St. Agnes Eve, a Plot Point in “A Dance with Mr. Darcy” + Excerpt

A major turning point in my latest Austen-inspired vagary, A Dance with Mr. Darcy, comes when Lydia convinces Elizabeth to join in the St  Agnes Eve festivities.

 But who was St Agnes? And why would we still celebrate her? Meredith Ringel in a 2004 piece says, “The Theme of ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ in the Pre-Raphaelite Movement,” explains, “On the twenty-first of January in what is customarily believed to be the year 304 A.D., a thirteen-year-old Christian girl, Agnes of Rome, was martyred when she refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods and lose her virginity by rape. She was tortured, and though several men offered themselves to her in marriage, either in lust or in pity, she still refused to surrender her virginity, claiming that Christ was her only husband. She was either beheaded and burned or stabbed (sources vary), and buried beside the Via Nomentata in Rome. She became the patron saint of virgins, betrothed couples, and chastity in general, and iconographers almost always represent her with a lamb, which signifies her virginity. The eve of her feast day, January 20th, became in European folklore a day when girls could practice certain divinatory rituals before they went to bed in order to see their future husbands in their dreams. Fifteen hundred years after her death, St. Agnes’ Eve would translate itself into one of the richest and most vivid literary and artistic themes in historys.

“Of all the works, artistic or literary, that use the subject of St. Agnes’ Eve as its basis, John Keats’s narrative poem ‘The Eve of St. Agnes’ written in 1819 is undoubtedly the most famous. There appears to be only one other poem that also uses this theme, which is Alfred Lord Tennyson’s much shorter ‘St. Agnes’ Eve,’ first published in 1837. Within the realm of painting however, six well-known Victorian artists chose to depict scenes from the poems, and five illustrated versions of Keats’s poem have been published using the drawings of five different illustrators, who, again, lived in the Victorian era or the early twentieth century. Of the paintings, two were painted by members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, from  William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, and one by a Pre-Raphaelite Associate, Arthur Hughes.” 

The Catholic version of the St Agnes’s tale varies somewhat. “When she was 12 or 13, the beautiful Agnes of Rome became the object of a rich young man’s devotions. His parents — his father being the prefect of Rome — offered her riches if she would make a match with their son, but Agnes had already decided to consecrate herself to Jesus. The Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, attributes to her these beautiful words:

Go from me thou fardel of sin, nourishing of evils and morsel of death, and depart, and know thou that I am prevented and am loved of another Lover, Which hath given to me many better jewels, Which hath fianced me by His faith, and is much more noble of lineage than thou art, and of estate. He hath clad me with precious stones and with jewels of gold, He hath set in my visage a sign that I receive none other espouse but Him, and hath showed me over-great treasures which He must give me if I abide with Him.

“I will have none other spouse but Him, I will seek none other. In no manner may I leave Him, with Him am I firm and fastened in love, which is more noble, more puissant and fairer than any other, Whose love is much sweet and gracious, of Whom the chamber is now for to receive me where the virgins sing merrily. I am now embraced of Him of Whom the mother is a virgin, and His father knew never woman, to Whom the angels serve. The sun and the moon marvel them of His beauty, Whose works never fail, Whose riches never minish, by Whose odour dead men rise again to life, by Whose touching the sick men be comforted, Whose love is chastity.

“To Him I have given my faith, to Him I have commanded my heart; when I love Him then am I chaste, and when I touch Him then am I pure and clean, and when I take Him then am I a virgin. This is the love of my God.

She was threatened to be exposed as a Christian, but still refused, whereupon she was, indeed exposed and ordered to choose between sacrificing to pagan gods or being thrown into a brothel. She refused to be taken to a Roman temple to Minerva (Athena), so was stripped naked and thrown into the brothel, where the men who visited were stricken in their hearts and couldn’t bear to look upon her. All, it is said, but one man — the prefect’s son. He mocked the more sensitive men, pushed his way into the brothel, and was struck blind when he tried to look at her. In any case, her modesty was kept intact by her long hair (legendary accounts have it that an angel came to bring her a white robe to cover herself).

“The Golden Legend says that the prefect heard what happened to his son and ran to the brothel, accusing Agnes of cruelty and enchantment, whereupon she raised the young man from the dead. He then wanted to let Agnes go, but fearing being banished, put a lieutenant in his place who first tried to kill Agnes by a fire which didn’t harm her, and then ended up killing her with a sword.

“No matter the exact circumstances of her death, her remains were laid in a tomb on the Via Nomentana, and Constantine built a basilica there at the insistence of his daughter, Constantina, who was buried next to her in a separate mausoleum in A.D. 354 (Pope Honorius — A.D. 625-638 — later remodelled the shrine). It is said in the Golden Legend that when her parents and friends were visiting her tomb one night,

“They saw a great multitude of virgins clad in vestments of gold and silver, and a great light shone tofore them, and on the right side was a lamb more white than snow, and saw also St. Agnes among the virgins which said to her parents: Take heed and see that ye bewail me no more as dead, but be ye joyful with me, for with all these virgins Jesu Christ hath given me most brightest habitation and dwelling, and am with him joined in heaven whom in earth I loved with all my thought. And this was the eighth day after her passion.

It is surprising that the medieval Catholic fast on the eve of her feast, and prayers seeking her intercession, should survive, even in a mangled form, into Protestant England. But in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Durham, little rites, such as the herbs in shoes continued to be acted out, well into the late 19th century.


Now that you know more of St Agnes, enjoy this scene from A Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary.

A Dance With Mr Darcy copy.jpgA Dance with Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary 

The reason fairy tales end with a wedding is no one wishes to view what happens next.

Five years earlier, Darcy had raced to Hertfordshire to soothe Elizabeth Bennet’s qualms after Lady Catherine’s venomous attack, but a devastating carriage accident left him near death for months and cost him his chance at happiness with the lady. Now, they meet again upon the Scottish side of the border, but can they forgive all that has transpired in those years? They are widow and widower; however, that does not mean they can take up where they left off. They are damaged people, and healing is not an easy path. To know happiness they must fall in love with the same person all over again.


“I cannot believe you convinced me that this is wise,” Elizabeth grumbled as Lydia tugged her along the dark path. “I should be in my bed. Resting. Tomorrow will be another busy day.”

“I think it is exciting,” Lydia professed, as she half skipped along the path like some school girl. “Why did we never participate in something this adventurous when we were in Hertfordshire?”

Elizabeth rolled her eyes in amusement. “Likely because Vicar Williamson would first have an apoplexy and then have shown up to drive us to our homes with a switch in one hand and a silver cross in the other.”

“Mr. Williamson might not have approved, but I imagine Mama would have,” Lydia countered.

Elizabeth laughed, the first time she had done so since Mr. Darcy’s withdrawal. “I hold no doubt Mrs. Bennet would have turned this ritual into a grand affair.”

The path widened, and she was surprised to find more than a dozen girls waiting along the edge of a roughly turned field. “My goodness,” she whispered to Lydia. “I did not expect so many would participate.”

Clara clung close to Elizabeth’s side. “Not be enough men in the area, ma’am, that not be spoken for. We’s got to do what we kin.”

