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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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... This will all seem familiar to aficionados of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall: in the following reign, Thomas Cromwell was the apotheosis (or nadir) of these ‘new men’. As Steven Gunn argues in his new book, a work of characteristic meticulousness, not only did these men encapsulate the mood, workings and functioning of Henry VII’s disorientating ...

Jousting for Peace

Thomas Penn: Henry VIII meets Francis I, 16 July 2014

The Field of Cloth of Gold 
by Glenn Richardson.
Yale, 288 pp., £35, November 2013, 978 0 300 14886 2
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... ambitious project. Its guiding spirit was Henry’s ‘angel-tongued’ lord chancellor, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the man in whom, as the Venetian ambassador put it, ‘the whole power of the state is really lodged’. In war-ravaged 15th-century Europe, an old idea began to gain new impetus: the dream of a unified Christendom, bound together by its one ...

The First Consort

Thomas Penn: Philip of Spain, 5 April 2012

Philip of Spain, King of England: The Forgotten Sovereign 
by Harry Kelsey.
I.B. Tauris, 230 pp., £18.99, November 2011, 978 1 84885 716 2
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... It always comes as something of a surprise to remember that thirty years before the Armada, Philip of Spain was king of the country he later attempted to invade. What was more, he had been a new kind of king, the consort of England’s first ruling queen, and one to whom England had violently objected before he had even set foot there. In 1553, Mary Tudor, Henry VIII’s first-born daughter, had acceded to the throne following the death of Henry’s teenage son, Edward VI ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V, 23 January 2020

Emperor: A New Life of Charles V 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Yale, 760 pp., £25, May 2019, 978 0 300 19652 8
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... In late​ 1555 Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and head of the house of Habsburg, returned to the Low Countries, where he was born: there, he began the long, slow process by which he abdicated in favour of his son Philip and brother Ferdinand. It was abundantly clear why such a transfer of power was necessary. It was a cold winter and Charles, white-haired, with shrunken gums exposing blackened teeth, his joints so crippled by gout that he was unable to sign documents with his bandaged hands, was exhausted, infirm and, in his mid-fifties, prematurely aged ...

Hating

Patrice Higonnet, 14 November 1996

Benjamin Franklin and his Enemies 
by Robert Middlekauf.
California, 276 pp., £19.95, March 1996, 0 520 20268 6
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... with the will heartily to dislike any number of people who stood in his way. People like William Penn, for example, the absentee ‘proprietor’ of Pennsylvania; or Penn’s American henchman, William Smith, provost of the Academy and College of Philadelphia; or again, Ralph Izard, Silas Deane and John Adams, who were in ...

One Cygnet Too Many

John Watts: Henry VII, 26 April 2012

Winter King: The Dawn of Tudor England 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 448 pp., £8.99, March 2012, 978 0 14 104053 0
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... was a belief that Henry VII should be better known, and that is also a guiding principle of Thomas Penn’s account of the last decade of his reign. Today’s historians have tried to get away from what Stanley Chrimes called ‘seductive Baconian phrases’; their aim has been to resist Bacon’s ‘imaginative power’ and understand the king and ...

Done for the State

John Guy: The House of York, 2 April 2020

The Brothers York: An English Tragedy 
by Thomas Penn.
Penguin, 688 pp., £12.99, April, 978 0 7181 9728 5
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Richard III: The Self-Made King 
by Michael Hicks.
Yale, 388 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 0 300 21429 1
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... gained too soon or too late. Such political and personal struggles are a gift to a historian like Thomas Penn, who believes that events are more often driven by strong characters than by impersonal forces. In 2012, Penn’s Winter King – a biography of Henry VII focusing on the last seven years of his life ...

Southern Comfort

Claude Rawson, 16 April 1981

Jefferson Davis gets his citizenship back 
by Robert Penn Warren.
Kentucky/Transatlantic Book Service, 114 pp., £4.85, December 1980, 0 8131 1445 4
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Being here: Poetry 1977-1980 
by Robert Penn Warren.
Secker, 109 pp., £4.95, October 1980, 0 436 36650 9
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Ways of light: Poems 1972-1980 
by Richard Eberhart.
Oxford, 68 pp., £5.95, January 1981, 9780195027372
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... In 1979 Robert Penn Warren – novelist, critic, and dean of American poets – returned to his native Todd County, Kentucky, to attend ceremonies in honor of another native son – Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, whose United States citizenship had just been restored, ninety years after his death, by a special act of Congress ...

Mysterian

Jackson Lears: On Chomsky, 3 May 2017

Why Only Us: Language and Evolution 
by Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky.
MIT, 215 pp., £18.95, February 2016, 978 0 262 03424 1
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Because We Say So 
by Noam Chomsky.
Penguin, 199 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 0 241 97248 9
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What Kind of Creatures Are We? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Columbia, 167 pp., £17, January 2016, 978 0 231 17596 8
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Who Rules the World? 
by Noam Chomsky.
Hamish Hamilton, 307 pp., £18.99, May 2016, 978 0 241 18943 6
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Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals 
by Neil Smith and Nicholas Allott.
Cambridge, 461 pp., £18.99, January 2016, 978 1 107 44267 2
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... Chomsky’s route to this position began with his reaction against the conformist culture of Penn. Searching for alternatives, he was drawn to the kibbutzim being organised in Palestine, and to the Zionism of Martin Buber and Judah Magnes, who advocated the foundation of a binational state in Palestine, rather than a Jewish one. He stayed at ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Norman Rockwell, 20 January 2011

... to hierarchies of taste. My mother’s copies of Vogue, with black and white photographs by Penn, Avedon and Horst, and drawings by John Ward, Bouché, Eric and the rest, are still my best notion of what a sophisticated magazine should look like. The Post, with its Rockwell covers and advertisements for refrigerators of giant size, finned cars, and ...

Is he winking?

Joseph J. Ellis: Benjamin Franklin, 20 March 2003

Benjamin Franklin 
by Edmund S. Morgan.
Yale, 339 pp., £19.95, October 2002, 0 300 09532 5
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... When Thomas Jefferson was introduced as the new American Ambassador to France in 1784, legend has it that the French minister asked if he was Benjamin Franklin’s replacement, and Jefferson replied that he was merely Franklin’s successor; no one could replace him. Whether or not the story is true, it conveys Franklin’s stature as the only serious rival to George Washington for the title of America’s greatest hero of the age ...

‘I intend to support white rule’

Ian Hamilton: Allen Tate, 24 May 2001

Allen Tate: Orphan of the South 
by Thomas Underwood.
Princeton, 447 pp., £21.95, December 2000, 0 691 06950 6
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... his juicy prospectus – seems a pity. Instead, we must make do, at least for the time being, with Thomas Underwood’s immensely detailed and tirelessly literary investigation of Tate’s early career, which culminated with Tate, at almost forty, on the brink of an eventful if largely uncreative middle age: a middle age in which the poet maybe tried to ...

Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson, 4 December 1986

... of jury rights than what is known as Bushel’s Case (1670). This is the case of the Quakers, Penn and Mead, indicted at the Old Bailey in that they did preach and speak to persons in the street assembled, by reason whereof a great concourse and tumult of people a long time did remain and continue, in contempt of the King and his law, and to the great ...

Bouvard and Pécuchet

C.H. Sisson, 6 December 1984

The Lyttelton Hart-Davis Letters: Correspondence of George Lyttelton and Rupert Hart-Davis. 
edited by Rupert Hart-Davis.
Murray, 193 pp., £13.50, April 1984, 0 7195 4108 5
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... are put forward. Lord Nugent? ‘My first pupil,’ Lyttelton says. The Lord Chamberlain, Eric Penn? ‘He was in my house.’ Sir Edward Ford? ‘He is my cousin.’ Sir Michael Adeane! ‘He is my wife’s cousin.’ The Queen Mother? ‘She was a great friend, before marriage, of my wife’s.’ For Hart-Davis, naturally, it is more a question of active ...

Poe’s Woes

Julian Symons, 23 April 1992

Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-Ending Remembrance 
by Kenneth Silverman.
Weidenfeld, 564 pp., £25, March 1992, 9780297812531
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... his drinking bouts. Under the prosecutor’s eye he can be made to look like a less amiable Dylan Thomas. The merit of the stories and poems called in to excuse or justify such a life has also been questioned. D.H. Lawrence called ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ an overdone and vulgar fantasy. Yvor Winters said Poe’s was an art for servant girls. Both ...

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