Nicola here. Today I’m celebrating the “birthday” of one of my older traditional Regencies, Miss Verey’s Proposal. Today, 20th January, is the Eve of Saint Agnes and it was the legend of St Agnes that inspired the book.
I first came across the tradition of St Agnes Eve when I was in my teens and studying Keats’ poetry:
“St Agnes Eve, ah bitter chill it was! The owl, for all his feathers was a-cold; the hare limped trembling through the frozen grass, and silent was the flock in woolly fold…”
I should say at this point that I absolutely love Keats’ writing for the way he creates such beautiful images with such elegant language. I always feel cold when I read those lines! The poem goes on to tell of an ancient tradition that a girl would dream of her future husband if she went to bed without any supper and did not look behind her. In the poem the lover who appears in Madeline’s bedchamber that night is certainly more than a dream. Apparently Keats had to tone down the poem for his publishers because they felt that the first version was too erotic! Madeline and her lover, who is the sworn enemy of her family, run away together. It’s a classic historical romance.