Why Are Americans So Unhappy?


fixedw_large_4x.jpgAt a Christmas outing to the Biltmore estate near Asheville, North Carolina, I struck up a conversation with a man from the Middle East, likely Pakistan, but I cannot be certain, as I was not bold enough to ask. As we moved from room to room, we exchanged more than one quip about the exhibits—things like the small size of the beds or the fact the house has its own bowling alley. For those of you unfamiliar with the Biltmore Estate, it is a large (6950.4 acre or 10.86 square miles) private estate and tourist attraction near Asheville. Biltmore House, the main residence, is a Chåteauesque-style mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 and is the largest privately owned house in the United States, at 178,926 square feet (16,622.8 m2) of floor space (135,280 square feet (12,568 m2) of living area). Still owned by George Vanderbilt’s descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. 


The greenhouse entrance


As we made our way from one roped area to another, our conversation also took a more serious tone. At length, he asked me, “Why does the American society view only the negatives? I have never understood why in such a great land, one that can produce such opulence, why the Americans I meet walk around in profound sadness.”

In truth, I was a bit taken aback. I admit that I am the person who always sees the glass half empty—even at the age of 70, I cannot keep hidden the hopes of the little girl who was forever forbidden what others took for granted. Touring rooms at a grand estate is not a place for such a heavy conversation, but I did ask him if he had ever read “The Unhappy American Way,” an article from the British philosopher and mathematician, Bertrand Russell. He had not, and so I suggested that he might find it interesting. Soon we parted ways as his party decided to loop through an open area again, while my friend Kim and I headed for the exit. It was well after midnight, and our “pumpkin” was looking more and more like a frost-covered SUV. 

However, some two weeks later, I received a quick email on my website from the gentleman (I am a writer; most assuredly, I handed him one of my cards to pass along to the women in his party.), in which he thanked me for the recommendation. In the email, he spoke of the parts he found both enlightening and the ones he thought disturbing. Therefore, I thought I might share the piece with you. It is quite short. Let me know what you think. 


Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970) was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. At various points in his life, Russell considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had “never been any of these things, in any profound sense”.  Russell was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic families in the United Kingdom. In the early 20th century, Russell led the British “revolt against idealism. [Russell, Bertrand, The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. (3 vols.) Allen & Unwin: London, 1967-1969.]

[Before you read this, please understand that I spent 40 years as a teacher. I always preferred to challenge my students — to permit them to question what they read and accept or disregard it. I offer you the same challenge.]

“The Unhappy American Way” by Bertrand Russell

It used to be said that English people take their pleasures sadly. No doubt this would still be true if they had any pleasures to take, but the price of alcohol and tobacco in my country has provided sufficient external causes for melancholy. I have sometimes thought that the habit of taking pleasures sadly has crossed the Atlantic, and I have wondered what it is that makes so many English-speaking people somber in their outlook in spite of good health and a good income.

In the course of my travels in America I have been impressed by a kind of fundamental malaise which seems to me extremely common and which poses difficult problems for the social reformer. Most social reformers have held the opinion that, if poverty were abolished and there were no more economic insecurity, the millennium would have arrived. But when I look at the faces of people in opulent cars, whether in your country or in mine, I do not see that look of radiant happiness which the aforesaid social reformers had led me to expect. In nine cases out of ten, I see instead a look of boredom and discontent and an almost frantic longing for something that might tickle the jaded palate.

But it is not only the very rich who suffer in this way. Professional men very frequently feel hopelessly thwarted. There is something that they long to do or some public object that they long to work for. But if they were to indulge their wishes in these respects, they fear that they would lose their livelihood. Their wives are equally unsatisfied, for their neighbor, Mrs So-and-So, has gone ahead more quickly, has a better car, a larger apartment and grander friends.

Life for almost everybody is a long competitive struggle where very few can win the race, and those who do not win are unhappy. On social occasions when it is derigueur to seem cheerful, the necessary demeanor is stimulated by alcohol. But the gaiety does not ring true and anybody who has just one drink too many is apt to lapse into lachrymose melancholy.

One finds this sort of thing only among English-speaking people. A Frenchman while he is abusing the Government is as gay as a lark. So is an Italian while he is telling you how his neighbor has swindled him. Mexicans, when they are not actually starving or actually being murdered, sing and dance and enjoy sunshine and food and drink with a gusto which is very rare north of the Mexican frontier. When Andrew Jackson[2] conquered Pensacola from the Spaniards, his wife looked out of the window and saw the population enjoying itself although it was Sunday. She pointed out the scandal to her husband, who decreed that cheerfulness must cease forthwith. And it did.

When I try to understand what it is that prevents so many Americans from being as happy as one might expect, it seems to me that there are two causes, of which one goes much deeper than the other. The one that goes least deep is the necessity for subservience in some large organization. If you are an energetic man with strong views as to the right way of doing the job with which you are concerned, you find yourself invariably under the orders of some big man at the top who is elderly, weary and cynical. Whenever you have a bright idea, the boss puts a stopper on it. The more energetic you are and the more vision you have, the more you will suffer from the impossibility of doing any of the things that you feel ought to be done. When you go home and moan to your wife, she tells you that you are a silly fellow and that if you became the proper sort of yesman your income would soon be doubled. If you try divorce and remarriage it is very unlikely that there will be any change in this respect. And so you are condemned to gastric ulcers and premature old age.

It was not always so. When Dr. Johnson[3] compiled his dictionary, he compiled it as he thought fit. When he felt like saying that oats is food for men in Scotland and horses in England, he said so. When he defined a fishing-rod as a stick with a fish at one end and a fool at the other, there was nobody to point out to him that a remark of this sort would damage the sale of his great work among fishermen. But if, in the present day, you are (let us say) a contributor to an encyclopedia, there is an editorial policy which is solemn, wise and prudent, which allows no room for jokes, no place for personal preferences and no tolerance for idiosyncrasies. Everything has to be flattened out except where the prejudices of the editor are concerned. To these you must conform, however little you may share them. And so you have to be content with dollars instead of creative satisfaction. And the dollars, alas, leave you sad.

This brings me to the major cause of unhappiness, which is that most people in America act not on impulse but on some principle, and that principles upon which people act are usually based upon a false psychology and a false ethic. There is a general theory as to what makes for happiness and this theory is false. Life is concerned as a competitive struggle in which felicity consists in getting ahead of your neighbor. The joys which are not competitive are forgotten.

Now, I will not for a moment deny that getting ahead of your neighbor is delightful, but it is not the only delight of which human beings are capable. There are innumerable things which are not competitive. It is possible to enjoy food and drink without having to reflect that you have a better cook and a better wine merchant than your former friends whom you are learning to cold shoulder. It is possible to be fond of your wife and your children without reflecting how much better she dresses than Mrs. So-and-So and how much better they are at athletics than the children of that old stick-in-the-mud Mr. Such-and-Such. There are those who can enjoy music without thinking how cultured the other ladies in their women’s club will be thinking them. There are even people who can enjoy a fine day in spite of the fact that the sun shines on everybody. All these simple pleasures are destroyed as soon as competitiveness gets the upper hand.

But it is not only competitiveness that is the trouble. I could imagine a person who has turned against competitiveness and can only enjoy after conscious rejection of the competitive element. Such a person, seeing the sunshine in the morning, says to himself, “Yes, I may enjoy this and indeed I must, for it is a joy open to all.” And however bored he may become with the sunshine he goes on persuading himself that he is enjoying it because he thinks he ought to.

“But,” you will say, “are you maintaining that our actions ought not to be governed by moral principles? Are you suggesting that every whim and every impulse should be given free rein? Do you consider that if So-and-So’s nose annoys you by being too long, that gives you a right to tweak it?” “Sir,” you will continue with indignation,” “your doctrine is one which would uproot all the sources of morality and loosen all the bonds which hold society together. Only self-restraint, self-repression, iron self-control make it possible to endure the abominable beings among whom we have to live. No, sir! Better misery and gastric ulcers than such chaos as your doctrine would produce!”

I will admit at once that there is force in this objection. I have seen many noses that I should have liked to tweak, but never once have I yielded to the impulse. But this, like everything else, is a matter of degree. If you always yield to impulse, you are mad. If you never yield to impulse, you gradually dry up and very likely become mad to boot. In a life which is to be healthy and happy, impulse, though not allowed to run riot, must have sufficient scope to remain alive and to preserve that variety and diversity of interest which is natural to a human being. A life lived on a principle, no matter what, is too narrowly determined, too systematic and uniform, to be happy. However much you care about success, you should have times when you are merely enjoying life without a thought of subsequent gain. However proud you may be, as president of a women’s club, of your impeccable culture, you should not be ashamed of reading a lowbrow book if you want to. A life which is all principle is a life on rails. The rails may help toward rapid locomotion, but preclude the joy of wandering. Man spent some million years wandering before he invented rails, and his happiness still demands some reminiscence of the earlier ages of freedom. 


Posted in American History, political stance, real life tales, research, writing | Tagged , , , | 15 Comments

Annulments, Divorces, Criminal Conversation: Debunking Historical Myths for Writers


Crim. Con. Actions and Trials and Other Proceedings Relating ... www.lawbookexchange. com

Crim. Con. Actions and Trials and Other Proceedings Relating …

First, permit me to say that in the Regency period, divorces were few. They were expensive. The Church of England opposed divorce as vehemently as did the Roman Catholic church. The Church of England only permitted a “legal separation,” which was termed a “divorce,” a fact that blows the mind of the modern reader. To claim a divorce (the right to marry another), the man first had to seek the “legal separation” on the ground of adultery on the part of his wife. He also had to sue the wife’s lover for “criminal conversation” (alienation of affection) in a different court. The “lover” would be found guilty of “illegal intercourse,” and the court would award the husband damages. The next step would be to petition Parliament to end his marriage. Testimony would be taken regarding the circumstances. This testimony would be published in the newspapers, which meant a quiet end to a marriage was not possible. At length, the bill/petition would be agreed upon, and the couple were free to marry others. 

CRIMINAL CONVERSATION -- [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.] | Books & Manuscripts Auction | Books & Manuscripts, printed books | Christie's www.christies.com CRIMINAL CONVERSATION -- [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.]

CRIMINAL CONVERSATION — [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.] | Books & Manuscripts Auction | Books & Manuscripts, printed books | Christie’s
CRIMINAL CONVERSATION — [Trials for Adultery: or, the History of Divorces. London: S. Bladon, 1780.]

Less than a handful of women earned successful divorces during the period. Those who achieved a divorce did so my claiming the husband committed adultery with the wife’s sister. In Scotland, however, both husbands and wives could sue for a divorce. Two conditions existed for such a divorce: The couple had to reside in Scotland for a minimum of six weeks, and the adultery had to be committed in Scotland proper. Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey (Lord Paget) originally married Lady Caroline Elizabeth Villiers (by whom he fathered 8 children), but in 1809, he eloped to Scotland with Lady Charlotte Cadogan Wellesley, the wife of Lord Henry Wellesley. Paget’s wife divorced him in late 1810. Afterwards, he married Lady Charlotte, with whom he sired 10 children. (See my post on Scandalous Marriage)

Generally annulments were hard to obtain, and, more than likely, involved either the court system or the House of Lords, if one was a peer. The exception would be a void marriage. For example, a minor who married by special license without the guardian’s permission or a marriage through an elopement to Scotland that was not consummated would not require an annulment, but rather be declared “void.” Even so, the courts could potentially become involved, especially if one required “legal proof” of the marriage’s end. [I used a variation of this situation in freeing Lydia Bennet from Mr. Wickham in my Pride and Prejudice vagary, A Dance with Mr. Darcy.]

marriage.jpg sharonlathanauthor.com


A common plot in Regency based novels is a temporary marriage between the hero and heroine, with the assumption of an annulment based on non-consummation of the marriage after six months to a year. The issue is that not consummating the marriage was not grounds for an annulment in this historical period. Consummation could strengthen a claim of marriage in Scotland and could throw doubt in a claim of being forced into marriage, but non consummation was not grounds to annul a marriage. The church always assumed that the couple would get around to it sooner or later if able. 

