What a Beautiful Smile

When you write historicals, you often run up against a lot of misconceptions (both readers’ and your own). I’ve had the rant about “no, our characters weren’t shorter” fight more than once. So often in fact that I did a blog post about it several years back. I’ve also tried my best to demystify the history of kilts and clan tartans (to much grousing) and have tackled thorny and unpopular topics like pointing out that croquet is Victorian and the hymen is NOT located internally.

Skull by Pedro WEINGARTNER
Skull by Pedro WEINGARTNER

 

Today I want to highlight a very interesting bit of historical archology that came to my attention recently: people used to have very straight teeth! It’s almost a gimmie that when you see a historical film or show the production will highlight the snaggly teeth of the characters that happen to be poor. But it turns out that’s anachronistic!

Janet Monge—curator of the physical anthropology section at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology—has studied a lot of skulls and she noticed something very interesting about them. To quote, “Nobody in the past had dental problems, like we are talking nobody.”

So what exactly got us to the point where we are now, where nearly everyone with a perfect smile had to invest a fortune in orthodontia to achieve it? Well, Monge has a theory… and it links like so many other negative physical developments to the industrial revolution. She says the change happened fast and it happened globally (the globally is a fly in the ointment in my opinion, as the industrial revolution didn’t hit across the globe all the same time), but her theory is still interesting. Her hypothesis is that it’s all down to bottle feeding! There’s a very verifiable difference between the development of the jaw an palate in babies that are breastfed and those that are bottle fed (bottles not requiring the same kind of sucking that breasts to in order to receive nourishment). So narrow faces with weaker jaws (but the same number of teeth) result in crowded and crooked smiles.

Silver Pap Boat
Silver Pap Boat

So, our characters would very likely have had beautiful, straight smiles, unless they were so unlucky as to have been “brought up by hand” and nursed on pap from a “bubby pot,’ “pap boat,” or “sucking bottle.” The snaggly teeth we all think of as a common thing pre-braces have really only been common for the past 150-200 years!

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Research | 7 Comments

Bread Pudding: Regency Style

I came across this recipe for bread pudding  from 1815 and since I love bread pudding I decided to make it. Image of the recipe below. When I was in the kitchen about to make it I took a screen shot of  my website blog post about finding the recipe because that was faster for reference.

The recipe text is included for people who don’t see the image or who are using a screen reader.
Image of recipe. Text below for screen readers

I did a post over at my blog where I posted the recipe.

 

Bread pudding

Take the crumb of a penny loaf, and pour on it a pint of good milk boiling hot, when it is cold, beat it very fine, with two ounces of butter and sugar to your palate, grate half a nutmeg in it, beat it up with four eggs, and put them in and beat altogether near half an hour, tie it in a cloth and boil it an hour, you may put in half a pound of currants for change, and pour over it white wine sauce.

To make a boiled bread pudding a second way.

Take the inside of a penny loaf, grate it fine, add it to two ounces of butter, take a pint and a half of milk, with a stick of cinnamon; boil it and pour it over the bread, and cover it close until it is cold, then take six eggs beat up very well with rose water, mix them all well together, sweet to your taste, and boil it one hour.

I figured it would be interesting to attempt this. I decided on the first way, no currants added.

My first hurdle was figuring out the size of a penny loaf. It turns out the size/weight of a penny loaf was dependent on the cost of wheat. I read a bunch and saw all the formulas and as near as I can tell a penny loaf had to weigh anywhere from 11 to 16 troy ounces. A troy ounce is 31.1034768 g (1.097142857143 ounces.) Some more googleing . . . .

Because I am awesome at math, I’ll just do some calculations and . . . 16 troy ounces is 17.554285714288 regular ounces. Ta Da!!!

I decided 16 ounces of bread was close enough. I bought a 16 oz baguette at the store.

The steps with lots of pictures:

 

16 oz of bread roughly torn up

I tore up the baguette into chunks then used a food processor to reduce to crumbs. I didn’t have time to wait for them to get stale enough so I dried out the crumbs in a 500 F oven until most of the moisture was gone. Not toasted though!

 

003_crumbs

Above is the mixing bowl of crumbs, awaiting a transformation to something delicious.

 

Picture of a bottle of open milk and a full 2 cup glass measure of milk
Milk

At the store, I bought full fat milk (in a bottle!!!) not homogenized, that still had cream in it from one of the local amazing dairies. That would be more like what would have been on hand in the Regency.

