This is one of my favorite paintings of 18th c. London: St. James's Park and the Mall, attributed to Joseph Nickolls (active 1726-55). One picture truly can be worth a thousand words when it's as packed with this much detail and vitality.
The centerpiece of this painting is Frederick, Prince of Wales, detail above, strolling through the Park with his noble entourage. He's easy to spot: he's front and center, dressed in a red, gold-trimmed waistcoat and breeches with his Garter Star on the front of his blue coat. To the left is the park's milk-bar, complete with cows, and a fixture for park-goers looking for healthy refreshment. The London landmarks of Whitehall Palace and Westminster Abbey are visible in the background.
But it's all the other people around the prince that make the picture so much fun to study. There are soldiers from three different regiments and sailors on shore-leave, an amorous couple drawing disapproving glances, detail right, a woman tying her stocking, detail lower left, another lady whose hoops have flipped up as she sat, and a man relieving himself over a fence. Intriguingly, there's a well-dressed woman of color in one of the groups. This painting is a bit like a Georgian "Where's Waldo?": the more you study it, the more you discover.
Since Blogger will enlarge an image just so far, here's a link to a much, much larger version so you can explore the details for yourself. The painting now belongs to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and its web page goes into considerable (and for us Nerdy History Folks, quite fascinating) detail about the history of the Park as well as more information about the people shown.
My post title refers not my personal writing miseries, but those of the perennial sufferers Timothy Testy and Samuel Sensitive, in James Beresford's extremely popular The Miseries of Human Life. I've excerpted from this book before* and will again, because it shows how human miseries have and haven't changed since the early 19th century. The perils of writing, for instance. Mending pens is a skill few of us can boast. These days, our trials and tribulations tend to be keyboard and touchscreen related. Even when we do take up pencil or pen, our frustrations are not the same. And yet I can relate to the caricature of the bad pens. I'm still looking for The Perfect Pen.
In the meantime, we can decide whether we do or do not prefer the writing miseries of Jane Austen's time.
Fresh for you - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• In NYC in April 17, 1922, a "Fine Old Easter Parade Lost in Flapper Swarm."
• A peek inside the mother-daughter collaboration that brought us the Little House books - and how very different they would have been if Laura Ingalls Wilder had published her original manuscript.
• This changes everything: the 18th c. cheer "Huzzah!" was actually pronounced "Huzzay!"
• Buying milk in St. James's Park & Georgian London.
• Five fascinating facts about the Brontë sisters.
• Image: Wall Street and the Tontine Coffee House, New York, 1797.
• Dying for honor: the duel in 18th c. Dublin.
• Did Paul Revere's famous ride really matter on April 19, 1775?
• Traditionally Rome was founded on April 21st, 753 BC.
• "A d_m cock-eyed b_": insults, nudity, subversion, and resistance: wild 19th c. workhouse women.
• How a female architecture student saved skyscraper Manhattan in 1978 - and how in the subsequent reporting she was always referred to as a male.
• Image: Medieval marginalia moment: rabbits vs. humans (and the rabbits are winning.)
• In photographs: 150 years of the famous John Lewis store in London.
• Jane Austen goes to war - in World War One.
• The lacquered look in 1930s hair.
• Shakespeare, a boar's head, and pickled herrings.
• Chiswick House and gardens, 1729-31 - eight views by Peter Rysbrack.
• Retro landmark: the giant 1948 Haines Shoe House in Hallam, PA.
• New York's lost, lavish 1895 Proctor's Pleasure Palace.
• St. George: patron saint of manliness.
• Image: Hound & hare: cartoon-like simplicity in 12th c. Church of St. Mary & St. David, Kilpeck, UK.
• A group of chickens can be known as a peep. Really. Discover more unusual collective nouns.
• Noisy neighbors were much the same 500 years ago.
• The double life of American Civil War soldier and spy Emma Edmonds, alias Private Frank Thompson.
• Hmmm...did NYC booksellers really find Shakespeare's annotated dictionary?
• Digitized online: Lettie Lane's Great Grandparents: 1880s paper dolls with 18th c. wardrobes.
• Image: Old London Bridge, c 1758, two years before its demolition.
• What Gilded Youth spent on a wardrobe, 1907.
• Street fighting men: East Indian Company men draw their swords on each other, Bandar Abbas, 1727.
• The desecration of Hopwood Hall, where Byron wrote "Childe Harold."
• Fineable offenses of naughty 18th c. Harvard students. Tsk, tsk.
