Historical Perspectives: You Can’t Write Historical Fiction Without Them

My new novel To A Strange Somewhere Fled includes, at its end, a look at its historical aspects. Here is an excerpt:

“(The) history of private men’s lives (is) more profitable than state history.”

~ Roger North, from his General Preface & Life of Dr. John North

 Roger North (Sept. 3, 1651 – March 1, 1734) and Francis North (October 22, 1637 – September 5, 1685):

I didn’t have to imagine a male protagonist for the sequel to A House Near Luccoli to contrast the temperament and lifestyle of the charismatic and roguish composer Alessandro Stradella. English biographer and lawyer Roger North well-suited that role, especially as Donatella landed on his doorstep.

Portrait of Roger North by Peter Lely

Roger North by Peter Lely

Rather timid, even unsociable, Honorable was Roger’s title and the core of his character. He lived slowly, carefully, with a firm sense of belonging to his family, country, and the reaches of his intellect and interests—“practical diversions” that included writing, philosophy, architecture, mathematics, horticulture, sailing, and music.

Roger was born at Tostock, Suffock, the sixth son of the 4th Baron Dudley North and Anne Montagu. Despite a fifteen year age difference he was very attached to his eldest brother, Francis (great-grandfather to Lord North, Prime Minister of Great Britain during most of the American Revolution), and benefited from Francis’ professional and personal connections that took them both to the heights of Charles II’s court. In 1682 Sir Francis was appointed Lord Keeper of the Great Seal and Roger began his service as King’s Counsel. Although staunch royalists, neither was comfortable with the cutthroat political environment of Restoration England.

Thanks to Sir Francis’ marriage to Frances Pope who died in 1678, Wroxton Abbey became his and Roger’s retreat from London. The Popes had been leaseholders of the Abbey since the middle of the 16th century, transforming it into the Jacobean manor house still evident in its present structure. Sir Francis bought out his sister-in-laws’ inheritance and his descendants continued their tenancy of the Abbey well into the twentieth century.

Wroxton Abbey - late 17th century by DM Denton

Wroxton Abbey – late 17th century by DM Denton

 

Portrait of Sir Francis North by Peter Lely

Sir Francis North by Peter Lely

“As to musick”, Roger and Francis carried on the North tradition of pursuing its appreciation, study and performance for familial and social pleasure, and solitary distraction. Their grandfather had traveled in Italy and took a great liking to the music he found there. Roger received instruction from the English composer John Jenkins, and possibly other masters including the spirited Italian violinist Nicola Matteis. It is likely that Roger played the viol, theorbo, harpsichord, organ, and even the violin. He observed and participated in the musical scene of London, his thoughts on theory and performance leading him to eventually publish The Musicall Grammarian (1728). The Seventeenth Century volume of Blackwell’s History of Music in Britain references Roger at least twenty-eight times.

Roger penned biographies of his brothers, a wandering autobiography titled Notes of Me, and even a Discourse on Fish and Fish Ponds, continually and painstakingly recording his reflections and findings on countless subjects. He was one of the executors of the estate of the famous portraitist Peter Lely, and guardian to the painter’s son, John, and daughter, Anne. His architectural talents came into play with improvements made to the north wing of the Abbey and the addition of a coach house and stabling, and he also managed extensive tree planting on the estate.

Notes of Me Book Cover Beyond the scope of To A Strange Somewhere Fled, the untimely passing of Sir Francis in 1685 was an oppressive blow to Roger personally, but also professionally for he had lost a true companion and ally at Court. After Sir Francis’ death he spent a little more time at Wroxton Abbey with his brother Dudley and, while winding up their brother’s affairs, they found some distraction in setting up a laboratory and forge there. Charles II died the same year as Sir Francis, and the next Roger was appointed Attorney-General to Queen Mary of Modena, but by 1687 he had turned his back on Royal and Parliamentary conflicts and uncertainties and devoted himself to writing and the improvement and self-sufficiency of the estate he had purchased at Rougham in Norfolk.

