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Booze and Fags

Christopher Hitchens, 12 March 1992

Tobacco: A History 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Radius, 249 pp., £18.99, December 1991, 0 09 174216 1
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The Faber Book of Drink, Drinkers and Drinking 
edited by Simon Rae.
Faber, 554 pp., £15.99, November 1991, 0 571 16229 0
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... school up the road – ever saw, and I appreciated it. Round a corner or two in Petty Cury was King Street, where there stood a rank of pubs. A rite of passage in those days was to inhale a pint of suds in each within the space of an hour – the ‘King Street run’ – without puking, or without puking until the ...

Rat-Catchers, Dog-Butchers

Jessie Childs: England under Siege, 6 January 2022

Devil-Land: England under Siege, 1588-1688 
by Clare Jackson.
Allen Lane, 682 pp., £35, September 2021, 978 0 241 28581 7
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... blood: the shocking execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587 and the debilitating nosebleeds of James II, which prevented him from defending his crown at Salisbury against William, his son-in-law as well as his nephew. The caesura comes on 30 January 1649 with the public execution of Charles I. A Dutch pamphleteer punned that the English (Anglorum) could no ...

That sh—te Creech

James Buchan: The Scottish Enlightenment, 5 April 2007

The Enlightenment and the Book: Scottish Authors and Their Publishers in 18th-Century Britain, Ireland and America 
by Richard Sher.
Chicago, 815 pp., £25.50, February 2007, 978 0 226 75252 5
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... In March 1776, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson visited Pembroke College, Oxford and called on the master, William Adams. According to Richard Sher, Boswell wrote in his journal how dismayed he had been to see in the master’s library a copy of the quarto edition of David Hume’s Essays and Treatises on Several Subjects of 1758, handsomely bound in morocco leather ...

Miserable Creatures

C.H. Sisson, 2 August 1984

The Collected Letters of Thomas Hardy. Vol. IV: 1909-1913 
edited by Richard Little Purdy and Michael Millgate.
Oxford, 337 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 19 812621 2
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. IV: 1792-1799 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 498 pp., £48, March 1984, 0 19 812681 6
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The Land and Literature of England: A Historical Account 
by Robert M. Adams.
Norton, 555 pp., £21, March 1984, 0 393 01704 4
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The Complete Poetical Works of Thomas Hardy. Vol. II 
edited by Samuel Hynes.
Oxford, 543 pp., £35, June 1984, 0 19 812783 9
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... contains the variant readings, with such minute differences of presentation, as compared with James Gibson’s Variorum, as only the aficionado will wish to pore over. The printing, paper and production are in the best style of the Press; the Explanatory Notes are on a discreet scale. It cannot be said that Hardy’s works are of a kind which benefits ...

Rigging and Bending

Simon Adams: James VI & I, 9 October 2003

The Cradle KingA Life of James VI & I 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 438 pp., £20, February 2003, 0 7011 6984 2
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... Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded in 1587. English observers, anxious about James VI of Scotland’s reaction to his mother’s execution, were alarmed to discover that the greatest of the Scottish Catholic peers, George Gordon, Sixth Earl of Huntly, was rapidly becoming his chief confidant. In 1588 James arranged Huntly’s marriage to Henrietta Stuart, daughter of his former favourite the Duke of Lennox, thus admitting him into the wider royal family ...

The Last Witness

Colm Tóibín: The career of James Baldwin, 20 September 2001

... On 1 February 2001 eight writers came to pay homage to James Baldwin in the Lincoln Center in New York. The event was booked out and there were people standing outside desperately looking for tickets. The audience was strange; in general in New York an audience is either young or old (in the Lincoln Center, mainly old), black or white (in the Lincoln Center, almost exclusively white), gay or straight (in the Lincoln Center it is often hard to tell ...

Rough Wooing

Michael Brown: Flodden, 23 January 2014

Fatal Rivalry: Flodden 1513 
by George Goodwin.
Weidenfeld, 288 pp., £20, July 2013, 978 0 297 86739 5
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... Five hundred years ago, in autumn 1513, James IV, one of the most effective and attractive of Scotland’s rulers, led an army of unusual size and quality into northern England. The young Henry VIII had embarked on a military expedition in northern France, and Scotland responded to French calls for aid by invading England ...


James Wood: Speaking our Minds, 1 June 2000

... moment, for instance, in All’s Well that Ends Well, when Bertram is first introduced to the King of France. Instead of receiving Bertram in the usual way, and asking after him, the King starts reminiscing about Bertram’s father, whom he obviously loved:      Youth, thou bear’st thy father’s face; Frank ...

Friend to Sir Philip Sidney

Blair Worden, 3 July 1986

The Prose Works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke 
edited by John Gouws.
Oxford, 279 pp., £40, March 1986, 0 19 812746 4
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... Castle, a plain inscription remembering him as ‘Servant to Queen Elizabeth, Councillor to King James, and Friend to Sir Philip Sidney’. Greville’s life of Sidney, written in the earlier part of James’s reign, is a study in failure. ‘He never was magistrate, nor possessed of any fit stage for eminence to ...

Break their teeth, O God

Colin Kidd: The Trial of Sacheverell, 21 August 2014

Faction Displayed: Reconsidering the Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Mark Knights.
Wiley-Blackwell, 132 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 1 4443 6187 2
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The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Brian Cowan.
Wiley-Blackwell, 307 pp., £22.99, November 2012, 978 1 4443 3223 0
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... with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom’. This was the primary reason King James II was forced out and replaced by reliably Protestant co-rulers, William and Mary. This Revolution brought in its train several other constitutional changes. Within two decades the succession had been diverted through the Act of Settlement ...

Glimpsed in the Glare

Michael Neill: Shakespeare in 1606, 17 December 2015

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 423 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 0 571 23578 0
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... imperative of Greenblatt’s opening sentence: ‘Let us imagine that Shakespeare … ’ James Shapiro has no truck with such surmise. Though he too is plagued by the biographer’s hankering to enter the playwright’s mind – ‘to know … what his political views were, whom he loved, how good a father, husband and friend he was, what he did with ...


Antonia Fraser, 3 April 1980

The House of Stuart 
by Maurice Ashley.
Dent, 237 pp., £9.95, January 1980, 0 460 04458 3
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... constantly enriched by marriages to people of interesting and, as it turned out, dominant blood. James V of Scotland, for example – now there was a Tudor, if anyone can be said to justify the epithet. The grandson of Henry VII, the nephew of Henry VIII (his mother was the Tudor Princess Margaret), he began his personal rule by polishing off the enemies of ...

Schlepping around the Flowers

James Meek: Bees, 4 November 2004

The Hive: The Story of the Honey-Bee and Us 
by Bee Wilson.
Murray, 308 pp., £14.99, September 2004, 0 7195 6409 3
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... laziest members. In ancient Egypt there was a bee hieroglyph which meant both ‘Egypt’ and ‘king’. Seneca tried to persuade Nero of the virtue of clemency by pointing out, incorrectly, that the ‘king’ bee had no sting. That Nero ignored his advice to the extent of ordering Seneca to commit suicide only ...


James Lasdun, 24 February 1994

... I stare outside. Impossible to sleep, think, work; Into my mind a memory comes: Another oak, the King Charles oak That stood in our garden at home; Survivor of summer lightning and winter storms, The humps on its thick trunk bulging Like muscles under the weight of its limbs. One year half the buds withered Before they’d opened. The rest stayed sickly ...

Exact Walking

Christopher Hill, 19 June 1980

Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 
by R.T. Kendall.
Oxford, 252 pp., £12.50, February 1980, 0 19 826716 9
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... Puritans like Cartwright and Perkins (though Dr Kendall would not call him a Puritan), later King James I, all agreed on the essentials of theology. This orthodoxy was challenged by Laudians in the 1630s, by sectaries in the Forties and Fifties. By the end of the century, Calvinism was no longer the intellectual force it had been. It was not ...

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