The Music of Friends: Cadences and Temperaments

More historical perspectives of To A Strange Somewhere Fled 

The musical players

Keeping true to A House Near Luccoli, much of the foundation of this novel relies heavily on music as expression. The cadences and temperaments of compositions are reflected in Denton’s pacing as well as her confidently executed freedom of narrative … revelations are made, characters introduced, and emotions uncovered with unexpected swells and surges of expression.
~ from review by Casee Marie Clow, Literary Inklings

This plot is as much about music as Donatella’s first story, which covered the time when she was a copyist for Stradella, but in this novel Donatella’s role as a performer is emphasized … Denton writes with a lyrical style which swells, fades, and swells again, creating a perfect setting through its tone as much as its meticulous description. Her words pull her readers to 17th century England like music from that era.
~ from review by Steve Lindahl
, author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions

the secrets and the rhythm within these pages lifts the reader to appreciate the subtle yet daring intricacies of music, passion and life in 17th century England.
~ from review by Martin Shone, author of Silence Happens and Being Human

What an inspired and informed imagination to portray the young Henry Purcell. The author’s descriptions of music, particular musicians, and musical performances make this book a work of art itself. To A Strange Somewhere Fled is a virtuoso performance.
~ from review by Mary Clark, author of Tally: An Intuitive Life and Covenant

 

The term “The Music of Friends” to describe chamber music (1550 to 1750, music characterized by the location of its performance: outdoors, on stage, in church, or in private quarters), was, per Wikipedia, first used by Richard Walthew in a lecture published in South Place Institute, London, in 1909.

Henry Purcell (10 September 1659 – 21 November 1695)

220px-Henry_Purcell_by_John_Closterman

Purcell by John Closterman

It was during my research for A House Near Luccoli that I came upon the claim, noted in the introduction to Purcell Studies edited by Curtis Price, that Henry Purcell had openly regretted Alessandro Stradella’s death and, because of the Italian’s “great merit as a musician”, forgiven his fatal indiscretions.  True or not, it stirred me to somehow bring the celebrated English composer into Donatella’s continuing story, and on reading Roger North’s assertion that the high point of his musical experience was entertaining the ‘divine’ Purcell, I was even more inspired to do so.

Henry Purcell was as obscure a figure as Stradella in terms of how little about his personal life was recorded. Despite his legacy of being a uniquely English composer, he enjoyed and sometimes emulated the Italian style. He met his end at a younger age than Stradella and in a way that left as much conjecture as to why. Was it chocolate poisoning, the result of pneumonia brought on by being locked out of his house by his wife after a night of drinking, or ‘just’ tuberculosis?

He came from a very musical family. His father, who died when Henry was a small child and his uncle, who became his guardian, were members of the Chapel Royal. His brother Daniel was also a composer. Henry had been a child chorister; his earliest known work was probably completed when he was ten or eleven.

The English maestro enters the pages of To A Strange Somewhere Fled at age twenty-four, already appreciated for his celebratory, church, theatrical, instrumental, and incidental music, and overcoming the constraints of the English language to write songs that perfectly complemented the poetry they were inspired by. In 1683 he was an organist for Westminster Abbey and the Chapel Royal and about to publish his first collection and be appointed royal instrument keeper.

He was a man of sorrows as well as joy—of six children born to him and his wife, only two survived to adulthood—his copious creations defining him as the scarce accounts of his life never could.

 

The Italians

After the restoration of the British monarchy in 1660, Italian composers and performers arrived in England to find a welcome and work, some in the court of Charles II where lively, lavish, and constantly evolving entertainment was encouraged, while others visited for brief or extended periods or settled into being employed in or outside of London in churches and theaters and for private concerts.

CHARLES II DANCING AT A BALL AT COURT, C.1660. HIERONYMUS JANSSENS (1624-93). ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST / © HM QUEEN ELIZABETH II 2013

Charles II dancing at court. C.1660. Hieronymus Janssens (1624-93). Royal Collection Trust / © HM Queen Elizabeth II 2013

Carlo Ambrogio Lonati (c.1645–c.1712)

calonatiIl Gobbo della Regina, the hunchback composer, violinist, and singer who initially made an appearance in A House Near Luccoli, was probably born in Milan but little is known of his early life. Lonati first made friends, music and trouble with Alessandro Stradella while both were in Rome under the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden, and went to Genoa ahead of Stradella where he also preceded him as impresario of the Falconi Theater.

