More clumsily-rhyming murders than you can shake a stick at

I have mentioned this in person and on Twitter before, but not, I think, here. We live in an age of great blessings for the historian of the ephemeral. Consider if you will the broadsheet ballad. These things were the cheap entertainment of the 18th and 19th centuries, sold by itinerant ballad-sellers, street hawkers and low-rent merchants. They covered topics from war to politics to making fun of people from Somerset. And of course the covered murder.

Well, now there are scads of them scanned and posted online. Scads, I say, courtesy of the Bodleian Library and the University of California at Santa Barbara. Just click on either of those links and get browsing. I searched for “murder” on the Bodleian site and got dozens of hits, but honestly my search for “cannibalism” was more focused and equally entertaining.

05513 00498

This one is genius!

I will not save her life, said he, Nor make my pies of thee

And the crude illustration of an oval-faced homunculus gesturing at a man with an artificial nose and then someone getting burned at the stake.

God, there’s thousands of them.

I guess what I’m saying is I won’t be doing anything else for a little while.

More clumsily-rhyming murders than you can shake a stick at

Oranges and lemmings

I have been busy as usual, and didn’t do a Movie Monday — Monday was the first day of my class this term, and I just came home, ate pizza and sat hunched staring at the television for a bit before getting an early night.

But I have not been entirely idle. I had a little trip to London, which was very nice, but notable for this-blog purposes in that I did quite a lot of reading on the various coach and Tube journeys involved. Notably, I read Travels in England in 1782 by German clergyman, novelist, journalist and educator Karl Philipp Moritz, which is … charming. You can find it here on Project Gutenberg, which I assume is where the free ebook I read also came from.


There is something goofy and lovable about Romantic types, even though I … disagree with the way they think about things. There’s something very pleasant about Moritz going into raptures about the sublime natural views of … Richmond. I mean, I’m sure it’s very nice, but it’s weird thinking about the sublime natural beauty of somewhere you can get to on the District Line.

I think my favourite line, however, was this one, one of those “some things never change” moments:

All over London as one walks, one everywhere, in the season, sees oranges to sell; and they are in general sold tolerably cheap, one and even sometimes two for a halfpenny; or, in our money, threepence.  At the play-house, however, they charged me sixpence for one orange, and that noways remarkably good.

I also read a book about the Battle of Kursk, which had a lot in common with a lot of the military history I read. That is, it was full of detail about which Corps did this, and which Front did that, and all I retained was the funny stories and an increasing conviction that most of the German high command had spent a lot of their lives starved of oxygen. But if you ask me about this or that Panzer division I’ll be as ignorant as I was before. I may be the worst wargamer.

I have some comments to make about recent historically-tinged news stories, but I couldn’t let characteristically tone-deaf behaviour by that fatuous narcissist Ted Cruz pass without pointing something out. The usual yokels, hacks and hooligans have endorsed Cruz, while slightly more alert right-wing commentators have taken to bitterly regretting his actions. It’s so terrible, they say, that Eastern Christians can’t rely on Western Christians to help them. To which I could only think:


Oranges and lemmings