The Forest of Dean

In west Gloucestershire, marked by the rivers Severn and Wye, we find the Forest of Dean, a large tract of woodland and waste land reserved for royal hunting before 1066. It remains the second largest of the principal Crown forests in England. (List of Royal Forests can be found HERE.) The forest likely got its name from a manor called “Dean,” found in the northeast corner of the forest. It is where the Forest’s administrative centre was located in the late 11th Century. The name Forest of Dean was recorded circa 1080. 

In the 13th Century, the Forest of Dean extended northwards as far as Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, Newent, and Gloucester. From that time, the forest encompassed 33 Gloucestershire and Herefordshire parishes. It contained a central, uncultivated area retained for the Crown. “Revised bounds, perambulated in 1300 and accepted by the Crown in 1327, reduced the extent of the Forest to the royal demesne and 14 parishes or parts of parishes, most of them, like the demesne itself, in St. Briavels hundred. After 1668 in practice, and after 1833 officially, the Forest comprised the royal demesne only. The changes in the bounds over the centuries are described below. The royal demesne remained extraparochial until the 1840s when, villages and hamlets having grown up within it, it was formed into the civil townships (later parishes) of East Dean and West Dean and into ecclesiastical districts. After mid 20th-century changes the bulk of the former demesne land belonged in 1994 to the civil parishes of West Dean, Lydbrook, Cinderford, Ruspidge, and Drybrook.” (Forest of Dean: Introduction)

 

The Forest of Dean was a significant producer of oak timber, especially important to the British Royal Navy.

Lord Nelson wrote of the forest:

“The Forest of Dean contains about 23,000 acres of the finest Land in the Kingdom, which I am informed, if in high cultivation of Oak, would produce about 9200 loads of timber fit for building Ships of the Line every year; that is, the Forest would grow in full vigour 920,000 trees.

“The State of the Forest at this moment is deplorable, for if my information is true there is not 3500 Load of Timber in the whole forest fit for building and now coming forward. It is useless, I admit, to state the causes of such a want of Timber where so much could be produced, except that by knowing the faults we may be better enabled to amend ourselves.

“First, the generality of trees for these last fifty years have been allowed to stand too long. They are passed by instead of removed and thus occupy a space, which ought to have been replanted with young trees.”

2006-p18-01.jpg (To read the entire letter, visit Woodland Heritage, which reproduced the letter. Reproduced with the kind permission of “The Mariner’s Mirror” – Journal of the Society for Nautical Research. Go HERE.)

The forests also contained beech and chestnut trees, especially near Flaxley, providing the name for the woods called the “Chestnuts.” Hazel, birch, sallow, holly, and alder could also be found. ” In 1282 various ‘lands’, or forest glades, maintained by the Crown presumably as grazing for the deer, included several with names later familiar in the Forest’s history, Kensley, Moseley, Cannop, Crump meadow, and Whitemead (later a part of Newland parish). Numerous smaller clearings called ‘trenches’ had also been made as corridors alongside roads for securing travellers against ambush or for the grazing and passage of the deer. Larger areas of waste, or ‘meends’, such as Clearwell Meend and Mitcheldean Meend, lay on the borders adjoining the manorial lands, whose inhabitants used them for commoning their animals.

“Much ancient woodland was destroyed to make charcoal for the iron industry in the 16th and 17th centuries, but the re-establishment of the woods was encouraged by a policy of inclosure begun in the 1660s and designed to produce shipbuilding timber. The policy faltered during the 18th century but in the early 19th century large new inclosures were again formed and planted almost entirely with oak. A few Weymouth pines planted before 1787 were apparently the first conifers introduced to the Forest, and conifers were widely planted in the 19th century to shelter the young oak plantations. Large plantations of pure conifer were made during the 20th century and threatened to dominate the woodlands before 1971 when a policy of keeping equal proportions of coniferous and broadleaved trees was adopted. In 1994, when the Forest was more thickly planted than for several centuries, it included isolated late 17th-century oaks, park-like areas of early 19th-century oak preserved mainly as an amenity, and large plantations of oak, beech, fir, and spruce managed for commercial purposes.” (Forest of Dean: Introduction)

According to History of the Royal Forest of Dean tells us, “The 19th century saw the major development of industry. Enterprise and innovation combined with rich natural resources brought inventions, investors and workers to the Forest from many parts of Britain. Industrialisation demanded improved communications and better transport links. In the late 19th century original tram roads were converted to railways with all the Forest towns connected to the main lines bordering the area and linking with the docks at Lydney. Lydney Harbour has recently been restored to preserve its historical importance as a key player in the industrial development of the Forest of Dean.

“As a woodland, the Forest of Dean has played an important part in the heritage of Britain especially from the 17th century when the oak timber, and indeed iron, became important for the expanding shipbuilding industry. The exploitation of the area’s timber and iron ore resources continued throughout the Civil War but in 1649 recommendations were made for the conservation and management of the Forest. This was pursued by a Commission whose long-term work was scuppered by growing demand from the Navy. It was not until the Dean Forest (Reforestation) Act 1668 that effective management commenced, albeit dogged with trouble for another 120 years. During a visit to the Forest in 1802, Lord Nelson highlighted that the ‘finest timber in the kingdom’ was in a deplorable state. Consequently 30 million acorns were planted across 11,000 acres, but the oak was redundant before half grown thanks to its rapid replacement in shipbuilding by iron and steel!

“Despite further demands during the war years, the Forest, due to careful planting and felling programme’s, has maintained much of its traditional appearance. In addition, much of the war-time felling was replanted with oak and other broad leaved mixtures. The National Forest policy of 1958 emphasised the need for timber production but highlighted the need for due regard to amenity and recreation.”

royal_forest_of_dean.jpg

Resources and Additional Reading: 

Forest of Dean History Society

Forest of Dean: Introduction ~ pages 285 – 294 A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 5, Bledisloe Hundred, St. Briavels Hundred, the Forest of Dean. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1996. ~ Read Online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol5/pp285-294

History of the Forest of Dean by Stephen Baker

History of the Royal Forest of Dean 

Nelson and the Forest of Dean 

 

Posted in estates, history, Industrial Revolution, kings and queens, legacy, royalty | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” – Who Are Catherine Morland and the Tilneys?

What do we know of Catherine Morland and the Tilneys in Austen’s “Northanger Abbey”?

Title page from the original 1818 edition - Public Domain - Lilly Library, Indiana University

Title page from the original 1818 edition – Public Domain – Lilly Library, Indiana University

Much of the description of the Abbey and of the Tilneys come to us from Austen’s heroine, Catherine Morland.

Catherine comes to Bath with dreams of highwaymen and Gothic heroes. She is a 17-year-old girl who loves reading Gothic novels. Something of a tomboy in her childhood, her looks are described by the narrator as “pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty.” Catherine lacks experience and sees her life as if she were a heroine in a Gothic novel. She sees the best in people, and to begin with always seems ignorant of other people’s malign intentions. She is the devoted sister of James Morland, and she is good-natured and frank and often makes insightful comments on the inconsistencies and insincerities of people around her, usually to Henry Tilney, and thus is unintentionally sarcastic and funny. (He is delighted when she says, “I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”) She is also seen as a humble and modest character, becoming exceedingly happy when she receives the smallest compliment. Catherine’s character grows throughout the novel, as she gradually becomes a real heroine, learning from her mistakes when she is exposed to the outside world in Bath. She sometimes makes the error of applying Gothic novels to real life situations; for example, later in the novel she begins to suspect General Tilney of having murdered his deceased wife. Catherine soon learns that Gothic novels are really just fiction and do not always correspond with reality.

imagesGeneral Tilney boasts of owning as “considerable a landed property as any man in the country.”
The general is a commoner, not a member of the peerage. He is a man deeply concerned with politics and national affairs. Although Austen never tells us to what political the general belongs, we know he is a party man. The general studies political pamphlets late into the evenings. Austen never expresses her party alignment in her novels, but we can assume that General Tilney represents the Whigs. Austen, herself, was the daughter of an Anglican cleric and came from a Tory family. Many believe Catherine’s marrying of Henry Tilney is an example of moral reclamation.

