Category Archives: Historical Background: Pre-Novel

From the Bastille to Cinderella

THE FALL OF THE BASTILLE, Paris: July 14, 1789

In writing my historic romance novel, circa 1790s, I struggled to determine a starting point. After doing much research, I realized that all the characters appearing in the beginning of the novel had witnessed the Fall of the Bastille in France on July 14, 1789. I decided to have them sharing their experiences several weeks later as they imbibed in chocolate coffee, a popular drink in Paris at that time.

     I researched eyewitness and news accounts of the event in preparation for writing their conversation. One comment intrigued me. It referred to the days of the warring as The Night and Orcus. What did this mean?

     I typed “Orcus” into the computer search engine and learned that Orcus is an alternative name for Continue reading

The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II

 

French relations with women in America

de Verger Journal

Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this second post on Newport, Rhode Island and American women. To read Part 1, click on The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1.

      In 1780 women in America were very pale and seemingly frail. The men were “tall and well-built,” although some were big, fat and lacked vigor.

     This was according to diarist Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crevecœur, one three French military officers in M. le Comte de Rochambeau’s army who kept journals which extensively described their observations and thoughts about Revolutionary America. The army spent the winter of 1780 in Newport, Rhode Island. Along with the other two diarists, Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger and Louis Alexandre Berthier, Clermont-Crevecoeur recorded his keen observations about Americans and their dating/marriage habits. Observations from two other diarists, Prince de Broglie (in 1782) and Comte de Segure, add to the word picture painted by Clermont-Crevecoeur, Verger and Berthier.

     Americans had a lifespan of sixty years, Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote. Some rare residents lived to be seventy, and occasionally even eighty, “…but it is exceedingly uncommon for them to reach that age. I knew one man who was ninety and still rode horseback with ease, was possessed of all his faculties, and enjoyed perfect health.” However, most American men “look as though they had grown while convalescing from an illness,”

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     The French journal-keepers recorded apt descriptions about Newport and/or American women. Clermont-Crevecoeur wrote that he must admit “that nowhere have I seen a more beautiful strain.” In spite of, or perhaps because of, the fact that the women had little color, nothing could “compare with the whiteness and texture of their skin.” They also had “charming figures, and in general one can say they are all pretty, even beautiful, in the regularity of their features and in what one can imagine to be a woman’s loveliest attribute.”

     Several of the names listed in Verger’s journal described particular belles whom the French greatly admired, including Mr. Champlin’s daughter. He was known for his wealth, “but even more so in our army for the lovely face of his daughter…,” who, when she appeared in the parlor, was examined “with attention, which was to treat her handsomely…” The French men observed that “she had beautiful Continue reading

The French Military in America During The American Revolution: Pt. 1

 

NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND, HOSTS
THE FRENCH MILITARY IN 1780

Newport, Rhode Island, played an important part in the American Revolution by housing military personnel who arrived from France to help the Americans. Excerpts from three journals, kept by Jean Francois Louis Clermont-Crèvecœur, comte de; Jean Baptiste Antoine de Verger, and Louis Alexandre Berthier, provide material for this post on Newport, Rhode Island. This is Part 1 of a continuing discussion of the French in Rhode Island. To read the next segment click on: The French Military in America During the American Revolution: Pt. II

     During the night of October 30/31, 1780, a snowfall blanketed the navy ships that were transporting M. le Comte de Rochambau’s army to their winter quarters in Newport, Rhode Island. On the morning of the 31st, a thick mist enveloped the ship’s sails. “There was great activity as they hoisted their anchors to proceed to moor broadside,” according to Verger’s journal. The harbor they entered to moor at Newport was “rather difficult to enter,” but was “one of the best in the world. Easily a hundred vessels can winter there. It extends all the way to Providence, which is accessible to frigates… At the harbor entrance there is a lighthouse.”
     To view photos click on:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3506481548/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3505671065/in/photostream/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolyncholland/3505670779/in/photostream/
     Verger noted that Newport was “situated on a small island (known today as Acquidneck Island) about 12 leagues long by 6 wide” which “lies between 41 degrees and 42 degrees north latitude and 72 and 73 degrees west longitude.” 
     Berthier, in contrast, described the island as being “4 leagues long and 1 ½ wide” and “traversed by 9 superb roads.”
     “Like the province to which it gave its name, it is called Rhode Island. It is the capital of the province,” Verger wrote, noting that it was “occupied by 6,000-7,000 inhabitants.”
     The province of Rhode Island had “the healthiest climate of North America.” While the winters were quite cold, the summers were very pleasant, since the “excessive heat common in America is cooled by the sea breezes.” The land is generally quite fertile, though stony; its normal crop is corn.
     Clermont-Crevecroeur wrote that the “town of Newport could pass for Continue reading