I’m off to New York State for Thanksgiving and a big wedding party, returning on Sunday. Happy Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah to everyone: safe travels and wonderful meals.
Monthly Archives: November 2013
November is the month where you notice things that go unnoticed in other months: leaves hide and distract, and snow covers. This has been such a busy semester that I feel like I’ve been walking around with blinders on, but this past weekend I took them off and took a long walk around Salem and saw new (to me), developing, and seasonal things: roses that bloomed and then froze, building projects everywhere, details of houses and landscapes that I had never noticed before. The light is so clear at this time of year as well, so there is color popping out of the starkness, unlike March, the other stark (though muddy) month. I snapped a few pumpkin-colored houses to get me in the mood for Thanksgiving.
They’re still here (in the Charter Street Burying Ground), even after October; the 17th-century Pickman house (I’m still obsessed with this family–more next week).
The trees next to the Peabody Essex Museum are truly more beautiful without their leaves, and I wonder who tagged the Marine Arts Gallery next door? Frozen red roses in front of the PEM’s 17th-century John Ward house.
So happy that the Washington Arch on the Common is being repaired, along with the Common fence; two brick houses on Pickman Street: the first is completely covered by ivy in the summer, the second (“The Mack”) I never noticed before–great entrance.
Great house off Bridge Street; more frozen roses.
Three very different pumpkin-colored houses, on Derby Street, in the Willows, and on Lafayette Street–I was losing the light with the last one.
For some time I have been trying, very sporadically, to reconstruct the lives of four Salem women called Love: Love Rawlins Pickman (1709-1786), Love Pickman (Frye,1732-1809), Love Frye (Oliver, Knight, 1750-1839) and another Love Rawlins Pickman (1786-1863). The first Love, from a prominent Boston family, married Benjamin Pickman of Salem and gave birth to the second Love, who married into another prominent (though unfortunately Loyalist) Massachusetts family named Frye, and gave birth to the third Love. The second Love Rawlins Pickman, a friend of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s wife Sophia, was, I believe, a granddaughter of the first, niece of the second, and cousin of the third. They are all part of the wealthy and influential Pickman family of Salem, whom I have mentioned several times before on this blog in reference to their amazing houses: here and here. The two Love Rawlins Pickmans really are Salem women–one is buried in the old Broad Street cemetery which I can see from my study, the other up in North Salem–while the in-between Loves, Loyalists that they were, are buried in Britain. I could flesh out more by engaging in more genealogical research but (like most professional historians that I know), I have very little patience for that pursuit, preferring the forest to the trees. What I’m really curious about is: which Love Pickman made these beautiful embroidered pictures?
An amateur photographer hiking though the woods in eastern Finland this past week was lucky enough to capture the moment that three little bear cubs danced in a circle on their hind legs, producing an image so adorable that it inevitably went viral: I can’t resist showing it here as well. In the accompanying story, Valterri Mulkahainen reports that the bears were scampering around like little children, while all the while he snapped away.
Now these little bears are irresistible in any configuration, but look at the first two pictures in which they form a threesome and look almost unreal and positively magical: a good example of the “rule of three” as it applies to the animal kingdom. This must be why we have Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Three Blind Mice, Three Little Pigs, Three Little Kittens, and Three French Hens, and pubs with names like Three Pheasants and Three Foxes. The authors of fairy tales and nursery rhymes certainly recognized the power of three through the ages, as did their illustrators: these little bears (and Mr. Mulkahainen’s camera) have brought lore to life.
Illustrations by Arthur Rackham (1922), L. Leslie Brooke (1905) and Walter Corbould (1909).
The police blotter headline caught by eye–Salem Police Nab Alleged Copper Thief on Flint Street–because, frankly, copper downspouts are far too vulnerable in Salem (and I have one right on the street!), but as I read the details, one particular phrase really captured my attention: At 10:18 a.m., police responded to a report of stolen copper down spouts on Flint Street. [The alleged thief] was arrested on charges of larceny over $250, malicious destruction of property valued above $250 and possessing burglarious tools. Burglarious!!! Is that really a word? Burglarious tools!!! I can only imagine. Is there a precise definition–lots of things could be considered “burglarious tools”, I should think. And is there really a law against possessing them apart from using them?
