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review 2019-06-23 11:31
A solid reference book for authors, amateur historians, and people interested in the big British families.
Great British Family Names and Their History: What's in a Name? - John Moss

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for providing me a hardback copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Let me clarify something from the very beginning: the book includes an ample biography and online resources for people interested in genealogy and doing their own research about the origins of their family (and an index to find specific information as well), but it is not a book where most British people (or people with British roots) are likely to find their direct ancestors. (Oh, by the way, because of the many historical changes and the way members of a family have moved across over the years, although the book centres on Great Britain, it does include both, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland). The author explains, in his foreword, his method, including the documents he based most of his information on (oh, taxes and taxation documents are older than we realise, The Domesday Book features prominently, and quite a few others), and also his choices. As he explains, this book is only a snapshot and tries to include names of families who’ve played pivotal roles in the history of the country. Some are already lost, but many remain familiar, be it because of history books or, in some cases, because their descendants still play important roles that help maintain them under the limelight (in some cases, quite literally).  

I am not British, have no British ancestors that I know of, and my interest in the book was mostly for reference. As an avid reader and writer, I am always intrigued by the historical connections between characters and families, and also by names. I’ve often read interviews with authors where they explain their process when researching the names of their characters and how, on many occasions, they look for names whose meaning or connections can become significant to the story, even symbolic at times. Although I haven’t done that too often, I must confess to struggling with surnames sometimes, and I can imagine this will be a much bigger concern for authors who write historical fiction. This book, divided into ten chapters covering the whole of Great Britain geographically, is a great starting point. It links the family names to their seats and areas by zones, including information on the origin of the name (many came with William the Conqueror from France, or followed shortly after, but not all), how the family fared later, the houses and titles they had, where the different branches of the family ended up, and where are they now (if there are any members of the family still connected to the name). Although it does not include all the details, it does mention members of the family who moved to Australia, America, etc., so it will be of interest to people from those countries aware of family connections and also to people interested in history and the ins and outs of the connections between noble and aristocratic families in the UK.

One of the things that grabbed my attention, and I hadn’t thought about before, was the information about the mansions, palaces, and houses that had belonged, at one point or other, to the members of those families. I love to visit historical houses (and the National Trust and National Heritage in the UK have done a great job of maintaining and restoring many of those properties and opening them up to visitors), and as I read, I discovered information about the owners of many of the properties I had visited over the years, some I was familiar with, but some that was totally new to me. I knew, for instance, that the Howard family’s (of Norfolk, yes, Thomas Howard, the uncle of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, that Howard family) seat was Arundel Castle (a beautiful Grade I listed building I recommend visiting. Don’t miss the Canaletto painting), and I knew they were related to the Howards of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, one of my favourite places. (If you’ve watched the Granada Television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited, Castle Howard is Brideshead in that series and in a more recent movie adaptation. If you haven’t watched it, what are you waiting for? It’s a masterpiece!). I enjoyed learning more about the family, reading about the Fiennes Family of Banbury (a very illustrious and busy family, with current members of branches of the family as well-known as William Fiennes, author; Sir Ranulph Fiennes, explorer; Ralph and Joseph Fiennes, actors; and travel writer Celia Fiennes). The Russell (Roussel or Rosel) Family of Dorset has produce over the years members of parliaments, a Prime Minister (John Russell), and Bertrand Russell, Nobel Prize for Literature, and many more.

If I had to make any recommendations to the author and the publisher, it would be to consider including some family trees. I know there are far too many names and families to be exhaustive, but the family trees of some of the most significant family names —with many branches and connections— would make for fascinating visual documents and clarify how closely-knit some of those family circles are. Photographs of some of the family seats, the wonderful mansions, castles and properties, would also enhance the appeal of the book and make it visually more exciting.

I recommend this book to authors, historians, and researchers looking for general information about the big British families and their origins, and also to people interested in learning more about an area’s history and about how the ownership of the big properties in a region have changed over time.

