Stepping Back: Practice Does Not Make Perfect.

by Barbara Monajem

Mr. Darcy is a great comfort to me. Let me explain:

It’s hard to believe, but lately I’ve been watching Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth as Darcy) for the first time. (It came out 20 years ago. How can I have just gotten to it now??) Needless to say, I’m enjoying it very much, and I’m awed by Firth’s portrayal of Darcy as a man of great natural reserve. Darcy is not really a sociable sort, although he can be with those he knows well. (It’s eons since I read Pride and Prejudice, but I assume this is pretty close to Darcy’s character in the book as well.)

There’s a scene in the third episode where Lizzie accuses Darcy of rudeness at an earlier ball where he only danced four times, thus depriving ladies of a partner. He excuses himself on the grounds that he doesn’t converse easily with strangers; she replies that she isn’t as proficient at playing piano as she might like to be, but that it’s her own fault for not practicing. In other words, he has no excuse for his behavior. (And one of the awesome things about Darcy is that her reprimand doesn’t upset him! In fact, it makes him love her even more! Can’t help but adore such an upright, thoroughly besotted man.)

Valid excuse or not, I can’t help but sympathize with Mr. Darcy. Like many writers, I’m an introvert. I completely relate to being uneasy with strangers. I was very nervous going to my first Sisters in Crime meeting years and years ago. I didn’t know anyone. I had never, ever introduced myself to strangers in such a situation. I’m the sort of person who never even asks for help or directions unless I have no choice. But because writing matters so much to me, I went to the meeting, and everyone was kind and welcoming. I was slightly less uneasy at my first romance writers’ conference and then my first Georgia Romance Writers meeting. Over the years I have learned to introduce myself to strangers and carry on conversations even though I’m sure I have nothing to say. I’ve even taken the astonishing step (for me) of co-presenting a workshop, something I had never, ever imagined doing. In other words, I practiced a lot.

But none of this social stuff has become easy for me, and I assume it never will be. In other words, practice does not make perfect. I’m a better writer because of practicing. (A better cook, too.) Less uneasy in social situations, yes. But have I become an extrovert? No, and I never will be. Nor, I suspect, will Darcy. He makes a point of being cordial to Lizzie’s aunt and uncle because her approval matters so much to him, but will he ever become an extrovert like his friend Bingley? Frankly, I can’t imagine it, and anyway, I prefer him as he is.

So I’ve decided to stop practicing. I’m competent enough in social situations. I don’t have to get any better. (I’m good enough at cooking, too.) But I can’t take this attitude toward writing. I must never stop practicing, even though I will never attain perfection. There will always be room—and hopefully the capacity—for improvement, and this is a great source of inspiration and comfort to me.

To Kiss a Rake (coming July 29)To Kiss a Rake 600x900


Melinda Starling doesn’t let ladylike behavior get in the way of true love. She’s secretly assisting in an elopement . . . until she’s tossed into the waiting coach and driven away by a notorious rake.


Miles Warren, Lord Garrison, comes from a family of libertines, and he’s the worst of them all—or so society believes. When Miles helps a friend to run away with an heiress, it’s an entertaining way to revenge himself on one of the gossips who slandered him.

Except that he drives off with the wrong woman . . . and as if that wasn’t scandalous enough, he can’t resist stealing a kiss.

Buy at: Amazon  |  Amazon UK  |  Amazon Canada  |  Amazon Australia

Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic 81O8T58bcmL._SX80_awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for grownups, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).

Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

You can find Barbara online at:
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Stepping Back: Extinction of a Domesticated Dog

by Betty Bolte

In my most recent release, Samantha’s Secret, I chose to have a very special dog adopt Samantha, a healer/midwife. This story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1782, right as the American Revolution is winding down. While she and Trent, the young doctor, are walking home, discussing their patient, a friendly dog takes a liking to her:

“Say, looks like we have company.” Trent stopped, bending down to greet a medium-sized white dog with caramel colored splotches that had trotted up and halted before them.