Well I went right to my legal history colleague who directed me to the statute to answer these questions. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts (along with several other states) does indeed have a statute regarding burglarious tools among its General Laws (Chapter 266, Section 49):
Whoever makes or mends, or begins to make or mend, or knowingly has in his possession, an engine, machine, tool or implement adapted and designed for cutting through, forcing or breaking open a building, room, vault, safe or other depository, in order to steal therefrom money or other property, or to commit any other crime, knowing the same to be adapted and designed for the purpose aforesaid, with intent to use or employ or allow the same to be used or employed for such purpose, or whoever knowingly has in his possession a master key designed to fit more than one motor vehicle, with intent to use or employ the same to steal a motor vehicle or other property therefrom, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars and imprisonment in jail for not more than two and one half years.
I’m no lawyer, but the key words here must be “knowing”, “knowingly” and “with intent”: you can’t just arrest someone for having a toolbox in their possession. I know that Massachusetts has long taken theft seriously (it was a capital crime from 1715 to 1839) but I presume that the “burglarious tool” law came later, maybe in the late nineteenth century, when there seems to have been a preoccupation with more deliberate, strategic, involved crimes, requiring some serious tools. I found an interesting article in the May 1874 issue of Manufacturer and Builder on “Burglar’s Tools” which seems to present their manufacture as the dark side of the industrial revolution, and there are several other contemporary publications which seem to be a less preoccupied with the perpetrators than their paraphernalia (and, as several commentators have pointed out, more prescriptive than preventative!)
Manufacturer and Builder, 1874; Aftermath of a Bank Robbery in Montreal, New York Graphic, January 9, 1875 (New York Public Library Digital Gallery);“Bank Burglars’ Outfit”, from George Washington Walling, Recollections of a New York Chief of Police. New York: Caxton Book Concern, 1887.
Since I tangled with John Foxe the other day I’ve been dipping into some martyrologies–not the best bedtime reading I can assure you! I’m quite taken with the story of Edmund the Martyr (841?-869), and by sheer coincidence, his feast day is tomorrow. I think both English Catholics and Protestants would both recognize Edmund as a martyr at the time of the Reformation (though the latter would never validate his sainthood), and I am surprised that such a vivid writer as Foxe does not go into the gory details of the saint’s death. Edmund was King of one of the smaller early medieval English kingdoms, East Anglia, when the Danish Vikings invaded his territory and and slayed him. The basic events recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle were supplemented by the more detailed account of Abbo of Fleury in his Life of Saint Edmund (986): so that he might be compelled to renounce Christ, Edmund was imprisoned and tortured by the Danes (led by the oddly-named Ivar the Boneless), first whipped and tied to a tree and shot with arrows ‘until he bristled with them like a hedgehog or thistle’, but his faith remained steadfast. He was then beheaded (not sure whether or not he was alive at this point) and his head thrown into bramble thickets deep in the forest (on November 20). When his men searched for Edmund’s head later, they found it guarded by a wolf who called ‘hic, hic, hic (here, here, here)’, and so it was recovered. If the violence of one’s death is a testament to the conviction of one’s faith, certainly Edmund was a very pious man, and he was apparently recognized as such not long after his death, with a series of remarkable memorial coins. Given the nature of his martyrdom, you can imagine (actually you don’t have to) the other visual images associated with Edmund’s sainthood, from the eleventh century to the present.
The torture and beheading of Edmund, and the recovery of his head from the guardian wolf, Morgan Library MS M.736, Miscellany on the life of St. Edmund, Bury St. Edmunds (where Edmund’s relics were entombed), England, ca. 1130.
