When Bad Things Come in Pairs: Siblings Who Wreaked Havoc in Austen’s Novels, a Guest Post from Amanda Kai

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 28 May 2021. Enjoy!

“Prepare for trouble. And make it double!”  While fans of the Pokemon cartoon show might associate this famous line with Team Rocket’s most inept members Jessie and James, this line could easily apply to several of the sibling pairs in Austen’s novels.  The world of Jane Austen seems rife with difficult duos that make life harder for the heroines and heroes.  Let’s take a look at some of the most notorious pairs that gave our heroines a dose of double-trouble.

Isabella and John Thorpe

It’s hard to picture a more loathsome brother and sister.  They are both name-droppers and gold-diggers.  Isabella is as inconstant a friend as the weather, and her actions seldom line up with the words from her mouth. John swears like a sailor and is about as selfish as can be.  Both siblings are rude, inconsiderate, and care more about their own interests than in respecting others.  The pinnacle of their bad behavior is in Isabella’s dumping her engagement to James Moreland in favor of Frederick Tilney, only to beg Catherine’s help to win James back when she herself gets thrown over by Frederick. Good job, Catherine, for turning her down!

Henry and Mary Crawford

They are both openly selfish and make no apologies for it.  Mary clearly has an agenda to land the richest husband she can, and though she likes Edmund better, she makes no secret of her disdain for his choice of profession and even rejoices when his elder brother falls ill, thinking that now her preferred man might inherit!  Henry is no better; a known player, he admits to his sister that he wants to make Fanny fall in love with him for the fun of it.  Meanwhile, he flirts with both of the Bertram sisters, eventually wrecking Maria’s marriage.  Mary shows no remorse for his bad behaviour, even trying to pin the blame on Fanny for not having accepted his proposal.  Lucky for Fanny and Edmund, they both escaped the charm of these terrible siblings.

Caroline Bingley and Louisa Hurst

If you thought these two reminded you of the ugly stepsisters from Cinderella, you wouldn’t be too far off. These ladies have no scruples about abusing their so-called friends behind their back and gossiping about others at every turn.  They even go so far as to assist Darcy in separating their brother from the woman he loves.  How Charles Bingley turned out so nice with sisters such as these is a mystery to me.

Maria and Julia Bertram

They may have older brothers who are kinder, but these two sisters were anything but nice to their cousin Fanny when she arrived. They constantly made fun of her for her lack of education and finery, and they only deigned to play with her when they needed an extra playmate.  As adults, they shunned her the majority of the time, neither one of them really coming to appreciate Fanny in the way that her aunt and uncle Bertram and cousin Edmund did. 

Lucy and Anne Steele

Okay, so Lucy definitely gave the most trouble between these two.  Her nastiness seems to know no bounds!  From forcing Elinor to be her confidante in order to stake a claim on Edward, making veiled threats, maneuvering to be Mrs. Ferrars’ favorite, and even throwing a last-minute barb at Elinor by letting the Dashwoods’ servant assume she had married Edward instead of Robert, Lucy is a real piece of work!  But her sister Anne (also called Nancy) doesn’t get off the hook so easily.  She is a Grade A eavesdropper whose loose lips got Edward disowned and he almost had to go through with marrying Lucy thanks to her.  Besides being fairly stupid, she does nothing to help Elinor or Marianne or be a friend to them, either.

Who would you rank as the worst among these nasty siblings?  Are there any other pairs you would categorize as a difficult duo?

To Learn More of Amanda Kai, visit her website.

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, family, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Rodean School, a Victorian School for Young Girls

https://www.dickinsonboardingschools.com/roedean-school

Last week when I was writing the piece on the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railroad, I came across a short piece on another Rottingdean (East Sussex) landmark that caught my interest. It is Roedean School, a famous private school for young girls.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roedean_School#/media/File:Roedean_school.jpg

Originally founded at 25 Lewes Crescent, Brighton, in 1885 by the Misses Dorothy, Millicent, and Penelope Lawrence, Roedean School was designed to provide young girls a “well-rounded” education. Roedean School is an independent day and boarding school, which is governed by Royal Charter. It is for girls aged 11 to 18. The school incorporates dance studios, music classrooms, a 320-seat theatre, a heated indoor swimming pool, a golf course, a private tunnel to the beach, a farm and a chapel, as well as a range of workshops, studios, laboratories and sports pitches.

The school was originally called “Wimbledon House,” for the Lawrence sisters’ brother, Sir Paul Lawrence, assisted them greatly in setting up the school, and Sir Paul resided in Wimbleton. The school’s curriculum was such to assist young girls into earning entrance in the newly opened women’s colleges at Cambridge, Girton, and Newnham Colleges. [Note: Girton is now co-ed, but was not so at the time of Roedean’s founding.

The school motto, Honneur aulx dignes, is in Norman French, and means “Honour the worthy”. When pronounced, it sounds like “Honour Roedean”.

In 1899, the school moved to its present site. The beautiful institution is located by a cliff, offering a magnificent panoramic view overlooking the alluring Brighton Marina and the English Channel. It is a striking white-washed Victorian pile replete with towers, turrets, and cloisters, set at the heart of a stunning, 120-acre clifftop Brighton campus. The buildings were designed by the architect Sir John Simpson.

The students and staff were sent north to Keswick during the Second World War, for the buildings and the tremendous view of the coast were occupied by the Admiralty. The facility was adapted for the use of Navy cadets attending the Mining and Torpedo School, which was known as HMS Vernon.

HMS Vernon was a shore establishment or “stone frigate” of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. Vernon was established on 26 April 1876 as the Royal Navy’s Torpedo Branch also known as the Torpedo School, named after the ship HMS Vernon which served as part of its floating base. After the First World War, HMS Vernon moved ashore, taking over the Gunwharf site, where it continued to operate until 1 April 1996, when the various elements comprising the establishment were split up and moved to different commands. Portsmouth suffered heavy air raids during the war, with Vernon being hit several times. One bomb demolished Dido Building and killed 100 people. Subsequently, sections of Vernon were dispersed to quieter areas. On 3 May 1941 most departments of Vernon were moved to Roedean School at Brighton, which was known as HMS Vernon(R), whilst other elements were relocated elsewhere on the south coast and further away.

https://whichschooladvisor.com/uk/school-review/roedean-school

Currently, Rodean school is listed as one of the top schools in the United Kingdom.

