WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grub Street

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Grub Street

Being a romance author, I can identify with the adjectival meaning of this week’s word.

Grub Street

A street near Moorfields, formerly the supposed habitation of many persons who wrote for the booksellers: hence a Grub-street writer means a hackney author, who manufactures books for the booksellers.

From London Its Celebrated Characters and Remarkable Places.

According to The Grub Street Project, for true 18th century writers such as Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift, Grub Street represented the worst of the pretender lot: “base commercialization, hack writing, and the prostitution of literary ideals.” Picture the look of horror on the face of your English teacher that time she assigned the class book reports, and you chose Stephen King.

Even the buildings in Moorfields seem to highlight the difference between the hack and the authentic literati. It’s pure speculation on my park, but I’d expect to see Grub Streeters in the former and Jonathan Swift in the latter.

Old House in Sweedon’s Passage, Grub Street, Drawn July 1791, taken down March 1805, via Spitalfields Life.

Houses on the West Side of Little Moorfields, May 1810, via Spitalfields Life.

But what truly separated the drudge with a quill from the literary nobility? Style? Substance? Subject? The quality of the paper?

Samuel Derrick was the Grub Street hack generally credited with composing the annual Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies. The pocket publication was sold for two shillings and sixpence; about 8,000 copies were in circulation each year. The list contained all the details would one expect for a directory of prostitutes, some specific, some general, some complimentary, and some warnings. The content began with suggestive drawings, a long essay on the benefits of prostitution, and eventually politically-tinged arguments for the support of the sex trade as a means of benefit to the public, or a call to scorn not the seller but the buyer. The descriptions of each prostitute ranged from explicit and florid to matter-of-fact.

Miss B—lt—n, No. 14, Lisle-Street,
Leicester Fields.

Why should they e’er give me pain,
Who to give me joy disdain;
All I ask of mortal man,
Is to————-me whilst he can.

These four lines were not more applicable to Miss C—tl—y, than to this present reigning lover of the sport; she is rather above mediocrity in height and size, with fine dark hair, and a pair of bewitching hazel eyes; very agreeable and loving, but she is not so unreasonable as to expect constancy; it is a weak unprofitable quality in a woman, and if she can persuade her husband or keeper that she has it, it is just the same as though she really possessed it. Miss B—lt—n is conscious she loves variety, as it conduces both to her pleasure and interest; and she gives each of her gallants the same liberty of conscience, therefore she never lessens the fill of joy, by any real or affected freaks of jealousy; when her lovers come to her, they are welcome, and they are equally so when they fly to another’s arms. Indeed, when they do so, it is generally to her advantage, as she finds they return to her with re- doubled ardour, and her charms are in general more dear, from a comparison with others; and although her age is bordering upon twenty-four, and she has been a traveller in our path four years, her desires are not the least abated, nor does she set less value on herself.

 

Miss H—rd—y, No. 45, Newman Street.

Her look serene does purest softness wear,
Her face exclaims her fairest of the fair.

This lady borrows her name from her late keeper, who is now gone to the Indias, and left her to seek support on the wide common of independence; she is now just arrived at the zenith of perfection, devoid of art and manners, as yet untutor’d by fashion, her charms have for their zest every addition youth and simplicity can add. She has beauty with- out pride, elegance without affectation, and innocence without dissimulation; and not knowing how long this train of perfections will last, we would advise our reader to make hay whilst the sun shines.

While there is no doubt that this is the 18th century man’s version of the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, a buyer’s guide for acquiring companionship of a certain nature and duration, some of the writings of the so-called true artists have some questionable attributes.

I’ve never been a fan of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Yes, it’s satire. Yes, it’s a parody of the heroic. But yes, it’s also demeaning to women, specifically Belinda. Someone stole something of hers. Something from her person. Without permission. I don’t like the presumption that others decided whether Belinda had the right to be angry, affronted, or saddened by the loss of her lock. Whether her lock was of any value or worth pursuit. Whether she had the right to fight to get it back.

Satire, by definition, is “the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices.” I don’t like where the satire in The Rape could lead: it’s okay to ridicule Belinda’s upset over her lock, and she is being stupid. The passive aggressive chiding to ‘get over it’ as unimportant in lines 25-34 in Canto V has always made me uneasy. Especially since a man, who held all the power in that era, was the one giving the condescending scold.

But since, alas! frail beauty must decay,
Curl’d or uncurl’d, since Locks will turn to grey;
Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade,
And she who scorns a man, must die a maid;
What then remains but well our pow’r to use,
And keep good-humour still whate’er we lose?
And trust me, dear! good-humour can prevail,
When airs, and flights, and screams, and scolding fail.
Beauties in vain their pretty eyes may roll;
Charms strike the sight, but merit wins the soul.

Boy, did I chase a rabbit there. Let’s keep chasing.

Romance authors are often treated like Grub Street hacks, as we’re considered the redheaded step-children of the world of books. If we could write, we’d write literature. You must read that italicized sentence with your nose wrinkled in distaste.

Even statistics showing the dominance of the romance novel industry are trivialized, with the hardly-subtle jabs hitting both the authors and the romance readers: romance = sex. Poor frustrated authors and readers.

At $1.44 billion, Romance and Erotica are #1 in sales. That figure includes self-published romance as well. With 30 million dedicated readers, it’s hard to miss if you write in this genre. As anyone in advertising knows, sex sells. ~Erica Verillo, The Writing Cooperative

Do you know which book genres make the most money? I surely didn’t before doing some research. To be perfectly honest, I never really thought about it. We usually focus on which books do well, or what the top books of the year were, but we never really consider which genre is the one bringing in the bucks. 1) Romance/Erotica – $1.44 billion. From the success of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy and the number of novels written by people like Danielle Steele, there’s no surprise that romance and erotica are #1. ~Mahogany Turner-Francis, Bookstr

I wish I had a dollar for every time romance genre data and conclusions are mentioned in the same breath as FSOG. There’s a hilarious meme that explains FSOG better than that.

At least laughter is good for the soul.

This post took a long trip this week to say that writers or a certain skill set in the long 18th century were known as Grub Street hacks. And that there were likely some in the bunch that didn’t deserve the moniker.

 

  • Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • Dive deep into The Grub Street Project. There’s a wealth of fascinating stuff pertaining to the long 18th century, from maps to people to works to trades in its archives.
  • Check out the collection of gorgeous engravings of John Thomas Smith curated by The Gentle Author at Spitalfields Life.
  • You can read the entire Harris’s List of Covent Garden Ladies from 1788…but it’s pretty ick.
  • Read Pope for yourself in his Complete Works.
  • I’m not giving a bulleted list shout-out to sneerers of the romance industry. Nor did I tag them in this post. Links are provided at the end of the quotes above.
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Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

Keep Calm and Read This! ~The Matchmaking Game by Donna Hatch~

I’m honored to have best-selling author Donna Hatch visit today. She has a new novella debuting April 18th, but we get a sneak peek here … and it’s available for preorder!


Title: The Matchmaking Game
Heat level: Sweet (clean)
Genre: Regency Romance
Length: Novella ~ 126 pages

 
 
Rowena’s childhood friend, Evan, has returned home from war a handsome, but mysterious stranger. In an effort to bring happiness to her father, not to mention uncover the Evan she remembers from their youth, Rowena seeks to unite their parents. Who better to match a lonely widow and widower together than their adoring children? Her matchmaking game could help their parents find happiness and draw out her childhood friend buried beneath Evan’s new reserve … or it could break more than one heart.

With a gesture at a basket tied to the saddle, she said, “I had Cook pack plenty of those seedcakes Nurse Murray likes so well, as well as lemon tarts for you.” She made a face. “I’ll be sure to grab one before you devour them all and leave me with nothing but crumbs.”

He laughed softly. “Would I do that?”

Her impish grin filled him with sunshine. “It was your habit.”

With a flippant shrug, he teased, “It was for your own good. I didn’t want you to get too fat.”

She made a gesture to her waistline. “Do I look like I need someone to monitor my eating habits?”

He made a perusal of her, letting his gaze travel from her face downward, slowly, but forgot he was supposed to be teasing her. Instead, he took a really good look. Fourteen-year-old Rowena had been as curvy as a blade of grass. Twenty-three-year old Rowena, with her figure accentuated by her fitted riding habit—so much more flattering than the normal, high-waisted gowns of the day’s fashions—had the graceful, generous curves of a Greek statue of Aphrodite. A new tightness formed inside his chest.

Rowena looked at him as if she’d never seen him before. Surprise, and something almost smug, deepened the gray of her eyes. She put a hand on a hip. “Like what you see, Captain?”

He tugged at a suddenly strangling cravat and cleared his throat. “Forgive me. You’ve changed.”

“How kind of you to notice,” she said dryly. “Give your major a leg up?”

With a smile at her reference to the honorary rank he’d given her, Evan dismounted. He laced his fingers together so she could mount her horse. A pert smile came his way before she placed her left foot in his cupped hands. She put one hand on his shoulder to steady herself as he boosted her up. Her soft body brushed his arm and chest. Her scent, something soft and feminine he could not name, tingled his senses. Mere inches away, her smooth cheek and moist lips taunted him. His chest squeezed, and his knees wobbled. Awareness of her, of the desirable woman she had become, rendered him immobile. She glanced at him, one brow raised, and a half smile curving those luscious lips. A burning energy formed in the middle of his stomach and shot outward like sunbursts.

She parted those lips and spoke. “Am I too heavy for a big, strong man like you?”

“Er, no. Of course not.” He cleared his throat again and boosted her up with a bit too much force.

Despite his aggressive boost, she placed her right leg over the leg rest of the sidesaddle and found her balance. She settled the long, heavy skirts of her riding habit around her, while he helped position her left foot in the stirrup.

With the reins in one hand and her riding crop in the other, she eyed him with an expectant lift to her brows. “Shall we?”

He shook his head, stopped staring, and mounted Otoño. It must be all Winnie’s talk about courting Rowena that had him so rattled. He couldn’t entertain such an idea. He’d made a vow to Joseph and all but promised himself to Cynthia. Besides, as an additional benefit, Cynthia’s dowry could restore the family fortune without having to sell off some of its most precious assets and break up generations of holdings. His path was already paved. Honor and duty dictated his next move.

Click Here to Pre-order on Amazon today!

Donna Hatch, author of the best-selling “Rogue Hearts Series,” is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish seventeen historical romance titles, to date. She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and she loves to ballroom dance. Donna and her family recently transplanted from her native Arizona to the Pacific Northwest where she and her husband of over twenty years are living proof that there really is a happily ever after.

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And don’t forget to always #ReadARegency!

My Top Ten Clankers in Regency Romance

My Top Ten Clankers in Regency Romance

via Reddit.com

via Reddit.com

Earlier this week, I wrote of the terrific slang term clanker, meaning “a great lie.” The imminently quotable philosopher Barney Stinson once said of clankers:

A lie is just a great story that someone ruined with the truth.

For real.

As an author of Historical Regency Romance, there are few things as frustrating as writing what you think is a terrific scene only to find out through research that your situation could not have happened for another fifty years. Or that the words you think made your dialogue Oscar-worthy weren’t even thought of for another five generations.

Pffft.

I love history and I love research, so it’s no chore for me to dig deeply into archives and contemporaneous resources to find the meat for my stories…but this does not make me hung up on being 100% historically accurate 100% of the time. Care should be taken to be as authentic as possible, but there is room for creativity and invention without completely disregarding archival facts. I like characters with independent, curious natures and sparkling wit, but they can still be properly attired and mannered when in Society (though not necessarily in private!). As an author, I have to set up my narrative in a way that makes the anachronism plausible and thus acceptable in my story.

credit: Trevor Hudgins http://tinyurl.com/pcc9ygm

Abe Lincoln. Word. Credit: Trevor Hudgins http://tinyurl.com/pcc9ygm

If we can all find some common ground and agree to the premise that Regency romance is fiction and that some artistic license is allowed, can there still be errors that bump readers out of our time period, and thus out of our stories? Most definitely.

Some errors – whether accidental or purposeful – are so egregious that readers say they have to physically restrain themselves from throwing their Kindles against the wall. When accidental, we authors have a responsibility to learn from and vow not to repeat those mistakes. When purposeful, we authors need to support our choices: by explanation in the notes at the end of the story, by context in the anachronistic scene, or by consistent narrative that makes the error necessary and relatable to our entire plot. It’s a fine line to walk, and care must be exercised to make sure the historical embellishment (such as the educated and politically-minded heroine) doesn’t stray into the implausible (said heroine decides to stand for her deceased father’s seat in Commons because she must fight for her neighbors’ rights).

It’s a gamble to play fast and loose with historical fact. When successful, it’s wonderful (“I love this book!” gushes one reviewer). When it fails (“This book needs to be burned with fire!” raves a reviewer)…well…it just fails.

Just as it’s unreasonable to have doctors shock patients back to life with a MRI or cars maneuvered by gear sticks rather than steering wheels, I think there are some clankers in Regency romance that need to be phased out. I’ve made a list of the ones that bother me enough to eliminate.

So much anachronism, so little time. Austenland (Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films).

So much anachronism, so little time. Austenland, Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films

My Top Ten Clankers in Regency Romance:
(in no particular order)

1. The engagement notice to the newspapers. Some marriages had notices placed, but never betrothals.

2. The threat or bargain of a simple annulment or divorce. Annulments occurred due to ineligibility of the participants (someone was too young or the guardian’s permission was not granted) or inability of the male (ahem). Divorce was even more difficult. Both were ugly, drawn-out, and expensive. See Nancy Mayer’s thorough explanation on Dissolving a Marriage.

3. The overnight elopement to Gretna Green. Only if you begin the trip in Yorkshire.

4. The heroine must marry by age 20 or be “on the shelf.” I admit I’m torn about this one. A simple check of parish registers reveals marriage of the extremely young to be the exception rather than the rule among the peerage…but I do love a good “almost a spinster” storyline!

5. The threat of disinheritance of the heir apparent by the parent/guardian. This clanker is usually tied to the main plot of why the hero marries the heroine (i.e., the hero is threatened with the loss of peerage unless he produces an heir, nabs a respectable wife, changes his rakehell ways, etc.). The heir’s title cannot be withheld or given away; parents and peerages were stuck with the firstborn. In book three of my Lords of Oxford series, Earl Crazy, the earl grandfather petitions parliament to amend the Letters Patent of the Aylesford Earldom to change the line of succession. Change could take place, but not via threats, just arduous and slow parliamentary procedure. Better to just blackmail and bully the heir with penury; parents didn’t have to send along enough of the ready to run the peerage.

6. The heroine is alone with the hero (or any unrelated male) and thus compromised. This situation alone didn’t force marriage. Extenuating circumstances were called for: her skirts up around her waist; traveling alone, especially overnight; those discovering the twosome demand satisfaction (through duel, marriage, etc.). If all parties agreed to just let it lie (or let it lay; I can never remember the grammar here), there was no scandal.

7. The Upper Ten Thousand. Not until the Edwardian era. The Regency featured the ton, beau monde, and Society (to name a few).

8. The necessity of permission from Almack’s patronesses to waltz. There is zero/zilch/nada contemporaneous documentation for this entrenched clanker. The earliest documentation of the concept occurs in the novels of Georgette Heyer. Several reputable research sites still list this myth as fact, which only strengthens the truth behind the adage of always going to the source. In a review dated 16 July 1816, a writer from the London Times reported:  “We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last.” This was the King’s Birthday Ball. Although the waltz had been danced in England much earlier than this (privately, and especially in the country and by the lower orders), the writer notes that inclusion at the Kings Birthday Ball will make the popularity of the waltz spread like disease. Despite this writer’s near apoplexy over the dance, no mention was made of permission nor patronesses. It seems were there a way to stem the tide of its unfettered acceptance, this writer would have stressed any restrictions.

“So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now that it is attempted to be forced on the respectable classes of society by the civil examples of their superiors, we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion.”

9. The legitimization of a bastard. Never. Ever. A natural child could be included in a will to receive money or unentailed property, and they could be acknowledged openly by the family, but they could never claim legitimacy nor be put in the line of inheritance.

10. The concept of adoption. Much like a bastard, an orphan or foundling could be taken in and receive money or property in a will, but there was no concept of adoption as we know it. This can be confusing because bringing an orphan or foundling into the home was called adoption – but it’s not a legal term, just a familial one.

His Royal Highness George, The Prince of Wales, in Blackadder the Third.

His Royal Highness George, The Prince of Wales, in Blackadder the Third.

🌟 11. BONUS: The misuse of titles. I’m going all-in on this clanker, which probably deserves a rant post of its own. When writing about the aristocracy,  there’s just no escaping the necessity of proper address and use of titles. Could a reader ever take seriously a story set in a hospital where the doctor was always addressed “Mr. Randall?” Likewise, would it pull a reader out of the story if nurse Stephanie Smith was addressed as Doctor Smith in her scenes? That’s a contemporary example of the misuse of titles. I’d love to declare a universal embargo on lordly dukes and baronets (His Grace and Sir FirstName, if you please), married ladies going by their first names, and unmarried ladies sporting title names. Does anyone else hear nails on a chalkboard? To be in the know, reference Nancy Mayer, Laura Ann Wallace (Chinet), or venerable Debrett’s.

I write Regency romance and will be the first one to admit that I make multiple mistakes; some are discovered before publishing, and some slip through the editing net and go live. It is a difficult job to keep everything straight all the time. But guess what?! It’s my genre and I’m sticking with it. With great power comes great responsibility – the responsibility to do all that I can to thoroughly research and produce an authentic product.

So what do you think? Did I miss some big clankers? Are any of these lovelies too delightful to stop using? Is clanker too harsh a word – would you prefer “trope?” Am I too nitpicky? Tell me what you think in the comments below!