General Tilney expects his children and household to conform to strict standards. He despises those who do not adhere to punctuality and pre-described standards. He is overly concerned with material wealth. Early on, he caters to Catherine when he thinks she is to inherit the Allens’ wealth and downright caustic when he discovers she is not wealthy. What is ironic is the general believes John Thorpe in both cases. What does this tell us about the general? The general behaves badly, but in a manner that the real world would recognize. He is not the Gothic villain Catherine assumes him to be (He did not murder his wife.), but he is a snob and a bore. He represents the social concerns of Austen’s time. Shmoop 

The scene where General Tilney and John Thorpe choose to keep company in the smoking room is characteristic of Austen’s plots. The general represents pride, avarice, vengeance, and gluttony. Henry Tilney is a prig who constantly corrects both his sister and Catherine. Thorpe is a vain scoundrel, who practices covetousness, rapacity, and materialism. How often in Austen do we see the heroine being wooed by the bounder and finding “happiness” with the prig? The Watsons, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Persuasion, Emma, and Sense and Sensibility.

Henry and Elinor Tilney

Henry and Elinor Tilney

Eleanor Tilney is the perfect Gothic heroine: has the mother who passed away, possesses a strange and singular father, dwells within the abbey’s setting, and is a star-crossed lover. Yet, even so, Eleanor is a bit boring. Is this Austen making fun of the Gothic novel? Eleanor’s character is static; she does not change, where Catherine Morland is the dynamic one. Catherine learns from her hard lessons and improves. Eleanor is also the foil for the vivacious Isabella Thorpe. The more-mature Eleanor becomes the model that Catherine chooses to emulate for Eleanor is well-read, rational, and able to keep up with Henry’s wit (a skill Catherine must master if she and Henry are to know happiness). While Isabella is abandoned by Captain Tilney, Eleanor knows the reward of claiming her long-standing love, a viscount.

char_lg_frederickCaptain Frederick Tilney is a seducer of women. (Ever notice how Austen has such a character in many of her novels?) Henry says of his brother (to Catherine), Frederick “is a lively, and perhaps sometimes a thoughtless young man; he [Frederick] has had about a week’s acquaintance with your friend [Isabella], and he has known her engagement almost as long as he has known her” (19.26) Frederick destroys Isabella’s engagement to James Morland, while ruining her reputation. The captain represents Society’s dual standards for behavior for men and women. He also adds to the mystique of the Tilney family: Like father, Like son. Frederick’s actions make Henry and Eleanor more sympathetic characters and his ruining of Isabelle does the same for that character, who readers sometimes see as selfish and greedy and conniving.

Henry Tilney spends a great deal of time “educating” Catherine. He teases her about her ignorance and naiveté. He instructs her in the ways of Society. He speaks to Catherine of art and literature. We never know for certain whether Henry is a bit of a chauvinist or not. He really does not seem to hold women with much regard. Henry is seen treating his sister Eleanor in the same way as he does Catherine. Henry is the voice of the narrator of the piece, but he is also a character in the story whose actions/speech satirizes everything.

“Henry displays a lot of humorous arrogance and very ironic humor towards Eleanor and Catherine, and women in general. In fact, Henry frequently provides humorous commentary on some of the book’s major themes, such as language and gender. But while Henry comments on these thematic issues, the arrogance (possibly fake, possibly genuine) with which he delivers his commentary is itself a thematic statement. In other words, Henry’s personality makes important statements about themes alongside, and sometimes independently of, Henry’s dialogue. And Henry’s dialogue is often difficult to interpret. Take this address to Eleanor and Catherine:

He laughed, and added, “Come, shall I make you understand each other, or leave you to puzzle out an explanation as you can? No – I will be noble. I will prove myself a man, no less by the generosity of my soul than the clearness of my head. I have no patience with such of my sex as disdain to let themselves sometimes down to the comprehension of yours.” (14.25) Shmoop 

We know nothing about the Tilneys from Austen’s description of the house or the family’s history. In “Perusasion” we are treated to a brief history of the Elliot family, and in “Mansfield Park” Austen provides us a history of the house, but that is the extent of Austen’s “background information.”

imgres.jpg This is Catherine’s first impression of Northanger Abbey
As they drew near the end of their journey, her impatience for a sight of the abbey — for some time suspended by his conversation on subjects very different — returned in full force, and every bend in the road was expected with solemn awe to afford a glimpse of its massy walls of grey stone, rising amidst a grove of ancient oaks, with the last beams of the sun playing in beautiful splendour on its high Gothic windows. But so low did the building stand, that she found herself passing through the great gates of the lodge into the very grounds of Northanger, without having discerned even an antique chimney.

She knew not that she had any right to be surprised, but there was a something in this mode of approach which she certainly had not expected. To pass between lodges of a modern appearance, to find herself with such ease in the very precincts of the abbey, and driven so rapidly along a smooth, level road of fine gravel, without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent. She was not long at leisure, however, for such considerations. A sudden scud of rain, driving full in her face, made it impossible for her to observe anything further, and fixed all her thoughts on the welfare of her new straw bonnet; and she was actually under the abbey walls, was springing, with Henry’s assistance, from the carriage, was beneath the shelter of the old porch, and had even passed on to the hall, where her friend and the general were waiting to welcome her, without feeling one awful foreboding of future misery to herself, or one moment’s suspicion of any past scenes of horror being acted within the solemn edifice. The breeze had not seemed to waft the sighs of the murdered to her; it had wafted nothing worse than a thick mizzling rain; and having given a good shake to her habit, she was ready to be shown into the common drawing–room, and capable of considering where she was.

An abbey! Yes, it was delightful to be really in an abbey! But she doubted, as she looked round the room, whether anything within her observation would have given her the consciousness. The furniture was in all the profusion and elegance of modern taste. The fireplace, where she had expected the ample width and ponderous carving of former times, was contracted to a Rumford, with slabs of plain though handsome marble, and ornaments over it of the prettiest English china. The windows, to which she looked with peculiar dependence, from having heard the general talk of his preserving them in their Gothic form with reverential care, were yet less what her fancy had portrayed. To be sure, the pointed arch was preserved — the form of them was Gothic — they might be even casements — but every pane was so large, so clear, so light! To an imagination which had hoped for the smallest divisions, and the heaviest stone–work, for painted glass, dirt, and cobwebs, the difference was very distressing.

The general, perceiving how her eye was employed, began to talk of the smallness of the room and simplicity of the furniture, where everything, being for daily use, pretended only to comfort, etc.; flattering himself, however, that there were some apartments in the Abbey not unworthy her notice — and was proceeding to mention the costly gilding of one in particular, when, taking out his watch, he stopped short to pronounce it with surprise within twenty minutes of five! This seemed the word of separation, and Catherine found herself hurried away by Miss Tilney in such a manner as convinced her that the strictest punctuality to the family hours would be expected at Northanger.

