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Friday, January 4, 2019

The Martha Stewart of the Victorians

Mrs. Beeton, Homemaker Extraordinaire

Image from Wikipedia Commons

The modern homemakers and home managers among us all recognize the name Martha Stewart. You've probably read a recipe by The Pioneer Woman or the Six Sisters. And if you haven't been on Pinterest at least once, I'd be pretty shocked.

Mrs. Isabella Mary Beeton was the woman who fulfilled pretty much all the above roles for the Victorian woman. Her book, Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management, was in just about every home. People in England still know who she is, as her book became something of an icon. And what a book it was! Original copies still appear, occasionally, on auction and they bring in thousands of dollars/British pounds. 

This is the SPINE of the book. It's huge. 
Mrs. Beeton got her start as an authority on household matters at just 21 years old. She wrote articles about domestic duties, recipes, and other household matters. The articles were published in The English Woman's Domestic Magazine. When her tips and tricks were combined in a single volume, there were 2,751 entries to guide her contemporaries through everything from what to feed infants to the proper heat of a stable or coach house. This woman covered everything. And she did it fast. Mrs. Beeton died at the age of 28, from an infection arising after childbirth. 

What kind of advice did she give the people of her time? Recipes, how to legally will your belongings to others, health remedies, and instructions on how to properly open a ball. While a lot of her work is irrelevant to people in modern times, it's still fascinating to read, especially when we picture our favorite literary heroines consulting this huge book in order to prepare a menu to impress their beloved, or find a cure for an illness in their home. 

Here are a few excerpts for your amusement: 

CURE FOR THE TOOTHACHE.--Take a piece of sheet zinc, about the
size of a sixpence, and a piece of silver, say a shilling; place them
together, and hold the defective tooth between them or contiguous to
them; in a few minutes the pain will be gone, as if by magic. The zinc
and silver, acting as a galvanic battery, will produce on the nerves of
the tooth sufficient electricity to establish a current, and
consequently to relieve the pain. Or smoke a pipe of tobacco and

A recipe for something called "Snowballs."

APPLE SNOWBALLS. INGREDIENTS.--2 teacupfuls of rice, apples, moist sugar, cloves. Mode.--Boil the rice in milk until three-parts done; then strain it
off, and pare and core the apples without dividing them. Put a small
quantity of sugar and a clove into each apple, put the rice round them,
and tie each ball separately in a cloth. Boil until the apples are
tender; then take them up, remove the cloths, and serve. Time.--1/2 hour to boil the rice separately; 1/2 to 1 hour with the
apple. Seasonable from August to March.

And visiting friends:

IN PAYING VISITS OF FRIENDSHIP, it will not be so necessary to be
guided by etiquette as in paying visits of ceremony; and if a lady be
pressed by her friend to remove her shawl and bonnet, it can be done if
it will not interfere with her subsequent arrangements. It is, however,
requisite to call at suitable times, and to avoid staying too long, if
your friend is engaged. The courtesies of society should ever be
maintained, even in the domestic circle, and amongst the nearest
friends. During these visits, the manners should be easy and cheerful,
and the subjects of conversation such as may be readily terminated.
Serious discussions or arguments are to be altogether avoided, and there
is much danger and impropriety in expressing opinions of those persons
and characters with whom, perhaps, there is but a slight acquaintance.
It is not advisable, at any time, to take favourite dogs into
another lady's drawing-room, for many persons have an absolute
dislike to such animals; and besides this, there is always a
chance of a breakage of some article occurring, through their
leaping and bounding here and there, sometimes very much to the
fear and annoyance of the hostess. Her children, also, unless
they are particularly well-trained and orderly, and she is on
exceedingly friendly terms with the hostess, should not
accompany a lady in making morning calls. Where a lady, however,
pays her visits in a carriage, the children can be taken in the
vehicle, and remain in it until the visit is over.

