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. 288, No. 9069, 2002

A Fragile, Precocious Talent
DENTON WELCH by James Methuen-Campbell Tartarus, L30, pp. 274, ISBN 1872621600 It was during the Whitsun weekend of 1935 that Denton Welch, 20 years old and a student at Goldsmiths' School of Art, decided to bicycle from his home in Greenwich to near...
A Liberal Joker in the Royal Presence
HENRY AND MARY PONSONBY: LIFE AT THE COURT OF QUEEN VICTORIA by William M. Kuhn Duckworth, (English pound)20, pp. 302, ISBN 0715630652 Henry Ponsonby was Queen Victoria's private secretary from 1870 until his death in 1895. He lived through three Reform...
Ancient & Modern
THOSE who normally enjoy games often feel nothing but distaste for monstrous international foulathons such as Formula One racing and the impending World Cup. Many ancients felt the same about the Olympic Games. The theory of the Games was noble: the...
Argumentum Ad Hominem
Argumentum ad hominem Michael Tanner ZARATHUSTRA'S SECRET by Joachim Kohler, translated by Ronald Taylor Yale, L19.95, pp. 278, ISBN 0300092784 NIETZSCHE: A PHILOSOPHICAL BIOGRAPHY by Rudiger Safranski, translated by Shelley Frisch Granta, L25, pp. 412,...
Backbone of England
ZAD PADDA has a proposal which will make Toyah Willcox throw up her hands in horror. He thinks it would be a good idea to build an asylum centre for 700 people in the village of Throckmorton in Worcestershire, as long as those people are allowed to work...
Bend Sinister in the River
KENTUCKY BLUES by Derek Robinson Cassell, L16.99, pp. 520, ISBN 0304361828 Geography makes history, claims Derek Robinson's big, rich, 19th-century saga. The action - and inaction - are set in Rock Springs, Dundee County, Kentucky; a geographical dead-end....
Bravery beyond the Call of Duty: The Men Who Dared to Say Boo to Picasso
SHARED OPINION A majority of art critics plus received opinion - two not entirely separate groups have declared Picasso the winner in the Tate Modern match against Matisse. No wonder; bad things have happened to people who have questioned the greatness...
Cheating, Not Winning
SPECTATOR SPORT WHICH city, do you think, is the most successful sporting 'community' in the United Kingdom? We'll leave London out of this, for obvious reasons, but include all others. Manchester, do you think? No. Glasgow? No. Birmingham? You are jesting,...
'Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys'
FOR several years now, but especially since the terrorist attacks on 11 September, the establishment American Right has been conducting a sneer campaign against Europe and Europeans. George Bush's visit to Germany, France and Italy has done nothing to...
Danger: Men at Work
OUR POSTHUMAN FUTURE: CONSEQUENCES OF THE BIOTECHNOLOGY REVOLUTION by Francis Fukuyama Profile, L17.99, pp. 256, ISBN 18619 72970 Francis Fukuyama is a brilliant phrase-- maker, there's no doubt about that. In 1989 he published an essay entitled `The...
Diary
Friends ask if one suffers withdrawal symptoms from newspaper-editing. Yet if one is a writer, there is no greater joy than to write. After an interval of 16 years, I am once again travelling the world, interviewing veterans for a book about the second...
Endearingly Rich
Television Oh sod it. My original version of this column began with 11 unexpurgated F words, a) because I wanted to break the record for most swearwords in one Spectator column, and b) in order to recapture, for the many of you who won't have seen it,...
Fifty Years On
A VERY DIFFERENT COUNTRY by Nicholas Faith Sinclair-Stevenson, L19.99, pp. 326, ISBN 0954047648 How has Britain changed in the half-- century of the Queen's reign? Cue the usual visual images: 'Supermac' ambling across a grouse moor; Christine Keeler...
God Save the Queen
A nation rejoices. Flags and bunting bedeck every building. A spontaneous outbreak of street parties brings traffic to a halt. Cakes are baked, Union Jacks are waved and small children are climbing through tiny open windows to burgle your house. And...
How Technology Became the Librarian's False Friend
DOUBLE FOLD by Nicholson Baker Vintage, f7.99, pp. 7.99, ISBN 0099429039 People have been worried about the durability of paper since the 15th century. Indeed, the whole purpose of bookbinding for 1,000 years back before that was to protect and preserve...
How the World Could End
THERE is a certain conjunction of stars and planets over India that makes it a dangerous place. Mars, Mercury, Moon, Venus, Sun, Saturn and the rather dangerous Rahu entered Taurus on 15 May, which may be too complicated for a mere reader of The Spectator...
Jewels in the Crown
On entering an exhibition of PostImpressionist paintings, George V is said to have turned to his consort, Queen Mary, with the words, `Here's something to make you laugh, May.' Nor was his attitude unusual among our monarchs. The roster of those displaying...
Letters
The BBC and bias From Mr Mark Damazer Sir: Douglas Davis (`Why I won't talk to the BBC', 25 May) gives a thoroughly misleading impression of the discussion in which he was invited to take part on Radio Five Live. This was not about `whether Israel is...
Most Balanced of Men
A second trip to Windsor within a week proved to me last Saturday that the only sure way to make money out of racing is to be in the dog-food business. It was one of those days. When they all run down the track you can live with it; five seconds in six...
