Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yay or Nay? Maria Francisca Bendita

Something odd happened last week with David Garrick's Yay or Nay. Viewers became critical of the actual painting and not Garrick's outfit, so I have no idea what the outcome could accurately be! So in this rare case I will say Gainsborough received a Nay on his portrayal but the ensemble received a Yay. That's fair enough, isn't it? So let's avoid pear-shapes this week and return to a shape we are more familiar and comfortable with; gotta love those panniers!

The Princess of Brazil (1773) wears a wide pannier-ed, midnight blue gown with decadent gold embroidery. Yay or Nay?

[Hermitage Museum]

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Some Fabulous Light Reading Before February Ends

Just before it is too late, I wanted to point out some great 18th century resources for LGBT topics in honor of February being LGBT Month in the Colonies. I have written on Princess Seraphina and the Chevalier d'Eon before but the best possible resource for enlightening information on this interesting subject is Rictor Norton's site. Reader, Jamie also pointed out this fabulous article about gay subcultures of the time. There are also some tarts (and Duchesses!) who had both suspected and obvious feelings for other women. Do you remember who those women in question are?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Harlot's Progress: New Low Price and International Shipping

For those in the Colonies just clamoring to get their paws on Peter Mottley's The Harlot's Progress: Yorkshire Molly here is your chance. While to book has yet to hit US bookshelves, and no date in sight, you can now get it shipped to you from the publisher, Carnevale Publishing for the sale price of £3.99. Together with shipping this should you run you around $15; well-worth it, if you ask me!

If you recall, I am not the biggest reader of historical fiction but I absolutely ADORED this book. I finished it in less than a week, despite lack of time, because I literally could not put it down.

To be a part of this great deal go here and click on more buying choices in the box on the right side of the page and you will see the option to get a new copy of the book from Carnevale for £3.99. And please do it too, because I am still dying to talk to someone about the book!

Gustav Badin

February holds the title of Black History month as well LGBT Month and even Women's History Month too, I believe. Why they had to cram all these great things to celebrate into the shortest month, I will always wonder. But before this month is over I feel it necessary to celebrate Black History Month with an appropriate post.

Of the many people of color we see portrayed in our European history books, there is one with quite a different background and therefore a different story and perspective. Somewhere around 1750 a black boy was born far away from the cobbles of Europe. History has lost Couschi's true origins but it is thought that after his hut burnt down (which is all he recalled from his beginnings) an East Indies ship picked him up from Africa or Saint Croix. Couschi was then sold to a statesman as a slave who decided to bestow him as a gift, to the queen of Sweden.

Queen Louisa considered herself a modern, Enlightened woman. When the scared little boy landed in front of her she decided not to dress him up fashionably to carry around her train. Thinking upon the new Enlightenment philosphies of the 'Noble Savage' Louisa decided to go against the common thought and see if a black person could be raised to be "civil." Just imagine! The concept at the time was like a five-year-old reciting Shakespeare's sonnets. But luckily, there were people like Queen Louisa in the world and the Enlightenment only aided in furthering people's primeval thinking.

Couschi was baptized, Gustave Badin (badin, meaning trickster) and raised with the rest of the princes and princesses. He was treated more as an adoptive child than a slave. He spoke freely to the royal family, not using their proper titles and was known to tease the children which the public considered quite scandalous. Growing up with the royal children he was given the best education and raised to be a good Christian, even though he would later go on to openly mock the religion. Gustav, being raised within the royal family became a confidante to his foster-family and even knew all the secret passages in the various palaces.

Despite being raised among princes, Gustav seemed to be accepting of his destiny of servitude upon entering adulthood. Although he wasn't a slave, society was not ready to have a black noble. Gustav was a now a servant to the queen, but I use the term loosely. He was more of a trusted companion, a position Gustav seemed to happily accept. He also had the freedom to pursue other interests and was also a ballet dancer. He was given many titles which he always refused, not wanting excuses for his position with one of the most powerful families of Europe. When Queen Louisa lay on her deathbed in 1782, it was Gustav whom she trusted with the key to her personal files, with the instructions to "burn them." When King Gustav found out that his former playmate burnt his mother's personal papers he is reported to have furiously proclaim, "Do you not know, you black person, that I can make you pay with your head?" To which Gustav replied, "My head is in the power of your Majesty, but I could not act in a different way."

After the queen's death, Gustav would serve Princess Sophia Albertine, another royal child he grew up with. There were rumors that the two had more than a professional relationship but this is probably without foundation. As for Gustav's love life, he did marry twice but never had any children. He died in his 70s in 1822 was was dearly missed by his foster family.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Death of Reynolds

Yesterday was the anniversary of the death of one of England's greatest artists who graces this site regularly, Joshua Reynolds. To commemorate the anniversary of Reynolds' 1792 death The Times ran an interesting article about his funeral. Would you believe it created some controversy? Well, that's how it goes when you are famous I suppose!

