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From culture to couture

Penelope Gilliatt

21 February 1985
The ‘Vogue’ Bedside Book 
edited by Josephine Ross.
Hutchinson, 256 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 0 09 158520 1
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The Art of Zandra Rhodes 
by Anne Knight and Zandra Rhodes.
Cape, 240 pp., £18, November 1984, 0 395 37940 7
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... There are three Vogues, published in New York, London and Paris. They are known to Condé Nast people as ‘Vogue’, ‘Brogue’ and ‘Frog’. Their characters have nothing in common. In order of hauteur, Frog is housed in an ambassadorial house in the Place du Palais Bourbon, and has long been edited by a handsome woman of diplomatic family, Edmonde Charles-Roux. When I was Brogue’s features ...

Wholly Given Over to Thee

Anne​ Barton: Literary romance

2 December 2004
The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare 
by Helen Cooper.
Oxford, 560 pp., £65, June 2004, 0 19 924886 9
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... In George Peele’s Elizabethan play The Old Wives’ Tale, a character called Jack interrogates the ‘wandering knight’ Eumenides: ‘Are you not the man, sir (deny it if you can, sir) that came from a strange place in the land of Catita, where Jackanapes flies with his tail in his mouth, to seek out a lady as ...

Medieval Fictions

Stuart Airlie

21 February 1985
Chivalry 
by Maurice Keen.
Yale, 303 pp., £12.95, April 1984, 0 300 03150 5
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The Rise of Romance 
by Eugène Vinaver.
Boydell, 158 pp., £12, February 1984, 0 85991 158 6
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War in the Middle Ages 
by Philippe Contamine, translated by Michael Jones.
Blackwell, 387 pp., £17.50, June 1984, 0 631 13142 6
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War and Government in the Middle Ages 
edited by John Gillingham and J.C. Holt.
Boydell, 198 pp., £25, July 1984, 0 85115 404 2
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Prussian Society and the German Order 
by Michael Burleigh.
Cambridge, 217 pp., £22.50, May 1984, 9780521261043
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... Few images from Medieval Europe are as familiar, or as potent, as that of the armoured knight on horseback, riding off in quest of adventure. It is an image that has inspired varied imaginative treatment down to our own times, in films like John Boorman’s vulgar and energetic epic Excalibur ...

‘I was such a lovely girl’

Barbara Newman: The Songs of the Medieval Troubadours

25 May 2006
Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours 
translated by Ezra Pound, W.D. Snodgrass and Robert Kehew, edited by Robert Kehew.
Chicago, 280 pp., £35, May 2005, 0 226 42933 4
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Medieval Lyric: Middle English Lyrics, Ballads and Carols 
edited by John Hirsh.
Blackwell, 220 pp., £17.99, August 2004, 1 4051 1482 7
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An Anthology of Ancient and Medieval Woman’s Song 
edited by Anne​ Klinck.
Palgrave, 208 pp., £19.99, May 2004, 9781403963109
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... the major genres of troubadour lyric are included: the canso or high courtly love song; the narrative romance; the alba or dawn song (‘parting is such sweet sorrow’); the pastorela, in which a knight tries to seduce a shepherdess; the sirventes or protest song; and the tenso or debate poem, a genre favoured by the small but distinguished band of trobairitz or women poets. Of the translators, all ...

Docility Rampant

Margaret Anne​ Doody

31 October 1996
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu: Romance Writings 
edited by Isobel Grundy.
Oxford, 276 pp., £14.50, August 1996, 0 19 812288 8
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... dictates – obedient to the fetish of obedience. Matters go no better in the last part of the narrative. Trying to rejoin her estranged husband, Docile is captured by corsairs but delivered by the Knight of Malta, an accomplished libertine-philosopher who is pleased to find out that she is not a virgin: ‘Il faut un siècle pour les vaincre, et deux autres pour s’en defaire.’ We are learning to ...

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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... On​ their West Country progress in the summer of 1535, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Thornbury Castle near Bristol. Thornbury is an upmarket hotel now, a popular choice for guests working through their bucket list. Now that every narrative is a ‘journey ...

None of it is your material

Madeleine Schwartz: What Zelda Did

18 April 2019
Save Me the Waltz 
by Zelda Fitzgerald.
Handheld Press, 268 pp., £12.99, January 2019, 978 1 9998280 4 2
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... more drinking and more affairs, but decades after Zelda’s death in a North Carolina asylum, her cult is teeming with new acolytes. Christina Ricci just played her in an adaptation of Therese Anne Fowler’s Z (costumes were the real stars there, especially Ricci’s big brown merkin). Jennifer Lawrence has been linked to an upcoming biopic, as has Scarlett Johansson. Unusual biopics, of ...

The Limits of Chivalry

Caroline Weber: Courtly Love

23 January 2014
Queens and Mistresses of Renaissance France 
by Kathleen Wellman.
Yale, 433 pp., £30, July 2013, 978 0 300 17885 2
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...  Isolde and Guinevere both had husbands – while safeguarding and even strengthening a courtly couple’s moral fibre by imposing on the man an ethos of chivalrous courtesy. When a lovestruck knight like Lancelot or Tristan pledged fealty to his lady, as a vassal would to a feudal lord, he undertook to serve her selflessly, asking for no recompense save the privilege of adoring her. Precisely ...
22 December 1983
The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... the passage of a resolution at the 1981 Labour Party Conference endorsing Labour councillors’ actions in defying Conservative legislation. ‘Why should the workers obey Tory law?’ thundered Ted Knight to enthusiastic applause. Ever since, Gerald Kaufman, as Environment Spokesman, has been trying to forget it. The other important contribution the book makes is in describing, from the point of view ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Fashion photography

23 September 2004
... there was the problem of how to dramatise something as simple as a girl in a new frock. One way to make it look extraordinary was to find an unexpected location. In a 1940s photograph Parkinson has Anne Chambers, who models a tight-waisted suit, crocodile handbag and neat bonnet, standing in a grimy alley. She looks down at a toy pistol, doubtless the property of the street kids in the background ...

Blush, grandeur, blush

Norma Clarke: One of the first bluestockings

16 December 2004
Hannah More: The First Victorian 
by Anne​ Stott.
Oxford, 384 pp., £20, September 2004, 0 19 927488 6
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... to her ‘exemplary eminence’. Among Hannah More’s temptations had been the glitter of worldly success. She was ambitious for literary fame, and adored the theatre. Bouncy and excitable – Anne Stott describes her at the age of 18 as ‘a practised and persistent attention-seeker’ – she wrote pastoral verse drama for performance by schoolgirls and helped produce plays at Bristol’s ...
21 January 1988
Jane Austen: Her Life 
by Park Honan.
Weidenfeld, 452 pp., £16.95, October 1987, 0 297 79217 2
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... owners and the energy of modern scholars, we have increasing access to letters exchanged among other members of her family and her circle of acquaintance. Those of Eliza de Feuillide and Fanny Knight (and the latter’s diaries), to which Park Honan draws attention, are of particular interest; and others like them may yet be found. The discovery of the play Sir Charles Grandison, or The Happy Man ...

Turning Turk

Robert Blake

20 August 1981
The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain. Vol. 1: The 19th Century 
by Stephen Koss.
Hamish Hamilton, 455 pp., £20, May 1981, 0 241 10561 7
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... restrictions dated back to 1712. In the early 18th century journalism was vituperative, venomous and virulent, as well as being frequently obscene and licentious. The reigns of William III and Queen Anne were marked by intense political partisanship, and the language used in attacks on government and parliament provoked retaliation. The Stamp Duty Act of that year caused Swift to lament ‘that all ...

Whig Dreams

Margaret Anne​ Doody

27 February 1992
A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain 
by Daniel Defoe, edited by P.N. Furbank and W.R. Owens.
Yale, 423 pp., £19.95, July 1991, 0 300 04980 3
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James Thomson: A Life 
by James Sambrook.
Oxford, 332 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 19 811788 4
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... engaged in a peculiar courtship of Elizabeth Young. Sambrook says ‘hardly anything is known about Elizabeth Young’; her brother-in-law thought her ‘a fine sensible woman’. Lady Philippina Knight left the following description: ‘Thomson was a very passionate man. It has been told me that his amiable Amanda ... and him one evening disagreeing, she pulled off his wig and threw it on the ...

Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs

James Davidson: Why would a guy want to marry a guy?

2 June 2005
The Friend 
by Alan Bray.
Chicago, 380 pp., £28, September 2003, 0 226 07180 4
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... of the state, and the manicure of an Egyptian pharaoh of the middle of the third millennium BCE. Alongside the monuments Bray presents and describes are some startling texts. On 12 February 1834, Anne Lister recorded in her diary her plans to solemnise her union with Ann Walker: ‘She is to give me a ring & I her one in token of our union.’ Their relationship ‘would be as good as a marriage ...

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