8- Library Use
I’ve been doing these posts now for 8 weeks. (!!!)
At the beginning, I was thinking I was helping my librarians so that they’d be able to help me better in the future. But very quickly my use of library resources turned from playing around to doing real research as I began to dive back into the book chapter I was writing.
This is not to say I didn’t keep playing while I was also doing serious work, and that is as true of this week as it was in earlier weeks. Last week, if you cared to read, I posted a manuscript that described the birth of lion cubs in the tower of London.
I found myself looking at lion cubs again while reading parts of John Stow’s Annals in two different editions. The 1605 edition, written by Stow, is much shorter than the 1631 edition, which was “enlarged” by another writer. In trying to figure out where certain events were chronicled in each edition, I started using descriptions of the birth of a lion cub in the margins as a point of reference so that I could figure out which stuff appeared in both 1605 and 1631, and which stuff was the addition from the other writer.
While noting that stuff, I saw fairly long account in which James I/VI decided to make lions fight dogs to see if they had any particular way of fighting. Do not read the passage at left if you, like me, can’t even watch John Wick because of what happened to the dog.
Arguably I shouldn’t include the passage of it here, but I am going to anyway, because I have been writing about James as being known as an advocate of peace, a “pacificus rex.” But this passage reminds me that he was a very enthusiastic hunter as well, and I post it here as a reminder that humans are garbage and will exploit anything they see as lesser for their own entertainment and profit––often with tragic consequences for the beings assessed to be mere beasts.
This beastly attitude of course extended to some of the humans in James’s court as well, especially those that, like the lions, hailed from “exotic” places. You can visit the records here for some examples of how they too were understood to serve and entertain — NB. I’m linking to those records because they are, I think, less traumatic to read than some others that will be familiar to those who study the period.
I write this post with a lot of emotions, especially compared to some of the other posts, where I was simply amused by my period of study. Certainly, in light of the records above, I feel repulsed, morose, and circumspect in equal measures.
I am also feeling other things I can’t quite put a word to. The main source of these more mixed/muddled feelings is this: I am almost finished with a complete draft of the chapter I started in earnest back in late October.
From that point to late February, I had worked on it in the 28 minute leg of my daily commute on trains. In early March, we started to see the first signs of Covid-19 in New York, and I set it aside entirely as everything about my day job became 100% more time-consuming.
I feel very emotional for that reason alone, thinking what Covid has cost so many people. Being able to work at home made me feel very lucky, but without the daily commute, and with the weird intrusion of work at all times of the day, I nearly lost hope of returning to the chapter.
But then the Spring semester finally ended, and when Summer finally arrived, I found myself not only been able to take some vacation days here and there, but also was furloughed one day a week and thereby found a little more time.
As I write the very last few ¶s of this chapter, I’m working hard to deliver a promise I make in its introduction, that I’ll look briefly at the status of the two subjects of my chapter, the universities and the city of London, in the outbreak of the civil wars. As part of that writing, I’m bringing up something that I had read long ago about apprentices and how Parliament appealed to them to serve in its armies. I knew I’d read an article and also even contacted its author with questions. When was that, I asked myself, and began to search my emails.
After a few google searches outside of my inbox, I found the article in question and then went back and found the email. Here it is:
This email, as you can see, is dated July 2nd, 2014.
This puts it at 6 years and 3.5 weeks ago.
More significantly, 2014 is 2 years after I went up for tenure, and two years before I finally was granted it. That 4-year period in my career involved a lotta bullshit, to put it lightly; to put it less lightly, I lost so much time, work, and energy that I’ll never get back.
I started working on this material well before 2014, so I can’t even say that this particular email represents the start of something that I’ve finally finished. But, I do remember pretty vividly that something about Shedd’s article validated what I was doing, even though it didn’t answer all my questions. In his response, Dr. John Shedd was very kind and encouraging, and he shared a few impressions with me while also noting that there were a lot of things he didn’t really have answers for.
I haven’t figured out all the answers myself, but I’m really close to feeling like I know enough to be writing a book that raises these questions. This realization, mixed with deep ambivalence and a little sorrow about how long everything has taken me, makes me feel like weeping.
In fact, I think I am going to allow myself a little moment to do that.
I may not write anymore of these posts (though maybe I will? I don’t actually know!). For now, it feels like I did what I set out to do when the summer began, and very soon I’ll using the library resources to finish planning the class I’ll be teaching.
Thanks for reading (if you’ve gotten this far!)