Now impotence and real frigidity were grounds, as was a physical incapacity due to some deformity of the parts, for an annulment. An impenetrable hymen was also grounds though that could be fixed by a surgeon. However, few men would submit to such an examination, one designed to prove they could not consummate the marriage. If a person were insane at the time of the marriage that could earn the spouse an annulment. Also, an annulment would be granted if there was proof of a living spouse or proof of a blood relationship to the spouse (father, mother, or sibling of the spouse) or a marriage connection such as was addressed in my post on voidable marriages (in laws, etc.) Collins Hemingway in “Brotherly Love,” tells us, “Therefore, the marriage of Jane’s brother Charles to Harriet Palmer after the death of his first wife was “voidable” because Harriet was Fanny’s sister. As explained in Martha Bailey’s article in The Marriage Law of Jane Austen’s World (Persuasions, Winter 2015), this sisterhood created a prohibition by ‘affinity’ (marriage) as strong as one by blood. The logic was: Because Fanny and Harriet were related by blood, and because husband and wife became one flesh upon consummation, then Charles would also be related to Harriet by blood. This thinking applied equally for a woman who married the brother of her dead husband.

“‘Voidable’ in Charles’ case did not necessarily mean ‘voided.’ Someone—most likely a relative seeking to grab an inheritance—would have to sue to have the marriage voided and any children declared illegitimate. Charles never had enough money for anyone to bother trying to disinherit his four children by Harriet.”

Also, in the Regency period an annulment based on fraud was customarily found in the question of parental permission.

Number One London. Join us as we explore Regency, Georgian and ... onelondonone.blogspot. com ~ Fleet Prison Marriages

Number One London. Join us as we explore Regency, Georgian and …
com ~ Fleet Prison Marriages

Permit me to stray a bit from the Regency period, but to address “annulment” and “fraud” across the board. “The history of the law involving annulments based on fraud is instructive. Even going quite far back in…history, annulment laws… have generally included “fraud” as one of the available grounds. But not every proven case of deception results in a decree of annulment. Courts have often refused to nullify marriages for fraud if the innocent party was willfully blind to the truth or too easily fooled by statements made during courtship.

“Courts also require that the fraud induce the marriage: The duped spouse had to show that he or she genuinely relied on the misrepresentation in deciding to go through with the marriage. An appellate court in Missouri denied an annulment in Blair v. Blair in 2004, even though the wife fraudulently misrepresented to her husband, before he agreed to marry her, that he was the father of her child. The court concluded that he had other reasons for marrying her and thus did not rely on the misrepresentation in making his decision.

“Even when a solid case of fraud is proven, courts might decide that it is outweighed by countervailing factors. A long marriage is harder to annul than a short one; a consummated marriage is harder to annul than an unconsummated one; and a marriage that has produced children was harder to annul than one with an empty nest.

“Perhaps the most important limitation built in to the traditional approach to fraud-based annulments is the requirement that the misrepresentation relate to an essential aspect of marriage. Courts did not, for the most part, apply traditional contract principles when defining fraud in the marriage context. (Those principles would allow rescission of a contract for fraud that is material — i.e., an intentional misstatement but for which the defrauded party would have refused to enter into the agreement.) But “fraud” in the annulment context was generally construed more strictly, to include only those misrepresentations that went to the heart of marriage – and not just the particular marriage in question, but any marriage.” (FindLawLying about circumstances was not fraud.  

Annulments were not granted simply for someone claiming he/she was forced into the marriage. At first force was considered only as more than a reasonable man could withstand. Over the period of time the laws acknowledged that women were weaker and less force was necessary. The court did not take into consideration such things as a threats. There was no “shotgun weddings.” Being drunk at the wedding was not a reason for an annulment, as long as one knew one what one was doing.

bannsInsanity, an accepted reason for an annulment, had to be present previous to the wedding. Simplemindedness came under that category as well.  The age at which a person could consent to a marriage was 12, but there were instances of children married at 7. However, when the girl reached age 12 she could get out of it. The boy do the same at age 14. Marriages could be annulled if the spouse was a previous in law or if one was impotent. Invalid marriages were those by minors by license without proper permission or was bigamous. Also not conducted  in proper form.

“Examples in which annulments were granted by the Anglican Church included being under age, having committed fraud, using force, and lunacy.” (Nyanglish) Even so, the fraud, force, or lunacy had to have occurred during the wedding ceremony (or before, if it pertained to the permission granted to a minor), not after the couple were lawfully wed.  Even wealthy peers were stuck with a spouse if problems arose after the ceremony. For example, both the 11th Duke of Norfolk and the 4th Earl of Sandwich were stuck in  unfortunate marriages when their wives went insane. In the Duke of Norfolk’s case, his wife was locked up before giving him an heir, so that the dukedom eventually passed to his cousin.

English law did not require consummation. Scottish law used it as proof in clandestine marriages, but only if the other forms were not followed. The Consistory court of the Church of England handled annulments. This was located in London. The Courts within Doctors Commons were very much associated in the public mind with the making and unmaking of marriage from the 17th Centuries.

