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Archive newsletter, 17 November 2013

Welcome to the Forum newsletter for our latest round-up of news and cultural events from the Early Modern period.

We start this edition with a round up of recent book reviews.

On the website, Poor Relief and Community in Hadleigh, Suffolk , 1547-1600 by Marjorie Keniston McIntosh was reviewed by Dr James P Bowen of Lancaster University. The book is part of the Studies in Regional and Local History series published by University of Hertfordshire Press, and provides a micro-study of the operation of poor relief prior to the Poor Laws of 1598 and 1601 in Hadleigh. Dr Bowen says the book provides an important study and offers a model future historians may wish to employ and use elsewhere.

The Civil Wars after 1660 : Public Remembering in Late Stuart England by Matthew Neufeld was reviewed by Dr Lloyd Bowen of Cardiff University, who wrote that running through the public affairs of the Restoration was the politics of memory, and it is the nature of ‘public remembering’ that the author tackles. He says it is a welcome addition to the growing study of the nature and role of memory in pre-modern cultures, but that he finds it historiographically detached, with too uniform a view of ‘official’ remembering and too Anglo-centric an account.

Shame and Honor: A Vulgar History of the Order of the Garter by Stephanie Trigg was reviewed by Professor Jonathan Good of Reinhardt University. The book deals with the Order from its foundation in the late 1340s to the present, and Prof Good said it is not covered chronologically or comprehensively, and from the perspective of a literary critic. It is also concerned with gossip and innuendo, and he finds the potential value of that is only partly realised. Prof Good raises questions about the book and says literary criticism and cultural studies have different concerns to the study of history, so the use of the word may be best avoided in the title.

The Secrets of Alchemy by Lawrence M Principe was reviewed in the TLS by Nicholas Popper who wrote that it is a deeply gratifying book which brilliantly unveils the hidden wonders of the ‘most shadowy and misunderstood art’.

The Profligate Son , by Nicola Phillips was reviewed by Susan Elkin in the Independent. It tells the story of a wealthy gentleman’s son, William Jackson, whose life was a round of drink, women and debt, and who then got transported to Australia where he died drunk and alone on the Sydney street aged 38 in 1828. His father, a former East India Company man, had disowned him, and Elkin says the author excellently researches the story to show both points of view, and looking at Regency attitudes.

In the Guardian , historical novelist Maria McCann, whose new novel Ace, King, Knave is set in Georgian England, chose her favourite 10 accounts of eighteenth century London and all its risks and dangers, including mostly recent works but also Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders of 1722.

Josephine: Desire, Ambition, Napoleon , by Kate Williams was reviewed by Virginia Rounding in the Daily Telegraph, who said it was a whirlwind tour of French history in 300 pages, telling of how Josephine reinvented herself after a first failed marriage, married Napolean and was only divorced by him as she did not give him a son.


The Male Nude: Eighteenth-Century Drawings from the Paris Academy at The Wallace Collection in London until January 19 was reviewed by Adrian Hamilton in The Independent who said the 37 works show the highest standards in proficiency in graphic modelling of the male body, as demonstrated by students at the academy founded by Louis XIV in 1648. Hamilton says they are remarkable as despite all the rippling pecs and bulging biceps they are shy at showing genitalia.

The Guardian reported on a new exhibition at the Prado in Madrid, where objects from the National Museum of Natural Sciences are placed alongside masterpieces, in a new exhibition which sees the gallery returning to its roots as a natural history museum. Displays include a bull looking at the white bull in Rubens’s The Rape of Europa, and a stuffed bird of paradise from Indonesia in front of the Concert of Birds by Frans Snyders.

Also in the Guardian , Maev Kennedy reports on how Cromwell’s ‘warts and all’ portraitist, Samuel Cooper, is getting his first exhibition in 40 years. He was regarded as the best portrait painter of his day, dying in 1672, but now his miniatures are almost forgotten. The tiny Cromwell portrait, the size of a 50p, includes his warts. The exhibition, at the Philip Mould Gallery in London until December 7, also includes what is believed to be a portrait of King Charles’s mistress Nell Gwynn.

The National Maritime Museum has raised £4.5 million for George Stubbs’s eighteenth century paintings of an Australian kangaroo and dingo, inspired by Cook’s voyage, to stay in the UK, the Guardian reported. This was after a £1.5 million gift from a philanthropic billionaire, Eyal Ofer, a shipping fleet owner, whose family has a long association with the museum. Arts Minister Ed Vaizey earlier this year placed an export bar on the works, and they will go on display in summer 2014.

However the Telegraph reported that the National Gallery of Australia had criticised the ‘British process’ to keep the paintings in the UK.

In the Observer, Laura Cumming reviewed Honoré Daumier (1808-79): Visions of Paris at the Royal Academy until January 26, saying that although he was one of the great artists of his day he barely made a living in Paris, which he ‘depicted with compassion and brilliance’, dying blind and penniless in a borrowed cottage. Cumming says the exhibition shows the artist’s boundless empathy in his drawings, caricatures and paintings often showing the poorer people of the city.

The Guardian reported how a rarely-seen Victorian vicar’s commissioned drawing of his aunt, Jane Austen, is to be auctioned at Southeby’s before the likeness appears on a £10 note from 2017.

A reappraisal of the 'lost genius' of Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione , whose work is on show at the Queen’s Gallery in London until March 16, is reviewed by Alastair Smart in the Telegraph. Castiglione was a Baroque artist from Genoa in the early seventeenth century, who was popular but later fell from favour. Stewart finds the show is haunted by the spectre of Caravaggio, whose story is so similar to Castiglione’s, and that the images start to blur, and he wishes there some paintings on show rather than just graphic works.


In the Independent , Nick Clark and Dan McAdam looked at several currently-successful Shakespeare productions on Broadway, including an all-male company including Stephen Fry with his first role on a Broadway stage as Malvolio, alongside Mark Rylance.

Punishment Without Revenge by Lope de Vega, at the Ustinov Studio, Bath, was reviewed by Paul Taylor in the Independent, who said the 1631 play is the tragic centrepiece of director Laurence Boswell’s season there, and it is ‘darkly glittering and deeply engrossing’, a tale of honour and forbidden love, which he highly recommended. The play is on until December 21, then transfers to Arcola in London in January, and to the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in March.

In the Telegraph , Charles Spencer reviewed King Lear at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester, and found that Frank Langella brought ‘thunderous power’ to his performance as King Lear, with his voice ‘a deep ominous rumble that can rise to a ferocious roar of anger’, though lacking the vulnerability which should accompany the fury. The play is on until November 30.

*We would also welcome news of your recently-published journal articles or books, and forthcoming conferences. You can email Newsletter Author Julie Chamberlain at with details.