The Opera in Jane Austen’s London

Covent Garden Theatre
Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, 1806

I think you judge very wisely in putting off your London visit, and I am mistaken if it be not put off for some time. You speak with such noble resignation of Mrs. Jordan and the Opera House, that it would be an insult to suppose consolation required… Jane Austen to her sister Cassandra, 8 January1801

The opera, as we know it, was and was not performed separately during Jane Austen’s time. Many evening performances had more than one type of entertainment  on a night’s billing, meaning a lighter piece in the form of a comedy or even an opera would follow a more “classic” production. 

From what we know of her life, Jane Austen attended the opera often, especially when she spent time with her brother Henry in London. We can only assume she was privy to many of the great performances and performers of her time.  In 1814, she wrote to Cassandra that, “We are to see “The Devil to Pay” to-night. I expect to be very much amused. Excepting Miss Stephens, I daresay “Artexerxes” will be very tiresome.” 

Also known by the longer title The Devil to Pay: Or, The Wives Metamorphos’d, it was part of a group of ballad operas produced in the wake of the success of John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera. It was first performed at the Royal Theatre on 6 August 1731. 

According to Jane Austen World, “This [meaning Jane Austen’s opinion] was an unusual position on a play that was, “one of the most successful and influential English operas of the eighteenth century”. The story, adapted from the 1729 Italian opera, was written by Thomas Arne, in English, thus appealing to both English Music lovers and Opera fans alike. It was performed over and over again after its premiere in 1762. Mozart attended a performance in 1765 as did Hayden, who exclaimed, “I had no idea we had such an opera in the English language.” Despite her profession that she was, “very tired of “Artexerxes,” highly amused with the farce, and, in an inferior way, with the pantomime that followed”, Jane nevertheless copied out the score of the overature of the opera into one her music books. These handwritten books give an insightful glimpse into the musical taste of the Austen family. They are held by the Jane Austen Memorial Trust, at Chawton Cottage, and contain selections from Handel, Mozart, Gay, Gluck, Clementti, and Haydn, as well as popular songs of the day. The aria, ‘The Soldier Tir’d of War’, from Artexerxes remains a popular showpiece to this day.

There is a book about the opera in London entitled Fashionable Acts: Opera and Elite Culture in London 1780-1880 by Jennifer Hall-Witt that I would recommend.

Book Blurb: In a brilliant reassessment of British aristocratic culture Hall-Witt demonstrates how the transformation of audience behavior at London’s Italian opera–from the sociable, interactive spectatorship of the 1780s to the quiet, polite listening of the 1870s–served as a sensitive barometer of the aristocracy’s changing authority. She explores how the opera participated in the patronage culture and urban sociability of the British elite prior to the Reform Act of 1832 when the opera served as the central meeting place for the ruling class during the parliamentary session. The vertical tiers of boxes at the opera highlighted not only the gendered nature of elite political culture, but also those features of aristocratic society most vulnerable to critique by political and moral reformers.

Hall-Witt shows how the elite adjusted its behavior in public venues, like the opera, partly in response to such criticisms. Offering a revised chronology for the decline of the British aristocracy based on such cultural compromises, Hall-Witt reveals how the very adaptations that helped the landed elite to survive as the ruling class into the Victorian period also undermined its ability to maintain its power in the long run.

One function of the opera was for the audience to see and be seen.  It took time for  the audience to come and listen to the music and see the drama. Most of the book is concerned with the time to 1840 and less afterwards.

“The Covent Garden Theatre, the original theatre on the site, was opened (1732) by John Rich and served for plays, pantomimes, and opera. During the 1730s, when George Frideric Handel was associated with the theatre, opera was emphasized, but later the focus shifted to plays. Managers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries included the noted actors George Colman the Elder, John Philip Kemble, and Charles Kemble. The structure burned in 1808 and was rebuilt in 1809. In 1847 it became the Royal Italian Opera House under the noted conductor Michael Costa and, later, Frederick Gye. The building burned in 1856, and a new building was opened in 1858. The Royal Italian Opera failed in 1884 and was replaced in 1888 by what came to be called the Royal Opera Company under Augustus Harris and, later, Maurice Grau; the repertoire was largely Italian opera.” [Britannica]

For more information on the type of people who attended the theatre, I would recommend Rachel Knowles’s piece found HERE

“According to Feltham’s The Picture of London for 1807 the numbers of people that could be accommodated in the theatre and the prices for each type of seat were:

“The doors opened at 5.30pm and the performance started at 6.30pm. People could be admitted for half price at the end of the third act of the play which, according to the The Picture of London (1809), was ‘generally a little after eight o’clock.’3 The Picture of London (1813) went into a little more detail, specifying that half-price began at the end of the third act of a five-act play but at the end of the second of a three-act play.”

In the early 19th century, box subscribers received a reduced price for the season in exchange for payment up front. They were supposed to let the management know when the box was not being used so the tickets could be sold again by the theater. Since the members of the ton were notoriously lax about this, at times theaters actually hired people to question servants and find out what people were doing. I am guessing that if the box holder provided use of the box to a party that did not include anyone on the subscriber list (the box holder provided the theater with a list and families quite often shared a box) they had to inform management.

I am fairly certain that by 1864 things had changed dramatically. There were a greater numbers of rich people in London by then and I assume the opera house had no problem selling out on a regular basis without the subscription method of financing the season. You could check the Annals of Covent Garden (available on Google Books) and see if it says anything about when things changed in that manner.  Most of my information comes from a compilation of newspaper clippings about the King’s Theatre in the British Library, plus various other theatrical histories.

If one is planning to include an opera scene in a book, etc., I would suggest he/she conducted research on individual theaters. There were a limited number of theaters and not all of them preformed operas (or even dramas). They also had set seasons when they were open and performing, which might affect a particular story line.

Some possible sources include: 

Plays About the Theatre in England, 1737-1800 or, The Self-conscious Stage from Foote to Sheridan by Dane Farnsworth Smith and M. L. Lawhon 

The Cambridge Companion to British Theatre 1730-1830, Edited by Jane Moody and Daniel O’Quinn

A good basic bit of info is here: Most who liked the theater or opera would keep a box subscription. This would be kept up in several of the theaters (for the rich, cost wasn’t a problem). It would be unlikely that anyone would let their box to another–but they might offer its use to friends and/or relatives if it was not in use. Otherwise, it would be left vacant for that performance.

For a reference book on opera –

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Living in the UK, Regency era, theatre | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Origin of a Sea Shantie: “What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?”

“What Shall We Do with the Drunken Sailor?” was a work song, mainly sung on ships with a large number of crewmen. According to Song Facts, it is one of the oldest Anglo-Saxon sea shanties, one sung by the Indiamen of the Honourable John Company. It the one of the few songs the British Royal Navy permitted its crew to sing aboard ship. Supposedly, all hands would sing the song in unison while raising the anchor or hoisting the sails. “Wey, hey up she rises.” Reportedly, the first published reference to the tune was in the books an American whaling ship sailing from New London, Connecticut, to the Pacific in 1839. John Masefield, Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, described the tune “as a ‘walk away’ shanty used for tacking, which would have been sung at a walking pace.” (Karen Dolby, Auld Lang Syne: Words to Songs You Used to Know, Michael O’Mara Books, ©2015)

220px-TenLittleInjuns1868.png The actual music was “a traditional Irish dance and march tune, ‘Oró Sé do Bheatha ‘Bhaile’ (Translated as ‘Óró, you are welcome home’).The same tune has also been used for other songs, possibly Ten Little Injuns.  (“Ten Little Injuns” is a popular song written by Septimus Winner in 1868 for the minstrel trade. It was based on an 1850s minstrel skit about one John Brown whose American Indian boy grows from “one little Injun” into “ten little Injuns,” and then back to one.) [You might know the “Ten Little Injuns” poem/song if you have ever read Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, which was originally entitled Ten Little Indians.)

The music was first reproduced in printed form in 1824 in Cole’s Selection of Favourite Cotillions published in Baltimore. ClassicCat tells us, “However, the lyrics were first published in 1891 under the title “What to do with a Drunken Sailor?”. Another version appears in The Shanty Book, Part I, Sailor Shanties, by Richard Runciman Terry, categorised as a ‘Windlass and Capstan’ shanty. He says of it: ‘Although mostly used for windlass or capstan, Sir Walter Runciman tells me that he frequently sang to it for ‘hand-over-hand’ hauling. Whall gives it on page 107 under the title ‘Early in the morning.’ It is one of the few shanties that were sung in quick time.'” Its lyrics are much older, and comprise several verses full of various unpleasant things that could be done to sober up an inebriated sailor, including “stick him in the scrubber with a hosepipe on him” and “shave his belly with a rusty razor.


Melody and first verse of “Drunken Sailor”, culled from R. R. Terry’s The Shanty Book, Part One (1921). via Wikipedia

 ClassicCat also provides us this list of parodies and variations: 

The main theme from the first movement o Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, mimics the song.

The Kingston Trio recorded “Early in the Morning” the chorus of which has the same tune but these lyrics: “When you lift your eyes and/see the sun a risin’/on the far horizon/early in the morning.”

American band Firewater recorded a song entitled “Snake-Eyes and Boxcars” that borrows the melody but changes the central lyric to “What shall we do with a drunken failure?”

Montreal band The Prowlers adapted the lyrics to suit the title “Drunken Skinhead” on their album “Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow”, released in 2001.

Folk singer Country Joe McDonald adapted the chorus for his song Save the Whales.

The melody is often used in Spongebob Square Pants.  

The song has also been used by Bleeding Hearts as the basis for ‘Siren Songs’ which was released in 2002 on their live acoustic album ‘Anarcoustica’.

Don Janse produced a particularly artistic arrangement in the early 1960s which has been included in several choral music anthologies. 

This song has been recorded by Sam Spence under the name “Up She Rises,” and is frequently used as background music for NFL Films.

In 2005, Toyota used the tune in a U. S. television commercial.


Melody and first verse of “Drunken Sailor”, culled from R. R. Terry’s The Shanty Book, Part One (1921). Public Domain. via Wikipedia

Further reading:

Stan HugillShanties from the Seven Seas, Mystic Seaport Museum, 1994 ISBN 0-913372-70-6


If the song is now in your head, check out the Irish Rovers version HERE.

What will we do with a drunken sailor?
What will we do with a drunken sailor?
What will we do with a drunken sailor?
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Shave his belly with a rusty razor,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

Put him in a long boat till his sober,
Put him in a long boat till his sober,
Put him in a long boat till his sober,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

Stick him in a scupper with a hosepipe on him,
Stick him in a scupper with a hosepipe on him,
Stick him in a scupper with a hosepipe on him,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

Put him in the bed with the captains daughter,
Put him in the bed with the captains daughter,
Put him in the bed with the captains daughter,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

That’s what we do with a drunken sailor,
That’s what we do with a drunken sailor,
That’s what we do with a drunken sailor,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!

Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Way hay and up she rises,
Early in the morning!


Posted in American History, British history, British Navy, music, tradtions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Do You Know the Word “Blaginism”?

The word “blaginism” was coined by Soviet officials to mean “selfish exhibitionism.” You see, a pilot named Ivan Blagin caused the Soviets much embarrassment. Let me see if I can summarize what happened.

USSR pass. Airplane Tupolew / Tupolev ANT-20. Dead in 1935 ~ Public Domain

Joseph Stalin wished the Soviets to rule the world of aviation. Therefore, he set Nikolaevich Tupolev, a top designer, with the task of creating a great passenger plane in honor of the writer, Maxim Gorky.

Tupolev was given an entire factory space and 800 workers to complete the task. The result was the largest plane at the time. In fact, its wingspan was wider that a Boeing 747, and it had 8 engines. It could cruise at 137 MPH and could travel 1200 miles before refueling.

This was 1934, but, just consider, the Maxim Gorky had a newspaper office, a laundry, a pharmacy, a café, and a movie theatre onboard. Two months after its test flight, the Maxim Gorky was ready for its “maiden” voyage. Onboard were 40 very special passengers: a mix farmers who had made their quota, high performing factory workers, and other “heroes” of the Revolution, along with a staff of 23.

Vasily KuptsovMaksim Gorky ANT-20 (1934), Russian Museum, St. Petersburg ~ Public Domain

On 18 May 1935, the Maxim Gorky took flight with two biplanes setting just off its wings. The purpose of the biplanes was for to prove to onlookers how large the Maxim Gorky actually was. Ivan Blagin was one of the pilots of the smaller plane. The other plane was there to take pictures of the Soviet’s achievement.

Blagin began doing some aerial stunts to show off for a boy onboard the Gorky and on the ground below. Blagin performed a loop around the large plane, but, evidently, he miscalculated and slammed into one of the Maxim Gorky‘s wings. Both planes broke apart. Blagin was killed in the impact, but so were 43 people aboard the Maxim Gorky. Obviously, Blagin did not live up to the maxim of Soviet discipline. His surname was coined to remind others of their duty to their country.

The Russians built another “Gorky,” but with the world at war, faster and smaller airplanes were needed instead.

Other Resources:

Dead Beat Media: The Maxim Gorky

The Maxim Gorky

Tupolev ANT-20

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A Great Hoax: Sawing Off Manhattan Island

Image via Interim Archives/Getty Images

Whether this story of true or not, it does make a fabulous read. “Supposedly,” in 1824, a retired ship carpenter convinced the people of New York that the southern tip of Manhattan Island was getting too heavy because of the weight of construction in the area. He claimed the end of the southern end of the island, near the Battery, was doomed to break off and sink, taking everyone on it to a watery grave.

The rumor of the added weight on the southern part of Manhattan Island had begun several years earlier, but it was Lozier’s bravado that brought the fears to life. Claiming that Mayor Stephen Allen put him in charge of the project, one day, Lozier got up on the proverbial soap box and began issuing his warnings to any and all who would listen to him. Lozier claimed the only way to save that particular portion of the island was to “saw it off.” Then, they would tow that portion of the island out to sea, turn it around and reattach it.

Lozier promised jobs to hundreds of laborers, even offering to provide triple the wages to those willing to work under water. Blacksmiths and carpenters were put to work designing 100-foot saws and 250-foot oars. A mess hall for the laborers was planned and farm animals were scheduled to be delivered to feed the hundreds of workers who had signed up for the job. New Yorkers, who had stood witness to the development of the Erie Canal, could not imagine this idea a bit looney. With New York ravaged by an economic depression and a yellow fever epidemic, work was hard to find. The prospect of steady employment at good wages, even of a temporary nature, was a godsend to many who wanted to believe.

Hundreds of eager workmen, craftsmen, and workers were signed up. Twenty men per saw, who could hold their breath under water, were needed to complete the task of sawing the island in half. One hundred men per oar was required to row it out to sea, past Governor’s and Ellis Island, turn it around and bring it back into shore. The saw were to be 100 feet long, with 3-foot teeth for sawing. Two dozen oars, each 250 feet long would be required and 24 towering cast-iron oarlocks.

Sawing-off of Manhattan Island,” tells us, “Surprisingly, the main concern was not the futility of the idea but of Long Island being in the way…. The story did not appear in any known newspapers (although the press supposedly did not report on such pranks in that era) and no records have been found to confirm the existence of the individuals involved. This has led to speculation that the incident never occurred and the original report of the hoax was itself a hoax, which is the conclusion Joel Rose suggests in his book, New York Sawed in Half: An Urban Historical (2001). The hoax was first documented in Thomas F. De Voe’s (1811-1892) volume The Market Book (1862), as conveyed by his uncle who was Lozier’s supposed associate, and was told again in Herbert Asbury’s work All Around The Town: Murder, Scandal, Riot and Mayhem in Old New York (1934, reissued as a Sequel to Gangs of New York). Another condensed retelling occurs in the 1960s Reader’s Digest book, Scoundrels and Scallywags: 51 Stories of the Most Fascinating Characters of Hoax and Fraud (1968).”

On the day the work on the project was to begin thousands of workers and onlookers arrived at Spring Street and Bowery. Even a marching band was included. Everyone was there, except Lozier, who was hiding out in Brooklyn, claiming to be “poor of health.” Speculation is that Lozier was never arrested because no one wanted to admit they had been so seriously duped by the man.

Other Sources:

Asbury, Herbert (April 3, 1956). “Sawing Off Of Manhattan”The Gazette. Montreal.

“The Day They Almost Sawed Off Manhattan”History Buff.

De Voe, Thomas F. De Voe (1862). The Market Book (full text online ed.). pp. 462–64.

The Great Sawed-Off Manhattan Hoax

Mobsters, Gangs, and Crooks

Rose, Joel (2001). New York Sawed in Half: An Urban Historical. Bloomsbury Publishing.

Sawing New York in Half” Hoax

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What Do You Know of Gail Borden, American Inventor of “Condensed Milk”?

borden people/borden.htm Gail Borden

Born November 9, 1801 in New York state, Borden spent parts of his childhood in New York, Kentucky, and Indiana. When his father expressed a desire for more fertile lands than he owned in New York, the elder Borden made the long wagon trek to Indiana. In twenty, Gail had finished school and taught school for two years. He excelled at arithmetic and became as surveyor. He and his brother Tom took a flatboat loaded with supplies for settlers down the Mississippi to New Orleans in the summer of 1822, where he learned of the opening of Texas to Americans. He and Tom met Stephen F. Austin and learned more of the new frontier.
Tom joined Austin’s famed “300 families” and moved to Texas, but Gail’s health did not permit Gail’s following his brother. He remained in Mississippi, where he met 16-year-old Penelope Mercer, whom he married. In 1829, Gail packed up his family to follow Tom to Texas. Gail was granted a Spanish league (4428 acres) of land along the Colorado River. After spending some time farming and raising stock, Borden replaced his brother as official surveyor in Austin’s colony, headquartered at San Felipe. He then represented San Felipe at the Convention of 1833. It was at the convention for statehood that he met Sam Houston.
Tom joined Austin’s volunteers when war broke out, while Gail remained behind to assume Austin’s place and more importantly, to publish a newspaper that would rally support for the cause. With Joseph Baker and his brother Thomas as partners, Borden launched theTelegraph and Texas Register, a newspaper that would serve as the voice of the government of the Republic of Texas after the revolution. He wrote the history of Texas as it was being made. He printed the battle cry of the new republic: Remember the Alamo!  When Santa Anna claimed Harrisburg, he burned Gail’s print shop and threw the press into the river.
President Sam Houston appointed Gail tax collector for the Port of Galveston and a year later he became Secretary and General Agent for the Galveston City Company. After serving as collector of customs at the port of Galveston in the early days of the Republic, Borden turned his energies to Galveston real estate. As agent for the Galveston City Company throughout the 1840s, he helped sell 2500 lots that developed the island into the largest city in Texas during the later part of the nineteenth century. He now had time to work on some ideas of his own.


The Return of the Land Schooner

One such idea was a condensed food product that would last for a long period of time. One evening at dinner, Gail and Penelope served condensed soup, condensed foods, fruits, and extracts. His guests firmly refused a second helping. After dinner, he treated his guests to a ride in a “land schooner.” The vehicle harnessed the wind and skittered across the beach. The women screamed for him to stop the vehicle. He applied the rudder the wrong way. The schooner splashed into the water, turned on its side, and skidded to a stop, dumping all the passengers in the water.
Gail and Penelope had six children, but in 1844, yellow fever swept Galveston. Gail’s four-year old son died in March and Penelope in September. He lost another son two years later, and Gail never quite recovered from the losses.
When gold was discovered in California, the party heading west asked Gail to make them a nutritious meat extract they could use along the trail. Gail based his product upon “pemmican,” an Indian product that was made from buffalo meat or venison. [The meat was dried in the sun, pounded into a fine powder and mixed into melted fat. The Indian concoction held a strong, unpleasant taste.] Gail’s “meat biscuit” held a more palatable taste. The gold seekers purchased 600 pounds of the product.
Dr. Elisha Kent Kane, the Arctic explorer, used the biscuits on an expedition. In 1851, the expedition was awarded the Great Council Medal at the International Exhibition in London. Tom and Gail built a meat biscuit plant in Galveston. Gail traveled to Washington in hopes of selling the product to the American war office, but the officials scoffed at the idea. Efforts to market the biscuits commercially also failed. The venture sent Gail Borden deeply into debt.
a6aae4596650f28b5fb0f213d3fa6b30On board a ship returning from the 1851 London Exhibition, Gail witnessed several children dying when the two cows on board ship took sick. Recognizing the need for a better means to deliver fresh milk to the populace, Borden applied a process he had viewed among a Shakers community in New Lebanon, New York. The Shakers used a vacuum pan when they condensed sugar, fruit juice, and extracts. He experimented with the process until created a milk that lasted for three days before it began to turn sour. He applied for a patent, but it was denied when the Patent Commissioner said there was “nothing new” in the process.
Unfortunately, Gail was deep in debt and a long experimental stage for the milk product was be too expensive. Two friends stepped in to help: Robert McFarlane, discoverer of dyeing processes and editor of the Scientific American and Dr. John H. Curried, head of an important laboratory offered to test Gail’s claims. The patent was issued on 19 August 1856. Two months later the world’s first condensed milk factory opened in Wolcottville, Connecticut.
Again, the venture was a failure. New York City customers accustomed to the watered output of “swill milk dairies” – doctored with chalk for whiteness and molasses for “creaminess” – found Gail Borden’s pure condensed milk strange and rejected it. Gail dejectedly returned to Texas.
New.Magic_.Back_He reestablished a working relationship with his former partners. They set up business in an abandoned mill at Burrville, Connecticutt under the name “Gail Borden Jr. and Company.” Again, Gail’s timing was bad for 1857 was the year of the Panic. The Panic of 1857 was a financial panic in the United States caused by the declining international economy and over-expansion of the domestic economy.
Fortunately, Gail met Jeremiah Milbank, a wholesale grocer and banker. Milbank took an interest in Gail’s invention and in Gail’s honest character. They became partners. Milbank bought out Gail’s previous partners. Milbank and Borden opened the New York Condensed Milk Company in February 1858. The first samples were carried from house to house. Next, Borden’s Condensed Milk was ladled out from 40-quart cans pushed through New York streets on a hand-cart. When Gail began canning the milk it lasted indefinitely and could be shipped worldwide. Gail Borden “pasteurized” milk long before Louis Pasteur.
When Frank Leslie, editor of Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper led a campaign against the “swill milk,” Borden benefited. The Civil War brought more success for the company with an order for 500 pounds of condensed milk, but it brought personal sorrow. His son John Gail joined a New York regiment and his son Henry Lee a Texas Cavalry unit. Gail built several plants during the war. Demand ran ahead of production.
Borden_Condensed_Milk_1898Many competitors set up their own business. One actually adopted the “Borden” trademark. Gail Borden was forced to create the “Eagle Brand” trademark. At the end of the Civil War, Gail relinquished his duties to John Gail, home from the war. Gail returned to Texas. There he and Henry Lee, who also survived the war, revived the meat biscuit factory in what is now Borden, Texas. He died on 11 January 1874. Gail Borden is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, north of Manhattan. The epitaph reads: “I tried and failed, I tried again and again, and and succeeded.”




