Sunday, June 29, 2014

Elegant Embroidery for 18th c. Male Peacocks

Sunday, June 29, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Loretta and I have a well-documented weakness for the male peacocks of the 18th and early 19th c., gentlemen who took pleasure in the perfectly tied cravat or extravagantly embroidered coat.

The detail, left, is from a waistcoat (that fabric! those buttonholes! those wrapped buttons!!) that's part of the Snowshill Costume Collection, and is currently on display at Berrington Hall. I say "currently," which is true today; the small show of 18th c. waistcoats, entitled Wearing the Garden, closes on June 30. If any of our English readers can race on over to Berrington to visit it, please go, and share your reactions.

But for the rest of us mired on this side of the Atlantic, the Collection has thoughtfully posted these splendid images on their blog here, plus many other photos as well. The blog post, written by Althea Mackenzie, Curator of Costume, also contains much fascinating information of the Nerdy History variety.

For example, several of these waistcoats were fortunate to have escaped the popular practice of "drizzling", described by Ms. Mackenzie as "the practice of pulling out gold and silver threads from brocades to sell back to the silver and gold lace maker." Apparently this was a popular pastime for ladies and a few gentlemen, who even had special "drizzling tools." The practice was not only considered suitably genteel handiwork, but was also a way to earn a bit of extra pin money - even as it destroyed the once-costly-but-now-unfashionable brocade.

The Collection is rich in waistcoats, and they've written about other examples on their blog as well as the ones in the exhibition. Click here for an archive of all their posts related to these gorgeous garments.

Top left: Detail, damask waistcoat, 1770s style from 1755 fabric. Snowshill Costume Collection.
Right: Detail, pocket, waistcoat, 1780-90, Tamboured lozenge design with sequins, Snowshill Costume Collection. (See here for more about tambour embroidery.)
Lower left: From the exhibition "Wearing the Garden" at Berrington Hall, May 1-June 30, 2014.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of June 23, 2014

Saturday, June 28, 2014
Hot off the griddle (even on the hottest summer day) - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images, all gathered from around the Twitterverse.
Fashion victims: ten of the deadliest shoes and accessories of the 19th c.
• A dream of toasted cheese: 19th c. author Beatrix Potter's early scientific interests.
• Charles Dickens's signature and seal on his 1837 contract with Chapman & Hall to publish The Pickwick Papers - high resolution and zoomable.
Pocahontas, fantasy and reality: why so many people still need the Indian princess.
• Fascinating new site debunks the many things supposedly said by the Founding Fathers.
Image: A good old-fashioned 18th c. slagging match...whoever said people were more polite in the past were wrong.
• The anatomizer's ground: uncovering the dark history of St. Olave's,  Silver Street, London.
• Fabulous 18th c.  fans from the collection at Snowshill Manor.
• Diary of a 1930s housemaid in an English country house.
Anna Maria van Schurman, 17th c. painter, engraver, poet, & scholar, had to hide behind a screen to lecture at university.
• A heroic bride in Brooklyn, 1906.
• Lady Hester Stanhope's melancholy, 1815.
• Road workers in eastern China found a mysterious box underground - and this was what was inside.
Image: A close-up of an 1897 photograph showing a smiling Queen Victoria with a white parasol.
• A brief history of why we take oaths on books - and whether e-books count.
• The forgotten theatres of Victorian London.
• Rev. William Dodd, the 'Macaroni Parson', who ended his life on the gallows.
• Provocative reports of the death of Lt-Col. James Abercrombie, highest-ranking British soldier to die at Bunker Hill.
Image: William Bligh bullet rations weight after 1789 Bounty mutiny.
• It girl, oops, and sexpert: twenty words that originated in the 1920s.
• To butcher a hog, 18th c. style.
• The hunt is on for Battle of Waterloo descendants for 200th anniversary in 2015 - are you one?
• You've got to wonder who was advising Grace Dalrymple Elliott when she created the Bellona Cap in 1786.
Image: Waistcoat of a Honourable East India Company captain, sewn from one of his wife's petticoats and featuring silk embroidery from India.
• In which J.Edgar Hoover warns all the kids to get off his lawn.
Carrie Nation, a 175-pound, six-foot-tall self-described "bulldog" of a woman who smashed bars.
• Conserving & digitizing nine tiny volumes made by Charlotte Bronte and brother Branwell as children.
Women stockbrokers are still in the minority on Wall Street; imagine how unusual they were in the late 19th c.
• Uncle Arthur Wellesley? He's not all that..."Wicked" William Long-Wellesley goes to war, 1808.
• Our favorite image of the week: a colorized photograph of Broadway in Saratoga Springs, NY, c.1915.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Vixen in Velvet—the story, the research, & other things

Friday, June 27, 2014
Dressmaker Book #3
Loretta reports:

Here on the blog we focus on the bits of history we encounter while doing research for our books—or just researching for fun.  Now and again we talk about the ways we connect our investigations to our main jobs of writing novels.  With the launch of Vixen in Velvet, I’ve had several opportunities to talk about the way I integrate my historical research (especially fashion) into my stories, as well as other topics.

Today I offer the lineup of Vixen in Velvet-related activities.  They include a short video, which is your Casual Friday Video.  Sorry.  It's me.   

Coming in late with another one, from the Kindle blog:  my Q& A with talented Avon author Sarah MacLean.

Lady Avon Interviews Loretta about Vixen in Velvet.  Even my publisher has questions.

Avon Loves Librarians—a video excerpt from the tea Avon hosted for Sarah MacLean and me during Book Expo America. 

My blog post for Heroes & Heartbreakers (their title because I forgot!—and yes, “flare” should probably be“flair” but it still works if you imagine fireworks.)

Isabella interrogates me here, in case you missed it.

Romance Unlaced: Interview with Loretta Chase—Madeline Hunter interrogates me at Happy Ever After.

My wonderfully nerdy interview at All About Romance.

Interviews at Writer at Play, Part 1 and Part 2.

And if you're not sick of me talking about me & my writing, or if you still have unanswered questions, please ask—or join me here next week for more about the things I've learned about the 1830s and what I do with them.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Helpful Sheet that's "Full of Valuable Ornaments", c. 1800

Thursday, June 26, 2014
Isabella reporting,

This single sheet falls into that catch-all category of ephemera, a printed piece that wasn't expected to have a long life. This one, however, has been kept for over two hundred years; there are neat fold lines that indicate it was carefully put away and preserved, and now it's safe in the collection of a university library. (As always, click on the image to enlarge it.)

The ever-curious author in me wonders why it was saved, and who did the saving. In the guise of a lady's box of beauty-aids and make-up, it offers numerous suggestions for a young woman. Each one-line maxim fits the idealized view of a genteel lady c. 1800, with the emphasis on being modest, humble, and innocent. The ultimate goal for these virtues, of course, is to attract a husband, and to become a good mother.

Modern girls would find such subservient advice difficult to swallow, and when I think of some of the heroines in Jane Austen's novels of about the same time, I suspect many of them would have, too.

Was this sheet of advice purchased by a concerned parent for a headstrong daughter? Could it have been sent by a worried elderly aunt or grandmother? Or was it perhaps given by a suitor to a lady that he believed already possessed all these qualities, a gift so complimentary that she saved it as a treasured love-token?

"My Dear Friend,"c. 1800, Printed by Craft, printer, Wells-Street, Oxford-Street, London. From the collection of Princeton University Library, Rare Book Division.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The so-modish pelerine

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
View at source
Loretta reports:

Readers of my Dressmakers series will come upon strange words dealing with apparel.  The endnotes of Vixen in Velvet include a list of fabrics mentioned in the story.  But other fashion terms might leave readers scratching their heads.  I, too, scratch my head, and study books and search online, sometimes to no avail.  Then I summon help from the Milliners, Mantuamakers, and Tailors of Colonial Williamsburg.

Since the pelerine appears frequently in 19th century ladies’ attire, it seems like a good item for discussion and illustration.

According to Merriam Webster, it’s “a woman's narrow cape made of fabric or fur and usually with long ends hanging down in front .”

Well, that’s not enlightening, and I beg to differ regarding “narrow.”

Read online here
Above left are three examples from the 1835 Magazine of the Beau Monde, which apparently stole from other magazines.  I suspect it’s not the reverse, because dresses shown in, for instance, the July La Mode, appear a month later in MBM.

Those of you who click on the caption to view the dresses at Google Books will notice that the image is black & white.  I have no idea why this is.  I downloaded the PDF from this edition, and I have more color images than appear online.

You may also notice that the woman on the right, who is wearing a ball dress, according to the description, is wearing a style of hat one would not normally associate with evening wear.  The magazine shows a couple of these, so it doesn’t seem to be a mistake—but I find it odd to imagine a lady dancing, wearing this.

Next week, please look for a post on the topic, What to Put on Your Head for a Party.

As always, please click on the images to enlarge.  Clicking on captions will take you to the magazine page at Google Books.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Intrepid Women: Elizabeth Thompson, Lady Butler: Painter of Battles & Soldiers

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Isabella reporting,

Being a professional painter in Victorian England was a difficult path for a woman, but for Elizabeth Thompson (1846-1933), left,  success came swiftly, and with unexpected subjects.

Born in Switzerland to wealthy English parents who believed in travel as a form of education, Elizabeth began her art training in Italy and London as a teenager, concentrating on religious subjects. While studying in Paris, she first saw the work of French painters chronicling heroic battle scenes. Inspired, her first military history painting, Missing, earned her admission to the Royal Academy in 1873.

But it was Calling the Roll after an Engagement, Crimea, or The Roll Call, right, (click on the images to enlarge) painted in 1874 when she was only 28, that made her a celebrity. Showing the haggard survivors of a battalion of Grenadiers answering the roll call after a battle, the painting was an enormous success, drawing such great crowds that a special policeman was hired to keep order. In an unprecedented move, the painting was even removed from the Academy wall and carried to Buckingham Palace so Queen Victoria could view it privately. Her Majesty was as impressed as everyone else, and bought the picture for the royal collection.

Miss Thompson next turned to Waterloo for inspiration, completing The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras, below left, in 1875, another popular success. Her large, detailed canvases were the equivalent of big-screen extravaganzas that fed the imagination and patriotism of the British Empire, then at its pinnacle. But she also focused on the suffering of the ordinary soldier, emphasising the cost of war as well as its glory. Her battle pictures are also unusual because they most often depict the scene from the (doubtless intimidated) enemy's point of view, who are seldom shown. She was fastidious in her research, having replica uniforms made for her models. More military-themed paintings followed, and she became one of the most acclaimed artists of her time.

The public was not only fascinated by the art, but Miss Thompson herself. How was it that a young and attractive English lady could paint such vivid scenes of heroism and suffering that Crimea veterans praised their accuracy? Even the influential art critic John Ruskin was impressed by Quatre Bras - in spite of his determined preconceptions:

"I never approached a picture with more iniquitous prejudice against it than I did Miss Thompson's; partly because I have always said that no woman could paint; and, secondly, because I thought that what the public made such a fuss about must be good for nothing. But it is...the first fine Pre-Raphaelite picture of battle we have had; profoundly interesting, and showing all manner of illustrative and realistic faculty. Of course, all that need be said of it...must have been said twenty times over in the journals; and it remains only for me to make my tardy genuflexion, on the trampled corn, before this Pallas of Pall Mall."

In 1877 she married Sir William Francis Butler, and her career fell behind not only that of her husband, an officer in the British Army, but her new role as a mother. She joined her husband on his posts around the world – Egypt, Zanzibar, South Africa, as well as his home in Ireland – and bore and raised their six children. While her artistic production diminished, she still continued to paint military scenes, including the heroic Scotland Forever!, above, in 1881, which is regarded as her finest painting. She also painted and drew scenes from her travels.

But the most lasting blow to Lady Butler's career is one that many artists face. By the beginning of the twentieth century, tastes in painting had changed, and her meticulously detailed history paintings were seen as hopelessly old-fashioned in the face of new, more abstract movements like Cubism. Even more damning was the shifting perception of armies and battles after the modern horrors of World War One. The grand heroic warfare with patriotic gestures and splendid uniforms of the past no longer had a place in the public imagination, and in 1924, the last painting she submitted to the Royal Academy was rejected. She died in 1933.

In addition to her paintings, Lady Butler also wrote three books, including her autobiography. It's available to read or download for free here; her illustrations, like the one lower right, are included and are wonderful, full of excitement that matches the life she lived.

Top: Scotland Forever!, 1881, Leeds Art Gallery.
Upper left: Calling the Roll after an Engagement, Crimea, (or The Roll Call), 1874, The Royal Collection Trust.
Upper right: The 28th Regiment at Quatre Bras, 1875, National Gallery of Victoria.
Lower right: "Got it, Bravo!" illustration from An Autobiography, 1922.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Vixen in Velvet: A Three-Question Interview with Loretta Chase

Monday, June 23, 2014

Isabella asking questions, and Loretta answering,

As most of you are probably aware, Loretta and I are great fans of each other's books. Like the rest of you, I've found it very hard to wait for the release of Vixen in Velvet, Loretta's newest. But the wait is (almost) over. The story of Leonie Noirot and Simon Blair, Marquess of Lisburne, will finally appear at midnight tonight on tablets everywhere, and in stores tomorrow.

Isabella:  Vixen in Velvet is the third book in your Dressmakers series. Are the Noirot sisters based on a real dressmaking family that you discovered in your research?

Loretta: Research led me mainly to individual dressmakers, Mrs. This or That.  Studying magazine advertisements, I'd happen on one making irate reference to a sibling formerly with the business and now a rival.  (Don't be taken in by imposters!  My work is the original/best!) But my three fictional sisters are my own creation.  They've survived a horrific experience in France, and they make a very tight family unit, each contributing her particular genius to the business
View at LAPL
Isabella: You've shared so many divine fashion plates from La Belle Assemblée here on the blog that inspired your descriptions of the clothes in the book. Do you have a favorite?

Loretta: I have dozens of favorites for different reasons.  We can look at the one I used for the wager scene.  I found the fashion plate at the Los Angeles Public Library, but they seem not to have (or haven't posted) descriptions, unfortunately, and I couldn’t figure out what that intricate construction was.  Determined nerdiness, however, led me to the same dress, published a month later in different colors, in The Magazine of the Beau Monde—a lovely example of the flagrant piracy of the time. I’m including both plates & the description.
View at source
Read at source

Isabella:  For us Nerdy History Girls, research for a book often involves hunting for things that readers don't necessarily notice, the little things that go into creating our fictional, historically-based world. Everyone remembers the splashy ball gowns, but getting the windows right (casements or sash?) for the time period is important, too. Is there anything in this book that makes you particularly proud in a nerdy-history-detail way?

Loretta: Fashion, as you say, is the glamorous part.  But I'm quite proud of what in one way was tedious:  the poetry.  The hero's a sort of bodyguard for a superstar poet who's part of the subplot.  I had to read reams and reams of very bad poetry to get exactly the right terrible poem in the right scene.  Still, the magazines offered comic poetry as well, and that was like looking at satirical prints. So I'm proud of of finding what I think is a good balance of bad and good verse for relevant scenes as well as the chapter epigraphs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of June 16, 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014
Fresh for you! Here's our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• Were these patriotic 18th c shoes made from fragments of an American Revolution flag?
• An account of the courage and harrowing experiences of two soldiers' wives at the battles of Quatre Bra and Waterloo.
Boys' names form medieval London (and not the usual ones, either.)
Crinoline conflagrations: the fatal hazards of skirt fires, 1860s.
Father's Day in 1953: "The one day when Father can sit at ease - but very few appear to know about it."
• What to make of this husband's reaction to his wife's miscarriage in 1811? (Be sure to read the comments, too.)
Image: A great picture you may not have seen: brave women of the Red Cross in 1944 beach landing to assist injured troops at D-Day.
Tarot mythology: surprising origins of the world's most misunderstood cards.
• French hair art, 19th c. mourning fashion, and its industry.
• What can the Oxford English Dictionary tell us about the language of World War One?
• In an attempt to dethrone Mrs. Astor as queen of NYC society, Alva Vanderbilt erects a lavish French chateau on Fifth Avenue in 1882.
Image: The magical interior of Duke Humfrey's Library, Oxford.
Underpinnings, c 1900-1903: what was underneath all those beautiful dresses of the early 20th c.
• Fresh eggs: San Francisco menus from 1853, when food was brought by clipper ships.
• A rare peek inside the Paramount Theatre, Staten Island, NY, which has been shuttered for over 25 years.
• Weird and wonderful creatures of a medieval bestiary.
• Madame Bob Walker, a notorious arranger of elopements.
• From The Lady's Magazine, 1776: The Dead Lothario & letters to the living.
Image: Believed to be the earliest photograph taken of New York City: Broadway, May 1850.
• Exquisite illustrations from the Peter Pan portfolio by Arthur Rackham, 1912.
Birth control and condoms in 18th-19th c. America.
• How did America's most beautiful library get demolished?
• From function to fashion: platform and wedge footwear from the 1930s-40s.
Image: Exposition Universelle, Paris, 1900.
• The 1555 Jewel Book of Duchess Anna of Bavaria.
• Just for fun: this clever Vine was our most popular tweet of the week - and no wonder!
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Dressmakers in the 19th century—an interview

Friday, June 20, 2014
View at source here
Loretta reports:

With Vixen in Velvet’s big day rapidly approaching, I’ve been rapidly doing interviews.  Today’s interview, at All About Romance, focuses sharply on Nerdy History Girl matters, and what I’ve learned about dressmakers in the 1830s.

Though I offer fashion plates monthly, and will offer them more frequently in coming days to complement my new story, this Q & A goes a bit more behind the scenes.

Many thanks to All About Romance for this wonderful opportunity to take readers a bit more deeply into my work!

The illustration is edited from an August 1831 fashion plate in La Belle Assemblée.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Summer Reading for Ladies

Thursday, June 19, 2014
View at source here
Loretta reports:

Since my newest book, Vixen in Velvet, goes public on Tuesday, readers can expect to see quite a bit on historically related subjects (oh, and the book itself, too) here and on my website blog.

For today, we’ll simply time travel to July 1835, the time of my story, and into the pages of La Belle Assemblée, where I found this charming book review.  Would any of us be terribly surprised to find a review like this today?

Read at source here

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Waterloo Rings

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Isabella reporting,

This week marks the one hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, one of the most defining moments in British history. In 2014, we remember the battle via the social media, in countless blog posts as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. In the 19th century, however, British men and women had a more personal, and more lasting, method of commemoration: they wore rings.

The rings shown here are often called Waterloo rings, for the simple (and obvious) fact that they have the battle's name on them. The gold ring, above, includes a profile portrait of the duke surrounded by blue enamel ribbons, while the ring below features a single garnet.

But most of these rings, like the one above, weren't made directly after the battle. They were made much later, as mourning jewelry following the death of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, in 1852. While Wellington's long, illustrious career as a soldier, politician, and diplomat included many high points, the Battle of Waterloo was the most memorable for most people, and two are forever linked together.

At the time of his state funeral, commemorative rings like these were worn not only in Wellington's
honor, but also as a more general patriotic symbol. Much like the two paintings from Monday's post, Waterloo had already acquired the burnished glow of the historical past. Forty years had gone by since the battle, and yet there were still many in Britain who had never forgotten the husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and friends that had been killed in the dreadful slaughter. I'm guessing that many of the people who wore these rings were remembering their lost loved ones as well as the Iron Duke that led them - a double tribute that still carries an emotional charge nearly two hundred years later.

Above: Duke of Wellington Commemorative Ring, 1852, gold and royal blue enamel. Private collection. Image © Rowan and Rowan.
Below: Commemorative Ring, Inscribed Waterloo 1815, cabochon garnet with blue enamel, mounted in gold. Image © Bonham's. Private collection.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Horse Guards and Whitehall in 1811

Tuesday, June 17, 2014
View at source here
Read at source here
Loretta reports:

Rudolph Ackermann provides valuable resources for anybody studying early 19th century England.  Along with the fashion plates I’ve often shown here, his Repository included color plates of country estates and London scenes.  Ackermann is responsible as well for the Microcosm of London, which shows us interiors as well as exteriors of London landmarks

The above plate, from the 1811 Repository, offered what I thought was an interesting view of the Horse Guards.  The road is intriguing. At different times and locations, London streets might be dirt or wood or stones, but they usually boasted layers of horse manure.  This, however, looks like a dirt road.

And does anybody know who the “vain, but shirtless Frenchman” is?

Here's an image from about 100 years later, courtesy Library of Congress.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, 1815

Sunday, June 15, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Tonight is the one hundred and ninety-ninth anniversary of what has been called the "most famous ball in history," and I can't think of any other with a better claim to the title.

Given as an entertainment for the officers of the Duke of Wellington's army stationed in Brussels, it was in fact a glittering social affair - until Wellington received the news during the ball that the French forces under Napoleon had unexpectedly begun their march. Some officers immediately left the ball to return to their troops, while others stayed so long that they did not change their clothes, and ended up fighting in their evening clothes. By the next morning, all the farewells had been said and the last bugles sounded, and the Anglo-Dutch army was on its way to fight the French at the Battle of Quatre Bras, the first step towards the monumental Battle of Waterloo.

There are numerous first-person accounts of the ball and the combination of excitement, anticipation, foreboding, and bravado that marked its tumultuous end. One of the best was written by Georgiana, Dowager Lady de Ros, and a daughter of the Duchess of Richmond; you can read it here. Another excellent account comes from the Hon. Katherine Arden, daughter of the first Lord Alvanley, who was living in Brussels at the time; read her letter here.

The inherent drama of the ball - music and gaiety poignantly give way to the impending carnage of battle - has appealed to several writers. It figures prominently in William Thackery's Vanity Fair (and the several film versions of the novel) and in Canto the Third of Lord Byron's narrative great poem, Child Harold's Pilgrimage, which can be read here. Most of our readers, however, will remember it from An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer.

The ball also inspired the two paintings shown here. Above is Before Waterloo, painted in 1868 by Henry Nelson O'Neil. Below is The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, by Robert Alexander Hillingford, c. 1870. Both are often used as illustrations in histories of Waterloo. The two artists specialized in painting historical subjects, and while both were well-regarded in their lifetimes, their reputations have diminished considerably over time.

Astute Nerdy History Folk will be quick to point out the problems in both these pictures. First off, of course, the dresses and hairstyles of the women are much more fashionable for the 1860s-70s than 1815. The grandly appointed settings are at odds with Lady de Ros's description of the ball taking place in a "large room on the ground floor...[that]had been used by the coach-builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in." Both paintings, too, are highly romanticized, from the golden glow of the light to the over-the-top nobility of every painted face.

But much like another painting of a similar scene, The Black Brunswickers (which I've already blogged about here) by John Everett Millais, painted in 1859, these Victorian artists weren't interested in precisely documenting a historical scene. Instead they were using the past to appeal to their contemporary audience. The underlying theme of all three paintings is a strong, somber sense of duty and patriotism, of men willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.

Britain in the 1860s was changing rapidly, moving away from it agricultural heritage and evolving into an industrial, imperial power. Old ways and values were fading away. The Napoleonic Wars were fifty years ago, a sufficient distance to sentimentalize and revere as a lost era of gallantry, another kind of Camelot. The whole effect in these paintings is more histrionic than historical, striving for an emotional response - which they most likely received from Victorian gallery-goers. The Hillingford painting had the additional burden of having been commissioned by the descendants of the Duchess of Richmond (it remains in the collection of the current duke at Goodwood), who likely wished the scene to be shown to its most decorous advantage.

As for the inaccurate costumes: dressing the figures in a variation of contemporary clothing is a long-standing practice to gain an audiences' empathy through the familiar. People respond to what the recognize. It's the reason why Keira Knightly has bangs and smokey eye makeup as Elizabeth Bennett, and why, too, the heroines painted on romance covers always have long, flowing, modern hair and no stays or corsets.

Thanks to Jo Bourne, Miranda Neville, and Patrick Baty for their thoughts via Twitter regarding this post.

Above: Before Waterloo, by Henry Nelson O'Neil, 1868.
Below: The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, by Robert Alexander Hillingford, c. 1870.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of June 9, 2013

Saturday, June 14, 2014
Served up fresh for you - our favorite links of the week to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, collected from around the Twitterverse.
• An 1840 pocket almanac for a lady, complete with a decorated binding and a mirror inside the front cover.
• The medieval practice of using recycled manuscripts to line clothing.
• The glories of Goldsmith's Hall, London.
• How an emigre working as a busboy in New York came to write the beloved children's book Madeline.
• When Victorian housewives were seduced by seaweed.
• Western art history: 500 years of women ignoring men in paintings.
• The "bro" code, c. 1809
Image: Chinese portrait of young Queen Victoria.
• A rare 18th c. instrument called a Cyanometer, designed to measure the blueness of the sky.
• The abandoned playhouse that was once a treehouse mansion.
• The hands of history: the importance of hands, fingers, and nails in the 18th c.
• A 1912 girls' night out as depicted in John Sloan's painting Renganeschi's Saturday Night - and the menu that was being served.
• Fascinating life of Qui Jin, 19th c. Chinese writer, poet, feminist, & revolutionary.
• Toxic dyes & mercury-laced hats: exhibition looks at the dark side of fashion.
Image: St. Paul's, London, from the Great West Doors to the East Window, looking up more than 500 feet.
• Rival to Charles Frederick Worth: 19th c designer Emile Pingat and the beautiful clothes he created.
• Chinese historian Chen Yen-hui recreates makeup looks from the Tang dynasty.
• The archives of the Royal College of Physicians offer new insight into the "madness of King George."
• The fashion myth of the Flapper.
• A civil servant in India disappears after defrauding a bank of a large sum of money in 1876.
Image: Napoleon's toothbrush with a silvergilt handle and bristles made of horsehair.
• Beautiful paintings of women sewing outdoors, 1800-1900.
• An 1882 artist imagines glamorous 21st c. Paris complete with a floating aerial restaurant.
• "Codex Rotundus", a small round book of hours made in Bruges in 1480.
• A short history of executioners.
Image: advertisements for women detectives in 1890s London.
• Read Shakespeare's plays in a free, mobile-friendly version from the Folger Library.
• An astonishing 19th c. library in Rio de Janeiro filled with 350,000 books.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Casual Friday: British Pathé News 1910-1931

Friday, June 13, 2014
Loretta reports:

A few months ago, British Pathé News made its entire collection of newsreels available on YouTube.  The highlights—some familiar, some surprising—for two decades of reporting makes for a fascinating albeit too- short trip through early 20th century history.

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.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Good Mom vs. Bad Mom, c. 1777

Thursday, June 12, 2014
Isabella reporting,

Pictures comparing good and bad behavior seem to have always been popular. From William Hogarth's Industrious and Idle 'Prentices to Goofus and Gallant, the moralizing, warning tone is often mitigated with a certain sneaking suspicion that while the good may succeed, the bad have more fun.

These two French prints turn the ever-popular theme into a generational battle.  The work of printmaker Louis Simon Lempereur (1728-1807), the pair would likely have been purchased together and hung side by side for an effect both moral and sentimental. As always, click on the images to enlarge them.

Les conseils maternels ("The Wise Mother"), above, bows slightly as she proudly presents her daughter to the viewer - and perhaps, to a future husband. And what a model daughter she has raised! The girl has perfect posture in a straight-backed chair, and she's tightly laced into her stays (corset). Her hair is demurely hidden beneath her fashionably ruffled cap, and she holds a small dog in her lap, a symbol of fidelity, and likely also hinting at the girl's future as a wise mother herself. her only ornament are strands of pearls, another sign of purity. Most of all, the daughter is the picture of slightly simple-minded innocence itself, her round eyes and cheeks and empty expression that's cloyingly sweet.

It's a different story with La mère indulgente ("The Indulgent Mother"), below.  This mother attempts to speak with her teenaged daughter, which is clearly futile. Her daughter is the classic eye-rolling teenager, sulky and spoiled. The girl is slouching languidly in her armchair, and her slack posture would have said Trouble with a capital T to an 18th c. audience. Other clues are her unkempt dress; it appears she's not wearing stays beneath her bodice, and she's lounging vainly before her dressing table and looking glass. The open drawers and untied ribbons also hint at lost virginity, as does the unpinned pinner (that's the flap that's lying in her lap, the upper part of her apron that in a modest woman would be pinned to the front of her bodice.) The silver pot is for hot chocolate, and the empty cup implies that she's been lolling about in her bedchamber long enough to drink a great deal of the sweet beverage. Worst of all, there's a love-letter in her hand. Uh-oh. None of this seems to distress the mother, however, who looks almost as if she's advising her daughter on her love-life.

Something else that caught my eye in these prints is how the mothers are portrayed: to modern eyes, they look really, really old. Considering the age of the daughters (under twenty?) and that Frenchwomen tended to marry young in the 18th c., these women are likely in their forties at the most, and probably younger. Yet their faces and hands are deeply lined and they're missing teeth. At least the wise mother is as fashionably dressed as her daughter.

This could be to make the young daughters more appealing in contrast. It may also be a valid representation of how much more dramatically women would have aged in a time when illness, nutrition, and childbearing took their toll, a time when "a tooth for every child" was expected. Or (and this is a guess) it may also be an example of 18th c. sexism and ageism, with the mothers aged to emphasize how sexually unappetizing older women were considered when compared to the nubile ideal of the Rococo.

Top: Les conseils maternels, by Louis Simon Lempereur, c.1777. The British Museum.
Bottom: La mère indulgente, by Louis Simon Lempereur, c.1775. The British Museum.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A View of Women in 1912—E.F. Benson

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
E.F. Benson
Loretta reports:

Most people familiar with E.F. Benson know the Mapp & Lucia series. That was my experience, too—from so long ago that I remember almost nothing about the stories.  But this spring, I happened to read Mrs Ames.  Published in 1912, the story, like those of Mapp & Lucia, is social satire, dealing with with women jockeying for power in their little social circle.  But the characterizations are not caricatures, and Benson’s insights kept surprising me.  Here's my favorite:

“...that strange fascination and excitement at the thought of shouting and interrupting at a public meeting, of becoming for the first time of some consequence, began to seethe and ferment  Most of the members were women whose lives had been passed in continuous self-repression, who had been frozen over by the narcotic ice of a completely conventional and humdrum existence  Many of them were unmarried and already of middle-age; their natural human instincts had never known the blossoming which the natural fulfilment of their natures would have brought.  To the eagerness and sincerity with which they welcomed a work that demanded justice for their sex there was added this excitement of doing something at last... They would be doing something, instead of suffering the tedium of passivity, acting instead of being acted on.  For it is only through centuries of custom that the woman, physically weak and liable to be knocked down, has become the servant of the other sex.  She is fiercer at heart, more courageous, more scornful of consequences than he; it is only muscular inferiority of strength that has subdued her into the place that she occupies; that, and the periods when, for the continuance of the race, she must submit to months of tender and strong inaction.”
Mrs Ames

You can read the book online here or here.

E.F. Benson photograph from Harper's Weekly, collection of the New York Public Library, courtesy Wikipedia.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Demon Tobacco in the Early 19th Century

Monday, June 9, 2014
View at source here
Loretta reports:

Someone on a social media site recently wrote that it was an error to have men smoking in gentlemen’s clubs stories set in the early 1800s.  Not having come across images of men smoking in the clubs at this time, I'm fine with that.  But additional points were made about cheroots being unknown and about smoking not becoming popular until the late 1800s.  That was odd because...

View at source here
Well, look at the caricatures.  Pierce Egan’s Life in London and its successors have often offered me inspiration, and more than one plate shows Corinthian Tom smoking a cigar.  And so some of my ill-behaved heroes (and a heroine) smoked cheroots  in my books set in the late 1820s.

Since I have no idea where my original research from Lord of Scoundrels and The Last Hellion got itself buried, I went cigar hunting at Google Books.

From The New Monthly Magazine (1826)
“Smoking has had its vicissitudes...grew thin and died away under George the Third; and has lately reappeared, with a flourish of Turkish pipes, and through the milder medium of the cigar, under the auspices of his successor.*—p. 50

From Every Night Book: Or, Life After Dark (1827)
“In choosing your cigars, attend to these precepts.”—p. 85

In An Apology for Smokers (1831) the narrator is traveling by coach.  A passenger opens his cigar case and offers him a cigar. p. 4

United Service Journal (1833)
“Cygnet was doing his best to reduce to vapour a Trichinopoly cheroot, and I was listlessly gazing on the rafters of the bungalow...” p. 55
View online here
View online here

*King George IV (1820-30).

Upper left—Hawthorn Hall: Jerry at Home—Pierce Egan, The Finish to the Adventures of Tom, Jerry, and Logic ...(1828), courtesy Internet Archive.
Lower right—William Heath, Corinthian Steamers (1824) courtesy Wikipedia. Color version at British Museum here.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Breakfast Links: Week of June 2, 2014

Saturday, June 7, 2014
Fresh for a summer morning! Here's our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, articles, & images, gathered for you from around the Twitterverse.
• It's wedding season - here's a look at the architectural design of 19th c. wedding cakes.
• Tabloid-style gossip from 1782: Gen. George Washington revealed to be female!!
Gambling in London's most ruinous gentleman's clubs.
• Historical how-to: how to make a hedgehog cake.
Image: From an 18th c. lady's magazine: "women are, naturally, envious of each other."
• George Dodd's Spitalfields, London, 1842.
• Guaranteed to devour your weekend: huge database of largely forgotten pulp magazines from 1900-1940s.
• Misinterpreting Jane: Austen, romance, and the media.
Rejection letters: how clueless publishers snubbed eleven great authors.
• "Fire burne and cauldron bubble": online exhibition devoted to witchcraft.
• The original fancy jeans - Levi's Spring Bottom Pants, 1905.
• Delightful hand-tinted postcards from 1950s Sweden.
Image: Start the day off with a raspberry colored silk round-gown from Italy, c. 1790s.
• Testing confirms that book in Harvard's law library is in fact bound in human skin.
• Top ten strangest miracles of the Middle Ages.
• World's oldest pair of pants (3,000 years!) discovered in China's Tarim Basin.
• The Victorian secret language of flowers.
• Cherries are in season! Try Martha Washington's 1749 recipe for "Preserved Cherries."
• This Regency-style redingote costume has been worn in Vanity Fair as well as in Austenland and Death Comes to Pemberley.
• Image: Lovely early photograph 1884 of buyers and sellers on a busy market day, Whitby Market Place.
• The use of applique in the 19th & 20th c. fashion.
Oliver Twist and the corrupted city.
• The life & beautiful work of 17th c. flower still life painter Rachel Ruysch.
• How Victorian comics provide an insight into the lives of people in the 1880s.
• An indenture of apprenticeship, 1734.
Image: This Toronto ad from 1904 for hair wigs & pieces reads: "Homely People never succeed in anything."
• Did the English invent football to keep young men from touching themselves?
• "The Mona Lisa is designed to frustrate": the history of the smile in portraiture.
Doublet, coat, or vest - who wore it best?
Byzantine ancestors of tablet computers found in Yenikapi diggings.
Image: Mugshot of Goldie Williams, arrested for vagrancy in 1898.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Friday Video: A 17th c. Automated Drinking Game

Friday, June 6, 2014

Isabella reporting,

Blog readers know by now that Loretta and I have serious fascinations with automatons of the past - those gorgeously crafted wind-ups of precious metals and amazing ingenuity. We've shown you a silver swan, eye-rolling elephants, a harpsichord player that belonged to Marie-Antoinette, and even a wriggling, jewel-studded caterpillar. The automaton shown here was not only a beautiful object, but also provided dining table entertainment for its aristocratic owners. Think of it as an automated, gilded hybrid of spin-the-bottle and a drinking game.

This automaton features a golden Diana, goddess of the hunt, riding a stag. Made of cast and chased silver, partially gilded and painted with translucent lacquers, the piece was created in the early 17th c. by the German goldsmith Joachim Fries, and is called a "trinkspiel," or drinking game. Currently in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, it's a rare survivor with a fascinating story that was recently described here on the web site of WBUR, Boston's public radio station. There are many more pictures on the site as well, plus directions for playing that drinking game. Cheers!

Thanks to Andrea Shea, Arts & Culture reporter for WBUR, for sharing this story & video with us via Twitter.

Above: Diana and Stag Automaton, marked by Joachim Fries, c. 1610-1620. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Paying Charles Dickens

Thursday, June 5, 2014
Dickens in his study at Gad's Hill
Loretta reports:

A commenter on one of my recent posts wrote:  “Paid by the word, that was done in my youth when I wrote a newspaper column. Are you saying that it wasn't done in Dickens' time, or that it was not done with Dickens?”

The idea of Dickens being paid by the word may be based on misunderstandings about his career as well as the 21st century view of his prose style.

Dickens started out as a freelance reporter, and these men were penny-a-liners, often viewed as hacks.  He was soon hired, though, for a regular salary.

His fiction followed a different route.  For his first few published fictional pieces—which eventually became part of Sketches by Boz—his only pay was the delight of seeing his work in print.  But not long thereafter he was paid an extra two guineas a week for these sketches.

He received one hundred pounds for the copyright to the Sketches by Boz printed to that point, then £100 for the second edition, then £150 “for a new volume of previously uncollected sketches.”  For The Pickwick Papers, he was to provide 1-1/2 sheets (16 pages of finished product) per month at 9 guineas per sheet.  The rates soon went up.

By the 1840s, he received an advance of £1800 for American Notes. In 1863,  “he proposed that [his publishers] pay him £6000 for the half copyright throughout and outright" for Our Mutual Friend

As to his verbosity: We 21st C authors are expected step briskly into the story, and to keep digressions and subplots to a bare minimum.  Not at all the case in his time.  Readers had longer attention spans; they wanted big stories and lots of detail.  But he told big stories and conveyed detail in a lively way, and his style seemed fresh and vibrant and modern to his readers.  His early newspaper pieces sometimes make fun of the over-ornate style of the time—and it’s a joke he uses again and again in his fiction, especially in portraying hypocrites, humbugs, and windbags.

While there seem to be an infinite number of Dickens biographies, I relied for the above information on two I had close at hand, Fred Kaplan’s Dickens: A Biography, and Peter Akroyd’s Dickens.

Image courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the information page there.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Traveling in Style: Mrs. du Pont's Travel Case, c. 1920

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Isabella reporting,

My post earlier this week featured costumes from Downton Abbey currently on display at Winterthur Museum. As I noted, the costumes and life of the fictional Crawley family are contrasted with their real-life contemporaries, the wealthy American Du Ponts. The Du Ponts qualify as "old money," whose immense family fortune was based in industry dating back to the late 18th c.

One object in particular seemed to me to represent the luxurious lives of the very rich in the 1920s, regardless of which side of the Atlantic they called home. This beautifully crafted travel case, covered in crocodile or alligator leather, belonged to Ruth Wales du Pont (1889-1967), below right, wife of Henry Francis du Pont. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge it for detail.) Traveling for the Du Ponts and their two daughters meant lavish touring automobiles, private train cars, and first-class accommodations as they divided their time between Winterthur, their 175-room estate near Wilmington, DE, houses in Florida and Rhode Island, and an apartment in New York City.

Here's the exhibition description of the case:

Ruth Wales du Pont's traveling case was custom-made for her by Albert Barker Ltd., London, manufacturers to His Majesty King George V. It is quite heavy, and carrying the case would have been part of the [lady's] maid's duties. Inside the expensive leather shell we see an array of required items for looking immaculate, including 10 gold-plated and capped glass cosmetic and perfume bottles, a seal, a sealing wax container, an address book, an ink well and sketch pad, a mechanical pencil and a pen, a match box, an ash tray, a photo case, a clock, thimble, needle case and pin cushion, 2 clothes brushes, a shoe horn, a button hook, 2 lipstick cases (including one with a lipstick), a hair brush and curling iron, 2 combs, a hair pin box, soap case, 2 tooth brushes, a mirror, a jewelry box, and a manicure set.

The travel case is currently on display at Winterthur Museum as part of the exhibition Costumes of Downtown Abbey, now through January 4, 2015. See here for more information.

Top: Crocodile or alligator leather case, c. 1920, Albert Barker Ltd., London. Wintherthur Museum.
Bottom: Portrait of Ruth Wales du Pont and her daughter Pauline Louise, by Harrington Mann, 1921. Winterthur Museum.
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