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The Lady of Shallot

What an interesting weekend I have had. Full of creativity and activity. I also found a new muse within myself - The Lady of Shallot - and I have no idea where she came from, but it seems as though she's been waiting to be acknowledged for quite some time. I rather like Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade and In Memoriam, but I never read, as far as I'm aware, his Lady of Shallot. Ysterday, though, I was in Waterstones, mooching around the reference section, and looking down at me was a large OED, and on the cover was The Lady of Shallot, the Waterhouse image. The painting of the lady in the boat is something I'm very familiar with as I always make a bee-line for the pre-raph section in Tate Britain, but the other pictures in the series, especially 'I am half-sick of Shadows, said the Lady of Shallot' is also highly significant. When I returned home I was continuing to read up on Jung and his notion of the archetypes, in particular that of the goddess, and I remembered the image and went to my book of Victorian verse and read through Tennyson's poem, and it felt so incredibly significant, on so many levels, especially because of its significance to women writers/artists needing their own space. Anyway. I'm putting it down to a number of things - it's where I'm at - I'm knee deep in trying to shine a light on the life of Mary Burns, who has remained thus far very much in the shadows, and thrashing about in the Victorian era so it makes sense that my subconscious would be playing with this stuff. It's also significant that I have recognised my own inner goddess, call it what you will, just this weekend, after what has been a half difficult week. Back to Mary Burns!

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On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

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