Sunday, October 30, 2016

Thomas Cromwell - A Life In Print

Aside from the famous six wives, Henry VIII's "faithful servant" Thomas Cromwell has recently come to the fore with both the reading and viewing public alike. There are now more "modern" accounts (both factual and fictional) of the life of this dogged Tudor statesman than you can poke a stick at - and I will share a few with you.

The most current rendition of the life of Thomas Cromwell is Tracey Borman's "Thomas Cromwell: The Untold Story of Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant" (a copy which sits on my own library shelves). A review by The Independent says: " ...  Tracy Borman shows in this excellent, scrupulous biography, Anne’s shockingly fast fall from grace was largely engineered by Thomas Cromwell, a rather plain and overweight Putney-born man in his fifties whose intelligence and daring had made him the king’s closest advisor." The articles goes on further to say that "Borman has scoured the sources to explore the life and personality of the man who in effect created the break from the Church of Rome and her book is an impressive investigation into one of our most elusive characters in history."

This was in comparison to Hilary Mantle's "Wolf Hall" (2009) and "Bring Up The Bodies" (2012) (and the third, soon to be released book in the trilogy - "The Mirror & The Light") whom the same article says "Hilary Mantel’s crafting of Cromwell in her bestselling novels has been a triumph: sensitive, intellectual, brutal, strong. "

For many, however, Thomas Cromwell was not particularly well-known until Hilary Mantel’s best-selling novels (and the series based upon them) brought this protagonist to wider public attention. The Independent article goes further to say: "But the publishers have given Tracy Borman’s biography of Thomas Cromwell an unfortunate subtitle: “The untold story of Henry VIII’s most faithful servant.” It is no such thing. Besides Ms. Mantel’s fictional versions, Ms. Borman lists 10 previous lives of Cromwell in her bibliography."

And well she may - and here are a few worthy tomes to consider:
  • "Thomas Cromwell: Servant to Henry VIII (2013) by David Loades
  • "Thomas Cromwell: The Rise And Fall Of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister" (2012) by Robert Hutchinson
  • "The Rise and Fall of Thomas Cromwell: Henry VIII's Most Faithful Servant" (2011) by John Schofield
  • "Thomas Cromwell" (2013) by J Patrick Coby
  • "The Rise of Thomas Cromwell: Power and Politics in the Reign of Henry VIII, 1485-1534" (2015) by Michael Everette
  • "Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell" - 6vols (2000) by Roger Bigelow Merriman
  • "The Crown and the Cross: A Biography of Thomas Cromwell" (1950) by Theodore Maynard
  • "Thomas Cromwell: Tudor Minister" by B. W. Beckingsale (1978)
  • "The Character and Times of Thomas Cromwell: A Sixteenth Century Criticism" (1887) by Arthur Howard Galton
  • "Thomas Cromwell" (1991) by Geoffrey Rudolph Elton
  • "Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell" (1985) by G. R. Elton 

There are indeed numerous books on the English Reformation, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and the Reign of Henry VIII in which Thomas Cromwell plays a role not consigned to the shadows.

Further readings & reviews:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

10 Worldwide Rad Women Writers You Should Know

10 Worldwide Rad Women Writers You Should Know

The first known author was an ancient Sumerian priestess named Enheduanna. The first novel was written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Court in Japan. Women wrote plays in ancient Greece, poems in ancient Persia. Fast forward some centuries, and five of the world’s top ten bestselling authors are women. Women from all over the world have been creating, influencing, and contributing to literature since its inception. 
Kate Schatz puts forth her list of writers from this last century that we should all read.

1066 and all that: a Hong Kong novelist’s alternative history

Author Justin Hill recounts his quest to reimagine the events of 1066 and retrace the life of a legendary warrior who could have become England’s king instead of William the Conqueror.
Harald Hardrada was one of the most fabulous adventurers of medieval times. His career has served as a template for fantasy char­acters such as Conan the Barbarian and even for the tumultuous turns of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. Harald was a child exile, like Arya Stark; as clever as Tyrion Lannister; as accomplished a warrior as Jaime Lannister; and travelled into the exotic east, like Daenerys Targaryen. His story is the archetype of the barbarian who rose to the heights of power and made himself king.
Shieldwall (2011), the first of a series of books examining the narratives and context of the 1066 Battle of Hastings, was a Sunday Times book of the year. Viking Fire is the second in this series and follows the adventures of Norwegian king Harald Hardrada.
Continue reading article here at Post Magazine

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Shirley Jackson: the US Queen of Gothic Horror

