Literary Links

November/December 1998


Good News and Announcements

It's that time of year again! RWA is busy accepting Golden Heart and RITA entries, as well as service award nominations. Here are a few dates to keep in mind:
November 30, 1998--Deadline for GH and RITA entry forms to be received by National Office.
January 10, 1999--Deadline for books and manuscripts to be received by the Service Center. Preliminary round judging begins January 20.
Please read all rules and category descriptions carefully.

December 31, 1998--All nominations for service awards are due in to the RWA National Office. The awards are: Lifetime Achievement Award, Emma Merritt and RWA Service Awards, Industry Award, Librarian of the Year, Veritas Award, Bookseller of the Year, and The Centennial Award. Consult your October Romance Writer's Report for details.

December 31, 1998--RWA is now taking nominations for Top Ten Favorite Books of 1998. Visit the RWA website for details on qualification and voting procedures. Deadline for nominations is December 31, 1998.


New On Literary Liaisons

There are many new additions to Literary Liaisons. After reading about them below, check them out on the web site.



Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain 
First Name Reverse Dictionary by Yvonne Navarro
The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Chris Vogler
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman


Various titles by Wilkie Collins

Featured Title

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain 

RWA Chapters On-line

Bucks County Romance Writers
First Coast Romance Writers
Heart of Carolina Romance Writers
Hudson Valley RWA
Lake County Romance Writers, Inc.
Valley of the Sun Romance Writers of America

Researching the Romance

Creating Characters: How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain 
First Name Reverse Dictionary by Yvonne Navarro
The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Chris Vogler
Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman

Writers' Resources

Biographical Dictionary--Database of 25,000 people from the past--search by name, date or keyword
The History House--The origin of many obscure items, with links and articles
The Inflation Calculator--Calculates American dollar amounts of old into current values
JBBooks--Australian publisher
Nina Gettler's Online Course--Join Nina Gettler (aka Nina Beaumont) in an eight-week intensive writing workshop with weekly critiquing
United States Historical Census Data Browser--Data describing the people and economy of the U.S. by state and county from 1790 to 1970
Writer's Digest--On-line version of the magazine
Writer's Exchange at the to all facets of the writing industry


Feature Article 


Although Christ's Nativity has been celebrated since the 4th century, most of the English customs we are familiar with today are as recent as the mid-19th century. Many of the early ceremonies were rooted in pagan beliefs, and some customs, like wassailing, still survive.

The Protestant Reformation condemned most of these pagan customs as superstitious and banned public celebrations of Christmas. The Puritans abolished all celebrations after the Civil War, also. Fervor for the holiday declined even into the Georgian Era. It wasn't until Prince Albert married Queen Victoria and brought many German customs with him that Christmas began to gain popularity again.

One of the first signs of Christmas was the arrival of the Christmas card in the post. John Calcott Horsley designed the first Christmas card in 1846 for Sir Henry Cole, Chairman of the Society of the Arts. Only 1000 cards were printed that first year and were expensive, but the pattern for the future was formed. Then in 1870, postage was reduced to one half penny per ounce and a cheaper color lithography was used for printing. Thus began the real spread of the Christmas card. By the early 1870s, the custom had reached the United States. At first, designs were simple, but as technology advanced, new subjects evolved. By the 1860s, popular designs were Christmas feasts, church bells, snowbound mail-coaches and turkey and plum puddings.

Christmas decorations sometimes appeared well before the holiday, also, but many still held to the old superstition of bad luck to erect evergreens before Christmas Eve. The most favored plants were all 'magical' because of the mid-winter berries they produced--mistletoe, holly and ivy. The red berry of the holly was believed to protect one against witchcraft. The sprig had to be carried into the house by a male, as the berry is on the 'male' holly plant. One use for holly sprigs was to decorate the Christmas pudding. The 'female' ivy symbolized immortality. Mistletoe, because of its pagan origins, was not allowed in any church. Kissing under the mistletoe was a purely English custom, and only as many berries as were on the mistletoe, could there be kisses. For after every kiss, a berry had to be removed from the sprig.

The Christmas tree can truly be called a Victorian innovation. The custom of a lighted tree began in Germany and German settlers brought the idea to America. But it wasn't until Prince Albert, of German descent, brought the Christmas tree to England in 1840 that it gained popularity there. By 1847, the trees at Windsor Castle were laden with presents as well as wax candles. The tradition spread as English citizens followed the Royal example. The trees and other decorations were removed on Twelfth Night (January 6). To do so before or after was considered bad luck.

Families began their Christmas Day by celebrating mass. (Christmas Eve services did not become popular until after the Second World War.) The peal of bells called everyone to church. At services, scriptural lessons were interspersed with carols. Most of the carols we sing today were written in the nineteenth century, although old favorites such as 'Silent Night' and 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' are much older.

Carols were also sung at home and families even walked door-to-door to entertain others. Also going from house-to-house were the wassailers. These were usually the poor of the parish, who sought donations of drink, food or money as they invited others to drink from their wooden bowl.

Christmas dinner was a grand affair. Goose, chicken or a joint of roast beef took center stage on the table. Turkey, while popular in America, wasn't customary fare until late in the 19th century in England. Christmas pudding, made with beef, raisins and prunes, was mixed on Stir-up Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, in order for the mixture to mature. All present in the house took turns stirring the pudding with a wooden spoon (in honor of the Christ child's wooden crib). The stirring had to be done in a clockwise direction for luck. Mince pies were another traditional dish. They were sweeter, made with mincemeat, fruit and spices, and had to be eaten for the twelve days of Christmas to ensure twelve months of luck in the coming year. Each one eaten had to be baked by a different person, however, so there was much sharing with friends.

