Serving God, the Parish, or possibly Mammon in late Georgian England

The church and the parish were important in rural England in late Georgian times. Faith in God was a simple part of life for most ordinary people, if not for the idle rich. Besides, village life depended on farming, which revolved around the seasons, and the liturgical year and important feast that reflected the seasons. And Sunday services were still mandatory, (until the late 19th century) with non-attendance punishable by a fine.

So who presided over these services?

To someone raised in the last half of the 21st century, the concept of church livings—where a local landowner has the power to appoint the rector or vicar to his local Church of England parish—seems odd. Yet it made a lot of sense in the beginning, encouraging those with wealth to build churches.

Those with the power to appoint had what was called an advowson, which was a type of property that could be bought, sold and inherited.

Oxford and Cambridge colleges controlled nearly 5% of benefices, presenting them as gifts to fellows and masters who wished to marry and leave academic pursuits. Another 10% or so belonged to the Crown, to be presented to government supporters. Bishops and cathedral chapters possessed about 20%. The gentry and aristocracy held the largest share, on the order of 60%. Most great families had at least one or two livings at their disposal.  [Maria Grace at English Historical Fiction Authors]

The advowson conferred the right to a living, also called or a benefice; a post that guarantees a fixed amount of property or income. This income came from tithes: great or small, depending on the parish. Parishes that paid a great tithe had a rector. A great tithe was 10% of all cereal crops grown in the parish and sometimes wool. Parishes that paid a small tithe had a vicar. A small tithe was 10% of remaining agricultural produce. By late Georgian times, tithes had commonly become a fixed cash payment, whose value had very likely dropped from the time it was first set.

The practice of sending younger sons into the Church meant that many parishes were served by clergy who were landed gentry first and foremost, and whose parishes rarely saw them.

Without patronage, being an ordained cleric was not a passport to a life of clover. Over a fifth of ordained clerics in late Georgian England never had a living, and a third took more than six years. A quarter died young, emigrated, or went into teaching.

If you weren’t one of the lucky 20 percent, with the well-connected friends or relatives who could see to your future by giving you a parish, or the 25 percent who died or left, you took a job as one of the working bees of the late Georgian church, as a curate.

Curates might work alongside their vicars, or they might act instead of them, while the lucky fellow was off socialising or hunting. The curate’s wages were paid from the vicar’s own pocket. Just to confuse things, if a curate was permanently appointed to a parish that had no or an absent rector or vicar, the curate would often be called ‘vicar’.

Whatever he was called, the resident pastor, at the very least, was responsible for church services: Sunday services, weddings, baptisms, and funerals, plus visiting the sick. And, of course, the very least was what some did.

But, according to at least some commentators, the bulk of them were decent men, doing their best. Maybe they were not exciting. Indeed, the exodus to more enthusiastic forms of Christianity offered by the Wesleyans and others grew in strength through the Georgian period. But:

The bulk of the English clergy then as ever were educated, refined, generous, God-fearing men, who lived lives of simple piety and plain duty, respected by their people for the friendly help and wise counsel and open purse which were ever at the disposal of the poor.  [Henry Wakeman in An Introduction to the History of the Church of England]

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Fool’s gold

In this, the last of my series on fraud in history, we’re looking at the gold-brick scam. Of course, it needn’t be an actual brick or even gold. The essence of the trick is that the victim is shown a sample of whatever the fraudster is selling. The sample is genuine, but after the fraudster is long gone, the rest of the purchase proves to be fake.

The trick is supposedly named after a famous case in the United States in 1879.

What happened was that Mr N D Clark, the president of the First National Bank of Ravenna, Ohio, was visiting a mine he owned at Leadville in Colorado. He was approached by five miners, who asked him to advance money on a 52-pound gold brick, which for some reason they weren’t able to ship at the time. The owner told a hard-luck story about having lost all his property and urgently needing money.

Mr Clark had the brick taken to a blacksmith, who cut off one corner. An assayer pronounced the gold to be genuine and Mr Clark advanced the miner $10,000 on condition the brick, and the miner, accompanied him to Chicago to get the balance. The miner, of course, vanished off the train on the way… The corners were gold right enough but the body of the brick was worthless… (Michael Quinion from World Wide Words)

The item might be precious coins or jewelry or even artwork. The trick is often a long game, relying on building trust over time. Let’s say you are in England in the early 19th century during the craze for antiquities and you want to offload a cargo of forged works. (Art and antiquities forgery goes back at least two millenia.)

First, you need some credibility with collectors. Perhaps you invite a few of them for a private showing of the works you claim to have brought home in your personal luggage (all genuine, of course).

They are all excited. You’ll quickly figure out who will insist on waiting to see the rest of the shipment, and who can be convinced to purchase it sight unseen.

It is simple, really. “My dear sir, I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have found myself in unfortunate circumstances and must sell immediately. The rest is in my warehouse in Bristol, but I have no time. I am willing to sell it for half its real price, but I must have the money now.”

If you’re lucky, you’ll have two marks who can be convinced to bid one another up, but half of a fortune is still nothing to be sneezed at.

A simpler and shorter version of the same con requires two fraudsters. As with most scams, the fraudsters rely on the greed of the victim to suck them into the fraudsters’ trap.

The first fraudster offers something for sale, but for some reason then goes out of earshot, leaving behind the object or animal. The second, pretending to be a passerby, rushes up and recognises the object or animal as something rare and expensive. “Why, that’s a rare Tibetan Mountain Horse. Did you know that any cold bred from that horse is guaranteed to win races.” Or whatever will work.

The second fraudster makes himself scarce, and when the first returns, the victim buys the object or animal for what he thinks is an excellent price, hugging the secret of its rarity to himself.

And the two fraudsters laugh their way home.

As the old saying goes, the more things change the more they remain the same. In fact, when I was looking for stories for this post, I even found a Fraud Museum. If you’re in Austin, Texas, call by and see some of the great scamsters of history.

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More Fool Me

Blackmail is a form of extortion, and becomes fraud when either the incriminating circumstances have been set up for the express purpose of getting money out of the victim, or the victim has done nothing, but can’t prove it.

Both are variants of the badger game, possibly so called because of the nasty sport of badger baiting, where the poor innocent badger is attacked by a ruthless pack of dogs for the entertainment of the crowd and the enrichment of the animal’s owners and canny gamblers on the outcome.

The classic badger game

The essence of the trick is to lure the victim into behaviour of which they are ashamed, or that will get them into hot water with family or employers.

The classic ploy involves two fraudsters. One sets the trap, and the other springs it.

A Good Samaritan meets a badger

I was reading a case in point in the Old Bailey records. In the mid-nineteenth century, an immigrant from Germany sought financial help from a well known member of the German expatriate community in London. Poor woman. Her husband needed money in order to travel to join her.

Once she received the first handout, she needed another. She couldn’t live on air until her husband arrived, after all. Then she discovered that she was with child. Then she was ill. Then the child was ill. And all the time, her husband was delayed and the philanthropist continued to provide funds. Until the day that she threw herself into his arms to express her undying gratitude. Just as her husband burst into the room and declared himself wronged.

The philanthropist then faced a demand for even more money. Far more money. A thousand pounds would soothe the wounded feelings of the devastated husband.

Unfortunately for the fraudsters, the philanthropist was made of stouter stuff than they expected. He laid an information with the police, and the couple were arrested, tried, and convicted.

Of course, he must have been confident about his reputation, and the record does not show whether he had a loyal and trusting wife, was a single gentleman, or slept on the couch for the next year.

A single trick with countless variations

You can imagine the many variations on the ploy, especially in the straight-laced moral environment that was the public face of the Victorian era. Embarrassment, marital disharmony, and social ostracism were all weapons in the hands of the fraudster.

Nothing was off-the table apparently as a potential con:  inappropriate sexual advances, child pornography, bizarre fetishes, sexual or otherwise, sexual harassment in the workplace, or professional misconduct (those are but a few).  One that gained national attention via the August 25, 1930 edition of Time magazine involved a “sick” woman visiting a doctor, who after describing symptoms that would require her to disrobe, would claim misconduct.  Sometimes an “outraged husband” would burst into the room and threaten the doctor with criminal charges or a lawsuit. (Sharon Hall on Felonious Females)

And there was worse. When acting on same-sex attraction was punishable by death, playing the badger game could be a very lucrative activity for the fraudulent lover and that lover’s partner. Acquire a set of incriminating letters, and the victim had no choices beyond paying up, killing the fraudsters, or fleeing the country.

And the badger game still worked if the victim was poor but had wealthy relatives who cared about their family reputation. “Your grandson has compromised my daughter and the problem will go away for ten thousand pounds.”

Or perhaps the victim was innocent but couldn’t prove it. To save his reputation, he might well pay up anyway. “This is your baby and I am going to tell your wife.”

Today, badger games have moved to social media. Which you might want to keep in mind next time you’re tempted to share a revealing photograph with an intimate friend.

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Inheritance for illegitimate sons

The Rightful Heir, by George Smith

Today’s Footnotes on Friday post is by Regina Jeffers. Welcome, Regina, and congratulations on the new book.

Could an illegitimate son inherit during the Regency? Or should we say could the illegitimate son inherit his father’s property, and not necessarily his peerage/title? First one must realize that there is actually a rule against perpetuity (which is a restriction saying the estate cannot be taken away from or given away by the possessor for a period beyond certain limits fixed by law) which addresses an entail lasting more than the three lives (generally the grandfather who is the holder of the entailed property, his first born son, and his first born grandson) plus twenty-one years. Keep in mind that an entail can be renewed when the original owner’s son (meaning the first-born son), as described above, becomes the grandfather, the original grandson becomes the father, and there is a new grandson.

