lost_spook: (Northanger reading)
[personal profile] lost_spook
What I've Just finished Reading

Frances Brody's Dying in the Wool, the first of the Kate Shackleton mysteries. I did like this, but the title, cover and first person narration promise a lighter tone than is actually the case - they seem quite serious so far. Kate Shackleton is another ex-VAD detective, and they're set in Yorkshire, which is a nice bonus, and seem pretty well-researched. (In the case of the first one, I'd say maybe too well-researched or too inclined to share it here and there, but it's better than the more common alternative.)

I also finished note-taking from Maureen Waller's The English Marriage, which was very readable, with plenty of examples and quotes from letters, diaries and court cases from the middle ages to the twentieth century, mostly of terrible marriages (but not always).

I think maybe one highlight is the super-sarcastic sentence of a 1845 Judge (Mr Justice Maule) on a labourer convicted of bigamy:

...you have been convicted before me of what the law regards as a very grave and serious offence: that of going through the marriage ceremony a second time while your wife was still alive. You plead in mitigation... that she was given to dissipation and drunkenness... and that she had latterly deserted you; but I am not permitted to recognise any such plea. You had entered into a solemn engagement to take her for better, for worse, and if you got infinitely more of the latter... it was your duty patiently to submit.

You say you took another person to become your wife because you were left with several young children who require the care and protection of someone who might act as a substitute for the parent who had deserted them; but the law makes no allowance for bigamists with large families. Had you taken the other female to live with you as your concubine you would never have been interfered with by the law. But your crime consists in having - to use your own language - preferred to make an honest woman of her.

[....]

I will tell you what the process is. You ought first to have brought an action against your wife's seducer if you could have discovered him; that might have cost you money, and you say you are a poor working man, but that is not the fault of the law. You would then be obliged to prove by evidence your wife's criminality in a Court of Justice, and thus obtain a verdict with damages against the defendant, who was not unlikely to turn out a pauper. But so jealous is the law (which you ought to be aware is the perfection of reason) of the sanctity of the marriage tie, that in accomplishing all this you would only have fulfilled the lighter portion of your duty.

You must then have gone, with your verdict in hand, and petitioned the House of Lords for a divorce. It would cost you perhaps five or six hundred pounds and you do not seem to be worth as many pence. But it is the boast of the law that it is impartial, and makes no difference between the rich and the poor. The wealthiest man in the kingdom would have had to pay no less than that sum for the same luxury; so you would have no reason to complain. You would, of course, have to prove your case over again, and at the end of a year, or possibly two, you might obtain a divorce which would enable you legally to do what you have thought proper to do without it.

You have thus wilfully rejected the boon and the legislature offered you, and it is my duty to pass upon you such sentence as I think your offence deserves, and that sentence is, that you be imprisoned for one day; and in as much as the present assizes are three days old, the result is that you will be immediately discharged.


And then I also went back through The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant by Pamela Horn and now I have notes from it, too. Not magically, but not too painfully either.

I also finished reading Alison Light's Common People, her history of her very 'ordinary' family. It was very interesting. I think the best bit was the Road to Netherne section, following a maternal line (which had a narrower, more distinct focus) but it was very good overall.


What I'm Reading Now

Still not really read much more of HMS Surprise. I tried the other night, but they went on about eating rats, the same day as next door's rats came back, and I was also stressed so I had my Doomwatch-inspired evil rats nightmare and when I woke I knew there actually were rats nearby (even if not irrationally terrifying dream rats; it doesn't help at 4am). I am now eyeing it warily, and instead reading:

A Medal for Murder, the second Kate Shackleton mystery. It is still not light, but it is interesting. (The misleading covers and titles are very misleading! I am not able to shake them off and accept its seriousness yet. I will persevere, because they are otherwise good and it's not Frances Brody's fault if the publishers set about misleading people. Mind, I think I resent the flashbacks. It's a detective story, I'm supposed to have it unravel courtesy of the detective; don't give me flashbacks!)

For note-taking, I have now returned to Jerry White's London in the 19th Century: A Human Awful Wonder of God, which I was forced to abandon six years ago due to illness. I triumph at last! Also, it's very readable and interesting as well as useful. (I have the 20th C and 18th C ones, too, which I am now looking forward to as well, at some point.)


What I'm Reading Next

Who knows? Possibly the collection of Gothic novels I picked up in the free bookshop. Otherwise, I have mostly just started things, so it's a bit early to say.
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