Returning through the large and lofty hall, they ascended a broad staircase of shining oak, which, after many flights and many landing–places, brought them upon a long, wide gallery. On one side it had a range of doors, and it was lighted on the other by windows which Catherine had only time to discover looked into a quadrangle, before Miss Tilney led the way into a chamber, and scarcely staying to hope she would find it comfortable, left her with an anxious entreaty that she would make as little alteration as possible in her dress.

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Do You Know These Words and Phrases?

Go Through Fire and Water ~ English for Students tells us, “Go through fire and water means to face any peril. This phrase originally referred to the medieval practice of trial by ordeal which could take the form of making an accused person hold or walk on red-hot iron or of throwing them into water.”

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Blackguard ~ World Wide Words tells us, “It’s sad that this contemptuous term for a scoundrel, a man who behaves in a dishonourable or contemptible way, has fallen out of use, since it carries a big punch. Our usual pronunciation as “blaggard” obscures its curious composition. Who or what was the black guard that got itself such a dreadful reputation? If I had a time machine handy, I’d go back to about 1500 and ask some pointed questions of Londoners. Failing this device, matters have to remain somewhat obscure.

“The earliest recorded use, by a few years, was in 1535. Then it referred to low menials in a royal or noble household. They were the ones who looked after the pots and pans and other kitchen utensils: the scullions or kitchen-knaves. Nobody knows for sure why they were said to be black — perhaps the colour of the pots literally or figuratively rubbed off on them. A slightly later sense is of the rabble that followed an army about: the servants, camp-followers and general hangers-on (here black presumably has its common derogatory sense). There seems to be a third sense, which refers to a guard of attendants or soldiers who were dressed in black; it’s possible that there really was a Black Guard — so called — at Westminster about this time (there are account records that refer to them, but nobody has any idea who they actually were).

“By the eighteenth century, the term was applied to children and young people who made a living any way they could, either as boot blacks or general assistants to soldiers (presumably this was a joke on the literal form of the word). Our modern sense appeared about 1730, and was a highly offensive term for a scoundrel or villain, or any low worthless minor criminal.”

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Paint the Town Red ~ Phrase Finder tells us the the phrase means to “engage in a riotous spree” and gives us a long explanation, of which I am sharing only part of it. “The allusion is to the kind of unruly behaviour that results in much blood being spilt. There are several suggestions as to the origin of the phrase. The one most often repeated, especially within the walls of the Melton Mowbray Tourist Office, is a tale dating from 1837. It is said that year is when the Marquis of Waterford and a group of friends ran riot in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, painting the town’s toll-bar and several buildings red.

 

melton

Further evidence for the event, but against it being the phrase’s origin, comes from a text below a picture of the revellers, dated 1837. The picture is labelled A Spree at Melton Mowbray and subtitled Or doing the Thing in a Sporting-like manner.

220px-Marquess_of_Waterford” That event is well documented, and is certainly in the style of the Marquis, who was a notorious hooligan. To his friends he was Henry de la Poer Beresford; to the public he was known as ‘the Mad Marquis’. In the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography he is described as ‘reprobate and landowner’. His misdeeds include fighting, stealing, being ‘invited to leave’ Oxford University, breaking windows, upsetting (literally) apple-carts, fighting duels and, last but not least, painting the heels of a parson’s horse with aniseed and hunting him with bloodhounds. He was notorious enough to have been suspected by some of being ‘Spring Heeled Jack’, the strange, semi-mythical figure of English folklore. The phrase isn’t recorded in print until fifty years after the nefarious Earl’s night out.

“The picture portrays actual streets in Melton and it is very likely that it was a representation of a real event. The newspaper report describes the red paint in Ackermann’s picture, although that is difficult to discern in later prints. Neither the text of the picture nor later reports mention the Marquis of Waterford or, more importantly, the phrase ‘paint the town red’. Actually, as pointed out above, the first use of the phrase in print is quite a lot later – not until 1883 in fact, and in New York, not Leicestershire. The New York Times, July 1883 has:

“Mr. James Hennessy offered a resolution that the entire body proceed forthwith to Newark and get drunk… Then the Democrats charged upon the street cars, and being wafted into Newark proceeded, to use their own metaphor, to ‘paint the town red’.”

“The other early references to the phrase also relate to America rather than England. The November 1884 edition of the Boston [Mass.] Journal has:

 

“Whenever there was any excitement or anybody got particularly loud, they always said somebody was ‘painting the town red’.”

“The next is Rudyard Kipling. That’s as English as you can get one would have thought. In this case though he too is referring to America – in his book Abaft Funnel, 1889:

“They would do their best towards painting that town [Chicago] in purest vermilion.”

There are other theories too:

“Jaipur (The Pink City) is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. The old buildings of the city are constructed from pink sandstone. In 1853 it was painted pink in honour of a visit from Prince Albert. If that were the origin though, why don’t we paint the town pink?

“William and Mary Morris in their Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins say it probably originated on the American frontier. They link it to ‘red light district’ and suggest that people out for a night ‘on the town’ might very well take it into their heads to make the whole town red. Well, they might, then again they might not.

“It is sometimes said to come from the US slang use of “paint” to mean “drink”, When someone’s drunk their face and nose are flushed red, hence the analogy.”

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Broom-Squire ~ Again I return to World Wide Words. They explain: “A house recently advertised for sale near the Devil’s Punchbowl in Surrey mentioned that it had once been used by broom-squires. These weren’t the minor aristocracy of rural places that the second half of their title suggests but poor rural artisans.

“They were famously evoked by Sabine Baring-Gould — Anglican priest, antiquarian and novelist — in his 1896 novel The Broom-Squire, set near the house:

“At some unknown date squatters settled in the Punch-Bowl, at a period when it was in as wild and solitary a region as any in England. They enclosed portions of the slopes. They built themselves hovels; they pastured their sheep, goats, cattle on the sides of the Punch-Bowl, and they added to their earnings the profits of a trade they monopolized — that of making and selling brooms. On the lower slopes of the range grew coppices of Spanish chestnut, and rods of this wood served admirably for broom-handles. The heather when long and wiry and strong, covered with its harsh leafage and myriad hard knobs, that were to burst into flower, answered for the brush. On account of this manufacture, the squatters in the Punch-Bowl went by the designation of Broom-Squires. They provided with brooms every farm and gentleman’s house, nay, every cottage for miles around. A wagon-load of these besoms was often purchased, and the supply lasted some years.

A broom-squire’s cottage, c 1900.
“A hand-coloured postcard of about 1900. The broom-squire’s cottage is presumably the brick-and-tile one in the background, a great step up from the hovels of earlier descriptions.

“Broom-squires were necessarily restricted to the heathlands of England, such as the Surrey Heaths of the story and the New Forest further south, though at times the brush of the broom wasn’t heather but birch twigs, strictly speaking turning their makers into besom-squires, a term that appears only rarely.

“Squire is not a term of respect here. Alongside its sense of a country gentleman was a contemptuous one that evolved from its oldest meaning of an attendant on a knight, hence later merely a servant, and a lowly one at that. A close relative is the long obsolete apple-squire, which may be politely defined as a male companion of a woman of ill-repute, more accurately a pimp (we may guess the apple was a sly reference to the biblical Eve, though the Oxford English Dictionary suggests a woman’s breasts were meant). Broom-squires, often itinerant and always poor, had an unsavoury reputation not so far removed from the then conventional view of gypsies.

“A footnote in The Sporting Review in December 1840 to an article about hunting over yet another heath, in Somerset, described broom-squires negatively as ‘A variety of the genus homo found on Quantock, living on whortleberries, dwarf-birch, &c, &c. Towards winter they frequent the lower grounds, and prey on game of all sorts, preferring that of their own killing.'”

