The 7,500-word handwritten manuscript was found by James Loxley among papers in the archives of the Aldersey family of Aldersey Hall in Cheshire in 2009. Jonson is historically believed to have walked to Scotland alone but the title of the newly-discovered document, ‘My Gossip Jonson’s foot journey and mine into Scotland’ says otherwise. The identity of the previously unsuspected travelling companion may remain a mystery, depending on what further detective work reveals, but the manuscript is hugely significant as the only surviving first-hand account of the legendary journey.
The researchers have won a large grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to transcribe the account for inclusion in a new Complete Works of Ben Jonson by Cambridge University Press, due out next spring. A separate annotated edition of the manuscript with newly-commissioned essays on cultures of travel including other literary walks of the time will be published in 2014. This new book will provide a fascinating insight into Jonson’s 1618 marathon for anyone with an interest in British cultural history.
Professor Julie Sanders from The University of Nottingham’s School of English Studies, said:
“It’s exciting to think of Jonson at the forefront of a tradition of literary walkers that comes right up to date with figures like Iain Sinclair and Will Self. His encounters with the regional and cultural geographies of England and Scotland had a profound impact on what he went on to write afterwards and the manuscript allows us new insight into his work and the society of his time as a result.”
Dr James Loxley from The University of Edinburgh said: “Jonson’s ‘foot voyage’ has long been thought of as one of the more striking episodes in a sumptuously colourful life. This newly discovered account is a treasure trove of detail on Jonson’s famous walk for anyone with an interest in British cultural history.”
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