Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Such Language! Part 9

More linguistic shenanigans from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue! I usually have fun coming up with silly sentences to use the words and phrases in it, but in some cases the definitions themselves are such fun or are so interesting that they need no help from me. Here’s a few of those:

Kimbaw: to trick, cheat, or cozen; also to beat or bully. To set one’s arms a-kimbaw, vulgarly pronounced a-kimbo, is to rest one’s hands on one’s hips, keeping the elbows square, and sticking out from the body, an insolent, bullying attitude.

Fieri Facias: A red-faced man is said to have been served with a writ of fieri facias.

Bag of Nails: He squints like a bag of nails; i.e. his eyes are directed as many ways as the points of a bag of nails.

Firing a gun: Introducing a story by head and shoulders. A man wanting to tell a particular story, said to the company, Hark! Did you not hear a gun?—but now that we are talking of a gun, I will tell you a story of one.

Gluepot: A parson: from joining men and women together in holy matrimony.

Flummery: Oatmeal and water boiled to a jelly; also, compliments, neither of which are over-nourishing.

Pitt’s Picture: A window stopped up [bricked over] from the inside, to save the window tax imposed in that gentleman’s administration.

Cherry-colored cat: A black cat, there being black cherries as well as red.

Boh: He cannot say Boh! to a goose; i.e. he is a cowardly or sheepish fellow. There is a story related of the celebrated Ben Jonson, who always dressed very plain; on being introduced to the presence of a nobleman, the peer, struck by his homely appearance and awkward manner, exclaimed, as if in doubt, “You, Ben Jonson! Why, you look as though you could not say boh to a goose!” “Boh!” replied the wit.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Dear Readers!

Although Thanksgiving was not a holiday that would have been celebrated by the 19th century British young ladies of our books, Regina and I certainly celebrate it…and one of the things we’re most thankful for is you, our readers. You’re truly what keeps us blogging every week…so thank you!

Now, just because Thanksgiving isn’t a 19th century British holiday doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it in our own way…so Regina and I would like to offer you some recipes with a 19th century flavor that might do well at your own Thanksgiving feast.

This first one is from Beeton’s Book of Household Management, first published in England in 1861 by Mrs. Isabella Beeton. Remember that name…you’ll be hearing more about her in the coming weeks. This sounds like a terrific way to use up leftover Thanksgiving mashed potatoes:

Potato Rissoles

Mashed potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Minced parsley
Egg (number depends on how much mashed potatoes is available)
Bread crumbs (likewise)

Beat the egg in a shallow dish. Set bread crumbs aside in another shallowdish or plate. Add a seasoning of pepper and salt and a little minced parsley to the mashed potatoes. Roll the potatoes into small balls, dip them into the egg and then cover them in bread crumbs. Fry in hot oil or butter for about 10 minutes. Drain and dish them on a napkin, then serve. Note.-The flavour of these rissoles may be very much increased by adding finely-minced tongue or ham, or even chopped onions, when these are liked.

And here’s a recipe from Queen Victoria’s chief chef, Charles Francatelli:

French Beans with fine herbs

Pick over, trim, and wash string beans, and boil in lightly salted water until tender. Put two pats of butter into a stewpan with a tablespoonful of chopped parsley and also two shallots finely chopped, a little nutmeg, mignionette pepper [a mix of black and white pepper and coriander] and salt, and the juice of a lemon; simmer this over a stove-fire until melted, and then add the beans, tossing the whole together, and serve.

This last recipe isn’t 19th century, but it makes its appearance every year on my Thanksgiving table:

Pickled Ginger Cranberry Sauce (from Cooks Country Magazine, October/November 2008)

Pulse one 16 ounce can cranberry sauce (I prefer whole berry myself—gives a better texture), 2 tablespoons drained pickled ginger, and 1 teaspoon wasabi powder or dry mustard in foor processor until combined. Refrigerate, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Have a pleasant Thanksgiving, full of good food and good company!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Grand Tour, Part 1: Planning

First, I’m very pleased to announce that Beebs won my second chance copy of An Honorable Gentleman. The Random Number Generator does not lie, even though its choice was oddly fitting since she also guessed right but lost out in the first chance! Beebs, contact me at reginascott@owt.com with your mailing address, and I’ll send it right out to you.

During our birthday house party, Lo suggested that we talk about activities on the Continent, such as the Grand Tour. As the Grand Tour was rather, well, grand, I’m planning for the topic to take a few posts to relay, and I’ll be sprinkling them in between now and spring.

To start out with, the Grand Tour came to be the term used for a trip a young man took to complete his education in the nineteenth century, sort of the senior road trip some take today. Only this trip took considerably more than roads to accomplish!

The general purpose of the Grand Tour was exposure. By traveling to foreign climes, the young man would see art, architecture, manners, customs, and cultures different from his own and come back better informed and better able to take part in his own society. The young men were generally gentry or aristocrats, and most often British, although youths from Northern European countries sometimes traveled as well, and there are accounts of Americans and South Americans joining the party.
On your trip, you were expected to view the other cultures, partake only to a certain extent that was proper, and somehow memorialize your impressions, whether through painting, writing a journal, or carting home representative books, artwork, or tokens that would then be displayed with pride the resulting years of your life.

So how did one go about preparing for a Grand Tour? I imagine there was a lot of dreaming involved, discussions with fathers, uncles, and older friends who had gone. Then, as you were finishing Oxford, say, and were between 17 and 20 years of ago, your family would look for a suitable guide to escort you. This guide would be a gentleman of some learning or pretension to the arts who could serve as companion, chaperone, and bodyguard. This paragon came to be called a bear-leader. Your parents paid the bear-leader to take you on your tour and ensure you had an educational, enjoyable, and not too enthusiastic time and that you came home safely, mind expanded, all limbs still intact. If you were wealthy enough, you had your own guide; otherwise you might share with one or two other young men.

The Grand Tour could take several months, or several years, depending on the itinerary and your family’s wealth and willingness to have you away from home. The most common itinerary included time in France (when Britain was not at war with it), Switzerland, and Italy (Rome, Venice, Naples), but might extend to the German States, Spain (when it was not at war), and Greece (if you weren’t afraid to brave the Ottoman Empire). As the nineteenth century wore on, and train travel became more available, more people began to take their own Grand Tours, whether young men from mercantile families or even well-chaperoned young ladies.

So, your families had the good sense to hire you two ladies with reasonable credentials and some experience with literature (cough, cough, Regina and Marissa). Think about where you’d like to go on your Grand Tour, ladies, and perhaps we can plot out an itinerary for the next few months.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Off Topic: Field Trip!

I'm taking a break this Tuesday from our usual historical fare because I've got something wicked neat to show you...so if you don't mind...

The weekend before this past one the Doyle family took a road trip to western New York to visit Doyle Child #1 at his college on lovely Seneca Lake, one of the famed Finger Lakes. In addition to our usual activities when we're out there, like visiting wineries like Hermann J. Weimer and Red Tail Ridge--it's fascinating to see the hillsides covered with grapevines and have a chance to chat with the chief winemaker while he's sorting late-harvest riesling grapes for a special dessert wine...and buying the world’s best cider and juices at Red Jacket Orchard--we paid a visit to the town at the very bottom (southern) end of the lake, Watkins Glen, to visit the amazing Watkins Glen State Park.

Have I ever mentioned that we’re geology buffs? Well, Watkins Glen State Park was sheer heaven…but you don’t have to be interested in rocks to appreciate what a beautiful place it is!

So here's the background story. A pretty huge part of New York state was, for millions of years in the Paleozoic Era, at the bottom of the ocean. Which means that the rock that we see there now is made up of former ocean bottom sediment, layers of siltstone and shale and other sedimentary rocks hundreds of feet thick and hundreds of millions of years old. If you've ever driven down Interstate 90/the New York Throughway, you've seen it by the sides of the road and in the deep road cuts--it's pretty interesting rock!

Seneca and the other Finger Lakes of New York are more recent in origin--they were left behind after the retreat of the last glacier about ten thousand years ago. Now what does water generally do? Run downhill, of course. For the last ten thousand years, Glen Creek has been flowing downhill toward Seneca Lake, and in the process, it's worn down through all those ancient layers of shale and siltstone, to create the amazing gorge of Watkins Glen.

Even the parking lot is cool--the 200 ft. cliffs here gave us a hint of what was to come: And almost immediately, you meet the first waterfall. There are 19 of them all together: There were stairs...lots of stairs. But that was neat, because it meant that sometimes you were up high near the top of the gorge, and at others, down at water level, giving you both perspectives.

Walking behind waterfalls...very cool! Doyle Child #2 thought so, anyway:Eddies in the creek have carved circular potholes in the riverbed. That's looking straight down about 70 feet up on a bridge crossing the gorge: And it just gets cooler...
And cooler:
And cooler: And cooler still (that's another waterfall, Rainbow Falls, that you can walk behind--it flows right off the top of the gorge): We loved it and will certainly be going back in the spring--if you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it! Now, how could I work this place into a story some day...?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apologies and Second Chances

I woke up in the middle of the night with the realization that I'd forgotten something important. I promised you a second chance to win a signed copy of An Honorable Gentleman! My apologies for completely overlooking that on Friday's post. Please put my lapse down to publication giddiness.

Anyone who comments on Friday's post or this one by midnight West Coast US time on Thursday, November 17, will be entered into a drawing for a copy. I will announce the winner next Friday, the 18th.

In the meantime, please enjoy the book's trailer. You're well aware of the story by now, but I hope you enjoy the pictures (many from old postcards of the Lake District) and the music.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Introducing Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam of Blackcliff

Thank you all for your kind words! An Honorable Gentleman is actually my twentieth book, and the excitement of knowing it’s out in the wild, where anyone might pick it up and read it, is still heady. I appreciate those of you who hazarded a guess in the contest. The winner of the autographed copy is Rose De Guzman who correctly guessed (ahead of Beebs) that I had intended William IV, Duke of Clarence, to be the man who had fathered Sir Trevor. Rose, please send me your mailing info at reginascott@owt.com. Just think. If Trevor had been legitimate, he would have been King of England instead of Victoria! I wonder what the Trevorian era would have been like. :-)

So, in honor of the man who would never be king, today I’d like to ask my heroine, Gwendolyn Allbridge, to interview Sir Trevor for us. Gwen is the daughter of the estate steward at Blackcliff Hall, and she’s actually running the place.

Gwen: Sh! You aren’t supposed to tell my father or Sir Trevor. They think they’re in charge.

Nineteenteen: Ah, of course. Sorry. Ahem, Miss Allbridge, apprentice midwife and helpful young lady . . .

Gwen: Much better.

Nineteenteen: Is here today to introduce us to Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam of Blackcliff. Take it away, Gwen.

Gwen: Thank you. As you may know, Sir Trevor recently took on ownership of the Blackcliff estate when he was awarded his baronetcy for services to the Crown. Would you care to elaborate, Sir Trevor?

Trevor: It was an administrative matter. Nothing of consequence.

Gwen: Important enough to earn you a baronetcy and the finest estate in Cumberland.

Trevor: I’m afraid I must disagree, my dear, on several points. I solved a problem for a titled fellow, and he saw fit to recommend me to the king for elevation. And I’d hardly call Blackcliff the finest estate in Cumberland or any other part of England. The house and outbuildings are decaying, the mine that paid for them is closed up, and there’s not enough land to sustain any other sort of agriculture. In truth, it’s a sad disappointment.

Gwen: Well, it will be the finest, when you’re done improving it, I’m certain. And do not give me that eye, sir. I know you will be the salvation for this place. The villagers already look up to you.

Trevor: They look up to you, and I can see why. I’ve never met a woman with more energy and drive. You concoct potions that cure illnesses, you managed an army of volunteers to clean this cavernous house from the schoolroom to the scullery, and somehow you find time to cook for your father, sew your own clothes, and train your guard dog.

Gwen: Oh, yes, Dolly. Isn’t she a dear?

Trevor: She is the largest mastiff I’ve ever seen, and any man with an ounce of sense would run at first sight. I don’t know how you manage her or half the other things you do. Frankly, madam, you exhaust me.

Gwen, dimpling: Why, Sir Trevor, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.

Trevor: You have obviously been associating with the wrong sort of fellow. You make me wish . . .

