Archive for the 'Historical Research' Category
Thursday, May 31st, 2012
This week I’m time traveling back to 18th century England and Georgian life. I’m reading Behind Closed Doors, At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery as research for a historical I’m planning to write.
Thirteen Snippets About 18th Century England Life
1. Locking the house was done with ceremony each night, with boarders, servants etc locked inside. People who loitered out on the streets late at night or early in the morning were looked upon with suspicion.
2. Most people owned a locking box where they kept valuables and other important articles.
3. Poor people tended to carry all their valuable items on their person in pockets and pouches.
4. Keys were the emblems of authority, which is why housekeepers or the women of the house would carry their bunches of keys on their person.
5. A single man in London would eat his meals in taverns, pie shops, coffee houses and chop houses. He’d pay women to do his washing.
6. Young men wanted a housekeeper and, therefore, entered the state of marriage. Young women entered the state of marriage because they wanted to rule their own house.
7. Many families exploited their unmarried womenfolk as unpaid housekeepers, nursery maids, sick-nurses, tutors, chaperons, companions and surrogate mothers.
8. Before 1750 the average age of marriage for a woman was 26. This dropped to 25 in the latter part of the century.
9. A husband’s death restored a woman’s full legal personality under common law. They were more respectable than spinsters and often were welcomed in and enjoyed society.
10. A young widow with children usually remarried quickly while an older widow with many children sometimes inherited large debts and poverty. She fell on the mercies of the parish.
11. In 1675 only 9% of households owned clocks, but by 1725 34% had a clock.
12. Thomas Chippendale was the first to publish a catalogue of furniture designs in 1754. Other London cabinetmakers quickly followed suit.
13. The culture of visiting began in the late 17th century but the introduction of tea took visiting to a new level in the 18th century. Visiting was cheap to stage and became a ritual for women alone or en masse. In May 1767 Lady Mary Coke made eighteen visits a day while in town. (that’s an awful lot of tea and gossip!)
Some interesting things – what do you think of the eighteen visits in a day?
Friday, April 20th, 2012
The white wedding dress made with silk and lace is a twentieth century tradition, and the cynical among us might say that those who work in the wedding industry have embraced the elaborate white gown for commercial reasons.
In past centuries, couples would wear their best clothes to their wedding, which meant they wore colors other than white. In fact sometimes it was difficult to discern the bride and groom among the crowd of well wishers.
Here is a traditional rhyme that tells us the significance of the color of the bride’s dress:
Married in white, you have chosen all right
Married in grey, you will go far away
Married in black, you will wish yourself back
Married in red, you’d be better dead
Married in green, ashamed to be seen
Married in blue, you’ll always be true
Married in pearl, you’ll live in a whirl
Married in yellow, ashamed of the fellow
Married in brown, you’ll live out of town
Married in pink, your spirits will sink.
There are also several superstitions associated with wedding dresses. Most of us are probably aware of the one in which it’s said to be unlucky for the groom to see the bride in her dress before the wedding. It’s also said to be bad luck for the bride to make her own dress.
Sometimes brides of the past didn’t wear a dress but married in their chemises or shifts. This meant the bride came to the wedding with nothing, and more importantly to the groom, he didn’t acquire responsibility for the bride’s debts.
The above rhyme made me laugh because my dress was pink.
What color was your wedding dress? Or if you’re single at present, what color would you like?
Source: Discovering the Folklore and Traditions of Marriage by George Monger
Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
One of my recent library reads has been If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the Home by Lucy Worsley. An excellent read BTW, and full of interesting social details about beds, underwear, child birth, marriage etc. If you’re writing historical romance or you’re interested in all things historical this is the book for you.
Thirteen Factoids about Baths & Bathing Through the Ages
1. Medieval people mostly washed their hands and faces rather than taking baths.
2. That said, Medieval people weren’t afraid of baths. Knights used to indulge in something called a Knightly bath, which involved decorative sheets, flowers and herbs placed around the bath. A servant would take a basin of hot herbal potion and use a sponge to scrub the knight’s body. The knight was then rinsed with rose water and rubbed dry with a clean cloth. He was then dressed in socks, slippers and a nightgown and sent to bed. Doesn’t that sound luxurious?
3. Baths were made of wood and lined with a linen sheet to prevent splinters in the bottom!
4. The English embraced the idea of the Turkish hammans after reports from returning Crusaders. Records show the presence of 18 bathhouses in London in 1162. They were known as stews and were communal with men and women sharing them. Most were in Southwark. Wow, imagine the potential for an erotic romance…
5. The communal aspect did cause problems and some became houses of ill-repute. Henry VIII closed the bath houses down in 1546.
6. From around 1550 to 1750 baths were considered dangerous and weird. Bathing became medicinal rather than cleansing. People feared that bathing spread disease such as syphilis. Hot water opened the pores, allowing illness into the body.
7. During the 17th century medical understanding improved. People started to understand perspiration and a bath in cold water was considered beneficial. A full bathing, despite recommendation by doctors, was slow to catch on. The ballrooms at this time were pretty stinky.
8. Beau Brummell and other gentlemen of his ilk popularized bathing, making it classy, and soon everyone was doing it. Victorian etiquette books started to state bathing was good manners.
9. Water was usually carried from the basement up to the bedroom, then once used, it was carried down again by servants. Hard work!
10. Around 1860 some houses started to receive piped water to first-floor bathrooms, which made bathing much easier for all concerned.
11. The en suite bathroom was first seen in the New World. American heiresses sent to secure an English nobleman as a husband were horrified by the primitive bathing conditions.
12. The Methodist minister John Wesley would not preach in a place without a toilet and thus came the idea of cleanliness becoming next to godliness.
13. By the end of the 20th century thinking in the bath/reading in the bath becomes a way of relaxing and relieving stress.
Personally, I’m a shower girl and seldom have a bath. The bath doesn’t get much use in our house. I’d love to own one of those sleek wetrooms with tiles and lots of shower heads. Maybe one day…
Bath or shower? What does your dream bathroom look like?
Thursday, December 22nd, 2011
I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.
Here are thirteen things I found interesting:
1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.
2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.
3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.
4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.
5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.
6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.
7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!
8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!
9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.
10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.
11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.
12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.
13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.
It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.
Sunday, August 7th, 2011
This week I’ve finally managed to catch up on my blog feeds. Since I write historical romance, among other genres, I subcribe to several blogs that feature info from the past. My favorites are the posts that feature social history and little tidbits about everyday normal things. I thought I’d share some of the posts I enjoyed.
At Word Wenches, I came across the following:Keeping it Clean: Georgian and Regency Bathing Habits by Joanna Bourne. Ms. Bourne explores exactly how clean our forebears were. “…And water. They had ‘running water’ of a sort. They sent a footman to run and get it.”
A Tale of Buttons by Anne Gracie. This article brought back fond memories of playing with all the buttons in my mother’s button tin. Anne talks about buttons through the ages and there are some cool pictures of button hooks.
Over at Historical Hussies Leigh Michaels talked about The Regency Season The season was actually when parliament was in session. The men brought their wives with them to London. The women required entertainment while their men were busy, thus the season was born with its balls and other outings.
A post by Donna Hatch about Regency Fragrances caught my attention. It was exactly what I needed to work out my Gothic hero’s scent.
Now traveling to more modern times…
Author Allison Brennan wrote a wonderful post called Money Can’t Buy Love at Murder She Writes. It’s all about Self-Promotion and Word of Mouth.
CJ Redwine addresses this question – How do I raise the stakes and make the conflict matter to the reader? in her post Write a HolyCowAwesome story
And last but not least – I’m doing a giveaway over at Goodreads. Enter the draw to win one of two copies of The Bottom Line.
Do you have any favorite blog feeds that you subscribe to?
Monday, August 1st, 2011
Today I started polishing/editing the new gothic romance I finished last month. Part of my day was spent surfing the web and consulting my collection of reference books. One of the points I needed to check on was 18th century cosmetics.
Last week during my blog hopping, I visited Carol Dunford’s blog, Les Femmes d’Ecriture. Author Brinda Berry was visiting and discussing the use of podcasts for research. Brinda said she finds podcasts an excellent way to research various topics. You can read her post here.
The idea of using podcasts struck me as brilliant. I spend a lot of time walking the dog and often wear my iPod. Sometimes I listen to RWA workshops but hadn’t thought of checking out podcasts for research purposes. Today I came across the perfect podcast at the Colonial Williamsburg website, which answered all my 18th century cosmetic questions. It was called The Art of Beauty. For those who are interested in history or who write historical novels some of the other podcasts look exciting too. Topics vary from The Art of Cut (about men’s tailoring) to Music and Dance and Animals.
So what did I learn about cosmetics?
1. Pale is good and tans were frowned upon. A hat was a woman’s best friend.
2. Dark eyes and hair were preferred because both set off a pale skin.
3. Most people of the time bore scars and smallpox marks on their faces and many had hollowed cheeks after losing teeth.
4. Things like lead and other harmful substances were used to make the skin appear pale.
5. Patches in the shape of moons, stars and other shapes were very popular. They were perfect to disguise smallpox marks.
6. Mouse fur was used to make eye brows appear thicker and darker. Yuck!
Armed with this information, I’ll be able to make my heroine appear more authentic. If I suddenly time traveled back to the 18th century the other women would laugh for sure. Each summer my freckles join hands, go forth and multiply. A hat and suntan lotion don’t seem to help much!
What do you think of the beauty ideals of the time? Pale skin and dark hair? Do you listen to podcasts? Do you have any favorites that you subscribe to and would recommend?
Wednesday, January 5th, 2011
I took this photo of a labyrinth at The Village Green Resort in Cottage Grove, Oregon. It’s a simple turf labyrinth and is a replica of one from 9th century Aachen in Germany.
I didn’t realize there was a difference between a maze and a labyrinth and learned differently during my visit. A labyrinth has one entrance and one exit. It doesn’t have any dead ends. A maze has a high hedge (or corn in modern mazes) and is actually a puzzle because it contains lots of twists and turns and dead ends. Mazes are used for entertainment such as the one at Hampton Court near London. I’ve explored the Hampton Court one and managed to get lost but finally made the center with hubby’s help. Labyrinths are used as a compliment to meditation or prayer. I walked this one and found it very soothing. I think it would make a good spot for plotting a book or for pondering plot problems.
Have you ever explored a maze or walked a labyrinth?
Wednesday, September 15th, 2010
If you have no idea where or what the orangery is pay attention. According to the dictionary, an orangery (also spelled orangerie) is a protected place or a greenhouse for raising oranges in cooler climes. The word dates back to around 1664, which means greenhouses have been around for a lot longer than I suspected.
A little research tells me our ancestors have always been keen gardeners. Not surprising, given they couldn’t walk down to the corner store for their weekly groceries. They ate what they could either grow or trade with others.
The orangeries were built with south facing windows to let in the light and tall doors. The plants and trees were grown in tubs, which made them easy to move outside during the warm summer months. During the really cool months, the gardeners used straw for insulation around the windows or small braziers to heat the inside and keep their plants alive.
The Victorians were big gardeners and plant hunters or explorers scoured the world, searching for new plants and seeds to send home to England.
Many of the historic homes and castles in Britain have orangeries including Kensington Palace, one that I’ve visited myself.
As well as oranges, the gardeners grew pineapples, bananas, lemons, and pomegranates.
I added an orangery to Castle St. Clare since Rosalind, my heroine required some lemons to make a tonic. I think an orangery sounds like a great place for an assignation. It’s warm and dry and oranges smell nice. There are lots of possibilities for a couple who’d prefer privacy.
The Spurned Viscountess comes out next week and my tour starts today at The Romance Studio Blue where I’m discussing marriages of convenience. My hero didn’t find the marriage very convenient at all!
Do you think you’d like a tryst in the orangery or would you choose another place?
Source: Oak Conservatories
Thursday, August 26th, 2010
I’ve been in a real historical mood lately, both in my reading and my research. It’s good to be writing another historical romance. My favored time period is the Eighteenth century—pre-Regency in the 1700s, and if it has a gothic tone that’s even better.
For my TT this week I thought I’d give you terms or words you might come across while reading a historical romance or a historical fiction novel. These words are Nineteenth century words and my source is the book What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool
Thirteen Words in Usage During the Nineteenth Century
1. Trap – a small light carriage with springs
2. Turnkey – a jailer
3. Weeds – mourning garments, the word “weed” meaning simply clothes
4. Vinaigrette – a little box made of silver containing vinegar and having holes in the top. A vinaigrette was used to revive ladies who had fainted.
5. Washballs – little round balls of soap used for washing or shaving
6. Wafer – a small round made of flour and gum or a similar substances, which was dampened and placed on a letter to seal it.
7. Turtle – turtles were eaten and were a popular dish, so popular it spawned lots of imitation foods called “mock turtle”. Turtle was a staple at official banquets.
8. Tosspot – someone who drank a lot
9. Note of hand – a promissory note
10. Negus – Colonel Francis Negus cooked this drink, which consisted of sugar mixed with water and a wine such as sherry or port. It was a popular drink at balls and dances.
11. Mute – a person hired to come to a funeral and mourn
12. Season – the London social season, in which the fashionable high life of the nobility dominated the city. Although families returned from their country houses to London in February, the real season—of balls, parties, sporting events like Ascot and so on—ran only from May through July.
13. Sennight – a contraction of “seven night” meaning a week.
Are you familiar with these terms? Do you like historical romances? Do you like historical fiction? Do you have an recommendations?
Saturday, July 17th, 2010
The theme this week is a music playlist. As a rule, I don’t do playlists for my books. Music is wasted on me when I write because I zone out and don’t hear it after a while. At present, I’m working on a historical set in 1940 England during the World War II. I’ve been playing a CD called We’ll Meet Again – 20 Wartime Memories to get myself in a period mood. Here are several songs featured on the CD.
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn
Coming in On a Wing & a Prayer – The Song Spinners
Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree – The Glenn Miller Orchestra with Marion Hutton
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy – The Andrew Sisters
Don’t Fence Me In – Bing Crosby & The Andrew Sisters
The White Cliffs of Dover – Vera Lynn
Somewhere Over The Rainbow – Judy Garland
Today I’m also including a short excerpt from Unforgettable, my World War Two romance, which is available from Ellora’s Cave.
Unforgettable by Shelley Munro
“Thank you. I’d love to dance.”
The man beamed and offered her his arm. They strolled over to join the couples doing a quick step on the highly polished floor. Margo stepped into his arms and made small chat to put the man at ease, just as she’d done with Johnnie. They moved in time to the female singer crooning about love and laughter.
Feeling the weight of a stare, Margo glanced over to her right. Her feet faltered.
“Johnnie,” she whispered, positive she was seeing things.
“I beg your pardon?” her partner asked.
Margo blinked several times before risking another glance over to the corner of the room. Disappointment seared her when she spied the face of a handsome stranger.
“I thought I saw someone I knew,” she said, forcing a bright smile. “A friend from the village where I live.”
“Would you like to go over to see them?” her partner asked.
Margo caught the hint of disappointment in his face. “I was imagining things,” she said. “Besides, I’d rather dance.”
The soldier’s shy smile made her glad and they danced together mostly in silence, although Margo found out he was on leave and his armored brigade was heading off the following week.
The song ended and Margo felt a tap on her shoulder.
“May I have this dance?”
That voice. Margo’s breathing stalled. Her heart hammered, thumping so loudly she wondered if she might faint. Slowly, she forced herself to inhale. Hardly daring to hope, Margo spun around to face the male behind her.
Goodness, it really was Johnnie. Margo swallowed, a hundred thoughts flitting through her mind. There was so much between them, so much hurt and bitterness she was surprised he was even asking her to dance. But so relieved. Remembering her manners, Margo thanked the soldier she’d danced with and turned to Johnnie, eagerly searching his face. He looked thinner, his face etched with lines that hadn’t been there when they’d parted. His eyes were the same deep brown that made her melt inside but his smile was absent. And his beautiful dark hair was ruthlessly short. There was no curl left. Margo found herself wanting to say something gay and witty, something to make him smile.
Instead, she remained silent, slipping into his arms and moving close. The heat from his body warmed her through, melting the icy coldness that had encased her since their last harsh words. Margo breathed in his scent, the clean aroma with the faint hint of soap and musk bringing back a rush of memories. Good times. Happier times when they were in love and enjoying spending each snatched moment together.
“How are you, Johnnie?”
Johnnie’s hand tightened on her shoulder momentarily before guiding Margo into a turn. “I’m fine,” he said finally, his husky voice sending shards of longing skipping through her body. In that instant, she wished things were different.
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