• Treating measles in 17th c. Britain.
• Debunked: blood on a handkerchief proved not to be that of the executed King Louis XVI.
• To roast a pike: a 1699 recipe.
• Image: Confederate cartoon offering suggestions on how Union officials might deal with rebel female spies, 1861. Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Spring is finally in the air (sort of), so it seems like high time to check out trendy resort wear for warmer weather via a newsreel from 1932. For this particular fashion show, the models' runway is a boat cruising the Thames. I don't know what time of the year this took place, but it does appear that the spectators and the crew are much more warmly dressed than the poor models. As for the famous "film folk" that make a cameo - I'm afraid I don't have a clue. Anyone recognize them?
What struck me most, however, was how modern the clothes looked. These styles were new more than eighty years ago, yet most of them could go striding along the beach now and look just as fashionable. The more things change....
"Father Thames' Daughters": Video courtesy of British Pathé, 1932.
We're finally seeing hints of spring in my
part of New England. Today it rained fiercely and hailed on the
daffodils, but they bent their little heads and bore it with patience.
Though gardens hereabouts still don't look like much, we can dream.
Here's a little something for the servants to put together for you.
The cotton dress, left, is not the kind to inspire oohs and ahhs of admiration.
Dating from the mid-19th c., it's crudely cut and sewn, without the shaping of waist darts or a lining that more fashionable women's dresses of its time would have had. There's no lace or embroidery for ornamentation, no pleats or tucks or fancy cuffs. The coarse cotton is printed in a clumsy attempt to mimic moire silk. The condition of the dress is well-worn, with a sizable hole in the front of the bodice.
Yet as humble as this dress is, it may be unique in American museum collections, an improbable survivor that's far more rare than ball-gowns worn by queens or presidents' wives.
As I've written earlier (here and here), I recently attended a symposium and exhibition featuring historical clothing sponsored by the Chester County Historical Society. This dress was the centerpiece of the talk given by Nancy Rexford, costume historian and consultant to art and history museums, and it shared the stage with her (which is why it's shown here on an impromptu mannequin.)
Nancy believes that this dress was worn by a woman who worked for her living, and likely worked hard. The simple construction and inexpensive fabric indicate the owner didn't have much money to spend on clothing, and the cotton would have been easy to launder.
Most revealing are the sleeves. While the majority of dresses of this era would have had narrow cuffs, this dress has wide, open sleeves that could be rolled up above the elbow and kept clear of wet or dirty tasks. The wearer might have been a laundress, a cook, a factory worker, or a settler on a farmstead. In other words, an "ordinary" 19th c. American woman. A dress like this would have been worn until it literally fell apart, then cut down for children's clothing, and finally used as rags - all reasons that make this dress's survival so unusual.
Yet as rare as this dress is, it wouldn't have a place in the clothing collections of many American museums. As Nancy pointed out, all collections have restrictions of space and budgets. Trustees and curators must establish a focus to each collection: for example, clothes worn in a certain region, or by a certain group of people, or limited to a certain era.
Many of the more prominent costume collections today are based in art museums, and strive to present only the very best examples of historic clothing, such as the exquisite creations of lace-trimmed silk by Charles Frederick Worth- true works of art. In such collections, there would be no place for this cotton work dress; it would have been de-accessioned, or given its condition, simply discarded. This focus on "masterpieces" may lead to a beautiful collection overall, but concentrating exclusively on clothing worn by the wealthy elite preserves only a fraction of the historical past.
Which leads me back to my original question: if you were a curator of historical fashion, would you include this dress in your collection?
UPDATE: I've heard more from Nancy Rexford about this dress today. First and foremost, the dress most definitely does have a permanent home now in the Chester County Historical Society where it is appreciated for what it is, and I'm sorry if I didn't make that clear. Also, the dress arrived in the collection many years ago; Nancy recalled first seeing it about 1990, when she was dating and identifying all the CCHS dresses.
A few further thoughts from Nancy: "One thing that I didn't have time to mention in the talk is that I think this dress was probably never worn, which may be why it happened to be saved. The fabric feels dusty but unwashed, and it doesn't show signs of wear. I think the hole in the front isn't in a place that indicates wear but looks as if it was caught on a nail. In speculating how such a dress might have been saved, I wonder if it was made for a servant or even a slave in a well-to-do household, a woman who didn't remain in the household long enough to wear it. It could have been put away in case it could be used later, but then nobody ever came along who would fit such a large dress – the dress would fit a tall, substantial woman even by today's standards. The lady of the house wouldn't have wanted to wear it and the fabric wasn't fine enough to re-use, and over time the memory of its original purpose would have eventually been lost. The fact that it was marked 'found in collection' probably means it arrived during an early period when the museum was less professional than it is now. It may have been part of a larger group of clothing, including items from the family of the house, pretty enough to have been given. But alas, we'll never know."
