Queer History: Myths, Legends, & Religions

When I first was inspired to write a blog or two on Queer History leading up to the Modern Era, I thought it would, perhaps, only take blog or two. However, it seems I have underestimated the breadth and scope of such an endeavor, so am trying to limit myself to more of n overview. Plus, I lost, then found, my notes, then lost them again, and then (you guessed it) found them. Hence, the delay.

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Now, I did think about doing representation prior to the 19th Century, and most likely still will, but I thought it might be interesting to focus on myths, legends, and religious representation. Now, some may scoff at the thought of myths and legends, but I have always found myths to be representative of our shared human history. Myths were, after all, once our ancestors religions, so it would seem improper to not look at how our ancestors felt about members of the LGTBQ+ community.

Zeus' Fault by hopeless-romance45 on DeviantArt
Image courtesy of hopeless-romance on Deviant Art

Myths and Mythology can be such an generalization, but the biggest, and primarily the on we tend to think of, is the Greek Mythology. And, of course, when it comes to these myths, the main character always seems to be Zeus (Jupiter in Roman Mythology), or consequences of his actions. It seems at least 90% of the problems, or tales, in Greek Mythology revolve around Zeus and who he is sleeping with (or trying to). Besides having killed his father (who was eating his own kids), to sleeping with his female siblings, and marrying one, Zeus really gets around sexually. While a majority of his encounters are with women (both divine, semi divine, and mortal), he did have a very famous relationship with a man. Ganymede is generally said to be a very (divinely so) beautiful youth. And male. Youth may mean young man, or it’s possible we are indicating he’s a teenager (the Greeks thought nothing was wrong with older men sleeping with boys or young men). I’ve come across a few variations of the tale, and it seems to be the general description of Ganymede being more of a young man than a child. What is interesting, however, is that Zeus’ love and preference for his male (and mortal) lover was so strong, Zeus granted him immortality and their relationship was seen as a threat to the marriage of Hera and Zeus. Ganymede really could be seen as Zeus’ other spouse from the way the relationship is depicted. Poor Hera though. She had to deal with a brother/husband who could not practice abstinence in any way shape or form. Zeus also, because he often transform himself, seduced Callisto in the form of Artemis, his daughter Yes, Zeus became a woman in order to sleep with another woman (he also got her pregnant while pretending to be a woman, but he is a God, sooo….it’s a miracle!). I also came across a tale of Zeus and his brother Poseidon lusting after some mortal king to the point they both became women just to have sex with this guy. Sadly, my notes are not very clear on this and I don’t know the name. Plus, trying to search through all of Zeus’ sexual exploits is really, really difficult.

0036MAN Poseidon.jpg
Poseidon. Courtesy of the National Archaelogical Musuem of Athens

Like his brother Zeus, Poseidon (Neptune) also had sexual relationships with men. Nerites is a minor deity (son of Nereus “old man of the sea” and brother of 50 Nerieids) and lover of Poseidon. He is said to be extremely beautiful, youthful, and is the only male offspring of Nereus. Pelops is the most famous (or infamous) mortal lover of Poseidon. He is said to have started (or inspired) the Olympic games, and was also cursed when he tricked another man into helping him marry a king’s daughter (his descendants include Orestes an Electra). Pelops was himself a king and Poseidon granted him favors and help because of their past relationship. Pelops was at Olympus for a time, but Zeus was jealous of their relationship and banned Pelops from Olympus. Patroclus was not only the lover of Posedion, but the lover of Achilles, the famous Trojan warrior. While Poseidon treated his male lovers fairly well, even after the relationship ended. Like Zeus, he had a habit of raping females (both mortal and immortal) and taking the forms of other animals (primarily horses). After ravishing (ie rape) of the mortal female Caenis, Poseidon agreed to grant her anything she wished for. She wished to no longer be a woman and was transformed into Caeneus, a man (who then ended up being transformed into a brown bird after his death).

Alan Menken Says Hercules Musical Is Coming to the Stage
Disney’s Hercules. Courtesy of Disney

Hercules (or Heracles or Herkules depending n the source material) was a chip off the old Zeus block (being, of course, Zeus’ kid with a mortal). While most of us know about his strength and the trials he went through, not the mention the heroic quests and deeds he participated in, not many consider his close relationships with men. Particularly his three male lovers. Abderos, who worked in that stable he had to clean, was one of his lovers as well as Hylas, who often traveled with him. Heracules’ most famous companion and lover was Iolaus. Their closeness and bond as lovers was so strong, that men in committed sexual relationships would speak vows similar to what we could consider marriage vows at the shrine of Iolaus (shrines often proclaiming to be the final resting place of Iolaus). It is a very sweet and romantic gesture that we don’t often talk abut nor do we see depicted in any tales of Hercules. Hermes (Mercury), the messenger of the God, is another who had lovers of both genders, but his three most well known male lovers were Crocus (yes, the flower is named after him), Daphnis, and also his with nephew, Perseus (the Gods had no issue with incest).

Hephaestus | Definition & Mythology | Britannica
Temple of Hephaestus located in Athens. Courtesy of Britannica.com

Apollo is another deity that we are taught of his (often failed) suctions of women, but never of men. Apollo famously took Adonis as his lover as well as being in a committed relationship with Hymen the God of Marriage (so, the Sun God was married to the Marriage God and yes, that does sound as weird as one might think). His mortal lovers were Branchus, Thamryis, and Hyacinth (yes, again another flower). Speaking of Adonis, he also was the mortal lover of Dionysus (Bacchus), the god associated with wine, sex, and was considered the guardian of transgender and intersex people. Dionysus wasn’t a one-guy deity as he also had a satyr, Ampelus, as a lover as well as Prosymnus Now, Prosymnus is a lover but not really. He was a mortal who died before he could consummate his relationship with Dionysus. In turn, the god had a wooden phallus (yes, a dildo) created to mimic his lover’s appendage, so he could “consummate” the relationship after the mortal’s death. Its a weird tale, but considering his mom burned to death so he was born out of Zeus’ thigh, it’s a bit on point for weirdness. Pan, the minor Satyr deity who was constantly sporting an erection (no, I am not kidding), was known to lust after men and women, whether they were mortal or not, and one such mortal was Daphnis (who may or may not be the same mortal lover that Hermes had). Male deities are not the only ones to experience same-sex relationships. Artemis (Diana) is said to have been the lover of Medusa, Sappho (yes, THAT Sappho), Callisto, and various nymphs, a minor moon goddess or two, and the Amazons. While she is often portrayed as a Virgin Goddess, the virginity status is more associated with her refusal to be with men sexually, than women. Artemis was seen as the protector of virgins (particularly those who were dedicating their lives to her), lesbians, and homosexuality overall. Her sister, Aphrodite (Venus), was also seen as a protector of lesbians and while she is most known for her male conquests. Some sources state she had female conquests as well (most likely minor goddess associate with love, lust, or beauty). Eros (Cupid), son of Aphrodite, is also linked with having numerous male lovers (no names given, but Eros is also depicted as a group of similar deities, so it really does get confusing). Narcissus, who famously wasted away after falling in love with his own image, was first in a relationship with a mortal called Ameinias, who killed himself when the relationship ended (so, one could say that the ending of Narcissus may have been divine justice). Orpheus, who is famous for trying to bring back his wife, Eurydice, swore off female lovers when he failed to resurrect her and only had male lovers (mainly Thracians) until he was torn apart by a bunch of crazed women during a Bacchus orgy. Tiresias, a mortal, was changed into a woman for seven years before being changed back into a man, and was blinded after he proclaimed that women enjoy sex so much more than men. Oddly enough, he was blinded by Hera for his honesty (one wonders is she was kind of turned off by sex because of Zeus). Isis, yes Greeks worshiped this Egyptian Goddess, granted a lesbian Iphis the right to become a man so she could marry Ianthe, another woman.

Isis Wall Painting (by The Yorck Project Gesellschaft für Bildarchivierung GmbH, GNU FDL)
Isis depicted on a wall. Courtesy of Worldhistory.org

While Isis is not associated with any homosexuality in Egyptian Mythology per se, she was seen as the primary female deity who represented all living beings. There is not much depiction in Ancient Egypt for homosexuality, but the fault could be it was erased when the Romans took control, or when the library at Alexandria burned, thus destroying so much information. Though a few scholars believe the demonization of homosexuality took place in the late Kingdom period (so, again, thinking the Roman influence had something to do with it here) or just a general shift in Society. However, there are a few clues left to us to see that there were examples. The most well known is that between Horus and his Uncle-Lover Set. There are stories about how they tried to dominate each other (basically, who was one to be penetrated) via their semen. I know, bear with me here because it’s weird. Set ejaculated in-between Horus’ thighs while trying to have sex, and Horus decided he didn’t want to get pregnant (like I said, weird), so threw the semen into the river (probably the Nile). Horus, meanwhile, ejaculated on lettuce, which was considered a male phallic item, and also Set’s favorite food. Set ate the lettuce with Horus’ semen, thus when it came to proving who dominated whom, Horus was proclaimed the winner as his “seed” was inside Set (who later gave birth to the lunar disc for the God Thorth from this) because Set’s “seed” was in the river. Some say it’s seen as a demonization of homosexuality, but others say t’s more about dominance as Horus was the more dominant God in the Pantheon (being the child of Osiris and Isis), so it would make more sense his sexual relationship with Set would also showcase this dominance. It seems to b ea common association that it was acceptable to be the dominant party engaging in the homosexual act, but no the passive (receiving) end of it. While I could not find any lesbian associations in Ancient Egypt, there does seem to be a few transgender/intersex representation. Fertility was a big thing in Egypt and while Hapy was the God of the Nile, the fertility aspect of him was seen as female (more like the association of fertility was seen as a feminine trait). Likewise Wadj-Wer, God of the Nile Delta, was said to be a male fertility deity, but is often depicted with female breasts (breastfeeding). While I do wish it as more, that is all I could find.

Satellite Image of Africa. Pubic Domain Image

While I know it is hard to believe, but Egypt is in the Continent of Africa and Africa has more representation outside of Ancient Egyptian Mythology. I took class with Kathy Perkins when I was at UIUC and I learned about Carnivals and Festivals, and how some can be traced back to religions that are still practiced in Africa today (primarily we focused on West Africa because slavery). The main one we learned about was the Yoruba religion, which is primarily in Nigeria. Now, in the Yoruba faith, possession by spirits and ancestors is a big part of the religion and while women tend to be the ones possessed, men can also be possessed and the spirits can be either gender. Or gender less. While I know this doesn’t do justice to the Yoruba religion, Western thought tends to see possession as evil or demonic, while this faith sees it in a good light (which I think is good to know). Dahomey Religion originated in Africa (and I believe its still in the Benin area), but it migrated (because slavery) to the Caribbean where it’s sort of merged with aspects of Christianity and other beliefs into what is often called Voodoo. Mawa-Lisa is the primary deity (creation) in Dahomey religion, being the merging of Mawa (Sun & Male) with Lisa (Moon & Female), which I don’t know if this makes the deity inter-sexed or transgender (I’m guessing probably inter-sexed, but I couldn’t find a definite answer so it’s a guess on my part). The deity who gave birth to Mawa & Lisa is Nana Buluku (Great Mother), which is a deity that is also seen as embodying both genders, which makes sense. In Ghana, the y have deities associated with the Celestial, who are either depicted as being transgender or androgynous (depending on the source). The ones I found the most information on (in terms of being transgender) are Abrao (the planet Jupiter), Aku (the planet Mercury), and Awo (the Moon). To me, I find this fascinating since Jupiter & Mercury are both “Male” deities in Roman Mythology while the Moon was generally seen as being female. The creation deity in Zimbabwe, being the religion of the Shona people, is seen as having no gender (but can aspects of both) an is called Mwari. In the religion of the Kongo people, their creation deity is considered to be the embodiment of perfection for being both male and female. This perfect being was called Mahungu and was slit into the two genders by the tree of Life (and thus, creating the human race).

61 Voodoo ideas | voodoo, baron samedi, voodoo hoodoo
Baron Samedi, also called Papa Ghede. Courtesy of Pinterest

Because Voodoo is practiced in the Caribbean, and in parts of the US, I find it fascinating that they have a deity who is depicted as a female Drag Queen. Seriously, I think this is the coolest deity I have come across. This deity is called Ghede Nibo and is a spirit (Iwa) who cares for those who die young, and is associated with lesbian and transgender people. Ghede Nibo’s father is called Baron Samedi, but I have seen him as Papa Ghede Baron Samedi as well, He is said to be a bisexual deity, who lusts after men and women, and is dressed as a 19th C Dandy. He can wear pants, sometimes a skirt and heels, but always with a top hat and frock coat. I’m fairly certain Baron Samedi is my 19th C inner spirit. Ghede Nibo’s mother is Maman Brigitte, and while she is associated with death (bot not any aspect of LGTBQ+), she does like to drink rum with an infusion of hot peppers. Why Voodoo is never included in any World Religions course is beyond me because it really is an incredibly diverse and fascinating religion. Most World Religion courses focus on the 3 Abrahamic Religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) with a small scattering of Hinduism and possibly Buddhism thrown in for good measure. I am of the personal opinion that they really should rename World Religion courses as Western Religions because tat is really all they focus on. Getting back to Voodoo, it also has two male deities who are depicted as being lovers, Baron Lundy and Baron Limba. Yes, these are both male deities as well. Baron Ova Ova is associated with homosexuality as well, but I culdn’t find if it was just a general association or if the deity was part of the LGTBQ+ community as well. . Erzulie Freda & Erzuie Dantor are associated with love, sensuality and beauty, but Erzulie Freda is male homosexual aspect while Erzulie Dantor is the lesbian side. There are probably more examples within the Voodoo religion of LGTBQ+ representation, but I really wanted to pull out a few examples to show that not all religion think badly of this community.

Pin by Andy Benkert on Weird Weird West | Pacific northwest art, Haida art, Native  american art
Coyote from Native American Mythology & Religion. Courtesy of Pinterest

Native American Mythology is a giant umbrella term which does the Indigenous Peoples of America no courtesy. And also, in my opinion, a bit of a feeling of being unworthy as I struggled to find representation under the terminology “religion” but found it under the term “mythology” when I know their religions are still being practiced in our modern day. One of my favorite Indigenous Spirits is Coyote. Mischievous, sneaky, I’m fairly certain Coyote and Loki would be best friends in real life. What makes Coyote interesting is he is known as a seducer of lesbian couples. Why only Lesbian couples, I am not sure, but I thought it was something fascinating that I never knew and wanted to share. Another part of Indigenous People’s beliefs is the concept of “Two Spirits” or people who contain both male and female aspects. It’s such a beautiful, simple, and yet powerfully inclusive. White settlers, naturally, tried their best to wipe out this method of acceptance, but I am glad it is a belief that never a erased and is starting to gain acceptance once again. In Mayan mythology, Chin is a god ho is associated with same sex love and relationships. And Xochipilli (and no, I have no idea how to pronounce this name) is the “Flower Prince” God of homosexuals, homosexuals sex workers, art, beauty, and flowers. This shows that even in an ancient culture of the Mayans, they acknowledged the presence of LGTBQ+ people and felt it was a normal part of life (and really, that is the point of this post, is to make everyone aware that LGTBQ+ people have always been in existence and they deserve our respect and equal rights)

Xochipilli aztec god of art love beauty | Aztec art, Mexican art, Digital  media art
Xochipilli (artist rendering). Courtesy of Pinterest

The Inuit people have a very interesting creation story involving two men, Aakulujjuusi and Uumarnituq. These first humans were both male and in a relationship together. Uumarnituq became pregnant and became female as a result. The Inuits also have a Goddess, Sedna, who is sometimes depicted as being a Two Spirit deity. The Mayan Gods Tezcatlipoca and Yaoti, both male, became female just so they could have sex with the human (and mortal) King Huemae. The fluid nature of the Mayan Deities is something I as never aware of until I started researching this and it’s a pity this isn’t taught in schools here in America since the Mayans were a big part of the Americas pre-colonization.

