Last week I talked about how a blacksmithing lesson improved my writing. This week is about how the fortune of finding the perfect book helped. Both blogs are also about not being able to write without all those people who help.
The book is called Gentleman's Progress, The Itinerarium of Dr. Alexander Hamilton, 1744, (No not that Hamilton).
Dr. Hamilton lived in Annapolis, Maryland. After a bout of ill health he decided that a nice leisurely ride up the coast would be just the ticket. He kept a journal along the way. In 1948, two hundred years after the trip, Carl Bridenbaugh annotated the work and published it. So I have an old book of an old book.
His traveling companions are delightful. He describes these characters with fond good humor even if he doesn't like them. He finds many to be very verbal about things of which they don't understand.
Conversation is often of politics or religion, with frequent references to the Siege of Canso (I had to look it up, so you can, too). One exception was a group of Quakers in Philadelphia who wanted to discuss the price of flour, maybe from the mill I work at now, which had been selling flour for 40 years.
He tells what they are wearing (what is a laced hat?), what they carry with them, what they eat. I've learned a few new words that you can bet will be in my characters mouths soon.
I am now in the middle of Boston. He keeps putting off his trip to Cambridge because it is either too hot or raining. I am anxious to find out if he meets anyone I know. He has met a few people I know, Mr. Lechmere, for one, and many more I didn't, the painter Mr. Smibertt, who opened the first art gallery in the colonies. He's sure turn up in one of my stories.
This is 20-30 years before the setting of the Thieftaker works of D.B. Jackson. The two authors have similar takes on the city, though one is close up and the other at more of a distance. I will copy the journal pages that describe Boston and fold them into Jackson's books.
So here I am with four book marks and a bunch of post-its. I flip from the maps on the end papers to his journal entries to the foot notes in the back. Then I turn to Wikipedia which is open at my elbow.
1744 isn't a year in which any of my works are set, though it is pretty close to the 1752 setting of my Hannah and Silas stories. Cobbs Crossing, Delaware, is fictional, but the good Doctor stops in New Castle only a few miles away.
I can hardly wait to get to Maine.