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Among the Antimacassars

Alison Light, 11 November 1999

Flush 
by Virginia Woolf, edited by Elizabeth Steele.
Blackwell, 123 pp., £50, December 1998, 0 631 17729 9
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Timbuktu 
by Paul Auster.
Faber, 186 pp., £12.99, June 1999, 0 571 19197 5
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... agents at witchcraft trials, burnt alongside Protestants by Mary Tudor and alongside Catholics by Elizabeth I, roasted at country fairs and persecuted for sport, cats were often given short shrift in Britain. Ancient symbols of fertility, they were commonly deemed lascivious (the female cat was especially lecherous), but feline stand-offishness was the real ...

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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... at the crippling expense of his father-in-law Sir Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, and preserved in the public imagination by Thomas Lant’s pictorial roll, was the grandest accorded to an English subject before Nelson: a determined show of strength by the forward Protestant party to which Sidney had belonged and in whose cause he ...

Mary Swann’s Way

Danny Karlin, 27 September 1990

Jane Fairfax 
by Joan Aiken.
Gollancz, 252 pp., £12.95, September 1990, 0 575 04889 1
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Lady’s Maid 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 536 pp., £13.95, July 1990, 0 7011 3574 3
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Mary Swann 
by Carol Shields.
Fourth Estate, 313 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 1 872180 02 7
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... it does not imply equivalence. Jane is outshone by Emma (so is the other Jane, Jane Bennett, by Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice: as though characters gifted with their creator’s name were relegated to an ironic secondariness); Austen does not make the injustice of Jane’s lot tell against Emma’s privilege as such: rather, it shows up Emma’s misuse ...

Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... about Salisbury Court, the London home in the early 1580s of the French Ambassador to the Court of Elizabeth I, Michel de Castelnau, seigneur de Mauvissière, an establishment described by John Bossy as ‘zany, convivial and leak-ridden’. Bossy asks us to take our places at the dinner table at Salisbury Court in November 1583, ‘as in a late novel by Henry ...

Picassomania

Mary Ann Caws: Roland Penrose’s notebooks, 19 October 2006

Visiting Picasso: The Notebooks and Letters of Roland Penrose 
by Elizabeth Cowling.
Thames and Hudson, 408 pp., £25, May 2006, 0 500 51293 0
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... Picasso liked the mystery, was eager for no one to be sure what he would do next. Told that Joanna Drew, a curator at the Hayward Gallery, had found cocoons huddled in the slits of his Man with a Sheep, Picasso said that at Vauvenargues one day he had felt a wasps’ nest between the sheep’s legs; nothing more natural: animals lurking in the animal. Picasso ...

Winner’s History

Howard Erskine-Hill, 20 August 1981

Some Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution 
by Christopher Hill.
Weidenfeld, 100 pp., £5.95, October 1980, 0 297 77780 7
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The Century of Revolution, 1603-1714 
by Christopher Hill.
Nelson, 296 pp., £5.95, September 1980, 0 17 712002 9
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... Professor Hill’s account slides to and fro from causation to succession. For example: ‘Locke drew on the experiences of the revolutionary decades’ and is thus an ‘intellectual consequence’ of ‘the English Revolution’; and ‘the great revolution in human thought … echoed from England all over Europe … Harrington, Locke, Newton, Hume and ...

The First Consort

Thomas Penn: Philip of Spain, 5 April 2012

Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign 
by Harry Kelsey.
I.B. Tauris, 230 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84885 716 2
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... almost universal scepticism), he seemed sure that his marriage would remain childless. As the year drew on, a flu epidemic worsened, and by the autumn, Mary, sick, childless, depressed, desperate for her husband and mourning the loss of his father, who died on 21 September, was in terminal decline. Philip, preoccupied by events in France, sent an ...

Skinned alive

John Bayley, 25 June 1987

Collected Poems 
by George Barker, edited by Robert Fraser.
Faber, 838 pp., £27.50, May 1987, 0 571 13972 8
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By Grand Central Station I sat down and wept 
by Elizabeth Smart, introduced by Brigid Brophy.
Grafton, 126 pp., £2.50, July 1987, 0 586 02083 7
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... states unchanged; the tormented flesh and the singing head remain separate, even in coincidence. Elizabeth Smart was born in Ottawa in 1913. She was in London before the Second World War and read, in a bookshop, some of George Barker’s poems. She fell for him in print. This was a visitation of love as the ancients knew about it, a sudden incurable and ...

Versatile Monster

Marilyn Butler, 5 May 1988

In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity and 19th-century Writing 
by Chris Baldick.
Oxford, 207 pp., £22.50, December 1987, 0 19 811726 4
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... More than a century before it was filmed, it existed in two rival stage versions. Cartoonists drew it, writers and politicians alluded to it. The plot, rather like the monster, got away from its creator and walked the world. It’s for the range of its significations in changing contexts that Chris Baldick is interested in Frankenstein. ‘This will not ...

From Pandemonium

Elizabeth Cook: Poetry wrested from mud, 1 September 2005

The Poems and Plays of Isaac Rosenberg 
edited by Vivien Noakes.
Oxford, 427 pp., £90, August 2004, 0 19 818715 7
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... The lasting bare body. Soul sack fall away And show what you hold. Just as Rosenberg repeatedly drew and painted himself, so he returned to certain phrases and passages of poetry, examining them, turning them over, squeezing them to extract their meaning. Nothing in his experience was wasted. With the economy of one brought up in poverty, each good ...

Even Purer than Before

Rosemary Hill: Angelica Kauffman, 15 December 2005

Miss Angel: The Art and World of Angelica Kauffman 
by Angelica Goodden.
Pimlico, 389 pp., £17.99, September 2005, 1 84413 758 9
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... Lady Elizabeth Foster sits beneath a tree and avoids our gaze, lost, it seems, in thought. Behind her the Italian countryside is bathed in a warm autumnal light that sets off the delicate white and cream of her softly ruffled dress and fashionable Leghorn hat. She too is fair, her pink and white complexion carefully shaded from the afternoon sun ...

In an Ocean of Elizabeths

Terry Eagleton: Rochester, 23 October 2014

Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester 
by Alexander Larman.
Head of Zeus, 387 pp., £25, July 2014, 978 1 78185 109 8
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... well disposed to transgression. Having fallen in love with a 15-year-old aspiring actor called Elizabeth Malet, but being uncertain of her father’s consent to their marriage, he abducted the young woman, a crime that could be punished by execution. The king had Rochester committed to the Tower, and restored him to favour only after the young nobleman had ...

A Frisson in the Auditorium

Blair Worden: Shakespeare without Drama, 20 April 2017

How Shakespeare Put Politics on the Stage: Power and Succession in the History Plays 
by Peter Lake.
Yale, 666 pp., £25, November 2016, 978 0 300 22271 5
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... the struggles of power and principle he sees reflected in the plays Shakespeare wrote under Queen Elizabeth. The greater part of the book explores the plays about English history: the six King Henry plays and two King Richard plays, which relate the origins and course of the Wars of the Roses, and King John. But there are also extensive discussions of the ...

The Dwarves and the Onion Domes

Ferdinand Mount: Those Pushy Habsburgs, 24 September 2020

The Habsburgs: The Rise and Fall of a World Power 
by Martyn Rady.
Allen Lane, 397 pp., £30, May, 978 0 241 33262 7
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... himself, in his letter to Philip, congratulated the young prince on becoming King of England and drew his attention to the posture of Venus: in his previous Poesia, the scarcely less sensuous Danae was seen from the front; this time, he wanted to vary the composition ‘and show the other side’.While Philip was enjoying the other side, he was also egging ...

How one has enjoyed things

Dinah Birch: Thackeray’s daughter, 2 December 2004

Anny: A Life of Anne Thackeray Ritchie 
by Henrietta Garnett.
Chatto, 322 pp., £18.99, January 2004, 0 7011 7129 4
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... his death she had begun to publish work of her own, including a vigorous novel, The Story of Elizabeth. Thackeray’s endorsement was the ground of an indestructible self-belief. Anny never quite outgrew a submissive dedication to his memory, but his death meant liberation. Her breezy assumption that there would always be enough money, with a little left ...

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