Tuesday, November 13, 2018

From the Archives: Harriette Wilson on Virtue

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
Loretta reports:

The Regency era courtesan Harriette Wilson belonged to the sorority called Girls Just Want To Have Fun.  Here’s her take on virtue:

There certainly was much aggravation of sin, in my projected criminal intercourse with the Marquis of Worcester.  Many women, very hard pressed par la belle nature, intrigue because they see no prospect nor hopes of getting husbands; but I, who might, as everybody told me, and were incessantly reminding me, have, at this period, smuggled myself into the Beaufort family, by merely declaring to Lord Worcester, with my finger pointed towards the North—that way leads to Harriette Wilson’s bedchamber; yet so perverse was my conscience, so hardened by what Fred Bentinck calls, my perseverance in loose morality, that I scorned the idea of taking such an advantage of the passion I had inspired, in what I believed to be a generous breast, as might, hereafter, cause unhappiness to himself, while it would embitter the peace of his parents.

Seriously I have but a very confused idea of what virtue really is, or what it would be at.  For my part, all the virtue I ever practised, or desire to learn, was such as my heart and conscience dictated.

Now the English Protestant ladies’ virtue is chastity!  There are but two classes of women among them.  She is a bad woman the moment she has committed fornication; be she generous, charitable, just , clever, domestic, affectionate, and ever ready to sacrifice her own good to serve and benefit those she loves, still her rank in society is with the lowest hired prostitute.  Each is indiscriminately avoided, and each is denominated the same—bad woman, while all are virtuous who are chaste.

…The soldier’s virtue lies in murdering as many fellow creatures as possible, at the command of any man, virtuous or vicious, who may happen to be his chief, no matter why or wherefore.

The French ladies’ virtue is, generally speaking, all comprised and summed up in one single word and article—bienséance!*

Excerpt from The Memoirs Of Harriette Wilson, which were first published in 1825.
You can read the first two volumes from the 1909 edition online here.    And for further insight into this fascinating woman, you might want to look into The Courtesan’s Revenge: The Life of Harriette Wilson, the Woman Who Blackmailed the King.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Video: Getting Dressed in 1816

Friday, November 9, 2018

Susan reporting,

Another wonderful video from our friends at CrowsEyeProductions - and this one also tells the story of how author Mary Shelley came to write her legendary novel Frankenstein. Many people believe that women's clothing of the early 19thc was breezy and uncomplicated. In comparison to the more structured clothing of the 18thc, perhaps it was; but as this video showed, there were still a good many layers involved, and a lady's maid continued to be useful.

Many thanks to Pauline Loven for sharing the latest in the "Getting Dressed" series with us.

If you receive this post via email, you may be seeing a black box or empty space where the video should be. Please click here to see the video.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Armistice Day One Hundred Years Later

Thursday, November 8, 2018
Welcome Home Our Gallant Boys
Loretta reports:

Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice ending World War I—known as the Great War and the War to End War, until only a couple of decades later, when another great war broke out.

World War I was a horrendous war, even by war’s horrendous standards, as Wilfred Owen’s poetry makes more than clear. His war isn’t heroic or romantic. It’s ghastly and heartbreaking. For a time, his work fell out of favor for this reason. But only for a time.
An English professor introduced me to "Anthem for Doomed Youth" fifty or so years after it was written, at a time when it struck a chord with those protesting the Vietnam War. Owen’s and others’ poetry led me, some years later, to Robert Graves’s Good-Bye to All That, which offered insights into both the war and that generation of Englishmen. Unlike Owen, Graves survived.

For me, these works and others began an education that continues. Visits to English and Scottish churches, stately homes, and memorials have given me a powerful sense of the toll this particular war took on the other side of the Atlantic.
Anthem for Doomed Youth 1917

We keep hoping, but so far, no war has ended war. All we seem to be able to do is mourn and remember. The Tower of London remembers, beautifully and movingly, again this year, as you will discover if you search “Beyond the Deepening Shadow,” for images from the centenary commemoration.

Wilfred Owen

Images: Welcome Home Our Gallant Boys, 1918 poster, courtesy courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA; "Anthem for Doomed Youth" and photograph of Wilfred Owen from Poems by Wilfred Owen, 1920.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on a caption link will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed. And, just so you know, if you order a book through one of my posts, I might get a small share of the sale.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Election Day

Tuesday, November 6, 2018
No blog post today, except this one-word message for our American readers.

You know what to do, right?

Vote, published by the Milwaukee County League of Women Voters, early 20thc, Collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Fashions for November 1913

Monday, November 5, 2018
Dresses November 1913
Loretta reports:

Let's read over the shoulder of a lady in 1913 who's just picked up the latest copy of Ladies Home Journal.
  What I See on Fifth Avenue by Alice Long: With Drawings by Jessie Gillespie.
“From the top of one of those lumbering, top-heavy busses that wheeze ponderously along Fifth Avenue is really the best place to get a good view, not alone of the shops that line the avenue, but also of the kaleidoscopic mass of color formed by the hurrying streams of woman shoppers. And if you are looking for what is new in fashion you are just as apt to see it on some of these same shoppers, many of whom have names that are household words because of their prominence socially or because of the financial rating of their men folks, as in even the most exclusive shops...

“I SPENT several days going through the more important Fifth Avenue shops and dressmaking places, and of one thing I am convinced: The fashionable silhouette demands fullness at the hips and a narrowing in at the foot; and be it peplum or tunic—call it what you please—some sort of flounce arrangement must be shown on the skirt of a fussy dress anywhere between the waistline and the feet. A strikingly pretty model of this sort of composite type formed the dress of one of the season’s débutantes, and was intended for a luncheon to be given in her honor. It was of a dull watermelon pink shade of silk crepe, with a. blouse of pale lilac chiffon over flesh-colored malines.* The Medici frill is wired with fine silk wire, so fine as to be invisible, and the plaited tunic, which is of the lilac chiffon, is also wired on the edge, so that it stands out the tiniest little bit.
Ladies’ Home Journal, Volume 30, November 1913 
 The whole article is an interesting read: the color red's popularity, the puzzle of wearing summer weight fashion in November and heavy fabrics in summer, etc.

*Malines in this context appears to refer to "Malines Lace—Bobbin lace with sprigs or dots outlined with a heavier cordonnet over a hexagonal or round mesh ground.  It is made in one piece of white flax thread."—Dictionary of Textiles, Harmuth 1915. Aka Mechlin Lace. You can read a history of lace here.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on a caption link will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
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