Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Listen While You Bake

It’s the time of year around here when folks start thinking about cooking, especially baking. Pumpkin pies, spice cake, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter fudge, raspberry crisp, you name it. So, in case you’re one of those so inclined, here’s a throwback to a great historic recipe from beloved author Louise M. Gouge, as well as some reading and listening to go along with it. 

While you’re waiting for the pie to bake or the fudge to set, try It Started With a Duke: Fortune’s Brides, the Beginning, with two full novels and a novella, now available as both ebook and audiobook!

The mysterious Meredith Thorn and her cat, Fortune, opened an employment agency to help gentlewomen down on their luck. Her first assignment? Finding a governess for the young daughters of the Duke of Wey. Enjoy three warm, witty Regencies that begin the Fortune’s Brides series: Never Doubt a Duke, Never Borrow a Baronet, and Always Kiss at Christmas, Meredith’s origin story.

“I am seriously LOVING this series. Regina is hooking me from the first page, and I don’t want to set the book down until I finish the story!” – For the Love of Christian Fiction

“I highly recommend the entire series - to anyone who enjoys well written Regency romance.” – Audible listener Lil Miss Molly (used with permission)


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Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Children of George III: Mary, Duchess of Gloucester

1776 might not have been the best of years for George III, but it was not without its bright spots; one of those occurred on April 25, when his eleventh child and fourth daughter was born. Mary (yes, that’s all—had her parents grown tired of bestowing multiple names on their numerous offspring, or had they just run out??) came into the world at Buckingham House in London, and was destined to outlive her numerous siblings…but let’s not get ahead of ourselves!

Just as her elder three sisters formed a sort of subgroup within the family, Mary would become the eldest in a second sisterly subgroup, along with future siblings Sophia and Amelia.) The practical upshot of this was that my now, with eleven children, the king and queen simply didn’t have as much time and attention for the younger ones, and Mary and her sisters would not receive the same careful academic education that the Princess Royal, Augusta, and Elizabeth had.

As it happened, though, Mary did fine without it, for her intelligence was less academic than it was interpersonal. She was a charming baby who grew into a charming toddler, already described at sixteen months by one of the royal household as “a lovely elegant made child” and by another, a few years later: “There never was a child so consummate in the art of pleasing, nor that could display herself to such advantage.” While still small, she became the lifelong favorite sister of her eldest brother, the Prince of Wales, and indeed of many of her siblings.

After that rocky start in 1776, the world in which Mary grew up remained a rocky place, especially after the French threw in their support for the American independence effort and, a few years later, had their own revolution. It was a world that the king hesitated to allow his daughters out into, and so Mary’s debut at age 15 meant she was joining her elder sisters in spinsterhood. Unlike them, though, Mary seemed reasonably content in her single state; her name would never be connected (at least not seriously) with a secret lover’s, though she did strive to be out in society as much as possible; she loved attending the theater and such balls and parties as she was allowed to. She had grown into the beauty of the family, darker of hair and finer of feature, and had an excellent fashion sense (sharing her love of clothes with the Queen)…but emotionally, seems to have cared only for her parents and siblings and her cousins the Gloucesters, children of one of her father’s estranged brothers.

As her younger sister Amelia’s health declined in the first decade of the new century, Mary became her devoted companion and nurse (and conspired in Amelia’s doomed love for Charles Fitzroy. Amelia’s death in 1810 and the king’s subsequent final descent into madness marked the beginning of changes for the family; by 1813, the remaining sisters, now in their thirties and forties, were settling into new homes and routines around London and Windsor. Many of those routines revolved around visits from their niece Princess Charlotte, whose tempestuous teenhood was at hand; Mary, always sided faithfully with her brother in the upheavals surrounding Charlotte and her estranged mother, Caroline.

Eventually, though, Charlotte’s troubled youth resolved into happy marriage in May 1816 with her Leopold…and to everyone’s surprise a month later, Mary announced her own upcoming June wedding…to her cousin William, Duke of Gloucester. To this day, speculation about their relationship remains rife: some sources say he’d been in love with his beautiful cousin for years, while others state that since he’d been unable to charm Charlotte into marriage, Mary was his second choice to worm his way back into royal favor (and regain the title of “royal highness” that had been stripped from his father after his runaway marriage.) Some fondness seems to have existed between them, but William did not prove to be a kind husband to his bride: in general, he did not enjoy the reputation of being an intelligent or even vaguely sensible person. But Mary now had the pleasure of being a married woman, mistress of her own establishment and even freer now to go about in society—and to serve as hostess for her beloved eldest brother’s court, something only a married woman could do.

Mary’s difficult marriage lasted till 1834, when the Duke died suddenly. Mary took to widowhood quite happily, and continued her comfortably busy social life, though no longer the first lady at court after George IV’s death in 1830. She traveled to visit her sister Elizabeth in Germany, became quite a favorite of her niece Victoria (that's Mary at right, with Victoria and her children Bertie and Alice), and helped nurse her sisters Augusta and Sophia through their final illnesses; the last, in 1848, left her the last daughter of George III. Her own health became of occasional concern, but Victoria continued devoted to her, a source of much comfort through the 1840s and 1850s. After a period of declining health she died just a few days after her 81st birthday, on April 30, 1857, and was sincerely mourned by the queen and her family.


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Bunhill Fields Forever

Here in the states, we just finished Halloween. At my previous home, we had hundreds (no exaggeration—record of 223) of trick-or-treaters show up at the door. Now we live in a more rural area, and some years we have none. I was tickled to have 15 this year. So, in honor of Halloween, I give you a spooky nineteenth century place to consider.

Bunhill Fields.

The area at the edge of London in the nineteenth was used as a burial ground from ancient times. The name, in fact, may derive from the words “Bone Hill.” But its lineage wasn’t the only thing that made it a place that could frighten. Consider the following:

  1. It was originally intended to bury victims of The Plague (though, aside for the pit for the bodies, it doesn’t appear to have served that purpose).
  2. The churchyard at nearby St. Paul’s was crowded enough that when it was time for the next burial, a portion of someone else ended up getting dug up in the process. Those bones were dumped into Bunhill Fields.
  3. The space was never officially consecrated by the Church of England.
  4. Period drawings show gravestones at odd angles and grass growing wildly between the memorials. Someone did put up a spiked gate on the northeast corner, to hinder the work of resurrection men attempting to steal bodies.

Gives one the chills, what.

But the good news is that, because the ground was unconsecrated, those who did not conform to the Anglican Church (for example, Quakers and in some cases Methodists) could be buried there.

By the time Bunhill Fields was closed to new burials in the mid-1800s, it had seen more than 123,000 internments, including the likes of Daniel Defoe and William Blake. In 1867, the city built new walls and gates, laid out paths, and opened it as a public garden. The city even straightened tombstones and recut inscriptions. Iron plaques on the south wall directed visitors to particular plots.

Today, it is a pleasant park, proving that some things need not be scary after all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Regency Fabrics, Part 33

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.


Today’s three samples are from the September 1813 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is excellent, though a little closely trimmed on the outside edge; the page itself is free of foxing and is only slightly toned. The samples themselves are in very good condition, with a bit of toning in the top sample.

Here we go!

No. 1 and 2 is a Chinese chintz, for drawing-room, boudoir, and sleeping-room furniture. This lively and cheerful article admits a lining and fringe of any colour; but those of pea-green, pink, and blue exhibit it to most advantage. It is from the house of Mr. Allen, Pall-Mall, whose superb and extensive ware-rooms stand unrivalled in point of variety, taste, and cheapness.

My comments: This chintz is of the usual weight but heavily glazed, and honestly not very well printed. I do wonder if the bits showing as a slightly purplish taupe were originally green, because otherwise the recommendation to trim anything made with it in pea-green seem a tad jarring.

No. 3. A unique and elegant article for ladies’ robes, pelisses, mantles, and scarfs, styled the Vittoria striped gauze. Trimmings for this article may be of silver, white beads, or lace, with fancy gimps and fringe of the same shade. It is sold by Wm. King, 44, Pall-Mall. 

My comments: A very pretty primrose-yellow silk, in a striped pattern featuring dots, chevrons, and open-weave. It seems a bit too lightweight for pelisses or mantles, even with a lining, but as an evening dress, would be a winner. Very dainty and elegant indeed.



No.4. A figured Manchester muslin, calculated for domestic wear. Robes of this article are frequently formed high in the neck, with full long sleeves; cuffs and collar of fine needle-work, or lace, a correspondent belt and clasp confining it at the bottom of the waist; and is sometimes trimmed at the feet with a full silk fringe, of the same shades. This article is sold by Waithman and Son, corner of Bridge-street, Blackfriars.


My comments: The scan is not doing this sample justice, because this is gorgeous stuff! A fine silk muslin, but with enough body that it would hang gracefully. The sheen is lovely (again, the scan is disappointing), and in daylight this fabric almost looks shot (woven with contrasting threads.) This fabric seems wasted on “domestic wear”—it’s definitely attractive enough to appear in any occasion outside the house. What do you think of this month’s fabrics? Fancy a dress in one?

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Nineteenth Century Heroines: Reaching for the Top

When I was researching for A View Most Glorious (lovely, lovely research), one of the first people that popped up was the first woman to reach the top of Mt. Rainier. That in itself is an amazing feat! But it was only one of many for Evelyn Fay Fuller.

Fay was born in 1869 in New Jersey, though her family later moved to Chicago. Her family moved again in 1882 to settle near Tacoma, Washington Territory. Her father edited a number of newspapers there, starting with the Evening News and going on to the Tacoma Ledger, Every Sunday, and The Tacomian. Fay fell in love with the grandeur of the area. She made her first visit to Paradise Park, at the 5,000-foot level on the mountain, when she was 17 and managed to make it to nearly the 9,000-foot level. She vowed then and there to reach the summit.

Fay graduated from high school at age 15 and began a career as a teacher. She and a group of young women also banded together for exercise, including calisthenics and rifle drills. But still the mountain called her. In August 1890, a couple of months shy of her twenty-first birthday, she was once again at Paradise Park at the invitation of Philemon Van Trump, who, with Hazard Stevens, had been the first white men to reach the summit. They were intent on making another trip, and they invited her to join them. They didn’t have to ask twice.

Accompanied by three other men (one a minister), but refusing their aid, she reached the summit at 4pm on August 10, having overnighted at Camp Muir. Bad weather forced the party to spend a second night on the mountain, this time on the summit in ice caves near steam vents to keep warm.

Fay returned to fame. The report of her climb crossed the nation, and a local photographer took a picture that would become iconic (see above), careful to disguise the fact that she had been wearing bloomers at the time. Scandalous! She quit teaching and joined her father as a reporter. Her “Mountain Murmurs” column would inspire countless others to attempt the climb or at least dream of doing so.

Fay was a founding member of the Washington Alpine Club in 1891, the Tacoma Alpine Club (now gone) in 1893, and the Mazamas (Portland, Oregon) in 1894. She made her second ascent of Rainier in 1897, having reached Paradise with more than 200 members of the Mazamas and taken 57 of them with her to the summit. Besides climbing, she advanced to city reporter for her father, walking all over Tacoma to cover the waterfront, equity courts, and the markets. She was sent to report on the World’s Fair in Chicago and St. Louis. She also served as the first female harbormaster.

In 1900, she left to explore beyond Washington, taking up reporting jobs in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York City. She was in her thirties when she married an attorney named Fritz von Briesen, who appears to have been fairly well off. They had three children, one which didn’t live to see her first birthday. The von Briesens later moved to California.

Fay died at age 88 in Santa Monica, California, having reached heights few still have ever attained.

You can catch a glimpse of the view of Paradise that so inspired her below.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

New Release Announcement: Murmurs in the Dark is Here!

Okay, so you’re probably thinking, “Hey, Marissa—didn’t you just release a new book a few weeks ago?” Well, yes, I did. Still, here we are: I am delighted to announce the release of Murmurs in the Dark: Thirteen Ghostly Tales from Book View Café, edited by me and my fellow Book View Café author, Shannon Page.

Book View Café is a small publishing cooperative founded in 2008 by a group of science fiction and fantasy authors, including the late Ursula K. LeGuin. BVC’s focus is mainly genre fiction—fantasy, mystery, romance, science fiction—though we’ve also brought out other works, including children’s books and non-fiction. We’ve published several anthologies of our authors’ short pieces in science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, romance, and more…but we had never ventured into horror. It was time we did, and here is the result.

Not that Murmurs in the Dark is particularly horror-ible. Shannon and I asked our members to contribute ghost stories of any persuasion, and what came in covers just about every flavor of that sub-genre. There are spooky stories, indeed…but there are also  humorous stories, melancholy stories, stories told from the ghost’s point of view, historical stories (yes, my contribution would be in that category--how did you guess?)—in short, a marvelous spectrum of tales:

“The Summer House: a Fable” by Chaz Brenchley

“With Stars in her Eyes” by Alma Alexander

“Love in the Company of Ghosts” by Steven Popkes

“House is Where the Heart Is” by Marissa Doyle

 “La Dame Blanche” by Brenda W. Clough

“Given to the Sunrise” by Dave Smeds

“Lideric” by Jennifer Stevenson

“Violence Begets…” by Paul Piper

“The Nature of Things” by Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff

“Golden Spider Beetles” by Shannon Page

“Borrowed Places” by K.E. Kimbriel

“The Waking of Angantyr” by Marie Brennan

“It All Ends With a Game of Croquet” by Jill Zeller

Murmurs in the Dark is available directly from Book View Cafe in both EPUB and MOBI formats, as well as from Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Apple Books) as well as in print from Amazon. I hope you'll give it a try in this spooky season.