Psychics, Witches, and Cadavers

Rice_LessonsinEnchantment_600x900My Malcolm and Ives characters tend to be creatures of their time, even though the Ives are aristocracy and the Malcolms are often eccentric psychics. I can finally use that term in the Victorian Age!! The term first came along in 1871 from the Greek psykhikos “Of the soul, spirit, or mind.” And because we’re on this subject instead of the history I started out to tell—King James I is responsible for psychics being called witches. For your edification—in Samuel 28 in Hebrew, Saul goes to a “woman with a divining spirit”—the derivation would be the same Greek above. This psychic contacts the spirit of Samuel. But the King James translation we all know and sometimes love translated the word from the original Hebrew as “Witch” from idolater, medium, sorcerer, and ghost whisperer. Similar words, different meanings. So in Hebrew, the woman is a psychic, and in English, she became a witch. (I love that Hebrew has a word for ghost whisperer!!!!) I know I’ll find a way to insert this in my books, but you heard it here first. (Lessons in Enchantment pre-order link)

Now back to my originally intended program—

As creatures of their time, my characters are entering the Age of Enlightenment, where science is everything and education is becoming extremely important for all levels of society. In 1870, 640px-Edinburgh_University_1827Scotland already had public education in the form of kirk schools, although they weren’t formally organized or under government authorization. And for the first time, women were allowed to take classes at the University of Edinburgh. How can I not play with this?!

At the time, Edinburgh had two schools of veterinary medicine, although they were not associated with the university. My Malcolm animal-talker longs to attend, but these vet schools were mostly about cattle husbandry. No way was a woman allowed to learn about breeding cattle! But seven intrepid woman in 1869 forced the university to accept them in the medical department, so my heroine holds out hope. Although the original women were never The_first_Scottish_women_to_graduate_from_The_University_of_Edinburghallowed to graduate as physicians, they did receive undergraduate degrees, and by 1894, women were allowed to become doctors. So finally, my Malcolm heroine can take classes at a university! Being a society in transition, however, the daughter of an earl really shouldn’t be associating with the rude males attending a public college—instant conflict! Every period of transition contains weird contradictions like this as society adjusts. Sadly, we can still see this in our own times with the prejudices against race and gender, although classism doesn’t play as much of a part. Yet.

After doing all this fun research, I couldn’t resist giving the university a prominent part in another book, the one I’m working on now. And for this, I learned that the first purposely-built building at the university—all the others were old structures converted to the school’s uses—was designed by Robert Adams for the anatomy and surgical sciences. It included a tunnel to the anatomy lecture hall where corpses were dissected. Those corpses were carried in the tunnel 714px-New_College_University_of_Edinburghfrom down the street. I attached it to a morgue, although in reality, I haven’t uncovered anything more than “residential building” at the other end. I simply couldn’t ignore a tunnel for cadavers and had to use it, even though my physician hero is mostly a researcher and not an anatomical lecturer.

After all my reading, I’m in utter awe of this university. Established in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is the sixth oldest university in the English speaking world (Oxford and Cambridge  are older). In 1762, they established the very first English Literature department in Britain. The list of famous people who graduated from there is endless and includes the likes of Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Lister, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. I need to figure out who was there in the 1870s and see if I can’t work them in somewhere. . .

But this is the reason it’s so much fun to write historical romance. I can find plots and motivations and conflicts right there in the history—sometimes, too much. I’ve already dug into bicycles and typewriters. I’m trying hard to stay out of medical research. . .

Is there anything in particular you’d like to see covered in a Victorian novel?

55 thoughts on “Psychics, Witches, and Cadavers”

  1. Edinburgh University in the early Victorian period flags up James Clerk Maxwell in my mind. Maxwell ranks with Einstein and Faraday in the scientific world and revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism. Magical powers often seem (tenuously)linked to electricity and magnetism and women were rarely seen in science labs.Henri Bergson was also developing vitalism and vital force ideas at the time, which were thought by some to link electricity to life. Seems to me that there is a potent brew for a novelist here. A little verbal distillation could produce something magical to delight the soul!

    Reply
  2. Edinburgh University in the early Victorian period flags up James Clerk Maxwell in my mind. Maxwell ranks with Einstein and Faraday in the scientific world and revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism. Magical powers often seem (tenuously)linked to electricity and magnetism and women were rarely seen in science labs.Henri Bergson was also developing vitalism and vital force ideas at the time, which were thought by some to link electricity to life. Seems to me that there is a potent brew for a novelist here. A little verbal distillation could produce something magical to delight the soul!

    Reply
  3. Edinburgh University in the early Victorian period flags up James Clerk Maxwell in my mind. Maxwell ranks with Einstein and Faraday in the scientific world and revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism. Magical powers often seem (tenuously)linked to electricity and magnetism and women were rarely seen in science labs.Henri Bergson was also developing vitalism and vital force ideas at the time, which were thought by some to link electricity to life. Seems to me that there is a potent brew for a novelist here. A little verbal distillation could produce something magical to delight the soul!

    Reply
  4. Edinburgh University in the early Victorian period flags up James Clerk Maxwell in my mind. Maxwell ranks with Einstein and Faraday in the scientific world and revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism. Magical powers often seem (tenuously)linked to electricity and magnetism and women were rarely seen in science labs.Henri Bergson was also developing vitalism and vital force ideas at the time, which were thought by some to link electricity to life. Seems to me that there is a potent brew for a novelist here. A little verbal distillation could produce something magical to delight the soul!

    Reply
  5. Edinburgh University in the early Victorian period flags up James Clerk Maxwell in my mind. Maxwell ranks with Einstein and Faraday in the scientific world and revolutionized our understanding of electromagnetism. Magical powers often seem (tenuously)linked to electricity and magnetism and women were rarely seen in science labs.Henri Bergson was also developing vitalism and vital force ideas at the time, which were thought by some to link electricity to life. Seems to me that there is a potent brew for a novelist here. A little verbal distillation could produce something magical to delight the soul!

    Reply
  6. Reading these stories will be a guilty pleasure! I have so enjoyed the parts of your stories where ghosts appear or talk in the minds of their descendants, but I’ve not read one where ghosts speak aloud in real time. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ghost of the cadaver spoke to the person(s) transporting it through the creepy tunnel, right after their unquenchable light source went out?
    “Good lord, did this corpse just speak?”
    “Are you daft? I’m dead!”

    Reply
  7. Reading these stories will be a guilty pleasure! I have so enjoyed the parts of your stories where ghosts appear or talk in the minds of their descendants, but I’ve not read one where ghosts speak aloud in real time. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ghost of the cadaver spoke to the person(s) transporting it through the creepy tunnel, right after their unquenchable light source went out?
    “Good lord, did this corpse just speak?”
    “Are you daft? I’m dead!”

    Reply
  8. Reading these stories will be a guilty pleasure! I have so enjoyed the parts of your stories where ghosts appear or talk in the minds of their descendants, but I’ve not read one where ghosts speak aloud in real time. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ghost of the cadaver spoke to the person(s) transporting it through the creepy tunnel, right after their unquenchable light source went out?
    “Good lord, did this corpse just speak?”
    “Are you daft? I’m dead!”

    Reply
  9. Reading these stories will be a guilty pleasure! I have so enjoyed the parts of your stories where ghosts appear or talk in the minds of their descendants, but I’ve not read one where ghosts speak aloud in real time. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ghost of the cadaver spoke to the person(s) transporting it through the creepy tunnel, right after their unquenchable light source went out?
    “Good lord, did this corpse just speak?”
    “Are you daft? I’m dead!”

    Reply
  10. Reading these stories will be a guilty pleasure! I have so enjoyed the parts of your stories where ghosts appear or talk in the minds of their descendants, but I’ve not read one where ghosts speak aloud in real time. Wouldn’t it be funny if the ghost of the cadaver spoke to the person(s) transporting it through the creepy tunnel, right after their unquenchable light source went out?
    “Good lord, did this corpse just speak?”
    “Are you daft? I’m dead!”

    Reply
  11. oh no, someone else giving me ideas! You’re all more dangerous than I am. I’m trying so very hard to be good and not stretch physical boundaries (although I fear I did that with Bewitching Governess, so maybe I’ve lost all credibility already)…

    Reply
  12. oh no, someone else giving me ideas! You’re all more dangerous than I am. I’m trying so very hard to be good and not stretch physical boundaries (although I fear I did that with Bewitching Governess, so maybe I’ve lost all credibility already)…

    Reply
  13. oh no, someone else giving me ideas! You’re all more dangerous than I am. I’m trying so very hard to be good and not stretch physical boundaries (although I fear I did that with Bewitching Governess, so maybe I’ve lost all credibility already)…

    Reply
  14. oh no, someone else giving me ideas! You’re all more dangerous than I am. I’m trying so very hard to be good and not stretch physical boundaries (although I fear I did that with Bewitching Governess, so maybe I’ve lost all credibility already)…

    Reply
  15. oh no, someone else giving me ideas! You’re all more dangerous than I am. I’m trying so very hard to be good and not stretch physical boundaries (although I fear I did that with Bewitching Governess, so maybe I’ve lost all credibility already)…

    Reply
  16. This all sounds so wonderfully delicious – why oh why is there never enough time to read all the fabulous books out there?!! Thank you so much for that bit about the shifting translation, Patricia. I think we often forget to think about how the words we take for granted might have differed slightly in the original.

    Reply
  17. This all sounds so wonderfully delicious – why oh why is there never enough time to read all the fabulous books out there?!! Thank you so much for that bit about the shifting translation, Patricia. I think we often forget to think about how the words we take for granted might have differed slightly in the original.

    Reply
  18. This all sounds so wonderfully delicious – why oh why is there never enough time to read all the fabulous books out there?!! Thank you so much for that bit about the shifting translation, Patricia. I think we often forget to think about how the words we take for granted might have differed slightly in the original.

    Reply
  19. This all sounds so wonderfully delicious – why oh why is there never enough time to read all the fabulous books out there?!! Thank you so much for that bit about the shifting translation, Patricia. I think we often forget to think about how the words we take for granted might have differed slightly in the original.

    Reply
  20. This all sounds so wonderfully delicious – why oh why is there never enough time to read all the fabulous books out there?!! Thank you so much for that bit about the shifting translation, Patricia. I think we often forget to think about how the words we take for granted might have differed slightly in the original.

    Reply
  21. A fascinating post. As to suggestions, although I try to be critical in all my reading, for me you can do no wrong with your Malcolm and Ives connections, no matter what century nor which part of the world.

    Reply
  22. A fascinating post. As to suggestions, although I try to be critical in all my reading, for me you can do no wrong with your Malcolm and Ives connections, no matter what century nor which part of the world.

    Reply
  23. A fascinating post. As to suggestions, although I try to be critical in all my reading, for me you can do no wrong with your Malcolm and Ives connections, no matter what century nor which part of the world.

    Reply
  24. A fascinating post. As to suggestions, although I try to be critical in all my reading, for me you can do no wrong with your Malcolm and Ives connections, no matter what century nor which part of the world.

    Reply
  25. A fascinating post. As to suggestions, although I try to be critical in all my reading, for me you can do no wrong with your Malcolm and Ives connections, no matter what century nor which part of the world.

    Reply

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