Chinese Dragon of the Qing Dynasty. Public Domain via Wikipedia

Like Coyote, Dragons in Chinese Folklore are vastly different from their European counterparts in more than just appearance. While European Dragons seem to have a taste for young maidens, their Chinese brethren prefer the company of older men. Why older men? I am not sure, but perhaps the association with wisdom and knowledge was seen as a more masculine trait, so it made more sense for the Dragons to prefer men to women in terms of company. In Chinese Mythology, Chou Wang, Lan Caihe (which I am certain I wrote down incorrectly and have butchered the name), Shan Gui, and Yu the Great are figures associated with homosexuality, bi-sexuality, and transgender. Much of this information I couldn’t read and Google translate isn’t always reliable, so I am unsure if they were figures who accomplished heroic quests or feats, or if they were deities. However, I did find that the rabbit Deity, Tu Er Shen, is a representative of homosexuality and the love that exists between men. I also found reference to Duke Ling of Wei and Mizi Xia, who were actual figures in Chinese history, who were male lovers, and were written about. So while I don’t have much here, I was pleasantly surprised to find some historical figures.

02 Vishnu
Vishnu, Courtesy of Advocate.com

When I was an undergraduate, I purposefully refused to refer to Hinduism as a “mythology” in my Word Religions course, much to the ire of the teacher, who was Lutheran Minister. He had an annoying habit of referring to anything that was’t Christian as mythology, when this really isn’t true (yes, he referred to Judaism and Islam as myths and yes, I called him out on it as well). Hinduism is the World’s oldest still practicing religion and predates all three Western Abrahamic Religions. While the influence of British ideals has demonized LGBTQ+ aspects of Hinduism, it remains true that it still exists and is starting to be accepted once more. Among the minor deities, we have Ananda and Naga, who are both male and serpent in their forms. However, Naga is King amoung the serpents and can appear as female. Naga is known to reward and assist people and resides near and in rivers (which JK Rowling bastardized). Divine couple Shiva and Parvoti are seen as separate beings (Shiva being male and Parvoti female). However, they can also be depicted as being one form, with male on the right, female on the left. This two genders, one form is referred to as an Ardhanarishvara form and other deities can be depicted in such a way, as well as minor deities and spirits. Vishnu, while male, sometimes becomes Mohini, a female Goddess. As Mohini, she was impregnated by Shiva and gave birth to Ayyappa, who has shrines and which draws pilgrims and worshipers still. As Mohini, Vishnu is seen as an enchantress who can inflame lovers to the point of madness (or obsession).Krishna, who is a reincarnation of Vishnu, also became Mohini in order to marry the mortal man, Aravan, in order to assist him in one of his last heroic quests. As Mohini, she lived as the hero’s widow for many years after his death, showing her devotion in her mourning period. Shikhandini was born female but raised to be a King by her father. She even was married off to a princess. Because she couldn’t satisfy (or impregnate this princess), she fled to the forests and met a minor deity, who granted her the male form and she became known as Shikhandi, and remained a man until his death during battle.

Aboriginal Rock paining of the Rainbow Serpent. Public Domain

Like Hinduism, the belies of the Aboriginals is also one to the oldest practicing religions in the world. Their creation belief centers around the Rainbow Serpent, which I have seen as Ungund or Gund, but I will just refer to the God as the Rainbow Serpent since that is the most well known name. The deity is more associated with water and rain, than serpents, but the snake form could just be another association with water. There is also more than one Rainbow Serpent, with different names and aspects, so I will state that I am using it more as a generic name, and not specific. Rainbow Serpent is male, female, bisexual, a hermaphrodite, and androgynous/non-binary depending on the Aboriginal tribe and name they have given this deity. While Western scholars state this is an important creation deity, for Aboriginals, the act of creation is not past tense, but is past, present, and future (in other words, the act of creation is constant and never ending, which is truly a beautiful belief to have). Much of what we know of Aboriginal belies is based on what colonizers have written down as much of their religion is oral and has not been written down. Perhaps one day, more of their beliefs will be written down so we can all enjoy their beautiful views of the world.

Norse Mythology
The Norse Pantheon. Courtesy of Mythopedia.com

While Neonazis, Proudboys, KKK, and Tea Party enthusiasts seem to want to link themselves with Vikings and Norse Mythology, the truth is Norse Mythology was fairly accepting of homosexuality as an act of aggression and dominance. Vikings had no problems with men having sex with other men, as long as the man in question was the one to be penetrating, not the receiver. Plus, there were laws regarding punishment of men who were found to be engaging in a homosexual relationship, so I do wonder if as seen as acceptable to engage in homosexual sex BUT not to be in a committed same-sex relationship. Some have included the punishment of homosexuality to include lesbian relationships, but it’s hard to say if that was more due to an influence of Christianity or was applied at a later date. In all honesty, we know very little regarding what these people truly believed because we base so much on the Sagas, which can be confusing. Freyr is the male God of Fertility and his sister, Freya, was the Goddess of Fertility. Loki, the ultimate God of Chaos, has not only switched genders, but species (he became a female horse, got pregnant, and gave birth to Sleipnir, an eight legged horse). Odin has been depicted as a woman and because he is a user of Magic (Sedir) is often ridiculed for being feminine. Loki, likewise, as a user of Magic is often ridiculed as well. Heimdall, who is older than Odin, has 9 mothers and no father, and his twin is Lady Sif, who is married to Thor. So, there’a a lot we don’t understand because so much of it was destroyed due to the influence of Christianity. Yet, we have evidence that the Vikings were not so rigid as we tend to portray them. Women could live as men and were respected as men. Some were even warriors and were buried with weapons. On the other hand, men who wanted to live as women were ostracized. The Vikings were a warrior based culture, much like the Spartans, but that’s not all they did. They did, however, seem to praise masculine aspects and traits over feminine, so this maybe way it was more acceptable for a woman to want to be more masculine than a man who wished to be more feminine. Needless to say that Viking culture and mythology is very nuanced, very interesting, and also something scholars are still tackling, which is great for us.

Rainbow Kitsune (Pt. 2) | Kitsune, Cute animal drawings, Cartoon drawings  of animals
Kitsune. Courtesy of Pinterest

Kitsune as spirits and are generally depicted as foxes with 9 tails. Kitsune are still seen as being in existence in Japan, so while they are labeled under “Mythological beings”, the truth would be that they are current spiritual beliefs in Japan. Kitsune are said to be paranormal in nature and get wiser as they age. They are also known to shift genders and are bisexual in their relationships with mortal or other spirits. A Kitsune with 9 tails is seen as being very wise and very old, while one with 3 would be young and not as experienced (so, we tend to see only depictions of the with 9 tails, they can be depicted with less than 9 tails). They can be tricksters, wives, lovers, good, or evil. The ancient Gods Shinu No Hafuri and Ama No Hafuri, were said to being homosexuality to the world with their relationship. There are also Shinto Gods, who are not part of the mainstream Pantheon, who represent LGTBQ+. Shiraboyshi is a half female and half snake spirit and is worshiped by Shinto Priestesses who dance in male clothing. Oyamakui is a transgender mountain deity who protects those who are pregnant (perhaps the act of childbirth), and also industry. Inari, the Kami spirit of Rice, is depicted as male, female, young, and old, sexual/fertile and also androgynous.

St Sebastian (Rubens) - Wikipedia
St Sebastian by Reubens, circa 1614. Courtesy of Berlin State Museums & Pubic Domain.

Now we get the the three main Western Religions. Of the three, Judaism is the oldest and is the ground stone for both Christianity and Islam. In the Old Testament First Book of Samuel, there is an intense relationship between David and Jonathan which can be seen as a very intense very sexual (or romantic) homosexual relationship. Now, past interpretation also depicts this as just a very strong platonic friendship (or bromance), but the language used seems to give us a more sexual relationship than a platonic one. Ham, Noah’s son, is said to have raped his father when he found him drunk after the flood receded, as reason for his banishment (some Judaic traditions state Ham castrated his own father, so either way, Ham is not a very good person). The relationship between Ruth and Naomi is often seen as a lesbian relationship. Ruth only marries once she knows she and Naomi will be safe and secure, plus her first child is said to be Naomi’s and is seen as Naomi’s child. Of course, other say that Ruth is just a very devoted former daughter-in-law, but the relationship is clearly a very devoted one. In early Christian tradition, Saint Sergius and Saint Bacchus were said to be lovers, or form a very close brotherhood/bond. Some scholars say these two show that the early church was tolerant of homosexuality, and the close brotherhood was used to demonize homosexuality later on as it became less tolerant in the church. Saint Comos and Saint Damian have a very homoerotic relationship, which was then changed to be depicted as brothers instead of lovers. Saint Sebastian has become a gay icon starting in the 19th Century due to his expression of rapture, but also the torture of the arrows as being used as the pain of not being able to be true to ones sexual nature (being forced to live in a closet). Paul, formally known as Saul, who has a long hatred of women in his writings that become much of the New Testament, was a Roman who traveled with a much younger male companion. Historically, Romans accepted the whole dynamic of older man with younger man sexual relationship, which is a topic most Christian scholars don’t want to acknowledge that Paul was a homosexual, he had male lovers, and clearly hated women. In Islam, homosexuality and other aspects of LGTBQ+ are associated with the Jinn and most predate Islam. Jinn are known to shape-shift, can be good, can be bad, associated with planets and astrology, etc. Ali A Olomi (@aaolomi on Twitter) does excellent threads on Jinn and the Islamic folklore as there is just too much for me to cover here. However, the concept of gender-changing fountains or natural springs exists in Islamic & Arabic folklore and there as a cult that worshiped transgender or homosexual spirits/deities, which was considered a false religion/deity by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), which is part of the rich tapestry of mythology and folklore.

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George Michael (Saint George Michael of the Faith per @GoingMedieval on Twitter). Image courtesy of Artnet.com

I hope that this small exploration into the very complex and new world of Queer History has opened u some eyes and has made other think about the role of mythology, folklore, and religion in how we see Society. Make no mistake, the LGTBQ+ community has always existed in some shape of form throughout the history of humans and humanity. It’s only through erasure and the loss of knowledge , due to colonization or other accidents (burning of the library of Alexandria comes to mind quite often), that we have to realize how little we know of our ancestors and our own history as humans. There is no one good explanation for why acceptance of all people can exist in one culture or religious beliefs, and yet be so restricted and hated in another. Sexuality and gender is an ongoing discussion in Society and is continually evolving. My hope, with this, is to just open up that doorway a little bit more and take a peak at what came before us. Plus, it as really a lot of fun to research a learn about

Resources

http://www.pride.com

Worldhistory.org

Encyclopedia Britannica

Kari Ellen Gade. “Homosexuality and Rape of Males in Old Norse Law and Literature.” Scandinavian Studies, Vol 58, No 2 (Spring 1986), pages 124-141.

Mythopedia

The Mahabharata

theogony of hesiod

The Golden Ass

https://www.sadhana.org/blog-1/2019/4/1/the-hindu-theology-of-ardhanarvara-the-queer-god

The Illiad

The Aenied

Bruce L. Grieg “Homosexulaity in Anceint Egypt” The Epistle (online journal)

Louis Crompton (2006) Homsexualty & Civilization

GLBTQ Encyclopedia (Archived)

Sami Rainen “Queer Vikings? Transgression of Gender and Same-Sex Encounters in Late Iron Age and Early Medieval Scandanavia.” SQS Februrary 2008.

Ovid’s Metamorpahsis

https://www.advocate.com/religion/2016/9/06/19-lgbt-hindu-gods

Queer History (Part 1): 18th Century

I, stupidly, checked my comments recently and approved (yes, I can approve or trash comments and mostly I approve them-even the hate filled ones) a commentary from someone stating that they find my Mary Anning post to be racist and anti-Queer because I didn’t like how the filmmaker made Mary Anning a lesbian. Well, I didn’t like the representation because it was poorly written and just historically inaccurate on too many levels. But, to show that I DO actually understand Queer History, I have been compiling, and working on, blog posts showing history we need to be aware of.

For today’s awesome look at Queer History, let’s delve into the Macaroni Scandal of 1772 (and no, this ain’t cheddar).

stovetop Mac and Cheese in bowl with fork
Macaroni & Cheese. Sadly, nothing this delicious is the point of this blog. Courtesy of Cookingclassy.com
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Philip_Dawe%2C_The_Macaroni._A_Real_Character_at_the_Late_Masquerade_%281773%29.jpg
The Macaroni by Philip Dawes, circa 1773. Courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library.

A Macaroni (sometimes spelled Maccaroni) is not the infamous Blue Box we know associate the word with. If you are familiar with the term dandy, then this was what a dandy was called prior to the 1800s. If you don’t know what a dandy is, then the most current modern equivalent would probably be metrosexual. Macaronis were effeminate (often outlandishly so) aristocratic or bourgeoisie men who would mix English and Latin together when talking (often called Macaronic Langauge). They were the extreme influencers of their time, but existed on the fringes of Society. They dressed in ways that skewed feminine and masculine ideals, they exhibited behaviors seen as being effeminate, though there is evidence of the style and way of living as being more gender neutral: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male nor female, a thing of the neuter gender, lately [1770] started up among us. It is called a macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasantry, it eats without appetite, it rides without exercise, it wenches without passion” (quoted from the Oxford Magazine in 1770 and fond in Shipley’s article from 1984). And while we (historians and Austen aficionados) tend to think of Macaronis as being queer (i.e. homosexuals), perhaps the truth was they also had a range within themselves, having those who were masculine at one end, feminine at the other, and these neutrals in the middle (the Macaroni Rainbow, as it were). I myself had no idea there could be anything other than the effeminate Macaroni before researching this.

Yankee Doodle.JPG
The lyrics from Yankee Doodle, a song that predates the American Revolution. Public Domain Image

If you have ever attended school in America, at some point you may have sung “Yankee Doodle” and probably never thought about the line bout the feather in the cap an the word Macaroni. In reality, the song is stating, in a very funny way, that the Colonists lived in such a backwater area of the world, the thought of adding a mere feather to one’s hat made the person a “Macaroni.” So, it’s funny, but in a way that we don’t quite understand in today’s world. It’s a part of our history that we have forgotten, sadly, because it’s important to Queer History more than anything else. Side note, I have discovered that the tune to Yankee Doodle possibly goes back to the 14th-16th C (or even earlier) and the song itself is the State song of Connecticut (I suspect this will end up on an episode of Jeopardy or has already made an appearance). Peter McNeil, who studies fashion an design, was quoted in Studies in Ephemera, that the Macaroni Sub-Culture could be seen as a precursor the the Molly Sub-Culture, which then morphed into Victorian Gay Culture, and is part of the evolution of the LGTBQ+ community (Past & Present). Dear Reader, such insight blew my mind. Molly Culture is something I will be discussing in the near future, but knowing there was an earlier culture? Incredible! And if you think Macaroni culture was just a passing phase, Oliver Goldsmith mentions it in his 1773 play, She Stoops to Conquer, which makes his play contemporary to the scandal. Ah yes, the scandal.

Two Ladies and an Officer Seated at Tea
1715, Two Ladies & an Officer Seated at Tea (attributed to the Dutch School). Courtesy of the V&A Musuem

1772 was not a good year for Captain Robert Jones. Jones was convicted of Sodomy in July 1772 in the Old Bailey (well-known Court) and sentenced to hang. Pedophilia as something that was, perhaps, not seen as a crime in those days because the person Jones had sex with was a 13 year old boy. A boy, Francis Henry Hay, who from his testimony, was groomed and had been “readied” for sex. The age of consent for males was 14 at this time, so if the child had been 14, he would have been convicted for Sodomy as well. Now, this is the shocking part, Robert ones was given a Royal Pardon in August that same year. George III was not “mad” at this time in his reign, so he knowingly and willingly pardoned a person who raped a child. Scandalous, is it not? So, what makes this something we should know about? Well, firstly, that Sodomy was considered a crime prior to Oscar Wilde (for some reason, people think it was made a crime at that time in history, when it predates Wilde by over 100 years). Also, to acknowledge homosexuals did exist in Society, at all levels of Society, and have for hundreds and thousands of years. Jones was most likely given a Royal Pardon because he was so well-liked by Society (sad, but true). Jones petitioned and was granted a stay of execution, which equates to a pardon, with the understanding he had to exile himself from England. He was a lieutenant in the British Army, but seemed to have been called “Captain” as a sort of nickname (perhaps one he gave himself). Jones was popular for writing two books. The first on figure skating that went thorough several printings in 1772 and was very, very popular. He also wrote a book on fireworks that was published in 1765. Both books helped make such things acceptable and popular outdoor forms of entertainment. Ice skating had been around for years prior to Jones’ book, but his was the first known book on figure skating, with details on how to do maneuvers like the Flying Mercury.

Masquerades in the Pleasure Gardens | Museum of London
April 1795 Masquerade by Laurie & Whittle of London. Courtesy of the Museum of London

It seemed Robert was also very well-known for his costuming choices in masquerades and often written about in gossip news-sheets and mentions in letters (and diaries). So, his trial, and the after effects, would have been well-documented because he was such a pubic figure, which is a boon for us. He exiled himself to the South of France, where he live with another young boy (and yes, it was written that this boy & lover was lovely, which makes me sick). Now, you may ask, why should we talk about this guy? Well, first because this was very much a public trial. This was OJ Simpson type of news media coverage. For a subculture, the Macaronis, were under extreme scrutiny because of the disgusting actions of Robert Jones. It must have been devastating to try and live at a time when knowledge that one could be executed for being gay is ever present. As for the pedophilia, it is a disgusting thing to state, but there is still this belief that having sex with a virgin (male or female) can cures diseases. Back in the 17th Century, men with syphilis would often rape boys and girls, trying to cure their own disease, but managed to infect young children, who died from it. Today, men with HIV & AIDS continue to rape children thinking a virgin will cure them of the disease. I do sometimes wonder if some of the pedophilia I have come across in regards to homosexuality, could possibly be linked to this mindset. Then again, I kind of want them to be gutted publicly for the harm they caused.

17th and 18th century broadsides and pamphlets, 11 volumes | English  Literature, History, Science, Children's Books and Illustrations Online |  Books & Manuscripts | Sotheby's
17th C Broadsheet of the Execution of King Charles. Courtesy of Sothebys

Now, you may ask, was Jones the only scandal to take place in 1772? No, he wasn’t but he is the most well known. The second one is Samuel Drybutter. Poor Samuel lived life as an open gay man in the 18th Century. Probably not the wisest choice to make. He has a well documented case history of brushes with the law, primarily dealing with his selling of luxury items and accusations of theft, fraud, etc. But, what is most interesting, is starting in 1770, he is being charged and convicted of solicitation of men for sex in St. James’ Park. Drybutter is a very repeat offender in this area. From 1770 until about 1781, there are at least two arrests per year regarding Samuel and his attempt to pick up men. A few of them, unfortunately, are also of young men (possibly boys), which considering most of his interactions are with adult men, one does wonder if seeking young men (or boys) was his belief in the syphilis (or another STD) cure, or if he was also a pedophile. Drybutter notoriously allowed Jones to stay with him after the pardon and before Jones left for Europe. Samuel was known to be a prominent member of the Macaroni Club, meaning Society knew he was gay and had known for a long time. Samuel fled to Europe in 1781 after beaten almost to his death, dying abroad in 1787. He continued to live as an openly gay man, which really was a very difficult thing to do at this time.

Samuel Drybutter | British Museum
Satirical Print featuring Samuel Drybutter by Matthew Darly, 1771-1772. Courtesy of the British Museum

1772 was also bad for us Theatre folk as Isaac Bickerstaffe had to flee England for an unknown crime (possibly sodomy). Bickerstaffe was a very popular operatic comedy writer and friend to David Garrick (yes THAT Garrick). He was known to have had a long standing affair with a male opera dancer (no hint of underage shenanigans, thank goodness), and possibly he may have been Garrick’s lover. Possibly as Garrick quite adamantly distanced himself from his once close friend in 1772, even going so far as to refuse to lend the poor man money or even answer his letters. The letters, strangely enough, Garrick kept. Now, considering how difficult it was to be involved in Theatre (even now, there are myths that anyone involved in Theatre is promiscuous for some reason and if by promiscuous, you infer drinking copious amounts of caffeine), it is no wonder Garrick distanced himself from Isaac and homosexuality. Isaac was never a popular writer after he fled and lived in self-exile. He continued to write and send plays to people who could have performed them, bringing him back to his former fame and fortune. Yet that threat of sodomy (and the executions) kept him in poverty and in obscurity.

Love in a village ... The fourth edition. By Isaac Bickerstaffe - Isaac  BICKERSTAFFE - Google Books
Bickerstaffe’s most popular work, which is available for free via Googlebooks.

This brings us back too the concept of the Macaroni. Captain Jones, because his case was the biggest scandal in 1772, was often referred to as the Military Macaroni. Recall, earlier I mentioned Macaronis were more of a style and way of living, not a sexuality. BUT, by equating Jones WITH that lifestyle, one can see how we start to equate certain styles of dress and fashion with sexuality (fashion and sexuality have always been linked, but the concept of linking very specific ways of dressing with sexuality was not, to my current knowledge, that commonplace in previous centuries). If Macaronis tended to be more gender fluid (as in embracing aspects of both genders), then Jones did more harm to the acceptance of homosexuality in the 18th and 19th C by being associated with them. We should discuss, at the same time, how the idea of being flamboyant, or effeminate, now equated male homosexuality and how, the reverse, of being a butch or masculine, (or rough manners) must have also starting to be formed for female homosexuality. We still deal with the aftereffects of this mindset to this day. Major cosmetic companies still have trouble catering products to men because makeup is seen as effeminate, and therefore, unacceptable. If it is perfectly fine for me to have, and use, a face wash, face scrub, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen, then is should be as acceptable for my BF to do the same (which he has 3 separate products, I am very proud to say). Even though, historically, makeup was worn primarily by men (same with lace, ribbons, bright pastels and silk stockings WITH red heeled shoes). Makeup is just makeup. It should be gender free because it was originally gender free. Ancient Egyptians of both genders wore makeup. So yes, I do blame Captain Jones for starting this division as to what each gender should adhere to. Personally, I also think the bastard should have been executed for raping a child on numerous occasions (because sexually abusing a child is never OK). And because we have no definite way of knowing when gender roles became so rigid, he is now my personal whipping post.

See Stunning Photos of King Tut's Tomb After a Major Restoration - HISTORY
A mural from King Tutankhamen’s Tomb. We should all aspire to that level of eyeliner. Courtesy of National Geographic

Because we have so little positive examples of Queer History out there, I would love a fake historical novel about a Macaroni who lived during this chaotic time and died sometime around 1830. Because it would be an interesting way of looking at what any person who wasn’t straight had to be confronted with, especially when it comes to this scandalous year and the aftereffects. I am also humble enough to know that I am not the right person to write such a tale. I struggle enough as it is writing my male characters, so only writing from the perspective of one is beyond my abilities as a writer. But it is a thought, a wish, that I hope may inspire someone to write such a story.

GET TO KNOW: ZACK PINSENT - HEY GIRL MAGAZINE
Zack Pinsent, courtesy of Hey Girl Magazine. I would love to meet this man and get sewing tips!

The only modern person whom I can think of who truly embodies the whole Marconi/Dandy aesthetic, if we really want to be 18th & 19th C nitpicky here (and I am), is Zack Pinsent of Pinsent Tailoring. He is a very proud member of the LGTBQ+ community in England and when I am trying to wrap my head around how a Macaroni, or even a Regency Dandy, may have dressed, this is the guy I look to. Plus, he really helps me, who loves the fashions and dearly wants to have a few Regency Era dresses to gander about in, understand the sewing of such garments much better and the social implications they may have had. Because, Dear Reader, I am always wanting to better my own understanding of this Era that any useful source of information must be a boon. But also, I mention Zack Pinsent because I am not a gay man. I would have no idea the struggles a gay man in our time, let alone the time of Austen, many have faced. Zack is, I will gladly admit, one of the reasons for this look into Queer History and Austen (this is also why I looked into the history of people of color prior o the 20th C). Because I want to know more and do the characters I have planned to be these representations to do justice to people like Isaac Bickerstaffe, the Macaroni Set, the Mollys, the Boston Marriages.

Part 2 will be a look back at people before the 18th C (which is why it will not be so in depth), then I hope to give a glorious account of Boston Marriages, the Molly Set and Mademoiselle de Beaumont. I have already mentioned the glorious William Brown in the last Part of my Black History Month blog posts, but I many mention them again 🙂

I must also report that I have eaten Pheasant (because, research). Smells a bit like turkey, so a bit gamy meets poultry. Tastes bland, like really bland turkey. I can see why they used so many sauces back then. The cats, however, enjoyed it greatly.

Resources:

Dominic Janes (Keele Uiversity): Macaroni Scandal article for The Conversation (July 2018)

Joseph Twadell Shipley, The Origins of English Words: A Discursive Dictionary of Indo-European Roots (JHU Press) 1984:143.

Murphy, Kevin; O’Driscoll, Sally (2013). Studies in Ephemera: Text & Image in 18th C Print

richtornorton.co.uk (this is my go-to for any and all research and sexuality in the 18th C)

homohistory.com

pinsenttailoring.co.uk

heygirlmagazine.com

historic-uk.com

V&A (Victoria and Albert Museum)

Re-Editing, Re-editing, and Re-editing

For roughly almost all of last year, I did not work on my first novel at all. One, it was hard because COVID had all of us hunkering down and stressed out that trying to do anything that required a lot of concentration was just pointless. This doesn’t’ mean I wasn’t working on any writing projects. I did many blog posts that were dear to my heart (and a few of those that I started researching last year will finally be completed this year because, yes, I DO take my time with researching and writing these posts). Plus I did more research (general) into the 19th C for the other 5 novels (6 Austen variations because there are 6 completed Austen novels). Then I decided to do some research into Faerie Tales (because I had once scribbled an idea back when I was 15 that I do think may be fun projects). I also adopted another cat (Parker) as companion to Henry. Met a wonderful guy (and still going strong over a year later), watched a lot of films, read a lot of books. Gained a bit of weight (as did we all I imagine). But now, I am back on board with re-editing my novel. Egads!

Northanger Abbey: Our Hero Henry Tilney | Austenprose – A Jane Austen Blog
JJ Fields as Henry Tilney (Northanger Abbey). Courtesy of Pinterest. Also the namesake of my cat, Henry.

So, what’s it like to come back to a novel that once was all consuming, read it, and discover that there are parts you no longer like? A bit weird, to be completely honest. In a way, I feel closer to Jane Austen (who famously re-wrote her novels over and over again, over a period of years) and other writers, both departed and contemporary. We must, after all, be our own worst critic and our most fervent admirer. Re-reading my own novel is surreal. There is no other way to describe it (unless we want to say it’s a bit like schadenfreude, except we are taking our pleasure from our own misfortune). There are parts that I immediately know must be cut because they do nothing to advance the tale. There are parts that can easily be condensed and explained in a sentence or two instead of paragraph after paragraph. In some ways, I was much more into describing than showing, which is a fault most (academically trained) writers probably have. This is why we edit.

Jane Austen Manuscript Chapter 10
Jane Austen’ editing process. Courtesy of the British Library.

Both Cassandra and Henry Austen made statements in their later lives regarding Jane’s writing process. It should come to no surprise that she had outlines and knew how she wanted each of her noels to end (I do that as well). But like most writers, even she probably acknowledged that after writing and editing the first time, sometime things have to be changed because what you thought may have been a good choice (like a name or even an ending), just doesn’t work as well. It seems Jane was forever rewriting her novels into newer drafts, editing them, changing them, chipping way at the excess until she deemed them to be ready to be published. And that is all I am doing as well. Since the age of 19, I had outlined and had these thoughts of re-working Jane’s novels in such a way as to include a bit more history (because we are so removed from her time, we forget some of the most basic knowledge her audience had, we no longer have), but in a way that is fun and gives us the endings we want, but in a different way. Now, in my naivete, I did write a fan letter to Jane Odiwe when I was 19, wanting some advice from an author I admired about whether or not my idea would work. Now, not to besmirch Odiwe (for I do admire her for her storytelling and her love of Austen), imagine how shocked I was when her “Searching For” series started coming out and I realized my fan letter from all those years ago, when I had stupidly written her an outline of my idea, became her reality.

Searching for Captain Wentworth by Jane Odiwe
Courtesy of Amazon

Then, I read it. Well, not all of them, just the one regarding Captain Wentworth because it was the one I had foolishly outlined for her in that letter years ago. Dear Reader, hers is enjoyable, but nothing like mine. Other than taking the name (because I did give her the title of my novel as Searching for Captain Wentworth), and the premise of time travel (which, thankfully, I abandoned when I was 21 and opted for another route), I know my novel will not suffer nor (hopefully) be compared to hers. Now, I do not blame Jane Odiwe. After all, a fan letter from over 20 years ago (to which I never received any reply and please recall this was early in the age of emails and twitter did not exist), to which she may have read (or had been read for her and to her), probably installed a nugget of an idea that inspired her. For that, I am humbled because what she ended up writing is nothing to what my plans have become. While hers has involved time travel, and not much accuracy in terms of history, they are sweet pieces of fiction and, dare I state, love letters to Austen herself. While my concept is more about fleshing out some of the characters and giving a bit of background, with some fantasy and witticisms thrown in for good measure. The hard part, of course, is the whole getting of an agent. Because my original title was stolen, I had to change mine. And because it sounds similar to Odiwe’s, some agents refuse to read even the first chapter.

Inside Out in the Office: A Closer Look at Anger
Anger from Pixar’s Inside Out. Courtesy of Pixar/Disney

Does this anger me? Of course! I’ve also gotten comments such as I seem to write English fairly well for someone with my name (because people with Arabic names can clearly not understand the complexities of the English tongue), or I had no right to be writing Austen (because it’s only the domain of….whites?). I’ve even had agents state my novel is too ambitious (and too much like Austen), I should consider throwing in sex scenes instead of wanting to keep it sex free. The audacity of it all (because while Austen did not show sex and her novels are really sex-free, she did include romance and sensuality, which I have striven to retain). Having not touched it for a year, I am more determined than ever to edit it (again, for it seems to be the 6th or 7th time now), really make it as good as I can, then query agents again later this year. Yes, I expect I will have more rejection letters than acceptance. Yes, I still struggle with HOW to query successfully because no matter how many blog posts and tips (and hints) agents have given, none of them have worked for me.

3 Ways to Get a Literary Agent - Keller Media, Inc.
Courtesy of Keller Media

There is, of course, the more modern route which is to self publish. My boyfriend has self published 2 novels and 1 collection of short stories (and no, I have not read them). I will most likely self publish my poetry (literary agents for poetry is almost non existent and I’m sure the competition is even harder). I do plan on sending poems out to online journals and other publications to get some in print, because I do think having some of it out there would be a good thing. I have, over the past 2-3 years, have sent them to online magazines and journals with no response, but hopefully that will change. Of course, I have also, technically, self published a few poems here on this blog (and a few on Poetry.com-remember that old site? Those poems are long gone, in terms of online presence as I do have them written down). And I did get one or two published in my college days (and one in my high school days as well). So, I have no issues with going this route for poetry. But for the novels? Perhaps I am a bit old fashioned but I really do want to try and find an agent. I know so many books on Amazon are self published (it seems so many go this route and the offerings can be incredible to god awful all in one book that has to be split into 3 or more). And while that is an option, I want the agent for the simple reason that I want to see my books in stores. I want to see them in libraries. I want this little bit of myself to outlive me in print form (my immortality, as it were). Would it be nice to know that 200 years from now, my works could inspire others? Of course! I’d be pleased if my works inspired someone even 10 years down the road!

So, back to editing. That dreaded business for which others have worked with professionals. And yes, a professional editor would probably be very helpful. Yet I want to work the story to the best of my ability FIRST, then sending it off to an agent (hopefully). And then, if an editor is brought in, I would not mind. I see professional editors as that final step in polishing a work. My novel is still a bit rough, so to speak, and I want to be able to smooth it out and have that knowledge that I did so before even thinking of handing it off. Because what I know I can chip away, an editor may also chip away, or they may chip away more than what I think should be done. While I always am astounded with the stories coming out with people who wrote and then found an agent, and saw their book published all during the lockdowns, that is not normal when it comes to the literary world. For one thing, having these tales out and about make it seem as if writing a novel and getting signed to an agency is extremely easy ad those of us who struggle MUST be lacking in some way. This is simply not true. For a novel to have been written, queried, signed, then published in the span of 10 months tells me (as it should others) that the novel is probably very rough or very short and most likely (and I hate to write this), but not well written. Most novels take 2 years MINIMUM from when they are accepted to when they are published. Sometimes more IF one does not have an agent is is looking for one. In other words, this is not a fast sprint to the finish line. This is carving Michelangelo’s DAVID.

