Saturday, October 26, 2019

I love stepping inside history!

We then moved past the captain into what was being called “the ballroom” that evening—although it was really just the large dining room at the back of the tavern. It did look particularly grand that evening. Many candles lit up the walls, covered with elegant gold-striped paper, and the tall windows, framed by ivory damask draperies, reflected their glow. Nearly all of the dining tables had been removed to make space for dancing, and the chairs moved to line the walls.

© 2016 by Dorothea Jensen, A Buss from Lafayette

In this bit I was trying to picture the interior of the Perkins Tavern circa 1825, which burned down more than a century ago. Because of this I had to make up all the details in this description of the inn as set up for a dance I imagined that the Perkins Tavern was one of the more elegant inns in Hopkinton Village, NH, so that its public rooms might have been wallpapered. (I know that at least one home just a few doors down had wallpaper at that time.) I did, however, know what the Perkins Tavern (later called the Perkins Inn) sign post looked like, or so I thought.

From the town history, I was aware that there were at least three taverns in Hopkinton Village at the time of Lafayette's visit in 1825, two of which were the Perkins Tavern and the Wiggins Tavern, neither of which is still in existence. I had thought that the latter had burned down also. Recently, however, I learned that in 1927 a descendent of Benjamin Wiggins (the tavern's owner) had dismantled the building .He then transported it to Northampton, Massachusetts. There its interior was rebuilt as a restaurant attached to the Northampton Hotel.

I was delighted when I realized that I now had the opportunity to walk inside a tavern built and operated in the same era as the Perkins Tavern. (The two were located on the opposite sides of the small town common in Hopkinto Village.

My husband and I made a point of stopping in Northampton and eating at the Wiggins Tavern. Imagine my surprise when the first thing I saw inside was this signboard reproduction. Look familiar?

Hmmm. My first inclination was to march over to the reception person and explain that they were displaying the wrong sign. Then I looked again at the inscription at the bottom: Entertainment by B. W. As in Benjamin Wiggins.




Then I realized at the date at the top of the sign: 1786, was repeated in this plaque:



Deciding that this signboard belonged to Wiggins Tavern after all, I went further inside. I found many interesting antique implements, along with the original tavern fireplace:


This was all very well, but still I had trouble picturing dances being held here, as was the case with other taverns of the time. Then I discovered another room:


My first impression was that having uprights supporting the ceiling in the middle of a dance floor might be a hindrance to the festivities. After I thought about it, however, I realized that most dancing at that time was done in two lines: one for men and one for women, so the uprights would not be in the way. Like this (and please note the uprights right behind the men'a line):


I suspect that a dance at Perkins Tavern in 1825 might have looked far more like these pix than the one I dreamed up in my head!

Anyway, it was a great pleasure stepping into the past at Wiggins Tavern. (The food was good, too!)




Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Sherwood Ring: An epiphany 61 years in the making!


I decided to make some short videos about books I love that inspired me to write historical fiction.

If this doesn't show up on your device, try this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/RIG-XHYFUIM.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Jane Austen Musical Quiz #1

In 1997, my late mother, Ruth Bell, and I went on the first ever tour of England put on by the Jane Austen Society of North America. (This is the tour on which I found the inspiration to write my latest historical novel for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette.)  Before we left, we put together a audio musical quiz for our fellow travelers concerning the music used in various dramatizations of Jane Austen novels produced over the years. We wanted to see who could identify 1) the title of the Austen novel dramatization in which the music is used; 2) the name of the character who performs the piece and where, or how the music is used in some other way; 3) the date and producer (such as the BBC) of the dramatization, and (for extra credit) 4) the title and composer of the piece.

We had great fun doing this, and our fellow JASNA travelers identified nearly every one correctly.

Would you like to give it a go??

Here is Quiz #1. Enjoy!



(If you cannot watch the video above, you may access it on YouTube here.)

Send your quiz answers to me at jensendorothea@gmail.com (with Jane Austen Musical Quiz #1 on the subject line, please).

Winners will be posted on this site. I promise.

 Cheers,

Dorothea





Wednesday, April 24, 2019

G. Washington: Craftier than We Thought!

A Fringed Hunting Shirt Worn in the American Revolution
(on display at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia)

I recently found an interesting article on the website of The New England Historical Society, entitled "Seven Fun Continental Army Facts." Here's a link so you can read the whole thing: 
http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/seven-fun-continental-army-facts/.
Several of these "facts" that were most gratifying, as they support historical bits I have included in my historical fiction. Here's an example from my first such novel for young readers, The Riddle of Penncroft Farm:
“Wait a minute,” I protested. “What about his blue-and-tan uniform like George Washington’s?” I found my history book and opened it to a picture of Washington. Geordie sprang up from the bed. “Your ignorance is vastly amusing, Lars. Early in the war, hardly anybody had a real uniform—except for rich people like Washington. And those uniforms were all different colors, not just blue and buff. Some American uniforms were as red as the ones the British soldiers wore.” He looked at the history book picture and chuckled. “Nay, country boys like Will were lucky if they had a whole pair of ordinary breeches, let alone a whole uniform. Sometimes they’d make themselves leather hunting shirts to use for a sort of uniform. In truth, Washington liked to have them wear those shirts, because the British figured everybody in one was a genuine sharpshooter. Most of those American boys couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, but they surely did look the part!   - The Riddle of Penncroft Farm,  © Dorothea Jensen 

And here's what the New England Historical Society article said on this subject:

Those blue-and-buff uniforms didn’t arrive until later in the war, and then only a few states had those colors. In the early days, Washington suggested the ‘rifle dress.’ It included a fringed hunting shirt (a long loose coat usually made of homespun) and long pants with gaiters or leggings dyed the color of a dry leaf. The soldier topped off his rifle dress with a round dark hat turned up once or three times with a cockade or sprig of green. He also had a white belt for the cartouche box and a black cloth around the neck.
Washington liked the rifle dress because of its practicality and because it scared the British soldiers, who thought only sharpshooters wore it. “It is a dress which is justly supposed to carry no small terror to the enemy, who think every such person a complete marksman,” wrote Washington.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Rhyming History??? What do you think???

Inspired by Hamilton (the musical) and Longfellow (The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere), I have been entertaining myself by writing a rhyming version of the complete history of how Lafayette helped the U.S. win independence. I am calling this poem Liberty-Loving Lafayette (LLL). It starts like this:

So, listen up, my children, and I'll do my best to tell
How a teenaged French aristocrat served all of us so well.
Without his help, we might have lost our fight for liberty
And we'd still be speaking English like the Brit autocracy.


Now, LLL is pretty much complete, and I have no idea what to do with it. As advised by experts in publishing, I have done an exhaustive search on the internet to see :

1) If there is any other rhyming history out there, and
2) Does anybody want or buy it?

The answers to both of these questions appears to be an unequivocal NO.

The only book I can find that professes to be rhyming history is a history of England featuring poems by famous authors.

Hmmm.

LLL's word count is a bout 1100 words (I was trying to make it about the same length as "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere", which is 986 words long.) If illustrations are added, and if the stanzas are divided appropriately, it would be about the length of a children's picture book, 32 pages.

I have no idea if there would be any market for such a thing.

Please let me know what you think, at jensendorothea@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Dorothea



Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Something Familiar about the Victory Parade. . .

Something about this scene (from  the Patriot Victory Parade today) looked familiar! Then I realized all I had to do was replace the duck boat. . .




, , ,with an open carriage. . .



. . .to get a glimpse of how Lafayette was greeted everywhere he went on his Farewell Tour (1824-5).

This unique journey is the historical background for 

A BUSS FROM LAFAYETTE!



Learn more at abussfromlafayette.com



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Humpty, Dumpty, and Oxen in General



When I got to the barn, I greeted Humpty and Dumpty, the two oxen who pulled the plow in the springtime, the wagon at harvest time, and the sledge in the winter. Too bad I cannot ride an ox, I thought. I doubt anyone could put a sidesaddle on Humpty or Dumpty. I patted the noses of the large, gentle, brown beasts and fed each of them a handful of fresh hay before moving on to Feather’s stall.

A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 by Dorothea Jensen

Here is a team of oxen pulling a cart at Old Sturbridge Village. When I was there recently, I asked one of the costumed interpreters there what an ox is, exactly.  He told me that it is a steer (castrated bull) that has been trained to pull ploughs, carts, wagons, etc., that is at least 4 years old. Before reaching this age, it is simply regarded as a trained steer.

As you can see by this video I took at OSV, oxen are NOT built for speed, but are very strong!