Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Recovery mission completed

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve returned to my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice, which I recently resumed after many months of hiatus. It’s now December 1287, and Dante has just become a widower at 22 years old (which didn’t happen in real life). Beatrice is in his house recovering from a very serious illness and a terrible beating her husband gave her before sailing to Cyprus on business.

Three days later, Dante has gone to her house in another part of town with her father and several servants to retrieve her belongings. The servants were horrified to discover the corpses of Beatrice’s maidservants, whom she reported had died of illness shortly before she left. However, her father is insistent that this mission proceed without delay.

This comes a bit after last week’s excerpt.

“We’re taking this cupboard,” Ser Folco announced. “Cilia and I gave it to Bice as one of her wedding presents, and everything in it belongs to her. Be very careful not to break the glass or let the religious books fall out.”

His three manservants heaved it onto their backs and slowly made their way to the stairs.

“The lady’s jewelry is in this strongbox,” Galfrido reported. “I don’t see any of her husband’s belongings here.”

“Then we’ll take that too,” Ser Folco said. “We’re not leaving this house without every single possession Bice brought here or acquired since she married Mone.”

Two hours later, we began the return journey to Via Santa Margherita, and not a second too soon. The stench of the bloated, putrefying corpses seemed to be growing stronger, which had brought on the sickeningly familiar sensation of lightheadedness.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

My condition was exacerbated by the relentless images of de ’Bardi beating Beatrice and having relations with her. The more I thought about that, the more gruesome and detailed the pictures in my mind became. I prayed I wouldn’t pass out in the street.

“After I take care of the funeral arrangements for those poor unfortunate ladies, I’ll make inquiries into the dismissed manservants,” Ser Folco said. “They’ll be able to testify to Bice’s honorable conduct. Every time I think about Mone’s baseless, obscene accusation, my anger is renewed a hundredfold! My most virtuous daughter is not a shameless harlot! Had I known what Mone is really all about, I never would’ve sent him to my Cypriot bank or let him work with me at all. Cilia and I will be so much more careful about arranging our other daughters’ marriages. Having money and coming from an important family mean nothing when they’re not accompanied by a noble character and kind heart.”

Ser Folco continued ranting against de ’Bardi the entire way back to our neighborhood. In all the years I’d known him, he’d never used such strong language before or so openly criticized anyone.

Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Horrific discoveries

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve returned to my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice, which I recently resumed after many months of hiatus. It’s now December 1287, and Dante has just become a widower at 22 years old (which didn’t happen in real life). Beatrice is in his house recovering from a very serious illness and a terrible beating her husband gave her before sailing to Cyprus on business.

Three days later, Dante has gone to her house in another part of town with her father and several servants to retrieve her belongings. The servants were horrified to discover the corpses of Beatrice’s maidservants, whom she reported had died of illness shortly before she left. However, her father is insistent that this mission proceed without delay.

I took a large basket from the cart and proceeded inside after the manservants and Galfrido, hoping my fear didn’t show upon my face. The sooner we finished our business in this house of the dead, the better.

All the blood in my veins froze, and a wave of bile rose in my throat, when my eyes fell upon three bloated, blistered, blackened bodies, devoid of clothing, curled up on their beds. A strong, noxious smell filled the air.

“May God rest their souls,” Ser Folco murmured. “Praise Christ Bice escaped this. She may not have lived much longer if she’d remained here, infected with God knows what.”

I was in a daze as we continued moving through the house, scouring each room for important belongings. Once Galfrido found the keys, he and the other manservants commenced opening the trunks and strongboxes, pulling out everything to determine which objects belonged to Beatrice and which to de ’Bardi. They left de ’Bardi’s belongings all over the floor.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

The sight of the bedchamber tore like a lance through my heart. There at the centre of the room was a large mattress with four oak columns supporting a rectangular panel above. Hung upon this ornately-carved wood were scarlet velvet curtains embroidered with gold and silver thread. The sheets, pillows, and quilt were just as luxurious. Completing the grand display of wealth was a hanging iron lamp, carved on all sides with the de ’Bardi coat of arms, seven joined rhombi running diagonally from left to right.

All I could think about as I looked upon this symbol of opulence was that de ’Bardi had carnal relations with Beatrice there. From the day of her marriage, I’d prayed he wouldn’t be rough or cruel with her, but now I knew my prayers hadn’t been answered. I couldn’t rid my mind of the image of that brute taking away her tender innocence at the age of fourteen, this pearl among men who’d already been married once before and was over twenty years older.

