Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Suitable for Halloween, I think. I found this site which contains all kinds of information about executions, including a listing of people executed in the United Kingdom in various years.

Here's a link to the Regency period and past, including crime for which they were executed.

And here's a page about the execution of women in the 18th century.

Scary stuff.



Suitable for Halloween, I think. I found this site which contains all kinds of information about executions, including a listing of people executed in the United Kingdom in various years.

Here's a link to the Regency period and past, including crime for which they were executed.

And here's a page about the execution of women in the 18th century.

Scary stuff.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

wake up with a jolt

More from the Century of Inventions.

I suspect this one didn't catch on due to hazard!

[A most conceited Tinder-box.] The following note from "Humane Industry," 1661, appears highly suggestive of such an instrument,although the Marquis's invention is more elaborate. " Andrew Alciat the great Civilian of France, had a kind of Clock in his chamber, that should awake him at any hour of the night that he determined, and when it struck the determined hour, it struck fire likewise out of a flint, which fell among tinder, to light him a candle: it was the invention of one Caravagio of Sienna in Italy."

Jo :)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Torpedo War, and Sub-marine Explosions,

That's the title of a book by American, Robert Fulton.

Date of publication? 1804

It's not such a huge surprise, because a submarine vessel was demonstrated for King James 1 (early 17th century) and the Americans tried out an armed submarine during the Revolution.

Still, it startles, because we could imagine Torpedo War and Sub-marine Explosions rolling off any press today.

This is from the wonderful Century of Inventions, by the Marquess of Worcester, written in the 17th century.

And what about this?
"Pepys, in his Diary, under date the 14th of March, 1662, says: " This afternoon came the German, Dr. Knuffler, to discourse with us about his engine to blow up ships. We doubted not the matter of fact, it being tried in Cromwell's time, but the safety of carrying them in ships; but he do tell us, that when he comes to tell the King his secret, for none but the Kings, successively, and their heirs must know it, it will appear to be of no danger at all."_Pepys' Diary, ed. 1858, vol. i. p. 264."

I wonder what became of that?

Ive put up some extra links at the side. Visit Word Wenches, where I blog with some fellow historical authors. If you love historical romance, sign up for Historical Delights. No chat or spam, just links to excerpts from available historical romance.

Best wishes,


Saturday, June 17, 2006

Genteel Jane

There's been talk around the web recently about whether Jane Austen intended some rather risque references in her novels. I have no strong opinion on that, but I do have on Jane herself. Now this is entirely my own reading of her, but I hurt for Jane when I see people today trying to keep her crammed in a box of genteel propriety that confined her in life.

I see Jane Austen as a woman torn between family affection and loyalty and a soaring intelligence, creativity, and spirit. I can imagine the sort of powerful objections that led her to cover her writing whenever the family wanted her attention in order to keep the peace. How she delighted in earning money. Did she secretly dream of the time when she could afford to go off on her own and explore the wider world?

Jane was not a Victorian miss. Her early years were 18th century, not 19th.

Only consider Jane's History of England, written when she was sixteen. Her passage on Edward IV already shows a lovely, irreverant tone and absolutely no prudery about mistresses.

"This Monarch was famous only for his Beauty & his Courage, of which the Picture we have here given of him, & his undaunted Behaviour in marrying one Woman while he was engaged to another, are sufficient proofs. His Wife was Elizabeth Woodville, a Widow who, poor woman! was afterwards confined in a Convent by that Monster of Iniquity & Avarice Henry the 7th. One of Edward's Mistresses was Jane Shore, who had a play written about her, but it is a tragedy & therefore not worth reading. Having performed all these noble actions, his Majesty died, & was succeeded by his son."

My main objection to the Genteel Jane cult, however, is the portrait that is commonly used. Something like this.

However, that is a prettified Victorian version of the sketch by her sister, Cassandra. I've darkened some lines to make the folded arms and assertive posture clearer.

This is a close up of her face. Not genteel at all, no. Not Jane.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006


There's a tendency to put values of today onto the past, perhaps particularly in regards to war. Of course war has always been violent and full of atrocities, but in novels, at least, we like to think that our military heroes have modern sensibilities. Perhaps modern civilian sensitivities. They are sensitve to the humanity of the enemy. They regret killing them. They care about the enemy civilians. They look back on war and shudder.

There are all kinds of reactions to war, of course, but I've seen plenty of evidence to the opposite.

Consider this letter, written after Waterloo by Lieutenant William Turner, 13th Light Dragoons.

"VILLEPEUT near PARIS, 3rd July 1815.

MY DEAR BUSBY,—I assure you it is with the greatest pleasure I can find time to inform you I am perfectly sound and in good health and spirits.

