Finally, finally!! Lord of Misrule

I could NOT be more excited to tell you that, as it says above, finally –FINALLY!! –I have finished LORD OF MISRULE. Not only that, but the ebook version is up at both Amazon and Smashwords –the Kindle version is on pre-order and will be delivered next Wednesday. Please, please head on over there and order a copy? You will have my undying gratitude.

I put “finally’ in caps because really, this is not just about the fact that the poor book kept getting interrupted and has taken a couple of years to complete. This is my first all-new book in sixteen years! Yes, THE RAKE’S MISTAKE was the last entirely new book I wrote, and it was published by Signet in 2002. (That’s the only one of my backlist I still have not re-issued. I’ll get to it, I promise.)

Coming back after that long a break is not easy. First, there’s the “rust” factor –you’re horribly out of practice after not writing for that long (teaching helps, but it’s not the same), and more, at least in my case, you lose your “voice” and have to spend a lot of writing time just finding it again. Second, and it’s related to the first, there’s the “fear” factor. Face it, writing is a scary business. You put your heart on the line every time you write a story and put it out there for people to judge. When you’re rusty at your craft and finding your way back, I think the “fear factor” is tripled! So, I have my fingers crossed and hope readers will enjoy my new effort.

But there’s another “finally” I’m celebrating with this new book. I was detoured during those years by a series of serious health issues in my family –my mom, my younger son, my husband. Each time I started to write again, a new crisis occurred and the correlation of the timing was worthy of the Twilight Zone! I began to believe I just wasn’t meant to be writing during those years, and still believe that. No guilt.

This time when I started again, the health crisis that occurred was mine. The reason to celebrate is not only because I managed to write anyway, but because I believe I have either broken the pattern, or come to the end of the period of not-writing. The joy is back, and I feel that part of my brain is working again. FINALLY! Yippee!

LORD OF MISRULE

On a snowy Christmas Eve day, a vicar’s daughter runs into the Devil himself, or is he just the Lord of Misrule? In a season of miracles and magic, can love bind two unlikely hearts in the days leading to Twelfth Night?

“a bit of Pride and Prejudice, a little Brigadoon and a dollop of Cinderella” –author Terri Kennedy

In trouble for causing a scandal in London, Adam Randall, Lord Forthhurst, is headed home to make amends on Christmas Eve day when he becomes stranded in the tiny village of Little Macclow. Before the night is over, he has become thoroughly entangled in the village’s celebration of the twelve days of Christmas, and fully intrigued by the vicar’s daughter, Miss Cassandra Tamworth.

Cassie has been raised by her widowed father to expect the worst from members of the aristocracy. Lord Forthhurst is a puzzle. Can she trust him? Or is he a devil, as he claims and warns her? Can her mind resist when her heart and body want to be his?

Note: This special full-length holiday book from Gail focuses entirely on the romance between Adam and Cassie and the shenanigans during twelve days of Christmas. In this one, no nefarious doings are afoot and there’s no mystery to be solved beyond the mystery of how two people who belong together ever manage to sort themselves out enough to find love!

BUY LINKS

Kindle:  https://tinyurl.com/y7rofpyo

Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc.:  https://tinyurl.com/y89v9odt

Have you ever had to persevere over a long period of time to complete something, or get back to something? I am so grateful to my readers who have been patiently waiting for me, and for new ones who are willing to give me a try!

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Preparing for Christmas

(I first posted this blog on Dec 3, 2012 and, really, it still applies. I still need to prepare for Christmas….)

I am the lady of this house, not an exalted country house, but a respectable one and I must not dally any further. I must prepare for Christmas. It is a daunting task in this modern age – 1820. There is so much to do.

First I must check to see if Cook has prepared the Christmas pudding. She should have done so one week ago on Stir Up Sunday. I must discuss with her all the food we shall need for the holidays, because the rest of the family and some friends will gather here and they will stay through Twelfth Night.

I should send invitations to the families near here to come for a Christmas meal. I believe I shall have my daughter write them. She has a better hand than I. Soon it will be time to send the footmen out to gather greenery and we must hang a ball of mistletoe to generate some excitement during the party.

Then there are gifts to purchase. I shall make a list and have my husband’s people purchase them in London and send them to me here. And I must exert myself to embroider some handkerchiefs for everyone, because that is the sort of generous person I am.

