Tuesday, February 7, 2023

A Lot of Gas…or Was It?


My dear nephew (thanks, Ian!) sent me the following item, which first appeared in the Northampton Mercury on July 23, 1808, and again on the blog of the website britishnewpaperarchive.co.uk roughly two hundred years later. I cannot vouch for its veracity (one of the principals being named "Monsieur Le Pique" does ring a few quiet BS-o-meter alarms in my head), but by gosh, what a story!

I’ll let you be the judge:

Novel Duel.—A very novel species of duel has lately taken place at Paris. M. Grandpree and M. Le Pique having quarreled about Mademoiselle Tirevit, a celebrated opera dancer, who was kept by the former, but was discovered in an intrigue with the latter, a challenge ensued. Being both men of elevated minds, they agreed to fight in balloons, and in order to give time for their preparation, it was determined that the duel should take place on that day month. Accordingly on the 3rd of May the parties met in a field adjoining the Tuilleries [sic], where their respective balloons were ready to receive them. Each, attended by his second, ascended his car, loaded with blunderbusses, as pistols could not be expected to be efficient in their probable situations. A multitude attended, hearing of the balloons, but little dreaming of the purpose: the Parisians merely looked for the novelty of a balloon race. At nine o’clock the cords were cut, and the balloons ascended majestically amidst the shouts of the spectators. The wind was moderate, blowing from the north north west, and they kept, as far as could be judged, within about 80 yards of each other. When they had mounted to the height of about 900 yards, M. Le Pique fired his piece ineffectually; almost immediately after the fire was returned by M. Grandpree, and penetrated his adversary’s balloon; the consequence of which was its rapid descent, and M. Le Pique and his second were both dashed to pieces on a house-top, over which the balloon fell. The victorious Grandpree then mounted aloft in the grandest style, and descended safe, with his second, about seven leagues from the spot of ascension.

See the original post here: https://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk/2012/08/24/the-first-duel-fought-in-hot-air-balloons-paris-1808/

What do you think? Did it really happen, or did an editor at the Northampton Mercury think that the July 23 issue needed a little sprucing up and concocted the tale out of whole cloth, journalistic rigor not yet having the importance it does in modern times?

Whether it did or not, dear readers, this is what makes studying history so much fun!

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Meet Me at the Café!

A few weeks ago Regina pointed out to me that I had never blogged here about my publisher, Book View Café, and that I really ought to. After I stopped calling myself names, I decided I would, because BVC is really kind of a cool thing.

Book View Café is a cooperative publisher, meaning it is run and managed by its members and publishes their books. That means the members (including me) wear a lot of different hats at different times: we’re business managers and bookkeepers and technology managers and marketers and editors and designers and cover artists. Basically, we do all the tasks that any publishers does, but we’re doing them for ourselves.

Book View Café was founded in 2008 by a group of science fiction and fantasy authors—among them Ursula K. LeGuin and Vonda N. McIntyre who wanted to bring out their books that were no longer in print, but also to find a way to publish on their own terms. Fifteen years later, BVC has published hundreds of its members’ books, which it sells from its own online store as well as on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and elsewhere, and makes available to multiple library distributors. Of note is the fact that each author receives 90% of the cover price of their titles sold in the BVC bookstore—unheard of in a publishing world where authors receive a tiny percentage of the profits from their books.

We publish primarily genre fiction—fantasy, romance, science fiction, and mystery—with a smattering of other types of fiction as well as some non-fiction, in particular books on writing. We periodically bring out short story anthologies as well—our last was Murmurs in the Dark, the ghost story anthology I co-edited with Shannon Page—and we’re noodling around with a cookbook idea, mostly for fun…

That’s a key concept at BVC, now that I think of it: fun. We take our business practices and the running of our co-op very seriously…but when we take off the business hats and put on our writing hats, we can write what we want to write, what we enjoy writing, without being constrained by the opinions of a marketing committee somewhere. It means that Sherwood Smith could write a Wuxia fantasy series just because she wanted to, that Shannon Page can co-write mysteries set in her beautiful home island community because she wanted to, and I can write my Regency/fantasy-of-manners/mystery/romance Ladies of Almack’s series because I might have exploded if I hadn’t.

And that’s Book View Café. Thanks for nudging me, Regina.

And speaking of just for fun…remember my post a few weeks back about Ladies of Almack’s Regency meme calendars? Well, I did it: 2023 calendars (featuring all new, never before published memes) and magnets are available at my Etsy store here. Because Regency snark? How could I not? 😀

 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Beguiling the Bodyguard

Fortune the cat is back with another set of matches to make, this time with the Batavarian Imperial Guards. These four elite soldiers find themselves up to their medals in romance and adventure as they start new lives in Regency England. First up is Finn Huber.

When Finn was released from his duties to his king and crown prince, he never dreamed his first position in England would be bodyguard to a governess whose sweet nature calls to him. He fell for a lady he was guarding years ago, with devastating consequences. He learned the hard way that bodyguards must be vigilant, valiant, and in control, always. Loving who they guard is strictly forbidden.

Governess Abigail Winchester beguiles her charges with warm smiles and gentle words, but her composure is hard won. Someone knows about her connection to a family scandal and is bent on destroying her. How kind of her benefactress, Lady Belfort, to hire Finn to keep her safe as she hides at the lady’s country estate. He is everything a lady might admire, but she cannot give in to her growing feelings for him. Finn’s honor and her past can never be reconciled.

But Lady Belfort and her cat, Fortune, are renowned for making matches—in employment and in romance. With their help, Finn and Abigail must uncover who is threatening her and stop the villain before it’s too late. In the end, will honor or love prevail?

5 Stars! “Well written, engaging, and does not slow down.” The Huntress Reviews

You can find Never Beguile a Bodyguard at fine online retailers and bookstores near you as well as directly from me! My store has ebook versions of all my books published through Edwards and Williams, delivered via Book Funnel. Or try

Smashwords 

Amazon 

Barnes and Noble 

Apple Books 

Kobo  

An independent bookstore near you (paperback) 

Books-A-Million 

The Book Depository, free shipping worldwide



Tuesday, January 17, 2023

So I Did a Thing...

Some of you may have seen the fun I’m having with creating silly Regency memes from my collection of Ackermann's Repository and La Belle Assemblée fashion plates—a new one goes up every few days on my Facebook and Instagram pages.

But I couldn’t stop with posting them on social media. That, dear readers, would be much too simple.

So I did this:




The magnets happened for a couple of book-signings I did last summer. The calendars were a brainstorm on December 27 after someone showed me the customizable calendars that could be made at Snapfish, and I just couldn’t stop myself. I mean, doesn’t everyone need a calendar with sassy Regency memes that also tells them when Sally Jersey’s birthday is and on what day Pride and Prejudice was first published?

I’ve given several to friends, but the question is…should I make these more widely available? Would NineteenTeen readers or fans of The Ladies of Almack’s series (either books or memes) buy them? I’m afraid I would have to keep this for US purchasers only; the time (filling out customs forms) and expense of mailing them outside the US would be prohibitive. But if these appeal to you, leave me a comment and I’ll figure out what’s next.

And in the meanwhile…Sassy New Year!

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Sad State of Governesses in 1818, According to “An Observer”

In my upcoming book, Never Beguile a Bodyguard, the heroine is a governess forced by a family scandal to seek protection from an unlikely source. As I was researching (lovely, lovely research) for the story, I ran across an article from the May 1818 European Magazine and London Review. Some of the insights were priceless, so I thought I’d share them with you!

Written by someone identified only as “An Observer,” the title of the piece is “Thoughts on the Present State of Governesses.” It seems the profession, once employed solely by those with wealth and privilege, had proliferated, thanks to the growing middle class. As a result, the status of being a governess appears to have plummeted.

“Let us consider the qualifications and probable fate of the modern governess. She enters (as a necessary recommendation) some fashionable establishment… and she vies with her schoolmates in dress and their indulgences at theatres or splendid parties; to which introductions are the chief care of the modern governess. If, which is equally probable, she springs from the lowest class, she becomes during a few miserable years an apprentice or half-boarder; and combined with the envy excited by her superiors, learns the meanness and stratagems required to gain their favour. Here, if the business of adjusting their frocks and curls allows time, she may possibly learn to paint shells and Ottomans, net purses and empty them at cards, to play a sonata without understanding a single rudiment of its composition, copy the attitudes of a favorite singer, and waltz. At eighteen or possibly sooner she undertakes the tuition of a numerous family or of one favourite child.”

Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?


