JUNE2Today  I was doing some lecture prep on John Evelyn — a writer  with whom I am becoming a bit more familiar (he’s writing near the end of the early modern  period, and certainly outside the scope of Jacobean drama, so is definitely not in my immediate research field). Out of curiousity I started poking around his works on EEBO and discovered just how much he wrote on plants: gardening almanacs, treatises and talks on tree planting and cultivation (including one work on which trees could clean the London air), works on edible plants.

There’s something really charming about almanacs and manual, bestiaries and miscellanies: I think it’s something to do with the combination of the everydayness of the knowledge presented and the variety included in such texts: we get to  learn the everyday habits and opinions of people related to all aspects of fishing, or animals, or gardening and there’s something really fun about that. I loved reading Walton’s The Compleat Angler in comps year, and last year I read through Topsell’s History of Four-Footed Beasts just for fun. I think the next extra-curricular early modern text I’ll read is Evelyn’s Kalendrium Hortense, which in addition to displaying lots of interesting snapshots into the world of early modern gardening, is sort of adorably tiny.

1 June 2016

(Also, I find Evelyn’s advice to look after the bees incredibly poignant, given everything that’s going on, bee-wise, these days.)


Vegetarian pasta: a three-part drama.


Me: [trimming spinach]

Lucy: Spinach!

Me: Stay off the table.

Lucy: [jumps on the table] Spinach!

Me: Don’t touch the spinach, please. Stay out of the spinach! Stay out of the spinach!

Lucy: [stands on edge of bowl, knocks bowl to floor, runs away with mouth full of greens] SPINACH!!


Me: [Slicing lemons.]

Lady Jane: Scratch my ears, please.

Me: There’s lemon juice all over my hands tho’.

Lady Jane: Scratch my ears now.

Lady Jane: [shoves face under hands]

Lady Jane: Lemons.

Lady Jane: [sneezes, yowls]

Me: I told you.

Lady Jane: Lemons all over my fur.

Lady Jane: [more sneezes, yowls]

Me: Sorry.



Me: [opening pasta]

Pasta: [explodes all over the floor]

Lucy: Pasta! Pasta!!

Lucy: [eats dried pasta. scatters the rest to dimensions unknown.]

Me: [holds broom hopelessly.]

Lucy: PASTA!!!

25 December 2015

(Happy Catmas.)






The Lost Lady.

I’m trying to get in the habit of reading early modern drama regularly. Immediately, I’m working on putting together a proposal for a new project and I want to have a range of plays to draw from — but I also want to have a fuller sense of early modern drama more generally. My dissertation focussed on Jacobean and Caroline comedies, but this means there are still tragedies (and tragicomedies) from those eras (as well as loads of comedies by the less canonical playwrights), and so many works (including masques, pageants, and closet dramas) from the Tudor reigns, and works from the early Restoration.

This week I’m reading Berkeley’s The Lost Lady which so far is a typical Caroline tragicomedy with lots of murder and revenge, but also lots of bawdy jokes. Actually, there’s been so much of the former that it’s a bit difficult to imagine how it’s going to end happily. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

8 April 2015

The problem with writing.

I’m at another point in which I’m busy working on things (transcribing a play-text, writing a proposal, revising an article, doing research for a new project, various conference prep, job stuff). A lot of energy goes into actually writing/editing/reading, and by the end of the day I find myself unwilling to spend yet more time writing about things. But I also think it’s difficult to write about projects that are either at their very beginnings or their endings — the former because enough of an idea hasn’t yet materialised to write about in any focused way, the latter because the project has been rewritten and read and edited so many times that one can’t bear to rehash it again without a healthy break.

I find the middle part of projects most exciting — when I’ve gotten things past the preliminary ‘idea’ stage, done some research and am in the process of formulating arguments. At this stage writing about a project is helpful as a way of thinking through and developing ideas alongside things I’m reading.

