Longfellow: Father of Historical Fiction
(an article by Jane Bailey Bain)
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis….
In 1854, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his diary, “I have at length hit upon a plan for a poem on the American Indians… It is to weave together their beautiful traditions as whole.” What he produced next year was ‘The Song of Hiawatha,’ a long narrative poem about a legendary Iroquois chief. Longfellow’s epic work is a composite of myth and legend, folklore and ethnography. It is written in unrhymed alliterative verse, with heavy emphasis on alternating syllables: considered by some to be clumsy, it nonetheless suits his meandering style.
Longfellow’s work was based partly on the writings of Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, a government agent who married a Native wife and took a personal interest in local customs and stories. In particular he took the name of his hero, who has very little else in common with the sixteenth-century Mohawk chief who co-founded the Iroquois League. In his notes to the poem, Longfellow cites Schoolcraft as his source for “a tradition prevalent among the North American Indians, of a personage of miraculous birth, who was sent among them to clear their rivers, forests, and fishing-grounds, and to teach them the arts of peace. He was known among different tribes by several names (including) Hiawatha.” Read the rest of this entry »
UNDERGARMENTS REVEALED, 17TH AND 18TH CENTURY
(an article by Diane Scott Lewis)
Determined to do accurate research on my historical novels, the most difficult and interesting task was to find out what people wore under all that clothing. Many writers have erred in this area, as in mentioning “bloomers” in the eighteenth century, an item which didn’t come into use until the 1850’s. My interests are mainly in the eighteenth to early nineteenth century, but for this post I’m slipping back into the seventeenth as well.
While in previous years undergarments were utilitarian, to throw off the strict hand of the Puritans, under the Stuarts underclothes took on more of a sexual allure. A man’s shirt became ruffled and more visible, with puffed sleeves tied in ribbons, to show him off as a fine gentleman.
Man’s Shirt & Waistcoat
Women’s dresses became less rigid, and cut to flaunt pretty petticoats. The petticoat, often several of them, was worn to give the outer gown a better shape, and I’m certain, important for warmth. It was often of embroidered or ruffled material in bright, attractive colors. Read the rest of this entry »
As I was staying in Vienna August 2012 I was able to visit the Battlefields of Aspern Essling and Wagram. These were the sites of the clashes between Napoleon and Arch Duke Charles. In the case of Wagram it would be the largest battle ever fought up to that moment. This blog is about the first battle – Napoleon’s first defeat.
In 1809 Napoleon had never been personally defeated. He had over 12 years fought campaigns in turn against Austria, Russia, Prussia and other states and had beaten them each. Austria had been heavily defeated in 1805 at Austerlitz, Prussia in 1806 and Russia in 1807. In 1809 Britain alone was fighting France in distant Spain and Portugal. The terms of the defeat in 1805 were harsh on Austria and so in 1809 Austria decided to invade Bavaria (a French ally) to strike back.
The Austria army in 1809 had been radically reformed after the defeat at Austerlitz in 1805 and at a tactical level could now compete with the French. Its shortcomings were at the strategic level and there were major faults with an over rigid command structure that did not allow for much initiative. This would hurt the Austrians in the long run. Read the rest of this entry »
The Battle of Maserfield was fought on this day – August 5th 642 (possibly 641) between the Kingdom of Northumbria under King Oswald on one side and an alliance between King Penda of Mercia and welsh allies, possibly from Gwynedd and Powys.
Maserfield was the old name for the area and probably meant ‘marshy field’ (perhaps a description of where the battle took place. But that is not what it is called today. The site of the battle is usually identified with Oswestry on the Welsh borders. What does that name mean and how was it reached? Read on to find out.
The woman rolled slightly to lift the weight from her left side, slid her right hand into her jacket and tugged the bra strap to free her breast from the cleft between her upper arm and chest. Withdrawing her hand, she then squirmed into a more comfortable prone position and took up the slack of the weapon’s sling against her forearm, by repositioning her left elbow.
Aiming down at a target could cause a careless sharpshooter to underestimate the distance. However, she knew the exact range to each point in her arc of fire, stretching from the corner of Stilovic Street, formed by two sides of the high-rise apartment block, and at the other extreme, bounded by the arched doorway of the play centre.
On her first day on this sector of Sarajevo, the initial shot to test the range had bisected the head of a stray dog scavenging close to the roundabout. Four hours later, her assessment of the range was confirmed when she made the first kill of her assignment. The old woman was the beginning of a chain that included two other women, a middle-aged man and a French Legionnaire wearing a flak jacket. She brought him down with a headshot.
