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By A. L. Rowse

This publication is a quintet biography of Elizabethans: Lord Chamberlain Hunsdon, Earl of Oxford, Sir John Harington, Bess of Hardwick, and Father Parsons.

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Here are his letters to Bess, a copy of his replication to his brother on leaving her everything. More moving is the will of Bess's favourite daughter, Elizabeth Countess ofLennox, dying young and bequeathing to her mother's care Arbella, 'the solace of my life'. As late as 1604 a note tells us that 'my lady is this night informed by a gentlewoman here that a gentleman of credit now here saith there is no good agreement between Mr Henry Cavendish and the lady his wife; and that he hath lately charged her to be a harlot to some of his men and named the men to her'.

Building was the real passion of her life- that and her family: the two were intertwined, the buildings were to house her dynasty. It was an ambition completely characteristic of that ambitious age, which has left its lasting memorials of it, as against the trivial consumption of the demotic society of today. Her friend, the great Lord Burghley, accomplished and expressed his inner ambition in the building of Burghley for his elder son's line, and for the younger's Theobalds, which Robert Cecil exchanged for Hatfield.

8s. ' William, who was to become 1st Earl of Devonshire in James's reign, is a rather misrepresented man. As able a business head as his mother - though she was the creator - he was a person of much wider cultivation. Well read as she was in the book of life, she spent nothing on books. ' William's interests were wider: we fmd him buying Gilbert's classic work on the Magnet, Stow's Chronicles and Carew's Survey of Cornwall; he buys too Guazzo's Dialogues, a book of Memorable Conceits, books and pamphlets in both Latin and Italian.

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