Gradually, the London Consistory Court assumed a virtual monopoly in matrimonial suits and became the most important matrimonial court for the whole of the country. It became the court of first instance for most matrimonial cases  http://www.origins.net/help/aboutbo-churchcourts.aspx

Most people who had void marriage but who appeared as married for sometime or who had a public wedding went through the court system to have the marriage declared officially void.

From a basic litigant perspective, it probably does not matter if the petitioner is a peer or not, but one had to possess money to complete the process. It was expensive. It required an investigation, Canon lawyers, etc. Annulments did not come cheap if the cases were complicated.

What of marriage at sea? As of 1894, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Captains of British ships DID NOT have the right to marry people at sea. People have always been able to marry at sea on an English ship if an Anglican clergyman was aboard. After civil marriages and certificates were introduced, one of the officers of the ship, who might be a captain, could be appointed a marriage officer with the authority to conduct a civil marriage ceremony. Passengers and crew on the high seas in a ship under another flag could marry according to the rules of that country’s flag.

Nor could a marriage be annulled after one of the pair passed. [This was the variation I mentioned above as part of the plot for A Dance with Mr. Darcy.] The only grounds for annulment or declaring a marriage void, even after a person has died, is when the marriage was never valid in the first place. This  usually comes up after the death of the man when heirs presumptive want to declare the supposed son illegitimate and unable to inherit. If the ground on which they  planned to claim an annulment was valid, they were not ever legally married.

Posted in Act of Parliament, American History, British history, Great Britain, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Jane Austen and the Casualties of War, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

Jane Austen had two brothers who served in the navy, Frank and Charles, and two who served in the militia, Edward and Henry. Father George Austen and brother James, as clergymen, were discouraged from bearing arms but recruited soldiers and militiamen from the local population.

It was the women in Jane’s close orbit, however, who suffered most directly from the horrors of war itself.

Jane’s sister, Cassandra, lost her fiancé, Tom Fowle, who went on a military expedition to the West Indies as the chaplain of his cousin’s ship. There, Tom died of yellow fever–as did half of all the British serving there. The cousin later said that, if he had known Tom was engaged, he would not have taken him. Tom’s generous £1,000 financial legacy to Cassandra, yielding about £50 annually, proved providential when the family income plummeted after the elder Mr. Austen died.


Fanny Austen, Jane’s niece, would have been a young teenager when she wrote in her diary about the death in a naval battle of George Bridges, her uncle on the other side of the family.

The other woman suffering a casualty from the war was Elizabeth, the wife of Jane’s wealthy brother Edward. In August 1807, Edward and Elizabeth learned that Elizabeth’s youngest brother, George, had been wounded in naval action, taken prisoner and brought ashore, and died.

The only surviving reference to the death of “poor Uncle George” comes on August 27, 1807, in the diary of Fanny Austen, Edward and Elizabeth’s oldest child and Jane Austen’s favorite niece. The death of the twenty-three-year-old lieutenant was confirmed about a week later.

Only nine years older than Fanny, George likely was more of a brother to Fanny and Edward’s other eldest children than an uncle. Though he came from the wealthy Bridges family, George had no wealth of his own. He lacked the inheritance of the oldest son or the clerical calling of the other three surviving sons. Like the two youngest Austen males, he sought to make a career of the Royal Navy. In fact, being five years younger than Charles, he might well have been emulating their careers. Both families came and went at Edward’s Godmersham estate; it’s likely that young George might have met at least Frank, who honeymooned there in 1806 while Charles spent 1805-1811 on duty in North America.

Jane’s reaction is unknown—the year 1807 is nearly blank insofar as her letters go. But the equivalence of the two situations—two women whose favorite young brother faced the fury of battle—must have struck Jane deeply.

Still more shocking, George was mortally wounded on Frank’s old ship, the Canopus (above, by headline), which he had captained to victory at San Domingo the previous year. The Austens lacked the connections to be given command of the newest ships, and Frank had complained about how slow and clumsy the old vessel was. Jane must have shuddered to realize that Frank himself had walked the same quarterdeck—it could have easily been his blood spilled on the oaken planks as George’s.

mr wickham 1.jpgThe war with France ran most of Austen’s adult life, and she wove elements of it into her works. The bad-boy militia is an important subplot in “Pride and Prejudice”; the courage and open-heartedness of young naval officer William Price provides a counterpoint to the several dubious male characters in “Mansfield Park”; and the return of the conquering navy is the heart of “Persuasion.”

In addition to serving as a meaningful backdrop in these Jane Austen novels, the war also comes up subtly elsewhere as a plot device or character marker. In “Emma,” Jane Fairfax needs to be an orphan, so her father has been killed in action. In “Sense and Sensibility,” Colonel Brandon’s earlier service in India illustrates his sturdy character and reliability, while in “Northanger Abbey” Frederick Tilney’s captaincy in the dragoons serves as a flag for his hell-bent-for-leather recklessness.

Nowhere, however, does the war itself truly come to the forefront or serve as a major part of the storyline. Even in the most military book, “Persuasion,” the theme is not the horrors of war but the contrast after the war between self-made naval heroes entering society and the lazy, self-indulgent gentry who will be displaced by them.

Austen kept the war at a distance in her novels, but not because she was uninterested or uninformed. Instead, as the losses to Cass and Elizabeth show, its dangers struck far too close to home.

41li51lisgl-_ux250_ Meet Collins Hemingway: Whether his subject is literature, history, or science, Collins Hemingway has a passion for the art of creative investigation. Hemingway’s fiction is shaped by the language of the heart and an abiding regard for courage in the face of adversity.