No Star of Stage
I was sorry to see that Madonna has been almost universally panned for her performance in Up for Grabs. The danger is that she may now turn her back on the British stage and it can ill afford to lose such a glamorous patron. In addition to appearing...
On the Run in Gibraltar
THE British Foreign Secretary's ongoing attempt to unload Gibraltar on to the Spanish might be the last Straw for Gibraltarians and Spectator readers alike. But not for me. I can't even see the name 'Gibraltar' without feeling a flush of shame, a shiver...
Party Nerves
About six weeks ago I made a terrible mistake: I decided to give a party. This, admittedly, excited the Hungarians in the household. There weren't many parties under communism, it seemed. At least not for ordinary people. Heinekin asked me if there would...
Passionate Debate
St Mary's Church, Putney, in south-west London, has seen much since it was built in the late 15th century. Altered through the centuries, :its interior destroyed by fire in 1973 and rebuilt, it remained a minor landmark on the south side of Putney Bridge....
Safer in London
High life Taki New York If I were Jemima Khan I'd make sure mv kiddies spend the coming summer months in good old London, with granny Annabel or uncle Robin if need be, because those clowns back home could be thinking the unthinkable. The facts are that...
Saturday Night Fever
Low life Here in the West Country, the short brown indigenous people live on the council estates, while the pretty thatched cottages and Georgian town houses are occupied exclusively by tall fair-skinned middle-class invaders. The division is as clear-cut...
Sex and the Old Maestro
Sex and the old maestro Fiona Maddocks THE LETTERS OF ARTURO TOSCANINI compiled, edited and translated by Harvey Sachs Faber, L30, pp. 468, ISBN 0571196292 Whatever is meant by `middle age' (around 60 these days, as far as I can judge) you have to fall...
Slaughtered Budgerigar Territory
THE MAN WHO WALKS by Alan Warner Cape, L10.99, pp. 282, ISBN 0224062948 When his debut novel Morvern Callar came out in 1995, Alan Warner was rightly hailed as an extraordinary new talent. Literary labels tend to be both misleading and offputting, and...
Thank You, Ma'am
We rejoice in the renewed appreciation of the Queen by her subjects, and give thanks for her 50 years upon the throne. She deserves every manifestation of popular devotion heaped upon her. In an age of often meretricious politicians, she stands for the...
The Awful Truth about Mr Byers
IT was a very New Labour resignation: stage-managed, manipulated, only the barest acknowledgment of wrongdoing or incompetence. Instead, the focus was on presentation, and the 'media', and how the Byers story had become a `distraction from what the government...
The Randolph Churchill of Italy
FRANCESCO CRISPI by Christopher Duggan OUP, L75, pp. 777, ISBN 0198206119 Francesco Crispi is the neglected Titan of the Risorgimento. Every Italian town seems to have its Via Cavour, its Piazza Mazzini, its Corso dedicated to the memory of Garibaldi...
To Know Your Customer, Ask for Her Gas - It's All Part of Queen's Regulations
CITY AND SUBURBAN We must hope that the Queen does not have her Jubilee spoiled by a letter from her bank, wanting to know who she is. She may be asked to show her gas bill. It is an open secret that her account is with Coutts, a suitably grand address...
Truthful Observer
Exhibitions The Genius of Caspar David Friedrich: German Romantic Art for Russian Imperial Palaces (Somerset House, till 18 August) In Britain, we have had to rely mainly on reproductions of the paintings and drawings of Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)...
Trying to Climb the Family Tree
THE BLOOD DOCTOR by Barbara Vine Viking, 16.99, pp. 400, ISBN 06 70912 743 When Antonia Byatt wrote Possession in 1990 she spawned a now ubiquitous genre of novels which could be characterised by the following description: protagonist finds bunch of...
Unworthy of the Music
Opera Iphigenie en Aulide (Glyndebourne) Bacchai (National) Glyndebourne's first new production this year is of Gluck's Iphigenie en Aulide, and it is musically of such high calibre that one wonders, once more, what it is about this composer's finest...
Variety and Continuity
Just before the first world war, the architect Aston Webb applied a new stone facade to Buckingham Palace and was obliged to thread his giant order between existing windows, whose positions he was commanded not to alter. The resulting `disagreeable proportions'...
Very Flat, the Wash
PEACETIME by Robert Edric Doubleday, 12.99, pp. 357, ISBN 0385602979 There aren't many novelists whose new book I would read without question (Banville, Marias, Proulx) but I would read a new novel by the Yorkshireman, Robert Edric, even if its blurb...
Was the Prime Miinster Attemping Regicide?
FENIAN FIRE: THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT PLOT TO ASSASSINATE QUEEN VICTORIA by Christy Campbell HarperCollins, &18.99, pp. 422, ISBN 0007104839 Christy Campbell has done a brilliant piece of historical investigation. Not only has he uncovered an Irish...
Why I Hope England Will Be Knocked out in the First Round
MEDIA STUDIES When England won the World Cup in 1966, broadsheet newspapers were restrained in their front-page coverage. The World Cup of 2002 has not even started, yet hardly a day passes without one or more of them carrying a photograph of a footballer...
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