It’s 2023, and we’re ten days into the new year. I hope this is a better year for all. I’ve been working on the new book. The research has been, and is, fascinating. It’s also book festival season! Coming up is the Sunshine State Book Festival in Gainesville, FL.
The Orlando Reads Books Festival has come and gone. Useful information at the Industry Day Sessions, and the signing on Saturday was a success. Face masks and hand sanitizer were present, but nothing prevented readers from talking to authors and finding new reads. I really enjoyed it.
Who were Charles and Nancy Wollstonecraft? Charles was the youngest brother of Georgian era British author Mary Wollstonecraft’s (VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMEN and more) , and a major in the American Army during the War of 1812. Nancy (also known as Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft) was a little known American botanist and writer. I’ve posted an article about them on the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog HERE. You can see a page of Nancy’s recently discovered SPECIMENS OF THE PLANTS AND FRUITS OF THE ISLAND OF CUBA below. (The whole 3-volume work has been digitized and is well worth examining.)
Botanical illustration and description by Nancy Anne Kingsbury Wollstonecraft of the Cuban Blue Passion Flower, Vol. I, Pl. 25, ca. 1826
Image is from Wikimedia Commons (Public domain) HERE
Over on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, I wrote about one of my favorite characters on the series VICTORIA (season 3 now showing on PBS).
I have been enjoying the series Victoria on PBS. (It was so exciting that series 3 premiered in the U.S. BEFORE showing in the UK!) One character I particularly like is Mr. Francatelli, the chef in the palace. While it is true that Queen Victoria’s household did include a cook named Francatelli, there is a big difference between the way he is depicted in the television series and the known facts about him.
Charles Elme’ Francatelli is believed to have been born in London in 1805, to Nicholas and Sarah Francatelli. He actually grew up in France. He studied cooking at the Parisian College of Cooking, from which he received a diploma. He had the good fortune to study under the renowned chef Marie Antoine Careme (1784-1833), who served as chef de cuisine for the British Prince Regent (the future George IV) and was invited to Russia (although he left before cooking for the czar). When Francatelli returned to England, he cooked for various aristocratic households, until in late 1838 or early 1839, he went to work at Crockford’s. To read more, go HERE.
Everywhere I look, I see predictions of record cold, windchill, snow and ice. Even in Florida, it’s grey and overcast, rainy and damp. It’s been weeks since the Winter Solstice on December 21, and it seems forever until the Spring Solstice on March 20. However, a bright spot is coming…
On February 2, which is this Saturday, we will celebrate Candlemas. This holiday marks the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice. The Christian holiday celebrates the Purification of the Virgin Mary (a ritual of cleansing done 40 days after the birth of a child) which followed the Presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple. In celebration of this holiday, new candles are blessed and and set up in church. Blessed candles are distributed and processions carry them into the church. Ideally, the candles should be beeswax. As candles lightened the darkness in earlier times, they came to symbolize Jesus Christ as the light of the world, which is celebrated in this procession. People celebrate at home by putting candles in the windows.
A festival of lights, it is not surprising that aspects of Candlemas have its roots in earlier, pre-Christian times. Marking the mid-way point of winter when nights were still very long and very dark, people would light candles to frighten evil spirits away. The Romans also had a mid-winter festival which was called the Amburbium (or Amburbale), which involved a lighted procession around the city to purify it. (Their festival may have included sacrifices.)
Weather was a big concern in earlier times, specifically how much longer the cold would last, and had a bearing on the mid-winter celebration. It was not uncommon for bears or wolves to stir from their dens in mid-winter. If the animal returned, it meant the cold winter weather would continue for at least another forty days. (In the US, we celebrate Groundhog’s Day on February 2 as a variation of this tradition.)
However we celebrate, the coming of February 2 with its warm candlelight reminds us that winter is approaching its end and spring is coming.
SacredTexts.com Miles, Clement A. CHRISTMAS IN RITUAL AND TRADITION. (1912) Chapter XVI. “Epiphany to Candlemas.” HERE
Newadvent.org Catholic Encyclopedia. “Candlemas.” Kevin Knight Copyright (c) 2017. HERE
BBC.Co.UK RELIGIONS. “Candlemas.” Last updated 2009-06-16. HERE
ProjectBritain.com “Candlemas Day (the Christian festival of lights).” Mandy Barrow Copyright (c) 2013. HERE
In our travels in the United Kingdom, some wonderful friends took us on a day trip in the Cotswolds. We had never visited this part of the UK before, and found it to be even more charming than anticipated. One of the villages we visited that day was Bourton-on-the-Water. I wrote about it on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog. You can read about Bourton-on-the-Water HERE.
