[f_minor] Orlando Gibbons / bring out your dead

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Thu Mar 1 13:20:56 PST 2012

Defoe was 6 years old during the Plague Year 1665, so his memories of it were probably a bit hazy and unreliable.

Yet the genius of "A Journal of the Plague Year" is the absolute conviction of every reader that this is an authentic, first-person account by an Englishman who lived through and witnessed the Great Plague. 

Defoe had -- Defoe invented -- the gift of not sounding like a great novelist or storyteller, but sounding like the honest, genuine guy next door who just happened to witness or experience astonishing and terrifying things. Most readers at the time (1722) indeed thought they were reading a work of non-fiction.

I hope he hasn't gone out of style. Some venerated gasbag novelists fully deserve to go out of style and be mercifully forgotten. 

But Defoe is as astonishing and thrilling to readers today as he was when he wrote these amazing books. And "A Journal of the Plague Year" (IMHO) was his best.

Defoe hasn't been publishing much new stuff, but there's a delightfully surprising recent development in his career. Scholars have pretty much established that a very popular ripping yarn about the vile misdeeds of the terrible pirates of the age, "A General History of the Pyrates" (1724), was actually written by Defoe under the pseudonymn "Captain Charles Johnson." My wife got it for me a few Christmases ago, and it's a pip! Arrrrrgh!

We also owe a great debt to the Plague itself. When it broke out, Cambridge University closed, and a 22-year-old undergrad was sent back to the family farm at Woolsthorpe. While he was killing time napping beneath a tree, an apple fell on his head, and Isaac Newton wondered if the force that made the apple drop was the same force that kept the Moon in orbit. (It was.)


  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Pat 
  To: f_minor at glenngould.org 
  Sent: Thursday, March 01, 2012 2:59 PM
  Subject: Re: [f_minor] Orlando Gibbons

  ....with the only minor problem that Defoe was not an actual eye witness.

  But given the age of the book it is remarkably easy to read and modern in its style, working more as a reportage one might remeber from Life or McLean’s than a dull history book.

  In any case it is a crying shame that GG* never recorded more post-elisabethan music. Somehow stuff like, Tye Tallis, Downald, Gibbons, Byrd etc is starting to grow on me....and if it had not been for GG, I’d probably never heard of these  two composers. Maybe I should watch The Tudors after all...

  * Over the years this list has used the acronym GG as it is more conveniant than Mr. Gould or Glenn Gould or, Darwin forbid, just Glenn. “GG” has become common use over the years, not at least because it is short and not too informal. You may call him Glenn, Our St. Glenn of Uptergrove or whatever. Some cynics call him overrated. I call him GG with formality and respect.


  From: maryellen jensen 
  Sent: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 10:43 PM
  To: f_minor at glenngould.org 
  Subject: Re: [f_minor] Orlando Gibbons


  There's a very interesting book you might like to read: "A Journal of The Plague Year" by Daniel Defoe. 


  Date: Wed, 29 Feb 2012 09:40:52 -0500
  From: slynnwright83 at gmail.com
  To: f_minor at glenngould.org
  Subject: Re: [f_minor] Orlando Gibbons

  Why are you reading so much into that word, as if you are offended by it? It is simple...the description of his death on Wikipedia is uncanny; it freaked me out. Any detailed description of a horrific death is creepy to read--imagining the contortions of his face, the distorted body movements. It was highly disturbing. Clearly the death disturbed many others during that time: the majority of his biography focuses on his untimely, disturbing death.  


  On Wed, Feb 29, 2012 at 9:26 AM, maryellen jensen <maryellenjensen28 at hotmail.com> wrote:

    Stephanie, you wrote:

    "Also, if you have not read about Orlando Gibbons's life, it is quite interesting, especially the manner in which he died. The writeup on Wikipedia is really uncanny." 

    What do you mean by "really uncanny"?


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