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Insolence

Blair Worden

7 March 1985
Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance 
by David Norbrook.
Routledge, 345 pp., £15.95, October 1984, 0 7100 9778 6
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Restoration Theatre Production 
by Jocelyn Powell.
Routledge, 226 pp., £19.95, November 1984, 0 7100 9321 7
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Theatre and Crisis: 1632-1642 
by Martin Butler.
Cambridge, 340 pp., £25, August 1984, 0 521 24632 6
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The Court Masque 
edited by David Lindley.
Manchester, 196 pp., £22.50, August 1984, 0 7190 0961 8
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Ben Jonson, Dramatist 
by Anne Barton.
Cambridge, 370 pp., £30, July 1984, 0 521 25883 9
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... come from critics – Barbara Everett, Susan Shrapnel, Empson – who owed more to a literary ear than to research. The problems of identifying political meanings in literature are raised again by MartinButler’s Theatre and Crisis 1632-1642, an exciting (if unhappily titled) first book in which a bold argument is advanced with clarity and verve, only to be half-spoiled by overstatement. Butler ...
21 July 1983
Governing without a Majority 
by David Butler.
Collins, 156 pp., £4.95, May 1983, 9780002170710
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Multi-Party Politics and the Constitution 
by Vernon Bogdanor.
Cambridge, 207 pp., £18.50, May 1983, 0 521 25524 4
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Decade of Dealignment 
by Bo Särlvik, Ivor Crewe, Neil Day and Robert MacDermid.
Cambridge, 393 pp., £27.50, June 1983, 0 521 22674 0
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... But for Britain’s antediluvian electoral system the House of Commons would now comprise around 160 Alliance, 180 Labour and 280 Conservative MPs – and the new books by David Butler and Vernon Bogdanor would have vanished beneath a stampede of eager buyers. As things are, though the distorted election results have robbed them of some of their topicality, they will be very widely ...
5 June 1997
The Political World of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, 1621-41 
edited by J.F. Merritt.
Cambridge, 293 pp., £35, March 1996, 0 521 56041 1
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The British Problem, c. 1534-1707: State Formation in the Atlantic Archipelago 
edited by Brendan Bradshaw and John Morrill.
Macmillan, 334 pp., £13.50, June 1996, 0 333 59246 8
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The Stuart Court and Europe: Essays in Politics and Political Culture 
edited by Malcolm Smuts.
Cambridge, 289 pp., £35, September 1996, 9780521554398
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Mere Irish and Fíor-Ghael: Studies in the Idea of Irish Nationality, its Development and Literary Expression Prior to the 19th Century 
by Joep Leerssen.
Cork, 454 pp., £17.95, November 1996, 1 85918 112 0
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... through him, of an entire period. At the other extreme there is Malcolm Smuts’s The Stuart Court and Europe. This sprawl of conference papers mounts no coherent case, but it does illuminate what MartinButler, in his alert essay on Stuart masque, calls ‘the invention of Britain’, by throwing open windows to the Continent. A clear view of Europe is worth having not just because the instability ...

Mingling Freely at the Mermaid

Blair Worden: 17th-century poets and politics

6 November 2003
The Crisis of 1614 and the Addled Parliament: Literary and Historical Perspectives 
edited by Stephen Clucas and Rosalind Davies.
Ashgate, 213 pp., £45, November 2003, 0 7546 0681 3
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The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England: News Culture and the Overbury Affair 1603-60 
by Alastair Bellany.
Cambridge, 312 pp., £45, January 2002, 0 521 78289 9
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... John Lyly and Marvell among them. Literature was a binding force in politics and society. Poets and politicians mingled freely at the Mitre and Mermaid clubs and at the taverns associated with them. MartinButler has demonstrated the prominence of playgoing in the shaping and sustaining of the political outlook of the Caroline gentry. Beneath that social level, as one would never guess from the ...

Drink hard, pray hard and simply vanish

Jack Rakove: The history of the American revolution

5 April 2001
Becoming America: The Revolution Before 1776 
by Jon Butler.
Harvard, 324 pp., £19.50, May 2000, 0 674 00091 9
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Inheriting the Revolution: The First Generation of Americans 
by Joyce Appleby.
Harvard, 322 pp., £17.95, May 2000, 0 674 00236 9
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... with the epochal event – the Revolution – that separates their respective periods; each is finally concerned with the onset of modernity in the world’s ‘first new nation’, as Seymour Martin Lipset described the United States. The quest to identify the origins, sources and nature of modernity is perhaps the grandest project of the human sciences – which is not to say that it lends ...

Short Cuts

Martin​ Loughlin: Tax Credits

19 November 2015
... Tory MPs it could easily be dismissed. But a gaggle of retired law lords, who now see themselves as constitutional guardians, also registered concern by voting against the motion to delay. And Lord Butler, a keeper of precedents when he was cabinet secretary, declared that the decision generated a constitutional crisis with parallels to the crisis of 1909. That crisis stemmed from the election in 1906 ...

Success

Marilyn Butler

18 November 1982
The Trouble of an Index: Byron’s Letters and Journals, Vol. XII 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 166 pp., £15, May 1982, 0 7195 3885 8
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Lord Byron: Selected Letters and Journals 
edited by Leslie Marchand.
Murray, 404 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 0 7195 3974 9
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Byron 
by Frederic Raphael.
Thames and Hudson, 224 pp., £8.95, July 1982, 0 500 01278 4
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Byron’s Political and Cultural Influence in 19th-Century Europe: A Symposium 
edited by Paul Graham Trueblood.
Macmillan, 210 pp., £15, April 1981, 0 333 29389 4
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Byron and Joyce through Homer 
by Hermione de Almeida.
Macmillan, 233 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 333 30072 6
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Byron: A Poet Before His Public 
by Philip Martin.
Cambridge, 253 pp., £18.50, July 1982, 0 521 24186 3
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... English), Bismarck, Nietzsche, and mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who may even have taken Byron’s epicene hero Sardanapalus as a model of regal behaviour. The books by Hermione de Almeida and Philip Martin are much more direct attempts to meet the challenge Byron makes to the literary critic. If he is a major poet, as not merely his reputation but the size and scope of his oeuvre insistently suggest ...
10 December 1998
Between Us Girls 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £14.99, October 1998, 1 85459 374 9
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‘Fred & Madge’ and ‘The Visitors’ 
by Joe Orton.
Hern, 224 pp., £12.99, October 1998, 1 85459 354 4
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... Lady, written in the Forties and subtitled ‘During Days of Horror, Despair and World Change’. Parker’s empty-headed, self-centred diarist has a marriage on the rocks (‘Joe left word with the butler he’s going to the country this afternoon for the weekend; of course he wouldn’t stoop to say what country’), and spends her days gossiping on the phone and primping for the evening’s drunken ...

2000 AD

Anne Sofer

2 August 1984
The British General Election of 1983 
by David Butler and Dennis Kavanagh.
Macmillan, 388 pp., £25, May 1984, 0 333 34578 9
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Militant 
by Michael Crick.
Faber, 242 pp., £3.95, June 1984, 0 571 13256 1
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... Livingstone in his current role as defender of democracy will survive his transformation into guerrilla leader on the barricades (that production to open in London next spring) is very doubtful. The Butler and Kavanagh book has no cheerier message for the Labour Party. It traces how opinion in the British electorate – in particular on nationalisation and the trade unions – has been shifting over a ...

A Topic Best Avoided

Nicholas Guyatt: Abraham Lincoln

1 December 2011
The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery 
by Eric Foner.
Norton, 426 pp., £21, February 2011, 978 0 393 06618 0
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... Wilkes Booth told his companions. Three nights later, he followed the president to Ford’s Theatre and shot him in the head. On the morning of 11 April, Lincoln met privately with General Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts. The subject of the meeting went unreported for nearly 20 years. That morning Lincoln admitted that he was ‘troubled about the negroes’ after emancipation. According to Butler ...

Wannabee

Frank Kermode

8 October 1992
Sacred Country 
by Rose Tremain.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 365 pp., £14.99, September 1992, 1 85619 118 4
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... it bears them up, or sink. Sadler’s Birthday, her first novel, less adventurous than her latest but still very accomplished, appeared in 1976. The central figure of Sadler’s Birthday is a retired butler who has inherited the house in which he had, indispensably, served – not an obvious choice of theme for a young woman’s first novel, but expertly handled. Over the years since that debut she has ...

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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... Seventeenth-century critics thought Ben Jonson England’s finest writer. Even until the mid-18th century 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 ...
27 July 1989
Macmillan. Vol. II: 1957-1986 
by Alistair Horne.
Macmillan, 741 pp., £18.95, June 1989, 0 333 49621 3
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... the leadership contenders allowing him to do so. This was a serious misjudgment on the part of all of them – except, of course, Lord Home. Under the procedure devised by Macmillan, the Chief Whip, Martin Redmayne, and his assistants, were to sound out MPs; Lord Dilhorne, the Lord Chancellor, was to sound out the Cabinet; and other dignitaries were to consult other segments of the Party. Macmillan’s ...

Too Obviously Cleverer

Ferdinand Mount: Harold Macmillan

8 September 2011
Supermac: The Life of Harold Macmillan 
by D.R. Thorpe.
Pimlico, 887 pp., £16.99, September 2011, 978 1 84413 541 7
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The Macmillan Diaries Vol. II: Prime Minister and After 1957-66 
edited by Peter Catterall.
Macmillan, 758 pp., £40, May 2011, 978 1 4050 4721 0
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... thing I’ve ever seen’. Macmillan wasn’t one of those not infrequent war heroes who in peacetime are mild and eager to please. He remained dauntless and daunting in politics. He despised Rab Butler for not having fought (he had a withered hand after a riding accident as a child), he sneered at Hugh Gaitskell for not having any medals to wear on Remembrance Day and he loathed Herbert Morrison ...

At the Barbican

Liz Jobey: Strange and Familiar

1 June 2016
... layout of the Barbican Art Gallery works in favour of the current exhibition. Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, curated by the English photographer Martin Parr, is made up of around 250 works by 23 photographers who came to Britain for long and short periods between the 1930s and 2014. The division between the two floors of the gallery offers a useful ...

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