George Orwell’s Schooldays

Orwell’s essay on his prep-school days, Such, Such Were the Joys, is “sodden with self-pity”. The tales of squalor and violence are straight out of Dickens. Indeed, they are hard to credit — perhaps because Orwell made them up, for literary or political purposes. “There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that Orwell’s account of his prep-school days was – how to put this? – a load of utter bollocks” (2,800 words)

Benjamin Disraeli, “Unscrupulous Charlatan”

Review of two new books on Disraeli, flamboyant 19C British prime minister — “A bizarre, overdressed, bankrupt novelist” who ran for parliament to gain immunity from arrest, and so avoid debtor’s prison. He treated politics as a game; and, once he had won it, he “dismissed as humbug the idea that a prime minister should do anything, let alone concern himself with the details of policy or the drudgery of departmental work” (1,300 words)

The Manly Loaf

You may balk at the title, but the tongue-in-cheek contention here is that bread-making is indeed a guy thing: “Putting a loaf on the table in front of your family — this beautiful, aromatic, crusty, porous, individual-as-a-snowflake hunk of sustenance — is Neolithic stuff. Our hunting fathers weren’t faffing about with orechiette and tenderstem broccoli. But they were making bread, and making it in exactly the same way” (1,800 words)

Joys Of A Hungover Hack

Affectionate profile of Horace Rumpole, the fictional lawyer created by John Mortimer. “Rumpole is a paladin disguised as a rogue: a trickster hero. He is part barrister, part stage actor; delighting in the courtroom coup de théâtre. His raffishness is a form of generosity, a marker of his wide and perpetually amused tolerance of human folly. Adulterers, pornographers and honest villains don’t disturb him half so much as do prigs, punishment junkies and whited sepulchres” (1,921 words)

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