Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Malapropism: A word by any other name

It's my pleasure to welcome Renée Reynolds with a post on malapropisms!


The Malpropism: A word by any other name

Comic Relief via Malapropism

For some reason, two things always show up whenever I write a new book: Shakespeare and humor.  Having an English teacher grandmother and librarian aunt, and descending from a long line of sarcastic savants, likely made manifestation of these traits inevitable.  I select a line or two from the Bard's works as introductions to each chapter in my novels, to (hopefully) help set the scene for the coming action.  I also infuse my stories with humor; if you are supposed to write what you know, then my laughter, teasing, and joke-filled life makes this inevitable.  As such, my lead characters tend to be wry observers, situational comics, and able practitioners of bon mots.

While conceiving the general outline for my Lords of Oxford Series, I knew book three, Earl Crazy, would be a bit different from the others.  The heroine is the sister of the series-arcing villain, and has had a sadly difficult, even abusive life.  Lady Margaret Stansbury needed a hero, but she also needed to find strength within herself to let go of the past and let her wounds heal.  I decided her hero, the Earl of Aylesford, would find the solution to his difficulties in Lady Margaret.  He is completely put upon - swamped by his duties as a peer,  his duties to his family, and his duties to the future of the earldom.  He needed a heroine.

But lest the story be all melodrama and difficulty, some Shakespearean comic relief was necessary, and what better form could comedy take than that of the Earl's great-aunt.  A great-aunt that refused to act her age or station at the most inconvenient of times, making it harder and harder to have patience with, and care for her, both as a lady and his elder.

To inject levity and just the right level of absurdity, the Earl's great-aunt required some endearing quirks.  Not only does Lady Hester Prendergast have a penchant for brandishing weapons at social events – only when she needs to slice her cheese or trim a dragging string, mind you – she also has a tendency to ask others for escort to tobacconists and brewers, despite her nephew's decree to the contrary.  To give her that extra je ne sais quoi, Lady Hester also speaks sincerely and earnestly the most ludicrous – and sometimes inappropriate – things.  Her speech is as eccentric as her dress.  She is an expert wielder of the malapropism.

Malpropism (noun, 1826), from Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's play “The Rivals” (1775).  Mrs. Malaprop was noted for her ridiculous misuse of large words; her name was coined from the French mal à propos, meaning badly suited to the purpose.

For example (emphases mine):

“Sir, you overpower me with good breeding.  He is the very pine-apple of politeness!”  (Act III, Scene iii)

“I hope you will represent her to the captain as an object not altogether illegible.” (Act I)

“Why, murder's the matter!  Slaughter's the matter!  Killing's the matter!  But he can tell you the perpendiculars.”  (Act V, Scene i)

In other words, Mrs. Malaprop said one thing while meaning another.  But she was not the first literary icon to skewer the King's English with malapropism.  Although the term arose from the Sheridan play, its practice had been in use long before.  For inspiration I turned to my favored Shakespeare, and a favored play: Much Ado About Nothing.  In fact, malapropism can be referred to as a Dogberryism, in honor of that most supreme of loveable fools, the Chief of Police of Messina, Dogberry.

“Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you dearly.”  (Act III, Scene iv)

“It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the poor duke's officers; but truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all of your worship.”  (Act III, Scene v)

“One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.”  (Act III, Scene v)

With such rich examples to emulate, it's no wonder I felt compelled that great-aunt Hester should wander into this method of speech.  Her usually unintentional misuse of a word or phrase brings amusement, and usually smothered laughs, to each conversation she attends. Her malapropisms come at just the right time in the story, a touch of frivolity whenever the situation seems far too serious to be borne.

Some of her memorable pronouncements:

“My dearest girl, you must cease allowing yourself to be used as a prawn by your brother.”

“Allow me to play the devil's addle-wit for a moment and examine this problem from all sides.”

“Surely it is time for the gong.  I am positively ravishing!”

“Let me state the oblivious and say this man – nay, this vermin – must needs be dealt with once and for all!”

So while the main theme of Earl Crazy is the mutual redemption of two struggling souls who find strength and succor in each other, the difficulties faced by Lady Margaret do provide inspiration for my lovely Dogberry to make her laughable declarations.  It is my hope that Lady Hester provides just the right amount of silliness with a touch of folly to be a lovely edition (wink-wink) to the story.

About the Book
What Tobias Kitteridge knows about women could fit into the tip of a thimble.  His life since the age of sixteen has been a steady stream of lessons toward becoming the Earl of Aylesford; ten years on, he finds himself standing on the precipice of losing his mind over solving his most pressing problems of a chaotic house and amok relatives.  His closest friends vow the answer to all his problems can be found in the acquisition of a wife.  But when women are the biggest mystery of all, just how is he to acquire one of his own?

What Lady Margaret Stansbury knows about men can be summed up in three words: Never Trust One.  Her life since the age of sixteen has been grief, disappointment, and neglect, with physical torment from her brother thrown lately into the mix.  When her brother the Viscount moves them to London, she expects only a continuation of her misery.  Instead she finds friends and a measure of freedom for the first time in her life.  Unfortunately, these friends think the answer to her problems can be found in the acquisition of a husband.  But when men are the sole source of heartache, why would she want to acquire one of her own?

When two of the unlikeliest of people form the most unlikeliest of unions, only the most unlikeliest of results can occur: true love.

Pleases watch for Earl Crazy, book three in The Lords of Oxford series, available FREE this August.

An Excerpt

“Lady Margaret!”

“My lord,” she replied with the briefest of curtsies.  He opened his mouth to reply but she continued.  “I'm afraid we have trespassed on your family's time too long.  Pray excuse us.”  Her gaze remained fixed somewhere over his left shoulder.

“No, that is, I didn't mean--” he stammered as she moved past him to the doorway.

“Lady Ashford, I will call for the carriage and await you in the hall.  Lady Hester.  Lady Aylesford,” she curtsied, and far deeper this time.  “Thank you both for a lovely afternoon.  I very much enjoyed the conversation and seed cake.”  And with that, Lady Margaret left without ever once looking his direction.

Lady Ashford turned in her seat to glare at him, lips pursed.  He received no better from his aunt and he knew the tirade was soon to erupt from his grandmother.  She rose from her chair and slowly crossed the room to stare him down despite the considerable difference in their heights.

“Tobias Wymond Kitteridge, you will go into that hall and beg forgiveness for your appalling lack of decorum and senseless blustering.”  He opened his mouth only to snap it shut as her hand shot out to pinch and twist the skin at his wrist.  This has been her method to get his attention since he was in leading strings.  It still worked.  “Not another word in this room until you have gotten yourself back into the good graces of the sweetest, kindest girl your aunt and I have ever met.  She deserved none of that philippic – none of us did – and you will remedy this immediately.”

Aylesford knew better than to open his mouth, even in apology, and she showed him her back before a look of contrition could even appear on his face.  She continued declaring her displeasure to the other side of the room.

“I should box his ears.  What a nursery-room tantrum, and from a grown man.  A peer of the realm!  An earl!  Stuff and nonsense!” she carried on as she moved to take the seat previously occupied by Lady Margaret.

Lady Margaret!

He spun on his heel and stepped quickly to the hall in time to see his butler escort the lady down the front steps.  Their carriage had yet to arrive, but from her posture and his butler's solicitude, he knew that Lady Margaret determined to put as much distance between herself and . . . him.  He glanced back toward the drawing room and made the only viable decision: retreat and regroup.  It was past time to address the root of the problem or, more likely, the roots.  He quietly moved toward the rear of the house, crossed the terrace, stole through the garden, and scaled his own wall to sneak away from further judgment awaiting him inside.

It was time to find his closest friends, the men he would hitherto have given his life for, but for now to be known as the men he would most like to kill for their bird-witted schemes and tricks.

About the Author

Renée Reynolds grew up all over the world in a family whose motto is you can never learn too much, travel too much, or talk too much.  She owns a stack of degrees that she completely ignores in favor of writing about what she cannot do: go back in time to dance at balls, and flirt with lords and scoundrels.

Renée found her HEA in Texas, where she resides with the hubs, the kiddos, and a menagerie of pets (here there be chickens!). She's since added to the family motto: you can never read too much, too often, or too late at night.

 Written content of his post copyright © Renée Reynolds, 2015.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

The Salon Digest

The salon is closed tomorrow as I have houseguests here on Gin Lane, without further ado, let's take a look at the week just gone and I shall see you on 26th May 2015!

In honour of Charlotte's birthday, a collection of posts about her life and family!

News of a new film and live music event inspired by the Tyburn Tree!

Elisabeth Lenckos shares the amazing tale go Jane Austen's "outlandish" cousin...

The remarkable landscapes of Hubert Robert...

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Gallery of Robert des Ruines

Hubert Robert (Paris, France, 22nd May 1733 – Paris, France, 15th April 1808)

Hubert Robert by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1788
Hubert Robert by Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1788
Hubert Robert was born on this day and, for many decades, enjoyed a celebrated career as an architectural painter throughout Europe.

The Arc de Triomphe and the Theatre of Orange, 1787
The Arc de Triomphe and the Theatre of Orange, 1787
Robert des Ruines, as he came to be known, was known for painting romantic, highly detailed paintings and was particularly lauded for his depictions of classical ruins. He even gained the nickname Robert des Ruines" (Robert of the Ruins).

La Grande Galerie du Louvre, 1796
La Grande Galerie du Louvre, 1796
As a guest of the French ambassador to Rome, Robert travelled widely throughout Italy where he honed the skills he had learnt during his education in France. Upon his return to his homeland, he found himself celebrated by public and critics alike, his achievements recognised by his admission to the Académie Royale.

Italian Kitchen, 1760-67
Italian Kitchen, 1760-67

Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nîmes, 1771
Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nîmes, 1771

View of Ripetta, 1766
View of Ripetta, 1766

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen

Today it is my delight to welcome Elisabeth Lenckos with a tale of a most fascinating lady who inspired the great Jane Austen, Eliza de Feuillide.


Eliza Hancock de Feuillide Austen, Eliza de Feuillide
Calcutta, 22nd December 1761 - London, 25th April 1813

1813 was Jane Austen’s year of wonders. Pride and Prejudice was published, Mansfield Park finished, and she began work on the novel that would become Emma. But 1813 was also the year Eliza de Feuillide, the inspiration behind these novels, died after a painful, lingering illness, casting a sad shadow over an otherwise joyous chapter in the writer’s existence. Despite her influence on Jane, Eliza lives on in the memoirs of the Austen-Leigh family as ‘French,’ ‘outlandish,’ and ‘pleasure-loving’ – no compliments, as readers of Austen can testify. While recent accounts have been more flattering, they, too, have omitted looking beyond the seductive façade the ‘Countess de Feuillide’ herself constructed in order to hide her suffering. When Eliza lay dying, Henry asked Jane to hurry to his wife’s bedside, and the two women spent three days in each other’s company. Mixing a little fiction into the facts, I speculate what Jane and Eliza talked about, and the possible truth of Eliza’s life.*                                             
London, 25th to 26th April 1813

After closing Eliza’s eyes, Jane pulled the curtains. She took her Indian shawl from her shoulders and hung it over the mirror. As she lit the candles around the deathbed, their reflected sheen, muted by the exotic cloth, threw a rosy light on her cousin’s still graceful face. Settling back into her chair, Jane decided she would stay the night. Afraid of illness and death, her brother Henry would not intrude upon his wife’s privacy until the morning. Jane sighed, but her heart went out to him. A sickroom was no place for a man, even if he had once loved Eliza passionately.   

As for Eliza, she seemed not to miss Henry in the final moments of her life. Three days earlier, she had kissed him as he brought her Jane; then, she had sent him away. Turning her face towards Jane as if she were the sun, she announced that she wanted her cousin to hear her dying confession. At first, Jane refused; however, Eliza wished not to confide in strangers, and so, in the end, she agreed to her request. Listening to her revelations, Jane grew sad, cured forever of the illusion that Eliza’s life had been a perpetual round of excitements and adventures. Jane had long envied her fragrant childhood in Calcutta, the elegant Paris balls, and her marriage to a handsome French nobleman. But now that she heard for the first time about the savagery and cynicism Eliza had experienced, Jane realized there was a night-side to her existence. Her connection with Warren Hastings was the only thing at which to marvel; and that tie had proved fateful, rather than fortuitous. 

The way her cousin told the story, it had begun innocuously. Her parents, Philadelphia and Tysoe Hancock, formed a friendship with Warren Hastings, a trader and clerk in the East India Company, when they became neighbors in Calcutta in 1759. A widower who had lost his daughter, they asked him to be godfather to their child, Elizabeth, when she was born in 1761. Who was to know that fourteen years later, he would settle £10,000 on her? His generosity complicated an already fraught situation, given that Lord Clive, the hero of Plassey, spread the rumor in England that Philadelphia had ‘abandoned herself to Mr Hastings’; Betsy, as she was then called, the evident consequence. Such gossip was libelous and proved damaging, since Philadelphia had in 1765 brought Eliza to London to finish her education. As a result, doors that should have been open to them, remained closed, and Philadelphia decided to take her daughter to the Continent, where her fortune might more readily conquer any doubts a gentleman might harbor regarding her reputation.                               

Warren Hastings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1766-68

Jane was just about to interrupt the flow of Eliza’s narrative, when her cousin answered her unspoken question; no, she was not the natural daughter of Warren Hastings. Rather, as soon as Philadelphia heard that he had been made Governor General of Bengal, she was ready to back their bags and go back to Calcutta in the hope that Eliza would become the second Mrs. Hastings. Her plan was that they should marry as soon as her daughter was old enough to be his wife; after all, India was full of child-brides, such as the enchanting Catherine Grand. But Dr. Hancock, mumbling darkly about the deleterious effects of the Bengali climate on the tempers of young ladies and Mr. Hastings’ a new favorite, Baroness von Imhoff, ordered his spouse to remain in the Occident.                                  

While Eliza described how Philadelphia and Eliza took themselves to Paris and secured an invitation to Versailles by bandying about the name of the Governor General, Jane’s imagination supplied the details. She saw Eliza being presented at court as an heiress to a legendary Indian fortune, courted, and carried off to a remote estate by a fortune-hunting Count, who was first disappointed, then enraged when he discovered the relative modesty of his wife’s funds. Deeply in love with her charming, attractive husband, the Countess tried to appease his wrath by tempting him with the prospect of a settlement her godparent might make on his goddaughter’s progeny. She failed to anticipate that her promise would subject her to several miscarriages, as well as her husband’s scorn, in the effort of producing the offspring on whom Warren Hastings would bequeath a sizable amount of his riches.                                                              

In this way, five years passed, until finally, in late spring 1786, Eliza realized she had been pregnant for eight months. As soon as she told the Count, he put his wife, along with her mother, in a carriage bound for Calais, ordering her to give birth in England, and to entrust the child’s wellbeing to the care of the Governor General. However, this plan went wrong from the start. The impossibly named Hastings-Francois-Louis-Henri-Eugene was born in Calais, and when Eliza and Philadelphia hastened to show him off to Mr. Hastings at Beaumont Lodge in August, they realized they faced a formidable rival in the former Baroness von Imhoff, who had since turned Mrs. Hastings. Whenever they tried to steer the conversation towards a possible settlement for Master Hastings, she would sigh and talk about her own extravagant sons, whom Mr. Hastings had adopted; the annuities he paid to various relations; the gifts of money he had made to a rabble of godchildren (she looked pointedly at Eliza as she said this); and the excessive cost of living in London; obviously, no more funds could be spared. After three weeks of this routine, Eliza and Philadelphia felt they had stayed as long as was polite and left. Over the next several years, they embarked on a peregrine existence, which took them from the houses of family and friends to temporary accommodations, and back again.                         
Then, in June 1791, Philadelphia was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that took her life eight months later and brought her son-in-law briefly to England to condole with his wife. At the reading of his mother-in-law’s will, it turned out that he had borrowed the entirety of her fortune – £6,500 – a sum he was unlikely to repay, and Eliza decided that he should, at least, never have her money. As it happened, her mother and she had by now been in England for five years, barring the nine months they spent in Paris beginning in autumn 1788. Ostensibly, Philadelphia and Eliza had returned to London on 7th July 1789 to escape the mounting political tension in France, but in reality they had come to seek assurance from their lawyer that under the special conditions of the settlement made by Warren Hastings, Count de Feuillide was not entitled to seize her property.      

Mr and Mrs Hastings, by Johann Zoffany, Memorial Hall, Calcutta, 1783-1787
For that is what her husband had attempted, and it put an end to any illusion his wife might have harbored that he had still loved her profoundly. Even so, Eliza worked hard to keep up appearances; she corresponded regularly with the Count and welcomed him when he visited her in London, as evidenced by the ‘accident’ or miscarriage she endured two months later. Although Eliza was ashamed to admit it, she searched for him among the refugees arriving from France, until she heard in 1794 that he had been guillotined, alongside the Marquise in whose house he had hid for the past two years. When she received word of his murder, Eliza started to collect admirers, but in December 1797, agreed to marry her cousin Henry Austen, who had pursued her since 1795. She explained the reasons for her acceptance in a letter to her godfather:                                                                                                                                        
I have consented to a union with my cousin Capt. Austen who has the honor of being known to you. He has for some time been in possession of a comfortable income, and the excellence of his heart, temper, and understanding, together with his steady attachment to me, his affection for my little boy, and disinterested concurrence in the disposal of my property, in favor of this latter, have at length induced me to an acquiescence which I have withheld for more than two years…Your much obliged and affectionate god-daughter, Eliza de Feuillide.                     

Was it a love match? Jane knew that in the beginning, there had been great passion on Henry’s part, while Eliza’s note made it obvious that she had been motivated by more practical considerations. In the event, their marriage was harmonious despite the difference in their ages, that is, until Eliza succumbed to a mysterious aliment, probably cancer, in the eighteen months before her death. Sadly, since 1812, Henry’s time had been taken up entirely by his new bank, and he was not able to give Eliza his full attention, delegating the work of looking after her to professionals. As his sister was well aware, his instinct was in favor of self-preservation, and he was resolved not to hitch his still richly loaded wagon to Eliza’s expiring star.                                        

Jane sighed, as she thought back to Christmas 1786 and ’87, when Eliza had first visited Steventon, illuminating the Austen’s somber holidays so brightly, their afterglow lasted for years. ‘The Countess de Feuillide’ brought gifts from Paris, the idea of Christmas theatricals, which made their way into Mansfield Park, and she turned the heads of Henry and his brothers. Most importantly, she made a present to Jane of her marvelous stories, from the palaces of Bengal, the court at Versailles, and her adventures as a young girl aboard an East Indiaman vessel. How sad it was that her light was extinguished, just as Jane’s came into the ascendency. As the first rays of dawn pierced the curtains, the author rose and went to fetch her brother; it was time Eliza’s husband tended to his wife. Nursing was woman’s work, but the pomp of funerals was man’s business. There was so much to do.         
*This essay is indebted to Deirdre le Faye, Jane Austen’s Outlandish Cousin: The Life and Letters of Eliza de Feuillide, 2002.                                                                              

Elisabeth Lenckos is the co-editor of Jane Austen and the Arts: Elegance, Propriety, and Harmony. She is writing a historical novel about an adventuress in Jane Austen’s time.

Written content of this post copyright © Elisabeth Lenckos, 2015.                                                                                                      

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Tyburnia Tour

It's my pleasure to share with you today news of a new artistic endeavour currently touring England... the Tyburnia film and live music tour!


The shadow of the Tyburn Tree extended well beyond London, with assizes, gallows, and gibbets in many market and county towns. To explore this rich and melancholy history Tyburnia will be performed as close to the location of various regional gallows as possible. This means taking a film screening to some pretty unusual places, and to do this we need your help!

Tyburnia is an incredible creative opportunity to explore how systems of civil jurisdiction were enforced across the UK, to examine local history and contemporary life and how these tie in with national narratives.

For over 700 years there was a site of execution at Tyburn in London. Here those who fell foul of political, religious and judicial reforms enacted by the state were executed for public entertainment and instruction. A study of those executed at Tyburn charts a history of the UK, illustrating the twists and turns of monarchical and political whimsy, church and state, and the birth of capitalism.

At our current moment of enforced austerity and social reform, Tyburnia explores the parallels between contemporary and historical notions of crime in relation to business and property, the spectacular nature of punishment, and the state's use of the body as a site for political control.

Shooting on 8mm and 16mm film, James Holcombe gained access to numerous artifacts associated with the Tyburn; reliquaries housing the remains of catholic martyrs, body parts preserved by surgeons, the bell that tolled on the eve of executions, and the eventual resting place of the gallows themselves. Using hand processing and historic chemical techniques the scenes forming Tyburnia bring forth a film that is both visually and thematically engrossing, demonstrating how, despite the gallows having long since vanished, we still stand in the shadow of its punitive ideology.

Tyburnia has provided an opportunity to breath life back into some very peculiar and rare songs. Bringing to bare their gritty, rough hewn interpretations and dextrous multi-instrumentalism, the Dead Rat Orchestra have created a sound track that features songs that were composed by or for those condemned to 'dance the Tyburn jig', bringing a new understanding to the broadside ballads that have become a staple of folk music, but here presented in close association to their original context.

Alongside ballads of the condemned the DRO have undertaken the great challenge of crafting contemporary versions of long forgotten songs in the luridly descriptive language of thieves can't.

Find out more or book your tickets at Tyburnia or DRO.

Watch Tyburnia Live

27th May - London - The Carpenters Arms
29th - London - Apiary Studios
30th May - Norwich -  Norwich Arts Centre
31st May - Colchester  - Colchester Arts Centre
5th June -  Bristol - Cube Cinema
6th June - Lewes - Westgate Chapel
7th June - Cambridge -  Castle End Mission
11th June - Winchester - St John The Baptist
12th June - Reading - Rising Sun Arts Centre
14 June –  Royal Holloway University of London- The Boilerhouse Lecture Theatre
19th  June  - Taunton - Museum of Somerset
20th June -  Lewannick - Lewannick Community Cinema
21st June - Exeter - The Cavern
25th June - Devizes - Wiltshire Museum
26th June - Ipswich  - Think Tank
3rd July - Oxford - Modern Art Oxford
4th July - Northampton - The Victoria
5th July - Shrewsbury - Morris Hall

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Queen Charlotte Digest

On this day in 1744, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. As Queen Charlotte she was a devoted wife to George III and one of my favourite Georgian characters. 

I hope you will enjoy this digest of posts here on the Guide regarding Charlotte and her illustrious family.

The Death of Queen Charlotte
By Thomas Lawrence, 1790

Queen Charlotte's diamonds: A romantic tale of George's wedding gift to his bride.
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz by Laura Purcell - The early life of the young princess.
The Portrait of Queen Charlotte - When Thomas Lawrence painted the queen in a poignant pose, she was not happy with the result.
Queen Charlotte's Notebook - The stunning stationery of the queen!
The Death of Queen Charlotte

The Children of Charlotte and George

The Long Life of Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh
The Frail Life of Princess Louisa of Great Britain
A Regal Disagreement: Charlotte, Princess Royal
"Tell Charles I die blessing him": Princess Amelia of the United Kingdom

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Salon Digest

The salon was closed this weekend so I could do some gadding about with Joshua Reynolds and Benjamin Franklin so, without further ado, let's take a look at the week just gone.

The Thunder of Hoof Beats
Julia Justiss discusses Regency horse breeding.

Kristi Jun Interviewed
An interview with a debut Regency author!

How to Skin a Lion
My review of a fabulous new book.

Manners, Manners, Manners
Ella Quinn on the importance of good manners!