Archive for the ‘research’ Category
New History Hoydens post up! Part 1 of 2, excerpts from James Hardy Vaux’s 1819 Dictionary of the Flash Language (i.e. criminal slang).
BEST: to get your money at the best, signifies to live by dishonest or fraudulent practices, without labour or industry, according to the general acceptation of the latter word; but, certainly, no persons have more occasion to be industrious, and in a state of perpetual action than cross-coves [criminals, as opposed to square-coves, honest men]; and experience has proved, when too late, to many of them, that honesty is the best policy; and consequently, that the above phrase is by no means à-propos.
History Hoydens post up on the London Customs House fire of 1814! The fire destroyed not only the Customs House and all the records of the Revenue Service (including the irreplaceable notebooks kept by revenue officers stationed all over England), but also many of the surrounding buildings—partly because a rumor started that there were barrels of gunpowder stored in the building and the firemen refused to get near it…
Come and tell me about your favorite disaster!
New History Hoydens post up! The Very Bloody History of the Hawkhurst Gang of smugglers (no relation to Adrian!), including a pitched battle with a village, a raid on a Customs House, and some good old-fashioned torture and murders.
Today went to the local used bookstore in my uncle’s town. The bookstore has two parts–the regular second-hand bookstore and a rare bookroom across the street. Today the rare bookroom had two Rowlandson prints! I couldn’t tell if they were original, but one of them was priced at $250 so maybe. My uncle said they make a lot of their money in lending out old books for movie sets–if you need 200 feet of matching bindings, they are your guys. Neat! I bought:
Many Thousands Gone: the First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America by Ira Berlin
Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Brian Nolan, which I think is going to be a little too exceptionalist, but maybe that was just the back-cover copy writer: “According to the 1747 publication The Art of Governing a Wife, women in Georgian England were to ‘lay up and save, look to the house; talk to few and take of all within.’ However, some women broke from these directives and took up the distinctly male privilege of traveling to the Continent to develop mind, spirit, and body.” I just feel there’s a way to talk about restrictions on women without (a) overgeneralizing and (b) making women who follow those restrictions sound like their lives are meaningless wastes.
The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter
Boredom: the Literary History of a State of Mind by Patricia Meyer Spacks. This one looks really cool, it’s about how before the 18th century, boredom was a personal failing: if you’re bored, you aren’t working hard enough. But later that became complicated. It also talks about how boredom was gendered and women’s lives were equated with boredom in both feminist (“It’s not fair women can’t do more interesting things”) and misogynistic (“Women are so flighty and easily bored and also reading novels has made them impatient of real life”) ways.
I also got an essay collection called Transforming a Rape Culture which may be outdated since it’s from 1993…but sadly I’m guessing not TOO dated. Rape culture is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, especially because it’s important to Sweet Disorder and possibly to my next book as well, so I think it’s time for some reading.
It’s research time again! I’m still revising Sweet Disorder, but I’m researching my next project too. It’s tentatively titled “The Spare Heir” and takes place in Orkney! You might remember my trip to Orkney a couple years ago and how I fell madly in love with it.
I was originally planning to set this book in Cornwall, but as soon as I started thinking about Orkney, it just felt right. It’ll make the research harder, I think, but luckily my friend whom I was visiting works for Historic Scotland and might be able to help me out with contacts. The heroine is a governess and the hero is a revenue officer, and I’ve got two villains: the tyrannical local laird (the heroine’s employer and the hero’s biological father) and a ghost. Yes, a ghost. I know it’s a little different from my previous books but I’m really excited about it!
I’ll be posting a lot more about my research for that soon, but right now, I’m excited about my haul from the library book sale! I got:
Rites of Peace: the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna by Adam Zamoyski
The Exchange Artist: a Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse by Jane Kamensky (the collapse was 1809)
Daumier: 120 Great Lithographs (I LOVE Daumier)
Mob Girl: A Woman’s Life in the Underworld by Teresa Carpenter, about a woman who was involved with many important mafiosos and became an FBI informer
Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O’Brien, about Louisa Adams (JQ Adams’s wife) traveling from St. Petersburg to France in early 1815
Rogues’ Gallery: A Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum by Michael Gross (this book gets about 200 points right off the bat for that title)
Scots Cooking: the best traditional and contemporary Scottish recipes by Sue Lawrence
A great haul, amirite?
What’s the best nonfiction book you’ve read recently? Anything amazing on your nonfiction TBR pile?
Today over at History Hoydens I’m talking about an eighteenth-century con-woman I discovered while reading a book about newspapers…
Before the fatal Discovery, the Company were greatly pleased with the Woman’s behavior, as she was not only very sprightly and engaging in Conversation, but sang and played on the Guitar to Perfection.
Come on over and let me know whether you think she’s romance heroine material!
Today at History Hoydens I’m talking about nineteenth century Sussex slang I think should be brought back into common usage! Example:
“LAWRENCE, s. A kind of imaginary saint or fairy, whose influence produces indolence, thus, ‘I caunt get up, for Lawrence ha’e completely got holt an me,’–“I ha’e got a touch o’ ol’ Lawrence to-dee; I be troubled to git ane wud me work.’ This person is also known in Dorsetshire, &c.”
Another gem from The Folklore of Sussex. She’s talking about various customs requiring men to dress up wearing horns:
“Bawdy humor of this sort is exemplified in Sussex by the eighteenth-century Cock Fair at Ticehurst, at which, according to the Sussex Weekly Advertiser‘s report of an unfortunate street accident which spoilt the fun in 1788, the landlord of the Cock Inn was ‘according to local custom presented with a load of wood, on condition he could get it drawn home by men having the appellation of cuckolds, of whom he had assembled a sufficient number and provided them with a waggon for the purpose.’ Whether the self-professed cuckolds of Ticehurst were expected to wear the symbols of their state the newspaper unfortunately does not say; but a grotesque expression of this sort is known to have taken place regularly in Kent up to 1768, at the famous Charlton Horn Fair[...]”
I just want to hear the stories of every single guy in that group.
This folklore book continues to be fascinating. There’s a section on pseudo-legal rituals created to get around perceived problems with the law. The most shocking and interesting is of course wife-selling.
“That invaluable repository of scandal, the Sussex Weekly Advertiser, describes several cases: at Ninfield in November 1790 a man sold his wife one evening for half a pint of gin, duly handed her over next morning in a halter, but later changed his mind and bought her back ‘at an advanced price’; at Lewes in July 1797 a blacksmith sold his wife to one of his journeymen ‘agreeably to an engagement drawn up by an attorney for that purpose’; while at Brighton in February 1799 a man named Staines ‘sold his wife by private contract, for 5s and eight pots of beer, to one James Marten of the same place,’ with two married couples witnessing ‘the articles of separation and sale.’
“The custom persisted into the nineteenth century. Harry Burstow mentions three cases in his Reminiscences of Horsham:
I have been told of a woman named Smart who, about 1820, was sold at Horsham for 3s. and 6d. She was bought by a man named Steere, and lived with him at Billingshurst. She had two children by each of these husbands. Steere afterwards discovered that Smart had parted with her because she had qualities which he could endure no longer, and Steere, discovering the same qualities himself, sold her to a man named Greenfield, who endured, or never discovered, or differently valued the said qualities till he died.
Again, at the November Fair, 1825, a journeyman blacksmith, whose name I never learned, with the greatest effrontery exhibited for sale his wife, with a halter round her neck. She was a good-looking woman with three children, and was actually sold for £2 5s, the purchaser agreeing to take one of the children. This ‘deal’ gave offence to some who were present, and they reported the case to the magistrate, but the contracting parties, presumably satisfied, quickly disappeared, and I never heard any more about them.
The last case happened about 1844, when Ann Holland, known as ‘pin-toe Nanny’ or ‘Nanny pin-toe,’ was sold for £1 10s. Nanny was led into the market place with a halter round her neck. Many people hissed and booed, but the majority took the matter good-humoredly. She was ‘knocked down’ to a man named Johnson, at Shipley, who sold his watch to buy her for the above sum. This bargain was celebrated on the spot by the consumption of a lot of beer by Nanny, her new husband, and friends. She lived with Johnson for one year, during which she had one child, then ran away–finally marrying a man named Jim Smith, with whom she apparently lived happily for many years.
What fascinates me about this is how often it’s clearly a form of abuse—treating your wife like a commodity that can be traded for money or alcohol—but how sometimes it seems more like a form of consensual divorce…and how blurry the lines between the two are in a patriarchal society. One likes to imagine that the blacksmith who sold his wife to his journeyman with a legal document did it because his wife wanted to marry the journeyman, but we can’t ever know.
Has anyone ever seen a romance with this premise? I don’t count Mayor of Casterbridge!
Reading The Folklore of Sussex by Jacqueline Simpson as research for the WIP.
Everyone who has visited Steyning probably knows how St. Cuthman pushed his mother in a wheelbarrow from Devon to Sussex, waiting for some sign from Heaven to show him where he should settle and build a church. As he came into Steyning, the barrow broke, and he cut some withies from a hedge to make a rope to mend it. Haymakers working in Penfold Field (which is still sometimes also known as Cuthman’s Field) burst out laughing at his stupidity. ‘Laugh man, weep Heaven,’ answered Cuthman, and at once a heavy cloudburst drenched that field, and that field only. And from that day to this, it always rains on that one meadow in haymaking time; indeed, some call it ‘the Accursed Field,’ and declare that nothing will grow upon it.
Okay, everything about that is interesting, but I’m going to focus on…he pushed his mother in a wheelbarrow from Devon to Sussex. Apparently this is how St. Cuthman is iconically depicted! Here is a stained glass window design:
Here is the Steyning town sign:
Here is a beer label:
I want a Woody Allen-style short film about that where she kvetches the whole way.