Thursday, 27 August 2015

A Bumper Salon Digest

The salon has welcomed so many guests recently that it's been a while since I presented a digest of the latest posts; since I'm gadding about this weekend, enjoy this bumper digest and I shall see you next week!

An Evening with Jane Austen
Join Adrian Lukis of Pride and Prejudice fame and Sharpe's Caroline Langrishe at Godermersham for an evening of Jane Austen... you can say hello to me too if you're so inclined!

A Jewel in Paris
Join Shannon Donnelly for a tour of the Tuileries! 

Princely Debts and a Wealth of Resources
Charlotte Frost takes a trip to the archives with the profligate George IV...

Choose Your Own Adventure... 18th Century Style!
Elyse Huntington chooses her own adventure... 18th century style! 

"You are female; I won't say woman"
Dr Sara Read unveils the remarkable letters between an Irish bishop and his daughter.  

The English Pudding - or Comfort Foods of the British Isles
A tasty dessert course from Becca St John! 

Lead Mining Corruption, Bribery and Murder
A shocking tale of murder from Ayr Bray...

The Regency Sex Trade
Jude Knight looks at the sex industry in the Regency.

The Jane Austen Festival
What's on offer in Bath this year?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Jane Austen Festival

The Jane Austen Festival – 11th to 20th September 2015

With 100+ events over the course of ten days the 15th annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath is the biggest yet. Opening officially on Saturday 12th September with the spectacular Grand Regency Costumed Promenade, central Bath will come to a standstill, whilst over 600 process through the streets. Regency costume is essential to take part in the Promenade and entry is by ticket through the Festival website, however watching the parade is free.

To celebrate the bicentenary of Austen’s novel Emma, readings are taking place in Bath Central Library plus an additional Ball the ‘Highbury’ Country Dance. Being held at Bath Pavilion the ‘Highbury’ Country Dance is a less formal affair, where Regency costume is not obligatory, unlike the celebrated Masked Ball at the Pump Rooms on the second weekend.

Other events include ‘Austen Undone’, theatrical walking adventures presented by the award winning Natural Theatre Company. The Mission Theatre is the main venue for events including talks and discussions from authors and Austen authorities, Prof John Mullan, Maggie Lane and Lauren Nixon, plus actor, Richard Heffer on the film ‘Waterloo’.  With the superb voice of Rosie Lomas and keyboard specialist Katarzyna Kowalik presenting Music and Matchmaking and harpist Sarah Deere-Jones tutoring the instrument and performing a very Regency Soiree these are just a couple of the Festival musical delights.  The darker side of the 18th Century is tackled with presentations on curing illness, crime and punishment as well as the decorative with how to use a fan and dress and behave in Regency style. There are more minibus tours and day trips including the very popular event to Lyme Regis and additional workshops on bonnet making, Regency dancing, and even archery. Food events take place in a Bath Regency townhouse, the Victoria Art Gallery and an exclusive evening at No.1 Royal Crescent. Dr Amy Frost delights again with presentations at two venues, the Museum of Bath Architecture and Beckford’s Tower.

The Festival uses many historic Georgian buildings and whilst Regency costume is always welcome it is not essential to wear at events other than the Promenade and Masked Ball. The exciting Finale is ‘Jane Austen the interview’, a brand new piece commissioned by the Festival and performed by the Natural Theatre Company.

Full details of all events are on

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Regency Sex Trade

A little sauce today courtesy of Jude Knight and a look into the Regency era and the sex trade.

Congratulations to Marilyn, winner of A Baron for Becky!


In the 18th century, according to Dan Cruickshank’s The Secret History of Georgian London, one in five women in London earned income from the sale of sex. He called London:
'a vast, hostile, soulless, wicked all-devouring but also fatally attractive place that makes and breaks, that tempts, inflames, satisfies, yet corrupts and ultimately kills'.
A ban on keeping a brothel was passed into law as early as 1751, but prostitution was not made an imprisoning offence until the 1820s. (Not that the new law stopped the trade, of course, but it did largely drive it off the streets, at least in the more genteel parts of town.) 
With no regulation, there are no reliable statistics. Estimates made at the time defined unmarried women living with their partners as prostitutes, so 50,000 is probably well over the top. But we have guides to the whores and brothels of London, newssheet accounts and cartoons of the fashionable courtesans at the peak of the trade, their own narratives, and other contemporary records to assure us that the sex trade continued to be a thriving part of the economy in the first decades of the 19th century.
Sex workers—defined as those who made some or part of their living by selling sex—ranged from those offering a quick bang up against a wall in a slum alley to those  accepting gifts from hopeful admirers while mixing on the fringes of Society. And everything in between. 
Most prostitutes seem to have been working class girls who, having surrendered their virtue to a man of their own class, sought some profit from their lapse. One woman said:
‘she had got tired of service, wanted to see life and be independent; & so she had become a prostitute…She…enjoyed it very much, thought it might raise her & perhaps be profitable’
Which it was, giving her enough savings to purchase a coffee house and set up in business. For others, prostitution was seasonal, or a temporary reaction to a financial crisis. Many worked for a year or two, then took their savings home, and married or set up in business. Prostitution might also be a way to supplement income from another job; seamstresses and milliners, in particular, were so poorly paid that many of them sold their bodies as well. 

Those who worked in wealthier areas, such as the West End, were more likely to find wealthy clients, and those with bit parts in the theatre, who then—as now—might be turned off in a moment if the performance did not please the audience, were well positioned to find a wealthy admirer to keep them in the style to which they would like to become accustomed.
A clever, pretty, talented girl could hope to attract a generous protector, perhaps even an admirer so besotted he would marry her. It happened, though rarely. More commonly, a man would set his mistress up in a house or apartment, and visit her when he was at leisure until he tired of her or she of him. 
Many sex workers, if not most, were in less fortunate circumstances. Those running the brothels constantly sought fresh girls to please the appetites of their customers. A girl who accepted a job, or even a bed for the night, might find herself put to work whether she wished or not, her virginity auctioned to the highest bidder, and her share of the income withheld to pay for her food, board, clothing, and whatever else the brothel-keeper could imagine.
(I say ‘her’, but of course the same applies to male sex workers, though—homosexuality being illegal—we have little information about their lives, and that little from court records.)

The risks were great. Contraception was very hit and miss, if used at all. Pregnancy must have been a constant worry. ‘Pulling out’ was the most common method for avoiding unwanted children, and was as effective then as it is now (which is to say, not very). Protective ‘Machines’—condoms made from oiled cloth or the intestines of various animals—were available, though men were more likely to use them to avoid disease than to prevent pregnancy. And they were probably better at the second, since water could go right through them and they tended to tear.
Various methods were used to abort unwanted pregnancies, many of them just as likely to kill the mother. A baby could be born alive but then killed, or put out to a baby farmer so that the mother could return to work. A mistress of a single protector might be in a slightly stronger position if the child’s father was willing to keep the mother on. Some men—and not just royal princes—had quite large families by their mistresses. 
Disease was the other big fear, for both the sex workers and their clients. Gonorrhea and syphilis were treated with ointments containing mercury, the toxic effects of which could be as dangerous as the diseases. Side effects included kidney failure, severe mouth ulcers, nerve damage, and loss of teeth. On the other hand, untreated syphilis ends in abcesses, ulcers, severe debility, and madness or death. And gonorrhea can spread to the blood and eventually kill. So not good choices.

And if a sex worker survived these scourges, age was just around the corner. Cosmetics could be used to keep the appearance of beauty, but they had their own dangers. The white pigment used to colour face foundation was very toxic, being lead-based. Rouge might be made of tin. But slow poisoning being better than fast starvation, women painted anyway.
Even those with wildly successful careers seldom came to good ends. Many—probably most—died young. Some married. Some set up in business for themselves and retired rich. And some, like Harriet Wilson, became penniless as their appeal faded. Harriet famously responded by publishing her memoirs, having first warned all her former lovers, and taken out those who paid for her silence. 
Sadly, the fortune she earned was squandered by the scoundrel she subsequently married, and she died in poverty in France.
  1. Daniel Cruikshank London’s Sinful Secret: The Bawdy History and Very Public Passions of London,+soulless,+wicked+all-devouring&source=bl&ots=Pf9dLo548f&sig=vUbqcGRotcTRv3c4Q4nv0Q07pgg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAGoVChMIn73U7pi8xwIVSKeUCh0sBwV-#v=onepage&q=hostile%2C%20soulless%2C%20wicked%20all-devouring&f=false
  2. Judith Flanders
  3. Vic
  4. Heather Carroll
  5. John Frith
A Baron for Becky
Becky is the envy of the courtesans of the demi-monde - the indulged mistress of the wealthy and charismatic Marquis of Aldridge. But she dreams of a normal life; one in which her daughter can have a future that does not depend on beauty, sex, and the whims of a man.
Finding herself with child, she hesitates to tell Aldridge. Will he cast her off, send her away, or keep her and condemn another child to this uncertain shadow world?
The devil-may-care face Hugh shows to the world hides a desperate sorrow; a sorrow he tries to drown with drink and riotous living. His years at war haunt him, but even more, he doesn't want to think about the illness that robbed him of the ability to father a son. When he dies, his barony will die with him. His title will fall into abeyance, and his estate will be scooped up by the Crown.
When Aldridge surprises them both with a daring proposition, they do not expect love to be part of the bargain.

About the Author
Jude Knight writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour. 
Jude Knight is the pen name of Judy Knighton. After a career in commercial writing, editing, and publishing, Jude is returning to her first love, fiction. Her novella, Candle’s Christmas Chair, was released in December 2014, and is in the top ten on several Amazon bestseller lists in the US and UK. Her first novel Farewell to Kindness, was released on 1 April, and is first in a series: The Golden Redepennings. 
Buy links
Amazon UK 
Amazon Aus 
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Jude’s social media
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Jude’s Other Books (on Amazon)
Candle’s Christmas Chair (free novella)
Farewell to Kindness (Book One, the Golden Redepennings)

Aldridge never did find out how he came to be naked, alone, and sleeping in the small summerhouse in the garden of a country cottage. His last memory of the night before, had him twenty miles away, and—although not dressed—in a comfortable bed, and in company.
The first time he woke, he had no idea how far he’d come, but the moonlight was bright enough to show him half-trellised window openings, and an archway leading down a short flight of steps into a garden. A house loomed a few hundred feet distant, a dark shape against the star-bright sky. But getting up was too much trouble, particularly with a headache that hung inches above him, threatening to split his head if he moved. The cushioned bench on which he lay invited him to shut his eyes and go back to sleep. Time enough to find out where he was in the morning.
When he woke again, he was facing away from the archway entrance, and there was someone behind him. Silence now, but in his memory, the sound of light footsteps shifting the stones on the path outside, followed by twin intakes of breath as the walkers saw him.
One of them spoke; a woman’s voice, but low—almost husky. “Sarah, go back to the first rosebush and watch the house.”
“Yes, Mama.” A child’s voice. 
Aldridge waited until he heard the child dance lightly down the steps and away along the path, then shifted his weight slightly letting his body roll over till he was lying on his back.
He waited for the exclamation of shock, but none came. Carefully—he wanted to observe her before he let her know he was awake, and anyway, any sudden movement might start up the hammers above his eye sockets—he cracked open his lids, masking his eyes with his lashes.
He could see more than he expected. The woman was using a shuttered lantern to examine him, starting at his feet. She paused for a long time when she reached his morning salute and it grew even prouder. Then she swept her light up his torso so quickly, he barely had time to slam his lids shut before the light reached and lingered over his face.
She was just a vague shadow behind the light. He held himself still while she completed her examination, which she did with a snort of disgust. Not the reaction to which he was accustomed.
This post copyright © Jude Knight, 2015.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Lead Mining Corruption, Bribery, and Murder

Today I am pleased to welcome Ayr Bray, for an eye-opening tale of lead mining corruption, bribery, and murder.


In the 1700’s Britain was Europe’s largest lead producer with Derbyshire dominating the landscape. Lead was the second most important export, after wool. The great thing about lead was that it had an international market and an international price tag.
By the 1780’s England reached its watershed and foreign competition was growing rapidly. At the time parliament entertained discussion surrounding ‘Trade Liberalization’. By definition, Trade Liberalization is the removal or reduction of restrictions or barriers on the free exchange of goods between nations. This includes the removal or reduction of both tariff (duties and surcharges) and non-tariff obstacles (like licensing rules, quotas and other requirements). The easing or eradication of these restrictions is often referred to as promoting "free trade."
The problem in the early nineteenth century was that there are those who were against trade liberalization. Those against it claim that it can cost jobs and even lives, as cheaper goods flood the market (which at times may not undergo the same quality and safety checks required domestically). Proponents, however, say that trade liberalization ultimately lower consumer costs, increases efficiency and fosters economic growth.
The reduction of the Lead Mining Tariffs in the nineteenth century is the basis for the first book of the Pemberley collection; Cowardly Witness. When the lead mining tariff reduction was first presented to parliament, there were those who vehemently opposed it. With its proposition corruption, bribery, and even murder began to occur in England’s innermost elite society. There were many who were bent on stifling open trade with other countries, primarily Spain and Germany. The tariff reduction eventually passed.
The most hilarious aspect is that now, two hundred years later; the Lead Mining Tariff of Britain has been labeled as a selfish act since it forced France, Germany, and Italy into lowering tariffs directly through bilateral agreements.
I wonder though, was it an entirely selfish act or did it have an element of the provision for public good?
The following image is a lead mine in Brassington, Derbyshire, England.
Brassington Lead Mine

Interesting fact: The Village of Brassington plays a large part in Blinded Recluse; Book 3 of the Pemberley collection releasing soon.
About the Author
"From an early age I have always been fascinated by the written word and the mood and atmosphere it creates for a reader; especially those books that affect me and transport me to some far-off place. These are the elements I strive to create in my books. My books in many ways record what most affects me: my feelings and experiences with family, friends, and those I have run into on my life's journey. My hope is that in my books you will find something that touches you, something which will resonate in your soul and remind you that you are strong and can overcome anything, especially if you have the support of loving friends and family." - Ayr Bray

Ayr Bray is from the Pacific Northwest, but travels as much as possible so she doesn't have to deal with the cold.

Ayr loves to hear from readers. Connect with her at her website or on Facebook at

Excerpt from Chapter 2 of Cowardly Witness, Pemberley Book #1 by Ayr Bray

Darcy took his leave of his wife and went to his study with long, purposeful strides. Upon entering, he found Mr. Hammond and another man. The second man was a little dirty and unkempt and had an arm cradled in a sling tied around his neck. His gaze remained on the floor; he never looked up even to acknowledge Darcy’s entrance.
“Mr. Hammond, it is good to see you, sir. To what do I owe the honour of this visit?” Darcy shook Mr. Hammond’s hand and then took a seat in the high-backed leather chair behind his partners desk.
“Thank you for seeing me with no notice, Mr. Darcy. I apologise for the hour, but it could not be avoided. I need your help.”
“You need only ask. The entirety of my support and Pemberley’s resources are at your disposal.”
“I hoped you would say as much.” Pointing to the other man, he continued, “This is Mr. Matthew Poe.”
Mr. Poe kept his gaze trained at the ground, but he gave a small bob of his head in acknowledgement.
“Mr. Poe is the primary witness in our case against the Derby Mill Lead Mine masters. I need your help to keep him safe. An attempt was made on Mr. Poe’s life. He was set upon a few nights ago by an unknown number of men who chased him through Masson Wood and fired upon him. As you can see, they came close to succeeding.”
“And you have not caught those responsible?” Darcy asked solemnly.
“Not as such, no. Do you know Lord Sharpson?”
Darcy blinked. “Yes, Sharpson Manor is but twenty miles from here. You don’t mean—”
“I do. He may not have fired the gun himself, but he certainly ordered it done.”
“Why?” Darcy asked.
“Lord Sharpson owns Derby Mill. He holds the largest share in the mine.”
“I know,” Darcy said, “though I do not know the particulars of the case against him and the other masters.”
“Parliament has been discussing the reduction of tariffs on foreign lead. If the tariff decreases, imports will increase and the local lead mining industry could suffer. I cannot divulge all of the particulars, though I can tell you all six masters are accused of threatening, bribing, even murdering men who support the reduction of the tariff. Among their victims are Lord Henry Grange and his steward, Mr. Ball. Lord Grange, you see, enjoyed an influential position in Parliament and supported reduced tariffs. He refused to accept their bribes or be cowed by their threats, and Mr. Ball had the great misfortune to be standing too near his lordship when the assassins struck.”
“What does this have to do with Mr. Poe?” Darcy questioned.
“Mr. Poe has worked at Derby Mill for a number of years. He is in a minor clerical position, easily overlooked yet ideally placed for information gathering. He has agreed to testify against Lord Sharpson and the other five masters. His testimony and the evidence he has will ensure a guilty verdict. Without him we have nothing but hearsay.”
“Who else knows he is here?”
“No one. We used his being shot to stage his death and to hold a mock funeral which took place yesterday. Not even his wife knows he yet lives. So long as he stays out of sight, there should be no risk to yourself or your people.”
“Risk or not, we will do our duty to the law and our country. Pemberley has plenty of room for Mr. Poe and I will see he is well cared for until you return for him. You have my word.”
“Thank you, Mr. Darcy. I knew I could count on you.”
Mr. Poe spoke in a timid voice as Mr. Hammond turned to go. “Mr. Hammond, sir, with all due respect, I must write to my wife.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Poe, but I cannot allow it. It is far too dangerous.”
“Sir, I cannot have her thinking I am dead and all is lost. It is too cruel. My Martha did nothing wrong and does not deserve to suffer. You said she couldn’t know before the funeral and I agreed to that, but it cannot matter now.”
“All right, I will allow you to write her a short letter, but you must let me read it before it is sent. If she is being watched, she must still appear to grieve you, and you mustn’t tell her where to find you. I will not have you jeopardising the Darcys. Mr. Darcy, may we beg the use of your writing desk?”
“That is Mrs. Darcy’s writing desk, though I am certain she would not object,” Darcy said. He pointed to the small writing desk in the corner near the window, placed there under Elizabeth’s direction so she might be near her husband when she wrote her letters.
It did not take long for Mr. Poe to complete his letter. He handed it to Mr. Hammond to read. The inquisitor declared the letter acceptable, sealed it, addressed it, and then handed it to Darcy, who rang the bell for Mr. Reynolds.

Buy the Book


This post copyright © Ayr Bray, 2015.

Friday, 21 August 2015

The English Pudding ~ or ~ Comfort Foods of the British Isles

Today I welcome Becca St. John to the salon, for a tasty dip into English puddings!


The English Pudding ~ or ~ Comfort Foods of the British Isles

Peas pudding hot, peas pudding cold
Peas pudding in the pot nine days old

If you are shaking your head and saying, “peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold’’ you would be right, for the south of England. Up north, it’s ‘pudding.’  And for both, the consistency can vary. Today, we will refer to the ‘pudding’ in the rhyme.

Pudding, like custard, is one of those many English words that has an entirely different meaning in the states. To American ears, the word conjures visions of a soft creamy sweet dessert, not quite as firm as an American custard. The British custard, that Jane Austen would have been familiar with, is not solid but a thick sauce poured over dessert. 

A Regency pudding referred to a dessert or a savory. Peas pudding, for instance, is a dish made from dried lentils, most commonly yellow split peas. It can be thick enough to spoon and serve on a plate with a nice bit of ham, or thin enough to be considered a stew or soup.  

In the poorer households, a pot of peas pudding would be continually on the boil, in a heavy kettle over the fire. Add a few more legumes, a bit of water or a freshly found carrot to make up what was eaten the day before. There you have it, your everyday dinner.  Hence, the ‘Peas pudding in the pot nine days old.’ 

Most are familiar with Yorkshire Pudding, similar  to our popovers.  These are made with batter and poured into hot drippings to billow up like baloons, all but the tall sides falling flat when taken out of the oven. Dense popovers are a poor  substitute compared to the light and savoury side dish of the English.

Introduced by the Romans, meat puddings, like Steak and Kidney or Beef & Ale, were quickly adapted to the English kitchen.  Think pot pie with a hefty  difference. The outer dough, a cross between bread and pastry, surrounds a thick stew-like center. Jane Austen  might have stuffed it into well-cleaned, pig ‘innards’,  but nowadays, cheesecloth is used. This is placed into a boilding pot to ‘steam’ for hours. The rich, heavy dish is a perfect foil to damp cold evenings.

But we mustn’t forget the sweets: plum pudding, figgy pudding, sticky toffee and, of course, spotted dick. Old standbys, but you can make a pudding out of any ingredient.  These days steamed chocolate puddings with gooey running centers are very popular. Similar to a choclate lava cake. 

Sweet puddings are similar in texture to  moist, rich, fruit cake. Rather than bake, you pour the batter into a mold and steam.  

By 1728 cast iron ranges started finding their way into the average home kitchen. Boiling was still the easiest method for consistency.  The cook could put the pot on, check the water level from time to time, and get to her other tasks.  There is another advantage to a steamed puddings. Sweet or savory,  it only took a little bit of this and a little bit of that to provide a good stodgy dish in one pot. 


An excerpt from An Independent Miss ~ Available on Amazon.

~ Lord Andover announces the betrothal:

He was to be married. 
A smile carried him down the steps and across the upper terrace garden. He could see Felicity’s brother Thomas, and Rupert Upton, one level below. 
 “Wish me happy!” he called, as he strode down the slope. 
Upton’s sword lay upon the ground, his shirtsleeve stained green. Thomas, a regular at Jackson’s and a keen student of Angelo, still held his foil. 
“Grass slip you up?” Andover asked Upton, as he reached the two men. 
His spirits higher than in months, Andover crossed to a table covered with sabers, foils and protective gear. He found a padded vest and slipped it on, standing still as a servant fastened the buttons along the right side. “Treat to get some fresh air without a load of drizzle.” He looked over his shoulder. Thomas and Upton stared at him. 
“Happy?” Upton asked. “You’ve proposed to some poor lass? By the post? You proposed by letter?” Upton marveled.
“No.” Andover smiled, surprised by his own happiness, especially under the circumstances. He needed to be married, urgently. He owed his family that. He had not expected to feel so joyous about it.
“There’s been no one here for you to propose to, except my fam…” Thomas stopped, scowled, “You have been speaking to my father about farming, correct? Taking his counsel during all that time in his study? Riding out on the farm?”
It was not going to go well. He should have anticipated that. In respect, Andover offered another bow, this one for Thomas. “I have taken your father’s wise counsel.”
“On farming?” Thomas’s nostrils flared.
Smile gone, Andover nodded. “On farming. As well as other things.”
“Oh Lord!” Upton swallowed. “You’ve been spending considerable time with Lady Felicity.”
Both men had figured it out and Thomas, for one, was not about to wish him happy.
“You’ve proposed to my sister?” Thomas exploded.
“No!” Upton whispered. “Right under our noses.”
“Damn you!” Thomas took a swing. Andover blocked it.
“Hold on, Redmond!” Andover wanted to defend his proposal, but he knew and understood Thomas’s position. They had drunk and gambled and chased petticoats together from Eton through Cambridge and beyond. “I didn’t come here with that intention. I did not anticipate caring for Lady Felicity.” 
“That’s my sister we’re speaking about, and no damned hums about love. I know you better than that.”
He did, Andover thought. Love was not the idea. He had a title to carry on, sooner than he had expected. She would not be sorry. He had promised.
“I didn’t invite you to seduce my sister.”
Upton put a hand on Thomas’s shoulder and was shrugged off. That didn’t stop his counsel. “Come on, Redmond, leave it. Andover will be a good husband.” He defended his childhood friend. “And your sister’s a sweet girl.”
“Too good for him,” Thomas snapped. “She doesn’t need the mess he is in.”
Andover looked up at that. “I will be good to her. I promise you that.” He wished he could think of something else to say, but nothing else came to mind. He frowned. “Do you think I don’t know how special she is? How fortunate I was to meet her before either of us found someone else?”
“No. I don’t think you know that. You haven’t had time to learn the depth of her, or to give her time to know about you.”
The depth of her. Something in that worried Andover. He pushed it away. “What is it you really don’t like?” he asked, doubting Redmond knew just how bad things were at Montfort Abbey. A situation that would reverse as soon as he married. A positive focus was all his mother needed to pull her from the spiral of malaise.
Thomas snorted, looked away at the distant horizon. “You said you were going to marry quickly for your mother.” He swiped away a lock of hair that had fallen into his eyes. 
“Thomas…” Upton broke in, but again, Thomas pulled away.
“As intelligent as she is, as practical...” he bent, picked up the foil that Upton had dropped, tossed it to Andover. "Felicity is a romantic. It is part of her beauty.” He lifted his own foil, tested its flex, then looked at Andover. “You admitted there was no room for emotion in your goal.”
“Look here, Thomas,” Upton interrupted. “Men never think of such things.”
They both looked at him and scowled. “Shut up, Upton.” Thomas flared. “I don’t like this, not one bit.” He faced Andover, signaled for the servant to hand him a mask, then pulled his own down. “You have not been forthright in your suit.” He waited as Andover put on the meager protection. “You better not have touched her. There had best be room for her to change her mind.”
Andover flicked his mask down. “You know me better than that.”
“Do I?” Thomas snapped. “You managed to tie yourself to her right under my nose.” He lifted his foil before his face. “Prepare yourself.”
Even as Andover raised his foil, Thomas shouted, “En garde!” and lunged.


About the Author 

When living in the mountains of Wyoming, Becca prepared hearty comfort puddings for her British hubby. Now, on the coast of Florida, light meals of seafood and salad hit the spot. This leaves more time to indulge her love of writing and reading medieval and Regency romance. 

This post copyright © Becca St. John, 2015.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

"You are a Female, I won’t say Woman"

Today I am honoured to welcome Dr Sara Read to the salon for a look at her research into the summer letters of Edward Synge and his daughter. Sara is the author of the marvellous Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women’s Lives, 1540-1740, and I urge you to make that book your next read!

In this post I have the chance to explore a set of correspondence which is from a little later than the time period I normally work on. In eighteenth-century Ireland, Edward Synge (1691-1762) wrote some 221 letters to his daughter Alicia (1733-1807) between 1746 and 1752. These letters have been edited and published in a modern edition by Marie-Louise Legg (Lilliput Press, 1996). Synge was an Anglican bishop in the Church of Ireland who was Bishop of Elphin at the time of this correspondence. The letters for each year (apart from the ones from 1748 which have not survived) cover the summer months from May to October while Synge was in his diocese in the Co. Roscommon and his daughter remained at home in Dublin. 
These letters provide an intriguing insight into a father-daughter relationship at this time. Alicia was the Bishop’s youngest child, and her mother had died when she was just five years old. It is clear from the letters that Synge felt he must supply the role of both parents to his daughter as she grew into a young woman who appears to have resembled her late mother. Synge wrote in July 1746 that ‘I flatter my self that you are your good Mother’s daughter in understanding, as well as in feature’. At the start of the collection of letters Alicia is thirteen, and the frankness with which the pair communicate did not escape Synge ‘This, Hussy, is a very odd letter for me to write to a Girl of thirteen’. ‘Hussy’ in this usage is a diminutive version of housewife, playfully suggesting Alicia is the mistress of her father’s household. Synge most often called his daughter ‘my dear girl’ but when she forgot where the gilt paper was kept he teasingly called her ‘Madam giddy’. Frustratingly, we only have access to one side of the epistolary exchange and so can’t know the full reaction of the young woman to her father’s letters. However the problems of transmitting tone in a letter between generations and is clear when Synge gently chided Alicia for misinterpreting his letters (which she perhaps did deliberately); he complained in June 1749 that ‘You must learn, My Dear Girl, to distinguish between the Serious and jocose [jokes-filled] tho’ in grave Words –what I wrote about you betraying vanity, was of the latter kind and you have taken the former’. His daughter wasn’t given to vanity for which he was thankful – he was playfully responding to an apparent assertion by Alicia that her ‘Welfare is of some importance to me’.  
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Sligo, the episcopal seat of the Church of Ireland bishops of Elphin
The Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Sligo, the episcopal seat of the Church of Ireland bishops of Elphin
Synge took great pleasure in hearing from his daughter during the long summer months that they were apart, writing on 13 May 1747:
‘My Dear Girl’s Long letters are very pleasing; and if you manage so as not to distress or embarrass your self with writing them, I care not how long they are – you may do as I do, Take a whole sheet, and fill it with a Girl’s prattle as I do mine with Old Dad’s’
That is not to say he was uncritical of her expression, and in the same letter pointed out that in her last she misspelt ‘sitting’ and ‘dropped’ and that she must take more care with full-stops. Despite his need to point out syntactical and spelling errors Synge still wanted to hear from his daughter in her own, unmediated voice. In one letter from earlier in May 1747, he implored her not to allow anyone to correct either her writing nor make suggestions about her tone and topic, writing in phrasing which he acknowledged as risqué: ‘Sauve vôtre modestie, I must see you naked’.
The letters are often filled with household news such as the refurbishment of Alicia’s bedroom which was taking place in June 1749. Synge issued various instructions that his daughter was to pass to various tradespeople but he also told her she was free to pick out the wallpaper in any ‘sort or colour that you like’. He also told her to ignore Mr Eaton who would be sure to tell her that there was no Irish oak to be had, but that regardless of cost she was to have it. There is perhaps little wonder that one contemporary who met Alicia at a dinner party in 1752 remarked that ‘she is brought up like a princess’.  As well as exchanging household and personal news, Synge would advise his daughter about her health. For instance when he fretted over a toothache she developed in August 1752. Synge was keen to hear if Alicia had had a comfortable night before recommending that she found the best ‘Operator’ to have the troublesome tooth extracted. 
One particular exchange about health from May 1751 stands out. Synge reproved his daughter for not telling the doctor about problems she had been having with her periods. Synge was moved to write to her about this because the family physician has told him how poorly she had been – this brought back unhappy memories for Synge who blamed his wife’s false modesty in being too embarrassed to be frank with her doctor for causing her early death. Synge lamented that ‘Your good Mother lost her health the same way: And probably to this is owing, that for so many years, I have mourn’d, and shall mourn to the end of life’. Synge, then, was determined not to let history repeat itself. He said that the news of her problems had filled him with ‘terror’. He acknowledged that this was a tricky topic for a father/daughter correspondence but felt his intervention was now unavoidable. It is worth quoting from this letter at length:
My Dear Dear Girl. Consider. You are a Female, I won’t say Woman. Every thing therefore that belongs to Females, belongs to you. Your Frame and Nature is what the great God of Nature has given you. Can any thing then that is natural, be matter of reproach, or be conceal’d as shamefull Imperfection? It is not one. To want it, would be. [...] Modesty, My Dear, is the great Ornament of your Sex. I see with pleasure in how great a degree you possess it. I’ll go further with you. Shamefacedness in young persons if an imperfection, is a beautifull one; and great regard is always to be had to what Decency requires. And this varys in different Countrys. The same thing, perfectly innocent, may be indecent in one Country, not so in another.  In France  A Lady will speak with more ease of ses Ordinaires [her periods], than I now write the Word. I could scarce write it in English. Such is the force of Custom.

As Synge’s comments show decency and modesty are constructed differently in different cultures and Synge recounts the tale of a French Lady in a coach who ordered the driver to stop because she needed a ‘pisse’ which ill-breeding he reproved. However, as he noted, this frankness also extended to menstruation and in France women were less reluctant to talk about their cycles than were English and Irish women.  Synge carried on to explain that while it was vulgar to shout out about needing to wee in public, no one would think it so should the woman have a problem with urinating that required a doctor’s intervention. All through the early modern era books of women’s illnesses bemoan the fact that women will not see their doctors for period problems until they become so serious that they can’t be avoided and as early as Thomas Raynalde’s version of The Midwives Book (1545) healthcare professionals had been imploring women to put aside their modesty and seek help sooner rather than later. Synge noted the same regret in the doctors he knew, ‘Every one, whom I have employ’d, have lamented them to me, and own’d that they have been some time so embarrass’d by them as they knew not what to do, and have no doubt but multitudes of Women are every year thus destroy’d.  How can it be otherwise?’  He continued ‘If they have their health, they are once a month in the same Circumstances. If single Women are not, some thing is wrong; and this too frequently happens. But there is such a false delicacy forsooth in speaking or being spoken to even by a Physician, That they neither know how to manage on the approach, or, while it is on them, nor can they receive directions, because they will not give information. No! ‘Tis an affront to speak to them even in the most distant, and best Couch’d terms on the Subject’. 
Synge was also cross that his daughter has used ‘Mrs J.’ to pass messages on to the doctor rather than Alicia speak to them herself. It was common for women to speak to the doctor’s wife, or have their husbands speak to a doctor if they were too embarrassed themselves, but for Synge this was ridiculous: ‘Princes have whipping boys, who are corrected when they offend. Must you have one to be indecent for you? [...] Consider that No information from her, can be Exact as from your Self. She may not know the proper Questions to ask, or you may frump [sneer] at her asking them’. 
Synge closed by saying that he will say no more on the matter but that he hoped he had said enough to ‘convince you of the monstrous folly of this fausse delicatesse’. This letter is significant on a cultural level, showing as it does the differences in social norms between countries about what is acceptable to discuss openly, but what this letter shows more than anything else is how scared the Bishop was when he learned that his daughter was having menstrual problems (the nature of which is not spelt out in the correspondence), and how he was determined that his daughter should not suffer the same fate as his wife, and especially not through a preventable illness. In fact Alicia went on to live a long life, dying at the age of 74. 

To learn more about the lives of early modern women, see Sara’s latest book Maids, Wives, Widows: Exploring Early Modern Women’s Lives, 1540-1740 out now with Pen and Sword press. 
All quotations are taken from the modern edition cited above Marie-Louise Legg, ed., The Synge Letters: Bishop Edward Synge to his Daughter Alicia, Roscommon to Dublin 1746-1752 (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1996), 530 pp. 
About the Author
Sara Read holds a doctorate in early modern literature. She is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University and has published widely on the topics of women's reproductive health and on women and religion. She is on Twitter as @Floweringbodies
This post copyright © Sara Read, 2015.