I keep trying to pull my thoughts together for this blog post. I’m surrounded by research and, yet, not a cogent thought emerges that leads to either fiction or report.
It seems the process of incorporating my eclectic reading, juggling the unfamiliar aspects of the late 17th and early 18th century (the defined, rigid levels of society…..I can’t seem to care), and playing with possible scenarios and characters has not yet formed a whole. This is either because it’s all roiling in my subconscious, or because, like baking bread, the yeast has not yet proofed. In either case, nothing has risen from within to mar the blank page/screen.
What I am reading includes a wonderful travel memoir, “Turkish Reflections” by Mary Lee Settle. My favorite travel writing includes history, observation and personal experiences that flow seamlessly. This is one of the best. Also, dipping into Brian Dolan’s “Ladies of the Grand Tour”. The subtitle reads: “British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth Century Europe.” Needless to say, this is right up by alley! These are women who tell their tales through letters and diaries. What especially interests me is how entirely liberating they found being away from the strictures of home. So many of these women married for status and money. It really was often nothing more than a fiduciary exchange among families. (Jane Austen’s women were more radical than we can imagine.) So some of these intelligent and curious and sensuous women found a new kind of freedom when traveling, mainly, it seems to Italy. And, really, what country is more sensuous?
I continue to pursue Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. A complete biography by Isobel Grundy is on my desk and I’ve taken dozens of pages of notes, and am only on page 122! She hasn’t yet arrived in Constantinople!
There is so much to learn about the late 17th and early 18th century before I can begin to imagine it. What I do know with confidence, is that women struggling to become themselves against prevailing expectations is a familiar story.