Went to a cinema today to see “The Man Who Invented Christmas”, a very entertaining and interesting telling of the story behind Dickens’ writing of “A Christmas Carol”. Dan Stevens was masterful and thoroughly believable as Charles Dickens and Justin Edwards was perfect as his friend John Forster.
Have just finished reading “The Last Man in Europe” by Dennis Glover, which is a partly fictionalised biography of George Orwell. The book includes vivid descriptions of life in London during World War II. At the end of the war, Orwell was living at 27B Canonbury Square in Islington after his previous flat in Kilburn had been destroyed by a bomb. We visited Canonbury Square last year and posted a blog about a nearby interesting tower.
Now a gentrified neighbourhood, Canonbury Square was, when Orwell lived there, a working class area and he uses it as a setting for the home of Winston Smith in his last novel, “Nineteen Eighty Four”.
Ludovico Ariosto, also from Ferrara, and from the same era as Savonarola (previous blog) had an entirely different outlook on life. He was a poet and playwright who first coined the word, “humanism”. He is most famous for the romantic epic poem, “Orlando Furiosa” which is a story of chivalric knights, but with fantasy elements, including a trip to the moon.
Ariosto’s house is now a small museum in Ferrara which is open Tuesday to Sunday and has free entry.
Girolamo Savonarola (see previous blog) was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1452. He entered the Dominican order in Bologna in 1475 and in 1482 was sent to San Marco in Florence where he became a popular preacher, denouncing the worldliness of the church and the ruling Medicis. His tempestuous life is best known by readers of English through George Elliott’s novel, “Romola”.
The statue of Luther in Worms is surrounded by other figures who played a role in the beginnings of the Protestant religions, including John Wycliffe who founded a movement known as the Lollards, Peter Waldo who founded the Waldensians and Girolamo Savonarola, an Italian Dominican friar (below).
Today is the birthday of Martin Luther who is especially remembered this year on the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation. In 1517, Martin Luther published his views on indulgences and other practises of the Catholic Church, and in 1521, he appeared before the Diet at Worms, where he was excommunicated by the Pope.
A large monument to Luther and the Reformation was erected in Worms in 1868.
On an exterior wall at Stationers Hall (previous post), there is a plaque commemorating the first printing press in Fleet Street, although Wynkyn de Worde’s press was actually 350 metres away in Shoe Lane next to St Bride’s churchyard. Wynkyn de Worde who was a native of Holland, and an apprentice of Thomas Caxton, set up his own press in 1501.
Next to St Martin within Ludgate (previous post) is the Stationers Hall. This 19th century building is on the site of an earlier building which became the headquarters of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers in 1606. From 1557, this guild regulated the publishing industry including printers, bookbinders and booksellers. It operated the Stationers’ Register which listed publications and provided an early form of copyright.
As well as Boswell (previous post), there are quite a few literary connections to St Martins within Ludgate, including with Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.
In “Little Dorritt”, Arthur Clenham, sitting in a coffee house on Ludgate Hill on Sunday evening, hears the church bells ring out.
William Shakespeare had his winter theatre just a few streets away.
And “I owe you three farthings say the bells of St Martins”, from the old “Oranges and Lemons” nursery rhyme could be referring to St Martin within Ludgate which did have a ring of five bells, of which one now remains on display in the church.
Tomorrow (18 October) is the birthday of James Boswell, the famous 18th century biographer. His biography of Samuel Johnson is thought by many to be the greatest biography written in the English language.
Boswell was a regular at church services in St Martin within Ludgate, a Wren church that survived WWII mainly undamaged.