The Origins of the Inquisition

(by B Netanyahu)

Definitive, immense and profound work on the causes and motives of the Spanish Inquisition.




[Note that TVC recommends the following:

Torquemada himself would be impressed with Wakefield & Evans, Heresies of the High Middle Ages (1991) and Lu Ann Homza’s The Spanish Inquisition 1478-1614; An Anthology of Sources (2006), which is a very valuable resource of primary documents.

The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (1998) by Henry Kamen, is a good general volume (TVC has a pretty Folio edition).

The Spanish Inquisition (1937) by Cecil Roth is a superior general academic treatment.

The Inquisition of the Middle Ages (1887) is a definitive work by an early expert (Henry Charles Lea); this is an expurgated version from the 3 volume work (1963); the Inquisitors “inevitably reached the practical conclusion that the sacrifice of a hundred innocent men were better than the escape of one guilty.”

Frontiers of Heresy (1990) by William Monter focuses on various aspects not usually covered in detail.

Good general non academic texts: The Growth of the Spanish Inquisition (1960) by Jean Plaidy; Inquisition and Society in Spain (1985) by Henry Kamen; The Italian Inquisition (2009) by C.F. Black; In the Shadow of the Virgin (2003) by Gretchen D. Starr-LeBeau; Inquisitorial Inquiries (2004) edited by Richard L. Kagan & Abigail Dyer scrutinizes specific cases.

Popular re-hashes, readable but hardly novel: The Inquisition (1999) by Michael Baigent & Richard Leigh; The Inquisition (1984) by Edward Burman; Inquisition (1999) by John Edwards; The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual (2009) by Jonathan Kirsch; The Spanish Inquisition (2002) by Joseph Pérez, and The Pope and the Heretic (2002) by Michael White.]

St Dominic presiding at an auto-da-fe ('act of faith') by Pedro Berruguete

St Dominic presiding at an auto-da-fe (‘act of faith’) by Pedro Berruguete


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(by Joseph Conrad)

Conrad’s robust, sinewy and subtle story of silver madness is the best thing he ever did.

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Nikolaus Pevsner – The Life

(by Susie Harries)

The rather ponderous biographical figure can make for a fascinating biography, when it is written and researched judiciously and with love.  Pevsner’s love for his adopted England is shown in the Teutonic thoroughness with which he trundled about every shire in the country, travelling and lodging uncomfortably with a hard cheese sandwich wedged in his coat pocket, to document every church, every manor, every public building, bridge and stile of consequence.  He accumulated a wall of architectural volumes for the intelligent layperson that still inspire the question: “Is it in Pevsner?”


Durham Cathedral


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The Moon and Sixpence

(by W. Somerset Maugham)

W struggled to create a genuine primitive but he comes close with Charles Strickland, a nasty and tormented artist, based on Paul Gauguin (born 7 June 1848, died 8 May 1903 in Polynesia).  Strickland’s exchanges with the Maugham-like narrator are great fun.  “Don’t you care whether you paint well or badly?” “I don’t. I want only to paint what I see.”

Paint what you see.

Paint what you see.


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(by George Eliot)

Honestly, you just want to smash Dorothea Brookes’ face in.

'I don't understand the "Key to all Mythologies"; he doesn't understand me...'

‘I don’t understand the “Key to all Mythologies”; he doesn’t understand me…’

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Michelangelo: His Epic Life

(by Martin Gayford)

Straightfoward but intelligent and informed biography of the world’s greatest visual artist, well sourced and well imagined.

Even when he ran out of puff, money or interest, he still managed to do great things; e.g. his incomplete (although officially deemed finished after 45 years of tinkering) tomb of Julius II, with its magnificent centrepiece of Moses.


Ridiculously prolific even though he could be a right sod in negotiating and delivering his famous services, as multi-talented as his rival Leonardo, as contradictory as all men, Michelangelo is still “the one to beat”.

“And who is He that sculptured in huge stone, 
Sitteth a giant, where no works arrive 
Of straining Art, and hath so prompt and live 
The lips, I hasten to their very tone? 
Moses is He—Ay, that makes clearly known 
The chin’s thick boast, and brow’s prerogative 
Of double ray; so did the mountain give 
Back to the world that visage, God was grown 
Great part of! Such was he when he suspended 
Round him the sounding and vast waters; such 
When he shut sea on sea o’er Mizraim. 
And ye, his hordes, a vile calf raised, and bended 
The knee? This Image had ye raised, not much 
Had been your error in adoring Him.”

[Robert Browning, concerning Michelangelo’s “Moses” (above)] [Incidentally, it was reported in early 2015 that two bronzes of men riding on the backs of panthers have been attributed to M. Buonarroti by experts – whilst Michelangelo famously declined to sign his work with one or two equally famous exceptions, TVC doubts these pieces are his work – they look like something done by a 16th Century Jeff Koons.]
(Portrait of the author by David Hockney)

(Portrait of the author by David Hockney)


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The Merry-go-Round in the Sea

(by Randolph Stow)

The great Australian family-at-war yarn. The scene of Rick and Jane on the beach is the literary high watermark of dates gone wrong.

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Memoirs of Hector Berlioz

Like Wagner, Berlioz was a pain in the neck, a necessary pain, the kind reminding one both of life and mortality.  There is still no agreement as to how good he was and a lot of his work has Wagnerian length without the same depth.

But check out his Faust, Trojans and Symphonie fantastique.

This autobiography, painstakingly translated by David Cairns, (who has also produced a massive biography) shows the composer kicking like a mule to get ahead, to get his way, to get some recognition, in a France that has always been indifferent to him.  A great work even for those with a tin ear.

Portrait of Berlioz by Courbet

Portrait of Berlioz by Courbet

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The Maybe

November 5, 2014 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, Ulalume |


Tilda Swinton sleeps, encased in glass, at MoMA in Manhattan. The bed is cleaner than Tracey Emin’s but Tilda, with her death’s head and pale, slight figure, surely can find better roles than this pallid piece of modern confectionary. At least Marina Abramovic nudes up.

In a letter to The Australian, Mr Tony Hennessy of Casino, New South Wales, avers “Two people standing on a box may be difficult but it is not art”. This begs the old answer-less question ‘what is art?’ And the claim made by the pop artists ‘all art is already mediated’ surely confuses outcome with process. Perhaps we may say what we loosely call ‘performance art’ might be art, but art not for us.

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Lord Berners

(by Mark Amory)

It’s not possible to know what made Gerald Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Baron Berners tick, but everyone seemed to like him and his eccentric acts were mostly harmless; dyeing animals, driving around in grotesque masks, hiding under a bearskin rug to ‘fool’ tedious guests.  A soft spoken flower with a small but keen talent justifies this very readable and accomplished bio.  And remember, ‘Red roses blow but thrice a year, in June, July and May.  But those who have red noses can blow them every day.’

James Gillray liked red noses

James Gillray liked red noses


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