We marched into this village last night from near Louvres, and are only nine miles from Paris and can distinctly hear the firing, which takes place at Paris, between the Prussian advanced posts and the French. This war cannot possibly last long, for every town and village is completely ransacked, and pillaged by the Prussians and neither wine, spirits, or bread are to be found. The whole country from the frontier to Paris has been laid waste by the march of troops, and the crops nearly destroyed, we are waiting for the Prussians when that infernal City Paris will be attacked and no doubt pillaged, for it is a debt we owe to the whole of Europe, all the inhabitants for leagues round here have taken themselves and their effects into Paris, so that it will be worth taking if we loose 20,000 men.

You have no idea of the enthusiasm of the troops and their determination to carry before them everything in their way, the Prussians are also determined soldiers and I expect in one week Paris will be completely sacked and perhaps burned."


Sunday, June 11, 2006

Language in the Regency

In the Rush memoires I read that the English upper class larded their speech with French, despite being at war with the French. This is obviously true of Italian, also, judging from this letter from Theresa Fielding to her son. They are both part of the influential Fox Strangeways family. You can read the notes here.

Sackville Street<1>

20th Decr (1815)

My Dearest Henry

I am so pleased that you liked your parcel, you have no idea di quel gran piacer ch’ío gusto nel farvi piacere.<2>

I will send you Zetti’s Grammar<3> but will wait till I hear again from you, in case you should recollect any thing more you wish to have sent with it.

I have sent to Rodwell for the last Edition of Zetti’s Grammar, but it is not yet come. & I will look over my Italian Books to see if I have any that will suit you. You are too young yet to read their first rate Poets, you would not yet feel their beauties, & they are difficult. I will must send you some easy books to begin with, & in prose till you are more au fait<4> of the language

Adiò conservatevi & scrivite Subito<5>

Let me know if the Morning Chronicle<6> ever miss because I send it every day

Have you a good Italian Dictionary to consult?

Would you like to have the Examiner?<7>

William H Fox Talbot Esqr
Rnd Mr Barnes’s

A letter from his sister is entirely in French. An exercise to some extent, but indicative.
Ce 11 Fevrier 1817.

Mon cher Henri,

J’espère que vous êtes bien content d’avoir aujourd’hui dixsept ans, je vous le souhaite de tout mon cœur & je voudrais bien avoir le plaisir de vous le dire de vivevoix.

Maman<1> nous a fait présent à chacune d’une très belle poupée, et nous allons célébrer votre jour de naissance en meublant les petits appartemens des poupées, c'est à dire notre Baby House. Il faisait clair un soir, mais Maman ne pouvait pas nous permettre de regarder les étoiles à cause du Froid.

Mon cher Frère
Croyez moi
Votre affectionnée Sœur

Caroline Augustine.

London Feb eleven 1817 Auckland<2> –
Hy Fox Talbot Esqr
Revd Mr Bonney<3>


11 February 1817

My dear Henri,

I hope that you are happy to turn seventeen today, I wish you this with all my heart and I would so like to have the pleasure of saying this to you in person.

Mama gave each of us the gift of a very beautiful doll, and we are going to celebrate your birthday by furnishing the little appartments for the dolls, that is to say our Baby House. It was clear one evening, but Mama could not allow us to look at the stars because of the Cold.

My dear Brother
Believe me
Your affectionate Sister
Caroline Augustine.

All the letters are interesting.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on travel

I came across this which I hadn't posted. It's from Felix LeClerc again about his voyage from France to America in 1816. The service received looks pretty good, even to modern eyes!

"I profit by this opportunity to speak of our steward and cook; and when I shall have spoken of the first, I shall speak of the second. Our steward is named Joseph Sexton. He is a young man, very intelligent, diligent, laborious, dexterous, civil, complaisant, obliging and all that we could wish. When we are up in the morning, he presents to us some water to wash our faces and our hands. When we are yet in bed and sleepy, he never forgets to awake us and to tell us that breakfast is soon to be ready. At breakfast he takes care that we want nothing. At dinner he is very watchful and changes our plates, knives and forks in proportion to the number of courses served, and at supper he is not less provident. Besides all that he makes our beds well every day and sweeps our rooms and cabin as neatly as possible.

Our cook is also a young man but taller and stronger. He is a negro man and a very skillful cook. In the morning he makes us good coffee and serves us with fresh eggs or an omelet. At noon he prepares for us a well-seasoned thigh or side of a hog, an excellent dish of rice pudding, another of choice victuals, another of fine beans, another of exquisite fish, another of rare cabbages, another of choice potatoes. He dresses and roasts every day two admirable ducks or hens or cocks. In the evening he prepares good tea. Indeed, our cook is an excellent man, and I do not doubt that if any lord knew him, his lordship would entice him away."

Of course I was reading LeClerc as research for my novel The Rogue's Return, which was out in March.

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Check out www.wordwenches.com


Sunday, May 21, 2006

London Houses in the Regency

More from Louis Simond, traveller. He is describing London houses in general, but this applies to most of the houses owned by upper class characters in Regency novels, for in this period, London town houses weren't large. The elite, however, did sometimes live in mansions.

(I'd add some pictures, but Blogger seems to be having a problem with this right now. But you can go here to see a typical terrace of houses. http://members.shaw.ca/jobev/bath1.jpg, and here for a two-storey terrace in Cheltenham.http://members.shaw.ca/jobev/chelst2.jpg)

"It may be a matter or curiosity in France to know how the people of
London are lodged. Each family occupy a whole house, unless very poor.
There are advantages and disadvantages attending this custom. Among the first,
the being more independent of noise, the dirt, the contagious disorders, or the
danger or your neighbour's fires, and having a more complete home. On the
other hand, a suite of apartments all on one floor, even of a few rooms
only, looks much better, and is more convenient.

These narrow houses, three or four stories high,--one for eating, one for sleeping, a third for company, a fourth under ground for the kitchen, a fifth perhaps at top for
the servants,--and the agility, the ease, the quickness with which the
individuals of the family run up and down, and perch on different stories,
give the idea of a cage with sticks and birds.

The plan of these houses is very simple, two rooms on each story; one in the front, with two or three windows looking on the street, the other on a yard behind, often very
small; the stairs generally taken out of the breadth of the back-room. The
ground-floor is usually elevated a few feet above the level of the street,
and separated from it by an area, a sort of ditch, a few feet wide,
generally from three to eight, and six to eight feet deep, inclosed by an
iron railing; the windows of the kitchen are in this area.

A bridge of stone or brick leads to the door of the house. The front of these houses is about twenty or twenty-five feet wide; they certainly have rather a paltry
appearance;--but you cannot pass the threshold without being struck with
the look of order and neatness of the interior. Instead of the abominable filth
of the common entrance and common stairs of a French house, here you step
from the very street on a neat floor-cloth or carpet, the wall painted or
papered, a lamp in its glass bell hanging from the ceiling, and every
apartment in the same style:--all is neat, compact, and independent, or, as
it is best expressed here, snug and comfortable,--a familiar expression,
rather vulgar perhaps, from the thing itself being too common.

On the foot pavement before each house is a round hole, fifteen or
eighteen inches in diameter, covered with an iron grate; through that hole
the coal-cellar is filled without endangering the neatness of the house.
The streets have all common sewers, which drain the filth of every house. The
drains preclude that awkward process by which necessaries are emptied at
Paris, poisoning the air of whole streets, during the night, with effluvia,
hurtful and sometimes fatal to the inhabitants.

Rich houses have what are called water-closets; a cistern in the upper story, filled with water,communicates by a pipe and cock to a vessel of earthen ware, which it washes. This is a toilet, I assume.

Jo :)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Sports hooligans

Yes, I'm back after a long visit to England and recovery therefrom.

If I were a true-blue blogger I'd have posted day by day and yes, I would have had interesting things to pass on about history. But though I had the laptop with me, I never connected it to the internet while I was there.

And of course I've forgotten most of the tid-bits I stumbled over on my travels. Which is why true-blue bloggers post every day.

But even though I'm writing a Regency set book that doesn't require much research at the moment, I'm still digging through medieval stuff in preparation for writing that book or books one day set in the mid 13th century Barons' War.

Where I found out that the British tendency to be unruly sports fans is nothing new.

In 1222, London defeated Westminster in an annual wrestling match.

Pause for note. The City of London is still a separate area within what people think of as London. Back then, London was a distinct place with its own walls. Which was to prove important during the Baron's War.

Westminster started out as an Abbey. (Westminster Abbey, remember?) In time it was chosen to be a royal enclave separate and a good distance from the troublesome city, with a palace and a center of administration.

So in 1222, they were like two separate towns. Rivalry was obviously keen, because when Westminster lost, their supporters rioted.

There, however, the similarities end.

The leaders were hanged and many of the others had their hands and feet chopped off.

I found no record of what happened at future matches, or whether there even were any.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

A glimpse of Wellington

I've been very remiss here because I've been first finishing a book and then rushing through the copy edit before leaving for a month in England.... Pause for breath.

However, here's one bit from the letters of Maria Edgeworth from 1819.

"April 2, 1819.

I left off abruptly just as the folding doors were thrown open, and the
Duke of Wellington was announced in such an unintelligible manner that I
did not know what Duke it was, nor did I know till we got into the
carriage who it was--he looks so old and wrinkled."

How disappointing! He looks rather handsome in some of his earlier portraits and he was only about 50 in 1819.

I'll try to post more, and if I have internet access in England I might find something blogworthy there.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

The price of love

Sorry to have been missing in action, but I've been finishing the next book. Lots of research on opium addiction, but none of it particularly strange.

This however....

A meticulous account of the costs of prostitutes.