October 2008


A Lounge used to mean “gossip shop” which was probably ye olde Starbucks, as there were more coffee houses in the 18th century in London than there are now, apparently.

And this useless but fascinating snippet of information is just the sort of thing you’ll get more of at our brand new lounge – or Yahoo Chat Group, if you will – SPEAK ITS NAME - which opens its doors today.

All day – for we have writer/members all over the world – we’ll be chatting, sharing snippets, answering questions, writing flashfic on demand (or just because we want to), and announcing giveaways and competitions. There will be lots to read, lots to chat about, and lots to WIN.

Tamara Allen : Alex Beecroft : Martin Brandt : Charlie Cochrane
Emma Collingwood : Katherine Cross : Erastes
Ann Herendeen : Kalita Kasar : Kiernan Kelly
Syd McGingley : Parhelion : Mark R Probst : Lee Rowan
Ruth Sims : J M Snyder : Julia Talbot
E L van Hine : Emily Veinglory : Stevie Woods

So pop along, join in and perhaps we can even tempt you to try writing gay historicals too. Because men+brass buttons? There’s just nothing like it.

‘I never knew a woman brought to sea in a ship that some mischief did not befall the vessel
Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood



That ladette of the Royal Navy (movie “Carry On Jack”)

It usually starts with the question “… and what are you writing about?”

I’ll reply “historical gay romance” to keep it short. Actually, I write historical adventure with supernatural elements and gay romance. However, “romance” is all people hear, and they immediately wrinkle their noses. They think of the novelettes about handsome rich doctors and beautiful poor nurses you can buy at the newsagents. Or of a 800 page novel with a cover showing a half-naked damsel in distress, kneeling in front of Fabio with a torn shirt. To them, romance is icky. It’s not intellectual. It’s written by women wearing fedoras and read by women with no career or too much time at hand. Romance is the equivalent to stepping barefoot on a slug.

Once they learn that my stories are set in the 18th century and the main characters are serving in the Royal Navy, things get pear shaped. Accusations of “supporting imperialism and war crimes” are thrown around. The 18th century, so I’ve been told, can’t be used as background for any romance because it was a brutish age full of injustice, and placing a loving couple right in the middle of it would be far too frivolous.

Darn it, there go Aimée and Jaguar.

(more…)

What’s better? Historical Accuracy or Feminism? There’s only one way to find out! FIGHT!

No, seriously. Emma Collingwood will be discussing the subject in The Boy’s Club on Tuesday.

And on Thursday we’ll be reminding, and announcing the Great Hallowe’en Launch of our brand new yahoo chat group SPEAK ITS NAME.

It all kicks off, breeches ripping, buttons flying, cravats untangling – on Friday 31st October (my birthday, cough cough). Loads of The Macaronis will be there to answer your questions – and other great stuff yet to be announced – So join up you know you want to. We’ll be approving all members on Thursday ready for the big chat.

Macaroni – (n) comfort food for historians and lovers of gay fiction

Biopics, whether you love them or hate them, are here to stay. Often inaccurate (never!), usually sanitised, they’re a mixed pleasure at best. What I find annoying is where the leading character bears no physical resemblance to the original.

Kevin Kline

was nothing like Cole Porter,

nor was Cary Grant

(could you find two men more dissimilar?)

although Nikolas Grace

would have been ideal. I want my people to look how they should.

So with that in mind, I have a few suggestions for biopics and suitable casting:

‘The Onlie Begetter (possibly)’, a life of the Earl of Southampton

starring Jamie Bamber

in his best Archie Kennedy mode.

‘Licence my roving hands’, with John Donne

portrayed by Ioan Gruffudd.

(Donne was of Welsh descent so the accent shouldn’t cause too much consternation.)

‘The Iron Butterfly’, a wonderful musical based on the life of Jeanette Macdonald,

starring Madonna

,

although more recent pictures suggest

that she might be more suited to the role of Mae West.

‘The Perfect Ten’ – alas, this film will never be made as the man I had in mind for the divine Jonny Wilkinson

was the equally lovely Heath Ledger

.
Maybe they’ll do a biopic of Heath and let Jonny play the part?

Many Australians, and in fact many people the world over, are under the mistaken impression that “Terra Australis Incognita” was used to refer to Australia. In fact, the term terra australis goes back much further than the discovery of New Holland (Australia).

The concept that the Indian Ocean must be enclosed by a large, unknown land in the south which acted as a counter balance to the land mass of the north, was first posited by Aristotle and expanded upon later by Ptolemy (1st century AD). Cartographers argued that Aristotle’s theory was logical, and insisted that the south land must exist. Although explorative expeditions reduced the amount of area the great continent was meant to cover over time, it was still thought that New Zealand was certainly a part of the continent, as were Africa and Australia.

In 1615, Jacob le Maire and Willhelm Schouten rounded Cape Horn and proved that the southern land was in fact separated from South America, and Abel Tasman’s 1642 circumnavigation of New Holland proved that Australia was not a part of the mythical continent. Finally, Captain James Cook made a circumnavigation of the globe on a high, southerly latitude, proving that if such a continent did exist, it must lie well within the polar regions and could not possibly extend into temperate zones as previously thought.

The romantic in me, inspired me to take terra australis incognita as the title of this post, and I must beg forgiveness if it was misleading. I would love to believe that Australia is the ‘unknown land’ referred to in the old myth, but alas it is not so.

That doesn’t mean to say, however, that Australia is not a land of mystery and intrigue in her own right. In her short and often violent history since her discovery and settlement, there are a wealth of inspirational stories to be told.

From a ‘Macaroni’ perspective, Australia offers an abundance of opportunities for m/m historical stories just begging to be told. From the outset Australia’s male population greatly exceeded the female population, a situation that was not remedied for many years.

Australia’s history abounds with stories – true ones – of deep bonds of love and affection between male partners.

One such record, discovered in the archives office of Tasmania, has become known as the ‘Dear Lover’ letter. It was written by a male convict facing execution, to his male lover and is a remarkable document, not only in its content, but in the fact that it survived.

“Dear Lover,
I hope you won’t forget me when I am far away and all my bones is mouldered away. I have not closed an eye since I have lost sight of you. Your precious sight was always a welcome and loving charming spectacle. Dear Jack, I value death nothing but it is in leaving you my dear behind and no one to look after you….
Your true and loving
affectionate lover.”

Records from the Norfolk Island Penal settlement “speak of some 100-150 [same sex] couples who consorted together and were referred to as husband and wife.” (Robert French Historian/Archivist – The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia DVD distributed by Madman 2004)

There is evidence of lesbian activity in the records of the Tasmanian Women’s Factory. One such record relates to an incident in 1842 when superintendent John Hutchinson went to investigate a disturbance at around 8pm. Looking in at a window, he identified five women – Ellen Arnold, Elisabeth Armstrong, Frances Hutchinson, Eliza Smith and Mary Deverena – who were:

“dancing perfectly naked, and making obscene attitudes towards each other, they were also singing and shouting and making use of most disgusting language. There was a sixth woman but I could not positively swear to her, the disgusting attitudes towards each other were in imitation of men and women together.”
(http://www.australianhumanitiesreview.org/archive/Issue-August-1997/damousi.html)

In the 1830’s, The Mouldsworth Inquiry into the colonies discussed the question of whether the colonies would be granted self-government. This inquiry turned up so much evidence of homosexual activity that the chief justice of the time called Australia a Sodom in the South Pacific. (The Hidden History of Homosexual Australia DVD distributed by Madman 2004)

Although caution in the evaluation of evidence from the report is advisable due to the fact that the reason for the inquiry was an attempt to stop convicts from being sent to Australia, it is also reasonable to think that because Australia was a penal colony, such activities could and did occur.

The stories I have referred to in this article are not even the tip of the iceberg of Australia’s homosexual history. From bushrangers to men of influence to ‘passing women,’ there is bound to be a story to suit every taste buried somewhere in the archives of this young, but unique southern land.

Good Day to you, gentle readers.

This week we offer the following delights:

On Tuesday Margaret Leigh explores Terra Australis Incognita

And on Thursday, Charlie Cochrane asks: Who should play Who?

Do make a note in your diary – or add a Livejournal feed – so you never miss a post!

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/index.jsp

I’m sure you’ve already discovered this site – and for any historical writer it’s an essential bookmark and a huge wealth of resource. When I first found it it only had cases in a range of about 100 years, but it expands – and now there are cases from the 1670s to the 1910s. it’s a very easy site to navigate too, and has a lot more information than first appears.

When researching Standish I found so much that I didn’t know – the offence that Ambrose is accused of – that of “consenting to an assault of sodomitical intent” sounds incredible to our modern ears, but it’s true – the person having the sodomy perpetrated upon him, could be charged and could be found as guilty as the person performing the act.

Assault with Sodomitical Intent

This charge was levelled in cases of attempted or actual anal intercourse where it was thought impossible (or undesirable) to prove that penetration and ejaculation had actually occurred. This offence was a misdemeanour. See also: Sodomy. Prosecutions for this offence become markedly more common from the 1840s.

What I found interesting was that the burden of proof – penetration AND ejaculation had to be attested to by two witnesses – which would have made it more difficult to prove. However people often lied, I’m sure – leading to more hangings than were necessary, perhaps.

Sodomy

Anal or oral intercourse between a man and another man, woman, or beast. In order to obtain a conviction, it was necessary to prove that both penetration and ejaculation had occurred, and two witnesses were required to prove the crime. Both the “active” and “passive” partner could be found guilty of this offence. But due to the difficulty of proving this actual penetration and ejaculation many men were prosecuted with the reduced charge of assault with sodomitical intent. Details of sodomy prosecutions were censored from the Proceedings from the 1780s onwards. For more information on the gay communities of London see the Homosexuality pages.

http://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/Gay.jsp

Don’t forget that a “lenient punishment” such as pillorying or imprisonment (usually in Newgate, as that prison was attached to the Old Bailey by an underground corridor) were hardly lenient at all, and could both of them mean a death sentence. Unlike Hollywood and the BBC portrayals of the Pillory, people didn’t always throw rotten fruit and vegetables to the general amusement of all. Rocks were often used, faeces and “cannonballs” of mud and stones. People died in the Pillory – John Waller (perjurer) was stoned to death – and the six convicted members of the Vere Street Coterie (men arrested at the White Swan, a Molly House, in 1810 – had to have the protection of 200 armed constables to prevent the crowds from killing them in the pillory.

And a sentence, even a small one, for a stay in Newgate depended very much on your financial circumstances.  The prisons of days before the reforms instigated by Elizabeth Fry and Dickens during the mid 1800’s were dreadful places. You had to pay an (unofficial) fee upon entrance to the warders – food wasn’t provided as a matter of course, you had to buy it – so if you didn’t have money you were in danger of starving to death.  Before you could be released you not only had to pay your fine (difficult if you were in prison and not earning money) but again, another strictly unofficial “release fee” to the warders. If you couldn’t pay this – you didn’t get out, simple as that. Of course if you had money, or a way to earn money within the prison walls, or kind friends and relations – anything was for sale inside the jail itself. Including a a cleaner or a maid, alcohol (Newgate had two bars) and sex of any type.

Here’s a small selection of cases: (more…)

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