005-boilingmilk

I boiled the milk as directed. . . and mixed it into the bread crumbs. It was really dry. My doubts about this began in earnest. It wasn’t the texture I was expecting at all.

But OK! I put the milk and bread crumbs mixture in the freezer so it would come to room temperature quickly.

Bowl in freezing cooling down fast
Cool

After that, I had my butter (unsalted) my nutmeg, sugar, and eggs ready to add.

Since it said Sugar To Taste, I’ll just say I added about 1 1/3 cups of sugar. If I were to make it again, I might reduce the sugar slightly.

I was worried about the amount of nutmeg as half a nutmeg grated was easily a tablespoon or more and that’s an aggressive amount of nutmeg.

Once I had the sugar and nutmeg added, I elected to add about a teaspoon of Fleur du Sel (fancy French salt) and about a teaspoon of cinnamon because I thought it seemed a little bland.

half a nutmeg, grated. It's pretty and pungent
Nutmeg

Mixture with butter

The recipe calls for a lot of mixing time, up to 30 minutes after the all the ingredients are added. I mixed it on higher speeds for a long time. With a Kitchen-aid because this isn’t about my upper arm strength.

 

Beaten eggs being mixed into bread mixtures. It's not attractive. It feels mushy.
Eggs

As I was adding ingredients my doubts increased. It was an unattractive color, it was dense and sticky, and I was having regrets about the whole idea. Maybe my bread crumbs weren’t fine enough. Maybe I should have used a different bread. I don’t know.

Ingredients being mixed in mixer. It's something....
More mixing. . . .
The pudding on the cloth about to be wrapped. It is a sticky slightly oozing mass.
On the Cloth

OK. Fine.

I poured and scraped the mixture onto the cloth, and it was like that blanc mange from Monty Python running around eating everything. I was sure it would rise up and attempt to eat innocent people.

The pudding tied up in a cloth with lots of string. It's a lump. I could lie and say it looks fantastic but it's a lump.
Tied Up

I wrapped it up and used a lot of string to to tie it up. My nightmare was that the whole thing would come apart in the water. I feel I used an appropriate amount of string. I would NOT use less.

Trussed up pudding in boiling water.
Boiling

Right. Boiling. In the water. For an hour, it said.

But after an hour it wasn’t appreciably cooked at all. So I trussed it up again and boiled it some more. And then I had an engagement so I put the water on simmer and left it for 3 hours. Maybe a deeper pot and more water, aggressively boiling? I don’t know. It just looked . . . so sad.

The trussed up pudding, cooked.
Boiled

Here is it boiled and boiled and boiled … But notice that my string work was excellent.

THe bread puudingin a glass bowl. It looks awful. It's just .... stuff
Cooked

I untrussed it and it was . . . omg. It kind of fell apart because I wasn’t expecting this…blob. And it was sticking to the cloth, too.

Ugly just isn’t the right word, but it will work. Plus it didn’t look much different than when it went in. I figured the whole thing was a complete loss.

And then I tasted it. Just in case. And it was actually really good. My son tried it and said. “I’d call that a win.” It was all gone the next morning, by the way.

A small serving in a green cup. Also not delicious looking. BUt it was.
Served

It wasn’t hard to make. It probably does need a sauce to hide how unappealing it looks.

An acquaintance told me later she makes hers in a mold and I can totally see doing that because then it’s a pretty shape.

There you have it. Bread pudding Regency style. It was delicious. But not more delicious as bread pudding baked in an oven. But still delicious. And all that nutmet? Absolutely the correct amount.

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New Research Books, or, Dicky Doyle Forever!

picture of the book, The Illustrated Letters of Richard Doyle to His Father, 1842-1843

As you know, one of my favorite 19-th century illustrators & PUNCH-men is Richard Doyle, who joined the staff of the magazine when he was just 19 years old, and who designed the iconic cover of PUNCH just a few months later. I still have very fond memories of that magical day I spent in the Victoria & Albert Museum, looking through Doyle’s sketchbooks. (YES!!!! I touched the original sketchbooks! The sketchbooks Doyle himself had touched!)

However, there is one kind of primary source related to Richard Doyle that has remained unpublished for many years and of which you can catch only occasional glimpses in books about Doyle: the illustrated letters he sent to his father in the early 1840s. These were part of the weekly challenge John Doyle set for his sons: in those letters they were to describe what they had seen and done that week. Doyle senior encouraged them to go to the theatre and attend other important cultural and political events in London.

A couple of weeks ago, I found out – quite by accident! – that for the first time ever there’s a scholarly edition of Richard Doyle’s illustrated letters (at this point, imagine me melting into a puddle of delight). So of course, I had to have that book. And, OH MY GOSH, those letters, they are wonderful! I haven’t yet had time to really delve into it, but even just browsing through it is a delight.

Doyle presents to the reader street scenes of London and also takes us into the Doyle home, where he shows us his brothers and himself hard at work at the next painting for their private Sunday exhibition. There are fantasy scenes with fairies and, of course, there plenty of little knights too – one of Doyle’s most favorite theme in those years and one that should later make his illustrations favorites with the PUNCH readership.

Picture of a page from The Illustrated Letters of Richard Doyle to His Father

The letters are whimsical and charming. Take the one from 18 September 1842, which opens with,

My Dear Papa,

The Royal game of Golf (I am not sure that I have spelt it rightly, but it is to be hoped I have), as played upon Blackheath every Saturday by a portion of the sporting residents of the neighbourhood, presents to the unsophisticated eye as remarkable an aspect as one could reasonably expect to witness. Next to the brute force of man, a hurling stick and a ball are the chief agents in this delicious game.

That Demon Punch, illustration from Doyle's letter from 17 December 1843

By December 1843, Richard Doyle was working for PUNCH and the new job is taking up much of this time – to the extent that he fears he won’t be able to finish the “Christmas things” promised to friends and family.  “On the next page,” he writes to his father on 17 December in the last letter of the collection,

you will find a representation of your son, precisely as he appeared at the moment when he gave up all hope, on Monday last, half past nine o’ clock p.m. […] The demon Punch perched upon the table, in exultation, points to the “Procession,” his “Christmas Piece.” Harlequin &c, as indicative of Christmas, weep over the little quantity of yours, a crowd of little urchins, in the foreground, by referring to the productions of former years, prove what can be done, and others in the back are plainly showing that it was not for want of paper.

As it turned out, Doyle would always find it difficult to meet deadlines (*cough* a little bit like myself…) – and it was never for want of paper!

In short, my new research book is a true delight, and I shall peruse it with much joy.

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Georgiana at Chatsworth

Perhaps one of the most famous Duchesses of Devonshire is Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, wife of the 5th Duke. Georgiana was eclipsed, perhaps, only by Deborah Cavendish, the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters and whom I consider the savior of Chatsworth. Georgiana, however, was the subject of a best-selling biography by Amanda Foreman and was played by Keira Knightley in the movie based on the book, The Duchess.

When Kristine Hughes Patrone of Number One London Tours, and I spent three days at Chatsworth last May, Georgiana was featured prominently in one room, including the wonderful Gainsborough portrait (center) that had been lost for a while and only returned to Chatsworth in 1994.
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To the right is an unfinished portrait of Georgiana by Joshua Reynolds. To the left is Elizabeth Foster, Georgiana’s friend and the Duke’s mistress. Elizabeth married the Duke after Georgiana’s death.

There was also this spectacular portrait by Maria Cosway of Georgiana as Cynthia from the Fairie Queen.
IMG_0621
As we walked through the house I noticed another portrait amidst several on the stairway. I’d never seen this portrait before, even though I’d once searched online for as many portraits of Georgiana as I could find. I asked the docent and, sure enough, the portrait was of Georgiana, although he did not know the artist.
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georgiana

Georgiana was not only present in her portraits, but also in her gem collection. For a time, because of her affair with Earl Grey and her pregnancy by him, the Duke banished Georgiana to the Continent. During her banishment, she developed an interest in gems and became quite a collector. Here’s an example of one of her finds.
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Georgiana, a celebrated beauty since her youth, lost her looks at age 39 when an illness of her eye left her scarred. Her health continued to decline and she died at age 48. She had been active in politics and other social causes; she published two novels, a memoir, and a poem. She also was an addicted gambler and hiding and confessing her losses which were over three million pounds in today’s money.

I’ve been intrigued by Georgiana since reading her biography–I even named my GPS after her!!

As much as I love Keira Knightley, to me, she was NOT Georgiana. Georgiana was voluptuous and warm and Keira is all angles and energy. What do you think? Who would have made a better Georgiana? Or did you like Keira Knightley as the Duchess? Do you have a favorite portrait of Georgiana? To me, it is hard to beat the Cosway portrait.

Posted in History, Places, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Risky Business? Revisiting & Revising a Backlist Book

indexRevisiting an old story intent on revising it can be a scary journey full of rocks and potholes. I’m deep in the throes of revising my old Signet Regency, The Magnificent Marquess, and I have to tell you, the process isn’t pretty! It’s not just the mess of annotated pages scattered over my dining room table and all the handwritten notes that are keyed to them, but also my precarious state of mind.

What do you think about “new and improved” versions of older books? Have you ever picked up a new version of an old favorite and read it to see if you liked it better? And did you? If you write, have you gone back to previously published work and significantly changed it? I’m not talking about just a minor tweak or correction here or there. Were you pleased with the result? Please let me know in the comments!writers-block21

While I am firmly convinced this original book can be greatly improved, I am also terrified I may make it worse rather than better.

There seem to be two schools of thought about reissuing backlist books. One is that old books are like old friends and should just be sent back out again in the same lovable form they originally presented to the world. The other is that reissuing them offers an opportunity to improve them –to fix mistakes, enliven the writing, or even indulge in the deeper surgeries (or expansions) required to improve plot, character, or motivations. What’s your experience with this, as a reader, or a writer, or both?

writing_as_professionalMost of my old Signets packed a lot of plot into a relatively short book format –the length was a requirement of the publisher’s line. I believe that by expanding The Magnificent Marquess, I can tell the story more effectively. Too much had to be left out of the original version. But one of many dangers then becomes losing the pacing, not to mention the challenge of keeping the writing tight. All the same problems of writing any original version!

I just keep reminding myself that even though these characters and their story are old friends of mine, for readers who never read the first version, this revised one will be brand new. I’ll let you know when it’s ready!! happy reading 2 peeps

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Posted in Reading, Regency, Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

The Curious Peach

Here’s a post from a few years ago, edited and recycled. It’s peach season and I’ve been eating lots of them. Yum.

Peaches have been around for a long, long time, from China to Europe via the Silk Road, to America in the seventeenth century and into commercial production here in the nineteenth century. There were peaches at Pemberley:

The next variation which their visit afforded was produced by the entrance of servants with cold meat, cake, and a variety of all the finest fruits in season; but this did not take place till after many a significant look and smile from Mrs. Annesley to Miss Darcy had been given, to remind her of her post. There was now employment for the whole party; for though they could not all talk, they could all eat; and the beautiful pyramids of grapes, nectarines, and peaches soon collected them round the table. Pride and Prejudice

Jumping backward a few centuries–people like me should take note that King John of England died in 1216, some say from overindulging in peaches at a banquet nine days before. Here’s a recipe from 1597 for Peach Marmalade.

To make drie Marmelet of Peches.
Take your Peaches and pare them and cut them from the stones, and mince them very finely and steepe them in rosewater, then straine them with rosewater through a course cloth or Strainer into your Pan that you will seethe it in, you must have to every pound of peches halfe a pound of suger finely beaten, and put it into your pan that you do boile it in, you must reserve out a good quantity to mould your cakes or prints withall, of that Suger, then set your pan on the fire, and stir it til it be thick or stiffe that your stick wil stand upright in it of it self, then take it up and lay it in a platter or charger in prety lumps as big as you wil have the mould or printes, and when it is colde print it on a faire boord with suger, and print them on a mould or what know or fashion you will, & bake in an earthen pot or pan upon the embers or in a feate cover, and keep them continually by the fire to keep them dry. The Second Part of the Good Hus-wives Jewell, (1597); Thomas Dawson. From theoldfoodie.com

indianbloodcling_peach_0
Indian Blood Cling Peaches growing at Monticello

I couldn’t find a whole lot about peach recipes in England in the Regency period. There’s a possibility that quinces were more popular than peaches, according to historicfood.com (great pics here!). A lot of the historic recipes I did find were of the use them up quick variety and/or preserve them and if you’ve ever visited a pick your own orchard you’ll know exactly what I mean.

In America, were much more popular. Thomas Jefferson embraced peach cultivation with enthusiasm, growing thirty-eight varieties at Monticello, compared to only two varieties at Washington’s Mount Vernon. Jefferson made mobby, an alcoholic drink from peaches, claiming that “20 bushels of peaches will make 75 galls. of mobby, i.e. 5/12 of its bulk” (The Fruits and Fruit Trees of Monticello. Peter J. Hatch).

I’m fascinated by the wealth of varieties of peaches. Peaches are peaches, right? Unless they’re white peaches or doughnut peaches, which do have distinctive flavors. William Cobbett commented, “It is curious enough that people in general think little of the sort in the case of peaches though they are so choice in the case of apples. A peach is a peach, it seems, though I know no apples between which there is more difference than there is between different sorts of peaches.” (Quoted in Hatch, above).

Here are a couple of recipes from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph, first published in 1825:

Peaches in Brandy. Get yellow soft peaches, perfectly free from defect and newly gathered, but not too ripe; place them in a pot, and cover them with cold weak lye; turn over those that float frequently, that the lye may act equally on them; at the end of an hour take them out, wipe them carefully with a soft cloth to get off the down and skin, and lay them in cold water; make a syrup as for the apricots, and proceed in the same manner, only scald the peaches more.

Peach Marmalade. Take the ripest soft peaches, (the yellow ones make the prettiest marmalade,) pare them, and take out the stones; put them in the pan with one pound of dry light coloured brown sugar to, two of peaches: when they are juicy, they do not require water: with a silver or wooden spoon, chop them with the sugar; continue to do this, and let them boil gently till they are a transparent pulp, that will be a jelly when cold. Puffs made of this marmalade are very delicious.

And here’s a Peach Pudding recipe from later in the century, adapted from Recipes Tried and True, compiled by the Ladies’ Aid Society of the First Presbyterian Church, Marion, Ohio, 1894.

peaches, cooked and sweetened
pint sweet milk
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon butter
a little salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups flour
cream

Fill a pudding dish with peaches, cooked and sweetened; pour over them a batter made of one pint of sweet milk, four eggs, one cup of sugar, one tablespoon of butter, a little salt, one teaspoon of baking powder, and two cups of flour. Place in oven, and bake until a rich brown. Serve with cream.


The title of this post, by the way is from Andrew Marvell. I do love the phrase “stumbling on melons”, and if I’d discovered these lines sooner I might have blogged about melons:

The nectarine, and curious peach,
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass

What are your favorite peach recipes? Do share! I’m off downstairs where a bowl of fresh peaches awaits…

Posted in Food, Research | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Wilt thou yet confess?

Hi everyone! I’m reposting an old History Hoydens post today, about Regency ghosts. When I wrote it, I was working on a book with a ghost character. The book is now under my bed, but who knows what the future will bring? I still think this stuff is fascinating. The block quotes are from The Haunted: a Social History of Ghosts by Owen Davies.

The character I imagined was a murder victim seeking justice (or maybe vengeance…he wasn’t entirely a nice ghost), which has been a popular kind of ghost over the centuries—so popular, in fact, that murder investigations have been opened because of ghost sightings, up through the early part of the eighteenth century. In one case in 1660, a Westmoreland magistrate investigated the death of Robert Parkin because of a report that Robert’s ghost had appeared to a man in the parish church crying “I am murdered I am murdered I am murdered.”

In 1728, a Dorset coroner exhumed a body because of several sightings of the boy’s ghost. In this case the ghost didn’t even speak—its appearance was enough to indicated foul play, despite no previous suspicion about his death. Upon examining the body, the coroner decided he had really been murdered.

Murder victims sometimes haunted their killers: a servant who had killed his master and gotten clean away to Ireland was driven to turn himself in by a headless ghost who appeared to him every night demanding “Wilt thou yet confess?” Sometimes they haunted other acquaintances.

David Garrick in his iconic
David Garrick in his iconic “just caught sight of the Ghost” pose, 1769. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the most upsetting incidents described in the book is this one:

The astrologer and occultist John Heydon (1629-c.1670) recounted how one of his mother’s maids was pulled out of her bed one night by the ghost of a lover named John Stringer, who had recently been murdered by a jealous admirer. Despite three doors leading to her bedroom being locked, the maid ‘had the right side of her haire and headclothes clean shaved or cut away’ by Stringer’s ghost.

That poor woman! Whether you believe in ghosts, or whether you think she imagined the ghost out of guilt and shaved her own hair, it’s an awful story. I hope the “jealous admirer” was prosecuted, and didn’t get to continue stalking and attacking her and her loved ones.

Sometimes ghosts appeared to strangers at the site of their hidden graves. This tied in with another ghost tradition, that souls who didn’t receive Christian burial would walk until their bodies were found and interred in consecrated ground. In 1806, in a town near Manchester, the townsfolk drained a deep pool after a recently missing man’s ghost repeatedly appeared over it at midnight, leading to suspicion he had been murdered. His body was actually found at the bottom, although the evidence indicated he had drowned accidentally. (Not…really sure what this “evidence” would have consisted of at the time. Since writing the original post I’ve read a lot about Elma Sands’s 1800 murder in New York, which also involved the body spending time in water, and there was more or less a complete lack of contemporary forensic knowledge displayed in the autopsy testimony by prominent doctors. So I guess what this really means is that the coroner’s jury ruled for accidental death.)

Francis Grose [in his 1787 A Provincial Glossary, with a Collection of Local Proverbs, and Popular Superstitions] wondered why the ghosts of those murdered did not go straight to the nearest justice of the peace, rather than hang about their burial place frightening passers-by. ‘Ghosts have undoubtedly forms and customs peculiar to themselves,’ he concluded. [Google books link for Grose]

Ghosts historically have not talked much, although apparently they talked more before the Victorian era!

“Brutus and the Ghost of Caesar.” Copperplate engraving by Edward Scriven from a painting by Richard Westall. London, 1802. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Completely silent ghosts became the norm to a much greater extent over the course of the nineteenth century. Generally ghosts who did speak were wrong-righting ghosts. (Although there were exceptions! In 1706 Mr. Shaw, a fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, chatted with the ghost of a dead colleague for two hours before receiving his warning of untimely death.) Murder victims were the most common. (Conflicts over inheritance were also a big one: “Mother’s ghost appeared to me and she says I get the antique dining set!”)

Ebenezer Sibly, eighteenth century writer on astrology and the occult (and huge racist), insisted that only murder victims could speak (and possibly only those who had been killed in “circumstances uncommonly horrid and execrable”), because the traumatizing memory did “more powerfully operate upon the faculties of the apparition, so as to enable it to frame the similitude of a voice, so as to discover the fact, and give some leading clue to detect and punish the wicked perpetrator.”

What’s your favorite ghost story? (Either a famous one, or one that happened to you or someone you know…)

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Research as Routine

I  say all the time that I’m a pantser, not a plotter, but I’ve come to realize that’s only partially true. I do plot, or at least I research towards plot. When I’m in the “thinking” phase of starting a new book, I have a go-to list of resources that I always check out to see if anything sparks.

The Annals of London

9780304354634-uk

I absolutely love this book. It goes year by year from 1065 to 1999. For each year, it lists significant events and strange goings on. So stuff my characters might well have known about, talked about, been interested in, etc. Take for example 1789. There are only five entries.

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Excerpt from The Annals of London. Click to enlarge.

How many of these might make it into my book? At least four of them. Clearly the frozen Thames and entertainments would be great (in fact, I used them in Lord Sin). The Shakespeare Gallery? Could make a useful outing or meeting place for my characters and add a little period flavor to the book. The Italian Opera House burning down? Oh, hellz yeah. Now we’re talking. Obviously I’d have to research the circumstances, but that could add drama in so many ways. Bridge opening? Yep. Another good detail to use for an outing or meeting, and you always need those (you can only write so many balls, LOL).

The English Year

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This one is sort of the opposite of The Annals of London. It covers the year, day by day, with tidbits about special holidays and events. So I flip through this looking to see if anything particularly good is happening during the months when my book takes place (this sometimes helps me choose a location for a character’s seat or country home so I can use some particular tidbit. For example, this archery contest sounds like a lot of fun to write about, which might lead me to do put my characters at some kind of house party in Yorkshire so they could observe or participate.

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Excerpt from The English Year. Click to enlarge.

Political Stuff

Since I’m writing about people in the ton, it’s very likely that they (or their father, or brother, or all of the above) are in Parliament as either a sitting Lord or an MP. There’s a very useful list of the Acts of Parliament on Wikipedia that can provide fodder for plot, both external and internal depending on your characters and the story. Especially in years when something huge happened. If I go look at 1788, the first thing on the list is the American Loyalists Act. That certainly sounds like it could be a plot point (albeit with a lot of research). A character fighting for almost a decade for compensation for remaining loyal to the crown? Yeah, that works. Want a do-gooder character? How about The Chimney Sweepers Act? Really want to get into it? The Slave Trade Act was also passed in 1788. It was supported by some Abolitionists and opposed by others because it merely regulated the trade. Basically, this lets me know what would have been on everyone’s mind (and what votes would have been important enough for a character to make sure he was present for the vote (something I used in Ripe for Seduction to get my secondary hero out of the way for an important plot point).

Gossip

Who was being talked about and why were they being talked about? There are all kinds of resources for this, but one of my favorites is period cartoons. So I always spend a little time looking in various museum archives for cartoons (like what would have been posted in Ackermann’s windows). I also take a peek at the biographies on my shelves that might be of interest and in books like Decency and Disorder and George III: A Life in Caricature. I definitely always look to see if anything interesting was happing with Prinny!

The Plumb-pudding in danger, or, State epicures taking un petit souper. Gillray 1805
The Plumb-pudding in danger, or, State epicures taking un petit souper. Gillray 1805

 

Sports

Because I tend to write Corinthian-type heroes, I definitely look at what was going on with various sports as well. Racing and boxing are both fairly easy to research online. And it’s always fun when there was a big scandal in one of those.

Science and the Arts

I also love to glance through The Royal Society of London Philosophical Transactions (they’re on JSTOR, which most people can access via their library). Sometimes there’s a cool tidbit (report of an earthquake felt in Manchester) or information about new astronomy discoveries or other scientific experiments. Again, this is mostly just ideas for period color and to remind myself about what people would be reading and talking about.

So there you have it, my way of easing into a new book with research. And yes, I was once told by a very prominent agent (who I have a lot of respect for) that she was not the agent for me because, and I quote, “It’s clear you really love history; sadly, I don’t mean that a compliment.”

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Research | 3 Comments

Read-A-Romance-Month

RARMDid you know that August is Read A Romance month? it’s a growing movement started by romance advocate Bobbi Dumas who reviews for NPR, the New York Times and Kirkus.  Click on this link for details on RARM:  http://www.readaromancemonth.com/about-read-a-romance-month-2/

This year I am participating along with 92 other authors including, among others Regency authors, Joanna Bourne, Lauren Wittig, Cathy Maxwell, Caroline Linden and Jade Lee. There are 93 authors in all, three each day of the month. Authors answer questions based on this year’s theme, books they recommend and more personal recollections of romantic moments in their own lives.

Take a minute to check out the calendar, make a copy and be sure to share the details with your friends http://www.readaromancemonth.com/author-calendar-2016/ See if some of your favorite authors are interviewed, come by on their day, read and comment.

MY DATE is Monday August 21. PARM2I’ll remind you more than once so you WILL remember.

I read, write and love romance! Have you heard of Read A Romance Month before this post? Do you have any other favorite sites that celebrate romance?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Coming back, slowly

Hello all! I’m sorry that I haven’t been around much of this year. Life has been more than ordinarily challenging–maybe I’ll share some of the story someday.

What I can tell right now is that once again I’m working on a comeback. I’ve some experience at this already, having made two creative recoveries in the past, and this time I am more strongly motivated than ever. Perhaps over the next few years, I’ll even surprise myself. I hope so!

One of the first steps I’ve taken was heading out to this year’s RWA conference in San Diego. I know about a month has passed, but you may still enjoy some pics from the Beau Monde (Regency special interest chapter) soiree. Here are some of the members, including me, posing in our Regency garb.
RWA_2016_Beau_Monde

And here I am with Cara King, author of My Lady Gamester and past Risky, along with Sir Reginald Scott, the rakish cousin of author Regina Scott.
RWA_2016_Roommates_Smaller

Some of us helped out with a video used as part of the RITA and Golden Heart ceremony. Here’s the video from Youtube. Check us out at about 15:15.

Since RWA, I have been starting work on several projects. More on that soon! And it’s nice to be back. 🙂
Elena

Posted in Regency, Writing | Tagged , | 3 Comments