Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More from Leclerc

"The interior of our ship abounds with mice. Now and then we see some running here and there. From time to time we kill some, and every day we hear them cry in their holes. They make a horrible ravage among our effects. They gnaw our books, papers, linen, clothes, provisions, etc. We have a cat, it is true, but she is so little that she cannot make war on them, and even if she were larger she would not know how to catch them, because she is spoiled and because she is nourished deliciously. She thus loses the taste of the most of the mice. Some one lately presented her with a dead mouse which she smelled and disdained. By way of retaliation our ducks are more warlike and courageous. We once threw a dead mouse upon deck and they pounced upon it, tore it in pieces, disputed over it and endeavored to eat it. And another time they swallowed, in a trice, several little mice which were put before them. I was extremely surprised at seeing that and I said that since ducks eat mice dead or live, doubtless we also eat mice when we eat ducks. I requested, therefore, that I should no more be served duck at dinner."

This vaguely reminds me of a man in the 19th century who decided to eat his way through the arnimal kingdom and once served guests battered mice for breakfast!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A life on the ocean waves....

In 1816, Laurent Leclerc, a young deaf man, sailed from France to America and kept a diary in English in order to improve his use of the language. I found some of the events startling. So did he!

"I have forgotten to say in the beginning of my journal that we have in our ship different species of living animals for our daily nourishment, among which are six hogs, several ducks and several cocks and hens. We have also some canary birds to tickle the ears of the passengers by the agreeable sound of their singing. Ah well!! After dinner I was told that one was now going to kill a hog.

In truth, I saw two strong sailors seize the poor animal by his feet, throw him down and thrust a large knife in his neck. The blood flew and gushed-such a spectacle caused too much pain."


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Breakfast isn't always good for you.

I'm researching the Barons' War of the mid 13th century, when Simon de Montfort was leading an attempt to control the power of the monarchy and bring it under the partial control of the barons. At this time, Edward I was heir to his father, Henry III, but he was at times a supporter of reform. Even so, his relationship with Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, one of the reforming barons, was instable, let us say.

From EDWARD I by Michael Prestwich, Methuen, 1988

"In late July 1258, at Winchester, Edward breakfasted with the earl of Gloucester and his brother William, an indication that he was ready to co-operate with the reforming barons. The meal was a disastrous one, however, for both the de Clare brothers were extremely ill afterwards. William never recovered, and died shortly afterwards, and Earl Richard’s hair fell out, as did his finger- and toe-nails. It was probably a simple case of food-poisoning [you think?], but in the excited atmosphere of the time rumours of plots abounded [you're not kidding!], and Gloucester’s steward, Walter de Scoteny, was accused of poisoning his masters. He was duly found guilty, drawn and hanged. [No comment.]

He was a tenant of Edward’s, and in the following year the prince was granted the proceeds of his lands. [Yet more lack of commentary.]

The fateful breakfast did not, it seems, poison relations between Edward and the earl of Gloucester. An important document shows that on 14 March 1259 a formal alliance was made between Edward and his supporters on the one hand, and Richard de Clare with his on the other. "

Richard died in 1262 at only age 40* -- possibly of poison. At breakfast again?

*The statistics that imply that most people died at about 35 are highly misleading. More on that another time.

Starting With Underthings

I intend this blog for instant display of my random findings, but to get it going I'm sharing some more conventional information.

Many of my novels are set in the English Regency -- Jane Austen's time -- and people often think that the high waisted gowns of the time freed women from corsets, but it isn't so. In fact the fashion for extremely high breasts made a strong corset essential for most fashionable women.
This site sells patterns.

There's more here.

More another day!