Magical Georgette…

Slightly spooked, but really amazed!

B & C has been struggling with the Adaptation and Interpretation section of her MA, which is to take a novel and rework it for stage or screen  (20-30 pages of either, not the whole thing, before anyone thinks I’m bound for Hollywood or the West End!).

I chose this module because I thought it would add to my agent skillset, in that recognising a story suitable for play or film isn’t obvious, and I’ve been told often enough ‘this doesn’t have potential’ by media agents, without a cogent explanation of the dismissal.  Another key factor in my decision to do an MA was to stretch myself; didn’t realise HOW challenged I would be about this…

For a literary agent, deconstructing and then ignoring the original novel is unbelievably counter-intuitive. I help novelists to build things up, not break them down…

SO – I chose The Talisman Ring,  by  one of my heroines, Georgette Heyer. Being firmly told that I had to ‘forget fidelity’ was upsetting. Paring her witty and exquisite prose down has – at times – felt unbearably disloyal and difficult.

But after various workshopping exercises,  and a great deal of baffled resentment, something magical happened today.  I had (sulking hugely) changed period and setting from Sussex in 1793 to the South of France in the 1920’s. I picked Antibes as location, vaguely knowing that it was fashionable then (Scott Fitzgerald, Coco Chanel).

Came home to do a ‘mood board ‘ for it and was stunned to discover that the main harbour at Antibes is the Port Vauban. In the novel, one of Heyer’s two heroines is the spirited and rebellious  Eustacie de Vauban.

Coincidence?  Probably.

Yet it does feel as if  Georgette herself is giving me permission to adapt her…which gives me the confidence go forward with this radical resetting.

And just in case it is her authorly ghost:

Dear Mrs. Rougier

Thank you.

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Eveleigh (Mrs)

(As a divorcee,  I’m actually a Ms, but that would enrage her…)

Happy Easter!

Here at B & C Towers, Easter is proving an opportunity to catch up with ourselves. It feels rather un-Christian, but some very overdue de-cluttering and disposing of old paperwork has occurred…or perhaps clearing the decks will leave room for a little Eastertide reflection. Life has been hugely busy of late and four days holiday  is a blessing.

Organising the traditional Easter roast lamb got left till the last minute, but Mr B & C heroically went out and purchased it earlier – half-price no less – so with the addition of garlic, rosemary and anchovies, we should be having rather a feast later on…

In other news, I’m appearing at the Historical Novelists Conference, September 2nd -4th. I’ll be talking about my experience of self-publishing, from both a personal and professional point of view, and taking one-to-ones with authors.  These are all now fully booked, but there are so many good speakers appearing that just browsing the events on offer may inspire you to attend. Come and say hello if you do!

https://hnsoxford2016.org/

Welcome, and thank you!

B & C Towers did a free promotion 8th-12th January and it seems to have gone pretty well.

Thanks are due.

SO hello to the 45 Brits who downloaded the book.

Hi! to everyone  of my 78 American readers. How nice of you!

Danke!  to all the 38 German readers. Ditto the above

Grazia to my one Italian reader

And howdy, to the two lovely Canadian readers

 

Happy New Year!

I’ve rather neglected this blog in the run-up to Christmas;  December went by at an astonishing rate.  Off to Welsh Wales for a combined housewarming, 60th birthday party and New Year’s Eve bash.

Meanwhile I can hardly believe I’m in the second year of my MA in biography and have to deliver an essay by January 14th.  Once clear of that deadline I’ll try and post weekly again.

Research on Lady Jersey continues and I’ll tell you a secret.  Though friendly with Lord Byron she appears to have resisted his charms.  Having read most of the biographies about him, including an excellent one by Fiona MacCarthy, I’m not sure I’d have been so strong-willed.  Huge crush on Lord B at Beauty and Chivalry towers.

Happy New Year!

Kilburn Literary Festival

I’m thrilled to be doing a short session on my tiny book at the Kilburn Literary Festival, this next Saturday.  October 31st from 2pm.

Admission free!

But I’m even MORE thrilled to be sharing it with Brian Cathcart, author of The News from Waterloo

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0571315259.

Brian is a fantastically talented investigative journalist, now  Professor of Journalism at Kingston University.

Do come; we’d love to see you.

 

 

 

The stories behind a letter…

Slight deviation from Waterloo matters today – though perhaps not entirely.…  Here is a piece I’ve written for my MA.

Letter from Susannah, Lady Stafford to her son Lord Granville Leveson Gower

 Trentham, March 23rd, 1803

“This evening my pelisse arrived; it is exactly what I like, and not one Bit too large. Pray thank Lady Bes. a thousand Times and tell her how much I like it, and pray take Money in your Pocket to pay it without Delay, and be as expeditious in calling for the Money, as I told you in my last, for I want to have the Acct. of my bills all settled in a few Days. And I want a long and comfortable Letter from you.

Have you read the Articles signed at the Cape? Mr. Cobbett will find Food there for his next newspaper? Lord Carlisle speaks away, at a great Rate, in the H. of Lords. Should he make Motions without knowing whether or no his Friends will second or support him? I do not understand these Matters, but it appears to me like the shewing an Inclination to do what he does not know how to execute, and of Consequence not to his Advantage as a Politician.

I though not to mention what I have so much at Heart, fearing to worry you; but upon second Thoughts, I believe it must be the most pleasing Subject to you, for I know you are attached to her; and though sometimes Jealousy may make you see things in a false Medium, yet you must feel that you have Cause to hope, and you cannot but be pleased to read or to hear any thing of the Object of your Affections, and I do hear that though there is not any Certainty, yet Spectators fancy you the favor’d lover, and take Occasion to report how much Lord Villiers is to be pitied, for that he is really and truly in Love with her, and scruples not to own himself miserable, but that you are attach’d elsewhere and follow her for her Fortune. This very ill natured, false Report, though it provokes me, yet to me it proves that his Aiders and abettors think you have the Preference in her affection, and so I trust you have.

Do not allow a Dash of jealousy to poison your Mind, but go on in following her, talking to her, and paying her every Attention in your Power. You may be agitated with Hopes, Fears, and anxious Doubts – all who truly love experience these contending Plagues; you are therefore as well off as any of your Sex ever were whilst in that State of Uncertainty. So Good Night, my beloved Granville.

P.S Do not forget to pay the Pelisse, with my best Acknowledgements. It was very, very Good in Lady Bes. to trouble herself to conduce to make my old Carcass warm and comfortable.”  [1]

***

I found this letter from an anxious mother when researching the early life of Lady Sarah Fane, heiress to the Child banking fortune, and later 5th Countess of Jersey.  Granville was one of several young men who pursued and flattered her, so I looked for material about him.  Fortunately his daughter-in-law published two volumes of letters sent to him at this period and beyond; a valuable source.

The interest of this letter is that it reflects the values and pre-occupations of the upper classes in the early nineteenth century. Beneath the affectionate tone and overt advice, there is much that is unsaid.  On the surface it is a mix of maternal concern, worldly advice and hope. Yet it also has moments of insincerity and self-deceit.

Lady Stafford’s pelisse had been purchased in Paris by Harriet, Lady Bessborough, a woman she feared and mistrusted. Though married, and twelve years his senior, Harriet had been Granville’s lover for the last six years. [2]

This distressed his mother, a woman of strong moral principles, who longed to see her handsome son married well and happily; preferably to the rich Lady Sarah. Yet Harriet and her sister Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire were leaders of the five hundred or so aristocrats who formed society; they set fashion, and were politically influential. Lady Stafford did not quite dare to offend her son’s mistress, so she asked Grenville to pay for the gift. She could not bear to be beholden, and that she returns to the subject in her P.S. is significant.  Her gratitude sounds false and her attempt at humour – ‘my old Carcass’  –  is uneasy.

