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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Regency and Victorian Matrimonial adverts, from Mimi Matthews and how it relates to my WIP...

I was reading a blog I follow and coincidentally Mimi was blogging about advertising for a spouse, which was something I was planning to use in my next Brandon Scandals book.
So here's the article HERE and if you read the comments, you will see I also got rather sidetracked onto the murder at the Red Barn, but never mind. 
Here, however, is the current opening of 'The Advertised Bride'.  And yes, Letty will be in it, albeit in something of a cameo role.



Chapter 1

Dinah Caldecott heaved a sigh of relief; saved by Uncle Adam!
And an invitation to spend Christmas at Darsham Hall was always to be welcomed in any case; Uncle Adam was a kindly uncle and his house parties were cosy and fun.
The invitation meant that she would not have to get married before Christmas, as her parents would not risk annoying the head of the family, Adam Brandon, Baron Darsham. Dinah wondered if her cousin, Imogen, would be there; but Uncle Adam might consider it inappropriate.  Imogen had married Evelyn, Lord Finchbury, over the summer, and everyone knew that Finchbury had sired the daughter born to the previous Baroness Darsham, now divorced.  However, Dinah considered, Uncle Adam was fond of children and he would probably like the child, Lydia, whom he had taken as his ward, to meet her father.
Imogen had written of having two stepchildren from other peccadilloes of her husband, and Dinah thought that Finchbury sounded a most ramshackle fellow. Uncle Adam would be bound to want to meet the other children too, to make sure that Imogen was not being exploited.  Dinah thought it very unlikely, but Uncle Adam did take his responsibilities seriously.  Imogen had written that she loved Jasper and Phebe dearly, and that she was deliriously happy with her Evelyn, and Dinah did not think her cousin would put on a brave face.  She was more likely to do something about any situation that made her unhappy.   Imogen was an ingenious sort of girl, reflected Dinah, and might be able to come up with an idea to rescue Dinah from marriage to a man she had met once, and disliked immediately.   It was so lowering, reflected Dinah, to have become so cowed and afraid of crossing Papa, and she was sure Imogen must despise her for it; but then Imogen’s own father was so affable.

Uncle Adam embraced Dinah.
“Your sister couldn’t come?” he asked.
“Her husband won’t let her,” said Dinah.
“Dear me, how singular of him,” said Adam, dryly.  “Sir Swithin, I suspect that Marjorie may have made a poor choice in her spouse.”
Sir Swithin Caldecot went purple.
“You have no right to criticise my choice of husband for Marjorie, my lord, any more than you have any right to criticise my choice of husband for Dinah!”
“Oh, of course not,” said Adam.  “You chose him, not she?  Dear me, and no man likes to feel that he has made a poor decision and made his daughter unhappy.  It’s perhaps as well that Dinah is far too young to get married for several years.”
“Dinah will be married in the new year; she is sixteen and the offer is an excellent one,” said Sir Swithin.
“Is it?” Adam asked Dinah.
“I have only met him once, Uncle Adam, so I do not know; and when I met him I assumed he was a friend of my father, as he’s rather old,” said Dinah.
“Enough of that!” roared Sir Swithin.  “A flighty young girl needs an older man to bring her to heel!”
“Interesting way to look at it,” said Adam.  Anger lurked in his eyes.  “I had never thought Dinah to be anything but quite biddable, hardly in need of bringing to heel!  But there, you know your own daughter best, I suppose.”
“Yes,” Sir Swithin almost ground his teeth.  “Her husband is a nabob, a widower whose first wife did not survive the rigours of India, and Dinah is a good healthy girl who will doubtless manage better to give him a son to inherit his business.”
“Oh, a tradesman? Ah well, times change,” said Adam.  “Jane’s husband is perfectly gentlemanly to be sure, and he in chamber pots.  Dinah, your cousins are already here, Imogen and Finchbury visited the Copleys and came south with them.  Jasper is a year older than your cousin Lucy, and Phebe a year older than your cousin Philippa, so they get on famously.  You’ll find them under the approximate guidance of Imogen sounding the panelling for secret passages, which is as good an occupation as any to keep them out of mischief.”
“Oh what fun!  Are there any secret passages?” asked Dinah.
“I never found any when I was a boy, but I don’t rule it out,” said Adam.  “My father opened up the secret stair to the priest’s hole, in the days we were a Catholic family, and I use the priest’s room as my study.  The door isn’t obvious and it means servants who don’t know the secret can’t bother me.”
“How nice!” said Dinah, wistfully.  She dropped him a little curtsey and went in search of Imogen.

The enthusiasm of young voices led Dinah to the panel-tapping party, where she recognised Lucy and Philippa, and, too, her cousin Imogen, who was chatting to another lady whom Dinah believed to be the distant cousin Beth.  Beth was married to Edward Brandon, nephew and heir to Adam. She appeared to be heavily pregnant.  There were three other children, one of whom was a boy, and must be Jasper.  The older of the two girls had to be Phebe, but who the younger was, Dinah could not guess.
“Dinah!”  Imogen swept her into an embrace.  “I am glad that nasty father of yours let you come.  Have you met Cousin Beth?”
“No, but I heard all about how Cousin Edward swept you off your feet,” said Dinah, to Beth.
Beth coloured.
“Oh, I had always loved him, you know,” she said, in her soft voice, “But he came to realise that he loved me too, so everything is quite splendid!   We live near enough to Darsham to make visiting easy,” she added.  “I had no fear of coming for Christmas, even if we do manage a Christmas baby.”
“And I would not let Evelyn fuss about me,” said Imogen.  “Yes, I am enceinte too!”
“Who is the other little girl?” asked Dinah.
“Oh, that is Kate,” said Beth.  “Edward and I adopted her; she used to be a chimney sweep, her horrid father sold her.  And there was nobody else really to look after her, so we made her our ward, and then decided to adopt her.  Edward is well enough off not to worry about the odd extra child.”
Imogen laughed.
“And what makes me think Kate will not be the only one you adopt?” she teased.
“You can scarcely talk, taking on Jasper and Phebe.”
“They, however, are my husband’s children and he swears he has no other children he knows of, so I am unlikely to be taking on any more.  By next Chrismas, who knows how many you might have?”
Beth laughed.
“Oh, I won’t try to guess,” she said.  “It would be an unkindness in the normal way to take a child out of her own class, but Kate is a clever girl, and eager to learn, and my maid Molly wishful to help her too, as she was with me when we rescued her.  After having shot your husband.”
Imogen chuckled. 
“His face when he saw you first after we arrived here was quite priceless!  Thank you for treating him in so forgiving a fashion.”
“I actually quite like him,” said Beth.  “But he is no comparison to my Edward!”
“I am bound to disagree,” said Imogen.  “Dinah, such a long face!  Surely you do not long for a husband to argue comparisons over?”
“No, and that’s the problem!” cried Dinah.  “I am to be married after Christmas, and to a horrid old man who leered at me, and he has sweaty hands, and skin like mahogany, all wrinkled like a walnut, and Papa is not to be argued with over it.  Indeed, I am afraid he will take me away, for Uncle Adam put him in a passion, criticising Marjorie’s husband.”
“Oh dear,” said Imogen.  “Well, there is nothing else for it; you will have to get married before the end of the holidays.  Have you any beaux?”
“No, I have never even been to a dance.  I’m only sixteen and Mama said I should come out when I was seventeen.  I shan’t be seventeen until April and that will be too late, and besides, Papa will say that coming out is unnecessary as he has found me a husband.”
“I can only see one course open to you, then, as I do not think you could manage to run away as I did without help,” said Imogen.
“You must think me very poor spirited,” said Dinah.
“No, my dear, I think you very much downtrodden, like a governess to horrible children, only your father is more childish than the most horrible child I have ever heard of,” said Imogen. “Fancy not being able to control his temper at his age!”
“I don’t think he ever had to,” said Dinah. “What idea did you have?”
“Why, insert an advertisement in the Ipswich Journal and the Norfolk Chronicle that you are looking for a husband, and then marry the one you like the most,” said Imogen.  “I will help you to interview those who take your interest from their letters.”
“But Imogen, Papa might see the advertisement!” cried Dinah.
“Silly, you do not put it in your name,” said Imogen.  “You write something like ‘Young lady seeks matrimony with a man of sufficient means and gentility to support a wife of breeding, no older than thirty.  Send post-paid envelope to … oh, to some inn.”
“The Bell, Saxmundham,” supplied Beth.  “It’s an old and respectable hostelry; George II stayed there once.  I don’t suppose Edward would collect letters for you though, he was most shocked when I connived at an elopement of a friend of mine.”
“I was about to say there’s a difference between an elopement and a marriage arranged by advertisement, the latter being perfectly respectable, but of course Dinah is going to have to elope, in order to wed legally,” said Imogen.  “Not being of age.  And your mother can’t be relied upon to give consent, can she?” she asked Dinah.
Dinah shook her head.
“Mama stands and shakes if she has to tell Papa that something has occurred so that his choice of dinner is not served, or if she needs more muslin to make us underlinen,” she said.  “All she does is say ‘Papa knows best’ so she is of no use whatsoever.”
“Poor Aunt Daphne!” said Imogen.  “Of course, she’s my great aunt really, and must have been at her last prayer when she married.”
“Yes, she was almost thirty, and there are several little memorials in the local church who were born before me,” said Dinah.  “I suppose it must have been hard for her, but it would be nice if she wanted her daughters to be happy, and not end up like her.”
“She probably does, but has no more strength left to fight to help you,” said Beth.
“But we shall help you, and Jasper may ride over to Saxmundham, which is no more than an hour’s ride, and collect your letters surreptitiously,” said Imogen.
The cheerful, swarthy lad turned.
“What did you want me to do, Ma?” he asked.
“We’re arranging to get Dinah married to anyone else except the horrid man her awful father has chosen,” said Imogen, “And if she advertises for a husband, I thought you’d be just the man to ride into Saxmundham to collect them. And that they write there will give them the intimation that they will have to travel to Saxmundham to meet her.”
“They will?  I will?” asked Dinah.
“Well, you can scarcely ask them to come here,” said Imogen.  “It preserves the level of anonymity, and we can hire a room and be heavily veiled.”
“I can handle any message carrying,” said Jasper.  “If you write out the notices now, I’ll ride too the nearest post office so they are quickly in the newspapers. And on to Sax, to pay the innkeeper to take in mail. They just call it Sax, around here, at least, the servants do.    I’ll go find out where the post office is, from Uncle Adam, and change into riding duds.  The girls will have to sound panels on their own,” he added with an air of self-importance.
“I love that boy,” said Imogen, fondly, as Jasper whirled off.  “And so does Uncle Adam; he asked him right away to call him Uncle, for all that he’s no such thing really.”
“Will you help me write out a notice?” asked Dinah.
“Of course,” said Imogen.  “I doubt my sisters, or Phebe and Kate will get into any serious trouble if left, I only came along because Phebe is a little clingy, but she seems to have settled in with the others quite happily.”

Dinah laboriously penned, at the dictation of Imogen, and careful capitals as directed,
“MATRIMONY – A lady of good birth and breeding, and without a stain on her character wishes, for reasons which will be revealed to any successful candidate to MARRY a young man of sufficient fortune and gentility to keep her in the state to which she is accustomed.  His age should not exceed thirty years, and he should be of pleasant and amiable disposition. Reply post-paid only, to DC, care of the Landlord, ‘The Bell’, Saxmundham.”

“I wonder if one should specify his fortune?” murmured Imogen.  “A curate or a clerk might consider himself of sufficient fortune, but really, you are rather used to living well, even if your father does cut up rather about the bills.”
“We do not live so well as I think your family do,” said Dinah. “The housekeeper is directed to buy cheap cuts of meat, you know.”
“Yes, but even so, I cannot see you managing on eighty guineas per annum, married to a clerk,” said Imogen.   “Add ‘his income not to be less than two hundred guineas per year,’ which you should manage on, and rewrite that twice, once for each newspaper.”
“I do know how to keep house,” said Dinah.  “Mama did teach me that.”
“Good, then if you do fetch up in relative penury, you will be able to hold the household.  And you may always desert him and come and live with us, if you dislike marriage,” said Imogen.  “We shan’t get sanctimonious at you.”
“Thank you, for everything, Imogen,” said Dinah.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Guest blogging about the Saucy Seventh!

I have been invited to guest blog for Catherine Curzon on her excellent blogsite, 'A Covent Garden Gilflurt's Guide to Life', and you can find it Here


Sunday, 6 December 2015

More Regency female names....

I had to share this link to a lady with, I suspect, more names than most... HERE

Now, I admit that most of these are traditional old German names, but there's some scope for imagination here [I really AM influenced by Anne of Green Gables], though I really do not recommend a heroine called Nepomucena. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Renaissance art and murder

Book 9 of the Felicia and Robin mysteries, 'The Colour of Murder' is now live on kindle and should be available in paperback any time soon; kindle available HERE

Renaissance Artists

Being an artist in the Renaissance was a precarious business, and not just because one had to find a patron in order to earn by painting!  Fresco painting was the most common form of employment, but paid only a ducat a foot, four shillings and eight pence, which for the time preparing the wall and the nervous business of working onto wet plaster was low pay for an artisan for the time spent in preparation.  And an artist was an artisan; there was no sense that an artist was in any way loftier than a weaver, a tawyer or a smith.  The fortunate, and skilled, could make as much in a year as a wealthy clothier, and in Florence and East Anglia that was usually by painting wealthy clothiers....

The apprenticeship could be a nervous business, since the preparation of pigments formed a part of it.  Colours did not come conveniently in tubes as they do today, but had to be ground and mixed with oils.  Many of them were costly, like the best blue which was ground from lapis lazuli imported from what is now Afghanistan, and which had to be mixed with walnut oil so as not to become yellowed.  Cheaper blues tended to become grey with time.  The mix of the correct pigment with the correct oil, in the right quantities was something that must be learned.  And as many of the pigments were also poisonous, there was much risk in the preparation!  White lead was used, in great quantities, which could be poisonous if any should get onto a cut or lesion, and the brightest red came from cinnabar, red mercury, which was potentially poisonous through absorption through the skin itself.
 Painting was not performed in the same way as it is nowadays, when colour is laid on pretty much as you want it to be; thin layers of paint from dark to light were built up, each one modifying the colour of the layers above it. Achieving a vibrant and colourful finish could be challenging, and it was easy to end up with something muddy.
 The knowledge of how to use the colour layers to affect each other was vital, and some artists kept notebooks of how certain colours interacted, including the effects of the various oils with which they were mixed, as an aide memoire if they had no instinct for colour mixing.  Odd as it seems, there are people who are competent draughtsmen who cannot look at a colour in life and reproduce it precisely in paint, even without taking into account the effect of building up layers.  In such a book, an artist would also make notes about his own recipes for such things as varnishes.  Leonardo da Vinci himself did so, since when asked to paint the Pope, the first thing he did was to invent a new varnish...
Of course if the client was not satisfied, the artist might not be paid, or he might be sent on his way with blows for insolence if the sitter did not find the painting sufficiently flattering!

Add to this the reputation artists had for being a quarrelsome lot, and fond of duels, and it may be seen that a Renaissance artist could lead an exciting life even without involvement with murder and politics.