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Saturday, July 11, 2015

Brokering a Marriage - 17th Century Style - Guest Diane M. Denton

My Friday guest today is Diane Denton, one of the seventeenth century passionistas, with whom the magic of the 'interwebs' has allowed me to connect. Say what you like about Facebook and social media, I remain eternally grateful for the contacts it has given me and the friendships I have developed with people like Diane!

What to say about Diane? She is a true creative who finds expression through poetry and music and this is reflected in her wonderful novels, set partly in Italy and partly in Restoration England - A HOUSE NEAR LUCCOLI  and its sequel TO A STRANGE SOMEWHERE FLED (more on those later). The stories are interwoven with the beautiful baroque music of the period and the real lives of musicians such as Alessandro Stradella. I have learned so much about women and music in the 17th century (see Diane's post on HOYDENS AND FIREBRANDS... click HERE.  You can connect with Diane through her website... click HERE.

Continuing her thoughts on the life of women in the 17th century, Diane is bringing us a fabulous post on Marriage brokering and the part it plays in her book A HOUSE NEAR LUCCOLI. 

Over to Diane.... 

Marriage broker - someone who arranges (or tries to arrange) marriages for others, usually between strangers and for a fee.

Why would a talented up-and-coming composer, patronized by a Queen and other highly placed individuals, engage in marriage brokering? As with most of the self-injurious choices made by the flamboyant 17th century composer Alessandro Stradella (1639 – 1682), who is at the heart of my historical fiction A House Near Luccoli, there isn’t any definitive answer as to what he was thinking. 

Marriage... from Hogarth's A Rake's Progress
Although born to minor nobility and receiving many commissions, his extant letters reveal he was often in financial difficulty, which may have been due to his ‘employers’ not always paying him and his own mismanagement of money. In any case, in 1667 he was involved in a dubious marriage brokering scheme, and then again in 1671, an incident he referred to as “a certain misfortune” that happened to him in Rome.

With a well-known castrato as an accomplice, Stradella contrived to receive a substantial payment from an ugly old woman “of low birth, not respectable” by marrying her off to Cardinal who was a member of the powerful Roman Cibo family. It’s reported that Stradella and the singer got the Cardinal drunk and a priest performed the marriage before he sobered up. The Cardinal put the woman in a nunnery, had the marriage annulled, and demanded that Stradella and the castrato be imprisoned, one account claiming the latter was tried and found guilty, while Stradella avoided the same consequence by taking refuge in a convent and eventually fleeing Rome altogether.

This happened ten years before the timeline of A House Near Luccoli, which finds Stradella in Genoa involved in yet another scandal; but, as with most of his reckless adventures, it could not be left out of any part of his story entirely.

     There were woundings all the time. In words or actions, owned or anonymous, answered or ignored. Sometimes they were as obvious as Pier Francesco Guano attacked on the second of December, needing twelve stitched on his face. Lonati must have known it was old news, pounding the front door and rushing upstairs.
     “Only the beginning.” He didn’t acknowledge Donatella dropping music sheets, just Alessandro picking them up. “Beware. If you don’t turn around you’re a dead man.”
     Alessandro’s irritation came down on the keyboard, but then he played the piece as pleasantly as it was written, “I’m a prisoner of cortesia now.”
     Lonati snatched the pages out of Donatella’s hands. “Well, this is from the good old days. Rome, mid-sixties? All carnivals and palaces, especially for Monesio and Stradella.”
     “What’s behind us may be all there is.” Alessandro continued to accompany his aggravation with music that might soothe it.
     “Your singing was magnificent.”
     “What part?” Donatella approached the conversation.
     Alessandro winked. “Rigore, of course.”

     “The talk of the town,” Lonati began to pet her arm but thought better of it, “before he received more attention for his lack of discipline.”


Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. 
He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves. 
Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.

Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble

To A Strange Somewhere Fled

Sequel to A House Near Luccoli. 
After the sudden end to her collaboration with composer Alessandro Stradella, Donatella moves from Genoa to join her parents in a small village in Oxfordshire, England. 
The gift of a sonnet, 'stolen' music, inexpressible secrets, and an irrepressible spirit have stowed away on her journey. Haunted by whispers and visions, angels and demons, will she rise out of grief and aimlessness? 
Her father's friendship with the residents of Wroxton Abbey, who are important figures in the court of Charles II, offers new possibilities, especially as music and its masters—including the 'divine' Henry Purcell—have not finished with her yet.

Also available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.