(Photo taken by Lauren Gilbert 2018)
Smuggling could be the effort of individuals seizing an opportunity, or a professional, large-scale planned venture. The majority of fines and penalties were, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, paid by the opportunists, who could come from any class-a desperate individual, a shop keeper willing to become part of a distribution chain, or a fashionable lady unable to resist the lure of hard-to-find fabrics or trimming. Professionals frequently had the backing of well-heeled sponsors and could afford to consider fines the cost of doing business. A new ship could be purchased after a few successful runs.
Smugglers brought in goods subject to tariffs and taxes-silk, lace, brandy, etc.-for sale. Import restrictions and blockades made certain goods hard to come by, and taxation was heavy on those goods that were available legally. Individuals in all classes would take advantage of a consignment filled by smugglers to avoid paying these heavy duties. Once a cargo was landed, it was brought overland in well-planned routes that made it almost impossible to know if an item was smuggled or legitimately obtained by the time it reached a market place.
All coastal areas were affected by smuggling, including the Scilly Isles, Kent (especially Romney Marsh), Cornwall, Sussex, and Whitby in Yorkshire. Some communities along the coast were in league with smugglers, with an entire community potentially dependent on smuggling, first to obtain goods not otherwise available to them, and then as participants in the landing, concealing and moving the goods. Foreign smugglers also contributed, such as the Dutch smugglers who brought gin and other goods into Whitby. Ultimately, smuggling was virtually a national industry, and involved numerous gangs, moving alcohol (gin, wine and brandy, among other beverages), tea, silk, lace, tobacco and other popular items. It is not impossible that the shops frequented by Jane Austen in London may have carried smuggled goods.
Smuggling went both ways during Napoleonic wars with refugees, goods and information moving into England, while escaped prisoners, money and information moved into France. In the last years of the war, Napoleon accommodated smugglers in Dunkirk and Gravelines, and encouraged them to make the trips back and forth. (Such a journey could be accomplished in 4 or 5 hours, weather and other conditions permitting.)
Politicians and the monarchy were acutely aware of a depleted treasury (war and the Prince Regent were both very costly), and worked hard to suppress smuggling. Taxes of course were no more popular in Jane Austen’s time than they are today. The wars drew away troops, leaving fewer available for the preventive service for much of the coast, although fears of a French invasion kept attention focused on the coastline, especially the south-east coast-it’s no coincidence that militia units were stationed in coastal areas such as Brighton (the possible deterrent to smugglers may have been as much a motive as a deterrent to invasion).
After Waterloo ended the war in 1815, there was an upsurge in smuggling due to men being released from military (especially from the navy) unable to find jobs. (A lack of excitement after wartime may have also been a factor.) However, it was reduced by the 1820’s due to activities of Customs, Preventives and Coast Guard. Smuggling methods had to adapt (contraband had to be concealed-hidden under a legitimate cargo or in clever hiding places). The Coast Blockade established on land on the east Kent coast 2 years after Waterloo consisted of land patrols that were an effective deterrent, in spite of clashes with smuggling gangs, and the temptations of bribery.
Adkins, Roy & Lesley. JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND. 2013: Viking, New York, NY.
Blue Anchor Corner. “A bullish attitude towards smuggling in the 18th century,” posted by Philip Atherton 12/11/2014. http://seasaltercross.com/2014/12/11/a-bullish-attitude-towards-smuggling-in-the-17th-and-18th-centuries
Border Force National Museum. Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 24. “History of Smuggling.” (PDF) Last revised May 2010. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/pdf/24-History-of-smuggling.pdf
English Historical Fiction Authors Blog. “The Lesser Known Smugglers of the North” by Nick Smith, posted 9/17/2014. http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-lesser-known-smugglers-of-north.html
Regency Reflections. “Smuggling in Regency England,” posted by Naomi Rawlings, 4/23/2012. http://christianregency.com/blog/2012/04/23/smuggling-in-regency-england
Smugglers’ Britain. “Britain’s Smuggling History Expansion…and Defeat.” (No author or posting date shown.) http://www.smuggling.co.uk/history_expansion.html
As I’m sure you know, I am a sucker for old books. I have in my hands a special treat, PLAYS OF SHERIDAN from the Library of English Classics. It is a single volume of the Plays of Richard Brinsley Sheridan published in 1920 by MacMillan and Co. Ltd. in London 1920. There is, of course, the obligatory biographical note, and then the richness… The Rivals, The Critic, my personal favorite The School for Scandal… There is of course more, but the secret pleasure is the volume itself. The dense paper, the half leather, half fabric binding, the hint of gilt. The spine has the gilding, the cartouches, the ribs – altogether, a luxurious volume that is as much a pleasure to hold as to see, never mind the treasures within. I have not taken a picture as yet. Somehow, I don’t think I can do it justice…
(This is a reblog of comments I made on Goodreads 9/20/2011 in their entirety.)