“I wonder where it came from. Oh, it looks like it’s a bit bloated, too. Maybe it has worms?” Samantha paused beside the pair, smiling at how friendly the young dog appeared. She offered it her hand to sniff and then patted its head. The soft fur slid easily through her fingers, and she rubbed its chin. “Whose is it? Do you know this dog?”

Trent shook his head, scouring the passersby for any one who may have missed the animal. “Appears to be a stray, so it could be worms inside.”

“Let us continue. Surely someone will come looking for him.” Samantha started down the street, aware of the late hour and afraid she’d miss bidding her parents farewell. For the last time. She choked on tears and swallowed them. She’d not cry in front of Trent.

Trent caught her up in two long strides. “Her, if I’m not mistaken.”

“Her who?”

He indicated the dog walking beside them. “I believe she is a female Water Spaniel, a good hunting dog by all accounts.”

“Shoo, now.” Samantha waved a hand at the dog, but it smiled up at her, tongue lolling out one side of its mouth. “I don’t need a dog.”

Never heard of this breed? It’s not surprising, as it went extinct by the early 20th century. But it’s believed to be the foundation of our present day spaniels and retrievers. In fact, it’s been compared to a heavy golden retriever or a Welsh springer spaniel by at least one blogger.[1] It may also be part of the heritage stock of the American Water Spaniel. [2] This is an ancient breed, one that even Shakespeare included in at least one play, and yet today is unknown except in histories on dog breeding.

English Water SpanielThis painting is titled, “Quaille, An English Water Spaniel” and is what I referred to when writing the scene above. Isn’t this dog a beauty? Only old paintings exist that show what the English Water Spaniel looked like. But there are several descriptions, which I used to provide the details of the silky hair and the reputation as a good hunting dog.

This breed is said to have hair that is “long and naturally curled” with “legs feathered but not curled.” Of a medium size, often the dog is depicted with liver and white coloring though other colors like black have been mentioned. The water spaniel is said to be “that kind of dog whose service is required in fowling upon the water, partly through a natural towardness, and partly through a diligent teaching.”[3]

What I find intriguing is the fact that dog breeders let the water spaniel disappear. What was it about the breed they didn’t want to continue? Maybe the longer hair proved an issue in the winter, freezing after they came out of the water with the fowl? Or maybe there was something in their personality, like whining or barking, they wished to avoid. Nonetheless, apparently traces of the breed’s nature and characteristics do continue to reveal themselves in present day spaniels.[4]

Most of the time, we decry the event of an animal going extinct. This is why we have endangered species lists and the like. Yet in this case, it appears this breed was intentionally bred out of existence. What do you think? Should dog breeders, or any animal breeders, have that right?

[1] Retrieverman, Canis Lupus Hominis: The Retriever, Dog, & Wildlife Blog. Accessed 6/2/2015.

[2] “American Water Spaniel.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Accessed 6/2/2015.

[3] Dalziel, Hugh. British Dogs: Their Varieties, History, Characteristics, Breeding, Management, and Exhibition. Chapter XXX: The English Water Spaniel. Accessed 6/2/2015.

[4] Henriques, Harry. “History of Spaniels-Norfolk and English Water.” Spaniels in the Field and Flushing Retrievers Foundation. Accessed 6/2/2015.

Samantha’s Secret (A More Perfect Union, Book 3)SamanthsSecretCOVER

In 1782, the fight for independence becomes personal in the port city Charles Town, South Carolina.

Midwife and healer, Samantha McAlester returns from the front lines to find Charles Town under British siege and the town’s new doctor at war with its citizens.

Dr. Trent Cunningham intends to build a hospital staffed solely with educated doctors. What he doesn’t need is a raven-haired charlatan spooning out herbs and false promises to his patients, while tempting him at every turn.

