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14 April 2014

The Little Things

The Ashford Affair, which just came out in paperback last month, goes back and forth between Edwardian England, 1920s Kenya, and 1999 New York, along other stops on the way.  There are wild animals on safari, grand manor houses, fast cars-- and yet, when a reader emailed me recently, she told me the detail that really made the book for her was the reference to Mister Softee trucks, because, she said, it showed her that I knew New York, unlike so many authors, who set books there without ever having set foot in it.

(For the record, my feet have been firmly planted on the sidewalks of New York for the larger part of my life.  Usually chasing a Mister Softee truck.)

Isn't it funny what makes or breaks a book for you?  It's always the little details that make all the difference.  Way back in 2003, when my first book sold, my acquiring editor told me that one of the things that caught her, that made her keep reading, was a mention in the first chapter of my modern heroine's skirt having turned around on her while she was walking.  "Mine always does that!" she said. 

As a reader, it's those sorts of details that catch me.  Recently, I was reading Donna Thorland's latest, The Rebel Pirate.  There's drama and swashbuckling and skullduggery and even a royal byblow, but do you know what I remember?  The pins in the heroine's bodice.  Donna spent many years working at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, dealing with the material arts of just this time period, so when she describes the heroine unpinning her bodice, you know it's exactly the way such a bodice would have worked.  She knows eighteenth century costume the way I know Mister Softee.

And speaking of Mister Softee... I think I hear him playing my tune.

As I go chasing a chocolate/vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles, are there any small things that have jumped out at you as you've been reading?




06 April 2014

The Hamlet Connection

Authors often get asked where they got the idea for a book. For me, at least, the answer is usually too much a mélange of inspirations and half-formulated thoughts to pinpoint one moment. But in the case of The Berkeley Square Affair, I know exactly when the idea came to me. I was driving with my daughter Mélanie to the birthday party of the daughter of friends who was turning one (at the time Mélanie’s own first birthday party seemed far in the future, and she is now past two, which tells you something about the time that elapses between the genesis of a book and its publication). As I drove the winding back road from West Marin, where we live, to the nearby town of Petaluma, I got the idea of my central couple, agents and husband and wife Malcolm and Suzanne Rannoch, having a peaceful night in their Berkeley Square library. The Napoleonic Wars are seemingly behind them, But then their friend, playwright Simon Tanner climbs through the window, bloody from an attack. Because he was bringing them a manuscript. A manuscript that might be an alternate version of Hamlet. Of course, this being Malcolm and Suzanne’s world, the manuscript contains secrets beyond the identity of its author.

Malcolm and Suzanne have always liberally quoted Shakespeare. It's a sort of code—they can use quotes to express feelings they can't put into words for themselves. I've written scenes set at the theatre during performances of Shakespeare plays and even scenes at rehearsals, but I loved the idea of making a Shakespeare play a central part of my book and using Hamlet seemed singularly appropriate as themes of fathers and sons, lovers who may be working for the enemy, and the younger generation unraveling the secrets of their parents tied into the next story I wanted to tell in Malcolm and Suzanne's world.

I was thinking recently about the myriad works of art that have a Hamlet connection. Quotes from the play lend titles to work as diverse as Edmund Crispin's mystery The Glimpses of the Moon and the comic adventure movie Outrageous Fortune. Lee Blessing's play Fortinbras picks up the story where
Hamlet  ends. A friend and I saw a workshop production in Greenwich Village of a musical that tells the story from Ophelia's POV. Lisa Klein's young adult novel Ophelia is also a retelling from Ophelia's viewpoint. Michael Innes's wonderful mystery Hamlet, Revenge! centers round a production of Hamlet at a country house party. There are thematic echoes in countless books, movies, and television shows. The X-Files and Arrow come immediately to mind.

Hamlet, after all, is a story that can be enjoyed on a multiple levels. It is a political thriller, a psychological study, a coming of age story, a family drama, a tragic love story. It's themes dealing with the nature of life and death, power and love, parents and children grapple with core issues of human existence and can be analyzed endlessly. Yet, as a friend remarked to me at intermission during a wonderful production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, "I forget what a good story this is." Watching the play unfold, one finds oneself simply wanting to know what will happen next.

Do you have a favorite book inspired by Hamlet or another work of literature? A favorite memory of seeing Hamlet? Can you name other plays, books, and movies inspired by the story of the Prince of Denmark or that take their titles from quotes from the play?

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31 March 2014

Georgian Gossip Columns

I was having a discussion on Twitter (yes, I live on Twitter) about the fact that no one I know has been able to document Georgian/Regency engagement announcements in the newspapers. They confined themselves to deaths, marriages, and births (and many of these announcements don't even include the name of the lady/mother: "A son was born to Lord Soandso." "Lord Soandso has married the eldest daughter of the Earl of Blah."

But the fabulous Susanna Kearsley shared with us a very clever way an author can get around this if they NEED an engagement to be in the papers: Gossip columns! She even posted several examples:


FROM 1712
 
 
 
FROM 1800

 



FROM 1800

26 March 2014

Hi everyone! I am coming out of Hoyden retirement on the joyous occasion of my new book release. Sweet Disorder, my elections book and the first in a Regency small town series, is out from Samhain!


Nick Dymond enjoyed the rough-and-tumble military life until a bullet to the leg sent him home to his emotionally distant, politically obsessed family. For months, he's lived alone with his depression, blockaded in his lodgings. But with his younger brother desperate to win the local election, Nick has a new set of marching orders: dust off the legendary family charm and maneuver the beautiful Phoebe Sparks into a politically advantageous marriage.

One marriage was enough for Phoebe. Under her town's by-laws, though, she owns a vote that only a husband can cast. Much as she would love to simply ignore the unappetizing matrimonial candidate pushed at her by the handsome earl's son, she can't. Her teenage sister is pregnant, and Phoebe's last-ditch defense against her sister's ruin is her vote—and her hand.

Nick and Phoebe soon realize the only match their hearts will accept is the one society will not allow. But as election intrigue turns dark, they'll have to cast the cruelest vote of all: loyalty...or love.

Nick, my hero, is a huge Byron fan, and early on Nick and Phoebe (both from very political families) discuss Byron's maiden speech in the House of Lords, on the Frame Breakers Bill. In this excerpt, Nick is trying to make polite conversation and has asked Phoebe if she likes Byron. Not realizing he's a fan himself, she gets annoyed.

***

"No," she said. "Not every woman is precisely the same as the next, you know. We don't all copy Lord Byron's verse into our commonplace books from memory simply by virtue of our sex. I haven't read a word of his silly poem, and I don't intend to. I do not care a straw about his tragic past or his tragic profile or how many women he had in the East."

He blinked. "You sound like my mother."

That brought her up short. "I do?"

She had made that speech before, or something close to it. Byron was all the rage; he came up in conversation. Suddenly, she remembered that there had been a time when she had read every fashionable book she could get her hands on. She'd pored over the lists of new publications that London booksellers sent to the newspaper. Now she sounded like someone's mother.

"She thinks him an embarrassment to the Whigs. She called his speech on hanging the frame-breakers 'theatrical'."

"I cried over that speech," Phoebe admitted, subdued and strangely unsettled. "Jack—that is, Mr. Sparks, my brother-in-law—printed it in the Intelligencer. [the local newspaper]" Did she dislike Byron at all? Or had she simply spouted an unexamined opinion, to be contrary?

"It was brilliant," Mr. Dymond said hotly. "But it was not in the style of the House of Lords. Passion and compassion have no place in well-bred politics."

She hid a smile. He wasn't, after all, much more tactful than she was. "I didn't mean to be rude. As I said, I haven't read his lordship's work. I might like it. Plenty of others do."

He smiled. "No, I do believe rudeness comes to you quite unconsciously."

