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Twitter recreates epic literary trek

A mammoth journey undertaken on foot by playwright Ben Jonson more than 400 years ago is being recreated using social media.

Recreating an adventure

Scholars from Edinburgh and Nottingham are using Twitter, Facebook and a blog to recreate the adventure using extracts from the account of his journey from London to Edinburgh.

The influential poet and dramatist - a favourite of King James VI and I and friend to William Shakespeare - set out on his 71-day trek in July 1618.

Scholars will link diary extracts to the places he visited and the people he encountered on the way.

Daily tracking

They will recreate his daily itinerary in real time drawing from events in the account, which runs from 8 July to 5 October.

Researchers will highlight some of the many places and historic sites mentioned along the 450-mile route. These will include inns that are still in business today and properties now looked after by English Heritage, Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland.

‘Treasure trove’ discovered

Ben Jonson wrote an account of his ‘foot voyage’ shortly after his return from Edinburgh in 1619.

This work was destroyed in a fire before it could be circulated or printed, and the particulars of the expedition - his route, how long it took him, who he met along the way - were lost.

In 2009, however, Professor James Loxley discovered a narrative of the voyage in the Aldersey collection of family papers in Chester, apparently penned by an anonymous travelling companion of Jonson.

Researchers say his 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.

Jonson’s long walk was a big public event – lots of people accompanied him for short spells along the way, and crowds turned out to greet him at the towns he visited. We’d be delighted if anyone wanted to join us for the virtual recreation – walking boots will not be necessary!

James LoxleyProfessor of Early Modern Literature

Related Links

Blog - Ben Jonson's Walk

Twitter page - Ben Jonson's Walk

Facebook page - Ben Jonson's Walk

School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures