Welcome to the 42nd edition of Carnivalesque, a summer special for everything early modern. Many thanks for all your nominations!
Research (or, the Holy Grail)
Gavin Robinson has been investigating saddlers’ wills. You might at first think this a dry and narrow subject, but it got more nominations than any other post, and I recommend reading it to find out why. As Gavin notes, early modern wills can tell us a lot about people’s lives and family relationships, not just their property. William Deacon’s will provides us some insight into his marital relations, perhaps: he instructed his executors to make sure that his wife didn’t embezzle anything from his estate. Or there was William Chevall, who left his niece just one shilling because she had got married without his consent. (Bonus links: a few useful resources, 1, 2, 3.)
At Mercurius Politicus, Nick posts a series on The Pamphlet War Between John Taylor and Henry Walker (2, 3, 4, 5), based on a paper presented to the Birkbeck Early Modern Society in July. He examines in detail the two writers, the texts, the readers and the publishers, to illuminate the sophistication and complexity of the pamplet wars of the 1640s.
Politics, religion and war
Well, if it’s the seventeenth century, we’re never far from religion, politics and bloodshed. Executed Today visits Prague’s ‘Day of Blood’. On 21 June 1621 ‘the Habsburg crown took 27 nobles’ heads in Prague’s Old Town Square for attempting to lead Bohemia to independence’; merely the beginning of far more widespread death and destruction, the Bohemian Revolt sparked off what is commonly known as the Thirty Years’ War.
In ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted’, Dave Noon discusses the assassination of Metacom, aka King Philip, on 12 August 1676 and the brutal war that bears his name. For the English colonists, the war was a test sent by God, and their eventual victory a sign of His blessing. (Bonus link: Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative.)
Gracchii explores and contextualises the Plot against Pepys, at Westminster Wisdom. Between 1679 and 1681 (and perhaps there has never been a more fertile moment in British history for plots and paranoia, accusations and counter-accusations), Samuel Pepys was accused of transmitting secret plans to France and threatened with execution; he survived because he was able to discredit his accuser. (Pepys the blogger.)
K at Musings and Imaginings has been pondering The Book of Martyrs. She notes that many of the authors on Jesuit missions to England in the 16th and early 17th centuries and the Gunpowder Plot are sympathetic towards the Jesuits and concludes that it’s largely to do with the widespread appeal of martyrdom and self-sacrifice.
Debunkers and awkward buggers
David Rundle asks When was the Renaissance? He uses a visit to a recent exhibition on the art of ‘the renaissance’ as a springboard for a thoughtful discussion of the artificial and not entirely helpful academic divide between ‘medieval’ and ‘early modern’, and the need to be aware that ‘Renaissance’ is an invented concept that can obscure as much as it illuminates. ‘In short, it is tidier to have a Renaissance confined to the sixteenth century and certainly less complicated to imagine it was a single phenomenon which manifested itself across Europe. But, in this case, I am on the side of messiness.’
Bill Poser at Language Log argues that it’s wrong to view Sir William Jones (wikipedia entry, if you’ve never heard of him) ‘the discoverer of the Indo-European language family and founder of modern historical linguistics’ for two reasons: he wasn’t the first to recognise a relationship between the languages, and he didn’t use the comparative method. An interesting discussion ensues.
At Philobiblon Natalie Bennett posts some reflections on Marlowe, Shakespeare and imagination, after reading History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe, by Rodney Bolt. This sounds entertaining: of all those daft-as-a-brush Shakespeare-wasn’t-really-Shakespeare conspiracy theories, one of my personal favourites is the Marlowe-didn’t-really-die scenario. (To be continued)
Writers and Readers
At Serendipities, Kristine Steenbergh reviews Katherine Craik’s Reading sensations in early modern England (2007), in which the history of reading and the history of the body are sensuously combined. The book argues that ‘reading in early modern England was a bodily, material experience. In its pages, readers can be found licking the sweet juice of stinking books, being tickled with sugared rhetoric, softened or sharpened by words, pricked or pierced by sermons, or stirred and inflamed by poetry’. It was believed that love poetry was effeminising, while warlike words could stir manly courage.
Sarah Werner (Wynken de Worde) compares modern and early modern information overload. The printing press seemed to contemporaries to unleash an overabundance of books in which useful knowledge would be lost; readers responded by developing reading and note-taking strategies to cope with the flood of information.
Roy Booth is investigating an early modern plagiary. A 1652 pamphlet on the ‘Black Monday’ eclipse, attributed to Isabel Yeamans, turns out to be plagiarized from a treatise by Nicholas Culpepper. Moreover, ‘Isabel Yeamans’ didn’t exist until Isabel Fell got married in 1664.
Michael Sisk looks at the fall and rise of metaphysical poetry at Campus Mentis.
Returning to the Shakespeare authorship ‘controversy’, Bardiac discussed this issue in a series of posts: 1, 2, 3 and 4. (Please note: You are very welcome to comment and tell me that I should take your particular Shakespeare pet conspiracy theory seriously. But if you do I will take the piss out of you. Don’t say you weren’t warned.)
Fun and Games! Never mind the Olympics, Bardolph brings us news of the Cotswold Games and ‘the lost sport of erecting castles on little plinthes’. And Edward Vallance reports on the Age of Intrigue, an online RPG based in the Restoration period.
Archaeologists may have found the remains of Shakespeare’s original playhouse in Shoreditch
Tilman Riemenschneider (1460-1531) was a specialist in limewood sculpture, including exquisitely carved altars.
Erly Mdn Txtspk. No, rly.
Bad news for Shakespeare readers: the Arden Shakespeare Controversy.
Well, that will do for today, because I haven’t had lunch yet and I’m hungry. I hope you enjoyed it and that you found something here that you haven’t already seen… And if I missed anything you think I should have included, you know where the comment section is, right?
The next early modern edition will be in October and as ever, we need hosts!