Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

One more year further away from the eighteenth century, alas! But it has still been a good one. Here's to another great year of gossiping. Happy 2010! Do stop by Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide and be sure to wish her a happy birthday!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Your New Year's Ball

New Year's Eve is right around the corner! Have you planned your party yet? I'd like to think that a great model for a party would be this scene from Marie Antoinette.If you're not whirling around in a grand fashion, making out with complete strangers, you may as well stayed home and watched the ball drop. I know it's setting the bar high, but we are lovers of the eighteenth century, and I wouldn't expect anything less from you!

I found a bunch of appropriate and cheap decor via Oriental Trading (just pretend it's from the real silk trail). Dress all the cheap-y decorations up with candles, plumes, glitter, fake pearls, and any other eighteenth century things you have lying around the house. Don't be afraid to leave a pearl necklace in the middle of the table, "oh! did I leave this there, where is my head!" Remember: Spangles, spangles, spangles!

Not that you need any incentive, but drinking games are a classic part of a party. I suggest making them up as you go along, or creating one out of my favourite French Revolution game, Guillotine. You could even have penalties, such as making the ladies show their legs! Think of the scandal that would cause! If that's not your thing, set up a whilst or faro table in a separate room for some varied entertainment for your guests.

Make sure the champagne is flowing. Buy some cheap pink champagne and throw it in a punch bowl with frozen strawberries and you now have the perfect punch. Just make sure you have a designated chaise driver, the Watch will be out on the roadways looking for straggling ball-goers!

Is anyone here planning an 18th century themed party? If not, is anyone planning on having an 18th century-esque good time?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Hunk Alert: Omai

SWM, Prince (of sorts), "noble savage", traveler and all-around exotic male looking for a lady who has a taste for the spicier things in life.
Likes: Attention, society, discoveries, and peaceful living

I have come to love the many people of Europe who have been introduced to me since I was brought here by Captain Tobias Furneaux, but I would like to be more intimately acquainted with a special woman. Although I have a reputation for being a prince of Tahiti, that country was merely a stop on my way to England. In actuality I am from Raiatea, a Polynesian island, and have come to England in hope that the English may aid in bringing peace to my beloved country. Do you think you can handle this dangerous and public lifestyle with me?

I need an open-minded woman, who is more accepting and not stuffy. I have plans to return to Raiatea one day; so and openness to relocation and and exotic islands. So if you don't mind trading in those stays for some more comfortable layered clothing we should meet up for coffee!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yay or Nay? James Boswell

Baroness Crussol impressed everybody last week with her wintery ensemble. We had a unanimous Yay! Hooray! I suppose the winter theme appeals to your fashion senses. In that case, let's continue with it!

George Willison paints James Boswell (1765) on location in clothing that looks a bit warm for the weather in Rome. Yay or Nay?

[National Galleries Scotland]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Louis Nicolas van Blarenberghe, Detail from The Four Seasons, 1740

Wishing everyone a festive and happy Christmas. Thank you for all your much-loved gossiping and support over the past year! Have a safe, yet festive, holiday!

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Isaak Ouwater, The Bookshop and Lottery Agency of Jan de Groot on Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, 1779

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book Review: Behind Closed Doors

When I saw Amanda Vickery's new book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England I gasped dramatically; or maybe even squealed obnoxiously. Either way, I was in public and I was very excited. Vickery's book, The Gentleman's Daughter, was a study of the lives of women in Georgian England and packed with great information on the daily lives of women. Now the eighteenth century historian is venturing into the comforts of the Georgian house to paint a picture of people's relationship with and within the home. The result is enlightening.

Behind Closed Doors opens with a description of the average day of a landlady, which to some, might not sound incredibly exciting, but to me was packed with information I had rarely thought about. And that is kind of how Behind Closed Doors is; you pick it up wondering just how Georgians lived their day-to-day life and you get the details of things you wouldn't normally wonder at, such as the fact that a landlady domineered your living space if you were a renter. The book is just packed with information. Vickery takes you through the ins and outs of living in the time; her feminist background surfaces every once in a while to deliver information specific to women's perspective. Topics include, but are not limited to the actual house, people's relationship with the house, bachelor life, wallpaper obsessions, and so on and so forth.