Roger was a quieter, plainer, more cautious, modest and moralistic figure than Alessandro Stradella, but no less singular, creative or complex, which made him as interesting to write about. He exhibited a similar if less reckless compulsion to engage himself in the possibilities of the gifts he had been given and to scoff – less openly and, as it turned out, less perilously than Stradella – at a society that expected him to behave as if he was compliant with it.

 

Roger North_pe_pe

From Wainwright Engraving of Roger North with a page from Notes of Me

 

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Written in the Stars (Repost)

A secret I kept
with the stars overhead
and a friend not a friend
who stole me from you;
for I would’ve gone on
sitting there on damp grass,
amid lightning bugs,
and hope in the night;
not drinking the wine,
but knowing it flowed.
No secret it was
with the journeys I took
and a hope not a hope
that looked for each sign
as the music went on
and the show knew its end
of once-again love
unable to grow
by right of what was,
at last, only right.
That secret I keep
with you among the stars
and a heart not a heart
that begs me: forget
as, yet, I would go on
sitting there in your sight
with unspoken words
for stories to tell;
not meaning to lie,
just hiding the truth.
Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

“Let no one who loves be called altogether unhappy. Even love unreturned has its rainbow.” ~ J.M. Barrie



donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? Guest Post

Thank you to Alison Stuart and all at Hoydens and Firebrands – “Roaring Ladies Who Write About The Seventeenth Century” – for hosting me on their fascinating blog!

Hoyden is a boisterous girl.

Firebrand is a person who is passionate about a particular cause, typically inciting change and taking radical action.

Modest or Unmannerly, Which Instrument Shall She Play? by DM Denton

Music was such an integral part of 17th century life and Hoydens and Firebrands are delighted to welcome DM Denton with a fascinating post on women and music in the seventeenth century. Diane is the author of two books set in the 17th century in which the central protagonists are musicians.  

Woman playing viol par traverso_pe_pe

In the 17th century a refined young woman might want and even be encouraged to cultivate her musical ability and prove some accomplishment through singing and accompanying herself instrumentally—as recreation not occupation, of course. Considering her need to impress a suitor, show her figure off in the best possible way, express the sweetest tones of her personality and gentle capability of her character, which instrument should she play?

I graciously encourage you to read on ….

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Influencing Hearts and Conversations

I can’t let the day pass without ‘mentioning’ that it is Alessandro Stradella‘s birthday (April 3, 1639, Nepi, near Rome, Italy).Stradella_pe_pe resized

Of course, he is the focus of my historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, but he is very much present in the sequel, which was released on March 10th.

Here are a couple of excerpts from To A Strange Somewhere Fled. Through his music and more, he continues to influence hearts and conversations.

 

There was the appropriate silence before Lonati was as elegant and amiable with bow and violin as no other activity afforded him. With every stroke, nod and faraway expression, he was an echo of Alessandro, exacting the very best from the composition and the late composer’s nature, generous with his talent, uninhibited with his playing, making the music his own only as he adored it. His reminiscent virtuosity swept Donatella onto the waves of Le donne più bella like a ship with a steady breeze in its sails, Reggio’s archlute-continuo encouraging the rolling sensation.

***

She made her mark as unexpectedly as before, becoming more and more involved with its swirling and sliding and dotting, rising and falling with her shoulders and satisfaction. She was definitely possessed by a melodic hum and laughter in her head, the tease of a draft on her neck, and the surprise that she hadn’t forgotten how to serve a master. She knew he was smiling as she checked her work, a mistake here and there repentantly fixed, page after page turned into another chance to show that, in theory and practice and ways she didn’t need to understand, she was worthy of his presence.

Yes, it felt like he was there, pacing the room and wringing his hands as he realized he couldn’t change anything.  She could, with his permission. What else allowed her to hear a note held longer or twilled higher, a crescendo misplaced, or toccata written more for poetry than a harpsichordist’s dexterity? What would have put such ideas in her head, except the desire of one who had touched her with his variations?

***

It looked as though Master Purcell was trying to hide under the stairs. Roger inquired about his journey from London and he emerged to reveal that he had interrupted the trip with a night at Oxford and much drinking, and another at Rousham Park and even more feasting.

Donatella didn’t expect him to recognize her, but when Roger moved aside she became “that most courteous copyist who had also forgiven Stradella.”