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Courts of Chancery, Barristers, and Solicitors


Court of Chancery, Lincoln’s Inn Hall, 1808 ~ public domain

In the 15th Century, the Court of Chancery or of “equity” developed. It was under the lord high chancellor and provided an outlet for cases where results were not obtainable in the courts of common law. The courts of common law were the principal paths of royal justice by the 14th Century, making the common law rigid and inflexible. Relief customarily took the form of payment of damages and to the recovery of the possession of land and chattels. More complex situations were not addressed beyond the above-mentioned relief, often not treating complainants fairly and equitably. Moreover, during the 15th Century, powerful lords often bribed juries or defied court orders. 

“Disappointed litigants consequently turned to the king and council with petitions for justice. These petitions were referred to the lord chancellor, who by the 15th century had begun to build up a series of equitable remedies, together with policies governing their operation. In the exercise of his equitable jurisdiction, the chancellor initially was not bound by precedent, as were the common-law judges. He had wide powers to do justice as he saw fit, and he exercised them with a minimum of procedural formality. The chancery was relatively cheap, efficient, and just; during the 15th and 16th centuries, it developed spectacularly at the expense of the common-law courts. During the 17th century, opposition developed from the common-law judges and Parliament; they resented chancery’s encroachment upon the province of the common-law courts, and the chancellor was forced to agree not to hear any case in which there was adequate remedy, such as damages, at common law. 

“By the early 16th century, the development of a system of precedent exercised another restrictive influence on the continued growth of equitable remedies. Although most of the early chancellors had been clerics, the later ones were usually lawyers who used the newly initiated reports of cases to begin shaping equity into an established set of rules. By the middle of the 17th century, the equity administered by the Court of Chancery had become a recognized part of the law of the land. By the Judicature Act of 1873, the competitive, separate common-law law and equity courts in England, with their attendant delays, expense, and injustice, were abolished.” (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Therefore, the Court of Chancery was meant to settle cases involving trusts, wills, inheritance, and mortgages. Unfortunately, the the Regency Period, it was a mess of rules and regulations that could drag out for decades. Charles Dickens in Bleak House painted a picture of a good idea gone astray. A person who brought forth a suit had to be prepared for fees from solicitors and fees to the Commissioners, office fees, and the purchase of copies of the documents. Supplemental bills became necessary to reconstitute the circle of litigants after a death. Moreover, there were often fees to corrupt officials and clerks. “The documents in Jarndyce and Jarndyce were the stuff of legend.  Dickens wrote that upon the announcement of the Jarndyce case in court there was a ‘bringing in of great heaps, and piles, and bags full of papers’ and that once the ‘twenty-three gentlemen in wigs’ had argued for a bit and had the case ‘referred back, t’he copious documents were ‘bundled up again before the clerks had finished bringing them in.’ To top it all off, the process by which the court functioned was so technical and its procedures were so slow that ‘the length of time taken to decide even uncontested cases amounted to a denial of justice.’  This was a system ripe for abuse and certainly in need of reform.” (Law Meets Literature)

Chancery and the equity side of the Exchequer were the major courts of equity of the 18th Century. The work of barristers in these courts were not fundamentally different from common law practices. Teams of senior and junior barristers argued at major hearings, while single counsel would defend minor disputes. In suits of Chancery, where “Justice leaves Time the arbitor of all disputes and litigants leave their heirs more land than land to manage,” cases might last for years and create hundreds of rulings. 

As both Chancery and Exchequer met at Westminster Hall (and at Rolls and Lincoln’s Inn during holidays), they addressed issues not acceptable for the King’s Bench of Common Pleas courts. Therefore, by the 19th Century, barristers who practiced at Chancery were not required to “go on the circuit.” Chancery was not formally a court of record. It depended upon the opinions of the lord chancellor and his judges. It supposedly meant to deal with common sense and reason, rather than arbitrary laws.

Okay, what was the difference between a solicitor and a barrister in the Regency?


Lincoln’s Inn (Old Hall, Chapel, and Chancery Court), 1830 by Thomas Shepherd. ~ public domain

Nowadays, the basic difference between barristers and solicitors is that a barrister mainly defends people in court and a solicitor mainly performs legal work outside court. This was true also of the Regency, with some minor differences. 

Generally, to be a solicitor, a proctor, or an attorney, the man had to be an apprentice to a man practicing in the field in which he wished to practice: Common law, Chancery, or Civil law courts. Solicitors were regulated by parliamentary law while all the barrister/pleaders were regulated by their inns and the judges of the  courts to which they were admitted for practice.

There were different sorts of lawyers who practiced in different courts and required different training. Solicitors were regulated by parliamentary law, while barristers were governed by the benchers of their Inn of Court.

Both solicitors and barristers had to have several years of training. Solicitors were to have five years as an apprentice, all with the same man,  so if his “tutor” died,  it was problematic for the apprenticed solicitor. At the end of five years, he could apply for recognition and admittance to practice as a solicitor. After his studies, he had to be recommended by the one who was training him and provide proofs of dates, etc. Sometimes they were given an exam on various aspects of the work required of them. If a man attained a university degree in civil law, he could be entered without the five years apprenticing. Most who attended university thought of becoming  barristers. They had to study at inns of court for four years after  university, where they called it “eating their dinners” and worked in the office of a barrister while they learned the law. When the barristers of their inn thought them ready, they were called to the bar. Solicitors dealt directly with clients, while barristers had contact only with the solicitor and depended on the solicitors for an adequate presentation of the case. Both had to be admitted to practice in the  different courts. King’s Bench and Common Pleas were common law courts as were Criminal court. Chancery was a court of equity and the church courts were for marriages and wills  were under civil ( Roman) law. Many solicitors became very wealthy, though it was usually the barristers who went on to the peerage.

It took about seven years to become a good solicitor. Solicitors had a lower social standing than did barristers, for the most part, because they did the work and  money into their hands. However, they often became very rich. The man needed someone to recommend him for the study of law. He must read law for seven years if he did not go to university. It was better for him if he attended university and studied law there, but universities only taught civil law and the courts were mainly common law courts. However, going to university would cut his time at an inn of court down to about three years of working with someone (apprenticing) and eating his dinners there. The solicitors, proctors, and attorneys spoke with clients and drew up proper forms and created deeds, wills, and contracts. Some solicitors acted as men of business for large landowners.

The barristers, advocates, and sergeants (higher level barristers)  were the ones who could speak in the higher courts and present the case. Quite often they only spoke to judges  and not to juries. These men were not supposed to converse with the client at all.

Criminal practice was just coming in as a area of practice as it wasn’t yet common for all accused  or even the prosecution to have a lawyer. Barristers, sergeants, and advocates could also just be asked a point of law, even if it would not be necessary for them to defend or prosecute a case.

Could a foreigner be a barrister? Almost every profession required an oath of allegiance to the Church of England  and at least a show of having taken Communion. 


Lincoln’s Inn, Holborn Interior view of Lincoln’s Inn old hall

Bright Knowledge explains the current differences between solicitors and barristers: “When people talk about going to see their lawyer, it is usually a solicitor that they will contact. Solicitors can work for a big range of organizations, including” commercial or non-commercial law firms, the government, private businesses, banks, and corporations. They have specialized knowledge of different areas of the law such as family, crime, finance, property and employment. Most of the time solicitors advise clients, undertake negotiations and draft legal documents. It is primarily a desk job, but does involve traveling to see clients and representing them in court. In the past, a solicitor’s advocacy work was restricted to magistrates’ courts (where less serious cases are dealt with) and minor cases in county courts, but now there are a few solicitor advocates who work in the higher  level courts.

“Barristers can be distinguished from a solicitor because they wear a wig and gown in court. They work at higher levels of court than solicitors and their main role is to act as advocates in legal hearings, which means they stand in court and plead the case on behalf of their clients in front of a judge. They also have specialist knowledge of the law and so are often called on to give legal advice. Barristers do not come into contact with the public as much as solicitors. They are given details of a case by a solicitor and then have a certain amount of time to review the evidence and to prepare what they are going to say in court (a pleading). Most barristers are self-employed and work in Chambers with other barristers so they can share costs of accommodation and administrators. They can also be employed in-house as advisors by banks, corporations, and solicitors firms.”

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Genderlessness in Jane Austen’s “Emma,” a Guest Post from Lelia Eye

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors’ blog on February 11, 2021. There is lots within the post to ponder. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

I have been facing rather bad morning sickness which has made it such that effort of any sort is quite difficult. It started at Christmas, and based on previous pregnancies, I rather expect it to continue until mid- to late-March. My weeks consist of work, a very small amount of laundry, and trying to eat a protein every few hours. Other tasks, like housework, have been put on hiatus.

I thought perhaps an appropriate post might be one that discusses morning sickness in the Regency era, but a quick Google search revealed that either my Google skills are not as good as they used to be, or it’s just not a subject that is often canvassed.

Unfortunately, a massive research project is one which I am incapable of handling at present, and as the thought of exploring ingredients in the home remedies of Regency-era women is not especially helpful to my nausea, I rather thought I should pursue something else for the time being.

And so it was that I dug back into my old essays from graduate school and pulled out one on Emma. I would like to note that this was for a Literary Criticism class, and my school essays often argue things that disagree with my heart. I rather like the pairing of Emma and Mr. Knightley, and my critiques below of the characters are purely from a scholarly bent, so please take no offense!

Genderlessness in Jane Austen’s Emma

Jane Austen excels at the creation of memorable characters that exist in a society which places a lot of importance on social roles and gender.  One such character of Austen’s is the title character of Emma.  Emma is a dynamic and complex character.  Though she lives in a society with clearly defined gender roles, she strives to maintain a genderless identity which incorporates elements of both the masculine and the feminine.  This attempt is denounced by her society, however, for such genderlessness is not to be allowed in such a patriarchal setting, which means that there must be an effort made to quell Emma’s ambitions toward masculinity.  Through Emma’s interactions with, emulations of, and rejections of different characters in the novel, one can see Emma’s attempts to combine both masculine and feminine qualities to reach a genderlessness; at the end, however, Emma’s attempts are fruitless, for she settles into a feminine role by marrying and thereby relinquishes her masculine power.

The complexity of Emma’s character is made clear to the reader from the beginning of the novel.  The first sentence makes note of her good qualities, calling her “handsome, clever, and rich” (23).  A few paragraphs later, however, Jane Austen details the negative aspects of Emma’s character.  Austen writes, “The real evils indeed of Emma’s situation were the power of having rather too much her own way, and a disposition to think a little too well of herself . . . ” (24).  Thus, Austen, with strong descriptive terms like “power” and “evils,” informs the reader that Emma is vain and spoiled.  In addition, Emma does not realize that these qualities serve as “disadvantages which threate[n] alloy to her many enjoyments” (24).  These “threatening” qualities, however, are the ones that might lead Emma to her aspiration of holding masculine power, which is revealed as the novel progresses.  Due to her exalted position in Highbury society, Emma believes she can do whatever she wants, and she attempts varyingly to control, emulate, and reject people in Highbury society until near the end of the novel.

Emma’s father, Mr. Woodhouse, serves an important function in the formation of Emma’s character.  Ted Bader says that Mr. Woodhouse’s non-comedic function is to highlight Emma’s healthy state, her beauty, and her compassion, and he appears to view the character’s relation to Emma as simply one of contrast.  However, the similarities between Emma and her father are not to be dismissed so easily.  Both characters care for each other but are selfish, controlling, and reclusive.  Their reclusive natures are perhaps due in part to Mr. Woodhouse’s hypochondria, which heavily restricts their movements, but an aversion to a change of scenery and an attraction to an easily controllable environment also serve as reasons for their seclusion.  Emma even intends to use the absence of her presence at the Coles’ home to send a statement of how she is socially “superior” to the Coles, a manipulative move which is reminiscent of how Mr. Woodhouse uses his absence from others’ homes to encourage them to come to his home (Austen 173).  Another similarity between Emma and her father, at least at the novel’s beginning, is the fact that they are not very supportive of marriage: when Emma’s governess marries, Emma sees it as an event of “sorrow,” while Mr. Woodhouse sees it as a “disagreeable” means of change which he continually bemoans (24).  Both characters view Miss Taylor’s marriage as an inconvenient alteration of their lives, an unwelcome change.  Because both characters do not like change, they attempt to monopolize the actions of the people around them; after all, while Mr. Woodhouse tries to control people’s efforts in remaining healthy, Emma tries to control people’s marital statuses.  Mr. Woodhouse, in some ways, seems to be an old and male hypochondriacal caricature of Emma.

While Emma has absorbed or inherited some of her father’s qualities, the unusual relationship between the two of them is important when considering Emma’s more masculine ambitions.  As a “valetudinarian” (Austen 25), Mr. Woodhouse needs to be cared for; however, his hypochondriacal nature also leads him to try to care for others in a very fussy manner, something which would appear to be a feminine quality.  His worrying over everything from where “the poor horses” are to be put while “paying [a] visit” (26) to the fact that the picture Emma draws has Harriet “sitting out of doors, with only a little shawl over her shoulders” (56) makes Mr. Woodhouse seem to take the position of Emma’s mother rather than her father, a position which is mirrored in the way that his daughter Isabella fusses over her children.  Though the reader does not see Emma’s dead mother, Mr. Knightley comments that Emma’s mother was “the only person able to cope with her” and that Emma “must have been under subjection to her” (48).  Emma’s mother, then, appears to have taken the more dominant and father-like role in raising Emma, and Mr. Knightley even notes that Emma has “inherit[ed] her mother’s talents,” which indicates that Emma takes after her mother (48).  This confusion of gender and familial roles which was present in her parents must have had an effect on Emma’s psychosexual development, especially if the female figure she was supposed to emulate (her mother) did indeed take on a masculine role.

There is also further confusion of familial roles in the Woodhouse family, for Emma takes care of and controls her father. By making him comfortable and attempting to placate him when he is upset, Emma plays the role of a doting mother; by manipulating him and controlling his actions so as to promote both his and others’ happiness, Emma plays the role of a controlling father. Since Emma was twelve years old, Mr. Knightley says to Mrs. Weston, she “has been mistress of the house” and of her father and Mrs. Weston herself (48). This role has added to Emma’s attempt at genderlessness, for it encourages her to combine the feminine qualities of domestic control with the masculine qualities of familial control.

Emma’s attempt at genderlessness can also be seen in her interaction with Frank Churchill.  This interaction with Frank Churchill is fused with both the feminine and the masculine. By imagining a courtship with him, she indulges in a feminine fantasy, though she never actually intends to marry him. However, she also attempts to emulate the man, which serves as a leaning toward masculinity.  The element of masculinity which Frank represents is one of conquering: he aims to conquer the people around him in a way that asserts his superiority, a goal which is likely reflective of his wish to conquer his overbearing aunt. When Mr. Woodhouse frets that he has not “been able to wait on [Mr. Elton] and Mrs. Elton” after their marriage (Austen 227), Emma attempts to imitate Frank’s “sly manipulative tone to others” in disrespectfulness to her father (Leavis and Blom 321). This attempt at emulation, Leavis and Blom claim, begins Emma’s movement toward the Box Hill incident. Frank certainly seems to prove himself as deserving the negative terms Leavis and Blom use to describe him, and it is his presence in Emma’s life which encourages her descent into outright rudeness at Box Hill. Frank Churchill shows extreme insensitivity by flirting with Emma in front of his fiancée, and he also reveals himself to be rather cutting when he says to Emma that their companions are “stupid” and will be roused by “[a]ny nonsense” (Austen 295).  He continually insults people to Emma when the targets of insults cannot be heard, and he shows himself to care not for social requirements when he repetitively puts off his visit to his new stepmother.

Frank’s masculinity is intrinsically dangerous, and Emma’s attempt to act as he does threatens her position. In Jane Austen’s day, humility and sensitivity were qualities valued in and associated with females, yet Emma retains a sense of superiority and shows an “unfeminine” insensitivity which could damage her social connections and the very social status on which she prides herself as she tries to dominate others. Frank is not just a warning against dishonesty, insensitivity, callousness, and the negative effect these qualities have on the social scene, but he also serves as a warning of what Emma could become if she remains on her self-centered course. Speaking whatever she wishes and doing whatever she wants, as she has been accustomed to do at Hartfield, serve to elevate her to a masculine position which threatens to destroy that on which she prides herself, for women during her time were not supposed to be neglectors of social grace but models of it.

Mrs. Elton, whom Emma does not like, serves as an example of a woman who wishes to be elevated to a masculine position. Karin Jackson suggests that Mrs. Elton is part of Emma’s darker side, noting that such a position would be termed a “shadow” by Carl Jung, and she also points out that Emma is officious just like Mrs. Elton. Emma feels threatened, as a man might, by the masculine aspiration of Mrs. Elton and quickly decides she is “a vain woman” who “think[s] much of her own importance” in society (Austen 220), characteristics which Jackson notes could easily be applied to Emma herself.  Similarly, William Duckworth believes Emma’s “most irritating defects” are the ones she attributes to Mrs. Elton: snobbery and officiousness.  The ideal female in Austen’s time would be humble and submissive, two traits which are the very opposites of snobbery and officiousness. These two negatively connoted qualities, in moderation, would be appreciated positively as pride and dominance in a man, but a female aspiring to these masculine qualities is viewed in a negative light. Such a threat of genderlessness was unacceptable. In addition, while Mrs. Elton’s influence is mostly limited to Jane Fairfax, Emma’s own behavior, as Shinobu Minma notes, “threatens to disrupt the system of hierarchy established in the community” due to her “love of managing and arranging” (51). This interest seems to be masculine, as men in Austen’s time were viewed as possessing control, for they took care of estate matters and encouraged or discouraged the marriages of women.

Emma and Mrs. Elton are similar in still more ways which are indicative of leanings toward masculinity. They both take on attractive unmarried protégés whom they, in their assured superiority, refer to by their first names. They also boast they have no need of the outside world because of their possession of lofty inner “resources” (Austen 85, 224), and both women believe the Westons’ ball to be given in their honor, for they enjoy taking precedence over and being noticed by other people. Elsie B. Michie states that Emma, in teasing the poor Miss Bates, illustrates “ . . . self-interest in its purest . . . form[:] the desire simply to be the center of attention and to ignore the feelings of others” (21). This harsh charge cannot be denied, for Emma’s actions seem to go beyond the lengths even Mrs. Elton will take. While her words are certainly very rude, Emma is speaking the harsh truth. Miss Bates does say “dull things” quite frequently (Austen 296). Emma seems to be rebelling against the position the patriarchy assigns to her of kind, patient, and humble female angel. This rebellion against the patriarchy is condemned by Mr. Knightley, who tells her she is “acting wrong” and “unfeeling[ly]” (299). In taking her masculine pride to such a length that the Highbury patriarch scolds her, Emma is discouraged from genderlessness and led to feel feminine “mortification” and “anger against herself” (300).

Jane Fairfax embodies many feminine qualities which Emma rejects. Jane is kind, educated, quiet, and always polite, which is sharply different from her controlling forced mentor, Mrs. Elton. Jane is also more disciplined in her approach to learning than Emma is, as Jackson notes. In fact, she is learned enough that even Emma is willing to admit that Jane’s skill on the pianoforte is far “beyond” hers in superiority (Austen 191). Despite all of Jane’s good qualities and all the similarities between them, which even Isabella Knightley, who calls Jane “accomplished and superior,” can see, Emma does not like Jane Fairfax (99). Mr. Knightley suggests to Emma that the reason for her dislike is her failure to be seen as Jane Fairfax is: as a highly “accomplished young woman” (142). Emma cannot completely deny the charge in her own mind, though she does characteristically deny its truthfulness to Mr. Knightley (142). Emma’s view of Jane is colored with jealousy, for Jane embraces her “natural” feminine goodness, mixes freely in society, and is often doted on due to her ill health and kind manner. Emma enjoys being at the top of the Highbury social hierarchy, but maintaining that position entails a dearth of good friends due to a maintenance of a power typically associated with the masculine. Too much condescension to others might lead her to a loss of some of her power, which is a notion Emma does not like.

Miss Bates mostly serves to illustrate some of the more negative possibilities of femininity.  While Emma never rambles on as Miss Bates does, Jackson notes that both characters “tal[k] too much for [their] own good.” This quality of talkativeness is typically associated with women rather than men, though it is viewed as a negative quality. Emma certainly enjoys talking and is never pleasantly quiet as Jane, the more ideal woman, often is; talking profusely at Box Hill is what leads Emma into trouble, for she is so pleased with the sound of her own voice that she speaks callously toward Miss Bates. Emma dismisses Jane’s “reserve” as “indifference” (Austen 142), even though she detests the volubility which leads Miss Bates talk to “every body” about “every thing” (85). Emma and Miss Bates are also similar in other ways. Both women are unmarried and take care of an elderly parent, a situation which seems to entail a mixture of feminine and masculine qualities, though Emma shuns the attempt of Miss Bates at genderlessness and is more controlling and thus more masculine than the mostly feminine Miss Bates. Both women are also both highly interested in gossip, which indicates a more feminine sensibility.

Miss Bates represents what Emma would be if she were older, still unmarried, and poor. Even Harriet makes a short-lived comparison between Emma and Miss Bates when she hears that Emma never intends to marry anyone. Emma self-confidently dismisses the comparison, claiming that her possession of wealth will prevent her from ever being a mere “old maid” like Miss Bates (Austen 85). This dismissal is weak, however, for the possession of large amounts of money does not blind people to one’s marital status. If Emma does not marry, then an old maid is exactly what she will become whether she chooses to accept the term or not. With Miss Bates, however, becoming an old maid is forced on her due to her poverty; with Emma, a choice is given and made to refrain from marriage (though her decision later changes when Mr. Knightley proposes). Emma notes that “few married women are half as much mistress of their husband’s house, as [she is] of Hartfield” and that she could never “expect to be so truly beloved and important; so always first and always right in any man’s eyes as [she is] in [her] father’s” (84). Though she enjoys her masculine position as head of Hartfield, Emma points out that “[w]omen’s usual occupations of eye and hand and mind will be as open to her” in the future as they are in the present (85). She enjoys the fluidity which comes with her position as a rich and unmarried woman, for she can move between different gendered roles and strive to achieve genderlessness by taking on the masculine and feminine qualities which please her.

Emma exploits the fluidity of her position with Harriet Smith in particular.  Both characters follow a similar (if partially imagined) courtship pattern with Mr. Elton, Frank Churchill, and Mr. Knightley, and they are both also blinded into believing in a false reality surrounding those male characters. By having Harriet as a companion, Emma is able to experience the feminine side of life (courtship) while maintaining her unmarried status.  However, Harriet is said to not be “the superior young woman which Emma’s friend ought to be” (Austen 47). Indeed, Harriet is a character with whom it is strange for Emma to associate, as Harriet is someone’s “natural daughter,” is not “clever,” is “artles[s]” (37), lacks “penetration” (39), and is “talkativ[e]” in front of people with whom she is comfortable (40), yet Emma desires to “improve her” (37), much as the masculine Mr. Knightley desires to improve Emma. Jackson suggests that Emma’s own limitations are implied through her association with the “undeveloped” Harriet. By rejecting the ideal feminine image of Jane Fairfax and choosing the more neutral and less ideal one of Harriet Smith, Emma seems to be subconsciously noting her own uncertainty of who she is and who she should become. Mr. Knightley does admit that Emma has “improved” Harriet (63), but the masculine dominating role Emma has been playing is one which Mr. Knightley does not wish to continue, for he seems quite anxious that Harriet marry Mr. Martin, which would remove her from Emma’s near-constant mentorship.

At the end of the novel, Emma rejects Harriet, allowing their “intimacy . . . [to] sink” (Austen 380) and choosing to trade a more neutral and genderless state for a more “positive” and “feminine” one. Emma no longer needs to assert masculine dominance on and experience feminine courtship through someone else, so she repudiates the friend whose lower status, according to the standards of the time, should have repelled her at the beginning of the novel. Kathleen Anderson states that Austen appears to be drawing a parallel between Emma and Harriet: both women defer to the guidance of the men who love them and who possess better judgment than their own. The judgments of these men, however, is only “better” in regard to how matters in a patriarchal society must remain for the societal order to stay the same. Upon becoming engaged, Harriet receives “improvement” and “safety” from Mr. Martin (Austen 379), while Emma determines to attempt to “grow more worthy” of the man “whose intentions and judgment ha[ve] been ever so superior to her own” (374). Both Emma and Harriet will move closer to the feminine idealness suitable to their respective social stations because of their relationships with the men they marry. The two women are resigned to submissive roles, for their husbands will carefully guide their actions and ensure that they become “proper” wives.

Mr. Knightley is a character strangely similar to Emma.  Both characters are often bored, frequently submitting themselves to Mr. Woodhouse’s high-strung company.  Both of them are wealthy and of high status; in fact, Mr. Knightley and the Woodhouses are the only landowners in Highbury.  As Anderson notes, both Mr. Knightley and Emma assume dominant roles toward their female protégés.  They try to influence their young protégés and admire their beauty, with Mr. Knightley calling Emma “very handsome” and Emma believing Harriet to be a “very pretty girl” (Austen 49, 37).  Because they are able to see the flaws of their pupils, they believe themselves superior and derive pleasure out of their roles as mentors, and they attempt frequently to assert their dominance.

Emma and Mr. Knightley are both masculine. Anderson says Harriet is attracted to Mr. Knightley because of his similarity to Emma, who serves as Harriet’s father figure.  When Emma advises Harriet not to marry Mr. Martin, she certainly seems to be playing the part of a concerned father. Anderson also states that Emma is attracted to Mr. Knightley because he has been like a father to her. Despite their long acquaintance and their engagement, Emma persists in calling him by the formal name “Mr. Knightley” (Austen 365). Anderson goes even further to claim that Mr. Knightley is attracted to Emma because she is an “extension” of the patriarch Mr. Woodhouse. While Emma relinquishes her beloved control by submitting to Mr. Knightley through marriage, Mr. Knightley, though Austen seems to have brought him onto the scene to restore the masculine order, is also forced to submit to Emma by moving into the Woodhouse home instead of bringing Emma into his own. Both characters thus begin taking on more feminine qualities, though it is noteworthy that Mr. Knightley only leaves Donwell to placate the patriarch of Emma’s family (even if that patriarch acts more in a maternal than a paternal fashion).

By taking over the care of Emma, Mr. Knightley subsumes any hope of Emma’s creating a powerful part for herself. The house in which Emma was once dominant over her somewhat effeminate father becomes a house in which Mr. Knightley’s masculine dominance rules. Mr. Woodhouse even refuses to give explicit approval of the marriage between Emma and Mr. Knightley until a series of thefts prompts him to desire the close protection of Mr. Knightley. Despite Mr. Woodhouse’s age, it is obvious that Mr. Knightley, the one who is to protect their home in order to ensure Mr. Woodhouse’s comfort, will be at the top of the Hartfield hierarchy.

Jackson speaks of Mr. Knightley as an extension of Emma’s conscience. Mr. Knightley is certainly able to “see faults in Emma,” and he tells her about them often (Austen 28).  He acts as more than just a conscience, however; he acts as a masculine societal force which urges Emma toward femininity and away from masculine shows of power. He is constantly speaking of Emma’s faults to her, their family, and their friends in an attempt to assert the proper order, yet his efforts are slow at producing results, despite Emma’s constant acknowledgements that at least some of what Mr. Knightley says is true. His influence does work on Emma, however. He leads her to “mix more with” society, as is proper for a young lady to do (252), and when Emma learns that Harriet likes Mr. Knightley, warm thoughts of Mr. Knightley lead Emma to realize “how improperly” she has “been acting by Harriet” (324). Mr. Knightley is thus involved in Emma’s transformation, and he takes over Emma’s dominant and masculine position at Hartfield when he marries her. Jackson, believing Mr. Knightley is Emma’s conscience, suggests that by integrating a strong male influence, or, as Jung would put it, the animus, into her psyche, Emma finally becomes a whole individual. However, Emma does not seem to be integrating masculinity but rather rejecting it, for through marriage Emma relinquishes the masculine power she has been holding in order to accept a more submissive role from the man whose criticisms she has been fighting throughout the novel. Her marriage will be a happy one since there is love on both sides, but she will no longer be free to exercise power and attempt to embrace genderlessness.

Emma begins with what might appear to be feminist leanings, for Emma picks and chooses qualities evinced by others to embrace and reject. Above all, she wishes to maintain her masculine power, controlling her father and attempting “to arrange everybody’s destiny” in Highbury (Austen 327-328).  She fights against Mr. Knightley’s admonitions—which are frequent enough that he even later admits while proposing that he has “blamed . . . and lectured” her very often—before finally giving in to him (340). To his proposal, she says “[j]ust what she ought” to as a “lady” (341), and she becomes “his own Emma” (342), a woman who has been “materially changed” since the beginning of the novel (374), and a woman who no longer belongs to herself but to a man.  Mr. Knightley has set views on femininity and masculinity, views which, it is to be supposed, will have an effect on his wife. He says that Mrs. Weston was “preparing [her]self to be an excellent wife . . . at Hartfield,” as she “receiv[ed] a very good education from [Emma], on the very matrimonial point of submitting [her] own will, and doing as [she was] bid” (48). This picture which Mr. Knightley paints is one in which Emma is put in a masculine role much like that of a husband; when she marries Mr. Knightley, however, she is supposed to submit to his will.

When Emma becomes more like Jane Fairfax, who suffers from ill health and does not pursue masculine power, she is making a movement to reject the manly qualities she has been embracing and give up her much-prized autonomy. The genderlessness for which she has strove and of which society, namely Mr. Knightley, has disapproved, is rejected. Her masculine ambitions are quelled at the end of the novel, and the “rightful” order of matters in a patriarchal society is restored with a conservative ending in which Emma marries and submits herself to a masculine presence at last.  Genderlessness in such a strictly ordered society which depends on clear gender roles to maintain stability cannot last without much unhappiness on the part of the one attempting such a state, and so Emma chooses domestic felicity over personal independence.

The ending may not be one which a feminist would applaud, but Emma’s attempts to circumvent the societal order which forbids her from taking on masculine rights and responsibilities is worthy of recognition. Austen may not have been a feminist in the modern sense of the word, but one can find in Emma a feminist discontent bubbling below the surface. Though the novel seems to follow the conventions of the day by ending in marriage and the maintenance of the patriarchy, one must remember that Austen herself never married. As for Emma, she appears to be happy with her life before marriage, and the man she does marry is one who has critiqued her mercilessly.  Austen seems to be less endorsing the workings of her society than expressing frustration at the plight of women. For a woman on the higher rungs of society, there were three options available: to become married, as Emma does; to be impoverished (or at least unable to work) and viewed negatively as an old maid, as Miss Bates is; or to make money as a governess or lady’s companion, as Miss Taylor does before marrying.  These options are all imbued with femininity, which is highly unfortunate for someone such as Emma, who strives for genderlessness before finally giving in to the conventions of her time.

Works Cited

Anderson, Kathleen.  “Fathers and Lovers: The Gender Dynamics of Relational Influence in Emma.”  Persuasions On-line 21.1 (2000) 5 April 2009 <;.

Austen, Jane.  Emma.  Ed. Alistair M. Duckworth.  New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002.

Bader, Ted.  “Mr. Woodhouse is not a Hypochondriac!.”  Persuasions On-line 21.2 (2000) 5 April 2009 <;.

Duckworth, William.  “Reading Emma: Comic Irony, the Follies of Janeites, and Hermeneutic

Mastery.”  Persuasions On-line 24.1 (2003) 5 April 2009 <;.

Jackson, Karin.  “The Dilemma of Emma: Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Values.”  Persuasions

On-line 21.2 (2000) 5 April 2009 <;.

Leavis, L.R. and J.M. Blom.  “A Return to Jane Austen’s Novels.”  English Studies 62.4 (1981): 313-323.  EBSCO.  18 October 2007 <;.

Michie, Elsie B.  “Austen’s Powers: Engaging with Adam Smith in Debates about Wealth and Virtue.”  Novel: A Forum on Fiction 34.1 (2000): 5-27.  EBSCO.  18 October 2007 <;.

Minma, Shinobu.  “Self-Deception and Superiority Complex: Derangement of Hierarchy in Jane Austen’s Emma.”  Eighteenth Century Fiction 14.1 (2001): 49-65.  EBSCO.  5 April 2009 <;.

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The Real-Life Myles Standish’s Influence on “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst”

As my previous two posts on John Alden and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow have indicated, my most recent tale, “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst” was inspired by Longfellow’s narrative poem, “The Courtship of Myles Standish.” Other than the knowledge of Standish being a part of the original Plymouth colonists, what else do we know of the man? In truth, not as much as one might think. As it was with John Alden, we know Standish’s “history” after his arrival at Plymouth Rock, but much before that time is mere speculation. 

For example, many list his birthdate as occurring 1584, while others think it more likely to be closer to 1587. His place of birth is also greatly debated. Nathaniel Morton, writing in his book New England’s Memorial (1669) states that Standish hailed from Lancashire, England. Morton tells us Standish owned a book about the former head of the Rivington Grammar School in Lancashire, and he cites the town of Duxbury that Standish and John Alden founded as a reference to Duxbury Hall in Lancashire. Others believe him to be from the Isle of Man state that “in his probate will that were “surreptitiously detained” from him (including lands on the Isle of Man itself); these lands all belonged at one time to Thomas Standish, of the branch of the Standish family from the Isle of Man. In September 2006, Jeremy D. Bangs supplied a scholarly review of the evidence and controversy in “Myles Standish, Born Where?”, Mayflower Quarterly 72:133-159.” [Mayflower History]

Standish was an heir to a fairly sizeable estate in Lancashire, but his lands were lost during the English Civil War, and neither he nor his son Alexander were ever able to legally regain control of the estate.

Likewise, we know little of his service to Queen Elizabeth’s army. Unsubstantiated reports claim he was a lieutenant in the Queen’s arm. Scholars believe he served for a time in Holland where he became acquainted with John Robinson and the Pilgrims who lived near Leiden. He was hired to be the Pilgrims’ military captain. His role in the settlement was to be coordinate the Pilgrims’ defense against outside threats from, say, the French, the Spanish, or the Dutch, as well as the “Indians” (Native American) tribes. 

A scene from The Courtship of Miles Standish, showing Standish looking upon Alden and Mullins during the bridal procession ~

We know he was married when he traveled with the Pilgrims. His wife Rose traveled with him to the New World. As they had no children, they likely married before the Mayflower set sail, but we do not know the date or even Rose’s last name. The lady died during the first winter at Plymouth. According to the tale Longfellow set about, Standish set his eyes on Priscilla Mullins, an orphan (Her parents and brother also died during that first winter.) and one of the wealthier Pilgrims because she held the shares of her family in the expedition. Moreover, she was the only female who was not married among those who, initially, traveled with the Pilgrims. Priscilla, however, chose John Alden over Standish. Standish, later, courted and married a woman named Barbara (again, no last name), who arrived at Plymouth on the ship Anne in the year 1623. 

As part of his duties to the Pilgrims, he explored the area and assisted in developing the site chosen for the settlement. In his role as military captain, Standish oversaw the building of the fort designed to protect the colonists. He led trading expeditions and designed the group’s response to the Indian tribes in the region. “He led the party that went in pursuit of the alleged killers of Squanto (who was later discovered to be safe). He led the revenge attacks on the Indians in the Massachusetts Bay after they were caught in a conspiracy planning to attack and destroy the Plymouth and Wessagussett colonies; several Indians were killed or executed, for which Standish received some criticism, even from his friends, for being too heavy-handed.” [Mayflower History] At times Standish was criticized for his ruthlessness and for his quick temper. However, he was also praised for his defense of the colony and for his tender concern for those who took ill during that first disastrous winter. 

In the mid 1630s, Standish and John Alden founded the town of Duxbury, where they lived out the remainder of their days. Standish and Barbara had eight children: Charles (died young), Alexander, John, Myles, Lora, Josias, and Charles. He died a painful death from most consider to be kidney stones on 3 October 1656.

Also See: 

American Ancestors 


To Read The Courtship of Miles Standish, go HERE

Introducing The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst

What happens when a lady falls in love,  not with her betrothed, but rather with his cousin?

Since her birth, Miss Priscilla Keenan has been promised to the Marquess of Blackhurst. The problem is: She has never laid eyes upon the man. So, when Blackhurst sends his cousin to York to assist Priscilla in readying Blackhurst’s home estate for the marquess’s return from his service in India, it is only natural for Priscilla to ask Mr. Alden something of the marquess’s disposition. Yet, those conversations lead Cilla onto a different path, one where she presents her heart to the wrong gentleman. How can she and Alden find happiness together when the world means to keep them apart? Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” this tale wants for nothing, especially not a happy ending, but that happy ending is not what the reader anticipates.


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They remained silent for several minutes before she asked, “Would you tell me something of your life in India? I feel I could better understand Lord Blackhurst if I viewed him through the eyes of someone who holds a similar point of reference as does he.” 

He shifted uncomfortably, and Cilla instantly regretted her request. “I would not know where to begin.” 

She shrugged. “Where did you live in India? I know only generalities of the place. When did you two first know a conflict? I have heard many of the locals do not appreciate the efforts of the British East India Company. Is that true? If so, it must have been daunting, attempting to assist those who do not wish your advantage.”

Mr. Alden grimaced at something she said, but he did not reprimand her. “Admittedly, the give-and-take between the two sides sometimes fell out of balance,” he explained in obvious general terms. She would have preferred something more detailed, but she would accept what he was willing to share. 

“Then arms are employed?” she asked.

“Aye.” He sighed heavily. “A man would not wish a woman to stand witness to such atrocities as one finds in war, whether on the Continent, the American front, or in India.” 

“Yet, the devastation must change a man,” she argued. “Surely, Blackhurst is not the same carefree youth of which Mr. Sterling and many in the village speak. What should I know so I will not be afraid of what, I pray, are his rare bouts of temper or depression?”

He presented her a weak grin. “I can tell you with all certainty that in those early days of conflict in India, Lord Blackhurst began to think seriously upon your eventual marriage. Although you were still very young in ’09 when we in service to the British East India Company were called into that first battle, Blackhurst, then the Earl of Hurst, took solace in knowing he possessed a future.”

Cilla felt tears rushing to her eyes. “Truly?”

He nodded sharply, as if a bit embarrassed at what he had confessed. “Absolutely. Blackhurst wants you to know happiness in your joining.” 

“I shall cherish your promise.” Swallowing the emotions rushing to her chest, she asked, “Where was that first conflict?”

“You are a persistent one,” he said with a sad smile and another sigh. She observed how he ordered his thoughts before he spoke. “We were in an important port city on the southwest coast of India,” he recited. “At the time, there was a local objection to the occupation of the city of Quilon by the East India Company. Troops of the Indian kingdom of Travancore attacked a local garrison situated near Cantonment Maiden.”

He paused as if the memory was still very new. “Quilon is very important to trade and shipping,” he explained, “which was the reason for the British being in the area. Vlu Thampi Dalawa, the Travancore Prime Minister, brought more than twenty thousand Nair troops and nearly two dozen pieces of artillery against us. Thankfully, Colonel Chambers had three battalions of native sepoys, Indian infantrymen, available, along with one regiment of British troops. We were outnumbered nearly four to one.” He grimaced as he heard his own words. “With God’s good fortune, we prevailed by destroying fifteen of their eighteen artillery pieces, but the loss of men was many, nearing fifteen hundred when one considers both sides.” 

“How long?” Cilla spoke barely above a whisper, as she attempted to comprehend what he described. She knew he had spared her the most horrific details; yet, what little he had shared was enough for her imagination to run wild. 

