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Travels in England in 1782…

June 3rd, 2016 5 comments

post-chaise-in-the-era-of-louis-xv

 After dinner, I sat down to do some more work, but I got distracted. Sitting here, I suddenly wondered what sort of free history e-books I could find. Within in minutes I came across this one; ‘Travels in England in 1782‘ by Karl Philipp Moritz

Moritz was a German clergyman who, thankfully for us, was an Anglophile. He’d long wanted to visit England and finally arrived on June 2, 1782 (which I thought appropriate as it’s June 3rd) and he takes the reader on the journey. After the first few pages, I’m utterly enchanted. He’s noting down everything that seems foreign to him, so we get to see what he sees and experience his journey. Historic gold! He only spent a few weeks in England, but he managed to see London and a few other places he’d dreamed of.

We join him as he’s leaving the ship. He and five other travellers are set ashore near some white cliffs and they walk to the nearest village. (I’m guessing they were travelling light!) From there they hire a post-chaise…this was a vehicle where the driver (or drivers in some cases) rode one of the horses (so there was no coachman making it a much lighter, faster and cheaper travel). Here’s a short excerpt… Read more…

Little Miss Muffet…

April 8th, 2016 1 comment

It never ceases to amaze me how aspects of the ‘Regency era’ still echo through our lives 200 years later (often in very weird ways). Growing up, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I loved dressing up (and the free candy). My first costumed Halloween I was in Kindergarten. We lived five miles out of town on a sparsely populated road in the woods so there was no local Trick or Treating. The school (even deeper into the woods) thoughtfully provided a Halloween party for the children. I was so excited! For a costume, my mother made me a white mobcap. It being the early 70’s, I already owned a long white cotton dress and a pink pinafore. She then made me a big fat spider out of some black socks and tied it with a length of yarn to a wooden spoon (from out of the kitchen drawer). To complete my outfit she glued some cotton balls into a small bowl and I was transformed. I was no longer Cari, I was ‘Little Miss Muffet’. I loved my costume, particularly the spider which I remember waving at people with glee. I probably hit a few people with my spoon as I waved my arm to make the spider fly about, but I thankfully don’t remember.

This evening the ‘Little Miss Muffet’ nursery rhyme came to mind as I was sitting here thinking of ideas for a Sunday school lesson (I help teach the 5-7 yr olds). I looked it up on Wikipedia and I was surprised to learn that “Little Miss Muffet’ was first published in England in 1805. I had no idea it was that old. I assumed it was from 1920’s or ’30’s. My very first Halloween costume was a Regency costume! How appropriate!

Sadly, my love for Halloween did not survive the three Halloweens I spent working in a costume shop. Read more…

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History Note: Two 18th century Dutch Female Authors

January 4th, 2016 Comments off

I recently started reading a Dutch newspaper on line (in English). The other day I read an article about how leading Dutch authors are rarely translated into other languages. It made me  wonder what sorts of books the Dutch write and read. Why are most of these stories considered unsuitable for translation? What sort of stories am I never going to be able to read? I couldn’t think of a single Dutch author so I Googled Dutch authors. I didn’t recognise a single name. However, I did discover two 18th century female authors that many Regency era readers would have enjoyed.  Read more…

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Phillis Wheatley…The first published African-American Woman

September 10th, 2015 1 comment

220px-Phillis_Wheatley_frontispieceI love history (I don’t think you can write historical romances if you don’t)! I particularly love discovering and reading about interesting people who defied the accepted norms of their time and became more. One of the things I find fascinating is how every age has it’s own version of the previous eras of history. We always get a filtered vision. Most men and women famous in their day are quickly forgotten. Until last week, I’d never heard of Phillis Wheatley, the first African American female published author. I don’t have a degree in Georgian Female authors, but some people stand out. I can’t believe I hadn’t read about her before. Born somewhere in Western Africa around the year 1753, she was enslaved and brought to America on The Phillis. Purchased by Mr Wheatley, a wealthy merchant/tailor, as a servant for his wife, she was named Phillis after the ship. The Wheatley’s 18 year old daughter took it upon herself to teach Phillis to read and write in English…which can’t have been easy as she first had to teach her to speak English. Read more…

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An Ancient Custom…

November 13th, 2013 Comments off

Today I’ve been researching England’s Holy Wells (you never know where the curse of curiosity will lead or what insanities it will breed) and I came across a text by a R.R. Rawlins written in the year 1823 titled; On the Ancient Custom of Decorating Wells with Flowers etc. In capturing a custom, Rawlins unwittingly captures a moment in the lives of ordinary people. As I was reading his descriptions of making the floral decorations I stopped and thought about the men and women who, after exhausting daily chores, gathered flowers and constructed these elaborate decorations for their local Holy Wells. The time and energy that went into creating these decorations must have been considerable. Rawlins was some sort of churchman so there’s a religious flavor to his reminisces, but that too is very Regency.

This event was a big deal; his text closes with, “The day concluded by the visitors partaking of the hospitality of the inhabitants, and being gratified with a well-arranged band, playing appropriate pieces of music at each other’s houses; and had the day been more favourable, and free from rain, a greater attendance at Church and the Wells would have been witnessed.”

It’s only three pages long. I highly recommend reading all three pages to get the full flavor (he starts out with a brief history of May Day), but if you just want to read about Holy Wells…start the fifth paragraph down where it reads: “The flowers used on this day…’

If you’re curious and want to read more about Holy Wells I found this page fascinating.

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A Regency Haunting…

October 31st, 2013 Comments off

What better subject for All Hallow’s Eve than a real Regency murder/ghost story? The following comes from a book titled ‘Haunted Inns’ by Marc Alexander (haunted English inns – published in 1973).

The Voyeur and The Sun.

If you have visited Holland and enjoyed the small canal-side villages, you will recognise something of the same atmosphere at Saxilby in Lincolnshire. The village, which is only about four miles from Lincoln, runs parallel with the Fossdyke, along whose banks in summertime are moored lines of pleasure cruisers. Opposite the canal stands The Sun, an inn which was the subject of a most extraordinary haunting at the beginning of the last century.

On 3rd of November 1805, a certain Thomas Otter got married, evidently much against his will. On the same day a casual labourer by the name of John Dunkerly, after enjoying some drinks with his friends in The Sun bar, decided at six o’clock to return to his own village, Doddington, which was about five miles away. As he neared Drisney Nook on the way to Doddington, he met three friends who said as they passed: “You’ll have company, John,” and told him Tom Otter and hi new wife were walking down the lane. They laughed, knowing that Dunkerly had the reputation for being a peeping Tom.

By now darkness had fallen and the labourer, whose reputation was well deserved, decided to shadow the newly-married couple in the hope of being able to spy upon some amorous activity. Creeping up behind them, he heard Tom Otter say to his wife: “Sit down, you can rest here.” Read more…

Chawton online Library…

September 4th, 2012 Comments off

I’ve just discovered that the Chawton online Library has changed their online address as well as their website so I’ve just updated my link (which before took people to a blank page – sorry about that). If you haven’t visited the site to browse their free on line novels (all of them old, rare and written by women – some of them Regency romances written during the Regency) be warned it’s a tempting time warp that will suck you in and you won’t want to leave! The library introduces itself like this… Read more…

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Book review: Monsters & Grotesques…

August 26th, 2012 Comments off

On Friday I spent several pleasant hours in my favorite bookshop. I found three books I had to have; one of them a slim paperback called Monsters and Grotesques in Medieval Manuscripts by Alixe Bovey. If you’ve ever looked at photos of old manuscripts you’ve probably noticed the weird creatures in the margins. Bovey’s book is only 59 pages long (and less than ten inches high), but it has lots of lovely colour photographs and offers a fascinating glimpse into why our Medieval ancestors wanted these fantastical creatures in the margins of their books (assuming I had Medieval ancestors who could read let alone afford a book).

What I didn’t know was that a lot of these monsters were actually considered real. I just assumed they were the creations of drunken monks bored out of their minds after transcribing the same book for the umpteenth time. I didn’t know that most of these odd looking creatures were believed to be real monsters living in far away lands or that books describing these monsters went back to the Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD Rome). This is an amazing example of fiction passed down through centuries as factual information. Read more…

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Book Review: The Treasury of Flowers…

July 11th, 2012 Comments off

This afternoon I stopped off at my favorite charity shop to see if there were any interesting books and I found one called ‘The Treasury of Flowers’ by Alice M Coats (published 1975). I’ve had a fearful fascination of plants and flowers since I was a small child. When I was about 4 and a half we moved out of town to this small farm. One morning I was out in the fields with my mother when she pointed at foxglove and said, “That’s foxglove! Don’t touch it or you’ll die!” The big red mushrooms with pretty white spots in the surrounding forest were similarly pointed out along with black widow spiders. “You see that black spider with the red spot? If it bites you, you’ll die!” Needless to say, along with a fear of imminent death I developed a fascination for flowers. Obviously I didn’t grow into a botanist, but thankfully one doesn’t have to be a scientist to enjoy flowers or even go near flowers. One can look at pictures.

As long as there have been books there have been books on flowers. Coats’ book is a presentation of 118 prints by various artists over the centuries that have been overlooked because they’re small (some of them very small). I didn’t really understand what exactly the book was when I bought it. I just noticed it had prints of flowers starting from the early printing press using woodcuts through to the mid 1800’s and I thought it might be interesting. It is! Coats unearths all sorts of interesting facts and vignettes about the artists and plants in the prints. Plate 32 alone makes this book a treasure. Read more…

Magical toadstone…

June 24th, 2012 Comments off

Inflicted with a moderate migraine, I’ve been distracting myself by admiring the old rings featured on the Ashmolean Museum’s online archive. I particularly enjoyed the love rings (of course). I didn’t know that clasped hands on rings as a symbol of fidelity and love goes back to Roman times (though it makes sense that it would) and that the symbolism was used all over Europe. I was only familiar with the Irish Claddagh ring. I now want one of the gloriously creepy 15th century Italian rings with boney sculpted 3-D hands clasping each other…till death..etc? I forgot all about love rings when I caught sight of the words “Magical Ring”! Clicking on the picture I discovered the ring was set with toadstone; a substance I’ve never heard of. Have a look at this example. On reading the short paragraph my throbbing head filled with snatches of fairy tales…

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