Friday, October 31, 2008

Tart of the Week: Elizabeth Armistead

This week's tart is a very special and notorious tart of the late 18th century. She enjoyed a celebrity as the most famous courtesan and slept with just about every famous man in England during her career. Please just try to wrap your mind around that! Not much is known of Elizabeth Cane's humble beginnings except that she was born July 11, 1750. Elizabeth's beauty was able to secure her a career as a model for a hairdresser when she first arrived in London. It has even been rumored that she had been Perdita's dresser when she was an actress at Drury Lane. Either way, her beauty (and large breasts) attracted the attention of well-known madam and soon Elizabeth was a working out of a brothel. So much for the hair modeling business! It was around this time that Elizabeth began going under the name Mrs. Armistead in order to protect her family.

Elizabeth's success as a courtesan can probably be attributed to the fact that she wouldn't let herself get too attached to her clients. Most of them being rakes anyway, Elizabeth saw no need to be bothered with love. Some of her long list of lovers include, the Duke of Dorset, Duke of Ancaster, Earl of Derby, Viscount Bolingbroke, Lord George Cavendish (The Duke of Devonshire's brother), and, of course, the Prince of Wales. Elizabeth must have been very good at her craft! She was even good enough to buy herself the Armistead House. A famous story the Devonshire set like to joke about (along with everyone else) was when Lord George Cavendish came to Elizabeth's house one night after a few too many drinks. When he was refused admittance he barged in anyway. He went straight to her chamber, opened her door and, candle in hand, discovered the Prince of Wales cowering behind the door. Lord George burst out laughing, made a low bow and walked the whole way home, laughing. He had a much better sense of humor than his brother.

One person who was certainly not laughing was Perdita. She was very upset that the prince had spurned her love for that of "The Armistead."* Since both women were both celebrities, the papers capitalized on Perdita's anguish by gleefully supplying stories of the two women's rivalry. Luckily for Perdita, the prince broke things off with Elizabeth and moved on to Grace Dalrymple Elliot. Elizabeth herself moved on to bigger and better fish. That fish just happened to be a Fox.

After a string of lovers later, Charles James Fox was now the sad, rejected lover of Perdita. He somehow found consolation in the arms of Elizabeth. But neither politician nor courtesan thought that they would end up falling in love. For the first time it appeared that Elizabeth was in love with one of her clients, and he loved her back. However, years of drinking, gambling, and womanizing didn't leave Fox with enough money to sustain Elizabeth's pricey lifestyle. She resisted his advances but finally gave in and by 1783 she settled down to a monogomous relationship with Fox. In 1795 they secretly wed. Who would have thought that these two party animals could settle down and become models of marital bliss? But there they were in their cosey London home, hosting dinners and gardening. Yes, gardening!

Fox surprised everyone in 1802, including his best friends, when he revealed that he and Elizabeth had been married for seven years. His true friends, like Georgiana, warmly accepted the "fallen" woman knowing the strength of the couple's love. When Fox lay on his deathbed four years later his last words were to his beloved wife, "It don't signify my dearest, dearest Liz." Although, heartbroken, the ever-independent Elizabeth went on to live for many years, watching many of her and her husbands friends pass into the next world. She died at the ripe old age of 91 in 1842.

For more information on Elizabeth and Fox's love story check out Scandalous Women.

*The papers liked to refer to courtesans as if they were boats, because many men boarded them. This is how the nickname for Elizabeth came to be.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween!

As you may have noticed from my other Halloween post, Halloween is my favourite Holiday so I would like to wish you fun and fancy and this night of ghouls, goblins and, of course, candy! In celebration, let's explore some creepy 18th century art by two of the best; the Spanish artist Fransico Goya and the Swiss-British Artist Henry Fuseli.

Fuseli, The Nightmare, 1781
Goya, The Dream of Reason Brings Forth Monsters, 1799

Fuseli, The Three Witches, 1783

Goya, The Witches' Sabbath, 1798

For more 18th century macabre works, be sure to check out The Tate's past exhibition, Gothic Nightmares. The Tate has been so kind as to have left a virtual tour of the exhibition on their site so you can view the works they had on view. You know I love it because it has many fun satirical pieces!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

For Sale

More bookspotting for tonight! Yale University Press is having a 50% off selected books sale. My personal recommendation: The Notorious Muse: The Actress in British Art and Culture 1776-1812. Don't miss out on these deals either!