Above: Dress, 19th c. American. Chester County Historical Society. Photography copyright 2014 Susan Holloway Scott.
According to the museum guides, the living room was furnished from Sears Roebuck. In other words, the room and dress represent a style not of lords and ladies or celebrities, but everyday people. The display included a wedding portrait of Pat Brackett, the woman who wore this dress to her high school prom. Unfortunately, my camera was feeling ill that day, and my close-up photo of that part of the room was not in focus—a fact I failed to notice until I saw it full size on my computer. (But there’s still time to see the exhibit for yourself if you’re in the area.)
This style of décor might be familiar to some of our readers. Can you tell what that thing is between the two photographs behind the dress? Do you know what piece of furniture the photographs are sitting on?
The work of British illustrator and caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792-1878) has appeared many times in this blog (such as here and here.) During his long career, his subjects ranged from notoriously pointed caricatures of politicians and the royal family to illustrations for novels by Charles Dickens, and, later in life, to illustrations in support of the temperance movement.
In 1844, he published a small book of twenty-four illustrations that tell the story of a hapless young man-about-town in possession of an inheritance sufficient to lead him into amusing difficulties. The book has an extravagantly long title, The Bachelor's Own Book, Being the Progress of Mr. Lambkin, (Gent.), in the Persuit [sic.] of Pleasure and Amusement, and Also, in Search of Health and Happiness. From that title, it sounds as if Cruikshank will lead his bachelor down the same dissolute path to self-destruction that William Hogarth - an influence on Cruikshank - did with the young heir in A Rake's Progress.
But over-dressed little Mr. Lambkin isn't really a bad guy, and he deserves a better fate. While he does suffer through his share of bad decisions, false strumpets, and strong drink, in the end he realizes the emptiness of his merry life and boon companions. Better yet, he finally succeeds in winning the regard of the future Mrs. Lambkin. One hopes together they did find the happiness mentioned in the title.
Here are several of the illustrations, with the droll captions that tell the tale below. Even better: the entire book is available to read or download free online via Project Guttenberg here.
Upper left: Plate 2: Mr. Lambkin sallies forth in all the pride of power, with the secret and amiable intention of killing a certain Lady. Some envious rival makes known his deadly purpose, by means of a placard.
Right: Plate 4: Mr. Lambkin suddenly feels rather poorly, something in the "whitebait dinner," having disagreed with him; probably the "water souchy," or that confounded melted butter, (couldn't possibly have been the wine.) His friends endeavor to relieve him with little Drops of Brandy, and large doses of Soda Water.
Lower left: Plate 22: Mr. Lambkin being quite recovered, with the aid of new milk and Sea Breezes, determines to reform his habits, but feels buried alive in the Grand Mausoleum Club; and, contemplating an old bachelor member who sits pouring [sic] over the newspapers all day, he feels horrorstruck at the probability of such a fate becoming his own, and determines to seek a reconciliation with the Lady of his Affections.
Happy Easter, Happy Passover, and Happy Spring! Here's our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered fresh for you from around the Twitterverse.
• Teensy-weensy 19th c. women's shoes and the ideal of helplessness.
• Eva Gonzales and other female Impressionists in Paris.
• Designing dogs: a pug life.
• The only surviving letter (on stationary) written on board the Titanic the day she sank.
• Image: Preparing matzo for Passover, New York, 1958.
• When physicians give up: Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici's infant convulsion powder.
• From foreign garb to fashion fad: a brief history of pajamas.
• Marie Tussaud, the 18th c. woman behind one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions.
• Naughty money: clippers and coiners in 16th c. England.
• The story behind an extraordinary 1918 photograph of Charlie Chaplin on Wall Street.
• An otter in the guest book of the 6th Duke of Devonshire? One of the interesting things found when cataloguing the Cavendish papers in the Chatsworth archives.
• A lost treasure rediscovered: Faberge egg found after missing for almost 100 years.
• Image: And 18th c. aeriel view of Perry Hall, near Birmingham, by Thomas Shardwell.
• Punishments we used to think were acceptable.
