Tuesday, 29 November 2016

‘Bringing down the Flowers’: Abortion in Eighteenth-Century Britain

It's my pleasure to welcome the marvellous Kate Lister to the salon with an investigation into abortion in 18th century England.
‘Bringing down the Flowers’: Abortion in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Kate Lister
‘But, th’aged Neurse calling her to her bower                                                                                      
had gathered Rew and Savine and the flower                                                                                             
of Camphora, and Callamint, and Dill’.
William Buchan’s Domestic Medicine (1769) was a hugely popular work; it sold over 80,000 copies, was translated into several European languages and was republished to receptive audiences until the nineteenth century. In it, Buchan endeavours to ‘assist the well-meant endeavours in reliving distress; to eradicate dangerous and hurtful prejudices; to guard the credulous and ignorance against frauds and the impositions and quacks and imposters’. In his chapters on pregnancy, Buchan outlines the causes and dangers of abortion. In the eighteenth century ‘abortion’ was used interchangeably with ‘miscarriage’, and did not necessarily mean the deliberate termination of a pregnancy. However, in a footnote to his opening paragraph on miscarriage, Buchan makes a short, pointed acknowledgement that some women did seek a termination to their pregnancy. 
Every mother who procures an abortion does it at the hazard of her life; yet there are not a few who run this risk merely to prevent the trouble of bearing and bringing up children. It is surely a most unnatural crime, and cannot, even in the most abandoned, be viewed without horror; but in the decent matron, it is still more unpardonable. Those wretches who daily advertise their assistance to women, in this business, deserve in any opinion, the most severe of all human punishments.
Abortion was not made illegal in Britain until 1803, when the passing of the Lord Ellenborough's Act made abortion after ‘the quickening’ (first movement of the of the foetus) punishable by death or transportation. Abortion before the quickening was not regarding as a criminal act as most theologians and physicians agreed this was when ensoulment of the child occurred. Until this occurred, the woman was not regarded as carrying child. But abortion post-quickening was regarded as deeply immoral. John Astruc called ‘miserable women’ seeking an abortion an ‘utter shame to human nature and religion’; Martin Madan called the women who died through botched abortions ‘doubly guilty of suicide and child murder, and a spouse procuring pills to induce an abortion is cited as suitable grounds for divorce in a number of eighteenth-century divorce trials.
By the eighteen hundreds, rudimentary contraceptives were available, ranging from folklore and quackery to methods that would have offered limited protection. The withdrawal method is a time honoured (if completely unreliable) option. Animal-gut condoms, that were rinsed out and reused, had been available from the sixteenth century. In his memoirs Casanova records using a linen condom and a lemon slice as a cervical cap. Post-coital vaginal douching has been used as a method to wash away semen in the hopes of preventing pregnancy since the middle ages. Owing to widespread disease, malnutrition and poor health, fertility rates would have been reduced, but unwanted pregnancies were still widespread. When a girl found herself with a ‘bellyful’, pressures of shame, circumstance, poverty and myriad other reasons could lead her to seek a termination.
It may not have been illegal, but abortion (post quickening) was certainly considered a deeply shameful act; consequently, the practice is shrouded in obscurity. Owing to the paucity of primary evidence, researching the history of abortion is notoriously difficult; the bulk of evidence left comes to us in court records when a woman has died from a botched abortion, and passing references in medical texts that acknowledge and swiftly condemn the practice. There are no texts that categorically state how to perform an abortion, or what herbs and tonics should be taken to induce one. However, euphemistic language is employed in herbal texts to allude to a plant’s abortive properties. A text may list plants that will induce miscarriage, but embed them within a warning of ‘not to be taken by pregnant women’. In much the same way as modern day ‘legal highs’ would advertise themselves as ‘research chemicals’ and ‘not for human consumption’ to get around the law. Advertisements for ‘women’s monthly pills’ and ‘cures’ for ‘menstrual blockage’ can be read as coded contraceptives and abortifacients. In English Sexualities (1990) Tim Hitchcock argued that 
Throughout the early-modern period recipes for medicines to ‘bring down the flowers’, or to regulate menstruation, were a common component of any herbal or recipe book, and could certainly be obtained from the local apothecary.
Women seeking to ‘bring down the flowers’ would naturally progress from the least to the most dangerous methods of abortion. Certain known herbs were ingested; the most commonly known being savin, pennyroyal, rue and ergot. Savin, a species of juniper used to flavour gin (‘mother’s ruin’), is referenced in numerous court records regarding abortion once the practice was made illegal in 1803. In 1829, for example, Martha Barrett was accused of taking a ‘quantity of savin for the purpose of causing abortion’. In 1834, William Childs were charged with illegal abortion, having given Mary Jane Woolf ‘a large quantity of a certain drug, call savin…with intent thereby to cause and procure her miscarriage’. In 1855, William Longman was charged with ‘feloniously administering to Elizabeth Eldred Astins, 10 grains of a noxious thing called savin, with intent to pro cure miscarriage’. The list goes on. Abortifacient such as savin and pennyroyal are indeed toxic, and consumed at a high enough quantity could induce miscarriage; at too high a dose, they could, and did, kill the mother as well. 
