On the Function of the Description of Nature Inside Historical Fiction


Of Woodbridge and Hedgely takes place in the Regency years of 1820 and 21, firmly planted in the midst of the Romantic Era, which was defined by a constellation of movements inside literature, music, art, natural philosophy, &c., where particular attention was placed on the depth and quickness of man’s emotion, and his interaction with, and the examination of the beauty of nature.   Indeed it was a reactionary phenomenon against the consuming nature of the Industrial Revolution and its resultant rise in human population, no longer at its Medieval steady state:  Appreciation of the natural world spiked in the face of this industrial monster, whose prerogative was to chew it all up and spit it out broken, and do so year by year in an exponential fashion, creating the conceivability of a future where such, decimated, would no longer exist as it did in the early 19th century.  Alas the magnitude of one’s appreciation of an object is partially a function of their contemplation of its failing longevity, be it man, flora, fauna, or otherwise.

Given this connection between man, nature and romance during this period, a historical author setting their story in such would not do wrong in attempting description of the natural world, weather, and climate, especially when romantic notions are being plucked.  Further, with specific regard to Of Woodbridge and Hedgely, as it functions as a historical lens to criticize modern propagandists that seek to downplay the significance of global warming – whose ramifications indeed do converge upon the end game that our Romantic Era predecessors lamented upon – ecosystems destroyed, natural populations in shambles, the diversity of the biosphere significantly contracted; and as the novel also concerns itself with man’s stewardship of the earth, the agrarian countryside, and a romantic subplot involving two main characters, all of such has obliged me, the author, to do just that.  And even further, as the novel is driven mostly by dry literary mechanics, and not by taking great advantages of those found in the genres of suspense, horror, action, or even full-on romance, the characters therein sometimes experience the bliss of nature as a means of momentarily emotionally connecting with the reader.   The audience should also observe that our main character, Thomas Winter, has at the beginning of the novel quit his job as a mechanical engineer, working in the heart of England’s mechanized industry, in order to escape back to the natural countryside, and apply his scientific mind to agrarian science and botany; he is the quintessential romantic.

Here I will harvest select passages from the novel which illustrate its attention to the natural world, and publish a few relevant comments alongside those, with the above sentiments in mind.

Natural Observations in the Novel


The first chapter, rightly entitled ‘Setting’, allows us several glimpses of the picturesque Cotswold countryside preparing to dress itself for autumn.  On page six of the novel (effectively page two of the prose) we have an introductory taste of the countryside as seen through the eyes of the young curious girl whose main function as a character is indeed to witness the local setting of Mr. Winter’s home:

Momentarily she cranked her neck southward down Mr. Winter’s backyard – a small agrarian field that extended three hundred feet gradually down the hill from his home – open to the possibility of her mother’s voice retrieving her for dinner. Her cottage was one of many King Street homes that lined the field’s southern edge, sitting quite lower than such that but rooftops and shyly peeking second floor windows were to be had from her present vantage. Beyond these rose another hill not quite as tall as Mr. Winter’s which kept a field for a belly and woodland for a ridge, currently in the first stage of autumn dressing. Such a scene was not uncommon to the little girl nor anyone else she knew, for both the town and surrounding farmland existed thusly on rolling hill that defined their particular plot on England’s greatest isle. 

She gives us another little hint at man’s intimate connection with nature during the period in a few places where her cottage garden – an important source of her family’s nutrition – is mentioned.  Here is one:

The next morning found the tailor’s daughter examining the gooseberry bushes outback of her family’s cottage, regretting the end of their fruit, which had been jammed a month before, and the caterpillars, who had quit the plot several months before that; she having encouraged them to do so. It also found – as did the girl – Mr. Winter in a fine stretch of leg, hastily traveling southward down his backyard field with a footman running after him, calling out the necessity of a waistcoat and jacket, these flapping about in the poor man’s hands. She watched as the servant caught up to him and helped him into his fine, dark blue coat over a simple, white riding cravat and a gray-lilac waistcoat. Then, refusing his top hat, he peered further down the field at his original intention – King Street – and then the opposite direction, finally gesturing to the wheezing fellow that they should retrace their paths, back toward his home. The servant, still looking rather ill after having achieved the farmhouse, gave him a nod and disappeared through the kitchen entry, yet he continued northward, until from the vantage of the tailor’s garden he too was gone.

Mr. Winter himself gives us a tour of the countryside as he walks from his farmhouse, situated in the northern Hedgely fields, northward through Woodbridge Wood and Hedgely Wood – the extensive woodland that separates his town from its sister, Woodbridge – eventually emerging in this latter setting and continuing on to Woodbridge Manor.  This woodland becomes of importance in the resolution of Part 1 of the novel, which I will flush out, further on down in this missive, but in order to fully grasp the significance of this, it must firstly be understood that all the younger characters in the novel – Mr. Winter, Harriet and Charlotte Moore, and the nameless tailor’s daughter – have been born into this spirit of romanticism, and find the utmost pleasure in walking these woods.  Let us follow Mr. Winter into the trees:

Mr. Winter plunged into the forest and continued northward on a path that showed some regular use; perhaps in the innocent collection of fallen wood by Hedgely’s northern occupants. He took in, deeply, the cool air flavored by the scent of the first batches of freshly fallen leaves littering the path, and noted the songs of the tree pipit and sparrow which confounded those of the grey partridge, lapwing and corn bunting he had just left behind in the hedges and fields. These birds he had identified as a novice naturalist – a trait born that summer when he had come to town to examine the renovations to his new home and adventure in the countryside. He had also done quite well concerning the trees: This particular wood kept a vast population of Ash, but other common species noted thus far were local varieties of Beech, Oak, Maple, Sweet Chestnut, Horse Chestnut, Willow, and Birch, though his portfolio was far from complete. In one particular park west of Woodbridge Woods he had also seen Common Yew, Sycamore, and a few lonely Norway Spruce that were more than likely transplants brought by one of the park’s ancient owners.     

After several hundred feet, his path ran perpendicularly into another, and he continued on the western leg of such, running alongside a credible brook whose turbulent waters added to the soundscape of calls, buzzes, knocks, clicks, chirps, and the scattering of leaves by unseen creatures making their way to safety upon his determined approach. And as he momentarily halted his march to examine a particular stream pool for trout, he contemplated the extensive variance between olden woodland and the modern farmland which now dominated the countryside at the expense of the former.

Just as Mr. Winter’s erection of his boiler-heated glasshouse represents the Industrial Revolution beginning to saturate the English countryside, we are given another aspect of man’s destruction of nature for his own gain; save this one occurred much earlier, in ancient times, when it is said that the amount of farmland then was of the selfsame geographical area as what is present today.  The olden English forests held no chance against the sharp set stomach of even bronze age man.  Just examine the UK on Google Maps against the eastern US, and observe the difference in coverage of forest.

In this section, we also find the trend of amateur naturalism in motion, which was the thing during the era, from Sir Joseph Blaine’s large ‘bug’ collection – ha, ha! – to the Patrick O’Brien character, Stephen Maturin’s roaming the world on a Royal Navy frigate, in search of old and new species alike – a man after Charles Darwin’s heart.  My character Charlotte Moore is also an avid bird watcher and keeps close to her person a particular book on the subject in the front chapters of the novel:

Charlotte had failed (or was presently failing) to marry not from want of interest, but from a combination of lack of suitable interest concerning income, and her personal necessity of staying close at hand to, perhaps Woodbridge Manor, but more so to its lush countryside of rolling hills and forests; for like the younger Ms. Moore, and her father, regarding his apples, she too adored the local natural surround – a family trait, one might suppose. She was not as venturous as Harriet, wandering about the wood alone, but was vigilant to the daily opportunities at hand, such as today’s accompaniment of her cousin to the Edwards, for which she brought along the missing book that inspired such trouble in their library the day Mr. Winter had been introduced – Bewick’s History of British Birds. 

And here we observe all three of the younger, main characters walking to Hedgely from the Woodbridge parish with design to identify a few entries in Charlotte’s book:

‘Well then ladies – shall we begin our journey?’ he said through a genuine smile with his arm extended, gesturing at the path before them. Alas such was taken well, and they found much to say about the triumph of walking as opposed to the stuffy, cramped, and sometimes physically shocking experience that a carriage would provide on an uneven road. They too did all agree that Compton Lane, with its wooded embellishments, sounds of the river, and voidance of post coaches was the superior walking path in comparison to the upper leg of Westfield Road, and took the route in hopes of sighting a few specimens from Charlotte’s book.

Love, Lust and the Luxuriation in Nature


Let us now examine the amalgam of nature and amorous notions with Mr. Winter’s shoddy poetical prose, which he secretly writes at his desk in his bedroom.  In the provided section, he is describing he and a young lover discovering themselves by chance on their lonesome country walks, and falling in love whilst witnessing the waking of the countryside on an early Sunday morning.

We did little to deserve each other, than what we did those few moments rising into the morning sun. Sure, such were no less soluble than any of the hundred scents conjured by the flourishing warmth, yet they did raise to the highest power what was, just before she existed, seemingly ordinary countryside. I fear the younger audience might tend to find love a void to be occupied as soon and as frequently as possible; its depth discovered by fervent thrusting. Perhaps I am grown simple, that it may, with equal credibility, be just the accidental brushing of her hand to mine, as she gestured at some creature I pretended to see for the sake of her excitement, roused out by the starting day…

[Some material removed]

…As the Sun’s titan tongue lapped further at our position, the world was reduced to two odd figures, the wind, the railed fence that marked our converging paths, and the soft permeation of cathedral chimes in the wooded distance; it must have been Sunday, the day we met. I felt it proper to mar at last a tacit interval born from trailing observations we had for each other about the boxed fields and their contents beyond our fence. In doing so – my begging of her name, for she had painted every other aspect of her character necessary for me to stumble about – a damnable hobbledehoy – my topside overweighed – I was confounded by an ungovernable discharge of emotion. Depth begets depth by the sounding of a name.

Her name. Faith, her name! Her name – a charmed amulet thus hung ‘round my neck, suffuse with supernatural will and revelry, that I may stand to the world with enlivened resolve, ingest its colors with an irrational augment of resonance, and have no doubt of comfort these last few earthly steps trusted to me. For these moments do arise that love is careless of curfew and refuge, that an indelible mark is made – the maker unexpected – and that a recognition so strong is to be found in another who has by naked chance shared one’s bit of walking path.

This next section concerns what I had previously stated about the woodland, and the younger characters’ reverence toward it, playing a significant role in the resolution of Part 1 of the the book.  [Spoiler Alert!]  Here Mr. Winter and Harriet Moore, both desiring to confront one another regarding their thus far unspoken love, which has, at this point, reached a flash point, are coincidentally walking toward each others residences – Harriet from Woodbridge, Mr. Winter from Hedgely.  They converge upon one another inside the vast woodland that separates their towns during the beginning of a large thunderstorm, which not only represents their inner turmoil and the ‘sinful nature’ of their behavior, with the extremity of nature playing out both internally and exogenously around them, but also adds a heightened sense of emotion to the scene, and taps into the primitive human desire for shelter seeking against the harsh, climactic elements in their environment, again informing the audience that it is the primal aspects of the human experience that is of concern in that moment:  Who hasn’t woken up to a thunderstorm, and finding themselves in a cozy bed, untouched by the elements, desired some manner of physical romance with their partner next to them, as a function of this transient phenomenon?

‘Mr. Winter!’ – a white flash as the figure sprinted her last few yards at him, her cloak inadvertently opening. Harriet Moore. Her face was entirely wet, yet not entirely from the rain; such was clear from the reddened distress in her eyes.

‘Ms. Moore! It is uncommon wet and only becoming worse. To where shall I take you?’

Ms. Moore looked away and stumbled for words that did not answer in the crescendoing elements. She eventually became overwhelmed and began to weep: ‘Mr. Winter, I am come to see you!’ There was not much of a height difference between the two of them, but still she looked up at him, warming him in the manner he terribly feared, to which his mind became dosed with riotous chemistry.

