On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff
A BOOK is a wonderful gift, often because of unexpected things to which it leads. Georgina, a dear English friend, gifted us with a book that, according to its cover blurb, is “a compendium of facts and anecdotes that offers an exciting new kind of guide to England.”
Georgina couldn’t have known how personal a gift this book turned out to be. We met her parents, when Georgina was about five, through Innes Ireland (www.wp.me/p2ETap-14Y, www.wp.me/p2ETap-19f). Georgina’s mother was Innes’s secretary and another reason our visits to England were so pleasurable. And Innes, in turn, knew James Clavell, author of Shōgun.
By chance, I happened to open I Never Knew That About England to what struck me as an odd illustration, that of Osaka Castle.
Then I learned about the castle’s tie to England, the town of Gillingham, Kent, about 40 miles east-southeast of London. A “smart stone clock tower,” the books describes, is raised there in the memory of Will Adams, the first Englishman to reach Japan and the inspiration for James Clavell’s novel.
Will Adams, prototype for the main character in Shōgun, was born in Gillingham in 1564. He became an accomplished ship’s pilot and navigator serving in the Royal Navy under Sir Francis Drake.
In 1598, Will set out as the pilot of six Dutch ships intent on exploring the Far East. Only one reached Japan, in 1600, with Adams and 23 crew members the only survivors who were initially imprisoned in Osaka Castle.
Their fortunes varied, though Will soon gained the confidence of Japan’s first shōgun, Tokugawa Ieyasu (www.wp.me/p2ETap-GZ). In fact, Will became known as Anjin-Sama (honorable pilot).
Together with the memorial in Gillingham, England, there are others in Nagasaki, Japan, where Will Adams is buried; in the town of Itō, on Japan’s Izu Peninsula; and in Tokyo’s Nihonbashi, where he had a townhouse in a neighborhood that’s now named Anjin-Chō in his honor. I’ve paid homage to the one in Itō, a strikingly modern memorial (http://goo.gl/bMiTbx).
Georgina’s gift book opens easily to another page, this one concerning Berkshire, no surprise because she and her family live there. Indeed, Georgina offered a personal inscription.
What was originally a 13th-Century Augustine priory evolved into the country house of Elizabeth Montagu (1720-1800). She hosted her lady friends with regular literary meetings in which well-known thinkers and writers were invited to speak.
One of these was publisher Dr. Benjamin Stillingfleet, who became a favorite known for his wit. Impecunious and unable to afford formal black stockings, de rigueur for the day, Dr. Stillingfleet was allowed to attend in informal day wear, which included blue worsted stockings.
The term “bluestocking” came to refer to any informal gathering that emphasized conversation over mere fashion. Today, it appears in other languages as well: German Blaustrumpf, Dutch blauwkous, French bas-bleu. It has evolved to describe any learned woman—just like Georgina, who attended Sandleford Priory, now St. Gabriel’s girls school. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013