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Monday, 24 November 2014

What I am up to and Civil War Plot bunny with 17th century name research....

What I'm up to is using NaNoWriMo to get back to writing, which doesn't mean I will even bother to sign up but it gives me a kickstart.  I started 21st October on a plot bunny that's been on the back burner, in which my hero is told to get lost by the girl he thought he loved, because he is no longer heir to a barony.  He swears to marry the first woman who does something for him for nothing.
Engaged subsequently to his aunt's companion, circumstances make him the heir again, and a certain little madam is plotting, her nose put out of joint by Edward's apparent unconcern at her heart-breaking. 
I've got 64,212 words so far, having done just on 20k when November started, which means to qualify for NaNo I need another nearly 6k words, but it doesn't matter that much as I'm on the homeward stretch and know what I'm doing.
I haven't forgotten Elinor's Endowment and will finish that next month.
I haven't forgotten Jane and Caleb and have been planning their next adventure.
I haven't forgotten William Price and will get around to finishing the book I started.
Felicia and Robin are waiting for me to do a cover. 

The new series plot bunny is set in the Civil War, and I mean THE Civil War, not that little affair the Americans had.  Actually, strictly speaking it's our third civil war, as there was The Anarchy [Stephen and Maud] and the Wars of the Roses before the Cavaliers [wrong but wromantic] and Roundheads [right but repulsive].
Now everyone I've spoken to has assumed I planned a puritan maid and a cavalier hero.
Wrong.
My heroine is a cavalier woman, married and about to be widowed, which is a good thing as her husband is a waste of space, and a Parliamentarian colonel.  He isn't religiously fanatical, he just believes in the rule of parliament, and actually comes from a Catholic family as he's a descendant of Robin and Felicia.  Why not?  Keep it in the family.  She is a frivolous piece and can do ditsy very well 'because she knows it teases'.
They meet through him requisitioning her house and lands for his troops to recuperate after a battle, and when one of his officers is murdered he works with her to find out whether this has a deeper motive than just being 'the enemy' and discovers that there is a lot going on under the surface.    I kill her husband at some point after they've discovered chemistry so there's a touch of guilt there too.... and then they go on to work together again, get married, and work through the protectorate, and hopefully into the Restoration.  I'm opening it some time before Naseby.

Naturally I started some name research and discovered some awesomely off the wall names.  One might expect Damaris, Mercy, Dorcas and Keturah, but Hebshebeth?  and two names that kept recurring throughout the 17th century, Bethia and Friswith. 

Bethia is Hebrew, servant of Jehovah, all well and good [I'd never come across it and I thought my Biblical knowledge was pretty good] and according to the internet was a Scottish name that became popular in the 17th century because of its incidental sound, like beath, good health.  Believe me, I was turning up Bethias in Sussex and you can't get a lot further from Scotland than that. 
Friswith is, to my best guess, a derivation from Frideswide, a Celtic saint whom I would have considered moderately obscure.  Why did it become popular?  who knows!  Further digging showed it to have been around in the middle of the 16th Century, and I can't help wondering whether it was a backlash against the Reformation in the use of a saint name, but one which was obscure enough not to cause a lot of official notice.  Elizabeth, Ann[e], Catherine and Sarah were already well enough established for no comment to be made, despite being saint names, as were Barbara and Audrey.   Bridget makes an appearance in quantity at the same period, and there are some medieval names revived, like Iden [ in the middle ages appearing as Idonia, Idonea, Ideny, Idone, Yden(e), Idunn, Iduna, and a lovely pagan name it is], so am I barking up the wrong tree?  this is of course the period for the introduction of New Testament names, and the obscurer Old Testament ones, as well as 'quality' names, so the  girls have Abigail, Priscilla, Ruth,Rebecca, Dorcas, Tabitha, Damaris[I haven't yet come across a Naomi to go with Ruth....] and so on, as well as Prudence, Patience, Mercy, Constance, Faith and Charity.
I do not believe the name 'Sense' which recurrs a few times falls into this category.  I think it's a development of Sencey, which is the common form of Sanchia aka Scientia, Sancha, Sence, Sanche, Sanctia, Science.  As I also have a 'Saint', I suspect that's a part of it too. 
The most popular girl's names are still Mary, Elizabeth, Ann[e], Joan and/or Jane [definitely two separate names] and Sarah.  Interestingly I'm seeing girls with a mother called Joan becoming Joane [Joanne as we would spell it now] or Joanna; and those with mother Susan being Susanna[h].  Not only are Jane and Joan now different names, being given one each to sisters, but Juliana and Gillian are now separate, Emma is the preferred form of Emme with one Emlyn [from Emblem]; Amy and Mabel are separated from Amabel, which does not appear at all, though I have one Anabel, which might owe something to it, as much as to combining 'Ann' and 'belle', which connection I make purely on the spelling.  

Naturally the men have a free rein of the weirder OT names as well as introducing Timothy, and reviving Aquila.  We have Ephraim, Caleb, Zachariah, Seth, Jonas, Josias,as well as the more familiar Isaac, Reuben, Daniel, Josiah, Samuel and Benjamin.  Abraham sits in low popularity but in use right through from the middle ages.  And surprise surprise, the most popular names are still John, William and Thomas. 

And of course the odd names.  And these are the ones I'm guessing to be the maiden names of the mother bestowed upon the first-born, as was Fitzwilliam Darcy - and guess what, there WAS a Bennett!  Others are: 
Ayliffe, Chileab, Pelham, Archdane, Grafton, Gayneshe, Artlebert, Marlyon, Oliphe, Bostocke, Harmon and so on.  I pitied the boy named Hunnibun.  

On the whole, the names prevalent in the 17th century pretty much give us the central stock of names of today, and apart from the odder Biblical names which are a little quaint to our ears nowadays, are mostly familiar. 
I'd love to hear from anyone who knows a Friswith though or who has one in their family tree. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

The Area; an essential part of Regency town life.



  Dictionary definition [Chambers English Dictionary] : a sunken space alongside the basement of a building.

Area visible behind railings with gate slightly open. Top of kitchen door just visible under steps to right


This bald description does not describe the whole culture of the area, a Georgian invention but common through the Victorian age too.  In large towns and cities, where space was at a premium, the habit was to build houses up rather than to sprawl across the landscape, and so every inch was utilised.  The buildings are rarely more than 4 stories above the ground, three floors for the family, the attics for the female servants to sleep; and therefore, in addition, there was usually a basement for the domestic offices like kitchen and pantries, and here too was the domain of the male servants.   Where there were natural hills this basement might well be at ground floor at the back of the house, opening onto the garden where washing might be hung out, if it was not sent out to a laundry. Land values in any British town were high, because of the need to preserve as much farmland on a small island as possible; and in London at the time were comparable to land values in Lower Manhattan of today, where every inch had to be utilised to the best purpose.  The London clay and its solid base for building foundations, by the nature of its composition, made it ideal for building basements and dictated the shape of houses, which were able to be built both up, and down.

In the front of the house, however, the basement was accessed by a sunken space alongside it, behind railings, and beyond the pavement, unlike earlier houses, where the cellars often extended under the pavements, and may have had thick glass squares set into the pavement as skylights, which let in light but could not be seen through; or trapdoors for depositing coal or making other deliveries.   The coal in a house with an area had to be carried in sacks down the steep iron stairs and put through the vertical access trapdoor, which with a window into the kitchen and a door into the kitchen was one of the three common piercings of the basement wall into the area.  In ‘Death of a Fop’ the area and basement figure prominently, since one of the servants dallies on the area steps with one of the villains, who is sweet-talking her, and the house-breakers find their way in through the coal house, having to saw off the bolt on the inside, since their confederate had failed to open it when posing as a temporary servant.   

Looking down the area steps.  No coal cellar apparent here


Confined all day to the basement regions, the area was a place of social intercourse for the servants; dish clouts might be hung out there to dry, tradesmen would call there with deliveries, and a young girl might snatch a few minutes when ostensibly hanging out dish clouts, or looking for the butcher’s boy, to have a chance to gossip with the servants in the area next door as voices carried readily in the echoing underground area.

Large houses with a room on each side of the door would commonly have the steps up to the front door built as something of a bridge, in order to leave a way through from one end of the area to the other; often they were also a bridge when on a single room’s width house, and the kitchen door opening from under them, so there was some protection from the weather when receiving anticipated tradesmen, or indeed itinerants.  They may be blocked at one side of the steps over but I have seen some where the area of one house was essentially contiguous with next door.  This is not, however, common as it encouraged the servants to socialise and waste time.

this area is on a corner and is quite large though less useful for servants to socialise as it is not close at all to the area of the next door house! 


 It is important to remember that there were many itinerant tradesmen as well as beggars in the regency, and the traffic to the kitchen door might be quite considerable, with knife grinders offering their services, tract-sellers, who were quite as importunate then as some Jehovah’s Witnesses can be today, flower-sellers, ribbon sellers, sellers of broadsheets, either new songs or news of who was hanged this day, rag men buying rags to sell to paper makers, old wax to sell to candle makers and so on.  Beggars might call to beg a crust of bread or some scraps.  In addition would be the scheduled visits of the milkmaid, the fishmonger, the butcher, the baker and probably the candle maker if not the candlestick maker.  If laundry was sent out, it would be collected and delivered here.  Footmen would deliver messages to the front door, and so too might mantua makers deliver their sewn goods to the keeping of the butler [or footman in a less elevated household] for the lady of the house, but most of the daily running of the house was conducted via the area door.  A very important and busy part of the household!

another view of the area of the house on the corner, looking the other way round the corner
 All photos copyright Sarah Waldock 2013, taken in Brighton at The Steine and on the sea front.  Please ask permission to re-use and credit me. 

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Unwilling Viscount, now published! and other writing news....

it's out in time for Christmas, and I hope you all like it....  at .amazon.com  and at .amazon.co.uk

I am tackling NaNoWriMo, and hoping to complete the text of a novel this month, tentative title, 'The Unexpected Bride', and no, I haven't forgotten Elinor and the Charity School, and nor have I forgotten Jane and Caleb, Felicia and Robin or William Price. 

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Travel in Austen's time was fraught with danger... and it wasn't just potholes


'Overset' cartoon by Rowlandson



 

Travel was not easy in the early 19th Century; although the roads had been much improved with the toll road system, journeys were long and fraught with danger.  The coaches were not particularly well sprung, even if employing the leaf spring, and there was no means of staying cool in summer or warm in winter, though one might wrap up warm and take a hot brick for one’s feet.  The exigencies of hot or cold weather however were not the worst tricks of fate weather could throw at the unfortunate traveller, as in the story recounted below, which I recount in full because it's worth noting the heroism and kindliness shown:

 

 

The Scots Magazine - Tuesday 01 November 1808


Dreadful accident
A dreadful accident befell the London mail coach which left Glasgow on Tuesday, Oct. 25th [1808] the particulars of which will be found in the following letter:
“Moffat, 26th October, 1808.
“We had, yesterday, a most dreadful storm of wind and rain, and the rivers in the neighbourhood came down in torrents, such as have never been seen by the oldest people here.  Among other damage occasioned by it, we are sorry to state that a shocking accident happened to the mail coach from Glasgow to Carlisle.  At the bridge over the river Avon, about nine miles from this, at a place called Howcleugh, betwixt 9 and 10 o’clock last night, the coach had just got about half way over,  when the bridge gave way in the middle of the arch, and the coach, passengers, horses &c. were instantly precipitated into the river, a fall of about 30 feet.  There were four inside and two outside passengers.  The two outside passengers and two of the horses were killed on the spot, and the other passengers made a miraculous escape with their lives; though we are sorry to say, they were all very considerably hurt.
The coachman and guard were also much hurt; the former had his arm broken, and was otherwise much bruised, and the guard received a severe contusion on the head.
“The other coach from Carlisle to Glasgow was narrowly prevented from falling into the same precipice.  It was coming up just about the time the accident happened, and from the darkness of the night, and the rate the coach necessarily goes at, it must inevitably gone into the river at the same breach in the arch, had not one of the passengers who escaped given the alarm.
“By the exertions of the coachman and guard of the other coach, the passengers who survived (a Lady and three Gentlemen) with the coachman and guard, who had fallen into the precipice, were enabled to extricate themselves from the dismal situation into which they were thrown, and conducted to a place of safety till other assistance was afforded them.
“Much praise is due to Mr Rae, the Postmaster here, one of the proprietors of the coach, for his exertions and assistance on this occasion.  Immediately, on hearing of the accident, he set out in the middle of the night, with several of his servants and others, in two post chaises, and gave every possible assistance to the passengers, &c. and by this means, we are happy to say the London mail and other valuable articles in the coach have been saved.
“Mr Clapperton, the surgeon, is also entitled to much praise for his ready assistance upon the occasion; and the exertions of John Geddes, one of Mr Rae’s servants, are particularly deserving of notice, who, at the risk of his life, went into the river with a rope fastened to his body, and saved the life of the lady (one of the passengers) and some of the mail bags, which must otherwise have been carried down the stream.
“the coach and harness are completely destroyed.  Mr Rae has lost two valuable horses by the accident, and the other two are severely hurt and bruised.
“The bodies of the two passengers who were killed have been found, and have been brought here this morning; the are Mr William Brand, Merchant in Ecclesechan, and Mr Lund, of the house of Lund and Toulmin, of Bond Street, London.”

This does not appear to be an isolated incident as the report from the Kentish Gazette - Friday 16 November 1810 shows:

 




And remember the phrase in the old phrase books ‘my postillion has been struck by lightning’?  I always thought that a silly phrase until I read how many people travelling by coach WERE struck by lightning.  This example from The Ipswich Journal, Saturday 19th August 1909: 


I’ve come across several incidents of carriages struck by lightning, including one where a lady passenger had her arm burned and her wedding ring melted.

The weather was not the only problem.  In Heyer one reads of  roadhogs ‘hunting the squirrel’ and trying to force carriages off the road with their own, or just driving so badly other road users are driven off the road by these rich young men in their sports cars, er, carriages.  And there are also tales of such rowdy gentlemen who insisted on taking the reins, often to the detriment of the passengers.  This report from the Cheltenham Chronicle - Thursday 13 July 1809  is an example:

 

 

Cheltenham Chronicle - Thursday 13 September 1810  tells us that there were other factors that could cause problems, here a load of sheepskins whose smell upset the horses:

 

 

And pedestrians were not much better off, because if any vehicle went out of control they were at risk even as today when a car mounts the kerb; this sad little story from the Durham County Advertiser - Saturday 14 June 1817:

 

And finally, not quite a travel disaster, but one involving a horse from Durham County Advertiser - Saturday 08 April 1815:



On can’t help wondering if the unfortunate horse had a burr under its saddle with malice aforethought to the unfortunate prince, especially in light of his father’s accident, and the fire.

So, how will the gentle writer use travel disaster?  Will an overturned or stranded carriage precipitate the hero and heroine together? Will a traveller in a strange land need to explain that his or her postillion has been struck by lightning? Or will a murderer or spy make use of a carriage disaster to make it seem that his victim died as a result of the accident?  Or will a jealous rival merely place a burr under a saddle, either of our hero[ine] –  or of the postillion, to make a whole coach run away?