So, no dogs in a friend's house and leave your children in the carriage! Reading through some of these entries gave me cause to giggle, cringe, and be very grateful for modern medicine and menus. It's fascinating to see how those before us lived and where they looked for advice before we could Google or ask Alexa or Siri.

If you'd like to learn more about Mrs. Beeton, or read her book for yourself, there are some links below to help you out. :-)

Further Reading: 
Project Gutenburg's Entry: The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Beeton

Sally Britton's Sweet Historical Romances, based in the Regency era, can all be found on her author page on 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Infidelity and Bastardy during the Regency by Jenna Jaxon

Although our modern sensibilities toward infidelity in marriage have been colored, here in America especially, by our Puritan roots, during the Regency period in England infidelity and bastardy were much more accepted than people today would like to believe.

Even though by the early 1800s love matches were becoming more popular with the aristocracy’s sons and daughters, there were many more couples from the late Georgian period who had been parties to arranged marriages. These matches, usually arranged by the couple’s parents, had been considered the ordinary course of matrimonial events from time immemorial. Marriages at that time were made to gain or retain property, increase wealth or position, or develop family dynasties. Couples may not have met more than two or three times (some not at all) before the wedding, and although it was hoped they might develop some affection for one another and come to “rub along” well together, that eventuality would have been considered a bonus to the marriage, not a necessity of it.

As a result, husbands and wives often found the love and affection missing from their marriages in the arms of other men and women. Husbands quite often took mistresses or participated in affairs that equally often produced illegitimate children who were barred from inheriting the father’s title or estates unless a specific bequest was made to them in his will. It was also up to the father’s sense of honor as to whether he would provide for mother and children.

Wives of the nobility, after producing the required “heir and a spare,” also strayed from their marriage vows and took lovers for whom they felt
a passion. With contraception being unreliable or hard to obtain during the Regency, wives could and did become pregnant with their lovers’ children. These children were presumed to be legitimate issue and could inherit titles and estates automatically upon the death of the husband. “The presumption in favor of legitimacy meant that the status of a child born to a married woman could not be impeached without unequivocal proof that the husband was not the father. It had to be shown with irresistible evidence that the husband was impotent, that the husband was divorced from the wife (separation was insufficient), or that the husband was absent from England, or at least did not have access to his wife, when the child was conceived.”

Of course, the ton did not turn a completely blind eye to these illicit affairs, although it did not sit in as harsh judgement on these couples as would the Victorians in the coming decades. Once love matches became the leading method of arranging marriages, the need for physical intimacy outside of marriage was assumed to be greatly reduced, so that infidelity became a much greater social abhorrence than in the Regency.

In my recently released romance, What a Widow Wants, the act of infidelity and the consequences of it imbrue the hero and heroine with the possibility of scandal and ruin. What a Widow Wants is available at Amazon.

*Images (other than my cover) are from Hogarth's series Marriage a la Mode.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Female Pinkerton Agents

I've talked a little about what I've learned from researching female Pinkerton Agents, but I'm going to focus this blog mainly on the one woman who made Allan Pinkerton sit up and take notice.  (previous article about Pinkerton Agents)

Kate Warne was born in New York and was widowed at the age of 23.  She was described as having clear cut, expressive features. She had an honest face, which helped those in distress look upon her as their confidant.

According to the article I read about Kate, she responded to a newspaper ad from Allan Pinkerton who was trying to recruit more detectives. She walked into the Pinkerton office and wanted a job. They first thought she wanted an office, job, but when she stated she wanted to be an agent, they were shocked.

Pinkerton decided to test Kate to see what she could do, so in 1858, Kate Warne was assigned to the case of Adams Express Company and embezzlements. She quickly became a close acquaintance of the wife of Pinkerton's prime suspect, Mr. Maroney. By becoming Maroney's wife's friend, Kate was able to collect evidence that eventually led to his conviction.  Maroney had stolen $50,000 from the Adams Express Company, and with Kate's help, $39,515 of that was returned.

In 1860, Allan Pinkerton put Kate in charge of his new Female Detective Bureau.

