James Lackington: The Man Who Revolutionized Book Stores

In a time when we bemoan the loss of Borders, Waldenbooks, and fear the demise of Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, it is hard for us to imagine what it must have been like for those who entered “The Dome of the Muses” (or “The Temple of the Muses”) in London in the late 1700s. Found in Finsbury Square, Moorgate, it was a shop like no other. “The Temple of the Muses, which was one of the first modern bookstores, was a mammoth enterprise, by far the largest bookstore in England, boasting an inventory of over 500,000 volumes, annual sales of 100,000 books, and yearly revenues of £5,000 (roughly $700,000 today).” (Lit Hub)  Owned by one James Lackington, the shop revolutionized the book buying experience, a model copied by many, even in the current times, where Amazon has taken away the joy of smelling new books and old ones on the shelf. 

You've got mail bookstore

scene from “You’ve Got Mail,” which sets the small book store against the large box stores

Nigel Beale in an article on Lackington described the experience found in “The Dome of the Muses” as such: ““A dome rises from the centre, on top of which a flag is flying…Over the principal entrance is inscribed ‘Cheapest Booksellers in the World’…We enter the vast area, whose dimensions are to be measured by the assertion that a coach and six might be driven round it. In the centre is an enormous circular counter…We ascend a broad staircase, which leads to ‘The Lounging Rooms’, and to the first of a series of circular galleries, lighted from the lantern of the dome, which also lights the ground floor. Hundreds, even thousands of volumes are displayed on shelves running round their walls. As we mount higher and higher, we find commoner books, in shabbier bindings; but there is still the same order preserved, each book being numbered according to a printed catalogue.”

But who was James Lackington? How did it come to envision such a business? 

220px-1794_James_Lackington.png Son of a shoemaker, one of eleven children, James Lackington was born in Somerset in 1748. His early life was anything but ideal. At age ten, he was a traveling pieman, becoming quite successful in his trade, so successful that his competitors threatened him with bodily harm. At the ripe old age of 14, he apprenticed with a shoemaker and found work in Bristol. He married his sweetheart, one Nancy Smith, a dairy maid, but it was not Nancy, who changed his stars, but rather a newfound love of reading. A friend purchased a copy of one of Epictetus’s works. [Epictetus was born into slavery about 55 ce in the eastern outreaches of the Roman Empire. Once freed, he established an influential school of Stoic philosophy, stressing that human beings cannot control life, only their responses to it. His teachings were written down and published by his pupil Arrian in his Discourses.] Afterward, it is said that Lackington chose to eat only minimally so he might purchase more books.


Exterior of the Temple of the Muses bookshop sold to Jones & Co. after Lackington’s death, circa 1828. ~ Public Domain ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Lackington#/media/File:Temple_of_the_muses_exterior_colored.jpg

Purchasing books became somewhat of an obsession. Beale tells us, “He moved to London in August, 1774. An inheritance of ten pounds from his grandfather gave them some furniture, plus a little extra to spend at the second-hand bookstores he had begun to frequent. Like all bona fide bibliophiles he dealt with temptation in the way Oscar Wilde advised, by giving in to it; he bought almost all the books he wanted most. One Christmas eve, when tasked with buying dinner, he instead came home carrying a copy of Young’s Night Thoughts.”

While the Merton Historical Society explains his more to London a bit differently.  “After his first marriage, to Nancy Smith, he left for London, with half a crown (12.5p) in his pocket. He set up a combined bookstall and shoemaker’s shop in Featherstone Street, just north of what became Bunhill Fields. His stock was a sack of old theological books for which he gave a guinea (£1.05) and some scraps of leather. But a loan of £5 from a Wesleyan fund (for much of his life he was a practising Methodist), his own hard work and his wife’s thrift enabled him to build up a stock worth £25 and to give up shoemaking.”

James and Nancy moved to Chiswell Street to be closer to his business. However, in 1776, both he and his wife caught a fever that took Nancy’s life. Their landlady, one Dorcas Turton, tended them during this ordeal. She even fell ill herself. James and Dorcas survived and later became man and wife. The MHS tells us, “Shortly afterwards this ‘charming young woman’ became the second Mrs Lackington. ‘Having drawn another prize in the lottery of wedlock’, wrote Lackington ‘I repaired the loss of one very valuable woman by the acquisition of another still more valuable.’ He was right; Dorcas loved books and proved most helpful in the business.


“By 1780 he had developed the trading policies that were to bring him both fame and financial success. His terms became (unusually for the time) cash only; he sold at rock-bottom prices, and he was a pioneer dealer in large quantities of publishers’ ‘remainders’, which he sold at cut price. He also bought up whole libraries, and was soon issuing catalogues of 30,000 volumes and more. By 1791, when his annual profits were £4000, and he wrote the first version of his Memoirs, he had installed himself with Dorcas in a country house in Merton and set up his own carriage.

“This was Spring House, the early 18th-century house in Kingston Road, which was demolished in the 1930s and replaced by the Spring House flats. As was quite usual at the time, the Lackingtons leased rather than bought their house, although they could have easily afforded to purchase.

“Around this time Lackington became the proprietor of a shop with a frontage of 43 metres (140 feet) at the southwest corner of Finsbury Square. Crowned with a dome from which flew a flag, it was called ‘The Temple of the Muses’, and was one of the capital’s tourist attractions. Within was an immense circular counter, round which it was said was room enough to drive a coach-and-six. ‘Lounging rooms’ were reached by way of a broad staircase, and there was a succession of Galleries, where the stock was cheaper and shabbier the higher one climbed.”

He knew success because he had learned his lessons on buying and selling at a young age. He marked every book with the lowest prices he could afford to sell it and still make a profit. He was not greedy in the sense we know it today. It is said his carriage doors held the inscription: “Small profits do great things.” He was known to drop tens of thousands of pounds at a single auction. He stuck to this ode by Samuel Wesley: 

“No glory I covet, no riches I want,
Ambition is nothing to me;
The one thing I beg of kind Heaven to grant
Is a mind independent and free.”

51fQttH-ZRL.jpgLit Hub explains: “Late 18th-century London was a time of great social change. More people were learning to read, and the increase in leisure time among the working and middle classes meant an increased demand for books. But books were still an expensive luxury, and bookstores could be intimidating places. At the time, the typical bookstore did not encourage idle browsing or lounging. Lackington wanted to find a way to make books more affordable and accessible while still turning a profit, and with this in mind, he set about revolutionizing the book trade in at least four ways. His first innovation was to eliminate a staple of 18th-century commercial life: credit. He ran a cash-only business, which initially shocked his competitors and insulted some of his customers, but he reasoned that if he sold for cash, he could buy for cash instead of taking out costly loans; in this way he avoided interest charges as well as the losses incurred by customers unable to pay their debts. His second innovation had to do with his handling of remainder sales. The standard practice was for booksellers to buy large quantities of remaindered titles and then destroy as many as three-quarters of the books in order to drive up prices. But Lackington bought huge lots—sometimes entire libraries—and then drastically reduced the prices of all the books in order to sell them at high volume. In this way he kept books in circulation, made them affordable to a wider range of buyers, and turned a substantial profit all at the same time. Lackington’s third innovation will be familiar to anyone today who loves a bargain: he convinced his customers that they were getting a deal by refusing to haggle over prices. He posted this sign in his shop: The lowest priced is marked on every book, and no abatement made on any article.”


Lit Hub 

Merton Historical Society

Nigel Beale 

The Online Books Page: Online Books of James Lackington


Posted in books, British history, buildings and structures, business, England, Georgian England, history, publishing, reading, reading habits, real life tales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

William Hamilton, an Irishman’s Attempt to Kill Queen Victoria



Kill the Queen!: The Eight Assassination Attempts on Queen Victoria by Barrie Charles

Thursday, 19 May 1849, William Hamilton, a 22-years-old, orphaned, unemployed Irish bricklayer, fired a pistol at the Queen Victoria, as she drove, yet again, down Constitution hill toward Buckingham Palace. This was shortly after the birth of her seventh child. Hamilton had stationed himself in Green Park. On the evening of the official commemoration of her birthday, Queen Victoria rode through Hyde and Regent’s Park with three of her children, including the future King Edward VII. 

The head keeper of Green Park subdued the shooter. Hamilton was turned over to Police-Constable Topley. Topley escort Hamilton to the Palace, where he was turned over to Inspector Walker. Later, Hamilton was taken to the King Street station house and placed in the custody of an Inspector Darkin. According to History.com, Hamilton had immigrate from Ireland to London in the 1840s at the onset of the Irish Famine/Great Hunger. He told the police he had fired the gun loaded only with powder “for the purpose of getting into prison, as he was tired of being out of work.” 

“The prisoner was about twenty-two years of age and was only about five feet six or seven inches tall. He had a fair complexion and hair and was dressed in a flannel jacket, corduroy trousers, black waist coat and cap. His name, he finally admitted, was William Hamilton. He was a bricklayer by trade and an Irishman and an orphan. He was raised in the poor school of the Protestant Orphan Society at Cork in Ireland.” (The Social Historian)


Shooting Victoria: Madness, Mayhem, and the Rebirth of the British Monarchy by Paul Thomas Murphy

It is said Hamilton was briefly imprisoned for taking part in the Parisian arm of the 1848 European uprisings while he was in France. Hamilton returned to London and, frustrated with Britain’s lack of assistance during the years of the Irish famine, set about killing the Queen. Considered “insane,” Hamilton claimed his intention had been “to frighten the English Queen with a home-made pistol.” Reportedly, realizing the foolishness of such an action, he borrowed an actual pistol from his landlady. Unlike the news report below, Raymond Lamont-Brown in How Fat Was Henry VIII (The History Press, ©2008, page 148) says that the gun had no bullet in it at the time. 

“Upon the learned judges taking their seats upon the bench, the prisoner William Hamilton was placed at the bar, to plead to the indictment charging him with a misdemeanour, having unlawfully discharged a pistol at her Majesty. The indictment alleged that the prisoner, on the 19th day of May, at the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, having in his possession a certain pistol loaded with an explosive substance—to wit, gunpowder—unlawfully, wilfully, and maliciously discharged the said pistol at her Majesty, with intent thereby to injury to her person. In other counts of the indictment the intent the prisoner was laid to be to alarm her Majesty, and to cause a breach of the peace. Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – Saturday 16 June 1849 Hamilton pleaded guilty.” (The Social Historian)

The Chief Justice transported Hamilton “for the term of seven years” as a warning to others. Hamilton sent to a prison colony in Gibraltar to perform hard labor for five years, before disappearing into obscurity  in Freemantle, Western Australia.


Barrie Charles, author of The Lucky Queen, gives a bit more information on Hamilton’s last days. “Afterwards, to much merriment, his erstwhile landlord asked the court for his gun back as he had been offered £40 for it, more than a labourer’s annual pay. William was taking to Pentonville and then, with a small group of other convicts, by warship to Gibraltar, where he spent 5 years living on a prison hulk and employed with the hard labour gangs on government works.  Just when he must have been counting the days until his release, he was consigned to another convict ship and taken round the world to Fremantle in Western Australia.  Little is known for certain of his subsequent life, but it appears that he went north and probably worked in one of the lead mines.  Finally, his health  broken, he died at the age of 58 in Perth.”

