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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Patchwork in history.

Please note: this is about patchwork, NOT about quilting.  In American parlance the two are synonymous but are not always so in Britain and certainly they started out as different skills.  Quilting is an ancient art used to increase warmth or armour protection; patchwork is a way to use up left over cloth.

The earliest literary suggestion of patchwork also refers to quilting, a counterpane of two sorts of silk in a checkerboard pattern, and embroidered about the edge. “quilt…of a check-board pattern of two sorts of silk cloth, well-made and rich…Around appears the new flower”appears in La Lai del Desire a French poem describing a bridal bed in the late 12th century.  It implies that the art was already known. 

It is possible that the concept of marrying more than one type of fabric with another came from the appliqué work brought back by crusaders from the Holy Land, and certainly the appliqué of heraldic devices and in church embroideries became common.  Subsequently the craze for particoloured clothing spread to the upper classes at least.  Some appliqué work may have been quilted in the Trapunto fashion, to raise just the applied shape, where a slit is cut behind the applied piece and wadding inserted, the small slit then sewn up. 

Etymological research into the word 'patch' gives some very interesting results: I use the excellent online etymological dictionary which if anything errs on the side of caution when I have cross referenced. 


[1] "piece of cloth used to mend another material," late 14c., of obscure origin, perhaps a variant of pece, pieche, from O.N.Fr. pieche (see piece, (n.)), or from an unrecorded Old English word

[2] "fool, clown," 1540s, perhaps from It. pazzo "fool," which is possibly from O.H.G. barzjan "to rave." Form perhaps influenced by folk etymology derivation from patch, (n.1), on notion of a fool's patched garb. But Buck says pazzo is originally euphemistic, and from L. patiens "suffering," in medical use, "the patient."

By Shakespeare's time the use of the word 'patch' for a fool was widespread enough for it to be applied as a description in Merchant of Venice regarding Laurence Gobbo; though particoloured clothes relating to the official fool or jester were usually called motley, remaining with Shakespeare in Twelfth Night the jester Feste declares that he wears not motley in his head - his foolery is his profession, he is no fool in his own thoughts.  Again in As you like it the quote 'Motley's the only wear' can be found.
However the official fools and their motley have earlier origins.
Camille Cognac, the acknowledged expert on crazy quilts,draws parallels with the Comedia del'arte of Venice's carnival, originating in 1162 as quoted by Cindy Brick author of Crazy Quilts - History - Techniques - Embroidery Motifs.   The characters include Harlequin, a magical faery character who is dressed in a multicoloured and patched costume, formalised in pattern later in history [and made famous by the Wedgewood figurines] . 'the patches could be remnants of other, richer clothes. Sometimes the colours on Harlequin's clothes are evenly divided....but on other occasions he appears in a suit of basted-together patches that look much like crazy patchwork'.

So it is established that patchwork in a crazy form and maybe more regular joining of simple shapes such as squares may go back in England to the 12th century; Celia Eddy, a British quilt historian also says, again establishing the differences between patchwork and quilting in the early years:

"As in most parts of the world, patchwork and quilting were originally two distinct techniques, serving both functional and decorative purposes. In poorer households, patchwork would have been an important way of prolonging the life of fabrics, which in pre-industrial days were labour-intensively produced in the home and would only have been discarded as a last resort. More affluent homes, as written records show, tended to own highly decorative quilts and quilted clothing which were partly designed to display the wealth and importance of their owners."

the first physical evidence we have of a patchwork coverlet is that of Anne Hathaway.  Anne Hathaway owned a counterpane made of odd shaped, and often long thin patches sewn down onto a base of some kind; from what I could see, the work had begun at one end and worked to the other, each piece overlapping the one before slightly.  As well as covering some edges this would also have the practical effect of increasing the layers.  Having myself  made crazy patchwork curtains with much overlapping, and holding the edges with herringbone stitch I can attest to the efficacy of the extra layers in keeping warmth in and cold out!   However such counterpanes could also prolong the life of thin sheets or blankets with adding the extra cloth and it seems reasonable to suppose that such use of scraps must have occurred to thrifty goodwives long before Anne Hathaway! 
Anne Hathaway's bedsteat at Shottery, Stratford-upon-Avon showing her crazy patchwork coverlet. From 'Creative Patchwork' by June Field

It is the transition from crazy patchwork, or sewn together squares etc to English style pieced patchwork which is hard to establish.

First, for the benefit of American readers I should perhaps define 'English Patchwork'.
This involves the cutting of paper shapes around which the fabric is folded and tacked, the folded edges to be sewn together with whip stitch.  The common shape is the hexagon, not a shape to be tackled without a template of paper to hold it together.
paper hexagon pinned to fabric in throes of being tacked on
several hexagons joined, showing paper holding those on the outside, and paper removed from middle hexagons
It is common practice now to remove the paper shapes once a hexagon is surrounded by others [and there are various techniques for dealing with the outermost edge when one gets there including the brute force one of taking all the paper out and treating the edge as an uneven edge to be seamed into a backing]; however this was not always the case, and the rag-heavy paper that was used remained in the garment or counterpane as an extra layer, also effectively adding a kind of quilting.
here's one I made earlier...

