The Conquering Family (The Pageant of England Series, Book by Thomas B. Costain

By Thomas B. Costain

Thomas B. Costain's four-volume background of the Plantagenets starts off with THE CONQUERING relatives and the conquest of britain via William the Conqueror in 1066, last with the reign of John in 1216. The interval after the Norman Conquest, while the rules of presidency have been hammered out among monarch and other people, involves lifestyles via Costain's storytelling ability and ancient mind's eye.

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White as an angel is the English child . . My mother taught me underneath a tree . . Look on the rising sun: there God does live And gives his light, and gives his heat away . . And we are put on earth a little space, That we may learn to bear the beams of love, ENLIGHTENMENT OR ROMANTIC? And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove. For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice . . thus I say to little English boy.

The Sun has left his blackness, & has found a fresher morning And the fair Moon rejoices in the clear & cloudless night; For Empire is no more, and now the Lion & Wolf shall cease. (6. 1–15; Erdman and Bloom 1970: 52) This kind of apocalyptic rhetoric is typical of the large hopes encouraged in some British minds in the first place by the American Revolution but most importantly by the French Revolution. ENLIGHTENMENT OR ROMANTIC? The hope of freedom from literal empire was only one aspect of Blake’s radical thought.

Merciful God! can it be thy will that mankind should thus tear each other to pieces. . Can it be thy dispensation that kings are entrusted with power only to deform thy works. (Smith 1987: 337–38) Charlotte Smith pursues this criticism of the nature of British power throughout her novel. Mrs Rayland, ‘the only survivor of the three coheiresses of Sir Hildebrand Rayland’ (Smith 1987: 3), with all her scorn for those without titles and money, is seen as the survivor of an antiquated and vicious social system.

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