Here's Jo, along with smiling Charlie my biggest fan — ha! ha! — so steeped in the book that I forgot about my Wench blog, so this is going to be bitty and brief. Also, Typepad has changed their set up, causing me all sorts of problems that I don't have time to figure out now. Apologies in advance if some of this in odd (like enormous images, for example.)
I saved a little bit out of the newspaper from a regular column by Pam Frier called Pleasures of the Table. This one's titled 17th Century Cooks Had Their Finger On the Pulse, and it's about old cookery books that measured time by the pulse. I'd not come across that, but it makes sense when a clock wasn't always to hand. They were expensive items. Referring to Sir Kenelm Digby's cookbook, she related that he instructed the cook to let an egg boil for about 200 strokes of the pulse. That would be about three minutes. Neat, eh?
The Closet of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight Opened can be downloaded from Gutenberg here.
But what's that about smiling? For one thing, it's good for us. The physical act of smiling makes us happier. Apparently chronically depressed people have weak smiling muscles and improve if given smiling exercises. I even found this article about improvement after treatment with Botox.
I quote: Botox’s potential to treat depression dawned on Dr. Eric Finzi, a
cosmetic surgeon in Chevy Chase, Md., and lead author of the study, a
few years ago, while he was studying facial expressions. Also a
painter, he was working on a series of portraits based on late 19th
century photographs of patients confined in the French hospital La
Salpetriere, an institution for women “of abnormal constitution.” “I
went back and read Charles Darwin. Back in the 1870s, he brought up
that you sort of are the emotions you express on your face,” Finzi says.
Maybe, he thought, the facial muscles feed information to the
emotion centers of the brain, which in turn respond with chemicals
that produce happy or sad feelings. The loop is complete when those
feelings are sent back to the brain, reinforcing expressions on the
face. It’s one theory that some researchers have held, though as yet
there is no proof of such a neurological underpinning. Scientists
have proven, however, that facial expressions can alter heart rate,
skin temperature and blood volume.
But what's this got to do with history? It's a bit tenuous, but I've been dipping into A brief History of the Smile, by Angus Trumble, Basic Books. I have only dipped as yet (see deadline above) but it is interesting.
Consider, for example, this quote in the book from de La Salle's Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility, 1703. "There are some people who raise their upper lip so high, or let the lower lip sag so much, that their teeth are almost entirely visible. This is entirely contrary to decorum, which forbids you to allow your teeth to be uncovered, since nature gave us lips to conceal them."
Here's de La Salle, teeth decorously concealed.
It is good to know, however, that he approved of humorous after dinner wit that caused laughter, for that aids digestion. So that's the origin of the after dinner speaker, is it?
Hmm. His rules would cramp our writing style, wouldn't it. It'd be tight smiles all the way. Though I suppose we could increase the use of twinkling eyes.I remember one man on line who was adamant that a character should never grin unless they were supposed to be demented. Clearly he'd have sided with de La Salle.
What do you think about grinning characters? To me, it's not so much a Cheshire Cat grin, as the emotion behind it, which is not the same as a smile.
The book mentions nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, used for amusement before it became an anesthetic. It was synthesized in 1775, and used experimentally by many including Coleridge and Southey.
And then we have the smiley face, of which I'm very fond. 🙂
I will leave you with a snippet from The Spectator, the famous newspaper of the early 18th century. In September 1711, it noted at the end of an advertisement in the Post Boy (they had their own newspaper? Anyone want to find out more?) for horse racing "The same day, a gold ring to be grinn'd for by men." The Spectator investigated and discovered that people were exercising for hours a day. "The prize to be grinned for has raised such an ambition among the common people of out-grinning one another that many very discerning persons are afraid it should spoil most of the faces of the country."
Now there's an incident someone can incorporate into a historical novel, I'm sure.
Expand on the topic of smiling, in life and in fiction. How do you like an author to show the many nuances of the smile? What about smiling faces on covers? Some contemporaries have smiling people on them, but historicals rarely. The trad Regencies often had smilers, sometimes manic grinners, and I wonder if it contributed to their demise.
Consider the paperback of Emily and the Dark Angel, in which my darkish and dangerish Verderan is simpering. There's no other word for it. Then there's that glitch of light which makes him look as if he's wearing a dangly earring.
Did that make you smile? If not, do it anyway, right now.
Remember to smile, many times a day. It'll do you the world of good.
PS, the mass market paperback edition of Dragon Lovers is out, with brilliant stories by me, Mary Jo, Barbara Samuel and Karen Harbaugh. I'm scared to try to put up the cover of that because all the pictures seem to be so huge and I don't know what to do to fix them.
Ah well, I'll just smile about it.
:D :D 😀