Dating Chrestomanci/Caprona

minnow at minnow at
Tue Aug 5 15:28:34 EDT 2003

Gill Othen wrote:

[At the end of a long post in reply to Robyn, about conflicting
worldviews, which I have snipped mostly because unless the terms in it
such as "magic", "asian" and "mediaeval" are defined at least a little
it seems not to be much use trying to follow it, so many of the words
being far too large to fit the narrow holes they are being forced into
-- to say nothing of "individualist", which is bulging out like
Throgmorten in a small wickerwork basket]

> this is pretty much the period DWJ is playing with in "Magicians of
>Caprona", of course, though it seems that her Renaissance Italy is
>contemporary with the semi-Edwardian world of Cat and Chrestomanci. Or is it
>Victorian? "Stealer of Souls" has more of a mid-nineteenth-century feel to
>it, but the accident that kills Cat's parents is very Edwardian in feel.

Caprona, like Chrestomanci's England during his adult life, has cars and
electric light. On the other hand, both Christopher's childhood and
Caprona have frock-coats and top-hats as formal wear for males paying
morning-visits. And Covent Garden Market when Christopher is a child
has carts and carriages but not lorries.

The Girls' School Story is obviously a Power In The Land in *The Lives
of Christopher Chant*, and the finishing school in Switzerland is
Millie's destination at the end of it.

In *Charmed Life*, which is at least twenty-five years later according
to the pre-word, Janet comes from our world -- in which there are
factories and long-playing records and televisions and tower-blocks, and
she always wears trousers, which sounds rather later than twenty-five
years after *our* Edwardian era, to me.  More like late sixties/early
seventies, when trousers for girls as a general rule were just becoming
acceptable (but a trouser-suit worn by a woman in a divorce-court in
1970 gave the judge an excuse to refuse to hear her case, and most
respectable restaurants made a fuss about admitting any woman in a
trouser-suit during that year).  And Janet says that Gwendoline's
clothes look "Edwardian".

It rather looks as if the differences in history, like America not
having been discovered by Europeans at the same time, and Agincourt
having been won by different sides, mean that we can't very well say
that "Renaissance" or "Edwardian" are reliable referents in
Chrestomanci's world.  For all we know, they didn't have the crusades in
the form we know them, which might have had a considerable effect on
when and how the "new learning" got going; they certainly didn't have
the same kings at the same time, if Richard II lost at Agincourt and was
still on the throne long afterwards.

This brings another complication to mind.

Janet and Gwendoline and the other seven or however many of her there
are, are obviously born at the same "time" and living in the same
age-of-the-world even if the worlds they are doing it in have aged at
different rates or in different ways.

What happens about the analogues of Richard II, one of whom was around
for a great deal longer than the other but each of whom was king?  And
even more so, what happens about Henry V, who doesn't seem to have
occurred in Chrestomanci's world?  But most of all, what about the
people who were extraordinary individuals, such people as the chap who
invented the Spinning Jenny?  Did they each invent it, and eight of them
break their hearts because it was simply not relevant in that world, and
it wasn't yet railroading time (as it were)?

I've wondered this on and off for a while.  It's very difficult to make
it satisfactory when history is so obviously wildly off-whack but
individuals within it are as near as makes no odds identical, with
identical parents and so forth.  Does DWJ anywhere suggest that only a
very few people are "identicals", in the same way that the nine-lifed
are rare (though not so much so)?  I mean, if medicine develops at
different rates, wouldn't average life-expectancy also be greater or
lesser, and the infant mortality rates eliminate scads of population who
in better conditions would survive and breed?  Things like that.

Mystified Minnow
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