Guilpin’s Fuscus: Sir John Davies

Guilpin’s Fuscus: Sir John Davies

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“Man is known by the company he keeps.”

A great deal of my recent research on Christopher Marlowe has involved looking at the wider social networks of which he was a part. This can get pretty obscure by most people’s standards, but since so many amateur sleuths looking into the Shakespeare authorship question seek information with a straight forward Google search rather than mining Early English Books Online and other paid-for sources, it seems sensible to blog about an article or two I’ve had published recently.

Fuscus in Guilpin’s Skialethia (1598)

Fuscus Guilpin Skialethia Sir John DaviesFor Shakespeare authorship questioners, minor characters in obscure texts can take on a great importance, and whole theories are sometimes constructed around a single (sometimes very wobbly) interpretation.  When I was looking into the identity of someone nicknamed ‘Fuscus’ in Everard Guilpin’s Skialetheia (1598), I found various assertions that Fuscus was Marlowe, or Thomas Nashe, to add John Payne Collier’s 1868 guess that Fuscus was John Marston.

Not so, my friends.  Combining clues from the several different epigrams in which Fuscus is mentioned with the work of P.J.Finkelpearl and J.R.Brink on a certain scandalous happening at the Inns of Court at Candlemas 1598, it is now clear beyond any doubt that ‘Fuscus’ is the poet and lawyer Sir John Davies, he who had his Epigrams published side by side with Marlowe’s translation of Ovid’s Elegies. The article is here behind a paywall until December 2017, but after that you’ll be able to download a copy from the publications section of my staff page at Goldsmiths or my profile on academia.edu.  If your need is urgent, you can always get in touch and I’ll send you a copy.

Rosalind Barber, ‘Sir John Davies as Guilpin’s Fuscus’, Notes and Queries (2015) 62 (4):553-554.

Mind Your Language – Retrieving ‘Lost’ Things

Mind Your Language – Retrieving ‘Lost’ Things

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words have powerOne of the most heartening things for me  (as a writer) to learn as I began to practice conscious creation was the genuine power of language. The words we use – both in our speech and our thought – are critically important. They will make the difference between the outcome you want and an outcome that sucks.

As someone who’d had a bit of bumpy ride through life from age 8 to my mid-thirties, my default outlook (and default word-set) was pretty negative. Imagine a world that reflects your beliefs back at you, so that pessimism leads to exactly the crap you were expecting, confirming you in your beliefs. Thanks to the vibrational nature of reality, and the like-begats-like behaviour of the quantum particles that constitute us and everything around us, that is the world we live in.  Fortunately that also means that if you can genuinely transform pessimism into optimism (and not just pay it lip service), your positivity will be reflected back to you with equal certainty.

I’ll illustrate this in due course with a small but at the time fairly mind-blowing experience on the subject of loss.

Loss had become one of my life’s major themes. I’m guessing it began with the loss of my father (who moved out very suddenly when I was eight) and subsequently the loss of my older brother Peter (my replacement father-figure), who died of a rare bone cancer a few days before my fifteenth birthday. From these two experiences I began to focus on loss so strongly that my ability to lose things (as well as people) increased exponentially, with every additional loss only reinforcing my belief in myself as someone who lost things.

My belief in myself as a loser (in every sense, really) was so strong that it could sometimes manifest in ways that seemed positively supernatural. For example, not long after my brother’s death, my father gave me a silver fountain pen as a birthday gift. There had never been a more perfect gift: I was a budding writer, to whom a pen would always be meaningful, but silver pena precious pen with actual monetary value from my precious (lost) father? I was terrified of losing the pen, so I took very special care of it. I kept it in its box when not in use, and it only came out for best: for neatly copying already-written poems into little hard-back notebooks. I was doing this one afternoon on the carpeted floor of an otherwise empty room when the phone rang. The phone was about five steps away, just beyond the door, in the hallway. I answered the phone, then came straight back to my poetry-copying task. The book was there, but the pen was gone. Had I taken it with me to the phone?  I went back to the phone. It wasn’t there. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere. No-one else was even in the house. It could only be in one of those two places or in the few steps between those places, but it simply wasn’t anywhere. I felt like I was going mad. And get this: my silver pen never showed up. It was like it had simply evaporated.

I did not take any of my losses easily. The loss of a favourite or important item (and it was always favourite or important items I would lose) would send me into paroxysms of grief and despair as I essentially re-experienced every other loss and bereavement (including my father and brother) simultaneously. When my (now) husband met me, he would watch with interest as I had yet another complete meltdown about a disappeared item. The way I could make things vanish was almost accomplished; my out-of-control emotional reaction (only over-the-top if you didn’t know I was mourning a whole life full of losses) was positively embarrassing. This man was already some way ahead of me on metaphysical matters. With undoubted insight, he would say “You’re never going to stop losing things until you get over your hangup about loss.”

mislaid not lost

He already understood the creative power of beliefs, and of the words one uses. This is what he taught me, and what I came to learn myself through experience: if you think of something as lost, it is. Say goodbye to it. It’s gone, baby.  He persuaded me to start changing my language: not lost, mislaid.  Someone who is convinced they have lost something will often not be able to see it even when it is right in front of them.  How many times has something you ‘lost’ turned up (or been found by someone else with less pessimism) in the place that you searched over and over again without success? When “I’ve lost” becomes the much softer, the temporary “I’ve mislaid”, it opens a possibility for the thing to be found. The raging bereaved child inside of me would want to kick up a tantrum about this (“No, no, no!  It’s really lost!”). So like my own caring parent, I would add other more comforting words even though, initially, I struggled to believe them. I would repeat them out loud until I felt the possibility that they were true: “I don’t know where it is right now but it will turn up. It is here somewhere.” Things I ‘mislaid’ began to turn up, making it easier to believe the comforting words I was using.

Mislaying things in the house is one thing.  Outside, one is seemingly more prey to uncontrollable external forces. But even outside, the language-change that led to mindset-change began to have positive results. One of the first really striking ‘loss’-return successes was a glove. My sister-in-law had given me these really beautiful tan suede gloves with orange stitching for Christmas. We took the dog for a walk by the sea on Boxing Day and when I came back I only had glovesone. They had been mine for ONE DAY. Cue the habitual reaction, a wail of frustration and despair, until my husband reminded me: language, mindset, and I started the process of soothing myself.   I had a good idea where I had dropped it (having taken it off to bag up the dog’s doings on the beach) and my husband set off to repeat the whole circuit with a torch (it was getting dark) and see if he could find it.  He came back empty-handed. Almost belligerently, I decided to believe it was coming back to me anyway.  I said it aloud: “It’s going to come back to me. When I walk the dog tomorrow I will keep an eye out, and it will be there.”  I knew it was probably on that beach, and that the tide would come in and go out before I’d walk there again. What were the chances?  But I decided to have faith. And next morning, there it was. Soaking wet, because it had indeed been picked up and washed out by the tide. But the incoming tide had brought it back to me, as I had decided that it would.

A glove, you say, so what? Easy enough to explain by normal processes. Though the tide might have washed it away, it didn’t on this occasion, and no passerby is going to walk away with one glove. A few months later, however, I left my coat over the back of a chair in a cafe with my mobile phone in its pocket and cash in the other pocket. The spring day had heated up and I didn’t notice the absence of coat when I left the cafe and went for a swim. Only an hour later, when I went to make a call, did I realise what I had done. I returned to the cafe but they knew nothing of any coat.  Let me say that my experience before with leaving something unguarded in the wider world had been that it would be ‘lost’ pretty quicknokia-6820ly.  But now I had some inkling that my attitude might have some impact on the outcome, and it was worth a try. As with the glove (and the glove had been a good warm-up exercise for me) I decided to believe it was coming back to me anyway. All of it. Coat, phone and cash. Why not?  I would have faith. Somehow or other (and I had learnt it’s important not to get stuck on the ‘hows’)  it would find its way back to me. I imagined myself with my phone in my hands again, and putting the coat on again, and being thrilled with these things I usually take for granted.  I cycled home and my husband greeted me with “you left your phone somewhere”.  A stranger had noticed it, taken responsibility, called the ‘home’ number on my phone to find out where I lived and personally delivered it (coat, phone, cash) to my home address.

The fact that I imagined having them again before I had them is something I regard as relevant. Having learnt the power of visualisation (through the house manifestation), I now had a new way to recover mislaid things, which led to that small but mind-blowing experience I mentioned at the beginning.  Here it is.

SpikeLeatherCollarTwo weeks earlier, my son had taken our dog for a walk and come back without its collar.  He had taken the collar off when the dog went swimming in the sea and had left it on the beach. He didn’t know where. I sent him back to find it but he came back empty-handed. I was cross about that collar. It had belonged to our previous dog and felt like a meaningful item.  We liked especially the telephone number tag which had ‘GRRRR’ on it. On my daily walks afterwards I kept an eye out, but there was no sign of it. No question that I was indulging in blame, and that in my mind my son had ‘lost’ it.

My habit on dog walks is to take the dog off the lead so he can have a good run, and loop the lead round my neck, dogleadfastening it to itself.  On this particular morning we finished the walk, I went to put the dog back on the lead so we could cross the road safely and discovered: no lead. I had dropped it somewhere. No matter. I would retrace my steps. So I set up back up the lawns, looking carefully on the ground, and to my left and right in case someone had moved it. When I got to the other end of the lawns I was still leadless. Time for stronger action. I visualised myself with the lead, and putting it round the dog’s neck with a big smile on my face, and the joy I would feel.  Each time I felt the habitual moan of loss begin to kick in I visualised that action, that smile, the feeling of joy I would feel at having manifested its return. That was what it was beginning to feel like: not ‘finding’ the lead: manifesting it!  I was worried about how I would get the dog back over the road safely without it (he was still young and skittish around traffic, but too big to carry. I would have grabbed him by the collar if we had gotten round to replacing it).  I saw some string half-dangling out of a bin with the air of a metaphysical temptation: seafront bins are not known for their string content and I’ve seen nothing similar before or since. For a moment I nearly succumbed, putting it into my pocket ‘just in case’. But it felt like an act of bad faith, and I dumped the string. I returned to visualising the joyful action: lead around the dog’s neck: joyful smile. And then, as the yards diminished, remembered I had to let it go and not be invested in the outcome. One way or another, whatever happened, it was going to be fine.

I got back to the start/finish point of the walk, the point where I had first noticed that I didn’t have the lead.

I looked to my right and there it was. Hooked onto the railings: the lead.

But this is the kicker.

Hanging up right next to it: the studded collar that my son had lost two weeks earlier.

Where had it been all this time? No-one could possible know that these two items belonged to the same dog. Yet there they were, side by side.

The return of the collar in addition to the lead felt like a wonderful cosmic joke.  It felt like getting A+ for my metaphysical homework. Like the universe wanted to prove to me that this stuff works in a way I would never forget.

Did I put that lead round my dog’s neck with a big grin on my face, just as I had visualised?

You betcha. And then some.

Want to get better at consciously creating good things in your life? Click here to subscribe to my mailing list and get my printable 1-page resource guide “6 Touchstones of Conscious Creation”: everything I’ve learned about conscious creation in 15 years boiled down to the essentials in a printable one-page resource guide.

The Marlowe Papers on Stage – Jamie Martin as Kit

The Marlowe Papers on Stage – Jamie Martin as Kit

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Jamie Martin as Kit MarloweThe first run of the Marlowe Papers opens in Brighton on Tuesday 26th January 2016. It’s on for just five days, with the final night on Saturday 30th. The director is my friend Nicola Haydn, who helped me adapt this one-man version from the book. The adaptation was no mean feat: the audio book version (which is unfortunately read very badly and which I cannot recommend) was 9 and a half hours and the play – with original music by by Fiddes Smith – runs to 110 minutes (plus interval). I worked closely with the actor and director to hone the script for performance am loving the results. There something really wonderful about your characters being brought to life in front of your eyes.

Jamie Martin (who was most recently in the Young Vic’s very successful World Factory) is tremendous, both as Kit and as numerous other characters. I hope many people who loved the book will get a chance to see it and well as many people who haven’t read the book at all. We plan to take the play to London, and perhaps tour it across the UK, even beyond if that proves to be feasible.  Come and see if you possibly can!

***

Update: 5-Star review: “It is impossible to take your eyes off Martin’s performance – which is a masterclass in how to perform a one-man piece.” – Brighton Argus, 29 Jan 2016.

Manifesting My Dream House

Manifesting My Dream House

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casa-punta-banco
Casa Punta Banco, Costa Rica. This was how far I would travel for good sex 15 years ago.

In committing to blog about my experiences (and experiments) with conscious creation, the question is where to start. I’ve been doing this stuff for well over a decade now, and there are many tales I could recount. So I’ll start at the beginning.

My first experiment with energy, visualisation and all that malarky manifested something rather spectacular: my house. Anyone who has been to my house will appreciate that I do not use the word ‘spectacular’ lightly.  My house is a thing of great beauty. The creation of a troubled romantic genius (the brother of Greta Scacchi), modelled on his house in Milan, it’s a quirky conversion of an 1880s brewery stable block. It has a 30 foot roof terrace and an excess of plumbing (four toilets, 3 baths and a shower).  Though it is not enormous (certainly not for a family of six), people get disoriented and sometimes lost in it: staircases go off in different directions and doorways open on to parts of the house you didn’t expect.  From the outside it barely seems to exist: there is no facade, only a small doorway in a doorway-sized wall set back from the road.  But the house itself – which young visitors have dubbed ‘the TARDIS house’ and ‘the James Bond house’ – is on three levels and stretches behind the back gardens of three adjacent properties. All this magic (and let’s not forget the blessing of a built-in double garage in this parking-restricted city) is not twenty steps from Brighton seafront.

It is my dream house: I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. So how did I manifest it?

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Coming out as a conscious creator

Coming out as a conscious creator

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You know that New Year, New You thing?  Downtime over the Christmas holidays is often a good opportunity to reflect, consider, and change gear.  The revamp of this website was long overdue for many reasons (and please excuse any imperfections as that process continues: it is still in transition).  The font was too small, the dark background made it hard to read, the theme wasn’t mobile/ipad friendly. But the chief one was this: I am not that person any more.

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Roundup of the Year 2015

Roundup of the Year 2015

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The Year In Brief

devotion novel ros barber
2015: the year of DEVOTION.

If you have limited time to spend with me, or a short attention span, here is my year in terms of firsts. Because firsts always mean you are moving forward (unless they are shit ones… no, even if they are shit ones).

First…

  • appearance on Woman’s Hour
  • review in the Times Literary Supplement
  • poem officially on an ‘A’ Level English Literature syllabus
  • drive of an MX5
  • flappy-paddle gear experience
  • trip to California as an adult
  • trip to Ashland, Oregon
  • trip to Singapore
  • national TV appearance (UK)
  • book as editor
  • Business Class flights
  • stage play in production
  • scalable internet business
  • Man Booker Prize party
  • dinner with a Booker winner.

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Why the ‘new Shakespeare portrait’ is NOT Shakespeare

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shakespeare nonsenseA great deal of fuss has been made about a supposed ‘newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare’ found on the title page engraving of sixteenth century botany book.  The editor of UK lifestyle magazine Country Life, in which the discovery was announced, declared it “The Literary Discovery of the Century”.  The story was dutifully picked up by BBC News Online and such is the clout of the BBC that by yesterday all major news outlets were excitedly repeating the story, leading it to trend across social media.  The botanist who made the discovery quickly morphed into a ‘historian’ and NBC news even multiplied him into ‘historians’ to add a little weight to the theory. 

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Real Human Beings: Lindsey

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On Saturday I met a woman called Lindsey. Until very recently she was living in Hurstpierpoint, a genteel Sussex village. She has a job, but she currently can’t work for reasons that will become obvious. Her GP, she told me, was kind enough to sign her off with ‘stress’. Why? Because her husband assaulted her so badly that he knocked out her two front teeth. She went to a women’s refuge where she lived for 2 weeks but then had to leave – they have a lot of assaulted women, limited funding, limited rooms in their hostel. She went to the council but according to their criteria she has made herself “intentionally homeless” because there is a perfectly good house she could live in, her marital home, so they can do nothing at all for her for a fortnight. That’s the rule, apparently. Her husband was incarcerated immediately after the assault but is now out on bail. She is, understandably, too afraid to live in this home from which she has made herself “intentionally homeless”.

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Book Stoppers: What’s the Point?

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what is the point of writing a bookI wonder how many books have never seen the light of day, because the potential author of that book kept thinking “What’s the point?”  Whether you secretly think it (perhaps so secretly that you keep it from yourself) or whether you find yourself sighing out loud when you sit down to write, “What’s the point?” is a serious book-stopper.

Lots of writers — both aspiring and published — suffer from ‘What’s the point?”  Anyone who has ever seriously thought about writing a book has considered the huge number of books out there.  Books in bookshops. Books in charity shops. Manuscripts of books piled high on the desks of agents and editors. All the the books that aren’t published. All the books that are published.  All the books that don’t get reviewed or win prizes.  All the books that sink without trace.

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