Category: History

A Victorian “Commonplace Book” | Stephen Basdeo

I recently got hold of a “Commonplace Book” which dates from 1859. Commonplace books have been a feature of home life since at least the 1600s. Most often women—though not exclusively women—would compile various poems, drawings, or copy out “advice columns” from books and newspapers into these books for keeping later on.

The Man in the Moon

There stood train, its three classes, first, second, and third. “Good Heavens!” I exclaimed, and are not men equal? Have not these cursed distinctions of rank been yet levelled by the roar of the speeding steam? But I, for one, will never give in to aristocratic institutions. So saying, I got into the coupée of a first-class carriage…

Poetry: The Rebellion of Wat Tyler and Jack Straw (c.1612)

Unlike that other medieval hero and man of the people, Robin Hood, Wat Tyler does not enjoy an extensive ballad “afterlife.”

This song, first published in The Garland of Delight (1612), is perhaps the first proper ballad which features the famous rebel. It was subsequently published by Thomas Evans in “Old Ballads, Historical and Narrative” (1777) during the “age of ballad scholarship.” Presented here is a transcription of the song.

Poking Fun at Rebels | Stephen Basdeo

In 1714 George I of Hanover ascended to the throne of the United Kingdom. Many were unhappy with their new German king and the Earl of Mar, in 1715, raised the standard of the royal house of Stuart to win back the throne for the “true” king in exile, the son of James II. A leading journalist decided to mock the rebels.

“Saxon Grit”

St George’s Day seems as fitting time as ever to publish a “new” Robin Hood poem I found titled “Saxon Grit” in the archives of a long-defunct Christian socialist magazine titled The Labour Prophet in 1892.