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. 278, No. 8796, 1997

A Doctor in the House
Our definition of the supremacy of the British theatre could just be this: where else in the world would you walk into a 150-seat fringe playhouse and find, even as you take your seat, an actor alone on stage reading a book, an actor moreover who is...
A Madly Competitive Business
MASTERS OF BEDLAM: THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MAD-DOCTORING TRADE by Andrew Scull, Charlotte MacKenzie and Nicholas Hervey Princeton, 35, pp. 376 It is possible, even likely, that at some time in the not very distant future someone will have a brilliant...
A Modern Marriage
The Cambridge Arts Theatre, only 150 yards from where I live, is ideally situated for opera. Unfortunately it is too small for any but touring companies, though I am strongly in their favour, so long as they don't use their mobility as an excuse for...
Ancient & Modern
PAMELA HARRIMAN has died. English, of aristocratic descent, daughter-in-law of Sir Winston Churchill (1), American ambassador to France, she was characterised in obituaries as one of those grandes horizontales that used to make history lessons worth...
A Welome Shock
Arriving on the ferry from Stranraer in 1973 on my first visit to Northern Ireland, Larne Station provided a welcoming shock as we boarded astonishingly decrepit, filthy and vandalised diesel units to take us to Belfast - a frisson enhanced by the presence...
Brazil, Where the Nuts Come From
HORNET'S NEST by Patricia Cornwell Little, Brown, 16.99, pp. 375 It's rarely the inventors who profit most from their discoveries. Thomas Harris is the genius of the modern thriller, if you take as a definition of genius expanding the very possibilities...
Cash and Curry
Recently we had three new Granada cable channels added to our local service. Then the other day I had a call from Granada Talk TV: would I appear every Monday on their 'flagship' programme to discuss the coming week in Parliament? With a modicum of research...
Chinese Mythology
Un hearing that the allegedly inanimate and certainly taciturn President Calvin Coolidge was dead, the wit Dorothy Parker is said to have asked, `How do they know?' Deng Xiaoping may have officially died only last week, aged 92, but in effect he has...
Dear Mary
Q. What should one do when one opens the door to find masked men on the doorstep who then push their way into the house intent on robbery? D.P., Moreton-in-Marsh A. Greet them by saying, `Hello! You're first to arrive. The others will be here any minute....
Derek Lewis: Big Job, Little Man, Inaccurate Book
If a book were to be written on declining standards in British public life during recent decades, Derek Lewis would deserve a chapter to himself. Mr Lewis was entitled to defend his record as director-general of the prison service, and he could have...
Devoted to a Fault
MARY CURZON by Nigel Nicolson Weidenfeld, 20, pp. 227 On seeing Mary Curzon in India in 1905, a young Englishman was so struck by this `vision of loveliness' that he `suddenly realised why the Greeks had besieged Troy for so many years'. She had made...
Diary
If journalism is the first draft of history, then I suppose the newspaper profile must be the first sketch of a biography. Though in my case it's gone well beyond first draft. For the profile of me featured in last week's Sunday Telegraph must be the...
France Has Them Too
WHILE Britian talks of the Bridgewater Three and Hanratty, France still talks of Guillaume Seznec, committed to life imprisonment in 1924, and Gaston Dominici, sentenced to death in 1954. Both have long since died from natural causes (Dominici's sentence...
'Hi, I'm Gordon'
New York IT WAS an unseasonably warm February evening as guests convened at the 'exclusive' Century Club in mid-town Manhattan. Inside, the familiar clink of wine glasses and the low murmur of cocktail party chatter resonated off the stately mahogany...
Homer's Nod
neyed alternative to the standard 6 Be3. 6 ... a6 7 Qd2 c5 8 d5 b5 Kasparov brooks no half-measures. White's system, with its secure defence of the pawn on e4, is expressly designed to prevent Black breaking out with ... b5. Kasparov, however, ignores...
