Friday, December 14, 2012

Puzzles with no Solutions

Did you ever struggle to complete a crossword puzzle without the solution at hand? Ever hear a riddle to which no one has the answer?

That has been my fate recently. The Ladies Fashionable Repository, which I discussed in a past post, was very fond of publishing puzzles and conundrums, riddles, anagrams and charades. But, as is the way with very old journals, not all issues are available, and so I have found enigmas without resolution.

In celebration of the holiday season, however, I thought I would share these charming puzzles with you. This is the season, after all, for parlour games and jigsaw puzzles, those fiendish metal contraptions that must be separated and put back together, and a myriad of other intriguing and frustrating brain-teasers.

Our Regency counterparts enjoyed them as much as we do, and The Ladies' Fashionable Repository supplied their desire for diversion and amusement.  The puzzles I present here date from between 1809 and 1814.

Obvious questions spring to mind in considering the puzzles. How much do Regency mores and manners inform the questions? How much knowledge of the period is required for solution? In many cases I think the answer would be--a great deal.

The conundrums are quick and confusing.

The terminology of puzzling has changes somewhat in the two hundred years since these were published. Riddles appear to be much the same then as now, but rebuses seem to have a more pictorial emphasis today than in the Regency.
Regency Charades seem to be completely different from their modern counterpart unless--do you think these are meant for performance?

I found this Prize Enigma utterly mystifying and quite delightful. And, I was thrilled to find the answer in another issue of the journal, with the winner's name included!

The wonderful language above in the prize award is redolent of Jane Austen's world, and of Washington Irving's Old Christmas.

I have run on rather long, but I had to include this last item. I have not discovered the link between the Repository and Ipswich, but you will note that one of the winners of the Prize Enigma above was from that town. I wonder if the beauties of Ipswich were offended or thrilled about the puzzle below:
 And I wonder what their parents and chaperons thought of their inclusion in a widely sold publication!

I hope you enjoy pondering these puzzles. If you would like to leave a solution to any (or all) of the puzzles, I will draw from among the comments for a prize on New Year's Day. The prize will be one of Shakoriel's charming Victorian poetry prints to brighten your wall in the new year.

I will be taking a couple of weeks' holiday now, and I will return on Friday, January 4 with more Regency research and inquiry. Until then ~~

Happy Holidays!


Friday, December 7, 2012

French Court Calendar January 1813

In the January 1813 Napoleon Bonaparte was fifteen months from his defeat, and his exile to the island of Elba. And he was twenty-nine months from his ultimate defeat by Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo. But in January of 1813 he was all-powerful, and he was taking steps to consolidate his position in Europe. In the January 1813 issue of the European Magazine and London Review, there appeared the following column:
There is more--more dukes, more marshals, more barons and counts of the empire. It is a chilling reminder of the pervasive nature of domination. Not only does the conqueror kill soldiers and civilians and thereby alter the fabric of society, but he rules by changing the leaders of that society.

Many of the dukedoms were 'victory titles'; that is, nominal titles without land attached given to victorious army leaders. Many of them died out in the middle of the nineteenth century. The awards that must have hurt nations most were those where the French used  ancient titles such as the Duke of Istria, Duke of Abrantes, and the Duke of Florence--a title associated with the great Medici family.

This practice was used with great effect by Bonaparte in peopling the royal houses of Europe with his own family members. I find the top of the list chilling: King of Spain, Sovereign of Holland, King of Naples, Viceroy of Italy, and on, and on.
Hortense Bonaparte, Holland
Hortense de Beauharnais, daughter of Napoleon's empress, Josephine, was married to his brother Louis and became Queen Consort of Holland.

Joseph Bonaparte, Spain
Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's older brother, became first King of Naples and then King of Spain. After Napoleon's defeat and his own abdication, he spent many years in the United States, where he sold the jewels of the Spanish crown, which he had stolen.
Elisa Bonaparte, Tuscany
Elisa Bonaparte, sister of Napoleon, was made Grand Duchess of Tuscany--inserted into a position some four hundred years old. She was despised by her 'subjects', and suffered much for her brother's cause. She was even imprisoned for several months.

How many of Bonaparte's family were truly overjoyed by their elevation? How many resented being treated as chess pieces in his game of domination in Europe? The wealth and power would have been difficult to reject no doubt, but the sense of manipulation must have eaten at their hearts and minds.

And ultimately, how many of Bonaparte's pawns benefited in the long term? Many retired into obscurity on his defeat. Some died. Some like the royal family of Sweden, descended from Marshal Bernadotte of France, prospered.

The list that the European Magazine published must have helped the English to keep the French usurpers and puppets straight in their minds. It certainly helps us to see the breadth and depth of Napoleon Bonaparte's subjugation of Europe.

'Til next time,


Friday, November 30, 2012

How much History?

When Jane Austen wrote her books, she did not include any of the stirring events of the day, despite that a great war raged, and social upheaval was rife.

Unless Georgette Heyer was writing about that great war, she did not often include the notable events of the early nineteenth century in her stories.

Until now, I have, for the most part, followed in their august footsteps. But when Shakoriel and I began to consider an illustrated book, it occurred to me to use history in a new way in my writing. And The Regency Storybook came about.

We already had the pictures for our book. A few years ago, Shakoriel did twelve line drawings of Regency fashions, with reference to original sources, and we published the "Fashions of Regency England Colouring Book". Then in the last year and a half, she painted the pictures digitally, and they have been offered for sale as frameable prints.

When we did the Regency colouring book, the people modelling the fashions had so much personality that, just for fun, we gave each of them a name. Now as we approached The Regency Storybook, we needed only stories to accompany the pictures. But the stories needed a cohesive focus. It seemed to me that the notable events of the era offered that focus.

We all can name events in our own time that have touched our lives to a greater or lesser extent: 9/11, the moon landing, deaths of famous people, encounters with celebrity, etc.
I began to reflect on how the events of the extended Regency era must have touched the lives of the people, sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly. And so the stories came together.

Anxious Miss Phoebe Churcham is in the street, unusually alone, when the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval occurs at the Houses of Parliament.

The Dowager Marchioness of Lavington visits her old friend Maria Fitzherbert at her new Steine House; Captain Benjamin Shedfield is missing for a week after the Battle of Waterloo; the death of the Princess Charlotte affects the entire family of Tabitha, Lady Newick -- it all led to our tagline "Twelve people, twelve historical events, twelve stories".

In his story, Sir Aubrey Granthorpe goes in search of Miss Austen's new book, Mansfield Park, though he has never heard of Hatchard's, and has a horror of bookstores in general.

I hope I have done justice--in about 2,000 words each--to the Regency events I have chosen. It was a fascinating experience in writing, weaving important factual events with fictional characters. History always frames my stories but seldom in such an immediate fashion.

This is the first of my books to be in print as opposed to an ebook format. An ebook version of The Regency Storybook will be available from Uncial Press in the fall of 2013.

The aim of Shakoriel and I was to produce a beautiful book, a gift book--in the tradition of storybooks for all ages--and yet one with some depth of storytelling. We hope we have succeeded.

'Til next time,

The Regency Storybook is available from Amazon Createspace,, and Shakoriel's Etsy shop. A limited number of autographed copies accompanied by frameable mini-prints of the artwork is also available from Shakoriel's Etsy store online.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Changing Century Satirized

As the new century--the 19th--began, it seemed to many that the world had changed beyond recognition. By 1803 the changes, particularly to society, had become unavoidable.

The French Revolution had frightened the aristocracy of every nation. If change could be thrust upon people so violently, surely it might be better to resist change altogether. But wars had spread from that revolution, and the greatest of the 19th century wars was about to engulf Europe, and transform Britain. Change could not be denied.

For many, it was the alteration of society that was the most disturbing. The 18th century came to be seen as a society of honesty--rude and vulgar, perhaps, and distressingly indelicate at times--but essentially honest. By 1803, the new century was seen by some as deceitful and duplicitous. Several of the publications of the year chose to address the matter through satire and sarcasm.

The Cyprians Ball by Cruikshank
 The Literary Journal published an article titled "Modern Manners and Style" which began:
Although it may appear presumptuous to anticipate any of the decisions of posterity, it seems not improbable, that, a century hence, the present may be denominated the age of taste. Taste is a word which occurs more frequently than any other in all our printed annals;...
It continues:
At this season of the year taste presides over routs, and balls, and dinners. In these, we perceive that it consists of the aggregate of crowded rooms, chalked floors, and variegated lamps.
The writer continued his delicate diatribe by addressing the fashions of the current season:
With the ladies, it is the object to shew how little will do for dress; with the gentlemen, how much they can carry without fatigue.
The Circular Room at Carlton Palace by Cruikshank
 Another word which seriously disturbed the writer was 'style'.
One man lives in a very genteel style, while another rode his a very pretty style. Mrs. Siddons's style of playing Lady Macbeth is much admired, but not more than Mr. Hoby's style of boot-tops.
He goes on:
So general is the application of this magical word, that the newspaper critics have had a prodigious addition to their necessary employments, and are sometimes expatiating on the style of an epic poem, and sometime descanting on the style of a grand dinner; sometimes examining the style of a treaty, and at other time enlarging on the style of a song;...
The Times took a different approach to satirize the excesses and superficiality of the new century. It invented a mockery of the columns of society news that filled the pages of so many publications. Their "Specimen of Modern Intelligence from The Fashionable World" included these items of farce:
The fashionable Mrs. Hog has taken No. 127, Manchester Place, where she will receive her numerous list of elegant friends, as soon as her little drawing-room has got the new paper.

The great world were last night assembled at the fashionable Mrs. Plug's. It was the greatest squeeze of the winter. Mrs. Flip and Miss Amelia Flirt, we are afflicted to say, fainted in the door-way;...

Sir Frederic First has taken the elegant mansion of the late Lady Large, in Piccadilly.

Lord Thoughtless has increased his establishment by a groom of the chamber; and Sir Lionel Lofty has changed his silver lace [livery] to gold.

The Morning Chronicle published a letter to the editor--four and a half pages long--titled "The National Morality Implicated in Female Dress". It is signed 'Misogymnotas', so some hints of its content may immediately be determined. But the writer begins
While the public mind is agitated by speculations concerning peace or war, my attention is occupied by a subject of far deeper importance.

This subject is the new fashions that the new century has brought. The author is horrified apparently by short skirts and bare shoulders, but he is also offended by "...Bond Street loungers blanching their hands with cosmetics, and embrowning their cheeks with walnut-juice.." He suggests, tongue thoroughly in cheek, that penal acts be placed as " Virtue by authority of Parliament." He cites as examples: a Fichu Bill, a Petticoat Lengthening Bill, the Landau Bill, and the Smock Bill. Perhaps the looming war should have occupied more of his attention!

Finally, the General Evening Post participates in the general satire of the new manners. With 'Directions to a Lobby Lounger', the writer descries the behaviour of the young man about town:
Having gone through the usual routine of the day, as a Bond Street Lounger, a Park Lounger, and a Coffeehouse Lounger, in which several important stations I may hereafter give you some useful instructions, prepare for the theatre, the last scene but one in which you are to exhibit till the next morning.
He advises the young man not to dress for the theatre, and not to worry about bothering other patrons, but to pursue his own ends, enjoyment, and any female that takes his fancy. A parody of behaviour certainly, but also a damning comment on actions of a few.
The Great Subscription Room at Brook's by Cruikshank
All these satiric articles were gathered in one publication bearing the title
The Spirit of the Public Journals for 1803
Its subtitle declares it "An impartial selection of the most exquisite Essays and Jeux d'Esprits, principally prose, that appear in the newspapers and other publications". This magazine began publication in 1797 and ran until 1825. It was at one point owned by C. M. Westmacott, who I have discussed here, and whose publication The English Spy provides the illustrations for this post.

The first editor of the journal, Stephen Jones, stated his to be "a period when the collision of political parties, and the momentous incidents of the war, and of the French Revolution, began to elicit stronger flashes of wit, and satire, from the mind of genius, than had been produced for a long time before." Certainly the changing century brought concerns about all aspects of society to the fore, and the articles I have read shine a bright light on our Regency world.

'Til next time,

Source: Spirit of the Public Journals for 1803 available as a free download from Google Books.

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Machines and Carriages of Conveyance without Horses"

The proudest triumph of mechanics, will be the completion of a machine or carriage for travelling, without horses or other animals to drag it.
So states the The Monthly Magazine in its issue of November 1819. The unnamed writer of the article, which bears the same title as this blog, goes on to rail against the prejudice against change which, it seems to him, prevents the development of such a carriage. He further states that societies which supposedly confer patronage on such inventions are "incapable of appreciating any discovery which does not accord with their past habits and prejudices."

The Monthly Magazine however supported innovation and improvement. In March 1819 the journal carried an article on 'Drax's Velocipede' as improved by Mr. Johnson of Long Acre and made by Mr. Birch, "an eminent coachmaker, of Great Queen-street, London". 
not Drax's, but another velocipede of 1819
That March issue of the magazine is not available to me, and I have no illustration of Drax's invention, but I assume that it was propelled by some kind of pedal arrangement, as an article in the November issue states that "...the peculiar muscular action attending its frequent use, causes ruptures and inflammations of certain muscles of the thighs and legs; and it has in consequence been laid aside."

Upon the discovery of the inadequacies of Count Drax's invention, Mr. Birch, the coachmaker who built Drax's machine, took it upon himself to improve the conveyance.
...he has in consequence produced carriages of several forms and mechanical constructions, which merit the attention of the world, and cannot fail, from their elegance, safety, and power, to command extensive patronage.

This is the "Manivelociter". It is propelled by a sort of rowing action by the man in the rear seat as he pulled upon the levers he is holding. The lady in front steers the machine by means of  the handles attached to a pivot on the front wheel.

For twice the power and speed, Mr. Birch developed the "Bivector."

 Two men pulling two sets of levers--and the front man steers, but it is not clear how, for there is no mention of a pivot on the front wheel.

And finally, there is the "Trivector"--the ultimate machine of Mr. Birch's invention. The front wheel is three feet high (and does have a pivot for steering), the rear wheels are five feet in diameter. The extended frame has a floor for luggage and when loaded the conveyance "weighs 700 weight".

It seems likely that the "ruptures and inflammations of certain muscles of the thighs and legs" caused by Drax's velocipede were replaced by ruptures and inflammations to the arms and shoulders caused by the rowing action of this type of construction. Nevertheless,
This Trivector went from London to Brighton, on Saturday, Sept. 11, worked by three men, as represented in the engraving, in seven hours, where they dined; after which they proceeded thirteen miles farther; making together a distance of sixty-seven miles within the day. It would, however, be possible to run this machine 120 miles in the day, or ten miles an hour.
Well, Birch's machines did not ultimately 'command extensive patronage', and to modern eyes, they look rather ridiculous. But they were steps along a path that the author of the article considered essential: "That the perfection of such machines is most important, is evident from the consideration, that horses consume half the produce of the soil..."

It was only three years later that The Monthly Magazine was reporting on "Carriages to be propelled by Steam on Common Roads, and capable of conveying Goods and Passengers". They could travel five miles per hour, and were touted as reducing costs for everything from goods delivery to postal distribution. Steam was the way of the future, for the nineteenth century, at least.

Part of the charm of the Regency era is the fertile minds at work inventing a future that we take for granted. I sometimes wish they had not succeeded...except when I am in a hurry.

'Til next time,

Friday, November 9, 2012

"Wanton Abuse of the Whip by Coachmen"

1841 illustration El Coche Simon 
The coachman--a ubiquitous figure in life, literature and history. His deeds were legend, and his reports of his personality ranged from the kindly, reliable family retainer to the rough, drunken driver of stagecoaches.

The majority of coachmen likely fell between the two extremes. The coachman was a man with a difficult job to do. It took strength, stamina, and resilience. The control of two, four, or even six, horses was no mean feat. Sitting out of doors in all weather for hours at a time required a constitution of iron, and a will to match. To keep a schedule, manage passengers, know one's horses, cope with accidents, highwaymen and weather needed a cool head and no little intelligence.

cover-pianoforte music Boston Public Library
But there were those who fell short of the requirements of the job. Some of those fell into drink, and the harsh conditions of the labour caused some, no doubt, to be hard and even cruel men.

The behaviour of one such coachman was detailed in the September 1819 issue of The Monthly Magazine or British Register. A correspondent designated only as H. from Kentish-town wrote: 

Riding yesterday a few miles on the outside of a stage-coach, I had an opportunity of observing how wantonly the coachman made use of his whip, not alone on the backs of his unfortunate horses, but on every other animal that had the misfortune to come within its reach. Not an ass, not a horse, not a pig, not a dog, approached him, without feeling the effects of his inhumanity. Yet he did not appear to be an ill-natured man: mischief, not malice, seemed to prompt him.
from The English Spy by Bernard Blackmantle
H. found the coachman to be something of a jokester: "There was indeed, a degree of merriment and liveliness about him...". He was, it seemed, playing to his captive audience of outside passengers, poking fun at the drivers and riders--"a lady", "an elderly man on a sorry horse", "a poor sweep", and "a fat, clumsy-looking citizen of the old school"-- whose animals he touched up with his whip.

H. goes on:

Amongst other subjects of conversation, (for his tongue was not less in perpetual motion than his whip,) benefit-societies [like guilds, or later, trade unions] became the object of his praise;...

...[a] passenger mentioned the name of his society; and the coachman replied, "And mine is the Benevolent Whip,"--at the same instant laying it about the back of a poor dog that happened to be passing.
In conclusion, H. was definite about the need for reform:
This gratuitous exercise of a whip, appears to me to be a species of cruelty sufficiently definable to become the subject of a prohibitory law.

I therefore think, that all acts of cruelty towards animals by persons not using them at the time, and especially towards animals over whom they are not entitled, either by ownership or otherwise, to exercise any control, might, and ought to be, made a punishable offence.
Five years after H. wrote to the Monthly Magazine, in 1824, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed. H. must have been pleased.

The coachman continued to go his own way for another ninety years, and then was immortalized in history and fiction. How interesting it is to hear from a gentleman of the Regency era about a real coachman, and his behaviour.

'Til next time,


N.B. The Monthly Magazine or British Register 1819 is available from Google Books free for download.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Etymological Novelties

The people of the Regency were people of words, much more than we of the current day are. I think that we, despite our literacy rates and our love of reading, are very much people of pictures.

A picture is worth a thousand words, the cliche goes. But in the Regency pictures were harder to come by than in our present day. Images, photos, graphics, paintings surround us all, every day, at school, work, and leisure. In the Regency one could, if wealthy, collect and admire paintings. One could stand before the print shop window and enjoy the prints displayed, and even purchase one, funds permitting. Magazines and journals at the beginning of the 19th century carried few pictures, almost none in 1800, and three or four per issue by 1815. Books of engravings became increasingly available throughout the Regency, but it was words that entertained for the most part.

Regency folk enjoyed their words. In July of 1812, the Repository of Arts, Mr. Ackermann's popular journal, published an item--part of an on-going series--titled Etymological Novelties. The words listed are purported to be defined, with their history and evolution delineated, but the explanations are jests, clever convolutions of meaning and message. Some approach logic, some are what we might call 'lame', and some are witty by the standards of any age. Here are some examples:

Extravagance, originally extra-vagrants, from its adding so much to the community of beggars.

Marvellous. Wonders were originally said to be marble-ous, because they made folks stare and roll their eyes about.

Ironical, from ire on I call, as persons using that figure of rhetoric which is termed irony, certainly incur the danger of exciting the ire of those who are the objects of it.

Gazette, a species of newspaper containing information which people are always extremely eager to gaze at.

Maid. This is a playful contradiction--maid before marriage, no longer maid when married, and yet made when well married.

Some of the 'etymological' comments are pointed commentaries on current conditions and politics:

Poor-laws. This appellation was given as a reproof to the legislature of an enlightened country, on account of the defectiveness of a certain part of its laws, in contradistinction to the justice and wisdom of the rest of the code of jurisprudence. The continuance of such a system is a reproach to those whom Providence has placed above wretchedness and poverty. Poor laws, indeed!

Justice, a quality eminently displayed by the Greeks, Romans, and others, where the virtues of the camp superseded all feeling, where fathers adjudged their children to death, owning no relations but those which bound them to their country, and banishing from their hearts every spark of mercy; when they were considered to be neither better nor worse than just ice.
The Regency fascination with words is displayed in many books that were published during the period.

The Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, first published in 1785, demonstrates the humour and facility with language that even the very poor revealed. Of course, a great deal of the wit of the book comes from its author, Captain Francis Grose, but the originators of the slang readily show their facility with words. Pierce Egan's edition of the Dictionary includes his own ready wit and scurrilous definitions. His other books affirm his skill with the written word.

The Miseries of Human Life written by James Beresford in 1805 is another example of the Regency delight in words. In describing the afflictions of the daily round upon sensitive souls, Beresford illustrated a dexterity with language that Regency readers highly approved. Walter Scott himself praised its "wit, ... humour and perfect originality."

In reading Regency periodicals, I am sometimes taken aback by the density of the text, the unrelieved torrent of words. I long for pictures, and indeed, I break up my own torrent of words--my blog--with illustrations. The people of the Regency looked for the words first, and enjoyed the pictures if and when they could be found.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 26, 2012

Researching the World War Two Novel
by Guest Blogger Jana Richards

I’ve always had a fascination for the stories of World War Two. The war is full of amazing tales of bravery and daring, of sadness and pain, and of love found and lost. I like to combine all of these elements in my stories.

When writing about any era of history, it’s important to get the details right. World War Two history is massive; it’s almost impossible to know everything. But it is possible to focus on one piece of that history and become something of an expert on it.

So far, I’ve written two novellas and one short story set in the 1940s, each concentrating on different elements of the war.  

Flawless is set in occupied France in 1942. Le Coeur Bleu, a famous and valuable blue diamond, has been stolen by the Nazis. They plan to trade the diamond for weapons that could crush the Allies. Jewel thief Hunter Smith is recruited to steal back the diamond with the help of Madeleine, a beautiful French Resistance fighter.

a Lysander
When I began writing Flawless, I didn’t know much about the French Resistance. I turned to my favorite sources of research for information; books and the Internet. One book I read, called “Just Raoul: Adventures in the French Resistance”, told the story of the war from the perspective of a French Resistance fighter. I learned what members of the Resistance accomplished and the dangers they faced. From the Internet, I learned about the Special Operations Executive or SOE, a branch of the British government that trained spies and sent operatives into occupied European countries to learn of the enemies’ movements and to disrupt their lines of communications and transportation. My research suggested elements of the plot. For instance, I discovered that the SOE brought spies in and out of France in small planes called Lysanders that were able to land and take off on short runways, most often fields or pastures. I used this information to get craft several scenes. I researched a myriad of other details on the Internet; what does a French chateau look like, how do you pick a lock, were flashlights available in the 1940s? (They were.)

Home Fires is set in Saskatchewan, Canada just after the end of the war. English nurse Anne Wakefield travels to Canada to marry her fiancĂ©, a former pilot in the Canadian Air Force she met during the war. But when she arrives she discovers her fiancĂ© has married someone else. Devastated, she prepares to return to England. But her ex-fiance’s mother has a suggestion; marriage to her other son. Badly scarred and wounded during the war, Eric Gustafson can’t believe that a beautiful woman like Anne would want him. But Anne sees past his scars to the beauty of his heart. Eric can’t forget that she was once engaged to his handsome, unscarred brother. Her biggest task is to convince Eric her love for him is real.

Researching English war brides was a labour of love. Some 43,000 English war brides, along with 22,000 of their children, came to live in Canada between 1942 and 1948. War brides faced many difficulties in their new homes. Many war brides, most of them coming from modern British cities, found themselves in rural Canada living in primitive conditions. The book “Risking it all for love” is written by a British war bride who finds life difficult after arriving in Canada. Coming from a well-off family, she goes to live with her new husband on a hard scrabble farm in northern Saskatchewan with no electricity, no running water and no indoor plumbing. Most brides were welcomed by their husbands and new families but some were not. “Brass Buttons and Silver Horseshoes” by Linda Granfield tells many stories of the war brides, some happy, some sad, and many poignant. Much information about war brides is also available online. Some of my favorite websites for information on war brides: . This site has passenger lists from the special war bride ships as well as stories from the war brides themselves. . This site, from Veterans Affairs Canada, has a lot of great statistics about the war brides. . This site has a lot of good pictures of war brides.

 BCATP airmen
My short story “Wings of Fire” appears in the Saskatchewan Romance Writers anthology, “Love, Loss and Other Oddities”. William Crane is a British airman training in Canada to be a pilot so he can do his part in the war. When he crashes his training plane into a farmer’s field and meets the farmer’s daughter, Will finds a reason to believe that love will find him when the war is over. For this story, I researched the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. To start, I visited the BCATP Museum in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, which contains archives of the program, including many of the training planes used by the airmen. The BCATP trained some 200,000 pilots and other aircrew from all over the British Commonwealth on 231 bases across Canada.  The airmen, far from home and lonely, were often befriended by Canadian families who took them into their homes. Many romances took place between Commonwealth airman and Canadian women. Though there are no statistics on how many Commonwealth men returned to live in Canada after the war with their Canadian wives, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest a sizable number.  “Canada’s War Grooms and the Girls Who loved them” by Judy Kozak tells the love stories of these men and women. I’m hoping to someday expand my short story into a full length novel.

The French Resistance, the war brides, and the BCATP are only three of the many stories of World War Two. I can hardly wait to discover more!

Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick.

When not writing up a storm, working at her day job as an Office Administrator, or dealing with ever present mountains of laundry, Jana can be found on the local golf course pursuing her newest hobby.

Jana lives in Western Canada with her husband Warren, and a highly spoiled Pug/Terrier cross named Lou. You can reach her through her website at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Yet another book sale!

There are two important book sales in my city every year. One is held as a fundraiser by the Symphony Society in April, and one is held by the University Women's Federation to raise money for scholarships, in the autumn. Both go on my new calendar in January, and I try never to miss either.

This week it was time to attend the CFUW book sale. And I found some gems. My prize was published in 1827! That means a Regency person actually wrote this book, and other Regency people handled and read it. That leaves me speechless...well, almost speechless. I haven't been actually speechless (according to my brother) since the first showing of Star Wars in 1977.

My 1827 book is volume III of The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England by Edward Earl of Clarendon. This history became quite a classic and excerpts from it have reprinted in various forms since its first publication. But this is an 1827 book--lovely rag paper, uneven handcut pages and a board cover. Inside in a clear, lovely script, in sepia ink is inscribed 'Belonging to the New Market Library No. D [or P?] 3'. Also inside is a penciled $75.00. Did this come from some antiquarian bookseller at one time? I paid $l.00 for it! A set of the original 7 volumes is priced at $1800 on

I obtained another very old book--one hundred years old, in fact. The Annals of the Strand: Topographical and Historical was written by the prolific E. Beresford Chancellor, and published in 1912 by Chapman & Hall Limited. This is a wonderfully informative book with some great period illustrations and two glossy foldouts of very early engravings.

My daughter discovered for me a copy of a book I had long heard of but never seen--Memoirs of a Highland Lady 1797-1827 by Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus. I'm looking forward to reading this; it is full of the day to day minutiae of a Regency lady's life. It was first published in 1898; mine is a 1972 John Murray edition.

I was glad to find The English Scene, subtitled In the Works of Prose-Writers since 1700. It is a 1941 Batsford book, and seems to contain a fascinating selection of excerpts by writers as diverse as Smollett and D.H. Lawrence under sections titled The Manor, The Village, The Road, etc. The dust jacket on my $1 copy is not as handsome as this one; mine has a large chunk removed of the river!

Among my other purchases of fiction and non-fiction was a little book titled The London of George VI. It was published by Dent in 1937 and contains "Sixty-six Photographs and Descriptive Notes of London Scence to-day, with Routes from Piccadilly Circus". It's a wonderful view of London before the Second World War.

I must mention a purchase of more recent manufacture--1983--a slim book titled "Skye Remembered". With a name like McLeod, how could I turn down this book? It's full of historic photos of the Isle of Skye, in the main from the 19th century. 
Now I have to look forward to the next sale, in April of 2013. Thank goodness for antiquarian bookstores to fill the time 'til then!

Next week, my friend Jana Richards will be visiting and offering us a change of pace and an insight into her World War II research for her romantic fiction. Please join us!

Jana Richards has tried her hand at many writing projects over the years, from magazine articles and short stories to full-length paranormal suspense and romantic comedy.  She loves to create characters with a sense of humor, but also a serious side.  She believes there’s nothing more interesting then peeling back the layers of a character to see what makes them tick. You can reach her through her website at

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Frontispiece of
The English Spy

When, a year and a half ago, I wrote a post on Charles Molloy Westmacott and his book of 1825 The English Spy, I thought that the illustration The Five Orders of Society was the frontispiece. I have just recently discovered that there was another, official, frontispiece to the book--a glorious, full-colour illustration by Robert Cruikshank.
Isaac Robert Cruikshank (1789-1856) was born into an artistic family and became one of the leading satiric artists of the Regency, along with his brother George. This illustration is, to my mind, a perfect microcosm of my favourite historical period, and a triumph of his genius.

Westmacott's (aka Bernard Blackmantle) own description of the picture is worth reproducing. Italics are original to the text.
 The Frontispiece
is intended to convey a general idea of the nature of the work; combining, in rich classic taste, a variety of subjects illustrative of the polished as well as the more humble scenes of real life. It represents a Gothic Temple, into which the artist, Mr. Robert Cruikshank, has introduced a greater variety of characteristic subject than was every before compressed into one design. In the centre compartment, at the top, we have a view of a Terrestrial Heaven, where Music, Love, and gay Delight are all united to lend additional grace to Fashion, and increase the splendour of the revels of Terpsichore.
In the niches, on each side, are the twin genii, Poetry and Painting; while the pedestals, right and left, present the protector of their country, the old Soldier and Sailor, retired upon pensions, enjoying and regaling themselves on the bounty of their King. In the centre of the Plate are three divisions representing the King, Lords, and Commons in the full exercise of their prerogatives. The figures on each side are portraits of Bernard Blackmantle (the English Spy), and his friend, Robert Transit (the artists), standing on projecting pedestals, and playing with the world as a ball; not doubting but for this piece of vanity, the world, or the reviewers for them, will knock them about in return. On the front of the pedestals, are the arms of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge; and in the centre armorial shields of the Cities of London and Westminster.
The picture of a modern Hell, in the centre, between the pedestals, has the very appropriate emblems of Misery and Death, in the niches on each side.
Crowning the whole, the Genius of Wit is seen astride of an eagle, demonstrative of strength, and wielding in his hand the lash of Satire; an instrument which, in the present work, has been used more as a corrective of vice than personal ill-nature.
I disagree with Mr. Westmacott's final statement, for I find the whole book indicative of ill-nature. Westmacott was an unsuccessful social climber, and he used The English Spy to ridicule the society that would not accept him. But I have discussed the book elsewhere and it is this illustration that now fascinates me. The 'twin genii' of Poetry and Painting are absolutely charming little creatures, each in its own detailed setting.
The ballroom tableau at the top is wonderful, the dancers and the harpist clearly delineated, and even a waiter with a tray of glasses included in the tiny scene!

The bottom-most drama is chilling in its accuracy. Destitute Misery sits in a filthy alley, or perhaps a prison, and on the other side a desperate gentleman blows out his brains, his despair caused by loss at the tables that form the main vignette. The dark tension of the picture displays the reason for the designation of a gaming table and its environs as 'Hell'.

This illustration encapsulates the Regency world to perfection, its heights to its depths. The satiric drawing of Cruikshank surpasses the satiric writing of Westmacott/Blackmantle. The latter is tainted by the ill-nature he denies, the former--the artwork--is undiluted brilliance. At the very top of the picture the Genius of Wit--a fat little cherub who carries the scourge of satire--is crowned by the Prince of Wales' three feathers. Satire, indeed.

'Til next time,


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Architect and Builder's Miscellany, or Pocket Library

If you have been a reader of my blog for a while, you will know that I love houses. In fact, I have a life-long fascination with buildings and architecture of all sorts.

So I was enchanted when I found some illustrations from a little book titled
The Architect and Builder's Miscellany, or Pocket Library, Containing Original Picturesque Designs in Architecture, for Cottages, Farm, Country, and Town Houses, Public Building, Temples, Green Houses, Bridges, Lodges, and Gates for Entrances to Parks and Pleasure Grounds, Stables, Monumental Tombs, Garden Seats, etc.
I found the drawings in the New York Public Library Digital Gallery, a terrific resource for anyone interested in period pictures of all types.  With a little research, I discovered that the author of the book, and its illustrator, was Charles Middleton [1756-c.1818]. He was an architect and a surveyor, and had done work for the Prince of Wales on Carlton House. He presented designs over several years at the Society of Artists and the Royal Academy. Middleton published at least four books of designs and this was one of his most popular, first published in 1799, and still advertised, in the Edinburgh Review, in 1827.

I found a copy of the book at Sims Reed Rare Books. It was available for purchase at £1800 and it seems to have sold! A rare book indeed...

The illustrations at NYPL are all house plans, and they run the gamut from classic architecture to the cottage ornee to the downright eccentric. Here is a little folly with five rooms on the main floor, and an unknown number above. I love the conical thatched roof, and just look at the way the rooms are fitted in the circular space!

Then there is the classic design of a small home at the top of this post (its most attractive feature, I think, is the lovely fanlight over the door) and a larger classical house below. This rather austere house has a standard floor plan except for the 'Dressing Room' which connects to the Dining Room and the Library. What is that about?
The cottage ornee below seems to have a charming ground floor plan that offers all the neccessities of space, and the upper rooms must have been very interesting. Unfortunately the scan is a little pale, but again there is a 'Dressing Room' to the right of the front entrance just before you enter the Study. Is this the equivalent of our 'powder room'?
The elevation of the last house that I will offer is, I think, less than pleasing but the floor plan has its merits. The small room labelled "Cabinet" has distinct possibilities for reading, writing and retreat.
I notice that each floor plan offers an "Anti-room" on the Ground Floor. I am wondering if this was an innovation that only Charles Middleton included in his houses, or if it was a well-known addition to the Georgian house. My copy of "Georgian and Regency Houses Explained" does not mention such a thing.

 I wish that there were plans of the upper floors in this book, but there were only 60 aquatint plates, and I expect space was at a premium given the quantity of structures listed in the extended title of the book. I would love to see the other types of illustrations--Monumental Tombs? Gates for Entrances to Parks and Pleasure Grounds?

Nothing fires my imagination like a building which my characters can inhabit. Am I alone in this? Do you love houses?

'Til  next time,


Friday, September 28, 2012

The History of Place
by Guest Blogger Karyn Good

I’m not a Regency romance author or a historical romance author. I’m a romantic suspense author. But I do love history and Lesley has been kind enough to invite me to share my thoughts on one of my favorite places and the area that became the inspiration for my fictional town of Aspen Lake.

I am fascinated by the history of the province I call home. I love hearing the stories of the First Nations people, tales of the North West Mounted Police, the escapades of the fur traders, and the triumphs and trials of the European immigrants. Even as a contemporary writer, history has a place in my writing. I need to know a bit about the history of a place to get a sense of it as its own character. Just as characters have backstory, so do settings.

My debut release Backlash is set in the southeastern part of Saskatchewan, a western province of Canada. My fictional town of Aspen Lake is based on the Moose Mountain Provincial Park and Kenosee Lake area. The word 'mountain' is deceiving. It’s really hills that rise from the surrounding prairies: an elevated plateau of aspen forest, rolling hills, lakes and ponds. It’s a beautiful part of the province and I have many happy childhood memories of visiting the beach for the day or camping there for a couple of nights. My love affair began at an early age.

Chalet Moose Mountain
As a teenager I worked for the park in a historic stone chalet with beautifully terraced gardens that led down to the lake. It really is the center-piece of the park. The two-story structure was built in the Dirty ‘30’s of the 20th century. Its construction provided much needed employment, giving work to over 300 people. It was originally a thirteen-room hotel with a dining room and beer parlour. When I worked there it had already been converted to administrative offices but you could feel the history every time you walked through the front door. Often I worked the evening shift. In the quiet I sometimes sat and tried to picture it as it was back then, a bustling dining room, and rooms with beds and washstands. The same rooms that I knew as offices. What would the women be wearing? The men? The staff?

The area would have been a popular recreation spot as far back as the 1880’s and used by the residents of a nearby village called Cannington Manor. Cannington Manor is a historic park a fifteen minute car ride away. It was settled by a middle-class Englishman, Captain Edward Mitchell Pierce, who had likely been encouraged by the Canadian government’s desire to welcome good English families to the prairies. Ones who would bring their Victorian type of lifestyle with them. Among other endeavors, Captain Pierce came up with the idea of setting up an agricultural college for the sons of wealthy Englishmen. Alas, it’s hard to pull that off when you don’t know much about farming yourself. The wild and harsh prairie was not Victorian England.

Fox Hunting at Cannington Manor
The sons, or ‘pups’ as he called his pupils, weren’t very interested in learning the ins and outs of farming. Three of these sons, funded by money from back home, did however manage to build a large many-roomed house complete with a ballroom, billiard room, and servant’s quarters. Their racehorses also lived in style in a mahogany-lined stable with brass name plates over their stalls. They did indeed bring their interests with them and they indulged in pursuits like fox hunting, cricket, and playing polo rather than planting and harvesting. Their eccentric lifestyle is the stuff of prairie legends.

Grain prices fell. Harsh conditions and drought destroyed crops. Business and farm bankruptcy followed. When the Canadian Pacific Railroad bypassed the village in the early 1900’s it spelled the end of an unrealistic ideal. Many of the wealthier formerly-English residents moved away and took their money with them. Soon Cannington Manor was all but abandoned.

All Saints Anglican Church, Cannington Manor
The working class farmers who had worked for the English families stayed. They were the ones with actual agricultural expertise. They persevered and succeeded after the village declined. It is these hardy men and women who embodied the philosophy of hard work, fortitude, and teamwork. They are the lesser known stars of this Victorian drama. They represented what it took to survive on the prairies in the latter part of the 19th century and continue to prosper into the twentieth century. Sturdy prairie stock. All Saints Anglican Church is one of the original buildings left at Cannington Manor. It is still used today.

We circle back round to contemporary times. To love a place is to know a place. Do you have a favorite place whose history fascinates you?

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I grew up on a farm in the middle of Canada's breadbasket. Under the canopy of crisp blue prairie skies I read books. Lots and lots of books. Occasionally, I picked up a pen and paper or tapped out a few meagre pages of a story on a keyboard and dreamed of becoming a writer when I grew up. One day the inevitable happened and I knew without question the time was right. What to write was never the issue--romance and the gut wrenching journey towards forever.


What he’s sworn to protect, she’s willing to sacrifice to save those she loves...