Regency material culture, part 2

GambledAway-220Hey y’all! Gambled Away, my anthology with Molly O’Keefe, Jeannie Lin, Isabel Cooper and Joanna Bourne, releases in just a few days. So I thought I’d do another installment on nifty items I came across during the research for it! (You may remember part 1, featuring guillotine earrings, E.O. wheels, season tickets carved out of ivory, and more.)

1. This beautiful seal fob of a bird flying out of a cage with the words “LA LIBERTÉ”. I would give anything to know the story behind commissioning it. It could be a mourning seal, because of the clouds, but I’d like to believe that it belonged to someone who got out of a bad situation and had it made to celebrate. I like to imagine that my heroine Maggie, who loves pawnshops and secondhand markets and French Revolution-y stuff (she and her best friend run a 1780s and 90s-themed gambling den), bought this somewhere and uses it as her seal.

Continue reading

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Drawers and Pantalettes, Oh My!

One of the questions that seems to come up a lot when I ask what people want me to blog about is underpants. Did they? Didn’t they? Didn’t they feel naked without them? When I asked on FaceBook what topics I should think about covering in the next few months, this one again floated to the top, so here we go …

comfort 1815 no drawers
“Comfort”, 1815. No drawers.

 

The earliest depictions I’ve seen of drawers on women are 14thC German allegorical images on the topic of the woman “wearing the pants” in the family. In all of them, a man is usually also reaching for them, clearly desperate to reclaim the “power” they represent or is being beaten with a distaff or stool (or both). Clearly these images cannot be taken as documentation for women wearing underpants. In Textiler Hausrat, by Dr. Jutta Zander-Seidel, she states: “Underpants were not a usual component of women’s clothing in the 16th and 17th century [the eras of study in her book]. . . for the general populace, the use of these garments are not known before the beginning of the 19th century.”

1820lawndrawers
Extant linen women’s drawer’s, c. 1820

 

The earliest drawers that I can document for women are from the 16thC and are Italian. They are documented in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4. They are voluminous, split-crotch drawers with embroidery all over them. Clearly not mere “underwear” and not a fashion that I’ve seen outside of Italy. It should be noted that these are commonly depicted as the fashion of Venetian courtesans, who wore open gowns that displayed them.

Gilray, 1810. Woman in drawers.
Gilray, 1810. Woman in drawers.

 

So when DID women start wearing drawers of some kind? As Dr. Jutta Zander-Seidel states, the early 19thC. Knee-length drawers of peach coloured stockinette are reported to have been worn as early as 1806, but they were considered fast and unladylike, and from everything I’ve see and read, were not commonly adopted until later. They had a split crotch, usually being made up of two entirely separate legs on a drawstring waistband. An illustration from 1810 shows a lady wearing them, so it can be construed that they were becoming more accepted by then, but given the numerous examples of women NOT wearing them, they were clearly not universal. I see more frequent examples from the 1820s onward though.

1834pantalettes
Extant pantalettes, c. 1830s

 

Another thing that crops up in the 1820s is pantalettes. Unlike drawers, these were meant to show just below the hem of the skirt. You see them first in the teens (there’s a report of Princess Charlotte scandalizing people by wearing them). Again, their adoption does not seem to be anywhere near universal, and they were gone by the 40s, relegated to children’s wardrobes. Like drawers, they were made up of two separate legs. I see very little representation of these in art, but if you look REALLY closely you will occasaionly spot them peeking out from under a skirt here and there.

1822 pantalettes
Street scene, 1822 (you can just make out pantalettes under the skirt).

 

A note of warning for Regency authors: Beware of Bloomers. This garment was named after the famous suffragette Amelia Bloomer, and she is Victorian. So don’t use the term “bloomers” when you mean drawers or pantalettes.

Ok, now on to the good stuff: wearing them.

