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Tag Archives: William Blake

It snowed in Virginia Saturday night, just a dusting, but enough to make me yearn for Spring. By the afternoon, though, it was like my wish had been granted. The snow melted, the air smelled fresh, the sky turned blue and the sun shone brightly.

So here in celebration of Spring, is a poem by William Blake:
To Spring:

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro’ the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love-sick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee.

More celebration is in order for Risky Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee. Countess of Scandal by Laurel McKee is a finalist for RWA’s Best Historical Romance. Hooray!!!

We’re celebrating for all the RITA and Golden Heart finalists!! (But especially for Amanda/Laurel!)
I’m in the throes of copy edits and finishing Leo’s Story, my Diamonds of Welbourne Manor book. I’ll really be celebrating when those are done. Tune in to Diane’s Blog on Thursday to see how I’m progressing.
What are you celebrating today?
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Our Regency heroes were all dressed as girls for the first few years of their lives. Sad but true, and somehow they grew up normal; the upside of it was that they then enjoyed the formal ceremony of being breeched–that is, allowed to wear pants. And other than the cross-dressing, it wasn’t that bad a time to be a child, if you survived, and, of course, had the additional luck of being born into a family with money and education.

Children were no longer seen as adults in miniature or full of original sin that needed to be flogged out of them. Childhood was becoming recognized as a stage in life, much as the 1950s spawned the cult of the teenager, thanks to Rousseau’s Emile, a novel that explored the ideal upbringing of a child (ironically, Rousseau sent his own children to be raised in an institution, hoping they’d have a better chance in life there than as the illegitimate offspring of an impoverished writer). Wordsworth and Blake wrote about childhood as a state of mystical innocence.

Children now had their own styles of clothing, such as the skeleton suit for little boys and the late eighteenth-century styles for girls’ clothes–high waisted, simple cotton gowns–later became the fashion for adults. Books, games, and puzzles were produced for children, and not all the books were improving texts.

But even in those relatively enlightened times, and in affluent families, the infant mortality rate was appallingly high. It makes you wonder what the relationships between children and parents were like–did parents love their children without reservation, knowing they might have only a short time together? Or did parents repress their natural feelings to protect themselves from the grief to come?

In a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft I read (sorry, can’t remember which one), there was a truly heartbreaking excerpt from a letter Mary wrote after losing a child–but the thing that struck me as odd was that she referred to the baby as it. It could be a linguistic oddity–like the French word bebe not entering the language until the late nineteenth-century. But words are important, as we know. Does this reflect an attitude of the past that is quite alien to us now? Is this how the Regency produced Victorians?

And how do you feel about the portrayal of children in romances? Quoting myself, number seven in the top ten things a heroine would never say in a Regency romance (from The Rules of Gentility):

I don’t care if that adorable lisping child is the apple of the hero’s eye. If she doesn’t shut up I’ll slap her.

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It’s cold here, but I’m one of the lucky ones in my area who still has power, and of course in a modern house it’s only a question of turning up the thermostat, or, as I urge my family, to put on another layer of clothes. I haven’t lived in a house with a fireplace for years and on nights like this I think I’d like to have one….and in the Regency that’s all you would have–if you were lucky.

If you were in fairly humble circumstances you would also be cooking on the only source of heat in your house. (An interesting fact–scholars have determined that one of the major causes of death for women in the eighteenth-century was not from burns while cooking over an open fire. Basically, you can tell if your skirts catch on fire and back off.)

Further up the social scale, you might have a fireplace that looked like this, and maybe even a grate designed by the great (sorry) John Nash himself.

And naturally, you’d commission some fine marble decoration for your fireplace. You’d have a staff to keep the marble–and the rest of it–clean, because coal is dirty. Very dirty. The reason London doesn’t have infamous “pea soup” fogs anymore is that coal was banned in the city about forty years ago. So your unfortunate housemaids would battle the black dust every morning, and meanwhile a nasty accumulation would build up inside the chimney itself, necessitating a visit from the sweep.

The sweep would bring with him a little boy to climb inside the chimney and clean where the long brushes wouldn’t go–one of the worst jobs a small child could have. Many Georgian houses have flues which take odd twists and turns (for instance, not all the chimney pots on the roof may be functional but they are there for aesthetic symmetry). William Blake wrote about the wretched life of the child chimney sweep in the Songs of Innocence and Experience, and later in the nineteenth century Charles Kingsley’s novel The Water Babies was an expose of the trade.

But unfortunately, however much of a roaring blaze you had, you’d still be wearing muslin, and one side of you inevitably would be cold. So you’d have to do what I continually urge my nearest and dearest to do to keep the heating bills down–put something else on. Shawls, made a fashion item by the Empress Josephine, were something of a necessity.

So what’s your favorite way of keeping warm? Do you like a real fire, do you put on more clothes, or do you snuggle up with a hero (picture not provided!)

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