La Belle et la Bête – Old as Time

straparola_ritrattoI see the Disneys are dragging out Beauty and her Beast for a new iteration.  It was, of course, ever so, and long before animation and CGI

Scholarly types generally agree that the first iteration of the timeless tale came from the works of Venetian Giovanni Francesco Straparola (1480-1558), a somewhat shadowy figure who thought to follow the success of Boccaccio’s Decameron with a new collection of short stories (the Pig King is the entry in question).  As it happened, he was quite right, and his stuff sold rather well. We may assume he lived happily ever after. As one does in Italy. Continue reading

Stalin’s Englishman

stalins-englishmanStalin’s Englishman, by Andrew Lownie, St. Martin’s Press, $29.99

Andrew Lownie’s biography of one of the Cambridge spy circle has recently caught an answering echo at Cambridge.  Three men prominent in intelligence circles, one of them Sir Richard Dearlove, ex-head of MI5 and master of Pembroke College, have resigned as conveners of the Cambridge Intelligence Seminar.

The trouble specifically was over a digital publishing service which was providing funding for the seminar called Veruscript, founded by one Gleb Cheglakov and his wife Nazik Ibraimova.  Some of those who resigned fear that Veruscript may be a front for Russian intelligence services.  One recent attendee at the regular Friday meetings was Mike Flynn, the Trump nominee for US national security adviser.  What an unseemly to do for Corpus Christi College. Continue reading

Thomas Becket, 1115-1170: Separation of Church and State, Act One

Thomas Becket: Warrior, Priest, Rebel by John Guy,  Random House.

The Jean Anouilh play Becket pretty much confirms the power of art on an unsuspecting public.   Think Henry II and the reasonably educated person will get an image of King Peter O’Toole and his one time drinking buddy Richard Burton.  While Peter is always an engaging sort of rogue, Richard does really have the power of right on his side.  He being a saint and all.

So basically the fix has been in since 1959. Probably time enough for another look-see.  To that end, Mr. Guy’s book gives us a more historically accurate but just as entertaining a rendering of reality.

Continue reading

Margaret Lambrun, 1570?- ?: Courage of Conviction

By 1821, Napoleon had been defeated and peace seemed to spread out on the horizon for the foreseeable future.

Some people are never satisfied.

William Hazlitt in his essay “Guy Faux” bemoans the lack of passion and machismo in the post-war milquetoasts compared to the stalwart firebrands of earlier ages.  Nothing manly for Britain’s youth to get up to (one imagines the same sort of dismay as serious men compared World War One gave way to the Roaring Twenties)

A progressive sort of fellow (or perhaps he just wanted to shame the menfolk), Hazlitt cites admiringly the story of Margaret Lambrun  (“as it is but little know, I shall relate it as I find it”).

Briefly, the story is as follows: Continue reading