Thursday, April 30, 2015

Z is for @WendiZwaduk's #NewAdult #Romance, Stealing Home


Stealing Home by Wendi Zwaduk
Book 3 in the Complicated Series
M/F, New Adult Romance, Contemporary
Novella
From Resplendence Publishing

The last person she expected to fall for her just might be the one she’s been looking for all along.

Bliss McMahon isn’t looking for love. She’s got a degree to complete and a life she wants to live. Besides, love isn’t looking for her. The last and only time she’d tried dating, the whole situation had ended in disaster. Being twenty-one and never going beyond second base doesn’t exactly endear her to the guys, but the one guy she never expected to notice her has. Will she give him a shot or run the other way?

Evan Phillips has a way with the ladies. He can charm them just as easily as he hits homeruns, but this ballplayer has a problem. He won’t be able to pass art history without help. Enter Bliss. Sure, he’s dated her roommate, and yes, Bliss can’t stand him, but he’s not about to back down from the challenge of getting her help. She’s spunky, out of his league and just who he wants. Can the ballplayer convince Bliss he’s up for more than one inning or will she forfeit before the game begins?

He’s ready to steal home in order to win the woman of his dreams.

Warning: Contains a dangerous combination of fragile new love, bone-deep angst and desperate rivalry that will consume you with throbbing, out-of-control passion.

Excerpt

Evan steered her to the building’s courtyard. The space, filled with various plants and trees, was meant to encourage the students and to provide a welcoming place to study. With the LED lights draped from the small fruit trees and fake snow surrounding the plants, the space looked festive. The play of light and shadow set a certain mood, especially after hours of activity in the building. 

He glanced over at Bliss. A smile curled on her lips.

“What’s on your mind?” Evan slowed to a leisurely pace. “You ran away from me yesterday.”

“I’ve got lots on my mind.” She sighed. “I’ve got a couple of finals coming up, I don’t have a place to stay and I refuse to take incompletes because of my living arrangements. Does that work for you?”

“Stay with me.” He’d been rash, but the answer would work. “I’m on the fourth floor, and I’ve got room. Rick’s trying to get a single.”

“I can’t. You know they won’t allow co-ed rooms. Just co-ed buildings.” She stopped. “Besides, I can’t.”

“Why? I don’t have a disease.” Evan faced her. “I’m housebroken.”

“I just… I can’t.” She closed her eyes.

“Bliss, talk to me. I’m not going to bite you or flip out.” Evan clasped both her hands and kissed her knuckles. “I’m pushing too hard, but I like you. I’m screwing everything up by coming on strong, but I don’t know how to be anything else. Come here.” He led her to one of the benches and sat her on his lap. “Talk to me.”

Bliss opened her eyes. “I’m… I don’t have a lot of experience with guys.” She tensed on his thighs. “I’ve only dated once, and it was a disaster.” She covered her face with her hands.

“Okay.” Evan rubbed her back. “Who cares? Some people don’t date much.”

“I’m a virgin,” she said around her hands.

“Cool.” He respected her conviction. He’d lost his virginity the night he turned eighteen. At the time, he’d thought he was doing the right thing. Looking back, he hadn’t meant much to the girl he’d slept with.

“Cool?” She moved her hands and stared at him. “You sound like I’m a prize to be destroyed. You want to be the guy who can claim he’s taken my virginity.” She scooted off his lap. “I don’t play that way.”

“Wait. Bliss.” He jumped from his seat. “Stop.” He grasped her hand again, keeping her from leaving the courtyard. “Listen. Do I want to date you? Yes. Sleep with you? Eventually. I’m attracted to you and want to see where things can go. Am I going to push you? No.”

“Evan.” The muscle in her jaw tensed.

He navigated through the courtyard to the gazebo set up in the middle of the area. “Sometimes, a good thing is staring right back at you.”

©Wendi Zwaduk, 2015, All Rights Reserved


About the Author


I’ve always dreamt of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favorites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line.  I love playing with words and letting the characters run wild.

NASCAR, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, animals and second chance romance  all feature prominently in my books.  I also write under the pen name of Megan Slayer. I’m published with Totally Bound, Resplendence Publishing, Changeling Press, Liquid Silver Books, Turquoise Morning Press, Decadent Publishing and Ellora’s Cave. Come join me for this fantastic journey!  

If you like my work, tell your friends and email me. I love hearing from readers!

Email: theauthorwendizwaduk (AT) gmail (DOT) com




Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ye Olde Historical Anachronism: How 'The' became 'Ye'

"Ye" is a peculiar word, isn't it? It's used in the titles of pubs, shops, Renaissance festival booths, or any other establishment going for an old world vibe, frequently followed by 'olde.' In fact, it's usually a good way to tell when something is most definitely not olde, with the exception of Nottingham's Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem, a twelfth century pub that claims to be the oldest drinking establishment in England. So where did it come from, and what does it mean? 

In Early Modern English, 'the' was often written as þe. þ was an Old English letter called thorn, which was a single character for the 'th' sound. þ and y look so similar in blackletter that they were often mistaken for each other, so when þ fell out of use in favor of th, we ended up with the occasional 'ye' replacing 'the.'  