Then a mutual friend develops a mysterious infection. Trenton is stumped. Samantha suspects the cure but knows treatment will expose her long-guarded secret, risking all she holds dear… including Trenton.

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Betty Bolte-July 2013ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Award-winning author Betty Bolté writes both historical and contemporary stories featuring strong, loving women and brave, compassionate men. In addition to her romantic fiction, she’s the author of several nonfiction books and earned a Master’s in English in 2008. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and the Authors Guild. Get to know her at

You can also find Betty online at:
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Stepping Back: Chemical Warfare in the Napoleonic Wars

by Regina Jeffers

In 1812, Prince George received a plan outlining the use of “unusual” methods to defeat Napoleon Bonaparte. The plan came to the future George IV from Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane. At the time, Wellesley’s successes in Spain were sporadic, and the Royal Navy struggled with the blockades of French ports. Cochrane’s plan offered hopes of a quick victory over the French.

Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane

Image of Captain Sir Thomas, Lord Cochrane Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald. Photograph Source: Public Domain

Cochrane quickly rose through the naval ranks from midshipman to lieutenancy (earned in three short years) and later received command of his own ship, the HMS Speedy. Although the Speedy was but a 14 cannon sloop, Cochrane managed to capture the Spanish frigate Gamo, for which he earned praise. Cochrane possessed strategic cunning, which should have served him well in his position, but he also possessed the uncanny ability to “insult” his superiors by pointing out their shortcomings.

Fortunately for Cochrane, Henry Dundas, first Viscount Melville, arrived in London in 1804 as First Lord of the Admiralty. Melville presented Cochrane with the command of the frigate Pallas and permission to patrol the North Atlantic waters. Within two months, Cochrane earned 75,000 pounds sterling in prize money. Napoleon marked Cochrane with the name “The Sea Wolf.” [le loupe des mers]

Needless to say a person with such charisma cannot sustain the favor of the Crown for long. Part of Cochrane’s woes came via the court martial trial of Admiral James Gambier after the action at Aix Roads in 1809. Cochrane managed to drive all but two of the French ships ashore during the battle. The battle lasted for three days, but it failed to destroy the French fleet. Cochrane blamed Gambier’s inaction for the English failure. Cochrane proved a poor public speaker during the trial, and public humiliation followed with Gambier’s exoneration. He also earned numerous political foes in Parliament for his reform tendencies. It was during his time as a MP for Honiton that Cochrane proposed his plan to Prince George.

The first weapon Cochrane suggested was the “sulphur ship” or “stink vessel.” Cochrane used a similar device at Aix Roads and knew some success. Cochrane sent three ships loaded with 1500 barrels of gunpowder and shell into the 11 ships of the line of the French fleet. These floating “explosion ships” were set off by fuses.

Cochrane suggested a hulk rigged with explosives. The English would remove the decks and reinforced the hull with timbers. A layer of clay would be spread and topped with scraps of metal. A thick layer of gunpowder would follow. At length, rows of shells and of carcasses of dead animals would top the gunpowder.

The explosion ship would be towed into place and anchored. The explosion would send the animal carcasses and metal scraps arcing in a shower upon the enemy.

Cochrane proposed a follow-up attack upon land fortifications. Abandoned hulls would again be used. Clay would cover the hull, but layers of charcoal and sulphur would be spread upon the upper decks. The hull would be situated close to land so the stick would carry inward once the British lit the charcoal. Cochrane thought the fumes would send the enemy running away, permitting the British to land and push the enemy back.

The Prince Regent sought the advice of Sir William Congreve, Frederick Augustus (the Duke of York), George, Lord Keith, and Lord Exmouth. Although the prince’s advisors saw the potential for a quick victory by using these devices, they also feared like reprisals upon England from the French. Prinny rejected Cochrane’s proposal. Cochrane refused to share the plans again with others. Cochrane was charged with illegal financial manipulations in 1814 during the London Stock Exchange scandal. He was imprisoned, dismissed from the Royal Navy, and forfeited his knighthood.

Royal Museum Greenwich

History Net

Westminster Abbey

Military History

The scheme described in this blog post is a plot point in my retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, as    Captain Frederick Wentworth becomes involved with the subterfuge of those who plan to break Cochrane from jail.

The love affair behind Jane Austen’s classic, Persuasion, rests at the heart of this retelling from Captain Frederick Wentworth’s point of view.

Captain Frederick Wentworth’s PersuasionCFWP Crop1

He loved her from the moment their eyes met some eight years prior, but Frederick Wentworth is determined to prove to Anne Elliot that she made a mistake by refusing him. Persuaded by her family and friends of his lack of fortune, Anne sent him away, but now he is back with a fortune earned in the war, and it is Anne, whose circumstance have brought her low. Wentworth means to name another to replace her, but whenever he looks upon Anne’s perfect countenance, his resolve wavers, and he finds himself lost once again to his desire for her. Return to the Regency and Austen’s most compelling and mature love story.

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And to keep things interesting in the Austenesque world, the former Colonel Fitzwilliam (from Pride and Prejudice) joins Wentworth in the pursuit of smugglers and insurgents in my upcoming cozy mystery,

The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin
(arriving June 16)PoMDC Cover-2-2
Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until “aggravation” rears its head when Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family.

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name marked with shame.

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Regina-270x300ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Regina is passionate about so many things: her son, children in need, truth, responsibility, the value of a good education, words, music, dance, the theatre, pro football, classic movies, the BBC, track and field, books, books, and more books. Holding multiple degrees, Jeffers often serves as a Language Arts or Media Literacy consultant to surrounding school districts and has served on several state and national educational commissions.

Find Regina Online at:
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Stepping Back: Colours Used in the Georgian Period and Regency

Contributed by Sarah Waldock

Colours Used in the Georgian Period and Regency. Also, when known, date of introduction or when particularly fashionable. Otherwise I have noted when it was definitely in use. ‘The Ladies’ Monthly Museum’ and ‘Ackermann’s Repository’ are to be referenced in this. Also ‘The Creation of Colour in the 18th century’ by Sarah Lowengard. Some colours mentioned in Old Bailey online.

Thanks to Charles Bazalgette for making available his notes to extend this list.

The colours are broken up into the following sections; Reds/Pinks; Oranges/Yellows; Greens; Blues/Indigos; Violets; Browns; Neutrals


image001 Aurora described as chilli coloured elsewhere; so a brownish orange-red from 1809
image003 Blossom blossom coloured is a pale pink certainly in use in 1813
image002 Carmine Dark pinkish red. First recorded as a colour 1523 popular in 18th century.
image006 Claret Very dark, purplish red.
image005 Coquelicot Poppy red, being the French name for the field poppy. A bold colour and only to be used as trimming by young ladies. Height of fashion 1794-9 but used through the period; according to Austen in high fashion winter 1798-9
image004 Morone Peony red 1811
image007 Pale Pink One of the season’s colours of 1802
image008 Peach what it says on the label.
image009 Pompadour aka Rose Pompadour May have been named for the S. American bird the pompadore for its red-purple plumage rather than after La Pompadour. The colour name appears to have been used for a range of shades
 image010 Rose A rather dark reddish pink; between red and magenta, the colour of Rosa rugosa. Used from 1382.
image011 Rose Pink A pinker colour than rose, used from 1761.
image012 Turkey Red Named for the place not the fowl. Derived from Madder and is a cool bluish red. The name refers to a particular process of preparing the madder that took 3 weeks or more. Colourfast and will not fade. First practically produced in Europe [in Scotland] 1780’s. Became particularly popular in the 1820’s