Speaking of generous, we will also make up baskets of food for those less fortunate than we. I am certain the kitchen staff and maids might take an afternoon away from their duties to assist in filling the baskets. My dh, Lord P–, and I will, of course deliver them to the families. It will take the better part of the day.

Elena reminded me I must make brandy butter and that it needs a great deal of tasting to make it just right.
Now I shall lie down for a bit. All this planning has quite exhausted me (not to mention making the brandy butter)

It is such a busy time!
What are you doing to prepare for the holidays??

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New Book Alert

Today I’m going to talk about my new precious: PATTERNS OF FASHION 5: THE CONTENT, CUT, CONSTRUCTION & CONTEXT OF BODIES, STAYS, HOOPS & RUMPS c.1595-1795 by JANET ARNOLD, JENNY TIRAMANI, LUCA COSTIGLIOLO, SEBASTIEN PASSOT, ARMELLE LUCAS & JOHANNES PIETSCH.

Cover

 

This  is the fifth volume of the Patterns of Fashion series, and was recently published by the School of Historical Dress. It includes patterns for 26 pairs of stays, a farthingale, 10 hoops and a rump. And it’s AMAZING. Sadly, I believe it’s also sold out and I don’t know if they’re planning on doing a second printing.

In case this series isn’t familiar, Patterns of Fashion is one of the most influential book of historical clothing studies every produced, and Janet Arnold was basically a goddess among women. Her books set the standard for clothing studies, and the people she trained are doing a great job of carrying on her work.

Just leafing it through it, I encountered information I’d never seen before in my 40+ years as a historical re-enactor and costumer. This is absolutely the best part of research, and fills me with delight. I also confirmed what I’d always thought about 17thC stays, but had never been able to find the resources to confirm (that they are in fact often built into the gowns, especially in the first half of the century).

So, what was new? Metal hoops! I’ve seen cane and reed and rope and all kinds of other stuff used, but I’d never seen metal ones in the 18thC. They appear to be very large and are most likely for a court gown (which would need the extra support). And yes, these are still collapsible.

Metal Hoops, c. 1760-1780 (German)

Here are several examples of 17thC gowns with the stays build in (or with the gown bodice boned, if you prefer). I find the Dutch ones particularly fascinating with their fancy frill. They act as stays and stomacher both.

Boned Bodice, c. 1645-1655 (English)
Boned bodice, c. 1630-1635 (Dutch)

Here is also another example of pregnancy stays, which I get asked about quite a bit at conferences. This pair has two stomachers, so basically the lady is wearing her regular stays, but adapting them to her changing figure. I’ve also seen a gown that was adapted this way in the 18thC, so this must have been a common solution.

Reproduction of pregnancy stays, c. 1665-1675 (English)

And here’s a great example of why these books are so valuable to anyone who wants to make or understand historical clothing. First, the put stuff into a larger context in the front of the books:

Detail page about Reisser & Garsault books about stay making. 18thC. French.
Information about taking measurements and construction, also from Reisser & Garsault. 18thC. French.

Then they offer details of the extant garment:

Details of extant strapless stays, c.1760-1770 (English)
Details of extant strapless stays, c.1760-1770 (English)

Then they have a diagramed study with even more details:

Diagram of extant strapless stays, c.1760-1770 (English)
Diagram of extant strapless stays, c.1760-1770 (English)

In short, this is my favorite series of books ever, and I can’t wait to see what the Historical School of Dress puts out next.

 

Posted in Clothing, History, Isobel Carr, Research | 2 Comments

To Autumn…again

We have just started seeing the beauty of autumn here in  Virginia. It was 70 on November 2, but brisk and sunny since. Finally the leaves are turning and getting ready to fall.

I wanted to do a Regency homage to autumn. Turns out I already wrote one on Risky Regencies in October 2010. So here it is again, because I could not do better!

On 19 September 1819, John Keats took an evening walk along the River Itchen near Winchester and was inspired to write one of the most perfect poems in the English language:

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


Here’s the poem read by Ben Whishaw, the actor who played Keats in the movie, Bright Star:

I think the imagery in To Autumn is just beautiful, giving the mood of autumn as well as the sights and sounds.

The poem was included in volume of Keats’ works printed in 1820 to better reviews than his earlier works. A year later, Keats died.

You could say he wrote the poem in the autumn of his young life.

If you took a walk near your house, like Keats did, what would catch your eye? What’s your favorite part about being outdoors in autumn?

