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In The Book of the Courtier (1528), Baldesar Castiglione, a diplomat and Papal Nuncio to Rome, sets out to define the essential virtues for those at Court. In a lively series of imaginary conversations between the real-life courtiers to the Duke of Urbino, his speakers discuss qualities of noble behaviour - chiefly discretion, decorum, nonchalance and gracefulness - as well as wider questions such as the duties of a good government and the true nature of love. Castiglione's narrative power and psychological perception make this guide both an entertaining comedy of manners and a revealing window onto the ideals and preoccupations of the Italian Renaissance at the moment of its greatest splendour.
An insider's view of court life during the Renaissance, here is the handiwork of a 16th-century diplomat who was called upon to resolve the differences in a war of etiquette among the Italian nobility.
An insider's view of court life and culture during the Renaissance, 'The Book of the Courtier' is the handiwork of a diplomat who was called upon to resolve the differences in a war of etiquette among the Italian nobility. Set in 1507, when Castiglione was an attaché to the Duke of Urbino, the book consists of a series of fictional conversations between members of the Duke's retinue, who discuss the virtues and conduct of the ideal courtier. Translated into many languages after its 1528 publication, it became the ultimate resource on aristocratic manners, offering sixteenth-century readers a manual on how to behave. Today, it remains the most definitive account of life among the Renaissance nobility.
The Romanticism that emerged after the American and French revolutions of 1776 and 1789 represented a new flowering of the imagination and the spirit, and a celebration of the soul of humanity with its capacity for love. This extraordinary collection sets the acknowledged genius of poems such as Blake's 'Tyger', Coleridge's 'Khubla Khan' and Shelley's 'Ozymandias' alongside verse from less familiar figures and women poets such as Charlotte Smith and Mary Robinson. We also see familiar poets in an unaccustomed light, as Blake, Wordsworth and Shelley demonstrate their comic skills, while Coleridge, Keats and Clare explore the Gothic and surreal.

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