My intent is to allow the reader to walk down the lanes of old London (before it burned to the ground in the Great Fire of 1666) and feel as if you are actually there. You can smell and touch the nuances of London. You'll know what it's like to work your way through the City and its the conflicting laws where religion played in important part of everyday life. So sit back and enjoy the ride.

Oh, and then there's my French Revolution novel.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Rules & Regs London 17th Century

A reader asked a question to a post I placed July 4th regarding what and whatnots in a coffee house. His question was:

"I find all these social mores fascinating because I am curious....given this Independence Day....just how much personal freedom we really have compared to past eras."

I guess my answer was a bit flippant, for he did not Like or respond. The question got me thinking, though, and so I decided to write about some of the rules and regulations during past eras, and the 17th century. 

The church, i.e., Roman Catholic or Protestant, then the guilds, or livery companies, were the forces to be reckoned with for centuries. They ruled the roost. 

Sources say livery companies or fraternities called guilds (The word ‘guild’ derives from the Saxon ‘gildan’.) started prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and originated in Europe. To be a member of a guild, you had to be a freeman. In order to do that, you must complete your apprenticeship. Once done, you paid a fee to belong. You followed their rules, kept their secrets, and eventually participated in good works. You lived near their centers, and you sold wares that were approved by your livery company. 

Your livery company had the right to arrest you, fine or imprison you. When at war, the guild could call you up for arms, fit you with armor, and give you weapons, men and boys ages 7 and up; then off you’d go into military action. The Corporation of London had control over the livery companies, and the company you belonged to had control over the people in their organization. 

They owned land, set up hospitals, schools, and loaned kings money. If one of their own were in trouble, the company would bail him out, gave money to the family during difficult times; buried their dead, and gave pensions to the widows. 

New livery companies were established all the time. The Mercers obtained their royal charter in 1394, and the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers in February of 1664. Back in the day, there were considered 12 companies, but in January of 1551, the Lord Mayor & Court of Aldermen set down the order of precedence for 48 livery companies. Now, there are 110. 

The companies had their rules and regs, and the merchants passed down more rules unto their customer. For instance, the Barber-Surgeons Company. On a scale of 1-110 in order of precedence with the Mercers as number 1, the Barbers (which includes surgeons and dentists) is number 17 (per Wikipedia). 

Gate to Skinner's Hall

The Barber-Surgeons, as the title infers included the two fraternities. Their ordinances had the choice of apprentices, number of servants to be kept by freeman and liverymen, servants’ wages, rule against or for masters who lured servants away, where a shop opened, how the shop owner conducted his business. It was against the rules for a barber to cut hair on Sundays with a hefty fine, up to 5 shillings which was a great deal, but still, that rule was rarely obeyed. 

There were certain things you could and could not do in a barbershop. “Forfeits used to be enforced for breaches of conduct as laid down in laws…” The person who made a gaff would have to pay for his offense. 

You could not:
Handle razors
Talk of cutting a throat
Call hair powder ‘flour’
Meddle with the barber’s tools
Take another's turn, swear or curse, you pay 7 half-pennies. 

During the 17th century, a few things happened during this century that impressed the inhabitants of the time. Religion took a big stake out of everyone's lives. Separate beliefs, and a deep irritation toward King Charles I brought on the Civil Wars, resulting in the execution of the said king, the scattering of his family into exile, a strict Commonwealth, then the Restoration. 

When King Charles II returned from exile, he took a Portuguese bride. Her dowry gave England new lands to explore, and England reaped the benefits of trade. Goods brought back from these far flung places gave merchants a new perspective of what was truly available across the seas, and in the wide blue yonder.

Entrance to Fishmonger's Hall

 As a result, rules & regs from the past blurred with the new. Shops sold other than what their guilds dictated. Some livery companies failed, and those that remained primarily did good works. Those whose halls were located within the old City walls perished, along with all the records, in the great fire of 1666.

For more on this, especially of the Barber-Surgeons Guild, please see my novel,  
The Barbers: A Tale Most Curious & Rare 

Many thanks to:

The Annals of the Barber-Surgeons of London, Compiled from their Records and other Sources, by Sidney Young, one of the Court of Assistants of the Worshipful Company of Barbers of London, with Illustrations by Austin T. Young. London, 1890

At the Sign of the Barber’s Pole, Studies in Hirsute History, by William Andrews, Cottingham, Yorkshire, 1904.  

Friday, April 18, 2014

Meet My Main Character

I’ve been tagged by Linda Root & Anita Seymour Davison to tell you about the main character in one of my writing projects, but I really can't do that. I finished The Barbers, and my WIP is now just being born. Instead, I'll tell you a little of my 'Plan'...

Back in the day (a Texas colloquialism great grandparents used) I found Samuel Pepys. Upon reading his journal I realized it was a discussion of local mores, slang, and his life saturated in current events that were so minute, so abbreviated, I couldn't make heads nor tails of it. My understanding of the mid-17th century was nil, and what Mr Pepys wrote in his journal felt like jumping into a whirling chasm filled with bits and bobs only the locals of the time understood.

So, I had to learn of what his journals said, i.e., the life of one living in the 17th century who'd endured the English Civil Wars, and the Restoration, the 1st & 2nd Anglo/Dutch Wars, the death of King Charles II and subsequent exile of James II, then of course, the insane Titus Oates escapade.

I studied London City and its Liberties. I packed my library with all sorts of historical texts filled with random pieces of information my heirs will most likely give to used book stores, or the Goodwill. I mean, not many care about the history of beds or shoes and Livery Companies, the microscope Robert Hooke had made, or that he felt veins and capillaries meant something important. 

For The Barbers I found lovely 17th century published texts that helped my story roll along the foggy lanes of London, on medicine and science, even an experiment on a dog. It was soooo exciting.

My Plan, therefore, is to write of the volatile 1660 decade until London burns to the ground. Each novel will take place in London during one year due to the amazing amount of current events. So far, I’ve managed to write the years 1660-1663. 

My birthing project (Chapter 1 is always painful) is of London 1664. That manuscript has yet to take on a personality of its own. In the interim I’ll tell you of The Barbers, and my protagonist, how she deals with life in general.

 What is the name of your character? Is he/or she fictional or a historic person?
My character's name is Celia Barber, a fictional person. She apprenticed as a barber under her father, and enters the guild (Barber-Surgeons), but as a woman she will never be licensed. (There are some documented cases of women holding licenses outside the 7 mile radius of London, but not within the city proper.) Celia shares a shop with her father who snips hair & shaves chins, while she heals. It is against the guild to be a barber and do the work of a surgeon or physican. King Henry VIII separated the barber/surgeon job functions, which weren't often adhered to, but I digress.

When and where is the story set?
The story is set in London 1663.

What should we know about him/her?
Celia Barber is very interested in science and medicine, and she chafes at the restrictions set against women.

As religious strife settles down, the great brains of England begin to explore medicine and science. Celia strives to see a dissection in the Hall of Surgeons, and an experiment in the Royal Society, but her dreams far outreach reality.

Celia's sister works at the Palace of Whitehall and introduces her to Viscount Deeping, who takes an immediate 'shine' to Celia. He enjoys her quest for knowledge, her dreams to see an experiment at the Royal Society. He takes her there as his lackey where Celia is thrilled to meet Robert Hooke, who created so many tools for the scientist, and wrote theses for the physician.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his or her life?
Her mother is narcissistic, and as a toddler ignores Celia. Finally, when she is about three or four, her mother casts Celia to the streets with a pronounced slam of the door. Her father rescues her, but the rejection takes its toll. Celia never trusts anyone; she'd rather keep to the shadows with her thoughts and dreams, which were many, but life intervenes. She loses one brother, than another, and she can't save them.

What is the personal goal of the character?
To heal people the best she can with local herbs and the latest science, but her goal is sidetracked when her impudent sister sees an inkling of treasure, and the intrusive viscount.

Is there a working title for this novel? And can we read more about it?
The title is set in cement, and the work published. The Barbers, a Tale Most Curious & Rare. 

When can we expect the book to be published?
It’s on the cyber shelves as we speak, paperback and ebook, on amazon, almost all countries. 
Many thanks to Linda and Anita for inviting me on this trip of how my historical fiction develops of itself (after tons of research, that is).

