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Verie Sillie People

Keith Thomas: Bacon’s Lives, 7 February 2013

The Oxford Francis Bacon Vol. I: Early Writings 1584-96 
edited by Alan Stewart, with Harriet Knight.
Oxford, 1066 pp., £200, September 2012, 978 0 19 818313 6
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... to editing the legal works. The result ranks among the greatest works of Victorian scholarship. Thomas Carlyle called it ‘the hugest and faithfullest bit of literary navvy work I have ever met with in this generation’. Spedding received no payment for his vast labours, but was allowed to buy copies of the finished work at the trade price. He professed ...


David Underdown, 4 May 1989

Village Revolts: Social Protest and Popular Disturbances in England 1509-1640 
by Roger Manning.
Oxford, 354 pp., £35, February 1988, 0 19 820116 8
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... to enclosures, and he makes many perceptive observations about it: he suggests, for example, that Thomas Hobbes could have acquired his distaste for popular government by observing the riotous behaviour of the commons in some disputes over common lands during his young days at Malmesbury. The book is not really about riots as much as it is about ...

Memories of New Zealand

Peter Campbell, 1 December 2011

... environment than ours. Peter was, I think, a political scientist; there were early editions of Thomas Hobbes on the shelves. Ilse typed up John Beaglehole’s edition of Cook’s journals. Only occasionally did my father seem to feel that the refugees might have been a little impatient with provincial life in the South Pacific. My friend Graham Percy ...

One Peculiar Nut

Steven Shapin: The Life of René Descartes, 23 January 2003

Cogito, Ergo Sum: The Life of René Descartes 
by Richard A. Watson.
Godine, 375 pp., £22, April 2002, 1 56792 184 1
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... not a cleric (like Mersenne), not a physician (like Harvey), not a family retainer (like Hobbes), not a court philosopher (like Galileo), and definitely not a mechanic and schoolmaster (like Beeckman) – how did you go about living that life? How did you find the material resources to keep yourself going and the cultural resources to lay claim to a ...

Privatising the atmosphere

Jeremy Waldron, 4 November 1993

Beyond the New Right: Markets, Government and the Common Environment 
by John Gray.
Routledge, 195 pp., £19.99, June 1993, 0 415 09297 3
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... absence of government and law. The system of natural liberty, he says, is not as Adam Smith but as Thomas Hobbes described it: laissez-faire is a futile and dangerous war of all against all. Markets are frail and fallible phenomena that depend on, among other things, currencies, property rights, legal systems, welfare systems, police forces, contractual ...

Was Plato too fat?

Rosemary Hill: The Stuff of Life, 10 October 2019

Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life 
by Christopher Forth.
Reaktion, 352 pp., £25, March 2019, 978 1 78914 062 0
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... reduced to saying that he could get one hand between the top of his head and the hat of his friend Thomas Hobbes, who was notably tall. The ways in which the so-called new learning of the 17th century turned the inquiry into the human condition towards the body is the subject of Roy Porter’s Flesh in the Age of Reason (2003), an important study ...

What mattered to Erasmus

James McConica, 2 March 1989

Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament. The Gospels: Facsimile of the final Latin text with all earlier variants 
edited by Anne Reeve.
Duckworth, 284 pp., £35, March 1986, 9780715619902
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Erasmus’s Annotations on the New Testament: From Philologist to Theologian 
by Erika Rummel.
Toronto, 234 pp., £24.50, January 1987, 0 8020 5683 0
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A New Rabelais Bibliography: Editions of Rabelais before 1626 
by Stephen Rawles and M.A. Screech.
Droz, 691 pp.
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The Library of Robert Burton 
by Nicholas Kiessling.
Oxford Bibliographic Society, 433 pp., £25, May 1988, 0 901420 42 5
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... in particular make it possible to identify Burton’s circle of scholarly friends, among whom Thomas Hobbes was the most famous. Many others were famous in the history of early Oxford science: Henry Briggs, Thomas Lydyat, John Napier, Edmund Gunter. Almost three quarters of his collection, in fact, was made up of ...

War without an Enemy

Blair Worden, 21 January 1982

The Outbreak of the English Civil War 
by Anthony Fletcher.
Arnold, 446 pp., £24, October 1981, 0 7131 6320 8
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The Royalist War Effort 
by Ronald Hutton.
Longman, £12, October 1981, 0 582 50301 9
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... on the evolution of Pym’s character and Morrill on Pym’s relations with backwoods MPs; Peter Thomas on Court and country cultures) is intelligently deployed, but not always searchingly tested against the events Mr Fletcher describes. And Mr Fletcher is careful to warn us that ‘although this book contains a new narrative it is in no sense an attempt to ...

Frog in your throat?

Terry Eagleton: How to Purge a Demon, 9 May 2013

The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West 
by Brian Levack.
Yale, 346 pp., £25, March 2013, 978 0 300 11472 0
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... sometimes imagine: there were many devout Christians who were sceptical of the whole phenomenon. Thomas Hobbes was one of several who saw it as a metaphor for mental illness. Spinoza seems to have believed the same. From the early years of the Renaissance, plenty of physicians claimed that demonic possession had natural causes. So did some of their ...
Rationalism in Politics, and Other Essays 
by Michael Oakeshott, edited by Timothy Fuller.
Liberty, 556 pp., $24, October 1991, 0 86597 094 7
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... When he turned to politics, Oakeshott’s intellectual allegiance proved to be the same. It was on Hobbes that he set out to build a theory of the state. For both men, Leviathan – ‘the greatest, perhaps the sole, masterpiece of political philosophy written in the English language’, as Oakeshott termed it – was to be the touchstone for any modern ...

Biting into a Pin-cushion

A.D. Nuttall: Descartes’s botch, 24 June 2004

Flesh in the Age of Reason 
by Roy Porter.
Allen Lane, 574 pp., £25, October 2003, 0 7139 9149 6
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... state. The State of Nature, meanwhile, was itself a site of conflict. The reductive party, with Thomas Hobbes at its head, saw human motivation as entirely egoistic at root (Hobbes’s problem was to explain how a mass of competing egos came up in the end with a system of law which protects the weak ...

Burke and History

Owen Dudley Edwards, 22 January 1981

Edmund Burke and the Critique of Political Radicalism 
by Michael Freeman.
Blackwell, 250 pp., £12.50, September 1980, 0 631 11171 9
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by C.B. Macpherson.
Oxford, 83 pp., £4.50, October 1980, 0 19 287518 3
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... With the inevitable exceptions of Thomas Aquinas and Karl Marx, it is doubtful whether any political thinker has inspired more sustained imbecility among his friends and enemies than Edmund Burke. And, despite first appearances, his appeal is far less predictable than theirs. Both Aquinas and Marx were in the first place theoreticians: the latter died at his desk, the former should have done ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin, 19 March 2015

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... to have been mediated through Latin and English translations, he knew Plutarch well through Sir Thomas North’s version of the Parallel Lives, and is likely to have kept up with the publication of Chapman’s Homer. Successive chapters of Burrow’s book explore Shakespeare’s engagement with Ovid, Virgil, Plautus and Terence, Seneca and Plutarch, as well ...
The Collected Stories of Elizabeth Bowen 
introduced by Angus Wilson.
Cape, 782 pp., £8.50, February 1981, 0 224 01838 8
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Elizabeth Bowen: An Estimation 
by Hermione Lee.
Vision, 225 pp., £12.95, July 1981, 9780854783441
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... of Bismarck, of Napoleon III, on the Empire born of Queen Elizabeth I, on that Papacy of which Thomas Hobbes said that ‘it is no other than the ghost of the deceased Roman Empire sitting crowned on its own grave.’ In this splendid pre-war novel we meet Thomas Quayne, a successful businessman, and his smart wife ...

Buffed-Up Scholar

Stefan Collini: Eliot and the Dons, 30 August 2012

Letters of T.S. Eliot, Vol. III: 1926-27 
edited by Valerie Eliot and John Haffenden.
Faber, 954 pp., £40, July 2012, 978 0 571 14085 5
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... sustained and unyielding. Much of the essay on Bramhall, for example, is given over to denouncing Hobbes, including this memorable piece of social and intellectual condescension: ‘Thomas Hobbes was one of those extraordinary little upstarts whom the chaotic motions of the Renaissance tossed into an eminence which ...

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