Friday, December 30, 2011

Giveaway! Colonel Fitzwilliams Correspondence

David W Wilkin is offering a set of three ebooks or a signed copy of Colonel Fitzwilliams Correspondence. The book, a Jane Austen sequel, is discussed in the following interview. If you would like to enter the drawing, please comment below and be sure to leave contact information.

This giveaway has ended. The winner is Kitchen Witch!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Interview with Author David W Wilkin

David Wilkin has been a historical re-enactor for twenty-five years. Most of that he has taught the dances of those past times to other re-enactors. With a degree in history and a passion for writing he has turned his hand to penning several novels about the past. A member of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, today I interview him to tell us a little bit more about his work and the time periods he specializes in.

Interview Questions

Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?

I am a Los Angeleno. Born in Los Angeles California. Went for two years of college at UC Santa Cruz before coming back to town and finishing at UCLA. I have spent the rest of my life here in Southern California.

You majored in History. How do you use that in your daily life?

In my daily life I have been a manufacturing executive for 20 years. History comes into play only when I relate stories to the workers about how we did it in the old day. Or an idea on how to counsel the employees. Citing how other companies in the world (I am an avid reader of business history) have overcome an obstacle and gone on to success. Talking about a Regency Dandy like Beau Brummels, or about Prinny, does me little good on the shop floor.

How did your interest in writing begin?

I liked creating stories when I was a child. Then in college I actually submitted an article and it was published. When I graduated, after my first out of college job ended, I tried my hand at writing stories. I find in comparison to what I create now, there was a lot more editing at the end of my drafts when I started then now.

How long have you been writing now?

Over thirty years. But the last ten have been the most fruitful period. And of that, two and half years ago we had to close my own company, Aspen Interiors. We made the woodwork found in the Cheesecake Factory restaurants. That was a blow, and so I turned to writing every day after sending out the resumes. I have written 9915 pages in the time between closing Aspen and reentering the work force. Lots of first draft material, some second draft, and some items actually now in print.

Where did your interest in the Regency Era come from?

That is a tale, and bear with me, I shall lead you to the end of the trail. I liked history enough from High School to make it my major in college. I specialized in Pre-Modern Asian history while getting my degree which is pretty far from the study of Regency England. But History, I have always found, is stories. I like stories and even before college I wrote some, but after, I started my quest to be a novelist. I also became an Historical Re-enactor.
I joined groups where we made the costumes of the era we were Re-enacting. I learned the dances from those times, and then actually taught well over 1000 people how to do them. Running regular dance practices. My early main focus was Medieval and Renaissance, but one day a friend said, 'Have I got a girl for you to meet,' and dragged me to a Regency Dance. Well, not that girl, but several years later, I met my wife, Cheryl at a Regency Ball.
To woo her (she was very far away), I wrote her a regency romance, a few pages a day, that turned into a novel. When taking a class to further enhance my writing, I resurrected the story and worked on it more. Then over the last ten years, found that a good third of my output was Regency Romances.

When did you first begin to think about writing a novel, and what motivated your

As I mentioned, when I left college I got a job right away. But six months later, nepotism and diminishing revenue meant cuts. I was out. So then I turned my hand to a science fiction, a tongue in cheek western, a fantasy. All have potential, but they need another edit based on all that I have learned about the craft. When unemployment ran out, and I only had rejection slips to show for it, I went back into the workforce.

Did you study the Regency when you were at University?

Not at all. I studied a little on the English Victorian era. I had a class on the American Revolutionary era, but otherwise I focused on premodern asian history, and then european, before Napoleon. The Regency era did not hold any interest then. I was college age and a guy. The medieval and renaissance had a lot of battles that appealed to me and the many stories such as King Arthur (whose time period is before the medieval era of course, but all the movies come out with medieval armor and fighting) or Richard Coeur de Lion.

What do you think is the hardest part of writing?

The middle is often hard. To keep everything energized when the Boy is struggling to redeem himself for the Girl, or to capture her interest. I have it plotted but often by the time I get there, secondary plot lines are coming into play and what I had originally glimpsed as interesting when I first thought to write, is now eclipsed by other better ideas. Then the true hard part is editing. Somedays I would rather take a catnap while reading my own words. I of course pretty much remember what they say and where it is going. (Not that I think so highly of my work knowing that it does need editing. But somedays a nap seems very appealing.)

Do you find it easy to choose character and place names

I cheat. I look up in the long list of peerages names and change a thing or two to get them right. Then for place names, I look for an area I want to put the action at, and if it needs to be fictitious I think up something. Using @@@@ford, or @@@@ ton often works. There are a lot of fords and tons in England.

Please tell us about your books.

I’ll just talk about the Regencies if that is alright. By far the most popular is Colonel Fitzwilliams Correspondence. It is a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Originally I envisioned that the Colonel would emerge and have a romance, but I quickly put Kitty into the scene. With Lydia gone, I found Kitty torn between wanting to be a better young lady, than she had been while her more boisterous sister led her about, but also still a person of fun. I knew that the growth that occurs in all of us over time could be telling for one such as Kitty moving from being a girl to a woman.