It is a selective school. In 2019, 68% of GCSE grades were A*/A and 55% at A-Levels. 52% of the students are boarders.

Other Sources:

Britannia Study

Dickinson English School Consulting

Rodean School

SMAPSE Education

Von Bülow Education

Which School Advisor

Posted in British history, British Navy, buildings and structures, history, Living in the UK, real life tales, research, war | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When Might the Heir Style Himself With His New Title in Regency Romances?

First, for legal purposes, the man must present himself to the House of Lords to claim the title officially. After the will has been read and its stipulations executed, the new peer must petition the Lord Chancellor for a writ of summon to the House of Lords to be seated in the current or in the next session of Parliament. The new peer will be expected to prove that his parents were legally married, and he is the legal son and heir produced by that marriage. He must prove he has reached his majority (twenty-one years or older) and a member of the Church of England. No matter, whether the man is the heir apparent or the heir presumptive, he must prove how he is related to the deceased and prove that his father and all others with a claim to the peerage who preceded him are deceased and were legitimate children of the marriage of their parents.

If the proofs are accepted the new peer is issued a writ of summons to appear before the House of Lords, where he participates in an elaborate ceremony before accepting his seat in the Lords. 

However, all this pomp and ceremony is not necessary before the man is styled (addressed as) by his new title. In reality, this “tradition” is a matter of how the man chooses to style himself until the title is officially conferred. In romance novels, it often can be used to address the person’s true character. If he possesses a solid claim to the peerage, and everyone knows it, he might well assume the title at once as a form of address. He could do so to secure another’s security or protect the peerage from an unscrupulous outside force. Naturally, he would not have access to any of the estate or funds or rights of the title until it is legally confirmed, but he can conduct business in the name of the peerage. If his claim is a bit shaky, he or others might want to avoid that until it is proven.

For more on the ceremony, fees, etc., check out Nancy Regency Researcher

If he is a stickler for legal protocols, he might not assume it at once–but others might. And, naturally, one must keep in mind the author should avoid confusing the reader with references to both the title and his surname, which might seem like two different characters, so that becomes a bit tricky.

When a father dies, the transfer of power and title happens automatically.  The father’s will might require some wait for probate of some items, but usually the executor and a solicitor see to all of it. 

Notice of the death of the previous peer is customarily sent to the College of Arms and the name of the new peer recorded by them. All is straightforward and usually goes without a hitch.

Sometimes the process is excessively easy. For example, when Lord Byron succeeded to his great uncle’s peerage at age 10, he did nothing, and all simply assumed he  was entitled to the peerage. He was not brought up in aristocratic circles so he became very angry when he was told that in order to take his seat in the House of Lords he had to prove he was the rightful successor. This meant he had to show his father’s relationship to the previous peer and that his father was born of a valid marriage and that he was born in a valid marriage and that his great uncle’s sons were dead and without issue. As one might expect that process involved fees. Fortunately Byron only had to show proof of a couple of generations Sometimes the proofs had proof must go back six generations.

Wyllie, William Morrison; The House of Lords; Parliamentary Art Collection; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-house-of-lords-214311

When the Frederick Berkeley, 5th Earl of Berkley died, his oldest son applied for a Writ of Summons to the House of Lords. Berkeley and Mary Cole (who also passed under the name of Tudor), the daughter of a local publican and butcher, had seven sons and five daughters, but the disputed date of their marriage prevented their elder sons from succeeding as Earl of Berkeley and Baron Berkeley. The pair asserted their marriage had taken place on 30 March 1785, but the earliest ceremony of which there is incontrovertible proof was a wedding in Lambeth Church, Surrey, on 16 May 1796, at which date Mary was pregnant with their seventh child. Berkeley settled Berkeley Castle upon their eldest son, William FitzHardinge Berkeley, but William’s attempt to assume his father’s honours were disallowed by the House of Lords, who considered him illegitimate.

Therefore, the Committee on Privilege turned down the eldest’s request, saying he and the other brothers born before 1795 were illegitimate, and the earldom had fallen to the 16-year-old born in 1796. Berkeley’s titles devolved as a matter of law upon his fifth but first legitimate son, Thomas Morton Fitzhardinge Berkeley (1796–1882), but were never used by him and he did not take his seat in the House of Lords. Per his father’s will, he would have lost his small inheritance had he disputed his eldest brother’s claim to the titles. The boy was too young, for he had not reached his majority, to do anything about the matter, and his oldest brother and mother ran things. When he came of age, he still never put forth a claim to the earldom. However, he was, by right and law, the earl, so anything requiring the signature of the earl had to be signed by him. He signed responsibility over to his oldest brother, but the title itself went dormant until he died. The title was dormant for most of the  century. The oldest son was created a peer by William IV who also created his own eldest son a peer.

Other Sources: 

The Skinny on Abdicating a Title During the Regency Era 

What is the Difference Between a Peerage that is Dormant, Extinct or in Abeyance?

 

 

Posted in Act of Parliament, British history, buildings and structures, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, peerage, titles of aristocracy, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dogs in Jane Austen’s Novels, a Guest Post from Eliza Shearer

The post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on 25 May 2021. Enjoy!

Although (just like servants) they are often little remarked upon, dogs are everywhere in Jane Austen’s novels.

In the Regency, dogs were an essential feature of countryside living: we might as well imagine their incessant barking in the background when we read Austen’s stories, particularly during hunting season or when the men head outside.

Most dogs were seen as working animals, such as aids to hunting or shepherding, although sensibilities were rapidly changing. Here’s what Jane Austen’s stories tell us about pooches and their owners two hundred years ago.

Efficient Workers

In Persuasion, Anne Elliot’s brother-in-law Charles Musgrove owns several hounds. We are even told that one of Musgrove’s hunting sessions with Captain Wentworth is spoilt by a young dog, presumably because it was too excited or tired to keep up with the sportsmen.

A good hound was invaluable to huntsmen. In Sense and Sensibility, Sir John Middleton is incensed when he discovers Willoughby’s true nature, perhaps even more so because he has just given Willoughby a precious present: a puppy by Folly, his favourite hound.

“Such a scoundrel of a fellow! such a deceitful dog! It was only the last time they met that he had offered him one of Folly’s puppies! and this was the end of it!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 32

Later, when Willoughby is unhappily married to a rich woman, we learn that he breeds hounds for pleasure, and he sees them as one of the few consolations of life. (I wonder if one of the dams or sires he keeps is Folly’s baby?).