I think all of us are familiar with the Duke of Wellington, hero of India, the Peninsular Wars and the victor at the Battle of Waterloo. However, little acknowledgement is paid to his wife.
Her name was the Honorable Catherine Pakenham, known as “Kitty.” She was born in January 1772 in Ireland at Pakenham Hall, and was a distant connection by marriage of Arthur Wesley (before the family name was changed to Wellesley”, who was also in Ireland. Kitty was small, slender, with grey eyes, curly hair and a beautiful complexion. She was very high spirited, and stubborn, with a willingness to argue her point to exhaustion. She was very popular and had many admirers, including young Arthur. By all reports, Kitty was very kind and impulsively generous. She loved gossip, and could never keep a secret, which led to accidental exposure of information. She professed high principles, honesty, and high standards of behavior, and was not tolerant of others’ lapses.
Arthur Wesley’s courtship of Kitty began in 1790. He proposed twice: the first time in 1792, which was turned down by her family and again in 1794 which was also turned down. Kitty’s father lectured young Arthur on his need to improve himself and his prospects. Subsequently, young Arthur went into Parliament and subsequently back into the military. (One could wonder how much his disappointment over Kitty pushed him to make these moves.) He was away 12 years, during which period he had no direct contact with Kitty. She continued with her normal life at home, with at least one serious beau (his courtship came to nothing, because Kitty loved Arthur and was waiting for him).
Friends wrote to Arthur, particularly Olivia Sparrow, and he indicated that his feelings were unchanged and he still wanted to marry Kitty. Kitty was getting older, and becoming very nervous and anxious about the situation, especially wondering if Arthur would still want her when he saw how she’d changed. He returned to Ireland, this time successful and financially established, and, in October 1805, wrote to her brother for permission to marry Kitty. This time, Kitty’s family approved and they were married 4/10/1806. The lengthy settlement negotiations were not concluded until after their marriage, finally signed in August. After their marriage, he plunged straight back into his work, setting a pattern for their marriage in which she took a back seat to his career.
At this point, you have two people of completely different character, separated for 12 years, who have made a lifetime commitment after just a few months’ reacquaintance. Both had changed significantly: he was successful, confident and dominating. She had changed from a pretty, confident belle, to a 30-year old, somewhat spinsterish woman who was no longer sure of herself. Not surprisingly, Kitty felt neglected and complained to family and friends. As these reports circulated, they were used by Arthur’s political enemies, the Whigs, in attacks on him. This lack of discretion and its results in turn aggravated him and made him doubt her loyalty.
In 1806, Kitty was pregnant with their first child, and spent most of her time without Arthur, who was preoccupied with his work. He did write, but was very emphatic about expenses and the need for control. Kitty was not forthcoming about bills and costs, and her lack of honesty and control over household expenditures angered him. Since Kitty had impressed him with her strength of character and principles as a very young girl, whom he had idealised, it was difficult for him to recognize and accept the reality of the woman he married. (It must be said that the Arthur Kitty had loved for so long was a younger, less confident man, without the experience and success of the rather stern and authocratic man who returned to her. She was nervous of and afraid to confront him.)
Their personal communication was also difficult. Arthur was accustomed to the society of military men. Kitty had remained in her normal family and social life. He was no longer accustomed to chat, discussions of social activities or family trivia. She was unable to join in the conversation when his military or political colleagues came to call. In short, they had little to talk about together.
Their first son, Arthur, was born 2/3/1807. At the time of the child’s birth, Arthur was away hunting. Letters from him during this time make no mention of the child. Arthur was appointed to a political post in Ireland, and went ahead, leaving Kitty and their child in London. They finally joined him in May of 1807. She became pregnant again in 1807. Arthur spent a great deal of time socializing and hunting without her. Their second son was born in January of 1808. Somewhere during this period, Kitty apparently loaned her brother Henry a significant sum of money from the housekeeping funds, which resulted in bills not being paid.
In the spring of 1808, Arthur was in London. He was promoted to lieutenant-general, and it was nearly certain he would command an expedition to Portugal. In a letter written to the Duke of Richmond June 4th, he specifically states that the subject should not be mention to Kitty until things were positive. This is significant, as it shows a pattern he established, of not telling Kitty anything until the last possible moment, to avoid gossip, discussion and argument. He went in July 1808, had a victory at Vimeiro, and was recalled to England. He returned to Ireland at the end of October 1808, and spent the rest of the year deeply engrossed in plans and work.
In late January 1809, they were closing the house in Ireland to move back to England permanently, and Arthur insisted all of the bills be paid. At this point, the truth came out and Kitty had to explain and provide detailed accounts. Ultimately, Kitty’s deception and Arthur’s discovery of it put the final seal on his disillusionment. Her concealment of the situation and poor excuses demonstrated a lack of moral courage that was completely foreign to him, and showed him that she was not the person he had thought he had married. He never trusted her again.
In the spring of 1809, Arthur left for Portugal and the Peninsular Wars, and did not return for five years. He forbade her to take the children to Ireland. He did write, but told her very little, and nothing of signficance. She angered him again by requesting information from other people, which he felt implied his inadequate attention and he considered disloyal. Her life was very routine and dull: taking care of her sons, and other children, sewing, making shoes (a hobby she took up), reading extensively, music and so forth. She became very bored and depressed. Her household accounts were a nightmare for her-she was kind-hearted and easily imposed upon. His military discipline caused Arthur to view her inadequacy in this respect as a serious offense whenever money problems arose. Kitty was not shy, and did enjoy social life, but she did not enjoy public functions and avoided them-she was married to a famous hero who never took leave to come home and seldom wrote; how could she answer questions about him, when she had no information unless she read something about him in a newspaper?
It is important to note that, while he was away, Arthur was not faithful to Kitty, supposedly from shortly after their marriage. He was very sociable, enjoyed hunting, parties and so forth, and he liked women. He was the subject of a great deal of gossip. (Just two of his escapdes: involvement with the famous courtesan Harriette Wilson in London, and in Brussels at the time of Waterloo,rumors about him and Lady Frances Webster Wedderborn.) Kitty made it a rule never to believe any gossip or negative reports against him, and maintained this her whole life.
Arthur finally returned to England 6/23/1814 as the Duke of Wellington, and took her to Paris with him as ambassadress, but never reposed trust or confidence in her. It is very ironic as Arthur was known as a kind and loyal man, quick to anger but quick to get over it; however, he was completely unforgiving of his wife. Kitty, for her part, never learned either; she ran into debt, and concealed her debts by borrowing. She occupied herself with raising her children, and other children of family members, and spending time with family and friends. She tried please Arthur and to build some kind of home with him. Her later years were spent at their house in Hampshire, at times in isolation. Kitty died in 1831.
Arthur never got over his disappointment in her. He seemed to feel that his marriage to her was a weakness or personal failure, which he just could not accept. In later years, he blamed his marriage on the undue influence of others.
There is information on line about Kitty Wellesley, Duchess of Wellington. A detailed work about her is A SOLDIER’S WIFE: WELLINGTON’S MARRIAGE, by Joan Wilson (1987: George Weidenfeld & Nicholas Ltd, London), from which I got a lot of information for this post.
Original Goodreads post: https://www.goodreads.com/comment/index/86909608
Image from Wikimedia Commons
My giveaway is now closed. A winner will be drawn and contacted. Good luck to all who left a comment. Watch this space for an announcement of the winner!
CASTLES, CUSTOMS, AND KINGS True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors was released last week on Monday, 9/23/13 (the second anniversary of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog). It’s a great book, and I’m very proud to be a part of it! Please take a look at it. You can see it here on Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-Historical-ebook/dp/B00FCEJ10Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1380747176&sr=1-1&keywords=castles+customs+and+kings+true+tales+by+english+historical+fiction+authors ) where it is available in print and Kindle formats. Don’t miss it!