Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

Keep Calm and Read This: Christmas Secrets by Donna Hatch

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the US and you need to treat yourself to a terrific book as a reward for the hours spent preparing, serving, and cleaning up after the holiday feast. Look no further than this week’s guest, bringing just the thing to present to give yourself for another holiday in the books. It’s a pleasure to welcome Donna Hatch to share with us what she’s learned about smooching under the yuletide greenery, and introduce us to her newest novel, Christmas Secrets.

Mistletoe Kisses

Is it just me, or does the image of sharing a long-awaited kiss underneath a mistletoe sprig create all kinds of delicious images? Mistletoe kissing is a time-honored tradition. Like many holiday customs, kissing under the mistletoe has pagan origins, and the custom has evolved over time. Most sources trace it back to ancient Scandinavia but it spread to England and much of Europe during the Middle Ages.

Probably because it was one of the few plants that stayed green during the winter, Celtic druids believed mistletoe contained magical properties of vitality. They seemed to have been oblivious to that fact that it is a parasitic plant that lives off trees. Apparently, they viewed mistletoe as the tree’s spirit revealing signs of life when the rest of the tree looked dead during winter. Also, oak mistletoe is rare compared to that found in fruit trees, so the druids believed mistletoe growing on oak trees was rare and more powerful. Since these druids thought mistletoe had life-giving powers, they conducted fertility and healing rituals underneath a bow of oak mistletoe for sick cattle and other animals.

People also looked to it for protection.

According to the Holiday Spot:

In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning.

Eventually, a practice in Scandinavia developed for hostile parties to gather underneath mistletoe to negotiate peace. Even quarreling husbands and wives made up under the mistletoe, and kissed to seal their renewed love and commitment to their marriage. Other herbology claims mistletoe is both an aphrodisiac and an abortive plant, which might be why some of the earliest customs involved more than an innocent kiss. But we won’t go into that.

Over time, the custom of kissing moved indoors. Sometimes the ball or sprig of mistletoe was decorated with ribbons, holly, apples, oranges and other fruits. Some people hung mistletoe below figures of the infant Christ, Mary, and Joseph.

In some parts of Europe and Great Britain, arriving guests kissed their host’s hand under a sprig of mistletoe hung in a doorway. Eventually a custom sprang up to have maidens wait under the mistletoe in the hopes that a young man would kiss her with the expectation that he would marry her within a year. If she didn’t get kissed, she had little expectation of marrying that year, sorta like a marriage fortune teller.

A young man who kissed a girl under the sprig or bough of mistletoe traditionally plucked off one of the white berries. When all the berries were plucked, the kissing, at least while under the mistletoe, also ceased.

I often see people mistake mistletoe with holly. Mistletoe has soft, pale green smooth leaves and white berries. Holly has green, glossy, ragged-edged leaves and red berries.

By the Regency Era, the custom of mistletoe kissing no longer came with strings attached. It became an excuse for behavior not normally condoned among unmarried ladies and gentleman. Maidservants stood underneath a decorated ball of mistletoe in a doorway to indicate her willingness to kiss in exchanged for a coin.

In my newest novel, Christmas Secrets, an innocent mistletoe kiss leads to a startling realization.

A stolen Christmas kiss leaves them bewildered and breathless.

A charming rogue-turned-vicar, Will wants to prove that he left his rakish days behind him, but an accidental kiss changes all his plans. His secret could bring them together…or divide them forever.

Holly has two Christmas wishes this year; finally earn her mother’s approval by gaining the notice of a handsome earl, and learn the identity of the stranger who gave her a heart-shattering kiss…even if that stranger is the resident Christmas ghost.

Christmas Secrets is available now – get your copy right now!

 

 

Best-selling author, Donna Hatch, is a hopeless romantic and adventurer at heart, the force that drove her to write and publish twenty historical romance titles, including the award-winning “Rogue Hearts Series.”  She is a multi-award winner, a sought-after workshop presenter, and juggles multiple volunteer positions as well as her six (yes, that is 6) children. Also a music lover, she sings and plays the harp, and 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.