Gwen, breathlessly: What?

Trevor, quietly: That I was an honorable gentleman.

Nineteenteen: Ahem, well, I think we'll all just slip out now.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Who's Your Daddy?

Surprise! It’s Regina posting today. I’m being a blog hog this week because today marks the official release of An Honorable Gentleman. As we always do when Marissa or I have a new book out, we’re going to dedicate this week to celebrating. Today starts with a prize offering: a signed copy of An Honorable Gentleman. Read on, and I’ll tell you how you can be entered into the drawing.

You see, my hero in this book, Sir Trevor Fitzwilliam, has had a rough upbringing. His father and mother weren’t married to each other. Being raised without a dad can be tough on any kid, but in the early nineteenth century in England it was particularly hard. Back then, the rules of primogeniture, as they were called, still held firm. That meant, in most cases, the oldest legitimate boy of the family inherited everything. No splitting down the middle, no shares for younger brothers, and nothing for girls.

Oh, there were certainly exceptions. Fathers and mothers could leave certain pieces of property or small bequests to their children in their wills. The only legitimate child who was a daughter might receive enough to be considered an heiress. But the bulk of all titles and lands went to that oldest son, of the first marriage. No father could play favorites (“I like your brother Parsimmon better, so he gets to be the earl.”) or disown a son he found less than respectable (“You don’t deserve to be earl, so I’m giving it to your cousin Englebert.”)

Sometimes fathers would at least acknowledge the son they’d had out of wedlock, giving the child money for schooling or helping him become a secretary to a rising politician or land steward, something gentlemanly even if he wasn’t exactly a gentleman. Fathers might also help daughters born out of wedlock make suitable marriages, offering a dowry or connections. Other times, fathers never let on they even knew the girl or boy, leaving the girls to fend for themselves and the lads wondering how they might become honorable gentlemen.

That’s the case with Sir Trevor. His father won’t publically admit that Trevor is his son. In fact, the father’s name is never mentioned in the book. But I’ve put in some clues as to who his father MIGHT be.

So, here’s the deal. The first person who correctly guesses the real-life historical figure who might be Trevor’s father, without giving away how she/he figured it out, will win an autographed copy. Just post the name in your comment. I’ll reveal all on Friday, when I’ll give you another chance to win. Here are your clues:
  • Trevor’s last name is Fitzwilliam, which is not his father’s or mother’s last name.

  • His father was a Navy captain at one time.

  • His father is connected with the reigning family in 1815.

  • His father had a tendency to fall in love with actresses, from an early age.

Let the guessing begin.

Friday, November 4, 2011

And Then There's the King's Herbwoman

Isn’t that a wonderful title for a position? I ran across it this week when I was looking for inspiration for this blog post. (Ah, research! Lovely, lovely research!) Brings to mind a mystical lady hunched over her cauldron, pinch of this, bit of that, Poof! But that’s not what an herbwoman did, particularly not the King’s Herbwoman.

When George IV was coronated on July 19, 1821, hundreds took part in the procession: Knights of the Garter, Knights of the Bath, the privy councillor, 52 barons, untold other title holders, and even the Honorable Band of Gentleman Pensioners. And who led this procession of dignitaries? Who was so important to actually go first? The heralds with their trumpets? The Home Guards?

No. The King’s Herbwoman and her teenage herbstrewers.

The post of King’s Herbwoman had been hereditary since it began during the the coronation of Charles I in 1625. At that time, people believed that scenting the air with herbs would prevent them from contracting the Plague and any number of other contagious diseases. In 1821, the post apparently belonged to a Mary Raymer, but there was a lot of campaigning by ladies of fashion to oust her for one of their own. The winner was 50-year-old Miss Fellowes, a statuesque brunette, the sister of the secretary to the Lord Chamberlain. Apparently Prinny had promised her the part some time ago. We shall not speculate on how that came about.

In any event, Miss Fellowes led the procession, sprinkling flowers from a small basket at her side, all along the way from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. According to accounts she was dressed in white satin with a scarlet mantle trimmed in gold lace. She wore a laurel and oak wreath on her head and a medallion and chain around her neck, the symbol of her office. She hand-picked her attendants: six young ladies, all around seventeen years of age, who were her herbstrewers. The misses Garth, Collier, Ramsbottom, Hill, Daniel, and Walker walked in pairs, each pair carrying a larger basket of flowers. This is one of their gowns, on display at the Royal Pavilion Art Gallery and Museum in Brighton. According to accounts, it’s ivory cotton gauze over silk. Missing is the high ruffed collar they all wore.

Can you imagine the excitement? You’re seventeen years old, and you get to lead the procession to the King’s coronation through the streets. Of all the young ladies making their debuts this Season, the King’s Herbwoman picks you. I think I shall swoon!

These young ladies, however, was among the last herbstrewers, and poor Mary Raymer never did get a chance to hold the post she’d inherited. William the IV limited the expenses at his coronation and did away with the office. It has never been revived.

Okay. That’s my goal. When it comes time for Charles or William to take the throne, I want to be his herbwoman. Anyone up for being an herbstrewer?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Butler Did It

This is another in our occasional series on servants young ladies of the upper classes would have encountered in the 19th century. We have already discussed ladies’ maids here and governesses here and here.

So what did the butler do?

Perhaps a better question might be, what didn’t the butler do?

In a 19th century household, the butler was often the chief of staff. In extremely grand and important families, especially where several houses were owned, there might be a house steward or comptroller whose job it was to supervise all household staff including hiring and firing and take care of all household accounting. But in an average wealthy or upper middle class household, the chief servant was probably the butler.

Looking back in history, the butler’s job revolved around the keeping of the household’s beverage supply and dishware, and in the 19th century, these would still be among his jobs. It was up to the butler to maintain the household wine cellars (including beer, ale, and other spirits, as well as the wine) and choose and serve wines for the family table…no small job, when you think about the quantities and sheer number of different wines that were served at meals as well as the fact that wine was purchased by the barrel or pipe and had to be decanted into bottles and properly recorded and stored in the correct part of the cellar for its type. Some butlers might actually be brewmasters as well, and brew the household’s beer, ale, or cider. Needless to say, alcoholism was considered to be an occupational hazard of butlery! The butler also oversaw the household plate: it was his job to keep any silver (or gold!) gleaming when in use, and safely stored under lock and key when it wasn’t.

The duties of a butler, as laid out in the fascinating book The Complete Servant, published in 1825 by Samuel and Sarah Adams, a married butler and housekeeper, were quite specific: he aided in the setting of tables, supervising the under-butler and footmen in laying out dishes and utensils, and remained in the dining room during meals with footman or two or three to assist in serving food and wine, direct clearing of the table between courses, and assist in any way needed. He also would bring tea trays in at tea time and hand round cups…and it was his job to make sure there were sufficient candles in each room where needed.

But the butler was also, as the Adamses state, “supposed….to represent his master”, which meant he also might be occupied in hiring and firing lower servants, keeping accounts and paying household bills apart from those which fell under the housekeeper’s purview, and generally keeping the household in order in addition to his wine and serving duties. Supervision of all male indoor servants (under-butlers, footmen, “boys”, and porters) was generally up to the butler, if the household did not have a comptroller. He was where the buck stopped; a good butler who could keep a household running smoothly would be treasured by his employers, and be more or less assured of a job for life, with a good pension when he retired. Butlers often rose through the ranks to achieve their positions: they started out at an early age "in service" first as boot boys or pages, then progressed to footman, then first footman or under-butler, where, if they wanted to, they could train specifically in a butler's duties.

Because of his responsible position, a butler could earn as much as ₤50-80 per year, according to The Complete Servant—not a bad salary in 1825. Just as ladies’ maids could supplement their salaries with the cast-off clothing of their mistresses, butlers could supplement theirs by selling candle ends (Yes, really! Beeswax candles were very expensive)…and a great many must have received nice tips from the wine-merchants and other tradesmen they dealt with.

So that's what the butler did.

One thing the butler didn't do was draw a winner for a signed copy of Jennifer Bradbury's Wrapped from among last week's commenters...instead, that happy duty falls to me. And the winner is...Lynn Lovegreen! Lynn, please send me your mailing address via the contact form on my website so we can get your book sent out to you.