PRIDE OF HONOR – The Men of the African Squadron

Guest Post

ANDREA K. STEIN

Imagine a small crew of men rowing up a mosquito-infested jungle estuary in the darkness of night, silently gliding through lands dominated by warring tribal chiefs. Their mission? Stop trafficking in human slavery. Does this sound like the plot for a movie based on a special forces or Navy SEALS op?

Actually, the year is 1820, and the men are ordinary Royal Navy sailors and marines. They don’t have the luxury of night-vision goggles, high-tech weaponry, or medical access to a cure for the dreaded jungle fevers. They’re the men of the African, or Preventative, Squadron, as they were more commonly known in the 19th century. The place is the Rio Pongas estuary on West Africa.

Between 1807 and 1860, the West Africa Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard those vessels.

WANDERER Squadron ship taken from Americans

Those numbers are staggering, considering what the squadron had to work with, but perhaps it makes more sense to look at this accomplishment in the context of the life of one of those slaves.

Samuel Ajayi Crowther was kidnapped at 12 or 13 into slavery in 1821 by a neighboring tribe and sold to Portuguese slavers who placed him on a slave vessel for transport. The African Squadron’s “HMS Myrmidon,” under the command of Sir Henry Leeke, detained Adjai’s ship before it could leave port.

Ajayi and the others were rescued and taken to Freetown, a settlement for liberated Africans in Sierra Leone. Educated in a missionary school in Freetown for the next few years, he was baptized on December 11, 1825, and took the name Samuel Crowther.

Crowther excelled in languages, including English, Greek, Latin, and Temne. In 1826 he attended Islington Parish School in England, returning a year later to study as a teacher at Fourah Bay. In time, he became a teacher there himself. In 1841 he became a missionary on the Niger. After this, he was recalled to England where he trained as a minister and was ordained by the Bishop of London in 1843.

Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther (c. 1809–31 December 1891)

 In the same year, he returned to Africa and opened a mission of his own in Abeokuta, Nigeria. He translated the Bible into Yoruba, wrote a Yoruba dictionary and published several books of his own on African languages. In 1864, he became the first African Bishop ordained in the Anglican Church.

When I began thinking about a group of heroes for my latest series of historical romances, my research and the workings of my quirky mind led me to the men of the African Squadron. Some historians believe these men took on this work only for the prize money. Depending on the mood of the prize court in Freetown, and the politics back in London, the crew could benefit from the seizure of each ship and each slave freed. However, on the slaver side of the ledger, some very powerful forces were still at work, both inside and outside of England, and often, the captains and crews were denied any payment by the courts.

The mortality rate among the men of the squadron was staggering. On some expeditions, an estimated one-third to one-half of all sailors died aboard individual ships. The marine surgeons who sailed with the West African Squadron are credited with finally linking the mosquito to the spread of fever and finding treatments. It’s difficult to imagine men would work under these conditions only for the money. They had to be courageous, fearless, and believers in the cause.

Although Parliament had passed a law outlawing slavery in 1807, the act was not fully operational until January 1808. However, at that time, England was fighting France in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Indian Ocean. There were approximately 795 Royal Navy ships in commission and they were very thinly spread.

By November 19, 1819, the war with France had been over for four years, and the Royal Navy at last had ships to spare. By this time the squadron was led by Cmdr. Sir George Collier who fought under Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. He was given six ships to cover a coast of about 2,500 miles, an area equivalent to the U.S. East Coast, from Maine all the way around Florida to New Orleans.

The Squadron’s lives in letters, portraits, diaries, and ships’ logs are part of a wonderful exhibit at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth, England.  Fortunately, most of the items have been digitized and are available online.

Sources:

National Museum of the Royal Navy

The Royal Navy and the Slavers by W.E.F. Ward

Enforcing Abolition at Sea 1808-1898 by Bernard Edwards

Sweet Water and Bitter by Sian Rees

 

The first in the Men of the Squadron series, “Pride of Honor,” is up for pre-order on Amazon.

 

What if two people determined to marry anyone

but each other end up falling in love?

A hatpin-wielding, parasol-armed poet with a maddening Royal Navy officer in tow races against time to attract the marital attentions of the perfect “gentleman of the ton.”

