Writing Wallis Budge

I wrote Wallis Budge: Magic and Mummies in London and Cairo, in my own time, since I was not an academic and writing books was not part of my work as a librarian at the American University in Cairo. I was just very enthusiastic about historical research and writing after my nearly ten years in graduate school and the book was thus mostly a labor of love. One thing I wanted very much for Wallis Budge was that the writing should be both scholarly and readable, and thus the writing was not just a formality of "writing up the results" of the research, but a labor of further love. Some have commented that Wallis Budge reads rather like a Victorian novel, which to someone who loves Anthony Trollope and William Makepeace Thackeray as much as I do, is quite a compliment.


Islamic Cairo, a photo which I believe I took from a Mamluk mosque.


Most of the writing and research for the book actually took place in Cairo from about 4:30 AM to 7:00 AM in the morning--the time I made to write before catching the bus to work at AUC. The archival research involved two extended trips to London and Oxford, working mostly in the British Museum and the British Library, as well at Oxford University, but some archives also sent me copies of Budge's letters for a fee. I'll never forget the very generous help of the Cornwall Family History Society, who did a thorough scan of their records which helped tremendously with my understanding of Budge's early life.


Writing can be rather isolating, so it was always a pleasure to meet interesting people and to see interesting places while I was writing Wallis Budge, both in London and Cairo. Wandering around the old city of Cairo, strolling through ancient mosques and markets, practicing my wretched Arabic with very patient Egyptians, taking in the life and energy of the city, all no doubt contributed to my own sense of what it was like for Budge when he arrived in Egypt in the 1880s. Indeed, working in the British Museum and wandering through Bloomsbury and central London were also very important to gaining a sense of what Budge's life was like in the late Victorian and Edwardian periods.


The years of writing and research in my spare time left me rather exhausted by the time I had published the first edition of Wallis Budge in 2011. When I recently published the revised edition of the book, in 2021, about 20 years after beginning the research for the book, I was astonished anew at my own earlier energy! I could never work that hard again.

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