History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

19 April 2016

Fun with Primary Sources

Tracy talked recently about first person research. I've  been reading Boswell's London Journal 1762-1763 recently. It's nice, because the entries are small and I can read one or two whenever I have a moment to spare from whatever else I'm doing.

As these were his private journals, he's quite frank in them. And it's interesting to see just how a single man about town whiled away his time. For example, here is a typical entry, dated Saturday 4 December (1762):

I breakfasted with Dempster. He accompanied me into the City. He parted from me at St. Paul's, and I went to Child's, where there was not much said. I dined and drank tea with Lady Betty Macfarlane. We were but cold and dull. The Laird was low and disagreeable. I resolved to dine there no more; at least very, very seldom. At night, Erskine and I strolled through the streets and St. James's Park. Were were accosted there by several ladies of the town [whores]. Erskine was very humorous and said some very wild things to them. There was one in a red cloak of a good buxom person and comely face whom I marked as a future piece, in case of exigency.

This entry has a footnote which also gives Boswell's daily memoranda of the same day (yes, the man kept TWO different forms of journal of his daily life!).

Breakfast first at home. Then in Bath [coat] and old grey [suit] and stick, sally to City. Send off North Britons to Digges. Get the one of the day. Go to Child's, take dish of coffee, read Auditor, Monitor, Briton. Then come to Douglas's and inquire about parade. Then Leicester [Street], dine. Be comfortable yet genteel, and please your friend Captain Erskine. Drink tea. Then home, quiet, and wind up the week's journal in grey and slippers. Be always in bed before twelve. Never sup out. Breakfast R> Mackye Sunday and take franks [get Mackye to send his mail for free]."

Clearly, I need to see about tracking down a copy of Boswell's memoranda to go with the journals. I love this kind of daily minutia. It really helps me fill out my scenes, understand how my characters would have spent their time, and how they would have thought about the world.

03 April 2016

A Day at the Met

My daughter Mélanie and I are in New York for me to have book-related meetings. Saturday we spent a lovely afternoon rambling through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (and only seeing a fraction of its treasures). They have a special exhibit of Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun's paintings which was an added treat for me, as I got to see portraits of real historical people who are characters in my books. But I think Mélanie's favorites were the period rooms, which have always been favorites of mine as well. For me, it's like stepping into history (and now into my books), and it's such a treat now to watch my daughter having the same experience (with Mummy saying things like "Sofia's family could eat at this dining table" or "that looks like it could belong to  Anna and Elsa").

We sat on the steps of the façade of an 1823 building (an American bank, but it's not hard to imagine it as a London great house).

The Federalist rooms in the American Wing for me evoke the type of room that my characters might actually live in, particularly in a smaller London house (as opposed to a London great house like Devonshire House or a country estate). Mélanie seemed intrigued too.

We had a late lunch in the American Wing café and enjoyed this sculpture of a mama jaguar and her cubs.

We drank in the atmosphere of the Robert Adam dining room from Lansdowne House that has already inspired several scenes in my books.

Mélanie is fascinated by period china and silver.

We examined a firescreen that will probably find it's way into one of my books though the colors and composition reminded Mel of Ariel on her rock in The Little Mermaid.

One of Mélanie's favorite things was throwing coins in the water by the Temple of Dendur.

What spots at the Met or other museums do you find most inspiring? Writers, do they make you feel like you're walking into a scene from one of your books?

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