Celebrating the Victorian Father

Happy Father’s Day, everyone! I know it can be bittersweet for many of us, but I wish for you a relaxing day to celebrate the men who hold a prominent place in our lives, whether they are fathers or not.

Father’s Day is a post-Victorian creation–although the first Father’s Day in the US was celebrated in West Virginia in 1908, it was not recognized nationally until 1972. Father’s Day took far longer than Mother’s Day to be recognized, because “As one historian writes, [men] ‘scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products–often paid for by the father himself.’” (History.com.)

I tend to think Victorian fathers were a bit conflicted. On the one hand, they had been taught, and treated, that as a husband and father, their word was law.  Their wives were told, by their own mothers and in a myriad of household guides, that the father “was to be first in all things” and that children should not “interfere unduly with the comfort of the heads of the establishment.” (Flanders, Inside the Victorian Home (Norton, 2003), 73.)  But many men took an active role in the lives of their children, and gradually over the 64 years of Victoria’s reign, this became more prevalent.

Charles Dickens and his children, 1864

Charles Dickens, for example, fathered ten children by the age of 40 and took an active role in raising them, quite devoted to them (at least until they got older). When his youngest, Edward, was born in 1852, he wrote, “we have in this house the only baby worth mentioning; and there cannot possibly be another baby anywhere, to come into competition with him. I happen to know this, and would like it to be generally understood.” That does seem to be the pinnacle of his adoration of his children, unfortunately, although he did continue to take an active interest in their welfare. In 1857, he fell in love with an 18 year old actress and eventually left his wife–she who had been either pregnant or nursing for nearly twenty years–and took the children away from her, declaring in The New York Tribune that she “suffered from a mental disorder.” (Flanders, 250). I suspect she was just really tired of putting up with Charles. . .

Victoria, Albert, and their brood in 1857

One of the most famous fathers of the Victorian era was, of course, Prince Albert, who had nine children by Queen Victoria. Although one suspects he had little contact with them except to pose for pictures like the one above, he nevertheless took an active role in their health, education, and discipline.  (Wikipedia.)

Literary fathers of the time period reflected the changing times as well. Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855) is chock full of conflicted fathers. Mr. Hale, the father of the book’s heroine, Margaret, has given up his living in the Church of England over his religious convictions, dragging his wife and daughter from their bucolic home in the south to live in the relatively harsh environment of industrial Manchester. Although he is a kind man and devoted to them both, he barely considers their own well-being, and certainly not their wishes, when making his decision to leave behind the only life they had ever known.

Bessy Higgins (Anna Maxwell Martin) from North and South

Nicholas Higgins, the single father of Bessy, Margaret’s only friend in Manchester, is a laborer who has toiled with both his daughters in the cotton mills. Fibers filled the air in poorly ventilated factories, taking a fatal toll on Bessy’s lungs. Nicholas’ motivations in calling for formation of a union and ultimately a strike are largely a result of seeing the devastating effect of poor conditions on his darling Bess, although he’s also a hot head and a bit too fond of drink. The same strike that Higgins hopes will improve conditions and wages for all workers, however, is the downfall of another worker, Boucher. He breaks the strike, ultimately caring more for the immediate need to feed his eight children then any potential reward the strike might bring. When he takes his own life, followed immediately in death by his sickly wife, Higgins takes in his children.

We’ve come a long way from those days, but I think some of the issues fathers experienced 100 years ago still exist, to some degree, today.

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Guest Post – Why I Like Gritty Heroines

My NEORWA Chapter sister, Becky Lower, is back at Heart-Shaped Glasses today to talk about her newest Cotillion Ball release, Expressly Yours, Samantha. Welcome, Becky!

*****

When I first began writing my Cotillion Ball Series, I envisioned lavish ballrooms in Nelower authorpicw York City filled with young ladies from the elite of New York society making their debuts, all dressed in elaborate white gowns. But the time frame for my series at times took me away from New York and high society.

America in the late 1850s and early 1860s was an exciting, tumultuous time. Tensions were rising between the North and South, which would explode into the Civil War in 1861. There was the westward expansion, with wagon trains leaving St. Louis and St. Joseph, MO every spring, en route to a better life. Gold had been found in California, and the Pony Express began operation.

It seemed natural to me that the two younger boys in my large New York family would want to get in on the action. So their books take place on the edge of the frontier, far away from the fancy ballrooms of New York City. And the women they fall in love with are as far removed from the debutantes as you can get. Not at all what I envisioned at first. But, both Temperance (Banking On Temperance) and Samantha (Expressly Yours, Samantha) have become my all-time favorite heroines. They each, in their own way, embody the spirit of early America. They aren’t afraid of hard work, they figure out a way to make their mark in the world, they fall in love, hard, with the right man. They wear homespun, not silk. They get exercise not by taking a turn around the park, but by chopping firewood and cleaning out barn stalls. And when life hands them a set of circumstances beyond their control, they rise to the challenge.

At a time when the law of the land was on the side of men, these gritty, strong and resilient women made their mark. Both of them value family above all, and would take any risks they had to in order to keep their loved ones safe. They may have lived far from the elegant ballrooms, been less privileged and dressed in more crude clothing, but their strength and backbone were essential to the shaping of America.

So, which do you prefer? The beautiful settings and gowns of a Cotillion or the gritty, rough life of a settler on the frontier?  I’m giving away an e-copy of Expressly Yours, Samantha to one lucky commenter.

roses2 Samantha Hughes has one day to escape from her wicked uncle, and a sign in the post office is her answer. She’ll cut her hair to pose as a man and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick doesn’t want the weight of responsibility that his brothers have in the family business. Fortunately, the Pony Express offers a chance to make his own way in the world.

He assumes his new buddy, Sam, is on the run from the law, until she’s hit by a stray gunshot and he has to undress her to staunch the wound. Friendship quickly turns to attraction—and more—but when Sam’s uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again.

Val’s determined to find her, but will a future with Sam mean giving up the freedom he’s always craved?

Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America. Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at beckylowerauthor@gmail.com.

Author Links:
Website: www.beckylowerauthor.com
Facebook: http://facebook.com/becky.lower
Twitter: http://twitter.com@BeckyLower1
Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/authorbeckyl/
Blog: http://beckylowerauthor.blogspot.com
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6159227.Becky_Lower
Amazon page: http://amzn.to/1FOy3Sd

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

Cooking Historically

It’s food month here at HSG, a theme I can embrace wholeheartedly. I love food. I love to cook it, and I love to eat it. I like to read about it, and even write about it as well.

One thing, out of many, that I enjoy about historical romance is imagining what my characters eat, and the methods employed to cook it. In Victorian England, of course, there was no such thing as fast food, except perhaps for the pie man on the corner, and most foods were painstakingly prepared. Just baking a loaf of bread was a monumental undertaking, given the vagaries of coal or wood stoves.

In my first book, set in 1860s England, the heroine is a cook. I hadn’t the foggiest idea what kinds of things she would cook or how she would go about it, so I did some research.

To imagine what a Victorian-era kitchen would like like, take a glimpse at an actual Victorian kitchen,virtually untouched for a century: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2037644/Victorian-kitchen-remained-untouched-60-years.html.

The cookbook as we know it today was first popularized in the Victorian era, in response to the growing middle class and the increased need for servants, especially cooks. There were over 100 best-selling cookbooks and household guides published during the nineteenth century, intended primarily for the middle class. There were a number of celebrated cookbook authors, among them Eliza Acton; Isabella Beeton (whose Book of Household Management has been revised continually since 1861, even though she died in 1865); and Charles Francatelli, who at one time served as chef to Queen Victoria.

Many of these cookbooks can be accessed for free at GoogleBooks.  I can’t guarantee the instructions are easily translatable to modern times, however.  For example, the recipe for Turtle Soup in Mr. Francatelli’s book is three pages long, and begins, “Procure a fine lively fat turtle, weighing about 120lbs. . .”  The first instruction reads, “When time permits, kill the turtle over night, where it may be left to bleed in a cool place till morning. . .“  I think I’ll stick with the Mulligatawney Soup, thanks.

Do a search for Victorian cooking and you’ll come across a lot of sites.  Here are just a few:
* http://19thcentury.wordpress.com.  Browse and you’ll find a number of posts on cooking.
* http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/francatelli-bills-fare.php, which features a menu for each month of the year, taken from the 1861 cookbook by Charles Francatelli.
* This is a great site which features original articles from Victorian publications. http://www.mostly-victorian.com/cooking.shtml  In addition to articles on cooking from “Girls’ Own Paper,” you’ll find articles on beauty, fashion, how to host a children’s party, and a bride’s first dinner party.

I did try to cook a few things from a modern book (the name of which I have utterly forgotten) which featured Victorian-era recipes. My family was unimpressed–my baking skills often leave much to be desired, but my attempt at baking Victorian biscuits was worse than usual.  My son was fairly certain they’d be an adequate substitute for hockey pucks.

Are you interested in historical recipes?  Feel free to share your favorites!

 

About Marin McGinnis

A lawyer in real life, Marin McGinnis feeds the more creative part of her soul by writing Victorian era romance and mystery. She's spent almost half her life in a tree-lined, unabashedly liberal suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She's been married to the same great guy for over 20 years, and has one teen-aged son. They all live together in a drafty old house with their two standard poodles, Larry and Sneaky Pete. While her very first book will languish under the bed, the next book, Stirring Up the Viscount, won two contests in 2013 and was published by The Wild Rose Press in January 2015. Her next two books, Secret Promise and Tempting Mr. Jordan, are also available from Wild Rose Press. Marin currently serves as President of the Northeast Ohio chapter of Romance Writers of America and is hard at work on the next book. You can find her here, at marinmcginnis.com, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

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