In my personal experience, they’re completely unnecessary. You’re wearing at least three layers of skirt (chemise, petticoat, gown) and all the fabric does a pretty good job of keeping you covered and discreet. All drawers really are is a major challenge when you need to pee? TMI? Sure. Here’s some more: when you can’t bend at the waist and you can’t pull them on and off, having to pee through a slit you need to hold apart while also holding up your skirt is a royal PITA (suddenly those sawhorse-looking stands for a lady’s chamber pot make a lot of sense!). Also, can we talk about chaffing? A bunch of loose fabric between your thighs combined with a little perspiration equals major chaffing. So yeah, in period garb I’m a fan of going commando and I won’t be putting my heroines into drawers.

Posted in Clothing, History, Isobel Carr, Regency, Research, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Simplify*

For many readers I suspect that one of the most appealing aspects of Regency life is its simplicity. In fact the day-to-day life of the well born may have been annoyingly busy but, in the fantasy world that most of us write, the characters live a life at a leisure pace the 21st century reader can only dream about. Or maybe enjoy on a solo vacation or a religious retreat.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I try to find a way to simplify a life that involves a lot of travel, mentoring some promising writers, welcoming spring with gardening, taking care of the endless threatening health issues and, oh yes, trying to work in writing and exercise

Believing in baby steps I no longer answer the phone and rely on people to leave messages which I can return at my convenience. Dinner is on the table as a finished meal only two or three nights a week thanks to a spouse who is okay with peanut butter and crackers (or occasionally will cook for both of us)

But I need to simplify not just eliminate. I could cancel our cable. That would end the distraction of TV but would not be fair to the rest of the household who depend on it for evening entertainment. Maybe I could reduce email to twice a day. But even that would take a good bit of time. Move to a less convivial neighborhood where neighbors do not stop in? Not an option if I want to stay married.

As I typed this I remembered the solution. I read it in the Washington Post years ago. A woman came to a therapist asking what she could do about a life that was out of control. His answer is THE ANSWER and I’m relieved that writing this post reminded me: IF YOU TAKE CARE OF YOUR INNER LIFE YOUR OUTER LIFE WILL TAKE CARE OF ITSLEF.

Did that advice work for the patient? I have no idea but I will tell you it has always worked for me. Until I lose sight of it.  So it’s back to evening meditation and extra time at church to just sit and absorb the silence. I KNOW it will work because it has in the past.

Tell me what is the beas advice you ever absorbed, acted on and discovered was the truth?

*In the pursuit of simplicity I have no pictures. Far from home and access to my photos!

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Almost back

Over a year ago, I wrote this post about needing to take time away from the writing to deal with personal issues. Louisa Cornell made the comment that not only did I need to refill the well, but that I might be needing to dig a whole new one. That isn’t a bad way to look at how I have spent this past year. I’m getting close and look forward to becoming a regular again here by some time this summer.

I did get the chance to meet with some local writer friends for our annual spring retreat, so I’ll leave you with this view of Taughannock Falls, which has become a sacred place to me.

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Julian Fellowes (Downton Abbey) Has a Novel!

Please join Julian Fellowes, creator, sole writer, and executive producer of the hit television series Downton Abbey and the author of the new novel Belgravia, who is touring the blogosphere with a progressive blog tour from April 14 to June 16, 2016!

(This is carolyn posting for Risky Amanda!)

Image of Julian's Book Cover
Belgravia Blog Tour

 

Similar to a progressive dinner party, where a group of friends each make one course of a meal that moves from house to house with each course, this progressive blog tour features eleven bloggers and authors, each offering a recap and review of one episode from the book.

Visit Luxury Reading to learn more about Episode 5, and read on for our review of Episode 5: The Assignation.

Don’t forget to enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 hardcover copies of Belgravia–details below! 

I was so excited when I was asked if the Riskies would host one of the stops for the blog tour of “Belgravia,” Julian Fellowes’s new serial novel about scandal and romance in 1840s London!  I’ve been suffering some “Downton Abbey” withdrawals since the last episode of that show (sniff!), and this seemed like a good way of recovering.  I wasn’t wrong.  “Belgravia” is so much fun!

It’s much harder than I thought, though, to just review ONE episode, considering all the complicated twists and turns of the relationships in the story, and the way the scandalous past comes to haunt the present.  Episode 6: A Spy in Our Midst was a good episode to draw, though.  So much happened!  As the scene opens, James Trenchard is nervously awaiting word whether he will be accepted into the Athenaeum Club (not really a spoiler: he is), when he is visited by his secret grandson Charles Pope, who says his investment scheme is very close to becoming a reality, thanks to Lady Brockenhurst’s interest (which is already being remarked on and gossiped about in Society).  James fears once the truth is known, his brand new club membership will be revoked (“Anne’s pity for the countess would be their undoing”), but he enjoys his time with Charles anyway, and takes him to lunch at the club, which leads to awkward confrontations with an officious club butler, and a fight with his drippy son Oliver.

In fact, there were many confrontations and near-confrontations here, as well as new layers of forbidden romance (Maria Grey, almost betrothed to John Bellasis, has a new crush on Charles Pope, and John is having an affair with Oliver’s wife Susan, ouch).  There is a real sense in this chapter of matters building to a head, rushing toward a big blow-up that can’t be stopped, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  (And yes, there IS a spy, a rather unexpected one, but you have to read to the end of the episode to find out who/how/why!)

There is so much to enjoy in this story, much of it the same things I loved about “Downton.”  Complex characters, with complex relationships; family secrets; snappy British dialogue; scandal and sadness and hope.  You can wait and order the full story, of course, but I think it’s a lot of fun to read as they are released now, in installments.  What do you think will happen next???

Giveaway

Win a Copy of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia

In celebration of the release of Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia, Grand Central Publishing is offering a chance to win one of the three (3) hardcover copies of the book!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the stops on the Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour starting April 14, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, June 22, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Austenprose.com June 23, 2016. Winners have until June 30, 2016 to claim their prize. The contest is open to international residents and the books will be shipped after July 5, 2016. Good luck to all!

Belgravia Progressive Blog Tour Schedule

April 14 – Austenprose.com: Episode 1: Dancing into Battle

April 14 – Edwardian Promenade: Episode 2: A Chance Encounter

April 21 – Fly High: Episode 3: Family Ties

April 28 – Calico Critic: Episode 4: At Home in Belgrave Square

May 12 – Risky Regencies: Episode 6: A Spy in our Midst

May 19 – Book Talk and More: Episode 7: A Man of Business

May 26 – Mimi Matthews: Episode 8: An Income for Life

June 02 – Confessions of a Book Addict: Episode 9: The Past is a Foreign Country

June 09 – Laura’s Reviews: Episode 10: The Past Comes Back

June 16 – Gwyn Cready: Episode 11: Inheritance

 

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Hells

Recently, I got to the point in the WIP (Surrender to Ruin, Sinclair Sisters Series, Book 3) where I really did have to research gaming hells since the hero of that book owns several and made an independent fortune in the trade.

I began with the first question that popped into my head. Were these establishments actually called “Hells”? There are a lot of phrases ascribed to the Regency era that are commonly accepted today as true without documentation. Fortunately, a Google Books Advanced search can now answer some of this pretty quickly. And so it was with gaming hells.

Yes, I could have started with the dictionary, but I wanted my searching to do double duty– confirm the use and give me the sources that used it.

By the way, the OED has several documented uses for Hell, as in a Gambling Hell. The OED dates Gambling Hell as early as 1818, but the entry for Hell (a gaming house) has an earlier citation of 1812, and a less definitive one for 1793. So, the ladies and lads at the OED are inconsistent here.

The John Hunt publication of Canto XI of Byron’s Don Juan (1823 for Canto XI) has this note to Canto XI xxix. 117. I’m afraid the OED implies the below language is from the actual poem which it’s not. It’s from the notes. Nevertheless, the phrase is in the original published volume.

Note 2, page 117, stanza xxix
St. James’s Palace, and St. James’s “Hells.”
“Hells,” gaming-houses. What their number may now be in this life, I know not. Before I was of age I knew them pretty accurately, both “gold” and “silver.” I was once nearly called out by an acquaintance because, when he asked me where I thought that his soul would be found hereafter, I answered, “In Silver Hell.”