Other Sources: 

Barrie Charles, Historical Researcher and Author 

Culture Trip 

Helen Rappaport, Queen Victoria, a Biographical Companion 

Sunday Express



Posted in British history, England, Great Britain, history, political stance, real life tales, research, royalty, Victorian era, weaponry | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Solving a Baby’s “Teething Woes” During the Regency

este-ano-habrian-muerto-mas-corales-que-nunca_full_landscape.jpg In one of scenes for Lady Chandler’s Sister: Book Three of the Twins’ Trilogy, a baby belonging to the story’s heroine is running a slight fever and is fussy. The physician summoned to the child’s aid suggests a coral for the child’s teething needs, but one of my Beta readers wondered if I knew of what I spoke, for her idea of “coral” was marine invertebrates that typically live in compact colonies of many identical individual polyps. 

During the Regency era, neither the parents nor many of the attending physicians knew much about the teething experience. When my son was small, every time he cut a tooth, he ended up with an ear infection. I knew something of what worked to ease the pain he experienced, but not so much for parents during the Regency. Many so-called intelligent adults of the period thought teething was one of the causes of infant deaths, claiming that  a child’s fragile nervous system caused the the baby to go into convulsions.

41nv-gmfuhL._SY291_BO1,204,203,200_QL40_.jpg Even though, Hippocrates: Volume I: Ancient Medicine (Loeb Classical Library, No. 147) [by Hippocrates (W. H. S. Jones, Translator)] said otherwise, the belief continued to be stated as if it were the truth. 

Hippocrates wrote





content-1.jpg Because of this fear, a legend, of sorts, grew up around the use of a “coral” to relieve the child’s pain and to protect him or her from an early death. Such an attitude carried into the 20th Century. “So deadly has it become, that one-third of the human family die before the twenty deciduous teeth have fully appeared.” [J. D. White, John Hugh McQuillen, George Jacob Ziegler, James William White, Edward Cameron Kirk, Lovick Pierce Anthony, editors. The Dental Cosmos, Volume 36, S. S. White Dental Manufacturing Company, 1894.]

According to Wikipedia, the “coral” legend finds its roots, quite literally, in Greek mythology and the story of Perseus. In the story, Perseus changed Cetus, the sea-monster into a petrified state by employing the head of Medusa. Cetus had assisted in Poseidon’s revenge and the god’s holding of the Princess Andromeda. Cetus intended to swallow Andromeda. Having defeated Medusa, Perseus placed Medusa’s severed head upon the riverbank, so he might wash his hands of the blood. When he reclaimed the head as a prize, he noted that Medusa’s blood had turned the seaweed and the reeds to red coral. Thus, the Greek word for coral is ‘Gorgeia,’ as Medusa was one of the three Gorgons. The Romans, who later took up the tale, believed coral could protect children from harm as well as cure wounds made by snakes and scorpions and diagnose diseases by changing color. 

“At the beginning of the 1st millennium, there was significant trade in coral between the Mediterranean and India, where it was highly prized as a substance believed to be endowed with mysterious sacred properties. Pliny the Elder remarks that, before the great demand from India, the Gauls used it for the ornamentation of their weapons and helmets; but by this period, so great was the Eastern demand, that it was very rarely seen even in the regions which produced it. Among the Romans, branches of coral were hung around children’s necks to preserve them from danger from the outside, and the substance had many medicinal virtues attributed to it. The belief in coral’s potency as a charm continued throughout the Middle Ages and early in 20th century Italy it was worn as a protection from the evil eye, and by women as a cure for infertility.” (Precious Coral)

Ancient Egyptians believed coral would east the pain of teething. According to author Kathryn Kane at The Regency Redingote, “Though the ancient Egyptians were unaware of the Greek’s mythological story of the origins of coral, surviving Sumerian tablets more than three thousand years old record their use of coral for teething rings. The Egyptians believed the coral would ease their babies’ pain during teething and they had these coral rings inscribed with the head of Bes, a god which was known to protect children. Both the ancient Greeks and Romans believed that coral would ward off the falling sickness and a number of other infantile ailments and diseases. Plato wrote, ‘Coral is good to be hanged about … ‘ The Greeks hung coral ornaments on their babies’ cradles and in their nurseries while the Romans hung pieces of polished red coral around the necks of their babies to keep away evil influences. This belief in the supernatural power of coral survived into the Middle Ages in Europe, where coral gum sticks were given to teething babies of the upper classes. Parents believed the coral would ward off evil and prevent their babies’ gums from bleeding.

“In Renaissance Italy, a good-luck charm made of coral in the shape of a branch of red coral was worn by many adults. Such protective charms were even more often placed around the necks of many babies to ward off any evil influences. Curiously, it was also believed that coral would protect children from lightening strikes. By the sixteenth century, the use of coral to protect babies had spread across Europe and a necklace of coral beads had become a common christening gift to babies of the more affluent classes. Most children wore these coral beads for years. When the necklace became too small to be worn around the neck, the bead string was usually doubled and worn as a bracelet until the child became an adult. Some children actually chewed on their coral charms or coral beads while they were teething.”

Although the exact timing of can vary from child to child, babies typically begin teething around 6 months of age. Usually the front bottom two teeth (lower central incisors) emerge first, accompanied by the front top two teeth (upper central incisors). Teething can be a painful and difficult process for both babies and parents, as infants may become especially fussy or cranky while their new teeth emerge. Quintessential signs and symptoms of teething include irritability or fussiness, drooling, chewing on firm solid objects, and sore or sensitive gums. Parents also commonly conclude that teething causes diarrhea and fever, but research has shown this to be untrue. Teething does produce signs and symptoms in the gums and mouth but does not generate constitutional or other extended bodily symptoms.

Well-meaning parents and physicians of the 18th and 19th centuries used a variety of cures and remedies, most of which were dangerous to the children involved, including: 

lancing the gums 

amulets adorned with magical charms: coral sticks, semiprecious stones, a wolf’s tooth (Some were placed around the neck, but others were placed around the waist.)

a lump of sugar wrapped in a cloth 

a necklace of coral or 9 strands of scarlet silk

a bag containing wood lice or hairs of a donkey placed about the neck 

a necklace of figwort stems or dried bittersweet berries or peony root or sea beans 

stems of elder or traveler’s joy were similarly made into teething beads

native plants such as the wild red poppy, as well as the imported opium poppy were used topically

leaves of groundsel infused in baby’s milk

rubbing the brains of a hare on the gums 

a folded over cloth saturated with brandy or other spirits

placing leeches on the baby’s gums to “bleed” him or her

Many parents swore by Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, for example, whose advertisements proclaimed, “Depend on it, Mothers, it will give rest to yourselves and relief and health to your babies.” It gave rest but not health: It was, essentially, a mixture of alcohol and morphine. 

A 17th C recipe from Sussex used dried roots of henbane, orpine and vervain, all soaked in alcohol and dried to form a necklace to chew on. 

A ready-made necklace, available commercially for purchase, used imported orris to ease the pain. 


[Hatfield, Gabrielle. Encyclopedia of Folk Medicine: Old World and New World Traditions.]

[Day, Nicholas. Morphine? Wolf’s Teeth? Hare Brains? The Endless Quest to Solve Teething. Slate.com]

A look at this list shows the infant mortality rate likely had more to do with the “cures” than the teething process. 

At the middle of the 1700s, children of wealthy parents began to seek out a means to keep their children alive. They mixed in a bit of superstition and a bit of the best science of the times and demanded a popular item of the age: an era pacifier adorned with natural materials, such as coral or mother of pearl. The smooth surface of the coral or the mother or pearl provided the baby with something to suck and gnaw on and the miniature bells and rattles distracted the child from his teething pain. These “pacifiers” were typically made of sterling silver or gold. Silversmiths of the era made pacifiers and cups, commissioned by the aristocracy. There were many small parts on the typical coral ring, but no one of the age worried about a choking hazard. The pacifiers were meant to establish a person’s place in Society, the same as would be the commissioned tea service from the very same silversmith. Coral was chosen because of its long-standing belief to ward off ailments, and mother of pearl was used to symbolize purity and innocence. [Colonials Indulge Babies with Gold Pacifiers, Coral Teething Rings]

b686f9dafeddd8a475f598146b75d007--baby-rattle-teething.jpg  f653ca98af54bbd0ac216d0d734bdb1f--baby-rattle-coral36b61faa531c06160afde4002a548b55.jpgc19855ab92259302623d90bbb6711840.jpg

These lavish rattles and pacifiers announced the wealth of the family, but they also served as a practical way to relieve the child’s suffering, for coral is a relatively soft gemstone, while firm, it is more “forgiving” than the bones and wood and raw carrots those of the lower class depended on. Coral also did not splinter or break. The Victorian era saw the use of the white mother of pearl rattles more so than those made of red coral. 

As my story is set at the end of 1820, shortly after George IV came to the throne, I was particular to double check the use of the “pacifiers” shown above, as well as the word “corals,” as I have the physician use it in the novel. I discovered that parents of this last of the Georgian periods preferred coral gum sticks, which is what Doctor Dalhauser suggests to the story’s heroine. 




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#Review – Lady Joy And the Earl : A Christmas Novella by Regina Jeffers (@reginajeffers) #Christmas #Regency #Romance

#Review – Lady Joy And the Earl : A Christmas Novella by Regina Jeffers (@reginajeffers) #Christmas #Regency #Romance – Happy Dance to Follow!!!!

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

They have loved each other since childhood, but life has not been kind to either of them. James Highcliffe’s arranged marriage had been everything but loving, and Lady Joy’s late husband believed a woman’s spirit was meant to be broken. Therefore, convincing Lady Jocelyn Lathrop to abandon her freedom and consider marriage to him after twenty plus years apart may be more than the Earl of Hough can manage. Only the spirit of Christmas can bring these two together when secrets mean to keep them apart.

My View

Well this is a wonderfully heart-warming and emotional seasonal story. I am a big fan of Regina Jeffers work, she has a real gift at story telling, she magically captures the readers attention with her charming stories which have some of the most wondrous characters who the reader can really get behind and cheer on. Lady Joy and The Earl is no…

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The Rise of the Paston Family from Yeomanry to the Ranks of the Greatest Landowners in England and The Paston Letters

Although they are not held as a single collection, the Paston Letters provide insight into 15th Century life, which no other set of documents can. They are a record of a family’s correspondence, from different members of the Paston family, their staff, and their acquaintances, written between the years 1422 and 1509. The collection of over 1000 letters also includes some important documents and state papers of the time. 

The Pastons rose from humble peasants to landowning aristocrats over two generations. Clement Paston was a yeoman farmer in the village of Paston, Norfolk. During the time of the Black Death and the War of the Roses, Clement quietly annexed the land of those who died. He used the women he acquired to educate his son William as a man reading the law. The feudal system was quickly disintegrating at the time, and those who ruled by law, rather than force, knew success. 

William became a highly respected judge, and he made an advantageous marriage in the form of Agnes Berry, an heiress, who marriage settlements included more land and the beautiful manor of Oxnead in Norfolk. 

William’s son, John, also a lawyer, made an advantageous marriage to Margaret Mauteby, daughter of John de Mauteby and Margaret Barney, bringing even more land into the family holdings. She bore John Paston seven children: John Paston II, Sir John Paston III, Margery Call, Walter Paston, Edmund Paston, William Paston, and Anne Paston.

John Paston established a strong friendship with Sir John Falstolf, a gentleman from Norfolk. 

Falstolf was an English knight in the Hundred Years’ War. He was reportedly the prototype of Shakespeare’s character of Sir John Falstaff. He married the 41-year-old Millicent Tibetot, heiress of Robert, Lord Tiptoft and widow of Sir Stephen Scrope. She owned estates at Castle Combe in Wiltshire, Oxenton in Gloucestershire and in Yorkshire. He gave her half of the moneys he earned from the estates after their marriage, but held the estates for himself, eliminating her son Stephen’s claims to his father’s properties. Fastolf, like other English soldiers, profited from the wars in France by obtaining lands in the conquered territories. Fastolf made large sums of money in France, which he managed to transfer back to England and invest in land and property. At the time, his reputation was mixed. One servant wrote of him: “cruel and vengible he hath been ever, and for the most part without pity and mercy” (Paston Letters, i. 389); and this remark has become famous because it was recorded in the letter. Besides his share in his wife’s property he had large estates in Norfolk and Suffolk, a house at Southwark in London and where he also owned the Boar’s Head Inn. 

John Paston somehow ended up as Falstolf’s beneficiary, inheriting all of Falstolf’s estates, including the castle at Caister. Naturally, Falstolf’s relations were not happy with this outcome. The dispute that forms the bulk of the dispute, especially over the Caister Castle, is covered in the Paston Letters. They were written by the two sons of John Paston Senior, who assumed control of the Castle when their father died. Many of the letters are between the sons and their mother, Margaret, who was living at Oxnead. You will note above that John and Margaret had two sons named “John,” Elder and Younger. 

Unfortunately, Thomas Mowbray, the Duke of Norfolk, a distant relation of Falstolf, took advantage of the lawless state of England at the time, seized Casiter by force. Even so, his force of 3000 men took a year before they were successful. The Pastons, though, were not without means of sweet revenge. After all, they were a family of lawyers. They dragged the Duke of Norfolk through the court systems for nearly eleven years in an effort to recover Caister Castle. The Pastons even fought against Norfolk on the side of Henry VI at the Battle of Barnet in 1471. When Norfolk finally passed in 1476, John the Elder requested the return of the castle from Henry VI, who granted it to his supporters. 

The King’s agreement moved the Pastons from yeomanry to being some of the courtiers in a manner of three generations. They ruled at Caister for 200 years, eventually becoming the Earls of Yarmouth. The castle was sold in the 17th Century to pay the debts of a desolate descendant and eventually fell into ruin. 

Luminarium explains how the letters moved from one source to another and how they were located in different places. “The bulk of the letters and papers were sold by William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth, the last representative of the family, to the antiquary Peter Le Neve early in the 18th century. On Le Neve’s death in 1729 they came into the possession of Thomas Martin of Palgrave, who married his widow; and upon Martin’s death in 1771 they were purchased by John Worth, a chemist at Diss, whose executors sold them three years later to John Fenn of East Dereham. In 1787 Fenn published a selection of the letters in two volumes, and general interest was aroused by this publication. In 1789 Fenn published two other volumes of letters, and when he died in 1794 he had prepared for the press a fifth volume, which was published in 1823 by his nephew, Serjeant Frere. In 1787 Fenn had received a knighthood, and on this occasion, the 23rd of May, he had presented the originals of his first two volumes to King George III. These manuscripts soon disappeared, and the same fate attended the originals of the three other volumes.”

“In these circumstances it is not surprising that some doubt should have been cast upon the authenticity of the letters. In 1865 their genuineness was impugned by Herman Merivale in the Fortnightly Review; but it was vindicated on grounds of internal evidence by James Gairdner in the same periodical; and within a year Gairdner’s contention was established by the discovery of the originals of Fenn’s fifth volume, together with other letters and papers, by Serjeant Frere’s son, Philip Frere, in his house at Dungate, Cambridgeshire. Ten years later the originals of Fenn’s third and fourth volumes, with ninety-five unpublished letters, were found at Roydon Hall, Norfolk, the seat of George Frere, the head of the Frere family; and finally in 1889 the originals of the two remaining volumes were discovered at Orwell Park, Ipswich, the residence of Captain E. G. Pretyman. This latter batch of papers are the letters which were presented to George III, and which possibly reached Orwell through Sir George Pretyman Tomline (1750-1827), the tutor and friend of William Pitt. 

“The papers which had been in the hands of Sir John Fenn did not, however, comprise the whole of the Paston letters which were extant. When the 2nd Earl of Yarmouth died in 1732 other letters and documents relating to the Pastons were found at his seat, Oxnead Hall, and some of these came into the hands of the Rev. Francis Blomefield, who failed to carry out a plan to unite his collection with that of Martin. This section of the letters was scattered in various directions, part being acquired by the antiquary John Ives. The bulk of the Paston letters and documents are now in the British Museum; but others are at Orwell Park; in the Bodleian Library, Oxford; at Magdalen College, Oxford; and a few at Pembroke College, Cambridge.