Harriet had a particular motive for sending the pelisse. She was frightened of losing Granville altogether. Unwilling to divorce and lose her legitimate children[3], she knew it would be unnatural for him to remain single. He might succeed in marrying Lady Sarah, who was beautiful as well as wealthy [4]. She therefore sought to make an ally of his mother, to whom he was close. Harriet could be wonderfully persuasive and she succeeded in charming Lady Stafford into acceptance of her role in Granville’s life. Her gift signals the start of that campaign.

In the second paragraph of inconsequential political gossip, Lady Stafford is hesitating to address the subject that pre-occupied her; getting Granville away from his lover and into the arms of Lady Sarah. In a previous letter, hearing that Harriet had returned from Europe, Lady Stafford had remarked darkly:

In a Letter received this Post, “It is a Pity that People are return’d from the Continent, and Opportunities are taken to remind Ly. S. F. of Lord G’s attachment to that Person.” [5]

She does not say in either letter who is reminding Lady Sarah of this attachment, or which ‘Aiders and abettors’ were speculating that Granville was only interested in her fortune. But the lovelorn George, Lord Villiers was the son of a wily and ambitious woman; Frances, 4th Countess of Jersey, who was more than capable of initiating these rumours. There was a degree of truth in them because Granville needed to marry money.  He was a gambler, and once lost £23,000 [6] in a night.

Poor Lady Stafford wanted to believe that Granville was the favoured suitor, and that he was serious about Lady Sarah. She was trying to convince herself by urging him on, but a courtship which required so much advice cannot have been a very serious one. Granville was sent to Russia on a diplomatic mission before he had been nagged into proposing, and Lady Sarah made her choice; she married Lord Villiers in May, 1804.

Lady Stafford died in August 1805, when Granville was still abroad. One can only speculate how she would have reacted to his eventual marriage to Lady Harriet Cavendish; Harriet’s own niece…

The Waterloo connection is that Harriet Bessborough’s second son Frederick Ponsonby was severely wounded during the battle.  His regiment were taking part in a charge when a large body of French lancers rode down on them. Both of Frederick’s arms were slashed,  and though his gallant horse tried to carry him to higher ground, he received a blow to the head that knocked him out of the saddle.  When he tried to stand up, he was stabbed in the back. This last wound penetrated his lung.  A French foot soldier robbed him as he lay gasping for breath, but he received kinder treatment from an enemy officer who poured brandy into his mouth to revive him.

The Prussian army had arrived to support Wellington by this time, but their pursuit of the retreating French meant further agony for Frederick, as he was badly trampled by their horses. After eighteen hours lying helplessly on the ground, he was discovered by an English soldier who stayed with him, and they were eventually rescued by a dragoon from Frederick’s own regiment.  Too ill to ride, he was taken by wagon to the surgeons at Wellington’s headquarters.

Harriet was travelling in Italy, but on hearing the news (at first she believed him to be dead) she undertook an extremely dangerous journey to Brussels to rush to his aid. Though very ill, he survived to tell his extraordinary tale.  

Illustrations 

Lady Bessborough

 

Harriet Bessborough with her sons William and Frederick Ponsonby  (Hoppner)

Thomas_Lawrence,_Portrait_of_Lord_Granville_Leveson-Gower,_later_1st_Earl_Granville_(c._1804–1809)

Lord Granville Leveson Gower, 1804 (Lawrence)

Lady Stafford

Lady Stafford with Granville and her daughters (Hoppner)

Lady Jersey

 Sarah Sophia Fane, later Lady Jersey.

[1] P 416, The Private Correspondence of Lord Granville Leveson Gower, 1781-1821, Volume 1, ed. Castalia, Countess Granville, John Murray, London; 1916

[2] Harriet gave birth to two of Granville’s children, in 1800 and 1804. There is no evidence that Lady Stafford knew this.

[3] Her daughter, Caroline Ponsonby, was fragile. We know her as Lady Caroline Lamb.

[4] Her annual income was £60,000 equivalent to  £2 million today

[5] Ibid. p. 415

[6] Equivalent to £740,000.00

 

Get Writing!