For Sale

I just recently added a fun widget to my sidebar of some of my favorite book recommendations. After I refreshed my blog and was playing with the widget, I noticed that one of the books I added, City of Laughter by Vic Gatrell is currently on sale for only $7.99!! Now I don't know Vic, but I was lucky enough to have gone to his lecture on the book in question, and I just have to promote buying this book from Amazon right now because it is an absolute steal! I paid a lot more for it (£35 I think!) and was happy to do so because this book is chuck-full of great information on all the scandals in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Gatrell studies the various scathing satirical prints that circulated London during this time. Over 600 pages, most with colour illustrations, talk of some of our favorite subjects including Lady Worsley, The Learned Pig, and Mary Bowes all while examing the aesthetic and comedic technique of the satirical artists of the time. Gatrell's book is like an 18th century tabloid encyclopedia. It's a fun read, and a good reference to have in your library.

A Harlot's Progress: Plate 2

Oh Moll! What are you up to now? It seems as though our docile seamstress from the last plate has done quite well for herself in the new career path that Mother Needham picked out for her. Moll is a high-class tart; a kept woman. This has secured her a comfortable living arrangement, a pet monkey, a fashionable West Indian servant boy, and considerable pocket money. She seems to be enjoying her hedonistic life as mistress to a Jewish merchant (Hogarth obviously came from a time predating political correctness).

After spending a rambunctious night at the masquerade (as indicated from the mask on the vanity) Moll seems to have brought home a man who isn't paying her rent. When the man who is paying it shows up unexpectantly for an early breakfast with his mistress Moll is put in a tight spot. In order to get her boytoy out undiscovered Moll picks a fight with her merchant which ends with her knocking down the tea table. Not the classiest move, but it gets her lover out undetectected.

Evidence of Moll's downfall to debauchery are all around. The broken china of the tea set symbolizes Moll's broken honor. Her pet monkey runs away with her headdress, showing the chaos and drama of her life. It should also be noted that traditionally, in northern art, monkeys have been used as a symbol of evil or Satan.

It would appear by Moll's casual expression (or drugged?) that she is way too comfortable in the deceit of her merchant. The expression on his face clearly mark's astonishment over her behaviour. I would be a little more careful if I were you Moll. You may have gotten out of this scrap, but I wouldn't be so optimistic with any others.

A Harlot's Progress: Plate 1
Next >>

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Devonshire Progeny: Little G

After many years of miscarriages, Georgiana was finally round with a nine-month pregnancy. Her sister Harriet had given birth to her second boy a week before and Georgiana was hoping for the same thing, or at least for a healthy delivery. The Duke was less than optimistic and had already convinced himself that the much-awaited for child would be a girl. His premonition proved to be correct and on July 12, 1783 a healthy baby girl was born to the couple. The labour was stressful for both, and while the Duke watched, Georgiana was in near hysterics after thinking she had delivered a dead baby. Georgiana Dorothy Cavendish was born to her mother's cries of, "only let it be alive!" Despite Little G, as she was to be called, not being the heir that both parents wished for, they both doted on her, especially Georgiana. At first, a wet nurse had been hired but when she came to work after a bender and puked and fell down the stairs, Georgiana thought it best if she breastfed her child herself, something extremely unusual among the aristocracy.

Little G may have been her mother's namesake but she never seemed to inherit her mother's outgoing nature. She was more introverted like her father and this seemed to translate into quiet shyness. Her mother's exile after the affair with Charles Grey also seemed to have a damaging impact on Little G. Georgiana returned to find her even more reserved and now insecure; she followed Georgiana wherever she went, worried that she would disappear again if left out of her sight. She had also developed a crippling fear of being sinful. Despite these reserves she was a clever girl and a bibliophile. She was probably her mother's favourite child of her three/four.

After Little G's coming out, she had two notable admirers, The Duke of Bedford and the young Lord Morpeth. The 35 year old Bedford was a Whig, which recommended him to Georgiana, but he already had a slew of illegitimate children and kept two mistresses, one being Lady Melbourne. Morpeth, at 27, was a fine choice, but Georgiana had a difficult time envisioning her favourite child married off to a Tory. In the end, the Tory won the heart and hand of Little G and she became the Countess of Carlisle. As it turned out, Little G spent her marriage in much different way than her mother: having lots of children and avoiding the spotlight. One of her daughters even married a son of Charles Grey....kind of weird.

Georgiana's death in 1806 devastated her daughter, who seemed to have codependency issues and also saw her mother as her best friend. In her portrait above she holds a miniature of her beloved mother and looks to her in the heavens.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Late 18th Century Women's High Fashion 101

