Friday Fun Facts - 9/14/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) Here is a recording of a pianist performing Bach's Goldberg Variations.

According to Wikipedia, the Goldberg Variations were first published in 1741. So it's plausible that Mother Hildegarde could have had a copy of the score in Paris in 1744.
"Here are the Bach pieces. They're fairly old, I haven't looked at them in several years. Still, I’m almost sure..." She lapsed into silence, flipping quickly through the pages of the Bach scripts on her knee, one at a time, glancing back now and then at the "Lied" on the rack.

"Ha!" she let out a cry of triumph, and held out one of the Bach pieces to me. "See there?"

The paper was titled "Goldberg Variations," in a crabbed, smeared hand. I touched the paper with some awe, swallowed hard, and looked back at the "Lied." It took only a moment’s comparison to see what she meant.

"You’re right, it’s the same!" I said. "A note different here and there, but basically it’s exactly the same as the original theme of the Bach piece. How very peculiar."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "In Which Music Plays a Part". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) The photo above shows what a peat fire looks like. The prisoners at Ardsmuir spent many hours cutting peats:
The prisoners’ crew was accompanied by six armed soldiers, who fell in before and behind, muskets held in marching order, their smart appearance a marked contrast to the ragged Highlanders. The prisoners walked slowly, oblivious to the rain that soaked their rags. A mule-drawn wagon creaked behind, a bundle of peat knives gleaming dully in its bed.

Quarry frowned, counting them. “Some must be ill; a work crew is eighteen men—three prisoners to a guard, because of the knives. Though surprisingly few of them try to run,” he added, turning away from the window. “Nowhere to go, I suppose.” He left the desk, kicking aside a large woven basket that sat on the hearth, filled with crude chunks of a rough dark-brown substance.

“Leave the window open, even when it’s raining,” he advised. “The peat smoke will choke you, otherwise."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Honor's Prisoner". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video that demonstrates the traditional method of peat-cutting in Scotland. (If the sound of bagpipes bothers you, turn down the volume before you watch this. <g>)

For more information about what it was like to live with peat fires in the 18th century, including the challenge of cooking over an open peat fire, look here. (Take some time to explore the site; there's a wealth of information there that I think OUTLANDER fans would enjoy.)

3) Lizzie's baby girl was in a "transverse lie" position in ECHO, similar to the illustration shown below.

You can see at once why Claire was so worried.
The fact was that without a hospital, operating facilities, or anesthesia, my ability to deal with an unorthodox delivery was severely limited. Sans surgical intervention, with a transverse lie, a midwife had four alternatives: let the woman die after days of agonizing labor; let the woman die after doing a cesarean section without benefit of anesthesia or asepsis--but possibly save the baby; possibly save the mother by killing the child in the womb and then removing it in bits (Daniel Rawlings had had several pages in his book--illustrated--describing this procedure), or attempting an internal version, trying to turn the baby into a position in which it might be delivered.

While superficially the most attractive option, that last one could easily be as dangerous as the others, resulting in the deaths of mother and child.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Transverse Lie". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think Lizzie was very lucky to have had Claire there to help, otherwise she likely would have died, and the baby as well.

4) The gentleman's club known in the 18th century as White's Chocolate House still exists today, at the same location in St. James's Street that it has occupied since 1773.  The betting book mentioned in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is also real. According to this site:
It was here that, according to legend, Alvanley bet a friend £3,000 as to which of two raindrops would first reach the bottom of a pane of the bow window. It is not recorded whether he won his bet. Lord Alvanley's was not the most eccentric bet in White's famous betting book. Some of those entries were on sports, but more often on political developments, especially during the chaotic years of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. However, a good many were social bets, such as whether a friend would marry this year, or whom.
Here's Lord John and his brother Hal, discovering a man lying unconscious in the street outside White's:
"Is he dead, do you think?” The man’s wig had slipped askew, half covering his face. It had begun to snow lightly, and between the flickering light and the swirling flakes, it was impossible to perceive whether he was breathing.

“Let me look; perhaps--” Hal stooped to touch the man, but was prevented by a shout from the doorway.

“Don’t touch him! Not yet!” An excited young man issued from the club and seized Hal’s arm. “We haven’t put it in the book yet!”

“What, the betting book?” Hal demanded.

“Yes--Rogers says he’s dead, and I say he’s not. Two guineas on it! Will you join the wager with me, Melton?"

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Not a Betting Man". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Some notable modern members of the club have included David Niven, Prince Charles, and Randolph Churchill (son of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill). The current British PM, David Cameron, whose father was a former club president, resigned his membership in 2008, apparently in protest at the club's refusal to admit women.

5) Bee gums were sections of hollow trees, used as hives; they were called "gums" because they often were made from gum trees. The bee gums shown above are from the Mountain Farm Museum near Cherokee, NC, not too far from where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be.  (Photo credit: Jess Stryker)

The photo above shows a bee gum from Virginia. (Photo credit: lashlarue on Flickr.)
In the half-second between the first sting and the next, I had glimpsed one of the bee gums lying on its side in the dirt just inside the gate, combs and honey spilling out of it like entrails.

I ducked under branches and flung myself into a patch of pokeweed, gasping and cursing incoherently. The sting on my neck throbbed viciously, and the one on my temple was already puffing up, pulling at the eyelid on that side. I felt something crawling on my ankle, and batted it away by reflex before it could sting.

I wiped tears away, blinking. A few bees sailed past through the yellow-flowered stems above me, aggressive as Spitfires. I crawled a little farther, trying at once to get away, slap at my hair, and shake out my skirts, lest any more of them be trapped in my clothes.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 84, "Among the Lettuces". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
For more information on the history of bee-keeping, look here.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!


Bev said...

Interesting! as always.
After watching the peat cutting video - no wonder the men dragged themselves back to Ardsmuir every night after a day of what looks like exhausting labour.

CoCo said...

What a great bunch of fun facts you've provided! Somehow I wasn't seeing your posts before, so I didn't know you did this. I'm going to make a point to visit to see what you put up every week. Thanks for doing this ~ it really enriches the reading experience!

Deniz Bevan said...

I love these posts! And yay for Canadian Glenn Gould!
Wish I could keep bees :-)

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