***

Byron's speech, which can be read in Hansard's Parliamentary Debates along with the debate surrounding it, is pretty well written. Probably that surprises no one. It is also, to my modern eye, extremely formal, and while scathing, hardly shockingly so.
Can you, then, wonder that in times like these, when bankruptcy, convicted fraud, and imputed felony are found in a station not far beneath that of your lordships, the lowest, though once most useful portion of the people should forget their duty in their distresses, and become only less guilty than one of their representatives?

Frame breakers, 1812.
Image via Wikimedia Commons.

But at the time, presumably in part because of Byron's snarky delivery, it was considered inflammatory. Byron writes: "I spoke very violent sentences with a sort of modest impudence, abused everything and everybody, [and] put the Lord Chancellor very much out of humour."

Was the speech a success? At this distance, it's impossible to tell. Presumably it was like most talked-about creative productions: a lot of people loved it, a lot of people hated it, a lot of it had to do with your personal feelings about Byron, and which opinion was fashionable changed depending on your audience.

 
Byron, 1816. 
Image via Wikimedia Commons
 
At the time, Byron was effusively pleased with the speech's reception. Robert Charles Dallas wrote later: "When he left the great chamber I went and met him in the passage; he was glowing with success, and much agitated. I had an umbrella in my right hand, not expecting that he would put out his hand to me; in my haste to take it when offered, I had advanced my left hand—'What,' said he, 'give your friend your left hand upon such an occasion?' I shewed the cause, and immediately changing the umbrella to the other hand, I gave him my right hand, which he shook and pressed warmly. He was greatly elated, and repeated some of the compliments which had been paid him, and mentioned one or two of the peers who had desired to be introduced to him. He concluded with saying that he had, by his speech, given me the best advertisement for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage."

(Honestly, on reading even just that small excerpt, darling as it is, I can't help feeling that Dallas was not so much a friend as a frenemy. I found a hilarious sum-up of his biography and the legal trouble surrounding it, which opens, "The Recollections is at once one of the most valuable and most disappointing of the Byron memoirs.")

 
The House of Lords, 1809.
Rowlandson and Pugin in A Microcosm of London
Image via Wikimedia Commons 
  
In a letter to Francis Hodgson, Byron mentioned that "[Lord Holland] tells me I shall beat them all if I persevere, & [Lord Grenville] remarked that the construction of some of my periods are very like Burke's!!—And so much for vanity."

But this same Lord Holland wrote in his Memoirs that the speech was "full of fancy, wit, and invective, but not exempt from affectation nor well reasoned, nor at all suited to our common notions of Parliamentary eloquence." Was he kindly encouraging a fledgling Whig orator in the hopes that one day he'd improve? Or did he like the speech at the time but no longer feel it would reflect well on him to say so by the time his memoirs were published three or four decades later? Once Byron was famous, and then disgraced, no one discussed him without an agenda.

Mr. Frenemy Dallas also felt the need to mention that Byron rehearsed parts of the speech with him in advance, but that "his delivery changed my opinion of his power as to eloquence, and checked my hope of his success in parliament. He altered the natural tone of his voice, which was sweet and round, into a formal drawl, and he prepared his features for a part—it was a youth declaiming a task."

A "task" was a type of school assignment, involving, I think, the recitation of memorized passages from the Classics. Moore's biography of Byron also mentioned this in connection with his second speech in Parliament:"His delivery was thought mouthing and theatrical, being infected, I take for granted (having never heard him speak in Parliament) with the same chanting tone that disfigured his recitation of poetry, — a tone contracted at most of the public schools, but more particularly, perhaps, at Harrow, and encroaching just enough on the boundaries of song to offend those ears most by which song is best enjoyed and understood."

The whole thing makes me feel embarrassed and protective on Byron's behalf (okay, I'm sure he laughed all the way to the bank, but also he was so self-conscious!), and it also makes me feel very, very fond of him.

Here's how Byron discussed the episode in his journal, years later: "[Sheridan] told me[...]I should make an orator, if I would but take to speaking, and grow a parliament man. He never ceased harping upon this to me to the last; and I remember my old tutor, Dr. Drury, had the same notion when I was a boy; but it never was my turn of inclination to try. I spoke once or twice, as all young peers do, as a kind of introduction into public life; but dissipation, shyness, haughty and reserved opinions, together with the short time I lived in England after my majority (only about five years in all), prevented me from resuming the experiment. As far as it went, it was not discouraging, particularly my first speech (I spoke three or four times in all); but just after it, my poem of Childe Harold was published, and nobody ever thought about my prose afterwards, nor indeed did I; it became to me a secondary and neglected object, though I sometimes wonder to myself if I should have succeeded."  

Tell me about a youthful ambition of yours, or a popular book or movie that you are just too contrary to try!

One commenter will be chosen at random to receive a free e-book of Sweet Disorder, and one commenter will be chosen from the entire blog tour to receive an awesome prize package that includes tie-in pinback buttons, bookmarks, bacon-scented candles, a bookstore gift card, and much, much more! (This drawing is open internationally. Void where prohibited.)

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25 March 2014

Jackie Barbosa Giveaway

One of the things I love about the Romance community is the close-knit it is. We're there to cheer when good things happen, and to provide support when the unthinkable befalls one of us.

As many in our small community already know, Jackie Barbosa lost her eldest son (Alpha to all of us on Twitter) in a head-on collision. I honestly can't even begin to imagine how Jackie and her family must feel. A Memorial Fund has been set up, with the goal of funding a scholarship in Julian's name, but I wanted to do what little I can to support Jackie in other ways too, so I'm going to give away ten copies of one of her her eBooks. Any of them, winners can pick. I'll buy them wherever I'm allowed/able to gift from, even if I have to set up an account to do so.

So leave a comment and I'll put your name in the hat along with the Twitter entries and then we'll see tomorrow who gets books. And if you can donate to the Memorial Fund, I know it would be greatly appreciated.

24 March 2014

Hangover Cures

Considering the Georgian era was a time of hard drinking and mass overindulgence, one would think that finding period remedies for a hangover would be all too easy. Not so. Either I’m simply not using the right words* to elicit hits in period books, or they simply didn’t “treat” a pounding head as we do today. I don’t find any mention of sore heads brought on by drink in books of housekeeping receipts, or in medical treatment guides, or even in The Complete Servant, which tells you how to deal with all kinds of other strange challenges.

*I’ve tried every combination of headache, head-ache, head-ake, head-ach, cure, remedy, drunken, drunkenness, over indulgence that I can think of.

So what did I find? Well, “hair of the dog” both the phrase and concept are period. From the OED:

a hair of the dog that bit you : an alcoholic drink taken to cure a hangover.

1546   J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue i. xi. sig. Eiv,   I praie the leat me and my felowe haue A heare of the dog that bote vs last nyght.

1611   R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues at Beste,   Our Ale-knights often vse this phrase, and say, Giue vs a haire of the dog that last bit vs.

1706   E. Ward Rambling Fuddle-Caps 4   We leap'd out of Bed with a strong Appetitus, To swallow a Hair of the Dog that had bit us.

1834   W. A. Caruthers Kentuckian in N.Y. I. iv,   He presently proposed that we should go..and see some fine fellers..who were going to have a night of it. Well, said I, ‘a little hair of the dog is good for the bite.’

1841   Dickens Barnaby Rudge lii. 239   Drink again. Another hair of the dog that bit you, captain!
 
As close a reference as I could find in The Complete Servant

That Charles II supposedly paid five thousand pounds for the receipt of his favorite cure, Goddard’s Drops, which appear to be some kind of volatile salts (aka smelling salts/spirit of hartshorn) that were applied to the temples for relief.

 
Culpeper says Juice of Ivy, inhaled!
 
And Pliny, who most of the men of the ton would have read at some point, recommended owl eggs and raw garlic (a precursor to Jeeves’s well known “Worcestershire sauce, raw egg, and pepper concoction?), or eels suffocated in wine before being eaten raw.
 
Anyone out there have a source that I’ve missed?
 

17 March 2014

For St. Patrick's Day: Exploring my own Irish Roots

Some years ago, I performed the title role in the romantic comedy PEG O' MY HEART. One night, an audience member, impressed with my Irish brogue, approached our house manager and asked, "That actress with the red hair who plays Peg -- is she really Irish?"

Dear Rhonda, who is an irrepressible comedienne, quipped, "She has Irish hair-- with Jewish roots."

In truth, I do have Irish roots through a single ancestor, Captain William Haggerty (b.1797), my maternal grandfather's great-grandfather.
portrait of Capt. William Haggerty painted bet. 1830-35

Family lore had it that he was born on the Old Sod in Ulster (and we assumed therefore that he was likely a Protestant) but in the 1850 census, when (at age 53) he was residing in North Brunswick, Middlesex NJ, he claimed to have been "born on the ocean." Doing the math, he would have been born sometime in 1797 or at the beginning of 1798 -- tense times for Ireland. Just a few months later, the region erupted with The Rebellion of 1798, which lasted from May to September of that year. Could our family, with a pregnant Mama Haggerty, have been Catholics, seen the writing on the wall and fled the threat of British persecution? Or were they indeed among the Protestant "dissenters" that helped foment the uprising? Or were they not political folk at all and just wanted a better life in America?

We know nothing of Capt. Haggerty's parents or their true port of origin. What little we can piece together, looking backward on my ancestor's life raises more questions than it answers. When I began to research this post I contacted my uncle Bruce, the family historian, who found all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the life of "Grandpa Haggerty"; however, they remain snapshots in time and it will take lengthy threads to stitch his entire story together.

As a young man he ran packet boats along the North River (later renamed the mighty Hudson) -- the same river that formed the geographical westward boundary of my childhood in the North Bronx and my adulthood and career on the West Side of Manhattan, both Upper and Lower, the river I bounced along on my father's motorboat, performed beside as an actress, fought to clean up with the recently departed Pete Seeger's Clearwater Revival, and sailed along at the helm of an acquaintance's ketch while he tried to woo my friend.

But by his mid-30s, Captain Haggerty was proving himself to be quite a scallywag. Evidently, at one point before this time he had owned a sloop that ran trips between NYC and Albany. At the northern end of his route he must have met a woman, married, and sired three children. But he was not a faithful husband and in 1832 he abandoned his wife and returned to NYC --with the kids --where he took up residence in a house of ill repute at 112 Leonard Street, run by the notorious Mrs. Bowen, with whom he had been intimate for at least a year prior to taking up permanent residence at her establishment.

Leonard Street and nearby Thomas Street formed part of the red-light district of lower Manhattan at that time, a stone's throw from Chinatown and the infamous Five Points slum district. These brothels were also conveniently located to the courthouses, the prison known as the Tombs, and City Hall. In 1836, the murder of the beautiful redheaded Helen Jewett, a well-known prostitute from the bordello located at 41 Thomas Street, a vicious slaughter committed by one of her jealous regulars, and the subsequent trial of the 19-year-old murderer, a clerk from a wealthy Connecticut family, spawned the birth of yellow journalism and was considered in its day the crime of the century.

At least my ancestor only committed adultery. Four years before the Jewitt murder, according to an account published December 19, 1832 in the New York Commercial Advertiser (which they took from the New York Courier), Captain Haggerty, who had once been the owner of a packet sloop somewhat fittingly named Ransom (so he evidently lost ownership at some point), deserted his "virtuous and amiable" wife to become the paramour of Mrs. Mary Bowen, the "old bawd" of the brothel at 112 Leonard Street.

Reneging on his agreement that the boy and two girls who were the progeny of his marriage were to be boarded and educated in Troy, my rake of an ancestor had determined that they were better accommodated in a bawdy house and brought them down to Manhattan. In a subsequent court hearing, it was decided that the children should be returned to Troy, but the abandoned wife's attorney never appeared in court on her behalf, so Capt., Haggerty's counsel won his client's fight for temporary custody, despite the fact that said wee ones were to be housed and raised in a brothel pending their remand upstate.

Savory, huh? It gets better.

Well, the jilted Mrs. Haggerty had more than a few sympathizers, among them a Captain Fisher, who organized a revenge party on her behalf. According to the Courier, Fisher corralled 20-30 of his pals for the express purpose of tarring and feathering her wayward seafarer of a husband. 

Mrs. Bowen had been forewarned, however, so Capt. Haggerty, with his own posse of her watchmen stationed within the house was waiting for the intruders, ax in hand, on the landing of her staircase. When Fisher's gang rushed in, a brawl broke out, Mrs. Bowen's men clubbed several of the intruders, many men on both sides were injured, the madam lodged a complaint with the local magistrates who levied a fine of $500 (massive at the time) against their court appearance. All fines and prison fees, amounting to three dollars twelve and a half cents per man (on both sides), were thereafter paid in full and everyone was released on his own recognizance.

In the 1830s, it was popular among those of the merchant class with means to have your portrait painted. But we have a clue to the status of William Haggerty's fortunes in the mid-1830s, even when he may have been heading toward the peak of one of his boom periods. The face was painted by a master, but the rest of the portrait was done by amateurs -- apprentices from the master's studio. While my ancestor's face is full of expression and character, his hands are plump and undefined -- hardly those of a man of the sea, or even a man. And his suit (which a professional cleaning approximately 165 years later revealed to be bottle green, not black) and background are amorphous. The family believes the above portrait was painted in the mid-1830s, presumably after he sorted out the sordid business with Mrs. Bowen and returned to the straight and narrow straits of the North River and respectability.

We now believe that Captain Haggerty did get on the right side of the law eventually. We know this from newspaper articles written in 1838, just a few years later, in which William A. Haggerty (unless it's a different guy) is listed as the incumbent Whig Party candidate for tax collector for the Seventh Ward, which seems to be the same area (or near it) as Mrs. Bowen's establishment. 

At some point during his middle age, before the 1850 census was taken, he crossed the North River and became a resident of New Jersey. Presumably while he was a resident of this great state, Grandpa Haggerty missed the opportunity to make his distaff descendants heiresses when he turned down an offer from his NJ neighbor, fellow sea captain Commodore Vanderbilt, to become an investor in what would eventually become the New York Central Railroad, insisting that people would always prefer boats to iron horses. 

Sigh.

My second missed opportunity to become an heiress came when one of Grandpa Haggerty's grandsons-in-law, Ed Harzfeld, a retailer out in Chicago and an acquaintance of Mr. Sears, declined the latter's invitation to get in on the ground floor of his catalogue business. Nah, I don't think it'll fly, the myopic Harzfeld is said to have replied (and I paraphrase). People want to come into a brick and mortar store to feel the merchandise before they buy.

Sigh.

My third blown shot at a trust fund came about a century after Grandpa Haggerty turned down Commodore Vanderbilt: his great grandson also missed the boat. My grandfather was invited to invest in another new invention, Ampex Tape. It'll never go anywhere, Papa scoffed. 

Well ... I guess it's not so bad to have had to earn a living. I certainly appreciate every nickel.

According to one clipping unearthed by my uncle, Haggerty suffered at least one reversal of fortune. In the 1850 census, he listed his profession as "none"; and although the census taker wasn't terribly thorough when it came to checking other boxes, it would appear that on the census form Grandpa Haggerty did not own any property (which would indicate that he did not even own his own home).  

Yet in 1850, he had a 19-year-old male laborer living in his household (race not listed by the census taker) as well as a 10-year-old girl from Virginia named Alice Palmer.

The discovery of Alice made me jump. Why (and how) would a 10-year-old girl from Virginia get to northern New Jersey? Was she a slave? Sounds unlikely. Yet the census taker did not mark whether Alice was in school or not. Was she a rescued child off the Underground Railroad? Was she an orphaned child of former slaves? Was she white? If she was born in VA in 1840 and was in NJ by 1850, my best guess is that she was an African-American child. I'd be eager to hear other theories. Was my ne'er do-well ancestor employing child labor in his household? I shudder to imagine that this might have been the case.


Capt. Haggerty in his later years, probably in his 60s.




One thing we know for certain, because she was my mother and uncle's great-grandmother: William Haggerty had a daughter named Leonora, whose mother purportedly died in childbirth (so, ostensibly this would not be the wife he abandoned in Albany in the early 1830s, unless she eventually took him back and they had more children, which seems highly unlikely). Leonora also asserted that her mother died in childbirth, so she could not have been one of the two daughters brought to Mrs. Bowen's bordello in the early 1830s, because the mother of those children was very much alive and well and livid, although, per the article, she was not a well woman, mentally or emotionally, and Capt. Haggerty may not have judged her fit to care for their children, hence the agreement that they be boarded and schooled across the river from Albany in nearby Troy. 

Was Leonora's mother the abandoned wife, a previous wife, or a later one? Or -- possibility number four --not a wife at all. Could I be descended from a madam? Given what we know from the 1850 census, #1 would seem to be the truth.

Leonora, who was 20 at the time of the 1850 census and living with her father, may have maintained the lie that her unfortunate, "distracted" (according to the article about the riot) mother had died in childbirth, in order to cover up her father's sordid behavior and the fact that she spend her terrible twos in a bordello.

Leonora, also called Leah, married one Jacob Strauss (b. 1827), a German Jewish immigrant -- which is how my paternal grandfather's side of the family became Jewish, because in Jewish tradition a child's religion is that of the mother, the only parent one can be absolutely sure of (no "warming pan"/smuggled babies  incidents in our religious history). Mysteriously, Leonora lists on her marriage certificate both parents as being born in NY, which contradicts Grandpa Haggerty's "born on the ocean" contention in the 1850 census.  

Leonora Haggerty and Jacob Strauss (who became a U.S. citizen in 1855) were wed two years later and had three children, the youngest of which was my great-grandmother Bertha. She married a lawyer named Lucius Weinschenk who, as a young bachelor (thanks to documents sent by Uncle Bruce) had his own troubles with the law, it seems, before he cleaned up his act. Bertha named her only son Carroll (b. 1902), after her oldest sister Caroline ("Carrie") who died in 1900. In Jewish tradition, one does not name a child after a living relative. It's done -- but it's rare.

Around 1920, when my paternal grandfather got his first byline as a writer, he changed his last name, jettisoning the very German sounding Weinschenk, which not only would have been unpopular in post WWI America, but also sounded "too Jewish" in an (sadly) anti-Semitic business world. For the rest of his life he was known as Carroll Carroll. My own historical speculation for the name change aside, my mother tells me that it had everything to do with commerce instead. My grandfather was writing two regular columns for the same newspaper: one poetry, the other prose, one under the byline Carroll Carroll and the other under the byline C.S. Weinschenk. The editor-in-chief received fan letters from readers who thought that Carroll Carroll was really humorous. He also received letters telling him that C.S. Weinschenk guy couldn't write! 

Or so my grandfather said.

CC remained proud of his Irish heritage (ok, that was before we just found out, thanks to the Internet, what a scamp he was, because my grandfather was the paragon of devoted husbands). And the portrait of Capt. William Haggerty hung proudly on the wall of my grandparents' living room in Manhattan. There, as a young girl from the Bronx it was a treat to stay overnight on their living room sofa. But I will now admit that I slept with one eye open, because the portrait of Grandpa Haggerty hung above me and I was convinced that his eyes followed me about the room and gazed down upon me. 

Captain William Haggerty died December 9, 1867 in New Brunswick, NJ, at the age of 72. According to his obituary notice in the local newspaper, his funeral was held at his residence on Albany Street (which sounds a bit like a shiva announcement to me). Perhaps his now-Jewish daughter and son-in-law and their children did not want a church service. Perhaps the old guy was never religious to begin with and wouldn't have wanted one, anyway. Perhaps he was just an unrepentant sinner. We'll never know.

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone. Erin Go Bragh!

Do you have an Irish ancestor you'd like to tell us about?


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