“I suppose,” Elizabeth allowed. Looking about her, she recognized many women she encountered on a regular basis: the daughters of shopkeepers and farmers, widows, and spinsters.

“It is almost midnight,” Mrs. Schiff called. “If you did not bring grain with you, Mr. Keener left a sack sitting by the elm tree. Claim what you need and join me at the field’s edge. Hurry, ladies.”

Despite her earlier feeling of acting the role of fool, Elizabeth could not help but to be caught up in the enthusiasm. It felt wonderful to be away from the responsibilities of the inn for a few minutes. Mr. Darcy had purchased Mr. Charles’s services for a month, and so she knew the inn would not suffer in her absences. As Mr. Darcy had provided the man a half year’s wages, Mr. Charles made the effort to please.

She scrambled to claim two fistfuls of grain to wrap in a handkerchief she carried specifically for that particular purpose. Laughing, she jostled with two of the village girls before the bag. With her share wrapped tightly in the cloth, she joined the other women.

Mrs. Schiff instructed, “Line up at arm’s length apart. Leave your lanterns here to guide your return.”

Elizabeth took up a position beside the Widow Schiff, who was likely fifty in years. When Lydia had insisted that Elizabeth attend tonight, she had assumed she would be the eldest in the group, but there was a mix of young girls just coming into their womanhood and women in full bloom. The others women followed Mrs. Schiff’s orders. Elizabeth noted that Lydia was further along the line, as were Clara and the other two girls employed by the inn.

Mrs. Schiff’s voice silenced the chatter. “Do not permit the grain to fall too quickly from your fingers. We are planting the roots of love. One handful of the seeds to cross the field and the one handful on our return to these spots. Everyone knows the chant?”

Elizabeth did not, but she was a quick learner. With giddy anticipation, she gathered a handful of the grain. Mr. Keener’s field would receive an early planting.

“Drop the seed before you step upon it to drive it into the loose dirt,” Mrs. Schiff instructed. “We must plant the seeds on St. Agnes Eve, which means by midnight. Only then can the blessed saint send us the men we deserve. That being said, we should begin.” The Widow Schiff squared her shoulders and stepped forward.

Elizabeth followed, concentrating on dropping the seeds. Around her a chorus of voices took up the required chant:

Agnes sweet and Agnes fair,

hither, hither, now repair;

Bonny Agnes, let me see

the lad who is to marry me.

Elizabeth smiled at the chant’s simplicity, but soon she too was saying the lines as she dropped the seeds and firmly stepped on each. Reaching the other side of the field, she turned to match her steps to those of Mrs. Schiff and girl upon her left. She could hear Lydia giggling, but Elizabeth ignored the urge to join her sister’s merriment; instead, she embraced the idea that a young Christian girl from 4th century Rome could be the answer to her prayers. She knew she would absolutely dream of Mr. Darcy, as she had done every night since she realized he was the man who would most suit her in temperament. With each step, she became more convinced that this girlish ritual was God’s way of telling her what she already knew: Happiness is not finding the right person, but being the right person. Her life had not ended with her marriage to Forde McCaffney, but rather she had found completeness. She had fulfilled her purpose, which was to save her family. Although she did not require Mr. Darcy to complete her, she desired the man above all others. In Genesis the scriptures said, Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. But the halves did not equal the whole, which is what Mr. Darcy meant in his speech regarding his half life. If a person enters a marriage as a “half,” then the marriage will be doomed.

Upon their return to the inn after the planting of “seeds of love,” Clara reminded their group, “Do not forget to add a sprig of rosemary to yer shoes and place them on either side of the head of yer bed.”

Lydia still danced along the road ahead of them. “I left rosemary on the kitchen table for each of us,” she announced with glee.

Elizabeth caught her sister’s hand and tugged Lydia closer. “So long as you did not also leave dumb cake upon the table for us to consume, I will be happy to claim my warm bed marked by rosemary-filled shoes,” she teased.

Lydia shivered in disgust. “Even to know my true love, I would not eat dumb cake.”

Elizabeth slid her arm around her sister’s shoulders. “It is excellent that Mrs. Bennet knew nothing of dumb cake, or she would have fed it to us yearly.” Her words were laced with amusement.

“Oooh!” Lydia pretended to gag. “We should send her the receipt. Perhaps Kitty requires a bit of St. Agnes’s kindness to know a gentleman’s regard.”

“If you tell Mama to bake a cake of equal parts flour, salt, and Kitty’s bodily waste, our sister will walk from Hertfordshire to Scotland, if need be, to exact her revenge.”

Lydia sobered in reflection. “It might be worth the trouble just to see Kitty again. I sorely miss her and Jane and Papa and Mama, and even Mary.”

Elizabeth understood perfectly. “It is a shame we have yet to view Jane’s children or to take the acquaintance of Mary’s young man. There was a time I thought never to leave Longbourn, and now we have been gone some five years. It would be wonderful to return to those innocent days when the worst to happen to us was a spat with another sister over a ribbon.”

Lydia slid her arm about Elizabeth’s waist so they could more easily match their strides. “I would like to be aware of my choices if we could return to the past. I cannot help but think that if I had waited, God would have crossed my path with that of Sir Robert. The gentleman is not so handsome as was Mr. Wickham, but he is ten times the man my husband proved to be.”

Although Elizabeth did not speak the words aloud, she wondered if either of them would ever know happiness. Only a quarter hour earlier, she had thought the planting of seeds symbolic of the blossoming of a great love, but now she was not so certain. More than likely, both she and Lydia would again know disappointment.


Fish Eaters    

The Victorian Web    

If you wish to read all of John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes,” you may do so HERE.

Posted in book excerpts, book release, books, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, legends, legends and myths, medieval, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, research, Scotland, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Life Below Stairs ~ Part Three – The Role of the Male Servant

Dinner in the Servants' Hall

Dinner in the Servants’ Hall

The English aristocrat often lived beyond his means. Maintaining country houses (often several of them) and a large Georgian town house in Mayfair took its toll on his purse strings. In addition to owning the property, Society forced him to maintain an extensive staff, which would see to his family’s needs.

Rank among the serving class manifested itself in extra bedrooms and workrooms to meet the servant hierarchy. The house steward and the housekeeper were often given a sitting room in which the upper servants could dine. A work space was required for the steward to conduct his business. The butler oversaw an extensive pantry. A stillroom was necessary. Storerooms for groceries. A separate china closet. The scullery. The ladies’ maids required a separate room where they could do their mending and ironing. Don’t forget a knife room. A shoe room. A lamp room. A brushing room. A servants’ hall. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Even a modest staff was costly. Characteristically, a land owner maintained 40-50 servants. A large number of male servants was an indication of a man’s wealth. Employing males, instead of females, created a greater expense because a tax on male servants was introduced by Lord North in 1777. The tax was to be used for the cost of fighting the Americans and the war with the French. It cost a landowner £7 for each male servant if there were eleven or more in the household. Although it was gradually reduced over the years, the tax continued until 1937.

