Category Archives: The Kingsland Series
THE DREADED PASTOR HASTINGS
Molly figures that if she and Elijah can be married from the Congregational Meeting in Yarmouth, the opinion of Mother Merrick and Rockford won’t matter – the deed will be done. She scurries over to the house of Pastor Hastings, minister of the Yarmouth Church of the Standing Order, Congregational, to see if he will help. This is where we learn how the church operates, in respect to sinners:
“You would join our congregation?”
“Well.” He coughed. “I’m delighted to hear it. And naturally I would be happy to instruct you, baptize you and, I hope, find you worthy of membership. We do not practice public confession so very much these days, But I think in your case it would be quite appropriate; the congregation would hardly accept you otherwise. Then, after your confession, I’ll instruct and baptize you. When the time is right, you will be admitted to full membership. I think the congregation will be willing to accept that, having been convinced of your repentance.”
“You will have to explain to me what you mean, sir, by confession. Of what do I repent that will so please your congregation?”
He looked stunned.“You can hardly expect my flock to accept the illegitimate daughter of a whore!”
(This is Jonathan Edwards, who was the first to take personal aim at his congregation, challenging them to look into their own hearts instead of listening to him drone on and on, reading from a text he’d written as was the practice at the time.)
Bastardy and fornication were constant subjects in the annals of early American church history. In time, though, people became lacidaisical until the Great Awakening, when they joined with the preacher (evangelist) as he spoke to them about sin and repentence, rolling on the ground and moaning and fainting and seeing visions. Jonathan Edwards, a mystic, softened them up so that by the time George Whitfield arrived, Americans were ready for their religion to be an emotional experience rather than an encounter with theology.
Whitfield preached for many years, up and down the east coast of America and in England, as well. He started the new trend of addressing audiences wherever he found them (or where they found him) so he didn’t have to worry about being invited to speak from a church’s pulpit. He was a great friend of Benjamin Franklin, who did not share his views, (Franklin being a Deist) but apparently could hold his own with the great scientist and politician. Franklin figured out the radius of the circle that figuratively surrounded Whitfield when he spoke, and calculated the preacher had a range of five miles. Thousands of people at a time heard him in the cities, and without fail, they were totally enchanted with him.
Or, at least, many were. As is usually the case, when under attack the wagons will circle; Congregationalism became vigilant in the pursuit of its own purity, returning to the practices that had dominated it from the start. Its ministers had the respect and reverence they’d been accustomed in the good ol’ days. The “New Lights” (Methodists) had made inroads by the time Elijah interviewed Pastor Simmonds on the subject of his cousin, Tony Gray marrying Olive Snow; you may remember Pastor Simmonds is nervous about the possibility that Snow would leave Rockford’s Church and attend a New Light establishment in the South Precinct. The writing was on the wall, of course, but in an isolated place like Cape Cod, it would have been easy to miss it. And Simmonds did.
Mistress Warden, as we know, was a Quaker, yet she taught Molly “fancy” stitches. More often than I like to confess, I have made assumptions about details, especially in the first editions of my books, when I didn’t have the internet for an instant check. The one I’m thinking about just now is Mrs. Warden’s teaching Molly to do fancy embroidery. Quakers, of course, were and are all about being plain. How would Mrs. Warden have learned “fancy” stitches to teach? To find this out, we have to take a look at the history of the sampler.
Early on, they were simply pieces of linen with examples of stitches and patterns, like a primer. The needleworker could refer to them if she were looking for ideas, or had forgotten the sequence of loops and ties and what-not on a certain flower or decoration.
Early on, making a sampler as we know these was part of going to school. The girls embroidered the numbers one to ten and the alphabet in upper and lower case, an aid in the process of learning to read and, perhaps to cipher. All girls needed to know basic cross stitch, so they would be able to mark their linens when they were married. Early on, they were black and white, most likely because if you wanted thread to have color, you had to dye it yourself, and neither the Puritans nor the Quakers bothered. This example, one of the earliest we have, does have some decoration, but no color.
Many girls never made a second, more elaborate sampler. This was the privilege of girls continuing their education, and many of them got no further schooling. But ongoing education of women was important to the Quakers; females were as much a witness to God’s love as any male. The sampler would have been used not only as an aid to reading, but also writing (which was not taught to Puritan maidens) and even geometry of a rudimentary sort. The stitches became more elaborate, colors were the rule, and plenty of fancy stitches, too.
That, of course, didn’t meant the fanciness was used by Quaker maidens to decorate clothing. Heaven forbid! But Molly was a different case, and in her wisdom, Mrs. Warden knew that worldly lures were sometimes necessary if you were out in that world. She’s one of my favorite characters. Perhaps she comes from Philadelphia, where the Quakers were known to have one foot in the meeting house and the other in the counting house. Not exactly worldly, but not cloistered, either.
Mrs. Warden taught Molly the household arts of cloth production. The colonists had become proficient at this long before the Revolution because trade was so restricted. As I understand it, cloth production was actually against the law, because you were supposed to buy everything from England. But the supply wasn’t always at the ready, nor was there money with which to purchase anything, (colonists had to use the barter system because England didn’t want them to have coinage, which might contribute to their functioning independently.) So spinning did take place, thus weaving happened, too.
Now, weaving is an ancient art and traditionally had been accomplished by men, members of a guild. But with cloth scarce, looms somehow became available and began to appear in the keeping room where yarn produced by the Goodwife was ready to be woven. Wool was the material of choice, or flax, which could be grown almost anywhere. (I don’t think much cotton was actually grown in the south, because the Virginia planters were wealthy enough to buy their cloth and until Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, it wasn’t worth trying to process it except in very small batches.) As far as I know, it didn’t grow in the north at all and wasn’t worth buying in order to spin, because of the difficulty in getting it ready for the wheel. So wool was the material of choice.
According to Wikipedia, numerous types of spinning wheels exist, including the great wheel also known as walking wheel or wool wheel for rapid long draw spinning of woolen-spun yarns; the flax wheel, which is a double-drive wheel used with a distaff for spinning linen. We, of course, are interested in the Great Wheel, because that’s the kind Molly was taught to use.
It was kept in the attic, and the loom she was taught to use was most likely stored there, too, able to be reassembled when the need arose, as it did when Molly had finally accumulated enough yarn to weave.The loom, as you see, is large. My mother-in-law had one, and I can remember being in awe of it. The keeping room must have been pretty crowded when everyone was snowed in and Mrs. Warden, Molly and Isaac all hung out by its fire together! No wonder he could watch her without his mother knowing.
Then there is fulling, which is pretty clearly described in chapter 3. At the mill itself, a wheel on the same shaft as the waterwheel had projecting cams which lifted heavy wooden hammers. These hammers or fulling stocks fell on to the cloth placed in a trough with water and the cleansing agent.
That’s all I need to know, and it’s probably more than you, the reader, ever needed to know! There was, of course, the problem of sharing the flow of water with the grist mill, but that whole issue is discussed sufficiently, I think, in chapter 3 also.
Of course, there’s no need to discuss what happened once Molly had finished her weaving and her cloth was ready to be fulled and Isaac took her to the mill…
Let’s talk about Isaac Warden. [When This is the House was under discussion before, Molly and Elijah were visiting Mother Merrick, Elijah was off to his first command and Molly was being taught all kinds of household things by Elizabeth Warden.] Then Isaac comes home, lying to his mother, hoping to escape to London before his father gets back from sea. But Mistress Warden is too canny for that. I think she already knows he’s a bad apple…
So he works his way around her, sets up to study law in the parlor, gets sick and is nursed by Molly and everyone else in the house, and by then Molly is totally besotted. This is a modern image of him.
He lures her, bit by little bit, knowing full well that women find him irresistible. Indeed, I do, myself, even while I hate him! But then I rethink him, and consider:
That he is spoiled by his parents and the household staff as the younger son and well able, from the sound of it, to beguile adults into giving him what he wants. (He was his father’s toy.)That he can’t compete with his brother. John had what it took to be a leader; he mingled easily with the other children at district school (while Isaac, more reserved with these young folk of lesser rank, held back). John took easily to deep water; the expectation is that Isaac, too, will do well at sea, yet it never really worked for him. He seems not to fit anywhere.
But he’s the very devil with the girls (so says Ellen, the cook). In this arena he excels. And loves life in the fast lane — gambling, cards, drink, etc. When Captain Warden gets home, he threatens to send Isaac to Mr. Franklin’s college in Philadelphia, under the supervision of Quaker family members who will see to it that he behaves. So Isaac knows he has to do well in London and behave himself, or this fate will befall him.
If I choose to, I can feel sorry for Isaac, though my loyalty is with Molly and I am appalled at what he does to her without so much as a loving word. He ruins her, and thinks he can bully her into coming to England with him, where she will surely have to turn to prostitution once he’s done with her. Whatever sympathy I might have had for him disappears, and despite his struggle for identity in the wake of his older brother, and despite the fact that many a young man proves himself in the ways Isaac also chooses, I am unable to give him a whole lot of leeway.
And yet, he loves women. I don’t think it’s all about proving himself, or even amusing himself. I think he really loves them, and I think he really loves Molly – to the extent that such a man can. And face it, he IS pretty cute!
Could I write something that stirred up a Great Idea? That suggested an answer to a Great Question? That could change the reader into someone he/she hadn’t been before reading my work?
Graduation approached. I asked one of my professors – one I respected a lot – if I had enough talent to pursue writing as a career. He told me that I could write well enough, but as yet had nothing to say. He recommended waiting a few years. I knew perfectly well that my understanding of life wasn’t sufficient. But I spent half a year trying to prove him wrong. I didn’t particularly like slick ladies’ magazines, but they were the one of the places that published short stories. I couldn’t hope to complete with Salinger in the New Yorker, and my fellow creative writing majors and I scorned Pearl Buck for publishing in the Ladies Home Journal. (I cringe to remember this!) But I figured none of the other Creative Writing majors would know, so I tried writing and submitting short stories to the Journal and other women’s magazines that published fiction. They were unimpressed.
So I turned to the world I’d discovered – the world of ideas, and did post graduate work in philosophy, which, as it turns out, I was very good at. Gotta love that Socrates!
I worked part-time at a nearby library, too, which reminds me that it’s always possible that even the least detail can work to your advantage. My job was at Haverford College, a Quaker college, and I learned a lot about Quakers by default – and used what I’d found to give the character of Elizabeth Warden (This the House) an individuality quite different from most women in the late 1700’s. Or at any other time, for that matter.
I should make mention of Potts’ Plots, too, a detail that turned out to be quite valuable. We Creative Writing majors didn’t just write short stories. We did journalism and poetry and playwriting. Now that was fun! Professor Potts was the teacher, a benign older gentleman who was willing to lend a hand to students in the new major. Of course we dubbed it “Potts’ Plots” and found that we were awful at writing plays. Yet it was instructive, and I recommend all aspiring writers of give it a try because your characters can let the audience know how they are reacting to whatever crisis is at hand only by their actions and tone of voice (which you need to include in the directions). Likewise, they move around according to those directions, and as the author, you’re watching their every move to see if it makes sense. A very important part of writing is that you don’t tell the reader what the character thinks, you communicate it by gestures, actions, and dialogue. It makes for a much stronger style. So Professor Potts actually contributed a lot to my “skill set”.
Meanwhile, having failed as a writer, being too young to be a philosopher, I slogged along at the library until the summer I went windjamming on Nantucket Sound.
Once again I abandoned my career as a journalist and went off to college, starting at Wittenberg in Springfield Ohio, then transferring to the University of Pennsylvania when my parents pulled up roots and moved to the Philadelphia area. At Penn found I writing again.
(Mr. Franklin, of course! It’s his college, after all.)
I hadn’t started college with writing in mind, but Penn had recently set up a Creative Writing major at the time my family and I moved there, and its course requirements bypassed almost all my weaknesses except for French (which I’d rather not think about.) We creative writing majors had a broad choice of electives and were required to write a short story every week, leaving them in a folder at the library so that classmates could access them. In class, everybody got to make comments about the stories they’d read. Out loud. When the time was right, you had to read your story. Out loud.
It was sheer agony. It’s no secret that the author reveals himself or herself in their writing – but who are you when you’re young? Peggy Anderson, of “Peggy’s Troubles” was obviously “me” as a sixth grader. The failed novel I started the following summer couldn’t tap into “me” because “I” hadn’t begun to build an adult identity, and wasn’t a child any more, either. But in college, that identity is gathering, and it is going to be discovered by your readers. Naturally no one knows what part of the writing is “you” and what part has been “made up” – but somewhere in that tangle, “you” are there. What if “I” wasn’t OK? And what if I wasn’t a very good writer? My pretense to talent would be found out. Everyone would know I wasn’t good. Perhaps they’d think I was mediocre, the worst curse of all.
But despite my agonizing, the free range of course selection did serve to broaden my perspective, just like it was supposed to, and my outlook on life was altered. There was more to it than looking nice, being nice, and finding someone to marry. The Great Questions were out there, waiting to be answered. There was Great Art to discover, and Great Music, and Great Ideas. I was definitely unequal to the task, having not been exposed to intellectual excellence before, but it was so exciting that I didn’t even mind being so far behind. At least I was there, where all this stuff was going on, and it was like walking into a greenhouse, where the very air vibrates with growth and moisture lies in layers. If I failed as a writer, perhaps I could be a thinker. Penn was the place to learn how, that was for sure.
FURTHER NEWSPAPER ADVENTURES
So, having concluded that writing was tedious and desks and offices didn’t relieve its tedium, I gave up my career as an author and went on to become a teenager which, in the 50’s, meant saddle shoes and bobby sox, skirts down to our ankles and sweater sets (preferably cashmere, but who could afford them?) and a single strand of pearls.
Like a teenager at any time, I wanted to be important in the general scheme of things. Some of my friends and I chose the school newspaper as our route to fame. It was called The Crystal, and was published once a month on glossy paper. It was very large (like 14×20) and took a lot of work to fill up. Many reporters were needed, and when I asked the advisor if I could join the staff, she said I could, but only provisionally. If I could manage not to run in the halls or on the stairs, be on time for my classes and get decent grades, yes, then I could join the staff.
It worked. From that point on I was careful to stay within the rules, and in my junior year I became the features editor, responsible for humorous and/or interesting stories. And so, I began writing creatively again. Then was when I realized that editing and reworking a piece was where the fun lay. I did features and editorials right through senior year, and then was off to college without thinking much more, for a while, about my writing career. Here’s my high school: Libbey.
On the National Register of Historic Places. But there weren’t enough kids in the district living nearby to keep it open, so they recently blew it up.
Having achieved status as a writer with my sixth grade classmates, (perhaps you remember Peggy’s Troubles) I decided that like Jo March (Little Women), I needed a lair like she had, in the attic. (Ms. March had supplanted Nancy Drew by then.)
The privacy and quiet of Jo’s attic hideout was very instrumental in her success, it seemed to me. If I was going to be a writer, I needed my own space. But unfortunately, the attic was out. My sister was already using ours, so I claimed a domain of my own in the basement. Curtaining off a corner that had a little window, (you know – the kind that’s mostly below grade, with a curved metal retainer to hold the earth back), I found a table I could use as a desk, like Jo was using in the picture) and a lamp (it was a bit dim in the basement).
Pencils sharpened, paper ready, I set to work on the first rainy day. Seated self, arranged paper, picked up pencil…
And discovered that while the office was very cool (figuratively and literally) it did not supply inspiration. How did you write a novel, anyway? Where do you start?
With a heroine, dummy! Her name was Elizabeth van Landingham. She was from a wealthy family, and no one liked her, including me. It was then I discovered the next hurdle: drafting a creative piece soon gets boring, especially if you don’t have much sympathy with the main character. Once you’re done with a draft, working on its style and adding to it will make it come alive, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just kept plugging along and, if I remember correctly, threw the unedited pages out when summer came to an end and, with a measure of relief, dismantled the office and went back to school.
Here’s my alma mater, Harvard Elementary, grades k-8. Impressive, don’t you think? I was entering 7th after my summer in the basement. I don’t think I wrote much after that, until high school and a chance to be a newspaper reporter.
We’ve totally lost of glamour of train travel. And it was glamorous, for a while. In the late 20’s, trains were fast losing their market share due to the automobile, so they all got competitive. Instead of being simply a conveyance that got you from point A to point B, the Pullman became a luxurious way to travel, the engines “streamlined”, with elegant cars to sleep in and elegant cars to eat in and others to drink in and the porter to bring you anything you wanted if you didn’t feel up to getting it yourself (much to Emily’s dismay.) The rails were smooth, so that you noiselessly and quickly travelled along. Here’s some pictures of sleeping car arrangements.
The top bunk folds into the wall, the bottom one becomes the seat, in this case with a table that folds down. (I don’t remember hearing anything about that in Emily and Charles’ car, but the varieties of arrangements were endless.) The hall, off which the compartments branches. looks a little like a prison. I’m sure Emily thought so!
Let’s think about the porter for a minute. Without him, a trip would have been impossible, for not only did he make up your bed, when the time came, but he provided lots of other services, aside from hauling your luggage in and out. He’d iron your clothes, baby-sit your children, deliver trays of food, shine your shoes, and endure your racial slurs, if it was your practice to use them, with a smile, for your tips were crucial. If he complained, either about the treatment of the conditions of his work, he was fired. He worked 400 hours a month and was paid $66.Ten years later, in 1939, when Steven took the train from Port Huron to Boston, then took the Old Colony to Waterford, he’d have been well looked after by the train crew, who’d have assumed responsibility for him.
Not long after that came World War Two. Gasoline and tires were rationed, and it didn’t take long for trains to become overloaded with vacationers, soldiers on furlough, and families traveling to visit loved ones at military bases. Reservations for spots in Pullman sleeping cars were so hard to come by that scalpers made a fortune buying and reselling them. They were never as elegant after that, I think. The war had worn them out, and when it was over, you could buy a new car and there was plenty of gas. The trains lost the competitive edge, but you can still reserve a sleeping car, and there’s still a separate place to consume alcoholic beverages.
The 20’s roared because of prohibition and rum running, and at the same time women had been liberated. They’d been trussed up in corsets and imprisoned by social constraints and stuck with all the housework and childbearing besides. For a young woman to have the opportunity to be who she chose to be instead of dutifully fulfilling her parent’s expectations – well, I know how I’d feel. It was bad enough growing up in the 50’s!
So we have Emily and Pris, who had been following the traditional path (as far as we know) insofar as “dutifully fulfilling” parental expectations. But I suspect that, together at Bryn Mawr, a lot more went on than either set of parents suspected.
This led inevitably me to the mode of dress that these party people adopted. The flapper is fairly well known (though not among very young people, I find) with her boyish figure, dropped hemline, feather boa, a necklace down to her waist and a head band often sporting a feather.
I think the most distinctive wear for men was the straw boater, which apparently you wore when you weren’t sporting a fedora.
Certainly a big part of the scene was the automobile. It was a game-changer.Did Henry Ford know how profoundly his invention would affect American life?
His was not the first car on the market, nor the first to be invented, but his application of the production line is what made his model T affordable for a whole lot of Americans. The 20’s was a prosperous era, and more people had more money to spend than ever before.
And while we’re at it, lets not forget the rumble seat!