‘Well, come on then’, he said grabbing her hand and pulling her into Woodbridge Woods for shelter. They stormed the underbrush toward the small path known to the both of them, which led to a crop of olden oaks that were prized by the locals for their quality of shelter in a blow. There it was wet but tolerable, as they stood alongside one’s particularly massive trunk.

‘Oh Mr. Winter, I’ve something horrid to say to you…’

‘Ms. Moore!’, he burst out, ‘I’ve something for you as well – I beg before you do any damage that you hear me first, that I may spare you such. I was headed to Woodbridge to call…’

‘Oh, indeed?’

Mr. Winter felt the passage of time become gnarled as if the great perpetual clock of the wood was gently amiss: some ten fathoms above, the wind did dart to and fro through their tree’s oldest branches, causing sharpened wisps of sound to cry ‘hurry’ to the already shortened day; but below there was no such haste: Droplets lazily fell from the lowest branches and quietly and flatly puttered upon the forest litter, and the gusts were never quite so quarrelsome as to be the cause of their reddened cheeks. He was vaguely aware of the harm he was then to accomplish, but more so he was paradoxically at ease, for this woman calmed him and kept him from suffering the work of the clock, that he was indifferent to the consequences of the next year, the next month, or the next day…

[Large volumes of dialog-driven material omitted]

Thunder came from overhead and cracked time back into its natural setting. Wind, wet and hail surged through and through, numbing their extremities beyond tolerable, that they both uncontrollably shook. But the couple could not proceed to Woodbridge: they two, unchaperoned, presenting like soaked dogs would indeed be the fuel for rumors and those for injury with respect to Mr. Wyatt and by extension, Mr. Moore. Sneaking about unchristian-like, whist the squire was sincerely presenting an opportunity to his niece with the best of intention, even if such was fundamentally flawed, would surely be an insult that could justify a withheld blessing, and further jeopardize Mr. Winter’s social capacity to which his experiments relied. Ditto for Mr. Winter’s home: for they would be betrayed by the servants, and possibly the Edwards’ at their window, marveling at the weather, within the week – they wearily reasoned.  

And so it came to pass that they carried westward through the various splotches of groves to a grounds keeper’s cottage, which Mr. Winter had observed months before as unlet, and which presently displayed no variance in that respect. It took the best part of half an hour for Mr. Winter to ignite a fire, even though the former owner had left a few days’ dry kit for the rudimentary chimney that divided the two rooms of the dwelling. And when he was done, quite worked up and warmer for it, he threw down his grand cloak in front of the fire, offering Harriet the driest section, and alleviated her of her own ill weeping garment, and saturated gloves and hat.

‘Faith woman, your hands are the like to the weather!’, he exclaimed, noting the difference in temperature between them and his. He put a few deep breaths to them and rubbed them inside his own. ‘Sit in front the fire, Miss Harriet, and I will open my jacket and waistcoat just so that I may sit behind you and warm you from behind; between my person and the fire, we will see you warm in ten minute’s time’.

She leaned back into him and nestled her temple and cheek bone into the more supple part of his, that her ear felt afire. He laid his arms and cupped palms of his hands upon the selfsame of hers, contralaterally, that it was no longer just her ear that suffered pleasant inflammation, but the entirety of her skin and deeper still. She closed her eyes and recalled the cathedral chimes and faint smell of the clover and cocksfoot which had saturated her senses that long ago summer day. Then, looking back at him, she found herself unexpectedly fragile for the amount of natural laudanous spirits that boiled into her blood, dismissing everything proper before her king, country and God. It was but twelve beats of her heart that she ensnared an impeccant glance on his part with her resolute stare, that no other enterprise was reasoned or engendered, save the ungovernable collision of their lips; love knowing no honor…

Let the fountains, falls and gushes cease; and of the faintest match or greatest ripple of fire inside the earth – let these spare that which they are nourished; let no moon, nor earth, nor heavenly body crank one more inch; for thrusting into her, I am home and never wish again to depart, he inwardly professed just before the thunder clapped and he filled her with joyous living filament. 

The last line is the novel’s ultimate culmination of the merging of nature and romance:  Mr. Winter ejaculates inside of his lover as the thunderstorm continues to present its own moments of climax.  The term ‘living filament’ is a biological term used by Erasmus Darwin inside his chapter on generation – the sexual reproduction of animals with the concept of evolution of species in mind – found in his book Zoonomia.  Harriet Moore’s father had just presented a lecture on E. Darwin and his evolutionary philosophies, earlier in the chapter.

[I had originally planned a part III to this post, but alas family tragedy and time limits have exploded my intentions.]

[This, I believe, is my last post necessary for the complete reconstruction of my blog which suffered a data erasure a month or so ago.  From this point forward, when time allows, new postings will indeed be such, and not previously published.]

On the Unseasoned Cultural Relations Portrayed in the Novel


I’ve often asserted that the material in Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is, to at least some degree, derived from the examination of the works of Jane Austen, and the woman herself.  This has mostly to do with the construction of the female characters, their interpersonal interactions throughout the novel, and perhaps the theme of the progressive female protagonist, somewhat defiant of the orthodox social norms that appeared to be in place in early 19th century England.  These are not what I wish to presently address (there is a brief overview of such in a video I posted in the introductory entry of this blog), but instead, I desire the audience will observe that Jane Austen has achieved a certain amount of veneration with regard to the literary phenomenon of realism, and that I too, in my novel, have drunk from this selfsame well; save I’ve plunged a little further in, having addressed the rather rough edges of cultural perceptions by small town country folk.  (Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!)

One of the main themes of the novel is the examination of the mechanisms in which flawed belief systems, existing secondary to base desires, fears, and religious, or otherwise self-reinforced group thinking, explode the acceptance of science by those outside of the scientific community.  Here a parallel can be drawn in that these deficiencies can also manifest as chauvinistic nationalism, and the publishing of impolite thoughts on cultures removed from that of those doing the act.  In other words, those that cannot escape scientific ignorance, by their own character deficits, may indeed also fail to avoid cultural ignorance and the rudeness that coexists with such.  Incidentally, climate activist and journalist Peter Sinclair often blogs about the intimate coupling of anthropogenic climate change denial and racism among a subset of often-uneducated, American conservatives, which are represented in my novel by the Hedgely Particular Baptists.  So with that introduction, let’s take a look at some of the passages from the novel:

Firstly, we have the character Mr. Edwards, the Hedgely Particular Baptist preacher, who introduces the audience to the reality of 19th century English elitism in Episode One, when he instructs his chronically brash wife on the subject of tolerance:

‘Tolerance, Mrs. Edwards! Tolerance, my love,’ Mr. Edwards kindly offered in the baritone voice that matched his tall, grey, near plump and leathery exterior, as he came within range of the ladies after having settled with their carriage. ‘For we are but one set of folk upon this earth out of countless others. And though across our oceans we do find inferior varieties with which we do our best in their keeping, our own countrymen, regardless of their extremity shall not be treated any worse than they, and therefore tolerance must be issued. Oh, how do you do Ms. Moore?’  

This exemplifies the hypocrisy of a few of our more outspoken American Christian conservatives:  They luxuriate in pontificating morality, whilst simultaneously holding conspicuously immoral positions, as they hold fast to the communal beliefs of their local social circles, which seek to justify their particular prejudices with convenient interpretations of the Bible.  This is the only instance of elitism that the preacher showcases throughout the story, but it is implied that such is well ingrained inside the Edwards’ household, as his wife, from time to time, will profess the Englishman’s superiority over his French, German, or otherwise European counterparts.  Such initially happens just a few paragraphs removed from her husband’s Episode One offering:

…Great minutes went by as Ms. Moore politely acknowledged this or that in the inexhaustible prose of the minister’s wife as she issued a flight of thoughts along many a subject: the Union’s internal strife and how caviler the newer members were at molesting orthodoxy for the sake of growing a following; Mr. Winter’s horrid glass-shed-of-a-thing that spoiled his backyard; and how poor the cooking had been at the inn recently and the demise of servitude in general. But as she started to pontificate on French and German inferiority, Mr. Edwards thankfully stepped in, noticing that the slight pink in Ms. Moore’s cheeks began to smolder…


In Episode Two, as Harriet and Charlotte prepare to entertain Mrs. Edwards by way of voice and piano in her private parlor, we gather a little more of her disdain for Europeans.  The significance in her use of the word ‘medieval’ is that England was at ground-zero of the Industrial Revolution, and at the forefront of engineering innovation, whilst other countries were laggards in comparison.  This likely informed Englishmen that they were indeed superior to their European brethren; their breeding being conflated with their technical advantage:

After having explained she fell square in the mezzo range and that in want of a score she and Harriet were only proficient in but a few ancient songs from a historical compellation that had found its way from overseas to the manor’s library long ago – and such not overtaking Mrs. Edward’s sense of English superiority, for ‘there were composers that may almost rival the three ‘H’s’: Handel, Haydn, and Henry Purcell’, though she would not commit that much further, so many of the ‘medieval continentals having stunted thoughts from malnutrition and inbreeding’ – Harriet sat at the pianoforte and gave Charlotte her first note.

And just a few paragraphs down we have Mrs. Edwards struggling with her primal reaction to the Moore ladies’ song, despite it being performed in the ‘inferior’ Italian language:

…The first few passages, steeped in piano driven sensitivity, capitulated to bold fortes, that the poet would certainly not be mistook: ‘Doubt not its truth; Open my breast and see it written on my heart’, she sang in his native language as he referred further to his love. And though Mrs. Edwards spoke not a lick of any inferior language, she was frightfully stirred by the Moore ladies’ interpretation which exuded a relentless magnitude of female sensuality that went far beyond what was expected of English women, much less gentlewomen. Indeed she was powerless against it, and despite the small, remaining pin prick of her now anesthetized rationality working it hardest to cause her shame, the rest of her mind, and body, was flooded by the universally appealing Renaissance tonalities the ladies afforded the room so that she could not move to object. She surely was bewitched…


Now let us examine the indiscreet approach to cultural relations by oWaH’s field workers, who keep dispersed agrarian duties along the outskirts of the binary towns, but are shown to congregate at times, especially at The Plough or Woodbridge Inn – their local pubs – on account of these serving scrumpy (apple cyder) and other alcoholic beverages.  In the following example we have these men – some of which having likely been impressed as able men upon Royal Navy ships during the Napoleonic Wars, and others having naturally embraced the nationalist rivalry between England and France secondary to these wars – displaying contempt for the latter country in their private, class-warfare humor involving the gentleman Mr. Winter, whom they’ve dubbed ‘The Frenchman’ or ‘The Crapaud’, as he chronically wears the selfsame blue jacket, reminiscent (for jesting purposes) of a French soldier’s.  The joke was certainly not meant to breach their personal circle, but in this scene at The Plough, inside Episode Four, the men’s drunkenness affords them boldness enough so that Mr. Winter indeed overhears their revelry:

The manners on the inside of the inn were no better: He struggled quite profoundly with the folding of his umbrella, and by the time one of Mrs. Bagley’s men came to his assistance, he was breathed and in a slovenly state, concerning his hair and posture. Then at the disposal of his cloak, his now famous blue jacket made its appearance, and that, wrapping such an unkempt person, inspired a set of laborers watching him from the dining hall to offer a few private comments, which were unfortunately inflamed to a roar by their mates:

‘No sir, no sir – the gentleman is not a crapaud! He is no so loathsome!’

‘Huzzah!’, yelled a chorus of drunkards nebulous to the jester.

‘Nor sallow faced!’


‘Nor hollow eyed!’


‘Nor herring gutted’


‘Nor spindle shanked, goiter necked, sore mouthed, sad looking, half clad, tatterdemalion, petty, swaggering; an’ nor at all a bog trotting potentate!’

‘Huzzah, Huzzah!’

These are actual insults from Victorian England, pulled from an elitist essay malignantly describing the German people, if I recall correctly; though I’ve forgotten my source.

