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A biography of James Stuart is a study in paradox, one that entertains as much as it informs. James I waddles through history, sidewise and crablike. Intellectually astute, he can dazzle and charm with the polish of his rhetoric one minute, and speak with the vulgarity of a tavern bawd the next. James is an amusing mix of bombast and majesty, of sparkle and grime, of smut and brilliance, of visionary headship and foolishness. And only he, this all-too-human king, our flawed James, could have given us the great book he did. Early in his reign, James fashioned himself as the “new Solomon,” the pacifist prince entering the “the land of promise,” that is, the England inherited from his cousin Elizabeth. But the milk and honey he expected was a mirage. Still, in many respects he flirts with greatness. He is the first king of a united, or “Great Britain.” For all his foibles, all his bungling, James possesses an evolved sense of majesty, a type of faith in majesty itself, and wants nothing more than for his new Bible to reflect this majesty, to gild and elevate the reign, to be the great medicine that might heal the realm.
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