The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from Vol. 296, No. 9202/9203, 2004

A Big-Headed Dick
A big-headed dickCOLLECTED NOVELS, VOLUME I by Paul Auster Faber, £25, pp. 659, ISBN 0671224490 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848CITY OF GLASS by Paul Auster, adapted by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli Faber, £8.99, ISBN 0571226337When idly...
A City Christmas, with Seasonal Grumbles from Ebenezer and Timmy
In the narrow courts between Cornhill and Lombard Street, where the old City lives on, I find the senior partner in his seasonal bad temper. He likes to get on with his work but, he says, nobody else does - and, what is worse, nobody thinks that they...
A Duty Not Always to Be Humble
1888On Christmas Day, both the sermon at St Paul's - a very able one, preached by the Rev Aubrey Moore - and the sermon at Westminster Abbey, an equally able one, preached by the Dean, dwelt very appropriately on humility as the special lesson of the...
A Glut of Good Cheer in Every Shop
1837Of all 'sights of the season', that of the shops at Christmas is the most seasonable. This week the metropolis has assumed its holyday aspect: the streets are thronged with mammas and aunts, furred to the chin, and looking cosy and contented, surrounded...
Angels over Elsinore
How many angels knew who Hamlet wasWhen they were summoned by Horatio?They probably showed up only becauseThe roster said it was their turn to go.Another day, another Dane. Too bad,But while they sang their well-rehearsed lamentThey noticed his good...
A Surfeit of Fish
People ask me why I spend Christmas in South Africa. Why don't I remain in England and have a proper British Christmas? Or, why don't I go to Hungary, where I used to go, for the snow and the River Danube, which, when partly iced over, resembles shattered...
A Workhouse Story
1864On Sunday the papers were full of details of the amazing amount of eatables which the trains had poured into London for the Christmas consumption. The country seemed to have been spoiled to feed the metropolis for one day. The railway companies were...
Back on Track
For Dean Gallagher, Christmas came early. Two years ago, the rider stepped into the November night outside the Jockey Club, banned from riding for 18 months (at the age of 33) over the use of cocaine and reckoning his career was over. Next day he read...
Book Choice: Elephant Haunts
Book choice: Elephant Haunts1868Elephant Haunts: Being a Sportsman's Narrative of the Search after Livingstone, with Scenes of Elephant, Buffalo, and Hippopotamus Hunting, by Henry Faulkner, late 17th Lancers (Hurst and Blackett)This entertaining but...
Brief and to the Point
Brief and to the point THE BOOK OF SHADOWS by Don Paterson Picador, £12.99, pp. 208, ISBN0330431838 © £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Very few people have ever dared to publish a book of aphorisms, and certainly hardly anyone in recent memory....
Carry on, Cardiologist
On a Friday morning earlier this year I kept an appointment with Dr Mark Hamilton, a consultant physician and gastroenterologist at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead, to ask him about a bowel complaint.I was in two minds about whether my symptoms...
Cataracts, Islands and Crags
Cataracts, islands and crags MISS BROCKLEHURST ON THE NILE: DIARY OF A VICTORIAN TRAVELLER IN EGYPT Millrace, £14.95, pp. 119, ISBN 1902173147MACC AND OTHER ISLANDS by Graham Wilson Millrace, £13.95, pp. 182, ISBN 1902173155A BIT OF GRIT ON HAYSTACKS:...
Charming but . .
OperaCharming but . . .Don PasqualeRoyal Opera HouseOne Touch of VenusOpera North, LeedsThere is not a lot you can do with Donizetti's Don Pasquale, and possibly the best thing would be to forget it. The Royal Opera has, however, decided on a new staging...
Christmas at Chatsworth
Not much was made of Christmas at Chatsworth in the 18th and 19th centuries. Diaries and letters hardly mention it. Prince Albert's trees and decorations took a long time to reach Derbyshire and would have been wasted on the December air because there...
Christmas under Fire
Of course it was a dream. It had to be. Things like that just don't happen. No way. But my eyes were open when I saw it, so how could I have been dreaming? I kept them closed for a while, too scared to open them and find out it was a dream, after all....
Curious Timing
No time is right to announce job losses, but picking just before Christmas seems to be favoured by many companies. One can't help wondering if there's sound business sense behind it or if it can be attributed to the streak of sadism that runs through...
Down with Orthodoxy
If someone gives you a fat, scholarly history of the Reformation this Christmas, they don't necessarily hate you. It might be by Diarmaid MacCulloch, who makes braining up on religious history feel rivetingly relevant. He is the authorial version of...
