September 19, 2014

Norfolk gals

Norfolk is a very understated region. She has unsung heroes and many of these are women. Here, hand on heart and shooting from the male hip, is my homage to some of them. Each character has a scene and then the cast does the chorus as in a Greek play.

read my EDP cover feature on Boudicca here
Note: Ickeni (Iceni) is a Norfolk dialect word meaning 'awkward, troublesome, unmanageable' - as in difficult horse.
Looking for a classroom activity on Boudicca? Try this, Warrior Queens

A breezy general introduction to Mother Julian of Norwich and her sister mystic Margery Kempe of Lynn, written for the EDP Weekend pullout, may be read here.

A full length musical playscript and newspaper features on Margery and her times - including her sister mystic Mother Julian of Norwich and her parish priest the Lollard martyr William Sawtrey - may be read here.  Read some general context about the Hanseatic age in Lynn here. 

Hear Anne (Boleyn) in dialogue with Tom (Sir Thomas Wyatt)'s verse here  and read the full Tom and Harry script here

An EDP Weekend feature on Charles and especially Fanny Burney may be read here.

Author's Note: Some say you can only tell your own story - I've been telling my wife mine for 35 years and I'm sure she still finds it as fascinating as I do. But these stories are much more interesting (and besides what are we but our imaginings, dreams, heroes, sense of history, fascinations etc etc?)
Norfolk gals

A five woman show (with musical accompaniment) 

The Antagonist Sallies - ie male fall guys - should be played as trouser roles by the gals themselves. (Women will have much more fun playing these than men.) We know who wears the tights in this house.
(enter the cast in a tragic chorus of Iceni ghosts)

We're the restless ghosts in the winds and rains,
Funneling the valleys, sweeping the plains,
Inlets and warrens that run underground,
Unbridled pathways, unquiet streams,
Haunted hidden corners of rootless sound,
Hives of Iceni, dead and unqueened,
By bronzebreasted redcrests violently weaned
We're the baby who wails for her dead mother's breast.

We are dead keening women, whispering grass,
The breath in the lilac and bluebells, the blast

Through the pale yellow oak leaves, hawthorns

And nettles. And that shout, queen of warriors,

From your victory chariot with your triumphant

Horsemen around you! And that salt chill of a winter's

Reprisals that blighted twice twenty summers.

We're the mother who wails for her new baby's death.


We are the cries in the corn, the harrowings hooted

Under moons of hunger, in the squeals of the hunted,

The creaking of geese through night-forest fears,

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

The unresting dunes and the moaning wave-break,

We're the memory that's cankered two thousand years

Of Celtic blood with an unhealing ache,

We're the oracles lost in the noise diggers make.

We're the dead daughters wailing for the end of the world...

Boudicca emerges from the Chorus:

Boudicca is a punk shocker

Allow me to introduce to myself.-
Queen Victoria, of Icenia

The matriarchal Britons called me buddug, Boudicca, VICTORY.

The patriarchal Romans called me mad.

Aunt Sally: (Roman historian)

‘She was huge of frame, terrifying of aspect, with piercing eyes and a harsh voice, a great mass of red hair hanging down to below her waist’

–the very picture of the Cleopatra dysfunctional woman in power, the Medusa Head of State.

In AD 60, on the death of my husband, King Prasutagas, (lash) I am dispossessed, flogged, my nobles enslaved, my women sold, my daughters... plucked and Procurator Decianus Catus.

Provincial governor Suetonius Paulinus – later recalled to Rome for excessive bloodlust – quite a feat on the front line of empire - is absent in North Wales, slaughtering druids and desecrating the Oak Groves of Mona. Doing his bit for the environment.

when suddenly, out of the blue, the sky falls in and the forests erupt again through the nice tiled floors of Colchester.

My hazel-wattled people are in revolt. The Eastern half of Britain rises with me.

Iceni Chorus:

Kick over the wall cuz governors can fall

How can you refuse it?

Let fury have the hour anger can be power

You know that you can use it

I ‘redeveloped’ the Rome Counties. I burned down Colchester, a London left tactically undefended  - on the Provincial Governor’s orders- and the old Catavellauni capital of St Albans.

My army got larger with every victory.

Procurator Decianus Catus, flogging off the forests, garden-grabbing the graves, making a killing in the City (lash) finds himself staring at the end of civitas as he knew it. Norfolk, the guardsvan of Roman history, ploughing my fleet pony and wickerwork chariot through the heart of London.
(sings, with punk Chorus)

There’s no future in your Roman dream

Your traffic lanes and your shopping schemes

Your soapless baths and your manly steam

The Iceni queen bee is making free

With your city.


He flees to Gaul, his smacked Roman backside smarting with the humiliation.

Now, as a summer dawn paints the ripening Iceni corn a battle-blood red,

I turn my attention to Provincial Governor Suetonius Paulinus…. (drum)

This seasoned professional soldier, marching hotfoot from his rout of Welsh tribes in the West, concentrates his army at a place never really identified but possibly near Fenny Stratford on Watling Street.

Despite my eloquent passion for annihilating every last Roman in Britain,

some of the tribes I had united beneath me now went home with their war loot, thinking enough had been done.

Tacitus, reporting me in the Latin of my conquerors 100 years later, gives me this speech.

‘We British are used to women commanders in war.

I speak to you not as an aristocrat but as a woman of the people.

A woman of yourselves.

Think how many of you there are, and why we are fighting.

Then you will win the battle, or die.

That is what I, a woman, plan to do – let the men live in slavery if they want.’

Suetonius chose a position in a narrow defile, protected from behind by forest

Sure that there would be no cover for ambushes.


(drum, sings with punk Chorus)

Boudicca Boudicca

There is no safe European home.

This is no vestal valium Rome.

Boudicca Boudicca (drum)

Aunt Sally (Suetonius):

‘Pay no attention to the noise and empty threats these savages make.

There are more women than soldiers in their ranks.

They are not warlike and they are badly armed.

The battledress is a birthday suit, pudenda covered only by woad. The infamous blood streaks in the lime bleached hair, ha...the juice of rowan berries.

When they see the weapons and courage of troops,

They will turn and run.

Keep the ranks. Throw your javelins. Strike with your shield bosses.

Then drive on.

After the second javelin,

Close ranks for the testudo.

[Chorus TESTUDO! ]

A giant... sword-jabbing... tortoise... formation,

A 6 deep, 4 square human armoured vehicle

Defensive and offensive,

Tightly shielded on all sides.

The nearest the Romans could get to a tank.

And our ‘tactics’?

Chorus: Heads and dugs will rock and roll (x3)…and Roman dudes will bleed.


My warriors, the customary male hordes swollen with raging women

Swarmed into the vice of the defile

And up towards that butcher’s yard of javelin volleys,

Every volley adding dead or javelin-struck Britons

To the labours of the lines behind

Maybe after they’d slithered through the first half dozen

Dead and writhing the passion for vengeance faded.

Then that Roman tank rolled forward and tin opened

The whole helpless throng of us against our wagon line.

The kids stopped watching Mam and Dad win the final dream victory

And became the meat in the sandwich of the final bloody screaming defeat.

All I had room left to do was chariot charge my own people….

Boudicca: (joined by Chorus on the refrain)

I am history, not myth, but remember

History is written by the victor

And I neither wrote nor won

No freedom, no future, no fun.


Rome had to win or risk the Empire,

Britain had to win or simply expire,

And with it the Western horizon,

No freedom, no future, no fun.


Procurator Decianus Catus

Spoke down his nose, spoke down his anus,

 (Aunt Sally) "The Emperor claims the dead king's kingdom"

(Chorus) No freedom, no future, no fun.


(Aunt Sally) "Our Roman matrons have a place too

In a civilised home: I could offer you

A place in mine: dresses, baths, decorum."

(Chorus)No freedom, no future, no fun.


I danced to the wardrums, warhooves, hornwhine,

Exhorting, as Romans were drilled into line,

My race to fling back the squares of London

(No freedom, no future, no fun.


Now my rebels hole up, where home is none,

On roots thin as hope and a dream of Britain

Hunted through nettles and thorns, their soles stung:

No freedom, no future, no fun.


My hard core Iceni's last stand and fall

Is the longest, fiercest, stubbornest of all

But is crushed - like flint - in The Battle of Thornham.

No freedom, no future, no fun.


Death-and-glory queens, country dragons:

(Become) Whores of fashion in Camolodunum,

In Roman roses our own scent gone.

No freedom, no future, no fun.


‘My salts that I sowed in the Squareheads' wounds

Return in a wash that will sour our lands.

I loosen my tongue on its poison:

I loosen my tongue on its freedom’


Because they could not find me, bury me, kill me

chain me to their story,

Drag my defeat through the streets of Rome.

That is why I can be your moon-white goddess walking between Celtic daughters in Cardiff,

Why I can ride that moving, oak-gracious

There-and-not-there at the heart of Government,

Iron coach to nowhere the Victorians invented for me in Whitehall, getting every single detail wrong and the spirit absolutely right

The mother of Britain giving the mother of battles

to the frontier cowboys of Nero.

Why I must have a statue here

in the heart of Icenia:

The maddened mother making a chariot stand

on the stolen innocence of her children,

The matriarch martyr dying for her people,

The great British rebel with a cause,

A Norfolk hero-tale, a wild, turning North Sea tide,

A woman






Chorus: ( the North Sea)

                                                                        (strophe) I am the sea

                                                                        and its deep sullen anger

                                                                        is my anger

                                                                        and its grey endless spaces

                                                                        are my spaces

                                                                        and its icy depths

                                                                        are mine

                                                                        I am the coast

                                                                        and its sticky glitter

                                                                        its sludge and seawrack

                                                                        its holiday oasis of bright blue and yello

                                                                        its seagulls and shallows

                                                                        are mine

                                                                       (antistrophe)  O but I am the sea

                                                                        and its monstrous swell

                                                                        its elephant surges

                                                                        its charge and retreat

                                                                        are mine
                                                                        I am the sea

                                                                        and its blind destruction       

                                                                        its timless sculptures

                                                                        are in my gift

                                                                        and its welling compassion

                                                                        is mine

                                                                        I am the sea

                                                                        and its rocks and rivers

                                                                        its wrecks and reelings

                                                                        its sharks and cockles

                                                                        are mine

                                                                        (epode) I am the whale

                                                                        that’s devouring the world

                                                                        I am the gull

                                                                        with wings of icecap

                                                                        I am the nimbus

                                                                        dissolving in thunder

                                                                        I am cold as death

                                                                        and quick as the morning

                                                                        blind as surf

                                                                        sharp-eyed as salt

                                                                        I am Neptune and Necros

                                                                        driftwood and bedrock

                                                                        I am every drop

                                                                        on its boundless adventure

                                                                        across Illusion

                                                                        I am the sea

                                                                        and my jeweled infinities

                                                                        are in each ripple

                                                                        and my boundless whims

                                                                        are in each droplet

                                                                        and my fathomless urges

                                                                        are in your blood.

The late 14C anchoress Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (another Aunt Sally) emerge from the Chorus

Nut Job in a Nutshell. Ye Page 3 interviews Mother Julian of Norwich.


Well, Julie-




Julian. Where do you see yourself in five years?




Why the bloke’s name? You after a bishopric?


Anchoresses don’t need names. St Julian’s is the name of my home-church.


So you get in here a lot, yeah?


I’m in here all the time. We’ve kind of grown together.


Nice. Like flint and mortar?


Like ship and anchor.


So are you going all the way with Norwich or are you looking for a move?


I’m not going anywhere.


Do you have a life? - I mean outside of church?


I never leave this cell.  And no-one’s allowed in.


Except a doctor of course?


No-one. I am beyond the grave already.


So how did you get into all this ‘Death and Dis-after Dante’ stuff? And how old were you?


Thirty and a half. I opened Death’s door and saw Christ’s blood trickling down from my Last Rite crucifix under the crown of thorns hot and fresh and right plenteously... like the drops of water that fall off the house’s eaves after a great shower of rain-


Can we nail it down to an exact place?


Norwich but not. Nazareth but not. Nowhere.


Norwich. Can we nail it down to an exact time?




3 pm.


May 8 1373.


May 11 1373. And you had this… double vision?


Sixteen visions.


In one day? Jesus! Will you be having any others?


God knows.


The same God who wanted you walled you up against the church with the burial service read over you?! Dead to the world!


But attached to it. My visions weren’t just for me but for everyone.


So what do you do with yourself in there all day?


Give counsel to visitors through this aperture. Meditate on the meaning of my visions. Write my book Revelations of Divine Love.


So what does Divine Love feel like? Nice?


(patiently) Like a thorn in God’s side.


Which side?


(pats left side) His female side.


Nice. And has God’s female side got a message for Page 3?


God said not, Thou shalt not be travailed, dis-eased

Tempested, just not be overcome. I saw Him

Shew into my mind a nut. And perceived

This is the reason we are not at ease

Of heart and soul, that we seek in this thing

That is so little, where no rest is in,

Its Maker, Who is very rest….Yet we

May run to Him (and all shall be well)

As a frightened child to its mother and he will lead us

By his open side to his blessed breast,

Bearing us on the Cross, giving birth to us,

The Father truly our Mother in Christ Jesus,

And all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.


Can we get a picture of the breast?       


          Somewhere mellow between


                               the end of the overblown blackberries




                               the start of the harvested leaves


          fused flies


                     on clinical sills


                               hint at bleached sun




          in the hedges


                               thistle winds to come.  


To eyes trained on histrionic heights,


                 this stubborn serenity,


                     these mediaeval colours




          endlessly reassuring:


a great grey blanket billowing unbroken from the North Pole,   


                     wild chords of geese in its folds;


                               the flinty, dependable noun


          behind mists of adjectives
 Margery Kempe  emerges from Chorus, the housewife-visionary of early 15C Bishop's Lynn. 'Mother Julian' plays the Aunt Sally role of Priest.

Margery of Lynn

Margery: It was not just my firstborn that issued from my womb. Hell followed after. Devils opening their mouths all alight with burning flames of fire, pawing at me, hauling me about both night and day. Until I saw Jesus. I said to Our Lady- Blessed are the breasts that Jesus sucked! And Our Lady smiled, Yes.

Priest: Which is precisely while you’ll never be a proper visionary like Mother Julian of Norwich. A maiden doesn’t labour the vagina, pontificate to the pontificates; put a pussy among the patriarchs. She has a wall around her; sits peacefully behind it, serves her community; counsels, comforts; follows doctrine-

Margery: Julian’s Jesus was a woman! He ‘gives suck as a mother to her young’ – ‘bears us on the Cross’. She doesn’t even believe in evil. Or the Trinity!

Priest:  (at Margery) Heresy!

Margery: You’re calling Julian of Norwich a heretic?!

Priest: No, you for saying so. (vexed) It doesn’t sound like heresy when Julian says it.

Margery: I didn’t say it. I’m -

Priest: A steeple-stalker, a Bishop botherer! A monk manqué in a housewife’s body.  Seeing Jesus in a marriage bed. Hearing the Holy Ghost in a common or garden robin. A heretic.

Margery: What?! I live for Orthodoxy, (weeping at the thought of this) the Crucifix, Images of Holiness, Pilgrimage, the Seven Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance, Orders, Unction and… (she’s forgotten one)

Priest: (supplying it) Marriage. (vexed) And you make orthodoxy roar like heresy.

Margery: (weeps)

Priest: And your holy roaring is the devil!

Priest reverts to a woman and joins with Margery in singing:

Margery:       The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear.

I bend my will to holy men

Confessors, clerks and seers

Yet drown their prayers and sermons in

A Noah’s Flood of tears-

I take Christ to my marriage bed

As chaste as any maiden

A love-struck Mary Magdalene

Face to face with heaven

And kiss him sweetly on the mouth

His head and darling feet,

And wash away my sins with tears

That heaven and earth should meet.

This Book I weep in blood

Up from the heart’s deep well

Would drown the earth in heaven tears

And church the tongues of hell.

The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear.

I weep at every sacrament,

At every human sin,

At holy nails and blood and Cross

And lepers’ suffering.

I cry more loud than heart, or ear,

Can bear, at such a loss:

My Holy Husband, Son and Ghost,

In agony on the Cross.

Though York’s Archbishop damn my tears

As Lollard-work or Devil’s

The anchoress of Norwich says

‘They do the work of angels.

‘The Devil has no power where

Contrition and compassion

Weep humbly from a homely heart

In agonies of passion.’

This Book I weep in blood

Up from the heart’s deep well

Would drown the earth in heaven tears

And church the tongues of hell

The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear.

Each babe in arms this creature sees

Is Christ the child to me

And every handsome man in Rome,

Is Jesus on the tree.

God sails my soul to Holy Lands

Through world and priestly storm

And tunes the bellows in my ear

Into a robin’s song.

And if your Table hates my noise,

I’ll pray or dine alone

Where Mother Mary homely says

 ‘Sweet, make yourself at home.

‘Lend Martha there a hand to sweep

The hearth and tend the vine

And give my baby Jesus suck

And serve this bread and wine.

This Book I weep in blood

Up from the heart’s deep well

Would drown the earth in heaven tears

And church the tongues of hell- 

The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear.

For long ago I sinned a sin

That’s never been confessed,

-Except to God - a Lollard sin

To hold it in my breast.

And though unworldly now I seem

And lost in visions quite

I brewed, had fourteen babes, before

I dressed in virgin white.

And cut a dash through Bishop’s Lynn

Proud daughter of its Mayor,

My cloaks with modish tippets slashed,

And gold pipes in my hair

Till hearing heaven’s Song of Songs

I shunned the gutter’s ooze

‘And though you rule me, husband, priest,

A single life I choose.’ 

This Book I weep in blood

Up from the heart’s deep well

Would drown the earth in heaven tears

And church the tongues of hell- 

The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear.

You chambered me, then ceased, and now

You fall and break your head

Where gossips say my separate life

Is leaving you for dead.

How fallen is the flesh I wed

And bred with, kissed and urged

That now discharges old man waste

So flesh by flesh is purged

Yet flesh of flesh, I wife and nurse

The once-young parts I craved

With hands more faithful than my youth’s

Temptations had depraved.

And every pilgrim step I trudged

From wedlock’s grave mundane

And churchman’s plot, was heaven-winged

By doves that sang God’s name...

This Book I weep in blood

Up from the heart’s deep well

Would drown the earth in heaven tears

And church the tongues of hell- 

The Prick of Love is in my heart,

A bellows in my ear

And love enflames another part

They cannot see or hear. (exeunt) 

Re-enter fourth actor as Anne Boleyn
Anne Boleyn of Blickling Hall

ANNE               (in her pomp as queen of the hive ) The queen bee must provide an heir to the colony in earnest and lead the dance of the hive in the game of courtly love.  Like the king, I flirt with everyone but in earnest I am faithful. (darker, privately). Unlike the King.


ANNE               How quickly it changes. God blessed Jane Seymour with a son and killed her with Tudor surgery 12 days later.   Four short months ago, Henry and I wore yellow to celebrate Catherine’s death and he stroked my pregnant belly. And waking beside him the next day, the terrible truth dawned: with Catherine gone, he no longer needed me. (holds empty womb) Then my last best hope miscarried.   When he came to me at Easter, he was already gone. At the May jousts, as I Queened it for the third and last time, six gentlemen and pages were arrested for plots against the king and carnal knowledge of me. Including you, Tom, Esquire of the Body and master of mine long before Henry knew it. They will let you go, after watching me die: you have Cromwell as your pillar. They wracked confessions from the others. Yesterday, on the scaffold, my brother Rochford, also accused of being my lover,  said: “From my mishap learn not to set your thoughts upon the vanities of the world, and least of all upon the flatteries of the court. The higher we rise, the harder we fall.” Keep your head down, Tom, lest you lose it.


Anne.................All six of my ‘lovers’ died confessing their sins, though not the ‘sin’ they were executed for.  Here today, dead tomorrow, I swore on the sacrament, that I am pure. Shall I die without justice? I asked and the lieutenant said the poorest suggest the king hath, hath justice. And I laughed. A dying old Lady of the  bedchamber whom I never meant to offend, Lady Wingfield, called me a whore on her deathbed. She told our young love story, Tom, as if it were happening now.  Blame the Duke of Suffolk, my sworn enemy, for your arrest: the Wingfield family are his clients.  I am 29, too young to die, guilty of nothing but youth. I indulged ‘pastime in the queen’s chamber’ giggled at tales of the king’s impotence. Henry said I was unfaithful with a hundred men and this last six no worse than the rest. Truer than he meant.

ANNE               Why would Henry kill six adulterers to destroy me when one would do? That was the Seymours, annihilating the competition. Jane Seymour – by refusing him hers - had his lips; her faction his ears. I felt his jousting fall deep in my heart. It cost me the baby. A boy. The court flew from my weakness. I refused to smile on Henry’s affairs.  She showed ‘gentleness’ in this, I ‘cursedness’ – like Catherine. Bad move. They say Henry never spared a man his fury or a woman his lust. And that his hand pulled the strings of the English Reformation. But I know his hand.  It lures, ignores, manipulates, leads, abandons.

Pause. She is thinking of Henry leaving her.

ANNE                It’s his other hand you’ve got to watch, the one stroking a pregnant belly. The world he imagined he made real:  plots everywhere, the strong to his side, or his bed, the weak to the scaffold.  The only defence is to counter-attack first, like Thomas Cromwell. We Boleyns  were too slow. I watched my brother hanged, drawn and quartered, spilling the guts he’d shown before.  This morning, I will ‘be beheaded or burned at the king’s pleasure.’ All the pleasure I once gave Henry’s body has won me this mercy: a blade instead of the flames. The king never had my heart, he says, and he will have my clever head on its stiff Protestant neck for it, while Norfolk my accuser blooms like a rose in June, all the offices, grants and honours in the world vouchsafed  by that one failsafe: royal favour. Tom, you had my fickle heart once and kissed my neck like you meant it, praising its yielding softness. Pray for that softness now.

(Music: a minstrel sings) 

I stole to the door of Blickling Hall

On the nineteenth night of May

And met the ghost of Anne Boleyn

Shining bright as day.

Six headless horses drew her coach

A headless coachman drove,

‘Give them their head!’ she laughed, then turned

On me her look of love.

‘Oh lordly, learnéd, manly face

Where force and beauty meet

Oh sport, debate and war with me:

Renaissance man complete.

I sought you once, who later flew,

I stalked you in your chamber

With night gown slipping from my arms

Before my lips spelled danger.

How like you this? I whispered then

And kissed you wild and free

As blood-red roses, soft and sweet,

Before the King took me.

I lost my head for the rose of the world

And the rose withered on the thorn,

A hunted hind whose fickle heart

Died for the loudest horn.’


Her white hands stole around my neck,

I screamed with stolen breath

‘O save me from this dreadful witch

And a fate much worse than Death!’

Her Lutheran brow as bright as the moon

A smile like the blossom of May

Her hair raven-black but her lovely head

Twisted the other way.

Her neck of worm-picked bones was ringed

With a bloody royal band

Engraved ‘I am Caesar’s’ in diamonds chaste,

And King’s gold on her hand.

‘I am wild to hold, though I seem so tame,

More fair than mortals can say

And I sold my heart for a worldly crown

And I’ll take your breath away.’

‘I am not your True Thomas!’ I cried in dread.

And her witch face turned away

‘Ah! You’ve named the angel who guards my grave

I can no longer stay.

I lost my head for the rose of the world

And the rose withered on the thorn

A hunted hind whose fickle heart

Spiked the largest horn.

Enter fifth actor as Fanny Burney.

Fanny Burney

'I remember well that, when I was preparing....I had such an idea I should undergo an examination and I was fearful of some wry question that might discountenance me, that I learnt nearly the whole common prayer book by heart! - Besides reading the Bible quite through three times! I was so indefatigable, I rose to nothing else; and never went to rest while I could procure light for my labours. … (and) after all this hard work - the fat clumsy stumpy worthy Bishop of Norwich clapt his hand upon my head, and off it, as fast as he possibly could, and never made a single interrogatory, nor uttered a single doubt or demur upon my fitness or unfitness for his blessing.'


‘I offered some few words in favour of my poor abused town the land of my nativity - of the world’s happiness – we discoursed a little time and Hetty suddenly cried out ‘Hush hush, Mama’s in the next room. If she hears us we two will be whipt. And Fanny will have a sugar plumb’ ‘Aye cried Maria tis her defending Lynn which makes Mama (Fanny’s stepmother, Mrs Allen, Lynn born and bred) so fond.’  


Let’s have a line for the Lynn literati,

Poetry was born here – and autobiography

But who’s that shy creature with Geoffrey and Margery?

It’s Charles Burney’s novel-bearing little daughter Fanny!


The high-spirited teenage girl

‘Confirmed’ by a stumpy

Fathead Bishop of Norwich

Holy as Humpty Dumpty,


Loved her ‘poor abused town,

The land of her nativity’

With a sugar plumb tongue

That would flay the great city:


This child of Lynn St Margaret’s

Vicarage garden cabin

Is grandmother to the Novel

Received from Jane Austen.


This shy ‘little’ Burney,

Turned the gentlemen pale,

Johnson called her a ‘toadling’

With poison in her tale.


Let’s have a line for the Lynn literati,

Poetry was born here – and autobiography

But who’s that shy creature with Geoffrey and Margery?

It’s Charles Burney’s novel-bearing little daughter Fanny!


From Toads in the Halls

Of her riverside Lynn -

Harpies amid the harpsichords -

To High Society and Sin


Up the Ladder of Charlotte’s Robes

And those Blue Stocking works,

Joshing the Georgians with Johnstons,

Garricks, Montagus and… Burkes


Of bad manners and bad hearts,

Of a King completely mad,

Her tongue lashing down

Between the ingénue and cad.


This sly ‘little’ lady

‘Pretending to know nothing’

Cracked a whip of a tale

And each with a sting.


Let’s have a line for the Lynn literati,

Poetry was born here – and autobiography

But who’s that shy creature with Geoffrey and Margery?

It’s Charles Burney’s novel-bearing little daughter Fanny!


Her arms so much more gentle

Than Madame Guillotine

Love-Napoleoned by a General

Of the Ancien Regime,


Her eye and ear much sharper,

Her well-cut stories fit

Of the innocent youthful Eve

Blessed with beauty and wit


Falling through Society

And aching adversity

To Higher Degrees of Love

At the Heart’s University


While her creator took tea

With the gossip and the coquette

And endured the small talk

And the paralysing etiquette.


Let’s have a line for the Lynn literati,

Poetry was born here – and autobiography

But who’s that shy creature with Geoffrey and Margery?

It’s Charles Burney’s novel-bearing little daughter Fanny!


And when a ‘dreadful’ French blade

Plunged into her breast’s

Unaesthetised arteries,

Veins, nerves and flesh


And sent the balls of her eyes

Into white cheeks indented

And blood-sprayed Napoleon’s surgeon

As she courteously fainted


And they – needlessly - told her

‘Madame, do not restrain

The cries’ the twenty minute scream,

The described indescribable pain….


There, where Shelley’s monster genre

Ran out of breath,

Her irony in the soul survived

The romantic death.


Let’s have a line for the Lynn literati,

Poetry was born here – and autobiography

But who’s that shy creature with Geoffrey and Margery?

It’s Charles Burney’s novel-bearing little daughter Fanny!






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