The Home Office, a Government Agency During the Georgian Era

I often have the heroes of my Regency romances be associated with the Home Office. Each of the seven men in my “Realm” series served the Home Office, with Sir Carter Lowery, eventually, assuming one of the leadership roles in the agency. The three men in my “Twins” trilogy did the same. In fact, I even had Lord John Swenton and Sir Carter Lowery from the Realm make brief appearances in the last two books of the trilogy. My Christmas novella, “Last Woman Standing,” also has a hero involved with the Home Office, as does my upcoming novel Obsession.  

The Realm: A Touch of Scandal; A Touch of Velvet; A Touch of Cashémere; A Touch of Grace; A Touch of Mercy; A Touch of Love; A Touch of Honor; and A Touch of Emerald

The Twins’ Trilogy: Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep; The Earl Claims His Comfort; and Lady Chandler’s Sister.

Exactly, what were the responsibilities of the Home Office during the Regency Era? The Home secretary dealt with prisons, probation, courts, and public order. For example, one very important case of the era dealt with William Oliver, the plotter of a general insurrection after 1818, and known as “Oliver the Spy.” 

To Learn More of This Case, See This Piece on A Web of English History:

Obviously, first and foremost, it the government’s duty to keep its citizens safe and to assure the security of the country, as a whole. It also should see to the economic prosperity of the country. The Home Office has operated as such since 1782. It is a ministerial department of Her Majesty’s government. Nowadays, the Home Office also oversees immigration and visas and security services such as MI5, along with policing responsibilities in England and Wales, as well as fire and rescue services in England.

Wikipedia provides us a brief overview of the “history” of the Home Office in the Georgian Era. “On 27 March 1782, the Home Office was formed by renaming the existing Southern Department, [This Department was initially established in 1660. It had a variety of responsibilities, including domestic and Irish policy, colonial policy and foreign affairs concerning southern European powers such as France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and the Ottoman Empire.] with all existing staff transferring. On the same day, the Northern Department [The department was responsible for dealing with government business in the northern part of Europe. This included foreign affairs concerning such northern powers as Russia, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the Holy Roman Empire.] was renamed the Foreign Office. To match the new names, there was a transferring of responsibilities between the two Departments of State. All domestic responsibilities were moved to the Home Office, and all foreign matters became the concern of the Foreign Office.

“Most subsequently created domestic departments (excluding, for instance, those dealing with education) have been formed by splitting responsibilities away from the Home Office. The initial responsibilities [of the Home Office] were:

  • Answering petitions and addresses sent to the King
  • Advising the King on
    • Royal grants
    • Warrants and commissions
    • The exercise of Royal Prerogative
  • Issuing instructions on behalf of the King to officers of the Crown, lords-lieutenant and magistrates, mainly concerning law and order
  • Operation of the secret service within the UK
  • Protecting the public
  • Safeguarding the rights and liberties of individuals

“Responsibilities were subsequently changed over the years that followed:

  • 1793 added: regulation of aliens 
  • 1794 removed: control of military forces (to Secretary of State for War) 
  • 1801 removed: colonial business (to Secretary of State for War and the Colonies) 
  • 1804 removed: Barbary State consuls (to Secretary of State for War and the Colonies)[9]
  • 1823 added: prisons  
  • 1829 added: police services” 

The Home Office was part of the Palace at Whitehall. A book From Palace to Power: An Illustrated History of Whitehall  tells us the Home Office took over the Board of Trade premises in the old Tudor tennis court in 1782. This was an indoor tennis court—a big building by Dover House. The palace includes many buildings.”

This passage from Spartacus Educational provides us some idea of what the Home secretary did.

“In 1812, Lord Liverpool became prime minister, and he offered Sidmouth the post of Home Secretary in his new government. Viscount Sidmouth now had the responsibility of dealing with social unrest in Britain. This included making machine-breaking an offence punishable by death. On one day alone, fourteen Luddites  were executed in York. Social unrest continued and in 1817, Sidmouth was responsible for the passing of what became known as the Gagging Acts. The unpopularity of Sidmouth increased in 1819 after he wrote a letter supporting the action of the magistrates and the Manchester & Salford Yeomanry  at what opponents called the Peterloo Massacre. In November 1819, Sidmouth persuaded Parliament to pass a series of repressive measures that became known as the Six Acts.   Sidmouth retired from office in 1821.”

The National Archives provides us some information on the Home Office from the late 1700s to 2005. See the link HERE:

Regan Walker has written a novel about some of the spying the Home Office engaged in. There were two under-secretaries and a chief clerk. Clerks, a law clerk, a private secretary who was Lord Sidmouth’s son, and minor workers. Sidmouth was paid  £6000 a year. His son received 300£.

The offices and more formal rooms have not been changed much since the Regency time period. They tended to be wooden floored, with formal wood paneling (wainscoting) half way up the wall and plaster coving at the top of the wall connecting to the ceiling. Some of the light fixtures were quite elaborate chandeliers, especially in the formal meeting rooms

That being said, no one now knows how the office looked then. The building has been renovated  over two centuries. In many ways, the office might have looked more like modern offices with open cubicles rather than having separate offices for all except those in power. The secretaries would have a large room with a place to meet distinguished visitors. The Foreign Secretary would have a place to meet foreign dignitaries. Secretaries were the head men, though the term used with private secretary was used as we do. The ones doing  clerical work were called clerks. They are the ones who might work in a large open room.

The Home Office was located in the Palace of Whitehall. The Palace of Whitehall gave its name to the street. Whitehall is the building. When I researched the Foreign Office a few years ago, I discovered it was housed in the Treasury Building during the Regency. 

The Royal Kalendar of 1815 says the Home Secretary was at Whitehall. It was a large building. The addresses given provide the street address if the building is not well known and there are a couple of addresses of places on Downing Street – with  numbers.

The palaces of Westminster and White hall were used as public offices They were multipurpose  buildings. 

Westminster was  the name of the city in which Mayfair was located. There is also Westminster Abbey. I need my Visitors Guide to London of 1809 or one of the Gentlemen’s guides to the government buildings to keep them straight.

Hierarchy of 1815 officers in Home Office:

Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth, Home Secretary

Undersecretary: John Beckett, Esq. and the Honourable John Addington

Chief clerk

senior clerks

law clerk

Private secretary  W. L  Addington


Addington’s sons would probably have people under them who did the work.

There was an Irish division with a chief secretary to the Lord Lieutenant, Robert Peel.

Here’s a free PDF on entitled The British Civil Service: Home, Colonial, Indian, and Diplomatic by Francis George Heath. if anyone else is curious. [Also, available on Amazon.]

There was a big push for reform of the Home Office starting in the 1830’s. One or two sources refer to Bathurst and Liverpool being more “government aristocracy” than part of the old landowning aristocracy. Henry Addington was Sidmouth, head of the Home Office, two of his sons worked under him. Like the Bathurst family, much of their income came from the government positions. This was before the British form of civil service was established and patronage and nepotism were acceptable.

You might also find this Google Book of use: Calendar of Home office papers of the reign of George iii. 1760-(1775) preserved in her majesty’s Public record office. Ed. by J. Redington (R.A. Roberts).

Posted in British history, buildings and structures, George IV, Georgian England, Georgian Era, Living in the Regency, political stance, real life tales, Realm series, Regency era, Regency personalities, research, trilogy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Early History of the Oxford English Dictionary

Several times per week, I am looking at the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) for word origins or synonyms or a variety of other searches. Yet, until recently, I had not thought much about this fabulous resource’s beginnings.

It took from 1857 when members of the Philosophical Society of London called for a more “complete” dictionary of the English language to 1879, when an agreement with the Oxford University Press was agreed upon, to begin work on a New English Dictionary, as it was to be called at the time. One of the key people who initiated the idea of such a dictionary was one Frederick Furnivall, a founder of the Early English Text Society, and one of the originators of the concept for and assistance in the preparation of A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, now the Oxford English Dictionary. Furnivall called the dictionary a “National Gallery of the race of English words.” Furnivall estimated it would take four years to complete. The first edition did not arrive until 1928.

James A. H. Murray was another of those whose vision created what we now know as the OED. “His membership in the British Philological Society and his book on Scottish dialects, published in 1868, allowed him to make many important scholarly contacts. In 1879 he was invited by Oxford University Press to edit the new English dictionary which had been proposed by the Philological Society. Despite some initial disagreements between Murray and the Press over editorial guidelines, Murray agreed to begin formal work on the project soon afterwards.