Running Footman

Compounding the issue of keeping powdered footmen increased by the duty placed on the hair powder. That tax remained in place from 1786 to 1869. Is it any wonder that some landowners forced their servants to use ordinary house flour to save on expenses. A smart footman might use the household flour and then claim the reimbursement for the expense of the duty.

Footmen and other male servants were provided tailored livery. In the mid 1800s, it would cost 3 guineas for a footman’s uniform. Typically, a footman received 2-3 suits per year. Only the wealthiest aristocrat could afford to employ a house steward, groom of the chambers, valet, cook, butler, under-butler, footmen, footboy, usher, page, “tiger,” coachmen, grooms, a man-of-all-work, gardeners, etc.


LibertaBooks tells us in their piece entitled “Footmen: The Curse of Manly Calves in Silk Stockings”… 

footmen in livery“The naming of footmen

“Gentry addressed footmen by Christian name. It might be their own name. It might not. Some families always used the same names for their footmen: the most senior might be “Charles”, the next “John” and so on. The approach was convenient for the employers who did not have to bother to learn the real names of real people.

“For the footmen, it probably felt demeaning, but what could they do? (Perhaps they followed some of Dean Swift’s advice for getting their own back?)

The curse of footmen — Dean Swift’s “advice”

Jonathan Swift, author of Directions to Servants

“Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay Directions to Servants (published posthumously in 1745) devotes many pages to its “advice” to footmen, including suggested excuses to use when absent for somewhat longer than the message requires, perhaps two, four, six, or eight hours, or some such trifle.

“My favourite is probably this, relating to service at table: Never wear Socks when you wait at Meals, on the Account of your own Health, as well as of them who set at Table; because as most Ladies like the Smell of young Men’s Toes, so it is a sovereign Remedy against the Vapours.

“Swift’s satire had little effect. A file of nine tall, matched footmen in silver and lace preceded the Countess of Northumberland’s sedan chair. It’s not clear what else her footmen actually did. (Footmen often created trouble among the maids, but it was always the female who was dismissed; a member of a matched set of footmen was too difficult to replace.)”

Footmen were chosen for their height and their handsomeness. Most were at least six feet tall. It was desirable to match the footmen in height (like the Rockettes). Most households had 3 footmen. The first footman, who was often called “James,” no matter what was his Christian name, usually acted as the lady’s footman. He would serve her breakfast, clean her shoes, take her dogs for a walk, stand behind her chair when she dined elsewhere, carry packages when she shopped, etc. The second footman served the afternoon meal. Often he completed valet duties for the eldest son. The third footman carried the coals and wood. The first and second footman served meals. They would accompany the carriage whenever it was used by any member of the household. The footmen were responsible for cleaning and polishing the silver.

The valet was usually at least 30 years of age. He was expected to have a superficial air of aristocracy about him. He saw to his master’s dress and was expected to be abreast of social gossip to aid his master in social engagements, etc. He did not wear livery. He would rise before his master. The aristocrat’s clothes were prepared, a bath drawn, and everything his master required for his ablutions prepared. He might also be required to dress the master, or he might need to know how to load a gun quickly so that his master could shoot with his friends.

The butler needed similar skills as the valet. He was responsible for the footmen, the custody of the plate, and the contents of the wine cellar. He also oversaw the brewing of the servants’ beer, the arrangement of the dining room, etc. Unlike our perceptions of the haughty butler who ruled a household with an iron hand, the Victorian butler was in a more lowly position. In reality, the valet, the house steward, and the groom of the chambers, all outranked him in the household. They also received higher pay.

The groom of the chambers was the one who attended the main door, opened doors for members of the household, filled inkpots, saw that everything the household members needed was within reach.

The house steward oversaw the transition from country estate to Town when the Season came around. He was responsible for all the servants. He maintained the household accounts.

Posted in British history, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Catholic/Protestant Marriages During the Regency + “The Earl Claims His Comfort”

Catholic/ Protestant Weddings During the Regency Era

On 25 March 1754, the Hardwicke Act went into effect in England. It was designed to prevent Clandestine Weddings (Read More on Clandestine Weddings HERE) and to force couples marrying in England to follow certain guidelines or have their marriage declared illegal. Under an earlier Statute of King George II (19 Geo. 2. c. 13), any marriage between a Catholic (Popish) and a Protestant or a marriage between two Protestants celebrated by a Catholic priest was null and void.

Prior to the Hardwicke Act, couples simply required a clergyman ordained by the Church of England to administer their vows. We often hear of Fleet Marriage, which is the best-known example of an irregular or a clandestine marriage taking place in England. These joinings were popular at the end of the late 17th and early 18th Century. The Marriage Duty Act 1695 put an end to irregular marriages at parochial churches by penalizing clergymen who married couples without banns or license. By a legal quirk, however, clergymen operating in the Fleet could not effectively be prosecuted for disobeying the Act, and the clandestine marriage business there carried on. In the 1740s, over half of all London weddings were taking place in the environs of the Fleet Prison.

The Hardwicke Act made marriages more public. A calling of the banns became a requirement, which could only be put aside if the couple obtained an “ordinary”  or “standard” license from the local bishop or a special license from the Archbishop of Canterbury. The standard license came with a bond of £100. This bond was forfeited if the couple lied to the local bishop regarding their fitness to marry. The license named the specific parish church where the exchange of vows would be held. It required a 7-days’ waiting period.

A calling of the banns had to take place over three successive Sundays before the couple could marry before an ordained Church of England clergyman. Two witnesses were required for the ceremony to be legal.

Only Quakers or Jews were exempt from the Hardwicke Act. All others, including Roman Catholics, had to follow the law’s guidelines. NO exceptions! Catholics in England who married only under their own rites were not considered legally married under English law. They had to be married by a Protestant minister legally to be considered married. The Catholics disagreed with this requirement, and many married in the local Catholic church first and then almost immediately in the Protestant church. If they had not married in the Protestant church, their children were illegitimate under the Hardwicke Act. During this time, a Catholic priest faced fines and possible imprisonment for marrying a Protestant to a Catholic unless the couple had already been married by a Protestant clergyman.

In Ireland, the Catholics did not need to be married by a Protestant at all, but the clergy was still forbidden to celebrate a mixed marriage unless there had already been a Protestant one. All through the 19th Century, the restrictions against other religious groups were eased, and there even was a provision for a civil marriage, but a Catholic and a Protestant still could not marry in the Catholic Church unless they had already married by civil or Protestant ceremony. Any marriage of a Protestant to a Catholic by Catholic ritual alone was considered invalid.

Catholic emancipation (or Catholic relief) saw some reduction in and the removal of the restrictions on Roman Catholics during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it would be 1829 before the Roman Catholic Relief Act came into being. The Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland in 1800 issued in greater political emancipation, but such wording was not written into the actual text of the Act for fear it would lead to a stronger opposition by the Irish Protestants to the new law. William Pitt the Younger, who was Prime Minister, had promised emancipation to accompany the Act, but King George III believed doing so would violate his Coronation Oath, which reads in part: “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law? Will you maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England? And will you preserve unto the Bishops and Clergy of England, and to the Churches there committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges, as by law do or shall appertain to them or any of them?” Pitt resigned his post, for he failed in keeping his promise to the Irish.


