The icy scabs of the earth

A depiction of the north and south ice caps, as 'icy scabs at either end of the earth'.  And then having them wince in their sleep as Achilles' distant scream reaches them from its middling latitude.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of...

Quiet in quiet rooms

A simple movement, settling back against a rope, evoking entire lives spent leaning into comfort and quiet, disengaging from din and adventure.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and...

Round as…

Round as a moon isn't surprising, but the addition of the spring, makes it richer and fuller and a more resonant metaphor.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War...

Fallen pieces of the moon

A haunting way to think of icebergs, moon-pieces fallen from the sky.  Especially when lit at night by their mother-ship's beams. 'Icebergs … fallen pieces of the moon.' See also my bestellar review of this wonderful book, complete with a mosaic of quotations,...

Ice-crushed

In this description of a 250 ton ship being crushed by the unforgiving shift and grind of pack ice, you can hear the split of trunk-thick timbers, snapping and rending like matchsticks. ‘Like a grand piano caught in an industrial press’. See also my bestellar review...

As curious, as dangerous as…

It's a long time, probably decades, since I had a nightmare, but I remember having quite a few in childhood, and danger was a recurring theme, often waking me with a jolt when it was about to strike. 'As curious and dangerous as nightmares.' See also my bestellar...

Farewell sweet phrases, lovely metaphors…

Lovely enchanting language, sugar-cane,

Honey of roses, whither wilt thou fly?

 

‘The Forerunners’ – George Herbert (1593-1633)

As voluptuous as…

I like the double surprise of this one.  I wouldn't easily associate clouds with fruit, nor 'voluptuous', though cumulus clouds can be plumply Rubenesque. Now, which summer fruits qualify as 'voluptuous'?  Berries, no, they are too astringent and contained.  It would...

Close as …

If you can withstand the shock of the thock of the arrow passing through eyes, the simile ‘as close as a layer of paint’ could be used in less violent contexts.  Logue is a master metaphorist.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam...

Seen through water

The impact of Gray’s sword causing it to bend in the air as it would appear to bend if submerged and refracted in water.  What an image!See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War...

Like sun on tin

Logue is recreating the Bronze Age and in his version of the Iliad, metal gleams.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War Music, a muscular rendition of several books of the...

As timid as…

A memorable and graphic (if unsympathetic) way to convey timidity and fearfulness. You can see a cowering dog, skitting about with his tail between his legs, looking for a quiet spot. And yes, I drew the line at providing an image for this one.See also the bestellar...

A mess of broken eggs

An arresting image for catastrophe – an omelette.  Too prosaic?  Smashing eggs can certainly make a hell of a mess, but I keep questioning this, somehow an omelette doesn’t equate to ‘catastrophe’. But nor can I forget it. ‘The omelette of catastrophe’ Source: Osip...

A timeless calm

I loved this one.  Something about Tatar children bathing horses in Alushta that conveys a secure, happy world and an activity repeated over generations.  I hope I can be calm like those Tatar children. And how did the idea come to Mandelstam?  Did he see these...

Serenade in fur coat

Had to read this one a couple of times – it’s imaginative and convoluted.  First the image of ‘the body heat of your vision’ and then that tumbling phrase, ‘singing a serenade in a fur coat behind a double set of windows’.  I hope it never happens to you. ‘Standing...

Milky metaphors

Milky quietude sounds like something to be welcomed, whereas a curdling whey of silence is to be escaped.  I like this double latte metaphor, turning over two sides of quietness. ‘A milky quietude ensued.  The whey of silence curdled.’ Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey...

Conversation as coffee

Likening conversation to ‘thick black coffee’ which you might have on the table in front of you, and you might stir with a small spoon while enjoying the thick black coffee of talk.  I imagine a smoke-filled waterfront café, with only the low hum of friendly exchange,...

Authenticity as iron

Authenticity as something to be cherished in itself will come into its own in a world apparently awash with fake news and other flavours of fakeness. It’s a curious quality, hard to pin down, but you just know it when you see it. In writing, a word or a phrase can...

As simple as…

A simile that deserves to enter daily use.  But was Newton’s thought simple?  Yes and no… ‘… as simple as the thought of Newton…’ Source: Vasily Grossman, An Armenian Sketchbook, trans. Robert and Elizabeth Chandler, New York: New York Review Books, 2013, p. 82 Photo...

Bright eyes like glass grapes

‘Bright eyes’ implies a warm, sparkling, engaging personality until you slam up against ‘rather like glass grapes’, and then you move into something vacuous and apart. I happen to like the miles-away half-mad gaze with which sheep and goats stare at you, but more...

Flailing blades and razored vanes

This reminds me of pictures of ancient war chariots in children’s history books, with blades poking out of the wheel hubs.   Here it is the warriors that are flailing blades, an image rendering soldiers as engines of killing.See also the bestellar reviews, complete...

As fast as…

You can see the greased lightening serpent-slither whiplash-speed over slippery tiles.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War Music, a muscular rendition of several books of the...

Like sardine from a tin

This horrifyingly vivid image is made more painful by its casual tone, with a boy likened to a sardine.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War Music, a muscular rendition of...

Images of war

Again, reducing human carnage to an image of barbecue leftovers.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War Music, a muscular rendition of several books of the Iliad.  'Bronze glows...

A butterfly in a cactus library

Such an imaginative construct to describe a jagged script!  I had fun looking for an image of a cabbage-looking butterfly flitting around a spiky plant.  And in case you aren’t sure what ‘Japhetic’ means, I have copied the wikipedia definition below. Bear in mind that...

Beware the squinting lump

Of all the dead-end sounding places, I can’t think of a description that’s more likely to deter you from visiting.   ‘The end of the street, as if crushed by a pair of binoculars, swerved off into a squinting lump.’   Source: Osip Mandelstam, Journey to...

Swift as a telegram

This simile for swiftness drawing on an age in which telegram were one of the fastest forms of communication.  Also like the image of the yacht slicing the water as sharply as a lancet.   ‘An American yacht, swift as a telegram, that cut the water like a lancet.’...

The secret cupboard of the mountain sun

Wishing you a climate where the light trades in the gold currency of cognac.  Not the first mention I have come across of Armenia as a place of extraordinary light.   ‘What is there to say about Sevan’s climate?  ‘Gold currency of cognac in the secret cupboard of...

Impartial as…

A beautiful simile for impartiality, like a sunbeam, shining equally on all that fall within its light. Like many of the refreshing similes I have featured on this site, I hope that they might add to the stock in common usage. Go on, next time you refer to...

Solti’s stick

In a tick, you are taken from ancient Troy to a contemporary concert hall, and the magical, electrifying instant when a great conductor poises before bringing down his baton to release an opening note.  Now you know what Troy felt like.The drawing, I realise, looks...

Sunlight like birds

This conveys the distant wink and sparkle of sun glancing off a choppy sea surface and appearing, at a distance, like a lather of birds.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War...

Shields like clinkered hulls

A marvelous description of the helots’ tightly held, flexible and impregnable shield wall, like the scales of a fish, or here, as the strakes of a ship’s hull, hermetically sealed with caulking.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam...

As happy as …

In developing WritingRedux.com, I’ve been experimenting with revolutionizing the quality of quotations you find on postcards and greetings cards, and testing out these ideas using the UK printing company moo.com.  They have a marvelous technology – Printfinity – that...

The ground beneath your feet…

Having just re-read a beloved book about the Arctic, this resonates. The fear, loneliness and disorientation of a young girl whose world has been capsized is summed up in a chunk of shore breaking away and drifting out to sea like a piece of ice. ‘It was as if the...

Community as lake

Something in this metaphor suggests a community which has great resilience and a certain timelessness, although it could also imply a place that doesn’t change either for better or worse because no traveller passing through leaves any impression. ‘The people of those...

Barriers to hope

I like this metaphor in which a looming shape in the fog evokes a barrier to hope.  That said, may you be free of looming shapes in the fog and anything standing in the way of hope. ‘It loomed through the fog like a great barrier to hope.’ Source: Elizabeth Gaskell,...

Off the peg thoughts

A fine metaphor for a mind incapable of original thought or phrasing.  The lady has a stock of ready-made comments to offer on almost any topic, allowing her to appear suitably interested or charmed without actually requiring any comprehension or knowledge on her...

Grating tones and scraping slates

The early 19th century equivalent of scratching chalk down a blackboard, setting your teeth on edge.  Molly is one of the most authentic characters in English literature, and can’t get used to the sugar-sweet falseness of her stepmother. ‘All this was said in that...

Mind as mirror

Mrs Kirkpatrick, step-mother to the heroine Molly, is a wonderful character in one of Elizabeth Gaskell’s finest novels. Published in 1860 soon after her sudden death, it has the human warmth and playfulness of English novels half a century before such as Jane Austen,...

From Troy to Chicago

Some of the Greek warriors occasionally behave like gangsters, so I liked this 1920s image of a gangster in a striped suit slumped in a big barber’s chrome and leather chair.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's...

When autumn takes the Dnieper by the arm

One of the wondrous aspects of Homer are the extended metaphors, taking in four, eight, ten lines, building a whole scenario before your eyes, before likening it to the actual scene or events being described.  Logue has taken this in his stride, and refreshingly uses...

Faces like NO ENTRY signs

Another example of Logue’s easy use of contemporary images to bring us up close and personal to the battle beach of Troy. Yesterday, standing in a shop waiting to be served, I noticed that one of the shop staff stood behind her computer with a NO ENTRY sign face to...

Like a baby’s shawl

What a soft, enveloping cloud this must have been, of a gentle pastel hue.  Chill autumn morning here, and I happen to be sitting with a fleecy such shawl around my shoulders.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's...

Architecture that shouts for joy

A beautiful description of a church, capturing a soaring, up-swooping roof, and the exhilaration it can bring to the onlooker. ‘Arches that sprang upwards like a shout of joy to meet the grand upward curve of the vaulted roof.’ Source: Elizabeth Goudge, The Little...

Half-moon mouth, rat-trap jaw

Describing the kindly, proud dwarf cook, Marmaduke Scarlet.  I liked the juxtaposition of his generosity and determination and the connection of both to his mouth, whether open in a warm smile, or rat-trap slammed shut when he was determined. ‘His large mouth was a...

Beloved Sir Benjamin

The old, fat, warm-hearted cousin of the young heroine.  Both Merryweathers, he of the sun type, she of the moon. She's an orphan and he takes her under his wing, providing her and her governess a safe, warm, welcoming, magical home.  He takes to her quickly, noting...

Audible odours

An unforgettable description of a pungent odour, in this case, the fish head brought home for the cat by Digweed, the steward and coachman. ‘The cod’s head had the sort of smell that one could almost hear.’ Source: Elizabeth Goudge, The Little White Horse, illus. C....

Chopping and changing

I like how Logue places the words so they don’t flow smoothly but themselves wallop, slap back, chop and change, in the random and self-contradictory motion with which the sea slaps and recoils when cliff-stopped.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich...

Free to go

Please, if you read and enjoy this vivid metaphor, do me the favour of using it at least once so we can see if it can enter mainstream usage.  It could give a rest to the slightly worn ‘I need that like I need a hole in the head’.  You’d get more attention to your...

The wave foreseen

A magnificent image of a proud and then crashing wave, thundering up a shaken coast, and used to signify the answering cheer of troops.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War...

A shire-sized dust-sheet

The tearing of a dust-sheet isn’t an obvious sound to describe the dis-scabbarding of a Greek sword, and then Logue renders it even more striking by adding that singularly English ‘shire-sized’.  Be good to see ‘shire-sized’ occasionally displace ‘humungous’ and other...

As quiet as…

Elsewhere Logue uses light as the simile for silence – ‘as quiet as air’ – but I also loved this image of children completely absorbed in creating pictures.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer...

Diplomacy and dogs

This rich if none too favourable description of the Greeks – ‘hatched from the slag we cast five centuries ago’ - has a couple of fine metaphors, including ‘our speech like footless crockery in their mouths’ and the idea that an offer of diplomacy is like ‘giving...

Plucking chickens in Australia

One of the inventive elements of Logue’s metaphors is the way he mixes up eras, blithely planting a country called Australia in an ancient Greek context. And the idea of wind plucking chickens adds another layer of originality.See also the bestellar reviews, complete...

Achilles’ face

This is an intriguing description of a face – I see a chalk-white face with a lion’s mane of golden hair encircling it.  Roaring wheat!See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and Logue's War...

As quiet as…

Christopher Logue’s vivid, muscular version of some episodes in the Iliad abounds with striking metaphors – I noted about 60 that leapt at me with their verve and originality, in a slim book of under 200 pages.Many of them are short and simple and should easily slip...

Ajax and Alamein

Logue’s rendering of Homer is powerful because he makes it immediate, either by transporting you through sheer force of description to the battlefield before Troy, or by air-lifting you in an instant from a scene three thousand years ago to something that happened...

For love of Ajax

Nine words, three sentences, and you see Ajax before you and how he is seen by thousands of Greek soldiers. And then that contemporary metaphor linking his war-gear to landing gear: eyelets like runway lights!  Zesty stuff.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with...

Baby as bubble

Downright Shakespearean this phrase: pregnancy as belly-bubble on a dame.  The implication being I Was Already Doing ABC when you weren’t even born.See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson's magnificent Why Homer Matters and...

On dry humour

This evokes oak paneled rooms in ancient colleges, and the quiet clinking of glasses interspersed with the odd guffaw.‘A humor as dry as fino sherry.’See also the quote-mosaic review of Harry Eyres' splendid book on the charm and continuing relevance of...

Potent as…

I vote for this to enter standard speech, even if you question the power of a pope in modern times. The alliteration is too poppingly perfect. See also the quote-mosaic review of Harry Eyres' splendid book on the charm and continuing relevance of Horace. Source: Harry...

Woven hillsides, tapestried landscapes

What a lovely metaphor for a carefully crafted landscape, stitched together row by row over centuries.‘But the vineyards of the Mosel glow like a medieval tapestry; they look as if they have been stitched to the hillside.’See also the quote-mosaic review of Harry...

Plump as…

Another one that deserves to enter daily speech – it conjures a sturdy pottery beer mug served in an 18th century English tavern with a roaring fire.See also the quote-mosaic review of Harry Eyres' splendid book on the charm and continuing relevance of Horace. Source:...

Dandelion-steeped sunlight

What a heart-warming image of sun-washed memories. May you and your memories be dandelion-steeped in sunlight. ‘Those memorable days that move in procession … the most of them are full-eyed as the dandelion that from dawn to shade has steeped itself in sunlight.’...

A bright guarantee

Many who have seen hope return and fears dissolve under the bright light of morning may appreciate this notion of a ‘bright guarantee of God’. ’Light came from the east,  /  bright guarantee of God, and the waves  /  went quiet.’ Source: Beowulf, Seamus Heaney...

St Helena in the nursery

Napoleon’s exile invoked to stand for banishment to the nursery. But the visitor deserved the rudeness. She had been enumerating the endless faults of the male sex, including lack of sensibility or consideration. She then swirled her silk gown and sent the boy’s...

Walking like a baobab

What a wonderful and appropriate metaphor, set in a land where baobab trees grow. ‘His steps were like a baobab pulling up its own roots.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 17

A clinging sound

What a description of a sound that can’t be unheard. 'That noise was to cling to his inner ear like moss on a sunless wall.' Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 204

Inseparable as fingers

Yes, the fingers were inseparable for a while, but not united. This is a hand spread wide open with some of the fingers straining to escape from the others. ‘This little cluster of humanity, joined like the five fingers on a hand.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of...

A wave-frothing vat

The sea as a wave-frothing vat! ‘He fell beneath his shield, / in the same gem-crusted, kingly gear / he had worn when he crossed the frothing wave-vat.’ Source: Beowulf, Seamus Heaney (London: Faber & Faber, 2000 (1999)), p. 41

A luminous woman

The woman appears after a period of darkness in the boys’ lives, from which women were excluded – she is the first woman the boy sees that he can remember. ‘The woman had invaded me just as the sun fills our homes. There was no way of avoiding or obstructing this...

Compass needle obstinacy

Again, one to use in everyday language, I like the idea of obstinacy presented as the needle’s tenacity in pointing in a given direction. ‘… as obstinate as a compass needle.’ Source:  Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)),...

The closeness of a couple

Beautiful description of the closeness of a couple. But yes, those two simple opening words, ‘at first’, contain a cloud of foreboding. ‘At first, they got on together like wind and sail, scarf and neck.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David...

The silence of stones

As someone who is forever picking up pebbles, this struck me. Silent yes, but I have never seen them as sad. ‘… sad and silent as an unpolished stone.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 64

A compass upheaval

This captures the erratic blusteriness of storms. Although this book is set in Africa, the metaphor reminds me of the description of Arctic storms I am reading in Barry Lopez' Arctic Dreams. ‘The storm was like the upheaval of all the compass points at the same time.’...

As happy as…

Surely this deserves to enter common usage:  ‘… as happy as Adam before he lost his rib.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 79

Reading as a meandering canoe

This is a beautiful metaphor for a boy discovering the magic of reading and writing, both of which were forbidden to him. ‘With his index finger, he roamed again and again over the print, like a canoe drifting drunkenly down imaginary rivers.’ Source:  Mia Couto, The...

Top soil on a veranda

Mia Couto’s metaphors are wonderful. This one conveys the dead weight appearance of a body slumped unconscious. ‘It certainly was a body, lying there on the veranda like top soil.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012...

Time as oil

A remarkable description of time passing, which makes it sound slow and cloying. ‘The following weeks flowed over us like a thick oil.’ Source: Mia Couto, The Tuner of Silences, trans. David Brookshaw (Biblioasis, 2012 (2009)), p. 68

Adjusting to atrocity

A splendid image of Alexander Pope’s awkward handling of Odysseus’ occasionally outrageous behaviour.   What do you do when the subject of your translation does something you’d rather they didn’t? ‘As if Pope were adjusting his cuffs observing an atrocity.’ Source:...

War as weaving

This is the first time I have heard of the gods weaving human fate on a loom; echoes of Penelope, but without the chance to unpick the weaving at the day’s end. 'But the Lord was weaving a victory on his war-loom for the Weather-Geats.' Source: Beowulf, Seamus Heaney...

Creased with grief

May your face, and those of people you love, never be creased into grief-maps.   What a vivid image of sorrow. ‘He shook his head and his face creased, a grey grief-map.’ Source: Beowulf, Kevin Crossley-Holland, illus. by Charles Keeping (Oxford: Oxford University...

Wide as the wind

Another pithy metaphor that deserves to enter daily use: 'as wide as the wind'.  So, let me wish you this: may your sway be as wide as the wind's home, or as the sea around cliffs. 'Your sway is wide as the wind’s home, / as the sea around cliffs.' Source: Beowulf,...

The worst thirst

May you be spared such thirst, let alone any marching army. See the bestellar review of this astonishing, compassionate novel. ‘God, I’m thirsty,’ Jake said. ‘I feel like the whole Russian army marched through my mouth in its stocking feet.’ Source: Carson McCullers,...

Pruning exuberance, corroding hope

Borges uses two incisive metaphors to create the effect of some Irish writing on English letters. '(Irish writers) … made deep incursions into the territory of English letters, pruning all rhetorical exuberance with frank impiety.  Jonathan Swift acted like a...

As kind as…

I found this a beautiful, simple metaphor for kindness: ’As kind as summer…’ Writing this on a kind summer's day, sitting in the garden under the dappling shade of trees, cool breeze to fend off the heat, and the relaxing hollow thwock-thwock of the tennis over the...

As quick as …

This deserves to enter daily usage: 'As quick as thinking'. Source: JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit (London: HarperCollins, 1995), p. 67

The smell of a tune

Mick, the young girl who for me is the heart of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, has a passion for music, which she sees and smells as much as hears. See the review of this bestellar, with more touching quotations on how she hears music. ‘In her mind she could remember...

Sleep and scimitars

What a keen metaphor for the bright light piercing of shut-eye night. See the bestellar review complete with a mosaic of illustrated quotations. ‘Then he would drop bluntly into a sleep that lasted until the morning light struck suddenly beneath his opening eyelids...

A chattering cataract

Carson McCullers captures, or creates, an astonishing spectrum of nuance in how people communicate, with voices, faces, bodies. See the bestellar review of this compassionate, touching novel. ‘Talk - talk - talk. The words came out of his throat like a cataract. And...

Music in the inside room

One of the most touching aspects of this novel is the young girl Mick’s reaction to music she has never heard before, Beethoven.  She can barely pronounce his name, but she hears his music with all her senses and the ‘inside room’ of her mind, where she is able to...

Sea-boot rough

Winter sea hoarseness and tight-swallowing soreness. ‘My throat’s as rough as the inside of a sea-boot.’ Source: Arthur Ransome, Secret Water (London: Vintage, 2014 (1939)), p. 201

Maps meet Frankenstein

The re-making of maps as Frankenstein collage. How much havoc has torn harmony apart with such unrelated stitchings together?‘It is an odd accident that Mary Shelley should have been writing Frankenstein just as Prussia was settling into its new territories – a...

Battering-ram power

Nancy is a character with battering-ram energy in all she does, exuberantly seeking opportunities to go to ‘war’ with her friends and family. A warm-hearted warrior tomboy. ‘Nancy ... gave Susan a look as powerful as a battering ram.’ Source: Arthur Ransome, Secret...

Memory of a mistake

That awful dawning when you emerge from innocent sleep and remember something you didn’t do right, and dismay fills the pit of your belly like a cloud billowing in a balloon. ‘There was sunlight outside. Yet he woke with a queer feeling of gloom. It was like waking on...

Flapping not floundering

Living pancakes, flapping not floundering. ‘He emptied the bucket into the creek, and the two little flounders flapped away, like pancakes come to life.’ Source: Arthur Ransome, Secret Water (London: Vintage, 2014 (1939)), p. 183

Sky-breaking storms

Another wet weather image.   We have a single-slope roof which makes the rain sound an inch above one’s head, and Luiz grew up to the sound of metallic tropical rain beating on terracotta roof tiles. ‘One flash followed another and then there were three tremendous...

Stormy tea trays

We’ve had some rotten weather recently, rain-grey clouds rolling over us like dismal tumbleweed, so this resonates. ‘There was a distant rumbling, and then a sudden crash, followed by a clattering as if an iron tea-tray ten miles wide was tumbling down a stone...

Dull as suet pudding

A charming alternative to ‘dull as ditchwater’.   I also like the last affirmative sentence. “Your brother is the most interesting patient I ever had. My patients mostly are as dull as suet puddings ... But your brother is something different altogether, and I’m proud...

Intellect as desert

Prince Albert’s interests outshining his fellow royals to such a stark extent suggests an alarming intellectual aridity. Reminds me of an alleged response by the King on being presented with Edward Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. ‘Another big fat book!...

Europe as clammy climate

Europe’s emerging role in the 18th century signalled like a clammy change in climate... And if you think he gives Europe a hard time, you should see some of his comments about Britain.‘Of course this inpouring of stuff was the basis of the scientific revolution, but...

Germany as jigsaw

This may be the metaphor of the month: I keep imagining the aftermath of an explosion in a jigsaw factory.   And if you have ever struggled, as I am sure you have, to master the complexities of Germany’s statelets and graf-doms before Prussia shook them down into some...

Brain as bathroom shelf

Simon Winder is a favourite historian and the upcoming review of his Germania will show why. He has more original phrasing than most library collections marked ‘History’.   He brings past events, people and places to life and douses you with bracing insights, flushing...

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