Monday, October 17, 2011

Agendas, distortion, and shoddy research

As the author of two passionate novels about the love between two real people in history, I'll be the first to admit that I had an agenda when I wrote them; that being to tell a great story that was as factual as I could make it and at the same time entertaining and compelling for the reader. That's why I took 10 plus years to research before I started writing, and why I made a detailed timeline of Nancy Storace's life and laid it against a timeline of Mozart's to make certain the events that I described in my novels could have taken place in the time and place in which I described them. As an historian, this was extremely important to me, for I didn't want the integrity of my work questioned, nor did I want to distort the facts to make them fit my agenda.

All of this is to say that because I am such a stickler for historical accuracy and detail, I'm troubled and even angered by writers who aren't as meticulous with their research or who have agendas that don't line up with history, so they either distort the facts or omit them altogether. I was rather ruthless and unforgiving in my criticism of Geoffrey Brace in the afterword of When Love Won't Die, for his distorted facts and blatant omissions of key events in Nancy's life (in his biography of Nancy entitled Anna Susanna), which were key evidence to the beliefs of many noted Mozart historians in the love affair that most likely existed between Mozart and Storace.

Today I was reminded again, why historical accuracy is so essential by a friend who is reading another novelized account of Mozart's life which focuses on the events surrounding the courtship and subsequent marriage of Mozart and Constanze Weber. In this particular novel is a conversation that takes place between Mozart and Constanze (who is not yet his fiance), where she questions his devotion to her, because she had been told that there were rumors going around Vienna that he was in love with the new English singer in town and that they had been seen together at parties and other musical events. Mozart vehemently denies that he's in love with Nancy Storace and tells Constanze that the only love he feels is for her, and dismisses Constanze's fears by convincing her that what she's heard is only idle gossip. I have read this novel (a few years ago), and had forgotten about that passage. This scene was obviously inserted to push the agenda that Mozart was never in love with Storace in the first place, and that his affections had always belonged to Constanze. However, what was interesting about this situation is the fact that Nancy Storace didn't even arrive in Vienna until six months after Mozart and Constanze were married, so this conversation, while it could have taken place, wouldn't have taken place until sometime in 1783 or 1784 and not in 1781, and would have arisen out of a wife's jealousy and not over a girl's questioning her suitor's devotion.

See how easily things can be distorted to meet an agenda by simply changing the timeline?

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