Marriage of the Prince of Wales and Caroline of Brunswick at St. James Palace.

Prince George, the Prince of Wales (the Prince Regent and later King George IV) married a widow, Mrs. Maria Fitzherbert on 15 December 1785 in a secret marriage. This marriage between a Protestant and a Catholic was illegal. The Prince Regent was forced to deny this marriage if he ever wished to claim the throne of England. The Act of Settlement of 1701 forbade a Roman Catholic from sitting on the throne. Maria could not be George IV’s queen. If they were to remain married, he would be required to give up his place in the line of succession. Moreover, the prince and Mrs. Fitzherbert had ignored the Royal Marriage Act of 1772, which required all members of the Royal Family to ask the Sovereign’s permission before marrying. George III, as we saw above, would not extend such permission to any of his children. When the Regent’s debts increased to some £600,000, he finally agreed to abandon Maria and take a Protestant wife of Parliament’s choosing in order to settle his debts.

The Napoleonic Wars saw an increase of Catholic officers and enlisted men in both the army and navy. Even so, these men could not take a seat in Parliament, and they still could not vote or attend university or schools such as Eton, Harrow, Westminster, etc. Before the war, the Catholic children of prominent families were often sent to the continent to elite Catholic schools.

The Dukes of Norfolk were a prominent Catholic family. Charles Howard, 11th Duke of Norfolk, renounced his Catholicism to start his political life, but remained a staunch supporter of Catholic Emancipation. He sat in Parliament from 1780–84, became a lord of the treasury in the Portland cabinet in 1783, and was dismissed in 1798 from the lord lieutenancy of the West Riding for toasting the “sovereign English people” in terms displeasing to the Crown. In addition, he held a hereditary position as Earl marshal, a royal officeholder responsible, along with the constable, for the monarch’s horses and stables. However, Charles Howard was made to permit a Protestant to fulfill many of his official duties. He was also supposed to allow the churches to which he held the livings to be handled by the universities, but he refused to hand them over.

Read the Hardwicke Act (Marital Law 26 Geo II c 33) HERE:


Earl6x9Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books

– a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

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“I mean to escort Miss Deirdre to services this morning,” Rem announced as they shared a Sunday breakfast. Other than supper each evening, he purposely had avoided Miss Neville’s company. The temptation to touch her again would disappear on Tuesday with her departure. “I pray you will join us.”

“I think not, my lord,” she said coldly.

It was the first time Rem heard Miss Neville use the same indifferent tone he employed, and the fact the lady meant to place distance between them bothered him more than he cared to admit. “Do you not fear damnation?” he asked with uncharacteristic venom. He was not a Bible thumper, and in truth, he often missed services, but something about the woman’s refusal clawed at his sense of rightness.

“No more than you,” the lady responded smartly. “Moreover, as a Catholic, I am already damned in the eyes of the Church of England.”

“Catholic?” A pang announced his snobbish regrets clutched at his heart. He did not give a fig what religion the woman claimed. Even so, he spoke sternly. “I am surprised Lord Kavanagh would place Miss Deirdre in the care of a Catholic,” he pronounced in misplaced disdain. It was as if he celebrated any spot on Miss Neville’s character to remain detached from her.

“As Lord Kavanagh meant to wash his hands of the child, I doubt he much cared to which God Miss Deirdre prayed,” she snapped.

“Does Lord Swenton realize your preferences?” he countered.

“As his baroness, my cousin, also claims a Catholic upbringing, I doubt his lordship will take note of my ‘transgressions.’ From what I know of the baron, he chooses to see the person’s worthiness rather than his religious beliefs. Lord Swenton is a man of honor.”

“And you are implying I am not.” He could not remove the bitterness from his tone. For days, he had wanted Miss Neville not to look upon him with that softness he so craved, but now that the woman turned on him, he was not happy with the result.

“In truth, I do not know enough of your character to pronounce you a man of honor.” He flinched as if slapped. “It would seem to me that if you performed honorably in your dealings, then there would be no cause for two attempts upon your life within a sennight,” Miss Neville continued, as if a dam of accusations needed to be expressed.

In many ways, Rem supposed they did. He had played with the woman’s emotions, and he deserved her vehemence. At least her tirade would keep her at arm’s length.

“This is what I know of Lord Swenton. The gentleman married a woman who required his protection but who treated him in a false manner. Even so, he risked his life to save her. Although he had developed a deep affection for my cousin, his lordship properly grieved for a wife that was untrue when the previous Lady Swenton lost her life. When he married Isolde, he did so in the Catholic Church before her family and friends in Ireland.

“Only after Cousin Isolde discovered she was enceinte did they marry again in the Church of England. Even then it was at Isolde’s insistence, not Lord Swenton’s. The baron married my cousin because he adores her, and nothing else mattered to the man. Only to name his eventual heir as ‘legitimate’ did Lord Swenton consider remarrying his bride according to the dictates of the Church of England. Therefore, in my opinion, Cousin Isolde claimed the only decent Englishman this country has produced.”



Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

– a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist

-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Posted in Black Opal Books, blog hop, book excerpts, book release, British history, Church of England, excerpt, George IV, Georgian England, historical fiction, Ireland, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, real life tales, Regency era, Regency personalities, Regency romance, research, romance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did Jane Austen Play Her Own Version of Regency “Monopoly”? a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

The post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on December 10, 2019. I think you will discover it as fascinating as did I. Enjoy!

The Most Agreeable & Rational Recreation Ever Invented”

During a recent visit to Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood, I was drawn to one of the exhibits, a board game called The New Game of Human Life. Published in London in 1790, it was aimed at the family market and was the British adaptation of a French game, Le Nouveau Jeu de La Vie Humaine

The New Game of Human Life is a classic roll-and-move game with 84 spaces, each representing a year of human life. The 84 spaces are divided into the seven ages of man: childhood, youth, young man, the prime of life, the sedate middle age, the old man and decrepitude. 

The players take turns to advance with the goal is to be the first to reach the ending space: The Immortal Man. It’s like Snakes and Ladders meets Monopoly, in that some spaces take you forward and others set you back, and the players pay and receive stakes depending on where they land. 

Human Life as the Georgians Knew It

The depiction of the life stages in the game is fascinating, and it tells us a lot about what Georgians thought of life as a whole. For example, a player landing on The Studious Boy (nr 7) can advance to The Orator (nr 42). However, one ending up in The Negligent Boy (nr 11) has to pay a stake and skip two rounds.

As the players advance, the stakes also increase. A player arriving at The Duellist (nr 22) has to pay two stakes and return to The Boy (nr 3), presumably to learn to be less troublesome. In contrast, a player landing on The Married Man (nr 34) gets two stakes (the wife’s dowry, of course) and skips ahead The Good Father (nr 56)

There are some interesting distinctions as well. A player landing on The Romance Writer (nr 40) has to pay two stakes and go back to Mischievous Boy (nr 5), while the lucky player landing on The Tragic Author (nr 45) jumps straight onto the last space and wins. It’s clear what type of genre was held in admiration and which in contempt.