The laborers’ unrefined notions on exogenous cultures and races again presents in the front of Episode Seven, as an argument unravels involving the transmutation of species (and variants within a species):

‘Sir – though I do not follow you with the creatures, I believe you have become too colourful with Mr. Darwin, for ‘plain chance’ is not reasonably followed by ‘all possible chances’, and in what Mr. Moore has told us of the man’s philosophies there does not appear the like to what you say,’ returned the Woodbridge’s best man, further adding, ‘But were it that Mr. Darwin indeed has pointed in the direction you suggest, then just as Mr. Cuvier’s great mammoth no longer walks the earth as his cousin the elephant does, there then exists the chance that some cousin of man may be long buried in the earth, but awaiting the naturalist’s shovel. And have you not heard of the physical variants of the savages from the lesser continents?’ A hard pinch of dissatisfaction came over him and his mates as he improvised on topics absorbed from Mr. Moore’s last lecture.        

‘I heard ‘ems was of a rather strange physique and colour, but on account o’ their savagery an’ not more. Oh, oh, oh!’ the Hedgely cried in alarm as he pointed over the heads of the Woodbridge’s at their table, causing them to turn around only to find the keep with their scrumpy. ‘My apologies, sirs: I reckoned it were a winged boar or a crocodilian-duck! Ha, ha, ha!’      

The ‘winged boar’ is obviously a flying pig, and its implication is sincerely held by the man uttering the term as a means to cause injury to his opponents at the pub; but the ‘crocodilian-duck’ is a hat tip to science journalist Potholer54, who runs/ran a YouTube channel dedicated to confounding anti-science positions kept by men with both religious and political motivations for doing so.

Incidentally, the scene also portrays the reality of how those without scientific backgrounds accept science: through the acceptance of the opinions of experts in their respective fields.  Ironically, this too almost parallels blind faith, save that our scientific systems consistently produce credible results and progress, and thus it is perfectly reasonable to consider those as trustworthy.  (And this is why the modern conservative think tanks, funded by the fossil fuel industry, spend a great deal of their time trying to smear climate experts with non-scandals like Climategate or conspiratorial notions of government tax allocation abuse, &c.  They seek to confound the public’s trust in our modern scientific systems; at least along the topics of climate and geophysics.)

Readers should further note that even though the Woodbridge laborers are defending these early notions of evolution, again merely by deferring to their town’s scientific authority, Johnathan Moore, as a trustworthy source of information (and in many cases just defending the man out of loyalty), they too are struggling with the concept, having been indoctrinated by religion all their lives.  Indeed, even the protagonist George Moore, Johnathan’s brother and benefactor, has trouble with the subject throughout the story, though he is never brazenly dismissive of it, as the antagonists are.  This, I believe, adds a handsome dose of realism to the novel.

But let us turn back to our original subject with a few closing thoughts:  I’ve mostly portrayed the antagonists in the novel as the ones keeping improper or immoral stances on cultural and race relations.  This is where the realism stops.  The truth is a man can be good, right, and heroic in some areas of this life, whilst also being a total failure in others, especially concerning cultural sensitivity during the era in which the novel is set:  The cherished opera composer, Richard Wagner, is said to have held antisemitic view points in some of his essays and writings, for example.  Indeed, several of our greatest American presidents were slave owners.  Thus it would not be so burdensome to conceive that both the Woodbridge field workers, as well as their Hedgely counterparts would have individuals among them, equal and significant in number, that were indifferent to cultural sensitivity at this point in history; and that this circumstance is certainly not limited to the lower caste, if you take my meaning.  Alas, a writer can only chip so much morality away from a protagonist, for the sake of realism, before the audience rejects them as such, and so they – the readers – are contentedly left with either characters awash in false purity, or a don’t ask, don’t tell policy, regarding this subject of cultural sensitivity.  Asking, of course, gets uncomfortable:  How many friends did Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley have, that fought politically against the Slave Trade Act of 1807?  And did Darcy, Bingley, or any other of the prominent figures in Jane Austen’s books themselves gather on the ‘wrong side of the fence’ with respect to the Act?

And finally we come to end with one last thought concerning evolution, xenophobia, elitism, racism, and structured social conflict in general.  Are not these rooted in primal, hunter-gatherer tribalism, which originated secondary to evolutionary pressure regarding the competition for resources, mates, shelter, &c.?  In other words, individual early hominids that coagulated into small clans and who declared outsiders, or other clans, as enemies when necessary (as they were competing for limited resources) were more likely to pass their genes on to the next generation, than the ‘lone-wolves’ in their area, or those with some altruistic prerogative.  And not only does an evolutionary explanation exist for these constructs, a generalized definition of their manifestation can be afforded in fairly simple terms:  1) group together in a clan; 2) find something different between your clan and another competing clan in a formal manner; 3) use that as a rallying point to influence your clan to (sometimes viciously) interact with the competitors for the purposes of grabbing as much resources as possible; and 4) do so.  And it matters little what variable one picks in defining the said difference: race, culture, geographical location, religious affiliation, political ideology, &c.  The idea is to pick a difference, and then convince your brethren that they are superior with respect to such, in order to justify the taking of the other side’s resources.

Mr. Princep illustrates this in Episode Ten of oWaH:

‘I had thought on it a little sir; but if there were as steady work as you say, then I will do so even more. And if I have indeed caused such a sand storm, even at present, I suppose it would therefore be my duty to reverse it, if at all possible; but you will observe that one could place a race of men, who do not vary in the least their physical, emotional, and ceremonial qualities, onto a plot of land where none was less equal in situation to any other, but in the end let half be of blue eyes and the other of brown, and before long they would be at each others’ throats over it. What might the articles entail, do you think?’ asked Mr. Princep as he attempted to massage his lower back in his chair as they occupied Mr. Winter’s study.   

Carry on.

[Note:  this is a re-posting of a blog article I wrote in July of ’15, my WordPress account having been unexpectedly wiped clean for an unknown reason.]

The Adventures of Charlotte Winter, Chapter 1

I’ve had a few days off from work, and instead of dutifully attending other projects that need to be resolved, I’ve spent a few hours here and there throwing out a rough draft to a beginning chapter of a novel I’m thinking about writing here in a few years, as mentioned in my last post, Pistoning Into the Victorian Era.  In lieu of the literary insights I’ve been posting to the blog, I will publish my rough draft here, so that my regular readers may have something presently to do.

Note similarity to the beginning of Of Woodbridge and Hedgely which should clue in readers that Charlotte Winter is the selfsame nameless, 10-year-old girl that Mr. Winter comes to adore in the novel.  Readers may now rejoice the girl finally gets a name (her adoption of Winter’s last name is explained below in the new story).


A young lass, probably not yet twenty years of age, quietly sat in the lobby of a London patent office, staring into nothingness, lost in the inner turmoil of the overambitious mind. Whatever impatience she initially kept upon the expense of something between one half and three quarters of an hour’s time, on the hard chair she was politely asked to wait in, had long been destroyed by yet another interval after this, at least equal in magnitude if not longer. Indeed having succumbed to the lure of attempting to define a particularly troublesome mathematical formula that had plagued her these last several days, the only connection she presently held to the world outside her mind was a semiconscious grasp she had on several large rolls of paper she kept on her lap; their contents being her entire reason for sitting there, her arse near completely numb.

Alas she was called. She did not hear it at first, but eventually she was awoken by the selfsame clerk that initially guided her to her chair, kneeling down so that he may reside in her supposed field of vision and wave his hands about. Fairly handsome he was. She was too thankful for the handsome length of the hallway, the stairs at its ending, and yet another of the selfsame dimension on the second floor of the patent office, such allowing her to regain most of the feeling in her backside, as this young man guided her to a more aged and venerable clerk’s office.

‘Alright, young miss! Come in, come in, and let us see what you have for us!’ this aged clerk called, perhaps feigning a level of industriousness he could not rightly own, having in all probability awoken from a post dinner slumber to find himself at his desk, just moments ago.

‘I have for you, sir, a secret, were you at all to honor it, and in exchange for its telling, I only wish to seek your advice on the proper formalities here,’ returned the young miss, referring to his office.

For a moment he looked her up and down as she stood before his desk, seemingly quite frightened of the chairs that existed on the guests’ side of it. A pleasant face to be sure, but she seemed to have been grievously betrayed by her tailor, for she donned a Frenchman’s shirtsleeves, ruffled at the cuffs, and a pair of Englishmen’s riding trousers. About the only thing possibly ladylike on her was her boots and even those were some variation on Wellington’s. He then comforted her in the assurance that he was indeed fairly credible with secrets and that she should unroll her papers onto the desk in order for him to assess whatever formalities they many require.

‘You see sir, the pistons keep underside the apparatus for a smarter ride,’ she instructed, after introducing him to her expertly drafted mechanical pictures, embellished with all manner of dimensions, pressure ranges, velocities, load capacities, &c. ‘Note how they are directly connected to the forward drive wheels and there are no coupling rods to reduce the weight, keeping the thing under four and one half tons. The goal is twenty to twenty five miles per hour in velocity, pulling a load of three times its weight, and to achieve such I’ve increased the boiler efficiency using twenty five copper tubes to maximize surface area of the exhaust, and a water jacket between it and the firebox that further heats the water directly through the coke’s own radiant energy.’

‘I see – yes – uncommon clever! Young miss, who indeed is your master!?’ the clerk asked almost absently as his focus darted to and fro along the pages, for he was almost sure he’d never seen a boiler with more than two exhaust tubes.

The young miss’s lips pursed and her brow furrowed at this. She eyed him squarely and with a scow, determinedly pronounced, ‘Sir, I Am My Own Master!’, her head slightly shaking with each syllable, causing the man’s eyes to quit the drawings and reciprocate his guests’ sizable gawk. Perhaps such a slight was not uncommon to her with her rather unique ambitions, and the clerk had brushed upon a sore spot, well worn; or perhaps it was merely the passion of youth that bolted through her blood which delivered her into impropriety.

‘You will forgive me miss,’ the man eventually said in a tone that failed to acknowledge her distress, but instead continued as if none of it was there, ‘for most of the young’ – he glimpsed at her pants – ‘ladies I’m acquainted with care only to draw relatives, or the Thames at sunset – that the sight may be had without the accompaniment of the smell; you will observe one such piece hanging on the wall behind me. I’ve yet to come across a miss that applies her pen for the sake of boilers, engines, and locomotives.’

‘Well sir,’ she said in a more relaxed manner, having conceded the man meant no injury, ‘what I was getting at was that my drawings are not just some picturesque flim-flam; they are of course a function of mathematical formulae – calculations that take into account variations of pressure in the boiler, as well as its evaporating power, and other new discoveries I’ve made on the subject of locomotion – nothing your office has seen before, save the crude renditions of individual components that were previously applied for under my employer’s name – a Mister Thomas Winter. But do not be mistook,’ she emphasized with a moderate crescendo, having now revealed her master, ‘this is not the first time this office has seen work from my sole pen: Mister Winter and his wife spend most of their time botanizing out in the countryside of Gloucestershire, whilst I do the opposite.’

‘Yes, yes – I understand you completely, young lady,’ the man returned, again in a flat, unaffected tone, still enamored more with the drawings of the locomotive than with one of his larger sources of income, for Mr. Winter held an entire cabinet’s worth of patents at his very office, and by its familiarity, it was neither here nor there to have his name there mentioned.

‘You will then instruct me on the cost and the format then sir?’ she asked, having no notion on the process of being granted a patent, other than it was a grievous process involving multiple offices in the throes of Royal bureaucracy, and that it was preferable that a man of thorough experience work on one’s behalf in the matter. Alas, Mr. Winter had a man, but she herself had no personal clerk, lawyer, or otherwise; nor did she think it wise for an unknown engineer to share one’s work about the town, lest it find its way into another man’s design.