image013 Apollo Bright gold, 1823 onward
image014 Canary A bright intense yellow [close to acid yellow]
image015 Evening Primrose named for the flower, an American species, darker and richer than primrose. Height of fashion 1807-17 and just to be confusing usually referred to just as primrose.
image016 Jonquil named for the wild daffodil; a very pure yellow. The must have colour of 1801
image017 Nankeen A colour imitating the natural yellowish brown of the raw cotton woven into the cloth from Nanking also called nankeen. The name was used for a range of shades
image019 Orange Certainly a colour mentioned for cloth
image020 Primrose Named for the flower, a pale and delicate yellow. Height of fashion 1807-17
image021 Saffron Between yellow and orange, the product of the saffron crocus
image022 Straw golden beige, the colour of ripening corn, which is to say corn to make bread not sweetcorn. A popular colour in 1802.


image023 Bottle Green probably what was later known as Rifle green; used in 1790’s
image024 Bronze Green A very dark green with a blue tint.
image025 Corbeau coloured A greenish black like a crow’s wing. In use in 1790’s. Nearer black than green.
image026 Emerald Green Also known as Scheele’s Green and unfortunately very poisonous because of being made with arsenic! This was popular because it did not fade. AKA Paris green, Schweinfurth green, Imperial green, Vienna green. Having been already very popular in wallpaper this became fashionable in fabric 1817
image027 Olive dull olive coloured green
image028 Parrot Green Dark yellow green 18th century
image029 Pomona Green THE green of the Regency; A THE green of the Regency era. Apple green by the name, but dark and rich. The rich bright green made by overdying yellow with blue [I hypothesise that this is what was in the Medieval era was known as Lincoln Green made by overdying weld or saffron with woad]. Name used from 1811/12 when it became fashionable
image030 Rifle Green The very dark colour green worn by the rifle brigades. Not used until after 1800 when the Rifle Brigade was first formed.
image031 Saxon Green Sage green. Made similarly to Saxon Blue with the introduction of dyeing by fustic [a yellow dye].
image032 Spring [green] A brighter more yellow shade of Pomona green. Name coined 1766


image033 Aetherial Sky blue; name from 1820
image034 Azure Bright blue, a blue-cyan, the colour of bright blue skies 1820
image035 Barbel Sky blue 1820
image036 Celestial Blue Name first used 1535; a light sky blue popular in early 1810’s
image037 Clarence Another one described as sky blue, 1820
image038 Indigo Dyed using the Indigo plant. Dark blue, hint of purple
image039 Marie Louise 1812, Calamine blue, which is to say a slightly more turquoise colour than Robin’s egg blue. Bluer and lighter than turquoise, bluer and deeper than aqua
image040 Mazarine blue A very deep colour, named for Cardinal Mazarin
image041 Mexican Steel blue 1817
image042 Prussian Blue A dark blue with a touch of green to it
image043 Saxon Blue A soft greyish-lavender tinged blue. Made by dissolving indigo in oil of vitriol [sulphuric acid] now mostly called smalt blue


image044 Damascen Damson coloured, very dark purple
image045 Lavender A pale greyish purple
image046 Lilac Pale tone of violet; first used to describe colour 1775. Popular 1802
image047 Mulberry A reddish purple, very very dark
image048 Princess Elizabeth Soft pale blue with hint of lilac
image049 Puce brownish reddish purple, the name is from the French for ‘flea’ and refers to the colour of coagulated blood inside that parasite. In 1805 it was THE colour. Initially popularised by Marie Antoinette. Also popular in 1802
image050 Purple probably a dullish purple rather than the bright colour we think of today
image051 Violet Blueish purple; used as colour name from 1370. So synonymous with purple that Isaac Newton used it in describing the colours in the spectrum. Early use of the name seems to imply that it was a blue colour.
image052 Stifled Sigh Aka soupir étouffe which according to Dr Johnson is the palest of lilacs 18th century