Check out the cover for my next release, Shipwrecked with the Captain, available in paperback February 19 and in ebook March 1. And sign up for my new newsletter , even if you were signed up on my old website.

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Curses, but not Foiled Again

I’ve been editing Lord of Misrule (almost finished!), and it is always interesting to see what minutiae of the period suddenly will crop up as a problem when one is at this stage of finishing. I discovered that my hero has been saying “bloody hell” in the rough draft on the rare occasions that he felt the need to swear (usually in his head, not out loud). Yes, poor man, a lot of frustration there.

The problem with that (for me) is twofold at the least: first, I believe that is an extremely strong and even today quite offensive curse in Britain, and second, I write “clean/sweet” (choose your preferred label) Regencies, and I think that is too strong a curse for many of my readers, especially the ones who like Christian romances.

So of course, I’ve had to take time out from editing to study up on Regency cursing.

I’m not fond of “By Jove” even though the phrase is period –it sounds like a popinjay to me, not a hero. Might work for a best friend; in fact I’ve used it that way. The hero of my very first book used “Devil take it” as his cursing phrase, but I don’t want to go to the same well over and over –we writers like characters to be as unique as real people are, if we have enough skill to achieve that. Besides, my LOM hero, Adam, has a tendency to compare himself to the Devil or claim to be him, so things could get confusing. J But I have discovered an assortment of articles, blogs, and other sources all dealing with this vocabulary issue. Clearly this is a common problem!

Interestingly, “bloody” which is considered quite bad even though commonly used now, was not so terrible until about the time of the Regency. Even the illustrious Maria Edgeworth had a character use it in 1801, but that is about the last time it was acceptable for a very long period. (Ref. https://www.salon.com/2013/05/11/the_modern_history_of_swearing_where_all_the_dirtiest_words_come_from/

For me, the problem with using “bloody” remains all about the modern reader’s sensibility, rather than period accuracy. If Adam uses “bleeding” instead, does the change in word form make it less offensive?

Historical sources make a distinction between profanity and obscenity in cursing –the former having to do with religious references and the latter about body parts and functions. Several scholarly articles talk about swearing and class distinctions. It seems to me after only a brief study, I’ll admit, that when looking at the differences in the way the upper class and lower class swore, at least historically, the upper class was more likely to stick with profanity and the lower classes tended toward the obscene.

That interests me, because I have the impression that often the lower classes were actually more religious than the upper class, and I wonder if there’s a case to be made of that influence on each class’s choice for bad language! Neither sort quite serves my purpose for poor Adam, so I begin to see why I am having trouble.

The problem with many of the sources is that they lump cursing and swearing in with slang in general, and an article that sounds promising may not actually have much to offer to the specific point. Slang is easy –just get a copy of the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. That isn’t what I’m looking for. But author Joanna Waugh has a fabulous list of expressions (with dates) on her website: http://www.joannawaugh.com/expressions.html

The best article I found was an old post by Nicola Cornick on the Word Wenches blog: https://wordwenches.typepad.com/word_wenches/2011/03/mind-your-language-a-very-short-history-of-swearing.html  She does an elegant job of handling the topic, but some of it still deals with insults and not cursing the way I am looking for it.

 In the end, I am going to modify Adam’s swearing by making one up, substituting only slightly milder words: “bleeding blazes” works for me. It’s still strong, but no longer blatantly profane. Swears don’t have to make sense –they’re about strong emotion, not logic.

But researching this topic has made me yearn for a book I came across only once ever, gifted to a friend who later died, and which then could not be found among his effects afterwards, sad to say. It was a marvelous flip book for creating Shakespearean insults. The author had gone through all of Shakespeare’s writing, collecting the insult words and dividing them into nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The book was ingeniously divided into sections so that you could flip between them and construct your own phrases. Someday I would love to come across that book again!

What do you think about swearing in novels? Does finding profanity in a story offend you? Does obscenity belong only in erotica? If you write, have you ever created swears for your characters, or have any favorites that you like to use? Lots to talk about. Please let me know in the comments!

Nov 5: I’m back to add some material from discussion this post generated on Facebook. Plus an apology that some comments were delayed in showing up here –first time commenters sometimes need approval and the emails seeking it were in my spam folder!

Author Ella Quinn compiled the following list of Regency curses from her research and gave me permission to share it with you here. Thank you, Ella!

