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There are events that occur in two of the Jane Harvey novels that I have read recently that bring home the benefits of the virtually instantaneous communication that we have in the 21st century with mobile phones and internet.

The events in question first struck me as curious because they are both, in effect, potentially catastrophic life or death occasions. However, both take place and are dealt with in a couple of pages of the novel and have absolutely no bearing on the continuing narrative. Basically they are dropped in for a short sharp dramatic interlude.

In The Castle of Tynemouth (1806) a group of the major characters go on a sea fishing trip in a small boat off the coast at Tynemouth. Whilst at sea a storm blows up, and but for the courage of the sailors they have with them they would have drowned. They are eventually washed ashore at Scarborough. It takes them several days to recover and make their way back to Tynemouth.

In Brougham Castle (1816) Cadmus Crossthwaite ventures out one evening to accompany a companion to a nearby town. Whilst he is out a blizzard blow up. Crossthwaite is found next morning lying in a snow drift, and is carried back almost dead to a nearby cottage. Again it is several days before he is able to return home.

However, thinking it through, the most obvious issue is that, in both cases, although it is little remarked upon, the family at home have absolutely no knowledge regarding the well being of the missing people. In both cases parents or wives are aware that the relevant weather events have occurred and that their loved ones have not returned. Such events today you could imagine appearing on TV news – “man missing in show”, “children lost at sea”; however, in the early nineteenth century there appears little one could do about it, and such misfortunes are all a part of life.

 In both cases, after a few days, the families are reunited, and life continues much as ever. We have the advantage that a quick phone call would allay any worries at home, but certainly it seems that these benefits have made us much less stoical, much more ready to panic in the face of every adversity.

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