“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
MARK TWAIN, editorial in the Hartford Courant, Aug. 24, 1897
Whether or not this quote is accurate, and there’s some doubt about its validity, the weather confounds us all.
Love it or hate it, the weather is always with us. My latest Regency comedy novella, An Inheritance for the Birds, is set in England. Rainy, chilly England. Cold, damp England.
Well, not necessarily.
England's climate is both colder and warmer than that of the United States. The warm Gulf Stream crosses the Atlantic from North America to brush the southern and western coasts of the island, creating milder weather than in New England, where I live. Palm trees grow in Cornwall, England’s southwestern most county. According to Jen Black ( author of Fair Border Bride), who lives in Northumberland, the palm trees are in protected areas. But I think that any palm tree that can survive outdoors at 50 degrees North latitude is doing pretty good.
Snow is rare in England, especially in the south, as are blazing hot temperatures. In 1818 London, according to the Royal Society’s Meteorological Journal, the temperature range for the year was 24 degrees F to 80 degrees F. Compare that to the Boston Massachusetts range of 6 F to 103 F from February 2011 to January 2012.
But where there is weather, there are extremes. The summer of 1818 in England was one of the hottest on record to that time, with June and July the warmest. According to the Royal Society’s observations, the average London temperature for June was 66.1F, with a high of 78 F and a low of 57 F. For July, the average was 68.9F (high 80 F, low 61 F). Compare those readings, again according to the Royal Society’s London records, to the more typical year of 1817: June range 81 F - 47 F, average 62.8 F, and July range 70 F - 54 F, average 60.8 F.
The summer of 1818 was not pleasant in London. The River Thames, which for all practical purposes was an open sewer, reeked more than usual. The streets, full of horses and their manure as well as other effluvia from man and beast, reeked as well. With no air-conditioning, deodorants or running water, the people, dressed in their year-round woolens, did, too. The ever-present pall of coal smoke from thousands of chimneys added to the miasma.
In An Inheritance for the Birds, my hero, Kit, abides in noxious London when he receives the letter from his late great aunt's solicitor informing him of a possible inheritance. In order to win her estate in Somersetshire, he must compete with her former companion. Their task: Make her pet ducks happy.
Idiotic the contest may be, but the prospect of a sizeable inheritance is enough to make him accept. Another lure is the trip to the country, where, although the temperatures may not be lower, at least the air will be cleaner.
Thank you all,
The painting is The Vale of Dedham (1828) by John Constable