GR Elton, A History of England: England Under The Tudors (The Folio Society: London, 1997)
If there was ever a knockout blow in the ebooks vs. physical books debate, I think The Folio Society supplies it.
The heft of them, the slipcases, the overall production values – even the feel of the paper stock makes these a pleasure to read, and as someone who usually subjects his books to ‘tough love’, it makes me look after them in a way I rarely do other books.
And the contents never fail to live up to the packaging …
Regular visitors will know that I seem to be moving away from cricitical volumes and more to non-fiction and contextual works nowadays. In this, I’m really sensitive to writing style – which is one the reasons I’m finding MC Bradbrook (see last week) such a slog. Being intelligent and erudite does not necessitate you writing as if you have a copy of Burke’s Peerage wedged firmly into your backside.
Back to Elton, then. As I started teach Edward II to two groups of sixth-formers last week, I’m exploring class – not least because I want to persuade them that the play isn’t about homosexuality, per se, but about social mobility. Here’s Elton’s interesting take on the situation, which I think chimes well with what I want to say (and to where Marlowe and Shakespeare found themselves, to an extent):
Tudor society was not egalitarian, though it offered its chance to talent, of however humble an origin. Men who made a career aspired to the dignity and profits of nobility, and the Tudors were soon to surround themselves with many men of title. But the title was recent and conferred by the pre-eminent king, and men promoted at the king’s pleasure knew where their loyalties must lie. The elevation of kingship made possible a greater fluidity in the ranks below: he whom the king promoted could hold his own with the descendants of generations of nobility, whether they liked it or not. (They generally disliked it greatly.)
So, what we have here, I think, is a neat summary of why Mortimer is so upset about Gaveston‘s promotion, and the later ascent of men like Spenser and Baldock.
Mortimer’s title being hereditary, it allows him the luxury of dissent, but that dissent also sidelines him – what could be more frustrating than seeing a load of Johnny-come-latelys supplanting what should have been his role in advising the king and steering the country’s direction?