Counting the Queen’s Pennies

Posted on by David Gelber

To his 19th-century biographer J W Burgon, the Tudor merchant, banker and diplomat Sir Thomas Gresham (1519–79) was one of the heroic worthies of the 16th century, embodying the spirit of that transitional epoch, when ‘England was raised to that proud eminence in the scale of nations which she has ever since maintained’. The appeal of Gresham to the Victorians is obvious: the

A Polymath’s Progress

Posted on by David Gelber

Few readers, even of Literary Review, will ever match fictional geniuses like Merlin, Mycroft or Marvel’s Iron Man. But Thomas Harriot came close. He was a humbly born Oxford scholar ‘of pregnant parts and quick, inventive brain’, who matriculated in 1577. Courtiers and aristocrats plucked him from obscurity and pensioned him, not only exploiting his […]

Playwright with a Cause?

Posted on by David Gelber

Many Shakespeares are on the loose: romantic, imperialist, Marxist and deconstructivist ones, to name just a few. They generally don’t get on well. Another, the product of revisionist scholarship, is a crypto-Catholic, socially conservative Shakespeare. This is the bard whom Clare Asquith makes her subject in Shakespeare and the Resistance. She sees Shakespeare as a […]

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