Literary mysteries abound. I came across this article this morning about the disputed portrait of Jane Austen as a 13-year-old girl. The painting is supposed to have been painted by Ozais Humphry when Jane was visiting relatives in 1789. However,at some point in the 1940’s experts deemed this could not be Jane because the style of dress suggested it was painted after 1800. However, some new technology has revealed not only the name of the painter, Ozias Humphry and the date, 1789, but also the name of the subject … JANE AUSTEN! I am awash in literary mysteries these days and I am loving it!
But, how were children attired? Yes, children were usually dressed as mini adults, but I did a little research using Marie Antoinette’s, daughter, Marie Therese, who was just a couple of years younger than Jane (born in 1778 to Jane’s 1775) and here is what I came up with:
I am beginning to wonder if maybe this IS Jane. What a lovely little face. I also think there is a resemblance between the face in the portrait and this face:
Look at the eyebrows! The tip of the nose! Remember, the sketch was made by an amateur, Cassandra Austen, Jane’s sister.
I am beginning to think this might be Jane after all! What a wonderful revelation.
I feel a bit like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz. I am a little rusty at this blogging thing. I am a little rusty at this writing thing as well. I get up every morning and say to myself, “I am going to do all of things I love today,” but while it may not be necessarily true that there aren’t enough hours in the day, it is true I do not have the stamina to utilize all of them!
I have been thinking about names all month. Ever since I saw the movie “Anonymous.” If you do not know what this movie is about, in a nutshell it is about Shake-speare. Not the man from Stratford who is the accepted and enshrined Shakespeare of Anne Hathaway’s cottage. No. This movie is the bull horn for an alternate theory to the identity of the man who pondered “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet…” And it wasn’t Will Shakspur, it was Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, at least that is what a growing number of dissenters say.
When the movie was first released last fall, I resisted it. I had heard the vague whisperings about the Bard not being the Bard for years. I had also heard the stock responses from Shakespearean scholars and believing blindly in ivy towers and scholarship, I was sure they knew what they were talking about. But, about seven years ago, I read Peter Ackroyd’s biography about Shakespeare. It was a great book about what was going on during the lifetime of the man from Stratford, but there wasn’t much there, there concerning old Will himself. It was a lot of “he was most likely here, he possibly did this and did that” and “we can assume he…” I remember thinking at the time – goodness, we certainly don’t know much about him.
So, last fall the movie premiered and I felt a faint rustling about this. But, I still thought it was most likely a bunch of hooey. You see, the movie Elizabeth was hooey, sort of like Braveheart was hooey and while I love the costumes in these historical films, I am tired of Hollywood messing with history, trying to fit the events of say,1560, into the politically correct sensibilities of the 21st century. I resisted going.
However, curiosity got the cat and I was longing for something besides Transformers or the usual Hollywood pap and I rented it (on my amazing Roku – best invention since sliced bread) and I watched it.
Perhaps it was the opening with Sir Derek Jacobi that made me want to find out more. He leant a certain credence to the whole idea that this Shakespeare authorship issue is indeed an issue. If a Shakespearean actor can appear in a movie, not as a character in the movie, but as a modern actor DOUBTING the accepted identity of Shakespeare, well, kind of like the movie Jerry Maquire, they had me at hello.
So, I have gone off on a book reading spree. Three at once! And a googling spree – There are many great places to learn about this without buying a single book. Here is a great place to start http://www.shakespeare-oxford.com/, and I will give you one more so you won’t be overwhelmed: http://politicworm.com/blog/. I am now a believer. And you can’t talk me out of it and here is why: if de Vere wrote the plays, they make more sense and are far, far more fascinating. Kind of like Emily Dickinson’s poems are fascinating because when read against the events of her life, they take on dual meanings.
I find myself picking up the plays and actually reading them! I have always disliked Hamlet, but since discovering de Vere, I now find it wonderfully fascinating since it is basically an allegory for his early life. It even includes the character Polonius, who just happened to mimic his father in law, the great William Cecil, Elizabeth I’s chief advisor. Even the scholars agree on this point. So, how did a rube from Stratford who we can’t even prove went to school know these intimate things about the chief councilor to the Queen of England? And how on earth did he get away with writing it? Hmm?
All of the Italy plays seem more relevant since I now know that de Vere spent a great deal of time in Italy in the very towns which populate Shakespeare’s plays. This is what clinched it for me. It is like an amazing mystery, with piles of circumstantial evidence. Trials have been decided on much less.
So, what is in a name? I would say it is the difference between some nice plays and some really juicy gossip and the inner workings of a totalitarian government seen through the eyes of a whistle-blower, that’s what. And it is juicy. It makes the plays better and I think the scholars need to take the splinter out of their eyes and get crackin’ on some real scholarship and end all the “we can assume” nonsense.
(click above to read)
I wrote this about seven years ago. It came to me while I was making the Thanksgiving pies. I remember thinking the words while I rolled out my pie dough and worried I would forget it, so I wiped my hands on my apron, grabbed a legal pad and wrote it out in one fell swoop! The hard drive with the original piece crashed long ago, but I was fortunate enough to have it published – here is a PDF.
