In 1618, the influential poet and dramatist set off on a 450-mile, 71-day trek from London to Edinburgh.
Now, researchers from the universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham are taking to Twitter, Facebook and their own blog to post highlights from the journey – which ran from 8 July to 5 October - in “real-time”.
Their updates will be based on an account of the journey by an anonymous travelling companion of Jonson, which was discovered by James Loxley, a professor in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, in 2009.
Jonson’s own account of his voyage was destroyed in a fire before it could be circulated, but the anonymous journal, found in the Aldersey collection of family papers in Chester, sheds light on the travellers’ route, how long it took, and who they met along the way.
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 the early Stuart period in 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,” Professor Loxley said. “We’d be delighted if anyone wanted to join us for the virtual recreation – walking boots will not be necessary.”
If the project’s Twitter feed (@BenJonsonsWalk) is to be believed, the Jacobean writer is deep in preparation for his adventure. “Ben Jonson is on a short break before he sets off on his epic walk next Monday, with a last minute dash to the Bodleian for some extra info,” said an update earlier this week.
To follow Jonson’s progress, visit the project’s blog.