Other reports mention the rude huts they inhabited. The thatched sixteenth-century former gamekeeper’s cottage mentioned in the property advert was unlikely ever to have been the home of broom-squires. However, it makes a good story for the sales brochures.

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Have you watched the popular British-American drama television series, Penny Dreadful? Ever wonder the source of the title? 

Phrase Finder tells us, “Penny Dreadful is a cheap publication, containing melodramas written in a colourful and down-market style.

Penny dreadful magazine cover Penny dreadful is a rather dated expression, for no one can purchase a magazine for a penny these days.

“The expression is American and came into use in the late 19th century as a pejorative term for the numerous cheap crime magazines that purveyed poorly written and hackneyed storylines. The establishment were critical of the time spent on such by the working classes, as this comment in the North American Review, 1861 indicates: ‘They can read the ‘penny dreadful,’ but they cannot darn their stockings or mend their shoes.'”

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Arenaceous ~ World Wide Words tells us, “It means to have the appearance or consistency of sand. Unlike sabulous and its close relative arenose, both of which also refer to something sandlike and which rarely appear outside lists of rare words, arenaceous is still very much with us.

“But it’s a term you’re most likely to find in a deeply technical article that discusses matters such as “the influence of matrix conduction upon hydrogeophysical relationships in arenaceous aquifers” or refers to the ‘squamulose lichen of both calcareous and arenaceous soils.’ The rest of us can make do with sandy.

“If its spelling reminds you of arena, a public entertainment space, that is no accident. Both derive from arena or harena, the Latin word for sand. The English word arena comes from the name for the central part of a Roman amphitheatre in which gladiatorial fights and the like took place and which was strewn with sand to absorb the blood.

“Very rarely you may find arenaceous used figuratively. James Russell Lowell did so in Among My Books in 1876 when writing of William Wordsworth: ‘He seems striving to bind the wizard Imagination with the sand-ropes of dry disquisition, and to have forgotten the potent spell-word which would make the particles cohere. There is an arenaceous quality in the style which makes progress wearisome.'”

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Congé ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary gives us the origin of the word: alteration of earlier congee, congie, from Middle English conge, from Anglo-French cungé, from Latin commeatus going back and forth, leave, from commeare to go back and forth, from com- + meare to go. It means: a formal permission to depart;  a ceremonious bow; farewell; an architectural molding of concave profile. Meanwhile, Dictionary.com gives us these historical examples: 

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John S. Farmer in Slang and Its Analougues: Past and Present (Volume 1, page 130 – 134) gives us this definition of Barrack-Hack: “1. In an inoffensive sense applied to young women who attend garrison balls year after year. So used, there is no such imputation of lax morals as occurred in sense 2. 2. A soldier’s prostitute. “

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Farmer (page 135) also gives us these slang words: Barres, which means “(gaming) Money lost at play, but not paid. The term is an old one, and has long been obsolete. A corrupt form of ‘barrace,’ an obsolete plural of ‘bar.’ (and) Barrikin “(common) Gibberish; jargon; a jumble of words. see quote: 1851-1861 H. Mayhew, London Lab. and Lon. Poor, vol. 1, p. 15. ‘The high words in a tragedy we call jaw-breakers, and say we can’t tumble to that barrikin. Ibid. p. 25, Can’t tumble to your BARRIKIN. [i.e., can’t understand you]. Ibid., p. 27, The rich has all that BARRIKIN to themselves.” 

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Posted in etymology, word choices, word origins, word play | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

What Do You Love About Austen’s “Persuasion” and Captain Fredrick Wentworth?

Back in February, Karen Cox hosted a panel of Austen-inspired authors, who have written Persuasion-based tales. The panel included Laura Hile, author of the Mercy’s Embrace trilogy, So Rough a Course, So Lively a Chase, & The Lady Must Decide; Regina Jeffers, author of Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion; Susan Kaye author of the Frederick Wentworth, Captain books None But You and For You Alone; Melanie Stanford, author of Sway, and Shannon Winslow, author of The Persuasion of Miss Jane Austen. If you are interested in the responses of my fellow authors, you may read Karen’s post to celebrate the 5-year anniversary of the release of her book, Find Wonder in All Things, HERE. The original panel discussion was posted to Goodreads. 

That being said, below are Karen’s questions and my responses. 

CFWP CropWhat do you love about Persuasion and why? Is it your favorite Jane Austen novel? If not, where would you rank it?

Needless to say, Persuasion offers the reader Austen’s most mature voice. Although we acknowledge her genius in earlier novels, in Persuasion, Austen has mastered character development, the providential incident to advance the plot, and the universal truths that mark all of humanity. We, the readers, view the world through the lens of an English landscape. In this novel, Austen perfected the art of showing the full gamut of emotions plaguing life in its simplest forms: The interesting things in life can happen at home.

I grew up in the turbulent 50s and 60s when there was a strong awareness of social change, and although they cannot control the “how” and the “why,” in Persuasion, the upwardly mobile naval officers symbolize this change. Anne Elliot faces a future with Wentworth with the fear of another war. Such fears and pride spoke to me. I came from a military family, and I lived through the Korean and Vietnam wars, with a front row seat to those who served. I knew people, such as Wentworth and Anne, whose marriage had a national, as well as a domestic, significance. Therefore, Persuasion remains one of my favorite Austen tales. I do not think I could exist without hearing Elizabeth Bennet’s declaration to Lady Catherine to marry Darcy and to celebrate the brilliance of their unequal marriage. Nor could I abandon the intelligent, masterful, ruthless, yet generous and considerate hero I discovered in Wentworth. It depends upon my mood, which one I tackle.

What made you want to write a variation of Jane Austen’s last novel?

Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion was my third novel for Ulysses Press, which had joined the Jane Austen Fan Fiction rage of the first decade of the 2000s. I had already written a retelling of Pride and Prejudice (Darcy’s Passions in 2008) and a sequel to Pride and Prejudice (Darcy’s Temptation in 2009). Because I adore Persuasion and always taught it when I was still in the classroom. I pitched it to Ulysses, and they accepted the story.

Also, at the time, I was in the midst of reading Debra White Smith’s Austen novels. Her Possibilities is a modern Christian-based version of Persuasion. It is set in Charlotte, where I live, and I thought it would be a good thing to write my own version, a retelling of Persuasion from Captain Wentworth’s point of view.

Do you think Jane Austen would consider Wentworth to be “gentlemanly”? Why or why not?

I am a big believer that happiness is a result of merit — of acting with humanity and grace — of performance with tenderness of manner. I first read Pride and Prejudice at the age of twelve, and I immediately fell in love with Fitzwilliam Darcy, for he loved a woman for her mind, as well as her comely countenance. Next, I met Mr. Knightley. Although I was quite taken with how tenderly he treated Emma, I must admit I was a bit put out by the age difference between the pair, for at the time I did not understand the reasons men chose younger wives during the era. Finally, I found Captain Wentworth. As I said above, I come from a military family. In fact, I am a naval brat, and so Wentworth became a steady favorite. In truth, some of his least “appealing” qualities — being headstrong and intractable — were qualities I admired in the strong-willed men with whom I interacted upon a daily basis. I witnessed the devotion of the sailors upon the naval base upon which we lived to their families and to our country. I knew admiration for the men they had become.

Wentworth is likely, by birth, the son of a clergyman (based on his brother being a curate), which in Austen’s society would provide him “gentleman” status and a gentleman’s education, but moreover, he performs as a gentleman. For instance, he patiently consoles Mrs. Musgrove and listens attentively to the woman’s remembrances of Richard Musgrove. Although he knows he does not affect the girl, Wentworth is willing to marry Louisa Musgrove, for he acted foolishly by flirting with her. He takes note of Anne’s fatigue upon the return walk from Winthrop and arranges for her to ride with his sister and Admiral Croft. I think Wentworth is Austen’s most perfect hero, for he lacks perfection. He transforms himself into the man Anne Elliot deserves.

Do you think Wentworth never got over Anne? Or do you think he fell in love with her again when he returned eight years later?

I always felt that Wentworth achieved his exalted position — his acclaim — because he wished to prove Sir Walter and Lady Russell had erred. His success was a matter of pride. Although Sir Walter did not withhold his consent to Anne and Wentworth’s marriage, he “[gave] it all the negative of great astonishment, great coldness, great silence, and a professed resolution of doing nothing for his daughter.” (Persuasion 28) Lady Russell spoke to Anne of Wentworth’s “spending freely, what had come freely” and the fact he had nothing of consequence to show for his previous prize money act at his motivation. This was Wentworth’s wake-up call. Wentworth was insulted to be judged as a “failure” by his betters.

As to whether Wentworth falls in love with Anne again, I am of a mind to think there is a thin line between love and hate. Upon his return to the area, Wentworth thought to despise Anne, but slowly Providence, or Fate, or whatever one wishes to call it, chips away at his resolve. He notices that other men recognize Anne’s goodness and her blossoming attractiveness — specifically Mr. Elliot. He is “obliged to acknowledge that only at Uppercross had he learned to do her justice, and only at Lyme had he begun to understand himself.” (262)

What was the biggest challenge you faced as you wrote your Persuasion-inspired story?

I think Persuasion possesses an overtone of “sexuality” not found in other Austen’s novels. At the concert venue, Wentworth says, “The day has produced some effects, however; has had some consequence, which must be considered as the very reverse of frightful,” and we view the captain’s emotional rollercoaster. He embraces the unexpected turn of events. He begins to realize the consequences of desires and malleability. Wentworth fears displaying his jealousy. His feelings for Anne frighten him. Nothing in his experience has lessened his affection for Anne.

That being said, finding a proper balance between strong emotions and an “Austenesque” approach was the most difficult part of writing this variation. In truth, I toned down some of the scenes when I re-released the story. Captain Wentworth’s Persuasion is currently out of print from Ulysses Press, but my contract with Ulysses permits me to self publish the book. Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion is available from all book sources.

Let’s face it, most Austen-inspired fiction is based on Pride and Prejudice. What would you tell a reader to convince her to cast her reading eye from Mr. Darcy to Captain Wentworth?

Despite those who idealize the relationships found in Austen’s novels, especially the one between Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice, I am of the opinion that Austen’s works do not provide us with paragons of suitable male and female roles. Therefore, Wentworth is as noble and as flawed as Mr. Darcy, Austen’s most popular hero, but Wentworth also possesses the ill-considered nature of George Wickham. In Persuasion, the codes and values of the Napoleonic era are changing. The novel addresses not only self-realization for women, but also for men. Anne and Wentworth prove to be models of emotional stability. Julia Prewitt Brown in “Jane Austen’s England” says, “Anne and Wentworth inherit the England of Persuasion, if only because they see it, and will experience it, as if really is: fragmented and uncertain. For the first time in Jane Austen, the future is not linked with the land.”

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CFWP Crop2.jpg Captain Frederick Wentworth’s Persuasion: Austen’s Classic Retold Through His Eyes

The love affair behind Jane Austen’s classic, Persuasion, rests at the heart of this retelling from Captain Frederick Wentworth’s point of view.

He loved her from the moment their eyes met some eight years prior, but Frederick Wentworth is determined to prove to Anne Elliot that she made a mistake by refusing him. Persuaded by her family and friends of his lack of a future, Anne sent him away, but now he is back with a fortune earned in the war, and it is Anne, whose circumstances have brought her low. Frederick means to name another to replace her, but whenever he looks upon Anne’s perfect countenance, his resolve wavers, and he finds himself lost once again to his desire for her. Return to the Regency and Austen’s most compelling and mature love story. Jeffers turns the tale upon its head while maintaining Jane Austen’s tale of love and devotion.

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Upcoming News:

PoMDC Cover-3 copy.jpg Captain Wentworth plays a key role in my Austen-inspired mystery, The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin, where we see him team up with Colonel Fitzwilliam in post war England. A novel involving the two is in the works.

Also, a new release in 2017 involves Anne and Wentworth, but is set in colonial America. Last year, I did the same with Darcy and Elizabeth when I created Darius and Eliza in The Road to Understanding, set upon the Great Valley Road between Virginia and eastern Tennessee.

Posted in Austen Authors, British Navy, eBooks, historical fiction, interview, Jane Austen, language choices, Living in the Regency, Persuasion, Vagary | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Social Class in Jane Austen “Emma”

emma gwyneth paltrowThere are those who claim Emma represents Jane Austen’s literary accomplishment. I am not of that persuasion, although I think my indifference comes more from the fact I do not find Emma Woodhouse a character I admire, than it does from Miss Austen’s ability to craft a tale. In Edward Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen, he says that Austen, too, thought Emma not a character that many would like. Emma Woodhouse transforms from snobbish girl to mature woman in the length of the novel, which describes her path to self-knowledge.

So, what do we know of Emma’s character? First Miss Woodhouse…
** is 21 years of age
** believes in the rightness of her opinions
** is clever
** is handsome of countenance
** is rich (an oddity in Austen’s heroines)
** is snobbish about class structure
** possesses the tendency to permit her imagination free rein
** manipulates the path of Love for many of her acquaintances
** is the mistress of her father’s house since age 16
** dominates the affable Mr. Woodhouse
** thinks well of her abilities and judgments

Emma_1996_TV_Kate_BeckinsaleEmma is the younger of Mr. Woodhouse’s daughters. She resides with her father at Hartfield; Woodhouse is the second highest ranking man (behind Knightley) in the neighborhood. Mr. Woodhouse (like Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice) comes from an ancient and well-respected family. Like Georgiana Darcy, Emma Woodhouse has a dowry of 30,000 pounds. Her sister Isabella is married to Mr. John Knightley, a lawyer in London and the brother of Mr. George Knightley.

The setting of this novel is more limited than many of the others. Highbury is the center of Emma’s world. People come and go, but Emma never leaves the beloved village where she reigns as the “queen” of society. This constriction creates a quandary for Emma. She would prefer not to associate with those below her social class, but if she acted as such, she would possess no social life whatsoever.

Mr. George Knightley is the ideal country squire. He takes his responsibilities to his land (Donwell Abbey) and to his dependents seriously. He is known for his benevolence to others. The Knightleys and the Woodhouses are the upper echelon of society in Highbury.

One of the things that might appear as out of step with many Regency novels (but is more to the truth of the day) is the fact that Mr. Knightley does not keep a stable of horses. He prefers walking to riding, and when horses are required for his carriage, Knightley lets them. This is a sore point for Emma, who thinks Knightley acting so has people not recognizing his proper place in society. Emma feels that Knightley encourages too much familiarity with those below him.

stovel-figure4Knightley’s interactions with people is in sharp contrast to Emma’s opinions. Knightley is cognizant of social distinctions, but he presents respect to those who are deserving of it. For example, whereas Emma objects to Robert Martin’s position as a tenant farmer on Knightley’s land, Knightley calls Martin superior to Harriet Smith, saying that Martin is a “respectable, intelligent, gentleman-farmer.” Knightley claims Harriet without intelligence and without connections. His words are not disdain, just the truth. Even though Harriet possessed beauty and a sweet nature, her illegitimate parentage would keep her from aspiring to a man above Martin’s station in life. In contrast, Knightley declares Jane Fairfax an appropriate companion for Emma. He judges Miss Fairfax as intelligent, beautiful, and accomplished (although the woman is without a fortune).

