Archive work and exciting discoveries

So in this relatively strenuous rewrite of Book Four, The Revelations of Celia Masters, I am unearthing various old texts and manuscripts. My mother in law in Virginia is also looking things out for me – in manuscript rooms and archives. And I have been able to add extraordinary things to the book. I’ll get through it and then assess. The year is 1643 and on board the ship is Celia Masters; they have boarded at Deptford and sail to Virginia. Here is something I have found, with a little tweaking, to include along with other rare historical texts. It is a remembrance of the lady by Mercy, a young girl at the time, and a girl who has been snared from the streets of London; ‘trappan’d’, as they said. Her account of meeting Celia: the spelling is only slightly modernised.

 

Remembrances. In the year 1660 of when we were childrene. And first we met our precious blessed lady on the ship Lydia Constant travelling from Deptford to Virginny.

It is only the three of us who write for her for now our prettie Grace is gone and I saye gone in the ways that ordinary men are given to understande. I, Mercy, can write best because I started earlier with the bookes and wordes when a rich lady whose draines and turds I would cleane, she took pitee on me and taughte me some books. But it was our Celia, our lady she, who taughte us all as best she coulde and with what time to write and so to reade.. None of us knewe our mothers. But then we knewe her.

That first night on the Lydia Constant, that was when I said, as I remember, that we were taken, we were trappanned and  even some of the little girls and the older ones, taken to be servants in your Virginny. And we’ll never see home again. And then I said I had dreames that my owne mother was taken, but I don’t remember her and I knowe not who she was or where, then Celia whispered, ‘Oh sweete childe, this is how it is for me’ and I then began to cry with her eyes wet too. She stroked my face as I told her of the others I knew, and that there must be more of us on other boats and so I went to holde her, but the captaine up and yelled for me to be gone. Her eyes flashed with somethinge differente then; they promised a darke thing, so I was scared and thrilled too. ‘He will paye’ said she. So the next night and the next she crept to us and spoke more; we told her of the many we knewe who had been captured, boys and girls, young women. We gave names, because we had been made namelesse. ‘Oh lady we were snared miss.’ And I heard tell an old song ‘The Trappan’d Maiden’ so told her and this she learned, so for posteritee said she. I did not know what that told or what posteritee meant, but I knew she was truth, so it must be good. ‘Give ear unto a Maid, that lately was betray’d and sent unto Virginny, O’ and I sang on until she hushed me for fear of Masters or a well to do gentleman seeing this little raggedy girl trilling without right.

And I sayde all our names and she remembered and after only one callinge. I sayde about the thinges we girls heard of travelllers and of this Virginny and that there was another song about an honest weaver who sold his wife to Virginny. And that there was a lady in Bishopsgate where I lodged and roamed and she was kind and full of promises; her name was Elizabeth Hamlin Miss and she tricked me and I hope they will send her to the Newgate prison. My life was hard, but I miss the church I would creep into – St Helen’s – it was a very old and pretty church and oh it had such a pretty stained glass window depicting Mr William Shakespeare – and he was a very famous man who lived in the area many years before I was born. But I know he was a man of words and looked kind.’ She cried. ‘And I sayde my prayers in the church but no-one protected me.’ Then she told me of the church in the county of Somerset and of the little creatures made of marble which seemed to creepe from the tombes. For a moment we were silent because of her flinte eyes then and I saw the look in all our trappanned that wondered if she was a trap, a gin – a bad thing or terrible crone made beautiful to spirit us, but then I saw our fear pass, though I am not saying and could not say now – forgive me – in these remembrances that she was only good. But she was right and cruel when that was a good thing.

And many times she came and sometimes I saw the man like her father, Masters, watched her go and she saw it not, or at least not with her eyes and that is how we knew he was different too. And that first night we loved her. We would staye with her and attend near her as best we could. I remember the shooting stars and I thought she had made them for me. Celia brought us steals of eggs and roast meate when all we would have and knew were slops and a nasty tack. There seemed alwayes more than was in our hands. She had cloths to splaye the food on, from I know not where. This was an end, for we would never see Englande againe, but too a beginning and we thought magic had come.’

(Letter fragment part of a collection held in William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia.)

 

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