Friday, 29 May 2015

Syngenta’s shame: proposed demolition of Dalton Grange, Hudderfield

As a resident of the fine country of Yorkshire, I am very pleased to repost Matthew Beckett's post, Syngenta’s Shame here today. Though not a Georgian building, Dalton Grange in Huddersfield is under the threat of demolition and Matthew featured the plight of the Grange on his wonderful site, earlier this year. Please do share news of this development with any interested parties, so that this fantastic building can be saved if possible!

If anyone involved in the preservation of the Grange would like to get in touch, I would love to hear from you and the petition to save the Grange is here.

The salon will be closed until 1st June 2015 to allow for me to gad about with pals, so I shall see you then!


To paraphrase: ‘all that is required for heritage to be lost, is for good people to do nothing‘.  Sometimes this can be through deliberately ignoring a situation or through lack of awareness that a situation even exists. So, this is a quick post to highlight the shamefully poor justification that Syngenta Ltd have proposed as reason to demolish the mistreated but ‘hugely characterful’ Dalton Grange in Huddersfield.

Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Syngenta Ltd is a Swiss-based, global agri-business with revenues of over $14bn and profits of over $1.6bn (2013) – and I have no problem with that at all; big business provides jobs but it also creates local responsibilities.  The corporate website is bathed in the language of sustainability and waste reduction – noble, certainly, but sadly in Huddersfield, they appear to not be interested in following these aims.
A recent application was made by Syngenta to Kirklees Council to demolish Dalton Grange; a building the Victorian Society have identified in their response as being locally significant, both historically and architecturally.  They note that it was built in 1870 by prominent local industrialist Henry Brook, of J.H. Brook & Sons of Bradley Mills (both north and south mills at Bradley Mills are listed Grade II).  Sited on a hill, the house is:
…a sturdy and handsome essay in baronial Gothic, with a prominent castellated turret providing dramatic views of the building at the end of its drive. It is a hugely characterful building and is set in large terraced gardens that in recent years have been restored in order to provide the beautiful landscaped setting that it once enjoyed.
Consultee Responses: Victorian Society
Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Care for a local area should be integral to how a company operates, respecting the traditions and heritage which surround their sites.  In both local terms and in relation to national guidelines, the bar needs to be set high to justify the loss of heritage – so how do Syngenta address this:
Reason for demolition: No foreseeable future use for the building. In addition there are anticipated excessive costs associated with ongoing maintenance & refurbishmentSource: Application 2014/68/91888/W
Allow me to paraphrase: ‘Syngenta can’t be bothered to use this heritage asset which is in their care and it’s looking a bit expensive to look after in the way we are supposed to, so we would prefer it if we could just get rid of it.‘ In some meeting, this must have seemed like a quick solution. Hold on though, we’d better think of something we can usefully use this space for once we’ve cleared it. What inspiring solution can we find? What might conceivably justify this lost of a building which has been part of the Huddersfield landscape for nearly 150 years – let’s look at their application again, specifically section 5:
Please describe details of the proposed restoration of the site: A possible outcome is that parking provision for a number of cars will be made available to help ease traffic problems during stadium events.
A car park. Well done, Syngenta.  Speaking to the Huddersfield Examiner, Syngenta community relations manager (ha ha!), Carl Sykes said “This is a private building on private industrial land.” Which I think is his way of saying ‘It’s none of your business’. He continues:
“Times have changed and now they don’t want to run a social club and we no longer have a use for the building. [Or ‘if we can’t have it, no-one can have it’]
“We’re looking to keep skilled manufacturing jobs in Huddersfield for future generations, we cannot continue to subsidise a tired and decaying building that is becoming beyond economic repair.
“We know there is asbestos in the building and attempts to renovate or modify the building would run into tens of thousands of pounds.” [Asbestos is now the new dry rot – used to justify any sort of historic demolition]
“When the demolition is completed, we shall explore how we might use the land to give some real value to the area, rather than becoming a shuttered up, rotting, old building. [Of course, if you sold it to someone who cared about Huddersfield’s heritage it would avoid the fate you are clearly planning for it]
“For example, the land could be used for allotments or maybe stadium match day parking.” [Oh yes, that’s definitely better. What a fine swap].
This is symptomatic of the casual way in which heritage is being treated up and down the country.  Although there are some great examples of sensitive corporate care for heritage assets, there are many others – from small developers to global multi-national agri-businesses – who fail to recognise that heritage is to be cared for and respected.

Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Dalton Grange, Huddersfield, Yorkshire (Image: Huddersfield Examiner)
Kirklees Council also need to take the role expected of them and reject (forcefully) this casual destruction of historic buildings which are an integral part of the character of their local area. Syngenta may be a major local employer but that’s all the more reason to stand firm and provide a precedent that will ensure that the local residents know that the Council cares about protecting a local environment, rich in character and heritage.  The Huddersfield Daily Examiner, should also be leading a campaign to save their heritage, giving voice to those who live in the area who, if asked, would almost certainly prefer to retain a fine old historic house – an article published on 21 March 2015 does start this with a suitably sceptical headline: ‘Proposed demolition of Dalton Grange sparks outrage‘.

Of course, perhaps Dalton Grange isn’t the most spectacular building or in the best condition or in the best position, on the edge of a huge Syngenta production plant but it is separated by a pleasant band of woodland so it would not impact the integrity of their site if they sold it. And perhaps that plant won’t always be there but during their tenure they should ensure that they show respect to local architectural heritage which has been there since long before them.  To demolish the house on such flimsy grounds as ‘maintenance is a bit expensive’ and ‘we fancy a car park’ would be a shameful episode.  Syngenta should immediately withdraw the application, explain how they are going to restore Dalton Grange or sell it, and help find a sustainable long-term use (in line with their professed corporate philosophy) for this small but locally important part of Huddersfield’s heritage.
About the Author
Matthew Beckett is an amateur architectural historian with a particular love of UK country houses in all their many varied and beautiful forms. Please visit him at and

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Where did Robert Fulton go?

It is my pleasure to welcome Lisa Chaplin, author of The Tide Watchers, to tell a tale of espionage and war, of nautical escapades and a chap who seemed to just disappear... 


Where did Robert Fulton go?

Robert Fulton, with a steamboat in the background
Robert Fulton, with a steamboat in the background
While researching the “hidden history” for my first historical novel, The Tide Watchers, a question kept returning to my mind. Where did Robert Fulton go? 

Given that The Tide Watchers is about espionage and the buildup to war between Britain and France in 1803, and Robert Fulton was an American inventor, it might seem an odd question; but it became crucial to finding the exact story and history that I felt needed to be told.

In my research of the espionage and governmental policies of the times, I found some odd references. It seems that the small French port town of Boulogne-sur-Mer was blockaded by land and sea from August 1802 until war was declared in May 1803. It was one of the few places outside Paris and Calais that the French government had invested in to give streetlights. The Camps de Boulogne, or Armée du Nord – the army of the north – was stationed there, with up to 100,000 soldiers. It was also one of the few small towns not on the Paris-Calais road that had a semaphore tower – a messaging system, the precursor of the telegraph. Finally in March 1803, after Bonaparte publicly accused the English of provoking him to war, part of a French fleet sank eight miles out to sea off Boulogne-sur-Mer; the rest of the fleet returned to port. According to witnesses, they’d been heading toward southwest England, or possibly Wales.

Within weeks Britain declared war on France, over terms of the Treaty of Amiens they’d been patiently negotiating for months – and 1500 ships were docked in open harbors from Brest in western France to Flushing in Holland. Napoleon called it his “invasion fleet”. A few weeks into war, he already had 500 ships more than the terms of the Treaty allowed.

But what did Robert Fulton have to do with all this? A very good question!

Talented artist, enthusiastic inventor and passionate advocate of the republican state, Robert Fulton is a well-known historical identity. As a child in his native Philadelphia, he tried his hand at different inventions. After crossing the Atlantic as a young man to study art with the famed artist Benjamin West, he returned to invention, though some of his art still exists in London and Paris today. Steam engines in particular fascinated him. He wasn’t the inventor of the steamboat, as many believe, but used its practical applications to make the dream a reality in North America. His real brilliance lay in creating practical working prototypes of earlier, impractical inventions. He created the first paddlewheel steamboat to sail down the Hudson River; he is the father of the Mississippi River steamboats, and a guiding light in modern submarines and torpedo and sea-mine technology in particular.

Two facts caught my interest for The Tide Watchers: in 1797 Fulton left England for France, and by 1800 was trying to interest Napoleon in his inventions; his fascination with “submersible boats” (submarines) at this time. 

In August 1802, history records him at Le Havre, France, trying to shoot an early for of torpedo from his submarine Nautilus to blow up a ship. He didn’t call them torpedoes then; strangely, he called them corpses. What he called torpedoes were porcupine-shaped “sticky bombs”, the precursor of today’s sea-mines. Sadly the test didn’t go as planned (as shown in The Tide Watchers). Instead of the funding he’d hoped for, he got public ridicule – and a rumor that Napoleon would seize Fulton’s inventions and give them to the Ministry of Science, or Ministry of the Marine, for development.

An inner-view section of the 3 - 6 person submarine Nautilus, torpedo chamber removed
An inner-view section of the 3 - 6 person submarine Nautilus, torpedo chamber removed

The inner workings of Nautilus, with table of contents
The inner workings of Nautilus, with table of contents
So Fulton apparently did what any self-respecting inventor alone in a hostile foreign country would do: he sabotaged Nautilus, ripping out its inner workings, and burning his blueprints. 

Then, it seems, he disappeared. I found conflicting stories about where he went: from America to work on steamboats; he was hiding in Holland; he was working for Britain. But in August 1803 he was definitely in Paris, offering a fleet of 500 paddlewheel steam-powered boats to invade England. But Napoleon, having his eye on flashier methods (and methods that hadn’t yet failed), refused. In fact he publicly ridiculed and insulted Fulton – but that story, and the exciting inventions that came after, is in my next book ☺. 

When Fulton was in Paris in August 1803, there was no talk of the submarine-torpedo technology being with him…perhaps he was taking no chances of its being confiscated in wartime? But Fulton, his submarines and torpedoes all showed up in England the next year. When he returned to America to make his name and fame with steamboat technology in 1806, he left handmade copies of the original Nautilus blueprints with the British Admiralty. These were left to molder in the Admiralty archives until they were resurrected over a hundred years later to create German U-Boats and the Allies’ submarines in WWI.

All this research left me with a few vital questions: where was Fulton from August 1802 – August 1803? Where did he hide his inventions? And what did he do with Nautilus? He seems to have vanished, not once, but twice: from August 1802 – August 1803; and again for eight months from August 1803 – April 1804, when he offered his services to Britain. There are conflicting accounts: that he was in Amsterdam; that he was in Britain – that he was with Robert Livingston working on paddleboats (Livingston, the Minister to France at the time and Fulton’s future uncle-in-law, had negotiated exclusive rights to licenses on the Hudson River in New York); but there is no evidence of his being there until 1806. The most exciting action in steam invention at that time was with British men such as James Watt and Richard Trevithick – and his mentor Livingston was still based in Europe. Also in my humble opinion the only chance Fulton had of selling his submarine-torpedo technology was in a nation at war, or in great danger of invasion.

So it seemed to me that Fulton must still be in Europe – somewhere in hiding. Napoleon seemed uninterested in steam engines at the time, or anything Fulton had to offer apart from the submarine-torpedo technology. If Fulton really had destroyed Nautilus and sold it for scrap, and burned every trace of how to rebuild it, would he need to hide? The French government didn’t want him…only his inventions.

Working from that premise, I learned in further research that Fulton had built a replica of David Bushnell’s “turtle” submarine, used with limited success in the American War of Independence. Bushnell was one of Fulton’s heroes – and Bushnell had offered his craft to help evict the English from where they weren’t wanted…

A replica of David Bushnell’s “turtle”, a one-man hand-pedaled submarine used in the American War of Independence, with limited success
A replica of David Bushnell’s “turtle”, a one-man hand-pedaled submarine used in the American War of Independence, with limited success
A cutaway image of the inner workings, with a burning ship in the background. The needle-like object at the top right of both pictures is the “torpedo-attaching screw”, used in The Tide Watchers
A cutaway image of the inner workings, with a burning ship in the background. The needle-like object at the top right of both pictures is the “torpedo-attaching screw”, used in The Tide Watchers
I visited France in 2011, and in the little village north of Boulogne-sur-Mer called Wimereux and Ambleteuse, I found evidence, not only of an invasion fleet in its history, but a strange street called Rue Laboratoire (Laboratory Street), with an odd, Gothic house standing alone amid gorse on a sandy path.

At that point all the research I’d done on the governments and espionage of the time made sense. With Robert Fulton, and Robert Fulton alone, I had the plot for The Tide Watchers. I knew how to get my real-life, unnamed British spies inside blockaded Boulogne-sur-Mer; I knew how part of that fleet sank, and why Britain unexpectedly declared war. Robert Fulton, passionate, brilliant inventor and American fish out of French water, had become a central character in the world of British espionage, whether he’d wanted to or not…and he became a central character in The Tide Watchers.

About the Author

LISA CHAPLIN discovered her passion for history in high school, watching I, Claudius and The World At War. She eventually took the advice if her husband and tried her hand at fiction - but after having 20 contemporary romance novels published by Harlequin under a pseudonym, and inspired by living in Europe for 4 years, she turned at last to her first love, historical fiction. The Tide Watchers marks her mainstream historical debut. Lisa, her husband and three children currently reside in her home country of Australia.

About the book

The Tide Watchers

In the winter of 1803, one woman stands between Napoleon and the fall of Great Britain. In a time of uneasy peace, one British spy is convinced Napoleon is about to invade Great Britain. In one day Duncan uncovers plots to kill both King George III and the French leader, the probable existence of Napoleon's secret invasion fleet, its location blockaded by land and sea - and that there's an unknown French spy on his team. There's only one way to get inside Boulogne-sur-Mer - by the submarines of American inventor, Robert Fulton - but he won't help. Not knowing who to trust, he turns to a young Englishwoman he's just met, and makes a desperate deal: a child for a submarine.

Ruined in society's eyes, abandoned wife Lisbeth is working as a tavern wench in enemy France, despised and belittled. All she wants is the infant son her husband, a spy and assassin, has taken from her. Soon her unpredictable brilliance makes her indispensable to the British spy whose name she doesn't know. To have her son returned to her, she goes undercover. She must charm the perceptive genius, take possession of one of his submarines and learn how to use it, all before the invasion fleet sails. Lisbeth's willing to sacrifice herself for family and country, and ruin herself to save her son - but her heart refuses to take the same route.

The Tide Watchers is based on real-life assassination attempts of Napoleon and King George within weeks of each other, and the still-unnamed spies that found and sabotaged Napoleon's secret invasion fleet.

Written content of this post copyright © Lisa Chaplin, 2015.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Call for Submissions

Today I take a small diversion from history to share news of an opportunity for writers of historical fiction; do read on!


Allow me to set the scene. 

Morning has passed by in a slow haze of early summer. The orchestra of birds dance in the air. Fresh buds breathe the warmth of vitality only the waxing summer brings. Sitting in the midst of the backyard garden is an ornate metal table and chairs, dressed with enough tea and treats to sustain the artist who seeks to do nothing more than soak in the beauty of the moment. 

My name is Jennifer Corkill and I am the Acquisitions Editor at Divertir Publishing. We’re an independent publisher located in Salem, NH. Our goal is to provide interesting and entertaining books to our readers, as well as to offer new and exciting voices in the writing community the opportunity to publish their work. 

Right now, I am seeking authors who delight in writing historicals and historical romances.  I want a strong heroine with a charming hero, although perhaps he doesn’t start off so.  If you dabble in alternate histories where you twist the details making the narrative your own, I would love to read that as well. 

Manuscripts need to be between 50-100k words. Previously self-published isn’t a horrible deterrent so don’t lose heart. 
What I do not want: historicals where the character behaves in a fashion that goes against the time period. I want her/his actions to be period and believable. 
Sexual situations are acceptable but we prefer them behind closed door.  
Please send all queries to You can address the email to me, the Acquisitions Editor. We currently only accept queries electronically.

How your email should look:

Name: Your name. Please include your full name in the query. Not including your full name makes it difficult to respond to the query.

Subject: Title, genre, word count (for example: Pride and Prune Juice, romance, 76k)

Body: Your query letter. Please note that queries will often be rejected based solely on the query letter, so it is important your query letter describe your manuscript in enough detail for us to determine if it would be of interest to us. Attach a synopsis and first three chapters of your manuscript in a Word or RTF document.

I look forward to your submissions or any questions you may have. Thank you. 

By the way, can you pass the tarts and perhaps another cuppa? Thank you, darling.

Written content of his post copyright © Jen Corkhill Hunt, 2015.

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; so, 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.