Tuesday, October 6, 2015

All for Research Purposes, Of Course!

Ah, the glam life of a writer. (I do hope you realize I’m writing with tongue firmly in cheek.) Why lurk at home writing in your jammies when you can go to an awesome retreat for historical fiction writers, try on gorgeous (and authentically made) 19th and 20th century gowns, eat amazing food made from period recipes, and generally have a wonderful time?

Yep, I was back at the Historical Writers Retreat at Senexet House in Woodstock, Connecticut this past weekend, doing all of the above. It might say something that almost all of this year's attendees had come last year, and it was lovely to see old friends again, including the adorable Bear.

Friday night opened with a tour of the house's lower floor, where the servants' quarters and kitchens had originally been located...and then we had a "downstairs" dinner in the original kitchen, eating hearty "servants'" food (the bacon and leek pie was to die for) before returning upstairs to chat about writing (and eat decidedly non-19th century red velvet cupcakes!)

Retreat organizer Nicole Carlson, in addition to being a writer, has an extensive background in costuming and brought dozens of garments from her amazing collection, from corsets to bustles and gowns to evening cloaks...and hats...and...well, it was pretty amazing. I wish I'd been better about taking pictures, because I learned a lot that would have been fun to show you, such as the 18th century panniers (which give that extra-wide hip effect in gowns of the period--and which also served as quite enormous pockets (who knew?) And the early twentieth century corsets which actually fit below the breasts (yes, there were early twentieth century brassieres to wear with them!). And the gowns...! Nicole generously laced us into corsets in order to try on dresses from her collection, and we got to play dress-up got an in-depth view of period clothing to enrich our writing.

Saturday afternoon brought another sumptuous tea, followed by the ever-patient Katy Bishop coaching us through a Lancers quadrille, and then an elegant candle-lit dinner followed by a gathering to talk about the popularity of spiritualism in the Victorian and Edwardian eras (and share a few spooky experiences of our own.)

But most of all, sharing a weekend with other writers who are as obsessed by the fascinating details of history and eager to enhance their stories with them--well, that's just priceless. It was a wonderful weekend, and I hope to be there again in 2016.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Pioneer Legends: Doc Maynard

Those of you who have read Would-Be Wilderness Wife may remember that the heroine, Catherine Stanway, initially worked as a nurse for Doctor David Maynard. I didn’t make him up. Doc Maynard was one of Seattle’s founding fathers, and, in my opinion, one of the most colorful. I wish I had a picture to use, but all were copyrighted. You can find one here at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle. 

David Swinson Maynard came to Seattle in 1852, before it was even a town, but his story starts on the other side of the country. After earning his medical degree and marrying a pretty lass named Lydia, he moved his young family to Cleveland, where he dabbled in business while running a medical school. Misfortunes in both made him decide to strike it rich in California, but he met two things along the way that would change his life.

The first was cholera. Everyone had it, and anyone who survived after his treatment was more than happy to pay him in food, animals, and money. He’d never made so much money being a doctor before. The second was a widow of one of the men he unsuccessfully treated. Catherine Broshears was beautiful and sweet, and he decided to accompany her to Olympia in what was then Oregon Territory instead of the Gold Fields. Along the way the pair fell in love, but her brother refused them permission to marry. It may have been the fact that Maynard was so quick to fall into and out of fortunes. But it may have had more to do with the fact that her brother suspected that the divorce Maynard convinced the territorial legislature to grant him wasn’t strictly legal.

Either way, Doc relocated to the Seattle area. He started out paying the natives to package up wood and salmon to sell to folks in San Francisco, then used that money to open a store. From there, he claimed a tract of land for himself and his wife before convincing Catherine’s brother to let him marry her. But that was just the beginning of Maynard’s influence on Seattle:

  • He convinced the settlers to name the new town after his friend, Chief Sealth.
  • He was the first Justice of the Peace in King County, and even studied law, being admitted to the bar in 1856.
  • He is responsible for the odd angle of downtown Seattle streets, because he plotted the streets on his claim according to the compass points, while his neighbors insisted on following the line of the shore.
  • He was one of Seattle’s first post masters, hosting the post office at his store (and guaranteeing he’d have regular shoppers).
  • He sold his lots cheaply or gave them away to people he thought would be good for the city, such as Henry Yesler, who built the first sawmill on Puget Sound, and Lewis Wyckoff, a blacksmith and later one of Seattle’s first lawmen.
  • He opened the first hospital in Seattle, an enterprise that failed because he insisted in treating whites and Native Americans alike, and he never demanded payment.
Perhaps one of the most famous stories about Maynard has to do with his wives. It seems that Lydia was never told of the divorce and wrote to him about her share of his acreage. Legalities being what they were, she had to come to Seattle to be part of any settlement. According to historian Murray Morgan, Doc went down to the shore to meet her when she came in on the ship. He told a friend, “You’re about to see something you’ve never seen before: a man out walking with a wife on each arm.” Seattle gawked as Maynard did just that. Lydia stayed with him and Catherine for a while until the legal matters were settled. Sadly, because Maynard had not been married to Catherine at the time of filing, and Lydia had never lived on the claim as is required of a wife, he had to give up half his acreage.

