This is the first time since I started back at work that I’ve really felt like I’m back at work.  I’ve begun work on my fifth chapter, ballads and the common weal.  But it’s been a funny sort of week.  I spent Monday with my head stuck in my source material, trying to find the links, sorting them into groups and writing a time line.  On Tuesday I went into the library in Manchester to read a book about John Payne Collier.  He’s turned out to be something of a pain in the neck, if I’m honest.  Not only did he have a habit of leaving out the provenance of the ballads he published in the mid-nineteenth century, he also had an irritating compulsion to forge things.  Even the transcriptions that aren’t of his own invention are, apparently, full of errors.  So at the moment, I am faced with a choice:  ignore everything he ever went near, or go back to the  original sources themselves if I can find them or get at them.  Not a particularly easy decision to make.  What’s more, the man was all over Victorian literary scholarship and those who were caught unawares innocently passed on his errors, so I have to be very careful indeed.

On Wednesday afternoon I went in to the university to pick up an inter-library loan.  I stayed for the history department’s public event, a conversation between Prof. Michael Wood and Tristram Hunt, MP.  It  was very interesting, but I’m not really sure it could be billed as Prof. Wood’s inaugural lecture, as it wasn’t my idea of a lecture.  Very enjoyable, though, and I’m very, very glad I went.

Yesterday and today I have spent working on my chapter.  I’ve got about 1200 words down on paper, although some of that is just notes of ideas, but I’m still quite pleased.  At least I have got a few ideas to work on this week, which I hadn’t last weekend.  I’m in a familiar, if rather uncomfortable, position where I have got several things rattling round in brain that I’d like to work on, but it’s Friday afternoon and now I’m on childcare duty so everything else has to wait until Monday.

I’ve also offered to present a paper at the North West Early Modern Seminar Series at Lancaster University in November, so I have to fit writing that into the next few weeks as well.


A couple of weeks ago I reblogged a post from Pat Thomson

“This post began in exactly this way, with a five am wondering about what my favorite academic books would say about – and to – me. As I started to go through the books I’d put on a very, very short list I realized – and it was one of those kind of Homer Simpson d’oh moments – that the books I most valued were ones which were the kind of work I’d love to do.

So I want to suggest here that it could be helpful to think, more often than I have been doing, not simply about the research that you want to do, but also the kind of writing that you aspire to. When thinking about answers to the question “ What academic work do I want to be known for?” the answer might just as well be about the quality of the writing as the actual subject matter…”

I’ve been thinking about it on and off ever since, and I said that I would blog about my favourite academic books.  I have two authors in mind.  The first is my supervisor Glyn Redworth, the second, Michael Wood.  It’s dawned on me that I like their writing for the same reason: although it’s based on scholarship, it retains bounce and spark. I have always wondered why academic writing is so often flat and lifeless.  Theirs isn’t.  Although Michael Wood’s ‘Conquistadors’ series was on television when I was writing my undergraduate dissertation  (there, that dates me) and hooked me (any man who takes his tea bags up the Amazon and then makes a brew on camera is my hero), it was his book ‘In Search of England‘ that I read a few years later that I thought was really beautiful.  And Glyn’s book on the Spanish Match, ‘The Prince and the Infanta‘ was a gift from my first child long before he could actually be responsible for any gifts himself!  But that’s not the only reason I like it, although it’s a good enough one.  Both have a musicality to the writing.  It’s lyrical.  And I suspect that, as a musician, that’s what I appreciate in writing and what I would like to emulate in my own work.  Perhaps my thesis is not the place for it.  Perhaps it is.

I only know that if I could write half as well as either of them, I’d be a very happy girl.