Happy Birthday to a Reverend Head

ImageMay 2 is the birthday of that great antiquarian, teacher, and scholar, William Camden (1551-1623), the man we can fairly give credit for the mind and career of Ben Jonson. Camden was the usher of The Westminster School when Jonson was a pupil there, and probably sponsored the bright bricklayer’s stepson as a scholarship boy. Camden took on the huge task of surveying all England for his monumental Britannia, which combined history, topography, and description to create a deep understanding of his beloved native land. He was a chronicler of his own time as well as an enthusiastic student of myth and folklore. Jonson remained devoted to Camden for the historian’s entire life, as the myriad exclamation points in his Epigram XIV demonstrate.

CAMDEN!  most reverend head, to whom I owe
All that I am in arts, all that I know;
(How nothing’s that?); to whom my country owes,
The great renown, and name wherewith she goes!
Than thee the age sees not that thing more grave,
More high, more holy, that she more would crave.
What name, what skill, what faith hast thou in things!
What sight in searching the most antique springs!
What weight, and what authority in thy speech!
Men scarce can make that doubt, but thou canst teach.
Pardon free truth, and let thy modesty,
Which conquers all, be once o’ercome by thee.
Many of thine, this better could, than I;
But for their powers, accept my piety.

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Back in Print

“O merchant fortune! Do not run away.”

After a brief hiatus that unfortunately included both the 2012 holidays and Shakespeare’s birthday 2013, William Shakespeare: His Life and Times is back in print in the US! Here’s a sample:

25 February, 1613

My Child,
I am coming home, and to stay this time.
Thou marvell’st at my words! I know. I have spoken of it for nigh ten years now, and you and Mother grow weary of my promises. But I speak true as Troilus, and you will see me before Shrovetide so that we may share our Lenten pancakes together.
‘Now my charms are all o’erthrown.’ Thus begins the end of The Tempest, my last play. My Prospero shall speak these lines (and more, when I finish them!) as he retires from his island, abandons his magical arts, and returns to his life at home. I write this missive to you with the selfsame words ringing in my ears…

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