While enjoying Regency romances with their witty dialogue and ton parties,
one seldom considers the dark and often fatal shadow which loomed over
those that lived during that time period—small pox, often referred to as
“the speckled monster.” The disease killed hundreds of millions of
people—more than the Black Death and the wars of the 20th century put
A woman who was considered a great beauty during this time period was
usually one who had not been seriously disfigured by smallpox. It was
understood by portrait artists of the day that they were not to paint in
the disfigurements and pockmarks of their subjects. Edward Jenner was the
British physician responsible for the first smallpox vaccine. His wife was
a Sunday School teacher who held classes in their home.
Jane Austen’s dearest friend Martha Lloyd was scarred by smallpox for the
remainder of her life. Several members of the Lloyd household died from
the disease. A character in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is disfigured
and crippled by the dreaded disease.
But most writers of Regency novels do not mention small pox even though
one in four people died from the disease during this time period. I
decided to make the subject a key factor in the plot of my new
inspirational, PRUDENCE PURSUED and addressed the issue right away on the
Excerpt from Prudence Pursued:
“You should not wear that to the pox party,” Prudence Pentyre said, indicating her younger cousin’s dress of light green Italian silk. “I recommend something with short sleeves which allows you to expose your forearm to the lancet.”
Margaret shuddered. Her plain face, pale and lightly freckled, appeared downcast. “Oh, Pru, I wish I didn’t have to go.” She stood, slender shoulders drooping, in front of her open wardrobe.
“Truly, Meg, there’s nothing to worry about,” Prudence assured her, slipping a comforting arm around her cousin’s slim waist. “Papa had all of us vaccinated with the cow pox when we were still in the school room—and the servants too. I’m quite surprised my Uncle Giles didn’t do the same,”
To find out what pretty milkmaids had to do with Edward Jenner
successfully finding a way to prevent small pox, you’ll have to read the
rest of my novel. For more information about the horrors of the disease, I
recommend The Speckled Monster by Jennifer Lee Carrell (Penguin)
By Shirley Raye Redmond
At the advanced age of twenty-seven, Prudence Pentyre is on the shelf.
Content to occupy her time by attending meetings of Mr. Wilberforce’s
Abolition Society, Prudence is resolved to see that her younger cousin
Margaret, shy and plain, does not share her own unmarried fate.
Despite her best efforts, all of Prudence’s matchmaking attempts fail.
Margaret proves reluctant to accept Sir James Brownell’s marriage
proposal, and fears being “bovinised” if she undergoes the controversial
cowpox vaccination he recommends. And the dashing baronet—with his
sunburned skin, eye patch, and unfashionable attire—seems more concerned
about the plight of headhunters in Borneo than Margaret’s stubborn refusal
of his offer.
Prudence, on the other hand, finds herself unexpectedly smitten with the
man. Can she trust that God’s plan for her life is richer and more
rewarding than the one she had planned for herself?
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