EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY

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Hello, historical fiction fans.  EIGHTH WONDER: THE THOMAS BETHUNE STORY is officially in the copy editing stage. It’s three weeks away from completion.  From there, I begin the process of building a website and deciding whether to self-publish or go the traditional publishing route.  I’m strongly leaning toward self-publishing.

This is my debut novel and the writing process has been a long, sometimes intimidating journey.  But I’ve been committed to bringing the incredible story of the blind slave, Thomas Bethune, known throughout the world as “Blind Tom” to the page.

Born blind and feeble, left in a sweltering smokehouse for dead, Thomas began playing Mozart at the age of three. His story, as seen through the eyes of the master who saved him, is a gripping, inspirational, and intriguing 19th century tale.

I hope you enjoy the read, and appreciate the great effort I put into sharing his captivating story with you.  Like many authors, it’s been a labor of love.

The book will be out in February 2016.  I’m excited, nervous, and proud to share the story of Thomas Bethune with the world.

HOUSE SLAVES, ANTEBELLUM

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House Slaves

from http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASdomestic.htm

House slaves usually lived better than field slaves. They usually had better food and were sometimes given the family’s cast-off clothing. William Wells Brown, a slave from Lexington, Kentucky, explained in his autobiography, Narrative of William W. Brown, A Fugitive Slave (1847): “I was a house servant – a situation preferable to that of a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed, and not obliged to rise at the ringing of the bell, but about half an hour after.”

Not all slave-owners took this view, Harriet Jacobs, a house slave from Edenton, North Carolina, reports that on Sunday her mistress “would station herself in the kitchen, and wait till it was dished, and then spit in all the kettles and pans” to make sure that the slaves did not eat what was left over. Jacobs adds: “She did this to prevent the cook and her children from eking out their meager fare with the remains of the gravy and other scrapings. The slaves could get nothing to eat except what she chose to give them. Provisions were weighed out by the pound and ounce, three times a day. I can assure you she gave them no chance to eat wheat bread from her flour barrel. She knew how many biscuits a quart of flour would make, and exactly what size they ought to be.”

Their living accommodation was also better than those of other slaves. In some cases the slaves were treated like the slave-owners children. However, Lewis Clarke believed that some house slaves were worse off than field slaves: “There were four house-slaves in this family, including myself, and though we had not, in all respects, so hard work as the field hands, yet in many things our condition was much worse. We were constantly exposed to the whims and passions of every member of the family; from the least to the greatest their anger was wreaked upon us. Nor was our life an easy one, in the hours of our toil or in the amount of labor performed. We were always required to sit up until all the family had retired; then we must be up at early dawn in summer, and before day in winter.”

When this happened close bonds of affection and friendship usually developed. Even though it was illegal, some house slaves were educated by the women in the family. Trusted house slaves who had provided good service over a long period of time were sometimes promised their freedom when their master’s died. However, there are many cases where this promise was not kept.

Gad Heuman and James Walvin, the authors of Slave Work (2003): “The domestic life of whites was dominated by slave domestics. Visitors, again, were struck by the huge numbers of black servants working in and around the homes of white people in the slave colonies. Nannies and nurses, cooks, and washers, gardeners and cleaners, each and every conceivable domestic role was undertaken by slaves. Overwhelmingly women, slave domestics faced different problems from their contemporaries in the fields. Though perhaps better-off materially, domestic slaves often had uncomfortable relations with their white owners. They faced all the potential aggravations of close proximity, from sexual threats through to white women’s dissatisfaction and anger.”

19th Century Chinese in Antebellum Times, America and China

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(from Jewishdictionary.com (1905) The first Jew who arrived there was Elias David Sassoon, who, about the year 1850, opened a branch in connection with his father’s Bombay house. Since that period Jews have gradually migrated from India to Shanghai, most of them being engaged from Bombay as clerks by the firm of David Sassoon & Co. The community is composed mainly of Asiatic, German, and Russian Jews, though there are a few of Austrian, French, and Italian origin among them. Jews have undoubtedly taken a considerable part in developing trade in China, and several have served on the municipal councils, among them being S. A. Hardoon, partner in the firm of E. D. Sassoon & Co., who had served on the French and English councils at the same time. During the early days of Jewish settlement in Shanghai the trade in opium and Bombay cotton yarn was mainly in Jewish hands.