The game also features cameos by famous contemporaries. The Poet (nr 41) stands for Alexander Pope. “The Patriot” (nr 55) represents William Pitt. The Glutton (nr 59) is supposedly the Prince of Wales, although for obvious reasons his identity isn’t clearly stated. The last space, The Immortal Man, is for Isaac Newton, who died at the ripe old age of 84.

 “Utility and Moral Tendencies”

The New Game of Human Life had a strong moral component. It even included advice for parents and tutors as to how to explain the meaning of the different spaces to children under the reassuring title “utility and moral tendency of this game.” 

Paradoxically, winning the game was utterly dependent on luck. However, to avoid introducing gambling to children, the London publishers decided to replace the two dice of the original French version with a teetotum, which is a sort of spinning wheel. 

A Clever Marketing Ploy

The game was a commercial success, and one can see why. For starters, it was practical. The board I admired was mounted on 12 separate pieces of thick paper or cardboard with a cloth backing, and could be easily folded and stored away.

Although the copy in the Edinburgh museum was in black and white, the game was sold in different finishes in a scale of rising price points. The cheapest version was little more than printed pieces of paper. In the most expensive version, the materials were more refined and the illustrations in colour. It was a shrewd move to widen the game’s appeal to a broader audience by making it more accessible.

A Game for the Little Knights?

We know from Jane Austen’s letters that she spent long periods at Chawton House, home of her brother Edward Knight and his brood. She doted on her many nephews and nieces and played all sorts of games with them.

Since my discovery of The New Game of Human Life, I have reached the conclusion that Jane Austen must have played a similar board game at some point – or perhaps this very one. Edward’s fortune meant that he could easily afford even the fanciest version of the game!

In any case, if you visit Edinburgh, do give yourself a couple of hours to visit the Museum of Childhood and its collection of toys, games, books and artifacts for children. It’s a little gem, and very centrally located, too – just off the Royal Mile – so you have no excuse to miss it.

What do you think of The New Game of Human Life? Do you enjoy boardgames, or think you will find one under the Christmas tree? 

To find out more:

Posted in Austen Authors, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Life Below Stairs – Part Two – Snobbery and Rules of Engagement

Upstairs, Downstairs

Upstairs, Downstairs

Last Friday, we looked at what a servant in an upper house, or even in a second-class household, of the late Regency Period or early Victorian times, might encounter. We spoke of wages, delineation of duties, and additional compensation. Today, we wish to examine the “snobbery” found among the servant class. As mentioned in yesterday’s article, the servants in upper households expected “tips” from the master’s guests. If he did not receive it, he might still exact his revenge on those who paid a second visit to the estate. On his return, a guest might find himself in a one of the draftier bedchambers or he might be met at the train in a cart rather than an estate carriage.

The servants expected the guests to conform to certain standards of gentility. Heaven help a stranger who appeared on a the doorstep and not dressed to the hilt. John James, in The Memoirs of a House Steward, tells a tale of how, in 1895, he mistook His Grace the Duke of Westminster for a servant. Apparently, Westminster wore shabbily care for clothing, and he was clean shaved, which was frowned upon in that time. James did not realize his mistake until he examined the man’s card.

Of course, below stairs, the servants commented freely on the master’s guests. “Behind the servants’ mask of perfect politeness and consummate gentility, there were dark thoughts and hidden feelings, another world to which only the still innocent children of the house were ever admitted, where rumours echoed from the lofty ceilings and were imagined and distorted into malicious gossip and false report. The roots of the servant grapevine were embedded deep in the foundation of each great London house. A fragment of conversation overheard by a footman at the dinner table or some actual confidence foolishly entrusted by some too ingenuous mistress to her maid, would be carried swiftly downstairs to the kitchen. From there it was transported lovingly up and down the neighboring area steps by the visiting butterman and butcher to be deposited with that day’s order on the great wooden tables in nearby kitchens, whence it could be disseminated to every part of the house by a word and a wink between the first and second footman or by a whispered conversation between two under housemaids who shared the same room, and sometimes the same bed, in the cold and draughty attic.” (Huggett, “Life Below Stairs”)

This situation reminds me of the chauffeur in the play Sabrina Fair (basis of the movie Sabrina, which starred Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn) who earns a fortune by simply listening to his employer conduct business in the backseat of the car and then buying and selling stocks based on Linus Larrabee’s knowledge of the stock market.

Some servants even followed their masters into battle. Yet, such devotion to the old ways died quickly as the servant class became more aware of the world in which they lived. The penny post might have brought down a feudal way of life. Although wages increased significantly in the later part of the 19th Century, it did not guarantee a servants’ loyalty. Also, the lower servants no longer accepted the strict unspoken rules of the household. One might find those below stairs sporting more freely among the servant dichotomy.

This information comes from a website I dearly adore. Wedding Castle – An Online History (KEY PEOPLE: The Life of Victorian Servants).

Below are examples of some of the rules that the servants had to follow

1 – When being spoken to, stand still, keeping your hands quiet, and always look at the person speaking.

2 – Never let your voice be heard by the ladies and gentlemen of the household, unless they have spoken directly to you a question or statement which requires a response, at which time, speak as little as possible.

3 – In the presence of your mistress, never speak to another servant or person of your own rank, or to a child, unless only for necessity, and then as little as possible and as quietly as possible.

4 – Never begin to talk to the ladies or gentlemen, unless to deliver a message or to ask a necessary question, and then, do it in as few words as possible.

5 – Whenever possible, items that have been dropped, such as spectacles or handkerchiefs, and other small items, should be returned to their owners on a salver.

6 – Always respond when you have received an order, and always use the proper address: “Sir”, “Ma’am”, “Miss” or “Mrs,” as the case may be.

7 – Never offer your opinion to your employer.

8 – Always “give room”: that is, if you encounter one of your betters in the house or on the stairs, you are to make yourself as invisible as possible, turning yourself toward the wall and averting your eyes.

9 – Except in reply to a salutation offered, never say “good morning” or “good night” to your employer.

10 – If you are required to walk with a lady or gentleman in order to carry packages, or for any other reason, always keep a few paces back.

11 – You are expected to be punctual to your place at mealtime.

12 – You shall not receive any Relative, Visitor or Friend into the house, nor shall you introduce any person into the Servant’s Hall, without the consent of the Butler or Housekeeper.

13 – Followers are strictly forbidden. Any member of the female staff who is found to be fraternizing shall be immediately dismissed.

14 – Expect that any breakages or damages in the house shall be deducted from your wages.

Servants’ Wages

In Victorian times, live-in servants, who had all their expenses (food, lodging, clothes etc) taken care of, earned as little as £10 a year, (which is only the equivalent of £77 in today’s money).

Here is a list of the average wages of servants (figures collected by the Board of Trade in the 1890s).

Between Maid            £10, 7s
Scullery Maid             £13
Kitchen Maid             £15
Housemaid                £16, 2s
Parlour Maid             £20, 6s
Cook                         £20, 2s
Lady’s Maid              £24, 7s
Cook / Housekeeper £35, 6s
Housekeeper             £52, 5s

In 1888 Butlers earned £45 per annum and had no expenses except clothes. They would make up their income from such perks as tradesman offering discounts to receive continued orders. Butlers would also collect the end of candles and one bottle of wine for every six opened.