Emma is offended by Mr. Elton’s offer of marriage because she feels Mr. Elton should not think himself her equal socially. This situation predisposes Emma to find the new Mrs. Elton as vain and possessing too much self-importance.

Emma’s snobbish attitude is very evident when she tells Harriet:

“A young farmer, whether on horseback or on foot, is the very last sort of person to raise my curiosity. The yeomanry are precisely the order of people with whom I feel I can have nothing to do. A degree or two lower, and a creditable appearance might interest me; I might hope to be useful to their families in some way or other.”

Emma even goes so far as to tell Harriet that it pleases Emma that Harriet refused Martin. “I could not have visited Mrs. Robert Martin of Abbey-Mill Farm.”

Below the Knighleys and Woodhouses, we find Mr. and Mrs. Weston. Mr. Weston spent time in the military, but his fortune comes from trade. The Eltons are also part of this middle ground. All we know of Mr. Elton’s past is that he is “without any alliances but in trade.” As a vicar, he has received a gentleman’s education and Elton is accepted in the finer homes in the area. Mrs. Augusta Elton comes to her marriage with a dowry of 10,000 pounds via her parents’ fortune in trade. Some find it ironic to hear Mrs. Elton speaking of her sister’s family – a family by the name of Sucklings. The Sucklings flaunt their wealth with a large estate near Bristol and a barouche-landau. In this social sphere, we also find Mrs. Bates, who is the widow of a clergyman. Although the woman’s marital status keeps her in the company of the wealthier families, Mrs. Bates and her unmarried daughter reside in let rooms above one of the shops in Highbury. Even so, the Bateses depend upon “the kindness of others” for the luxuries of life. Mrs. Goddard is the last of this class. She is mistress of the village school.

Some of Emma’s neighbors are part of the “upwardly mobile” class. These include the Coles (who prospered in trade), Robert Martin (a farmer on the Donwell Abbey estate), the Coxes (country lawyers in Highbury), Mr. Perry (the apothecary), and Mr. Hughes (a physician).

We note Emma’s reluctance to interact with those in this group beyond what is necessary. In fact, she thinks to refuse an invitation to a dinner at the Coles until she learns that the Westons and Mr. Churchill will attend.

Below the Coles, etc., we find Mr. and Mrs. Ford (shop owners), Mrs. Stokes (the Crown Inn’s landlady), William Larkins (Mr. Knightley’s steward), Mrs. Wallis (the pastry cook’s wife), and Miss Nash and Miss Prince and Miss Richardson (school teachers). Harriet Smith would be part of this level of society if not for Emma’s patronage.

maxresdefaultHarriet Smith is the illegitimate daughter of a merchant, who placed her with Mrs. Goddard, but who ignored Harriet since the placement.

“In taking up an illegitimate parlour boarder in Mrs Goddard’s village school, Emma chooses a protégée she can do what she likes with. There is a snag: Harriet has already formed an attachment with a young farmer, Robert Martin. Emma tries to force the issue by telling Harriet that she (Emma) cannot possibly associate with anyone of Martin’s class. The influential American critic Lionel Trilling argues that Emma is ‘a dreadful snob.’ Being aware of one’s position in society, however, is not the same as being a snob.

“Critic Paul Pickrel argues that Trilling has simply misread Austen’s novel. Whatever we think of her heroine, we shouldn’t take what she says at face value. Emma wants to control everyone and everything around her. The combination is a dangerous one, and by interfering in Harriet’s life she poses a real threat to the future of a naive 17-year-old. But it is too simplistic to say snobbishness causes her to sideline Robert Martin: she wants Harriet to herself and, like a child, will say anything to keep her.” [Austen’s Outspoken Heroines]

 

Other Highbury characters include James (Mr. Woodhouse’s coachman), Patty (the Bateses’ maid), and Mrs. Hodges (Mr. Knightley’s cook).

The characters who visit Highbury and change the village’s complexion include Jane Fairfax (a rival to Emma for Mr. Knightley’s affections), Frank Churchill (who seeks Jane’s affections and flirts with Emma), Mrs. Elton (who snubs Harriet and attempts to manage Jane), and the gypsies.

Austen masterly weaves these levels of society together. The characters of Mrs. Bates and Miss Bates are the link holding the differing levels together. Miss Bates is gregarious and likable, and the woman, as well as her mother, are the “comic relief” in the novel. Emma’s poor treatment at Miss Bates is the source of Mr. Knightley’s criticism of her and the turning point in the novel.

Although Austen does not go so far as to include characters such as Squire Western from Fielding’s Tom Jones in the plot of Emma, she does display hints of what we find in her last novel, Persuasion: self-made men who are superior to the gentleman class.

“Some of Austen’s female characters – Jane Bennet, Fanny Price, Anne Elliot – are gentle and passive. Austen’s two favourite heroines, Elizabeth Bennet and Emma, are precisely the opposite. Both are able to have equal and intimate relationships with men through their use of speech and laughter. In her essay ‘Silent Women, Shrews, and Bluestockings,’ feminist critic Jocelyn Harris argues that in allowing her women characters to speak so cleverly Austen subverts ‘misogynist constructions of women,’ who ‘have always been discouraged from knowing, speaking, and writing.’

19635888.gif “In Emma, says Harris, the heroine’s openness is preferable to Jane Fairfax’s reserve, even if Emma ‘says too much too often.’ She, ‘like Elizabeth Bennet, speaks too freely because her father’s power is weak.’ But Austen shields these two outspoken, intelligent heroines from being labelled shrews by the use of free indirect speech – so we sometimes find them thinking uncharitable thoughts that they are too tactful to express out loud. Austen was highly conscious of the effect of gender on language. Anne Elliot in Persuasion comments that ‘men have every advantage of us in telling their story. Education has been theirs in so much higher a degree.'” [Austen’s Outspoken Heroines]

“Jane Austen and her works are generally considered representative of the late eighteenth-century “classical” world view and its values—judgment, reason, clarity of perception—those of the ‘Age of Reason.’ In its best sense, this is a moral world view, reflecting the values of the Enlightenment. Austen’s values represent order in the face of disorder, but her concept of order embodies what is true, organic, living, not the static order imposed merely on the exterior, from ‘society’ or ‘the church,’ for example. Austen’s attitudes actually differ in subtle ways from the conventional manifestations of the classical attitudes and forms of the late eighteenth century—of the excesses of classicism that the Romantics rebelled against so vehemently. However, Jane Austen’s novels can also be called anti-Romantic in that they counter the extremes of the Romantic imagination epitomized by the Gothic novels so popular during her time, and satirized by Austen in Northanger Abbey. In Emma she also satirizes romantic excess, particularly in the character of Harriet Smith who, in a sense, enshrines Mr. Elton by keeping as ‘her most precious treasures’ relics of a scrap of ‘court plaister’ he handled and an old pencil piece that had belonged to him.

“The ordered society in Austen’s world is one in which people live in authentic harmony—socially, economically, emotionally, and ethically. Balance, order, and good sense exist in the face of too much sensibility; a balance of intellect and emotion, thought and feeling, outer and inner experience, society and the interior life, is the key to understanding Austen’s schema of meaningful experience and right relationships. Throughout Emma we are part of the energy of the novel leading toward the fulfillment of this ideal in the vitality of the characters.” [PERSUASIONS ON-LINE V.21, NO.2 (Summer 2000) The Dilemma of Emma: Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Value by Karin Jackson.]

 

[Note: Squire Western is a caricature of the rough-and-ready, conservative country gentleman. Affectionate at heart, the Squire nevertheless acts with extreme violence towards his daughter Sophia, by constantly incarcerating her, and even verbally and physically abusing her. However, since the Squire is a caricature, Fielding does not intend for us to judge these actions too harshly. Similarly, the Squire’s insistence on Sophia marrying Blifil has less to do with greed than with his stubbornness and adherence to tradition. Squire Western’s speaks in West Country dialect, and peppers his speech with curses.]

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Testing the Money: The Trial of Pyx

The Trial of Pyx is a near-800 year old ceremony to test Britain’s coinage. The Trial of the Pyx dates as far back as 1249. The Queen’s Remembrancer oversees the ceremony. Until the 19th century this duty was undertaken at the Court of Exchequer, but is now held at Goldsmiths’ Hall in the City of London. The ceremony puts the Royal Mint on trial. Over a four-month period, nearly 100,000 are scrutinized. During the process, the coins are tested for imperfections or impurities in the metals used, therefore, confirming their value. 

Historic UK tells us, “The Trial of Pyx is a rather interesting one. Every day the Royal Mint collect samples of the coins they produce: this amounts to around 88,000 coins a year. These coins are then placed in boxes (or pyxes) and every February they are brought to Goldsmiths Hall. The Queen’s Remembrancer swears in a jury of 26 goldsmiths whose job it is to count, measure, weigh and assay the coins. In April or May he or she returns to hear the jurers’ verdict.”

Coins from the commemorative £1,000 coin (worth £49,995) made from a kilo of solid gold to the 20p piece, all denominations of coins are tested. According to Coin Books, 2017 saw the Trial this year was the new £1 coin, which has 12 sides and will be released to the public later this year. It is considered to be the most secure coin ever developed.

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This one kilo gold coin celebrates the Queen’s 90th birthday. via Coin Books http://www.coinbooks.org/v20/esylum_v20n06a21.html

Business Insider describes the 2016 ceremony. “The opening of this year’s trial was on February 2nd was full of pomp and circumstance. It’s carried out by the Queen’s Remembrancer, a judge, who swears in the 16-strong jury who have the job of counting the coins sent for testing by the Royal Mint. While it’s mostly ceremonial, the Trial of the Pyx has an important message – merchants, not the state or the monarchy, must have power over the country’s currency. To allow the state to have power over the currency, risks eroding its credibility. Permission for the City of London to test the coins produced by the Royal Mint was granted by the Crown in the 13th century. Before that, the reigning monarch had a monopoly on producing and testing Britain’s coinage and would periodically alter the standards for the coins to finance wars. 

“‘There was the inherent danger of inflation and currency corruption,’ the Queen’s Remembrancer, Barbara Fontaine, said in her speech to open proceedings. The Trial was ‘a key stage of development of the international trust in our coinage.'”

these-are-the-pyx-reinforced-boxes-of-currency-ready-to-be-assayed-or-tested-the-word-pyx-comes-from-the-greek-for-wooden-box-in-them-are-hundreds-of-envelopes-containing-thousands-of-co

These are the Pyx, reinforced boxes of currency ready to be assayed or tested. The word Pyx comes from the Greek for wooden box. In them are hundreds of envelopes containing thousands of coins. via Business Insider

Coin Books also gives us these other sources: 

To read the complete article, see:
Take a tour around the Trial of the Pyx — the 800-year-old ceremony to test the UK’s coins(www.businessinsider.com/inside-the-trial-of-the-pyx-2017-1/#the-ceremony-takes-place-in-the-opulent-goldsmiths-hall-in-the-city-of-london-members-of-the-public-and-invited-dignitaries-are-sat-on-one-side-of-the-room-the-queens-remembrancer-a-judge-sits-at-the-head-of-the-table-to-give-her-address-and-start-the-trial-she-isnt-actually-present-when-counting-process-happens-1)

For more information, see:
The History of the Trial of the Pyx (www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/history-of-the-trial-of-the-pyx)

The Business Insider site has some magnificent images of the process, the room, etc. Check them out HERE

Posted in British history, commerce, customs and tradiitons, Living in the UK | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Complicated Banbury Peerage Case

In writing historicals set in England in the early 1800s, it is necessary for me to possess more than a working knowledge of primogeniture, which is both the custom and the law of inheritance in practice at that time. In primogeniture, it is the right of the first born legitimate son to inherit the real property of his father, in preference to daughters, younger sons, elder illegitimate sons, and other relations in the male line. The son of the deceased eldest brother inherits before a living younger brother by right of substitution for the deceased heir. Estates were entailed, not upon the eldest son, but upon the eldest sons first born son. By constantly extending the entail to the grandson,they became perpetual in nature.

But what if there are no sons? Then the family tree is searched for the nearest male blood relative, all the way back to the original holder of the estate. But things become even more convoluted when the heir goes missing before he has an apparent heir. Let us say the heir goes missing at sea. Believe it or not, the House of Lords would not automatically name the next in line as the new title owner. There is always the chance that the current lord survived the catastrophe he encountered. What would happen if he returned, say in 5 or 10 years? The ruling is that the title and the real estate would revert to the original owner, but not necessarily the personal property. The ruling is that the title and the real estate would revert back to original landowner, but not necessarily the personal property. It must not be forgotten that, by English law, ordinary leaseholds, whether they consist of lands or houses, count as personalty and are distributed as such on intestacy. Money in trust for investment in land is distributed as realty under the same rule of inheritance. What a legal mess! This little twerk of the law of inheritance is enough to set brother against brother in my latest romantic suspense, Angel Comes to the Devils Keep.

But was there a precedence for this type of ruling from the House of Lords? In fact, as a fundamental law, primogeniture is a practice of the landed aristocracy, rather than the general populace. Among the upper crustof society, generally, hereditary estates are entailed and not at the free disposal of individual landowners. There are few wealthy or noble families that have not employed the practice of primogeniture somewhere in their histories.

51CKzXQ2BsL._SX382_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Occasionally, those histories become so complicated that it takes centuries for the peerage to be defined. For example, during the reign of Edward III, one of the companions of the Black Prince was Sir Robert Knollys, who earned the Blue Ribbon of the Garter for his valor. The Knollss family continued to receive the favor of successive reigns. One such person was Sir Francis Knollys, who married Catherine Gray, grand-niece of Queen Anne Boleyn. They produced two sons: Henry and William. According to Kidd and Williamson, editors of George Edward Cockaynes The Complete Baronetage, Henry did not survive his father, and so William claimed the baronetcy in 1596. In 1603, King James presented William an additional title beyond the baronetcy, making William Baron Knollys of Grays, in Oxfordshire. In 1619, King James further favored William with an another barony, by naming him Baron Wallingford; later, in 1626, King Charles presented him as the Earl of Banbury.

Williams first wife Dorothy did not provide William an heir. Upon Dorothys death, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard. William was nearing sixty years at the time of the marriage, and Lady Elizabeth was but twenty. Yet, keep in mind, William did not pass until the age of eighty-five.