There were many fashions and trends in Georgiana's time, many of which were of her design. But I thought it may be a good idea to cover the general basics of women's fashion in this post.
To begin, there were two main styles of dress: Robe a la Francaise or Sack Dress and the Robe a l'Anglaise or Mantua. The majority of gowns and fashions stemmed from these two styles. A contemporary example could be straight legged jeans vs flared jeans; two basic styles that we have worn for decades despite trends such as low rise or skinny jeans.French Flair!
The Robe a la Francaise is what we tend to think of when we think of an 18th century gown. Perhaps the image of Madame de Pompadour in a garden or lounging on a couch appears in our mind. This uncomfortable, traditional style was going out of vogue in the later part of the 18th century but did not go extinct because it had to be worn for court dress functions. It required the use of the ever-important panniers to give the hips a huge rectangular shape (The French preferred a more kidney shape) and to make waists look smaller. Since the shape of the skirt didn't allow for a train, the back has drapery which flows into a train.
English Elegance!
The Mantua was a very uncomfortable, yet traditional style from the late 17th century. It never seemed to leave dressmakers' shops but through the century it was altered to better suit the new tastes of the times. The late 18th century's mantua or Robe a l'Anglaise is so different from the original mantuas, you would never know these two styles were related. However, they are both distinguishable by not requiring the use of panniers. This gown was more simplistic than the french counterpart and allowed for a variety of alterations on a basic style. Some of these included a faux bum (or bustle), faux stomach (to give the appearance of pregnancy, a Georgiana invention), and faux breasts. So the Robe a l'Anglaise basically saw padding just about everywhere at one point in time, which satirical cartoonists loved to comment on. A common accessory to this low-cut gown was the fichu, a scarf for your neckline, which could be criss-crossed around the bodice or would trim the neckline.
The Polonaise
The idea of playing shepherdess or being "provincial" was a problem the aristocracy had throughout the 18th century. Hogarth found it disgusting and it got Marie Antoinette into some trouble too. It also helped inspire this style of gown. Aristocratic women were looking for clothing to wear when they went into the country. The short length of skirt working classes wore appealed to them and looked like an appropriate walking gown. In the 1770's the polonaise was born. The skirt of the polonaise is pulled up to reveal the "petticoat," resulting in puffy layers of fabric resting on a stiff layer and showing off those cute shoes you just purchased.
Chemise de la Reine
None of these styles were very comfortable. Marie Antoinette battled with corsets throughout her marriage and was constantly seeking a comfortable dress of high fashion. Then she noticed what servants from the West Indies were wearing: loose, white dresses of muslin. Marie thought, "What a fabulous idea, I could even dress it up with some ribbons and accessorize!" and the Chemise de la Reine was born. She liked these Gaulle gowns (as they were also called) so much that she had Elisabeth Vigee le Brun paint her in hers, but when the portrait was exhibited in 1783 it was met with alarm. The people of France were disgusted that the queen was painted in a state of undress (it looked like a nightgown). But Marie loved the muslin gown, even if her countrymen didn't, and sent one to Georgiana in England. The Duchess of D loved the dress and would wear them all the time, so of course, all of England followed suit.
Round Robe
A combination of the Chemise de la Reine and the Robe a l'Anglaise, the Round Robe was born around 1795, an evolution of the Gaulle. It was made from muslin and the bodice criss-crossed just like many women would style their fichus on their mantuas. We can also begin to see the waist-line rise toward the bust with this dress style. The influence from France to dress in the style of Greek and Roman citizens was beginning to translate slowly into England.

So, which is your favorite? Or, even better, what style would you be wearing in your portrait?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Tart of the Week: Sally Salisbury

For this week's tart, let's travel to the very beginning of 18th century London. The daughter of a bricklayer, Sarah Pridden was born around 1692. Her original plans were to go into the dressmaking business. She was a seamstress' apprentice at the age of nine but ran away when she lost some pricey lace. After trying a few odd jobs around St. Giles Sarah eventually was given the career opportunity she couldn't resist: being the mistress to Francis Charteris. Luckily the creep (and convicted rapist) didn't keep her around too long. He got sick of her by the time she reached the ripe old age of 14 so Sally, as she was probably known by this point, thought she may as well just become a streetwalker.

The wanton life seemed to work out for Sally. She became a brothel resident, even staying in the fancy smancy bordello of Mother Needham. She adopted the last name of Salisbury because it was one of her clients' names and she thought it sounded cool. It was probably a good career move too because she soon became one of the most popular prostitutes in all of Covent Garden! Even King George II was rumoured to have enjoyed her company. As a successful prostitute the viviacious and fiery Sally lived a typical hedonistic 18th century life. This landed her into prison a few times for short stays, usually for debt and minor crimes. One time she even got out of a prison stay because the judge had a huge crush on her.

But Sally got a little carried away one night in 1723. John Finch, second son of the Duchess of Winchelsea, had bought some tickets to the opera and had given them to Sally's sister and not to Sally. Well, it must have been a very good opera because Sally was pissed off that John had neglected her. An argument broke out between the two at Three Tuns Tavern and Sally, blinded by her anger, stabbed John in the heart! Ever the gentleman, John responded, "Madam, you have wounded me." Apparently, Sally wasn't aware of this and immediately began apologizing for trying to kill John. He was fine, by the way. John forgave her but the law didn't. She was sentenced to a year in prison and had to pay £100 fine. The sentence would have been more severe but was brought down due to Finch's forgiveness of her. Of course the trial was a huge social-event where every person of fashion appeared. When she was taken to Newgate to serve her sentence many lavish gifts and visitors followed, to make her more comfortable. There is no evidence as to whether she made these visitors more comfortable when they visited, wink wink.

Despite these prison luxuries Sally never made it out of Newgate. After serving nine months of her year sentence Sally succumbed to syphilis and died. It's too bad too; imagine what other mischief she could have entertained us with!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Do you want it or do you want it?

I am an avid-reader of DonnaSandra's fashion blog, although I don't speak a word of Swedish (or read for that matter!). But luckily, the language of fashion can be read by all and this one speaks loud and clear to me so I just had to share.

The fashion-designer/costumer/chick who needs to do a line with Christian Siriano, Sanna Nyström, has 18th century-inspired fashion. You'll see panniers collide with business chic to form a yes-you-will-stand-aside-for-me-when-I-walk-down-the-street statement. Spanish black and rococo brocade harmonize into old-world elegance. Also, make way for modern spencers, corsets, and riding habits. If you've ever wanted to try some of these 18th century favorites out, here is your chance!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Chatsworth: The State Bedroom and Dressing Room

The imprinted leather wallpaper from the State Music Room continues into the State Bedroom. When the room was originally constructed for a visiting monarch, the first Duke bought a bed fit for a king. At £470, this was the most expensive piece of furniture in the house...and was probably never used either. The bed's amazing canopy now resides at Hardwick Hall and another impressive bed is in its place, so it is unlikely visitors will notice the former's absence. This bed just happens to be the deathbed of King George II who died in 1760. It was a gift to the 4th Duke. It wasn't until 1913 that a monarch finally slept in this monarch's-only, bedchamber: King George V and Queen Mary.

The room is kept very dark to prevent light-damage to the amazing contents. A ceiling mural of the rape of Europa, painted by Peter Lely crowns the elegant room. But what really seems to wow visiotors is the double mirrors which consist of many pieces and are crowned with the first Duke's arms. I attempted to capture these magnificent glass creations many times with my camera but failed due to the lack of light. I'm sure photographs wouldn't do justice to the craftmanship anway.

A door on the far side of the bedroom will take you to the narrow dressing room which offers spectacular views of both the south and west sides. Not much dressing took place in this "closet" but many a duchess found this to be the perfect spot to write their letters. Although the fabulous view would probably distract me.

Safe Sex?

As you may have gathered from this blog or other texts of the 18th century, sex was a common amusement of the 18th century. The new freedoms of speech and ideas of the Enlightenment allowed for sex to not be talked of only behind closed doors but also commonly read about and seen in the art of the time. Yes, sex was everywhere and everyone was having it. That is why there were so many illegitimate children being born of aristocratic ladies and then quickly shipped off to be raised by foster mothers, preferably in France. But for as long as humans have been having sex for recreation, there has been means of contraception. The 18th century was no exception to this. Although, it may not seem so if you've been keeping up with your weekly tarts.

The most common and ineffective use of contraception in the 18th century is one still commonly practiced today, "pulling out." Coitus Interruptus was popular based on the fact that it was cheap and handy. That is, until its participants realized how ineffective it really was.
For those more willing to spend some money and more worried about getting a venereal disease there were condoms (image at right circa 1900). These were commonly called, "machines" and made from the intestines of various animals, usually sheep. They were produced in Covent Garden (or course) and distributed at the various sleazy shops in the same area. When you bought one of these "machines" you bought it with the intention of using it more than once. The condom usually came in packaging for safekeeping and the very end was folded over and stitched with a silk ribbon (usually pink) at the end to tie and secure. Washing was recommended but was probably not commonly done. Although these sheaths may have helped protect against STDs they weren't that successful as contraceptives; they were semi-permeable. Water could go right through them. Not to mention they were prone to tears. So that's where all those illegitimate kids came from.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

More Halloween Goodies

Some blogs have been doing a much better job of celebrating the Halloween season than I. One of those blogs is The Raucous Royals, which has had some very interesting articles about all things that go bump in the night. One article I found particular fascinating is on death masks. But there is many more posts to appeal to your more macabre interests. I suggest you check it out!

Right: Marie Antoinette's Death Mask

Monday, October 20, 2008

For Sale

Joseph Wright of Derby, Portrait of a Lady, 1760

Normally when I post something for sale it is because I want it. Of course I wouldn't mind having my own Wright painting, especially of a fashionable Van Dyck lady. But this one comes from Philip Mould Fine Paintings, which I would rather have a job at so I can see its amazing collection all the time. You may want to venture through the site, and check out the amazing British portraits that they have for sale.

