The Bewitching Salem Witch Trials

by guest blogger Audrey Blake

The Salem Witch Trials is one of the most famed–and tragic–events in American History. Today, the area is a thriving tourist community filled with “witches” willing to tell fortunes and help with all kinds of ailments. But its beginnings were grim and heart-wrenching.

Early in 1692, in the village of Salem, Reverend Samuel Parris’s daughter, Betty Parris age 9, and his niece Abigail Williams age 11, were stricken with a sudden and mysterious illness which brought fits “beyond the power of Epileptic Fits.” The illness persisted beyond normality and the village doctor, William Griggs, was brought into the household. The girls screamed, crawled under furniture, threw objects, and contorted themselves into horrifying positions. They also described pains of being “pinched and pricked with pins”. Even the physician was baffled. So, like any rational man of medicine, he diagnosed the girls with “bewitchment.” Soon, many other girls in the village began exhibiting these strange behaviors. Among these were also 12-year-old Ann Putnam Jr., Abigail Williams, Betty Parris, and Elizabeth Hubbard. (They were later joined by others in the finger-pointing and theatrics.)

This unfortunate diagnosis ultimately set off the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the which resulted in the imprisonment of more than 200 people, nineteen of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging. One man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death. This surprised me because I thought witches were burned at the stake or drowned. Apparently, there were many ways to execute a witch.

To add to the senseless tragedy, five more died in prison, including an infant, Mercy Good. Her sister, Dorothy Good, only four years old at the time, was also imprisoned for her mother’s ‘involvement’ in witchcraft. She lived another decade or so, but she was so damaged by her treatment in prison that she became insane.

It is hailed as the deadliest witch hunt in America’s history.

What many people don’t know is that while some of the events did happen in present-day Salem, the majority of the trials took place in Salem Village which is present-day Danvers, Massachusetts. Neighbors of Salem Village considered the population as “quarrelsome.” There were arguments about property lines, grazing rights, and church privileges. Like any small town, there were fights and feuds in which the entire community was involved. It all seems petty now, doesn’t it?

I’ll back up a bit to give some background. In 1672, the villagers had voted to hire a minister of their own, apart from Salem Village. The first two stayed only a few years each, departing after the congregation failed to pay their full rate. Ironically, even one of the ministers, George Burroughs, was arrested at the height of the witchcraft hysteria and hanged as a witch in August 1692.

The first ordained minister of Salem Village’s choice was Samuel Parris. He received £66 annually “one-third part in money and the other two parts in provisions” as well as use of the parsonage. Salem Village hired him in June of 1689 and raised his benefits in October of 1689, which conflicted with a 1681 Village resolution which stated that “it shall not be lawful for the inhabitants of this village to convey the houses or lands or any other concerns belonging to the Ministry to any particular persons or person.” Whoops.

Reverend Parris’s delay of his acceptance of the position increased the village’s divisions, and he was not seen in a good light by his own congregation. To make matters worse, this so-called man of God deliberately sought out “iniquitous behavior” and made up-standing church members suffer public penance for small infractions. This reminds me of my zero-hour high school teacher making me stand in front of the class and explain why I was five minutes late one morning. Humiliating! This increased Salem Village’s tension. (Also, remember that Parris’s daughters’ diagnosis of bewitchment started the witch craze.)

Additionally, thanks in large part to the church minister who audaciously called himself a Christian, rumors of witchcraft swept the villages neighboring Salem prior to the outbreak of the hysteria in 1692. Cotton Mather, a minister of Boston’s North Church, was a prolific publisher of pamphlets, including some that expressed his belief in witchcraft.

In these pamphlets, Mather illustrates how Boston mason John Goodwin’s eldest child had been tempted by the devil and stolen linen from the washerwoman Goody Glover. Honestly, I would be pretty upset if some kid kept wandering into my yard and stealing my linens, too. I think Goody Glover had something going here. Nonetheless, Glover was seen as a disagreeable old woman and described by her husband as a witch. (I’m hearing the line from Princess Bride…”I’m not a witch–I’m your wife, and after what you just said, I’m not sure I want to be that anymore!”)  All joking aside, his unkind description of his wife may have prompted the formal accusation.

Four of the six Goodwin children had strange fits, which quickly became associated with witchcraft. These symptoms included “neck and back pains, tongues being drawn from their throats, and loud random outcries.” Other symptoms included having no control over their bodies such as contortionism, flapping their arms like birds, or trying to harm others as well as themselves.

Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne were among the first to be accused and arrested for affecting Betty Parris, Abigail Williams, Ann Putnam Jr., and Elizabeth Hubbard. At the time, a vicious rivalry was underway between the Putnam and Porter families which resulted in polarizing the people of Salem. These disagreements often escalated into full-fledged fighting based on their opinion of the feud. I suppose an accusation of witchcraft was an easy way to get rid of an enemy, considering the gullible and superstitious nature of the people in this town.

Tituba, the first to be targeted, was reportedly a South American Indian slave belonging to Samuel Parris. She was accused of telling the girls stories of enchantment which included sexual encounters with demons, swaying the minds of men, and fortune-telling. While centuries later Tituba’s involvement in the witch hunt hysteria is hailed as the catalyst, there was no evidence to support this. It’s likely that she did tell stories from her native land. Who wouldn’t? I’m sure she meant no harm.

Sarah Good was a homeless beggar accused of rejecting Puritan ideals, choosing to torment and “scorn [children] instead of leading them towards the path of salvation”.

Sarah Osborne was also an easy target; she rarely attended church meetings and she had remarried–to an indentured servant. The villagers of Salem also disapproved of her trying to control her son’s inheritance from her previous marriage.

One thing is clear: each woman was an outcast in some way and each exhibited many of the character traits typical of the “usual suspects” for witchcraft accusations. Each woman was interrogated for several days starting on March 1st, 1692 and then sent to jail.

During the month of March, others accused of witchcraft included: Martha Corey, Dorothy Good, daughter of Sarah Good–who was only four years old at the time–Rebecca Nurse from Salem and Rachel Clinton in nearby Ipswich. Martha Corey had expressed skepticism about the credibility of the girls’ accusations and drew attention that way. However, the accusation against Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse rocked Salem; both women were fully covenanted members of the Church. They were good, God-fearing women.

Now anyone could be a witch.

The hysteria increased. Accusations came flooding into the courthouses. Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse’s sister, and Elizabeth Proctor were arrested in April. John Proctor protested his wife’s arrest and was arrested himself that same day. He maintained his innocence as well, and openly and strongly criticized the court’s use of spectral evidence.

The accused were brought before John Hathorne, a relative of famous writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Jonathan Corwin in Salem Town.

Giles Corey, Martha Corey’s husband, was also arrested with Abigail Hobbs, Bridget Bishop, Marry Warren, and Deliverance Hobbs. To save their own lives, Abigail Hobbs, Mary Warren, and Deliverance Hobbs all confessed and began naming additional people as accomplices. As a result, Sarah Wildes, William Hobbs, Nehemia Abbot Jr., Mary Easty, Edward Bishop Jr. and his wife Sarah Bishop, and Mary English were all arrested and brought to trial.

May brought more accusations but some suspects began to evade apprehension. Names poured in, some brought on by those arrested. Sarah Osborne, meanwhile, perished in jail on May 10th, 1692. At the end of May, the total number of people in custody was 62.

Complete hysteria.

The first person to be brought to grand trial was 30-year-old Bridget Bishop. On April 19th, 1692, she was examined by John Hathorne – patrilineal ancestor of famous writer Nathaniel Hawthorne – and Jonathan Corwin. During Bridget’s questioning, the young girls Elizabeth Hubbard, Ann Putnam, Abigail Williams, and Mercy Lewes testified that she was hurting them. Even small motions Bishop made, like looking upwards or shaking her head, caused the girls to cry out in pain, thus solidifying the jury’s beliefs that she was a witch. She was described as having an “immoral” lifestyle, wore black clothing and odd costumes. Bishop was vehement that she was innocent, repeating that she had no idea who her accusers were, that she had never seen them before and she had never made any deals with the devil. Below is an excerpt of her examination:

The Witch House, the house of one of the judges of the Salem Witch Trials, Jonathan Corwin

Bridget Bishop: I am no Witch.

John Hathorne: Why if you have not wrote in the book, yet tell me how far you
have gone? Have you not to do with familiar Spirits?

Bridget Bishop: I have no familiarity with the Devil.

John Hathorne: How is it then, that your appearance doth hurt these?

Bridget Bishop: I am innocent.

John Hathorne: Why you seem to act Witchcraft before us, by the motion of your
body, which seems to have influence fluence upon the afflicted.

John Hathorne: I know nothing of it. I am innocent to a Witch. I know not what
a Witch is.

John Hathorne: How do you know then that you are not a witch? #[and yet know not what a Witch is?]

Bridget Bishop: I do not #[understand] know what you say.

John Hathorne: How can you know, you are no Witch, & yet not know what a Witch is:

Bridget Bishop: I am clear: if I were any such person you should know it.
— Excerpt of the Examination of Bridget Bishop, as Recorded by Samuel Parris (http://salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/swp?div_id=n13)

Despite her pleas, Bridget was convicted and executed by hanging on June 10, 1692. Chilling. The only evidence the judges had were the cries of ‘pain’ by underaged girls, and poor Bridget’s personal choices of clothing.

Martha Corey’s memorial

“There were four execution dates, with one person executed on June 10, 1692, five executed on July 19, 1692 (Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe and Sarah Wildes), another five executed on August 19, 1692 (Martha Carrier, John Willard, George Burroughs, George Jacobs, Sr. and John Proctor), and eight on September 22, 1692 (Mary Eastey, Martha Corey, Ann Pudeator, Samuel Wardwell, Mary Parker, Alice Parker, Wilmot Redd and Margaret Scott).

Several others, including Elizabeth (Bassett) Proctor and Abigail Faulkner, were convicted but given temporary reprieves because they were pregnant. Five other women were convicted in 1692, but the death sentence was never carried out: Mary Bradbury (in absentia), Ann Foster (who later died in prison), Mary Lacey Sr. (Foster’s daughter), Dorcas Hoar and Abigail Hobbs.”

Giles Corey’s memorial in the Salem Witch Trials Memorial park in present-day Salem. The memorial stone had accidentally been engraved on the wrong side; so Giles’s name is on both sides of the stone, sentencing poor Giles to an eternity of being pressed to death.

Giles Corey was one of the few males accused of witchcraft. He refused to enter a plea when he came to trial in September, so he was tortured by way of peine forte et dure, in which stones were piled on his chest until he could no longer breathe. While under torture, the magistrates tried to make him talk. He famously said “more weight!” instead of acquiescing. He endured for two days before ultimately perishing. “His death was a protest against the methods of the court.”

Once they were convicted witches, Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey were excommunicated from their churches and denied proper burials. As soon as the bodies of the accused were cut down from their gallows, they were thrown into a shallow grave and abandoned.

Supposedly, family members later dug up their remains and reburied them in unmarked graves in family property. At least they cared enough to do this. I can’t imagine the horrors their families must have endured. To be accused of witchcraft and then to be discarded like trash… These women deserved so much better. It’s quite sobering to think that not even these wonderful ladies were unable to avoid the witch hunt. One would’ve thought that they, of all people, would’ve been safe.

No one was safe from the hysteria.

Eventually but much too late, “the court was disbanded by Governor William Phipps in October of 1692. The Superior Court of Judicature, formed to replace the “witchcraft” court, did not allow the spectral evidence. This belief in the power of the accused to use their invisible shapes or specters to torture their victims had sealed the fates of those tried by the Court of Oyer and Terminer. The new court released those awaiting trial and pardoned those awaiting execution. In effect, the Salem witch trials were over.

As years passed, apologies were offered and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that era and view subsequent events with heightened awareness.” (http://www.salem.org/salem-witch-trials/)While visiting Salem, known as The Witch Town, it was clear the residents were not afraid of the history their town harbored. Many psychics, ghost hunters, and other paranormal enthusiasts make their home here. Even the local law enforcers carry a badge with a witch riding on a broomstick. It’s really cool! I find it ironic and poetically just the Salem area has now attracted the very kinds of people it was trying to eradicate.

The town itself is a town like any other, though with some of the oldest houses I’ve ever seen! Near Halloween, it becomes a huge tourist attraction for Ghost Tours, haunted houses, and of course staying in the extremely famous and haunted Hawthorne Hotel. The residents I stayed with expressed their exasperation of the touristy time of year. I can agree.

Narrow streets packed with people made it a bit claustrophobic. Posted signs attempt to keep tourists from parking in areas where Salem residents need to be. And let’s not mention the ‘quiet zones’!

I read and watched The Crucible in high school and became morbidly fascinated by the happenings during these trials. It all began with a group of girls began wildly accusing people of witchcraft simply because they didn’t like them. Although, to be fair, some scholars have suggested many were hallucinating due to a poisonous fungus growing on bread. Regardless of the cause, the wild accusations and the actions of those who jumped to irrational conclusions resulted in death and torture of many innocent adults and children, affection generations. I wonder if those girls eventually realized what they had done and had some sort of regret. Who is to say what really went through their heads?

A fun fact: Abigail Williams did flee Salem like in The Crucible, but she reportedly became a prostitute. Mercy Lewis went to live with her aunt in Boston, eventually marrying in 1701.

The judges were as much to blame as the girls for allowing their judgments to be swayed by prepubescent children seeking attention. Reportedly, John Hathorne showed no repentance for his involvement in the Trials. Nathaniel Hawthorne added the ‘w’ into his own last name to be disassociated with his ancestor.

Residents of Salem leave fresh flowers and other trinkets on the memorials of those killed during the trials every day. It is a touching and sobering reminder of what transpired and what could have been avoided.

An eerie silence follows the entering of the graveyard in Salem. So many were broken, so many were worn away by the elements, their names lost to time… It is one of the few graveyards that I’ve been in where I felt like crying.

On that grim note…Happy Halloween!

Bibliography:

Ray, Benjamin, and University of Virginia. “Bridget Bishop Executed, June 10, 1692.” Salem Witch Trials Notable Persons, 2002, salem.lib.virginia.edu/texts/tei/swp?div_id=n13.

“Salem Witch Trials.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Sept. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salem_witch_trials.

sirisaac-dev. “Salem Witch Trials.” Destination Salem, 29 May 2018, www.salem.org/salem-witch-trials/.

Wallenfeldt, Jeff. “Salem Witch Trials.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Dec. 2017, www.britannica.com/event/Salem-witch-trials.

By Phil Edwards and Estelle Caswel  https://www.vox.com/2015/10/29/9620542/salem-witch-trials-ergotism

The Bewitching Salem Witch Trials syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

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To Autumn, by John Keats

Autumn, also called Fall in the good old USA, is one of my favorite times of the year. To me, autumn is not a sign that nature is dying or even going dormant, it is colorful and sensory-rich and full of life. Leaves turning glorious shades of burgundy, gold, and rust set trees ablaze, and eventually flutter down to blanket lawns. Smells of cinnamon and nutmeg in apple cider and pumpkin pie, wood burning in hearths, rain on leaves, hot cocoa, the loamy aroma of gardens where summer’s flowers are falling asleep that signals the season permeate our homes and outdoors. Coole weather means getting out sweaters and scarves, donning boots, snuggling under blankets, and going for walks or drives to enjoy the splendor of autumn.  Autumn is the signal that some of my favorite holidays are right around the corner: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, with all of our family traditions.

Others to share my love of the season. “To Autumn” is a poem written by English Romantic Poet John Keats, one of the most beloved poets during the Regency Era.  He composed this work on 19 September 1819 and published it in 1820 in a volume of Keats’s poetry that included Lamia and The Eve of Saint Agnes. “To Autumn” is his final work in a collection of poems known as Keats’s “1819 odes”.  He reportedly composed “To Autumn” after a walk near Winchester one evening in autumn.

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Though this work has been interpreted as a meditation on death, critics regard “To Autumn” as one of the most perfect short poems in the English language.  To Autumn went on to become one of the most highly-regarded poems in the English language.

I am not delusional enough to believe I am anywhere near the master of the pen as Keats, nor do I write poetry, but autumn inspired me to write two novellas and one novel set during my favorite time of year. My two novellas are still available–“Unmasking the Duke” and “The Reluctant Bride.”

Happy Autumn!

“Unmasking the Duke”

The last thing Hannah Palmer wants is to flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, Alicia, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball in her honor, Hannah can’t say no. Taking shelter behind a disguise, Hannah dances with a delightful masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit, and falling for his charms. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and they remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover the man she’s been flirting with all night is the despised Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.

(This novella was originally part of the Autumn Masquerade Regency Collection)

“Unmasking the Duke” is available on Amazon here

The Reluctant Bride

Fleeing a looming marriage to a terrifying man, Abby meets a mysterious, yet charming stranger who makes a startling proposition that will either save her or leave her mired in scandal.

“The Reluctant Bride” is available on Amazon here

To Autumn, by John Keats syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Love at fist sight, and other life-changing topics with guest author Jen Geigle Johnson

Today it is my pleasure to interview historical romance author Jen Geigle Johnson. What a fun interview!

My first question is: Love at first sight.  Is it possible?

Absolutely. There is a certain magnetism that happens between two people, and it’s magic, it can be love at first sight when this initial zing is followed by respect and a sense of humor. Then BAM. They’re both goners.

I get that! What do you love about historical romance? 

I LOVE history. I think real-life stories are by far the most interesting and I love to bring to light almost forgotten people or circumstances.

I love that, too! Have you ever created a villain or killed off a character who was based on someone you know?

I named a character after my uncle not knowing he was going to die at the end of the book, and interestingly, my uncle died when I was young, of cancer. The sad part about all this is my sister named her son this same name and was not too happy the character died at the end of the book.

Wow, that’s rough. What advice do you give aspiring authors? 

Push through the hard times. It is so worth it.

It is! What do you do for fun (besides write)?

I have six awesome children. I love them. The youngest is nine. He still likes hugs. And my eldest is twenty and she is fun–like an adult friend. I have every age in between. We like to ski, play in the water, and hike mountains together.

Wow! I have six children, too. Good for you! What are you working on now?

I am planning a whole series of Regency stories set in Bath, England. What a quirky town.

Okay, here’s the bonus round:

Favorite dessert? MMMMM Key lime pie

Favorite flower? Hydrangeas

Favorite vacation destination? Destin Florida or Sienna Italy

Dark, milk or white chocolate? None, I am a strange soul who doesn’t like chocolate

Wow, you don’t like chocolate? I guess that means I won’t have to fight you for dessert! Anything else you’d like to include?

You’re invited to my REGENCY HOUSE PARTY.

Regency House Party started with a setting. Wentworth Woodhouse still stands today as England’s largest private dwelling. With 365 rooms, including a fish hatchery, conservatory, multiple music rooms, bear cave, dungeon type room, nurseries, bedrooms, and all others you would expect and some you wouldn’t, even an armory, it became the perfect place to tell five romances.

Our guests attend a ten-day house party together with our hostess The Countess Du’Breven, her pug, Wellington, her footman, and staff. They interact with each other in all the stories and we share the same timeline. And so, as a result, we have created five stand-alone romances set in a fascinating setting. We hope you enjoy each one and until you have the complete set.

Regency England at Christmas time? Look for my story in a new anthology 2018.

Women’s Suffrage during the Regency time period? You bet and when I tell the story, it is filled with romance! Coming soon!

Coming to America and Maid in Disguise. Two popular movie titles. What could they possibly have to do with a Regency romance novel?

Author bio:

An award-winning author, including the GOLD in Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, Jen Geigle Johnson discovered her passion for England while kayaking on the Thames near London as a young teenager. She once greeted an ancient turtle under the water by grabbing her fin. She knows all about the sound a water-ski makes on glassy water and how to fall down steep moguls with grace. During a study break date in college, she sat on top of a jeep’s roll bars up in the mountains and fell in love.

Now, she loves to share bits of history that might otherwise be forgotten. Whether in Regency England, the French Revolution, or Colonial America, her romance novels are much like life is supposed to be: full of adventure. She is a member of the RWA, the SCBWI, and LDStorymakers. She is also the chair of the Lonestar.Ink writing conference.

Website: http://www.jengeiglejohnson.com

Twitter–@authorjen

Instagram–@authorlyjen

Love at fist sight, and other life-changing topics with guest author Jen Geigle Johnson syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Lies Jane Austen Never Told Me

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single young lady desiring to secure a husband, must wear white.”

Okay, I confess, that’s not a Jane Austen quote. However, a common belief is that Regency London debutantes had to wear white. It’s also wrong.

First of all, the term debutante was not used in Regency England. Yes, the word existed but not in the context that we think of it now. Debutante, as it applies to a young lady having her debut into society, is a term that the Victorians adopted a couple of decades after the Regency.

Secondly, there was no hard and fast rule during the Regency that young ladies who were newly “out” had to wear white. They could, in fact, wear whatever color they chose. Many ladies young and old wore white but many more wore pastels.

White and pastel were fashionable. These lighter colors were extremely difficult to keep clean, so wearing a pristine light-colored gown proclaimed one’s wealth. Without today’s modern streets, sidewalks, street sweepers—and automobiles instead of horses with all the messes they make—keeping one’s clothes proved a challenging task amid the muck and mud of earlier eras. Such delicate colors were impractical for anyone less affluent to wear because they couldn’t keep it clean and unspoiled. Unlike the very wealthy, the working classes didn’t have an army of servants to do their laundry, and they couldn’t afford to simply cast off and replace stained clothing.

Fashionable ladies wore richer colors, too. All one must do is look at any historical clothing museum to understand the popularity of the whole rainbow of colors—even red.

Expensive fabrics such as silk, the quality of cut and stitching, as well as all the trimmings were another sign of wealth and taste. All the braids, lace, ribbons (called ‘ribbands’ in older writing) and feathers cost a great deal of money, and also divided the classes.

So why do we have this false belief that unmarried young ladies were only allowed to wear white? Because that’s what we read in historical novels. The queen of the modern Regency Romance, Georgette Heyer, was a careful researcher, but she didn’t have access to the internet or the wealth of information we have now, nor did she have writers’ groups and fellow history geeks to help her ferret out information. In addition to whatever primary source books she could find, Heyer relied heavily on her grandmother’s memory, and grandmama grew up in the Late Victorian/early Edwardian Era, so things had changed. Debutants wore white in Heyer’s novels, so of course, we believed that was a hard-and-fast-rule.

A common theory to explain Heyer’s occasional inaccuracies was that she deliberately lied! The belief is that she deliberately wrote in misinformation to see who was copying her instead of doing their own research. However, I can’t believe she’d do that—she was too methodical to have purposely written something wrong just to trip up another author.

Heyer novels, like any fictional accounts, should be read and enjoyed as fiction, and not as a source upon which to base research—unless, of course, it is Jane Austen. It is a truth, universally accepted, that Austen’s books are accurate since she lived in that time and wrote about characters who lived at that time, too.

As a Regency Romance author, I make every possible attempt to keep my novels historically accurate, but since I didn’t live in the era, I don’t know everything either. (I know—shocking, right?) In my continuing research, I learn new facts almost daily–sometimes details I didn’t get quite right in earlier books. However, each book is better researched than the last because each new one is the culmination of my knowledge, and that’s the best I can do. Historical accuracy is important to me, but if I wanted until I knew everything, I would not have published a single novel yet. I hope you enjoy the discovery with me.

Sources:

Years of my own research, plus numerous museum visits in England. However, you might also enjoy these sources:

Fashions in the Era of Jane Austen, by Jody Gayle

Candice Hern

Risky Regencies

Lies Jane Austen Never Told Me syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Coach Travel in Regency England, stage and mail coaches

Travel in Regency England took many forms. While journeying to the nearest village, one usually walked or rode horseback, or, if wealthy, took the family coach. Travel to distant destinations, however, was different. Walking and horseback was impractical, and most family coaches had to travel slowly so as not to over-tire the horses. Wealthy people might send horses ahead several days in advance to wait for them at various posting inns so they could be changed out up on arrival. This allowed them to continue their journey with a fresh team every so often. They might even board horses long-term at posting inns if that route was one they frequently used. Many lords did this along the main routes to London so they could reach it easily and without a lot of arrangements ahead of time.

However, in many cases people used the mail coach or the stage coach. These coaches traveled on schedule much like today’s trains or airplanes.

One of the least expensive ways to travel was the Royal Mail. This ran over specific routes usually only once a day in either direction. They did not travel on Sundays or religious holidays, such as Easter or Christmas. The main coach’s purpose was to deliver the mail. Passengers were secondary, and the coachmen were very strict about keeping their schedule—even if it meant leaving a tardy passenger behind.

Stage and mail coaches primarily stuck to the main highways but could take smaller routes—just less frequently. In well-established efficiency, they stopped at posting inns to change horses. Each posting inn along the stage coach routes kept horses to switch out with incoming coaches. With the speed of a pit crew changing tires at a NASCAR race, men changed the horses for the mail or stage coaches. According to several sources, they could do it in under 5 minutes. Some of these coaches had teams of four and some had six. Obviously, the more horses, the longer it took the change the team.

Private companies owned various stage coaches. These ran on their own schedules but kept to them as tightly as the mail coaches. They were dependable and often more crowded. They, too, were not supposed to run on Sundays or religious holidays, but some did in the interest of profit. The time they took to change horses was more relaxed and stops were worked into their schedules to give the passengers up to twenty minutes to get out to stretch, eat, and take care of personal needs.

Whether there was more than one stage or mail going out a day depended on the route. Generally, they ran once a day in each direction—or possibly even less depending the route. Well-traveled roads leading to cities and larger towns had more frequent trips. Several coaches used the same main roads for part of the journey, then split off to reach various end destinations. The destination determined whether the next coach out would be in two hours or the next day.

Coaches stopped during severe weather such as blizzards, and when snow blocked the roads, however, they generally ran regardless of the cold or rain. In a couple of cases, outside passengers froze to death.

Getting a seat on a coach could be difficult. Most sold out days in advance, so it was not easy to simply “catch” a ride. One bought tickets at the origin point for the mail or stage. Coachmen could sometimes be bribed to stuff in a passenger or give them an outside seat on the top of the coach, but it was not always possible. Horses can only pull so much weight, after all.

Coach Travel in Regency England, stage and mail coaches syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Autumn, Fall and Mabon

Signs of autumn are already showing in many parts of the US but September 23, 2018 is officially the first day of Autumn, or “fall” as we Americans call it.

Long ago, when the air cooled and the leaves turned gorgeous shades of gold, red and burgundy, people did more than don sweaters, switch their clothing to darker colors, and decorate their homes with autumn leaves and pumpkins.  Anciently, the Autumn Equinox or Harvest Home was called Mabon, pronounced ‘MAY-bon’, after a Welsh god called Mabon ap Modron which literally means ‘son of mother.’

One Mabon Celtic ritual was taking the last sheaf of corn harvested and dressing it in fine clothes, or weaving it into a wicker-like man or woman. Apparently, they believed the sun was trapped in the corn and needed to be set free. So they burned it and spread the ashes on their fields.

Mabon is also known as the Feast of Avalon, derived from the word Avalon which means ‘the land of the apples’.  It was also traditional at Mabon to honor the dead by placing apples on burial cairns as a symbolism of rebirth. It was also a way for the living to anticipate being reunited with their loved ones who had passed on.

Many people often associate autumn with being melancholy and facing the end of the liveliness of summer and the beginning of the bleakness of winter. Grey skies cause many people to retreat, both physically and mentally. Autumn is the time of year when the celebrated English poet, John Keats, wrote his most acclaimed poem, “To Autumn” which has a distinctly melancholy beauty.

The ancient Celtics, however, used this time to reflect on the past year as well as celebrate nature’s bounty by having a feast and a celebration. I imagine those were the roots for the Thanksgiving feast that Americans celebrate.

In my novella, “Unmasking the Duke,” I chose an autumn setting to add color to the story, but also to give it a dimension of a wistful longing. Don’t worry, like all my romances, this has a swoony happily ever after ending!

Unmasking the Duke

The last thing Hannah Palmer wants to do is flirt with men in a crowded ballroom, but when her sister, the Countess of Tarrington, throws a Masquerade Ball, Hannah can’t say no to the invitation. Taking comfort behind her disguise, she dances with a charming masked gentleman, matching him wit for wit. When the glorious evening culminates in a kiss, and the two remove their masks, Hannah is horrified to discover she’s been flirting with all night with her most despised neighbor, the Duke of Suttenberg. No matter how charming the duke was at the ball, and how wonderful the kiss, he is the last man she could ever love.

“Unmasking the Duke” is available in ebook and paperback

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Autumn, Fall and Mabon syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/

Dressing the Regency Lady

If you’ve been following all my scandalous (gasp!) posts about all the underpinnings a Regency lady wore, but wished for a quick overall in one place, this post is for you.

The first layer is the shift or chemise. Notice how plain and unadorned it is as well as being very shapeless. A chemise/shift provided a barrier between a woman’s body and the other layers of clothing, so the shift absorbed perspiration. I had my shift made out of poly cotton batiste which is as close to an heirloom fabric as I could find. A fine weave muslin would have worked well, too.

The next layer is the corset, which, during the Regency, was called Stays. This style of stays is called long stays. This is the kind of stays nearly every women, rich or poor, wore. The material we used these for stays was cotton twill. Later, I discovered that another good choice for stays or corsets is Coutil (or Coutille), a woven cloth created specifically for making corsets. These grommets are metal, but Regency stays have stitched button holes. Some women preferred short stays during the summer or if they were especially small busted, or if they didn’t have someone to help lace up their

stays—although that would have been very rare—but these provided less support and lacked the smoothing effects of the long stays so they were not anywhere near as popular. It is believed that more of the working classes wore short stays than members of the upper classes but most working women wore long stays, too. The center has a wooden busk which is designed to help the garment lay flat, as well as help lift and separate the breasts. It loosely resembles a ruler, and in some stays it can be removed for washing.

The next layer is the petticoat. Regency Ladies wore one petticoat underneath her formal gowns. The petticoat resembles a sleeveless jumper with a scooped neckline. The petticoat helps create a smooth canvas over which ladies wore the transparent muslins and silks of the era that were intended to flow elegantly around a lady’s form. To make this petticoat, we choose cotton sateen, made with spun yarn instead of filament. Sateen is similar to muslin so it still feels authentic and has a really nice feel to it, a nice shimmer, and it drapes beautifully. The petticoat ties shut at the back. It is anchored at the back with hooks and eyelets. This pattern our lovely model is wearing is smooth at the front and sides, and pleated at the back to keep the streamlined silhouette while still allowing room for leg movement. Petticoats were often embellished at the hem with tucks or embroidery. In very cold weather our Regency lady probably worn more petticoats for warmth, but her gowns would have to be made large enough to accommodate that, unless she is wearing an apron-style gown that is less fitted.

At this point, the lady might have donned her gown, or her stockings. I’ll address gowns in another post, so I’ll dress my lady in stockings, next.

Stockings fastened with garters that tied, buckled, or hooked either at the thigh or just above the knee. Stripes on any and all garments were extremely popular in the 1790s but by the Regency, plainer styles, almost always white, either plain or stitched with white or colored embroidery became popular. I don’t have any authentic Regency stockings (yet) but our Regency lady would have worn knit stockings of cotton or silk (or wool if it was cold. People often wore thicker stockings under the fine silk ones for additional warmth if it was a formal setting where silk would be more fashionable. Wearing white cotton underneath their silk also helped hide their leg hair.

It is my hope that the next time you read (or write) a Regency novel, you will better be able to visualize all the undergarments and how they work together to create the desired Regency clothing silhouette that fine ladies prized.

Dressing the Regency Lady syndicated from http://donnahatchnovels.tumblr.com/