After Banburys death, in April 1633, an inquisition occurred, stating that Elizabeth was Banburys wife at the time of his death and that the earl died without a male heir. However, records show that Elizabeth delivered two sons before her husbands death: Edward on 10 April 1627 (Banbury was 80 and Elizabeth 41 at the time) and Nicholas on 3 January 1631 (Banbury was 84 and Elizabeth 45). Generally speaking, common practice said if Banbury accepted the children as his and/or acknowledged them in some manner such as baptism or speaking of them as such to trustworthy witnesses, the boys would be considered his. Yet, the official investigation in 1633 skewed that ruling for it was written evidence to the contrary. Complicating the situation of whether the children were legitimate, after only five weeks of mourning Banbury, Elizabeth married Lord Vaux of Harrowden, a family friend. It was said the boys favored Vaux in countenance. Lady Elizabeth adopted Roman Catholicism, the religion of Lord Vaux. She, therefore, came under the scrutiny of the Long parliament, which was previously skeptical of her relationship with Vaux. Eventually, on 19 August 1643, the speaker issued a pass enabling her to remove to France, and on 13 June 1644 the House of Commons resolved that should she return she should be seized and kept under restraint. She died on 17 April 1658, and was buried at Dorking, Surrey, near the residence of her second husband. Vaux passed on 8 April 1661, and is said to have died without issue. (Lee, Sidney, ed. Dictionary of National Biography: Vol XXXI Kennett – Lambart: [London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1892. 287-288], accessed January 22, 2017. https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=Cal.+State+Papers%2C+Dom.+1654-5%2C+p.+55), page 287)

William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury

William Knollys, 1st Earl of Banbury via Wikipedia

 In 1640, William, Earl of Salisbury, guardian of the eldest boy Edward, filed in Chancery upon Edwards behalf for a claim to the earldom. Witnesses and evidence were presented to substantiate the filing, but on 1809 (nearly 170 years later) the House of Lords rejected the claim. How did that come about?

A hearing in 1641 dealt with the question of Edwards legitimacy; it found that Edward, Earl of Banbury, was the deceased earls son and heir because of the legal doctrine, Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant, which assumes in all cases of children born in wedlock that the husband is the children’s father. And although there was some debate as to whether Banbury recognized the child as his during the earls marriage to Elizabeth, a legal decision in favor of the claim to legitimacy was made. Edward, the elder of the countess’s two sons, was styled Earl of Banburyin a chancery suit to which in February 1640-1 he was party as an infant, for the purpose of establishing his right to a plot of land at Henley, styled the Bowling Place, and to other property left by his father. Under orders of the court of wards an inquiry into the late earl’s property was held at Abingdon on 1 April 1641, and the court found that ‘Edward, now Earl of Banbury, is, and at the time of the earl’s decease was, his son and next heir.’” (Lee, 287)

Unfortunately, another complication occurred after Edwards being named earl for he was killed in a quarrel upon the road to Calais in 1645. Edwards brother, Nicholas, naturally made a claim to the title, but he was a minor at the time and could not inherit. Nicholas then travelled to France with his mother in 1644, but in October 1646, he returned to England, for Lord Vaux settled all his lands at Harrowden on Lady Elizabeth, with the remainder to Knollys himself, who was styled Earl of Banbury in the deed. When Nicholas reached his majority, he moved to prove his right to the peerage and, thus, petitioned the Crown for his writ of summons to assume his seat in the House of Lords. The Committee of Privileges heard the petition, which granted the writ for Nicholas, Earl of Banbury.

Nicholas married Isabella, daughter of Mountjoy Blount, earl of Newport, and the pair soon fell into pecuniary difficulties. In February 1654, Nicholas, earl of Banbury, the Countess of Banbury, Lady Elizabeth Vaux and Lord Vaux petitioned Cromwell to remove the sequestration on Lord Vauxs estate so they might compound or sell some of the land to pay their debts of some 10,000l. The earl had been confined at the time at the Upper Bench prison because of the debt. Isabella died soon afterwards, and Nicholas married Anne, daughter of William, Lord Sherard of Leitrim. In June 1660 he attended the Convention parliament in the House of Lords, but it was not until 13 July 1660 that the first attempt was made to dispute his right to his seat there. It was then moved that there being a person that now sits in this house as a peer of the realm, viz. the Earl of Banbury, it is ordered that this business shall be heard at the bar by counselon the 23rd. Knollys attended the house daily in the week preceding that appointed for the hearing, and was present on the day itself. But no proceedings were taken, and on 24 July he was nominated, under the style of Earl of Banbury, to sit on the committee on the Excise Bill. On 21 Nov. it was ordered that the earl hath leave to be absent for some time.On 29 Dec. the Convention parliament was dissolved. No writ of summons was sent to Knollys for the new parliament, meeting 8 May 1661. He therefore petitioned the king for the issue of the writ and for all the old earl’s rights of precedency. His petition, when forwarded to the House of Lords, was referred to a committee of privileges. This committee examined the servants who were at Harrowden at the time of his birth. The attorney-general argued on behalf of the king that the old earl had died childless, but the committee reported on 1 July 1661 that Nicholas, Earl of Banbury, is a legitimate person.’” (Lee, 288)

His son Charles assumed the title upon Nicholass death. Likewise, Charles petitioned for his writ of summons, and the committee of privileges reported the history of the case, and the House of Lords agreed to hear counsel for and against the claim, but a delay occurred, one lasting some thirty years. During the delay, Charles had the misfortune of killing his brother-in-law, Captain Philip Lawson, in a duel. In November 1692, he was indicted and ultimately requested a trial by his peers before the House of Lords. This brought about another hearing upon whether Charles held a legitimate claim to the earldom. His petition to the House of Lords was dismissed with a ruling denying his right to be styled Banbury. He was removed to Newgate Prison.

According to The Banbury Peerage Caseon the Bennet Dictionary: The Bennet Dictionary: Celebrated Claimants from Perkin Warbeck to Arthur Orton [(1874). accessed December 13, 2016. http://bennetdictionary.com/banbury-peerage-case/], the trial and the various pleas took more than a year, during which Charles was presented bail to move about in society. At length, the Lords intervened, and Parliament took up his case again, but the session was discontinued indefinitely, and no decision was forthcoming. The trial also quashed the indictment against him for the duel for the prisoner was styled in the charges as Charles Knollys, esq.instead of the Earl of Banbury.

Nothing more was heard upon the legitimacy of Charless claims until four years later when in 1698, Charles Banbury again petitioned the King for the writ of summons. The House of Lords accepted the case again, but it went from continuance to continuance, passing through the end of the reign of William III and into that of Anne. There was hope for a resolution in late 1713, but the sudden death of Queen Anne in August 1714 once more delayed the proceedings.

Charles next petitioned George I, but no definite decision was given. Charles, Earl of Banbury, died in 1740. During his lifetime, to no avail, he presented five petitions to the Crown. However, not being officially recognized as the Earl of Banbury did not prevent him and his family from enjoying their position in Society.

Charles was followed by another two Charleses and a William, who died in 1776. Williams brother Thomas held the title until his death in 1793, when his son William Knollys, then called Viscount Wallingford, sent a formal petition in 1806 to the Crown for the Banbury earldom, the question of which was again returned to the House of Lords. By 1806, there had been an Earl of Banburyfor 180 years. Yet, Williams father, Thomas, had held a commission in the Third Regiment of Foot as a Lieutenant-General.As such, Thomas was styled by his military rank and not Banbury, causing Williams claim to be denied. Needless to say, primogeniture is not a clearly defined practice.

Angel .jpgAngel Comes to the Devils Keep [Romantic Suspense]

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

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