Trinity Fellow, Dr Joe Moshenska’s life of seventeenth-century adventurer and polymath, Sir Kenelm Digby, has been shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for biography.
A Stain in the Blood is one of four biographies shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prizes, Britain’s oldest literary awards, which are made annually by the University of Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures.
Edinburgh academics and postgraduate students read more than 400 books to nominate works published the previous year, in two categories, fiction and biography. In 2013, an award for the best original play written in English, Scots or Gaelic was added to the James Tait Black Prizes, which were established in 1919.
Dr Moshenska, who is a Director of Studies in English at Trinity, spent six years researching and writing the biography of Sir Kenelm Digby, who kept appearing in the ‘margins of other, more famous people’s stories’ during his research.
Digby was a multi-talented gentleman with an unquenchable curiosity about the world – and gusto for its cuisines. His adventurousness and magnetism charmed most people he met on his extensive travels, during which he sampled – and learnt how to cook – many local delicacies.
He was also fascinated by alchemy, turning his Covent Garden dwelling into a kitchen-cum-laboratory. Digby was also a writer, documenting his unusual exploits in great detail.
Dr Moshenska’s biography is experimental – it focuses on a particular period from Digby’s life, his voyage around the Mediterranean in 1628 – and interweaves new archival discoveries with the account of his own life that Digby wrote on a Greek island in May of that year. Dr Moshenska said:
From the minute that I first encountered Kenelm Digby, I felt that his story was too good just to tell to other academics. His amazingly rich life seemed to capture everything that excited me about the seventeenth century, and to offer the perfect opportunity to bring my excitement to as wide an audience as possible.
The James Tait Black Prizes will be announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on 14 August 2017.