Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Fictional Cats

How are cats portrayed in fiction?
Those of you that visit this blog regularly will have worked out that I’m a bit obsessed by all things feline. Today I feed that obsession by considering how cats are portrayed in literature.

A good starting point is Rudyard Kipling. He wrote a ‘Just So’ story that captures the essential qualities of the cat’s character. In ‘The Cat that Walked by Himself’ – the cat bargains with the woman to drink her milk and sleep by her fire, but in return will do exactly as he pleases! Those cat lovers amongst you will sympathise with that scenario!

Stephen King has the same perception of cats as independent creatures.

“Cats were the gangsters of the animal world, living outside the law and often dying there. There were a great many of them who never grew old by the fire.”

First edition copy of Pet Sematary
Pet Sematary is the story a cat ‘Church’ (Winston Churchill) who is killed in a traffic accident. He is buried in the sematary/ cemetery of the title, but returns home… “Sometimes dead is better”

The reaction of Ellie, that cat’s young owner, to his death, reflects something of the bond between cat and owner.

 “He’s my cat! He’s not God’s cat! Let God have his own cat! Let God have all the damn old cats He wants, and kill them all! Church is mine!”

Hilary Mantel in one of my favourite novels, Wolf Hall, beautifully describes that gentle pleasure to be had whilst watching a cat. This passage describes an interaction between the powerful political manipulator, Thomas Cromwell, and his cat, Marlinspike.
Portrait of Thomas Cromwell
by Hans Holbein.
“A cat may look at a king,” he [Cromwell] says. He is cradling Marlinspike in his arms, and talking to Thomas Avery, the boy he’s teaching his trade…

…He puts the cat down, opens the bag.He fishes up on a finger a string of rosary beads; for show says Avery, and he says, good boy. Marlinspike leaps on to his desk; he peers into the bag, dabbing with a paw. “The only mice in there are sugar ones.” The boy [Avery] pulls the cat’s ears, tussles with him. “We don’t have any little pets in Master Vaughan’s house.”

In J K Rowling’s novel, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the author creates Crookshanks, Hermione Granger’s cat. Her pet is half cat, half Kneazle with a lion-like appearance and has the distinctive quality of recognising untrustworthy people (even when transfigured.) Hermione bought Crookshanks from the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley where he had been languishing because, ‘Nobody wanted him.’

I love this interaction between Ron (obviously not a cat person) and Hermione.

Ron: "You bought that monster?"
Hermione: "He's gorgeous, isn't he?"
Ron: "Hermione, that thing nearly scalped me!"
Roald Dahl also tackles the conflict between those for and those against cats, in his book, Edward the Conqueror. In this tale a wife rescues a stray cat from a bonfire and then discovers he appreciates her piano playing. She becomes convinced that the cat in the reincarnation of the composer, Franz Liszt, much to the chagrin of her cat-hating husband. The husband-wife bond is sorely tested when he becomes jealous of the cat and attempts to dispose of the animal…

Charles Dickens also mentions cats in his novels and several characters, from Lady Jane, to Mr Jellyby and Mrs Pipchin have feline companions. Perhaps more chilling are the references to cats finding their way into the human food chain!

‘Veal pie,' said Mr. Weller, soliloquizing, as he arranged the eatables on the grass.  'Very good thing is veal pie, when you know the lady as made it, and is quite sure it ain't kittens … they're so like veal that the very piemen themselves don't know the difference.'

'I [Sam Weller] lodged in the same house with a pieman once…make pies out o’anything, he could. ‘What a number o’cats you keep, Mr Brooks,’ says I ‘You must be very fond of cats’ says I.
‘Other people is,’ says he a-winkin’ at me…and wispering in my ear, ‘don’t mention this again…but it’s the seasonin’ as does it,’ says he, a-pointin’ to a very nice little tabby kitten, ‘and I seasons ‘em for beefsteak, weal or kidney, ‘cording to the demand.’
Pickwick Papers
And finally, on a more cheerful note, in my latest release, Verity's Lie, - our heroine learns something unexpected about the gruff Lord Ryevale:

