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Brave as hell

John Kerrigan

21 June 1984
Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... biographical novel full of sugared sack and bawdry, with sombre undertones of decay. Taking literally the references in Shakespeare’s sonnets to a mistress ‘black as hell’, Burgess made the Dark Lady of his story a voluptuous East Indian who, after seducing the dramatist, inspired the tragic plays of his maturity by giving him a dose of syphilis. ...

This Trying Time

A.N. Wilson: John Sparrow

1 October 1998
The Warden 
by John Lowe.
HarperCollins, 258 pp., £19.99, August 1998, 0 00 215392 0
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... it died’. Sparrow was a man who appeared to have had every girt handed him by the gods: unshakeable homosexuality – no pram in the hall to make war on his early promise; brutal, but stunning handsomeness; an exact and dogged intelligence, and a delight in arguing impossible positions ...
22 February 1990
A Good German: Adam von Trott zu Solz 
by Giles MacDonogh.
Quartet, 358 pp., £17.95, January 1990, 0 7043 2730 9
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... in East Prussia and detonated it. This is because from 1931 to 1933 Trott was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College and made a tremendous impression on his contemporaries and seniors at Oxford. He made friends with men and women who were to become, or beginning to be, what the Germans call prominente. Among them were Richard ...

Haleking

John Bossy: Simon Forman

22 February 2001
The Notorious Astrological Physician of London: Works and Days of Simon Forman 
by Barbara Howard Traister.
Chicago, 260 pp., £19, February 2001, 0 226 81140 9
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Dr Simon Forman: A Most Notorious Physician 
by Judith Cook.
Chatto, 228 pp., £18.99, January 2001, 0 7011 6899 4
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... Twenty-five years ago A.L. Rowse, whose memory becomes more blessed in an age of research assessment exercises, made known to the world the riveting personality of the Elizabethan and Jacobean astrologer, private-enterprise medical practitioner, counsellor, sexual athlete and compulsive writer Simon Forman. Forman’s voluminous papers, case-notes, diaries and all sorts of other writings had been in the Bodleian Library since Elias Ashmole presented them in the late 17th century ...

Grisly Creed

Patrick Collinson: John Wyclif

22 February 2007
John Wyclif: Myth and Reality 
by G.R. Evans.
Lion, 320 pp., £20, October 2005, 0 7459 5154 6
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... In about 1950, A.L. Rowse persuaded K.B. McFarlane to contribute to his biographical series ‘Teach Yourself History’ a short book on John Wyclif, an Oxford intellectual dead for six hundred years and the only arch-heretic bred in Catholic England before the Tudors and the Reformation ...

Literary Man

J.I.M. Stewart

7 June 1984
Hilaire Belloc 
by A.N. Wilson.
Hamish Hamilton, 398 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 241 11176 5
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... determined: but certainly not with the help of Belloc’s mother, an Englishwoman who was born a little more than fourteen years later. In The Cruise of the Nona, however, Belloc declares that ‘time and again’ in childhood he was told the story of the fall of the Bastille by an eye-witness who was a close friend of ...

Casual Offenders

J.S. Morrill

7 May 1981
The Justice and the Mare’s Ale 
by Alan Macfarlane.
Blackwell, 238 pp., £8.50, March 1981, 0 631 12681 3
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... Alan Macfarlane likes to shock historians out of their complacency and out of a narrow preoccupation with their own period or their own mode of historical study. He is a professionally-trained historian and a professionally-trained anthropologist and his approach is truly interdisciplinary rather than multidisciplinary ...

Diary

Karl Miller: Football Tribes

1 June 1989
... Football, and football violence, go back a long way in this country, to a distant past of tribal conflict – family against family, clan against clan, ain folk against the world. They are to be found in the Middle Ages among the fighting families of the Anglo-Scottish Border, as George MacDonald Fraser’s book The Steel Bonnets makes clear ...

Battle of Britain

Patrick O’Brian

7 July 1988
The Spanish Armada 
by Colin Martin and Geoffrey Parker.
Hamish Hamilton, 296 pp., £15, April 1988, 0 241 12125 6
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Armada 1588-1988 
by M.J. Rodriguez-Salgado.
Penguin and the National Maritime Museum, 295 pp., £12.95, April 1988, 0 14 010301 5
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Armada: A Celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Defeat of the Spanish Armada 1588-1988 
by Peter Padfield.
Gollancz, 208 pp., £14.95, April 1988, 0 575 03729 6
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Froude’s ‘Spanish Story of the Armada’, and Other Essays 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Sutton, 262 pp., £5.95, May 1988, 0 86299 500 0
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Ireland’s Armada Legacy 
by Laurence Flanagan.
Sutton, 210 pp., £9.95, April 1988, 9780862994730
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The Armada in the Public Records 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
HMSO, 76 pp., £5.95, April 1988, 0 11 440215 9
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The Spanish Armada: The Experience of War in 1588 
by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto.
Oxford, 300 pp., £14.95, June 1988, 0 19 822926 7
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... All these books are concerned with what the Spaniards once called the Felicissima Armada and what the English still, with a quiet smile, call the Invincible Armada (apparently it was Burleigh who first thought of the word, shortly after the event ...

Diary

Keith Thomas: Working Methods

10 June 2010
... Patrick Collinson reveals that when as a young man he was asked by the medievalist Geoffrey Barraclough at a job interview what his research method was, all he could say was that he tried to look at everything which was remotely relevant to his subject: ‘I had no “method”, only an omnium gatherum of materials culled ...

Termagant

Ian Gilmour: The Cliveden Set

19 October 2000
The Cliveden Set: Portrait of an Exclusive Fraternity 
by Norman Rose.
Cape, 277 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 06093 7
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... the strongly anti-Nazi head of the Foreign Office in the 1930s put it, ‘Lothian was an incurably superficial Johnny-Know-All.’ In 1938, A.L. Rowse, who knew him at All Souls, went further, pillorying Lothian as ‘Britain’s public enemy ...

And Cabbages Too

Patrick Collinson: The Tudors

22 March 2001
New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603 
by Susan Brigden.
Allen Lane, 434 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9067 8
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... titles of the textbooks which have defined the period for the late 20th-century successors of Macaulay’s ‘every schoolboy’ tell their own story: Tudor England (S.T. Bindoff, 1950), England Under the Tudors (G.R. Elton, 1955), Tudor England again (John Guy, 1988), branding the age – see J.A. Williamson’s The Tudor Age (1953) – with the logo of the ...
13 November 1997
The Fall and Rise of the Stately Home 
by Peter Mandler.
Yale, 523 pp., £19.95, April 1997, 0 300 06703 8
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Ancient as the Hills 
by James Lees-Milne.
Murray, 228 pp., £20, July 1997, 0 7195 5596 5
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The Fate of the English Country House 
by David Littlejohn.
Oxford, 344 pp., £20, May 1997, 9780195088762
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... have old houses which are open to the public. But neither the châteaux of the Loire nor the Palladian villas of the Brenta nor the antebellum homes of Natchez can offer the spectacle of an ancient house, set in its own gardens and park, surrounded by its agricultural estates, crammed with furniture, books and paintings ...

A Cheat, a Sharper and a Swindler

Brian Young: Warren Hastings

24 May 2001
Dawning of the Raj: The Life and Trials of Warren Hastings 
by Jeremy Bernstein.
Aurum, 319 pp., £19.99, March 2001, 1 85410 753 4
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... Early in his career as the first Governor-General of the East India Company in Bengal, Warren Hastings instituted an annual dinner for fellow old boys of Westminster School. He paced his own contribution to these occasions superbly; while other ‘Westminsters’ drank to potentially dangerous degrees of excess in a forbidding climate, the abstemious Hastings consumed only small quantities of diluted wine along with many glasses of water ...

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