An interesting week.  I’ve spent most of it smoothing out the  wrinkles in my  epitaph ballad article.  I think it’s nearly ready to go, which is quite pleasing.  The process of refinement is interesting and one that I really quite enjoy, as it brings out the pedant in me.  I’ve spent most of the week trying to marry together the three elements of the article – the research, the historiography and the background information.  I think, now, that I’ve been fairly successful.  I have a supervision meeting later in the week so the first job for Monday (when I’ve been to visit a possible new hall for the Historical Assocation in Bolton) is to send it off to my supervisors to see what they have to say, then I have to decide where to send it.

I’ve also been rewriting the paper on ‘Knowingness and the Mid-Sixteenth Century Ballad’, mainly about the flyting on Thomas Cromwell.   I hope to be able to do away with the script by Tuesday evening, when I give the paper at the Postgraduate History Seminar Series at the University of Manchester.  There will be a repeat performance in Lancaster on Wednesday for the North West Early Modern Seminar Series.  At the beginning of last week, I wasn’t entirely looking forward to it, but having thought it out again I’m much happier about it.  I was trying to cram too much information in, but having taken a lot of examples out and replaced them with ideas, it seems to work much better.  I’m rather looking forward to the chance to discuss my work with everyone on both days. I plan to go out on something of an academic limb, so I hope that there aren’t any people clinging to the tree trunk with chainsaws!  I still have a handout to finish to go with it, so that will have to be a job for Monday too.  Oh…  Monday is tomorrow.  Hmm.  Busy day then.

On Wednesday I went into Manchester.   I spent a nice day working in the John Rylands Library and then went to the Print and Materiality in the Early Modern World seminar, where I heard Angela McShane give her paper on ‘The Seventeenth Century Political Ballad as Subject and Object’.  We had an interesting conversation afterwards, too, which was great.

Then today I started again on the secondary reading that’s been backing up for weeks.  M. L. Bush on the Government Policy of Protector Somerset, but I’m finding it slow and heavy going, if I’m honest.  There’s not going to be much time this week to catch up.


The British Library, London

The British Library, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week has been rather different to normal.  Foolishly, at 8am on Monday morning I was at Preston station in the hope of travelling to London, but the storm rather got  in the way.  Instead of arriving in London at 10, it was lunchtime when I got there, so I missed a few hours’ work in the British Library.  It was an interesting few days, anyway, looking at commonplace books and music manuscripts for my work.   I was back up north on Wednesday evening with a keen awareness of how much more time I need to spend in the BL.  Then on Friday I spoke at the History Lab North West workshop on interdisciplinarity, Beyond History.   I talked about the overlap of musicology and history in my work, especially about how sometimes the music of the ballads adds a whole extra layer of meaning to the texts.  It was nice to talk and sing  to a mixed audience rather than just historians.

My plan is to spend some time next week revitalising my journal article, then with a bit of look when I go back to the commonweal chapter after a couple of weeks’ break, it might be a bit easier to face.

The results of my summer goals:
• Definition of ‘ballad’ for introduction. I’m part way through this, although it needs a LOT more work. I’m discussing it with friends that I met at the Psalm Culture conference in London in July and I’ve given it a lot of thought, but so far, there’s only a little bit on paper. This is my priority when the children go back to school before the university semester restarts. However, I did produce a short piece on the nature of the ballad for my panel meeting, so I can count that too.  I’ve decided that ‘definition’ might be a bit strong and that instead, working on what I understand to be a ballad is going to be an ongoing process.  I’m very pleased with the work I’ve done on this, because I accidentally ended up writing a bit of my introduction that I wasn’t intending to do at the moment.

• Transcription of digital copies of ballads from MSS in the British Library, consulted last autumn. Again, I’m part way through this. I’ve checked the whole of one manuscript and I’m about to start work on another. However, so that I can get my head round what I’ve completed and what I haven’t, I need to make some proper records.  Finished.  Quite pleased with myself, because a week and a half of nose-to-the-grindstone work on two computers at the same time yielded some quite spectacular production.

• Archive visits during summer 2013: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire County Record Office, National Archives etc. This hasn’t quite gone according to plan. Stonyhurst College assure me that they won’t have anything of interest. I haven’t yet made it to the county record office in Preston this summer, although I have been before. I need to go to the British Library again, but I’m not sure how I’m going to fit that in. I’m booked in to the Bodleian in Oxford and I’ve been to the University Archives in Cambridge and the Parker Library. I’d like to go to Keswick and Stratford too, but again, I’m not sure how I’m going to fit it in before the end of the summer.  I thoroughly enjoyed my trips to Cambridge and Oxford, but I never got to Keswick or Stratford or the British Library, so these are things that I will have to try to fit in during the autumn, perhaps at half term.

• Completion of article on ballad epitaph. Yippee – something I can say I’ve completed! This was sent off to a journal several weeks ago.

• Revise ballad flyting chapter. Bigger yippee – something else I can say I’ve completed, at least in its first draft.

• Knowingness, Implicitness and the Early Modern Audience. This is a new addition to the list, and what held up work on the transcriptions. I’m doing some background reading on the audience of cheap print in the period, which feeds in to a heavy-going (at least to write and for me to think about) piece on the use of knowingness in the sixteenth century. This will, eventually, form part of my introduction.  As done as it needs to be for now.  I will come back to it as part of my redrafting, of course.