I also knew that the war lasts for years, and a woman, if not married before her lover goes to war, most likely would not wait and appear to be on the shelf. When I placed the first letter in the story as a device to appease and contain the ever flighty Mrs. Bennet, I had no realization that would become the device I could employ for the entire story, but the truth is that England was growing closer by virtue of the post. Look to the original and the post between Jane and Lizzy telling of Lydia's flight. Look at the missive Darcy places in the hands of Lizzy to explain himself. There is a great deal of letter writing occurring.
I believe that carries my book. That it is also the change in our hero, who becomes a great correspondent and uses his connections back in England to keep him sane amidst the battlefields of Portugal and Spain. The crux of both his growth, and that of his love interest occurs when he returns from the war. I attempt to place my own use of language, as did Heyer, into the story. I think this is a dividing point for my readers. Some have related that they find this works for them, while others expecting this book to be our current use of language can't get past that.

The last caveat of a work based upon another's writing is that many have their own ideas of what should be happening to the characters the original author created after writing The End. I of course take all those characters in the direction I chose. I used the last few paragraphs as a guideline, and I used Aldous Huxley's view of Pride and Prejudice's Catherine de Bourgh portrayed by Edna May Oliver for mine more than some of the others. Austen says that Lady Catherine and Elizabeth will make amends in the final paragraphs of the novel. The Olivier movie (1940) I think shows that clearly. (Edna May beats Judi Dench in this portrayal, hands down-IMO)

My other two Regencies are a little more of the typical pieces one finds with my twist. I try to emulate as best I can Georgette Heyer. So I don’t write to a Harlequin formula but my own. In each I tried to evoke certain parts of the history that is occurring. In The End of the World the location is Cornwall. At this time the first railroad track was laid, without a train, to transport the copper from the mines to the ships that carted it to wales. My fictitious mine is the site where this is first adopted. Not that it plays a central point to the entire tale, but it is there as background. Something our hero brings to the story.

In The Shattered Mirror we have a story that evolves around the true end of the war. It ended twice of course, since Napoleon came back. And when it ends a second time, our heroine, who wants a hero, is going up to Town (London) for her first season. When in Town, she meets, runs into, a man she played with as a child. He, however, is now crippled from an injury sustained in the war. I think that is a side we forget about and I find that most of my heroes have some sort of PTSD. They have seen demons and have to confront them and come to terms with them. I think a great many other heroes in the genre are not beset by such problems. None I have read at least.

Mr. Wilkin writes Regency Historicals and Romances, Ruritanian and Edwardian Romances, Science Fiction and Fantasy. He is the author of the very successful Pride & Prejudice continuation; Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence.

His work can be found for sale at: David’s Books, and at various Internet and realworld bookstores including the iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords.

He is published by Regency Assembly Press.

And he maintains his own blog called The Things That Catch My Eye.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitane, Queen of the English

by Christy English

In my historical novel, To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine, I explore the marriage of Eleanor to the French King, Louis VII. As my novel draws to a close in March of 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine obtains an annulment and returns to her ancestral lands in Poitou. In history, the story does not end there.

Though cast aside by her first husband, Eleanor had no intention of retiring from the political stage. In May 1152, Henry, Duke of Normandy joined her in her capital of Poitiers and they married in secret.

Henry II, King of England

Henry and Eleanor ruled the combined lands of Normandy, Anjou, Brittany, Aquitaine and Poitou, and once they secured their lands from invasion by her ex-husband, Louis,they turned their eye on to Henry’s ancestral throne of England. Henry’s mother, the Empress Maude, had been denied her right to rule because as a woman she could not rally all the barons of England to her standard. Her young son, Henry, made it his life’s work to re-conquer the lands that his great-grandfather, William the Bastard had taken from the Saxons less than a century before.

Through diplomacy and military strength, Henry forced King Stephen to acknowledge him as his heir. When Stephen died in 1154, Eleanor and Henry set sail from Barfleur in Normandy to reclaim Henry’s throne.

Westminster Abbey in the Modern Day

I can only imagine Henry of Normandy’s sense of triumph as he was crowned King of the English in Westminster Abbey on December 19, 1154. Eleanor of Aquitaine, pregnant with her second son, was crowned at his side, and became a reigning queen for the second time in her life. After years of long planning and hardship, Henry and Eleanor reached their goal. Though the Empress Maude never was crowned Queen in England, her son ruled until his death in 1189, and two of his sons, Richard and John, ruled after him.

Eleanor was vindicated by her marriage to Henry II. Cast aside by Louis VII for never bearing him a son, she went on to give birth to five sons and three daughters for Henry
and for England. She ruled for many years as a partner at her husband’s side. Though their alliance later fell apart, the day they were crowned in Westminster Abbey in 1154 was a triumph for both of them.

Debra, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog.

I would like to offer a signed copy of To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine as a give away, open to the US, Canada, and the UK. Please feel free to visit me and hear more about my obsession with Eleanor of Aquitaine and all things literary on my blog.

Description of To Be Queen

Duchess at fifteen, Eleanor of Aquitaine marries the King of France. But will she find that she must pay too high a price to be queen?

Although Louis VII is enamored of his bride, the newly crowned king is easily manipulated by forces in the Church. Trapped in a loveless marriage, Eleanor fights for her freedom and for the love of her life. In the arms of Henry of Normandy, Eleanor may finally find the passion she longs for, and the means to fulfill her legacy as Queen.

This giveaway has ended, and the winner is Pricilla! Thank you so much for your visit to English Epochs 101!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why I Love Jane Austen

This lovely watercolor is reported to be a painting of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra. Jane was born Dec. 16th of 1775 and died on the 18th of July 1817, aged only 41. Born into a close family of lower-level landed gentry and never marrying, Jane had the leisure to develop as a writer. Having left home for their education while young, the two girls, Jane and Cassandra, returned in 1786, Jane remaining with their family thereafter until her death. Much of her education in dance, music and theater was to show up in her novels in time. Her enjoyment of life was reflected in the parody and comedy of her writings. Many of us love the story lines, often revolving around the need for a woman of the time to catch a moneyed man, but so much more has been taught to us through her books, and all the more so to readers now than in her time. The common things of life show up interestingly in a novel as compared to a history book. We see firsthand how a man was introduced to a woman, how those with money visited and helped the poor and how very strict the class divisions were. Snobbery of the upper classes was not only displayed, but in quite an entertaining manner and with the creation of unforgettable characters. With her fabulous stories now playing on screen, made over and over with everything Regency having been expertly researched, we see in vivid color what the era dress and decor was like. Gentlemanly manners appeal to many women of today, and we cannot get enough of the novels and movies. Having saturated myself with Knightley, Darcy and ulp, even Mr. Collins, I wanted the same, but new and more. Jane Austen's dying young and leaving many stories unwritten is what led me to become an "Authoress". My first novel, The Companion of Lady Holmeshire, is like what I suspect Jane might have written had she lived into the 1840s like her sister.

Regency Dress I
Regency Dress II Regency Dress III

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Giveaway~ The Huguenot Sword

Shawn Lamb is giving away a copy of her newly released novel, The Huguenot Sword. The following post gives some information on the times in which it is set.

One winner will receive their choice of a print copy (if within the US) or an ecopy.

THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED. The winner is Sophia Rose.

1. No purchase is necessary.
2. Your email address will not be given out or used for any other purpose than contacting you if you are a winner.
3. The prize is available to one winner. Should a prize not arrive, proof of shipping is all that may be required of the provider.
4. The contest begins on November 1st, 2011, and ends at 11:59 PM PST Sunday, November 6th, 2011.
5. The contest is being offered by author Debra Brown, Corvallis, OR, USA.
6. Each prize will be valued at the price of the offered paperback or ebook.
7. The winner will be chosen by third party random drawing.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

One of the Most Powerful Huguenots in History: Henri de Rohan

by Shawn Lamb

Like many who are historical fiction fans, there is one period in history that captures attention over others. For me, it is the 17th century and catapulted by the classic The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas. While other teenage girls swooned over Mr. Darcy, I wanted to fight beside D’Artangan. Eventually, I did take up fencing and competed with an eye toward the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

But when I began writing my own musketeer story at age 16, my research took me down a different path. In Dumas’ classic, Richelieu is the main antagonist to the musketeers, yet the entire story came from a Catholic slant. So who where these Huguenots at La Rochelle? And why did Richelieu want to destroy them?

Absent from Dumas’ story and little mentioned in history, I stumbled upon a most
fascinating and key figure to the Huguenots – in fact to all of Protestantism during this time– Henri de Rohan.

Henri was the second son of the Viscomte de Rohan and born August 21, 1579. The family was considered a dynasty in France and he was cousin to Henry of Narrave, later King Henry VI of France. The Rohan family was well connected throughout Europe.

He began his military career at the age of sixteen and quickly distinguished himself in battle and strategy. Queen Elizabeth I called him her personal knight and he was named Godfather to Charles I. In 1603, Rohan was made a peer and given the title duke by Henry VI. Two years later he married Duc de Sully’s daughter and solidified his prominence among the French nobility.

Yet unlike many noblemen of his day, Rohan remained stubbornly loyal to his faith,
friends and family. Even when Henry VI renounced the Protestant faith and embraced
Catholicism, Rohan didn’t turn on him like others, who eventually assassinated the king for his betrayal. Instead, Rohan supported Henry’s young son, Louis XIII, with his military prowess and counsel. In turn, Louis respected and even held affection for his father’s friend and cousin. It wasn’t until persecution of the Huguenots grew dangerous that Rohan turned his industry to defending his faith and raise armed rebellion. But he directed his attacks toward the Catholic Church and Richelieu, not Louis.

Conflict between the French Catholics and Protestants was a war, within a war. All of Europe was in upheaval whether vying for power, expanding their holdings or attempting to put down the rising Protestant religion. Rohan’s influence spread far and wide due to his personal intrigue more than his family’s reputation. He was among the few who couldn’t be bought, cajoled, threatened or coerced. In this attribute lay his greatest asset and the one factor that made kings recoil and Cardinals to tread lightly.

Joined with his younger brother, Benjamin, Rohan led the fight of the Huguenots against total annihilation. His strength and fortitude kept the struggle alive even after humiliating defeats and terrible loses gained under Henry VI and the Edict of Nantes. Rohan held so much sway that a single act changed the course of the entire Huguenot population in France.

So my musketeer turned from of imitating Dumas to The Huguenot Sword, a novel highlighting the desperate struggle of one faith to survive. The dangers they faced in public for being different, the personal sacrifices of dividing families and eventually, the harrowing siege of La Rochelle, where the fate of all hung in the balance.



Barnes & Noble


Beginning her writing career in television, Shawn wrote for Filmation Studio’s series BraveStarr. She won several screenwriting awards including a Certificate of Merit from the American Association of Screenwriters. Recently she became a winner in The Authors Show contest 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading for 2011. She currently lives in Nashville with her husband Rob and their daughter, Briana.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Tower of London~ Part One

Below is a link to my post, The Tower of London, on English Historical Fiction Author's Blog. Someday I will actually get back to writing posts for THIS blog! I've been terribly distracted.

~~~Tower of London~ Part One~~~

Friday, September 23, 2011

English Historical Fiction Authors Blog~ Please Visit Us!

Join us at a new, multi-author blog, the English Historical Fiction Authors.

The blog will have a daily post on a topic sure to please those who love England and English history. We will also have a weekly book giveaway. I will let you check it out without further ado: Beam Me Up!

Monday, September 12, 2011

An Exciting New Event in the British Historical Fiction World

What is the big event in historical fiction coming on Sept. 23rd? It will involve many wonderful people and there will be grand and fabulous prizes, including a hefty Amazon Gift Certificate and many books! Stay tuned and I will let you know more, or leave a comment if you want to be notified.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Barsetshire Diaries~ Interview of Lord David Prosser

1. I am very interested in your Barsetshire Diaries. What inspired you to begin writing? And why did you choose to write what you did?

Hi Debbie. Thanks very much for your interest. I have been ill for a some time and very often housebound (chronic antisocial some say). A friend messaged to ask how my day had been and instead of saying "Boring" I set my day out as an imaginary diary. She loved it and demanded more. As an author she said it was a fun read. I chose to write what I did because the subjects are all around me and people are fun when you see their little foibles as long as you're not cruel.

2. Tell us about Barsetshire.

Barsetshire is based on a small village and the characters that occupy it using my own experience as a village dweller. All the things that happen in villages and in real life happen here with a slant towards the ridiculous. I chose to set it in Barsetshire as I didn't want to name the place I live and because it's about 140 years since The Barsetshire novels were written. After 70 years Angela Thirkell brought them up to date with her times and now 70 years later I thought I'd do the same.

3. Do you write as a person from Barsetshire?

I write as Lord of the Village in which I'm living within Barsetshire.

4. Please tell us some of the story that is revealed by the diaries to whet our appetites.

There is an occasion in the first book where I have to attend a funeral as a coffin bearer. Of the four of us, two are tall and two short. The organiser arranges the two shorter of us at the front and the two taller at the back. As we follow the Vicar the path slopes sharply down, the two of us at the front find the coffin slipping forwards towards the neck of the vicar and we have to put on speed to keep up with it. On a slippery path only mayhem can ensue.

5. Could you provide some sample diary entries?

From Book 3. More Barsetshire Diary.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oscar's Gift and the Baron's Lady

I woke at 6.00 am. There was no pressure on my chest, no damp nose on my eyelids, nothing attacking my feet and yet I had woken so early. It took me a few seconds to realise that I was actually awake because I was expecting the pressure, the damp or the attack etc. I thought I must be suffering from some form of Stockholm Syndrome where the captive becomes dependant upon and would do anything for the captor. Where was the little grey blighter?

I got up, expecting at any moment to hear the miaow telling me he was hungry, but I heard nothing. I cleaned and refilled his dishes anyway and then made myself a pot of tea for a change.

By 8.00 am I had been for a shower, got dressed and woken Lady J with her usual bucket of coffee, which in order not to spill it I'd rolled along on a hostess trolley. That's not really true but her cup is so large it should be true.
There was still no sign of Oscar.

It was 8.30 am when he finally showed up. We always left a window open to accommodate his comings and goings but he was usually as regular as clockwork.
Today as he returned we heard a series of very muffled mews as though he was wearing a gag, a sound we had heard before when he had managed to wrap one of Lady J's bras round his head after falling into the laundry basket.

Anyway, we heard the sounds of his approach and then my heart dropped to my stomach as he sauntered into view and before I could take action, dropped a dead mouse at my feet. Honoured as I was, it still bothered me when he caught mice or birds when I felt he was well enough fed. Ridiculous, but I couldn't help it.
Before I was able to draw another breath, the mouse moved.

From Book 2 The Queen's Envoy.

This was fun to write as it's a prequel and gave me chance to go on adventures like a spy as well as having fun interludes at home.

Thursday, November 28, 1991
Alvin and the Chipmunks

Got up early this morning. From my window I could see the square and all the guards. There was no one in the passage outside my room so I decided to explore a bit. I showered and dressed first and then stepped out and shut my door. As I did so I noticed a red light flickering opposite and realised that there was a camera trained on my room.

Pretending I hadn't seen it I walked along the passage way in the opposite direction to the way I'd approached it last night. I soon came to two sets of stairs. One led down, presumably to the rooms I'd been in yesterday, the study and dining rooms, or maybe the kitchen was there. The other stairs went up. Faintly from up there I could hear singing of a sort. I confess the voices I could hear were more reminiscent of Alvin and the Chipmunks played at 78rpm but they were still recognisable as those of women.

I was tempted to go up but as I heard movement from below I chose to go down instead. Mehmet must have been at the bottom, shouting at Abdullah. “Find him, you fool!” I heard. “Umh, umh,umh”, was the only reply. As I appeared Mehmet stopped short, which was I suppose appropriate for someone his size.

“Good morning, Lord David”, he said, “It appears Abdullah has lost my favourite dog”, he improvised, but I knew he'd been referring to me. Turning to Abdullah he just said “Go”.

“Would you like some help to look for the little fellow?” I ventured.

6. How many books in total have you written, and could you tell us the titles?

In total so far there have been just the three books. My Barsetshire Diary, The Queen's Envoy and More Barsetshire Diary. Thee is a fourth in the planning stage where I shall have a few more adventures following the Second book.

7. Has research for the books taught you things you did not know before?

Oh yes; in book two I had to create a country for one chapter but I decided to stick to existing places after that. When I came to look at Sanliurfa as a place to visit, I was amazed not to have heard of it considering it's historical interest. Some regard it as the birthplace of the Biblical Abraham.

8. Where can we obtain a copy of your books?

The first two books are on Amazon and on Kindle. Book 3 is currently only available from because of a backlog on inputting books onto Amazon. Book four is only available after plying me with alcohol of a thumbscrew. I get the choice.

Lord David Prosser's Website

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Historical Articles

This post is here for entirely selfish purposes, but many of you will probably also enjoy it. I have come across wonderful historical blog posts, magazine articles, etc. over the ages (no comments, please) and I wished I had a place to save them. You can only bookmark so many sites before your bookmark list goes clear to the floor. Therefore, I am putting this post up as a place where I can put links over the ages. I invite you to bring your favorite links here, too. You can email them to me or put them in comments, and I will move them to this post. Eras will appear as links are found to match them. Thanks for your help!


George IV: The Rehabilitation of Old Naughty

A Decade a Week~ Starting in 1600 ~ by Richard Denning

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sophie Keates-Gazey on Northumberland's Castles

I have selfishly requested my friend Sophie to write a post about the area in which she lives. She had told me that the northern English coast is littered with castles, and I thought it only fair that she share them! Besides Sophie's having delighted me with her writing (a favorite poem is on her blog), it turns out that she is married to an amazing photographer. He has been willing to share some of the incredible work he has done with us all. I know that you will want to visit his site to see more.

And now, Sophie's post:

I was delighted when Debbie invited me to write a guest post for her lovely blog. Apart from being a huge compliment, it also gave me an opportunity to reflect on my immediate environment, and to appreciate it anew.

Northumberland is the northernmost county in England, having a border with Scotland and a beautiful, spacious, sandy stretch of North Sea coastline. It is one of the largest counties in England, but one of the most sparsely populated, due mainly to much of its landscape being composed of rugged moorland, more suited to our hardy breeds of sheep than to human habitation!

This is a county rich in history, vulnerable over the centuries to attacks by Viking raiders from Scandinavia, and, closer to home, by clans of brutal livestock rustlers along the Scottish border, known as 'reivers'. One testament to this turbulent history is the concentration of castles on and near its coast. They are in varying states of repair, but each has a unique story to tell.

The craggy remains of Dunstanburgh Castle, on its cliff-top

Of all the castles in the area, Dunstanburgh Castle is the least well-preserved, and arguably the most atmospheric. See it on the horizon and you can understand why it is often described as looking like a mouthful of ravaged teeth.

Dunstanburgh Castle was built as a response to regular and punishing raids from the Scots in the 14th century. Its thick walls, and its position - much of the castle sits on top of cliffs with a sheer drop to the sea - provided excellent protection from attack.

The castle actually fell into ruin centuries ago. As early as 1538, it was described as being a 'very reuynus howsse and of smalle strength'. As its decline continued, its stones were plundered for new building projects.

Ruined it may be, but JMW Turner celebrated Dunstanburgh in watercolour, and today it stands noble and romantic on a beautiful coastal walk between Craster and Embleton Bay.

Another of Northumberland's castles which withstood raids by the Scots was Bamburgh, further up the coast from Dunstanburgh. The first fortress was actually built on this site in the 6th century, though nothing now remains of it, and the existing red sandstone structure, which sits on top of a volcanic outcrop, was begun in the 11th century.

Bamburgh Castle, basking in afternoon sunlight

Bamburgh holds the dubious honour of being the first castle in England to have been breached by gunfire (during the Wars of the Roses - 1455-85), and this was the beginning of its decline. However, thanks to a series of forward-thinking owners in the 18th and 19th centuries, it was restored. It was eventually purchased by the industrialist William (later Lord) Armstrong, who completed the restoration.

The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and makes for an interesting
visit. Unlike Dunstanburgh, this building is intact, and the visitor can explore
finely-decorated state rooms with their ornate furniture, tapestries and paintings, as well as humbler (and perhaps more interesting) domestic rooms such as the kitchen and laundry.

Further inland, the magnificent 11th century Alnwick Castle has been the principal seat of the Dukes of Northumberland since 1309. Familiar to many as Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter films, it is still very much a family home. Walk into the beautiful library, for instance, and there are family photographs on the occasional tables, along with much of the paraphernalia you would expect in a room which is regularly used and enjoyed.

The majestic Alnwick Castle, from across the River Aln

Alnwick Castle is warm and inviting, and it really is possible to imagine living here, in contrast with many other castles and stately homes, which can feel big, remote, intimidating and far from homely.

But for situation, romance and cosiness, the prize must surely go to Lindisfarne Castle, the most northerly of those featured here, and not far from the Scottish border at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Lindisfarne Castle, perched on its rocky outcrop

Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island) is connected to the mainland by a causeway which is only accessible twice a day, at low tide. And disaster awaits anyone silly enough to ignore the (large, graphic, unmissable...) warning signs at its entrance: every year lots of people do, and their cars are usually engulfed, and written off, when the North Sea suddenly sweeps in. (Drivers have become stranded 15 times so far in 2011, and a staggering 180 times since 2000, at massive expense to the rescue services.)

Lindisfarne Causeway, complete with rescue hut!

Anyway, to the Castle. It was built in 1542, on a massive rocky outcrop, giving it the perfect position for defending the surrounding harbour. In 1902, the Castle was acquired by Edward Hudson, a former editor of Country Life magazine, who employed Sir Edwin Lutyens to undertake a programme of restoration and improvement.

And what improvements! Hefty wooden roof-beams and solid stone archways support the ceilings of herring-bone patterned, brick-floored corridors; and the beautiful windows, many of them containing pieces of stained glass in their neo-gothic tracery, look out over the North Sea, or down over the charming walled garden, planned by legendary plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll.

This is a fairy tale castle if ever there was one, and it is even possible to get
married here. The small rooms, many of them with vaulted ceilings, are full of intimate decoration and design in the Arts and Crafts style, and seem to summon the ghosts of ancient knights on white chargers, and the damsels awaiting their arrival.

Here, as at all the castles along this coast, a sense of individuals' lives and changing fortunes is as tangible as the very fabric of the buildings themselves.

For the visitor, the castles along Northumberland's coast offer varied and atmospheric architecture, and stunning surroundings. And if you listen carefully, the very stones will whisper to you of centuries of history, violent destruction and beautiful, imaginative revival...

Many thanks to both Sofie and her husband, the photographer, David Taylor.
Sophie Keates-Gazey's Blog
David Taylor's Website

See also the Country Life Magazine Website.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Health and Medical Treatment in Victorian England

Physicians had little knowledge, yet, of the cause of disease, so treatments were still backward and life expectancy was shorter than today. No real advances in the field were made during the Victorian century. Nutrition was poor, and epidemics swept through crowded cities. By the end of the century, bacteria were being identified, but cures were still forthcoming.

Prince Albert brought with him, into his marriage to the Queen, his native homeopathic remedies. They were used in the royal household, and are still being used by today's Queen. Most people depended on traditional remedies, herbal medicines and the sage advice of elderly women. Even in an aristocratic household, it was the knowledge of a laundress or kitchen maid that was often called upon to treat illness of the servants or even the noble family.

Women and older girls were expected to be delicate, and members of the upper class were thought to be unable to digest the coarse foods of the workers. They were also considered to be more endangered by cold, wet and exhaustion than their servants were. However, servants started working before their bodies had matured and often were unable to work beyond the age of forty. Once they were worn out, they often had no way to earn a living and ended up in the workhouses, where they struggled to survive.

Household manuals were the order of the day. One learned from such that most illnesses were caused by "bad air", which was true to the extent that the bad odors spoken of were caused by bacteria growing in garbage, sewage and the bodies of dead animals. There was the good advice to choose a home on high ground and keep drains clean to prevent "bad air", but windows were commonly sealed to keep night air out. Infant mortality was very high, and worse yet in poor areas.

Medical practitioners were becoming increasingly professionalized, but even at the end of the era, many practiced medicine with no formal qualifications. Medical students, learning to become apothecaries and surgeons, were often middle teenage boys with a reputation for rowdiness. Physicians were the only ones with university degrees. A medical degree from Oxford or Cambridge required students to learn plenty of Greek and Latin theory but did not include practical experience. Physicians were gentlemen; their wives could be presented at court. Surgeons and apothecaries wives could not, as they were considered to be laborers.
Since gentlemen did not work for money, a physician's fee was often wrapped in paper and laid near his hand. A physician could eat with an aristocratic family while a surgeon ate with the servants. Small numbers of women began to make their way, with difficulty, into the medical profession by 1878.

Most babies were delivered by traditional midwives who had been trained as apprentices. They worked for several years with an older midwife attending births, studying anatomy and herbal pharmacology. Local wisewomen probably knew more about women's and children's health than most physicians did.

A Victorian woman , whether attended by an obstetrician or midwife, was far safer having her baby at home than in a hospital. Puerperal fever was transmitted in hospitals and resulted in many deaths. Midwives, who stayed with one patient throughout the birth and for several days afterward, had a much better safety record than doctors. Doctors went from one patient to another and often carried infection along on their unwashed hands.
If you love learning about different eras, please join the Goodreads Group "Historical Info for Historical Fiction Readers"
Much of the information above came from the book Victorian England, edited by Clarice Swisher. The health and medical section was written by Sally Mitchell. The next article will be on the development of nursing care in Victorian England.
Images thanks to Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pandora Poikilos - Peace from Pieces: Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour 7

Fame or Fortune~ Which?

I would prefer fortune. There are ever so many ways in which to use money for the good. First, I would take everyone (that includes you) here:

Well, not really; there are hugely more important things to care for, but I thought I would put up a bevy of beautiful pictures to brighten our day.

You've heard of Puff the Magic Dragon in Hanalei? This (above) is the quaint little village of Hanalei. To the right is a hiking trail overlooking the Napali Coast. A chunk of Kauai disappeared into the sea in an earthquake five hundred years ago, leaving a cliff-only side of the island. There are also valleys there where ancient Hawaiians lived.

Thanks for the images to Creative Commons.

Previous blog: Janu
Next blog: Dora

Pandora Poikilos - Peace from Pieces: Blog-A-Licious Blog Tour 7

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Victorian Hangman Game


Oooh, this second game is hard!

Can you speak Regencese?

Barbara Kyle previously won acclaim for her contemporary novels under pen name ‘Stephen Kyle’, including Beyond Recall (a Literary Guild Selection), After Shock and The Experiment. Over 400,000 copies of her books have been sold.

Barbara has taught courses for writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and the Haliburton School of the Arts, and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers’ organizations, garnering praise such as this from internationally acclaimed author Wayson Choy: “Barbara, I am amazed at your professional energy and dedication to teaching the craft. You're an inspiration!" Barbara also enjoys helping emerging writers through her manuscript evaluation service.


What Do You Do to Indulge Your Inner Aristocrat?

I have become so pathetic. I used to hate the ringlets over the ears, hair parted down the middle look of the 1840s, but I nearly decided to try it myself the other day! A few times I did my writing on a clipboard, sipping tea with a decanter full of tulips at my side instead of at the computer. I get lost in large picture books and read histories and related fiction.
What do you do to indulge your inner aristocrat?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Development of Victorian Morality

While people today think the Victorians to have been prudish, they were, like people of any epoch, progressive for their time. Indeed, the debauchery of the preceding era was being rejected by society as a whole, with a strong pull toward decency. However, only a few decades before Victoria ascended the throne, for example, waltzing was considered by most as immorality in the ballroom. Victorians and the Queen herself waltzed unhindered while their Regency era forebears were yet alive and even present! Shocking! Quite progressive, were they not?
Indeed, many of the things done then were for the sake of being progressive. Take, for example, the sign found at various offices- “You Are Requested to Speak of Business Only”. Today such a sign would be considered irritating, restrictive and perhaps even unconstitutional in the US. At the time, though, it was meant to promote a dutiful work ethic, which was an important thing to society in general. This was a change. While in the past the idle life of an aristocrat was thought of as right and something to wish one could attain to, or hope to marry upward into, during the Victorian era the lower classes began to pride themselves on work well done, on rising from poverty into self sufficiency and on doing their duty to the community. People were eager to be found Respectable, and there was no respect for those who deluded others or cut corners. Dishonest individuals would find that they did not fit well enough into society to receive invitations into the homes of most. People also worked long hard hours to keep their jobs, as there was no real job security or unemployment compensation. The result of these social and fiduciary pressures resulted in England’s skilled workers becoming well known around the world for their dedication and expertise. The sense of self-worth of the working classes began to be bolstered by their newly popular contempt for the idle rich, which likely contributed to their productivity and a higher living standard. Aristocrats began to feel guilty when idle and to find ways to busy themselves usefully, such as charity and public service, in order to not be deeply disdained. They had taken notice, too, of the French Revolution and its treatment of the nobility and preferred to avoid such an outcome.
Respectability was determined in other areas of life as well. A family should be living in a clean, tidy home, wearing clean clothing and displaying good manners. One would not call attention to themselves with loud ways or flashy clothing. It was far more respectable to do without than to go into debt. Thrift was encouraged. In a true emergency, a respectable person could rely on his or her neighbors because he himself, or she, had been helpful in the past and deserved it. Troubles should be born without complaint, it was thought, and so personal and family problems were often unknown outside the family. Neighbors kept their distance. In the middle class, there was some suspicion of a man who earned enough money for their children to inherit. Sons were to be taught a good trade and become self-sufficient. Earlier in the century, fathers would make great sacrifices to provide for a daughter who might not ever be married, but later, women began to become more independent.
There was great importance to being earnest, as you may have heard. Earnesty meant that recreation was for refreshment and health, but not for self indulgence. Drinking and indulgence were, after all, the causes of disease! Moderation, bath and exercise, along with cleanliness of the home, were the cure. Respectability involved punctuality, rising early, orderliness, self-denial, self-control, initiative, good use of leisure time and prudent marriage. Such traits were widely promoted in lectures, sermons, publications and worker's self-help societies.
I cannot personally see any problem with these standards! While there was quite a bit of unnecessary oversight of certain social rules, by neighbors and other busybodies, and a person could be shunned for being less than Respectable, the principles themselves contributed to health and prosperity.
It was quite important, also, to be a gentleman and chivalrous. In the early nineteenth century, a gentleman was only someone from the landed class or a barrister, clergyman, military officer or Member of Parliament. However, England was progressive, and as time went on, gentlemanly conduct became an obligation. Mistresses and illegitimate children were no longer openly acceptable, which did hopefully contribute to family happiness. Parliament could dismiss a member found to be living in such a way. The term "gentleman" began to apply to men who lived up to socially acceptable behavior. "Gentlemanly behavior was governed by a strict unwritten code of what was 'done' and 'not done.' It was clearly 'not done' to cheat at cards or question the honesty of another gentleman." He was "courteous, considerate, and socially at ease. He paid his gambling debts and kept his word- a verbal promise was more important than a handshake, and a written contract seemed faintly disreputable, as if it suggested that a gentleman's word could not be trusted." He was "honorable, dependable, and ethical. He did what was required without supervision- he didn't become a clock-watcher, but neither did he work excessively long hours just to make more money... A gentleman exhibited stoic self-control. He did not call attention to his own cleverness, or visibly work harder than others, or show too much enthusiasm.... loyalty, team spirit, courage, and fair play... he was motivated by an enormous fear of... visibly failing to live up to his standards and responsibilities." He behaved honorably toward all women, accepting their chaperones on every outing. A gentleman would not turn his back on a lady to whom he was speaking without first excusing himself, hat in hand, and at least giving a hint of a bow. No wonder we women today.... well, enough daydreaming here. It's just not going to happen.
Early in the century, women were taught young to become a wife and mother. Her duty in life was to rule the house under her husband's oversight. She was responsible to turn out healthy, self-sufficient sons and well trained daughters who could do the same. She was to keep the house and laundry clean (mind you, a great many women had servants, at least for the heavy work, but there was a lot of heavy work), oversee the children's education, preserve high moral values, guard her husband's conscience (men obviously being unable to do so for themselves?) and build society up by her daily Christian duties. If she were to do so properly, it was assumed that her husband and sons would have no cause to leave home for an evening's morally suspect entertainment. Girls were taught that as women, they would be more responsible for the "success or failure, happiness or misery, learning or ignorance, than kings, statesmen, philosophers, philanthropists, and clergymen." Women were legally subordinate, economically dependent, taught to be obedient to their husbands, and yet entirely responsible for the comfort, beauty morality and happiness of the family. She was trained to please and to suppress her own desires. In turn, she was to be protected from the shocks and dangers of the world, her purity and refinement safeguarded; she was to be safe at home. It was important for her to marry wisely, because her "marriage established her rank, role, duties, social status, place of residence, economic circumstances and way of life. It determined her comfort, her physical safety, her children's health, and ultimately- perhaps- even her spiritual well-being." Unfortunately, in earlier times, girls were not to hear of sex until their husbands taught them on the wedding night. I can't imagine that that was healthy in any way. I know a woman, now in her 80s, who had that same experience, so I believe that thinking carried through into the 20th century, as did many other ideas. To some degree, however, a lighter version of Victorian sexual mores was healthy. Where the standards were applied in fact, girls were, in general, safer, children were more often born in a two parent home with parents who took their responsibilities seriously.
In later decades, especially toward the end of the century, the "New Woman", or feminist, appeared. Girls began to grow up educated and took on work as a professional. They no longer had to have a chaperone every time they left the house, traveled by bicycle or public transportation and even lived in a flat with friends. You see? The Victorian Era was totally progressive. What is your view?
All quotes and some of the information was taken from Daily Life in Victorian England by Sally Mitchell.