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Monday, April 22, 2024

Much the Miller's Son. A Merry Man?

 Much The Miller’s Son. A Merry Man?



Picture from Medieval Occupations


Much, or Moche, or Midge, or even Nick, in various ballads of Robin Hood, is described as the Miller’s son and one of Robin’s company of Merry Men. ‘Midge’ suggests he was small and possibly harmless, but in one early  ballard (Robin Hood and the Monk) he is shown as being a killer, murdering a page boy and then taking the boy’s place in disguise.


This ambivalent attitude to Much also reflects medieval attitudes to millers. Because millers were responsible for turning people’s wheat, barley and other grains, even dried peas, into flour, they were often suspected of stealing part of the flour and giving light weight. Mills were often controlled by local land owners, and peasants resented having to use a mill where the gentry demanded a cut. Peasants were even forbidden from grinding their own wheat – although the discovery of quern stones at medieval sites shows that this law was frequently ignored. Chaucer, in his Canterbury Tales, portrays a miller as a bully and a show-off, Simpkin the Swagger. In medieval France, too, millers were seen as cheats, as the widespread saying calling millers, tailors, weavers and tax collectors thieves shows.


I have a water mill in my novel, “A Summer Bewitchment,” and show the hero Magnus and heroines Elfrida entering the mill in their quest to recover seven missing girls.


Dispirited, she slid off the bony bay and opened the mill door to a blistering fog of flour, a tumult of grinding mill-stones. She flung up an arm, clapping her hands over her ears as the ground shuddered under her feet. Magnus scowled, shouting something before hooking her up and carrying her through the mill into a narrow side chamber.

In this room she could hear again and the dusty flour was a little less thick, but it still formed a billowing cloud within the room. Dropped onto the dirt floor by her husband with no more ceremony than he might have released a bag of wheat, she coughed like a cat with a fur ball. Magnus smeared chaff from his eyes, cursing beneath his breath.

“How the miller stands this I do not know,” he said at length.       

“The money is good.” Mark detached himself from leaning against a beam and approached. “A fresh horse is tethered for you, sir, my lady.”

I am no lady. Elfrida bit down hard on that. She glanced at Magnus. “A message through Father Luke?”

“It seemed the easiest way. Have you brought the clothes?” he asked Mark.

Mark handed him a parcel. “Sir, I have two horses—”

“Go back, welcome Peter to the manor and tell him how things are when you get the chance. Keep a watch on Father Jerome and Tancred, especially Father Jerome. I do not want that priest getting word to the Lady Astrid.”

“Do you think he would try to or even want to?” Elfrida asked, thinking at once of Father Jerome’s pale, sunken look when he realized his lady had gone off without him.

Magnus shrugged. “Why should I care? Mark, I will take both your horses. We shall go faster with two, riding and guiding.”

Mark tugged on his red nose. “I ride Star?” He sounded horrified.

“He is smooth enough and steady.”

“And slow. What do I tell our reluctant guests?”

“Tell Tancred and that priest as little as possible. Let them think we have gone to my wife’s village.”


Short Blurb for “A Summer Bewitchment.”

Can a knight and his witch save seven kidnapped maidens? Sir Magnus and Elfrida strive to find the girls, but at what cost to their marriage?

Amazon Co Uk

Lindsay Townsend 

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Movie Kisses Series 4/10/2024 Shakespeare in Love #prairierosepubs #moviekisses

Here we are at the fourth installment of my year-long look at The Kiss in historically-set movies.

Recap of Kisses so far:

Since William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26 (likely born on April 23), 1556, and he died on April 23, 1616, it is only proper that this month’s movie kiss is from Shakespeare in Love.

Shakespeare in Love is a period romantic comedy-drama (1998). The story is a fictional love affair between William Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps. During this intense, short-lived affair, Shakespeare is inspired to write Romeo and Juliet, which closely mirrors their star-crossed and doomed-from-the-beginning relationship. This movie is a play-within-a-play.

From the beginning, we know Will and Viola will not have their own happy ever after. We know from a few minutes into the movie that Viola’s father has arranged her marriage with Lord Wessex. This event sets off a whirlwind three-week-long love affair between Will and Viola.

Near the end of the movie, Queen Elizabeth sums up what we, the viewer, knew would happen for Will and Viola during every moment of the movie, but we pushed it to the back of our minds, because it’s so darn sad.

As stories must when love’s denied: with tears and a journey.

As such, there are two kisses that matter in this movie (and Will and Viola do a lot of kissing in this movie).

The first kiss comes at the end of the Romeo and Juliet performance when Will and Viola are lost in the moment and they kiss as themselves, but also as Romeo and Juliet. This is their goodbye kiss, but it’s not the kiss that breaks our hearts. That kiss happens in the second clip. Fast forward to 3:38 in this clip to see this kiss.

The second kiss is the heart-wrencher and the tear-bringer. It’s their Last Kiss. It’s the kiss that makes our lips quiver and our eyes misty. This is the ‘Write me well’ kiss that immortalizes Viola for Will as we hear his voice-over and see him writing the play Twelfth Night.

 See you next month for another kiss from the big screen.

Kaye Spencer

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Esther Walker - Civil War Wife? - Civil War Nurse

Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Evergreen Chapel, Evergreen Cemetery,
Colorado Springs, CO.
Photo(C) Doris McCraw

This post is unique to the Civil War Veterans/Civil War Wives buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs. Her story also has many blank places that may never be filled, but I hold out hope.

Like the story of many women from this time period, their lives were not documented. Many of their efforts and events weren't written about. Of course, there are exceptions, unfortunately, Esther's story is not the exception.

She came to my attention as the only female amongst the headstones in the GAR section of the cemetery, however, her stone is removed from the cluster of Civil War Veterans. This set up an intriguing puzzle and one that started this journey of her life. As with most of the stories I research it begins with the death and moves around from there.

Esther's birth is sometime between 1837 and 1844 in Ireland according to census records. She immigrated to the United States around 1853 but her name at that time is still hiding.

Next, according to the GAR/s records, Esther was a nurse with the New York 18th Army Corps enlisted on April 23, 1861, and was discharged on December 3, 1864. 

From here the trail gets murky and even more winding. 

In the 1880 census, we find Esther Dayton, the surname of her children, living on Saginaw St. in Flint, Michigan. Her occupation is listed as a dressmaker. She is also a widow. This record was found by backtracking her sons who were living here in Colorado at the time of her death.

Now, here comes the interesting pieces.

In the 1895 census, Esther is in Ireton, Iowa, and has the surname Walker. 1900 census she is living with James Walker in Iowa. According to the census they married in 1871. James was about twenty years older than Esther. 

As you can see, she was in Michigan with her children in 1880 and the name Dayton. Yet, all records indicate Dayton and Walker are both the same person.

I'll continue the story on the Western Fictioneers blog as she is a veteran also.

Other posts in this series: 

Alpheus R. Eastman - Western Fictioneers Blog

Helen Rood Dillon - Prairie Rose Publications Blog

Virginia Strickler - Prairie Rose Publications Blog

Henry C. Davis - Western Fictioneers Blog

Chester H. Dillon - Western Fictioneers Blog

For anyone interested, I have a monthly substack newsletter: Thoughts and Tips on History

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy. 


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Day Job

 The Day Job

By C. A. Asbrey

We authors all have to work for a living, but the lucky ones get to give up the day job and spend time as a full time writer. But what do we do until we get there? More than that, what did your favourite author do before they managed to concentrate on writing full time? Some, like Jane Austin, were never in a position to work even if they wanted to, and others like Charlotte Brontë were restricted by society into roles like governesses, or in the cases of Susan Ferrier and Mary Shelley, wrote anonymously so they could maintain their place in society, but I'm more interested in those who seem to have woven a world that captured us while working for a daily crust.

George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw gave up work relatively early, in his twenties, being cushioned by being born into a comfortable family in Ireland. Part of the Protestant Ascendency, he was of English descent with a mother from a wealthy family. He began working for a firm of Dublin Land Agents at the age of twenty-three, but moved to London where he eventually took up a position at the Edison Telephone Company with great reluctance. He worked in the basement, demonstrating telephone systems to the public. He said on The Irrational Knot, that his audience was uncertain "as to whether they ought to tip me or not: a question they either decided in the negative or never decided at all; for I never got anything."  

He left when the Edison Telephone Company merged with the Bell Telephone company, and took up writing full time.

The Hardy Tree
Thomas Hardy's family weren't so wealthy. His stone mason father educated him until the age of sixteen, before being apprenticed to a local architect. He moved to London in 1862 and won several prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects. He worked in London at a time when the railway system was expanding rapidly, but that also meant that land had to be cleared. In a city as old as London that meant either knocking down existing buildings or going through land used for other purposes. When St. Pancras station was under construction the local churchyard had to be cleared, and in the well-established tradition of dumping the most unpleasant jobs on the most junior employees, Hardy was assigned the job of exhuming the human remains and reburying them at another site.

Once this was done, Hardy found himself with hundreds of old headstones. Feeling that it was just wrong to dispose of them, he arranged them in a circular pattern in another part of the graveyard. Over the years an ash tree self-seeded in the centre. It absorbed many stones as it grew, melding into a tourist attraction in its own right. Sadly, the tree died after catching a fungal infection, perenniporia fraxinea, but the grave stones are still there.

The famous writer of Westerns, Louis L'Amour, had a colourful life before taking up his pen. His veterinarian father had financial difficulties in the 1920s, leading Louis and his brother to take to the road. They mined, baled hay, skinned cattle, worked sawmills and lumber camps, became a professional boxer, merchant seaman, and mine assessor. His work not only took him all over the USA, providing a mine of characters and research for his novels, but he visited England, Japan, China, Borneo, the Dutch East Indies, Arabia, Egypt, and Panama. All this was a wonderful preparation for a writer. It echoes the peripatetic life of Jack Kerouac who washed dishes, picked cotton,  worked as a night guard (as mentioned in On The Road), pumped gas, a fire watcher, a sailor, a construction worker, and a railroad brakeman.

It's well known that Arthur Conan Doyle was a surgeon, that Herman Melville was a sailor, and that Agatha Christie worked in a hospital pharmacy during WW1. Charles Dickens started work in a factory as a child, was an actor, Journalist and law clerk, and we can see influences of all these careers in his books. Margaret Atwood was a barista who famously struggled with the till. James Joyce abandoned his medical degree and became a cinema operator. Harper Lee was an airline check-in agent who wrote in her spare time. She was famously given a year off to write, paid for by the composer Michael Brown. 

P. D. James 

Crime writer P. D. James' family did not believe in further education for girls, so she was at a disadvantage when her army doctor husband was hospitalised after WW2, and was institutionalised. She studied hospital administration and worked during the day, writing in the evenings. She moved on to the civil service and worked there, including the criminal section of the Home Office, until her retirement in 1979, when she wrote full-time. A life that's a model for many modern writers, I'm sure.

Looking at the lives of many famous writers, an obvious pattern appears. In the past, a certain degree of privilege and wealth was the main way people were free to explore their creativity, but people have been combining writing with the day job for a long time. 

One thing's for sure. There's no one way to get the life experience to be a writer, but the best use it all in creating their worlds.