William Hone and the fight for press freedom, more on bees and swarms, Women With Words; newsletter, March 31, 2023

March 31, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, March 31, 2023.

Life begins on Opening Day.

The Major League Baseball season began this week. Despite all the innovations, the game remains much the same as it was played 150 years ago. A pitcher who delivers a high heater is liable to be taken downtown. The batter swings for the fences trying to hit it out of the park. The batter only gets three strikes, and he’s out. If he connects, he may only produce a moon shot or a can of corn. If the pitched ball comes too close to his head, he’s heard some chin music. The high, hard one might just be chin music.

If there are ducks on the pond and the batter gets thrown a curveball, best not to bounce one to the hot corner. Better to send a scorcher over the head of the guy out in left field and bang it off the wall. Somebody may come home. And that would keep the line moving.

And, even if it’s the bottom of the ninth, it ain’t over til it’s over.

At the end of the season, we get to wait ’til next year, pondering the age-old question, “Who’s on first?”

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,950 subscribers and had a 35.6 percent open rate; 15 persons unsubscribed.

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William Hone and the fight for press freedom

When publisher and satirist William Hone stood to defend himself in a London courtroom on December 20, 1817, he was sick and exhausted. It was his third trial in three days.

Two days prior to that, he stood accused of libel and blasphemy, facing prosecution by England’s Attorney General in a trial presided over by a hostile judge. Hone was a writer and publisher and an unsilenced voice for reform of England’s class-bound political and social system. It was a system in which those who were poor and members of the “lower classes” were unlikely to receive justice.

Hone’s satires against royalty and those in power had hit home. Many of his targets had decided that it was finally time to do something about him. So, they brought three successive charges against him, and the trials occurred on three successive days.

Hone was ill at the time and too poor to pay an attorney to defend him. Financial woes had plagued him throughout his life. In addition, he had a wife and a dozen children at home who were dependent on him for food, clothing, and shelter. Losing in court would mean more than just losing his freedom.

Still, he stood and faced his accusors.

In the first trial, he was charged with endangering the public morals with his satire of the Anglican prayer book. His defense was to read satires written by others on the same subject. He soon had the audience and the jury roaring with laughter. He spoke for several hours, and the jury that day took only a few minutes to return a not guilty verdict.

The next day he again faced charges of belittling the Christian litany and libeling the Prince Regent for his publication The Political Litany (1817),

England’s long history of political satirists once again, came to Hone’s defense. Still ill, exhausted from his previous day’s effort, and without the help of an attorney, Hone read more satirical passages over the objections of the prosecution and the judge. He had the audience, and most especially the jury, in stitches. The verdict was the same as the day before: not guilty.

Hone’s ordeal was not over. The Attorney General insisted on pressing forward with the third charge. Again, it was a blasphemy and this time it was for The Sinecurist’s Creed,  a parody of the Athanasian creed, a Christian litany that confirms the Trinity. The script for the third trial was familiar. The charges were laid, the charges were answered with additional satires, the assembled crowd laughed until they cried, and the jury reached a verdict of not guilty.

The difference with the third trial was that outside the court, thousands of people had gathered, the vast majority of whom were Hone supporters. Hone had become one of the most famous men in all of Britain. His strength and his courage were rightly honored. When his trials were completed, government officials had to tread carefully before ever bringing charges of libel and blasphemy against individuals.

Horne was not a newcomer to controversy. Born in 1780 in Ripley, Surrey, Hone moved to London with his family when he was still a small boy. He he trained as a lawyer, but was dissatisfied with the legal profession.

Horne was an avid reader and wanted to be involved with writing, publishing, and book selling. He had also developed a social conscience and a talent for identifying the hypocrisies of the rich and powerful.

The case that came to Home’s attention was that of Elizabeth Fenning, a cook in the household of a rich family. Fenning was convicted of poisoning her employers, a conviction that was supported by no real evidence. She was sentenced to be hanged, and Hone joined in the appeals for her life — appeals that were ultimately unsuccessful. After she was executed, Hone published a 240-page book on the case — something of a landmark in the annals of true crime journalism – that showed how insubstantial the case against her had been.

The powerful people who had railroaded Elizabeth Fenning were not pleased. Neither were those in positions of power and privilege who became the targets of many of hones satires.

The two decades after Hone’s three days were a time of intense activity for Hone. They were also a time of financial ups and downs – mostly downs. Hone continued his satirical writings, and he often partnered with the famous caricaturist George Cruikshank in poking fun at the privileged. 

In 1823 he published Ancient Mysteries Described, which delved into the origins of many mid European medieval stories. It was a remarkable work that scholars find useful even today.

The  Every-Day Book  and The Table Book were two works that also were highly popular and long-lasting. These two volumes gather together much information and answered many questions about every day life in England during the 19th century.

Although the books sold well, Hone’s tangled financial affairs kept him on the edge of poverty for the rest of his life. He died in 1842 at the age of 62.

Not only did Hone fight a courageous battle in court for his own freedom, but his life and his work demonstrate the value of a press free from government control to society at large.


An hour-long radio play about Hone’s legal battles is Trial by Laughter by Ian Hislop and Nick Newman, which you can listen to in a variety of places including here on the BBC: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b071h2x6

There is much more about Hone’s life at this site: https://honearchive.org/


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.  https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


Bees and swarms (part 2)

A swarm of bees is not some monstrous force of nature that is waiting for some unsuspecting pedestrian to walk by so the bees can chase him or her into a lake. That’s the cartoon version of a swarm of bees.

It is totally incorrect.

