In July 1618, Ben Jonson set out to walk the 400 miles from London to Edinburgh.
His ‘foot voyage’ has long been thought one of the more striking episodes in a sumptuously colourful life, and Jonson wrote his own account of the journey shortly after his return in 1619. This work was subsequently destroyed in a fire before it could be circulated or printed, and the particulars of the expedition - his route, how long it took him, whom he met with along the way - have been lost ever since.
In 2009, however, James Loxley discovered a narrative of the voyage in the Aldersey collection of family papers in Chester Archives, apparently penned by Jonson’s hitherto unsuspected, and still anonymous, travelling companion. This account is a treasure trove of detail not only for students of Jonson but also for anyone with an interest in the cultural history of early Stuart Britain.
This project, generously supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, will bring an edited and fully annotated text of the account into public view for the first time.
This article was published on May 31, 2011