Posted in British history, food and drink, Georgian Era, Great Britain, Living in the UK, real life tales, Regency era, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“A Touch of Honor” [or] What to Do With a Character You Despise?

ATOH Cover Concept3Early on, I convinced my traditional publisher, Ulysses Press, to print one of my Regency romances – a book I originally called A Touch of Gold and later called A Touch of Scandal. Ulysses released the book under the title The Scandal of Lady Eleanor. That book has been followed by seven others, each the tale of one of the members of a fictional covert military group operating out of the Home Office during the Napoleonic Wars and known as “the Realm.” The men of the Realm have served their country honorably and have returned home to claim their titles and a chance at love, a fleeting hope each held during their service. Unfortunately, a Baloch warlord claims one of the group has stolen a fist-sized emerald, and Shaheed Mir means to have the jewel’s return, or he will know his revenge.

Today, I celebrate Book 7 in the series, one of favorites. As with each of the others, A Touch of Honor addresses what we sometimes think of as “modern” issues, but ones commonplace in the Regency Period. This one addresses the desire of young women to remain slim, as well as the addictive overuse of laudanum during this period.

Those who followed this series waited for this episode, which they had predicted to include the bringing together of Baron John Swenton and Miss Satiné Aldridge. However, for me, I had long ago forsaken the possibility of the two finding happiness. You see, I did not like the character of Satiné Aldridge, and before you chastise me by saying such things as “You created the girl, you could have endowed her with endearing qualities,” I get it! If I wanted Satiné to be as strong willed and intelligent as her twin, Cashémere, who is the heroine of book 3, I should have written her as such.

However, the more I thought of treating her as a “twin” to Cashémere in all ways, Satiné told me otherwise – told me that she had been raised in the “ideal” home with their maternal uncle, Lord Charles Morton, a baron, while Cashé had suffered under the care of their paternal uncle, Lord Samuel Aldridge, a religious fanatic. There was no means for them to be equals. Therefore, Satiné would not react to adversity in the same manner, as had her twin. The more I wrote of her, the less I liked Miss Satiné, and I made up my mind she was not good enough for any of the Realm heroes. That fact created a problem: Who would be the ideal mate for the VERY private Lord Swenton? John has never known love; his mother deserted him and the former baron (his father) for life upon the European continent. John means never to make the same mistakes as his father and never to know the scandal of a disastrous marriage, but from the beginning of their relationship, Satiné Aldridge offers nothing but duplicity and manipulations, even bringing Shaheed Mir’s notice to their marriage.

The books in the series are…
The Scandal of Lady Eleanor (Book 1) – the story of James Kerrington, Lord Worthing, and Lady Eleanor Fowler

A Touch of Velvet (Book 2) – the story of Brantley Fowler, the Duke of Thornhill (and brother to Lady Eleanor), and Miss Velvet Aldridge (the Fowlers’ cousin and Cashémere and Satiné’ s elder sister)

A Touch of Cashémere (Book 3) – the story of Marcus Wellston, the future Earl of Berwick, and Miss Cashémere Aldridge, the middle Aldridge sister and twin to Satiné Aldridge

A Touch of Grace (Book 4) – the story of Gabriel Crowden, the Marquis of Godown, and Miss Grace Nelson, a governess in Samuel Aldridge’s household and sister to a baron

A Touch of Mercy (Book 5) – the story of Aidan Kimbolt, Lord Lexford, a viscount, and Miss Mercy Nelson, the younger sister of Miss Grace Nelson

A Touch of Love (Book 6) – the story of Sir Carter Lowery and war widow, Mrs. Lucinda Warren

A Touch of Honor (Book 7) – the story of Lord John Swenton and, well, he starts out with Satiné

 A Touch of Emerald (Book 8) – the conclusion to the series and the story of Daniel Kerrington (son of James Kerrington by his first wife) and Lady Sonalí Fowler (the Duke of Thornhill’s daughter by his first wife).

His American Heartsong: A Companion Novel to the Realm Series – the story of Lawrence Lowery (brother to Sir Carter Lowery) and Miss Arabella Tilney

Book Blurb for A Touch of Honor

For two years, LORD JOHN SWENTON has thought of little else other than making Satiné Aldridge his wife; so when he discovers her reputation in tatters, Swenton acts honorably: He puts forward a marriage of convenience that will save her from ruination and provide him the one woman he believes will bring joy to his life. However, the moment he utters his proposal, Swenton’s instincts scream he has made a mistake: Unfortunately, a man of honor makes the best of even the most averse situations.

MISS SATINE ALDRIDGE has fallen for a man she can never possess and has accepted a man she finds only mildly tolerable. What will she do to extricate herself from Baron Swenton’s life and claim the elusive Prince Henrí? Obviously, more than anyone would ever expect.

MISS ISOLDE NEVILLE has been hired to serve as Satiné Aldridge’s companion, but her loyalty rests purely with the lady’s husband. With regret, she watches the baron struggle against the impossible situation in which Miss Aldridge has placed him, while her heart desires to claim the man as her own. Yet, Isolde is as honorable as the baron. She means to see him happy, even if that requires her to aid him in his quest to earn Miss Satiné’s affections.

The first fully original series from Austen pastiche author Jeffers is a knockout. – Publishers Weekly


Book Excerpt: (In this scene, John has reluctantly escorted his wife to a ball where he has encountered his baroness’s former “lover,” Prince Henrí of Rintoul. Deeply drowsy from the excessive laudanum she has consumed, Satiné is unaware of Henrí’s appearance in London. John has removed Satiné to his Town home, but his quick anger finds a target, Miss Isolde Neville, his wife’s companion and a woman he secretly desires.)

She had repaired the tat where the material had torn in one of the gowns presented to her by Lady Lowery. It was a beautiful royal blue confection, and Isolde had been anxious to wear it. Her cousins would think she had taken on airs, but she would enjoy their jealousy. It was like no gown she had ever thought to wear for she was essentially of a very practical nature. In truth, she would prefer to wear it for Lord Swenton’s eyes only, but those dreams would never know fruition. Tomorrow, the baron meant to remove his household to York, and soon after, Isolde would depart for Ireland. She would never return to England, and most certainly would never see London again. She would accept the intentions of one of her countrymen, marry, and bear the man a half dozen children. Yet, she would always remember her time with Lord Swenton. “Your days are numbered,” she warned her foolish heart. “No dancing a jig in celebration of your marriage. No wearing a gown, which would set his lordship’s heart a reeling.” A wistful sigh escaped before Isolde could swallow it. “Best to wear the drab clothes of a lady’s companion,” she chastised her whims. “It remains my armor against temptation.”

The sound of a ruckus below interrupted her thoughts. She rushed from her rooms to encounter the man over whom she had spent too many hours of late in daydreams. Lord Swenton carried his wife toward the lady’s quarters. Lady Swenton’s limp form announced the baroness had discovered a new supply of laudanum.

“My Goodness!” Isolde rasped and then raced ahead of the baron to open the connecting doors. She jerked the counterpane free of the bed to permit him to deposit Lady Swenton upon the mattress. “What happened?” Isolde asked as she undressed her mistress.