A swarm of bees is actually a gentle, usually non-stinging collection of bees that have recently left their old colony and are looking for a new home. What they are looking for is some kind of interior cavity, such as a hollow tree, that will allow them to function as a bee colony.

One of the key aspects of this new home is that it should have a small entrance, about one to two inches square at most. Another aspect that is important for the new home is that it be in a more or less protected area. A leafy tree often provides a near-0ideal space.

There are several other aspects of a new home for the swarm that are important. Those are outlined eloquently in a book titled Honeybee, Democracy by Thomas Seeley, a professor at Cornell University. Seeley has spent many years studying all aspects of the behavior, and he is one of the worlds leading experts on not only what bees do, but why they do it.

Beekeepers have used Seeley’s research and their own experience to come up with what they believe to be the ideal size and shape of a “swarm box,“ a device that will entice a swarm of bees to enter it, and to call it home.

During the last couple of weeks, I have kept myself busy by making several swarm boxes (picture), and placing those in trees near where I live. The “swarm season“ begins in early spring, and will last into June. That is when most bee colonies are likely to “cast a swarm,“ as people who study these things like to say. A swarm can actually occur at almost any time during the year, except in winter. The best swarms occur during this warm season.

For a beekeeper, catching a swarm is like finding gold. A swarm of bees captured in this way can be put into a beekeeper’s hive, and the prospect of that colony growing and making honey is often very good.

Now that many of my swarm boxes have been built and placed, all I have to do is wait for the bees to fly by. More to come.

Women With Words: emerging

My latest book, Women With Words: Female Journalists and Writers, Heads and Tales Volume 2, is beginning to emerge from behind its publication walls.

The book is now widely available (Amazon,Barnes & Noble,Lulu, and ona number of other platforms) and can be purchased as a hardback, paperback, or ebook. At this moment, I am working to increase its distribution through other platforms.

Perhaps you know a young woman who loves to read and write and needs some inspiration. This would make a great gift and a perfect birthday or Christmas present. (I know, it’s March, but is it really too early to start your Christmas shopping?)

Here’s the Amazon blurb:

The women in this volume of the Heads and Tales series have a way with words. They are remarkable women, all with remarkable and sometimes extraordinary stories.

Jim Stovall, in this volume, brings us his unique journalistic and artistic vision of women whose writings and lives were always notable, sometimes notorious, and occasionally astonishing. Some of these women, such as Louisa May Alcott, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Eleanor Roosevelt, you will have heard of or read. Others will have receded—often unfairly—into the mists of history.

What you will find here about each of these women is something new—some part of their story that you had never known.

For instance:

Louisa May Alcott, famously the author of Little Women, was also A.M. Bernard, author of what was in her time known as the “blood and thunder” novel, the gothic sensationalism that many readers of her day craved. Such writing put food on her family’s table.

Aphra Behn, possibly the first female writer in English to make her living as a writer, was not only a popular playwright but also a spy for King Charles I.

Anne Brontë, the least well known of the Brontë sisters, wrote the most shocking and forward-looking feminist novel of them all—a novel that sister Charlotte hardily disapproved of.

Rachel Harding Davis, mother of the famous journalist and early 20th century heart-throb Richard Harding Davis, supported her family by writing some of the first American realism stories—decades before her male counterparts in the realism school took up their pens.

And we haven’t even gotten to page 25 yet.

There are many more such stories: the first female presidential candidate (far earlier than you might think); the first American detective novelist; the first voice from the White House that Americans heard after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The list goes on and on.

And then there are the caricatures. These drawings by the author himself add insight and entertainment to this unique and powerful collection.

In addition to those women mentioned above, discover the stories of Helen Gurley Brown, Maxine Cheshire, Mary Mapes Dodge, Mary Anne Evans (George Elliot), Wanda Gág, Martha Gellhorn, Susan Glaspell, Anna Katharine Green, Angelina Grimké and Sarah Grimké (and their collaborator Theodore Weld), Fannie Lou Hamer, Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy, Marguerite Higgins, Emma Lazarus, Caroline Norton, Helen Kirkpatrick, Anne Ratcliffe, Catherine Parr, Mary Seacole, Elizabeth Cochran Seaman (Nellie Bly), Ida Tarbell, Dorothy Thompson, Mercy Otis Warren, Victoria Woodhull, and Mary King Ward.

Read and be entertained and delighted.


Group giveaways for April (these do not begin until April 1)

Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

Killer Thrillers

Wicked Reads

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – Thriller and Suspense Giveaway (April 3 – May 8)

Murder and Mayhem Mailing List

April YA Sports Romance

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.


Jean T.: I have a friend who lives just outside Guildford in Surrey who keeps bees and is the person they call on to collect swarms that have found an inappropriate new home. Sometimes it’s from trees – especially hollow ones but the most interesting one was a Royal Mail wall mounted Letter Box. 

Having looked on Google it seems bees like pillar boxes and wall mounted boxes as new homes. 
Hope you are keeping well, post lockdown we’ve renewed our travels and even got Covid on a cruise round Australia. Life goes on. 

Check out last week’s newsletter

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mountain view

Best quote of the week:

Understanding a person does not mean condoning; it only means that one does not accuse him as if one were God or a judge placed above him. Erich Fromm, psychoanalyst and author (1900-1980)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, trypray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

Lenten devotionals

First United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee (full disclosure: my home church) is offering daily devotionals that will land in your in-box everyday during Lent. They are written by church members and take less than a couple of minutes to read. (And yes, I have written one of them.) Sign up to receive them here.

Helping those in need

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: More about Josephine Baker, bait boxes for bee swarms, and more about Women With Words: newsletter, March 24, 2023



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