Doc still went out in style. When he died in 1873, Seattle held the largest funeral for that time. And the stories of his exploits are still told with fondness around the shores of Puget Sound.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 6: New Forest and Brighton

Our next destination on the Doyle family tour of southern England was the seaside town of Lymington, from which we planned to spend the next day visiting the Isle of Wight. “Ferry reservations?” we cluelessly trilled. “Who’ll be going to the Isle of Wight on a Thursday morning?”

Um...well, as it turned out, a lot of people. The ferry was book solid until 4 pm, which meant our plans to see Cowes and Queen Victoria’s Osborne House were shot. It was time for Plan B. And you know what? As much as I was bummed to miss Osborne House, Plan B wasn’t so bad...not when it included a visit to a handsome stately home, Beaulieu (that’s pronounced “Bew-lee”, just so you know).

In addition to the current house, Beaulieu includes the remains of a large medieval monastery (here's a section of garden with bits of original stonework that have been found) and some lovely plantings (I especially loved this laburnum tunnel...as did hundreds of bees!)

We also did a lot of driving around the New Forest, another royal hunting preserve (this time dating to the time of William the Conqueror). Though much smaller and tamer than Dartmoor, there were small moors, also inhabited by lots of sheep and ponies. And while wandering around a section of forest, I heard my first cuckoo call.

The next day we were off to another long-awaited destination: Brighton, home of the Prince Regent's beloved Pavilion, where he would spend the summer enjoying the breezes off the English Channel. He first discovered Brighton (or Brighthelmstone, its original name as noted in the Domesday Book) in the early 1780s, when sea-bathing had become the latest health fad. Prinny was charmed and bought a modest farmhouse, which he commissioned architect Henry Holland to turn into a home worthy of the Prince of Wales. Holland built him one...but evidently it wasn't grand enough, for in 1815 Prinny hired architect John Nash for an upgrade. And what an upgrade he got!

The exterior of the Pavilion is made of chastely cream colored stone, in a fantastical dreamlike Mughal style with onion domes, pierced screens, and minarets--rather a contrast to the Georgian classicalism that had been the prevailing building style in the town for the last fifty years. And while it's beautiful in a fanciful way, it's only the beginning.

The interior is, quite simply, jaw-dropping. Where Indo-Islamic style prevails on the outside, within the decor is fantasy Chinese. There are dragons everywhere (include one of silver gilt clinging to the chandelier in the Banqyueting Room that must be at least ten feet long). In the Music Room, the central done is covered with hundreds of thousands of gilt cockles shells, which look like dragon scales. The colors are rich and saturated, and every surface is decorated; even the kitchens, which were state of the art in 1820, are beautiful.

What's even cooler about the Pavilion, though, is its history. After Prinny's (now King George IV) death in 1830, his brother King William used the Pavilion. But when Victoria came to the throne, she was not amused by the Pavilion and by Brighton in general, finding it far too crowded and the palace itself too small and lacking in privacy. She bought land on the Isle of Wight for her summer retreat of Osborne House, and the Pavilion was sold to the city of Brighton (after Victoria carried off anything that wasn't nailed down.) Decades of decline followed; Nash's creation was not built to last. But after World War I, partly spurred by the interest of Queen Mary (who began to donate back to the Pavilion things that Victoria had carried off) and a full-scale restoration of the Regency era palace was begun, hugely helped by the fact that all of Nash's original plans and detailed paintings of the rooms were available. Since then, despite fires and other calamities, work has been ongoing, and the result is just breathtaking. We sure as heck enjoyed it! If you ever, ever have a chance to see it--go!

Our hotel was also worth mentioning; Brighton remained a popular watering hole long after Prinny went to the great Assembly Room in the sky, and a series of elegant hotels were built right along the shore, rather like a Victorian Miami Beach. The grand Brighton was indeed a grand old place, a little shabby in spots but oh so atmospheric.  We ate dinner at the Old Ship Hotel, mentioned in at least one Georgette Heyer novel that I remember, and then after dark looked out at the Brighton Pier, which is basically a small amusement park built over the water (it dates to 1899) before going to sleep for the last night of our trip.

The last installment: Hampton Court Palace, and where I'm going next time!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cover Reveal: Instant Frontier Family

When I started writing my Frontier Bachelors series, I envisioned following the stories of three friends on the Mercer Expedition to Seattle, young ladies fleeing heartache to forge a new future in wilderness Seattle. Allegra Banks Howard found her footing in The Bride Ship. Catherine Stanway met her match in Would-Be Wilderness Wife. Then Drew Wallin and his brothers intervened, demanding stories as well, so the third friend, Maddie O’Rourke, had to wait.

At least part of the wait is over.

Behold the cover for Instant Frontier Family, due out in January. It is the tale of the spunky, talented Maddie and the man she didn’t expect.  Here’s the blurb:

Maddie O’Rourke’s orphaned half brother and half sister have arrived safely in Seattle—with a man they hope she’ll wed! Though Michael Haggerty’s not the escort she planned for, Maddie allows him to work off his passage by assisting in her bakery…and helping care for her siblings. But she’ll never risk her newfound independence by marrying the strapping Irishman—or anyone else.

In New York, Michael ran afoul of a notorious gang. Traveling west was a necessity, not a choice. The longshoreman grew fond of his young charges, and now he’s quickly becoming partial to their beautiful sister, too. So when danger follows him, threatening Maddie and the children, he’ll do anything to protect them—and the future he hopes to build. 

Following a Nineteen Teen tradition, perhaps you’d like to guess who I had in mind as the physical models when I was writing the book. I admit up front that though I like the cover, it fits the feel of the story more than the actual details. Nevertheless, the woman I had in mind for Maddie is a red-headed actress who has traveled in time and space in a blue box and recently went looking for a couple Guardians herself when she took to the Galaxy. The actor I had in mind for Michael is one super man, though he started out in Tudor and Roman days rather than nineteenth century Seattle.

Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Regency Fabrics, Part 6

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like. So here we go!

We have four fabrics from October 1809; overall condition is very good, considering their age, apart from some browning on sample one where it was glued to the page.

No. 1. An entirely new corded muslin for morning and afternoon dresses, particularly adapted for the intermediate style of decoration for the morning wrap, or simple evening frock. Footing lace, or beading, is better calculated to ornament this article than needle-work. Many ladies, indeed, wear it without any embellishment, the rich and striking contrast of the cord being of itself a sufficient relief. Children’s trowsers, formed of this material, have a very neat and appropriate effect. It is sold by Messrs. Brisco and Powley, 103, New-bond-street, at 6s. per yard.

My comments: This is a very fine, lightweight fabric, but I expect that with the cording it will drape nicely. Because of its sheerness, it definitely requires a lining and/or a petticoat underneath.

No. 2. The Brazilian corded sarsnet, for robes, pelisses, and spencers. This article is also of novel production, and possesses a richness and consequence, which advance it, in point of elegance, beyond the plain sarsenet. The weight of the cord occasions it to fall with graceful adhesiveness over the figure, and divests it of that liability to crease, which is generally complained of in the plain sarsnet. We have seen Circassian robes, and short dancing dresses, formed of this tasteful article, to produce a most pleasing and attractive costume. It is half a yard wide, and 7s. 6d. per yard, and is sold by Mr. J. George, 19, Holywell-street, Strand.

My comments: I wish my scan had reproduced it better--this is lovely stuff indeed! It’s heavier and more opaque than the first sarsnet, with a soft sheen and very attractive pale buff color. But at only a half-yard wide, it would take a lot of it to make a gown—at 7definitely an upscale item.

 No.3. A pomona green shawl print, in imitation of Indian silk, calculated for morning wraps or pelisses, as well as for gowns and robes. We beg leave to call the attention of our correspondents, not only to the taste and union of its pattern and shades, but also to the peculiar delicacy and silky softness of its fabric. It is ell-wide, and from 5s. to 5s. 6d. per yard; and may be purchased at Messrs. Brisco and Powley’s, 103, New-Bond-street.

My comments: Ah, pomona green, that most Regency of colors (if you're a Georgette Heyer fan, that is!) Again, the pattern reminds me of nothing so much as 1930s quilt fabric; what isn't as visible in this scan is that the fabric is finely diagonally ribbed. It's a little heavier in weight and indeed has a very silky hand due to the fineness of its threads and the tight weave.

No. 4. A rose-colored printed book-muslin, best calculated for the ball-room or evening party. It is formed in simple round dresses, or French frocks, trimmed with lace, white beads, or blended-white satin, and must be worn over white sarsnet, satin, or glazed cambric. This simple article will recommend itself, as well from the reasonableness of its price, as from its lively and animated effect. It is ell-wide, and 4s. per yard, and may be had at any respectable linen-drapers at the west end of this town.

My comments: This is nowhere as nice a fabric as the print above, being of  a coarser weave (though the threads are finely woven)--no wonder readers are cautioned it must be worn over another fabric! It does not strike me as a fabric for a ball or evening dress, but evidently tastes have changed!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What We Want for Our Birthday—Your Comments!

Wow, where did the time go? This month Marissa and I begin our ninth year blogging at Nineteen Teen. Happy birthday to us! And thank you for your comments, your subscriptions, and your suggestions, encouragement, and commiserations. May we have more of the same?

In short, this is your chance to tell us what you like.

What would you like to see more of in the coming year? More posts on historical tidbits we uncover? More insights into the life of a writer who sometimes dabbles in the nineteenth century? More pictures of Marissa’s bunnies? Regina’s beloved sailing ships?

Shall we watch another movie together? Read another book? Which ones?

What guest authors would you like to have visit? (Yes, we tried for Marion Chesney. Alas, she was too busy to respond. L)

At the very least, stop by, have a slice of virtual cake and punch (ours is much better than ratafia, we promise!), and wish us happy birthday as we hop (or sail) into a new blog year.

Happy birthday, Nineteen Teen!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 5: Lyme Regis

We hated to leave Dartmoor. We really did. But I’d promised Daughter #2 some fossil-hunting on the beach in Lyme Regis. Those of you who are Jane Austen fans will recognize that name, I’m sure...so we once again set forth, this time for the shore.

Best pub name spotted en route: The Salty Monk. ☺

Lyme Regis itself is a charming little town, clinging closely to the shore. And I don’t use the term “clinging” lightly—there’s a heck of a drop from the main road through town to the beach itself. Blessedly, there’s plenty of visitor parking, though it did involve a very steep walk down to the shore—not bad on the way down, but uphill was definitely a challenge. Thank goodness for all those hours I’ve spent on the elliptical!

The climate of the immediate south coast of England is amazingly mild. We hardy New Englanders were astonished to see fuchsia grown as a hedge, rather than a summer-time potted plant doomed to death in the first good October frost!

As we trundled down the hill, we were delighted with this view of the famous Cobb... famous, of course, as the location of an important scene in Persuasion—where Louisa Musgrove imprudently jumps the stairs leading down from its top. The Cobb is a partial breakwater, creating a small, protected harbor for the local fishing fleet—though now, the main denizens appear to be pleasure craft.

What I found interesting about the Cobb was the angle at which it was built: good for allowing breaking waves to run off, but a little unnerving to walk on, especially in a brisk breeze (that's Daughter #1, walking at an angle!) But even more interesting was the thought that Jane Austen knew this town and this very place—a bit of a shiver down the spine moment!

Being good Jane Austen fans, my son and husband and I spent a good long time debating which of the stairs leading down from the Cobb were the ones that Louisa jumped from. In the end, we decided it must be these (also known by the name "Granny's Teeth"!), as they were the most suitably archaic and untrustworthy looking (honestly, if I’d been Louisa, I might have preferred jumping rather than trying to negotiate them in a stiff breeze in a long skirt!

Next, it was time to go fossil hunting. This whole 95-mile section of the south coast is called England’s “Jurassic Coast”. Going east from Orcombe Point to Old Harry Rocks is like traveling in time, from the early Triassic period onward. Lyme Regis is located in the oldest part of the coast, its formations dating to 200 to 195 million years ago. Down the beach from the Cobb a great cliff face looms up, made of very crumbly black shale, the remains of an ancient ocean bed (you can see it in the pictures above of the Cobb.) And as gravity and the weather erode it, the fossils of creatures that died and left their remains in the oozy black mud of that old ocean end up on the beach, where they can be picked up from amongst the clitter of rocks and flints by geeky American tourists like us.

Here's part of our haul.
What you see here are ammonite fossils, distant and extinct relatives of today’s squid and nautiluses; the little star-shaped one is possibly an echinoid, a relative of today’s starfish and sea urchins. It was a lot of fun, actually, and reminded me of my long-ago days as an archaeology student doing field surface surveys. We had a lovely if late lunch at a pub close to the Cobb, then dragged ourselves back up the hill to our car, to go to our next destination. But I’ll be back to the Jurassic Coast some day.

Next installment: Not the Isle of Wight, sadly, but a few other sites of interest.