Smugglers in Kent, UK, a Plot Device for “Losing Lizzy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary”

In my latest Austen-inspired story, Losing Lizzy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary, smugglers in Kent were mentioned several times. Yet, what do we know of these smugglers?

Daniel Defoe wrote a poem about smugglers in Deal, Kent, who turned the town into a sea of violence and debauchery. They ran the town for almost fifty years. No one could stop them until the crack down came because the gold from England was going to French smugglers and then straight to Napolean’s coffers. Only then did the Crown really take notice, and Dragoons were often sent to stop them.

“If I had any satire left to write,

Could I with suited spleen indite,

My verse should blast that fatal town,

And drown’d sailors’ widows pull it down;

No footsteps of it should appear,

And ships no more cast anchor there.

The barbarous hated name of Deal shou’d die,

Or be a term of infamy;

And till that’s done, the town will stand

A just reproach to all the land”

A good source on smugglers, in general, and specific to Kent is Smuggling in Kent and Sussex 1700-1840 by Mary Waugh.

Also, here is a website with much information about other aspects of smuggling, though, including some  of the methods of concealment.

It is several pages long.  The last page names some of the ones who opposed the smugglers.

Marked with a long and controversial history, it is likely the act of smuggling dates to the first time duties were imposed in any form on products used by the masses. In England smuggling first became a recognized problem in the 13th century, following the creation of a national customs collection system by Edward I in 1275. [Norman Scott Brien Gras,  The Early English Customs System (OUP, 1918)]. Medieval smuggling tended to focus on the export of highly taxed export goods — notably wool and hides. [N.J. Williams, Contraband Cargoes: Seven Centuries of Smuggling (London, 1959)] Merchants also, however, sometimes smuggled other goods to circumvent prohibitions or embargoes on particular trades. Grain, for instance, was usually prohibited from export, unless prices were low, because of fears that grain exports would raise the price of food in England and thus cause food shortages and/or civil unrest. Following the loss of Gascony to the French in 1453, imports of wine were also sometimes embargoed during wars to try and deprive the French of the revenues that could be earned from their main export. [Smuggling]

Generally, we use court records or the letters of Revenue Officers as the resources for tales of smuggling operations. In England, wool was smuggled to the Continent in the 17th Century due to high excise taxes. In England wool was smuggled to the continent in the 17th century, under the pressure of high excise taxes/ In 1724, Daniel Defoe wrote of Lymington, Hampshire, on the south coast of England

“I do not find they have any foreign commerce, except it be what we call smuggling and roguing; which I may say, is the reigning commerce of all this part of the English coast, from the mouth of the Thames to the Land’s End in Cornwall.” [Defoe, Daniel (1724). A Tour Thro’ the Whole Island of Great Britain: Letter III. London.]

Smuggling gangs formed to avoid the high rates of duty levied on tea, wine, spirits, and other goods coming into England from Europe. The high duties were required by the government to finance a number of extremely expensive wars with France the United States. Smuggling became a profitable venture for impoverished fishermen and seafarers. In many smaller villages peppering the southern shires, especially, smuggling was what kept the villages viable. 

Public Domain ~ A book with a concealed space for hiding cigarettes.

Revenue agents, the military, constables, the JP’s , the navy, and custom agents all had a part to” play in combating smuggling. Members of all of the groups  were suborned over to the side of the smugglers at one time or another. However, what might have been possible in 1780 was less likely to be possible in 1818. Smugglers rarely used regular harbors or  had anything to do with harbor masters, The Preventative men—the Riding officers were revenue men . The local JP was often in cahoots with the smugglers, and it  was difficult to gather a jury to convict or even to bind men over. There were also Smuggling Wars. They were “WARS,” despite our tendency to romanticize the men.

Other Sources on Smuggling: 

BBC – Nature of Crimes

Foxford History

Historic UK

U. S. History

Losing Lizzy: A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

She thought him dead. Now only he can save their daughter.

When Lady Catherine de Bourgh told Elizabeth Bennet: “And this is your real opinion! This is your final resolve! Very well. I shall now know how to act. Do not imagine, Miss Bennet, that your ambition will ever be gratified. I came to try you. I hoped to find you reasonable; but, depend upon it, I will carry my point,” no one knew how vindictive and manipulative her ladyship might prove, but Darcy and Elizabeth were about to discover the bitter truth for themselves.

This is a story of true love conquering even the most dire circumstances. Come along with our dear couple as they set a path not only to thwart those who stand between them and happiness, but to forge a family, one not designed by society’s strict precepts, but rather one full of hope, honor, loyalty and love.





Posted in book release, British history, British Navy, Georgian England, Georgian Era, historical fiction, history, Jane Austen, Living in the UK, Pride and Prejudice, publishing, real life tales, Regency era, research, Vagary, writing | Tagged , , , , , , ,

June 20 ~ West Virginia Day ~ “Country Roads Take Me Home…”

West Virginia Day – June 20

June 20 celebrates the birth of my home state. West Virginia was founded in 1863. I just returned from WV on Sunday. I love driving the mountain roads, but I’m sure many others do not. They are intimidated by the curves. When I come out of the tunnel at Bluefield, the one which separates West Virginia from Virginia, my heart always says “home.”

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state in the Union. The land that formed the new state formerly constituted part of Virginia. The two areas had diverged culturally from their first years of European settlement, as small farmers generally settled the western portion of the state, including the counties that later formed West Virginia, while the eastern portion was dominated by a powerful minority class of wealthy slaveholders. There were proposals for the trans-Allegheny west to separate from Virginia as early as 1769. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the residents of a number of contiguous western counties, where there were few slaves, decided to remain in the Union. Congress accepted these counties as the state of West Virginia on condition that its slaves be freed. “Montani semper liberi,” “mountaineers always freemen,” became the new state’s motto.

Personally, I love driving the mountain roads, but I’m certain many others do not. Many are intimidated by the sharp curves. When I exit the tunnel at Bluefield on Interstate 77, the one which separates West Virginia from Virginia, my heart always says “home.”


