Philobiblon: July 2004

Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Victorians would not have approved ...

... and even the Jacobeans were at least pretending to be shocked, when Anne of Denmark, the Queen of James I, appeared as Pallas (Wisdom and Defence) in the first masque she arranged, Vision of Twelve Goddess, played at Hampton Court on January 8, 1604.
As was appropriate for a warrior, she was in a short skirt. That frequently prissy bachelor Dudley Carleton complained:

"Her clothes were not so much below the knee but that we might see a woman had both feet and legs, which I never knew before."

He could have worked for the Daily Mail!

From: Writing Women in Jacobean England, B.K. Lewalski, Harvard Uni Press, 1993, p. 30.

Friday, July 30, 2004

A shortcut on a rough day

Today started with the mail: another rejection for my book proposal. Shortly afterwards some bastard stole the front wheel of my bicycle, forcing a long, wearying and eventually expensive trudge to the bike shop.

I did get an hour in the British Library, without results of note, so today I'm cribbing my quote from a regular email that I'd recommend,  Today in Literature, which has a free version and a $20 a year one:

"The art of newspaper paragraphing is to stroke a platitude until it purrs like an epigram."Don Marquis, who was born on this day in 1878. He also said: "I get up in the morning with an idea for a three-volume novel and by nightfall it's a paragraph in my column."

Personally, I tend to go the other way ... might be a message in there somewhere!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

King James I might have been a sexually confused misogynist ...

... but he did have some sense.

At  a mini-exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery on 17th-century science, I met Theodore de Mayerne (1573-1655), the Hugenot physician who emigrated to England after initially visiting to treat Anne of Denmark in 1606.

He wrote in his diary that the King "asserts the art of medicine to be supported by mere conjecture, and useless because uncertain". 

Today's discovery: the 18th-century "Green"

To prove that the way people think has not changed so much as we might think ...

John Woolman, an American abolitionist, arrived in London in June 1772 wearing a white hat, undyed clothes and shoes of undyed leather. He was rejected by those who might have been expected to welcome him (at least on most accounts), although the London Quakers were later ashamed of their action.

He did not believe in dyeing clothing because of the pollution and damage to the health of workers that the process caused: "Dirtiness under foot and the scent arising from that filth ... more or less infects the air of all thickly settled towns."

From: M. Pointon, "Quakerism and Visual Culture 1650-1800" in Art History, Vol 20, No 3, Sept 1997, p. 415. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

For all you social "scientists" out there ...

More wisdom from Richard de Bury ...

"The educated man seeks such degree of certainty as he perceives the subject-matter will bear".

A little more about the good Richard can be found at Or if you'd like to read him in Latin, here it is (at least I think that's what it is ...)

Hooligan - or how words lose capitals

I discovered on the weekend that the word "hooligan" is named after a person or family. My Brewer's says that it is of late 19th-century origin, from the name of a family of such people.

(The original source, which I can't now recollect, said that it was a specific man who killed a policeman in south London.)


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Edward Harrison

Browsing through some 17th-century pamphlets in the British Library (as one does), I came across the following:

The Confessions, Prayers, discourses and last dying sayings of Mr Edward Harrison, who was try'd and convicted and deservedly sentenced the Sixth and Ninth of this Instand April 1692, for the late unheard of Murder of Dr Clench, and accordingly Executed in Holbourn, on Friday the Fifteenth following ... this Day about the Hour of Eleven, carried from Newgate to Holbourn, against Furnivals-Inn, where a Gibbet was Erected."

The execution site is about 50m from where I live, so I couldn't help being interested, although the pamphlet reads like it was written entirely by the Ordinary of Newgate, being full of pious injunctions to friends and other young males not to follow in his footsteps. Frustrating it contains no information about him and his crimes. Does it ring any bells out there?


If you are wondering where the lovely word comes from, it is from the title of a book by Richard de Bury (1281-1345), The Love of Books, Being the Philobiblon of Richard de Bury. Here's a sample from my 1903 version, "newly translated into English by E.C. Thomas" (Alexander Moring, London):

"Almighty Author and Lover of peace, scatter the nations that delight in war, which is above all plagues injurious to books. For wars being without the control of reason make a wild assault on everything they come across, and, lacking the check of reason they push on without discretion or distinction to destroy the vessels of reason." (p.46)