Friday, July 09, 2010

Morris dancing and historical fiction

click photo to enlarge
One of the most pleasant ways to learn a little history is through good fictional writing. I'm not a particular fan of the historical novel. However, Patrick O'Brian's naval series about Captain Jack Aubrey and the surgeon/spy, Stephen Maturin, enthralled me and taught me a lot about the British navy of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Enough, in fact to prompt me to buy and read an authoritative history of the period, N. A. M. Rodger's "The Command of the Ocean: A Naval History of Britain 1649-1815".

Similarly, the novels of Thomas Hardy are a good source of the life of rural England in the nineteenth century - both of the poor and the middle classes. I will always remember being introduced, in "The Return of the Native", to the figure of Diggory Venn, the "reddle man", a lone, itinerant worker who mixed and supplied the dye that farmers used to mark the sheep of their flocks. In the same book Hardy remarks that the genuine survival of a tradition can be distinguished from a revival by the level of enthusiasm of the performers: those who carry on a tradition through obligation will not show the same enthusiasm and enjoyment as those who participate voluntarily in a revival of an ancient tradition. Whether Hardy was right or not it is interesting to apply his thinking to the two photographs above. They show the dancers and musicians of a Morris group from Kent performing at a gathering in Pershore, Worcestershire.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Olympus E510
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 13mmmm (26mm/35mm equiv.)(70mm (140mm/35mm equiv.))
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/640 (1/250)
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation: -0.7 EV
Image Stabilisation: On