Sunday, March 27, 2011

A life in #38days (and 140 characters)

Twitter, anyone?

I've been intrigued by Mary Wollstonecraft since I was a teenager. This phase of my enthusiasm really kicked off two years ago, when I discovered that Newington Green Unitarian Church (under its briefer C21 name of New Unity) was the only group in the whole world putting on a series of public events to celebrate Mary's 250th anniversary. More on that another time. Suffice it to say that I took this as a personal challenge, and decided to undertake some of the publicity for these events, which proved a useful excuse for getting to grips with Twitter. One of the first things I set up, under the handle of @1759MaryWol1797, was the telling of the last few years of her life, in thrice daily bites. I must see if that trail still exists. This year, I thought I'd re-invent the idea, and am doing her whole life in a line a day, each message representing one year. So far we have:
  • 1759. Waaah! I’m cold. ‘Tis rational to be cold; they have not cloathed me yet. O brave new world, that has such people in't!
  • 1760. Brother Ned cannot forgive me for ousting him from the breast. I assert my rights: he may be greediest, but I am neediest.
  • 1761. And now I in turn am thrust from my place at the centre of Mother’s universe by the arrival of brother Henry.
  • 1762. Under my grandfather’s loom, I see the cat toying with a mouse. How the tyrant abuses his power!
  • 1763. We move to Epping Forest, as Father wishes to be a gentleman farmer. Unfortunately, he is neither gentleman nor farmer.
  • 1764. Mother is teaching me to read. She says I am quite the little scholar! I love the stories she tells of growing up in Ireland.
  • 1765. We move to Barking Creek. I dig for treasure in the briny mud, finding shards of Roman pottery. Nature, wide skies, divinity. 
And they will continue, one a day at 15:00 GMT, with -- if I have counted correctly -- the final one, 1797, going out on Wednesday 27 April, the 252nd anniversary of her birth. I'll leave you to guess the last line: the comments below are for you, dear reader.

It took ages to write the whole cycle, but it was rather fun. It is a lesson in economy, almost like haiku, and in inter-relationships. Some years have so much going on; others, especially childhood ones, have little. How then can themes be introduced, allusions placed, hints dropped, that may come back later on? At the age of zero, I have Mary preaching reason; at one, she extolls breastfeeding, using the language of rights; at three, she anticipates political philosophy.

I already have an idea for next year. For 2011, the hashtag is #38days. Join me on Twitter!

No comments:

Post a Comment