Please click on the links below for The Barbers

For my other novels, see amazon:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Barber-Surgeons Guild

Well, my story of The Barbers has published, and dedicated to my good friends across the pond, Jim & Sue Barber. I figured Jim's ancestors were barbers, and that my friends would like to know what their forefathers did for a living, but first, I needed to do a bit of research. I wanted factual data without it being textbook, but had no idea the amount of research it would take, or how unbelievable the health practices were at the time. 

In order for the reader to accept some of what I wrote, I included an example of my resources at the end of it under the heading: Afterward. I reckoned no one would believe me otherwise. Most of the texts were published in the 17th century, which is apropos due to the fact The Barbers takes place in 1663. Only two sources were published after 1663, one in 1667 and one in 1904 around which this blog is centered.  

Now, for a bit of history…
King Henry VIII & the Company of Barber-Surgeons 1540
In the old days, prior to King Henry VIII, barbers/surgeons shared job descriptions. They both sheared hair, made wigs, shaved faces, trimmed beards, bled, cleaned wounds, and healed the sick. The guild was then known as the Barber’s Company.

In 1540, King Henry changed it to the Company of Barber-Surgeons, and new rules applied. Barbers could only barber and pull teeth, while surgeons did everything else, but these laws were not often followed. Barbers continued to ply their surgical skills, and surgeons snipped mustachios and hair. It filled their coffers with extra money.  

In Early Modern England records indicate a few women barbered and did ‘pyhsik’ (doctoring). These women where allowed into the guild through their fathers or a male relative to apprentice and subsequently go into trade. They could do almost everything a male surgeon could, except see a male dissection, which would cause their womanly desires to flare. They could not witness a female dissection either. This would expose the men digging about in a female’s lower anatomy, trying control a woman’s breeding.

Women became barbers or surgeons, but rarely, if ever, could they be licensed. There is reference to a couple of women licensed to ply their surgical skills, but she could only practice seven miles outside the City limits. (Seven miles outside London seems important, for open Roman Catholicism was included in this distance limit.)

Female barbers were more accepted in the 17th century, their hands considered calm under pressure. They could shave a man very nicely whilst in a coach rumbling along a cobbled lane.
Pulling teeth

Barbers had long days. During the reign of Henry VI, an edict was cast down that “’…no barber open his shop to shave any man from 10 o’clock at night from Easter to Michaelmas, or 9 o’clock from Michaelmas to Easter, except it be any stranger or any worthy man of the town that hath need (what? Isn’t this contradictory, or does it apply to the less wealthy?): whoever doeth to the contrary to pay one thousand tiles to the Guildhall.’”   

Early barbershops had red rags lining their windows, to show they could let blood, and inside rotten teeth were strung on a string. This meant the barber could shave, draw teeth, and “breath’d a vein” (bleed someone). In the 17th century, while customers waited for his barber’s expertise, he strummed a gittern (early guitar).

There were certain things a potential customer could not say or do while in the barbershop, or he’d be forced to pay a forfeit. Examples of offences: a customer handling a razor or fiddling with the barber’s tools, speak of cutting throats, or call hair-powder flour.
Here’s a story re: barber-surgeons.

A duke entered a small barbershop to find the barber not in. He regarded the young apprentice and said, "Can you shave without cutting?" The apprentice said, "Aye," and the duke sat in the chair. After a few pleasantries, the duke patted his brace of pistols and said, "Of course, if you cut me, I shall shoot you dead." The youth thought a moment, then nodded. "I'm not afraid, sir." In quick strokes the lad pleased the duke by shaving him very well. The duke stroked his clean jaw. "Why were you not afraid, then?" With a shrug, the lad answered, "Before you could draw your pistol, I would cut your throat."

Ha! Well said.

For more reading on the barber/surgeons, please see my new release, The Barbers, now on amazon worldwide. Not very expensive, either. 

I want to thank the following for the quotes and information found in this blog: Andrews, William. At the sign of the barber's pole, Studies in Hirsute History. Cottingham, Yorkshire J.R. Tutin 1904