Monday, October 24, 2016

An Intimate Life of Henry VIII's True Wife

Catherine of Aragon
Amy Licence places Catherine’s life firmly within the Europe of the time, displaying a brilliant understanding of the Reformation, and its progress from central Europe to Henry’s court. Moreover, despite the eventual failure of the marriage, Amy Licence paints a glittering picture of the court of Henry and Catherine at its height, when this young, formidable couple were the superstars of Europe.
The most revealing part of the book is in the character of Catherine herself. The author has researched every aspect of Catherine’s life and personality, providing a portrait of a formidable woman navigating her way through a male-dominated world while trying to hold true to her deeply ingrained Catholic principles. And with this comes the realisation that it must have taken an inordinate amount of personal courage to face down Henry and his demands, and the overriding fear for her own personal safety.

Of course, the latter part of the book focuses on the divorce. I am no great fan of Catherine of Aragon and have often wondered at her stubbornness and why she was so unmovable in the face of Henry’s desperate need for an heir. Amy Licence explains Catherine’s viewpoint with absolute clarity; the reasons she stuck to her guns at the risk of her own safety and that of her daughter. The author’s theories and arguments are well though-out and incisive, giving an unprecedented insight into  the mind of this amazing queen and evoking empathy in the least sympathetic of readers, I’m sure.

I have no doubt that Catherine of Aragon, an Intimate Life of Henry VIII’s True Wife will be seen as the definitive biography of Catherine of Aragon. It is an impressive, essential complement to any Tudor library.

Men, Abortion, and the Sexual Revolution

From Patti Maguire Armstrong:
In the abortion drama, men’s pain was overlooked for a long time. Dr. David Russell is one of those men. He actually overlooked it himself for a time. But death is not nothing. So one cold February morning, he started to remember. Outside an abortion facility with one-hundred-and-fifty other people, the past became the present. Russell had converted to Catholicism, became a veterinarian, and is now a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M. But before all that, he had come to that very facility before, and not to pray. In 1983, Russell had gone inside with his girlfriend for an abortion. That is how his son Matthew died. Russell was an agnostic, yet, he tried unsuccessfully to convince his girlfriend not to abort their child. He numbly sat in the waiting room during the procedure. No one spoke to him. The relationship soon ended and he stuffed the abortion experience away, but a light went out from him that day. The whole flashback was entirely unwelcome. Russell didn’t even want to be outside the abortion facility that morning. He thought only fanatics did that, but it was assigned to participate in a prayer vigil for his church class. Emotions and memories broke out of hiding and Russell filled with regret. If only he had known that fatherhood cannot be erased! If only he had realized he had a son and not a blob of tissue, he would have tried harder to convince his girlfriend not to choose abortion. (Read more.)

Those Monthly Cramps

Have women always had them? Oh, yes. From Wonders and Marvels:
Questions about medical practitioners’ expectations apply even more to period pains. Simpson considered that these too should be treated, recommending blood-letting, warm baths and fomentations, enemas and sedatives – the latter including opium – as well as treatment between the periods to relieve any underlying inflammation or congestion. Different theories as to what caused the pain existed; was it due to the blood being ‘too thick’, to an obstruction, or to the veins which send the blood into the womb being stretched by the sheer quantity?

Here, too, women’s voices can be heard even in male-authored texts. In her book Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Woman’s Lives 1540-1714, Dr Sara Read noted a passage in Helkiah Crooke’s Microcosmographia (1615)
Between the kidneys and the womb the consent is evident in the torments and pains in the loins which women and maids have in or about the time of their courses. In so much as some have told me they had at least bear a child as endure that pain; and myself have seen some to my thinking by their deportment; in as great extremity in the one as in the other.
This explains why pain can be felt in other parts of the body; there is ‘consent’ or ‘sympathy’ between the organs. One way out of experiencing period pain was to get pregnant before your first period, and this was thought to be good for the baby as well: The English Midwife (1682) states that ‘if a virgin conceive before her first flowers [a traditional word for periods], it proves lusty and perfect child’.

