Philobiblon: Just what you want in the post

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Just what you want in the post

In 1730, at the age of 78, the novelist, poet, Catholic and gout-plaster inventor Jane Barker sent a prioress in Bruge a tumour that had been expelled many years earlier from her breast. She wrote: "I begg pardon for this liberty I take in making yr La[dyship] so od a present." (So she wasn't mad.)

It had, she said, been expelled as the result of the intercession of "our holy King" (James II), through the medium of his blood soaked in "a little rag". Now all is clear: about 1730 a big new push to have James canonised had begun.

Despite this tale rather than because of it, I've added to my (very long) "to read" list Barker's A Patchwork Screen for Ladies, described as: a patching together of inherited forms so as to accommodate within the confines of a single-female-centred narrative kinds of experiences traditionally excluded from popular fiction".

This description from Jane Barker, Exile: A Literary Career 1675-1725, Kathryn R. King, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 2000. It was one of my better Waterstone's academic remainders purchases - £50!! down to £7. The tumour story is p. 104-6, Patchwork p. 194


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