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Waves of geniality

No disrespect to Jeremy Lewis, this third amiable volume of autobiography or his hopeful sponsors at the Harper Press, but it is extraordinary that books like this still get written. Here we are, after all, in the age of the Waterstone’s three-for-two, the novels of Miss Keri Katona and the cheery philistinism of the man

Mad, bad and incompetent

As we now know, the unimaginably awful Third Reich did not spring fully formed from Hitler’s mind. Its antecedents can be traced to the predominantly upper-class and reactionary parties of the late 19th century, to Bismarck’s Slavic preoccupation, to a long history of racial and mythical obsessions with Deutschtum or German-ness, and on into Weimar

Wit and wisdom

‘To enclose the collected works of Cocteau one would need not a bookshelf, but a warehouse,’ W. H. Auden wrote in 1950. The same isn’t quite true of Auden — a warehouse wouldn’t be necessary — but it has to be said that only a bookshelf of substantial proportions would be capable of accommodating the

Distinctions and likenesses

The last time all five James children were in the same room was at their mother’s funeral, in 1882. It must have been a strange gathering. Even by then, their lives had followed such extraordinarily different paths that, to the reader of their collective biography, they seem to have become randomly assembled strangers. Henry James,

A keen sense of duty

William Cecil, Lord Burghley, would be delighted that in his historical afterlife he remains the old man he died as, after 40 years of power. The frail flesh and white beard projects the image of the dull bureaucrat we remember: ideal cover for an ideologue who makes Donald Rumsfeld appear warm and fuzzy, and a

All you need to know about Wales

There is a moment in the introduction to this book, when, after the grand statement of its aim ‘to encapsulate a country’s material, natural and cultural essence’, you come on this, amongst the usual thanks being extended to archivists and professors: ‘To Roy Morgan of Mertec Evesham Ltd., Swansea, who kindly loaned the project a

Getting to know the General | 5 July 2008

On 29 May 1989 Brigadier Tariq Mehmood, formerly head of Pakistan’s Special Forces, was taking part in a freefall demonstration in Gujranwala. His parachute failed and he crashed to his death in front of a large crowd that included his wife. TM (as he was always known) was the arche- typal Special Forces officer, almost