After women’s roles started to change following the First World War, and in the popular literature of my mother’s day, the expectation of pain was played down in favor of the image of the girl who simply needs to ‘take things a little easier during those days’, the phrasing of a 1930 booklet for girls, Mary P. Callender’s Marjorie May’s Twelfth Birthday (a marketing device for Kotex pads). A similar message is promoted today, for example in the information campaign linked to the marketing of one brand of sanitary towel, which mentions cramps, tiredness and backache but emphasizes ‘stretches’ and ‘a positive mindset’. (Read more.)

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Porches and Pumpkins

From Southern Lady:
For this look, channel a farmhouse feel with a dose of feminine flair. A wreath made from fall leaves sets the scene, and towering cornstalks give prominence to the small-space display. Fill in with stacked pumpkins, potted plants, and baskets filled with pinecones, saving a few cones to string over the doorway with burlap and grapevine cascading in dainty curls. Get creative with signs of the season’s harvest, such as a wreath made from colored cornhusks. Use woven-look planters and hay bales as an easy way to incorporate levels. Or emphasize a clean black-and-white palette with sleek ebony lanterns on a whitewashed porch. A profusion of orange and green pumpkins along the entrance enhances the contrast and offers a festive October welcome. (Read more.)

Trump's "Gettysburg Address"

Every voting American should listen to Trump's speech. From NewsMax:
GOP nominee Donald Trump Saturday outlined an ambitious plan for his first 100 days in office, saying on the first day alone he has several steps he plans to take to end Washington's corruption. "One thing we all know is that we will never solve our problems by relying on the same politicians who created these problems in the first place," Trump said to a supportive, cheering audience in historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. "Hillary Clinton is not running against me, she's running against change. And she's running against all of the American people and all of the American voters."

It's time to for Americans to "dream big" once again, said Trump, outlining in what he called a "contract between Donald J. Trump and the American voter," that begins with "bringing honesty, accountability and change to Washington, D.C."

The first six measures, Trump said, will be "immediately" pursued on his first day of his first term in office to "clean up the corruption and special interests collusion in Washington." Trump said he would institute:
  • "A Constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress;
  • A hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce federal workforce through attrition, exempting military public safety and public health;
  • A requirement that for every new federal regulation, two existing regulations must be eliminated. Regulations are killing our country and our jobs. Fourth, a five-year ban on white house and congressional officials becoming lobbyists after they leave government service.
  • A lifetime ban on white house officials lobbying on behalf of a foreign government;
  • A complete ban on foreign lobbyists raising money for American elections. That's what's happening."
Also on the same day, Trump said he will begin taking "and really taking strongly" seven actions to protect American workers. (Read more.)

A Rare Collection Of Shakespeare's Works

From Our World Mysteries:
William Shakespeare’s First Folio —the Bard of Avon’s first collected edition of 38 plays, published in 1623, shortly after his death —is among the world’s rarest and most valued books. Without it, we might not have ever known “Macbeth.” Now, a previously unknown copy has turned up in a Gothic mansion. The folio was discovered in the collection of the Mount Stuart house, on Scotland’s Isle of Bute, and it has been authenticated by Emma Smith, a professor of Shakespeare at the University of Oxford. [History’s 10 Most Overlooked Mysteries]

At the time of Shakespeare’s death, at age 52 in 1616, only about half of his plays had been published. They typically appeared in quartos, which were small stand-alone editions that could be printed cheaply. Then in 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell —who were part of the King’s Men acting troupe —collected Shakespeare’s comedies, histories and tragedies for a large-format folio edition.

Had the First Folio never been published, more than half of Shakespeare’s plays might have been lost to history. “Julius Caesar,” “Twelfth Night,” “The Taming of the Shrew” and 15 other plays all appear in print for the first time in this collected edition. The First Folio also includes as its frontispiece the Martin Droeshout portrait of Shakespeare, which is considered one of the rare reliable likenesses of the great playwright, as it was approved and published by his friends.

Scholars think that, at most, 750 copies of the First Folio were printed, according to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Of those, 234 are known to have survived, including the newly authenticated version. Slight differences in each copy are partly blamed on the proofing that happened during printing. According to a statement from Mount Stuart, their version is unusual because it is bound in three volumes, with many pages left blank for illustrations, as well as for annotations and notes from its onetime owner Isaac Reed, who edited versions of Shakespeare’s works in the 18th century.

“This is an exciting discovery because we didn’t know it existed and it was owned by someone who edited Shakespeare in the 18th century,” Smith said in the statement. Reed apparently bought his copy of the First Folio in 1786 and records suggest it was sold after Reed’s death in 1807 for a mere $54. Sometime after that, it ended up in Mount Stuart’s collection. (Read more.)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Scolding, Compassion and Relief

From Jane Austen's Microcosm:
What else could, in Emma’s opinion, lure the labouring classes away from the straight and narrow? The prospect of a mug of ale at the Crown, after an exhausting day? The appeal of idleness? Lust? They must be aware that they can’t afford so many children – but then again, without ‘separate rooms’ … The situation must surely be more complex than that. On her way to the humble cottage, for instance, she explains:
A very narrow income has a tendency to contract the mind, and sour the temper. Those who can barely live, and who live perforce in a very small, and generally very inferior, society, may well be illiberal and cross. This does not apply, however, to Miss Bates.
By her own admission, then, things may not be as simple as they look. Later on she acknowledges that ‘with insufferable vanity had she believed herself in the secret of every body’s feelings; with unpardonable arrogance proposed to arrange every body’s destiny.’

Underpinning the class system was a shared belief that inequality had been ordained by God. Charity mitigated injustice and eased the conscience of the privileged. However condescending, it was much better than being upbraided for your lack of means. As Emma puts it,
I hope it may be allowed that if compassion has produced exertion and relief to the sufferers, it has done all that is truly important. If we feel for the wretched, enough to do all we can for them, the rest is empty sympathy, only distressing to ourselves.
I get the impression that rich and clever Miss Woodhouse might have done better than utter comforting platitudes, give them a coin and a few medicinal or household management tips, or offer a jug of soup. But she’s satisfied with what she reckons she’s achieved. From the very beginning we are warned that she has ‘a disposition to think a little too well of herself.’ On the other hand, she’s young, and caring in her own way. Experience and critical reflection may still broaden her mind.
In 1800, Jane Austen’s friend Mrs Lefroy, the Ashe rector’s wife, set up a straw manufactory, so that women and children could earn a few pence by making mats. And Eliza Chute, whose husband owned The Vyne and represented Hampshire in Parliament, made broth for her villagers and handed out blankets. In September of that year she writes:
The poor are dissatisfied & with reason. I much fear that wheat will not be cheap this year: & every other necessary of life enormously dear: the poor man cannot purchase those comforts he ought to have: beer, bacon, cheese. Can one wonder that discontents lurk in their bosoms: I cannot think their wages sufficient, & the pride of a poor man ( & why should we [not] allow him some pride) is hurt, when he is obliged to apply to the parish for relief & too often receives harsh answers from the overseers.
(Read more.)

Abortion Demeans Women

Abortion has nothing to do with empowering women. It has everything to do with reducing them to objects of pleasure, who can be forced to have an abortion when the men in their lives do not want to be bothered with a child. From Life Site:
Thanks to the advent of the birth control pill and contraception, sex has turned into a recreational activity. Men and women engage in it, while floating in and out of relationships. Both sexes use each other in the promiscuous lifestyle made possible by birth control. When the contraceptives fail or are not used, women can become pregnant when they did not plan to be. Having enjoyed sexual relations without the worry of fathering an unwanted child, some men lose their minds when they learn they got a woman pregnant. Such men may threaten to leave their pregnant women altogether, unless they procure an abortion. Women can be caught in this dilemma if they wish to keep their babies. The love these mothers want so badly to experience is conditional on there being no children in the picture. If the mothers resist the pressure to abort, then they could be left to raise their children alone. Deadbeat dads often try to wash their hands of any responsibility for their own flesh and blood. Rather than helping women to fulfill their creative potential, abortion allows men to manipulate women into squashing it. (Read more.)