If these methods proved ineffective (as would usually be the case), the mother was left with increasingly desperate and dangerous methods of abortion. Sitting in scalding hot baths, drinking vast quantities of gin, falling down stairs or being forcefully struck in the stomach have all been recorded as efforts to induce an abortion; but, if all these failed, surgical intervention could be sought. Accounts of surgical abortion are extraordinarily rare in the eighteenth century. One of the only detailed accounts of eighteenth-century surgical abortion is the record of the trial of Eleanor Beare of Derby in 1732. Eleanor was indicted on three accounts; one account of encouraging a man to murder his wife and two accounts of ‘destroying the foetus in the womb’, by ‘putting an iron instrument’ into the body; one of these women was ‘unknown to the jury’ and the other was Grace Belfort. Grace Belfort worked briefly for Eleanor, during which time she was raped by a visitor to the house. Grace confessed to Eleanor that she feared she was with child and for 30 shillings (paid by the rapist) Eleanor say she could ‘clear’ her of the child. The account given of what happened next is so rare, it is worth sharing in full; 
Evidence: Some company gave me Cyder and Brandy, my Mistress and I were both full of liquor, and when the company was gone, we could scarse get upstairs, but we did get up; then I laid me on the bed, and my mistress brought a kind of instrument, I took it to be like an iron skewer, and she put it up into my body a great way, and hurt me.
Court: What followed upon that?
Evidence: Some blood came from me.
Court: Did you miscarry after that?
Evidence: The next day… I had a miscarriage. 
Court: What did the prisoner do after this?
Evidence: She told me the job was done.
In 1760, poet Thomas Brown wrote ‘Satire Upon a Quack’, where he attacks an abortionist who ‘murdered’ his friend’s child. The poem is a bitter and sustained attack upon the ‘graveyard pimp’ who ‘unborn infants murder’d in the womb’. Brown curses the abortionist to hear ‘the screams of infants’ and their dying mothers for all eternity; to be the ‘jest of midwives’ and ‘strumpets without noses, and to be stalked by ‘the most solemn horrors of the night’. Brown makes reference to the abortionist’s tools throughout the poem; he does not mention an ‘iron skewer’ but he does allude to ‘baleful potions’, ‘stabbing verse’, ‘pointed darts’ and a ‘murdering quill’. Any thin, sharpened tool, even the sharpened point of a quill pen, would serve as a suitable ‘instrument’ to pierce the cervix and ‘bring down the flowers’. Of course, this procedure could be self-induced, or well-meaning friends or family members could attempt to penetrate the womb. How many women suffered irreparable damage, mutilation, infection and death as a result of this practice is not known; but many were willing to risk the dangers. If this method failed, or if the poor girl simply could not afford the abortionist fee; there were three options left; keep and raise the child, abandon the child, or murder the child and hide the body. 
In Francis Grose’s Lexicon Balatronicum: a Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (1785), there is a truly disturbing entry; ‘To stifle a squeaker: to murder a bastard, or throw it into the necessary house (privy)’. This phrase also appears over hundred years earlier in A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew (1698), and appears in various collections of slang through the nineteenth century. That infanticide had its own slang suggests that the practice was alarmingly common; that the slang is specifically referring to the disposal of illegitimate infants by burying them in the outhouse is the only remaining legacy of countless infants who shared this sad fate. Christian Russel, of the Parish of St. Pauls Covent Garden, was found guilty of murdering her illegitimate child in 1702 by ‘throwing the same into a House of Office’. In 1703, Mary Tudor was put on trial for her murdering her ‘female bastard child, on the 18th of January last, by throwing the same into a House of Office, whereby it was choked and strangled’. In 1708, Ann Gardner was found guilty of murdering her ‘female bastard…by throwing of it into a House of office, where 'twas suffocated with Filth’. Anne Wheeler was indicted for suffocating her ‘male bastard’ by ‘suffocating it in a house of easement’ in 1711. Elizabeth Arthur ‘drowned’ her ‘male bastard’ in a ‘house of office’ in 1717. Elizabeth Harrard was found guilty of drowning her ‘male bastard’ in 1739, and was one of four women to be hanged for murdering their illegitimate children that year. The list goes on and on. In the court records for the Old Bailey alone, between 1700 and 1800, there are no less than 134 trials for infanticide; the overwhelming majority of which are the killings of illegitimate children. We must remember that this is only one court, in one area and these trials are the ones that were caught. The actual figures of illegitimate infanticide will never be known, but most of the desperate women on trial were poor, unwed, unsupported and alone; they were desperate. 
Not all this trials resulted in a guilty verdict, and the mother’s life depended on being able to ‘prove’ that the child was stillborn. In 1624, parliament passed an act that made it a capital offense for unmarried mothers to conceal the death of an illegitimate child; the presumption being that if the child died, the mother had killed it. In order to prove that the birth was not concealed, the mother has to produce at least one witness statement that the baby was stillborn. The prosecution would also have to prove that the birth was deliberately concealed. Ann Gardner, mentioned above, was proven to have murdered her baby as she had made no provisions for the baby, and told no one she was pregnant.
The Prisoner could say little in her Defence, it did not appear that she made any Provision for the Birth of the Child, nor was she heard to cry out, or us’d any endeavour to discover it, as the Statute of King James I [the 1624 Act] in such Cases requires. The Fact being clear, upon the whole the Jury found her Guilty of the Indictment.
This was enough to condemn Ann to death; she was executed on 15th Jan 1708.
When the London Foundling Hospital opened in 1739 by the philanthropist Thomas Coram, his primary aim was to give shelter to the children of the ‘unhappy female, who fell victim to the seductions and false promises of the designing man’, and had been left to ‘irretrievable disgrace’. When it first opened, the hospital expected to receive 20 infants, but was overwhelmed with demand. Eventually, the hospital had to limit admissions to infants under two months, and admittance was done through a ballot system. So that mothers could reclaim their child from the hospital, mothers were initially encouraged to leave a token with their baby, so they could be recognised later. The thousands of ribbons, thimbles, broken coins, lockets, buttons, pieces of paper and shells left with abandoned children are still housed at the Foundling Hospital today. 