Loyal Companions

Sir John’s tender words towards Folly suggest that, beyond valuing their hunting prowess, some dog owners were particularly attached to their furry friends, something Jane Austen reflects in her novels.

In Northanger Abbey, Henry Tilney keeps “a large Newfoundland puppy and two or three terriers” in the parsonage. They are “the friends of his solitude”, the companions he shares his single life with.

And of course, there’s Pug, the most spoilt pooch in Austen’s works. Mansfield Park’s Lady Bertram is extremely fond of the dog, and Jane Austen cleverly uses the relationship between the two to convey Lady Bertram’s newfound interest in her niece. The woman sees Fanny so much improved that she makes her an unthinkable offer, one that corroborates her affection:

“And I will tell you what, Fanny, which is more than I did for Maria: the next time Pug has a litter you shall have a puppy.”

Mansfield Park, Chapter 33

Lady Bertram’s attachment to Pug always stood out to me when reading Mansfield Park. What if Lady Bertram had paid less attention to her pet and more to her daughters? And, alas, dogs have shorter lives than humans. What would the woman do when Pug was no longer there? (My musings made it to Miss Price’s Decisionand spoiler alert: Pug is getting on…).

So What did Jane Think ?

We have little evidence of Jane’s actual thoughts regarding dogs. We know that, ten years after Jane’s death, Cassandra got a dog to keep her company, but we have no indication that the sisters owned a dog during their life together.

Jane Austen was a busy woman. She had to fit in her novel writing around housework and childcare for her brothers, and she also travelled a fair bit. Perhaps a dog wasn’t the ideal pet for her (I can sympathise! As much as I’d love a pooch, now it’s not the right time).

However, I do wonder what Jane would think of our relationship with dogs. I imagine she would find the industry built around catering to their every need highly amusing!

What other dogs do you remember noticing in Jane Austen’s novels? Would you say you are a dog person, and if so, do you have/have had any pooches you’d like to tell us about? 

Posted in Austen Authors, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brook, New Forest, Hampshire + the Release of “Regency Mid-Summer Mischief”

My contribution to our summer anthology, “Regency Midsummer Mischief” is a tale entitled “The Jewel Thief and the Earl.” The heroine, Miss Colleen Everley, has been taught her father’s skills of being a master thief. Her father, Thomas Everley, is an interesting mix of loving father and self-centered #%@&*&^.

Thomas Everley is a notorious thief from a place called Brook in Hampshire. Thomas has been presented the moniker of “Brook’s Crook.” He is a man of many faces—a younger son of a viscount, who, early on, simply found sleight-of-hand an interesting skill. At school, he “practiced” pulling coins from the ears of his friend, but when his family, meaning his late father, turned Thomas out after Thomas’s scandalous elopement to Gretna Green with Miss Genevieve Saunders, who was to marry another, Thomas often found it easier to “borrow” a quid or two, rather than to discover a marketable trade. As the second son, he was intended for either the British Army or the Royal Navy, neither of which would have suited him, for, although Thomas Everley would fight like a rabid dog if cornered, he was essentially a kind man—a man who doted on Colleen when she was a child. He was a man who had shown Colleen much of the world through the eyes of an artist. Her father was a man who loved the finer things in life, despite being set adrift with only a pauper’s purse. As the story begins, Thomas has been caught in Brook, tried, and sentenced to transportation.

Mrs. Genevieve Saunders Everley, Colleen’s mother had been blind to her husband’s faults until he was too steeped in his “craft” to consider quitting. The realization of how far Thomas had sunk broke Genevieve’s heart. One day the woman took to her bed and never came out, leaving Colleen’s education to Thomas, who taught his daughter more than her letters and figures.

Brook is a hamlet in the civil parish of Bramshaw, in Hampshire, England. It lies just inside the New Forest. The hamlet contains a mix of 18th and 19th century cottages,[just south of the village of Bramshaw. There are two inns in Brook on opposite sides of the road – The Green Dragon and The Bell Inn. Both buildings date from the 18th century, albeit with 19th and 20th century alterations. Brook is also home to the club-house of Bramshaw Golf Club, which claims to be the oldest golf club in Hampshire.

Just south of the village at Lower Canterton lies the Rufus Stone. This stone is said to mark the place where in 1100 the then King of England, William Rufus, was killed by an arrow whilst out hunting. The arrow was fired by a French nobleman, Walter Tyrell, but it has never been established if the death was an accident or murder.

Brook: the green A largeish wedge-shaped green on the acute junction of the B3078 and a small side lane. The Bell Inn is in the distance. ~ CC BY-SA 2.0
File:Brook, the green – geograph.org.uk – 1444359.jpg ~ Created: 15 August 2009 ~ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brook,New_Forest#/media/File:Brook,_the_greengeograph.org.uk-_1444359.jpg
Grave Marker for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at All Saints Church in Minstead, about 2.1 miles from Brook

Book Blurb:

Grandison Franklyn, 8th Earl Harlow, has earned the moniker “Grandison, the Great” for a variety of reasons: his well-honed attitude of superiority; his appearance; and a string of mistresses, most notably Lady Jenest, who created a “great” row when he cut her loose. 

Miss Colleen Everley is the daughter of England’s most notorious thief, a man called “Brook’s Crook.” Colleen has been taught many of her father’s skills, along with an eye for the value of each item in a room. Unfortunately, the lady does not possess Thomas Everley’s daring. 

Lord Harlow and Miss Everley must combine forces to return Queen Charlotte’s sapphire necklace before Her Majesty learns it is missing. Toss in a healthy sprinkling of quirky characters and missteps in the investigation, and the reader will find a delightful tale that goes beyond the “Cinderella” effect and opposites attract.

Excerpt from Chapter Two:

(If you are interested, see the beginning of Chapter One HERE and the second half of Chapter One HERE)

Colleen should have permitted Caro or Jones to respond to Lord Harlow’s knock, especially as she still wore the day dress she had worn to her meeting with the lady who assisted in overseeing the foundling home, which Colleen had organized and supported for more than three years, but she could not quite quash her curiosity. She could easily recall how she had observed Lord Harlow, then Lord Franklyn, once in Hyde Park. She had been upon her father’s arm, and it had been glorious to be among those of society, for, at the time, all of London had no idea of the notoriety that would one day fill her life. Lord Franklyn had been with several other young gentlemen, who bowed and doffed their hats to her, Lord Franklyn going so far as to speak his “good day” before walking on. 

