Friday, 27 November 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; much to enjoy in this bumper edition!

A Gallery of William Hogarth
Enjoy some wonderful artworks!

Nosferatu: A Review
A Gothic night at the theatre... 

The Noisy Ghost of Poplar
A mischevious spook torments the locals...

The Unthinkable Triangle
Joana Starnes discusses her latest Austen variation!

A Tangled Matrimonial Mess!
Bigamy and scandal from Huddersfield!

For Halloween: Ghosts, Highwaymen and the Terrible Tyburn Tree
A collection of terrifying tales...

The Birthday of Marie Antoinette
From childhood to the scaffold, a collection of queenly posts.

Darkness and Light: A Review
A Gothic day out in Manchester...

Modern Day Fiction from Historical Fact
Terry Tyler discusses how the past inspires her creativity!

A Report of Bigamy
A cheeky judge hears a scandalous case...

The Horrible Murder of Count and Countess d’Antraigues
Naomi Clifford delves into a murderous mystery.

Boats, Barges & Sledges: Gadding about Abroad
Take to the road with Lucinda Brant.

A Slice of Regency Christmas Cake!
A tasty post from Sasha Cottman.

German Sausages and Flying Ambulances!
Sarah Mallory lifts the lid on Napoleonic medicine.

Mr Foote's Other Leg
A night at the Haymarket!

Christmas in the Regency
A look at some Regency traditions...

A tasty post from Kimberly Walters...
Meer Jane's gadabout cousin, with Jane Odiwe!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Jane Austen Lives Again

It's a pleasure to welcome Jane Odiwe, author of Jane Austen Lives Again, to the salon today. Jane is passionate about the life and work of Jane Austen and joins us to tell the tale of Jane's cousin, Eliza de Feuillide, and how she inspired a scene in a brand new novel!


My latest novel, Jane Austen Lives Again is inspired partly by the idea of Jane as a character in her own right, drawn from what we know about her personality from her letters and novels. For a novelist there is plenty of scope when imagining Jane’s life because although much has been written and documented about her, there is a lot we don’t know. Unfortunately, her sister Cassandra chose to destroy much of the correspondence and, quite possibly, her diaries as well. I wanted to explore what might happen if I put ‘Jane’ in another time frame completely and chose 1925, though the novel is peppered with flashbacks and reminiscences of her time in the past. One of these flashbacks comes when Jane has a day off from her job as governess to five girls at Manberley Castle, and she recalls the Christmas when her brothers were vying for their cousin Eliza’s attention.

Eliza de Feuillide (1761-1813) was a fascinating personality in Jane Austen’s life. Eliza’s mother was Jane’s aunt, her father’s sister, Philadelphia Hancock. Philadelphia was shipped off (most likely by her uncle Francis Austen) at the age of 15 to India in order to find a husband. She met and married Tysoe Saul Hancock, a surgeon, twenty years her senior and remained childless for the first six years of their marriage. In Calcutta they befriended Warren Hastings who later became the Governor General of India. When their daughter Eliza was born, Hastings became her godfather and took his role so seriously that there was a certain amount of gossip spread about that he was in fact her real father. Whatever the truth of the matter, he was clearly very fond of her as he set up a trust fund for Eliza of £10,000. After Mr Hancock died, Philadelphia took her daughter to France and it was here that Eliza married her first husband, Captain Jean-Francois Capot de Feuillide, a self-styled count who had little fortune but had been given the grant of an area of marshland near Nerac. It was decided that her first child should be born in England, though in fact Hastings, as the child was named, was born prematurely at Calais.
Eliza de Feuillide
Eliza de Feuillide

Eliza’s letters are full of descriptions of society gatherings in France and London, and in the late 1780s her cousin Philadelphia Walter wrote of their experiences together in Tunbridge Wells; shopping for bonnets, attending balls, horse races and the theatre. Whilst in Tunbridge Wells they saw the plays Which is the Man? and BonTon which, by the Christmas of 1787, Eliza had decided would be the very entertainments to show off her dramatic talents, enabling her to simultaneously flirt with both of the Austen brothers, James and Henry.

Eliza was excited about performing in a make-shift theatre (her uncle’s tithe barn) with her cousins, and though I would like to think the Austen brothers behaved impeccably, I am sure they were both captivated by the sophisticated and flirtatious Comtesse who exercised every opportunity to steal their hearts. When Jane Austen later wrote Mansfield Park, I wonder if some of the inspiration for the play scenes came from similar ones she must have witnessed. 

