Mary Wellesley

Mary Wellesley’s Hidden Hands was published in 2021.

On the Nightingale

Mary Wellesley, 6 June 2024

We walked​ in the darkness beneath beeches and hornbeams until, suddenly, we heard the sound of birdsong, an ethereal noise, a sound associated with daytime. What bird would sing the song of day two hours after dusk? Only a creature of myth, a night-singer, the nihtegala – from the Old English nihte and galan, to sing, call, enchant.

For thousands of years this night-singer’s song...

Hayward of the Dale: Gurle Talk

Mary Wellesley, 4 April 2024

When​ my daughter began to talk about her body and the bodies of others, I wondered what word we should use for female genitals. I had been taught the term ‘front-bottom’ as a child. Very little needs to be said here about how stupid this is. My husband and I opted instead for ‘vulva’. It’s functional, but it does sound strange in certain contexts. My daughter...

Detail of Botticelli’s ‘St Francis with Angels’

While travelling​ between Cannara and Bevagna, around the year 1200, St Francis saw a ‘great multitude’ of birds in the trees at the side of the road. He told his companions to wait while he went to ‘preach the good news to my little sisters, the birds, over there’. On hearing his sermon, the birds...

At the British Museum: ‘Feminine Power’

Mary Wellesley, 22 September 2022

The poster image​ for the British Museum’s Feminine Power exhibition (until 25 September) is a bronze sculpture, Lilith (1994), by the American artist Kiki Smith. Cast from the body of a real woman, this Lilith is a rich, dark bronze, with disarming, pale blue glass eyes. She is crouched on all fours, her head turned to one side, and positioned high up on the gallery wall. Her anatomy...

From The Blog
10 June 2022

The first uses of the verb crave in English are in legal and quasi-legal contexts – to crave was to demand a thing, or to issue a summons, requiring the presence of a person at a tribunal. Pregnancy cravings are a summons issued by the mind. Expecting my second child, I find myself thinking, over the course of an hour’s car journey, about the salty tang of tuna and capers, or the crunch of toast laden with a buttered ooze of marmite, topped with a slice of cucumber. As though rolling a boiled sweet around in my mouth, I roll imagined tastes around, sampling them from every angle, first bite, first chew, first swallow.

Saint Boniface used a manuscript to shield himself when attacked by robbers; the slashes it suffered make it a relic of his martyrdom. Pages of many books are marred by dirty fingerprints, wine stains...

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