In keeping with the new format of my blog, first a little history, then the interesting bits and pieces of this writing life
The ‘Change or the London Stock Exchange
It is very tempting to use the Exchange in the Regency era for it gives you the chance to write such things as the ‘Change, or discuss Exchange Alley. That sets up an evocative description now in our present time. To discuss Jonathan’s Coffee House, which is where the roots of the London Stock Exchange was founded just over 100 years before stories of the Regency take place.
Jonathan’s Coffee-House was founded by Jonathan Miles, in Exchange Alley, around 1680. In 1696 patrons of the Coffee-House plotted to assassinate William III. And in ’98 John Castaing started to post the prices of stocks and commodities. That then would be the start of systematic trading in London. That same year other traders that had been expelled from the Royal Exchange for rowdiness came to Jonathans and Garraway’s Coffee House to conduct their business.
The Royal Exchange had been found by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1565 during the reign of Elizabeth I. It opened in 1571. As noted above, rude manners forced the stockbrokers to seek other locations to conduct their business. By the time of the Regency, fires had destroyed the original buildings of the Royal Exchange as well as the coffee-houses.
Lest we think Sir Thomas was perfect, it seems that he had an interest in the land where the Exchange was built, helping to build a part of his fortune. But upon his death, bequeathed that part of the rents from the Exchange to fund what became Gresham College, the first place of higher learning in London.
Jonathan’s was where the shares of the South Sea Bubble traded. And by 1773 a coalition of traders built a new building in Sweeting’s Alley that was dubbed New Jonathan’s first, and later the Stock Exchange. Here traders paid a fee to enter and to trade. But fraud was rampant and by 1801 an annual subscription was enforced for the Stock Subscription room for traders. When the Subscription room was open, it still took a constable to remove all the non-members.
Then in 1802 moved to Capel Court where “The Stock Exchange” was labeled upon the entry. Still this was not enough and by 1812 a series of rules had become adopted so that trading could be done much more fairly. These rules and organization allowed the government to raise the large sums of money it needed to fight Napoleon.
Last week I was interviewed for Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence. In this blog, the first half of the interview, and next time the last half, or you can read it all here. The interviewer was Joyce DiPastena at her blog. She writes medieval historical romance.
Today I have an author interview and giveaway with David William (D.W.) Wilkin, who among many other things, writes Regency romances. David has graciously agreed to give away one of his books at the end of this interview, Colonel Fiztwilliam’s Correspondence, a Regency romance based on some characters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Read on to learn more about David and find out how you can enter to win a copy of this book! (E-book open to International and US entries, print copy US only)
JDP: Thank you for joining us today, David. How did you become interested in writing about the Regency period?
David: That is a tale, and bear with me, I shall lead you to the end of the trail. I liked history enough from High School to make it my major in college. I specialized in Pre-Modern Asian history while getting my degree which is pretty far from the study of Regency England. But History, I have always found, is stories. I like stories and even before college I wrote some, but after, I started my quest to be a novelist. I also became an Historical Re-enactor.
I joined groups where we made the costumes of the era we were Re-enacting. I learned the dances from those times, and then actually taught well over 1000 people how to do them. Running regular dance practices. My early main focus was Medieval and Renaissance, but one day a friend said, ‘Have I got a girl for you to meet,’ and dragged me to a Regency Dance. Well, not that girl, but several years later, I met my wife, Cheryl at a Regency Ball.
To woo her (she was very far away), I wrote her a regency romance, a few pages a day, that turned into a novel. When taking a class to further enhance my writing, I resurrected the story and worked on it more. Then over the last ten years, found that a good third of my output was Regency Romances.
JDP: Wow, that’s an amazing (and wonderfully romantic) story! What do you find most fascinating about the Regency era?
David: We of course stylize the era. How many of us portray London or Town, other than full of beauty and elegant living? When of course you step outside those stately homes, and there is filth in the streets. The lower classes are everywhere, and the middle classes are struggling. But in our Regencies, we set aside that and in is light and glitters. That is something I love. It is actually a fantasy world we create each time.
Even in movies, or especially in movies, the clothes our heroines and heroes wear are never smudged with dirt, or tattered. I find it hard to imagine that everything would look so clean back in the day. So on my Planet, where I recreate the Regency, I can enter the world of the Aristocracy and Nobility, and share those titles, and those riches. I think of it as a great escape.
JDP: Ah, yes, I relate to your cleaned up fantasy world. Only my characters live on Planet Medieval, rather than Planet Regency. I’m always interested in how authors research their historical novels. Could you tell us a little about how you researched the historical background for Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence?
David: Colonel Fitzwilliam’s Correspondence is of course a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. So first, I reread Austen’s classic. My book also focuses on Darcy’s cousin, who does not get a lot of play in a novel set during the Napoleonic Wars. It was still a time where a very rich man could purchase their rank, and one can imagine that the Earl of M—-K, as Austen calls Fitzwilliam’s father, having done so for his son.
As a history major, I have delved into military history, and have learned a thing or two about the Napoleonic Wars. Philip Haythornwaite’s Wellington’s Military Machine , Sir Charles Oman’s History of the Peninsular War , David Chandler’s The Campaigns of Napoleon and David Gates The Spanish Ulcer all have places on my bookshelf along with dozens of others about the battles and period of the war. In addition to many books about the Regency. Knowing about the war and thinking about the Colonel, I knew that he had to be a participant in it.
I knew that by bringing the two together, I could craft a story with a little steel in our hero. (I hope I’ve conveyed that.) And that during the period, many, many men were affected truly by the war.
JDP: Can you share with us your top three favorite research books or other resources?
David: For the Regency era, my all time favorite is What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew by Daniel Pool . Very similar but with enough extra is Kristine Hughes Everyday Life in Regency England . Last, since I have been influenced by Georgette Heyer in creating my view of the Regency since a friend told me at one of those Regency Dances I just had to read Frederica , is Jennifer Kloester’s Georgette Heyer’s Regency World.
JDP: Ahhh, I love Frederica, by Georgette Heyer! (And Friday’s Child and These Old Shades and The Convenient Marriage and The Talisman Ring… Oops! Better stop and get on with the interview!) Are there any historical figures from the Regency era who particularly intrigue you?
David: We often forget that that across the channel a whole slew of characters, who were very much effecting what happened in London, were alive and influencing all of Europe. I think the most exciting is Ney. If your readers hear of his defense of the Grande Armee as it retreated from Russia and crossed the bridge at Kovno. Heroic stuff.
In England and our Regency, I love the many fictional Age of Sail officers. Hornblower shall always be a favorite, followed by Ramage, Bolitho, Drinkwater (isn’t that a great name that Richard Woodman gave us for a Naval Hero?) Nelson then is fascinating to me as are some of the other great British seamen, Hornblower’s Pellew was a real historical figure. Militarily Wellington and his generals are also fascinating. Henry Paget, a great cavalry commander that returns from the Peninsula and promptly runs-off with Wellington’s sister-in law. Wellington thus cannot have him serve on his staff, at least not until Waterloo years later and there his leg had to be amputated. He lived almost 40 years after that. Stapleton Cotton (What a great name), a Cavalry officer who lived to the age of 91 after the war.
What of Sir Harry Smith, who Heyer immortalizes in The Spanish Bride. Later to become a Lt. General and his wife, saved from Badajoz, becomes the woman that the cities (3 of them) of Ladysmith is named after. Beau Brummel and his Dandy Club, all I find fascinating
More next time…
Already finished the 50,000 word goal of the NaNo Organization. But still hard at work on the novel, The Other Shoe. Added one chapter beyond my original plotting, so now at 16 chapters. Nearing the end of Chapter 11, at almost 70,000 words.
Here is an excerpt (As usual, about 5 pages from the first chapter, unedited at this stage):
“You sir, are not listening to a word that I have spoken,” Lord Frederick Vesey said.
Michael, or more completely Michael Hope Montgomery Baxter, the Viscount Devon, when he was younger, might have winced at such criticism. And certainly if Frederick’s brother Henry had been the one to deliver it, he would have. Frederick’s late older brother had been Michael’s friend. Frederick was now a project of his, as he had been left without immediate family and the tie that Michael had to the deceased Henry was a bond, and a promise that needed to be tended to.
The other gentlemen at the table chuckled a little at the scold that Michael had received, and placing his cards carefully in front of him, Michael turned and gave Frederick a stare. It was meant to unnerve, and generally was successful.
“Oh, sorry. Pray forgive,” Vesey said.
The room was quite, it being late and only one other game was taking place. Most of the members of Brooks had retired or were elsewhere in the club.
Michael said, “Quite. A few moments more Lord Vesey,” the other men at the table laughed, or in the case of Mr. Samuals, cleared his throat.
Mr. Samuals then said, “Gentlemen, are we playing whist, or listening to the latest tale of the lovelorn? I have a significant sum wagered on this rub.”
Michael had to agree that Samuals did have a large sum in the pot. It stood at over five hundred to the winning pair. By the end of the evening, Michael expected that it could easily triple.
Michael responded, “You are correct Mr. Samuals that we are playing whist.” Then he drew himself up in his chair and using all the generations that had proceeded him, he poured the essence of his family in the second part of an admonishment that dignity and grace should have left unsaid, but then Samuals wasn’t from an old family, “But good manners has allowed Lord Vesey to apologize and should his interruptions have been such an annoyance, you would have best been served by asking for his silence at the beginning of his tale of affection for Lady B. that you may then have spent time concentrating on your hand. To whit, now that time has long passed as we know far more of Lord Vesey’s desires then perhaps you are comfortable of knowing though his need to share is keen. It however has left you in such a predicament that I fear you have lost this hand.”
“What, we have only played six tricks, and we have four of them!” Samuals said.
“Yes, but you have led with your hearts and in these six hands we have played most of the cards in the deck. I shall take this trick with the king, then in the next trick, Lord William shall take the trick with his queen, I follow for I still have my Jack and of a sudden we have five of the nine tricks that we have seen vanquished. Do I need to tell you how the rest of the hand plays out? And as the second hand to us, the rubber shall be ours.” It was academic and clear. But Samuals insisted since he could not see how it all would happen. The Baron of Lechmere who partnered Mr. Samuals shook his head, and then pointed out that it was so. They had lost.
It took a minute, perhaps two to calm Mr. Samuals and urge him to proceed to the gallery where he might find some liquid refreshment. Then they could resume play in a quarter hour as Michael, dealt with his friend.
“I am sorry my lord,” Lord Frederick said. “I did not mean to cause you any problems.”
The Vesey home, Monkton Priory was quite close to the ancestral home of the Duke’s of Stanfield and so Michael, as the heir and only son of the present Duke, grew up with the young men of Monkton. Henry, the elder Vesey boy and he had been childhood playfellows and gone to school together, as well as being gentlemen volunteers in Spain together.
Where Henry lost his life and thus Frederick became the lord of Monkton. As Henry struggled to survive his wounds, knowing that it was futile, he held Michael to a pledge to look out for his younger brother as if Frederick was Michael’s own. Michael had agreed of course. You always agreed to the wishes of the dying. Michael though had not realized that having a younger brother, as he had no siblings, was to be such a trial.
“Do not worry about Mr. Samuals. He has a short attention span when it comes to his pockets. He had nearly three hundred pounds of me last week, and twice that a month gone.” Michael though would not say that he was nearly five hundred ahead of Mr. Samuals after all the games they had played. It was a trick of Michael’s, one that his father the Duke did not like, that he knew exactly where he was at any moment in regards to his fortune.
Since he was initially on an allowance from the Duke, a small one that got smaller each year, anything extra that he succeeded in getting was found money, and an idle gentleman was always in need of money. Though Michael hardly ever touched it, having the ready was quite important for paupers, as well as the sons of Dukes.
Lord Vesey said, “Still, I know I deserve a scold.”
“You do indeed. You have mentioned this lady that you are enamored of in the club. That you disguised her identity a little by referring to her as Lady B, is an affectation. We do not talk of such things in public, Lord Vesey.”
Frederick looked admonished, so Michael knew that his reprimand was somewhat successful. He could not let up though. “I should exact a promise from you that you shall not do so again, for this rule, well most of the rules regarding our behavior are unwritten of course. I should like you to try to do better in my presence and that of those who are not solely of our circle. William of course you need not disguise your meaning from, but Mr. Samuals and Lechmere do not need to be party to your most personal pursuits of love.”
Michael often wished he need not hear of them either. Vesey seemed to fall in love every hour. And while it would be important one day for there to be new little Veseys, Frederick was but a few years past twenty. A boy still in many things. Michael suspected were his own mother alive, or had he sisters as his friend, Lord William the Earl of Mercia, then he would be constantly harangued to marry. The countess, William’s mother, had included him in the conversation a time or two when she had pointedly been scolding William to marry.
Frederick nodded, “I understand my lord, I shall try.”
Michael said, “The others have moved off, Frederick. I have told you before you may call me Devon, or Michael.” It was what a brother would do. The honorary title of Viscount Devon, his father’s lessor title had suited him all his life. Most called Michael by that, though Lord William and Frederick often did call him Michael. The only other to do so was the Duke, but he did so when vexed with his heir.
“Sorry Michael, of course. But I am a little unnerved. Lady Barb… I mean Lady B was so charming this evening at Almacks. You really should have come out…”
Michael held up his hand, “I really do not like dancing at present.”
“Henry told me that you commanded the dance floor when the two of you first came to Town. He said that all the ladies would form lines for your attention.”
Michael could not argue with that. He had not realized quite in the beginning that most, if not all, desired that attention for they wished to be the next duchess of Stanfield. That would get any man’s attention. In any case, since he had gone to Spain and returned, though it had been some years, he had no desire to dance any longer.
Michael said, “We should not talk of my desires, or lack of them. You came to me for some advice and help with this current inamorata of yours.”
Frederick sat bolt upright in the chair as if he had been caned at school. “She is not my inamorata, at least not yet. She gave me one dance, and her father was quite agreeable.”
“The Earl of Tyrone. Yes I know him. At least we have talked a time or two. A likable chap. He is a member of Boodles across the street. A Tory of course.” Brooks was the home to the Whigs, but Michael did not often care to argue politics. He was a member of Brooks as well, for his father the Duke was also a member there. So much of who one was and what one did was tied to whose son one was, that Michael had little choice in the clubs he was to belong to, as well as what thoughts of his own he was allowed to express. At least not until he became the Duke. A time far in the future, for his father, though they did not see eye to eye, was his closest family member.
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