Over the weekend, I went to the university library and grabbed a few historical novels, secure in the knowledge that if I didn’t like them, I wouldn’t have wasted a cent.
This is a good thing, because except in the case of one novel, I haven’t warmed to any of them–two by Philip Lindsay and one by Rosemary Hawley Jarman–enough to read more than a few pages. Though I enjoyed Philip Lindsay’s Royal Scandal, the writing in the two other ones is a little too fusty to be engaging–with the exception of this memorable passage from the dedication of Lindsay’s 1952 novel about Jane Shore, The Merry Mistress: “The portraits of Jane so often reproduced cannot, I deeply regret, be accepted, and sadly do I discard the charming painting in Eton College showing her firm, hard-nippled breasts, as it appears to me to be of a later date.”
Well, that line woke me up. I trust Mr. Lindsay took a cold bath afterward.
Lindsay’s other book (about Anne Boleyn), though with a dedication that disappointingly does not contain similar mammary passages, looks a tad more interesting, and I may get to it sooner or later. In the meantime, my fourth book from my library excursion, Lady Magdalen by Robin Jenkins, is somewhat more interesting, and I’m getting through it at a brisk pace. It’s about the wife of James Graham, Earl of Montrose, about whom I know nothing, so there’s no issues of historical accuracy to bog me down. It’s written well, though Magdalen strikes me as being a little too enlightened–religious without being tied to dogma, averse to war and blood sports, and instantly accepting of her neighbor’s scandalous Italian sculptures–but perhaps she was that way in real life. In any case, I’m going to keep telling myself that until some more books come in.