A very interesting read thank you Dwight. WG's weaving of actual historical facts into fiction is something that often crosses my mind to start researching as well, particularly into the Peninsula Wars leading up to Waterloo and how Ross from faint memory briefly glimpses Napoleon. But what a great idea in the first place to stimulate the imagination so to suddenly see Bassets Bank still displayed must have been a real moment !
"Perfection is a full stop .... Ever the climbing but never the attaining Of the mountain top." W.G.
One of the fascinating things about reading and re-reading our favourite Cornish saga is the way that every re-read reveals unknown or unremembered details that we missed on the first or seventh go round. I am just now coming to the end of "The Four Swans" and as I have taken to doing recently, I enjoy checking up on real historical figures and how WG has integrated them into his history. We know that there are many actual real life locations which are included, and of course many others which almost exist, or are based on real life. In other words, we know that Sir Francis Bassett, later Lord De Dunstaville, really did exist, and that he and his family actually did live at Tehidy, sadly destroyed by fire, and although rebuilt, now just luxury private flats and apartments, although the grounds are now a large public Country Park. Visible from miles around is the Basset Monument atop Carn Brea, and the last time we visited Camborne, we came across an extremely impressive, but sadly derelict, granite built frontage, still displaying the legend "Basset's Bank" carved into the granite portico. St Anns on the other hand, does not actually exist, although in more or less the same location on the coast we do find St Agnes, which still has a small village street to this day called Stippy Stappy Lane.
Not completely germane to this post, but probably worthy of further reading is the actual real life landing of the French Royalist forces on the Quiberon Peninsula into which WG inserted Ross & his friends when they crossed over the Channel to rescue Dwight. But of course this is where Hugh Armitage rears his ugly, or not so ugly head, and becomes involved not only with Demelza, but also becomes part of the family discussed below.
Amongst the other real life characters are of course Ralph Allen-Daniel, who really did build the mansion at Trelissick, today owned by the NT, and of course George Evelyn Boscawen, Lord Falmouth, whose family seat still exists at Tregothnan. His sister really was Francis, married to - and this is where life and art begin to separate - John Leveson-Gower, and hence, became Mrs Francis Leveson-Gower, and they really did have three children. It was Captain Gower, who together with Ross, wrested George Warleggan's Parliamentary seat way from him in the September 1797 General Election. So it was to Google & Wiki that I turned to learn more about Captain Gower, who again turned out to be a real life historical character, but in this case, what was really surprising, was that in real life while Francis did not die until 1813, Captain Gower apparently died in 1792, which would have made him unlikely to stand for Falmouth's faction in the 1797 Election. Strangely enough, this is the first time where I have found that WG moved away from actuality when weaving in these real life characters. Now whether his research let him down at this stage, or whether, as is more likely, having already woven in Lord Falmouth & Francis Gower, he needed continuity of another family member to continue his story line. But what is even more fascinating is how even so many of his minor historical characters really did exist as well. What a genius storyteller this man was.
Strangely enough, the Leveson-Gower family can be traced back to at least the early 1600s, still exists today, and is STILL up into the late 1990s carrying forward the names of Evelyn & Boscawen within the family lineage.
But no trace of "our" Hugh Armitage having actually existed.