After dinner, children pulled their crackers and everyone exchanged gifts. The evening usually ended with parlor games and carol singing.


For more information on Christmas customs in the 19th century, I suggest the following references:

Discovering Christmas Customs and Folklore by Margaret Baker, 1994, Shire Publications Ltd. ISBN#0747801754

The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain by Charles Kightly, Thames and Hudson Ltd. ISBN#0500275378

Also see the Researching the Romance page of Literary Liaisons for more suggestions.

(Michelle J. Hoppe, 1997 Golden Heart Finalist, is webmaster for Chicago-North RWA and President of Literary Liaisons, Ltd.)


Editor's Note

As the holidays approach us another year, we struggle to find the time to write. We're busy shopping, baking, calling on friends and attending school concerts with the children. But this can also be the most inspirational time of year. As writers, we're observers. And as we listen to stories about the needy, or watch Santa entertain toddlers at the mall, or watch a father hoist his son up onto his shoulders for a better view of the parade, we can take those emotional moments back with us to our computers and try to re-enact those feelings in our books. To keep you focused on your writing, I've tried to include as many writing-related sites and references as possible in this issue. You'll find books on inspiration, and web sites for writers. So please look, enjoy and keep writing.


FAQ Column

Q: I've been able to find information on the Victorian Society in America, but is there a Regency Society in America also?

A: Unfortunately not. The closest I've found that helps is Kristine Hughes's "Society of London Ladies." Her web site and newsletter both contain information on the Regency Era, and she also hosts several trips a year abroad that center around Georgian, Regency or Victorian London. For more information, see:


Historical Calendar of Events


Ralph Caldecott, English artist and illustrator
Francis Herbert Bradley, English idealist philosopher
James O'Neill, U.S. actor born in Ireland
Henry Sienkiewicz, Polish novelist

F.W. Bessel, German Astronomer
Friedrich List, German economist

East India Company's forces defeat Sikhs at Ailwal and Sobraon.
The Treaty of Lahore ends the First Sikh War.
Revolts break out in Poland.
Austrian and Russian troops enter Krakow; Austria annexes Krakow.
After failed negotiations, U.S. troops move into Palo Alto and Santa Fe and the U.S. eventually annexes New Mexico.
Iowa becomes the 29th state of the Union, with Des Moines as its capital.
Milwaukee is incorporated as a city on the shore of Lake Michigan and is made up of several neighboring Wisconsin Territory villages
June 14--California's Black Bear Revolt begins as settlers in the Sacramento Valley proclaim a republic independent of Mexico and raise a flag bearing a black bear and a star at Sonoma.
June 15--An Oregon Treaty signed with Britain gives territory south of the 49th parallel to the United States, overriding cries of "5440' or Fight." Britain receives land north of the parallel on the mainland and also receives Vancouver Island.
June 28--Parliament repeals Britain's Corn Law. Cotters are thrown off the land and small farmers are denied their favored status in the English market.
Louis Napoleon escapes from the fortress of Ham to London.

The Arts
Hans Christian Andersen publishes Fairy Tale of My Life, his autobiography.
Dostoevsky publishes Poor Folk.
Edward Lear publishes his Book of Nonsense.
"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe appears in the September Godey's Lady's Book.
Millet paints "Oedipus Unbound"
G.F. Watts paints "Paolo and Francesca"
John Everett Millais paints Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru.
August 26--Felix Mendelssohn's oratorio, "Elijah" debuts at Birmingham's Music Festival.
December 8--Hector Berlioz's "The Damnation of Faust" debuts at the Opéra-Comique, Paris.
Popular song "Jim Crack Corn, or the Blue Tail Fly" is published at Baltimore.

Daily Life
The Evangelical Alliance is founded in London
Brigham Young leads the Mormons from Nauvoo City, IL to the Great Salt Lake, Utah
The first cheap English newspaper, the London Daily News, appears. The editor is Charles Dickens.
The Boston Herald begins publication.
February 18--The Pittsburgh Dispatch begins publication.
The first painted Christmas card is designed by John C. Horseley.
Potato crops fail in Ireland, causing famine. At least half a million die of starvation and hunger-related typhus.
The Smithsonian Institution is founded in Washington, D.C. with a 100,000 bequest from the late James Smithson.
The optical factory of Carl Zeiss is founded in Jena, Thuringia.
New York's Marble Dry-Goods Palace opens on Broadway at Chambers Street.
Baseball rules are codified by New York surveyor Alexander Cartwright of the Knickerbocker Baseball Club whose members have been playing the "New York game" since 1842.
April 13--The Pennsylvania Railroad is chartered for the purpose of constructing a line between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.

Electric arc lighting is installed at the Opera in Paris.
American John Deere constructs a plow with steel moldboard.
September 10--The sewing machine (of 1843) is patented by Elias Howe.
German botanist H. von Mohl identifies protoplasm.
American dentist W.T. Morton uses ether as an anesthetic.
Iatlian chemist Ascanio Sobrero prepares nitroglycerin.
The Electric Telegraph Co. is founded in England by W. F. Cooke and J. L. Ricardo.
The rotary "lightning press" is patented by New York printing press manufacturer Richard Hoe.
A portable hand-cranked ice cream freezer is invented by Nancy Johnson in New Jersey.
John A. Roebling completes a suspension bridge across the Monongahela River.
Britain adopts a standard gauge for railroads, spurring development of the nation's rail system.
English inventor Robert William Thompson patents a pneumatic tire and equips a horse-drawn buggy with his tires.


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