I call this blog Paraphernalia for a reason. It isn’t necessarily about one single topic. Anyone who scrolls through the whole blog knows that in addition to my reading and writing interests, I love Jane Austen and the Brontes and FASHION PLATES and anything 19th century! Sometimes I take a wide turn and enter the land of whimsy and share a fairy newsletter. I love visual things. Pretty pictures.
All of these things have percolated in my brain and while I try to finish my writing project, something I feel I just can’t post here quite yet, I am dipping my toes in the design world a bit. I have been taking some digital design classes and I think I am going to document some of my progress here because that is what I am doing right now.
I have a backlog of books to write about, but now, these visual adventures are what have me engaged and happy. Be prepared for a lot of pretty pictures. I will be posting my design concoctions here!
On either side the river lie Long fields of barley and of rye, That clothe the wold and meet the sky; And thro' the field the road runs by To many-tower'd Camelot; And up and down the people go, Gazing where the lilies blow Round an island there below, The island of Shalott. Willows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver Thro' the wave that runs for ever By the island in the river Flowing down to Camelot. Four gray walls, and four gray towers, Overlook a space of flowers, And the silent isle imbowers The Lady of Shalott. By the margin, willow-veil'd Slide the heavy barges trail'd By slow horses; and unhail'd The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd Skimming down to Camelot: But who hath seen her wave her hand? Or at the casement seen her stand? Or is she known in all the land, The Lady of Shalott? Only reapers, reaping early In among the bearded barley, Hear a song that echoes cheerly From the river winding clearly, Down to tower'd Camelot: And by the moon the reaper weary, Piling sheaves in uplands airy, Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott." Part II. There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay. She has heard a whisper say, A curse is on her if she stay To look down to Camelot. She knows not what the curse may be, And so she weaveth steadily, And little other care hath she, The Lady of Shalott. And moving thro' a mirror clear That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear. There she sees the highway near Winding down to Camelot: There the river eddy whirls, And there the surly village-churls, And the red cloaks of market girls, Pass onward from Shalott. Sometimes a troop of damsels glad, An abbot on an ambling pad, Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad, Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad, Goes by to tower'd Camelot; And sometimes thro' the mirror blue The knights come riding two and two: She hath no loyal knight and true, The Lady of Shalott. But in her web she still delights To weave the mirror's magic sights, For often thro' the silent nights A funeral, with plumes and lights And music, went to Camelot: Or when the moon was overhead, Came two young lovers lately wed; "I am half-sick of shadows," said The Lady of Shalott. Part III. A bow-shot from her bower-eaves, He rode between the barley-sheaves, The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves, And flamed upon the brazen greaves Of bold Sir Lancelot. A redcross knight for ever kneel'd To a lady in his shield, That sparkled on the yellow field, Beside remote Shalott. The gemmy bridle glitter'd free, Like to some branch of stars we see Hung in the golden Galaxy. The bridle-bells rang merrily As he rode down to Camelot: And from his blazon'd baldric slung A mighty silver bugle hung, And as he rode his armour rung, Beside remote Shalott. All in the blue unclouded weather Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather, The helmet and the helmet-feather Burn'd like one burning flame together, As he rode down to Camelot. As often thro' the purple night, Below the starry clusters bright, Some bearded meteor, trailing light, Moves over still Shalott. His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd; On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode; From underneath his helmet flow'd His coal-black curls as on he rode, As he rode down to Camelot. From the bank and from the river He flash'd into the crystal mirror, "Tirra lirra," by the river Sang Sir Lancelot. She left the web, she left the loom, She made three paces thro' the room, She saw the water-lily bloom, She saw the helmet and the plume, She look'd down to Camelot. Out flew the web and floated wide; The mirror crack'd from side to side; "The curse is come upon me," cried The Lady of Shalott. Part IV. In the stormy east-wind straining, The pale-yellow woods were waning, The broad stream in his banks complaining, Heavily the low sky raining Over tower'd Camelot; Down she came and found a boat Beneath a willow left afloat, And round about the prow she wrote The Lady of Shalott. And down the river's dim expanse-- Like some bold seër in a trance, Seeing all his own mischance-- With a glassy countenance Did she look to Camelot. And at the closing of the day She loosed the chain, and down she lay; The broad stream bore her far away, The Lady of Shalott. Lying, robed in snowy white That loosely flew to left and right-- The leaves upon her falling light-- Thro' the noises of the night She floated down to Camelot: And as the boat-head wound along The willowy hills and fields among, They heard her singing her last song, The Lady of Shalott. Heard a carol, mournful, holy, Chanted loudly, chanted lowly, Till her blood was frozen slowly, And her eyes were darken'd wholly, Turn'd to tower'd Camelot; For ere she reach'd upon the tide The first house by the water-side, Singing in her song she died, The Lady of Shalott. Under tower and balcony, By garden-wall and gallery, A gleaming shape she floated by, A corse between the houses high, Silent into Camelot. Out upon the wharfs they came, Knight and burgher, lord and dame, And round the prow they read her name, The Lady of Shalott. Who is this? and what is here? And in the lighted palace near Died the sound of royal cheer; And they cross'd themselves for fear, All the knights at Camelot: But Lancelot mused a little space; He said, "She has a lovely face; God in his mercy lend her grace, The Lady of Shalott."