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The Century that Wrote Itself

The Century that Wrote Itself

Wed Apr 10, 9-10pm, BBC4

By Phil Harrison
Series one, episode one
Writing, proclaims author and presenter Adam Nicolson, is ‘the road to possibility’. And that particularly applied to the seventeenth century, when diarists and letter writers first became widespread and the voices of ordinary people began to be heard. Which is all very well on paper, but rendering these earnest epistolarians televisual is something of a challenge.

It’s a challenge that Nicolson is eager to throw himself into however; during the course of tonight’s episode (the first of three), he fashions a quill pen, tries to herd some sheep and speaks in church. Actually, the most affecting story is the one that needs least embellishment: that of Margaret Fell, a Quaker who landed in prison and successfully argued for clemency from the King himself.

Not quite the route map towards the revelatory birthing of a new era just yet, but we wouldn’t bet against these tales carrying a real cumulative power.

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