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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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... historian of the American Enlightenment, that Franklin was in fact a complicated and charming man 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 ...

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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... é, that his influence was such that ‘the chief lords of England were glad to be in his favour.’ 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 ...

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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... than war. Moreover, the Anglo-French treaty to be celebrated there lay at the heart of a yet more 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 ...

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 ...

Too Much for One Man

Thomas Penn: Kaiser Karl V

13 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 ...

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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... of the monarchy after the civil wars was not a pleasant business. Among Bacon’s motives for writing was a belief that Henry VII should be better known, and that is also a guiding principle of ThomasPenn’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 ...

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 ...


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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... create, or mouth, or tolerate the deceptions that will be used to justify the next defence of freedom.’ 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 ...

At Dulwich Picture Gallery

Peter Campbell: Norman Rockwell

20 January 2011
... to the point of ignoring visual and literary fast food. The Post was full of images that made no concession 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 ...

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 ...
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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... to sue him if he kept on trying. His biography of Tate remains unwritten, and this – in view of 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 ...

Subduing the jury

E.P. Thompson

4 December 1986
... now tried summarily before the stipendiary magistrates. Few cases have been more important in the history 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 ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy

4 March 1999
Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... did in Between the Lines. It is not unusual for a poet to comment on his own work or even to lead his readers through a particular poem. Valéry, Allen Tate, William Empson, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren and Robert Lowell were instructive in that way. But it is rare for a poet to lead readers through a poem, draft by draft, or explain how he settled for one word rather than another. Yeats did ...

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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... to provide for the 13-year-old cousin he married, and her mother who lived with them, partly due to 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 ...

Freaks of Empire

V.G. Kiernan

16 July 1981
Revolutionary Empire: The Rise of the English-Speaking Empires from the 15th Century to the 1780s 
by Angus Calder.
Cape, 916 pp., £16.50, April 1981, 0 224 01452 8
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... into these pages is incalculable – the tale of Thor drinking the sea half-dry comes to mind. Three of the first group of four eras, but none later, take their titles from names of individuals – Thomas Cromwell, Raleigh, Sir Thomas Smythe. Later on, individuals were increasingly overtopped by events. But the limelight is always ready for outstanding men, bad or semi-good: no copybook heroes make an ...

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