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Nearly as amusing as the exaggerated labels of “porn” and “smut” and “explicit” that pop up in readers’ commentaries are the asserted claims of how historically inaccurate the Darcy Saga novels are.
Now, I have never arrogantly boasted to being an expert in all matters from the Regency. I do not have a degree in Jane Austen. I am not a language scholar. I am not a historian. I am not penning a historical treatise.
What I am is a FICTION WRITER! Like all FICTION WRITERS, I do my very best to tell a story set in a world 200 years ago. I cannot time-travel to Regency England. I only have so many hours in a day to research and write. I have not been so fortunate as to visit England. I have limited resources at my fingertips. I am not perfect. I am an American, not British. And, most shockingly of all, I am NOT JANE AUSTEN!
I am writing a series of historical romance novels for a modern readership. Nevertheless, I work incredibly hard to get my facts correct and use appropriate language for the era. If I get something wrong — and I certainly have — no one is angrier about it than me! I also know, thankfully, that my actual errors are few — VERY FEW! In some cases I have chosen a not-precise word or phrase purposely for effect. Other times I am employing a technique called “creative license” that distinguishes a fictional novel.
However, the vast majority of the time, reader noted “errors” are simply untrue.
In 90% of the cases, no examples of my errors are given—
this book has anachronisms and errors galore…
the inaccuracies are ridiculous to the extreme…
just a little bit of knowledge of the Regency Era would go a long way in this book…
the author of this book seems to have done no background research of the era…
didn’t bother to have a historically accurate cover and the story is more of the 21st c then the 19th…..
a writer with little regard for the niceties of Regency history, culture, and society…
In the remaining 10% or so, the reader comment does include an example of my “error” so let me address those—
“Darcy is a virgin? Gimme a break. Men had sex and plenty of it, before marriage. Get over it….”
This comment, and ones similar to it, crack me up! First off, there is a bizarre irony in being blasted in one breath for not having Mr. Darcy a rake with loads of mistresses and ready entry to bordellos all throughout England, and in the next breath being slammed for giving he and Elizabeth a healthy marital sex life! So, it is okay for him to have a high libido and randy lifestyle before marriage, but not after? Wow.
The second remarkable aspect to this comment, and ones like it, is the broadly sweeping “fact” of a private, personal activity that must, absolutely pertain to every man in all of England during the entire Georgian and Regency Eras. As I said above, I don’t have a time machine, but apparently this person does, and she used it to travel back and interview the male populous, thus knowing for 100% certainty that ALL men “had sex and plenty of it before marriage.”
“She uses phrases like “electric” to describe the sex. Umm… hello, there was no electricity back then!”
From the OED – Electric: 1640s, first used in English by physician Sir Thomas Browne (1605-1682), apparently coined as Modern Latin electricus (literally “resembling amber”) by English physicist William Gilbert (1540-1603) in treatise “De Magnete” (1600). From Greek elektron “amber” (Homer, Hesiod, Herodotus). Originally electric described substances which attract other substances when rubbed. Meaning “charged with electricity” is from 1670s. Figurative sense is attested by 1793. Electric light is from 1767. Electrician (n.) 1751, “scientist concerned with electricity;” electrical (adj.) 1630s, “giving off electricity when rubbed,” Meaning “relating to electricity, run by electricity” is from 1746.
Electricity has existed since God created the universe. What did not happen until later was the technological capability to harness electricity into a usable form.
**It has recently been pointed out to me by a well-meaning reader *cough* “that does not mean that is was used as an adjective in common speech to describe a feeling.” Perhaps not, but can you prove it wasn’t? And does it really matter?!
“The fountain pen was metal not glass and not really established until 1827.”
If I had mentioned a “fountain pen” anywhere in the Darcy Saga, then I would have erred by some 8 or 9 years. Since this reader comment is from Loving Mr. Darcy, I presume this refers to the steel-tip pens on page 99:
Rather than quills, the handles were of clear hued glass: red, blue, purple, and green. The tips were made of steel. Darcy leaned forward, eager as a child with a new toy. “These are very new, Elizabeth. Mark my words, some day quills will be obsolete. The steel tips can be cleaned of dried ink, last nearly forever, and write with varying scripts depending on the size. Truly amazing. I have used them a time or two. My solicitor refuses to use a quill. Anyway, these are yours, and I have purchased a set for myself with carved wooden handles.
A dip pen or nib pen consisted of a metal nib with capillary channels, mounted on a handle made of wood, bone, metal, and plastic. Some pens are made entirely of glass. Generally speaking, dip pens have no ink reservoir (that would be a “fountain pen”) therefore the user has to recharge the ink from an ink bowl or bottle. The first steel pen is said to have been made in 1803, although Daniel Defoe mentions a “steel pen” in a 1724 letter. By 1822 steel tips were being mass produced.
“The pram was not invented until 1841.”
The oldest surviving example of a wheeled infant carrier dates to 1733. The Duke of Devonshire asked William Kent to build a means of transport that would carry his children. Kent obliged by constructing a shell shaped basket on wheels that the children could sit in. This was richly decorated and meant to be pulled by a goat or small pony. It can be seen on display at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (my Pemberley).
Benjamin Potter Crandall sold baby carriages in America in the 1830s which have been described as the “first baby carriages manufactured in America.” Other references to “wheeled devices” for infant/child transport, as well as paintings depicting such devices, are myriad and date way into the past.
Perambulator (n.) 1610s, “one who perambulates,” Latin form from perambulate. Sense of “baby carriage” is first recorded 1856; often colloquially shortened to pram.
In Loving Mr. Darcy a “perambulator” is purchased for the first Darcy child, and I do use that word. It is a term I knew would be familiar, and is appropriately British. Baby carriages DID exist (i.e. HAD been invented) and if not common, were not out of the realm of possibility. Creative license, and terminology a reader would understand.
“The rocking horse was made fashionable by Queen Victoria in 1850.”
The glider-style rocking/hobby horse did rise in popularity later in the 1800s (although I found nothing that ties this to Queen Victoria). The rocking horse itself has been around for far longer. The term “rocking-horse” is first recorded 1724. “Hobby Horse” from the late 13c., hobyn, “small horse, pony,” later “mock horse used in the morris dance,” and c.1550 “child’s toy riding horse,” are precursors of the rocking variety that became very popular in the 18th c. The earliest cradle-style rocking horse still existing belonged to King Charles I of England c1610.
Would the Darcys have found a glider-style horse in 1818? Not likely, I shall admit. Did it work for Darcy’s love of “new things”? Yeah, it did! Would people only have an item after it becomes “fashionable”? I can’t see why.
I was extremely bothered by the lines in the book (Loving Mr. Darcy) stating that Elizabeth was so used to all of the foreign foods that the Pemberley cook makes that she finds the traditional food at Longbourn quaint. The woman hasn’t even be married a year, and it is highly historically inaccurate for the Pemberley cook to be providing such varied meals at this time in the eighteenth century.
Mrs. Langton, Pemberley’s cook, was the type of leader who without a doubt was the admiral of her kitchen. Nonetheless, she was also a wise manager in that she recognized that her underlings could, upon occasion, actually teach her something. In fact, in order to please the palates of the Darcys, she searched far and wide for any culinary edification, including the hiring of staff from various nationalities. Therefore, in addition to the standard English cuisines, the kitchen created French, German, Spanish, and even Indian masterpieces. It had taken Lizzy quite some effort to grow accustomed to the varying spices and develop the taste for exotic preparations.
The cook at Longbourn, however, was rooted in conventional English dietary fare. Unoriginal, perhaps, but Darcy had been pleasantly surprised to discover that he was a remarkable cook. The food served at Longbourn may not be colorful, but it was superb. …..
…. Lizzy was famished again, and a quick survey of the laden table showed no foodstuffs currently incompatible with her stomach. She hesitated a fraction of a second, already biting into a juicy slice of turkey before everyone was seated. Darcy, sitting beside her, smiled but cautioned, “Careful, dearest. You know what happens if you eat too hastily.” Luckily, his fears came to naught, Lizzy ingesting without incidence.
There are two separate topics in this passage. Several sentences and a whole paragraph come between the cuisine style comparisons and Lizzy’s concern over her reaction to the food. She is in the early stage of her pregnancy, thus foods can bother her. ANY food! She says nothing about finding the “food at Longbourn quaint” and neither does Darcy.
As for the “highly historically inaccurate” assertion: NO, it isn’t! I opted not to write the Pemberley cook as a French chef, but I easily could have. Chefs to the aristocracy in France were plentiful, and out of jobs, after the Revolution. To have one was a major coup for a wealthy English household. Prior to that, French cuisine (as arguably the best in Europe) as well as other “foreign” recipes were sought as a sign of prestige and wealth. The English empire was widespread, with the resulting infusion of foreign cultures effect many areas, food only one.
Lastly, the story takes place in the 19th century, not the 18th.
“1816 is a full 13 years before the term anemia was even coined, much less a diagnosis a doctor would make after being in India for decades.”
From the OED: anemia (n.) 1824, from French medical term anaemia (1761), Modern Latin, from Greek anaimia “lack of blood,” from anaimos “bloodless,” from an- “without” + haima or emia “blood”.
“Anaemia: lack of sufficient red blood cells, sometimes caused by iron deficiency and worsened by the medical practice of bleeding patients for virtually every condition.” This definition comes from at least five pre-19th century text books I could cite. In literally hundreds of sources medical, literature, and other, the terms “anaemia” and “anemia” are found. This claim is simply ludicrous.
As for Dr. Darcy not able to make that diagnosis? Please!
This rant about Loving Mr. Darcy is all from one reader, so I’ll cover the entire assertion at once:
Could Elizabeth Bennett actually have talked about a “negative attitude”
Yes. Negative, as in “expressing negation” is from c.1500; “a negative statement” is from 1560s; “a negative quality” is from 1640s. Attitude, 1660s, via French attitude (17c.), meaning “disposition, tendency of mind, posture.”
or about “organic” produce?
I used this word once, referring to a banana peel as being “organic” and thus edible for the ducks and fish, not that it was devoid of pesticides! The only other usage is in this passage, when Lizzy inhales the fresh air and says, “It reminds me of our home. Growing things, organic and wild, and the workaday life of unpretentious folk. I have always adored simplicity and raw nature.”
Organic: Sense of “from organized living beings” is first recorded 1778.
Amusingly, the crowd invited to the Pemberley Festival, and other groups, were referred to as “folks.”
And…. what? Folk, or the Old English folc for “common people, laity; men; people, nation, tribe; multitude; troop, army.” I wasn’t tending to be humorous, but glad she was amused!
Surprisingly, to hear that, scattered across the countryside, there were pubs offering meals;
Pleasantly surprised, I hope, and now educated as to the reality of what a pub – as in short for “public house” – was for travelers in Europe: a place to rest, be refreshed, and find food and drink.
I was even more surprised to learn that there were, in every small town, including Meryton, baby shops selling baby clothes, baby toys, and baby gear — including snuglis and strollers! And don’t forget the toy store Darcy visits, to buy a rocking horse!
Were there clothes, furniture, feeders, linens, toys, and other items designed and manufactured to fulfill the special needs of infants and children? YES! Were there specialty toy stores or child-centric stores “in every small town” in England? Probably not. I never said there were! Were there toy or child specialty stores at all? YES! “Noah’s Ark” toy store was opened in High Holborn, London, in 1760, for one. Were there department stores that carried such special products? YES! The Pantheon Bazaar in London was famed for carrying unique, special products, for instance.
I have a very big book titled “Yesterday’s Children: The Antiques and History of Childcare” by Sally Kevill-Davies, and between drawings and paintings, surviving examples, and historical writings, just about every infant-related object we use today has been around in some form for centuries. Slings made from cloth, for instance, (or “snuglis” – a term I did NOT use) have been employed by cultures across the globe for millennia.
Then, when exploring the Pemberley cave, “lights” appear in the hands of the men– and no one says they are torches, or lanterns, so obviously the battery flashlight was also invented by then.
He (Darcy) bent to light the Argand oil lamp he had brought along, Richard lighting his as well. The men disappeared into the black entrance, descending a short distance with the sporadic flash of their lamps visible as they moved about. … Richard stood with both lamps in his hands, casting wavering illumination about the room.
Argand lamp- an oil lamp producing a light output of 6 to 10 candela, invented and patented in 1780 by Aimé Argand. Aside from the improvement in brightness, the more complete combustion of the wick and oil required much less frequent trimming of the wick.
Also, Darcy and Lizzy travel all over the countryside on their treks, doing what appears to be at least sixty or more miles a day — in a carriage? Drawn by horses? Does the author have any idea of how far and fast actual horses can travel, drawing a carriage, luggage, and servants? Obviously bionic horses.
Darcy rented a cabriolet, the newest carriage model from France, similar to a barouche but much lighter and swifter with a folding canvas calash hood and rear window.
Derbyshire, north to south is approximately 40 miles, east to west at widest part is less than 30 miles. The Darcys traveled maybe a third of Derbyshire (being generous) in small increments over a week or more. Do the math. And yes I know how fast horse drawn carriages can travel. I question whether you do since there would be no need for bionic horses, as cool as that would be!
“You wouldn’t wear sapphires to a wedding.”
This was so odd to me I almost ignored it. But, for the sake of being fair, I did a bit more research on top of the oodles and oodles of research I’ve already done on wedding traditions during the Regency and surrounding decades. NOTHING on sapphires being taboo or considered tacky! In fact, sapphire was a popular gemstone, and had been for ages. Additionally, in the romantic “REGARD” acrostic rings of the era, a sapphire was used to symbolize an S.
“Oil lamps were not used indoors in Jane Austen’s era. Sorry, but the detailed descriptions of the cleverly placed oil lamps throughout Pemberley were annoyingly inaccurate.”
I’m not sure why this would be the case since “lamps” fueled by all sorts of oils have been the main source of light for thousands of years. Before the candle, in fact. As noted above, the Argand lamp became a standard style well before 1800. Taking it even a step further, in 1792 the first commercial use of gas lighting began when William Murdoch used coal gas for lighting his house in Redruth, Cornwall. A “thermolampe” using gas distilled from wood was patented in 1799, and German inventor Freidrich Winzer patented coal gas lighting in 1804. So why would an oil lamp universally not be used?
“Ladies and gentlemen separated immediately after dinner to allow the gentlemen to smoke and drink for a short time before rejoining the ladies in the drawing (short for WITHdrawing, as in the ladies would withdraw) room. Although the author seems to have figured this out by the mid-way point of the book, she was apparently unaware of it in the beginning, and never went back to re-edit.”
Actually, I figured that during the first half of the book (Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy) since it was only Darcy and Elizabeth at home, withdrawing to separate chambers would be a bit silly! When they had guests (mid-way point of the book, as it happened) they separated. Viola!
I also might ask if this separating was a law so that, if not done, it meant the Withdrawing Police would appear? Can one be 100% certain that groups always spent a time apart? That maybe, even once, something different was done?
“No one would ever talk about a pregnancy in public except in the most veiled terms (If you recall, Mr. Collins announces Charlotte’s pregnancy in a letter, calling it the impending arrival of “an olive branch”). No one would ever dream of announcing it in public, especially in mixed company.”
First off, pointing to Mr. Collins as the poster-boy for proper manners and language is not the wisest choice!
Second, Darcy and Elizabeth announce her pregnancy to the Bennets… at Longbourn. Hardly “mixed company.”
Third, according to numerous sources including the books I own on the era, pregnancy during these decades was not a social taboo. Pregnant women kept active, wore clothes with no attempt to hide their condition, traveled extensively, maintained their social schedules, were allowed at Court, and obtained pre-natal care from skilled physicians who specialized in obstetrics (called an accoucheur).
Fourth, whenever I read or hear “no one” and similar all-encompassing absolutisms, I am torn between laughing hysterically or screaming in frustration. Does anyone seriously believe that everyone, in the entire breadth of England, behaved/spoke/thought/dreamt precisely the same and according to the “rules” every moment of every day, year after year, no matter where they were or who they were with?
Dr. Darcy is a treat, although were he real he would know there are no lions in India!
I certainly do agree that Dr. Darcy is a treat! Furthermore, if he were real, he would inform this reader that Asiatic lions (also called Indian lions) once existed all over India, although now they are primarily found only in Gujarat (in India). And just in case it comes up, Asiatic lions are one of five large cat species in India, the others being: Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
First, let me make an important point. Elizabeth’s father is a social equal to Mr. Darcy, they are both untitled landed gentility. Mr. Bennet’s estate is much smaller, but at 2000 a year, far from penniless as the author likes to repeat. In current dollars he is worth about $400,000 a year. There is some difference between Darcy and Elizabeth’s mothers, Mrs. Darcy (nee Fitzwilliam) being the daughter of an earl and Mrs. Bennett (nee Gardiner) being the daughter of a successful attorney. Mrs. Bennett did not have a poor upbringing as is evidenced by her dowry of £5000 (about a million current u.s. dollars, which was her portion, split between at least 3 siblings and the lion’s share would have gone to her brother. The problem was not poverty, but that Longbourn was entailed (thus Mr. Bennett’s money and estate goes to Mr. Collins), and there were 5 daughters to split Mrs. Bennett’s fortune between. As Elizabeth rightly told Lady Catherine, she did not quit the sphere in which she came from. So enough of that nonsense.
I used the word “penniless” once in the entire Darcy Saga, in Loving Mr. Darcy, in reference to the rumors, not facts, circulating in Society about Elizabeth and the Bennet (NOT Bennett with 2 Ts!) family. As for the rest, I am not sure if this reader is chastising me, or Jane Austen! I didn’t set up the plot point outlined above!
OK – I used “OK” once, in Dr. George Darcy’s journal, and “okay” once as coming from one of the bandits in Loving Mr. Darcy. Etymology on either OK or okay is all over the place, but I will admit that the earliest reference appears to be in the 1830s. Ya got me!
Ranch – Used once, “Bingley honestly was pleased with the Hasberry ranch.” in Loving Mr. Darcy. OED says: 1808, “country house,” from American Spanish rancho “small farm, group of farm huts.” An Americanism then. Got me again!
A cart track through the woods would not be called a “trail.” OED says: trail meaning “path or track worn in wilderness” is attested from 1807.
Cute – cute (adj.) 1731, “clever,” shortening of acute; informal sense of “pretty” is 1834. Used it, yes, and I don’t care because it was funny!
Mosey – mosey (v.) 1829, American English slang, of unknown origin, perhaps related to British dialectal mose about meaning to “go around in a dull, stupid way.”
A recent, lovely letter from a “reader” in the UK has prompted me to revisit a few historical points, and to reevaluate my approach as an American author.
She noted: “For English people, a lot of what you write stands out as being very inaccurate to the point of being laughable. It is a shame, as these mistakes are usually within details that have no need to be in the story whatsoever. You may feel that putting them in adds ‘period authenticity’ to the work; but it results in what, for people in the UK, are glaring mistakes that ruin the ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ we all expect from a work of fiction. As you say, you are a novelist, and you are using creative licence. However, when you use a well known story and characters that are set within a specific time period and culture, placing things that stand out as anachronisms or just plain mistakes, jar so much more than if you had just written the stories as historical/romantic fiction – using characters of your own creation. Most of your mistakes are a result ( in my humble opinion) of a lack of knowledge about English geography, history, customs and society – and our infamous class system.”
I feel as if I should apologize for being born in the USA! I won’t. I’ve explained my reasoning for writing my novels as I do, and see no point in belaboring the issue here. If my writing style and balance for a modern, largely American readership is judged “laughable” or a “glaring mistake” then I am in the great company of historical fiction writers of the past decades, few if any of whom attempt to write a novel in fifteenth to nineteenth century style. I’d wager Philippa Gregory and Diana Gabaldon would be names never heard if they stuck to strict period verbiage.
More importantly, if a reader in the UK (or anywhere else, for that matter) cannot bear to read a novel that isn’t 100% accurate for their culture, then my suggestion, in all sincerity and kindness, is to only read novels penned by English authors!
As for the errors, well, I never claimed to be perfect. So for my own edification (and to make sure I get it “right” the next time), I looked into each noted mistake.
Billiards is a game played with three balls – you were describing snooker, an entirely different game, invented by soldiers in India in the Victorian period.
In Loving Mr. Darcy, in the “Billiards” chapter, I never mention the number of balls or get too detailed on the rules for winning or describe precise plays. For good reason (read on). In A Season of Courtship when Mr. Darcy is playing his solo game of billiards, I write this:
“The chalked end of the stick hit the white ball…. as the cue ball bashed into the triangle of red balls…. one red ball dropped into a corner pocket and three other slowly rolled into favorable positions.”
So, at most four red balls and one white ball are noted. And he IS playing alone, just for the sake of distraction and practice, so maybe he loaded the table with 40 balls to make it challenging.
The Facts: Billiards had multiple variations. In 1807 E. White’s A Practical Treatise on the Game of Billiards is published, the first English book on the game. In White’s book: “The game at billiards is played by two or four people with ivory balls upon a table…. (he goes on to note the wide variances in size and construction of the table) …Either two, three, four, five, or six balls are employed, according to the particular game.”
Billards timeline, very detailed.
The British Cycoldaedia of the Arts, Sciences, History… published in 1838 notes under the “billiards” entry: “The rules for the different games of billiards are too numerous to be given here.”
Hoyle’s Rules for Playing Fashionable Games, 1830 edition, devoted 12 pages to the most popular billiard games (not all varieties) including pool, a many ball version of the game.
As an American who barely knows how to play US pool, I wasn’t about to describe a billiard game, especially when the variables were vast.
Darts is a working class game played in Pubs. Darcy would not have had a dartboard. People of Darcy’s class ( or the Bennetts) would never even have set foot inside a Public House as they are working-class establishments. Public houses are distinct from Inns ( where travellers could sleep and eat) even though they both have ‘public bars’.
First off, you all know how crazy it makes me when absolutes are used in conjunction with human behavior and choices! Even if strict laws with severe penalties were in play—and I found no laws on the old English books against having a dartboard in one’s house—people broke the laws. If they NEVER did, then we would have no need for jails and policemen, right?
The Facts: Inns, taverns, alehouses, pubs, coffeehouses, and so on were somewhat interchangeable, especially by the 19th century. There were no standards or laws that said a “public house” must have specific distinctions from an “inn” for instance, or that is was only for working-class patrons. Traveling for the upper classes had greatly increased, so nicer establishments flourished to cater to this need, coaching inns and the like often built onto existing public establishments.
On a local level, gentlemen often sought manly interaction, drinking, and sporting games, hence the “clubs” and other places, like public houses, that provided such activity. Outside of London, fancy clubs were rarer, a man, if he wanted to interact with other men, left to gather at their homes (probably preferred, I agree) or at a community locale.
Whether a gentleman chose to mingle with the working class would be up to him, not some enforceable law. In Pride and Prejudice the upper classes, including Mr. Darcy, mingled with the common folk at the Meryton Assembly, for instance. Furthermore, within the Darcy Saga I don’t have the gentlemen rubbing elbows with the “working class”. The public house in Meryton I created is described thusly–
The gentlemen of Meryton and the surrounding areas, when not gathering for smaller private socializations in their homes, met informally at the two pubs or the lone coffeehouse for gaming and to discuss politics and business. A large, red brick building located on the main street and annexed to the Ox Horn pub was humorously and pretentiously called the Reading Room, due to the cozy parlor in the rear dedicated to gentlemen’s intellectual concourse while smoking imported cigars and drinking fine liquors. However, it was the billiard room that drew the largest crowds most days.
The Facts: The game of darts evolved from the sport of archery, with those teaching archery shortening the arrows and getting students to throw them at the bottom of empty wine barrels. The game was very popular amongst sailors—those long boring voyages—and soldiers for similar reasons. The transition to pub game was the consequence of soldiers and sailors who took the game to drinking establishments to have fun and show off their skills.
Henry VIII is reported to have been an avid fan and was given an ornate set by Anne Boleyn. The game remained popular within the army, and as the British Empire spread so did the sport, most notably flourishing in America.
So, in the Darcy Saga Colonel Fitzwilliam, a soldier, is fond of and quite skilled at darts. Make sense so far? In turn, the game (known to be a popular one) is played with Darcy, who happens to be very bad at it (probably because he isn’t allowed by law to enter a pub *snark alert*), but because he loves his cousin he has a dartboard in his game room. What a nice guy!
Bonfire Night – not ‘Guy Fawkes Day’- that is an Americanism, is also a working class custom – it is not something the upper classes would have joined in at all. In fact, during the 18th and 19th centuries there a was a movement to ban it as it is essentially an anti-Catholic celebration and could become very rowdy and violent. No upper-class person would have considered it at all in planning a wedding.
As for the name, there are numerous references and historical descriptions calling November 5 “Guy Fawkes Day” and since it has never been of importance to Americans….??
A letter from 14 year old Margaret Alice of Chiswick, England, dated 1891 says: “I am writing to tell you all about Guy Fawkes Day, because the little boys and girls in America do not have a Guy Fawkes Day.”
According to A Cultural History of Guy Fawkes Day by J. A. Sharpe (just one reference), the years from 1790 to 1830 or so were especially patriotic ones, for obvious reasons. Plays such as Guy Fawkes, or the Fifth of November and Harlequin and Guy Fawkes were performed at the Royal Haymarket Theatre and Covent Gardens, very upper crust theaters.
The “ban” spoken of never happened. Awareness of the anti-Catholic sentiment within Guy Fawkes Day activities and sermons did aid in the cause of Catholic equality, and finally the “Act for the Relief of his Majesty’s Roman Catholic Subjects” in 1829. This act in no way halted or banned Guy Fawkes remembrances.
The sermons I mentioned were a required reading in the Anglican Church on November 5 (in essence a mandatory church attendance, not that this was closely observed past the 18th century) the “thanksgiving prayer” in the Book of Common Prayer since the 1600s. This was not abolished until 1859. November 5 was a serious observance for English citizens, especially those of the upper class, as a reminder of the king’s deliverance and preservation of the aristocracy.
Between a solemn church observance and the ofttimes rowdy bonfire night escapades, I can imagine not wishing to schedule a wedding for November 6! But in all honesty, I just tossed that comment in for fun
England is not a very hot country. Nobody would be complaining about the heat in October or May – we have a few weeks of (sometimes) hottish, weather in July and August. Autumn ( not Fall) is on the whole, a short wet, season –usually characterised by fog and frosts in the morning. Nobody would ever dream of going on a picnic at this time of the year, let alone sitting on a blanket on the wet grass. It does usually snow all over the country in winter –not just the North.
Again we have the “nobody” absolutes in here. And as Lizzy teased Mr. Darcy on their honeymoon, “Oh? Did a law pass of which I am unaware that we can only enjoy our meals outdoors in the spring or summer?”
As for the weather, all I can say is that in my 50+ years living in many different places (all US, true) I have seen some wild weather variations! I’m a fiction writer, so if I want it to be “unseasonably warm” in October to fit a scene, I’m going to do it.
FALL – *per the OED: sense of “autumn” (now only in U.S. but formerly common in England) is by 1660s, short for fall of the leaf (1540s).
*from Wikipedia: The alternative word fall for the season traces its origins to old Germanic languages. The exact derivation is unclear, with the Old English fiæll or feallan and the Old Norse fall all being possible candidates. The term came to denote the season in 16th century England, a contraction of Middle English expressions like “fall of the leaf” and “fall of the year”. While the term fall gradually became obsolete in Britain, it became the more common term in North America.
Our wildlife does not include chipmunks, porcupines or skunks – most people in the 19th century would not even know what they were. We also do not have ‘blue-jays’.
She got me on the chipmunks and bluejays. Missed checking on those two! As for porcupines and skunks, from A Season of Courtship, in the scene with Lizzy and Matty Beller—
He (Matty) cut the dried flowers, laughing as the petals fell onto his head, and Lizzy used the excuse of brushing them away to make his coarse hair stick up in wild spikes.
“Now you look just like a porcupine! No, wait, a hedgehog! Or maybe a skunk with these white petals,” and so on she teased, to his delight.
Admittedly, I didn’t research whether those animals were in England. Got me again! However, Lizzy wasn’t seeing those animals but was teasing Matty that he looked like them. Bottom line, it is meant as a fun interlude between two friends. If all a reader can focus on is that skunks aren’t in England, then they are not attempting to enjoy the story but are striving to criticize. Period.
The flowering season for daffodils ( and other spring-flowering plants you mention flowering on the Pemberley patio at Christmas) is in Spring –not Christmas. Rhododendrons typically flower at Easter here.
From In the Arms of Mr. Darcy: “Rhododendrons, hellebore, jasmine, camellia, and cyclamen, as well as potted iris and daffodils sheltered on the terrace, fought to shine through the frosty quilt with varying degrees of colorful success.”
The Facts: All of these plants do have late autumn to winter blooming varieties, or bloom normally late in the year. And, note, that they are potted and sheltered, and in the process of dying. A last ditch effort by the groundsmen to provide a bit of color outside the window, was my thought.
We do not have ‘berry patches’ or ‘vines’– most berries – blackcurrants, redcurrants, raspberries ripen in late summer. Blackberries are a bit later, but those left on the brambles after mid September are hard, sour and inedible.
Well, all I can say is that after looking (again) on over a dozen sites on blackberry harvesting in the UK, well into October is normal. And even if the pickings are slim, it does not mean it is utterly impossible to find a few stragglers that are edible!
As for not having berry patches or vines, I am baffled. “Vine” is the standard term, as far as I could discern from the OED, etc. But even if those aren’t the common UK names for “places where berries grow” or “the long thing berries grow off of” I’m okay with using terms that 99% of my readers will understand.
*Update: She clarified in response that they are “brambles” in the UK. Very well. To reiterate, I live in the US so can’t be sure of every difference in terminology in the 21st century, let alone the early 19th. It is interesting, however, that a simple Google search on wild blackberries (and not-wild) in the UK resulted in numerous references to “vines”.
Apples too are not still on the trees in October, nor are the wild ones ( crabs) worth eating as they are small hard and sour.
Considering that apples are a MAJOR part of Christmas celebrations (wassail, anyone?) this is nonsense. But if that is unconvincing, check this reference: English Apples and Pears or this Apples, A Seasonal Approach or Apple Day, October 26 or best of all 18th Century Apples in UK
The following draws heavily from the Anglican Church’s Book of Common Prayer, so note these two online reference:
The Book of Common Prayer, 1829 version
Annotated Book of Common Prayer, being an Historical, Ritual, and Theological Commentary on the Devotional System of The Church of England, 1883
The description of Alexander’s Christening was painful to read. Firstly, if he was only 4 weeks old, Elizabeth would not have been present. Women at that time were not allowed into Church until they had been through a religious ceremony called ‘Churching’ – a service of thanksgiving and ritual purification after childbirth which usually took place about 6 weeks after the birth. Children were either christened immediately after birth if there was a concern about their health – which the mother would not attend –or when they were a few months old –which the mother would then be able to be present.
I will confess right up front that in all my research into Regency Era Anglican customs, christening, birth procedures, etc., I never saw a single reference to “churching” women after birth. Not saying it isn’t true—as I now know it is—just saying I never ran across it. Why? Maybe I didn’t dig deep enough. OR, maybe because it wasn’t as important as this reader seems to think.
The Facts: In the Anglican Church “churching of women” was a blessing of thanksgiving offered to women, dating way back to Henry VIII and a carryover from Catholic customs. It was not an intensive, time-consuming mandatory ritual of cleansing or purification. According to the Book of Common Prayer, a newly delivered woman could come to the church at any time or any day to receive the blessing. Who is to say Lizzy did not do this?
And I could find nothing, not even in the annotated version of the Book of Common Prayer, that said a woman was “not allowed” in the church until they were “churched,” nor that it prohibited her from being present at the baptism. Furthermore, it is clearly stated that the infant’s baptism/christening should take place as soon as possible, even if that means having it done at home. Infant mortality was too common to wait months.
Secondly, the word ‘chapel’ : In England the word either means: a private, specially built place of worship in a large house; a private, specially constructed annex to a parish church – with a separate altar; a Methodist church. The word is not interchangeable with ‘church’.
Even in the US there is a difference between a church and a chapel, although it has more to do with size than the religion or religious practices. I freely admit that in this instance I was not aware of the defined difference in England. I do apologize.
Christenings take place after the normal Sunday service in church. In the Anglican Church ( Church of England), this has a very rigid format – the words of the preist and the responses of the congregation are written down in the ‘Book of Common Prayer’ – as is the Sacrament of Baptism that would follow. It is a solemn ceremony that has remained unchanged since the Reformation. There is very little deviation from the words on the page. I actually found it quite offensive to have my religion and its sacraments bastardised in this way.
Oh boy. Okay, again, in the Book of Common Prayer (which was revised many times and had different versions in play throughout the country), and the annotated version, it clearly states: “that it is most convenient that Baptism should not be administered but upon Sundays and other Holydays,” with further elaboration that this was due to the presence of the congregation to “testify the receiving of them that be newly baptized.” It was a matter of being convenient and sensible, not a strict mandate, otherwise the Book would not add, “Nevertheless, if necessity so require, they may be Baptized upon any other day.”
That clarified, the baptism of Alexander DID occur on a Sunday! As for “bastardizing” – wow. I took great pains to follow the wording of the ceremony, stressed multiple times how important the baptism was to the Darcys, and devoted a whole chapter to it— which is quite likely more than any other author ever has in a novel. And that is deemed an offense and bastardization. Wow.
There would have been very little singing – a psalm may have been sung by the congregation, but it was more like chanting and any real songs would have been provided by the choir. They may have been accompanied by the ‘church band’ or an organ- but never a piano. Instrumental accompaniments were slowly replaced by organs throught the 19th century.
Also, Wesley hymns would never have been sung in an Anglican church at that time as he was a Methodist and non-conformist. They were hated by the Church of England, the ‘establishment’ and the upper classes.
The Facts: Partially true on the hymns, but not completely. One reference: Music for Church Choirs
The Evangelical Movement was widespread and in full sway, and had been for decades. While it is true that the Anglican orthodoxy frowned upon much of this quite severely, people of all classes were affected by the personal spirituality preached by the Methodists and others.
Another terrific article, which also touches on the Guy Fawkes issue, is: Church Furnishing in 19th Century England by James Bettley.
Church of England priests are usually either vicars or rectors ( depending on their funding) they MAY be called ‘parsons’ but never ‘Pastor’. In England a pastor is a lay-preacher in the Methodist church.
As a non-UK resident I can’t comment on what terms are normally used today. I can only look at references, particularly those from the past to decide if the ONE time I used the word “pastor” in the whole of In the Arms of Mr. Darcy, and regarding the baptism, is appropriate.
“…it was also critical to perform the rite at the parish church where the parents were members and by the pastor who ministered to them.”
First off, pastor, meaning a shepherd looking over his flock, is in the Bible. Pastor is in the Annotated Book of Common Prayer 8 times, 5 of which are specific to a church position.
According to Anglican Priest Tony Harwood-Jones, pastor is not a formal title in the Anglican Communion, but is quite suitable for any priest who has pastoral responsibilities in a congregation. A search for “pastor” on The Church of England website yielded over 250 results, here two quotes of thousands:
“The Canons of the Church of England state that the diocesan bishop is ‘the chief pastor of all that are within his diocese, as well laity as clergy, and their father in God’.”
“Both the 1662 Ordinal and the Common Worship Ordination Services understand bishops to be the successors of the Apostles as pastors of Christ’s flock.”
English gentlemen did not use rifles –they still don’t –for hunting – rifles were for common soldiers. They used ( and still do) shotguns.
If this is the case then there are about a hundred websites I just Googled on rifle hunting in the UK that got it ALL wrong! http://www.shootinguk.co.uk/ I guess I figured if the Americans could hunt with a Kentucky long rifle, and Darcy wanted one, it would probably fire and kill an animal in England too.
They also stick to very rigid hunting seasons. This is also true of fishing – trout are not fished from October to May – even Isaac Walton of The Compleat Angler (1653) talks of the ‘closed season in fishing’.
So let me see if I understand: It is 1815 and Mr. Darcy, or better yet the Duke of Wellington, wants to go hunting one day, on his own vast estate lands, but first he has to check the official government hunting season schedule? And then, what, buy a license? Really? Sorry, but just not true.
Seasons in the sense of when certain game (or fish) were most plentiful or best to eat, yes. There were also “seasons” for fox hunting and shooting various birds, as in when the upper classes gathered together for groups hunts. And it was, of course, the job of an estate gameskeeper to ensure game animals were not killed indiscriminately until depleted.
This does not mean, however, that hunting/shooting/fishing on one’s own land was restricted. For a gentleman this was a manly pastime greatly enjoyed. Furthermore, people had to hunt (and fish) to eat. No Walmart around the corner to stock up on meat!
Interestingly, not a single one of the ten copies of The Compleat Angler by Izaak Walton that I searched on Google books had the phrase “closed season in fishing” or “closed season” or “season in fishing” or even the word “closed.” Odd. Furthermore, all NINE (9) uses of the word “season” and THREE (3) uses of the word “seasons” pertained to months of the year or climate/environmental specifics when certain species of fish were breeding or at their most edible.
A ‘sheriff’ would not have been called to investigate a murder, or any crime. A sheriff in England is a ceremonial position or sometimes they act as agent of the magistrates court.
This is true, for the most part, and if I had researched a bit more (as I did later) I would have called the law authority in Belper a “constable” rather than “sheriff.” I will point out, however, that in the early 1800s sheriffs still existed, were not ceremonial, and depending on the situation, had legal authority. It was a position fast waning, but the system of justice outside London was not well regulated, particularly on the local level. There were lots of carry overs from older systems.
Finally, a long commentary on the meaning and use of the words “parlour” and “manor” that are not worth repeating. It made my head hurt, to be honest. Let me sum up these word “errors” by turning to the novels of Jane Austen—-
Parlour — Appears 10 times in P&P, 9 times in Emma, 7 times in S&S, 7 in MP, etc., all referring to a reception, entertaining room for guests in an upper class house.
Manor — Appears twice in P&P: “…shoot as many as you please on Mr. Bennet’s manor.” and “Mr. Bingley….was now provided with a… manor.” Once “manor” is noted in S&S and Persuasion, both referring to a country home and not part of the title.
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