“Be careful of your behavior to young ladies”

My inspirations for novels like The Duke — my novels that span continents and include myriad historical details — are always many. Here’s one historical source that suited young Captain Gabriel Hume’s itinerary ideally.

In a letter written by the twenty-three year old soon-to-be Duke of Clarence (later King William IV of England) to a friend on September 25, 1788, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and later published in Gentleman’s Magazine, the young naval commander noted:

“this is the last season I spend in America; and, after cruising the winter about Jamaica, I am next June to return to England, from whence I am again to proceed to the Mediterranean”

Gabriel’s abrupt departure from Jamaica and his journey across the Atlantic and then to the Mediterranean ended, of course, in him finding the young Prince Ziyaeddin (hero of The Prince), whom all had thought lost to brigands.

The same issue of Gentleman’s Magazine includes a letter of advice from the English General Dundas to “a young soldier,” written at Carron Hall, October 12, 1789. Fans of Captain Tony Masinter of The Scoundrel & I will understand why the following particular bit of Dundas’s wisdom put me in mind of him:

“With the reading of history, which your father has attended to, let me advise your acquiring an ease in the use of your pen. Letter-writing and arithmetic are of infinite use to an officer. These accomplishments often raise a man in the army, and most frequently make a whole corps dependent on the person who possesses them.”

While Dundas is speaking here from his experience in the Army, the same held true for naval officers.

Finally, I simply must include here this choice bit of Dundas’s advice to the young soldier too.

“Be careful of your behavior to young ladies, and avoid, as much as possible, shewing any particular attachment, as a young person may consider you as having intentions which you do not mean. Relations and friends are likewise apt to construe what is meant as civility into advances.”

The editor of the magazine added a heartfelt footnote to this:

“How many unfortunate and fatal duels have arisen from a misunderstanding on this important point; and how much misery and unhappiness has been caused from a want of due discretion in the manner of exercising that civility and attention due by courtesy to the fairer portion of creation!”

* Many thanks to Carson Holloway of Duke University Libraries for supplying me with this source.

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