Photo: The Foundling Museum

Of the 16,282 babies brought to the hospital between 1741 and 1760, only 152 were reclaimed. 
Today, most of us are privileged enough that we will never face a situation woman like Ann Gardner found themselves in over 300 years ago; destitute, ill, alone, stigmatised and pregnant with no maternity rights, medical care, security or means to raise a child. Although we have advanced far in 300 years, in terms of social security, medical care and attitudes to sex in general, the debate surrounding abortion are still rooted in religious moralising that seeks to demonise and punish the women who seek them and doctors who perform them. But, as the history of contraceptives shows, abortion will always be sought, risks will always be taken and no amount of criminalisation, not even the death penalty itself, will change that. In 1967, when the UK abortion act was passed, midwife Jennifer Worth was asked to comment on the morality of abortions; after 14 years of witnessing the reality of illegal abortion, she replied she ‘did not regard it as a moral issue, but as a medical issue. A minority of women will always want an abortion. Therefore, it must be done properly’.

Buchan, William, Domestic Medicine (London: [n.pub.], 1769)
Casanova, Giacomo, The memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt: Complete ([n.p.]: Simon and Schuster, 2013)
Cruickshank, Dan, The secret history of Georgian London: How the wages of sin shaped the capital (London: Windmill Books, 2010)
Harris, Karen, The medieval vagina: A historical and hysterical look at all things vaginal during the middle ages (London: Snark, 2014)
Museum, Foundling, Foundling museum (Foundling Museum, 2016), <http://foundlingmuseum.org.uk/about/the-museum/> [accessed 2 September 2016]
Online, Old Bailey Proceedings, Browse - central criminal court (2003), <https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18290409-83&div=t18290409-83&terms=Savin#highlight> [accessed 30 August 2016]
---, Browse - central criminal court (2003), <https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=t18340515-47&div=t18340515-47&terms=savine#highlight> [accessed 30 August 2016]
Riddle, John M., Eve’s herbs: A history of contraception and abortion in the west (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999)
The Tryal of Eleanore Beare of DerbyGentleman’s Magazine 1732, pp. 933–934
Trials for Adultery; Or, the History of Divorces, III vols, Trials for Adultery (London: [n.pub.], 1779)
Worth, Jennifer, 'A deadly trade', The Guardian, 6 January 2005

About the Author
Dr Kate Lister, post doctoral research associate at Leeds Trinity University. Kate curates the Twitter feed @WhoresofYore and researches the history of sexuality. 

Written content of this post copyright © Kate Lister, 2016.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The Crown Spire

coverI am thrilled to announce that The Crown Spire, a rip-roaring adventure stuffed full of highwaymen, intrigue and romance, is now available to buy in ebook format across the world.

Co-written by my good self and Willow Winsham, The Crown Spire takes readers back in time to 18th century Edinburgh and a world of bodysnatchers, brutish husbands and longed-for second chances.

Read on for an exclusive look at the first chapter!

Buy The Crown Spire at Amazon UK

Buy The Crown Spire at Amazon US

About The Crown Spire

Edinburgh, 1795

Alice Ingram escapes her brutish husband and leaves a glittering life in London far behind. With her niece, Beth, at her side she flees north, determined to save the girl from the fate she has endured but after an encounter with two mysterious highwaymen, life for the women will never be the same again...

Devoted to his daughter and resigned to a life of loneliness, James Dillingham has built a reputation as the finest physician in the land and a man for whom romance is a notion best avoided. He leaves all that to his best friend, Ed Hogan, who is just the sort of rogue to catch a girl's adventurous eye...