A Harlot's Progress: Plate 1

Since Hogarth has already educated us on the dangers of a fashionable marriage, it is time for us to, once again, seek his insight on other issues of the age. I had a hard time deciding which series to do next: A Rake's Progress, or A Harlot's Progress. Then, my dear friend Carolyn told me, "Ladies first!" and I realized she was absolutely right! So take heed, my impressionable young lady-gossips, here is a story to think of when trouble may lead you astray.

Here we have the mild-mannered Moll Hackabout, who is beginning the first day of the rest of her life. She has moved out of her parents' home and is looking to make her start in the big city; in this case: Cheapside. She is dropped off by the wagon full of other young ladies trying to make an honest pound in London. First impressions tell us that Moll is young, pretty, neatly dressed, and looking for a job as a seamstress (as judged by the scissors and pincushion on her arm). But is this overdressed woman in this backstreet really a seamstress? And if she is a seamstress, why is she poking a proding young Moll as if she were a piece of meat? Indeed, this woman is actually a procuress, "Mother" Needham who was such a legandary "abbess" that when she was later sentenced to stand in a pillory, the crowds were so large that a boy was crushed to death. Rumour has it, Mother Needham was too. Another famous deviant stands behind the two women. This is the rake and rapist, Francis Charteris. Hogarth had no sympathy for characters like him. He comes out of, what we can assume to be, a brothel; either a satisfied customer or a partner in Mother Needham's dark business deal. Charteris also appears to be, ahem, excited about the prospective new employee.

While poor Moll's downfall seems to be unfolding before everyone's eyes in these dank streets, a priest passes on his horse. He is too interested in finding his way than saving the girl's innocence. To further insist on his blatant disregard for Moll, his horse is shown to knock down a teetering stack of pots. This is a reference that the French artist, Greuze would commonly use to show loss of innocence or virginity among young girls. There is no doubt that is Hogarth's intention too. Another important Hogarthian symbol (that we should always be keeping an eye out for) is the dead goose in the corner. This hints to Moll's gullibility. Poor Moll, she has no idea what she is about to get into.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Chatsworth: The State Music Room

As the name of this room implies, it would appear that this is the room in which to practice music or entertain on the pianoforte. Well, as it turned out, this was never the true intention of the room. Although, I am sure music has graced these walls many times. It is actually more of a dedication to the Cavendish family's traditional love of music. A beautiful working harpsichord draws everyone's attention to the center of the room. But if you just happen to look behind it, there is something more magnificent hiding behind a slightly-ajar door. It is one of the most magnificent and convincing trompe l'oeil's in history: a violin hanging from a door, painted by Jan van der Vaart. When I took my parents on a tour of this home it took me a long time to convince my father that the door was, in fact, a painting.

Another unique aspect of this room is its walls. Once again, you find yourself in a heavily guilded baroque space of ornate wall decor. But upon closer examination, youo may find that the walls are not that same wood found in the other state rooms. In fact, they are not wood paneling at all! The walls are actually stamped and guilded leather. Along the top border you can even find eight small portraits of Hart in this unique medium.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Tart of the Week: The Honourable Mrs. Anne Damer

The adventurous life of Mrs. Damer began in 1748 when she was born to a prominent Whig family as Anne Seymour Conway. Her father, Henry Seymour Conway was a cousin of Horace Walpole and her mother was the extremely Scottish, Caroline Bruce, Lady Ailesbury. While her parents were abroad little Anne experimented with the art of sculpture, as encouraged by her godfather, Horace Walpole. Life seemed pretty normal and boring for young Anne but luckily a dumb husband changed all that (as they usually do for many of our tarts of aristocracy).

John Damer was a drunk and a gambler, which wasn't so unusual for the time. He was also the son of an earl who provided a generous annual income which had to have looked good to 19 year old Anne. This on top of this Anne brought in some fortunes of her own from inheritances. Well, John, being the idiot he was, gambled away most of their money in first six years of their marriage. What he didn't gamble away he spent on his wardrobe. In the seventh year of marriage, he lost it all in one night. He then retired to a room above the Bedford Arms in Covent Garden and shot himself through the head. Anne was now a widow. A widow in a lot of debt.

This put Mrs. Damer in an awful situation. But believe it or not, it was probably the best thing that could happen to her. Walpole not only took her in at his home in Strawberry Hill but he helped to get her on her feet again and allowed freedoms that her marriage lacked. The old bachelor loved her as his own and even willed his Strawberry Hill home to her. Anne took up her childhood hobby of sculpture and honed her skills until she was a reputable artist. Her work reflects the Neoclassicism of the period which helped to gain her many allegorical commissions such as the heads of Isis and Tamesis which still grace the keystones of Henley Bridge today. Her friendships that developed between Sarah Siddons and Elizabeth Farren also earned her some theatrical commissions including reliefs for Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. By 1784 Anne was an honorary exhibitor at the Royal Academy and remained so until 1818.

Her new freedom also allowed her many friendships. Due to her Whig roots, she was naturally drawn to the Devonshire House Circle and became a close friend of Georgiana. She was one of the many devoted canvassers in the 1784 Westminster Election. Mrs. Damer also frequented the masquerades quite often; not the best way to keep a good reputation. In fact, many rumors of Mrs. Damer being a lesbian surfaced, although this could be due to her affinity for male clothing. In truth, Anne was, in all likelihood, a lesbian and enjoyed the company of her female friends. It is thought that Walpole introduced her to the author, Mary Berry, with whom she had a long-standing romantic relationship.

Anne also enjoyed her widowhood because it allowed her travel. She was good friend and regularar guest of the expat, William Hamilton, (of Emma notariety) the ambassador to Naples. At one point in her travels to Europe she was captured by a privateer but released. She also happened to be in Paris during the Treaty of Amiens and met Napoleon himself.

Anne died a happy old lady in 1828. As requested, she was buried with her sculptor's tools and apron as well as with the ashes of her favorite dog.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Vatene in Pace Alma Beata e Bella

As Lauren reminded us today, it is the sad 215th anniversary of Marie Antoinette's execution. For the best visual of how horrible this experience was for her I would recommend reading, My Lady Scandalous by Jo Manning, who paints a horrifying picture of how awful this execution really was (blood, guts, stink, the whole bit).

As you can imagine, Georgiana was distraught when she heard of her friend's death. She was haunted by the image of her final moments:

"The impression of the Queen's death is constantly before my eyes, how anxious I am to know how my dr sister will bear it.* Besides the admiration that is universally felt for her and the horror at the barbarians, her answers, her cleverness, composure, greatness of mind blaze forth in double splendour, and the horror of making the child appear against her is what one shd have hop'd that the mind of man was incapible of..."

*Harriet met MA while she got her education in a French Convent and was also close to the queen.


Angelica Kauffman, Self-Portrait

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

All Hallows Eve Dress

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, what other opportunities do we have for a yearly masquerade? Last year, Lauren and I went out and about as our two favorite ladies and as we walked down a cobblestone street we ran into three Colonial American ladies. No lie! I thought we should have a rumble like in West Side Story; the colonial girls just kept walking.

I am curious if anyone has any Halloween plans that may include some 18th century costume theme. Or maybe you had an 18th century costume in years past? Or maybe you think Halloween is stupid and, unless you are eight, a waste of time. Well, if you think that, I personally do not care, but if you can share, I would love to hear of or see some of your costumes! Please leave a comment, especially if they have links to pictures so we can all ooo and ahh your fine taste in masquerade-garb!

Devonshire Progeny: Hart

Many children scampered through the halls of Devonshire House during the days of Georgiana. These consisted of her own, her husband's (with mistresses), her sister's, or Bess'. Their personalities and histories are as diverse as their genetic makeup.

William was the much awaited son and heir of William and Georgiana. He was born after 16 years of marriage and miscarriages. Upon his birth he was given the title of Marquess of Hartington which earned him the nickname of Hart. An appropriate nickname also because the heads of three harts adorn the Devonshire coat of arms.

The journey leading up to his birth was not an easy one. He was born in Paris during the Revolution. Georgiana was told to seek warmer climates due to her history with miscarriages. Maybe she should have tried Spain? When news arrived that a healthy baby boy had been delivered the bells in Derbyshire tolled all day. As you can imagine, Hart's father was ecstatic. A few months later, when Georgiana went to attend to her sick sister in Bath, the Duke rented two homes: one for Hart and his nurse and one for everyone else. Sadly, when Hart was barely speaking his mother was sent away due to her affair with Charles Grey. The one year old repeatedly screamed, "Mama gone, Mama gone!" and couldn't be consoled. When Georgiana was finally allowed to return to her beloved children two years later, Hart did not recognize her and screamed whenever she touched him. It nearly broke her heart. It also did not help that Hart had lost most of his hearing to an infection, although this would not be discovered until later.

Eventually Hart grew into a handsome boy and in his mother's final years the two became very close. He fell in love with his cousin, Harriet's daughter, Caroline. But she, being a tease, went on to marry William Lamb (much to both mothers' disappointment)...and we all know how that worked out. Hart was devastated by the rejection. Then he wanted to marry Princess Mary, who was much older than him, but she married Prince William Henry instead (at the tender age of 40, too!). After this second rejection Hart was like, "screw this!" and lived the rest of his life as a swinging single. That is how he became known as the Bachelor Duke. He kept his mistresses, but never married, causing the Dukedom to go to his cousin upon his death in 1858. It is thought that Hart's deafness may have been the cause for him being introverted and lacking confidence with the ladies.

