This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, November 25, 2022.
We are in the midst of my favorite holiday, and I’ve found I am far from unique in feeling that way. Thanksgiving means cooler weather, lots of leaves, lots of sports on television (if you are into that), and lots of time to read good books (if you are not). And then there’s the food. The chefs in the house can get creative, and it all comes out okay.
What there is not lots of is gift-giving—and that’s a good thing. Somehow, Thanksgiving has escaped the notice of the gift industry, which is waiting with drooling lips for Christmas. Let’s hope Thanksgiving can maintain its low profile.
Most of all, and most importantly, Thanksgiving is a season for gratitude, one of the best of all human emotions. I try to stay in a state of continual gratitude for all the many blessings I have received, and I take a lot of joy in having others join with me in that attitude. There is indeed much wrong with the world, but for this weekend at least, there is much to be thankful for.
Have a great and literate weekend.
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Marchamont Nedham and the onset of newspaper advertising
The years between 1649 and 1660 are known in English history as the Interregnum. It was the very short time during the very long centuries of English history that the kingdom had no king. Charles I was executed in 1649, and thereafter, more or less, Parliament ruled.
One of those is a man named Marchamont Nedham. His influence on the development of journalism, particularly in one very important aspect, has lasted into our modern times.
Nedham was born in 1620, the son of an innkeeper in Oxfordshire. His father died when he was young, and his stepfather was a vicar and a teacher at the local school. Nedham was educated at All Souls College in Oxford, and among his studies were medicine and pharmacology.
But the politics of the 1640s, with Parliament in increasing conflict with King Charles, proved too interesting and too full of opportunities to ignore. When he was only 23 years old, Nedham went to work for Mercurius Britanicus, a weekly “news-book” that took the side of Parliament against the king. While there is no firm evidence as to how much Nedham wrote for the publication, it appears that he produced a considerable amount. The style of the day was humor, sarcasm, and parody. Nedham proved himself to be a talented and sometimes savage writer in those styles.
Mercurius Britanicus scored a publishing coup when it obtained copies of some of the king’s personal correspondence. Nedham’s attacks on Charles became increasingly personal, and in 1646 he was sent to Fleet prison on the charge of seditious libel. He was released a short time thereafter and officially banned from publishing, but he continued to do so anonymously.
Not only could Nedham write with a great facility, but he also must have been a persuasive conversationalist. He was said to have gained an audience with King Charles and talked the monarch into issuing him a pardon. In 1647 he received a royal commission to publish Mercurius Pragmaticus, an anti-Parliament and pro-king publication which continued for the next two years. Nedham had deftly switched sides. It would not be the last time that he would do so.
When Parliament’s army finally gained the upper hand in the English Civil War, Nedham was again imprisoned because of his royalist leanings. But things did not go well for Parliament once the king had been executed. Much of the general public resented the execution of their monarch and distrusted the Parliamentary party to govern well or fairly.
This unrest provided Nedham yet another opportunity. His writing talents were well known, and the Parliamentary party desperately needed a propagandist. Consequently, in June 1650 Nedham, having been released from jail, began his third publication, the Mercurius Politicus.
Even someone as talented as Nedham could not save the disintegrating situation in which Parliament found itself. Eventually, Oliver Cromwell emerged as the strong man who could bring order out of this chaos. As Cromwell rose to power, Nedham became one of his supporters. Throughout the rest of the decade, Nedham continued to back the Lord Protector, though there were occasionally bits of criticisms for his actions.
Despite his fluid political loyalties, there is one thing that Nedham firmly believed in: capitalism. And this resulted in his long-lasting contribution to journalism. Nedham apparently was the first publisher to sell advertising in his news publications. Doing this brought him a great amount of money and demonstrated to others that “news-books,” later to be known as newspapers, could be effective advertising vehicles and could create for them a large and free-flowing revenue stream.
In 1660, when the monarchy was restored, Nedham retired from politics and began a medical practice. He continued to publish, but now his subjects were education and medicine. He made one final stab at politics in the mid-1670s by writing several pamphlets attacking Presbyterianism and calling for war against the French. It is likely that he did this simply to make money. He died in 1678.
Looking for a novel on or about college campus life?
Take a gander at Emily Temple’s list of the 60 best novels that are set on college campuses in the last 100 years. Everything you have heard of, and much that you haven’t, is on this list. Temple is the managing editor of LitHub.com and knows her way around the halls of academe.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
What other people eat
Although it may be a day late for this advice (Thanksgiving was yesterday), there are plenty of meals to come.
All of us have been the object of a question or comment about what we put on our plate during a meal. I always found that extremely irritating. So does Tara Parker-Hope, the wellness writer for the Washington Post, who advises in a recent column, Don’t comment on what others are eating:
Although it’s fine to praise the chef or talk about how much you love sweet potato casserole, refrain from making comments or jokes about what others are eating or not eating. Discussion of food choices can put children at risk for eating disorders. And it can be a trigger for adults with a history of disordered eating. And your comments about the food on someone’s plate are not welcome. Examples of food shaming range from “You eat like a bird” to “Are you going to eat all of that?”
Besides, unless you’re two or three years old, it’s none of their business.
She has more sensible advice about mealtime conversations.
Four days in November
To those who lived through it (including me), nothing is comparable to those four days in 1963 beginning on November 22 when we heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. (Watch this five-minute excerpt from the Walter Cronkite broadcast.)
CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite interrupted his network’s normal daytime programming on November 22, 1963 with the words:
“In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.” The time was 1:40 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Almost an hour later Cronkite, choking on his words, told his audience, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.” He then looked over at the studio clock. “Some thirty-eight minutes ago,” he said.
For the next three and a half days, television turned its sole attention to this story. It was, in many ways, ill-prepared to do so. Television news was barely fifteen years old and without satellites or many of the modern miracles of technology that we know today. Most television cameras, for instance, took a full two hours to warm up.
That lack of experience showed on that Friday afternoon. On NBC Frank McGee and Chet Huntley anchored the network’s coverage. Arms would extend into the picture handing them news bulletins. Telephone lines could not be connected to their sound system, so McGee wound up repeating the words of correspondent Robert MacNeil to the audience as he listened over the phone. The men and women on the air were as confused as their audience.
But the story was there and turned out to be far more than the death of the president. Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office on board Air Force One (one of the few events of that story that was not broadcast), and the plane carrying the body of the dead president returned to Washington that evening. As it did, police in Dallas arrested a man they believed to be involved with the shooting.
Over the next four days, Americans stayed in front of their television sets. They saw images they would never forget:
- Jackie Kennedy, the president’s widow, jumping off the back of Air Force One in her blood-stained pink suit.
- A glimpse of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man police had arrested, being escorted through the Dallas City Police Station on Saturday.
- The shocking murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby on Sunday morning as Oswald was being transferred to the Dallas County Jail. NBC was broadcasting the transfer live when the shooting occurred.
- Jackie Kennedy and her daughter Caroline kneeling in front of the president’s casket as it lay in state in the Capitol rotunda.
- The riderless black horse that led the funeral procession through Washington, D.C., on Monday.
- Three-year-old John Kennedy, Jr. saluting his father’s casket as it passed in front of the church where his funeral mass had been held.
For four days, Americans mourned and watched. And in those four days, television news showed its capacity to inform and unite.
Kill the Quarterback is part of four group giveaways during the month of November:
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.
Kathy R.: Enjoyed your story of your Navy career. Our son was on the USS Bainbridge in her final years of service in the engine spaces as a “nuke.” Not being able to read your first byline story on the nuclear Navy, I think you were probably aware of the Bainbridge as one of the first 3 nuclear powered vessels. My cousin, George, served on the Bainbridge when she was first commissioned. Our son, Steve, was the second to last person off the Bainbridge when she was decommissioned in the 90’s. The Navy gave Steve the opportunity to see the world as he finished his service on the USS Abraham Lincoln. Thank you for your service!
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Bunny the cat
Best quote of the week:
Words, when written, crystallize history; their very structure gives permanence to the unchangeable past. Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the BibleProject.com. The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The return of John Rebus, divisions and unity, bloated college administrations, and a slice of the Navy: newsletter, November 18, 2022
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