In the news in July and August of 1808

by Lauren Gilbert

One of the articles I most enjoy in Jane Austen’s Regency World magazines provides snippets of news articles that would have appeared in England in Jane Austen’s time.  In the current edition, the following item intrigued me:

“By order of council, no licenses are to be granted to neutral ships to import French wines or French brandies.  This will operate to the advantage of the trade of Portugal and Spain, and quicken the sale of rums.” (1)

In view of the Napoleonic wars, the ban on the import of French wines and brandies by neutral countries made sense.  Since Spain requested aid from England against the French earlier in 1808 (and several English firms were vested in the wine trade in Spain and in Portugal which Spain had overrun with France), the desire to advance their trading interests was logical.  However, the desire to boost the sale of rums specifically caught my attention, and inspired me to look at that more closely.

England’s relationship with rum goes back to its colony on Barbados (1625) and to Jamaica (the British took Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655).  Rum was a by-product of sugar, and Jamaica especially made rum from molasses, producing a darker rum with a fuller taste.  As such, it was a product of England’s West Indian sugar plantations and slave labor.  Rum was introduced to England in 1714.  It was a popular ingredient in rum punch, which was made with rum, hot water, fruit, and spices.  The Royal Navy issued a ration of rum twice daily, mixed with water and lemon or lime juice to its sailors.  It was an important trade commodity, traded heavily with the American colonies, and competed with rum made in the French colonies (rhum agricole which was made from cane juice-it retained the flavor of sugar cane and was frequently  more expensive).

I wondered why the council would specifically consider the need to boost the sale of rum, as it would seem to have had a fairly secure place in British commodities.  I do not believe that it was a coincidence that this concern for the sales of rum arose at this particular time.

Abolitionists had been lobbying against slavery for decades.  In 1706, in the case of Smith vs Brown and Cooper, the chief justice indicated that a man may be a peasant in England but not a slave.  In spite of the fact that fortunes were made by English landowners who owned plantations in colonies worked by slaves, the issue would not die and in fact became more contentious.

663px-wedgwood_-_anti-slavery_medallion_-_walters_482597

Pro-abolition consumers boycotted products made by slaves, including sugar from the British colonies.  Rum could have fallen into this category.  Sugar from the East Indies became a popular alternative (originally Dutch, but this too came under French control).  Finally in 1807, the slave trade was banned  to the extent that slaves could not be transported in British ships, nor could they be bought or sold in British territories.  The act stopped short of banning ownership, so the plantations continued operating with the existing population of slaves (and their children), even though tarnished in reputation.

Maybe I have the business of politics on the brain, but it seemed possible that the desire to boost the sale of rum had as much to do with improving the fortunes of the plantation owners (who also tended to be wealthy landowners involved in the British political world) as making a patriotic statement.  Certainly the guise of “doing down” the French at this time would tend to make a controversial product more marketable, at least to some consumers.  It would not be the first time, or the last, that an apparently logical and reasonable act in politics had a seamier aspect as well.  (If this seems unduly cynical, please blame it on my current surfeit of political campaign material.)

It’s important to note that slavery was finally banned in England in 1833.

(1) Jane Austen’s Regency World.  July/August 2016.  Lansdown Media Ltd, Bath, England.  p. 38

Illustration from Wikimedia Commons: Anti-Slavery Medallion ordered by Josiah Wedgewood from William Hackwood 1787.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wedgwood_-_Anti-Slavery_Medallion_-_Walters_482597.jpg

 

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Filed under English colonies, slavery

The Trouble to Check Her Blog Tour: Guest Post by Maria Grace

We have a guest with us today.  Please enjoy this excellent post by Maria Grace.  Maria Grace is currently engaged in a blog tour promoting her new book, THE TROUBLE TO CHECK HER, a Pride and Prejudice re imaging focused on Lydia Bennet.  I have read it and enjoyed it very much.

 

The Dance of Courtship

To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in lovePride and Prejudice, 1813

 

Jane Austen’s society was governed by strict rules regulating the interaction of the sexes. Young women were always chaperoned in the company of men, leaving the dance floor one of the only places that young people could interact a little more freely. Under cover of the music and in the guise of the dance, young people could talk, flirt and even touch in ways not permitted elsewhere, making it an ideal place to meet potential spouses and carry on a courtship.

 

Dance Partners

 

Every dance required a partner. During a public assembly, the Master of Ceremonies assisted couples by making introductions and suggesting partners to those who wished them. At a private ball, everyone was considered introduced, so any young man could ask any young woman to dance. A young lady signaled she was interested in dancing by pinning up the train of her gown. If asked to dance at a private event, she could not refuse unless she did not intend to dance for the rest of the night.

