To ye or not to ye?

3 April 2012

Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orleans, Lely, 1662. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.

Good golly, I’ve been quiet, haven’t I? I’ve been busy writing though, so have a good excuse for this parlous neglect. The Minette book is going SO well and the research has been spawning all sorts of intriguing ideas for future blog posts – which I will write just as soon as I have a bit more time and am not immersed in 1654.

It’s not just giving me ideas for blog posts though – I’m also thinking about future book projects as well including a Young Adult novel set at the exiled Stuart court at the Palais Royal and a novel about Elizabeth of Bohemia as she and her family have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl. They’ll have to wait though as I have a list as long as my arm of prospective novel ideas!

Frances Teresa Stuart, Lely. Photo: Historic Royal Palaces.

I’m having the day off tomorrow to go to Hampton Court Palace for a press preview of The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned exhibition about the debauchery of the late Stuart courts. I cannot wait! It’s seriously well timed too as I am reading about Charles II at the moment and have been having wistful thoughts about going somewhere closely connected with him – and where could be better than the place that he spent his honeymoon with poor little Catherine of Braganza?

Of course, I have places intimately connected with Charles much closer at hand – including the town of Bridgwater, where he is alleged to have lost his virginity to his former nurse, Christabella Wyndham. Now, for the sake of you that have never had the INTEMPERATE JOY of having visited Bridgwater, I’m going to point out that I can think of few less romantic places. Still, could have been worse. Could have been Luton. Or Ormskirk.

Charles II, John Michael Wright, c1660-1665. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.

I had a rather nice dream last night in which I found myself back in one of my English lectures at university and the lecturer, who looked a lot like Judith Jesch, who taught me for Anglo-Saxon literature (I’m not sure what to be honest, but it involved Beowulf) , asked us all to think of our favourite words. I woke up with a list in my mind, which I will share with you now:

1. Lachrymose.
2. Milquetoast.
3. Pulchritude.
4. Quagmire.
5. Iniquity.
6. Verisimilitude.
7. Sanguine.
8. Incorrigible.
9. Quintessential.
10. Halcyon.
11. Cerulean.
12. Persnickety.
13. Baroque. (My husband went to university in NE England and claims that a local bar called Baroque was pronounced as ‘Bar-o-Kew’ by the locals.)
14. Serendipitous.
15. Proselytising.
16. Internecine. (Someone Tweeted the other day that they didn’t understand what this word means and I was absolutely SCANDALISED.)
17. Random. (In the unusual/unknown/unexpected sense, which I have been using it in since Sixth Form.)
18. Fell. (As in ‘fell intent’ – this gets people all the time, much to my delight.)

I’ll stop there – what are your favourite words?

Henrietta Anne, Duchesse d’Orleans. Photo: Royal Collection.

Speaking of words and also to justify the title of this blog post, which I am unduly pleased with, one of the things that I decided when I abandoned the first attempt at the Minette novel was that I was also going to abandon all attempts to write seventeenth century dialogue. The reasons for this are numerous but basically boil down to the fact that a. I usually but not always find it deathly dull going and rather irksome when historical fiction writers make their characters speak with a profusion of ‘ye’, ‘thou’ and *shiver* ‘thee’ and b. I happen to prefer a more contemporary spin on the past as is probably evidenced by both this blog and also my adoration of Wolf Hall, Plunkett and Macleane, Sherlock Holmes and Marie Antoinette.

I’m not saying that I have my characters lazing about drinking Kool-Aid and saying things like ‘Cromwell’s dead! AWESOME.’ or ‘Oh yeah, I went to the execution and there were all these, like, totally random people hanging about the place’ but I have been trying to keep the dialogue snappy and letting my own sense of humour creep in as well.

The Grande Mademoiselle, Louis Ferdinand Elle, c1640. Photo: Christie’s.

I may have gone too far though as I let my husband, who is not at all a fan of historical fiction, read the first few chapters the other day to see what he thinks and he expressed concern about some of the language used because it didn’t seem ‘very historical’. He was mainly concerned because I had Minette express a private wish to punch the Grande Mademoiselle in the face. ‘Oh, come on, if you knew what the Grande Mademoiselle was like, you’d want to punch her in the face too,’ was my response…

The thing is, I suppose, that the sort of historical fiction that I don’t enjoy is very concerned with accentuating and meticulously underlining the ways in which people of the past were different to us, while, like Hilary Mantel who is now my Writing Heroine, I am concerned with emphasising the way that actually they weren’t so very different at all and had all the same concerns and preoccupations as we have now.

What do you think, dear reader? Do you prefer a bit of ‘ye’ and ‘thou’ in your historical fiction?

Anyway, be good y’all, and I’ll be back with my report about Hampton Court Palace and the BEAUTIES within on Thursday!

Ps. If you can’t get to the The Wild, The Beautiful and The Damned exhibition at Hampton Court, there’s a frankly gorgeous looking book to accompany it, which may console you somewhat…

Beauty, Sex and Power: A Story of Debauchery and Decadent Art at the Late Stuart Court (1660-1714)

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