Sophia Brancellli, the orphaned, illegitimate child of a duke’s daughter and an Italian poet, is on a mission. She must ensure her marriage to a “suitable gentleman of the ton” before her twenty-first birthday or she’ll be destitute, per the terms of her ducal grandmother’s will. Close to having her own poems published, Sophia has her hopes dashed each time by someone revealing her secrets. That same someone so desperately wants her to fail the terms of the will, they’re willing to commit violent acts to ruin her reputation.

Captain Arnaud Bellingham has ascended the ranks of the Royal Navy in spite of his half-French heritage by proving himself at the Battle of Algiers and with the West African Squadron. He seeks a simple marriage of convenience to a mature woman, a widow who has been his sometime mistress the last several years. The very thing he does not want, an exotic Italian innocent, literally falls into his life when he rescues her from kidnappers, although she disputes she needed saving. And now, honor and duty dictate he has to waste the rest of his leave guarding her through the mad whirl of the Season.

 

Excerpt:

Sophie lost her balance and sat down with a thump at the edge of the street. Shaking, she sank her elbows to her knees and rested her head in her hands. Her parasol had rolled to the edge of the walkway. At a sharp cramp in her hand, she realized she still clutched her trusty hatpin. After a restorative breath, she looked up into the deeply tanned face of a Royal Navy officer in full uniform.

He knelt in front of her, asking question after question. “Are you hurt? Who did this to you? Are you with a chaperone?”

Blood dribbled from his wrist, staining his white glove. Zeus! The hatpin. She knew she should provide him with some answers, but couldn’t. She could barely breathe properly, so shaken was she by the encounter with the unknown men who’d tried to drag her toward a waiting hack carriage.

He grasped her by the shoulders. The warmth of his touch seeped through the thin muslin of her dress, and his solid competence fortified her courage. The runaway terrors slowed, allowing her to breathe normally again.

The first thought to pop into her head once she’d settled a bit was: Respectable women of the ton did not find themselves in situations like this. This was the sort of turmoil that might befall the actresses who had kept company with her late father.

“Are you hurt?” The naval officer shed his gloves and ran his hands down her arms as if seeking injuries. “By Jupiter! Is this your weapon?” The hatpin rolled into his hand from her slackened grasp, and he tucked it safely within a pocket. His frown softened a bit, he shook his head, and gave a low chuckle.

He clasped her hands as if he feared she might break and smoothed his thumbs over the soft pads beneath her thumbs. If the stranger continued his exploration for injuries, Sophie feared she might expire from pleasure. If only he knew the ink-stained fingers her white gloves hid.

More about Andrea

Andrea K. Stein is the daughter of a trucker and an artist. She grew up a scribbler. The stories just spilled out.

After writing and editing at newspapers for twenty-five years and then a short, boring stint as a consultant to commercial printers, she ran away to sea for three years to deliver yachts up and down the Caribbean.

She earned her USCG offshore captain’s license, but perversely, now writes romance set at sea while wrapped in sweaters and PJs in her writing room in Canon City, CO.

She has eight published romance novels available on Amazon. Three of those titles have been honored with awards. “Secret Harbor” earned a first place in the Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest in the romance category; “Fortune’s Horizon” finaled in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Romance category; and the latest novel, “Pride of Honor,” finaled in the national 2018 Beau Monde Royal Ascot Contest.

Join Andrea on Facebook and come find Andrea along with the Squadron officers and get advance, exclusive news of the adventures to come on Facebook in her private group, Men of the Squadron.

For more high seas excitement, content available nowhere else, and occasional fun rewards, sign up for Andrea’s newsletter. Don’t forget to visit Andrea’s website or her Pinterest page!

Coming Soon – Other Titles in the Men of the Squadron Series

Pride of Honor – February 2020

Pride of Duty – May 2020

Pride of Country – August 2020

Pride of Service – November 2020

POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER and ITS TREATMENT IN REGENCY ENGLAND

Louisa Cornell

Sir Gilbert Blane

At the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Sir Gilbert Blane (1749–1843), Physician of the Fleet, argued that the incidence of insanity in the Royal Navy, which he estimated at one in a thousand, was seven times that of the general population. To explain this striking disparity, he identified head injuries, sometimes the result of black powder intoxication in the close confines of warships, together with the shock and blast experienced by gun crews. It was observed that the majority of inmates of a London asylum were seamen who had been sent there after the Battle of the Glorious First of June in 1794. It was theorized that mental illness amongst sailors exposed to combat was possibly related to the phenomenon of wind contusions or tingling, twitching, and even partial paralysis diagnosed in soldiers who had been close to the passage of a projectile or its explosion but had not actually suffered a physical wound.