Hart is not only remembered for being a sexy bachelor but also for his improvements on Chatsworth inside and out. He also did well in clearing up both of his parents debts after their deaths. Actually, he was a pretty good businessman. It was left in his hands to get rid of Bess, who wanted money and titles, after his father's death and he was able to do so gracefully. Bess, on the other hand, was being very un-classy. Although his disability prevented him from entering politics as his mother wished, Hart had many colorful friends such as Czar Nicholas and Charles Dickens. These friends would hang out with Hart in his beloved country estate so he would never feel lonely and they would always be entertained. He definately took after his mother!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just an Average Day for Georgiana

The Cavendish clan's life at Devonshire House in London was full of entertaining and one had barely any time to themselves! So part of the year would be spent in their country house, Chatsworth, for a little peace and quiet. Of course their idea of peace and quiet may have been a little different from everyone else's, as James Hare points out in his account of their day in, A Rational Day in the Country:
The Ladies rise from one o'clock to two - breakfast in their own rooms for the convenience of having their hair combed while they drink their tea. Cold meat is brought for the Dogs at the same time. Send messages or (if Time permits) write notes to each other, just to say, "Dearest one, how do oo do?" The usual answer is "As oo do, so does poor little I, by itself . . . I." This delicate complaint of solitude sets the whole house in motion. All the Ladies run from one room to another till they have mustered a sufficient force to venture among the men. . . . they write with the greatest ease and tolerable accuracy long letters on all subjects and to every sort of correspondent, standing, walking and even running, and without the least interruption of conversation, which at Chatsworth never goes beyond a whisper. . . . they take the precaution of beginning them all alike with the general terms of general civility that may apply to anybody, such as "My Dearest most dear ever adored Lord without whom I cannot live - Bess oo."

. . . If by this time it is grown nearly dark and snows and freezes pretty hard, walking is usually proposed. I forgot to observe that when the Ladies first come down to a small Room with a large fire they are wrapped up with furs and waddings of various sorts, but as this heavy "furniture" might impede their agility in walking, they throw it off, and chuse lighter drapery before they venture out - such as gauze or muslin shawls, thin silk sandals, which with the help of a long Pole with a spike in the end of it (to throw over their shoulders or stick into any gentleman's foot who has the honour of accompanying them) form the walking apparatus. The reflection of the snow in the glimmering of the Moon through the trees, if it is a clear night, enables them to find their way round the pleasure ground very tolerably.

. . . When the Dinner has been served up about half an hour they usually retire to dress, and then meet either in the Duchess' or Lady E.F.'s [Bess] room for a quarter of an hour's social talk. At length the female cohort enter the Dining Room. It is difficult to ascertain their exact diet, as it varies according to their health and humours. . . . By the noise and chatting that ensues on their leaving the Dining Room it is concluded that they remain some time in the Drawing Room, but as soon as the Gentlemen come out to Tea and Coffee, each Lady retires to her respective apartment, where to pass the time, for want of anything to do, she goes to sleep. . . . On waking they assemble in one of their rooms, and between eleven and twelve retire to the Music Room and crowd around the Pianoforte that each in her turn may have the pleasure of refusing to sing or play. . . . the moment that [supper] is brought in, everybody hastens to begin the day's amusements and repairs to whist, chess, backgammon, billiards, according to their fancies' direction. In the course of a few hours, the supper being sufficiently cooled, the Duke invites his friends to partake of the genial Board; every one presses eagerly for a place, especially those who do not sup. The Ladies sip by turns cowslip wine, punch, or cherry syrup, take their leave, and spend the remainder of the night in confidential discourse, dividing into small parties of two and three for this purpose, and then leaving the supper room, and separating for the night, as the Housemaids begin to twirl their mops and open the shutters to the sunshine.

[Except taken from Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman]

Monday, October 13, 2008


"Nothing ever equalled the crowd, one heard nothing but screams and women carrying out in fits. The whole ground was strewed with different coloured foil, and pearls and diamonds crumbled to pieces."

-Harriet, Countess of Bessborough on the Queen's Drawing Room event after the King's recovery

Where is Harriet?

As I discussed in one of my reviews for The Duchess, there is a noticeable absence of a very important figure in Georgiana's life: Harriet. It seems that other people have been bothered by this as well (as they should be!). Then I remembered that IMDB had listed her in the cast. Low and behold, her name is still there, as played by Emily Cohen. So what happened to Harriet?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Movie Review: The Duchess (Part 2)

WARNING: After you pass this line you run the risk of reading about aspects of The Duchess you may not want to know until you see it for yourself. If you have seen the film, by all means please continue and be sure to leave your opinion as well. If not, please move on to other conversations of gossip unless you don’t mind spoilers!

