One of the things the British always talk about, and hence one of those things I include in my novels–because it is a snippet of reality–is the weather.
Obviously, I’m not the first novelist to include the weather in their work. Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Dickens, all do so. Heavens, Wodehouse even titled one of his books, Heavy Weather. (Ha ha! Yes, sad joke, I know…)
In May 1812, I wrote: “A fire had been lit in the grate to dispel the chill that was as inevitable in April as the thought that spring evenings were meant to be pleasant and warm, though they seldom lived up to expectation.”
Now, those who read this in situ may in fact have thought, ‘Enough Bennetts, stop waffling on…’
But the fact is, records show that both spring and summer in 1812 were abnormally cold, on the whole about -1.5C colder than usual, and April was particularly cold at -2.4C lower than normal. It was in fact, the coldest spring since 1799 and would not be so cold again until 1837.
The summer of 1812 was also a cold one.
In addition, there was excessive rainfall, about 150% more than usual during both February and March. Which, falling on the cold ground meant that flooding was extensive.
So when I write such things as “…the rain, which had politely declined to fall on Lady Myddelton, now signalled–through the concerted gathering of black clouds–its intention of abandoning this congenial behaviour in favour of drenching everything within a ten-mile radius,” I’m not exactly writing piffle. Well, I am. But it’s true piffle. If you see what I mean.
Because of the extended cold and wet weather that year, the harvest was also delayed and didn’t get underway until about the 20th September…and was only finished in the second week of November.
It was also, given the weather, a bad harvest, as it were…sowing having been impossible on the heavier clay soils. And er, probably there was a corresponding lack of sunshine–though they didn’t keep records for that back then, so I can’t prove it.