Retreat into Tomorrow:
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s
Hardcover - 320 pages
Writers Digest Books
First Edition (March 15, 1993)
Not long after this book was first published, I purchased it. I now own 2 first editions of this resource book. My original copy is in storage while I await the construction of my dream house. I recently found myself in need of this book; and so I purchased another first-edition hardcover, for under $10, from a second-party seller on that humongous online retail platform. A spanking brand new version of this book can also be acquired for about $30 through the amazonian selling jungle.
That innovative distributor is incessantly blamed by every poorly-run brick-and-mortar for being put out of business, much in the same way that the automobile was blamed for doing away with the horse-and-buggy of a by-gone era. Some things, actually many things, never change! This book confirms that statement.
The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s is, according to the author:
For writers of: historical fiction, westerns, romance, action/adventure, thrillers and mysteries.
As you can see, Mr. McCutcheon covered just about all literary-genre bases. My primary interest in initially buying this reference book was/is factual information for composing the historical fiction known as The Western. I was living in Suburbia at the time and I soon discovered a measurable amount of comfort during my reading of this text. I realized that I’m a frontier woman at heart!
This book can be enjoyed by anyone, not just aspirants to the art of writing. It’s devoid of political correctness. The author pulls no punches. Each page is chock full of detailed definitions of life as it once was in America — without the ever-intrusive Media or the alphabet soup of government fiefdoms that drown, choke or otherwise annoy (if not annihilate) businesses and individuals.
Many of these regulatory agencies started off in the interest of the consumers, not the Bureaucrats: FDA, EPA, OSHA, NHTSA. These mammoth dinosaurs now exist largely to exist. They’re disorganized and messy, sometimes more chaotic than the chaos they claim to oversee.
Pandemonium has never appealed to me, in the real world or in book form. I find the organization of this book greatly appealing. It is sectioned into categories of infinite interest to me as a writer and as a person:
Slang or Everyday Speech
Around the House
Clothing and Fashion
Money and Coinage
and so on, to the last section: Crime. This final subject is followed by a fascinating chronology of historical events.
Each section begins with a frank and factual summary by Mr. McCutcheon. His opinions are expressed honestly, but they do not intrude upon the presentation of the material. I am not always in complete agreement with his take on matters, but his attitude is steadfastly admirable.
For example, from “Around the House”, the last paragraph states:
The nineteenth-century home was a woman’s domain or, more accurately, her confines. Here, without electricity, without modern appliances, she did all of her chores by hand. The wash. The preserving. The cooking. The cleaning. The sewing. The tending to her average flock of at least five children. Truly, in the nineteenth-century home, a woman’s work was never done. Imagine making all of your family’s clothes by hand, as housewives did early in the century, and you begin to get an idea of just how labor-intensive the career of domestic manager was in those days.
Yup. The ranting women of today, the squeaky wheels who won’t accept any grease, they have very little about which to complain. But they follow the odious examples of the squeaky wheels of previous eras. The nineteenth century had its squeaky wheels too. There was no billion-dollar business back then called The Media (run by even more squeaky wheels) to inform everyone of the monotonous misery of miserable beings who seem in endless supply. The News would go nowhere in the face of joy and peace and personal contentment!
The final section, Crime, begins with a paragraph that puts many many things in perspective as we Americans begin the year 2019. Murder rates are not cited therein, but I believe that as a percentage of the overall population, the deadly deed, especially in any city, has not become more rampant, merely more reported:
When it comes to lawlessness, nothing much changes from century to century. In the nineteenth century, much as now [1990s], intoxication, disorderly conduct, assault and battery, and petty larceny were the most common reasons for arrest in any big city. In New York in 1865, 68,873 arrests were made. Of these, 48,754 were males, 20,119 females; 53,911 arrests were for offenses against the person; 14,962 for offenses against property.
The chart on the next page breaks down New York’s crime that year. A few items stand out. Drug arrests, for example — there were none, although thousands at the time were hooked on opium, openly sold in drugstores in pill form or as laudanum. Note also the greater arrest numbers for “keeping a disorderly house” and “bastardy” than for “attempt at rape.”
Marc McCutcheon’s Writer’s Guide is, for me, a guide to the future as much as it is a primer about the past.
The long arms of government into the personal lives of the citizenry began as fingers of public safety pointing at municipal vulgarity, crime, and unsafe, lawless business practices. The disorderly house in a city is now an entire area within that city. Bastardy has become popularized and normed by the elite know-it-alls.
Any hint of masculinity is deemed an offensive act, or even “an attempt at rape,” by the harsh hectoring harridans of America. Those unnatural women have politicized an intimate violation into a cynical ploy for revenge, attention, money, power, and grotesque behavior on their part. “Rape” was once a term whispered in “polite company”. Polite company is nowadays a rarity. The term, rape, has been offensively trivialized by misanthropic women who use it as a weapon against men, perhaps women too!
The success of American society can be measured by the degree to which the amoral attack it.
This writer’s “Guide to Everyday Life in the 2000s” would indicate that in America the real women, and real men, on the front lines of societal construction are, as always, the quiet unsung heroines and unsung heroes who dutifully contend with the noise of the minority, the obnoxious nincompoops who believe they run the show called humanity.
Writing well is a matter of infinite patience. So is living happily. This writer aims to do both as she moves into the future by retreating into tomorrow, creating historical fiction with the help of Marc McCutcheon’s resourceful book.