Thursday, July 31, 2008

Book Plates

Book plates are a fun necessity to a growing library. Well, not a necessity but they make you feel special when you open your books. So while I am searching for my own I thought I'd post some bookplates worthy of any Georgian bibliophile.

54 labels for $20

24 labels for $28
Beaded Border

$24 labels for $30
Blue and Brown Damask

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mother Knows Best

It is an understatement to say that there were many similarities between Marie Antoinette and Georgiana, in life, personality, and company. Maybe the reason for their parallel lives is their extremely similar mothers. Through their lives their mothers wrote to them frequently, bestowing their motherly advice. Both ladies struggled to please their mothers but found it hard, especially with all the wonderful temptations out in the world. So Lauren and I would like to present a new series so we can bestow the well-meant advice of Lady Spencer and Maria Theresa on you, so you can ignore it as well. While Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide updates you on Maria Theresa's ideas for perfection, I shall relay Lady Spencer's.

But first, here is a little bit about the busy-body Spencer matron.

Born Georgiana Poyntz, she married John Spencer, the 1st Earl of Spencer in 1755. Their courtship was short, John was totally smitten with her. He proposed to her by quickly drawing her aside before she left for home one night and presenting her with a diamond and ruby ring, engraved inside it, in French, it read "My heart is yours. Keep it well." She was smart, fluent in Greek, and a lover and composer of music. She was also very opinionated. Georgiana was her first child, and Lady Spencer found herself totally in love with the baby girl (see the above Reynolds). She remained her favorite child of the couple's three. It is probably because of this over-affection that Lady Spencer put so much pressure on Georgiana to make the right decisions. This advice never ceased throughout Georgiana's marriage and to the end of her life.

"Here commences our correspondence, my dear Georgiana from which I propose myself more real pleasure than I can express, but the greatest part of it will vanish if I do not find you treat me with that entire Confidence that my heart expects."

September 25, 1774

Marriage a la Mode, Part 4: The Toilette

When we last left off in Hogarth's series, it seemed the viscount had run into some trouble with a venereal disease or two. What has become of his wife? We rejoin her in her morning toilette. Toilettes or Levees were something only the extremely rich could afford, they made a party out of waking up in the morning. And why not? Life is a party! Our unfortunate wife is now a countess (the old earl must have died), as indicated by the coronet above her bed. This explains why she can afford such frivolities such as a morning levee. A large array of visitors are part of this party and are entertained by a singer and flautist. One woman seems to be in raptures over the music, a macaroni appears unaffected as he sips his tea, a man in the back yawns. The mistress of the house is not paying attention to the music at all. Instead she is engrossed in conversation with the lounging lawyer, Silvertongue. Remember him? He smiles and invites her to a masquerade as indicated by his gesture towards her screen depicting a masque. The countess seems bemused; her hairdresser: totally engrossed in the scandal about to unfold. Masquerades were known for their scandalous implications. Under disguise, much debauchery could take place, especially affairs.

To further hint at the outcome of this situation, Hogarth, once again, dresses his composition with clues. The paintings hanging in the Countess' bedroom not only tells us how obscenely rich she is, it also contain messages. Correggio's Zeus and Io hangs above her; a highly eroticized depiction of Zeus' seduction of the nymph, Io by impregnating her in the form of a cloud. On the adjacent wall is a painting of the abduction of Ganymede, in which Zeus falls in love with a young man and brings him to Mount Olympus, in the form of an eagle, to be the cup-bearer for the gods. Above Silvertongue hangs a painting of the biblical story of Lot and His Daughters, who attempted to seduce their father. In the foreground, a young African page unloads a collection of curiosities. He holds in his hands an statue of Actaeon, the unfortunate huntsman who spied on Artemis bathing and whom she punished by turning into a stag. In this case, it is not the story that Hogarth is referencing but the actual image of Actaeon: a man with a stag's head. The allegory of a cuckold is a man with horns, usually that of a deer. If things continue to pan out as they seem to be, the countess will be making a cuckold of her husband.

