I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas... It wasn’t until the 19th century that the Christmas festival was really embraced in the United States, where Americans changed it from a raucous holiday into a family-centered day of peace and giving. The reason for this change? One factor was surely A Christmas Carol, the classic holiday tale of England’s Charles Dickens. The story’s theme - the importance of charity and good will towards all human kind - was a powerful message both sides of the Atlantic and showed members of Victorian society the benefits of celebrating the holiday.
The midwinter days are getting short, but I am still working the same long hours on my big new project. In the spirit of the upcoming winter solstice, how many of you know that, before the calendar adjustment of 1752, the shortest day of the year fell on Saint Lucy's day (today)? The day is celebrated by one of the best poems John Donne ever wrote - here's a link to it on a Poetry Foundation page: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/…/a-nocturnal-upon-st-lucy…
THE EARTH IS FLAT
Over the years I have jotted down a few notes about history, historical novels, and whether either matters. They’re very short, mostly just a few sentences, and some are quite funny. They are tucked away under a tab on my website.
If you don’t know this little corner of my work, you might like to click on one of the links below to discover under what circumstances the Earth may be flat! I hope you’ll enjoy it. You’ll also see a menu of the other notes ...listed on the page in question, so that you can discover things like HOW TO FAIL YOUR HISTORY DEGREE. Or try THE HISTORY BOYS, about how two history teachers got into a fight!
REST OF WORLD:
Patience: the author is still young! This photograph was taken for my birthday (which falls this weekend!) when I turned four. I am now at quite an advanced stage with a fascinating but very complex new book that I shall be excited to announce to you all soon. I hope you’ll find it’s been worth the wait.
It's amazing to think that SARUM hit the bestseller list for the first time in the US thirty years ago this month !! (The UK/Australia/New Zealand edition had hit the bestseller list the month before). Even after all these years, the original North American cover still looks excellent, don't you think?
In the summers when I was writing London, the best breaks I took from my work were going to the Proms – probably the biggest and most popular classical music festival in the world. Starting today into September, huge audiences will pile into London’s magnificent Royal Albert Hall for an experience unlike any other. The greatest enthusiasts will be standing directly in front of the orchestra or up in the ‘gods’ throughout the concerts. If any of you are going to be in London during the season, I warmly recommend you to go online to BBC Proms and book. Seats are going fast. Standing is fun too!
EDWARD RUTHERFURD IN CATALONIA
Very much looking forward to visiting the ancient city of GIRONA, where I shall be speaking at the MOT Literature Festival on March 31st at 8 PM, in the Auditorium at the Carles Rahola Library, alongside journalist Enric Calpena, and to meeting any of you who are able to make it.
As I am deep in a big new project, this is my only public engagement this spring, and it's also my first time in the lovely Girona region. I'm sure it will be a very en...joyable weekend break. Hope to see you there!
If you’d like more information, I’m attaching a link below.
THE OLDEST VALENTINE? It is said that the first Valentine’s Day card ever was written by Charles, duke of Orleans in 1415. The French duke, who had been captured at the age of 21 during the Battle of Agincourt, composed a poem entitled ‘Farewell to Love’ to his wife while being held captive in the Tower of London. If you ever get the chance to visit the British Library, you can see the original note for yourself, as it is housed in the library’s manuscript collection!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Yuja Wang!
Last night I attended a wonderful recital - pianist Yuja Wang and Leonidas Kavakos, the violinist. It was such a privilege to be there. I wish I had a short clip to share with you of these two great artists playing together, but for any of you who don’t already know the amazing Yuja Wang, whose thirtieth birthday is this Friday, here she is performing a spectacular encore. Enjoy. There’s lots more on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jmpXFXsJdA
A very happy New Year to all!
DID YOU KNOW? January, 1617 (Twelfth Night to be exact, and 400 years ago!), was the date that Pocahontas was received at court in London by James I of England (and VI of Scotland), where she attended a masque by Ben Jonson. She was courteously treated as a royal princess and given the status of Ambassador - representative of a Head of State. It's interesting to see how anxious the English monarch was, back in those days, to court a Native American princess from the land of the early colony. Of course, it helped that she had converted to Christianity!
CHRISTMAS IN SARUM
Here's a lovely picture from Sarum, place of my birth and setting for my first novel, of some Salisbury Cathedral choristers singing Silent Night.
With warmest good wishes to you all,
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Did you love the Keira Knightley/ Rosamund Pike movie? Or the BBC TV Series (Remember Colin Firth’s wet shirt?) Or, needless to say, Jane Austen’s book? One day if you get the chance, visit Chawton village and go inside Jane Austen’s cottage, and see the manor house opposite, where her brother lived. But for today, I invite you to visit Chawton House Library. I have fallen in love with this amazing place, where I just spoke at their Christmas Dinner, and I shall be posting more about Chawton and Jane Austen in the future.
I wanted to wish a happy Thanksgiving to everyone in the United States today, and then I found this amusing photograph of former President George W. Bush pardoning a turkey in 2001. The President seems to be joining in the joke himself, and I thought it could be happily shared with all the world! Many thanks to Kevin Lamarque and Reuters.
This date in history: October 21st is the anniversary of the famous Battle of Trafalgar, where the great Admiral Nelson (I’m proud to say with the help of my ancestor William Rutherfurd!) defeated the fleet of Napoleon's French Empire, back in 1805. As many of you will know, there are scenes of the battle in my book SARUM, and in THE FOREST, where I describe the building of Rutherfurd's ship from local oak trees at Bucklers Hard - a delightful part of the great tourist estate of Beaulieu in the New Forest, well worth a visit. I'll be raising a glass to William (and Nelson too, of course) today, and I hope some of you may care to do the same!
My kind Polish publishers have just agreed to bring out a Polish edition of RUSSKA, which prompts a question in my mind: Will RUSSKA ever be published in Russia? My excellent Russian publisher has now released, or will soon release Russian language editions of SARUM, LONDON, THE FOREST, NEW YORK, PARIS, and most recently, the first of my two Irish books. But, as yet, not RUSSKA. I suppose there could be many reasons why not. Any suggestions?
This day in history. Although J. Robert Oppenheimer, Albert Einstein, and Enrico Fermi are often considered the fathers of the atomic bomb, what most people don't know is that it was actually the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilárd who conceived of the idea of a nuclear chain reaction while he was waiting - so the story goes - to cross a London street on this day in 1933. It was Szilárd's 1939 letter to US President Franklin Roosevelt, which he convinced his old friend Albert Einstein to sign, that explained the possibility of nuclear weapons, and warned of a potential German program to build them. The letter resulted in the US's research into nuclear fission and ultimately led to the creation of the Manhattan Project. Here's a photograph of Szilárd and Einstein supposedly working on the confidential letter together.