America’s top official in France from 1785-1789, forty-something Thomas Jefferson, came to believe U.S. diplomats should not be overseas more than about eight years at a stretch. He felt if they (and they were then only men) were, they would lose touch with events and opinions at home. As a result, they would eventually be incapable of representing America properly.
He grew concerned also about young men “without attachment” becoming “involved” with European women, and felt their being overseas too long made such “intimacy” almost inevitable. The young women they encountered in diplomatic and social circles (and who, in France and elsewhere on the continent, could speak English) were overwhelmingly aristocrats. He believed “relationships” with those women could damage those “impressionable” young men’s “republican” sentiments and alienate them from the outlooks of most of their fellow Americans at home.
A few years before, a 16 year old future U.S. president became rather “enthralled” by young women he met while visiting Sweden. Yes, it’s a shocker: An American teenage boy loose in Scandinavia notices girls. Yet in that he demonstrated Jefferson’s concerns were perhaps not groundless.
Then lacking the television, internet, etc., that we take for granted, one could see Jefferson’s point about being too far removed from home as well. It took three months minimum for a letter to travel from Europe and to receive a reply from America; and that was usually during the summer months. Far fewer ships risked crossing the Atlantic between December and March – and even navies weren’t keen on it if they could possibly put it off until spring.
I had some “fun” yesterday after leaving you here. As I had noted in yesterday’s post, there’s always something that needs writing, or just more cleaning up. Aside from simply not wishing to write, there’s really no excuse for any author (or an aspiring one) to be idle.
Working away yesterday on Conventions, at one point it struck me again how you may outline and pre-plan a novel to the smallest degree, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as actually writing it. I find some of my (in my opinion) “best” stuff comes via improvisation and even accidentally…. while I’m actually writing. Such is how real life itself, too, often unfolds for us, of course.
I thought it might be fun relatedly this morning to share some “quick hit” samples that may give a “feel” of fictional characters within the tale and their time. They “co-exist” amongst what were real historical people. Among the fictional, first and foremost, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is the New York-born twenty-something around whom the tale unfolds:
And he’s just the start.
There’s the (initially 17 year old) daughter of an English baronet:
As you may have heard, a man with a knife slashing at people killed sixty-four-year-old American Darlene Horton and injured half a dozen others in London’s Russell Square on Wednesday evening. If learned, as of this writing his motive has not yet been made public. (“Mental health” issues have been cited by police.) As to a description of him circulating in British media, including on the BBC, ITV news’s Charlene White took issue with it on Twitter:
"Norwegian national of Somali descent"
Which technically makes me a "British national of Jamaican descent". Not just…you know…British.
Via Wikipedia, one uncovers that Ms. White was born in London. That same source also states her parents were “Black Carribean.” Given her tweeted reference to Jamaica, I will assume for discussion’s sake that means they were born there and moved here to the United Kingdom.
I’m at last getting back to work now that the house move is largely finished. You may recall that I’ve written previously that I managed to get through BOTH The Winds of War and War and Remembrance. (Author Herman Wouk is now 101 years old!) Written in the 1960s and 1970s, both massive novels (over 1,000 pages each) were famously adapted for American television in “big” productions in the 1980s and were huge hits.
But like too many other novels, I’ve felt those television versions, while they had their moments, didn’t really do full justice to the books. Yet maybe it is unfair even expecting that they could have?: the books are of an incredible scope and complexity. It’s almost as if the words “novel” or “book” are insufficient to describe them.
One fault that can be found with them, however, is their scope is so gigantic that reading them can feel at times like trying to wade through an encyclopedia…. only suddenly to find yourself in the next chapter joining fictional characters trading barbed comments and sexual innuendoes at a formal dinner. That said, they also have some great characters and too many memorable bits to begin to recount. They are amazing writing efforts.
I tore through a mass of unpacking yesterday, got the washing machine in place, mowed the (small) lawn, and generally attacked whatever else I could think of. Yet there still seems so much to do. You probably know the feeling: in any house move, all you see is what is left to be accomplished!
Leave it to us to move as well over the hottest days of the year here. Don’t be fooled, it can get very hot here. And I shouldn’t complain: at least it wasn’t raining!