The rule against perpetuities

The common rule against perpetuities forbids instruments (contracts, wills, and so forth) from tying up property for too long a time beyond the lives of people living at the time the instrument was written. For instance, willing property to one’s great-great-great-great grandchildren (to be held in trust for them, but not fully owned, by the intervening generations) would normally violate the rule against perpetuities. The law is applied differently or not at all, and even contravened, in various jurisdictions and circumstances. Black’s Law Dictionary defines the rule against perpetuities as “[t]he common-law rule prohibiting a grant of an estate unless the interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years (plus a period of gestation to cover a posthumous birth) after the death of some person alive when the interest was created.” At common law, the length of time was fixed at 21 years after the death of an identifiable person alive at the time the interest was created. This is often expressed as “lives in being plus twenty-one years.” (Wells Law Blog http://wellslawoffice.com/2011/05/remember-the-rule-against-perpetuities/)

Property and peerages followed different rules

Another point to keep in mind is that property and peerages followed different rules of inheritance, so customarily matters were set up so that the family seat went along with the title.

Property was disposed of through deeds, marriage settlements, and wills. Trusts were established to hold property for the benefit of the real owners. The rules of descent and distribution of these trusts could be set up any way one wanted-—within reason, of course. If property was disposed of by a settlement that was in force for the three lives in being + 21 years (as described above), at the end of that time it would need to be resettled by creating a new entail. That is what many did. If the property was not resettled, or dealt with in a will, it descended through PROPERTY LAWS, not by LAWS GOVERNING PEERAGES. As long as the  property went from father to son or from grandfather to grandson along with the title, all was well. However, if there suddenly was no male heir in the direct line, other provisions were established for disposing of the property. The title might go to a cousin twice removed, but the property could even go to a daughter or the offspring of a daughter. [If there was no male heir, i.e., Mr. Collins, in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet’s property could have been left to his daughters or the eldest son of one of the Bennet sisters. Interesting idea…]

Male heirs were preferred only because males, especially of the gentleman class, did not want the property to go to another family. Though daughters have as much family blood as a son, when a daughter married (at least, by law up until the 1870’s) her property came under the control of her husband. Her son would belong to a different family then.

The laws of descent and distribution and inheritance of real estate are complex. It should be remembered that property and peerage have different rules of descent. The family seat can be separated from the title. Property cannot be extinct, though titles could be. Property was rarely forfeited to the Crown due to lack of heirs. Usually it was due to a criminal action.

Illegitimate sons who inherited

For example, Richard Seymour-Conway, 4th Marquess of Hertford, died without legitimate issue. In 1871, his illegitimate son, Richard Wallace, inherited all his father’s unentailed estates and an extensive collection of European art, while the title and a country estate passed to a distant cousin. Later, Wallace was made a baronet [not part of Hertford’s titles] for his services during the siege of Paris, when he equipped several ambulances (using his own funds), founded the Hertford British Hospital, and spent lavish sums to bring relief to those afflicted by the clash.

Another example of the illegitimate son inheriting comes to us from Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont, who was the eldest son and heir of Sir William Wyndham and Catherine Seymour, daughter of Charles Seymour, 6th Duke of Somerset. He succeeded to the Orchard Wyndham estates as 4th baronet on his father’s death in 1740, and in 1750, he succeeded by special remainder as 7th Duke of Somerset, 1st Earl of Egremont and received his share of the Seymour inheritance, the former Percy estates, including Egremont Castle in Cumbria, Leconfield Castle in Yorkshire, and the palatial Petworth House in Sussex. Charles’ son George, the 3rd Earl of Egremont, inherited in 1763, but after the 3rd earl’s death in 1837, his son inherited all but the title due to illegitimacy. How so, you may ask?

George Francis Wyndham, 4th Earl of Egremont was the son of William Frederick Wyndham (youngest son of Charles Wyndham, 2nd Earl of Egremont and Frances Mary Hartford, the illegitimate daughter of Frederick Calvert, 6th Baron Baltimore. George’s father’s eldest brother, George O’Brien Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont of Petworth House, Sussex, died without legitimate male issue and so George Francis Wyndham as the male heir succeeded him as Earl of Egremont, as well as Baron Wyndham and Baron Cockermouth. Unfortunately, George Francis Wyndham did not inherit the Petworth estate or mansion, which was inherited by the 2nd Earl Egremont from the Percy family). Instead, the 3rd Earl of Egremont bequeathed that property to his natural son, Colonel George Wyndham, who was created Baron Leconfield in 1859.

Royalty often bestowed titles upon their illegitimate children. King William IV, for example, presented his illegitimate son, George Augustus Frederick FitzClarence with the title(s) 1st Earl of Munster, 1st Viscount FitzClarence, and 1st Baron Tewkesbury on 4 June 1831.

For a more modern take on the law of perpetuities, check out this piece from CBS News, dated 9 May 2011. “Millionaire’s Heirs Get Inheritance After 92 Years.” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/millionaires-heirs-get-inheritance-after-92-years/

The Earl Claims His Comfort

Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 of the Twins’ Trilogy (releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books)

Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how Frederick Troutman’s life parallels his while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.

Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.

Preorder on Amazon

Excerpt:

Howard’s expression became more serious. “In the beginning, I enjoyed the novelty of the situation. When we called in at the clubs, everyone thought Troutman was you. I knew a few meals would not break your credit, and so Frederick and I considered it amusing. But soon I heard rumors of your accepting invitations to some of the ton’s finest events. I am profoundly grieved, Remmington, that my lack of forethought encouraged Troutman’s deception.”

