A Scientist By Any Other Name ~ Guest Post by Regina Scott

Regina Scott
Regency Reflections is pleased to welcome Regina Scott to the blog.

I’ve had several careers over the years, one of which involved supporting scientists at a major national laboratory.  I love the way their minds work, probing gaps in knowledge, pushing the boundaries of understanding.  While the scientific process we know today–question, research, hypothesis, testing, and conclusion–existed during the Regency, the idea of a career as a scientist was in its infancy.  Those interested in observing natural phenomenon and developing and testing theories were more often called natural philosophers.  That’s why the journal of the Royal Society, Britain’s oldest chartered scientific association, is called Philosophical Transactions.

My favorite brand of natural philosopher is the Grand Amateur.  A Grand Amateur was a man or woman who, by interest, ability, and fortune, made major contributions to the sciences. There was something noble about discovering something new, whether it was a planet or the internal workings of a combustion engine.

Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution
Humphry Davy at the Royal Institution

On the other hand, if you wanted to make a living at science, you had two choices. One was to lecture or run a laboratory at an established institution. The premier of these was the Royal Institution in London. It began operations in early 1800 to bring attention to advances in science and technology among the public. Lecturers brought in a large audience, some of which, it was hoped, might advance funds for future research that tickled their fancies.  Sir Humphry Davy, the famed chemist, used to pack them in when he demonstrated the use of galvanic electricity and laughing gas.

Your other choice was to discover something noteworthy like a new element or unknown planet or build up such a body of knowledge that the Royal Society would take note and elect you as a Fellow. The Royal Society was nearly 200 years old by the mid-nineteenth century. At the beginning of the century, it comprised both scientists and wealthy peers those scientists hoped would pay to sponsor their work. By 1847, however, Fellows were elected based on their scientific prowess alone.

And if someone in power, like one of those Grand Amateurs who happened to be a baron or duke, took note of your work, you might be referred to the ruler for a knighthood and even offered an annual salary. Often the salary came with the appointment as an officer of the Sovereign, such as in the case of the Astronomer Royal. Even if you weren’t officially appointed to a position, there was the expectation that you would use that salary to allow you to continue working for the betterment of the nation.

Ada Byron
Ada Byron

Women as well as men pursued scientific interests, although no woman was elected to Britain’s scientific bodies during the Regency.  Even Caroline Herschel, who had been awarded a salary by King George for her discoveries in astronomy, was not granted membership in the Royal Society until 1835, when she was 85, and then it was an honorary membership only.  But even without royal patronage or recognition, women such as Ada Byron (now noted as the world’s first computer programmer) and Mary Anning (who discovered one of Britain’s first dinosaur skeletons) would make their mark on science, and history.

reginascott-courtingcampaign-webRegina Scott is the author of 25 works of Regency-set romantic fiction.  Her most recent release, The Courting Campaign, features a hero who is a natural philosopher.  You can learn more about her at www.reginascott.com, discover more about the Regency at www.nineteenteen.blogspot.com, or connect with her on Facebook at facebook.com/authorreginascott.  

William Wilberforce: Abolitionist and Friend, Politician and Evangelical

“If this be madness, I hope that it will bite us all!” said one of William Wilberforce’s friends after the young politician became an evangelical Christian. His other friends thought his newfound beliefs and life changes madness, and they still counted him friend and so much more.

Photo and link to William Wilberforce article on Christianity Today
William Wilberforce

Born in 1759, William was a sickly young man with poor eyesight, slight stature, and a quick mind. He sang and conversed in ways that pleased his interlocutors to the point the writer and socialite Madame de Staël described him as the “wittiest man in England”. And the Prince of Wales said he would go anywhere to hear Wilberforce sing.

Wilberforce was born to a wealthy merchant family. After his father died when the lad was young, he went to live with an uncle. But other relatives thought that evangelical Christian branch of his family was not a good influence, so brought William back to Hull, where he’d been born. He attended Cambridge and, though became quite a college partier (not a term that would have been used during the Georgian era of course), he managed to pass the exams and receive undergraduate and graduate degrees from that august institution.

Still interested in gaming and other less savory pursuits, William became a politician, using his great voice to persuade listeners. Never did he choose a party. He voted his conscience. It, or perhaps his poor eyesight and health, cost Wilberforce a post in William Pitt’s ministry. When Mr. Pitt became prime minister, whatever the reason, they remained friends.