Verity stepped into a bright hallway that smelt of sweet peas.  A jute runner covered the flagstones and picture frames lined the walls.  There was a lack of fussiness and sense of refined simplicity that appealed to Verity.  Added to that, a plump back cat came padding along the corridor, mewling for attention.
            "Gibbe, you cheeky boy.  I might have known you'd appear when visitors arrive...making out as if no one feeds you."
            The cat made straight for Lord Ryevale and rubbed around his ankles whilst purring ecstatically.  His lordship stooped to rub Gibbe's ears, the purrs growing ever louder.  Seeing this softer side of Ryevale moved Verity beyond words.
            "You like that, don’t you?  Is that the spot?" A soft light entered Ryevale's eye.  Verity watched wide-eyed as the cat rolled over to display his ample belly whilst Ryevale clicked his tongue and made gooey noises. 
            It was Mrs Featherstone who interrupted this touching scene.  "Now Gibbe, leave his lordship alone.  Come into the kitchen and I'll find you some oysters.  Lord Ryevale, dear, Miss Foster is in the studio.  Can you see yourself up?"
            "Indeed."  Ryevale glanced around defensively, as if remembering Verity's presence.  "This way, Miss Verrinder."

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Performing for the King - at the Banqueting House

Last Thursday I was fortunate enough to preview a new exhibition ‘Performing for theKing’ at London’s Banqueting House, Whitehall. To be fair, ‘exhibition’ is too static a word to describe this event since there is movement and music, costumes to try on as well as period characters that mingle with the visitors. With deliberately subdued lighting to recreate the atmosphere of 17th century candlelight,  this is anything but a walk-and-read display.

A model of Inigo Jones's contraption for lowering the queen
out of a cloud
The aspect that most fired my imagination were Inigo Jones set designs and his use of early special effects. But first, a little background about ‘Performing for the King’ the creation of a court masque. The aim of the Banqueting House’s curator, Jane Spooner, is to give the visitor a sense of what went on behind the scenes at a 17th century masque and a taste of the atmosphere.

Jones' innovative use of newly 'discovered' perspective.
 To illustrate this Jane recreates part of the 1620 production of Tempe Restored. This masque (a play with music and dancing) was a sort of Stuart propaganda piece, pushing the message of the Stuart’s as a uniting monarchy, bringing peace to a troubled England and Scotland. The extravagant spectacle was designed to amaze and awe, but of course this carried a commensurate price tag. For the ordinary working man looking in from the outside, the cost of such masques must have rubbed salt into the wound of their day-to-day hardships.

Another of Inigo Jones' set designs.
 One of the most eye-catching things about Tempe Restored was the innovative set design by Inigo Jones. For maximum impact the main players (the King and Queen playing the parts of Apollo and Diana) were to descend from the heavens in a cloud. To achieve this Ingio Jones created a piece of scenery worked by pulleys and powered by teams of strong men. Don’t forget this was in a time before hydraulics and engines, so any heavy lifting had to be done by muscle power. These moving elements were heavy and dangerous - and made a lot of noise which was disguised by playing loud music.

The screen before which the actors perform
Inigo Jones used tricks of perspective, (a recent ‘invention’), as well as layering, lighting and masking to transform a 2-D stage into a 3-D drama. The clever people at the Banqueting House give the visitor a feel for these effects with Monty Pythonesque slides of scenery projected on the stage backdrop as the performance takes place.
The great man himself - Inigo Jones.
Meet him at Performing for the King!

To find out more click on Performing for the King - open from July 19th to September 1st 2013.

You can also chat to Inigo Jones himself on Twitter – simply tweet @ask_inigo and include a hashtag #man #woman #boy or #girl – to enrol yourself a character in the masque.

Once again, I’d like to extend my thanks to the Historic Royal Palaces organisation, and especially John Shevlin, for inviting me to this preview.
Even I got into the spirit of things and tried on a ruff!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Line of Kings: the Wooden Horses

Last week I was fortunate to a preview the latest 'Line of Kings' exhibition at the Tower of London [see Line of Kings: the Oldest Exhibition in the World ]. Against a clear blue sky the White Tower looked stunning, the perfect setting to set the mood for this historic attraction.

In this exhibition you will see suits of armour, including two worn by King Henry VIII, as well as life-sized horses, carved in the 1690's to display equine armour. For me it is these figures that steal the show. Because of their great age, over 300 years old, these horses are now too fragile to support the weight of armour they were originally intended to carry, but in their own right they are beautiful sculptures.

The poses of the horses are striking and a wonderfully insightful blog post on the significance of their stance can be found on here, on the 'History Needs You' blog. Be it artist or carpenter, it is obvious that whoever crafted these life-sized creatures had a wonderful empathy with the equine species. Prancing and firy, noble and elegant, you can read the respect of sculptor for subject in every vein and sinew. Indeed, the figures are so detailed that each model has horse shoes!

Detail showing the different paint finishes on the wooden horses
(Wooden horse to the left of the photo, armour to the right)
Endoscopy has given a fascinating insight into how these models were crafted. Each horse was made from wooden planking (they are hollow) and assembled with traditional carpentry techniques. If you look hard you can see the joins and wooden pins.

A detail showing the joins and a pin used to assemble the sculptures.
Over the centuries each horse has been repainted multiple times. If you look carefully you can see a small area on some of the horses (on their flank, about halfway down) made up of postage-stamp sized areas of differing colours. This is were conservationists have painstakingly removed layer upon layer of paint to reveal the previous liveries.

The horse, commissioned in 1685, used to display the model
of King Henry VIII in armour.
Unmarked and standing unassumingly amongst the rest are two horses of special significance. One is a black horse with rolling eyes and flared nostrils - this figure was the first commissioned to carry a model of King Henry VIII in his armour. The second is a prancing dun coloured horse that is a shade shorter than the others. It is suspected that this may have been carved by a man with the striking name of Grinling Gibbons.

Was this horse carved by Grinling Gibbons?
Grinling was a sculptor and woodworker whose catalogue includes carvings at St Paul's Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace and Blenheim Palace. Records exist showing the Grinling was paid forty pounds for a carving of Charles I and a horse. Later sculptors were paid half this amount.

This horse is the cuckoo in the nest - Why?
Because it was made just a couple of years ago in order to carry the weight of
Henry VIII's armour.
Some of the other wooden wonders on show at the Line of Kings include wooden carvings (from the late 17th century) in the form of the likenesses of monarchs, including Henry VIII and Charles I.

Carved in wood - the likeness of King Henry VIII-
part of an exhibition created 300 years ago

I would like to thank the lovely people at the Historic Royal Palaces, and John Shevlin in particular, for inviting an ordinary blogger to a preview of this wonderful exhibition. For those wishing to visit the Line of Kings, entry is free, included as part of the admission fee to the Tower of London.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Line of Kings: The Oldest Exhibition in the World

Q: How long has the world’s oldest visitor attraction been on show?

The Line of Kings
A: An amazing 350 years – and the attraction is the Tower of London’s evocative Line of Kings’ exhibition. But just in case you are thinking the exhibits might be a bit dusty by now – let me assure you that the latest incarnation of this wonderful display is anything but dull!

In the 17th century the aim of the attraction was to display the king’s armour and weapons, and remind subjects of the power of the crown. This latest take on historical armaments has added interest for today's visitor with a display of magnificent, life-sized wooden horses. These horses, carved in the 1690's, were designed as mounts suitable to showcase a king's armour, and in the modern day make breath-taking sculptures in their own right.
The White Tower -
at the Tower of London
Set in the historic White Tower, the very first ‘Line of Kings’ display coincided with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.  The exhibition of royal armour was open to the public and was more concerned with pomp than historical accuracy. For instance, William the Conqueror’s armour was exhibited - despite it being in a style not designed until several hundred years later.

Carved wooden likeness of Henry VIII-
created the late 1690's
Somewhat ironically, when William’s armour was removed from display in 1826 (because of historical inaccuracy), the suit was then reassigned to another nobleman! That said, it seems early visitors were not unaware of the liberties being taken with history if the account below is anything to go by:
 “As we gently mov’d along and viewed the princely scarecrows, he [the guide] told us to whom each suit of armour belong originally, adding some memorandums out of history…some true some false, supplying that with invention which he wanted in memory.”
Ned Ward- visiting the Tower of London in 1699

King Henry VIII armour on display
The current Line of Kings’ exhibition is now open at the Tower of London.  Armour worn by Henry VIII and Charles I (amongst other royals) is on display, but the highlight of my visit and personal favourites are the gorgeously carved wooden artefacts in the form of life-sized prancing horses. [More about the horses in my next post]
Detail from Henry VIII's armour
As well as those fabulous horses there is an eerie cabinet displaying the carved likenesses of kings’ heads and hands. To whet your appetite further, below is a photo of the wooden horse made to display King Henry VIII’s armour in a late 17th century display.
The original horse created to display
King Henry VIII in his armour

 Entry to the Line of Kings exhibition is included as part of the entrance fee to the Tower of London.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

England's Last Revolution

Guest post by REGAN WALKER

I'm delighted to welcome author, Regan Walker, to my blog. As a writer, Regan has followed a similar path to myself: she wrote stories as a child but the serious business of making a living intervened - in Regan's case she entered the legal profession. But true calling wins out in the end and now Regan writes historical romance that often involve a demanding Prince Regent who thinks of his subjects as his private talent pool.
Regan lives in San Diego with her golden retriever, Link [what a fantastic name!] whom she says inspires her every day to relax and smell the roses.
Welcome! Regan Walker
So without further ado, here is Regan's post!

ENGLAND'S LAST REVOLUTION – When Mere Villagers Fought “Against the Wind”

On June 9, 1817, a group of village men from Pentrich in Derbyshire, England rose in rebellion against the Crown. Dubbed “the Last Revolution in England,” it might have more accurately been called a government-inspired provocation to action, designed to justify repression. Why did the villages fight “against the wind” that was the power of England?

After the war with France ended in 1814, England suffered from great social, economic and political problems. Many of the major issues were the direct result of the war, but others were the necessary product of the changes occurring throughout society. The discontent and the distress in the lives of the common people culminated in the series of events between 1811-1819, including the Pentrich Rebellion of 1817, which is the backdrop for my historical romance novel, Against the Wind.
Pentrich Revolution plaque.

The uprising in the Midlands in 1817 was just what the leaders of the British government needed to justify sending a strong signal to the masses that no rebellion, such as occurred in the French Revolution, would be tolerated in England. The hundreds of villagers who rose up with the pikes and crude weapons on that day in June two hundred years ago were ignorant of the true fact—that the government itself was behind their actions.

The year 1817 began with a rally held in London in January, perhaps inspired by the political clubs that advocated the vote for all men. The mood of the masses was rebellious and ended with stones being thrown at the Prince Regent’s carriage as he left Parliament. While the Prince wasn’t harmed, with memories of the French Revolution still vivid in their minds, and the political clubs becoming more and more popular, especially in the Midlands and the North, the House of Lords adopted a spate of laws designed to control the stirrings of rebellion, including the suspension of Habeas Corpus, and the infamous Gagging Acts. All public meetings were forbidden, except under license from local magistrates. Pubs and coffee houses, as especially notorious places for radical gatherings, were covered by the Acts. Sedition, that is to say opposition to the government, whether by speech or written word, was to be severely punished.
Gent....No Gent....Re gent!!

In March, there was a protest by thousands of depressed Manchester workers. With a view to descending on London to petition the Prince Regent to do something to relieve their economic depression, they marched peacefully carrying blankets to sleep in. Thus, it became known as the March of the Blanketeers. It rained violently on the day the march began. As five hundred of the men marched towards Derby, they encountered masses of troops at the Hanging Bridge over the River Dove at Ashbourne. Most of the Blanketeers were turned away, but twenty-five were arrested. Only a few got to Derby and only one marcher reached London to present his petition. However, the Manchester expression of discontent served to keep alive the government’s fear of revolution.

Concerned about the growing unrest, Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary sent spies throughout England, including the Midlands, to keep watch on the “centers of discontent.” Since these spies were informers paid by results, they quickly became agents provocateur, stirring rebellion where there was none so they would be paid. Among the spies was one William Richards, better known as William Oliver, or “Oliver the spy,” who incited open rebellion in the Midlands. He is one of the characters in my novel.
The head of Jeremiah Brandreth - one of the ringleaders
of the Pentrich uprising.
Oliver traveled to Pentrich in Derbyshire, disguised as a depressed worker (he had previously been in Fleet Prison), encouraging the villagers to armed rebellion. He assured them there were thousands in London ready to join them in rising against the Crown. The villagers, in their ignorance, believed him. They were simple men who thought they were joining a great cause for democracy where every man would have a vote. They would soon learn they were wrong.
At the same time that Oliver was making arrangements with the villagers for an armed march to air their discontent, he informed the local militia of the planned uprising, even giving them the date. Due to Oliver’s lies, the hundreds who marched on that rainy night in June had no idea they stood not a chance of accomplishing their objective. When the dawn came, the men faced a regiment of the King’s Own Dragoons and were soon scattered or captured.
A gruesome depiction of the execution of the ringleaders.
Notwithstanding the circumstances of the uprising and the involvement of the English government, the powers in London decided to make an example of the rebels. Forty-five men were tried for high treason. Three were hanged, including Jeremiah Brandreth, Isaac Ludlam and William Turner, the “ringleaders”—all characters in my novel. Fourteen were sentenced to transportation to Australia, including one young man of whom my heroine was quite fond.

Years after the events, in a letter written in 1831, Lord Melbourne, a former Home Secretary, recalled that there was "much reason to suspect that the rising in Derbyshire...was stimulated, if not produced, by the artifices of Oliver, a spy employed by the Government of that day.”

My story begins in London where a young noblewoman flees a fate worse than death and runs unknowingly into the arms of a spy for the Crown.

Click for link

Chapter 1

London, April 1817

She is dead.

Katherine, Lady Egerton, stared at the still form lying on the bed. Beloved sister, friend of the heart…Anne was gone. One minute she was struggling for breath, the next she lay silent and still. The only person in the world Kit loved more than life had left her.
            They are all gone now. The sudden solitude tore at her heart.
            Kit smiled sadly, gazing through eyes filled with tears at the frail body lying before her. The brown mouse. Anne’s name for herself. Delicate even as a child, she had not long survived her marriage to the cruel Earl of Rutledge. Kit knelt at her sister’s bedside, assailed by grief and guilt, and reached for Anne’s hand. Could she have done more to save her sister from the dread disease? Could she have done more to protect Anne from the heartless man who was her husband?
            Pale in death, Anne was still beautiful. Kit had often sketched that heart-shaped face. Not a mouse, but a much-loved sister with a kind, unselfish heart.
            Kit had seen the end coming in the last few months, months through which she’d faithfully cared for Anne. The coughs that wracked her sister’s slight frame had grown worse as Anne seemed to fade before Kit’s eyes. Kit knew she was losing her even as she willed that weak body to heal. The physician said he could do nothing; each time he left shaking his head and telling Kit to make “the poor girl” comfortable as best she could. Kit had tried to save Anne, doing the only thing she knew by giving her syrup of horehound and honey. But such a small measure was not enough. Then, too, her sister had seemed to welcome death.
            Suddenly, the room grew cold. Kit felt his presence, a looming evil behind her. She took a deep breath and summoned her strength.
            “Leave her and come to me.” Rutledge’s tone was harsh and demanding. Kit had no need to see him to know his face would be twisted in an odious scowl, his lips drawn taut. “It is time.”
“I must see to my sister.”
            “You need do nothing. I have arranged for the burial. Come away now.”
            Kit knew what he wanted, for she had seen the lust in his dark eyes. What at first had been sideways glances became leers and unwanted touches. Though she’d lived in his home since the death of her husband the baron, Kit had avoided the earl, rarely leaving her sister’s bedside. She had been thinking of a way to escape, but her exhaustion in caring for Anne these last days left those plans incomplete. With meager funds, her options were few.
            When she failed to rise at the earl’s direction, his hand roughly gripped her shoulder. She stiffened at the pain of his fingers digging into her skin.
            “I have waited long for you, Katherine, enduring that mockery of a marriage to your sister while all the while it was you I wanted, you I was promised. Now I shall have what is mine.”
            “No!” She rose swiftly, stepping back as she turned to face him. Revulsion rose in her throat. What did he mean by those words? She never had been promised to him!
            His smirk transfigured what many thought of as a handsome face. Hadn’t Anne at first been fooled by his aristocratic features and wavy brown hair? One had only to look closely to see his nature reflected in those thin lips and narrow eyes now focused on Kit. A deep furrow between his brows bore witness to his long having insisted upon having his way. When Kit sketched him, it had been as an attacking hawk.
            “What will you do?” he asked smugly. “Where will you go, m’dear? You are alone and without funds. I am the one who has provided food and shelter for both you and your weak sister, though I wanted only you. You are mine, Katherine, and I will have you.”
            Terror seized her. Cornered, her eyes darted about like an animal snared in a trap. His tall figure blocked the door to the corridor; the only way out led through his adjacent bedchamber. She fled toward it.
She hastened into the room as he stalked after her, knowing she had but seconds, and her eyes searched for a weapon, something to hold him at bay. At the side of the fireplace were tools, short bars of iron that could fend off a man. But could she reach them in time?
            He lunged for her just as she ran toward the fireplace. His body collided with hers, and she fell upon the wooden floor with a thud. Pain shot through her hip. His body crashed down upon hers, forcing the air from her lungs. She gasped a breath just as his mouth crushed her lips, ruthlessly claiming dominance.
Tearing away, she pushed against his shoulders with all her might, but his greater strength held her pinned to the floor. His hand gripped one breast and squeezed. She winced at the pain, but that was quickly forgotten the moment a greater terror seized her: His aroused flesh pressed into her belly.
Violently she struggled, but to no avail. His wet lips slid down her throat to her heaving chest as his fingers gripped the top of her gown and yanked at the silk. Kit heard the fabric tear as he ripped her gown and the top of her chemise, and she felt the cool air on her naked breasts. Frantic, she mustered strength she did not know she had. Twisting in his grasp, she reached for the iron poker now a mere foot away.
            His mouth latched onto her breast where he voraciously sucked a nipple. Lost in his lust, he did not see her grasp the length of iron, raise it above him and bring it crashing down on his head. Stunned by the blow, he raised up, his eyes glazed. Kit let the bar fall again, this time with greater force. Blood spattered her chest and face as his body went limp. He slumped atop her.
            Kit’s heart pounded in her chest like a bird’s wing beating against a cage. Frantically she shoved his face from her breast and rolled his body to the floor.
            Unsteady at first, her breath coming in pants, Kit rose and looked down at the crumpled form lying before her, every nerve on edge as she gazed into that evil face, now deathly pale. Blood oozed from a gash in the earl’s left temple. There was no sign of life, no movement.
            I have killed him!
            Fear choked off her breath as she wiped blood from her face with a sleeve, and with one last look toward her sister’s bedchamber she raced from the room. Footsteps sounded down the hall. Alarmed at the prospect of encountering one of the earl’s servants who would summon a constable, Kit knew she must find a place to hide, and there was nowhere to hide in the house. Quietly stealing into her bedchamber, she grabbed her cloak and reticule, stuffing inside it the one piece of her jewelry that could be sold to sustain her, and fled the dwelling.
            Out on the street, she paused to draw her cloak tightly around her, desperate to cover her torn and bloody gown. Where could she go? Who would shelter her in the state she was in, given the deed she had done?
Only one name came to her.
Willow House.
Click for link
Learn more about Regan Walker here:

Author website:
Regan’s Romance Reviews blog:
Twitter: @RegansReview (

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

OUT NOW - Verity's Lie

Win a $30 Amazon voucher (or UK equivalent) see the end of this post for more details

Verity's Lie  - #3 The Huntley Trilogy

Charles Huntley, Lord Ryevale, infamous rogue…and government agent.

In unsettled times, with England at war with France, Ryevale is assigned to covertly protect a politician’s daughter, Miss Verity Verrinder. To keep Verity under his watchful eye, Ryevale plots a campaign of seduction that no woman can resist– except it seems, Miss Verrinder. In order to gain her trust Ryevale enters Verity’s world of charity meetings and bookshops…where the unexpected happens and he falls in love with his charge.

When Lord Ryevale turns his bone-melting charms on her, Verity questions his lordship’s motivation. But with her controlling father abroad, Verity wishes to explore London and reluctantly accepts Ryevale’s companionship. As the compelling attraction between them strengthens, Verity is shattered to learn her instincts are correct after all – and Ryevale is not what he seems. If Lord Ryevale can lie, so can she… with disastrous consequences.
Click for link
 Amazon .com

For a limited time both 'Eulogy's Secret' and 'Hope's Betrayal' are just 99 cents each.


Win a $30 Amazon voucher (or UK equivalent)
From Verity’s Lie take the first letter of the first word from each of the following chapters:

Chapter 4
Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 17

Rearrange these 4 letters to make a new word.  Don’t forget you can use the ‘Go to’ link on your kindle to help you search!
To enter, please email your answer (the 4 letter word) to

Put “VL Competition” as the title of your email.
The winner will be contacted via email on 31 July 2013 and the winner’s name posted on Grace’s blog: Fall in Love with History

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Give a Dog a Bad Name

People have loved their pet dogs since the domestication of wolves took place in the Mesolithic era. But what can we learn about man’s relationship to dog from phrases and sayings from the past – the results may surprise you!
A domesticated carnivorous mammal, Canis familiaris (or C. lupus familiaris), which typically has a long snout, an acute sense of smell, non-retractile claws, and a barking, howling, or whining voice, widely kept as a pet or for hunting, herding livestock, guarding, or other utilitarian purposes. [OED]
Where does the word ‘dog’ come from?
‘Dog’ belongs in a group of word that are unique to the English language. These are a collection of animal nouns that end in  -g , such as hog, pig, stag and …erhm…earwig! ‘Dog’ is used in olde English texts, but not as often as ‘hound’ – variations of which are found in many European countries ( Dutch – hond, German – hund. )
To ‘Cast Someone to the Dogs’
Lapdogs were known prior to the 18th century, but largely regarded with distain.  The proper place for a dog was as a working animal, hunting or guarding. The language used in the 17th century and earlier reflects the workman-like relationship of man to dog and the rough life the animal was expected to endure.
The proper use for a dog was as a working animal - as pictured here.
To cast someone to the dogs (expression recorded in 1556) or go to the dogs (1619) was used to mean that you didn’t care what happened to that person.
Dog eat dog (used from 1789) and unleash the dogs of war (Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar) – language denoting the savagery of dogs – a far cry from cuddly lapdogs!
Likewise a medieval proverb about not waking a sleeping dog (a variant of which is still in modern use, let sleeping dogs lie) – meant to watch out for trouble if the dog was woken.
A Hair of the Dog
A hair of the dog’ is in common parlance as meaning an alcoholic hangover cure - but surprisingly this saying actually originates from the mid-16th century and the fear of rabies. At a time when rabies was present in Britain, one suggested remedy to cure a bite from an infected dog, was to imbibe of ‘a hair of the dog that bit you.’  Just as with the hangover cure, it’s unlikely this helped.

A Dog’s Life
The majority of working dogs lived outdoors and although fed scraps, they also largely fended for themselves. The original intent of ‘a dog’s life’ was to imply a pitiful, miserable existence. The word dog was similarly used to imply something second-rate, poor or debased, such as in: dog-Latin. From the mid-19th century onwards dog welfare improved somewhat, but before this there was little objection to dogs being abused, beaten or misused – spurning many expressions reflects this: dog-tired, dog-weary, dog-hungry and dog-sick.

To be ‘sick as a dog’ or ‘lead a dog’s life’ – implied a very unpleasant existence indeed, whilst ‘to die a dog’s death’  meant a dishonourable end. Indeed, another phrase ‘to give a dog a bad name and hang him’ comes from an English, 17th century custom of publically hanging dogs with a bad reputation. This spurned another saying, “Whose dog is hanging” – meaning “What is all the fuss about?”  As late as the mid-20th century, in Derbyshire and Essex, to refer to a ‘dog hanging’ was still widely understood as meaning a public fuss or spectacle.

And finally…

Sadly, there will always be exceptions but for the most part dogs today are lavished with affection and care; with this in mind I’m happy to conclude that ‘to lead a dog’s life’ has a much happier implication in the modern age than in medieval times.