Friday, November 21, 2008

An Interview With Lady Emily Ashton


Today we have Tasha Alexander, Author of 'And Only To Deceive' and 'A Poisoned Season' set in late Victorian England


Thank you for agreeing to this interview Lady Ashton

It's an absolute delight to be here!


Your mother, Lady Bromley, is obviously a very strong character in your life. Was it difficult to break away from her influence, even as a married woman? Or is this something you still struggle with?


It is, I think, impossible to ever break free of a lady who possesses the fierce determination of my mother. Equally unlikely is succeeding in persuading her that my view of the world is as valid as hers.


Do you, or did you have any siblings?


I had two older brothers, twins, who died from influenza when they were thirteen.

Where were you educated to have developed such a fascination for the classics?

I was educated by governesses and private tutors who'd been selected by my mother specifically because of their firm belief that girls need only the most slim sort of education. My father encouraged my love of reading, and slipped me all kinds of books of which my mother would not have approved, and instilled in me a love of learning that came quickly to the surface when I began reading Philip's journal. And who, after stumbling upon the myriad joys of Homer, could resist pursuing a classical education?

When you married Viscount Ashton, you made no secret of the fact it was not for love. Victorian girls apparently regarded it unladylike and unnecessary to be ‘in love’. Do you conform to this belief? Or did you hope love might grow between you?


Honestly, the idea of love never entered into the equation for me. All these years later, I'm mortified to admit that, but at the time, romance was far less significant to me than escape.


During your investigation of the pink diamond affair in 'A Poisoned Season, Society’s disapproval and a considerable amount of unsubstantiated rumour, made your life very difficult. Did you ever contemplate abandoning your hunt, or were you prepared to brazen it out for the sake of justice?

Abandoning my quest was at times more than a little tempting, but I could not let down those depending on me. Sometimes, in our lowest moments, we're able to summon strength we didn't know we had--and sometimes, giving up is as daunting a prospect as soldiering on.

If you don’t mind my presumption, Colin Hargreaves is an excellent catch. He is also exceptionally tolerant of your, er, indiscreet behaviour on occasion. Aren’t you worried you might alienate him forever? Or is it a challenge to see what he will put up with?

Thank you. You clearly are a lady of exquisite taste! I certainly wouldn't want to deliberately incite Colin's ire, and have no desire to test or challenge him. But I'm not willing to subjugate myself to any man---even one as enlightened, intelligent, and dashing as Colin.

You have mentioned some of your gowns are made for you by Mr Worth. Do you patronise any other dressmakers, or is he your favourite?

There are many other fine dressmakers, but I find the best is sufficient. No one compares to Mr. Worth!

Is attending balls, soirees and parties really as tedious as you would have us believe? Especially when you are so admired and sought after? Don’t you find society a little exciting?

I do adore dancing--nothing compares to a good waltz. So, yes, I must admit that society can be a little exciting. But then, a quiet waltz in the privacy of one's library can be equally stimulating....

Do you disapprove of all privately owned treasures Lady Ashton? Or is it your ambition to get them all into the British Museum?

My primary hope is that significant pieces be made available to scholars--hence my desire to catalog such objects. I understand the desire to have beautiful things in one's home---but when it comes to objects that are important to all of humankind (like the Rosetta Stone, for example) there's no question that they belong in a museum.

Your contemporaries often accuse you of being too generous to your staff. Are you going to be less lenient with your servants in future, since one recently caused you some considerable distress?

I would never let the way I deal with anything be unduly influenced by the actions of a single person. At the same time, it would be foolish to have learned nothing from my past experience. I will be careful with my generosity, but never hold it back simply because someone is my servant.


With more independence than many ladies in your social circle, do you find it difficult not to encourage some of your female friends to be less submissive in their outlook? Mrs Ivy Brandon for instance?

It's important to respect the comfort of one's friends. But at the same time, sometimes we need our friends to help us expand our horizons. I would never want to push anyone too far, but at the same time find it difficult to stand aside when I see someone suffering in ways she shouldn't need to.

Since your success in discovering who killed your late husband and the murderer of David Francis, do you find the police treat you with more respect?

Alas, I don't know that the police will ever be happy to have a lady offering her assistance to them. I'm hoping, however, that after my recent actions in Vienna, Mr. Hargreaves will be able to call on me in a more official professional capacity.

Do you envisage becoming involved in Women’s Suffrage. Lady Ashton, or is civil disobedience a step too far for someone in your position?

A little well-placed civil disobedience is never a bad idea......

And the question we are all longing to know the answer to – have you and Mr Hargreaves named a date and a venue for the wedding?

I should love more than anything to share this information, but to do so would utterly ruin the ending of 'A Fatal Waltz....'

Thank you so much for your indulgence Lady Ashton. I am sure everyone will look forward to your third adventure into crime fighting in, ’A Fatal Waltz’

A million thanks for letting me join you. It's been a delight!

We hope you enjoyed meeting Lady Ashton and discovering her world.
Ms Alexander has offered a copy of.'A Poisoned Season' as a prize so, do leave a comment on this blog. The winner will be notified by e-mail and asked to submit a mailing address so we can send the book to you.

Anita Davison