Tuesday, 19 April 2022

It's a small (historical) world

It's a small world, so they say, and it can sometimes seem like that in the field of historical research: people crop up in the most unexpected places, and entirely separate casework can suddenly coincide in very curious ways. The following example of this would be hard to beat.

A current project has me looking for the papers of the eminent scholar Sir Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge - now there's a name - and yet just today, working on an entirely different case, the same man leaps off the page of a 19th-century gossip magazine called The World. Said magazine was the work of the author and journalist Edmund Hodgson Yates; in fact it made his fortune, and he obviously had a keen sense of what sold as it was very much the Hello! of its day, complete with 'at home with' type articles and breathless accounts of the doings of various celebrities of the day. Not then, the sort of publication where one would expect to find a severely intellectual man such as Sir Ernest, but there he was alright, twice mentioned in a lengthy puff piece about the novelist Henry Rider Haggard. Budge apparently wrote letters to Haggard in Egyptian hieroglyphics - I'd have been disappointed if he had not.       

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