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Monthly Archives: June 2018

Today’s post is going to be short and sweet (pun intended). I’ve been coming up blank all week about a topic to post about (nothing was grabbing me). So last night I pulled out my copy of Hannah Glasse’s The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy with the intention of finding the strangest, most unfamiliar recipes I could. Instead, I immediately stumbled across apple fritters. APPLE FRITTERS!!! How on earth aren’t our characters living on these?

Apple Fritter Recipe

So now I’m looking for other familiar stuff … and what do I spot but Pain Perdu. FRENCH TOAST!!! Fricken French toast is period. Why aren’t my characters eating this constantly? Also, now I want French toast.

Sure looks like French Toast to me!

Ok, this last one I’m not at all sure about: Flour, powdered sugar, egg whites, butter, cream, and blanched almond flour. It’s not a macaroon, but it’s definitely some kind of almond cookie. Historical cooking sites show me things that seem like shortbread or a drop cookie. They appear to have been around since the Middle Ages, and I’ve never heard of them! So these are now on my list of things to make and taste.

What is a Jumballs?

Any familiar foods you’ve been shocked to discover were period for the characters you were writing or reading about?

My last “unsung Regency hero” (Dr James Blundell, May 2) was aware that his pursuits could have a huge impact on the future, and indeed, he was right. Today’s hero, a cobbler named John Pounds, also had a great impact on the future, in the area of education, but he seems to have been completely unaware that his efforts were significant beyond the immediate benefit, even when he became famous and famous people came to see what he was doing. I believe his story is celebrated in Britain, but here in the U.S. he is pretty much unknown. Have you ever heard of him?

Education for the poor was a controversial idea during the Regency years. In my Christmastide Regency story The Lord of Misrule (not finished yet, working on it!!), my heroine’s father, a rather enlightened vicar, belongs to the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor, which was a real organization. Education for the masses had supporters among the aristocracy –most famously the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, although he became active post-Regency. Many in the upper classes, however, still feared the kind of upheavals that had happened in France only decades earlier, and strongly opposed the concept of educating the poor. They felt education would only make the masses dissatisfied with the conditions of life in Britain and could lead to the same kind of tragic horrors that revolution had caused across the channel.

A split existed along religious lines as well: most of the support for poor education came from the non-conformist churches, and the established Anglican Church would not condone cooperation with them.

 Against this background of contrasting opinions we find John Pounds, a simple cobbler who had a shop in Portsmouth. Did John Pounds have a stake in this fight? Not directly, but indirectly he definitely did.

Known in his time as “the Crippled Cobbler of Portsmouth”, John Pounds was born in 1766. In his teen years he was apprenticed as a shipwright at the Portsmouth Dockyard, but just 18 days after the death of his father and just before his 15th birthday, he was crippled by a fall into a dry dock at the shipyard which nearly killed him. After a rather miraculous recovery but unable to continue in that line of work, he learned the cobbler’s trade which sustained him until his death in 1839.

 Pounds was apparently simply devoted to the idea of doing good –a humble man improving the lives of the many poor children who roamed the streets of Portsmouth. Armed with warm baked potatoes with which to entice them, he would seek out destitute, often homeless children to invite to his small shop, where he ran a school of sorts and also made certain they were clothed and fed. As he made and repaired boots (no re-soled  dancing slippers, as his was not an upper class clientele) he taught these neediest of children, often homeless, to read, write and do sums. He taught them moral values and trained them to live good and productive lives. Sources say that at times he would have as many as 40 children in his shop at once, along with assorted birds, cats and dogs for whom he also cared.

Not surprisingly, his customers took note. Word of his good deeds spread. Supporters tried to give money to help the cause, but the humble yet independent cobbler would only accept donations of clothing or food that directly benefited the children. Famous people including quite probably Charles Dickens (who grew up in Portsmouth) came to see him, and no doubt left inspired by his selfless example.

Pounds did not set out to become the originator of the Victorian concept of “Ragged Schools”, but he has eventually become recognized as such. The prominent Scottish preacher and philanthropist Thomas Guthrie who is often credited as a founder of the movement, himself credited John Pounds as the originator in the 2nd edition of his influential pamphlet “Plea for Ragged Schools” published in 1849, ten years after Pounds’ death.

It is unlikely that John Pounds had ever heard of the London tailor Thomas Cranfield, who started a free day school for poor children near London Bridge in 1798. Another unsung Regency hero, Cranfield established more schools and by his death in 1838, just a year before Pound’s death, had created 19 schools serving London’s poor for free. Certainly his efforts also contributed to the movement toward the Ragged Schools, but his story is less documented, sadly for us.

Pounds never considered what he was doing to be a “school” or ever tried to establish an institution to offer what he did. From all accounts, the personal love and care he lavished on the children that benefitted from his ministry could never be duplicated in a formal setting. Yet it is estimated that over his lifetime the humble cobbler educated more than 500 children.

The most vivid account of John Pounds’ life and achievements is the book written by The Rev. Henry Hawkes, “Recollections of John Pounds”. Hawkes became acquainted with Pounds during the last six years of the old shoe mender’s life and his first person narrative includes descriptions by many other people who were contemporaries and Portsmouth residents. The book has been reprinted in its original form (ISBN: 978-0-9573951-0-7), published by the John Pounds Memorial Church.

Don’t you think one of the fascinating things about history is the parts left out? Do you suppose that grief played a role in John Pound’s fall at the dockyard? He started teaching children about ten years after he opened his shop on St. Mary Street. What do you suppose got him to start when he did? Perhaps a special child who triggered the desire to help? Or a practical need to be established enough in his trade before he could begin to make a difference? He was apparently a devout man who would bring the children to church with him once they were decently clothed. His church helped support his mission –was there an influential minister who helped inspire John? I haven’t read the Hawkes book about him. I wonder if any of these questions are answered in it!!

One of the joys of writing Historical Romance is the research and the best way to research is to go to the places you write about.

Some writers get a story idea and then they go to the location of the story and do some research. Me, I visit a place and then make up a story using that setting.

That’s what I did for A Lady Becomes a Governess, Book 1 of my Governess Swap series, out this month from Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon Historical. A Lady Becomes a Governess was mostly set in the Lake District. I visited the Lake District (and fell in love with it) on my last England trip with Kristine Hughes Patrone’s Number One London Tours.

Kristine and I also spent a day in Bath–the hottest day of the year there–90 degrees F. We walked Bath from one end to the other, seeing most of the famous buildings and streets, so when I needed a setting for Book 2 of my Governess Swap series, Bath was perfect.

My hero and heroine needed to walk Bath much like Kristine and I did. They walked from the Pump Room to the Royal Crescent to the Upper Assembly Rooms. Because I’d been there last year, I remembered vaguely where things were, but, for the book, I needed a map so I could be as accurate as possible.

I found a very cool one, HERE. It shows a present day map that can be overlaid with a historic map. You can move the circle to anywhere on the modern day map. My book is set in 1816, so I used the map from 1818.
This gave me the names of the streets in 1818, some of which were different than today.

Of course my hero and heroine had to visit the Royal Crescent and the Circus.
As I was researching the Royal Crescent and the Circus, I discovered that a navy Admiral, Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton, lived in the Circus and he fit perfectly into my book! I love when that happens.

I also needed two inns and a little searching led me to the AustenOnly blog and to the White Hart Inn, which was where Jane Austen had the Musgroves staying in Persuasion. The White Hart was torn down in 1869, but this wonderful blog even had a picture of the inn.
The second inn was where I briefly had my hero and heroine stay. The Westgate Inn was where the Royal Mail coaches stopped.

This year I’m going to Scotland with Kristine and Number One London Tours. I’ve never set a book in Scotland…….Here’s to a first time!

Do you ever use travel to inspire a story? Do you like to visit places where books, TV, or movies were set?

By the way, A Lady Becomes a Governess is available now in both ebook and paperback if ordered directly from Harlequin. The paperback will be at other online vendors June 19 and the ebook on July 1.

Moving has kept me from a lot of things I enjoy–like hanging out at the Risky Regencies. This move has been more problematic than most, and I’m still dealing with items that were damaged by the Movers from Hell and other matters.

The new house has plenty of room for me, my college student daughters, and our stuff–even our books! But it lacks proper storage–especially for our books! This picture is of my future writing room. My writing desk didn’t make it around the bend in the stairwell, so I have bought a new one and will pick it up once things are more settled. Although is not quite Regency era (I am guessing early 1900’s) it makes me think of what a Regency lady might have used. I will post a picture once I get it home. One of my largest bookcases didn’t make it up the stairs (sob!) so I am planning to buy some modular shelving that can be built inside the room. For now, everything has to stay in boxes, and my writing remains on hold until I get other, more critical areas of the house functional, like the kitchen (although I did find the coffee maker).

Anyone have stories to tell of past moves. Advice for coping until I can find things?

Thanks for your patience, everyone. I will be back soon, I hope!


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