Back to Top

Category: Former Riskies

I have another cheesy post for you this Wednesday. At the day and night job we have begun transitioning onto the new severs. This means that although I will actually be heinously busy over the next two weeks, after that, this crisis will be behind me. And none too soon. Did I mention that I have revisions due? Yes. I should be doing that, not blogging.

Then again, this blog gives me an excuse to tell you that you may now join the Arjun Rampal Fan Club for Romance Authors and Readers. Leave a comment over at my blog and you’re in.

Also, I can post this from a really wonderful review of Indiscreet over at Goassmer Obessions.

Some books, some blessed books, grab you with the first page, with language so lyrical and hooked you’re excited to keep reading even before you’re entirely sure what you’re reading, with settings so vivid and intricately described, yet never so vivid and intricately described as the characters.

Indiscreet is one of them. It has the plot of an Italian opera, the theme of a fairy tale, and a writing style as rich, textured and gorgeous as only romances can be.

So, that was a highlight of my week.

Man Stuff or is it Girl Stuff?

Here’s another hightlight:

Reference Books

In other miscellaneous news, I have two favorite research books to share with you.

The first is The Oxford Companion to the Law by David M. Walker. What I LOVE about this book, besides the explanations of the state of British law with almost uniform reference to WHEN the laws were like what (awesome!) there are also lists of the names of every person ever to have held office in Britain from 975 (NO, I did not miss a digit) forward. Kings, Queens, Regents, Judges, Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, Cabinet members etc AND THE YEARS THEY HELD THE OFFICE.

I often refer to this book. I bought it way back when I lived in the used book store heaven of Berkeley, California. Naturally, the Univ. of California Press had a bookstore, and they also had a good used section.

The other is new. Roget’s International Thesaurus, Seventh Edition. It’s fun and useful to just flip idly through the pages. Interestingly enough, this book has a cover blurb. Seriously. “A sterling reference tool.” — Time

Who the heck was in charge of lining up blurbs for this book?

“Thumb-Indexed for Easier Browsing!” with a graphic of a thumb. That’s totally cheesy but I love this new and updated thesaurus. It IS easier to use.

My previous Roget’s is from 1965 and was published by St. Martin’s Press. The cover blurb is unattributed: “The best thesaurus in the world”

Somehow I missed the news that the NEW Roget’s jumped ship to Collins, though I did hear the news of the updated edition and pre-ordered it about a year in advance (it was late).

And there’s all the news that matters for Wednesday.

What are you favorite reference books?

OK. first off, the day job as day and night job continues. The next 2-3 weeks will be even more so as we transition onto the new infrastructure. I’m so sleep deprived it’s not even funny.

Second off, the NEW hard drive in my computer failed (after the 1st one died) and I had to buy a new computer. Which means the last two days of “writing time” have been spent at the Apple store or doing file restores and setting up the new computer. The new computer is awesome by the way.

Third, I just got revisions. I think my head will explode.

This means that today I have nothing Regency for you. Forgive me. All I have is this news:

It seems there is a LOT of love out there for My Other One True Love (who might actually be my One True Love) Arjun Rampal. I am not the first Romance Author to use him as the mental model for a hero, and I do not think I will be the last.

We will do awesome things like:

  • Have a secret handshake
  • Share info about AR
  • Watch his movies
  • Post information about which books have been inspired (writing AND reading) by Arjun Rampal
  • Devise clever flavors of ice cream, possibly with toppings, and given them Rampal inspired names. Like, A bowl of ice-cream with 4 flavors plus nuts (or sprinkles for the nut averse) will be The Rock On Rampal.
  • Have name tags or something
  • Have a twitter hash tag. I suggest #RampalRomance
  • Other awesome stuff we think of

Where? Well, right now, my blog will be the Fan Club Headquarters. To join, you should leave a comment there.

I’ll probably build out a page on my website, or perhaps set up a separate section on the blog. When I’m not on deadline, which I am right now, plus I just got revisions. In the meantime, sign up! Leave suggestions etc! Share your love and admiration and, if you’re an author, which titles are inspired by him.

In case you need inspiration, because God knows I do right now:

You could leave a comment about anything, but if you talk about Arjun Rampal that would be awesome.

Still swamped everywhere I look. Alas. So today you get an oldie but a Goodie about Lord Byron, a Certified Previously Published Post from January 2010.

What did people think of Byron

I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. I’ve finally gotten my act together for our mutual enjoyment — I hope.

Lord Byron is, as most of you already know, frequently name-dropped in Regency-set historicals. Makes sense. Today we know Byron as a major literary figure. The really great thing about Byron is his reputation as the Bad Boy of the Regency. I have to confess, however, that Byron name dropping is becoming a pet peeve of mine.

Authors of Regency set historical romance often look for Regency-era poets and writers to mention in their books. The intent, of course, is to add background and depth to a story. The problem is that there is now a practically trite set of characters: Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats and Shelly et ux. Southey comes in for mention on rare occasion. But I don’t often see other authors mentioned.

I’ve begun to feel as if I know exactly what the author was thinking — the hero or heroine is reading something. Poetry. Who would the h/h be reading? And the author, being a history nut, already knows these now famous poets, or perhaps Googles and comes up with this list. Byron gets picked a lot. It’s almost as if the man was the only poet of the Regency. I get why. He’s a fascinating, titillating character who also wrote poetry that will, some two hundred years later, make your breath catch.

I’d like to put forth the argument that writers could do a little better than the stock list. Not that we shouldn’t mention these poets. But I do believe it’s important to remember that every generational period contains a range of ages, from infant to elderly. We can look back from the comfort of our centuries in the future and say that the man who wrote the words She walks in beauty like the night was (as my mother would say) a beady-eyed genius.

In Byron’s own time, you can be assured, there were men (and women) of substance and influence who would have despised Byron for being new and different and young or morally corrupt, or who would have thought, correctly, early on in the poet’s career, that here was a young flash who had yet to prove his literary staying power.

Dad: Don’t talk to me about that new fangled poetry! New school indeed.
Son: It’s really good! Just read it!
Dad: That poser doesn’t hold a candle to Pope or Donne. And Milton! Milton! Now those are men who could write poetry! There were rules then and they followed them, by gad!
Son: (rolls eyes) That’s so eighteenth century.
Dad: (cups ear) What’s that? Eh? Why it’s a bell. And it’s tolling for thee. (Looks past son) Is that Satan I see coming for you?
Son: I’m going to Almack’s tonight. Don’t wait up.
Dad: Three AM and not a minute past, young man. (shakes finger) And you ask Miss Crackers to dance. She’s got fifty thousand a year.

For readers and authors today, Byron has become a stand in for real meaning. The very word Bryon has become recursive in that Byron refers to and defines itself. No explanation needed. With that self-referential symbol Bryon we no longer need to explain what we mean because the word alone conveys so much that is already understood. Bryon, Byronic. Bad Boy. Genius. Wicked. Fame. Scandal. Sublime. Sex. Untimely death. New. Racy.

Such symbols are handy and they can be used with enormous impact in writing so long as the author understand what comes with the choice. What happens too often, though, is a writer chooses Byron merely because the name is now a reference to a whole constellation of meaning and without due consideration of what comes with that choice.

The result is usually a reference the reader skips over because she already understands what’s packed into the symbol. The reader drops out of the story long enough to say, Oh, Byron, and then back. And yes, she picked up the meaning, but without the detail really great writing slips in. Richness of meaning is lost if that’s all that happens. When this happens, the story begins to feel like wallpaper.

The writer’s job is to find a way to introduce Byron and what we understand to be represented by Byron in a way that prevents the reader from skipping over the reference. It’s hard work and it’s also why it’s becoming even more important to know about other writers of the period. Don’t just stand on the shoulders of giants. (Thus concludes Carolyn’s Physics joke of the week.)

As a writer, don’t make the mistake of mentioning the major poets solely with the knowledge that we have today. Just because we call them the Romantics today does not mean they were called that then (they weren’t) or that everyone understood their genius or, conversely, that everyone misunderstood (but for your heroine). When you do that, you’re wallpapering your story and it will feel shallow.

By the way, if you carefully read the excerpt I’ve included, you will find an intriguing clue about how these poets were styled contemporaneously.

During my grad school days, I came across this book: Scribbleomania: or, The Printer’s Devil’s Polichronicon. A sublime poem By William Henry Ireland. I may have mentioned it in a previous post or two. It was published in 1815, so it’s contemporary to our period. Here’s the Google Books Link

I was looking for materials that addressed The Minerva Press, which this book does. Scribbleomania is full of names of contemporary and mostly forgotten (except to the PhD sorts) authors — good information for the historically minded, I dare say. There is also a nice section on Lord Byron, and I thought The Riskies sort of person would be interested to hear how at least one of Byron’s contemporaries thought of him and assessed his talent.

Scribbleomania is one long poem about (wait for it!) poetry and literature and the people who write it. I find that to be a rather delicious irony since Ireland’s poetry is pretty awful. Though in his defense, he was going for satire, sarcasm and humor. The footnotes are what make for fun reading. There’s quite a lot of interesting detail in those footnotes.

Before we get to Ireland’s section on Byron, a word or two about the author is in order. The book was actually published anonymously (for reasons I will shortly reveal) under the name Arthur Pendragon. Don’t think about that name for too long. . . Groaaaannnnn

Mr. Ireland was, alas, a man of poor judgment and character. His father was a noted collector of Shakespearean documents and young Mr. Ireland took it upon himself to forge some such documents and sell them to his father as the genuine Shakespearean article. The Wikipedia article about Ireland is fairly accurate if you want to know more.

Well, all right, a little additional set up here. Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage is the poem that brought Byron fame in his time, and it was published between 1812 and 1818. Not all at once, mind you.

Here we go, in the rhymes of William Henry Ireland:

Lord Byron

ac discas multa, et vites nescire doceri.
Cato. (Take heed to learn many things, and shun not the opportunity to reap instruction.)

Some strange combination must rule o’er the
Since our age teems with many Parnassian peers.
A Byron, not lacking of fancy some store,
Who, study possessing, hath purg’d mental lore,
With Strangford respectably gracing my poem,
Whom last I recorded, of lordlings the proem.

This titled enditer, tho’ beauties possessing,
Childe Harold must needs with old phrase still be
A style of composing shall ne’er claim my praises;
The Muses thus robing in masquerade phases.
For, as planets will oft seem halv’d, gibbous, or
These obsolete terms, to my mind, seem suborn’d
To torture our language, for ages corrected;
Which, now at its acme, must needs be neglected.
Having own’d that his lordship much fancy possesses,
May his flights henceforth throw off such harlequin
As a bard thus I grant him the praises his due,
And, with care, bid him Pegasus’s journey pursue. (c)

(c) We are frequently told by the reviewers, that birth and fortune do not produce the smallest influence upon their decisions respecting any point connected with the republic of letters; which is, however, to my mind a very problematical assertion.
Notwithstanding due praise be allowed to Lord Byron, on the score of assiduous labour, scholastic acquirement, and classical elegance, he most assuredly cannot at present lay claim to real genius or originality; and, with deficiencies so palpable, the productions of his lordship could never have received those unqualified eulogiums, had not the talismanic charm of nobility infused its balsam as an ingredient into the dose of criticism. Considered in the light of a didactic writer, Lord Byron is deserving a considerable portion of praise; but any attempt to soar into the heaven of heavens, is a task beyond the powers of this Parnassian nobleman.

Some time has elapsed since the former part of this note was committed to paper: since which period a few short ebullitions have met the public eye, that do infinite credit to the muse of Lord Byron. I would, however, most seriously advise this nobleman to apply his abilities to some more sterling and lasting topic: let him obliterate from his thoughts all recollection of the new school. His judgment is obviously much matured; and the style he adopts is seldom characterized by a want of perspicuity: and, as the sublimity of Alpine scenery elevates the soul to the highest pitch of enthusiasm, even so will the mental energies expand in proportion to the grandeur of the subject which is selected to put them into action. Under such an impression, therefore, do I advise Lord Byron to lay the ground-work of a poem, the superstructure of which may justly entitle him to the praises of futurity.

Well. There you have it. Ireland does not seem to have cared much for Childe Harold but was, it would seem, sufficiently impressed by later words to think Byron could do better.

Here’s the intriguing clue: let him obliterate from his thoughts all recollection of the new school. From this I feel I can quite cleverly say that these young poets were styled by at least some as New School. I bet there were people ranting against the New School the way Joyce Kilmer had it in for Free Verse and the Imagistes.

I’ll leave you with this non-Bryonic tidbit from Scribbleomania because the spirit will be quite familiar:

On the subject of the Irish poet Mrs. Henry Tighe:

So many ladies have written, and still continue to produce trash, that no praise offered at the shrine of feminine excellence should be deemed fulsome; since the panegyric may prompt such unfortunate essayists to consult the productions of the personage so extolled, from whose style they may perhaps be prompted to correct their own effusions, or, if endowed with sense, to discriminate their natural inability, discard the pen, and thus relinquish all literary claims for ever. Independently of the poem of Cupid and Psyche, the lady now under Sir Noodle’s review produced numerous other short effusions, all of which are characterized by every requisite that could tend to adorn a female of the most refined taste and exquisite sensibility.

Ouch. Is that a backhanded compliment or what?

As with so many other female writers of the period, she’s been dismissed for centuries and her contributions forgotten.

About Mary Tighe who influenced Keats. More about Tighe. Pysche, by Mary Tighe. Here’s an 1812 edition of Psyche with other poems. Pysche was originally published in 1805.
Labels: Literature, Lord Byron, poetry

I meant to blog about this site earlier: RegencyRedingote which is one of the most amazing Regency-related history blogs I’ve come across. I feel dumb for not finding it sooner.

this post on chalking Regency ballroom floors is what brought me to the site. I had no idea this took place, but on reflection, it makes perfect sense.

During the Regency, ball-givers often had elaborate images chalked onto the ballroom floor in order to keep the dancers from slipping on the surface. Usually, they used white chalk, as ladies complained about colored chalk staining their slippers. But of course this makes sense!

Think ballet. I took ballet for years. Classes were almost always on a wooden floor and whether you were wearing flats or toe shoes, the soles were leather and we were, well, dancing. There was always a box of rosin in the corner for us to step in to give a little more grip if the floor were recently cleaned or your slippers were new or just because.

So yes! Chalk on the ballroom floors makes perfect sense. And it makes sense as well that people would get fancy about it.

Floral designs were very popular for chalk designs, often larger images of the same varieties of flowers which had been used to decorate the ballroom. Arabesques were also fashionable, and in fact, it was a series of complex arabesque patterns which were chalked on the ballroom floor at Carlton House on the night of the grand fête. Mythological and fanciful motifs might also be seen, such as nymphs, mermaids, centaurs, satyrs, sea gods and/or classical heros. Heavenly bodies, such as the sun, the moon, stars, planets, comets and shooting stars were also popular motifs. For those who had the right to bear them, their coat of arms might be chalked on the ballroom floor. At one ball during the Regency, the guest of a gentleman who had had his coat of arms chalked on the ballroom floor that evening is reported to have quipped that his host was dancing on his arms as well as his legs. Floral patterns were most common for engagement or wedding balls, though if either the bride or the groom had a coat of arms, that might be chalked on the floor, often in the center, surrounded by flowers. If the bride and groom both came from families with coats of arms, the coat of arms of the bride might be quartered with those of her new husband in the design which was chalked on the floor for their celebratory ball. The dance floor was frequently chalked for masquerades, oftentimes with figures in keeping with the theme of the masquerade. There are suggestions that the more risqué masquerades had equally risqué drawings chalked on their floors for the titillation of the dancers.

This article, which is quite long and detailed, belongs on your list of wonderful information. The entire site belongs there. The author of the site is Kathryn Kane. Here’s her bio:

Historian with a particular interest the English Regency era. An avid reader of novels set in that time, holding strong opinions on the historical accuracy to be found in said novels.

I was going to do this awesome dress thing (see below) when I came across this. Oh. My God. I busted a gut. Here it is in six parts. I’ve only embedded the first, but have given you links to the other 5.

You MUST watch this. Really.

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Here’s the pretty dresses

Although many of these gowns and photographs should be familiar to anyone who has studied Regency fashion, did you know there’s an entire YouTube Channel for this?

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By