‘But miss, it is always the same fee and procedure for all of Mister Winter’s dealings here’, he replied, surprised she was ignorant of the subject, having digested everything she had offered thus far in earnest.

‘Sir, I beg pardon, I do not believe I’ve given you cause to follow my design: I would be applying under my own name, with my own coin. There is a storm brewing up in Rainhill that I intend to capitalize on, and “sharps the word” as they say,’ she explained.

‘Oh,’ he began in slower, more forlorn color, adding, ‘But you are at least aware that what we have here is a game that gnaws up the finest impoverished inventors, that right gentlemen of some competency may profit? I say this not because I have any assumptions on your situation madam, but only that I may not catch you unaware: The price is a hundred pounds and a great many fathom’s time. As to the format, you may spend as much time as you like, looking over Mr. Winter’s previous applications if they are not available to you at work; Mr. Winter’s agent is, after all, a right busy man. And we will make sure you do not leave this afternoon without the proper forms to bring back to us.’

At the revelation of the price she had started a bit, for she was of absolute ignorance on the matter: She dared not ask about such things at work, nor would she visit with the agent, without raising suspicion. It’s not that Mr. Winter, one of her dearest and oldest friends, wouldn’t happily dispense the amount to her, as seed money to help build her own fortune; it was that she sought the ideology of success derived from entirely one’s own means. ‘One hundred did you say?’ she asked hoping the man may further offer a few negative contingencies to the price, but he only affirmed his original quote.

‘Alright then,’ she replied with a renewed fervor, ‘Within a double fortnight – or at least the turning of two new moons – I will have your coin, alongside the drawings in full kit.’ She then, to the clerk’s distress – the only time he showed any emotive gesture during their meeting – snatched her drawings off the desk, rolled them up, and swiftly said her thank-you’s and good-day’s, intending to storm out of the building, as if to directly make good on her word.

‘And miss – do alas you have a name?’ the clerk called out as she fled down the hallway.

‘Alas I do sir and a right one it is – remember your oath and mine – I will indeed return, upon my word…’, she belted out without bothering to stop or turn and face her inquirer.

And once back to his office, with his door shut, and a small moment of time passing, the man let out a sigh and muttered to himself, ‘Yes, yes – you’re your own master. In august company I was, as usual. Damnable young folk these days – always their own masters…‘til the first lick of trouble leaps out the fire. Then it’s “Papa! Papa! Oh, dear Papa!”’ as were he drawing on some personal experience; he likely being a father many times over at his age.

Manchester (17 years after the novel’s setting).

Charlotte Winter jumped off the post carriage that had freshly presented to the town of Manchester. Charlotte Winter – that was indeed her name – at least among those that weren’t familiar with her past, for her surname was recently borrowed from her benefactor – the Mr. Thomas Winter. She had come to know the man at around ten years of age, when he had set up shop in a renovated farmhouse sitting in a field just behind her father’s cottage, in the town of Hedgely, in the afore mentioned county of Gloucestershire. From a childhood infatuation with a small set of apple trees that existed on his property, she had introduced herself to him, and a relationship had been born which had blossomed into an informal apprenticeship, where she assisted the man on endeavors having to do with his hobbies of agricultural science and botany, and in return he had taught her all that he knew of engineering, mathematics, and experimentation along these subjects, for he too had been a proper engineer in a former life: Mr. Winter had worked many years for his father – one of England’s wealthy industrial masters of mankind – before he had retired to Hedgely to save himself from the fetid air and mechanized noise that came along with factory work.

But these events alone had not been enough to transform Charlotte May into Charlotte Winter: Firstly, Mr. Winter’s father had retired within the last few years, having no longer the health nor heart to continue to pursue the constant, pernicious struggle of keeping an empire rightly afloat, and Mr. Winter had reluctantly taken over their operations, which had significantly eaten into his and Charlotte’s time dedicated to increasing crop yields around their small country towns, through their experiments. Secondly, and probably more to the point, Charlotte, failing at anything properly ladylike, had had for the last few years the prerogative to consistently entertain scandalous affairs with several of the local fellows around her towns of Woodbridge and Hedgely, the discovery and conclusion of each resulting in her refusal to marry any of them on the grounds that though most offered a handsome physique, they were rather deficient in cognition. Further any marriage would have castrated her ambitious desires to improve her own financial position in society – just as Mr. Winter’s father had done long ago – whilst attaching her to another who likely had not the slightest idea nor the talent for doing so. Her father, noting no repentance for her part upon the nth gentleman’s discovery, had given up and disowned her for the sake of his own tailoring business in Hedgely, as the small town’s rumor mill there had steadily increased its product in direct proportion to the number of men Charlotte had bedded thus far. And therefore it fell to the lot of Mr. Winter, her second father, to set her up as an engineer in one of his many subsidiaries – her task being to improve upon the components and efficiency of steam engines – with a salary of £100 which allowed her a comfortable apartment in a town well away from her past, and the dispensation of the necessity for gardening for one’s sustenance. Manchester was that town, and by the post, there she was again in it, with enlivened resolve to make something of herself.

‘Ahoy Charlotte!’ called out a young Lieutenant Fish who had been lingering around the town post office for quite some time waiting for her to arrive; after all, a young half-pay Royal Navy man at the dawn of a relatively peaceful era for his country was credibly experienced in the act of waiting; the postmaster himself remarked on the fellow’s steadfast patience and uncommon, nay heroic, ability to do absolutely nothing for hours on end. ‘What of London? And were you at all near Whitehall? And if so did you have any cause to converse with any naval officers? And what of the road? Are you sore from the ride? And how many hills were you obliged to walk? And…’ Though the young man had appeared rather docile to the post workers those last few hours, his mind, on the other hand, had been cracking on rather sprightly the entire interval.

‘Ahoy Will!’ she returned as she waited for the case that held her drafts to be handed down to her from the carriage, ‘What of London? Yes, I’m sure it’s quite ravishing but what I saw of it was drizzle, smoke, and a certain meanness in beggary of its children!’

‘Oh, come now!’ he objected, ‘For you have the widest smile published across your face as were you a silly little girl but half your age. We are to dine at The Jenny as soon as our boots may carry us there, and you shall tell me all about it; I insist!’

‘My God, were it roast venison tonight! I’m so sharp set from the journey that I could scarcely put two words together to spare my life at present. Oh, thank’ee,’ she said, the last part to the postman as he hurriedly encouraged her to take her drawings.


‘A hundred pounds!!?’ Lt. Fish cried as they indeed tucked into the roast venison. ‘Where the devil are you going to get a hundred pounds? Is not the contest in October of next year? You’ve but a little over thirteen months to achieve your patent and find some means of building your engine.’

The contest Lt. Fish spoke of was a subject that came up more times than not whenever the two committed to long winded conversation; in fact, ever since Charlotte had learned of it, it had consumed a great deal of her working mind, as she was convinced that were she to properly capitalize on the event, her fortune would thus materialize from such. The contest was indeed what would become known as the Rainhill Trials. The masters of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway – presently nearing completion – had decided on a contest to resolve the best means of pulling trains between the two towns – either by fixed engines or locomotives – and Rainhill, with its uncommon flat terrain, had been chosen to host the open locomotive contest. Charlotte’s strategy was to secure a patent for her design for the contest, which required a uniquely light but powerful engine, and then appeal to an experienced builder of the superiority of her design, and thereby strike a either a lucrative partnership or the sale of her patent for a large return; perhaps with the contingency that were her design to win, she would sell several other more refined ones to the selfsame man in order to build the Railway’s fleet, or at least negotiate a credible royalty in lieu of any sales. It was a dangerous game, as men that could commit the several thousand pounds of capital for an engine as easy as kiss their hand held the ultimate advantage, even if they limited themselves to playing fair, which was not guaranteed. In Boulton and Watt’s days, the courts were rife with these men’s calls of infringement against other engineers, and when their wasn’t an active suit occurring, there was surely the threat of one. Other, contradistinguishing men cared little for obliging patent laws and did what they pleased, stringing up any agents of the court by their feet, were they at all to bravely show upon their doorsteps.

‘It’s a tough nut to be sure, Will, but I do have twenty sovereigns at M&L’s I’ve nothing to do with, so the situation is not near as sharp as it feels.’

Lt. Fish gave a rather thoughtful look, swallowed what he had been chewing and offered, ‘Perhaps a private investor might give you the remain for a proportion of the returns. Mister Winter even may…’

‘Certainly Not!’ she cried, confounding the posterior of his suggestion before it could bloom. ‘The less moneyed dandies buzzing about me the better my odds of success become. Giving a rich man the opportunity to proportionately profit off of my work may as well be the like to giving it all away to him after his lawyer swoops down to bait and switch me in my ignorance of patent law! And Mister Winter has been kind enough to me. He would indeed issue me the guineas, for his engines are mostly to do with factory work and I would not be taking business from him, but I will not take that amount from a friend after all he’s already done. What if I fail and owe him for years on end?’ she posed, shivering inside at the prospect of a ruined friendship and business relationship. ‘Besides, I must do this on my own,’ she posed, her convictions well dug.

‘Your banker then?’

‘He’d want it back and more within three month’s time, if he understood my drawings at all. Considering that the patent office has their time glass filled with molasses there’d be a terrible want of leeway to maneuver before the bank’s lawyers came looking for the patent, that they and they only may profit from it – damn their eyes and mouths – come October of ‘twenty nine.’

Other Jenny guests looked up in reaction to Charlotte’s strident tone and the whispers began…as usual. Often they were over Ms. Winter’s pirate costume which accompanied speculation regarding were the whisperers actually in the presence of a castrati, actor, opera singer, or madwoman. Buckskins indeed! Yet on this particular occasion it seemed they were less concerned with her rudeness of dress, but instead, that of her manner.

A few of the regulars present, used to Charlotte’s voluble character, took little note of it, having long ago marked it as ‘the daft stupidity of youth and inevitable destruction of propriety by the latest generation’. Others not so far along in absorbing such impolite manners at dinner were instead kept from issuing the woman some manner of jagged instruction, solely by the existence of the youthful lieutenant at her table: The fellow kept a boarding cutlass on his uniform, and it couldn’t be guaranteed that he would not demand quick satisfaction were he to assume an insult to his dinner partner was there afforded. After all, he was more close to twenty years of age than thirty, without a present commission, entailing a likely perpetual thirst for action, and further did exude a protective air around her which was conspicuous to even the greatest of dullards.

Charlotte looked around the room as the conversation once again began to pick up and approach its baseline, and the darting glares toward her direction attenuated. At once her eyes lit up and the broad smile she had displayed earlier at the post office anomalously returned. The pause had afforded her something of an epiphany and she motioned the lieutenant to lean forward so that she could talk in a more secretive tone.

‘I believe I’ve just picked the plum from the pudding, Will!’ she excitedly whispered. ‘Thus far, I’ve committed my mind to the avoidance of being swallowed by men of much greater means; every last one of them anxious to do so as a function of their station. What I’ve failed to muse upon was the very opposite of this – how best to chew them up for my own advantage! From this vantage the solution is quite simple: I need only find out who else means to enter at Rainhill and propose to them the purchase of some of my previous designs!’

‘Hmm. That appears to give these men more of an advantage,’ Lt. Fish observed, and smiling in anticipation, for it was clear Charlotte had only just began to weave her design, he added, ‘But please do go on.’

‘Yes, it would appear that way, but you see, this appearance is for the greater good of the game. Certainly, with my recent discoveries, they would be getting ideas much superior to their own, but I would not be selling any individual the full apparatus: I would be giving one fellow the design to a more efficient boiler – perhaps the selfsame one that sits in my office at work, whilst another fellow – his competitor – would be sold the idea for a blast pipe. Certainly this would increase the flow of heat through his boiler, but for one or two-tube designs – as is common practice – such ends up ripping the top off the fire and throwing hot cinders out the chimney, causing the fuel to be prejudicially consumed at a greater rate – ha, ha, ha!’

To this Lt. Fish had a credible objection. ‘Oh, faith! The boiler in your office? But do you not often, and rightly, profess that a working model trumps a hundred fold even the cleverest of schemes that exist merely on paper? And how can it be assured that once these men absorb your components into their designs, this won’t allow them to move that must quicker forward and discover what you already have, in your latest work?’ he posed, cocking his head a little to the left, whilst squinting at his companion.

Charlotte somewhat capitulated to this with an affirmative nod but offered, ‘Well I ain’t saying there won’t be risks. All I can do is set the thing up to maximize the probability of my success. But I must insist that my latest work is of the finest refinement compared to the objects I have skulking about my office, and you’ll observe I’m willing to throw a hundred quid at that notion. Let’s see, I need but four cork-brains to issue me twenty pounds a pop – not entirely impossible!’ Charlotte’s eyes then did sparkle and her tone became much more cordial and ladylike: ‘Lieutenant Fish, would you be so good as to shortly accompany me down to the Railway office, that we me rummage around for some names? We may rent a cabriolet here if you are so inclined.’

Lt. Fish’s eyes reciprocated and he confidently grinned a small grin, for there wasn’t much he wouldn’t do for Ms. Winter. ‘I would be delighted to so accompany you, Miss Winter. It’s getting late: I will walk you back to your apartment, then tomorrow morning…’

‘Stay with me tonight, Will!’ Charlotte cut in, again in her whispered, scheming tone. ‘Half the town thinks we’re secretly married; the other half, that we’re secretly engaged, so there is little danger in it. Only promise me there will be no queer talk of proposals this time, yes? Lord, I was awoke this morn’ at the coach inn by some early foxed hostler practicing of all things the Spanish guitar, and the vexation has travelled about me and found its way into places that only a man may resolve.’

Pistoning Into the Victorian Era

Here in a few years, after catching up on some other long term projects, I’d like to have another go at melding science/engineering and novel writing.  I’ve been reading through the intro to A Practical Treatise on Locomotive Engines Upon Railways written in 1830, and apparently, even though the basics of locomotion had been worked out by then, the theoretical details, such as pressure variability and evaporating power had not been cemented into neatly constructed physical equations that one could use to construct an engine for a prescribed power, velocity, &c.  The Treatise was the first attempt at doing so and also corrected previous theoretical errata.

A credible possibility for my next offering would be to take the 10 year old nameless girl that appears throughout Of Woodbridge and Hedgely, who Mr. Winter, an engineer from a wealthy industrial family, takes under his scientific wing at the end of the novel, and turn her into a 20 year old protagonist in 1830, equipped with the mathematics and engineering knowledge of the day, who has discovered these detailed equations by her own study at one of Mr. Winter’s operations, and uses such to help design and build one of say, the big Stephenson locomotives that won the right to run between Liverpool and Manchester, during a famous contest held for the purpose.  Stephenson did contract out some of the components to his winning locomotive; one could imagine a certain tooling engineer butting her head into the matter, with regard to design, when a contract came down, or working directly under Stephenson in some anomalous manner (it was actually Stephenson’s son that did a lot of the design work).  Perhaps even some industrial espionage and patent disputes that get physical would be called for, to turn the story into more of an action-adventure.   Part 1 could conclude with the Liverpool/Manchester Line contest, then Part 2 would be about sailing to America with a newly commissioned locomotive, where perhaps a convoy of ships are harassed by privateers/Letters of Marque, and a Patrick O’Brian style high seas battle ensues, &c.  Part 3 would be another railway contest which the protagonist somehow plays a vital role in.

Indeed she may also uncommonly pursue multiple romantic dalliances, experiment with abortifacient drugs, offer a quick tongue, similar to Kasey Michaels’ character, Tansy Tamerlane, in The Tenacious Miss Tamerlane, affording odd Regency/Victorian Era slang to thwart her naysayers as she negotiates the male saturated field of engineering and materials construction.  Oh, and she would wear pants of some sort; the like to Mr. Winter, indifferently running around in filthy shirtsleeves in parts of my present novel.   There might be some sort of story there.  Charlotte would be her name, in honor of oWaH’s Charlotte, who [***SPOILER***] suffers great tragedy towards the end.

Addressing the Literary Questions – Question Seven

In fear of a repeat of the cold 1816, where the Thames froze over, and crop yields were diminished, Manchester began providing what they conceived was a solution to the global cooling.

In my last post, built for book reviewers, I posted the set of literary questions that exist directly after the conclusion of the story in both the kindle and physical formats.  Question seven of these is as follows, for which I will attempt a brief answer:

The author, in various places inside the novel, offers mathematically detailed solutions to simple, logistical problems, which showcase the creative spirit of an entrepreneur and applied scientist; and the manner in which such a person would approach puzzles owning both inherent knowns and unknowns. Many days research were spent so that not only sound physics and chemistry prevailed throughout the story, but the engineering and material solutions were true to what was available in 1820 (albeit to a son of one of the wealthiest men in England, who happened to have his hand squarely on the modern industrial operations of the time). Why did the author risk stifling the flow of the novel with technical details that could be construed as excessive, or improper for popular entertainment and the casual reader?

There are a few places, indeed, where Mr. Winter walks the reader by the hand through the details of calculations he has made concerning his experiments, the first one, I believe, involving how to water two 1/2-acre fields with a solution of carbonate of ammonia so that enough of the fertilizer is deployed at the correct concentration, but further, that the field is not overly drenched, especially during the months of heavier precipitation; the second, being where he affords logistical and dimensional analysis driven solutions to moving marl, lime, and gypsum from their quarries to their sights of application; and thirdly, towards the end of the novel where he estimates his grain yields through sample based extrapolation.

The function of these sections, which would surely be dissected by a professional editor, is five fold:

Firstly I’m recreating real problems that would have existed during this era, and finding real solutions to them.  Even though I’m but an armchair historian, I believe there is historical merit in doing so, especially considering that a true historian may not have the mathematical skills or abstract problem solving ability to provide a detailed account of such by way of recreation.  When Mr. Winter informs his audience, regarding the movement of marl from the quarry to the field, that, ‘Each cart [they’ve] observed is drawn by one draft horse of approximately eighteen hundred pounds, and on account of the hills, we wished that the creatures not pull more than their weight,’ the reader may comfortably accept that I did the research on how much a horse weighed, how much it could pull up a moderate hill, the like to those characteristic of the Cotswold countryside, and how much a tumbril cart would have weighed, &c.  Again I will reemphasize that I did my level best in recreating calculations that would have been accomplished in 1820 to garner the feats my characters thusly performed in the novel.

Secondly I want the audience to realize the cold hard reality of cold hard calculations.  I’m weary of those contemporary propagandists that would have us believe that scientists are ‘fudging numbers’ to conform to a liberal agenda; the like to the cooked books coal baron and billionaire Donald Blankenship of WV created to fool safety inspectors into thinking he wasn’t out to destroy his gentlemen miners for the sake of a few extra cents in earnings per share of common stock.  There’s no magic; no feelings; no mark-to-fantasy home values; just plain, simple Euclidean inspired adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  This novel is about science advocacy; here is partly the essence of science and engineering, boiled down to some rudimentary calculations.

Thirdly this novel was intended partly for the readership of those scientists fed up with the right wing think tanks’ propaganda that they are up to no good for the sake of money, that global warming is ‘the greatest hoax played on the American people’, &c.  I fancy a particular reader may try to recreate my calculations on the back of an envelope for their own amusement.

Further, this is my hobby.  The novel exists mostly for my own amusement, and is indeed not an instrument to sell a million copies to the teenage masses for the sake of wealth creation.  In fact there is some diversion from the thought of an editor, all in an uproar, over Mr. Winter’s long winded instructions inside the mundane subject of farming.

And lastly, the book is a reaction to a novel, contemporary phenomenon which marks the most significant crossroads in human history – the point where we either listen to our scientists and engineers and prosper, or we destroy ourselves needlessly for the greed of a small subset of wealthy humans, cohabiting among us.  Here, at least in my novel, the reader is obliged to listen to the scientist, understand in detail he is not a fraud, and reinforce their acceptance of the scientific method.  What an odd time we live in, drowning in technology that has improved our condition, but where it is politically fashionable to deny the method of thinking that led us to such.

Message to Potential Reviewers of ‘Of Woodbridge and Hedgely’

Note: Until a satisfactory number of reviews are present, I will provide a free mobi or pdf file of the novel to anyone that agrees to write a well thought out review on its Amazon Kindle page!  See the comments field below on how to contact me.  

Of Woodbridge and Hedgley bravely occupies what one might consider a credibly small niche in the ever growing sea of literature available online:  Firstly, it is a literary work that focuses on science denial and the flawed belief systems, mechanics of propaganda, and delinquencies of character that are nebulous to such.  Secondly, the science involved in the novel is that from the early 19th century, with emphasis on early geology (James Hutton), pre-Darwinian evolution (Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin), and the birth of agricultural chemistry (Sir Humphrey Davy); with a few brief examples of the state of engineering, concerning glass, iron, stove and boiler manufacturing.  Thusly, I often appeal to likes of ‘Science Geeks, History Geeks, and Science-History Geeks’ to answer to the call of readership:


The novel also provides subtle messages with regard to climate change and food security, basic ecology, and resource limitations. A brief overview of some of these can be found in my post entitled On the Satirical Content and Philosophical Commentary in the Novel. Readers best equipped to comprehend the novel’s offerings are those that are interested in the politics of science (such as modern climate change politics, or possibly the teaching of evolution in public schools), have at least some small degree of environmental concern, and enjoy science advocacy.


Yes, there are also secondary, Jane Austen inspired romantic subplots at work, where the novel’s frontward pages afford some mystery as to who will be married to who (and perhaps, who will fail to marry) by the end of the novel. The main character, Mr. Winter, has a habit of writing detailed poetical prose (sometimes poorly) in a journal he keeps, where he documents his scientific and engineering endeavors, and all other dealings he has in his new towns of which the novel’s title is derived. And the lead female, Harriet Moore, even offers some country poetry in the novel’s interlude. Indeed man’s interaction with the world of nature is at the very heart of music, literature and art’s 19th century romantic era, and the novel keeps to this tradition with characters enjoying the sights and smells of the small town English countryside. Yes, there is romance. It would almost seem amiss not to offer such in a Regency Era novel.

Further, the novel is an appeal to intellect, and not to pop entertainment. There are no vampires. The plots are idea driven; not action driven. The tragedy is subtle; not one character melodramatically dies. There is, however, one gentleman’s duel that represents the concept of climate change inflaming false belief systems and causing adverse physical outcomes (the U.S. military considers climate change a ‘threat multiplier’).

And so there it is, dear reviewer – my four paragraph caveat for a book that presumably benefits from explanations that exist beyond its pages; the like to the many literary works that have come before it. Indeed this blog is the primary medium in which such occurs. Please do look around if there is any question in your mind as to whether or not the novel would be a handsome addition to your collection and inspire thoughtful feedback on its kindle product page. You may also find utility in the literary questions that exist directly after the novel’s conclusion which I will post below:

For less than a cup of coffee, you too can enjoy the mechanics of propaganda.
  1. Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is set in the county Gloucestershire, in the South West of England. The two towns are separated by a fairly significant amount of wood for the area, and it becomes known in chapter nine that the closest grain markets to them were at Gloucester, Cirencester, and Stow-on-the-Wold. From these clues, can you find which two Cotswold’s towns these are modeled after? What features, such as road names, or other geographical names, did you use to confirm your answer?
  2. The author has, in many places in the novel, paid tribute to Jane Austen novels and movies, as well as Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin Series. For example, the latter author did oblige his character, Jack Aubrey, to use a particular phrase, ‘to smoke’, in a unique dialectal manner that was given to mean ‘to understand’. This may have been the author’s own invention, or it may have derived from his study of naval letters and knowledge of early 19th century dialect; but inside Of Woodbridge and Hedgely it has taken on a more general role as a substitute for having understood a phenomenon or idea. Another example, related to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, is where the character, Mr. Wyatt, who is obliged to learn to read after being unexpectedly elevated from an agricultural laborer to a land owner, has expressed a desire to show off his newfound abilities by reading William Paley’s Natural Theology to the Moore cousins, Harriet and Charlotte, at his estate home to which the ladies are invited, and which the lesser cousin conceives would be an unpleasant experience. This somewhat parallels Jane Austen’s Mr. Collins, who insists on reading James Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women to the Bennet ladies. What other hat tips does Of Woodbridge and Hedgely contain, regarding these authors? Which Jane Austen character does Harriet Moore most resemble?
  3. The novel’s purpose is to showcase science denial and manifestations of ideology confounding rational thought, using a historical lens: The phenomenon becomes readily observable when applied to scientific positions long settled in our present era, and which, even in 1820, had enough credible evidence to point thoughtful men in the proper direction towards them, but which were indeed irrationally refused by a particular individual or set. What are some of these settled scientific positions featured in the novel?
  4. Throughout the novel, the antagonists – a faction of Hedgely Particular Baptists and their agrarian laborers – have latched onto geological hypotheses and theories that were in the process of falling out of favor at the time (ex. Werner’s Neptunism). Why did these men hold so fervently to these ideas? Did each individual and socioeconomic class have its own reasons for this?
  5. Following question four, list several elements contained within the Particular Baptist’s belief systems. Further, provide a contradistinguishing list for the Anglican’s (which includes Mr. Winter, for the purpose of the question). Finally, provide instances where beliefs were held, not secondary to rational conclusions, but from social constructs and the failure of an individual to understand their own incapacity to properly assess a phenomenon, purely by reason and examination of evidence. Were there individuals within the novel that were aware of their limitations, with regard to understanding whether or not a phenomenon was probable, based rational and empirical evidence? Which modern sociopolitical groups are most similar to the Baptist and Anglican groups?
  6. Mr. Winter’s chooses two ‘experimental’ fertilizers for his two, half-acre plots, situated by the River Compton (Mr. Foster’s fields). Which of these represents the scientific pillar of reproducible results from previous discoveries and claims? Which of these represents the scientific phenomenon of serendipitous and rationally informed discovery? What do these two compounds represent with regard to modern fertilizer?
  7. The author, in various places inside the novel, offers mathematically detailed solutions to simple, logistical problems, which showcase the creative spirit of an entrepreneur and applied scientist; and the manner in which such a person would approach puzzles owning both inherent knowns and unknowns. Many days research were spent so that not only sound physics and chemistry prevailed throughout the story, but the engineering and material solutions were true to what was available in 1820 (albeit to a son of one of the wealthiest men in England, who happened to have his hand squarely on the modern industrial operations of the time). Why did the author risk stifling the flow of the novel with technical details that could be construed as excessive, or improper for popular entertainment and the casual reader?
  8. Why does the author state in chapter ten, that the most prolific female writer of the day – meaning the early 19th century – was a woman who went by the title, ‘A Lady’?
  9. Most of the natural philosophers at the time were noblemen or otherwise men financially independent. Why were there little, if any, female scientists? What were some of the disciplines or roles gentry class women could pursue during the Regency Era as a proper means of intellectual expression for their sex? Considering the time period, who are the progressive females in the novel, and who are less so? Were women of the Regency Era less, similarly, or more emotionally happy than they are in today’s Western society?
  10. Mr. Edwards dinner table is always dressed with handsome dishes during his entertaining of guests: white soup, tarts, mutton, pigeon pie, &c. But in the last part of the winter recess, he is said to have suffered a want of food reserves. It is also stated that his income may only be around 100 pounds per year. Is this character going above his means in entertaining guests?
  11. At the front of the novel, the nameless tailor’s daughter watched a glasshouse being built in Mr. Winter’s backyard. Such was the product of brand new glass and iron manufacturing techniques at the time, yet it was still quite a rare for anyone but a handful of the most wealthy people in the country to own one. What does the construction of the glasshouse represent in the novel with regard to themes? What were the latest manufacturing techniques and material innovations occurring, concerning glass and iron? Were there any other attempts previous to 1820 to install a boiler and pipe system into a glasshouse? Who owned and/or where were other glasshouses, conservatories, or orangeries located in England before 1820?

The Divine (or Blind) Watchmaker

William Paley, author of Natural Theology, a series of converging inferences on the existence of divine creation.

One of the reoccurring ideas in Of Woodbridge and Hedgely is that of clockwork, as is analogously applies to the solar system, evolutionary mechanics, and to the local ecosystem of the forest that exists between the two towns (and to the distortion of time during an acute romantic moment at the end of chapter five).

The antagonists tend to apply it in two manners:  1) as an argument that the universe/world/earth was intelligently designed, in homage to William Paley’s Natural Theology; and 2) as a foundation to their argument that evolution cannot explain the present state of the earth’s biology.  They argue that, regarding a pocket watch, if one component of the clockwork – say as spring, lever or gear – was to change shape (or perhaps metallurgic properties) that the watch would fail to function; and then such is analogically applied to the idea of evolution:  if one animal or plant were to change, this too could be detrimental to the entire system; and thus if there is no detriment being witnessed, then the concept of evolution is wrong.  Such is most eloquently expressed in chapter six of the novel, in the antagonist’s propaganda pamphlet, in which the author, Mr. Princep, writes:

‘…Should we be so bold as to disrupt supreme authority, as well as the simplest common sense, in venturing beyond the notion that the Lord without question has the capacity to create a cow, a hen or a hog in but one day, further insisting that he has done so? Whatever for would a brilliant creator of heaven and earth waste a thousand, or ten thousand, or a million years doing what he could do in a day? As to the supposed mechanism let us dispel it by considering the following: Firstly, that as all of creation may easily be compared to a supreme apparatus – let us say a great clock – constructed by our Lord, the Watchmaker – and this is not too burdensome to conceive when we observe the perfect motion of our heavenly bodies – it must thusly follow that each animal and plant tribe upon our earth are but tiny gears or instruments whom do play small but vital roles to the continuance of our Clock’s right motion. Therefore if but one part is corrupted, the entire machine becomes lost; and every right clockmaker or engineer knows that the resilience of their parts against such corrosion is vital to the longevity of that from which they are made; the weakest gear or assembly being the limiting factor. Would not then our heavenly Watchmaker to his fullest capacity ensure that the weakest gear in His great Clock, be it animal, plant, or other have an inextinguishable fortitude against corruption? To say otherwise is atheism…

This argument is deficient in that it is ignorant of the phenomenon of extinction, which was still a new concept in the early 19th century, derived from Cuvier’s examination of northern hemispheric mammoth bones,  but was ironically known to the protagonists, through parson Jonathan Moore’s science lectures.  The argument is also ignorant of the basic mechanics of evolution where species can ‘react’ to, or with the environment, sometimes fluidly, to become better equipped to survive its tribulations; a somewhat pertinent, though imperfect, analogy of this being that of an old, worn gear in a watch being replaced with better made one; its excellence naturally derived from the original piece’s experience.  And at one point in the novel this antagonistic argument is stifled by Mr. Winter’s dispelling of artificial rigidity of the earth system, when he rejects the parroting out of the talking point by an indoctrinated field worker:

‘An’ how many times must it be pounded, sirs – th’ world is but a clock made by Divinity, with gears that cannot become molest’d…’

‘Or else they do, causing the gears adjacent to do so as well, and then those tertiary members respectively having their turn; and so on throughout until by the appreciation of deep time an entirely new clock is born! Good afternoon, gentlemen’, piped up the lonely gentleman that had been keeping to himself in the corner as he rose to quit the room.  

‘Oh, oh! Damn my eyes – it ‘twas the Frenchman!’, cried one of the Hedgely’s as the man exited the inn.    

‘The Mr. Winter?’

‘Oh, he was in disguise without his Napoleon’s jacket!’  

‘He’s sure to go directly to Mr. Moore and we are all to be hung!’ 

Yet it was the propagandist’s style of argument that allowed the religiously indoctrinated to so readily grab hold of the concept.  In chapter six, Mr. Princep explains his methods of argument:

‘Whilst I know not of any one piece of philosophical information that can comprehensively break their entire lot, we must however constantly strive to create the perception that such can be done, or has already been done. Indeed in a contradistinguishing fashion to one sole, all-smiting stroke, we, to the greatest effect, thus work in the realm gratuitous rhetoric, the like to a London barrister weaving a case by multiple strands, the greater of these appealing to an audience not necessarily on any logical ground, but in a manner rhetorical, political, emotive, or otherwise. To be sure, we will have our moments for a given strand: we may find a careless error in our adversary’s argument and work to turn such into a very great thing indeed. But the better part must be attractive enough, even in cases of broken reason, that it remains effective; in fact it’s probably most efficacious not to subject any strand to the focus on first principles or evidence. By this style of argument, several strands may buckle or break, but if the majority stay intact then we give ourselves the finest cause to be the victors. And for every strand our adversary produces, we need only continuously produce two against it to legitimize our stand against him’. 

This is also the method in which the modern climate denial propagandists (conservative think tanks, Fox News, &c.) get their audience stirred up.  And further down the page Mr. Princep states:

‘For the material that is relevant to your particular country towns sirs, sharp wit is not our instrument; rather the opposite: We must solicit the admiration of dullards that hold the way of the world, not in long drawn out passages, but in quick bites of ‘truths’ that are easily clapped onto: casual observances that work more times than not, even if but near half of those, yet which they will grasp onto most angrily on all occasion as a function of they being so readily understood, and by their holder’s frailty of mind in the presence of the unfamiliar, or that which is troublesome to smoke…’

‘An egg in the pudding is worth two in the bush, sir?’

‘To that effect, yes; our arguments must be the like to such. However the pamphlet itself is the better exemple: Do I not know my audience when I provide, “Why would God do in ten thousand years, what he could do in a day?”? I believe they very much delight in a sprightly little sting such as that’, returned Mr. Princep.

‘Oh, Mr. Princep – there you have it! You’ve knocked them all flat with but a handful of wit! I had read it of course in our publication, but not until this moment, when you’d pressed upon it, did I gather its full capacity!’, cried the preacher.

‘Y-yes sir, indeed’, their author returned in another fit of blinking.

Basically, Mr. Princep is arguing for the use of an easily remembered meme or talking point that sounds witty or clever, even though the notion is, more often than not, veritably false or misleading.  The concept of offering a Gish gallop of ‘strands’ of information to form a rhetorical argument was something I came across when reading the introduction to William Paley’s Natural Theology:

page xx, Introduction, Natural Theology
page xxi, Introduction, Natural Theology

And it may be incidentally noted, having now displayed part of this well done introduction, that Paley’s early 19th century work was getting the ball rolling on the denial of evolution by 1) misunderstanding its mechanics and then applying straw-man arguments against such.  [This is easy enough to do since all he had to work with at that point was Erasmus Darwin, possibly Lamarck (though I believe Lamarck’s theory was published after Natural Theology, if I’m not mistaken), and other immature hypotheses; The Origin of Species was still more than half a century away; whilst Jame’s Hutton’s chapter hinting at natural selection was tucked away in a book consisting of thousands of pages, the volume discouraging its reading.  And indeed, it’s hard to even give Paley this handicap, as one of the fundamental tenants in Darwin’s and Lamark’s evolutionary philosophy is that species evolve in reaction to evolutionary pressure:  Erasmus Darwin even lists three facets to this in the his chapter on generation in Zoonomia: mating advantages, advantages in food acquisition, and advantages in the dissuasion of predators];  2) by misapplying probabilistic reasoning; and 3) by his ignorance of the phenomenon of extinction.