Next, Part 5 >>

Marriage a la Mode Part 1
Marriage a la Mode Part 2
Marriage a la Mode Part 3

Flower Power

I have been staring at Lady Skipworth's bosom for a while now trying to decide what kind of flowers she has coming out of it. I won't make any educated guesses due to my lack of a green thumb; that gene must have skipped my generation. I still love flowers, despite my ability to take care of them and the people of the 18th century felt the same way. Foreign wildflowers from the colonies were becoming popular due to their exotic qualities. A fondness for plants was a sign of the owners' Enlightened sense of nature. While roses were a classic, and tulips had been increasing in popularity due to the Dutch, some flowers became more and more popular in the Georgian Garden.

Rhododendrons Hydrangeas

Kalmias Columbine

Hollyhocks Sweet Williams

China Asters Cornflowers

Phloxes Chrysanthemums


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

News from Chatsworth

For anyone who lives in England or is planning on a trip there in the fall, Chatsworth is a hot spot. Of course I think everyone should go there but they have some great events this autumn that I keep happening upon (and am extremely devastated about not being able to go myself).

Beyond Limits, Sotheby's at Chatsworth
September 9 - November 2
The gardens open up to display modern and contemporary sculpture to be auctioned by Sotheby's. Artists such as Dali and Rodin have exhibited there in the past exhibitions. Many of the pieces have been gone on to be displayed in other hot spots such as New York City, and seen by yours truly.

The Duchess Exhibition
August 1 - October 31
To coincide with the release of the upcoming film, Chatsworth exhumes pieces from it's favorite inhabitants life. The Chatsworth site boasts of displaying rare treasures from her life as well as two of Kiera's costumes from the film. I am cringing at the fact that I will not be able to see this; the first time I went they had only one of Kiera's costumes from Pride and Prejudice and the Mr. Darcy statue.

I would suggest making a visit to Derbyshire in late September or October. Then of course going back for the Chatsworth Christmas!


Anna Dorthea Therbusch, Self-Portrait, 1770

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tart of the Week: Frances, Countess of Jersey

The insufferable Lady Jersey was not only a trollop, she was just plain nasty-mean. This wild Irish rose was the daughter of the Bishop of Raphoe, although he died before she was born. His death was the result of him trying to rob a stagecoach in London unsuccessfully. It remains unclear how the simple Frances Twysden was able to nab George Villiers, the next in line for the Earldom of Jersey. He was more than 20 years her senior and she was only 17 at the time of their marriage. George would later become the Master of Horse and Lord of the Bedchamber to the Prince of Wales. You probably know where this is going already.

Frances' marriage proved to be fruitful and she had ten children from 1771 to 1788. In between the children she made a hobby (and reputation) of wrecking her friends' marriages. She was a definitive member of the ton and one of the elite members of the Devonshire House Circle. This allowed her even more access to her friends' husbands and lovers. She was like a really evil version of Lady Melbourne. During Georgiana's first years of marriage she naively considered Lady Jersey to be one of her friends. Frances felt the same way, but she had an odd way of showing it. While Georgiana and her friends paraded in their gowns en militaire in Coxheath, Frances took advantage of the Duchess' brief absences from her husband to visit him alone in his tent...frequently. Worst of all, both parties made no secret of it; in fact they both seemed to flaunt the affair to poor Georgiana. The affair was ended by Georgiana's parents, Lord and Lady Spencer, who threatened Frances if she decided to continue the affair as well as told the Duke how disgusted they were with his behavior.

No matter to Frances, she moved on to other lovers very quickly, not worried at all about her reputation. When an article ran in the paper about her infidelities, this only caught her husband by surprise. The couple was visiting Chatsworth at the time and during dinner George jumped up and declared he would show the world he did not believe the press' slander against his wife. Everyone must have rolled their eyes. She continued to have affairs with the likes of Lord Morpeth and the Earl of Carlisle.

