Launch!! Moriarty Takes His Medicine

My latest book hit the virtual shelves last week. This is the second book in the Professor & Mrs. Moriarty Mystery series, Moriarty Takes His Medicine. This series will be Amazon-only until the third one comes out. There are some advantages to having them be available through Kindle Select for a while. The paperback will be available by the end of January, from Amazon or CreateSpace.

Here’s where to find it.

Professor & Mrs. Moriarty tackle a case too ticklish for Sherlock Holmes to handle on his own…

James and Angelina Moriarty are settling into their new marriage and their fashionable new home — ormoriarty-takes-his-medicine
trying to. But James has too little to occupy his mind and Angelina has too many secrets pressing on her heart. They fear they’ll never learn to live together.

Then Sherlock Holmes comes to call with a challenging case. He suspects a prominent Harley Street specialist of committing murders for hire, sending patients home from his private hospital with deadly doses or fatal conditions. Holmes intends to investigate, but the doctor’s clientele is exclusively female. He needs Angelina’s help.

While Moriarty, Holmes, and Watson explore the alarming number of ways a doctor can murder his patients with impunity, Angelina enters into treatment with their primary suspect, posing as a nervous woman who fears her husband wants to be rid of her. Then a hasty conclusion and an ill-considered word drive James and Angelina apart, sending her deep into danger. Now they must find the courage to trust each other as they race the clock to win justice for the murdered women before they become victims themselves.

Cover design by Jennifer Quinlan at Historical Editorial.

Bacon's Essays: Of wisdom for a man's self

Of Wisdom for a man’s self is chock-full of vivid metaphors, which makes it more fun to illustrate from Wikimedia Commons than many of these essays. It’s about the evils of excessive self-interest, particularly in the servants of great men. It’s also more accessible than many of his essays — few Latin quotes, lots of homely examples, and an evergreen topic.

Don’t be shrewd

ant on leafBacon starts with this observation: “An ant is a wise creature for itself, but it is a shrewd thing, in an orchard or garden.” He’s using ‘shrewd’ to mean ‘injurious.’ (This quote is one of the entries in the OED for that meaning of this word. Love it when that happens.)

From here, we leave moral relativity behind, coming out strongly against immoderate self-interest. “And certainly, men that are great lovers of themselves, waste the public.” Waste our time, our resources, our patience… Don’t we know it!

It is right earth

Here’s the full quote: “It is a poor centre of a man’s actions, himself. It is right earth. For that [one] only stands fast upon his own centre; whereas all things, that have affinity with the heavens, move upon the centre of another, which they benefit.”

earthThe general point is easily grasped: it isn’t good to believe the world revolves around yourself. To achieve some affinity with the heavens (to be good, wise, useful, immortal…), you need to place yourself in the service of someone or something other than yourself. Good advice in any era.

I got stuck on the phrase “right earth,” but it’s just a pithy, compact, now obsolete way of saying, “Low, isolated, and backwards. Bartleby’s helped me out with their notes on this essay: “Note 2. Precisely like the earth. Bacon here is thinking of the old astronomy, according to which all the heavenly bodies moved round the earth.”

Bacon notes that it’s excusable for a prince to believe the world revolves around him, because, as a prince, he represents a whole people. In that sense, he isn’t being self-interested; he’s serving his subjects.

“But it [he referring of all to a man’s self] is a desperate evil, in a servant to a prince, or a citizen in a republic. For whatsoever affairs pass such a man’s hands, he crooketh them to his own ends; which must needs be often eccentric to the ends of his master, or state.”

He knows a lot about this, having been an advisor to both Elizabeth I and James I. He served many hours in their courts from his earliest youth until near the end of his life at age 65 in 1626. He saw many men and not a few women curry favor by offering services, both sincerely and otherwise.

A bias upon the bowl

Bacon’s own servants (staff, in our terms) brought him down in April, 1621. He had been Lord Chancellor to James I for a mere three years, during which time he cleared an enormous backlog of  bowlingcases and established rules to make the office run more smoothly. Unfortunately, his enemies (like the odious Sir Edward Coke) wanted to strike at him as a scapegoat for James’s offenses (favors to sycophants with pots of money.) So they made a stink about Bacon taking gifts from plaintiffs. This was common practice in those days and it could readily be proved that such gifts never influenced his judgement.

Unfortunately, his servants had also been taking bribes to manipulate the docket, moving those who paid into more favorable slots. Apparently, Bacon truly didn’t know about this. He should have. Their behavior provided his enemies with 23 separate counts of corruption, forcing James to relieve him of office and ban poor Bacon from court for the rest of his life.

There’s a little story from those times that reveals Bacon’s character. When he entered a room where many of his erstwhile servants were sitting, they all rose, showing proper deference. Bacon said, with a sad little smile, “Sit down, my masters. Your rise has been my fall.”

That was a long digression, but it helps us understand how Bacon came to be so wise in the ways of self-interested men.

Here’s the heartfelt quote: “It were disproportion enough, for the servant’s good to be preferred before the master’s; but yet it is a greater extreme, when a little good of the servant, shall carry things against a great good of the master’s. And yet that is the case of bad officers, treasurers, ambassadors, generals, and other false and corrupt servants; which set a bias upon their bowl, of their own petty ends and envies, to the overthrow of their master’s great and important affairs.”

I love that “bias upon the bowl.” We would call it “spin” and be thinking about billiards, not bowling.

A bestiary of the self-centered

crocodile-gessner's-animalium
From Gessner’s Animalium

We had the ant at the very beginning. Now we get rats, foxes, badgers, and crocodiles.

“Wisdom for a man’s self is, in many branches thereof, a depraved thing. It is the wisdom of rats, that will be sure to leave a house, somewhat before it fall. It is the wisdom of the fox, that thrusts out the badger, who digged and made room for him. It is the wisdom of crocodiles, that shed tears when they would devour.”

It’s false wisdom, in other words. “But that which is specially to be noted is, that those which (as Cicero says of Pompey) are sui amantes, sine rivali, are many times unfortunate. And whereas they have, all their times, sacrificed to themselves, they become in the end, themselves sacrifices to the inconstancy of fortune, whose wings they thought, by their self-wisdom, to have pinioned.”

Sui amantes, sine rivali: I found the translation for this on the Wikipedia page about Narcissism, which quotes this essay. Sometimes you just can’t get away from Francis Bacon! It means “lovers of themselves, without rivals.”

We’ll end with my favorite quote from this essay — a vivid illustration if I ever read one. “And certainly it is the nature of extreme self-lovers, as they will set an house on fire, and it were but to roast their eggs.”

house on fire

Victorian house-hunting: Just right!

Folks, we have a winner: the Linley Sambourne House in Kensington, owned by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. But first, in true contest fashion, I have to talk about one more also-ran.

The Leighton House Museum

leighton house museumThe also-ran, also run by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, is the former home of the Victorian artist Frederic, Lord Leighton (1830-1896). I knew the minute I walked in the door that this house was too far out, and I mean that in the metaphorical, 1960’s sense.

Lord Leighton was a bachelor who could as he pleased with his London home. He pleased to make it an eye-popping showplace downstairs and a spacious, custom-designed studio with north-facing windows upstairs. The back garden, much larger than usual for this part of town, was nothing — just bare grass with a tree or two around the edges. It was there to ensure a strong flow of clear light.

It looks plain enough on the outside, right? Unremarkable. I thought I was visiting another good old informative Victorian house museum. Ha!

You enter through an anteroom containing the bookshop and the desk where you pay your fee; that’s not remarkable. The loos, often the first stop if you’ve walked there, are in a sort of utility zone on one side of the building. That’s not remarkable either. But then you walk into this. (Image borrowed from the Leighton House Museum website.)

leighton house museum

Notice there’s no furniture in this room. I think it could do with a couple of Roman couches. Or you could mill around with a cocktail glass making small talk with the other sophisticates at some fancy pants soirée. Or you could drop some mescaline and lie on the floor and contemplate the totality of the universe, which I’ll bet is what Lord Leighton did. Aldous Huxley wasn’t born until two years before Leighton died, but maybe he saw this house, huh?

The winding stair

My Professor Moriarty is far too conventional to live in a place like this. Angelina would look at it and say, “Oh, my stars!” She would love it, but not to live in. I knew that, but I still spent a lot of time pondering the place. You could remove all those tiles and things — imaginarily, of course. Only a barbarian would remove them in reality. Even downstairs Leighton had a normal sort of sitting room and a perfectly normal dining room, with the correct masculine red-flocked wallpaper.

And I liked the central staircase, for the drama. For a while I was determined to have one in my fictional house, in spite of the mounting evidence that the usual London row house had straight stairs on one side of the building. Only the grand houses in Belgravia and Mayfair had these central staircases. They’re great for sweeping down in a dress with a long train, or peering down (or up). I thought they would channel sound more effectively than the other kind, but more on that below.

I finally convinced myself to abandon the winding stair, even though I found a floor plan for this house!

This image is from bdonline.co.uk. They have a larger version.

leighton house floor plan

And here’s one of Lord Leighton’s paintings for your amusement, from Wikimedia Commons.

leighton painting
Greek girls picking up pebbles by the sea. 1871. Frederic Leighton

 

The Winner: Sambourne House

sambourne house terrace
Sambourne House is in this terrace

Edward Linley Sambourne (1844–1910) was an illustrator and cartoonist for Punch magazine. That puts him well inside the creative middle class my characters would find most comfortable. Sambourne worked in his home, like most of the other people whose house I visited: Charles Dickens, Frideric Handel, Thomas Carlyle, and Lord Leighton. Writers do tend to write in their homes, after all. And we like to have our own well-appointed studies in which to write. My Professor Moriarty earns his money in the casinos of Europe, not with his labors, but he still wants a scholarly, masculine retreat. So that’s a requirement.

But, like Edward Sambourne, Angelina has colleagues to impress, when she gets back into the theater world. So it has to be in a stylish neighborhood and be amenable to impressive decoration. Sambourne chose the decor of his house himself for that purpose, thinking it would enhance his reputation as an artist to live in an artistically appointed house.

sambourne house stairs
Entry and staircase

Edward and Marion Sambourne bought the property for £2,000 on an 89-year lease. The Victorians leased, rather than bought, as a rule. The Sambournes remained in this house until their deaths, Linley in 1910 and Marion four years later. Their children lived in it too, but kept things very much the same, apart from updating the utilities in accordance with the times. But the furnishings, rugs, wallpaper, and other distinctive elements were preserved, which is why this house is such a jewel today.

Naturally I couldn’t take pictures inside. Not only was there a rule against, but there was a volunteer on every floor making sure that didn’t happen. You can feast your eyes at Knowledge of London, The Victorian House. They don’t let you snag their photos, so I snagged copies of them elsewhere, here and there. 

I was the only visitor when I went. Rainy week days, friends; those are the best days for touristic adventures. The volunteer coordinator or whoever she was came in during my visit and had loud conversations with each of the volunteers, including one about not making people feel like they have to talk to you, plainly aimed at me! (I always politely make it clear that I don’t want to chat with them. I just want to take my notes and let my imagination do its thing. They rarely know anything beyond the life stories of the upper-crust people who occupied the house in the 1920s or whenever. Not my bag.)

sambourne house drawing room
Drawing room

Anyway, her conversation worked in my favor, because I could hear her all through the house, whatever our respective positions were. This is a house full of furniture and velvet draperies, mind you. But the staircase acted like an echo chamber, funneling sound up and down. You couldn’t hear people speaking tête-à-tête or even normal-voiced conversations below stairs, but you would absolutely know anything that was said in the stairwell or in any of the adjacent halls or at higher volumes anywhere. I didn’t get to hear the door knocker, but it must have resonated throughout. That’s an important thing for a novelist to know!

Sambourne House second bedroom
Second bedroom

Another fun thing I learned was that there were five clocks in the house: one on each of four mantelpieces and a big grandfather clock on the first floor landing. They all ticked in different rhythms and chimed at different times. If you were sitting in the drawing room on the first floor, trying to read an abstruse article about statistical probabilities (Moriarty is a mathematician), that would drive you absolutely nuts. This is the kind of discovery that makes me very, very happy.

There are no closets. People kept their close in wardrobes or chests. Women’s clothes were large and flounced and made of high-maintenance fabrics. How did they fit them into the available space? They must not have had many and I suppose they had those long flat boxes that we use to store things under beds.

This house had a half bath on the ground floor landing, actually four steps up. A locked door opposite led to the undistinguished small back garden that I could only see by standing on my tip-toes in the full bath on the second floor. There’s a row of smaller, humbler flats behind the fine Victorian terrace pictured above. I’m guessing those were mews with a room or two above, although the Sambournes didn’t have horses and grooms. They had a cook, who slept in the basement, and one maid, poor woman, who slept in a nice enough room on the third floor next to Sambourne’s studio. They would rarely have occupied those spaces at the same time of day.

There’s no floor plan in the booklet, but I found one online at a site called “Mod The Sims,” which probably means something to British people. It’s completely opaque to me. I’ll re-purpose a few rooms, mainly the bedrooms, and add a story like the Carlyles did. Thomas wanted a quiet study; Moriarty does too. His will have a little winding stair leading to a platform on the roof where he can look at the sky with a telescope, if it isn’t too smoggy.

I have to take out the gas heating in the fireplaces. They still burned coal in 1886. Also, no electric lights. But we have lots of gas lamps and chandeliers and sconces, as well as hot and cold running water. And I have a wealth of decorative details to play with. I am one happy camper, in my stylish, imaginary, four-story house in London.

sambourne house floor plan