Click here for a link to the firing of a rolling broadside by the HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship. The video lasts less than a minute. Imagine hours of this from the inside of a ship. Or imagine seeing this coming at you from another ship in the heat of battle.

During the nineteenth century naval doctors acting as advocates for their patients used mental illness as a criminal defense. Captain G. Scott of the Stately wrote to Nelson on the recommendation of Dr John Snipe to request that the application for a court martial for John Burn, a royal marine, who had struck an officer, be withdrawn on the grounds that the offence was occasioned by insanity. Implicit in this defense was the idea that sailors who had experienced the effects of brutal battles could have their reason disturbed and hence not be fully responsible for their actions.

In 1808, the navy’s lack of provision for clothes for sailors confined in places like Bethlem meant some had only a blanket to wear. Monies had to be dedicated specifically to the care of specific sailors. Situations such as this, once reported to the admiralty, were part of the impetus to establish facilities under the control of the navy and dedicated to the care of those sailors suffering from wounds that could not be seen.

James Norris, American seaman, chained to the wall at Bethlem Hospital for over ten years.

The number of sailors suffering from mental illness was sufficient for the Royal Navy to make special provision for their treatment. Between 1794 and 1818, for example, 1083 officers and ratings were admitted to Hoxton House Asylum, which had been founded in 1695 with Chatham Chest funds to treat naval and government cases. Most of these admissions were then transferred to the Bethlem Hospital at Moorfields for further care, though 364 were regarded as cured. As a Crown institution, Bethlem was obliged to admit patients referred by the Sick and Wounded Seamen’s Office and the War Office.

However, from its opening in 1753,the Royal Hospital at Haslar had admitted psychiatric patients and subsequently Rear Admiral Garrett was reported as saying that a seaman who has lost his reason in the service of the Crown should receive the love and attention on a scale not less than a seaman who has lost a limb in the same cause. In August, 1818 the navy opened a Lunatic Asylum at Haslar. In 1819, wards for soldiers were established at the asylum at Chatham. By the 1820s the emphasis was on moral treatments and patients were encouraged to work in the gardens, take exercise, and undertake tasks in the hospital. Case notes showed that most of those admitted were either psychotic or severely depressed, rather than troubled by the acute effects of battle; most were regarded as incurable.

The naval hospital at Great Yarmouth had been constructed between 1809 and 1811 to treat the sick and wounded of the North Sea Fleet. The Royal Naval Hospital in Yarmouth was also a major hospital for naval lunatics. Taken over by the army in 1844, it housed a Military Lunatic Asylum until the outbreak of the Crimean War when the Admiralty re-acquired the building.

The advantage to facilities established and run by the military were:

  1. Patients were afforded the same sort of organized and regimented life they had whilst serving. Consistency was a great help in the treatment of those admitted to these facilities.
  2. Many of the physicians and mad doctors running these facilities were former navy, army, or cavalry surgeons, apothecaries, and physicians. They served on some of the same battlefields as the men they treated and therefore had a better understanding of the trauma these men had suffered.
  3. These facilities were usually under the charge of military officers and as such, these officers were able to cut through the paperwork needed to requisition the necessary supplies to provide the patients with more basic comforts than those afforded in public asylums.
  4. These facilities afforded a place for many displaced soldiers and sailors to recover. Soldiers and sailors without physical wounds were often consigned to wander the countryside in search of employment, housing, and some place to recover from mental disturbances they often did not understand.

Some things to remember:

  1. Warfare is warfare. However, warfare during the Regency Era was quite different from warfare today. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests out of the experiences of the soldier or sailor at war. Equating the trauma of those who fought in the Peninsular Wars or with Nelson at sea with the trauma suffered by military men today does a disservice to both.
  2. British sensibilities when it came to the behavior of men were very rigid, very stoic, and very regimented. The idea of the stiff upper lip is not a myth. My father was the son of first-generation Americans. His grandparents were all born in Britain, three in Wales and one in England. My father served in combat in Korea and in Vietnam. He saw horrific things. Yet, his attitude and demeanor about those things was always one of stoic detachment. No matter how horrific the trauma, it was war and one did not complain. One did his duty. This would have been the attitude of military men in the Regency Era. They would have difficulty admitting to trauma and shame at asking for help for it.
  3. Attitudes about those sailors and soldiers who had to be confined in asylums to deal with the trauma of serving in combat would be as varied as those about any other lunatics. Some would be sympathetic. Some would be concerned about lunatics who had grown accustomed to the violence necessary to go to war and survive. Some would ascribe their mental illness to malingering.
  4. Treatment offered at military lunatic asylums would be more likely to help those soldiers and sailors confined therein. Studies of the records of both public facilities and military facilities confirm this.
  5. Sons of the aristocracy who went to war and returned with PTSD in any form would be treated the same way they might be treated if they suffered from a mental illness not associated with their military service. They would be more likely to be taken care of at home than in either a public facility or a military facility. Unfortunately, families of the aristocracy were more mindful of the way things might appear. A son who came home from war traumatized or displaying behavior which might be seen as unstable of as a form of lunacy was a son who might bring shame to the family. Sad and unfair, but as cruel as it might appear, true.
  6. The best way to discover the source of a Regency era military man’s PTSD is to read first-hand accounts of battles, the aftermath of battles, and military life on campaign. Never presume to know the source of someone’s nightmares without doing the best you can to submerse yourself in the same.

For records and more insight into the admission of soldiers and sailors into military lunatic asylums check out the section on naval asylums at the British National Archives.

 

J.M.W. TURNER AT 70 – AN OLD ARTIST WITH SOME NEW TRICKS

The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775 at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, the son of William Turner (1745–1829), a barber and wig-maker, and his wife Mary, née Marshall (1739–1804).

Joseph Mallord William Turner Self-Portrait c.1799

From these humble beginnings, one of the greatest artists of the early nineteenth century rose to straddle the art world of Regency England like a Colossus. From his earliest watercolors and sketches to perhaps his most lauded painting, The Fighting Temeraire, his work was admired for his incredible use of color and technique to evoke the sense of movement and realism touched by the shimmer of magic few artists before him had managed.

View in the Avon Gorge 1791

At the age of fourteen he entered the Royal Academy. In addition to his studies, he worked with architects and architectural draughtsmen and even painted scenery for the London stage. The latter probably accounted for his lifelong love of opera and the theatre. By the time he was fifteen he was funding his education selling prints and watercolors of his work. The rest, as they say, is history. Again and again he stunned and delighted the artistic world and the Royal Academy with signature works of art. And with a rather rough, sometimes caustic personality.

Turner remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life, avoiding the veneer of social polish acquired by many artists of the time as they climbed the professional ladder. It did not matter. His work was sought out by the highest ranks of the aristocracy and the wealthiest of the nouveau riche.

By the time he reached the age of 70 it was assumed his style was established and people knew exactly what to expect from his work. Until the Royal Academy exhibition of 1845 when two of the six canvases he exhibited stunned visitors and caused quite a stir in the art community. These two paintings, both titled Whalers, would join two more paintings, Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! and Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves in 1846 to form a quartet of paintings one might never attribute to Turner if one did not know they were indeed his work.

Whalers 1845

I had long been a fan of his work, what Regency romance writer isn’t, but I must confess I had neither seen nor heard of these late works. It took a trip to New York and at visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for me to come face to face with these amazing and forward thinking examples of Turner’s artistic talent and vision. Three of the four Whaling paintings are part of the Turner Bequest to the Tate in London. The third is part of the Wolfe Collection at the Met. Fortunately, during the time I was in New York the four paintings were reunited in an exhibit at the Met through a generous temporary loan by the Tate.

Whalers 1845

I cannot begin to explain the striking allure of these paintings simply walking into the same room with them evokes. The color palette and the motion in each of them immediately plunges the viewer into a world of feeling the ocean, the energy of the waves, the salty spray, the depth and breadth of the ships and the courage and smallness of the men. There is both mystery and clarity in each painting. The struggle between man and beast and the forces of nature come together on the canvas in a form never seen before this.

Whalers (Boiling Blubber) : Entangled in Flow Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves 1846

I sat for a long time before each of the paintings, studying them, and pondering the forward progression, the provocative and new ideas of an artist nearing the end of his life. Turner blazed across the artistic world of England, and as a result the world, from the humblest of beginnings to the pinnacle of artistic fame and never stopped learning, never stopped pushing the boundaries. This old artist taught the artistic world some new tricks that hinted at the world of Impressionism, but maintained always the mark of the brilliant young artist from the poor side of London.

 

Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! 1846

 

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR ONCE MORE !

 

CHRISTMAS REVELS VI – Four Regency Novellas

Hannah Meredith

Anna D. Allen

Louisa Cornell

Kate Parker

 

Come Revel with four award-winning authors for Christmas tales filled with laughter, tears, and love…

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree – A pagan custom leads to an unexpected attraction.

“The Play’s the Thing…” – Going off script prompts a surprise ending.

Yuletide Treachery – Two lonely people find a traitor—and love.

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas – An accident brings redemption and homecoming.

 

Each year around this time, three of my fellow Regency romance authors and I begin the long Christmas season by putting our annual anthology of Christmas novellas up for pre order. Mixing my favorite time of year with my favorite romance genre is some of the greatest fun I have as a writer. It is the next best thing to celebrating a Regency Christmas myself.

I invite you to find your most comfortable chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, have a mince pie or two, and revel in these holiday tales of Christmas, good will and love.

EXCERPTS

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree

By Anna D. Allen

The falling snow could not stop Mrs. Treadwell from her rounds in the village… or from relaying her bit of news. Basket in hand, shawl wrapped tight about her plump figure, she hurried across the green, now ankle-deep white, past the great equestrian statue of Richard the Roundhead, and headed straight to the butcher shop.

“Her Ladyship has ordered a Christmas tree!” announced Mrs. Treadwell without preamble to the assembled customers as she entered the shop.

Everyone stopped their chatter and stared at her. After a silence lasting the space of several heartbeats, a small voice spoke up.

“A what?”

“A Christmas tree,” repeated Mrs. Treadwell. “There we were, in the kitchen, having our breakfast, when who should come walking in without so much as a by-your-leave or a knock at the door but Sam the potboy from up at the Hall with a note telling the new man he was to find a Christmas tree for Her Ladyship.”

Everyone spoke at once.

“Well, I never.”

“What’s she want to go and do a thing like that for?”

“Humph.” That was Old Mr. Phelps.

From behind the counter, Mrs. Cunningham, the butcher’s wife asked, “So Her Ladyship has returned home?”

“No, no.” Mrs. Treadwell waved aside the question as a ridiculous notion. “She’s still in Cheltenham. But the Coburgs are coming home with her and will be stopping by on their way to Brighton for Christmas with the Prince Regent.”

Murmurs of shock, surprise, and approval rippled through the clutch of customers, the Coburgs being common parlance for the heir to the British Crown, Princess Charlotte of Wales and her new husband, the German Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Something-or-Other that no one in the shop could quite remember. Nor in the nation, for that matter.

Now the butcher piped up. “Don’t you think that should’ve been the first thing you said, woman?”

“No. I don’t, Henry Cunningham,” replied Mrs. Treadwell with her fists on her ample hips. “Everyone up at the Hall will be worrying over the Coburgs, but it’ll be left up to us to find this… this Christmas tree to impress them.”

“‘Tis true,” observed Old Man Phelps, “Not like we’ll be the ones wining and dining with the toffs up at the Hall. We’ll just be expected to line up and cheer, tugging our forelocks and waving our handkerchiefs. God save the King. La dee da.”

In the midst of glares directed at Old Man Phelps—practically treasonous, that one—a small voice asked, “What’s a Christmas tree?” It came in the nick of time, as Mr. Cunningham was about to come around the counter and box Old Man Phelps’s ears and toss him out. But thankfully, answers came in rapid course.

“Pagan idolatry.”

“A papist plot. That’s what it is.”

“Surely not?” asked the quiet voice.

“I don’t like it. Not one bit.”

“The Coburgs are not papists,” Mr. Cunningham attempted to explain, with little success, “They’re proper Protestants, like the rest of us.”

“Where is Coburg anyway?”

“Does the vicar know about this?”

That question—or more precisely, the pondering of the possible answer—silenced everyone, glances passing amongst them. An instant later, the customers tumbled out into the lane, leaving behind a baffled Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham and a grateful Mrs. Morris—she of the small voice—who no longer had to wait to purchase a bit of mutton for her dinner.

The clutch of customers—now transformed more properly to a gaggle of gossips—marched their way down the slushy thoroughfare to the vicarage and presented themselves at the doorstep of the Reverend Mr. Elijah Haywood.

 

“The Play’s the Thing… ”

by Hannah Meredith

 ACT ONE

 Scene One

An opulent bedchamber at the Duke of Newley’s estate. A gentleman holds a bedpost while his valet attempts to lace up his corset.

Harris gave another mighty pull, and Captain Lord Alexander Kingston decided he had had enough. “Bloody hell, leave off. You’re not reefing the topsail before a blow. I have to be able to breathe.” The last word came out as more of a grunt as Harris gave a final mighty tug and started tying off the tapes.

“Captain, if I’m supposed to get you into any of these fancy clothes, then you’ve got to be trussed up like this.” Harris backed up to survey his work. “This is no tighter than it was earlier.”

Alexander released his hold and wondered if the elaborate carving on the bedpost had left a matching imprint on his hands. His estimation of the fair sex had risen in the last few minutes. Ladies had to endure this torture daily, proving unequivocally they were the stronger gender. “Harris, remember to call me Mr. Kingston, or this charade will be for naught.”

“Right you are, Ca… eh, Mr. Kingston.” Harris held out a shirt the size of a sail. “But I must say, all of this padding you up and then slimming you down seems a bit unnecessary.”

Alexander could not have agreed more. But then, this entire assignment was ridiculous. The Admiralty had unceremoniously jerked him off the Wheatley and plopped him here in the middle of Lancashire tasked to determine if any of the guests at the Duke of Newley’s holiday gathering were secretly supporting the American cause. He was chagrined that his superiors thought this was the best use of his abilities. That he had been personally chosen by Melville, the First Lord of the Admiralty, did nothing to assuage his irritation.

The Wheatley had been his first command of a ship of the line. Yes, she carried only eighty-four guns, but he’d been proud of every one of them and had looked forward to meeting the French with those guns blazing. Instead, he was sent back to London where he was given the honor of spying on British peers who may or may not be aiding the fractious former colonials in what was, to his thinking, a minor campaign. Alexander felt this was a waste of his experience, proving once again the dry-foot sailors at the Admiralty were asses.

Those fools in London felt he had the necessary qualifications—he would be unknown to the other guests and he would understand implications of merchant ship movements if they were discussed. These were qualifications? They would apply to half of the serving officers in the Royal Navy. His name must have been drawn from a hat.

 

Yuletide Treachery

by Kate Parker

Miss Frances Smith-Pressley opened the door that had been pointed out to her and slipped inside. The others were dressing for dinner; she didn’t have much time to start exploring the Wolfbrook library.

The light filtering in through the shutters showed a high, ornate ceiling over two levels of filled bookcases, the second of which rose upward from a wrought iron balcony that encircled the room. She twirled around in the center of the space, her soft slippers skimming over the thick Aubusson carpet as she drank in the smells of old leather and dry parchment.

The library was every bit as thrilling as she’d heard. It would take her the whole Christmas holiday to study even a fraction of the works assembled here.

She started to skim the stacks. Astronomy. No. Natural sciences. Not today. And then… Was it even possible? Illuminated texts written in Latin. She’d only seen them in museums under glass. Here she could touch them. Study them. Read them.

Taking out the white cotton gloves she always carried hidden in the pocket of her skirt, she slipped them on before taking one of the medieval manuscripts from its place. She carried it over to a desk and sat down to open its vellum pages.

She could almost believe lightning sprang from the book and energized her fingers, her heart, her mind. Her Latin was equal to the task, and she was soon immersed in the Gospel of St. Matthew. There before her was the Christmas story, written out by monks centuries before.

“Who gave you permission to invade the library?”

The baritone voice broke through her concentration. She looked up at an apparition. Her breath caught in her throat before she realized this was a normal man. He wore a normal man’s evening wear, displaying broad shoulders, a flat stomach, and long legs. But where his face should be, piercing blue eyes stared at her out of a brown leather mask.

She took a deep breath, closed the gospel with a dejected sigh, and rose to face the figure. “I was led to believe it was allowed.”

As the masked man strode toward her, every muscle tensed. It was all she could do not to step back or fall into the chair.

“By whom?” His voice was quieter. Menacing.

 

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas

by Louisa Cornell

“Lady Portia?” His voice, though nearly devoid of sound, startled her. His eyes fluttered open, as much as they could, that is. One was well on its way to sporting a black eye any pugilist in Britain might envy.

“I am here.” Well that was an obvious thing to say. “The doctor should be here any moment.” She gave his bare shoulder an awkward pat.

“Don’t need a doctor,” he mumbled even as his eyes fell closed once more. “A bit under the hatches is all. Be right… as rain… in the morning. Tell Pearce not to forget… the ring.” His head lolled to one side.

“What ring?” She gave him a shake. “What ring, my lord?”

“Wedding ring. Tying the parson’s knot… in the morning. Didn’t… forget.”

“Well, that is hardly a good sign.”

Portia looked over her shoulder to find Dr. Pratt directly behind her, a somber expression on his normally affable countenance. She stood and allowed the physician to take her place.

“Correct me if I am wrong, my lady, but your nuptials were nearly a year ago,” Dr. Pratt said calmly, even as he examined St John, and furrowed his brow more deeply with each passing moment.

 

Links:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y2DQCG3/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_M2QGDb67KWA59?fbclid=IwAR3eF0MIl21XjyCojQVrIILcU3gsy3gfSGkoEHc5rzVHH0SsnMyH0c4UgmY

 

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/christmas-revels-vi

 

Apple

https://books.apple.com/us/book/christmas-revels-vi/id1480859471

 

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1133695857

ON THE SHELF: IN PRAISE OF OLD BOOKS

by Louisa Cornell – originally published June 26, 2017

Regular visitors to Number One London have read of my obsession with research books written on the Regency era. I collect them with a fervor just short of that of the Regency’s most avaricious bibliomaniac. As a subdivision of my obsession, I want to tell you a bit about my relationship with research books written during the Regency era. What the latest generation of twenty-somethings would call ancient books.

I currently own slightly over 500 research books about the Regency era. They are catalogued online at LibraryThing  which is one of the earliest online cataloguing services. I understand there are far more platforms now, but this one has served me well and the community is without peer when it comes to discussing and admiring the libraries of its members. My library is listed as public, which means it can be viewed by any member of LibraryThing. Here’s the link to my Regency Research Book collection, which comprises 1/6th of the books I have catalogued so far. I won’t tell you how many of my books are not catalogued. The number frightens even me.

As dearly as I love my Regency research books, those books written and published during or just after the Regency era are my most prized. Why? It isn’t the monetary value nor the cache of having antique books to display on my shelves. I live in the middle of nowhere and my library is hardly ever seen by anyone else. My old books have incalculable value to me for two reasons.

Their proximity to the era about which or during which they are written puts my research as close to the source as I can reach. Ask anyone who is a fanatic about a certain period and place in history and they will tell you, whether it be visiting an exhibit of clothing sewn and worn during said era or reading a copy of a book written and printed during that era, extant resources are the best. To be able to actually look at an item, be it a Manton pistol or a single-lens quizzing glass or a lady’s corset, transports a person into a place as near to the era as they will ever be absent a teleporting police box, a ring of Scottish stones, or an acquaintance with a couple of gentlemen named Bill and Ted. Books written about an era during that era or shortly afterwards offer the very best view into not only the subject matter, but also into the mind of the writer. An invaluable view to have.

For instance,

1829 Edition Paterson’s Roads
Title Page Paterson’s Roads 1829 Edition

 

 

Foldout map from Paterson’s Roads 1829 Edition

Paterson’s Roads was one of the essential travel atlases of the Regency era. Those huge, unwieldy spiral bound atlases one can purchase at rest stops, restaurants, and in no less a location that Walmart have nowhere near the elegance of this volume, but they serve the same purpose. With Paterson’s Roads in hand a Regency gentleman, an ambitious coachman, or a young lady looking to escape an unwanted marriage might find his or her way nearly anywhere the road might take them. My copy has a bit of scuffing about the cover, but it does include all eight foldout maps intact, a rarity. It also has the added thrill, mixed with a bit of sadness, of coming from the library of a country house. The new owners of Lowick Hall in Cumbria have parted with large portions of the home’s library in order to afford renovations necessary to maintain the house. Their loss is my gain, but I cannot help but wonder at whose hands have touched this book before me and what adventures it took them on before it made its way across the Pond to me.

I own two editions of The Stately Homes of England, Illustrated with 210 Engravings on Wood by Llewellyn Jewitt. One is the 1877  two-volume first edition published in England and the other is volume one of the 1878 edition published in the United States. The British edition was an intentional purchase from a book dealer in Saxmundham, England. The American edition I came upon at a flea market and I simply could not leave it there to languish unappreciated. This book allows me to see these stately homes, many of them gone now, through the eyes of both a writer and an engraver who lived only slightly removed from the Regency era. One cannot put a price on their vision. And the wood engravings are exquisite.

Stately homes of England by Llewellyn Jewitt 1877 edition

My 1890 edition of Glimpses of Old English Homes, Illustrated with drawings and portraits by Elizabeth Balch is a bit worse for wear. As with all of my old books it is carefully wrapped and preserved and I wear gloves when I consult it. She is a fragile old girl, but the information and illustrations and the scholarly research conducted by the author provide myriad little details a researcher more removed from the era might never have the opportunity to see.

Glimpses of Old English Homes by Elizabeth Balch 1890 edition
Front page Glimpses of Old English Homes by Elizabeth Balch 1890 Edition

In addition to these three beauties, I own a few more ancient books, as my nephew would call them. I have an 1860 edition of William Makepeace Thackery’s The Four Georges – Sketches of Manners, Morals, Court and Town Life. This book is both entertaining and informative and tells me in no uncertain terms what the author thought of the Georgian era and the people who made the era what it was.

I also have an 1821 edition of Real Life in London: On the Rambles and Adventure of Bob Tallyho, Esq. and His Cousin, the Hon. Tom Dashall through the Metropolis; Exhibiting a Living Picture of Fashionable Characters, Manners, and Amusements in High and Low Life. By an Amateur. Embellished and Illustrated with a Series of Coloured Prints, Designed and Engraved by Messrs. Heath, Alken, Dighton, Brooke, Rowlandson, &c. London: Printed for Jones & Co. This is a fun read and rife with all sorts of ideas for stories set in the Regency era. This is actually an imitation of the original work by Pierce Egan. However, this particular imitation is the one Egan is said to have favored the most. I have to agree with him.

Also on my shelf is The Annual Register, or a View of the History, Politics, and Literature, for the Year 1804 which was actually published in 1806. This is the sort of volume one would have lying about the library or the lounge of a club or anywhere someone might want to pass a few hours reading articles about various subjects as they appeared in the year noted. I cannot tell you how fascinating it is to pick up this book and immerse myself in the major, minor, and every level in between events of a single year during the Regency era.

I also have an 1818 edition of One Hundred Sixteen Sermons, Preached Out of the First Lessons at Morning and Evening Prayer, For all Sundays in the Year by William Reading, M.A. This book is especially close to my heart as it was given to me by a dear friend who knew how much I would treasure it. The inscription of the first owner is dated December 29, 1818. December 29th is my birthday. Reading the sermons probably has not made me a more pious person, but it has given me insight into the religious year and into the way people of this era practiced and thought of their faith.

I said before, there are two reasons I treasure these extant resources so very much. The second reason has nothing to do with monetary value, research value or their usefulness to me as a writer of Regency historical romances. It has to do with me as a human being. My Native American ancestors say “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

That spiritual experience is what I have when I hold these books in my hand. When I curl up in a chair with a cup of Earl Grey and a plate of Walker’s shortbread and read the same pages someone from another time and place read I feel a connection, a tie to those long ago readers. I wonder about their lives, their hopes, and their reasons for owning and reading these books before me. When each of these books arrived, I spent a great deal of time holding it and turning it over and over again in my hands. I guess that makes me some sort of book geek, at best, and a book weirdo, at worst. Guilty as charged.

There is a reverence to the written word. Those of us who know the importance of words, of their preservation in these old books, can see as others do not the intangible connection books provide from one era to another, from one person to another, and from one soul to another. The electronic age has provided us with access to plenty of old books via inter-library loan and Google books. I do a great deal of my research this way. I confess if a book is particularly helpful I let the Harvard Bookstore print a Google book up for me. They are cute little volumes and the script and text are presented exactly as they appear in the originals.

In the end, there is simply something about holding a stalwart leather bound volume in my hand and carefully turning the pages of a book other souls thought important enough, for any number of reasons, to preserve so that I might treasure it all over again. In that moment, I understand them. Their soul speaks to mine. And as important as our connection to each other is, we can learn a great deal from our connection to those who have come before us. Old books give us that chance – to connect, to learn, and to grow on our human journey, and our spiritual one.