Nicks of Time and Pivotal Moments

Fascinating surprise after surprise! I have been delving into certain, 17th-Century, historical details this past year, while working on my Braving the New World series, and I have found a number of pivotal events and precipice moments that have shaped history (and our own lives) more that we can imagine.

We’ll never know all the many nicks of time, daring acts, and bold decisions that have caused the ship of history to set a new sail, changing course, or who we might be today had that course not changed. But we do know a significant number of those “nicks,” so I will mention a few that were new to me and that truly arrested my attention, in no particular order of importance or even date. (more…)

Shakespeare in America

Shakespeare in AmericaJames Shapiro is the editor for this collection of American writing on Shakespeare from 1776 to the present day. He includes his own marvelous and substantive introduction, along with a foreword by President Bill Clinton.

Shapiro is my favorite Shakespeare scholar. I have the hardback editions of his A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, 1599, and Contested Will. Both are well marked and enjoyed, as is this book (as I work my way through it.) To my collection I recently added the newly published (2015) The Year of Lear ~ Shakespeare in 1606 and I can’t wait to dive into it.

Shakespeare in America ~ An Anthology from the Revolution to Now includes fascinating pieces from such as John Adams, Washington Irving, Poe, Emerson, Melville, Dickinson, Lincoln, Twain, John Wilkes Booth, Whitman, Henry James, George Santayana, Frost, T. S. Eliot, James Thurber, Cole Porter (of course, Broadway’s Kiss Me Kate!), Sam Wanamaker, and even Isaac Asimov, as well as many more. (more…)

Captain John Smith ~ A Man Most Driven

Man Most Driven CoverThis is a great and valuable read for anyone, but as an author, researcher, and historian myself, I absolutely loved it. And I greatly appreciate all the hard, thoughtful, thorough, and fascinating work done by Firstbrook, even though I had to wince through a few gruesome (but very real) events. Wow, should we value the sacrifices of those early settlers of America!

As a documentary type of fellow, Firstbrook did his own out-of-the-way traveling to see just how much of the legendary and almost mythical John Smith’s story he could verify. You may well be surprised. I now have a much, much clearer view of the deservedly famous Captain Smith, as well as a broader understanding of Europe, England, and America in the late 16th and early 17th Centuries. This is no dry history. This is an amazing and entertaining story, told well, and well documented. (more…)

No Tea with Will (or the Pilgrims!)

Tea cups AbbyIt is hard for us modern-day Americans to imagine England without tea. What?! England without tea?! In Will Shakespeare’s day, that was (gasp!) indeed the case.

Have you heard the expression, “for all the tea in China”? It is from China that the drink made from boiled water and special leaves spread to Japan, Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and India. The adventurous Portuguese led the way for Europe. (more…)

April 23 ~ A Significant Date for Some Famous People

April 23

The year 1616 was significant not only to Pocahontas, Squanto, and Captain John Smith, but also to men who would become two of the world’s most famous writers ~ William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes.

They are both said to have died on April 23rd of that year, Shakespeare at a mere 52 and Cervantes at 68. Because of their works and their influence, English would become known as the language of Shakespeare, and Spanish would be called (more…)

1616 ~ An Interesting Year for Some Famous People

London Bridge in 1616 as seen from Southwark with the famous spiked heads visible

London Bridge in 1616 as seen from Southwark with the famous spiked heads visible

Do you know who was in London in 1616? All at the same time? Lady Rebecca Rolfe, a Massachusetts Patuxet called Tisquantum, and the soldier-adventurer Captain John Smith. Did they meet? Two of them had a well-documented meeting. The third? No proof or mention, but perhaps a possibility, if we use our imaginations! Let’s find out more about what happened in London in 1616! And how it impacted the New World called America. (more…)

Digging for 400-Year-Old Details

Claes Visscher's 1616 panorama of London featuring London bridge

Claes Visscher’s 1616 panorama of London featuring London bridge. Whitehall is 2 miles west (left) of the bridge, around the curve to the south, in Westminster. Note the spire & bell of St. Paul’s is missing. Lightning struck and it melted!

Ever try to get a mouse through Whitehall Palace in 1616? To do it with any reasonably accurate, descriptive detail is a daunting challenge, even with the wondrous resources of today’s internet.

First of all, it’s Whitehall Palace in 1616 ~ not what was created to become Whitehall in the 1530s by Henry VIII, and not quite what eventually resulted as the mind-boggling complex of Charles II in 1680 (there’s actually a diagram available for that one). (more…)

2016 ~ A Global Celebration of Shakespeare

shakespeare_400On December 28, 2015, the website of the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana (USA!) announced “A global celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and legacy.” Merely type “400th” into any search engine and you will quickly see the truth of that statement. This (1616) is indeed the year for Shakespeare! I can’t help but wonder what he would think about all this! (more…)