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The Victorian Sickroom – a guest post by Charlotte Betts

cb Charlotte BettsI’m delighted to welcome  Charlotte Betts to my blog today, with her lovely informative article on the Victorian sickroom. Charlotte Betts is a multi-award-winning author of romantic historical novels and draws inspiration from the stories of strong women at turning points in history. Her careful historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place. She is currently working on The Spindrift Trilogy, set in an artists’ community in Cornwall at the turn of the twentieth century.

Charlotte lives on the Hampshire/Berkshire borders in a 17th Century cottage in the woods. A daydreamer and a bookworm, she has enjoyed careers in fashion, interior design and property. She is a member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association, The Society of Authors and The Historical Novels Society.

 

The Victorian Sickroom

‘All women are likely, at some period of their lives, to be called upon to perform the duties of a sick-nurse.’ Mrs Beeton

The duty of nursing the sick within the home has traditionally fallen to the woman of the house, whether she is emptying basins and making cough linctus herself or overseeing her servants while they carry out the necessary tasks. In households where there were a number of children, a maiden aunt or a grandmother might also be called upon to assist in the sickroom if there was a bout of measles or mumps.

Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management states that the main requirements for a nurse are ‘good temper, compassion for suffering, sympathy with sufferers (which most women possess), neat-handedness, quiet manners, love of order, and cleanliness. With these qualifications there will be very little to be wished for; the desire to relieve suffering will inspire a thousand little attentions and surmount the distaste which some of the offices attending the sick-room are apt to create.’

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From the 1880s, home care manuals advised the importance of cleanliness and separating the sick from the well. Soft furnishings and ornaments were frequently removed from a sickroom to make it easier to keep it clean and free from dust. Fresh air was advised, though the night air was considered dangerous. Items that might be brought into the sickroom were basins and kidney bowls, a commode, flannel for rubbing the patient’s limbs, stone hot water bottles and an oilcloth for protecting the mattress when giving the patient a blanket bath. A rope might be tied from the head to the foot of the bed to assist the patient to sit up without assistance.

Women were deemed fit to carry out the most tedious and mundane of tasks such as sitting by the sickroom bedside all night, emptying the slops and feeding the patient with teaspoons of calf’s foot jelly, toast water or bone broth, but a (male) doctor was often called upon to pronounce the correct course of treatment. In the early Victorian period, this might have included leeches or a purge. Adhering to a prescribed strict diet was advised, or perhaps a poultice or blister applied to the skin to draw out the ‘poison’. As a child, I frequently had chest infections and I remember my mother making hot poultices to place on my chest beneath my liberty bodice.

cb Household Management

Cholera, TB and smallpox were rife at this time and the medicines to cure these diseases didn’t exist until later. Whole families died from TB, or Consumption, as it was then known. Scientists Joseph Lister and Louis Pasteur discovered that contagious diseases could be passed from one person to another by microscopic organisms that were too small to see with the naked eye. Once this was understood, the number of infections and deaths fell. Robert Koch built upon Pasteur’s work and in 1882 identified the organisms causing tuberculosis, prompting extensive public health campaigns. Anaesthesia enabled surgeons to operate more slowly and therefore more carefully on patients and, combined with cleaner operating theatres, a patient’s odds of survival improved.

In the home, a medicine chest was an essential item and it was the first port of call when illness struck, in the hope of avoiding the expense of sending for a doctor. Home remedies such as rose hip syrup would often be made by the woman of the house but a wide range of patent medicines were available from a pharmacy. Chloroform, morphia or laudanum, all derived from opium, could be easily purchased and were considered an efficacious treatment for toothache and headaches.

cb Laudanum cb Smedley

Dr Collis Browne’s Chlorodine was a popular treatment for indigestion that, even as late as the 1960s, used to be in my family’s bathroom cabinet. Chlorodine contained kaolin and morphia for diarrhoea and stomach pain. I remember it as being very effective. Remedies for infant colic contained opium and, unsurprisingly,were known for successfully calming a baby. Steel’s Aromatic Lozenges promised to ‘repair the evils brought on by debauchery’, a veiled reference to syphilis, but frequently resulted in painful inflammation. Dr James’s Fever Powder contained antimony and ammonia. Coco leaf, from which cocaine is extracted, was available from a pharmacy as a muscle and nerve tonic.

Once the patient had either recovered or died from an infectious disease, the sickroom would be thoroughly cleaned. Bedlinen would be aired in the sunshine, boiled or burned.

Wallpaper was washed down with carbolic acid, stripped from the walls and burned. Then the room was fumigated. It was sealed by pasting paper over the windows and fireplace. Four ounces of sulphur was placed in a metal dish over a bucket of water and a shovelful of hot coals added to it. The door to the room remained sealed for five or six hours. To complete the process, the room was lime-washed and left with the window open for a week or so.

cb A doctor's adviceWomen proficiently managed their households and guided the education of the children. In the sickroom, they were seen as, and expected to be, capable nurses. Despite this, they were considered by men to be frail creatures subject to fits of the vapours and outbursts of hysteria. Reading apparently inflamed a woman’s brain. A doctor had no time for a mere female to question his medical advice and rarely agreed to accept a second opinion from another doctor, even if the patient wasn’t improving.

Many women suffered from headaches and were happy to retire to their bedrooms for a day or two with a bottle of laudanum. Some women, perhaps depressed by being oppressed by a male-dominated society, made a whole career out of being an invalid.

And who can blame them? A few quiet days in bed with a fire glowing in the grate, a new novel secreted under the covers and a tray of tempting morsels at meal times sounds like heaven to me!

cb The Light Within Us cover high resThe Light Within Us from award-winning author Charlotte Betts is the first book of the Spindrift Trilogy.

Talented artist Edith Fairchild is looking forward to a life of newlywed bliss with her charismatic husband Benedict. He has recently inherited Spindrift House near Port Isaac and Edith is inspired by the glorious Cornish light and the wonderful setting overlooking the sea. But then happiness turns to heartbreak. In great distress, Edith turns to an artist friend for comfort. After a bitterly-regretted moment of madness she finds herself pregnant with his child.

Too ashamed to reveal her secret, Edith devotes herself to her art. Joined at Spindrift House by her friends, Clarissa, Dora and Pascal, together they turn the house into a thriving artists’ community. But despite their dreams of an idyllic way of life creating beauty by the sea, it becomes clear that all is not perfect within their tight-knit community. The weight of their secrets could threaten to tear apart their paradise forever . . .

Buy The Light Within Us here: mybook.to/LightWithin   www.charlottebetts.co.uk

Twitter:  @CharlotteBetts1      Facebook: Charlotte Betts – Author     Instagram: charlottebetts.author

Tomorrow’s Tour stop – A 20th Century artist’s colony http://www.charlottebetts.co.uk

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The Fascinating Facts about Smugglers by @HelenHollick

!Helen BlueBorder Blogs (1)I’m delighted to welcome Helen Hollick to the blog today to tell us a little about her new book. Helen is a great champion of historical fiction, and now has turned her researcher’s eye to bring us two great non-fiction books – one on Pirates, and the  latest on Smugglers. Over to Helen!

THE FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT SMUGGLERS by Helen Hollick

What comes to mind when you think of an eighteenth or nineteenth century  smuggler? A Ross Poldark-type figure, dashing and handsome, carrying a keg of brandy on his muscled shoulder across a wide, secluded beach, or storing contraband in a secret cache beneath the floor of the parlour? Or do you think of gangs of rough, tough, men hauling barrels of contraband ashore, and eager for a fight with the Customs and Excise if they dared to intervene?

Depending on where the smugglers operated would depend on which one of the above is more accurate. The quiet coves of Cornwall and Devon did indeed have a more laid-back approach to smuggling: probably the most well-known smugglers’ inn, Jamaica Inn, is on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall –  made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. But for Kent, Sussex and Dorset, smuggling was Big Business and gangs, sometimes of more than 100 men, were responsible for ensuring the illicit cargo was brought safely ashore – and woe betide anyone who stepped in their way!

Lyme Bay Dorset - familiar to many smugglers! © Tony SmithWe only know about the smugglers who got caught, the ones who were tried and sentenced to either hang or to transportation – to the American Colonies as indentured slaves until Australia was discovered. Except, prior to the early 1800s many a smuggler who was caught was released to smuggle again another day.  Several escaped prison, most were ‘let off’ … why? Because the constables and magistrates relied on the smuggled goods, the cheap brandy and tobacco!

Other commodities were also highly taxed so were enthusiastically smuggled (for a profit, of course). Lace, wool, tin, salt, leather, spices, tea… when the tax was eventually dropped on tea the smuggling of it ceased almost overnight.

There were several pre-arranged cunning ways to alert an incoming boat that the ‘coast was clear’. (Yes, the saying comes from smuggling!) A lamp glowing in a seaward-facing window, cows grazing in a certain field, laundry spread to dry on bushes, a small boat up-turned on a beach. And if the Excise men were spotted? Quick! Hide the goods – and the quickest, easiest way to do so was to drop the cargo overboard then come back to collect it later.  ‘Sowing the crop’ as it was called.

There was one gang who outsmarted the Revenue by sailing their boat through shallow water over some shoals, their boat being not as large as that of the King’s Men. As the smugglers sailed cheekily away one of the crew dropped his breeches and exposed his bare backside to the pursuers who were stuck fast.

Adds a whole new meaning to ‘moonlighting’ doesn’t it?

© Helen Hollick

feature_2019_02Read more about the fascinating exploits of smugglers in Helen’s new book:17394

Life Of A Smuggler: Fact and Fiction

Available from bookshops, online and Amazon mybook.to/Smugglers

Website: www.helenhollick.net  Newsletter   Blog

Twitter: @HelenHollick
Are you a writer? Do submit your book to Helen’s Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog 
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How a cemetery in Bodmin, Cornwall inspired the idea for a Time Travel novel

I’m delighted to introduce Diane Scott Lewis to talk about her new book, Beyond the Fall, and the visit that inspired it.

A Cemetery in Bodmin, Cornwall inspired the idea for a Time Travel

Over a decade ago my husband and I visited Cornwall, England so I could research a novel. In the city of Bodmin we explored the eighteenth century courthouse and the Bodmin church, St. Petroc’s. St. Petroc is the patron saint of Cornwall. He founded a monastery in Bodmin in the 6th century. The name Bodmin, the largest Cornish settlement recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086, may mean “Abode of monks.”

A ruin—which could have been the chapel of St. Thomas Becket from the 1300s—was next to the church were a woman in a large hat and loose gown walked through the overgrowth. When next we looked, she was gone. My husband and I laughed that perhaps she was a ghost.

RuinsBodmin (2)

The church, a wonderful gothic structure, dates back to the fifteenth century. We entered the dim, cool interior, where we inspected the twelfth century Norman font, carved with eyes that are supposed to open during baptisms. The effigy of Prior Vyvyan—a Cornish bishop in the 1500s—lies on a chest, both carved from Catacleuse stone and grey marble. Fine woodwork, a rood screen and bench ends were constructed around this time.

To the side of the church was a cemetery of weathered headstones and Celtic crosses, crooked and ancient-looking in the shadows.

Bodmin cemetery (3)

Years later when I looked at the photograph my husband took, inspiration struck. What if a woman researching her ancestors poked through a neglected cemetery, moved a fallen headstone and was whisked back in time to 1789? How would a modern woman survive in the more primitive eighteenth century where women had few rights? Miners out of work, grain riots, and the French Revolution, all happened in this year. Would she be condemned as a spy, or a witch, with her strange ways and odd clothing?

My recently release novel, Beyond the Fall, a time travel adventure, tells that story.

