WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Quill

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Quill

Happy New Year!

And in the words of Colonel Sherman Potter of M*A*S*H: “May she be a damn sight better than the old one.”

I typically binge books and television shows/movies over the holiday break. These past few weeks have been the exception in that we were simply too busy. Even though we’re still social distancing and being extremely careful, we did get out more and several typical holiday events resumed, so our schedule was full. Add to that, the weather was unseasonably warm, even for Texas, so we’ve been outside doing outside things – which was hopefully terribly good for our health.

When I found myself reading, I discovered a new pet peeve: the serial. Not book series, and not a set of full-size books with continuing side-storylines, but these short (even shorter-than-novella) serials that seem to be cropping up in my suggested reading lists. I’m talking thirty pages of characters repetitively ruminating over one or two events followed by a “to be continued” cliffhanging tag line, all for the price of a full-length book.

The times I’ve peeked at the entire serial collection, it was obvious the story could have been presented as one, full-length book. As a reader, separating the story into five short novellas feels like a money grab. As an author, this still feels like a money grab.

But perhaps I’m being too salty.

I’m beginning to feel a little petty-critical of fellow authors, so I’ll jump off my salt soapbox and look at some authors who wrote because they had to – they felt that compulsion and burn to put ink on paper. Or some simply felt the desire to set the world on fire with their words.

Quill

An author.

Maria Edgeworth, by John Downman, 1807, public domain.

Maria Edgeworth
(1 January 1767, Blackbourton, Oxfordshire — 22 May 1849, Edgeworthstown, Ireland)

Born in England, Edgeworth moved with her family to Ireland at the age of 15 and assisted her father with the management of their estate. There she learned the basics of the rural economy and Irish peasantry that would define her stories. She was fortunate that her parents supported her writing, and she found plenty of material and listening ears in her family of 24. Edgeworth wrote stories of children and Irish life; her first collection, The Parent’s Assistant, was published in 1796. Her first novel, Castle Rackrent in 1800, was praised for “social observations, character sketches, and authentic dialogue.” It was also praised for being free of moralising, which was attributed to her father’s editing of her earlier works. Sir Walter Scott and Jane Austen admired this new “regional novel” that highlighted the people of the area in which Edgeworth wrote.

Edgeworth never married, but she had many friends an acquaintances in literary and scientific circles. She took great pride and import in devoting herself to her family estate, and later working for the relief of peasants stricken during the Irish famine of 1846. Her novels continued to be regularly reprinted even in the 21st century, especially Moral Tales for Young People, 5 vol. (1801) and Letters for Literary Ladies (1795).

Frontispeice featuring an engraving of the author, Jane Porter, from The Pastor’s Fire-side: a Biographical Romance, 1846, Houghton Library.

Jane Porter
(17 January 1776 – 24 May 1850)

Born in Durham, England, but the daughter of a Scot, Jane Porter is considered one of the foremost female Scottish novelists and dramatists. After her father’s death, the family moved for a while to Edinburgh, where Walter Scott was a frequent visitor and storyteller in their home. Their next move found the family in London, where more artistic acquaintances further nurtured Porter (and two of her five siblings, a sister who also became a novelist, and a brother, a painter). Here she met Elizabeth Inchbald (actress, novelist), Anna Laetitia Barbauld (poet, essayist, literary critic, editor), Hannah More (poet, playwright, literary circle mistress), Elizabeth Hamilton (essayist, poet, satirist, novelist), Selina Davenport (novelist), Elizabeth Benger (biographer, novelist, poet), and Mrs Champion de Crespigny (artist, novelist).

Porter’s first novel was published in 1803 to moderate success, but her second novel in 1810, The Scottish Chiefs, soared to fame. The story features William Wallace as its hero, causing the book to bear the label as one of the first historical novels ever written. It remains popular among children in Scotland.

Hannah More 1745-1833, by Frances Reynolds, Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Hannah More
(1745-1833)

Born in Fishponds, More taught at a girl’s school in Bristol that was set up by her father (he also established a similar boy’s school). She was betrothed to William Turner, the owner of Belmont estate, at the age of two and twenty; the beauty of the area inspired her to begin to write poetry. Turner postponed their wedding three times over the span of six years before eventually breaking their engagement (which caused a possible nervous breakdown). He offered her £200 a year as recompense; she initially refused but after contemplation, accepted. These funds allowed her an independence women of the period rarely experienced, and she pursued a literary career with great success.

More wrote both poetry, plays, and social-cause pamphlets and essays, and was a champion of female education, social reform, and abolition. Her play, Percy, featured a forward by David Garrick, and was found in Mozart’s possessions upon his death. She was a member of London’s literary elite, keeping company with the likes of the Bluestocking group (until falling out with many of them over her anti-feminist/industry and piety views after the publishing of Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which More refused to read). She established twelve schools in the Mendip District of England, and was monetarily instrumental in the founding of Kenyon College in Ohio.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Back Biter

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Back Biter

In church we call them “parking lot committee members.” In social media we call them “tea spillers.” If you’re at work, people ask for the “scuttlebutt” or “dish.”

No matter the label, someone who gossips, especially with the intent to hurt or defame, is an untrustworthy, chin-wagging scandalmonger that you’d better not turn your back on.

Back Biter

One who slanders another behind his back, i.e. in his absence. His bosom friends are become his back biters, said of a lousy man.

Of course I must consult the artistic authority to illustrate my posts, James Gillray. Let’s find some Back Biters.

The Feast of Reason, & the Flow of Soul, i.e. The Wits of the Age Setting the Table in a Roar, by James Gillray, 4 February 1797, Trustees of the British Museum.

Gillray’s The Feast of Reason… presented five significant Whigs of the time: (from left to right) George Hanger, drinking buddy of the Prince of Wales; Charles James Fox, opposition leader (with back to the viewer); Richard Brinsley Sheridan, playwright and professional debtor; Michael Angelo Taylor, MP, and; John Courtenay, frequent fluent speaker of sarcasm in Parliament. The title of the print represented Gillray’s feelings on his subject: the first half came from Alexander Pope’s Imitations of Horace, II, while the second half came from Hamlet. The artist used these classic works to illustrate that the past was rich and full of wit and reason while the present day was full of feeble satire and weak constitutions.

Farmer Giles & His Wife Showing Off Their Daughter Betty to Their Neighbours on Her Return from School, by James Gillray, 1 January 1809, Trustees of the British Museum.

Farmer Giles and his wife were proud of their returned daughter…perhaps blindingly proud. From the expressions on the faces of the younger sister, dog, and servant, their eldest daughter’s skills on the pianoforte were not quite the thing. Gillray’s talent for drawing and satire were magnificently displayed in the writing of the sampler on the wall, “”Evil communications corrupt good manners,” which of course contrasted deliciously with the back-biting gossip sharing her juicy observations behind her fan.

Sophia, Honour, & the Chambermaid, by James Gillray, 1 August 1780, Trustees of the British Museum.

Here Gillray illustrated Tom Jones, specifically chapter five from Book X. Meeting upstairs outside the rooms at the Inn at Upton were the heroine of the novel, Sophia Western; her maid, Honour Blackmore, and; Susan, the chambermaid. The chambermaid related the gossip she heard below stairs from Partridge, the companion to Tom Jones, who was coincidentally staying at the same Inn. Unfortunately, her gossip – as gossip is wont to be – was no more than half-correct and entirely misleading.

He told us Madam (‘tho to be sure it’s all a Lye)
that your Ladyship was Dying for Love of the Young Squire,
and that he was going to the Wars, to get rid of you.