“Fenn’s edition of the Paston Letters held the field until 1872, when James Gairdner published the first volume of a new edition. Taking Fenn’s work as a basis, the aim of the new editor was to include all the letters which had come to light since this publication, and in his careful and accurate work in three volumes (London, 1872-1875) he printed over four hundred letters for the first time. Gairdner’s edition, with notes and index, also contained a valuable introduction to each volume, including a survey of the reign of Henry VI; and he was just completing his task when the discovery of 1875 was made at Roydon. An appendix gave particulars of this discovery, and the unpublished letters were printed as a supplement to subsequent editions. In 1904 a new and complete edition of the Paston Letters was edited by Gairdner, and these six volumes, containing 1088 letters and papers, possess a very valuable introduction, which is the chief authority on the subject.”

The perturbed state of affairs revealed by the Paston Letters reflects the general condition of England during the period. It was a time of trouble. The weakness of the government had disorganized every branch of the administration; the succession to the crown itself was contested; the great nobles lived in a state of civil war; and the prevailing discontent found expression in the rising of Jack Cade and in the War of the Roses. The correspondence reveals the Pastons in a great variety of relations to their neighbors, friendly or hostile; and abounds with illustrations of the course of public events, as well as of the manners and morals of the time. Nothing is more remarkable than the habitual acquaintance of educated persons, both men and women, with the law, which was evidently indispensable to persons of substance.



John Paston (from Wikipedia)

Luminarium Paston Letters

Luminarium Paston Text

This is Paston 

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, history, medieval, military, political stance, real life tales, research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Craigievar Castle, the Inspiration for Walt Disney’s Trademark Castle and a Ghostly Experience


Are you still looking for the ghosts and goblins of Halloween? Permit me to introduce you to Craigievar Castle in Scotland, where you might hear ‘Red’ Sir John tell of ancient feuds between the clans and the murder of a Gordon, supposedly shoved out a window of the Blue Room by Sir John Forbes.  The Blue Room, better known as the Ghost Room gives visitors brave enough to enter quite a fright. Human forms are said to move about in the shadows and doors open and close on their own. The castle also “hosts” ghostly cocktail parties, where Scottish music and voices from the past can be heard. There are apparitions of children at play, and visitors have been known to have a tug or two on a sleeve when there is no one about.  Another ghost is said to be a fiddler, drowned in a well in the kitchen, who only appears to members of the Forbes family.

Craigievar Castle is said to have inspired the Walt Disney trademark castle. Set in beautiful wooded grounds in the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire near Alford in northeast Scotland. Sporting seven stories, it is a large L-plan tower house. Turrets, gables, chimney-stacks and corbelling crown the upper storeys; in contrast to the lower storeys, which are completely plain. The corners of the building are rounded and harled and pink washed. [In Scottish and Ulster usage, harling describes an exterior building-surfacing technique which results in a long-lasting weatherproof shield for a stone building. A pigment can be embedded in the harled material, thus eliminating the need for repainting. Harling as a technique provides the surface of many Scottish castles, but it is also used for a variety of common everyday building types. Long-lasting and practical, it well suits structures in the Scottish climate.]


Component pieces of an ogee arch ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ogee

The square tower, in the re-entrant angle, is crowned by a balustraded parapet enclosing a flat roof, with a caphouse topped by an ogee roof. [An ogee is a curve, often used in moulding, shaped somewhat like an S, consisting of two arcs that curve in opposite senses, so that the ends are parallel.} The castle stood in a small courtyard, with round towers at the corners, one of which survives.

“The entrance, in the re-entrant angle, leads to a vestibule to three vaulted chambers, and to a straight stair in the centre of the house, which rises only to the first floor. The hall, with a private chamber, occupies the first floor, and is a magnificent vaulted apartment, with mixed groin- and barrel-vaulting, and a fine plaster ceiling. A narrow stair leads down to the wine-cellar, and there is a small minstrels’ gallery. The hall has a fine large fireplace with ornamental stone carving, and there is a laird’s lug, accessed from a narrow entrance in the adjoining passageway. The floors above are occupied by many private chambers, reached by five turret stairs. Many of these rooms are paneled, and there is also good contemporary plasterwork. Items of interest include paintings by Raeburn and a collection of arms and armour.

main_craigievar_autumn_shadow_0118_a4d3b1d2372d193767395f89c3d28c77.jpg“The property belonged to the Mortimer family from 1457 or earlier, and they held it until 1610. They began the castle, but ran out of money, and it was sold to the Forbeses of Menie, who finished the building in 1626. Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, a Covenanter, was responsible for the putting down the freebooter and his band, and having them hanged in Edinburgh. He commanded a troop of horse in the Civil War, and was Sheriff of Aberdeen. Sir John Forbes of Craigievar is on record in the 1680s and 1690s. Forbes of Brux and Paton of Grandhome, who were both Jacobites, hid in the laird’s lug to avoid capture. Queen Victoria visited in 1879. Sir William Forbes inherited the title Lord Sempill, and the family became Forbes-Sempill. The castle was given to The National Trust for Scotland in 1963 by the then owner William Forbes-Sempill, 19th Laird of Craigievar, and the Forbeses of Craigievar are recorded as now living near Castle Douglas in Galloway. The tower was renovated and reharled from 2008 to 2010, and is now pink-washed.”

“In 2016 it was reported in the papers that unauthorised art nude photos had been taken in and around the castle some years earlier, with the model Rachelle Summers draped across antique 17th-century furniture’ Gabriel Forbes-Sempill, daughter of William, 19th laird, is reported in the The Scotsman (and elsewhere) as saying: ‘I am by no means a prude but I don‘t believe my parents gave the castle to the nation for this sort of thing.’ The NTS conducted an investigation and vowed that this would not happen again. A further development is that in November 2017, a legal action was raised by the photographer, claiming that the photos were authorised and that the publicty surrounding the controversy had damaged business. The case is ongoing.” (The Castles of Scotland)

Other Sources: 

National Trust of Scotland 

Undiscovered Scotland 

Vintage News 

Visit Scotland 



Posted in architecture, British history, buildings and structures, history, legends, medieval, paranormal, real life tales, Scotland, spooky tales, suspense | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Revenants, Coming Back from the Dead


via Wikipedia ~ Fair Use ~ Image showing a Revenant, monster in the AD&D game.

Tonight, I will stand in my driveway and hand out candy snacks to those brave enough to enter my small cul de sac, where few turn on their lights for the Trick or Treaters. And once more, my thoughts again run to the macabre. Revenance, or people returning from the dead in a ghostlike form or as an animated corpse, is a common theme in paranormal tales, and Halloween is all about the paranormal.  The word “revenant” comes to us from the Latin word reveniens, meaning “returning.”

 William of Newburgh (during the 1190s) and other early English historians of the Middle Ages documented these appearances. “It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally (I know not by what agency) from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, and again return to the tomb, which of its own accord spontaneously opened to receive them, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this fact, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony.” (William of Newburgh, Historia rerum Anglicarum (History of English Affairs), Book Five, Chapter 5, Fordham University, https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/williamofnewburgh-five.asp)


Another female skeleton, this one with a stone placed on her throat (Credit: Amy Scott/Gregoricka) – via http://www.history.com/news/the-truth-about-polands-vampire-burials

 Medieval European stories of revenants have some common features. Those who revive from the dead are typically wrongdoers in their lifetime, often described as wicked, vain, or unbelievers. Often the revenants are associated with the spreading of disease among the living. The appropriate response is usually exhumation, followed by some form of decapitation, and burning or removal of the heart. Several stories state that revenants drink blood. Again, this assumption likely comes from the practice of leaving diseased corpses exposed for an extended period of time. In truth, the gases in the body would cause the body to bloat, as well as to force the blood from the extremities through the lungs and esophagus and into the mouth. It would be nature for unlearned people to try to explain this phenomenon by thinking the dead had grown fat by feasting on the blood of others. 

For example, in Historia rerum Anglicarum (mentioned above) the corpse of one revenant is reported to have been found in the grave, swollen and “suffused with blood”. When it was pierced, a stream of blood flew out of the wound. This part of the story is paralleled in many accounts of alleged vampires, and the phenomenon it depicts is, in fact, known to occur frequently as part of the natural process of corpse decomposition.  Revenants are therefore another example of the widespread historical belief in vampires. (Revenant) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenant

images-1.jpg Heck, even Disney and Pixar are getting in on the idea of the dead returning. Coco is an upcoming American computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel who sets off a chain of events relating to a century-old mystery, leading to an extraordinary family reunion. The concept of the film is based on the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead. Coco is scheduled to be released on November 22, 2017.

Vampire tales have existed in Europe since the 11th Century (and maybe before that time). A person could become a vampire if he were unbaptized or killed in some violent manner. Some people were labeled as vampires if they were not from the area in which the unusual incident took place or if they were the first to die from an infectious disease.

In the 1600s and the 1700s, in Europe, people performed funerary rites. These were intended to guard against vampires. Those involved would put a sickle across the body to decapitate the body if it rose from the grave, or they would place large rocks under their chins to prevent the vampire from opening his mouth.

Additional Resources:

Pruitt, Sarah. “The Truth About Poland’s ‘Vampire’ Burials.” History. 2 December 2014. http://www.history.com/news/the-truth-about-polands-vampire-burials

Radford, Benjamin. “Vampires: The Real Story.” Live Science. 22 October 2014. https://www.livescience.com/24374-vampires-real-history.html

“Vampire History.” History. http://www.history.com/topics/vampire-history

VDDeBookCover2.jpgVampire Darcy’s Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Paranormal Adventure

Vampire Darcy’s Desire presents Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as a heart-pounding vampire romance filled with passion and danger.

Tormented by a 200-year-old curse and his fate as a half human/half vampire dhampir, Fitzwilliam Darcy vows to live a solitary life rather than inflict the horrors of his life upon an innocent wife and his first born son. However, when he encounters the captivating Elizabeth Bennet, his will is sorely tested.

As a man, Darcy yearns for Elizabeth, but as a vampire, he is also driven to possess her. Uncontrollably drawn to each other, they are forced to confront a different kind of “pride” and his enemy’s “prejudice,” while wrestling with the seductive power of forbidden love. Evil forces, led by George Wickham, the purveyor of the curse, attack from all sides, and Darcy learns his only hope to survive is to align himself with Elizabeth, who is uncannily astute in how to defeat Wickham, a demon determined to destroy each generation of Darcys.

Vampire Darcy’s Desire retells Austen’s greatest love story in a hauntingly compelling tale. Can love be the only thing that can change him?

“An engaging and romantic paranormal surprise” ~ JustJane1813

“Jeffers ups the ante even more by basing the core of the plot line on the traditional Scottish ballad.” ~ The Royal Reviews


Original Cover as published by Ulysses Press


Kindle  https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Darcys-Desire-Prejudice-Paranormal-ebook/dp/B01LXG0NJB/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1475700131&sr=8-2&keywords=vampire+darcy%27s+desire

Kobo https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/vampire-darcy-s-desire-1

Amazon U.S.  https://www.amazon.com/Vampire-Darcys-Desire-Prejudice-Paranormal/dp/1539344657/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1475839165&sr=8-2&keywords=vampire+darcy%27s+desire

Nook  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vampire-darcys-desire-regina-jeffers/1124778221?ean=2940157104719

Excerpt from Vampire Darcy’s Desire where Darcy, Elizabeth, and the Colonel prepared to fight the revenants led by Wickham…

“Will this work, Colonel?” Gordy unloaded bundles of white thorn and ash staves. It was high noon, and the Darcys prepared for the evening.

“My cousin knows how to rid a land of vampires, and this is one of the steps.” The colonel placed a stave horizontally across each of the marked and unmarked graves.

Gordy followed Damon’s pattern. “What will them staves do?” he asked, bending over to place the wood carefully on the mounded dirt.

“The soul cannot leave the grave if the stave lies across it.”

“All them creatures be stuck in the ground?”

Damon responded, “Until we decide to permit them to leave.”

“That be somethin’ to view, Colonel.” He picked up another bundle and moved to the other side of the cemetery.

Damon watched as Elizabeth struggled with the large bags of salt and millet. “Gordy, leave those if you would and assist the lady instead. She will explain what she requires of you.”

Damon’s newest recruit followed his orders. “Let me be helpin’ ye, ma’am.” Gordy took the heavy bag from Elizabeth’s arms.

“Oh, bless you, Gordy.” She wiped perspiration from her forehead with her handkerchief.

“Ye jist be tellin’ Gordy what to do, and I be doin’ it. Colonel there tell me to he’p ye.”

Elizabeth looked up to see Damon continuing to place the staves. “I will thank him later. Now, Gordy, if you will follow me, we want to place a stream of salt all around the inside of the graveyard.”

“Seem like a mighty big waste of salt, Ma’am, but I be doin’ what ye ask.” Using a knife, he cut a small hole in the bottom of the bag and walked slowly around the perimeter of the site.

“Make at least two rounds, Gordy. The spirits cannot cross the salt line, so I want no breaks in the markings,” Elizabeth instructed him.

“Yes, ma’am.” He continued his slow trek, meticulously filling in the uneven flow.

Darcy asked, “Where shall we place the millet, Elizabeth?”

“Have Peter use a ladle to scoop millet onto both the head and the foot of each grave and before the gate of each crypt.”

Darcy smiled at her, squeezing her hand. “Yes, my love.”

They brought in wooden stakes and several bags of coins to hide in a church alcove until they required them. “Everything is set!” the colonel called out to the group. “Gordy and Peter, you two stay here. We will send food and drink. You are to make certain no one else enters the cemetery. The three of us will return long before it is time for the confrontation.”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Gordy,” Darcy asked, “do the villagers understand they must rebury those we release tonight?”

“I be tellin’ ’em all. We be not understandin’ how ye be doin’ all this, but they come on the morrow. I’s sees to it.”

Darcy, the colonel, and Elizabeth returned to the inn. Not wishing to speak of what the night might bring, they took their meal in Darcy’s room, away from curious travelers. They ate in near silence, each consumed with his thoughts. At length, the colonel said, “I believe I will take to my bed for a few hours. It is likely to be the last rest I will have for some time. If you two will excuse me.” He left with a half bow.

Darcy and Elizabeth remained in silence until Darcy said, “I wish I had not agreed to this. How can a man place his wife in danger and still call himself a man?”

“I am not a weak woman. You, in fact, taught me to use a sword and to ride,” she protested.

Darcy protested, “I should not have encouraged your behavior.”

“Mr. Darcy, you fell in love with me because I was different. Did we not settle this earlier?”

Darcy moved to kneel before her. “God help me, Elizabeth, I truly do love you, and although I know you to be more capable than many men with whom I am acquainted, I cannot bear to place you in peril.”

“Do not worry. Remember, Damon will protect me.”

Darcy felt a pang of jealousy at hearing her refer to his cousin on such intimate terms. “It is my province to protect my wife.”

“We return to the same argument. Damon Fitzwilliam recognizes me as capable. Mayhap it is his experience on the battlefield that permits him to see a person’s true worth. Even though you profess to claim me exemplary, you cling to antiquated ideas. I gave you my heart months earlier. May I remind you, my husband, it is my love for you that brought me here!”

Darcy closed his eyes in submission. “Is there nothing I may say to change your mind?”

Elizabeth gently touched his face in a soft caress. “No, sir. Your cousin will go tonight, with or without me. I cannot permit him to do this alone. You must concentrate your efforts on Wickham. Damon deserves some consideration for all he has done for us.” Elizabeth brushed her lips across Darcy’s. “Now, I will follow your cousin’s example. I intend to take to my bed. Would you join me, my husband?”

Darcy emitted a deep sigh of resignation. He was not certain he could ever be the type of man Elizabeth required, but he knew without a doubt he could not permit her to leave him. “Holding you, my love? How could I refuse?” Darcy scooped her into his arms and carried her to the bed. He reverently lowered her to the pillows, following her down. “Remind me why I should stop the curse.”

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, customs and tradiitons, eBooks, George Wickham, gothic and paranormal, historical fiction, Jane Austen, legends and myths, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, religion, suspense, vampires | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment