Thursday, August 30, 2007

Casanova on highway robbery

I've been rereading Casanova's memoirs about his visit to England in the 1760s, and is so often the case, it gives a picture of the time that's hard for our modern mind to really understand. Take this, for example.

"What do you think of highway robbers, then?"(he asks Sir Augustus Hervey, who may be this one, much later in life as Earl of Bristol.)

"I detest them as wretches dangerous to society, but I pity them when
I reflect that they are always riding towards the gallows. You go
out in a coach to pay a visit to a friend three or four miles out of
London. A determined and agile-looking fellow springs upon you with
his pistol in his hand, and says, 'Your money or your life.' What
would you do in such a case?"

"If I had a pistol handy I would blow out his brains, and if not I
would give him my purse and call him a scoundrelly assassin."

"You would be wrong in both cases. If you killed him, you would be
hanged, for you have no right to take the law into your own hands;
and if you called him an assassin, he would tell you that he was no
assassin as he attacked you openly and gave you a free choice. Nay,
he is generous, for he might kill you and take your money as well.
You might, indeed, tell him he has an evil trade, and he would tell
you that you were right, and that he would try to avoid the gallows
as long as possible. He would then thank you and advise you never to
drive out of London without being accompanied by a mounted servant,
as then no robber would dare to attack you. We English always carry
two purses on our journeys; a small one for the robbers and a large
one for ourselves."

What answer could I make to such arguments, based as they were on the
national manners? England is a rich sea, but strewn with reefs, and
those who voyage there would do well to take precautions. Sir
Augustus Hervey's discourse gave me great pleasure."
I could paraphrase that. The past is a rich sea, but strewn with reefs, and
those who write there would do well to be very wary.

Jo :)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Becoming Jane

I'm blogging today at Word Wenches about the movie Becoming Jane. If you have opinions, come on over and share them. The picture is of the real Jane.

Word Wenches is here.

Remember, there's always my web site. Click here.
And my general blog where I mostly copy posts from elsewhere, like here.
Jo Talk

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Review and domino

My most glowing review for Lady Beware is up on
this blog.

Interesting idea, to put up the best reviews for books.

That's a picture of a Venetian domino, if you've ever wondered what that masquerade costume looked like. The hat, mask, and veil were important to disguise a person. Later, "domino" often meant only a concealing hooded cloak, which is why Thea in Lady Beware thought it a timid option.


Travel, 1819

Image from this French blog.

I stumbled across this from 1819p

"A Monopolylogue." I assume that means many voices for one voice, and it's a script for a ventriloquist. I can't quite figure out where it takes place. It seems to be in Paris going to Calais, but in the end they're going to Paris?

But within the farce, there are snippets about travel in 1819. A diligence was a French stage or mail coach, and as you'll see above, large. That one seems to be divided into three separate compartments.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

CBC alert

Ill be on CBC on Friday, August 10th at 10:30 am in each Canadian time zone on a program called Sounds Like Canada. I'll be talking about why romance doesn't get respect, but I think it's upbeat. Kevin Sylvester, the host is a fabulous interviewer.

If you can't get CBC, you can listen on the internet.

I don't know if it'll be podcast later. If you have comments about romance novels and the way readers are treated, you can always contact them on the site above.



Pub signs

A brief note copied from my chat list. (

The idea of inn signs lingers from when city houses were identified that way. Street numbering was a late invention (mid 18th century.) Before that, people hung signs or painted pictures on their front wall, so they could tell people to come to the Red Cock on Pyment Street, or the Pig with Two Tails on Wapping Road.

This confused me a lot at one time, because I thought everyone was living in a pub!

When they started street numbering, they went up one side and down the other. Probably seemed reasonable at the time. The idea of odd on one side and even on the other came later.

More about pub signs here.

You could always get your own pub sign made.


Sunday, August 05, 2007

Chance vagaries of war

Just a little curiosity.

"By the end of the Great War, the Editors of the OED were struggling somewhat. Their inspiring leader, Sir James Murray, had died in 1915, still doggedly working on the letter T. Most of the younger and abler members of staff had been sent away on active service, or to do other war work, and in June 1918 even Charles Onions, one of the remaining Chief Editors, was summoned to the Admiralty. As early as 1916, William Craigie had noted that the project was in need of someone with expertise in Old and Middle English. Fortunately, one of his former students was to return to Oxford in late 1918 in search of work. Recovering from the illness which had forced him home from the trenches, and with a wife and small child to support, he was understandably grateful for the offer of employment on the staff of the OED, and his linguistic credentials were well known to Craigie, who had tutored him in Old Norse. His name was Ronald Tolkien."

There's more here.

I find dictionary compilers fascinating and alien. Though I love words and wordplay, I just can't imagine doing that.