I'd mentioned in some of my previous blog posts, that I had written a female Pinkerton romance that is part of a multi-author series. "An Agent for Cecily" has been released and it's receiving RAVING reviews!!  I fashioned my character after Kate Marne, because Cecily is headstrong, and she does what she feels is right in ANY situation.

There’s only one way to escape Cecily Sheldon’s insane family – take on someone else’s identity. Along with this new identity comes a new job. Of course, to become a Pinkerton Agent, she must marry a male agent who will train her. Now she needs to keep her true identity hidden from Broderick Tanner for fear he’ll arrest her along with her father and brothers. Perhaps living a double life wasn’t a good choice after all.

Available on KINDLE and on Kindle Unlimited. Click here

To read an excerpt click here.


Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of Christian and sweet romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has over 50 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories, and broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romances. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings.


Friday, December 7, 2018

Those Wassailing Wastrels! - 12th Night Traditions

Wassailing Engraving

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green;
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.

There is nothing sinister in those words, one would think. For most people, this is a quaint, old-fashioned Christmas carol with lyrics that most people don't understand. In some places, "wassailing" has been changed to "Christmas-ing" or "singing" or "caroling." Changing that one word actually make the song make even less sense, believe-it-or-not. 

The word "wassail" is an ancient word, though there is some disagreement about where it began, we can find mention of it as far back as the 1300's. It started out as a word of greeting - a salutation of health, especially used when people were in their cups (or wanted to be). According to, "Anglo-Saxon tradition dictated that at the beginning of each year, the lord of the manor would greet the assembled multitude with the toast waes hael." 

You can even find the word mentioned in Shakespeare's Hamlet, when the depressed prince is muttering about the king. "The king doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,/Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels..." (Act I, Scene IV)

Later, in about the 1700's in England, wassailing meant a specific activity: caroling house to house and begging for food, money, or entertainment. 

Wassailing could get rough, likely depending on the culture of the neighborhood and the sort of group one got together for the event. Modern evidence has found that young men might get together and carouse, more than carol. 

From the above carol, here's another verse: 

Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a mouldy cheese,And some of your Christmas loaf

And who can forget the carol with the lines, "O bring us a figgy pudding" and "we won't go until we get some." Yes, wassailers could come demanding what they thought their due - more alcohol, coins, and food. If they didn't get what they wanted, some groups were noted to resort to vandalism of the house that would not provide. But that brings us to this part of our song:

We are not daily beggars
That beg from door to door;
But we are neighbours' children,
Whom you have seen before.

On the whole, though, wassailing was a tradition wherein the poor of the neighborhood could come together and ask, in a socially acceptable manner, for a hand-out. In return, they would leave their blessing upon the house that offered charity. 

The refrain from our song: 

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Generally speaking, people would go "wassailing" usually on Twelfth Night. We could write several articles alone on the traditions surrounding that portion of the Christmas holiday season. 

Sometimes in the middle of the 19th century, wassailing and caroling merged. They were two separate events, one meant to edify the listeners and the other meant as a way to go about begging. In North America, however, it's not uncommon to offer carolers a special treat when they grace your doorstep. 

It's an interesting tradition, and while singing Christmas songs and hymns at the doors of our neighbors has been going on for several centuries, there was some fear that the tradition would die out - in 1822 a gentleman named William Hone wrote: "Carols begin to be spoken of as not belonging to this century and yet no one, that I am aware of, has attempted a collection of these fugitives." Hone printed a list of 89 carols, but neglected to include lyrics or music. Many of those carols are now lost to time. 

If you find yourself curious about the wassail songs of old, many are listed (with links for listening) on Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Link below.

So next time you hear carolers, be friendly and warm, appreciate their music, and be grateful you didn't live in an age when a wassail meant feeding a crowd of people in order to avoid having your house and kitchen ransacked. :-)

Historic UK: Wassailing
Etymology Online
Hymns and Carols of Christmas
Kentucky New Era
Wikipedia Article with Great Sources
Wikipedia on Twelfth Night
Recipe for Wassail (Yup, it was a special drink too.)

Sally Britton is the author of six historical romance titles, set in the Regency time period. All six can be found on her author page at Sally regularly discusses writing, research, and her work on her Facebook reader group - and all are welcome to join.

Snowmen: a modern-day pasttime or ancient ritual?

by Donna Hatch

Recently on one of my writers groups had a lively discussion regarding whether or not people built snowmen during the Regency. After all, it seems such a natural thing to do with a practically limitless source of building materials. Surely people had as strong a desire then as they do now to build snowmen, forts, animals, and simple snowballs to throw at one another using the nature’s art supplies. However, often our assumptions about what has "always been" is incorrect, hence the discussion.
It turns out, the idea of snowmen is ageless. Children of all ages have built snowmen since the beginning of man. The Etymology dictionary says the word snowman wasn't in print until 1827 but it is such a natural term that it likely appeared in speech ages before anyone thought to write about children (or adults) playing in the snow.

In 2007, Bob Eckstein, the author of The History of the Snowman: From the Ice Age to the Flea Market, told NPR that in writing his book, “...snowman-making actually was a form of folk art. Mankind was making folk art like this for ages, and…maybe it’s one of man’s oldest forms of art…The further back you go, you find that people were really fascinated with snowmen.”

Eckstein says that building snowmen was “a very popular activity in the Middle Ages…after a snow came down and dumped all these free-art supplies in front of everyone’s house.” The earliest known representation of a snowman dates to that era, drawn in a 1380 A.D. Book of Hours.

 Readers Digest reports in 1494, Michelangelo was commissioned by Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Gran Maestro of Florence, to create his art with snow. According to art historian Giorgio Vasari, “de’ Medici had Michelangelo make in his courtyard a statue of snow, which was very beautiful.” Sadly, no one seems to have drawn it for posterity.

The Wikipedia page for Snowman shows a European woodcut from the 1500s of people dancing around a snowman. With this many sources, building snowmen was surely an ageless pastime when enough snow arrived on the scene.

The only real trouble with historical characters is that there wasn't that much snow in all parts of England every year. However, if a place had enough snow, it stands to reason that children--as well as playful adults--would have built whatever they could and given it an appropriate name.

Do you still run out and play in the snow during the first big snowfall?


Wednesday, December 5, 2018

The Victorian Christmas

One thing I have bemoaned time and again is the lack of Christmas traditions in Regency England. During the Regency Christmas celebrations were usually quiet family affairs that included going to church on Christmas Day, some greenery for decorations (including mistletoe but not a tree), a Yule log, and perhaps a present or two for children.

Once Queen Victoria ascended the throne, however, Christmas began to be much more merry and bright.

One of the first traditions to emerge that continues until today, is the Christmas card. This tradition was begun by Sir Henry Cole, an assistant at the newly founded Public Record Office (Post Office). He had an artist friend create cards, advertised as “Christmas Congratulations Cards” that sold for a shilling each. The cards could be sent for a penny and by the 1860s were cheap enough for most people of the middle class to send.

Victoria and Albert began another wonderful custom—the Christmas tree. A German tradition brought to England by George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, the Christmas tree didn’t catch on until Victoria’s consort, Prince Albert (also German) began celebrating the yuletide with a
decorated tree. When the Illustrated London News published an engraving of Victoria and Albert and their children gathered around a Christmas tree in 1848, the popularity of the Christmas tree rose sharply. Technological advances enhanced the tradition by providing hundreds of different types of sparkly ornaments to hang on the tree, along with homemade sweet treats, small presents, and candles.

Another near and dear Christmas tradition arose in t e 1860s: The Christmas cracker. These little tubes, stuffed with small trinkets and candies, made a resounding “bang” when pulled apart and quickly became a staple of the season.

The emphasis placed on family by the Victorians lead to the traditional Christmas dinner, with all the family gathered around the table. Food was the centerpiece of the Victorian Christmas dinner and included roast goose with sage and onion stuffing (in the South), standing rib of beef (in the North), Yorkshire pudding, oysters, ham, turkey, potatoes, mince pies, plum pudding. The making and serving of the Plum Pudding was quite a ritual that began several days before Christmas and culminated with the cooking, cutting, and eating of it.
After dinner people continued to celebrate with presents, singing, shooting off firecrackers, and playing games.

All in all a much merrier time was had by all during the Victorian period.

Merry Christmas to all! God bless us, everyone!

“The History of Christmas Cards.”
“Victorian Christmas Traditions,” from Christmas at the V & A.
“Common Victorian Times Christmas Food: roasted goose and pudding.” The Victorian Era Facts about Queen Victoria, Society and Literature. Victorian Era Organization.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Who are the U.S. Marshals?

I absolutely LOVE research!!  But sometimes it's a little discouraging. So like today I decided to research the history of the U.S. Marshals. I'm writing a story in a multi-author series "The Lawkeepers" and our theme is about U.S. Marshals. I realized I didn't know that much about them, although I have stars in my eyes when I think about making my hero one of them.

Hollywood movies like to add glamor... like:
U.S. Marshals (Tommy Lee Jones)
The Fugitive (Harrison Ford)
Tombstone (Kurt Russell)
Hang 'Em High (Clint Eastwood)
... to name a few.

But did you know that the early days of being a U.S. Marshal wasn't all glamor or heroic? In fact, the U.S. Marshals were more like... secretaries??

The U.S. Marshals were created by the first Congress in the Judiciary Act of 1789 which was the same legislation that established the Federal judicial system. It was the main purpose of the U.S. Marshals to support the federal courts and to carry out the lawful orders issued by the judges, Congress, or the president of the United States.

Here are the duties they were assigned in the beginning:
* Served subpoenas / summons / writs (whatever that is) / warrants and other process issued by the courts
* Made arrests & handled all the prisoners
* Disbursed money
* Paid fees and expenses of the court clerks, U.S. attorneys, jurors and witnesses
* Rented courtrooms & jail space
* Hired bailiffs, criers (really? what is this?), and janitors
* Filled water pitchers
* Brought prisoners to the court house
* Made sure witnesses were on time and that jurors were at the court house

You know, I rather like the idea that Hollywood had of making the Marshals' jobs more glamorous. Thankfully, though, over time, the U.S. Marshals were given more duties and they actually become the heroes we want them to be.

And speaking of U.S. Marshal heroes.... I'm writing a romance right now that is scheduled to be released 4/23/19. Introducing... Lawfully Won! If you'd like to join their Facebook group, here is the link -

When wealthy widow, Hannah Hamilton, leaves home to care for her aunt in Big Springs, Texas, she's robbed and injured. However, that wasn't the worst of her woes. She also can't remember anything about her life. Accepting what the hotel owners have told her, she proceeds to work for them as a waitress in the hotel's restaurant, believing her name is Anna Cartwright. But when a man enters the hotel, she feels she knows him. But most importantly, she feels she's loved him before.

Colt Montgomery is a broken man. After confessing his love to Hannah Hamilton eight months ago and being rejected, he quit his position as the Sheriff and moved out of town. Now he's a U.S. Marshal looking for an outlaw that keeps going into hiding. When Colt sees Hannah working at a hotel far from her home, he's shocked. But when he realizes she doesn't remember who she is, he feels hopeful. If he can get her to fall in love with him as Anna, perhaps when her memory finally returns, he'll finally win the woman he's always loved. Or will he?

Marie Higgins is a best-selling author of Christian and sweet romance novels; from refined bad-boy heroes who make your heart melt to the feisty heroines who somehow manage to love them regardless of their faults. She has over 50 heartwarming on-the-edge-of-your-seat stories, and broadened her readership by writing mystery/suspense, humor, time-travel, paranormal, along with her love for historical romances. Her readers have dubbed her "Queen of Tease", because of all her twists and unexpected endings.

Bookbub - 

**Reference link -