Posts Tagged ‘Books’

17
Apr

17 APRIL 1397

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

Geoffrey Chaucer tells the Canterbury Tales for the first time at the court of Richard II.

Tags:

24
Feb

24 FEBRUARY 1151

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

Geoffrey of Monmouth elected to the see of St Asaph in Wales.  It is assumed he was born between 1100 and 1110, and to have died between  25 December 1154 and 24 December 1155.

He is mainly known as a writer of the Historia Regum Britanniae (The history of the kings of Britain), which includes stories of Arthur, Merlin and kings Leir and Coel.

Geoffrey will always remind me of my classes in medieval Latin at university, where we studied his story of King Arthur.  Though I had disliked Latin at school and only did the course because it was a prerequisite for graduation, here I discovered that studying a ‘dead’ language could actually be fun.

Dorothea Preis

Reference:

J. C. Crick, ‘Monmouth, Geoffrey of (d. 1154/5)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Tags: ,

3
Feb

Death of Johannes Gutenberg

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

Death of Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

Death of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press

The death of  Johannes Gutenberg occurred on 3 February 1468 in Mainz.

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, his full name, was born c. 1398 in Mainz.  In approx. 1439 he invented a mechanical printing press using moveable type.  This was later, in 1476, introduced into England by William Caxton.  The invention of the printing press is regarded as one of the most important developments in the history of mankind as it allowed the fast dissemination of written texts.

More information on Johannes Gutenberg:

Tejvan Pettinger, ‘Biography of Johannes Gutenberg’, Biography Online (28 December 2012).  URL: http://www.biographyonline.net/business/j-gutenberg.html  [accessed 27 December 2014]

Dorothea Preis

Tags:

16
Dec

Birth of Jane Austen

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

Birth of Jane Austen

Jane Austen

Birth of Jane Austen

On 16 December 1775, Jane Austen was born in Steventon, Hampshire, where her Father, George Austen, was rector.  We all know and love Jane Austen’s novels, but her History of England, from the Reign of Henry the 4th to the Death of Charles the 1st is less widely known.   She wrote this at the age of 16 in 1791, but even at this early age it shows the wit she was to become famous for.

Of particular interest to us is of course what she had to say about Richard III.  Jane acknowledges that his character has been badly treated by historians, however, she is “inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man”.  The reason for her positive impression is that “he was York”, so not too many Lancastrian sympathies there.

Quotes taken from:
Jane Austen:  Love and Freindship and other early Works, The Women’s Press, London, 1978, reprinted 1979.  ISBN 0 7043 3823 8, p.71

You can read a short biography here.

Tags: ,

23
Nov

23 NOVEMBER 1503

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

Margaret of York, Duchess of Burgundy, dies at Malines.  She was a sister of Edward IV and Richard III.  After Richard’s death she supported the Yorkist pretenders.  She was on very good terms with her husband’s daughter and her family and had a successful and positive influence on Burgundian politics.  She was a patron of William Caxton, who introduced the printing press to England.

Tags: ,

18
Nov

18 NOVEMBER 1477

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

William Caxton produces Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres, one of the first books printed on a printing press in England.

Tags:

24
Aug

24 AUGUST 1456

   Posted by: Lawrence Osborn    in Events in History

The first Gutenberg Bible is printed.

Tags:

3
Sep

NOT LOOKING FOR RICHARD?

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in Bookworm

NOT LOOKING FOR RICHARD?Thanks to Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill the phrase “Looking for Richard” became part of our lives and enthralled us through the search, discovery and final result. Then came the pride and emotion as we witnessed the re-interment – and acknowledgement of King Richard’s life in Leicester.

But what happens if you aren’t looking for Richard and he – and some historical connections – suddenly turn up when you least expect them, usually through a brief reference is a totally unexpected book.

