Christmas Pudding, Mincemeat Pies, and Christmas Tales + a Giveaway

I have debated over the last couple of weeks the nature of this post. Christmas? Something else? A mix? I finally decided we have had enough Christmas (at least, I have, for my decorations are up, presents wrapped, and the anticipation is waning). Something else was not possible as my brain is filled with two novels I am writing simultaneously, which is common for me—that is until one takes dominance over the other. Therefore, I ultimately decided on a mix of the two. 

Did any of you make the Christmas pudding on Stir-Up-Sunday? I did, only this time I cut back on the size of the pudding. With my recent diagnosis of diabetes, too many fruits and too much sugar is not a good idea. However, the occasional bite or two (as long as I am disciplined, which I tend to be by nature) keeps away the cravings, while maintaining my traditions for the holiday. For those of you who know little about Stir-Up-Sunday, it is the last Sunday before Advent begins. This year, it was November 23. GoodtoKnow explains, “The dish known today as ‘Christmas pudding’ began its life as a Christmas porridge called Frumenty, made of beef and mutton with raisins, currants, prunes, wines and spices. This was eaten as a fasting meal in preparation for the Christmas festivities. Like so many British dishes, it has evolved over the centuries from a simple peasant’s meal to a treasured celebration dish and has been adapted to become a sweet pudding rather than a rich meaty meal. 

“When making the cake it is traditional for every member of the family, especially children, to give the mixture a stir, and make a wish while doing so. You are also supposed to stir the mixture from East to West to honour the journey made by the Wise Men. Christmas pudding is traditionally made with 13 ingredients to symbolise Jesus and the 12 Apostles. The ingredients are: sultanas, raisins, demerara sugar, currants, glacé cherries, stout, breadcrumbs, sherry, suet, almonds, orange and lemon peel, cognac and mixed spices. It is still common for people to include small silver coins (traditionally a sixpence) in the pudding mixture. Whoever gets the serving with the coin in the middle gets to keep it and it is believed to bring them wealth in the coming year. This same practice is done with a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour). But if you are putting any coins or trinkets into your pudding, make sure they are sterilised and and definitely ensure that those eating are aware there may be something in their pudding. You can wrap them in small pieces of tin foil to make them more visible.” Read more at

(I do not have an image of this year’s Christmas pudding, but I have included one from the internet for those who still require a visual image.)

I have also scaled back my tradition of preparing small mincemeat pies for the Twelve Days of Christmas. “Mince Pies, like Christmas Puddings, were originally filled with meat, such as lamb, rather than the dried fruits and spices mix as they are today. They were also first made in an oval shape to represent the manger that Jesus slept in as a baby, with the top representing his swaddling clothes. Sometimes they even had a ‘pastry baby Jesus’ on the top! During the Stuart and Georgian times, in the UK, mince pies were a status symbol at Christmas. Very rich people liked to show off at their Christmas parties by having pies made is different shapes (like stars, crescents, hearts, tears, & flowers); they fancy shaped pies could often fit together a bit like a jigsaw! They also looked like the ‘knot gardens’ that were popular during those periods. Having pies like this meant you were rich and could afford to employ the best, and most expensive, pastry cooks. A custom from the Middle Ages says that if you eat a mince pie on every day from Christmas to Twelfth Night (evening of the 5th January) you will have happiness for the next 12 months! On Christmas Eve, children in the UK often leave out mince pies with brandy or some similar drink for Father Christmas, and a carrot for the reindeer.” (The History of Mince Pies) This year, I have purchased 6 of the small pies, and I will eat half each of the twelve days. That way I keep my traditions and not destroy my health. LOL!

Now, to the real “meat” of this post. Three of my Christmas stories are now available for only $0.99 cents. 

Mr. Darcy’s Present: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary 

The Greatest Present He Would Ever Receive is the Gift of Her Love…

What if Mr. Darcy purchased a gift for Elizabeth Bennet to acknowledge the festive days, even though he knows he will never present it to her? What if the gift is posted to the lady by his servants and without his knowledge? What if the enclosed card was meant for another and is more suggestive than a gentleman should share with an unmarried lady? Join Darcy and Elizabeth, for a holiday romp, loaded with delightful twists and turns no one expects, but one in which our favorite couple take a very different path in thwarting George Wickham and Lydia Bennet’s elopement. Can a simple book of poetry be Darcy’s means to win Elizabeth’s love? When we care more for another than ourselves, the seeds of love have an opportunity to blossom. 

Or Read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. 


