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Richard Altick

3 December 1981
The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman 
by Mark​ Girouard.
Yale, 312 pp., £12.50, September 1981, 0 300 02739 7
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... of mud, and the blue-blooded cast and audience, their Medieval hair-dos now sodden and lank, retreated into marquees that leaked water at every crevice. The next day, the torrent continuing, the knights tilted with mops and broomsticks in the waterlogged ballroom. The press had a field day of its own. In that year of severe depression, with the clouds of Chartism steadily darkening, the nation could ...

Break their teeth, O God

Colin Kidd: The Trial of Sacheverell

20 August 2014
Faction Displayed: Reconsidering the Impeachment of Dr Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Mark Knights.
Wiley-Blackwell, 132 pp., £19.99, February 2012, 978 1 4443 6187 2
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The State Trial of Doctor Henry Sacheverell 
edited by Brian Cowan.
Wiley-Blackwell, 307 pp., £22.99, November 2012, 978 1 4443 3223 0
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... The birth​ of Prince George obviates the immediate need for the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 which introduced gender equality into the line of succession. Section 2 of the Act addresses, though only in part, another outmoded form of discrimination: ‘A person is not disqualified from succeeding to the crown or from possessing it as a result of marrying a person of the Roman Catholic faith ...


Peter Godman

17 November 1983
Andreas Capellanus on Love 
translated by P.G. Walsh.
Duckworth, 329 pp., £28, November 1982, 0 7156 1436 3
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... Knights should be naturally endowed with slim calves and neat feet whose length exceeds their width as if moulded by a craftsman, but I observe that your calves are on the contrary pudgy, bulging, round and ...
4 June 1981
Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages 
by Jacques Le Goff, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.
Chicago, 384 pp., £13.50, January 1981, 0 226 47080 6
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... One night in 1130, King Henry I had a nightmare. He dreamed that he was being attacked, first by a crowd of peasants, then by a group of knights, and finally by a number of clerics. For many historians, this detail, recorded by the chronicler John of Worcester, would be no more than a fascinating piece of useless information. For Professor ...

Boundary Books

Margaret Meek

21 February 1980
Kate Crackernuts 
by Katharine Briggs.
Kestrel, 224 pp., £2.95, September 1980, 0 7226 5557 6
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Socialisation through Children’s Literature: The Soviet Example 
by Felicity Ann O’Dell.
Cambridge, 278 pp., £14, January 1979, 9780521219686
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Divide and Rule 
by Jan Mark.
Kestrel, 248 pp., £3.50, October 1980, 0 7226 5620 3
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... is all: The child’s love for the familiar form of folk tales is used to heighten his sense of wonder at the real-life marvels of the Soviet 20th century. An example is Kassil’s story ‘The Knights’. He begins, ‘There it a folk tale about how 33 knights emerged from the sea on to the shore… But now you’re not going to hear a folk tale. I’ll tell you what truly happened: the fascists ...

Mad for Love

Tobias Gregory: ‘Orlando Furioso’

9 September 2010
‘Orlando Furioso’: A New Verse Translation 
by Ludovico Ariosto, translated by David Slavitt.
Harvard, 672 pp., £29.95, November 2009, 978 0 674 03535 5
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... first readers, though, saw his poem not as an ironised epic but as the artistic high point in a long line of chivalric poems. When Ariosto began his poem around 1500, tales of Charlemagne and his knights had been popular for more than three centuries. These stories, purely martial at first, came to include the love affairs and courtly adventures that originally belonged to a separate branch of ...

Anger and Dismay

Denis Donoghue

19 July 1984
Literary Education: A Revaluation 
by James Gribble.
Cambridge, 182 pp., £16.50, November 1983, 0 521 25315 2
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Reconstructing Literature 
edited by Laurence Lerner.
Blackwell, 218 pp., £15, August 1983, 0 631 13323 2
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Counter-Modernism in Current Critical Theory 
by Geoffrey Thurley.
Macmillan, 216 pp., £20, October 1983, 0 333 33436 1
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... t think he had to keep clearing the ground or clearing himself before coming to ‘Westron Wind’. There were, indeed, arguments at those conferences, but they were about critical methods. L.C. Knights gave us a lecture which might have been called – and perhaps was – ‘How many children has Lady Macbeth now?’ But he took enough intellectual lore for granted to get pretty quickly to Hamlet ...

Time to Mount Spain

Colin Burrow: Prince Charles’s Spanish Adventure

2 September 2004
The Prince and the Infanta: The Cultural Politics of the Spanish Match 
by Glyn Redworth.
Yale, 200 pp., £25, November 2003, 0 300 10198 8
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... this occasion, more than three hundred prisoners were released, including all Englishmen serving in the galleys, and candles were ordered to be lit in every window in Madrid. ‘The voyage of the Knights of adventure’, as the secretary of state Edward Conway called it, finally seemed to be taking off. Buckingham recorded that Charles was in love: ‘Baby Charles is so touched by the heart that he ...

Keep your eye on the tide, Jock

Tom Shippey: Naval history

4 June 1998
The Safeguard of the Sea: A Naval History of Britain, Vol. I, 660-1649 
by N.A.M. Rodger.
HarperCollins, 691 pp., £25, September 1997, 0 00 255128 4
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Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe 
by Bert Hall.
Johns Hopkins, 300 pp., £25, June 1997, 0 8018 5531 4
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... the recipe. Saltpetre, sulphur and charcoal: you could run up a batch yourself if transported back to the Dark Ages. Those idiotic Chinese, not working out how to use it in guns! Those ridiculous knights, peacocking about in plumes and shining armour when all unknown to them they had been made completely obsolete by democratic militias with muskets! The ideas converge in Mark Twain’s Connecticut ...

The Man in White

Edward Pearce

11 October 1990
The Golden Warrior: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia 
by Lawrence James.
Weidenfeld, 404 pp., £19.50, August 1990, 0 297 81087 1
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... one write the biography of a legend, a legend who is also a controversy, a writer of some distinction, a commander of irregular troops whose effectiveness is still argued about, a sexual question mark, a film hero, an object of debate and a participant in that running Middle East crisis which has proceeded from imbroglio to mess to prospective calamity; how does one satisfactorily tackle a subject ...

Family Dramas

J.A. Burrow

2 July 1981
Symbolic Stories 
by Derek Brewer.
Boydell, 190 pp., £15, October 1980, 0 85991 063 6
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... emerging into manhood, facing and surviving the threat of castration (the beheading) at the hands of his father. One is moved to protest that Sir Gawain is not, in the poem, an adolescent. The Knights of the Round Table are young, as they almost always are in romances, but the hero’s very first speech, when he offers to take on the adventure, displays a self-possession which seems anything but ...
12 January 1995
The Annals of Chile 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 191 pp., £14.99, September 1994, 0 571 17205 9
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... thick and fast: the Westerns of Jack Schaefer, King Solomon’s Mines, The Lost World, Kidnapped, The Sign of Four, Rob Roy, The Day the Cowboys Quit and so on. Popeye, Charlemagne, road movies, the Knights of the Round Table, the Trojan Wars, pirate tales, the Bible, Montezuma, American World War Two bomber raids, ‘How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix’, furnish other roles and stories ...
1 September 1988
The Duel in European History: Honour and the Reign of Aristocracy 
by V.G. Kiernan.
Oxford, 360 pp., £25, March 1988, 0 19 822566 0
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History, Classes and Nation-States: Selected Writings of Victor Kiernan 
edited by Harvey Kaye.
Blackwell, 284 pp., £27.50, June 1988, 0 7456 0424 2
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... that they were members of Britain’s élite, or show rather that they were comparative newcomers to that status? Can we, in short, really see duelling as a by-product of aristocratic dominance, as a mark of caste? Victor Kiernan’s answer in this intriguing and invariably well-written book is an emphatic and unsurprising yes. Kiernan is both a Marxist and a student of Antonio Gramsci. Like the ...

Short Cuts

Tom Crewe: The Absence of Politics

10 October 2019
... people ‘within the pale of the constitution’, to use Gladstone’s telling phrase).* Most of these were successful; the struggle for Irish Home Rule was not, with lasting consequences. So, one mark of Britain’s relative political stability in the second half of the 20th century and beyond is the fact that for decades the constitution wasn’t much in the news. Yet there has been, along the ...


Patrick Parrinder: On Raymond Williams

18 February 1988
... first novel, Border Country, with the old signalman, Harry Price, on its front cover: the artist had endowed Price with Williams’s own unmistakable features. That now seems painfully close to the mark. In the novel, Price was shown dying from a series of strokes. On 26 January, Williams suffered a fatal heartattack. Thinking over his death, I am not reminded of his most obvious predecessors in ...

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