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No More Baubles

Tom Johnson: Post-Plague Consumption, 22 September 2022

Household Goods and Good Households in Late Medieval London: Consumption and Domesticity after the Plague 
by Katherine L. French.
Pennsylvania, 314 pp., £52, October 2021, 978 0 8122 5305 4
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... their labour power into higher wages, a better quality of life and a mountain of consumer goods? Katherine French provides a new angle on these questions by considering domestic life and material culture in London, as revealed by the abundant evidence in wills. Late medieval Londoners, she argues, had to ‘learn to live with more’. The increase of ...

Irish Adventurers

Janet Adam Smith, 25 June 1992

The Grand Tours of Katherine Wilmot: France 1801-3 and Russia 1805-7 
edited by Elizabeth Mavor.
Weidenfeld, 187 pp., £17.99, February 1992, 0 297 81223 8
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... woman from Co. Cork and her lady’s maid. They come to us from the journals that the young woman, Katherine Wilmot, kept during her travels on the Continent in 1801-3 and to Russia from 1805 to 1807, and sent home to her family. Parts of these journals have already been published, in Thomas Sadleir’s An Irish Peer on the Continent (1920) and in Lady ...

Consider the Swift

Katherine Rundell, 15 August 2019

... the Canterbury Tales he wrote about small birds who ‘slepen al the nyght with open ye’. And a French pilot during the First World War, flying by the light of a full moon on a reconnaissance mission near Vosges, saw a ghostly cloud of them, apparently hovering entirely still in the air: ‘As we came to about ten thousand feet … we suddenly found ...

Consider the Narwhal

Katherine Rundell, 3 January 2019

... have magical curative properties; as late as 1789, a unicorn drinking horn was used to protect the French court, where it was said to sweat and change colour in the presence of poison. To prove the horn’s efficacy, Ivan ordered his physician to scratch a circle on the table with the tip of the horn, and to ‘seeke owt for som spiders’. The spiders placed ...

Becoming a girl

John Bayley, 25 March 1993

Philip Larkin: Writer 
by James Booth.
Harvester, 192 pp., £9.95, March 1992, 0 7450 0769 4
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... puts it, the Pygmalion myth ‘is repeated within the story with the gender roles reversed ... Katherine acts as the creative Pygmalion rather than the created statue.’ Robin – the youthful ‘hero’ – ‘is her work of art, her “Jill Bradley and Willow Gables” fantasy. She is no longer merely the object of male creative fantasy; she has become ...

He fights with flashing weapons

Katherine Rundell: Thomas Wyatt, 6 December 2012

Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest 
by Susan Brigden.
Faber, 714 pp., £30, September 2012, 978 0 571 23584 1
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Graven with Diamonds: The Many Lives of Thomas Wyatt: Courtier, Poet, Assassin, Spy 
by Nicola Shulman.
Short Books, 378 pp., £20, April 2011, 978 1 906021 11 5
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... ended in Elizabeth being cast off. The gossip at court was that ‘laquelle il avoit chassee de la maison pour lavoir deprehendee en adultere.’ The poetry Wyatt wrote at this time can be read as a personal and spittingly angry lament, although, as Susan Brigden points out in her magnificent biography, Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest, he wrote in a ...

Ferrets can be gods

Katherine Rundell, 11 August 2016

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales 
by Saki and Quentin Blake.
Alma Classics, 156 pp., £6.99, October 2015, 978 1 84749 592 1
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... nurses the illusion that he is one of the lost arms of the Venus de Milo, and hopes that the French government may be persuaded to buy him. On all other subjects I believe he is tolerably sane.’ To read a Saki story is to hire an assassin. There have been many attempts in the last hundred years to re-create that specific Saki feeling; the pleasures of ...

Weavers and Profs

Katherine Harloe, 1 April 2021

A People’s History of Classics: Class and Greco-Roman Antiquity in Britain and Ireland 1689 to 1939 
by Edith Hall and Henry Stead.
Routledge, 670 pp., £29.99, March 2020, 978 0 367 43236 2
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... he was said to have mastered Aramaic, Arabic and Persian as well as Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French and Italian.More familiar figures are seen in a new light. Richard Porson, a student and, briefly, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge before becoming the Regius Professor of Greek in 1792, was praised for his editions of Greek tragedies and his ...


Antonia Fraser, 3 April 1980

The House of Stuart 
by Maurice Ashley.
Dent, 237 pp., £9.95, January 1980, 0 460 04458 3
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... how she might have turned out. Nevertheless, a comparison between Mary and Elizabeth, daughters of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn respectively, neatly demonstrates the strength of the maternal gene. If we turn to the Stuarts, the difficulty of finding a common denominator between them which is genuinely ‘Stuart’ is even more acute. For the House of ...

Something about Mary

Diarmaid MacCulloch: The First Queen of England, 18 October 2007

Mary Tudor: The Tragical History of the First Queen of England 
by David Loades.
National Archives, 240 pp., £19.99, September 2006, 1 903365 98 8
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... someone, meet their mother – and so it was with the Tudor princesses. Mary, the daughter of Katherine of Aragon, was straightforward, pious, brave in a crisis, not especially bright. Her whole life was shaped by her mother’s straightforwardness and bravery in a crisis: when Henry VIII wanted Katherine to accept that ...

Kitchen Devil

John Bayley, 20 December 1990

Emily Brontë: A Chainless Soul 
by Katherine Frank.
Hamish Hamilton, 303 pp., £14.99, November 1990, 9780241121993
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... Late Victorian critic who enthused over the structure of Wuthering Heights to the novelist L.P. Hartley, who doted on her whole oeuvre and personality. The magisterial Dr Leavis observed, before directing our attention to George Eliot, that there is ‘only one Brontë’ – meaning Emily – and even Mrs Leavis was awed by Wuthering Heights. The only ...

I behave like a fiend

Deborah Friedell: Katherine Mansfield’s Lies, 4 January 2024

All Sorts of Lives: Katherine Mansfield and the Art of Risking Everything 
by Claire Harman.
Vintage, 295 pp., £10.99, January, 978 1 5299 1834 2
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... Virginia Woolf​ wasn’t sure what she felt when she heard that Katherine Mansfield was dead. The cook, ‘in her sensational way’, had broken the news to her at breakfast: ‘Mrs Murry’s dead! It says so in the paper!’At that one feels – what? A shock of relief? – a rival the less? Then confusion at feeling so little – then, gradually, blankness & disappointment; then a depression which I could not rouse myself from all that day ...

La Bolaing

Patrick Collinson: Anne Boleyn, 18 November 2004

The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn 
by Eric Ives.
Blackwell, 458 pp., £25, July 2004, 0 631 23479 9
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... was demonised by Catholics as the bad seed who had ruined everything, the bane of virtuous Queen Katherine, virtually the murderer of saintly Thomas More. For Protestants, she was, formally at least, the rootstock of their Reformation, and to be honoured as such. But mud sticks, and, after all, it was not the likes of Thomas More but the sacred monarch ...

On your way, phantom

Colin Burrow: ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, 7 June 2012

Bring Up the Bodies 
by Hilary Mantel.
Fourth Estate, 411 pp., £20, May 2012, 978 0 00 731509 3
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... also of containing too much history.* In it Thomas Cromwell frees Henry VIII from his marriage to Katherine of Aragon, engineers his union with Anne Boleyn by breaking from Rome, and has Thomas More executed. At the end of the book, in the late summer of 1535, Cromwell, the king and his attendants stop off at Wolf Hall in Wiltshire, the home of the blandly ...

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