“Did you know?” the baron asked in accusatory tones. He stood beside his wife’s bed, his hands fisting and unfisting, arms akimbo.

Isolde’s fingers released the clasp of the baroness’s necklace and turned her mistress to her stomach so she could unlace Lady Swenton’s gown. Out of breath, she asked testily, “Did I know what?”

Lord Swenton’s voice had turned cold. “When you convinced me to escort my mother’s remains to York, did you know Lady Swenton meant to remain in London to meet her lover? Or was it your purpose for me to encounter Prince Henrí tonight? You did say this evening would be a monumental event.”

Isolde’s fingers froze in their task. “Have you taken leave of your senses?” Her hands wildly brushed away his allegations. “I have been nothing but loyal to you. Other than Lord Morse, I am ignorant of a potential lover, and I have never heard of Prince Henrí.”

“What of a heated spat between your mistress and Lady Fiona?” he accused.

“Nothing!” Isolde said defiantly. “When I came to Miss Aldridge’s service, the baroness was some four months with child. She withdrew from her social engagements shortly after my taking the position. I never held the pleasure of an acquaintance with the former baroness.” With a huff of exasperation, Isolde returned to Lady Swenton’s unconscious state. “If you will pardon me, I must attend to your wife.” Despite her best efforts, a soft sob escaped. He had never spoken to her harshly.

Within a heartbeat, the baron had circled the bed and had caught her to him. He drove Isolde backward until her spine was pressed against the interior door and his hard body plastered her front. “Forgive me,” he whispered roughly against her temple. “I never meant to harm you. Please, Isolde, I have acted a fool.”

Some dark, inexplicable passion rushed through her, and Isolde instinctively pressed against him. The white-flare of need ripped the breath from her chest, and she buried her face into the crook of his neck. “We should not…”

“Should not what?” His voice sounded as breathy as did hers. “Should not claim one moment of happiness?”

Isolde could not dismiss how aware she was of this man’s masculinity. “One moment would never be enough.” She could taste the salt upon his skin, and Isolde ran her tongue along the crease of his neck. A groan of desire rewarded her efforts.

A rush of silence followed before Lord Swenton placed his hands against the wall on either side of her head and lifted his body from hers. Immediately, she experienced the bleakness of his withdrawal. “Some way,” he rasped as he gently cuffed her cheek. “I mean to finish this. For now, please assist me with Lady Swenton. I cannot fathom what the future holds, but please know somehow my soul will find its way to you.”

* * *

After they had undressed Satiné, they had tucked his baroness into her bed to sleep away the effects of the medicinal. Then by silent consent, he had escorted Miss Neville into his sitting room to discuss what had happened earlier. “Evidently, my wife has discovered someone within my household to keep her confidences,” he disclosed when he had seated Miss Neville across from him and had poured her a small sherry and him a well-deserved brandy.

“No doubt Sally,” she asserted. “The girl has ambitions, but has not yet learned subtlety.”

Deep in thought, John nodded his agreement. “I will return the girl to Thornhill tomorrow. The duke has sent Mrs. Tailor and the boy ahead to Marwood Manor. I will see Sally returned to him.”

Miss Neville sat straighter. “Might you inform me of what occurred this evening?”

John closed his eyes to the shame racing to his heart. He dealt better with chaos when he could keep busy; this “rush” to wait endlessly vexed him greatly. “Lady Swenton could barely speak or move. If not for Lady Worthing’s assistance, the prince and much of the ton would have learned of Satiné’s dependency on laudanum. The only saving grace was my wife will likely not recall the appearance of Prince Henrí.”

“Is this prince Rupert’s father?” she asked quietly.

“In appearance, it would seem so. The boy has the countenance of the Prince of Rintoul. However, Prince Henrí claimed no previous knowledge of Rupert. He accused Lady Swenton of keeping secrets.” John recalled the familiar way the prince had spoken to Satiné, and fury rushed to his mind again.

“What does the prince mean to do?”

John attempted to place the tumult of his soul aside. “I have convinced Prince Henrí to call upon my household in a week. I did not think it wise for him to be seen entering Swenton Hall, but the prince made it clear he means to claim Rupert.”

“What will you do?” she whispered into the familiar silence that rested between them. John required these moments or he would run mad into the streets. The lady held no idea how important she had become to his sanity.

“What will I do?” he repeated. Every emotion within John rushed into the dark void of helplessness. “The question is what will my baroness do when her former lover and the father of her child makes an appearance on my threshold?”


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Posted in book excerpts, Church of England, estates, fashion, Georgian England, historical fiction, Inheritance, Ireland, Living in the Regency, marriage, marriage customs, marriage licenses, medicine, Realm series, Regency era, Ulysses Press | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

James Wilmot on “Who Wrote Shakespeare’s Plays?” + an eBook Giveaway



anonymous engraving of James Wilmot – scanned from Serres, O The Life of the Author of the Letters of Junius, the Reverend James Wilmot, MD, London, 1813. ~ public domain via Wikipedia

James Wilton was supposedly the first to question whether William Shakespeare was the actual author of the plays and sonnets we now attribute to him. Wilmot was an English clergyman, having been educated at Oxford, and scholar from Barton-on-the-Heath, Warwickwickshire, some six miles from Stratford-upon-Avon. We know something of his Shakespeare research because his friend James Corton Cowell conducted two lectures at the Ipswich Philosophic Society on the subject in 1805. However, there are those who believe the Ipswich Philosophic Society did not exist, nor can they find a record of James Corton Cowell. That being said, Cowell’s two lectures DO exist in handwritten manuscript form: “Some Reflections on the Life of William Shakespeare.” They can be found in the Durning-Lawrence collection at London University. Could Cowell simply have written out his research, but not shared it with others?


Page from a manuscript purportedly written in 1805 by James Cowell, which has since been determined to be a forgery. MS 294, Senate House Library, University of London ~ public domain ~ via Wikipedia

Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence was a British lawyer and Member of Parliament. He was a strong advocate for the idea that Francis Bacon was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Durning-Lawrence penned several books on the subject and hosted public debates on his Baconian theory. His widow donated his research to London University upon his death, among those pieces were the two “Cowell” manuscripts, which tell something of Wilmot’s search for any books or papers that reference Shakespeare as being the author of the plays attributed to him. After covering a 50-mile radius of Stratford, Shakespeare’s home, Wilmot concluded that Shakespeare was not the author of the plays, but rather the author was Sir Francis Bacon. The problem is that Wilmot only confided his findings to Cowell. The actual research was supposedly burned.

