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P. Webster "Phil W." (Lancashire)
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The Descent of Man [with Biographical Introduction]
The Descent of Man [with Biographical Introduction]
Price: £0.90

4.0 out of 5 stars Darwinism and Social Darwinism, 27 Aug. 2016
When Charles Darwin in 1859 finally made public his theory of evolution by natural selection in “On the Origin of Species”, he avoided writing about human evolution, except for saying that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”

But by the early 1870s he felt confident enough to openly discuss the evolution of humans from animals. He did this in “The Descent of Man” (1871) and in “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals” (1872).

The full title of this book is “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”, and this shows the double purpose that Darwin had in writing it. Firstly, he produces evidence to show that humans are the “modified descendants” of animal ancestors. Secondly, he explains the importance of sexual selection in nature, as an important adjunct to his theory of natural selection.

Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the idea of natural selection independently of Darwin, although he had done so, as he himself acknowledged, twenty years after Darwin first thought of the idea. Wallace had become a friend and scientific colleague of Darwin, but now he had let the side down by ending up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin, on the other hand, stuck to his guns and showed how even the “higher” intellectual and moral capacities of humans could have arisen as a result of evolution.

Wallace and Darwin also disagreed over sexual selection. Wallace did not agree that it was the important factor that Darwin asserted it was. Darwin may have taken his argument too far when he claimed that sexual selection was the prime factor in producing “racial” differences in humans, but overall his case for sexual selection is well made in this book.

I am a great fan of Charles Darwin, but not an uncritical one. One problem is that, despite having developed the revolutionary (and correct) theory of natural selection as the mechanism for evolutionary change, Darwin mistakenly allowed a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is unfortunately full of examples of this latter idea.

I also have to point out that there are some things in this book that make for uncomfortable reading. Here I am talking about some of Darwin’s views on class, race, nationality and gender, which reflect the prejudices of a rich, white, European male of his time.

We can’t hold Darwin responsible for the worst excesses of later eugenicists or for all those various attempts by Social Darwinists of one sort or another to justify the horrible inequalities inherent in the capitalist system by claiming that those inequalities are “natural”. But in this book we can see that Darwin himself was influenced by eugenic theories and that he himself held some of the views that would later be called “Social Darwinism”.

For example, it is embarrassing to read that Darwin thought that men had “greater intellectual vigour and power of invention” than women. And, in probably the worst passage that I’ve ever read by Darwin, he favourably quotes another writer’s dreadful racist stereotype of the Irish.

On the other hand, Darwin was always a strong opponent of slavery, and he rightly argued that all humans, whatever their “race”, belonged to a single species and were descended from a single common ancestor. (Some of the worst racists of the time were claiming that the “superior” Europeans and the “inferior” Africans and other races were descended from separate species.)

Stephen Jay Gould summed up Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

Darwin’s ideas have given us a real understanding of nature. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that social problems and inequalities can also be explained by Darwinism.

Phil Webster


The Descent of Man (Classics of World Literature)
The Descent of Man (Classics of World Literature)
by Charles Darwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Darwinism and Social Darwinism, 27 Aug. 2016
When Charles Darwin in 1859 finally made public his theory of evolution by natural selection in “On the Origin of Species”, he avoided writing about human evolution, except for saying that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”

But by the early 1870s he felt confident enough to openly discuss the evolution of humans from animals. He did this in “The Descent of Man” (1871) and in “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals” (1872).

The full title of this book is “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”, and this shows the double purpose that Darwin had in writing it. Firstly, he produces evidence to show that humans are the “modified descendants” of animal ancestors. Secondly, he explains the importance of sexual selection in nature, as an important adjunct to his theory of natural selection.

Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the idea of natural selection independently of Darwin, although he had done so, as he himself acknowledged, twenty years after Darwin first thought of the idea. Wallace had become a friend and scientific colleague of Darwin, but now he had let the side down by ending up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin, on the other hand, stuck to his guns and showed how even the “higher” intellectual and moral capacities of humans could have arisen as a result of evolution.

Wallace and Darwin also disagreed over sexual selection. Wallace did not agree that it was the important factor that Darwin asserted it was. Darwin may have taken his argument too far when he claimed that sexual selection was the prime factor in producing “racial” differences in humans, but overall his case for sexual selection is well made in this book.

I am a great fan of Charles Darwin, but not an uncritical one. One problem is that, despite having developed the revolutionary (and correct) theory of natural selection as the mechanism for evolutionary change, Darwin mistakenly allowed a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is unfortunately full of examples of this latter idea.

I also have to point out that there are some things in this book that make for uncomfortable reading. Here I am talking about some of Darwin’s views on class, race, nationality and gender, which reflect the prejudices of a rich, white, European male of his time.

We can’t hold Darwin responsible for the worst excesses of later eugenicists or for all those various attempts by Social Darwinists of one sort or another to justify the horrible inequalities inherent in the capitalist system by claiming that those inequalities are “natural”. But in this book we can see that Darwin himself was influenced by eugenic theories and that he himself held some of the views that would later be called “Social Darwinism”.

For example, it is embarrassing to read that Darwin thought that men had “greater intellectual vigour and power of invention” than women. And, in probably the worst passage that I’ve ever read by Darwin, he favourably quotes another writer’s dreadful racist stereotype of the Irish.

On the other hand, Darwin was always a strong opponent of slavery, and he rightly argued that all humans, whatever their “race”, belonged to a single species and were descended from a single common ancestor. (Some of the worst racists of the time were claiming that the “superior” Europeans and the “inferior” Africans and other races were descended from separate species.)

Stephen Jay Gould summed up Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

Darwin’s ideas have given us a real understanding of nature. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that social problems and inequalities can also be explained by Darwinism.

Phil Webster.


The Descent of Man
The Descent of Man
by Charles Darwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Darwinism and Social Darwinism, 27 Aug. 2016
This review is from: The Descent of Man (Paperback)
When Charles Darwin in 1859 finally made public his theory of evolution by natural selection in “On the Origin of Species”, he avoided writing about human evolution, except for saying that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”

But by the early 1870s he felt confident enough to openly discuss the evolution of humans from animals. He did this in “The Descent of Man” (1871) and in “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals” (1872).

The full title of this book is “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”, and this shows the double purpose that Darwin had in writing it. Firstly, he produces evidence to show that humans are the “modified descendants” of animal ancestors. Secondly, he explains the importance of sexual selection in nature, as an important adjunct to his theory of natural selection.

Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the idea of natural selection independently of Darwin, although he had done so, as he himself acknowledged, twenty years after Darwin first thought of the idea. Wallace had become a friend and scientific colleague of Darwin, but now he had let the side down by ending up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin, on the other hand, stuck to his guns and showed how even the “higher” intellectual and moral capacities of humans could have arisen as a result of evolution.

Wallace and Darwin also disagreed over sexual selection. Wallace did not agree that it was the important factor that Darwin asserted it was. Darwin may have taken his argument too far when he claimed that sexual selection was the prime factor in producing “racial” differences in humans, but overall his case for sexual selection is well made in this book.

I am a great fan of Charles Darwin, but not an uncritical one. One problem is that, despite having developed the revolutionary (and correct) theory of natural selection as the mechanism for evolutionary change, Darwin mistakenly allowed a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is unfortunately full of examples of this latter idea.

I also have to point out that there are some things in this book that make for uncomfortable reading. Here I am talking about some of Darwin’s views on class, race, nationality and gender, which reflect the prejudices of a rich, white, European male of his time.

We can’t hold Darwin responsible for the worst excesses of later eugenicists or for all those various attempts by Social Darwinists of one sort or another to justify the horrible inequalities inherent in the capitalist system by claiming that those inequalities are “natural”. But in this book we can see that Darwin himself was influenced by eugenic theories and that he himself held some of the views that would later be called “Social Darwinism”.

For example, it is embarrassing to read that Darwin thought that men had “greater intellectual vigour and power of invention” than women. And, in probably the worst passage that I’ve ever read by Darwin, he favourably quotes another writer’s dreadful racist stereotype of the Irish.

On the other hand, Darwin was always a strong opponent of slavery, and he rightly argued that all humans, whatever their “race”, belonged to a single species and were descended from a single common ancestor. (Some of the worst racists of the time were claiming that the “superior” Europeans and the “inferior” Africans and other races were descended from separate species.)

Stephen Jay Gould summed up Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

Darwin’s ideas have given us a real understanding of nature. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that social problems and inequalities can also be explained by Darwinism.

Phil Webster.


The Descent of Man: Selection in Relation to Sex (Penguin Classics)
The Descent of Man: Selection in Relation to Sex (Penguin Classics)
by Adrian Desmond
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

4.0 out of 5 stars Darwinism and Social Darwinism, 26 Aug. 2016
When Charles Darwin in 1859 finally made public his theory of evolution by natural selection in “On the Origin of Species”, he avoided writing about human evolution, except for saying that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history.”

But by the early 1870s he felt confident enough to openly discuss the evolution of humans from animals. He did this in “The Descent of Man” (1871) and in “The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals” (1872).

The full title of this book is “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”, and this shows the double purpose that Darwin had in writing it. Firstly, he produces evidence to show that humans are the “modified descendants” of animal ancestors. Secondly, he explains the importance of sexual selection in nature, as an important adjunct to his theory of natural selection.

Alfred Russel Wallace had come up with the idea of natural selection independently of Darwin, although he had done so, as he himself acknowledged, twenty years after Darwin first thought of the idea. Wallace had become a friend and scientific colleague of Darwin, but now he had let the side down by ending up believing in spiritualism and arguing that the human brain/mind could not have evolved. Darwin, on the other hand, stuck to his guns and showed how even the “higher” intellectual and moral capacities of humans could have arisen as a result of evolution.

Wallace and Darwin also disagreed over sexual selection. Wallace did not agree that it was the important factor that Darwin asserted it was. Darwin may have taken his argument too far when he claimed that sexual selection was the prime factor in producing “racial” differences in humans, but overall his case for sexual selection is well made in this book.

I am a great fan of Charles Darwin, but not an uncritical one. One problem is that, despite having developed the revolutionary (and correct) theory of natural selection as the mechanism for evolutionary change, Darwin mistakenly allowed a subsidiary role for the Lamarckian idea of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. This book is unfortunately full of examples of this latter idea.

I also have to point out that there are some things in this book that make for uncomfortable reading. Here I am talking about some of Darwin’s views on class, race, nationality and gender, which reflect the prejudices of a rich, white, European male of his time.

We can’t hold Darwin responsible for the worst excesses of later eugenicists or for all those various attempts by Social Darwinists of one sort or another to justify the horrible inequalities inherent in the capitalist system by claiming that those inequalities are “natural”. But in this book we can see that Darwin himself was influenced by eugenic theories and that he himself held some of the views that would later be called “Social Darwinism”.

For example, it is embarrassing to read that Darwin thought that men had “greater intellectual vigour and power of invention” than women. And, in probably the worst passage that I’ve ever read by Darwin, he favourably quotes another writer’s dreadful racist stereotype of the Irish.

On the other hand, Darwin was always a strong opponent of slavery, and he rightly argued that all humans, whatever their “race”, belonged to a single species and were descended from a single common ancestor. (Some of the worst racists of the time were claiming that the “superior” Europeans and the “inferior” Africans and other races were descended from separate species.)

Stephen Jay Gould summed up Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

Darwin’s ideas have given us a real understanding of nature. But we must not fall into the trap of thinking that social problems and inequalities can also be explained by Darwinism.

Phil Webster.


Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation
Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation
Price: £7.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A crazy system… and the alternative, 8 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This little book is an excellent introduction to the genuine Marxist idea of “socialism from below”. Katch shows that there is an alternative to the exploitation, oppression, racism, sexism, alienation, economic crises, wars and environmental destruction inherent in the capitalist system; and he shows that this alternative involves working people collectively and democratically taking power and running society themselves.

For many people Marxism is a dirty word because of its association with the bureaucratic tyranny of the Stalinist regimes of Russia, Eastern Europe, China etc. But these regimes had/have nothing to do with genuine Marxism, as anyone who reads this book will see.

An appealing feature of the book is the way that Katch uses humour as a weapon. As he says, “Capitalism is destructive and inhuman, but it’s also silly, and mocking its absurdities reminds us that a system this dumb can’t possibly be indestructible.”

Phil Webster.


From Russia with Love (Penguin Modern Classics) by Fleming, Ian ( 2004 )
From Russia with Love (Penguin Modern Classics) by Fleming, Ian ( 2004 )

4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining if you can get past the sexism, 12 April 2016
If you can manage to ignore the occasional sexist, racist, homophobic, snobbish and right wing intrusions, as well as the “corny” elements, some of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are actually quite good.

My personal favourites are Moonraker, Dr No, Thunderball, and this one, From Russia with Love.

I first read this book about fifty years ago, when I was in my early teens. I have watched the brilliant film version many times, but I had forgotten how entertaining the book is until I read it again recently.

It is a genuine “thriller”, and is in places very well written. How about this, for example?

“Everything conspired to make him sleep – the hasty metal gallop of the wheels, the hypnotic swoop of the silver telegraph wires, the occasional melancholy, reassuring moan of the steam whistle clearing their way, the drowsy metallic clatter of the couplings at the end of the corridor, the lullaby creak of the woodwork…”

And in the book, as in the film, the atmosphere created in the scenes in Istanbul and on the Orient Express oozes romance and excitement.

It is interesting to compare the Bond films with the books. For me, the only three great Bond films are the first three: Dr No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. In the case of From Russia with Love and Dr No, the books are also good. In the case of Goldfinger, the film is better than the book. But with Thunderball the book is much better than the film.

With Thunderball the films started their sad decline. Today all we are left with in the Bond films are countless spectacular action sequences (which become boring), produced with the aid of all the high-tech special effects that are available to film-makers today. But there is no substance to the films. They are all form and no content.

Finally, I will end with a particularly gross example of the sexism that you have to be able to get past if you are going to try to enjoy this book. In Chapter 15 the “Kerim” character is telling Bond about his life. He says that he was “wild” when he was young. He won a “Bessarabian hell-cat… in a fight with some gypsies…”

He then kept her “chained naked under a table” so that she would learn “who was master”. Kerim’s mother found out and was really angry with him. She made him release the girl, but the girl refused to leave Kerim!

Each reader will have to decide whether this is so outrageous that they are going to throw the book in the bin, or whether they can brush it aside and read on.

Phil Webster.


From Russia with Love: James Bond 007 (Vintage Classics)
From Russia with Love: James Bond 007 (Vintage Classics)
by Ian Fleming
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining if you can get past the sexism, 12 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
If you can manage to ignore the occasional sexist, racist, homophobic, snobbish and right wing intrusions, as well as the “corny” elements, some of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels are actually quite good.

My personal favourites are Moonraker, Dr No, Thunderball, and this one, From Russia with Love.

I first read this book about fifty years ago, when I was in my early teens. I have watched the brilliant film version many times, but I had forgotten how entertaining the book is until I read it again recently.

It is a genuine “thriller”, and is in places very well written. How about this, for example?

“Everything conspired to make him sleep – the hasty metal gallop of the wheels, the hypnotic swoop of the silver telegraph wires, the occasional melancholy, reassuring moan of the steam whistle clearing their way, the drowsy metallic clatter of the couplings at the end of the corridor, the lullaby creak of the woodwork…”

And in the book, as in the film, the atmosphere created in the scenes in Istanbul and on the Orient Express oozes romance and excitement.

It is interesting to compare the Bond films with the books. For me, the only three great Bond films are the first three: Dr No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. In the case of From Russia with Love and Dr No, the books are also good. In the case of Goldfinger, the film is better than the book. But with Thunderball the book is much better than the film.

With Thunderball the films started their sad decline. Today all we are left with in the Bond films are countless spectacular action sequences (which become boring), produced with the aid of all the high-tech special effects that are available to film-makers today. But there is no substance to the films. They are all form and no content.

Finally, I will end with a particularly gross example of the sexism that you have to be able to get past if you are going to try to enjoy this book. In Chapter 15 the “Kerim” character is telling Bond about his life. He says that he was “wild” when he was young. He won a “Bessarabian hell-cat… in a fight with some gypsies…”

He then kept her “chained naked under a table” so that she would learn “who was master”. Kerim’s mother found out and was really angry with him. She made him release the girl, but the girl refused to leave Kerim!

Each reader will have to decide whether this is so outrageous that they are going to throw the book in the bin, or whether they can brush it aside and read on.

Phil Webster.


Charles Darwin Volume 2: The Power at Place: The Power of Place: Power of Place v. 2
Charles Darwin Volume 2: The Power at Place: The Power of Place: Power of Place v. 2
by Janet Browne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.25

5.0 out of 5 stars Volume 2 of “the definitive Darwin biography”, 6 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is the second part of a really excellent two-volume biography of Charles Darwin, one which the great evolutionary theorist Ernst Mayr called “the definitive Darwin biography”.

This second volume takes up the story a year or so before the 1859 publication of “On the Origin of Species”. Darwin was dilly-dallying about publishing a book on his theory of natural selection, when, in June 1858, he received a letter from Alfred Russel Wallace in which Wallace enclosed a paper which showed that he had just come up with the same theory. Wallace did not know that Darwin had already had the same idea.

Darwin was torn: he didn’t want to lose the credit for having thought of the theory himself much earlier than Wallace; but on the other hand he didn’t want to treat Wallace badly. Two of Darwin’s scientific friends came up with a solution. They made a joint presentation of Wallace’s paper and some extracts from Darwin’s unpublished writings on the theory to the Linnean Society.

To make matters worse, all this commotion coincided with the illness and then death of the Darwins’ youngest child.

As in the first volume, there is certainly plenty of ammunition in this book to shoot down the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the credit for the theory of natural selection from Wallace. Wallace certainly deserves credit for independently coming up with the same idea, but Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin’s priority, pointing out that “...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence...”

Darwin probably started thinking seriously about “transmutation” on the last stretch of his Beagle voyage in 1836. He certainly opened his first notebook on the subject in 1837, and the idea of natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change came to him, after reading Malthus, in 1838. In 1842 he wrote what he called the “pencil sketch of my species theory”, and in 1844 he wrote a fuller and more polished version.

Darwin’s letters, notebooks and the two essays/sketches, show beyond question that all the key ideas that Darwin made public in 1859 in “On the Origin of Species” had already been developed by him much earlier.

Stephen Jay Gould once described Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

This book by Janet Browne shows us that Gould’s summary of Darwin is a perfectly accurate one. Browne describes Darwin’s personality, his personal life, his class position, the social context of nineteenth century England, and the influences which led him to develop his theory of natural selection, as well as Darwin’s researches and the theory itself.

The only thing that I was not happy about with this second volume was the fact that it was not published until seven years after the publication of the first volume. Even allowing for the enormous amount of research that went into these books, that is a long time! I remember that when the first volume came out in 1995 I decided not to get it until the second one was published, so that I could buy and read both together. I didn’t think that I would have to wait for seven years to be able to do that. Still, that’s water under the bridge now. Darwin fans can read, re-read and savour both volumes.

Phil Webster.


Charles Darwin. Voyaging (Volume 1): Voyaging Vol 1
Charles Darwin. Voyaging (Volume 1): Voyaging Vol 1
by Janet Browne
Edition: Paperback
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars “The definitive Darwin biography”, 6 April 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is the first part of a really excellent two-volume biography of Charles Darwin. If you want a well-written, in-depth and very detailed Darwin biography, then this is the one for you. The great evolutionary theorist Ernst Mayr called it “the definitive Darwin biography”. Browne’s study is, on balance, even better (and definitely even more detailed) than that other great biography, “Darwin”, by Adrian Desmond and James Moore.

Stephen Jay Gould once described Darwin as being “radical in his scientific ideas, liberal in his political and social views, and conservative in personal lifestyle...”

This book by Janet Browne shows us that Gould’s summary of Darwin is a perfectly accurate one. Browne describes Darwin’s personality, his personal life, his class position, the social context of nineteenth century England, and the influences which led him to develop his theory of natural selection, as well as Darwin’s researches and the theory itself.

This first volume covers Darwin’s childhood and youth, his voyage on the Beagle, and then his life back in England up to 1856, when he finally decided to start writing up his theory in detail for publication.

There is plenty of ammunition in this book to shoot down the ridiculous conspiracy theory which claims that Darwin stole the credit for the theory of natural selection from Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace certainly deserves credit for independently coming up with the same idea, but Wallace himself was always happy to play second fiddle to Darwin. For example, in 1908 Wallace made a speech to the Linnaean Society in which he explicitly defended Darwin’s priority, pointing out that “...the idea occurred to Darwin in October 1838, nearly twenty years earlier than to myself (in February 1858); and that during the whole of that twenty years he had been laboriously collecting evidence...”

This book shows that Darwin probably started thinking seriously about “transmutation” on the last stretch of his Beagle voyage in 1836. He certainly opened his first notebook on the subject in 1837, and the idea of natural selection as the mechanism of evolutionary change came to him, after reading Malthus, in 1838. In 1842 he wrote what he called the “pencil sketch of my species theory”, and in 1844 he wrote a fuller and more polished version.

Darwin’s letters, notebooks and the two essays/sketches, show beyond question that all the key ideas that Darwin made public in 1859 in “On the Origin of Species” had already been developed by him much earlier.

For example, in a letter of 1844 Darwin tentatively let his friend Hooker in on his secret theorising and research: “...I am almost convinced...that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable...I think I have found out (here’s presumption!) the simple way by which species become exquisitely adapted to various ends.” He also set out the theory in an 1857 letter to Asa Gray.

I also find the personal side of Darwin’s story interesting, including, for example, the tragic and moving story of the death of his daughter Anne, and the worries that Darwin’s theories caused for his religious wife, Emma.

There are only two things that I am not happy with Janet Browne about. Firstly, there is the fact that seven years passed between the publication of the two separate volumes of this biography. Even allowing for the enormous amount of research that went into these volumes, that is a long time! I remember that when the first volume was published in 1995 I decided not to get it until the second one was published, so that I could buy and read both together. I didn’t think that I would have to wait for seven years to be able to do that. Still, that’s water under the bridge now.

My second quibble is that Browne speculates, without any real evidence, about the sexuality of Robert Grant, whom Darwin met in Edinburgh. Darwin ended up losing his respect for Grant because he felt that Grant had appropriated some of Darwin’s own researches. But Browne, uncharacteristically, rather wildly speculates that the rift might also have developed because Darwin might have “proved unresponsive to late-night suggestions of a different nature.” Evidence?

But these two points in no way prevent me from thoroughly recommending this wonderful biography.

Phil Webster.


Spectre [DVD] [2015]
Spectre [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Price: £10.00

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars All form and no content, 14 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Spectre [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
Comparing this disappointing film to the first few Bond films of the early 1960s is like comparing today’s society as a whole to that of those times.

Society then, although of course it had a lot wrong with it, was seeing the “you’ve never had it so good” days of capitalism’s long post-war boom. Today, technology has developed in leaps and bounds, but most other things in society have got worse.

It seems to me that today’s Bond films reflect that change. “Spectre” has countless spectacular action sequences (which become boring), produced with the aid of all the high-tech special effects that are available to film-makers today. But there is no substance to the film. It is all form and no content.

For me, the only really great Bond films are the first three: Dr No, From Russia with Love, and Goldfinger. Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather watch one of those for the umpteenth time than sit through one of today’s Bond films.

Phil Webster.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2016 11:02 PM BST


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