On Paula Lofting’s blog, “The Road To HAastings And Other Stories, author Lynn Bryant discusses her new release THIS BLIGHTED EXPEDITION.
Today, I’m posting on the English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog…
Diaries and sketchbooks fascinate me, especially those of women. Many of my favourites happen to have been drawn or written by English women in earlier times. The ability to depict one’s daily life in a way that is clear and entertaining to a third party, whether in art or in writing, is a real talent. (My own efforts tend to read more like the essay read in Cheech and Chong’s “Sister Mary Elephant”.) One cannot always assume that a diary written by a woman, especially a young, unmarried woman living with her parents or guardian, expressed her true feeling or opinions as her diary may not have been private. However, the details of one’s daily activities and the people with whom time was spent can give the viewer an idea of how life was lived on an intimate level. I’d like to introduce three of my personal favourites.
To read more, please visit the English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog HERE
Continue reading “Women’s Lives Recorded in Sketchbooks and Diaries”
On Friday, June 28, my friend Prue Batten released a new book. This book, PASSAGE, is a departure for her: this one is contemporary fiction. A gifted writer, she is already well-known for her historical fiction series, THE TRIPTYCH CHRONICLES (3 volumes), and THE GISBOURNE SAGA (3 volumes), as well as her wonderful fantasy series THE CHRONICLES OF EIRIE (4 volumes), and a delightful children’s book WOMBAT. PASSAGE is already receiving acclaim. Today, she is visiting my blog to talk about what inspired this new direction.
The Inspiration for Passage by Prue Batten
I never intended to write a contemporary fiction.
But it is a genre I’ve always enjoyed reading – authors of the calibre of Rosamunde Pilcher and Alexandra Raife in my earlier days and then Cathy Kelly, Joanne Harris, Maggie Christensen, Joanna Trollope, Jan Ruth, Maeve Binchy and others more recently.
The attraction of the genre is the way it deals with the human condition – no writer shies away from the tough or the tender.
So what was the motivation for me? Well, the oddest little thing really…
My last historical fiction, Michael, had been released and I was taking some time out, re-reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. In awe of her atmospheric and descriptive writing, I contrived a paragraph about a woman sitting in the sun, trying to give it the Pilcher style. Subsequently I copied and pasted it to my Facebook wall – just for fun.
But then, Juliet Marillier, globally loved writer of myth-based fantasy and also a fan of Rosamunde Pilcher, challenged me to write a contemporary fiction. More particularly, one with a woman in her later years as the protagonist.
I didn’t even think twice (Probably a bad idea. I’ve always been too impulsive.) and thought why not?
So Passage, in the first instance without a title, was born.
My protagonist became a woman on the cusp of her seventies who faces the worst moment of her life when her adored husband of fifty years has a traumatic farm accident. As the blurb indicates, Annie loses Alex and Passage becomes her journey from grievous loss to a gentler existence.
I was determined that it should not be a depressing novel and wanted there to be wry humour and comfort in the reading of this story and so Annie has a crazy little Jack Russell as her companion, along with a dry-witted and kind French woman who is completely Yang to Annie’s Yin.
In addition, Annie converses with her husband. Is she mad? Is he a spirit? Heavens’ knows.
But it comforts Annie and has the approval of her psychologist.
Writing the novel has enabled me to understand grief much more. I now realise that it has its own agenda, its own timeframe and that it can be bridged and that there can be life on the other side.
My dearest wish is that folk will travel with Annie with affection and enjoyment, knowing that grief has many forms and many faces but that all are ultimately bearable…
Thank you, Lauren for inviting me today.
If you would like to read Passage, here is the link. mybook.to/Passage
And if you want to find out more about Prue:
Lady Shelley, from a miniature by G. Sanders, in the possession of Spencer Shelley Esq.
Over on the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog, we meet Frances, Lady Shelley, a dear friend and correspondent of the Duke of Wellington.
Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, was known to enjoy women, particularly pretty, intelligent women. He was credited with many mistresses (whether or not true) and he had many women friends whose company he enjoyed. One of these women was Frances, Lady Shelley. Lady Shelley was a notable diarist.
Frances was born in June 16, 1787 at Preston, Lancashire. Her father was Thomas Winckley, and her mother was Jacintha Dalrymple Hesketh. Originally known as Janet or Jennet, Jacintha was the previously-widowed sister of the famous courtesan Grace Dalrymple Elliot, whose family had a connection to the Earl of Peterborough. Jacintha and Thomas were descended of Jacobite families and they married in 1785. Thomas was about 17 years older than Jacintha. Jacintha had children (5 daughters and a son) by her first husband. Apparently Thomas did not care for the Hesketh connection; only one of Lady Shelley’ half-siblings lived in the household with her and her parents, and they rarely met the Hesketh siblings. The household was not a particularly happy one; Thomas spent a lot of time with his cronies, drank heavily and liked to play pranks. Accounts indicate that Thomas was quite well off. Shortly after moving his family to Larkhill, Thomas died in 1794, leaving his widow, their daughter Frances and 2 illegitimate sons. Jacintha inherited the house and furniture; the residue of Thomas’ estate was left to Frances, who was 6 years old….
To read more, visit the English Historical Fiction Author’s blog HERE.
Illustration is a scan of the image in my personal copy of THE DIARY OF FRANCES LADY SHELLEY 1787-1817 Edited by her grandson Richard Edgcumbe. 1912: John Murray, London.
Sources are listed in the post on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog.