There is evidence that Lonati was in London—seen with a famous female singer—sometime between 1686 and1688.  Ordered out of Genoa after Stradella’s murder in February, 1682, and leaving gaps in his activities and whereabouts for some time afterwards, it’s conceivable he traveled to England before the visit made notable because of the company he kept. His abrupt intrusion on Donatella’s new life was, in the course of writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, as much of a surprise to me as it was to her.

 

Pietro Reggio (1632 -1685) (I couldn’t find a portrait of him)

Pietro Reggio song set

 

There is much mystery surrounding the life of the “slovenly and ugly”, to quote diarist Samuel Pepys, composer, lutenist, and singer, Pietro Reggio, who was probably from Genoa as he was referred to as Pietro Reggio Genovese. He was employed in Stockholm by Queen Christina before her abdication and subsequent move to Rome where Stradella and Lonati encountered her. Eventually, Pietro traveled to France, and, if the inscription on his tombstone is accurate, to Spain and Germany. He had moved to England by 1664, where Pepys and another writer, John Evelyn, were entertained in very different ways by him. Whereas Pepys wasn’t overly impressed by “Seignor Pedro” who played the theorbo and sang Italian songs, Evelyn included Reggio’s singing in his description of the “rare music” he enjoyed after dinner one evening.

Reggio made his living in London for a time, performing and teaching, and also had associations in Oxford where he may have resided. His claim to fame is a collection of songs he published in 1680, mostly based on the verse of Abraham Cowley (1618 -1667) who was among the leading metaphysical poets of the 17th century.

 

Nicola Matteis (? – after 1714)

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola Matteis by Godfrey Kneller, 1682

Nicola arrived in England after 1670, apparently not interested in royal service or public appearances, because, as Roger North also indicated, he might have to perform with amateurs.  Despite his resistance, his popularity grew in the 1670’s and 1680’s. He is given credit for having changed the manner of violin playing from the French to Italian style, publishing Ayres for the Violin that provided detailed bowing instructions and directions for tempo and ornamentation. Still, his compositions were difficult and many were discouraged in their efforts to play them. John Evelyn was among those who praised Matteis’ vigorous style that made his performances so memorable.

 

Various Italian, English, Scottish, and French Musicians

Bartholomeo Albrici (1634 – ?), a composer native to the seaport of Senigallia in the province of Ancona in central Italy, taught and played the harpsichord. He spent time in Sweden with his brother, Vincenzo in service to Queen Christina, and traveled with him and their singer sister Leonora (1640’s – 1700?) to London in 1662 where they all were involved in the King’s Musick. Leonora was married to Matthew Battaglia (1640? – 1687), a musician to the Duke of York, later James II. Giovanni Battista Draghi (ca. 1640 – 1708) was an Anglo-Italian composer and organist invited to London by Charles II to help establish an opera house. That project was unsuccessful, but Draghi (nicknamed “Drago”) found other ways to contribute to the music of the court and remained in England for the rest of his life.

Besides Henry Purcell, other English musicians make themselves known in To A Strange Somewhere Fled, including Henry Aldrich, church musician, Canon of Christ Church and eventually Vice-Chancellor of  Oxford University; Henrietta Bannister, wife of John Bannister “the elder” and music tutor to Princess Anne, daughter of James II; Robert Carr, viol player; Charles Coleman “the younger”, possibly a lutenist and theorbist; Thomas Eccles, a violinist who was said to have played in taverns; Thomas Farmer, violinist at the Duke’s theater in London and in service to Charles II and James II; William Gregory “the younger”, lyra viol player, composer and member of the King’s Musick and the Chapel Royal; William Husbands, organist at Christ Church, Oxford; and William Turner, composer and singer who served at Lincoln and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, the Chapel Royal and with the King’s Private Musick.

Paisable music 2

 

Also helping to add a flourish to the midsummer concert in To A Strange Somewhere Fled were Scottish composer and singer John Abell, Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, whose English songs showed Italian influence; and French composer and recorder player, Jacques Paisable (“Peasable” as he was mockingly referred to), who performed at the Drury Lane Theater and married actress and singer Mary “Moll” Davis after she was dismissed as Charles II’s mistress—with a lavish pension and house as a parting gift—when the nubile Nell Gwyn came on the scene.