If you have rejoined me here after my long review of The Duchess, I am impressed! I am glad you haven’t been scared off just yet. This part of my review is separate because it is a review based on The Duchess’ adaption to Amanda Foreman’s book, or the movie’s accuracy to the portrayal of Georgiana Cavendish. And for that I will give it:

The Film as a BioPic
Rating: 1 Star

Yup, it was not that accurate at all. In fact, while I was watching it I think I was able to enjoy it because I couldn’t connect Gee with Georgiana, the 5th Duchess of Devonshire. They are two different people. I won’t go through every minute little inaccuracy in this post, I will just touch about the main ones that really bother me. Now that leaves me with the dilemma of where to begin this review. I suppose I should begin at the beginning.

The movie opens with 16 year old Georgiana playing at Althorpe with her friends. One of these friends includes age-mate Charles Grey. If Grey had known Georgiana at this point in her life he would have been about 9 years old. She did not meet him until he became involved in politics in his 20’s. I didn’t see the point in them writing him into her early life.

This brings me to my next big qualm. The time frame was all over the place in this film! First of all, it appeared that Georgiana got pregnant right away, no problemo. Part of her struggle in bearing an heir was the fact that it took her about 9 years in order to have a child. The film then has a “6 years later” caption and shows Gee introducing her huge hair tower and feathers. No, no, NO! Fashion faux-pas to the max! She did that at the beginning of her marriage and by 1789 (when the movie shows her introducing the fads) that was extremely out of fashion. In fact, regency fashion was blooming at that point. Did anyone else notice how the children never really aged either? Wasn’t it strange?

Yes, the family dynamics were all off. Lady Spencer went past assertive, caring, mother to just plain mean. In reality she was very protective of Georgiana and was known to occasionally boss the Duke around too. She was one of the people to go to France with Georgiana when she gave birth to Eliza Courtney.
I was very much bothered by the lack of Harriet. Harriet was such an important part of Georgiana’s life and always portrayed next to her in prints. She was also an amazing woman who was overshadowed by her celebrity sister. Did they exclude her in order to emphasize the isolation of Gee?

This brings me to a huge flaw in the film. The writers were so obsessed with creating this victimized heroine who lives in a prison of isolation that they created a major contradiction. I was commenting to Lauren in our post-viewing meeting about how I was alarmed that Gee was alone most of the time. There are letters from the time discussing Georgiana’s day hour by hour (she was a celebrity remember, and people were obsessed with her) and she was rarely alone. In fact, she usually was surrounded by a group of women (the ton) who were noticeably absent. I think they could have been more convincing of her celebrity and fashion-icon status, and instead they were just mentioned. For example, at one point Bess says “Everyone is staring at you,” and the women in the background didn’t actually appear to be looking at Gee. Georgiana was bombarded by crowds while walking in the park. Lauren and I were remarking that just mentioning her friendship with Marie Antoinette was an obvious and easy way of showing her celebrity and status to the audience. Then Lauren brought up how it is probably confusing to the audience when Gee’s celebrity is mentioned, but it is not actually proven. Basically you are supposed to believe it because you are told, but given no examples.

Two huge aspects that are very prominent, and therefore important, in Georgiana’s life are her role in politics and her addiction to gambling and battle with debts. She was shown giving speeches on the platform and gambling (with a sourpuss on her face) but that is about it. I thought it must have been confusing to viewers that she was promoting Grey with Charles Fox (where were his eyebrows??) paraphernalia: fox tails and FOX clearly written on a ribbon on her hat.

That brings me to my last major gripe, our favourite tart, Bess. I wish they portrayed her as more of a sweet little manipulator. I DID NOT like how they implied that her husband beat her. Give me a break…OH that was one of the cheesy lines that bothered me, “it is legal for a man to beat his wife as long as the stick is smaller than their thumb,” yes thank you Bess, we learned that in Boondock Saints. But seriously, that line was out of place, and it was unnecessary for Bess to be a battered wife. But what bothered me was Gee screaming at William that she wanted Bess out. The importance of portraying Bess as a manipulator was that when Georgiana discovered the affair, she was so dependant on Bess that she swallowed her pain rather than loose her beloved Bess. Maybe that is hard to conceive for our modern audience, but it is what made the situation so unique.

There were a few things I did appreciate the film including. One was the sudo-lesbianic scene between Bess and Gee. Although this may have been for titillation or making sure male companions are still paying attention, it alluded to her bisexuality. I also did like how they showed the scum-baggery of Grey getting engaged fast after the affair. So the writers did pick up on some details but for the most part, just used Georgiana as a gateway to tell a love story.