Beyond the fringe

Although the word “Celtoscepticism”, contrasting with “Celtomania”, first appeared in print in 1998, sceptical books about “the Celts” were around long before that. A few, such as Malcolm Chapman’s The Celts: The construction of a myth (1992), were salutary, still a tonic to read. Others have left readers as confused as the authors themselves. This … Read more

The hardest slog in sport

In the late summer of 1944, soon after the liberation of Paris, two media magnates met in an office on the Champs-Elysées. During the occupation, Émilien Amaury’s advertising agency had printed clandestine Resistance newspapers. Now, with the war ending, his fortunes were hitting new heights. A Resistance member had recently cycled to his office and … Read more

Never quite believed

On October 14, 1942, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva met to decide whether to go public with the evidence they had received – along with the Vatican and the Allied governments – about the Nazi extermination camps. They voted to do nothing. The information, they decided, was too uncertain and improbable, … Read more

Our new Gilded Age

A high-net-worth individual, or HNWI, is defined as someone with more than a million pounds in investible assets, excluding their main residence. To qualify as an ultra-high-net-worth individual, you need twenty times that in the bank. According to the 2022 World Wealth Report, the UK is home to more than 600,000 HNWIs and UHNWIs. As … Read more

Four limericks and a carving

Charles Lutwidge Dodgsonlater known as Lewis Carroll, wrote his first limericks in 1845, aged thirteen, a year before Edward Lear popularized the form in A Book of Nonsense. Dodgson’s precocious compositions were included in “Useful and Instructive Poetry”, the first of a series of family magazines that he produced for the entertainment of his brothers … Read more

Their final bows

There are thinkers for whom lateness is less a bad habit than a cultural concept. Theodor Adorno produced an absorbing study of the late Beethoven, while Edward Said wrote a book on what he called late style. The work was published posthumously, which is about as late as you can get. For the critic Harold … Read more

Power-mad pathos

Before Kathryn Hunter became Kathryn Hunter – when she was still a fourteen-year-old schoolgirl called Aikaterini Hadjipateras – she became “very, very obsessed” with King Lear. At that age, she has said, she could relate to the king’s immaturity. Since then, like Antony Sher, she has played Lear’s Fool as well as Lear himself. Like … Read more

Seeing things as they really aren’t

Tiepolo Blue by James Cahill arrives garlanded with the sort of extravagant pre-publication puffs that are often the kiss of death for a debut novel. Set in the 1990s, it tells the story of Don Lamb, a professor of art history and fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. Now in his early forties, Don once fell unrequitedly … Read more

Rayn and hayle

“Why werre and wrake and manslaughter ys ycome”, ask “The Simonie”, a scathing, anonymous protest poem of the early fourteenth century – “Why honger and derthe on erthe poure hath ouernome”? (“Why war and punishment and murder have come / Why hunger and famine on earth have seized the poor”?) “The Simonie” goes on to … Read more

Reading Ulysses

As Paul Muldoon’s prismatic essay “Spinoza’s shillelagh” (June 17) illuminates, James Joyce’s Ulysses Represents a world of endless colour, complexity and thematic inter-relatedness (eg seeing “Homer” in Irish Home Rule, the myriad interwoven threads of Catholic, Jew, Greek, Irish, etc). As a footnote to Muldoon’s broad-ranging scholarship, touching on Frank Budgen’s comment about Joyce’s “method” … Read more