“And I hope you’ll pardon me, Harry, but the guests will soon arrive and you need to tidy yourself and prepare.” Roger didn’t know he showed concern for anything but the plan for the evening ahead.

“Well, I am a little dusty.” Master Purcell winked in Donatella’s direction. “I wonder if Stradella was always impeccably turned out.”

They walked into the hall and Donatella wanted to tell him about the man she had known as reported but, also, in very different ways. Would Master Purcell believe Alessandro had been in need of friendship more than love, or that he had grown tired of making music for those who only listened to their own importance? Would it seem as ridiculous to say he would have rather roamed the streets, lost in the crowds and songs of Carnival, than found to be wanting in nobler society? She could describe him as flamboyant in disguise and excessive when it came to enjoying himself, yet he had the sense to be gracious in his manners, and even humble when it weighed in his favor and, especially, his purse. She might also reveal the unshaven, disheveled creature that growled with frustration and cursed the affairs that caused him more trouble than they were worth.

Surely, Master Purcell would rather hear about Alessandro’s genius and even his sacred purpose: how the music came to him like the archangel Gabriel, because he was highly chosen with or without the patronage of any prince or princess.

Blessings to all in this season of Easter and Passover.

Stradella’s Oratorio San Giovanni Battista, libretto by Ansakdi Ansaldi, presents the well-known Testament story of John the Baptist who, in trying to turn Herod from worldly pleasures, arouses the anger of his wife’s daughter, which results in John’s decapitation. The text is based on the New Testament gospel according to Mark, Chapter VI, verses 17-21 – in fact, occasionally whole lines are quoted from the Bible.

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back tobardessdmdenton. Thank you.

The Seventeenth Century Lady – Guest Post by DM Denton

Thank you to Andrea Zuvich for hosting me on her beautiful site The Seventeenth Century Lady. Andrea has long recognized the excellence of the music of Alessandro Stradella, who is, of course, the focus of my novel A House Near Luccoli and, hauntingly, its sequel To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

I hope thou will take a few minutes for a little time travel and indulge thyself with a visit to this beautifully designed, intelligent, and entertaining website, and, whilst there, have a read of my post:

Alessandro Stradella: Fascinating, Flawed, Forgiven, and Unforgettable: A Guest Post by DM Denton | The Seventeenth Century Lady.

Most of the readers of The Seventeenth Century Lady are not only fans of 17th-century history, but also of the Baroque music of that time. It is therefore my pleasure to have DM Denton here with a guest post about Alessandro Stradella – a commonly (and sadly!) overlooked composer of wonderful Italian Baroque music. Alessandro Stradella: Fascinating, Flawed, Forgiven,… Read more

 

 

 

Happy Spring Equinox!

Journeying to Ireland (repost)

Previously, I’ve shared how I went there a woman and came back a child with my eyes full of the clouds coming over the mountains.

Going through letters from England, now to myself, I found some further thoughts on my three journeys to Ireland that took me halfway home but all the way to where I needed to be.

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A spring Sunday in Dublin, Christ’s little brides happy to celebrate with a meal at McDonalds
♣ From coast to coast, covered in cowslips and folksongs
♣ Not a limerick heard, not even in its place where we stayed to hear a harp’s angel
♣ Bumping along in coaches with windows steamed and destinations , like the weather, constantly changing
♣ The mystery of alpine flowers on the Burren’s stony paradise
♣ Orchids not for picking
♣ Layers of streets, a lunch of mussels and beer, and buying old postcards in Galway
♣ Thoughts swept away by the cliffs of Moher
♣ Secluded coves with sandy beaches
♣ The mile long dream of Dingle, being Ryan’s daughter, tea with Peggy and tales of Gregory Peck
♣ Shrine at Slea head, the edge of the world
♣ A ring in Kerry that never broke its promise
♣ Starlings descending on Killarney
♣ Muckross magic in mossy woods, botanical gardens, mist shrouded mountains and mirror-clear lakes
♣ Rhododendrons and fuchsias wilder than anywhere else would allow
♣ The meeting of the waters and differing reasons for being there
♣ Miles and miles of freedom on a bicycle
♣ Airy woods of oak and ash and silver birch, feathery fern, lichen dripping and moss imagining a smaller world
♣ Fields of gorse and heather blending yellow and purple
♣ Sunshine and rain breezing in and out, taking turns to create the artist’s view
♣ Water, water everywhere, all around and in-between
♣ Sudden cascades and corners of serenity
♣ Train station benches turned for looking the other way
♣ A cottage for a week, stray cats at the door, peat burning slowly and sweetly, wild mushrooms and blackberries for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

♣ A thousand welcomes from new friends who would never be old
♣ Not a day or night without a smile and a song
♣ So much more to remember than forget

And so I return, again and again.

And as a bonus, from St. Patrick’s ‘Breastplate’ Prayer:

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the starlit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

Diane on Dingle Beach 1983

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Book Release Day of To A Strange Somewhere Fled

Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms. ~ Angela Carter (1940 – 1992, English novelist and journalist)

I must express my appreciation to the readers of A House Near Luccoli who believed in my interpretation of the inimitable 17th century composer Alessandro Stradella, his world, music, associates, and the place of a fictional character like Donatella in a crucial part of his story. You encouraged me to continue with the sequel I had begun before A House Near Luccoli’s publication in 2012.

Thank you to Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books, and authors Mary Clark and Steve Lindahl for their time and interest in reading and reviewing To A Strange Somewhere Fled before its publication (their reviews are included in the book).

And to my excellent editor Deb Harris who along with Phil Harris, form my very special publisher All Things That Matter Press and have been so generous with their expertise and faith in my literary worth.

And, once again and forever, I must express my heartfelt gratitude to my mom June who has always practically, honestly and lovingly supported my writing aspirations.

The celebration is two fold,
as today is my lovely mom’s birthday!

All Things That Matter Release Announcement

To A Strange Somewhere Fled

NEW RELEASE!

Authored by DM Denton

After the sudden end to her collaboration with composer Alessandro Stradella,
Donatella moves from Genoa to join her parents in a small village in Oxfordshire, England.

The gift of a sonnet, ‘stolen’ music, inexpressible secrets, and an irrepressible spirit have stowed away on her journey.

Haunted by whispers and visions, angels and demons, will she rise out of grief and aimlessness? Her father’s friendship with the residents of Wroxton Abbey, who are
important figures in the court of Charles II, offers new possibilities, especially as music and its masters ~ including the ‘divine’ Henry Purcell ~ have not finished with her yet.

About the author:
Writer and artist D.M. (Diane) Denton, a native of Western New York, is inspired by music, art, nature, and the contradictions of the human and creative spirit. Through observation and study, truth and imagination, she loves to wander into the past to discover stories of interest and meaning for the present, writing from her love of language, the nuances of story-telling, and the belief that what is left unsaid is the most affecting of all.

Her educational journey took her to a dream-fulfilling semester at Wroxton College, England, and she remained in the UK for sixteen years surrounded by the quaint villages, beautiful hills, woods and fields of the Oxfordshire countryside, and all kinds of colorful characters. This turned out to be a life-changing experience that continues to resonate in her life to this day.

She returned to the US and Western New York in 1990, and has since resided in a cozy log cabin with her mother and a multitude of cats. Her day jobs have been in retail, manufacturing, media and career consulting, and as a volunteer coordinator for Western New York Public Broadcasting. She is currently secretary for the Zoning and Codes administration in the town where she lives. In addition to writing, music and art, she is passionate about nurturing nature and a consciousness for a more compassionate, inclusive and peaceful world.

Please visit her website, http://www.dmdenton-author-artist.com, and blog,https://bardessdmdenton.wordpress.com where you can contact her. Also, find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus.

BUY NOWhttp://www.amazon.com/Strange-Somewhere-Fled-DM-Denton/dp/0990715868/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1425986827&sr=1-1&keywords=to+a+strange+somewhere+fled

The Novel is now available in Print and Kindle Editions from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. I’ve noticed that the Paperback and Kindle editions are still listed on separate pages – I guess it takes a while for amazon to merge all the formats onto one page.

It may take a little longer for its availability on amazon.com throughout Europe and as a NOOK Book at barnesandnoble.com.