The undeserving poor

It's almost a hundred years since George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion was first produced. But given the alarming extent to which the idea of the undeserving poor has returned to public debate in the wake of the government's programme of expenditure cuts, I thought it worth posting the speech that Shaw gives the shiftless Alfred Doolittle … Continue reading The undeserving poor

Advertisements

Sir Walter Ralegh’s letter to his wife, the night before execution

To mark the anniversary of Ralegh's execution in 1618, I thought it worth posting a letter he wrote to his wife from his prison cell in Winchester in December 1603. He had been sentenced to death for treason on 17 November, and wrote this letter, most likely on 8 December, expecting to die imminently, perhaps … Continue reading Sir Walter Ralegh’s letter to his wife, the night before execution

Who’s to blame for the Shakespeare authorship controversy?

Thank God. Someone (Dispositio, here, hat-tip Dainty Ballerina) is writing something sensible on the Shakespeare Authorship issue. The whole blog is worth reading, and the basic argument – more needs to be done to counter the conspiracy theorists – is surely right. But I was particularly pleased to see someone say this: “the entire authorship … Continue reading Who’s to blame for the Shakespeare authorship controversy?

Thomas Cobham: a life of recklessness and reprieve

I didn't know a great deal about Thomas Cobham when I came across his name in the Middlesex Session Rolls, where he is recorded as one of two men standing surety for a young Walter Ralegh on December 19, 1577, after the latter's servants had been arrested for a drunken assault on the nightwatch in … Continue reading Thomas Cobham: a life of recklessness and reprieve

The desperate Dr Fox

The peculiar choices of Dr Liam Fox, our beleaguered secretary of state for defence, have come in for much scrutiny of late. But in the last 24 hours or so, he has plumbed new depths. First there were briefings by *cough* "friends" of Dr Fox that Adam Werritty – Fox's best man, business colleague, sometime … Continue reading The desperate Dr Fox

The unstable sea and its secret sources: an 11th-century voyage of discovery

A few years ago I wrote a book called Impossible Journeys, which was a collection of travellers tales about journeys to places which do not exist. Some of those places are relatively well known; indeed El Dorado has passed into the language as the very definition of a chimeric destination. Others, such as Norumbega and … Continue reading The unstable sea and its secret sources: an 11th-century voyage of discovery

The Grotian moment: Hugo Grotius and the invention of international law

A lawyer serving a life sentence escapes from prison hidden in a bookcase: as a plot point it would have the sort of ironic neatness that gives novelists and screenwriters a bad name. In this instance, however, it is true. It happened on 22 March 1621. The prison was the 14th Century castle of Loevestein, … Continue reading The Grotian moment: Hugo Grotius and the invention of international law