More Cartoons.

You may have noticed that I use many Gilray cartoons to illustrate my regency writing. There are several reasons for this, but mostly because he’s funny, to the point, and full of little details.

There’s a more recent English cartoonist, Giles (Carl Giles), who wrote for the Daily express from 1945 to 1991. The express paid better than the papers which aligned better with his political beliefs, which must have led to some interesting tensions.

I’m going  to stick to fair use and only put up a couple examples, but they’re a modern example that is in the same spirit as Gilray’s work.

By the way, I love Grandma.


Many of the cartoons skewer politicians.
The English are very proud of their gardens.
Cuddles and hugs all around.

Funerary Sayings.

For what it’s worth.

The jug with the falcon (of Horus) reads:

For my strong staff, the god Osiris, my spirit adores him.

The one with the baboon reads:

For my strong staff, the gods Osiris and Hapy

Hapy is the god of the flood, associated with new life. The bottom literally is the pictograph for strong and the name Hpy (Hapy). The last pictograph is a leopard’s head, which implies strength. Oddly in terms of English grammar, it applies to the whole phrase, which is sort of like German where the verb is at the end (except it isn’t).

I probably made a few errors in these translations, but they should be close.

Amelia and I are furiously writing a new book where the Egyptian gods walk among us.

We’re back, baby.

Like poor Cecelia, “The Curious Profession of Dr Craven” is back from the dead. It’s been edited, to catch some annoying and very minor errors, though not to remove either occurrence of “get over it” which according to Google n-gram viewer was used in the Regency in much the same way as it is today. (I take comments seriously. I rechecked because it is important to me to be correct, and I checked the usage in the books it summarized.) Literally, “literally” is another phrase that was used in the modern somewhat ironic sense – even in the 18th century. Pope waxed wroth about it, though to quote Marx, why does Roth need waxed?

“Nice” is one word that you have to watch. It can mean nice in the sense of pleasant or good, but it can also mean somewhat common or nasty. (e.g. “That’s a nice kettle of fish you’ve got us into” from Laurel and Hardy.)

On the other hand I did remove “washout” which is a relatively modern term. Personally, the most annoying little error was the shift from “Dr.” to “Dr” in the latest British usage. I also caught a few excess uses of the passive voice. Editing truly is never finished. As a self-pub’ed author I can make changes to fix these little uglies.

Here’s the start of chapter 2. Up until it gets about as hot as Amelia and I usually write. Chapter 1 can be found here.

Alive, Maybe.

The sun shining through the window woke Cecelia. She sat up in her bed with a start and examined the room. The bed curtains had been pulled back so she could see the tattered wallpaper and small fireplace across the room. The low cooing of a wood pigeon could be heard through the glass of the window. Her head swam for a moment. Then she searched the place. It wasn’t her bedroom. A maid was drowsing in a chair by the fire.

“Miss, where am I?”

“You’re in Dr Richard Craven’s house, Miss.” The maid rose, curtsied, and rang the bell. Then she continued, “Is there anything you need?”

“Who are you?”

“My name’s Mary, Miss. Would it be too much to ask yours?”

Panic gripped Cecelia. “I am,” she paused, “I don’t know!”

“There, there, Miss. The doctor will know what to do for you.”

“The doctor? How did I get here?”

“’Tis best he tells you, Miss.”


“Yes, Miss?”

“Am I alive?”

“Yes, Miss you are. We’re in my master’s house at Streatham, England. It looks to be a lovely summer day.”

“It’s just, I remember, I remember dimly. It’s so strange.”

“Wait for Dr Craven, Miss. He’ll answer that.”

A few moments later, Dr Craven dashed into the room. He was a tall, well-formed man with dark hair. Despite his youth, a widower. Close behind him came two young children, his exuberant four-year-old twins. While he stood in the door, they rushed past him and jumped into the bed with her. Their governess, Miss Grimstock, a severe, somewhat older-looking woman was beginning the long slow decline into spinsterhood. She puffed from her exertion as she caught up with them.

“Thomas, Mariah, please come here. Let your father do his work.”

They replied in unison, “No.”

“Please let them stay. They’re so lovely. I’m sure I’m in Heaven with cherubs.”

“Further acquaintance with them will convince you otherwise. Children, please do as Miss Grimstock requests.”


He frowned at them and then added, “I must check on our guest. If she’s well enough, I’m sure you can return.”

The children dejectedly left the bed and returned to their governess.

Dr Craven strode to Cecelia, “How are we feeling?”

“Completely lost, sir. Where am I?”

“My house in Streatham. I am Dr Richard Craven. The question is, who are you?”

“I wish I knew. What happened to me?”

Dr Craven paused, considering whether telling the young woman the truth would do more harm than good. Finally, he made up his mind. “What do you remember?”

“Almost nothing. You. I distinctly remember you. I woke up on a table last night. It was after a long nightmare, and you were there.”

“Do you remember anything else?”

“No. It’s all gone.” She paused, “There’s a bit more. I was in this dark place where no one could hear me. I tried to kick or pound with my fists. Nothing happened. I could barely move.” She shook her head in disbelief and continued, “What happened to me?”

“I’m not sure. I was going to study you, but now I suppose I’ll try to cure you.”

“Study me? What do you mean by that?”

“I’m not just a country doctor, Miss. I study how the body is put together.”

“You’re an anatomist?”

He paused, “Yes.”

“You were going to anatomize me!”

He nodded. She backed away from him gathering herself into farthest corner of her bed.

“We, I…It wouldn’t have mattered were you dead. I’m working to prevent death, and sometimes that means anatomizing bodies.”

“Including me?”

“Had you been dead, yes. But you weren’t, and I’m glad of it. Though it does mean, I’m going to have to find another body.”

She glared at him, “You bought my body, didn’t you?”

“Yes. If I hadn’t, you would have died, for real. Instead, here you are, alive.”

Cecelia felt faint, then in her anger, recovered. “You’re an evil man.”

“No. I’m a natural philosopher, and a doctor. I do my best, my tiny mite, to cure people.”

Panic gripped Cecelia again, “What are you going to do with me?”

Trying to reassure her of his intentions, Dr Craven smiled. “I’m going to examine you. If you’ll let me. Then we’ll decide what to do with you.”

“Examine me?”

“You must have been gravely ill for your family to have buried you. I should like to see if you have recovered, before we,” He paused, “proceed.”

Mary was about to leave. Dr Craven requested that she remain. Then he walked over and shut the door. After that, he washed his hands in the basin, thoroughly with soap.

Cecelia looked at him, disgusted, “Why are you doing that? Washing your hands of your guilt, like Pontius Pilate?”

“No. It’s an experiment. To see if there isn’t something on our skin that can carry illness.”

“They looked clean to me.”

“And to me, Miss. The thing that carries illness, whatever it is, it is too small for us to see.”

“What next?”

“I shall need to listen to your heart and your lungs.”


“That’s why I’ve asked Mary to stay. I’m afraid it means I need to put my ear on your chest.”

“My chest? You mean…”

“I mean without anything in the way. Mary will ensure that I obey all the norms of propriety.”

On Poodle Byng. #regency #amwriting

Frederick Gerald Finch Byng (AKA Poodle) makes an appearance in two books I’m working on. I’m searching for a publisher for, The art of deception, and the other, A formulaic romance, is nearing a complete first draft.

It’s sort of fun to search for historical information about him. There are three different stories about how he got the sobriquet Poodle. The most likely one is that Georgiana the Duchess of Devonshire gave it to him when he was courting her. Given what I can find about his character, he probably was a very dogged suitor and sat there like an expectant puppy. He treated the name with good humour and went everywhere with a dog. Unfortunately the dog’s name is lost to history, and the one drawing I’ve found doesn’t look like a poodle.

He worked for the foreign office, and after the deaths of his daughters became very interested in sewers. (He was actually a member of the Westminster Commission of Sewers.) My guess is that they died from a water-borne illness.

He seduced, made pregnant, and then (after she survived childbirth) married Catherine Neville. Catherine was his mother’s maid. She was not liked by London society. In fact, it was referred to as his great sacrifice. This makes it very difficult to find much about her. Although apparently she and Poodle were a good match. Both were prone to say inappropriate things at awkward times. It’s just that as a nobleman he was forgiven.

It was only London “high” society that shunned her. There are references to her and him visiting Paris and being entertained by French nobility. (Of course you can never tell with these foreigners ;-> ) They gave small dinner parties for friends, most of whom were members of society. Thomas Creevey says in his memoir that he could not give countenance to “such tits”, but went along for the company.

Occasionally you’ll find a reference to “a daughter who died soon after they were married.” Actually there were two, Elizabeth (1817-1827) and Frederica (1819-1831).

Bum-be-seen, Regency Fashion.

We tend to view regency fashion and manners through the prism of the later Victorian period. This tends to put things in a more, ahem, prudish light than is quite appropriate. Undoubtedly, while young females had companions and manners made strolling alone with a pleasant male companion difficult, there were aspects of fashion and manners that were more fluid than we’d expect.

Gilray’s cartoon satirizes the fashion of 1807, with its sheer muslins. Bombazine is a heavy black cloth, usually worn in first mourning and widowhood. Bum-be-seen, is something else. I’m sure the woman on the right is fully aware of what she’s displaying, and why.

Oliver the spy.

Historical Research.

I pride myself on being reasonably accurate in my historical fiction. I say reasonably, because I do make mistakes, but never intentionally. It’s quite hard, indeed impossible, to get it right – the way it really was. Simply because there was no ‘the way it was’ and everyone’s experience was their own. The documentation is also contradictory and has to be used with caution.

As an aside, many things that people think are ‘mistakes’ are actually correct – Sir William Knighton, Doctor to the King and the Ton, almost certainly had what could best be described as a poor understanding of disease, physiology and health. So you probably would be better off with a boy scout who has just passed 1st class first aid than the ‘best’ doctor of the age. And, yes, you could get from Bath to London in a day in 1810 – though you did stop to change horses at every stage (roughly every hour).

Those snide comments aside, how do you get it right?

The answer is research.

I’ve been writing a work, set in 1816, later than most of my recent work. Napoleon has been vanquished completely, banished to St. Helena and all is right in the world. Well, no. England, without the stimulus spending of the war, and in the throes of the first industrial revolution, is in dire straits. The government structure is mired in a mixture of medieval and Georgian incompetence. In other words, time was ripe for a revolution.
It really was ripe for reform, where radical ideas like one-man one vote were past due. (Even one propertied man one vote, saying nothing about one-woman one vote).

Unfortunately the government did not like this idea. Not one little tiny bit. And so they came up with an idea that was worthy of a conspiracy theory that would make the speculation about JFK’s assassination or our president’s birth certificate look like pikers. They would use agents to start rebellions, crush the rebellions with military force (had to do something with those soldiers, you know) and use that as an excuse to enact Draconian legislation.

Enter William J Richards or William Oliver. Better known as Oliver the spy. After being released from debtor’s prison, he spent the spring of 1817 travelling around the midlands, setting a pace that would be hard to do with an automobile today, and hitting every reform meeting he could. (When he didn’t stop at Sir John Byng’s regiment to arrange for backup and keep the authorities informed.) Eventually he struck gold, and fomented the Pentridge (Pentrich) rebellion. Oliver was a bit lucky here, had the leader of the Pentridge rebellion been in Nottingham the week before, he would have known Oliver was a spy. It, of course, was crushed – by the 15th Hussars (of Peterloo fame) – and the ring leaders duly hung or transported.

It and related events allowed Parliament to pass the ‘six  acts’ in 1819. Laws that restricted assembly, freedom of speech and other things we take for granted. Even when the laws were vaguely sensible, they had nasty features such as eliminating the need for a search warrant.

The preamble, quoted below, says it all.

 every meeting for radical reform is an overt act of treasonable conspiracy against the King and his government

Thrilling times.

The featured image shows his signed deposition.

Afternoon Tea Cakes #victorianrecipe #recipe #goodfood

This is another Victorian recipe from the “Sure to Rise” cookbook.
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I’ve adapted the recipe by increasing the amount of sugar.

  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • flour for dusting
  • Fruit Filling – the original says raspberry jam, see below for an easy quick and good apple filling

Mix the butter and flour, thoroughly to form a pie crust like mixture. Add the baking powder and sugar. Mix.

Add the egg, and enough milk to form a smooth dough. Roll it out about 1/4 inch (4 mm or so) thick.
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Then cut in rounds and put about 1/2 teaspoon of filling in each.
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Wet the edges and fold over. Bake at 400F (200C) on a greased sheet for about 10 minutes.
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Apple filling

Quarter, peel, and core one apple. Cut into small pieces. Add about 1 tablespoon sugar. Microwave four minutes and add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (if desired). Much easier than making jam in the Victorian manner, but it works.

Early Stethoscopes

One of the few scenes in my sweet romance The Curious Profession of Dr. Craven that gets close to hot is where Richard (Dr Craven) listens to Henrietta’s heart (Properly chaperoned, of course). Before the invention of the stethoscope the doctor had to put his ear on his patients’ chest. This could be a tad embarrassing, especially when the patient was young, pretty and female.


Rene Laennec solved this problem with a wooden tube. The figure above, from 1819, shows that very quickly after that doctors learned to distinguish between different sounds. It was not simply the muscle making noise, but valves and things like that. Not that they could do much about it, but it was a start.

Victorian Shortbread

This one is a bit of a disappointment.

From the Sure to Rise cookbook (1895-ish Published as an ad every year)

  • 1/2 pound flour
  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Cream the sugar and the butter, then mix in the flour.
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Press into an ungreased pan with your knuckles, smooth with a knife and put fork holes in it. Bake in a slow oven for an hour.

I tried it. It is not up to modern standards. Dry and not sweet. Nothing like the shortbread you have today. I’d add more sugar and make it thicker (that was my mistake).

To Rosa

Abraham Lincoln

You are young, and I am older;
You are hopeful, I am not—
Enjoy life, ere it grow colder—
Pluck the roses ere they rot.

Teach your beau to heed the lay—
That sunshine soon is lost in shade—
That now’s as good as any day—
To take thee, Rosa, ere she fade.

(yes, that Abraham Lincoln)

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