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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas carols in Jane Austen's time

 We all like singing carols, don't we?  Well, all except the most confirmed Scrooges out there, and without the intervention of the miserable sinners of the Puritan persuasion.  Since personally I'm a quite cheerful sinner, I disapprove of such people but the period of the Commonwealth after the civil war did put a serious crimp in any fun to be had.  As the definition by Mencken  runs, a Puritan is someone who fears someone somewhere might be enjoying themselves.

Now any student of the Regency period is well aware that Christmas wasn't the big affair it became under the Victorians, who might be considered to have invented Christmas as we know it, but Advent was still a time for Christmas carols.  However, many of the carols we find so familiar today were unknown in Britain until translated out of the German, and those we would recognise might well have  been set to very unfamiliar tunes. 'Hark!  The herald angels sing' for example, which might be still being sung as 'Hark how all the welkin rings' was sung to 'Nassau' which was suggested by Wesley, and was also the tune used for 'Christ the Lord is Risen today'.  It does make sense that rural musicians liked to recycle tunes so they did not have to learn as many.  After all, very few churches had an organ, never mind an organist, and most hymns were played by those who were nominally musical in the general populace, who probably could not read a note of music and learned the tunes by rote to play on their eclectic selections of rustic instruments.

 It would not be until the late Regency and the end of the Georgian era that the usual suspects for 87:87:87 metre hymns were written, so no Cwm Rhonda, Hyfrodol or Blaenwern.  Thus 'Love Divine' which could be used as a carol in Advent, would be sung to either 'Bithynia' or Purcell's 'Fairest Isle' the latter being the most familiar to most congregations of the time. It's easy to find on YouTube and isn't as dire as some hymn tunes of the day.   'Joy to the world' was certainly not the carillion of joy to which we sing it today.  A lot of the tunes seem quite dirge-like to us nowadays!  I listen to the original tune of 'Joy to the world' and feel depressed.
I do love the tune of 'Marching to Zion' though, it's so very restoration you half expect it to be bawdy.

However, the folk of the Regency era had a lot more freedom than during the Commonwealth; before 1700 only the Psalms of David were permitted by the Anglican church, and one authorised Christmas hymn; 'While Shepherds watched their flocks by night'.  A supplement published in 1700 which included 'While Shepherds watched' and 15 other hymns, expanded the use of the psalms alone, though 'While Shepherds watched' is the only one of the sixteen that we still sing today. 
The tradition of carolling [a word originally meaning a dance]seems to have survived the exigencies of the Commonwealth, and the medieval carols survived to be documented and used. I turned to the Oxford Book of Carols as a starting point, and then researched around them.  The OCB is kind enough to have some information along with the oldest.  Whether those using Latin were purely sung by scholars at first I do not know but there is some suggestion that they were known in the populace and were perhaps given rough translations by individual vicars for their congregation. I made free translations going back to first principles of both 'Adeste Fideles' and 'Veni Immanuel' whose tunes are original.  I didn't get too carried away.  There are more than the 3 verses we usually sing to Adeste Fideles, and not just the extra one for Christmas day itself. My Latin is a little doggy around the edges but probably no more so than the average vicar or squire translating for their people.

Adeste Fideles

Approach, now, thou faithful,

Happily triumphant,

Approach and draw nigh unto Bethlehem

Come near to see Him,

King of all the angels

Approach that ye might worship (repeated twice of course)

Our Saviour Lord. 

God out of God,  and
Light out of light, now
Born of the womb of the virgin girl,
Truly God, and
Born man, not constructed,


Sing out your praises
Sing ye choirs of angels 
Sing ye his praises unto highest heaven
Hallelujah! unto God the highest


Veni Immanuel

Come forth, come forth, Emmanuel

Release thy captive Israel

Which waits in exile’s weary toils,

Until the Son of God the bondage foils.

Rejoice!  Rejoice! Emmanuel

Is born to you, Oh Israel.

Come forth, thou branch of Jesse’s tree

And from all foes your children free!

From Hell’s dark depths your people save

Lead them in triumph from the grave.

Rejoice! &ct
There are, extant, several translations of Veni Immanuel, and I'm most familiar with the one from the English Hymnal which I found when going back to the Latin to be seriously fanciful.  However this should give an idea to anyone wanting to make up their own local translation ....  

It may also be noted that some carols, like 'Tomorrow shall be my dancing day', a forerunner to 'Lord of the Dance', contained both Christmas and Easter components, and the appropriate verses were supposed to be sung at the appropriate times.

Traditional carols
Adam lay ybounden
Adeste Fideles
A virgin most pure [several tunes]
In dulci jubilo
I sing of a maiden that is makeless [makeless means unstained]
Lully lullay
Lullay my liking
Oh wassail oh wassail [many different versions, and often used for 'Thomassing', begging alms on St Thomas' day, 21st December]
Personant Hodie
Puer Nobis Nascitur
Sans day carol
Shepherds arise [Sussex]
The Boar's Head carol
The Cherry Tree carol  [almost as many versions as there are counties]
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day
Veni Emmanuel

More recent carols [W = by Wesley, IW = by Isaac Watts]
Behold the grace appears [for Christmas day]
Branch of Jesse's stem arise [W]
Hark! the glad sound, the saviour comes
Hark! the herald angels sing [W][for Christmas day]
Light of those whose dreary dwelling [W]
Love Divine, all loves excelling  [W]
Joy to the world [IW]
Marching to Zion [IW]
On Jordan's bank, the baptist's cry
Shepherds rejoice [IW]
The seven joys of Mary
While Shepherds Watched 
Ye simple men of hearts sincere [W]

The educated would also have known such French carols as 'Quelle est cette odour agreable' [sung to a tune adapted from Gay's 'Beggars' Opera', which is the tune we still know], 'Patapan' and 'Les Anges dans nos compagnes' but in general I think the populace would consider these most unpatriotic.  Indeed, I wrote of a riot in 'Marianne's Misanthrope', engendered by the introduction of such a carol by an insensitive vicar.

This may not be an exhaustive list, but they were all I could find. I hope you will enjoy them, and also enjoy finding the ones I used in both 'Marianne's Misanthrope' and the purely Christmas novel recently released, 'Anne's Achievement' here for kindle and here for paperback

Sunday, 27 November 2016

A Christmas story in time for Christmas

'Anne's Achievement' is available here for kindle and here for paperback  as well as etc.

Anne is expecting to have a last Christmas house party before she must earn her living as a governess, but Ophelia Sanderville, last seen in 'Ophelia's Opportunity' has other plans for her.  It is a  house party like any other, with some pleasant and some most offensive guests,  and several surprises not usually wished on those celebrating the Season of Goodwill. 

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The rewards of research, guest blog from Dawn Harris

Welcome to Regency mystery writer, Dawn Harris, who is my guest today.  Needless to say, her books are on my wishlist!  

                            THE REWARDS OF RESEARCH.

My favourite period in history is from 1789-1820, inspired by the works of Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, Baroness Orczy (Scarlet Pimpernel), and Winston Graham (Poldark). So, naturally, that was the era in which I set my first book, a mystery thriller, and when I discovered the joys of research.
I started with newspapers published in 1793, eager to see how people lived through the French Revolution and the war with France. And what I read took my breath away.
It brought to life the very real fears of a French invasion, and that some émigrés fleeing from the revolution in France, were in fact spies. There was turmoil over the Corresponding Societies, who were campaigning for all working men to be given the vote, as the Government feared these societies were using this as a cover for starting a French style revolution in Britain.
Smuggling was a huge problem then too, and as this was going to play a big part in my story, I concentrated on researching that first. On the Isle of Wight, (where I set my book), there were so many inlets and beaches where contraband could be taken ashore, that the men whose job it was to catch the smugglers must have had a tough time of it. One of the first things I came across in my search for facts was a memorial tablet in Whippingham church, which read,

 'Sacred to the memory of Wm Arnold, Esq, late Collector of HM Customs in the Port of Cowes, Isle of Wight. A man who by his amiable as well as faithful discharge, justly entitled him to the warmest esteem and affection of all who were permanently or occasionally associated with him in business, society or domestic ties. The public, his friends and his family feel and deplore the loss sustained by his death on March 5, 1801, aged 55.'

I was aware that some officials took bribes from smugglers, but this memorial, and other details I discovered about William Arnold, suggested he had not done so. That made me eager to find out more about him, and his efforts to curb the activities of the large number of smugglers on the Island. And I finally struck gold in a second-hand book shop on the Island. I found a book on his life. Another breathtaking moment.
It told me how he came to be the Collector of Customs at Cowes in 1777, and in the following year was made deputy Postmaster for the Island too. Appointments that meant he was often the first to hear news from the outside world.  Some of the letters he wrote are included in the book, and help to show the kind of caring man he was.
I learnt too that he was the father of Thomas Arnold, the famous headmaster of Rugby school, and grandfather of Matthew Arnold, the poet.
The book made clear that William Arnold was a highly respected, well-liked, honest official, who believed in doing his duty. He had a number of men to assist him, including  Riding Officers and Boatmen, but what he didn’t have at Cowes was a Revenue cutter to help him and his men catch smugglers. The Commissioners of Customs in London repeatedly turned down his appeals for such a boat, and in the end he, and one of his brothers-in-law, used their own money to purchase a cutter.
 Sadly, disaster struck within a month, when the boat, the ’Swan,’ was lost in a terrible gale, when chasing smugglers. Worse still, it had not yet been insured. That was a dreadful blow for him, but it persuaded the Commissioners of Customs to replace the boat. The letters he wrote to his wife’s brother in New York, eloquently showed his feelings at the time.
In those days much of the population either helped the smugglers, or were happy for a keg of brandy to be left by a rear door. A labourer working on the land could earn more in one night’s smuggling than in a week on a farm.
Smugglers needed to be good seamen too, especially if they planned to land their contraband on the Back of the Island. This was one of the quietest areas, but the underwater ledges here caused many a ship to come to grief over the centuries. As they still can.
The wily ways smugglers used to avoid being caught said much for their ingenuity! Some  sunk their illegal goods off-shore and collected them later when the coast was clear. Others hauled the stuff up cliffs with ropes. Or hid goods in ditches, under barn floors, in hayricks, or buried them in sand on the beach. Getting contraband off the beaches to a safe spot could be difficult, but some used ponies, covering their hooves with sacking so that they wouldn’t leave a trail. While a false trail was left in the opposite direction by using a horseshoe stuck on the end of a stick. Smugglers also made excellent spies, for they knew how to keep their mouths shut.
      Finding that book was a great piece of luck and was definitely one of the rewards of research. 

I put William Arnold into my first book. I like to use real people in with my own characters as I think it strengthens the book and makes it more authentic. The fact that he wrote letters to his brother-in-law in New York is also woven into my plot, giving crucial, but (I hope) inconspicuous clues to the identity of the murderer. William Arnold plays a vital role in the story and particularly in the ‘race against time,’ ending.

Sources “At War with the Smugglers,” by Rear-Admiral D. Arnold-Forster C.M.G.
“Smuggling on Wight Island,” by R.F.W. Dowling.

Potted Biography: 
I was born in Gosport, Hampshire, but have lived in North Yorkshire most of my life. I had a lot of short stories published in women’s magazines before I tried books, and still write the occasional one.

My Drusilla Davanish mysteries are:
“Letter From a Dead Man.” available here
“The Fat Badger Society.” available here
And I’m working on a third.

I’ve also written a 1930s thriller, The Ebenezer Papers, and  two volumes of short stories, ,Dinosaur Island and .The Case of the Missing Bridegroom

All books available at as well, and other Amazon outlets. 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Halloween story and holiday blog hop

I've been invited to take part in a holiday blog hop of Halloween stories, and though I intended to write a Regency one, it didn't happen, and instead I was influenced by a pop video called 'Daze' by the Poets of the Fall.  The blog hop more or less grew around the prevalence of scary clowns, and I do actually have a clown phobia.  However the guy in the video is both more and less than a clown ... check it out as well as the stories by the many excellent authors below. 

THIS   will take you to the other Halloween stories including one by Giselle Marks; for my efforts see below

Warning: this is very very dark.  About the darkest thing I've ever written. 

Lord of Fire

She was mortal, she was her own person and she had free will.  Her name was Elaine Rathbone, not Aine. No matter what he called her.
And then he smiled at her, and that smile was more frightening than any other man’s scowl.
“Not thinking of leaving me, my Aine?” he asked. “You know what happened last time.”
She shuddered.  Aodh was his name, born of the fire, and he had drawn strands of flame directly from his hall’s fire to whip her.  She still bore the marks.
“It’s Samhain,” she whimpered, and hated herself for whimpering.  “If I come out with you when you go hunting for pleasure, if I find a replacement…”
“If you leave another time, Aine, you will die,” said Aodh. “I find you too … entertaining … to want another lover.  But you may come on the hunt.”
She suppressed a shuddering sob.
That Halloween night … how many years ago had  it been? … when she had first met Aodh, at a party, she had thought herself the luckiest person in the world to have such a handsome and skilled lover.  It had only been when she had realised time had passed in his arms that she told him that she wanted to go home. She wanted to let her parents know that she was all right, and to return to college.  She told him, she could always come to him in the holidays.
That was when she discovered how jealous he was; and how violent he could be when irritated.  That beating had only been with his fists.  He shouted, as he always shouted,
“You are mine!  Mine alone!  You are my toy, and you are nothing to anyone else!” 
It had been when he had changed her name, though he had been calling her Aine for a while.  Her former, besotted, teenage self had not noticed.  But he forbade the use of her old name.  She was Aine, his toy, his slave, his pet. 
She had plotted to run away.  That first year, he had left her alone when he went hunting.  She had tried to find her way out, only to become lost in a labyrinth, magical and confusing, that surrounded the rath, the fairy hill, in which his halls were built. And he had found her, and marched her back to his bedroom, the hedges moving aside for him to take a straight path through the labyrinth, and then he had whipped her with fire.  Then thrown her upon her burned and agonised back to rape her.   Elaine Rathbone did not believe in magic, but Aine suffered from it, every day of her stolen life.
“You came to me willingly, and ate at my table, so I get to keep you, and you live and die by my whim,” he said.
A choice to risk death was still a choice.  Death could be no worse than this. She stared down at her hands.
“I would like to hunt,” she said.  “If I cannot go home, I need to learn the customs.”
“There’s a good girl,” he raised her chin and kissed her, almost tenderly.  Aine … Elaine … tried not to shudder at caresses that had once driven her wild with passion.

Aodh and his minions gathered for the hunt on Samhain, what most mortals called Halloween.  They needed no costumes, because their everyday garb, tawdry finery of the eighteenth century, was costume enough for most people.  Elaine remembered being impressed by the clothes, and by the jewelled Venetian masks they all wore, all ancient and doubtless valuable.  She was given one too, to wear with the cinch-waisted gown and its panniers, her hair dressed in an updo somewhere between Marie Antoinette and a rat’s nest, by the smaller, low-fae servants who did not get to go on the hunt.  They were servile, disgustingly so, but capable of magic, and had great strength, That she had discovered on the second Samhain, when she tried again to escape.  Too bizarre looking even for Halloween, the little creatures were not allowed to go on the hunt, and they were set to watch her, and their fear of Aodh was such that they pinched her cruelly and sat on her to keep her in her room. 
Now they chattered excitedly.
“The lord’s lady is one of us, now!” said one. “And at the end of this night, you will never be able to leave, you will be all fae, your mortality burned away!”  A small, blue being, with a huge head, and eyes all liquid navy blue, with no whites to them, informed her.
“Hush!” a more senior maid said.  She was as brown as a berry, and heart-stoppingly lovely on her left side, but wrinkled and ugly on the right, her features twisted, leering on that side.  She had more magic power than many, and some said she was Aodh’s base-born daughter on one of the low-fae.  It was only a whispered rumour; it was not done for the high-fae to lie with their servant race, but Aodh was a man of complex and not always salubrious sexual tastes.  Elaine had seen him kiss a servant girl and then have her tortured for not giving enough evidence of enjoyment.  He had then had her tortured again for simulating too much enjoyment when he did it the next time.  Aodh had taken Elaine with enthusiasm, while he watched the torture, both times. 
“I have to accept my fate,” said Elaine.
“We is glad to have you, lady.  When he has you, he doesn’t hurt us as much,” said the little blue one. “He dares not hurt you too bad; mortals break too easily.”
“But after this night?”
“You will heal as well as any of us!” squeaked the little one, and was cuffed by her superior.
“You talk too much, Gormbhinn,” she snapped.
“You are immune, Grainne, even he does not break that taboo,” squeaked Gormbhinn.
“I will tell him,” threatened Grainne.
Gormbhinn whimpered.
“Never mind that, make sure I am beautiful enough to please,” said Elaine.  If she got away … or died … it was a shame that the mostly gentle little servants would suffer, but they had magic, and if they had but stood together, they would be able to overthrow Aodh.  Yet they seemed, mostly, to accept it. 
She wished she could take Gormbhinn, who had been kind to her.

The wild hunt under Aodh turned up, as they had when Elaine had first met them, at a country house where they gate-crashed a party.  Elaine gate-crashed with them, and pirouetted and laughed and flirted her fan.  Aodh of course was impressing all the young women at the party, and after an hour or so was busy indulging in a flirtation with the daughter of the house. She was a pretty, rather silly-seeming girl, and Elaine wondered whether Aodh would choose her as his replacement consort.  Poor girl, but Elaine must think of herself.   Elaine slipped out, heading for the garage.  Sure enough, many cars had been left with their keys in the ignition; a lot of these county types were careless about such things on what they saw as ‘home territory’.  She picked a Porsche, and set off, driving in what she hoped was the direction of a larger town than the village near the mansion.
She laughed in relief, discarding her mask, as she drove, this was technology, something beyond the ken of the fae.
And then she saw that the petrol gauge was running down, the petrol going quite visibly.  Surely it was not such a gas-guzzler?  No.  He could not be removing the petrol could he?  The tank must be holed.
The tank must be holed, and she was leaving a stream of petrol behind her.  And Aodh was the Lord of Fire.
There was a flickering behind her in the mirror, visible above the hedges where it reflected on wet leaves of overhanging trees.
With a whinny of terror, Elaine stood on the brake, and wrenched open the side door, flinging herself across the country lane into the ditch.
The line of flame ran hungrily to the rear of the car, and the night exploded in white flame.  Elaine thought she could hear Aodh laughing as she almost blacked out.
He must not find her. 
She had already kicked off the impractical high heeled satin shoes which were part of her costume, in order to drive, and hardly heeded the brambles and nettles tearing at and stinging her bare feet as she scrambled out of the ditch and ran along the road, searching for someone, anyone.  She leaped out and waved frantically as headlights came towards her.  The car screeched to a halt.
“Have you any idea how stupid that was?” Yelped a male voice. Then, more panicked, “Here, Ruth, help, the lassie is hurt.”
And then there was blessed oblivion.

Elaine woke up in the white sterile atmosphere of a hospital.   Her parents were sat at the end of the bed.
“Oh darling!” her mother cried, seeing her daughter awake.  “Where have you been all these years?”
“I … he kidnapped me,” said Elaine.  “But he thought it was safe to take me to the party … thought I was cowed …”
“Stockholm syndrome,” a white coated man said quietly.  “Elaine, do you remember the things he did?   Those … burns on your back…”
“He whipped me with fire,” she whimpered.
“We believe it was some kind of homemade electrical device,” said the doctor.  “You can tell the police about it when you are a bit better rested, but if he took you to the party at Marston Manor, I think your tormentor might be dead; it burned down, and everyone who was in it died in the blaze.”
“Those poor people…” Elaine started to sob, gently.  “But he didn’t get that poor silly girl.  Better burned than his toy ….”

It was never quite the same, because Elaine had lost seven years of her life; and she could never, ever tell her parents, or the police, exactly what had happened.  They would never believe her.  She spoke of a man who thought he was the king of the goblins, and dressed like David Bowie in Labyrinth;  and her vagueness was put down to a voluntary amnesia to block trauma.  Her parents did not push her to unblock the memories.  She did wonder why the house had burned, and whether Aodh had perished as well, and whether he could hurt her again. She became reclusive, brooding, and throwing herself into the degree she had been taking when she had been seduced by Aodh.
And then, one day, she shrieked in fear as Gormbhinn appeared in her room.  Her parents were out, and Elaine cowered.
Gormbhinn ran to her and hugged her.
“Lady Aine killed him!” she exulted.
“I … I just ran away,” said Elaine.  “And my name is Elaine, not Aine.”
Gormbhinn regarded her solemnly.
“Elaine.  It’s pretty,” she said.  “But that’s what killed him.  He sent fire after you, to burn the rest of your mortality and make you a spirit-slave.  But you wasn’t burned, and at dawn, your immortal part grounded back through him and he burst into flame.  You killed him and we is free.  Gormbhinn would like to serve her lady,” she added.
“Oh, I so wanted to take you with me, but I dared not,” said Elaine.
Gormbhinn nodded.
“Gormbhinn understands.  We does things to stay safe.  Gormbhinn … I … hoped that you would understand my words and escape.  Because if you stayed free until dawn, I knew it would be all over.”
Elaine embraced Gormbhinn, and cried a flood that she had never quite dared to let out before.
Fae magic would mean that her parents never even saw the little creature, and they would have each other, two who knew, understood and had survived.
And Elaine would never, ever go to any Halloween party ever again.