Sunday, March 29, 2020

Readaloud to Help Make the Quarantine Go By A Bit Faster

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators suggested that we members do readings of our works online during this difficult quarentine.

I'll start doing live readings on Facebook, when I figure out how!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Happy Stamp Act Repeal Day! Part 2

Here's a bit more from my manuscript (maybe I'll publish it someday) called The American Revolutions, By a Partial,
Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian:

The colonial assemblies also lost no time in reflecting the angry reaction of the American people to the Stamp Act. By the end of May, the Virginia House of Burgesses (inflamed by speeches by Patrick Henry, who carefully waited to take the floor until most of the more conservative assemblymen had gone home) passed a series of “Resolves” stating their objections to the Act, even though some members thought this came very close to treason. Other assemblies soon followed suit, including Massachusetts, which took the further step of calling for an intercolonial meeting to denounce the infamous act - the Stamp Act Congress. (Congress means a “coming together”.)

It was not only the newspaper publishers and the legislators who acted upon their dislike of the Stamp Act, however. Mobs of ordinary people vented their anger upon the physical embodiment of the law - the men unfortunate enough to have accepted appointments as royal stamp agents. Instead of gaining a welcome British payment for selling stamps, many a collector had the unnerving experience of seeing a rough doll labeled with his own name being hanged and set afire. Worse yet, the real bodies of some agents were stripped naked, covered with boiling tar, rolled in feathers, and ridden on a rail. This bizarre torture was no laughing matter and before long, virtually all the stamp agents resigned their posts. 

In October of 1765, the Stamp Act Congress called for by Massachusetts convened in New York. It was the first meeting with representatives from most of the colonies. They drew up a petition to the King and Parliament stating that the Stamp Act violated their rights as Englishmen because it constituted taxation without representation, and urged its repeal. Their resentment at being treated like this was echoed in The Boston Evening Post:

We have an old Mother that peevish is grown,
She snubs us like Children that scarce walk alone;
She forgets we're grown up and have Sense of our own.

But it took more than a lack of stamp sellers and a petition or even a poem to defeat the Stamp Act - it took a widespread boycott (although that's not what it was called at the time). Beginning with New York and soon spreading to other cities, people started signing agreements that no British products would be bought until the Stamp Act was revoked. The non-importation agreements did the trick. Soon British merchants were complaining loudly to their government about their lost American profits. This British protest provided George III a way to give in without losing face . In March of 1766 the Stamp Act was repealed. 

The colonists were ecstatic at this apparent victory. The boycott was swiftly ended; toasts were drunk to the King, and city windows were “illuminated” by lit candles as a mark of celebration. Few of the rejoicing colonists noticed there was a worm in the apple. Along with the repeal of the hated Stamp Act, the British government slipped in a “Declaratory Act”. It was straightforward enough: the Act simply declared that Parliament had authority over the colonies in all cases and could impose revenue taxes any time it wanted to. It wasn't long before that's exactly what Parliament did. 

Happy Stamp Act Repeal Day! Part 1

March 18, 1766 was the day that the British Parliament repealed the very unappealing Stamp Act. (Here's a article about it.)

I thought this might be a good place to post what I wrote about this many years ago in a mansucript I called 
The American Revolutions, By a Partial, Prejudiced, and Ignorant Historian:

When it became apparent that the Sugar Act (the last bright idea that failed) was going to reap more resentment than revenue from the colonies, George III brought in a replacement for [Prime Minister] Grenville: the Marquis of Rockingham. This new minister looked at the upheaval caused by taxing imports into the colonies, and decided that there was a better way. The idea Rockingham came up with was based on a very simple idea - a stamp on paper goods. (This was embossed on the paper concerned by means of a metal stamping device, rather like a notary stamp.)

The Prime Minister, with the help of the King’s majority, ushered a new law through Parliament called the Stamp Act which required all colonial legal documents (such as wills, wedding licenses, indentures and contracts) and all commercial papers (such as almanacs, newspapers, and pamphlets), and even playing cards to be stamped in order to be legal. 