By the late 1790’s Eliza had become a widow after her husband was guillotined in France, and when James himself became a widower, he most likely pursued Eliza along with Henry. Initially, she resisted them both, vowing she would not give up ‘dear Liberty, and yet dearer flirtation’ for any of her beaux. However, Henry won her heart at last, and they were married on 31st December 1797. George Austen sent them £40 towards the wedding celebrations with Henry’s regiment. Eliza was thirty-six, and Henry ten years her junior.

Kissing Bunch
In my new novel, Jane Austen Lives Again, I was inspired to write a flashback scene where Jane remembers the Christmas when her brothers vied for Eliza’s attention - here’s the excerpt - I hope you enjoy it! Jane has a day off from her post as governess and goes down to the beach to write.

Jane smiled to remember the time when Henry and James had both fallen head over heels in love with their cousin Eliza, and how they’d almost come to blows one Christmas. Henry had persuaded their father to have the barn fitted up as a theatre. Lengths of green baize were ordered for curtains and scenery was painted on old sheets stretched over batons and fixed into place by Frank who was the carpenter of the family. Cassy had drawn the designs and the chief of the painting, and Jane had helped to fill in the carefully drawn trees, hills and flowers, feeling very proud of her efforts. The makeshift stage was fashioned from hay bales disguised with wooden planks, and when the candle footlights were lit, the brass reflectors had glowed just like those in a real theatre.
There’d been much discussion and argument about which play would be most suitable. Jane closed her eyes and pictured them all in her head. Eliza was such a strong image for one so small and delicate, but with a personality that filled the barn.

‘For my part, we cannot do better than perform Which is the Man? or Bon Ton,’ said Eliza, who was a great theatregoer. ‘I saw both performed in Tunbridge Wells in September and I know you would love them.’
‘But will there be parts enough for everyone? James asked, ever practical. ‘Though, I should be disinclined to act myself. I am a man of the cloth, after all.’
James, recently ordained, was laughed at for becoming overly serious. 
‘But, Jemmy, you must act!’ Eliza could be very forthright when she wished to be. ‘A talent like yours cannot be hidden because you are now ordained. Come, say it is not so.’
James blushed to the roots of his powdered hair. ‘Put like that, I can hardly object, though I feel uneasy. I will have quite enough to do in directing the players. And what of the theme of the play? It must be suitable for our neighbours or mother will have a fit.’
‘The theme of both plays is wonderfully droll,’ said Eliza, casting her eyes round at her rapt audience. ‘They are both comedies, about conflict in love, between the laissez-faire attitude of the darling French against the rather more cautious and sober one of her English cousins.’
There’d been a general murmur of approval and before anyone could object, Eliza went on. ‘Good! It is settled … how I shall love playing Lady Bell Bloomer in Which is the Man? Every role is so amusing, but do not worry, we shall find a dashing part for you, dear Jemmy, … and Henry, the part of Beauchamp was simply written for you. He is a soldier and I am sure you would dazzle us all in scarlet.’
In the end the play chosen was The Wonder! A Woman Keeps a Secret, though Eliza pulled a face at first, until she learned that her part was that of Violante, an independent woman of great spirit, and then she was happy. Set in Lisbon, The Wonder was about two lively and vivacious young women plotting to get their own way and the men they desire, against the wishes of their fathers. 
‘Cassy, would you be comfortable playing the part of Isabella?’ Jemmy asked.
Eliza squeezed Cassy’s hand when she nodded her assent. ‘We will set the stage on fire, my dear cousin. Now, little Jane must also have a part. Which is it to be?’
Jane remembered playing the part of a maid, glad that with little to say she knew the fun would be in watching everyone else.
‘I think Felix is best suited to my character,’ Jemmy offered, which would mean he’d play Eliza’s love interest. Henry was not at all happy about that. 
‘But, if you are also to direct us, should you not consider a smaller role for yourself?’ said Henry. ‘I am just as happy to play Felix.’
Eliza was ten years older than Henry, but the chemistry between them was plain for all to see. They shared a book as they read the play, their fingers so close they were almost touching.  
‘You’re not old enough to play Felix,’ Jemmy answered, unable to keep the frustration from his voice, ‘the part requires a certain sophistication.’
‘But, I am far too young to play the part of either the father or Captain Britton.’
‘Perhaps Madame should choose for herself,’ said cousin Egerton, who’d come to join the troupe, intent on making mischief and being thoroughly outrageous. ‘Whom would you rather have make love to you, Eliza?’
Cassy nudged Jane under the table when they heard that – it was all they could do not to laugh. 
Eliza laughed it off prettily, flicking out her fan to examine the landscape painted on its silk for a moment, before flicking it shut again. Looking up she wore her most bewitching expression. ‘Gentlemen, I blush at your remarks. I will put it to the public vote for I will be happy with any Don Felix that is chosen for me.’
‘Why not toss for it?’ Egerton produced a penny from his pocket. ‘Heads for Jemmy as the elder, and tails for Henry.’
Tossing the coin into the air, they watched it spin, Jane crossing her fingers hoping Henry would have his heart’s desire.
‘Well, Madame, which is the man?’ Egerton laughed at his own joke, the coin trapped between his hands.
Eliza looked as if she really would not mind the outcome. Her attitude was girlish, as she waited, her eyes sparkling in the candlelight, soft curls falling upon her powdered skin.
‘Tails it is!’ Egerton called, revealing the penny underneath. Jemmy’s face fell, whilst Henry and Eliza tried their hardest not to appear too pleased with themselves.

When Jane Austen’s doctor discovers the secret to immortal life in 1817, she thinks her wishes have come true. But when she wakes up from the dead, a penniless Miss Austen finds herself in 1925, having to become a governess to five girls of an eccentric and bohemian family at the crumbling Manberley Castle by the sea. Jane soon finds she’s caught up in the dramas of every family member, but she loves nothing more than a challenge, and resolves on putting them in order. If only she can stop herself from falling in love, she can change the lives of them all! 

Inspired by Jane Austen’s wonderful novels and written in the tradition of classic books like Cold Comfort Farm, I Capture the Castle, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Jane Austen Lives Again is an amusing fairy story for grown-ups.

Written content of this post copyright © Jane Odiwe, 2015.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Book of Cookery, by a Lady

Earlier this year, I was delighted to discover A Book of Cookery, by a Lady, a guide to 18th century cookery compiled by Kimberly Walters.

The book offers a wonderful insight into life in the 18th century kitchen and is invaluable not only as a research tool, but even as a cookery manual for those who fancy a taste of the Georgian world in the 21st century. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and I think that any 18th century or cookery fan would be delighted to find it in their Christmas stocking!

I'm really delighted to welcome Kimberly to the salon today to discuss what inspired her to compile the book and choose a favourite recipe of her own.


I love living history. While, I don’t live it every day, I do dress up and pretend to be a lady, an indentured, or sometimes a convict servant of the 18th century to support historic sites and events. Those who take part in this hobby have various reasons why they put on “funny” clothes and reenact what our ancestors did on a daily basis. I am a bit of a stickler for historical accuracy. The research aspect of living history of any period is very important in order to get your impression right. Living history is a lot like family history and I think of it as honoring my ancestors whether they were rich or poor, regardless of the social and political norms that they lived under during their lifetimes. Getting my impression right brings history to life so that visitors walk away with a sense that they’ve stepped back in time to catch a glimpse of what it was like to live back then. When I first started participating in 18th century living history I became interested in many things, but hearth cooking became one of my main focuses. I have become passionate about the art of what has been called “historic foodways.” After taking some period cooking classes to correctly learn how to use the equipment and utensils, I then started researching recipes trying to find day-to-day information on how they cooked their food. I know that I had to delve into the period cookbooks. I often got lost in the minutia, trying to remember it all, and knowing that I could not possibly do so. resulted in A Book of Cookery, by a Lady.

During the research process, I found that there were many historic cookery books containing the same information (they had no plagiarism laws before the 20th Century), or some very unique information describing how to set a table or even how to carve meat. Trying to remember where a specific bit of information was located became harder and harder as I was researching. It became apparent that it really needed to be gathered into one compendium for my own personal use. A friend suggested that I share what I had gathered by publishing it. This seemed a great idea as any profits could go to help off-set some of the costs of my rescued horses.

Hopefully the reader will find lots of useful chapters in my book that are not only interesting from a historical viewpoint, but are also very practical for use in today’s cooking. Some of the information includes food items in season, period cooking terminology, measurements, recipes (known as receipts in the 18th century time period), how to carve meats, needed equipment and utensil terms, how to take tea, and even how to choose produce at the market. During my research I became enamored with an article by Ms. Nancy K. Loane about Elizabeth Thompson, General George Washington’s housekeeper during the Revolutionary war years. Loane published an article about Thompson for the Past Masters in Early American Domestic Arts newsletter. According to the article and my further research, Mrs. Thompson’s contribution to the Washington’s household was tremendous; I therefore decided to dedicate my book to Thompson and to my parents.

With the holiday season fast approaching, readers will even find a chapter on period Christmas dishes. When looking for information about the holidays, I wanted to keep it simple and focus on how Christmas was observed during the 18th century. I found a wonderful description from The History of Newburyport Massachusetts, Volume 2, published by the New Hampshire Publishing Company in 1978, as well as information from the George Washington Papers in the Library of Congress about the General paying for a bank of music. Here is an excerpt from my book from that chapter:
“It is also the custom for the family to go to church and the men may go out and fire their guns all around the house and grounds. Compliments of the season are a courtesy, such as wishing others a “Merry Christmas & all the Compliments of the Season,” or Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas” by the heads of house to all and each other, and he is expected to carve the meat, drink to the health of others, and make conversation at table. All in all, 25 December is just considered another day but it was special. Additionally, the religious customs varied from Colony to Colony and the holiday was celebrated differently based upon those beliefs. On Christmas Day of the year 1779, General Washington paid £15 for a band of music. He also wrote to Robert Morris on 25 December 1776 from Head Quarters in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, “I hope the next Christmas will prove happier than the present to you and to Dear Sir Your sincere Friend and humble Servt.”
 “Christmas Dinner with the Washington’s would typically be simple, but His Excellency was still known to put on an elegant table even during the war years. They were known to have set the table during this time of year with the same intent as if they were home One description says, “in the middle of the table was placed a piece of table furniture of wood gilded, or polished metal, raised only about an inch, with a silver rim round it like that round a tea board; in the centre was a pedestal of plaster of Paris with images upon it, and on each end figures, male and female, of the same. It was very elegant and used for ornament only. The dishes were placed all around, and there was an elegant variety of roast beef, veal, turkeys, ducks, fowls, hams &c.; puddings, jellies, oranges, apples, nuts, almonds, figs, raisins, and a variety of wines and punch. We took our leave at six, more than an hour after the candles were introduced. No lady but Mrs. Washington dined at table. We were waited on by four or five men servants dressed in livery.”

Regardless of what you serve during the holidays, a good ginger bread is always a delicious addition. An article about food should also include a receipt – here is a receipt for Ginger Bread taken from Murray’s Modern Cookery Book, Modern Domestic Cookery based on the well-known work of Mrs. Rundell... by John Murray, While this recipe is taken from the mid-19th century, I found it to be a mini-history:
“THIS is amongst the most ancient species of cake known throughout England and the north of Europe. In this country it is rarely eaten, except by children, but in Holland it is the common accompaniment of the "schnaps;" and in Ghent there are shops as famous for it as our "Leman" for biscuits. The following are selected from amongst the numerous ways of making it - Take 1 lb. of treacle, 1 lb. of butter, 2 lbs. of flour, 1 oz. of ground ginger, sliced candied orange, and a glass of brandy. If not intended to be rich, omit 1/2 the butter, the brandy, and lemon, and make it of rye flour, household flour, or oatmeal. At Leeds it is made with equal quantities of oatmeal and treacle, mixed with an eighth part of melted butter and brown sugar, and 1 oz. of powdered ginger, with 1/2 that quantity of other spice, to 4 lbs. of meal. This is called in that neighbourhood "Parkin," and is made in almost every cottage on the 5th of November, and pieces sent about as presents. The treacle should be perfectly sweet, for, if in the least degree sour or too thick, the bread will be indifferent in flavour and appearance. Ginger, too, should be fresh ground, as it loses much of its strength by keeping. When baked, the tin must be well buttered to make the cake come out; and when done, a fork, if thrust into it, will come out clean.”

During this holiday season, think about purchasing A Book of Cookery by A Lady to learn more about historical cooking and support my rescued horses. For more information about my book and jewelry please visit:
Written content of this post copyright © Kimberly K. Walters, 2015.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Christmas in the Regency

Today I welcome the Jude Knight of the Bluestocking Belles to the salon, for an early look at Christmas in the Regency era!

Book box set

Christmas in the Regency
With Christmas just a month away, and Advent beginning this coming Sunday, I’ve been planning presents, buying Advent candles, and making lists of ingredients for Christmas baking. And I’ve been writing and reading Christmas stories set in the Regency, and thinking about the differences between then and now.
Party on, dude
Many of the Christmas practices we think of as traditional began in Victorian times or even later. And practices we connect to Christmas Day belonged to other days in the longer season that was a vestige of medieval times, when important Church feasts were celebrated over weeks rather than all in a day.
Back in the middle ages, they knew how to party. Maybe it was because every feast day was preceded by fasting, and there’s nothing like abstinence for making the heart grow fonder of food, drink, and riotous living. 
Kissing bough
In the 17th Century, Oliver Cromwell’s Parliament did their best to stamp Christmas out, fining those who dared sing a Christmas carol or bake a goose. And as for hanging a kissing bough! Disgraceful!
In practice, it seems likely people kept on celebrating Christmas, and the Restoration brought the holiday back into favour, and the full twelve days, starting on Christmas Eve and running through to Twelfth Night (the evening of 5th January), were once again times of gift giving and feasting.
Christmas celebrations ran from November to January
Christmas preparations began with Stir-Up Sunday, when everyone in the household lined up to stir the Christmas pudding. Not that the name comes from that practice. Rather, it comes from the first lines traditionally said at the beginning of that day's church service. “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of all thy faithful people.” Stir-Up Sunday was (and is) the Sunday before Advent begins, so five Sundays before Christmas.
In the Regency, those who could afford it planned house parties or family get-togethers that lasted from the first day of Advent (always a Sunday) through to Epiphany on 6th January, the day after Twelfth Night. They might have enjoyed card parties, dinners, and balls. They would have gone skating, if the weather were cold enough for the local pond or lake to freeze. And activities to throw young people into close proximity (under careful chaperonage, of course) provided plenty of opportunity for courtship. 
Since the family were already together, they might also plan weddings for any time during the six or seven weeks. (And, perhaps, Christenings as a result of last year’s weddings.)
Christmas was a time for the rich to give to the poor
Christmas provided several opportunities for the less wealthy to receive gifts, money, and food from those who were better off.
Carol singers went door to door all season long, providing entertainment in return for money and food. Wassailing (originally a January activity involving drink, song, and apple trees) and carol singing became merged in many places. Instead of the wassailers bringing with them a bowl filled with hot spiced ale, roasted apples, toast, nutmeg, and sugar, to drink at each stop, the householders began supplying the bowl--- and partaking. 
Mummers plays and morris dancing also allowed poorer members of the community to entertain the rich in return for money.
On St Thomas Day, 21st December, elderly women could appeal for food or money, a practice known as thomasing. The Napoleonic Wars produced a number of widows without sons to support them, so the Regency saw an increase in thomasing.
And, of course, Boxing Day---the Feast of St Stephen referred to in the carol Good King Wenceslas---was traditionally a day for rich people to give gifts to poor people. Many local landowners held St Stephen's Day as an open day, when local people could come and feast with their squire or lord. 
Christmas meant gift giving, but not on Christmas Day
Today, the practice of giving gifts on Christmas Day is so ingrained that we often see it in novels set in the Regency. And it may have happened in some households, but most mentions of gifts in contemporary sources mention 6th December and the Feast of the Epiphany.
St Nicholas Day was 6th December, and people marked the day by exchanging small gifts to remember the saint who gave presents of gold to girls without a dowry.
The Feast of the Epiphany was the day that commemorated the visit of the Wise Men to Jesus, and probably the most common day for gift giving, since the Wise Men gave gifts.
Christmas decorations went up on Christmas Eve
People considered it unlucky to decorate for Christmas before Christmas Eve, or to leave the decorations up after 6th January.
So Christmas Eve would have been a busy day for those who decorated their houses. They would put up evergreen boughs, holly, ivy, hawthorn, rosemary, and hellebore. Some of this went into kissing boughs, with sprigs of mistletoe, paper flowers, bows of ribbon, and paper cutouts.
By tradition, any man could claim a kiss from an unmarried woman under a kissing bough, and for each kiss claimed, a berry would be picked. When all the mistletoe berries were gone, the bough would come down. In some places, tradition held that a girl who was unkissed when the bough came down would not marry in the coming year.

If mistletoe didn't grow in your part of Britain, you might ask friends or family to send you some on the mail coach.
Christmas was also the time for cutting and hauling the Yule log, bringing it into the house and lighting it from the last bit of the log used the previous year. It would need to be big enough to last at least until the end of Christmas Day, and households would compete to find and mark the biggest log all ready for collecting on Christmas Eve. 
Table setting
Christmas had its own special food and drink
While Christmas Day was not the present-giving day we have today, it was still a day for a feast. After the Christmas Day church service, people of all classes would settle down to the biggest and best meal they could afford, with roasted meats, pies, and other traditional dishes. Until Victorian times, Christmas mince pies were made with shredded meat, fruit, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg, often in rectangular cases to resemble the crib from Bethlehem.
Gingerbread was another favourite: either the old traditional gilded bread made from pressing a mix made with ginger, treacle, and breadcrumbs into moulds, or cut out shapes made from a sweet dough mix similar to the gingerbread men we eat today.
And, of course, Christmas Day was the day to meet the pudding that had been stirred and then boiled five weeks earlier, on Stir-Up Sunday.
Twelfth Night (5th January) also had a particular recipe: Twelfth Night Cake, cooked with a bean and a pea in it, and sometimes a clove. The person who got one of these in their slice had a role to play in the rest of the Twelfth Night festivities: the person with the bean in their slice was Bean King for the party, the pea crowned the Pea Queen, and the clove marked the Knave. 
The Bean King inherited the medieval role of Lord of Misrule, and was in charge of the night’s festivities.

Let the party begin!

In this collection of novellas, the Bluestocking Belles bring you seven runaway Regency brides resisting and romancing their holiday heroes under the mistletoe. Whether scampering away or dashing toward their destinies, avoiding a rogue or chasing after a scoundrel, these ladies and their gentlemen leave miles of mayhem behind them on the slippery road to a happy-ever-after.

***All proceeds benefit the Malala Fund.***

All She Wants for Christmas, by Amy Rose Bennett
A frosty bluestocking and a hot-blooded rake. A stolen kiss and a Yuletide wedding. Sparks fly, but will hearts melt this Christmas?

The Ultimate Escape, by Susana Ellis
Abandoned on his wedding day, Oliver must choose between losing his bride forever or crossing over two hundred years to find her and win her back.

Under the Mistletoe, by Sherry Ewing
Margaret Templeton will settle for Captain Morledge’s hand in marriage, until she sees the man she once loved. Who will win her heart at the Christmas party of her would-be betrothed?

’Tis Her Season, by Mariana Gabrielle
Charlotte Amberly returns a Christmas gift from her intended—the ring—then hares off to London to take husband-hunting into her own hands. Will she let herself be caught?

Gingerbread Bride, by Jude Knight
Traveling with her father's fleet has not prepared Mary Pritchard for London. When she strikes out on her own, she finds adventure, trouble, and her girlhood hero, riding once more to her rescue.

A Dangerous Nativity, by Caroline Warfield
With Christmas coming, can the Earl of Chadbourn repair his widowed sister’s damaged estate, and far more damaged family? Dare he hope for love in the bargain?

Joy to the World, by Nicole Zoltack
Eliza Berkeley discovers she is marrying the wrong man—on her wedding day. When the real duke turns up instead, will her chance at marital bliss be spoiled?


The Bluestocking Belles' books carry you into the past for your happy-ever-after. When you have turned the last page of our novels and novellas, keep up with us (and other historical romance authors) in the Teatime Tattler, a Regency scandal sheet, and join in with the characters you love for impromptu storytelling in the Bluestocking Bookshop on Facebook. Also, look for online games and contests and monthly book chats, and find us at BellesInBlue on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Come visit at and kick up your bluestockinged heels!


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Written content of this post copyright © Jude Knight, 2015.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Mr Foote's Other Leg

Recently I took a trip to the stunning Theatre Royal, Haymarket to see Ian Kelly's rightly celebrated new play, Mr Foote's Other Leg. The theatre, which dates back to 1720, is breathtaking and the marvellous play proves more than a match for its surroundings!

Mr Foote's Other Leg takes as its central premise the life of actor-manager Samuel Foote, contemporary of Peg Woffington and David Garrick, the man who staged a comical take on Othello, strutted the stage in gowns that would shame a duchess, won and lost the favour of George III and took on the censors and (almost) won. Along the way he saw his beloved Haymarket become a Theatre Royal, was accused of sodomy and lost a leg in an ill-judged bet. 

Mr Foote's Other Leg

Foote's life, so torn between triumph and tragedy, proves perfect for the stage and it is hard to imagine an actor better suited to the role than Simon Russell Beale. In the first act he flies high, celebration and success at every turn as Kelly's own Prince George makes regular excursions backstage to visit the charming Peg (effervescently played by Dervla Kirwan) and Garrick (a suitable charming Joseph Millson), segueing from broad Brimingham vowels to a perfect leading man gravitas as Jenny Galloway and Micah Balfour keep things running smoothly backstage at the Haymarket. 

There is a lot of humour in Kelly's play but tragedy too and the scene in which Forbes Masson, as John Hunter, narrates the amputation of Foote's ill-fated titular limb, is not for the faint of heart nor weak of constitution. Masson, capturing perfectly the pioneering spirit of Georgian medicine, handles the scene with all the élan of a carnival barker, pulling the audience into the grisly procedure in a scene that manages to show nothing yet, somehow, leave no stone unturned or bone unsawn.

Though Foote adopted a prosthetic limb made by the puppet makers of Covent Garden, the accident had a permanent impact on him and this play is by no means all comedy, with a touching seam of pathos emerging as the evening progresses towards its inevitable conclusion. 

Tim Hatley's design production captures the era marvellously, conjuring the sinister surroundings of Hunter's collection of curiosities and the chaos of the Haymarket dressing room before taking us all the way to the roof of the theatre. Richard Eyre's direction, meanwhile, keeps the pace fairly bowling along in act one, slowing it just a little for the unfolding tale of act two. Slapstick comedy and bitter tragedy do not always make a happy mix yet Kelly and Eyre juggle the two masterfully in the service of this remarkable tale; at no point does one overwhelm the other.

This is a remarkable play about a singular man; it's a pleasure to welcome Samuel Foote back to the West End!

Mr Foote's Other Leg is at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, until 23rd January 2016.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

German Sausages and Flying Ambulances

I'm excited to welcome Sarah Mallory to the salon today to discuss German Sausages and Flying Ambulances – medical matters during the Napoleonic Wars!
German Sausages and Flying Ambulances – medical matters during the Napoleonic Wars
When I first saw the term "flying ambulance" I thought it was something that had originated in Africa, or in the Australian outback, a vehicle for flying doctors. In fact it goes back much further than that. To the Napoleonic Wars, as I discovered only recently.
I was researching the Battle of Waterloo for my book, A Lady for Lord Randall, and it was impossible not to think about the casualties. More than 40,000 soldiers died on the battlefield and given the state of medical knowledge at that time, it is debateable which was worse, to be killed outright or seriously wounded. Dr Howard Martin has written two wonderfully detailed books on the subject (Wellington's Doctors and Napoleon's Doctors) if you want to find out a lot more fascinating details. One thing that became clear to me is that in the treatment and care of injured soldiers during the Napoleonic Wars the French had the advantage. Bonaparte was very forward-thinking when it came to the health of his army. He preferred prevention to medical treatment, he advocated good food, good hygiene, fresh air and high morale. He also supported the use of quinine and vaccination. And it was one of Bonaparte's surgeons-in-chief who invented and developed the flying ambulance.

Weapons of war changed very little during the 18th century. The effectiveness of the lead musket balls varied widely depending on range. They could kill a man, or they might inflict superficial bullet wounds that caused little immediate pain. There are reports of soldiers digging out the balls themselves. Howard tells of a French volunteer in 1792 who was shot in the hip. He dug out the ball and re-used it, shouting "look, this is how republicans fight!"
Soldiers facing cannon had greater worries. A soldier in the path of round shot was usually killed outright, or had major injuries that often required amputation because bones and tissues were so badly damaged.
So, maybe you think you would prefer to face a sword? Straight swords were used for thrusting and caused deep internal injuries, usually to the chest and abdomen, whereas a curved sabre was used for slashing at the head and arms. The heavy cavalries wielded a broad sword that was capable of breaking bones and severing limbs.
Then there was the risk of being crushed by falling masonry, if you were sheltering in a building or behind a wall, or being trampled by horses, or burned by exploding shells or the fires that often broke out.
And if you survived all the above, then there was still the risk of disease.
Normal practice in the 18th century was to leave the wounded on the battlefield until the end of the battle, then send out litter-bearers to carry anyone still alive to field hospitals situated a mile or so from the site, where the doctors would remain safely away from the fighting. Many of the litter-bearers preferred to become looters and never brought their injured comrades off the field. Or, conversely, a wounded man might suddenly find that a dozen or more of his comrades would rally round to remove him and themselves from the fighting. This latter option did not find favour with the officers.
Dominique Jean Larrey
Dominique Jean Larrey
However the French Revolution had brought the welfare of the rank and file to prominence. By 1793 the French Revolutionary Authorities were ordering army doctors to remain with their men in battle or risk a charge of desertion. Many medical men were happy to comply, and two of the most prominent of these dedicated doctors were Pierre-Francois Percy and Dominique Jean Larrey. They were both surgeons-in-chief to Napoleon, and with the support of many of their colleagues they pioneered the idea of taking medical help to the wounded men during the battle, and then removing the most seriously injured from the field as quickly as possible.
By 1772 the French were already using heavy medical wagons drawn by as many as 50 horses. These were large "ambulance hospitals" with hundreds of medical personnel to cater for up to 2,000 injured soldiers. In 1793 the National Convention even set up a competition to design a carriage for transporting the sick and wounded. None of the designs were practical, but it demonstrates that the provision of medical help was a concern. However, the doctors themselves were making progress.
In 1792 Percy was the surgeon in charge of the Army of the Rhine and he formed a number of old soldiers and disabled men into a corps of stretcher bearers. The men worked in pairs to remove the wounded from the field and take them to the nearest mobile hospital. Then, when all the wounded had been collected, the corps assisted the surgeons in the hospitals. Percy also designed an elongated vehicle with four wheels that was filled with surgical instruments, dressings, elastic sticking plasters etc. The top was rounded, covered in leather and provided saddle-like seating for up to ten surgeons and their assistants to sit astride. They were known as "wursts", the German for sausage, which is what they resembled. Wursts had supplies enough to deal with upwards of a 1,000 casualties. However, the lack of logistical support and a shortage of horses and supplies greatly hampered these vehicles.
A wurst
A wurst
These wursts were praised by officers but were never in widespread use on the battlefield. Larrey could see their limitations and he designed a much smaller, lighter vehicle that was able to travel quickly over the ground. It could bring medical aid to men during the fighting and could carry away two patients lying down. He envisaged not just a vehicle, but a whole medical organisation dedicated to treating the wounded and removing them from the battle field as quickly as possible. 
These "flying ambulances" were a full complement of 340 men and over 30 wagons split into three divisions with surgeons, assistants, orderlies etc. each with their own role to play. Great attention was given to the medical equipment carried and the uniforms. Larrey was supported by the medical men of the day and in 1797 he received official approval for his idea. He had the opportunity try out his ambulance system in Egypt in 1798 – and when there was a shortage of draught animals he used camels to transport the wounded.
British doctors could only look on in envy at this advanced system of medical care. Today it seems a very logical idea, but it was 60 years after Waterloo that the British set up their trained ambulance corps.
Larrey not only had excellent organisational skills, he was also a brilliant and compassionate surgeon. The Duke of Wellington is said to have commended his valor and compassion in treating the wounded at Waterloo. However, he was captured by the Prussians after Waterloo and sentenced to death. A German physician who had been Larrey's pupil at one time, recognised the surgeon and pleaded with Marshall Blȕcher to spare him. Fortunately, Blȕcher's son had been wounded in a skirmish with the French and his life had been saved by Larrey, so he was sent back to France with a Prussian escort. 
A Lady for Lord Randall
Larrey died in 1842, aged 76, having become a legend in his own lifetime. One of his aims was that hospitals should be inviolable during times of war. This was a novel concept and one that was much later taken up by the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention.
Research is always fascinating, but very little of it makes its way into my books – I did include a surgeon in A Lady for Lord Randall, but it was only a minor character and I was so taken with Larrey's story that I have since used him as the model for my hero of another book which I have just completed – Return of the Runaway, which will be published in 2016.

Sarah Mallory
Award-winning author of nearly forty historical romantic adventures for Harlequin.  She also writes as Melinda Hammond, and you can find out more at her website,

Written content of this post copyright © Sarah Mallory, 2015.