Eel-Good Factor
We are in danger of losing our eels. To many people this may be of little interest, but it is a serious matter. The vast numbers of baby eels (elvers) which cross the Atlantic from the Sargasso Sea, somewhere near Bermuda, and end up in European rivers...
Farther Shores of Bohemia
Farther shores of BohemiaSELECTED STORIES by Julian Maclaren-Ross Dewi Lewis Publishing, £9.99, pp. 250, ISBN 1904587178COLLECTED MEMOIRS by Julian Maclaren-Ross Black Spring Press, £8.95, pp. 440 ISBN 0948238305Four decades dead, with the world he inhabited...
Figure It Out
Years ago, when the Times was a newspaper for grown-ups, it was said to have published a letter illustrative of our misuse of statistics. This was to the effect that there were about 3 million people in Wales, of whom about 3,000 had one leg and 300...
Florida Notebook
MiamiIt's a mild and tranquil December here in Florida, the headlines flickering with routine weirdness and depravity. Four years ago at this time, we were roiling in the acid-bath aftermath of a presidential contest that required 36 ridiculous days...
Globophobia
Gordon Brown does not usually receive support from this column but he deserves some congratulation on one initiative. He has written to the European Commission to request that it lifts the threshold above which duty becomes payable on goods brought into...
Greedy Musings
There have been times, shaming though it is to admit, when my thoughts have wandered during an opera performance. Perhaps even more shamingly, those wanderings lead with alarming frequency to food. It doesn't take much to set me off and before I know...
Have the Tories No Spine?
All of us, from time to time, experience crises of confidence - an existential or maybe drunken suspicion that our lives are empty and meaningless, nothing more than a random agglomeration of sombre, interminable days, each of which is drizzled in misery....
Holyday Sights
1842The schools have let loose their swarms of boys and girls; who throng the thoroughfares of the metropolis, eager for sight-seeing. This, then, is a proper time to enumerate the different exhibitions that attract those in search of amusement or instruction...
How Tony Blair Can Win the Election - and Still Lose Office
Easter comes unusually early this year, on 27 March, which is not quite without political significance. The Prime Minister will probably wait for a few days beyond the festival before announcing the date of the general election, most likely to be held...
Letters
Ulster is not all rightFrom Colin ArmstrongSir: Leo McKinstry's knowledge of his native province as it is today seems somewhat superficial ('Ulster is all right', 4 December). It is not clear how the rebranding of the Royal Ulster Constabulary as the...
Letters to the Editor
Wife-beating1877SIR, In The Spectator of December 22, Miss Cobbe very properly calls attention to a paragraph taken from the Times of the 18th, in which are recorded three violent assaults by men upon their wives, two of which were likely to end fatally....
Let Them Marry
It is 12 years since the Queen stood up at dinner and coined the expression annus horribilis to describe the miseries of 1992. She probably didn't even have in mind the fact that her Chancellor of the Exchequer had just frittered away £5 billion of taxpayers'...
Masters of the Majors
Masters of the majorsTHE GRAND SLAM by Mark Frost Time Warner, £20, pp. 431, ISBN 0316726915 * £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848BEN HOGAN by James Dodson Aurum, £18.99, pp. 528, ISBN 1845130383 * £16.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848NICK FALDO...
Modern Burglary
1893Burglary is almost the only form of violent crime which at present shows no tendency to decrease. We need not seek further than the columns of the daily papers for evidence of the outrageous nature of this sleepless war on property. On Saturday last,...
More of the Saemisch
The name of Fritz Saemisch, the German grandmaster, remains alive among the chess fraternity for a number of reasons. He was the victim of the immortal zugzwang game against Nimzowitsch in 1923, he lost more games on time than any other player in chess...
National Mourning and Rejoicing
1861If there is one quality which more than another develops itself with the progress of the English people it is self-restraint. The dislike of exaggeration seems to have permeated all classes, till we stand in some danger of being condemned as a cold,...
Pleasure without Angst
Pleasure without angst HOCKNEY'S PICTURES by David Hockney Thames & Hudson, £19.95, pp. 368, ISBN 0500093148 * £17.95 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848David Hockney is a conjuror who likes to explain his tricks, or, as one commentator put it, conducts...
Poor Jack Is Dead
Somebody once said that the English don't really like animals, they just dislike children. It was a good line, better than Cyril Connolly's characteristically over-elaborate 'Animal-love is the honey of the misanthrope': our attitude to animals is illogical,...
