taking the quiet person’s perspective was still controversial; taking the wife’s point of view – or the ...

Bright Blue Dark Blue

Rosemary Hill: ‘Weatherland’, 5 November 2015

by Alexandra Harris.
Thames and Hudson, 432 pp., £24.95, September 2015, 978 0 500 51811 3
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... in a fundamentally likeable way. Quite when the idea emerges Harris doesn’t say, but by the time Thomas LovePeacock was describing a group of ill-assorted travelling companions easing reluctantly into conversation in Headlong Hall, he was sure of raising a smile by making the topic on which they eventually settle ...

Nothing could have been odder or more prophetic

Gillian Darley: Ruins, 29 November 2001

In Ruins 
by Christopher Woodward.
Chatto, 280 pp., £12.99, September 2001, 9780701168964
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... The absurdity of the Gothick was captured and its pretensions crisply punctured by Jane Austen and Thomas LovePeacock, but reality was often stranger than anything that even the most fetid literary imagination could come up with. Nothing could have been odder, more menacing or even more prophetic – when viewed with ...

I jolly well would have

Paul Foot, 20 August 1992

Claire clairmont and the Shelleys 
by Robert Gittings and Jo Manton.
Oxford, 281 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 19 818594 4
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Mab’s Daughters 
by Judith Chernaik.
Pan, 229 pp., £5.99, July 1992, 0 330 32379 2
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... Mary had lost a lot of the revolutionary passion she shared with him in that frantic, whispered love affair in the Charterhouse Gardens or over Mary Wollstonecraft’s grave in St Pancras churchyard. Her reforming zeal shines out brightly from Frankenstein – though her doubts and worries are clear too. (What happens, she wondered, when brilliant young ...

Priapus Knight

Marilyn Butler, 18 March 1982

The Arrogant Connoisseur: Richard Payne Knight 1751-1824 
edited by Michael Clarke and Nicholas Penny.
Manchester, 189 pp., £30, February 1982, 0 7190 0871 9
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... figure as any in this collection.’ Knight went about wholeheartedly preaching the cause of free love and paganism, to which he adhered as a matter of practice as well as of theory. He had a reputation as a debauchee in youth, and remained in the habit of keeping a mistress. He admired the celebrated beauties Lady Hamilton and Lady Oxford, and in 1801 was ...

On the Shelf

Tom Crewe, 13 April 2023

... he was 21, his father decamped to South Africa). His marriage to Mary Ellen Nicolls, daughter of Thomas LovePeacock, one of his writer heroes, ended in 1857 after she absconded with the painter Henry Wallis. Meredith took sole custody of their four-year-old son, Arthur; Mary Ellen died in 1861. There are photographs ...


Ian Gilmour, 1 August 1996

The Younger Pitt: The Consuming Struggle 
by John Ehrman.
Constable, 911 pp., £35, May 1996, 9780094755406
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... 1798, Pitt introduced income tax. This was not a strikingly original conception. Two years earlier Thomas LovePeacock, aged 11, had written that while he did not wish ‘Mr Pitt’s removal from his exalted station’, he thought Pitt ‘would have acted more in conformity with the wishes of the People had he taxed ...

Swank and Swagger

Ferdinand Mount: Deals with the Pasha, 26 May 2022

Promised Lands: The British and the Ottoman Middle East 
by Jonathan Parry.
Princeton, 453 pp., £35, April, 978 0 691 18189 9
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... run over by Stephenson’s Rocket at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway in 1830. Thomas LovePeacock, who found a pleasant berth at the India Board after writing Nightmare Abbey, began to investigate the possibilities of navigating the Euphrates from the Gulf to northern Syria – the India mail ...

How Laws Discriminate

Stephen Sedley: The Law’s Inequalities, 29 April 1999

... England,’ he said, ‘justice is open to all, like the Ritz.’ The Early Victorian poet Thomas LovePeacock had noted the unequal impact of the Sunday observance laws: The poor man’s sins are glaring; In the face of ghostly warning He is caught in the fact Of an overt act – Buying greens on a Sunday ...

Drugs, anyone?

Seamus Perry: George Meredith, 18 June 2015

Modern Love and Poems of the English Roadside, with Poems and Ballads 
by George Meredith, edited by Criscillia Benford and Rebecca Mitchell.
Yale, 390 pp., £40, April 2015, 978 0 300 17317 8
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... it only arose from a misunderstanding of what he meant by sympathy, on the one hand, and self-love, on the other. But still, the problematists weren’t wrong that some central elements of Smith’s mind pointed in strikingly different directions, so that, say, sentimentalist and utilitarian admirers could equally find encouragement for their positions ...

High Taxes, Bad Times

John Pemble: Late Georgian Westminster, 10 June 2010

The History of Parliament: The House of Commons 1820-32 
by D.R. Fisher.
Cambridge, 6336 pp., £490, December 2009, 978 0 521 19314 6
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... constituencies, fathom the reality behind the polemics of Cobbett and the satire of Dickens and Thomas LovePeacock. These six volumes are crammed with comédie humaine and the parliamentary puppetry that seems, as Blake said, something other than human life. There’s also a masterly volume of summary and analysis ...

Female Bandits? What next!

Wendy Doniger: The incarnations of Robin Hood, 22 July 2004

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography 
by Stephen Knight.
Cornell, 247 pp., £14.50, May 2003, 0 8014 3885 3
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... to plot but attach themselves to Robin to give us a Venn diagram of the Robin Hood we now know and love: ‘noble, handsome, gentlemanly, rashly brave, violent in the service of good, blandly representative of national and even international liberalism, devoted in a slightly distant way to his lady, leader of a loyal band of ready and lower-class fighters who ...


John Lanchester, 21 October 1993

United States 
by Gore Vidal.
Deutsch, 1298 pp., £25, October 1993, 0 233 98832 7
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What Henry James Knew, and Other Essays on Writers 
by Cynthia Ozick.
Cape, 363 pp., £12.99, June 1993, 0 224 03329 8
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Sentimental Journeys 
by Joan Didion.
HarperCollins, 319 pp., £15, January 1993, 0 00 255146 2
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... Ulysses S. Grant, for Logan Pearsall Smith, Frederick Prokosch, Edith Wharton, Leonardo Sciascia, Thomas LovePeacock and Henry Miller: ‘If he often sounded like the village idiot, that was because, like Whitman, he was the rest of the village as well.’ But alongside the blessings, kicks and curses is a running ...

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