Christmas at Pemberley: A Pride and Prejudice Holiday Sequel 


Darcy has invited the Bennets and the Bingleys to spend the Christmastide’s festive days at Pemberley. But as he and Elizabeth journey to their estate to join the gathered families, a blizzard blankets the English countryside. The Darcys find themselves stranded at a small inn while Pemberley is inundated with refugees seeking shelter from the storm.

Without her brother’s strong presence, Georgiana Darcy tries desperately to manage the chaos surrounding the arrival of six invited guests and eleven unscheduled visitors. But bitter feuds, old jealousies and intimate secrets quickly rise to the surface. Has Lady Catherine returned to Pemberley for forgiveness or revenge? Will the manipulative Caroline Bingley find a soul mate? Shall Kitty Bennet and Georgiana know happiness?

Written in Regency style and including Austen’s romantic entanglements and sardonic humor, Christmas at Pemberley places Jane Austen’s most beloved characters in an exciting yuletide story that speaks to the love, the family spirit and the generosity that remain as the heart of Christmas.


(NOTE! The sequel to this story, The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy, will re-release next month—mid January, for I finally have my rights back from Ulysses Press for all of my original Austen-inspired stories. Take the time to read this one for the first time over the holidays, or reread it if you already own Christmas at Pemberley, and be prepared for The Disappearance of Georgiana Darcy after the first of the year.) 


A Regency Christmas Proposal: A Regency Romance Christmas Anthology

A Fabulous Regency Christmas anthology from Best-selling Authors. ~ Six full length novellas to keep you reading all through Christmas, each featuring a happily ever after centered around Christmas.

The Last Woman Standing by Regina Jeffers  ~ A Gypsy blessing for choosing a wife bound to rare flowers, a Marquess loath to comply with it, a companion with horticulture in her blood, lies, deception and manipulation, a blessing fulfilled in unexpected ways, an enduring love.

Twelfth Night Promise by Alanna Lucas ~ A Lord with a steadfast love, the Lady who broke his heart, six long years ago, now forced to a marriage against her will, a snowbound Christmas which brings them together again, deception unravelling as love proves stronger than lies, a second chance claimed.

A Bluestocking for a Baron by Arietta Richmond ~ A Bluestocking with unfashionable interests, a Baron with a deep investment in trade, an unscrupulous business rival, kidnapping, blackmail and rescue, love found in the face of danger.

The Earl and the Bluestocking by Janis Susan May ~ An Earl who needs a wife – but dislikes all of the women he meets, a young lady who staunchly denies any interest in fashion and frivolity, a Christmas Eve Ball, and a chance to be different – just once, a mysterious beauty who disappears, a slender clue to a lifetime love.

His Yuletide Kiss by Summer Hanford ~ A gentleman, the woman he believes he is fated to marry, her cousin, a family feud, an approval denied, secrets lies and deception, dark character revealed and true love redeemed.

Wooing the Wallflower by Emma Kaye ~ A Viscount’s daughter, a man of business, a conflict of class, a secret of art, an unsuitable affection, the threat of a marriage, a love worth fighting for.

Read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

REMINDER: My annual Twelve Days of Christmas sale begins December 26 and runs through January 5. Prices are slashed on EIGHTEEN of my Austen titles and FIFTEEN of my Regencies + a few contemporary tales. 

Now, for the GIVEAWAY. I have one eBook copy of each of the three Christmas tales available for those who comment below. Tell me of your favorite Christmas traditions or just speak of the holidays and family. I would love to hear your tales. The giveaway ends at midnight EST on Wednesday, December 11. I will announce the winners on December 9. Good Luck!

Posted in book release, books, British history, Christmas, England, Georgian England, giveaway, holidays, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, publishing, reading habits, real life tales, Regency era, Regency romance, tradtions, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Woman of Faith, a Guest Post from Elaine Owen

(This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on December 7, 2018. Enjoy!)

Every December we like to remember the birthday of Jane Austen the author, the genius writer who penned witty, and sometimes scathing, observations of society. But during this holiday season, when Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, it seems appropriate to remember Jane Austen in another way: a woman of deep faith.

Jane Austen grew up in a strong religious tradition. Her father was a clergyman with the church of England (also called the Anglican church) and two of her brothers eventually took orders. She grew up attending church services regularly. She would have been familiar with the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the writings of the church fathers. She would have known the order of service and the readings through the church year. Yet even this does not encompass all of Jane’s religious life.

In Jane’s time there were few careers open to men of gentle birth, so it was common for a man to take on the profession simply as a way to make a living. Piety was frequently a bonus, not a requirement. (Remember George Wickham?) Yet Jane’s father was pious. He led the family in readings, prayers, and a sermon at night. He was known to be a conscientious pastor, faithful in his duties to his flock. Without a doubt he did more than just go through the motions. He worked to actively inculcate faith in his children.

Jane’s father, the Reverend George Austen

And Jane seems to have taken this faith to heart! The same woman who wrote such gems as, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” also wrote prayers like this:

“Give us grace, Almighty Father, so to pray, as to deserve to be heard, to address thee with our hearts, as with our lips. Thou art every where present, from thee no secret can be hid. May the knowledge of this teach us to fix our thoughts on thee, with reverence and devotion that we pray not in vain. Look with mercy on the sins we have this day committed and in mercy make us feel them deeply, that our repentance may be sincere and our resolution steadfast of endeavoring against the commission of such in future. Teach us to understand the sinfulness of our own hearts, and bring to our knowledge every fault of temper and every evil habit in which we have indulged to the discomfort of our fellow-creatures, and the danger of our own souls. May we now, and on each return of night, consider how the past day has been spent by us, what have been our prevailing thoughts, words, and actions during it, and how far we can acquit ourselves of evil. Have we thought irreverently of thee, have we disobeyed thy commandments, have we neglected any known duty, or willingly given pain to any human being? Incline us to ask our hearts these questions oh! God, and save us from deceiving ourselves by pride or vanity. Give us a thankful sense of the blessings in which we live, of the many comforts of our lot; that we may not deserve to lose them.”

This is a prayer that Jane composed for reading during the family devotions. It’s important to remember than Jane had no shortage of other prayers to choose from. The Anglican tradition is full of prayers for every occasion. But she wrote this prayer herself, along with at least two others**, as an expression of her own deep faith. These are not rote, dispassionate expressions; they are the words of someone whose beliefs touched their life in profound ways.

We also know that Jane had strong opinions about Evangelicals, one of the more fanatical religious group of her day, and that she and Cassandra frequently assisted the poor in her father’s congregation. These things also tell us how seriously she took her faith.

So why isn’t faith more evident in Jane’s writings? Why doesn’t she ever use her stories as vehicles to urge others to greater piety? I submit that she does, just in ways that are not obvious at first.

For instance, Jane’s world has no moral ambiguities in it. Jane doesn’t try to get the reader to understand what made John Willoughby a cad. She doesn’t express or generate sympathy for Lydia’s wayward behavior. She doesn’t try to justify Henry Crawford’s womanizing. In her novels immoral behavior is always immoral, and the characters who act in immoral ways do not come to good ends. They typically end up frustrated and unsatisfied, not experiencing what we would call a happy ever after.

On the other hand, Jane’s good characters, the ones who behave in moral ways, are portrayed with genuine understanding. They are flawed but they are always capable of becoming better. Through humility and self-reflection they come to know themselves, to acknowledge their shortcomings, and to make a permanent change in their character. For them there is always a happy ending. The idea of humility, repentance, and a person who repents and is rewarded with happiness is a very Christian concept.

So what do you think? Why didn’t Jane’s faith find more expression through her stories? If she were alive today would her faith be expressed in the same way? Here is some further reading on the subject.

***Of three Jane’s reputed prayers, the authorship of two has been questioned.

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era, religion, research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Closer Look at “The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq.” by William Makepeace Thackeray

41hWa7xtbtL.jpg I have debated whether this post should be a review of the book The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. by William Makepeace Thackeray or a review of the Stanley Kubrick movie Barry Lyndon or something in between. In truth, I was researching Richard Bertie for another post, but the happenings in Bertie’s real-life reminded me of the fictional Barry Lyndon, and I had to go back and look at at the Thackeray tale. In addition, I recently set through a screening of this movie in September at the Carolina Theatre of Durham (NC). The film originally came out in 1975, but it was re-released to the “art” theatres in 2016. I can say that it is one of the best costume dramas in existence, but know that it is 3 hours long and is, by today’s standards,  a VERY slow-paced movie. Like Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Full Metal Jacket, this is more of a character study that “chronicles the picaresque journey of Irish chancer Redmond Barry (Ryan O’Neal) as a British soldier of the 1756-63 Seven Years War, deserter, turncoat hero of the Prussian army, gambler, adulterous husband, devoted father, aspiring aristocrat, and symbolically emasculated wanderer, his travels taking him to Germany, Holland, Belgium, England, and back to the continent around 1789. The film is gorgeously appointed and offers many painterly vistas and static or semi-static dioramas – direct homages to the works of, among others, Hogarth, Watteau, Gainsborough, Stubbs, Constable, Reynolds, Fuseli, Zoffany, and de la Tour and Schalcken, the latter pair inspiring Kubrick’s exquisite candlelit interiors.” (The Arts Desk


