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When my thoughts have recently blown drearily onto the act of book promotion, they’ve swirled and coalesced about the dates of November 27th (Black Friday), through Cyber Monday, to December 1st, for the obvious reason, having to do with capitalizing on the large volume of online traffic during such period. Yet when I went to set the promotion on KDP Select, I noticed that I had not expended my ‘free promo’ days for this particular fiscal quarter, ending on November 6th, if memory at all serves presently. And thusly, I arbitrarily chalked in an October 29th through November 2nd schedule to burn off the days, and have thrown a few advertising dollars out to some of the higher Alexa ranking sites that don’t charge arms, legs, nor otherwise the like.
This go ’round, I’ve changed my advert copy to something less literary or intellectual in impression, but instead, in an almost contradistinguishing fashion, to a more humanistic and popular entertainment quality. In such, I’ve slightly reinvented my protagonist from a thoughtful man of applied scientific accomplishment, who tangentially is thrown upon the belches and quakes of love, to a lady’s man, devoted to winning a woman by means of extraordinary accomplishment, which of course is only enacted as a function of amorous pursuit. I’m not the most quick minded in the realm of base social interaction, but I believe that is what popular mythology – aka, products generated from the entertainment industry to attract young consumers – promulgates in order for such to maximize profit: Some quintessential version of old world Chivalry, that can be summarized by the Bryan Adam’s song, ‘Everything I Do, I Do it for You’, constructed for the film, Robin Hood; certainly not the realized version of such, where if one defeats a woman’s husband in some battle sport, they are thus, um, privy to his armor, &c., and her – his wife.
At any rate, let us examine the ways in which I’ve perjured myself in the quest for a continuance of lunch money, of which this novel does provide, by means of Amazon Kindle sales. Here is the newly minted synopsis donned on the Amazon page:
In 1820, in the binary country towns of Woodbridge and Hedgely, Gloucestershire, England, Thomas Winter, bachelor of independent means, had a problem. He was in love with a young woman from a prominent family in the area, thoroughly attached to her countryside, but he having always kept a rather itinerant life, working as an engineer about the country, had to prove to her kin that he could be a reliable and productive member of their society before a marriage proposal would be deemed proper. The industrious Mr. Winter therefore endeavored to increase the agricultural yields of the land surrounding these towns by applying the latest science and engineering of the day, yet to his surprise, he soon discovered a large faction of his neighbors, comprised of several of the towns’ farmers, didn’t believe in science! He found himself the target of a propaganda war, alongside his ally, parson Jonathan Moore, who had begun a lecture series focused on natural history, their antagonists motivated by religious ideology and, for the part of a handsome but dull landowner, romantic adversity. This is the story of how manufactured science denial can tear apart two neighborly towns, pitting brother against brother, and how just, right and scientific men do prevail over such.
As I said, a more human element is the focus of this summary; no inorganic chemistry, dimensional analysis, olden geological or evolutionary theories, hints of political satire, or anything else the like: science denial is not the literary nucleus, but rather just a nebulous barrier that gets between a man and the woman he is pursuing. But let us take this in parts, that the true story may be discovered:
In 1820, in the binary country towns of Woodbridge and Hedgely, Gloucestershire, England, Thomas Winter, bachelor of independent means, had a problem. He was in love with a young woman from a prominent family in the area, thoroughly attached to her countryside, but he having always kept a rather itinerant life, working as an engineer about the country, had to prove to her kin that he could be a reliable and productive member of their society before a marriage proposal would be deemed proper.
Sure, it’s true Mr. Winter is in love with a particular young lady whose identity is not revealed until the middle chapters, and it’s further correct that in his mind, he is obliged to accomplish his wholly self-defined endeavorments before he believes this woman’s family will heartily accept him showing up unannounced at their front door, in order to convince her father that their attachment is beyond any simple, worldly explosion. But more than likely, even if Mr. Winter had failed in his scientific pursuits, he would still have been accepted by this woman and her family, by function of his income and inheritable assets alone, and perhaps further, on the notion that he intended to quit the industrial scene and set up shop in Hedgely for as long as his father – an industrial master of mankind – was alive.
Mr. Winter therefore endeavored to increase the agricultural yields of the land surrounding these towns by applying the latest science and engineering of the day, yet to his surprise, he soon discovered a large faction of his neighbors, comprised of several of the towns’ farmers, didn’t believe in science!