image053 Cameleopard French beige; more a light brown than a beige per se. 1825
image054 Carmelite Dark brown, the colour of a Carmelite monk’s robe.
image055 Cinammon coloured What it says on the label
 image056 Devonshire Brown Named for the notorious Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Regained popularity 1812. ? light tan brown
image057 Drab Name dates from 1686. a yellowish brown on the browner side of nankeen; patterns in drab were often made by patterning the fabric with different mordants and overdying in one colour, whereat the different mordants produced different colour responses from the dye, but all toning. Nowadays called mode beige, a very dark beige.
image058 Dust of Ruins Described as squirrel. A drab tan then? 1822. Possibly a colour akin to the reddish dust of the ruins at Karnak following on from all things Egyptian
image059 Egyptian Brown Described as mace, the rich reddish brown used in Egyptian tomb paintings to depict male skin colour, all things Egyptian becoming fashionable with the French ‘archaeology’ there.   1809
image060 Noiset[te] Hazelnut coloured
image062 Paris mud Colour designed by Marie Antoinette’s designer based on the colour of Parisian mud.
image062 Snuff coloured What it says on the label
image063 Terre d’Egypte Brick Red; 1823, possible a deeper shade of dust of ruins?


image064 Esterhazy Silver grey
image065 Fawn One of the season’s colours of 1802
image066 Iron grey What it says on the label
image067 Isabella Cream, first recorded use 1601 when referring to the colour of an animal’s coat as very pale cream; a pale palomino colour. Used for fabric in Queen Elizabeth I’s wardrobe. AKA Isabelline
image068 Ivory Off white with cream tint
image069 Russian Flame Pale beige 1811
image070 Slate Dark blueish grey; Pale slate is mentioned in describing a fashion plate 1811

Sarah Waldock can be found at, She is the author of Renaissance murder mysteries and Regency murder mysteries, and can also to be found at for tales of cats.

Stepping Back: Lady Chatham’s mysterious complaint

“Tell me I may be suddenly different”: Lady Chatham’s mysterious complaint

by Jacqueline Reiter


22 March 1807, morning. The tall, elegant Dover Street house of John, 2nd Earl of Chatham has been in turmoil since the previous evening. Maids are scouring the front steps; windows are thrown open on all floors for airing. Inside, servants pull dust-sheets off the elegant furniture, make the beds, and warm the rooms. His Lordship, who is Military Commander of the Eastern District, is not expected back from Colchester until April at the earliest. Something has brought him back to London early.

At noon he arrives, with Mary, Countess of Chatham. Lord Chatham leaves his wife in countess_chathamDover Street and proceeds to Burlington House, the town residence of His Grace the Duke of Portland, nominal head of the followers of Chatham’s brother, the late prime minister William Pitt. Within hours frenzied rumours race across the capital. Soon the rumours are confirmed: Portland heads a new Pittite government, in which the Earl of Chatham is Master-General of the Ordnance.

His and Her Ladyship appear in public as representatives of the new ministry. On 9 April 1807 they are both at a very crowded Drawing-Room at St James’s Palace. On Sunday 19 April Lady Chatham attends Mr Johnstone’s concert, where she listens to a variety of well-sung Italian arias. While Lord Chatham attends Privy Council meetings and takes the oaths in the House of Lords, his wife rubs shoulders with the Prince of Wales at Lady Camden’s rout.

johnhayterlessblurreddetailBut all is far from well in Dover Street. His Lordship stays out late on business; Her Ladyship, “exhausted with London hours & racket”, barely gets to bed before two in the morning.[1] They have always been a close couple, but now they barely see each other, and for the first time in their marriage live in separate apartments.[2]

Chatham’s servants are renowned for their discretion; they will say nothing of what happens behind His Lordship’s polished front door. The gossips have to draw their own conclusions. Are the new lines on Lord Chatham’s face a reflection of his new responsibility, or something deeper-rooted? Are the ill-concealed shadows beneath Lady Chatham’s eyes entirely due to the late hours she keeps? What is going on?