Why Tom Holland's Spider-Man/Peter Parker Is The Worst One Yet |  Moviedash.com
Tom Holland as Spider-Man/Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming (and yes, the inspiration for my cat, Parker/Peter Parker). Courtesy of MCU/SONY

Like any long term anything, patience, fortitude, and stamina is key. Now, with the whole COVID thing, I know my Depression & Anxiety have gotten worse, which means my attention span is not the best.

Red squirrel - Wikipedia
Red Squirrel. Courtesy of Wikipedia. And yes, my attention span has sometimes been THAT short.

HOWEVER, with things improving, and hopefully some medication tweaks, my attention span will be much improved and I can edit for longer periods of time rather than doing half a chapter a week. Naturally, editing on a computer screen is also not ideal, but I am determined to do this more choppy edit on the computer first. Then I may consider getting it all printed out and doing a more traditional edit like Austen did (and that I did my second time around too). So, I am basically trying to tell you, Dear Reader, that if you are also in a similar boat as I am, and struggling with writing or editing, take a break. Walk away for a bit. It seems a bit daft, but it helps. It truly does. I do believe not looking at it for abut a year has made it easier for me to make those bigger edits that the novel needs to be a better, more cohesive, story. We do, after all, tend to get very attached to our writings and it’s hard to look at it objectively when the struggle, the effort it took to bring it all about is still so fresh. IF you are doing a dissertation (as I have friends who are currently doing this), walking away for a long period of time is NOT doable. Sadly. BUT (and this is vitally important), walking away for a day or two does help.

Pin on Writing Superboards
Found on Pinterest

Witting is a process and when you first get everything down, like any parent, you think it’s a masterpiece and utter perfection. Dear Reader, it is not. And that can be very hard to understand as well as being very hard to accept. Now, I did do 2 edits back to back after I first finished the novel over 2 years ago, walked way, then came back after a mere 3 weeks and did, I believe, 2 or 3 more edits. It was not enough time for I was still too much attached to certain passages and characters to be objective. But now, having given it nary a glance for 10 months, I can be more harsh, more critical of my own failings and work. It’s much easier to remove one or two entire paragraphs, condensing it to 2 or 3 sentences when I am not so adamantly attached to them. What I am trying to stress, of course, is editing is hard. It’s a lot or work, and it’s not going to be easy. DO edit after you first finish. I found so many typing errors it was not humorous. But then walk away for a least 3-4 months. Then, come back, do another edit. Walk away for a few more months, then come back to edit it again. If I had known this, I do think this novel of mine would be at that stage here I can query an agent. But this is entirely my failing and one I know I will never repeat. Learn from this, Dear Reader, for it’s advice I know I would have liked to have been given and one I have yet to come across elsewhere.

As for Jane Odiwe, I wish her no ill will nor any regrets. My fan letter was so long ago that she probably had no memory what I wrote when she started writing the “Searching For” series. And I am completely at peace with that You have to realize that there are so many people writing Regency type novels out there that anyone who is able to stand out, even a bit, is a credit to those of us who are dabbling in this genre. While mine are more fantasy variations with historical underpinnings, there are variations out there doing “what ifs”, mysteries, sequels, etc. If you ever Google it, there are more variations, sequels, and themes on Pride & Prejudice than any other Austen Novel. And while I could have gone the route of doing P&P first, I wanted to focus on Persuasion because it is the novel (besides Northanger Abbey) that I love the most. Both of those novels are also the least adapted (film & TV wise) and have the least variations, which is a great pity, is it not? For we have Wentworth writing the best love letter in all of Austen and Tilney, who knows his muslin (and smirks quite often). So take heart. Keep typing or writing away (I wrote mine out first on paper, roughly a third, then switched to typing). Keep researching (if that’s your thing). And keep dreaming.

A Mary Anning Appreciation Post

WIN tickets to new movie Ammonite | The Senior | 2259
A Film loosely based on the life of Mary Anning released 2020.

When Ammonite was being talked about, I was excited. I am someone who has a yen for Dinosaurs (well, anything Paleontological to be perfectly honest), so a biopic on Mary Anning, the first [well-known] female Paleontologist, was excellent news! Then the premise was released and my heart sank in disappointment. Now, I have nothing against promoting Queer History and having it represented in the media (Gentleman Jack is a great example of Queer History done right), but I also feel it hurts the progress the LGTBQ+ Community when it is added for no other reason than to cause debates and it focuses the attention of the person on their genitalia (and what they did sexually or not) instead of their accomplishments. For example, Bohemian Rhapsody was touted as a Freddie Mercury & Queen biopic but shied away from any outwardly depiction of Freddie Mercury’s sexual preferences that weren’t heterosexual (notice the focus was more about his relationship with Mary Austin, with his band-mates taking second place, but very little mention was made over his male lovers or his partner, Jim Hutton). It would have been better, considering how much Freddie Mercury continues to influence the LGBTQ+ Community to show his same-sex relationships (both good & bad). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Bohemian Rhapsody. I was thrilled that they got Rami Malek to play Freddie because it matters that a person of color play a person of color. And while I was happy he was nominated, and then won, it wasn’t as groundbreaking as I had hoped it would be. I wanted to know what parts of his personal journey helped shape him and his music. I mean, we know this happened but I would have liked to have been shown it. However, Rocket Man showed Elton John’s sexual preference as being part of who he is and how no one who truly loved him, cared who he slept with. We saw that he had relationships that were good and ones that were bad. And how they shaped him to be the man we see at the end of the film. Plus, we saw how the choices he made, both good and bad, influenced his music and his future relationships along the way. It was a biopic done right (especially the way they handle the incorporation of the music because it just worked so well).

Elton John Compares 'Rocketman' With 'Bohemian Rhapsody' - Variety
Taron Egerton as Elton John in Rocket Man (2019). Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). Courtesy of Variety.com

Mary Anning did not have a sexual relationship with Charlotte Murchinson. They meet, briefly, in Lyme Regis and corresponded over the years. This film, instead, tries to depict these two as star cross lovers torn apart by Society. Unless we want to infer that Mary was a female rake who could easily seduce a woman, make her fall in love, and then break her heart in a mere matter of weeks, we have problems with this film. Instead of celebrating the awesome story of a woman who contributed greatly to the field of Paleontology (Anning) and woman ho also contributed to the field of Geology (Murchinson), Director Frances Lee decides to focus on a “what if” sexual relationship. Thus boiling down any contributions these women made to science down to their sexuality. It is a form of erasure, in a way. Instead of looking at these women as intelligent scientists, Lee equates them as sexual creatures FIRST with some inclination towards scientific thought. Anning found the first intact Plesiosaur skeleton (think Loch Ness Monster). In 1811, when Mary was 12, she and her brother found a skull, which was roughly 4 foot long. She went on and found the rest of the skeleton a few months later. This ended up being an Ichthyosaur. The Anning family were known to sell fossils to collectors and to museums, so for the children to have found a specimen would not have been unusual. But what is most unusual is by 1820-1825, it was only Mary who was finding and selling the fossils, her brother having been apprenticed out (the father passed in 1812). She uncovered a Pterosaur in 1828 in the cliffs of Lyme Regis and this was first Pterosaur found outside of Germany at this time (Pterodacytylus macroynx). Mary excavated a transitionary fossil between sharks and rays/fish called Squaloraja in 1829. Anning was a self taught Paleontologist, Geologist, scientific illustrator, and Anatomist. Her discoveries have been long thought to have inspired Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Mary Anning was recognized as one of the 10 most influential women scientists in Britain in 2010. Yet his film does nothing but consider all of these accomplishments as being less than important than who she may have slept with.

Portrait of a woman in bonnet and long dress holding rock hammer, pointing at fossil next to a spaniel dog lying on ground.
Mary Anning & Her Dog (Circa 1830s-1840s) attributed to Mr. Grey. Courtesy of National History Museum
Mary Anning (1799-1847)
One of the many scientific drawings done by Mary Anning. Courtesy of UCMP.Berkely.EDU

Of course, the reason Francis Lee has decided to portray Mary Anning as a lesbian is solely based on the fact she remained unmarried and there is no evidence she had any relationships (heterosexual or homosexual), which must mean she was hiding something. By tying her scientific contributions to her sexuality, Lee has, perhaps unintentionally, equated any woman’s contributions to Society as being sexually motivated. It may come as a shock, but contributions to Art, Science, History, etc are not necessarily tied to what we do in the privacy of our own home. Now, if her sexuality had been an influenced, say, her scientific interests then yes, I would have applauded it being shown if done right.

Mary was born in 1799 in Lyme Regis, and if the location sounds familiar, it was featured in Jane Austen’s Persuasion as the location of The Cobb where poor Miss Musgrove hurt herself. Lyme Regis (located in Dorset) is known for it’s plentiful shale deposits, which often contain fossils. Many tend to be small (like ammonites and other creatures), but sea creatures have been routinely found in the cliff facings as well. It was a popular (but waning) seaside resort town (Brighton having taken it’s place as the primary go-to area, with Bath being secondary). But, if you recall from any previous posts regarding Austen herself, in 1799 England was at war with the US. Her life, like that of Austen, was a life revolving around War coupled with the restrictions placed upon her by Society due to her sex. Because there is no writings (family or otherwise) to indicate she was ever in love, the conclusion must be she was a lesbian. The truth was she was one of 2 children (out of 10) who survived into adulthood. Her father died when she was fairly young and she and her brother, Joseph, took up the fossil hunting trade to generate an income. Odd how any man who was not married during this same period is not automatically labeled as being a homosexual (the hypocrisy of it all and yes, I am LOOKING at you Horace Walpole).

drawing of side view of a long thin skull with needle like teeth and a large eye socket
An 1814 drawing by Everard Home for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society depicting a Temnodontosaurus (originally Ichthyosaurus) skull found by Joseph & Mary Anning in 1811

Gera Lerner in her 1975 article in Feminist Studies asked how do notable women in history get written about, stressing the emphasis on how historians (in the 1970s) disregarded contributions of women overall: “Women of different classes have different historical experiences (5)”. Lerner also points out how women were viewed in the 19th Century were based on extensions of their normal duties. Education of the poor was seen as an extension of teaching children in the home. Which is still an issue we continue to face today. They “conducted their lives (5)” according to the male-dominated accepted role for them. Austen, being a writer, was acceptable because there were other women who were writing, and being published. Women writing primarily for women is fine because it doesn’t change the dominance of men in Society (especially since Austen’s brother Henry made the publishing deals, so while she wrote the books, he controlled hat happened to them). And yes, Mary Anning did fit into this role in her own way. She worked in a family run business started by her parents for extra income. Continuing this work as a means of generating an income after he death of her father would have been deemed as an acceptable position for a young girl and her brother because they had such a large family. Continuing to go this route when her brother was apprenticed elsewhere would have also been socially normal considering they were not part of the middle class, but were the working poor. Not being married, I have to state, was not an unusual occurrence for women at this time. Mary was one of 10 children. Her mother not only buried her husband, but eight of her children. Compare to the Austen Family, who had all he children survive into Adulthood (being middle class and having better access to food and medicine). Mary may have decided it would be better for her to continue to support her mother with fossil hunting than trying to find a husband and slip into extreme poverty (which was always the threat of any working woman, including Austen herself). On top of that, she had much less education than Austen and everything she did was primarily self-taught, whereas Austen had the support of a large family, that included members of the Aristocracy. Plus, I must point out that since this was a time of war, women outnumbered men so it would have been perfectly normal for there to be unmarried women over the age of 30 at this time (The Civil War in America produced a similar effect).

Sketch of house with two large front windows on either side of a front door and next to the steps leading up from the street to the door are two partially open cellar doors
June 1842 sketch of Mary Anning’s home in Lyme Regis by W. H. Prideaux and Edward Liddon. Courtesy of the BBC

When a generation of men have been killed, there will be a generation of women who will end up living alone. Mary died of Breast cancer in 1847 at the age of 47. She had not been welcomed into the Scientific community because she was a woman, but later generations have remembered and thought fondly of her. It is surprising that when she died, the Geological Society at that time spoke about her contributions, which is good, but also a bit sad it took her passing to get a bunch of men to acknowledge her importance to Science.But we must also remember is she had no male advocates who had the wealth, and influence, to see she was acknowledged better and more widely.

print of the Ladies of Llangollen
Sarah Ponsonby (left) and Lady Eleanor Butler, known as the Ladies of Llangollen, who were in a “Boston Marriage.” Lithograph by J.H. Lynch, 1830s. Public Domain

Mary and Charlotte meet briefly in 1825 ( a few weeks) and Mary meet her again in London in 1829. They corresponded as late as 1833, possibly up until Mary’s death in 1847. The relationship in the film Ammonite seems to be inspired by the relationship Mary Anning had with Frances Bell, who really did exist. But when Frances came to Lyme Regis to learn how to find and clean fossils from Mary, she was 14 and Mary 24. I highly doubt Mary saw Frances as a lover (unless we want to label her as a pedophile, which we don’t). Frances died young, at age 15 and Mary was, understandably, upset. Mary considered Frances one of her truest friends (possibly because they had a love of fossils). She may have considered Frances as her own personal protegee, seeing herself in a younger person. Instead, the film moves the actual time of the mid 1820s to 1840, but also makes Charlotte younger, naive, and incredibly stupid. It’s a slap in the face to any woman with a working mind.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Screen-Shot-2014-07-05-at-11.01.45-580x384.png
‘The Light of Science’ a satirical cartoon by Henry T De la Beche (1832) featuring Charlotte Murchison. Courtesy of Trowel Blazers


Charlotte Murchinson was born a full 11 years before Mary Anning in 1788 (but is portrayed much much younger in the film). Her father was a general and her mother was an amateur botanist. Charlotte married at the age of 27, which was considered fairly late in life, to a solider .They traveled Europe, where she made observations of the different geological features and botany. She had amassed a fossil collection of her own that was so diverse, leading men in the field of Geology would often use her specimens in their publications. While her husband focused on Geology (and became a member of the Royal Geological Society), Charlotte seemed to be more interested in minerals. She persisted and won the right to attend geological lectures at King’s College in 1831, which had been closed to women at that point. Charlotte was well traveled and her insights no doubt helped her husband in the field of geology She was no idiot as and was not the simpering weakling that she is being portrayed as. For any woman to demand to sit in on Geological lectures that are closed, and to have won the right to sit in on them, was no weak woman. She is also shown in the film to be incredibly stupid, bordering on extreme naivete, which is really gross.

Anne Lister - Wikipedia
Anne Lister by Joshua Horner, circa 1830. Public Domain

Besides Charlotte, Mary did have other friendship with women who were scientists as well. Mary Buckland being one such woman and Elizabeth Philpot the other. Instead of showing that Mary Anning had been surrounded by likewise minded women, Lee combines all these female friendships into one, but adds sex. I would have been much happier of the film was more about Mary befriending an unknown woman (a fictional character, if you will) and teaching her how she did what she did, or explaining how she hunts fossils, and develop that into a relationship (and possible Boston Marriage). It would have been more interesting, for me at any rate. Instead, we get a rough and not very feminine Mary, pissing in full view of the public, wiping her hands on her skirt, then handing a Cornish Pasty to Charlotte. So, Mary is being portrayed as “Butch” to counter the femininity of Charlotte (which is a sad troupe). She would ever have relieved herself in that way-she would have gone off a bit for privacy as any of us would do. Plus, there is an ocean, consisting of water, right there, to wash her hands off. Literally a body of water. And since she lived in Dorset, a Cornish Pasty IS NOT appropriate. Hand held eat pies did exist, but do be so specific as to a Cornish Pasty-just no. And let us also address that for a seaside town that was known to have a population of Black people, nary a one is ever seen. Lyme Regis was a popular seaside resort that was replaced by Bath (then Brighton), which means people from all classes (and yes, this includes Black people) lived there year round since before 1800. Especially since it was tied to Sailors and the Navy, which employed many Black people at this time. But, I must not forget that the director of this film is a man, who views the women in the film with the gaze of men. And if we want to portray her as a lesbian, then I would have no issue with it IF it were done with a little more finesse. Mary spent more time with Elizabeth Philpot and Mary Buckland than Charlotte. If a relationship would have occurred, I would have found it much more believable to have been either of these women than Charlotte because they were there longer, and also were the stronger relationships in Mary’s life. They even could have, because Mary really was found of Frances in real life, aged Frances up to be in her twenties and used that as a passionate, real-life relationship which ended in Frances’ death at a young age from something like pneumonia. Because that feels more true to the person who was Mary Anning, but also more true historically. And I would have had the guts to not only show Lyme Regis as being diverse, but would have made Frances not white. But then, I am wanting to make the film for women, and women of color, and not for the male gaze.

Out of the deep | Oxford University Museum of Natural History
A Plesiosaur hunting. Courtesy of Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Christobel Hasting stated “Note the wide eyes, the tumbling ringlets, the peaches-and-cream complexions of the protagonists. Then look at the narratives that posit same-gender sexuality as a source of inevitable pain and struggle” as a reoccurring theme in all Lesbian period dramas. Hastings, in this article (and it’s well-written, I highly recommend it) also discusses the erasure of POC from these pieces, which also erases them from the narrative overall. Now, when I first wrote and published this blog, I did not include any commentary on this and it is clearly a mistake on my part and I fully take on this blame. I truly wanted to focus on just how awful they portrayed Mary Anning (and Charlotte) that I neglected to think how it might be perceived to use a piece discussing the erasure of people of color and not address it. And yes, I should have and that is why I am editing this to include this discussion. Because, Dear Reader, I am not perfect and I want to own up when a mistake has been made (I also had to delete a comment and my response because the a troll trying to imitate another person then sent some truly awful email to me via this blog and that’s just vile and caused some serious metal health issues for me).

While I praise Gentleman Jack for its honesty, it IS one of these white period dramas written. But here Gentleman Jack succeeds it’s (dramatized) the real life story of Anne Lister and her relationship with her wife. Now, of course, the series could diversify the cast (and I would love it) because there was diversity in England at that time. It would be an easy thing to start to include and I think many of us would be thrilled by this. Now, previously, I had not included any commentary on that in this originally, but that was clearly a fault of mine because we should also address the erasure of any person of color in this narrative of period drama. As I am also aware that it’s an area that makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Its perhaps easier to make Queer History more palatable when the primary target audience are white conservatives (and possibly male). And hey, I get it. It’s easier to drum up sympathy for two white women in early Victorian England, then, say, two women in India or Africa or South America. Because it doesn’t seem to matter, which is really sad. Plus, setting it in the mid 19th C is all too easy. It’s a bit lazy, to be perfectly honest. Most view the 19th C as being an era of sexual repression to begin with, so tossing in any aspect of LGBTQ+ references makes an easy sell. So, yes, this film also lacks basic diversity. And I mean basic. Most period dramas showcasing the 19th century seem to leave out any person of color unless it revolves around the Civil War. Now, Hasting’s article went onto state that this way of filming period Lesbian dramas is done for a reason. That reason being filmmakers are pandering “to the male gaze, and preserve the patriarchal status quo.” Which is something I was probably aware of, but hadn’t really considered that this one way of pandering had to dominate everything at this point in time. Maybe because I had thought with more diverse filmmakers, things would get better (they are, but doesn’t it seem to take forever?). Because the 19th C lesbians are always white. There are always pretty ringlets, big petticoats, soft pale skin. And that seems to be a setting for the male porn gaze than anything else (because, let’s face it, minority representation in LGBTQ+ films is extremely rare to non-existent). After all, we are still dealing with dick jokes in the MCU (so, perhaps filmmakers are catering to teenage boys?)

COVID-19: Lyme Regis Fossil Festival is postponed | Lyme Regis Town Council
Ammnites on Lye Regis Coast. Courtesy of Lyme Regis Town Council

Now, for some reason (well, I know WHY but it’s still irksome) a person, using the name of someone who commented, then decided to send me emails that were truly vile. And I mean downright nasty that it made me cry and not sleep for the past three days. Right now, after spending 40 minutes crying in the shower, I am very close to losing it. And yes, that is scary. Friday is going to be an extremely hard day for me. I am gong to make a police report because of a post I made last year regarding John Ortberg. And yes, I am stressed out about it. There are things in the blog I did NOT make public because some of it is just too painful. When I made the decision to have the knowledge go public earlier this year, I knew there would be a backlash. I knew it. I had dealt with some of it last year, and even some the year before. But now, it’s not something anyone can be prepared for. I’ve gotten emails stating that I am a liar. I’ve had weird comments made on blog posts from when I first started (like 2 years ago) show recently. And the emails-they are the hardest. Now, wisely, if someone emails me off of this blog, it goes to a inbox on this site and sends a copy to my personal account. o, unless I respond from my personal account, you don’t have access to my email address (it’s worth paying the $100 yearly fee for this feature). But the emails range from sending me porn links, to accusing me of being a Qanon conspiracy theorist, to commenting on my whiteness (and not being a person of color), to things that are really not meant to see the light of day. Ever. And it’s currently hard for me to function. I have panic attacks. I am severely depressed. I cannot get my antidepressants because the doctor won’t write a new prescription unless she sees me AND she cannot see me for 3-4 months. I cannot work BECAUSE of the PTSD and Panic Attacks. So, fair warning, if you comment on this post, or email me, do not be shocked if it takes a long time for me to approve the comments. And this is me, the writer removing her mask, saying hey, right now I am really not OK. But I am trying.

2.3 million project for the Cobb at Lyme Regis- or it could face collapse |  Bridport and Lyme Regis News
The Cobb at Lyme Regis. Courtesy of Bridportnews.co.uk

“And sometimes, I have kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language to describe them in”

Jane Austen (Sense & Sensibility)

Resources

Britiaicca.com

Unicversity of CAlifornia-Berkely (Paleontology Department)

Placing Women in History by G. Lerner. Feminist Studies, VOl 3 Issue 1/2 (Autumn 1975)

Introduction to Sociology, Chapter 12 (Gender, Sex, and Sexuality). Available on Opentextbc.ca

Feminist Perspectives on Sex and Gender by Mari Mikkola (2008 & 2017). Available on Plato.Standford.edu

Vanity Fair review of Ammonite (09/2020)

True History of Ammonite (Smithsonian Magazine August 2020)

LGTBQ+ Films: “It’s time for Lesbian love stories that aren’t white period dramas” by Christobel Hastings for Stylist.co.uk

Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Oceansofkansas.com

Lymeregistowncounsil.gov.uk

Newspapers.com

Book Review: Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay

Pirates of the Chesapeake Bay: From the Colonial Era to the Oyster Wars:  Goodall, Jamie L H: 9781540242150: Amazon.com: Books
Available on Amazon

It’s been a while since I did a book review and I must say, this one is going to be a real humdinger! First, let’s just get it out there and acknowledge that for most of us, the concept of Pirates is either influenced by the Disney films, or the swashbuckling films of the 1940s and 1950s (or both is you like pirate films in general). And no matter how much I LOVE Muppet Treasure Island (and I do), it’s really not an accurate portrayal of Piracy (though anything with Tim Curry can be forgiven for accuracy because it’s Tim Curry).

The Spanish Main (1945)
The Spanish Main (1945) courtesy of IMBD.com
Episode 110: Muppet Treasure Island — OVERINVESTED
Tim Curry as Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island. Courtesy of Disney & Henson Studios

I never knew, though long expected, that there was a history of piracy linked to the US and not just the Caribbean/Virgin Island regions. After all, we have long been acclimated to the concept that pirates must exist in tropical climates and must be weird and wacky characters. While they can still be weird and wacky, they don’t necessarily live in tropical weather. Historically, piracy has usually been equally encouraged and equally condemned by any reigning government. Queen Elizabeth I allowed her Naval Armada to commit acts of piracy against Spain all in the name of Patriotism, but condemned any who were committing the same acts against their own countrymen. Jut remember, smuggling and piracy are very much the same thing, just different names (though I tend to think of smugglers as being the land gents while pirates did all the leg work). But this book ha very little to do with Queen Elizabeth I (though England is still involved in this narrative). This book, which I might say unabashedly is a pure delight and a work of superb genius, really opens up the Chesapeake Bay area for those of us who love history.

The Buccaneer by Howard Pyle (1905, but published in Pyle’s Book of Pirates in 1921). Courtesy of the Delaware Art Museum & Public Domain

It should come to no surprise to hose of us who love Early American History that piracy is a legacy that helped shape our nation from the rag-tag collection of colonies to the 13 States up to and after the Civil War. After all, pirates performed a variety of functions that was key to the survival of many of the early Americans. Pirates, when America was still under British Rule, helped supply luxury items and goods that were normally heavily taxed. Pirates helped supply British Goods after America declared its right to Independence. Thy also supplied French goods to American and parts of Europe during the French Revolution (particularly silk, lace, and wine/alcohol). Pirates helped win the war against the British Navy by blockades and providing a small, but strong, presence along the coastlines. Of course, we called these pirates “Patriots” and the British hailed them as Pirates, but they really ere one and the same. This particular presence was vital in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Map of the Great Lakes
The Great Lakes Courtesy of Geology.com
Choosing your Great Loop route - Atlantic to Great Lakes | Waterway Guide  News Update
The waterways leading from the Atlantic & Chesapeake Bay to the Great Lakes. Courtesy of Waterwayguide.com

Unless you don’t live around the Great Lakes region, most people in the US don’t understand how important the Great Lakes is to this day. Or course, most people in the US cannot locate Italy on a map nor understand that Africa is a Continent, not a country (Geography is important). The Great Lakes are the biggest source of fresh water in North America and are still used to transport items from the Atlantic to the Mid-Western US and Canada via canals and waterways. One of the main waterways leading to the Great Lakes is through the Chesapeake Bay area, so I immediately knew that any book detailing Piracy in this area would play into trade. And it does. But in a way that I never thought about. I take it for granted that goods are easily available to me, living here in close proximity to Lake Michigan. But then, most of us do as we have grown up in a time when delivery of goods has been fine tuned that we get upset if something that is promised within 30 minutes shows up 1 minute late. But I am getting a wee bit off topic. The Chesapeake Bay area straddles a wide expanse of Eastern US coastline, so it makes sense that the Colonists would want to protect this area, and the passageway to the interior, from the British.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl Review | Movie -  Empire
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, courtesy of Disney

This doesn’t mean that ALL pirates were on the good side. There was a lot of money to be made capturing ships and getting hold of goods that could be sold. And piracy existed on both sides and there are examples of American’s committing acts of piracy against other Americans (looking at you William Claiborne). And many pirate tales that I clearly remember hearing or reading about as a child are linked to this area of the US. For example, Captain Kidd is tied to this region of the US. He lived in this area, got married in this region, and was executed as well. People still roam Virginia and Maryland’s coastlines looking for Kidd’s lost treasure (which, I am sure, never really existed but it’s a great example of an early American Myth that lingers). There’s also Blackbeard, who I have to state, was a goddamn dandy. Ribbons in his beard, matches lit and arranged in his hair and hat. If this guy could enter a room with doves and glitter, he totally would. The BEST example would be David Bowie’s entrance as Jareth in Labyrinth. I fully expect any and all future appearances of Blackbeard to have the same theatrical aesthetic or why even bother. I also humbly submit that Idris Elba play Blackbeard because if anyone could look threatening, but pull this aesthetic off it would be Hemidall (I mean, Idris).

Sarah: You're him, aren't you? You're the Goblin King. | Labyrinth jareth,  Bowie labyrinth, David bowie labyrinth
David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth. Courtesy of Henson Company
Our Readers Point out a Crucial 'Infinity War' Toy Detail | The Mary Sue
Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor: Rangnorak. Courtesy of MCU/Disney

Plus, oysters. I never knew people fought over oysters. We had people committing acts of piracy over oysters until 1960! Personally, oysters look like small pieces of snot and from my research into them (because, AUSTEN), oysters were the food of the poor, the working class, sailors,and fishermen. And the oysters in this region were plentiful, which is great for the population who live round there. Now, today we associate oysters with wealthy and indulgence. I’ve even seen some historical films show oysters being eaten by the nobility & upper classes PRIOR to the 1820s, which is, of course, incredible wrong. Oysters were considered “common fare”, people would fed oysters to their cats and dogs. That’s right, pets prior to the 1860s ate better than most people do now. But what is interesting, is that sometime in the 1830s & 1840s, oysters started getting that reputation of being food for the upper class (possibly due to the industrial revolution and the burgeoning middle class that was exploding in the US and in the UK). Now, to be completely honest, I haven’t looked into WHEN oysters started being eaten as food for the rich, but I have done a wee bit of research and know that during the 1820s and 1830s, it was still seen as street food, so not necessarily food for the poor, but starting to migrate into the echelons of the middle class, which then leads to the rich. But by the 1860s, oysters, and those who harvested them, could make some serious money.

For a quick refresh literary wise, Darcy and his aunt would NEVER have eaten oysters (1800-1812). Mr. Rochester may have eaten them for a party (1840s). Mr. Thorne’s mother would have never eaten them as a youth, but may be obliged to serve them for her daughter’s wedding (1840s-1850s). Miss Havishim would have never eaten them, but her adopted daughter may (1820s). Lady Bracknell would definitely eat them (1895). Gatsby would be chugging them down like there was no tomorrow (1925).

The State of Oysters | Our State
Oysters as picture in Our State, a North Carolina online magazine

Professor Goodall does note that oyster ships could make $2000 a year when the average salary was $500 a year. So, yes, oysters were big business and still are. But what I mostly took away from the Oyster Wars is how over fishing, and the acts of piracy, harmed this industry and the ecological impact is something that region still deals with to this day.

What Can Be Done To Stop Bullying? A Lot – BRIDGES
Courtesy of bridgesofpbc.org

Now, this book came to my attention because Professor Goodall wrote a piece about pirates and the imagery of pirates because of the Super Bowl (also, FUCK Tom Brady). I couldn’t believe the backlash she received for writing a very well written, and well research look at the brief history of buccaneers. But, we know people are very easily bestirred and don’t like to be reminded that maybe, just maybe, the image they hold near and dear is not always a good image to be fond of. But, it led me to this wonderful book and I gladly followed Goodall on Twitter (@L_Historienne) where I recently voted to learn about a pirate called Sadie the GOAT. While she may or may not have existed, if I ever get a chance to name a Goat, it’s gotta be Sadie.

Surfing Goat Dairy - If pirate goats were real, would they say "Baa-rgh,  mateys"? 🤔🐐 | Facebook
Courtesy of Pinterest

So, this is what I think. If you like to learn more about Early American History, this is the book for you. If you are curious about the Oyster Wars, definitely read this book. If you want to read about some of the interesting pirates that called America home, then you should defiantly get this book. And if you just want to read a fun book about Pirates that is well written, can easily fit into a purse (or satchel) and makes you look devastatingly cool while waiting for your Boyfriend at the local coffee shop, the you MUST get this book. If you want to support a female historian in a filed dominated by men, then you MUST get this book. And if you cannot afford it, then please ask that your local library purchases it to add to their collection, Because this book may inspire another future historian and knowledge IS power.

The History of Blacks in Georgian & Regency Era (Part 3)

The final entry into a look of notable people of color for Black History Month. I did get an inquiry as to why I used the terminology of “black” instead of African-American. Well, mainly because the term African-American did not exist in the 18th & 19th Century. Many of these people I am highlighting were either enslaved or were born of enslaved people. Hope this clears up any questions or concerns as to why I am using a word that may be considered offensive (I am, after all, not wising to offend anyone with this series, but only wishing to point out that yes, people of color did exist in Europe prior to the 20th Century).

The Kreutzer Sonata - Wikipedia
The Kreutzer Sonata (Violin Sonata No.) Public Domain
The Black Violinist Who Inspired Beethoven – Martin Plaut
George Bridgewater, circa 1800s. Courtesy of the British Musuem

George Augustus Polgran Bridgewater, sometimes listed as George Polgreen Bridgewater, as born in 1778 as Hieronymus Hyppolitus de Augustus in Eastern Polad to His father, Joanis Fredericus de Augustus (African decent) and Maria Schmid (German/Polish depending on the historian). Now, back in Part 1 of this series, I mentioned how Aristocracy of Europe (especially Peter the Great), had an affinity for the “exotic” when it came to servants, which would explain how a mixed race person was born in Poland. Jonais, sometimes listed as John in Anglicized sources, claimed to be descendant of an African Royal, who was kidnapped, then sold to a Dutch Captain, and ended up in Barbados married to a local woman. How much of this is his wanting to create a more exotic flavor to his identity and how much of it is truth as we don’t know. But from John’s tale, we can discern some truths. His father was kidnapped (possibly as a child since kidnapping African children seems to be a reoccurring staple of Slavery), sold and ended up in the Caribbean/West Indies where he fathered children. John’s telling of his past could be cobbled together of what his father remembered, but also a need to explain how he ended up in the service of nobility. John was a member of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy’s household, where he was called the “Moor” and served as the “exotic” page. Maria was most likely a maid in the same household. Prince Nikolus was a patron of the Arts, particularly music, having his own orchestra and personal composer (Hayden, who is sometimes credited as being an early teacher of George and sometimes not). John had two sons, the younger also playing a string instrument, but the focus was on George. John left his wife and second son so to tour Europe with George, dressing his son in more Islamic style clothing (turbans and Turkish robes) to highlight the “otherness.” At some point, they ended up in England, playing for Prince George (later Regent). John gambled away his son’s earning and George, at the age of 12, sought the protection of the Prince. The Regent (because there are just too many Georges in this tale), took George under his protection, paid for the best in education and musical tutors. Bridgewater played such venues as Convent Garden, Drury Lane, Haymarket, an even performed at the Abbaye de Panthemont in Paris where Thomas Jefferson was in attendance. But that is not the most intriguing part of his life. Beethoven, feeling depressed over the knowledge he was losing his hearing, contemplated suicide. How close was he, we do’t know but for composer to lose his hearing, which he needs to write must have been devastating. When Beethoven met George in 1803, he found a close friend. Beethoven was 32, George was 24. They had much in common having endured abusive fathers, being hailed as musical geniuses at young ages, never quite fitting in. Beethoven even wrote the Kreutzer Sonatas for George. But they had a falling out (some say it was over a woman), which is tragic because neither of them even met after their year of mutual affection (affection meaning a strong friendship, not sexual). Beethoven then rescinded his Kreutzner dedication (he also wisely removed a dedication to Napoleon from another piece). George stopped performing sometime in the 1820s, turning to teaching instead. If he ever played his friend’s sonatas, we will never know. But what a splendid and fantastic movie would their tumultuous year together would be! Bridgewater received an MA in Music from Cambridge in 1811, married, had 2 children, and separated from his wife in 1824. He died 32 years after the death of his once time friend and is buried in Kendal Green Cemetray in London.

Prince William (later William IV) with Dorothy Kirwan Thomas. Circa 1788 by James Gillray. Public Domain

Vanessa Riley has written a book on Dorothy Kirwan Thomas (Island Queen) which is being released this coming year (her site says 7/2021). While Riley probably knows more about this amazing woman than I will ever know, I did want to include Dorothy in my post for being not only an entrepreneur in an era where women didn’t have economic power, but for also being a savvy political player as well. Dorothy was born in 1758 and is sometimes known as Doll Thomas and Dorothy Kirwan. She was born into slavery, purchasing her freedom as well as those of numerous family members over a period of 16 years. Thomas had businesses in Montserrat, Dominica, Grenada, Barbados, and Demerara consisting of hotels (one with a French Restaurant), leasing property, running lodging houses, owning slaves and a plantation (because yes, former slaves did engage in owning slaves), as well as selling goods to plantation workers and slaves (known as female hucksters, this was her primary business and probably her first). She was one of the few women, and most importantly, one of the few black women, who was financially compensated for the loss of her slaves when Parliament banned slavery in the UK and in all their territories. It may have helped that William IV, who signed this piece of legislation, was her former lover. Dorothy had 11 children and traveled to England often. All of her daughters married prominent white business men, one becoming Madame Sala, a famous actress as well. All her children and grandchildren were sent to England and received excellent educations. In 1824, she protested and WON against a discriminatory law that targeted non white women, having it overturned. She became one of the wealthiest women in the Caribbean.

George Africanus - Wikipedia
The GRve of George Africaus & his wife, located in Sta Marys Churchyard, Nottingham.

George John Scipio Africanus was most likely born in West Africa (the Sierra Leone region) in 1763, as he was listed as being age 3 when he was baptized in 1766. He was given to Benjamin Molineaux as a gift, but Molineaux decided to educate him and treat him as a servant, instead of slave. When Molineaux died in 1772, George (the son) continued to have Africanus educated. George worked as a servant, and was apprenticed to a brass foundry at some point. He moved to St. Peter’s Parrish in Nottingham when he was 21 in 1784. He met and then married Esther Shaw in this same Parrish in 1788. In 1793, they started a business out of their home, Africanus’s Register of Servants. Thy had 7 children, but only 1 lived to reach adulthood (and later on married in 1825, having children of her own). George died in 1834 and his wife continued to run their business until her death. Africanus was known to be a member of the Anti Slavery Society and he is the first Black Entrepreneur in Nottingham. The v of George and his wife was rediscovered in 2003, with a new headstone being provided by the community. Africanus may not have made much money running his own business , as he did continue to work as a laborer and waiter (and possibly servant now and then), but its important he started his own business. That said business was successful enough to continue after his death due to the dedication of Esther, his wife, is equally important. I did not find if he has any living descendants, but it is likely that somewhere, there are still a few of living in Nottingham to this day. And, dear Reader, what an absolutely splendid notion!

William Davidson, circa 1820. Pubic Domain

William Davidson is included here for being infamous and linked to the Cato Incident. William was born between 1781 and 1786, being the natural (an antiquated term meaning illegitimate) son of the Attorney General of Jamaica and a local woman (free or slave it is unknown as is her name). His father’s name is not listed, but the person is most likely Alexander Henderson, who was the AG of Jamaica at the time of his conception and birth. At age 14, William came to Glasgow to study law, where he became involved in a movement for Parliamentary Reform (The Society of the Friends of the People). I cannot find out if he finished law school, but he was apprenticed to a lawyer in Liverpool, but then, it seems, decided to run away to sea, though perhaps the running away was him being press-ganged into the Royal Navy as both are listed as having occurred. I feel it is most likely William was press-ganged rather than running away, but this is a personal opinion. He then returned to Scotland, where his father then arranged for William to study Math in Aberdeen. William left school, moved to Birmingham and started a cabinet making business. He fell in love with the daughter of a rich merchant The father thought William was after her dowry (7000 pounds is nothing to sneeze at) and had Davidson arrested on false charges. The girl was married to someone else and William attempted suicide. It really does feel as if nothing but hardship and tragedy follow Davidson. He then moved to London, married widow Sarah Lane, a working-class woman with four children of her own, and they had two more children. It seems his past hardships were finally behind William. He converted to the Methodist faith, taught Sunday School, then had to leave for seducing a female student. Now, we don’t know what really occurred, but it may have been racial motivated or a abuse of power (either his or someone else’s). William’s life changed irrevocably on 16 August 1819 when 60,000 gathered to protest for Parliamentary Reform and the Royal Calvary charged into this crowd, killing 18 people. This incident is known as the Peterloo Massacre. This spurned Davidson back into the political activism of his youth and he became associated with the Marylebone Union Reading Society, where members had access to radical publications such as Thomas Paine and inflammatory pamphlets. George Edwards persuaded William, along with 27 others, to meet on Cato Street in Grosvenor Square in February 1820. They were set up and arrested with Edwards helping locate any who managed to flee the police raid. On 28 April 1820, Davidson and 4 others were found guilty. William was hung (drawing a huge crowd to witness this execution) and decapitated May 1, 1820. Davidson continued to claim his innocence and stated that he and the others were set up by Edwards. The transcript of the trial shows that it was George Edwards who was behind the plot to assassinate certain members of Parliament. Edwards who chose the Cato Street location and informed the police of the assassination plot. George Edwards notified the police where the meeting was being held and the names of the people who were going to attend. Edwards was never prosecuted.

African-American Maritime Heritage — PortSide NewYork
Richard “King Dick” Crafus (1791-1830) courtesy of the New England Hisotircal Soceity ion

While I used a picture of “King Dick” Crafus (who was a boxer, priveteer, and an American POW during the War of 1812), I am mainly using his image to show what William Brown (the First Black Woman in the Royal Navy) may have looked like. Her story appears in the Chronicle of September 1815 (which is found on the national archives site) as well as proof she was registered as a sailor onboard a Royal Navy ship in 1815. Now, the article listed her as “Mrs” William Brown, which I find annoying. William Brown was a sailor first, female is just their gender. There are two accounts of this person joining the Navy. The first states they joined 23 May 1815 and was then discharged 19 June 1815 for being discovered as “female.” The September article states this person served aboard the HMS Queen Charlotte for 11 years before being discharged, being a Captain of the Fore-Top (in other words, they were the best of the best of the sailor set), was around 26 years of age, known to be just one of the guys, and apparently was married, but left the husband for a life as a sailor. Second account gives us more information, giving us a date of birth (1789), joining the Royal Navy in 1804 as a sailor on the HMS Queen Charlotte (it was one of the premier Fleet ships during the 1813-1814 Napoleonic War Years and was the Flag Ship in 1813-1815), was extremely capable Sailor, was often allowed to steer the ship and could easily navigate through shallow waters. Now, the dismissal in the first (and discharge incident) is most likely due to the First Lieutenant being jealous of this highly respected, highly capable sailor of color. In 1814, the Navy would have disbanded after Napoleon’s defeat, and would have docked for a refitting. Signing up again in 1815 would have been expected of all Navy personnel since Napoleon was up to no good (again). But did this stop William Brown? Nope. For in July 1815, a William Brown (stated to be 32 & from Scotland) joined the crew of the HMS Cumberland, said to be an able sailor, one of the best, and paid off in August 1815 (because Napoleon was defeated, so time to relax). But wait, there’s more! William Brown then joins their old crew aboard the HMS Queen Charlotte (with a different First Lieutenant) 31 December 1815 (again being the Flag Ship) as Captain of the Fore-Top. Again. Brown then transferred to the HMS Bombay in 1816, which was then the Flagship for Rear Admiral Sir Charles Penrose. With that, William Brown sails off, with no more records. While there are some discrepancies in terms of age, I firmly believe William Brown wanted to live their life as a Sailor and as a Man. Adding a few years to their age is really not that big of a deal. Of course, I came across a historian who thought it must have been a gag, as there was another female (being younger than 20) trying to enlist in 1815 as William Brown. Dear Sir, William Brown is a very common name and I am sure, if anyone decided to look at the sailors who enlisted and served in the Royal Navy from 1800-1820, there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of sailors called William Brown. But for me, this particular William Brown should be applauded as being the first Black Female Royal Navy Sailor, but I also feel William Brown is the first Transman that we know of serving in the Royal Navy. I am sure there are people who would disagree, but William Brown lived a majority of their life as a man. They should be respected as such.

Resources:

New York Times 9/4/2020 Article on Bridgewater

newenglandhistoricalsoceity.com

portdenewy.org

wcml.org.uk

britishexecutions.co.uk

Daily Gazette 2/26/2015

VanessaRiley.com

Spanglefish.com

Georgianera.wordpress

BBC.co.uk (regardig Nottingham History)

jamancianfamilysearch.com

Jamacian Save Insurrection Scare of 1776 by RB Sheridan

The British Musuem

Antislvaery.ac.uk

bl.uk

nationalarchives.gov.uk

The History of Blacks in Georgian& Regency England (Part 2)

I thought I would start Part 2 with a person of whom we know so very little about, and yet who is an important, if forgotten, figure in this era who tends to take backseat to more well known figures such as Ignatius Sancho and Olaudah Equiano.

1784 Engraving by Richard Cosway showing Richard, his wife Maria, and Ottobah Cugoan. Pubic Domain Image

Ottobah Cugoano is a figure from the Anti Slavery Society and Sons of Africa group who doesn’t get enough attention and I am hoping this changes. He was enslaved in what is modern day Ghana at the age of 13 and taken to work on a plantation in the West Indies. He was then sold at age 16 to Alexander Campbell, a British Merchant, who transported Ottabah to England, where he was baptized John Stuart and given his freedom. He is listed as being around 16 years of age at this time. Campbell, it seems, made sure he was educated and in 1784, he was employed by the Cosways. While working at the Cosways, he became acquainted with William Blake, the Prince Regent, and Equiano. In 1787, he published Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of Slavery and Commerce of Human Species. In this narrative, he calls for the freedom of all slaves as he felt it violated the very nature of Christianity (he had become a devout Christian at this time). The Cosways seem to be very liberal employers and allowed Ottobah to travel to speak at Anti Slavery Conventions and to travel to promote his book. In 1791, he released a shorter version of his book for the Sons of Africa. His last letter, also from 1791, he tells the Cosways that he wishes to travel to Nova Scotia and other places. There is no evidence of his existance after this letter and it is preseumed he died in 1791 or 1792.

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Hand Colored Ethcing, circa 1810. Artist Unknown; Public Domain.

Bill Richmond was born a slave in Staten Island, New York, but lived the majority of his life in England. If you look him up, he is often referred to as a British Boxer (Puglisit in Regency Terms). He was sent t England sometime during the Revolutionary War (most records state 1777), where he was educated and then apprenticed to a cabinet maker. In 1790 or 17791, he married Mary Dunwick, who was white. He started fighting due to the targeted racism he and Mary faced (they eventually moved to London and had several children). He worked for Hugh Percy, and later on for Thomas Pitt, the 2nd Earl Camelford. He and Thomas were apparetnly inseperable and they often attended boxin matches together. Most believe because Bill was a skilled fighter, and won many matches, he was teaching Thomas, which is mot likely ture. Pitt was killed in a duel in 1804 while Bill bought a pub to semi-retire (and train other hopeful). Investments and betting on failed fights caused Richmond to lose his pub, so he again turned to boxing professionally. In the 1820s, he opted to join a Club where he would teach others how to fight. Lord Byron was one of his students. He is the only black man, out of 18 athletes, who as celebrated at a banquet when the Regent became King Goerge IV. What is trully astoninshing is Bill started his career at age 40, when most athletes are ready to reture. He is buried at St Jame’s in Piccadilly.

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Hand Color Etching by Robert Dighton, circa 1812. Public Domain

Thomas (Tom) Molineaux (also spelled Molyneaux) was born as a slave in the US, but also lived most of his life in England. Unlike Bill Richmond, Tom is listed as an American Boxer. Historians beieve he was born in the Virginia area and took his last name from a plantantion owner (either the oe who owned him or the one who he bieved fathered him). He arrived in England in 1809 here he ade h is way to the pub (Horse and Dolphin) owned by Richmond. Richmond becamse his trainer and his first official fight was in 1810 against Cribb. He lost his two figts agains the known CHampion t the time, but he fought well, so his name would know he a well known name i th boxing circuits. He stopped boxing proessionally in 1815, but like Richmond, still did exhibitions and most likely some teching. He sufferred from tubervulousis ad is buried in Galway, Ireland (he died in 1818 but the headstone wan’t erected until 2009). Most believe he was in Ireland to do some fighting exhibits or to do some teaching.

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Colonel Edward Despard, Circa 1790. Attributed to George Romney. Public Domain.

Mrs. Catherine Despard is a woman of whom we have no known picture of. Her husband, Colonel Edward Marcu Despard, is infamous for being executed for Treason in 1803. But most know that is not the true reason. Edward married Cathine in Jamaica. Some sources say se is the daughter of a minister. Other sources claim she is a Spanish Creole. All agree that his fmily was not the most welcoming ad when he was executed, they wrote her, and her some by Edward (James) out of the family tree. The picture of Edward shows what he looked like when he married Catherine, which was in 1790. From all accounts, his fellow officers and their wives liked CAtherine. Edward was arrested in 1803 for refusing to recognize racial distinctions in law, and then th charge of eing a conspirtor plotting to assainate the King was added, thus ensuring his death. His execution was attended by at least 20,000 ad when Catherine petitioned for the right to have him buried in St. Faith’s, the public stood by her and lined the streets to see this man buried in his family plot. Ldy Nelson and other officer’s wives did their est to take care of her after her husband’s death. Sir Francis Burdett fought and was able to ensure she received her widow’s pension Catherine couted Valentine Lawless (2nd Baron Cloncurry) as well a other high ranking officrs as friend and supporters. Her son, James, fought for the French Army and returned to Englad after the Napoleonic WArs. The last known sighting of James (for Catherine had passed by this point), was a sighting by General John Despard, his ucle. Despard had seen James entering a carriage, well dressed and with a similarly well dressed lady on his arm. With that, James rode out of history.

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Cesar Picton’s death is registered in the Parrish of All Saint’s Church in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Courtesy of Exploresurreyspast.org.uk

There is no known image of Cesar Picton, which is a pity as he seemed to have quite an interesting life. He was enslaved/kidnapped at age 6, most likely from the Senegal area. He was brought to England by an Army Officer, who presented him as a gift to Sir John Philips in 1761. Philips had Cesar baptized as it was believved he had been raised as a Muslim prior to being kidnapped. Phillips was a baronet and both he and his wife treated Cesar as an “exotic” servant, dressing him in turbans and velvet. Horace Walpole mentioned Cesar in one of his letters, describing his dark skin and exotic clothes. He was treated as “free” by the time he was an adult, much in part to the Somerset Case, and was left legacy of 100 pounds by Lady Philips upon her death in 1788. He used it to set himself up as a coal merchant in Kingston, then did well enough to purchase property in 1795. He was fined 5 pounds in 1801 for illegal poaching, but no other punishment other than the fine was given (poachers were known to be executed or sent off to Australia). In 1807, he rented out his Kingston property and rented a home in Tolworth, being described as a gentleman in the lease agreement. In 1816, he purchase second, larger house with garden in Thames Ditton. He was 81 when he passed in 1836. He never married and it is unknown if he was a member of any Anti Slavery movement. However, he is important for his contributions to the community in which he lived and for being a prime example of a wealthy black man in the Regency Era, which must irk those who state England is for the English.

Ira Frederick Aldridge as Othello by James Northcote, circa 1826. Public Domain

Ira Frederick Aldridge was born in 1807 in New York to Rev Danial and Lurona Aldridge. He attended the African Free School for children of free blacks and slaves, where he received an education of classical English literature, math, geography, writing, etc. He was exposed to theatre as an audence member seeing plays at the Park Theatre. His first professional acting experience was acting in the African Grove Theatre in 1821. Because of the racist views an discrimination he faced at that time, Aldridge emmigrated to UK, landing in the LIverpool area in 1824. Trying to create a pulic image for himself, he implied he was a decendnt of African Ryalty, an took on the name of Keene, associating himself with Edmund Kean. Aldridge would be billed as FW Keene Aldridge, sometimes biled as African Roscius (after the famous BCE Roman actor). He made his debut at age 17 in May 1825 in a small production of Othello. He reprised that role in October 1825, but this time at London’s Royal Coburg Theatre. Aldridge became the first African-American actor to establish his acting career in England. He had a 7 week run at the Royal Coburg, acting in 5 different plays. Aldridge received top billing as Othello. And if the role called for a more European hue, he was not above donning white greaspaint and passing as white on stage (yes, he donned white face). In 1831, he had a successful run in Dublin. He achived his best praise perfoming abrad in Prussia and Russia. In 1863, he applied for British Citizenship and was planning a 100 stop tour in post Civil War America when he passed. He did marry, twice. His first wife was white actress by the name of Margaret Gill (British) who raised his natural son, Ira Daniel Aldridge as her own child. They were married in 1825 and she passed in 1864. He then married the mother of his natural children, “Countess” Amanda von Brandt, who was Swedish. She was his mistress throughout his career and marriage and mother of his four children. He died unexpectedly in 1867 while on tour in Poland, where he is buried. All four of his children became involved int he arts (his two daughters went on to be Opera singers).

Resources

exploresurreypast.org.uk

hisoryisfun.org (the Jamestown Musuem Revolutionary WAr website)

npg.org.uk

english-heritage.org.uk

janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

History Today (Sept 1981 issue; available on hisorytoday.com archive section)

Blackamoors in England: Black London, Life before Emancipation by Gretch Gerzina (https://www.dartmouth.edu/library/digital/publishing/books/gerzina1995/)

the V&A Musuem

The British Library

New York Pubic Library

The Smithsonian

Royal.uk (yes, the Royal Family’s official website. It’s a good resource for genealogy)

haringey.gov.uk

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I by Emily C. Bartels (available on Rutgers website for free via Project Muse)

The History of Blacks in Georgian & Regency England (Part 1)

With Brexit and the unfortunate Capitol Insurrection which occurred January 6, 2021, I wanted to write a two part series on the history of Blacks/Africans in England. I already did a three part series about how there were people of color in Europe before the 20th C, but really wanted to take a deeper look at the time of Jane Austen considering how many times I have queried Literary Agents who inform me that no one would believe that there were people of color in my Regency novels. I am hoping with the success of Bridgerton, that outlook will change.

Unknown Lady, circa late 18th C. Public Domain

In 1772, Lord Mansfield (William Murray), Chief Justice of England and Wales, made a decision that was truly a landmark case for the deconstruction of Slavery. That was the Somerset Case and he declared that the enslaved had rights on English soil. He also presided over the 1783 Gregson v. Gilbert case (regarding the Zong) where he again rule that the Captain and his crew were guilty in the deaths of the 132 enslaved Africans they threw overboard and drowned. This influenced the 1791 Parliament ruling which stated insurance companies no longer had to reimburse shippers (and their financial backers) for the loss of slaves (as they were seen as cargo and not people). William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, raised Dido Elizabeth Belle and no doubt this did influence his decisions in those to cases. While none of these decisions outright banned Slavery, they did push the narrative forward.

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William Murray, circa 1737. Portrait by Jean-Baptiste van Loo. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery
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Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay & her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray by David Martin, circa 1778. Currently on display at Scone Palace, Scotland and considered Public Domain

When William Murray died in 1793, Dido was granted her “freedom” and was left enough money to be considered an heiress. In 1793, she would have still be seen as a slave, so granting her “freedom” allowed her to marry John Davinier and move about Society freely and openly. But she was not the highest ranking person of color during this Era.

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Queen Charlotte, circa 1760s, painted by Allan Ramsay. Courtesy of the Royal Collection Trust

When Megan Markle married Prince Henry, there was (and is) backlash over Megan being a woman of mixed race. However, it should note that the same hatred Megan still receives is very much on par with what Queen Charlotte received. The Allan Ramsay portraits are considered the most accurate as he never made her appear darker nor lighter, but painted her as she truly was. He was also the preferred painter of her portraits per King George III. Queen Charlotte was a patroness of the Art and her interest in Botany led to the expansion of Kew Gardens. She was a direct descendant of Margarita de Castro y Sousa, who is from the Black/Moor branch of the Portuguese Royal Family. She was often made to look ape like or even dog like in caricature and referred to as “Mulatto Face” in the press. Charlotte endured periods of madness from her husband, the many indiscretions of her sons (Regent was a bigamist and known to have may lovers). She had 15 children, 13 who survived into adulthood, and is grandmother of Queen Victoria. The South African flower Bird of Paradise is named after her as are two China patterns to her name (Royal Lily and Queen Charlotte). She funded orphanages and in 1809 sponsored a hospital for women to give birth in. It’s known today as Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital. Like her granddaughter, Queen Vicotria, she notoriously would keep her daughters close to her, which resulted in them marrying late in life or not at all and having no children of their own. Charlotte was a close and regular correspondent of Marie Antoinette (both were patrons of Music and Arts). She had rooms prepared to received the French Royals and was devastated when they were beheaded. Charlotte is the second longest serving consort in British History, having reigned 57 years and 70 days. Her husband was blind and deaf when she passed in 1818 and except for her jewels, her son (the Regent) had all of her belongings sold at auction (the jerk). The current Royal Family denies the possibility that Queen Charlotte was a person of color, but considering how many people during the Georgian Era made comments regarding her non-whiteness, then I believe it is safe to say she was not as white as the current Royals like to maintain.

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Google’s doodle celebrating the 272nd Birthday of Olaudah Equiano

Olaudah Equniano was born sometime in the 1740s (it’s given as 1745 in most biographies) and died in 1797. He was enslaved at age 11, renamed Gustavus Vasso, and eventually was sold to a merchant Captain who allowed him to purchase his freedom. He became an author, explorer, and merchant. Olaudah’s first hand narrative pushed the Abolitionist movement forward in both the UK & US. His autobiography went through 9 editions in his lifetime (which was really unheard of) and was a member of the Sons of Africa, a lobby group that was part of the Anti Slavery Society in England. Equniano’s story was key to passing the 1807 law abolishing the trade and capture of slaves (it still allowed the forced breeding, sell, and importation of slaves from one territory to another). He married Susannah Collins in 1792 and had two mixed race daughters. His youngest daughter married a minister in 1821. Some Scholars question if Olaudah was born in Africa[Nigeria specifically] as his baptismal records in England list him as being from the Carolinas. Yet his first owner (and people who knew him) stated that Olaudah spoke no English when he was purchased, making the case that slave traders were possibly lying (GASP) about the origins of the people they enslaved. Susannah died at age 34 and Olaudah died the following year at age 52. It’s sad he didn’t live to see the end to Slavery in England, but at least his daughter was alive to witness it (as it passed in 1833). Considering how popular his autobiography was in his lifetime, there is no chance that Austen would not have come across a copy or would not have heard of him.

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Ignatius Sancho, circa 1768, by Thomas Gainsborough. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada

[Charles] Ignatius Sancho had a very interesting life. He was born aboard a slave ship and orphaned at around age 2. He was given to three sisters living in Greenwich, England and was a slave to them for 18 years. He ran away to the Duke and Duchess of Montagu, who decided to educated him and encourage his interests in literature (other tales state the Duke visited these sisters and being impressed with Ignatius’ intellect, taught him to read and write). There is no record of the Montagus purchasing him, so it may have been they compensated the three women for after a few years, he left the Montagus (Igantius was listed as a servant, not a slave) and became a shopkeeper in Westminister, wrote and published various forms of literature (books, poetry, and essays). Igantius became the first Black person to have voted in 1774 and 1780 being a male property owner of both a house and shop (which entitled him to a vote under English law). Ignatius married Anne Osbourne, who was West Indian, and had 7 children. His letters were published two years after his death and is widely accepted as one of the earliest first hand accounts of slavery. While it doesn’t seem like much, the Duchess of Montague left him an annuity of 30 pounds a year in her will in 1752 (comes to about 2000 in today’s market). Sancho counted Thomas Gainsborough (who painted him twice), actor David Garrick and abolitionist Charles James Fox among his friends. Igantius corresponded with writers and encouraged them to stand up against slavery. He was a loud advocate for the end of Slavery and lectured frequently. Sancho is the first Black person to have an obituary in the newspapers of that era.

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Francis Williams, circa 1745. Artist unknown. Courtesy of the V&A Museum

Almost all we know about Francis Williams comes from the History of Jamaica (1774) by Edward Long. Long downplays Williams and his family’s contributions, so there isn’t much to go on. We do know that the painting was done by someone in Jamaica. The window appears to overlook a town (The V&A believe it to be Spanish Town) and the library setting is kind of typical Georgian background. Other Scholars think it’s a caricature, while I tend to lean towards a person who had not much training in doing portraits as the landscape shows artistic talent (not everyone can do portraits). Edward Long, while he hated Williams, was the owner of this portrait and it was one of his descendants who gifted it to the museum. Francis may or may not have been born into Slavery. He may have been born at anytime between 1692 and 1700. His father, John Williams, was not granted freedom until 1697-1699, so chances are Francis was born as a slave. He had 2 elder brother and one sister. His father, John, became a wealthy landowner who, unfortunately, had slaves. John Williams in 1708 was granted a trial by jury AND had a law passed that slaves could not testify against him, which was groundbreaking as free Black men did not have the same legal rights as his white counterparts. him. He passed in 1723 a very wealthy man. We do know that Francis live in England long enough to become a naturalized citizen. He was a member of Lincoln’s Inn (a club for Barristers in London), and moved back to Jamaica after his father’s death in 1723. Francis opened and ran a school for free blacks teaching Math, Reading, Writing, and Latin. His legacy is problematic because his wealth, and education, re a product of Slavery while he himself is most likely a former slave. Yet his very existence as a wealthy, highly educated, London Barrister who (apparently) wrote poetry in Latin must cause great distress to those who believe in Wyte Supremacy

The Hon John Spencer and his son, the 1st Earl Spencer and their slave, Caesar Shaw. Circa 1744 by George Knapton. Public Domain

Not much is known about Caesar Shaw. He was a slave owed by John SPncer. Casaer was baptzed in Northampton and we do know he was most likely taken from Africa. However, he was eventually freed and gave first hand testimony regaring the horros of slavery at Anti Slavery meetings and conventions. During the Georgian Era, it was seen as a ign of wealt to have black servants. Peter the Great was known to have black footmen, Valets, an eventually tradesmen and merchnts at his palaces. So while many of these servants are namless, knowing even a few of their names help establish that there were Black people in England (and Russia) during the 18th and 19th Century.

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Francis Barber, circa 1770s. Attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds or James Northcote. Courtesy of the Tate Collection & Public Domain

Francis Barber was born Quashey around 1740. We do know he was born in Jamaica on a sugarcane plantation owned by the Bathurst family. It was the father and son (both named Richard) who, when they traveled to London in 1752, gave Francis to Johnson after Johnson’s wife died to serve as a Valet. Johnson was a strong voice against Slavery both in the US and the UK and is known as the author of the Dictionary of English Language. Barber was technically granted his freedom when the elder Bathurst died in 1755, and was given an annuity of 12 pounds. However, Francis then worked at an apothecary, then joined the Royal Navy and eventually came back to work for Johnson in 1760. All the time he was away, he and Johnson were regular correspondents as Francis had been given some education by the Bathursts. Johnson then put Barber through school and Barber became his assistant, having worked on the Dictionary’s second revision, a well a other literary works by Johnson. Francis was also key in helping Boswell write a biography of Johnson after his death. Johnson, from all accounts, was very attached to Francis and left him 70 pounds (well over 2000 in today’s market) a year in his will which was widely covered in the press at the time. It was seen as scandalous to leave a black man more than what a nobleman would leave an assistant (50 pounds was considered a lot). Francis married Elizabeth Ball (white) and they had 2 children. Those children went onto marry white people as well, which some people at that time did not like. Francis Barber still has decedents living in Littchfield to this day.

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Lafayette & James Armistead, circa 1780s. Public Domain

The Revolutionary War brought about a lot of change not only for the British Empire, but for enslaved Africans in the Colonies. It is estimated that in 1775, more than a half a million Africans living in the 13 colonies were slaves. Ministers and Quakers such as George Keith and John Woolman were advocating against Slavery in the 1760s, thanks to the rising abolitionist movement in England. They were ignored. Abigail Adams, future First Lady, herself wrote many times on the irony of wanting to fight for freedom from tyranny while keeping slaves who lived in tyranny. In the first battle against the British, 10 out of 15 black soldiers were slaves. In 1777, the 13 states enacted laws enforcing quotas to push black slaves into fighting the British. In 1778, Rhode Island established a Black Battalion because they could not meet their quota for white soldiers to fight for the Continental Army. Many slave owners (particularly the Southern States) gave the Continental Army slaves instead of fighting themselves. Lord Dunmore, Virginia’s Royal Governor, in 1775 established a regiment of runaway slaves, promising them freedom is they fought for the British. It was not a well liked policy, but it established an interesting paradigm. In 1776, it seems some of the enslaved did not like that the Constitution not making all men equal, and rebelled. The British Army used this outrage t their advantage and promised freedom to slaves, and their families, if they joined the British Army. It is not known how many enslaved Africans switched sides or how may ran away for the chance at freedom. We do know that several thousand freed slaves moved to British held territories after the War and over a thousand moved to Dublin, Liverpool, and London in the aftermath. So, while the Founding Fathers advocated freedom, they refused to free those who were forced to fight the British, while the British freed those who were willing to fight, but not those they had already enslaved in their territories. It’s a weird and interesting time period in the Georgian Era as not many historians (both US and UK) like to discuss the role Slavery played in the fight for Independence. With over a half a millions slaves, that gave the Continental Army a clear advantage over the British. Yet it is Britain who passed a law outlawing Slavery in 1833, over 30 years before the US.

Resources

hisoryisfun.org (the Jamestown Musuem Revolutionary WAr website)

npg.org.uk

english-heritage.org.uk

janeaustensworld.wordpress.com

History Today (Sept 1981 issue; available on hisorytoday.com archive section)

Blackamoors in England: Black London, Life before Emancipation by Gretch Gerzina (https://www.dartmouth.edu/library/digital/publishing/books/gerzina1995/)

the V&A Musuem

The British Library

New York Pubic Library

The Smithsonian

Royal.uk (yes, the Royal Family’s official website. It’s a good resource for genealogy)

haringey.gov.uk

Black and British: A Forgotten History by David Olusoga

Too Many Blackamoors: Deportation, Discrimination, and Elizabeth I by Emily C. Bartels (available on Rutgers website for free via Project Muse)

The Confederate Flag: A Heritage of Racism

Not that long ago on Facebook (yes, some of us are still on that cesspool of a platform secretly hoping someone like Oprah will one day buy out Zuckerburg and peace will reign once again on that platform), a friend shared a post I had found regarding the Confederate Flags and the history regarding the usage and different designs. Chad (not his real name, but close enough) decided to white mansplain that the Confederate Flag and the Confederacy was a great thing for People of Color (POC), that is was a southern state which first freed a slave, and Confederate Soldiers automatically were granted freedom if they moved to the North. I know, that’s a lot (and I mean A LOT) of compressed BS to unravel.

When I asked Chad regarding his sources, he first stated that he was a lawyer (his profile doesn’t indicate this at all, but he well could be one) and he was basing this on some law history classes and a website he said was called “American War Museum Chronicle”. Now, if you Google this, it will direct you to a website for looking up potential website names. In other words, it doesn’t exist. Now, there is an American and War Museum, but they only go back to 1917 to the present times. Disregarding all of that, let’s take a look at the actual flags themselves.

Confederate Flags: HIST 1416 American Military History Summer 2016 ...
Infograph courtesy of HIST 1416: American Military History Summer 2016 (W. Butler, Instructor) from BARTonline

Now, the image we most associate with the Confederacy is the Army of Tennessee and it’s technically a battle flag, not the actual flag of the Confederacy. The top three images are the three flags of the Confederate States while the bottom two are battle flags and were only flown during battles, skirmishes, etc. So those waving the battle flags about in today’s society either have no idea that the flag they are waving about is meant for actual battle, not the back of a pickup truck.

Official Flag Of The Confederacy | ... Confederate Veterans ...
Image courtesy of Pinterest
Pin on War Between The States
Image courtesy of Pinterest

Now, while I knew there were variations, I had no idea, until researching this specific topic, that battle flags in of themselves had a wide variety of designs. Unlike the Union, which primarily just used the American Flag, the Confederacy seemed unable to settle on one basic design. Now, I have not done much visiting of Civil War Reenactments, but from images that I have seen, it seems the main battle flag that is widely used in the Tennessee one, which is probably why we’ve come to associate that particular flag with the Confederacy and not one of the official three flags they had. Remember that Battle flags are not the same as flags pertaining to a nation.

ZFC - National Treasures - Union Civil War Flags 1861 to 1865
Union Battle Flags courtesy of flag collection dot com

The Union Battle Flags (known as the Stars & Stripes) mainly stuck with a more uniform appearance. Other than the placement and size of the stars, the overall appearance is not too dissimilar to what the US flag looks like today. In other words, the battle flag was meant to appear close to the national flag. Now, onto Chad’s assertion that the South was the first to free a slave. Vermont, which was not yet a state in 1777, was the first Independent US territory to abolish slavery within it’s borders. Pennsylvania was the first US state to abolish slavery in 1780. Neither of these is a Southern State. Juneteenth, for which Chad declined to acknowledge, is important as it was on June 19th, 1865 in Galvaston, TX that Union Army General Gordon Granger announced due to Federal Law, all slaves in Texas were free. This is important as these were amoung the last slaves to be freed after the end of the Civil War. Any slave that was in the Confederate Army was forced to do menial tasks and was still a slave, unlike Chad’s belief that these slaves chose to fight for their oppressors. Let that sink in for a moment-the Confederate Army used slaves to do the basic everyday chores needed to keep an Army running and people like Chad assume this mean they were “willing” participants. Oh honey, slaves were never willing to be slaves. Technically (because I must be as accurate as possible), the slaves were considered part of the Confederate Service, not the Army. The early wins of the Confederacy would not have occurred if not for the use of slave labor in maintaining agriculture and industrial standards for the South. Slaves forced to repair and maintain forts, repair railroads, build ships, and do everything in order to free white men so the white men could serve in the Army. Once many slaves heard of the proclamation by President Lincoln that they were free, enough fled to Northern States to make a large enough impact on the South’s economy as to make their victories a thing of the past. Many of these freed souls did join the Union Army (which also had it’s issues), BUT they were paid for their labor, they were free, and fighting for a cause they truly believed in.

A circa 1830 illustration of a slave auction in America.
A 1830 engraving depicting a Slave Auction, courtesy of TIME Magazine

Chad also asserted, quite boldly with an air of pomposity I found sad as it was ridiculous, that the Civil War was not about Slavery. I’m sorry to inform Chad and anyone with a similar lack of intellect, but the Civil War was very much about Slavery. Without the institution of Slavery, the South could not function. Slaves planted the crops, raised the livestock, harvested the fields, built the homes, made the clothes, made the food, raised the children of their owners, etc. Without Slavery, agriculture and industry in the South simply could not function.

Gospel of Slavery: The 1864 pro-abolitionist children’s book.
Excerpt from an 1864 Children’s Abolitionist Book courtesy of Slate.com

Slavery is free labor. There were no standards of how one was to treat a slave. Different owners could feed them well or starve them. They could be dressed or be forced to work in the nude. They could be with their families or be sold off on a whim. They were raped. They were beaten. They were seen as property, not people (the basis of the 3/5 of a person that’s in the Constitution is about this-Slaves were considered 3/5 of a person). No white man (or woman) could be tried for the murder of a slave because it wasn’t illegal. Let that sink in-the murder of a human being would be ignored simply because of skin pigmentation. The North had mostly banned Slavery and the movement of Society in the 1860s was heading towards abolishing slavery overall. The South could not bear the thought of transitioning towards having to pay people wages for what they were getting for free. While this is not every little tidbit regarding as to why the Civil War occurred, it really was about Slavery (which was all about Economics) in a nutshell.

Cross Stitch Pattern by SoEasyPattern on Etsy

Sorry Chad, but any depiction of the South’s flag (which are images of traitors) as symbols of pride are naught but fragile egos trying to hold onto thinly veiled images of racism and oppression and calling it “heritage.” Other than historical sites, blogs dealing with history, reenactments and museums, I firmly stand by the belief that all images of the Confederate Flag are only flown to tell people that you are a racist, misogynistic willfully ignorant supporter of traitors and should be dealt with by being laughed at and ridiculed at every opportunity. EVERY OPPORTUNITY. Oh, and here’s a Major in the Union showing you some serious shade ;D

In 1865, President Lincoln appointed Pittsburgher Martin Delany the first African American major, the highest rank of any black soldier during the war. #BlackHistoryMonth
Major Martin Delany, Pittsburgh 1865. Th Highest ranking African American Union Solider.

Sources:

http://www.warmuseum.org/america-and-war.php

https://bartonline.instructure.com/courses/2269/pages/confederate-flags

https://nationalpost.com/news/world/southern-discomfort-a-history-of-the-confederate-flagictorie a thing of the past.

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/06/150626-confederate-flag-civil-rights-movement-war-history/

Bathing During the Time of Austen (or how I survived without a Shower for a week)

There’s this misconception that prior to the Victorian Era, people didn’t bathe. I myself am guilty of this false reasoning as I recall, at the tender age of 12, writing down in a notebook that “people smelled” when I started my journey of researching the 19th Century. In my current notebook (I occasionally rewrite everything with updated notes and information), I have kept the ubiquitous “people smelled” line to remind myself not only of how far I have come, but just how easily we can be led to the wrong conclusion. Yes, people smelled prior to the Victorian Era. In fact, people still smell today (it is, after all, one of the five senses). Of course, I am being a tad silly and what we truly mean by “smell” is bad odors.

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A Lovely period Regency Bathing room in the Chateau de Valancey, France. Photo taken by Anna M. Thane (@Anna_M_Thane) 2019

As the above photo shows, people during the Georgian & Regency Era did have rooms solely devoted to the art of bathing and maintaining hygiene. So it IS a fault (clearly) to believe people did not clean themselves. A majority of this, I feel, comes from adaptations (both TV & Film) of period pieces. Especially films of my believed Classic Era were they showed Kings & Queens arguing about bathing more than once a year (I kid you not). So little of them show bathing, we tend to have this blinded perception of people being utterly filthy. I distinctly recall having professors inform us that the use of incense in Catholic services was done because people smelled. This may be true for those who were poor and couldn’t bathe on daily basis, but the use of incense for religious reasons is as old as religion itself. So maybe, just maybe, the Catholic Church was using incense because it’s kind of the norm. Another example is the concept of indoor toilets. Many people accept that they had ancestors who used chamber pots. In fact, chamber pots are a very common thing one finds in modern period romance novels (I myself reference it once or twice-it seems very hard to not mention them). And we know that they did exist and were used. Yet, indoor toilets (yes, you read that correctly) have existed for hundreds of years and predate our modern bathrooms.

An illustration of a Medieval Era Garderobe, aka an indoor toilet. Courtesy of Pinterest.

The Garderobe is a fairly basic indoor toilet. A hole leads to a pit where the waste is collected and people do rake it (and remove it as needed). Yes, dear reader, there were people who’s job was literally shit and piss. This is really no different from campsites that have outhouses (yes, they still exist), to people who have a self-contained septic system in their yard. Yes, chamber pots (and other such devices) were used for things such as emergencies, invalids, and convenience, yet we must stop with the nonsense that they did their business out in the open. Of course, when traveling, one had no choice BUT even then, there was an attempt at modesty and privacy.

Now,what does this have to do with my week long shower-less regime? The bathroom was undergoing a renovation (new tiling) and that meant no access to the tub and shower for about a week. I am not someone who can go without bathing for very long (unless I absolutely must due to being hospitalized or very ill), so I decided it might be nice to try my had at bathing Regency style in a way. The first day, I used a bucket of warm water, a washcloth, and basically sponged myself off. I must also state I had the day off, so I wasn’t concerned with my hair (though I did run the washcloth through it as well). Did I feel clean? Well, yes and no. I can inform you that I did feel refreshed and less grimy, but I did not feel as clean as I normally would.

Serves Pitcher and Wash Bowl. Divine! Courtesy of Pinterest
Ceramic Bathtubs
Minoan Ceramic Bathing Tub, Minoan Palace of Knossos. Courtesy of JSTOR

Now, I am not so fortunate as to afford to use Serves porcelain in my experiment. My basin was a nice, gray plastic bucket. My pitcher was an old plastic cup measuring utensil. My washcloth, I felt, was at least an attempt at the homespun feeling as it was a crocheted one. Soap was some liquid Ivory (meat for bathing, not the dish one). Not feeling quite so refreshed from just the quick sponging off, I decided to up the experience by using both hot and cold water. I donned a bathing suit, went outside, and rinsed off with warm water. Washed and rinsed with cold water (a la hose). Washed and rinsed my hair with the hose, then dumped the rest of the warm water over myself. It felt like camping, in a weird way and I did feel fairly clean. Also, cold. Was this closer to how Jane Austen must have bathed? Well, perhaps.

egyptian-princess-bathing
19th C Woodcut of an Egyptian Relief depicting a Lady being bathed by servants. Courtesy of Pinterest.

Showers (well, showering), has existed since forever. Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians had indoor bathing rooms where servants would “shower” them with jugs of water. Ancient Greeks were the first to have public showering rooms (look up the Ancient Greek City of Pergamum). The Romans, of course, followed suit with their own bath houses as well. Yet what we would consider the runner up to the modern shower was patented in 1767 by Englishman William Feetham ( stove maker) and featured a hand pump. Around 1810, a much more “modern” version emerged and as to who invented it, it’s hard to say as there are disputes.

Ancient Greek Shower
Anciet Greeks Showering on Pottery. Courtesy of Pinterest
Pompeii residents were screwed before the volcanic eruption
A Public Bath at Pompeii. Couretsy of Pinterst
Life Magazine Image of an 1810 Shower. They describe it as being 12 feet in height with a pump for moving water from the bottom to the top (and to be used continuously) to shower. Courtesy of Life Magazine & Pinterest.

Now, my few days of donning a bathing suit and bathing outdoors was no where as elaborate as using the 1810 Shower, but it did feel closer to what Austen herself must have been used to. Not to say that she used a contraption like that everyday. In fact, she may have never used one. Yet it is possible that she did do something similar to what I had done in my quasi-attempt at cleanliness. Now, I must admit that once the tiling was done, I was told I could use the tub, but not the shower and could use the hot water faucet again. Dear reader, I felt like I was n Heaven!

The first appearance of the shower or "rain bath" in New York ...
A NYT Advertisement for a Shower from November 11, 1914. Courtesy of The Bowery Boys

I felt so much cleaner sitting in the tub, using the hot water as needed to bathe (and shave my legs). I felt my hair got much cleaner not having to be blasted by the cold needle spray of the hose. Or at least, I felt warmer, hence, I felt cleaner. Now the new shower head is not as elaborate as the Kennedy Needle model, but it does a decent job. But I have to admit that I felt more understanding of what it must have been like for Austen (or anyone living before the 20th Century) to bathe.

Bathing (or the ability to bathe) is a convenience we take for granted in our modern society. Bathing requires access to clean water, the ability to heat said water, soap (or similar cleaning items), not to mention time and means to do so. For my part, knowing what I know about the time it took to heat water up, to carry it, etc, it’s most likely Austen did a full bath (like in a tub) once a week but sponged off daily. She may have even sponged off more than once a day. I can see any genteel lady sponging off before dressing for dinner or before a ball. I can definitely see any person doing so after riding a horse. Hair washing probably didn’t occur more than once a week. There are people today who don’t wash their hair on a daily basis, so it should come as no surprise to think Jane didn’t do so. Hair washing probably took more time and effort than washing the grime off of one’s body. After all, they didn’t have our modern shampoos, conditioners, hair dryers, and towels.

Degas bather
Woman in Bath Sponging Her Leg (1883) by Edgar Degas. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

I imagine for most people, bathing was closer to Degas painting than anything else. In fact, for most people around the world, it’s probably how they bathe as modern plumbing does not exist everywhere and probably never will. And that’s the most important item I want everyone to take away from this posting. People have, for centuries, found a way to bathe. Whether it meant going to the pond, river, ocean, waterfall, or using a small pitcher or water, people have always found a way to keep themselves clean. Bathing is not this foreign concept nor is it a modern one. It’s clear period films and shows have done us a disservice by not showing us the daily habits of people. By not showing us, we’ve been taught to think of our ancient ancestors as these dirty, smelly, filthy bunch when in fact, it’s all a lie.

Now, I’m not going to lie. I would never trade my modern shower and toilet for what Austen had. I thoroughly enjoy being able to have hot water on demand. I completely rejoice that my waste is flushed away and no one has to rake it. I am very much at ease in our modern bathroom. Now, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t mind having a nice claw foot bathtub and a stand alone shower someday (who wouldn’t). I may even want to indulge in trying a Kennedy Needle Special ;P! But in all seriousness, what I have discovered, about myself primarily, is that when it comes to bathing, we all find a way that suits each of us. I have showered outdoors. I have used an outhouse. Yes, it’s weird but it’s only weird because it’s not part of our daily lives anymore (for the most part). For some, outhouses and outdoor bathing is still the norm and there is no shame in this. So yes, Kevin Costner showering under a waterfall in Prince of Thieves IS accurate. Colin Firth jumping into a pond after riding a horse is perfectly acceptable. Kirsten Dunst being sponged off in Marie Antoinette every morning is actually historically accurate. And that’s kind of fun to know.