Colleen had been hard-pressed not to turn and look more closely upon the young man who was the most strikingly handsome man she had ever seen. Ironically, although she had hope he had not aged well, the same fluttering of anticipation she had known on that fateful day in Hyde Park had settled in her chest when she looked upon his lordship’s fine countenance today. 

After that day, she had combed the newsprints for word of Lord Franklyn. She knew when his father had passed—knew when he took his seat in the Lords—knew the names of his various mistresses over the years—and knew something of his reputation for quirkiness. In the sketches of him in the more gossipy news, he was referred to as “Grandison, the Great,” a wealthy lord who was very regimented in his ways and who had earned the praise and loyalty of those populating the higher positions of England’s government and society as a whole. He was so popular among the lords and ladies of fashion, he had been dubbed “the great” for more than the uproar caused by Lady Jenest when he released her as his mistress. The man was said to possess a great mind, great wealth, and great . . . Well, young ladies of society were not supposed to be interested in his other “great” attributes. The idea made Colleen smile when she looked upon him. 

It was also said that Harlow collected artifacts and relics of ancient civilization, as well as rare books, with a robust interest, equalled by his desire for the “jewels” of fine society. Her father had often spoken of the man’s collections as if they were the Holy Grail. 

Tall. Muscular. Dark hair and eyes. A well-honed attitude of superiority, one that would certainly name her as far below his notice. Such was the reason Colleen had used her own fully-developed skills to remove a variety of items from his person. 

“You have earned my attention, Miss Everley.” 

“It is not your attention I require, your lordship, but rather your cooperation,” she said, never allowing herself to forget the disdain apparent in his eyes and what she named as his patronizing way of speaking to her. It made her wonder what had happened to the young man who had briefly flirted with her all those years prior and why she had ever privately claimed a fascination with him. 

Colleen considered simply sending Lord Harlow on his way. If she chose to find the necklace, she could certainly do so without his lordship’s presence at her side. Harlow would more likely prove to be a detriment: his disapproval of her lineage serving as a plague upon her ability to meet with the necessary people to locate the necklace. Jones could escort her just as easily as could Lord Harlow, and Jones, her butler, would, most assuredly, be better trained than was his lordship in the event of trouble. It was time to set her terms and learn Lord Harlow’s response. 

“As you can easily determine, my lord, I possess particular skills that, once it is located, shall permit me to remove the necklace you seek. I do not require your participation or your permission in order to serve both my friend and Lord Liverpool.” 

“I assure you, Miss Everley, a simple sleight of hand will only infuriate those you seek. I know London’s worst neighborhoods and the habitué within.” 

“Do you, Lord Harlow? I wonder,” she said as a means to present him the gauntlet of a challenge. “Are we or are we not to be partners in this endeavor?”

Colleen forced herself to meet his steady gaze. The same heat of recognition she had experienced that day in Hyde Park and earlier when she opened the door to him had returned; yet, she refused even to blink. 

After an elongated pause, he said, “For the time, I will follow Lord Liverpool’s orders.” 

She wished to dance a jig in celebration, but, instead, Colleen presented him a simple nod of acceptance. “Although you may not disclose the owner of the necklace or its location when it disappeared, might you tell me if other items were removed from what I must assume was a home safe?”

Lord Harlow frowned dramatically, indicating hers was a question he had not asked of his employer. “Not to the best of my knowledge,” he admitted in reluctant tones. “Is such important?”

“It is to us. We must determine whether the theft was one of opportunity or one designed to make a statement,” she explained. 

His eyebrow rose, announcing his question before it was spoken. “A statement?”

“Did the thief take the necklace because he might never have another opportunity to claim such a priceless piece, or did the thief wish to prove the ease with which he could remove the necklace, despite what I must assume were precautions to prevent such an eventuality. Before you ask, my father was, generally, of the second type.”

Again, his brows drew together in an obvious acknowledgement of the consideration he gave her questions. “Before I can respond properly, I must ask for clarification from Lord Liverpool.” Which meant he could not speak on the theft itself with any certainty. He grudgingly asked, “What else should we know before we go further in this search?”

Colleen wanted to purr with satisfaction: She had bested Grandison the Great. When his lordship departed, she would be dancing that jig, after all. Rather, she said, “It would be helpful to be aware of how many knew of the necklace in the safe. If nothing less, did the servants possess knowledge of the necklace’s presence? Were any doors or windows left unlocked for the night? After all, whoever managed to enter the property to open the safe avoided encountering both servants and the house’s residents, am I correct in my assumption?”

His lordship nodded his head in agreement. 

She continued, “The person must possess very specific skills. Stealth, for example, not to mention the ability to open a safe. Was the safe itself one of the more secure models found in many finer homes or was it a simple lock and key style? Also, do we know how the thief came by the knowledge of the necklace’s value and whether he, or she,” Colleen said with a mischievous grin, “possessed any accomplices. I am assuming, at this time, you do not possess the answers to these questions.” 

“Perhaps the house proved convenient pickings for the thief or thieves,” he suggested lamely. 

Colleen shook off his suggestion. “I would again assume the owner of the necklace holds a prominent position in Society if both you and Lord Liverpool are involved.” He kept his lips sealed, indicating her assumption correct. “A common thief would not take the chance of being caught by such auspicious personages, for he would hang because of the notoriety of the deed.” 

“Then we are searching for someone of your father’s skills?” he asked with a lift of his eyebrows, insinuating she, herself, could be a suspect. 

“As the British government has seen to my father’s permanent place of residence for the remainder of his days, your thief cannot be Thomas Everley,” she responded, irritation lacing her tone. 

His lordship’s predictable accusation arrived. “Perhaps the thief is someone Thomas Everley has trained.” 

Colleen set her tea aside and stood abruptly. “I believe our business is at an end, my lord. I shall have Mr. Jones see you out.” She started for the door, but Lord Harlow was quicker.

“Not so fast, Miss Everley,” he said as his hand wrapped about her forearm. “Our ‘business’ is not finished until I say it is.” 

“I am not your property, my lord. I am of age, and I can say with whom I keep company, and you are not among those I choose to entertain. I shall thank you, first, to remove your hand from my person, and, then, likewise, remove yourself from my house.” She glared at him until his fingers lifted from her arm. “Good day, my lord.” With that, she strode from the room, allowing the door to swing hard against the wall as she shoved it from her way. 

