Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Background and Research #5 - West Point

In Darcy on the Hudson, West Point cadet, Joshua Lucas (Charlotte’s brother) invites Georgiana Darcy to a formal ball at the academy. Of course, she must be accompanied by her brother. Originally, Jane and Elizabeth Bennet, as well as Charles Bingley, were to have made the journey thirty-five miles up the river from Tarryton. Instead, Darcy finds himself in the company of Caroline Bingley:

Darcy stood on the deck as the sloop John Jay made its way through the Tappan Zee, the widest part of the Hudson, where wise sailors shorten sail. Small fishing boats shared the inland sea with schooners and barges carrying poultry, grain, and vegetables for the markets in New York while, nearby, dozens of sloops, with their single masts and retractable keels, negotiated around the shoals in the river.

As the hours passed, the sloop approached the Hudson Highlands, passing Anthony’s Nose and Breakneck Ridge. Farther up the Hudson, vast woodlands appeared with their leaves showing hints of the fall colors that would soon burst into a cornucopia of reds, yellows, and oranges that would ignite the hills from the Hudson to Appalachia in a blaze of color.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Background and Research #4 - Hindeloopen Folk Art

When traveling the Hudson River Valley, the Dutch influence can be seen in brick buildings with gambrel and stepped roofs, in the decorative arts in fireplaces and kitchens lined with Delft tiles, and heard in the words the Dutch left behind: crollers, cookies, gherkins, and cole slaw. But the Dutch also brought with them a distinctive style of folk art called Hindeloopen.

Charles Bisschop*
According to Dutch Proverbs by Holly Flame Heusinkveld and Jean Carris-Osland, "Hindeloopen was a thriving seaport on the Zuider Zee in northwest Netherlands. During the Baroque and Rococo periods, guild and self-taught painters lavished their decoration skills on painted wood surfaces, such as furniture and walls, in an attempt to brighten home interiors and add inspiration to their surroundings. Hindeloopen villagers developed a distinct style of painting. Drawing from the scrolls of the Baroque period, the exotic birds of East Indian art, and the stylization of flower forms, the Hindeloopen painters came up with unique folk art forms. The objective was to fill a space, be it a table leg, door panel or storage chest, with flowers and berries or birds, in a stylized fashion."

In an early draft of Darcy on the Hudson, Jane Bennet had painted a firescreen decorated in the Dutch folk art tradition that was greatly admired by Charles Bingley. It ended up being deleted, but I thought I would share the research.

*Christoffel Bisschop, Wiki Loves Art / NL project, organized by Wikimedia Nederland and Creative Commons Nederland.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background #3 - Thanksgiving

During the Federal Era in America, a time corresponding to the Regency Era in England, the biggest holiday of the year was Thanksgiving. At that time, more Americans lived on farms than in cities, and with the grain harvested, the fruit preserved, and the pig butchered, it was time to join with family and friends to celebrate with prayer, song, and dancing the gifts of the harvest.

In 1834, the New Hampshire Patriot made note of the approaching holiday: A moderate rise in the price of molasses and spices—the increased demand for laces, ribbons, and dancing pumps—the hurrying of tailors, milliners, and mantua makers—frequent and important consultation of young gentlemen—whispering, flushed faces, and anxious looks among young ladies—and lastly, a string of proclamations announcing the 27th of November as a day of Thanksgiving in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont.”*

Preparations for the feast
In my novel, Darcy on the Hudson, Fitzwilliam Darcy, Georgiana, and Charles Bingley travel to Tarrytown in the Hudson River Valley to visit Bingley’s Uncle Richard, who has been living in America for twenty-five years. In addition to the love story of Darcy and Elizabeth, the novel mentions the Thanksgiving traditions of the New York/New England area. Here are three excerpts:

Friday, November 15, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background #2 - Boscobel Manor House

The Bennet family home was modeled on Boscobel (pretty woodlands) now located in Garrison, New York overlooking the Hudson River. It was built in the early 19th century by States Dyckman and is an outstanding example of the Federal style of American architecture. Boscobel's distinguishing feature is the unusual delicacy conveyed by the front facade and its ornamentation.

From Wikipedia: “Dyckman, a descendant of early Dutch settlers of Manhattan, had managed to retain his family fortune despite being an active Loyalist... In 1794, he married Elizabeth Corne, daughter of another Loyalist family, who was twenty-one years his junior. After three years in London, Dyckman returned to the United States in 1803 and set about building the house he had long planned. Dyckman died in 1806 before it was finished. His widow completed it, and she and their surviving son moved into it in 1808. It would stay in the family until 1920.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Darcy on the Hudson - Research and Background - Dutch Colonial Architecture

When it gets to be this time of year, I think about the visit my husband and I made to the Hudson River Valley in the spring of 2010. The purpose of the trip was to conduct research for my book, Darcy on the Hudson, which is set in the months leading up to the War of 1812. Although I had read tons of books on the American Revolution and the Federal period that followed, there is nothing like being on-site. I thought I would share some of my findings with you. 

When Mr. Darcy, Mr. Bingley, and Georgiana Darcy arrive in New York in 1812, they stay with Mr. Bingley’s Uncle Richard who was leasing a Dutch colonial house from his neighbor, Mr. Bennet, in Tarrytown. (Think Sleepy Hollow.) From Darcy on the Hudson:

Richard Bingley’s house was typical of colonial Dutch architecture in that there were no hallways, and a person must pass through one room to gain entry to another. A narrow staircase led to three rooms above, and for purposes of privacy, Georgiana was given the smallest room farthest from the stairs. Darcy and Mercer would be in the room next to Georgiana, and Charles would occupy the largest room, but also the noisiest, because of its location next to the stairs. But Georgiana would soon discover that there was an exterior staircase leading to a porch that wrapped around three sides of the house, a novelty the seventeen-year-old found delightful.

What did a house in the Dutch colonial style look like? According to the website, Life 123, most included the following features:

The door is almost always centered on the house - Cut horizontally, the bisected door allowed the top and bottom half to open separately if required. This enabled the flow of fresh air into the house while keeping domestic animals outside. It also allowed the owners of the house to keep the riff raff out. The missus could talk with visitors without the necessity of inviting them into the house.
Van Cordlandt Manor

Gambrel roofs are common - Long, sloping roofs overhang the doorway giving the appearance of a one-story home. Why? Gambrel roofs were said to have saved the Dutch from heavy taxes imposed on two-story homeowners. The Dutch were known for their thrift.

Two chimneys - Unlike classic Colonial homes with the fireplace in the center of the house, Dutch colonial homes had a chimney on each end of the house to radiate warmth.

Stone or brick exteriors - The Dutch were know for their stone and brickwork and brought their talents to the New World.

Porches – They provided shade.

Double-hung sash windows with wooden casements – They provided increased air circulation and allowed hot air to escape in the summer.

Pieter Bronck House
In Darcy on the Hudson, the Bingley house was modeled on Van Cortlandt Manor in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. Research on the traditions of Colonial Dutch New York was conducted at the Pieter Bronck House in Coxsachie, New York.

Next post: Boscobel, the home of the Bennets.

I am scheduled for a blog post on Austen Authors on November 21st, at which time, I will be giving away a copy of Darcy on the Hudson. More about that in later posts.