• Rewrite of chapter plan – This piece of work was set at my panel meeting, as my chapter plan still reads as if I’m just starting my research. My supervisors suggested that I might find it helpful to rewrite my chapter plan to reflect the findings of the chapters I’ve completed. Actually, I found it a rather soul destroying business. I find writing abstracts extremely difficult at the best of times so writing several of them in one go was like torture. I have to admit that I gave up. I ought to come back to it, I suppose! I did finally manage to get that done.

• Submission of proposals for talks – I’ve submitted an abstract for the History Lab North West interdisciplinary conference ‘Beyond History’ in November looking at music as historical evidence – the links between psalms, ballads and politics and especially melodic knowingness. This conference was perfect for me, considering that my work is so interdisciplinary. I was asked to take part in the Material Histories seminar series at the John Rylands University Library next academic year, so I’ve submitted a paper on ‘William Elderton and the Ghost of the Ladie Marques’. That should be fun. I hope that both these papers will provide an opportunity to sing some of the ballads, since that is what they were written for! I’ve also now sent off a proposal for a seminar for the university postgrad seminar series on the Thomas Cromwell flyting, so I think I can safely tick this one off as complete.

Since I finished transcribing the manuscripts earlier this week, I had another look at the work I wrote for the introduction, made a few changes and thought about what else needs doing to it.  It needs revising in the light of the comments made by my music advisor at my summer panel meeting.  Then yesterday afternoon I started to think about my new chapter on ballads and the common weal.  It’s not going to be the most difficult chapter to write, because without a doubt that has to be the one on sixteenth century musical theory.  Nevertheless, it’s not as straightforward as some of the others because I think it’s going to be quite difficult to find an angle from which to approach it.  I think that a few days of immersing myself in the source material are in order. 

So far, so good.  I’ve managed to successfully avoid doing any work on my PhD for two weeks.  This may not seem like a cause for celebration (indeed, bits of me are itching to open a book or rifle through a few ballads or even do some filing) but I am extremely poor at doing nothing.  I find it very, very difficult to switch off, so the fact that I’ve taken two weeks off for the first time in a year is quite an achievement (and last year I only took two weeks off because I was moving house, so I wasn’t exactly doing nothing, I just had too much else to do!).   So this week we’ve been on a lovely walk from Chipping, we went cycling round Brockholes nature reserve and yesterday we went to the sea-life centre in Blackpool so that my little one could meet the Octonauts.  Such are the joys of combining parenthood with postgraduate research.  This evening we all went to choir practice, having joined the local church choir.  This is something I haven’t done for years, so I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The school term begins in the middle of next week, which is when I go back to work.  Plenty to finish off before the new semester starts.

about 1762

about 1762 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fittingly, the first Art Everywhere poster that I saw was  the Pelican Portrait of Elizabeth I!  It was on the concourse of Oxford Station.  Then on the way home from the Cotswolds we stopped at a motorway service station and saw the Ambassadors, Blaze 4, For You and Whistlejacket.  Apparently my husband and children saw several others during their wanderings around Oxford on Monday, but having my head stuck in sixteenth century manuscripts at the time, I missed those…

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell. New York, Frick C...

Portrait of Thomas Cromwell. New York, Frick Collection. Oak panel, 76 x 61 cm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have spent a lot of time this week re-writing the chapter I blitzed in January on the Thomas Cromwell ballad flyting. I was never very happy with it, mainly because all I did was throw all my thoughts about each ballad down on paper before trying to chop it into themes, which was rather unsuccessful. I handed it over to my supervisors at the beginning of February under duress, without even having time to read through it after the scissors and sellotape exercise. So I decided it was about time I tried to make it into a proper first draft.

I found it a rather difficult task, because it is so incredibly dense. As a case study, it presents a detailed examination of the ballads in the flyting and their authors, looking at how the ballads reacted to the sudden downfall of Henry VIII’s chief minister and reflected the attitudes of members of the court to his execution.  The big problem was remembering which ballad was which, so I gave them all a code number and that helped a bit.  Eventually I got so fed up with it my friend Rosy offered to read it (all 13,000 words!)  so, gratefully, I sent it off to her.  The following day it came back to me with a pile of really useful comments and advice.  I think I’ve used most of it, including moving some of the work from the end of the chapter to the beginning.  I’m not sure if it might now be a bit top heavy, but it’s certainly much improved.  It’s now gone off to my supervisor to be checked over.

By far the most exciting visit we made on our trip to Cambridge was to Wicken Fen Nature Reserve.  Apparently it’s the fifth oldest National Trust property and it was absolutely brilliant.  I’ve liked dragonflies ever since I was a child, possibly because I see less of them than other insects, and Wicken Fen is dragonfly heaven.  I have never seen so many dragonflies in one place at one time, although unfortunately they tend not to sit still for the photographer in the way that butterflies do.

grasshopper grasshopper
Brimstone butterfly Brimstone butterfly
Gatekeeper butterfly Gatekeeper butterfly
Darter dragonfly Darter dragonfly
Skipper Skipper
Highland cattle at Wicken Fen Highland cattle at Wicken Fen
mating dragonflies mating dragonflies
Konik ponies, Wicken Fen Konik ponies, Wicken Fen
Injured brown hawker dragonfly Injured brown hawker dragonfly