The Little Things

What does it mean for the moon to wax or wane? What does the moon look like when it’s waxing or waning? And specifically, which would it have been doing in the latter part of April 1814? You see, I’d never bothered myself with astronomy before.

According to a Googled source of information, April 1814’s full-moon was on the 4th (incidentally, the same day Ney and other marshalls informed Napoleon that they’d had enough). Easter Sunday was April 10th (when Wellington began the unnecessary Battle of Toulouse against Soult). The moon was in its last quarter on April 12th. It was new on April 20th, and back to its first quarter on April 27th. And Castlereagh (according to a letter) was definitely in Paris by May 1st.

Why are all these disjointed pieces of information important? Well, my hero from A Regency Adventure has to take a moonlit stroll through the streets of London. The date should be within a fortnight of Easter. Not too many days before he would have attended a (fictitious) ball hosted by the Castlereaghs, at which point the story begins. I need Napoleon to have abdicated before the ball, and it’s easier for me if Lord Castlereagh was in London for this ball.

Back to my hero’s moonlit (or not) stroll. Was the moon waxing or waning, and how bright would it have been? I am reasonably certain it wasn’t cloudy (by London standards of cloudiness!) – an obscure reference to weather (again Googled) mentions that April 1814 was a ‘notably warm month, in what was a notably cold year.’ Apparently mid-month was particularly mild. Incidentally, 1814 was the year of the last ever Thames Frost Fair.

All this — which included several interesting tangents not directly relevant to my novel — was just to accurately set the background of a single chapter. And most of the research will never actually show. With good reason too – it’s a chapter in a novel, not a documentary.

Though I should never dare to compare myself with her, Jane Austen’s description of her literary creations comes to mind: “The little bit (two inches wide) of ivory on which I work with so fine a brush as produces little effect after much labour.”

Does all this research and accurate historical placement actually matter? I don’t know. But my father used to say that it’s a lot easier to tell the truth than a lie. One has a heck of a lot of fabricating to do around a lie. So perhaps all my fact-finding and attempts at historical accuracy are really an obscure form of laziness!

Posted in General on Aug 26th, 2009, 6:14 pm by althea   

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