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Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England; & Rare Sir William Davenant

By G.E. Aylmer | Published in History Today 1987 
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G. E. Aylmer reviews two new books on Stuart England
  • Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England
    R. Malcolm Smuts. xiv. + 322 pp. (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987)
  • Rare Sir William Davenant: Poet Laureate, Playwright, Civil War General, Restoration Theatre Manager
    Mary Edmond. viii + 264 pp. (Manchester University Press, 1987)

Some of the most exciting historical work of recent years has involved the relationship of culture and the arts to politics and society. The study of literature, music, painting, sculpture and architecture, for long the province of distinct specialists, has increasingly been taken up by scholars trained simply as historians. One of the two works under review here is an out- standing product of this development.

Professor Smuts tells us that his objectives were to provide a general cultural history of the early Stuart court, to relate that history to specific political and religious attitudes, and to show how this pre-Civil War culture provided material for a royalist tradition in the 1640s and beyond. After a general political outline, the main body of the book is devoted to describing and explaining how the court culture of early Stuart times differed from that of the Elizabethan age, and notably how it was affected in the 1620s and 30s by European influences as well as by changing political and social ideals. Particular attention is paid to the role of the great patrons – Arundel, Pembroke, Buckingham, above all Charles I himself, and to the theory and practice of individual writers and artists – Ben Jonson, van Dyck and foremost among them Inigo Jones.

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