I ought to do “Author’s Notes” in the books but I never quite seem to get round to it. So here are some brief thoughts on a couple of the things that I keep being asked about…
Authentically “Edwardian” language sounds stilted to our modern ears. In very early drafts, I tried to replicate it as precisely as I could but it just read like a parody, so I abandoned that and opted instead for more modern speech patterns but with authentic slang wherever possible.
My main source for slang is A Dictionary of Slang and Colloquial English by John S Farmer and W E Henley. Published in 1905, it’s a valuable resource when checking that slang words were in use in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s also handy for discovering “new” words.
I also check the age of idioms. A quick search of online dictionaries is often enough, but I find the Google Ngram Viewer invaluable. Enter a word or short phrase and it will chart the frequency of its occurrences over time in books stored by Google. Neither method is infallible, but they help to avoid the more jarring anachronisms.
For the most part, the stories are set in the English “West Country”, specifically an area a few miles north of the city of Bristol. The speech patterns of the working class locals are modelled on modern Bristolian and Gloucestershire speech but with old slang thrown in. These characters have caused quite a bit of confusion among those not familiar with the way they speaks down y’ere (someone once wondered if I’d accidentally slipped into Australian) but I’ve double-checked with a few of my local-born friends and they assure me that it’s accurate enough to pass muster.
Then, as now, the British upper classes swore like sailors. An obsession with avoiding “four-letter words” was (and still is) considered to be frightfully drab and middle class. Nevertheless, in order to fit the cozy genre I made a decision from the start to avoid swearing in the same way that I avoid mentioning sex and gore. Sometimes Lady Hardcastle’s reactions may seem a little tame, but rest assured that in reality she’s turning the air blue.
I’ve been challenged on the overly familiar relationship between Lady Hardcastle and Florence Armstrong. A lady and her maid wouldn’t be allowed to be friends and would never speak to each other like that. No, that’s exactly right. Under the strict social rules of victorian and Edwardian England, employer and servant could be friendly, but they could never be friends.
But it’s also exactly the point. As I said here, the characters came from an earlier project where I intended to explore the idea that under conditions of extreme stress and danger, artificial class barriers would break down and employer and servant might well become genuine friends. Although I no longer delve so fully into all that (their early lives are now only alluded to in passing comments), Lady Hardcastle and Flo have experienced a great deal of danger in situations where they relied on each other for their very survival. They return to England in 1901 after more than two years of living on their wits and find a world which now slightly bemuses them. They understand the rules and stick to them in public for the sake of propriety, but they no longer feel bound to them in private.
I might add to this post as things occur to me, but that’ll do for now.