So I predict I’ll have something to write about in another month or so. For now, it’s just idle thoughts.

Bear with me.

5 January 2015

I watched…

King Vidor’s Wine of Youth this week, because a wonderful friend sent it to me, and it was amazing. And I realised that even though silent film is obviously film, it’s also very like a play in terms of structure and gesture.

And now I want to see more.

4 December 2014

Here Comes the Cat!

I thought, when coming to Vladimir Vagin and Frank Asch’s’s Here Comes the Cat! that I was discovering something new — but I was really encountering at last a delightful American-Russian collaboration from twenty five years ago. Vagin and Asch’s book is another example of words and images working together beautifully to tell a story. As in Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat, the story functions as a book-long joke, with the exclamatory titular words and accompanying pictures of agitated mice (in a town in which the chief residents are all mice) seeming to suggest a predictable sort of cat-and-mouse narrative. When the cat finally arrives it does so in a surprising fashion. I won’t spoil the ending, but I loved the last three pictures in particular.

The book is, appropriately, bilingual, with all text given first in English and then in Russian. There isn’t much text altogether — mainly the repeated phrase “here comes the cat” as the little mouse announcing the impending feline runs all through mouse town, giving warning to all the residents. Occasionally, a ladybug in the illustration will say “hello/привет” or the signs on the buildings will be in both languages. For children of a reading/writing-learning age, it’s kind of a neat and approachable way of showing that different countries have different kinds of letters, without the fact becoming distracting.

I should also mention that the illustrations are gorgeous: a cross between a comic style and watercolours in a warm and vivid palette. In the version I found in my local book store, the dust jacket also doubled as a fold-out poster, so children can enjoy Vagin’s art even when they aren’t reading.

17 December 2013 ~ Hamilton


Asch, Frank and Vladimir Vagin. Here Comes the Cat!/Сюда Идет Кот! San Francisco: McSweeny’s, 2011.

A fishy tale.

A friend reminded me recently how much I love Jon Klassen’s This Is Not My Hat, a book which demonstrates very clearly that in picture books the illustrations are often doing at least half the work of telling the story (one of the reasons illustrators should be listed as prominently as authors). Klassen’s story is told from the first-person (er, first-poisson?) perspective of a tiny fish who has stolen a tiny hat from another fish — who, from a reader’s perspective, seems worrisomely enormous. The joke that runs through story, however, is that the brazen hat-stealing fish, who thinks he’s getting away with his crime, isn’t so clever after all. All of the little fish’s assertions (that the enormous fish won’t wake up and notice his hat has disappeared, and that even if he does wake up he won’t be able to find the fishy thief, etc) are belied by the accompanying illustrations showing the big fish waking up and setting off on a direct course after the culprit. The pictures don’t just show what the words say — a visual mirror of the verbal text — rather they tell the second part of the story going on literally behind the tiny fish’s back. And they do so hilariously. I read this book to about four other adults before reading it to a friend’s three-year-old child, and all the adults laughed to see the reactions of the big fish with his expressive eyeball, rolling upwards to his hatless head, and narrowing as he closes in on the unsuspecting thief. My favourite illustration in the book is one where a tattle-tale crab who witnessed the little fish passing by fearfully points the way to the thief’s hiding place.

The combination of illustration and text work together beautifully and subtly on different levels. Very small readers can follow the story of the fish who tries to steal a hat but ultimately gets caught on their own, or adults can read with them, pointing to the illustrations and asking whether the things the little fish is saying are true; older children and adults will, I expect, enjoy the animals’ hilarious facial expressions and the book’s darkly comic ending. (This ending is another brilliant aspect of the book: the final few illustrations hint at a somewhat tragic end for the little fish, but they are also subtle and innocuous enough to be interpreted more cheerily by younger readers who may not want their tiny anti-hero to be eaten.)

16 December 2013 ~ Hamilton


Klassen, Jon. This Is Not My Hat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press, 2012.