Recent Art Books
Recent art booksThis year's crop of art books for Christmas is the usual mixed hunch, and if they have anything in common, it is their general lack of festive associations. The one exception is M. A. Michael's Stained Glass of Canterbury Cathedral (Scala,...
Return to Standard
As if to answer my recent complaints (Arts, 30 October) concerning the dumb deserts of Radio Three between the end of the early-evening concert and the wall-to-wall small-hour tapestry of Through the Night, two weeks in succession have provided high...
Review: Elijah with Jenny Lind
1855Another great performance of the highest music was enjoyed on Monday evening, when Madame Goldschmidt Lind appeared at Exeter Hall in Mendelssohn's Elijah. It was in this oratorio that she sang for the last time in England before her departure six...
Roast Beef, Plum Pudding and Charity
1828Christmas comes at the time of the year when the calls on our charity, always sufficiently pressing, have the additional force, derived from the shivering limbs, as well as unfed sides, of those that make them. Some very sober people, who have comfortable...
Second Opinion
Empathy these days is the greatest of the virtues, and he is best who empathises most. That is why pop singers and British politicians are the best people in the world: they can't see the slightest suffering without empathising with it. Whether they...
Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll Are Fine; but Don't Beat Your Wife
When does a politician's private life affect his fitness for office? Have the boundaries moved, offering our leaders more scope for secret gardens and untidy private arrangements? Studying parliamentary scandal, I have come to a surprising conclusion:...
Sex in the City
TelevisionSex in the cityThe Sex Inspectors (Channel 4, Tuesday) is a wonderfully old-fashioned show. It resembles those Guides to Married Love that brides would find in their honeymoon suitcase, perhaps back in the 1950s, explaining that sex was nothing...
Sheer Magic
DanceSheer magicMatthew Bourne's Swan LakeSadler's Wells TheatreFor 100 years, ballet has been represented by the image of a ballerina with a feathered headdress and an arm raised as a quivering wing. Then, in 1995, came Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, and...
Some like It Hot
Port Elizabeth'It is no more a place for them than a trench on the Somme' was the withering verdict of John Woodcock, the Times's ricket correspondent, on the presence of wives on an England tour three decades ago. Woodcock, it must be said, was and...
Stop Bitching about America
Back in 1986, before Conrad Black appointed me editor of the Daily Telegraph, at our first meeting in Toronto he expressed only one significant stricture about the manner in which the paper should be conducted. He wanted to see the United States treated...
Tears and Cheers
Public tears by the torrent gauge performance these days - at either end of the scale - and for a while yet 2004 will be lodged in British memories for both the heroic lakeside blub at relief of victory by he-man rower Matthew Pinsent and, on the same...
The Anti-Christmas-Present League
1889Christmas refills even those great thoroughfares of the West End which were so languid a few weeks ago. From the great shops in Regent Street and Bond Street to the smallest huxters in the slums, there are Christmas presents in the windows. And with...
The Black Shadow of the Christmas Fire
1848Seldom have the characteristics of this particular season been so strongly marked. The weather has rarely been more 'seasonable'; for if it is not cold enough to freeze the heart within the breast, the damp clings around the frame like a cloak of...
The Borrowers
LaikipiaWhen I saw the Chief in his Land Cruiser filled with hangers-on bouncing towards me through the bush I knew he was after his Christmas fatted lamb. It is customary in this part of the world for ranchers to hand out barbeque-ready slaughter animals...
The Canonbury Rail Disaster
1881An accident which occurred on the North-London Railway on Saturday 10 December has created much interest in London. The place was between Canonbury and Finsbury Park, in the tunnel under Highbury, which is always a scene of excessive traffic, the...
The Great Blizzard: The King 'Snowed Up'
1837Snow began to fall heavily in the North of England on Friday; and several coaches which should have arrived in London early on Saturday morning did not reach town until the afternoon. The snow continued to fall without intermission, and by Monday...
The Heresy of Explanation
The heresy of explanation THE FIVE BOOKS OF MOSES: A TRANSLATION WITH COMMENTARY by Robert Alter W. W. Norton, £34, pp. 1064, ISBN 0393019551The Pentateuch belongs to all sorts of different people and I cannot speak for them and their needs, so I'll...
The Joys and Pains of Solitude
The joys and pains of solitude GERTRUDE BELL by H. V. F. Winstone Barzan Publishing, £19.95, pp. 483, ISBN 0954772806 * £17.95 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Life in Iraq may not be half as apocalyptic as the media would suggest, but it is still sufficiently...
