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Weather-wise, it’s been a much better week.  Yesterday the weather was beautiful, but unfortunately I wasn’t in a fit state to enjoy it.  My eldest kindly brought  a bug home from school earlier in the week and having had a sleepless night on Tuesday, I wasn’t in a fit state to kick it out of the house.  So I spent most of yesterday in bed with a bug.  Anyway, the garden is looking lovely, I think.  We had the redpoll and the siskins back in the garden this week too.

Work is going slowly.  I’ve started work on my second chapter, but at the moment I’m researching rather than writing.  I have a wild theory up my sleeve that involves heraldry and ballads!   I’m in the process of comparing several ballads about Lent, which is actually proving to be a lot more interesting than it sounds!

On Wednesday I survived a lesson in how to construct a sentence!  I have an annoying habit of leaving subjects out of sentences, which is fine if you happen to be inside my brain as I know what I’m talking about, but apparently other people can find it a bit hard to follow my train of thought…!  I have been told to think about my sentences as musical phrases, in order to make them more balanced.

In other good news, I have my lovely middle-aged laptop back (as opposed to the old one that I need to get repaired next), which means that I’m back on  Windows 7 and no longer have to attempt to work round Windows 8 which, as far as I am concerned, is the stuff of nightmares.  Windows 7 works.  It just gets on with things.  Windows 8 thinks it needs to be at the forefront of your work all the time – it’s far too in your face.  Also, today I got the document reference I needed to complete my article, so it’s now all ready to go.  This feels very strange.  I think I probably feel the way a rhinoceros must do when it’s about to give birth – this article has been two years in the making!

 

Yesterday, rather unexpectedly, I sat down and started writing again.  I was overcome with an urge to sest my thoughts down on paper (well, computer screen) as I read the first publication in a ballad flyting from 1540.  I wrote down what I thought about it, how I interpreted it and the background to is as I read it, and very fulfilling it was too.  In a couple of hours in an afternoon, I wrote almost 1000 words. Whether or not any of them make it to the final cut, or even into the chapter I present for my next panel in January, remains to be seen, but it felt good.  Really good.  And I’m itching to get back to it again.  I feel like I could easily pour out 8000 words on this flyting alone.  Of course, I need an angle, and a sense of where it fits in with everything else, but I’m finding it fascinating and fulfilling at the same time.  I’m happy.

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.