Tag Archives: 1700s

Christina’s Guide to Historical Novels – Part 3 (Vocabulary and Society)
Blog Things
September 18, 2010 posted by Christina

Christina’s Guide to Historical Novels – Part 3 (Vocabulary and Society)

Part three of our Guide to Historical Novels takes a look at some of the vocabulary and social terms used during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Doff/Doffed – To tip or remove (one’s hat) in salutation

The Clink
– The name of a prison which was on Clink Street in the Southwark area of London.

– request, ask

Vex– to irritate or annoy

– years ago

Prithee – contracted form of “I pray thee”, i.e., I ask of you

Nary – None; absolutely nothing

The whole kit and caboodle – the entire thing

– to be whipped

Shoot one’s mouth off
– talk nonsense, untruth

The devil makes work for idle hands – if a person is not busy he will do evil things

Dander – To have one’s dander up; to be incensed, angry, resolute, fierce

Caning/Six of the best – Caning was the main form of punishment in schools with six being the maximum number of strikes you could receive in one go. Caning, as the name suggests involved being struck on your hand or butt with a wooden cane

Debrett’s – A specialist publisher, founded in 1769 that produces guides on etiquette and manners for both men and women that many members of high society swear by. It also compiles an annual publication that catalogues the biographies of Britain’s most distinguished figures.

Calling Card – A visiting card, also known as a calling card, is a small paper card with one’s name printed on it. The footmen of aristocrats and of royalty would deliver these to the servants of their prospective hosts introducing the arrival of their owners. The essential convention was that one person would not expect to see another person in her own home (unless invited or introduced) without first leaving his visiting card for the person at her home. Upon leaving the card, he would not expect to be admitted at first, but might receive a card at his own home in response.

The graveyard shift -When people realized that they were burying a great deal of people before their time, they came up with a solution. They tied a string onto the “dead” person’s hand, buried them, and tied the other end of the string to a bell and then tied it to nearby tree branch. If the person revived enough to ring the bell, a cemetery worker on “the graveyard shift” watching over the newly deceased would rush out and dig them up.

Debutante – (keep in mind this is during the 1700-1800s not today’s definition of a debutante) is a young lady from an aristocratic or upper class family who has reached the age of maturity, and as a new adult, is introduced to society at a formal “début” presentation. It also meant the young woman was eligible to marry, and part of the purpose was to display her to eligible bachelors and their families with a view to marriage within a select upper class circle.

Those who wanted to be presented at court were required to apply for permission to do. If the application was accepted, they would be sent a royal summons from the Lord Chamberlain to attend the Presentation. As well as debutantes, older women and married women who had not previously been presented could be presented at Court.

On the day of the court presentation, the debutante and her mother or other eligible lady would be announced; the debutante would curtsy to the reigning King or Queen and then leave without turning her back.

– The social season or Season has historically referred to the annual period when it is customary for members of the a social elite of society to hold debutante balls, dinner parties and large charity events. In London society, the Season traditionally began after Easter and ended with the “Glorious Twelfth” (August 12), the start of the shooting season for red grouse.

Thus concludes Christina’s Guide to Historical Novels! Hope you enjoyed it, maybe learned something new and hopefully you’ll be more inclined (and prepared) to take on a historical novel, whether it be written by a contemporary or classic writer.

Heard another unusual phrase or word? Leave a comment!

A Curse Dark As Gold – Elizabeth C. Bunce
Book Reviews
September 14, 2010 posted by Christina

A Curse Dark As Gold – Elizabeth C. Bunce

“Upon the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Charlotte struggles to keep the family’s woolen mill running in the face of an overwhelming mortgage and what the local villagers believe is a curse, but when a man capable of spinning straw into gold appears on the scene she must decide if his help is worth the price.”

A Curse Dark As Gold is the award winning debut novel from Elizabeth C. Bunce, which gives a new interpretation to the classic story of Rumpelstiltskin.

When looking at the original story, one of the main messages is – what’s in a name? Though every character, from the King to the miller, to Rumpelstiltskin himself has a name, the main character – the miller’s daughter, is nameless. Thus our protagonist, Charlotte Miller, was created.

Set in the country town of Shearing in England during the late 1700s, we meet Charlotte and her younger sister, Rosie, on the gloomy day of their father’s funeral. With no one else to take over the family’s woolen mill, Stirwaters, Charlotte must take charge to ensure the workplace the whole village depends on for income, stays afloat. This is by no means a small feat.

On top of battling the mill’s debts, deadlines for wool production and maintaining her authority as a woman during the 1700s, the mill itself is cursed. Not only does it seem to have a mind of its own – sometimes causing injuries to the workers, but a son born to the current owner of the mill has never survive into adulthood. While the mill’s debts are the biggest concern, the mysterious Jack Spinner comes on the scene. He makes himself and his unique abilities to turn everyday material into anything you desire (such as gold) available to the Millers – but at what cost?

A Curse Dark As Gold is the third historical novel in a row that I’ve read lately and I must say, I’m really loving it. As mentioned, it’s a reinterpretation of the story of Rumpelstiltskin, which was done very well considering it was retold while staying in the same time period as the original was set. Considering we know the ending to the fairytale, you’re still left in suspense wondering just how everything will come together in the end of this book.

There are so many different themes and issues that came up in this book but were blended and balanced out very well. The first is showing how the Industrial Revolution impacted the “cottage industry” or more traditional manufacturing methods of items such as wool and fabric which is the case in this story. The plot also brings together the superstitions and hidden secrets found in quite country villages. Not only that but the villagers themselves are gutsy people who work hard and approach any problem head on such as the big city business trying to make a move on their mill and stamp out their way of life.

It also shows the difference between a woman’s place in society in the city versus the country. Charlotte and her sister work hard on the mill, and though it is accepted in the country; we see that in the city, she’d be expected to do no more than be a pretty young lady, leaving servants to take care of anything else. This is highlighted by the arrival of the girl’s only living relative, their Uncle Wheeler. Though he shows up in fine clothes and powdered wig, under his refined exterior lie dark secrets and betrayals.

Love is shown in many forms throughout the story. We see the Charlotte’s love for the Stirwaters and the people in it who are her extended family, her love for her sister as well as her love for Randall. I adored Randall; I thought he was such a great character and an example of the perfect gentleman who works hard to protect the ones he loves. Charlotte’s love for Stirwaters however, almost jeopardized her relationship with Randall, as she let her pride and her want to protect others by handling the entire burden herself get in the way, as she became secretive and progressively distant from him. We definitely see the importance of communication and knowing that you shouldn’t underestimate those around you.

A Curse Dark As Gold is a thrilling read that takes on a classic fairytale and makes it something new a different while giving you insight the mysteries that lie beneath seemingly quite country towns. A terrific addition to the historical novels coming out recently.

Pages: 395
Publication Date: August 2010
Rating: : ★★★★☆

Teaser Quote: “Oh,” he said considering the idea, “let’s say Jack Spinner.”
“That’s no kind of name”
“It’s all the name I need here.” He gave a slight smile and tipped his hat. “Tonight, then. I’ll be back at sundown.”

Christina’s Guide to Historical Novels – Part 1
Blog Things
August 28, 2010 posted by Christina

Christina’s Guide to Historical Novels – Part 1

Last week I made the observation that historical novels – namely ones set in the 1700-1800s, are making a comeback. For those of you like me who could never quite click with writers like Jane Austen and the Bronte Sisters even though you really, really, wanted to, these books are the next best thing. However, since you still need a good grasp of the context to understand these books 100%, as well as help the visualization process, I did my research and have put together a helpful guide of history, vocabulary, social etiquette and fashion for you guys.


Now, most of the novels are set in England, since at the time it was not only the place to be but by the 1700s Great Britain was in a position of high power on a global scale.

This is mainly because of the defeat of the Spanish Armada sent out by King Phillip to conquer England in the late 1600s. By wiping out the largest navy in the world, England took Spain’s place as naval power.
By the 1700s, with no real naval challenged able to defeat the English they were on their way to global dominance through economic exchange and colonial enterprises.

Sometimes you might hear a character say something like “I heard they sent him to Australia”. That’s because in 1788 Australia was colonized by the English. They sent convicts (criminals who were often only guilty of petty crimes like stealing a loaf of bread) there to do all the hard labor as a way of solving the problem of overcrowded jails.

England’s main religion was the Church of England and Catholics (as well as any other religion) were often persecuted and generally regarded with suspicion. Many feared Catholicism would try to rise to power via France or Spain.

England and France had a tense relationship during the 18th century as they fought over colonies in North America including Canada.

France supported the American colonists in their fight for independence from British rule – which led to war and the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

During the 19th century France was generally regarded as the traditional and most-likely enemy of England. Only slowly towards the end of the century did feelings in England change to consider the rise of Germany as more threatening.

The French Revolution in 1789 led by Napoleon Bonaparte (who later becomes Emperor) would see the end of the French Monarchy.

The 19th century was BIG as far as inventions go. By now, the Industrial Revolution is in full swing and by the end of the century we see the invention of the battery, gas lighting, steam trains, tin cans, cameras/photography, matches, typewriters, postage stamps, sewing machines (woohoo!), washing machines, the telephone, toilet paper and Coca Cola among many, many more.

The Victorian era became notorious for the employment of young children in factories and mines and as chimney sweeps.  They were also hired as errand boys, shoe blacks and domestic servants.

Bedlam – this is a place that will come up quite often, not just in historical novels but in general pop culture, it’s still mentioned. Official known now as The Bethlem Royal Hospital of London, it is the world’s first and oldest institution to specialize in the mentally ill. Back in the 18th century though, it was known for its cruel and inhuman treatment of patients, and basically – a madhouse.

Patients were initially referred to as “curable” and “incurable”. Conditions were consistently dreadful, and the care amounted to little more than restraint with violent and dangerous patients manacled and chained to the floor. Many were wrongly sentenced to Bedlam but the noise was “so hideous, so great; that they are more able to drive a man that hath his wits rather out of them.”

In the 18th century people used to go to Bedlam to stare at the lunatics. For a penny one could peer into their cells, view the freaks of the “show of Bethlehem” and laugh at their antics. Entry was free on the first Tuesday of the month.

Opium addiction was rife during the 18th and 19th centuries, in many parts of the world including England, France, Canada, USA and China, where it originated. It was often put into everyday medicines in the form of Laudanum – which was considered a cure all. Many women were opium addicts, with Laudanum being prescribed by doctors for menstrual cramps, and other afflictions. The liquid would be poured into drinks, used in cooking or taken straight. Opium dens also surfaced during this time where many would waste their lives away in a drugged out.

Opium featured quite a lot in writing from the time – either with characters using them or with the author being under the influence at the time. In Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian visits opium dens as one of many shady nights in town.The poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was a heavy opium user and is said to have written Kubla Khan after being in an opium haze.

Well, that about covers the finer points of the historical context, but it’s really the tip of the iceberg. I definitely recommend looking into it a bit more, especially if you love history like I do.