 

Gentlemen were expected to engage a variety of partners throughout the evening. Failing to do so was an affront to all the guests.  The way a gentleman asked for a dance could begin a subtle and powerful conversation with a woman which would not otherwise pass by the watchful eyes of chaperones.

 

The offer might be made with eye contact and a quick gesture toward the dance floor; a smile, a bow and flowery words; a sweaty palmed, stammered request; or even a shrug and an eye roll of ‘well, I suppose you will do.’ A gentleman might request a dance in advance—a definite compliment to the lady. On the other hand, saving more than two dances for a particular partner was detrimental to a young lady’s reputation. Even two dances signaled to observers that the gentleman in question had a particular interest in her.

 

Dancing

 

Balls might begin with a mixer dance in which dancers switch partners frequently, enabling dancers to ‘sample’ every partner on the floor. These provided an excellent opportunity to scope out partners for future sets, particularly if one was looking for someone of a particular skill level or personality to pair with.

How much can one learn in a fifteen- to thirty-second set of steps with a partner whose name you do not even know? Quite a bit actually. One might meet ‘Henry who lists to the left’ who leans to the left, does not hear the caller well, and easily confused. ‘Bob the leprechaun’ might be all smiles, but unable to count rhythm to save his life or his partners. ‘Dashing Dandy’ might be all too aware of the dashing figure he cuts to care much for his partner. ‘The Colonel’ could take himself and the dance very seriously and disapprove of missteps deeply.

Ladies too demonstrated their disposition on the dancefloor. The Bingley sisters, in very fancy gowns indeed, could be inclined to looked down their noses at less experienced dancers and effectively put them in their places. In contrast, Lady Congeniality might make it her place to make everyone feel welcome. Whomever might be there, the ball room floor was lively and full of characters.

The dances for the evening were all built from an array of standard steps.  Most of them were simple maneuvers like: partners turn by the right hand and two couples all join right hands and turn once around. Complex movements like figure eights, ‘hays’ and dancing down the set were included as well.  In many of the line-based dances, couples would ‘take hands four from the top’, that is they would form groups of two couples who would dance together for one repetition of the music. In simple dances, both couples would perform the same steps throughout the dance. More complicated dances might have the first and second couples executing completely different steps with one more complex than the other, as in Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot (featured in recent movie adaptations of both Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Emma.)

At the end of that repetition, the final steps ‘progress’ couples into new groups of four, first couples moving down the set to be first couple in the group one down from their previous position, and second couples moving up. In order for progression to work, couples at the top and bottom of the set would wait out a repetition of the music and not dance. This waiting out period offered a prime opportunity for couples to interact relatively privately on the dance floor.

In the span of a several minutes-long repetition, dancers might exchange pleasantries, flirtations, or even cross words. Whatever their conversation, though, they still had to pay attention to the music and other dancers so as not to miss their entry back into the set. At the next repetition they would rejoin the set, switching their role in the dance from first to second or second to first couple.

Not all dances offer these ‘time out’ periods. Circle dances and those done in sets of two or three couples required dancers to participate constantly, so little or no conversation might take place.  Even so, a great deal of dance floor communication is possible without dialogue.

Speaking without Words

Eye contact could play a huge role in dance floor tête-à-têtes.  From a practical standpoint, the eye contact made for a useful way to stave off dizziness from many rapid turns, but it has the potential for so much more. Eye contact might range from friendly and flirtatious to downright intrusive. Some partners engaging in constant eye contact, could hold their partners an intense, almost physical grip. Such exchanges could become demanding and intimate, isolating the couple in a room full of people.

Some partners might offer little in the way of eye contact, even to the point of avoiding any direct gaze with their partner. An avoidant partner could silently communicate a variety of things, from their own insecurity with the dance steps to distain for their partner.

Subtle physical contact on the dance floor, usually restricted to taking hands or joining arms at the elbow for a turn, also speaks volumes. Hands might be taken, barely touching and only as long as necessary, or held reverently, lingering as long as possible in the connection. In moves like passing ones partner in the middle of the line or circling back to back, how close or how far away ones partner remains communicates a strong message.

The way partners dance together creates a conversation of facial expression and body language as eloquent as the finest speeches.  A more experienced dancer can subtly and patiently assist a less certain dancer through complex steps with glances and subtle gestures, encouraging and praising with eyes and smiles.  Conversely, experienced dancers can declare disdain and even judgment on a struggling dancer even to the point of rough pushing or pulling that dancer into their correct position.

Partners who are equally anxious about getting the steps right, and good humored in their anxiety, could assist one another, laugh at missteps, and celebrate their victorious achievements progressing through a series of complicated steps. The experience could create a bond over the shared challenge. A gentleman might even kiss a lady’s hand after surviving such a trial—a most romantic gesture indeed.

When two proficient dancers partner, the flow of their coordinated movements could create a connection between them, linking them in purpose and action. The communication and energy flowing between them can be visceral and compelling, poignant as the deepest conversation.