The beautiful Morgan manuscript dates from an era in which Edmund was recognized as a patron Saint of a recently-unified England, along with the soon-to-be martyred Thomas à Becket. One can’t help but compare Edmund to another popular Saint, Sebastian, who was tortured and killed in much the same way a millennium earlier: Sebastian has much the same “hedgehog” appearance in his depictions, and was universally venerated during the time of the Black Death because of its metaphorical association with arrows of poison/plague. The late medieval poet John Lydgate, who spent the last years of his life at the monastery at Bury St Edmunds, the martyr’s namesake town, inspired this next group of images, produced for a presentation copy of his life of Edmund which was gifted to King Henry VI in the 1430s.
British Library MS Harley 2278, 1430s: Edmund is subjected to torture and beheading, the recovery of his head and reunification of his body.
A few other objects that speak to Edmund’s veneration through the ages: a medieval pilgrim badge, which could represent either Sebastian or Edward, a French Revolutionary print (something about heads?), and a twenty-first century sculpture: designed by Emmanuel O’Brien, constructed by Nigel Kaines of Designs on Metal, and installed in Bury St Edmunds in 2011.
Pilgrim badge and print by François Anne David, 1784, both British Museum; Emmanuel O’Brien metal sculpture at Bury, installed in 2011.
Today marks the death day of Queen Mary I, the unfortunate and undisputed first Queen of England, and thus the beginning of the “golden” age of Elizabeth. When I teach the Reformation, as I am doing now, I have to reveal my Protestant bias to my students, but even I can admit that poor Mary Tudor’s reputation has suffered from a hatchet job: she has been “Bloody Mary” from almost her own time and has somehow been transformed into a paranoid, desperate dwarf in ours. She was certainly a pious and intolerant Catholic, but in her time toleration was not an attribute: while almost 300 Protestants were executed during her reign the Chambre Ardent (“Burning Chamber”) of the French King Henri II killed far more. I see her primarily as a victim of circumstances and a woman of her time: the daughter of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, Mary was in a position to make a glorious and early marriage, but fell from favor during her parents’ divorce and was declared illegitimate. She was reinstated in the order of succession to the throne in 1544, and succeeded her half-brother Edward VI in 1553, but her religion and the “Spanish Marriage” to the future Philip II contributed to her unpopularity, along with the economic depression and military losses that characterized her brief reign. Several false pregnancies seem to indicate the presence of severe tumors or possibly even cancer, and she died in pain and in misery on this day in 1558, aged 42.
Mary Tudor: as Princess Mary in 1544, by Master John; Engraving after Hans Holbein the Younger, c. 1700, both National Portrait Gallery, London.
A passionate circle of Protestants, generally called the “Marian Exiles”, left England during Mary’s reign and upon her death they returned, with a vengeance, as their movement had been strengthened by the martyrs who chose to stay behind. Even their new Queen Elizabeth, whom they had idealized as a perfect Protestant princess, would not be pure enough for them, but her sister was thoroughly demonized, most consequentially by John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, first published in 1563. This book (which is treated as more of an “event” than a mere book by historians) chartered the history of Christian persecution back to the days of Nero in five volumes, but its successive reprints (as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs) and abridgement increasingly focused on Mary, and transformed her into the Bloody Mary of the seventeenth century and after. It didn’t help Mary’s historical reputation that her successor sister’s reign was so golden by contrast, as exemplified by the triumphant victory of England over the “invincible” Spanish (Catholic) Armada in 1588.
Title page of 1563 first edition and colored woodcut illustration from John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments online at the University of Sheffield, which has all four Elizabethan editions.
It just gets worse for Mary as Britain’s triumphant Protestantism is associated with its imperial strength (and democratic government) in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. And the contemporary popular obsession with the Tudors seems to have contributed to the deification of Elizabeth and the demonization of Mary: the first Elizabeth film (1999) being a particularly blatant case in point. Despite some recent historical revisionism (there is a succinct review here), I’m not sure Mary I can ever be viewed in her proper historical context: “Bloody Mary” seems to have taken on a life (several, really) of its own.
“Teaching” Mary: a flash card from the 1920s, NYPL Digital Gallery.