Especially after his conversion, Wilberforce took up the subject of slavery. By the late 1780s, he was working toward the abolition of the trade. Opposition was fierce. Many Englishmen were getting rich taking trade goods from England to Africa to purchase slaves. These men and women were transported to the West Indies under horrendous conditions. From the West Indies, the English ships brought back sugar and rum.

Hannah More, link to her poetry
Hannah More, poet and abolitionist

In 1802, Wilberforce engaged in other important issues of the day such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, working with Hannah More and the Association for the Better Observance of Sunday, and also Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. He also married and became the father of six children, to whom he was devoted. The abolition of slavery, however, was his life’s most important goal.

1833 Abolitionist Act photo and link to U.K. educational site.
1833 Abolitionist Act succeeds in Britain

In 1807, the slave trade ended in England greatly because of Wilberforce’s work. Slavery, however, continued for those already enslaved in British colonies. All through the Regency, Wilberforce fought for the complete freedom of those enslaved.

In the early 1820s, he retired from politics due to poor health. He did not stop fighting for the abolition of slavery. Three days before he died in 1833, Parliament passed the act to abolition slavery in British colonies.

How Louise M. Gouge Came To Write Regencies and a Giveaway!

Guest post by Louise M. Gouge

It all began with Jane

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

I have always loved stories set in the Regency period. One of my earliest movie memories is of watching Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier in the old black and white Pride and Prejudice. What a romantic story! I never even noticed that the costumes were definitely not from Jane Austen’s era. Later, I took a graduate class in Austen and loved reading all of her books. When the 1994 A & E version of Pride and Prejudice came on television, I was enthralled by the spectacular production. But I never considered writing a Regency romance because I wasn’t sure I could capture all the nuances of the era. There were just too many details I didn’t know about it.

Who, me?

But then I got tricked into it. I had just completed a Revolutionary War series and was wondering what to offer my editor in my next proposal. She solved my dilemma by asking me to write a Regency novella to be paired one by Deborah Hale, an experienced Regency author. I don’t know about you, but when my editor asks me to write a book, I say yes. The opportunity to share a book with Deb was icing on the cake.

So now I faced a challenge. As a reader, I don’t care much for careless or nonexistent research. As a writer, I endeavor to create interesting stories that take place in realistic settings. You may say, “Well, duh! Doesn’t every author want that?” But haven’t we all been pulled out of a story by some nagging little plot device we know could not have happened in that particular time period? Devoted Regency readers are particularly sensitive to such errors. I didn’t want that to happen with my story.

A LAdy of Quality Cover
Louise’s latest Regency offering ~ proof that she mastered the genre.

Help arrives

Fortunately, I had the help of our good friend, Laurie Alice Eakes, an amazing author who knows the era well. She answered my pesky questions and insisted that I join the Beau Monde chapter of RWA. There I could ask the research mavens for help. And believe me, I did!

Well, I finished my novella, and by then I was hooked and ready to propose a full Regency series. After reading in another author’s lovely book that included a rather pathetic minor character who was a lady’s companion, I knew that had to be my subject. I came up with three different aristocratic young women who were forced by circumstances to go to work as companions. As you readers and writers of this era well know, it was shameful for aristocrats to work at any job, so my heroines were all bound to suffer Society’s disdain. Yet paired with the right hero, each lady found her true calling: marriage to the man of her dreams and a happily-ever-after life. So far, only a few tiny errors have crept into my books, but I welcome any corrections so I can get it right the next time.

Success!

By the way, that novella, The Gentleman Takes a Bride, earned second place in the Inspirational Readers Choice Awards, so I was more than pleased with that.

My brand new release, A Lady of Quality, is the third in my “Ladies in Waiting” series. Catherine Du Coeur is determined to uncover the truth about wealthy Lord Winston, who falsely accused her father of treason. But the closer she gets to the handsome young nobleman, the more she wonders how such a benevolent gentleman could have conspired to commit such evil. Baron Lord Winston has had little success in finding an accomplished aristocratic bride who is suited to his diplomatic aspirations. But when he meets Miss Du Coeur, a countess’s lowly companion, he finds that family connections are far less important than matters of the heart.

Louise M. GougeAward-winning Florida author Louise M. Gouge writes historical fiction for Harlequin’s Love Inspired imprint. In addition to numerous other awards, Louise is the recipient of the prestigious Inspirational Readers’ Choice Award for her 2005 novel, Hannah Rose. With her great love of history and research, Louise has traveled to several of her locations to ensure the accuracy of her stories’ settings. When she isn’t writing, she and her husband love to visit historical sites and museums. Her 2011 Regency novella, The Gentleman Takes a Bride, earned second place in the prestigious Inspirational Readers Choice Award.

