Did Shakespeare write Psalm 46 of the King James Bible? In Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery Jem Bloomfield investigates the literary legend that the famous playwright left his mark on the Authorized Version. He delves into the historical, textual and literary evidence, showing that the story isn’t true – but that there are much more engrossing stories to be told about Shakespeare and the Bible. Whilst amassing the evidence against the Psalm 46 legend, Bloomfield asks why people want to believe it. What does this myth tell us about the connections between Shakespeare and the Bible? What does it reveal about people’s views of religion and culture?
In an intriguing investigation, Bloomfield ranges from the theatres of sixteenth-century England to the churches of the modern United States. On the way the reader is shown exiled Protestants becoming illegal Bible-smugglers, Edwardian schoolboys making jokes about the Book of Daniel, Lady Mary Sidney writing poetry inspired by the Psalms, Rudyard Kipling taking instructions from his own personal daemon, Lancelot Andrewes declaring that Jesus was a gardener, and other remarkable scenes from literary history. Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery argues that the truth is always odder and more fascinating than any conspiracy theory. In debunking the legend of Shakespeare’s hand in the King James Bible, it offers the reader a glimpse into the real mysteries which these books and their histories possess.
Evelyn Underhill was a mystic and spiritual writer of the early twentieth century, whose reputation as a Christian intellectual stands alongside figures such as Dorothy L. Sayers, C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams. Her writings show a profound interest in the spiritual reality she perceived pressing in on human life from all directions, and a powerful sense of the importance of beauty. In Worship she explores the nature of Christian worship, and the way the different Christian traditions express their beliefs through their worship life. She examines, analyses and sometimes critiques the ways in which Christians worship, producing a powerful and moving account of worship as a central aspect of religious life, and of reality itself.
The Parson’s Handbook is one of the classics of Anglican writing. It combines a manual for church services, vestments, and ornaments with a lively polemic against the late Victorian Church of England. Laced with wit and animated by a furious insistence on beauty, authenticity, and social justice, Dearmer’s book presents a compelling vision of Christian liturgical worship. The Parson’s Handbook speaks caustically and challengingly from the era of William Morris and the Tractarians into the controversies of modern Christianity.
Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars are two extraordinary collections of poems by one of the Oxford Inklings. In them, Charles Williams, a friend and comrade of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, weaves his own version of the legends of King Arthur.
Dense, subtle and full of astonishing turns of phrase, the poems bring together history, theology, myth and literature in a prodigious work of intellect and imagination. Their style varies from ringing rhymes and cunningly wrought stanzas, to alliterative lines recalling Anglo-Saxon poetry, as Williams retells the stories that have inspired writers from Malory to Tennyson to Zimmer Bradley.
The Three Clerks is Anthony Trollope’s most autobiographical novel. It tells the story of three young men starting out in life, the women they fall in love with, the debts they get into and the ultimate success or failure of their lives. Drawing on Trollope’s own experiences as a clerk in the Victorian era (a job at which he frequently arrived late and was rude to his superiors), this novel paints a vivid picture of life in London, drawing the reader into the hopes and schemes of the three clerks.
One hundred and fifty years ago Anthony Trollope published a series of articles about the clergy of the Church of England in the Pall Mall Gazette. They caused an uproar, and were denounced in some quarters as ignorant, ill-informed, and demonstrating a ‘hair-dresser’s opinion of religion’. The articles dealt with the state of the Anglican Church and the changes it was facing, via a series of imaginative and witty portraits of typical clergymen. From the urbane deans of cathedral closes, to the would-be celebrity preachers, Trollope’s pen sketched an array of clerical characters which caught the likeness of the Church of England at a crucial moment in its history.
Having resigned herself to a life dedicated to duty as a Victorian spinster, Margaret Mackenzie inherits a small fortune. Moving to a small resort town, she weighs up the possibilities of a life of cards and assemblies, or one of piety and church meetings. It isn’t long before she has other decisions to make, as three men seek her hand in marriage: one in trade, one in the Church, and one from a fading gentry family. Miss Mackenzie’s bittersweet adventures in society provide a satirical and entertaining ride through Victorian life, alive with memorably-drawn characters and teasing moral dilemmas.
The Descent of the Dove is Charles Williams’ audacious and passionate history of the Holy Spirit in the Church. Written at the beginning of the Second World War, by a close colleague of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, it is an invaluable glimpse into the mind of a major Christian thinker at a turning point in history. Williams’ vivid style and deep erudition are brought to bear on an almost impossible task: a history of the Spirit which blows wherever it wills, and confounds logic or expectation. The result is a radical and fascinating vision of Christianity’s history, which has a lot to suggest about its potential futures.
This new edition, making the book generally available after decades of obscurity, has been thoroughly edited and includes explanatory notes to help the general reader appreciate Williams’ ideas and literary references.
‘When St. Paul preached in Athens, the world was thronged with crosses, rooted outside cities, bearing all of them the bodies of slowly dying men. When Augustine preached in Carthage, the world was also thronged with crosses, but now in the very centre of cities, lifted in processions and above altars, decorated and jewelled, and bearing all of them the image of the Identity of dying Man. There can hardly ever have been—it is a platitude— a more astonishing reversion in the history of the world. It is not surprising that Christianity should sometimes be regarded as the darkest of superstitions, when it is considered that a thing of the lowest and most indecent horror should have been lifted, lit, and monstrously adored, and that not merely sensationally but by the vivid and philosophic assent of the great intellects of the Roman world.’
Paying Guests is a hilarious and poignant social comedy from the author of David Blaize and the Mapp and Lucia novels. E.F. Benson’s sarcastic wit and depth of perception are on display in a story about a private hotel in a holiday resort. An eccentric cast of characters pursue their personal obsesions, bickering, scheming and domineering. But by the end, two of them have seen the possibilty of a new life and a kind of love they hadn’t admitted they wanted.
A new edition by the Erewash Press, this book has been personally edited, and includes a new introduction, setting the work in the context of Benson’s other novels and the social world of the time.
Charles Williams was one of the Inklings, the circle of literary and theological writers which centred on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. In “Witchcraft”, he provides an esoteric and intellectually provocative history of witchcraft and magic in the Christian era.
As readable as a thriller but full of profound theological insight, Williams’ book explores the sombre and lurid history of the reaction to witchcraft as well as its most famous cases.
Written before the rise of Wicca and the feminist embracing of witchcraft, this is a rediscovered classic, by one of the major minds of English Christianity in the twentieth century.
“I saw the bright shadow coming out of the book and resting there, transforming all common things and yet itself unchanged.”
C.S. Lewis on reading George MacDonaldTwo intriguing short novels by the Victorian writer George MacDonald. A huge influence on C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton and later fantasy authors, these books combine fantastical storylines with suprisingly radical ideas for their time. The stories feature a young princess, an invading horde of goblins, a poetic miner and a white-haired, shape-shifting woman who might hold the key to the universe.
‘What’s a nice writer like you doing in an anthology like this…?’
Tales from the Unexpected provides a truly eerie reading experience, by collecting together uncanny and supernatural stories … by authors famous for writing very different genres. Fans of Cranford will find a gothic tale by Mrs Gaskell inside, whilst anyone who knows and loves the Mapp and Lucia novels might be surprised by E.F. Benson’s contribution to the ghost story tradition. We’ve found Jerome K. Jerome taking a break from the Three Men in a Boat to yarn about grudges from beyond the grave, whilst Edith Nesbit and Louisa May Alcott are vying with each other to tell tales of which Professor Bhaer would definitely disapprove.