Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Nineteenth Century Bad Boys, Part I: The Disreputable Duke

First, I feel like I should make a disclaimer here…unlike a lot of females, I have zero interest in what we today call “bad boys” and what our counterparts in the 19th century called rogues or rakes. I just don’t get the attraction…but I know a lot of women do…and did.

Princess Victoria definitely appreciated a good bad boy. In 1837 the seventeen year old began to take notice of a second cousin of hers who had come to London and could be seen at fashionable balls and the opera and out with his friends in Kensington Gardens. His name was Charles, Duke of Brunswick and he was a nephew of the late Queen Caroline, wife to George IV…and what made him a bad boy was that he’d been booted out of his duchy of Brunswick as being “unfit to rule” and his younger brother installed as reigning duke. It seems his seven year rule was marked by corruption and poor judgement, and when he reacted to political unrest in France by clamping down on reform in his own country, he was not-very-politely shown the door. Though he tried many times to interest other European governments in helping him retake his country, no one ever did.

So he spent most of his time in London and Paris, being attractive. He wore his dark hair long and shaggy, had dark, fierce eyebrows, and a romantically military moustache. Vic was fascinated, and sketched him from memory (yes, she drew the above picture!) as well as recording sightings of him in her diary:

[at a ball] “He was in a black and dark blue uniform with silver; his hair hanging wildly about his face, his countenance pale and haggard; I was very sorry I could not see him de pres for once, that I may really see if he is so ferocious looking.”

[out walking in Kensington Gardens] “He is, I think, very good looking, for we passed him close, though I was told by a lady who had seen him at Almacks, that he was not so, but I don’t think she saw him very close, and perhaps he looks handsomer by daylight and with his hat on. He was very elegantly dressed.”

Of course, nothing ever came of Victoria’s interest in her exiled cousin, and he slouched about Europe for most of his life, collecting diamonds as a hobby and dying in Geneva in 1873.

Stay tuned for more entries on Nineteenth Century Bad Boys…believe me, there were plenty of them around!

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's Here!

Marissa’s book is out! Bewitching Season is hitting stores everywhere, including one near you.

One of the top reviewers for libraries, Booklist, gave it a starred review, saying, "This wonderfully crafted debut novel braids several very different story lines into an utterly satisfying whole." Kirkus, another industry giant, calls it a "page turner." And the Historical Novel Society awarded it an Editor's Choice Pick for the summer of 2008.

You can join the celebration on the Class of 2k8 blog this week or right here at Nineteen Teen next week. We’ll have fun facts, quizzes, and more.

Happy reading!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fashionable Medicine

South Beach Diet. 30-minute workouts. Eat more vegetables. Drink 8 glasses of water a day. There’s always some new wisdom on the best way to stay healthy.

It’s nothing new.

In the nineteenth century, a number of advances in medicine were made, including vaccinations, x-rays, and even washing hands before surgery! But among the general population, medicinal cures changed as quickly as the fashions.

According to La Belle Assemblee, in February 1807, somewhat facetiously: “It would be a mark of extreme vulgarity to make use of a medicine which is out of fashion; and those who have had the misfortune to commit such an error, may, indeed, congratulate themselves on their cure, but they must not boast of it.”

Some of the fads said to cure all ills included:

Hot baths
Cold baths
Indian Chestnuts
And 48 glasses of water a day!

Did we mention that for a good part of the century, most people didn’t have indoor plumbing? I don’t want to know where those 48 glasses of water came from.

Or where they went.

But God bless the Denver Airport for putting in WiFi! Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this (she said as she waited 8 hours after missing a flight home). Where’s that carriage and four when you need them!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Guest Blogger M.P. Barker on "The Rules"

While Regina and Marissa have been touring you through life among the upper crust, my novel, A Difficult Boy (Holiday House), takes a down-and-dirty look at two American farm boys trapped in indentured servitude. Here’s a little peek at a Nineteenteen experience that’s a world away from the life of the genteel young Victorian lady.

Being indentured, apprenticed, or “bound out” was a common experience for kids whose families wanted them to learn a trade, needed to settle debts, or (in the case of impoverished orphans) whose families were simply non-existent. A combination of trade school, poor relief, and foster care, indentured servitude had a long and not-always-savory history in America. I thought it would be interesting to look at the rules you’d have to follow as an indentured servant. The standard legal form for apprentices or indentured servants didn’t change a lot from the 18th century to the 19th. Here’s a 1753 agreement between Samuel Livermore and Daniel Burt from the archives where I work at the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum (picture courtesy of The Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.)

Your bond would usually be signed by a parent or guardian or by the town’s overseers of the poor, if you had no family. In this case, Samuel’s mother signs on his behalf. Although Samuel alleged agrees “of his own free Will and Accord,” his family’s debts or his parents’ desire to boot him out of the house so he can make something of himself probably compel him to this agreement.

I love how the agreement says that Samuel is going to learn his master’s “Art, Trade or Mistery,” which makes it sound as though Samuel is joining some kind of secret society or learning some arcane craft. Actually, Burt’s trade is the very non-mysterious one of a “husbandman”—a farmer. Samuel is referred to as a “yeoman,” so he’s a farmer, too. Since farming is probably not much of a mystery to Samuel, it’s a safe bet that this agreement is more likely about debt than about job-training.

Folks usually think of apprenticeships as lasting seven years, but they really varied quite a lot; Samuel’s term is four and a half years. During that time, Samuel has to “faithfully” and “gladly” obey all his master’s commands (I wonder how they enforce the “gladly” part). “[H]e shall do no Damage to his said master…he shall not waste his said masters Goods, nor lend them unlawfully to any…” This means that Burt can charge Samuel’s family for any damages that Samuel incurs during his term of service, or deduct the damages from Samuel’s final wages.

Now comes the fun part—or rather, the no-fun part: “…he shall not commit Fornication, nor contract Matrimony within the said Term: At Cards, Dice or any other unlawful Game, he shall not play…he shall not absent himself by Day or by Night from his said Masters Service without his Leave; nor haunt Alehouses, Taverns, or (horror of horrors!) Play-houses, but in all Things behave himself as a faithful Apprentice ought to do.”

The rules Burt has to follow, you’ll notice, are considerably fewer: “And the said Daniel Burt Doth…Promise to Teach and Instruct…in the Art, Trade or Calling of an Husbandman…(if the said Apprentice be capable to Learn).” Notice how neatly this offers the boss an out if Samuel proves too stupid to learn his work. But at least Samuel gets: “Sufficient Meat Drink apparel Working & Lodging fitting for an apprentice…” and Burt agrees “…to teach or Cause to be taught sd. Apprentice to read write & cypher if capable of learning during the said Term.” The requirement that the apprentice be taught the three Rs was common in New England, whose Puritan-based culture highly valued literacy.

So, after four and a half years of glad obedience and farm work, no gambling, no boozing, no fornicating, and no fun, what does Samuel get? “Thirteen Pounds Six Shillings & Eight Pence Lawfull money of New England & two good Suits of apparel from head to foot suitable for such an Apprentice.”

According to the currency converter at http://www.measuringworth.com/, that would be £1,763.71 today, or about $3,503.89. Imagine working unpaid at McDonald’s for four and a half years, then being sent out into the big wide world with two new suits (brand-new from Wal-mart) and $3,500 in your pocket and told, “Okay, kid, you’re on your own.” Life just doesn’t get any better than this!

Thank you, Michele! It's been great having you as our first guest blogger, and we wish you all success with A Difficult Boy!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Welcome M.P. Barker!

Today and next Tuesday, Marissa and I are thrilled to welcome a sister classmate from the Class of 2k8, M.P. Barker. Her YA novel, A Difficult Boy, is available NOW! I’ve had the pleasure of reading it. If you like characters you can’t forget, a setting that scoops you up and makes you feel at home some place and time you’ve never been, and a story that tugs at your heart, you’ll love this book! But why am I talking? Let’s let M.P. tell you all about it.

Nineteen Teen (NT): What inspired you to write this story?

MP: The story was inspired by an 18th-century bill that I was cataloging at the archives where I work. It was sent by a runaway indentured boy’s master to the boy’s mother, charging the mother for the cost of chasing the kid down, court costs, and the value of the boy’s lost work time. I started wondering—what made the boy run away? What kind of a nasty guy might the master be? Why was he so set on getting the kid back that he hired people to help him? How was the mom going to pay that bill? The boy turned into Ethan and the master turned into Mr. Lyman, and the situation in the document became the scenario for the story. (Oddly enough, though, in the final version of the book, nobody actually ended up running away.)

NT: You're amazingly qualified to have written this book. Tell us something about your experience as a history professional.

MP: Amazing? Thanks! I majored in English and History in college — those two great “do-you-want-fries-with-that” majors, then I got an MS in Historic Preservation, which combined architectural history and social history. When I was in grad school, we had a running joke that any building that was such a jumble of styles that you couldn't figure it out was in the "eclectic vernacular" style. That’s the perfect description of my work experience.

The job I loved the most was at Old Sturbridge Village, a re-created 1830s New England town with people in costumes demonstrating daily life from that era. I got to dress in funny clothes, play in the mud, set things on fire, learn obsolete crafts, cook and eat weird food, play with animals, sing, dance, ride in carriages, and pretty much live in this whole fantasy world of 19th-century New England — except with behind-the-scenes flush toilets. While I was there, I worked on a research project to create a Yankee peddler character who would wander around the Village telling stories and showing off his wares — that research inspired the character of Jonathan Stocking in A Difficult Boy.

NT: We write about girls in the English upper classes, and you've written about boys in working class America...very different places and social classes despite the era we share. Are there any common threads you can pick out about teen life between them?

MP: One common thread would be limitations — although limitations of a vastly different sort. Ethan and Daniel are confined by legal agreements and debt. Because they’re indentured, they’re stuck working for a harsh master with little chance to appeal their situation. Your upper-class English girls are constrained in a different way by expectations of class and propriety. One of the biggest differences is that if Ethan and Daniel can stick it out to the end of their terms of indenture, they’ll have more freedom as young men in America than a nineteenth century woman would have.

NT: How do you think teens then and teens now differ or resemble each other?
MP: I think that 19th-century teens—at least those not of the upper class--were expected to be more self-reliant than teens now, because they were forced to take on a lot of responsibility at a fairly early age. Rural kids started working as young as five, helping out on their family’s farms, and kids that young were often apprenticed or hired out to work for neighbors or in shops. Girls would work alongside their mothers, learning how to manage a household and how to supplement their family’s income by sewing shoe uppers or braiding straw for hats or knitting clothes or doing all sorts of little jobs that might bring in money to the family (contrary to popular myth, men weren’t the only breadwinners back then!).

But like teens today, 19th-century teens liked to hang out with their friends, go to parties and dances, and shock their parents with sexy new dances like the waltz. Most dances of the time involved couples dancing in squares or lines, much like contradances and square dances today. You might start and end with the same partner, but you’d dance with many other gentlemen and ladies as well, so it was really a group social activity—you could flirt, but there wasn’t much opportunity for prolonged contact. In the waltz, the man held the woman shockingly close, and didn’t release her until the end of the song, so the social element of the dance was replaced with something more personal and sexually charged. In a 19th century etiquette book, Madame Celnart warned that "the waltz is a dance of quite too loose a character, and unmarried ladies should refrain from it altogether.” Just like today, parental disapproval was guaranteed to make a song or dance wildly popular with teens.

NT: How can readers learn more about your books?
MP: They can go to my website at www.mpbarker.net, where they can find the first chapter, FAQs, a discussion guide, and more.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Coming attractions...

Over the next few days we're delighted to present Nineteenteen's first ever guest blogger, M.P. Barker! Michele is the author of the just-released YA novel A Difficult Boy (Holiday House), which is set in 1839 Massachusetts, as well as a fellow member of The Class of 2k8.

Tomorrow's post will feature an interview with Michele about her book and the history behind it...so stop by!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

I Scream, You Scream...

Regina’s discussion of weather prediction got me thinking about spring in New England, the place about which Mark Twain said, “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.” One of the surest signs of spring here is the sudden disappearance of popsicles and ice cream sandwiches from local grocery stores’ freezers on the first really warm day of the season. Ice cream is extremely popular in New England—I remember reading somewhere that more ice cream is consumed here than any other region of the US.

Old England had its share of ice cream lovers too, as you can see from this 1824 Ackermann print of a ball dress at right. What flavor does it look like she’s eating…black raspberry, perhaps? France too…this scene from a Le Bon Genre print at left entitled “La Belle Limonadiere” shows a young lady consuming what looks like a tiny egg-cup of lemon sorbet while admiring her waiter’s fine figure. And an ad from around 1840 (I wish it had included a picture) describes the virtues of “FULLER’S FREEZING MACHINE, by which four ICES can be made at one time, and repeated as often as required. The freezing apparatus, by which a Cream or Water Ice can be made by artificial process...” Ices and ice cream were a popular refreshment at balls and parties, both because they were something of a delicacy and because it was nice to slurp down something cold after dancing all evening.

We aren’t talking Ben & Jerry’s, however. I found a handful of ice cream (or iced pudding, as they were called) recipes in the 1846 cookbook The Modern Cook, written by Queen Victoria’s chef, Charles Francatelli. Flavorings included pureed pineapple, ground almonds, ground hazelnuts and cherry puree, and, believe it or not, rice. From the amounts of sugar in some of these, ice cream was preferred tooth-achingly sweet. Here’s a recipe:


Grate one pound of pineapple into a basin, add this to eight yolks of eggs, one pint and a half of boiled cream, one pound of sugar, and a very little salt; stir the whole together in a stewpan over a stove-fire until the custard begins to thicken; then pass it through a tammy
[a kind of cone-shaped filtering device—modern cooks know it as a tamis], by rubbing with two spoons, in the same manner as for a puree, in order to force the pineapple through the tammy. This custard must now be iced in the usual manner, and put into a mold of the shape represented in the annexed wood-cut; and in the center of the iced cream, some Macedoine ice of red fruits, consisting of cherries, currants, strawberries, and raspberries in a cherry-water-ice, must be introduced; cover the whole in with the lid, then immerse the pudding in rough ice in the usual way, and keep it in a cool place until wanted.

Friday, April 11, 2008

What Really Brings May Flowers

“April showers bring May flowers.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that old saying. My part of Washington State is actually fairly dry (only 6.5 inches of rain a year and most of it November through February), so, while there are showers in April, we actually have a lot of flowers up already. So did London and Bath when I visited in late February/early March, as you can see by this picture from Regent’s Park.

Nineteenth century teens would have heard their share of weather wisdom, passed down through the ages. For example, the Ladies Monthly Museum magazine in May 1816 reports these dire signs as predictions of “old Irish women”:

--When the raven croaks three or four times, extending his wings and shaking the leaves, look for serene weather.

--When the porpoises sport and take frequent leaps, the sea being tranquil and calm, the wind will blow from the quarter from which they proceed.

--If the dogs roll on the ground or lie on their right side, rain is on the way.

However, I cannot help wondering at the advice from the same magazine 2 years earlier (January 1814):

“From a curious and valuable little volume, lately published by Mr. Joseph Taylor under the title of The Complete Weather-Guide, we present our fair readers with the following extract, which, besides furnishing them with a useful fore-knowledge of the coming weather, may lead their minds to a pleasing and grateful contemplation on the wisdom and goodness which the all-bountiful Creator has displayed even in the meanest of his works.

“Put a leech into a large phial three parts full of clear rainwater: regularly change the same thrice a week; and let it stand on a window frame fronting the north. In fair and frosty weather, it will be motionless and rolled up in a spiral form at the bottom of the glass; but, prior to rain or snow, it will creep to the top, where, if the rain be heavy and of some continuance, it will remain a considerable time; if trifling, it will descend. Should the rain or snow be accompanied with wind, it will dart about its habitation with an amazing celerity and seldom cease, until the wind begins to blow hard.

“If a storm of thunder or lightning be approaching, it will be exceedingly agitated and express its feelings with violent convulsive starts at the top of the glass.”

Gosh, there’s a Spring Break project for you: make a leech barometer.

I think I’ll stick to the Weather Channel. What about you? Do you have some family weather predictors?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pardon Me While I Squee...

Young Adult novels as we know them--books intended to appeal to teens between the ages of 14 and 18--are a relatively modern phenomenon. Most of the books written for children in the earlier 19th century were intended for the very young--alphabet books, primers, fables and fairy tales. Interestingly, even books from this period with arguably young adult main characters--Elizabeth Bennet in Pride and Prejudice was 20, Jane Eyre was 18--were written for adults. It wasn't until the second half of the century that writers like Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Susan Coolidge (the What Katy Did series), and Elizabeth Wetherell (The Wide, Wide World) began to address the reading needs of youth.

I'd love to create a list of 19th century YA fiction...if you have a favorite novel published in the 19th century and intended for a YA (not adult) audience, please leave a comment. I'll post the list once there are more than a few titles.

Now, about that squee mentioned in the post subject line...

This past Sunday I took a day trip into NYC to be part of a panel on teen fantasy at Books of Wonder, the largest independent children's bookstore in the city (and home of the best cupcakes in the city, too. Major yumminess.) My Bewitching Season is due out this month, but hasn't been released...so I assumed that I would be smiling and chatting and talking about my book, but alas, not signing it. However, when I walked into the store, I was confronted by this...

See that row of books on the third shelf down? Yes, you guessed it: the store had arranged to get my books in stock in time for the panel. It's a pretty emotional moment for a writer, the first moment when she sees her first book for sale in a bookstore. I didn't burst into tears, but I will admit to getting a trifle misty-eyed.

So not only did I get to go to NY and talk about Bewitching Season...I also go to sign it for people who wanted to buy it and read it.

Squee indeed!

Sunday, April 6, 2008


Psst! Marissa is blogging on the Risky Regencies site today (Sunday, April 6). Please head on over and say hi!

Hugs and kisses!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Tricky Characters

Marissa and I have told you a few stories since this blog started last fall. Things like

--A Queen who nearly wasn’t born
--A lord whose nose rotted off after he spirited away ancient statues
--Sleeves that defy gravity (and logic)
--Mangel-wurzels that grow to humungous sizes, like those in the picture.

But Marissa’s post on April 1 beat them all. Rotting badger pelts stinking up the royal court? A queen who chews and spits (apparently farther than I do!) betel-nuts? What amazing stories!

What a load of rot! April Fools!

I hope you were amused. The celebration of fools and pranks has been around since at least the time of the Romans and was well established in England by the nineteenth century.

It wasn’t uncommon for boys in particular to excel at playing pranks. Certainly there are horror stories (or fond remembrances, depending on your point of view) of things that occurred at boys’ schools like Eton and Harrow. But even the adults got involved.

Take Colonel Dan Mackinnon, for example. He was famous for playing jokes on people. He fought against Napoleon under Wellington. Once he impersonated Victoria’s uncle, the Duke of York, at a great banquet given in Spain. The only reason he was discovered is that, when a bowl of punch was served, he dunked his head in it and kicked both feet into the air. I imagine that didn’t do a lot for international relations, even then.

People bet on him to do outrageous stunts, even at balls and dinner parties. He’d go around the room without touching the floor, leaping from furniture to table and back again. He’d scramble up and over rooftops. Once he went around Covent Garden theatre by running along the decorative lips of the boxes where people sat! And did our nineteenth century darlings decry him? No indeed! They ate him up! He was extremely popular and welcomed nearly everywhere.

I do hope the same can be said of Marissa and me.

So, did you encounter any other pranks or whimsy on April Fools?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Poodle Skirts and Pet Rocks...Nineteenth Century Style

It’s easy to assume that crazes--mass obsessions with the same thing (bobbed hair, CB radios, Beatlemania, American Idol) are a modern phenomenon. But the twentieth and twenty-first centuries by no means have a monopoly on them. As far back as the middle ages there were dance crazes, religious fervor crazes (one of which led to the so-called “Children’s Crusade”), and even botanical crazes (the extravagant demand for tulip bulbs in 17th century Holland which led to a country-wide financial crisis).

The nineteenth century was by no means exempt from crazes. The world of fashion seemed especially craze-prone, though fashion crazes were often sparked by something quite unrelated to dress. For example, the publication in 1814 of Walter Scott’s first Scottish historical novel, Waverley (we talked about it a few weeks ago, if you recall) led to a passion for all things Scottish. Tartan fabrics were all the rage, as you can see from this young miss at the right.

But the Scottish craze didn’t end there. Especially smitten young female fans began to carry sporrans--the furry bags Scots wear in front of their kilts--instead of the dainty reticules that had previously been in vogue. So great was the demand for these bags, commonly made from badger fur, that Highland outfitters could hardly keep up and badgers were hunted mercilessly. Nor was that the only problem; the badger hides were often hurriedly and inadequately cured, and in time the Prince Regent banned them at court events because of the overwhelming stink that would arise in overheated ballrooms from be-sporraned guests.

Fashion wasn’t the only place where crazes arose. As the British Empire expanded, products from all over the world began to appear in British markets. India was a major source due to the spread of British rule and influence over the sub-continent, and curries, chutneys, and other foods slowly gained an enthusiastic audience. One short-lived but intense craze for an Indian import was betel-nuts. They took London by storm for a few months in mid-1838 after the attendance of two fabulously wealthy and be-jeweled maharajahs from the Princely States at Queen Victoria’s coronation. Betel-nuts are a mild stimulant (they give about the same buzz as a cup of coffee) and very popular in their native Asia, but their popularity was not long-lasting in England because of the need to spit out their chewed remains…and the fact that they stain the mouth red. However, legend attributes them with fertility-boosting powers--so perhaps the Queen’s brief flirtation with betel-nut chewing has something to do with her family of nine children.