'Ye' has been used in place of 'the' to evoke a certain nostalgia since the eighteenth century. (Funnily enough, those places trying to compensate for their newness then would be considered olde to us now. Time, you tricky so-and-so) Ye is used all over the place, and you'll probably notice it more now. Hopefully knowing that it wasn't a mysterious Old English word, but just another way to write 'the' will make it bug you less. 


Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem. I've been here a couple of times. It's built into the side of a cliff face and is brilliant place to visit for medieval geeks like me. Great pie. Don't touch the ship in the bottle behind the bar. Apparently anybody who touches it dies shortly thereafter (or this is just something they tell American teenage girls). When I saw it, it was so covered in dust that I couldn't tell there was a ship in the bottle. It's better to be safe than sorry. 

Did I touch it? Hell, no. I'm just warning you.

There's also a pregnancy chair. Didn't sit in that, either. 

For more about the pub and its history, visit http://triptojerusalem.com/

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

John Singer Sargent's Portrait of Madame X


"I have a great desire to paint her portrait and have reason to think she would allow it and is waiting for someone to propose this homage to her beauty." -John Singer Sargent

Portrait of Madame X is an oil portrait painted by John Singer Sargent for the Paris Salon of 1884. The model was Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau, an American socialite and "professional beauty" who epitomized the ideal of sophisticated feminine beauty prevalent at the time.
"...the unpaintable beauty and hopeless laziness of Madame Gautreau."

Gautreau was a difficult model, and it took Sargent the better part of a year to complete the portrait. Nevertheless, it was received badly. In the original painting, Gautreau's right strap hung off of her shoulder, and this was taken to indicate that the rumors of her infidelities were true. Furthermore, her pose was considered too suggestive for polite society. People were scandalized. Gautreau was humiliated, and her mother demanded it be withdrawn from the exhibition.

Disheartened by the poor reception of his work, Sargent moved to London permanently. He later repainted the offending shoulder strap to sit on her shoulder, and displayed it in other exhibitions. When he sold it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1916, he said it had been his best work. 

Gautreau recovered from her embarrassment and was later painted by Gustave Courtois and Antonio de La Gandara, and these portraits were received well. She preferred both.

If you'd like to read more on the subject, Gioia Diliberto's I Am Madame X is a masterful novel drawing on what is known about Virginie Gautreau to create a fictionalized account of her life and the creation and fallout of this famous portrait. I've read it, and it was totally engrossing. Certain details have stuck with me now for years, particularly how Gautreau maintained her unusual lilac-tinged complexion. You'll have trouble finding a better way to visit Belle Epoque Paris for the day. You can check it out here

Monday, April 27, 2015

W: John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester: Satirist, Poet, and Libertine

John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester. Portrait by Sir Peter Lely.
John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester, was a Restoration courtier, poet, satirist, and libertine. He was lauded by Andrew Marvell and Voltaire, who described him as a man of genius and translated some of his work into French. Entertaining and offending with works such as Signior Dildo and Panegyrick Upon Cundums, his life was no less exciting than his verse. He inherited his title at age eleven, kidnapped his future wife at seventeen, trained one of the period’s most famous actresses, and fell in and out of the King’s favor until his death from syphilis at age thirty-three. A rake and accomplished wit, his actions and works would impress and offend in equal measure for centuries to come, and he even received the compliment of being banned in the Victorian period. 

So who was he? 


Were I (who to my cost already am
One of those strange, prodigious  creatures, man)
A spirit free to choose, for my own share
What case of flesh and blood I pleased to wear,
I'd be a dog, a monkey, or a bear,
Or anything but that vain animal,
Who is so proud of being rational. (1)

John Wilmot was born, appropriately enough, on April Fool’s Day, 1647. His father, Henry, Viscount Wilmot, was a Cavalier hero credited with assisting the future Charles II’s escape to the Continent after the battle of Worcester in 1651. For his service to Charles II, he was created Earl of Rochester in 1652. John inherited the title at the age of eleven with his father’s death in 1658.

As an act of gratitude to his father, Charles II himself sent the young Earl of Rochester on a Grand Tour of France and Italy that would last three years and acquaint the fourteen-year old with a great deal of European writing and thought. He returned at seventeen and formally entered the court on Christmas Day of 1664.

Charles II suggested the relatively impoverished Rochester marry heiress Elizabeth Mallet. Mallet was not opposed: “He was handsome: tall, graceful, well-shaped. His complexion was fair, of a rosy hue; and his good breeding and wit were striking... He was far too attractive for a flirtatious fifteen year-old to reject out of hand. Moreover, he could write the sort of fashionable, amorous, pastoral poetry that delighted (her) girlish heart.” 

That poetry is still pretty effective today:


My rifled Love would soon retire,
Dissolving into Aire,
Should I that Nymph cease to admire,
Blest in whose Arms I will expire*
Or at her Feet despair.

Elizabeth understandably was no opposed to the idea of marrying the gorgeous, intelligent, and very witty earl, but her relatives were less keen on the idea. When they refused the match, Rochester handled their refusal with dignity and grace.

Just kidding. He kidnapped her.

According to Pepys’ diary entry for May 26th, 1665:


“Here, upon my telling the story of my Lord Rochester’s running away on Friday night last with Mrs. Mallet, the great beauty and fortune of the North, who had supped at White Hall with Mrs. Stewart, and was going home to her lodgings with her grandfather, my Lord Haly, by coach; and was at Charing Cross seized on by both horse and foot men and forcibly taken from him, and put in a coach with six horses and two women provided to receive her, and carried away. Upon immediate pursuit, my Lord of Rochester (for whom the King had spoken to the lady often, but with no success) was taken at Uxbridge; but the lady is not yet heard of, and the King mighty angry, and the Lord sent to the Tower…”

Rochester spent three weeks in the Tower for this stunt, but his bravado paid off. Two years later, after he distinguished himself in the second Dutch War and was installed a Whitehall as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber, Elizabeth defied her family and eloped with him in January of 1667. 

He was reputed to be among Nell Gwyn’s lovers, and they remained close throughout their lives. His affection for the theater extended to writing plays, scenes, and prologues for the stage, including the delightful sounding Sodom, of the Quintessence of Debauchery, which has never been definitively proven to be his. He trained actress Elizabeth Barry, who later became his mistress, and was one of the most renowned actresses of the period. 


Rochester giving his laurels to a cute monkey
Rochester was a renowned libertine, raising hell with a group of like-minded gentlemen referred to by Marvell as ‘The Merry Gang.” He told Gilbert Burnet that he had once been drunk for five years, and was almost certainly referring to the time he spent with them between 1668 and 1672. Among their numbers were the Earl of Dorset, the Earl of Mulgrave, Sir Charles Sedley, playwrights William Wycherly and George Etherege, and the Duke of Buckingham himself. Like many of his contemporaries, Rochester was bi-sexual, and spent his evenings (and mornings, and days) in the company of both sexes. Though Rochester doubtlessly loved his wife, he benefited from the sexual double standard that allowed men to please themselves as they saw fit while their wives remained, as Elizabeth did, at their homes in the country. His “extravagant frolics” with the libertines led to his banishment from court in 1669.

It was not the last time he was banished from court. He returned shortly thereafter, and was sent away again after Christmas on 1673 when he presented In the Isle of Britain, a satire poking fun at the King during the holiday festivities. He returned to court in February of the next year, only to be exiled again in June of 1675. 

After he fell out of favor again in 1676, he began to impersonate a fictional “Doctor Bendo,” specializing in infertility and gynecological disorders. According to Gilbert Burnet, Rochester personally cured a few patients of infertility. 

He died at age 33, almost certainly of syphilis. Gilbert Burnet reported that Rochester renounced his life of libertinism, but it’s debatable whether or not this actually happened, as his conversion may have been embellished by Burnet to improve his reputation. If it was, it worked. Burnet later became the Bishop of Salisbury. 


His wisdom did his happiness destroy,
Aiming to know that world he should enjoy.
And wit was his vain, frivolous pretense
Of pleasing others at his own expense.
For wits are treated just like common whores:
First they're enjoyed, and then kicked out of doors.
The pleasure past, a threatening doubt remains
That frights th' enjoyer with succeeding pains.
Women and men of wit are dangerous tools,
And ever fatal to admiring fools:
Pleasure allures, and when the fops escape,
'Tis not that they're beloved, but fortunate,
And therefore what they fear, at heart they hate. (1)

Rochester appears as a peripheral character in Tyburn. Derby and Conley are active members of his band of libertines, and Sally’s friend, Bettie, is half in love with him. I tried to fit his appearances in the book within the timeline of his life, and though you don’t get to see inside his head in this book, you can feel the effects of Derby’s hangover following one of their “extravagant frolics.” I hope you enjoy it. 

(1) A Satyr against Reason and Mankind. You can read the full annotated text of the poem here
(2) James William Johnson. A Profane Wit: The Life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester.

*This is in no way a euphemism for orgasm. 

You can read more about syphilis in my post Syphilis: Genius, Madness, and the Sickness of Naples, and more about seventeenth century condoms and Rochester’s verse in praise of them in my post Love's Pleasing paths in Blest Security: Condoms in Restoration London. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Nicole Hurley-Moore's New Small-Town Romance, McKellan's Run

Today I am delighted to welcome author Nicole Hurley-Moore to the blog, all the way from Australia! Her new romance, McKellan's Run, sounds absolutely wonderful, and is it me, or does the man on the cover look a bit like Daniel Craig? Let's take a good, long look just to be sure:


Mmmmm. 

Ladies, Gentlemen, Creatures of the Night, Nicole Hurley-Moore! 


Thanks so much, Jessica for letting me drop by!

I’ve always loved small town romances. There’s something special about growing up in a place where everyone looks out for each other. Rural towns will differ depending on the place or even the country they’re in but there’s a sense of community which makes them universally the same. 

