December 27th, 2009


Gibbon Chapter XIV

  • Diocletian's system does not long survive his abdication. His four succesors squabble among themselves, and at one point there are six mutually recognised rulers of different bits of the Roman Empire. But one of them, Constantine, defeats all the others, through superior statesmanship and military skill. "The successive steps of the elevation of Constantine, from his first assuming the purple at York, to the resignation of Licinius at Nicomedia, have been related with some minuteness and precision, not only as the events are in themselves both interesting and important, but still more as they contributed to the decline of the empire by the expense of blood and treasure, and by the perpetual increase, as well of the taxes as of the military establishment." The whole chapter is an impressive marshalling of historical facts, complex narrative and geography running from Britain to Asia Minor over a period of almost two decades.

    (tags: gibbon)

December Books 11) Wild Sweet Love, by Beverly Jenkins

Another dip into the sub-genre of African-American romance, as told by Beverly Jenkins, whose books are among the highest-rated on LibraryThing. If anything I enjoyed this slightly more than Jewel. Most of the action takes place in 1897 Philadelphia, with the last section in a free black town in Kansas (the fictional settlement of Henry Adams, where a lot of Jenkins' other books are apparently set). There is not much to the plot; former bank robber Teresa July and businessman Madison Nance are obviously destined for each other, and some detailed and well-written erotic passages explain how they make up their minds to accept this destiny. Jenkins does throw in a fair bit of political commentary as well - the dispute between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, corrupt Republican party bosses, feminism (Teresa's sister-in-law is mayor of Henry Adams), certainly enough to keep me happy and maintain my interest. It's really not a type of book I would normally read, but I'll look out for more Jenkins in the charity bookshops.

December Books 12) Slow Decay, by Andy Lane

One of the early Torchwood books - set just before Cyberwoman, I think. Andy Lane has written some good Who novels and this too is excellent; good depictions of all the team (not much Ianto, but lots of Owen), and of how alien tech threatens to infilltrate Rhys and Gwen's relationship. I was also impressed by the first season Torchwood novel Border Princes, and on the basis of that and this will now be looking out for more of them.
gebealogy, genealogy

Causes of the general backwardness in Religion in that Realm, and how the same may be remedied, &c.

A letter of 22 September 1590 from Adam Loftus, Archbishop of Dublin, to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, recommending fines and imprisonment as a method to force the Irish to accept the Reformed religion. Noted here because Sir Nicholas Whyte is mentioned as a dangerous liberal.

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From State Papers concerning the Irish Church, ed. W.M. Brady, 1868.

50 books from (very nearly) 50 years ago

These 50 books were all published in 1960. (I have selected them by the scientific method of identifying the top 46 from that year on LibraryThing, plus another four that I happened to have read myself.)

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NB some of these I wasn't sure of myself and had to check, as follows:
For Your Eyes Only - is a collection of James Bond short stories
Jeeves in the Offing - is the one which starts with Bertie discovering that he is engaged to Bobbie Wickham (when her mother phones up, sobbing, to ask if "the dreadful news" is true); also features Aunt Dahlia, the psychiatrist Sir Roderick Glossop and the Rev. Aubrey Upjohn, but not much Jeeves
A Burnt-Out Case - is the particularly depressing Graham Greene set in a leper colony in the Congo
Dorsai! - an episodic book about Donal Graeme, warrior extraordinaire
The Adventure Of The Christmas Pudding etc - is a short story collection mainly featuring Poirot
False Scent - is the one with an aging actress who is murdere with ehr own insecticide
The Clue in the Old Stagecoach - is the one where Nancy Drew searches for an antique stagecoach that, according to legend, contains something of great value to the people of Francisville

Happy to clarify any other cases where confusion is possible...

25 books from 1910 and 1860

A few months back I did a poll on books published in 1959, 1909, 1859, 1809, 1759, 1609 and 1509. For the publications to be commemorated in 2010, I found the pickings much slimmer for the older set of anniversaries, but on the other hand 1960 appears to have been a rather good year (indeed, deserving a poll of its own). Here are the top books from 1910 and 1860 (again ranked by LibraryThing popularity).

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I'm in the middle of Framley Parsonage at the moment.