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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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... one of the Gulf Emirates’. If nothing else, the simultaneous appearance of these two highly contrasting biographies serves to emphasise what a serious lapse of knowledge that had been on my part. JamesBartholomew’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 ...

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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... and deeply conservative vision of the English landscape between the wars, drawing as it did so 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 ...

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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... treasonable intent before the Privy Council, soon after the Gunpowder Plot. He changed his religion, 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 ...

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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... with the house of Navarre. In early August the French King made him a gentleman of his bedchamber, which 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 ...

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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TheCambridge 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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... he was conventionally regarded as at least Shakespeare’s equal. It was he more than anyone who 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 ...

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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... good portrait of himself.’ He, too, had difficulty finishing work, and his only widely accepted self-portraits 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 ...
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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... for candles – was, in every sense, pure. Other thinkers of the time said that the most important characteristic 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 ...
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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... not only in the politics but in the political discourse of its time. This was the moment when tyranny 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 ...


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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... sources to reinterpret the shape of Shakespeare’s Jacobean career. Especially important is his corrective 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 ...

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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... far as tortures go, Agnes escapes lightly. The Legend shows remarkable ingenuity in the deaths of its 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 ...
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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... one’ to himself. Instead Greville was buried in St Mary’s Warwick, close to his home of Warwick Castle, a plain inscription remembering him as ‘Servant to Queen Elizabeth, Councillor to King James, and Friend to Sir Philip Sidney’. Greville’s life of Sidney, written in the earlier part of James’s reign, is a study in failure. ‘He never was magistrate, nor possessed of any fit stage for ...

Little Bastard

Patrick Collinson: Learning to be Queen

6 July 2000
Elizabeth: Apprenticeship 
by David Starkey.
Chatto, 339 pp., £20, April 2000, 0 7011 6939 7
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Elizabeth I: Collected Works 
edited by Leah Marcus and Janel Mueller.
Chicago, 436 pp., £25, September 2000, 0 226 50464 6
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... and a generous selection of her letters. The letters take us from the most important she ever wrote, a declaration of innocent loyalty to her sister, dated 2 August 1556, to her reaction to the Bartholomew Massacre (‘a thing of a terrible and dangerous example’), to her rebuke to her favourite of favourites, the Earl of Leicester, for exceeding his powers in the Netherlands (‘we could never have ...

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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... stone. Foreigners have consistently perceived this aspect of the city as – in the words of the 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 ...
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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... and contrasted it with the new and vulgar ‘prodigy houses’, such as Hatfield and Audley End, 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 ...

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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... cave and exercises magical powers derived from his books. The plots of the late plays revert nakedly 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 ...

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