The Observer paints an equally dire future, when everyone from the chamber maid to the child’s mother and siblings view her with scorn and expose her to “a thousand grievances, which have no refuge except silence, and no worldly remuneration but a stipend of the most uncertain kind.”

Well!

I have no doubt some governesses were cherished companions who received a thankful pension when their work was done. The Observer goes on to urge the creation of a plan to aid those who are not so fortunate:

  1. Those governesses who are well off should put some of their money in a fund not only for their future upkeep but for those not so well off.
  2. Mothers who employ governesses should pay for their pensions or at least stop asking them to dress fashionably so that they can put some money aside themselves.
  3. The government should build almshouses for “decayed governesses” and give them charge of female orphans currently in the poor house to teach them, perhaps one on one.

At a time when unions were just beginning to be conceived, these are novel concepts.

Governesses of the world, unite!

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Regency Fabrics, Part 36

 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 four samples are from the March 1812 issue of Ackermann’s Repository. The overall condition of my copy is very good: the page has been trimmed a little close on the outside, but the paper itself is not toned and has minimal spotting. All four fabric samples are present and in good condition, if a little creased in places.

Here we go!

No. 1. A figured Cisalpine washing silk, for evening wear; and is to be pur-chased of every colour and shade. This light article is adapted to the various seasons of the year, according to the trimmings with which it is ornamented. In winter the tunics and robes were consistently trimmed with fur or swansdown; in the more genial seasons, lace must be considered most appropriate; and in the ball or full dress, white beads or bugles have a very pretty effect. It is manufactured and sold by D. and R. Hodges, silk-manufacturers, No. 12, Henrietta-street, Covent-garden.

My comments: I love this one! It didn’t photograph very well, alas, but it’s a light ecru colored silk patterned with bars and bisected circles that remind me of coffee beans woven in, with the pattern being much more reflective than the background. It’s a very light, thin fabric, smooth and air, but I would be concerned about its fragility: fine for an evening or dinner dress, but I don’t think I’d want to dance in it!

 

No. 2. A printed checked cambric muslin, calculated for the more quiet order of decora-tion. There is no trimming that can give any advan-tage to this article, which should be formed in plain wraps, or high round robes, with long sleeves and frills of lace, or collars and cuffs of needle-work. To be purchased of T. and J. Smith, 4, Tavistock-street, Covent-garden. 

My comments: I wouldn’t call this checked (which makes me think of gingham) as the grid pattern is woven into the fabric, with the brown pattern a bit sloppily printed on (easier to see in real life than in this scan.) I think it would be more attractive without the print. It has a nice soft, supple hand and a soft sheen that again is not coming through in the scan, but again, not very sturdy.

 

No. 3. Is a pretty description of muslin adapted for morning wraps, spring pelisses, and children’s wear. This article we obtained from the house of Millard in the city, whose celebrity has often been a subject of discussion in our Repository, as well as of general notoriety with our fair fashionables at the west end of the town. Articles of every choice description, and of the greatest novelty, are dispersed to the various houses in town, and the various watering-places, from this extensive ware-house, so long renowned for the immediate sale of the Honourable East India Company’s goods; and we learn that the goods vended from their recent sale are of a superior description, and, from the deficiency of foreign trade, extremely cheap. Families purchasing pieces or half-pieces, are supplied by this house on the same terms as the trade.

My comments: Curiously, the scan of this is backward to what this looks like in real life: the woven-in square pattern (made of tiny loops of thread of a thicker, fluffier cotton thread) stands out from the background. Yes, a nice fabric for little dresses or boy’s skeleton suits…and now I feel that I have to go and research the vendor, Millard, because it sounds like there’s a lot of interesting history there…

 

No.4 exhibits a very striking and appropriate printed Marseilles for gentlemen’s waistcoats. There is scarcely any coat with which this animated article can ill accord, which accounts for its being so much called for by men of rank and fashion, who find it also so appropriate an article for the demi-saisons. It is sold by Messrs. Maund and Co., mercers and woollen-drapers, Cornhill.

My comments: It has always puzzled me why the fabrics considered suitable for men’s waistcoats of the time are always very thick and sturdy, when the fabrics for dresses are so light and often flimsy…but back to the matter at hand. This is a fairly heavy-duty wool woven in a diamond pattern and then overprinted with a design in orange, brown, and mint green that again reminds me of 1930s quilting cottons or feed sacks

 

What do you think of this month’s fabrics?