Opium was smuggled by merchants from British India into China in defiance of Chinese prohibition laws. Open warfare between Britain and China broke out in 1839. Further disputes over the treatment of British merchants in Chinese ports resulted in the Second Opium War. China was defeated in both wars leaving its government having to tolerate the opium trade. Britain forced the Chinese government into signing the Treaty of Nanking and the Treaty of Tianjin, also known as the Unequal Treaties, which included provisions for the opening of additional ports to unrestricted foreign trade, for fixed tariffs; for the recognition of both countries as equal in correspondence; and for the cession of Hong Kong to Britain


Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fortune was inherited from his maternal grandfather Warren Delano. In 1830 he was a senior partner of Russell & Company. It was their merchant fleet which carried Sassoon’s opium to China and returned with tea. Warren Delano moved to Newburgh, N.Y. In 1851 his daughter Sara Married a well-born neighbor, James Roosevelt – the father of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He always knew the origin of the family fortune but refused to discuss it.

Jews commenced to settle in Singapore in 1840. For a number of years their services were held in a rented house near the business quarter, in a street since known as Synagogue street. About 1877 the community purchased ground in a more convenient situation and built on it the synagogue Maghain Aboth, which was consecrated April 4, 1878. It is attended by both Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jews. The most prominent Jewish firms deal largely in opium, rice, and gunny-bags, and the business of most of the Ashkenazim consists chiefly in liquor-dealing, hotel-keeping, and the selling of furniture. The total population of Singapore is 160,000; this includes about 700 Jews, mostly Sephardic and Ashkenazic, the former having come from Bagdad and India, and the latter from Germany. J. N. E Read more: http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=821&letter=S&search=opium#ixzz0j2nN1zvs

1839 Start of the Opium War between China and Great Britain.
1842 Treaty of Nanking, first “Unequal Treaty” after China met defeat in Opium War. Opened ports of Canton, Foochow, Amoy, Ningpo, and Shanghai to trade. China ceded Hong Kong to the British.
1848 James Marshall discovered gold at John Sutter’s sawmill on the American River at Coloma. This discovery triggered the California Gold Rush.
1850 Some 500 immigrants out of 57,787 arriving in California were Chinese.
California state legislature passed the first Foreign Miners’ Tax Law, levying a $20-per-month tax on each foreigner engaged in mining.
1851-1864 The T’aip’ing Rebellion. Insurgents seized control of the middle and lower Yangtze Basin. Millions of lives lost.
1852 Of the 11,794 Chinese living in California, only 7 were women.
Chinese immigration increased to 20,000 this year with most individuals proceeding to mining regions. This number decreased to under 8,000 annually during the next two decades.
Re-enactment of the Foreign Miners’ Tax Law aimed at controlling the Chinese and other immigrant populations in California.
1854 People v. Hall. California Supreme Court ruled that a white man charged with murder could not be convicted on the testimony of a Chinese witness.
Weaverville War of 1854 in California between the people of Sze Yup and Heung Shan. Also fighting at Chinese Camp between the Hakkas and Sam Yup People.
1860s The Six Chinese Companies called Tongs formed to represent and organize Chinese interests in San Francisco and California.
1862 Pacific Railroad Bill provided government aid to build transcontinental railroad.
1863 On January 3, the Central Pacific Railroad broke ground.
1865 Crocker hired first 50 Chinese men in response to white workers’ threatening a strike; within two years, 90 percent of the work force on the Central Pacific Railroad was Chinese.
1867 June 25, railroad strike: the Chinese laborers, without support of other workers, won concession over wages.
Workingmen’s Party of California founded in San Francisco. Denis Kearney acted as its president.
Four hundred men (associated with Workingmen’s Party) attacked Chinese in San Francisco.
1868 The Burlingame Treaty recognized the right of free immigration on the part of citizens of the United States and China.
Governor John Bigley delivered anti-Chinese speech; Lai Chun Chuen, Chinese merchants in San Francisco, issued pamphlet in response.
Twelve thousand Chinese working in construction of the railroad. Union Pacific joined the Central Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10.
1870 By this time, 3,536 Chinese women had emigrated to California, 61 percent (2,157) listed as prostitutes.
Foreign Miners’ Tax represented 25 to 50 percent of all state revenue. Chinese constituted the largest racial group in the mines, 9,087 out of 36,339.
1870s Diversification of crops developed after railroad was completed. Chinese aided in cultivation techniques as well as harvest of these crops.
Record unemployment hit California.
Chinese involved in commercial fishing along the West Coast. In 1888, there were more than 2,000 Chinese in thirty camps, mostly along the San Francisco Bay and in the Monterey and San Diego areas.

