Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Historical figures mentioned in ECHO

I'm always fascinated to see real historical figures mentioned in Diana Gabaldon's books, from Charles Stuart in DRAGONFLY, to Hermon Husband in THE FIERY CROSS, to Flora MacDonald in ABOSAA. So I thought I'd list a few of the historical persons in ECHO that I found interesting or significant.

* * * SPOILER WARNING * * *

If you haven't finished reading AN ECHO IN THE BONE, you WILL find spoilers below. Read at your own risk!

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1) Nathan Hale - A number of people on Compuserve who live outside the U.S. were puzzled by the reference to Nathan Hale in ECHO (Chapter 20, "I Regret...", p. 212). Schoolchildren in the U.S. are routinely taught about Nathan Hale as the man whose famous last words before his execution were, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." I thought it was really interesting that Diana's portrayal of Hale's execution in ECHO avoided actually showing us Hale's last words, instead focusing on the details of the hanging, the protruding tongue and so on.

2) Joseph Brant - Despite the English name, Brant was a Mohawk, also known as Thayendanagea. I wonder if the painting below might be the same one mentioned in Chapter 14 ("Delicate Matters"), p. 129, that was hanging on the wall in the Beefsteak Club in London?



Brant himself, of course, is mentioned later in the book, in chapter 40 ("The Blessing of Bride and of Michael"), when Ian goes to visit Emily, who is living in Brant's house.

There's more about Joseph Brant (Thayendanagea) here.

3) Andrew Bell - Edinburgh printer, and co-founder of the Encyclopedia Britannica. Look here for some thoughts I posted about Jamie and Andy Bell on Compuserve recently, after re-reading Chapter 74 ("Twenty-Twenty"), where Jamie and Claire encounter him in Edinburgh. He's a fascinating character, and I had never heard of him before I read ECHO.

4) Major General Lord Charles Grey - mentioned briefly in Chapter 71, "A State of Conflict", p. 619, as a cousin of Lord John's. As I told Diana, my reaction to seeing his name was, "Sure, why not, everybody else in this book seems to be turning up long-lost relatives and obscure branches of their family tree!" <g>



Interestingly enough, Sir Charles Grey's eldest son was the Earl Grey for whom the tea is named.

5) John Hunter - He's described in the book as a distant cousin of Denny and Rachel Hunter, a famous physician under whom Denny studied in London. But he's also a well-known historical figure, one of the pioneers of modern surgery, and a fascinating character in his own right.



If you want to learn more about John Hunter, I would highly recommend Wendy Moore's THE KNIFE-MAN, a very entertaining and readable biography. (One interesting bit of trivia: Hunter kept a wolf-dog hybrid as a pet for many years. I think he would have got on well with Rollo. <g>)

6) Daniel Morgan - When I first encountered him in ECHO (Chapter 61, "No Better Companion Than the Rifle", p. 538), the realization that he was an actual historical figure who'd been flogged worse than Jamie left me literally open-mouthed with astonishment. Can you imagine living through a flogging of 499 lashes?! Wow. Daniel Morgan's attitude toward his scars clearly had a profound effect on Jamie in ECHO, and I found that very interesting.



7) Jane McCrea - the scalped woman depicted in chapter 55 ("Retreat"), p. 494. That was horrible, just horrible, to read about. Diana told me that Jane's fiance, David Jones, never married after her death.

6 comments:

Janice M said...

Karen---my favorite was a typical throw away comment at the party where Claire met John Andre, which was very neat too....but at the party it is mentioned that Peggy Shippen was able to attend :D I quizzed Diana on that and she smiled and remarked it was put in for those who would recognize her.

Karen Henry said...

Janice:

Yes, there are a number of others who make "cameo appearances" in the book. Peggy Shippen, Thomas Paine, Von Steuben, etc. It's fun to look for them all, because Diana doesn't necessarily draw attention to them.

Karen

Deniz Bevan said...

Thanks Karen - I'm especially interested in the medical stuff so I'll have to get The KNIFE-MAN now!

Deniz Bevan said...

By the way, my word verification was "bacidali"; is that like a baccanalea, but Dali-style? :-)

JAS said...

Thanks for the info. I always find this stuff so interesting.

Jari Backman said...

Dear Karen,

Just a great collection of historical persons.

The way Diana puts the real people, the real places and the characters of these books is just amazing. And that is one important part for me to come back again to the books.