‘The Whole Life & Death of Long Meg of Westminster’ by Anonymous

One of England’s leading pre-novel genres was what might be called the bio-jestbook, aspects of which survive post-novel in theatrical memoirs and Twitter threads of celebrity anecdotes. Humor is a dish best served fresh and locovore, and few bio-jestbooks appeal to contemporary taste. I’d follow a character as appealing as Long Meg anywhere, though. Why quarrel with the script of ‘The Big Lebowski’ when you can simply enjoy Jeff Bridges?

The earliest facsimile I’ve found of ‘The Life and Pranks of Long Meg of Westminster’ was printed around 1635 but we’re told derives from an 1582 edition. Its prose is as overpadded as an Elizabethan codpiece and some of its jests sound suspiciously transplantable. I prefer the brisk eighteenth-century chapbook condensation, almost a synopsis, available online here.

Despite the title’s come-on, a death goes unrecorded. Long Meg abides. It’s possible, even likely, that she eventually made her way to the Bronx and bumped into young Joanna Russ, but who’s to say?

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