The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth

journals-of-dorothy-wordsworth-grey-pony

The cover of my copy of Dorothy Wordsworth’s Journals

The spinster sister of the immortal poet William Wordsworth was present at the creation of his and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1799 Lyrical Ballads, which gave birth to the Romantic movement in English literature. She was also present throughout her famous brother’s adult life. Brother and sister, among the five Wordsworth siblings orphaned and separated at an early age, would rejoin when Dorothy Wordsworth was 24 and William 25, and they would live under the same roof until William’s death 55 years later.

Theirs was an extraordinarily loving relationship, and Dorothy’s prose is credited with influencing her brother’s poetry by the keen observations on nature she recorded in the journals William encouraged her to keep. An example from Dorothy’s journal:

One leaf on the top of a tree—the sole remaining leaf—danced round and round like a rag blowing in the wind. 

From her brother’s poem Cristabel:

The one red leaf, the last of its clan,
That dances as often as dance it can,
Hanging so light and hanging so high,
On the topmost twig that looks up at the sky.

The first of her journals, The Alfoxden Journal 1798, takes up less than ten percent of my volume from Oxford University Press. Of more importance are The Grasmere Journals 1800-1803 because they record Dorothy Wordsworth’s observations of the Lake District which her brother and Coleridge made famous.  Dorothy and William moved to Dove Cottage in Grasmere the last month of the eighteenth century. Two years later William married Mary Hutchinsons who, along with her orphaned siblings, had been close to the Wordsworth orphans for many years. There is no jealousy on Dorothy’s part toward the woman with whom she would share the brother she had lived alone with for the previous seven years.

Perhaps that is because as Mary busied herself with mothering the five children she bore William, Dorothy remained William’s companion on their legendary walks throughout the Lake District.

These journals, which are copyrighted by the Dove Cottage Trust, give those of us reading them two centuries later a feel for the minutia of their everyday life: the ringing of distant sheep bells, haystacks in the fields, baking day. Surprisingly, to Dorothy, plodding through the frost of a cold January day was pleasant, but summer heat could send her to bed for days.

For the author of  English-set historicals, these journals are an invaluable source for descriptions of the English countryside—its plants, birds, and other creatures—in every season of the year. This little volume is a keeper.—By Cheryl Bolen, whose latest release is Ex-Spinster by Christmas, a House of Haverstock books.

The Life and Loves of Madame Recamier

© Cheryl Bolen

(Cheryl originally wrote this for A Covent Garden Gilflurt’s Guide to Life.)

Recamier by Jacques-Louis_David_016

Madame Recamier on the piece of furniture which came to bear her name

The Duke of Wellington and Napoleon opposed each other not only on the battlefield but also for the affections of a certain beautiful lady. That lady, Madame Recamier, spurned both of these powerful men. Napoleon was so outraged, he banished her from France and her famed Parisian salon where authors and intellectuals—most of whom despised Napoleon—gathered.

In an era when, as Lord Egremont said, “Women considered it a stain upon their reputation if they hadn’t taken a lover,” Juliette Recamier (1777-1849) went four decades without knowing a lover—not even the wealthy, much-older banker she had married at age 15.

Called a frigid coquette, Madame Recamier directed her sensuous flirtations on virtually every man who came to her salon on rue du Mont-Blanc—and most of them became captivated by her beauty and voluptuous charm. Author and political philosopher Benjamin Constant said, “Madame Recamier takes it into her head to make me fall in love with her . . . My life is completely upset.” For the next fourteen months, he was tortured by his unrequited love for her.

He was one of dozens over the years.

Lady Bessborough, who was among the English aristocrats who flocked to Paris in 1802 after the signing of the short-lived Treaty of Amiens, gives this interesting account of meeting the beautiful Madame Recamier.

I must tell you [Lady Bessborough wrote to her lover, Granville Leveson Gower] tho’, a nasty and an indelicate story, but how distress’d I was at Mad. Recamier’s. We went there and found her in bed—that beautiful bed you saw prints of—muslin and gold curtains, great looking glasses at the side, incense pots, &c., and muslin sheets trimm’d with lace, and beautiful white shoulders expos’d perfectly uncovered to view—in short, completely undress’d and in bed. The room was full of men.

During her salons, Madame Recamier commonly reposed on a chaise longue—a piece of furniture which would later be named a recamier in her honor. A famed portrait by Jacques Louis David of her on her chaise longue hangs in the Louvre.

The only child of Marie Julie Matton and Jean Bernard, the king’s counsellor, Juliette was born in Lyon, but the family later moved to Paris. During the Reign of Terror, she married  Jacques-Rose Récamier, who was 27 years her senior. Mystery surrounds the marriage. There is some credence that Recamier married to pass on his fortune if he should fall to the Terror. It was said he was very close to Juliette’s mother. Some suggested Juliette remained a virgin because Recamier was her natural father, but this has been discounted.

As she neared the age of thirty, Madame Recamier finally fell victim to Cupid’s arrow when she fell in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia, a nephew of Frederick the Great. They met in the Swiss home of her friend, the famed Madame de Stael, who encouraged the romance. Juliette Recamier wrote to her husband to ask for a divorce, but at the time he was besieged with financial woes (he eventually went bankrupt). His response appealed to her sensibilities while telling her she could not have picked a worse time. He also expressed regret that he had respected her virginal susceptibilities.

Writing years later about her lover, Madame Recamier said, “We were convinced that we were going to be married, and our relationship was very intimate; even so, there was one thing he failed to obtain.”

Prince Augustus, many years later, in front of his portrait of the love of his life, Madame Recamier

Prince Augustus, many years later, in front of his portrait of the love of his life, Madame Recamier

Before the two lovers parted, they exchanged written promises. Prince Augustus wrote, “I swear by my honor and by love to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Juliette Recamier, to take all steps that duty allows to unite with her in the bonds of marriage, and to possess no woman as long as there is hope that I may join my destiny with hers. AUGUST, PRINCE OF PRUSSIA.”

Madame Recamier wrote, “I swear by the salvation of my soul to preserve in all its purity the sentiment that attaches me to Prince August of Prussia; to do everything that honor permits to dissolve my marriage, to have no love nor flirtation with any other man, to see him again as soon as possible, and, whatever the future may bring, to entrust my destiny entirely to his honor and his love. J. R.”

The Recamiers did not divorce, and Prince Augustus never married, though two of his long-time mistresses bore him eleven children. Ten years after he fell in love with Juliette Recamier, he had his portrait made standing in front of her portrait.

Back in Paris, the Recamiers were forceed to sell their house on the rue du Mont Blanc, their silver, and Juliette’s jewelry. She suffered the losses with the same languid serenity that governed her life. By 1809, Recamier was once again in business but on a much smaller scale.

Even though her circumstances were reduced, Madame Recamier’s salons were as popular as ever. Later she resided in apartments in a former convent, now demolished, at 16 rue de Sèvres in Paris.

It is believe she finally lost her virginity at age 40. Her lover was the 50-year-old author Chateaubriand.

Her husband died in 1830. She lived another nineteen years before cholera claimed her at age 71. She was buried in the Cimetiere de Montmarte.

Resources

Herold, J. Christopher. Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1958.

Lady Granville, The Private Correspondence of Lord Granville Leveson Gower, 2 vol., London, John Murray, 1917

Crossing the English Channel during the Regency

© Cheryl Bolen

For most of the Regency era, sailboats were the only way to cross the English Channel. These depended upon the kindness of the winds. An exceedingly swift crossing could breeze along in three hours. Reports of 18-hour crossings are not uncommon. It was said the journey from Dover to Calais was much speedier than the one from Calais to Dover because of the winds.

Factor in that crossings could be delayed for days because of unfavorable winds. Fanny Burney’s father once waited in Dover for nine days before the winds were obliging for his sailing to Calais. Sailing must commence during low tide, also.

Polish scholar Krystyn Lack-Szyrma, whose London Observed (from 1820-1824) was published in English in 2009, recorded comprehensive details about his stay in Calais and crossing the channel. His voyage, for which he paid one guinea, took six hours—most of which rendered him very seasick. (From another source, I found out the record during that era was two hours and forty minutes, set in 1802.)Layout 1

He gives us readers two centuries later a glimpse of the interior of these packet boats with his thorough word pictures. He tells us the spacious cabins are illuminated by a window which faces the deck. Each side of the cabin is fitted with rows of compartments, stacked two high. The bunks are furnished with clean, white bed linens, which Lack-Szyrma says is the only color linen the English will have. The bunks are curtained with either green or red. Men’s cabins are segregated from women’s.

Here is Lack-Szyrma’s account of seasickness.

The ship was rolling on the waves more and more, causing the unbearable suffering called seasickness and those who are used to sailing are spared. Even to describe the symptoms of the sickness in not pleasant. Sufferers have stomach cramps and are prone to vomiting. They suffer from vertigo and see coloured spots before their eyes, especially green ones. The most unpleasant feeling is when a huge breaker, having raised the ship high, brings it crashing down. Your whole body feels numb. The weakness is so tormenting, that it almost makes you lose interest in life. In case of a violent storm, it must make people insensitive to danger, thus mitigating the horror of a shipwreck.

He goes on to report that even after reaching land and standing on firm ground, the seasickness does not promptly go away. (Oh, dear, I got that wrong in more than one of my books.)

The first steamboat appeared on the English channel in 1818 but these weren’t widely used until nearly a decade later. Lack-Szyrma tells us that by 1827 England had almost 200 steamships, but in America, where they were built, the number was much greater. Not all these 200 were used for crossing the channel. Steamboats were a common means of transport to and from Edinburgh from points south, especially London.

Lack-Szyrma gives an account of a steamboat owner in Calais inviting a few members of the municipal council for a short sail in his steamer. “They agreed to his request, but when it was time to go on board, they got frightened and each of them looked for an excuse not to take part in this trip. Such an important invention aroused people’s anxiety in those days!”

If you’re interested in knowing things like how much it cost to sail from Dover to Calais or the price of gentlemen’s lodging in London, I highly recommend reading Lack-Szyrma’s journal. Of all the ones I’ve read from the era, this one is THE best. He spent several years studying British government, penal system, courts, history and almost every aspect of the country and explains them in clearly understood layman’s terms. Titled London Observed: A Polish Philosopher at Large, 1820-24, it’s annotated and edited by Mona Kesslie McLeod, a retired lecturer at Edinburgh University.—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release is Pride and Prejudice Sequels: 3 Novellas.

The Actress Who Married a Duke

© Cheryl Bolen

What a strange eventful life has mine been, from a poor little player child, with just food and clothes to cover me, dependent on a very precarious profession, without talent or a friend in the world – first the wife of the best, the most perfect being that ever breathed …and now the wife of a Duke! You must write my life… my true history written by the author of Waverley”

The passage above was written in 1827 by the Duchess of St. Albans to Sir Walter Scott shortly after her marriage to the 9th Duke of St. Albans, a man 23 years her junior.

How did a 50-year-old former actress attract so lofty a peer? It’s a good guess that her enormous fortune dazzled him.

How, then, did an actress at a minor London theatre become one of the wealthiest women in the British Isles?

Harriet Mellon (1777-1837) was nearing forty when she attracted the attention of the enormously wealthy banker Thomas Coutts (1735-1822) while acting at the Duke Street Theatre. She was noted for her beauty and was painted by George Romney and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Harriet Mellon

Harriet Mellon

Coutts married her soon after his first wife died in 1815. This husband whom she described as “the most perfect being that ever breathed” was eighty.

Coutts had founded Coutts & Co., the royal bank, and he enjoyed close relationships with the highest ranking families and officials in the land. Both his first wife, Elizabeth Starkey, formerly in service at his brother’s house, and Harriet would have been considered beneath him, but such lack of consequence was apparently not of significance.

His three daughters—with encouragement from their father—were more cognizant of rank when selecting their mates. His eldest daughter, Susan, married the 3rd Earl of Guilford; daughter Frances married the 1st Marquess of Bute; and Sophia married Sir Francis Burdett.

When Coutts died seven years after marrying Harriet, he left his entire fortune to her. She hosted parties at her townhouse at 78 Piccadilly, her lodge four miles away in Highgate, and her place in Brighton.

Five years after she was widowed, she married the Duke of St. Albans.

When she died ten years later, she left the bulk of her fortune to a granddaughter of her first husband, the youngest daughter of Sir Francis Burdett. Harriet paid homage to her first husband in stipulating that her heiress adopt the name Angela Burdett-Coutts.—Cheryl’s newest book, the runaway bride story Oh What a (Wedding) Night, Book 3 in the Brazen Brides series, releases April 19.

Using Stately Homes as Book Settings

© By Cheryl Bolen

My copyeditor recently questioned a reference in one of my books he was editing. “Can this be?” he asked. “Over 300 rooms in this house?”

Yes, many of the British stately homes run to more than 200 rooms and some to over 300 rooms. And because I write a lot of novels about the English aristocracy (both historical and contemporary), I have made it a point to tour as many of these aristocratic homes as possible on my frequent travels to England.

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

Chatsworth House, home of the Dukes of Devonshire

One of my favorite of these stately homes is Chatsworth House, family seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, nestled in the foothills of Derbyshire’s Peak District. The “house” has 297 rooms! (It’s the one I use in the banner on my blog, Cheryl’s Regency Ramblings, http://www.cherylsregencyramblings.wordpress.com.)

Knole House in Kent

Knole House in Kent

Knole, in Kent, is home to the Sackvilles, cousins of the first Queen Elizabeth, and was once home to the Dukes of Dorset. This rambling “house” has 356 rooms, 52 sets of stairs, and seven courtyards!

I have toured more than 30 of these homes, and I add new ones each trip my husband and I take to England. They make good fodder for the fictional homes in my 20-plus books. While none of these homes is exactly replicated in any of my novels, I do borrow from different houses I’ve had the pleasure of touring.

Hever-Castle-Kent-great-britain-789258_1242_809

Hever Castle

My book which can most be identified with a particular property is probably My Lord Wicked. The abbey in which my not-so-wicked lord lived was somewhat modeled on Hever Castle, the girlhood home of Anne Boleyn. Instead of the drawbridge at Hever, my fictional abbey has a clock tower which was supposedly built to disguise the abbey’s former bell tower.

In my book, Love in the Library, my heroine lives at Number 17 Royal Crescent in Bath. Here’s a picture of me in front of one of the magnificent townhouses on Bath’s Royal Cresent in June of 2013.

IMG_5926

Me in front of Bath’s Royal Crescent

If you’d like to see what a Georgian townhouse (of the wealthy) looked like, you can tour Number 1 Royal Crescent in Bath. Or you can see the photos of Number 1 here: https://plus.google.com/115605333815650580996/photos?hl=en

—Cheryl Bolen’s newest release, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, Brazen Brides Book 3, releases April 19.

London’s Historic Pubs, Part II

London’s Historic Pubs, Part II

©Cheryl Bolen

The five London pubs described in this blog have all been sampled by my family, and all can be found within a two-mile radius.

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern is said to be the most difficult pub to find in London. According to legend, one man worked around the corner for six years without finding it. Nowadays, it’s easy to find with the GPS on your smart phone. It’s located close to the Holburn Circus, not far from the Chancery Lane tube stop on High Holburn. Still, the guys in my family walked right by its entrance, but I was looking for a little alleyway. And do I mean little!

The entry into the tiny pedestrian lane where Ye Olde Mitre tavern is marked by this slender arch.

The entry into the tiny pedestrian lane where Ye Olde Mitre tavern is marked by this slender arch.

Ye Olde Mitre

This is what the entrance to Ye Olde Mitre tavern looks like in daytime. (We were there at night.)

We’re so glad we found it! It’s one of the most memorable of all the London pubs we’ve patronized. You enter through a narrow pedestrian way that has likely been unchanged in centuries. The pub’s interior is comprised of tiny, low-ceilinged rooms. It’s very popular with the locals who can drink a pint near the fire on a winter’s night. Those desiring to imbibe outdoors gather around tall upside-down barrels that serve as bar tables.

The father of my children and I opted for a cozy table by the fireplace, but our sons preferred drinking outside.

The father of my children and I opted for a cozy table by the fireplace, but our sons preferred drinking outside.

IMG_0398

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern has been on this site since 1546, but the current building was constructed in 1772. It’s said Queen Elizabeth I visited here and danced around a cherry tree that is still there. Ye Olde Mitre was originally a tavern for the servants of the Palace of the Bishops of Ely, which was once based here.

Red Lion in Westminster

Because of its prime location between Number 10 Downing Street and Parliament, The Red Lion is your best chance of seeing a real M.P. (Member of Parliament). Until Edward Heath (British Prime Minister from 1970-1974) every prime minister had visited the Red Lion.

A tavern has been at this location since 1434. A young Charles Dickens visited the Red Lion regularly. The current structure was built in 1890.

If it's not raining, patrons love to grab a pint inside the red Lion and drink it outside, especially after work.

If it’s not raining, patrons love to grab a pint inside the Red Lion and drink it outside, especially after work.

The inside is more upscale traditional with dark woods and higher ceilings. Its corner location has become popular for those who take their pints outside. You’ll see lots of people in suits grabbing an after-work pint.

The Cross Keys

Those with OCD may go a little crazy in the interior of The Cross Keys, opened in 1848. Its small interior is crammed with all manner of memorabilia—and clutter. Among the bric-a-brac there’s said to be a napkin signed by Elvis.

IMG_0379

One of my sons in front of The Cross Keys.

This Covent Garden pub’s claim to fame is attributed to the aforementioned plethora of memorabilia and to its unique facade which is a jumble of lovely greenery and flowers. It’s probably Coven Garden’s most distinctive building.

The Lamb and Flag

Also in Covent Garden, The Lamb and Flag claims to be Covent Garden’s most historic watering hole. It’s located on an L-shaped alleyway (not nearly as narrow as the alleyw

The Bolen guys outside Covent Garden's Lamb & Flag pub.

The Bolen guys outside Covent Garden’s Lamb & Flag pub.

ay to Ye Olde Mitre Tavern) that used to be famous for its bare-knuckled fighting.

 

Charles Dickens (That guy really liked his beer!) was a regular here, and a couple of centuries earlier the poet John Dryden hung out here. Up a very narrow, steep stairway is another room—this one named for Dryden, who was almost murdered nearby.

The Old Bell Tavern

Just down Fleet Street from St. Paul’s in The City, The Old Bell Tavern was built by St. Paul’s architect, Sir Christopher Wren, for his stonemason’s who were building St. Bride’s Church after the Great Fire.

The curved, dark wood bar in Old Bell Tavern is unique.

The curved, dark wood bar in Old Bell Tavern is unique.

 

Inside, it’s cozy with a small fireplace, an attractive curved-wood bar, and great pub grub.—Cheryl Bolen, whose third Brazen Brides book, Oh What a (Wedding) Night, releases in April and can be preordered everywhere now.

London’s Historic Pubs, Part I

©Cheryl Bolen

Our whole family has a love affair with London, and since our sons have grown we’ve spent a lot of our time in its pubs.

Though my boys are far more discerning over their beer, bitters, ale, and stout (I may not have all that right because I’m not all that discerning about such) I, on the other hand, am more discerning about history. I love historical pubs.

In London, you can find a pub (this name a shortening of public house) on every block, but it’s much harder to find a historic pub in the world’s most urbane, international city. Nowadays, many pubs have morphed into wine bars. Others have eschewed traditional “pub grub” like shepherd’s pie for appetizers like . . . can you believe nachos? And many have gone Zen with their decor. We prefer dark with rich old wood bars. We love to get fish and chips and kidney and shepherd’s pies. If there’s a fireplace, so much the better. My last consideration is “associations.” What historical figures are associated with the pub?

The oldest pubs typically are in the oldest parts of London, around The City and the boroughs immediately surrounding it. (There are 32 boroughs in this vast city.) Most of the really old pubs will have low ceilings and often are housed in several smaller rooms.

Here’s a list of historical pubs we have sampled. It is not complete because we will continue adding to it with each new trip.

Dr. Bolen by his favorite place--Ye Olde Chesshire Cheese.

Dr. Bolen by his favorite place–Ye Olde Chesshire Cheese.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

One of the first historical pubs we ever checked out was Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (rebuilt in 1667) in The City. Though there’s a sign for it on Fleet Street, customers enter through a “close,” which is a narrow pedestrian street, off of Fleet.

Many decades ago my high school English teacher showed us slides from her 1950s trip to London. I remembered two things about those slides more than 20 years later when I took my first trip to England. I recalled all the post-war rubble of bombed buildings—and the name of an old pub where Samuel Johnson and many other literati had imbibed, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.

Now, no trip to London is complete for us without a swing by the quaint, dark warren of rooms. We prefer the tiny front one with its own fireplace. We loved being there on weekdays and seeing all the bankers and journalists coming off Fleet Street in their suits for an after-work pint. Sadly, in recent years, it’s been discovered by tourists, and those British accents are becoming rare.

IMG_0275

My sons at the Spaniards Inn.

Spaniard’s Inn

The second must-visit pub for us each trip is the Spaniards Inn, which we first discovered on a 1996 trip, though it’s been in picturesque Hampstead alongside the Hampstead Heath since 1585. Hampstead is about four miles north of Charring Cross. The pub/inn is located by a tiny 400-year old toll house that’s no longer in use. A lot of history is associated with this inn. Famed highwayman Dick Turpin (1707-1739) was said to have been a regular, and poets John Keats and Lord Byron were frequent guests. It’s said Keats, who lived nearby, wrote Ode to a Nightingale in the inn’s gardens.

I prefer the interior’s low-ceilinged nest of rooms, some with cozy high-back benches of old oak. If there’s no rain and even a hint of sunshine, Londoners, on the other hand, will opt to eat and drink in the large garden, part of which is arbored.

Unlike Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, this has not been overrun by tourists. It is very popular with locals from the posh surrounding neighborhoods of Hampstead and Highgate, and its parking lot (a rarity for a London pub) is filled with Range Rovers and BMWs.

IMG_0254

The George is entered in the same way it was when it was a coaching inn.

The George Inn

Just as atmospheric as the first two, The George is London’s last remaining galleried inn. It is the only one on our current list located south of the River Thames, in Southwark. Just steps from the Tower Bridge tube stop and a minute’s walk from the river, The George is still entered the same way as coaches and horses entered when the inn was rebuilt in 1676. The former inn yard now offers ample outdoor seating.

The former inn yard now offers outdoor seating -- not a preference at chilly Christmas time when we were there!

The former inn yard now offers outdoor seating — not a preference at chilly Christmas time when we were there!

Though the National Trust bought the inn to preserve it, it’s no museum. It’s a popular hangout for food and drink, and the interiors are authentic English pub. Like Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, The George is composed of many small rooms that offer that unique coziness that promotes good conversation and good times. It was visited by Charles Dickens and mentioned in his Little Dorrit.

 

IMG_0327

The Bolen Boys at the Cittie of Yorke.

Cittie of Yorke

Though there’s been a pub on this site since 1430, the current one is decidedly Victorian though it only dates to the 1920s. It’s located in High Holborn not far from the Chancery Lane tube stop. It was formerly known as Henneky’s Long Bar and was the subject of a Dylan Thomas ode.

Though it’s a vast departure from the low-ceilinged labyrinths of some of our favorite old pubs, this is a must-see. There’s a cozy front room, but the heart and soul of this wonderful pub is its high-ceilinged main room with the famed long bar. Something about it—perhaps its high clerestory windows—reminded me of the big hall in the Augustinian Brewery in Salzburg. There is plenty of dark wood here to add the patina of age.

Enjoying a pint (or half pint, in my case) at the Cittie of Yorke.

Enjoying a pint (or half pint, in my case) in one of the Cittie of Yorke’s cozy cubicles.

The pride of place at the Cittie of Yorke are the Victorian-style oak cubicles that line either side of this large, wood-floored chamber. We had to wait to claim one, but it was well worth it. An added plus is the pub’s endorsement by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Part II, Next Blog

Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, High Holborn/Chancery Lane

Red Lion in Westminster

The Cross Keys in Covent Garden

The Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden

The Old Bell Tavern in the City