January 2012


This week I’ve been looking at the ballads written about Mary and Philip, and their background.  So I’m looking into the authors and printers, and the culture of balladry in the early modern period. I’m really finding it very interesting, not least because of my background in music and my particular interest in the folk tradition.  That said, Shakespeare they aren’t, and one of them at least strays into Dr Seuss territory!  Some of them are quite well known, but others less so.  They are heavy with imagery, and a couple of them use the image of the marigold for Mary, which is a lovely play on words.

A friend put me on to the conference on Attending to Early Modern Women in May at the University of Milwaukee….  I wish!  The actual conference and accommodation isn’t that expensive, but getting there?  Well, that could be a bit of a problem.  That and the childcare!

I spent a few days typing up a sermon by John Feckenham.  It seemed like a good idea when I started.  Then I realised it was 58 pages long and it seemed like an amazingly bad idea.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday afternoon when I finished, but I’m glad I did it because I now have a much cleaner copy that is much easier to read.

At the end of last week I went to visit the librarians at Chetham’s and the John Rylands in Manchester, which was very interesting.  I got some interesting contacts out of it, and a lot of useful information.

I had a singing lesson yesterday.  Singing is providing a nice change from all the book work, especially as the pile of reading that needs doing seems to be expanding exponentially!

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I’ve changed tack a bit this week.  Instead of doing random keyword searches or looking up all the records in English for each year on EEBO, I looked up recusant women on the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, made some notes on them and then started trying to find references to them on EEBO, State Papers and British History Online.  It’s quite interesting, though it hasn’t particularly turned up anything stunning (so far?).  What strtikes me is that women bring up the children, and presumably are responsible for passing on Catholicism to their offspring, and then they marry them into recusant families or send them abroad to seminaries and convents.  Is it going down the female line?  I’m not sure that this theory doesn’t fall down as soon as women get married into a recusant family.  Unsurprisingly, Catholic families like the Arundells, Howards and Vauxes intermarry.  Margaret Clitherow was converted to the old faith, and although her husband remained Protestant, the children were brought up Catholic.  One at least went abroad to be trained as a seminarian.  I wonder what is known of the rest of them – I’d have to check.

Is it easier, in a way, for a woman to be a recusant than a man?  They don’t face the same social, legal and work restrictions that a Catholic man would because they don’t apply to a woman anyway.  It’s not as if a woman is going to be barred from a career because of her beliefs!  Quite a few of the devout women I looked up seem to be married to church papists (men who went to church but didn’t communicate and still held Catholic belief in private).  For the wives of church papists, is it possible that their husbands would object to their overtly Catholic activities because they were afraid that their womenfolk would hold them back?  Or is it possible that they let their wives shelter priests and hold Masses in their homes because they secretly sympathised with their faith?  Indeed, what could they in fact have done to stop them?

I’m also interested in the way that having a confessor in the house shifts patriarchy from the male head of the family to the male confessor.  I know that there has been work done on it, but there just haven’t been enough hours in the day and week to look into it yet.

I didn’t do my update last night, so here it is.

Yesterday was much more productive. I checked all the records for 1555, which was interesting, if a little on the slow side. In the afteroon I carried on with my secondary reading – I’ve moved on to Megan Matchinske, because it was shorter. I rarely choose books from my shelf on that basis, but after the slog that was the Anne Dillon book I wanted something that I could finish quickly. I am getting along quite quickly with it. I think I might go for ‘Neither Saints Nor Sinners’ next, as it was recommended by a university friend. I really ought to finish Questier and Lake’s Margaret Clitherow book that I have on my kindle, and I had started Stephen Haliczer’s ‘Between Exaltation and Infamy’, so perhaps I ought to go back to that rather than leave it as unfinshed business. The thing is that they are all books that I own, but I feel a compulsion to read library books before they are due back.

I also did some singing practice, and I now have an earworm – Falla’s Seguidilla Murciana – which is running round my brain constantly. It would be easier to handle if I knew the words, but all I can remember at the moment is “Cual quiera que el teja-a-do/ Tenga de vi-i-drio…” Admitedly those two lines then repeat a couple of times in the first verse, but nevertheless it’s not a lot to go on and could well mean that it sticks in my brain wrong and at some stage I have to make a superhuman effort to relearn it!

That’s ‘The Archers’ on Radio 4, not an alcoholic drink of some sort, in case you were wondering!

The children went back to school yesterday, so I did a bit of work on my John Roberts piece (I think I might have finished it and I’m certainly pleased with my progress) and proofread a couple of essays for a friend.  This morning I was determined to get back to the records on EEBO, and I did, but I couldn’t settle to it and didn’t make a lot of progress.  Before Christmas I started going through them year by year,  and this morning I just tried to search for keywords, and it wasn’t very succesful.  I’ve given up for today, and gone back to some secondary reading.

I did finish the book by Anne Dillon, eventually.  I did find it very hard going, but I wonder if that was mainly because the children were at home, and I didn’t get a long stretch at it at a time.

Anyway, now ‘The Archers’ has finished, so I’d better get back to my reading so that I don’t feel like I’ve completely wasted a day!