By day Alice finds herself ever more at odds with the straight-laced doctor who becomes her neighbour whilst by night, moonlit escapades with a masked highwayman lead her into a life of excitement in the shadow of the Crown Spire. Yet with her husband in relentless pursuit, are some shackles too strong to break?

Chapter 1


Almost a week on the road, Alice Ingram reflected with a long sigh of exhaustion, leaning back against the squabs of the carriage. Almost a week crammed in together, feeling every bump, every pothole, counting the miles as they made their way northwards, each hour, each passing minute, taking them that one bit closer to freedom.
"It will be time to stop soon," she said simply to break the resentful silence, lifting her head as though to direct her niece’s attention to the window, "The light is fading."
"Thank goodness!" Beth’s voice was full of relief and for once, Alice noted without humour, she and her fellow passenger were in agreement. For a moment Alice considered the wisdom of breaking for the night and peered at the darkening sky. They had covered a great deal of distance so far and now, with the end almost in sight, she found herself loathe to stop, to delay even one more night almost unbearable. 
"No," she shook her head, Beth letting out a huff of annoyance as Alice decided, "No, we shall press on."
The trees on either side of the road, no thicker than two or three deep at the start of their journey that day, seemed too dark and entwined now, shadows in the dusk throwing darkness over the carriage where the bows reached out high above to make a vaulted chapel of the canopy. What was left of the daylight barely penetrated the new spring foliage, even the birdsong muted until the silence was unbroken by so much as the chirrup of a sparrow. Still the carriage rolled on towards its uncertain destination, the man at the reins no doubt looking forward to the next stop when he would hand over this party, trouble that they seemed to be, to another hired hand.
"It has been ages," Beth's pout grew to proportions not yet reached at the refusal, "My legs are so numb I can barely feel them and if I have to look at one more tree Aunt Alice, please—" 
"Grace," Alice reminded her niece, "You must remember to call me aunt Grace now. There will be plenty of opportunity to stretch your legs when we reach Edinburgh. I told you - we carry on."
The silence, seemingly so unbreakable, was shattered by the sound of a single gunshot, and a moment later the carriage veered from the road as the coachman fell from his seat, dead before he hit the ground. The horses surged on with the driverless carriage at their rumps, stopped only by two men who galloped alongside to grab up the reins and halt the progress of the vehicle.
"What -" Alice’s exclamation mingled with Beth's shriek of surprise as she fumbled for the weapon packed for just such an eventuality, heart pounding with fear.
The doors on either side of the waylaid carriage were wrenched violently open before she was able to find the gun. What daylight remained was blocked by two hulking figures, pistols primed and ready. From beneath a beard thick as the tangled boughs outside a voice aged with alcohol and menace asked, "And what have we here?"
"I will shoot you," Alice felt surprisingly calm even as she was sure the appearance of their assailants was no coincidence. "Don't think for a moment I won't."
"There'll be no shooting anybody," the man laughed, a scent of sweat and tobacco filling the stale air. He gestured into the carriage with his gun barrel and asked Beth, "You going to go along with my friend over there?"
"She will not be going anywhere." Uttering the words with a confidence she no longer felt, Alice heard the refusal echoed by the rigidly still young woman. The look of horror in her niece's eyes firmed her resolve as she added, "What do you want from us? If it is money you are after—"
"Money," the bandit laughed as his comrade moved further into the carriage, seizing Beth's wrist in a leather-gloved hand. "Who wants money when there's a fine bounty like you two?" 
With that he made his move, fist locking around Alice's arm and dragging her towards the door.
"No—" An attempt at resistance served only to lose her the weapon, though it was with savage satisfaction that she landed a hard kick to the shin of the man who had grabbed her. Despite his gasp of pain the triumph was short lived, as Alice found herself pulled from the carriage. She would not go, she knew, could not be parted from Beth, could not let the young woman suffer whatever tortures they had intended for her.
Alice twisted and turned, fists and feet flying uselessly until her captor succeeded in pinioning her arms painfully behind her back. Even then she struggled and shouted for help, though where help could possibly come from, Alice did not know.
"Bitch!" The word was a hiss, the bandit wrapping one arm around her waist as he instructed the two men at the head of the carriage, "Empty the bags and bring the horses. Tonight, we’ll all of us have some fun!"
Beth's scream rang in Alice’s ears as she was carried off, the smell and proximity of the man turning her stomach with fear of what was to come.
"And when you've done all that and finished with the lady," the bandit who had taken Beth's arm laughed, "You can have a go on this lass after I’m done!" 
With that, he dragged the screaming Beth out onto his horse, barely keeping hold of her as he galloped deep into the trees.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Discovering Angelica Kauffman

Meet  LL Diamond and the marvellous art of Angelica Kauffman!


Thank you so much for having me!

A few years ago, while working towards my art degree, I signed up for a class called Women in Art in Culture to fulfil a requirement towards my art history minor. I wasn’t certain what would be covered, but once the class began, I was fascinated by the strong and perservering women we studied. I still am and when I happen upon a painting by one of the wonderful artists, I tend to take a bit longer to admire the work of a woman who had to be immensely talented and willing to stand up to the social mores of the time to be recognised.

I even like to give a nod to a different artist when I write my novels by naming a modiste after a famous French artist such as Elizabeth Vigee-LeBrun, Madame Labille-Guiard, or Francoise Du Parc. A subtle nod and a small thing compared to their accomplishment, but just a bit of fun for me.

For today’s post, however, I decided to venture away from the French artists, and decided to share a quick overview of Angelica Kauffmann. I had never heard of her prior to the class, but each time I find a painting of hers in a National Trust house or a museum, I am reminded again of her incomparable talent.

Angelica Kauffman

Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, and John Constable are probably more familiar the average art buff than Angelica Kauffmann, yet Kauffmann was incredibly talented and produced art during the same time period, bucking convention and painting what she wished rather than what was expected of her as a woman, making her a founding member of the British Royal Academy and a sought-after portraitist in London.

Women from the beginning had a difficult time making a name for themselves in the art world. After the Renaissance, the French Royal Academy established what they called the “Hierarchy of Genres,” which prioritized certain types of paintings over others and establishing an order of importance of subject matter. The Royal Academy deemed histories the highest since they dealt with great events in human history as well as religion followed by portraiture, genre paintings (scenes of every day life), landscape, and still life. Believe it or not, this also made it more difficult for women to become a successful artist because acceptable subjects for ladies (still life and animals) were low on the Hierarchy of Genres, not to mention many ladies used watercolour, which was not considered a medium by the establishment of the time—it was considered craft.

Angelica Kauffman was born in Switzerland in 1741 and was considered a child prodigy. Her father and painter Johann Joseph Kauffmann, whose work consisted of murals and portraits, trained Kauffmann as she travelled through Switzerland, Italy, and Austria as his assistant.

Kauffmann, however, began achieving recognition in her own right during a three-year stay in Italy when she began painting histories and portraits, earning her an election to Rome’s Accademia di San Luca at the age of twenty-three.

Kauffmann’s success in painting histories is part of what makes her so interesting. While Kauffman was said to have studied from classical statues, women were not allowed to attend life-drawing classes. These classes, which featured nude models and were strictly attended only by men, were thought to offend the sensibilities of a lady. For most, this restriction limited the artist’s training and for some, the ability to paint a history or a great portrait. Kauffmann didn’t allow this to limit her, and instead, focused her work mostly on female subjects from mythology and classical history.

Portrait of Lady Foster

In 1766, Kauffmann moved to London where she gained popularity as a portrait painter to the aristocracy and also to a few royal patrons. During this time, Kauffmann and Mary Moser were the only two female artists among the founding members of the Royal Academy in London. The painting below, by Johann Zoffany, shows the founding members of the Royal Academy having a life-drawing session with two nude men as models. Note that Mary Moser and Angelica Kauffmann are not present among the men, but are depicted as paintings on the wall. Since the practice was not allowed in reality, they could not portray it in art, so two wonderful female artists are relegated to being works of art themselves.

Portraits of the Academicians of the Royal Academy

After a successful fifteen-year stay in London, Angelica Kauffmann returned to Italy with her husband, painter Antonio Zucchi. When she died in 1807, the famous sculptor Antonio Canova directed her funeral, basing it on the funeral of Raphael. A compliment indeed! 

Just a few places I have found Angelica Kauffman paintings around England:

Lady Elizabeth Christiana Hervey (later Lady Bess Foster) by Angelica Kauffmann can be found at Ickworth in Suffolk.

Henrietta Laura Pulteney (1766-1808)  can be found at the Holburne Museum in Bath
Saltram House in Devon has close to ten Kauffmann paintings including a portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds and a number of histories (several are on the staircase used in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility), including Hector taking leave of Andromache and Ulysses discovering Achilles. 

About the Author
L.L. Diamond is more commonly known as Leslie to her friends and Mom to her three kids. A native of Louisiana, she has spent the majority of her life living within an hour of New Orleans until she vowed to follow her husband to the ends of the earth as a military wife. Louisiana, Mississippi, California, Texas, New Mexico, Nebraska, and now England have all been called home along the way. After watching Sense and Sensibility with her mother, Leslie became a fan of Jane Austen, reading her collected works over the next few years. Pride and Prejudice stood out as a favorite and has dominated her writing since finding Jane Austen Fan Fiction. 

