Friday, August 28, 2015

Politically Bowdlerized

I admit it. I prefer my romances to be, well romantic, with nothing more than sweet kisses, clasping of hands, and the fervent meeting of glances. But I do believe there is room in the world for romances of a more, er, passionate nature. Unfortunately, in the nineteenth century, my views would have been seen as far too liberal, and my books might have been edited to remove portions unsuited to young audiences. Even the classics like Shakespeare were deemed too risqué for women and children in some circles.

That’s where Thomas Bowdler came in. He was a physician who took ill early in his career and decided not to practice medicine any longer. Instead, he devoted himself to good works, including working for prison reform. Along the way, he decided it would be good for families to be able to read Shakespeare and other classics, if only there weren’t so many naughty words and irreverent concepts in them.

So, in 1807, he published a collection called the Family Shakspeare (which apparently was the way the name was spelled then), which claimed to have removed any term thought to give offense to women and children. Included in these terms were curses, acts of violence such as Ophelia’s suicide in Hamlet, and entire characters with unsavory professions. The book took a while to gain a following, but as the Victorian period came into full swing, sales increased. The book saw more than 11 editions by 1850. Some reviewers were appalled and labeled it pap in its worst form. Others lauded the publication as making the Bard accessible to a much broader group of readers.

Here is what Mr. Bowdler said to justify the changes:
If a presumptuous artist should undertake to remove a supposed defect in the Transfiguration of Raphael or in the Belvidere Apollo and in making the attempt should injure one of those invaluable productions of art and genius I should consider his name as deserving never to be mentioned or mentioned only with him who set fire to the Temple of Diana. But the works of the poet may be considered in a very different light from those of the painter and the statuary. Shakspeare, inimitable Shakspeare, will remain the subject of admiration as long as taste and literature shall exist and his writings will be handed down to posterity in their native beauty although the present attempt to add to his fame should prove entirely abortive. Here then is the great difference. If the endeavour to improve the picture or the statue should be unsuccessful the beauty of the original would be destroyed and the injury be irreparable. In such a case let the artist refrain from using the chisel or the pencil; but with the works of the poet no such danger occurs and the critic need not be afraid of employing his pen for the original will continue unimpaired although his own labours should immediately be consigned to oblivion.
Interesting argument, no? I’m fairly certain that I would not have the same tender feelings toward someone “improving” my work. But here’s something else interesting about Bowdler’s version of Shakespeare.

It appears he didn’t do the editing. His sister did.

Now, if a lady editing a book to remove things no lady should read doesn’t make you scratch your head, consider this: Henrietta, called Harriet in her family, was an author in her own right. Perhaps her best known work, published anonymously, was Sermons on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity, which supposedly went through nearly fifty editions, to the delight of ministers across the Empire (who had no notion she wasn’t an elderly clergyman). She was also accorded by some the title of bluestocking, those well-read ladies who delight in literature. Yet it does not seem to have troubled her to have changed someone else’s writing, without request or permission, all in the name of making it more palatable to a group of people.

Slippery slope.

Is it any wonder bowdlerize has come to mean to change a work, whether book, play, or movie, by removing parts that would offend people?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Retro Blast: Chair Amie

Here's a Retro Blast that will cleverly lead into a future post. We haven't seen the last of inventors named Mr. Pocock!

Of course, after telling you that we’re going to be branching out of the 19th century, here I am with another Ackermann picture and post. But can you blame me? Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Pocock’s Reclining Patent Chair, from the March 1813 issue of Ackermann's Repository:

The accompanying text reads: Our engraving this month represents an elegant fashionable fauteuil chair, upon Messrs. Pocock’s patent reclining principle, to incline the back to any position, with double reclining footstools, which slide from under the chair to extend it when the back is reclined to the length of a couch. A reading-desk is attached to the side, and contrived to swing round in front of the chair. The whole is designed with classical taste, in the present improved fashion of modern furniture, by the ingenious inventors, Messrs. Pocock’s, of Southampton-street, Covent-Garden.

I did a little research, and it seems that the Pocock company specialized in furniture for invalids, perhaps like some of these that we’ve seen recently. But in this case they put their know-how into a more mainstream piece of furniture...and oh, what a piece! The foot rest is retractable, probably tied in to the mechanism that reclines the back, so that the chair doesn’t necessarily take up all that much space...but the ornamentation! Those winged, pot-bellied lions in front are adorable...and the swiveling reading lectern is wonderful, if a tad precarious-looking perched as it is on the serpent’s coils. I wonder if any of these were actually built and sold by Messrs. Pocock?

 
Well, I totally know what I want for Christmas next year. ;) How about you?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Housekeeping

No, I’m not going to blog about maids or housekeepers in the nineteenth century, alas. I just want to alert you to a couple things:

  • I will be away this week taking my son back to college (sniff, sniff—miss that boy when he’s away!). But I’ll be back on August 28 with a new post to delight you.
  • I am still looking to hear from Daisy, who won an autographed copy of Frontier Engagement. E-mail me at reginascott@owt.com, Daisy, and I’ll send that book right out.
  • Check out this fascinating look at how to create an authentic Regency wardrobe, courtesy of our friends at the Oregon Regency Society.
Until next week, happy reading!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 4: Dartmoor

Our next destination upon leaving Bath in the Doyle Family Tour of Southern England, was Devon and specifically, the Forest of Dartmoor. That sounds rather like an oxymoron—if it’s a moor, how can it be a forest? Well, the designation ‘forest’ was used to indicate a royal hunting preserve, and that’s what large chunks of Dartmoor were in medieval times. Now it’s a national park covering 368 square miles of sheer awesomeness...but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Our drive from Bath to Devon was uneventful (though we did enjoy looking for amusing tavern names along the way—the winner for this leg was “The Highwayman Inn” which sounded kind of like an 18th century version of a biker bar.) Dartmoor is not only a national park but also a geological feature: it’s an enormous granite plateau rising well above the surrounding countryside and, fascinatingly, it is a negative gravity anomaly, a place where gravity is slightly lessened due to the lighter density of that rocky foundation. And beyond that, it’s home to thousands of archaeological relics, from Bronze Age hut foundations to stone circles and standing stones. And sheep. Lots of sheep.

We rolled into the charming village of Chagford, following directions to our hotel, Gidleigh Park. The roads in Chagford are narrow. I mean, really narrow...narrow enough that in a lot of places, only one car can pass, and you either have to give way to oncoming traffic or are accorded passage by the oncoming car. Amazingly, it somehow works—drivers do rapid assessments of which car can most easily find a place to pull over, and they do so. My DH, who was driving, quickly figured this out (all while driving on the left, mind you—the man deserves a medal.) Then we left the village, and got onto some REALLY narrow roads—where there was never room for two cars, and twisty and turny to boot. And did I mention sheep? Sometimes there was one nibbling the greenery at the side of the road, which made driving even more interesting. It was nerve-racking, but the countryside was so beautiful that it was worthwhile. And then we made it to our hotel.

Yeah, we gasped too. Gidleigh Park was simply amazing, both inside and out, with beautifully preserved linenfold paneling, elegant molded plaster ceilings, and sweeping views out the windows. After a quick lunch in one of the charming sitting rooms overlooking the front lawn, we tied our hiking shoes on and set out for a jaunt on the moor, via some amazing water gardens, along a portion of an ancient footpath called the Mariner’s Way, and then up onto the high moor.

Oh, the high moor. This was why I so selfishly put Dartmoor on our itinerary—because I was dying to get back to see the moors once again. I don’t know what it is, but I love these wild, empty (except of course for sheep, ponies, and lumps of granite) expanses. Almost as soon as we hit the moor, we saw these in the photo above: yes, they’re what’s left of the foundations of what were probably wattle-and-daub huts build thousands of years ago...and there were, with sheep grazing among them and some very geeked-out Americans marveling at them.


Our next destination was Kestor Rocks, one of Dartmoor’s numerous tors or high granite outcrops. Though they look like the ruins of ancient towers built by giants they’re entirely natural in origin, bits of the enormous lump of granite that makes up Dartmoor poking up through its skin, so to speak.


Kestor has one of two on Dartmoor of these strange pool on its summit, also naturally formed but definitely looking somehow otherworldly up there on the windblown peak.


And then...more sheep. More ponies. And more signs of ancient occupation, like the Scorhill Circle. We covered six glorious miles, had a glorious dinner (the executive chef has two Michelin stars), and set out the next morning to get our fill of Dartmoor.


A visit to the beautiful Lydford Gorge (that's the nearby slightly spooky Lydford Castle, built in 1132) was sandwiched between mesmerized hours of driving on the moor, taking in the beautiful desolation and the astonishing number of prehistoric remains scattered everywhere. And, of course, the sheep.

I said I had selfishly put Dartmoor on our itinerary...but as it turned out, the family consensus was that Dartmoor was probably everyone’s favorite part of the trip. Maybe I called this one right after all.

Next up: the Regency Rocks in Lyme Regis. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Pioneer Legends: Daniel Bagley

[The winner of a signed copy of Frontier Engagement is Daisy! E-mail me at reginascott@owt.com, Daisy, and I’ll send it right out to you. Congratulations, and thanks for commenting!]

In middle school and high school, I had two dear friends, sisters who shared a certain last name. Though we lost track of each other for a while, we recently reconnected as a result of the efforts of another friend. One of them told me that she was delighted to find their last name gracing a “character” in my Frontier Bachelors series. But I didn’t make up minister Daniel Bagley, who has a key scene in Frontier Engagement. He was one of those real-life characters who made Seattle great.

Daniel Bagley was born into a farming family in 1818 Pennsylvania, but he must have had an urge to wander from an early age, for he married when he was only 22 and promptly whisked his wife Susannah off to settle an Illinois prairie. He was ordained a Methodist minister in 1842 and took on the role of circuit preacher, riding all over the state. Ten years later, he was on a wagon train heading west to settle near Salem, Oregon. There he served as a missionary establishing churches.

The legend goes that his wife’s health drove him north to seek the “clean air” of Puget Sound. I’m not entirely sure how Puget Sound is any cleaner than Salem at that point in history. Supposedly they came by horse-drawn buggy, but I’m finding that one difficult to believe since it appears there were no roads leading north from the Portland area to Seattle until much later than 1860, when Daniel and his wife and 17-year-old son Clarence arrived. However, he reached Seattle, and whatever encouraged him to come, he started out as an agent of the American Tract society, passing out pamphlets to those who needed to repent, until he oversaw the building of what would become known as the Brown Church (as opposed to the only other church in town, which was painted white). Daniel was its first minister, preaching on Sundays and performing marriages, christenings, and baptisms for many of Seattle’s founding families.

But Daniel wasn’t content to minister only to their souls. He wanted to minister to their minds as well. He was one of the driving forces behind locating the territorial university in Seattle (what would become the University of Washington). When the legislature was persuaded to make the offer, he encouraged local landowners to donate sufficient land to make the dream a reality. He also served as president on the university board of commissioners and appointed Asa Mercer as the first university president.

And it seems he supported young Asa in other ways. He had known Asa through Asa’s brother Thomas, who originally journeyed west in the same group as Daniel. Asa worked as a laborer to craft the first building for the fledgling university. But Asa too had a dream: bringing brides to wilderness bachelors.

As we’ve seen, there are two schools of thought on Mr. Mercer’s attempts to bring young ladies from the East to “civilize” Seattle. Some thought him a visionary; others a cunning confidence man. Either way, his second voyage was plagued with rumors of financial improprieties. When a number of the women refused to marry gentlemen who claimed to have paid for their passage, Seattle erupted in controversy.

Mercer hired the use of Yesler Hall (also known as the sawmill’s cookhouse) to make his case to the good citizens of Seattle. Daniel oversaw the meeting. Supposedly Mercer’s persuasive arguments and the backing of several of his lovely charges swayed Seattle to see things his way. Daniel later married Asa Mercer to Anne Stephens, one of the women he’d brought with him. Very likely Daniel officiated at more than one marriage of Mercer’s Belles.

But he didn’t stop his wanderings. He managed the Newcastle coal mines on the east side of Lake Washington for a time, then went back to circuit riding, preaching at a number of churches in the area. He died at age 87 and is buried beside his wife in Seattle. Their son Clarence went on to become one of the area’s earliest historians, penning multivolume histories of Seattle and King County, histories to which I owe much of the information in my Frontier Bachelors stories.

So you see, I owe a lot to the name of Bagley, in fiction and in real life. As Rina likes to say, no one ever replaces a true friend. But if we are very fortunate, we may add to their number. Here's hoping you are very fortunate indeed!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Retro blast: Ackermann Goes Steampunk!

This week's blast from the past is a steam-powered one...enjoy!

I’ve posted some examples of unusual furniture from prints published in Ackermann’s Repository before, but I thought these prints were especially interesting. Yes, they’re early 19th century wheelchairs!

This first one (at right), from the November 1810 issue, is called the Royal Patent Invalid Chair, and not only can be wheeled about, but reclines! Note that it has wheels set up so that the person sitting in it can operate the wheels, much like a modern wheelchair.

Even more interesting, though, is this: Merlin’s Mechanical Chair from the October 1811 edition. I have the full text for it, which is fascinating for several reasons. First, the description:

This curious machine, of which a correct perspective view is given in the annexed engraving, is the contrivance of the late ingenious and well-known Merlin. It is expressly calculated for the accommodation of invalids who, from age or infirmity, are unable to walk about, or of persons under the temporary inconvenience of gout or lameness. 

In the library, or on the lawn, or gravel-walk of the pleasure ground, chairs of this kind are peculiarly useful and pleasant. They are in construction an easy reclining or arm-chair, with a foot-board, and, at the extremity of each arm, a small winch handle, easily turned by the hands of the person seated, and which, by their connection with an arrangement of wheels below, propel the chair in any required direction, or with any required velocity, at the pleasure of the operator. These operating handles are seen in the drawing at A and B. C C are two wheels on which the chair runs, having each on its flat and outer surface a brass face wheel, worked by a smaller one (marked D) fitted on the long axis of the winch handle.

E is the third wheel or castor, fitted to the back rail of the chair, and which forms a third point of support, and obeys the direction taken by the wheels C C.

The mode of operation is this: The party being seated, the small brass rod seen in the drawing, passing through the right-hand arm of the chair, is pulled upwards a little way to disengage the wheels, and the winch handle set to point forward as in the position represented in the drawing.

Now, if the two handles be both turned outwards the chair moves directly forward. If turned inwards it moves directly backwards. If the right-hand winch be turned outwards, the left remaining at rest, the chair turns sharply to the left, moving on its left wheel as a center; and vice versa of the left-hand winch if turned the same way, or of the right-hand one if turned inwards or the contrary way. If the two handles be turned the same way, i.e. both to the right-hand, or both to the left, at the same time, the chair will move sharply round to the right or left, having its center, or the operator himself, as its center.

Now here’s where it gets good (boldface is my addition):

The curious evolutions which may thus easily be performed in this chair render it the means of very considerable amusement, as well as of important use, to those who require its agency; but to the mechanical observer it possesses a new interest. It would not be difficult to contrive an arrangement for moving these wheels, or winch handles, by the action of a very small and portable steam-engine, and increasing the dimensions of the whole machine, and adapting it to a suitable upper structure, to render it a most curious mode of quick conveyance, without the agency of animal labour: indeed, it seems to require no great stretch of the imagination to form of the contrivance many other highly interesting machines.

A suitable construction might be hit upon to enable it to carry a small cannon, which should be, both for itself and its operators, completely unassailable by the enemy, as well as, by the singular rapidity of its evolution, terribly and unusually destructive.

Yep. Steam-powered tanks! Don't forget that in 1811 England was at war with Napoleon, so it's hardly surprising this concept would occur. But the jump from invalid chair to motorized tank is still a big one!

In judicious hands, the principle of the machine might possibly be advantageously used in the construction of a self-moving engine for the public conveyance of dispatches, which would have for its leading peculiarities, a rapid and certain rate of traveling, and complete inviolability as to the matters entrusted to its charge.

Of the interest and value of the contrivance in its present shape, those only can judge correctly who have experienced its singular advantages. This drawing is furnished us by Messrs. Morgan and Sanders, of Catherine-street, Strand, whose warehouses are the grand emporium for furniture combining all the essentials of elegance and comfort.

So...from invalid chair to steam-powered tank to mail truck. Not bad, Mr. Ackermann!!

Friday, August 7, 2015

What Would You Be if You Could? Comment to Win

My heroine in Frontier Engagement has a secret she must keep for fear of reprisal. But there comes a time when she feels she should begin to confess to my hero James Wallin, when they’re stranded together in the wilderness. She starts by telling him that she never set out to be a teacher, for all that’s her profession now.

James: So what did you intend to do if not teach?  Marry some wealthy society fellow?

Rina: No.  I thought I’d rule a nation.

James: Really? Which one?  Because I personally have always felt Canada should be conquered.

So, what would you be if you could be anything you wanted? Astronaut? Baker? Circus performer? Something no one else would dream?

Tell me in the comments, and you will be entered in a drawing for a free, autographed copy of Frontier Engagement (or one of the other books in my author stash if you’ve already purchased it).  I will announce the winner next Friday.

And me? Why, I’ve always wanted to be a writer!