The film fared poorly at the box-office upon its release and received mixed reviews, but it has gained in reputation in recent times and remains one of Kubrick’s better and most underrated films. John Alcott’s cinematography gives the film its elegant look. The movie paints a detailed picture of Europe’s 18th-century period that could have been drawn by master painters such as Constable, Gainborough and Watteau. It’s a sumptuous costume movie that tells both an adventure story and one that’s a comedy of manners, that goes at a leisurely pace for three hours. (Home Pages by Dennis Schwartz)

Barry Lyndon_1.jpg

In April 2017, the New York Arts Organization featured the film in one of those Wordless Music presentations with a 50-piece orchestra. They sum up the movie, which stars Ryan O’Neal as Barry, as such: “Redmond Barry is a young, roguish Irishman who’s determined, in any way, to make a life for himself as a wealthy nobleman. Enlisting in the British army and fighting in Europe’s Seven Years War, Barry deserts, joins the Prussian army, gets promoted to the rank of a spy, and becomes a pupil to a chevalier and con artist/gambler. Barry then lies, dupes, duels and seduces his way up the social ladder, entering into a lustful but loveless marriage to a wealthy countess named Lady Lyndon. He takes the name of Barry Lyndon, settles in England with wealth and power beyond his wildest dreams, before eventually falling into ruin.

Barry Lyndon’s Oscar winning soundtrack features Irish traditional music and military marches, along with baroque and classical themes by Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, and Paisiello. Most notable are sumptuous interpretations of Handel’s Sarabande and Schubert’s Piano Trio in E-Flat Major, D. 929, which emerges as a recurring, melancholic love theme for Lady Lyndon.” 


As to Thackeray’s novel, the story begins with a teenage Redmond Barry, who loves his cousin, but more importantly, thinks of himself as coming from the nobility. It is this belief, instilled in him by his mother, that brings him glory and ruin. The book does not shy away from reality. For example, although he thinks himself worthy of grand honors and respects, Redmond faces needs of day-to-day survival. They are from the gentry, but from an impoverished Irish family. With thoughts of his “rightful” place in society, Redmond refused to choose menial work or even one of the more acceptable professions. Living with blinders on, Redmond’s aspirations to the nobility destroys him.

In the bibliographical notes of a collection of Thackeray’s works, Walter Jerrold [The Works of William Makepeace Thackeray, J.M. Dent & Co., London, 1903] speaks to the inspiration for Redmond Barry’s character. Jerrold believes Thackeray was familiar with the accounts of the adventures of Andrew Robinson Stoney [later called Stoney=Bowes], who also married a countess [Countess of Strathmore] for money and mistreated her. Parts of Stoney’s real-life tale comes to life in the book. 

51sngNjEwoL.jpg Barry Lyndon is completely reprehensible, but even so the reader holds a bit of sympathy for him because those with whom he associates are more abhorrent than he. In Depth Info tells us, “When he gets back at a haughty lieutenant or skips town, escaping from an oppressive Prussian secret police, we can applaud his ingenuity. But as he enters the field of matrimony we come to have a dimmer view of Redmond Barry and his self-justifications. This is because many of his early adventures can be viewed almost as a game, a game at which he begins to excel. But later as he contemplates marriage we realize that he is totally unequipped to come to grips with the serious business of life, and ultimately, it is his wife who ends up suffering for his inadequacy, self-destruction, and self-delusion.

“Throughout the work the whole idea of honor, especially as it is expressed in the code duello hovers in the background. Redmond Barry makes use of this almost legitimized threatening force in order to get his way. He acts as an enforcer collecting gambling debts owed to himself and his cheating uncle. He largely bullies whomever gets in his way because he is an expert swordsman and a wicked shot with the pistol. It is interesting that Redmond Barry never kills anyone in a duel. His object is not to so much get others out of the way, but to bend them to his will.

“The underlying message seems to be that this very talented man, Redmond Barry Lyndon, an innocent in his youth is formed by the age in which he lives and through this pernicious code of nobility becomes a monster. Indeed, it is one of the functions of a novel to chronical the change of an individual as he moves through a story. In most works we find the forces of society and nature bring maturity, redemption, or insight – some positive good. In the case of Barry Lyndon the character goes from innocent youth to a thoughtless, self-centered manipulator.”



The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq. 

Posted in books, British history, drama, film, Georgian England, Great Britain | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Allure of ByGone Days…(or Not)

(In cleaning out some of my school files, I came across these common phrases and their sources. Enjoy!!!)

Here are some bygone tales about the 1500s:

People married in June. Most had taken their yearly bath in May, so the bride crarried a bouquet of flowers to cover their body odors. Hence, the bridal bouquet became a tradition at weddings.