… not just a writerly call to arms, but the title of a conference I took part in this weekend;  the Verulam Writers’ Circle annual one day conference.  This Hertfordshire based group have been in existence for many years, and offer their members a great deal of year-round feedback and support on their writing, in addition to the focused conference day.

This was my third year as a guest speaker and as ever it was wonderfully organised by Marie Henderson-Brennan and her fellow members.  I had some free time between my agent commitments,  so was able to go to a couple of industry panel talks myself.

It was particularly fascinating to hear Eastenders and Casualty scriptwriter Geoff Povey and writer/producer/director Peter Leslie-Wild (The Archers, Doctors) talk about their side of the media world.  The message is;  write an original script, not merely one for a series you like, submit it, and then if it’s good, you’ll get commissioned. For serious money, develop a format for a soap!

The hugely talented historical novelist Jenny Barden, who works so hard for both the RNA and the HNS very kindly offered to promote Beauty and Chivalry via the Romantic Novelists’ Association ROMNA blog and here’s what she wrote:

For all Regency enthusiasts, a little book just published by literary agent Lisa Eveleigh may well be of interest. Its subject is ‘the most famous ball in history’, the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball, which was held in Brussels on the eve of the Waterloo campaign. At this ball Wellington heard the news of Napoleon’s advance against the Prussians and ordered his high command, almost all of whom were taking part in the dancing, to leave at daybreak, some of them never to return. Oh the glamour and the pathos! 

I’m reading the book now and the drama of the occasion is supremely well captured along with masses of exquisite little details from letters, diaries and other contemporaneous material. I recall a very good rendering of this event in Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’s Waterloo’, but Lisa focuses on what actually happened – and what happened at another ball, six days later, when the news of Wellington’s victory and the dreadful casualty list was delivered to the Prince Regent in St James’s Square. I caught up with Lisa at the Get Writing conference yesterday and snaffled a copy from her then, and a very good read it is too,

Thank you so much Jenny!

SO may I direct you all to Jenny’s Amazon Author Page; she’s a very accomplished  writer, working now, she told me, on a novel about the Armada crisis during the reign of Elizabeth 1st.  Can’t wait!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jenny-Barden/e/B008OXQP4U/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Waterloo Trees

I spent a quirkily pleasant and ecologically sound few minutes on this website:

http://www.treehunter.co.uk/projects/2015/battle-of-waterloo-trees.html

which tells the stories of trees that survived the Battle of Waterloo, including the elm tree that Wellington returned to time and again, whilst directing the battle. As you’ll read, it was later made into a chair.  I’m very tickled by the fact that a chestnut which is over 300 years old has been nominated for ‘Belgian Tree of the Year’.

I’m sure I’ve read somewhere that a small boy hid himself in the topmost branches of another tree and watched the whole battle.  But at the moment I can’t quite recall where I found that story…

The Waterloo Cartoon

Back from a rather wet holiday in Norfolk and a week of feeling rather poorly, I ventured into the Royal Academy to meet a friend this week and discovered they are now exhibiting the famous cartoon of Wellington meeting Blucher after the Battle of Waterloo, by Daniel Maclise. This was the basis for the finished wall painting in the Houses of Parliament.

The exhibition opened last week and runs until January 3rd next year. Well worth a visit,  this has rarely been seen, since it has been in storage for decades.

Here is the image used on the brochure:

 RA 001

Brides of Waterloo

Beauty and Chivalry isn’t entirely done with Waterloo-related reading and was thrilled to stumble across the entertaining Brides of Waterloo trilogy by Annie Burrows, Louise Allen and Sarah Mallory.

Each novel is complete in itself but subsidiary characters become the hero and heroine in both of the other two books. This is immensely fictionally satisfying as it’s like meeting old friends.

I haven’t read anything published by Mills and Boon for many years so it was rather a surprise to find quite so much heavy breathing going on but the sexual chemistry between the three Brides and their paramours leaps off the page and in no way detracts from the accurate historical research the three authors have done.  Highly recommended!

http://amzn.to/1g5mA7a