Oh, that Lord Byron. Anyway, since I wanted more than the definition and usage, I went to Google Books.

Answer: Yes. At the very minimum, it was in the vernacular. No surprise there, to be honest. I went in fairly confident of that.

I hit pay dirt pretty quickly, and I ended up with a lot of great sources, but there was one that really stood out,  The Greeks, a treatise on gambling in the form of a heavily footnoted poem. This was pretty common in the period. See, for example, Scribbleomania, (I mention this source and link to it in that post.) Like The Greeks, that work is a satirical poem about the publishing business, with fascinating footnotes. Its author was William Henry Ireland, noted forger.

I’ll talk about The Greeks in this post because it was awfully fun to read.

First, Gaming Hells were often run by partners, at least one of whom was a banker: someone with access to cash,  for obvious reasons. Some of these proprietors were men who were, indeed, once waiters or fishmongers, but some would have to be considered gentlemen. The Greeks contains, among other things, a list of names and addresses of several hells and includes their partner-owners. I found several cross-references to those names, particularly Oldfield. Not that anyone should take this as confirmed, since publishing of the period is incestuous. One finds the same text in multiple sources. There was a lot of “borrowing” and lack of attribution.

Nevertheless, here are some names and addresses of London Hells:

List the Names of Several Gaming Hells. More in the text, 'K?
Naming Names Dude

In case the image doesn’t come through or you just need the text, here it is:

Fashionable houses, or Hells.

Two Sevens, 77 St. Jame’s Street. T.C.C.T. and Co.

Hazard Table, opposite.

Bennett St., St. James’s,  Fielder, Miller, and Carlos.

1o, St. James’s Square. Abbott, Watson, Davies, Fearlove, Leach, and Holdsworth

6 King St., St. James’s.  Leach

10,  ditto, ditto. Davis the Elder

40,  Pall-Mall. Taylor, Phillips, and Lowe

Sunday houses.

77 Jermyn Street. Geo.  Smith, Pope, and Co.

27, Bury Street Oldfield, Bennett, and Co.

General Hints. Major Berger,  Phillips, Colonel. Tucker, C. Greenwood, Esq. &c

“Sunday Houses” as you might imagine, refers to Hells that were open on Sundays. So, tuck that way.

I will say that the concentration of Hells in St. James’s makes sense — go where the money is, but it also is meticulously documented by academic researchers. While reading another source, I came across mention of volume titled The Greeks that, this author said, talked scandalously about Gaming Hells.

Scandalous? Honey, I’m there.

In this sense, Greeks means gamblers, by the way.

My initial search for a book with that title was disappointing, but then I found an entry with an unreadable title because the first line of the frontispiece is the title in Greek and was “transcribed” from Greek.

The Greeks.

Researchers and cynics alike will enjoy this book. There’s something for everyone here. It’s a poem, which is sometimes pretty clever, and there’s loads and loads of footnotes, which is where most of the information is. Of course the anonymous author has an agenda and a world view that constitute his truth. Yet, in the whole, there is a useful framework. We can intuit the issues of the day from the way and the words the author presents to us. In this case, for example, a deep, deep sense of class separation.

This book contains a lengthy footnote (see below, “The Barrymore Footnote”) about the scandalous Earl of Barrymore and one of his sons who had a club foot. I’ve included the footnote below. The text also contains a list of names of gamblers with hyphens meant to disguise the actual name. Nearly 200 years later and it’s easy to fill in most of the blanks…

Here’s a portion that’s meant to show that it’s just  better to be rich. The gentleman who is the subject of this paragraph was a noblemen said to rarely be at home because he lived mostly at a hotel that over-charged him for everything. And his Lordship did not seem to care or even be aware.

A menion of charges made. Text below.
Over Charging?

Then I led such a life: —’twas  just think How,

on others [sic] men’s  purse, I could revel and drink, —

How I lodged eri Seigneur,  at Hotels of high fame —

Escudier’s, Morant’s Long’s, and Jacquier’s by name;

Paid one hundred per month for myself and my grooms,

For  pen, ink and paper (20),  for wax-lights and

rooms;  for self at a supper, five guineas could pay,

Including Champaign [sic], and my coach to the play;

There was also a reference to maggot racing. Yes, including how to cheat at maggot racing. Again, true? Maybe, maybe not. You encourage your maggot to win by heating the plate. To hamper the competition, one “accidentally” drops a flake of snuff in the way, tobacco being an insecticide, but potentially an obstacle as well. This led to a hilarious exchange on twitter.

NB: My next historical  will be Miss Harper’s Night of Passion, in which Miss Fiona Harper’s brother accidentally kills his racing maggot by overheating his plate and loses his sister to the rakish Lord Hawke.

I consider The Greek to be a flavorful addition to my research. In other words, likely overstated but giving a very good flavor of the environment.

According to The Greeks, the legal position of gambling (illegal) in which one could inform the authorities about gamblers led to frequent blackmail. Hush money (Exact phrase used, by the way) was paid. As with prizefighting, also illegal, the authorities were bribed to look the other way.

In other research, I came across a publication that included this (purported?) letter to The Times. It references several of the owners of the Hells listed above.

To the Editor of The Times.

Sir, – the invulnerability of “Fishmonger’s Hall,’ or the Crock-odile Mart for gudgeons, flat-fish, and pigeons, is likely soon to be put to the proof. The principal mover and actor in this ‘Hell’ is now under indictment charged with having had a share in the lowly one of King St., St. James’s; and unless, like the rest, it is compromised (which, for the sake of humanity, let us hope will not be the case), the trial will come on in a few days. An action is also pending against the same party, wherein the penalties sought to be recovered from monies gained by illegal gaming at the ‘Hell’ are stated to be (L) 160,000.

This ‘Hell’ has recently commenced the infernal trade again, after a short vacation of about two months, during which time the procurers to it, who are broken men of fashionable notoriety, have been very active. Melton Mowbray, Brighton, Cheltenham, and other places of high and wealthy resort, have been visited in their turns, and it is pompously announced that no less a number than two hundred names of young nobility and gentry are down upon the blacklist is admissible to this ‘Hell’ — I beg pardon — to this ‘Club ! ! !’ as it is called.

‘Tremble, ye parents, lest your fond hopes in those who will be the representatives of your honours and estates be blasted forever in this gigantic house of ruin, and that all devolve deluded, infatuated visitors to it. It will — it must, prove the grave of many a fortune, mind, and honour, like other ‘Hells’ have been, over which the very same parties who keep this have heretofore presided. It would be shocking to see your ancient patrimony’s, handed down to you by your forefathers, melt away like snow before the sun, to enrich a ci-devant fishmonger, and an ex-waiter of a faro ‘Hell.’ Their fortunes are already immense, created by the same means, but composed of those lost by many, some of whom have met with violent deaths, and others are now struggling with wretchedness and despair.

“I am, Sir, your humble Servant,

London July 22, 1824   EXPOSITOR.

The Barrymore Footnote

Lord E. b.

This is a well preserved and perfect model of the Greek school — and uncopied original, and of course very valuable. We much wonder, therefore, that in the late exhibition we had not the pleasure of contemplating his jolly face either in a solo, or with his young companion by his side like Gaite I’innocence.

[no idea some word] he may be said to have followed his noble and distinguished progenitor with unequal step —“Sequiturqtie Patrem hand passibus equis.” But however unequal his steps have been in one way, he has no equal as to some of the steps which he has taken as a passenger through life. Like many of the fanciful productions of ancient Greece, his statue is certainly whimsical, and a very portly figure ends in a very strange way; this haaseibn [sic] foot many a joke detrimental to the peer: but then, luckily, he has broad shoulders, and he can bare it all: — plenty oj’ [sic] face; and he cannot be put out of countenance. Some ill naturedly cry, if they see him at a horse race or a cock pit, a milling match or a bull bait, a badger hunt or, in short at any of the elegant places of resort for the fancy, “There goes old club footed “Mulciber booted;” others inurbanely call him the president of the Greek Club: some, who doubtless have suffered in some way by his Lordship, stupidly quote Ovid, and call him, very improperly, * damnatus et exlex, passing thus a sort of grammatical outlawry on him; others making him owe of the legs; others a leg amongst legs, and other still a leg of all legs — Gambado Gambadorum.

Nevertheless, the Jockey Club and all sporting men from the Prince down to the ostler and bottle holder, allow the few in his walk of life can beat him; and so says mother Wood,— who, be it well understood, is neither a wooden leg, nor even a broken leg, nor one of our fashionable emigrants who has taken leg, nor a certain class who have given leg bail, but a very respectable well-known housekeeper, very greatly connected.

* Vide the Speeches of Ajax and Ulysses.

To be sure, it has been asserted that some mock modest females have flown from this comely Lord, whenever they diskivered his cloven foot; but this is pure scandal; for it is well-known that “my Lord” is a woman’s friend: ergo — this charge falls to the ground. And as to the bandying about his “style being worse than his gate” and the story of Billingsgate and Hellgate and Newgate and Cripplegate, and such like stale jokes, it has not affected the good footing which he will always be on with men of taste and bons titans. No man has better spirits, or wine, better humour than his Lordship.

As a child’s guide, he is rather unfortunate; and the little ruffian who formerly was a miniature fidus Achates has now deserted him, and is not allowed to go near him for fear of his morals being spoiled! His patron has, however, chosen another protégé for his gigish companion; and it is to be hoped, that he will be more faithful and mindful of past kindness than the last. This is an odd taste of the peer’s! But it looks so innocent to see puerility by his side; and then it takes less room in a tilbury, and is more becoming the body corporate of the peerage, than to be squeezed by a varlet of a groom; and then again little people can do little messages, and a lady can pat a child upon the head and return an answer so cleverly that upon the whole we do not blame my Lord for his selection of a companion.

To conclude — we hope that no envious remarks may have any weight with the noble Lord in question, but that he may have long life and long credit, and may, to the end of the scene, stick to the old maxim:

“Dum vivimus, vivamus”

Mr. N-b.

I’m now beyond Dame Fortune’s power:

the man that’s down can fall no lower

HUDIBRAS.

We were just about to give an account of this defeated Greek, when we learned that he had for a long time been lingering in poverty — in an hospital or a workhouse! the two preceding lines from Hudibras will therefore suffice for his history. This is an awful lesson for those who have not made hay whilst the sun shone — the rest we pass over in silence.

 

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On Tea and Good Intentions

Met Museum-Tea Table Set-2
Tea Table Setting in the Met Museum, New York, c. 1750-1775

I had planned a lovely post for you today. Really. But I’m hosting another Facebook party this weekend (well, actually Sunday and Monday, it lasts 32 hours!) –a “virtual Tea Party” –and I’m also running a “real” Tea Party on Sunday, both charity fund-raisers for my friend with kidney disease. I have been juggling a sick husband, a sinus infection, and too many things to do. The post, of course, was related to Tea Parties, looking not just at the history of their evolution as a social event, but focusing on the “necessities” of the tea table, which I find interesting. Today we simply have the pot, the creamer and sugar, and the cups and saucers, but back in the day, many more pieces were required.

IMG_5601However. It is very late at night now, my brain refuses to do anything more, the post is not finished, and here I am. I am going to leave you with a few pictures of the accoutrements of serving tea. Can you identify all of the pieces in these sets, and their purpose?

Liotard_Jean-Étienne_1781-83-_Still_Life-_Tea_Set
Still Life Painting by Jean-Etienne Liotard 1781-83

If you are in the mood for more on the history of tea drinking, or about tea itself, I refer you to these earlier posts by Riskies Isobel Carr and Carolyn Jewel:

Isobel’s post, December 16, 2015 “Happy (belated) National Tea Day”, about The Tea Purchaser’s Guide, published 1785.

Carolyn’s post Sept 12, 2012 “Tea Redux” which includes some great links to sources for tea history.

If you are on Facebook, please consider yourself invited to my Mad Tea Party! You do need an invitation from myself or another patroness, but all you need to do is send me a friend request and ask. (If we are already friends, I’m pretty sure you’ve been invited!) We have lots of games and real prizes lined up, along with all the virtual partying we can think up!

If I don’t add a small pitch for donations in case anyone would like to help and isn’t on Facebook, I’d have to give up my fund-raiser’s hat, so here’s the info: tax-deductible donations can be made to my friend Joyce Bourque’s campaign at the Help HOPE Live Foundation, which manages fundraising for transplant patients, both before and after surgeries. www.helphopelive.org/campaign/376

My apologies for not leaving you with a “real” post today!! I hope you have a great weekend.

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The Lives of a Roman Fort

a picture of the main gate to the Saalburg
Saalburg: Porta Praetoria (the main gate)

As I have surely already mentioned in an earlier post, one of the settings of my upcoming Roman romance EAGLE’S HONOR: RAVISHED is based on a real fort at the Upper German-Raetian limes: the Saalburg, which today is a renowned open air museum with reconstructions of several of the Roman buildings and fortifications. As I was preparing the Author’s Note for my novel, it struck me how many lives this Roman fort has had – and not just in the Roman period.

The first fort on this site was built in timber, but was soon replaced by a larger fort built in timber and stone.  A few years later, that fort was expanded and its defenses strengthened. Finally, at some point in the early 270s, the Romans gave up this stretch of the border and withdrew across the Rhine. The fort was abandoned and fell into ruins.

The Germanic people who moved into the area didn’t have much use for stone buildings, but from the Middle Ages onward, the stones from the fort were used for various building projects in the region. The original Roman name of the fort was forgotten; indeed, the very fact that this used to be a Roman fort was forgotten as well. The modern name, Saalburg, dates to the early 17th century and suggests people took the walls to be the remains of an early medieval castle.

It was only in 1723 when a stone altar bearing the name of Caracalla was found that people realized the Saalburg was actually a Roman ruin. But at that point only antiquarians (who were generally considered to be really strange people anyway) were interested in musty ruins, and so the Saalburg continued to be used as a most convenient stone quarry until 1818.

In the early 19th century archaelogy was still in its infancy, carried out by interested amateurs. In England William Cunnington, who started to do excavations of prehistoric sites in Wiltshire in about 1798, revolutionized the methods of archaeology, e.g., by carefully recording digs and finds. But it would take another few decades before archaeology became professionalised.

The increasing professionalisation of archaeology becomes also apparent when we look at the history of excavations of the Saalburg: from 1870 onward, the excavations were state-funded, and the men overseeing the digs aimed at using scientific methods and presenting their findings in a scientific way.

And when plans were made to not just excavate the remains of the fort, but also to reconstruct key buildings such as the principia (the headquarters building), the latest archaeological and historical findings were employed to make the reconstruction as faithful to reality as possible. This first phase of reconstruction work lasted ten years, from 1897 to 1907, and received support from Kaiser Wilhelm II himself.

a sketch of the military standards at the Saalburg
The military standards at the Saalburg

While this support was no doubt beneficial, it also meant that the Kaiser took an active interest in the project and in some cases influenced the way the reconstruction was done. The most obvious example of this is the presence of an eagle standard in the shrine of the standards in the principia. In Roman times, only legions fought under the eagle standard, and the Saalburg never housed a legion, but only ever auxiliary troops. However, due to the imperial symbolism of the eagle, the Kaiser insisted that the eagle standard was included.

Moreover, in the years since 1900, new research into Roman military architecture has revealed that parts of the early reconstruction are incorrect, for example, the walls surrounding the fort would have been white-washed and the towers of the main gate wokuld have had been higher. Further reconstructions from the 2000s reflect these newer findings.

The Saalburg today thus presents itself as a fascinating hotchpotch of visions of what a Roman fort might have looked like, and it represents yet another phase of that old Roman fort that was first built in this place in the early 2nd century.

Would the soldiers who were stationed here during the reign of Emperor Hadrian recognize their old home in the Saalburg. Bits of it, perhaps. Though I’m not quite sure what they would make of the eagle standard in their shrine…

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IMG_0583Oh to be in England
Now that Spring is here
Oh to be in England drinking English beer
–English Drinking Song

By the time you read this, I will be in England (or on a plane getting ready to land at Heathrow). I’m tagging along with Kristine Hughes of Number One London blog. Kristine is going to be offering tours soon and this is her exploratory trip. We’ll be investigating all the wonderful places her tours might visit and meeting experts who might provide in depth information about what we see.

We’ll arrive Monday morning and at six o’clock in the evening, we are scheduled to take a special, small group tour of Buckingham Palace.
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The next few days we’ll be walking the streets of Mayfair and meeting experts and visiting places of interest.
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Then we’re off to Chatsworth House, for a whole day. We’ll be walking from our hotel, over that bridge.
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Then to Derby, where we might see this Pickford Museum
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Then to Brighton to spend a day at the Regency Town House
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And on to the Pavilion
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Finally back to London where we’ll visit my editors at 1 London Bridge, where the new Mills and Boon offices are now located and last, but not least, an evening tour of Apsley House, a fitting ending for two Wellington groupies like us.
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Keep track of us on Facebook. We’ll be posting photos of the whole trip.

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Servitude: a Poem written by a Footman

Robert Dodsley by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1760. (Image source: Wikimedia.)

Robert Dodsley was popularly known as the footman poet! Wikipedia explains:

In 1729 Dodsley published his first work, Servitude: a Poem written by a Footman…and a collection of short poems, A Muse in Livery, or the Footman’s Miscellany, was published by subscription in 1732, Dodsley’s patrons comprising many persons of high rank.

Dodsley quit his day job in 1735 (with financial help from, among others, Alexander Pope) and from there his career grew rapidly. By the mid-1730s his plays were being produced in Covent Garden and Drury Lane. He was also a publisher and bookseller:

He published many of [Samuel] Johnson’s works, and he suggested and helped to finance Johnson’s Dictionary. Pope also made over to Dodsley his interest in his letters. In 1738 the publication of Paul Whitehead’s Manners was voted scandalous by the House of Lords and led to Dodsley’s imprisonment for a brief period…[I]n 1751 [he] brought out Thomas Gray’s Elegy.

You can read the first edition of Servitude on Google Books, including the foreword exhorting masters to treat their servants better.

There were actually a fair number of working class poets in eighteenth-century England, though their work has been excluded from the canon. A few of my personal favorites are:

1. Mary Collier. Wikipedia notes:

She read Stephen Duck‘s The Thresher’s Labour (1730) and in response to his apparent disdain for labouring-class women, wrote the 246-line poem for which she is mainly remembered, The Woman’s Labour: an Epistle to Mr Stephen Duck. In this piece she catalogues the daily tasks of a working woman, both outside the home and, at the end of the day, within the home as well:

You sup, and go to Bed without delay,
And rest yourselves till the ensuing Day;
While we, alas! but little Sleep can have…

The preface writer (who is identified only by the initials “MB” which don’t belong to anyone on the title page, so not sure what’s up with that) notes, “I think it no Reproach to the Author, whoſe Life is toilſome, and her Wages inconſiderable, to confeſs honeſtly, that the View of her putting a ſmall Sum of Money in her Pocket, as well as the Reader’s Entertainment, had its Share of Influence upon this Publication.” Relatable!

Read the full text.

2. Ann Yearsley. I love her! She gave no fucks, refused to go to church, and alienated Hannah More by asking for personal control over the money More had “generously” raised for her.

1787 engraving of Ann Yearsley, via Wikimedia Commons.

I have a biography of her called Lactilla: the Milkwoman of Clifton that is just gripping (I’ve only read the first half because I had to start researching True Pretenses, but one day I’m going to finish it!).

3. Mary Leapor.

4. And of course Robert Burns.

For a more comprehensive survey, check out the Database of English and Irish Labouring-class Poets. It’s a work in progress but the first blog entry, entitled “Static Updates of the Database of Labouring-class Poets,” allows you to download the lengthy list of poets.

Listen to the Moon has no poets, but I’d bet anything my valet hero Toogood has read at least Servitude.

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