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The Monstrous Regiment of Women (2)


In my last blog I referred to the Protestant reformer John Knox’s objections to Queen Mary’s rule over Tudor England. In his opinion she was unfit to rule, simply because she was a woman. Sovereignty by a female monarch was  ‘monstrous regiment’ – unnatural rule – because women, in his opinion, lacked the god – given masculine capacity to rule. Misogyny apart, Knox was no doubt also in a froth about her Catholicism and her marriage to the Catholic king of Spain, Philip, who was entitled to share her rule over England for as long as the marriage lasted (i.e. until her death four years later in 1558). Queen Elizabeth 1 was careful not to make the same mistake and remained resolutely unmarried....
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The Monstrous Regiment of Women


The Latinate phrase ‘monstruous regiment’ means ‘unnatural rule’, and in a highly misogynistic pamphlet in 1558 the Scottish Protestant reformer, John Knox, argued that the idea of women ruling (he was thinking specifically of the Catholic queen, Mary Tudor, at the time) goes against the laws of God and nature. He argued that female rule challenged the God-given authority of men over women, and that women are incompetent to rule, being weak, foolish and cruel by nature, and lacking the masculine capacities necessary to govern. He clearly had very decided opinions about women – albeit not very high ones. Did you, like I once did, think that the word woman came from Old English wo(from)man? Li...
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What’s a Palaver?


If I talk about something being a palaver, I mean it is an unnecessarily troublesome, tiresome, or tedious activity. Filling in most application forms these days is usually a bit of a palaver, or queuing at the Post Office counter, Airport check-in etc. (This was before Covid-19 hit, since when patient queuing has become a civic and patriotic duty). Palaver also means noise and hubbub. Granville Sharp I hadn’t heard anyone else use the word in any different ways, until reading David Olusoga’s Black and British – a Forgotten History. In the chapter about the efforts, mostly well intentioned if somewhat misguided, of Granville Sharp and some fellow abolitionists, to set up a free state on the ...
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The Power of the Story teller


Michael Morpurgo is a celebrated children’s writer. He is also, not surprisingly, a champion for the art of storytelling. As a small boy he remembers listening to stories and poems that his mother read to him daily. She was an actress, and told stories rather well, but it is a skill almost any parent, teacher and older child can acquire. Or so you would have thought. In fact the writer was dismayed when he actually started school, aged five, to find that his class teacher viewed a story as a means of teaching grammar and punctuation (tested via a dictation test) and nothing more. I think maybe he had an exceptionally bad teacher. I remember being read to at home and at school and, as an olde...
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Have you been threatened by a full stop recently?


That language is a live entity and constantly evolving has been a recurring topic on this blog. In some contexts it moves at a giddying speed that only the groups in the know can keep up with. Text speech, for example. I think I may be outing myself as a ‘boomer’ here, but there was a time when I believed ‘lol’ meant ‘lots of love,’ then I was told it meant ‘laughing out loud’   Later I started seeing comments on Facebook or Twitter (OK, I know, only those of us over a certain age still use these platforms) where ‘lol’ was interspersed, not quite at random, but as if to soften the message just conveyed. Apparently it is indeed used now as a means of indicating irony, or softening an otherwis...
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Was Hippocrates the Father of Greek Literature?


Hippocrates is known as the ‘father of medicine’ and many new doctors still sign the Hippocratic Oath. Basically a code of ethics, the oath has been modified in various ways to suit more modern mores and different cultures. Contrary to popular belief it does not contain the phrase first do no harm, but this can be seen as implicit in the text. Hippocrates’s famous book, Epidemics, which is full of medical case studies that give insight into the lives and health of contemporary ancient Greeks, has traditionally been dated to around 410BC. However, an Oxford scholar, Robin Lane Fox, is now suggesting that it was written about sixty years earlier. His evidence being that the impact of several w...
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Coventry City of Culture – revised dates.


Every four years, against stiff competition from other cities around the UK, a city is nominated to be the City of Culture. In 2017 Coventry won this accolade for the year 2021. The judges were impressed, not just by its history and wealth of cultural activity, but by its diversity, its youthfulness, and its convenient location slap bang in the middle of England with good transport routes in all directions. Our year in the spotlight was due to start in January next year. Covid-19, and the strong likelihood that its impact will still be having a negative effect on everyone’s movements during the winter, has meant that the start of the cultural year has now been postponed to May. The good news...
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Strange but True?


Albert Camus, the Algerian born French writer, has been back in fashion recently, mostly because his 1947 book La Peste (The Plague) has resonated for many during these Covid-19 days. If you’ve read and enjoyed that book, you may like to read one of his earlier ones – L’Etranger (translated as The Outsider for UK readers and The Stranger for the US market). Why the difference? After all the word – stranger – is not unfamiliar to British ears, and appears to be the more literal translation for the title of the novel, as well as being in keeping with the subject matter. Also, both etranger and stranger are derived from the old French estrange, and the Latin extraneous, meaning foreign / alien....
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Dunce means stupid – but should it?


John Duns – note the headwear. John Duns (also known as Duns Scotus on account of his birthplace) was a thirteenth century Franciscan friar, theologian and philosopher. In his time he was one of the three most eminent theologian-philosophers in the Western world; the others being Thomas Aquinas and William of Ockham. As a philosopher, his main sphere of study was the ‘univocity of being’ – the notion that existence is the most abstract concept we have. He also explored ways of distinguishing between different aspects of the same thing, and what properties appertain to an individual thing to make it individual. As a theologian he developed a complex argument for the existence of God, and for ...
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The art of Rhetoric for the Aspiring Author


What am I like, writing a blog on rhetoric? Don’t worry, that is a rhetorical question. As is your possible answer to the question (if you could be bothered to provide one) – ‘who cares?’ Rhetoric has its origins in Mesopotamia, but is largely associated with the ancient Greeks. Aristotle described it as the art of persuasion and, alongside grammar and logic, one of the three ancient arts of discourse. Rhetor is the ancient Greek for a public speaker. Rhetoric was part of a scholar’s education from the time of the ancient Greeks, through to ancient Rome (Cicero being perhaps the most famous of the Roman practitioners) and into the twentieth century. One could argue that modern university cou...
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Meet Author Emily VanderBent


Emily VanderBent is a writer and historian. A natural born storyteller, she desires to relay and celebrate the stories of powerful women in history. Her premier novel, Crimson Time, is the first in a series that uses elements of history to creatively engage readers with the past. She hopes her writing will encourage young women to fearlessly pursue their passions and own the narrative of their own stories.With a degree in history, Emily uses her talent for writing, graphic design, and brand building to create blog posts, online content and design for Girl Museum and Makeover Your Brand. While living in the real world, Emily wishes to exist in the pages of a book. What is the title of your la...
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How To Rate Your Cousins.


As a child I read a book. I read lots of books in fact, but this one has stuck in my mind even though I can’t remember the title, the author, or the plot. Or any of the characters apart from a rather grand small girl who came to stay, for some reason, with the narrator – a far less posh little girl. The grand young lady was said to be related to royalty; she claimed that she was the Tsar’s (or was it the King’s) cousin five times removed. Her less grand acquaintance assumed from this that she had tried to visit five times and been forcibly removed from the palace before gaining access to the royal presence. I was sure this was wrong, but couldn’t think of a better suggestion. I had no idea h...
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Drink Life to the Lees.


Drink life to the lees – the phrase comes from Ulysses, the poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. It means to enjoy life to the full. It little profits than an idle king By this still hearth, among the barren crags, Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me. I cannot rest from travel, I will drink life to the lees.  … The elderly Ulysses is back in his kingdom after years of travel but is still restless. The poem is about adventure and experience; perseverance and endurance; disappointment and frustration; nostalgia and anticipation. He might be old (and a bit fed up), but he is still going to get as much out of life...
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What’s a Staycation?


What does the word staycation mean to you? When I first heard it, about ten years ago when the financial crisis caused many of us to tighten our belts (my annual income went down about 90% – so I was on the last hole), I thought it meant you stayed at home and went on day trips – possibly having one of the picnics I described in my last post.   On checking, I find the word was indeed used in The Times in 2008 to describe a couple’s decision to forgo a week’s family holiday and take the children out every day, returning to their own beds each night, instead. Staycation seemed like a newly minted welding of two concepts (staying put and going away on vacation). The newspaper clearly didn’t app...
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We’re Going on a Picnic.


Covid-19 has turned us into a nation – a world, even – of picnickers.  I remember picnics from childhood. I genuinely thought that my parents liked them; that sand in the soggy sandwiches and tepid, tinny tasting, tea from a thermos, preferably taken under a sun umbrella, doubling briefly and unsuccessfully as protection against persistent drizzle, was a thing of joy for them as well as us kids. I admit to enjoying the crisps and chocolate biscuits, if not the rest. Turned out though, they only did it because they didn’t have enough money to take the whole family into a café, and as soon as enough of us left home, and money wasn’t so scarce, they ate out with the best of them. But the corona...
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Is Book Collecting Just for Freaks?


Rick Gekoski is an American book collector who now lives in the UK. To be precise, he makes a living by collecting rare books and selling them on at a considerable profit. He is also a writer of some repute, an academic and former university lecturer (and the ex-husband of a therapist I consulted briefly when my son was long-term ill – I feel almost a family connection!) Despite his love of old books, he is puzzled by the obsessive nature of some book collectors, particularly those who will pay huge sums of money for old books that are still pristine and have clearly not been read. After all, old paintings and furniture are enhanced by the patina of age, why not books? A not so pristine copy...
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The tale of Charlotte’s slippers


In 1848 Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre,  travelled to Scarborough, a seaside town on the north east coast of England, to look after her younger sister Anne who was very ill with tuberculosis. After her sister’s death she returned to her home in the parsonage at Howarth, leaving instructions that a box of personal items should be sent on to the parsonage after her. It never arrived and eventually found its way into the hands of a Bronte enthusiast who, in 1983, sent the box to the parsonage that was, by then, a museum. The museum curators were puzzled because among the items in the box was a well-worn pair of moccasins. What on earth were they doing in the possession of a nineteent...
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Beat the Beatific Beatnik.


The word beat has been getting quite a bit of use recently, what with the British Prime Minister announcing ‘world beating’ this …, and getting that pesky virus ‘beat.’ It hasn’t had such an airing since the late 1950s when Jack Kerouac epitomised the beat generation in his novel On The Road. So much so, in fact, that he originally thought of using this phrase as the title of his book. A notion thoroughly approved of by the novelist and book collector, Rick Gekoski. In his short essay about Kerouac in his own book Tolkien’s Gown and other stories he states: ‘The Beat Generation […] seemed, properly, to suggest an amalgam of rhythm, aggression and fatigue.’ And anyone who has read On The Road...
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Parts of Speech – a reminder.


A poem is doing the rounds on social media at the moment about parts of speech. Perhaps it is because so many parents and children have been ‘home schooling’ (or trying to) over the past few months. It is certainly a useful reminder of those English lessons about grammar those of us of a certain age sat through in school. You may have seen it already but, if you haven’t, it’s well worth reading. I dare you to muddle your prepositions with your conjunctions (or your adverbs with your adjectives) after this! Original link
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The Power of Reviews


I have read quite a lot about book reviews in various social media groups over the years. One theme has been that even bad reviews can help sell your book. (I believe that JK Rowling has more one star reviews than any other writer, and they don’t seem to have held her sales back! Mind, she’s probably also received more five star reviews than other authors too.) To date I’ve only had a single one star review when I contributed a story to an anthology (Mary’s Christmas in Festive Treats): Mary’s Christmas by Margaret Egrot relates the highly boring Christmas of an OAP in a nameless British town. Nothing of note happens. It is related in excruciating detail. This Amazon review came straight aft...
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