Babcock State Park, Glade Creek Grist Mill



The beauty of a WV highway

On June 20, 1863, West Virginia became the thirty-fifth state in the Union. The land that formed the new state formerly constituted part of Virginia. The two areas had diverged culturally from their first years of European settlement, as small farmers generally settled the western portion of the state, including the counties that later formed West Virginia, while the eastern portion was dominated by a powerful minority class of wealthy slaveholders. There were proposals for the trans-Allegheny west to separate from Virginia as early as 1769. When Virginia seceded from the Union in 1861, the residents of a number of contiguous western counties, where there were few slaves, decided to remain in the Union. Congress accepted these counties as the state of West Virginia on condition that its slaves be freed. “Montani semper liberi,” “mountaineers always freemen,” became the new state’s motto.

“In 1963, West Virginia Day was the highpoint of a year-long celebration of the state centennial, with President John F. Kennedy speaking from the steps of the state capitol. The state enjoyed its grandest birthday party that day, beginning with a breakfast restricted to people born on June 20 and culminating with evening fireworks. A 35-layer cake was served at noon, and Kennedy’s speech was followed by a 35-gun salute.

“In addition to official observances, West Virginians celebrate their state’s birthday with a variety of tavern toasts, family cookouts, and other unofficial acknowledgments. Long-standing customs include the creation of a special glass-work by Blenko Glass of Cabell County. Issued in a number equal to the state’s age, the limited-edition piece is sold in Charleston to first-comers on the morning of West Virginia Day.” [e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia “West Virginia Day.” e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 June 2014. Web. 22 May 2018.]


my hometown


fine shops found in the Arcade in downtown Huntington


busy downtown streets in Huntington

Posted in Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Finding Sheet Music During the Regency Era

Although quite expensive, sheet music was readily available during the Regency era. Many a person subscribed to services offered by music publishers, among the Schirmer, the most well known of the time. Sheet music was produced for subscribers in bound volumes. This volumes would contain a selection of songs, including popular ones of the times, excerpts from opera, pieces designed specifically for the pianoforte, and, upon occasion, transcriptions of instrumental string music for playing upon the pianoforte. The bound volumes were customarily produced quarterly. 

In addition, one could find sheet music at print book shops. Some book shops offered sheet music in their lending libraries. Not that I condone the practice, but I do consider it innovative: Ladies would take the sheet music out on a loan, carry it home, and copy it into their own music copy books. Copyrights, as we know them, did not exist. Most aristocratic homes had extensive sheet music libraries. Sometimes, those ladies not of the house, but somehow connected to the family, would be given permission to copy selections from the home library into her music book. Jane Austen was known to have done so on more than one occasion. 

Although music shops did exist, they were few in number, and they certainly did not resemble anything close to what we might envision today. Music shops essentially produced fine instruments. They specialized in particular instruments: pianoforte (Broadwood); harps, violins, etc. They rarely kept sheet music within the shop because they did not have the space needed for this.  Sheet music was seen more as a product of the publishing industry rather than as a product of the music industry.

Naturally, the Napoleonic War affected the availability of music from the Continent. Popularity made some items available more quickly than others, but those in England were often behind the times regarding a new piece or even a new composer. 

Sheet music of individual songs was often published in La Belle Assemblee, as well. I saw one recently from an 1811 issue titled “French Cruelty and British Generosity.” It had several verses.

A word of interesting note: A number of Beethoven’s compositions were seen as too emotionally erotic for young ladies to play. This was not a universal feeling, but many ton ladies, especially those of the dowager and patroness age, would look askance at a young lady playing Beethoven’s more invigorating works.

Special thanks to Louisa Cornell for information for this piece. I do not recall when I wrote down my notes on “music,” (I keep a large file of information as I encounter it) but I did list her name in the margin for me to remember who my source was. 

Posted in ballads, British history, customs and tradiitons, Georgian England, Georgian Era, history, Jane Austen, music, Napoleonic Wars | Tagged , , , , ,

Frances Burney, Writer of Her Times, a Guest Post from Collins Hemingway

Fanny Burney was the female writer before and during Jane Austen’s life. Both in popularity and literary regard, she stood astride the Regency era as the Colossus stood astride the harbor of Rhodes. She published her first novel, Evelina, when Jane Austen was three years old, hit her publishing peak as Jane was beginning her serious writing, and continued to live and work for another two decades after Austen’s death.

To ensure the proper level of respect, some editors insist that we call her “Frances” rather than “Fanny,” the name she used all her life. Evidently, no one will take her seriously as Fanny but Frances will garner immediate intellectual respect. You’d think her complex writing style, modeled on Dr. Johnson, would be enough for anyone to take Burney seriously. But we digress. …

Austen called Burney, who married a French officer to become Madame D’Arblay, “the very best of the English novelists.” In tracking Jane’s surviving correspondence, we can see her tracking Burney’s career. At the age of twenty, Jane subscribed to the purchase of Burney’s third novel, Camilla.

Two months after its publication in July 1796, Austen references Camilla in three successive letters, including the comment that an acquaintance named Miss Fletcher had two positive traits, “she likes Camilla & drinks no cream in her Tea.” Camilla is mentioned in the discussion of novels in Northanger Abbey. Jane’s annotated copy of Camilla is now in the Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

More interesting is a possible indirect but personal connection between the Austens and the D’Arblays. A relative, who likely encouraged the Austens to subscribe to Burney’s novel, was Mrs. Cassandra Cooke. She was first cousin to, and a contemporary of, Jane’s mother. The Cookes lived across the road from Burney and her husband for four years and nearby for several more.

Though the two authors never met, Jocelyn Harris writes in an article that Mrs. Cooke was probably a “direct source of information” about Burney to Austen. In her book Satire, Celebrity, and Politics in Jane Austen, Harris also finds a number of connections between scenes and characters in Austen’s fiction and Burney’s novels and life. Harris proposes that Mrs. Cooke may have been the source for the biographical anecdotes about Burney.

In addition to her novels, Burney wrote plays, most of which went unproduced, and was active at court. From 1786 to 1791 she was “Second Keeper of the Robes” to Queen Charlotte, and she dedicated Camilla to her. During the Napoleonic wars she was trapped for a decade in France. Though her husband was a military man and patriotic Frenchman, the couple detested the violence of the French Revolution and the dictator that followed. She was able to slip out of France when her son was a teenager to keep him from being conscripted into Napoleon’s army.