One lucky commenter will win their choice of one of the Ladies In Waiting books. Leave a comment telling us why you started reading regencies to be entered to win!

Contest is now over. Look for Louise’s latest novel wherever you buy books. 

I went to the Regency Ball and all I got…

Vanessa here,

I’m still in high cotton (Southern Phrase for High Ropes) and very tired after last week’s conference bonanza. I was privileged to attend the national conference for Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the conference of one its specialty chapters, the Beau Monde.

Beau Monde Pin
Beau Monde Pin

The Beau Monde chapter focuses on all things Regency.  It was started in 1993 and attracts members worldwide. This year in lovely sweltering Atlanta the conference kicked off on Tuesday, July 16  (bag stuffing with tons of swag goodies) and then held a series of workshops on Wednesday, July 17.

I am always impressed by the caliber of the knowledge of the classes and these were no exception. From the Grand Tour with Regina Scott, Military History with Susanna Fraser, The Underworld with Erica Monroe, Playing Whist, and Regency Dancing, and so much more, I well pleased.

 

Amy Pfaff, Candace Hern, Vanessa Riley enjoying a session.
Amy Pfaff, Candace Hern, Vanessa Riley enjoying a session.

I bought the conference recordings. This much knowledge has to be replayed over and over again.

Now, I made a promise and a competition with my readers to choose the pattern and style of the Regency ball gown I would make for this conference. Begrudgingly, I stuck with it. I was able to finish it with a few hours to spare.  Thank you for not choosing the harder pattern.

Before you ask: I used a sewing machine, I’m a Regency Chick not a masochist. While I did not use a zipper, a twentieth century tool may have been involved in closing the gown (Velcro – think lots of tiny hooks).

Vanessa's Finished Ball Gown of Grey Silk Taffeta
Vanessa’s Finished Ball Gown of Grey Silk Taffeta

I have a lot of images and video of Regency dancing at the Soiree that I’m still sorting through but I thought I’d leave you with some images of the conference:

Laurie Alice Eakes in a burgundy and floral ball gown. We went to our book signings in these dresses.
Laurie Alice Eakes in a burgundy and floral ball gown. We went to our book signings in these dresses.
Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music.
Kristi Hunter and I enjoying the music. Thanks for making me dance.
The professional Regency Dancers getting ready to teach the steps to the dances.
The professional Regency Dancers getting ready to teach the steps to the dances. Do they know what they are in for?
More Beau Monde Beauties
More Beau Monde Beauties

photo3

Ella Quin, one of the fabulous conference organizers.
Ella Quin, one of the fabulous conference organizers.
Erica Monroe and I took a turn about the hotel. Onlookers called us princesses.
Erica Monroe and I took a turn about the hotel. Onlookers called us princesses. Didn’t have the heart to correct the titles. 🙂
The dancing was quite strenuous and moved quickly. How did they have time to talk? How were they not winded?
The dancing was quite strenuous and moved quickly. How did they have time to talk? How were they not winded?

I went to the Beau Monde and left with sore limbs and a bunch of new friends. Oh, and my dignity. The dress looked perfect and held together.

Be blessed.

Vanessa Riley is the author of Madeline’s Protector.

If all young men leapt off a cliff, Madeline St. James wouldn’t care. Yet a chance meeting and a bullet wound change everything. She must trust that the Good Shepherd has led her to marry a dashing stranger, Lord Devonshire. Can they forge a true bond before the next disaster strikes?
See the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2OnXfFNwps – See more at: http://www.christianregency.com

 

A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

Michelle Griep HeadshotA Gentlewoman’s Guide to Opium Addiction: How to Tell if Your Mr. Right Has Been Tokin’, Smokin’ or Shootin’ the Poppy ~ Guest Post by Michelle Griep

What comes to mind when I say Jane Austen? Hold on. Let me guess…
–          swirling ballroom scenes
–          dinner parties galore
–          the dashing Mr. Darcy

Any of these answers would be right, of course, but you’d also be correct if you’d shouted out opium usage. Austen’s mother used opium to help her sleep, and her father was an agent in the trade. Elizabeth Barrett Browning took opiates every day from the age of fourteen, Sir Walter Scott consumed 6 grams a day, and Samuel Coleridge was a regular user.

Yes, indeed. I hate to burst your bubble of the romantic days of yore, but opium addiction was an issue to be reckoned with.

