My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they were not far behind on one of the voyages of the Abigail, which sailed from London April to July 1635, arriving in Massachusetts Bay. Henry Collins, my ninth great-grandfather, a starchmaker (all those ruffs and caps had to be starched by someone, you know) from Stepney, Middlesex, brought his wife Ann and his three young children Henry, John and Margery. I’m descended from John (who was only three at the time of the voyage), through the Motts, Rhodeses, Sarjents, McConnells and Flemings.
So although they weren’t Pilgrims but ordinary Puritan tradesmen, here’s to the Collins family, who sailed to the New World and settled in Lynn, Massachusetts. Here’s to Ann Collins, who undertook a two-month-plus voyage across the Atlantic in cramped shipboard quarters with three children, ages five, three and two! Men may have gotten all the credit for bravery in those days, but a woman who could manage that is a woman I’m proud to be descended from.
Happy Thanksgiving wishes to everyone—because even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving Day as a holiday, it’s always good to be thankful.
The central character of The Second Duchess is Barbara of Austria, a Habsburg archduchess, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and his wife Anna Jagellonica, princess of Bohemia and Hungary. So you can imagine my delight to learn that German rights to The Second Duchess have been sold to Rowohlt. Ich bin sehr aufgeregt und glücklich! (German translation courtesy of my sister’s co-worker Kerry.) And of course as always, compliments to my stellar agent Diana Fox, and also to Betty Anne Crawford of Books Crossing Borders.
In the US, The Second Duchess is scheduled for February 2011 from Penguin/NAL.
I would love to visit Germany one day. The roots of my father’s family are deep in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria, and one line of my mother’s family comes from villages in the Kassel district of Hesse. How wonderful it would be to visit some of the towns and places that up to this point have been just faint, smudged names on old documents.
Some day. Some day.
I had the most delightful experience this morning—I was interviewed by Mark Smalley of the BBC for a program in the “Adventures in Poetry” series, focusing on my beloved “My Last Duchess.” My first interview! The Second Duchess isn’t scheduled until February 2011, but even so, it’s a great honor and a keen pleasure to be included (among many others, of course) in this program. I talked about my interpretations of the poem and how they drove my writing of the book, how Browning and I had fictionalized the same material but from different points of view, and how the reality of the historical personages behind the poem affected one’s reading of the poem and my writing of the book. I enjoyed myself tremendously and can’t wait to find out which snippets are chosen to actually be part of the program.
“Adventures in Poetry: ‘My Last Duchess’” is presently scheduled for Sunday, December 6th, on BBC Radio 4, with a repeat on Saturday, December 12th. After that it will be available online via iPlayer for a couple of weeks. Watch this space for further links!
Our antique roses are blooming like mad in these last weeks of the season (in Texas, anyway). We keep cutting them and bringing them inside, and as you can see we have half a dozen vases lined up on the kitchen counter. These are “St. Cecilia” and “Eglantyne” (the pinker ones) and “Jude the Obscure” (the gorgeous golden-pink-apricot one). The fragrances are simply stunning. There is nothing like an old-fashioned English rose for fragrance.
As you can see, we have a few (!) other plants as well. Sometimes I think it’s a tossup between the number of plants we have outdoors and the number of plants we have indoors!
My central character Rinette Leslie would have known roses somewhat similar to these—”Damascus and “Provence” roses—in the royal gardens at Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse. In her unique (meaning that I’m mostly just making it up) system of floromancy, roses are classifed by scent and number of petals rather than by color as they are in the later Victorian “language of flowers.”
“It’s vital to establish some rituals—automatic but decisive patterns of behavior—at the beginning of the creative process, when you are most at peril of turning back, chickening out, giving up, or going the wrong way.”
—Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life.