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I ham sorry

Norma Clarke: Poor Lore, 1 August 2019

Writing the Lives of the English Poor, 1750s-1830s 
by Steven King.
McGill, 480 pp., £27.99, February 2019, 978 0 7735 5649 2
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... of the Old Poor Law – which isn’t the same as saying that there is scholarly consensus. Steven King is one of a number of people who have for many years done the hard labour of trawling for and transcribing the scrappy – ‘fugitive’ is the word he uses, with its connotations of elusiveness, oppression and secrecy – letters from and about ...

False Brought up of Nought

Thomas Penn: Henry VII’s Men on the Make, 26 July 2017

Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 393 pp., £60, August 2016, 978 0 19 965983 8
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... In a dawn raid​ on 24 April 1509, troops reporting to England’s new king, the 17-year-old Henry VIII, arrested two of his late father’s closest councillors and took them to the Tower of London. Three days earlier, Henry VII, the first Tudor king, had died aged 52, in his privy chamber at Richmond Palace ...

Under the Soles of His Feet

Stephen Alford: Henry’s Wars, 4 April 2019

The English People at War in the Age of Henry VIII 
by Steven Gunn.
Oxford, 297 pp., £35, January 2018, 978 0 19 880286 0
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... In the​ First Book of Kings (5:1-5) Hiram, King of Tyre, sends servants to Solomon, ‘for he had heard, that they had anointed him king in the room of his father,’ David: For Hiram was ever a lover of David. And Solomon sent to Hiram, saying: thou knowest how that David my father could not build an house unto the name of the Lord his God, for the wars which were about him on every side, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet ...

Abishag’s Revenge

Steven Shapin: Who wants to live for ever?, 26 March 2009

Mortal Coil: A Short History of Living Longer 
by David Boyd Haycock.
Yale, 308 pp., £18.99, June 2008, 978 0 300 11778 3
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... Now King David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he gat no heat. Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the king, and let her cherish him, and let her lie in thy bosom, that my lord the king may get heat ...

Herberts & Herbertinas

Rosemary Hill: Steven Runciman, 19 October 2016

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman 
by Minoo Dinshaw.
Penguin, 767 pp., £30, September 2016, 978 0 241 00493 7
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... I met​ Steven Runciman several times towards the end of his long life. On one occasion he told me, as he told many people, that as a young man he had danced with a friend of his mother who, in her own youth, had danced with Prince Albert. He seemed slightly disconcerted when I insisted that he dance a few steps with me so that I could say I had danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince Consort, but he did it and our little turn round the room made me feel in some psychic way closer to the court of Queen Victoria ...

Good Housekeeping

Steven Shapin: William Petty, 20 January 2011

William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic 
by Ted McCormick.
Oxford, 347 pp., £63, September 2010, 978 0 19 954789 0
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... its leaders asked Petty and Christopher Wren ‘to consider the philosophy of shipping’, and the king himself urged Petty to turn his mind to naval matters. The mix of science and statecraft was compelling: Petty got down to work straight away. He wrote to the king, saying that ‘there was no greater, no more stately ...

Disasters Galore

Steven Connor: Nostradamus, 27 September 2012

Nostradamus: The Prophecies 
translated by Richard Sieburth.
Penguin, 351 pp., £20, November 2012, 978 0 14 310675 3
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... though they were cards shuffled and dealt from some unnumberable deck: ‘Bronzebeard’, ‘the king’, ‘the lady’, ‘the French brothers’, ‘the blond one’, ‘the forked nose’. What’s more, Nostradamus seems to take perverse delight in demonstrating repeatedly the relative futility of prediction: ‘Death, then pillage: good advice, coming ...

Rough Trade

Steven Shapin: Robert Hooke, 6 March 2003

The Man Who Knew Too Much: The Strange and Inventive Life of Robert Hooke 1635-1703 
by Stephen Inwood.
Macmillan, 497 pp., £18.99, September 2002, 0 333 78286 0
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... world. Recognising that he could have IP with world-changing possibilities, Hooke went to see the King and asked him for a patent – that’s how you could secure your rights to IP in Restoration England, though it was more customary to work through Crown officials. Hooke gave the King an early version of his watch and ...