When Napoleon returned from exile in Elba to reclaim his throne, this time her husband fought against him on the side of the allies and was wounded in battle, before Waterloo ended Napoleon’s career a final time. After the war, the D’Arblays settled in Bath near relatives. Many French emigres had settled there during the war.

Two hundred years later, Burney’s position as Literary Superstar and that of Jane the Obscure has reversed. Burney is still read, and The Burney Society exists to promote her life and works. Yet most of the interest today relates to her diaries and journals, which show us the private thoughts of a sensitive, articulate woman about her long and eventful life. They record what it was like for an intelligent, vivacious, politically aware woman of the age. The also record her personal travails, including her description of undergoing a mastectomy in France—without anesthesia.

Burney began her diaries as a teenager. In an early entry, she tells of an earnest but not very pleasant fellow who fell for her on their first meeting. She asks her family how to get him to leave her alone. They instead encourage another visit. Burney writes in her diary something right out of (write out of?) Austen: that she “had rather a thousand Times die an old maid, than be married, except from affection.”

Today, few would put Burney in the same class as Austen as a novelist. Many Burney characters are extreme, her plots at times involve wild coincidences, and her language is enormously complex. What follows is a simple but representative example in the difference of style. The first is Austen’s dedication to the Prince Regent at the beginning of Emma. The next is Burney’s dedication to Queen Charlotte at the beginning of Camilla.

Austen’s, printed in capital letters and in large type to fill the page:

“To his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, this work is, by his Royal Highness’s permission, most respectfully dedicated, by his Royal Highness’s dutiful and obedient humble servant.”

Burney’s, set in type a little larger than normal, addresses the queen directly:

“THAT Goodness inspires a confidence, which, by divesting respect of terror, excites attachment to Greatness, the presentation of this little Work, to Your Majesty must truly, however humbly, evince; and though a public manifestation of duty and regard from an obscure Individual may betray a proud ambition, it is, I trust, but a venial—I am sure it is a natural one. In those to whom Your Majesty is known but by exaltation of Rank, it may raise, perhaps, some surprise, that scenes, characters, and incidents, which have reference only to common life, should be brought into so august a presence; but the inhabitant of a retired cottage, who there receives the benign permission which at Your Majesty’s feet casts this humble offering, bears in mind recollections which must live there while ‘memory holds its seat,’ of a benevolence withheld from no condition, and delighting in all ways to speed the progress of Morality, through whatever channel it could flow, to whatever port it might steer. I blush at the inference I seem here to leave open of annexing undue importance to a production of apparently so light a kind yet if my hope, my view—however fallacious they may eventually prove, extended not beyond whiling away an idle hour, should I dare seek such patronage?”

Austen was no fan of the Prince Regent, and her publisher probably prodded her into a sufficiently proper flourish. Yet even doubled, her dedication would barely run 50 words. Burney’s dedication runs 216 words—and the excerpt does not include all of it.

This gushing pipe of words is not just an instance of royal flattery. The entire 900-page novel strains under the load of such verbiage. Burney’s first and most successful novel, Evelina, written in the epistolary style, was a contrast. The letters by Evelina are as sharp and funny as anything Elizabeth Bennet ever said. Everyone else, however, writes in a ponderous style that came to dominate Burney’s third-person novels. Wanting to be taken seriously, Burney followed the “serious” style that “real literature” of the eighteenth century required. She was a writer of her time.

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, which traces love from a charming courtship through the richness and complexity of marriage and concludes with a test of the heroine’s courage and moral convictions, is now complete and available from Amazon and Jane Austen Books.

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, historical fiction, Jane Austen, publishing, reading habits, real life tales, Regency era, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How Was It to Shop in Market Towns and Villages of Early 1800s England?

17 Of The Most Beautiful Villages To Visit In Britain! - Hand ...

17 Of The Most Beautiful Villages To Visit In Britain! – Hand …

Obviously, there would not be street vendors, but rather peddlers, who would travel from village to village, selling their ware. “A peddler, in British English pedlar, also known as a canvasser, cheapjack, monger, higler or solicitor (with negative connotations since the 16th century), is a traveling vendor of goods. In England, the term was mostly used for travellers hawking goods in the countryside to small towns and villages; they might also be called tinkers or gypsies. In London more specific terms were used, such as costermonger. There has long been a suspicion of dishonest or petty criminal activity associated with pedlars and travelers. The origin of the word, known in English since 1225, is unknown, but it might come from French pied, Latin pes, pedis “foot”, referring to a petty trader travelling on foot. Peddlers usually travelled on foot, carrying their wares, or by means of a person- or animal-drawn cart or wagon (making the peddler a hawker).” (Peddlers)

Because they did not fit into clear professional categories, peddlers could be highly mobile. They brought the products to the consumer’s door. Without the cost of maintaining permanent shops, the peddlers could charge lower prices for a variety of small goods. (Sixteenth Century Journal)

Also, men would travel mending tin pots, sharpening knives, acting as at catchers, rag and bone men, sellers of chapbooks and cheap repository tracts, etc. Let us take a quick look at several of these types. 

The Bone-Grubber by Richard Beard. Henry Mayhew described one bone-grubber he encountered as wearing a "ragged coat...greased over, probably with the fat of the bones he gathered". Henry Mayhew - uk/booksid=iBIIAAAAQAAJ &printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_ summary_r&cad =0#v=onepage& q&f=false The Bone-Grubber, daguerreotype by Beard - created 31 December 1850 - Public Domain

The Bone-Grubber by Richard Beard. Henry Mayhew described one bone-grubber he encountered as wearing
a “ragged coat…greased
over, probably with the
fat of the bones he gathered”. Henry Mayhew
q&f=false The Bone-Grubber, daguerreotype
by Beard – created 31 December 1850 – Public Domain

Rag-and-bone men collected unwanted household items and resold them to merchants. The traditional rag-and-bone man carried a bag over his shoulder and made his way about on foot. Occasionally a wealthier rag-and-bone man would have a cart pulled by a small pony or donkey, however these were few. Most of these men lived in extreme poverty. They collected old rags, bones, and bits of metal.

