Saturday, May 19, 2012

King-Hall, The Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in the Year 1764-1765


Opening Passage: Strictly speaking, the opening passage is in the fictional Editor's Foreword by Alexander Blacker Kerr, but, really, one has to consider Cleone Knox's first entry as the true opening passage of the book.

March 3rd.
This morning had a vastly unpleasant interview with my Father. Last night, Mr. Ancaster, who is the indiscreetest young man alive, was seized suddenly while riding home along the shore with the desire to say good night to me. He climbed the wall, the postern gate being locked at that late hour, and had the Boldness to attempt to climb the ivy below my window; while but half way up the Poor Impudent young man fell. (If he hadn't Lord knows what would have happened for I am terribly catched by the Handsome Wretch.) As ill luck would have it Papa and Ned, who were conversing in the library, looked out at that moment and saw him lying Prostrate on the ground!

Summary: This inauspicious attempt of Mr. David Ancaster, of the wild, dark-haired Ancasters, to kiss a young woman good night leads to Cleone Knox's being whisked away on a Grand Tour of the Continent; her wealthy father seems to think that this will broaden her mind and lead her to recognize that she has more respectable options than an Imprudent Ancaster with Wicked Eyes. The story is in a sense about the romance of Cleone and Mr. Ancaster, but it's handled with extraordinary subtlety: Mr. Ancaster is simply not there for most of the novel, and in an odd way it's by his absence rather than his presence that the romance is mostly carried out. But the real interest in the book, of course, is simply a young woman of dry wit commenting on the Europe of her day.

Favorite Passage:

January 9th.
Mme. Pochon had the complaisance to escort us to Ferney to pay our homages to the illustrious philosopher, Monsieur de Voltaire. The great man received us in a chintz dressing-gown, with a flow of brilliant wit. Sometimes affable, more often peevish. To tell truth, he reminded me of nothing so much as a chattering old magpie. But we listened silent, with that Respect which is due to Genius, however Wearisome it may be.

Recommendation: Comic light reading, highly recommended.

Links for Noting

*Dorothy Cummings McLean on Mulieris Dignitatem

* Mark C. Murphy has an interesting review of Sinnot-Armstrong's Morality Without God at NDPR.

* Currently reading:
Elliott Sober, Reichenbach's cubical universe and the problem of the external world (PDF)

* We normally say that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Hasok Chang looks at some of the ways in which the matter is more complicated than that.

* Philip Kitcher has a vigorous defense of the humanities and attack on scientism at The New Republic. (hat-tip)

* Liturgical texts for St. Hildegard von Bingen

* Be insulted by Martin Luther.

* Norway is no longer to be officially Lutheran. A constitutional amendment has passed to replace language making Evangelical Lutheranism the public religion with language saying that the state's basis will be its Christian and Humanist heritage. The reporting on this seems highly confused, and I can't make much sense of it all. As far as I can tell, the Church of Norway will still be a national church and the King is still required to be Evangelical Lutheran, contrary to many reports. This is not, in other words, a full disestablishment. What will happen is that King Harald V will no longer appoint bishops (a church committee will do that) or have the title, Highest Bishop; but the bishops and priests will still be employed by the state.

In other words: the government agency going by the name 'Church of Norway' has been moved from being a government agency directly responsible to the Crown to being an independent government agency, and officials dealing with this government agency will no longer have to be registered with this government agency. The government agency will, however, continue to exist and to be funded as a government agency. This apparently pleases quite a few officials in the government agency, because it pleases both those who think the government agency should be less accountable to the Cabinet, and those who think the government agency should be privatized. It also pleases people who think the agency should be elimated. This particular government agency is the caretaker of a large number of historic properties, and runs most of them as working historic sites, a service in which about two percent of the population of Norway participate with regularity.

* I see that Mark Shea, never afraid to leap in where angels fear to tread, has stirred up some trouble by saying that Medjugorje is a fraud (which it is, at the very least beyond the very beginning, and very likely in whole). The best source of information on it in English is Marco Corvaglia's website. It really is a subject on which people can get hurt feelings very quickly, though.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kierkegaard on Confession V: Rendering Account

The point of Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing is to prepare for confession. Most of the discourse, however, has been dealing with the general background for this preparation: what it is to be pure of heart, to will one thing, to commit wholly. To bring all this into preparation for confession, however, we need to individualize it. That is, in the context of all the prior discussion of willing the Good, the individual must face certain questions. The final part of Purity of Heart is devoted to asking a linked series of questions leading up to confession.