Here again is the implication that everything Mr. Winter does, he does it for her, yet again I will emphasize he is not so one dimensional: He tosses and turns on whether or not he should even pursue her, and once a rival presents to their society, he puts it in mind to give her up altogether, and concentrate on his work at hand. Were it not that his love secretly reciprocated his sentiments, and was able to travel outside the bounds of social construct and admit as much, his cowardice would have paid him but tragedy in the end.
With regard to the man being surprised at the farmers’ indifference toward his prerogative to apply scientific knowledge for the purpose of augmenting crops yields, there are a few points to make: Firstly, Mr. Winter is an impartial observer of everything around him; he takes in information without assigning any rash prejudices or acute tempers to such, and later quietly contemplates the mechanics involved in their presentation. In other words, he’s rarely surprised by any event, proximally or not. Unfortunately, in the writing of advert copy, dramatic emotional swings hold greater weight than thoughtful stoicism: The average entertainment consumer is attracted to over-the-top action, with the category ‘action and adventure’ polling high in what novel readers are interested in.
Secondly, as we’re dealing with a credible amount of realism here – where character motivations aren’t derived from some inherent ‘good’ or ‘evil’ standing, arbitrarily defined for the sake of instilling the plot with necessary conflict, but conversely, come organically, through the convergence of a suite of situational forcings – it’s unnecessary for Mr. Winter to be even the least surprised at anything the farmers offer (they are, after all, acting rationally, given their particular positions); much less exude the melodrama implied in the synopsis. In fact, he – again, the astute observer – knows perfectly what they’re about:
Here is a relatively young upstart with no agricultural experience, no practice under his belt, trying to convince old veterans of the field that he can make their businesses more profitable – a profit none of them are particularly missing, nor have any desire in achieving, so late in life and uninterested in innovation they are: When one becomes old and accomplished, it is a credible level of constancy that is held in high regard, not sweeping change that may knock certain unlucky fellows off their feet. Indeed, it is illuminated in the later chapters, that they realize any increase in profit only stimulates their local master of mankind – the squire and extensive landowner, whom several of their mates rent their farms from – to increase their let, leaving them with the obligation of increased productivity year after year and no net benefit from their original enthusiasm.
Further these men have been indoctrinated by a staunch religious component intricately woven inside their culture which 1) has a certain penchant for orthodoxy and tradition; and 2) offers a world view that is uncommonly comforting in its simplicity, so much so that anything which is perceived as disruptive to such must either be ignored or dissolved with a confident might; its wielder never questioning the morality of such, so convinced they are of their righteousness. This too lends a given level of resistance by the farmers against anyone who is, or is perceived to be representing The Enlightenment, which of course holds rationalism and empiricism in higher regard than the set of bronze age fables that comprise the Bible; surely the gravest of sins. They are also not unique among the indoctrinated in that they are apt to find a rational for whatever they are pleased to do by way of a particular passage or principle in the Bible: They have no desire to increase yields – certainly not by instruction from an outsider – and therefore are not gluttons, coveting their neighbor’s profit or the like.
He found himself the target of a propaganda war, alongside his ally, parson Jonathan Moore, who had begun a lecture series focused on natural history, their antagonists motivated by religious ideology and, for the part of a handsome but dull landowner, romantic adversity. This is the story of how manufactured science denial can tear apart two neighborly towns, pitting brother against brother, and how just, right and scientific men do prevail over such.
Here I have little to add other than some of the antagonists and propagandists do become somewhat reformed in the end, so it is not as though the scientific men have crushed their enemies, but rather the antagonism is culled for the sake of the towns’ fellowship. One point I do make in the novel in the ending chapters is that even though there is a cessation of the propaganda at that point, the effects of such still linger in the communities. I’ve designed this, like many passages in the novel, as a comment on climate change denial propaganda: Exxon no longer funds the radical right-wing think tanks that in turn distribute money to science denial bloggers and media regulars, but we still have half of the inhabitants of states like West Virgina unwilling to accept the basic scientific findings related to climate change.
Welp, wish me luck on the promotion folks. Last time around I was able to achieve the top ten list for Historical Literary Fiction and Romance Literary Fiction without spending one penny on advertising. This time I’ve designed to try a very modest advertisement budget. Results from last April:
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…’
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.]
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.
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.’
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: