Crying time

London Bound
London bound

One year ago today, on February 27, 2020, I was on a plane bound for London.  There were a few more documents I wanted to review at the National Archives and one book I particularly had to see at the British Library.  Two weeks after I got home, travel was restricted.  As much as I would have liked to return to England, I was very grateful and relieved that I had gone when I did.

Royal Opera House – Curtain Call

In January of 2019, I had been in London doing research for a new historical novel about the world of opera.  It was exciting to stay in Covent Garden and attend a performance of the Royal Opera.  On my last day in town, I indulged a whim to go see a portrait of a British Army officer that I had come across when I was writing my novel, A Moon Garden.  When I saw the painting, I was captivated.  The artist had masterfully captured the essence of a young, confident, strong, and beautiful young man.  

It was difficult to find out anything about this soldier, and I realized that the novel was going to have to wait.  It had become my mission to uncover this man’s story and tell it.  After researching for a year, I began writing.  My pursuit of information was ongoing throughout the year that it took to complete the written chronology of the life of this inspiring man.  When I was nearly finished, I became sad.  As I wrote the last lines, I cried.

A friend recognized my symptoms.  She laughed at me and said, “You did this last time too.”

“When I wrote A Moon Garden?”

“Yes,”

“I cried?”

“You got very emotional.”

I did.  Writing the novel was a psychological journey. The main character was constantly faced with challenges and crises in matters of war, love, family, and community.  As I wrote his story, I felt his worries, his joys, his internal conflicts.  I would listen to arias while working at my desk and suddenly find myself weeping.  But that was separate from what I experienced when I finished writing the book. A different kind of sadness enveloped me.

While I felt the thrill of accomplishment, I also had a sense of loss.  After spending over a year researching and writing about my fictional characters, I had a strong attachment to them.  Although I was glad at last to be able to share the story with my readers, it was an adjustment to let go and change my priorities.  That is how I feel now about this soldier.  For two years, I was singularly absorbed in connecting with him, discovering who he was, what he did, where he went, how he thought, why he made his choices. It is a relief to know that his story is closer to being known. 

For a few minutes, I indulged in some crying time.  The mood has passed.  I still have work to do.


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An odd old book

Buying books is one of the pleasures of doing research.  Of course I use digital resources, and visit libraries and archives, but sometimes there is a book that I want to hold in my hands and refer to over and over again.  As I delved into the history of colonial America and Georgian England for background to my novel A Moon Garden, my personal library expanded a bit.  The social, industrial, and geo-political transformations of the late 18th century intrigue me, and I am currently writing the biography of a British general who lived and died during this time. My quest for books about this period continues.

Recently I acquired The Story of the London Parks by Jacob Larwood.  It was published in London and has no copyright date.  There is, however, a hand-written inscription inside the front endpaper, indicating it was a New Year’s gift to Mrs. Goodings in 1888.

It’s a beautiful book, which includes several illustrations, including some in color.  It is in remarkably good shape, thanks to the fact that it has never been read.  This is apparent, because the pages must have been printed two-up or four-up, and they were not trimmed. Many of the pages would have to be cut apart in order flip through them.  I prefer to leave the book the way it has been for over 130 years. 

My knowledge of book printing and binding techniques of the 19th century is very limited.  If anyone reading this can provide an explanation, please feel free to leave your comments.

I wonder if Mrs. Goodings’ admirer ever asked her opinion of the book.  What would she have said?

A Moon Garden – Amazon UK

Under the clouds

It’s raining in California. Perhaps we need it, but if I had a say there would be a mix of warm sun and scattered layers of bright white clouds, with a cool breeze. My garden requires care, to check the rapid spring growth of weeds and new shoots on trees and shrubs. Even so, there is beauty in the wildness. Gradually, I will bring it to a more managed state.

The sun is shining in London. If I could, I would walk in Green Park. The old trees stand in silent witness to the generations that preceded us and endured. The daffodils display a legacy of renewal. Quiet and stillness belong here, under the sun, under the clouds, swept by the cool breeze.

AmazonUSA: A Moon Garden by Roxane Gilbert
AmazonUK: A Moon Garden by Roxane Gilbert

St Patrick’s Day musings on the Tower of London

Church of St Peter ad Vincula at the Tower of London
©Roxane Gilbert

Gerald Fitzgerald, 9th Earl of Kildare (1487-1534) has the dubious distinction of being the first prisoner to be buried in the Chapel Royal of St Peter ad Vincula after being incarcerated and dying in the Tower of London.

Upon his father’s death in 1513, Kildare succeeded him as Lord Deputy of Ireland. A fierce warrior, he is said to have “reduced Ireland to a quiet condition” in 1517 after storming Ulster and taking the Castle of Dungannon.

In response to accusations of mismanagement, Kildare was removed from office in 1518. He was replaced by Thomas Howard, the Earl of Surrey, followed by his brother-in-law, Piers Butler, the 8th Earl of Ormond. He was eventually reappointed Lord Deputy, but turmoil prevailed as a blood feud raged between him and Ormond.

In 1534 he travelled to London, where he was arrested, arraigned, and imprisoned at the Tower of London. Later that year he died of his grief, and was buried in the church at the Tower.

https://www.amazon.com/author/roxanegilbert

Bloomsbury, London

Artists John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and William Holman Hunt founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 in this house in London, where Mr. Millais grew up. The hotel where I stayed in the past week was just a few doors down. Between my time spent in museums, the National Archives, and the British Library doing research for my new book, and walking through this beautiful neighborhood, I thoroughly indulged my passions for history, art, and classic architecture! 

#AMoonGarden https://amzn.to/2v4uXwF

London Home of John Everett Millais
©Roxane Gilbert