Guest Tracy Grant Dishes on Scandal and Historical Novels

Image002Andrea/Cara here, Today I'm welcoming back mt dear friend and fellow author Tracy Grant to tell us a little about the some of the real-life history behind her latest book. Many of you are familiar with Tracy's Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch historical series (and if you aren't, you're in for a treat!) and know that she has a passion for history, and her books always have such fascinating backstories to the inspiration behind each book. So, without further ado, I shall pass the pen to Tracy!

The threat of being cast off by society hangs over many stories written or set in the Regency. Think of the Bennets, devastated by Lydia’s elopement, not just because she has run off with an unscrupulous man but because of the effect the scandal will have on her sisters’ marriage prospects. Or of the gossip that arises simply from Marianne Dashwood’s very public obsession with Willoughby – writing to him, confronting him at a party.

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 Hi, here's Jo with a blog about scandal. I decided to do this because of two unconnected inspirations.

The first is that I've been working through my chaotic research files on my computer, trying to put snippets into some sort of order. The second was an item on the radio about the social change brought about by the car, early in the 20th century. Before that, the person said, couples had nowhere to be alone together other than the front parlour, with a parent likely to pop in to see what was going on.

If that were true, then said parents would not have been likely to agree to their daughter going off with her suitor in a motorcar! 

However, it wasn't strictly true. What about the phrase "walking out." Couples were allowed to go out for a stroll. Often this would be two or more couples, or perhaps a sister would be sent as chaperon. But in what world are two young couples substantialIntroduction_gay_moments_logi_hily more well-behaved than one? (The picture is from Tom and Jerry, or Life in London.) If a lady in accompanied by a maidservant, does that guarantee her virtue? Any number of scandals and court cases prove otherwise.

What, then, is "reality?

In romance reading circles, there's often debate about what amount of courting or sexual licence people in the past were allowed. As always, it would depend on circumstances and in the rules laid down by parents or others, but I'm sure there was scope. After all, even in the sixties, when I was at university, the powers that be thought they could control misbehaviour by banning the opposite sex from halls of residence during the night hours.

As always, it's in the hands of the author to make her world believable, but also in the mind of the reader, who will bring her beliefs and even her own experience to the book. 

Back to my chaotic research.

Consider this Georgian scandal and consider what behaviour must have been taking place. If, that is, you can make sense of it at all. To help you, a few points.Stolen

A crucial one is that this took place before the Hardwicke Act of 1754, so reading the marriage service before witnesses would have made the marriage legal. Even declaring themselves man and wife before witnesses would have done so.

To attempt to make this easier to follow I've filled out the Mr. Cr______l  etc used to pretend to conceal identity. Some names, therefore, are from my imagination.

I've also broken it into paragraphs. Here we go!

From the Gentleman's Magazine, Nov. 1747.

 Substance of several Letters, Published as Appeals to the Public, in a Dispute between Tho. Estcourt of Pinkney, Wilts. Esq. on one Part, and Mr. Styles and Lancelot Lee, Esqs. Of Coton, Shropshire, on the Other; also of a Pamphlet called, A Narrative of the Affair, by Mr. Crabwell.

 Mr. Styles charges Mr. Crabwell with having, by long importunity and artifice, debauched his sister, then married her, next attempted to poison her with laudanum;

afterwards married Miss Weatherby. unknown to his former wife, whom he also, by lies and slander, prevented from marrying Mr. Lee, a gentleman of great fortune &c.,

and enter'd into a confederacy with Mr. Fred Styles, that he should go to bed with his second wife, that he might catch them, and be furnished with a pretence to turn her out of doors.

(Pause for breath. So did Crabwell, after debauching etc Miss Styles, then ask the brother to seduce his second wife so he could return to the first? The mind boggles!)

Mr. Crabwell, in answer, says, that he long abstained from a criminal familiarity with Miss Styles, after he had it in his power; (so no lack of opportunity.)

that he at length complied to remove an indisposition which he thought would otherwise kill her;(she was dying of desire?)

and upon condition that, if she did not prove with child, he should be at liberty to marry any other woman;

that no other marriage passed between them except his once reading over the marriage form, no one else present; (Just the sort of thing a gentleman might do on a rainy evening…. I assume Miss Styles was unaware of the need for witnesses.)

that he did advise her to take laudanum, but it was to compose her, when she had been 16 or 18 nights without sleep; (They're living together?)

that he can prove Miss Styles bought his wedding shirts, was consulted about the colour of a lining to his wedding suit, &c. and therefore knew of his intended  marriage with Miss Weatherby,

that he never endeavoured, by one act, to prevent her marriage with Mr. Lee;

that he once asked Mr. Fred Styles if he would go to bed with his wife, but it was with an intent to retort upon him, for his asking him if he would kill his brother. (I wish there was more clarity in pronouns. Styles asked Crabwell to kill another Styles, or another Crabwell, and why?)

It may be noted, however, that, in the pamphlet published by Mr. Crabwell, he admits that he owned to his mother-in-law, Mrs. Weatherby, his marriage to Miss Styles, and that, altho' amidst her endearments, and the tenderest circumstances, he press'd her for the last favour, she absolutely refused, except he would marry her, at least so as to make it lawful.

What do you make of that?

In a novel, I doubt I could believe it, but doesn't it suggest that Mr. Crabwell and Miss Styles haAscansmd a great deal of opportunity to make moral choices?

And who is Tho. Estcourt of Pinkney, Wilts. Esq? Or is that Mr. C________l, under deep disguise?

Ah-ha! A bit more research shows that the above account gave the name incorrectly. It was Thomas Estcourt Cresswell. (My Crabwell.) You can read an account, with the real names here.

My heroine's scandal in A Scandalous Countess is positively straightforward by comparison!