The first written account of the non-medicinal virtues of this drug is in De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater, published in 1821. He advocates opium usage not as a pharmaceutical pain reliever but as a trip into “an inner world of secret self-consciousness.” Sounds positively hippyish, eh?

Had Mr. Darcy been hanging out in a nearby opium den, these are the symptoms Elizabeth Bennett should’ve looked for:

  • Red or glazed eyes
  • Confusion
  • Slurred or rapid speech
  • Loss of appetite
  • Apathy or depression
  • Frequent headaches
  • Insomnia

While Jane Austen preferred to write of dances and dinners, I dove into the seamier side of things and made the hero in A HEART DECEIVED a recovering opium addict. Why?

Because addiction is a contemporary problem with historical roots.

It’s just as hard for my fictional character Ethan to turn down a bottle of laudanum as it is for a real person today to pass on a hit of meth. With God’s help, it can be done—which is exactly what Ethan discovers.

So take care, gentlewomen, when searching out your Mr. Right. Opiates have been around since the days of Pharaoh, and are likely here to stay.

Interested in Ethan’s story? Check out A HEART DECEIVED…

A Heart DecievedMiri Brayden teeters on a razor’s edge between placating and enraging her brother, whom she depends upon for support. Yet if his anger is unleashed, so is his madness. Miri must keep his descent into lunacy a secret, or he’ll be committed to an asylum—and she’ll be sent to the poorhouse. 

Ethan Goodwin has been on the run all of his life—from family, from the law … from God. After a heart-changing encounter with the gritty Reverend John Newton, Ethan would like nothing more than to become a man of integrity—an impossible feat for an opium addict charged with murder.

When Ethan shows up on Miri’s doorstep, her balancing act falls to pieces. Both Ethan and Miri are caught in a web of lies and deceit—fallacies that land Ethan in prison and Miri in the asylum with her brother. Only the truth will set them free.

A HEART DECEIVED is available by David C. Cook and at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and ChristianBook.

Keep up with the exploits of Michelle Griep at Writer Off the Leash, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

British Rights: Habeas Corpus and the Bill of Rights

On Wednesday, we started looking at the different rights that Regency Era subjects had in relation to their government. We talked specifically about the Magna Carta and Petition of Right of 1628. Today we’re going to continue that discussion and further analyze what protections, if any, the people of Regency England had from their king and his government.

Habeas Corpus

Habeas Corpus is the next major political document that further helped protect the British. If you recall, the Petition of Right declared that a British subject living in England could not be “detained or imprisoned without cause.” While that in and of itself is an excellent protection, it left the actual aspect of imprisonment free for abuse. Say the government had a cause to imprison you. Great. (Well, not really, but it works for our purposes). So you get thrown into prison because you were suspected of stealing a loaf of bread or some such. How long until you appear before a magistrate or a jury of your peers?

Possibly never. Because while the Petition of Right protected you from being wrongfully imprisoned, it didn’t guarantee you a trial. Habeas Corpus guarantees that a person can be take before a court if they so wish.

So did Habeas Corpus protect the average English man and woman? Definitely! In fact, most countries today have their own form of Habeas Corpus (which is still very much alive in the United Kingdom as well).

Habeas Corpus

Bill of Rights

Our last piece of legislation to look at is the Bill of Rights of 1689 (and yes, this is different from the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution). This bill limited the power of English sovereigns by guaranteeing the king or queen could not:

  • Interfere with the law.
  • Establish a tax by him or herself and without an act of Parliament.
  • Maintain a standing army during peace times.
  • Limit firearms for citizens.
  • Interfere in parliamentary elections.
  • Question the freedom of speech used in parliament.
  • Use excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment.

King-William-Queen-Mary

So yes, the Bill of Rights did protect your average Regency subject, and furthermore, the Bill of Rights of 1689 has been considered a forerunner of similar documents in France, the United States, Canada, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Evidently the British hit on something very important when they came up with the first ever Bill of Rights. I’m certainly glad that people during the Regency Era were afforded such protections. At the same time, my heart goes out the the French and American people for having to fight so hard to secure similar freedoms for themselves in the century that followed.

Okay, thank you for joining me as we explored British rights for the past two day. I certainly hope you enjoyed the discussion.

British Rights: What Protected Regency Subjects from the Government?

Hi Everyone,

It’s July, and with this month every summer comes national celebratory days in several countries. Canada celebrates Canada Day on July 1. The United States celebrates their Independence Day on July 4. And France celebrated its Bastille Day earlier this week on July 14. So all the celebrations of the past few weeks (as well as some research I’ve been doing on the Napoleonic Wars) led me to ask a few questions about our Regency men and women.

