Sex and Sexuality in Stuart Britain by Andrea Zuvich – Review
As many of you know, I’ve had an abiding interest in the Stuart period, so I was thrilled to be offered an ARC by Pen and Sword Books for this new non-fiction book by Andrea Zuvich, also known as the Seventeenth Century Lady.
This is a fabulous book, not only about Stuart Sexuality, but also about how attitudes to sexuality affect everything else to do with Stuart life. The Stuarts ruled from 1603 to 1714, and their rule was characterised by enormous changes to rule and government, and attitudes that veered from the most stringent Puritanism to the most licentious and debauched libertinism of the Stuart Restoration.
The text not only covers things like pornography and prostitution, virginity and contraception, but also includes broader sections on courtship and marriage, on dress, hair and make up, on relationships in the Stuart age — including what we know about the sort of relationships which were then taboo. As you might expect, it really highlights how little we have changed, for sexual relationships of all types are represented, including some that might make your toes curl!
Zuvich doesn’t hold back – all the language of the day is here in glorious technicolour, so this is not a book for those who are easily offended by talk of ‘sheathing your sword’. The discussions are frank, knowledgeable, and written with a light touch.
The book is well laid -out in different themes, and takes the form of episodic snatches, with many original quotations from original sources, but one thing I particularly enjoyed was the fact the book has interesting sections on the different monarchs and how their attitudes to sex affected the demeanour of the whole country.
All in all, an excellent book, and although I received a kindle ARC for review, a hard copy certainly deserves a spot on my bookshelf.
Through the diary of Samuel Pepys, we get a remarkable insight into the City of London in the seventeenth century. Here, amongst Samuel Pepys’ political exploits, and his reports of the Navy, the King and the Court, we can also get a picture of where and how his wife Elisabeth shopped at the time.
Elisabeth loved clothes and fashion, and both she and her husband aspired to move upwards in society. The Restoration was a fabulous time for fashion as people reacted against Cromwell’s Puritan repression with lace, bows, frilled petticoat breeches, and yards of flowing ribbon, even for men.
In 1661 the diarist John Evelyn commented on one young man had ‘as much Ribbon on him as would have plundered six shops, and set up Twenty Country Pedlars; all his body was dres’t like a May-pole’.
Elisabeth often shopped at Unthank’s the tailors, a large shop in Charing Cross, where she was measured for her gowns, and would choose fabric and cloth. Unlike shoemakers and bootmakers, whose leather work could be done on stalls in the open air, tailors usually worked indoors out of the weather. By the end of the 17th century more exotic and valuable fabrics from abroad such as East Indian chintz became popular.
Sometimes more expensive fabric, such as chintz or silk, was supplied by the client, leading to tailors being seen as cheaters, because the client suspected they skimped when making up the fabric and used the left-overs to make smaller garments they would then sell on. Many pamphlets of the time describe tailors in this rather unflattering way.
A range of accessories that were both decorative and practical were available. Decorative muffs acted as a place to store handkerchiefs, purses and perfumes. Hoods, both attached to, and unattached to cloaks were popular too, with some shops only selling hoods. Opposite – ribbon-trimmed gloves from the V&A.
In the diary, arguments between Samuel and Elisabeth were frequent, especially over money. For example after the Duke of Gloucester died and everyone was in mourning, Elisabeth overspent the fifteen pounds she’d been given for her mourning costume, and Pepys says ‘after I had looked over the things my wife had bought today…they costing too much, I went to bed in a discontent.’
Elisabeth would have taken her coins and tokens (coins were in short supply during Charles II’s reign) and go to the Royal Exchange, which before the great fire was the great centre of commerce in the city. The coins illustrated read: ‘Coffee Tobacco Sherbet tea and Chocolat retail’d in Exchange Ally’. The Exchange was officially opened in 1565 by Queen Elizabeth I, who awarded the building its Royal title. It had a central courtyard surrounded by more than 160 galleried shops. Some of these were little bigger than booths, and were so poky and gloomy that they had to be lit by candles, even in the daytime. The covered walks were decorated with statues of English kings.
Unfortunately, the Royal Exchange was destroyed in the Great Fire and had to be rebuilt. A statue of Gresham, who founded the Exchange, stood near the north end of the western piazza. After the Fire of 1666 this statue alone remained unharmed, according to Pepys’ records. Unlike today, only shopping, or the exchange of goods took place. Stockbrokers were not allowed into the Royal Exchange because of their loudness and rude manners, so they had to meet at Jonathan’s Coffee-House which was nearby.
Another street that was for fashionable ladies was Paternoster Row, which according to Stow in his book about London, ‘their shops were so resorted to by the nobility and gentry in their coaches, that oft-times the street was so stop’d up that there was no passage for foot passengers.’
Elisabeth also shopped for small linens in Westminster Hall, where it appears you were allowed to run up a bill on account. Mrs Mitchell and Betty Lane both had stalls there, where Samuel Pepys dallied with more than just lace and linen. Westminster Hall was a magnificent arched and lofty building, part of the Palace of Westminster, and some people were disgusted it should be used for trade. But it appears that chapels and palaces were all a part of Elisabeth Pepys’s shopping experience in the hedonistic era of the Restoration.
I am always fascinated by the different writing styles that conjure an era, and these two contrasting books prove that there is no one style to bring an era to life. Both books are great reads and I recommend them.
Traitor’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos
This is a wonderful novel – richly detailed and full of the jargon and phraseology of the period. Set just as Prince Charles (later to be Charles II) is making his escape during the English Civil Wars, it centres around the difficult choices and strained allegiances that marked the tension of the Interregnum.
“Are we then to bow and scrape before these turncoats?”
“There is no other viable choice,” Piers said. “Ireland is being carved up by Cromwell while France offers nothing more than sympathy. Clearly, this marks our monarch as pragmatic, a trait sadly missing in his sire. We all must agree this is an improvement.”
“Why? Because he is willing to negotiate his morals?” Blount said.
“Life is a negotiation, death is not,” Piers snapped.
James Hart, a highwayman, (modelled on the real-life Royalist highwaymen of the day such as Hind) is defying Cromwell’s Oath of Allegiance, and making his own rules by not only robbing the rich to feed the poor, but by continuing to support the Crown against the Commonwealth. He falls for Elizabeth Seton, a herbalist and healer, who has chosen to leave her family for a distant aunt, rather than be condemned to life in her sister’s staunchly Puritanical household. When the two characters meet, they find they have much in common, and the romance soon grows wings. Elizabeth’s aunt is a supporter of the Knot, a fictional organisation that gives safe houses to Catholic recusants, and Elizabeth is drawn into helping them. However, The King needs James’s assistance, and our highwayman hero must leave Elizabeth prey to another suitor – the preacher who will show no mercy if he were to uncover a royalist, and a woman who supports papists, in their midst.
Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages. The book is chock-full of historical facts, and these are seamlessly woven into the plot. Fans of English Civil War fiction will lap this up, and it would also suit readers who enjoy classic historical fiction by for example Kathleen Winsor, Georgette Heyer, Michael Arnold or Pamela Belle.
The Witchfinder’s Siser by Beth Underdown
“For it is a choice, I think, to close the heart, just as it is a choice to open it. It is a choice to look at what distresses you, and a choice to shut your eyes. It is a choice to hold tight your pain, or else let it slip your grasp, set it free to make its mark upon the world.”
Set in 1645, this is a story based on the real events surrounding the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, and his fictional half-sister Alice. After her husband’s death, Alice returns home to Manningtree after many years absence, and hopes to find a good home with her brother. Her position in the household is precarious, but worse, Matthew has changed from the boy she remembers, and what she encounters now is a zealot, hell-bent on ridding the county of witches.
Beth Underdown succeeds in putting us in Alice’s shoes; we feel her discomfort that she must be witness to her brother’s manipulation of the evidence and his tortures of the women in his enthusiasm to get a confession. Alice is a believable character – she is not a modern woman, she too is fearful of the devil and sensitive to the unseen, and this makes her complicity with events more likely. Matthew was burned in a childhood accident, and Alice loves her brother and wants some sort of redemption for this oddly scarred human-being she remembers. Instead, she finds herself caught in his powerful world-view, which sounds plausible but which feels so wrong. In this isolated community, gossip, suspicions and accusations soon spread, with chilling results.
“The number of women my brother Matthew killed, as far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six.”
The writing style is simple and sparse, but each word is carefully chosen. The reader has to think carefully about the ramifications of the revelations in each scene, and this makes the pace a leisurely one, but one to savour. The slow build of suspense is masterfully done. This novel will appeal to those fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, who can find parallels in the English equivalent, and would suit fans of Geraldine Brooks, Tracy Chevalier, or Rose Tremain.
I’m delighted to welcome Susan Cooper-Bridgewater to my blog today to talk about her novel about John Wilmot the second Earl of Rochester – one of the rakes and rogues of Restoration London that I am fascinated by, and wrote about here. Welcome Sue!
John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester is known for his satirical verses and his wit, how did you get that across in your narrative?
Rochester was certainly famous for his infamous wit, verbal, poetical and satirical, even calling himself ‘The Wildest and Most Fantastical Odd Man Alive’. So writing in the first person so as to represent Rochester’s persona was, in essence, either a brave act or a moment of madness on my part, not to say a risky undertaking for any author to attempt, but scripting the story in this way seemed natural to me from page one. Nevertheless, I had to remind myself frequently to adhere to the era of the 17th century, and hopefully not let slip any 21st century terms which would irk a reader.
After researching the man for many years and with my Notes and Queries article on him back in 2011, three years prior to the writing of ‘Ink’, I felt that I had come to know his character to a certain degree. However, Rochester was, and I believe always will be, a mystifying individual. Many a scholar has tried to fathom him, and although at times you think you know him well; at others he quickly challenges your perceptions.
So, with imagination, I trust that I have given the reader a fair comprehension of this charismatic character, whether he be good or bad and more often than not he was the latter. I intermittently portray him in a more realistic role, as a loving husband, father, and ardent lover, and not just as ‘Rochester the celebrated reprobate’.
I included certain of his poems to show his prowess as the most brilliant, witty wordsmith. And throughout the story I adopted my own imagined Rochester retorts such as; in the rat incident – ‘Yes my dearest, it’s dead. It has a large gap between its arse and its head.’; in the fantastical Dr. Alexander Bendo affair – ‘As she and her companion entered the crowded street, I smirked. If Loveall could not oblige his wife, then I could all too readily offer my services.’; in his arguments with his mistress, Mrs. Elizabeth Barry – ‘Well there speaks a lady of breeding.’ I said to Beth, ‘If you wish for the finer things in life, then I suggest you whore yourself to His Majesty.’; after a bout of illness he replies to the King – ‘As long as the frailty of my body is surpassed by the sharpness of my wit, so as to divert you and your Court, what more could a man in the throes of death wish but to thus entertain His Gracious Majesty?’ Bowing gracefully, I then added, ‘To be the bringer of pleasure and jollity to the most deserving of enthroned Monarchs is all I could desire.’; To George Etheredge – ‘Best, George? I have long been the best, but now my feeble body is resorting to the worst. Let us not dwell on that damnation,…’ ; after a wager to covertly sleep with a Landlord’s two young daughters – ‘I shall be down shortly, gentlemen.’ I said quietly, and whispered to the one, ‘So have ready the fruits of our wager that you owe, only doubled if you please, sir.’
Apart from taking on the language of the century, you made this a diary. What attracted you to writing this book in diary format?
Well, someone once remarked that ‘Ink ‘seemed to them a cross between The Diary of Samuel Pepys and The Picture of Dorian Gray, and I wasn’t sure whether I should take that as a compliment or not! Strangely, that was quite perceptive as I did read Pepys many years ago. Whether or not that influenced me to write the book in that way, I honestly could not say. As a researcher your head is full of dates, with mine usually beginning with 16. I expect with the book being a cradle to the grave story, and beyond, supposedly written by Rochester himself, it was inevitable that it would take the guise partly as a journal.
What were your favourite research books and did you use any real objects or artefacts in your research?
For my research on Rochester, which commenced in 2006, I read many books then in print; ‘Lord Rochester’s Monkey’ by Graham Greene; ‘So Idle a Rogue: The Life and Death of Lord Rochester’ by Jeremy Lamb; ‘The Works of John Earl of Rochester: Containing Poems, on Several Occasions’ printed for Jacob Tonson, 1714; ‘Enthusiast in Wit’ by Vivian de Sola Pinto and ‘John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, Selected Works’, Penguin Classics, and various online out of print material. But my main source of study came from reading the brilliant, and in my opinion the definitive biography of Lord Rochester, ‘A Profane Wit’ by James William Johnson, Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Rochester, NY. To compete with such an expert as Johnson in non-fiction would be a tough call, hence my decision to write a historical faction on the subject, as comprehensive novels on Rochester are a rarity.
As for real objects or artefacts, these took the form of visiting many places in the Cotswolds, where Rochester was born and lived a great deal of his life. These included; Ditchley, the place of his birth; the Old Grammar School at Burford, the scene of his early education; Adderbury House and village, where he lived with his wife and family, when not cavorting elsewhere; and High Lodge, in the grounds of Blenheim Palace, where he held the office of Ranger for many years, and where sadly was the place of his demise aged 33, which historic event was famously recorded in Gilbert Burnet’s ‘Some passages of the life and death of the right honourable John, Earl of Rochester who died the 26th of July, 1680’. And last but not least the idyllic Cotswold village of Spelsbury, and its wonderful church, the scene of Rochester’s poignant burial.
It’s a massive undertaking. Does Rochester change through your narrative, which spans most of his life, and if so, how?
I am pleased you asked this question. The book does in fact span all of his life, beginning with his birth and ending with his death. With this in mind, I was able to portray the innocent young boy developing into a perceptive youth with a growing awareness of the changes that surrounded him as a boy, such as; his days at Burford when, at the age of 11, he inherited the title of Earl of Rochester in 1658 following his father’s death; His time at Oxford and then on The Grand Tour as a young, impressionable teenager. The narrative for these times is written as a light hearted, happy and courteous Rochester, with hints of a loveable, mischievous rogue showing their signs. But as the shackles of domesticity, illicit liaisons, love of the God Bacchus and the Earl’s insufferable declining health, cast a shadow upon this once promising youth, the narrative grows ever more disturbing to those closest to him and this is reflected in his insincere, capricious comments and amusing but disturbing poems.
But for the reader’s sake, so as not to end in utter despair, there is an Epilogue where one enters a chapter full of twists and turns and mystification.
Thanks for this insight into what was obviously a labour of love. Your obvious enthusiasm for his life and works really shines through, Sue.
Of Ink Wit and Intrigue is published by Troubadour. 17th century fans who want to know more can find out more here
My recommended read for this week is The Last Roundhead by Jemahl Evans. This is a one-off – you will read nothing else like it. Meticulously researched, this is the story of one man’s journey through the battles of the English Civil War. If you want to know what it was like at Edgehill, and experience both the ludicrousness and tragedy of the English Civil War, then look no further. Blandford (‘Sugar’) Candy is a vivid recreation of a seventeenth century man who gets caught between various allegiances and has to bludgeon, lie or bed his way out of trouble. One of the delights of this novel is the ‘voice’ of the character, now an elderly man, but re-living the fast and furious days of his youth as a soldier in Samuel Luke’s Cavalry. Bawdy, cowardly and courageous by turns, he is placed against the genuine historical characters and events of the time.
It includes copious notes and footnotes for the history buff.
So I can’t be accused of bias to Roundheads or Cavaliers, here are four more novels you might like to try – all set during the English Civil Wars, one of my favourite periods which has shaped all our English politics since.
The novel features the real-life historical figure of Elizabeth Murray, who serves as the novel’s central character.
Intelligent, witty and beautiful, Elizabeth Murray wasn’t born noble; her family’s fortunes came from her Scottish father’s boyhood friendship with King Charles. As the heir to Ham House, their mansion on the Thames near Richmond, Elizabeth was always destined for greater things.
Royalist Rebel is the story of Elizabeth’s youth during the English Civil War, of a determined and passionate young woman dedicated to Ham House, the Royalist cause and the three men in her life; her father William Murray, son of a minister who rose to become King Charles’ friend and confidant, the rich baronet Lionel Tollemache, her husband of twenty years who adored her and John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, Charles II’s favourite.
Captain Stryker is a hardened veteran of the wars in the Low Countries, he has come home to England to seek revenge on the man who left him for dead and scarred him for life. Stryker is driven by loyalty rather than conviction to serve King Charles’s cause. He has no truck with aristocracy, preferring the company of a handful of trusted men, including sometime actor Lancelot Forreseter and his foul-mouthed sergeant, Skellen.
When the existence of a dangerous spy at the heart of the Royalist establishment is discovered, it is Stryker whom Prince Rupert chooses to capture the man before he realises the game is up.
Smell the gunpowder and hear the cannon fire, as you’re thrust into the mud and blood of the battlefields.
London 1654: Kit Lovell is one of the King’s men, a disillusioned Royalist, who passes his time cheating at cards, living off his wealthy and attractive mistress and plotting the death of Oliver Cromwell.
Penniless and friendless, Thamsine Granville has lost everything. Terrified, in pain and alone, she hurls a piece of brick at the coach of Oliver Cromwell and earns herself an immediate death sentence. Only the quick thinking of a stranger saves her.
Far from the bored, benevolent rescuer that he seems, Kit plunges Thamsine into his world of espionage and betrayal – a world that has no room for falling in love.Torn between Thamsine and loyalty to his master and King, Kit’s carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. He must make one last desperate gamble – the cost of which might be his life.
1642. The King raises his standard at Nottingham, and Captain Holofernes (Hollie) Babbitt is encouraged to raise his, by the commander in chief of the Army of Parliament, the Earl of Essex.
Being Hollie – angry, miserable, hard done-to, ungovernable Lancashire boy with a shady past as a mercenary in Eurooe and a chip on his shoulder the size of Worcestershire – he won’t be told what to do by Essex. (Even if Essex does pay his wages. Which is the sort of attitude that’s got him into trouble before….)He doesn’t take kindly to Essex palming off a spy in his camp, although a less likely spy than gentle, kind, all round good egg Luce Pettitt – who happens to be a distant cousin of Essex’s first wife – you would go a long way to meet. You get a sweet, dreamy, innocent young man, and you put him in harness with a ragged, cynical mercenary. Drop him in the middle of a brutal war without an enemy, and he’s going to have to grow up fast. Find his feet. Become a competent, capable officer. Not get killed.
In retrospect, I suspect my subconscious had been doing its own little things for years before I finally sat down to write The Graham Saga. Since well over a decade, I had nursed an interest for the 17th century, and in particular for the religious conflicts that dominated this period in history. Why, you might ask, and the reason for that is quite personal.
My husband comes from a family old as the rocks (most of us do; it’s just that the majority of us spring from families that were illiterate and dirt poor, ergo leaving nary a trace in the historical documents) that emigrated from Scotland to Sweden in the early 17th century. In actual fact, the only ones that emigrated were a twelve year old boy called John, and his mother Joneta. This woman with her most unusual name was of Stuart blood – albeit a cadet line – but for whatever reason she was compelled to flee Scotland, citing religious persecution as her reason.
While subsequent research has never succeeded in establishing just how Joneta was being persecuted, it is undisputable that the 17th century was extremely turbulent from a religious perspective. The Reformation movements of the 16th century spilled over into the new century, and with the Protestant view that man was fully capable of reading the Bible and understanding it all on his own, the door was opened wide on multiple orientations. In Scotland, the formidable Scottish Kirk, originally headed by John Knox, proclaimed a “tough-love” version of Christianity, while in England the Anglican Church was more moderate.
As we all know, the religious divides in England would develop into a political schism that would explode into a Civil War. Of course Scotland was affected by this as well – Charles I was king of Scotland just as much as England – and people didn’t know what leg to stand on; become a Covenanter and support the Scottish Kirk, or remain a loyal subject of the king? Maybe this is what Joneta fled from, and even if she did make it over the North Sea to build a new life for herself and her son, the price was high; she was never to see her husband again.
The third book in The Graham Saga, The Prodigal Son, is set in the years just after the restoration of Charles II (and yes, it can be read as a stand-alone). The reality Matthew Graham and his wife, Alex, experience is a consequence of the religious upheaval in the preceding decades. Charles II came to the throne with the intent of staying on it – and while he showed commendable clemency on most matters, he came down like a ton of bricks on the men who had signed the order of execution for Charles I and on anyone arguing religious matters fell outside the king’s control. This included those stubborn, loud-mouthed Scottish ministers and their refusal to kowtow to their king as overlord of their Kirk.
For men raised on the National Covenant, for men who had fought for their right to pray and believe as was taught by their Kirk, it was impossible to meekly abjure their faith. Instead, the congregations followed their ministers out on the moor to listen to the word of God as they considered it should be preached (a lot of brimstone and fire, no mealy-mouthed references to gambolling lambs in green pastures, not in a land defined by its core of harsh granite – both in its mountains and in its people). A deadly cat-and-mouse game followed, with the soldiers of the king chasing ministers and followers over the moors, while said ministers (and followers) did their best to evade them. Men were fined, they were flogged, and many of them were deported, some were executed in creative ways (such as being tied to a stake while the tide was out and left to drown when the tide came back in…) Still these stubborn Scots clung to their Kirk, still they refused to accept the hegemony of the king.
“Idiots,” Alex Graham mutters when she reads this. (For Alex all this religious stuff is totally incomprehensible. Well, it would be, seeing as she was born in 1976… Being yanked out of her time and propelled three centuries backwards comes with serious complications.)
“How idiots?” Matthew looms over his wife. He looks quite intimidating, but Alex seems unperturbed.
“You’re risking everything. What if…” She breaks off and turns her back on her husband. “One day your luck will run out, Matthew Graham, and then what?”
“I go canny, lass. But you can’t expect me to sit on my hands when…”
Alex wheels. “Why not? Why can’t you just stay out of it?” Her hands whiten as she tightens her hold on her skirts and her eyes are uncommonly dark in her pale face.
“I can’t. These are my brothers, Alex, these are my ministers. Of course I must help.”
“And risk your life – our lives.”
“It won’t come to that,” he tries, placing his big hands on her shoulders.
“How do you know?” Her voice wobbles. “How can you stand here and tell me things will be okay when both of us know that sometimes they go very, very wrong?”
Alex holds up her hand and backs away. “I don’t want to hear, okay?” She stumbles off. I think she’s crying, but knowing Alex, she wouldn’t like me to go after her – at least not now. I throw Matthew a long look.
“She’s right, you know. Your involvement may come at a heavy price.”
He gnaws his lip. “I must follow my conscience.”
“And what about her?” I point at his wife, now halfway up the hill. “Who comes first, Matthew? Your wife and family, or your faith?”
“Both,” he tries.
I shake my head, “Ultimately you’ll have to choose. Don’t leave it too late, okay?”
“Too late?” His eyes are stuck on Alex.
“Too late,” I nod. “Some things lost can never be replaced.”
Matthew blanches and looks at me. “I have no choice,” he says hoarsely.
“Of course you do – all of us do.” I pat his arm. “Let’s just hope you make the right choice – for you and for her.” I’m talking to air. Matthew is bounding off in pursuit of his wife.
It is somewhat ironic that the two king(s) that succeeded in totally rubbing most of the Scottish Protestants up the wrong way were, in fact, Scots. Charles I and his son were Stuarts, a dynasty young on the English throne, old on the Scots, but they were quick to forget their old homeland when presented with the tantalising – and exceedingly richer – aspects of their new, southern kingdom. As we all know, pride comes before fall, and some years on the last Stuart king would lose his throne to a large extent due to the lack of support from the Lowland Scots. But those events, dear reader, are the matter for a future instalment in The Graham Saga.
One weekend, while my sister and I visited, we both admitted we were intellectual snobs, but we had one fallen virtue in common: we both read historical romances.
How hard could it be to write one? I ventured, so we agreed to co-write a historical romance novel. We pondered on an era, and decided on the French Revolution. By the end of the weekend, we settled on the hero and heroine, some of the plot, but neither of us knew anything about the time frame.
My sister went home, and I took to the library. I found some really good books, mostly of Danton and Robespierre. While I read through those heavy tomes and took notes, I saw a picture of Camille Desmoulins, a pamphleteer and journalist whose real life reads like a tragic love story.The historical romance concept dropped from my thought processes. I scoured libraries from across the nation (book lending) until everything blurred. Historical texts always fill the pages with government decisions, not the people who gather to make those decisions. Not all research texts have correct information. I found inconsistent time lines, out of order facts, and not a lot on Camille Desmoulins, so I sold everything lock, stock, and barrel, and moved to England, a nation that had been around during that time. Newspapers, journals, and historical texts should have something America did not. I wanted new and more interesting material.
Almost immediately, I found what I wanted, and in the months that ensued, The First Apostle was born.I digress, but not a lot…
One day, in between chapters of The First Apostle, I went to the town centre, grocery shopping. While there I wandered into a used bookshop and found a full set of Samuel Pepys diary. I bought it, and took it home, but did not read it until the French Revolution novel finished.Once done, I opened the first volume of the diary, and began to read. So many books with such little writing of everyday mundane stuff. I was overwhelmed. I had to find out what the whole was before I could understand the detail. I needed to learn early modern England’s language so I could see through layers of how good folk handled the incredible change that marked the Restoration.Current events packed every year of the 1660’s decade, from religion to advancement in the sciences. There was so much excitement, change, and confusion. I decided to write a novel per year, until the great old town burned to the ground in 1666. This meant my research had to deal with a particular year. I could not write of Isaac Newton in 1660 because he was still a youngster, and in school. I could not write of the rake Rochester because he didn’t come onto the scene until mid-1660’s.
So what happened in 1660 vs 1661, or 1662? In 1660 the king returned from exile, and in 1661 he was crowned. There had to more, so my head went down once again into mighty tomes, and found it amazing what you learn doing research.I read a comment from one man to another he was perplexed so many women came to him to beget children. It astonished him a large amount of men within London’s city walls must be impotent or sterile, and wondered what was wrong with the air. Ding! Stud service.
I took that and used it in Viola, A Woeful Tale of Marriage which takes place in 1660. Then, I found during the time, there was a great deal of misunderstanding of the rules of marriage, so the crux of Viola’s story is her clandestine marriage is a sham, and her husband a bigamist.
It’s usually the small statements while researching that make the difference. One day a footnote in tiny print, brought about Twins, my second novel (London 1661). There was a superstition that a man can sire only one child at a time. When a woman gives birth to twins, she was clearly an adulteress. Ding! Another novel.
The twins (a boy and girl, which makes it worse) must deal with this all their lives, but the story also involves a London merchant’s life, how he handles the loss of a ship in the Mediterranean to pirates and local corruption.
So, we come to London in 1662, and Of Carrion Feathers, the reason for this little essay.
I found a volume on espionage during Charles II reign which was really very informative. I also found another little story where bakers could be dishonest. I created a bakeshop as a den of nonconformist plotters against the Crown, and the heroine in this story is Beatrice Short.
Beatrice is a reflection of my mother who was a slightly naughty person. She was brilliant, and bored, an artist and a poet, and she drove my dad crazy. I love her for her beautiful soul and creativity, her bohemian nature, and her great sense of humor.Beatrice wants to go into the theatre, (King Charles II brought back the French way of theatre, which allowed women on stage.), but she is a servant and can’t afford to pay for music and dance lessons. She stumbles into the Crown’s burgeoning spy network, and her first duty is in a London bakeshop.
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