Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair by John Bossy

For this episode we are joined by the critic and former literary editor of the Independent on Sunday, Suzi Feay and the novelist and former Deputy Literary Editor of the Observer, Stephanie Merritt. Both are fans of the history-cum-detective story, Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair, by the late great historian of English Catholicism, John Bossy.

The book was a departure from Bossy’s weightier academic publications – in it he attempts to pin down the identity of the shadowy Elizabethan spy known only as ‘Henry Fagot’. As well as creating a vivid picture of the complex and treacherous world of London during the Elizabethan ‘cold war’ in the years leading up to the Armada, Professor Bossy makes a persuasive case for Henry Fagot being none other than the Italian philosopher, poet, cosmological theorist and dabbler in the hermetic arts, Giordano Bruno, who spent two years in London between 1583 and 1585, during which he wrote his most important books and became friends with Sir Philip Sidney and the magus, John Dee. First published in 1991 by Yale University Press, Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair went on to win both the 1991 Wolfson History Prize and the Crime Writer’s Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction.

As well as discovering how Bossy’s Bruno inspired Steph Merritt to launch her career as a novelist, we also discuss how the role of a literary editor for a national newspaper has changed over the past three decades.

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