Aside from mother and writer, Leslie considers herself a perpetual student. She has degrees in biology and studio art, but will devour any subject of interest simply for the knowledge. As an artist, her concentration is in graphic design, but watercolor is her medium of choice with one of her watercolors featured on the cover of her second book, A Matter of Chance. She is a member of the Jane Austen Society of North America. Leslie also plays flute and piano, but much like Elizabeth Bennet, she is always in need of practice! Leslie’s books include Rain and Retribution, A Matter of Chance, An Unwavering Trust, The Earl’s Conquest, and Particular Intentions.


images from commons.wikimedia.org

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Charity events in Georgian England, or, the poor shall be with us always

It's a pleasure to welcome the Bluestocking Belles to the salon once more!


Charity events in Georgian England or the poor shall be with us always
Our view of Georgian life is often coloured by fictional accounts of high society, where ladies spent vast amounts on bonnets and gentlemen gambled away entire estates on an evening’s card game. Which is a fair reflection of a small part of society, come to that. But one in ten families lived below the ‘breadline’, and at times as many as two in five. Many people were precariously balanced on a knife edge where illness, accidents or old age could tumble them into starvation. 

The Poor Law and parish-based support 
The Poor Law was meant to make sure such unfortunates had the help they needed. Wealthy households paid a levy to the parish, and local overseers apportioned financial hand-outs, clothing and fuel, and bread to those who could prove they belonged to the parish and therefore had a right to its support. 
Where the parish authorities were genuinely charitable, poor relief might tide a family through a bad patch so they could get back on their feet. But the idea that poverty was a character fault is not a 21st Century invention. Strident voices wanted the poor to suffer for their charity handout.
Workhouse to discourage the poor from seeking help
IN 1722, the first legislation passed allowing parishes to provide poor relief in specially built workhouses. By the end of the century, more than 100,000 people lived under their stringent and often dire regime.
The sexes were segregated, and the able-bodied set to work, with strict rules and routines. Some workhouses were pleasant enough. Others were no better than prisons, and many of the poor preferred to starve rather than be put in the workhouse.
They were overcrowded, and the people in them often overworked and underfed. Epidemics tore through them, and the deathrate for people of every age, and particularly for newborns, was brutal. Nearly 2,400 children were received into London workhouses in 1750. Fewer than 170 of those children were still alive in 1755.

Private charities
The parish levy wasn’t the only funding for the poor, though. Many landowners (and particularly their wives) kept to the age-old tradition of providing food and other items to those who lived on or near their estates, and some continued this one-on-one help in town. They also joined groups to provide help for those who needed it.
Private charities collected money for initiatives such as the Foundling Hospital in London, which cared for children whose mothers could not support them, the Marine Society, which trained poor boys for a life at sea, the Magdalen Hospital for Penitent Prostitues, various hospitals to provide free medical care, and educational initiatives. I particularly like the name of the Female Friendly Society for the Relief of Poor, Infirm, Aged Widows and Single Women of Good Character Who Have Seen Better Days. The days of 140 character tweets were well in the future.
Benefits with friends
To raise money, these charitable groups used the time honoured idea of offering tickets to an entertainment: balls, musical concerts, art exhibitions. Some charged a weekly subscription to support their work. Some solicited donations through pamphlets and direct approaches to possible donors. (Some people have suggested balls were a Victorian contrivance, but British newspapers contain advertisements for charity balls and assemblies, or reports on them, going back to the middle of the previous century.)
Groups would also get together to raise money for a friend in need; perhaps someone who had been injured or widowed. In the British Newspapers Online archive, I found a number of advertisements for events ‘for the benefit of Mr. Xxx’, which is, of course, where we get our term Benefit, to mean a charity event.
Women and charity
While men ran many of the great philanthropic institutions, charity was “the proper public expression of a gentlewoman’s religious energy”. [Vickery, 254] Many women joined benevolent societies (where members agreed to provide support for any of their number who fell on hard times) and a huge number of women founded or joined charitable groups that supported what they themselves would have called ‘good works’.
Porter, Roy: English Society in the 18th Century. Penguin, 1982
Uglow, Jenny: In These Times, Faber & Faber 2014
Vickers, Amanda: The Gentleman’s Daughter, Yale, 1998