A chapman was another early itinerate pedlar. A chapman was a hawkers of chapbooks, broadside ballads, etc. A chapbook was an early popular type of literature, which was produced cheaply. They were generally small, paper-covered books, customarily printed on a single sheet, which was folded into books of 8, 12, 16, and 24 pages. Woodcuts, not related to the text, were often included. The tradition originated in the 16th Century and rose in popularity through the 18th Century. The text included folk tales, nursery rhymes, poetry, religious tracts, political tracts, children’s tales, etc. (Chapbook)

Meanwhile, broadside ballads (popular songs) sold for a penny or a halfpenny. They preceded chapbooks. “There are records from Cambridgeshire as early as in 1553 of a man offering a scurrilous ballad ‘maistres mass’ at an alehouse, and a pedlar selling ‘lytle books’ to people, including a patcher of old clothes in 1578.” (Chapbook)

A badger was a dealer in food or victuals which he “purchased in one place and carried for sale in another place. The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest entry as being from Bristol in 1500, but there were bager(s)gates at York in 1243 and in Lincoln by 1252. It continued in use until the 19th century in Great Britain. Badger was specifically applied to those dealing in grain for food, but was also applied generically to food commodity dealers. These included those dealing in grain for brewing (maltsters) or meal for bread-making, (mealmen) while others specialised in butter and cheese. Other grains, beans, peas or even vetch were traded in years when wheat and barley prices were high. The legislation also referred to kidders, drovers of livestock, laders and carriers.” (Badger)

 Some of the towns were large enough that we would call them cities, and others were so small one one would barely describe them as villages. At this time they were not officially designated by size, but by the form of government and the founding documents as well as whether or not the place had a cathedral or abbey. Jane Austen has villages in both Pride and Prejudice and Emma. In Pride and Prejudice, readers travel to the villages of Meryton in Hertfordshire, Lambton in Derbyshire, and Hunsford in Kent. In Emma, Emma stands in the doorway of Fords in Highbury–the general store, and looks down the street. “Emma went to the door for amusement . . . ; and when her eyes fell only on the butcher with his tray, a tidy old woman travelling homewards from shop with her full basket, two curs quarrelling over a dirty bone, and a string of dawdling children round the baker’s little bow-window eyeing the gingerbread, she knew she had no reason to complain, and was amused enough; quite enough still to stand at the door. A mind lively and at ease, can do with seeing nothing, and can see nothing that does not answer. (Emma, 233)” “Jane Austen’s famous literary advice to her niece Anna—“3 or 4 Families in a Country Village is the very thing to work on” (9 September 1814) — has been widely accepted as a summary statement of her own praxis, and Emma is the novel most frequently cited as the exemplar of Austen’s focus on isolated and insulated country communities.” (“It must be done in London”: The Suburbanization of Highboy by Tara Ghoshal Wallace)

Market towns had a special status, but were not cities. They were generally larger than the surrounding villages, and shopping did not come from street vendors, except on market day. One would likely find a blacksmith, dressmaker, sundry’s store, a small circulating library, a couple of inns, possibly, a shop that sold meat pies, a hat maker, etc. An established church was likely. Physicians, surgeons, lawyers were some of the professionals found in the market towns. “Market town or market right is a legal term, Markoriginating in the medieval period, for a European settlement that has the right to host markets, distinguishing it from a village and city. Farmers and their wives brought their produce to informal markets held on the grounds of their church after worship. Market towns grew up at centres of local activity and were an important feature of rural life.  Markets were located where transport was easiest, such as at a crossroads or close to a river ford.

“The English monarchy created a system by which a new market town could not be established within a certain travelling distance of an existing one. This limit was usually a day’s worth of travelling to and from the market, and buying or selling goods. If the travel time exceeded this standard, a new market town could be established in that locale. As a result of the limit, official market towns often petitioned the monarch to close down illegal markets in other towns. These distances are still law in England today. Other markets can be held provided that they are licensed by the holder of the Royal Charter, which tends currently to be the local town council. Failing that, the Crown can grant a license. As traditional market towns developed, they had a wide main street or central market square. These provided room for people to set up stalls and booths on market days. Often the town erected a market cross in the centre of the town, to obtain God’s blessing on the trade.” (Market Town)

51GplnnLiBL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_A book I would recommend is THE ENGLISH VILLAGE, which was a study of a large cross section of little villages and the kinds of things they have in common. Here is the book blurb from Amazon: The village remains a quintessential and much-loved treasure of the English countryside. This rural idyll has inspired generations of great poets, novelists, and artists including the likes of Constable, Hardy, Wordsworth, as well as providing the picturesque setting for modern TV series such as Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford. The English Village celebrates all that is unique and loved about a typical village—the pub, the green, the school, the church, the pond, the local shop and more—as well as exploring how the village has changed over the centuries. Also includes fascinating information on the origins of village names—Siddington, for example, means the farm of the valley (sidd: valley, in: belonging to, ton: farmland). Beautifully illustrated, and filled with facts, figures, customs, and lore, there is a wealth of fascinating information to be discovered in this charming book.

Actually, each village seems to have its own odd little eccentric thing about it, some quirky little detail like a local product or a haunted tale about the village green or what-have-you. Depending on the region, they could also have different things, like in the Midlands, pottery related shops, or in the North, woollens-related businesses, and along the coast, shipbuilding or timber processing and/or lots of extra pubs for all those sailors, as well as inns for travelers. Each village was constructed around a church, a rectory or parsonage for the minister to live in, a pub, a hall, a general store with post office, maybe a doctor’s home office, possibly a school or a building or home that serves as a dame school, a green with a few trees and/or a pond. Country villages are obviously very agricultural so one should not neglect the possibility of related businesses like blacksmiths, smokehouse, bakers. Maybe even a mill or a nearby river or canal. 