Words gentlemen used when they swore:
Devil it, Bollocks, Bloody, Hell, (Gail’s note: but not Bloody Hell together, several people have assured me) Damn his eyes, Damme, (Egan uses Demmee), Devil a bit, The devil’s in it, Hell and the Devil, Hell and damnation, Hell and the Devil confound it, How the devil . .

Words that could be used around a lady: Perdition, By Jove’s beard, Zounds, Curse it, Blister it, By Jove, Confound it, Dash it all, Egad, Fustian, Gammon, Hornswoggle, Hound’s teeth, Jove, Jupiter, Lucifer, ‘Pon my sou, Poppycock, Zeus.

Oaths appropriate for ladies were:  Dratted (man, boy, etc.), Fustian, Heaven forbid, Heaven forefend, Horse feathers, Humdudgeon, Merciful Heavens, Odious (man, creature, etc.), Piffle, Pooh, What a hobble (bumble-broth) we’re in.

How do you like those?  —Gail

Posted in Regency, Research, Risky Book Talk, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Dining Out while Female

London was overflowing with places for men to eat or procure cooked meals (taverns, clubs, coffee houses, supper clubs, chip houses, pubs). Many of these same options were available working class women (as were the plethora of street vendors selling pies, bread and cheese, and other portable foostuffs).  

But what was a lady to do when she found herself peckish while on a shopping spree or after a long day touring the British Museum? Obviously if she were ravenous, she could have her footman fetch her a pie, but what if she’d just attended a lecture with a gentleman? Where could they go?

The answer, as far as I can tell, is a fashionable pastry shop (as anyone who’s read or seen Persuasion already knows). Anyone who reads Regency-set romances is familiar with the famous Gunter’s of Berkeley Square. But there were any other options.  

For starters, there was Perry’s: 

Then there’s Farrance’s:

And you could always make up your own (which is honestly one of my favorite options). I’ll be adding these and other locations to the Regency Places map for future reference. 

 

Posted in Food, History, Isobel Carr, Places, Regency, Research | 4 Comments

The Great British Baking Show!

I’m finally starting to feel better after nearly a month of being down with a sinus infection. It’s really hard being that sick when you live alone. One thing that helped me through were friends who checked in on me and brought Robitussin and neti pot salt when I ran out. Another thing that helped was comfort TV—including the Great British Bake Off.

I’m sure many of you have already watched. I had been resisting, fearing it would be too much like some of the US reality TV, which a friend described as putting rats in a cage and watching them eat each other. I was relieved to see that TGBBS is totally different.

A few things I love about it that provide some faint justification as research:

– It is set at English country estates, and baking episodes are interspersed with vignettes of scenery, sheep and wildlife. Very atmospheric!
– Contestants come from all over the British Isles, so there is a diversity of accents and dialects, also many of them draw on their local traditions and foods for inspiration.
– A few of the baking challenges involve historical foods that might have been made during the Regency.

Other aspects I love:
– The baking challenges are difficult and the standard of judging is high, but there isn’t the kind of gimmicky, almost practical joke style stuff thrown in randomly to add to the difficulty.
– The judges critique the baking but are supportive to the contestants as aspiring bakers.
One actually can see many of the contestants learning new skills and developing more self confidence throughout the challenges.
– There is competition but not the sort of backstabbing too often emphasized in reality TV. People cry and hug at the end of the session when someone is picked to leave.
– Silly baking puns and jokes like “10 more minutes to polish your choux” and “30 minutes remaining on your mirror glazes. On reflection, 29.”
– I enjoy the insights into the creative process, the choices of when and how to take creative risks while still striving to reliably create something beautiful and delicious.

Probably most of all, I love how the series showcases home bakers—people who show their love for friends and family by making delicious things. I think this correlates with the fact that the contestants are such overwhelmingly likeable people who act more like a team than competitors. (One even called the group a team.)

Also, I really want to try making some of the things they make (though not my own phyllo dough, thank you very much!)

For those unfamiliar with the show, here is a clip of Top Ten Moments:

Here is a wonderful interview with the 2015 winner, Nadiya Hussein.

And here’s a link to one of the recipes I want to try: Kate’s Sticky Toffee Apple Caramel Cake.

Does anyone else love this show? What do you like best about it? Have you tried any of the published recipes and how did that turn out?

Elena

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Fun with Primary Sources

I absolutely love reading firsthand accounts of the era in which I set my books. I’ve been reading Boswell’s London Journal 1762-1763 again. It’s nice, because the entries are small and I can read one or two whenever I have a moment to spare from whatever else I’m doing.

