Thank you for doing this. Because you lost your mother at a very young age and your father raised you to be self-sufficient you expect to be respected within any relationship. Valuing independence, there is the expectation of being treated as an equal. It appears you have basically given up on marriage. Then you met Sebastian Lancaster, the Earl of Roddam who has a lot in common with you. Both of you are witty intellectuals who value a good conversation along with the passion. Even though the 1790s has strict courtship rules you and Sebastian seem to formulate your own guidelines. I am intrigued by your headstrong personality and philosophies.
Elise Cooper: How did you become such an independent woman?
Lizbeth Trethow:Am I? I wouldn’t consider myself independent, but I appreciate the sentiment and that you would view me as such a woman. Independence, to my understanding of your meaning, is a state of mind. I’ve freed myself from the chains of ignorance and the expectations of Society. While I don’t wish to be speak ill of my sex, I will say too many women readily accept their dependence. They depend on the views of others, the gossip mill, the supposed truths in the news columns, the mandates of family, the rules of tradition and propriety, and, oh, the list does go on. Whereas, I depend on no one but myself. I’ve made the choice to educate my mind, which has thus liberated my soul. I’m not so conceited as to call myself enlightened, but I do feel independence comes from being enlightened, and that is the very state of mind in which I would like to be.
EC: People describe you as intelligent, poised, a teaser, opinionated, candid, headstrong, and a competitor. Fair?
LT:Oh my! *laughs* Is that what they say? People do talk, don’t they? I’m not certain we can be so classified into neat and tidy little descriptors. I might consider myself an intelligent woman, but by whose standards? If I should be compared to Socrates, would I still be considered intelligent? I know nothing of farming, and yet the farmer works such miracles with his bare hands. Would he not be considered intelligent, and I ignorant in comparison? I am flattered by your depiction of me, but I’m not sure I would see myself in those same terms.
EC: So, how would you describe yourself?
LT:I’m determined and decisive, but does that also imply I’m headstrong? I don’t care to be proven wrong. But, when I know I am right, does that imply I’m opinionated and competitive? I wonder, could someone be both candid and a tease? If this is how you see me, then I can’t argue with or alter your view because it’s your perception of me, and thus by your own standards, it’s true. I may see someone as crass while someone else sees the person as candid. Neither of us is wrong. We merely have different perceptions of the same person. I do thank you for thinking of me enough to form an opinion, and I am truly flattered.
EC: What are your favourite books and why?
LT:Choosing a favourite book is not unlike choosing a favourite child. They’re each so different but equally loved. I do enjoy social commentary with a creative flair. A book that pulls me in with a clever story while also reflecting on the world at large is what I would prefer to read over something strictly academic or purely fictionalized for the sake of entertainment. For example, Gulliver’s Travelsperfectly marries both academic observation and speculation with entertainment. Swift is a keen observer and sceptic. I certainly don’t agree with all his observations, but he does make me think while tickling my humour. Have you heard of Blake? His poems embody that very marriage I mentioned. His words are akin to music, yet he verses about harsh realities. I do hope he gains notoriety soon for people need to hear what he has to say. As a final note, should you have the time and wish to understand me, you should, perhaps, consider reading Condorcet. I’ll nudge you in his direction and allow you to make your own judgments.
EC: Thanks, when I get the time I will look into it. Let’s go off in another direction. Do you think it is wishful thinking to want a marriage based on love, respect, and admiration?
LT:Some may believe it is highly improbable, not to mention unrealistic, but I’ll settle for nothing less. I’ve seen how a marriage based on love, respect, and admiration can be, and should others see that, as well, they would change their perspective. It is difficult for people to understand what they’ve not experienced. So many children are raised by wet nurses, nannies, and then governesses, seeing their sires on the rare occasion. They grow up knowing nothing but hierarchy and isolation. Why should they, then, expect or even want love, respect, and admiration?
EC: It sounds like you have someone in mind?
LT:My parents were outliers in this world. They married for love, they respected each other as equals, and they admired each other’s individuality. I’ve seen how harmonious this is. I’ve also seen how such love can destroy, for the loss of my mother nearly destroyed my father. Does that suggest he shouldn’t have loved so deeply? If he had married for duty alone, someone of his own class rather than a tin mine owner’s daughter, he wouldn’t have suffered such depths of despair at my mother’s death, but would he be better for it? I believe the time they had together was worth every minute, and that is a love worth living for, despite the consequences. I don’t think it realistic we all find our soul’s counterpart, so we must be prepared to hold strong and not settle or sacrifice our self-worth in the absence of that counterpart.
EC: So, you are willing to be a spinster?
LT:The word has such negative connotations. One looks at a spinster like an old shoe with a broken heel. I prefer to think of myself as a free agent. I answer to no one. How freeing is that? There is nothing wrong or damning about being free. Is it the unmarried who consider themselves spinsters or those who are married? Yes, you have it, the ones who are already married look to the unmarried and point a finger—you there, you’re an aging spinster. They take the position of superiority as though having a spouse lifts them to some grand throne. Does it? What have they gained? They are, more of them than not, unhappy. Perhaps they point to the unmarried with disparaging remarks because they are envious of the freedom but don’t want anyone to catch on. I’m proud to be a free agent! This is not a position of shame.
EC: You were overheard saying that you will never be married if it means you will be controlled by a husband?
LT:I did say that, yes, though you’re naughty for eavesdropping. There is no denying women are the property of their husbands. It is the written law, after all. A husband who now has control over her person, her mind, and all legal rights. Should he wish to punish her with his hand, he may do so, by law. Should he wish to lock her in a room and starve her of food, he may do so, by law. Should he wish to starve her of affection, he may do so, by law. How is this not control? Women are no different than slaves. They are purchased for the purpose of breeding. I generalize, for not all marriages are such as this, but the tone of the marriage is determined by the husband. Suppose he loves the wife at the beginning but then bores of her? He also controls the tone of the relationship. Marriage is nothing more than a binding contract unless there is passion, respect, love, and equality.
EC: How would you describe Sebastian? Do you know him better than himself?
LT:I wouldn’t flatter myself to know him better than he knows himself, but often it takes someone else looking in to see the larger context. We can’t always see our own faults or our strengths so well as someone else can see them. Sebastian struggles with understanding himself. He’s been told for so long that he’s unlovable and monstrous that he’s accepted that identity. It is no different than a girl being told her entire life that she’s too plain. Why should she ever suspect herself to be anything but plain, much less beautiful? I see Sebastian as a compassionate, driven, and clever man. There is no problem he can’t solve. There is no trench he can’t dig. If he sets his mind to it, nothing will stop him. He has a fathoms deep capacity for love. If only he could love himself.
EC: Do you think Sebastian is overly influenced by King Arthur?
LT:Nonsense. Sebastian has a great many interests and influencing figures. He studies legends, myths, and histories to gain a sense of how to become a better person. His interest in Greek and Roman mythology is nearly as strong in his interest of England’s former kings. Most young boys have an older brother they can idolize or a father they can learn from, but Sebastian had neither. He saw King Arthur not only as a father-figure, but also as a person to emulate. When he needed direction in life, he turned to someone he could respect, and who better than a king? Let us be happy he chose King Arthur instead of Gaius Caligula.
EC: What do you see as the important qualities in a relationship?
LT:The important qualities would vary from person to person. My sister, for instance, wouldn’t value the same qualities as I would. She would never suit with an intellectual, much less a recluse. I, however, neither enjoy the company of Society nor the company of a dull wit. I value those from whom I can learn. It would never be any fun if we agreed with each other all the time, but it would be arduous if we were too contentious. I want to learn from someone as much as I’d hope they could learn from me. If we both bring something to the relationship, we meet as equals. The qualities important to me for any kind of relationship, be it friendship or beyond, are communication, respect, conversation, intellect, and equality.
EC: Are you looking for a kindred spirit?
LT:I wouldn’t admit to looking for anyone, but I would expect, for there to be a successful and happy marriage with someone, the person would need to understand me on a far deeper level than anyone else could. This understanding is more than recognizing what my interests are. It’s the realization of why those interests are important to me. Should the person intuitively know what I would like or dislike, enjoy or not enjoy, value or not value, that is a true and deep understanding, and that is the only relationship that would work for me. Nothing surface level will work.
EC: Do you think you are alike or different from your younger sister Charlotte?
LT:Oh, vastly different! It is a wonder we’re related at all when one examines our personalities. Charlotte is orderly, while I’m quite messy. Charlotte enjoys socials and tea parties, while I enjoy solitude and reading. Charlotte would prefer to dance, while I would rather run. Charlotte cares far too much about Society’s opinion and wants to be seen as the perfect lady, while I couldn’t give a fig for what anyone thinks of me. That isn’t to say we don’t have common traits, as well, and we do share a sisterly affection stronger than I believe most do, but we’ve never shared opinions or interests. She is far too much like our aunt, and I am far too much like our mother. We would, as sisters should, do anything for each other. I would lay down my life for her, as she would do for me, for we share a familial bond nothing can sever. That doesn’t stop us from bickering daily as we’re wont to do!
EC: How did the death of your mother affect you?
LT:To be honest, it took years to sink it. I felt the loss at once, but I had no time in which to examine it. She was my best friend. Yet, before I could understand the impact, my family fell apart. Papa couldn’t handle the loss, and my sister hadn’t a mother. I knew if I didn’t swallow my heartbreak and do something, I would lose more than my mother. I look back and think how silly it was for me to think I had any impact at all, for I was only a little girl, but at the time, I didn’t feel so little, no one treated me as though I were little, and I shouldered weights far heftier than a little girl could or should carry. I was a little woman in the body of a young girl, and I was so focused on caring for my family I had no time in which to mourn. By the time I could mourn, it was as though looking back from the eyes of a different person. I believe it was for the best. However much I didn’t understand the concept of death at that age, I do know if I’d stopped to think for too long how hurt I was not to see Mama ever again, I might have been as lost as Papa. She was a vibrant woman whose smile lit an entire room. How does a child cope with that loss? I didn’t. I pushed it down until I could look on it objectively.
EC: Were you attracted to Sebastian because you have that in common with him?
LT:I hadn’t thought of that. Hmm. I wouldn’t say his losing his mother was something that made him attractive. Our commonalities are numerous, and it is something we share, but I believe it only helps us to understand each other. It is the understanding of each other that is attractive, not necessarily the cause of the understanding. When I heard of his loss, I will say I wanted to wrap my arms around him and hold him, not as a lover or a friend, but as a mother. I wanted to rest his head on my shoulder and hold him so he would know he was protected and loved, just as my mother did for me. My heart went out to the little boy inside of him who had lost his only friend. For me, I lost my best friend, but not my only friend. He lost his only friend.
EC: Do you think Sebastian is able to understand the importance of family and how to love?
LT:I believe he knows what he wants and has always wanted, but I do think he’s afraid he won’t know how. He admitted as much to me. He’s afraid he’ll become his father. There’s no shame in such fear, but as he becomes more himself, he’ll let it go. He only holds onto such a fear because he’s still learning who he is outside of what others have told him. As I mentioned earlier in this conversation, he has such a deep capacity for love and is so compassionate, I know in my heart he will be the best father and husband a woman could ever ask for, but I don’t think he yet knows that about himself. He will. Give him time.
EC: Do the best relationships start out as friendships?
LT:I believe I loved Sebastian before I saw him as a friend, but who can say which emotion came first. I respected him, and that was the basis on which we built a future. If you cannot befriend a spouse, before or after seeing them as a partner, then what remains when passion fades or times are rough? Not all friendships should be relationships, but all relationships should be friendships. At least from my estimation. If you cannot respect them as a friend, how can you possibly love them?
EC: Can a man and a woman ever be just friends?
LT:They are more likely to be friends than anything else. Passion and love are rare. Passion, especially, is so often fleeting, and love must be there to sustain when passion runs its course. I’ve seen many friendships, but I’ve only rarely seen passion. Friendship does not guarantee a good match, nor does it guarantee love or passion, but it should be the foundation of the relationship. It may, in most cases, simply be friendship. I have many close friends, some of which are male, and none of which I’ve felt remotely attracted to beyond friendship. Take my cousin Walter as an example. We are good friends, and I enjoy time with him and conversation. I would go to great lengths to help him if he needed me, but I’ve never harboured romantic feelings for him. I do love him, but as family, nothing more.
EC: Why do you love the sea so much?
LT:There’s a raw power to the sea that is underestimated, as well as a magic that is misunderstood. I remember one time when I was little, standing at the edge of the water with Mama, thinking how big the world was and how small I was. My personal world consisted only of a few miles, yet when I stood at the water’s edge, I could see on to forever nothing but blue water. It was humbling but awe-inspiring. The ocean seemed to me the largest and most powerful element on earth. It had the power to wreck ships, carry pirates, and drown swimmers, but it harvests life and beauty. When I let the water lap over my feet that day, I felt connected. Where had those same droplets been that were now touching my feet? Where would they go next, carrying the essence of me?
EC: What do you like doing for fun?
LT:Oh, there are a great many diversions I enjoy! Learning and reading, of course, so that I might live vicariously through the minds of scientists, adventurers, and philosophers. I love the outdoors, the warmth of the sun, the whisper of the wind, the smell of nature. Wilderness walks are a favourite pastime of mine, especially walks that turn into explorations. I would never turn down a swim, be it in a pond or ocean. I may not like a crowd or socializing, but I do enjoy good company, so calling on friends is always pleasant. Sebastian has promised to teach me about the stars and how to use his telescope, so in time, perhaps that will be a new interest of mine.
EC: What are your hopes and dreams?
LT:I share Sebastian’s desire for a large family. I want to be the kind of mother I remember my own Mama being. I envision sharing with Sebastian his dreams, as well, for he has such grand plans for his lands, and I want to do what I can to help. I do hope to become good friends with his sister Lilith, and if I have my druthers, she’ll move in with us before long. Befriending the tenantry and laborers is important to me, and I hope to strengthen the connections for all his properties by creating a familial relationship with everyone in our care. I don’t like to be idle and always want a sense of purpose, a sense of utility and usefulness. I want always to be helping someone or achieving something. I do believe the land will keep us busy as we rebuild and build out, creating more homes, larger towns, more positions.
EC: If you have a crystal ball what would your life be like in five years?
LT:Oh, what a blasphemous question! Crystal balls indeed. I do believe I like how you think, Elise. May I call you Elise? How presumptuous of me. I feel we’ve become such good friends during this conversation. If given the opportunity to look into a crystal ball, I would look away, for I want the adventure and the surprise! It’s no fun knowing what will happen. And should I make plans, would I then be disappointed if they didn’t come true? I will be happy with whatever life brings me. I would imagine, given my current direction, that in five years, we will have expanded the towns of all his properties, have at least three children, be rich as Croesus, and be as happy as larks. I won’t be disappointed if we’re poor as paupers and childless, as long as we’re together, but wouldn’t it be lovely to think the best?
Paullett Golden is a lover of the fairy tale historical romance and has launched herself into a writing career. She’s been writing historical romances since an early age and has been a professor of writing for two decades. She divides her time between Texas and Northumberland, England.