 

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text 2018-11-11 19:15
Not a formal status report, but . . . . .
The Tulip Tree - Howard Rigsby

I knew I wouldn't be able to stay up and read very long because I was really, really tired when I went to bed.  I did, however, want to start this book.

 

There's no question that this is a gothic romance.  The publisher put it right on the cover!  It's compared to Du Maurier's classic Rebecca. The artwork is almost typical gothic, with the spooky house and single lighted window.  The young woman, however, is in close-up portrait rather than full-length with windblown hair and gown.

 

And the author is male.

 

There are also quotes from a number of reviews published in real newspapers.  Hmmmmmm.  Gothic romances did not get reviewed in the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in the 1960s.

 

I only read 12 pages, not quite the first whole chapter, before I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, but that was enough to confirm my suspicions that I had read this book before, decades ago.  One small incident ticked my memory, something I would not have consciously remembered but that came back to me the instant I read it. 

 

There were only two ways I could have read this book in the 1960s.  It was either condensed by Reader's Digest, or it was a Doubleday Book Club selection.  My parents subscribed to both for a number of years at that time.  I read the condensed version of The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant by Douglas Wallop as well as his later novel, Ocean Front, though I don't know if that was book club or condensed.  I do remember the cover, however, so maybe it was a book club edition.  I also read two other book club offerings, The Daughter of the Pangaran and Summer Doctor.  I remember details of both those books, and they were published about the same time as The Tulip Tree, so I'm more comfortable guessing I read a book club edition.

 

So in 1963, a gothic romance written by a man would be published in hardcover by Doubleday and be reviewed numerous newspapers, be selected for their subscription book club, and later be republished in paperback.  No doubt Howard Rigsby earned a great deal more for his gothic romance novel than most of the women writing paperback gothics.

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text 2018-11-11 00:04
The Tulip Tree -- a voice from the past?? Maybe.
The Tulip Tree - Howard Rigsby

This is one of the books from the hoard of gothics in the workshop.  Though my (battered) paperback copy was published in 1970, the original Doubleday hardcover was published in 1963.  I think I may have read this, perhaps in a Reader's Digest Condensed version or possibly as a Doubleday Book Club selection my dad had.

 

So I may just keep this one out for a day or so and read it in bed at night, if I'm not too tired.

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text 2018-10-12 19:40
Treasure trove? Don't quite know yet.

There are about 20 boxes of books in the workshop.  I know some of the boxes contain old westerns and there's at least one with old science fiction/fantasy/horror.  By "old" I mean pre-1990.  I already know where there's one with old mysteries.  The rest are general fiction, some non-fiction.  I haven't touched any of them, except the one box of mysteries, since moving here 12 1/2 years ago.

 

I don't know why I didn't think about the gothics until 2:30 this morning.

 

Most of the boxes are relatively inaccessible.  I'd have to move other things out of the way to get at them.  Only two boxes are out in the open, one on top of the other.  The one on top -- a copier paper box -- is starting to fall apart.  When I lifted the lid, all the joints came open.

 

Inside that first box are between 80 and 100 gothics. 

 

Yep, the first box.

 

The books are dusty, so I'll have to take a couple of rags out there and clean them up.

 

 

 

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text 2018-10-01 22:12
Another theft from Twitter and additional info
The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and and How All Men Can Help - Jackson Katz

According to the tweet from which I lifted this, cultural theorist Jackson Katz asked people what they did on a routine, daily basis to avoid sexual assault.  There was a stark difference between the answers given by men and those given by women.

 

 

 

I'm embarrassed that this is the first I've heard of Dr. Katz, but I will be doing more research into his work.

 

He is endorsed by Dr. Jean Kilbourne.  If you haven't seen her "Killing Us Softly" videos on violence against women, it will be well worth your effort to find them and watch them.  You will never look at a simple advertisement -- for anything -- the same way again.

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