Holly and Hopeful Hearts
When the Duchess of Haverford sends out invitations to a Yuletide house party and a New Year’s Eve ball at her country estate, Hollystone Hall, those who respond know that Her Grace intends to raise money for her favourite cause and promote whatever marriages she can. Eight assorted heroes and heroines set out with their pocketbooks firmly clutched and hearts in protective custody. Or are they?
A Suitable Husband, by Jude Knight
As the Duchess of Haverford’s companion, Cedrica Grenford is not treated as a poor relation and is encouraged to mingle with Her Grace’s guests. Surely she can find a suitable husband amongst the gentlemen gathered for the duchess’s house party. Above stairs or possibly below. 
Valuing Vanessa, by Susana Ellis
Facing a dim future as a spinster under her mother’s thumb, Vanessa Sedgely makes a practical decision to attach an amiable gentleman who will not try to rule her life. 
A Kiss for Charity, by Sherry Ewing
Young widow Grace, Lady de Courtenay, has no idea how a close encounter with a rake at a masquerade ball would make her yearn for love again. Can she learn to forgive Lord Nicholas Lacey and set aside their differences to let love into her heart?
Artemis, by Jessica Cale
Actress Charlotte Halfpenny is in trouble. Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and out of a job, Charlotte faces eviction two weeks before Christmas. When the reclusive Earl of Somerton makes her an outrageous offer, she has no choice but to accept. Could he be the man of her dreams, or is the nightmare just beginning?
The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, by Jude Knight
James must marry to please his grandfather, the duke, and to win social acceptance for himself and his father’s other foreign-born children. But only Lady Sophia Belvoir makes his heart sing, and to win her he must invite himself to spend Christmas at the home of his father’s greatest enemy. 
Christmas Kisses, by Nicole Zoltack
Louisa Wycliff, Dowager Countess of Exeter wants only for her darling daughter, Anna, to find a man she can love and marry. Appallingly, Anna has her sights on a scoundrel of a duke who chases after every skirt he sees. Anna truly thinks the dashing duke cares for her, but her mother has her doubts. 
An Open Heart, by Caroline Warfield
Esther Baumann longs for a loving husband who will help her create a home where they will teach their children to value the traditions of their people, but she wants a man who is also open to new ideas and happy to make friends outside their narrow circle. Is it so unreasonable to ask for toe curling passion as well?
Dashing Through the Snow, by Amy Rose Bennett
Headstrong bluestocking, Miss Kate Woodville, never thought her Christmas would be spent racing across England with a viscount hell-bent on vengeance. She certainly never expected to find love...
Amazon Australia: http://ow.ly/TczG3049EQ2
Amazon Canada: http://ow.ly/IERm3049EYM 
The Bluestocking Belles
The Bluestocking Belles, the “BellesInBlue”, are seven very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit all tastes and mood. 

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Children's Literature in the Long 18th Century

It's always a pleasure to welcome my fine friend, Joana Starnes, to the salon and today she returns to discuss children's literature in the long 18th century! Lave a comment to be in with a chance of winning an ebook copy of Mr Bennet's Dutiful Daughter!


“Getting to know you is getting to love you – 
What would Elizabeth and Mr Darcy have read as children?”

Thank you, Catherine, for welcoming me here today on the blog tour for my latest Pride and Prejudice variation. 

Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter is an early-marriage scenario where adverse circumstances compel Elizabeth to accept Mr Darcy’s hand long before she fell in love with him. A reckless choice to the modern woman – yet an eminently prudent one for a Georgian young lady with neither fortune nor connection. But I will not expand on Georgian mores, not here – you do it so much better than I ever will!

Instead, please let me share what I discovered while I was looking into the number of things those timeless characters might have discovered they had in common. It might well be a cliché that Elizabeth and Mr Darcy would talk of books. Setting aside the fact that she refused to discuss reading matter with him at the Netherfield ball, two people with such fondness for the printed word would eventually come to share the pleasure found in old favourites. To me, it was one of the steps towards learning more about each other, while a marriage of convenience and unequal affections grew into a union of all-abiding love.

(Photo BBC)

What is more touching than childhood memories, and what greater proof of trust than the willingness to share them? In Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter Elizabeth and Mr Darcy share recollections of pilfering treats from the pantry and picnicking on the carpet – he with his closest cousin, she with her dearest sister – of romps and mischief, and also of quiet times with books. For Mr Bennet’s favourite daughter and a young boy brought up within reach of the extensive library at Pemberley, books would have doubtlessly held a significant place in their childhood. But what children’s books were available at the time?

Surprisingly many, I discovered as I delved – just online, sadly – into that treasure trove that is the British Library. A wealth of information is available in this article, where Professor M O Grenby “charts the rise of children’s literature throughout the 18th century, explaining how books for children increasingly blended entertainment with instruction.”

I must admit that the attention given to the entertainment element was a great surprise to me. In many early 18th century sources I have found how children were expected to behave like mini-adults (indeed, boys were dressed as mini-adults from the day they were breeched), and while Rousseau and Locke inspired a more liberal attitude to child education for a while, the Victorians came to slow down the process, enforce ‘seen but not heard’ edicts and enshrine the moralising rhyme, the learning by rote and the ubiquitous cane as primary educational tools.

Of course, the cane was an inescapable part of a child’s education until astoundingly recent times, and the Georgians would not have had many scruples about wielding it either. Yet, to my surprise, I discovered that their children were not expected to amuse themselves with some condensed version of Gibbon’s History of the Roman Empire, nor solely with James Janeway’s ‘Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children’ .

(A Token for Children, 1709 edition; first published around 1672 – British Library)

Beautifully illustrated spelling books have survived from Queen Anne’s time, and if the modern eye is rather surprised to find that ‘Cherries are pleasant Fruit for Youth to eat’ in roughly the same place in the book as directions for spelling a-po-cry-pha, well, at least those youngsters must have had a rich vocabulary.

