What’s in a Name? That by any other name WOULD BE MORE INTERESTING.

Edward de Vere - 17th Earl of Oxford

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.

If you want to read more: http://www.amazon.com/Shakespeare-Another-Name-Edward-Oxford/dp/B001G8WETU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1339242311&sr=8-1&keywords=mark+anderson+shakespeare

or http://www.amazon.com/The-Mysterious-William-Shakespeare-Reality/dp/0939009676/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1339242364&sr=1-1&keywords=charlton+ogburn

Time for a Fashion Plate!

Here is a mystery: is the woman depicted in these fashion plates the same model? I have been trying to determine if models were used by the artists who created fashion plate engravings or if they drew them from imagination. Both date from 1820. Both appeared in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts.

Here is the face: Whoever she was, she was certainly lovely.

Paraphernalia as a Verb… and a Cracker Jack Commercial

The Lady of Shallot

paraphernalia

n paraphernalia [pӕrəfəˈneiliə]

a (large) collection of (small) objects, often the tools etc for a job or hobby

OR

paraphernalia

v paraphernalia [pӕrəfəˈneiliə]

a (large) emotional collection of (small) objectives, often the tools etc to live life as a continual hobby

ex After work each day, Dody likes to paraphernalia.

I named this blog Paraphernalia for a reason. I knew I could not focus on one particular topic and stay engaged. Long ago, I used to make bridal head wreaths and French ribbon rose brooches. I called my little ‘business” Paraphernalia – in keeping with one of the official definitions of the word A married woman’s personal property exclusive of her dowry, according to common law.” I love the word… I hate that it is associated with drugs … but I choose to ignore that definition…

Lately, it seems I am surrounded by Paraphernalia – the lovely, comforting flotsam and jetsam of my intellectual and creative life. It reminds me of that old, old Cracker Jack commercial; the one where the little boy empties his pockets and reveals a treasure trove of marbles and string and maybe a jack or two… I loved playing jacks… writing about playing jacks could be an entire blog post. The paraphernalia of that little boy’s pockets was very satisfying.

If paraphernalia was a verb, you could say that I paraphernalia throughout each day: I read a little, I craft a little, I write a little  – in other words I function within my large collection of small objectives, collections of words, collections of images, collections of thoughts manifested as art and beauty. So, what are these collections? What does it mean? What is paraphernalia-ing?

For one thing, it means I read little bits of many books. I have found that I need to get hopping if I am going to read everything on every topic that interests me. So, I read many at once. I am currently reading five books. The first is The Man Who loved Books Too Much which is a quirky, true life crime story of a rare book thief.  I plan to write a whole post on the book as soon as I am done, which is in fifty five pages.

I rather imagine this looks like Jane

Since I am a Janeite – I am reading Jane Austen, The World of her Novels by Deirdre LeFaye. This book is delightful. It is a wealth of information about what it was like to live in Jane’s age. I pick it up and learn something everyday…about travel arrangements, currency, the countryside. It is a wonderful book, with beautiful illustrations.

If you read five books at once, at least one has to be a novel. Right now that novel is  The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. I will review it as well. So far, it is…fine. However, it doesn’t make me want to live in it for days on end, so it must not be amazing. I have 250 more pages. It is getting better. I will let you know.


Finally, I am finishing two biographies – The Mistress of the Monarchy, by Alison Weir which is loosely about Katherine Swynford, mistress and the eventual third wife of John of Gaunt. I say loosely because it mostly reads like the Franklin daily planner of John of Gaunt with shout outs about Katherine. It consists of many, many passages which begin, “we can assume” or “most likely”Katherine was…” and nothing really definitive. Read the novel Katherine by Anya Seton. Except for the fact that Ms.Weir sorts out some misconceptions about who died of what or when, the novel is the way to go.  However, I have really enjoyed learning about this period, which includes information about Chaucer.  So, read it for the history.

The second biography is also by Alison Weir, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Eleanor was one scrappy lady. I would like to say I am like her, but I am not, I am a wimp. I would have stayed with Louis and sunk like goo into the quick sand of history. She kind of proves (fortunately or unfortunately – I make no judgements) that in some cases, taking that risk, divorcing, can move you up in the world. Carpe Diem.

I am feeling very medieval these days. I bought Loreena McKennitt’s The Visit from iTunes to accompany this mood. Listen to The Lady of Shallot to completely immerse yourself in this medieval mood. Every now and then, it is good to just go all out and be medieval.

This covers the reading part of my paraphernalia-ing.  I am also working on a project. It feels very fun and very consuming. I will tell all about it soon, maybe even tomorrow…

By the way – if you feel so inclined, comment. A paraphernalia of commentary would be fun.

Here is that Cracker Jack commercial…


“There is one day that is ours. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.” O. Henry

Pilgrims - An illustration for an old children's book

I love Thanksgiving. I love stuffing the turkey, making the pies, deciding how to prepare the sweet potatoes…I have a couple of recipes one old, one new. My daughter was born the night before Thanksgiving and her birthday falls every so often on this best of family holidays, in fact her birthday is today! I have so much to be thankful for… My husband, my darling, beautiful daughter, the life of my mother, my sisters, my gorgeous nieces, nephews, beloved first cousins a surviving uncle and his dear wife, the wonderful men I work for… I know there are more who should be on the list… like… my friends, near and far. What an amazing country we live in…

I hate to read stories about school districts and municipalities which are suppressing the traditional story of Thanksgiving such as this one. Making construction paper pilgrim hats, or drawing turkey feathers by tracing my little girl hands provide an especially strong memory of my little girl grade school years. The religiosity of Thanksgiving is part of our heritage, the relationship with the Indians, the Native Americans the Pilgrims encountered and were assisted by, can and should be told romantically. I am weary of political correctness. Let’s retain SOME of our traditions.

One of my favorite books from my girlhood was “Constance, A story of Early Plymouth by Patricia Clapp. I think I read it in fourth grade, but it gave me a firm foundation in understanding the Pilgrim story and the challenges they faced their first hard winter here in the New World. Naturally, it was written to appeal to a young, romantic reader such as myself. There was a a wonderful mix of romance and the hard realities of life experienced by those early Pilgrim souls. For years after reading the book, I wanted to name my child Damaris – the name of Constance’s younger sister. I checked “Constance” out of my public library in Naperville, Illinois in 1969 or so. Later, when Amazon came around, I ordered a used copy, so I would always have it, to share with my grandchildren someday.  I think it is out of print, which is a shame…

Apparently, the author is a descendant of the real Constance, who left the Pilgrim colony with her family to farm independently. The book is written as a diary and it is compelling reading, even if you are all grown up.

Have a wonderful, wonderful Thanksgiving….