The Message in the Glass
Collecting stained glass seems to have fallen somewhat from fashion. In the first half of the 20th century, acquisition was lively and prices soared as the Big Three - William Burrell, Pierpont Morgan and William Randolph Hearst - vied for possession...
The Ogre of Lullabies
The ogre of lullabiesTHE LEGEND OF NAPOLEON by Sudhir Hazareesingh Granta, £20, pp. 336, ISBN 18620076677 * £18 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848NAPOLEON AND THE BRITISH by Stuart Semmel Yale, £25, pp. 354, ISBN 0300090013For six months I have been...
The Pantomime: Pleasure Secret, Sweet and Precious
1835Pantomimes will always be popular so long as they are founded upon some fairytale or nursery legend. And we have observed that they have generally been successful in proportion to the skill with which the introductory story has been dramatised.This...
The Perils of Skating
1836Skating is a rather dangerous diversion, notwithstanding the severity of the frost; and several accidents, some of them attended with loss of life, have occurred in London and the vicinity. On Wednesday, two boys were sliding on a pond in a field...
The Spectator's Notes
People won't put it in Books of the Year, but there is no more entertaining Christmas present than The Lord Chamberlain Regrets by Dominic Shellard and Steve Nicholson (British Library). It is a history of British theatre censorship, and describes the...
Trollope at the Garrick
1882Dissolve frigus, heap the logs;I hate these chill December fogs,The hard-bound earth, the dreary sky,The torpor as if death were nigh.What shadows fill the darkening room!What well-known faces pierce the gloom!Wine, waiter! Ere the vision fades,I...
Trumpeter for King and Country
Trumpeter for King and country THE LETTERS OF RUDYARD KIPLING: VOLUME V, 1920-1930, VOLUME VI, 1931-36 edited by Thomas Pinney Palgrave/Macmillan, £55 each, Volume V, pp. 584, Volume VI, pp. 527, ISBN 1403921318, ISBN 1403921326It has become a commonplace...
United Front
I knew I wasn't going to like Mr Troy, his biology teacher. My boy had told me Mr Troy liked progressive jazz. Just as there is an immutable psychic law that decrees I'll like every New Zealander I meet, so there is a similar one that means I never like...
Up and Down the Greasy Pole
Up and down the greasy pole REGGIE: THE LIFE OF REGINALD MAUDLING by Lewis Baston Sutton, £25, pp. 320, ISBN 0750929243 * £23 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848In November 1943, The Spectator published an article with the unpromising title 'Conservatives...
Utter Zoo
In Competition 2371 you were asked to provide rhyming couplets describing imaginary animals, involving eight consecutive letters of the alphabet.'The progress of the Unipod,/ As you'd surmise, is rather odd.' This perhaps unillustratable couplet by Jeremy...
Vote Turkey This Christmas
Herr Professor Dr Wehler once wrote a very good article about the Poles in Germany. They emigrated to the Ruhr in droves, well over a century ago, and - unlike the Poles of Belgium or France - they did not fit in at all. They had their own Catholic churches...
Waiting for Mr Right
I live in a city of the dead surrounded by a city of the living. The great cemetery of Kensal Vale is a privately owned metropolis of grass and stone, of trees and rusting iron. At night, the security men scour away the drug addicts and the drunks; they...
We Are All Pagans Now
The sky was already murky at 4 p.m. when I locked my bike outside Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street. Inside, it was even murkier: wood-panelled corridors stretched off into the gloom, men in grey suits were wedged together, smoking Bensons and...
What Happens in Wyoming, Honey
What happens in Wyoming, honey BAD DIRT by Annie Proulx Fourth Estate, £12.99, pp. 219, ISBN 000719691 * £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Many very strange things apparently happen in Wyoming, some so strange as to be completely unbelievable....
Where Even the Ghosts Are Real
Where even the ghosts are real ITALIAN FEVER by Valerie Martin Weidenfeld, £12.99, pp. 272, ISBN 0297848860 * £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848Henry James was in two minds about the charms of Italy: 'I always think of Italy and see the waiters...
Why Is the Government Backing a Sinn Fein Paper in Northern Ireland?
Some months ago I wrote about the plans of a publisher loyal to Sinn Fein to launch a new daily newspaper in Northern Ireland. Part of me was inclined to cheer at the prospect of a new title, but the cry of joy was stifled by the realisation that the...
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