The earliest surviving geometric patchwork that can be reliable dated is the 1718 quilt found in 2000.  This is less geometric than the hexagon quilt though each piece, including the curved pieces, is pieced over paper and has appliqué as well; see it here.  Levens Hall in Cumbria claims a date of around 1708 for their quilted patchwork made from scraps of imported Indian chintz.  It is hard to prove the roots of the hexagon patchwork pattern.  The popular 'grandmother's garden' certainly dates to the late 18th century and the V&A actually produce a reproduction print of one dated 1797-1830 here.  Essentially a series of rosettes are made, each around a central hexagon, which are then joined with neutral coloured hexagons between to separate them into 'flowers' on a 'ground'.
Godey's Ladies' book published a hexagon pattern in 1830 when it was fashionable to do things in an English way, but it had been around already for a very long time. 

In Jane Austen's time the piecing of geometric shapes was well established tending towards hexagons or diamonds; with diamonds, larger and smaller pieces could be used so long as the larger diamonds had a precise geometric relation to the smaller ones such as the quilt made by Jane Austen and her mother with input from Cassandra.  More can be found  out about that here.  Her quilt has a trellis between the diamonds but this is not always necessary. 

Monday, 22 October 2012

So how's the writing going?

The writing is mostly editing at the moment, though I have got as far as getting 'Jane and the Bow Street Runner' onto kindle as well as on Amazon [in case anyone missed it].

Mostly I've been working on the 100 years of cat stories book which will appear on the other blog, so that's why I'm a bit dilatory.
I'm also working on the third Jane, Bow Street Consultant book with editing, which will be called 'Jane and the Opera Dancer'.  I'm writing the fourth, 'Jane and the Vanishing Valet'.
So I haven't fallen through a crack in the universe, I've just been busy!

I've also been getting the second Felicia book ready to publish, The Mary Rose Mystery, which is a lot more lighthearted than Poison for a Poison Tongue and involves Thomas Wolsey and a missing spy.  
It's going to look like this:

In fact I'm going to stick to the woodcut style of cover from now on and will eventually go back and redo PFAPT to be in the same sort of style.

And here's an excerpt:

      We went off towards the docks to seek out Master Tavocci to ask him to introduce us to Master Fenton; but we never got so far.  We passed through the gates between the wooden stockades that guarded the city and emerged onto the quayside; where it became apparent that Signor Bartholomeo had turned up.
      Had not the master of the trading cog ‘John and Emma’ been so conscientious – and so untrusting – it could have been weeks before we had known; and we should have lost a vital lead to the truth.  Also the innocent sailors of the ‘John and Emma’ would have had the bad fortune to be short a barrel of pickled herring.
     Master James Greengrasse – a Suffolk man, as it happened, out of Gorleston – had opened every barrel of provisions before setting sail to check he had not been sold short weight.
     They may say ‘Silly Suffolk’ but Master Greengrasse was not so simple at all.
     And he was not happy to find pickled ambassador as a replacement for pickled herrings; and brought the offending barrel back to the shore to complain vociferously about its shortcomings.

       “Thass orl very well for ‘ee tu say as how them ow’ barrel hed herrins in un when ‘ee laid un owt for Oi,”  he was complaining to the chandler “But they be-ant there now.  Oi ordered fish, not some duzzy Eye-talyun.”
      James Greengrasse was a squat, bandy legged man with a cherubic pink face that extended all the way into his bald crown.  It carried the lines that suggested it to be usually wreathed in smiles, but now it was reddened in an indignant flush and bore a frown of frustration.  
     The chandler was a tallish man, sharp of feature and with that sideways glance that marks out the not entirely honest in their dealings.  He was visibly upset.  He might have sold short weight from time to time, but he liked to know what cheats were being put over his customers.  A scandal of this scale might be hard to live down and could affect his trade.
      My master stepped up, his eyes gleaming in anticipation; and at the inherent humour in the situation.
      “Excuse me,” he said.  “You have found an Italian – and I am looking for one that has been lost.  It seems likely that the person of your, um, unauthorised provisions may be one and the same.  I have been authorised by my Lord Wolsey to investigate,” he can get quite sesquipedalian in his purple passages at times, if I may mangle Horace.  He added, smiling genially, “I’m sure you’ll both be happy to co-operate in helping me find out who has perpetrated this uncouth act to the potential detriment of both of you.”
      They regarded him suspiciously.
      The Suffolk man said bluntly
     “Ar, now, marster, hev yew swallered a grammar book tu git orl them ow’ jaw-cramp words an’ such squit?”
      Robin grinned.
     “Du yew tell me orl about ut, bor,” he slipped effortlessly into broad Suffolk speech.  “Account o’ how dew yew doan’t Our hint got a clew where tu go fyein’ out thus rum ow’ myst’ry.  Dew yew gimme owd hand, ourl be wholly greartful.”
      Master Greengrasse’s faced cracked into a huge smile that fit it better than frowns.
      “Arr, bor, whoi dint yew say as how yew wus a Suffolk boy?”  he said.  “But there be-ant orl thet much tu tell.  Orl Oi know is Oi picked up them ow’ vittles farst thing this moornin’ and stowed un.  Then Oi gooes along a checkin’ un tu see as how Maarster Bream here heven’t bin craarfty.” 
     I swear his speech got broader the longer he spoke.
      The chandler assumed a look of outrage at this summation of his alleged duplicitous activities.  Master Greengrasse went on cheerfully,
     “Then in this ow’ blurry barrel, what du we got?  Goo’blarst, maarster, Our’ll tell ‘ee what we got.  ‘Tis a corpus, not fit fer vittels.  Arr, an’ he du be on the skinny soide an’ orl, bor!” he laughed, wryly.
      “I put a barrel of herring to be collected!”  declared Master Bream, too loudly.  “There was nothing wrong with it last night when it was nailed down!”
      “Do you live on the premises?”  my master asked.  Master Bream shook his head vigorously.
      “No, your honour, I live up the street there, within the walls,”  he pointed.  “All this building is given over to storage and I’m having to build an extension.  I have a fine house away from the smell of salt fish.”
      My master nodded.
      “And anyone living locally would be aware of that – and that they could easily access your building with less fear of getting caught than anywhere else in the neighbourhood.  It is a cruel hoax to play on you and Master Greengrasse.”
    “Arr, and wot ‘bout moi herrins?”  demanded that worthy.  “Oi be a –wantin tu goo on the toide.”
    “I, um, could give you a warrant in lieu,”  suggested Bream to the shipmaster.
     “I do-an’t want no duzzy warrant.  Oi want moi herrins!”  Master Greengrasse was starting to lose his good humoured amusement and return to being irate.
      “My trade will suffer for this!  The devil fly away with your blasted herrings!”  Bream almost wept.
      “Arr, oi reckon he hev,  and Oi do-ant much loike wot he’m left in their plearce! Dew yew do-ant du someat about un, umma go-un tu git wholly roiled!”  Greengrasse was adamant.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Kindle overtakes this neo-luddite...

Well it took me a long time to accept the idea of digital cameras [and now I have an SLR which can do anything a real camera can do except the specialist function of a shifting front camera] and it's taken me a while to accept Kindle too.

Well I got there.  Death of a Fop is not only on Kindle, but from 1st July to 5th July 2012 it will be free!  And guess what, Amazon's special widget to allow me to post links isn't working... so I've put it in manually: DOF Kindle

I will be adding William Price of the 'Thrush' and Poison for a Poison Tongue to Kindle, hopefully over the next few days if I can get up the courage to jump through the various necessary hoops....

Monday, 25 June 2012

The War of 1812...and, er, also 1813, 1814 and a smidgeon of 1815

Also announcing the publishing of 'William Price and the 'Thrush'' which should be on Amazon any day now.

Now it’s the bicentennial year of the war of 1812 it’s very appropriate that I have published ‘William Price and the ‘Thrush’’ as William’s adventures take part in that slightly misnamed war that suggests the hostilities were confined to one year.  This is a war in which neither side is particularly covered in righteousness or glory; one of those wars without a real baddie where neither side was entirely in the wrong – or entirely in the right.  The acronym SNAFU may not have been coined until WWII but it might well have been applied to this war.

The War of 1812 in fact took place over the next two years from its declaration on 18th June 1812 and spilled over into 1815, when the battle of New Orleans was fought on the 8th January 1815 after the Treaty of Ghent had been signed ending the war on Christmas Eve 1814.

The main reason for the war, though it was never really admitted to, was the desire of the United States to add Canada to their possessions.  However America was also sore at Britain on a couple of counts, which were the publicly claimed reasons for declaring war. Firstly, British warships had a habit of stopping and searching American ships for deserters or those they claimed as British citizens, which could at times be very loosely interpreted to include those who had emigrated.  The other bone of contention was the Orders in Council; these were laws enacted by the king and his advisors which had not passed through Parliament, and which forbade trade between America and any port in possession of the Napoleonic Empire.  This was naturally very unpopular, and British trading interests also protested.  The laws were repealed but by the time this was enacted, war had already broken out.  Britain had its own grievances, in wanting those who had fought on the British side during the American  War of Independence to have their property and civil rights restored.

During the war, America tried unsuccessfully to invade Canada, and made several object lessons to the Royal Navy about how to outbuild and outsail British shipping.  Britain burned Washington and damaged the White House, which acquired its iconic name from that point since it was hastily painted white to obscure the scorch marks.  Britain also donated an iconic song to America by presenting them with the rocket’s red glare in the use of Congreve’s rockets. 

Britain did not really throw her heart into this war, being a little preoccupied with the aggression of Napoleon Bonaparte.  However, when Bonaparte was confined [albeit briefly] to Elba in Spring 1814, Britain could afford to concentrate a little harder on her second front.  This, incidentally, is why Waterloo was, in the words of the Duke of Wellington, “a damned close run thing”, since the veterans of the Peninsula War had gone to help the Canadians and their Native allies; and Wellington was forced to operate with green troops ‘an infamous army’ during the 100 days when Napoleon escaped and returned.  The increase in British involvement in 1814 brought about a grinding to a stalemate and the Treaty of Ghent.

