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Scarisbrick’s Bomb

Peter Gwyn, 20 December 1984

Reformation and Revolution 1558-1660 
by Robert Ashton.
Granada, 503 pp., £18, February 1984, 0 246 10666 2
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The Reformation and the English People 
by J.J. Scarisbrick.
Blackwell, 203 pp., £14.50, March 1984, 0 631 13424 7
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... Two very different books by two professors at English universities. That written by Professor Ashton is a bad book of a kind that is all too common, that by Professor Scarisbrick is good, perhaps very good, but of a kind that is now all too rare, in that it was written for the simple, old fashioned reason that its author was passionately interested in imparting his views ...

Out of the East

Blair Worden, 11 October 1990

The King’s Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of Thomas Wolsey 
by Peter Gwyn.
Barrie and Jenkins, 666 pp., £20, May 1990, 0 7126 2190 3
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Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution 
by John Morrill.
Longman, 300 pp., £17.95, May 1990, 0 582 06064 8
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The Writings of William Walwyn 
edited by Jack McMichael and Barbara Taft.
Georgia, 584 pp., $45, July 1989, 0 8203 1017 4
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... not only the improvement of biographical fact but the artistic shaping of it. No one would accuse Peter Gwyn, author of The King’s Cardinal, of confusing life with art. His intentions are too austere to risk that imputation. Although his important and very long book proclaims itself a ‘biography’ of Thomas Wolsey, it fulfils few of the expectations ...

Just like Rupert Brooke

Tessa Hadley: 1960s Oxford, 5 April 2012

The Horseman’s Word: A Memoir 
by Roger Garfitt.
Cape, 378 pp., £18.99, April 2011, 978 0 224 08986 9
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... spilled over naturally into writing it: Garfitt went to informal workshops with John Wain and Peter Levi, heard Ted Hughes read at the Poetry Society. Coghill read his poems, but wasn’t very enthusiastic; Peter Jay took a photo of him in a green silk smoking jacket looking ‘just like Rupert Brooke!’; he talked ...

The Way of the Warrior

Tom Shippey: Vikings, 2 April 2014

Vikings: Life and Legend 
edited by Gareth Williams, Peter Pentz and Matthias Wernhoff.
British Museum, 288 pp., £25, February 2014, 978 0 7141 2337 0
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The Northmen’s Fury 
by Philip Parker.
Cape, 450 pp., £25, March 2014, 978 0 224 09080 3
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... Culture and Conquest (2006), or Robert Ferguson’s The Hammer and the Cross (2009), or even Gwyn Jones’s magisterial History of the Vikings (1968, revised 1973). Consider the ‘key questions’ Parker starts with. First, why should Scandinavian societies have turned so suddenly to overseas raiding, and second, why, after several centuries, did the ...

Florey Story

Peter Medawar, 20 December 1979

Howard Florey: The Making of a Great Scientist 
by Gwyn Macfarlane.
Oxford, 396 pp., £7.95
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... Howard Walter Florey was a great man and nomistake. He devoted the more important partof his professional life to a single wholly admirable purpose which he pursued until he achieved it, showing, in spite of many setbacks and rebuffs, the magnanimity that is the minimal entry qualification for being considered ‘great’. In a memorialaddress, Patrick Blackett likened Florey’s achievement to that of Jenner, Pasteur and Lister: but the public were so little aware of him that when Macfarlane first approached publishers with the notion of a biography, they wondered if he would not do better to write on Alexander Fleming instead ...

Eye-Catchers

Peter Campbell, 4 December 1986

Survey of London: Vol. XLII. Southern Kensington: Kensington to Earls Court 
Athlone, 502 pp., £55, May 1986, 0 485 48242 8Show More
Follies: A National Trust Guide 
by Gwyn Headley and Wim Meulenkamp.
Cape, 564 pp., £15, June 1986, 0 224 02105 2
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The Botanists 
by David Elliston Allen.
St Paul’s Bibliographies, 232 pp., £15, May 1986, 0 906795 36 2
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British Art since 1900 
by Frances Spalding.
Thames and Hudson, 252 pp., £10.50, April 1986, 0 500 23457 4
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Paintings from Books: Art and Literature in Britain, 1760-1900 
by Richard Altick.
Ohio State, 527 pp., £55, March 1986, 0 8142 0380 9
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History of the British Pig 
by John Wiseman.
Duckworth, 118 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 9780715619872
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... The earliest buildings in the 42nd volume of the Survey of London are late 17th and early 18th-century houses in Kensington Square. The market gardens and nurseries which surrounded this urban housing disappeared rather slowly, as land to the south of Kensington High Street was developed. The modest scale of the brick houses of Kensington Square, the neat brick and stucco of Edwardes Square (1811-25) and the Italian-villa-like elevations of Launceton Place (1840-3) gave way to cliffs of Italianate stucco (like Cornwall Gardens, late 1860s) and the red-and-yellow-brick mansion blocks of the 1880s and 1890s ...

Two Hares and a Priest

Patricia Beer: Pushkin, 13 May 1999

Pushkin 
by Elizabeth Feinstein.
Weidenfeld, 309 pp., £20, October 1998, 0 297 81826 0
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... He was a great-grandson on his mother’s side of an African slave who had become a protégé of Peter the Great. He inherited several African characteristics, such as hair, features and skin colour, and this seemed to annoy his mother, though perhaps no more than everything else about him. He himself was, or appeared to be, proud of his African ...

Shee Spy

Michael Dobson, 8 May 1997

The Secret Life of Aphra Behn 
by Janet Todd.
Deutsch, 545 pp., £25, October 1996, 0 233 98991 9
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... friendship with this illustrious rake, Todd’s biography would be considerably shorter). Nell Gwyn, ‘probably’ introduced to Behn by Thomas Otway, calls herself ‘the Protestant whore’. Even Samuel Pepys’s report of the King’s spaniel making a mess in a boat gets in, on the grounds that Behn too sometimes ‘commented on the ordinariness of ...

Memories of Amikejo

Neal Ascherson, 22 March 2012

... might chance a date. But most of us would take the question in the ironic, slightly postmodern way Gwyn Alf Williams intended in calling his best book When Was Wales? If European enthusiasts see a Golden Age in the continent’s past, a moment of definition from which all subsequent history has been a decline, what contemporary political needs edged them into ...

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