Each dance itself possessed its own character, some being staid and elegant and others playful and flirtatious. Lord Byron’s Maggot—by the way, a maggot referred to a catchy tune, what we would today call an ‘ear worm’—suits its namesake. One set of steps involved a woman a man with a flirtatious ‘come hither’ beckon to follow her. The three couple dance, Hunt the Squiril (sic) requires the first couple to chase each other, weaving through the other dancers.  These suggestive moves could be made as token gestures or with sincere energy.

It is easy to see how in the period, where conversation was restricted to ‘polite’ topics and interactions between unmarried individuals were strictly chaperoned, the dance floor offered the one place where open expression was considered acceptable. There, individuals could be dramatic, funny and flirtatious without censure from society at large—provided of course that they did not take their self-expression too far. Therein lays the power and allure of the dance floor for hero and heroine, for there alone might they express what they could not say directly.

The Trouble to Check Her Cover

Take a peek at the book blurb for THE TROUBLE TO CHECK HER!

 Lydia Bennet faces the music…

Running off with Mr. Wickham was a great joke—until everything turned arsey-varsey.  That spoilsport Mr. Darcy caught them and packed Lydia off to a hideous boarding school for girls who had lost their virtue.

It would improve her character, he said.

Ridiculous, she said.

Mrs. Drummond, the school’s headmistress, has shocking expectations for the girls. They must share rooms, do chores, attend lessons, and engage in charitable work, no matter how well born they might be. She even forces them to wear mobcaps! Refusal could lead to finding themselves at the receiving end of Mrs. Drummond’s cane—if they were lucky. The unlucky ones could be dismissed and found a position … as a menial servant.

Everything and everyone at the school is uniformly horrid. Lydia hates them all, except possibly the music master, Mr. Amberson, who seems to have the oddest ideas about her. He might just understand her better than she understands herself.

Can she find a way to live up to his strange expectations, or will she spend the rest of her life as a scullery maid?

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CTLTE6I

BN NOOK:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trouble-to-check-her-maria-grace/1123601415

KOBO:  https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-trouble-to-check-her

Meet the Author!

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing.

 

She has one husband, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, six new novels in the works, attended seven period balls, sewn eight Regency era costumes, shared her life with nine cats through the years and published her tenth book last year.

 

She can be contacted at:

author.MariaGrace@gmail.com

Facebook:

http://facebook.com/AuthorMariaGrace

G+:

https://plus.google.com/u/0/103065128923801481737/posts

On Amazon.com:

http://amazon.com/author/mariagrace

Random Bits of Fascination (http://RandomBitsofFascination.com)

Austen Variations (http://AustenVariations.com)

English Historical Fiction Authors

(http://EnglshHistoryAuthors.blogspot.com)

On Twitter @WriteMariaGrace

On Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/mariagrace423/

Maria Grace, author

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Filed under 19th century England, Blog Hop, Jane Austen, Writing

Piracy During the Late Georgian Era

During the Elizabethan era, the seas were ruled by Sir Francis Drake, John Hawkins and others. Elizabeth subsidized voyages to seize Spanish ships, and was rewarded by a share of the booty (although her diplomacy required that she deplore such activities to ambassadors of other countries). The hey-day of piracy as we think of it was during the 1700’s in the Caribbean and was dominated by Blackbeard (Edward Teach), Henry Morgan, Jean Lafitte. It was largely suppressed by English and American navies by Jane Austen’s time.

The Barbary pirates, also known as corsairs, were very active during the Georgian era. They were based in northern coast of Africa, in Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. These were separate nations but all were ruled by the Ottoman Empire. They plundered ships in Mediterranean, and frequented the Adriatic and the seas around Ireland and Iceland. They were known for holding people of means or status for ransom, and for taking slaves as well as merchandise. (They needed roughly 200 men per ship to man the oars of their galleys.) They favoured galleys which were fast and easy to manoeuver in shallow waters; they also liked to disguise themselves as merchant ships. The Barbary pirates were active during the Regency era (they were not completely suppressed until the Victorian era). Byron’s poem “The Corsair” was a romance inspired by them.

Privateers were privately owned ships whose owners had letters of marque from their own government authorizing seizure of enemy ships, especially trade ships. There was a very thin line between privateers and pirates: many privateers exceeded their license, and one king’s privateer was another’s pirate. Privateers were still present during the Regency era and eers usually held no scruples about exceeding their letters of marque if profit ensued. An interesting side note: by the Regency era, pirates wore what normal gentlemen did: boots, trousers or breeches, shirts with stocks and coats.