“In Britain, peddling is still governed by the Pedlars Act of 1871, which provides for a “pedlar’s certificate”. Application is usually made to the police. In the late 20th century, the use of such certificates became rare as other civic legislation including the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 and the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 for England & Wales introduced a street trader’s licence. As of 2008 the pedlar’s certificates remain legal and in use, although several local councils have sought to rid their area of peddlers by way of local bylaw or enforcement mechanisms such as making them apply for a street trader’s license.” (Peddler)

Posted in British history, Great Britain, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, real life tales, Regency era, Uncategorized, Victorian era | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Misuse of Words Driving Me Crazy!

Of late, the news media has been driving me a bit batty with the various reporters misusing words either in their oral reporting or the blips crossing our screens. Do you, too, have a pet peeve when it comes to the misuse of words? 

For example the local FOX news outlet keeps reporting on the AMOUNT of people on the South Carolina beaches now that the COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. When I was a journalism student (one of my college minors), we were taught that “amount” is an indefinite quantity (water, sand, grass, etc.) that cannot be counted. Whereas, “number” consists of a quantity of people or things that can be counted

Watching one of the Hallmark movies, Candace Cameron Bure’s character corrects one of the other minor characters who asks Bure if Bure is “anxious” to see her fiancé. Bure explains to the woman that “anxious” indicates concern or worry. “Eager” shows impatient desire.

We often hear stories of where a plane “nearly missed” hitting another plane on the runway. The problem with this phrase is if you “nearly missed” something, you collided with it. The correct phrase is a “near hit,” not a “near miss.”

The other day on the blip running across the bottom of the screen the story was about navel maneuvers off the coast of Florida. “Naval” refers to a navy and military ships. “Navel” refers to the “bellybutton.” 

Along the same lines was another story where the newscaster referred to the “ordnance” enacted by the Town Council regarding parking along certain center-city streets. The correct word is “ordinance,” which is a law enacted by a municipal body. “Ordnance” refers to military weapons and ammunition.

Then there was the news article on the premier of a particular movie being delayed. “Premier” means first in rank or leader. “Premiere” means first performance. 

One of the stories spoke of “prostrate cancer” in men. “Prostate” is the correct word in this context. “Prostate” refers to the prostate gland, part of the male reproductive system. “Prostrate” refers to lying down on the ground or on some other surface or to make helpless. 

One of the stories dealt with those going out before the “stay at home orders” were lifted. It said, “The teens said they would play basketball in the park irregardless of the danger of contacting the Covid-19 virus.” Irregardless is not considered standard English, regardless of how many times you hear or see it used. 

Many people confuse sometime and some time. Sometime (one word) means some unspecified time. Some time (2 words) means an unspecified quantity of time.

Likewise, maybe (one word) is an adverb meaning perhaps. May be (2 words) is a verb meaning perhaps.

Everyday is a single word adjective used to refer to days in general, without emphasizing any specific day. Every day used as two words emphasizes the individual day. [Hint! If you can substitute “each” for “every,” use “every day” as two words.]

Everyone refers to several or more people, but not to any one of them in particular. Every one is used when referring to an individual.

Everybody is used to make reference to several of many people. Every body references a specific body, such as a corpse, body of water, a corporation, etc.

Anyone refers to a group, but not to any specific person. Any one refers to an individual.

Any time is used exclusively as two words, not anytime. Also, alright is not standard English. Use all right

Anyway means in any case or regardless. Any way means a method, choice, or direction. Anyways is not standard English and should not be used. 

Use between when two people, places, or things are involved. Use among for three or more. 

I see this mistake all the time in romance novels. “They fell in love with one another at first sight.” Each other is used when two people, places, or things are involved. One another refers to three or more. Unless the author is writing about a “threesome,” the correct choice is “each other.” 



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Location, Location, Location, a Guest Post from Catherine Bilson

This post originally appeared on Austen Authors on 23 April 2020. Enjoy! 

“It must be very agreeable to her to be settled within so easy a distance of her own family and friends.”

“An easy distance do you call it? It is nearly fifty miles.”

“And what is fifty miles of good road? Little more than half a day’s journey. Yes, I call it a very easy distance.”

Rereading Pride and Prejudice for the umpteenth time recently, I was struck anew by this little conversation between Darcy and Elizabeth, taking place as it does just a few days before the disastrous Hunsford proposal. They are talking about Charlotte, of course, and when the reader has prior knowledge of Darcy’s admiration of Elizabeth, it’s obvious that the conversation is designed to discover Elizabeth’s thoughts on whether she would mind living a long way from her family. There’s an interesting line at the end of the conversation where Darcy says “You cannot always have been at Longbourn”, by which he obviously means he thinks she must have been educated elsewhere, betraying his belief that she could not possibly have learned her manners and wits at home… something which made me think of the possibility of Jane and Lizzy attending a school for a while, perhaps funded by a grandparent who has now passed, and how that could have led to some Interesting Acquaintances… but I digress.

What I want to talk about here is twofold; firstly the gulf in station between Darcy and the Bennet family revealed by this little conversation, and secondly, one of my pet hates when I see writers getting it wrong in historical novels; geography and the logistics and speed of travel.

Firstly, let’s talk about that difference of opinion. Fifty miles is nothing to Darcy; he has carriages, fast horses, and servants. “Little more than half a day” can easily be extrapolated to about five hours’ travel, at a rate of ten miles an hour.

Now, one thing Darcy would not have done is hopped on his horse and ridden all the way. While a fit horse can comfortably cover ten miles an hour (walking pace is about four miles an hour; to do ten miles in a hour you have to trot and canter most of it), sustaining that pace is another matter. You’d wind up with a foundering, lame horse if you tried to cover fifty miles even over the course of a whole day. Yes, riders do it in endurance racing today, but they are very highly conditioned horses bred and trained specially for the purpose (usually Arabians), not heavy hunters of the type a gentleman like Darcy would own. Also, if you’re a horse rider? You know about the pain of spending a couple of consecutive hours in the saddle. Five hours? No, thank you very much. If Darcy wanted his riding horse transported from place to place over longer distances, the horse would have been ridden there by a groom at a much gentler pace, around twenty miles a day which the groom making overnight stops where the horse might very well have better accommodations than the rider!

(Riding this handsome chap for 5 hours would give even Darcy a sore butt. Yes, I meant the horse is the handsome chap… where’s your mind at???)


Darcy would travel a distance of fifty miles via carriage, with his baggage strapped on the roof and in the boot, probably accompanied by a valet who would most likely ride on the box with the driver, and he would have pre-arranged teams of horses to be taken ahead and waiting at stops along the way – probably two stops for that distance, so that each team would cover around seventeen miles before being changed. With two or perhaps even four horses to pull the carriage, that means between six and twelve quality horses, accompanied by servants, put up at inns, fed and watered… the cost of that alone would have made Elizabeth’s eyes boggle. Consider that Longbourn had two horses which could pull a carriage, but were mainly used on the farm, and that someone as wealthy as Darcy might well have had enough carriage horses to enable him to change every twenty miles all the way from London to Derbyshire, and the gulf in wealth between the families becomes even more obvious. It was a major undertaking for Elizabeth to travel to Kent; she was lucky enough to ‘hitch a lift’ there with Sir William Lucas and Maria Lucas, but coming back Mr. Gardiner had to send his carriage for her from London, and then after a stay with the Gardiners she and Jane had to catch a public coach back to Hertfordshire (the exact town isn’t specified, but I guess at either Hertford or Hatfield) and be collected by the Bennet coach there to return to Longbourn. It would have been expensive and inconvenient, and a trip someone like Elizabeth could not have hoped to undertake more frequently than once every few years; thus Elizabeth’s shock at Darcy calling it an ‘easy distance’.

For JAFF writers, the best thing we can do when considering travel times and distances is adhere to canon as closely as we can. Jane Austen knew exactly how long it took to travel distances around England; she resided at various spots in Hertfordshire, Hampshire and Bath, and visited in quite a few other places. She knew how inconvenient, expensive and slow travel was, and I have no doubt she looked with a certain degree of envy at those who could afford carriages and teams of horses (and probably did her best to politely impose herself on them for a lift whenever she could manage it, too!). Sometimes, however, the story we’re working on takes us farther afield than the locations Austen used, and that’s when it becomes important to start looking at maps, measuring distances and calculating travel times – and considering economic circumstances when we do.

Remember, for example, the Gardiners took around 3 weeks to get from Longbourn to Lambton. They didn’t have a change of horses, so they had to set a pace their horses could sustain day after day and choose their overnight spots accordingly. The journey coming back must have been a nightmare – I wonder if Mr. Gardiner splashed some cash to rent horses to enable them to speed up? – another thread I must pursue one day!

Your best resource for working out distances and travel times is always going to be a map. Now, if you’re writing something set in London, you might want to use something like the Google Maps Regency Overlay, from which you can quickly figure out, for example, that it’s only about 200 metres from White’s Gentlemen’s Club to Hatchard’s bookshop, an easy walking distance. Honestly, almost everywhere the fashionable set might have wanted to go in Regency London is easy walking distance… but who would have walked? Gentlemen very probably would have, unless the weather was absolutely foul. Ladies? It depends on the circumstances, the time of day, whether they had a maid or companion with them… something else you need to consider.

For longer distances, between towns, you don’t need a historical map. Google Maps will do the job perfectly. Towns in the UK haven’t been relocated in the last 200 years. They’ve grown, yes, but a good rule of thumb is to measure the distances between the main post offices in different towns – the post offices are almost always right smack in the town centre! Stick to a rule of thumb that a carriage without a change of horses could probably max out at 25 miles per day and someone with Darcy’s resources could cover maybe as much as 80 (significantly less in bad weather and steep terrain) and you’ll avoid making too many geographical howlers.

True story: I read a historical romance (not JAFF) not too long ago by someone who will remain nameless but is Extremely Famous, who had a couple travelling by carriage from Essex (a county slightly east and north of London) to Gretna Green with a single overnight stop. 280 plus miles is a long day trip in a car or by train; by carriage it would have been many, many days, especially if the couple left on impulse and weren’t able to arrange changes of horses. It would actually be far quicker to head for the coast, hire a boat and sail up the east coast of the UK to get to Scotland that way, something I almost never see done in Regency romances but makes a lot more sense than taking a carriage all the way from London… which was a major port, after all. Much less chance of being intercepted, as well, something to bear in mind if you’re ever planning on writing a Scottish elopement! It’s almost 400 miles from Ramsgate to Gretna Green; the expense of travelling so far by carriage would be considerable. I’m quite sure Wickham would have arranged a boat to take him and Georgiana to Scotland instead, and even if Darcy had arrived within hours of their departure, interception would have been impossible. (There’s another story idea…)

Don’t forget… maps are your friend when it comes to getting history right!

Posted in Austen Authors, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Guest Post, historical fiction, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, real life tales, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Exercise Tiger, a Tragic Rehearsal for D-Day

Most of us know something of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foot-hold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 Soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.(

But what do you know of EXERCISE TIGER? Off Slapton Sands on the coast of Devon, 946 American servicemen perished during what was known a Exercise Tiger, a rehearsal for what would be the D-Day landing on Utah Beach in Normandy, France. This occurred but nine days before the event mentioned above, being organized in April 1944. describes Exercise Tiger thusly, “The dry run was designed to simulate the confusion and carnage of combat, but it became all too real after German torpedo boats stumbled upon the landing fleet and sank several of its ships. Despite the loss of some 750 American servicemen, the fiasco was initially covered up to ensure the D-Day mission remained secret. In the early morning hours of April 28, 1944, an Allied fleet slinked toward the coast of southern England. Along with a lone British corvette, the flotilla included eight American tank landing ships, or LSTs, each one of them filled to the brim with soldiers from the U.S. Army’s VII Corps. In just five weeks, these same troops were scheduled to land in France as part of Operation Overlord, the Allies’ secret plan to invade Nazi-held Western Europe. Overlord was integral to the Allied strategy for victory in World World II, and to ensure it went smoothly, military brass had organized a sweeping dress rehearsal codenamed ‘Exercise Tiger.””

Some 3000 residents from Slapton, Strete, Torcross, Blackawton and East Allington in South Devon departed their homes as part of the exercised designed by the American military. Slapton Sands reportedly resembled the Normandy coast line, and, therefore, it was chosen for the military simulation. 


Troops involved in the action of Exercise Tiger ~ Credit: NARA

Historic UK tells us, “The beautiful and usually tranquil River Dart filled up with landing craft and ships for the operation. Nissen huts sprang up in Coronation Park in Dartmouth and new slipways and ramps were built on the river’s edge, all the way from Dartmouth up to Dittisham. Exercise Tiger was designed to be as realistic as possible and on 22nd April 1944 it began. Landing craft loaded with soldiers, tanks and equipment were deployed along the coast. However, unbeknown to the military, under cover of darkness nine German E-boats (fast attack craft) had managed to slip in amongst them in Lyme Bay. Two landing ships were sunk and a third badly damaged. Lack of training on the use of life vests, heavy packs and the cold water contributed to the disaster: many men drowned or died of hypothermia before they could be rescued. Over 700 Americans lost their lives.”

The exercise conducted upon Slapton beach also proved disastrous. It included a live-firing exercise creating what we now call “friendly fire” deaths from the naval bombardment. The losses occurring during this event were kept secret until long after the war had ended. 


Lyme Bay, England ~ Wikimedia Commons


“Later that year on Sunday 4th June, the people of Dartmouth were ordered to stay indoors: tanks rolled through the town and troops converged on the harbour with its landing craft and ships. The following day 485 ships left the harbour, taking a full day to clear the mouth of the river and at dawn on the 6th June, the invasion of France began. Thanks to the training at Slapton, fewer soldiers died during the actual landing on Utah Beach than during Exercise Tiger, and so the training in Devon was not in vain.” (Historic UK)

Slapton was not the only site in Devon to be used by the American military during World War Two. The north coast around Woolacombe Bay was also used for practising amphibious landing assaults in preparation for the D-Day landings.

Posted in American History, British history, Great Britain, history, Living in the UK, military, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

“Luminous” Blog Tour ~ Worker Compensation Laws and the Radium Girls, a Guest Post from Samantha Wilcoxson

Many people do not realize how much we owe to the dial painters in 1920’s radium studios for our modern workers’ compensation laws. The idea that workers should be protected from harm and that companies were liable for damages to their health is a fairly modern one. Protection from worker exploitation was increased in the 1930’s due to the cases of young women who would become known as the Radium Girls because of the health problems they suffered due to radium poisoning.

When Marie Curie died from leukemia caused by her exposure to radium, her death was considered tragic, but also a sacrifice in the name of scientific advancement. When Mollie Maggia died after working at US Radium Corp in New Jersey, her death was written off as syphilis, and the company suffered no consequences. Dozens of girls working with radium infused paint would die and dozens more suffer from a myriad of health problems before the government stepped in to stop the exploitation of young working women.

The case of the Radium Girls shines a spotlight on the way our society has historically valued – or failed to value – people of different classes. It was not until the deaths of two prominent men that the concerns of the girls who worked with radium were considered by anyone with the power to do anything about it. These women had to fight multiple battles to have their health problems recognized, to have them attributed to radium, to have the companies held responsible, to receive compensation, and to see laws changed. It was a slow process that many women died before seeing concluded.

What amount of risk is reasonable in employment? Do higher wages make these risks acceptable? How much responsibility does a company have for disclosing risks to employees and protecting them from harm? These were all questions that had not been adequately answered in the early 20th century.

Historically, employers had not taken responsibility for the health of their employees. Paying wages was the only obligation they had, but this was slowly changing in the early 1900’s. The first workers’ compensation laws had offered limited accident protection to men working in the dangerous work of mines, factories, and railroads. Over time, changes were made and protections were added, but radium was nowhere to be found in the workers’ compensation laws of the 1920’s.

First struggling to find doctors who would label their condition for what it was, the women who worked with radium then had to find lawyers who would help them hold their employers liable. Since radium wasn’t specifically mentioned in the existing legislation, it was a long battle to have the women’s condition recognized under the law. Lawyers motivated by justice with the ability to work without pay were needed because most of the women were already bankrupted by their medical expenses.

In my new book, Luminous, Catherine Donohue battles with Radium Dial in Ottawa,Illinois, for radium poisoning compensation. Based on her true story, this biographical novel takes readers into the dial painting studio to watch the slow poisoning process, into the hospitals where the women fight for their lives, and into the courtroom where they fight for their rights.

By the end of the 1930’s companies had lost some radium poisoning cases, but they continued to exploit workers who were none the wiser for several more years. The history of the Radium Girls is heartbreaking, and we have them to thank for many of the protections against worker exploitation that we have today.

Important Links: 

Universal Amazon Link for Luminous:

Samantha’s Blog:

Meet Samantha Wilcoxson

Samantha Wilcoxson is a history enthusiast and avid traveler. Her published works include the Plantagenet Embers series with novels and novellas that explore the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era. Luminous is her first foray into 20th century American history, but she suspects that it will not be her last. Samantha enjoys exploring the personal side of historic events and creating emotive, inspiring stories.



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Posted in American History, blog hop, book release, British history, eBooks, Guest Post, history, Industrial Revolution, medicine, publishing, reading habits, real life tales, research, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Captain James Jack, Hero of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence

Captain-Jack-Statue-CharlotteOn Wednesday, 20 May 2020, I presented you a piece on the first Declaration of Independence, a year before Thomas Jefferson’s document.  Today, permit me to introduce you to the hero of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence, Captain James Jack. 

Born in 1731, Jack was was the oldest of nine children of Patrick and Lillis McAdoo Jack. Rumors say his grandfather was Reverend William Jack of Laggan Presbyterian in Northern Ireland. Reverend Jack was removed from his post by King Charles II for issues of nonconformity to the dictates of the Church of England. The Jacks lived southwest of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, but they left the area during The French and Indian War, moving to North Carolina. 

Around 1760, the Jacks located in Thyatira, one of the first Presbyterian communities to be established west of the Yadkin River. The current Thyatira Presbyterian Church is located ten miles west of Salisbury, North Carolina, and is thought to been founded around 1753. It was known over the years as Lower Meeting House and as Cathey’s Meeting House. The community surrounding it were of Scotch-Irish and German descent. [As a side note, several of my relatives were part of this community.] Thyatira took more of an “old school” approach to the church services, ignoring the exuberance of the Great Awakening. One of the church’s most well-known ministers was Samuel McCorkle, who took over the reins in August 1777. McCorkle was a great proponent of religion and of education. He established what is thought to be the first normal school in America, Zion-Parnassus Academy.  In 1798, when the fledgling University of North Carolina held its first commencement, six of the seven graduates were from Zion-Parnassus.

89317463_135423440704.png In 1766, James Jack married Margaret Houston, and the couple soon moved to Charlotte, where the elder Mr. Jack had purchased lots on the south side of West Trade Street. The family built a house on one of the lots and operated a tavern out of it. James Jack earn a fortune from real estate speculation. He was later appointed as a tax collector, as well as an overseer of the poor in Mecklenburg County.

Tensions grew across the colonies over the pronouncements by the British Parliament and King George III, and North Carolinians struggled with their loyalty to the King and their desire to govern themselves. According to, “​On May 19, 1775, a rider raced into Charlottetowne with news of the massacre of colonists by the British at the Battle of Concord and Lexington. Angered at this news and already burdened by the oppressive, unjust laws of King George III, tradition says a band of local patriots met through the night and into May 20th to draft the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence (or MecDec). On May 31, they met again to draft a set of Resolves that outlined how they would self govern. These treasonous documents declared the actions of the Crown were intolerable and Charlottetowne and Mecklenburg County were no longer under British rule.

“…Captain James Jack volunteered to take these powerful documents on the arduous journey to the Continental Congress. Knowing full well that if caught he would be immediately hung; he risked his livelihood, property, family and very life to transport these important documents. Slipping past British regulars and spying Tories, Jack arrived in Philadelphia, demanding Mecklenburg County’s declaration of freedom be read into record. Just as Paul Revere’s famous ride alerted patriots to the British landing in Boston, James Jack’s ride helped kindle the embers of revolution in the Continental Congress.”

The MecDec and the Resolves declared British authority of those in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, to be null and void. James Jack and his father were strong supporters of the call for independence. Reportedly, many of the Committee of Safety meetings were conducted at the Jacks’ tavern. NCpedia tells us, ” Jack recalled that ‘for some time previous to, and at the time of those resolutions [of May 1775] were agreed to, I . . . was priviledged to a number of meetings of some of the . . . leading characters of that county on the subject before the final adoption of the resolutions.'” 


Painting of Captain Jack riding north to Philadelphia to deliver the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence. The courthouse can be seen behind Jack in the distance. Courtesy of Chas Fagan.

James Jack set out on his famous ride in June 1775, stopping briefly in Salisbury, North Carolina, to have the document read publicly in the district court session. After a journey of nearly 600 miles through the Appalachian mountains and flatland, he reached Philadelphia, where Jack presented the North Carolina delegates to the Continental Congress with the Mecklenburg County document. Although the delegates agreed with the document’s sentiment, the Continental Congress at the time still hoped for a reconciliation with England. They chose not to inform the other delegations to the Congress of the Mecklenburg action.

Charlotte-Liberty-Walk.jpgCaptain James Jack returned to his home in Charlottetowne on July 7 of the same year. He rode an average of 30 miles each day—hard riding for the time and the geographic challenges—completing his journey of some 1100 miles in 38 days.

James Jack was a popular captain in the Mecklenburg militia during the Revolutionary War. As a warning, Lord Cornwallis had Jack’s s father removed from the man’s sick bed and kept in a damp cell for questioning. The elder Mr. Jacks died shortly afterwards (September 1780). The Jack home was burned to the ground. The tavern was rebuilt, but the financial loss, in addition to Jack’s personal money spent for wartime expenditures (some £7,646), which was never reimbursed, left him in ruin. Ironically, Jack’s claim was was paid to a friend, who died before delivering the money to Jack. 

89317463_133618159621.jpg With the war’s end, Jack moved his family to the western part of North Carolina, which at the time stretched all the way to present time Nashville. He signed the petition to the North Carolina Assembly to make North Carolina a separate state. Later, he moved to what is now Wilkes County, Georgia, where he was not so successful as a farmer. Finally, he and his wife Margaret moved again to neighboring Elbert County, to live with their son William and live out their days. James Jack died in December 1822. His obituary lists his age at death as being 84, but in December 1819, he wrote of being 88 years of age. Therefore, he was like 91 years old at his death. 


The History of Charlotte (You Tube)

Mec Dec Day (You Tube)

Trail of History (You Tube)

The following is the obituary for Captain James Jack from the Raleigh Registe of January 17, 1823. “Died.- In Elbert County, Georgia, on the 18th instant (ultimo), Captain James Jack, in the 84th year of his age. He was born in the State of Pennsylvania, from whence he removed to North Carolina and settled in the town of Charlotte, where he remained till the end of the Revolutionary War, in which he took a decided and active part from the commencement to the close, after which he removed to Georgia with his family, whom he supported by the sweat of his brow. He spent the prime of his life and his little all in the glorious struggle for independence, and enjoyed it with a heart warmed with gratitude to the God of battles. In the spring of ’75 he was the bearer of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to Congress. His claims on the State of North Carolina for Revolutionary services and expenditures were audited by Colonel Mathew Locke, and amounted to 7,646 pounds in currency. Those papers being of little value at that time, he left them in the hands of a friend, who dying some years after, the claim to him was lost. It fell, possibly, into the hands of some speculator, who may by now faring sumptuously on the fruits of his toil. But wealth had no charm for him; he looked for a ‘house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, whose builder and maker is God.’ He has left a widow, two sons (his eldest, Colonel Patrick Jack, of the U. S. Army in her late contest with Britain, having died about two years past), a daughter besides a numerous offspring of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Some few of his old comrades who bore the burden and the heat of the day are still living. Should this notice catch the eye of any one of them, it may draw forth a sigh or elicit a tear to the memory of their friend, more to be valued than a marble monument.”




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