A family used the same tub of water for baths. The man of the house received the benefit of clean water for his ablutions. His efforts were followed by all the other men/boys in the family. Women came next. Children were followed by babies. By then, the water was so dirty that one might hear “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. ”

“Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.” A vegetable stew served today would remain on the fire tonight. People ate their fill, and leftovers remained in the pot to get cold overnight. The next day, the fire was relit and new vegetables were added. Some pots held remnants from several days’ efforts.

Having meat to share was a sign of wealth. Families would, literally, hang bacon to dry where visitors might see it. “Bringing home the bacon” was a sign of importance. People would cut off some of the dried meat to share with their guests. They would “sit around and chew the fat. ”

Pewter plates were also a sign of wealth. Unfortunately, high acid foods (especially, tomatoes) caused some of the lead in the plates to seem into the food = lead poisoning. For many centuries, people thought it was the tomatoes that were poisonous.

Likewise, lead cups were used for ale and whisky. Imbibers often spent a couple of days passed out from the combination. If they couldn’t be brought around, they might find themselves laid out for burial. Hence, “holding a wake” to see if the person would awaken became commonplace.

Houses had thatched roofs, each with thick straw piled high. Unfortunately, no wood was underneath the straw. Often, small animals found warmth in the thatch. If it rained, the straw became slippery. Therefore, we have the saying “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

The animals and “bugs” could also drop unexpectingly on one’s head. Therefore, “canopy” beds became essential. A bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection from the barrage of “visitors. ”

“Dirt poor” came about from the floors in poor households. The rich had slate floors, which became slippery when wet. People, therefore, placed thresh on the floor to maintain their footing. As the winter wore on, more thresh was added. When people opened the door, the thresh would slip out. To prevent this from happening, they placed a piece of wood over the entranceway as a “thresh hold.”

(I first came across these facts in an article from Senior Sun in April 2006. I no longer have the original article to know the source of the facts from the news page.)

Posted in Anglo-Normans, Anglo-Saxons, British history, Great Britain, real life tales, tall tales | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

What You Didn’t Know About Thanksgiving

cornucopia03It took more than 200 years after the first Thanksgiving before it became an official holiday.

The first Thanksgiving was a three day feast, which included hunting, athletic games, and eating. The Pilgrims dined on venison, NOT turkey. There was also NO pumpkin pie or sweet potatoes covered in marshmallows or cranberry sauce.

“According to historian George Willison, who devoted his life to the subject, the story about the rock is all malarkey, a public relations stunt pulled off by townsfolk to attract attention. What Willison found out is that the Plymouth Rock legend rests entirely on the dubious testimony of Thomas Faunce, a ninety-five year old man, who told the story more than a century after the Mayflower landed. Unfortunately, not too many people ever heard how we came by the story of Plymouth Rock. Willison’s book came out at the end of World War II and Americans had more on their minds than Pilgrims then. So we’ve all just gone merrily along repeating the same old story as if it’s true when it’s not. And anyway, the Pilgrims didn’t land in Plymouth first. They first made landfall at Provincetown. Of course, the people of Plymouth stick by hoary tradition. Tour guides insist that Plymouth Rock is THE rock.”

Some other places claim the first Thanksgiving. History News Network gives us The Top Ten Myths about Thanksgiving.

“To see what the first Thanksgiving was like you have to go to: Texas. Texans claim the first Thanksgiving in America actually took place in little San Elizario, a community near El Paso, in 1598 — twenty-three years before the Pilgrims’ festival. For several years they have staged a reenactment of the event that culminated in the Thanksgiving celebration: the arrival of Spanish explorer Juan de Onate on the banks of the Rio Grande. De Onate is said to have held a big Thanksgiving festival after leading hundreds of settlers on a grueling 350-mile long trek across the Mexican desert.

“Then again, you may want to go to Virginia.. At the Berkeley Plantation on the James River they claim the first Thanksgiving in America was held there on December 4th, 1619….two years before the Pilgrims’ festival….and every year since 1958 they have reenacted the event. In their view it’s not the Mayflower we should remember, it’s the Margaret, the little ship which brought 38 English settlers to the plantation in 1619. The story is that the settlers had been ordered by the London company that sponsored them to commemorate the ship’s arrival with an annual day of Thanksgiving. Hardly anybody outside Virginia has ever heard of this Thanksgiving, but in 1963 President Kennedy officially recognized the plantation’s claim.”

In 1789, George Washington announced the first NATIONAL Thanksgiving holiday, but Thanksgiving did not become an annual tradition until the 19th Century. The Americans celebrated on Thursday, November 26, 1789.

As the first Thanksgiving (1622) was to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest, the celebration was not repeated.