European privateers were drawn to the Barbary Coast, bringing their wooden ships (or the knowledge of how to build them)-these ships needed fewer men to man the oars, were faster, and allowed for more men at arms on board. By Jane Austen’s time, the Barbary Pirates had negotiated “treaties” with European states, which involved payment of protection money. While America was protected by Britain, those protections applied to American shipping but after the Revolution, those protections no longer held. American merchant ships were captured, and their crews held as slaves, while the pirates demanded ransoms the new nation could not pay. Negotiations were extraordinarily complex, and winning an agreement with one Barbary nation did not ensure that the others (or the one who signed it) would honour it. Many prisoners died in captivity; some were held as slaves for many years. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson declared war on the Barbary Pirates and, after numerous setbacks, finally won in Tripoli (hence “…the shores of Tripoli…” in the Marines’ Hymn).

When captured alive, pirates were taken to London, where they usually were held in Marshalsea Prison, and, if convicted in the Admiralty Court, transported to Wapping to be executed at Execution Dock on the banks of the Thames, which was symbolic of the seas where their crimes were committed. They were known as enemies of all mankind, and were usually considered guilty before ever facing a trial. Execution was by hanging (with a short rope that resulted in strangulation instead of a cleanly-broken neck) and bodies were left hanging for 3 days or longer, to serve as a deterrent (with indifferent success, it must be said). The last execution of this nature occurred in 1830.

Sources include:

Kilmeade, Brian and Yaeger, Don. THOMAS JEFFERSON AND THE TRIPOLI PIRATES The Forgotten War That Changed American History. 2015: Sentinel (an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC), New York, NY.

English Legal History. “Pirate Executions in Early Modern London” by Rebecca Simon, posted 7/9/2014. HERE

Pirates and Privateers. “The Barbary Corsairs” by Cindy Vallar, (c) 2004. HERE

Image: Captain Bainbridge Pays Tribute to the Dey, by Henry Ogden (1856-1936). Wikimedia Commons HERE Image created 12/8/2008 by ZeD. Public domain in the U.S.

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Filed under 18th century England, 19th century England, corsairs, Georgian England, pirates, slavery

Blog Hop-Mint Sauce: An EnglishTradition

The End of Dinner by Jules-Alexadre Grun, 1913 (Wikimedia Commons)

by Lauren Gilbert

Mint sauce has a long history in England, traditionally served with roast lamb. Mint sauce consists of mint leaves, finally minced, and mixed with vinegar and some sugar. This is very different to the mint jelly served with lamb when I was growing up in America. This type of “sweet and sour” sauce goes back to medieval times, and similar mint sauces were very popular in France and Italy where mint was more widely used. Traditional has it that, in an effort to slow consumption of lamb and mutton to protect the wool trade (less lamb eaten meant more sheep to shear), Elizabeth I decreed that lamb and mutton could only be eaten with bitter herbs. Mint is one of the bitter herbs, and cooks discovered quickly that it pairs well with lamb and mutton. Clarissa Dickson Wright considered mint sauce to be the last culinary link with the Crusades. At any rate, mint sauce has been a favorite condiment with lamb and mutton since the 16th century. As with any popular food product, mint sauce has been tweaked over the centuries. While regular mint sauce seems to be considered essential for lamb, other sauces have been devised for use with other meats, such as a gooseberry and mint sauce recommended for port and goose.

In 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES by Ethel Meyer, she took 2 T of finely chopped mint leaves, 1T of granulated sugar (American) or castor sugar (British), and 6 T vinegar. After mixing the mint and sugar, the mixture must sit for an hour; then the vinegar can be added added gradually, mixing well between each addition. (This quantity is recommended for 4-5 people.) This seems to be the basic recipe. Some add a squeeze of lime or lemon. Some use white wine vinegar; I found another using malt vinegar. Some specify spearmint leaves, while others go with peppermint. Several recommended that the finished sauce have the consistency of thick cream. As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe and can be easily adapted to personal taste.

Sources:

“20 Quirky Facts About British Food.” https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=interesting+british+food+facts

Love to Know. “List of Bitter Herbs.” http://herbs.lovetoknow.com/List_of_Bitter_Herbs

Meyer, Edith. 1200 ENGLISH RECIPES. Originally published 1898: Murray, London. Published 2010: Salzwasser-Verlag, Bremen, Germany. GoogleBooks: https://books.google.com/books?id=Sb5LF9ztzFgC&pg=PA199&lpg=PA199&dq=how+to+make+traditional+english+mint+sauce&source=bl&ots=xeAyxn309w&sig=0Mg9MmYR6OlWKVJHtlLrHdDrHog&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDUQ6AEwBDgoahUKEwj2j6f9xpfIAhWOuB4KHV9RA_U#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20make%20traditional%20english%20mint%20sauce&f=false

Dickson Wright, Clarissa. A HISTORY OF ENGLISH FOOD. 2011: Random House Books, London.

