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Writing Family History: The Sidneys of Penshurst


To book email or phone 03000 420673. 

What happens when we write? Join us and celebrate how writing can shape our identities, our relationships and our destinies across time and space. Discover the hidden literary history of Penshurst Place in rural Kent, home to the Sidneys - a remarkable family where women as well as men wrote letters, poems and plays in the age of Shakespeare.

Their unique manuscripts, which will be on display for the day, provide inspiring examples of male and female agency, creativity and diplomatic engagement that speak to us to this day. Exhibition boards and informal talks by Professor Alison Findlay and Dr Sarah Wolfson will help you read the Sidney manuscripts, and understand what they teach us about our relationships with our own feelings, with family, with power and with the natural environment. The manuscripts also cast new light on the work of Shakespeare, the (male) writer at the centre of so many exams.

Learn how to read the Sidneys' various hands, see the very paper on which they wrote, and discover a magnificent early map of the Penshurst estate, where nature has been carefully constructed. You will also be able to watch an online screening of Lady Mary Wroth's play ‘Love's Victory’ (1617), performed and filmed at Penshurst Place. Calligraphy workshops will give you direct experience of how it felt to write as the Sidneys or Shakespeare did; using quills and ink.

Careful handwriting is not just a technique for passing exams, but a labour of love for the addressee. It requires care and reflection, and fosters social skills which, arguably, need reviving in our contemporary world dominated by texts, emails and instantly consumable or disposable forms of communication. 


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Kent History and Library Centre, James Whatman Way, Maidstone, Maidstone, Kent, MF14 1LQ
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