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Done for the State

John Guy: The Yorkists

2 April 2020
The Brothers York: An English Tragedy 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 688 pp., £12.99, April, 978 0 7181 9728 5
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Richard III: The Self-Made King 
by Michael Hicks.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21429 1
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... the soles of the man’s feet were burned with hot irons. In Ireland, the king’s apparatchik John Tiptoft condemned the Earl of Desmond to death for ‘horrible treasons’, then took custody of the victim’s two young sons, whom he summarily beheaded. Later, Tiptoft claimed everything he’d done had been ‘for the state’.In such an age, prudence ...

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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... for those words at the day of judgment.’ The Reformation itself is tackled by Alistair Fox and John Guy. Alistair Fox, in the opening essays of the book, discusses Humanism, previously the main dues ex machina of the teleological interpretation of the Reformation. In his dissection of the notion that there is ‘one coherent thing called ...

On a par with Nixon

Stephen Alford: Bad Queen Bess?

17 November 2016
Bad Queen Bess? Libels, Secret Histories, and the Politics of Publicity in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth I 
by Peter Lake.
Oxford, 497 pp., £35, January 2016, 978 0 19 875399 5
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Elizabeth: The Forgotten Years 
by John Guy.
Viking, 494 pp., £25, May 2016, 978 0 670 92225 3
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... assembled by Richard Reynolds and introduced by George Orwell. The first pamphlet in the book is John Knox’s First Blast of the Trumpet (1558), which begins: ‘To promote a woman to beare rule, superioritie, dominion or empire above any realme, nation, or citie, is repugnant to nature, contumelie to God, a thing most contrarious to his reveled will and ...

Our Guy

John Barnie: Blair’s Style

20 January 2011
... in the work of such a friend of the United States. The exception is his use of the word ‘guy’ for blokes of whom he approves. Bill Clinton is ‘a great guy’, as is the Taoiseach John Bruton. Andrew Smith is ‘a nice guy’, and so is ...

And Cabbages Too

Patrick Collinson: The Tudors

22 March 2001
New Worlds, Lost Worlds: The Rule of the Tudors 1485-1603 
by Susan Brigden.
Allen Lane, 434 pp., £20, September 2000, 0 7139 9067 8
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... England (S.T. Bindoff, 1950), England Under the Tudors (G.R. Elton, 1955), Tudor England again (John Guy, 1988), branding the age – see J.A. Williamson’s The Tudor Age (1953) – with the logo of the double rose of the dynasty which, conveniently, coincided with a generous 16th century of 118 years, 1485 to 1603. It is a good question how we would ...

Crypto-Republican

Simon Adams: Was Mary Queen of Scots a Murderer?

11 June 2009
Burghley: William Cecil at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by Stephen Alford.
Yale, 412 pp., £25, May 2008, 978 0 300 11896 4
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... among them. The case against Cecil has recently been revived by Alford’s former supervisor, John Guy, in his biography of Mary, My Heart is my Own (2004). Any subsequent biographer is forced to address Guy’s case against Cecil. Alford has not done so explicitly, but he has accepted some of ...

I was Mary Queen of Scots

Colm Tóibín: Biographical empathy

21 October 2004
My Heart Is My Own: The Life of Mary Queen of Scots 
by John Guy.
Harper Perennial, 574 pp., £8.99, August 2004, 1 84115 753 8
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Elizabeth and Mary: Cousins, Rivals, Queens 
by Jane Dunn.
Harper Perennial, 592 pp., £8.99, March 2004, 9780006531920
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... grasp, leaving him clutching the chestnut wig.’ The same scene is described in the prologue of John Guy’s My Heart Is My Own, the latest biography of Mary Queen of Scots: And then the final twist. As the executioner lifted up the head, Mary’s auburn curls and white cap became detached from her skull. The illusion of monarchy was dissolved as the ...