A depiction of the Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth in 1621. JLG Ferris c. 1912.

American writer, Sarah Josepha Hale, was inspired by A Diary of Pilgrim Life. In 1827, Hale began a 30 year campaign to make to make Thanksgiving a national tradition. At her own expense, Hale published recipes for pumpkin pie, stuffing, turkey, etc. (By the way, Hale is the author of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”)

In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving would be celebrated on the last Thursday of November.

“So how did we get the idea that you have turkey and cranberry and such on Thanksgiving? It was because the Victorians prepared Thanksgiving that way. And they’re the ones who made Thanksgiving a national holiday, beginning in 1863, when Abe Lincoln issued his presidential Thanksgiving proclamations…two of them: one to celebrate Thanksgiving in August, a second one in November. Before Lincoln Americans outside New England did not usually celebrate the holiday. (The Pilgrims, incidentally, didn’t become part of the holiday until late in the nineteenth century. Until then, Thanksgiving was simply a day of thanks, not a day to remember the Pilgrims.)”

In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the 3rd Thursday in November to give retailers an extra week to make money during the holiday buying season. It was the Depression, after all.

Ironically, in 1941, FDR signed a bill to keep Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday of November.

turkey03In 1989, George H. W. Bush gave the first official turkey pardon.

These facts and lots more about Thanksgiving can be found at and at History News Network


This work is released under CC-BY-SA


Posted in American History, British history, Church of England, customs and tradiitons, history, holidays, real life tales, religion | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

The Origins of the “Irish” Ballad, “Danny Boy”

a2303-1-72dpi.jpga2303-4-150dpi.jpgOkay, I admit it. “Danny Boy” is one of my favorite songs, but it is not because I am Irish (which I am, for I have strong Irish roots in my ancestral tree). I simply think that the melody of “Londonderry Air” is one that reaches into a person’s soul. Moreover, I have a half-brother named “Danny,” so it strikes a chord in that manner. 

That being said, a March 2017 article on Irish Central says “Danny Boy” is NOT an Irish tune. “In 2001, the Irish-American actor and writer Malachy McCourt took it upon himself to unravel the mystery of perhaps the most popular Irish song ever in his book ‘Danny Boy: The Legend of the Beloved Irish Ballad.'”

Frederic_Weatherly_from_Lute_(April_1895).jpg First off, “Danny Boy” was written by an English lawyer and lyricist in 1910. Frederic Weatherly is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3,000 popular songs, among the best-known of which are the sentimental ballad “Danny Boy” set to the tune “Londonderry Air,” the religious “The Holy City,” and the wartime song “Roses of Picardy.” “The Holy City,” written in 1892 to music by the British composer Stephen Adams. The song includes the refrain “Jerusalem, Jerusalem!.” He wrote the song  while living in Bath in 1910. However, “the words were right but the tune was wrong, which is where Weatherly’s sister-in-law, Margaret Weatherly, comes in. Margaret Weatherly was an Irish immigrant who sailed to America with Fred Weatherly’s brother in search of silver in Colorado.  It was on a trip back to England in 1912 that Margaret Weatherly introduced Fred Weatherly to the ancient Irish melody, ‘The Londonderry Aire.'” (Surprising Origins of 100-year-old “Danny Boy”) The tune matched his lyrics almost perfectly. He published the now-famous song in 1913. His ballad “Roses of Picardy,” written in 1916 and set to music by Haydn Wood, was one of the most famous songs from World War I. 

Of his huge output of songs, Weatherly listed a selection of 61 titles in his Who’s Who entry. In addition to the above, they were: “Nancy Lee”; “The Midshipmite”; “Polly”; “They all love Jack”; “Jack’s Yarn”; “The Old Brigade”; “The Deathless Army”; “To the Front”; “John Bull”; “Darby and Joan”; “When We are Old and Grey”; “Auntie”; “The Chimney Corner”; “The Children’s Home”; “The Old Maids of Lee”; “The Men of Ware”; “The Devoted Apple”; “To-morrow will be Friday”; “Douglas Gordon”; “Sleeping Tide”; “The Star of Bethlehem”; “Beauty’s Eyes”; “In Sweet September”; “Bid me Good-bye”; “The Last Watch”; “London Bridge”; “The King’s Highway”; “Go to Sea”; “Veteran’s Song”; “Up from Somerset”; “Beyond the Dawn”; “Nirvana”; “Mifanwy”; “Sergeant of the Line”; “Stone-cracker John”; “Ailsa Mine”; “Old Black Mare”; “Coolan Dhu”; “Three for Jack”; “Bhoy I Love”; “The Blue Dragoons”; “At Santa Barbara”; “The Grenadier”; “Reuben Ranzo”; “Dinder Courtship”; “Friend o’Mine”; “When You Come Home”; “Little Road Home”; “Greenhills of Somerset”; “Danny Boy”; “As you pass by”; “Ships of my dreams”; “Why shouldn’t I?”; “When Noah Went-a-sailing”; “Time to go”; “Chumleigh Fair”; “Our Little Home”; “The Bristol Pageant, Music Composed by Hubert Hunt in 1924” and “Little Lady of the Moon.” (Frederic Weatherly)

