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Only Sleeping

Anne Barton: Variations on Elizabeth I, 10 July 2003

England’s Elizabeth: An Afterlife in Fame and Fantasy 
by Michael Dobson and Nicola J. Watson.
Oxford, 348 pp., £19.99, November 2002, 0 19 818377 1
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... concerned. Only a few weeks after Elizabeth’s funeral on 28 April 1603, her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil was saying of her that she was ‘more than a man, and, in troth, sometime less than a woman’. As James’s reign progressed, Cecil (like many others) became less and less inclined to be critical of ‘our ...

Short Cuts

Michael Grayshott: Topping up the Hereditaries, 7 March 2013

... struck between the Labour front bench and the then Viscount Cranborne, now Marquess of Salisbury, Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, allowed 92 of the 759 ‘hereditaries’ to remain, on the understanding that they wouldn’t thwart the passage of legislation by their confrères. This arrangement, it was agreed, would remain until ...


David Allen, 20 December 1984

The John Tradescants: Gardeners to the Rose and Lily Queen 
by Prudence Leith-Ross.
Owen, 320 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 7206 0612 8
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Sydney Parkinson: Artist of Cook’s ‘Endeavour’ Voyage 
edited by D.J. Carr.
Croom Helm, 300 pp., £29.95, March 1984, 9780709907947
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... when he first comes into certain view (apart from the record of his marriage), in the employ of Robert Cecil, laying out new grounds for the recently-acquired Hatfield House, his reputation was already such as to enable him to move even in court circles. Ten years later we find him investing in the Virginia Company and, a year after that, sailing with ...

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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... Can historical biography still be written? Joel Hurstfield, who had planned a life of Robert Cecil, the chief minister inherited by James I from Queen Elizabeth, abandoned it in the 1960s in the belief that the genre had had its day. Geoffrey Elton, so much of whose career has been occupied with the achievements of Thomas Cromwell, has never thought biography to be the fitting means of approaching him ...

Making things happen

R.W. Johnson, 6 September 1984

The Missing Dimension: Governments and Intelligence Communities in the 20th Century 
edited by Christopher Andrew and David Dilks.
Macmillan, 300 pp., £16.95, July 1984, 0 333 36864 9
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... Comintern’ comes in for further treatment, this time in a long autobiographical essay by Robert Cecil. Perhaps the chief novelty is the persistent implication that the writer, academic and MP, Goronwy Rees, may have been active in the Soviet cause over a considerable period of years. If so, it certainly lends a new twist to one’s reading of ...

Picture in Little

Charles Nicholl: Hilliard’s Trajectory, 9 December 2019

Nicholas Hilliard: Life of an Artist 
by Elizabeth Goldring.
Yale, 337 pp., £40, February 2019, 978 0 300 24142 6
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... founder of the Bodleian Library. On his return he was apprenticed to a leading London goldsmith, Robert Brandon, whose daughter Alice he later married. His subsidiary skills as a jeweller and engraver belong within the ambit of goldsmithery, but there is no indication of who, if anyone, trained him in portraiture. His acknowledged master was Hans Holbein the ...

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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... Arthur Gorges adapting Lucan’s verse history of Rome’s civil wars, and Jonson’s friend Sir Robert Cotton rewriting the reign of Henry III, with an eye to Jacobean political anxieties. Cotton was among the most learned historians of his time. Yet his account of Henry’s reign abandons factual accuracy. Behind it there lies instead the old literary ...

No looking at my elephant

Mary Wellesley: Menageries, 15 December 2016

Menagerie: The History of Exotic Animals in England 1100-1837 
by Caroline Grigson.
Oxford, 349 pp., £25, January 2016, 978 0 19 871470 5
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... from New South Wales, both came to a speedy end: one died and the other was shot by a gamekeeper. Robert Cecil is said to have given his parakeet claret. A zebra brought from Ethiopia by the East India Company in 1826 was allowed to make frequent visits to the canteen of the Royal Menagerie to drink ale, of which it was reported to be ‘exceedingly ...

Brave as hell

John Kerrigan, 21 June 1984

Enderby’s Dark Lady, or No End to Enderby 
by Anthony Burgess.
Hutchinson, 160 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 09 156050 0
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Shakespeare’s Sonnets: A Modern Edition 
edited by A.L. Rowse.
Macmillan, 311 pp., £20, March 1984, 0 333 36386 8
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... or, Shakespeare in Love enjoyed mass appeal in Victorian England. One fatuous confection by Robert Folkestone Williams, The Youth of Shakespeare, went through six editions in three countries, besides being translated into German, and the author was encouraged by its success to complete a Shakespearean trilogy. Since, as Helen Gardner says, ‘the facts ...

A Common Playhouse

Charles Nicholl: The Globe Theatre, 8 January 2015

Shakespeare and the Countess: The Battle That Gave Birth to the Globe 
by Chris Laoutaris.
Fig Tree, 528 pp., £20, April 2015, 978 1 905490 96 7
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... Keeper. Elizabeth was thus aunt to two of Shakespeare’s most influential contemporaries, Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Francis Bacon. The Cooke sisters were a byword for intelligence and high education. Their family home at Gidea Hall, near Romford, was described by the Cambridge scholar Walter Haddon as a ‘little university’, and here they learned ...

Friend to Sir Philip Sidney

Blair Worden, 3 July 1986

The Prose Works of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke 
edited by John Gouws.
Oxford, 279 pp., £40, March 1986, 0 19 812746 4
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... Cambridge. Out of favour and of office in the years from 1604, the period dominated by his enemy Robert Cecil, Greville thought to occupy his leisure with a history of the Tudors, only to be thwarted by Cecil’s refusal to allow him access to the state papers. Cecil’s response is ...


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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... William Cecil, First Baron Burghley, served Elizabeth I for nearly forty years, as principal secretary and lord treasurer, and left an enormous body of papers. His correspondence, now dispersed in four major and a number of minor collections, dominates the political history of Elizabeth’s reign. Even more important, in some respects, are the unique series of memoranda written in his distinctive, neat and spidery hand ...

Young Man’s Nostalgia

Diarmaid MacCulloch: William Byrd, 30 July 2014

by Kerry McCarthy.
Oxford, 282 pp., £25, August 2013, 978 0 19 538875 6
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... table in 1604 were linked to William Byrd.1 The most powerful, the great Protestant statesman Robert Cecil, earl of Salisbury, was the dedicatee of one of Byrd’s last and most haunting keyboard ensembles of pavan and galliard, so popular that they were still admired and adapted through the centuries when most Tudor music was relegated to the ...

Much of a Scramble

Francesca Wade: Ray Strachey, 23 January 2020

A Working Woman: The Remarkable Life of Ray Strachey 
by Jennifer Holmes.
Troubador, 392 pp., £20, February 2019, 978 1 78901 654 3
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... and for a new centrist political party appears to have been driven by her infatuation with Lord Robert Cecil (Holmes doesn’t make entirely clear whether this was romantic). ‘I do not approve of extremes in politics,’ she wrote. ‘I distrust Revolution on the one hand and Reaction on the other, and I believe we ought to pursue a middle ...

Scotch Urchins

Denton Fox, 22 May 1986

Alexander Montgomerie 
by R.D.S. Jack.
Scottish Academic Press, 140 pp., £4.50, June 1985, 0 7073 0367 2
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Letters of King James VI and I 
edited by G.P.V. Akrigg.
California, 546 pp., £32.75, November 1984, 0 520 04707 9
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The Concise Scots Dictionary 
by Mairi Robinson.
Aberdeen University Press, 819 pp., £17.50, August 1985, 0 08 028491 4
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... actions often pass unnoticed. One does notice, and wince, every time James addresses Sir Robert Cecil as ‘my little beagle’, or ‘my little wiffe-waffe’ – Cecil was five feet two or three, apparently malformed, and sensitive about all this. One does not notice that James had enough sense to keep ...

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