“Working in a specially constructed workroom called the ‘Scriptorium’, in which were kept two tons of source quotations that the Philological Society had collected, Murray proceeded with the project. Finding some errors and oversights in the Society’s materials, he established a ‘reading programme’, through which he gathered more quotations for the Dictionary. A reading programme similar to Murray’s is still used today as a principal method of assembling material for revising the Dictionary.” [Dictionary Directors]

The second editor of the OED was one Henry Bradley, a lexicographer and philologist. He was very much self-educated in philosophy, European and classical languages, and even Hebrew. He was known to write book reviews to assist in supporting his family. His review of the first part of the New English Dictionary had Murray consulting Bradley on etymological issues.

Henry Bradley

“In 1886, Bradley was employed by the Delegates of Oxford University Press to assist with the letter B, and in January 1888 he was appointed as the Dictionary’s second editor…. Bradley’s forty years’ work on the Dictionary encompassed the letters E-GL-MS-Sh (a section which included the longest entry ‘set’), St, and part of W.”

Other editors may be found HERE.

The Oxford English Dictionary contains over 600,000 English words and more than 2.5 million quotes to support the words. As one might expect, William Shakespeare is the most “quotable” contributor. The dictionary is constantly being updated.

If one is interested, I might suggest “The Marking of the Oxford English Dictionary” by Peter Gilliver. This is Amazon’s description of the book: “This book tells the history of the Oxford English Dictionary from its beginnings in the middle of the nineteenth century to the present. The author, uniquely among historians of the OED, is also a practising lexicographer with nearly thirty years’ experience of working on the Dictionary. He
has drawn on a wide range of sources–including previously unexamined archival material and eyewitness testimony–to create a detailed history of the project. The book explores the cultural background from which the idea of a comprehensive historical dictionary of English emerged, the lengthy struggles to bring this concept to fruition, and the development of the book from the appearance of the first printed fascicle in 1884 to the launching of the Dictionary as an online database in 2000 and beyond. It also examines the evolution of the lexicographers’ working methods, and provides much
information about the people–many of them remarkable individuals–who have contributed to the project over the last century and a half.”

Warning: The complete set is very pricey; yet, if one deals with words constantly, it might be worth the investment.

Posted in British history, word origins, word play | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Early History of the Oxford English Dictionary

“Happy Birthday” is Not a Regency Thing, but It is Mine

This week I marked another birthday. I am very much my astrological sign of VIRGO. tells us these Virgo Facts

Smart, sophisticated, and kind, Virgo gets the job done without complaining. Virgos are amazing friends, always there to lend a hand and also lend advice. Practical Virgos are incredibly adept at big picture thinking, and planning out their life, their vacations, and what they’re going to do today isn’t a drag it makes them feel in control and secure.

Virgos have a rich inner life and can sometimes seem shy at first meeting. A Virgo will not spill secrets right away, and it is important to earn a Virgo’s trust. But once you do, that Virgo will be a friend for life. 

Virgos expect perfection from themselves, and they may project those high standards on the other people in their lives. A Virgo hates when someone lets him or her down, even if the indiscretion is minor and unavoidable, like a last-minute cancellation. Virgos never want to disappoint the people in their lives, so they may spread themselves too thin and put themselves last.

Intelligent and a lifelong learner, Virgos loves trying new things, reading books, and learning about the world. They will happily sign up for an adult-education course, and they consider an afternoon in bed with a book pretty much ideal. A Virgo prefers an evening with good friends to a huge party and values downtime just as much as socializing. This sign does not need to fill their calendar to be content.

All this talk of birthdays got me thinking about the lack of birthday celebrations in Austen’s novels. It is quite disheartening to have others forget one’s birthday, but it was not so for Jane Austen and her family. We know Christmas had not the “glorious significance” as it does these days, but what of birthdays? Quite simply, as Anglicans, such humoring of a person, would have been frowned upon.


Can you think of one person in Austen’s books who even mentions a birthday? The only one which springs to mind to me is Harriet Smith in Emma. Harriet speaks of hers and Robert Martin’s birthdays occurring within a fortnight, and those birthdays were separated only by one day.

As readers we know many of the characters’ ages. Lydia Bennet is but fifteen when we first meet her, but she is sixteen when she marries George Wickham. Marianne Dashwood is seventeen at the beginning of Sense and Sensibility and is nineteen when she marries Colonel Brandon. Fanny Price is a child when she first comes to Mansfield Park; yet, never once are her birthdays mentioned as a passing of time. Jane Fairfax is approaching one and twenty and the prospect of becoming a governess. Charlotte Lucas at seven and twenty has “become a burden to her family.” Elizabeth Elliot is nearly thirty and not married, and Anne Elliot is seven and twenty when Captain Wentworth returns to claim her. Catherine Morland turns eighteen just before Henry Tilney claims her as his wife. Even Elizabeth Bennet must have had a birthday somewhere in the year she had taken Mr. Darcy’s acquaintance. But when? There is no mention of her chronological aging, only her emotional aging. The closest we come to knowing something of Elizabeth’s age is when she admits to being twenty to Lady Catherine. But we do not know if she was nineteen when the book began and turned twenty some time between November when she dance with Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball, or whether, like me, she is a September baby, turning one and twenty after she encounters Darcy again at Pemberley. Is such true for all of Austen’s characters? Austen wrote from her life experiences. If she did not “celebrate” such milestones, why would her characters? Tell me what you think. Am I being bizarre or is there some truth in this assumption?

Birthdays don’t play a prominent role in Austen’s novels, but they do in her few surviving letters. I like that because it shows a wonderful emotional connectedness to her family and to the life going on around her. 

We all know her sister Cassandra destroyed the vast majority of Austen’s letters, but a few survived – letters to nieces and other family members. In these, she displays her incomparable wit – even writing one backwards – and a true interest in everyone’s life. And she talks about birthdays – royal birthdays, neighbor birthdays, family birthdays and even dates one letter “Chawton, Sunday, June 23rd, Uncle Charles’s birthday.”

Strictly Jane Austen tells us, “Austen’s correspondence with her sister offers some insight into how birthdays were noted and celebrated by families from the gentry. In a letter from Steventon, dated January 8 1799, she writes, ” I wish you joy of your birthday twenty times over.”  Much later, regarding her own birthday, she wrote: “My dearest Cassandra, I will keep this celebrated birthday by writing to you.”  This letter then details a drive with her brother Edward, assemblies and other amusements, but not an official birthday celebration.

“For most families in Georgian times, birthday celebrations were unsurprisingly rather less lavish, especially in comparison to modern times. Yet a young boy from a wealthy family in Regency Britain would often have his fifth birthday marked with a ‘breeching ceremony’; this was a grand occasion with relatives visiting to bestow gifts. For girls, their sixteenth birthday was considered the day they reached marriageable age and they were often given gifts such as fine jewellery, a trinket box, an enamel fan or fabric for a new gown in recognition of their social debut.”  [How Did the Georgians Celebrate Birthdays]

Meanwhile, enjoy this list of September birthdays celebrated by some of our favorite Austen Actors. 

