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How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?, 17 March 2016

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... Could Henry VIII have friends? The pertinent anecdote is well known: he walked affectionately with Thomas More, an arm around his neck, but More told his son-in-law: ‘If my head would win him a castle in France … it would not fail to go.’ Charles Brandon fought in showy campaigns to recover those bits of France Henry thought he owned, so he must have ...

All Together Now

Richard Jenkyns, 11 December 1997

Abide with Me: The World of Victorian Hymns 
by Ian Bradley.
SCM, 299 pp., £30, June 1997, 9780334026921
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The English Hymn: A Critical and Historical Study 
by J.R. Watson.
Oxford, 552 pp., £65, July 1997, 0 19 826762 2
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... few hymnodists who have been accepted or half-accepted into the literary canon – George Herbert, Thomas Ken, Watts, Charles Wesley – but many less celebrated names, such as Sir Robert Grant, William Walsham How, William Chatterton Dix: Grant (‘O worship the King, all glorious above’), the Scottish-born English MP who ended his life as Governor of ...

The Animalcule

Nicholas Spice: Little Mr De Quincey, 18 May 2017

Guilty Thing: A Life of Thomas De Quincey 
by Frances Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 397 pp., £25, April 2016, 978 1 4088 3977 5
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... decades of the 19th century, it’s not clear De Quincey would have come to anything. But, as Frances Wilson says, the benefit was reciprocal: ‘De Quincey helped shape a new kind of professional critic and a new literary genre.’ The ephemerality of the periodical essay suited his temperament. The conversational mode of the medium – its informality ...

The Writer and the Valet

Frances Stonor Saunders, 25 September 2014

... citizenship and exile him to ‘his capitalist paradise’. The American Catholic writer and monk Thomas Merton pleaded with the union’s chief, Aleksey Surkov, to reverse the decision, arguing in a letter that Dr Zhivago was far less critical of communism than Khrushchev had been two years earlier in his speech denouncing Stalin at the Twentieth Party ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... in 1566 to the widow Ursula Worseley, with whom he had two children. His sole surviving daughter, Frances, married the poet and Protestant courtier Sir Philip Sidney. Cooper acknowledges the problems these gaps in the record pose to a biographer, but doesn’t shy away from sifting Walsingham’s motives and gauging the nature and depth of his religious ...

What Marlowe would have wanted

Charles Nicholl, 26 November 1987

Faustus and the Censor 
by William Empson, edited by John Henry Jones.
Blackwell, 226 pp., £17.50, September 1987, 0 631 15675 5
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... and early 1590s, the so-called ‘pre-Shakespearean’ period. Not a single play by the sonneteer Thomas Watson remains, though he was described in 1592 as one whose ‘daily practyse and living’ was writing for the theatre. Thomas Nashe certainly wrote for the public playhouses in the early 1590s – his friend Greene ...

Gynaecological Proletarians

Anne Summers, 10 October 1991

The Charge of the Parasols: Women’s Entry to the Medical Profession 
by Catriona Blake.
Women’s Press, 254 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 0 7043 4239 1
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Women under the Knife: A History of Surgery 
by Ann Dally.
Radius, 289 pp., £18.99, April 1991, 9780091745080
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The Science of Woman: Gynaecology and Gender in England, 1800-1929 
by Ornella Moscucci.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £35, April 1991, 0 521 32741 5
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... it flourished in the United States well into the 1920s. In 1891 the eminent British surgeon, Thomas Spencer Wells, expressed his outrage at this state of affairs in images which no contemporary feminist could have bettered. He denounced the ‘gynaecological proletarians’ who performed ovariotomies on unscientific and frivolous grounds: ‘If we hold ...

Feast of Darks

Christine Stansell: Whistler, 23 October 2003

Whistler, Women and Fashion 
by Margaret MacDonald and Susan Grace Galassi et al.
Yale, 243 pp., £35, May 2003, 0 300 09906 1
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Whistler and His Mother: An Unexpected Relationship 
by Sarah Walden.
Gibson Square, 242 pp., £15.99, July 2003, 1 903933 28 5
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... Compared with his closest American contemporaries, John Singer Sargent (also working in England), Thomas Eakins (determinedly homebound) and Mary Cassatt (moving between France and America), Whistler seems lightweight. He possessed neither Sargent’s bravura as a portraitist at the centre of the Anglo-American beau monde nor Eakins’s moral passion at the ...

I ham sorry

Norma Clarke: Poor Lore, 1 August 2019

Writing the Lives of the English Poor, 1750s-1830s 
by Steven King.
McGill, 480 pp., £27.99, February 2019, 978 0 7735 5649 2
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... Frances Soundy​ lived in Battersea. She had several children and a husband who periodically disappeared. Off and on, throughout the 1820s, she wrote to the church wardens and overseers of the parish of Pangbourne in Berkshire asking for money. One son needed shoes, another clothes; the rent was due; debts had mounted ...

With a Da bin ich!

Seamus Perry: Properly Lawrentian, 9 September 2021

Burning Man: The Ascent of D.H. Lawrence 
by Frances Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 488 pp., £25, May, 978 1 4088 9362 3
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... that evokes my most puzzled admiration.’The line about trusting tales appears as an epigraph to Frances Wilson’s vivid and unusual new book. The quotation runs on to Lawrence’s next sentence, which constitutes a peculiar sort of commission: ‘The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.’ Its application to his ...

History is always to hand

Douglas Johnson, 8 December 1988

Notre Siècle: 1918-1988 
by René Rémond.
Fayard, 1012 pp., frs 190, February 1988, 2 213 02039 6
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Histoire de la Vie Privée: De la Première Guerre Mondiale à nos Jours 
edited by Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby.
Seuil, 634 pp., frs 375, May 1988, 2 02 008987 4
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France since the Popular Front: Government and People 1936-1986 
by Maurice Larkin.
Oxford, 435 pp., £30, July 1988, 0 19 873034 9
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France Today 
by John Ardagh.
Penguin, 647 pp., £6.95, June 1988, 0 14 010098 9
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... In his novels, the late Gwyn Thomas used to refer to those who frequented the pubs and cafés of small Welsh towns as ‘the voters’. It would certainly be the way to describe the adult population of France who, last spring, voted twice to elect a President (on 24 April and 8 May) and twice to elect a Parliament (on 5 and 12 June ...
Shakespearean Negotiations: The Circulation of Social Energy in Renaissance England 
by Stephen Greenblatt.
Oxford, 205 pp., £22.50, April 1988, 0 19 812980 7
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Representing the English Renaissance 
edited by Stephen Greenblatt.
California, 372 pp., $42, February 1988, 0 520 06129 2
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... Samuel Harsnett’s A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (also 1603) and Thomas Harriot’s A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia (1588). He claims that a close study of Harsnett allows a re-interpretation of King Lear; that an examination of the Renaissance views of gender, sex and hermaphrodites discussed in ...
A Traitor’s Kiss: The Life of Richard Brinsley Sheridan 
by Fintan O’Toole.
Granta, 516 pp., £20, October 1997, 1 86207 026 1
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Richard Brinsley Sheridan: A Life 
by Linda Kelly.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 366 pp., £25, April 1997, 1 85619 207 5
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Sheridan’s Nightingale: The Story of Elizabeth Linley 
by Alan Chedzoy.
Allison and Busby, 322 pp., £15.99, April 1997, 0 7490 0264 6
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... got the idea of Mrs Malaprop from his mother’s play A Journey to Bath, using the bare bones of Frances Sheridan’s Mrs Tryfort to create a character who exemplifies ‘what happens when the proper use of language is neglected’. Mrs Malaprop is ‘at one and the same time an example of bad language and a pedant’, demanding attention to propriety and ...

Lunacies

Ian Campbell Ross: ‘provincial genius’, 23 October 2003

Hermsprong; or Man as He Is Not 
by Robert Bage, edited by Pamela Perkins.
Broadview, 387 pp., £8.99, March 2002, 1 55111 279 5
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... in 1754, Richardson in 1761, Sterne in 1768 and Smollett in 1771. Among his contemporaries, only Frances Burney was at the height of her powers. Neither Ann Radcliffe, whose Gothic romances would soon enjoy immense popularity, nor the younger radical novelists such as Godwin, Wollstonecraft and Holcroft – with whom Bage is most commonly linked – had yet ...

Gilded Drainpipes

E.S. Turner: London, 10 June 1999

The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present 
by Peter Thorold.
Viking, 374 pp., £25, June 1999, 0 670 87480 9
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The Rise of the Nouveaux Riches: Style and Status in Victorian and Edwardian Architecture 
by Mordaunt Crook.
Murray, 354 pp., £25, May 1999, 0 7195 6040 3
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... addled Mary as the wellhead of wealth scarcely to be imagined is part of legend. To the admirable Thomas Cubitt goes the major credit for replacing Mary’s Thameside swamps with the patrician squares and terraces of Belgravia. Meanwhile John Nash, no foe to the rich, was erecting the haughty villas of Regent’s Park and designing a far finer Regent Street ...

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