“The battle itself?” She nodded her agreement. “Thankfully, we prevailed in a matter of six hours, but that first taste of hostilities was enough for me. Men should not exact such devastation upon each other.” 

“However, that was not the only conflict you knew?” she questioned. 

He shook his head sadly. “I spent eleven years walking a narrow line between the interests of The Company and the various factions operating within India. Often we were caught between one empire and another.” 

Cilla had dozens of other questions she wished to ask, but she knew there would be other days to ask them. She did not like the idea of bringing Mr. Alden pain. 

“Tell me something I should know of Lord Blackhurst’s nature,” she requested. 

Mr. Alden studiously avoided looking in Cilla’s direction as he spoke. “Despite what you may think of his lordship’s first letter to you, many consider the marquess equally skilled with both his pen and his weapons. I have known Blackhurst to place himself straight at the head of his troops, calling upon each captain, by name, to order forward the ensigns to win the day, declaring, ‘If you wish a thing to be well done, you must do it yourself; you must not leave it to others!’”

She knew Mr. Alden meant for her to know pride in the man to whom she was betrothed; yet, something in Cilla wondered why a man—a leader upon the battle field—who would never consider leaving the safety of his men to the care of others—would not make, at least, a few gestures to secure her care and to win her affection. Mr. Alden said otherwise, and she was grateful for the man’s thoughtfulness and his reassurances; even so, she knew disappointment in Lord Blackhurst, essentially, ignoring her.

Lost in their individual thoughts, it was several moments before either of them realized it had started to rain. Immediately, they were on their feet and grabbing their belongings. Snatching up the blanket and basket, he caught her by the hand. “It appears, Miss Keenan, we are in for another soaking!”

He hustled her toward the cart, but Cilla had other ideas. “We are likely to know some protection in the denser parts of the woods, than in a slow-moving cart, where we are certain to be drenched.” 

The gentleman nodded his agreement, dumped the basket into the back of the cart and took off at a steady pace. Never releasing her hand, they set off together on an exhilarating scamper for dry ground. Cilla caught up her skirt to make it easier to follow along beside him. 

Leading the way, he darted around trees and bushes until they stood in a circle of elms, standing so close together, that even sunlight did not penetrate the magical enclosure. It was as if they had stepped into a fairy realm, one she had often dreamed of as a child. There was a thick carpet of leaves at their feet, and everything was turning green with the spring. Branches of the various trees intertwined, as if they were holding hands. 

“This is lovely,” she said in awe. 

Outside their enclosure the rain pounded against the tree tops, but, within, they remained relatively dry. 

“This place is truly amazing,” he said softly. He grinned at her sheepishly. “I imagine you could turn this moment into a melody.” 

She knew embarrassment marked her cheeks, but she nodded quickly. “It is rare that some strand of a melody does not circulate in my head, but you are correct, sir. The rain. The occasional bit of thunder. The closeness of the trees. They all mix with the words from Lord Blackhurst’s previous letter. I can hear the notes as they align to form the essence of the tune.” 

“You have a gift, Miss Keenan. A unique gift that must be cherished. Would you do me the honor of humming it for me? I would love to hear it,” he encouraged. 

Still self-conscious from her admittance, she closed her eyes and permitted the notes to form in her mind. Soon she hummed the tune, seeing the notes as they danced in the air. Her voice had completely filled their little bit of heaven when she felt his arm slip about her waist and the heat of his breath upon her cheek. 

“Waltz with me,” he whispered into her ear. 

She swayed with him for several seconds, before she allowed him to lead her into the dance form, a dance she had only observed upon a few occasions and had never performed previously, not even with a dance instructor. However, Cilla trusted the gentleman not to permit her to stumble. His hand on her back had just enough pressure to turn her in a tight circle, while edging her closer still to the warmth of his body. As her voice carried the tune, her body hummed also, set in motion by the gentleman holding her so closely. 

Suddenly, she realized they no longer moved, and her song had ceased to exist. Cilla opened her eyes to look up into his now familiar features. Her lips were so dry, she licked them, belatedly realizing a fire flickered in his gaze as he looked down upon her. She swallowed hard, her heart flipping over in her chest. Priscilla had never felt such a deep connection to anyone before. Time stood still, and she was afraid to breathe, fearing doing so would destroy the moment they shared. 

Instinctively, she leaned into him, irresistibly drawn to him. 

Then without preamble, Mr. Alden jerked himself stiffly upright, turning stone-faced in the blink of an eye. Abruptly, he stepped back and offered her a proper bow. “Thank you, Miss Keenan.” 

Cilla blinked several times, attempting to make sense of what had just passed between them. Had she imagined the possibility the gentleman had thought to kiss her? Would she have permitted him to do so? Cilla had never been kissed and had wished him to kiss her with all her heart, but she reminded herself, such would never occur, for she was betrothed to the gentleman’s best friend. Mr. Alden held honor at the core of his being, and, even if she wished upon the luckiest of stars to know him better, her wish would not be granted. 

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John Alden’s Influence on the Release of “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst” + a Giveaway

My story, “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst,” is heavily influenced by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” Many of the characters names, for example, derive from the poem. However, in Longfellow’s narrative, John Alden speaks to Priscilla Mullins because his friend, Miles Standish, wishes to marry Priscilla. In the Longfellow poem, Standish simply wishes to marry Priscilla because his wife, Ruth, has died, and, obviously, at the Plymouth Colony, few English women were available. Yet, it is John Alden who loves Priscilla, and, astutely, she loves John in return. 

I did not want my story to follow Longfellow’s tale too closely, just to be influenced by it. Why? You may ask. The reason this tale has captured my attention all over again is John Alden, the Assistant Governor of Plymouth Colony, is my 10th Great Grandfather on my maternal side through Alden’s daughter Rebecca. 

Public Domain ~

Alden was born in approximately 1599, most likely in Harwich, Essex, England. Although there are several other possibilities for his heritage, the Aldens of Harwick were related by marriage to the Mayflower‘s master Christopher Jones. Alden would have been about 21 years of age when he hired to be the cooper (barrel-maker) for the voyage. Once those aboard the Mayflower reached America, Alden chose to remain rather than to return to England. Priscilla Mullins, the woman he eventually married was from Dorking, Surrey, England. Her parents, William and Alice Mullins, and her brother Joseph, all died during their first winter at Plymouth. 

As members of the original voyage, both Alden and Priscilla held shares in the company financing the establishment of Plymouth Colony. Priscilla’s shares were many due to the deaths of her family members. John Alden was elected an assistant to the Colony’s governor in 1631. “He was one of the men who purchased the joint-stock company from its English shareholders in 1626, and was involved in the company’s trading on the Kennebec River. [In 1626, the colony’s financial backers in London, known as the Merchant Adventurers, disbanded. This left the colonists in a quandary as to how to settle their significant debts to those who had funded the effort. Eight of the Plymouth colonists, including John Alden, agreed to collectively assume, or undertake, the debt in exchange for a monopoly on the fur trade from the colony. These men who averted financial ruin for the colony became known as the ‘Undertakers.’ The fact Alden was among them is indicative of his growing stature in the colony.] John Alden, along with Myles Standish and several other Plymouth Colonists, founded the town of Duxbury to the north of Plymouth. Evidence suggests the men began constructing their houses as early as 1629.

About 1653, he, along with his son Captain Jonathan Alden,built the Alden House, which is still standing and is maintained by the Alden Kindred of America. By the 1660s, John and Priscilla Alden had a growing family of ten children [Elizabeth, John, Joseph, Priscilla, Jonathan, Sarah, Ruth, Mary, Rebecca, and David].  Combined with his numerous public service duties (which were mostly unpaid positions) he was left in fairly low means.  He petitioned and received from the Plymouth Court various land grants, which he distributed to his children throughout the 1670s.  He died in 1687 at the age of 89, one of the last surviving Mayflower passengers.” (Mayflower History)


John Alden 

The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst

Book Blurb:

What happens when a lady falls in love,  not with her betrothed, but rather with his cousin?but rather with his cousin?

Miss Priscilla Keenan has been promised to the Marquess of Blackhurst since her birth. The problem is: She has never laid eyes upon the man. So, when Blackhurst sends his cousin to York to assist Priscilla in readying Blackhurst’s home estate for the marquess’s return from his service in India, it is only natural for Priscilla to ask Mr. Alden something of the marquess’s disposition. Yet, those conversations lead Cilla onto a different path, one where she presents her heart to the wrong gentleman. How can she and Alden find happiness together when the world means to keep them apart? Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” this tale wants for nothing, especially not a happy ending, which it has, but that ending is not what the reader anticipates.


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Spring, 1821, Yorkshire

Cilla knocked on the door to her father’s study. “You sent for me, Papa?” She knew quite well what the subject of today’s meeting was to be, for she had observed the marquess’s mark on the express delivered a half hour removed to her father on a silver salver. Ironically, she had been raised with a strong sense of independence, but, today, she was to be maneuvered into accepting a man she had never met—to be the pawn in a chess match where everyone would win, but her.

“Come in, Priscilla. I have additional news from Lord Blackhurst.”

She swallowed her sigh of resignation as she made herself do as her dear Papa said; yet, she was not pleased with the situation. Until Lord Blackhurst had shocked her by sending word to her father that he was prepared to meet the arrangements between the marquess’s family and hers and marry her, Cilla had only heard mention of the man and his family because one of the marquessate’s many properties marched along with her father’s main estate.

Most assuredly, she had heard more than a few tales of the previous Marquess of Blackhurst. Lord Robert Keyes had been her father’s most loyal chum growing up in this part of Yorkshire, and Lord Edward Keenan had often sung the man’s praises. Since learning of the arrangement between her father and Robert, 10th Marquess of Blackhurst, Cilla had often thought if her prospective groom had been the father, instead of the son, she would have held no qualms about marrying the man. Even if only half of her father’s tales were true, there was much to admire in the former marquess.

His son, however, possessed quite a different reputation. Unbending. Sanctimonious. Harsh. Empty of humor. Being forced to marry a man she could not respect was beyond the pale. “Has his lordship changed his mind about taking a complete stranger to wife?”

Her father looked up from the letter resting upon his desk and frowned. “Do you realize how fortunate you are? You are a mere ‘miss,’ the daughter of a baron. His lordship’s agreement to marry you is a rare opportunity for one of your station. Customarily, a duke or a marquess would court daughters of earls—women who are addressed as ‘Lady So-and-So,’ not ‘Miss Keenan.’ Your marriage to Blackhurst will make you a marchioness, one of the leaders of English society.”

She rarely spoke disrespectfully to her father, who had turned his life upside down to raise his five children properly after the loss of his beloved wife. However, in this matter, Cilla could not agree. “What good will it be to become a marchioness if Lord Blackhurst means to clip my wings? I shall not be allowed my own thoughts on anything more important than the color of a pillow in my favorite drawing room.” She worried if she would be allowed to continue to compose music once she married. She had already sold two pieces to Mr. McFadden in London, and she hoped the fugue she was writing would be the third such piece to know authorship.

“Such nonsense,” her father grumbled. “Blackhurst is not an ogre.”

Her brow crinkled in objection. “In the newsprints, he is depicted as a man with a stick down his trousers and not in the front,” she declared in bold tones.

“Priscilla Rebecca Elizabeth Keenan, I will not tolerate such language in this house! Do you understand me?” her father chastised in sharp tones.

She wished to remind him it was she who oversaw the horse breeding upon the estate and knew something of the nature of stubborn stallions and resistant mares, and she was well aware of what the caricatures meant, but, instead, she bowed her head in submission and said, “Yes, Papa. I beg your forgiveness.” Cilla paused before daring to ask, “When was the last time you laid eyes upon his lordship? Perhaps the man you knew is not the man who has returned to London after years in India.”

Her father’s frown lines deepened in concentration. “Blackhurst was perhaps twelve or thirteen. The last few years of Robert Keyes’s life, the family lived on the property belonging to the late Lady Blackhurst through her marriage settlements. Her ladyship preferred Devon to the wilds of Yorkshire, and Lord Blackhurst adored his wife as much as I did your mother. He allowed her to determine his home seat, but the abbey is Blackhurst’s traditional home.”

“More than seventeen years,” she said triumphantly. “Since reaching his majority and leaving university, the current Lord Blackhurst has spent his years in India. For all we know, he would still be there if his father had not passed. And, might I remind you, that was nearly two years removed. His lordship made no effort to rush home to claim this peerage. We know nothing of the type of man he has become other than the tales found in the newsprints of his years of service to the East India Company, most of which are quite unflattering. I cannot believe you mean to send off your only daughter on the arm of a man who is a complete stranger.”

Turbulent emotions reflected upon his countenance, and Cilla realized he was not as pleased with this arrangement between her family and that of the marquess, as she once thought. Her father sighed heavily. “A contract exists between our families. Would you have me know dishonor? Or ruin? I could not afford a large penalty for breaking the agreement. I have your four brothers to consider.”

“I would have you also consider your only daughter,” she said defiantly.

Giveaway: I have TWO eBook copy of The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EST on 23 April 2021. The winners will be announced on Sunday, 25 April, via email. Happy Reading! 

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s Influence on “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst” + a Giveaway

According to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: A Maine Historical Society Website, “Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was a commanding figure in the cultural life of nineteenth-century America. Born in Portland, Maine, in 1807, he became a national literary figure by the 1850s, and a world-famous personality by the time of his death in 1882. He was a traveler, a linguist, and a romantic who identified with the great traditions of European literature and thought. At the same time, he was rooted in American life and history, which charged his imagination with untried themes and made him ambitious for success.”

My story, “The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst,” was inspired by Longfellow’s poem “The Courtship of Miles Standish.” I have loved the poem for more years than I care to recall. I spent 40 years teaching English/language arts in public schools of three different states, most of which at the high school level. Therefore, I was often called upon to teach “Evangeline” and, upon occasion, “The Courtship of Miles Standish” in my American Lit classes. Naturally, when led me to John Alden of the Plymouth Colony fame as my tenth great-grandfather and then directed me to Longfellow as my sixth cousin 5x removed, I was doing my “happy dance.” Longfellow, you see, is also related to John Alden through Alden’s daughter Elizabeth. I am related to Alden through his daughter Rebecca. 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the “Fireside Poets,” wrote lyrical poems about history, mythology, and legend that were popular and widely translated, making him the most famous American of his day.

The plot of The Courtship of Miles Standish deliberately varies in emotional tone, unlike the steady tragedy of Longfellow’s Evangeline. The Pilgrims grimly battle against disease and Indians, but are also obsessed with an eccentric love triangle, creating a curious mix of drama and comedy. Bumbling, feuding roommates Miles Standish and John Alden vie for the affections of the beautiful Priscilla Mullins, who slyly tweaks the noses of her undiplomatic suitors. The independent-minded woman utters the famous retort, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” The saga has a surprise ending, one full of optimism for the American future.

Most would agree that Longfellow’s poem is fictionalized history. Main characters Miles Standish, John Alden, and Priscilla Mullins are based upon real Mayflower passengers. Longfellow was a descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins through his mother Zilpah Wadsworth and he claimed he was relating oral history. Skeptics dismiss his narrative as a folktale. At minimum, Longfellow used poetic license, condensing several years of events. Scholars have confirmed the cherished place of romantic love in Pilgrim culture and have documented the Indian war described by Longfellow. Miles Standish and John Alden were likely roommates in Plymouth; Priscilla Mullins was the only single woman of marriageable age in the young colony at that time and did in fact marry Alden. Standish’s first wife, Rose Handley, died aboard the Mayflower in January 1621. Two years later, Standish married a woman named Barbara in Plymouth in 1623. The Standish and Alden families both moved from Plymouth to adjacent Duxbury, Massachusetts in the late 1620s, where they lived in close proximity, intermarried, and remained close for several generations.

To Read The Courtship of Miles Standish, go HERE

Introducing The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst

What happens when a lady falls in love,  not with her betrothed, but rather with his cousin?but rather with his cousin?

Miss Priscilla Keenan has been promised to the Marquess of Blackhurst since her birth. The problem is: She has never laid eyes upon the man. So, when Blackhurst sends his cousin to York to assist Priscilla in readying Blackhurst’s home estate for the marquess’s return from his service in India, it is only natural for Priscilla to ask Mr. Alden something of the marquess’s disposition. Yet, those conversations lead Cilla onto a different path, one where she presents her heart to the wrong gentleman. How can she and Alden find happiness together when the world means to keep them apart? Inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Courtship of Miles Standish,” this tale wants for nothing, especially not a happy ending, which it has, but that ending is not what the reader anticipates.


Kindle Unlimited


For more than a week, Cilla had called daily upon the abbey, no longer waiting for either of the Sterlings to assist her. She also no longer wore her better day dresses, for she often assisted the maids, girls from the village she knew either from church or by sight, taking down dusty drapes or rolling up carpets to be beaten. Some items she had chosen to replace, while others only required a thorough cleaning. Each day, she spent time reorganizing her various lists, prioritizing what should be addressed first.

“After you have had your midday meal,” she told Audrey, Ellie, and Janie, the three maids hired to assist her, “we will take a survey of the music room.” If it had been Cilla’s choice, once she had viewed the spectacular pianoforte located in the music room, she would have started her survey of that particular room first, for music was what touched her soul. Everything else was secondary in her life. However, it was on the third day before she had recalled the room near the rear of the house.

When she was younger, she would sometimes sneak into the abbey just to have a look around. There were so many wonderful pieces of art and sculptures thereabouts, and Cilla loved simply to curl up on one of the dust-covered chairs and study the artwork, while she made notations of melodies to accompany each piece. The works served as her inspiration. It was perhaps on her third or fourth visit to the abbey that she had discovered the music room. Her hands had itched to play the pianoforte, but she had resisted the urge to do so, knowing someone might hear her and demand to know why she had entered the Blackhurst property without permission. Little did she know, at the time, this would be her future home. She was glad today that she would have a legitimate excuse to view the ornate instrument, perhaps even taking a few moments to play a short composition she had rolling around in her head.

“Shall I bring you a tray, miss?” Janie asked.

Cilla’s eyes remained on the instrument. Distractedly, she responded, “Bring it when you return. I am in no hurry.”

“Yes, miss. Enjoy your time to rest for a few minutes. You’ve worked most diligently,” Audrey added.

Cilla smiled at the girls. “I plan to test out Lord Blackhurst’s pianoforte.”

“You play, miss?”

“My late mother loved music as dearly as she loved my father. She made certain each of her children could play an instrument.” Cilla did not say the words aloud, but she thought, As I pray I will be allowed to do so with my own children. Catching the ache of loneliness seeping into her chest, she shooed the maids from the room so she might explore the space alone.

With the maids’ exit, Cilla made her way about the room, admiring the carved frame of a harp, which had two broken strings, but she strummed the remaining ones, picking out a simple tune. “Even without all its strings, the instrument is excellent, or perhaps it is the room that speaks of perfection,” she murmured. She could imagine herself spending countless hours within. “At least, this is something I can love about the future marriage to which I have been committed.”

She began a more complete examination of the room, which she had belatedly realized had been specifically designed to create a musical experience. The room’s location, near the rear of the house, would prevent the noise of a busy household from interfering with a musical performance. Draperies not only hung at the windows, but also covered one of the walls. Persian rugs of various sizes were scattered about the floor, sometimes layered with rugs made of wool supporting an instrument, while several large plants and upholstered chairs and settees dotted the rim of the room.

One corner held a bookshelf, containing books of various sizes. A floral printed wallpaper covered the wall surrounding the arched entrance, and a fabric-covered folded screen sat opposite the book shelf in another corner.

“Someone certainly knew what they were doing,” she said as she crossed to one of the windows to draw back the drapes to allow light into the space. A smattering of dust filled the air about her, and she batted away the dust motes floating before her eyes. She turned for a second look at the room, now draped in sunlight. “I could spend my days practicing and not be disturbed.”

With a sigh of satisfaction she had yet to know since assuming the task of arranging his lordship’s household, Cilla sat at the instrument and positioned her fingers upon the keys. Although the pianoforte, like the harp, could do with a good tuning, within minutes, she was lost in the music, swaying on the bench, allowing the melody to carry her to another place—a place only she knew. Soon she was switching from a piece by Mozart to one she had been working on for several months—one with which she had yet to know fulfillment.

Over and over again, she played the prelude, changing the phrasing—adding a different chord here and there—dropping a half note she once thought essential.

So engrossed with the process, she failed to hear the faint sound of a footfall behind her. When she finally realized she was no longer alone in the room, it was too late not to gasp, as she spun around to gape at the handsomest man her eyes had ever beheld.

“Oh, botheration!” She clapped a hand over her mouth, as she blushed thoroughly. “You startled me, sir! I did not hear you come in. May I assist you?”

What could only be called an arrogant lift of his eyebrow rose in obvious disapproval. “Perhaps it is I who should assist you,” he said in exacting tones.

GIVEAWAY: I have two eBooks of The Courtship of Lord Blackhurst available to those who comment below. The giveaway ends Friday, 23 April 2021. Winners will be contacted on Sunday, 25 April 2021 via emails. Happy Reading!

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