I’ve showcased some of Paley’s fallacies in my novel, again using the antagonist propaganda pamphlet, The Balanced Scale, which quotes from him the following:

“…There is another answer which has the same effect as the resolving of things into chance; which would persuade us to believe that the eye, the animal to which it belongs, every other animal, every plant, indeed every organized body which we see are only so many out of the possible varieties and combinations of being, which the lapse of infinite ages has brought into existence; that the present world is the relic of that variety; millions of other bodily forms and other species having perished, being by the defect of their constitutions incapable of preservation, or of continuance by generation. Now there is no foundation whatever for this conjecture in anything which we observe in the works of nature; no such experiments are going on at present; no such energy operates as that which is here supposed, and which should be constantly pushing into existence new varieties of beings: Nor are there any appearances to support an opinion, that every possible combination of vegetable or animal structure has formerly been tried. Multitudes of conformations, both of vegetables and animals, may be conceived capable of existence and succession which yet do not exist. Perhaps almost as many forms of plants might have been found in the fields, as figures of plants can be delineated upon paper. A countless variety of animals might have existed which do not exist. Upon the supposition here stated, we should see unicorns and mermaids, sylphs and centaurs, the fancies of painters, and the fables of poets, realized by examples. Or if it be alleged that these may transgress the limits of possible life and propagation, we might at least have nations of human beings without nails upon their fingers, with more or fewer fingers and toes than ten, some with one eye, others with one ear, with one nostril, or without the sense of smelling at all…”

And of course everything that gets published in The Balanced Scale eventually gets parroted out by the uneducated Baptist field workers, no doubt in the same smug, Dunning-Kruger inspired cockiness that is to be found inside informal internet conversations, concerning climate change, &c.:

‘Rain an’ shine mates, an’ what be th’ newest on centaurs an’ fairies?’

‘Centaurs and fairies, sir?’, returned one of the Woodbridge’s, genuinely confounded.

‘An’ mermaids’.

The locals looked amongst themselves for answers that did not materialize, and when a consensus of ignorance was established they peered back at the Hedgely with pursed lips and furrowed brows that he may issue his point, for it was clear he was gaming them.

‘Does your parson not preach that man’s arisen directly from emmets an’ worms?’    

‘No sir, he does not!’

‘That from th’ Great First Seed all creatures are sprung?’

There he had them. They understood their opponent’s design, and consequently their faces hotly flushed beyond that of the effects of their grog and they began to lightly pant, for the last time transmutation became the subject of debate, noses were broken and eyes were blackened. Unmade they appeared, for some among them were not viscerally convinced by all of Mr. Darwin, and what cognitive impartiality they had mustered for the sake of Jonathan Moore had been wounded by their recent revelation that the parson personally included man in the fold of animals that had gradually formed from microscopic beings – a tough nut to crack for many in their community who had been told otherwise all their lives by the very man. Indeed it might have been their lack of enthusiasm in defending the poet-doctor’s ideas with their own that had brought the debate so rapidly to a scuffle during their last assembly.  

But let us now wrap back around to the concept of clockwork for the final leg of this posting and illuminate some of the protagonists’ thoughts – namely Mr. Winter’s – on the ecology of the local forest, and on the experience of romantic lust within it, with such in mind.   Upon walking through the forest in the first chapter of the novel – that which seeks to paint its setting – Mr. Winter comes to the following epiphany:

But the forest needed no such attention: the thirsty Willow arranged itself by water courses; the autumn leaves and the offerings of the birds, squirrels, and every other creature present manured the soil and enlivened it, that there were no areas fallow or need be so. Pestilence was held in check, Mr. Winter rationalized, as function of the rich variation of flora and fauna of the wood, for just as agrarian fields were less susceptible to disease as their contents became more varied season by season through the introduction of rotation, such manifested exponentially here, though he admitted that the mechanics of this were still partly a mystery. And acts of man, be they structures, paths, or otherwise, if left in want of attention would be reclaimed by the forest, similar to the body’s reaction to a minor cut or wound. It was as if the wood was a great perpetual clock having hundreds to thousands of working parts which were self-righting and self-tinkering, that all gave and received from each other purpose.

And in chapter five, we have his moment of passion, in which scientific notions on this clockwork are replaced with poetic ones:

Mr. Winter felt the passage of time become gnarled as if the great perpetual clock of the wood was gently amiss: some ten fathoms above, the wind did dart to and fro through their tree’s oldest branches, causing sharpened wisps of sound to cry ‘hurry’ to the already shortened day; but below there was no such haste: Droplets lazily fell from the lowest branches and quietly and flatly puttered upon the forest litter, and the gusts were never quite so quarrelsome as to be the cause of their reddened cheeks. He was vaguely aware of the harm he was then to accomplish, but more so he was paradoxically at ease, for this woman calmed him and kept him from suffering the work of the clock, that he was indifferent to the consequences of the next year, the next month, or the next day.    

And I believe that’s all the other great perpetual clock has for me this evening…

Do Waterwheel Pumps Cause the Marthambles?

Turbines no doubt causing herpes outbreak epidemics. Compliments of Wikimedia Commons.

Of Woodbridge and Hedgely contains several satirical moments that poke fun at the modern anti-science crowd, which may be lost one folks not intimately acquainted with the propaganda currently being generated by climate denialists and anti-clean energy associations funded by those with stakes in the fossil fuel industry.   Luckily, I’m here to help:

In Episode 6th of the novel, we find the engineer, Thomas Winter, committing to his journal a recount of the obstruction the novel’s antagonists have served out regarding his recently installed water pumps (see previous blog post on water wheel pumps) which will be used to deliver water to a set of small fields to be mixed with a primitive nitrogen fertilizer he’s experimenting with.  He writes the following:

‘…George Moore has naturally taken some complaints concerning my engineering endeavors – firstly against my pools, for as soon as my hires had presented to the fields the ridiculous notion that I was to glaze over the land and take backdoor payments on tax collections sprung up again, causing time to be wasted on the part of all involved. And as quick as the howling of these dogs quieted down after having been satisfied in our suffering of time, they started up again upon the recent deployment of my water wheel pumps: Claims that they were a blight on the countryside, ruining its continuity and picturesque quality, became a pounding point by this same set of men at the latest Society meeting. No doubt they further authored the misinformation that the pumps would be uncommon loud, like steam pumps when they ran at full capacity, and that the noise and vibration would cause those proximal to suffer “headaches, dyspepsia, shortened tempers, and any other manner of nervous attitude putting them and their offspring in the way of infectious sequelae”, those specifically mentioned being pox, influenza, measles, whooping cough and even the nefarious marthambles. I’m now obliged to dispel these charges through demonstrations, again dampening my schedule whilst these few wag their tales and salivate at having further antagonized me.’                

The satire is revealed when one realizes all the loathsome tactics the antagonists use to slow the progress of Mr. Winter’s experiment are the selfsame tactics currently being used by anti-wind groups (as in wind turbines – renewable energy).  The waterwheel pumps indeed act as a satirical proxy for modern wind turbines.  I’m sure a significant amount of readers have heard, through the media, some of the anti-wind propaganda – they muck up the countryside, they’re loud, &c. – so I needn’t explain these grievances further.  But the ‘plum in the pudding’, as is colloquially stated throughout the novel, is the notion that these contraptions cause those nearby to suffer illnesses they otherwise wouldn’t have.  Enter the mischief of modern propagandists and activists:

From Desmogblog:

Research Finds Wind Farm Health Concerns Probably Caused By Anti-Wind Scare Campaigns

By Graham Readfearn • Thursday, March 14, 2013 – 21:55

‘ANTIWIND farm activists around the world have created a silent bogeyman they claim can cause everything from sickness and headaches to herpes, kidney damage and cancers.

This “infrasound” exists at frequencies too low for the human ear to detect but is present almost everywhere from offices and roadsides to waves tumbling on ocean beaches. These low frequencies can crawl menacingly from the back of your kitchen fridge or from your heart beating.

Despite the ubiquitous nature of infrasound, anti-wind farm groups such as Australia’s Waubra Foundation like people to think that it’s only inaudible infrasound from wind turbines which might send residents to their sick beds.

But two new studies suggest the cause of health complaints by people living near wind farms could in fact be down to the scare campaign of the anti-wind groups and reports about such scares in the media.

The first study Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines? was published earlier this month in Health Psychology – a journal of the American Psychological Association.

The researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand wanted to find out if simply exposing people to warnings that turbines might make you ill was enough to cause them to report typical symptoms such as headaches and nausea.

Using 54 people, the researchers showed half the group five minutes of footage of people complaining that wind farms had made them ill. Some of the footage was taken from this Australian Broadcasting Corporation report (watch it here) into “Waubra disease” where residents were filmed complaining about a wind farm at Waubra in Victoria. Footage was also taken from this CTV Network report from Canada about a wind farm in Ontario.

This group was called the “high expectancy group” because the information they were given had led them to expect they might experience certain symptoms if exposed to infrasound. The other half of the group was shown interviews with experts stating that the science showed infrasound could not directly cause health problems.

The researchers then told each person they were going to be exposed to two 10-minute periods of infrasound in a special acoustic room when, in fact, for one of those periods they would be exposed to no sound at all, or “sham infrasound” as the researchers describe it.  So what happened?

The response from the “high expectancy” group was to report that the “infrasound” had caused them to experience more symptoms which were more intense. This was the case whether they were exposed to sham infrasound or genuine infrasound. The report explains that “the number of symptoms reported and the intensity of the symptom experienced during listening sessions were not affected by exposure to infrasound but were influenced by expectancy group allocation.”

In the low expectancy group, the infrasound and sham infrasound had little to no effect. In other words, the study found that if a person is told that wind turbines will make them ill then they are likely to report symptoms, regardless of whether they are exposed to infrasound or not.

Clearly, this points the finger at anti-wind farm campaigns as a potential cause of people’s symptoms, rather than “infrasound” from turbines. The research added: “The importance of findings in this study is that symptom expectations were created by viewing TV material readily available on the Internet, indicating the potential for such expectations to be created outside of the laboratory in real-world settings.”

Writing about her research on The Conversation, lead author Fiona Crichton says

The findings indicate that negative health information readily available to people living in the vicinity of wind farms has the potential to create symptom expectations, providing a possible pathway for symptoms attributed to operating wind turbines. This may have wide-reaching implications. If symptom expectations are the root cause of symptom reporting, answering calls to increase minimum wind-farm set back distances is likely to do little to assuage health complaints.

Reading some news reports (such as those offered by The Australian newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd or anti-wind activist and UK anti-wind columnist James Delingpole) and material from anti-wind farm groups, it might seem that health complaints are common among people living near turbines.

But an as yet unpublished study (and therefore not peer-reviewed) just released by Simon Chapman, the Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, suggests only a tiny proportion of people living near turbines do actually complain and, when they do, the complaints coincide with campaigning from anti-wind groups.

Chapman looked at health complaints made by residents living within 5 kilometres of all 49 wind farms operating in Australia between 1993 and 2012. After reviewing media reports, public inquiries and complaints to wind companies themselves, Chapman found evidence of only 120 individuals having actually complained – representing about 1 in 272 people living near wind farms.

But significantly, Chapman found that 81 of those 120 residents were living beside just five wind farms “which have been heavily targeted by anti wind farm groups”. What’s more, some 82 per cent of all the complaints had occured since 2009 when Chapman says anti-wind farm groups began to push the health scare as part of their opposition to turbines.

Some 31 of the 49 wind farms studied had never been subjected to a complaint either about noise or health.

“The 31 farms with no histories of complaints, and which today have some 21,530 residents within 5km of their turbines have operated for a cumulative total of 256 years,” says Chapman’s report. In Chapman’s research, he says that anxiety among residents increases as media reports spread the stories of health concerns and as researchers start investigating.

One down side to this research is, of course, that it tells anti-wind farm groups that by concentrating on unproven health concerns, their campaigns can illicit a steady flow of complaints and negative sentiment from communities.’

And aside from plums in puddings, the cherry on top of my satire is that the antagonists’ scare tactics concerning illnesses contains the ‘nefarious marthambles’.  You see the marthambles was a fictional disease authored to sell snake oil health remedies in the 18th century.

And now you may ever so slightly raise one corner of your mouth and blink once in appreciation of the subtleness of the humor.

