Friday, December 23, 2016

Merry Christmas, and Presents Too!

Here we are, at Christmas again. Thank you so much for being with Marissa and me. We’re going to slip out next week and most of the first week of January to spend time with family. But, before we go, we have some presents to give out.

First up, the Jane Austen Festival Regency Promenade of 2016. Is attending one of these on your bucket list too?

Maybe you’d prefer to dream about owning a Regency townhouse. Check out the advertisement for this one on the market in Kent!

If your tastes run more toward Americana, browse through these wonderful photos of Christmas trees, from around the turn of the century.

And, however, you spent your holidays, remember to find the joy, the wonder, the excitement of the season.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fish, Precioussssss...

Ah, holiday customs. At my house, we’ve developed a new one over the last year or two: after exchanging presents and eating Christmas dinner and pulling crackers (we lurrrrve Christmas crackers!) and nibbling at dessert, we usually play a rollicking game of Cards Against Humanity (my 81-year-old mom is a huge fan!)  Although I would dearly love to write a Regency version of CAH some day (imagine the scurrilous things one could come up with to say about Prinny’s personal life!), Regency family games were themselves somewhat less, er, naughty...and also a lot prettier.

Those of you who obsess over details in books (umm, like me) might remember certain references in Pride and Prejudice to family games: “...Lydia talked incessantly of lottery tickets, of the fish she had lost and the fish she had won....”  and in Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy: “...Gertrude...and Amabel...cast themselves upon their brother, with loud professions of delight at seeing him, and rather louder reminders to him of a promise he had made them to play at lottery-tickets the very next time he should spend an evening at home....The card-table had been set up, and Amabel was already counting out the mother-of-pearl fishes on its green-baize cloth.”

(Pause to re-read the hilarious ending of The Grand Sophy.  Ahem.)

No, Lydia was not crowing over winning anchovies. Nor was Amabel handing out minnows, but these handsome little guys. The game was called “lottery tickets,” and was a game of pure chance; utilizing two decks of cards, it was played in rounds, and fish-shaped markers were used for placing bets (sort of), with the winner of each round getting the fish.

Aren’t they lovely? These are of mother-of-pearl (which is darned difficult to photograph well, I’ll have you know!), likely made in China, but they were also made of bone and ivory. Nor were they restricted to just fish shapes (I haven’t been able to discover ‘why fish?’)  Here are several circular ones from my collection—again, Chinese mother-of-pearl, some very elegantly engraved. The wealthy would have theirs custom-carved with their coats of arms or other heraldic devices.

And more, not round. Squares, rectangles, and other shapes are also seen:

I wonder if there's any way to incorporate my fishy collection into our upcoming Cards Against Humanity game on Christmas? Hmm...

While I ponder that question, I hope all NineteenTeen readers will enjoy a splendid upcoming holiday week full of your own happy family traditions, whether they involve fish or not. 


Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Favorite: Oysters?

I’ve been reading up on Christmas dinners for my next pioneer Seattle Christmas book (ah, lovely, lovely research). Most of the items reported on tables in the nineteenth century in England and America didn’t surprise me. Roast beef, goose, turkey, and ham were staples. Depending on who you were and where you were, you might have one or more of them for your Christmas dinner. But one item that appeared even some poor tables did surprise me.


Apparently oysters were quite the thing at Christmas. Those along the coasts bought them fresh. Those inland could sometimes buy them packaged in tins, at a hefty price. During the middle of the nineteenth century, they were transported by the gallon across country by stage and later train. Stories abound of hawkers on the corner in London crying “Oysters! Fresh oysters!”

Even my Seattle pioneers would have had the opportunity. You see, Puget Sound natives had harvested oysters for thousands of years before Europeans happened upon the scene. The small Olympia oyster was indigenous to the area. When the first Seattle settlers arrived at Alki Point, boats were already shipping out of the area, taking cargo of oysters to San Francisco. One estimate for 1851 puts the poundage at more than half a million, and the same amount was sent each year for the next ten years!

Oysters were served in a variety of ways, from scalloped to roasted, stewed, or fried. You might serve oyster sauce, oyster soup, oyster pie, or oyster patties. You might even stuff them in your turkey or goose.

So, never mind the roast head of boar or the plucked goose. If you want an authentic nineteenth century Christmas dinner, put some oysters on your table.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Newer Additions to My Collection: Fashions 1810

It’s been a while since I started doing (and finished up) regular Fashion Forecasts here...and one corollary of that is that I’ve since acquired a lot more prints for any given year. Since the last time we looked at fashions in the year 1810 was back in 2009, I thought I’d post some more prints from my collection...because, eye candy.


1810 was the year of the child, at least as far as Ackermann’s Repository was concerned: this particular year features multiple images of children, which gives us a nice look at what the fashionable child was this instance, from January, not all the much (someone give that child a sweater!) Mom’s Evening Dress looks much warmer.

My oh my, the fur-lined cloak in this Carriage or Promenade Dress from January looks cozy!

Another fur-lined cloak in February’s Opera Dress—perhaps because there was no central heating in theatres. Note her opera glass in one hand, the quizzing glass around her neck, and a copy of the libretto in her hand (at least, I am assuming that’s what it is).

That’s one chunky toddler...but what a sweet pose! Note mom’s Morning Dress includes long sleeves and a high neck—possibly a blouse or a tucker underneath the dress proper. (February)

This print from April is the ONLY one in Ackermann’s twenty-year run featuring men’s clothing—a pity, don’t you think? The accompanying text reads
Full Dress.—Superfine corbeau colour coat, with covered buttons; white Marcella waistcoat, single-breasted; light sage green, or cream-coloured kerseymere breeches; also those of black florentine silk are very fashionable and consistent in this style of dress. Dark blue coats, with plain gilt buttons, are likewise considered fashionable. The cravat is still worn high and full.

April’s Walking Dress is truly multinational, if you read the description! It always surprises me that even though they’d been at war for decades, French fashions were still all the rage in England.
A round high robe of French cambric, with Armenian collar, and cuffs edged with narrow antique lace; three rows of appliqu├ęd lace beading round the bottom. An Egyptian mantle of lilac shot sarsnet, trimmed with broad Spanish binding, and deep thread lace. A Parisian bonnet of the same material, ornamented with narrow stripes of white satin ribbon, and trimmed at the edge with lace, or a plaiting of French net. A small French cap, and flowers appearing in front of the forehead. Chinese parasol, with deep awning of white silk. Ridicule to correspond. Lilac kid slippers or half-boots. York tan gloves. Child’s dress of nankeen or buff kerseymere, of the Highland order.

A three-fer! July’s Promenade Dresses are interesting: in particular, the purple one reminds me of dresses one hundred years in the future, ca. World War I.  The veil in the middle dress is, er, interesting.

Mom’s Full Dress (September) is very Renaissance inspired, with the slashed sleeves, broad, framing collar, and lacing in the bodice. The children’s clothing is charming, I think.

Another first (and only) for 1810: a plate using a church as the background. The description for this Morning Dress reads:
A plain cambric high gown, with surplice sleeves, and van dyke border round the throat. A Spanish robe of pea-green muslin, crape, or sarsnet, bordered with cable trimming, and buttoned to the shape in front. A winged mob cap, composed of white crape and beading. A bee-hive bonnet of fine moss or plaited straw, ornamented with white sarsnet ribbon. Limeric gloves, and Spanish slippers of sea-green kid.

What I’ve loved about the fashions of 1810 is that they’re different and interesting—not all alike (1820-22, I’m looking at you)—the Full Dress looked nothing like the Promenade Dresses, which look nothing like this Evening or Half Dress, with its embroidered bodice and hem and an embroidered Indian shawl.

Friday, December 9, 2016

My True Love Gave to Me One More Time

I’ve known I wanted to be an author since I was in the third grade. Growing up, I dabbled with everything from horror (my first novel was called Mummies by the Lake—don’t ask) to fantasy and historical romance. In college, when I stumbled upon my first Regency romance, I decided that was where I’d focus my passions. In late 1996, the Regency special interest chapter of Romance Writers of America reported that Kensington had a hole in its publication schedule and was rather desperate for Regency romance manuscripts. I sent in The Unflappable Miss Fairchild and was offered a two-book deal, with the stipulation that the second book be set at Christmas.

“You can write a Christmas book, right?” my new editor asked.

Of course I could. Couldn’t I?

I didn’t have an idea. I wasn’t even sure how Christmas was celebrated during the Regency. I remember a squirming feeling in the pit of my stomach. I ignored it. I was going to be published, and I had been given the chance to write Kensington’s Christmas Regency. I could do this.

And I did.

After considerable research, I submitted the manuscript for My True Love Gave to Me eleven months before the intended publication date of December 1998. My husband proclaimed it the best book I’d ever had published (since it was only my second, I’ll take that with a grain of salt). To this day, he still laments it was never made into a movie. But the Sales Department at Kensington thought my title wasn’t romantic enough. They retitled it The Twelve Days of Christmas. It entered the world and quietly sank like a stone tossed into a snow-shrouded pond.

You see, I didn’t know much about promoting in those days. I was an unknown author. The cover was anachronistic and didn’t even have the right hair color for the characters. No review magazines deigned to review it.

But to this day, it is one of the books my readers love most.

I’m delighted to report that I’ve buffed it up (I have learned something in 35 books); returned it to its original title; given it a new, more accurate cover; and reissued it for Christmas this year. I hope those who love it will remember why, and those who haven’t had a chance to read it will enjoy it.

And who knows? Maybe it will be made into a movie someday.


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

In Which Marissa Waxes Philosophical about History

This post has nothing to do with the nineteenth century—very much not. But it's still about history, albeit in slightly different way from what we usually do around here.

I’ve been in my town for almost thirty years now (gulp!) And practically every day of those thirty years—at least, the days when I’m not wearing tatty sweats and hunkered down in front of my computer writing books—I drive by a large Raytheon plant located on one of the main roads through town. Raytheon is a high-tech and defense contractor headquartered in Massachusetts, so yeah, it’s no big deal, it being there—it has been since the 1950s. I know people who’ve worked there, and kind of wished my engineer husband had decided to work for them because then he’d have a 7-minute commute and not the 55-minute one he’s had for years.

Until a couple of years ago.

In 2014, Raytheon announced it would be closing this plant and merging operations with another Raytheon plant just down the road in the next town. It makes perfect sense, of course—why operate two separate plants within 5 miles of each other? And my town is working with developers to use the 50-acre plot of land on which the plant is located to build affordable housing units and apartments for the elderly as well as a vibrant new shopping center. It’s an excellent use of the property and will be a wonderful addition to the town.

So, some of you might know I’m a closet space nut. It started back when I watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon a few days after my birthday as a small child...and after that, I watched for news of every Apollo launch and paid attention, at least as much as an elementary school kid does. Even now, I haven't lost my fascination for space exploration.

Bear with me, now. There is a point to all this meandering.

I drove by the old plant this morning on my way to my gym as usual and saw that they’re really moving along with the tear-down. And as much as I applaud this new use for the property, it made me sad. Because that Raytheon plant was where the guidance computers for the Apollo spacecraft were made, in conjunction with engineers and scientists from MIT. Right here, in this town. And while something new and wonderful is being built, we’re also losing a place where a little bit of history was made—at least to me, a grand and exciting bit of history.

And the point of all this? Don’t forget that history is something we live, before it ever becomes history. I’m sure the scientists and engineers still around from those heady days in the 1960’s at Raytheon are thinking that about now. I know I am.

Okay, I'll go back to the nineteenth century (well, early twentieth, for now) and stop philosophizing. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

Nineteenth Century Christmas Wish List, 2016 Edition

Are you shopping yet? I know, I know, it’s barely December, but here in the states we’ve just passed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and Christmas can be seen, heard, and smelled around every corner. So, as I have for the last few years, I thought I’d look into what nineteenth century-inspired things might be out there for your gifting pleasure. You might even find a few to put on your own Christmas wish list.

I will admit to having developed quite a fondness for Etsy. My, but people are creative! Primrose Prints, for instance, features framed antique prints, including a fascinating one of chemical equipment from 1820 for those of a scientific or engineering bent. I can see Sir Nicholas Rotherford of The Courting Campaign putting this on his Christmas list. 

Gift For Book Lover - Book Earrings - Chapter One The End - Secret Santa - Literary Jewelry - Gift For Writers - Christmas Gift For Reader
Then there’s the Old Junkyard Boutique, with steampunk and Victorian jewelry. But the one that really has me drooling is Jezebel Charms—literary-inspired gifts for book lovers. I did inquire about these darling earrings. Alas, they only come in pierced. (And I wear only clips.)   

Of course, you can often find interesting items at novelty sites. Though they are apparently out of stock as of this writing, I did find Jane Austen bandages, supposedly as soothing to your wounds as her words are to your heart.

Wedgwood® Palladian Countryside Accent PlateYou can even find nineteenth century-inspired items at more conventional stores. I love the muted coloring of this Palladian display plate at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. And I am already hinting to my husband about a Wedgwood ornament set, particularly the nativity.

And no Christmas wish list on this site would be complete without a few books on it. Miss Jane Austen's Guide to Modern Life's Dilemmas: Answers to Your Most Burning Questions About Life, Love, Happiness (and What to Wear) from the Great Jane Austen Herself by Rebecca Smith caught my eye. I’m certain Jane has words for every dilemma. I’m also quite intrigued with a new book on the history of Brooks, one of the main gentlemen’s clubs in the Regency, taken from period sources.

So, there you are, a smattering of delightful nineteenth century items, just ready for someone’s Christmas present. Care to share what you’ve seen this season that piqued your interest?