Yet, I have digressed. “In the hands of the Limerick-born author-actor [McCourt], the musical story of “Danny Boy” has its roots way back in the terrible 1690 siege of Derry in Northern Ireland, and its colorful cast of characters includes Charles Dickens’ son and a Jack the Ripper suspect. In his quest to unravel the mystery, McCourt enlisted poet Seamus Heaney, actress Roma Downey, and even his Pulitzer Prize-winning brother Frank, to explain “Danny Boy”‘s enduring appeal. McCourt distorts everything we previously believed of our beloved song revealing that “Danny Boy” is not even a completely original song but a version among the 100s of different lyrics set to the tune of the “Derry Air.” The original air is believed by some to date back to Rory Dall O’Cahan, an Irish harpist who lived in Scotland in the late 17th century. Weatherly gave the song to the English opera singer Elsie Grffin, who introduced the song to a wider audience. The first recording was made in 1915 by the German vocalist Ernestine Schumann-Heink.” (Irish Central)

Check out The Story of the Song Danny Boy on You Tube HERE.

From a CBS News Article in March 2013, we learn…

“Fred Weatherly fused that haunting melody with his heavy-hearted words and something magical happened. “Danny Boy” became a hit. 

“He meant for it to be popular, he meant for it to be universal,” said music journalist Andrew Mueller. “There’s a very careful avoidance of specifics.”

“Mueller told CBS News’ Charlie D’Agata that world events were about to lend the song a terrible resonance. 

“One hesitates to call the first World War a stroke of luck, but I think for any work of art to endure it needs a stroke of luck and his lyrics for “Danny Boy” were published in 1913, a year before millions of people were finding themselves having to say goodbye to people who they hoped against hope that they might one day see again,” he said.  

“The theme of longing also struck a chord with many Irish emigrants who headed to America to escape the famine back home. Through the decades, the song became woven into the cultural fabric of the U.S. and beyond, often as a final farewell. 

“Elvis said he thought “Danny Boy” was written by angels and asked for it to be played at his funeral.  At Princess Diana’s church service, the words were different, but the haunting melody of “The Londonderry Aire,” the same.

“And after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the strains of “Danny Boy” rose from the memorial services of so many Irish-American police and firefighters who were among the victims.

“It’s not just the notion of loss, but of someday being reunited, that’s one of the reasons “Danny Boy” has never gone away.”

Celtic Women’s Version 

The Irish Tenors Version 

Caitlin Heaney Version

Oh Danny boy the pipes the pipes are calling
From glen to glen and down the mountain side
The summer’s gone and all the flowers dying
‘Tis you ’tis you must go and I must bide
But come ye back when summer’s in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
‘Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy oh Danny boy I love you so
But when ye come and all the roses falling
And I am dead as dead I well may be
Go out and find the place where I am lying
And kneel and say an ave there for me
And I will hear tho’ soft you tread above me
And then my grave will warm and sweeter be
For you shall bend and tell me that you love me
And I will sleep in peace until you come to me


Posted in ballads, British history, customs and tradiitons, England, history, Ireland, music, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jane Austen’s Bread Crumbs, a Guest Post from Nancy Lawrence

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on August 17, 2019. Enjoy! 

In the world of writing there’s a plot device known as foreshadowing. It’s when an author drops little bread crumbs of information that may not mean anything at the time, but hint at bigger things to come in the story.

Jane Austen was a skilled bread-crumb-dropper, and she used the device to great effect in her novel, Pride and Prejudice. Here’s what I mean:

Bread Crumb #1 – Who is this story about?

In the first few pages of P&P we learn Mr. and Mrs. Bennet have five unmarried daughters, and Mrs. Bennet intends to find husbands for each—preferably rich ones.

But of those five daughters, Austen hints that Elizabeth will be our focus, when Mr. Bennet suggests his wife call on Mr. Bingley:

“I will send a few lines by you to assure him of my hearty consent to his marrying whichever he chooses of the girls; though I must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy.”

“I desire you will do no such thing. Lizzy is not a bit better than the others; and I am sure she is not half so handsome as Jane, nor half so good-humoured as Lydia. But you are always giving her the preference.”