I changed my mind about Richard’s character at the ripe old age of ten. I’d read the junior history books, seen the Millais’ portrait of those innocent little boys and even accepted the fact that in a pantomime The Babes in the Wood (at the Bournemouth Pavilion for the Dorset Group’s info) the wicked uncle wore black and had a hunchback. Hmm.

Then my sister and I saw a production of The Black Arrow at London’s Old Vic theatre and this was the cue for a major switch. This novel is subtitled A Tale of Two Roses and is set during the Cousin’s War. The young hero, Richard Shelton fighting for the Yorkists, becomes aware of a fierce encounter taking place. One of a small group of fighters is “so active and dexterous … so desperately did he charge and scatter his opponents … but so icy was the ground, one slip and his life would be forfeit.”

Young Richard of course comes to this man’s aid, the fight is won and he is “surprised to find in one who had displayed such strength skill and energy [was] a lad no older than himself – slightly deformed, with one shoulder higher than the other … The eyes, however, were very clear and bold.”

This is his first meeting with the young Duke of Gloucester, and after more fighting, Richard is knighted by the Duke for his valour, and finally, with the Duke’s royal consent, marries his love Joanna. RLS may well have been an early Ricardian …

A few years later, when reading one of English author Angela Thirkell’s delightful novels in which she picks up the descendants and places of Anthony Trollope’s Barchester novels, and sets them in the mid-1900s, I rejoiced to find Mrs Morland praising The Black Arrow.

“Why Stevenson thought so poorly of that book I shall never understand. All my boys loved it … And it was the only thing that made me really interested in Richard Crookback, until I read that book by that clever woman with three names, who proved that Richard didn’t murder the little Princes in the Tower and was a hero all the time and not a villain.”

Well, we all know the name of that book, don’t we? It’s probably on everyone’s bookshelves even after all the years since it was published in 1951.

Another book I loved at about the same age was Maddy Alone, by Pamela Brown. Twelve-year-old Maddy, an aspiring actress, learns about a film being made about a castle near her home. The kindly Bishop who is a family friend, takes her for lunch (with meringues) to soothe her misery at being left behind while her sister and older friends start at drama academy. Afterwards they go for a walk near the castle and he tells her that the film is about the daughter of Arthur, Prince of Wales, and Catherine of Aragon. He has just found some old papers that reveal that “at twelve years old away she fledde, forsook her crown but saved her hedde”. Apparently there was a plan to put her on the throne after Henry VII died, but naturally Henry VIII would have none of it.

There are some pretty valid comments about the undesirability of this particular Tudor and his propensity for an axe and a block to dispense with those he no longer needed in his life!

Richard isn’t mentioned, but I liked the Tudor reference. And, of course, our 12-year-old finds out that the daughter of Arthur is being played by a well-known and glamorous actress and chaos inevitably ensues. Now guess who plays the role at the right age …

Ricardians who are also die-hard fans of detective novels will be familiar with the Inspector Lynley novels, by the American author Elizabeth George, a self-confessed supporter of the last Plantagenet king. Her references to him in many of her books give us enormous pleasure – as does the investigation through to pages to find his name! These are some of my favourites.

The Evidence Exposed:

This is a collection of three novellas, in one of which – I Richard – an interesting theory as to what happened to the Princes and, indeed, whodunit, is presented. With Philippa Langley’s new quest to discover an answer to the age-old mystery, you could appreciate the idea.

Well-Schooled in Murder

Sergeant Barbara Havers asks Lynley why the statue of Henry VII outside a school faces north, not south, towards the school entry.

“He wants us to remember his moment of glory. So he’s looking to the north, in the direction of Bosworth Field.”

“‘Ah. Death and treachery. The end of Richard III. Why does it always slip my mind that you’re a Yorkist… Do you spit on Henry’s tomb whenever you get the chance to slip down to the Abbey?”

He smiled. “Religiously. It’s one of my rare pleasures.”

Missing Joseph:

Lynley speaks to Deborah and Simon St James about the power of tourism: “Don’t people pay to see the Queen of Scots death mask?”

“Not to mention some of the grimmer spots of the Tower London,” St James said. “The Chapel Royal, Wakefield Tower.”

“Why bother with the Crown Jewels when you can see a chopping block?” Lynley added. “Crime doesn’t pay, but death brings them running with a few quid.”

“Is this irony from the man who’s made at least five personal pilgrimages to Bosworth Field on the twenty-second of August?” Deborah asked blithely. “… where you drink from the well and swear to Richard’s ghost that you would have fought for the Yorks?”

“That’s not death,” Lynley said with some dignity, lifting his glass to salute her. “That’s history, my girl. Someone’s got to be willing to set the record straight.”

The Girl in the Photograph, by Kate Riordan, is a recent publication I enjoyed. Set in an old, crumbling English manor, the heroine, living a lonely life there, is convinced that one night the resident ghost is around. The sound of footsteps, drifts of perfume and so on. According to local legend this is none other than Margaret of Anjou who stayed there on her way to join young Edouard, Lancaster Prince of Wales, at Tewkesbury, unaware that his death is imminent. It seems that the author assumed her readers would know exactly who Margaret was as there is no further reference to her back story, the Cousins’ War, or the fact that her companion would have been Anne Neville , the future queen and wife of Richard III.

The uncertainly and mystery about Richard has obviously struck a chord with many authors. One of those in the Golden Age of English Crime Writing was Dorothy L. Sayers who, in Have His Carcase has her noble detective Lord Peter Wimsey on the hunt for the killer of a young man whose body was found stranded on a rock off the Cornish coast. His quest takes him to the offices of theatrical agents where the photograph of the victim reminds one agent of someone who would have made “a good Judas”. “Or a Richard III,” says the other.

Then follows an interesting discussion of the guises Richard portrays in Shakespeare’s tragedy. The man who plots, the man who flies into tempers that, according these two, are as artificial as his love-making to Anne. As he leaves, Wimsey asks the Inspector who is with him what made them think of Richard III.

“Wasn’t he the fellow who made up his mind to be a villain?” to which Lord Peter confesses that he has “something on his mind and can’t seem get it out”. A nice cue to let you read on!

A further visit to a theatrical connection occurs in one of the other-authored sequels to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. In Sally Beauman’s Rebecca’s Tale we meet one of those seeking to find the secrets of Rebecca’s life, and an obscure reference leads him to the memoirs of legendary actor manager Sir Frank McKendrick, who recalls the charming young actress Isabel Devlin who had died shortly after leaving his company.

“I grieved for her. I should add that Miss Devlin’s daughter was also at this time a member of our little “band of brothers” … she was a most unusual and wicked Puck at a very early age and was of great use to us in boys’ roles. I remember her as a swaggering but subtle young Princeling to my Richard III … but we heard no more of her after her mother died.”

Unusual, wicked, swaggering and subtle could all apply to the later mistress of Manderley.

And Shakespeare’s Edward V recalls another childhood book, Noel Streatfield’s Ballet Shoes in which young Pauline’s portrayal of the role leads her on to the fortune that helps her family.

How many other books are there to prove that their authors found him just as significant as Ricardians? Information welcome!

 

The Black Arrow, by Robert Louis Stevenson, published 1888.

Three Score and Ten, by Angela Thirkell, Hamish Hamilton, 1961

Maddy Alone, by Pamela Brown, Nelson, 1945

The Evidence Exposed, by Elizabeth George, Hodder & Stoughton 1999. ISBN 0 34 075 063 0

Well-Schooled in Murder, by Elizabeth George Bantam, 1990. ISBN 0 553 401 167

Missing Joseph, by Elizabeth George, Bantam, 1993. ISBN 0 553 402 382

The Girl in the Photograph, by Kate Riordan, Michael Joseph, 2014. ISBN 978-0-718-17928-1

Have His Carcase, by Dorothy L. Sayers, Gollancz 1932.

Rebecca’s Tale, by Sally Beaumont, Little Brown, 2001. ISBN 0 316 858 137

Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfield, Dent 1936.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

2
Sep

Digging for Richard III

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis    in Bookworm

Digging for Richard III

Book Review:  Digging for Richard III

Mike Pitts, Digging for Richard III: How Archaeology Found the King. Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2014

 Note (2 September 2015):

This review of the first edition of  Digging for Richard III was originally posted in August 2014.  I have reposted it now, as a new paperback edition of this excellent book has just been published.  For this new edition, the text has been revised and it has been extended, too.  More about the paperback edition on Mike Pitts’ blog.  Highly recommended!

 

Please note this book had come out before the results of further research were published, and therefore does not contain any information on these issues.

Unlike many other recent books about the Greyfriars Dig, which led to the discovery of Richard III’s remains, Digging for Richard III was written by someone who was not himself involved in the project, which gives it a certain amount of impartiality.

Like a play the book is organised in five acts, the narrative building up to the dramatic climax in Act V. The first act sets the scene for Richard’s death in battle and burial at the Grey Friars in Leicester with a short review of the Wars of the Roses. Act II ‘Looking for Richard III’ tells the story of what led to the archaeological dig and giving background information on the key players like Philippa Langley and the research staff from ULAS. While some details of Philippa Langley’s pre-dig life have been circulated widely, the information about the archaeologists was new to me. It confirmed them to be an experienced team, who knew what they were doing.

Act III looks at the actual excavation resulting in exhuming the skeleton, which was found on the first day and would be shown to be that of Richard. It ends with the van carrying the remains leaving the car park.

Up to that point this was a co-project of the Richard III Society/Looking for Richard Project and the University of Leicester. Act IV marks the beginning of a new research project, one that will be exclusively carried out by scientist. The results of this research are then represented in Act V.

Mike Pitts also includes an analysis of the costs and who paid what. Considering how much misinformation is circulating on this issue, this is highly welcome. The original budget had been £33,000, of which the Richard III Society and its members had contributed a little more than half. However, once remains had been found that warranted further examination –examination, which was necessary to prove that the remains were those of Richard III – the budget had risen (by 31 December 2012) to £142,000. The additional funding came from the University of Leicester, which means that they paid for about 80% of the entire project.

The book closes with an Epilogue, which covers the actual site of the Battle of Bosworth and some of the other battles, which have since been fought over Richard. He also differentiates between history and archaeology, with archaeology making “the concept of history tangible and present, part of our lives.” [p.189] To be honest, I don’t see how any serious history is possible without evidence, be it archaeological or from old records.

This brings me to the one criticism that I have with this book. The author seems to have a rather undifferentiated view of the membership of the Richard III Society. For him, they are bunch of sentimental loonies, who won’t let any facts stand in the way of their pre-conceived idea of perfect Richard. While I can’t deny that some members do think like that, and possibly they are even the most vocal, they do not represent the membership as a whole, which is – like any group of people – very varied.

However, apart from this little niggle, I found Digging for Richard III a highly enjoyable and an informative summary of the facts of the project, without the speculation and assumptions, which some of the other books on the topic cannot leave behind. It tells the whole incredible story in a lively manner, without sacrificing the facts in the quest for readability. Sir Tony Robinson’s quote on the cover sums it up nicely: “An entertaining, knowledgeable and forensic examination of one of the most extraordinary archaeological digs ever!”

Listen to an interview with Mike Pitts about Digging for Richard here.

Tags: , ,

2
Apr

HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA CONFERENCE

   Posted by: Julia Redlich    in Bookworm

HISTORICAL NOVEL SOCIETY OF AUSTRALASIA CONFERENCE

Historical Novel Society of Australasia Conference in Sydney – A Review

The weekend of March 20-22 proved a rewarding one for writers of historical fiction, whether their work was already established or still in embryo. It took delegates to the Historical Novel Society of Australasia Conference far beyond the bodice-ripper image to valuable considerations of topics and treatments and through historical ages in war and peace from the Normans to Anzacs.

The opening on Friday evening at the State Library of New South Wales combined cocktails and conversation with reunions with old friends and new acquaintances to meet. The welcoming address was followed by the launch of Unholy Murder, the third book in Felicity Pulman’s Janna Chronicles set during the civil war between Stephen and Matilda. NSW Ricardians who attended the 2010 conference at Cammeray will remember Felicity’s skill at extensive research when she was a guest speaker – and later became a Friend of the Branch.

The evening concluded with a fascinating round table debate on “What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?”

On Saturday and Sunday the venue was Balmain Town Hall and after a welcome from HNSA Patron Kate Forsyth, Colin Falconer (When We Were Gods, Silk Road, Stigmata) spoke succinctly and entertainingly on The Anzac tradition of inspiration: imagining the past, claiming the present. This was followed by Peter Corris and Sulari Gentil recounting how their careers have progressed, their inspirations and how they tackle their subjects (and for those of you who might consider Corris’s indefatigable PI Cliff Hardy as not anyone of historical interest, just reflect that he has been around for 40 years and his world has changed dramatically).

A varied and delicious morning tea break led to three historical novelists revealing how they select the age about which they are writing and the research needed to bring characters, plot and period to credible life. The novelists were Juliet Marillier, known for her splendid historical fantasies, New Zealander Craig Cliff (The Mannequin Makers) and Isolde Martyn, former chair of the NSW Branch of the Richard III Society and author of award winning novels including The Lady and the Unicorn, and recently Mistress to the Crown and The Golden Widows.

Further discussion followed until lunch time including a discussion as to whether historical novelists can capture young readers at a time when the films such as Hunger Games and vampires dominate. In the afternoon the tales of World Wars 1 and 2 were highlighted, showing characters conquering or succumbing to the dramas around them. This was followed by readings of one-page submissions and how they could attract – or not – a publisher’s attention.

Dinner was held at the nearby Royal Oak Hotel, where the occupants of all the tables seemed to have much to talk about, encouraged by the good food and wine and company that made a memorable evening.

Sunday’s opening feature was fascination: two authors describing how they changed their already successful careers to become historical novelists. Toni Jordan was a molecular biologist before turning to write great contemporary fiction and then changing again to historical fiction. Posie Graeme-Evans was an exceptionally successful television director, producer and executive (McLeods Daughters and more) before taking the leap into writing about the past, the people and time slips that link them.

The following discussion was one to intrigue all Ricardians, What is it about the Tudors? And why are publishers so fascinated by them and opt for these times above other periods? Tudorphilia prevails and the panel for this had much to say. When asked about their favourite Tudor personality, the majority opted for Elizabeth with Anne Boleyn a close second. NSW Ricardian and frequent contributor to our website, novelist Barbara Gaskell Denvil, pointed out that the Tudors all came with a tag attached such as “Six Wives”, “Bloody Mary”, “Virgin Queen”. (Later she and I lamented that no-one put in a word for our favourite Tudor Anne of Cleves, surely as much a victim of Tudor propaganda as King Richard III.)

(I would have loved to have heard the other talks, but had to leave early to catch the coach for my five-hour trip home.)

The rest of the discussions included novels of fantasy, mystery and time-slips; the possibilities and perils of independent publishing; and agents and publishing representatives telling what they look for. I am told that the day ended – as all occasions should – with In Bed with History: sexy, saucy and sizzling bedroom scenes read with glee and gusto by Colin Falconer and Kate Forsyth.

It was a rewarding and interesting time, well organised with worthwhile speakers who spoke with knowledge and humour. It was the first conference that the Historical Novels Society of Australasia had held. I doubt it will be the last.

Tags: ,