Happy September Birthday to these Fabulous Austen-Inspired Actors…

 September 1 – Aisling Loftus, who portrayed Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


September 7 – Christopher Villers, who portrayed Tom Bertram in 1983 Mansfield Park

September 7 – Henry Maguire, who portrayed Jack Wickam in 2003’s Pride and Prejudice: A Latter Day Comedy


September 9 – Hugh Grant, who portrayed Edward Ferrars in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility

September 9 – Julia Sawalha, who portrayed Lydia Bennet in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice


September 10 – Colin Firth, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 11 – Alan Badel, who portrayed Fitzwilliam Darcy in 1958’s Pride and Prejudice (11 September 1923 to 19 March 1982)


September 15 – Sabina Franklyn, who portrayed Jane Bennet in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 16 – Alexis Bledel, who portrayed Georgiana Darcy in Bride and Prejudice


September 19 – David Bamber, who portrayed Mr. Collins in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 22 – Billie Piper, who portrayed Fanny Price in 2007’s Mansfield Park


September 22 – Rupert Penry Jones, who portrayed Captain Frederick Wentworth in 2007’s Persuasion

September 23 – Crispin Bonham Carter, who portrayed Charles Bingley in 1995’s Pride and Prejudice


September 23 – Peter Settelen, who portrayed George Wickham
in 1980’s Pride and Prejudice 

September 24 – Ryan Paevey, who portrayed Donovan Darcy in Unleashing Mr. Darcy, as well as Marrying Mr. Darcy

 September 26 – Talulah Riley, who portrayed Mary Bennet in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice


September 26 – Edmund Gwenn, who portrayed Mr. Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (26 September 1877 to 6 September 1959)

September 27 – Gweyneth Paltrow, who portrayed Emma Woodhouse in 1996’s film version of Emma


September 29 – Greer Garson, who portrayed Elizabeth Bennet in 1940’s Pride and Prejudice (29 September 1904 to 6 April 1996)

Posted in Austen actors, Austen Authors, birthdays, British history, Georgian England, Georgian Era | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Primogeniture and Inheritance and the Need for a Widow’s Pension in Jane Austen’s Novels

By Jane Austen’s time, primogeniture was no longer the law of the land, but it remained a strongly entrenched custom of inheritance proceedings. Breaking apart large landholdings were frowned upon. An impoverished aristocracy, whose wealth rested in the agricultural realm, would lead to total chaos in the countryside or so it was assumed. The practice of primogeniture, with the family’s holdings going to the the eldest son, made paupers of younger sons or forced them to seek gainful employment in a handful of occupations: the army, the navy, the church, or law. (Medicine was not as well accepted as were the other four, but a some “gentlemen” chose the occupation.) 

mrbennet.gif But what occurred if there were no sons to inherit, as in the case of Mr. Bennet in Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Sir Walter Elliot in Persuasion? Under English law, women were subordinate to their husbands. It was expected that she was under the “protection and influence of her husband, her baron, or lord.” The law stated the old adage of “two shall become one.” She was her husband’s “feme covert.” Any property she owned—real or personal—came under his control. A married woman could not draft a will or dispose of any property without her husband’s consent.

Women rarely inherited property (land). They could inherit “personal” belongings such as, furniture, jewelry, clothing, moveable goods, etc. But that does not mean that a woman could NOT inherit real property (meaning land, or what we now call “real estate”). The practice of primogeniture under English law presented the oldest son with the real property upon the death of the father. A “fee tail male” was the legal means to present the “entail” through the male line. It was possible for a father and his son to join forces to eliminate the entail. This would give the current owner something called “fee simple,” meaning ownership could be bequeathed without restrictions. In Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, a “fee tail male” agreement results in the Dashwood ladies’ displacement from their family home. Mr. Dashwood’s estate goes to the son of his first marriage. A “fee tail male” agreement also affects Mr. Bennet’s situation. Bennet is the life tenant of the Longbourn estate. Whichever of his ancestors created the fee tail male agreement is never identified. The entail that controls the Bennet estate (better known legally as “the remainder”) expires upon his death if he had no male heirs. The reader is told in Pride and Prejudice that Mr. Bennet had hoped to have a son [who could have joined with Bennet in terminating the fee tail male arrangement]. Unless Mrs. Bennet predeceasing her husband, and Bennet remarries and produces a son, the remainder [the property] would go his closest male relative: Mr. Collins. 

Daughters could only inherit in the absence of a male heir. The law of intestate primogeniture remained on the statue books in Britain until the 1925 property legislation simplified and updated England’s archaic law of real property. Aware of their daughters’ unfortunate situation, fathers often provided them with dowries or worked into a prenuptial agreement pin money, the estate which the wife was to possess for her sole and separate use not subject to the control of her husband, to provide her with an income separate from his.

prideandprejudice_126-e1431533593682.jpg In Mrs. Bennet’s case, her “nerves” make her both a comic and a sympathetic character. In reality, her ranting against the establishment was the lady’s only means to express her frustration. With the passing of her husband, she and any daughters that are not married will be out of their home. She will have no income other that the money settled upon her at her marriage. Locating suitable housing for a woman of her station with five dependents would be difficult. Her £4000 would likely yield only £200 to £250 yearly. Her situation would be more dire than the Dashwoods.

bts_poster_costumes.jpg “For example, in Sense and Sensibility, the widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters do not inherit the great Dashwood estate, Norland, because the owner, Uncle Dashwood, suddenly changes his will and leaves it to his grandnephew. He does this for two reasons: The grandnephew is cute, and he will carry on the Dashwood surname, keeping Norland in Dashwood hands. So the four Dashwood women now must live on £500 annually (SS 1:2). Now while this does not put them on the street, this sum doesn’t give them the life they lived at Norland Park, a beautiful and spacious gentry estate with a large house attached to it. They must move to a cottage with moderate rent. And their social life is limited to where their feet can take them because they can’t afford a carriage and horse. A visit to London is out of the question financially, unless a friend covers their expenses. And their chances of landing a financially stable marriage are lessened by the daughters each having a dowry of only £1,000, their Uncle having given each girl that amount (and their inability to get out often to meet people)….The Dashwood ladies have a cottage at a very moderate rent; they have two maids and a man servant, whose pay would have been quite low; they have neither carriage nor horse; the four Dashwoods probably have limited wardrobes; and they appear to get quite a bit of food from Sir John Middleton, on whose estate they live. This amount would allow them to live in a minimally genteel way.” [Ray, Joan Klingel. Jane Austen for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2006. 133-34.]


Mrs. Norris 1983 Anna Massey

From Jane Stabler [Explanatory Notes. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. Oxford’s World Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2003, 396-397.], we learn, “In Austen’s day, £600 a year is a comfortable income for someone who is careful with his money (and there is no doubt Aunt Norris’s extreme caution in this respect). Austen’s pinpointing of Aunt Norris’s income makes it clear that she can afford to employ three servants to help with the running of the White house so her exploitation of Fanny is mean, as well as cruel.”

In contrast to wives, women who never married or who were widowed maintained control over their property and inheritance, owned land and controlled property disposal, since by law any unmarried adult female was considered to be a feme soleSome of the peeresses, in their own right had property, as well as the title which the husband couldn’t touch. Still, inheritance through the female of a peerage by patent was  extremely rare and usually only put into the patent while the 1st peer was alive. Usually, the patents didn’t allow for female inheritance. It was rare for a woman to be able to inherit a peerage created by patent. The Duke of Marlborough had his patent changed when it was obvious he would not have a son, but that was a rare occurrence. Most females succeeded to a lesser peerage created by writ. Once married, the only way that women could reclaim property was through widowhood.

I have completed a series of articles on Primogeniture for this blog if you wish to know more. You will find them at the links below: 

The Effects of Primogeniture and Family Dynamics

Female Inheritance Laws

Gavelkind, Inheritance in Opposition to Primogeniture

The Popularity of Primogeniture During the Regency Period

Primogeniture and the 19th Century Entail

Primogeniture? Collateral Relatives? The First Laws of Inheritance…

The Roots of Primogeniture and Entails

Statue of Wills, Henry VII’s Answer to Primogeniture


Posted in Austen Authors, British history, customs and tradiitons, estates, family, Georgian England, Inheritance, Jane Austen, Living in the Regency, Pride and Prejudice, primogenture, real life tales, Regency era | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Primogeniture and Inheritance and the Need for a Widow’s Pension in Jane Austen’s Novels

The First Autobiography Ever Written in the English Language

Likely, many of you reading this piece will have never heard of Margery Kempe, but her autobiography was the first recorded in the English language.

First, we must realize Mrs. Kempe was born in 1373 in Lynn (later Bishop’s Lynn and now referred to as King’s Lynn) in East Anglia (now Norfolk). She lived 72 years in a time when the English court still spoke French. In fact, Lynn became the first English town to abandon Latin and French and to adopt English as its main language. Yet, that is the matter for a different post. This one deals with Margery Kempe.

Margery Kempe (née Burnham) was the daughter of the local mayor, John Burnham. She married John Kempe when she was 20 years of age (1393) and presented him with 14 children, which I think is remarkable in itself in the late Medieval period. She reportedly had frequent visions of Jesus. She claimed a heavenly vision told her to go on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and she sought her husband’s permission to make this journey. She agreed to settle all his debts if he would permit her to go. Personally, I suspect she wanted to be free of being pregnant for awhile, but I cannot prove my theory, so I will stick with what we know.

We know Margery was a middle-class woman. She was illiterate, but such does not mean she did not have the mind for exploring the unusual. She held several jobs over the years, including being both a horse-mill-owner and a brewer. The thing about Margery’s life which makes it so “extraordinary” is its “ordinariness.” The British Library tells us, “The experiences of people like this rarely survive from the Middle Ages, and it is the unashamed earthiness of Margery’s Book that has captivated readers since the discovery of the only surviving manuscript of her work in 1934. Had it not been for this chance discovery in 1934, we would have little sense of this woman and her astonishing life. Previously, the only known text of Kempe’s Book was seven pages of extracts of the work printed by Wynkyn de Worde in 1501.”

The Book of Margery Kempe begins during her first pregnancy and provides the reader glimpses of her life until she was in her mid 60s. It is not, however, in chronological order of the events. She had thought she would die with the delivery of her first child, and so, she gave confession to a priest who rightly chastised her for her many sins. The admonishment so moved her that she experienced some sort of “episode,” in which Jesus appeared to her. “In her account, her recovery is signalled when she asks her husband for the keys to the ‘buttery’, or pantry so that she might eat and drink as she had done before. There is something so charming about a woman who sits down to a hearty dinner after a mystical experience, and it is exactly these kinds of details that make Margery’s account so fascinating.” [British Library]

Eventually, Margery began to deny herself the few pleasures of life she had once enjoyed as a sort of penance for her past and present sins. She went on her first pilgrimage in 1413. Reportedly, she suffered from frequent bouts of loud wailing and weeping, which, naturally, did not make Margery a favorite with the other pilgrims, nor to the people of Lynn when she returned home. That first pilgrimage saw Margery visiting the anchoress and mystic, Julian of Norwich. Later, in 1413, she traveled to Jerusalem. She did not return to her family until 1415. In 1417, she traveled to Santiago de Compostela.

Considered to be a heretic by many, Margery went on trials at York, Hull, Hessle, and Beverley. Eventually, she returned to Lynn in 1418.

She began seeking out someone to assist her with her book as early as 1432, supposedly to a local priest. We do not know her exact date of death, but it was after 1438.

According to Brittanica, “Her descriptions of her travels and her religious ecstasies, which often included “boystous” crying spells, are narrated in an unaffected prose style that uses such contemporary expressions as “thou wost no more what thou blaberest than Balamis asse.” Apparently illiterate, she dictated her Book of Margery Kempe to two clerks from about 1432 to about 1436. It was first published (modernized) in 1936 and in Middle English in 1940.”

“Margery faces several challenges in attempting to record her experiences. She was illiterate and so she had to dictate the work to an ‘amanuensis’ – a scribe who listened to her words and wrote them down. In fact, three different amanuenses were involved in the project. The first was ‘an englishman’ who lived in Germany. This was probably her son. Unfortunately he died before the work was completed. After this, the work was taken up by a priest who said it was ‘so ill-written that he could make little sense of it’ and they seemed to have begun again. During the course of this, however, the priest was discouraged by malicious gossip that he had heard about Kempe and so he delayed the project for four years. He directed Kempe to a third man, who had at one time been a correspondent of the ‘englishman’ (the first amanuensis). This scribe could not understand the text. Subsequently, the priest began to suffer pangs of guilt and prayed to god to be able to understand the work, whereupon he was miraculously able to complete the Book. This convoluted story shows Margery’s admirable determination to find her voice and get her experiences recorded in the face of so many obstacles.

“he only surviving manuscript was written by a scribe named ‘Salthouse’ in the 15th century. The manuscript may have been made by members of the Carthusian order, and it seems to have been read with interest: there are four sets of annotations in the book.”

Other Sources:

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe (1373-1438)

Margery Kempe and Her Close Encounter with a Falling Beam

Posted in Age of Chaucer, British history, medieval, real life tales, religion, research | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on The First Autobiography Ever Written in the English Language

Today’s Happy Release of “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” + a Giveaway

I am releasing “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” TODAY!!! I particularly liked this story because the idea behind it is not simply the “boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again,” which we see in many romances. There is something more elemental between Hendrake Barrymore, Earl of Radcliffe, and Miss Adelaide Shaw’s relationship, for they grew up together on neighboring estates and were, at one time, each other’s best friend.

Now, we all know the experience of losing a “best friend,” especially one from one’s childhood. I have lost several, and I still feel the void in my life from their absence; yet, I am fortunate one of those childhood friends is still a part of my life, even though we live several hundred miles apart. Such does not mean all went well for the two of us over the last seven decades (Yes, I will be 74 years of age next Friday, so it has been nearly seven decades since she and I met in second grade.). We experienced our tiffs. We had our moments of “not speaking to each other.” Yet, trumping such stubbornness, more importantly, we have “history” together. We share a common knowledge of the world. 

Having a “best friend” means perfection is not required, and is that particular fact not a relief in itself? A good friendship requires “mutuality.” A good friend is not only one’s supporter, but also a “reality tester.” Good friends are the people who, for better or for worse, get under our skin, and they are the ones in whom we choose to invest. Because of that, they bring a certain stability and normality to our lives. The loss of a friend, whether permanently or temporarily, is life-changing. We do not always understand the emotions tied to this loss.

In the case of Drake and Addy, their separation stirs up complex emotions. Some anger. Lots of frustration. Sadness. Confusion. Regret. It has also left them with more than a few unanswered questions, especially as the “loss” did not come from a death, but rather from a choice the friend made which caused the relationship to crumble. Yet, who is at fault?

Hendrake Barrymore, Lord Radcliffe, is a typical male, a bit daff when it comes to the ways of women, especially the ways of one particular woman, Miss Adelaide Shaw, his childhood companion, a girl who plays a part in every pleasant memory Drake holds.

Yet, since he failed to deliver Addy’s first kiss on her fifteenth birthday, his former “friend” has struck him from her life just at a time when Radcliffe has come to the conclusion Adelaide is the one woman who best suits him.

This tale is more than a familiar story of friends to lovers for it presents the old maxim an unusual twist.

Excerpt from second half of Chapter One: 

[You can read part one of Chapter One HERE.]

When news had arrived at the manor of Sultan not be located, Adelaide knew exactly where the horse had gone. She had quickly changed into her riding habit and set out for the border between her father’s property and the land belonging to Lord Radcliffe. Addy suspected Sultan’s natural instinct to mate might be the needle’s prick in the continuing estrangement between the earl and her family. 

She reached a gloved hand down to pat her gelding’s neck. “Might as well face the Devil while the sun is up,” she murmured. She motioned to the grooms, who had accompanied her, to fetch Sultan. “Take him home. I will speak to Radcliffe and discover what restitution will be required. Do not mention any of this to my father. I shall discuss the matter with the baron upon my return. Also, send men out to repair our side of the fence. It appears someone has removed the rails we set atop of the brick wall. For what purpose, I have no idea. Yet, the removal permitted Sultan an easy jump.” 

“Yes, miss,” the men chorused. 

Looking to the opposing ridge, she spotted Radcliffe studying her. Without even a nod of her head in greeting, she nudged her horse forward. Quietly, she questioned, “Why must the man be the handsomest man of my acquaintance?”

Alcon shook his head as if in response. 

“I know,” she said softly. “I should ask the opinion of another female. Perhaps the mare below has taken note of his lordship’s appearance. Mayhap she holds an opinion of her owner which could prove mine in error.” 

She made her approach as Radcliffe had descended his side of the ridge to meet her in the middle. If only they could again find a similar “middle territory” in their relationship, then, she could, perhaps, go on with her life. Yet, Adelaide knew it would take more than this brief meeting to make her whole again. Bringing Alcon to a halt, she schooled her expression before greeting the earl. “Your lordship.” 

“Miss Shaw.” Why did the sound of his voice do odd things to her composure? It had been six years since she had displaced him from her world, and so much had changed within both their lives which should have made a difference, but hadn’t. However, anytime her eyes fell upon the man or someone mentioned his name or her father complained about the expense of having a well dug to use for the stock and the crops, she was right back where she always had been: in love with Hendrake Barrymore. 

If she could discover another man she could tolerate for more than an hour, maybe, then, she could marry and move away to her husband’s home. Distance, she had reasoned often, would aid in forgetting the ease which once had existed between her and the young man who had been her best friend when they were children. 

“I apologize for Sultan, my lord,” she said through tight lips. “I shall speak to my father regarding restitution to Lord—”

“Shelton,” he supplied. 

“To Lord Shelton,” she continued. “I realize Sultan’s actions cost you the sale of the foal, and in these trying times, such business can assist in maintaining the land.” 

“Your father requires the fee, as well,” he said, keeping his steady gaze upon her and making Addy want to fidget. 

“I assure you, my lord, Sultan’s presence here today was not purposeful,” she argued, completely ignoring his gesture of goodwill. 

“Beyond nature and what God designed for him, I did not think the stallion’s actions purposeful,” he corrected. A frown marked his brow. “But certainly inconvenient.” 

She made to concentrate on the task at hand, rather than the bluest eyes she had ever beheld. “It appears someone has removed the wooden rails my father had placed on the brick wall marking the border between our properties. Sultan can easily clear the brick one without the railing.” 

His lordship eyed the wall suspiciously. “Like you, I would not name what remains of the wooden barrier a detriment to a horse of Sultan’s stature.” 

Addy kept her gaze upon the sad state of the wall. Such was safer where interactions with Radcliffe were concerned. From where she sat, the wall was in worse shape than she had originally thought. “It appears someone required . . . required the wood . . . to warm their cottages.” 

He dismounted, crossed to where she sat and lifted his hands to her to assist her to dismount. Obviously, he meant to make more of this encounter than was necessary. The fact she could not dismount or remount, for that matter, without his assistance, was something she was reluctant to admit, even to herself, for she did not want to consider the exquisite warmth of his hands upon her, for if he was to touch her, she would not be responsible for her actions. Despite his having betrayed her, even after six years, the man still held a power over her. 

“May I assist you down?” he questioned, but he did not step away from her.

Reluctantly, she nodded her agreement. “Step back so I might release my foot from the stirrup.”

“With your permission, I will do it,” he suggested with a slight lift of his brows, as if he meant to challenge her, something he had always done—something she desperately missed from having him in her life. 

Biting her bottom lip in frustration, she nodded her agreement. 

The subtle warmth of his hand on her leg above her half boots did crazy things to her most private place; yet, she swallowed her desire by reminding herself of his betrayal. Instead, she carefully shifted her weight to lift her right leg from around the pommel without exposing more of her person to him or tumbling off the saddle into his arms. A woman without the experience upon a horse she held would have not been able to release her leg and swivel in the seat without a spill. 

Both legs free, she leaned forward to place her hands on his broad shoulders and permitted him to assist her to the ground. The process was quite awkward, not the way one reads of it in the novels she adored, but possible, nonetheless.

At length, he set her before him, catching her hand in his. “We will inspect the wall together.” 

Using his hand for support, she bent to catch the loop on the skirt of her riding habit to avoid tripping upon it and to provide herself a few extra seconds to control the sudden racing tempo of her heart. “Such is not necessary, my lord,” she said tartly as she rose. It was important for her to keep her resentment in place, for she was too susceptible to this man. 

“I insist,” he said, setting her hand upon his arm.

Addy reluctantly fell into step beside him. “I assure you, my lord, my father is capable of seeing to the repair without your input.” 

He stopped suddenly, causing Addy to stumble. His hand again caught her about the waist to prevent her from falling, and Adelaide felt her heart jump with the same pleasant surprise she had known when he had been her best friend in the world and thought to share something with her. 

“Why is it you continue to despise me, Adelaide? I made a foolish mistake. Have you never erred in your judgement?”

The fact her body still touched his in two places—her hand rested upon his arm and his hand rested upon her waist—made it difficult for her to concentrate fully. She purposely stepped back to break their connection in order to clear her thinking. She retorted, “Most assuredly I have erred in my estimation of more than one ‘so-called’ gentleman.” 

“I refuse to apologize for my actions of six years past,” he growled. “I am not the same callow youth I was then.” 

“If I recall correctly, you refused to apologize then, as well. You offered your excuses, but no honest apology,” she countered. 

“This is ridiculous, Addy. We are wasting our lives arguing over something which cannot be changed,” he insisted. 

“As you say, my lord.” She walked away toward the wall. Purposely, studying it, she said, “Evidently, my father must ask Mr. Bowden to design a better barrier.” She fingered the two boards left behind. “This is unacceptable. Someone will take up the task in the morning. You have my word on the matter, my lord.” Without waiting for his opinions, she returned to where Alcon stood munching on the grass. Knowing she could not mount without Radcliffe’s assistance, she caught the animal’s reins to lead it home. “Come, Alcon.” She gave a little tug. “We must return to the manor.” 

Radcliffe stood where she had left him by the wall. From the corner of her eye she noted how he shook his head in what appeared to be disbelief. “You are the most stubborn woman of my acquaintance!”

She kept walking, slowly climbing the hill. It was a good mile to the house, but it would not be her first time walking that distance, nor would it likely be her last, although, she would admit, if only to herself, she wished she had worn more comfortable boots. Yet, she would never voice that particular complaint aloud. 

“You do not mean to allow me to assist you to the saddle?” he called. “Be reasonable, Addy!”

“Miss Shaw!” she declared without looking back to judge his reaction. “I am Miss Shaw.” She hid the pain such a declaration caused her. “My father will be in touch, my lord.” 

“Hendrake!” He stormed toward her, but thankfully did not attempt to prevent her retreat. “I am Hendrake! Drake! Not ‘my lord’ or ‘your lordship,’ not even ‘Radcliffe’! Say my name, Adelaide,” he demanded. 

Tears filled her eyes; yet, she did not slow her pace, nor did she look back to him. Instead, she stiffened her resolve, pulling her posture straighter and lifting her chin. She had a mile to allow herself another good cry. She had had plenty of them in the last six years, and, each time, she prayed it would be the last tears she shed over a man who had allowed his friends to attempt to deliver the kiss he had promised her—who had not thought to protect her from such manhandling—who had not even noticed the redness marking her cheek from where Lord French had slapped her when she had used a fireplace poker to fend off the man’s advances—who had only thought of the kiss she had denied him from a mere maid when Addy had been prepared to present him her whole heart. 

GIVEAWAY: I have 3 eBook copies of “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” to share with readers. To enter, tell me something about your best friend. No names are necessary, unless you wish to share. Perhaps it could be about someone no longer in your life. Or about someone you recently claimed to friend. What is it about your friendship that is so special? The giveaway ends at midnight EST, Tuesday, September 14. The winners will be announced on Sunday, September 19, 2021. GOOD LUCK!!!

Purchase Links:


Kindle Unlimited

Posted in book excerpts, book release, eBooks, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, heroines, historical fiction, publishing, reading, reading habits, real life tales, Regency era, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” Releasing This Friday, September 10 + a Giveaway

One of the plot points of my latest release, “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” revolves around the Enclosure Acts. What were they?  

In England and Wales from the 12th Century forward enclosure (or inclosure) was a common practice. Before enclosure, much of the land was only used during the growing season. Once the harvest took place, the was at the disposal of the community. People grazed their livestock freely upon the land. They also found other uses for it. Enclosure occurred when someone, usually the manorial lord, put up a fence or a hedgerow to separate open land and the land the lord chose to claim. This prevented common grazing rights. 

The article on enclosure on Wikipedia says, “Enclosure (sometimes inclosure) was the legal process in England of enclosing a number of small landholdings to create one larger farm. Once enclosed, use of the land became restricted to the owner, and it ceased to be common land for communal use. In England and Wales, the term is also used for the process that ended the ancient system of arable farming in open fields. Under enclosure, such land is fenced (enclosed) and deeded or entitled to one or more owners. The process of enclosure began to be a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during the 16th century. By the 19th century, unenclosed commons had become largely restricted to rough pasture in mountainous areas and to relatively small parts of the lowlands.

[For a more thorough explanation of the Enclosure Act, please visit The Practice of Enclosure on this blog.]

In my latest tale, “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend,” Hendrake Barrymore believes one of the barriers between him and Miss Adelaide Shaw is his father’s use of the Enclosure Act to secure water rights once shared with Adelaide’s father. Yet, he is soon to find more “personal” barriers lie between them.

Hendrake Barrymore, Lord Radcliffe, is a typical male, a bit daff when it comes to the ways of women, especially the ways of one particular woman, Miss Adelaide Shaw, his childhood companion, a girl who plays a part in every pleasant memory Drake holds. 

Yet, since he failed to deliver Addy’s first kiss on her fifteenth birthday, his former “friend” has struck him from her life just at a time when Radcliffe has come to the conclusion Adelaide is the one woman who best suits him. 

This tale is more than a familiar story of friends to lovers for it presents the old maxim an unusual twist.

Excerpt from first part of Chapter One:

Tuesday, 14 September 1819, Kent, England

“I am going to kill him!” Hendrake Barrymore, Lord Radcliffe, growled as he looked down upon where his neighbor’s stallion was doing his best to bring another of Drake’s prized mares to foal.

“Dost ye mean to kill the horse or its owner?” Jack McGuyer asked with a grin. 

Drake required no prompting from his steward to bring forth an image of Lord Bernard Shaw nor of the baron’s daughter, Adelaide. Drake had never understood his attraction to the woman. As an earl, he could have his pick of the crop of beauties making their Come Outs for the Season, but none of them could hold a candle to Adelaide. She had inherited the best of both her maternal and paternal ancestors. Her hair was a chestnut brown, rich with hints of gold, and her eyes were a coppery-brown, sparking with fire. She was tall enough not to appear petite when standing beside him, which she rarely did these days unless they both exited the Sunday services at the same time. Then she would acknowledge him before excusing herself to speak to anyone but him. 

There had been a time when they were inseparable, roaming the hills and valleys making up their fathers’ estates. Then he had been sent off to school and had returned home full of himself—too concerned with arrogance at being the future earl to find time to spend with the one person he had always considered as important to his self-worth as were his parents. It was only later that he suspected he did not seek her out because he did not want to hear what she would say regarding the road he had been traveling, and Drake held no doubts, Adelaide Shaw would have had an opinion—she always did, and it would be one he did not want to hear. 

Yet, soon, everything changed for both of them. It had been her fifteenth birthday. He, or rather, he should say, his mother, had presented Adelaide with two song birds in a cage, a gift from his family, and Addy had seemed so pleased to have them. She kept giving him looks, that, at the time, he did not understand, but would be thrilled to receive today. Then he had made a colossal error. Drake could remember the moment as if it had occurred yesterday. His friends Lord Randolph French and Mr. Charles Scott had accompanied him to Cliffe House, and, unlike his previous holidays at the manor, he had ignored Adelaide completely until the evening of the celebration of her birthday. 

His friends had teased him, egging Drake on until he maneuvered one of Lord Shaw’s maids into what he thought was an empty room so he might steal a kiss. He had never treated a servant of his father’s house or Shaw’s as such, but French and Scott had kept saying it was all a “lark” and expected of young lords. As the maid quickly agreed, Drake had foolishly thought them correct. Stealing a kiss from a female servant was part of proving one was a man. 

Unfortunately, Addy was in the room he had chosen. It was not until days later that he had wondered why she had been lurking in the shadows of her family’s library. Had she planned an assignation of her own? The idea bothered him more than he would care to admit at the time, but not enough to consider his pursuit of the maid as being any more than proof he could seduce a willing miss. He meant to demonstrate to his friends his “way” with willing women. 

He had just tugged the maid into the room behind him and closed the door, positioning the girl along the wall, when Adelaide showed herself. “What do you think you are doing?” she demanded in sharp tones, which she had rarely used with him in the past. 

He had searched for an explanation, but none came to him readily enough to satisfy Adelaide. Angry, she had struck him then—not a simple slap, but rather a solid punch to his side. If the blow had not made him wince, Drake would have known pride: He had taught her how to punch so as to deliver a powerful blow while not breaking her thumb or any of her fingers. “You derelict!” she charged. “I thought you above such manipulations, but you are no better than those two coxcombs who accompanied you to my father’s house this evening!”

“Now, Addy,” he began, finally finding his voice. 

She punched him a second time, this one landing against his bicep. “Do not ‘Addy’ me, Hendrake Barrymore! I am ‘Miss Shaw’ to you, as you are ‘Lord Chadwick’ to me.” She turned her venomous tone on the maid. “If I were you, Iris, I would return to my ‘assigned’ duties and pray my mistress has a poor memory.” The girl curtseyed and scampered quickly from the room. 

He and Adelaide stood in silence for a few brief moments, eyeing each other in a manner he had never thought to consider. When had Adelaide Shaw become such a fetching female? She stood there, chest heaving in anger, and he felt his manhood come to life. Regrettably, Addy did not appear to know the same awareness of him as he had experienced for her. “You do not mean to offer me an excuse for your behavior?” she demanded. 

Although Drake was not proud of his intentions, he was not about to admit himself in the wrong, especially to her. She was not his parent. It was not necessary for him to answer to her. “It was only to be a simple kiss, Miss Shaw,” he said with a hint of authority, after all, he was the son of the Earl of Radcliffe. 

“For you, perhaps, it was a simple kiss,” Adelaide had countered. “However, your actions have likely cost Iris her position in my father’s house. Her regrets will fall on my mother’s deaf ears, for the baroness does not tolerate such foolishness from her household staff. It will be considered by both Lady Shaw and Iris as more than a simple kiss before this evening knows an end.” 

Drake had not considered the ramifications of his actions in those terms; he had only thought of proving his manhood to his friends. “What do you wish of me, Adelaide? I have apologized. If you wish me to speak to your mother in Iris’s behalf, I will. I do not wish Iris to lose her position because of me.” 

“What do I wish from you?” she repeated in what sounded of frustration. 

“Yes,” he answered in equal dismay. 

“I shall tell you what I want, my lord,” she accented each of her words by poking him in the chest with her index finger. “I want the return of my friend—the young man who was good and kind and thoughtful. I want that man to return to his sensibilities. I do not much care for the man you are becoming. I fear the earldom is doomed if this is the type of man you have designed for yourself.” 

He caught her finger and forcibly held her hand against his chest. He said softly, “I am the same Hendrake Barrymore you have always known, Adelaide. I promise.” 

“No, you are not,” she said as tears filled her eyes. “The Hendrake Barrymore I know would have recalled what he promised me on my twelfth birthday.” 

Drake searched his memory as to what she referred. At length, it dawned on him. “On your twelfth birthday, when you attempted to kiss me, I told you we would share your first kiss when you were fifteen.” He would not have minded that kiss, for she was, in his estimation, suddenly very desirable. “You wished a kiss when you were twelve and I was sixteen, but I told you you must be closer to becoming a woman to appreciate fully such a kiss.” Belatedly, he realized he had always been fascinated by Adelaide Shaw: She had been more than a valuable friend; she was his truest companion, the one who provided his life the perfect balance. The one who kept him on the straight and narrow. The one who wanted only the best for him. “I would still be willing to share your first kiss, Addy.” His breathing hitched higher, anticipating the possibilities. 

She shoved away from him then. “I fear you are too late, my lord. My first kiss, or should I say, the echo of one, occurred in this very room not ten minutes prior. I found it quite dissatisfying! As to my second kiss, I would prefer it came from a man who held the same values as I. Enjoy your pursuits, my lord, wherever they may take you.” Then, she walked from the room and, essentially, from his life. Afterward, he had made multiple overtures to return to what they once had shared, but six years later, they were no closer than they had been when she left him standing alone in a dark room and regretting his choices. The one woman he wished to court—the one woman he thought might bring satisfaction to his world—despised him. 

His late father had complicated the situation by enacting his Inclosure rights when after two years of wet summers, they had experienced one of the driest springs and summers in the history of the area. The previous earl, who had gladly shared a stream on Radcliffe land with his neighbors, had chosen, first, to place a fence around the open area where others had watered their livestock and, then, diverted the water to save his own crops. It had been a hard decision for Drake’s father to make, but one with which Drake had essentially agreed. Their first responsibility had been to the hundred and twenty families who depended directly upon the estate. 

Consequently, the move had infuriated many, especially Lord Bernard Shaw, Adelaide’s father. The move had laid the grounds for a rift between Drake’s and Addy’s families: A move for the survival of the earl’s estate and Drake’s foolish attempts to prove himself a man.

“What do you wish me to do about the mare?” McGuyer asked. 

“Move her back to the small pasture behind the barn. Keep all the mares there until I can settle this with Lord Shaw. Contact Lord Shelton and inform his lordship we must wait before we match his stallion with our Everlee. Ask Shelton if he wishes to choose a different mare or to wait. Offer his lordship our deepest apologies.”

“Shelton shan’t be happy. Everlee’s blood lines were what interested the viscount.” McGuyer cautioned. “He wanted to purchase the foal for his own line of horses.” 

Drake shook his head in acknowledgement of the truth. “I will make amends to Shelton. Meanwhile, send some of our men out to repair the fence. Evidently, Shaw’s people did a slipshod job. It appears part of it is down. Likely how Shaw’s horse crossed into my pasture.” 

“Aye, sir,” McGuyer said as he took up the reins again to chase down the mare. Before the steward rode away, though, he nodded to the opposing hillside. “Trouble approaching, sir.” 

Drake looked up to view Addy Shaw looking down upon the horses below. Other women would have been embarrassed by the scene of nature taking its expected course, but not Adelaide. Instead, she motioned the two grooms who accompanied her to fetch the stallion, before setting her horse on a slow, ambling descent to the valley below. Although she had presented him no form of acknowledgement nor a request for him to join her, Drake recognized her intent and gently nudged his gelding into motion. A long overdue confrontation awaited him. 

Visit again on Friday to read the second half of the chapter and for another chance to win a copy of the book.

GIVEAWAY: I have 3 eBook copies of “Lord Radcliffe’s Best Friend” available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight Tuesday, September 14, 2021. Winners will be notified shortly afterwards. GOOD LUCK!

Purchase Links:


Kindle Unlimited

Posted in book excerpts, book release, British history, eBooks, estates, excerpt, Georgian England, Georgian Era, giveaway, history, publishing, reading, reading habits, Regency era, Regency romance, romance, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The First Labor Day Celebration

New York City saw the celebration of the first Labor Day on 5 September 1882. The celebration marking the event was designed by the Central Labor Union. 

dolhistory-Father-Labor-Day.jpg  According to the Department of Labor, “While most sources, even the Department of Labor, credit Peter McGuire with the origination of Labor Day, recent evidence suggests that the true father of Labor Day may in fact be another famous union leader of the 19th Century, Matthew Maguire.

“According to legend, Peter McGuire stood before the New York Central Labor Union on May 12, 1882, to suggest the idea of setting aside one day a year to honor labor. McGuire believed that Labor Day should “be celebrated by a street parade which would publicly show the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations.”

“Peter McGuire was a young, though well-respected, union leader. A child of immigrants, he quit school at an early age to go to work. In 1881, he founded the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which would become the largest trade union of the time. Later, McGuire would join with his friend, Samuel Gompers, to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Through the AFL and the Carpenters, McGuire led the great strikes of 1886 and 1890, which would eventually result in the adoption of the eight-hour workday on the nation’s agenda.

“Recently, however, evidence uncovered at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark reveals that another respected union figure of the day, Matthew Maguire, may quite possibly be the man behind the creation of Labor Day.

“In the 1870s, Matthew Maguire led several strikes, most of which were intended to force the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public consciousness. By 1882, Maguire had become the secretary of and a leading figure in the Central Labor Union of New York.

“According to the New Jersey Historical Society, after President Cleveland signed into law the creation of a national Labor Day, The Paterson (N.J.) Morning Call published an opinion piece entitled, ‘Honor to Whom Honor is Due,’ which stated that ‘the souvenir pen should go to Alderman Matthew Maguire of this city, who is the undisputed author of Labor Day as a holiday.’ This editorial also referred to Maguire as the ‘Father of the Labor Day holiday.’

“So why has Matthew Maguire been overlooked as the ‘Father of Labor Day’? According to The First Labor Day Parade, by Ted Watts, Maguire held some political beliefs that were considered fairly radical for the day and also for Samuel Gompers and his American Federation of Labor. Allegedly, Gompers did not want Labor Day to become associated with the sort of “radical” politics of Matthew Maguire, so in a 1897 interview, Gompers’ close friend Peter J. McGuire was assigned the credit for the origination of Labor Day.”

So, what happened on that first Labor Day? In reality, a bit of mayhem occurred. 

AFL_certificate_1919_wiki_db_small.jpg Spectators for the event had arrived early to claim a spot to view the parade that was to pass near City Hall in Manhattan, along Broadway. A newspaper account of the day described “…men on horseback, men wearing regalia, men with society aprons, and men with flags, musical instruments, badges, and all the other paraphernalia of a procession.”

Worrying over what COULD occur, police were out in full force on horseback and on foot. They were in place to “control the crowd” by 9 A.M.

William McCabe served as the Grand Marshall for the parade, but when time came for them to step off, there were only a few marchers in place, and none of them had brought an instrument or music to play. Some even suggested that McCabe abandon his post, but he refused. Fortunately, Matthew Maguire of New York’s Central Labor Union hustled over to McCabe to inform the man that 200 marchers from Newark, New Jersey’s Jewelers Union were crossing over to Manhattan on the ferry, and thankfully, they had brought a band with them. 

Although McCabe and his aides and the police escort were a bit late stepping off, shortly after 10 A.M. the jewelers and their band turned onto lower Broadway. They played a tune from a popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera: “When I First Put This Uniform On.” The song seemed quite appropriate for the occasion. As the jewelers smartly marched past, McCabe and his aides followed. The police escort formed a line supposedly to keep the spectators back, but soon spectators were slipping through the police line and joining the marchers. Before long, there were 700 men in line in the first of three divisions of Labor Day marchers. Final reports of the total number of marchers ranged from 10,000 to 20,000 men and women.

The New York Tribune reported that, “The windows and roofs and even the lamp posts and awning frames were occupied by persons anxious to get a good view of the first parade in New York of workingmen of all trades united in one organization.”

The crowd arrived at Reservoir Park at noon. Here the parade was to end, but not necessarily the celebration, which was moved to Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue. The post-parade celebration included speeches, a picnic, and beer kegs galore. Nearly 25,000 union members and their families celebrated some eight hours, until around 9 P.M.

The second Labor Day was celebrated on 5 September 1883, but beginning in 1884, the first Monday in September became the official holiday. “The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.” (United States Department of Labor)

Posted in American History, holidays, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Agriculture and Other Business, a Guest Post from Colin Rowland

This post originally appeared on the Austen Authors blog on 29 June 2021. Enjoy!

It seems to be a common assumption that Mr. Bennet was not well off. His daughters’ dowries were small and Ms Austen left me with the impression he was just scraping by, but are these widely held beliefs correct? Let’s take a look at the facts:

While we are never informed of the size of Longbourn, it is possible to make some educated guesses, based on his annual income of £2,000. This would probably have come from more than the rent derived from the tenants crop production, although that would have been growing due to changes in land management that greatly increased yields and the quality of the harvest. The introduction of equipment such as the seed drill, invented by Jethro Tull (minus the flute, although he was ‘Living in the Past’, and it is a great song, lol. I tried, but couldn’t find a way to insert a reference to ‘Locomotive Breath’, so I’ll settle for this), enabled higher crop yields due to straighter, more uniformly planted crop rows, and precise seed placement. Gone were the days of the tenant sowing crops by flinging the seeds to germinate wherever they landed. Mr. Tull was also a proponent of using the mechanical hoe, which meant that tenant farmers could protect their higher yields with a machine that killed the weeds threatening their crops.

Beginning in the sixteenth century, the estate owners enclosed their tenants’ plots with hedges, or fences of stone or wood. The practice was initially opposed by the poorer farmers because it interfered with the way things had been done for generations, and negatively affected their income. For the estate owners there were numerous advantages, chief among them being the protection barriers gave against weed infestations from neighboring plots, and keeping livestock or other intruders out of the planted fields.

Crop rotation was introduced, which meant that fields didn’t need to lay fallow every second year to regenerate. With proper cycling, what was depleted by one crop could be replaced by the next year’s planting, and so on down the line. This again increased yields, which had the added benefit of higher tenant earnings. It was not uncommon to have a tenant’s sons and daughters well educated, which in turn increased their standard of living. When the tenant passed away or retired, his son would commonly take over the farming of the lease, having inherited it from his father.

A note of clarification, in case anyone misinterpreted my previous sentence. A tenant’s sons could not inherit the land their father farmed, but they could inherit the lease on the land. The practice was beneficial for both the estate owner and the tenant. The master of the estate had continuity in the management of his fields, and the families had the security of knowing they would not be thrown out on their ear should the father or husband pass away.

Livestock was another area that saw higher yields. With better land management and bigger harvests, land could be set aside for pasture, meaning estates were able to increase the size of their herds. As different crops were planted, the livestock could be turned out onto the harvested fields to graze.  Animal husbandry, when it came to cattle, also progressed as the estates kept more animals. The larger herds enabled another source of income as pork, and beef especially, was offered for sale at lower prices and in greater commodities.

Timber harvesting and selling, as well as mining, was another source of revenue. Even though railroads were a few years in the future, a growing system of canals aided in shipping commodities to cities and markets a good distance away.

With all of these income sources, was Mr. Bennet poor, barely scraping by on his meager £2,000? According to the 1801 census, the top 6000 esquires, which is the class Mr. Bennet belonged to, averaged £1,500 per year, so his income was actually above average! Methinks (far-be-it from me to avoid an esoteric reference to Shakespeare. I have some class, although how much is debatable) the lack of dowries and other financial constraints alluded to in the book were a result of poor planning on his part, which he makes reference to in discussing the lack of dowries, or Mrs. Bennet’s mismanagement of her pin money and constant harping at her husband for more. She strikes me as the type of person who would spend like a drunken sailor as soon as the money hit her hand, and he seems to be a man who might have a difficult time reigning in his wife’s bad habits.

So to answer my original question, was Mr. Bennet a poor man? In my opinion, any poverty he and his family might have suffered was probably self-induced.

Slides from The Agricultural Revolution European Expansion 1650-1850 Chapter One

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Agriculture and Other Business, a Guest Post from Colin Rowland

What did Jane Austen Know of Prize Money Awarded by the British Royal Navy During the Late Georgian Era?

Prize money awarded by the British Royal Navy usually came about during naval warfare, but there were other means for a man to earn “his fortune.” The capture of enemy ships or of cargoes belonging to an enemy in time of war customarily earned the men upon a ship prize money. The captured ship could be in port at the outbreak of the war or captured in international waters or other waters that were not the territorial waters of a neutral state. A Prize Court customarily adjudicated the claim for prize money, first, condemning the prize before any distribution of cash or good could be made to the captors. 

La Blanche towing La Pique, a French prize, 1795 by Robert Dodd

Contraband goods being shipped to enemy-controlled territory and used to make war was considered part of the “prize.” Occasionally, prizes were awarded for the capture of pirate ships, slave ships (after the abolition of the slave trade) and ships in breach of The Acts of Trade and Navigation (a long series of English laws that developed, promoted, and regulated English ships, shipping, trade, and commerce between other countries and with its own colonies). “Similar monetary awards include Military Salvage, the recapture of ships captured by an enemy before an enemy Prize Court has declared them to be valid prizes (after such ships have been condemned, they are treated as enemy ships), and payments termed Gun moneyHead Money or Bounty, distributed to men serving in a state warship that captured or destroyed of an armed enemy ship. The amount payable depended at first on the number of guns the enemy carried, but later on the complement of the defeated ship.

“Certain captures made by armies, called Booty of War, are distinct from naval prize because, unlike awards under naval prize legislation, the award of booty is only made for a specific capture, often the storming of a city; the award does not set a precedent for other military captures in the same war, and does not require adjudication by a prize court. When the British army and navy acted together, it was normal for instructions to say how any prizes and booty should be shared, and the shares allocated. In this case, combined naval and military force to be dealt with under naval prize law rules. Although prize law still exists, the payment of prize money to privateers ceased in practice during the second half of the 19th century and prize money for naval personnel was abolished by those maritime states that had provided it at various times in the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.” [Prize Money]

If you wish more information on pay scale, prize money distribution, etc., you might find “An Introduction to Pay and Prize Money in Aubrey’s Royal Navy” helpful. 

Jane Austen’s naval brother Charles was assigned to command the Indian (18 guns) in January 1805. His primary role in Britain’s war efforts at that time off the North American coast was to protect trade, transport troops, and search American ships for British deserters. Those duties did not keep Charles Austen and his fellow shipmates and officers from hoping to capture an “enemy” ship to earn prize money. We know the Indian captured several privateer vessels. Some of these belonged to France’s allies. Some belonged to neutral nations. Most carried munitions, goods required by the French soldiers, or other contraband.

From 1805 – 1811, Charles Austen and his men brought claims to the Vice Admiralty courts in Halifax and Bermuda against some twelve vessels. As was custom at the time, the capturing captain of a ship could expect to receive a three-eighths share of the prize money. 

Therefore, we can expect that if her brother was in such a position, Jane Austen would have held more than just general details on the ships, goods, and the prizes involved. 

Comparing Charles Austen to Austen’s most famous sea captain, Captain Frederick Wentworth, Charles did not do as well as did the fictionalized Captain Wentworth. In reality, Charles Austen earned only about £1200 in prize money, while Wentworth accumulated some £25,000. Even so, the Austens knew of several of Charles’s associates who had earned much more than did he. 

from Chapter 8 of Jane Austen’s Persuasion

Anne suppressed a smile, and listened kindly, while Mrs Musgrove
relieved her heart a little more; and for a few minutes, therefore,
could not keep pace with the conversation of the others.

When she could let her attention take its natural course again,
she found the Miss Musgroves just fetching the Navy List
(their own navy list, the first that had ever been at Uppercross),
and sitting down together to pore over it, with the professed view
of finding out the ships that Captain Wentworth had commanded.

“Your first was the Asp, I remember; we will look for the Asp.”

“You will not find her there.  Quite worn out and broken up.
I was the last man who commanded her.  Hardly fit for service then.
Reported fit for home service for a year or two, and so I was sent off
to the West Indies.”

The girls looked all amazement.

“The Admiralty,” he continued, “entertain themselves now and then,
with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed.
But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands
that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible
for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed.”

“Phoo! phoo!” cried the Admiral, “what stuff these young fellows talk!
Never was a better sloop than the Asp in her day.  For an old built sloop,
you would not see her equal.  Lucky fellow to get her!  He knows there
must have been twenty better men than himself applying for her
at the same time.  Lucky fellow to get anything so soon,
with no more interest than his.”

“I felt my luck, Admiral, I assure you;” replied Captain Wentworth,
seriously.  “I was as well satisfied with my appointment as you can desire.
It was a great object with me at that time to be at sea;
a very great object, I wanted to be doing something.”

“To be sure you did.  What should a young fellow like you do ashore
for half a year together?  If a man had not a wife, he soon wants
to be afloat again.”

“But, Captain Wentworth,” cried Louisa, “how vexed you must have been
when you came to the Asp, to see what an old thing they had given you.”

“I knew pretty well what she was before that day;” said he, smiling.
“I had no more discoveries to make than you would have as to
the fashion and strength of any old pelisse, which you had seen
lent about among half your acquaintance ever since you could remember,
and which at last, on some very wet day, is lent to yourself.
Ah! she was a dear old Asp to me.  She did all that I wanted.
I knew she would.  I knew that we should either go to the bottom together,
or that she would be the making of me; and I never had two days
of foul weather all the time I was at sea in her; and after
taking privateers enough to be very entertaining, I had the good luck
in my passage home the next autumn, to fall in with the very French frigate
I wanted.  I brought her into Plymouth; and here another instance of luck.
We had not been six hours in the Sound, when a gale came on,
which lasted four days and nights, and which would have done for
poor old Asp in half the time; our touch with the Great Nation
not having much improved our condition.  Four-and-twenty hours later,
and I should only have been a gallant Captain Wentworth,
in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost
in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me.” Anne’s shudderings
were to herself alone; but the Miss Musgroves could be as open
as they were sincere, in their exclamations of pity and horror.

You might also wish to visit these resources for more information: 

Golden Harvest: The British Naval Prize System 1793-1815

Prize Money: Frigates, Treasure, Snobbery —and Jane Austen 

Half-Pay and Prize Money: Making a Living in Britain’s Navy

“Master and Commander’s” Prize Money

Naval Prize Manual 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments