Tag Archives: London

The strange six-hundred-year history of the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London.

The Tower menagerie : the amazing 600-year history of the royal collection of wild and ferocious beasts kept at the Tower of London Daniel Hahn New York : Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, c 2004 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxiii, 260 p. : ill. (some col) 24 cm. Includes index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

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From a polar bear who fished the Thames nightly for his dinner to elephants who drank only wine, the inhabitants of the southwest corner of the Tower of London were a strange and rowdy bunch. No less strange was the cast of characters that visited them: William Blake, Chaucer, and Samuel Pepys, to name a few. Daniel Hahn’s fascinating history of the Tower of London’s Royal Menagerie tells the story of the thousands of exotic creatures who found a home in one of the world’s most forbidding and infamous fortresses.

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The Royal Menagerie began with a wedding gift: three leopards from King Henry III’s new brother-in-law, Frederick the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1235. Soon after, a huge Norwegian polar bear joined them. Over the next six hundred years, the Tower played host to lions, ostriches, elephants, and other unusual animals that astonished London. Brimming with unforgettable stories (the lion who kept a spaniel as a pet; ostriches who were fed a steady diet of rusty nails; lions who, their keepers claimed, could tell whether a woman was a virgin) and beautiful historical illustrations, The Tower Menagerie provides an intriguing, lively survey of our changing attitudes toward animals, as well as a hugely entertaining journey through six centuries of British history.

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Apes are apes, though clothed in scarlet… Ben Jonson

1603 : the death of Queen Elizabeth, the return of the Black Plague, the rise of Shakespeare, piracy, witchcraft, & the birth of the Stuart era Christopher Lee New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2004 Hardcover. Originally published: London : Review, 2003. 1st U.S. ed. and printing. xi, 368 p., [8] leaves of plates, : ill. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

1603 was the year that Queen Elizabeth I, the last of the Tudors, died. Her cousin, Robert Carey, immediately rode like a demon to Scotland to take the news to James VI. The cataclysmic time of the Stuarts had come and the son of Mary Queen of Scots left Edinburgh for London to claim his throne as James I of England.

Diaries and notes written in 1603 describe how a resurgence of the plague killed nearly 40,000 people. Priests blamed the sins of the people for the pestilence, witches were strangled and burned and plotters strung up on gate tops. But not all was gloom and violence. From a ship’s log we learn of the first precious cargoes of pepper arriving from the East Indies after the establishment of a new spice route Sharkespeare was finishing Othello and Ben Jonson wrote furiously to please a nation thirsting for entertainment.

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I can imagine there must be a good number of people who will still wonder why I have no pigtail on my head, or who think I must be the same sort of person as Mr. Wu or Charlie Chan! Chiang Yee

The silent traveller in London Chiang Yee New York : Interlink Books, 2002 Softcover. Originally published: London : Country Life, Ltd. ; New York : C. Scribner’s Sons, 1939. xvi, 216 p. : ill. ; 21 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG

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By the 1930s Western books about China were common. But a book about the West, and particularly London, written by a Chinese author, was a rarity—and continues to be so.

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Chiang Yee’s account of London, first published in 1938, is original in more ways than one. Not only one of the first widely available books written by a Chinese author in English, it also reverses the expected conventions of travel writing. For here the “exotic” subject matter is none other than London and its people, quizzically observed as an alien culture by a visiting foreigner.

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Immersing himself in the strange rituals of London life, Chiang Yee set out to learn about Londoners, their habits and their pleasures. In pubs and cafés, cinemas and art galleries, he watched the locals at work and at play. Fascinated by such social conventions as afternoon tea and discussing the weather, he tried to make sense of British society, treating his subjects with a mix of wonderment and affection. Beards, feeding the pigeons, street names: all such everyday phenomena were a source of curiosity. As he lived through the capital’s various seasons, and endured the notorious London fogs, Chiang Yee’s affinity with the city and its people grew.

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Illustrated with the author’s own atmospheric sketches, The Silent Traveller in London is also a book about China and a world in transition. Comparing London with his native land, Chiang Yee draws parallels and contrasts, seeking to rectify misunderstandings and stereotypes regarding Chinese life. But China had recently endured revolutionary turmoil and invasion by Japan, and the author was conscious of the impending disaster facing London in the shape of war. His record of London life, fresh and perceptive, is tinged with nostalgia for a lost homeland and foreboding for the future.

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Will ye steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and burn incense unto Baal, and walk after other gods whom ye know not; And come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, We are delivered to do all these abominations? Jeremiah 7:9-10

Death and the Virgin Queen : Elizabeth I and the dark scandal that rocked the throne  Chris Skidmore  New York : St. Martin’s Press, 2011  Hardcover. 1st American ed. and printing. Originally published as: Death and the virgin : Elizabeth, Dudley and the mysterious fate of Amy Robsart. London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010. 430 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (chiefly col.) ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 408-419) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

On the morning of September 8, 1560, at the isolated manor of Cunmor place, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of a staircase, her neck broken. But this was no ordinary death. Amy Robsart was the wife of Elizabeth I’s great favorite, Robert Dudley, the man who many believed she would marry, were he free.

Immediately people suspected foul play and Elizabeth’s own reputation was in danger of serious damage. Many felt she might even lose her throne. An inquest was begun, witnesses called, and ultimately a verdict of death by accident was reached. But the mystery refused to die and cast a long shadow over Elizabeth’s reign.

Using recently discovered forensic evidence from the original investigation, Skidmore is able to put an end to centuries of speculation as to the true causes of Robsart’s death. This is the story of a treacherous period in Elizabeth’s life: a tale of love, death, and tragedy, exploring the dramatic early life of England’s Virgin Queen.

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Earl of Sandwhich . . .You shall either die of the pox or on the gallows… John Wilkes . . . That sir depends on whether I embrace your mistress or your politics…

Madams : bawds & brothel-keepers of London  Fergus Linnane  Stroud : Sutton, 2005  Hardcover. First edition. x, 246 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

During the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries there were almost no career openings for women. Yet a group of intrepid and gifted females scaled the heights of what was literally a man’s world – they became bawds. Taking what had been a furtive activity on the borders of legality, they turned brothel-keeping into a major industry, colonising some of the exclusive areas of London and making a major contribution to the city’s prosperity. Fergus Linnane’s new book reveals the other side of London’s years of pomp and splendour, painting a vivid picture of the bawds, their girls and their clients.

The lives of the English rakes  Fergus Linnane  London : Portrait , 2006  Hardcover. 1st ed. x, 342 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 25 cm.  Includes bibliographical references and index.  Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Rake (n) “was a dissolute man, esp. one in fashionable society; roue.” The English rake strides through the pages of romantic fiction, impossibly handsome, cynical, and dangerous, a gambler, a deadly swordsman leaving a trail of broken hearts and slain rivals in his wake. The reality was if anything more intriguing. Some were poets and playwrights of genius -including the Earl of Rochester, author of some of the most tender and most obscene lyrics in the language. Others, such as Colonel Charteris “Rape-master General,” personified depravity.

This unique and fascinating book charts the exploits the English rake, beginning in the Restoration Era with the hedonistic Charles II and his licentious courtiers, and following the flowering and then final decline of the rake during the Victorian era. Along the way you learn about England‘s most reckless libertines and discover how the Hellfire Club lived up to its reputation for debauchery and satanic blasphemy. You’ll become intimately acquainted with those who have the dubious accolade of being the biggest rogues, lechers, and profligates in history.

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