The real answer is known to a tiny, and very select, circle. Apart from the unhappy couple themselves, three people know all that passes in Dover Street: Lady Chatham’s sister, Miss Georgiana Townshend; her physician, Dr Henry Vaughan; and her maid.

In fact Mary Chatham has been in a “low and nervous state” for over a year.[3] Her disorder, whatever it is, translates into a deep dejection of spirits that alternates with episodes of violence and self-harm. While in Colchester with her husband, she could hide it: but now her husband is a cabinet minister again, she must appear in public as though nothing were amiss. Her maid is skilled in applying enough cosmetics to conceal the marks of distress on her face, but no cosmetics in the world can heal the pain in her heart.

Georgiana nurses her sister devotedly, and writes regularly to Dr Vaughan about her sister’s condition. Her helplessness is plain:

“I only wish to state a few particulars … about my poor afflicted Sister. The agitation she labours under, appears to me to be only transferred, tho’ there is not the same violence used as towards me, but she has no controul before my Mother … She certainly by her Letters to me, has no better opinion of herself … The last Letter was the least well written, & saying she still lived too shut up a life feeling unfit for every thing & making herself more unfit by doing so … All the Family think her odd; & her being odd makes others so, & then she says she never shall be well again.”[4]

Mary herself is well aware of the trap she is in. She writes to Georgiana: “I am shocking horrible in mind & Spirits … Keep it to yourself … or rather burn it, tell me I may be suddenly different.”

Mary’s maid keeps Georgiana updated when Georgiana cannot be in Dover Street. Her stories do not make for comfortable reading. “I leave you to judge in what state [my lady] must have been in [sic], before she would attempt to strike me, which her Ladyship actually did on Tuesday at dressing time … she immediately became conscious of what she had done, & … said she could not live in this way … she must put an end to it.”

But Mary has to “live this way”, and, after striking her maid, submits to being dosed up with opiates before being sent out to a public dinner with Lord Chatham.[5]

How long can this go on without Mary’s illness becoming common knowledge? Georgiana “dread[s] her making her case more known”. As for Lord Chatham, he has so much to worry about as it is: Georgiana believes he is in complete denial. “Poor Lord Chatham thought her getting better when she was as ill as ever … alas! There is I fear too much truth in that.”[6]

frognal housePoor Lord Chatham, indeed. John and Mary have been married for nearly twenty-four years: they have stood by each other through everything, and (since they have no children) have no-one but each other. But this is too much for him. John cannot fully devote his attention to his cabinet duties: Mary knows, and this makes her worse. “Doctor Vaughan pressed me much to go away for a time,” John writes to his brother-in-law Lord Sydney, “as he thought it better on many accounts, and particularly that the having kept me so long, from where I ought to have been, is a source of great anxiety to [Mary]”.

So John goes to Colchester to resume his military command, “where I shall be near, in case of any change”. Mary, meanwhile, goes off with Georgiana to Lord Sydney’s house at Frognal, Kent.

“I am myself pretty well,” John concludes his letter to Sydney, bleakly, “but the misery I have suffered in the last fortnight or three weeks, has required all the fortitude I have left, to bear up against.”[7] In the taciturn Chatham’s hands, words like “misery” inflate a hundred times in meaning.

The couple spend the winter apart.

Months pass. Mary remains unwell.

“Lady Chatham is I hope essentially better, but far from well yet,” John writes in May 1808. “This has been a year of sad distress”.[8] The strain of trying to appear normal is taking its toll, and John starts to wonder if he will ever get his wife back again.

The Chathams continue to spend much of their time apart. “I have not seen Lady Chatham for some time,” John tells his banker, Thomas Coutts, in November, “but form her letters I hope she is rather better than she was, tho’ her amendment, I am sorry to say, has been very slow”.[9]

Thankfully the new year of 1809 brings a significant change. Mary’s spirits rise, and her violent episodes decrease. Her symptoms have always been patchy, but now she goes through weeks at a time without episodes of black despair. She no longer talks of suicide, and begins to emerge in public once more – thin and pale, but recognisably her old self.

