As anyone who has read my blogs over a period of time will know that I enjoy history. Today I'm indulging that tendency by looking at the 17th century through the eyes of writer and natural philosopher John Aubrey.
John Aubrey 1626 - 1697
In fact there was considerable material for Aubrey to expound upon in the 1600's; Civil War, Plague, Fire of London and much more.
Civil War began in 1642 and lasted nine years but the run up to that must have affected everyday life. Thomas Hobbes was a philosopher who took the position that the monarchy should be absolute but was forced to flee to France to avoid being taken to task over his ideas.
Aubrey was an auditor (listener) at James Harrington's Rota Club, a coffee club, that met in the Turk's Head, New Palace Yard. The meetings were a forum for republican views. Aubrey said that the discussions were the most 'ingenious and smart' he'd ever heard. After the Civil War had ended Harrington was arrested and held in the Tower of London for a while but released later.
John Milton, a republican polemicist, seemed to have missed the boat in being late in publishing his work 'The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth' which wasn't printed until 1660. That was two years after the civil war had ended and the year that the monarchy was restored in the form of Charles II. The ordinary people had turned strongly against republicanism at that time and Milton was arrested and his books burned.
Writers in those times were considerably fewer than the present day and had greater influence but they seem to have one attribute in common and that is that those of us who write are driven by the art once we have set foot in that world. The term 'publish and be damned' is very much a truism.
As a footnote, after the Great Fire in 1666 Aubrey records that he visited premises deserted due to the conflagration and collected a world of antique curiosities during the excavation of the ruins. A year after the fire he found that 'all the ruins in London were overgrown with herbs, especially one with a small yellow flower. On the south side of St Paul's church it grew as thick as could be, even on the top of the tower. The herbalists call it Ericolevis Neapolitana, small bank cresses of Naples.'
These are words from almost 400 years ago and for me point out that what we write, no matter how seemingly trivial, has its own value. I was asked last evening about a subject that I knew nothing about in connection with the tragic events of 9/11, from the point of view of conspiracy theory. The question was whether or not the blog on that subject should be written. My answer was and still is a resounding and deafening 'yes'. In a world where we value freedom of speech we are the people who should exercise that right. I won't pre-empt that blog but will just write - Building 7!