Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Traveling in America in 1829

Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Loretta reports:
~~~
TRAVELLING IN AMERICA.
The above represents an American stage coach, and a view of the Waterloo inn, the first inn from Baltimore to Washington. Of the "comforts" of an American inn, Mr. De Roos gives the following picture in his travels.

We lodged at the City Hotel, which is the principal inn at New York. The house is immense, and was full of company: but what a wretched place! the floors were without carpets—the beds without curtains; there was neither glass, mug, nor cup, and a miserable little rag was dignified with the name of towel. The entrance to the house is constantly obstructed by crowds of people passing to and from the barroom, where a person presides at a buffet, formed upon the plan of a cage. This individual is engaged, " from morn to dewy eve," in preparing and issuing forth punch and spirits to strange-looking men, who come to the house to read the newspapers and talk politics. In this place, may be seen in turn, most of the respectable inhabitants of the town. There is a public breakfast at half past seven o'clock, and a dinner at two o'clock; but to get any thing in one's own room is impossible.

Of the state of society in New York, Mr. De Roos gives a tolerably perfect idea in the following:—
. . . We dined with an English merchant at his country-house, about four miles from the town. The environs are thickly interspersed with villas, the generality of which are constructed upon a very paltry scale. Both houses and gardens are arranged without taste or neatness; indeed, horticulture seems to be a science utterly unknown in America.
—George & Robert Cruikshank, The gentleman's pocket magazine, Volume 3, 1829

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One Beautiful Blue Banyan, c.1740 (even Lord Honeybadger approves!)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Susan reporting:

No 18th c. gentleman worth his fashionable salt would be without a silk banyan or wrapping gown for at-home wear.  Nor, it seems, do we ever weary of writing about them. (Here and here are our most recent posts, including insight from Mark Hutter, the ever-knowledgeable tailor of Colonial Williamsburg.)

The stunning example, left, recently turned up on the site of an English auction house. While the description calls it a banyan, from its loose fit and t-shape, it's more properly a wrapping gown – but whatever it's called, it's a truly beautiful garment. The blue silk damask (lined in blue silk taffeta) is Chinese, with a large-scale pattern of censors on stands, acanthus scrolls, and exotic fruits, all reflecting the 18th c English delight in chinoiserie.The unknown tailor took special care with the costly fabric, matching the over-sized pattern with stylish sensitivity.

Certainly this was owned by a wealthy gentleman of fashion and taste, and perhaps even worn in a grand house decorated in the Chinese-inspired taste, like this. As an exquisite piece of antique clothing, the banyan is estimated to bring between £8,000-£10,000 at auction today, and we wouldn't be surprised if the final price is even higher.  Click here for more views. (Thanks to Julie Wakefield of Austenonly for sharing this.)

In one of those strange internet coincidences, I stumbled across the picture, right, on the same afternoon as I first saw the blue banyan. Yes, it's the rakish Lord Honeybadger himself, elegantly at ease in his own silk damask banyan - a banyan that bears a striking (and perhaps suspicious) similarity to the one above, even down to the deep turn-back cuffs and taffeta lining. Clearly, when it comes to fashion, His Lordship isn't afraid to take what he wants....

Above: Fine gentleman's banyan, c 1730-40, Kerry Taylor Auctions.
Right: Lord Honeybadger (with apologies to Nicholas Boylston by John Singleton Copley) by JMK


Update: The banyan did in fact sell for more than the original estimate of £8,000-10,000 – MUCH more. The final hammer price was £24,000 (approximately $37,300), making it one of the stars of the auction. No word on who bought it, but I can only hope it was a museum like the V&A, and that it doesn't disappear into a private collection.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Hampton Court Palace—the Astronomical Clock & other things

Monday, November 28, 2011
Loretta reports:

I chose this excerpt from a Hampton Court Palace guidebook not simply because it gives us an idea of what Hampton Court Palace was like early in Queen Victoria’s reign, but because the writer has attitude.  You’ll note his mentioning a historical error.  We often blame the Victorians for creating their own historical myths to suit their tastes, but this gentleman did try to set the record straight about the clock—as well as add a few digs about Henry VIII and William Kent.
~~~

SECOND COURT* OF WOLSEY'S PALACE . . . the northern side is entirely occupied by the length of the hall—the west by a gateway, corresponding to that of the first court, having on its turrets the busts of Vitellius and Tiberius. Above this gateway is the face of an astronomical clock. It is stated to have been put up in 1540, and has often been said to have been the first public clock erected in England; but this is inaccurate, for the expenses of the Dutchman who superintended the works of the Clock Tower opposite Westminster Hall, in the time of Henry IV., are still preserved in the Exchequer. There was a " keper of the clocke at Hampton Courte—one Vincent, the clokmaker;" and in the Privy Purse Expenses of Henry VIll., 20s. are charged as "paid to the clokmaker at Westminster, for mending the clocke at Hampton Court." Between the busts of the Roman emperors  are two cherubs, of terra-cotta, made to support the arms of Henry VIII.,
Illustration from the guidebook
which ostensibly have supplanted something-better: indeed, throughout the whole of these portions of the palace, you cannot fail to be struck with the evident pains which the royal Harry, having once got possession, must have taken to set his mark wherever he could find a place for it. He that runs may read the "Dieu et mon Droit" everywhere. The eastern side of this quadrangle is marked with the date of 1732, that of its restoration, which was executed under the directions of Kent, the architect—one who had no respect for any but classical architecture. Here, thinking to improve on the original style, he has introduced some notions of his own, much less pertinent than they should be. Instead of the broad-shouldered, essentially Tudor arch, an "ogee" of an earlier period has been fantastically adapted; its want of harmony must strike every eye.
—Felix Summerly [pseud. for Sir Henry Cole] A hand-book for the architecture, tapistries, paintings, gardens and grounds of Hampton Court, 1849.

*Today called the Clock Court

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of November 21, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011
We’re back from our holidays, feeling refreshed and ready to serve up our weekly offering of favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, collected for you from the Twitterverse. Dig in!
Victorian Christmas on display at Windsor Castle: http://bit.ly/tPhYAm
An 1856 NYC housing experiment that failed as a mansion, but suceeded as early women's college: http://bit.ly/rqsJUH
The odd & tragic death of Margaret Fuller, literary lioness: http://bit.ly/uDdCN3
Magnificent Victorian Jeweled Girandole Earrings c1850: http://bit.ly/rVTMpH
Leonardo Da Vinci's To-Do List http://n.pr/vB4eka
Colonel Brandon's Curries, Part Two http://wp.me/pGJsu-1U0 /
Zooming in on a wonderful yellow striped sacque gown c 1770s: http://bit.ly/upUvQY
Fascinating resource for fashion and textile objects: Scottish Textiles Heritage Online: http://bit.ly/tV3djB
Take this quiz and find out which Greek hero, monster of god matches your personality. http://ow.ly/7BOLy
Knit Eleanor Roosevelt's mittens - pattern plus vintage photo of First Lady knitting at the beach: http://bit.ly/74sUHt
Luminous orange panne velvet 1930s evening coat from FIDM blog archive. http://fb.me/1sT4LM8uU
Louisa May Alcott & the American Civil War: http://bit.ly/6Bx7My
"Childhood in the Roman Empire" http://bit.ly/twCBlf
How can wet slippers be fatal? Why heroines die in classic fiction http://bit.ly/vvum1v
'Lancets and Leeches and Cupping! Oh, My! Bloodletting Practices' - http://wp.me/p14Gvd-ts
Black Friday and the missing retail amenity http://ow.ly/1fNMx5
The original dunce was actually brilliant (we especially love his rationale for the pointed hat). http://ow.ly/7nZBj
Beautiful images: Statuary slideshow to stir the soul - http://bit.ly/aVYzK
• Visting the British Museum in 1760: 
At National Trust's Avebury Manor: a different approach to historical interpretation: http://bit.ly/t4mXAu
Colour footage of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, 1939 - http://bit.ly/tWEr5U
A spurious telling of #Thanksgiving legends c 1900:http://bit.ly/swFow0
• We have never seen this Mirror Photography trick before, and great to see an explanation: http://flic.kr/s/aHsiXqsTbU

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Break

Monday, November 21, 2011
Loretta & Susan report:

On Thursday the 24th we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving in the U.S. by eating a lot.

It took a while for the country to settle on a Thursday in November, but that's another story—which you'll probably find it in a blog here sometime.

We have a great deal to be grateful for, like being able to write books and get them published.  And then we have this blog, where we find bits of history and put them out there for your edification and amazement.  A great many more are edified and amazed than we'd ever hoped for.

So yes, we'll be giving thanks for our readers, definitely.

This week, though, we're taking time off from blogging, so that we can prepare for the big Thanksgiving dinner and spend time with our families.  But we'll be back next week, with more great nerdy history stuff.

Illustration: The Chap Book--Thanksgiving no., courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Served up fresh: our weekly offering of Breakfast Links!  Our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, collected from around the Twitterverse.
Dolly Wilde, Oscar's fascinating neice, a salon celebrity in early 20th c Paris: http://bit.ly/sZEX4T
Historic Dress (or hat) of the Day: Silver bonnet, 1830-1860: http://bit.ly/uX1RGT
George Romney (1734 – 1802) - an artist obsessed with Emma Hamilton http://bit.ly/s8sc3H
Leeds Castle to be rented out as £1m 'Olympic playground' http://tgr.ph/uFmIvL; or, if you require a more royal lodging, fancy renting out St James's Palace? http://bit.ly/tBUEMx
Creepy but fascinating:The Danse Macabre Collection http://bit.ly/txxrBB
Surgeon George James Guthrie, Wellington’s combat surgeon: http://bit.ly/sLq442
Guns and Horses: King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery http://wp.me/p13rlt-1bA
Video tour of 18th-19th c clothes in Rev. Fashions exhibition at Fairfax House, York: http://bit.ly/sipAxL 
• How did gentlemen shave in the 19th c? http://bit.ly/vdFTSF
The French art of drinking without getting drunk c 1870:http://bit.ly/t3jVbX
'Elements of Drawing',John Ruskin's teaching collection on-line:http://bit.ly/sct2rf 
The pagoda is an extraordinarily enduring symbol of the whimsicality of chinoiserie: http://bit.ly/uNbhQW
• Executed this week in 1774, Jack Sheppard, celebrity escape artist:http://bit.ly/vVN2OO; The wonderfully illustrated version of Jack Sheppard's escapades: http://bit.ly/vyvNsF
A handful of memento mori skull/skeleton rings: http://bit.ly/tBFhte
• Following his death at the battle of Jutland in 1916, 16-yr old John Travers Cornwell became a national hero: http://bit.ly/dh476U
 "The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis" at The Cloisters.:http://met.org/tggu0q
The forgotten Pre-Raphaelite: Alas Poor Walter...Deverell: http://bit.ly/sV8UBv
Interesting article: What were advertisements like before the 1840s? How did they target women? http://bit.ly/tRb1tR
A few thoughts on how pirates really drank their rum: bumboo & flip but not much grog http://bit.ly/vd3uSL 
Mary Lincoln goes shopping on Broadway - extravagant 1857 NYC emporium: http://bit.ly/vk6UnX 
• Twihards, Potterheads, Whovians, and Tolkienites - how do you decide on a fandom name?http://oxford.ly/tR3rpe
The romantic curvature of these 18th c shoes encourages the voyeuristic eye http://met.org/rJ9SEK

Friday, November 18, 2011

"One Very Fine Lady", 1908 (Friday Video)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Susan reporting:

"Head-turning" is generally a complement, but in this very short French film, the lady in the title literally causes heads to turn with amusing - if disastrous - results. The work of director Louis Feauillade (1873-1925), this film and others like it are considered predecessors to the Keystone Kops-style of slapstick that would soon be produced in Hollywood. It's also something of a fashion piece: the lady's extravagant hat and equally extravagant corseting are the height of Edwardian style. No wonder she leaves such mayhem in her wake!
Many thanks to Heather A. Vaughan and her excellent blog Fashion Historia for sharing this video.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English

Thursday, November 17, 2011
Loretta reports:

The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English was originally published in 1883, and delightfully reviewed by Mark Twain.  I discovered it only very recently, thanks to John McWhorter’s Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue: The Untold Story of English.
~~~
FAMILIAR PHRASES
Go to send for.
Have you say that?
Have you understand that he says?
At what purpose have say so?
Put your confidence at my.
At what o'clock dine him?
Apply you at the study during that you are young.
Dress your hairs.
Sing an area.
These apricots and these peaches make me and to come water in mouth.
How do you can it to deny?
Wax my shoes.
That is that I have think.
That are the dishes whose you must be and to abstain.
This meat ist not too over do.
This ink is white.
This room is filled of bugs.
This girl have a beauty edge.
It is a noise which to cleave the head.
This wood is fill of thief's.
Tell me, it can one to know?
Give me some good milk newly get out.
To morrow hi shall be entirely (her master) or unoccupied.
She do not that to talk and to cackle.
Dry this wine.
He laughs at my nose, he jest by me.
He has spit in my coat.
He has me take out my hairs.
He does me some kicks.
He has scratch the face with hers nails.
He burns one's self the brains.
He is valuable his weight's gold.
He has the word for to laugh.
He do the devil at four.
He make to weep the room.
He was fighted in duel.
They fight one's selfs together.
He do want to fall.
It must never to laugh of the unhappies.
He was wanting to be killed.
I am confused all yours civilities.
I am catched cold.
I not make what to coughand spit.
Never I have feeld a such heat.
Till say-us?
Till hither.
I have put my stockings outward.
I have croped the candle.
I have mind to vomit.
I will not to sleep on street.
I am catched cold in the brain.
I am pinking me with a pin.
I dead myself in envy to see her.
I take a broth all morning.
I shall not tell you than two woods.
Have you understanded?
~~~
If you have understanded thus far, you might want more.  Happily, a reprint, titled English As She Is Spoke is online at Google Books as well as Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Men Behaving Badly: Bucks & Bloods, 'flown with insolence and wine'

Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Susan reporting:

As Loretta and I have often observed (here and here are only a couple of examples), the life of an English gentleman in the past could be pretty sweet. To be young, rich, and titled was licence to run wild each night through London with few, if any, consequences, and contemporary sources are filled with justified outrage at what these bucks and bloods got away with.

Clearly the excesses of the night have taken their toll on the young rakehell, left. His stockings are ungartered, his wig's on backwards, and he requires the assistance of his friend and a chairman to cover the short distance between his sedan chair and his door. The servant who has waited up for his return takes his hat and sword from his friend, and her lack of surprise proves this is not an exceptional occurrence. This print's title says it all: Two Bloods of Humour, returning from the Bagnio, after having kept it up.

It's obvious how the anonymous writer of the satirical except, below, feels about this kind of behavior:

"The noblest exploit of a man of the town, the highest proof and utmost effort of his genius and pleasantry is The Frolick. This piece of humour consistes in playing the most wild and extravagant pranks that wantonness and debauchery can suggest; and it is the distinguishing characteristick of the Buck and Blood. These facetious gentlemen, and whenever Champagne has put them in spirits, sally out 'flown with insolence and wine' in quest of adventures. At such a time, the more harm they do the more they show their wit; and their frolicks like the mirth of a monkey, are made up of mischief...The present race of Bucks commonly begin their frolick in a tavern and end it in the round-house, and during the course of it, practice several might pretty pleasantries. There is a great deal of humour in what is called beating the rounds, that is, in plain English, taking a tour of the principal bawdy-houses; breaking of lamps and skirmishes with watchmen are very good jests; and the insulting of dull sober fools that are quietly trudging about their business, or a rape on a modest woman are particularly facetious. Whatever is in violation of all decency and order is an exquisite piece of wit; and in short a frolick and playing the devil bear the same explanation in a modern glossary."
     -- "Frolicks of BUCKS and BLOODS", from The Connoisseur, Feb. 6, The London Magazine, 1755

Above: Two Bloods of Humour, returning from the Bagnio, after having Kept it up, published by Carington Bowles, London, 1772, copyright The Trustees of the British Museum.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fashions for November 1817

Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Loretta reports:
~~~
THE MIRROR OF FASHION
FOR NOVEMBER, 1817.
 
THE MORNING DRESS.
A Jaconaut muslin round dress, made to button behind; the body is high with a small collar, which is open in front, so as to display the throat a little. The back is full; the lower part of the front is ornamented with byas tucks, and the upper part plain. The skirt is of a moderate fullness, and rather longer than they have been lately worn; it is finished round the bottom with six or eight very small tucks, put as close as possible together, and surmounted by a full deep flounce of the same material as the dress; this flounce has a deep heading, through which is drawn a bright rose coloured riband.

Over this dress is worn a spenser, composed of rose coloured velvet, elegantly ornamented with white satin, intermixed with narrow rose coloured silk trimming. The spenser is made tight to the shape, and finished at the throat with white satin formed into puffings by this trimming. Plain long sleeves, of a moderate width. Half sleeve and cuff to correspond with the trimming of the throat. Leghorn bonnet of a French shape, and trimmed in the Parisian style with large rows of riband to correspond with the spenser. It ties with a very full bow under the chin. A rich lace frill stands up round the throat. Swansdown muff, straw coloured kid sandals and gloves.

THE EVENING DRESS.
A Fawn coloured crape frock over a white satin slip; the body, which is cut very low all round the bust, is loose; it is extremely short, and confined to the waist by a narrow cestus of white satin, fastened in front by a brilliant clasp. The body is ornamented round the bust by a single fall of Mecklin lace, disposed in large plaits. Very short full sleeve, finished at the bottom by a rouleau of white satin, and narrow lace plaited to correspond. The trimming of the skirt is a double row of white satin, Spanish puffs made very full, and set in byas.

The hind hair is brought up high, and disposed in front of the forehead in a large tuft. The front hair is slightly parted, and curled very full upon the forehead. A garland of Provence roses is placed rather far back to the left side. Ear-rings and necklace of pearl. Spangled crape fan. White kid gloves, and white satin slippers.
The Lady's Monthly Museum, Volume 6, 1817

Sunday, November 13, 2011

"The Toilet of Flora": Making Make-up the 18th c. Way

Sunday, November 13, 2011
Susan reporting:

Most women today have a particular beauty product that they can't live without: a certain shade of lipstick, a perfect moisturizer, or mascara that's better than false lashes. Women in the 18th c. were no different. In those days before Revlon and Sephora, however, beauty products were more do-it-yourself. While cookbooks often had a special section for concocting various perfumes and potions, by the middle of the 18th c. there were also books devoted entirely to beauty products.

One of the most popular was The Toilet of Flora. This little book first appeared around 1772, and was reprinted in numerous editions and with various authors well into the 19th c. Included in the collection are recipes for pomatums, powders, perfumes, sweet-scented waters, essences, and "opiates for preserving and whitening the Teeth."

The author (or at least the earliest name on the title page) was a well-known French doctor named Pierre-Joseph Buc'hoz (1731-1807); the English publisher well understood that an MD and a French name would add both authority and allure to the marketing effort. Certainly the introduction makes the pursuit of beauty into almost a moral obligation for female readers: "The chief Intention of this [book] is to point out, and explain to the Fair-Sex, the Methods by which they may preserve and add to their Charms....The same Share of Grace and Attractions is not possessed by all, but while the Improvement of their Persons is the indispensable Duty of those who have been little favoured by Nature, it should not be neglected even by the few who have received the largest Proportion of her Gifts."

For anyone who wishes to make an "Improvement of their Persons" with smoother skin, here's a Paste for the Hands that sounds more like dessert than hand cream:

179. BEAT some peeled Apples, having first taken out the Cores, in a marble mortar, with Rose-water, and White Wine, of each equal parts; add thereto some Crumb of Bread, blanched Almonds, and a little White Soap, simmer the whole over a slow fire till it acquires a proper consistence.

This is the same Paste for the Hands that several ladies were recently concocting in a kitchen in Colonial Williamsburgabove; it's simmering there in the small iron pot before the fire. I don't know if open-hearth preparation is essential for success – but if you'd like to whip up some for yourself, a facsimile version of The Toilet of Flora is available as a thoroughly modern free Google book here.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of November 7, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Served up fresh for you, our weekly offering of Breakfast Links: our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, all collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
Sotheby's London to offer an unpublished autograph manuscript by Charlotte Bront├ź: http://bit.ly/scCQ6G
Landscapes still scarred by WWI battles.http://bit.ly/tSfrkp
“The sting of a hornet”; Edwardian hat-pin self defencehttp://j.mp/sDLlPx
The London Gazette was first published in 1665 & survives to this day: http://bit.ly/v7hHy7
Mae West on skinny women, c.1934http://bit.ly/tOiDFj
Did you know there was a NY Crystal Palace c 1853 in answer to the one in Hyde Park? http://bit.ly/utjEUg
The working life of Museum of London - Dressing Daughter For Dinner, c 1934 http://bit.ly/volW2A
Martello tower, Pevensey Bay, Sussex, built c 1804-1812 to defend against French invasion: http://bit.ly/rOFdax
Wellies, cardies, macks, tarmac, bowlers ... the real-life people behind some everyday objects http://bit.ly/uKQb2B
An elegant embroidered pelisse, c 1820: http://bit.ly/uAWXLJ 
• The Lord Mayor's Show, 9th November 1779http://bit.ly/sdCJxQ• Rare photo of Brighton Pavilion used as a hospital in WW1:http://flic.kr/p/aCaz6j
The case of the Regency card racks in the collections of the National Trust - as unraveled by comment-posters: http://bit.ly/vo0hHo
Fabulous online exhibit about Napoleon's scientific expedition to Egypt: http://bit.ly/uHSR7x
Heraldic colors: See how Cinderella crept into this post (with a prompt from a reader) http://bit.ly/t6kKM7
"To make a rich Seed Cake called the Nun's Cake" - 18th c recipe plus video from the cooks at Colonial Williamsburg: http://bit.ly/vdE4tm
Rioting women in the Highlands during the C19th- http://tinyurl.com/d2bh4qn
The Lincoln Mantua gown, 1730s, its conservation and Spitalfields silk - http://bit.ly/t4gqlB
Excellent short video: Exploring Hogarth's restored house with Lars Tharp http://bbc.in/v2v9Ub
• The "greatest curiosity of the day" in 1817: Toby the Sapient Pig: bit.ly/udrvP8
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1898

Friday, November 11, 2011

Voices from WWI

Friday, November 11, 2011
Loretta reports:

At 11AM on 11/11/11, on the day originally called Armistice Day, many parts of the world will observe two minutes of silence in honor of the men and women of the armed services, past and present.

This short video brings us excerpts from letters written by men who fought in that Great War to end all wars, the war that gave us Armistice Day.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Needlework for a Fashionable Lady: Whitework Reticules, c. 1812

Thursday, November 10, 2011
Susan reporting:

As promised, I'm sharing two more examples of the gorgeous needlework currently on display in the exhibition With Cunning Needle at Winterthur Museum (remember this young sailor's uniform?) These two drawstring bags, or reticules in Regency-era parlance, are exquisite examples of a style of embroidery known as whitework. It's easy to understand why: white cotton thread was used to embroider on fine white linen or cotton muslin cloth. The purity of this work showed off perfect stitches and elegant designs, and was considered an ideal pastime for ladies. (Click on the pictures to enlarge for details.)

While whitework has a long history – historians trace its origins back to ancient Egypt – it was most popular in England and America in the late 18th c and early 19th c., coinciding with the fashion for white muslin and linen gowns. Whitework is something of a catch-all term, referring to the materials and the effect rather than to a specific technique, and a whitework piece could include traditional embroidery stitches as well as lace-making skills such as cutwork.  Whitework could enhance personal accessories, like these reticules, as well as for scarves, cuffs and collars, and handkerchiefs, or household linens like tablecloths and bed linens. It could also be used to embellish an otherwise plain gown, such as this one (click on the last photo to see a detail of the embroidered fabric.)

These two reticules were made by Mary Greenough and Sarah Greenough in 1812. While Mary and Sarah were American, they were obviously well aware of fashions coming from England, and these reticules would have been as at home in London or Bath as they doubtless were in Philadelphia and Boston.

But just as the simple white gowns of the Regency gave way to the richer fabrics and more elaborate styles of the Victorian era, so, too, did whitework slip from fashion. Ladies turned to the vibrant colors of the Berlin wools being imported from Germany, and preferred the more regimented stitching of canvas work, or needlepoint. Fine whitework was relegated to handkerchiefs and infants' and children's clothing, and by the middle of the 20th c., it was largely replaced even on those humble garments by commercial machine embroidery.

Yet whitework isn't an entirely lost art, as the millions who watched the Royal Wedding last spring can attest. Kate Middleton's wedding dress and veil were a virtuoso display of whitework at its very best, executed by the master needleworkers of the Royal School of Needlework.

Good news for those of you who can't visit Winterthur and this extraordinary exhibition! The museum has put the lavishly illustrated catalogue on-line as a PDF. Click here to download.

Above: Drawstring bags (reticules), worked by Mary Greenough and Sarah Greenough, United States, 1812, Winterthur Museum, Bequest of Henry Francis du Pont.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The privileges of being a peer

Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Loretta reports:

I think the following, taken with my recent blog on illegitimacy, offers some insight into the mindset of the upper classes.  So many rules didn’t apply to them—which helps explain the behavior we’ve blogged about here, here, here, and here, and elsewhere.
~~~
THE PRIVILEGES OF THE PEERS OF THE UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND.
The nobility of England enjoy many great privileges, the principal of which are as follows:
1. That they are free from all arrests for debts, as being the king's hereditary counsellors. Therefore a peer cannot be outlawed in any civil action, and no attachment lies against his person. This privilege extended also to their domestic servants, as well as to those of members of the lower house, till the year 1770 . . . For the same reason they are free from attending courts leet, or sheriffs turns; or, in cases of riot, from attending the posse comitatus.

2. In criminal causes they are only tried by their peers, who give their verdict, not upon oath, as other juries, but only upon their honour; and then a court is erected on purpose in the middle of Westminster Hall, at the king’s charge, which is pulled down when their trials are over.

3. To secure the honour of, and prevent the spreading of any scandal upon peers, or any great officer of the realm, by reports, there is an express law, called scandalum magnatum, by which any man convicted of making a scandalous report against a peer of the realm (though true) is condemned to an arbitrary fine, and to remain in custody till the same be paid.

4. Upon any great trial in a court of justice, a peer may come into the court, and sit there uncovered.
No peer can be covered in the royal presence without permission for that purpose, except the lord baron of Kinsale, of his majesty's kingdom of Ireland. See De Courcy, Baron Kinsale, in the Peerage of Ireland... In case of the poll-tax, the peers bear the greater share of the burden, they being taxed every one according to his degree.

Debrett's Peerage of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1820

Illustration:  House of Lords, from the Microcosm of London, 1808-1810

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

"A Map of the Open Country of a Woman's Heart", c. 1833

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Susan reporting:

Recently I posted a pictorial map of Loveland that showed a charmingly optimistic and romantic view of love in America during World War II. 

This map from the 1830s, left, shows another heart-shaped fictitious land: A Map of the Open Country of Woman's Heart, Exhibiting its internal communications, and the facilities and dangers to Travellers therein. While it's a drollery, intended to be humorous, one wonders how many women were laughing.  Like so many 19th c. publications, this one claims to be the work of A Lady – but from the cynical tone of many of this map's landmarks, it's much more likely the work of A Man. (Click on the map to enlarge it and see the details.)

True, at the very center of this map lies the City and District of Love, with the modestly sized regions of Hope, Enthusiasm, Good Sense, and Prudence not far away. But the names of other towns and areas are much larger and less flattering, and include Coquetry, Love of Admiration, Selfishness,Vanity, and Jilting Corner. There are rivers called Drain the Purse, Willful Waste, and (horrors) Novel-Reading.

Clearly we're supposed to believe that the owner of this particular heart was shallow, greedy, and untrustworthy. Perhaps the most unsavory regions of the map are those marked Love of Display and Love of Dress, featuring the Pyramids of Fashion and the Satin Plains. Beneath the Promontory of Golden Fetters lies the Sea of Wealth, with Old Man's Darling Bay flowing into the suggestively shaped Jewelry Inlet. Oof!

Above: A Map of the Open Country of Woman's Heart, by A Lady, published by D.W. Kellog & Co., Hartford, CT, c. 1833-1842. From the collection of the American Antiquarian Society, gift of Charles H. Taylor

Monday, November 7, 2011

Those shameless English aristocrats

Monday, November 7, 2011
Loretta reports:

An American waxes indignant about the English aristocracy’s shameless ways.
~~~
One of his subjects said that Charles II. was the father of many of his people in a literal sense.  He recruited the ranks of the nobility largely with his children and their mothers, and at least five English dukes to-day can trace their lineage to the monarch who left no legitimate descendant . . .

These offshoots of royalty claim all the distinction that their birth confers.  The daughter of a ducal house prides herself on her likeness to her great ancestor, Nell Gwynne, whose portrait hang in her drawing-room, so that all who come can compare.  You can pay her no higher compliment than to notice the resemblance which proves her royal origin . . .

Illegitimacy, however, in England is not confined to the descendants of royalty.  The nobility emulates the example set by a long line of sovereigns.  In the exalted circles of the aristocracy the bastards of peers go about bearing the family names, and daughters whose mothers are unrecognized marry into families as “good” as those on the paternal side.  There are even instances of sons born before the marriage of their parents, whose younger brothers inherit titles to which the elders would have succeeded, but for the neglect of their mothers to go to church in time: the legitimate and illegitimate children can claim precisely the same progenitors.  Some of these premature sons are to-day ministers at foreign courts, others have been masters of ceremonies in royal houses, while dukes and earls have been able to find places for the spawn of shame in the army, the Foreign Office, and even in that Church whose rites they had themselves neglected to observe.

God knows the unfortunates are not to blame; but to make their birth a distinction and an advantage is a greater enormity than the offence to which they owe their origin.
—Adam Badeau, Aristocracy in England, 1856

~~~
I'll let my readers decide whether American Victorians were more “Victorian” than their English counterparts . . .

Illustration:  Charles Beauclerk, 1st Duke of St. Albans, son of King Charles II & Nell Gwynne  

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Breakfast Links: Week of October 31, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011
Served up fresh for you, our weekly offering of Breakfast Links: our favorite links to other blogs, web sites, pictures, and articles, all collected for you from around the Twitterverse.
Halloween celebrations in Gilded Age America: http://bit.ly/dsDEV1
Bonny Bobby Shafto http://post.ly/3lvWW
Meet the 18th century book-keeper with a secret obsession: http://bit.ly/rOox9q
Looking at how Sir Robert Shirley bridged cultures (and dressed accordingly) in the early 17th c:http://bit.ly/rzAvdg
NYC's famous (& infamous) 1883 Chelsea Hotel, known for residents as well as architecture: http://bit.ly/uebAmj
Here be dragons: British Library manuscripts app details how to be king http://bit.ly/vdPOLr
Early 1920s swimsuits: Swimwear and the Sporting Life http://bit.ly/vnUFCT
Westminster doors galore: The green one….no, the red one…you choose. I'm really not sure - http://bit.ly/cpsGaT
Poster advertising the Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London, 1834: http://bit.ly/rE6CQD
Ladies Accomplishments: A Late 18th-Century Paper Filigree Work Cabinet http://wp.me/pGJsu-1RC
Early Music Online: 300 of earliest surviving printed, digitized from the British Library’s copies: http://bit.ly/nVnD9G
Holding history in my hands: how an 1855 ambrotype can inform fashion history:http://bit.ly/rzR0lu
William of Orange was born on 4 November 1650 in an atmosphere of funeral gloom. Why? http://bit.ly/tTeglp
'Caroline Crachami, the 19th c "Sicilian Fairy"' - http://wp.me/p14Gvd-sn
Capturing your garden and your family: English Landscape & Portraitist Arthur Devis 1712-1787: http://bit.ly/uYXHdR 
Mummification, ritual vessels, floral adornment: discover fascinating details of Tutankhamun's funeral:http://met.org/uHNWCq
This breaks my heart: Goodbye at Pennsylvania Station, 1944 - http://bit.ly/sPK2yD
Though they originated in China, it was in Europe that fireworks flourished: http://bit.ly/skqbuI
Racine overwhelmed by full inbox. OMG! Twitter in 17th century? http://bit.ly/tHx4Zf 
Marvelous profile of 18th c house in Whitechapel - AND it's for sale! ::sigh:: http://bit.ly/nRChw4 
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring, 1898

Thursday, November 3, 2011

500 Years of Women's Portraits in Western Art - in Three Minutes

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Susan reporting:

This video isn't new (it's nearly five years old, an eternity on the internet), but it's still quite marvelous, and well worth another visit. Beautiful paintings, amazing computer editing, Bach's Sarabande from Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major performed by Yo-Yo Ma: the perfect way to ease into the weekend. Ahhh....

That Infernal Nor'easter: Good News, Bad News

The bad news is that Loretta still does not have internet service due to last week's too-early snow storm. The good news is that she does have power, and is furiously racing towards her deadline without distraction. With luck, she'll return to blogging early next week. Stay tuned....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Location, Location, Location - Especially for Two Historic Virginia Houses

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Susan reporting:

My internet connection has returned to life, but Loretta's remains buried beneath snow and fallen trees. I'll be carrying on in her stead until she digs out - we hope sooner rather than later!

"Location, location, location" is the mantra of every real estate agent when it comes to judging the value of a property. Historic houses are no different, with fate and fortune playing their part, too.

This house, above left, sits forlornly in Port Royal, VA, and is known as the Brockenbrough-Peyton House. Today Port Royal is little more than a tiny, sleepy village (I've written about it before here), but when it was founded in the 17th c, its location on the banks of the Rappahannock River made it an important center for the export of tobacco to England. Port Royal's taverns, warehouses, and churches, an academy and a Masonic Lodge were thriving when this house was built around 1760. The earliest known owner was Champe Brokenbrough, who passed the house to his daughter, a Mrs. Peyton. At the time of the Civil War, the house was shared by her children: her son, Randolph Peyton, and his two unmarried sisters, Sarah Jane and Lucy.

None of this would be remembered now – except that Sarah Jane and Lucy were alone in the house on April 25, 1865. John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, was struggling to escape with several accomplices to the South through Maryland, and the party begged Sarah Jane for shelter.  Not realizing who they were, she briefly let them inside the house to rest. Soon, however, the impropriety of having strange men under her roof while her brother was away made Sarah Jane have second thoughts, and she sent the men on to the Garrett Farm (where they were eventually captured, and Booth killed.)

But despite so much history, the Brockenbrough-Peyton House has suffered greatly. Not only have the lands and gardens that must have once surrounded it vanished, but in the mid-20th c, the house's elegant interior was gutted and the woodwork sold (it's now in the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery in Kansas City, MO.) Today it sits with boarded windows and blue building tarp tied to its back, bravely waiting for the huge amount of money necessary to restore it.

I can't help but think of another house that has fared much more happily. Belonging to distant cousin (and similarly named) Peyton Randolph, the house, right, was built at nearly the same time in the 18th c and in a similar style, and was also funded by tobacco-money. But the Peyton Randolph House was built in Williamsburg, where it became part of Colonial Williamsburg with its future secured by Rockefeller money, while less than a hudred miles away, the Brockenbrough-Peyton House languishes in Port Royal.

Location, location, location....

Left: Brockenbrough-Peyton House, Port Royal, VA
Right: Peyton Randolph House, Williamsburg, Va. Photo courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
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