As these were his private journals, he’s quite frank in them. And it’s interesting to see just how a single man about town whiled away his time. For example, here is a typical entry, dated Saturday 4 December (1762):

“I breakfasted with Dempster. He accompanied me into the City. He parted from me at St. Paul’s, and I went to Child’s, where there was not much said. I dined and drank tea with Lady Betty Macfarlane. We were but cold and dull. The Laird was low and disagreeable. I resolved to dine there no more; at least very, very seldom. At night, Erskine and I strolled through the streets and St. James’s Park. Were were accosted there by several ladies of the town [whores]. Erskine was very humorous and said some very wild things to them. There was one in a red cloak of a good buxom person and comely face whom I marked as a future piece, in case of exigency.”

This entry has a footnote which also gives Boswell’s daily memoranda of the same day (yes, the man kept TWO different forms of journal of his daily life!).

“Breakfast first at home. Then in Bath [coat] and old grey [suit] and stick, sally to City. Send off North Britons to Digges. Get the one of the day. Go to Child’s, take dish of coffee, read Auditor, MonitorBriton. Then come to Douglas’s and inquire about parade. Then Leicester [Street], dine. Be comfortable yet genteel, and please your friend Captain Erskine. Drink tea. Then home, quiet, and wind up the week’s journal in grey and slippers. Be always in bed before twelve. Never sup out. Breakfast R> Mackye Sunday and take franks [get Mackye to send his mail for free].”

Clearly, I need to see about tracking down a copy of Boswell’s memoranda (as well as other volumes of his journal). I love this kind of daily minutia. It really helps me fill out my scenes, understand how my characters would have spent their time, and how they would have thought about the world. And can you imagine the scandal if someone wrote a little too frankly in his journal and it was stolen and published? Oh, glorious plot bunny!

 

Posted in History, Isobel Carr, Plot bunnies, Regency, Research | 1 Comment

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I am still holding onto the vision of having a nice writing room, but progress is slow. Here are my new bookcases, or should I say, five of them. I ordered six of these stackable bookcases, but found that the bottom shelves on two of them were broken, apparently damaged in transit. I duly called up the store and they said no problem, put the broken ones out for UPS to collect and they would ship me new ones. So I thanked the nice customer service person and did as she recommended. I packed up the two broken units, lugged them down the stairs and put them out, thinking at least I didn’t have to lug them back to UPS.

About a week later, two more arrived and I crossed my fingers that they would be intact, despite the fact that the boxes looked even more roughed up than from the first delivery. So I was not entirely surprised to find that the first box I opened contained yet another bookcase with a broken bottom shelf. At least the second one I opened was good. Once again I talked to a very nice customer service person and put the broken bookcase out for UPS to collect. I really don’t know what I’m going to do if the next one arrives damaged–maybe I’ll have to drive to the nearest store that carries them. There isn’t one within 100 miles, but at least I could make sure the bookcase makes it home intact.

Also in the things-not-working-as-hoped department, I need some roller blinds for the master bedroom. I measured the desired width–37 inches. then apparently I went downstairs and wrote down 27 inches. Again, I worked with a very nice lady at the store I ordered from, and despite it being my error, she took the blinds back and ordered me new ones.

I am grateful for good customer service people, but I’m also longing to be settled in and writing on a regular schedule! Please tell me that will happen eventually. Also, please feel free to share any recent misadventures or bloopers, so I know it isn’t just me. Thanks!

Elena

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Something about snuff

The habit of taking snuff is one of those areas of very authentic period life that seem distasteful to our modern sensibilities. If I wrote a hero who took snuff, be honest –wouldn’t your reaction be “eeeuwww”? He would instantly seem less attractive, wouldn’t he? Snuff-users, if we have any in our stories at all, are more likely to be dandy-ish best friends or even perhaps villains.

As fiction writers, we authors always walk a fine line between recreating an accurate picture of the historical world our characters live in and the attitudes of the modern age we and our readers inhabit. Today we know the dangers of using tobacco and the addictive nature of nicotine. I have to admit, after recently visiting a historic snuff mill near where I live (birthplace of American artist Gilbert Stuart), I came away wondering why more of the snuff-using fashionable people in our period didn’t all have brain cancer! (More on this below)

That said, I thought I might share a glimpse into snuff and the process of making and using it, since it actually was such a popular habit. Did you know that Queen Charlotte (Prinny’s mother) was such a snuff fan that she had an entire room at Windsor set aside for her snuff supplies? Or that she was called “snuffy Charlotte” by some (clearly irreverent) subjects? Prominent snuff-users in our period included Keats, who penned the line, “Give me wine, women and snuff, until I cry out – hold, enough!”, also Wellington, Nelson, Napoleon, and the Prince Regent himself, who had his own proprietary blend. Members of Parliament would take snuff before debating matters, and to this day a communal snuff container is provided in the House of Lords.

Snuff is dried, cured tobacco ground into a powder of varying consistencies and taken by inhaling through the nose. A special grinding apparatus is used to achieve the fine powder. Its history traces back to ancient times in Brazil, where the Spanish first encountered it and brought it back home. From there, the French picked it up and spread its use to the rest of Europe and even into the Far East. As its use became more and more popular, it grew from a luxury only for the rich to a habit also shared with the professional middle class. In general it was never adopted by the poor who smoked their tobacco instead.

Like tea at this period, snuff was blended to unique and very individual tastes. The types of original tobacco plants could vary, as well as the many different methods used for curing it. Many additional ingredients might be combined with the various kinds of dry ground tobacco to affect the scent, which lingered in the nose long after the initial fast “hit” of the nicotine. Spices, fruits, flowers and more substances were all used for this purpose. Users took pride in their own specific recipes. Prinny was hardly alone in having his own blend, although others might not have the power and position to attach their name to theirs.

Snuff was most often taken by holding a pinch between the thumb and index finger, or placing a small amount on the back of the hand to “snuff”. Sometimes rabbits’ feet were used to wipe away the residue under the nose. (Sneezing was considered the sign of a beginner, although many snuff sellers also sold handkerchiefs.) Enough people placed their pinch of snuff in the concave space between the wrist and outer base of the thumb created by cocking one’s thumb out that the spot acquired the anatomical name “snuff box”.

Actual snuff boxes, however, were a necessity for users, and very quickly became status symbols. Because dried snuff loses its flavor quickly when exposed to air, portable pocket-sized boxes that held only a day or two’s supply were needed as well as larger boxes at home, or for communal use. Pocket snuff boxes were often given as gifts, the more elaborate the better. Boxes were made by jewelers and goldsmiths, made of gold, silver, tortoise shell, ivory and many other materials, decorated with jewels, portraits, mosaics, and more. The famous jewelers Rundell & Bridge received £8,205 for snuff-boxes given as gifts to foreign dignitaries at Prinny’s wedding.

Snuff was considered by many to have beneficial medicinal properties. Catherine d’Medici used snuff to combat migraines. People believed snuff could protect them from plague and cure failing eyesight. Some modern studies have concluded that snuff is a “safe” alternative to smoking cigarettes, because it doesn’t involve the tar and carbon products from being burned and it doesn’t impact the lungs. However, warnings against snuff usage also have a long history. It was banned at various times, and John Hill published his Caution against the Use of Snuff in 1761. People could see for themselves the damage sometimes done to the inside of the nose. The cancer-causing tobacco chemicals can have unhealthy effects on the nasal passages and sinuses they touch, and the stimulant chemicals can still raise the risks of heart-related problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. Despite the fast route of nicotine directly to the brain, brain tissue itself is not in direct contact with the snuff, so brain cancer isn’t a risk. Throat and stomach cancer can be, when some of the powder travels from the nose to those lower areas.

I was surprised to learn, while researching this topic, that snuff use is on the rise again, popular among ex-smokers and others who haven’t kicked the nicotine addiction. A “less-bad” way around the smoking bans, I suppose. Dry snuff is closely related to “moist snuff”, also called dipping tobacco, which is placed inside the lip and is quite popular among professional sports players. Drug-screening doesn’t test for or count the addictive stimulant nicotine among the forbidden substances for these people. For an entertaining and interesting foray into the world of modern snuff users, read an excerpt posted by writer Julian Dutton on his blog, from his book titled The Bumper Book of Curious Clubs. Snuff has also been ridiculed by none other than the comedian Stephen Fry –check his youtube video .

Did you know taking snuff was on the rise again? Did you know that the phrase “up to snuff” originally meant someone who was mentally alert, smart –as in someone whose brain was stimulated by nicotine? How do you feel about period characters who indulge in taking snuff?

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