Hung Up on Nick Ross
In announcing the departure of Nick Ross from Call Nick Ross, Radio Four described the programme as the `most important phone-in on radio'. Is any phone-in important? Self-important, possibly, like the BBC itself but I saw no evidence that his removal...
'I'll Not Buy a Book by That Terrible Little Man'
IT IS a well-known fact that Britain's publishers and booksellers are modishly leftwing. There are a handful of exceptions, like the Earl of Stockton and Stephen Hill, chairman of Duckworth, but such characters are broadly regarded as eccentric by the...
In the Sack with Sartre
Gstaad I was not at all surprised to read that Simone de Beauvoir thought Jean-Paul Sartre a lousy lay. I could have told her that long before she bothered. For those of you who haven't heard, Ms de Beauvoir's letters to her American lover, the author...
It Looks as If the Expansionist Phase of the Epyptian Empire Has Ended before It Began
What has happened to the ambitions of Mohamed Al Fayed, the Egyptian-born owner of Harrods, to be a press magnate? A year ago he was trying to buy the Observer. Last September he relaunched Punch magazine. That was supposed to be the first of many glorious...
La Dolce Vita Costs Lives
CONFESSIONS OF A SPY: THE REAL STORY OF ALDRICH AMES by Peter Early Hodder, 20, pp. 364 The life of Aldrich Ames followed the trajectory of America's rise to global empire. Born seven months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Rick Ames grew...
Letters
The wrong story Sir: Sarah Gainham (Letters, 8 February) does not make it quite clear what she is working up to with her contention that some great truth about the first world war is being concealed. She appears, however, to wish to shift the responsibility...
Let Us Hope That Deng's Death Will Mean a New Dawn for Despotism in That Vast Country
Hopes that China might now travel down the path of freedom seem to me not only idle - because they have no chance of being fulfilled - but also undesirable, because it would be hell on earth if they were fulfilled. It is bad enough to have 250 million...
Mind Your Language
WHEN a writer in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung referred to the British Foreign Secretary as `the Jew Rifkind' she was not meaning to be kind to him; whether she was trying to be offensive to Jews is a different matter. Here is what she wrote: `Als...
Musketeers at Twickenham
IF YOU seek to be a sportswriter of taste and discernment, it is a smart idea to avoid national stereotyping. Do not, for example, write about the ruthlessly efficient German football team, or the volatile Pakistani cricket team. This is a prohibition...
New Beauties for Old
According to the late Sir Frederick Ashton, Marius Petipa's 1890 ballet The Sleeping Beauty was a `lesson in style'. Similarly, George Balanchine, the father of American ballet, regarded that work as a `pure diamond' while Rudolph Nureyev considered...
Not All Bright about Munich
ARTICLES in the British press about the new American Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, mention that she went to school in Britain after becoming a Czech refugee from Hitler. But the one in Saturday's Times suggested that the Britain which appeased...
Not as Euro as They Look
THE IMAGE of Germany portrayed here in Britain is pretty uniform: the driving motor of passionate Euro-federalism, fanatical for the new Euro-megastate, EMU and the destruction of the sovereign nation; rich, powerful, self-confident, arrogant, even bullying....
On the Rise
Paula Rego (born Lisbon 1935) is very hot property. A much-acclaimed painter, her work is owned in bulk by Charles Saatchi, is prominently featured in the best public collections here and abroad, and is currently being shown in a major retrospective...
On Track but Running out of Fuel
Michael Crick's book is hardly a literary masterpiece. The pedestrian style is singularly ill-suited to the mercurial personality of its subject. The boring early chapters (57 pages) on the schoolboy and student Heseltine go on and on and on. There are...
Over the Top: Jaspistos
IN COMPETITION NO. 1971 you were invited to supply an imaginary example of an embarrassingly effusive, flattering or otiose author's Acknowledgments Page. I have been an editor in a publishing house, and my superannuated blue pencil leapt to attention...
Portrait of the Week
Mr Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said on television that he agreed with the opinion of some presidents of the Bundesbank, past and present, that economic criteria for Economic and Monetary Union must not be fudged; Mr Wilhelm Nolling,...
Proud to Be Populist
Nicholas Kenyon replies to Michael Kennedy's criticism of him and Radio Three At the end of an exhilarating week which saw the launch of one of Radio Three's most important projects, its largescale festival of 20th-century music Sounding the Century...
Restaurant: Les Saveurs, Criterion, Quo Vadis
JUST a few years ago Marco Pierre White, a young Leeds-born chef who had never been to France, was causing a sensation as chef-patron of a small French restaurant on Wandsworth Common called Harvey's. Tales spread both of superb French cooking and of...
Second Opinion
A RECENT paper from Sweden in the British Medical Journal suggests that the cultured live longer than the uncultured. This is good news for the people of Sweden, no doubt, but bad news for the people round here. For if it's culture which preserves life,...
Sending Up Eating Out
FISH SHOW by James Delingpole Penguin, 6.99, pp. 203 When he was once asked why he had never written a novel about Hollywood, having spent four years there working as a screenwriter, Raymond Chandler replied that he thought no one could ever really write...
Sick as a Dog
The snowdrops are out in the woods, and so are the villagers who come with empty carrier bags to uproot them and take them away. But I'm not in a position to do much about it. About ten days ago I started feeling as though I was coming down with a cold....
Simple Minds
The Portrait of a Lady (12, selected cinemas) The Crucible (12, selected cinemas) As the saying goes, only the mediocre are always at their best. Even so, The Portrait of a Lady and The Crucible are not quite the films one would have expected from the...
Skirting the Main Issues
PYTHAGORAS' TROUSERS: GOD, PHYSICS AND THE GENDER WARS by Margaret Wertheim Fourth Estate, 9.99, pp. 297 It would be hard to imagine a more enjoyable book than Margaret Wertheim's Pythagoras' Trousers, or, for that matter, a cleverer one, since one of...
Small Helping of Cold Turkey
CHURCHILL'S SECRET WAR: DIPLOMATIC DECRYPTS: THE FOREIGN OFFICE AND TURKEY, 1942-44 by Robin Denniston Sutton, 25, pp. 208 Why was Churchill so convinced that Turkey would become an ally during the second world war? This colossal misconception has never...
Taken to the Cleaners
The Captain of the French Rugby side Brive said after their 47-11 drubbing by the touring Auckland side at the weekend that it had been like spending the afternoon in a washing-machine. After Saturday at Kempton I knew I had been through the wringer....
Thank You for the Days
I now consider my odd days at home as being on leave from the Middlesex Hospital, where I have been for the last month with just a couple of days break. Last week I had another one of those infections I am very prone to and they wouldn't even let a couple...
The Demon King Moves Back to Centre Stage, Bathed in a Soft Pink Spotlight
New Labour, new demons. In Old Labour's demonology a special place in the ninth circle was reserved for Montagu Norman. This was the Governor of the Bank of England whose adherence to the gold standard had sentenced his countrymen to unemployment and...
The Jew Rifkind and a Dangerous Old Parsifal in a Hurry
The affair of 'the Jew Rifkind' is disturbing but not for the reasons which have been advanced. It is not evidence of a revival of German anti-Semitism. As a matter of historical fact, the Germans, particularly the Prussians and the Rhinelanders, were...
Them and Us
A STRANGE legal suit comes before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on Tuesday which shows that it is not different currencies which make a mockery of the European Union but different languages. The case, HM Customs & Excise v. The Man...
Tragedy Stalks the Upper Classes
VICTORIAN GIRLS: LORD LYTTELTON'S DAUGHTERS by Sheila Fletcher Hambledon, 25, pp. 249 Mary Glynne, the wife of George Lord Lyttelton, died tragically in 1857 shortly after the birth of her twelfth child. Nearly 20 years later her husband George committed...
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