On Jonathan Miller

Neal Ascherson: Jonathan Miller

2 January 2020
... sofas in the 1950s had broken springs. Once they had buoyed up culture heroes like Rupert Brooke, John Cornford or Guy Burgess. Now, as we trudged across the great Gromboolian plain of the 1950s, they had given up the struggle. Modish undergraduates perched on the arms. Jonathan, new to the place, tried to sit down and slid ...

No 1 Writer

John Sutherland

5 September 1985
Glitz 
by Elmore Leonard.
Viking, 251 pp., £8.95, July 1985, 0 670 80571 8
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LaBrava 
by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 283 pp., £2.50, July 1985, 0 14 007238 1
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Stick 
by Elmore Leonard.
Penguin, 304 pp., £2.50, August 1985, 0 14 007083 4
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The Hunting Season 
by J.K. Mayo.
Collins, 253 pp., £9.95, June 1985, 0 00 222783 5
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... First came the monied retirees, who triggered off the real-estate boom (this is the background to John D. MacDonald’s underrated Condominium). Secondly, the mind-boggling sums of money generated by middle-class America’s insatiable appetite for prohibited cocaine. Thirdly, the invasion by criminal classes educated in villainy outside the US – in ...

Not Biographable

Patrick Collinson: The Faithful Thomas Cromwell

29 November 2007
Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII’s Most Notorious Minister 
by Robert Hutchinson.
Weidenfeld, 360 pp., £20, February 2007, 978 0 297 84642 0
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... court, thus restoring the element of personal interaction to politics, and to government too. John Guy and others subjected the ideology and praxis of the Cromwellian reforms to detailed scrutiny. Insofar as English government was reinvented, anticipating and partly realising the emergence of the state as a public thing, the whole credit was not ...

Nice Guy

Michael Wood

14 November 1996
The Life and Work of Harold Pinter 
by Michael Billington.
Faber, 414 pp., £20, November 1996, 0 571 17103 6
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... was not brusqueness or rudeness – Ayckbourn testifies that Pinter was an extremely nice guy – but simply an absolute belief in the self sufficiency of the text.’ There’s not much hope for a biography whose subject can’t be brusque or rude, and Billington’s relish for stereotypes doesn’t help us much either. This is a world of bedrocks ...

Redeemable Bad Guy

Ian Hamilton: Rabbit and Zooey

2 April 1998
Toward the End of Time 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 334 pp., £16.99, February 1998, 0 241 13862 0
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Golf Dreams 
by John Updike.
Penguin, 224 pp., £6.99, February 1998, 0 14 026156 7
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... its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present America.’ This was John Updike in 1961, saying of J.D. Salinger what critics since have been saying of John Updike: that here is a novelist uncannily responsive to the ‘personality’, if we can use the word, of his own culture. Updike, it has ...
7 May 1981
... offered a reward of £10,000 for any information leading to the capture of the fleeing diplomats, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. One morning the winding mechanism of my 35 mm camera jammed, and we called at a pub not far from Warminster, where I asked the publican if he would let me use his cellar, which I imagined would be totally dark, to cure the ...

I just hate the big guy

Christopher Tayler: Reacher

4 February 2016
Make Me 
by Lee Child.
Bantam, 425 pp., £20, September 2015, 978 0 593 07388 9
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Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of ‘Make Me’ 
by Andy Martin.
Bantam, 303 pp., £18.99, November 2015, 978 0 593 07663 7
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... he set to work on a thriller, using as his models Alistair MacLean and the Travis McGee series by John MacDonald, which focuses on a happy-go-lucky investigator with a romantic code of honour. Grant’s first stab at a name for his hero was Franklin, but one day, in an Asda in Kendal, his wife watched him grab something from a high shelf and remarked that, if ...

On the Road

John Tranter

17 February 2000
... bad writing calling students to their doom. ‘I didn’t disillusion my poor charges,’ the old guy sobbed. Why do I remember this? He was too much like me, and I saw my father in the mirror, growing sad, he had a tale to tell me urgently, but I couldn’t hear, or stay to listen. I moved out of bohemia, Kerouac went mad there, that’s a lesson, then he ...

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