Image: Wikimedia Commons. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f1/Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg/640px-Gr%C3%BCn_-_The_End_of_Dinner.jpg

Celebrating A New Release!

Castles, Customs, and Kings: True Tales by English Historical Fiction Authors, Volume 2
Edited by Debra Brown and Sue Millard

An anthology of essays from the second year of the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book transports the reader across the centuries from prehistoric to twentieth century Britain. Nearly fifty different authors share the stories, incidents, and insights discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From medieval law and literature to Tudor queens and courtiers, from Stuart royals and rebels to Regency soldiers and social calls, experience the panorama of Britain’s yesteryear. Explore the history behind the fiction, and discover the true tales surrounding Britain’s castles, customs, and kings.

I am so honored to be included in this volume!

Purchase links:

Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/Castles-Customs-Kings-English-Historical/dp/0996264817

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Castles, Customs and Kings, Volume II

Visit these fantastic sites in the Blog Hop (they are coming live at different times so check back if you can’t find it the first time!):
1. Whisky vs Brandy http://huntersjones.com/2015/09/29/whiskey-vs-brandy/
2. Hunting the Wren in Wales and Ireland http://juditharnoppnovelist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/hunting-wren-in-wales-and-ireland.html
3. Archery in Tudor England http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960148
4. A Curious Variant on Wassail http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8960621
5. 17th Century Marriage Day Customs http://www.shapingthefacts.blogspot.com/
6. Harvest Moons and Customs http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962474
7. 17th Century Medicine http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961953
9. A Quirky Look at the History of Nursery Rhymes http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962600
9. Animals on Trial http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961874
10. What was it like to live as a 16th century nun? http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962444
11. Historical Custom: The Flitch of Bacon Custom http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8961380
12. Michaelmas in Medieval Britain http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962619
13. The Peculiar Custom of Electing Kings http://www.linkytools.com/click_linky.aspx?entryid=8962286
14. Queen for a Day-of Bride Crowns of Gold and Myrtle https://annabelfrage.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/queen-for-a-day-of-bridecrowns-in-gold-and-myrtle/
15. Deadly Cat Customs http://graceelliot-author.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/deadly-cat-customs.html
16. “Name that Member”: Weird Parliamentary Customs https://alwayswantedtobeareiter.wordpress.com/2015/09/30/name-that-member-weird-but-wonderful-british-parliamentary-customs/
17. Sweating with the Mohocks http://www.madamegilflurt.com/2015/09/sweating-with-mohocks.html
18. The Evil Eye and Vampires: Superstition in the Ottoman World http://www.kathryngauci.com/blog-06-feb-11-2015-evil-eye-vampires-superstition-ottoman-world/
19. Megaliths in the Popular Imagination http://mark-patton.blogspot.co.uk/2015/09/negotiating-with-unexplained-megaliths.html
20. Odd Medieval Celebrations http://lanawilliams.net/home.html
21. The Unusual Marriage Customs of Medieval Ireland http://empowell.blogspot.com/2015/09/polygamy-divorce-more-unusual-marriage.html

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Filed under Blog Hop, Cooking, recipes

Jane Austen and Marriage

Das Ehesakrament by Pietro Longhi c. 1755 via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks to movies and television, Jane Austen’s novels, especially PRIDE AND PREJUDICE and PERSUASION, are synonymous with happy-ever-after. Many love her works as romantic courtship novels. Ironically, Jane Austen has also been embraced as a feminist author, thanks to her subtle criticisms of male-dominated education and economics, and her personal unmarried state. In recent years, speculation on her personal love life and reasons for her failure to marry has generated a variety of novels and movies as well. The fact remains that marriage is a central point of her novels. There is a conflict common in all of her novels, again especially visible in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE: marriage as a romantic state versus marriage as a means of financial support. This conflict was present throughout Austen’s life, and was the dichotomy for gentlewomen of her time. On one hand, Romantic thought required a marriage based only on mutual love, a one-time event. On the other hand, reality saw many women propelled into marriage solely for financial support. The same reality forced many widows into remarriage, regardless of their desires. A shortage of eligible males and women’s vulnerability to changes of status exacerbated the situation.

Jane Austen knew that marriage did not provide a guarantee of financial security. Money was lost, as in brother Henry’s bankruptcy. (Mrs. Smith in PERSUASION epitomized a woman’s vulnerability when a family fortune was decimated.) Inheritance laws distributed assets, resulting in distress, as illustrated by Mrs. Bennet’s obsession with the entailment that would result in Mr. Collins’ inheriting Longbourn when Mr. Bennet dies. There was no assurance that family members would aid an unattached female. Romantic fervor did not always last. A rise of divorce, particularly well-publicized in Austen’s time as it was still an expensive rarity, showcased a woman’s vulnerability in marriage. High society divorces occurred, such as that of Lord and Lady Worsley, in Jane Austen’s lifetime, and she was aware of them. In SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, Colonel Brandon disclosed the sad fate of his first love to Eleanor: an heiress forced into an unloving marriage with his elder brother, mistreated, seduced, ultimately divorced and left with inadequate means of support despite her personal fortune (which remained in her husband’s hands), leading to her complete ruin.

I believe that Jane wanted to be married. However, her definition of marriage seems to have been very specific: a union of shared tastes and interests, mutual affection and mutual respect. Neither financial security nor romantic love (or infatuation) individually was enough. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE contained multiple examples of marriages that were unhappy because the partners were unequally matched in terms of education, interests, respect, infatuation that cooled or other circumstances. Mr. and Mrs. Bennet’s relationship was the classic portrait of unequal marriage: her pretty face and flirting caught the eye of an educated young gentleman. His disillusionment, loss of respect and withdrawal from his wife had an extremely damaging effect on their children. (The differences between Jane and Lizzie (early products of the marriage), and Mary, Kitty and Lydia (later products of the search for a son and heir) showed the deleterious effect on the family as a whole of Mr. Bennet’s disenchantment with his wife ).

The marriage of Charlotte and Mr. Collins highlighted another unequal match: her need to find a place with a modicum of security so she would not be a charge on her brother or father led her to coolly pursue marriage to a singularly unsatisfactory man. Her superiority of taste and thought versus his foolishness did not lead to disillusionment for Charlotte but resulted in a constant effort to find satisfaction in her own abilities to counter the loneliness and frequent humiliation she experienced in her life with Mr. Collins. Lydia and Wickham was the ultimate mismatched couple, with no hope of any real comfort. Their marriage was the outcome of an elopement propelled by her giddy infatuation with the military and his taste for debauchery, and only occurred because Mr. Darcy had the means to compel Wickham to marry Lydia. They had no real affection for each other, no home or significant money of their own and no welcome from family or friends. Lydia had no significant hope of security (she had no internal or financial resources of her own, and Wickham’s unsteadiness and lack of a stable profession other than the military left them living on the edge of disaster).

Other novels in Ms. Austen’s body of work contain examples of unequal marriages as well: Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram in MANSFIELD PARK, and Charles and Mary Musgrove in PERSUASION are only a couple of examples. In PERSUASION, Lady Russell was in no hurry (or was possibly unwilling) to change her widowed state which allowed her full control of her life and her funds. Certainly, she showed no interest in pursuing Sir Walter Elliot. In her Juvenilia, “Catharine or the Bower” in Volume the Third contains the story of a young lady who, against her personal inclinations, went to India to find a husband and was “Splendidly, yet unhappily married.”* (This story is based on her own family experience, as her aunt Philadelphia, her father’s sister, went to India and was married there.)

Jane Austen withdrew into premature spinsterhood, reluctantly yet almost with relief. Was it due to the loss of an early love, or a strong-willed desire to control her own destiny? Were there other factors? Jane advised her niece not to marry without affection. Her novels show the pitfalls of unequal, unloving or imprudent marriages, and the merits of marriages that combine affection, shared tastes and other benefits. Her heroines achieved the ideal state of being married happily and advantageously. However, her novels seem to contain more illustrations of the less satisfactory relationships than the happy ones. While the characters and circumstances involved in these less-than-happy marriages added greatly to the entertainment factor of the stories, one can’t help but see a warning of the dangers of marriage entered into lightly or for the wrong reasons.

With her family’s support and encouragement, Ms. Austen enjoyed writing and earning her own money. She was proud of her work and very interested in the financial reward of it. She saw women’s need for improved education and the ability to provide for their own support. Her sharp wit and keen observations were, and are still, admired. We should also consider her emotions as a girl and young woman, and how those emotions affected her writing. Did she truly feel a “splendidly engaged indifference”*. to marriage, or was she making the best of her unmarried state? When Mr. Bigg-Wither proposed in December 1802, he offered Ms. Austen a comfortable life in a family she knew and liked; his sisters were close friends. However, she did not particularly like or admire him personally. She accepted, and then withdrew her acceptance the next day. Her acceptance shows she was aware of the advantages that marriage to Mr. Bigg-Wither offered; her withdrawal shows that she valued respect and esteem more.

Jane Austen evolved from a girl dreaming of marriage into a determined spinster unwilling to settle for second best, as shown in family records, her letters and her novels. In PERSUASION, Anne Elliot defined good company as “the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation….”*** In my opinion, the character of Anne Elliot and this quote in particular reveal Jane Austen’s personal views and desires regarding relationships in general and marriage in particular most clearly. Jane was a woman of her time, a realist, who understood her family’s situation. She was also a woman of feeling, in a loving family. Choice as well as circumstances led to her decision to stay a spinster. Her wit and observations gave her writings humor, while her emotional growth allowed her to combine the sparkle of youthful hope, the caution of experience in adulthood and the wisdom of maturity in her stories.

