A few days ago Johnson threatened to unleash ‘the terrors of the earth’ against some of the miscreants in his own party. Boris is reputedly engaged in writing a book about Shakespeare (how’s that going, I wonder?), so he will be well aware of the origin of that curse. It is of course King Lear: rejected by two of his daughters and wandering around on the ‘blasted heath’, cold and soaking wet; a narcissistic and foolish old ruler flailing out against his enemies, all the more pathetically because he has no idea how he can punish or stop them.
Not, I would have thought, the Shakespearean character Boris should really be identifying with. It will be interesting to see how the biography turns out.
I’ve been offline for a while, finishing my review of Ian Morris’s Geography is Destiny. Britain’s Place in the World, a 10,000 Year History, due out next month; a great read – highly recommended – though I have some fairly big bones to pick with it. I would give you a preview of my piece here, but journal editors don’t like us doing that.
Now I have to work on the pre-publicity for my new book, Britain’s Contested History. I finished writing it last August, so it will already be out of date when it’s published in – they now tell me – July. I warned Bloomsbury about this, and even approached other publishers to see if they couldn’t get it out more quickly, but to no avail. That was irritating, to say the least. Why on earth can’t publishers get more of a move on with these things? Especially when the practical stages must have been enormously speeded up with the advent of computer word-processing, obviating the need for a second round of proof-checking to make sure that the type-setters – arranging their little pieces of metal – have it right.
Anyhow, Britain’s Contested History obviously won’t have anything in it about Partygate, or Johnson’s reaction to the war in Ukraine, or Tory MPs’ misogyny (the thing that provoked that ‘terrors of the earth’ quote), or any of the other issues that are dominating the news today. On the other hand, none of these recent events negates or undermines anything I’ve written about Britain’s ‘contested’ history up to last August. If anything, it’s the reverse: they bear out the ideas I advanced then. So the book should still be worth reading. I hope.