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
My enthusiasm for old cookbooks continuing unchecked, I was delighted when I ran across a reprint of Elizabeth Raffeld’s THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER, published in 1769. This book was researched by a gentleman named Roy Shipperton, who died before it was published. It was edited and brought to life by Ann Bagnell. Having written about Georgian era recipes before, I am no stranger to dishes that would be considered unusual by modern standards, such as ox palates (see an earlier blog here). I was intrigued to see that she included 3 recipes for ox palates. However, I was very interested to learn that she seemed particularly interested in cakes and flummery. In fact, she is known for producing the first written recipe for “Bride Cake”.
Her “Bride Cake” is a single layer and requires four pounds of flour, the same of butter, two pounds of sugar, mace and nutmeg, blended with thirty-two eggs. Being a fruitcake, significant quantities of currents, almonds, citron, candied orange and lemon are included, with a pint of brandy. Her directions are very clear on how to blend the butter, eggs and flour, and the process of pouring the batter over the fruits in layers into the pan. Once in the oven, the baking time is three hours. The icing is a two-layer icing, very similar to modern icing, for which the recipes are also included. I envision a very large cake indeed!
Flummery is a molded pudding made with cream, sugar, a gelatin and a starch. Elizabeth Raffald used ground almonds for the starch and calves’foot stock for the gelatin. Her instructions for preparation of the flummery, preparing the molds and for unmolding are very clear. She also included directions for coloring the pudding pink, yellow or green.
Elizabeth Raffald was a fascinating woman, about whom I have written a post that will appear on English Historical Fiction Authors’ Blog on Thursday, April 25 here. I hope you will watch for it!
Raffald, Elizabeth. THE EXPERIENCED ENGLISH HOUSEKEEPER with an introduction by Roy Shipperbottom, edited by Ann Bagnall. 1997: Southover Press, Lewes.
Image is a scan of my personal copy.
I enjoy cooking shows, and was a fan of the Two Fat Ladies. In series 2, Clarissa Dickson Wright made a salmon dish based on a recipe from Robert May’s cookbook. Her version of the recipe is included in THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN, written by Clarissa Dickson Wright and Jennifer Paterson. During the episode, Clarissa gave a little information about Mr. May which intrigued me. Since I also enjoy old cookbooks, when I ran across a facsimile of Mr. May’s work, I ordered it and it arrived today. I’ve learned that he was born in 1588. His father was cook for Lord and Lady Dormer, and taught Robert how to cook. Robert was sent to Paris by Lady Dormer, where he studied cookery for five years before returning to become cook in the Dormer’s kitchen under his father. After several years passed and Lady Dormer died, Robert went on to cook for other nobility. He died in 1664.
Mr. May’s cookbook, THE ACCOMPLISHT CHEF OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY was first published in 1660 in London. He was chef for noble households (primarily Catholic) during the reign of Charles I, the English Civil War and Parliamentary era, and into the reign of Charles II. In today’s terms, Mr. May was something of a celebrity chef. Robert’s cookbook is very large, and includes his own recipes (as well as some borrowed from others, to whom he apologized). I obtained a copy of the 5th edition published in 1685, which is pictured above. The cookbook was dedicated for the use of master cooks and young hopeful cooks. It addressed carving and serving, and contained bills of fare for each season and special days, The recipes were arranged in alphabetical order and the book contains a useful table of contents.
In perusing Robert May’s cookbook, I was able to find a recipe that I believe may be the one which inspired Clarissa Dickson Wright’s adaptation. (It must be said that hers, being geared for the modern cook, seems simpler to prepare as quantities are clear and it is designed for 4 people.) It involves cooking a thick cut of salmon from the middle of the fish in red wine with slices of orange, orange juice and spices and served with toast points. I have not yet attempted this dish, due (in part) to the logistics of acquiring the right cut of fish in my area. However, it sounds very different from other salmon recipes I’ve seen and I want to try it. It could be a delicious dish for a special occasion dinner. Robert May’s cookbook itself is another treasure, with its insight into another era.
May, Robert. THE ACOMMPLISHT COOK OR THE ART AND MYSTERY OF COOKERY. A facsimile of the 1685 with foreword, introduction and glossary supplied by Alan Davidson, Marcus Benn and Tom Jaine. 2012: Prospect Books, London. Reprinted 2018. (See recipe on page 232.)
Paterson, Jennifer and Dickson Wright, Clarissa. THE TWO FAT LADIES RIDE AGAIN. Clarkson Potter/Publishers, New York. Originally published in 1997 by Ebury Press in Great Britain. (See recipe on p. 39.)
Today on the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, we’re talking about Miss Marianne Skerrett, principal dresser and wardrobe woman to Queen Victoria.
In the television series VICTORIA, Mr. Francatelli had a relationship and married Nancy Skerrett, known as Mrs. Skerrett, who was the Queen’s dresser. She was a young woman with a sketchy past who tragically died young. In real life, Miss Marianne Skerrett rose to be the Queen’s principle dresser, and was with Queen Victoria for twenty-five years. You can see multiple images of Miss Skerrett on the Royal Collections Trust Website. One can be found HERE
To read more about here, visit the English Historical Fiction Authors blog 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
Wikipedia.com “Amburbium”. HERE
Illustrations from Wikimedia Commons:
Annals of the road : or, Notes on mail and stage coaching in Great Britain, 1876. HERE (No known copyright restrictions.)
Photograph of a candle – version without reflection, HERE (Public domain)