Professor Ronald Hutton of Bristol University presents our new course on merriment in Britain, writes Tom Hodgkinson
As you know, the Idler is all about slowing down, having fun and living well, or what you might more grandly call philosophy, merriment and husbandry. Everything we do, whether it’s our magazine, academy, events, festivals or dinners is informed by this simple approach to life. That’s why we were so pleased to engage the services of Professor Ronald Hutton, probably the world’s foremost scholar of merriment, to present our latest online course, The Seasonal Festivals of Britain.
Across four brilliant lectures, Prof Hutton examines the history and development of Christmas, Easter, Guy Fawkes Day, May Day, Halloween and all the many opportunities for fun and feasting that break up the British calendar. He also looks at the various attacks on merriment over the years, most notably by the Puritans in the 17th century, who famously banned Christmas and took down thousands of maypoles, as they considered both customs to be hopelessly pagan, Popish, sinful and far too enjoyable.
I devoured two of Prof Hutton’s books, The Rise and Fall of Merry England and Stations of the Sun as part of my research for my own books, and went to interview him some years ago for the Idler. I’d been tipped off about his genius by two former students of his who wrote to me out of the blue to say I should see him. He is a brilliantly concise, witty and eccentric speaker who is in complete charge of his subject, and it’s an honour to present his course.
As well as presenting our new online course, Prof Hutton is our guest on “A Drink with the Idler” next Thursday, 17 December, when he’ll be talking about the trials and triumphs of that most enduring of festivals, Christmas. I look forward to seeing you there. Click here to join us.