A lacklustre commander meant that a British counter-invasion launched from Canada was a total failure, and American overtures for peace were readily accepted.  The terms were effectively a return to status quo ante bellum, a return to the state of affairs as they were pre war, effectively meaning that a lot of people had died and been injured for bugger all, a lot of money had been spent on both sides for nothing, and the grievances of both parties went entirely unaddressed.  What a bloody waste of time – and I pick my words most carefully.


Richards & Hunt, ‘Illustrated History of Modern Britain 1783-1964’ Longmans 1965 [old but still a good basic reference]
Ed. Gardiner, Robert, ‘The Naval War of 1812’ Chatham Publishing, 1998
Hitsman, J Mackay,  ‘The incredible war of 1812’  The University of Toronto, 1965

STOP PRESS! 'Death of a Fop' is now on Kindle! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Georgian/Regency hothouse plants

With many thanks to Adrian Howlett, garden historian & local historian, for the use of his books, and for the extra research he kindly did for me on the old names of plants and the dates of introduction of those I couldn’t track down.

The Hothouse, Greenhouse, Orangery, Vinery – the very names are evocative!  And what more suitable place to consider a setting for a scene in a period romance, with rich scents and warmth year round, the romance of flowers even off season!
But what was grown there?
Some of the structures have a clue in their name – orangeries grew oranges [most of which were probably green, not orange at all, the original name for the fruit was a norange, and this became corrupted.  Modern oranges are treated with sulphur dioxide to make them orange to fulfil the expectations of the name, though some species do have the colour naturally].  Vineries grew vines, which would be planted outside the vinery and the branches trained inside.  Generally these structures would then be given over to storing winter tender plants over the colder months after the grapes had been harvested and the vine pruned back.
Technically a greenhouse was unheated and a hot house was heated, but the terms seem to be used interchangeably so I shall make no distinction.

It must be remembered that the tax on glass was still in place at this period, and that therefore all kinds of greenhouse were the plaything of the wealthy;  only those who could afford not only the glass but the heating required to keep the boiler going – the wages of the gardeners being relatively negligible – might expect to have flowers and fruit and vegetables out of season.  These hothouses were indeed used to grow food for the table such as cucumbers out of season as well as to provide flowers; but in this blog I am going to concentrate on the decorative species. It should also be remembered that these would not have been structures of metal and glass such as we think of today, but structures of brick or stone with large windows along as much of the structure as was feasible.

Note; some of the species that required hot-house protection at the time have happily developed the hardiness to survive English gardens nowadays, it is important to remember that adapting to a harsher climate takes time.

John Claudius Loudon, in his ‘Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ [1835] recommends “Pelargoniums, Camellia, Fuchsia, Jasminum, &c, or evergreens, as the Myrtus, Proteacea &c”. Proteacea are flowering shrubs from the southern hemisphere including Banksia which produce rather unfriendly looking flowers.  Though the encyclopaedia is published outside this period, Loudon was gardening and researching during the Regency and most of what he says may be considered to be relevant.
He also offers a suggested layout of a hothouse:

I started my research with the Uniacke Estate inventory of 1830; and verified that although this is an American estate, the plants could all have been found in England too. It listed the following plants in order of the number of tubs of each:

Geranium there were many tubs of this, and whether they referred to the lemon scented geranium, really a pelargonium, P. crispum or its cultivar ‘Lady Scarborough’ introduced in the early 1800’s or a common red zonal pelargonium, P. zonale called to this day by most people a geranium introduced in 1710, or  P. peltatum, the ivy-leafed pelargonium [1701] is not clear; there may have been a mix.  Also P capitatum [1701], P. fulgidum & P x ardens [1714].  South Africa.  Pelargoniums would be put outside in pots as we do to this day for the summer.  The wild P. zonale is predominantly pink, with some red and some white individuals; but it is the red variety which caught the imagination of the English flower-lovers.

Myrtle  Myrtus genus; this became popular with the design of Italian Renaissance style gardens in the classicist revival, being introduced to England in the C18th  but it required either a walled sheltered garden or wintering indoors. It is a fragrant shrub from the Mediterranean.

Orange orange trees were always popular for conspicuous consumption. They appear not to have grown very large.

Oleander  another fragrant Mediterranean  shrub associated with the classicist revival, like myrtle requiring winter protection.

Passion flower probably the blue Passiflora caerula [1699] from S. America which needs winter protection.  P. incarnara 1568 winter hardy.

Hyderanga [sic] Hydrangea arborescens was introduced 1720 OR 1736 [I have two conflicting sources], the first mophead H. macrophylla late C18th  [possibly 1798], cited from China but probably actually from Japan.

Moss Rose a mutation of Rosa centifolium from 1720 on; the bud is mossy in appearance and scented.

Jessamine the Georgian name for jasmine, Jasminus officianalis, commonly used in the C18th  for scented bowers [mentioned in Wm Chambers ‘Dissertation on Oriental gardening].  I laughed to find this as a hot house plant as my various jasmines grow like weeds.  I must also mention a plant NOT listed, Woodbine [honeysuckle; Lonicera if you want it in Latin] also used for scented bowers.  Again the old name for it.

Variegated Laurel  Aucuba japonica, [1783] from Japan.

Sweet Bay Laurus nobilis; needs no explanation, a herb grown time out of mind.

Slanbdras Thanks, Adrian for a tentative identification that this is a poor transcription of Sambac; aka Arabian Jasmine, and grown in the C18th for its scent – it was used to perfume gloves.  Introduced late C17th.  This a jasmine of startlingly pure white.

Laurestinus Vibernum tinus. Adrian queries why this might be grown in a hothouse as it’s as tough as old boots.  Vibernum flowers from late October through to April with mopheads of white flowers which turn to blue berries.  The dark shiny foliage is also decorative and this would help year round floral displays, whilst being more convenient for the lady of the house to cut. 

Masariane thanks again to Adrian for identifying this with some certainty as Daphne mezereum, which was known as Mezereum still as late as 1931.  It derives from the original Persian name  Mazaryun which sounds pretty similar to the estate transcription.   Flowering late winter with fragrant pink flowers followed by red berries. 

This is the end of that estate list. 

I have also some plants grown by Richard Hall in  the greenhouse he shared with his sister where they grew myrtles, geraniums [pelargoniums], groundsil [groundsel; for his internal complaints] and hyacinths. 
Hyacinths were introduced in the late C16th  but more cultivars came from the Netherlands in the C18th [Prance &Nesbitt] They have been forced for early flowering by being grown in glasses since 1734 in England, and earlier in the Netherlands

Here’s a few more period hothouse flowers:

Amaryllis  A. belladonna 1774 [Musgrave, Gordon & Musgrave] usual flowering period February to April. By a regimen of cooling and skilled watering, Amaryllis can be made to go dormant and flower twice in a year; but the experiments regarding the forcing of this bulb were only occurring from 1816 and some success seen by 1818. [Loudon]

Anemone  Loudon [1835] tells us that the anemone has been under cultivation for as long as the tulip and that many fine single and double varieties are to be found from English and Dutch cultivation.

Azalea 1806.  Spring flowering.  Related to Rhododenron.

Calceolaria 1789 [Musgrave] flowering late spring to autumn.

Camellia  1739  flowering January – March

Carnation aka Grenadine the common pink, or gillyflower, had long been known in England of course; the carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus, was introduced by Gerard in 1597 [Loudon].  Linnaeus classified the genus Dianthus in 1753.  D. carophyllus also refers to the clove-scented pink. In 1629 Parkinson listed 49 sorts which he divided into the larger carnation and the smaller gillyflower.  Loudon speaks of a man called Tuggy who had 360 kinds in 1702 which he considers comparable to the range in his time.   The range of colours from red through to white as well as the sweet scent of the clove scented varieties.  would have made it popular. D barbatus, sweet William, is another dianthus known at the time [and may or may not have been named for Prince William, Duke of Cumberland aka the Butcher Cumberland for his actions after Culloden].

Chaenomeles aka Japanese Quince by 1800 flowers off and on all spring from Feb to May; and incidentally the fruit makes a good country wine and may be used as a source of pectin to help set jam.

Dahlia  - see Georgina

Day Lilies Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus [syn H. flava] and H. fulva from C16th , H. minor 1759. [Prance & Nesbitt]

Fuchsia  F. magellanica 1789.[Goulding]  This is one hardy plant, it grows by Magellan’s straits, and I suspect could naturalise happily right away, I’ve had F. magellanica on flower in my garden in January, under snow.  I’ve made the leap of imagination in ‘William Price and the Thrush’ that it was already starting to naturalise in Ireland giving rise to the familiar hedgerows by 1814… which might be a bit of a fantasy but is not totally beyond the bounds of possibility!

Georgina  - D. coccinea [1795] D. rosea [1795][syn for D. Pinnata cav]  and D. Pinnata  late C18th  flower July or August to October, generally ceasing to flower if outside at the first frost; hothouse will extend the flowering period. D coccinea varies from orange to red with all tones between. D pinnata is more of a purple colour.  In 1804 Lady Holland sent seed back to Britain which was the basis for all garden Dahlias.[National Dahlia Society]. I hit on a brief reference to a double dahlia developed in Belgium in the early 1800’s but it would not be likely to be recognisable as what we call a double today being two rows of petals. In 1805 red, purple, lilac and pale yellow flowers were achieved. [Wikipedia] .

 I’ve had to work largely from Georgian botanical drawings as I couldn’t find much in the way of species photos.

Lily  Madonna lily from C13th or earlier, most European varieties from C16th ; N. American species added from L. superbum, 1738, then east Asian phase with L. maculatum [1745] and L. tigrinum [1804] L. longiflorum 1819 [Prance & Nesbitt]

Lobelia Generally speaking a number of red and blue varieties were available, ititially from N. America;L. Cardinalis [1629] L. siphilitica [1665], then Mexican varieties were found, L. fulgens, 1809, L. Splendens 1814, and stretching the period, L. tupa from Chile [1824].  Flowering is June to October, greenhouse cultivation means earlier flowering extending the season with staggered sowing of seed as well as being excellent bedding plants having been brought on under cover.

Nerine aka Guernsey Lily brought from S. Africa in C17th  and grown first in Guernsey. [Exbury collection of Nerines and Lachenalias HERE].  Many are still frost tender.  Flowering in October, the perfect flower for autumn/early winter.

Petunia 1632 [Musgrave] petunias flower quite happily from spring all the way into
autumn. They may also be planted out in their season.

Tulip Tulipmania was long gone, but tulips remained in many varieties [Loudon tells us that enumerated 140 in 1629]. Tulips, like many plants bedded out in their proper season, were brought on in the greenhouse.

Wisteria  Wisteria was introduced in 1724; W. sinensis in 1816, the fashionable ‘must have’ plant no doubt for the later Regency.

Here’s another good link to plants and their date of introduction


Blaise-Cooke with Key ‘Pelargoniums’ 1998

Culver-Campbell, Maggie, ‘Origin of Plants’

Goulding, Edwin – various fuchsia books

Lawson-Hall & Rothera  ‘Hydrangeas – a gardener’s guide’ 2004

Loudon, John Claudius ‘Encyclopaedia of Gardening’ 1835

Musgrave,Tony, The Head Gardeners – ‘forgotten heroes of horticulture’ 2007

Musgrave, Gardener & Musgrave ‘The Plant Hunters’  1998

Prance, Ghilean & Nesbitt, Mark ‘The Cultural History of Plants’

Rendell, Mike ‘Journal of a Georgian Gentleman’

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Why I like to write Jane Austen spinoffs

Having sent for a second proof of 'William Price and the Thrush' now all the revisions are complete, and having been writing like mad on sequels to 'Death of a Fop' I paused to wonder what it was that made Jane Austen so popular for fanfiction writers. 

Speaking for some that I have read there seems to be a theme of 'what if'; that if one small thing were changed what might have happened, for example, what might have happened had not Elizabeth Bennett heard that disastrous comment  about being 'tolerable'.  Although I find the better-written examples of these 'what if' scenarios may be entertaining to read, they are 'not enough to tempt me' as one might say in terms of writing.  For me, Austen has told the tale the way she wanted to tell it, and she is the master, I am but the learner [sorry, wrong universe!]. However from a child I have always wondered 'what happened next' in stories, which is why I lapped up such things as the Famous Five of Enid Blyton, who had an adventure every holiday, as did Malcom Saville's excellent Lone Piners, Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons and so on; and as I grew older, I found those stories like Swallows and Amazons where the protagonists grew up and grew as characters were the more satisfying.  When I discovered EM Brent-Dyer's Chalet School series which spanned generations, literally, of schoolgirls, I was captivated by how much a series could encapsulate.

Returning to the world of Jane Austen, I again was drawn so into the stories that I found myself wondering what happened next; for some people the immediate consequences of living happily ever after were definitely implied, but Austen is such a master that her lesser characters also live quite vividly, even those who only make a brief appearance - like William Price, sailor brother of Fanny in Mansfield Park.  In the few short sections which include him he is delightfully depicted as a man who is deeply loyal to his sister and totally enamoured of his chosen career as a naval officer.   Equally, in Death of a Fop, I was drawn to Jane Fairfax in 'Emma' and felt that there was a lot more to her than appeared on the surface - my opinion is amply backed by Mr Knightley - and that she was throwing herself away on Frank Churchill.  Frank was plainly a man who was deeply in love with Frank Churchill, and gave every appearance of having a weak, vain, character that disliked being thwarted.  My premise for his supposed devotion to a penniless girl like Jane was that he wanted someone he could bully as a catharsis to his reactions to his controlling aunt.   Jane was so desperate to escape a life as a governess that she was willing to be pliable and, once flattered into thinking herself in love, was ready to fall in with his plans in any respect.  The way he humiliates her on the picnic is quite nauseating - I have had some experience with abused wives and I felt sick to the stomach with recognition of some of the symptoms.  It occurred to me that once the scales of luuurve fell from Jane's eyes, she was probably capable of a lot of inner strength and stubborn rebellion.  She had growing and developing to do, which made her for me a more interesting character than Emma, whose pilgrimage from 'Mr Woodhouse's daughter' to 'Mr Knightley's bride' had been the main thesis of the book as Emma learned that people did not always like the same things that she did, and that kindness and well-meaning had to be allied with thoughtfulness and compassion.  And no, don't worry, I'm not about to launch into an essay on the same.

My desire to follow up more 'what happened next' stories will continue, as well as a series about Jane and the Bow Street Runner.  I have three novellas to publish as a book waiting for first editing, and I'm about three quarters of the way through a full length novel following them.  Unless I decide to take them apart and make each of them into a novel when I edit.  Things like that can happen.... 
I have also every desire to publish 'Vanities and Vexations' which is the tale of what happened next to the women of the Bennett and Darcy families.  Elizabeth Darcy has, if she but knew it, just enough of her mother in her to have the drive to want to make sure that her new sister Georgiana is as happy as she is herself. 

Well, there you have it.  Happy ever after isn't enough for me; greedy, aren't I? 
Of course one of the other authors who gives us wonderful secondary characters is Georgette Heyer; but her books are covered by copywrite.  Pity....

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Dogs of the Medieval/Renaissance Hunt

Renaissance and Medieval hunting; the hunting dogs of the period. 

There were two forms of hunting; with stable and bow, and ‘par force de chien’, by the use of dogs.
Stable and bow meant that the hunters rode out to try to bring down their quarry with bows and arrows; it was not considered as prestigious as hunting par force which involved the huntsmen tracking the deer or other quarry by its spoor to know where to go and then setting the dogs to chase it down while the noble ‘hunters’ followed on. It was considered good sport if the chase was long, though I hate to think what all that adrenaline and hard running might have done to the meat even without our modern minds considering the cruelty of this method.  However, this was a means to fill in the idle hours for the idle rich and pragmatic consideration of the state of the meat probably did not enter into it.
The hunt was so popular that it was often celebrated in song, some of which songs, like ‘Blow thy Horn Hunter’ were allegories of the pursuit of romance in which the huntsman is in hot pursuit of a doe, harrying her until she gives up at which point he can stick his weapon in her.  Hmm, very romantic. [I’ve put the lyrics at the bottom of this blog, an excellent version may be had from Tania Opland]. Incidentally, there are a lot of medieval illustrations as tapestries and in supposedly devotional books etc which show the hunting of the unicorn; this mythical beast symbolised purity and virginity so showing it hunted is a pretty fair indication of what was intended for that as an ideal.  Unicorns, like foxes and otters, were hunted only for sport not the table.

Again, as plenty has been written about the hunt, beyond this brief introduction I thought I’d write about the dogs involved, each breed optimised for a particular quarry.  Note: there was no formal writing about breeds until 1570, so there was no particular regulation of any breed and there is a lot of uncertainty about the precise nature of many.  What may be certain is that the hounds had kennels far superior in warmth and comfort to the homes of many peasants and tender medical care few but the wealthy might hope to receive.

Alaunt/Alan  A large dog introduced from Spain, mentioned by Chaucer; were used against bears or boars.  Originally coming from central Asia they spread through Europe with the onslaught of the Vandals with the Alans which gave the dogs their name, Alaunt being applied to a working dog more than to a specific breed initially. However being bred as war dogs, protectors of families and hunters of large game a general body type became set. There were three distinct types in Medieval Europe; the Alaunt Gentil, a lither, faster variant with much in common with the greyhound; the Alaunt de Bucherie, used to guard livestock, and the Alaunt Vautre [Veantre], an aggressive hunting dog, also known as the running mastiff or as a boarhound. It was a cross between the lighter Gentil for its speed and the heavy de Bucherie.   The Alaunt de Bucherie is the progenitor of the mastiff and bull breeds. 

Basset  bred by monks in France to hunt rabbit in heavy cover where their short legs and powerful bodies were an advantage. ‘Bas’ means low.

Beagle This breed predates the Romans and may be very ancient indeed.  It was used to hunt the hare which does not go to ground as the rabbit does.  The beagle’s tendency to ‘sing’ when it has the scent of its prey enabled a canny hunter who knew the terrain to guess where the hare might double back.  Glove Beagles were an affectation of the 14th and 15th centuries, small enough to fit in a glove and were kept as packs; Pocket Beagles, 9” tall at the withers, were ladies’ hunting dogs and could ride in front of their mistress on the saddle.  Possibly from the Gaelic ‘beag’ meaning ‘small’.

Griffon see spaniel.

Harrier described as ‘like a beagle on speed’; similar to the foxhound, the first documented pack was in 1260, but this breed was mostly confined to Western England and Wales.

Irish hound/ Wardog/wolf dog [Irish wolfhound] A breed whose origins are lost in the mists of antiquity, probably the hound which features in Irish folktale.

Kenet/Kennet   MAY be the Beagle. The name derives from the diminutive of ‘Chien’[Norman French ‘ken’ cf Picard ‘kien’], a dog, therefore being ‘little dog’. The word ‘kennel’ derives from the same source which is Old Norman French where the ‘ch’ has a hard sound.

Levrier [Greyhound]  A very ancient breed; in earlier times a greyhound was worth more than a serf.  They were used for hunting and coursing because of their speed.  

Lymer [Bloodhound] Used to hunt wild boar and stag, though sometimes replaced after 1526 by the Spanish Mastiff.  It was mostly prized for its scenting ability.  Originally called a Lymehound, the Lymer was the leash securing it to the harbourer or dog handler. 

Spaniel/Barbet/Water Dog The European water spaniel was bred and refined between about 1300 and 1600.  It was used to flush game for falcons or for hounds and retrieved water birds being adept swimmers.  The original ones had the characteristic floppy ears and were black and white or liver and white.  From this was developed the Springer Spaniel around 1576. The water spaniel is a heavier bodied dog than later breeds with a coat that is more dense and may be curly rather than silky. This is logged in 1758 as the difference between a spaniel and a barbet, that the spaniel has long hair and the barbet has curly hair, though earlier there may have been no differentiation.  The barbet is a progenitor of the poodle originally called Pudel and included as one of the water dogs . A sub species of the spaniel types is the Griffon which does not have curly hair.  The illustration is usually tagged as poodle. The name Spaniel derives from the French l’espagnole, as the water dog originated in Spain and may have been developed by the Moors. 

Talbot Hound brought to England from France during the Norman conquest and are considered the ancestors of the Southern Hound, the modern Beagle and the Foxhound. It was also a name often used as a given name to a dog. It is extinct today and appears to have had much in common with the bloodhound, and was probably white, being heavier in build than its descendants.

Terrier Very little different to a modern terrier.  Used to control pests like rats, rabbits and foxes; larger ones were used to hunt badgers. 

Blow thy Horn, Hunter

Blow thy horn, hunter, and blow thy horn on high.
There is a doe in yonder wood, in faith she will not die

Now blow thy horn, hunter, now blow thy horn jolly hunter.

Sore this deer stricken is, and yet she bleeds no whit,
She lay so fair, I could not miss. Lord I was glad of it...

As I stood under a bank the deer shoff on the mede
I struck her so that down she sank, but yet she was not dead...

There she goeth, see ye not how she goeth o'er the plain,
And if ye lust to have a shot, I warrant her barrain...

To the covert both they went, for I found where she lay.
An arrow in her haunch she hent for faint she might not bray...

Here I leave and make an end now of this hunter's lore
I think his bow is well unbent, his bolt may flee no more...

Monday, 20 February 2012

A Few Medieval French Names

I was poking around some research into Merovingian/Frankish  and Medieval French names [as you do] and started getting excited to find names I had found appearing in English records that looked as though they had come over with the Conqueror and were subsequently thoroughly Anglicised - Otwell, for example, had always bugged me until I discovered Otuel. 

Then I began a theory about the female name Toussaine with its male version Toussaint/Tosseyn, which got me quite excited.
I don't have any books on French names so I tried the baby name origins online which are usually a good starting point if you cross reference; and discovered that Toussaine had no meaning and Toussaint was given as 'All Saints' for being born on 'All Saints' Day' and I'm thinking, come on, it's not going to be that easy - All Saint's Day wasn't called that back in Middle Ages, it was Hallowmas. 

So here goes the theory:
Frankish naming policy used a bipartite naming system with a prefix and suffix of 'qualities'; the same suffixes were used for both sexes and women had either to rely on the limited number of female suffixes or have -a appended to a male name.

Theud- prefix meaning folk; often becomes Teu'Te/Ty etc[cf Theodoric's transformation to Tedric and Theudebald to Theobald to Tybalt]
-sind  a suffix meaning a road or pathway.  We know how 'd's at the end of words get abused and, in French where final letters are not pronounced, are easy to get lost entirely.  Equally 'd' becomes 't' or either of these letters is cheerfully added.

So, speculatively, a Frankish/Merovingian name Theudsind or for female Theudsinda.
What I found in the eleventh century was a female name Teuscenda.  I'm not that bothered about the excrescent 'c' since this appears often enough in other names like Melisende to Meliscende, Acelin to Ascelin and so on.
In 1292 I have an appearance of  Tycelin and Tyce which may be diminutives - Tyce a shortening, and the -lin suffix as a well-established diminutive, the Ty- prefix, like Tybalt, apparent as a use as Theophania [of different origin, being Greek, with a coincidental sound] becomes Tyfainne, Typhanete, Typhenon Theffanie etc
The data base of female names is unfortunately sketchy in the middle ages, Toussaint and Tosseyn appear in the fifteenth century in male names [also in mid century possibly as Tassin but that may be dodgy] so the next appearance of the name I have is in its modern form Toussaine in the sixteenth century.

What do you think - Theudsinda -Teuscenda - Toussaine?
and equally Theudsind - Tosseyn - Toussaint?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Coins Jane Austen would have known

My butcher is a great guy, and yesterday he trotted out a couple of Georgian coins of 1797 that he had acquired to show me, a penny and a ha'penny.
What shocked me was the sheer size of them - not just the diameter, an inch or so for the  ha'penny and one and a half inches for the penny, but the thickness and the WEIGHT. Now I recall having heard that a penny used on scales to be used in lieu of an ounce weight if the ounce was lost and had raised an eyebrow over this.  Not any more.
This penny ha'penny would represent about an hour's labour in 1797. Modern minimum wage is £6-08 an hour. What would this have bought from my butcher then?
That would be just over two and a half ounces of mutton or veal;
or almost 3 ounces of beef
or just over 1 and a half ounces of bacon
or two ounces of sausages
Brings it home rather, how comparatively expensive meat was in those days; as £6 will buy meat not in ounces but in pounds.

I've put a modern penny beside them to give scale, which is about the same size as an American cent. 
Side shot of 1797 penny showing thickness, with modern penny and 1797 half penny in foreground
obverse, 1797 penny and half penny with modern penny for comparison
reverse, 1797 penny and half penny with modern penny for comparison

I've been passed a couple of pics, one of each side of a 1797 tuppeny [2d] piece dug up in a field which are less worn than the above so here they are:
You can really see the beak of a nose on George III here on the obverse. Interesting that the figure of Britannia didn't change a whole lot right up to decimalisation in 1971.