Not all of her shots killed instantaneously; she had seen movement after some strikes, but she was confident that the wounded would not get up. A hit with the Dragunov was invariably fatal. The tearing effect of the slug was horrendous, and the resultant haemorrhaging was massive, to say nothing of the shock caused by a strike anywhere on the human body. Read the rest of this entry »
At first, when they found that they were denied passage through inhabited lands, the Hebrews avoided confrontation by prudently skirting these areas. But as they grew in strength and numbers, they began to fight those who would not allow them to pass through peaceably. As they had God on their side, they invariably won these battles, whereupon they took possession of the lands and slaughtered the inhabitants, sparing only the virgins for their own personal use. Of course, they were careful to purify the girls before using them, lest the Hebrew men be defiled. No doubt the maidens felt highly honored to be made use of by such fastidious men.
When they reached Moab, near Jericho, the King of the Moabites worried that his country would be overrun in turn, so he summoned Balaam the seer, offering him honors and rewards to put a curse on the Hebrews so that they could be driven away. After much coy hesitation—possibly designed to drive his price up—Balaam agreed to meet with the king but he made no promises, for he’d heard that the Hebrews had been blessed by a very powerful god.
Balaam climbed on his ass and set out for Moab, but the ass startled him with an assortment of uncharacteristic antics, bolting off the path, squashing up against a wall—crushing Balaam’s foot in the process—and most inconveniently falling down flat on the ground under him.
Balaam’s beatings elicited an unexpected response from the ass. “Hey, don’t blame me! An angel made me do it,” she said.
“An angel,” scoffed Balaam. “I doubt it.” Read the rest of this entry »
“I awake full of you. Your image and the memory of last night’s intoxicating pleasures has left no rest to my senses.”
Napoléon Bonaparte will be remembered as one of history’s greatest generals; yet the one victory that seemed always to elude him was the battle for the affections of his own wife.
She was born Marie Josèphe Rose Tascher de La Pagerie, the daughter of a wealthy Creole sugar baron in Martinique. But after hurricanes destroyed the family plantation, she was married off to the Vicomte de Beauharnais in Paris in October, 1779, in order to preserve the family fortune. It was an unhappy marriage, but it produced two children, Eugène and Hortense.
During the Reign of Terror, in 1794, her husband was arrested as an aristocratic ‘suspect’ by the Jacobins; Joséphineherself was imprisoned a month later. He was guillotined and she herself was only saved from the same fate by the timely overthrow of Robespierre, just one day before her scheduled execution.
As a widow with two children to support, she chose her lovers with her head rather than her heart. She became mistress to several of France’s political and financial luminaries. But Joséphine was a shopper of the first rank and ran up enormous debts during her life.
In fact, when she met Napoléon it was rumored that her present lover, Paul Barras, was very happy for the other man to take her off his hands. He simply couldn’t afford her. He had met his financial Waterloo. Read the rest of this entry »
(This is a reprint of an article by Jane Bailey Bain, on her website.)
Boudicca was a striking woman: tall enough to look a warrior in the eyes, with russet hair tumbling to her waist and a voice that rang out like a bugle call. She was married to the king of the Iceni, but she was of royal blood, a queen in her own right. Her name means ‘Victorious’ and she was revered as both a leader and a priestess. Boudicca was a young girl when the Roman legions arrived in Britain. The invaders demanded that the Celts pay tribute tax: their leaders demurred, negotiated, and eventually agreed on a treaty of celsine, a patron-protector relationship. When her husband died, Boudicca became leader of the Iceni people. The Romans took this opportunity to declare Iceni territory their own. They used the usual brutal methods to deal with women and savages. Boudicca was whipped and her daughters ravished. But Boudicca was a true queen, and she was not prepared to accept such treatment of her people.
May Day was the Celtic festival of Beltaine, the Shining Fire. It was a time for the extended clan to assemble for celebration and conference. On this day, livestock were driven through clouds of smoke to purify them for summer pasture. Boudicca, priestess and queen, invoked the power of fire for a different reason. On 1st May 60AD, she led the Iceni in revolt. Dismayed by decades of Roman oppression, other Celtic tribes rallied to her cause. They destroyed Camulodunon (Colchester), captured Londinium and marched on Verulamium (St Albans) amidst scenes of great rejoicing. Read the rest of this entry »
A particular friend of mine suggested that I write a blog post, sharing the wisdom of one of my antique books. It’s called The Home Cook Book and it was published by Ladies of Toronto and Chief Cities and Towns of Canada in 1877. It’s billed as Tried! Tested! Proven! And it went through at least seventy editions, so the information it includes must be solid gold.
Now, besides the recipes (I’ve tried a few—they’re a bit bland, but serviceable), it addresses other important things that every woman will want to know.
“Success in housekeeping” it insists, “adds credit to the woman of intellect, and lustre to a woman’s accomplishments. ..no matter how talented a woman may be…if she is an indifferent housekeeper it is fatal to her influence, a foil to her brilliancy and a blemish to her garments.”
Well, I certainly don’t want you to be seen with blemished garments, so I’m going to share with you some of the wisdoms that will help you with your housekeeping efforts. We’re assured that “there is nothing so difficult to learn that she may not be proficient in a year or two at most”…so take heart. There’s hope for us all. Read the rest of this entry »