A feather in his cap: Yankee Dudel and Independence

 

Written in my heart’s own blood

by

Diana Gabaldon

I wait with patience now, for each and every book in this series, and each time, there is the worry that it might be the last.

Once again, have we come to end of the story. But not to worry, having been reading her website and blog and Facebook page, I am now assured that the 9th book is being written and that if you really want, you can get daily spoilers from the text. I did think about this but then thought maybe not so much, as if I get really interested in the spoilers and then have to wait another few years – it takes around 4 for her to write the full nine‐course meal with wine‐pairings and dessert trolley. Or full-length book. Then I might get rather frustrated!

All are safe again but – we never did find out the full story of the daughter and her husband travails before they finally reached home – is there a book in that I wonder? And will they become the next hero and heroine of the saga as time moves on and a new American history can be developed with them and their children now they are all well and all together? We shall see – read the daily spoilers if you can’t wait to find out!

And by, jove, aren’t they all very lusty right into middle age and beyond…never missing an opportunity for some hanky panky.

Now that I’ve got all that off my chest what did I think?

Well, it is always surprising to me, how Gabaldon manages to write a book of some 800 or more pages and yet we have only moved on a very few years in people’s lives. Her books are always chock-a-block with rich descriptions and intense language. Yet her academic background is not in literature as you might imagine but in Quantitative Behavioural Ecology (PhD) and scientific computing. Now take your prejudices out of your pocket and look at them again, as at the same time as she studied the reasons why birds build their nests where they do, she also wrote scripts for cartoons and comics. And for 12 years she was an academic professor before giving it all up to become an author about Scotland and Scottish people to which she had no affinity. Unlike so many Americans she has no Scottish roots at all and at the time of writing her first novel had not even been to Scotland once. Indeed she was born in Arizona and still lives there.

She admits to taking an amount of novelistic license with her ‘history’ of the American War of independence including some of the actions and whereabouts of General Sir Banastre Tarleton, 1st Baronet, GCB (21 August 1754 – 15 January 1833) who was a British soldier and politician; and who is probably best remembered for his military service during the American War of Independence. He became the focal point of a propaganda campaign claiming that his men had slaughtered surrendering Continental Army troops at the Battle of Waxhaws also known as the Waxhaw Massacre. His first name – Banastre – was in fact a family surname which was given to him as is often the case, in order to remember that side of the family. This is still quite a common practice in the USA where we do see a number of rather unusual first names used (especially for girls we British think).

He was hailed by the Loyalists and British as an outstanding leader of light cavalry and was praised for his tactical prowess and resolve, even against superior numbers. His green uniform was the standard of the British Legion, a provincial unit organised in New York in 1778. Tarleton was later elected a Member of Parliament for Liverpool and became a prominent Whig politician. Tarleton’s cavalrymen were frequently called ‘Tarleton’s Raiders’. All this of course from the trusty Wikipedia site plus some others. See the picture of tarleton below as painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Quite a dashing young man don’t you think? And look – a feather in his cap!

220px-Banastre-Tarleton-by-Joshua-Reynolds

Now I did use my search engine quite a lot for this post as I so love it when people use unusual words. I have a bit of a thing about etymology…

So I started of course with looking at just what a ‘Dumpy’ chicken looked like dumpy chicken and then went on to actual language.

First on my hit list [I may well have missed some out that my readers are not sure of, but as I have read a lot of Victorian and historical literature I do know what a Macaroni is for instance – a dandy from Regency times in case you were wondering – and other terms which are not that common] was

  • Absquatulated. Now Gabaldon took a bit of a liberty with this one as apparently it didn’t come into common use until 1820/ 1830. It means to escape, flee or abscond. It is slang and is pseudo-latin.
  • Extravasation . Is to erupt, or an egress or passage out.
  • Peelywally. I was fairly sure I knew this as Scottish dialect but checked anyway and I was right – pale and sickly looking.
  • Cingulum . a belt or girdle. A cloth round the neck.
  • Banyan. A loose flannel undergarment from the Indies. OR a title of bravery. Take your pick on context.
  • Leporello. Nothing to do with lepers, but accordion or concertina pleated material.
  • Gorget. A piece of armour that protects the throat, later morphed into a crescent shaped piece of metal with a chain for officers to denote rank and regiment.

I also liked her use of the Scottish dialect and speech patterns and also the use of the Scottish spellings of words. One could really almost hear the characters speaking. Not having yet been able to see the TV series, I do hope they speak with a good broad accent!

I also checked on what type of drink Bunnahanhain was, I was fairly sure that it was whiskey and so it was, from Islay.

Now some of you may have already recognised Peleg if you read your and know your Bible, I don’t, but it appears that it means division as it was during his days that inhabitants of the earth were divide up between him and his brother. The sons of Eber.

I did also wonder what a trudging stream was, and couldn’t find any reference other than its use as trudging – being hard work to walk in and slow and difficult – we trudge when we are tired. So the stream was such a stream – one difficult and tiring to walk in.

Other words I checked on were: castrametation the laying out of an army camp; and yaupon holly which actually seems to mean tree tree – yaupon coming from the Catawban word for tree; and gigging which is practised in the Southern States – and is the use of a gig or 3 pronged pole to catch – yes – frogs usually.

So was this book all that I hoped it would be having waited to read it until I was on the Queen Mary (I had figured I needed something substantial to keep me from getting too bored as I knew I would be doing a lot of sitting around)? The short answer is yes. It was all that I hoped. Another 5 stars for Gabaldon. I guess more than anything it is her language that attracts me. The storyline is interesting of course, but that would only give it 3-4 stars. It is the language that makes it up to 5.

Oh and by the way, as I will write in my post about my visit to Boston I went on the Tea Party tour! So I know a little more about how the war started – sort of…

 

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