Friday, October 28, 2011

Two Grandchildren

I found a copy of Catharine Elizabeth Taylor Moore's portrait in the book, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore (Facsimile of the Original 1848 Edition With a Life of Moore by Arthur N. Hosking).  That book cost me $3!  Woot!  Here's her portrait.  Or a horrible reproduction of it.  The portrait is probably very lovely in real life.  I blame my camera and the shiny paper that I photographed.

In any case, I think she is lovely.  She was born in 1795, married at nineteen, had nine children, and died at thirty-six.  And, important to this blog anyway, she was Phebe Taylor's granddaughter (by Phebe's son William Taylor).

I thought I'd also post a good portrait that I found of another grandchild of Phebe's, Commodore William Bainbridge (who I've posted about before) and then comment on the fact that I think there's a likeness between him and Catharine.

Is that just me?  They were cousins, and while I don't think I look anything like my cousins, my brother, in fact, does.  And my brother looks a whole lot more like my mother than I do.  But then he doesn't look like any one of his grandparents.  I don't know.  I don't know!  It's impossible to extrapolate, but this is all I've got so far, people!  I'll bet there was a portrait of Phebe somewhere at some time but that it's still in someone's personal collection.  And who knows who that someone is.  *sigh*

I'm just going to have to be happy I've got these portraits.  Which are nice.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Night Before Christmas

Well, hello!  I've been doing a fair amount of work on this whole project and I just found out something exciting.  Phebe Taylor's granddaughter, Catharine Elizabeth Taylor, in 1813 married Clement Moore, author of the famous poem, The Night Before Christmas.  Cool, right?
Clement C. Moore

Catharine Elizabeth was the daughter of Phebe's son William.  He at one point was the Lord Chief Justice of Jamaica and, oddly - to me, anyway - he came back to New Jersey at the end of his life and is buried in the St. Paul's cemetery in Perth Amboy.  My son and I just found William's grave.  Photos to follow in a later post.

Apparently, Catharine was involved in the creation of the famous poem.  The following passage is from this link:

An anecdote on the origin of the poem goes as follows:
“On Christmas Eve 1822, Reverend Clement Moore’s wife was roasting turkeys for distribution to the poor of the local parish, a yearly tradition discovered that she was short one turkey, she asked Moore to venture into the snowy streets to obtain another. He called for his sleigh and coachman, and drove “downtown” to Jefferson Market, which is now the Bowery section of New York City, to buy the needed turkey. Moore composed the poem while riding in his sleigh; his ears obviously full of the jingle of sleigh bells. He returned with the turkey and the new Christmas poem. After dinner that evening, Moore read the new verses to his family, to the evident delight of his children.”

Moore and his family are buried in the Washington Heights section of New York City.  I should go visit Catharine's grave too.  She died at thirty-six, leaving behind nine children.  Clement lived to eighty-four and never married again.

So, right now, we have a few well-known descendants of Phebe:  Commodore William Bainbridge (grandson), Mrs. Clement Moore (granddaughter) and Professor John Maclean, President of Princeton (great-grandson).  Oh and Mrs. Clement Moore was said to be "talented and lovely."  She even wrote a poem, "Clement C. Moore - My Reasons for Loving" which I will be searching for on google.

So from now on, thanks to the anecdote above, I will be thinking of Catharine and her turkeys and Clement on his sleigh ride when I read The Night Before Christmas.  Which is overall, pretty great.

Update:  I thought that last bit was a little sappy of me.  So I'll include these extra bits of information:  1. The poem might possibly have not been written by him, but by Henry Livingston, Jr. and 2.  Clement Moore was against abolitionism, meaning pro-slavery.

Alrighty then.  I still like the anecdote, even if it is fiction.

Update Number 2:  Although I wasn't able to find the poem by Phebe's granddaughter to her husband Clement, I did find the illustrated copy Phebe's great-granddaughter made in 1855 for her father's poem.  The great-granddaughter's name was Mary Ogden, and I rather like the illustrations.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lady Robinson's Recollections

In my reading about Tories and Revolutionary history lately, I found a reference to a short book entitled "Lady Robinson's Recollections".  I must find a copy of this book.  Maybe it's at the Monmouth County Historical Society Library?  I haven't been there in ages.

Lady Robinson was born Catherine Skinner, daughter of Cortlandt Skinner (links 1, 2, and 3), leader of the New Jersey Volunteers, a regiment of Loyalists from New Jersey who fought for the British against the Patriots.  He was a very high profile Loyalist and was reviled in Monmouth by the rebels and even, most likely, uncommitted people because he led the raids for supplies that went on for years in this area.  I need to write this all out more carefully, referencing how I know everything, but right now, I'm not feeling well.  I just wanted to mention her book.

More or less, it's a family history.  It's not online in its entirety, but I did find her introduction, which is charming.  Hopefully, I'll find a full transcript somewhere, because I believe she has some things to say about the Revolution, as she experienced it, as a child (errr, it wasn't good).  In any case, it starts off in the following way (this from a rootsWeb excerpt which focussed on geneology mostly):


I have often observed when people are young they are seldom anxious about
family history, and think any mention of times and things as far back as
grandmothers a bore. When getting old themselves a hope to be remembered
naturally arises, and more interest is felt in those who are gone. I will
therefore detail, as far as I know, who and what were your ancestors, both
on the side of your lamented father and myself. You may, probably, some
future day wish to trace some member of your family when no one is left to
explain ; but bear in mind the writer of this is approaching seventy-five,
and, as I have somewhere before said, the mind, like the body, is prone to
decay: this must excuse errors.
Your affectionate Mother,



November, 1842.

Charming, right?

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Hi. name here is fake.  It's a pseudonym.  I don't think anyone would really care, but I don't want any of my Middletown neighbors accidentally finding it, while trying to google my phone number for a PTA thing (which they totally wouldn't anyway) and then, eventually, have it hurt my kids in the long run.

So this is a fake identity; an avatar, if you will.  And while Penelope Heard is generally a nice not-young woman, sometimes she's inappropriate.  Or depressing and emo.  Or callous, spiteful, extremely snobby and classist.

Here's the thing about me, though (real me and Penny me), I like to talk.  I like getting shit out.  Mostly because, as a kid, I was constantly told to be quiet, don't say that (probably for all the reasons mentioned above - *sigh* my parents tried).  So is Penny my id or something?  I don't know, I never took psychology.  Mostly because that teacher in my high school... you know what?  That's a whole story, for another time.  (Surprisingly, not a pervy one, just awkward.  *sigh*  Relax.)

Alright, so she's inappropriate.  She's also fairly lazy.  So, while I have an avenue to say things as the real me, via facebook and twitter (which I never do, but have set up), Phebe does not have any other accounts.  And there are plenty of things that real me really shouldn't post.  Especially at certain times.  Like today.  So, I thought I'd just do a post where I list a few of my current "status updates" that I would certainly regret if I were to post them as myself.

At the pediatrician yesterday and an 8 year old boy saunters in.  He really sauntered.  He has gel in his hair and (I'm not lying) two pierced ears.  Two!  On a small boy!  Can you believe that shit?  What the hell?  And then he opens the door to office and the receptionist gives him a big old hug and says "Oh!  My God!  We haven't seen you in so long!"  And says nothing about the earrings.  Oh and at this same pediatrician's office, they were playing a full-on pirated version of Kung Fu Panda 2.  I know this because of the quality, sure, but also because you see, at one point, two people crossing the screen, going to their seats.  I think it's time to find another pediatrician's office.

You know how they say you should learn something new every day?  I feel like I've spent the last two decades learning, daily, how shitty people are.  I feel like that's not a good thing.

I had to go to my primary care doctor today while my son tagged along.  He's three.  It's horribly painful to try to have him behave in an office for an hour, but I had to do it.  In the waiting room, a grandfather started talking to me about my son.  It was ok, he was nice.  So we're talking, talking and then get to how he lives with them, and how sometimes he has to discipline them, but not often.  He hates time outs, though.  Sometimes a kid just needs to be smacked.  What the hell to say to that?  Oh and also, this grandfather mistook me as my child's grandmother.  I may need to also find another primary care physician.  Or move.  Moving might be easier.

As far as the learning new something everyday thing, though, I actually did learn something new at my doctor's appointment.  Turns out dandruff and psoriasis are not the same thing.  Who knew?  So the "dandruff" I've had for seven years is actually (say it with me) pso-RI-a-sis.  That's how I pronounce it, anyway.

I have a question.  How does anyone have an affair with their doctor?  I mean, in the history of mankind, that's happened, right?  Only, in my case, my doctors tend to hear things like, "My pee smelled funny yesterday and also today."  Or, "My left boob hurts so bad, is so swollen and hard, that I want to cut it off with a kitchen knife, because that would be less painful."  That one was due to mastitis.  So-Mui took it like a champ, though.  She's a professional.  Seriously, there's not one sexy ailment, really.  Maybe that Benjamin Button thing?  "Doctor, I seem to be getting younger every day."  "Call me when you look like a twenty year old, Madam."

Changing topics, There's a blogger I think is incredibly funny - Steam Me Up, Kid.  I (real me) follow her on facebook.  Lots of people do, she's (rightfully so) very successful as a humor blogger.  Anyway, one of her more recent status updates mentions that she was in Soho (the blogger's mentioned she lives in California) and saw Lady Gaga get out of a car and I literally had to walk away from the computer so I wouldn't write "Wait!  You were in New York?  I was within twenty miles of you, Steamme?  Crazy!" because honestly, that would've gone over like a ton of bricks, me thinks.  Methinks?

Last one.  I recently discovered, via Imogen Robertson's blog (see my last post for my ravings), the blog The History Girls.  It's a blog that features posts from roughly fifteen successful female historical novel writers.  And they're mostly British, it seems, but not all.  And they're all professional writers.  Mostly, that's my point here.  And they seem really cool and I can't wait to read all the archived stuff and maybe find some series via them, etc etc.

Anyway, today's post is about cross-dressing in historical novels.  Mostly, they say, hey, I'm having two young-ish girl characters dress up as boys so that they can do things (like go to a play, or be in a play, or escape or something - not the other kinds of things - mind out of gutter).  Has anyone else had their characters do this?  So that's the general gist.  Oh and that it's hard to have it be a man dressing as a woman (for similar things, I guess?) and have it not degenerate into something farcical.

And again, I'm having a hard time not commenting and saying, "Uhhh, guys?  Dr. Frank-N-Furter?  Hello?  Sexiest mother fucking sweet transvestite out there, amiright?  Well?  *crickets*" Hell, I can't even do that as Penelope Heard because they might link back to this website and, since honestly, I hope to one day be a historical novel writer, I don't want to "introduce" myself to them and then immediately make them think I'm a perv because I find Tim Curry extremely fuckable in that outfit.  Amiright?

Although, come to think of it, Diana Gabaldon has written about gay male transvestites in her Lord John series and since I'm guessing there's not a whole lot of slash writing going on over there (there's a lot of young adult novelists in the mix), they may not have thought of that whole aspect of it.  Mayhaps I should educate them on that too.  *sigh*  No, I won't.

Kind of reminds me of the time that my mom used the word "fluffers" to describe herself and her sister and I had to tell her what it really meant.  See, not due to anything in my control, mind you, but at that time I was in grad school and had an a-hole for a labmate and he had to play Howard Stern every god damned night.  Every night.  It was fucking horrible.  This went on for a year, and then thankfully, I got out of that particular room.  Horrible.  Anyway, so I learned what a fluffer was.  Cut to a year later, when my mom was congratulating herself on what a wonderful wedding prep job she had done for a friend of hers in Santa Barbara and that it wasn't really a matter of redoing their backyard for the small reception, it was a matter of "fluffing it up".  "We should call ourselves "The Fluffers," shouldn't we Sue?  Let's do that!"  Errrr, Mom?  I don't actually think she's looked at me the same since.

That's it for now for the inappropriateness.  Whew.  I'm glad I got all that off my chest.  I feel better.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Instruments of Darkness Excerpts

Well, hello again.  Should I have used an exclamation point there to convey happiness and excitement?  Or... would that have been overly eager and kinda annoying?  I initially thought the latter, but then regretted it, almost immediately, and thought maybe I did need to do it to convey that I was actually in a pretty good mood and that this post would be light.  Huh.  Oh, my son has a cold and I slept in his room, so that my husband wouldn't be kept up all night by his coughing and then I was, in fact, kept up all night with him and now I'm extremely tired.  So there's that.

Alright.  I've had out this library book for ages and now I need to return it and not pay the fines.  I've been wanting to transcribe some passages that I thought were perfection - both for just being well written and for the excellent job they did in establishing the characters and more, their world.  I'm gushing over here, is what I'm saying.

The book, Instruments of Darkness: A Novel, by Imogen Robertson is great.  It is of course set in the 18th century.  I'm realizing I have a real jones for the 18th century.  Huh again.  And it is, of course, a murder mystery. My favorite (read: only) genre!  I'm thinking from here on out, I'm going to look exclusively for 18th century murder mysteries.  Saves time and guarantees satisfaction.  Only not.  There are tons of lame historical mysteries out there, so really, it's the opposite.  It's like discovering gold when I find one that's both well written and actually entertaining.  Gold, I say!

So this one's gold.  As is the follow-up novel, Anatomy of Murder (I've picked an excerpt from that book too to rave about later).  I'm going to order Island of Bones today.  Today!

Without further ado, two excerpts.  Uhhhh, you don't really need to know too much, except that they're both from towards the beginning.  Mrs. Westerman found a body on her estate.  Her husband is a Captain in the British Navy and is away.  Mr. Crowther is a kind of early forensic scientist.  They've just met.  She asked him to come to see the body, even though they had never met, because she had read an article he published concerning forensics.  Mostly, he stays indoors with his specimens and avoids people.  Have I mentioned that I love him?  Cause I do.

Here we go - Imogen's words will be in italics.  Any annotation I make will be in normal font.  This first part is after the body's been moved to Mrs. Westerman's barn and is ready for examination.

Crowther turned to the corpse again, wondering if Miss Rachel Trench (sister to Mrs. Westerman) had ever been to sea, and if not, what she thought of the family now gathered round her.

He had been expecting Mrs. Westerman to leave him at this point, but she did not.  Instead, she folded back her habit from her wrists, and picked up an apron to cover her skirts.  Catching his look, she gave him a wary half-smile.

"You did say it would not be a full examination."


"Then I think I shall stomach it."  She moved to the body and folded away the linen cover, then, her attention caught, she bent down to examine the hand.

Crowther had studied with some of the best surgeons and teachers of anatomy in Europe.  They were busy practical men, their inquisitiveness their main feature, their niceties blunted by their commerce with the dead and the necessary dealings with the underworld of bodysnatchers and resurrection men.  He had seen any number of corpses cut up and manhandled, the floor slippery with blood and air thick with human effluvia while a dozen men in powdered wigs jostled over a body to examine some peculiarity pointed out by their instructors.  He thought now that he had never seen a sight as shocking, or as strangely beautiful, as Mrs. Harriet Westerman taking the stiff fist of the corpse between her own white hands and stooping to examine the dead flesh.  Its gray, waxen emptiness alongside the delicate coloring of her face and intelligence in her eyes, seemed a metaphor of divine spark.  If she had breathed on that hand and made it warm again, and alive, Crowther would have accepted the miracle and believed.

Now that's how you introduce characters, mother fuckers.  (Sorry, Imogen, I felt cursing necessary.  Big fan.)

Another excerpt and then I have to stop.  There's not too much you need to know here, except about the bit at the end.  The local children have been told or decided that Mr. Crowther is something of a ghoul.  I like this section, because once again, it's a wonderful way to introduce the household.  Really, elegantly done, in my opinion.  OK, then.  Here we go, again:

Crowther and Harriet were walking up to the French windows that gave onto the main lawn, when they heard a sharp slap and a child's cry of surprise.  Crowther looked to Harriet, who hurried over the last few steps to the house.  He followed.  As they stepped into the room, Crowther saw Rachel, her cheeks flushed, holding a boy of about five by the arm and vigorously shaking him.  There was already a red mark rising on the little boy's cheek and he was clutching a paintbrush in his free hand.  Rachel's voice, as she spoke, was quavering and hot.

"Stephen, you naughty boy!  How could you?"  The boy caught sight of Harriet in the doorway and, shaking himself free, ran over to her and buried his face in her skirts, crying lustily.  Miss Trench saw them both and gave a start.  She held out her arms to Harriet in appeal.

"Oh Harry, I am sorry.  I did not mean to, but he has painted black marks all over my picture just out of  badness - and it was just as I wanted it!"

Harriet knelt to better embrace the boy and, having removed the dangerous brush from his hand, she handed it wordlessly to Crowther and stroked her son's hair.  His crying slowed a little.  He put his face into her neck and mumbled something between sobs.

"What is it, Stephen?  I can't hear you,"  Harriet asked him softly, still not looking at her sister.

"Crows.  She forgot the crows," he said, then his voice rising to a bitter wail, "I was helping!"  He tucked his face into Harriet's neck again, his small hands gripping the collar of her riding dress in determined fistfuls.

Rachel looked more stricken than ever.  Crowther remained in the shadows of the drapery, as if Harriet's curtains might provide some protection from the emotions flying around the room like the Chinese fireworks at Vauxhall.  He looked down at the dirty brush between his fingers.

Harriet waited until the little boy was calmer and spoke to him gently.

"Perhaps Aunt Rachel did not want crows in her picture, Stephen.  Have you thought of that?  You would not like it if she painted all your soldiers yellow, now would you?  Even if she thought they looked better that way."

The little boy's sobs stopped suddenly, and he pulled away from his mother as he considered this horrid possibility.  He shook his head.  She took his small face in her hands and smiled at him, then kissed him on his hot smooth forehead.

"Well, you do not seem much hurt, young man.  Apologize to your aunt and perhaps she will not paint on your things in revenge."

Stephen shot a glance toward Rachel, then walked carefully over to her.

"I'm sorry, Aunt.  I thought it would look nicer with crows."  He thought for a moment and extended his hand.  Rachel knelt down and took it with great seriousness.

"I didn't realize you were helping, Stephen.  And I am very sorry to have been so cross.  May we be friends again?"

"You won't paint my soldiers yellow, then?  Because they should all wear red coats."  She shook her head.  Crowther found he was smiling a little, and stepped clear of the curtains.  Stephen grinned with relief and pounced forward to kiss his aunt on the cheek, then struggling free from her embrace, turned and started with surprise as he caught sight of Crowther hovering in the doorway behind his mother and twisting the brush between his fingers.

"Who are you, sir?"

"I am Gabriel Crowther."

The little boy considered for a moment, then his eyes widened considerably.

"Do you eat children, sir?"

Crowther stooped slightly from the waist, till he had brought his thin body to the point where he could look the little boy in the eye.

"Not as often as I would like."

Stephen looked at him with awe and pleasure, thrusting one small fist to his mouth.  He then announced to the world in general that Mrs. Heathcote had made cake and he would be allowed to eat the crumbs from the tin, and raced out of the room.  Harriet stood and smiled at Crowther, then, her eyes growing more serious, she turned to her sister.

"I'm so sorry, Harriet.  I didn't mean, I-"

Harriet looked irritated, and held up her hand.  "This is not like you, Rachel."

It goes on, of course, I just thought I'd stop here.

I also thought I'd make a list (for myself, as well as for any reader) of my favorite historical mystery writers, with a link to their books at Amazon.  My inability to remember names constantly astounds me, especially because I like these people so much.  Huh.  Good gravy, I'm tired.  Until next time.

Judith Rock:

Ariana Franklin:

Margaret Frazer:

Imogen Robertson:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Well, hello...

Hi!  OMG, I have plans for some posts.  One (possibly two) relating to Phebe, in fact!  Weird, right?

But first, I wanted to show you this panda bear my daughter brought home from a birthday party.  A birthday party that somehow involved "building" things.  You know what I mean.  In any case, she had a great time.  A great time was had by all!  Oh, thank God (seriously, thank GOD!) another girl's mom brought my daughter to the party.  God, I am coming to hate kids' birthday parties.  Hate.

So, here's the panda.

As I sat on my daughter's bed last night, trying to work out how the eff the bedwetting alarm system was supposed to work, hopefully without traumatizing my daughter, I started looking at this bear.  Staring at it, really.

And here's what I noticed.  This bear looks pissed that she (or he) is wearing a cheerleading outfit.  Pissed.  So, look again.


Oh and before I sign off, I should also tell you that I, myself, am pissed at Barbie.  Pissed.  I was at the Tar-zzhhay buying a present for this same birthday party and I noticed that still (STILL!) the only career options open to her are teacher, babysitter/day care worker, vet (or vet tech?), ice skater and rock star.  Couldn't they, for the sake of PR, throw out a Scientist Barbie?  Even if she sells not a single time?  My conscience would be a hell of a lot clearer.  I mean, I know that it's incredibly hard to be a veterinarian and that those are some smart, science-y ladies, but still.  Why not orthopedic surgeon?  Cardiologist?  Neurologist?

OK, that's all.  I found another haunted house that would've been there when Phebe was alive and that is, in my opinion, related to her.  It's led to all kinds of magical thinking on my part.  You can imagine.

Until next time...