Particular Baptist Itinerant Preachers of the Late 18th and Early 19th Centuries

Methodist minister E. Eggleston getting his groove on.

Two of the antagonists in Of Woodbridge and Hedgely, a Mr. Edwards and a Mr. Wyatt, are bound fraternally to one another not only by their religion – that of the Particular Baptist denomination – but that both their fathers were itinerant preachers, traveling about the countryside to bring their message to a wider audience, amongst a sea of proper Anglicans.  During my research on Particular Baptists, I came across this gem on these roaming evangelists in The Baptist Quarterly, entitled Particular Baptist Itinerant Preachers During the late 18th and early 19th Centuries and thought I may post a quick link, so that not only may others enjoy reading this history, but also I may clear one more open tab off my internet browser!  There is much more to say (and more references to post) regarding the Particular Baptists, the novel, and my research, but for now I will just say this reference does mention a few places I’ve illuminated in the book:  The Bristol Baptist College (which cranked out a who’s-who of Baptist preachers during the era), and Horsley Baptist Church in Gloucestershire, the county in which my story takes place.

Page 1 of the article
Page 2 of the article

Further reading:

An excellent history of Particular Baptists, their major authority figures, publications, and fraternities:  History of the English Calvinistic Baptists, 1771-1892 From John Gill to C.H. Spurgeon, Pastor’s Fraternal – Heritage Church, Fayetteville, Georgia February 22, 2008 (opens with Word or other word processors that accommodate rtf (rich text format) files)

A history of Bristol Baptist College and its presidents entitled Bristol Baptist College – the 250th Anniversary [pdf] from The Baptist Quarterly

Some rough cut-n-paste research I’ve done on the differences between Baptists and Anglicans [Word 2003 file]

How much did a newspaper (or pamphlet) cost in 1820?

Some of Woodbridge and Hedgely’s plot in the later chapters hinges on the fact that a newspaper or pamphlet in 1820 was quite expensive.  [The book is partly a literary examination of propaganda, and in the early 19th century, propaganda naturally was published through these mediums.]  But just how expensive were they?

One would be forgiven were they to assume such a triviality would be just a few clicks away on the all-knowing internet, and all that they must accomplish is a quick trip to www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk    Here’s a screenshot of all the 1820’s newspapers:

The British Newspaper Archive for 1820

However, one quickly finds that clicking on any individual paper results in not a full size image of such, so that a printed price may be looked upon, but instead a pay-wall page loads and wants a fair amount of coin before any detail is spared.

Okay, so what other route do we have?

Rummaging through Google with popular publication names for the era and also creating more generic approaches, one finds the same sentence posted on multiple pages, harvested no doubt from but one, individual source.  From www.georgianindex.net we find:

‘A tax was first imposed on British newspapers in 1712. The tax was gradually increased until the 1815 Stamp Act increased it to 4d. a copy. As few people could afford to pay 6d. or 7d. for a newspaper, the tax restricted the circulation of most of these journals to people with fairly high incomes. Some radicals, such as Richard Carlile, ignored the law and continued to publish his newspaper, The Republican without paying stamp duty. The tax remained high until 1855 when it was reduced to 1d.’

And we can even find more detail about the Stamp Duty on find.galegroup.com who professes:

‘At the beginning of the nineteenth century, in 1800, Britain had been at war with France since 1793, and would remain so (with a small gap) until 1815. The needs of the nation to fund a protracted war drove events that influenced taxation policy, which in turn influenced newspaper publication in this period. Newspapers remained essentially what they had been—similar in form and style to earlier decades, under-capitalised and produced in small workshops, and financially incapable of drawing upon the services of professional journalists.1 Equally, there is no doubt that newspapers were well established in all regions of the United Kingdom, in the major cities and in London.

The high taxation imposed by the British government had a real impact upon the production and sale of newspapers. This had the effect of both restricting investment in newspapers, and so their potential for development, while also distorting the patterns of publication. By 1815 the rates of duty had been raised to: paper duty 3d. per pound in weight; stamp duty 4d. a sheet; advertising duty 3s. 6d. for an advertisement. By these means, more revenue was raised for the government, and the circulation of newspapers could be restricted via the cover price to the rich and reputedly reliable members of society. This structure was, however, relaxed gradually. In the years 1833-1836, advertising duty and paper duty were halved, and the stamp duty was reduced from 4d. to 1d. Advertising duty was abolished in1853; the stamp duty in 1855, and finally, the duty on paper in 1861.2

We’re still dealing in ambiguity concerning the duties:  I’ve assumed the cost of the end product, be it paper or pamphlet, has in it both the paper duty and the stamp duty; the former being somewhat negligible in relation to the latter.  Each sheet was probably folded into folio or quarto format, so I’ll also assume an average publication may have been made up of a couple sheets (and this is what I used for my novel’s fictional propaganda pamphlet, The Balanced Scale, lovingly titled in homage of Fox News’ ‘Fair and Balanced’ motto).  But a conflict arises between my two previous sources:  the first says 4d. per newspaper (I’m assuming pamphlet as well); the second says 4d. per sheet and thusly a publication made with two sheets of paper would have an 8d. duty.  And lastly if a newspaper cost 6 or 7d. then it was either just made of one sheet on average, or the duty assignment was different for this particular publishing format.

One finds from wiki, that during the original issuance of the duties, multiple sheets were taxed more than single sheets (but of course between 1765 and 1820, the details of the law may have been changed):

‘The Stamp Act was passed by Parliament on March 22, 1765 with an effective date of November 1, 1765. It passed 205–49 in the House of Commons and unanimously in the House of Lords.[28] Historians Edmund and Helen Morgan describe the specifics of the tax:

The highest tax, £10, was placed … on attorney licenses. Other papers relating to court proceedings were taxed in amounts varying from 3d. to 10s. Land grants under a hundred acres were taxed 1s. 6d., between 100 and 200 acres 2s., and from 200 to 320 acres 2s. 6d., with an additional 2s 6d. for every additional 320 acres (1.3 km2). Cards were taxed a shilling a pack, dice ten shillings, and newspapers and pamphlets at the rate of a penny for a single sheet and a shilling for every sheet in pamphlets or papers totaling more than one sheet and fewer than six sheets in octavo, fewer than twelve in quarto, or fewer than twenty in folio (in other words, the tax on pamphlets grew in proportion to their size but ceased altogether if they became large enough to qualify as a book).’

late 18th century printer from Strabane, Ulster, UK, where John Dunlap, printer of the Declaration of Independence, worked as an apprentice.

But wait!  There’s more!  What of the cost of the paper?  Obviously a proportion of the price of a product is the cost of the material.  Though I couldn’t find a British manufacturing source, I did happen to find an American one for the year 1810, which is fairly close to our 1820 number, as the large scale, contemporary economic growth we enjoy today was never so vicious in the early 19th century, and thusly inflationary pressure was small enough that prices didn’t move upwards significantly enough over a 10 year period for it to impact our answer that much.  From page 25 of the book, The History of Printing in America:

‘My endeavors to obtain an accurate account of the paper mills in the United States have not succeeded agreeably to my wishes as I am not enabled to procure a complete list of the mills and the quantity of paper manufactured in all the states.  I have not received any particulars that can be relied on from some of the states, but I believe the following statement will come near the truth.  From the information I have collected it appears that the mills for manufacturing paper are in number about one hundred and eighty five, viz: in New Hampshire 7, Massachusetts 40, Rhode Island 4, Connecticut 17, Vermont 9, New York 12, Delaware 10, Maryland 3, Virginia 4, South Carolina 1, Kentucky 6, Tennessee 4, Pennsylvania about 60, (and) in all the other states and territories, say 18.  Total 195 in the year 1810.  At these mills it may be estimated that there are manufactured annually 50,000 reams of paper which is consumed in the publication of 22,500,000 newspapers.  This kind of paper is at various prices according to the quality and size and will average three dollars per ream at which this quantity will amount to 150,000 dollars The weight of the paper will be about 500 tons.

Now we’re left with a few more assumptions:  1) that the tons expressed are imperial tons (long tons historically used to measure ship displacement); and 2) that the price of creating paper in the US is somewhat similar to that in the UK, during this pre-globalization period.  With these assumptions we need only to convert US dollars to English pounds using a historical conversion rate:  I’m using www.measuringworth.com and looking at the period between 1800 and 1820.  Here we find that in 1800, the conversion is $4.55 per £1, and by 1820 it’s $4.52.

Thus far we can calculate a cost of a paper from the duty + material cost:

50,000 reams/22,500,000 newspapers * $3.00/ream * £1/$4.52 = £0.0015/paper or 1/3 of a pence for the material cost (0.36 pence)

500 imperials tons/22,500,000 newspapers * 2240 pounds/imperial ton * 3d./pound = 0.15 pence per paper or between 1/6th and 1/7th of a pence is the weight duty per paper

And of course, how we interpret the Stamp Duty and number of sheets per paper gives us either 4 pence per paper or 8 pence per paper as explained above.  Let’s consider that the 6 to 7 pence per paper reference above too is correct and assign a 4 pence per paper duty.

duties + material cost is therefore = 4 +0.36 +0.15 = 4.51 pence.

What this means is that if the 6 to 7 pence number is correct, the printer’s operating costs plus profit were to be taken from 1.5 to 2.5 pence per paper.  Is that enough to pay rent, feed his apprentice, pay editor(s) and content creator(s), maintain his press, and perhaps pay a junior printer (traveling journeyman)?  In 1820 the options‡ for a press were either a traditional wooden contraption that could crank out 200 papers per hour, or a new Stanhope iron press, invented around 1800, which improved efficiency to 250 papers per hour.  Given this production limitation, does this 6 to 7 pence number make sense?

I would assume that a printer in 1820 must be making at least enough to pay himself £100/yr., out of his operating costs, to maintain a middling life, have a family, &c. If the printer had a readership of say 1,500 per week, at 2 pence per paper allocated to operating costs, this would translate to £650/yr. to pay himself and run the business.  I would say, having little experience in the matter, that such would be sufficient; but modulating the readership and operating cost allocation (which is a function of price) upwards or downwards just a bit creates a relatively rich printer, or a poor one, respectively.  One must also take into account that only well off people could regularly pay 6 or 7 pence for a paper, and their populations were probably on the scrawny side.  One historical blogger says the following, regarding the American sector:

‘It has been estimated that the largest circulation of a single newspaper during the earlier colonial period was about 350 and that only a few reached this high of a number of circulation.  By the 1750’s circulation for larger city newspapers reached upwards of 600 of each issue printed and during the Revolutionary War some newspapers boasted circulations in excess of 2000.  By 1790 most newspapers were printing less than 1000 copies but the very popular “Columbian Centinel” from Boston was printing over 4000 copies of each printing date.

Despite poor equipment, limited circulation, nonpaying subscribers, poor distribution facilities & the general unprofitability of publishing a newspaper, the number of newspapers being published continued to increase as the years went by. There were numerous failures, but new newspapers were established to replace them. From 1704 to 1820 about 1634 newspapers came to life and died. Of that number only two-thirds of them lived beyond three years.’

What do you think?  Obviously a casual internet search will filter for the most prominent printers of the day, and thus skew the results to the more lucrative players, but what about the average printer?  If you have any pieces to this puzzle let me know in the comments below. For my part I’m going to conclude 6 or 7 cents was probably a fair cost at the time, and lack of volume was made up on the margins; and that theoretically this would favor a small population of wealthy printers in the market.

‡Incidentally by 1820, The Times was using the new steam driven, cylinder laden, mechanized press that could produce 1000 papers per hour:

‘The fortunes of these daily London newspapers were eclipsed by the progress of The Times. Under the energetic proprietorship of John Walter (1776-1847), the Koenig Steam press was introduced to The Times in November 1814, producing 1,000 sheets per hour. The new machinery meant that the paper could go to press later but still contain more recent news than other dailies.’ (source: galegroup)

Further reading: