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DavidZahir
01-03-2011, 11:17 PM
This is for the planning stages but I'd really like some answers.

In the 1840s, a British naval vessel weathers a night time storm off the northwest coast of England. I haven't quite decided upon her class, but more than likely she'll be either a Conway-class corvette (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conway_class_corvette) or a brig (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brig) of the period.

By morning the storm has cleared and an inhabited Island is nearby. Said Island has an area of maybe 25 square miles, most of its 150 inhabitants either potato farmers or herring fishermen. It has a church, a local doctor, and a relatively small manor house built on the site of an old monastery (the family there owns the island).

I need a reason for the ship to anchor near the Island and send some folks ashore. My thought was the ship's surgeon was seriously hurt and one of the officers knew the island had a good doctor.

Does this make sense so far?

Now, if the surgeon dies, does it make sense he'd be buried in the local graveyard?

I was thinking the young Widow who lives at the Manor might invite the Captain and his officers to dinner. Her brother is staying with her so he would act as chaperone.

Finally, it seems to me under these circumstances the Widow might invite her children's Governess to the same dinner. Have I read that right?

Many thanks in advance!

lbender
01-04-2011, 12:00 AM
Don't know much about whether the governess would be invited, but there are a number of reasons why the ship would need to make shore. For example, mast or sail damage, need more water, etc.

Would a settlement of 150 have a good doctor in the 1840's or would a good doctor prefer to be in a larger town where he might do better? Just a thought.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 12:37 AM
This particular doctor is rather good, because the late master of the Manor was something of a hypochondriac. He lured a good doctor to the place.

Perhaps more to the point, it was a question of time. The island in question is several hours from the mainland and the nearest city or even small town.

Thanks for replying!

shaldna
01-04-2011, 12:58 AM
In the 1840s, a British naval vessel weathers a night time storm off the northwest coast of England.

Bear in mind that there isn't alot of NW coast, and almost all of it is in major shipping lanes, even in the 1800's.


By morning the storm has cleared and an inhabited Island is nearby. Said Island has an area of maybe 25 square miles, most of its 150 inhabitants either potato farmers or herring fishermen.

This is a very big island, especially for the area. And a house would not have been built on the site of an old monestary, there's alot of bad feeling about that kind of thing. It may well have been built along side it, but it would have been considered holy ground by most, even if it was deconsecrated, so a house would never have been built on the site.





Now, if the surgeon dies, does it make sense he'd be buried in the local graveyard?

No. He's so close to home that he would have been returned home for burial, and not buried on the island.


I was thinking the young Widow who lives at the Manor might invite the Captain and his officers to dinner. Her brother is staying with her so he would act as chaperone.

Finally, it seems to me under these circumstances the Widow might invite her children's Governess to the same dinner. Have I read that right?

No. A governess was an employee, a teacher/nanny and would not, under any circumstance, have been invited to dinner, especially a dinner with an officer. It just wasn't, and isn't, done.




Perhaps more to the point, it was a question of time. The island in question is several hours from the mainland and the nearest city or even small town.


Not from England it's not. Ireland is about three hours from England, on a slow sail, and is to the west of england. Liverpool would be the closest english city, it's a harbour town and was a big city in the 1800's, from there the dead officer would be able to be taken home by rail or road in a day or so. There's no reason he wouldn't have been returned home.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 01:04 AM
This is a very big island, especially for the area.I might make it a bit smaller, but since it is fictional I don't have much of a problem with that.

Very many thanks!

shaldna
01-04-2011, 01:07 AM
I might make it a bit smaller, but since it is fictional I don't have much of a problem with that.

Very many thanks!

If it's historical fiction then you need to get it right.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 01:22 AM
For want of a better term, this is an alternate historical fiction. For example, the Widow mentioned is the daughter of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. The ship is named the Wessex, after Thomas Hardy's fictional county. One of the officers is the son of two lesser characters from Persuasion, also by Austen. The doctor's family name is Grice-Patterson, from one of the "unrecorded" adventures of Sherlock Holmes (mentioned in The Five Orange Pips) and so on.

So I really don't have a problem with sticking an island where one doesn't in fact exist. After all, there really wasn't any prime minister named Plantagenet Palliser, nor a Duke of Greystoke, any more than there was a businessman named Ebeneezer Scrooge. But I'd like to get the overall details right, into which I place my fictional elements.

Again, thanks for your feedback! It is most welcome!

Kenn
01-04-2011, 02:33 AM
I think you might be stretching it a bit with the NW coast of England. That faces the Irish Sea and you are hard pressed to go anywhere in it which is not within sight of land. If you make it Scotland, Ireland or SW England, then it is feasible. Worth mentioning also that there was a potato blight in the mid-1840s that caused a famine in places (notably Ireland).

shaldna
01-04-2011, 02:38 AM
I understand what you are saying about making stuff up, and that's cool. Fiction is fiction, so that's fine. But don't try to tell me that ANYWHERE in the Irish sea is 'several hours' from land/major city, because it's not.

It's a small fact, but one that is important to get right, because that is where you loose readers. It's teh small stuff that draws readers out of the story.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 03:02 AM
Okay, good point. Again, thanks much!

pdr
01-04-2011, 12:33 PM
your governess were a poor relation, or 'well bred' with a known name, and also filled that odd role, the governess-companion, you might get away with her being present as a chaperon. More likely she would attend the tea in the drawing room after the meal when the ladies withdrew and the men drank port.

I concur with the comments re island size and the wrong coast.

shaldna
01-04-2011, 04:28 PM
your governess were a poor relation, or 'well bred' with a known name, and also filled that odd role the governess-companion, you might get away with her being present as a chaperon. More likely she would attend the tea in the drawing room after the meal when the ladies withdrew and the men drank port.

I concur with the comments re island size and the wrong coast.


Usually a companion would be a well bred young girl, usually a relation or a friend of the family, in her late teens, who would be sent to help out and keep an older female company. Usually for travelling purposes.

If the woman who owns the island is a widow, then it's more likely an older female relation would go to stay with her, usually an aunt or older cousin, sometimes a sister or sister in law, or her late husbands mother/aunt. In this case any governess or other employee would most certainly not be permitted to be present.

You might want to look into land ownership rights in the era, married women weren't allowed to own land until the late 1800's in england, and so unless there was a legal arrangement in place, the land and the house would revert back to her husbands family, or any children / next of kin. You should check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Married_Women's_Property_Act_1882

Not sure how it would apply to your story, but it's something worth thinking about.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 09:04 PM
This is all very useful!

The late husband of the Widow in question has one living male relative, who is elderly and abroad and refuses to return and can barely be reached, who has no son or son-in-law. Both of the Widow's children (aged nine and eleven) are girls. Haven't decided on what the terms of her husband's will might be, other than disposal of his body.

My first instinct now is to put the Island off the north east coast of England.

Priene
01-04-2011, 09:56 PM
My first instinct now is to put the Island off the north east coast of England.

There aren't any. Not that far off the coast.

DavidZahir
01-04-2011, 11:03 PM
There aren't any. Not that far off the coast. In some ways that works out best, then. From what I've gathered, a brig of the period couldn't go faster than 11 knots (usually slower), which would mean if my fictional island were fifteen or twenty miles from the coast it would take that ship more than an hour to cross the distance. More than enough reason to stay where they are and seek medical help from the local physician.

That there are no such islands in the real world simplifies matters, actually.


Not from England it's not. Ireland is about three hours from England, on a slow sail, and is to the west of england.As far as disposal of the remains, sure. But the immediate problem is medical attention, with a doctor perhaps half an hour from the ship as opposed to more than an hour to get back to England.


No. A governess was an employee, a teacher/nanny and would not, under any circumstance, have been invited to dinner, especially a dinner with an officer. It just wasn't, and isn't, done.
(If) your governess were a poor relation, or 'well bred' with a known name, and also filled that odd role the governess-companion, you might get away with her being present as a chaperon.I'll confess to being a little startled that the governess would not be allowed to dine with the family on a special occasion like this, especially with no other adult females of any quality present (governesses from all I've read occupied an "in between" station, neither servants nor family). The young lady in question is of perfectly good, if undistinguished, family.