Find Donna Hatch online at:

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And always remember to #ReadARegency!

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Hum Trum

Regency era London was a noisy place to be. Streets were congested with all manner of traffic, from private carriages to hackneys to freight wagons. Pavements on the sides of streets were just as clogged, with all manner of hawkers and their carts, writhing seas of pedestrians, and just gawpers in general. The racket raised by the sheer number of people and machinery was enormous. Add to that the criminal element of pick-pockets scurrying about, and the streets were a mishmash of business, leisure, and delinquency. So what else added to the noise pollution of the time?

Street Musicians.

According to Jane Austen’s World, musicians “roamed the land, and London streets offered a pandemonium of sound, much of it derived from musical instruments.” Street musicians were known as buskers, and they were equally loved (or at least tolerated) and loathed. And while many buskers had real instruments, such as violins and barrel organs, others made music from devices cobbled-together from whatever implements could be collected from people’s cast-offs.

Hum Trum

A musical instrument made of a mopstick, a bladder, and some packthread, thence also called a bladder and string, and hurdy gurdy; it is played on like a violin, which is sometimes ludicrously called a humstrum; sometimes, instead of a bladder, a tin canister is used.

The Enraged Musician by William Hogarth, 1741, British Museum.

Street musicians would play popular folk songs and ballads, some classics of storytelling and some downright bawdy numbers. Jane Austen herself copied many such “common” songs in her handwritten collection of sheet music. She especially enjoyed tunes by composer Charles Dibdin. His prolific compositions ranged from serious and patriotic, to ditties and sea shanties. The latter of such songs were the main pieces played upon the hum trum. One of Dibdin’s most famous songs is Tom Bowling. I can only find today what my Granny would have called “highfalutin” versions of this song about an everyman, but it’s an excellent example of the type of folk song that would have been played by street buskers in hopes of earning a penny or three.

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling, the darling of our crew;
No more he’ll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broached him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty; his heart was kind and soft
Faithful below, Tom did his duty, and now, he’s gone aloft.

Tom never from his word departed; his virtues were so rare
His friends were many and true-hearted; his Poll was true and fair.
And then he’d sing so blithe and jolly, ah!
Many’s the time and oft.
But mirth is turned to melancholy, for Tom is gone aloft.

Yet shall poor Tom find pleasant weather, when He, who all commands,
Shall give, to call Life’s crew together, the word to pipe all hands.
Thus Death, who kings and tars despatches,
In vain Tom’s life hath doffed,
For though his body’s under hatches, his soul is gone aloft.

The television show Harlots has some of the best representations of folk songs I’ve heard of late, amongst its likewise faithful (I swear I can almost smell the scenes in this show) depictions of sex trade and fine society in the midst of politics and economics in Georgian England. In Episode Four, the younger daughter of brothel owner Margaret Wells sang a song during the masquerade party Pandemonium, thrown to earn enough blunt to pay off the debt of moving on up, to Greek Street rather than the East Side. Lucy sang the 18th century ballad My Thing is My Own.

I, a tender young maid, have been courted by many
Of all sorts and trades as ever was any.
A spruce haberdasher first spake to me fair
But I would have nothing to do with small ware.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Yet other young lasses may do as they will.

A sweet scented courtier did give me a kiss,
And promis’d me mountains if I would be his,
But I’ll not believe him, for it is too true,
Some courtiers do promise much more than they do.

A fine Man of Law did come out of the Strand,
To plead his own case with his fee in his hand;
He made a brave motion but that would not do,
For I did dismiss him and nonsuit him too.

Next came a young fellow, a notable spark,
(With green bag and inkhorn, a Justice’s clerk)
He pull’d out his warrant to make all appear,
But I sent him away with a flea in his ear.

A Master of Musick came with an intent,
To give me a lesson on my instrument,
I thank’d him for no’hing, but bid him be gone,
For my little fiddle should not be plaid on.

An Usurer came with abundance of cash,
But I had no mind to come under his lash,
He profer’d me jewels, and great store of gold,
But I would not mortgage my little Free-hold.

A blunt Lieutenant surpriz’d my placket,
And fiercely began to rifle and sack it,
I mustered my spirits up and became bold,
And forc’d my Lieutenant to quit his strong hold.

A crafty young bumpkin that was very rich,
And us’d with his bargains to go thro’ stitch,
Did tender a sum, but it would not avail,
That I should admit him my tenant in tayl.

A fine dapper taylor, with a yard in his hand
Did profer his service to be at command
He talk’d of a slit I had above knee,
But I’ll have no taylors to stitch it for me.

A Gentleman that did talk much of his grounds
His Horses, his Setting-Dogs, and his greyhounds
Put in for a Course, and us’d all his art
But he mist of the Sport, for Puss would not start

A pretty young Squire new come to the town
To empty his Pockets, and so to go down,
Did profer a kindness, but I would have none
The same that he us’d to his mother’s maid, Joan.

Now here I could reckon a hundred and more
Besides all the Gamesters recited before
That made their addresses in hopes of a snap
But as young as I was I understood trap.

My thing is my own, and I’ll keep it so still
Until I be marryed, say men what they will.

From Pills to Purge Melancholy, Vol. IV, D’Urfey

Sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart have a fine cover of the mournful-yet-vulgar song, but the adaptation by the Sirens is a much earthier and faithful rendition that does justice to the innuendo-laden lyrics. And their harmonies are gorgeous.

Some of the songs from Harlots are original compositions done in the style of Georgian tunes, and they fit both historically and in circumstance. My favorite so far is Mary Cooper, for all that it’s subject is about to die of myriad working girl ailments. As the harlots paraded poor Mary’s corpse through Covent Garden, all they lacked were violins, organs, and a few hum trum. I can’t find a clip of the actual scene, but the lyrics tell the story well. Watch Season 1, Episode 2, to see the feast for the eyes (in both horrid and sumptuous glory) that is Harlots.

Get your hum trums out and play along.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper.
She’s had every Lord and Trooper
Kisses scorch, her waps are super.

Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
She’s had every Lord and Trooper.
Mary Cooper, Mary Cooper,
Leaves her lovers in a stupor.

Ridin’ high, no man can dupe her-
London’s Venus, Mary Cooper!

 

 

Keep Calm and Read This: Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie

Keep Calm and Read This: Blind Tribute by Mari Anne Christie

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Mariana Gabrielle. She has a new novel set in a different era from her previous releases (and if you haven’t read La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess, or any of the Sailing Home series, get to it!). Writing as Mari Anne Christie, she’s delving into the world of journalism and the American Civil War. In the midst of new release mania, I managed to snag an interview with the big man himself, Harry Wentworth.

And there’s a giveaway!

NAME: Palmer Harrold Wentworth III (Palmer to his mother and wife; P.H. Wentworth III to readers; Harry to friends and family)
AGE: 57
OCCUPATION: Executive Editor of The Philadelphia Daily Standard, writing primarily on issues of business and finance
NET WORTH: ~$4 million
CURRENT DATE: April 1, 1861

If you had a free day with no responsibilities and your only mission was to enjoy yourself, what would you do?
Though I have been employed since my early twenties, I have never needed to work for my living, so I imagine I would do what I have chosen to do every day of my adult life: write.

What impression do you make on people when they first meet you? How about after they’ve known you for a while?
I have long since ceased concerning myself with the impression I make, as my reputation nearly always precedes me, and there is little I can do to change the perception created by my newspaper columns. I hope, upon deeper acquaintance, those who meet me understand that my reputation is larger than life, and I am only a man like any other.

What’s your idea of a good marriage? Do you think that’ll happen in your life?
My marriage is tolerable, and I think it foolish to expect anything more when marrying for bloodline. All ancestry being equal among the available young ladies, I chose my wife precisely for her lack of romantic notions, and largely, that has contributed to a successful partnership.

What are you most proud of about your life?
My twin daughters, Fleur and Belle, followed closely by the global readership I have worked all my life to build, and the reputation associated with such renown.

What are you most ashamed of in your life?
I am deeply ashamed of the way I raised my son, Robert. I am not certain what else I could have done, but I cannot help but feel responsible for the sort of man he has become.

If you could spend the day with someone you admire (living or dead or imaginary), who would you pick?
I would give all I own to spend the day with my childhood nanny, who is yet living, but beyond my reach.

Do you think you’ve turned out the way your parents expected?
I have turned out exactly as they expected, which is to say, not at all as they hoped.

What do you believe about God? (If they believe in God, ask “What do you suppose God thinks of you?”)
God is a convenient and efficient means of ensuring people act with decency and contribute to society. As such, it is a concept worthy of cultivation.

Is there anything you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done? What would happen if you did it?
I wish I had freed two slaves, but the possibility is long since gone.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened in your life? What did you learn from it?
I have been disowned by my father three times, which taught me that his influence is smaller than he would have the world believe, and that I could survive on my own.

Tell me about your best friend. (If you think it might be interesting, ask “How did you meet? What do you like about this person? What do they like about you?”)
What a ridiculous notion. I am on intimate terms with several gentlemen, most notably, the current Secretary of State for the Union, William Seward, but a “best friend” is a fancy best suited to young girls.

Every newspaper editor may owe tribute to the devil, but Harry Wentworth’s bill just came due.

As America marches toward the Civil War, Harry Wentworth, gentleman of distinction and journalist of renown, finds his calls for peaceful resolution have fallen on deaf—nay, hostile—ears, so he must finally resolve his own moral quandary. Comment on the war from his influential—and safe—position in Northern Society, or make a news story and a target of himself South of the Mason-Dixon Line, in a city haunted by a life he has long since left behind?

The day-to-day struggle against countervailing forces, his personal and professional tragedies on both sides of the conflict, and the elegant and emotive writings that define him, all serve to illuminate the trials of this newsman’s crusade, irreparably altering his mind, his body, his spirit, and his purpose as an honorable man. Blind Tribute exposes the shifting stones of the moral high ground, as Harry’s family and friendships, North and South, are shattered by his acts of conscience.

Anne’s face contorted, red with rage. Her entire being seemed to swell three sizes. As many weeks as Harry had been considering this evening’s discussion, so had she. She would spring at him any moment with two weeks’ worth—two months’ worth—of argument she’d been amassing. He should have known; she’d been much too accommodating of his opinions thus far.

“Far be it from me to keep you from suicide, Palmer, for I shall be a very merry widow, but you cannot expect me to uproot my children over a minor conflict about which you have a bad feeling. You would have me leave everything I know to assuage your fears for our safety, when you refuse to stay and ensure it yourself?! I have family here, and a home, and two girls to present and marry. There is no chance the fighting will reach Pennsylvania before the insurrection is put down, and I’ll not disrupt everything for you, or for this ridiculous war!”

Instead of backing away, he stepped forward. “I married you because you read the newspaper, Anne, and because you do not usually speak drivel. Can you be so short-sighted? You would refuse to take our children to safety, simply because it is I who suggest it?” He raised his voice for the first time since their argument began. “No, Anne! I will not hear it! I have chosen the safest course for you and the children, and the only course for myself. Stop screeching about something you should have expected. I’ve had enough argument from you for one evening. The decision has been made.”

Her tone lowered from a shriek to a loud yell as she took a step backward. “I never believed you could do such an awful thing to your wife and children! Tearing us away from everything—our whole lives—so you can stand on some ill-defined principle! It’s inhuman!” She stomped her foot again, retaking the ground she had lost, shaking the pictures on the blue silk walls and the curios interspersed among the bookshelves. An Argentinean mask toppled off a shelf, but didn’t break on the Persian carpet.

He saw the tears well up, and hoped sincerely he would ultimately be allowed to soothe her when he won the disagreement, rather than watch her walk away from the fight, lock the door to her rooms, and prepare herself for continued battle until she’d won her point. Unfortunately, Anne’s tears in such a situation could portend anything—except surrender.

Click below to grab your copy today ~ available at most online vendors!

 

 

Mari was “raised up” in journalism (mostly raising her glass at the Denver Press Club bar) after the advent of the web press, but before the desktop computer. She has since plied her trade as a writer, editor, and designer across many different fields, and currently works as a technical writer and editor.

Under the name Mari Christie, she has released a book-length epic poem, Saqil pa Q’equ’mal: Light in Darkness: Poetry of the Mayan Underworld, and under pen name Mariana Gabrielle, she has written several Regency romances, including the Sailing Home Series and La Déesse Noire: The Black Goddess. Blind Tribute is her first mainstream historical novel. She expects to release the first book in a new family saga, The Lion’s Club, in 2018.

She holds a BA in Writing, summa cum laude and With Distinction, from the University of Colorado Denver, and is a member of the Speakeasy Scribes, the Historical Novel Society, and the Denver Press Club. She has a long family history in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the great-great niece of a man in the mold of Harry Wentworth.

And connect with Mari around the web:

Mari’s Website
Facebook
Twitter
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads
Wattpad
Bookbub
Authorgraph
Street Team

 

 

 

 

 

Mari will be giving away a quill pen (like Harry’s) and powdered ink, a swag pack including Harry’s Editorials Collection, and a e-copy of the book to one winner. To be entered for your chance to win, click this HERE.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Monks and Friars

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Monks and Friars

It’s the unofficial beginning of summer and the official beginning of reading season! I thought this week’s term was especially appropriate.

Monks and Friars

Terms used by printers: monks are sheets where the letters are blotted, or printed too black; friars, those letters where the ink has failed touching the type, which are therefore white or faint.

So what would Regency ladies have to read under the shade of a yew tree, or beside the bubbling fountain in their fragrant garden?

Glad you asked.

Author and historian Rachel Knowles compiled a list of novels – yes, those horrid things – that the gentle reader might pick up for her delectation from her circulating library. How many have you read?

Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe -1719

Captain Singleton – Daniel Defoe – 1720

Captain Jack – Daniel Defoe – 1722

Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe – 1722

Roxanda – Daniel Defoe – 1724

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – 1726

Pamela or Virtue Rewarded – Samuel Richardson – 1740

The Adventures of Joseph Andrews – Henry Fielding – 1742

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady – Samuel Richardson – 1747-8 (epistolary novel)

Tom Jones – Henry Fielding – 1749

Amelia – Henry Fielding – 1751

The History of Sir Charles Grandison – Samuel Richardson – 1753-4

Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith – 1766

Evelina or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World – Fanny Burney – 1778

Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress – Fanny Burney – 1782

The Sylph – Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1788)

The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne – Mrs Radcliffe – 1789

A Sicilian Romance – Mrs Radcliffe – 1790

The Romance of the Forest – Mrs Radcliffe – 1791

The Monk – Matthew Gregory Lewis – 1792

The Mysteries of Udolpho – Mrs Radcliffe -1794

Camilla or A Picture of Youth – Fanny Burney – 1796

The Italian – Mrs Radcliffe – 1797

Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth – 1800

Memoirs of Modern Philosophers – Elizabeth Hamilton – 1800

Belinda – Maria Edgeworth – 1801

Popular Tales – Maria Edgeworth – 1804

The Modern Griselda – Maria Edgeworth – 1805

Leonora – Maria Edgeworth – 1806

Corinne – Madame de Stael – 1807

Tales from Fashionable Life – Maria Edgeworth – 1809/1812 (6 volumes) including The Absentee

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – 30 October 1811

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 28 January 1813

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – 9 May 1814

The Wanderer or Female Difficulties – Fanny Burney – 1814

Waverley – Sir Walter Scott – 1814 (first of the Waverley novels)

Emma – Jane Austen – December 1815

Guy Mannering –Sir Walter Scott – 1815 (a Waverley novel)

The Antiquary – Sir Walter Scott -1816 (a Waverley novel)

Mandeville – William Godwin – 1817

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen – December 1817

Persuasion – Jane Austen – December 1817

Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott – 1817 (a Waverly novel)

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley – 1818

Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott – 1819

Kenilworth – Sir Walter Scott – 1821 (a Waverley novel)

Peveril of the Peak – Sir Walter Scott – 1822 (a Waverley novel)

The Pirate – Sir Walter Scott -1822 (a Waverley novel)

Quentin Durward – Sir Walter Scott – 1823 (a Waverley novel)

St Ronan’s Well – Sir Walter Scott – 1824 (a Waverley novel)

The Betrothed – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

Redgauntlet – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

The Talisman – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

Gaston de Blondeville – Mrs Radcliffe – 1826

Woodstock – Sir Walter Scott – 1826

The Fair Maid of Perth – Sir Walter Scott – 1828 (a Waverley novel)

Anne of Geierstein – Sir Walter Scott – 1829 (a Waverley novel)

Cloudesley – William Godwin – 1830

As we binge read this summer, may the monks be legible and the friars visible.

 

If you’d like to meet a boatload of romance authors and have multiple chances to win free books, consider heading over to Romance Writers Gone Wild this week. I’m participating in the Historical Romance group on Friday, but Monday through Thursday are filled with authors who write contemporary, paranormal, suspense, inspirational, urban fantasy, and everything in between. Just click the picture below to join us!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

This week’s phrase comes courtesy the dedicated thief who’s in it for the art of the deception, with the Rube Goldberg-esque planning and implementation of the steal.

Dining Room Post

A mode of stealing in houses that let lodgings, by rogues pretending to be postmen, who send up sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage, go into the first room they see open, and rob it.

Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown, The Samuel Courtauld Trust at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

As we all know, however, crime rarely pays, or at least fails to pay for the long run. It can be argued that the Regency era gave rise to the (more) modern  and organized police man. During this time, criminals were pursued by constables, the night watch, thief-takers, and Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police themselves were formed in 1829, a few years removed from the Regency but during the reign of George IV (the former Prince Regent). These various officials of law enforcement were notoriously tough and dogged in their pursuit of criminals (or at least the payment at the end of the pursuit). Some lawmen were fresh from lives of crime themselves, and used their considerable knowledge and connections to ferret out criminals.

The Night Watchman Picking Up a Wayward Girl by Thomas Rowlandson, Bonhams, New York.

Interestingly, when searching for period graphics to illustrate this post, the majority I found were of women being arrested rather than men. I’m not sure if there’s a less-than-subtle message to be inferred here, but at least one engraving by Thomas Rowlandson showed they didn’t all go down quietly.

Attacking the Night Watchman by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

The New Yearright

“A good New Year, with many blessings in it!”
Once more go forth the kindly wish and word.
A good New Year! and may we all begin it
With hearts by noble thought and purpose stirred.

The Old Year’s over, with its joy and sadness;
The path before us is untried and dim;
But let us take it with the step of gladness,
For God is there, and we can trust in Him.

What of the buried hopes that lie behind us!
Their graves may yet grow flowers, so let them rest.
To-day is ours, and it must find us
Prepared to hope afresh and do our best.

God knows what finite wisdom only guesses;
Not here from our dim eyes the mist will roll.
What we call failures, He may deem successes
Who sees in broken parts the perfect whole.

And if we miss some dear familiar faces,
Passed on before us to the Home above,
Even while we count, through tears, their vacant places,
He heals our sorrows with His balm of Love.

No human lot is free from cares and crosses,
Each passing year will bring both shine and shower;
Yet, though on troubled seas life’s vessel tosses,
The storms of earth endure but for an hour.

And should the river of our happy laughter
Flow ‘neath a sky no cloud yet overcasts,
We will not fear the shadows coming after,
But make the most of sunshine while it lasts.

A good New Year! Oh, let us all begin it
With cheerful faces turning to the light!
A good New Year, which will have blessings in it
If we but persevere and do aright.

—E. Matheson

left down

From Yule-Tide in Many Lands by Mary P. Pringle and Clara A. Urann (a Project Gutenberg ebook).

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Swell

Cloak Room at Clifton Assembly Room, Rolinda Sharples, 1817.

Cloak Room at Clifton Assembly Room, Rolinda Sharples, 1817. This painting is no doubt familiar to many Regency Romance readers as it is to found (at least in part) on over twenty book covers.

August is Romance Awareness Month, but what exactly is “romance?”

As a noun, romance is defined as the excitement associated with love, and can be everything from exquisite feelings of nostalgia and tenderness, to unrealistic expectations, exaggerations, and fantasies. Romance books and romance movies are considered idealized and sentimentalized presentations of love. As a verb, romance means to court or woo through means of love or flattery, or to engage in a love affair.

That’s a broad perspective for one simple word. No wonder Oscar Wilde swung so to and fro on the pendulum that is Romance.

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

They spoil every romance by trying to make it last forever.

Deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.

So if romance lends itself to both idealization and nostalgia, perhaps it is fitting to search out some desirable male specimens from the Regency Period that set hearts aflutter. In celebration of Romance Awareness Month, of course. It’s time to examine the “swell.”

Swell (noun)

Portrait of an Artist, Michael Martin Drolling, 1819.

Portrait of an Artist, Michael Martin Drolling, 1819.

A gentleman, but particularly a well-dressed gentleman. A family man with plenty of the ready who cuts a genteel figure is said to be in swell street. Sometimes, when speaking of a particular person but without drawing attention or naming names, the gentleman is styled the swell.

In modern, American slang, swell has come to mean excellent or very good. For your delectation, I present my interpretation of swell, both vulgar and modern American.

The prolific portraitist Sir Thomas Lawrence (13 April 1769 – 7 January 1830) was a very dab hand at painting several swoon-worthy swells. Whether literal facsimiles or idealized interpretations, I leave it for each romantic heart to decide.

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, date unknown, Sir Thomas Lawrence date unknown

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, date unknown, Sir Thomas Lawrence date unknown

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Broughan and Vaux (1778-1868), Detail, 1825, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Henry Brougham, 1st Baron Broughan and Vaux (1778-1868), Detail, 1825, Sir Thomas Lawrence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of Hart Davis Jr, date unknown, private collection, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Portrait of Hart Davis Jr, date unknown, private collection, Sir Thomas Lawrence

The 4th Earl of Aberdeen, 1829, Sir Thomas Lawrence, private collection

The 4th Earl of Aberdeen, 1829, Sir Thomas Lawrence, private collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And two distinguished older gentlemen, swell swells, if you will.

Sir Graham Moore, 1792, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Sir Graham Moore, 1792, Sir Thomas Lawrence

Portrait of Sir Harford Jones Brydges, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Lucas-Scudamore Collection

Portrait of Sir Harford Jones Brydges, Sir Thomas Lawrence, John Lucas-Scudamore Collection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence, considering visiting ABC Gallery.

The definitions for romance were adapted from the American English version of the Oxford Dictionaries. All definitions and/or examples for swell were taken from Online Etymological DictionaryCant: A Gentleman’s Guide, and/or 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.