I’ve been lucky enough to spend most of my life in a rural town in the Central Victorian Highlands, Australia.  
The town is surrounded by bushland, old goldfields, farms, orchards and wineries. Like many of the other towns and cities in the area, modern melds with a historic past. The past is never very far from sight. You can see it in the architecture on nearly every corner – Victorian era buildings with lashings of wrought iron lacework. In some areas in the bush you have to be careful of mineshafts, leftovers from the frantic goldrush which consumed the region in the 1850’s.

We’ve weathered through drought, fire, flood and even the occasional dust storm. You tend to become a little blasé about the size of the huntsman spiders, the possums clattering across the tin roof or the screeching cockatoos outside your window at first light (okay, I take that back about the screeching cockies, it’s not a nice way to wake up).

When I wrote McKellan’s Run I was inspired by the landscape I grew up with. I’ve borrowed the rolling hills, farms and the grey-green bush and created a fictional town called Violet Falls. McKellan’s Run is a sheep farm which has been in the McKellan family for generations and it sits just outside of the town of Violet Falls.

In the story, Mac McKellan and Violet Beckett must try to overcome the past and the present if they ever hope to have a future together.

So, if you’d like a small town romance with an Aussie twist I hope you’ll take a look at McKellan’s Run

Nicóle 

McKellan's Run

Violet Beckett once made the mistake of falling for the wrong McKellan brother. Now, eight years later, fate has brought Violet back to her home town with her daughter, Holly.

As soon as Violet runs into Charlie ‘Mac’ McKellan, she wonders if she should run all the way 
back to the city. But something about him makes her want to linger. Can she trust him, can she trust herself or will she be burned again?

Charlie McKellan has had a soft spot for Violet Beckett for longer than he can remember. It almost killed him to watch his brother woo her, use her and finally lose her. From his very first encounter with Violet he’s hooked. But how can he convince her that not all McKellans are the same?

In the tradition of novels by Rachael Johns’, McKellan’s Run tells the story of two very special people who deserve another chance.

Find it on Amazon here

Excerpt 

‘I think we got a bit carried away.’

‘That’s okay. We can slow things down, whatever you want, I’ll do it,’ Mac said his arms still wound around her.

‘I’m not sure if this is such a good idea, Mac, I mean with our history…’

‘What history? Violet what the hell are you talking about?’

‘Okay fine, the history I have with your family, with your brother.’

‘I don’t give a damn about the past, Violet. Screw the history – I just want a future, with you,’ he said as he released her.

Violet felt bereft without his touch. Here she was trying to do the right thing, the noble thing and not let him sacrifice himself. Mac deserved so much more.

‘You don’t mean that Mac. You’re just trying to fix things like you always do. You want to protect me and Holly and I can’t tell you how much that means to me. No one has ever wanted to do that before. But I can’t let you; it wouldn’t be fair.’ She reached out to him. 

Mac snatched his arm away. ‘Is that what you think?’ he asked. ‘After what just happened? You think I’m with you out of some sort of misguided duty?’

‘You’re a good man but I’ve said it before, I’m not your mistake or your problem.’

He pushed away from the fence and walked away without a look or a word.

‘Mac! Mac, please don’t leave like this. Please don’t just walk away.’

He whirled around and faced her crossing his arms in front of his chest as if he was putting a barrier between them.

‘Is that the way you want to play it? Damned if I know if you’re stubborn or just plain blind. Either way, I can’t talk to you right now.’

‘Mac.’

‘Just leave it, Violet. Before something is said that can’t be taken back,’ he said turning again and walking away his anger palpable and the air almost crackling with tension. The look in his eyes made it clear she’d hurt him. She’d never meant that to happen.

‘Mac!’

He didn’t answer or stop, he just kept walking, his back stiff and unyielding.
***

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Virtue's Lady Bonus Features: History, Setting, and Characters

London , 1543. The view from the south bank. Mark's house would have been near the bottom right corner.
We are winding down to the end of the alphabet now, and the end of my blog tour for Virtue's Lady. I have been lucky enough to visit the blogs of some wonderful authors with interviews and guest posts, and for that I'm truly grateful. Just for fun, I've made a short list of some of these posts and some of my history posts closely related to the book so you can get the whole picture before (or after!) you read it. Be sure to start with the video at the top of the list -- it's amazing.

Introduction

See the Setting of the Southwark Saga (animated video)
Why the Restoration is a Great Period for Romance: Guest Post for Ute Carbone
Spotlight on Virtue's Lady on LOVExtra

Characters

Meet Mark Virtue: Working Class Hero
Character Sketch: Mark Virtue on Romance Lives Forever
Character Interview: Mark Virtue on Tami Lund's Blog (from Tyburn)
Character Interview: Lady Jane on Annette Mardis' blog
Can Working Class Heroes Work in Romance? Guest Post for Shauna Roberts

Related Historical Posts

Female Fighters in Restoration London: Guest Post for Elizabeth Andrews
Seventeenth Century Marriage: Guest Post for Susan R. Hughes
Guy Fawkes Day: 400 Years of Fire and Madness
A Fortune on Friday Street: Finding the Cheapside Hoard
Drinking Coffee in the Seventeenth Century
Newgate

Author Interviews


Interview with J.J. DiBenedetto
Interview with Christina Tetreault

And of course, the links for Virtue's Lady are here:

Amazon | Liquid Silver | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes | ARe | Goodreads

If you enjoy these, a little directory of my history posts is under the above tab, Seventeenth Century History Posts

I hope you all have a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, April 24, 2015

U: Historical Underwear and the Surprising Thing used to Clean It (Hint: It Starts with a U)

Okay, so we've had a lot of posts lately that have been on the serious side (fire, plague, syphilis, under-paying jobs), so for a change of pace, I thought I'd write about something a little more fun. 

Underwear!


Fifteenth century. Yes, Really.
What's not to like? Everyone knows that the best part of costume dramas in the historically accurate underwear (that can't just be me). Fans of historical anything will already be so familiar with corsets that you might feel like you know your way in and out of one, but what about the rest?

Underwear is a surprisingly tricky subject. You'll often hear that people just didn't wear any, but that wasn't the case. Charles II wore one of the world's first versions of silk boxer shorts to bed--would you expect anything less?--and Pepys' wife, Elizabeth, is noted to have worn "drawers." While it's true that seventeenth century undergarments were a long way off from Victoria's Secret, they were very common and almost always the cleanest thing a person wore. It was extremely difficult to clean many finer items of clothing, and people depended in part on frequent changes of undergarments such as shifts to preserve the more expensive outer layers.


Fifteenth century tie-on pants, not unlike
something you might find at Ann Summers.
(Probably used for menstruation.) 
As Lucy Worsley writes in If Walls Could Talk:

"In the Tudor or Stuart concept of hygiene, clean underwear played an important part. The wearing of clean linen next to the skin was considered essential in the 'dirty' centuries. People thought it was dangerous to immerse their bodies in water but perfectly safe to use linen to absorb the body's juices, and then to wash the linen regularly. In fact, a show of brilliant white linen at the collar and cuffs was important to publicise the cleanliness of your body--and. by implication, the purity of your mind."

The brighter the linen, the cleaner the mind. So how did they maintain the extraordinarily bright whites seen in portraits (apart from being kind to their painters)?

Urine!

That's right, the second U of the day was used a stain remover right up until the twentieth century. Garments were scrubbed with a soap made of lye before the dirt was beaten out of them and they were hung in the sun to dry, ideally over sweet-smelling rosemary or hawthorn bushes. But for tough stains, you couldn't beat urine. Satisfying as it might be, surely just peeing on one's employer's clothes would be too easy. So how was it done? 


Lay it all night in urine, the next day rub all the spots in the urine as if you were washing in water; then lay it in more urine another night and then rub it again, and so do till you find they be quite out.
-Hannah Woolley, to get Spots of Ink out of Linen Cloth. 1677

As you can see, sometimes it took quite a lot to do the job. Housemaids would even reserve urine from the house's chamber pots for this specific purpose. Effective as it must have been, I can't help but wonder how much lye and rosemary it took to neutralize the smell. 

If that didn't work, there was always perfume.

Perfume, pomanders, and scented washballs, waters, and other cosmetics were extremely popular and available in every scent imaginable from rosewater to civet (a musk from a wild cat). Although Worsley warns us about the perceived dangers of bathing, Sally Pointer assures us that both sexes bathed in scented flower waters regularly, so the situation was probably not as dire as you might imagine. 

For a bonus U: Giovanni Battista Moroni's unidentified tailor (1570). This has very little to do with underwear (see caption), but I found him when looking for photos for you and thought you'd earned something pretty to look at after that syphilis post. Is this guy gorgeous or what?


Notice the pristine white ruffles under his doublet. Someone knows the secret to keeping their whites whiter.
A Note on the Sources

Lucy Worsley, If Walls Could Talk: I just got a copy of this and it is an entertaining and thorough history of the details of everyday life in Britain throughout the ages. It's a fascinating read for anyone, and invaluable to writers of historical fiction. Be sure to check it out! 

Sally Pointer, The Artifice of Beauty: For a complete history of beauty and cosmetics from Egypt onward (including recipes!), you cannot beat this book. I was fortunate enough to get my copy at a museum book store a few years ago when it came out, but now the price has gone way up on Amazon. If you ever happen to stumble across this book in a used bookstore, grab it! You won't regret it! 

For a fun, short post with more on the subject of women's underwear, check out Crafty Manolo's Victoria Had a Secret in the Fifteenth Century

Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Private Domestic Tutors: Sitting Below the Salt in Early Modern England. Guest Post by Historian John Polsom-Jenkins

I am delighted to welcome back historian John Polsom-Jenkins with an enlightening post about private domestic tutors in the seventeenth century. Tyburn's hero, Nick, works as a tutor in the Earl of Hereford's household, and this part of Nick's story was based on Dr. Polsom-Jenkins' fascinating research into the lives of tutors during this period, so we owe him a great deal! Here to tell you more about the subject in his own words, Dr. John Polsom-Jenkins: 

