Celia Boyd Author
Celia Boyd lives in Cheltenham and is widowed with a married son. Her father was the Herefordshire poet, Edward Kaulfuss, from Madley. Celia gained a B.A in English at Birmingham University, from which she also graduated with an MEd, and an M.Soc.Sc. She also has an L.G.S.M. and from 1972 to 1975, while living in Malvern, she taught Drama at the Worcester College of Education.
Celia Boyd has written Young Ravens, a novel for children set in the Midlands during the Second World War, published by Graficas Books, and First Fashionings, Social Conditioning in Georgian Children’s Fiction. She has contributed to The Cambridge Guide to Children’s Books in English, and has had two articles published in Signal, Approaches to Children’s Books. As Celia Mason, working for the West Midlands Probation Services, she wrote Are You Here For The Beer? an in-cell, self-help guide for prison inmates, whose criminality stemmed from alcohol abuse. For this she received the Butler Trust Award.
“A Reason from the Stars”
Of this fictional series of novels set in the English Civil War, Celia states: “There has been little fiction of note set in this time, possibly because our Civil Wars happened everywhere at the same time, and it is difficult to present all the conflicting ideas and disputes simultaneously. My interest was aroused by several factors. Firstly the infectious enthusiasm of a colleague at Worcester, Chris Kemp. He lived and breathed the Civil War and his interest certainly inspired me. We improvised little playlets – Chris as pedantic Puritan preacher – myself as innocent Royalist maiden – and performed in costume for local schoolchildren! Their bemused but silent response spoke volumes!
Then I happened upon Charles Carlton’s absorbing work Going to the Wars, which further stimulated my obsession, and I would recommend this for anyone interested in our civil war. I later discovered Caliver Books and it was in Alan Turton’s The Chief Strength of the Army (Essex Horse 1642-1645) where I found Tom Fletcher, or he found me. I read that the surgeon at Edgehill for Parliamentarian Basil, Lord Fielding was a man named Thomas Fletcher. Slowly a somewhat pedantic but sharp-witted young man of this name took shape in my head and became the butcher’s son from Worcester, who trained as a doctor in that city, for three years before the first battle of Powick Bridge. The first line of the first book in the series, (“Once whilst committing suicide, I changed my mind”) shot without warning into my head and First Dry Rattle and Tom Fletcher sprang into being.
The style in which I write is derived from the prose in Shakespeare’s comedies and the everyday speech of the Black Country where I was working when I retired. Another useful work from Caliver Books was Liz Smith’s The King’s English which I have found of great assistance.
Tom Fletcher’s memoirs are examples of the picaresque novel …a genre which was originally Spanish, involving the hero in a series of journeys. At first the main character was a likeable but dishonest rogue. In time however he evolved into such heroes as Don Quixote, Tom Jones and Mr Pickwick. But the hero of A Reason from the Stars has the misfortune to be borne in the first half of the 17th Century and is precipitated in 1642 into a turbulent society of escalating violence. He resolves to maintain a fierce neutrality and attempts to maintain this position whilst at the same time he tries to practice his profession. This proves a difficult and dangerous resolution.
The underlying theme of the first novel – First Dry Rattle, is a comparison of differing styles of fatherhood. The king as father of the nation fails to appreciate the increasing Republican demands of his over mighty subjects. Tom Fletcher’s humorous loving father is hung as a spy in error by Essex in Worcester’s marketplace, and yet the influence of Amyas Fletcher permeates the humanitarian actions of his son to the extent that aristocratic friends envy Tom the pleasant easy relationship he enjoyed with his father.
The second book of the series A Daring Resolution is set mainly in Lichfield, where Prince Rupert exploded the first landmine on English soil under the Cathedral Close. Printing and journalism began to prosper during the English Civil War, as the people were hungry for news, accurate or otherwise! Ralph and Eleanour Trustcott embody a new professionalism. The 1640s was perhaps the decade when “spin” came of age.
Act of Rebellion, the third novel, is set in Parliamentarian Gloucester, besieged by the Royalist Army in August 1643. The failure of the medical profession to deal efficiently with the wounded is described and Tom becomes the scapegoat of the local physicians as he cannot accept the traditional medical philosophy of Galen based on astrology and the outmoded doctrine of the “humours”, when men are dying from lack of basic rational treatment.
An Ungodly Reckoning, the fourth novel, is soon to be released
During the 1630s many Scots and English mercenaries travelled to Europe to serve during the 30 Years War. It was in fact English soldiers of fortune who assassinated Wallenstein, a great Bohemian general in 1634. The 30 Years War was a vast battleground in which the victims were the non-combatants, the poor peasant populations of Central Europe who starved and died, as great armies despoiled their lands.
Many mercenaries returned at the outbreak of civil war in England in 1642. They had learned their craft of soldiering in conditions that were inhumane and vile in the extreme, where human life had little value. In 1643 and 1644, atrocities took place on English soil, admittedly on a much smaller scale than those of the 30 Years War, but which reflected the horrors suffered on the Continent. Soldiers who had surrendered and craved “Quarter”, were slaughtered unmercifully, communities were exploited and impoverished, and massacres committed in the name of religion were not unknown.
Tom Fletcher had become aware of the absence of a compassionate Almighty during the previous conduct of this illogical war. At the conclusion of An Ungodly Reckoning, he begins to doubt the very existence of a loving God, who cares for his Creation, as he contemplates the terrible atrocities he has seen committed during the progress of this uncivil war.
The title of the series A Reason from the Stars is a quotation from Martin Parker, who wrote in a poem entitled The King Enjoys His Own Again, that no-one could “show a reason from the stars/What causeth peace or civil wars”. Shakespeare expressed the indifference of the heavens some years before; “The fault dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings”. Although God was frequently claimed by “the big battallions” during the English Civil War, for Tom Fletcher any celestial intervention is markedly absent. My hope is that through his many tribulations, readers might experience some awareness of the distress and irrationality caused by the dysfunctional state of England during this time.