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The Sultan and I

Anthony Howard, 1 June 1989

By God’s Will: A Portrait of the Sultan of Brunei 
by Lord Chalfont.
Weidenfeld, 200 pp., £14.95, May 1989, 0 297 79628 3
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The Richest Man in the World: The Sultan of Brunei 
by James Bartholomew.
Viking, 199 pp., £12.95, April 1989, 0 670 82152 7
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... biographies serves to emphasise what a serious lapse of knowledge that had been on my part. James Bartholomew’s, it is true, qualifies as an almost satirical study, but it would hardly have much point if its subject was not already an identifiable character in the international cast of the rich and the super-rich. The Sultan’s fortune, we are ...

Bowling along

Kitty Hauser: The motorist who first saw England, 17 March 2005

In Search of H.V. Morton 
by Michael Bartholomew.
Methuen, 248 pp., £18.99, April 2004, 0 413 77138 5
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... expertly on existing myths of national identity and history. Not until now, however, with Michael Bartholomew’s biography, has much been known about Morton. Bartholomew’s book is an unexpectedly enlightening read. It turns out that the narrator of Morton’s travel books was an invention of their author, whose own ...

Saints on Sundays, Devils All the Week After

Patrick Collinson: London Burnings, 19 September 2002

The Antichrist’s Lewd Hat: Protestants, Papists and Players in Post-Reformation England 
by Peter Lake and Michael Questier.
Yale, 731 pp., £30, February 2002, 0 300 08884 1
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... twice. But he was sufficiently streetwise in the ways of the Court to make it, eventually, with James I, and in the ways of the street to write Bartholomew Fair (a chapter on this play, along with The Alchemist, and another on Measure for Measure, is the prize which awaits us inside all the wrappings, at the end of this ...

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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... of the medieval hive was fealty, not piety or chastity. The 13th-century bestiary of Bartholomew spoke of a ‘king bee’ being waited on and defended by serf bees, esquire bees and knight bees, and going forth from the hive only in the company of a swarm of vassal bees. The king bee was evidently superior to the other bees because it was ...

The Tribe of Ben

Blair Worden: Ben Jonson, 11 October 2012

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by Ian Donaldson.
Oxford, 533 pp., £25, October 2011, 978 0 19 812976 9
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The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson 
edited by David Bevington, Martin Butler and Ian Donaldson.
Cambridge, 5224 pp., £650, July 2012, 978 0 521 78246 3
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... won a new status for authorship, to befit the moral and educative role he claimed for it. Under James I the former bricklayer and soldier and brawler and convict, the one-time mediocre actor and hack adapter of other people’s plays, became the royal laureate, the friend of courtiers, diplomats and MPs, the honorand of universities. He was Britain’s ...

Look me in the eye

James Hall: Self-portraiture, 25 January 2001

The Artist's Body 
edited by Tracey Warr and Amelia Jones.
Phaidon, 304 pp., £39.95, July 2000, 0 7148 3502 1
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Five Hundred Self-Portraits 
edited by Julian Bell.
Phaidon, 528 pp., £19.95, November 2000, 0 7148 3959 0
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Renaissance Self-Portraiture 
by Joanna Woods-Marsden.
Yale, 285 pp., £45, October 1998, 0 300 07596 0
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... date from late in his career, and are self-portraits by proxy. According to Vasari, St Bartholomew in the Last Judgment and Nicodemus in the Florentine Pietà were furnished with approximations of his own physiognomy. The almost total eclipse of the sculpted self-portrait between the 16th and the 19th centuries is mysterious. The 15th century, as ...

Unusual Endowments

Patrick Collinson, 30 March 2000

Philip Sidney: A Double Life 
by Alan Stewart.
Chatto, 400 pp., £20, February 2000, 0 7011 6859 5
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... carried the title of baron. But by the end of the month he was caught up in the Massacre of St Bartholomew, a cowering refugee in the English Embassy; whence he was rescued by a French nobleman who thought it amusing to take him with other voyeurs to inspect the mangled corpse of Admiral Coligny, lying where it had fallen on the cobbles. By this time he ...


Gary Taylor, 7 January 1993

Shakespeare: The Later Years 
by Russell Fraser.
Columbia, 380 pp., $35, April 1992, 0 231 06766 6
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Shakespeare: His Life, Work and Era 
by Dennis Kay.
Sidgwick, 368 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 283 99878 4
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William Shakespeare: The Anatomy of an Enigma 
by Peter Razzell.
Caliban, 188 pp., May 1992, 1 85066 010 7
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Politics, Plague and Shakespeare’s Theatre: The Stuart Years 
by Leeds Barroll.
Cornell, 249 pp., £20.80, January 1992, 0 8014 2479 8
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Shakespeare Verbatim: The Reproduction of Authenticity and the 1790 Apparatus 
by Margreta de Grazia.
Oxford, 244 pp., £30, February 1991, 0 19 811778 7
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... account of the court’s attitude to popular drama. It has become orthodox to assert that James I tied the theatre much more closely to the state than had Elizabeth I, increasing its prestige while decreasing its independence. Barroll demolishes this hypothesis, systematically and irresistibly. James’s own ...