If I hadn’t been so afraid of the consequences of discovery and mindful of the Church teachings about forbidden intimacy, I would’ve done a lot more than just kiss and caress her in the garden. That would’ve spared her from having to experience carnal relations for the first time with someone she didn’t love, who didn’t love her and didn’t care about being gentle.

Posted in 1280s, alternative history, Dante, Middle Ages, Writing

WeWriWa—Arrival at de ‘Bardi’s house

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’m moving back to my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice, which I recently resumed after many months of hiatus. The last time I shared excerpts, it was December 1287, and Dante had just become a widower at 22 years old (which didn’t happen in real life). Beatrice is in his house recovering from a very serious illness and a terrible beating her husband gave her before sailing to Cyprus on business.

After three days of fever-induced coma, Beatrice has finally woken up and asked if anyone retrieved her belongings in her house. That mission is now being carried out, with a very unexpected discovery.

At last, de ’Bardi’s grandiose house loomed in front of us. Ser Folco stepped forward and raised the heavy door knocker, banging against the grand wooden door nine times on each side before finally going around to the other walls of the house in search of another door or slightly opened window. Galfrido, the other manservants, and I followed him. In the courtyard, my eyes fell upon a small door which was pushed open by about a foot.

Ser Folco grabbed my arm when I started towards it. “My servants will go through the house before us to ascertain if it’s safe. Mone never mentioned attempted robberies, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, particularly when the house has been abandoned for the last few days.”

His three manservants stepped forward and entered the house, bending over slightly to fit through the low door. A few minutes later, a terrible scream rent the air, and they ran back into the courtyard as though a hundred thousand devils were chasing them. The horses violently reared up and squealled.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“What happened?” Ser Folco asked. “Are there thieves inside?”

“Even worse!” the shortest servant gasped. “Corpses!”

Ser Folco crossed himself. “That’s another important thing I forgot to do. I’ll handle the funeral arrangements as soon as I find out their names and which church they attended.”

“Should we collect everything of value?” the tallest manservant asked. “Or do you only want us to pack up the lady’s belongings?”

“I’m not a person who believes in trivial revenge, as angry as I am. What use have I for another man’s garments, plates, and furniture, particularly when I’m just as wealthy as he is? We’re only taking my daughter’s possessions. Everyone, take a basket or bag.”

Posted in Writing

IWSG—Writing plans for 2023

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Welcome to the very first Insecure Writer’s Support Group of 2023! The IWSG convenes the first Wednesday of every month to commiserate over worries, fears, doubts, and struggles.

My major 2023 writing plans are to finish the radical rewrite of the book formerly known as The Very Last and prep it for publication. Its new and improved title will finally be revealed upon release. As I’ve said many times, the title comes from a line in one of Charlie Chaplin’s sound films (but not the most well-known of his talkies).

After that’s done, I’m resuming my near-total rewrite of Almost As an Afterthought: The First Six Months of 1941. I think it’ll go much faster and easier when I’m coming to it in the proper order, with the background context of a completed TVL. I should’ve learnt my lesson about the perils of writing out of order!

To reward myself for winning NaNo, and for my birthday, I got my twelfth ear piercing and got my other nostril pierced. The new addition is the rook (which I’ve had on the other side since 2015), the curved barbell with dark blue opals and anodized blue titanium. I also finally got a new piece of jewelry in my conch in that ear, the blue opal marquis fan. The purple opal I wore in it for seven years is now in my second lobe piercing on that ear.

               

Hopefully I’ll be able to resume my alternative history about Dante and Beatrice before the end of the year. As I mentioned in my last IWSG post, during NaNo I realized a big factor in my reduced level of writing productivity since lockdown has been my unconscious inability to turn off editor mode. Now that I’m getting back into better habits, I predict writing the first draft at a much faster rate.

Slated blog post topics for 2023:

A thorough review of my favoritest album ever, The Who’s Quadrophenia, which turns 50 this year. I’ve posted about it many times, but never as a review. Given how much I have to say about it and how important it is, I’m doing an entire series on it.

Film reviews of the original Ten Commandments (1923), Quo Vadis (1913), The Last Days of Pompeii (1913), and Life of an American Fireman (1903), plus a whole bunch of classic horror films with landmark anniversaries in October.

The history of Divine Comedy translations into worldwide languages. I already wrote a post about the history of its translation into English.

Part II of contrapasso (a punishment or penance reminding one of the sin committed in life) in The Divine Comedy. This will cover Purgatorio.

Films about The Divine Comedy.

A series on writing about corsets in historical fiction, and debunking persistent myths about this very misunderstood garment.

Reviews of Please Please Me and With The Beatles on their respective 60th birthdays.

Writing about breeching, long pants, and little boys wearing dresses in historical fiction.

Writing about menarche and dysmenorrhea.

A series about writing about Jewish denominations (history, theology, etc.).

The distinction between the words “woman” and “lady” in historical fiction.

Behind the scenes of my list of silent films seen (what I count as a silent, pertinent information to include in parentheses, how and when I started my list, etc.).

The 100th anniversary of Rudy Valentino’s Mineralava Dance Tour, which he and his second wife Natacha Rambova did while he was on strike from acting.

I’d like to express how relieved and happy I am that WordPress decided to retain their Classic Editor through at least 2024! I was dreading the end of 2022 because that had been called as the final date for the Classic Editor, and I was NOT looking forward to the long, slow, steep learning curve of the garbage Block Editor almost no one likes.

What are your writing plans for 2023?

Posted in 1280s, 1290s, Dante, Middle Ages

The discovery of Dante’s handwriting

I recently was alerted to a July 2021 article in The Daily Mail, corroborated by the more serious U.K. paper The Times and several other sources, reporting that a British-born, Florence-based nun named Julia Bolton Holloway discovered a few manuscripts almost certainly written by Dante in the 1280s or 1290s. While researching manuscripts written by students of Dante’s dear surrogate father and guardian Brunetto Latini in several libraries, Sister Julia found some which we have very good reason to believe were penned by the Supreme Poet.

These manuscripts were located in Florence and the Vatican, dated to Dante’s student days, when he was copying books and treatises on government. In the days before the printing press, everything was handwritten, and it was quite common to copy other people’s work for one’s own education or personal library.

Some of the manuscripts from Brunetto Latini’s students were also transcriptions of his own lectures and writings on philosophy, politics, law, government, rhetoric, science, and ethics, greatly influenced by things he learnt while in exile in Spain.

Sister Julia was a professor of Medieval Studies at Princeton before answering the call to become a nun. One of her great passions is Brunetto Latini, whom she’s studied for fifty years. After taking the veil, she moved to Italy and ran the English cemetery in Florence. She also lived for awhile as a hermit in Tuscany. But always, her love of the Middle Ages endured, which was what led her to making this miraculous discovery.

According to Leonardo Bruni (ca. 1370–1444), a historian, humanist, and statesman of the early Renaissance, Dante’s handwriting was Cancelleresca script (Chancery hand), with the same idiosyncrasies as those in the documents Sister Julia discovered. These documents are also the only ones among all the manuscripts written by Brunetto Latini’s students using Cancelleresca.

Cancelleresca was developed by the Apostolic Chancery, a department of the Roman Curia responsible for the Pope’s books and censoring documents. It’s a form of blackletter, known as rotunda script in Italy and with origins in Carolingian minuscule. Among the unique features of the Italian form of this script are uncommon spellings and abbreviations (e.g., milex instead of miles, qui represented by a line under the letter q). It was also less angular than other forms.

The most calligraphic form is officially called minuscola cancelleresca italiana, and eventually began to be used for books instead of government communications like charters.

Sister Julia believes Dante’s father, Alighiero di Bellincione degli Aligheri, taught him to write in Cancelleresca.

In addition to being the only documents written in Cancelleresca, out of all the other known samples from Brunetto Latini’s students, they’re also the only ones written on cheap parchment instead of the more upscale vellum made from calfskin. Though the Alighieris were minor nobility and always had enough money to live comfortably, they also weren’t an über-rich Florentine family like the Portinaris or Falconieris.

Thus, Dante didn’t have the same financial means as the other students. After his father died in the early 1280s, the family’s finances also became more precarious, and Dante had to earn money through selling letters of credit his usurer father had on unpaid loans, charity, loans, and income from family farmland. As Forese Donati, one of his best friends, joked about in the six tenzone they exchanged in the first half of the 1290s, Dante wasn’t exactly a wealthy man, or even bourgeois.

Tana (Gaetana) and Francesco were Dante’s much-younger halfsiblings, to whom he was very close

Sister Julia says, “The handwriting is schoolboy-like in the early manuscripts, but the writing is in excellent Tuscan,” and feels it “provides an insight into his genius.”

The big square imposed on a circle represents God, an idea which Dante later expressed in Canto XXXIII of Paradiso, pondering the geometer who can’t find the principle to square the circle as he gazes upon three circles representing the Trinity.

Given how Dante rescued many women from historical oblivion by recording their names and stories, and how his overall treatment of women is lightyears ahead of the majority of his contemporaries, it feels only fitting that a woman should discover these manuscripts and figure out he wrote them. The good you put out always comes back to you.