Geoffrey Wheatcroft’s books include The Controversy of Zion, The Strange Death of Tory England, and Yo, Blair! His new book, Churchill’s Bust, will be published next year.
 (May 2020)

IN THE REVIEW

A Discriminating Dissolute

Coronation portrait of George IV by Thomas Lawrence, 1821

George IV: Art and Spectacle

an exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, November 15, 2019–May 3, 2020; and the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, October 16, 2020–April 5, 2021

George IV: King in Waiting

by Stella Tillyard
“There never was an individual less regretted by his fellow creatures than this deceased King. What eye has wept for him? What heart has heaved one throb of unmercenary sorrow?” Thus The Times of London in 1830 upon the death of King George IV. There have been more wicked kings …

The Opportunist Triumphant

Boris Johnson, drawing by John Springs
In October 1922 Conservative members of Parliament voted to fight the next election as a separate party, calling time on their coalition with the Liberals, with whom they had governed Britain since 1915. David Lloyd George resigned immediately as prime minister, never to hold office again. Over the next twenty-four …

‘Feasting with Panthers’

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde in The Happy Prince

The Happy Prince

a film written and directed by Rupert Everett

Oscar: A Life

by Matthew Sturgis
How to perform a man who himself did nothing else? “From the beginning Wilde performed his life and continued to do so even after fate had taken the plot out of his hands,” W.H. Auden wrote in a perceptive, if strikingly critical, essay in 1963.1 Oscar Wilde famously told …

NYR DAILY

Don McCullin’s Art of War

Near Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, West Germany, 1961

There are other dangers than gunfire for the war photographer, almost more than for the war correspondent: the temptations of angry partisanship or aestheticization of horror. Don McCullin is innocent of the first. “No one was my enemy, by the way,” he says, in the companion book to the show. “There was no enemy in war for me. I was a totally neutral, passing-through person.” The second hazard might be more problematic. Biafran children with bellies distended by hunger, two dead Khmer Rouge sprawled in almost gymnastic postures, a Bengali father holding the body of his young son who has died of cholera, all come close to being artistic creations like the gyrations of athletes frozen for a split second for the sports pages.

Conor Cruise O’Brien at 100

By the end of the two-day symposium at Trinity, a more measured and nuanced appreciation of this extraordinary man was clear than during much of his life, or even at the time of his death. Cruise O’Brien has been called one of those people whose role it is to be brilliantly wrong. He was certainly wrong some of the time, as in his anti-anti-communist days when he speciously downplayed the character of Soviet tyranny, or later when he, likewise speciously, opposed a boycott of South Africa, which gave his enemies an opportunity to label him, wrongly, as an apologist for apartheid. But the two most impassioned speakers suggested that he was right often enough.

The Rural Vision of Ravilious & Friends

Eric Ravilious: Two Women in a Garden, 1933

There is a palpable mood of nostalgia in England at present. This may have been expressed politically in Brexit, but it is also visible in the popular taste for “heritage” and lost worlds. In particular, Britain is awash with books and films about World War II, which all these painters lived through and which became part of their artistic legacy. The England that Ravilious and Bawden evoked so powerfully reflected neither reactionary sentiment nor aimless aesthetic ideals. Their rural vision was not about an escapist rural retreat or nostalgic nationalism, but about a precious common heritage, something worth fighting for.

Loving the Vicious Race

Chris Froome during the Vuelta a España race, August 27, 2016

Even those with no interest in bike racing might try watching the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España, which starts on August 19, on television: they are the best possible travelogues, with aerial shots of three countries ravishingly beautiful in different ways, landscape of mountains and valleys, meadows and vineyards, castles, cathedrals and churches, great cities and pretty little towns. It might make even the most zealous Brexiter or American Firster warm a little to the glories of Europe.

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