 

 

To A Strange Somewhere Fled cover back and front

Cover – back and front – illustrations by DM Denton

 

Master Purcell bowed to them all, the back of his wig matted and his coat creased, the ribbons undone on the bottom of his breeches, evidence of a mend here and there in his hose, and his ankles leaning out due to the wear on his shoes. As he straightened, his arms lifted until his hands were close together above his head, reminding Donatella of a priest celebrating the Eucharist, his congregation silent in preparation for the miracle they were about to receive.

~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled, published by All Things That Matter Press.
The scene: midsummer’s eve concert at Wroxton Abbey.

 

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.

 

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House+cover+front[2]A House Near Luccoli

 

 

 

f0da9-strange2bsomewhereTo A Strange Somewhere Fled

A Friendship with FlowersA Friendship with Flowers

A View Through Day Lilies

“If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly our whole life would change.”
~ Buddha 

Partially, a re-post – I just had to snap this photograph of the proud Day Lilies in my little St. Francis garden, and, of course, once again display the lovely painting just below by my mom, June.

 
Day Lilies resized_pe

Mom's Day Lilies  July 2014

Mom’s Day Lilies – Copyright 2013

A view

through day lilies

bright and brave

growing wild

without abandoning

the perfect plan

for their existence.



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.

Marriage Brokering 17th Century Style

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering?

To find out “Ms Stuart Requests … the pleasure of your company” – and so do I – at my guest post on “history with a heart” author Alison Stuart’s lovely blog.

This image from Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress is a little teaser …

Marriage Image - from William Hogarth's A Rake's Progress

And here’s another: Marriage broker – someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

To see what Alessandro Stradella was up to

a ‘few’ years before A House Near Luccoli

please read on …

Alison and I thank you for the pleasure of your company!

And while you’re over there, please check out
Alison’s novels on her Bookshelf Page

 

 

Picking Flowers off Wallpaper

The photo is torn,

repaired with a trace of damage,

not enough to spoil

My Grandmother Marion Allers a complexion as satiny as ribbon-roses

adorning the effortless styling of

ringleted hair.

Playfulness in a profiled pose

and a smile that seems to be thinking

of something more than

light layers of hand-sewn chiffon

girlishly high-waisted.

The artistic bend of an arm

pointing to possibilities at hand,

a picture of loveliness

even as petals drop

before their time.

I’m marking my 62nd birthday (July 6) by remembering my beautiful and talented maternal grandmother, Marion Allers DiCesare, a recent interview question prompting me to consider – once again – her promising but frustrated and abbreviated ‘story’. She died long before I was born, but has always been a strong presence in my life, especially my sensory and creative life, through the memories of my mom who absolutely adored her – and as you’ll ‘see’ as you read on, she wasn’t the only one who did.

Her family was long established in Oak Park, Illinois, a village on the west side of Chicago that was the haunt of Earnest Hemingway’s family (my mom having babysat for his sister Sunny’s little boy – but that is a tale for another time). From a family history prepared in 1978, it is confirmed that my grandmother’s grandfather William Allers, a cabinet maker, came to the US with his wife and four children from Budby, Nottinghamshire, England in 1848; two more children including my great-grandfather Henry were born in the US. Henry married Ida Shreffler, and my grandmother Marion, their sixth child, was born March 24, 1893. She was only about 4 years old when her mother died in childbirth.

Marion Allers Age 5 resized

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

My grandmother (with a cousin) is on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My grandmother showed musical promise, specifically as a pianist, at an early age.

Marion Allers Age 18 or so resized

She received her entire musical education at the Illinois College of Music, which was established in 1900, graduating when she was eighteen but continuing there as a teacher.

Illinois College of Music Ad-page0001_pe

My mom managed to rescue the 1924 faculty booklet from family records in danger of being discarded as clutter. It states that Miss Allers’ pupils idolized her, “she made an extensive study of Expression (voice training, breathing, recitation, dramatic training, impersonating, dialect, etc.) and was very “clever” as “Pianist-reader and Monologue entertainer” who “became known throughout the city (Chicago)”, and was “original and versatile.” Her repertoire as a concert pianist included Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Tchaikovsky (which I can verify from the sheet music that has come down from her). My mom also recalls her mother playing and singing popular songs from the twenties and thirties, and watching her entertaining, even comical, skits.

Marion Allers Illinois College of Music 2a

The story becomes most fascinating and fateful when my grandmother was approached by the American impressario Florenz Ziegfeld, who was from Chicago, to take part in a European tour with the Ziegfeld Follies.

ziegsplash

Her family wouldn’t allow her to go as “good girls didn’t travel alone or do things like that”.

Ziegfeld Sheet Music - Ziegfeld Follies of 1917 (I'll Be Somewhere in France)

Who knows what career opportunities were missed and whether the disappointment contributed to her suffering a nervous breakdown. There is a scene in To A Strange Somewhere Fled that was inspired by her attempting to pick the flowers off the wallpaper in her bedroom during her mental and emotional collapse.

Marion Allers in 20s resized

She had several offers of marriage she turned down. Then, in her thirties, my Italian blue-eyed grandfather Pierino, who was attractive, cultured, charismatic, and a bit of a scoundrel—not unlike Alessandro Stradella—came on the scene when mutual friends took him to see her perform at the Chicago Civic Opera House.

lyric-opera-of-chicago

In 1995 the Lyric Opera of Chicago began a complex renovation of its home, the Civic Opera House.

 

 

Chicago Civic Opera House front

 

 

 

 

 

 

This time she defied her family to marry him—unaware he was still married to a woman in New York City—finding excitement but also hardship in her decision to do so, because, besides being a bigamist, my grandfather was an unreliable provider and often absent, engaging in dodgy real estate deals with the gangster element in 1930’s Chicago. He was very interested in aviation (my mom remembers going up in one of his very small scary airplanes), took out at patent on a new propeller blade, and became Vice President of a propeller company. You can see the photos of the propellers and factory here.

On the left is Pierino DiCesare, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company,

My maternal grandfather Pierino DiCesare is on the left, probably around 47 years old at the time of this photograph, Vice President of the Maynard-DiCesare Propellar Company. Although he lived until I was around ten, I never met him. After my grandmother died, he remarried, then divorced, and fell on hard times, becoming a destitute alcoholic and dying from sclerosis of the liver in Philadelphia.

After my mom and her eldest sister were born, her parents split for a while, got back together and had two more daughters, but the marriage was a rollercoaster for my grandmother, causing financial and emotional hardship. She continued to give piano lessons, until  she became very sick with breast cancer which claimed her life far too soon at the age of forty-six, my mom ten, her youngest sister only four.

My grandmothers obituary

My mother was heartbroken, wouldn’t go to school for months, and to this day can’t speak of her mother without tears. What a joyful presence was lost from the mortal world, but, fortunately, I have felt and continue to feel her spirit around me.

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 - her family was outraged!

My grandmother getting her hair washed by a cousin. In the twenties she sold her beautiful long auburn hair for $50 – her family was outraged!

“Well, wouldn’t you like to come inside and pick some (flowers) off the wallpaper?”
~ from the film, Harvey, based on the play by Mary Chase

 

 

donatellasmallest©All Artwork and writing on this site, 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.

Summer Solstice – Nothing New Under the Sun

Summer Solstice resized

Enter summer

in ladies slippers

to walk through clover;

dressed in being

with tortoiseshell adornment

and sighing

all the fashion –






Scarlet Pimpernel Page 30its blush lasting

only as long as the day.


 

Some of you might remember – this is a re-post. Nothing new under the sun, except as everything is.

If this post drew you over here, please check out some of my previous ones.

Including the last one that offers a chance to win a copy of my new novel and sequel to A House Near Luccoli, To A Strange Somewhere Fled – all you need to do is go over to either of my guest posts at Unusual Historicals (Excerpt Thursday or today, Sunday’s Interview), leave a comment with your email address. What have you got to lose?

Here’s an Summer Solstice appropriate excerpt from To A Strange Somewhere Fled:

On the day of midsummer’s eve the Great Hall gleamed with polish and high sunlight, its woolen rugs taken up and flagstones scrubbed, regal-red upholstered chairs borrowed from Broughton Castle arranged in two short-rowed sections separated by an aisle not quite wide enough for layers of skirts. The fireplace was filled with a display of larkspur, lilies, gilliflowers, ferns, and branching honeysuckle picked and presented by Tobias, and arranged by Lidia under his fussy direction. Tobias also brought sweet peas from “his most successful crop ever” to make nosegays for the ladies while single blooms would suffice for the gentlemen and their buttonholes. The flowers were kept fresh by being kept cold along with the sorbet made possible because of the ice-house Roger had been experimenting with.

The dais at the north end was designated for the music of friends. Roger worried over the personalities that would perform, a program created that listed them in alphabetical order except Master Purcell was acknowledged first to perform last. The chairs and music stands were set up with the expectation they would be moved around to accommodate one complaint or other. Donatella tried to reassure Roger that musicians would always reconcile for the sake of the music, as she had seen Alessandro and Lonati do.

“This is a little madness, don’t you think?” Roger had been full of ideas for the concert, including a bonfire for the villagers behind the Abbey with a table set out on the terrace for sweetmeats and cider.

Happy Solstice
Summer or Winter!

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.

Be our Guest

I’m a guest at two separate sites in the blogosphere this week.

 

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

Illustration for Kindle Short Story: The Library Next Door

 

First is an interview I did with Marina Julia Neary, “America’s most Irish author to come out of Eastern Europe”. Certainly, and not surprisingly, her questions were out-of-the box and challenged me, so this interview is quite different from any I’ve done before. Here are Marina’s five questions:

What appeals to me about your work is your determination to draw attention to forgotten figures from the past. In his day, Alessandro Stradella, the heartthrob of your debut novel A House Near Luccoli, used to be something of a rock star in his day, a star that got prematurely extinguished.  How many people outside of the classical music circle know about him?

Let’s talk about the Anglo-Italian connections.  The English have always been fascinated by Italy.  Forester had set several of his novels in Italy – A Room with a View and Where Angels Fear to Tread. In your second novel, To a Strange Somewhere Fled, you actually have an Italian protagonist going to England.  On the surface it seems like the two cultures are diametrically opposite. When you think of England, you think of bland colorless boiled food and vitamin D deprived people.

Your maternal grandmother was a concert pianist in Chicago during the 1920s. What an exciting era to be in the performing arts, especially in a city like Chicago! Tell me a little bit about her repertoire. 1920s was a very turbulent time all over the world. Did the external environment affect your grandmother’s performance style?  

I am feeling uneasy about asking this question, but how much of yourself is there in Donatella?  I’m not implying that she is 100% autobiographical, but she is so well-rounded and so meticulously crafted, I sense she is your psychological child.  Perhaps, she’s not your spiritual twin, but rather a literary child.

You have a gift for illustration.  In fact, you’ve illustrated some of your own literary works.  Tell me how your brain processes the multi-media.  Do you envision an image first, and then describe it with words, or do you start off with words and then translate them into images?

To read my answers to the above
– I hope you do! –
CLICK HERE

CT Commie Tiger Blog Image-page0001 (2) resized

Also, this week and weekend I’m being hosted at Unusual Historicals: “a handful of historical authors (who) brave the wilds of unusual settings and times to create distinctive, exciting novels just outside of the mainstream.”

Here is a chance to win a copy of To A Strange Somewhere Fled.


To enter to win, you MUST comment
and leave your email address
on my ‘Excerpt Thursday’ post at Unusual Historicals
OR
on my interview this coming Sunday 6/21 at Unusual Historicals


Commenting on this bardessdmdenton post will not make you eligible,
BUT, of course, your thoughts are very welcome here
(in fact I’m feeling comment deprived of late)
 

For Except Thursday, featuring an excerpt from Chapter Three of To A Strange Somewhere Fled.

On Sunday, more details about the story behind the story will be offered in an interview.  Here are the questions I will be answering:

How would you describe your writing style?

Who designed the covers of your books?

Is there an underrepresented group or idea that is featured in your books?

How do you approach developing the world of a historical novel fully in your mind?

Did your research for both or either of your novels yield any surprises in terms of historical events or illuminate a character in a particular way?

Why did you decide to write a sequel to A House Near Luccoli, why did you set it in England, and does To A Strange Somewhere Fled end the ‘series’?

What writing projects are you presently working on?

Unusual Historicals Blog Image resized

 

Thank you to all who visit here

and support my efforts

at writing and illustrating!

 

 

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton & JM DiGiacomo

Copyright 2015 by DM Denton & JM DiGiacomo

Returning to a First View of Wroxton

Excerpt from Historical Perspectives of To A Strange Somewhere Fled

The Setting

Old Photo Village of Wroxton

Old photo of the Main Street and duck pond of Wroxton village

I hardly expected my 17th century Genoese journey through the writing of A House Near Luccoli to direct me back to Oxfordshire, England where I lived from 1974 to 1990. Then I began to consider a sequel that would require a destination for Donatella beyond Genoa. Her flight from grief returned me to a first view of “Wroces Stan” – old English meaning buzzards’ stone – a village mentioned in the Doomsday book grown out of ancient crossroads, valley slopes, ochre stone, straw thatch, Augustinian principals, and aristocratic privilege.

