Risky Regencies

Losing My Marbles



Like Megan, I’m just not sure what to post about today! In the month of December it’s like my brain takes off for a vacation (skiing in Taos, or something) while my body is forced to stay home and work and get ready for the holidays. I’ve also started working on book #2 for this new Harlequin contract (up to page 75!) and it’s preoccupying me quite a bit. So, I’ll just talk about it. Or rather, one small historical aspect of it.

The new story is Regency-set, and hopefully kicks off a new series called The Muses of Mayfair. You see, there’s this scholar and antiquarian who has a bunch of daughters, all named after the Muses. Book One (or WIP), The Alabaster Goddess, is the story of the eldest Muse, Calliope, a half-Greek earl, and the shenanigans surrounding a stolen ancient statue of the goddess Artemis. I just finished writing a scene where the characters go to view the Elgin Marbles (where the villain is introduced, the hero and heroine argue, and…But that’s for later!)

On the Splendors of the Regency tour Diane and I went on, we were lucky enough to have a free afternoon to tour the British Museum and see the Marbles for ourselves (that’s Diane and our friend Julie Halperson in one of the pics. I don’t know who the other people are–they just wouldn’t get out of the way for me to take the photo!).

My main source for the scene in my own story was a volume I picked up in the Museum shop, The Elgin Marbles by B.F. Cook (British Museum Press, 1997). It’s slim, less than 100 pages, but full of great illustrations and lots of info about the Parthenon, the sculptures, and how they came to be acquired by the British Museum. Long story made very short–around 1799 the Earl of Elgin (Thomas Bruce) was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of His Britannic Majesty to the Sublime Porte of Selem III Sultan of Turkey. A group of artists and architects sort of tagged along to Athens (then a small, seedy town, where the grand Acropolis was being used a Turkish fortress) to work on documenting and, if possible, restoring the Parthenon. The condition of these treasures was not good; much had been damaged or destroyed in an explosion, or carried off to be used as building materials elsewhere. By 1802, the first of the sculptures, from the metope section or excavated from the ground, were on their way to England. On April 22, 1811, after many (mis)adventures, the last of them left Athens on the ship Hydra, accompanied by Lord Byron.

After residing in various locations, including Elgin’s home on Park Lane (in a shed!), the Duchess of Portland’s, the Duke of Richmond’s, and the Duke of Devonshire’s Burlington House, the sculptures were finally bought by the Nation and vested in the Trustees of the British Museum in 1816, for 35,000 pounds. (The earl, who was in dire financial straits by then, having lost his rich wife, was hoping for at least 70,000). The ‘Temporary Elgin Room’ (where my characters view them!) was opened in 1817 and remained in use for 14 years.

So that’s my “history lesson for the day”! 🙂 What are some things you’ve seen on travels, or read about in books, that inspired you? Any favorite travels spots (I need to live vicariously since my brain is off skiing and I’m slaving away over the Hello Kitty notebooks!)?

p.s. Another good read is Susan Nagel’s Mistress of the Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin. It has been a while since I read it (it came out in 2005), but as I recall it dealt more with her scandalous divorce than the events surrounding the Marbles, but was a fascinating story.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

There was one trip that I’ve taken recently that stood out to me. In late October 2004 I went to Germany with my sweetie. We were based out of Darmstadt (a little town near Frankfurt) and took day trips around the country. My favorite moment was when we were in Freiberg on a market day. We were in the old part of the city, and we stopped at an Imbiss or food stand to eat. We were eating wurst in brotchen (sausage in rolls). We stood by the cathedral and it was noon, so the bells had begun to ring. With the smells and sounds of the market around us, the cathedral and the old buildings it felt OLD. If I closed my eyes it could have been any time in the last 500 years. A truly magical moment.

Elena Greene
15 years ago

I tend to write a lot about country settings I’ve visited. I’ve used the South Downs of Sussex, the Cotswolds, Ullswater (in the Lake District), and Tintagel in Cornwall. Sometime I’ll have to get my photos in order and post some. 🙂

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Oh, I remember that day, Amanda! I was so excited to be in England, at the British Museum!
I’m reading Mistress of the Elgin Marbles right now!

I tried to use what I saw in my second UK tour, The Great Road North, especially in Scotland on the “road trip” book I just turned in.

But I think we have to go back to England to do some more research, Amanda!

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

I love seeing ‘memories’ put into stories.

It’s an long story so I wont go on with it, but, word to the wise, never take a ‘tipsy tour’….I remember ‘almost’ getting locked in the British Museum once when that happened.

georg
15 years ago

The day I landed in England, I had not slept for roughly 48 hours. I had enough time to find the hotel, dump my suitcase, and be dragged along to my first day of class- a trip to the British Museum to look at the Elgin Marbles. I passed out from exhaustion as soon as I sat down on a bench in the middle of the room.

I remember passing a couple of times on the stairs, a peculair black granite rock with lots of carving on it. It was on the wall of the landing. I stopped after the third time. “Is that what I think it is?” I asked my professor. He smiled. “If you think it’s the Rosetta stone, yes, it is.” Wow. It has since been relocated and *cleaned*. It looked black to me because of the sheer volume of ink applied to make copies and sent out. Where I saw it, it was the only carved stone in a black stairwell- the rest looked like highly polished marble. And I don’t remember it even having a label.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Mina and Georg, those are great stories! I love those “magic” moments. I remember my first day in London, totally jet lagged, went to Westminster Abbey and nearly cried at the tomb of Elizabeth I. I was so exhausted and couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 🙂

And LOL, Mallory! I would be afraid to go somewhere like the British Museum tipsy for fear I would knock something over or set off alarms (I admit there WERE a few tipsy moments in England–all that yummy Guiness and cider! But not in museums, tee hee).

Diane, I agree–more research trips!

Cara King
15 years ago

I think Bath has often been very inspiring for me — so much of it is old (and well-preserved) that one can really imagine an earlier time.

And wandering around Norwich on my junior year abroad (which I spent at the University of East Anglia) was what convinced me to write Regencies… I would go to the Norman cathedral (gorgeous, and uncrowded) and stare at the massive pillars, and then eat 30p sausage rolls and tea in the old cafe (which was tiny, and you sat on old pews)… Then I would walk by the river, then make my way up to this one building that had a sort of permanent inside flea market, and go through all the paperbacks, often finding old Pan editions of Heyers for 20 or 30p each… Then I’d walk by several medieval churches while trying not to get lost in the medieval street plan…

Lovely…

Cara

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Mallory, that is too funny about almost getting locked in the British Museum. I love that place but it would be spooky to be locked in.

georg, I can just see you in the seats in the middle of the room!

Cara, I envy you! What a wonderful time that must have been.

georg
15 years ago

My favorite road in Bath was too narrow for two prams to pass. There were even the occasional stair. But there was a Fudge Shoppe on it and when they were making the fudge the whole street smelled simply marvellous. Even without the book shop and the tea shop calling my name, I thought it a marvellous street.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

A street with a bookshop, a tea shop, AND a fudge shop??? Heaven! 🙂

I really loved Bath, and want to spend more time there someday. A beautiful city, and it’s easy to “feel” the history there!

Megan Frampton
15 years ago

Amanda, 75 pages already! And the series sounds like so much fun.

I’ve got a passing reference to Elgin’s marbles in my book, too, although nothing more than passing–my heroine is half-Greek, and there’s a lot of talk about antiquities in it.

Amanda McCabe
15 years ago

Lots of antiquities in my story, too, Megan! Guess there has to be since it centers around an antiquities thief (I’m not telling who it is!) I also weave in lots of myths, so the research has been fun.

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

My favorite travel spot was the library at Alnwick castle in Northumberland.

You look so happy you two. Hm. Was this right after the hawt hour at the Brit Museum studiously regarding the Elgin Marbles?

The Muses of Mayfair

What a fun idea! As the muse of art of poetry, I’m already painting Calliope in my head. Do you have Clio the muse of history in your series, too? The painting by Vermeer of Clio is very cool.

But I think we have to go back to England to do some more research, Amanda!

Diane, I agree–more research trips!

It’s like more books. You cannot do too much hands-on research. The immediacy and immersion of being “there” is incomparable. When’s your next trip?

Mina, what a talented way of “showing” not “telling” about your experience. Thanks for sharing that memory. I miss the bratwurst from my Wisconsin days.

I really loved Bath, and want to spend more time there someday.

I think Bath has often been very inspiring for me

I could spend only a couple hours in Bath (mainly the abbey, the Baths, and the town square), but I was so taken by the place in that short time.

Then I’d walk by several medieval churches while trying not to get lost in the medieval street plan.

Cara, ooh! Just a green-green OOOOH! That junior year abroad must’ve been such a hardship for you. All those medieval churches, and not a one heated well in the chilly East Anglian winters. Have you thawed out yet?!

Cara King
15 years ago

All those medieval churches, and not a one heated well in the chilly East Anglian winters. Have you thawed out yet?!

LOL! The only really bad bit involved a play I was in — okay, weird story, but it was all about Nicaragua. (I know, not exactly what you’d expect). Anyway, the director made us all go to a cottage in Wales for a week in January — but unfortunately, the heat didn’t work in the cottage, and only the outlets in two rooms worked. So we were doing with electric fires and my little California toes were freezing!

(Going to the pub every night helped a bit, though.) 🙂

Cara

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Wales in January! An unheated cottage was probably the norm. I would’ve quit right there and then. You were brave to see it through.

Todd
15 years ago

Bath is a marvelous city. I’ve never been anywhere quite like it. So few places have that much of their past intact.

Another place I’ve had some wonderful experiences wandering around was in the old part of Geneva, near the Cathedral. It’s the part of the city that existed during the Regency–the rest of the modern city is on the site of the old fortifications, which were dismantled when the city grew and advances in weaponry made them obsolete.

There are a lot of things to see, but one of my favorites is an old house (dating from around the 14th century) called the Maison Tavel. They have exhibits from the past history of the house; but in the attic was a scale model of Geneva from the early 19th century, so you could see how it had changed from the days when Byron, the Shelleys and co. were hanging out.

Todd-who-really-enjoyed-the-fondue-as-well

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

Keira,
Amanda and I would like to go back in 2007 but first we have to have the money!
Diane

Anonymous
Anonymous
15 years ago

Let’s get to work drumming up the sales so that a fat royalty check waddles to you two.

And when that happens, where in Britain would you like to go?

Diane Perkins
15 years ago

I certainly would like to go to the British Museum again!
And I’d like to go to Edinburgh again, just because I know I was too tired to appreciate it when I was there before. Bath would be nice, just to see if it really was as wonderful as I remembered.
Chatsworth again. Stratfield Saye…
But maybe we should aim for all new places– except we HAVE to go to London.

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