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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rummaging, reading, and ruminating......

have taken up much of my time as of late. I suppose I have never officially announced this on the blog, but I have decided to take a stab at compiling a book of British history - although I doubt it could ever properly be called a "British history book"! The whole project is rather complicated since I am a person who adores myths, legends, folk songs, poetry, and juicy anecdotes, and I am determined to stuff them in the book somehow. But then that would definitely make it into something other than a strict history text. For now, I've settled on calling it a "romp" through British history and heritage, intending to weave together fact and fiction in an examination of the British cultural consciousness.

    For years now, I have been collecting golden nuggets of info from books, online print-outs, and tales passed on by word of mouth. I have scribbled things in notebooks, on sticky notes, and on napkins. Trying to track all this back and piece it together into something of an anthology is going to be quite a task, as I am now just beginning to realize! My current plan is to locate as much of the scattered data as I can, type it out on a Microsoft document, and then worry about organizing it later. Granted, the results may be rather frightening as King Alfred and Major Andre share page space, (to paraphrase the Duke of Wellington, “I don’t know what effect it will have on the reader, but it certainly scares me!"), but things will begin to get done, one step at a time. Speaking of the Duke, I am considering using another one of his quotes for the title of my "disaster-piece": “The Nearest Run Thing”. Yes, I know he meant it to refer to the Battle of Waterloo, but this project will be a close second in the history close calls!

    To start this massive process of unearthing buried treasure, I decided to dig out some of my worn and tattered folders that I have been compiling since I was 12, plus some of my ancient and dusty notebooks back from the early 2000's. It gives one a funny feeling, like taking a step back in time, viewing my messy handwriting and lovingly organized folders which my mom helped me label. Some of the labels read as follows: "British Biographies 1", "British Biographies 2", "British Biographies 3", "More British Biographies"; "British Battles"; "British Saints"; "History of Pipes"; "Maj. John Pitcairn"; "Catholic Loyalists", etc. There is something about the process of digging through old things that helps you better understand how you became what you are.

    Indeed, my writing lacked polish in the old days, and it was punchy and somewhat riddled with triumphalism. It was simplistic in tone and missed major historical points in favor of telling a good yarn. But it came from the heart, and it showed a burning love for the two things that I still love more than my life: The Catholic Church and the United Kingdom. Now that I have grown up and matured in my thought process and researching skills, I think I am ready to use the gifts God has given me and make use of the passions He put in my soul.

    But the sum total of my mission statement is a little harder to explain. After all, there is an abundance of British historical literature by learned authors, and quite a few good folk compilations. But I still feel a strong pull to retell the old tales in my own words and explain why I love the things I do about Britishness. I do not mean to make this book some sort of hagiography; I am fully aware and willing to discuss at length the bad as well as the good. Also, I want to seek the answers to some very important questions: Is the story of Britain one of wickedness and degeneration from beginning to end? Is the UK a lost cause because of her admittedly checkered past? Is there a case to be made for the intervention of Providence in history? Does moral virtue truly form the bedrock of sound leadership?

    I suppose this book, or draft, or file, or whatever you want call it, will be something of a philosophical study as well as an historical one. But then history is the story of man, and man is a thinking being. Not only thinking, but loving, hating, seeking, grasping, clinging, and capable of exerting great good or evil based on his philosophy of life. I feel the weight of this fact more and more as political developments and human behavior are increasingly corrupted by misplaced priorities and droopy-eyed indifference. I wish to express my concern for the international community, and Britain in particular, from the perspective of an American, an outsider looking in. Being what I am gives me certain excellent advantages, since I have the ability to view the many dimensions of a thing without being a part of it myself. This prevents self-consciousness from having an unhealthy affect on the project.

    But more importantly than my nationality is the fact that I am a Christian and a Catholic, and I will be writing with a Christian and a Catholic world-view. Unlike Anne W. Carroll, who wrote some strikingly propagandist Catholic text books for high school students, I will not seek to twist history to fit my chosen scenario or give two-dimensional accounts of persons and events to make the story more easily understood in a "good guy vs. bad guy" context. I will not seek to be overtly preachy or pushy, but rather let my faith shine through in a subtle way, as part of an author is always left behind in his/her work. As Tolkien did with his fantasy, so I will seek to do with my history. Now won’t my “Ringer” buddies be happy with that interpretation? ;-)  


Rummaging, reading, and ruminating......




  1. Go for it! I wish you all the luck in the world. You are a fantastic writer, full of charisma and enthusiasm for the subject. You will go far, I am sure.

    British history has received a lot of bad press in recent times, but I love it all the more for it's dark patches. It saddens me that many today feel the need to apologise, or worse, completely ignore some aspects of our story. How are you supposed to learn from history if you just casually forget some of it? And let's not forget, Britain is by far not the only country to have had a darker side- I think it's important to always remember the context of the time.

    I think Britain needs to let go and stop feeling guilty for it's past and go back to celebrating some of it. As a nation we've caused a lot of good too, and helped shape the world as we know it today. We've grown so much as a country, and the sooner we accept and acknowledge our whole history, the better!


    PS I will reply to your email soon! I'm a little bit behind with everything and need to catch up. :)

  2. I look forward to your book! features a terrific self-publishing / vanity press site.

  3. Thank you both for the encouragement and kind words!

    @Rae-Rae: I totally agree with your opinions about history! The darker parts should certainly not be glossed over, but rather learned from, and also understood in a proper historical context. Also, as you've said, all countries have unpleasant parts in their histories, not just the UK. Look at the USA....we've had the misplacement and annhialation of Native tribes, slavery, prejudice against immigrants (especially Catholics and Jews), etc.

    As for the good parts, I heartilly agree that some healthy celebration is in order, for both our countries! Trying to be excessively apologetic and cowering, or even worse, desiring to dismember one's country because of personal guilt for the past, is a very misguided way to behave.

    @Mack: Thank you for directing me to Amazon. I do believe that once I am finished with any one of my subsequent writing projects, I will take a shot at getting it self-published! My cousin did it with a novel he wrote, and he has gained a small following.