The closer I come to the job market, the more I worry about how I’m going to make money with the whole medievalist thing. With Mel Gibson’s current troubles, it’s unlikely he’s going to sign me on as a continuity consultant for Braveheart II: Even Braver Heart, so there goes my backup plan.
The closest that I’ve come so far, excepting the two fabulous gifts my blog has garnered, was a few months back. A college pal who works in advertising sent me an email out of the blue asking if I could provide him with a recording and a phonetic guide to pronouncing the first and last twenty lines or so of Beowulf. I did, and he took me and my wife out for a nice dinner last week at a trendy Thai place to repay the favor.* I didn’t see the check, but I estimate my take was somewhere around $100/hour of reading Beowulf,** rates that even Seamus Heaney has a hard time matching. It would be comforting, if I didn’t have to take all my earnings from medievalism in the form of yarn hats, books, and Garlic Pepper Beef. I don’t think future landlords will look as highly on these as methods of payment.
You’re probably wondering why my advertising friend needed some Beowulf read into a plastic Snap, Crackle, and Pop microphone,*** and that is because I have mastered the narrative art of delaying information to build interest. He was pitching an ad to Universal Studios that ran along the lines of “here’s some crappy idea that a parent thinks would be a good idea for a family vacation… but they should have gone to Universal instead.” Taking the kids to see a reading of Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon was going to be one of those ideas. It lost out to taking the kids skydiving against their will, but I think the whole line eventually got scrapped. If you’d like to see more of this friend’s work, go to his website.
This same friend also does the advertising thing also works on Capital One’s No Hassles campaign, the one that features the Visigoths, and maybe he’ll need me to read some of Walter Goffart’s Narrators of Barbarian History into my microphone, but I’m not holding my breath.
I was glad to find out that somebody else is making money on medieval things, in this case obscure medieval laws.***** According to the Times of London, a company named ChancelCheck is making at least £11.75 a pop using GPS technology and ancient parish records to determine whether property is susceptible to chancel repair liablilty. According to the article:
Chancel repair liability is a legal leftover from the Middle Ages that enables some parishes to call upon owners of properties on former church or glebe land to fund repairs to their church buildings. Many parishes gave up or sold this right over the centuries, but up to 5,000 may still be able to claim it.
This is a terribly pressing burden for homeowners, since, according the ChancelCheck’s own website, at least 3 parishes have won settlements against unwitting glebe land holders in the last ten years. It sounds like total snake oil to me, but I would never say so, because Britain has some darn liberal libel laws, and I just can’t afford to give any of my Garlic Pepper Beef to the folks at ChancelCheck.
Obscure medieval laws are a double-edged sword, however. They can give you 12 quid per dupe–I mean, per well-serviced customer, sure, but they can also shut down your seized car auction, as Mr. Helliwell of Wakefield discovered. According to the Leeds Today article, the Wakefield Council invoked a royal charter, which granted the town exclusive market rights, banning any rival markets within 6 and 2/3 miles of the city’s markets. It may or may not date to 1204, when King John first set up their maket rights.
When asked for comment, the disgruntled car auctioneer played the cliche card, saying, “This law was made when people were still riding around on horses and fighting each other with swords… It seems that the council is still intent on living in the dark ages.” He’s right, I guess. It’s a well known fact that people on horses make horrible financial decisions. And studies at the University of Wyoming have revealed that common sense decreases as an exponential function of the proximity of swords. It probably has nothing to do with a city government wanting to shut down an obnoxious event where people bid on cars acquired by shafting others.
So there’s hope for me yet. So long as I carry a sword and hang out at equestrian events when I try to sell people on the Organic Medieval Diet (now with 25% more purgatives!).
*I know it was trendy, because at the table across from us there was a girl wearing a top hat and a bustier, and yet there was no magician or mesmerist anywhere near her. There was, however, another girl at the same table who had combed her hair all in one direction (and not the direction you’d think). Hipsters.
**I think I may be the first man in history to have read Beowulf into a plastic Snap, Crackle, and Pop microphone (which I got for two box tops plus shipping and handling). I’m considering mentioning this fact on my C.V.
***Those of you who read the footnotes, that is. The rest of you have no clue how cool a microphone I have for my computer and were completely thrown by the reference. That is OK, because you probably thought that I was using the comedic art of disjunctive juxtapositon, whereby a non sequiter is placed within mundane text for humorous effect.****
****Yeah, you’re right, that last joke was too meta for my own good. My head hurts, too.
*****That is, someone other than my Swedish DGS, who got a MacArthur “genius grant” for his work on Gratian’s Decretum. That’s something like $1000 per dictum.