Where is Wroxton? Click here!

It was a place small enough to comfort and stately enough to unsettle, reclusive and inviting, its character formed as much by its lower as upper class  – as is seen in the character of demon-obsessed Tobias, who is based on a real village resident I had known – a world as wild as it was well-designed, its seasons defined by flowers, fungi, berries, and trees, ever increasing clouds, fog and frost, rain and more rain so sunny banks and deep shadows were always noticed.

Image corrected to original work. Colour space is Adobe RGB (1998) Gamma is Windows 2.2

Porch, Wroxton Abbey – early 17th century

Wroxton Abbey, situated in a secluded parkland to the southeast of the village, was documented as a manor in the 11th century. One hundred and twenty-eight years later, a tenant, Guy de Reinbeudcurt, founded an Augustinian priory there. Due to the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, much of it was destroyed. What was left of its buildings and demesne was leased to the treasurer of Henry’s Court of Augmentations, responsible for the dissolved monasteries, Sir Thomas Pope, who was the founder of Trinity College, Oxford. In 1551 Sir Thomas granted his brother, John, a ninety-nine year tenancy, and in 1556 endowed the manor and lands to Trinity College that subsequently renewed the lease for John’s heirs.

Old Photo Great Hall Wroxton Abbey

Thanks to Fairleigh Dickinson University Wroxton College for this old photo of the Great Hall, including minstrel’s gallery. I can hear the 17th century violinist Nicola Matteis playing in the minstrel’s gallery – as Roger North put it “the staccatos, tremolos, divisions … every stroke delicious.”(Matteis is credited with changing the English taste for violin playing from the French style to the ‘newer’ Italian one)

Construction on the manor surviving as the central portion of its present structure was begun around the turn of the 17th century by John Pope’s son, William, the 3rd Earl of Downe. A lack of male descendants eventually passed the leasehold to the 3rd Earl’s daughters, and one of them, Frances, married Sir Francis North, the lawyer involved with the settlement of the Pope estate. Sir Francis was succeeded as 2nd baron by his son Francis; his great-grandson Frederick, the most famous North, 2nd Earl of Guilford, titled Lord, and serving as Prime Minister to George III, made extensive alterations to the grounds and some to the house. A library and chapel were most likely added by the famous architect and landscape designer Sanderson Miller in the mid 18th century, but a shortage of funds limited further enhancements. The current interior decoration and windows owe much to Prime Minister North’s granddaughter Baroness Susan, who also oversaw the completion of a south wing that finally gave the house symmetry as viewed from its west-facing front and fulfilled the North family motto: Animo et Fide Perage. Carry through to completion in courage and faith.

Cover Artwork cropped resized_pe cropped

Wroxton Abbey in the 1680’s by DM Denton

Baroness Susan’s Irish husband took her surname, and their son, William, managed the estate until his death in 1932 at the age of ninety-six, marking the end of over 250 years of the Norths’ occupancy. All the family’s effects were sold off and the Abbey was turned into a warehouse during WWII. In 1948, Trinity College of Oxford leased it to Lady Pearson, who rented out large portions, which caused extensive damage. Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey purchased it in 1963 and undertook an enormous effort to repair and modernize the building as well as restore and enhance the gardens and pleasure grounds, creating the splendid campus celebrating its fifty year anniversary in 2015.

Visit and like Fairleigh Dickinson University Wroxton College Facebook Page.

Antique Print of Wroxton Abbey

Antique Print of Wroxton Abbey

I was a junior in college, accepted into the program at Wroxton Abbey to study English history, literature, and theater, when my life-changing connection to Wroxton Abbey and village was initiated. A three month semester spanning the last chilly damp weeks of an Oxfordshire winter and the muddy beginnings and eventual warming and burgeoning of its spring turned into sixteen simple and complicated years of my calling Wroxton home.

Spring flowers in woods

Spring Flowers by DM Denton imposed on real photo of Wroxton Abbey woods

As I began writing To A Strange Somewhere Fled, what I thought would come out of my memories and feared would be limited by my experience and prejudice slowly emerged from a more informed and imaginative perspective, a past long before mine that not only furthered Donatella’s exploration into life and love, but made me more understanding and appreciative of the unique opportunity I’d had once and then again: to linger and live in Wroxton and even the Abbey itself, and make a little private history of my own there.

That's me in 1974 - 2nd row from front, 4th from right

That’s me in 1974 – 2nd row from front, 4th from right

To A Strange Somewhere front cover