What was wrong with Mary? We’ll never know. Perhaps it does not matter. Two things, however, are obvious. The first is the remarkable fact that, despite two years of mental illness and lengthy periods apart, John and Mary manage to keep their marriage going. The second is that, as loving as they remain, the basis of their relationship has changed. Once they shared all burdens; now John finds himself keeping bad news from her, making decisions alone, and, in his own words, “mak[ing] every thing appear to the best”.[10]

Still, John – a congenital pessimist – dares to hope his luck may be on the turn. His wife’s illness has forced him to pass up several civilian and military appointments over the past two years; but he remains in the Cabinet, and there are military opportunities opening on the continent. Perhaps 1809 will be the year for him to re-establish himself on the public scene. Perhaps 1809 will bring him and Mary good fortune.

Thank goodness Lord Chatham cannot see into the future, for he could not be more wrong.


[1] Mrs Mary Townshend to Lord Sydney, [10 October 1807], Sydney papers Box 16, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan; [Georgiana Townshend] to Dr Vaughan [later Sir Henry Halford], 14 April [1807], Halford MSS Leicestershire RO DG24/819/2

[2] [Georgiana Townshend] to Dr Vaughan, 14 April 1807, Halford MSS Leicestershire RO DG24/819/1

[3] Chatham’s words from a later recurrence of Lady Chatham’s illness, to the Bishop of Lincoln, 17 March 1818, Ipswich RO Pretyman MSS HA 119/T108/24/7

[4] [Georgiana Townshend] to Dr Vaughan, 14 April 1807, Halford MSS Leicestershire RO DG24/819/1

[5] Reported in [Georgiana Townshend] to Dr Vaughan [later Sir Henry Halford], 14 April [1807], Halford MSS Leicestershire RO DG24/819/2

[6] [Georgiana Townshend] to Dr Vaughan, 14 April 1807, Halford MSS Leicestershire RO DG24/819/1

[7] Chatham to Lord Sydney, 27 October 1807, Sydney papers Box 16, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

[8] Chatham to Mrs Catherine Stapleton, 11 May 1808, National Army Museum Combermere MSS 9506-61-3

[9] Chatham to Thomas Coutts, 23 November 1808, Kent RO Stanhope MSS U1590/S5/C42

[10] Chatham to Mrs Catherine Stapleton, 2 December 1810, National Army Museum Combermere MSS 8408-114

11139464_10101236064424150_849280726_n Jacqueline Reiter has a Phd in 18th century political history. She is currently working on the first ever biography of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, due to be released by Pen & Sword Books in September 2016. When she finds time she blogs about her historical discoveries at, and can be found on Twitter as

Stepping Back on Sundays…

I like history a lot, or I wouldn’t have chosen it as my fictional life. As a historical novelist, I do a lot of research, but I just never seem to have the time (okay, inclination) to write it up into pretty blog posts like some of my HistFic writer friends. Therefore, I am going to start soliciting my awesome friends to post their research here to start a new feature on the blog.

I will post on Sundays, but probably not every Sunday, and I am not fussy *at all* about what era I post. You might see Regency England; you might see the American Civil War; you might see the Jazz Age. (I might be called upon to do a post of in any of these eras, but no guarantees.) But rest assured, you might also see the American and French Revolutions and the reign of Henry I and the history of European incursion into Africa. What you see might be pretty, like fashions and gardens and social graces, or ugly, like battlefield medicine or racism or deaths by torture.

What it will all have in common is that it happened before I was born in 1971.

To begin, this coming Sunday, May 10, I will feature Jacqueline Reiter’s post, titled, “Tell me I may be suddenly different”: Lady Chatham’s mysterious complaint, about the wife of the 2nd Earl of Chatham.

If you have a post in mind and would like to contribute, please fill out this form: