Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Women of History

This morning I went over to Innerpeffray Library again.
I am actually supposed to be working on the edits to The Demons of Ghent, which I hope to have finished around Easter time, and generally when I am working on a book I am very tough about not allowing myself mornings off unless I have finished all the work I had planned for the week. However, I knew I was going to have the car today (a rare event) because I had to take one of the children to an appointment, so it made sense to make the most of it.
It can be wonderful cycling over to the library through the beautiful Perthshire countryside, but you need good dry weather; cycling for half an hour each way would not be pleasant in driving rain!
I went to Innerpeffray to discuss a possible event there - full details in due course - but as usual I couldn't resist perusing the books. (Who could?) My usual haunt is the main reading room with its fabulous 16th and 17th century tomes, but there is a smaller room with more modern books (I say "modern" but there is nothing less than fifty years old!), and it was there that I spotted this small and intriguing volume (pictured above).
It is entitled Women of History and appears to have been brought out as a kind of companion to a well received book called Men of History. I was intrigued because given the antique appearance of the book, I thought it would be interesting to see which women had been selected for inclusion, and how their lives would be described. I should be rather surprised if it had Emmeline Pankhurst in it, for example.
Unfortunately a proper perusal of the book will have to wait for another day, because most of my time at the library was taken up with the meeting and after that I had to leave to go to the next appointment. I did however manage to read the introduction and the list of contents.
The introduction said that unlike the book about men, for this book "it has not been considered necessary to attempt a classification of the subjects in the manner followed in the preceding volume, from the fact that the feelings and motives which generally influence the lives of celebrated women are of a nature different from those of the opposite sex, and from the consequent want of a standard sufficiently distinct to adhere to." Make of that what you will.
At any rate, the contents list includes Lucretia (a Roman matron famed for her chastity), Sappho, Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette, Queen Anne and Charlotte Bronte. I perused the story of Lucretia very briefly and considering the knots into which the writer had tied himself in trying to express that she had been raped without actually saying so, I cannot imagine what he will make of Sappho. I shall read some of the biographies properly on a future occasion and report back on this blog!

Above: Women - not easily classified? 

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