Available on Amazon for only $0.99 or read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

Seven stories of Regency heroines and heroes finding love in the face of obstructions: mayhem, malice, and mischief.
Varying heat levels, both in the text and during the English summertime.
Seven best-selling and award-winning authors team up to delight your summer holiday reading.

***** FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED *****

A Maiden for a Marquess by Arietta Richmond – Scandal, marriage, dark secrets – is love possible?

Saracen’s Gift by Janis Susan May – From heiress to prisoner – will love save her?

Seaside Summer by Victoria Hinshaw – A wounded warrior fights for love against the odds

The Jewel Thief and the Earl by Regina Jeffers – Both find more than a missing necklace.

Wildflowers and Wiles by Summer Hanford – Is impersonating a peer wrong if you’re family?

The Journey by Becca St. John – Batten down the hatches, hidden hearts on board!

Weekend at Baron E’s by Ebony Oaten – Newly wed to newly dead – don’t tell the in-laws!

Grab your summer reading now!

Posted in anthology, book excerpts, book release, British history, Dreamstone Publishing, eBooks, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, heroines, historical fiction, Living in the Regency, publishing, reading, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Releasing July 20! Regency Mid-Summer Mischief: A Regency Summer Romance Anthology + a Giveaway

Available on Amazon for only $0.99 or read for FREE on Kindle Unlimited.

Seven stories of Regency heroines and heroes finding love in the face of obstructions: mayhem, malice, and mischief.
Varying heat levels, both in the text and during the English summertime.
Seven best-selling and award-winning authors team up to delight your summer holiday reading.

***** FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED *****

A Maiden for a Marquess by Arietta Richmond – Scandal, marriage, dark secrets – is love possible?

Saracen’s Gift by Janis Susan May – From heiress to prisoner – will love save her?

Seaside Summer by Victoria Hinshaw – A wounded warrior fights for love against the odds

The Jewel Thief and the Earl by Regina Jeffers – Both find more than a missing necklace.

Wildflowers and Wiles by Summer Hanford – Is impersonating a peer wrong if you’re family?

The Journey by Becca St. John – Batten down the hatches, hidden hearts on board!

Weekend at Baron E’s by Ebony Oaten – Newly wed to newly dead – don’t tell the in-laws!

Grab your summer reading now!

GIVEAWAY: I have 5 eBook copies of Regency Mid-Summer Mischief available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end a midnight EDST on Friday, July 23, 2021. I will contact winners directly for the delivery of the prizes.

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The Amazing “Daddy Long Legs” and Brighton’s History

Many of us who write Regency Romance have our tales connected to Brighton, a seaside resort some 50 miles removed from London, in East Sussex. Brighton’s popularity with the rich, famous, and royal continued in the 19th century, and saw the building of a number of imposing seafront hotels. The city’s popularity among the wealthy rose with the decision of the Prince Regent to build a seaside palace, the Royal Pavilion. Construction began in 1787, but it is the expansion by John Nash beginning in 1811 that created the fantastical Orientalist pavilion that draws the eye and made Brighton a center of Regency Era society.

The Royal Pavilion was created at the beginning of the 19th Century, whereas, “Daddy Long Legs” came about at the end. “Daddy Long Legs” connected Rottingdean to Brighton. Nowadays, Rottingdean is a village in the city of Brighton and Hove, on the south coast of England. It borders the villages of Saltdean, Ovingdean and Woodingdean, and has a historic centre, which is often the subject of picture postcards.

Magnus Volk was a British inventor and pioneering electrical engineer. He is most notable for having built Volk’s Electric Railway, the world’s oldest operating electric railway, but that achievement is not the subject of this piece. Volk built another train line that was short-lived, but memorable, nonetheless.

Magnus Volk

He also built the unique, but short lived, Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Electric Railway, together with its unusual Daddy Long Legs vehicle. In 1887 he attracted attention in Brighton by building a three-wheeled electric carriage powered by an Immisch motor.

What made this railway so unusual was the fact its tracks were not on land, but rather upon the sea floor, some 100 yards (90 m) offshore. It had but one passenger car, mounted on tubes that were some 23 feet high — a boat-like passenger car built on stilts. At high tide, up to 30 riders at a time could enjoy a speed of 6 MPH. There was some protection against the elements, though some people chose to sit on the deck, rather than the central “enclosure.” The transport was named the “Pioneer” by its builder, but people affectionately called it “Daddy Long Legs,” because of how it looked when making its journey.

It met up with Volk’s land-based railroad on the sea-front at Brighton, which opened in 1883 and considered as the world’s first publicly operated electric railway. Because the trek was over water, the railroad employed a licensed sea captain aboard each journey. In fact, a flag was flown from the “ship’s” stern, and the company had lifeboats available in case of emergency.

Two sets of rails had been laid in a parallel fashion upon concrete block, which were spaced out some eighteen feet apart. “The parallel rails on either side accommodated four-wheeled trucks, or bogies, that, in turn, supported each of the long tubes keeping the train car above the water. To prevent seaweed and other debris from clogging up the axles or otherwise gumming up the works, each bogie wore a sort of full fender over the top that prevented such contaminants from entering it. Supplied by an overhead electric wire that was supported by a line of power poles adjacent to the line, the Brighton and Rottingdean used a pair of 25-hp General Electric motors to power its drive wheels. Starting from a pier at Brighton, the railway traveled the 2.8-mile distance to Rottindean before returning to Brighton.” (Hemmings Motor News)

Even today, lengths of the track bed can be spotted at low tide, along with the stumps of some of the post that carried the power lines high above the water.

After a little over three years, the Brighton and Rottingdean Seashore Railway shut down. Brighton had decided to build groynes out into the water to increase their sea defenses against attack. It was briefly suggested that the railway move further out in the sea, but as “Daddy Long Legs” had never proven a solid business idea — never making money — the idea investing more hard earned funds into it did not prove viable.

