Between the Lines: Sermon with a View #romance #research #churches

IMG_1508Last week I shared about the pulpit in St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Today, I’d like to share the description of the chancel and nave in the church, and then let you see it through Emily’s eyes, as I wrote it in Emily’s Vow. Like I mentioned last time, George W. Williams wrote and published a bicentennial account of the history of the church, complete with descriptions and, even better, pictures. I’m going to refer to his pages again.

Each of us notices different aspects of the world around us. So I had to “become” Emily when I wrote her story, to show what she’d focus on in the church while listening to the dreaded loyalist rector’s sermon. All she really wanted was to leave the church, but her father would never allow such disrespect on the Sabbath. So she sits still, with an effort, and endures the lesson.

I’ll touch on the history of the interior of the church, for your information, and then I’ll share the description I used in the book, so you can see how I worked in the details from Emily’s perspective.

IMG_1527According to Mr. Williams, the chancel is “Architecturally as well as devotionally the focus of attention” in the church. Thus, the design and decoration of the space received the most attention. In 1772, Corinthian pilasters and a wrought iron rail were added to the area at the front of the church. The chancel is described in great detail in the pages of Mr. Williams’ book.

From St. Michael’s, Charleston, 1751-1951:

“The Chancel is handsome, and is ornamented in a neat and appropriate manner. It is a paneled wainscot, with four Corinthian Pilasters supporting the proper cornice. The usual Tables of the Decalogue, Lord’s Prayer, and Apostles’ Creed, are placed between them.”

And then:

“It seems that then or later the wainscot, the pilasters, and the entablature may have been painted a dark brown against a solid plaster wall, quite possibly blue. The tablets, two to each side in a unit, were in gilded frames with gilt lettering. Decorating the head of each frame was a golden cherub’s head and wings. The half-dome was a thing of simplicity and beauty. It was blue, representing the firmament, with clouds floating in it. At the peak was a ‘glory,’ a golden sun with golden beams radiating into the dome. The entire aspect must have been at once handsome and harmonious.”

The details of this description informed what Emily notices as she gazes about the church. But there are changes that have been made to the church in the years since my story took place, which Mr. Williams notes.

Again from Williams:

“A dwelling immediately to the east of the chancel offered the constant threat of fire to the church, and in 1788 the dignified Palladian window was ‘shut in with brick.’ The large blank area in the chancel thus produced was painted over a dark brown to resemble a curtain and draperies with gilt tassels and fringe.”

Over the years, other changes occurred, such as repainting and regilding, and repairs had to be made after the Civil War when “damage inflicted by Shells” had to be corrected, but the interior was restored “in keeping with the original design.” Then in 1866, the central window was reopened and “filled with colored glass of hexagonal panes with a curling ivy-leaf design.” Not to belabor my point, I’m sharing these details on the changes to show how having the historical description of what the chancel and nave looked like originally and in 1782-83, the years of my A More Perfect Union series, allowed me to accurately reflect on their appearance.

With that detailed description in mind, let’s look at how Emily viewed the chancel and nave in Emily’s Vow:

“She let her eyes stray to the white plaster ceiling with its intricately carved border known as the Wall of Troy, with its four double roses centered on each of four sides of the rectangle above her. She tried projecting the piety of the other women surrounding her though she only wanted to move, to be outside in the sunshine, to dissipate the energy agitating her. The nave felt cool in the dim light. The sun shone through the Palladian glass window at the rear of the chancel, situated some twenty feet behind the pulpit, and brightened the dark blue walls as well as the four brown Corinthian pilaster columns. The half dome above was blue to represent the firmament with white clouds floating on it and a “glory” at the peak, a golden sun with radiating beams spreading across the dome. Two tablets hung on either side of the window containing the words of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed in gilt lettering in gilded frames with a golden cherub’s head and wings at the top. She appreciated the simple elegance of the chancel, but today she had no patience. None.

Outside, the sun shone warmly on the churchyard with its tombstones covered by fallen leaves, and she imagined birds hopped among them searching for dinner. But she remained trapped inside yet again, albeit in a different place.”

Poor Emily! She wants to enjoy the service, but simply misses the familiar rector who fled when the British occupied the city. But don’t worry. She’ll once again go willingly to church, after the enemy departs America’s shores in December 1782.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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Between the Lines: Preaching from on high #romance #research #churches

In Emily’s Vow, there are a couple of scenes that take place within the walls of St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina. I’ve traversed the streets of Charleston, following the wonderful walking tour of the historic buildings from the 18th century. I love the city and being among the beautiful buildings and gardens. But I needed to know what IMG_1508the inside of the church looked like in 1782 versus what it looks like today. Thank goodness George W. Williams wrote and published a bicentennial account of the history of the church, complete with descriptions and, even better, pictures. (I had actually stumbled upon this wealth of information when trying to determine the fate of the famous bells of the church, but that’s another story!)

For my purposes, I wanted to have a visual of what Emily would be looking at while the service was being conducted. What would she ignore versus think about to pass the time, given that she didn’t really want to be listening to the rector. Mr. Williams helped me a great deal!

I’ll touch on the history of the interior of the church, for your information, and then I’ll share the description I used in the book, so you can see how I worked in the details from Emily’s perspective.

IMG_1513According to Mr. Williams, the pulpit and tester, along with the reading desk, all remain in the same place as the original, though some damage was sustained by the pulpit during the American Civil War. A staircase gave access to the pulpit, three steps led up to the clerk’s desk from the clergy pew, and the clerk could get to his desk from the aisle.

From St. Michael’s, Charleston, 1751-1951:

IMG_1511“The location of the group is also of significance. As Sir Christopher Wren had indicated, Anglican churches were built to serve as ‘auditories.’ The reading desk and the pulpit should then be placed in the position from which the minister could best be heard by the entire congregation. He must stand high above the heads of his flock in order to overcome the height of the square pews.”