Private Domestic Tutors in Seventeenth Century England

Tyburn’s hero, Nick Virtue, earns his “dashing” credentials as a highwayman, but his day job, as tutor to the frightful sons of a tight-fisted nobleman, is rather more mundane. The sexy subject of highwaymen is explored in greater depth in the works of historians such as the excellent James Sharpe. Nick’s more boring-sounding occupation is loosely based on my own research in the field of educational history. However, tutors like Nick, living and working in the households of great persons, were privy to some adventures of their own and, in some cases, could give highwaymen a run for their money in the sexiness stakes. Some famous figures, such as Thomas Hobbes, Andrew Marvell and John Locke, served as tutors in seventeenth century England.
John Locke,
the "Father of Classical Liberalism"

From classical times, the sons (and less frequently, the daughters) of noble and wealthy persons, were educated at their homes by tutors who were kept within the household for that purpose. By medieval times, these household tutors might have a role in martial or religious, as well as academic, instruction and often doubled in a related role such as chaplain. It was also in the medieval period that universities developed the tutor system, where a scholar would be given particular charge over the studies and the conduct of students living at the university outside their parent’s home.

By the Tudor and Stuart periods of English history, domestic tutors were more widely utilized than ever before. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the lesser gentry (smaller landowners who were able to live off their lands rather than work for a living) and even successful merchants with aspirations for their children to move up in the world began to employ tutors in their houses. The profound religious differences which divided Europe during the Reformation also brought private tutors into demand amongst those who wanted their children educated in an unorthodox faith.

Domestic tutors were employed to teach an increasingly broad (or ‘liberal’) curriculum in everything from the basics of Latin grammar to the latest trends in natural philosophy (something akin to what we would term ‘science’) as well as to ensure their charges were well versed in the manners and behaviors that would be expected of them from a very young age. Day tutors were also brought in to provide instruction in specific gentle ‘accomplishments’ such as dancing, or speaking French.

During this period, it also became increasingly common for children destined for diplomatic office or for those from the highest echelons of society to be sent on a ‘Grand Tour’ of Europe, to see the sights, learn the languages and customs, to take lectures at foreign universities, and simply for the prestige this final gloss could give their education. These privileged children (usually males who had completed a year or so at one of the universities) were typically accompanied by a slightly older and more scholarly tutor or ‘bear ward’ on these lengthy educational voyages. 

Ben Johnson. George Vertue, 1730
Although this could be a highly supervised and intensely educational experience, several tutors were ill-equipped to maintain control over high-born and high-spirited adolescents and some were not themselves the best examples of behavior. In 1612, the tough bricklayer-come-playwrite, Ben Johnson, was chosen to keep the young Walter Raleigh (son of the famous potato-wielding, puddle-cloaking adventurer) in check on his Tour of France and the Netherlands, but apparently it was the ‘knavishly inclined’ Raleigh who got Johnson “dead drunk, so that he knew not where he was” and then had his tutor drawn through the streets “stretched out” on a cart, telling people at every corner that Johnson “was a more lively image of the crucifix then any they had.”

The élite world of expenses-paid sightseeing tours of Italy was not the lot of most tutors, however. Only the trusted servants of the greatest lords or wealthiest merchants could hope to enjoy such perks of the job and these men were usually formidable scholars who had a strong case for being considered gentlemen in their own right. Most tutors, if the testimony of contemporary scholars is to be believed were underpaid, poorly treated clerics, waiting for a church or university job to open up for them, or for their service to lead to some greater demonstration of favor from their lord. Joseph Hall, although later to rise to become Bishop of Norwich, wrote these biting verses on the lot of such men:

A gentle squire[1] would gladly entertain
Into his house some trencher-chaplain[2]:
Some willing man that might instruct his sons,
and that would stand to good conditions.
First that he lie upon the truckle-bed[3],
While his young master lieth over his head.
Secondly, that he do, on no default,
Ever presume to sit above the salt[4].
Third, that he never change his trencher twice.
Fourth, that he use all comely courtesies:
Sit bare[5] at meals, and one half rise and wait[6].
Last, that he never his young master beat,
But he must ask his mother to define
How many jerks she would his breech should line[7].
All those observ'd, he could contented be
To give five marks, and winter livery[8]. 

-Joseph Hall, Virgidemiarum (London, 1598).

[1] a squire – a gentleman, a landowner.
[2] a trencher was a bowl made out of bread, usually filled with stew – poor man’s fare at a lord’s table.
[3] a camp bed.
[4] salt was expensive and access to it controlled. Sitting above it became a sign of status.
[5] bare-headed, again indicative of low status.
[6] wait on the other diners.
[7] corporal punishment was generally considered essential to effective teaching and mothers were often accused of undermining teachers in this.
[8] Five Marks =3£ 6s 8d, a paltry sum of money. A livery was a coat with a badge or other design signifying the wearer’s service to a particular Lord or Lady. Attitudes to livery were complex amongst those who wore them, ranging from those who took pride in the finery and sign of favor to those who were ashamed to be seen in clothing which was selected for them and marked them out as a servant rather than as their own person.

This is not to say that there were not opportunities for ambitious tutors in more humble situations. Where some, rather like Nick, were underfed and paid only sporadically, others considered the food, drink, security, books, and opportunities to rub shoulders with the great on offer in wealthy households to be great perks of a tutoring job as well as being more than the average cleric could aspire to enjoy privately. Although meeting an influential patron offered a respectable way to move up in the World, many chaplains and tutors embarked upon the less popular route (with parents, at any rate) of marrying the daughters of their employers. 

Some, like the Tudor-era music tutor, Thomas Whythorne, were rebuffed by young ladies who had been threatened with being cut off if they pursued such a relationship. Others, like the famous physician, John Harvey (he wrote a pioneering work on the circulation of blood in the human body), simply eloped with their intended (he and his Martha were able to reconcile with her father – well, he was a doctor, as was her father!). Not all were so fortunate, one Henry Hickman’s in-laws believed him to be a fortune-hunter when he married his Joanna, whereas a certain William Willmott was dismissed from Horseheath Hall for “endeavouring to pay his addresses to one of the ladies of the family”. Faint heart never won fair maiden but the risks were high!

Spelling has been modernized. Quotations are from the Dictionary of National Biography

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

S is for Syphilis: Genius, Madness, and The Sickness of Naples

Syphilis. Woodcut series, 1496. The Virgin Mary
and Christ child bless the afflicted.
I don’t mind telling you that I’ve been looking forward to this post. As you’ve probably noticed by now, I’m very interested in sex and contraception in history, so the history of venereal diseases is kind of where I live. Syphilis is my favorite. 

Okay, so if you were on the fence, now you've probably decided that I’m completely mental. How can someone have a favorite venereal disease? Stick with me here! Syphilis helped to shape the modern world through the measures taken to prevent it (such as the development condoms), and the effects it had on the mental health of influential people, both good and bad. No other venereal disease, as far as I’m aware, has ever been accused (with some justification) of creating genius

So let's take a look. 

History

The first known case of syphilis was documented by Dr. Pintor in 1493 in Rome. He called it the Morbus Gallicus (The French Disease), and assumed that it had been carried to Italy by the French Army. When the French began to notice it, they called it mal de Naples (the sickness of Naples). Emperor Maximilian officially referred to it as malum franciscum in 1495, (1,3) but soon it was known by an altogether simpler name: 

The Pox. 

It was called this because of the noticeable effects the disease had on the skin of the afflicted, leaving lesions and decaying soft tissues that were sometimes mistaken for leprosy. The name syphilis comes from a Greek legend about a peasant Apollo had punished with poor health and lesions all over his body: the peasant’s name was Syphilus, and he could only be cured (rather chillingly) by Mercury. (1)


Syphilis. Durer, 1496.
The Disease

The first stage was a chancre on or near the genitals, followed by rashes and open sores during the second. The afflicted would experience pain with erection, swelling of the lymph glands, splitting headaches, and other pains throughout the body. At this point, the soft tissues of the nose and palate could begin to rot, and the teeth and hair would loosen and fall out. (3) Lesions and tumors could consume the nasal bones and the tissues of the face until the flesh was literally falling from the bones, sometimes even leaving the brain exposed to open air. (1,3)

If this stage was survived, the disease could lie dormant for up to 30 years, but could still be easily transmitted. If one was lucky enough to make it until the third and final stage of syphilis, they could look forward to madness and paralysis. 

It was seen as primarily a male problem, but no one was safe from it. It was often passed to unsuspecting spouses (and any children conceived) during periods of remission. (2) Often asymptomatic, it could go unnoticed for years, and could be passed on without any sexual contact at all; from parents to children, and from wet nurses to infants. It could even be transmitted through kissing or sharing cups. (1)

It was incredibly contagious and impossible to cure, and some historians estimate that as many as a fifth of the population may have been infected at any one time. (1)

Treatment

Syphilis was treated at the second stage with mercury in every form from enemas, ointments, and pills to steam baths or “sweats” in mercury vapor. This treatment was somewhat successful, although it was known even at the time to cause madness. Less common treatments included confining the afflicted to a sweat room to breathe guaiac vapor, “excising the sores and cauterizing the wounds,” and celibacy aided by the placement of nettles in one’s codpiece. (1)
Syphilis. Woodcut Series, 1496.

Where did it come from?

It is generally believed that Columbus had brought the disease back with him from the Americas. It existed in the Americas before Columbus arrived, and the timing certainly was convenient. Some Renaissance thinkers suspected it had something to do with astrology (see right and above left), while others thought it was derived from leprosy. Francis Bacon believed that it was a result of cannibalism. (1)

Outbursts of Genius and Madness

The tertiary stage of syphilis is well known to cause mental issues including creative genius and paranoid madness. Many of history’s greatest personalities had the disease, such as Cesare Borgia, Casanova, John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, and Beau Brummell, but so did larger-than-life figures such as Henry VIII, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ivan the Terrible, and maybe even Hitler. The jury’s out on how much influence the disease has on the creative process, but the manic bursts of divine inspiration it is known to have caused certainly must have had some effect on Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Keats, Manet, Tolstoy, Guy de Maupassant, and possibly Oscar Wilde. (2)

Was syphilis at least partially responsible for some of history’s greatest works of art? Maybe. Whichever side we choose in that particular debate, we can at least appreciate the prevalence of syphilis led to the development and popularization of condoms, and that’s no small achievement. 

Syphilis is actually a subject that comes up a couple of times in The Southwark Saga. Sally's (fictional) friend, Bettie, has it in Tyburn, and so does his crush, the very non-fictional Earl of Rochester. In Virtue’s Lady, Lord Lewes, Jane’s betrothed, has it, and has buried multiple wives and children because of it. No wonder she wants to run away! It’s by no means a huge part of either book, but with one in five people in London being afflicted by it at any one point in time, it would be weird not to mention it.

For a really fantastic article on this subject, be sure to read Sarah Dunant’s piece, Syphilis, sex and fear: How the French disease conquered the world in the Guardian. 

You can also read Gabriello Fallopio’s 1564 treatise against syphilis, De Morbo Gallico (translation: About the French disease) online here.

Sources

1. Catharine Arnold, The Sexual History of London. 
2. Deborah Hayden, The Pox: Genius, Madness, and the Mysteries of Syphilis.
3. Liza Picard, Restoration London.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

R is for The Restoration, a Brilliant Period for Historical Romance

With so many British historical romances set in the nineteenth century, you would be forgiven for thinking nothing happened in England before the Regency. Although the nineteenth century was a time of progress and those famous balls at Almack’s, I decided to set my new historical series two hundred years earlier in the seventeenth century. 

Charles II in exile
The Southwark Saga begins in 1671, eleven years after the restoration of Charles II. The Restoration is an exciting period to read, write and research. It was a time of change and was characterized by cataclysmic events, such as the English Civil War that saw the execution of Charles I and the exile of his son with a significant part of the Court. The Plague killed more than a quarter of London's population between 1665 and 1666 and was chronicled in Defoe’s nightmarish Journal of a Plague Year. The last of that was wiped out by the Great Fire of London, which incinerated most of the medieval City of London over a four day period, destroying 13,200 houses and 87 churches including St. Paul’s cathedral, and killing or displacing thousands of people. After the fire, London was rebuilt with a new street plan designed by Christopher Wren, and began to take on the shape it is today, with the new St. Paul’s Cathedral as its crowning glory. 

Solomon Eccles
There were also many larger than life figures who we still remember to this day. Charles II, “The Merry Monarch” had more mistresses than there are days in the week and more than a dozen illegitimate children, and when the Great Fire threatened to consume the entirety of London, he and his brother, the Duke of York, fought the fire themselves. Diarist Samuel Pepys meticulously recorded his daily life in the 1660s, providing an invaluable resource for historians, while John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, entertained and enraged with his bawdy verse. Out on the streets, you’ll find Solomon Eccles, a composer who had a religious awakening and spent his days nude with a dish of burning coals on his head, urging passers-by the repent as they did their shopping. 

Nell Gwyn
The Restoration is a wonderful time to set fiction, and particularly romance. With the Civil War behind them, London was in the mood to celebrate. The theaters reopened and women were allowed onstage, providing cheap entertainment to people of any class most nights of the week. The rigid social structure and excessive manners of the nineteenth century had not set in yet, and the social mobility of the time was second to none. Courtesans regularly rose above their stations, such as Nell Gwyn, who rose from being an orange seller of humble birth to become Charles II’s favorite mistress. 

The poor could still marry with little more than a declaration and a witness. Highwaymen haunted the forests and roads around the city, and execution at Tyburn was a real threat to them and anyone caught stealing anything worth more than a shilling. For excitement, color, and danger, you’ll be hard pressed to find a time better for fiction than the seventeenth century. 

Tyburn, the first book of The Southwark Saga, follows Sally Green, a French immigrant and Covent Garden prostitute as she tries to escape her unfortunate circumstances. Hero Nick Virtue, a private domestic tutor turned highwayman, must decide if saving her is worth risking his life.

In Virtue’s Lady, Lady Jane Ramsey attempts to marry out of wealth when she falls for Nick’s brother, Mark, an ex-convict and carpenter who lives in the slum in Southwark. Five years after the fire, Mark is still struggling to adapt his business for a city that no longer wants wooden houses, and the last thing he needs is an earl taking shots at him for ruining his daughter. 

In both books, I hope to show you what the Restoration was like from the ground up. You’ll feel the dirt, smell the river, and taste the terrible, terrible coffee right along with the characters as you are introduced to a new world in historical romance. I invite you to join me in the seventeenth century, and I very much hope you’ll enjoy The Southwark Saga. 

For a directory of my history posts about this period, click on the Seventeenth Century History Posts tab above or click here. This page is a work in progress, but so far I have short articles on infamous highwayman Claude Duval, The Great Fire of London, the Plague, the Cheapside Hoard, condom use, mortality, executions at Tyburn, Newgate prison, illegitimacy, Guy Fawkes, coffee, the lead content in makeup, and a whole lot more. Be sure to check it out! If there are any seventeenth century subjects you would be particularly interested in reading about, please leave your suggestions in the comments below and I will see what I can do. 

Thanks for stopping by!