The Americans had their Constitution and Bill of Rights by this point, and the French had their Declaration of the Rights of Man as well as Napoleon’s Civil Code to help protect its citizens from the government. But did England have anything? If so, what? The entire social class structure that so dominated the Regency Era has never really struck me as fair or liberating, nor does the concept of a hereditary monarchy and peerage. So I did some homework, and it turns out England did indeed have civil rights protection for it’s subjects during the Regency Era (at least those subjects residing in England itself). In fact, England was really one of the first countries to start implementing these protections. We’re going to spend both today and Friday looking at them.

Magna Carta

The first of these documents  is the Magna Carta, signed by King John of England on June 15, 1215. The Magna Carta established rights of English barons and large land owners–rights that the king could not take away for any reason. In so doing, the Magna Carta also limited the power of the king. It is almost a prophetical document of the constitutional monarchy that was to come in the 1600s, and is known for “bringing the king under the law.”

So did the Magna Carta protect the every day commoner? The short answer is “No, it did not.” It protected the already wealthy and powerful from the more wealthy and more powerful king. But it was a start, a very good start, at recognizing the innate value of each and every human being, not just the king.

Petition of Right of 1628

The next major political act protecting the rights of men and women was the Petition of Right of 1628. This document delineates certain liberties that the king could not infringe upon. It says no person would be:

  • Forced to provide a gift, loan, or tax without an act of Parliament.
  • Detained and imprisoned without cause.
  • Forced to house soldiers or members of the navy.
  • Made subject to martial law unless under circumstances of war or direct rebellion.

This petition was passed by Parliament in 1628 and then again in 1641, though it still had a rather rough road ahead of it and would eventually be one of the causes of the English Civil War. But it was a start in affording the common citizen with liberties. And unlike the Magna Carta, the Petition of Right protected the common Englishman and Englishwoman.

The more I study British history, the more I see how its ruling class took actions to protect the lower classes earlier in history that the rest of the world.  Did England have a ruling class that often took advantage of the lower classes? Certainly. But at the same time, the British peerage didn’t shamelessly use the commoner the way the French aristocracy and monarchy did the peasant. They didn’t even extort the average commoner the way they did the colonists across the Atlantic Ocean.

Do any of the rights mentioned above surprise you? I was a little shocked–not that the rights existed, but that some of them existed so early.  Do you feel one of the rights delineated above stands out above the others and is more important in some way? I’d love to hear which one and why in the comments below.

And don’t forget, I’ll be back on Friday to finish this discussion.

Harriette Wilson ~ Bad Girl of the Regency Era, by Susan Karsten

This is the way of the adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I have done no wrong.’ (Proverbs 30:20)

If you’ve done any amount of  Regency fiction reading, you’ll have run across references to Harriette Wilson, demi-monde extraordinaire.  From all accounts, a hardened prostitute, she climbed to fame and notoriety during the Regency.  Her memoirs, though chronicling a disreputable life, are considered to be a serious historical document.

Later in life, while writing her memoirs, she expressed no regrets for her ill-spent life. She frankly admitted to being a blackmailer of her former paramours. Her attempt to extort from the Duke of Wellington stands as one of her failures. He famously responded, “Publish and be damned.”

Duke of Wellington

Regency euphemisms for the word prostitute include: the fashionable impure, lightskirt, barque of frailty, lady-bird, of the muslin company, or Cyprian.  They took on specific colorful nicknames such as The Venus Mendicant, The Mocking Bird, The White Doe, or Brazen Bellona.  Harriette Wilson’s nicknames included Queen of Tarts, Harry, or The Little Fellow.

She is said to have been hard as nails, more matey than romantic, frank and familiar.  Not staggeringly beautiful, but with an alluring figure, fine coloring, and abundant vitality.  She took up with a succession of noble lords and was established in a series of elegant apartments at their expense.

We know that this kind of life leads to destruction and is not to be admired in any way. What is interesting is that out of all the regency courtesans that must have existed, only Harriette Wilson is remembered and mentioned.  Do you think her continued notoriety is attributable to her having written a book?

Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:27)

gates of Hell

 

Our Favorite Regency Figures

In our poll a few weeks ago, several of you indicated you’d like to see more profiles of historic Regency figures. That got us talking about various people we could feature. So this month we asked our authors who they thought was one of the most intriguing figures from the Regency era.