What is fascinating to me is the detailed decoration gracing the exterior of the furniture as well as the lovely woods employed in the design. Williams lists the carved decorations, including “Lawrel Leaves,” “5 Leaved Grass in the Cornish,” “Swelling Torus cut with Foliage Flowers,” and my personal favorite, “1 Pine Apple on the top of the pulpit.” For those who may not be aware, the pineapple has long been a symbol of hospitality. In fact, the hospitality industry today awards a trophy featuring a pineapple.

IMG_1514Again from Williams:

“The two inlays have been miraculously preserved. The panel of the west face is inlaid with several woods. Against a background of quarter-sawed oak, rays of long-leaf pine and walnut stream from a circle of mahogany. The cross and the I H S are of white pine; the symbolic device below adds, in an ebony star of David, a triangle of ivory. The ceiling of the pulpit, the sounding board proper, is also inlaid. On a mahogany field alternating diamonds of long-leaf pine and walnut form a large star in the center of which smaller diamonds of the same woods describe a smaller star, counter-colored. The corners of the hexagon are touched with rays of these woods rising from arcs of long-leaf pine.”

With that detailed description in mind, let’s look at how Emily viewed the pulpit in Emily’s Vow:

The final strains of the hymn died away as the rector climbed the stairs to the elevated pulpit to deliver his sermon. The richly carved furniture boasted inlaid woods ranging from pine to oak to mahogany, and was a work of art unbefitting its occupant, to her mind. His position, towering high above the congregation’s heads, not only ensured everyone could hear his message, but also forced her to look up at him until her neck hurt. Emily chastised herself for detesting this portion of the service, but to no avail.

Emily continues to survey her surroundings, taking in the nave and chancel and missing the patriotic preacher who had been ousted by a loyalist one. Thus, her desire to leave the church. At any rate, what do you think? Do you like the way I wove in the details to provide a visual? Would you be interested in hearing about the chancel and nave and how Emily views them as well? I love to hear from my readers, so please leave a brief comment or question and I’ll be happy to respond.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

Emily's Vow Finalist SealAnd of course, if you’d like your own copy of Emily’s Vow, you can buy it at the following links. Thanks!

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Between the Lines: Word Search in History #research #wordplay #amwriting

I was talking with a friend about my love of word play, including checking on the etymology of words in my stories to make sure they are not anachronisms for my characters. See, when writing in close point of view, either first or third person, the characters thoughts and speech must adhere to the language in use at the time period of the story. For example, words like mesmerize or trampoline were unknown in the 18th century, the time of my historical romance series.

This discussion reminded me of when I was researching the history of the bells of St. Michael’s Church in Charleston, South Carolina, for Emily’s Vow. During my reading, I came across the fact that the bells had been taken down and shipped to England as war prizes by the British in October 1782 (which was a story problem I had to correct, by the way). But also that the bells were returned the following fall on a ship that also carried two thoroughbred horses. Nothing too unusual about that fact, right? Except! The word thoroughbred was used to refer to a person with good breeding up until 1796, when it was then applied to horses. My story takes place in 1782, so while my historical reference on the history of the bells could use that word, I could not include it in any of my stories set in this time period.

FireproofpicWhat to do? How did people of the day refer to what we know today as Thoroughbreds? I needed to see the newspaper account from 1783 to find out what terminology the contemporary writer used. So while I was in Charleston, hubby and I visited the Fireproof Building that houses The South Carolina Historical Society. Armed with the citation of the exact newspaper publication information, the wonderful librarians there helped me locate the article. My heart raced with anticipation as I scanned the column of text. The search for a tidbit of history such as this is thrilling to me, which is why I write historicals.

 

Darley_Arabian
The Darley Arabian – Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Finally, I found the sentence referring to “thorough bred horses.” Two words! Awesome! That meant I could use the 1782 term and modern readers would still understand the meaning. Ultimately, the reader’s enjoyment of the story outweighs other considerations, but if I can use the language of the day that my character would use, all the better.

 

What do you think? Does it matter how authentic the language is as long as the story is entertaining? Or do you prefer to experience the subtle distinctions in time and place that language can create?

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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Between the Lines: Breastfeeding in the 18th century #research #history #motherhood

Often it’s the smallest details that take the most time to research. Evelyn has an infant son whom she is breastfeeding. But my question was, how did she dress in order to do so? I mean, women wore a chemise and stays or a bodice of some sort. There were several layers of fabric to contend with. Today, we have blouses with buttons, specialized bras, and other options for making nursing our children convenient and discreet. But then? What did they wear?

motherhood_thumbIt took some searching, but I finally found what I was looking for. Again, at the Colonial Williamsburg website, one of my go-to sites for 18th-century research. Not only did they include the description of stays with flaps on the breast to make access possible, but they also revealed how they handled diapering – and pinning – the cloth diapers on their babies. There is most definitely a reason why safety pins were invented! I think the most

motherhood1-Colonial Williamsburg
A pin cushion with straight pins was a common new baby gift. Image courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg.

creative idea was sewing on ties so they could fasten the cloth diaper without any pins. And the addition of a pad made of more absorbent material for the night to augment the natural absorbency of the soft cotton.

 

So, in Evelyn’s Promise, I had Evelyn become creative and sewed flaps onto her gown so she could discreetly feed her son. I was also heartened to read that women in this time period were engaged in feeding their own children unlike subsequent eras when they employed wet nurses instead, not just to fill in from time to time.

Being able to share the details of how women cared for their children and themselves helps me more accurately tell the stories about life in America’s past.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts and opinions!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I only send out when there is news to share. News like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers. Thanks and happy reading!

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