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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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... He was an extremely private person who retreated from society. But he was tortured by his rejection of the world: he wanted fame – and yet he did not want to be tainted with success. This is JamesKing, who despite having already written the life of another mad poet, William Cowper, is ploddingly rational. The only occasion on which the two poets met was about twenty years after Cowper died ...

At the tent flap sin crouches

James​ Wood: The Fleshpots of Egypt

23 February 2006
The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary 
by Robert Alter.
Norton, 1064 pp., £34, November 2004, 0 393 01955 1
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... In the beginning was not the word, or the deed, but the face. ‘Darkness was upon the face of the deep,’ runs the KingJames Version in the second verse of the opening of Genesis. ‘And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.’ Two uses of ‘face’ in ...

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 KingJames 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 ...

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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... Cowper came to me and said: “O that I were insane always. I will never rest. Can you not make me truly insane? … You retain health and yet are as mad as any of us all – mad as a refuge from unbelief – Bacon, Newton and Locke.’ ” Thus William Blake’s memo of a ghostly visitation from William Cowper. But how aghast Cowper would have been at the words put into his mouth! Blake revelled ...

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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... desire; the heavens declare the glory of god; go down to the sea in ships; at their wits’ end; the valley of the shadow of death; make a joyful noise; go from strength to strength . . . The 1611 KingJames 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 ...

Naming Britain

Alasdair Gray

27 May 2010
... one kingdom, England, which then fought to subjugate every adjacent state. Ireland was first colony of her empire oversea. She conquered Wales. France and Scotland won free. Scotland was free till KingJames got news that he could inherit England’s crown too if he lived there, an offer he did not refuse so like many Scots went to London where now, Britain’s chief landlord, he signed ...

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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... English revolutions of the 17th century. Rather, the proper history of the Whigs began only with the 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 ...

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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... courtier who hunted office with the kind of avidity his early satires had mocked in others, and who turned to the church only as the next best thing. It seems to have been at the behest of KingJames 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 ...
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 KingJames 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. This did not please everybody, and some of the people it did not please were Catholics, who thought ...

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 KingJames’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 ...
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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... Soane story, but also of architectural education and patronage in the last quarter of the 18th century. Soane was born in 1753, the son of a Berkshire bricklayer. At 15 he met a London architect, James Peacock, who was closely associated with George Dance, architect to the City of London. Dance gave Soane a place in his household. After three or four years he left Dance for Henry Holland, from whom ...

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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... and contrasted with those of their Stuart predecessors (and, naturally, with their Continental counterparts, despots and tyrants all); Victorians tended to view George III as the first constitutional king (disagreement from across the Atlantic notwithstanding): his reign and especially his insanity and confinement were seen as marking a shift of political power towards Parliament. Commentators in the ...

As Bad as Poisoned

Blair Worden: James​ I

3 March 2016
The Murder of King James​ I 
by Alastair Bellany and Thomas Cogswell.
Yale, 618 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 300 21496 3
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... personae can have been as sensational as the escapade of 1623 – an occasion ‘worthy’, as a 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 ...

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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... who had power to appoint his replacement? If it was parliament, could it also set conditions of tenure? 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 ...

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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... revolve. Dr Bernard’s book is devoted to the failure of the Amicable Grant of 1525. This unfortunately-named levy was designed to allow Henry VIII to take advantage of the defeat and capture of the King of France to prosecute his French claims. The title was not just a piece of newspeak: it expressed a crucial ambiguity in Late Medieval constitutional thinking. The King must not tax without consent ...

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