“So this Troutman fellow learned of my directions and my habits from you?”

“I fear so,” Howard admitted. “I beg you to extend your forgiveness.”

“When we finish our conversation,” Rem instructed, “I will expect you to repeat your story to Sir Alexander.”

Howard nodded his agreement. Rem had not offered his forgiveness, but eventually he would. He learned long ago to keep Howard on a short rope.

“How long did you remain Troutman’s associate?”

“No more than a fortnight,” Howard confided. “I enjoyed his company at first, but over the first sennight his interrogation regarding your comings and goings began to wear thin. In the midst of our second week of acquaintance, Troutman said something that set my hackles on alert.”

“And that was?” Rem asked suspiciously.

A vaguely disturbing smile crossed his cousin’s features. “One day in the midst of a conversation as we reviewed new quarters for my residence, Troutman said if he were the earl, then he would see that I did not go without, and that is was a grave oversight on your part that I was to know less than I deserved. I attempted to explain how my fortune came from a yearly allowance from my revered father, and I was not your dependent, but Troutman was adamant that I was your responsibility.

“Then he said it would serve you right to lose the earldom to a stranger with ties to the title. I explained that, with my father’s poor health, many saw me as your heir presumptive for even if father first succeeded, I would soon follow. I also explained that if another had a right to claim the earldom that it would not lessen your position in Society. Parliament accepted you as Remmington, and even if another proved to be the earl, the fortune and the unentailed lands would remain with you. The claimant would have Tegen Castle and Davids Hall and little else. From what could be salvaged from those properties, your mother retains her widow’s dower.”

Rem wondered if his pretender had aspirations of unseating him as the earl. “Is there anything else that I should know?”

“Yes,” Howard said as he set his glass upon a nearby table. “The remark that caused me to curtail my association with him was when Troutman asked if I thought you were the father of Lady Kavanagh’s daughter.”

Rem lifted his brows in surprise. He wondered who spoke so intimately to Troutman of Rem’s business.

Howard continued as if Rem had not reacted to the remark. “Certainly it is possible that Troutman overheard those awful rumors, but as many in Society thought Troutman were you, I cannot imagine any fool would speak so freely to your face.”

Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy

Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?

Meet Regina Jeffers

With 30+ books to her credit, Regina Jeffers is an award-winning author of historical cozy mysteries, Austenesque sequels and retellings, as well as Regency era-based romantic suspense. A teacher for 40 years, Jeffers often serves as a consultant for Language Arts and Media Literacy programs. With multiple degrees, Regina has been a Time Warner Star Teacher, Columbus (OH) Teacher of the Year, and a Martha Holden Jennings Scholar and a Smithsonian presenter.

Every Woman Dreams: https://reginajeffers.wordpress.com

Website: http://www.rjeffers.com

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Now for the GIVEAWAY. I have two eBook copies of The Earl Claims His Comfort available to those who comment below. The giveaway will end at midnight EDST on Tuesday, September 19.

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Fool Me Twice

Last week, we talked about get-rich-quick schemes. In some ways, the next category of fraud is much worse. Persuasion tricks use a person’s deepest desires to draw them in and fleece them of their money.

The Victorian era is infamous for persuasion tricks that involved seances or other promises to contact the dead. But frauds of this type have been known throughout history, and are as common today as they ever were.

The scheme is simple, in essence. The con artist claims psychic powers, a special ability to see those who have ‘passed over to the other side’. Someone who has suffered a bereavement is told that their dearly departed is anxious to communicate.And communication is lubricated by money.

Fortune-telling powers are a broader category of the same type.

Fortune-tellers and mediums use a technique called ‘cold reading’ to gain the trust of their victims. A practiced cold-reader uses anything they can observe about the victim’s body language, age, clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, sexual orientation, religion, race or ethnicity, level of education, manner of speech, place of origin, and so on to come up with some guesses that are highly likely to be true.

“He is asking me about ‘John’. Does anyone know John?” Does anyone not know someone called John?

The cold-reader quickly picks up on signals about whether the guesses are moving in the right direction, moving on from failed guesses and reinforcing those that the victims acknowledges.

Fraudsters also use hot reading (that is, they research their victim beforehand) and warm reading (which employs statements that apply to most people, called Barnum statements after the famous showman who began the Barnum circus shows.

“I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”

“You have a box of old unsorted photographs in your house.”

“You had an accident when you were a child involving water.”

“You’re having problems with a friend or relative.”

“Your father passed on due to problems in his chest or abdomen.”

“You are wearing a piece of jewellery that you associate with someone important to you who has died.” (Almost always true of a widow. Wedding ring, anyone?)

In one case in the Old Bailey records, the defrauded woman was missing her mother when she was introduced to one Mr Fletcher, who introduced himself as a magnetic doctor. In Mrs Hart-Davies’ evidence, she describes each meeting, and we see her being sucked further and further into faith in this man.

he found me with tears coming down my face, with joy at having, as I supposed, met my mother again… I paid him for his visit; I paid after his four visits… it was about five guineas.

She goes on to explain that, at many of the meetings that followed, she and the Fletchers talked about her jewellery, which she showed to them during one of their visits, and sure enough, in due course of time, the deceased mother sent a message through Mr Fletcher to explain that the jewellery interfered with ‘the magnetism’, a problem she could correct by presenting the jewels to the Fletchers.

I collected my jewels together in a bag, thinking I should be disobedient to my mother if I did not hand them over…my mother, through him, handled the jewellery in Fletcher’s hands, saying, “Oh what happy memories these bring me!”

In vain, the Fletchers pleaded that their psychic gifts were real, and they were merely carrying out the instructions of the spirit world. They were found guilty.

Romantic scams are a persuasion trick much beloved by historical romance writers. The lovely young woman or the handsome young man pursues the innocent peer’s offspring, manages to elicit an agreement to marry, and then accepts money from the guardian to go away.

This edges into blackmail, such as the case of Florence Vining and the Marquis of Worcester. Lord Worcester, some thirty-one years before the case in question, had an acknowledged fling with Miss Vining.

I made the acquaintance of the prisoner … at a place of entertainment… I visited her from time to time… In the year 1869, I agreed to pay her 250 pound if she ceased to annoy me.

But she didn’t. He last saw her in 1874, but over many years he continued to receive begging letters, until they took a turn for the nasty during Lady Worcestor’s confinement.

I will, when you least expect me, tear the gown from your wife’s back, and will curse your child. God knows you have given me much provocation… You shall bitterly repent it. I ask you for 20 pound to leave London. Send it.”

He gave her money to go to Scotland, but the letters continued to come and the marquis had had enough. He began court proceedings.

The prisoner was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ hard labour, which seems quite light for 1898. Did the court note, as I did, that she was a mere sixteen years of age at the beginning of what Worcester acknowledged to be a seven year relationship? Certainly, the proceedings acknowledged that she seemed to genuinely believe she had been hard done by.

More to come. We’ve barely touched on extortion, and we haven’t talked about gold-brick scams at all.

 

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Fool Me Once: Fraud in history

The South Sea Company was founded to raise money to fund the national debt, and granted a monopoly to trade with South America, at that time in the hands of Spain. Trade was never likely to take place, but that didn’t prevent stock from rising greatly in value. A few people made fortunes from insider trading, using their knowledge to purchase debt in advance. A considerable number were ruined.

Fraud was not invented with the Internet. Right through history, people have come up with scams and schemes to extract money from unsuspecting people in return for pipe dreams that evaporated when the confidence trickster slipped away into the night. Or overreached and was caught, since throughout history the first to be meshed in a con artists rhetoric is often the fraudster himself.

We chance to have evidence of fraud from ancient Mesopotamia: a doctored cruciform monument from four thousand years ago, that attempted to convince the king that the temple revenues were higher than they were. Undoubtedly, the scribe was not the first of human kind to apply what has been kindly called ‘creative accounting’. Fraud is as old as civilization.

I’ve been reading about historic cases of fraud as background to a couple of stories.

The secret Buried Treasure scam

Don’t tell anyone, but I can let you in on a pirate treasure.

Some of the biggest schemes in history have whole books written about them. The Spanish Prisoner letters of the late eighteenth century preceded Nigerian scams by two hundred years, but used the same basic psychology.

In essence, the story told was some version of the following. A wealthy person of high estate (possibly related to the ‘mark’, the person being targeted as victim) is falsely imprisoned in Spain, under another identity. He knows the whereabouts of buried treasure, which he can use to ransom himself free, but trusts no one but the mark to retrieve the treasure. If the mark comes to Spain with sufficient money for travel, the prisoner will hand over the information needed to find the treasure, and will share the proceeds fifty/fifty.

If it looks too good, it almost certainly is

The buried treasure idea is a flexible variant of the get-rich-quick scheme category of fraud, but the past is also littered with countless investment propositions that looked too good to be true, and were. Some fraudsters offered incredible profits from non-existent or failing development schemes, diamond mines, or ship cargoes. Others, more cautious, promised profits just above the market rate, funding returns to early investors with money from later investors.

Some schemes, such as the eighteenth century’s South Sea Bubble, reaped millions, and changed governments and economies. Others affected only a few people, but ruined lives, all the same.

And if you like my canal, I have a bridge I can sell you

In one case in Old Bailey online, the scheme may have begun honestly enough. The solicitor at the heart of it was investigating whether to reopen a canal. As came out at the trial, he very quickly had a report from an engineer to say that the cost would outweigh the return. That didn’t prevent him from convincing his client, a local widowed bootmaker, into investing her life savings: two thousand pounds (around two hundred thousand in today’s dollars) for a promised return of up to ten thousand. The woman didn’t have all the money, so gave a quarter up front and the rest in small amounts, given to the fraudster.

The fraud came to light when the widow was presented with a claim for five thousand pounds from someone who held a paper purportedly signed by her.

Fool’s gold

One hundred and fifty years on, the site of the Great Diamond Hoax of Wyoming doesn’t look like much.

Another variant is ‘salting the mine’. Want to get rid of an old defunct tin mine in Cornwall? Place some rich tin ore in an appropriate place and let your mark discover it. It been working since at least Roman times.

These were all versions of the get-rich-quick scam. Read on over the next few weeks for Persuasion tricks,  Extortion, and Gold-brick scams.

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A bit of horse sense

In today’s Footnotes on Friday, I’m recycling a post I wrote for Regina Jeffers. If you didn’t catch it first time round, please enjoy.

My qualifications for writing about horses are ten years as a Riding for the Disabled mum, five as a Pony Club mum, and seven as the reluctant care-taker of one or more obstreporous ponies.

Yet I write Regencies, and in Regency times, gentlemen were as obsessed with their horses as today’s men are with their cars or motorbikes. In fact, in two of my books, including the latest release, the hero breeds horses for sale.

Which meant I had a lot to learn. I knew the smell of wet pony, and the tricks it can get up to when it doesn’t want the bridle and saddle. That was a start. Many blog posts, library books, video clips, websites, and questions to friends later, I still think that one end bites and the other kicks. But I’m slightly more confident about sending my horse-mad heroes out into the wide world.

In The Bluestocking and the Barbarian, Lord Sutton breeds Turkmen horses he and his family have brought from their home in the Kopet Dag mountains. Lord Sutton’s Turkmens, a predecessor of today’s Ahkal Teke, arrived in England well after the heyday of what they then called the orientals, or hot bloods. Finer boned, thinner skinned, faster, and more spirited than the European horses (known as cold bloods), the imports from Turkey, Persia, and middle Asia fascinated the English of the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries.

From the two lines came the warm bloods, direct ancestors of today’s thoroughbreds. Indeed, the thoroughbred stud book was founded in the late eighteenth century (for horses intended for racing) and records all English Thoroughbred breeding even today. A thoroughbred was a horse whose birth and lineage was recorded in the book. Other horses with the same breeding not intended for racing were known simply as ‘bloods’.

If you wanted to sell, or to buy, a horse, you might go to a local horse fair. Or, if you lived in London, you’d drop down to Tattersall’s on Hyde Park Corner. It had been founded in 1766 by a former groom of the Duke of Kingston, and held auctions every Monday and on Thursdays during the Season. Tatersall’s charged a small commission on each sale, but also charged both buyers and sellers for stabling.

Tattersalls was an auction ground, a meeting place for gentlemen, the home of the Jockey club, and the place gentlemen recorded bets on racing and other bets

You could buy horses, carriages, hounds, harnesses — whatever a gentleman (or his lady, but ladies did NOT go to Tattersall’s) needed. And in Regency times, gentlemen visited on other days to place a bet on an upcoming race, or just to meet and chat. The Jockey Club met there, and moved with it to a later London location and then to Newmarket. Tattersall’s is still a leading bloodstock auctioneer, and still in Newmarket.

My hero in A Raging Madness had been a cavalry officer. Britain had no formal studs for breeding war horses. Instead, they bought their horses from civilian breeders. This meant the British cavalry rode horses bred to be hunters, race horses, and carriage horses—usually thoroughbreds or thoroughbred crosses. Each colonel bought the horses for his own regiment. In 1795, the regulations established a budget of thirty pounds for a light mount and forty for a heavy mount. This budget didn’t change for the rest of the war with France, despite wartime shortages.

Here Alex is telling his brother his plan:

“Father says you are planning to breed horses. For the army, Alex? Racing? What’s your plan?”

“Carriage and riding horses, we thought. I know more about training war horses, of course, but to breed them to be torn apart for the sins of men? I don’t have the heart for it. And there’s always a market for a good horse.”

Alex buys his first stallion from another cavalry office, Gil Rutledge, who is hero of The Realm of Silence, my current novel-in-progress (the third novel in

series.

****

More about horses

Geri Walton tells us about work horses, especially the heavy breeds. https://www.geriwalton.com/work-horses-in-the-regency-era/

Regency Redingote explains the origins of the term ‘blood horse’, and the pedigree of the General Stud Book. https://regencyredingote.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/the-english-blood-horse/

Regency Writing has a useful article on housing horses, and the work of a stable. http://regencywriter-hking.blogspot.co.nz/2013/07/eighteenth-and-nineteenth-century-horse.html

Shannon Donnelly’s Fresh Ink explains the many different uses of the horse in Regency England. https://shannondonnelly.com/2011/07/28/the-regency-horse-world/ This article also describes common carriage types, side saddles and riding habits.

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The inspiration for Harry

In the following post, Mari Anne Christie tells us about a giant of American journalism who is little known today.

My great-great uncle, (Percy to friends and family, P.H. to readers) was rather a giant of a man in the world of letters, and was the inspiration for Harry Wentworth, protagonist of Blind Tribute. The writing of the book began with me envisioning him sitting at his desk, writing something. (I will defend to the death my contention that he placed himself at the start of the Civil War, most likely to be allowed to write the epistolary editorials and letters that were, more than any other part of the book, all but automatic writing at first draft stage.)

P.H. Whaley’s name, and his conjoined contribution to journalism and the business world, have been muted by history, but in his time, he was an internationally known journalist—before journalists were known internationally—recognized worldwide for the contributions of the Whaley-Eaton Business Service (W-E), an international newsgathering organization based in Washington, D.C, an entrepreneurial venture started with partner Henry M. Eaton.

My “Uncle Percy,” whom I never met, but who is—not incidentally—the caricature on the cover of Blind Tribute, is the man from whom Harry inherited his profession, his Charleston ancestry, his barrier-island plantation, his beloved (but not enslaved) black nursemaid, and his writing career (to say nothing of his monogram). My favorite story about him is the origin of Harry’s initials and “the delivery [Harry] used to roar across newsrooms and offices.” In his later years, beset with emphysema, Uncle Percy was known to bellow/growl at the telephone operator when calling Washington D.C. from the first (then, the only) telephone on Edisto Island, South Carolina, in the public post office: “P as in Peter, H as in Hell, Whaley!”

Educated at Hobart and Kenyon, he was admitted to the Louisiana Bar in 1905 and the Washington DC Bar in 1922, and received an honorary doctorate from Hobart in 1932. He served as an editorial writer for the Charleston News and Courier beginning in 1909, a reporter for the Philadelphia Public Ledger from 1913 to 1914, the first Executive Editor of the Philadelphia Evening Ledger from 1914 to 1918, and Founding Publisher of W-E from 1918 to 1957. He died in 1964 at Prospect Hill Plantation on Edisto Island, South Carolina, on land owned by our family since the 1700s.

Analogous to Wentworth and Hoyt Business Service in Blind Tribute—although almost 60 years after Harry’s venture— W-E was an international wire service headquartered at the Munsey Trust Building in Washington, DC. Over the years, W-E also had offices, at various times, in London, Paris, and Tokyo. As well as private economic and market research on behalf of business clients, and multiple periodicals through the years, W-E published bimonthly Whaley-Eaton Pamphlets on matters of interest to businessmen, and the Whaley-Eaton American Letter and Foreign Letter, the first widely circulated investment newsletters in the United States. These weekly publications were precursors to, and friendly competitors with, The Kiplinger Letter, still in circulation, often wrongly cited as the “first business newsletter” in America. (Some sources claim The Kiplinger Letter has never reached the same print circulation as the Whaley-Eaton American Letter, but this is disputable, and somewhat irrelevant in the age of the internet, which has broadened Kiplinger’s reach exponentially.)

A description of Whaley-Eaton from the Papers and Proceedings of the Forty-Third Annual Meeting of The American Library Association, June 20-25, 1921, from which I extracted excerpts as descriptions of Wentworth and Hoyt, would have been a point of particular pride for both Percy Whaley and Harry Wentworth, and might describe either of their business ventures.

“Mr. Whaley states: ‘Our object is to perform a distinctly personal service for our patrons in the form of a comprehensive study of tendencies and movements as they relate to the formulation of policies.’ [Whaley-Eaton] representatives are in close touch with people of importance and thus ascertain the pulse of sentiment. They decline in every way to perform the functions of lobbyists, confining themselves entirely to information. They keep in touch with European affairs, maintain a principal office in Paris and correspondents in all of the important European capitals. They publish a series of letters describing points of interest at Washington, administrative policies and congressional activities. They also furnish their clients with a series of foreign letters based upon information supplied by their London and Continental bureaus. Much of the data contained therein is of great commercial value. The information concerning European politics is well expressed and informative. The Whaley-Eaton Service is an unusual form of news gathering which is based upon confidence and the highest type of intelligent journalism.”

Eventually, in the 1980s, as Whaley-Eaton’s readership declined, the Kiplingers bought out the last vestiges of the company and its subscriber list. According to Knight Kiplinger, current CEO of Kiplinger, Inc., his grandfather made the decision to purchase the ailing company because “he didn’t want to see the name exploited by people who would discount Whaley-Eaton’s contributions to journalism.”

Through the course of my research for Blind Tribute, I found myself in touch with Mr. Kiplinger, who put me in touch with John Eaton, a noted jazz pianist and grandson of Henry Eaton. (One of the oddities of writing books is that small coincidental things crop up that the author never intended, but have much larger significance. I did not realize until very recently—after the July 2017 publication of the book—that Henry Eaton was called Harry. To be clear, this was not the genesis of Harry Wentworth’s name. Wentworth was so named because his middle name was Harrold, and to mirror Uncle Percy’s initials.)

It has become clear through my discussions with Mr. Eaton, that we are both interested in finding a way to dust off the W-E name and place our illustrious forebears in their proper context in the history of journalism. As such, although I had thought Blind Tribute was the vehicle by which I would honor the man who passed me the writer’s genetics, we will now be seeking out an academic library to open a special collection of the extremely rare W-E catalog. I am determined that the next person to do research on my great-great uncle will not find it so difficult to ferret out his legacy.

For further posts on Blind Tribute, including blurb and buy links, see:

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The Grand Tour through the Pacific

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, New Zealand was one stop on a circuit for wealthy tourists making a six-month grand tour of the world. The majestic Milford Sound, the grand Whanganui River and, of course, the magical thermal wonderlands of Rotorua made New Zealand a special destination for those able to afford the long journey.

The Pink and White Terraces at Rotomahana were the climax of any visit. They were in the hands of the Tuhourangi people, who provided guides, canoes, meals, accommodation and entertainment. Their loss in the Tarawera eruption of 1886 was a serious economic blow to the tribe, made worse as the Government slowly took over the businesses they attempted to establish in their new homes in Rotorua, employing them as guides and entertainers.

Another important stop for our intrepid European and American travellers was Hawaii, about which E Ellsworth Carey wrote in Thrum’s Annual (1893):

An epitome of the world’s scenery is found in Hawaii. There
cliffs and caves; grand canyons and measureless waterfalls; spouting
caves and singing sands; bottomless and rivers of lava.

Sydney, Australia, was on many steamer ships’ itineraries, part of a circuit from San Franciso through New Zealand, Sydney, and then various Pacific Islands and back to San Francisco. Other ships came from Europe passing through Egypt and the Suez Canal, then making stops at India, Indonesia, and Singapore on their way down under.

Women tourists were common enough that Lillian Campbell Davidson made a great success with her 1889 publication “Hints for Lady Travellers at Home and Abroad” (recently republished and available on Amazon). One contemporary review notes that the preparation for such a trip may make it a burden rather than a pleasure.

The ” Hints ” inform us that the lady who wishes to be well equipped for a journey, must carry with her a bath and bath towels, a bottle of kid-reviver, a dressing-bag, a spirit-lamp for boiling water, with a sufficient quantity of methylated spirits, a flask, and a small filter.

To these comforts the lady-traveller must add provisions, including extract of meat, “one’s own tea and coffee;” waistbelts for money, a holdall for rugs and umbrellas, a hot-water bag, a lamp for reading at night, some light literature (it must be light in two senses, for “books add enormously to the weight of one’s luggage “) ; a small medicine-chest, which, among other articles, should contain pills and ointment, and a roll of fine old linen.

Matches and a candle, too, should always be carried ; a door-wedge is a great convenience ; “a tin of insect-powder should never be omitted ;” with a railway-key “one is quite independent;” and “a compass is a most useful accompaniment to the traveller who has to be her own guide.”

It is necessary also to carry an eyestone, “the use of which is a common custom in America.” If there is dust in the eye, this tiny stone, or rather fishbone, is inserted within the lower eyelid. “Almost immediately it begins to work its way slowly round the eyeball, and never stops till it has made the complete circuit of the eye, when it drops out, bringing with it whatever object of an alien nature it has encountered on its journey.”

Then if ladies curl their hair, capital little cases may be had, containing a pair of tongs and a minute spirit-lamp ;” a good toilet-water also is often desired by ladies in travelling, and sulpholine lotion may be carried for sun- burning and freckles.

Full particulars, too, are given with regard to clothing ; each dress must have a tray to itself, for “gowns are the terrible part of packing,” and, finally, “it is as well, for every reason, to travel with as little luggage as circumstances admit.”

It is to be feared that if a lady who proposes to travel studies these ” Hints ” previously—and we have mentioned only a few of them —she will be tempted to wish that the new conditions of life had not arisen, which make “a thousand conveniences and comforts” necessary to the traveller. (Review in The Spectator, 16 November 1889, p44, my paragraphing)

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The sleeping giant

In the early morning of 10 June 1886, a 17 kilometre rift opened in the mountains on the far side of this lake, spewing out steam, fire, and finely pulverised rock.

 

It sleeps on the far side of the lake with the same name. Tarawera. The translation is something like the peaks (or cliffs) that burn. And on 10 June 1886, it did, indeed, burn, and more than a dozen villages around the shores of the lake ceased to exist in a cataclysmic six hours.

Until that day, Lake Tarawera had been part of the journey to the famous Pink and White Terraces, silica deposits cascading down the hillsides of Lake Rotomahana in a series of delicately coloured terraces, studded with hot pools.  Tourists came from Europe to see this scenic wonder of the world, making the long trip by ship and then by coach and finally by whale boat or canoe.

In the early hours of the morning of 10 June, the tourist trade died, along with over 150 people.

It began with a series of violent earthquakes that woke people in the village of Te Wairoa, starting point for the Lake Tarawera crossing. When the mountain began erupting around 2am, tourists left the hotels to climb a nearby slope to see the fireworks, retreating as the great clouds of ash, lava and lightening began to rain debris down on their heads.

The view from the road down to Lake Tarawera. The mountain is in the distance. Te Wairoa was tucked behind the ridge to the right.

It was the beginning of a bombardment that would last six hours and leave the village buried in metres of mud and ash. At that, the village got off lightly. Te Wairoa was protected in a valley and sufficiently distant for most residents and visitors to survive. Those closer to the mountain were not so fortunate, their settlements completely destroyed and buried.

The Pink and White Terraces vanished, leaving a 100 metre crater that later filled with water. Ash choked the skies, so that the day was turned to night. Refugees from the disaster began to trail towards Rotorua, meeting rescue parties as they trudged.

The story of that night is told in diaries written by the tourists and European residents of the area, in the oral tales handed down through the local people, and excavated from the material thrown up by the volcano.

My novella for the Belles’ 2017 holiday box set takes place against the background of the eruption. 

 

 

 

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