Monday, March 2, 2015

Fashions for March 1836

Monday, March 2, 2015
Velvet walking dress
Loretta reports:

According to some fashion magazines, the ginormous sleeves of the 1830s start slimming down late in 1835.  And yet not everybody got the message or liked it, because we continue to see big sleeves into 1836, as illustrated here.  This dress caught my eye because it seems a fairly sane choice for changeable March weather in London or in Paris and because it must have looked and felt so luxurious.

What puzzles me in this picture is the clock.  It looks vaguely familiar.  Does anybody know what it is?

Dress description

Fashions & description from The Lady’s Magazine & Museum, March 1836

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 23, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Fresh for your morning reading - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web-sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you via Twitter.
Mary Robinson, 18th c. writer and actress, and the solace of sorrow.
• A tribute to the ferocious ladies of the 19th c. Illustrated Police News.
Fascinating story about Charlotte Bronte, Currer Bell, and a bird book.
Image: Cut steel fan, c. 1810, depicting Diana's Temple, with original leather and cardboard box.
• See the work that goes in to conserving a 1920s beaded flapper dress.
• Some of the world's most interesting independent bookstores.
• Quiz: which Impressionist artist are you?
• An 18th c. toy kitchen and its modern counterpart.
• Regency advice: how to prevent cold feet in bed.
Monopoly's inventor: a Progressive woman who didn't pass 'Go.'
• Juvenile genius: the school boys and girls who wrote for the 18th c. Lady's Magazine.
• Arthur Wellesley repackaged: the birth of "Wellington."
Video: A heritage walk with author William Dalrymple in Mehrauli, Delhi's hidden gem.
• An expression of Victorian prudery, an aid to thieves, or just an awkward fashion statement? The crinoline and its caricaturists.
Image: Light brown pelisse worn by Lady Byron (Arabella Millbanke) on her wedding day in 1815.
• The problem with historical fiction: fiction needs heroes. History doesn't.
• Seriously - how did the most beautiful library in America get demolished?
• From opera tiers and tiaras to tatters on the bread line: slice of life reporting from New York, 1904.
• In 1771, Henry Barnes took his slave Prince Demah to London for art lessons.
• Even great writers get panned: one-star reviews for ten classic books.
Image: Ticket for the dress ball at Versailles on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin, February 24, 1745.
• Rare photos from the Selma March take you into the thick of history.
• Cornelius Vanderbilt's private stables in 19th c. NYC resembled a Moorish temple.
Downton Abbey's wedding dress will brighten your day.
• A hoard of fan letters reveals that Agatha Christie's books inspired devotion from the darkest places.
Image: After Waterloo, the Gordon Highlanders marched through Paris, precipitating a fashion for tartan.
• Where New Yorkers met for coffee in the 1790s.
• Confessions of a comma queen: learning to love life in the house of style.
• The first shoemakers arrived in America in 1610 - but just don't call them cobblers.
• Sally Smith, the 18th c. "ghost" of Brumby Wood Hall.
• Unraveling the evidence on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England.
• Great question: how was the Revolutionary War paid for?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Video: Blenheim Palace on a Frosty Morning

Friday, February 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

I love how new technology can be combined with centuries-old history to create dazzling results. Cameras mounted on high-flying drones are offering view of historical landmarks that were previously unimaginable (like our recent Friday video of the Palais Garnier in Paris.)

Today's short clip captures one of Britain's most famous county houses, Blenheim Palace, on a frosty January morning. Located in Oxfordshire, Blenheim is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was built in the early 18th c. in gratitude by the country for the military accomplishments of the first duke, John Churchill. Those of you who have read my historical novel, Duchess, written as Susan Holloway Scott, will recall the trials of the poor architects attempting to please the demanding first duchess Sarah Churchill, as well as the political infighting that the house's costly twenty-year-long construction caused.

But that, like the Battle of Blenheim that gave its name to the house, is all long in the past.  What we have today is a magnificent palace of a house, and from the lawns and gardens glistening with frost to the impressive silhouettes of the roof, this is truly an impressive bird's eye view.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Convict Ship Statistics 1826

Thursday, February 26, 2015
The Discovery as a prison ship
Loretta reports:

Some months ago, I offered crime statistics for 1830s London.

One surprising statistic was the low number of executions.  If you look at the original sentences, you see that hundreds of people were sentenced to death, for small crimes like stealing a loaf of bread or a handkerchief.  However, very few of those convicted were hanged.  A number would be pardoned, but in the majority of cases, the sentences were reduced, sometimes to a prison term, and sometimes to transportation to Australia. 

But first the convicts would spend time on a prison hulk. If you’ve read Dickens’s Great Expectations, you’ve encountered the hulks and their denizens.  Here’s a set of statistics from the February 1826 Annual Register.

Image: The Discovery as a Prison Ship at Deptford.  Launched as a 10 gun sloop at Rotherhithe in 1789, it served as a convict hulk 1808-12 and 1820-34.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Georgian India: Finding Inspiration in the Paintings of Johann Zoffany

Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This week marks the release of my latest historical romance, A Sinful Deception, and as promised, I'm going to be writing several posts featuring the background for the book.

Paintings are a major influence on my writing. The German painter Johann Zoffany (1733-1810) is best known today for his portraits of the British royal family, but he also traveled to India and created a number of fascinating paintings that document Georgian life in that farthest corner of the Empire. This was not the later India of Kipling, and interaction between the English and Indians was much less rigid.

The two girls with a cat, above left, are a detail of a larger family group, and I thought of it often while writing about my heroine and her half-sister, both born in India. The girl on the left is shown not only in fashionable clothing that follows London styles, but her pose, with one leg crossed, is a favorite in elegant English portraiture. In sharp contrast is the girl on the right, most likely a servant, whose posture is more straightforward, and her clothes likely much more comfortable, too.

The unfinished group portrait, lower left, shows English Major William Palmer of the Bengal Artillery with his jewel-covered wife, Bibi Faiz Bakhsh Begum, their children, and other members of their family. His pride and devotion are clear, standing protectively over the little group, and another inspiration for my heroine's father and his extended household.

Above left: Detail, Colonel Blair and his Family with an Indian Ayah, by Johann Zoffany, 1786, The Tate.
Bottom left: Detail, The Palmer Family, by Johann Zoffany, 1785, The British Library. For much more about The Palmer Family painting, please see the British Library's blog post here.
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