Rockingham’s requirement really rocked the boat. For the first time, the daily life of nearly every colonist was to be directly affected by an Act of Parliament. Every time anybody wanted to get married or sell a cow or lease a cottage - that person was supposed to track down the stamp agent and buy a stamp to show he had paid to make the transaction legal. Thus, it was not only the prospective cost of the stamps which irritated people, but, in modern terms, the fact that they would make many everyday activities a hassle and continually remind the colonists that they were contributing to British coffers. Unfortunately for Rockingham’s plan, some of the people most affected were those who published newspapers and pamphlets, who would have had to buy a stamp for every copy of their publications before they could be sold. These people, however, were in an excellent position to let everybody know what they thought of the Stamp Act. In print, they took careful aim at the Stamp Act and the political issues it represented. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

OK,OK: It's not every day I quote Aristotle.

I came across the following quote in Proud Destiny, by Feuchtwanger. It is a historical novel about Beaumarchais, the playwright who wrote "The Marriage of Figaro," and who engineered the early French support of the American Revolution.

The artistic representation of history is a more scientific and serious pursuit than the exact writing of history. For the art of letters goes to the heart of things, whereas the factual report merely collocates details. Aristotle

I believe that this can be read as an explanation of the value of historical fiction. 

I love it.

Some might think that writing a fictional story set in the past is easier than just plain writing about the past.


We historical novelists must actually do BOTH.

And if you think it is easy to put words into the mouths of historical figures, think again. What you write must be plausible, historically accurate, and appropriate to the person speaking.

In the following excerpt, I had to pack in indications that Lafayette was 1) charming, 2) often joked about himself, 3) spoke slowly and deliberately in English when he visited America in his late 60s, 4) really did have a problem getting rid of the hundreds and hundreds of flowers given to him on his Farewell Tour.

The following is a description of what happens when my fictional heroine, Clara, meets the non-fictional personage, General Lafayette.

* * *

Just then, I saw a gentleman climb down from the carriage and walk towards me. 

He was a tall man, broad-shouldered, with short brown hair and large, expressive eyes. He was dressed simply in tan nankeen pants and a blue broadcloth coat with gilt buttons. As he walked towards me, he leaned upon a cane. Despite his beak of a nose, his was a most pleasing face. It was a face that was strangely familiar—and a tiny bit chubby.

“Sir?” I called, covered in confusion as much as I was in brook water. “Why are they throwing these roses away?”

He laughed. “It is a bit of a guilty secret, mademoiselle.” His words were slow and deliberate. “You see, everywhere I go, people keep giving me roses, roses, and more roses! Whatever I ride in— be it barouche, or curricle, or coach—it is filled to overflowing with them! Because of this, every once in a while I must tell the small lie—that I must make the stop that is necessary—and that I need my privacy. Then I find a secluded nook like this and we cast out all the pretty flowers. Please do not tell anyone. I beg of you.” 

Keeping my eyes pinned to the gentleman’s face, I picked up my pocket and pulled out the fan. Snapping it open, I looked closely at it to compare the portrait printed there with the features I saw before me. “Why, y-y-you are . . .” I stuttered.

The gentleman glanced at the fan in my hand. “Oui, I am the one whose picture you hold in your hand. These pictures! They are everywhere I go! I see almost as many of them as I do roses. And they are always of my poor self as I look today, not the slender and graceful youth I was then.” He shrugged. “Oh, well, one must accept these things.”    

A Buss from Lafayette © 2016 Dorothea Jensen

I'm not sure if this "goes to the heart of things," but I am quite sure it will grab the interest of reluctant readers much more effectively than a "collocation of details" in a history textbook!


Monday, December 16, 2019

Psst! Want to know a few more things about the Izzy Elves??

Elf Invasion

I give up! I have run out of oomph to maintain two separate blogs, the one you are looking at now, and the one written by by my Izzy Elves. I've decided to let the Izzies do their writing on this blog.

In honor of that, I'm posting Elf stiuff, old and new, right here, starting today.


First of all, here is a video of me reading the opening of my first Izsy Elf story poem, Tizzy, the Chritmas Shelf Elf.

In recording this, I realized that the technology cited therein, video games in packages rather than downloaded, is terribly 20th century. I wrote this in the early 90s, when that was the way kids got hold of video games. (Do they even call them video games anymore??).

Oh, well, the principle is the same: two naughty brothers sneak downstairs far too early on Christmas morning and find a stranded elf in their living room. :  )

I had fun working in a few of the illustrations.

BTW, if you can't see this on your device, hre is a link to watch it on Vimeo:

Anyway, here's Tizzy.



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!)