We start with the interrelated questions: What kind of life do you live? Do you will only one thing? What is this one thing? The latter two questions follow directly from the first; what kind of life we live depends on whether we are double-minded or pure of heart, and purity of heart is to will one thing. But as we saw in discussing double-mindedness, not everything can really be willed as one thing. Most of the goods that could be willed, in fact, can only be willed in a fractured or limited way. The only thing that can be willed as one thing is the Good itself.

This allows us to revise the questions. Now they are: What kind of life do you live? Do you or do you not truthfully will one thing? This has nothing to do with your vocation, or your profession, or your social status. It is about whether you are an individual -- in a sense, quite literally. You are asked, or perhaps better, asked to ask yourself, whether you are undivided. This is the question Kierkegaard's edifying discourse puts to the reader, the question the reader puts to himself or herself while reading the edifying discourse aloud. And the answer, the truthful answer, is the preparation for confession.

The question, then, comes down to another question: Do you live in such a way that you are consciously an individual? Again, you must get out of your mind any notion that this involves social status, or originality, or how impressive you are in any way. We should also probably not think of 'existentialist' answers as we usually think of them, or whether you make your own way or do your own thing. No, the question being put forward here is not an inquisitive question, not trying to find out what you are. The question being put forward here is a challenge of sorts: it is a putting of yourself to the question. It is a question set to prepare you to render an account before Eternity.

This is, incidentally, why the 'conscious' is important. You cannot render an account by hiding yourself. We each, every single one of us, stand before Eternity, and Eternity demands that we lived undivided, as individuals. It does not matter what our role in life is, it does not matter what our fortune has been, we are there to render an account, whether we are peasant or king, fortunate or unfortunate, and faced with the demand of Eternity, everything in our lives comes to this point: whether we can say that we consciously live as individuals when we face the accounting of Eternity. And this is something we can each recognize in ourselves, at every moment:

For, after all, what is eternity's accounting other than that the voice of conscience is forever installed with its eternal right to be the exclusive voice? What is it other than that throughout eternity an infinite stillness reigns wherein the conscience may talk with the individual about or of evil, and about the fact that during his life he did not wish to be an individual? What is it other than that within eternity there is infinite space so that each person, as an individual, is apart with his conscience? (p. 186)

We all stand before conscience -- not before our evasions and self-deceptions, but before our consciousness of the unrelenting demand of Eternity that we will with purity of heart. We can try to hide from it in the crowd, try to press it out with they busy-ness of life, but it is always there. Make whatever clamor you please; the psalmist notes that God laughs at it (Ps. 2:4). The question remains. Do you always live as an individual, as undivided? If you are married, is this intimate relation part of the even more intimate relation of willing the Good itself? Are you undivided in your love? This is the key question. Note that it is not a question about whether you make the other person happy, or whether your marriage stands up to some arbitrary criteria. The question is: Are you married with purity of heart? Do you live as an individual, willing one thing, acting without double-mindedness? If you have a family, it is the same question: Do you live truthfully, consciously, as an individual? In your relations with the crowd of people around you, do you live as an individual? All eloquence stripped away, all evasion and deception, all fancy spin in light of the values of the world, do you at this very present moment live as an individual?

In light of this question, and only in light of this question, we can ask: What is your occupation in life? This is not a question about whether you advise kings or dig ditches, not about whether you are rich or poor, not about whether you work until you are tired or have plenty of time for play, not about whether you are 'successful' or 'unsuccessful'. The question is in a sense an iteration of the previous question: Is it the occupation of an individual? Is it something you do with purity of heart? Or is it something you do with double-mindedness, with excuses, with evasion, with deception? Is your occupation something you do in a way wholly consistent with your responsibility before Eternity as an individual? And we can ask the same question about the means we use to carry out our occupation. And again with your attitude toward others: Are you at one with all by willing one thing? For the Good, the only thing that can be willed at one thing, is the Good for all; to will it as one thing is to be one with all. Even if you are locked in a dungeon, or on a desert island, if you will the Good as one, you are at one with all humanity in the one thing that matters.

Over and over we can ask questions, and over and over they are by this point the same question: Do you consciously live, at this moment, at every moment, as an individual responsible before Eternity, undivided, willing one thing? This question, and its answer, are the preparation for Confession. It is a hard and heavy question, a question that hammers. But it is the question demanded if we are to prepare for Confession.

We see here, incidentally, how Kierkegaard would respond to the atheistic existentialisms of the twentieth century. They, too, wish to bring home the fact that we are individuals, responsible as individuals: but they want it without the one thing. They attempt to make us individuals by putting us through a process of necessary and endless division, of projects, that can never in the end drown out the fact that only the Good itself can be willed with one thing. You cannot be undivided without willing one thing, and you cannot be willing one thing while willing things incapable of being one thing willed, and you cannot be an individual, or be living as an individual, unless you live undividedly. They attempt to have individuals without purity of heart; but without purity of heart you cannot be anything other than double-minded.

And that is Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, Kierkegaard's philosophical treatise on preparing for the office of Confession.

Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing, Steere, tr. Harper (1956).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Music on My Mind

Donna Summer, "On the Radio." LaDonna Adrian Gaines, better known by her career name, Donna Summer, has died of lung cancer. I'm not a huge fan of disco, but there's no doubt that she had a stunning voice. She has a very lovely rendition of Amy Grant's "Breath of Heaven" as well; it starts slowly but builds up impressively. Whereas Grant's version has a more questioning sound to it, Summer's version strikes me as expressing more of a mood of resolution.

Garry Wills on the Sacrament of Marriage

Garry Wills has an extraordinarily bad piece on the sacrament of marriage at the "NYRBlog" in which he confuses together all sorts of issues and shows that he doesn't actually understand much about Catholic sacramental marriage, despite being able to make a good show of fooling the masses over it. Some basic problems with the piece:

(1) Wills confuses marriage as a religious ritual with marriage as a sacrament. A sacrament is, at its most basic, a sign of spiritual things. There is no getting around the fact that marriage is a sacrament or mystery in some sense, since Ephesians 5 explicitly treats of it in those terms, and, contrary to Wills, calling marriage a sacrament goes back as far in Christian history as we can find explicit statements on the subject, not just to the eleventh century. Augustine, for instance, writing well before the eleventh century, explicitly discusses the sacramental character of marriage. The big dispute over marriage as a sacrament that later took place was not over whether marriage was a sacrament but over three things, the relation of marriage to holy virginity, the precise sort of sacrament it was, and the minister of the sacrament, and it indeed took a long time before general agreement took hold in the West that Scriptural principles and Church practice required that it be regarded as one of the seven -- but that list was long in forming, as well -- and that the ministers were the espousing couple rather than the priest. Marriage as a specific religious ritual was also long in forming, and mostly arose out of the attempt of the Church to reduce fraudulent or dangerous marriage practices; but it is an entirely distinct matter. It is utter nonsense, however, to claim that a lack of such a religious ritual means that "there was still no special religious meaning to the institution." This is an obvious non sequitur, and manifestly false; you can easily see that a religious meaning is assigned to the institution in both Johannine writings ("the marriage feast of the Lamb") and Pauline writings ("the body of Christ"), and no one can read, say, Tertullian's writings on marriage and conclude that Christians of his day attributed "no special religious meaning to the institution." Further, Wills seems to have difficulty grasping the notion that 'no specific ritual' or 'no single ritual' is not logically equivalent to 'no associated rituals at all'.

It is perhaps worth pointing out that even today it is recognized that the distinctive religious ritual associated with Catholic marriage -- the Nuptial Mass -- is not strictly required for the sacrament, and the primary role of the priest is simply to act as a guide and to certify that the conditions have been met for a genuine sacramental marriage.

(2) Wills is wrong about the history of marriage's association with grace. Wills says, "Only in the twelfth century was a claim made for some supernatural favor (grace) bestowed on marriage as a sacrament." But this is manifestly false. Augustine, again, who lived well before the twelfth century, explicitly says that spouses are assisted by grace associated specifically with marriage.

(3) Wills engages in a number of anachronisms. One of the most blatant is when he says, "This sacralizing of the natural reality led to a demoting of Yahwist marriage, the only kind Jesus recognized, as inferior to 'true marriage' in a church." There was, however, no such thing as "Yahwist marriage" in the medieval period. Indeed, there never has been such a thing as "Yahwist marriage," properly speaking; this is merely a modern category for distinguishing, after the fact, periods in development of the idea, not anything that would have ever been recognized. Wills is deliberately trying to institute a sharp division where there is none. He wants to say that there is a "true marriage" -- what he calls "Yahwist marriage" -- and he wants to deny that marriage according to canon law -- which he mistakenly and misleadingly calls "sacramental marriage" -- is it. This is, first of all, nonsense, since the sharp division is utterly arbitrary, and, second, is inconsistent with the actual theology and canon law of the Church.

What happened in the medieval period was that marrying specifically in a church became more important. Despite Wills's claims, and although developing ideas about the sacraments may have had some influence, this happened due to the changing role of marriage in canon law, not sacramental theology. And, in fact, it is still mostly a matter of canon law. Catholics are required to marry in church, in the sense that they need to marry before a priest or deacon and must be celebrated in a parish church or some place authorized as appropriate. Failure to do so is illicit, or noncanonical. But illicit is not invalid, and if certain other forms were observed and conditions met, the marriage is presumed valid, i.e., genuinely sacramental.

(4) Wills seems not to understand the difference between distinct statuses of marriage. In particular, he doesn't understand the distinctions among the various categories of 'marriage in general', 'marriage in canonical form', and 'marriage as a sacrament'. That Wills is really and truly in utter confusion about these sorts of distinctions arises from his discussion of his parents. Not all genuine marriage recognized by the Church is canonical or sacramental: the Church's position is that marriage is a rational institution, and can be found in some legitimate form wherever human beings are, assuming certain conditions. But obviously not all these genuine marriages are canonical or sacramental. Not all sacramental marriage is canonical; there are illicit but valid marriages. There are reasons for all these distinctions. But Wills doesn't want to look at these reasons, glosses over the distinctions, and clearly leaves out information that would be necessary for explaining or evaluating the actions he dismisses as nonsense.

In short, pretty much every paragraph of the piece makes use of misleading half-truths or outright falsehoods. The most charitable interpretation one can make of the piece is that Wills is utterly confused about the subject, and has simply badly digested various bits and pieces from different sources without exercising the critical thinking skills required to mingle them. Despite the fact that most of his claims are controversial at best, he hardly bothers to defend them, and when he does it's a defense that fails to recognize obvious evidence or make obvious distinctions. It shows no actual understanding of the arguments of those it is criticizing, and the historical claims are all simply baffling because he can't even be bothered to give them the explanations and support that they would need. It is a truly embarrassing piece.

ADDED LATER: It says something about Wills's piece that it is raising considerable skepticism even in self-consciously open-minded venues like National Catholic Reporter blogs.

ADDED LATER II: (This post was mentioned at First Thoughts, and David Nickol provided some criticisms. The following is a slightly abridged version of my comments there in reply, because I think they may help clarify some things.)

‘Sacrament’ is a broad term meaning ‘spiritual sign’, and Augustine uses it in precisely this sense, with the full application of this sense. But as I pointed out, the sacramental character of marriage has never been in question: it’s always been recognized as sacramental in some sense, because you cannot read Scripture and not regard marriage as a sacred sign of holy mysteries, since it is repeatedly treated as such. The big dispute was whether it was a sacrament on the level of baptism or the Eucharist. ‘Sacrament’ can apply to both genus (sacraments in general) and a particular species in that genus that most fully and completely exhibits the characteristics of the genus (the Seven). Augustine wrote in a time when the later, specific or special usage, had not developed at all; however, the specific things he says about marriage as a sacrament in the general usage were a major influence on those who argued that marriage should be considered a sacrament in the special sense.

There has never been any problem with recognizing that, for instance, Jewish marriages were sacramental in the general sense, just as there was never any problem with saying that circumcision or passover were sacraments without committing anyone to the claim that they were equal in importance to the Seven Sacraments. Augustine calls the marriage of the patriarchs sacramental, for instance, and the terminology is regularly found in all the major scholastic theologians in precisely the period Wills places his major division. But the major dividing line between Christian sacraments and Jewish sacraments is that the former directly represent the Passion of Christ in some way, and this, far from being something invented in the High Middle Ages, has always been part of the Christian conception of marriage, because it is how the Church has generally read Ephesians. And it’s not difficult to find Church Fathers like Augustine, or, farther back, Tertullian, making reference to this.

In the general sense, marriage has always been a sacrament. The only dispute, as I explicitly noted, was whether it met the conditions for being considered a sacrament in the fullest sense of the term, like baptism or the Eucharist. And its general acceptance as such was indeed long in developing (as I also said). But while it has become a common habit today to talk about sacraments mostly in terms of the special sense of the term, this has not been the ordinary state of things through most of the history of Christian theology, and thus we must both avoid conflating the two senses, and recognize that what made the Seven Sacraments sacraments was that they were sacraments in the general sense and, all were recognized as such by the Church even before the list of the Seven was developed — what set them apart so as to be sacraments in the special sense, on the other hand, was that they were specifically sacraments of Christ Himself in some way. What are really the questions are (A) whether Christian marriage throughout this period was regarded as a religious sacrament — and it provably was — and (B) whether it was one of The Sacraments — and this is undeniably a more complicated story.

I should add, incidentally, that Wills misunderstands Raymond Brown. Brown is dealing with a particular set of arguments: that it is definitely the Evangelist’s intent to be using the Wedding at Cana story to make a point about marriage as a sacrament in the way he obviously uses many of his other stories to make points about baptism and the Eucharist. Brown recognizes that there are a fair number of (Catholic) scholars who hold this position or something like it, and inclines against it in favor of saying that the Evangelist probably also has the Eucharist specifically in view here as well; but although he doesn’t think that the evidence is strong, he also doesn’t try to pretend (like Wills) that the evidence is nonexistent, and eventually concludes that it is “remotely possible” that for the Evangelist or his community this was seen specifically as a comment on the special character of marriage. (Brown’s categories are “Acceptable”, “Remotely Possible”, and “Rejected”.) He also is quite explicit that his conclusions are derived from very specific criteria, some of which are controversial, and that he is trying to find a middle position between strongly sacramental readings of John and highly de-mythologizing Bultmann-style readings of John. His comments must be taken in this context.

Whether the Evangelist himself should be seen as definitely seeing Christ as giving a special spiritual significance to marriage as a sign of his Passion, however, it is not at all difficult to see how someone could read it in that way. In what does “raising something to the dignity of a sacrament” i.e., one of the Seven Sacraments, consist? It consists in making it a sign of Christ Himself with regard to some facet of His Passion. And reading the story in conjunction with Pauline claims about the body of Christ and Johannine claims about the marriage feast of the Lamb, makes that a very reasonable argument to make. Some won’t consider it definitive, to be sure, but pretending that it doesn’t make any sense is simply silly.

Four Poem Drafts

The last is based, fairly loosely, on a very old English ballad.


How far away am I
from heaven's stars;
beyond the day they fly,
but I am barred:
no wings of light have I,
no rising flame,
that brave and bold may rise
to holy name.
Though I may grieve and sigh,
my feet are clay --
can clay achieve the sky,
or find the way?

Ps 87

Zion He set on the holy hill with love,
with love far greater than for Jacob's houses,
a city of God to be spoken of.
Among the nations she is renowned,
among the Philistines, in Tyre and Cush;
her name in Egypt and Babylon sounds.
'He was born there', they say,
the rumor travelling everywhere,
the word going out in every place
to say: 'They were born there.'
The Lord records their name in registers,
These and those and this one, too,
they all were born there. Credit her!
My source, O Zion, is you.

Fairest of God's Creatures

Fairest of God's creatures is a woman who will listen.
The world has enough of eyes that glisten,
of lips pink like coral and cheeks blushing red,
of soft glossy manes like crowns on the head.
And yes, men who listen might well be more rare --
but than a woman who listens is nothing more fair.


Christ looked to the time of day; he looked with sigh and frown,
and said to Judas, Make my way, and buy a room in Zion-town.
And Judas said, A splendid room I'll buy for us to feast;
our purse with money rings like bells with silver, thirty piece.
Then Judas searched him high and low, he searched him broad and deep,
but, tired from his finding none, he found some shade to sleep
and napped he but a little while, though deeply, on the lawn,
and when he woke a bit past noon, he found the purse was gone.
What shall I do? then Judas said, as tears filled up his eyes,
For I have failed my Rabbi's trust, and will now be despised.
Came by a young man dressed in white, who shouted, Have you heard?
The priests and scribes will give reward to one who gives the word
of trouble-making Nazorean, Joshua by name,
for he has raised the rabble up by doing things of blame!
And so he shouted up and down, and shouted without cease,
and, asked what was this fine reward, said, Silver, thirty piece.
Then straightway Satan in the ear of Judas spoke a thought:
The Rabbi, he eludes them all and never has been caught!
The man can heal the blind and lame, and raise to life the dead,
and walk on wave, turn water wine, and multiply the bread;
through crowd he passes without harm -- and if he off temple height
were ever to fall, angel-hosts would soar to him in flight!
Then Judas to the scribes and priests made promise to betray;
they promised him his thirty piece and sent him then away.
Then Judas came again to Christ, and said there was no place --
none their thirty piece could buy -- though he had chased and chased.
Then to Peter and to John Christ said with sigh and frown:
This Passover we must prepare, so go to Zion-town,
and when you enter in the gate, you will water-bearer find,
and when he journeys to his homw, then follow him behind,
and ask the master of house, Where is the special room
for which the Rabbi now has need? -- Thus Christ spoke with sigh and gloom.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Some Interesting Saints Today

Still under the weather. But I thought I'd put up something noting that today is the feast-day for a number of interesting saints: St. Simon Stock, St. Brendan the Navigator, and St. John Stone.

St. Brendan is the best known of the three; from the fifth century, he is one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland and is the subject of a very famous legend cycle, The Voyage of St. Brendan.

St. Simon Stock is also known as Simon Anglus or Simon the Englishman. He was born circa 1165 and died in 1265, and became the general of the Carmelites at the late age of 82, a very taxing office that he nonetheless fulfilled with vigor. He is fairly important for the history of the university, since under his generalship the Carmelites founded houses in close relationship with the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. The hymn Flos Carmeli is usually attributed to him. The Carmelites were at a very delicate position when he became their leader; they were a Holy Land religious order and it was commonly thought that their rule was not suitable for European lands. But under St. Simon they managed to adapt their Rule, please the powers that be, and establish a steady foundation for the extraordinarily important religious order the Carmelites would eventually become.

St. John Stone was an English Augustinian friar in Canterbury who got in trouble for denouncing King Henry VIII from the pulpit and refusing to accept the Act of Supremacy. He was hanged, drawn, and quartered, with his head and body displayed at the gates, as was the custom for those convicted of treason.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Music on My Mind

I hoped to have more Kierkegaard, but have come down with something fairly nasty, thus putting me behind on everything, including grading. So of course the mind turns to comic song:

Flanders & Swann, "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear". With the classic lines, of course:

She lowered her standards by raising her glass,
Her courage, her eyes -- and his hopes

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book a Week, May 13

I have a lot of books. I've read most of them, but some of them (particularly among those that were inherited) I have not yet read, and some of them I only read quite a long time ago. So one thing I've been thinking of doing is a book-a-week feature here, in which I'll pick out a book on Sunday that either I have not managed to read before, or that I haven't read in quite a while, and then blog something about it. I have difficulty maintaining series here, but the reading this requires is not great -- I already read more than one book a week even in busy weeks, so this is just a matter of picking out a particular book beforehand and blogging something about it afterward. We'll see how it goes.

My first book in the series is a re-read: The Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion in the Year 1764-1765. According to the title-page, it is the diary of one Cleone Knox, as "Edited by her KINSMAN, Alexander Blacker Kerr," and it is often listed in this way, but the title-page is sheer fiction. Neither Knox nor Kerr ever existed. The whole diary is a work of fiction. It was published in 1925 but it had been written a couple of years before by a nineteen-year-old girl, Magdalen King-Hall, who was an aspiring author. Her sister suggested that she write a historical novel in eighteenth-century diary form, so King-Hall spent a short bit of time reading up on the period in the library and within a few weeks came out with The Diary of a Young Lady. It was an instant hit -- in the U.S. alone it went through nine editions in two months. People were taken in by it; there was a brief period where reviewers thought it really was a recently discovered eighteenth-century diary, and when some months after publication it came out that it was fictional, there was a scandal of sorts. King-Hall went on to become quite a widely read historical novelist. Her most famous novel was The Wicked Lady, about Barbara Skelton, which was made into a movie.

As I recall, the book is a fairly light read, but quite charming, so it seems a good start.