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Glyn Davis

Anthony Blanche stands on the high balcony with a megaphone. With practised stammer he recites The Waste Land to puzzled undergraduates walking below in Christ Church Meadow. ‘How I have surprised them!’ he assures the other Old Etonians gathered for languid lunch in Lord Sebastian Flyte’s rooms. In this single image, Evelyn Waugh fixes Blanche in our memories – privilege, aesthetes, the creeping arrival of bewildering new art to the Oxford of 1923.

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As he stepped down from the podium at the Gettysburg battlefield in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln was unhappy. The speech was short and finished abruptly. The crowd was slow to clap. Lincoln turned to friend and occasional bodyguard Ward Lamon. ‘That speech won’t scour,’ he told Lamon. ‘It is a flat failure, and the people are disappointed.’

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Most editors look forwards, not back. We have to: there are pages to fill, readers to court, deadlines to meet. But publication of a 300th issue of a literary review invites retrospection, if not undue nostalgia... ... (read more)

Travel in America is a journey crowded with literary acquaintances. For centuries visitors have striven to make sense of the United States, drawn by its energy, admiring or disturbed by its civic culture. Charles Dickens visited twice, in 1841 and 1867, capturing his observations in American Notes (1842) ...

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If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can make the world safe for diversity.
President John F. Kennedy, Address to the American University, Washington DC, 10 June 1963

In March 1966 the first students arrived at Flinders University. They were typical of their time. Men outnumbered women two to one. Most lived at home with their parents, their background overwhelmingly middle class. A survey in the first years of the new institution confirmed that Flinders students were not politically radical. A slim majority indicated support for the government of Harold Holt. Only a handful opposed American and Australian involvement in Vietnam. If conservative about political change, Flinders students did not forgo commencement day pranks, with a mock Russian submarine being pushed into the university lake. Four decades ago, most students starting at Flinders were destined for teaching or the public service.

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On a cold, grey day in February this year, economist Larry H. Summers announced his resignation as president of Harvard. Though some undergraduates gathered in Harvard Yard to wave signs saying ‘Stay Summers Stay’, the rift with faculty and the governing board proved too much. Summers issued a dignified letter to the Harvard community, shook hands with well-wishers, and disappeared.

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