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Mr. A. Walker-powell "Tony Powell" (Sydney NSW Australia)

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Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy
by Michael Pembroke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Arthur Phillip's Life by Michael Pembroke, 1 Jan 2014
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This book does more than give an account of Phillip's life it also accurately describes the strengthening of the Royal Navy since the bad times when Louis XIV was in power in the 1680's, It accurately describes Phillip's career as well as his triumphs and disasters. Happily for him the disasters were posthmous.. Deceased estates then were the very life blood of grasping lawyers

Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead
by Paula Byrne
Edition: Hardcover

22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mad World and Brideshead, 24 Sep 2009
A biography needs to be framed by a Point of View. Usually it is its subject and should be so if he is unlikely to be portrayed more than once. Evelyn Waugh is not such a case. The interest in him is sufficiently wide to accommodate different Points of View. Mad World is written from the Point of View of the Lygon family, with whom Waugh was friendly and whose members are in part associated with individual characters in Brideshead Revisited.
Paula Byrne has done her subject proud and, if one puts a price on the pleasure something provides, it is hopelessly under-priced. Mad World reveals much of what I did not know of Evelyn Waugh, even though I have read about him to a considerable degree. It reveals much more about the Lygon family members. How interesting it is that seemingly insignificant events in Brideshead Revisited happened to one degree or another to people mentioned in this biography. Two villains make their appearance. The first is the second Duke of Westminster, a character as malignant to the seventh Earl Beauchamp as the appalling Marquess of Queensbury was to Oscar Wilde. The second villain is King George V. He abandoned his loyal servant Beauchamp to the Duke of Westminster's knavery in a manner only less reprehensible to the way he abandoned Tsar Nicholas II.
After Brideshead, life did not proceed smoothly for any of the people in this book. I remind myself of the conversation between Cordelia and Charles in Brideshead:
` ... such an engaging child, grown up a plain and pious spinster, full of good works.' Did you think "thwarted"?'
It was no time for prevarication. `Yes,' I said, `I did; I don't now so much.'
`It's funny,' she said, `that's exactly the word I thought for you and Julia when we were up in the nursery with nanny. "Thwarted passion," I thought...'
Thwarted. That's what happened to them all.
Paula Byrne's style is free of journalistic puffery, therefore this biography is authoritative. I find very few vague points. I will not mention them because I try to ration myself to just one personal point, which I have just mentioned. Such can be understood if the reader, like me, lives in a country like Australia where the state is presently governed by press release.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 1, 2010 11:12 PM BST

The World of Yesterday
The World of Yesterday
by Stefan Zweig
Edition: Paperback

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old Europe, 3 Feb 2009
This review is from: The World of Yesterday (Paperback)
This is a lovely book. Stefan Zweig included the words `An Autobiography...' in its sub-title. True, but the subject of this autobiography is not he but Europe. He deliberately gave none but the barest personal account of himself or any of his friends.
Half the book is concerned with the Europe from 1895 to 1914. The son of a prosperous Jewish family, Zweig grew up in the Vienna of God and the Emperor Franz Josef. Being Jewish then was incidental to being Viennese. It was a city where opera, theatre and music were the basis of everyday life; news of catastrophes elsewhere did not penetrate the Viennese well-padded existence. The Austro-Hungarian empire's lingual and national differences were harmonised by the common love of music.
On leaving school, Zweig determined on a literary career and, while he travelled around Europe, rejoiced in the differences between countries. The Viennese landlady would always be helpful but not obsessed with tidiness, whereas in Berlin his apartment was spotlessly maintained by the Prussian landlady, who never forgot to add two pfennigs to his bill if she sewed a button on his trousers. Paris during the Belle Époque was a city for the young. There, they breathed the very atmosphere of youth. Like every young man who spent a year there, Zweig carried away an incomparably happy memory that lasted for all his time. London by contrast was polite and, if the truth were known, a bit stuffy.
Europe before the War may have been golden, but it was not Eden. European nations had become increasingly prosperous over the previous forty years. However the position of women had scarcely advanced. Even wealthy women were constrained by the dictate of fashion's handicapping their physical mobility. Middle class women were stultified by lack of sexual education when young and the belief in the custom that sexual enjoyment by them was unseemly. Amongst women it was probably only peasant women who enjoyed sex. Men visited prostitutes for sexual gratification and not infrequently came away with syphilis.
Unanticipated, the Great War that was to destroy Europe suddenly came about in the summer of 1914. Its horrors should have been foreseen by European governments, who had the example of the American Civil War some fifty years before. Zweig, temperamentally and physically unfit for military service was employed as an archivist by the Imperial government. His duties sometimes took him to the Front and his return, transport by hospital train, exposed him to the horrific sufferings that the wounded endured. He was struck by the contrast between the state of the hospital trains and the almost pre-war appearance of normality in Vienna and Budapest. He was allowed to visit neutral Switzerland to stage his pacifist play, Jeremiah. Possibly the granting of this permission was aided by Emperor's secret peace moves in 1917.
After the war he returned to a devastated Austria. After rebuilding his life over the following five years he progressively worried about the rise of Hitler and the way his actions in Germany desecrated the corpse of the old Europe. Eventually, he escaped to England and thence South America. Hitler's malignity progressively depressed him until Zweig and his wife committed suicide in 1942. Had he lived he might have seen the corpse of Europe decently reburied after 1945. He would not have survived to see today's EEC functionaries and their apologists dance on old Europe's grave.
By chance, Zweig was a witness to the precise moment of Europe's death. Early in 1919 he was standing on the platform of Feldkirch station just over the Austrian border with Switzerland. Whilst waiting for the scarcely operational train with its malnourished crew, which would take him home he noticed another train approach from the Austrian direction. It was truly a train de luxe with spacious black polished cars. It came to a halt at the opposite platform and Sweig then saw standing behind the plate glass window in the car corridor was the person of Emperor, Karl I, looking back for a last time at the hills and homes of his people as he went into exile. Then, the locomotive started with a violent jerk - Europe's last twitch of life - as it started off into Switzerland and his exile carrying Europe's corpse while its soul departed into eternity. Sweig's dead Europe it was, but it was also the Europe of Constantine, of Charlemagne, of St Benedict, of Beethoven and Mozart, of Shakespeare and Dante. Yes, and our Europe too, for that Europe gave us our faith and our laws.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 27, 2014 5:55 AM BST

Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
Empires of the Sea: The Siege of Malta, the Battle of Lepanto, and the Contest for the Center of the World
by Roger Crowley
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Empires of the Sea, 11 Jan 2009
This is a splendid book for the general reader. In about 300 pages Crowley describes the Christian/Muslim 16th Century conflict in the Mediterranean. The end of that century also marks the end of the supremacy of the Mediterranean in the West, which until then had been the centre of Western Civilization. Crowley creates a picture in words as the reader is transported, Google-Earthlike, from Philip II sitting like a spider in the centre of a web directing the business of the Spanish Empire to Suleiman flamboyantly extending the Ottoman Empire. The description of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 is so vivid that I felt I was an observer standing on the poop of Don John's flagship. It seems to have had a similar effect on Roger Crowley because he wrote that Lepanto was the biggest battle in the West until Loos in 1916 (sic). Loos was fought in 1915 and I believe the battle of Tannenburg between Russia and Germany in 1914 was considerably bigger. More relevant is the fact that in terms of men and ships Lepanto was not surpassed until the Battle of the Coral Sea in World War 2.
Today's technology enables the reader to use Google Earth to see the battle sights. Forts St Elmo and St Angelo in Malta can be viewed looking as I imagine they were 500 years ago. The reader can see the entrance to the Gulf of Corinth the same as when Don John of Austria saw it before Lepanto.
The only material concern that Crowley did not discuss was the question of hygiene in the Siege of Malta. Until the Boer War, army losses due to sickness and wounds were greater than those killed in action. The Knights of St John as part of their hospitaller remit cared for the sick. I understand that they minimized sickness in their galleys by transferring the slaves to cells in Fort St Angelo when the boats returned from operational duty and temporarily lowering the boats to the bottom of the harbour so that they could be freed of the slaves' excrement and other accumulated filth. I understand that sickness among the besieging Ottoman forces was a major concern. I would be surprised if sickness was a similar problem in the Knight's forces.
Although the events happened up to 500 years ago the conflict is topical: players and locations are different, but the struggle between the West and militant Islam goes on. One could substitute George Bush and the United States for Charles V and Spain, for example. Although there are examples of chivalrous behaviour between opposing commanders of the like of Don John of Austria and the Ottoman fleet's commander, Ali Pasha, the behaviour of Lala Mustapha, the Ottoman commander before Famagusta was of unspeakable brutality. His action of having the surrendering Venetian commander Marcantonio Bragadin, skinned alive whilst under the protection of a truce is so horrific that it continues to poison relations between Turkey and the West, to this day..
Empires of the Sea is well worth having. What splendid movies that include the Siege of Malta or the Battle of Lepanto could be made!

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