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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....