One Cygnet Too Many

John Watts: Henry VII, 26 April 2012

Winter KingThe Dawn of Tudor England 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 0 14 104053 0
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... Harrison told not one but two stories about Henry VII. ‘As the report goeth’, he wrote, the king had had all the mastiffs in England put to death because ‘they durst presume to fight against the lion, who is their king and sovereigne’. And again, ‘as some saie’, the king had ...

Interesting Fellows

Walter Nash, 4 May 1989

The Book of Evidence 
by John Banville.
Secker, 220 pp., £10.95, March 1989, 0 436 03267 8
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Carn 
by Patrick McCabe.
Aidan Ellis, 252 pp., £11.50, March 1989, 0 85628 180 8
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The Tryst 
by Michael Dibdin.
Faber, 168 pp., £10.99, April 1989, 0 571 15450 6
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Gerontius 
by James Hamilton-Paterson.
Macmillan, 264 pp., £12.95, March 1989, 0 333 45194 5
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... St John Vanderveld Montgomery, if you please), stout, blond, of some intellect and no substance, king of the expatriate castle on a Mediterranean island, carelessly finds himself owing money to one Señor Aguirre, a local ‘businessman’ given to irregular commercial practices like cutting people’s ears off. Somewhat startled by the realisation that ...

Floating

Christopher Driver, 6 October 1983

Waterland 
by Graham Swift.
Heinemann, 310 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 434 75330 0
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Perfect Happiness 
by Penelope Lively.
Heinemann, 233 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 434 42740 3
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Scenes from Later Life 
by William Cooper.
Macmillan, 258 pp., £7.95, September 1983, 0 333 34204 6
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Summer at The Haven 
by Katharine Moore.
Allison and Busby, 158 pp., £6.95, April 1983, 0 85031 511 5
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... folded and face blank, recollecting not in tranquillity but in ripe howling grief her husband Steven dead now eight months two weeks one day’. It says much for her unobtrusively appealing manner and deft touch with sequence that this novel makes much easier company than widowhood usually expects to be. For this reason if no other, it must be accounted a ...

How to Be Tudor

Hilary Mantel: Can a King Have Friends?, 17 March 2016

Charles Brandon: Henry VIII’s Closest Friend 
by Steven Gunn.
Amberley, 304 pp., £20, October 2015, 978 1 4456 4184 3
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... was ‘used by Henry and Anne, back in the day’, while others like to believe it was where the king spent ‘one of his many honeymoons’. Guests praise ‘a brilliant, authentic experience of castle life’ and the ease of finding the place, ‘especially if you use a GPS’, but some claim a lack of attention to their particular pleasures: ‘there is ...

Thinking about Death

Michael Wood: Why does the world exist?, 21 March 2013

Why Does the World Exist? An Existential Detective Story 
by Jim Holt.
Profile, 307 pp., £12.99, June 2012, 978 1 84668 244 5
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... subject: ‘“I see nobody on the road,” said Alice. “I only wish I had such eyes,” the King remarked in a fretful tone. “To be able to see Nobody! And at that distance, too!”’ We notice that Holt has begun to turn his deep question in an unexpected direction. ‘Why is there something rather than nothing, because there is, and we’d better ...

Keep him as a curiosity

Steven Shapin: Botanic Macaroni, 13 August 2020

The Multifarious Mr Banks: From Botany Bay to Kew, the Natural Historian Who Shaped the World 
by Toby Musgrave.
Yale, 386 pp., £25, April, 978 0 300 22383 5
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... undiscovered Southern continent – really existed; if it did, to take possession in the name of King George III; and if it didn’t, to plant the flag on whatever still unknown lands were encountered in the circumnavigation.The Royal Society would organise the astronomy, securing a grant from the king to pay for it; the ...

Reputation

Peter Burke, 21 May 1987

The Count-Duke of Olivares: The Statesman in an Age of Decline 
by J.H. Elliott.
Yale, 733 pp., £19.95, August 1986, 0 300 03390 7
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Philip IV and the Decoration of the Alcazar of Madrid 
by Steven Orso.
Princeton, 227 pp., £36.70, July 1986, 0 691 04036 2
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... monarchy declined (despite his efforts, or even because of them), while France rose. The ‘planet king’, Philip IV, was eclipsed by the sun of Louis XIV. History, or the historian at any rate, has little patience with failure. The second reason for the neglect of Olivares is the loss of most of his papers, those notorious papers which he took everywhere ...

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