“They have none of them much to recommend them,” replied he; “they are all silly and ignorant like other girls; but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters.”

And with those few lines of dialog, Austen lets us know Elizabeth is special; there’s something about Lizzy that sets her apart from the other Bennet daughters. She’s the sister to watch.

Bread Crumb #2 – The Hero Switcheroo

Sneaky Jane Austen. For two full chapters she writes only of Mr. Bingley, making us believe he will be the hero of her story.

Then, in Chapter 3, she takes us to the Meryton assembly where we meet Mr. Darcy, who . . .

. . . soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien, and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.

Just as she did with Elizabeth, Austen hints that we readers need to adjust our focus; someone as gifted and blessed as Mr. Darcy is certain to play a major role in the story.

Bread Crumb #3 – Doing What Comes Unnaturally

Elizabeth and Darcy’s acquaintance gets off to a rocky start, but things change by the time Elizabeth is required to spend a few days at Netherfield. When she’s in the drawing-room one evening with Darcy, Caroline Bingley, and the Hursts, Caroline invites Elizabeth to “take a turn about the room. I assure you it is very refreshing.”

Elizabeth agreed to it immediately.

Mr. Darcy looked up . . . and unconsciously closed his book.

This little bread crumb is one of my favorites, because it shows just how physically attracted Mr. Darcy is to Elizabeth. He’s a man who never acts rashly and is always in control; but with these few words we readers now know that Elizabeth has the power to make Darcy abandon his reserve and behave in a way he never has before.

Bread Crumb #4 – Darcy asks for Lizzy’s Opinion

When dancing together at the Netherfield ball, Darcy and Elizabeth are interrupted by Mr. Sir William Lucas, and when he leaves them, Darcy remarks:

“Sir William’s interruption has made me forget what we were talking of.”

“I do not think we were speaking at all. Sir William could not have interrupted two people in the room who had less to say for themselves. We have tried two or three subjects already without success, and what we are to talk of next I cannot imagine.”

“What think you of books?” said he, smiling.

“Books—oh! no. I am sure we never read the same, or not with the same feelings.”

“I am sorry you think so; but if that be the case, there can at least be no want of subject. We may compare our different opinions.”

Their exchange is brief, but revealing. In his choice of words Mr. Darcy shows that he not only wants to spend time with Elizabeth, he wants to discuss different topics with her. He wants to know what she thinks, proving the attraction he feels for her isn’t just physical.

Bread Crumb #5 – Darcy’s Confession

At Rosings, Darcy approaches Elizabeth while she plays the pianoforte, but he doesn’t speak to her right away, perhaps because his previous attempts at conversation with her have all had less than satisfying outcomes. Finally, he confesses:

“I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

In response, Elizabeth offers him a bit of (now famous) advice:

“My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do . . . But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I will not take the trouble of practising.”

It’s a small jab, but Darcy not only accepts it, he sees the sense of Elizabeth’s metaphor:

Darcy smiled and said, “You are perfectly right.”

By having Darcy agree so readily with Elizabeth’s advice, Jane Austen hints at . . .

Bread Crumb #6 – Darcy Proves He Listened

By the time Elizabeth and the Gardiners visit Pemberley, Darcy is ready to show that he heard Elizabeth’s advice loud and clear. He greets Elizabeth, and then . . .

He asked her if she would do him the honour of introducing him to her friends. This was a stroke of civility for which she was quite unprepared; and she could hardly suppress a smile at his being now seeking the acquaintance of some of those very people against whom his pride had revolted in his offer to herself. “What will be his surprise,” thought she, “when he knows who they are? He takes them now for people of fashion.”

But it turns out Elizabeth is the one to be surprised. Darcy not only does an excellent job of demonstrating he has learned to talk to people he doesn’t know, he extends invitations to Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner in a way that leaves no doubt he is open to pursuing an acquaintance with them.

His actions confuse and delight Elizabeth, and cause her to muse, wonderingly:

“Why is he so altered? From what can it proceed? It cannot be for me—it cannot be for my sake that his manners are thus softened. My reproofs at Hunsford could not work such a change as this. It is impossible that he should still love me?”

That last question is, of course, one of the very best bread crumbs in the entire novel, because eventually Darcy does, indeed, prove that he still loves her—and he does so in a way she can never imagine.

Jane Austen’s skill in dropping bread crumbs to pique reader interest as she builds her story is really quite masterful. It’s one of the reasons I never get tired of reading Pride and Prejudice or watching the movie adaptations of the novel.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite “bread crumb” in Pride and Prejudice

Posted in Austen Authors, book excerpts, British history, film adaptations, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment