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Friday, December 28, 2012

Discoveries in Diaries and Letters

Through reading diaries of those who lived in Georgian England one can glean any number of interesting things, things Georgians easily understood but which have passed almost into obscurity after two centuries of disuse.

For example, did you know that black wax was used to seal letters bearing news of one's death? I learned this in a letter in which the writer apologized thusly, "I have sealed my letter with black wax for too good a reason, so don't be alarmed. I have no red."

Illustration by Debra Wenlock
There's another factoid: letters were normally sealed with red wax. (This was verified by images on the internet.)

In the same book of letters, an aristocratic child wrote, "My mama writes in the carriage. She has a little table in it." Of course, I had to steal that to use in one of my books!

That same child, in another letter, references the real wood fires they only had at their country home. That casual comment alerted me to the fact they did not have wood fires at their town house in London. Of course, they used coal in the city! Had I erred in an earlier book? I certainly know better now than to have wood fires in London.

Some of the more interesting of those little-known occurrences of two centuries ago revolve around travel. Englishmen traveling in Italy during the summer slept in the daytime and traveled in their coaches only at night because the heat in the carriages could be too oppressive.

Perhaps the most interesting travel tidbit is how the wealthy Englishmen crossed the mountains. Their entire carriages had to be disassembled and carried over the passes by crews hired for this purpose. Crews also carried the aristocratic passengers along these treacherous areas by sedan-type chairs. Once the passes were cleared, the carriages were reassembled.
I'm currently reading the Grand Tour journal written by England's once-wealthiest commoner, William Beckford, and will share its enlightening facts in the next blog.

Cheryl Bolen is the launch romance author for Montlake's Amazon serial, Falling for Frederick, which begins Jan. 8.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Cheryl. I recently researched crossings from Northern Euope into Italy and found that the Brenner Pass was the only one with a road. Courtsey of an Austrian empress.

Cheryl Bolen said...

Thank you! I was trying to remember the name of that pass. I've read it in several journals, Ella, but this brain of mine couldn't retrieve. I kept wanting to call it the Khyber Pass! Actually, the dismantling I wrote of occurred right there at the Brenner Pass.

Suzi said...

Great post as usual. Thanks for the information.
Suzi Love

Barbara Monajem said...

Fascinating. I wonder if it was difficult to write in a moving coach, even with a table. I also wonder if there was an inkwell in the table, or if she used a pencil. Questions, questions... Thanks for a great post.

Cheryl Bolen said...

Thanks, Suzi and Barbara, for stopping by. I assume the writing table used in the coach was some sort of lap desk. A child might describe a "little table" as one with very short legs. But, then, that's my interpretation!

estetik said...

Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again.
I was very encouraged to find this site. I wanted to thank you for this special read. I definitely savored every little bit of it and I have bookmarked you to check out new stuff you post.

A Heron's View said...

There are four major roads that go across the Italian border the E66, E45, E35 & E25
I suggest ella quin does a bit more research

Isabella Gladd said...

Interesting stuff, I'm so glad I found your site. Every bit of information gleaned helps to create accurate scenes. Thank you.