Other Sources:

Amusing Planet

Brighton’s Daddy Long Legs

Daily Mail

Engadget

Hemmings Motor News

My Brighton and Hove

Volk’s Electric Sea Train, 1897

Posted in British history, commerce, England, Great Britain, history, inventions, Living in the UK, real life tales, research, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Amazing “Daddy Long Legs” and Brighton’s History

James and Henry Austen and “The Loiterer” ~ Literary Influences on Jane Austen

Many of those around her influenced Jane Austen, but Henry Austen’s and James Austen’s influences were profound. Most of Austen’s biographers believe that Henry was Austen’s favorite brother and James her least favorite.

jamesausten

Jane Austen’s Brothers http://www.janeausten.co.uk James (1765-1819)

James Austen was the eldest of the Austen clan, a youth with a quick mind and a love of the classics. Matriculating to Oxford at age 14, James remained at the school for eleven years. James enjoyed writing poetry, and the Austen family encouraged him to do so.  As entertainment, the Austen family often acted out amateur theatricals. Reportedly, James composed metrical prologues and epilogues for these “family” plays. Many believe these efforts by the eldest Austen had a profound effect on one of the youngest, Jane. 

James’s poetry efforts dwindled as he settled into the life of a country clergyman. As the heir to his wealthy, childless uncle, James Leigh Perrot, James Austen’s future was solid. After leaving Oxford, James became Rector of Steventon (rather than his father’s curate at Deane). He married twice – the second marriage bringing him two children, but gave him a wife with whom he was generally thought to be disappointed. We have no records of James’s poetry from 1789 to 1805.

Six years James’s junior, Henry joined James at Oxford in 1788, and in 1789, the brothers began producing a weekly periodical, called The Loiterer, which contained a series of fashionable essays. James and his friends provided the majority of the essays; however, Henry became quite adept at the occasional piece of fiction. Henry used “stock” characters and situations – those commonly found in the fiction of the day. The brothers continued their efforts for 60 consecutive weeks – quite an undertaking for the time.

Henry Austen

Rev Henry Thomas Austen (1771 – 1850) – Find A Grave Memorial http://www.findagrave.com

Henry is well known among Austen scholars as Jane’s “man of business,” acting as her agent in arranging the publication of Austen’s novels. He managed to convince Thomas Egerton, who coincidentally had published the Austen brothers’ efforts with The Loiterer, to take a chance on a piece of fiction. Egerton specialized in pieces of military history, so this was a different track for the publisher. In 1811, Egerton published Sense and Sensibility, by a Lady. Henry likely advanced the £180 upfront fees for printing and advertising for the novel.

Despite these particular influences on Jane Austen, her brothers exercised other effects upon her career. One of those was their involvement in student periodicals. In the late 1700s several examples of student journalism sprang up. Eton College had its Microcosmopolitan, Westminster School had The Flagellant, St. Mary Magdalen College had Olla Podrida, St. John’s College had the Loiterer, etc. Three of these efforts were later collected into volumes: Microcosmopolitan, Olla Podrida, and the Loiterer (which was edited by James Austen). These periodicals covered a wide variety of topics: manners, drinking, epitaphs, superstition, fashion, entertainment, etc. Some serious topics appeared as well. There were pieces on Parliament, the war, education, religion, poetry, fiction, etc.

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The Loiterer janeausteninfo.wix.com

Literary criticism was a staple of these periodicals. One often finds criticism of the novel as a literary form. There were serious discussions regarding the change in style = movement from the epistolary novel – the rise of sentimental fiction – the use of irony and satire. These young journalists were well read men. James Austen, for example, took offense at the predominance of sentimental fiction in the circulating libraries of the time. Henry Austen spoke out against the French influence upon the genre. “What I here allude to, Sir, is that excess of sentiment and  susceptibility, which the works of the great Rousseau chiefly introduced, which every subsequent Novel has since foster’d and which the voluptuous manners of the present age but too eagerly embrace.” (The Loiterer, No. 47

Some biographers suggest that Jane Austen wrote one of the letters published in The Loiterer. The letter expressed an objection to the lack of a female perspective in the articles published in the weekly periodical. It was signed “Sophia Sentiment.” It is said that the issue containing the letter supposedly written by Jane Austen (issue 9) was the only one to be advertised for sale in North Hampshire, where the Austen’s lived. The other issues were for sale at Oxford and in London. In the Cambridge University Press collection of Austen’s Juvenilia, Peter Sabor (2006, pages 356-362) suggests that the letter may have been inspired by Jane’s voice in her brothers’ ears rather than her actually writing the letter. The letter turns sentimental fiction upon its head. “Sophia Sentiment” encourages the editor (James Austen) to publish more sentimental fiction. 

“Let us hear no more of your Oxford Journals, your Homelys and Cockney: but send them about their business, and get a new set of correspondents, from among the young of both sexes, but particularly ours; and let us see some nice affecting stories, relating the misfortunes of two lovers, who died suddenly, just as they were going to church. Let the lover be killed in a duel, or lost at sea, or you may make him shoot himself, just as you please, and as for his mistress, she will of course go mad; or if you will, you may kill the lady, and let the lover run mad; only remember, whatever you do, that your hero and heroine must possess a great deal of feeling, and have very pretty names.” (The Loiterer, No. 9)

Ironically, in Henry evaluation of sentimental fiction he writes a tongue-in-cheek response: Let her avoid love and friendship as she wishes to be admired and distinguished. (The Loiterer, No. 27) Li-Ping Geng says in Persuasions, No. 31 (pages 167-168), “Sophia (meaning “wisdom” in Greek) is a pretty name but also an ironic one. Further, it si the name given to a protagonist, in Jane Austen’s “Love and Freindship,” who is “all Sensibility and Feeling,” a heroine who is recognized as “most truly worthy of the Name” by the equally sentimental Laura, herself possessed of “[a] sensibility too tremblingly alive.

“The spirited playfulness and the cheeky style, consistent with what we see in Juvenilia, seem to exclude James from the authorship. The letter’s somewhat crude irony resembles very much that seen in Henry Austen’s satirical contributions, but the charming temperament and feminine tone seem to point to the hand of Jane, who was more than capable of it at the precocious age of thirteen and who was at the time actively engaged elsewhere in mocking the rampant literary bias.”

 

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His Majesty “Farmer George”

If one were to search history books, he would learn that King George III was King of England during the American Revolutionary War. He might also discover that the same King George “went mad” in his later years. Hopefully, the person would also learn the following, which is provided (in more detail than I have included below) by Royal.uk: 

**”George III became heir to the throne on the death of his father in 1751, succeeding his grandfather, George II, in 1760. He was the third Hanoverian monarch and the first one to be born in England and to use English as his first language.

**George III was devoted to his wife, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They had 15 children, 13 of whom reached adulthood.

**”George III was the first king to study science as part of his education (he had his own astronomical observatory), and examples of his collection of scientific instruments can now be seen in the Science Museum.

