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Silly Willy

Jonathan Bate

25 April 1991
William Blake: His Life 
by James King.
Weidenfeld, 263 pp., £25, March 1991, 0 297 81160 6
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... through the ‘shaping spirit of imagination’, has penetrated the world, and is slowly remaking it, few are conscious of the first utterer, in modern times, of the message with which all are familiar. Thought today, wherever it is most individual, owes either force or direction to Nietzsche, and thus we see, on our topmost towers, the Philistine armed ...

How good is it?

Diarmaid MacCulloch: Inside the KJB

3 February 2011
The Holy Bible: King James Version, 1611 Text 
edited by Gordon Campbell.
Oxford, 1552 pp., £50, October 2010, 978 0 19 955760 8
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Bible: The Story of the King James Version 1611-2011 
by Gordon Campbell.
Oxford, 354 pp., £16.99, October 2010, 978 0 19 955759 2
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The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today 
by David Norton.
Cambridge, 218 pp., £14.99, January 2011, 978 0 521 61688 1
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The King James Bible after 400 Years: Literary, Linguistic and Cultural Influences 
edited by Hannibal Hamlin and Norman Jones.
Cambridge, 364 pp., £25, December 2010, 978 0 521 76827 6
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Begat: The King James Bible and the English Language 
by David Crystal.
Oxford, 327 pp., £14.99, September 2010, 978 0 19 958585 4
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... The quatercentenary commemorative King James Bible (KJB) sits on my desk as I write: a satisfying artefact in its chocolate livery enriched by opulently gilded top, tail and fore edges, with stout chocolate slipcase to match, impressive in its folio bulk, though not nearly as bulky as the originals of 1611, which needed a sturdy lectern to bear them, announcing their presence with a swagger equal to the most majestic of England’s medieval church buildings ...

Castaway

Roy Porter

4 March 1982
The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. I: 1750-1781 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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The Poems of William Cowper: Vol. 1 1748-1782 
edited by John Baird and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 500 pp., £25, September 1980, 0 19 811875 9
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The Letters and Prose Writings of William Cowper. Vol. II: 1782-1786 
edited by James King and Charles Ryskamp.
Oxford, 640 pp., £27.50, June 1979, 0 19 811863 5
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... He attempted suicide, but was reprieved time and again by ‘an invisible hand’. Sinking under guilt and wretchedness, he achieved the breakdown he had been seeking, and was confined within Dr Cotton’s collegium insanorum at St Albans. An extreme reaction. But the seeds of Cowper’s nervous inadequacy had ...

Praise Yah

Eliot Weinberger: The Psalms

24 January 2008
The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 518 pp., £22, October 2007, 978 0 393 06226 7
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... valley of the shadow of death; make a joyful noise; go from strength to strength . . . The 1611 King James Authorised Version of the Book of Psalms – and of course of the entire Bible – is so deep in the English language that we no longer know when we are repeating its phrases. Inextricable from the beliefs and practices of its faithful for four ...

Naming Britain

Alasdair Gray

27 May 2010
... Pytheas to Atlantic navigation. His boat, oar-propelled with one square sail like those in which Vikings cruised to America, found an archipelago. From a tribe there he took a name for it used in a Greek geography book a name that Romans spelled BRITANIA, but during and after the Roman occupation Britain was never the name of a single nation. Only Wales could ...

Royal Panic Attack

Colin Kidd: James VI and I

16 June 2011
King James VI and I and His English Parliaments 
by Conrad Russell, edited by Richard Cust and Andrew Thrush.
Oxford, 195 pp., £55, February 2011, 978 0 19 820506 7
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... Exclusion Crisis of 1679, the attempt to exclude Charles II’s Roman Catholic heir presumptive, James, Duke of York, from the throne. In the political dramas of the 1680s the Russell dynasty produced two of the iconic figures of English Whig mythology: the Whig martyr William, Lord Russell, and one of the Immortal Seven who in 1688 invited William of Orange ...

