Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nose Tweaking - The Ultimate Insult: Guest Post & Giveaway with Karen Allen, author of Beaufort 1849

Though difficult to imagine today, there was a time when grabbing someone’s nose and giving it a twist was an insult so egregious it was likely to end in one of the parties’ death. For centuries in both America and Europe, violation of a man’s honor demanded retribution by duel, and though by the middle of the 19th century duels were theoretically illegal in all states, they were prevalent among the elite class in the South up until the Civil War.

Evidently the nose was a particularly sensitive spot for insult, probably because in those more modest times it was the part of the man always public and exposed and tended to be associated with a man’s assertion, will and confidence. Present day psychologically-inclined historians even speculate that the nose was a stand-in for—how should we put this delicately?—another item of protuberant male anatomy synonymous with masculinity. So to insult the nose was to insult the man deeply to the core.

As we see in Beaufort 1849 nose tweaking is how Johnny finally goads Jasper into a duel:

“No,” Johnny said, shaking off his host and turning back Jasper. “You’ll fight me, Wainwright, or you’re a coward.” There was a collective intake of air at this, followed by several gasps as Johnny accentuated his defaming words by reaching out his hand to tweak his adversary’s nose. Johnny might have succeeded if Jasper hadn’t grabbed him hard by the wrist, or perhaps he did succeed for the briefest of instants, it was impossible for anyone besides the two involved to know for sure. But now the course was set. The insult was too grave to be ignored by even the most lenient of standards, and the standards for gentlemen in Beaufort, South Carolina were not lenient.

A personage no less than President Andrew Jackson possibly suffered the dishonor of a nose tweak—while he was president! (Where was the Secret Service?) Five years after Jackson had removed naval officer Lt Robert Randolph from military service, the disgraced man approached Jackson, made as if to shake his hand, and then reached out to the jutting appendage instead. (As we know from our twenty dollar bills, Jackson had a good-sized one.) In response, Jackson tried to beat Randolph with his cane but was prevented by the other men in the room. A friend immediately offered to go kill Randolph, but Jackson refused because one’s honor could only be defended by oneself. Afterwards Jackson denied that Randolph or anyone else had ever successfully tweaked his nose, thus his honor had not been compromised. Jackson was no stranger to duels--in the course of his life, he fought in thirteen and had been wounded so frequently (with the bullets often not removable) it was said that he “rattled like a bag of marbles.”

I wonder which customs we feel strongly about today will cause people 150 years from now to scratch their heads and say, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

a novel of antebellum South Carolina

After years abroad, Jasper Wainwright returns to Beaufort, South Carolina, home of his unruly youth. Slavery and Sea Island cotton have made this summer seat of plantation owners one of the wealthiest and most cultured cities in America . . . and also the most hotheaded, secessionist city in the South.

Jasper’s cousin, Henry Birch, wants him to marry his niece, Cara, a pianist and the prettiest girl in the county. Believing slavery doomed, Jasper has no desire to settle in the South again and so resists both Henry’s matchmaking and his growing fascination with Cara. Then anonymous letters in The Charleston Courier give Jasper an inkling that maybe the South could change.

Though his freed slave, Jim, who travels with him, is antsy to leave, Jasper lingers in Beaufort. Amid a whirl of parties, waltzes and duels, Cara is never far from his eyes or his thoughts. As cries for secession grow louder, Jasper works desperately to convince Beaufort planters that gradual emancipation and transition to a wage-based economy could avert the coming storm of war. Will Beaufort be another Pompeii, its civilization disappearing in a cataclysm it refuses to foresee.

Visit Karen Allen's website or blog Musings to find out more about this author and her work.

Buy Beaufort 1849 @ Amazon or B&N or The Book Depository. Will soon to be available in Australian bookstores.

Thanks to Karen for guest posting today and I'm thrilled to be able to offer 2 copies of Beaufort 1849 to readers of my blog.
1 hard copy US/Canada
1 eBook copy International

Leave a comment telling me the custom you think people will shake their heads over in 100 years time. Don't forget to include an email address :)

+1 for followers of my blog (mention in your comment)
+2 post about this give-away on twitter or your blog & leave a link.

Competition ends 9th June and the winner will be announced on my blog.


  1. Hahaha! :P
    Thanks for hosting!:D
    +1 Old follower
    +2 Blog post


  2. Facebook maybe? I am a follower. email my name in full LLM at y mail dot com
    I do not often try for give aways but this sounds so interesting.

  3. Thanks for the interesting guest post and the giveaway! I live in NC, close to the line with SC, and I'm always interested in regional historical fiction.

    Depending on what our culture has turned out to be, I think people might shake their heads at Twitter. "You stay glued to the computer so you won't miss a tweet about what someone you've never met in person did today?!"

    +1 GFC follower
    +2 tweet:!/SusieBookworm/status/73726963742810112

    susanna DOT pyatt AT student DOT rcsnc DOT org

  4. Thanks for inviting me to guest blog, Teddyree! Good comments about people shaking their heads over Facebook and Twitter in a hundred years. I bet all our current technology (computers, smart phones) will seem quaintly bemusing to our future counterparts.

  5. Reality TV Shows will be something they shake their heads over, I'm sure!

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

    +1 GFC follower

  6. You're welcome Karen, I'm looking forward to reading Beaufort 1849.

    Maybe handshakes will be a custom society drops in the future, shaking their heads over the germs that can be passed from such a 'quaint' custom lol

  7. Who knows, maybe shaking hands as they'll all be such germafobes by then. I've never understood the whole pinching nose thing, I think that's kind of gross LOL.

  8. Interesting thoughts about handshakes. I know that the head of my daughter's school used to greet kids in the morning with handshakes but now (germ worries) does little fist bumps with them instead. Maybe one of these days we'll go back to bows and curtsies!

  9. Oh,and reality TV shows--I can just imagine the twenty-second century docu-3D-hologram that examines this curious early twenty-first century phenomenon.

  10. There's a few noses I'd tweak for sure!!! LOL...great post and interesting book!!!

  11. The custom: Twitter
    +1 follower

    interested in this book becuase the fashions and things (minus slavery) of the antebellum South always interested me. Prob the whole Gone with the Wind thing. But I am curious about this point of view especially his friend Jasper. He needs to get outta there! Thanks for the contest.

  12. I think people will shake their heads over in 100 years over our dreams of technology. They'll probably think it was so 50 years ago.

    I'm a follower

  13. Hard to say what in what way customs will have changed. I would hope that maybe we'll go full circle and veer away from the very public sharing of thoughts via social media on the internet, and return to personal letters, etc.

  14. I think texting will become obsolete - it will be all mind-reading! LOL

    I would love to read this book - I'm adding it to my TBR list on Amazon.

    Maggie at tethered mommy dot com

  15. I'm following you publicly on Google Friend Connect as Tethered Mommy.

    Maggie at tethered mommy dot com

  16. I'm a follower!
    buckfamily @


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