"It is laborious, slow, often painful, sometimes agony. It means rearrangment, revision, adding, cutting, rewriting. But it brings a sense of excitement, almost of rapture; a moment on Olympus. In short is an act of creation."

Said Barbara Tuchman, great popular historian. She certainly got the first part right. The downside of novice blogging is that the pain and agony is shared right away. The upside is that by the time any readership is built up the agony post may be so far down only the author ever needs to know it's there.

There are more than 700 letters written between Margherita and Francesco. I am translating each of them; on a bad day it feels completely useless, a frivolous waste of time, when I could be back as a corporate contender. On a good day, I pick up such a human nuance in what they tell each other about their days. Margherita on 16 March, 1397:

When you go to the Lenten service, pray God for me, who since you left has not been outside the house, and who is sadder than when you left two weeks ago and with a cold in the head.

I don't want to do anything else but to disinter these traces of basic human feeling, make them real, make them seem like something you would know and care about today. I want to do nothing else but make the places they lived echo in your minds, and cast ghostly reminders of the smell of the place around your home. I want you to be able to feel the frisson of alarm that Margherita feels when she hears that the road to Prato is "teeming with brigands", and Franceso bids her make sure that Nannino sleeps by the gate to the house, with a lamp at his side.

Most of my attempts have not leapt off the page. Those are the sad days, but when I have the whole story laid out in their own words, perhaps my friends will dictate the rest.


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