Things the King Liked to Hear

Blair Worden: Donne and Milton’s Prose

18 June 2014
Sermons of John Donne Vol. III: Sermons Preached at the Court of Charles I 
edited by David Colclough.
Oxford, 521 pp., £125, November 2013, 978 0 19 956548 1
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Complete Works of John Milton Vol. VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings 
edited by N.H. Keeble and Nicholas McDowell.
Oxford, 811 pp., £125, December 2013, 978 0 19 921805 9
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... and who turned to the church only as the next best thing. It seems to have been at the behest of King James I, who valued the theological learning in which Donne was proficient, that he opted for ordination. Certainly the decision was in keeping with the spirit of a royal entourage where scholarly divinity mingled easily with worldly complaisance. He ...
3 July 1997
The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605 
by Antonia Fraser.
Weidenfeld, 347 pp., £20, August 1996, 9780297813484
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... In the spring of 1604, the English were adjusting to the arrival of King James from Scotland, attending to the doings of his first Parliament, and awaiting the arrival of envoys from the King of Spain to negotiate an end to twenty years of war. Peace, even with the Scots, was in the air ...

Ye must all be alike

Catherine Gallagher

27 January 1994
Writing Women in Jacobean England 
by Barbara Kiefer Lewalski.
Harvard, 431 pp., £35.95, February 1993, 0 674 96242 7
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... The reign of James I has long been considered a period in which patriarchal orthodoxy revived in an especially virulent form to counteract 45 years of female rule. Barbara Kiefer Lewalski quotes King James’s advice to his son to illustrate what she frequently calls the era’s ‘dominant ideology’: Ye are the head, [your Wife] your body; It is your office to command, and hers to obey; but yet with such a sweet harmonie as she should be as ready to obey, as ye to command ...
17 March 1983
John Soane: The Making of an Architect 
by Pierre de la Ruffinière du Prey.
Chicago, 408 pp., £25, November 1982, 0 226 17298 8
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... of course, nothing about them in the book. The restrictive significance of the subtitle, ‘The Making of an Architect’, only emerges after a careful reading of the introduction. In short, the presentation of the work approaches the borderline of mendacity. In these circumstances we may well ask: was the book worth writing? Fortunately, the answer is yes ...

A prince, too, can do his bit

K.D. Reynolds: King Edward VII and George VI

27 April 2000
Power and Place: The Political Consequences of King Edward VII 
by Simon Heffer.
Weidenfeld, 342 pp., £20, August 1998, 9780297842200
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A Spirit Undaunted: The Political Role of George VI 
by Robert Rhodes James.
Little, Brown, 368 pp., £22.50, November 1998, 0 316 64765 9
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... Attached as the British have been to their monarchy (even when disliking individual incumbents), they have been curiously reluctant to admit that the institution has any effective powers. At some point, the argument goes, British kings and queens threw off the mantle of political authority and became constitutional figure-heads, leaving politics to the politicians ...

As Bad as Poisoned

Blair Worden: James I

3 March 2016
The Murder of King James
by Alastair Bellany and Thomas Cogswell.
Yale, 618 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 300 21496 3
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... royal adviser said, ‘to be put in a new romanso’ – when the future Charles I and his father James I’s leading minister the Duke of Buckingham donned false beards, assumed the names Tom and John Smith, and journeyed to the Spanish court to woo the infanta for Charles? Incognito travel, a commonplace practice of the ...

Smuggled in a Warming Pan

Stephen Sedley: The Glorious Revolution

23 September 2015
The Glorious Revolution and the Continuity of Law 
by Richard Kay.
Catholic University of America, 277 pp., £45, December 2014, 978 0 8132 2687 3
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... When Charles II died in 1685 without legitimate offspring, the throne passed to his brother James, Duke of York, who had been brought up in exile in France as a Catholic and who now began publicly attending mass. Within a few months the Duke of Monmouth’s abortive rebellion and Baron Jeffreys’s judicial revenge, the Bloody Assizes, spread fear that ...

Types of Ambiguity

Conrad Russell

22 January 1987
War, Taxation and Rebellion in Early Tudor England: Henry VIII, Wolsey and the Amicable Grant of 1525 
by G.W. Bernard.
Harvester, 164 pp., £25, August 1986, 0 7108 1126 8
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Reassessing the Henrician Age: Humanism, Politics and Reform 1500-1550 
by Alistair Fox and John Guy.
Blackwell, 242 pp., £22.50, July 1986, 0 631 14614 8
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The Union of England and Scotland 1603-1608 
by Bruce Galloway.
John Donald, 208 pp., £20, May 1986, 0 85976 143 6
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Stuart England 
edited by Blair Worden.
Phaidon, 272 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 7148 2391 0
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... co-operation and give-and-take between people of widely different temperaments and experience, working on different bodies of sources. We are, for example, still waiting for a historiography of Early Modern England which expounds Tudor history in such a way as to make it readily compatible with Stuart history. Twenty years ago, when Elton and Hill reigned ...

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