I don't know if these details make any difference, but the Widow married "above her station" in that her father was a vicar as was her maternal grandfather (her paternal grandfather was a General and country squire). Her husband might have been a baronet. Haven't decided yet, but he was quite wealthy. On the other hand, her aunt married a titled gentleman. There is something like fifteen years difference in age between herself and the Governess (who is in her early twenties).


Her brother, who is also in the Church, is staying with her. There was an older brother who went into the Navy but died as a midshipman. The son of his commanding officer is now a midshipman aboard said brig. The two families therefore know each other and so this young officer knows about a good doctor being on the island from correspondence.

It isn't necessary that the Governess be present, however.

I'm getting more than I expected from these responses, btw. Thanks much!!!

Kenn
01-04-2011, 11:59 PM
My first instinct now is to put the Island off the north east coast of England.
Part of the problem is that you are trying to rewrite the geology of the British Isles. The only islands off the NE coast of England are close to the shore, although that might not be a problem since much of the area is quite remote (i.e. no doctors). The only types of contender would be Lindisfarne (which does not have a deep water harbour) or one of the Farne Islands, both off which would be much smaller than your original island (thanks to the geology). They are steeped in religious history.

If you push off to the SW, then it is worth taking a look at something like Lundy (which has a very interesting history in itself). There are plenty of islands that would fit the bill off the W coast of Scotland and you could easily invent one to suit your taste up there.

DavidZahir
01-05-2011, 12:07 AM
Part of the problem is that you are trying to rewrite the geology of the British Isles. The only islands off the NE coast of England are close to the shore, although that might not be a problem since much of the area is quite remote (i.e. no doctors).This is not a problem as I see it. I have no compunction whatsoever about sticking an island where, in the real world, none exists.

Kenn
01-05-2011, 01:10 AM
This is not a problem as I see it. I have no compunction whatsoever about sticking an island where, in the real world, none exists.
There is a difference between putting an island where one does not exist and putting one where one cannot exist. If you do, then the plot will look unresearched.

DavidZahir
01-05-2011, 02:49 AM
Fair enough. I then ask for a reason why an island this size could not exist in the place I've described (approximately fifteen to twenty miles east or northeast of Whitby or thereabouts).

pdr
01-05-2011, 10:30 AM
Sometimes, shaldna, a young lady, within a year or two of leaving the schoolroom, or was being groomed by her family for coming out, had a governess companion. This female was capable of teaching but also knew the ins and outs of society manners and behaviour and guided her pupil. The governess companion commanded a high salary and was often employed by the 'upwardly mobile' middle class to prepare daughters for a marriage into the upper class.

shaldna
01-05-2011, 12:58 PM
Fair enough. I then ask for a reason why an island this size could not exist in the place I've described (approximately fifteen to twenty miles east or northeast of Whitby or thereabouts).

Ok, that's fair enough. But here are some things to consider.

The channel between england and france is around 25 miles (iirc), so you don#'t have a huge amount of space to play with in the south.

The further north you go you come into the risk of weather. The north coasts are cold places and the weather can be very harsh.

An island like you described, which will be roughly the size of guernsey (which has a population of aboput 60,000 people compared to the 150 you are suggesting), is a HUGE island for one person to own, and a massive island to base so far off shore and still be considered part of england. An island that size in the north sea, on shipping routes would be considered a very valuable site, and is more likely to be commandeered as a naval base, and there may be considerable interest in the island and it's occupation, which needs to be considered also.

I don't want to sound patronising, I really don't. But you're profile says you are from the US, and I think you're grasp of scale here might be difficult. To put things into perspective, IRELAND is around 250miles long. There are STATES in the US that are bigger than my whole country. I just think that you might not appreciate how small places are this side.

waylander
01-05-2011, 02:15 PM
Any reason why you can't set this west of Scotland? Lots of islands there that fit your basic premise.

Priene
01-05-2011, 02:43 PM
Fair enough. I then ask for a reason why an island this size could not exist in the place I've described (approximately fifteen to twenty miles east or northeast of Whitby or thereabouts).