For him, the most compelling fiction deeply explores the heart and soul of its characters, while also engaging them in the complex and often dangerous world in which they have a stake. He wants to explore all that goes into people’s lives, to creatively investigate everything that makes them what they are as complete but fallible human beings.

His approach is to dive as deeply into a character’s heart and soul as possible, to address the root causes of their behavior rather than to describe superficial attitudes and beliefs. This treatment, he believes, is at the heart of all good fiction, for it provides the only way to draw a complete, complex portrait of a human being that is rewarding to readers.

As a nonfiction book author, Hemingway has investigated topics as diverse as corporate culture and ethics; the Internet and mobile technology; the ins and outs of the retail trade; and the cognitive potential of the brain. Best known for the #1 best-selling book on business and technology, Business @ the Speed of Thought, which he coauthored with Bill Gates, he has earned a reputation for tackling challenging topics with clarity and insight, writing for the nontechnical but intelligent reader. His shorter nonfiction has won awards for topics ranging from general interest to business to computer technology to medicine.




Posted in American History, Austen Authors, book excerpts, book release, British history, Church of England, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, military | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcoming Jennifer Redlarczyk and Her Release of “A Very Merry Mix-up”

Jen red 1smaller.jpg Today I welcome a dear friend of this blog and of Austen Authors. Jennifer Redlarczyk, who is releasing a novelette as a prelude to her first novel, Darcy’s Melody, which will arrive soon.  Austen fans are in for a real treat. 

Greetings, JAFF Lovers! And thank you, Regina, for hosting me here. Since I am a newly published author, I wanted to take this opportunity to tell you a little about myself and what inspired me to write in this genre.

By trade, I am a performer and private music teacher. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved music. While my parents were not formally trained musicians, it was a rare day that you didn’t hear one of them break out in song. As you might suspect I simply had to join in.

Growing up in Janesville, Wisconsin, my love of music followed me everywhere. In addition to voice, I studied violin and piano. When I attended college at Northwestern University, I majored in Vocal Performance. Currently, I live in Crown Point, Indiana, where I still continue to sing and have a delightful studio of young people who study with me.

Darcy & Lizzy old 1.jpg I first discovered Jane Austen when I was but a teenager. My mother was a lover of old movies and introduced me and my sister to the 1940 movie version of Pride and Prejudice staring Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. What could be better than this old black and white film with lively music and lighthearted banter between our beloved characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy?

Little did I know that this old film was just a sneak preview into the world of Jane Austen and the literary works that I would soon come to love and cherish. Following this introduction, I quickly sought out our local used book store to see if I might purchase the original. To my delight, I found a fat anthology containing not only Pride and Prejudice, but six of Jane Austen’s completed novels.

During the summer of 2011 while visiting my local Barnes and Noble Bookstore, I happened to notice a table of Jane Austen Fanfiction books. At the time, I wasn’t big into social media and never realized JAFF existed. Needless to say, I blew my budget and walked out of Barnes with an armload of books. From there I found the JAFF community on Facebook and became a moderator on DarcyandLizzy.com where I am an avid reader and have posted more than twenty short stories and one full-length novel, Darcy’s Melody.

At the time A Very Merry Mix-up was written, the forum had been offering various theme challenges to authors who wished to write short stories or flashes of inspiration. This particular story was written for All Fool’s Day. According to Wikipedia this particular day can be traced back to the days of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales (1392). In preparation for publication of Darcy’s Melody, I decided to publish this novelette in an effort to explore more fully the realm of self-publishing. As a first time author, I was astounded to learn how much work goes into preparing one’s manuscript for publication. Consequentially, I have the greatest appreciation for authors such as Regina Jeffers, who have dedicated themselves to a career of writing and have continued to give us so many wonderful stories.

Jennifer Redlarczyk (Jen Red)

A Very Merry Mix-up small revised  Final.jpg Book Blurb for A Very Merry Mix-up

It all began when Fitzwilliam Darcy and his cousin Colonel Richard Fitzwilliam stopped at the posting station in Bromley on their way to Rosings Park for their annual visit. Looking for some diversion, the good colonel happened upon a local Romani woman who was selling her people’s treasured Moon Wine. Find out what happens to some of our favourite Jane Austen characters when her advice is ignored in A Very Merry Mix-up.

moonflower small



1 April 1811, All Fool’s Day

Quickly rising, Darcy felt a little unsteady and found it necessary to hold on to the bed post while searching for his robe. Catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he staggered closer to the glass and groaned in disbelief. Slowly rubbing his stubby fingers across his ruddy cheeks and through his oily hair, he wondered if he had indeed gone mad. Wiping those same fingers on the front of his nightshirt, he could not help but feel his flabby chest and the protrusion of his round stomach through the cloth. Grasping the reality of his predicament, Darcy stared at himself with revulsion.

“Merciful Heaven!” he thundered, turning back to the woman. “It is me, Fitzwilliam Darcy, in the body of that idiot rector! If you are Miss Elizabeth Bennet, as you claim, I fear we have both become the victims of some cruel joke. Will you not come and look for yourself?”

Picking up Charlotte’s dressing gown and quickly wrapping it around herself, Elizabeth guardedly went to the mirror as he requested. “Mr. Darcy?” She paled, realizing what he said was true.

Want to read a Longer Excerpt? Check out the one on Amazon at this LINK. 

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, excerpt, film adaptations, Georgian England, Guest Post, historical fiction, Jane Austen, legends and myths, Living in the Regency, music, Pride and Prejudice, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 58 Comments

The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball and Waterloo, a Guest Post from Jann Rowland

On June 15, 1815, perhaps the most famous (or infamous) ball in history was held. The Duchess of Richmond’s ball is generally regarded as the event in which Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was informed of the advance of French forces into the kingdom of the Netherlands. This is somewhat accurate.

In March of 1815, Napoleon Bonaparte escaped Elba and landed in France, quickly assuming control of the Empire of France from Louis XVIII, setting off the Hundred Days campaign. The nations of Europe, quickly mobilized against him, with the British and the Prussians fielding armies in the Netherlands, while the Russians, Austrians, and several Germanic Princedoms marched to support them. Thus, outnumbered and facing enemies on potentially three sides, Napoleon knew his only chance was to defeat the coalition armies separately before they could assemble against him.

The allies had set the date of their invasion of France for July 1, but it was considered possible (perhaps even likely, given the reputation of the French Emperor) the French would attack first. The Duchess of Richmond, whose husband was the commander of British forces defending Brussels, had planned some weeks earlier to host a ball. When rumors of French advances began to run through the city, she asked Wellington if the ball should be canceled his response was: “Duchess, you may give your ball with the greatest safety, without fear of interruption.” Thus, the ball was held as scheduled, the most likely location being a coach house attached to the house the Lennox family was leasing in Brussels.

When the first circles of Brussels society gathered that night, the main topic of discussion was, of course, the rumored impending invasion. Even with so desperate a subject on the tongues of those who attended, however, by all accounts the ball proceeded smoothly. Wellington and his commanders arrived at about 11 PM that evening, and it was said that “with the exception of three generals, every officer high in [Wellington’s] army was there to be seen.”


fineartamerica.com Before Waterloo Painting by Henry Nelson O’Neil

But Wellington had allowed the ball to go on that evening in an attempt to confirm that all was well and proceeding as planned. In reality, he had received word earlier that day that the French army had crossed the Belgian frontier and was engaging the British allies, the Prussian army, to the east. Wellington put the entire British army on alert. But he was still unaware of the speed of the French advance and the location of the attack and did not order his army to mass just yet.

Just before dinner, a dispatch arrived for William, Prince of Orange, commander of the Dutch-Belgian army. The prince handed Wellington the missive, who put it in his pocket and continued on as if nothing had happened. When he read the note twenty minutes later, he ordered William back to his command post and went into supper. To his surprise, William returned only a short time later with word that the French had pushed much further than expected.

By now rumors were flying through the ballroom. Wellington orders both William and the Duke or Brunswick back to their command posts, though he, himself stayed for another twenty minutes. Then he announced his intention to retire. Before he left the room, however, he whispered in Duke of Richmond’s ear, asking if he had a good map. The two men left the room, going to Richmond’s study, where Wellington surveyed the potential battlefields. The French had pushed far enough into the Belgian countryside that they now threatened Quatre Bras, and Wellington, knowing he would not be able to mobilize his army in time to stop them there, exclaimed: “Napoleon has humbugged me, by God; he has gained twenty-four hours’ march on me.” As he surveyed the map, he fixed his gaze on Waterloo and allowed his finger to fall in the name as the place where the British would stop the French.

By now the ball was all but over. Officers were pulled from the ballroom and given orders to return to their units, and many did so without even changing back into their uniforms, fighting in their suits and dancing shoes. Those who bade them farewell weeping with fear for those who were going into danger, knowing not all of them would return. The city soon became a bustle of movement as the regiments departed for the front and the battle against the invading French.

The next day, both the Battle of Quatre Bras and the Battle of Liege were fought. Quatre Bras was a victory for the British as they denied Napoleon the crossroads and his strategic objective of driving a wedge between the two allied armies. Liege was a victory for Napoleon, but he was not able to destroy the Prussians. The British, by Wellington’s design, fell back to Waterloo and linked up with the Prussian army. Two days later, the final battle of the Napoleonic wars was fought at Waterloo, and the French were defeated, ending Napoleon’s power forever.

Posted in British history, Georgian England, Great Britain, Guest Post, Ireland, Living in the Regency, Napoleonic Wars, Regency era, research, war | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Admiral Croft’s Gout in Austen’s “Persuasion” and How to Cure It…

pbbIn Chapter 18 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Mary Musgrove writes to her sister Anne Elliot of their father’s tenants, the Crofts. “I have this moment heard that the Crofts are going to Bath almost immediately: they think the Admiral gouty.”

So exactly what is gout? How does one contract gout? What are the treatments for gout, especially as they would have address in Jane Austen’s England?

From the Arthritis Foundation, we learn, ” Gout is a form of inflammatory arthritis that develops in some people who have high levels of uric acid in the blood. It occurs in about 4 percent of American adults, but is more likely to affect men than women. Acute gout, or a gout attack, happens when something (such as a night of drinking) causes uric acid levels to spike or jostles the crystals that have formed in a joint, triggering the attack. The resulting inflammation and pain usually strike at night and intensify over the next eight to 12 hours. The symptoms ease after a few days and likely go away in a week to 10 days. Some people never experience a second attack, but an estimated 60% of people who have a gout attack will have a second one within a year. Overall, 84% may have another attack within three years. For many people, the first symptom of gout is excruciating pain and swelling in the big toe. Gout may also appear in the ankle or knee. Uric acid can form needle-like crystals in a joint and cause sudden, severe episodes of pain, tenderness, redness, warmth and swelling.”

NCO190158During the Georgian period, gout was attributed to luxurious living. From History Today, we find,  “As the physician William Heberden commented: ‘This seems to be the favourite disease of the present age in England, wished for by those who have it not, and boasted of by those who fancy they have it.’ In contrast, today’s manifestation of the disease is associated with the nutritional effects of poverty rather than affluence. Nevertheless, on some occasions gout was actively desired, as the belief was that it was incompatible with and would therefore drive out other illnesses. Horace Walpole called it ‘a remedy and not a disease’. Betsy Sheridan, sister of the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, wrote to her sister Alicia LeFanu: ‘My Father is at last thank God fairly in the Gout – And has received the congratulations of Dr Millman on the occasion. The fact is that all his Phisicians have wish’d for this event but seem’d fearfull that he had not strength enough to throw off his disorders in that way.’

“Gout had many disguises. Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau identified over 60 different types in one 18th-century treatise, including ‘galloping gouts’ and ‘flying gouts’. Other conditions were falsely labelled gout, including headaches and stomach complaints; the belief was that it came about as the result of an excess of one of the four humours flowing (or ‘dropping’, since the name is derived from the Latin gutta, a drop) to a weakened area of the body. Consequently gout was considered to be caused by ‘a sedentary life, drinking too freely of tartarous wines; irregular living, excess in venery; and obstructed perspiration and a supression of the natural evacuations’. Now we know that gout results from too much uric acid in the blood, either because an excess is produced or the kidneys are not filtering it efficiently. It can be worsened by the consumption of foods rich in purines, including anchovies, venison and goose – all of which featured strongly in the 18th-century diet of the better off. Then, as now, obesity and a high alcohol intake are contributory factors.”

In my series on the signers of the Declaration of Independence, several of the signers are listed of dying of gout. But can gout kill a person? In truth, gout can contribute to unhealthy cholesterol and lipid levels and although they are essential for the normal functioning of cells, when certain amount of lipids are enlarged or deposited in blood vessel walls and this clogging leads to a heart attack or stroke.

Nicholas Culpepper’s Complete Herbal, Consisting of A Comprehensive Description of Nearly All Herbs with Their Medicinal Properties and Directions for Compounding the Medicines Extracted from Them lists the following herbs for the treatment of gout: alehoof, angelica, archangel, barley, betony (wood), brank ursine, cabbages, cuckoo pint, goutwort, hellebore (black), kidney-wort, lily of the valley, mustard (black), nettle (common) pellitory of the wall, pennyroyal, poppy (wild) and rhubarb (monk’s). Let us have a look at several of these that were suggested by Culpepper and what he wrote of them. 

Alehoof (or Ground Ivy) is commonly found under hedges and on the side of ditches, under houses, or in shadowed lanes and other waste lands. They flower somewhat early. It is bitter in taste. Alehoof is used for inward wounds, exulcerated lungs, etc. Boiling alone or with other herbs, it was said to ease griping pains, windy and choleric humours in the stomach, spleen or belly. It was said to help with yellow jaundice and for expelling venom or poison, as well as the plague. It was used to provoke urine and women’s courses. (page 21-22)


anentangledbank.wordpress.com Basics of botany: Acanthus mollis – Brank-ursine

Brank Ursine is also called bear’s breech. It is of the thistle family. The roots are many, great, and thick, blackish without and whitish within, full of a clammy sap. They boiled leaves are used to mollify the belly by “making the passage slippery. The decoction drunk inwardly is excellent and good fro the bloody flux: the leaves bruised, or rather boiled, and applied like a poultice, are very good to unite broken bones, and strengthen joints that have been put out.” (page 59) 

KidneyWort is also called Wall Pennyroyal or Penny-wort. It grows plentifully on stone walls, rocks, etc. The seed ripens in mid to late May. “The juice or distilled water if drunk is good to cool inflammations and unnatural heats, a hot stomach, a hot liver, or the bowels; the herb, juice, or distilled water applied outwardly, heals pimples, St. Anthony’s fire, and other outward heats. It also helps some sore kidneys, torn by the stone, or exulcerated within: it provokes urine, is available for dropsy, and helps to break the stone. Being used in a bath, or made into ointment, it cools the painful piles or hemorrhoidal veins. It gives ease to hot gout, the sciatica, and the inflammation and swellings in the testicles; it helps the kernels or knots in the throat, called the king’s evil’ the juice heals kibes and chilblains, if bathed with it, or anointed with ointment made from it, and some of the skin of the leaf upon them; it is also used in green wounds to stay the blood, and to heal them quickly.” (page 206)


Posted in Austen actors, food and drink, Georgian England, herbs, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, medicine, Persuasion | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Falling into Easy Writing Traps: Do You Know These Rules?

7178225_fd10bbb6b2_o.jpg.736x0_q85 (image via 4 Common Academic Writing Mistakes and How to Fix Them from http://www.noodle.com)

Falling Into Easy Writing Traps…

1.  The word “hold” is confusing to some. Essentially a person can hold a baby, a spoon, a smart phone, etc., but how does one “hold” a meeting, a party, or a conversation?

Example: The committee held its meeting last week. (should be) The committee met last week.

Example: The elected representatives will hold a meeting Monday to vote for officers. (should be) The elected representatives will vote for officers Monday.

2.  The words “feel,” “think,” and “believe” are not interchangeable. “Feel” refers to your sense of touch and to refer to your health. “Think” is to express an opinion. “Believe” refers to a conviction or a principal.

Example: The senator thinks (not “feels”) the new bill will pass.

Example: The preacher believes (not “thinks” or “feels”) in God’s salvation.

Example:  He feels sympathetic for those who grieve for lost loved ones.

Tim Challies, an author, blogger, and book reviewer, tells us, “There is a hierarchy when it comes to the ways we express ourselves and our convictions. There are some things we believe, some things we think, and some things we feel. The terms are hierarchical rather than synonymous and over time we ought to see a progression from feeling to thinking to believing. We should want to elevate more of what we feel into what we think and more of what we think into what we believe. I will grant that there can be fine distinctions here, but there is still value in distinguishing them, at least for our purposes.

“The things I believe are the things for which I have the highest confidence. They are the things I am convinced of, the things I hold to be absolutely true, even though you may disagree. I believe Jesus Christ rose from the dead. I believe democracy is superior to fascism or communism. I believe marriage is meant to be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.

“The things I think are the things for which I have a little bit less confidence. These are the areas in which I am in a process of growth in understanding and conviction. These are the areas in which absolute right or wrong may not be quite as clear. I believe God tells us to assemble with other Christians to worship him each week, and I think it is best to do this on Sunday (especially here in North America).

“The things I feel are the things I am unsure of, the things I am encountering and responding to on an impulsive or emotional level. I feel that it would be a bad idea for the government of Canada to shut down the office of religious freedom. I feel that because I have only the barest knowledge of the office and its functions and I would need to learn more in order to develop thoughts and then beliefs about it. I feel that it would be a good idea for the Blue Jays to offer a contract extension to Jose Bautista, but I have not read or researched enough to have well-formed thoughts.

“In this way I believe, I think, and I feel have different meanings. And I believe (not “I feel”) that these meanings are consistent with how they have typically been used.”

3.  “Bad” is customarily an adjective, while “badly” is an adverb. Because “badly” is an adverb, it describes the manner in which an action is performed. Therefore if you say, “I feel badly about…,” you are saying that your sense of touch does not perform well. “Feel” is not an action verb, and so one is use “bad” to describe the pronouns “we” and “I.”

Example: I feel bad about missing the appointment.

Example: The runner performed badly in the 400 m race. (“Performed” is an action verb. “Badly” tells how the runner performed.

4.  “Everyday” written as a single word is an adjective that indicates days in general, without emphasizing a specific day. “Every day,” written as two words, has a different meaning. “Every” is an adjective describing the noun “day.” [Hint: Substitute the word “each” for “every.”]

Example: Sam’s Hardware has everyday low prices. [You cannot substitute “each” in this sentence and have it make sense. “…has each day low prices.”  Therefore, one word is needed.]

Example: Sam’s Hardware has the lowest prices every day. [ You can substitute “each” in this example. It would sound fine to say “the lowest prices each day.” Therefore, two separate words is required.}

5. Plurals are easy to confuse.

Add “es” to form plurals from words ending in ch, sh, x, s, ss, and zz. [batches, blushes, boxes, buses, addresses, buzzes]

Change the singular “sis” ending to “ses” for the plural. [analysis – analyses]

If “y” is preceded by a vowel, just add an “s.” [alley – alleys, Monday – Mondays]

If Proper Nouns end in “y,” just add an “s.” [Barry – I know two Barrys.]

If “y” is preceded by a consonant, drop the “y” and add “ies.” [apology – apologies]

Most words ending in “o” add an “s” to form the plural. [cellos, pianos, studios zeros]

Some words ending in “o” add “es” to form a plural. [echoes, heroes, mosquitoes, potatoes, tomatoes, vetoes]

Some words have both endings. [cargos/cargoes, placebos/placeboes, lassos/lassoes, mementos/mementoes, tornados/tornadoes]

images16.  Forming the possessive of proper nouns ending in “s.”

Example: [singular possessive … Charles = Charles’ (or) Charles’s; Lucas = Lucas’ (or) Lucas’s; Hayes = Hayes’ (or) Hayes’s]

Example: [plural possessive … Hayes (singular)      Hayeses (plural)    Hayeses’ (plural possessive)

William (singular)     Williamses (plural, more than one William)   the Williamses’ house

7.  “Healthful” refers to something that promotes good health (i.e., food, exercise, etc.). “Healthy” refers to being in good physical and mental health.

Example: He believes that running is healthful (promoting health).

Example: Fruits and vegetables are healthful (not healthy) for you.

Example: After running the 5K race, he is feeling healthy.

8.  There is a multitude of phrases that require editing because they are too wordy.


matinee performance = matinee

joined together = joined

Jewish rabbi = rabbi

made good his/her escape = escaped

on account of = because

off of = off

in the near future = soon


9. Some words are easily confused.

“Blond” is the adjective used for all references. As a noun, “blond” refers to males, while “blonde” refers to females.

“Credibility” means believability, while “credulity” means to be gullible or unsuspecting.

“Each other” is used when two people, places or things are involved. “One another” is used for three or more.

Use “farther” to refer to distance.” Use “further” to refer to degree or extent.

“Brief” is used to refer to time, while “short” is used to distinguish something that is neither long or tall.

“Compared to” is to liken one person, place, or thing to another. Compared to is used for similarities. “Compared with” is to provide a more concrete and factual comparison of similarities and differences.

“Famous” means well known for favorable reasons. “Infamous” and “notorious” means to be well known for unfavorable reasons.

“Burglary” is when the culprit breaks into a building to steal. The victim is not present or is not confronted. “Robbery” is the unlawful use of force or threat of force to take something belonging to another.

10. Of late, I’ve been doing some editing of my own, as well as scoring the manuscripts of others for writing contests. I am a West Virginia Hillbilly by birth, but even so, I am still sensitive to split infinitives. That does not mean I do not use them occasionally; yet, I do attempt to correct them in my work.

What is an infinitive? It is the verb root, written as “to” + “the verb,” as in “to read,” “to call,” and “to love.”

What is a split infinitive? It is a construction consisting of an infinitive with an adverb or other word inserted between “to” and the “verb,” e.g., she seems to really like it. (“to diligently read,” “to consciously call,” and “to devotedly love”).

I recently read a manuscript for a contest where FEW infinitives used in the work were not a split infinitive. Many experts are mixed on the “rule” not to split infinitives; however, I am still of the persuasion to avoid them. (Remember that I spent 40 years teaching English.) In the dialogue of a work of fiction, I can overlook the split construction, for people often use them orally. However, I’d like to see more diligence in eliminating some of the damage found in the narration. 

Posted in books, editing, Industry News/Publishing, language choices, manuscript evaluation, publishing, vocabulary, word choices, word play, writing | 8 Comments