My Feet Are Cut Off

Barbara Newman: Lives of the Saints, 3 December 2009

Gilte Legende Vol. I 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 496 pp., £65, November 2006, 0 19 920577 9
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Gilte Legende Vol. II 
edited by Richard Hamer and Vida Russell.
Early English Text Society (Oxford), 1036 pp., £65, August 2007, 978 0 19 923439 4
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... martyrs, featuring 81 types of torture in all, from the barbecued St Lawrence to the skinned St Bartholomew, who is said in different versions to have been crucified upside down, flayed alive and beheaded. Jacobus opts for all three. Often it is only after a long series of torments have failed to dispatch a saint that the executioners cut off his head. The ...

Austere and Manly Attributes

Patrick Collinson, 3 April 1997

The Sound of Virtue: Philip Sidney’s ‘Arcadia’ and Elizabethan Politics 
by Blair Worden.
Yale, 406 pp., £40, October 1996, 0 300 06693 7
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... and the rights and wrongs of resistance to it were most widely discussed – the legacy of the St Bartholomew Massacre and other chilling events. 1579 saw the publication of both Buchanan’s De iure regni apud Scotos and Vindiciae contra tyrannos, in which Sidney’s mentor, the international Protestant statesman Hubert Languet (almost ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... towards fairy tale, in ways Ben Jonson, for one, found embarrassing: in 1614, in the induction to Bartholomew Fair, Jonson promised that his play would not include a ‘servant-monster’ like Caliban, and he ridiculed The Two Noble Kinsmen in the play itself. In ‘An Ode on Himself’, 15 years later, Jonson was still lamenting that theatre audiences ...

Despairing Radicals

Blair Worden, 25 June 1992

Sir Philip Sidney: Courtier Poet 
by Katherine Duncan-Jones.
Hamish Hamilton, 350 pp., £20, September 1991, 0 241 12650 9
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Algernon Sidney and the Restoration Crisis 
by Jonathan Scott.
Cambridge, 406 pp., £40, October 1991, 0 521 35291 6
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Algernon Sidney and the Republican Heritage 
by Alan Craig Houston.
Princeton, 335 pp., £22.50, November 1991, 0 691 07860 2
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Milton’s ‘History of Britain’: Republican Historiography in the English Revolution 
by Nicholas von Maltzahn.
Oxford, 244 pp., £32.50, November 1991, 0 19 812897 5
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... that were ‘built to envious show’ amidst the riot of competitive expenditure in the reign of James I. The Sidneys never had the money to spoil their inheritance, which survives as a glorious muddle of a house, centred on an enchanting Medieval hall and sprawling out into its Renaissance and later additions. Jonson’s poem makes virtues of the family’s ...

No Longer Merely the Man Who Ate His Boots

Thomas Jones: The Northwest Passage, 27 May 2010

Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage 
by Glyn Williams.
Allen Lane, 440 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 84614 138 6
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Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation 
by Andrew Lambert.
Faber, 428 pp., £20, July 2009, 978 0 571 23160 7
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... that the land of the giants wasn’t really there. That changed with the voyages of Vitus Bering, James Cook and George Vancouver, who between 1728 and 1794 mapped out most of the west coast of Canada and Alaska. They were looking for a strait and an inland sea supposedly discovered by Juan de Fuca and Bartholomew de Fonte ...

A Keen Demand for Camberwells

Rosemary Hill: Location, Location, Location, 21 March 2019

Marketable Values: Inventing the Property Market in Modern Britain 
by Desmond Fitz-Gibbon.
Chicago, 240 pp., £79, January 2019, 978 0 226 58416 4
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... often left something to be desired, and so, gradually, dedicated auction houses began to appear. James Christie opened a saleroom in Pall Mall in 1766, and a nearby bookseller called Samuel Baker founded what became Sotheby’s, but the boom came with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Bonham’s was founded in 1793, Phillips’s in 1796, and by ...

How to Serve Coffee

Rory Stewart: Aleppan Manners, 16 February 2017

Aleppo Observed: Ottoman Syria through the Eyes of Two Scottish Doctors, Alexander and Patrick Russell 
by Maurits H. van den Boogert.
Arcadian Library, 254 pp., £120, September 2015, 978 0 19 958856 5
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... French gem-hunter Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in 1640 – ‘not very handsome’, or, in the words of Bartholomew Plaisted in 1752, ‘very disagreeable to Europeans’. In 1898, Baedeker simply told tourists that they ‘present an unpleasing exterior’. The ‘two Scottish doctors’, Alexander and Patrick Russell, explained in 1792 that it was particularly ...

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