10 June 2021, The Tablet

A fortnight ago, I was thwarted in my attempt to light a candle at Westminster Cathedral


A fortnight ago, I was thwarted in my attempt to light a candle at Westminster Cathedral
 

I began to work out in my head how many days without buying a cup of coffee I would have to go before I could afford the estimate for a lovely book up for sale at Forum Auctions. It wouldn’t be days or months, but eight years or more.
The book was a copy of the New Testament in Greek, and of course you can get that for nothing online. This was a folio bound in red morocco and tooled in gold with the initials of Kenelm Digby and his wife Venetia Stanley. It must have been a sort of wedding present from him to her in 1625.

Theirs was the romance of a romantic age. She, a great beauty, had met him in childhood and he had fallen in love. Then they were separated. In events that make a Shakespeare plot look plausible, in his late teens Digby, according to his private memoir Loose Fantasies, fled the amorous pursuit of the Queen Mother of France by spreading the news that he was dead, writing to Venetia explaining the reality. But the letter was never delivered. Venetia heard the bad fake news but not the good true news and was said to have turned to “a disordered life of pleasure” in reaction.

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