Archive for December 31st, 2011


Overweening ambition

It was about this time last year, I believe, when I declared that my ambition for 2011 was to “get the hell out of the 17th century”.

Yes, yes. Feel free to point and laugh.

A number of factors, positive and negative, contributed to my lack of chronological progress this year. On the sad side, 2011 turned out to be (not to put too fine a point upon it) a real crap factory of a year, where between insane work pressures and recurrent illnesses I ended up neglecting all of the things I’d rather be doing. And really, the only reason this blog was able to trundle forward at all is because of thirty minutes each way on the train each work day, which allowed for reading and note scribbling. We’d have been in serious trouble without this time sanctuary, particularly during the last three months of the year when, whenever I sat down to read or watch something, I ended up falling asleep instead.

But—there have been nicer reasons for the slow movement forward. This year the chronobibliography was more frequently interrupted by random novel reading, which brought to light some very interesting (and some hilariously bad) works. If 2011 had a message, it’s that there was really no such thing as “the typical Victorian novel”.

And if I didn’t quite manage to finish writing them up, I did finish reading all four-and-a-bit volumes of The English Rogue, which frankly I consider no mean feat. However, this too seriously interrupted the flow of the chronobibliography, since my cowardly refusal to just read the damn thing volume by volume in the first place, as they were published, meant I then had to backtrack from 1688 to 1665. On a more positive note, that last, spurious, add-on volume handed me one of my biggest laughs for the year, for reasons I’ll eventually get around to sharing.

And now, as we look to a new year and fool ourselves into believing that everything will be magically different as soon as the clock ticks over at midnight—what can we expect – what do we hope for – in 2012?

Well, for one thing, I’ve severely reined in my ambition for the year, which I hereby declare to be—to see the back of James Stuart. In other words, to get the hell out of 1688. This isn’t as small a task as it might initially appear. One of the first signs that James was in real trouble was that the bizarre and outrageous political writing that (as we have seen) had been such a feature of his easy-going brother’s reign, but which had dried up under the dangerously humourless new monarch, suddenly came roaring back. This propaganda attack (some of it orchestrated by William of Orange) dealt James some serious blows in the lead up to the “Glorious Revolution”.

One of the few writers to stay loyal to James was Aphra Behn, who entered the propaganda war on the incumbant side. More importantly, however, 1688 also saw the publication of Oroonoko, a work whose virtues even those people most eager to denigrate its author are usually forced to concede. So one way and the other, we’ll be seeing quite a lot of Aphra this year.

On top of that, we’ll be hearing more from our highlighted authors, as well (I hope) as unearthing still more interesting 18th and 19th century texts.

And as always, my umbrella ambition is to get into a regular rhythm with my reading and writing, but after the slap-down that was 2011, I think I won’t say too much about that…

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank-you to everyone who has taken the time to drop by and read my ramblings, and particularly to those who then stuck around for some conversation. I appreciate your support more than I can say.

Fingers crossed for a much more productive 2012!