Could not? Obviously it could. In fiction there can be space aliens and dragons and hidden kingdoms just beneath the waves. It's just not very plausible, geologically or culturally. There's scarcely an island between the Thames Estuary and the Orkneys. Great Britain's mountains are part of the chain which stretches from Norway to Brittany. They manifest as islands at low points, but they lie to the west of the mainland. So you get the Scillies to the south west and Lundy in the Bristol Channel and Anglesey in Wales, then Man and a vast number of isolated Scottish islands. Land to the east is flatter and slowly sinking as the north-west springs back up from the weight of the glaciers. There are no Yorkshire islanders, and few East Anglian ones, so if a book posits them, many British readers would find the idea slightly strange. A few Northumbrian islands do exist, and if I needed an imaginary east coast island I'd probably create one there. But if isolation was needed, there were plenty of isolated towns and villages whether surrounded by cliffs, like Robin Hood's Bay, or located on spits or surrounded by marsh. Accents are likely to be difficult to get right, though.

Plot Device
01-05-2011, 04:01 PM
RE: governess coming to dinner

Instead of having her be the governess, how about making her the stillroom maid? The stillroom maid was a job SOMETIMES given to an unfortunate female family member (cousin, aunt, etc) who either never married, or was widowed and left destitute by her penniless husband.

DavidZahir
01-05-2011, 04:01 PM
The further north you go you come into the risk of weather. The north coasts are cold places and the weather can be very harsh.This lends itself to my purposes rather well, actually.

An island like you described, which will be roughly the size of guernsey (which has a population of aboput 60,000 people compared to the 150 you are suggesting), is a HUGE island for one person to own, and a massive island to base so far off shore and still be considered part of england.I see your point about one person owning the whole thing. Thank you. But when I get out a map and do some comparisons, fifteen or twenty miles still isn't that far when I look at other islands around Britain (albeit most of those are part of Scotland).


Great Britain's mountains are part of the chain which stretches from Norway to Brittany. They manifest as islands at low points, but they lie to the west of the mainland. So you get the Scillies to the south west and Lundy in the Bristol Channel and Anglesey in Wales, then Man and a vast number of isolated Scottish islands. Land to the east is flatter and slowly sinking as the north-west springs back up from the weight of the glaciers.A logical and compelling case for why such an island would be unlikely. Thank you.

Methinks the solution is to make this island a little smaller, a little less hospitable and somewhat further north. It will still probably be a bit of an anomaly, but done with open eyes. How the place might fit into (from their perspective) future history does not feature into my story so will be left alone. The manor family won't own the whole island but most of the good bits on it.


Accents are likely to be difficult to get right, though.I'm not going to try and recreate specific regional accents. Rather I'd prefer to listen to a lot of recordings of voices from the North and try to capture the rhythms in speech, when needed.

Many thanks!


Instead of having her be the governess, how about making her the stillroom maid? The stillroom maid was a job SOMETIMES given to an unfortunate female family member (cousin, aunt, etc) who either never married, or was widowed and left destitute by her penniless husband.For purposes of my story, she needs to be the Governess. I have done some checking with someone who really adores that period, and I'm convinced that the Governess might well be invited for several reasons: The lack of other females present at this dinner, the relatively slack "standards" of the country as opposed to town or city, and the loneliness of the Widow in question.

Kenn
01-05-2011, 04:48 PM
Fair enough. I then ask for a reason why an island this size could not exist in the place I've described (approximately fifteen to twenty miles east or northeast of Whitby or thereabouts).
The easy answer is because there are no islands there.

The more complicated answer is because the North Sea is a once-glaciated, sedimentary basin and the sea currents prevent the formation of barrier islands. An American analogy might be something like putting a volcano in Florida.

Shakesbear
01-05-2011, 08:51 PM
About the Governess attending a social event: surely this depends on many nuances of the society that her employer moves in, and the inclinations of the Governess her self. The Haut Ton would probably not allow a Governess to attend a major social event during the season - even to make up numbers. However, further down the social scale it could well be feasible:


A governess influenced by these practices and principles, will entitle herself to lie on a footing with a family, when there are no special parties; and she must possess good sense enough not to intrude on that domestic privacy ... if she mingles with the parties of the families, she must, of course, not make herself too familiar with the domestic servants. page 94, The Complete Servant by Sarah and Samuel Adams, first published in 1825, Southover Press 1989, ISBN1870962036
.