19th Century, Antebellum, Queen Victoria

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QUEEN VICTORIA

CHAPTER I

ANTECEDENTS

I On November 6, 1817, died the Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, and heir to the crown of England. Her short life had hardly been a happy one. By nature impulsive, capricious, and vehement, she had always longed for liberty; and she had never possessed it. She had been brought up among violent family quarrels, had been early separated from her disreputable and eccentric mother, and handed over to the care of her disreputable and selfish father. When she was seventeen, he decided to marry her off to the Prince of Orange; she, at first, acquiesced; but, suddenly falling in love with Prince Augustus of Prussia, she determined to break off the engagement. This was not her first love affair, for she had previously carried on a clandestine correspondence with a Captain Hess. Prince

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Augustus was already married, morganatically, but she did not know it, and he did not tell her. While she was spinning out the negotiations with the Prince of Orange, the allied sovereigns—it was June, 1814—arrived in London to celebrate their victory. Among them, in the suite of the Emperor of Russia, was the young and handsome Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg. He made several attempts to attract the notice of the Princess, but she, with her heart elsewhere, paid very little attention. Next month the Prince Regent, discovering that his daughter was having secret meetings with Prince Augustus, suddenly appeared upon the scene and, after dismissing her household, sentenced her to a strict seclusion in Windsor Park. ” God Almighty grant me patience!” she exclaimed, falling on her knees in an agony of agitation: then she jumped up, ran down the backstairs and out into the street, hailed a passing cab, and drove to her mother’s house in Bayswater. She was discovered, pursued, and at length, yielding to the persuasions of her uncles, the Dukes of York and Sussex, of Brougham, and of the Bishop of Salisbury, she returned to Carlton House at two o’clock in the morning. She was immured at Windsor, but no more was heard of the Prince of Orange. Prince Augustus, too, disappeared. The way was at last open to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.1

This Prince was clever enough to get round the Regent, to impress the Ministers, and to make friends with another of the Princess’s uncles, the Duke of Kent. Through the Duke he was able to communicate privately with the Princess, who now declared that he was necessary to her happiness. When, after Waterloo, he was in Paris, the Duke’s aide-de-camp carried letters backwards and forwards across the Channel. In January 1816 he was invited to England, and in May the marriage took place.2

The character of Prince Leopold contrasted strangely with that of his wife. The younger son of a German princeling, he was at this time twenty-six years of age; he had served with distinction in the war against Napoleon; he had shown considerable diplomatic skill at the Congress of Vienna;3 and he was now to try his hand at the task of taming a tumultuous Princess.

Cold and formal in manner, collected in speech, careful in action, he soon dominated the wild, impetuous, generous creature by his side. There was much in her, he found, of which he could not approve. She quizzed, she stamped, she roared with laughter; she had very little of that self-command which is especially required of princes; her manners were abominable. Of the latter he was a good judge, having moved, as he himself explained to his niece many years later, in the best society of Europe, being in fact ” what is called in French de la fleur des pens.” There was continual friction, but every scene ended in the same way. Standing before him like a rebellious boy in petticoats, her body pushed forward, her hands behind her back, with flaming cheeks and sparkling eyes, she would declare at last that she was ready to do whatever he wanted. ” If you wish it, I will do it,” she would say. ” I want nothing for myself,” he invariably answered; ” when I press something on you, it is from a conviction that it is for your interest and for your good.” 1

Here he had met Prince Leopold, who had been struck by his ability, and, on, his marriage, brought him to England as his personal physician. A curious fate awaited this young man; many were the gifta which the future held in store for him—many and various—influence, power, mystery, unhappiness, a broken heart. At Claremont his position was a very humble one; but the Princess took a fancy to him, called him ” Stocky,” and romped with him along the corridors. Dyspeptic by constitution, melancholic by temperament, he could yet be lively on occasion, and was known as a

George IV

wit in Coburg. He was virtuous, too, and observed the royal rainage with approbation. ” My master,” he wrote in his diary, ” is the best of all husbands in all the five quarters of the globe; and his wife bears him an amount of love, the greatness of which can only be compared with the English national debt.” Before long he gave proof of another quality—a quality which was to colour the whole of his life—cautious sagacity. When, in the spring of 1817, it was known that the Princess was expecting a child, the post of one of her physicians-in-ordinary was offered to him, and he had the good sense to refuse it. He perceived that his colleagues would be jealous of him, that his advice would probably not be taken, but that, if anything were to go wrong, it would be certainly the foreign doctor who would be blamed. Very soon, indeed, he came to the opinion that the low diet and constant bleedings, to which the unfortunate Princess was subjected, were an error; he drew the Prince aside, and begged him to communicate this opinion to the English doctors; but it was useless. The fashionable lowering treatment was continued for months. On November 5, at nine o’clock in the evening, after a labour of over fifty hours, the Princess was delivered of a dead boy. At midnight her exhausted strength gave way. Then, at last, Stockmar consented to see her; he went in, and found her obviously dying, while the doctors were plying her with wine. She seized his hand and pressed it. ” They have made me tipsy,” she said. After a little he left her, and was already in the next room when he heard her call out in her loud voice: “Stocky! Stocky!” As he ran back the death-rattle was in her throat. She tossed herself violently from side to side; then suddenly drew up her legs, and it was over.

The Prince, after hours of watching, had left the room for a few moments’ rest; and Stockmar had now to tell him that his wife was dead. At first he could not be made to realise what had happened. On their way to her room he sank down on a chair while Stockmar knelt beside him: it was all a dream; it was impossible. At last, by the bed, he, too, knelt down and kissed the cold hands. Then rising and exclaiming, ” Now I am quite desolate. Promise me never to leave me,” he threw himself into Stockmar’s arms.1

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Ii

The tragedy at Claremont was of a most upsetting kind. The royal kaleidoscope had suddenly shifted, and nobody could tell how the new pattern would arrange itself. The succession to the throne, which had seemed so satisfactorily settled, now became a matter of urgent doubt.

George III was still living, an aged lunatic, at Windsor, completely impervious to the impressions of the outer world. Of his seven sons, the youngest was of more than middle age, and none had legitimate offspring. The outlook, therefore, was ambiguous. It seemed highly improbable that the Prince Regent, who had lately been obliged to abandon his stays, and presented a preposterous figure of debauched obesity,1 could ever again, even on the supposition that he divorced his wife and re-married, become the father of a family. Besides the Duke of Kent, who must be noticed separately, the other brothers, in order of seniority, were the Dukes of York, Clarence, Cumberland, Sussex, and Cambridge; their situations and prospects require a brief description. The Duke of York, whose escapades in times past with Mrs. Clarke and the army had brought him into trouble, now divided his life between London and a large, extravagantly ordered and extremely uncomfortable country house where he occupied himself with racing, whist, and improper stories. He was remarkable among the princes for one reason: he was the only one of them—so we are informed by a highly competent observer—who had the feelings of a gentleman. He had been long married to the Princess Royal of Prussia, a lady who rarely went to bed and was perpetually surrounded by vast numbers of dogs, parrots, and monkeys.2 They had no children. The Duke of Clarence had lived for many years in complete obscurity with Mrs. Jordan, the actress, in Bushey Park. By her he had had a large family of sons and daughters, and had appeared, in effect, to be married to her, when he suddenly separated from her and offered to marry Miss Wykeham, a crazy woman of large fortune, who, however, would have nothing to say to him. Shortly afterwards Mrs. Jordan died in distressed circumstances in Paris.1 The Duke of Cumberland was probably the most unpopular man in England. Hideously ugly, with a distorted eye, he was bad-tempered and vindictive in private, a violent reactionary in politics, and was subsequently suspected of murdering his valet and of having carried on an amorous intrigue of an extremely scandalous kind.2 He had lately married a German Princess, but there were as yet no children by the marriage. The Duke of Sussex had mildly literary tastes and collected books.3 He had married Lady Augusta Murray, by whom he had two children, but the marriage, under the Royal Marriages Act, was declared void. On Lady Augusta’s death, he married Lady Cecilia Buggin; she changed her name to Underwood; but this marriage also was void. Of the Duke of Cambridge, the youngest of the brothers, not very much was known. He lived in Hanover, wore a blonde wig, chattered and fidgeted a great deal, and was unmarried.1

Besides his seven sons, George III had five surviving daughters. Of these, two—the Queen of Wiirtemberg and the Duchess of Gloucesterwere married and childless. The three unmarried princesses—Augusta, Elizabeth, and Sophia—’ were all over forty.

Ill

The fourth son of George III was Edward,

Duke of Kent. He was now fifty years of age—■ a tall, stout, vigorous man, highly-coloured, with bushy eyebrows, a bald top to his head, and what hair he had carefully dyed a glossy black. His dress was extremely neat, and in his whole appearance there was a rigidity which did not belie his character. He had spent his early life in the army—at Gibraltar, in Canada, in the West Indies—and, under the influence of military training, had become at first a disciplinarian and at last a martinet. In 1802, having been sent to Gibraltar to restore order in a mutinous garrison, he was recalled for undue severity, and his active career had come to an end. Since then he had spent his life regulating his domestic arrangements with great exactitude, busying himself with the affairs of his numerous dependents, designing clocks, and struggling to restore order to his finances, for, in spite of his being, as someone said who knew him well “regle comme du papier a musique” and in spite of an income of £24,000 a year, he was hopelessly in debt. He had quarrelled with most of his brothers, particularly with the Prince Regent, and it was only natural that he should have joined the political Opposition and become a pillar of the Whigs. What his political opinions may actually have been is open to doubt; it has often been asserted that he was a Liberal, or even a Radical; and, if we are to believe Robert Owen, he was a necessitarian Socialist. His relations with Owen— the shrewd, gullible, high-minded, wrong-headed, illustrious and preposterous father of Socialism and Co-operation—were curious and characteristic. He talked of visiting the Mills at New Lanark; he did, in fact, preside at one of Owen’s public meetings; he corresponded with him on confidential terms, and he even (so Owen assures us) returned, after his death, from “the sphere of spirits ” to give encouragement to the Owenites on earth. ” In an especial manner,” says Owen, ” I have to name the very anxious feelings of the spirit of his Royal Highness the late Duke of Kent (who early informed me there were no titles in the spiritual spheres into which he had entered), to benefit, not a class, a sect, a party, or any particular country, but the whole of the human race through futurity.” ” His whole spiritproceeding with me has been most beautiful,” Owen adds, ” making his own appointments; and never in one instance has this spirit not been punctual to the minute he had named.” But Owen was of a sanguine temperament. He also numbered among his proselytes President Jefferson, Prince Metterrrich, and Napoleon; so that some uncertainty must still linger over the Duke of Kent’s views. But there is no uncertainty about another circumstance: his Royal Highness borrowed from Robert Owen, on various occasions, various sums of money which were never repaid and amounted in all to several hundred pounds.1 After the death of the Princess Charlotte it was clearly important, for more than one reason, that the Duke of Kent should marry. From the point of view of the nation, the lack of heirs in the reigning family seemed to make the step almost obligatory; it was also likely to be highly expedient from the point of view of the Duke. To marry as a public duty, for the sake of the royal succession, would surely deserve some recognition from a grateful country. When the Duke of York had married he had received a settlement of £25,000 a year. Why should not the Duke of Kent look forward to an equal sum? But the situation was not quite simple. There was the Duke of Clarence to be considered; he was the elder brother, and, if he married, would clearly have the prior claim. On the other hand, if the Duke of Kent married, it was important to remember that he would be making a serious sacrifice: a lady was involved.

i Crawford. 80. lift.

i Stockmar, 112-3; Letters, I, 8; Crawford, 27-80; Owen, 193-4, 197-8, 199, 229.

The Duke, reflecting upon all these matters with careful attention, happened, about a month after his niece’s death, to visit Brussels, and learnt that Mr. Creevey was staying in the town. Mr. Creevey was a close friend of the leading Whigs and an inveterate gossip; and it occurred to the Duke that there could be no better channel through which to communicate his views upon the situation to political circles at home. Apparently it did not occur to him that Mr. Creevey was malicious and might keep a diary. He therefore sent for him on some trivial pretext, and a remarkable conversation ensued.

After referring to the death of the Princess, to the improbability of the Regent’s seeking a divorce, to the childlessness of the Duke of York, and to the possibility of the Duke of Clarence marrying, the Duke adverted to his own position. ” Should the Duke of Clarence not marry,” he said, ” the next prince in succession is myself, and although I trust I shall be at all times ready to obey any call my country may make upon me, God only knows the sacrifice it will be to make, whenever I shall think it my duty to become a married man. It is now seven-and twenty years that Madame St. Laurent and I have lived together: we are of the same age, and have been in all climates, and in all difficulties together, and you may well imagine, Mr. Creevey, the pang it will occasion me to part with her. I put it to your own feelings—in the event of any separation between you and Mrs. Creevey. . . . As for Madame St. Laurent herself, I protest I don’t know what is to become of her if a marriage is to be forced upon me; her feelings are already so agitated upon the subject.” The Duke went on to describe how, one morning, a day or two after the Princess Charlotte’s death, a paragraph had appeared in the Morning Chronicle, alluding to the possibility of his marriage. He had

received the newspaper at breakfast together with his letters, and ” I did as is my constant practice, I threw the newspaper across the table to Madame St. Laurent, and began to open and read my letters. I had not done so but a very short time, when my attention was called to an extraordinary noise and a strong convulsive movement in Madame St. Laurent’s throat. For a short time I entertained serious apprehensions for her safety; and when, upon her recovery, I enquired into the occasion of this attack, she pointed to the article in the Morning Chronicle” The Duke then returned to the subject of Jhe Duke of Clarence. ” My brother the Duke of Clarence is the elder brother, and has certainly the right to marry if he chooses, and I would not interfere with him on any account. If he wishes to be king—to be married and have children, poor man—God help him! let him do y so. For myself—I am a man of no ambition, and wish only to remain as I am. . . . Easter, you know, falls very early this year—the 22nd of March. If the Duke of Clarence does not take any step before that time, I must find some pretext to reconcile Madame St. Laurent to my going to England for a short time. When once there, it will be easy for me to consult with

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my friends as to the proper steps to be taken. Should the Duke of Clarence do nothing before that time as to marrying it will become my duty, no doubt, to take some measures upon the subject myself.” Two names, the Duke said, had been mentioned in this connection—those of the Princess of Baden and the Princess of SaxeCoburg. The latter, he thought, would perhaps be the better of the two, from the circumstance of Prince Leopold being so popular with the nation; but before any other steps were taken, he hoped and expected to see justice done to Madame St. Laurent. ” She is,” he explained, ” of very good family, and has never been an actress, and I am the first and only person who ever lived with her. Her disinterestedness, too, has been equal to her fidelity. When she first came to me it was upon £100 a year. That sum was afterwards raised to £400, and finally to £1000; but when my debts made it necessary for me to sacrifice a great part of my income, Madame St. Laurent insisted upon again returning to her income of £400 a year. If Madame St. Laurent is to return to live amongst her friends, it must be in such a state of independence as to command their respect. I shall not require very much, but a certain number of servants and a carriage are essentials.” As to his own settlement, the Duke observed that he would expect the Duke of York’s marriage to be considered the precedent. ” That,” he said, ” was a marriage for the succession, and £25,000 for income was settled, in addition to all his other income, purely on that account. I shall be contented with the same arrangement, without making any demands grounded on the difference of the value of money in 1792 and at present. As for the payment of my debts,” the Duke concluded, ” I don’t call them great. The nation, on the contrary, is greatly my debtor.” Here a clock struck, and seemed to remind the Duke that he had an appointment; he rose, and Mr. Creevey left him.

Who could keep such a communication secret? Certainly not Mr. Creevey. He hurried off to tell the Duke of Wellington, who was very much amused, and he wrote a long account of it to Lord Sefton, who received the letter “very apropos,” while a surgeon was sounding his bladder to ascertain whether he had a stone. ” I never saw a fellow more astonished than he was,” wrote Lord Sefton in his reply, ” at seeing me laugh as soon as the operation was over. Nothing could be more first-rate than the royal Edward’s ingenuousness. One does not know which to admire most—the delicacy of his attachment to Madame St. Laurent, the refinement of his sentiments towards the Duke of Clarence, or his own perfect disinterestedness in pecuniary matters.”1 As it turned out, both the brothers decided to marry. The Duke of Kent, selecting the Princess of Saxe-Coburg in preference to the Princess of Baden, was united to her on May 29, 1818. On June 11, the Duke of Clarence followed suit with a daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. But they were disappointed in their financial expectations; for though the Government brought forward proposals to increase their allowances, together with that of the Duke of Cumberland, the motions were defeated in the House of Commons. At this the Duke of Wellington was not surprised. “By God!” he said, “there is a great deal to be said about that. They are the damnedest millstones about the necks of any Government that can be imagined. They have insulted—personally insulted—two-thirds of the gentlemen of England, and how can it be wondered at that they take their revenge upon them in the House of Commons? It is their only opportunity, and I think, by God! they are quite right to use it.”1 Eventually, however, Parlia’ ment increased the Duke of Kent’s annuity by £6000.

i Creeyey, I, 267-T1.

The subsequent history of Madame St. Laurent has not transpired.

IV

The new Duchess of Kent, Victoria Mary Louisa, was a daughter of Francis, Duke of SaxeCoburg-Saalfeld, and a sister of Prince Leopold. The family was an ancient one, being a branch of the great House of Wettin, which since the eleventh century had ruled over the March of Meissen on the Elbe. In the fifteenth century the whole possessions of the House had been divided between the Albertine and Ernestine branches: from the former descended the electors and kings of Saxony; the latter, ruling over Thuringia, became further subdivided into five branches, of which the duchy of Saxe-Coburg was one. This principality was very small, containing about 60,000 inhabitants, but it enjoyed independent and sovereign rights. During the disturbed years which followed the French Revolution, its affairs became terribly involved. The Duke was extravagant, and kept open house for the swarms of refugees, who fled eastward

19th Century Etiquette, Elderly Girls, Antebellum, Part 9

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CHAPTER XXV.ETIQUETTE FOR ELDERLY GIRLS.


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A Brisk correspondent writes to us that she finds our restrictions as to the etiquette which single women should follow somewhat embarrassing. Being now thirty-five, and at the head of her father’s house, with no intention of ever marrying, she asks if she requires a chaperon; if it is necessary that she should observe the severe self-denial of not entering an artist’s studio without a guardian angel; if she must never allow a gentleman to pay for her theatre tickets; if she must, in short, assume a matron’s place in the world, and never enjoy a matron’s freedom.

From her letter we can but believe that this young lady of thirty-five is a very attractive person, and that she does “not look her age.” Still, as she is at the head of her father’s house, etiquette does yield a point and allows her to judge for herself as to the proprieties which must bend to her. Of course with every year of a woman’s life after twenty-five she becomes less and less the subject of chaperonage. For one thing, she is better able to judge of the world and its temptations; in the second place, a certain air which may not be less winning, but which is certainly more mature, has replaced the wild grace of a giddy girlhood. She has, with the assumption of

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years, taken on a dignity which, in its way, is fully the compensation for some lost bloom. Many people prefer it.

But we must say here that she is not yet, in European opinion, emancipated from that guardianship which society dispenses with for the youngest widow. She must have a “companion” if she is a rich woman; and if she is a poor one she must join some party of friends when she travels. She can travel abroad with her maid, but in Paris and other Continental cities a woman still young-looking had better not do this. She is not safe from insult nor from injurious suspicion if she signs herself “Miss” Smith, and is without her mother, an elderly friend, a companion, or party.

In America a woman can go anywhere and do almost anything without fear of insult. But in Europe, where the custom of chaperonage is so universal, she must be more circumspect.

As to visiting an artist’s studio alone, there is in art itself an ennobling and purifying influence which should be a protection. But we must not forget that saucy book by Maurice Sand, in which its author says that the first thing he observed in America was that women (even respectable ones) went alone to artists’ studios. It would seem wiser, therefore, that a lady, though thirty-five, should be attended in her visits to studios by a friend or companion. This simple expedient “silences envious tongues,” and avoids even the remotest appearance of evil.

In the matter of paying for tickets, if a lady of thirty-five wishes to allow a gentleman to pay for her

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admission to picture-galleries and theatres she has an indisputable right to do so. But we are not fighting for a right, only defining a law of etiquette, when we say that it is not generally allowed in the best society, abroad or here. In the case of young girls it is quite unallowable, but in the case of a lady of thirty-five it may be permitted as a sort of camaraderie, as one college friend may pay for another. The point is, however, a delicate one. Men, in the freedom of their clubs, recount to each other the clever expedients which many women of society use to extort from them boxes for the opera and suppers at Delmonico’s. A woman should remember that it may sometimes be Very inconvenient to young men who are invited by her to go to concerts and theatres to pay for these pleasures. Many a poor fellow who has become a defaulter has to thank for it the lady who first asked him to take her to Delmonico’s to supper. He was ashamed to tell her that he was poor, and he stole that he might not seem a churl.

Another phase of the subject is that a lady in permitting a gentleman to expend money for her pleasures assumes an obligation to him which time and chance may render oppressive.

With an old friend, however, one whose claim to friendship is well established, the conditions are changed. In his case there can be no question of obligation, and a woman may accept unhesitatingly any of those small attentions and kindnesses which friendly feeling may prompt him to offer to her.

Travelling alone with a gentleman escort was at one time allowed in the West. A Kentucky woman

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of that historic period, “before the war,” would not have questioned the propriety of it, and a Western man of to-day still has the desire to pay everything, everywhere, “for a lady.”

The increase in the population of the Western States and the growth of a wealthy and fashionable society in the large towns have greatly modified this spirit of unwise chivalry, and such customs are passing away even on the frontier. Mr. Howells’s novel, “The Lady of the Aroostook,” has acquainted American readers with the unkind criticism to which a young lady who travels in Europe without a-chaperon is subjected, and we believe that there are few mammas who would desire to see their daughters in the position of Miss Lydia Blood.

“An old maid,” as our correspondent playfully calls herself, may do almost anything without violating etiquette, if she consents to become a chaperon, and takes with her a younger person. Thus an aunt and niece can travel far and wide; the position of an elder sister is always dignified; the youthful head of a house has a right to assert herself–she must do it –therefore etiquette bows to her (as “nice customs courtesy to great kings”). There is very much in the appearance of a woman. It is a part of the injustice of nature that some people look coquettish who are not so. Bad taste in dress, a high color, a natural flow of spirits, or a loud laugh have often caused a very good woman to be misinterpreted. Such a woman should be able to sit in judgment upon herself; and remembering that in a great city, at a crowded theatre, or at a watering-place, judgments must be hasty and superficial,

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she should tone down her natural exuberance, anti-take with her a female companion who is of a different type from herself. Calm and cold Puritanical people may not be more respectable than the fresh-colored and laughing “old maids” of thirty-five, but they look more so, and in this world women must consult appearances. An elderly gift must even think how she looks. A woman who at a watering-place dresses conspicuously, wears a peignoir to breakfast, dyes her hair, or looks as if she did, ties a white blond veil over her locks and sits on a hotel piazza, showing her feet, may be the best, the most cultivated woman in the house, but a superficial observer will not think so. In the mind of every passer-by will lurk the feeling that she lacks the first grace of womanhood, modesty–and in the criticism of a crowd there is strength. A man passing such a person, and contrasting her with modestly dressed and unobtrusive ladies, would naturally form an unfavorable opinion of her; and were she alone, and her name entered on the books of the house as “Miss” Smith, he would not be too severe if he thought her decidedly eccentric, and certainly “bad style.” If, however, “Miss” Smith were very plain and quiet, and dressed simply and in good taste, or if she sat on the sands looking at the sea, or attended an invalid or a younger friend, then Miss Smith might be as independent as she pleased: she would suffer from no injurious comments. Even the foreigner, who does not believe in the eccentricities of the English mees, would have no word to say against her. A good-looking elderly girl might say, “There is, then, a premium

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on ugliness;” but that we do not mean. Handsome women can conduct themselves so well that the breath of reproach need not and does not touch them, and ugly women may and do sometimes gain an undeserved reproach.

There are some people who are born with what we call, for want of a better name, a pinchbeck air. Their jewellery never looks like real gold; their man her is always bad; they have the faux air of fashion, not the real one. Such people, especially if single, receive many a snub which they do not deserve, and to a woman of this style a companion is almost necessary. Fortunately there are almost always two women who can join forces in travelling or in living together, and the independence of such a couple is delightful. We have repeated testimony in English literature of the pleasant lives of the Ladies of Llangollen, of the lives of Miss Jewsbury and Lady Morgan, and of the model sisters Berry. In our own country we have almost abolished the idea that a companion is necessary for women of talent who are physicians or artists or musicians; but to those who are still in the trammels of private life we can say that the presence of a companion need not destroy their liberty, and it may add very much to their respectability and happiness. There is, no doubt, a great pleasure in the added freedom of life which comes to an elderly girl. “I can wear a velvet dress now,” said an exceedingly handsome woman on her thirtieth birthday. In England an unmarried woman of fifty is called “Mrs.,” if she prefers that title. So many delightful women are late in loving, so many

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are true to some buried love, so many are “elderly girls” from choice, and from no neglect of the stronger sex, that to them should be accorded all the respect which is supposed to accrue naturally to the married. “It takes a very superior woman to be an old maids” said Miss Sedgwick.

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