It has even been suggested that Wilmot may have been the author of The Story of the Learned Pig (1786). “The anonymous pamphlet The Story of the Learned Pig, By an officer of the Royal Navy (1786) picked up the theme of reincarnation. This presents itself as the personal reminiscences of the pig, as told to the author. He describes himself as a soul that has successively migrated from the body of Romulus into various humans and animals before becoming the Learned Pig. He recalls his previous incarnations. After Romulus he became Brutus, and then entered several human and animal bodies. Adapting the Shakespeare theme, the pamphlet states that he became a man called “Pimping Billy”, who worked as a horse-holder at a playhouse with Shakespeare and was the real author of his plays. He then became a famous British aristocrat and general — identified only by asterisks — before entering the body of a pig. [McMichael, George L.; Glenn, Edgar M. (1962), Shakespeare and His Rivals: A Casebook on the Authorship Controversy, Odyssey Press, p.56. via Wikipedia]


caricature by John Leech

 “Puns on the name “Bacon”, referring to the philosopher Francis Bacon, also appeared in the literature. In the poem ‘The Prophetic Pig,’ in The Whim of the Day (c.1794) a believer in reincarnation states, ‘I can easily trace…A metempsychosis in this pig’s face!…And in transmigration, if I’m not mistaken,/This learned pig must be, by consanguinity,/Descended from the great Lord Bacon. Thomas Hood’s poem The Lament of Toby, The Learned Pig also uses the Bacon pun, adding another on the poet James Hogg.  He describes the thoughts of a learned pig forced to retire from his intellectual pursuits to be fattened for slaughter.” [Learned Pig]

In The Times Literary Supplement, James Shapirio, author of Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, declared the document [the lecture manuscripts] a forgery based on facts stated in the text about Shakespeare that were not discovered or publicised until decades after the purported date of composition. Peter Bower, an expert in paper history analysis, identified the paper as drawing paper, not writing paper, probably made shortly after the type was introduced in the mid-1790s. He noted that he knew of no instances of that type of paper being used to write out a long lecture. You can read the whole article HERE: Forgery on Forgery 

PP+SS Cover-01Introducing Pride and Prejudice and a Shakespearean Scholar 


Unless one knows the value of loyalty, he cannot appreciate the cost of betrayal.

What if Darcy and Elizabeth met weeks before the Meryton assembly? What if there is no barely “tolerable” remark to have Elizabeth rejecting Mr. Darcy’s affections, but rather a dip in a cold creek that sets her against him? What if Mr. Bennet is a renown Shakespearean scholar who encourages Darcy to act the role of Petruchio from Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew” to bring Elizabeth’s Katherina persona to the line.

ELIZABETH BENNET’s pride has her learning a difficult lesson: Loyalty is hard to find, and trust is easy to lose. Even after they share a passionate kiss outside the Meryton assembly hall and are forced to marry, Elizabeth cannot forget the indignity she experienced at the hands of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Although she despises his high-handedness, Elizabeth appreciates the protection he provides her in their marriage. But can she set her prejudice aside long enough to know a great love?

FITZWILLIAM DARCY places only two demands on his new wife: her loyalty and her trust, but when she invites his worst enemy to Darcy House, he has no choice but to turn her out. Trusting her had been his decision, but proving his choice the right one before she destroys two hearts meant to be together must be hers, and Darcy is not certain Elizabeth is up to the task.

Excerpt from Chapter Two, where Darcy learns the true identity of Mr. Bennet. You can see how the “history” becomes part of the story line. 

“Darcy!” Bingley called from the third storey balustrade. “I did not hear your carriage.”

“Likely because it is some two miles removed with a lame horse being tended to by Mr. Farrin. Do you possess an animal that would serve until my horse can heal?”

Bingley spoke as he rushed down the stairs to greet Darcy properly. “I sent my large coach to London to fetch my sisters to Netherfield, but the smaller carriage and its team is available. I planned to dine out this evening—before Caroline and Louisa arrive,” he said conspiratorially, “but I can take my curricle, if necessary arrangements cannot be made otherwise. Longbourn is only a little more than three miles removed. Permit me to send to the stables, and you may explain to the head groomsman what you require.” He motioned to the footman to fetch the groomsman. “Come join me in my study. You must be starving. Mr. Byers, ask Cook to send up something for Mr. Darcy and prepare a room for him.”

“Yes, Mr. Bingley.” The butler rushed away to do Bingley’s bidding.

Bingley motioned for Darcy to follow him. “I did not expect you today. In truth, I was not certain how long you might be required in Kent.”

“I removed my sister from my aunt’s residence and returned her to Darcy House yesterday,” Darcy explained. “Lady Catherine will not have such easy access to Miss Darcy at my home.”

“Another of her ladyship’s demands that you marry Miss De Bourgh?” Bingley asked in what sounded of concern.

“My aunt is hard to dissuade,” Darcy admitted.

Bingley ventured, “Perhaps you should choose another to wife.”

Darcy prayed his friend was not suggesting his younger sister Caroline would make a good mistress for Darcy’s properties. If so, Bingley would be as disappointed as Lady Catherine. “While we traveled to London, Georgiana suggested something similar.”

Bingley, thankfully, changed the subject. “I despise that I was unaware of your distress today. It would be pleasant to be of service to you.”

“You are of service to me,” Darcy corrected. “You have rescued me from Lady Catherine’s manipulations.”

“Most assuredly, but I wish to be more. I mean to employ your knowledge of running an estate to determine whether this one would serve me well. Therefore, I will be further in your debt.”

Darcy chuckled as he sat before his friend’s desk. “We shan’t keep tallies, Bingley. That is not the way of friendship.”

“Nevertheless, I will be in the positive this evening for more than a daring rescue of your person from Lady Catherine’s demands.” Bingley reached for a sheet of foolscap. “Permit me to send a note around to Mr. Bennet that I will be bringing a guest with me this evening.”

“I would be perfectly content to remain at Netherfield. You do not need to alter your plans simply because I have appeared upon your doorstep,” Darcy assured his friend. “I do not expect you to cry off at such short notice nor should you inconvenience Mr. Bennet’s cook by adding another to her preparations.”

“Nonsense,” Bingley declared good-naturedly. “If worse comes to worse, we will split the portions between us. You know I could never abandon you to a house with which you are unfamiliar. The library here is sadly lacking. Moreover, Mr. Bennet of Longbourn is Mr. Thomas Bennet.”

“Thomas Bennet?” Darcy asked. “The Thomas Bennet? The man who is both a Shakespeare and a Bacon expert and who means to refute claims that Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets? The one our professors at Cambridge so often quoted?”

“The very man,” Bingley said with a wide smile. “Bacon made this part of Hertfordshire his home, thus Mr. Bennet’s interest in the man. Bennet and a group of scholars have been trying to refute Wilmot’s research claiming that Bacon is the true author of Shakespeare’s plays.”

“Ah, naturally. Who better to look for Bacon’s imprint upon the work of Stratford’s hero than England’s most renown expert on each?” Although he considered the true pleasure of taking Bennet’s acquaintance, Darcy wondered more upon the Shakespearean influence upon a certain young lady who had set his blood on fire when he touched her. “I happened to be in Suffolk when James Cowell lectured at the Ipswich Philosophic Society back in ’05. I was preparing for my final exams and thought to gain several insights to impress my professors. It was all quite fascinating.”

Bingley began to scratch out his message to Bennet. “What I find fascinating,” his friend said as he dipped his pen again into the ink well, “has nothing to do with Bennet’s treasured manuscripts. I am more concerned with the fact that the man possesses five daughters, equally renowned for their beauty and their amiability.”








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