Author Shirley Raye Redmond talks about her book, Prudence Pursued:
Despite Prudence Pentyre’s best efforts, her cousin Margaret proves
reluctant to accept Sir James Brownell’s marriage proposal, and fears
being “bovinised” if she undergoes the controversial cowpox vaccination he
recommends. And the dashing baronet seems more concerned about the plight
of headhunters in Borneo than Margaret’s refusal. Then Prudence suddenly
finds herself smitten with the man. What can she do?
Here are a few startling facts that will help readers of PRUDENCE PURSUED
and other Regency romance novels appreciate Edward Jenner’s contributions
to the era so popular with fiction readers:
(1) In its day, smallpox was referred to as “the speckled monster.
(2) It killed hundreds of millions of people—more than the Black Death and
the wars of the 20th century put together!
(3) President Thomas Jefferson, who used the Jennerian method to vaccinate
his own family, friends, and slaves, once wrote to Jenner: “Yours is the
comfortable reflection that mankind can never forget that you have lived.”
(4) A woman who was considered a “great beauty” during this time period
was usually one who had not been seriously disfigured by smallpox. It was
understood by portrait artists of the day that they were not to paint in
the disfigurements and pockmarks of their subjects.
(5) Jane Austen’s dearest friend Martha Lloyd was scarred by smallpox for
the remainder of her life. Several members of the Lloyd household died
from the disease. A character in Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey is
disfigured and crippled by the dreaded disease.
“You should not wear that to the pox party,” Prudence
Pentyre said, indicating her younger cousin’s dress of
light green Italian silk. “I recommend something with
short sleeves which allows you to expose your forearm to the
Margaret shuddered. Her plain face, pale and lightly freckled,
appeared downcast. “Oh, Pru, I wish I didn’t have to go.” She
stood, slender shoulders drooping, in front of her open
“Truly, Meg, there’s nothing to worry about,” Prudence
assured her, slipping a comforting arm around her
cousin’s slim waist. “Papa had all of us vaccinated
with the cowpox when we were still in the
schoolroom—and the servants too. I’m quite surprised my Uncle
Giles didn’t do the same.”
A glint of disapproval flashed in her soft brown eyes.
Silently, she fumed. Uncle Giles had held too many
outmoded notions. Such an old stick! He was dead now,
having suffered an apoplexy two years ago. Her mother,
if she knew of Prudence’s unspoken condemnation, would have
reminded her not to speak ill of the dead. This dictate
had never made sense to Prudence. Why were some of
life’s most unsavory characters deemed to be saints after
their deaths? Not that Uncle Giles was unsavory, but
he had been shamefully old-‐‑fashioned.
“Look, Meg, there’s not even a scar.” Prudence held out
a white arm for her cousin’s perusal. “Mr. Jenner’s
procedure is almost painless and quite safe, much safer
than buying the smallpox and enduring the dreaded disease.”
“Papa didn’t believe in it. He said it was God’s will
some people should die of the smallpox,” Margaret said,
turning away from her to examine an array of dresses hanging
in the wardrobe.
“God is not so cruel,” Prudence insisted. “Some say the
vaccination will cause one’s facial features to resemble
those of a cow,” Margaret ventured, her forehead creasing with
Prudence laughed. “Neither John nor Patience have any
cow-‐‑like features, and you can see for yourself I do
not.” Slightly unsettled by her cousin’s close examination,
“Yes, look at me, Meg! Do I resemble a cow? I can
assure you I don’t have a cow tail hidden beneath my
skirts either. None of us have bovinized, as you fear.
I believe Mr. Jenner’s procedure to have been
God-‐‑inspired. Truly. Papa has preached this same opinion
from the pulpit. Mr. Jenner took notice how milkmaids and dairy
farmers did not succumb to the deadly smallpox plague
when there was an outbreak in their village. It was because of
their exposure to the harmless cowpox. It was an amazing
observation which will benefit us all.”
Like her parents, Prudence was an ardent admirer of
Edward Jenner. In fact, her father, the Reverend Henry
Pentyre, was a member of the Royal Jennerian Society and
helped to raise money to give free vaccinations
throughout England. Prudence enjoyed accompanying her father
when he rode out to the rural areas to administer the
vaccine himself to those members of his parish willing to
undergo the procedure.
“But what if you should marry and have children?”
Margaret hinted, unconvinced. She clutched her hands at her
waist. Prudence, noting the slight tremor, realized her
cousin was trying not to reveal her agitation.
“Both John and Patience are married with children, and
none of my nieces and nephews look like heifers, I
assure you!” Prudence insisted. She gave Margaret a
reassuring pat on the shoulder. “You’re making a great fuss
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