Her most famous affair was, of course, with the Prince of Wales. From 1794 to 1798 she was his main squeeze. In fact, it was she who broke up the prince's relationship with Mrs. Fitzherbert. The satirical cartoonists had a field day depicting the chubby prince canoodling with a haggish grandmother (Frances was over 40 when the affair began). Frances turned out to be more than just an outlet for the prince's carnal desires. Like Camilla with Prince Charles, she convinced Prince George to marry Caroline of Brunswick because she didn't think her to be a threat. She even became Caroline's Lady of the Bedchamber, much to Caroline's dislike. Frances continued her habit of torturing wives. The Prince took two pearl bracelets from Caroline's wedding jewels on the wedding day and gave them to Frances who made sure to always wear them in Caroline's presence. From day one, Frances was involved in the marriage and therefore a huge reason for it's ill-success.

Harriet Lady Bessborough (Georgiana's sister) made the comment that Lady Jersey could not be happy unless she had some rival to torment. Frances' hate for Caroline reached a point where she went out of her way to torment the poor princess. This caused her downfall, she became the most hated woman in England while the crowds cheered for poor Caroline. When she arrived at the Duchess of Gordon's ball, no one greeted her and every time she went up to a group of people to chat, the talking immediately stopped and the crowd dispersed. This wasn't as bad as her treatment by the lower classes who threw rocks at her house and drove her away in embarrassment by parading figures dressed as her and the prince on donkeys. Her golden age of snobbery and evil had come to an end.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gossip: French and Saunders

This is why no one invites Lauren and I to parties anymore...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Mrs Rat and her Friends

Nicknames were prevalent in the age of letters. In fact, whole new dialects seem to be created by the aristocracy, such as the "Cavendish drawl" which the Devonshire House circle spoke in. each member of the circle seemed to have a nickname. Although some origins are obvious, others are quite perplexing. These nicknames were the usual form of address in casual letters, although we cannot be so sure how often they were used vocally.

Duchess of Devonshire Mrs. Rat

Duke of Devonshire Canis, due to his affection for dogs.

Lady Bess Foster Racky

Duchess de Polignac Little Po

Marie Antoinette, Mrs. B[rown], Louis was, of course, Mr. B

Richard Brinsley Sheridan Argus

Charles James Fox The Eyebrow, due to his enormous eyebrows

Lady Jersey The Infernal

Duke of Richmond Goodwin

Prince of Wales Prinny

Charles, Earl Grey Black

Duke of Dorset Pride

Frederick, Viscount Duncannon (Harriet's husband) Harum, due to his love of pranks

Bess had her own unique nickname with the Spencers: the Chief Councellor.

"It's just this kind of Hanky-flapping that gives people like us a bad name"

Lauren and I are torn between our two loves. We haven't been able to decide which is better. Blackadder the Third or Let Them Eat Cake. Regardless, both do an excellent job of summarizing

the British Aristocracy:

and the French Aristocracy:

So would anyone like to share on their preferences, because we just can't make up our mind!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pompeo Batoni, the Most English of the Italian Painters

When young aristocrats went on the Grand Tour as their rite of passage into manhood they needed to bring back proof of their journey. Artifacts, antiques, and paintings of Vesuvius usually made their way home to decorate their future estates back in the British Isles. But those souvenirs could be things that just anyone picked up! The young masters needed more proof of their completion of the Grand Tour. For that, they would usually go to Pompeo Batoni.

At the age of 19 Batoni moved to Rome and apprenticed with a few of the city's painters. By the 1750's Batoni had established himself with the British tourists as a skilled portrait painter who cost much less than Reynolds and worked faster too. He is now credited with inventing the Grand Tour Portrait. Sitters were usually placed in a luxurious setting, complete with a classical (and recognizable) statue from Rome such as Laocoon. In the distance there was usually an Italian landscape (further proof), possibly with a recognizable structure such as the Coliseum or Vesuvius. These painting were not only meant to document the proof of the sitters' completion of the Grand Tour but also to express their enlightenment. The sitters' dogs commonly accompanied their owners in the portraits as a display of their sensitivity to nature, another Enlightenment value.

Batoni turned into the most sought after Italian painter among the British elite. Because of his many portraits of them, he is often lopped in with the other great English portrait-painters of the century. His style evolved to express this as well. Many of his soft hues darkened to form the rich darker ones that were so popular in the sitters' native land. However, the soft brush still shows through the dark palette revealing this painter-of-the-English's true Italian roots.


Pompeo Batoni, The Death of Meleager, 1740-43

Saturday, July 19, 2008

T and A: The Ideal Shape

My earliest lesson in 18th century fashion was when I went to Williamsburg in 1998. I remember them telling me in the wig shop to always watch my hair because when I wasn't looking someone would cut it off and sell it; ah the dangers of being a blonde. I also recall the macaroni tailor telling me that undergarments such as corsets and panniers were used to create the correct shape of the body that nature stubbornly refused to create. Basically, the ideal shape. Well I just found this crash course in the 18th century ideal shape from the Metropolitan Museum. Check it out here.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Marriage a la Mode, Part 3: The Inspection

In our continued journey through Hogarth's Marriage a la Mode, we rejoin the couple...wait a minute, that is not our couple. It appears that our Doherty-predecessor Viscount has taken up with a mistress. A rather young mistress. Once again, Hogarth's snarky sense of humor takes satire to a whole new level.

The Viscount's sexual appetite has landed him and his young mistress in the French doctor, M. de la Pillule's office looking for a cure to an STD or two. The Viscount is looking quite jovial despite his situation. The child-mistress, on the other hand looks extremely upset. It seems that the medicine prescribed to rid them of their venereal diseases hasn't been working and they are search of an alternative remedy. They exchange different pill boxes with the dirty-looking quack doctor. Many morbid symbols are housed in this office including sarcophagi and skulls. In fact this "doctor" seems to be more of a collector of the marvelous than a pharmacist. The office is littered with masks, and bones, and narwhal horns. Inside the cabinet behind the viscount, a skeleton embraces a muscle model; could this be a chilling omen? The overbearing figure in the composition is a rather wide, angry woman. She seems to be afflicted with a venereal diseases of her own, judging from the black spot on her face. It is supposed that she is the child-mistress' mother. But could she both the mother of the mistress and the mistress? The viscount does seem at ease with her.

Next, Part 4 >>

Marriage a la Mode Part 1
Marriage a la Mode Part 2


"[Little G] is very much admired. Her cradle, robe, baskets, etc., are, I am afraid, foolishly magnificent...She has a present coming from the Queen of France, but I don't know what it is yet."

-Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire

On the Duchess of Devonshire...

"[She] will probably stuff her poor babe into her knotting bag, when she wants to play Macao, and forget it."
-Horace Walpole

Tart of the Week: Emma Lady Hamilton

Today is a special day so it deserves a very special tart. Emy Lyon was born into poverty on April 26, possibly in the year 1764. She didn't have much going for her but she was gorgeous. At the age of 12 she began work as a maid but was fired for spending a drunken night with officers (officers!) from Coxheath. At 13 she was streetwalker in Soho, selling herself in order to keep from starving. The Madame, Mrs. Kelly must have seen her lovely face and saw profit all over it because she soon became a high-class prostitute of Kensington Gardens, no more rags for her! Her face made impressions on most everybody; in 1802 the Prince of Wales told Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun how he had seen the most beautiful girl in rags years ago whom he later recognized as Lady Hamilton upon formal introduction. It has even been rumored she was one of the quack, Dr Graham's Goddesses of Health who would model half-nude at his temple of health.

By 1781 Emily (Hart), as she was now known, had moved in with Sir Henry Featherstonhaugh. She mostly served as a someone for him to have sex with when he came home from hunting, but the 15 year old thought she was in love. In August of that year Sir Henry tired of her and literally deposited her in London. Unfortunately, this is when Emma realized she was pregnant. Not knowing where to turn to, she wrote to Sir Henry's friend, the Honorable Charles Greville. Grenville agreed to help her, and so began one of the most complicated and bad relationships in history that it will make many feel better about their own.

In order for Emma to gain Greville's help, Emma had to agree to do whatever he said, including give up the child. The naive Emma (well, to be honest she was also kind of stupid) soon became Greville's live-in love slave. And she enjoyed every minute. Greville wasn't evil, he was just a control freak. He manipulated Emma to the point where the lovesick girl did everything she could do to please him. As much as she wanted to be a mother to her child, she wanted to please Greville more. Greville, being a second son, never had any money but had an extreme interest in collecting antiques. This hobby of his came from his old uncle, Sir William Hamilton, the British ambassador to Naples. Greville's mistress was more than he could afford, despite him teaching her his thrifty ways. She was just another prized Classical antique to him, but what if he could use her to his advantage....Grenville began selling a model! And boy did she sell, George Romney practically fell in love with her. Emma like the attention modeling gave her too; Greville was too stuffy to pay her the attention she craved. By this time Emma was known as Emma Hart and making quite a name (or face) for herself as the gorgeous model. One of her admirers was Greville's uncle, Sir William, an old and lonely widower.

Greville's finances were not getting any better so he did what he he usually did with any of his antiques when he was strapped for cash, he sold Emma to another collector, his uncle. Emma had no idea that she was part of the transaction to pay of Greville's debts. She thought she was just taking a nice little vacation to Naples with nice Sir Hamilton. You can image her upset when she found out Greville wasn't coming back to get her. Her distressed love letters to Greville at this time are some of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching love letters, despite her crude writing. Eventually Emma did fall in love with the senior citizen. She once again, was an antique collectable, but this time she was one to be shown off and decked in finery. At gatherings, she would perform her "Attitudes" in which she would strike classical poses in Greek gown. She met many fine and famous people, although many of the uppity British aristocratic ladies refused to see her since she was a kept mistress. These ladies did not include Georgiana, her sister, mother, or Bess, who found Emma quite charming and beautiful despite her crude way of speaking. Eventually Sir William married Emma in London in 1791; he was 60 she was 26.

Their marriage was a happy one. Emma even became a close friend of Maria Carolina, Queen of Naples. It was even Emma who delivered the last correspondence of Marie Antoinette to her sister Maria Carolina. But the happy marriage could not last forever. Emma increasingly became fatter and fatter, taking the charm out of her beauty. She also increasingly became more full of herself.

The celebrated hero Admiral Lord Nelson became one of the celebrities who visited the Hamiltons. At this point, he wasn't the gorgeous hero-type, he was missing an arm, teeth, and God knows what else. Emma wasn't much of a catch herself do to her extreme weight-gain. Despite this, Horatio Nelson fell head over heels in love with Emma. They two conducted their affair before the eyes of both their spouses and pretty-much all of England. When Emma became pregnant with Nelson's child, no one even noticed because she was so fat. The child, slyly name Horatia, was also sent away, much to Nelson's chagrin. Sir William may have never known about the child due to Emma's sneaky ways but he would have to be blind to not notice the affair. There are many debates about whether he allowed it due to his respect for Nelson or possibly just wanted Emma to be happy.

Sir William died in 1803 and Nelson followed in 1805. Emma was left alone and led a rather depressing an outcast life until her death from liver failure in 1815. With no one left to love her, including her own daughter who hated her, she drank herself to death.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I wish I had found this before July 4th, it would have made a fitting tribute to Independence Day. Robot Chicken's spoof of the very excellent film, 300.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Small Investigation of Michael O'Connor's Work

The Duchess of Devonshire was a fashion icon, in fact she was arguably the leading fashion icon in late 18th century England. She is responsible for popularizing such fads as the Picture Hat, the Gaulle Gown aka chemise a la reine, and the gown en militaire. So for her upcoming biopic, The Duchess, Georgiana should be in the most extravagant and fabulous of costume. This was successfully accomplished by costume designer, Milena Canonero in 2006's Marie Antoinette. She won an Oscar for her efforts. Her previous credits include Titus and The Affair of the Necklace. So how will The Duchess' costume designer, Michael O'Connor match up? Here's a small look at the films he was costumer designer for. Sorry for the lack of better pictures, I had a tough time finding good ones so feel free to contribute.

The Mystic Masseur, 2001

Nomad, 2005

The Last King of Scotland, 2006

Brick Lane, 2007

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, 2008

's work in wardrobe departments is more impressive to me. Some of these films include Quills, Topsy Turvy, and Emma. So will his work prove to be something Georgiana would really wear? We won't know until the movie comes out, but until then, there's always this.