• Captain Edward Smith of the Titanic is seen by a former shipmate - after his death
• The problems of an 18th c. menagerie.
• For National Bookmobile Day: nine fine examples here.
• Image: A gorgeous silk map sampler, embroidered with silk by an unknown maker, England, late 18th c.
• Return to long-forgotten London with these wonderful engravings.
• Born to rule, doomed to die: Sultan Raziya, India's first female monarch.
• Solving the mystery of the 1930s monkey lady.
• Ironclad Apple Duff: exploring recipes from the American Civil War.
• A social history of lipstick.
• A Zanzibar brawl in 1861 included drunken sailors, slave traders, and the British bickering about the French.
• "Wedded bliss": an 1801 wedding in Salem, Massachusetts.
• Saucy spring hats for the ladies and the gents.
• Eighteenth century student life: the unambiguous message in this letter from young Jeremy, at Oxford, to his father: SEND TEA!
• The work of Walter Potter, Victorian Britain's pre-eminent taxidermist, is beautifully creepy.
• Quills, maypoles, and intolerant curates.
• Image: No chocolate or sugar for English Easter eggs in 1918 - just papier mache or straw.
• Beautiful photo portraits of people doing their jobs on the streets of late 19th c. New York.
• Lego power: patched with plastic.
• The case of the closely watched courtesans in 18th c. Paris.
• Rejection letters to the later rich-and-famous.
• Image: 14th c. Easter Bunnieslighting the altar candles.
• Medicinal drinks and Coca-Cola fiends: the toxic history of soda pop.
• A virtual tour of the Harry Elkins Widener Room, honoring Harvard student lost on the Titanic.
• What was "The Hippopotomus" and how was it used at Mount Vernon?
• Image: Sad 18th c. reminder that when you're hot, drink strong or not at all.
• An 18th c. recipe for Orange Chips, made from orange peel. Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Whether you plan to show off your Easter finery in a parade or at a ball, or simply wait patiently for a chance to wear some spring clothes (we're still bundled up here in New England and the daffodils are shivering), I hope this image will amuse.
Western women's fashion relaxed towards the end of the 18th c., incorporating classically inspired silhouettes and soft fabrics like cotton muslin and fine linen. But the gowns weren't the only things that changed: theheeled, buckled shoes that had been in style for the previous hundred years gave way to heelless slippers and, for the most fashion-forward ladies, sandals that tied around the in the ankle in the antique manner.
These silk slippers – they would also have been called sandals – are a stylish compromise that look surprisingly modern. Hand-stitched for an American lady in the first years of the 19th c., they feature pink satin two-piece vamps embroidered with twisting flowered vines, and open sides, backs, and toes. They might have been made to match a favorite gown, or simply to provide a touch of color with an all-white ensemble.
Green satin ribbons that echo the vines lace the vamps together, as well as holding the shoe on the foot by tying around the wearer's ankles. (I hope you'll also excuse my haphazard positioning of the laces for this photo; I only had a few moments to arrange the slippers for the picture, and alas, there were no ladies about with sufficiently dainty feet to model them.) The soles are flat, stitched suede, and there are removable quilted silk insoles. These were sandals meant for informal indoor wear, and with their flat soles and adjustable lacing, they must have been as comfortable as they were stylish.
Above: Slippers/sandals, early 19th c., embroidered silk satin with suede soles. Chester County Historical Society.
Gaming hells make frequent appearances in historical romances. In case our readers were wondering how these might compare to our modern-day casinos, here’s Charles Molloy Westmacott’s* (aka Bernard Blackmantle) 1825 verbal sketch. The illustration is by Robert Cruikshank.
The principal game played here is French Hazard, the director and friends supplying the bank, the premium for which, with what the box-money produces, forms no inconsiderable source of profit. It is ridiculous to suppose any unfair practices are ever resorted to in the general game; in a mixed company they would be easily detected, and must end in the ruin of the house: but the chances of the game, calculation, and superior play, give proficients every advantage, and should teach the inexperienced caution. "It is heart-rending," said Crony, whom I had smuggled into one corner of the room, for the purpose of enjoying his remarks free from observation, "to observe the progress of the unfortunate votaries to this destructive vice, as they gradually proceed through the various stages of its seductive influence. The young and thoughtless are delighted with the fascination of the scene: to the more profligate sensualist it affords an opportunity of enjoying the choicest liqueurs, coffee, and wines, free of expense; and, although he may have no money to lose himself, he can do the house a good turn, by introducing some pigeon who has just come out; and he is therefore always a welcome visitor. At Crockford's, all games where the aid of mechanism would be necessary are cautiously avoided, not from any moral dislike to Rouge et Noir or Roulette, but from the apprehension of an occasional visit from the police, and the danger attending the discovery of such apparatus, which, from its bulk, cannot easily be concealed. In the space of an hour Echo had lost all the money he possessed, and had given his I O U for a very considerable sum; although frequently urged to desist by Transit, who, with all his love of life and frolic, is yet a decided enemy to gaming. —The English Spy
As Loretta and I have described before (see here and here), little boys in the past were dressed much like their sisters, in loose-fitting frock-style garments that made diaper changes easy. Reaching the age to be "breeched" and shifting to wearing miniature versions of adult male clothing was a major milestone for 18th c. boys.
In the late 18th c., however, there was a general relaxing of children's clothing. Instead of stiff little waistcoats and breeches, boys wore a practical two-piece garment that made the transition to adult clothes a bit easier. This was called a "skeleton suit," a jacket and trousers that buttoned together at the waist for the sake of neatness and ease. The name came from the clean lines and snug fit of the suit, which gave the wearer a narrow silhouette - ostensibly like a bare-bones skeleton. Skeleton suits were often worn with a shirt with a soft, ruffled collar, and were usually made of plain wool or linen, like this one from the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.
And then there's this unusual example, left. Dating from the early years of the 19th c., this wool skeleton suit was worn by John Worthington Williams, Sr., of Wethersfield, CT. For an American boy, the suit represents the elaborate military uniforms being worn by European officers in the Napoleonic Wars. Compare the silk embroidery on John Williams's skeleton suit with that on the uniform worn by Waterloo hero General Henry William Paget, Earl of Uxbridge, lowerright. Obviously some doting parent or grandparent wanted their young future hero outfitted in the latest military style, and it's easy to imagine young John leading imaginary charges through Connecticut orchards and vegetable gardens. (As always, click on the images to enlarge them.)
This skeleton suit is part of an outstanding exhibition, Profiles: Chester County Clothing from the 1800s, currently on display at the Chester County Historical Society, West Chester, PA, and running through August 30. I highly recommend it if you're in the Philadelphia-Wilmington area (or visiting nearby Winterthur Museum to see the costumes from Downton Abbey.) This past weekend, I attended a symposium on historic clothing in conjunction with the exhibition; look for more blogs about what I heard and saw.
Left: Skeleton Suit, 1800-1830. Brown wool, cream silk embroidery. Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Photograph copyright 2014 Susan Holloway Scott. Right: Field Marshall Henry William Paget, 1st Marquess of Anglesey, by John Hoppner & Sawrey Gilpin, 1798. National Trust Collection, Plas Newydd, Anglesey.
In the 1750s, during a dinner with foreign dignitaries, Henry Fox’s toddler son Charles
was brought in--to be admired by the guests, undoubtedly. The boy said
he wanted to bathe in the huge bowl of cream sitting on the table.
His father had the bowl put on the floor and little Charles put into the
bowl to splash around. I think about scenes like that when I encounter
manners-challenged children. Overindulgent parents are nothing new.
CHAP. I. Short and mixt Precepts. 3. Reverence thy Parents. 4. Submit to thy Superiors 5. Despise not thy inferiors. 6. Be courteous with thy Equals.
CHAP. III Of Behaviour at Home1. Always bow at coming Home; and be immediately uncovered. 3. Never sit in the presence of thy Parents without bidding, though no Strangers be present. 4. If thou pass by thy Parents or by any place where thou seest them, either by themselves or with Company, bow towards them. 6. Never speak to thy Parents, without some Title of Respect, viz. Sir, Madam, Forsooth; &c.
CHAP. IV Of Behaviour at the Table. 5. Ask not for any thing, but tarry till it be offered thee. 8. Feed thy self with thy two Fingers and the Thumb of the left hand. 9. Speak not at the Table; if thy Superiors be discoursing, meddle not with the matter. 19. Take not salt with a greazy Knife. 25. Smell not thy Meat, nor move it to thy Nose; turn it not the other side upward to view it upon the Plate.
CHAP V. Rules for Behaviour in Company.3. Put not thy hand in the presence of others to any part of thy body, not ordinarily discovered. 6. Stand not wriggling with thy body hither and thither, but steddy and upright. 9. When thou blowest thy Nose, let thy Handkerchief be used, and make not a noise in so doing.
CHAP. VIII Rules for Behaviour Abroad.
Always give the Wall to thy Superiors, that thou meetest; or if thou
walkest with thy elder, give him the upper-hand, but if three walk
together, the middle place is most Honorable. [And if anyone can figure this one out, please enlighten me. L.]
Painting: Arthur Devis, The John Bacon Family (1742-43), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Spring is finally in the air, and the breakfast links are fresh! Our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, collected for you from Twitter.
• How to carouse like a proper Regency gentleman.
• The erotics of shaving in Victorian Britain.
• Jane Austen wrote this letter to her sister while on a six-week visit to the fashionable city of Bath.
• How Europeans imagined exotic animals centuries ago, based on hearsay.
• Tripadvisor in the 18th c? A review of English inns from 1719.
• Image: London's original Shard: the York Buildings Water Tower c 1750-1765 and the same area today.
• Today's important quiz: which Charles Dickens character are you?
• Marianne North: the radical Victorian lady behind an essential collection of botanical art, plus beautifullandscapes of India.
• Historic Harris Tweed's new style icon: Miss Piggy.
• A Georgian REGARD brooch and the history of love in jewels.
• Portraits of 16th-17th c. children, used as commodities to gain power and wealth.
• George III, Tartan archer
• Hugs, Roman baths, and banks.
• The now-lost Henry Phipps Mansion on Fifth Avenue, NYC, cost $40 million in today's dollars to build, and only lasted 20 years.
• Image: Desperate remedies for desperate ills: plague, poison, cholera, and lunacy.
• Advice to anyone considering pilfering a vegetable in the 1770s: don't.
• The air we breathe: a 16th c. Venetian perfume burner.
• Engravings of the inns of long-forgotten London.
• Transportation changes everything: It's 1845, a 17-year-old Brighton socialite disappears, and the race is on to find her.
• England's first filling station dates from 1919.
• A beautiful souvenir fan from the Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1867
• "She speaks with much dexterity": the life of a female forger in 18th c. London.
• A 17th c. recipe for miner's brandy.
• Image: This week in 1093, Winchester Cathedral was dedicated.
• Eight fast facts about camp followers during the American Revolution.
• All the tea in China: English words of Chinese origin.
• President Abraham Lincoln's "whiskers were seen - first and foremost - as an effort at fashionable urbanity."
• "Women Working", an online exhibition with 1400+ photos & illustrations from 1800-1930.
• One hundred and ten years ago this week, the old horse-and-buggy district Longacre Square in NYC was renamed after a newspaper: Times Square.
• Image: Actress Mary Pickford enjoying a party in the 1920s with her stylish friends from the film industry.
• William Woolley's "Patent Improved Bedstead for Invalids" and other antebellum inventions for disability.
• Special hats were a 17th c cure for headaches and migraines.
• Top tips for surviving life in the Georgian court.
• Five women printers and booksellers of the 17th c.
• Image: The 2nd Earl of Chatham's (John Pitt) weight record in the ledgers of Berry Bros. & Rudd (then Clarkes) from 1816-26. Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Loretta and I are fascinated by the elaborate automata of the late 18th-early 19th centuries. Made of precious metals, enamel-work, and jewels, these early robots run not on batteries or electronics, but on elaborate clockwork mechanisms. Consider them the most elegant of wind-ups. Whether they're silver swans, golden elephants, or Marie-Antoinette's elegant dulcimer player, these marvels combine the highest skills of engineers, watchmakers, and jewelers.
Created by the Swiss watchmaker Henri Maillardet in 1820, this caterpillar was exotically dubbed the "Ethiopian Caterpillar" when it was first displayed to the public in London, and has also been called a "Vers de soie," or silkworm. Like many automata, the caterpillars were likely intended as costly diplomatic baubles, to be sent as gifts to the royal courts in China.
This particular caterpillar is made of gold, decorated with black and translucent red enamel, and set with pearls, rubies, turquoise, emeralds, and diamonds. Six similar caterpillars are known to still be in existence. But as much fun as these little toys are, they don't come cheap: the last time one was sold at auction in 2010 by Sotheby's, it brought a sale price of over $400,000.
If you receive this post via email and are seeing only a black box or an empty space where the video should be, please click here to go to the blog and watch the video.
This brooch* is the work of Georges Fouquet (1862-1957), a Paris goldsmith who worked in both the Art Nouveau and the Art Deco styles. For a time during his Art Nouveau period, he collaborated with Alphonse Mucha.
For obvious reasons, weddings play a sizable role in romance novels. It's often a challenge, however, to discover exactly what historical brides wore on their wedding day.
As Loretta and I have written before (here and here), white was by no means the universal choice before Queen Victoria popularized it, nor did most brides wear a designated, one-time-only wedding gown. Even wealthy brides often wore new gowns that would become their "best" dress after they were married, and contemporary descriptions of weddings seldom portray the bride's attire in the kind of detail modern readers expect.
No, we intrepid Nerdy History Girls must seize the random wedding dresses wherever we find them. In yesterday's post, Loretta discovered a wonderful description from 1817 of Lady Caroline Paget's wedding attire tucked into La Belle Assemblee's listings of Marriages, Births, & Deaths.
The description, right and transcribed below, of what a bride wore in 1763, is equally detailed, but much more melancholy. It comes from The Annual Register, a reference work first published in London in 1758 to catalogue each year's major events and trends, and continues to be published today. The 18th c. listings are a bit arbitrary - on the same page as this entry are others that feature a pair of fruit trees blooming out of season and proceedings of the Irish House of Commons – and often include just enough information to tantalize rather than inform. I'm guessing this story was included for its tragic quality, but it leaves me wondering not only the identity of the poor married lady but also the cause of her untimely death.
Those questions aside, it's an excellent description of what a prosperous young bride wore in 1763:
A young married lady, who died a few days since, was, at her own request, buried in all her wedding garments, consisting of a white negligee* and petticoats which were quilted into a mattrass, pillows, and lining to her coffin; her wedding shift was her winding sheet, with a fine point lace tucker, handkerchief, ruffles, and apron; also a fine point lace lappet headdress, and a handkerchief tied closely over it, with diamond ear rings in her ears, and rings on her fingers, a very fine necklace, white silk stockings, silver spangled shoes, and stone buckles.
*A negligee at this time is a style of informal day dress, not a fancy nightgown.
Don't be surprised if some of this turns up on my next fictional bride – though I promise she will have a much longer happily-ever-after.
Many thanks to J.DiPlacidi (@gothic_desires on Twitter) for first sharing this entry.
Top: Detail, IX: Pamela is Married, by Joseph Highmore, 1743-4. Tate Britain. Bottom: "A young married lady...." from The Annual Register, 1763.
In the Fleet Prison, the lady of Charles Henry Bazeley, Esq. of a daughter.
In Chester, the lady of the Rev. Rich. Massie, of a son, being her 20th child.
At Preston, the wife of Mr. John Counsel, weaver, was brought to bed of a fine boy and two girls, all of whom are doing well.
At St. James’s Church, the Earl of March to Lady Caroline Paget. The bride’s maids were the Ladies Jane and Georgiana Lenox, Ladies Jane and Georgiana Paget. The Marquis of Anglesea gave the lovely bride away. The, bride was elegantly attired in a Moravian worked muslin dress, with robes and trimmings of fine Brussels lace, worn over white satin, with a pelisse of white satin, richly trimmed with lace; her headdress consisted of a cap of entire lace, over which she wore a beautiful white lace veil. Her dress was rich, elegant, and neat.
Re-married on their return from Gretna-Green, at the house of her father, at Boulogne-sur-Mer, Captain Somerset, son of Lord Charles Somerset, to Miss Heathcote, daughter of Capt. H. Heathcote, R. N.
Juvenile indiscretion!—At Tarvin, Mr. James Mort, aged 60, to Mrs. Ann Edwards, aged 80, both of great Boughton, near Chester. To avoid suspicion, the bride prevailed upon the bridegroom to go to Tarvin on the evening of Sunday, to which place the disconsolate damsel followed him in mourning, but to the astonishment of her neighbours, she returned in virgin white! This is the third time Hymen’s chains have been rivetted on each of these young rogues. At Whaplode, Lincolnshire, Mr. Sindal, to Miss Favel, of that place. Mr. Sindal had just before come into possession of a considerable sum of money, which induced Miss Favel to marry him, and on the following Sunday night she decamped with a journeyman baker, taking with her 133l. by way of support.
So as to keep my blog from going to infinity and beyond, I left off the deaths, but you may want to visit the page, and notice the ages of the deceased.
Painting in watercolors was an "accomplishment" for many genteel ladies in the 18th-19th centuries, a pleasant way to pass the time and produce small artworks for the admiration of friends and family. Most of these have been lost over time, but a collection of at least one lady's work remains today in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Using contemporary fashion plates as her inspiration, Ann Frankland Lewis (d. 1842) painted pictures of ladies wearing stylish dresses of the day. The paintings catalogue a wide variety of fashions and hairstyles as the wide hoops and towering "heads" of the 1770s gradually give way to the softer dresses with higher waists of the early 1800s. Shown here are only a few from the collection. As always, please click on the images to enlarge them.
Little is known about Mrs. Lewis herself today, not even the year of her birth. She was the third daughter of Admiral Sir Thomas Frankland, Baronet, of Thirkleby Park, York. She married John Lewis in 1778, and after his death married the Rev. Robert Hare in 1811. She bore three children, including a son who achieved moderate fame as a Victorian parliamentarian, and she died in 1842. And that's it; like most women of her time, she's defined for posterity by the men in her life.
Except that Ann left her watercolors. The earliest date from 1770, eight years before her first marriage, and she continued to paint for at least another thirty-five years after that. It's assumed she painted simply for her own amusement. Some of the earlier paintings are labeled "The Dress of the Year" in her neat penmanship, marked with the date. Again, no one knows if these dresses were ones she actually owned or wished she did, or were dresses she admired or imagined. What is certain, however, is that the paintings are charming, and reflect one lady's taste and style.
Top left: Dress of the Year, 1778. Top right: Court Dress of the Year, 1784. Lower left: Dress, 1798. Lower right: Dress, March 1806. All watercolors by Ann Frankland Lewis, from the collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Despite a week that included April Fools Day, we've whipped up a fresh serving of breakfast links - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images, all gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• Exquisite engravings of long-lost London.
• St. George and Peterodactyl: the bizarre, Romantic, not-quite-scientific dinosaurs of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins.
• The Amazons: is there a history behind the myth of the women warriors?
• Video: New replica of a working drawbridge unveiled at the Tower of London.
• Highlights from the 20,000+ historical maps recently made available online by the New York Public Library.
• "The Deadly Nevergreen": public hangings at Tyburn.
• The first Pony Express riders set off on April 3, 1860. Image of the early riders.
• Why you shouldn't marry a lady of learning, 1708.
• The future of travel as seen from 1829: kite-ships, horseless carriages, vacuum trains, the lot.
• A brief history of London crypts.
• Beautiful early photographs of people of African descent during the Victorian period.
• Image: Man and woman, Lacock Abbey, photographed by Fox Talbot in 1835.
• The ten best bad mother-villains in literature.
• A complete chronological list of Charles Dickens' opening sentences.
• Photographic reality vs. artistic vision: side by side pictures of painter Dante Gabriel Rosetti's models.
• A 1,800 year old letter home on papyrus from a Roman soldier recently deciphered.
• Image: Fashion in Paris, c 1930s. Photo by Agence Meurisse.
• Watercolor costume sketches for a Persian-inspired opera from 1740.
• To relieve boredom, the 19-year-old Prince of Wales played leap frog in the corridors of New York's now-lost Fifth Avenue Hotel in 1860.
• Image: British issue proclamation encouraging slaves to run away from American masters, April, 1814.
• From Little Fanny to Fluffy Ruffles: the scrappy history of paper dolls.
• A now-famous April Fools blog from the British Library features a Unicorn Cookbook.
• Elizabeth of York, the first Tudor Queen of England.
• The magnificent letterhead of "Mademoiselle Paula, The Famous Reptile Conquerer," 1899.
• Image: "Clara Bow is in my driveway. She's yelling something about baseball starting today."
• "False pregnancies" in 18th c. France.
• A visit to the 1849 lighthouse on Execution Rock near Port Washington, NY.
• About sixty paintings of 1600s families.
• Barmy baking: 18th c. recipe for Plain Cakes, or Barm Brack.
• "His spread-eagle collars kept New Yorkers agog": the Gilded Age socialite dubbed the "King of the Dudes."
• Image: Sometimes an obelisk is just an obelisk; this is clearly not one of those times.
• A medieval historian compares the women of Game of Thrones to the real deal.
• Punished for being poor: London's forgotten workhouses.
• On April 4, 1581, Sir Francis Drake threw a very special banquet.
• The exciting history and origin of the cocktail umbrella. Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Not many of us know much about King George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. Some of us might be picturing Colin Firth in The King’s Speech.
This (nearly an hour but well worth it) documentary shows us the big picture, and helps us understand why King George VI and his queen were held in such great affection. It also offers many glimpses of a queen in training.
Image: King George VI, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA
Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be. To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.