Monday, February 15, 2010


So I have been going back to check my some of my research. It sounds very academic and studious when in fact it is often hilarious. Eleven hours spent investigating what the bottom of a lady's shoe was made of--that sort of thing. But I did revisit some fun notes I made from the later part of Nell Gwyn's life that I thought, did not make it into the book.

Last summer receipts from Nell's household went to auction at Sotheby's in London. (They had a reserve bid of sixty thousand pounds.) The expenditures they document are for more than that--much much more. Nell spent money. Tons of money. And not her money--the government's money!

Her grocery bills sound like she kept the house stocked for a party (most likely because she had parties nearly every night). She ordered: oysters by the barrel, limes, lemons (imported from Spain and super expensive), cheese, macaroons, custard pots, rum, brandy, cakes, ices, snow cream and most exotic of all--vegetables.

She ordered clothes like nobody's business: gloves (in bulk), nighties, lace (called Venice pointe at this time and also super expensive), dresses and shoes (also in bulk and in every style--lacy, embroidered, satin, silk--very Carrie Bradshaw). She had fun. But she also kept track of every penny she spent. She gave vast amounts to charity but went into terrible debt. She spent lavishly but employed her sister to make her clothes as her sister needed the work.

I took notes for this period in her life and then forgot all about the notes. But as research can sometimes do, it hung around, wiggled its way in and helped to shape a character. Without ever actually remembering that I had this information, I used nearly all of it. My Nell is a study in similar contrasts. A spendthrift who is careful with her money. She dislikes conflict but often takes the side of the underdog. She is anxious to better her financial situation but she cannot be bought. She has parties ever night and eats... yep, vegetables.


  1. wonderful! i love learning all these details! i think i will order gloves in bulk from now on...

  2. it would be like ordering chanel gloves in bulk--that is how expensive they were! actually that would be really fun... :)


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