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12 Excellent Lyrical Annotations from Hamilton: The Revolution

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After months of waiting, Hamilton: The Revolution—or, as fans call it, the #Hamiltome—finally hit stories today. The book, co-written by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, traces the creation of the groundbreaking Broadway musical chronologically, from its inception on vacation to its opening night, and features annotations to the libretto written by Miranda himself. Through the informative and often delightful annotations, Miranda not only fact checks his work and explores how he felt writing the songs, but demonstrates how Hamilton changed over time. Here are a few of our favorites.


There would have been nothing left to do
For someone less astute
He woulda been dead or destitute
Without a cent or restitution …

It famously took Miranda a year to write Hamilton’s opening number, which compresses the protagonist’s first 19 years into a single song. Midway through, “We double the tempo … because Hamilton’s found his way out: He’s going to double down on his education, and make himself undeniable,” Miranda writes. “The image in my head is of Harry Potter finding out he’s a wizard. Everything suddenly makes sense.”


… I may have punched him. It’s a blur, sir.
He handles the financials?

You punched the bursar.


Miranda writes that Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow “blanched a bit at this historical leap—Hamilton wasn’t needlessly violent—but the rhyme was too good to pass up.” (The lyrical annotations for this song also contain the second reference to Harry Potter in Hamilton: The Revolution: “This whole section is basically Harry Potter meeting Draco Malfoy before meeting his real friends,” Miranda writes. “Just Hamilton’s luck to meet his temperamental opposite.”)


In the annotations for “The Story of Tonight,” Miranda reveals that he wrote the melody for the song when he was just 16. “I had a doo-wop group with four other friends, and I’d written this song called ‘I’ve Got a Bridge to Sell You,’” he writes. (“I’ve got a bridge to sell you” became Laurens singing “No matter what they tell you…”) “When it came time to write this number for the show, that melody did everything I wanted this scene to do: It conveyed a yearning and innocence I felt in finding a group of friends to sing with me.”


Inspiration can strike at unexpected moments—like, say, when you’re having a drink with Hugh Laurie. “I told him I wanted to write a breakup letter from King George to the colonies,” Miranda writes. “Without blinking, he improv’d at me, ‘Awwww, you’ll be back,’ wagging his finger. I laughed and filed it away. Thanks, Hugh Laurie.” Miranda wrote George III’s song while on honeymoon with his wife, sans piano.


It’s alright, Burr. I wish you’d brought this special girl with you tonight, Burr.

You’re very kind, but I’m afraid it’s unlawful, sir.

What do you mean?

She’s married.

I see.

She’s married to a British officer.

Learning this key fact about Burr was a turning point for Miranda. “[I]t wasn’t til I read this detail online—that Theodosia was married to a British officer when Aaron Burr met her, and he waited until she was available—that the character of Burr came free in my imagination,” Miranda writes. “Imagine Hamilton waiting—for anything. That’s when I realized our task was not to dramatize not two ideological opposites, but a fundamental difference in temperament. No easy task. But that was the task.”


We don’t need a legacy.
We don’t need money.
If I could grant you peace of mind…

“My first draft of this song ended here, but I revisited the tune after writing ‘Burn’ in Act Two,” Miranda writes. “Tommy [Kail] and I discussed making Eliza even more active here—not just expressing this sentiment, but asking to be let into Hamilton’s internal life. If she’s ‘erasing herself from the narrative’ in Act Two, she needs to be part of it in Act One. I love this way this last section soars—I can’t imagine the song without it now.”


Sir, he knows what to do in a trench
Ingenuitive and fluent in French, I mean—

Of the word ingenuitive, Manuel writes, “I thought everyone knew this word, yet I don’t know where I’ve heard it. … It’s apparently a super-archaic word. I really don’t know where I met it, but it was there for me when I needed it.”


“The World Turned Upside Down” was an actual song, which was actually sung by British soldiers after their defeat at the Battle of Yorktown. But that song is not the one you hear in Hamilton. “I sought out the actual song and it’s … well, it’s a drinking song,” Miranda writes. “It’s sprightly and lively and fun to sing with a pint in your hand, but it didn’t serve me musically. So I wrote my own melody for it.”


My dearest Angelica,
“Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day”
I trust you’ll understand the reference to
Another Scottish tragedy without my having to name the play…

“This used to be a really obscure Macbeth quote: ‘They have tied me to a stake; I cannot fly, but, bear-like, I must fight the course,’” Miranda writes. “Then Oskar Eustis said, ‘Lin, I run the Shakespeare Festival and even I don’t get the reference.’ … So I went with one of the greatest hits.”


We signed a treaty with a King whose head is now in a basket
Would you like to take it out and ask it?
“Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’ head?”
“Uh… do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”

In “Cabinet Battle #2,” Hamilton and Jefferson verbally spar over whether or not the United States should provide aid to France during its revolution. Jefferson, former Ministers to France, argues in favor; Hamilton argues against—and wins. “Originally, Hamilton’s argument was as long as Jefferson’s, but I realized I wasn’t gonna top this punchline,” Miranda writes. “Also, Washington cutting him off and agreeing with him nicely leads us into the next song: Hamilton is winning without trying, because he and Washington are in lockstep on this issue.”


I know my sister like I know my own mind
You will never find anyone as trusting or as kind
I love my sister more than anything in this life
I will choose her happiness over mine every time
Put what we had aside
I’m standing at her side
You could never be satisfied
God, I hope you’re satisfied

Hamilton was involved in one of the first sex scandals in our nation’s history. After he began an affair with Maria Reynolds in the early 1790s, the woman’s husband, James, began blackmailing him. Several years later, this led to Hamilton being accused of speculation; he published a pamphlet to clear his name that revealed all the tawdry details of his affair: The so-called Reynolds Pamphlet. Angelica’s mic-drop moment wasn’t originally in the song at all. “This was originally part of a longer tune titled ‘Congratulations,’” Miranda writes. “It came between ‘The Reynolds Pamphlet’ and ‘Burn.’” When it became clear that the audience wanted to see Eliza’s reaction to Hamilton’s betrayal, Miranda incorporated parts of “Congratulations” into “The Reynolds Pamplet.” “I love how different it is from everything else in this section,” he writes. “It contributes to the feeling that the world is crashing, pathos within celebration within schadenfreude.”


In “Your Obedient Servant,” Burr and Hamilton trade increasingly angry letters—Burr accusing Hamilton of slandering his good name, Hamilton asking for specifics and refusing to back down—that eventually lead to their fateful duel. (You can read the actual correspondence here.) “Originally, my lyrics for these letters were super historically accurate, but I could feel us losing the audience,” Miranda writes. “I figured, if they can’t speak plainly here, then when?”

You can order Hamilton: The Revolution here.

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P.G. Wodehouse's Exile from England
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You don’t get more British than Jeeves and Wooster. The P.G. Wodehouse characters are practically synonymous with elevenses and Pimm’s. But in 1947, their creator left England for the U.S. and never looked back.

Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, better known as P.G., was living in northern France and working on his latest Jeeves and Wooster novel, Joy in the Morning, when the Nazis came knocking. They occupied his estate for a period of time before shipping him off to an internment camp in Germany, which he later said he found pretty pleasant:

“Everybody seems to think a German internment camp must be a sort of torture chamber. It was really perfectly normal and ordinary. The camp had an extraordinarily nice commander, and we did all sorts of things, you know. We played cricket, that sort of thing. Of course, I was writing all the time.”

Wodehouse was there for 11 months before being suddenly released to a hotel in Berlin where a man from the German foreign office named Werner Plack was waiting to meet him. Wodehouse was somewhat acquainted with Plack from a stint in Hollywood, so finding him waiting didn't seem out of the ordinary. Plack advised Wodehouse to use his time in the internment camp to his advantage, and suggested writing a radio series about his experiences to be broadcast in America.

As Plack probably suspected, Wodehouse’s natural writing style meant that his broadcasts were light-hearted affairs about playing cricket and writing novels, This didn’t sit too well with the British, who believed Wodehouse was trying to downplay the horrors of the war. The writer was shocked when MI5 subjected him to questioning about the “propaganda” he wrote for the Germans. "I thought that people, hearing the talks, would admire me for having kept cheerful under difficult conditions," he told them in 1944. "I would like to conclude by saying that I never had any intention of assisting the enemy and that I have suffered a great deal of mental pain as the result of my action."

Wodehouse's contemporary George Orwell came to his aid, penning a 1945 an essay called “In Defense of P.G. Wodehouse." Sadly, it didn’t do much to sway public opinion. Though MI5 ultimately decided not to prosecute, it seemed that British citizens had already made up their minds, with some bookstores and libraries even removing all Wodehouse material from their shelves. Seeing the writing on the wall, the author and his wife packed up all of their belongings and moved to New York in 1947. They never went back to England.

But that’s not to say Wodehouse didn’t want to. In 1973, at the age of 91, he expressed interest in returning. “I’d certainly like to, but at my age it’s awfully difficult to get a move on. But I’d like to go back for a visit in the spring. They all seem to want me to go back. The trouble is that I’ve never flown. I suppose that would solve everything."

Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack before he could make the trip. But the author bore no ill will toward his native country. When The Paris Review interviewed Wodehouse in 1973, they asked if he resented the way he was treated by the English. “Oh, no, no, no. Nothing of that sort. The whole thing seems to have blown over now,” he said.  He was right—the Queen bestowed Wodehouse with a knighthood two months before his death, showing that all was forgiven.

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The Internet Archive is Making 62 Obscure, Out-of-Print Books Available Online
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Dozens of of obscure, out-of-print books are about to become much more accessible thanks to the Internet Archive, the digital archive of public domain media. But to do it, they’ll have to exploit a loophole in a controversial copyright law, as Ars Technica reports.

The Internet Archive is releasing the Sonny Bono Memorial Collection, a group of books from the 1920s and 1930s that are out of print, but still technically under copyright—meaning they’re extremely difficult to get a hold of.

The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act was a copyright extension law passed in 1998 to extend copyright protections to works published after 1923 (which would otherwise have already entered the public domain) by 20 years. Unfortunately, while Disney may be happy that Mickey Mouse still falls under copyright protections, that also means that less-famous books that are now out of print can’t be made available to the public. But a provision of the law provides for public access for research, allowing nonprofit libraries to distribute the works if they cannot be found elsewhere for a reasonable price.

A screenshot of an online collection of books from the Internet Archive
Screenshot, Internet Archive

The Internet Archive explains:

We believe the works in this collection are eligible for free public access under 17 U.S.C. Section 108(h) which allows for non-profit libraries and archives to reproduce, distribute, display, and publicly perform a work if it meets the criteria of: a published work in the last 20 years of copyright, and after conducting a reasonable investigation, no commercial exploitation or copy at a reasonable price could be found.

Libraries don’t tend to take advantage of the law because it takes considerable resources to track down which works are eligible. However, the Internet Archive collaborated with Elizabeth Townsend Gard, a Tulane copyright expert, and a pair of interns to find books that could be scanned and uploaded online legally. Gard has released guidelines for libraries based on this work to help other archives do the same.

The Internet Archive is starting out with 62 books published between 1923 and 1941 (meaning they’re within 20 years of their copyright expiring) and plan to release up to 10,000 more in the near future to be downloaded and read by online users. And the collection will grow each January as more books enter that 20-year window.

[h/t Ars Technica]


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