One of my favourite chapters was titled, Setting Up Home and was all about how women found a freedom in marrying because it allowed them to redecorate and therefore put an ownership in their new home. This was both an important and acknowledged part of a well-bred woman's life. Vickery uses examples from famous spinster, Jane Austen's novels which made me begin to question that it wasn't just the men our Austen heroines fell in love with, but their dwellings, for as Vickery puts, "It was a truth universally acknowledged that a Georgian house with a drawing room, French windows and a lawn must be in want of a mistress." Amen to that; I'd say that still holds true today! After Vickery cites multiple examples from Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, and Mansfield Park she moves on to real life examples, one of which was a household in the same place I once lived, to my own personal delight. Her amazing research shines through with specific examples of how that particular mistress badgered store-keepers in the neighboring town so as to have the house fitted to her liking. Most chapters take a similar path, combining evidence from personal diaries, documents and contemporary writings to discuss the many aspects of the Georgian home.

I found this book to be a delight. Although the topic of the book may not be in everyone's interest, it should be picked up by those interested in social history, women of the eighteenth century, and historical homes. Those that enjoyed City of Laughter will likely enjoy this read. Vickery's research on individuals read like short stories of a novel, weren't stuffy or boring, and were always conducive to the point she was trying to portray. I think readers of this blog will especially appreciate the sarcastic little remarks she manages to sneak in her descriptions of those she researched. It just goes to show how well she got to know them and isn't it nice when an author-researcher knows their subject? Behind Closed Doors is on shelves now and will compliment anyone's eighteenth century library.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Your Guide to an 18th Century Christmas

So you want to do things right and have an 18th century Christmas this year? Well, cross off that Wii game and replace it with "fashionable walking stick" because the Georgians really knew how to have some festive fun!

Blech, it sure is gross outside with all the nasty weather and dead plants. To bring some life inside, find whatever green plants you can and string them up wherever necessary; ideally over doors and windows. Colonial Williamsburg always does a wonderful job of this. If you stick springs of holly and bay in the crack between the window and the sill, your house will look very festive and alive from the cold streets outside. Gather all your vases and containers and place your greenery in that as well. Most importantly, don't forget to string up the mistletoe. I like to put it up conspicuously near my gaming tables and in the corners of my dressing room. Remember, never hang mistletoe in a pantry, closet or some other area where you might uncomfortably run into your disappeared friends during the whilst game.

Food and Beverage
Be sure to stock up on those merry drinks. How else would you expect your guests to stay warm? Check with your housekeeper to see if you have enough wines, brandy, and rum punches stocked up to survive the twelve days of celebration. Hmm, perhaps we should also stock up on chamber pots. You'll also be eating more hot meats than usual since guests are over so be sure the cook is prepared. Also don't forget to have at least one show stopper, so that guests will be talking about "that delicious swan" or "that impressive croquembouche" for Christmases to come.

Get out those Christmas Cards
Christmas cards appeared in the 18th century, but they were called Christmas Pieces. It was a time of letters to begin with so Christmas pieces was just another opportunity to spread the news. These pieces tended to have printed festive borders. So before you can worry about your holiday house plans, make sure you send your man to the post office with your greetings.

Let the Fun Begin!
Traditionally you should be celebrating for twelve days straight, ending on 6 January, Epiphany. Make merry with many games, feasts, and, of course, drinks. A fox hunt (Top Gear had one recently that was more my style) should be in store so lay out your best riding habit. Also, balls should take up most of the nights with the grandest one happening on Twelfth Night. Now the only question that remains is can you handle all this festive cheer?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yay or Nay? Baroness Crussol

Not everyone enjoyed Miss Seymour's finery but luckily fashion prevailed and her peach, white and black ensemble was met with a Yay. But maybe her getup was a little too springy for this time of year? Let's go back to the winter collection.

Elizabeth Vigée-Lebrun paints Baroness Crussol from the back in her red, white and black riding habit. I suspect those are the lyrics to a White Stripes song that she's looking over. Yay or Nay?

[Musée des Augustins]

Saturday, December 19, 2009

18th Century-Inspired 2010 Winter-Wear

Now remember, I am not as skilled in the art of Polyvore as some. But I still decided to come up with an 18th century-esque winter gear display because I have seen many an accessory that is reminiscent of our favourite era. Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Festive Family Portrait

Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of the Harcourt Family, 1780

From Left to Right: William Harcourt 3rd Earl Harcourt, Elizabeth Countess of Harcourt, George Simon Harcourt 2nd Earl Harcourt

This is the family portrait on the front of my Christmas cards this year; I like it a lot more than the ones I get in the mail! In truth, it's a quirky little family portrait, one that is quite unique to the time. Lord and Lady Harcourt are portrayed in their peers' robes and were nice enough to invite Lord Harcourt's little brother to stand in the background looking awkward. I'm sure Reynolds was driven mad by the formality of the portrait. Another unusual aspect of the painting is how the coronets are included in the depiction; usually peers didn't bother visually bragging during the Enlightenment. I thoroughly enjoy how Lady Harcourt stylishly perches her coronet on the side of her coiffure as well.

For some strange, sad reason this three-person portrait hasn't been seen by the public since the mid 19th century according to Culture 24. The Ashmolean Museum needs to stop holding out and let the masses gaze upon its noble glory.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Foundling Hospital

Establishing a large metropolitan orphanage seems to have marked a city and its society's arrival at their own Renaissance. They came to symbolize a time of wealth and an new found interest in the welfare of its people. During the Italian Renaissance foundling hospitals (remember, hospital-hospitality) sprung up, one even had a large wheel that you could place your baby on and rotate into the building so as not to show your shamed face when your dropped your child off. Amsterdam's beautiful History Museum is housed in the former old Civil Orphanage, established during the Dutch Golden Age. The English were very stuffy about the topic of illegitimate children. They saw orphanages in the same way many people now see giving condoms to teenagers: if we provide a place for whores to put their unwanted children it's condoning bad behavior. It wasn't until the Enlightenment that there was a call to finally do something about the orphan problem.

If a family or individual couldn't afford to take care of their child, it tended to end up in a workhouse; think: Oliver Twist. Only 10% of the children sent here would survive. Those that were too young to work would be on the streets. Dead babies in the street were a common, early-morning sight. This was a sight that Captain Thomas Coram couldn't bear to see. For years he petitioned the king for a foundling hospital with no success. Luckily, King George II ascended to the throne in 1727 and his wife, Queen Caroline had the same concerns as Coram about the children. Coram's petition for a hospital that would turn forgotten children into useful citizens seemed like a good idea to this king and he approved it. The nobility and the wealthy also thought it sounded good and many became subscribers, that is, donated their money to build the hospital.

Those who couldn't spare money were able to help in other ways. The idea of the Foundling Hospital appealed to William Hogarth, who often critiqued society in his artwork. He became one of the hospital's founding Governors and would go on to foster some of the children with his wife since they had none of their own. Hogarth brought artwork to the hospital, donated by himself and other artists such as Gainsborough and Reynolds, and even designed the uniforms and the Coat of Arms. Another artistic supporter was George Frideric Handel. The musician was in the height of his career and used his popularity to his advantage by holding charitable performances in order to raise money for the hospital.

The Foundling Hospital wouldn't take all babies at first, but by 1756 a basket was hung outside its door to symbolize the law passed in the House of Commons deeming that the hospital would turn away any child under twelve months old. Many times, the babies would be dropped off with some sort of token by their mother, perhaps symbols of sacrifice or remembrance. A key, a more pricey and meaningful token of ownership, were often left to symbolize that the mother meant to reclaim the child if fortune ever was to smile on her. Babies' lives began at the hospital with wet nurses, who lived outside the actual hospital. One of Hogarth's duties was to supervise the wet nurses. When old enough, children were tended to inside the hospital, girls and boys on opposite wings as was traditional in orphanages. Here the children were tended to when they were ill, given food and amenities, and an education. There was an apprenticing program, so that when the children became teenagers they became apprentices and began their journey into the outside world.

Today the hospital doesn't exist. The 20th century saw the end of orphanages in England and the demolishing of the actual building which was once described as being, "the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence." Traces of this symbol of humanity can still be seen on the former site. A playground sits on seven acres of the site, which is commonly used by children from the modern hospital nearby, Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Foundling Museum stands to tell the Foundling Hospital's story and houses the art collection William Hogarth put together to bring the joy of art into forgotten children's everyday lives.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Happy Birthday Jane!

It's Miss Austen's 243th birthday! What would we do without her? Maybe have realistic expectations about men? Either way, Jane Austen is a much beloved author here so this is cause for celebration. So what's going on? Well, I hear Quirk Books is having a big celebration since Miss Austen has given them a very big year. I also suspect Jane Austen's World, Austen Prose, and Jane Austen Today, among others will have big goings on. Happy Birthday Jane!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oh My! She Gave him What??

Lucy just alerted me to a great article about the carnal side of Georgian England. She obviously knows what I enjoy reading about. Tony Perrottet writes about the lusty times we all adore, which covers such nasty bits like lovers' hair keepsakes; and I'm not referring to that which is on your head. Oh my!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Implanting 18th Century Love Early-On

I know I never post anything for the kiddies; blame it on being a single gal! But I found some great 18th century books today that I know the little ones will totally be into.

Tea for Ruby by the original Fergie, Sarah Duchess of York
This girly tale, wondrously illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, is about a little girl who can't wait to go have tea with the queen. However, others are concerned about her manners, which they hope will improve by the time she has her tea party. It takes place in modern times but Ruby's imagination as to what the tea party will look takes place in our favourite era. The illustrations make this book (just check out the fab inside!), and it's fun for both big girls and little girls. Recognize that dress by the way?

The Beautiful Cassandra by Jane Austen
Transformed from the book that 12 year old Jane wrote for fun, this is an adorably illustrated version that I fell in love with when I saw it at the Morgan Library. Historian Julian McMaster wanted this book to reach more than just the Austen clan and illustrated it for our enjoyment. Cassandra is no longer Jane's sister but a little mouse whose adventures still take place in Regency England. You can get a great preview here. A perfect book for children and Janeites alike.

Magic Tree House #41: Moonlight on the Magic Flute by Mary Pope Osborne
The elementary school kiddies adore these books, and its no wonder, Mary Pope Osbourne has been writing fantasy books for kids for ages. In this book the kids are transported to the imperial Vienese court for a magical mission to look for a certain composer. I wonder if Maria Theresa makes an appearance. This would be a fabulous gift for kids just beginning to get into chapter books.

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Maria Frederike van Reede-Athlone, 1755

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Marthe Marie Tronchin, 1758(?)

Joshua Reynolds, Lavinia Countess Spencer, 1781

Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun, Madame Mole Raymond, 1787

George Romney, Mary Robinson, 1788

Thomas Lawrence, Elizabeth Farren, 1791

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yay or Nay? Clarissa Seymour

Sigh. I thought the cozy, winter-appropriate leisure-wear of Johann Joachim Winckelmann would entice a yay but it was instead met with a big ol' Nay. Don't you people appreciate comfy clothes! Comfy clothes with a little flair, to boot! Oh well, back to fancy gowns it is.

Ralph Earl paints Clarissa Seymour (1789) in her peach and white gown with black accents. Yay or Nay?

[Brooklyn Museum]

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Decorating for the Holidays, 18th Century Christmas Tree

Just because the Georgians didn't traditionally keep a Christmas tree doesn't mean you can't have a Georgian-themed one. I have been scouring the web for 18th century inspired Christmas ornaments and here is what I have found.

The best source for 18th century ornaments has to be the Williamsburg site, there is so much to choose from! Prices vary, click on ornament for details, Williamsburg online Shop

Birds always seem appropriate for an 18th century tree. This one would do well if you were going for a colonial theme, $24, Etsy

If only these handmade dolls were more affordable! They are very much like the dolls of the 18th century, $150, Etsy
Wedgwood (founded in England in 1756) has a gorgeous collection of ornaments, true to the Georgian and Regency period, $30, Wedgwood

A little rococo couple dancing in a snowglobe, $26 from Plasticland

After you have a few of these and some candles (the pine cone ones are perfect), add some silver or gold beaded garlands and stand back in wonder at your 18th century creation.

If anyone has found any other 18th century ornaments out there, do tell us about them!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Public Service Announcement

Just because I've had some questions about it...

f you recall a while ago, I set up a poll to see if anyone would be interested in a group read of The Sylph by Georgiana. Just to update you all, yes this is going to happen and I'm very excited about it. So what is taking so long?

Well, I am very happy to say I am currently working together with GirlEbooks to get a free edition of the ebook to everyone who is interested. That is where the time-snag is. We've been basically translating the 18th century text into the proper format which take a massive amount of editing. Becaufe everything is being written with those long s's I am fo fond of as well as other jumbles that came in the converfion.

Hopefully by the time we are able to finish this task everyone will still be interested in the group read. I sure hope so because the book is a great read, and filled with juicy gossip. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Hunk Alert: Colonel James Clitherow

SWM, Colonel, Magistrat, and friendly sort of fellow looking for a sociable lady of grace.
Likes: Good friends and family, justice, charity, and mixing with interesting people.

I may be the chairman of Middlesex County Lunatic Asylum but don't worry, craziness isn't contagious! I have been described as conservative before but I pride myself in being very fair in both my judgment and in the treatment of others. Being lucky enough to be born into money I recognize how important it is to eradicate poverty and am active in organizations for the sick and poor. I also enjoy varied company and housed both future American presidents and kings in my home, Boston House. There's nothing like entertaining guests when you have enough room to spare!

I am looking for a woman with strong local interests, I am a bit of a homebody. A civilized woman of spirit who doesn't mind going to multiple functions would be the ideal lady for me.


“He that is conscious of guilt cannot bear the innocence of others: So they will try to reduce all others to their own level.”

-Charles James Fox

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Judaism in England

Those of the Jewish faith were not exactly welcomed to England with open arms. It's a wonder that they were ever inclined to settle there! But throughout the centuries there were Jews in England, and England (being the upstanding Christian country that it was) fighting to get them out. It wasn't until the 18th century that Britain finally warmed up to those of the Jewish faith.

In the Dark ages many Jews were forced to be nomadic due to anti-antisemitism, until King Edward I flat out expelled them from the country. Most left but some remained in hiding. It wasn't until a rabbi approached Oliver Cromwell in 1655 that Jews were finally allowed in England. The Puritan William Prynne and Quaker, Margaret Fell, both from religions who faced prejudice and persecution, were two of the biggest objectors. Hypocrites! Despite the cold welcome, thousands of Jewish people reestablished themselves in England.

The arrival of the 18th century was also the introduction to religious tolerance. For if you were to be Enlightened you must be tolerant of different cultures. It was now fashionable to be open to those of non-Anglican faiths. By the 18th century the Jews were able to establish themselves. During the Jacobite uprising many Jews showed loyalty to the government, and finally the English began looking on them as more than just those responsible for a diety's death. However, when Henry Relham pushed the Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753 which would make Jewish immigrants citizens, there was an outcry, especially among the Tories. The Whigs, in their true character, were all for the act and were happy when it passed.

Jews were an established part of society, especially in London. Sadly though, they were still treated as second class citizens. That treatment, though, could change in the wink of an eye when money was involved. Many of the English Jews showed a knack for money management and became successful money-lenders. So you could be a stuffy aristocrat who looked down on the Jewish but in the future owed s Jewish lender a lot of money. Hmm, maybe it was time to play nice? Mary Robinson was indebted to a Jewish money-lender who she may or may not have given sexual favours to. He later blackmailed her in the height of her celebrity with a tell-all book and fondly nicknamed himself, "The Jew," making light of the negative association of the title.

With the money-lending and other businesses, many Jews established themselves and aided their community. By the Victorian age, the antisemitism was almost forgotten and the Jews had been knighted, titles, and had high positions in the government.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Book List

My Christmas list always consists of books, clothes, books, beauty products, and books. Before it's too late to add to your list, here are my books of 2009 recommendations for you!

The Lady in Red
One of the best biographies I've had the joy to review at the Gossip Guide.

Mary Eleanor Bowes' story is truly jaw-dropping.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Deluxe Edition
Review (Regular Edition)
I was lucky enough to get my hands on this heirloom edition which had a great foreword and afterword, fabulous illustrations, and of course, 30% more zombie mayhem!

Yorkshire Molly
I tend to avoid historic fiction, but this book absolutely blew my mind, it is not to be missed!

Behind Closed Doors
Review to Come Soon
I am in the middle of this book right now but am loving it! A perfect book for your Christmas list.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Yay or Nay: Johann Joachim Winckelmann

The results are in and no one seemed amused by Pauline Bonaparte's daring exposée. She was met with a big Nay due to her mixing up of different century fashions and the age-old faux pas of: "no one wants to see that!" Perhaps we should look at some casual-wear, hmm? Let's check out some comfy lounge clothes, perfect for that cold weather that is upon us.

Anton Mengs paints art historian, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1768) in a luxurious state of undress. Is he sacrificing fashion for comfort or combining the two elements successfully. Yay or Nay?