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Irish Giants: Prehistoric and Otherwise February 7, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
Irish Giants: Prehistoric and Otherwise

Beach stumbled the other day on this passage from the Dublin Freeman’s Journal, August 1812. ‘It is not a little surprising, considering our veneration for Irish antiquities, that no notice should be taken of the skeleton recently disinterred at Leixlip. This extraordinary monument of gigantic human stature was found by two laborers in Leixlip churchyard […]

Anticipating the Telephone February 6, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Anticipating the Telephone

Beachcombing rather cheekily talked about an anticipation of email the other day: an anticipation of the telegraph would have made more sense, sorry. But what about this anticipation of the telephone from the late seventeenth century? And as glasses have highly promoted our seeing, so ‘tis not improbable but that there may be found many […]

Mona Lisa Madness February 5, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Mona Lisa Madness

Beachcombing has long taken an interest in Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. Not because he is particularly a fan of cold and bold LdV and those other renaissance artists who wrecked the unity of the Middle Ages. But because the Giocanda has attracted pretty much every mad theory about: we’ll come to this week’s in a moment. […]

Beachcombing’s Invisible Library February 4, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
Beachcombing's Invisible Library

  Beachcombing has had a lot of fun over the last year and a half cataloging invisible libraries, libraries that only exist in the imagination of authors and connoisseurs. Today, Beach thought he would take stock of the achievement to date and also, in a fit of utter self-indulgence, introduce readers to Mrs B’s contribution […]

Anticipating Email by Three Hundred Years February 3, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Anticipating Email by Three Hundred Years

Beachcombing is in a technological mood and is looking for technologies that have been anticipated, against all odds, in previous ages. What about for example this late seventeenth-century anticipation of email: or perhaps we should be more modest and say the electric telegraph. But… to advance another instance. That men should confer at very distant […]

An Overlong Name January 29, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
An Overlong Name

Another of Beachcombing’s deities died this morning: the small Welsh village of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll-gogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch (Anglesey) well known in Britain as having the longest name in the country, if not the world. Of course, a moment’s consideration should have told Beach that something fishy was going on; instead, he had innocently let the name be, reasoning that […]

De Gaulle and Ike at Gettysburg January 26, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
De Gaulle and Ike at Gettysburg

One of Beachcombing’s many files in the rusty filing cabinet in the downstairs bathroom is a surprisingly bulky: ‘battlefields after the fact’. Here there are a series of great men and women visiting the places of carnage past and reflecting on ‘the father of all things’. There are many precious references in said file including […]

What Religion did Fairies Follow? January 22, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
What Religion did Fairies Follow?

Beach’s endless reading in the literature of fairies has led him to a couple of unusual passages. He honestly doesn’t know that to make of them. In truth, they frighten him. The first is from a south-western fairy tale where a man is reunited with his ‘dead’ fiancé who is actually trapped in fairy land. […]

Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret January 21, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Review: The Discovery of Jeanne Baret

In 1766 Jeanne Baret, a young Burgundian, joined a round-the-world trip, a French mission to claim territory in the Pacific and Indian oceans. Her experiences, the subject of a recent book by Glynis Ridley, would have been remarkable in itself given her gender and the date. But as the French navy did not allow women […]

Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections January 20, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
Burning Libraries! Two Lost Folklore Collections

Historical blindspots: every age has them. Take the relative lack of interest in folklore prior to the eighteenth century. When folklore heats up in the later nineteenth century you cannot walk across the parlour without tripping over a book on fairies or witches. This means that anything written before say 1860 is particularly precious and any loss all […]

Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect January 19, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary, Modern
Hauntings and Technology: the Teflon Effect

Not a month ago Beachcombing reflected on the strange way that Roman ghosts are a modern invention and the way too that there are apparently fashions in which historical periods haunt and which do not. Beach thought that today he would reflect, instead, on a different but surely related phenomenon, the apparent allergy that new […]

Vintages Past January 17, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Modern
Vintages Past

There is a beautiful scene in the junky teen fantasy Highlander (1986) where Connor (the decapitator) opens a bottle of eighteenth-century brandy in late twentieth century New York. ‘1783’  states our hero ‘was a very good year. Mozart wrote his Great Mass. The Montgolfier brothers went up in the first hot-air balloon. And England recognized […]

Napoleon in a Pot January 16, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Napoleon in a Pot

Anyone who love history has a little black list of people they would have gladly have seen choked at birth: Hitler, Ida Amin, Verdi… Fairly close to the top of Beachcombing’s is that jumped-up world destroyer Napoleon Bonaparte, a man who ‘could by industrious valour climb/ To ruin the work of time/ And cast the […]

Mermaids, Ahoy! January 14, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
Mermaids, Ahoy!

Beachcombing still hyperventilating from the terrifying task of talking in front of 200 plus ‘new’ students yesterday. Only syllabus writing is worse. Anyway, back to the far more serious task of charting the perversions of the human imagination. Beachcombing had been going to spend the Christmas holidays writing serious academic ‘stuff’ about Marco Polo. But, […]

An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy January 12, 2012

Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
An Eagle, A Basket and A Boy

Beachcombing probably owes his ever patient readers an apology today. This post hardly counts as bizarre history: but there are eagles (much visited in previous posts, particularly involving children being carried away) and a young man’s hair turning white and a classy illustration to go with it. The story relates to the West of Ireland […]

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