**”The American War of Independence ran from 1775 to 1783 and resulted in Britain’s loss of many its colonies in North America. France was eager to retaliate against Great Britain following their defeat during the Seven Years’ War. Various conflicts against Napoleonic France started in 1793 and led to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

**”George III bought Buckingham House (now known as Buckingham Palace) in 1761 for his wife Queen Charlotte to use as a comfortable family home close to St James’s Palace, where many court functions were held. Buckingham House became known as the Queen’s House.

**”One of the most cultured of monarchs, George III started a new royal collection of books (65,000 of his books were later given to the British Museum, as the nucleus of a national library) and opened his library to scholars.

**”After serious bouts of illness in 1788-89 and again in 1801, George became permanently deranged in 1810. He was mentally unfit to rule in the last decade of his reign; his eldest son – the later George IV – acted as Prince Regent from 1811. Some medical historians have said that George III’s mental instability was caused by a hereditary physical disorder called porphyria.

**”During his reign, George III acquired the nickname ‘Farmer George’, in part due to his agricultural interests and in part as a playful pun. The survival of private papers offers one of the best opportunities to assess the true character and extent of George III’s agricultural interests including many notes made by him on agricultural books.”

It is said by many that George was a child who did not progress as fast mentally, as did others his age. He was a passionate young man, which made him difficult to teach or to command. Supposedly, he could not read properly until he was 11 years of age. When his father died, George, age 12 at the time, became the heir to the throne of England. Because he was aware of his “deficiencies,” George never thought himself worthy of the throne. Even so, he appeared determined to be successful, hiding his self doubt behind a facade of confidence. His method of screwing up his courage was to set himself an ideal of conduct. John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute became this ideal for George III. Bute became George’s inspiration, his teacher, and later his chief minister.

“Succeeding to his father’s earldom in 1723, Bute was known to remained aloof from politics until he met (1747) and won the favour of Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, son of King George II. Upon Frederick’s death in 1751, Bute became the constant companion and confidant of the prince’s son George, heir to the throne, whose tutor he had been. After his accession George III made the earl secretary of state (March 1761). The king appointed Bute in order to break the power of the dominant Whig leaders and to achieve a peace with France. From the first, Bute, as a Scotsman, was widely disliked in England. He aroused further hostility by ousting from his administration William Pitt (later 1st Earl of Chatham), creator of England’s successful strategy in the Seven Years’ War. Bute replaced Thomas Pelham-Holles, 1st Duke of Newcastle, as first lord of the Treasury (in effect, prime minister) in May 1762, and in February 1763 he signed the Treaty of Paris, which made peace with France but was extremely unpopular in England. After imposing a hated cider tax and becoming involved in the controversial elevation of Henry Fox to the peerage, Bute resigned (April 1763). Nevertheless, he maintained his influence with George III until the new prime minister, George Grenville, made the king promise (May 1765) that he would neither employ Bute in office nor seek his counsel.” 

One must not think of the nickname of “Farmer George” to be a disparaging one, for during George III’s long reign, England was very much an agricultural country, so referring to the King as “Farmer George” was a tribute of sorts. The Royal Collection Trust tells us: “During his reign, George III acquired the nickname ‘Farmer George’, in part due to his agricultural interests and in part as a playful pun – a nod toward nominative determinism given that his name, George, derived from the Greek geōrgos (γεωργός), meaning ‘farmer’ or ‘earth worker’. However, the extent to which this popular name arose from his reputation as an agriculturalist has been debated. The anecdotes and caricatures from the 1780s and 1790s tended to depict a friendly, homespun country gentleman, rather than a progressive, experimenting improver. The ‘farmer’ characterisation captured both his reportedly simple domestic life and his traditional paternalistic role as the nation’s father, as much as his zeal for the theory and practice of agriculture. Furthermore, it is difficult to reconstruct an accurate portrait of his engagements with farming from the accounts of contemporaries, whose compliments and stories are partly attributable to the honour owed to a patron and a king.”

In 1780, George III began to develop the parklands around Windsor Castle. The history of Windsor Castle on the internet tells us: “George I took little interest in Windsor Castle, preferring his other palaces at St James’s, Hampton Court, and Kensington. George II rarely used Windsor either, preferring Hampton Court. Many of the apartments in the Upper Ward were given out as “grace and favour” privileges for the use of prominent widows or other friends of the Crown. The Duke of Cumberland made the most use of the property in his role as the Ranger of Windsor Great Park. By the 1740s, Windsor Castle had become an early tourist attraction; wealthier visitors who could afford to pay the castle keeper could enter, see curiosities such as the castle’s narwhal horn, and by the 1750s buy the first guidebooks to Windsor, produced by George Bickham in 1753 and Joseph Pote in 1755. As the condition of the State Apartments continued to deteriorate, even the general public were able to regularly visit the property.

“George III reversed this trend when he came to the throne in 1760. George disliked Hampton Court and was attracted by the park at Windsor Castle. George wanted to move into the Ranger’s House by the castle, but his brother, Henry, was already living in it and refused to move out. Instead, George had to move into the Upper Lodge, later called the Queen’s Lodge, and started the long process of renovating the castle and the surrounding parks. Initially the atmosphere at the castle remained very informal, with local children playing games inside the Upper and Lower Wards, and the royal family frequently seen as they walked around the grounds. As time went by, however, access for visitors became more limited.”

Under George III’s orders, the parklands surrounding Windsor Castle were transformed from grounds for hunting to pristine parks and gardens. One major change was the conversion of the areas known as the Lower Park and the Upper Park into agricultural lands to be used by Frogmore farm. George III was known to have enjoyed overseeing the husbandry efforts at the farm. It is said, King George insisted that newer farming methods be practiced at Frogmore. A four-crop rotation was incorporated so as not to overuse the land.

Charles Townsend, 2nd Viscount Townsend, who served as Secretary of State under George I, used the four crop method on his estate in Norfolk. Townsend had learned of the method from farmers in Holland. It was also used in America and to a lesser extent in Scotland. Crops were rotated on a four-year basis. Townsend considered clover and turnips as two of the crops. The Open Door Website explains the The Four Field System, thusly: “Viscount Townshend successfully introduced a new method of crop rotation on his farms. He divided his fields up into four different types of produce with wheat in the first field, clover (or ryegrass) in the second, oats or barley in the third and, in the fourth, turnips or swedes. The turnips were used as fodder to feed livestock in winter. Clover and ryegrass were grazed by livestock. Using this system, he found that he could grow more crops and get a better yield from the land.