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Blurb: In 2018, Tamara is dumped by her arrogant husband, travels to Cornwall, England and researches her ancestors. In a neglected cemetery, she scrapes two fallen headstones together trying to read the one beneath, faints, and wakes up in 1789, the year of The French Revolution, and grain riots in England. Young Farmer Colum Polwhele comes to her aid. Can a sassy San Francisco gal survive in this primitive time and fall for Colum, a man active in underhanded dealings or will she struggle to return to her own time.

Buy the Book

For more information on Diane’s books, find her on her website: www.dianescottlewis.org

About Diane: Diane Scott Lewis grew up in California, traveled the world with the navy, edited for magazines and an on-line publisher. She now lives with her husband in Pennsylvania.

 

 

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Launch Day for Hostage to the Revolution by Diane Scott Lewis #18thC

I’m delighted to welcoDianeParkinson1_zpsdcc1a823me Diane Scott Lewis today as she launches her latest book. Diane and I met a few years ago at the Historical Novel Conference in St Petersburg, Florida.

Here’s Diane to talk about how she was inspired to write Hostage to the Revolution.

A few years back I visited Cornwall, England, and toured a Cornish history museum: the Wayside Folk Museum (now closed, unfortunately). The history fascinated me, the struggles of the people on this rugged coast; the tin mining and fishing that sustained them. The museum showcased a miller’s cottage, with cooking and farming implements used in the eighteenth century and earlier centuries. Displays explained farming, mining and fishing in Cornwall. The museum was located in the village of Zennor out on Cornwall’s peninsula that ends in the Atlantic Ocean at Lizard Point.

Megalithic burial chambers are nearby, and the writer D. H. Lawrence once lived in the area.1200px-Zennor_from_trewey_hill_cornwall

Zennor, a cluster of stone cottages, is situated on the rocky cliffs that form Cornwall’s windswept coast.

A story formed in my mind to capture this country, a part of England yet separate in culture. I pictured two sisters, one who ran a tavern, the other a wild girl who brings a penniless refugee to work at the tavern. The refugee would be French and a former Countess, to make her fall from grace that much sharper. The young Frenchwoman, Bettina, who fled from the French Revolution in 1790 under suspicious circumstances, took center stage. Through her I showed the history and culture of the Cornish. Their superstitions and pragmatic, Celtic character. I could demonstrate the lives of fisherman, miners, and the handling of shipwrecks. She confronted prejudice, fell in love with an enigmatic man who might have murdered his feckless wife, and faced brutal revolutionaries who tracked her down, demanding something stolen by her now dead father. Determined to survive and thrive, Bettina becomes one of the “ordinary” people; she learned to cook, sew, and sidestep drunken louts, while she feared more retribution and wondered what happened to her family. The two sisters, so different, Cornish born and bred, also add verve, humor and pathos to the novel.

HostagetotheRevolutionCoverI researched the eighteenth century thoroughly at the Library of Congress, library loans, plus read the Poldark series by Winston Graham, from which I gleaned the flavor of the times. Like Graham I’d set my story on Cornwall’s north coast, and wanted my tale to be realistic: rough and earthy. All this was covered in my first novel, Escape the Revolution.

That novel grew so long, I had to cut the last third, thus Hostage to the Revolution was born, to finish Bettina’s trials and triumphs. After tragic circumstances in the first book, Bettina travels to New Orleans to search for her mother. In sultry New Orleans she forms a new life until her past creeps back in an attempt to destroy it. She is thrown back into a France torn apart by war. Hostage to the Revolution releases today, July 19th.

Congratulations to Diane. To find out more about Diane and her books, please visit her website

Pictures from the author or wikipedia.

Buy the book US  UK

 

 

 

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The Apothecary’s Widow – Diane Scott Lewis

 

Apothecary's Widow

A Lady’s Murder in Eighteenth Century Cornwall

When I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference in San Diego, one of the panels spoke of the future of historical fiction. They agreed that historical mysteries would remain one of the most popular aspects of the genre. I’d written a few historical novels up until then, so decided my next endeavor would be a mystery. Having bought a book on the history of eighteenth century Truro, Cornwall, I decided to set my mystery there.

A murder, a squire’s wife poisoned, the squire’s miserable marriage revealed, all formed in my mind. And of course, a diligent apothecary, a bold-minded woman who’d taken over her husband’s shop after his death. These two people, Branek Pentreath, the squire with a failing estate and resentment toward his arranged, childless marriage, and Jenna Rosedew, who prepared the tinctures for the ailing Lady Pentreath, would become the prime suspects in the lady’s death. Throw in a corrupt constable who has grievances against both of them, and the noose tightens around Branek and Jenna.

At first suspecting one another for the murder, an unbidden attraction forms between these two, but their places in society forbids their acting upon it—or does it? They must fight their feelings and rush to find the real killer before it’s too late.

Set during the war with the American colonies in 1781, the outcome which might ruin Branek, and the tension is rife in my historical mystery, The Apothecary’s Widow.

I delved deep into the history of the area, the eighteenth century (a particular interest of mine) and the detection of poison in a time when medical knowledge was just starting to come out of the dark ages—but was still primitive.

I also researched the apothecaries’ trade, and the medicine preparation which would have been used in the eighteenth century. The use of herbs and spices, along with more dangerous—not to mention strange—ingredients, was fascinating. My editor says she was impressed by my research.

I fell in love with these characters and hated for the story to end. So there might be a sequel—and another murder to solve.

I hope readers will enjoy this novel as much as I loved writing it.

For more information about me and my books, please visit my website:

www.dianescottlewis.org

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Ring of Stone by Diane Scott Lewis

Lewis-RingOfStone60

A decade ago, when researching my first novel, I traveled to Cornwall, England. After reading so many books on the West Country, and then seeing the countryside for myself, I became interested in the strange rock formations that the Cornish imbue with mystical powers. That’s when I struck on the idea for my recent release, Ring of Stone.

The Cornish believe there is magic in a stone ring, usually formed by centuries of wind and rain. I used such a formation in my story. A ring that would save one character from evil and encourage another to face her deepest emotions.

However, this mystical aspect is only a small part of the story that portrays a determined young woman in the eighteenth century to strive to become a physician. Women were barred from medical school in this era, though several did practice in the remoter areas of England, usually taking over after a doctor husband’s death.

My heroine, Rose Gwynn, travels to Cornwall from America with her family after her father accepts a position at a bank. In this foreign land, she defies her parents and approaches the village doctor, resolved to ingratiate herself into his practice. Dr. Nelson is hiding a dark secret, and fears Miss Gwynn’s closeness will reveal it and ruin him. While sympathetic to her wishes, he refuses her and sends her away; but the doctor’s trials are just beginning.

Meanwhile, Rose’s beautiful sister becomes engaged to a local peer. Catern Tresidder, who works in the village tavern, was molested by this man—and far more—and she is desperate to warn Rose. But no one wants to believe a former servant, purportedly jealous and out for revenge. Catern must forge a new path in her life and come to terms with her tragic past.

These three characters, Rose, Catern, and Nelson, will collide, helping and hindering one another as the story progresses. The ring of stone behind Rose’s home holds the key to her past and future—and her sister’s life—as the novel concludes on a dangerous, windswept cliffside.

To make my story authentic, I researched the medical practices for the late eighteenth-century and was delighted to find this resource online: http://www.americanrevolution.org/medicine.html. This site has a digitalized version of Dr. W. Buchan’s (a member of the Royal Society in London) 1785 treatise on medical treatment. I was surprised when reading this to discover a modern take on the importance of cleanliness and exercise.

This is the time of the French Revolution, when women were demanding to be educated the same as the men. Rose will also make these demands, though women wouldn’t be admitted to medical schools for another century.

I hope readers will enjoy this journey into the myths and realities of eighteenth-century Cornwall, and the struggles of these characters as they learn to evolve and find their own happiness.

For more information on my books, please visit my website: http://www.dianescottlewis.org