Posted in May 2012

A Mountebank Harrangues

A Mountebank Harrangues

Mountebanks made their livings as travellers who sold their own special cures and treatments, so had to be great orators and manipulators of crowds.  About the year 1690 a book was published “The Harrangues or Speeches of Several Famous Mountebanks in town and Country”. This is from that book, by Tom Jones. GENTLEMEN AND LADIES, … Continue reading

Letter from Kingsweston

Letter from Kingsweston

Sir Robert Southwell (1635-1702) was a wealthy diplomat and President of the Royal Society who for a time owned Kingsweston House, a mansion built by John Van Brugh to the north of Bristol. In 1685 his son the Hon. Edward Southwell, was in London with his tutor when he received a letter from his father. … Continue reading

Politics and the Plague

Politics and the Plague

The years 1665 and 1666 are two of the most devastating London ever saw, being the dates of the Great Plague followed by the Great Fire. But plagues don’t come out of nowhere. Like any disease that affects large numbers of people, they have their cycles and – since they are now largely wiped out, … Continue reading

Changing Beauty

Changing Beauty

“Picture galleries should be the townsman’s paradise of refreshment… There in the space of a single room, the townsman can take his country walk – a walk beneath mountain peaks, blushing sunsets with broad woodlands spreading out below.  walk thorough green meadows… by rushing brooks where he watches and watches till he seems to hear … Continue reading

Hedgehogs That Smell of Toads

Hedgehogs That Smell of Toads

Some more ridiculous but true facts about animals from the book Bats Sing, Mice Giggle: The tiny  black-capped chickadee, a bird widespead in the USA has a warning song: it adds ‘dees’ to its normal cry,  and the more it adds, – up to 20 – the more danger it is warning of, not just … Continue reading

Womens’ Choices

Womens’ Choices

It seems rather strange that there used to be songs about this subject, ranging from women who practices the oldest profession, to those who just went beyond the normal bounds, but not for a long time. The profession hasn’t died out, so why is it not worth singing about? This is a bit of a … Continue reading

Not Sons of  the Church, But Citizens

Not Sons of the Church, But Citizens

Some more details from the history  of St Bartholomew fair: The 13th Act of the 31st year of the reign of King Henry VIII confirmed the surrender of religious houses and gave the king power to seize those still standing. This did not just hand over power of religious practice to the king which continues … Continue reading

Conjugating Absence

Conjugating Absence

I have just read a review of a new book on the victims of the Soviet Gulags, in which they conjectured as to why these horrors are so much less known than those of the Jewish Holocaust. The author suggested it was perhaps due to the size of the crimes, but I don’t buy that, … Continue reading

A Child Surrealist

A Child Surrealist

Overheard exchange between young boy and father: Dad – We’re going into the tunnel. Child – What? The tunnel. We’re going into it. See – it’s where the road goes. Why? Why what? Why are we going into the tunnel? Because it’s where we’re going. It’s because the railway goes over us. What railway? That … Continue reading

Ed’s Take on the American Dream

Ed’s Take on the American Dream

For decades there has been a steadily widening gap between the rich and the poor in this country, with all the social disruption this causes, but all of a sudden the press and politicians seem to be noticing it. Maybe it’s because that London is filling up with rich expats from countries with failing economies, … Continue reading