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.

 

You may have noticed that I didn’t post a blog last week.  This was mainly down to the tremendous amount of stress I was under – several problems, nothing to do with my PhD and way beyond the scope of this blog, came together to make last week the week from hell.  What few attempts I made to do some work mainly consisted of staring at the screen, writing a couple of sentences, staring at the screen some more and then deleting the couple of sentences.  One step forward, one step back.  On Wednesday evening I went to the Willows Folk Club in Kirkham, where I had a lovely chat with an old friend, Sue Bousfield.  Sue has worked with the EFDSS on their Full English project, so it was nice to talk about my work with someone who is familiar both with the material and the style of English folk songs.  Hard to know whether it was the music (and herewith I attach Steve Tilston singing the traditional song ‘Courting is a Pleasure’, simply because I can’t find a video of him singing ‘Martin Said to his Man’, which is known to late Elizabethan or early Jacobean – I forget which) or the conversation with Sue about the extent of source material from the mid-Tudor period, but on the Thursday, for the first time in weeks, I managed to write 1000 words.  And what’s more, I didn’t feel the need to delete them.  Writer’s block demolished?  It seems so.  Still, I have an enormously long list of things to do and although I am slowly ticking things off it, it gets longer and longer all the time.  The latest addition is to explore the Full English Digital Archive.

On Saturday I went Hebden Bridge for the afternoon , to the Trade Roots Festival.  I spent Sunday afternoon working on my ballad epitaph article, then on Monday I went into Manchester to read a book by Steve Hindle and have lunch with a friend.  By Monday evening, I felt much better.  My plan this week was to get the first draft of the full length version of my ballad article complete by yesterday afternoon, and thankfully, I managed.  That meant that today I was able to turn my attention to the seminar paper that I will be giving in a couple of weeks, on the Thomas Cromwell ballad flyting.  By just after lunch I was happy with the skeleton I’d constructed.  I will practise it over the next couple of weeks, but I have no intention of fleshing it out any more than it already is.

I’ve spent most of this week writing my common weal chapter and despite my misgivings about how much I would get for it, I’ve actually written about 4200 words.  Last Sunday I spent the afternoon at my kitchen table, cutting 4 different versions of the same ballad into little pieces and sticking them back together in a different order.  It was incredibly tedious, but quite rewarding as it showed several interesting differences and several more interesting similarities.  It also gave me the way in to the chapter that I’d been missing.  So on Monday I brainstormed all the ideas I had and began going through each of my ballad examples in turn to look at the common themes within them.  Yesterday evening, having written quite a lot of ‘stream of thought’ prose, I sat down and thought about all the ideas I’d come up with and sorted them into some sort of order that resembled a plan for the chapter.  This morning I was able to re-jig the stream of thought into the order that I’d come up with and I felt a lot better about the whole thing.  I could then begin work improving the sentence structure and fleshing out the ideas.   Plenty still to do, but at least I now have a framework to hang it round and I know where to start on Monday morning!

What I have noticed this week is how thinking about one thing gives me ideas about what I need to put in to my other chapters when I refine them.  This is a really interesting stage to be at, if a little confusing.  It can be a bit hard to concentrate, for example, when I look through a secondary source that reminds me of something I could put into an earlier chapter – the temptation to abandon what I’m working on and start meddling with another chapter is strong.  To deal with it I’ve drawn up a chapter plan on a wall chart and when I think of something that needs to go into one of the chapters, I write it on a bookmark post-it note and stick it on the chart.  I am ridiculously self-satisfied with my solution to the problem.

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. 

English: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire

English: Stonyhurst College, Lancashire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought I’d give you a quick update on my progress towards 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

•  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!

• 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 think that covers most of what I’ve done.  When I’ve been to the Bodleian, I’m going to take a couple of weeks off so that I can spend some time with my children before they go back to school.  I haven’t had any proper time off since my interruption in February/March, which I don’t count because I was ill.  Even when we went on holiday to Donegal I worked every day because I had a deadline coming up.  I think we all deserve a break.

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.

I’ve spent a considerable proportion of the week splurging my second chapter.  Second only in the sense of the second one that I’ve written, not that it will necessarily be the second one in the thesis.  It feels good to have a bit more of it on paper, even if it isn’t really even a first draft.  It needs a lot of work, but as my supervisor wanted to see what I was up to I sent it  to him and he’s made some very helpful comments about the style and raised some interesting points about the ideas.  I’m really looking forward to talking it over at greater length when I see him.  It will need a lot of tidying up before it’s ready for my next panel meeting, but I’m very pleased that there is some potential in it at least.  Considering that there are more than 13000 words, that’s rather a relief.

My plan for this week is to revise my chapter plan and then finish off my ballad spreadsheet so that when I go in to the university campus I can ask print services to do a couple of copies for me.  It’s going to be rather large!  Then later in the week I will go back to the chapter and try to sort it out a bit.

Thomas Cromwell, chancellor of Henry VIII

Thomas Cromwell, chancellor of Henry VIII (Photo credit: lisby1)

And so a new year begins.

Ice skating at Lytham

Ice skating at Lytham

I have spent a lot of it so far cataloguing ballads, to the extent that my analysis spreadsheet is now so enormous that I am probably going to have to take it to the university print services department to get it printed out – I guess it will be bigger than a research poster and will cost me a small fortune!  Especially as I’ll probably have to get two copies of it so that I can give one to my supervisor.  I have, however, identified a nice section of wall in my study where I can stick it up.  Actually, it’s the only section of wall that’s big enough!  Still, I’ve got to finish it first, and although it’s getting there, everytime I look at anything I find more ballads that I need to add in.  There are just so many it’s amazing.

I have to say that after several days concentratedly staring at little boxes on a computer screen and tiny print  on paper, I was heartily sick of ballad analysis and ready to give it a break, so I did.   I went ice skating in Lytham with my children and had a whale of a time.  I didn’t fall over once, so I was very pleased with myself.  The next morning I spent doing more analysis and a LOT of filing, and then went up to Leighton Moss RSPB reserve with the family, which was very wet, but I saw several snipe, which was nice.  The weather wasn’t, it has to be said, as you can see from the photograph.  The snipe, which you can’t see on the photograph, were on the diagonal strip of land across the middle right.  I like snipe.  You’d think that something so stripy would stand out like a sore thumb, but it’s actually really good camouflage.

From the new Tim Jackson hide at Leighton Moss in the rain.

From the new Tim Jackson hide at Leighton Moss in the rain.

I spent an evening working on my talk for the Historical Association in Manchester, and I need to spend a bit more time on it.  It’s called ‘No Lion Wilde: Popular Depictions of Mary I’ and obviously it focuses on the ballads of the reign of Mary.  I’m quite looking forward to giving a talk to the H.A.  It’s not quite the same as one aimed directly at 6th formers, and although I gave a fairly intellectually-heavy seminar for the postgrads at university, that was only 20 minutes long – not a full 50 minutes.  So although it’s a bit scary, it’s fun.  I’m adapting the 6th form talk I gave in November to have longer excerpts of the ballads, as they, after all, are the crucial bits.  Other than that, it would involve putting in more theory, and I don’t think that’s all that appropriate.  I need to make it interesting but appreciable by a general audience.  The great thing about the Historical Association, though, is that although the audience is of the general public, they are assumed to want high quality, challenging lectures!  I suppose it’s the questions that are the really scary bit, as I can’t prepare for them.

I was instructed by my supervisor to get back into writing as soon as I could, and so far this is something I haven’t managed to do.  Instead, I generated a massive amount of ballad analysis by printing an awful lot of stuff from EEBO.  So much stuff, in fact, that I went through an entire printer cartridge in one day.  Then I had to read it.  Then I had to file it.  The trouble is that I know that there are several things that I am missing:  I haven’t read most of the Churchyard/Camel ballad flyting, and I know that I haven’t even printed several of the ballads I photographed at the Society for Antiquaries when I visited them last November.  I did, however, finally get on with ordering copies of a lot of things I saw at the British Library, so as I’d been putting that off I’m quite pleased with myself.

What else have I done?  I put several ballad tunes onto Sibelius so that I can listen to them and it makes the process of analysing them, in due course, easier.  They are now in a folder of their own, with copies of the lyrics that go with them.  I’ve read through Cheap Print and Popular Piety again too.

My plan is that next week, when the children go back to school, I will go back to my piece on the Cromwell flyting of 1540 and finish a draft of that.  It’s something to look forward to.  I’m going to give the rest of the missing ballads a break for a few days while I get stuck into writing again.  Should be fun.

So I took Boxing Day off as well as Christmas Day, and went back to work yesterday by reading Robert Hutchinson’s biography of Thomas Cromwell.  I can’t say I was impressed, not least because I came across three of my pet hate ‘must have’s (that is, “s/he must have thought/been/looked etc”) by the bottom of page 2.  Still, it served a purpose: mainly, to provide me with the factual background on Thomas Cromwell that I need (I ignored the gloss about his venality and corruption) in a format I could read quickly (I got through the book in just over a day).

Today I went back to analysing and categorising the ballads.  I think I have nearly finished that particular exercise, and then I need to work out exactly what is going to be most appropriate for each chapter. That’s the scary bit.  However, as we’ve all had the flu-lurgy over Christmas, and it’s not shifting quickly, I’m taking it fairly slowly and I think I’ll go back to a bit of secondary reading tomorrow, mainly because it requires less concentrated effort.  I’m very much looking forward to going back to writing in a big way soon.