Sunday, July 2, 2017

Current American traditions did not exist in historical Europe!!

I’m excited to see American authors writing historical fiction. I love historical fiction but I do like it to be accurate. Or at least come with a warning that it’s a “wallpaper” story not a researched one. I have no problem with authors making up their own world based on a historical period as long as they freely admit it.

Some eras, such as the Regency and Victorian periods, have been intensely researched. Many books are written about them and authors have no excuse for getting any facts wrong. If the author does make a mistake the editor needs to tell the author to fix it before publication.

The example that started this blog was “Supper”. I have just read yet another Regency-set story where the family sat down to supper. NO THEY DID NOT! The evening meal was called “Dinner” whether it was eaten at 5p.m. (in the country) or 9p.m. (in Town). Dinner was a hot meal with several courses. Supper was a light meal, usually cold food, served at balls and the like after midnight, and children never attended such affairs. Even if a country family ate dinner at five, any supper they had would not have involved the children, who would have been sent to the nursery and would most likely be in bed. A country supper would have been at perhaps 9p.m. and it would have been a hot drink, and maybe a small serve of some cold leftovers, or some biscuits (cookies). But more likely they would have simply had a “nightcap”, an alcoholic drink, with no food, before bed.

Another mistake that really annoys me is calling a married woman in a European historical novel, Jane Smith Doe. Using a maiden name as a middle name is a strictly American tradition. If English Jane Smith married John Doe she was Jane Doe. An old family friend, much more familiar with her maiden name might say, “Jane Doe, Jane Smith that was” and people might refer to her as Jane Doe née Smith, but never never never as Jane Smith Doe.

Oh, and as the picture above indicates, there was no such thing as Thanksgiving anywhere except America until very recently indeed.

Historical authors please, do your research!

Helen Woodall

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