Notes:

*Chapman, R.W., ed. MINOR WORKS The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen Vol. 6. 1988: Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 194.
**Walker, Eric C. MARRIAGE, WRITING AND ROMANTICISM Wordsworth and Austen After War. 2009: Stanford University Press, Palo Alto, CA, p. 226.
*** Chapman, R. W., ed. NORTHANGER ABBEY AND PERSUASION The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen Vol. 5. 1988: Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 150 of PERSUASION.

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Filed under Georgian England, Jane Austen, Love story, Regency society

Smuggling in Jane Austen’s Time

The real cause of the present high price of provisions, or, a view on the sea coast of England, with French agents, smuggling away supplies for France by James Gillray

Smuggling could be the effort of individuals seizing an opportunity, or a professional, large-scale planned venture. The majority of fines and penalties were, unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, paid by the opportunists, who could come from any class-a desperate individual, a shop keeper willing to become part of a distribution chain, or a fashionable lady unable to resist the lure of hard-to-find fabrics or trimming. Professionals frequently had the backing of well-heeled sponsors and could afford to consider fines the cost of doing business. A new ship could be purchased after a few successful runs.

Smugglers brought in goods subject to tariffs and taxes-silk, lace, brandy, etc.-for sale. Import restrictions and blockades made certain goods hard to come by, and taxation was heavy on those goods that were available legally. Individuals in all classes would take advantage of a consignment filled by smugglers to avoid paying these heavy duties. Once a cargo was landed, it was brought overland in well-planned routes that made it almost impossible to know if an item was smuggled or legitimately obtained by the time it reached a market place.

All coastal areas were affected by smuggling, including the Scilly Isles, Kent (especially Romney Marsh), Cornwall, Sussex, and Whitby in Yorkshire. Some communities along the coast were in league with smugglers, with an entire community potentially dependent on smuggling, first to obtain goods not otherwise available to them, and then as participants in the landing, concealing and moving the goods. Foreign smugglers also contributed, such as the Dutch smugglers who brought gin and other goods into Whitby. Ultimately, smuggling was virtually a national industry, and involved numerous gangs, moving alcohol (gin, wine and brandy, among other beverages), tea, silk, lace, tobacco and other popular items. It is not impossible that the shops frequented by Jane Austen in London may have carried smuggled goods.

Smuggling went both ways during Napoleonic wars with refugees, goods and information moving into England, while escaped prisoners, money and information moved into France. In the last years of the war, Napoleon accommodated smugglers in Dunkirk and Gravelines, and encouraged them to make the trips back and forth. (Such a journey could be accomplished in 4 or 5 hours, weather and other conditions permitting.)

Politicians and the monarchy were acutely aware of a depleted treasury (war and the Prince Regent were both very costly), and worked hard to suppress smuggling. Taxes of course were no more popular in Jane Austen’s time than they are today. The wars drew away troops, leaving fewer available for the preventive service for much of the coast, although fears of a French invasion kept attention focused on the coastline, especially the south-east coast-it’s no coincidence that militia units were stationed in coastal areas such as Brighton (the possible deterrent to smugglers may have been as much a motive as a deterrent to invasion).

After Waterloo ended the war in 1815, there was an upsurge in smuggling due to men being released from military (especially from the navy) unable to find jobs. (A lack of excitement after wartime may have also been a factor.) However, it was reduced by the 1820’s due to activities of Customs, Preventives and Coast Guard. Smuggling methods had to adapt (contraband had to be concealed-hidden under a legitimate cargo or in clever hiding places). The Coast Blockade established on land on the east Kent coast 2 years after Waterloo consisted of land patrols that were an effective deterrent, in spite of clashes with smuggling gangs, and the temptations of bribery.

Sources include:

Adkins, Roy & Lesley. JANE AUSTEN’S ENGLAND. 2013: Viking, New York, NY.

Blue Anchor Corner. “A bullish attitude towards smuggling in the 18th century,” posted by Philip Atherton 12/11/2014. http://seasaltercross.com/2014/12/11/a-bullish-attitude-towards-smuggling-in-the-17th-and-18th-centuries

Border Force National Museum. Maritime Archives and Library Information Sheet 24. “History of Smuggling.” (PDF) Last revised May 2010. http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/maritime/archive/pdf/24-History-of-smuggling.pdf

English Historical Fiction Authors Blog. “The Lesser Known Smugglers of the North” by Nick Smith, posted 9/17/2014. http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com/2014/09/the-lesser-known-smugglers-of-north.html

Regency Reflections. “Smuggling in Regency England,” posted by Naomi Rawlings, 4/23/2012. http://christianregency.com/blog/2012/04/23/smuggling-in-regency-england

Smugglers’ Britain. “Britain’s Smuggling History Expansion…and Defeat.” (No author or posting date shown.) http://www.smuggling.co.uk/history_expansion.html

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Filed under 17th century England, Georgian England, History, Jane Austen, Regency era, Smugglers

Guest post: White Women in the North African Harem

by Sheila Dalton

Le Harem by Fernan Cormon

Le Harem by Fernan Cormon

While researching my 17th century historical novel, Stolen, in which a young woman’s parents are kidnapped by Barbary corsairs and taken to the slave markets in Morocco, I came across several blogs where people questioned whether such raids had ever really occurred. They were especially doubtful that white women ended up in Northern African harems.

Certainly, in popular culture, the possibility was too tantalizing to pass up. Many of us have heard of the somewhat notorious Angélique and the Sultan by Sergeanne Golon, in which a 17th-century French noblewoman is captured by pirates and sold into the harem of the King of Morocco. She stabs him when he tries to have sex with her, and stages a daring escape.

Then there’s The Lustful Turk, or Lascivious Scenes from a Harem, a British novel published in 1828, in which the harem is a sort of erotic finishing-school for a number of Western women forced into sexual slavery in the service of the Dey of Algiers.

No wonder people started to wonder if there was nothing more to these ‘white women in the harem’ stories than the fevered imaginations of Western men!
But the scenario also shows up in more serious Western art. For instance, in Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio a Spanish man tries to rescue his beloved from the harem of the Sultan Selim, where he believes she has been sold by pirates; in Voltaire’s Candide, an old woman tells of being sold into harems across the Ottoman Empire.

As I delved further, I found what seemed to be legitimate historical records of such abductions. One that stood out was the story of Helen Gloag, a young Scottish woman with red hair and green eyes, who, at nineteen was kidnapped at sea by Barbary pirates, and sold in the slave markets to a wealthy Moroccan who ‘gifted’ her to the sultan. She lived in his harem, and ultimately became his fourth wife, mother of two of his sons, and Empress of Morocco.

Even though Gloag was able to write home, and was visited in Morocco by her brother, thus seeming indisputably ‘legit’, I still came across a piece in Scotland Magazine that mentioned doubts over the story’s veracity. However, as one of Helen’s direct descendants stated in the same article, “Why would anyone make all that up? The voyage is accurate. It is well known that piracy off the Moroccan coast was prevalent at that time.”
Why, indeed?

In Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters, Prof. Robert Davis writes, “The pasha … bought most female captives, some of whom were taken into his harem, where they lived out their days in captivity. The majority, however, were purchased for their ransom value; while awaiting their release, they worked in the palace as harem attendants.”
In White Gold, the Extraordinary Story of Thomas Pellow and North Africa’s One Million European Slaves Giles Milton writes, “Capturing large numbers of white slaves was part of a strategy to gain leverage over ‘the great powers of Christendom’. English females, it seems, were sometimes ransomed for more than £1,000.” And others, he maintains, were taken into harems.

The more I read, the more it seemed incontrovertible that white women did end up in harems. I wanted to include this in Stolen, but in the least sensational manner possible, one which would not make the world of Morocco and the harem seem ‘things apart’ from the Western experience, impossibly ‘exotic’, incomprehensible — and titillating. It was a challenge with such dramatic material. In an early part of the book, I show a European man keeping an Englishwoman in seclusion, and using seductive techniques in an attempt to control her. True, he has had experiences in North Africa that influenced him, but I hoped to reduce the ‘distancing’ factor by setting this part of Stolen in England. It is an approach I used throughout the book, so that slavery in all its forms, including in the harem, could be seen to be endemic to the human race as a whole, not one specific nation or people.

I also tried to tell a roaring good story, and I hope readers find that I succeeded.

A little about Sheila:

Author Sheila Dalton

Author Sheila Dalton

Sheila Dalton has published novels and poetry for adults, and picture books for children. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, from Napoleon Press, was shortlisted for the Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Award. Her literary mystery, The Girl in the Box, published by Dundurn Press, reached the semi-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest, and was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten. Stolen is her first book of historical fiction.
Visit Sheila’s website at http://www.sheiladalton.weebly.com
Read about STOLEN…
“>Stolen (cover)

Devon, England, 1633: Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with Elinor from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children, the only other survivor of the raid. The unlikely pair are soon separated, and Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, she is taken to his Manor House in Dorchester, where he keeps her under lock and key. Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Based on true events, Stolen is the story of a brave but very human young woman who perseveres in the face of incredible odds to establish her place in a new world.

Find STOLEN at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Stolen-Sheila-Dalton-ebook/dp/B00SXBLCTQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1430259938&sr=1-1&keywords=sheila+dalton

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Filed under 17th century England, corsairs, historical novels, pirates, slavery