“If a crop was not rotated, then the nutrient level in the field would go down with time. The yield of the crop from the field decreased. Using the four field system, the land could not only be “rested”, but also could be improved by growing other crops. Clover and turnips grown in a field after wheat, barley or oats, naturally replaced nutrients into the soil. None of the fields had to be taken out of use whilst they recovered. Also, where animals grazed on the clover and turnip fields, eating the crop, their droppings helped to manure the soil. The four field system was successful because it improved the amount of food produced.”

Back at Frogmore, George III also set up a dairy. All together, more than 1,000 acres were used for farm purposes at Windsor. George may have been “slow” at reading when he was young, but he held a great deal of knowledge in the areas of animal husbandry and botany and agriculture. He imported sheep from Spain, a suggestion from Sir Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society. Those sheep became the ancestors of the Merino sheep found in New Zealand and Australia. 

George III wrote letters for the Annals of Agriculture under the pen name of ‘Ralph Robinson,’ the name of one of the shepherds he employed on the farm. He kept meticulous notes on the latest improvements in farming practices and animal husbandry. 

The Royal Collection Trust tells us: “The start of George III’s reign coincided with a new surge in agricultural publishing, such that by 1776 Lord Kames was moved to open his own treatise with a joke about the flood of texts: ‘Behold another volume on husbandry!’ It is, therefore, not entirely surprising that in the 1760s and 1770s a monarch concerned with the wealth of his kingdom and curious about the arts and sciences would collect and read books on agriculture. Indeed, George’s intellectual interest can be considered typical of many British gentlemen landowners at the time. Moreover, the surviving papers on agriculture form only a small proportion of the total number in the collection of George’s essays (around one to two per cent). We should therefore resist the temptation offered by his nickname to over-interpret the significance of such notes.

“The first point to make about George’s notes is that they are mostly taken from books published over a relatively short period, 1762–71. This may only be an effect of what survives, but it suggests that George was concerned with the latest ideas and debates, and it is not unreasonable to assume that his notes were made within a relatively short number of years following the publication of a new book or treatise. The exceptions are a short note on a book of 1775 and notes from volumes the periodicals Annals of Agriculture and Transactions of the Society of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce from the 1780s. We can roughly divide the surviving notes made by George into three general themes: the political economy of agriculture, the merits of old versus new husbandry methods and the cultivation of specific crops.”

ERP_15a_BOOK_19 083

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how one views history, George III’s keen interest in agriculture made him a “subject” of several cartoonists of the day. He was lampooned by the famous James Gillray on more than one occasion. John Wolcott satirized the King, just as he did members of the Royal Society. In Wolcott’s piece, King George explains how to make an apple dumpling to a farmer’s wife. 

In tempting row the naked dumplings lay, 

When lo! the monarch is on his usual way, 

Like lightening spoke “What’s this? what’s this? what? what?” 

“No!” cried the staring monarch with a grin, 

“How? how? the devil got the apple in?”

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, family, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Great Britain, kings and queens, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, royalty, science | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Second Shepherds’ Play, England’s “First Comedy”

41N5-tNbm2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg  The Wakefield mystery play cycle included The Second Shepherd’s Play. The author is unknown, but the play is commonly attributed to the Wakefield Master. This play dates from the latter half of the 15th Century. It is written in Middle English. It is play number thirteen of thirty-two contained in the only surviving manuscript, currently held at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The Second Shepherds’ Play is included in The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume 1 (1993) and in The Towneley Plays (2001), Volume 1, edited by Martin Stevens and A. C. Cawley. The play’s title comes from the Towneley cycle of plays, and this one was the second one of two Shepherds’ plays. A. W. Pollard, bibliographer and scholar of English literature, suggested that in the Prima Pastorum, the author knew some success in telling the story, but in the Second Shepherds’ Play, he achieved the nation’s “first English comedy.” 

According to Encyclopedia.com, “Mystery plays, which are so named because they refer to the spiritual mystery of Christ’s birth and death, combine comic elements with biblical stories. For example, in The Second Shepherds’ Play, the author combines the Shepherds’ story of stolen sheep and a swindle involving the birth of a nonexistent infant with the biblical story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. The dual plot is designed to remind the audience of the two-fold nature of man’s existence—the real world on earth and the spiritual world of the afterlife. The play, itself, contains no divisions of act or scene, but there are three distinct scenes: the Shepherds’ soliloquies in which they lament their poverty, the oppressive natures of their lives, and the terrible weather; the scene with Mak and Gil in which they try to disguise the stolen lamb as their newborn child; and the adoration of the Christ-child in Bethlehem. The text shifts both time and place, referring to Christian saints and to the birth of Christ, although these things and events would have been separated by hundreds of years and reversed in time. Additionally, while the first half of the play takes place in Medieval England, the shepherds are easily able to walk to Bethlehem in a matter of hours, where events occurred fourteen centuries earlier. The audience, however, would have had no concern about such details, since The Second Shepherds’ Play easily mixes symbolism and realism with entertainment and biblical lessons.”

The manuscript was originally preserved at Towneley Hall, Lancashire, but was presented by the craft guilds of Wakefield, thus, the name of the piece. According to The English Drama (eds. E. W. Parks and R. C. Beatty, New York, W. W. Norton, 1935), “the cycle is a composite on: (1) a group of didactic-religious plays; (2) a group probably derived from an earlier version of the York plays; (3) a group of five by a single writer of marked dramatic power and bold humor. This final group was completed by 1420.”

wake2shep With no connection to Biblical incidents, many consider The Second Shepherds’ Play England’s first original comedy – a boisterous English farce. The only Biblical reference comes at the ending scene in which the English shepherds are “transported” to Bethlehem where they view the Christ child. Even in this scene, the shepherds’ speech is quite colloquial. One of shepherds even presents the Christ child a tennis ball as a gift. 

The play has many anachronistic phrases and oaths such as “for God that you bought” and “By him that died for us all” and “Christ’s cross me speed.” There is also a reference to Saint Nicholas, which sets up the theme of stealing, for Saint Nicholas was the patron saint of thieves. At line 626, the shepherds toss Mak in a sheet and then return to the fields. Tossing Mak in the sheet was a superstition in action. Being “tossed in a sheet” would allow Mak to have more children. Such phrases and actions may not “entertain” those of our time, but they would prove hilarious to those of medieval times. 

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