(A Little Book for Little Children, 1702 – British Library)

Rather than focusing on moral instruction, from the earliest years of the 18th century children’s books had begun to be attractive, colourful and fun

What better fodder for a young Fitzwilliam Darcy’s imagination than a book he might have found in his father’s library, depicting hundreds of beasts, serpents and insects? He could have spent hours reading about panthers, tigers and scorpions, as well as mythical creatures such as the unicorn and the manticora.

(Description of Three Hundred Animals, 1730 – British Library)

How about Elizabeth? She might easily have read the tale of Miss Goody Two-Shoes (1765), where the orphaned heroine grows from rags to riches, becomes a schoolmistress and marries the local landowner – so far, so good. But the tale is not aiming for the happily ever after. Instead, Miss Margery inherits her husband’s wealth when he passes away and uses it to help the poor, as she herself was helped as a child.

(The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, 1765 – British Library)

Miss Goody’s tale might be a far cry from the fairytale message we are familiar with, but would you have guessed that, just like little girls nowadays, an eight- or nine-year-old Elizabeth Bennet could have easily read the story of ‘Cinderilla’ and Little Red Riding Hood – if she was not a fictional character herself, that is?

(Spelling Primer, 1799 – British Library)

There are other gems to be found: 

Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (1744) is the first known nursery rhyme collection, featuring early versions of ‘Bah, bah, a black sheep’, ‘Hickory dickory dock’, ‘London Bridge is falling down’ and ‘Sing a song of sixpence’. (It also includes a rhyme about bedwetting that somehow has not made it into the rich heritage passed down to modern children, and who can say if the said heritage is richer or poorer for that? For the inquisitive, you can find out more here.)

(Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book, 1744 – British Library)

(The Right Pleasant and Diverting History of Fortunatus and His Two Sons, estimated 1740 – British Library)

(A Pretty Little Pocket Book, 1770 – British Library)

The Pretty Little Pocket Book was most innovatively sold with a ball for boys and a pincushion for girls, so that good and bad deeds could be recorded by sticking a pin on the red or the black side of the ball/pincushion. This was the first book published by John Newbery for the entertainment of children. He became known as the father of children’s literature because he was able to turn it into a commercial success. Miss Goody’s tale was his most famous work, and might be regarded as the first children’s novel. An astute businessman, he even started publishing a periodical for children, The Liliputian Magazine, that included stories, riddles and rhymes. His business flourished, was passed to his descendants and survived into the 19th century.

Unlike Mr Newbery’s, in Mr Bennet’s Dutiful Daughter Mr Howe’s bookselling business is fictional, as is his shop and its Darcy patrons – more the pity! But if you would like to read more about Mr Darcy, his family’s purchases at Howe’s and his resulting penchant for currant oatcakes, please leave a comment to enter the international giveaway of a Kindle copy. Also, if you follow the blog tour you might learn more about the oatcakes in a few days’ time. Thank you for stopping by to read this post and many thanks again, Catherine, for the wonderful welcome! 

Book Description:

When Colonel Fitzwilliam’s disclosures are interrupted by the bearer of distressing news from Longbourn, Miss Elizabeth Bennet is compelled to consider an offer she would have otherwise dismissed out of hand. An offer of marriage from the all-too-proud Mr Darcy.

Yet how is she to live with a husband she hardly knows and does not love? Would she be trapped in a marriage of convenience while events conspire to divide them? Or would love grow as, day by day and hour after hour, she learns to understand the man she married, before she loses his trust and his heart?

Author Links:

Author Biography

Joana Starnes lives in the south of England with her family. A medical graduate, in more recent years she has developed an unrelated but enduring fascination with Georgian Britain in general and the works of Jane Austen in particular, as well as with the remarkable and flamboyant set of people who have given the Regency Period its charm and sparkle.

Joana Starnes is the author of:

* 'From This Day Forward ~ The Darcys of Pemberley', a 'Pride & Prejudice' sequel
* 'The Subsequent Proposal ~ A Tale of Pride, Prejudice & Persuasion'
* 'The Second Chance', a 'Pride & Prejudice' ~ 'Sense & Sensibility' variation
* 'The Falmouth Connection', a 'Pride & Prejudice' variation where Jane Austen's beloved characters are compelled to leave their tame and reasonably peaceful lives in the south of England and travel to the far reaches of Cornwall, into a world of deceit and peril, where few - if any! - are what they seem to be...
* 'The Unthinkable Triangle', a 'Pride & Prejudice' variation that dwells on the most uncomfortable love-triangle of them all. What if Mr. Darcy's rival for Miss Bennet's hand and heart is none other than his dearest, closest friend? And how can they all find their 'happily-ever-after'?
*'Miss Darcy's Companion' - a variation that explores what might have happened if the warm-hearted Miss Elizabeth Bennet were employed instead of the scheming Mrs Younge.

Written content of this post copyright © Joana Starnes, 2016.