Captured By Light
Stained glass is a difficult medium to make one’s living in. Even in wartime, when Wilhelmina Geddes received many commissions for memorial windows, her work was frustrated by the scarcity of lead, which was also needed for bullets and coffins.
Down Among the Dead Men
You cannot understand an old city if you are not tuned to the cacophony of tenancy claims that greet you in stairwells as you trudge up to a fifth-floor flat. You are dead inside if you do not heed the joyous calls from beyond the grave of deceased residents.
The Great Incendiary
A new study of James Larkin takes some of the shine off his reputation; still, plaster saints are no longer in vogue. Big Jim’s vision was fundamentally moral. His gift to workers will be remembered and he can afford to be taken down a peg or two and still tower above.
The intellectualism of early Protestantism is hard to overestimate. It was bred in the universities and was a practice in which constant struggle, intellectual and spiritual, was central. A consequence was that it seemed to have little enough time for the unlettered.
A Book of Two Halves
A new history of sport in Ireland impresses with its meticulous research and its account of the historical origins and the momentous developments of the nineteenth century but somewhat runs out of steam and loses direction as we approach the present day.
A new study of Joyce is based on the idea that because of the retarded nature of Irish modernisation and its colonial status, communal belief in ghosts and the spirit world persisted, whereas elsewhere such beliefs were banished to the sphere of the subjective.
When Charlotte Brontë looked into the mirror she saw nothing but flaws. But this sense of not being attractive was to goad her into a fierce assertion of independence and eventually to the creation of a heroine ‘as small and plain as myself’ whose name remains with us today.
The Thing Itself
Harvard told Helen Vendler they didn’t want her – or any woman – teaching there. Later, having established a foothold in academia, she settled on two guiding principles: first that her subject was to be poetry and second that she wanted to be a critic rather than a scholar.
Three elements – imperial expansion, expropriation, and slavery – became central to the forging of a new global economic order that eventually led to the emergence of capitalism. And the story of the development of cotton perfectly illustrates the stages of this process.
Kafka on Thames
The injustice done to British broadcaster Paul Gambaccini as part of the Yewtree investigation leads one to wonder if the presumption of innocence can survive in a legal system which permits the police and media to destroy a person’s reputation in advance of any trial.