Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. This is a collection of some of my favorite items from previous FFF posts. I hope you enjoy them!
1) I'm sure many of you will remember Phillip Wylie's Friesian stallion, Lucas, from THE FIERY CROSS. What you may not know is that Diana Gabaldon's German translator, Barbara Schnell, owns several Friesian horses. The photo above comes from Wikipedia (and no, that's not one of Barbara's horses, but I like the wild, untamed look of the stallion in that photo).
This photo, which Barbara was kind enough to share with me from her personal collection, shows one of her Friesians, a stallion named Apollo. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
These black horses had great floating masses of silky hair--almost like women's hair--that rose and fluttered with their movements, matching the graceful fall of their long, full tails. In addition, each horse had delicate black feathers decorating hoof and fetlock, that lifted like floating milkweed seed with each step. By contrast to the usual rawboned riding horses and rough draft animals used for haulage, these horses seemed almost magical--and from the awed comment they were occasioning among the spectators, might as well have come from Fairyland as from Phillip Wylie's plantation in Edenton.You can see more of Barbara Schnell's photos of her Friesians, Apollo and Talisker, in this photo gallery. (Barbara says, "Lucas, Talisker's sire, inspired Lucas in the book.") And here's a video showing a young German equestrian, Jessica Süss, riding a Friesian named Zorro at a competition in 2010. Zorro died in 2012, but he was a beautiful horse. Thanks very much to Barbara for sharing the pictures and links with us!
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "In Cupid's Grove". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about Friesians, visit the website of the Friesian Horse Association of North America.
2) Until I read THE FIERY CROSS, I'd never heard of people writing letters both horizontally and vertically to save paper, but apparently this was a common practice in the 18th century.
Mama writes in tiny letters when she does her case-notes, and when Da writes to Scotland he writes on both sides of the page, and then he turns it sideways and writes across the lines, so it looks like lattice-work.The photo above shows an example of a "crossed letter" from Robert Ker Porter to Anna Maria Porter, dated 4 April 1806. Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you'll see the writing going from bottom to top across the page. You can clearly see the "sideways" signature near the right-hand side of the photo.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 74, "The Sounds of Silence". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site, where I found the photo:
Crossed letters began to decline in use after 1840, when the “Uniform Penny Post” was established in England, allowing letter-writers to send domestic mail a rate of a penny per 1/2 ounce (thus the name “penny post”), regardless of distance, payable in advance by the sender.
3) This is an example of a pottery dish from the 18th-century Moravian settlement at Salem, North Carolina, dating from 1775-1785, during Gottfried Aust's tenure as master potter. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.) I like to think that it might be the very one that Roger and Bree saw in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Aye, but what about clay?” [Roger] interrupted. “Did ye see that plate at Hilda’s wedding? The big brown and red one, with the beautiful patterns?”
“Yes,” she said. “Why?”
"Ute McGillivray said someone from Salem brought it. I dinna recall the name, but she said he was quite the big noise in potting--or whatever ye call making dishes.”
“I’ll bet you any amount of money she didn’t say that!”
“Well, words to that effect.” He went on, undeterred. “The point being that he made it here; it wasn’t something he’d brought from Germany. So there’s clay about that’s suitable for firing, eh?”
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Ambush". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
My mom and I saw an exhibit in 2013 at the NC Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, featuring many examples of 18th and early 19th century Moravian and Quaker pottery from the area around Salem and Bethabara (near what is now Winston-Salem, NC). Some of the pieces are really quite beautiful! Here's a PDF file with more information, including photos of many of the pieces we saw in that exhibit.
4) In the 18th century, a pocket was a separate, removable item of ladies' clothing, tied about the waist. (The pair of pockets shown above are from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
Ladies' skirts and petticoats had slits on the sides to allow access to the pockets underneath, as shown in this diagram of an 18th-century petticoat:
Here's a scene in which Claire demonstrates the usefulness of the removable pocket:
Roger paused to wipe his face with the large handkerchief Brianna had provided for the purpose, and under cover of this, saw Claire reach into the slit of her skirt and draw out a large calico pocket.Here's a site that explains how to make your own 18th-century-style pocket. For more about 18th-century pockets, look here.
She appeared to be arguing with Jamie in a whisper; he was shaking his head, looking like the Spartan with the fox at his vitals.
Then the snake’s head appeared suddenly under Jamie’s chin, tongue flicking, and Jamie’s eyes went wide. Claire stood instantly on tiptoe, seized it by the neck, and whipping the astonished reptile out of her husband’s shirt like a length of rope, crammed the writhing ball headfirst into her pocket and jerked shut the drawstring.
"Praise the Lord!” Roger blurted, to which the congregation obligingly chorused “Amen!” though looking a little puzzled at the interjection.
(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Love One Another". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) The photo above shows what a nannyberry bush (Viburnum lentago) looks like in the autumn, around the time of year that the Gathering in THE FIERY CROSS took place.
"Is there a difficulty, Mr. Wemyss?”Every article I could find about the Viburnum lentago mentions the suckers that form at its base. Evidently those are what trapped poor Mr. Wemyss. <g>
Mr. Wemyss was delayed in answering, having become inextricably entangled with the nannyberry bush, and I was obliged to go and help release him. A onetime bookkeeper who had been obliged to sell himself as an indentured servant, Mr. Wemyss was highly unsuited to life in the wilderness.
“I do apologize for troubling ye, sir,” he said, rather red in the face. He picked nervously at a spiny twig that had caught in his fair, flyaway hair.
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "Virtue". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you enjoyed this 8th installment of the Best of the Friday Fun Facts! Here are the previous collections:
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #1
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #2
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #3
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #4
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #6
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #7
Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.