Lord byron
Lord Byron. Photo: wikimedia commons

Ruth Axtell

Lord Byron, for me, I think.

Susan Karsten

Neither of my most-intriguing Regency figures is very “cool” noble-character-wise, but I am interested in Hariette Wilson and Beau Brummel. Though I suppose she, with her loose morals and fly-in-the-face of society’s mores attitude, and he, with his obsession with surface and image, would be considered cool in the world of today. I intend to do a blog post on Wilson in a few days — so watch for it.

(We’ve mentioned Beau Brummel on this blog before. Check out Mary Moore’s post about Brummel and his influence on society.)

Jane Austen
Jane Austen

Kristy Cambron

I love Jane Austen – she will always be in my heart as my first introduction to British wit and brooding heroes. : )

Vanessa Riley

That would be Jane Austen.  Her wit and turn of phrase still haunts my dreams, but in a good way.

(Do you love Jane Austen? Keep an eye on this blog! August is Austen month here at Regency Reflections and we’ll be celebrating Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice.)

Laurie Alice Eakes

Mrs. Radcliffe. I want to meet one of the hottest selling authors of the Regency. (Mysteries of Udolpho)

Lady Jersey
Sarah Villiers, Countess of Jersey

Kristi Ann Hunter

I’m going to go with Lady Jersey and the others of her ilk. The whole idea of the Queen Bee fascinates me. I love looking at them and trying to figure out what about them made them the one who got to dictate what was right and proper to everyone else. While we have the rankings to make some sense of certain women’s rise to social power, there are certainly other factors to consider.

 

What about you? Who do you find fascinating from the Regency Era? Anyone in particular you’d like to see us do a post on?

Who Was Jane in Love With?

Jane_Austen_coloured_version
Jane Austen – Wikipedia

I recently read an older biography of Jane Austen entitled Presenting Miss Jane Austen. It was written by May Lamberton Becker and published in 1952. It was well-researched and endorsed by the Jane Austen Society.

What intrigued me the most, however, was a short section in Chapter Thirteen about one of the summer journeys Jane and her sister Cassandra took while they were living in Bath. One of the things Jane most looked forward to living in Bath was spending summers at the seashore. This was a new vacation destination for regency society, who had up to then been accustomed to going to the watering holes of Bath and Tunbridge Wells. But with the Prince Regent preferring to spend his time at the seashore in Brighton (which grew up around the original settlement of Brighthelmstone), the Brits took to the sea.

Jane writes about this new mobilization in a satirical way in one of her unfinished novels Sanditon, in which a resort town is being constructed around a traditional fishing village. You can see her humor in the town’s name which sounds suspiciously like “Sand Town.”

It was on one of these summer jaunts that Jane and her sister met a young clergyman at one of their stops. Perhaps it was in Devonshire, the author speculates. This clergyman was visiting his brother, a doctor. Her sister Cassandra is quoted in one of her letters as saying he was “one of the most charming persons she had ever known.” When they continued their journey, this gentleman asked permission to join them farther ahead in another town. According to the author, permission was given, which in these more formal times, meant a tacit agreement of a serious intention. When the sisters arrived at the town, Jane received a letter announcing his death.

Fast forward to more recent times when a literary biographer, Dr. Andrew Norman, has written a book called Jane Austen: An Unrequited Love (2009). He claims the identity of this mysterious gentleman is the clergyman Dr. Samuel Blackall, the brother of Dr. John Blackall, a physician. It seems Jane met him years earlier in 1798, when the two were guests of mutual friends, the Lefroys (one of whom, Tom Lefroy, is depicted as Jane Austen’s love in the movie In Becoming Jane).

Four years later they seem to have met again on the southern coast of England in the town of Totnes in Devon. Norman says she was visiting this town with her parents and met and fell in love with a clergyman who was visiting his physician brother who worked there.

Until then no one knew the name of this mysterious clergyman. But Norman searched the town records until uncovering the name of one physician, a Dr. John Blackall. He put two and two together and concluded that this is the same family Jane had met earlier at the Lefroys.

Very few of Jane’s letters survive from the years directly after this meeting, between 1801-1804.  Norman says that Blackall did not die but married someone else in 1813.

So, who knows what really happened. I prefer the first biographer’s conclusion, that Jane and this young clergyman did meet and fall in love and then he died prematurely. Jane loved him to her dying day, and her feelings are reflected in that famous quote from her novel Persuasion in which she debates who loves longest, men or women: “All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it) is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.”

What do you think?