Shirley Jackson: the US queen of gothic horror claims her literary crown | Books | The Guardian
She has been cited as an inspiration by Stephen King, Donna Tartt, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris. Now the American author Shirley Jackson, once memorably described as writing “not with a pen but a broomstick”, is set for a long overdue reappraisal on this side of the Atlantic.
This week sees the release of a new biography, Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, swiftly followed by a graphic novel version of her most famous short story, The Lottery, illustrated by her grandson, Miles Hyman, and the publication of Dark Tales, a collection of her most chilling short stories. And the revival does not stop there: next year will see a film of her book We Have Always Lived In The Castle, with rising stars Taissa Farmiga and Alexandra Daddario, alongside Sebastian Stan and Crispin Glover.
In an era when domestic noir reigns at the publishing houses and our thirst for dark tales of women under threat rages unabated, Jackson’s ability to unnerve strikes a chord. “There’s a whole new appreciation today of what it means to be a mother and a writer and how to reconcile those two things,” says Franklin. “We’re also more interested in the lives of women and that in turn has led to a revival of interest in Jackson’s work. I honestly feel as though she’s one of those authors who’s been in the background for a long time, yet has a huge influence on American fiction, and it’s only now that we’re beginning to see how important she is.” 

Read More Here >>>>> Guardian Fiction

Bernicia Chronicles: The Northern Queen

This month in the "What I Learnt..." series, Matthew Harffy talks to author Kelly Evans about her new novel "The Northern Queen" and researching for her novels.

Born in Canada of Scottish extraction, Kelly graduated in History and English from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada. After graduating Kelly moved to the UK where she continued her studies in history, focusing on Medieval England and the Icelandic Sagas (with a smattering of Old Norse and Old English). Her first novel, The Northern Queen, was released in 2015 and she is currently working on the second book in her Anglo-Saxon series, set in the years prior to the Norman invasion.

Read rest of the blog article here at Matthew Harffy's Bernicia Chronicles

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

June & October 2016 Additions to the Library

I have been doing a bit of a stock-take in the Library and have discovered that quite a few books have not made it on the stock list. So, after spending an afternoon (or two) reviewing what I have on the shelves, I have discovered I have, on occasion, six occasions to be exact, have duplicated books. Okay, a couple of times it has mean both a hardback and paperback copy of the same book; however, in the other instances it has mean that, because of my own poor record-keeping, I have made multiple purchases. Never mind, one can never have too many books.

So, here are the latest additions:

  • Foxe's Book of Martyrs - John Foxe
  • Hawkwood - Jack Ludlow
  • The Nevills of Middleham - K. L. Clark
  • King Rufus - Emma Mason
  • Richard, Duke of York - Matthew Lewis
  • Joan of Kent - Penny Lawne
  • The Mythology of Richard III - John Ashdown-Hill
  • The Demon's Brood - Desmond Seward
  • God's Wolf - Jeffrey Lee
  • The War on Heresy - R. I. Moore
  • The French in the Kingdom of Sicily, 1266-1305 - Jean Dunbabin
  • John of Brienne - Guy Perry
  • The Bigod Earls of Norfolk in the Thirteenth Century - Marc Morris
  • The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108 - Georgios Theotokis
  • Lady Macbeth - Susan Fraser King
  • The Borders - Alistair Moffat
In addition, I have also added: these ones in "The Witcher" series by Andrzej Sapkowski:
  • The Last Wish
  • Blood of Elves
  • The Time of Contempt
  • Baptism of Fire
  • The Tower of Swallows
  • Sword of Destiny

Jezebel: Princess of Sidon, Queen of Israel

Article by Joshua J. Mark published on 18 January 2012
Jezebel was the Phoenician Princess of Sidon (9th century BCE) whose story is told in the Hebrew Tanakh (the Christian Old Testament) in I and II Kings where she is portrayed unfavorably as a conniving harlot who corrupts Israel and flaunts the commandments of God. Recent scholarship, which has led to a better understanding of the civilization of Phoenicia, the role of women, and the struggle of the adherents of the Hebrew god Yahweh for dominance over the worship of the Canaanite deities Astarte and Baal, suggest a different, and more favorable, picture of Jezebel as a woman ahead of her time married into a culture whose religious class saw her as a formidable threat ( The historian and biblical scholar Janet Howe Gaines notes this new interpretation in scholarship, writing: 
For more than two thousand years, Jezebel has been saddled with a reputation as the bad girl of the Bible, the wickedest of women. This ancient queen has been denounced as a murderer, prostitute and enemy of God, and her name has been adopted for lingerie lines and World War II missiles alike. But just how depraved was Jezebel? In recent years, scholars have tried to reclaim the shadowy female figures whose tales are often only partially told in the Bible. 
Read rest of article at Ancient History Encyclopedia

Monday, October 10, 2016

“I have the temperament of a harlot": on the life of Steven Runciman

“I have the temperament of a harlot": on the life of Steven Runciman
In the mid-1970s, when Steven Runciman was in his own eighth decade, he became a frequent house guest of the archaeologist (and husband of Agatha Christie) Max Mallowan. Like all who met him, the Mallowans were impressed by this charming and intellectually brilliant man, who was one of the best-known historians in the country. But one evening Mallowan confided to a friend that he had been shocked by his last conversation with Runciman, who told him “that he felt his life had been a failure because of his gayness”. Mallowan was dismayed not only because such soul-baring was startlingly out of character. As the friend later said, “I remember Max saying with huge indignation how tragic and wrong it was that Steven should feel this way.”
Tragic and wrong indeed. People differ in how they measure their own success or failure, but by almost any standards Runciman had led a successful life. His many books on Byzantine and medieval history had been acclaimed by specialists and avidly consumed by general readers; he had received a knighthood and became a Companion of Honour in 1984; he was an honorary whirling dervish and was appointed Grand Orator of the Greek Orthodox Church. At the age of 97 he complained that “the only friend I now have who is older than me is the Queen Mother”; yet one would need to analyse the guest list for his 90th birthday party, to which he invited 400 friends, to be sure of the accuracy of that remark.
Continue reading Noel Malcolm's review of Minoo Dinshaw’s Outlandish Knight at the New Statesman

126 remarkable Agatha Christie facts

126 remarkable Agatha Christie facts
With Poirot-like diligence, expert John Curran has gathered 126 facts about the Queen of Crime .... and as a huge Agatha fan, thank you John Curran for this list.

Here's a little tempter ....
Although her name is shorthand for “murder mystery” and she is the most translated and biggest-selling writer in history, Agatha Christie shunned publicity. She rarely gave print interviews and steadfastly refused to appear on television or radio. Surviving radio documentaries feature mainly other people talking about her and her work. Authorised biographies appeared only long after her death and her own Autobiography is maddeningly offhand about her writing. With Poirot-like diligence I have gathered together these 126 facts about the Queen of Crime to mark what would have been her 126th birthday last month.
1. Christie has been outsold only by Shakespeare and the Bible.
2. It was never Christie’s intention to become a writer, but she was determined to rise to the challenge set by her sister Madge who had dared her to write a detective story.

Continue reading the rest of John's list via The Irish Times.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Hortus Deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg

The First Encyclopedia by a Woman Contains The First Image of a Pretzel | Atlas Obscura
An illuminated encyclopedia that dates back to the 12th century, the tome, the title of which is Latin for “Garden of Delights,” covered a wide range of topics, from a retelling of the Biblical history of the world to the scientific interests of the day. Meant to serve as a primer for young nuns and abbesses entering the service of the Hohenburg Abbey, a convent perched atop an Alsatian peak, much of the knowledge and writing contained in the text was reprinted from preexisting religious and philosophical manuscripts.
However, the author/compiler of the Hortus Deliciarum, an abbess named Herrad of Landsberg, added much more to the text. Herrad joined the convent in her youth, coming from a wealthy royal family. Hohenburg Abbey was a well-funded and respected convent that had the blessing (both spiritual and financial) of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa I, allowing the education of its nuns to flourish. Herrad likely received the best possible education a woman of her time could have received, learning about music, sciences, theology, and the arts.
The Hortus Deliciarum is probably best remembered by its vivid illustrations. The 300-plus images cover subjects ranging from historical vignettes to religious scenes including one particularly striking vision of a fiery hellscape. (Sorry, sinners.) While Herrad is thought to have directed the creation of the illustrations in the text, which were rich in telling detail, “The artists of the Hortus Deliciarum, likely the canonesses living at Hohenbourg in the late 12th century,” says Joyner, “gave a great deal of attention to details like luxurious clothing, the plow and a mill, and apparently the pretzel!”

Read rest of article at the Atlas Obscura

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Jennifer Worth: Shadows of the Workhouse

Workhouse of horrors: How this medieval hell of beatings and sack cloth exists within living memory | Daily Mail Online
In a new book by Jennifer Worth, Shadows Of The Workhouse, the former nurse and midwife recounts stories told to her by inmates of a 20th century workhouse in London's East End.
Worth's generation grew up in the shadow of the workhouse. Thousands of people lived in constant dread that some accident or illness would overtake them, leading to destitution and to that place where husbands were separated from their wives, and mothers from their children. People who witnessed neighbours going into the workhouse never forgot what they saw.
The workhouse, in its heyday, was intended to be a form of social welfare for those with nothing. In practice, it was seen as a dark and terrible fate. Not only the destitute were confined in them: workhouses were used as a dump for the mentally and chronically ill, and the disabled.
The workhouses were officially closed in 1930. But since there was nowhere else to house thousands of institutionalised people who could not be expected to adjust to the outside world, they continued under other names well into the second half of the 20th century.
Inmates were allowed out; creature comforts were provided and families were kept together. But they continued to be run as institutions, by masters and officers whose attitudes were often set still in the 1900s.
Read full article here - Workhouse of Horrors
See list of Jennifer's books here: Jennifer Worth on Amazon
Biography of Jennifer Worth (author: Call The Midwife) on wikipedia