Death of Sir Joshua Reynolds

The Fuss About Voltaire

Love that smirk! It's hard to summarize someone as full as personality and as controversial as Voltaire. Briefly, Voltaire was the pen-name of François-Marie Arouet, a Parisian who was causing trouble as soon as he exited the womb. His father was determined to make him a lawyer, but although Voltaire had the fighting spirit, he craved to express it with the pen, outside the courtroom. Monsieur was very critical of the French judicial system as well as religion. It was his words which got Voltaire in trouble not only with his parents but also with the government, landing him in the Bastille and then later putting him in exile in England among other places. This only fired up the philosopher more and he only wrote more, this time with his new found anglophilia, discussing how the British constitutional monarchy was much more successful than the French absolute monarchy; oh if only they had listened! Voltaire was sassy to the very end. Dying in 1778, his last words were to a priest attempting to have him renounce his atheist ways, "For God's sake, let me die in peace." Love him or hate him, I think we could all use a modern Volatire right now!

But the best means of celebrating or studying Voltaire would probably be with his own words. After all, he had no problem can speaking for himself!

Voltaire on...

Freedom of Speech
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

“Common sense is not so common.”

"Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly."
"Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law."

Being Snarky
"A witty saying proves nothing."

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets”

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”
“The longer we dwell on our misfortunes the greater is their power to harm us”

The Fairer Sex
"I hate women because they always know where things are."

“Christianity is the most ridiculous, the most absurd, and bloody religion that has ever infected the world”
"Of all religions, the Christian should of course inspire the most tolerance, but until now Christians have been the most intolerant of all men."

The Opposition
"I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: 'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it."

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Rococo your Toes

Are your stockings becoming worn with winter-wear such as mine are? One of my great internet finds is Sock Dreams, which has a fantastic selection of leg and foot apparel and free shipping to boot! While glancing over their wares I found some that might be an interest to this audience.

Polonova Flower

Polonova Floral

Fox in the Trees (for those fox hunting days)


Are just some of the selections I found appropriate. But watch out, you will, I am sure, find many other tempting knits to grace your toes.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Movie Review: Bright Star

Long have I waited to see Bright Star, the story of John Keats (Ben Wishaw) and his muse/love, Fanny Brawne (Abbie Cornish). The movie looked absolutely dazzling and was critically acclaimed and is now up for an Oscar for the fabulous costumes. Despite my excitement for the film, it left me a little disappointed, and where it held strength in visual imagery and acting I felt the writing lacked what I needed for a fantastic film.

The film opens when the Brawne family visits the two Romantic poets of the town, Charles Brown and the already published yet struggling, John Keats. You will not find your typical Austen heroine in Fanny, for she may share the wit and brazenness of Lizzy Bennet, she also contains the rudeness and brattiness of a stereotypical teenager. She also has high aspirations of being something of a fashion designer, although I found many of her creations not to be aesthetically pleasing. Still, Keats falls in love with her and with her dutiful brother and sister always following, the two take long walks and talk poetry until nothing can keep them apart. Of course, as with all love stories, there are many hurdles to keep them apart, such as his lack of money.

As I stated before; I thought the acting was very well done and there were many familiar faces in the cast. The costumes deserve to be commended and the scenery was stunningly filmed. The art direction made each and every scene an a piece of art. There was one scene where the regency bedroom was filled with butterflies which played off the simplicity of the surroundings beautifully. But I just wasn't sold. First of all, the film just kind of begun, with no introduction, leaving you looking for a grip to hold on to the story. There were many holes throughout the beginning of the story just leaving you confused as to why the person was saying this or what the characters' relationship was with each other. The main character, Fanny, was difficult to like (but not all main characters should be liked, example: Scarlet O'Hara) which I felt made it difficult to see what starry-eyed, easy going Keats saw in the drama-queen teenager. Right off the bat, Fanny despised Keat's friend Brown, but there was no complete explanation why, so it seemed as if she was simply a judgey snob. Still, the actors did the best with the script, and there was a nice chemistry between Cornish and Wishaw in between strange lines and a lack of initial narrative.

My ending consensus is Bright Star is a beautiful movie, but don't expect your typical historical romance film. What it lacked in storyline it made up in imagery so it is up to you to decide which is more important to you. If you are looking for a complete and well laid-out regency romance, I would pass this one up.

[For those who have seen the flick and would like to know what actually happened to Fanny Brawne, there is a great write-up here.]

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yay or Nay? David Garrick

Another Yay it was for Mrs. William Moseley, but then again that should be expected since it is a rarity to find someone who doesn't enjoy a good riding habit! Still, enough of this girly-wear, we have been without a male model for some time. Let's get things more masculine while still keeping it simple.

Thomas Gainsborough paints a young David Garrick (1742) in fawn and ivory with simple embroidered details, a high neck, and extra large coat cuffs to show off some sleeve flounce. Yay or Nay?

[Private Collection]

Friday, February 19, 2010

When Tea was not Quintessentially English

When we think of tea we tend to think of England or even possibly China. China is where we credit the origin of tea but it wasn't until almost the 17th century that people began drinking it in Europe. The Dutch trade routes increased tea imports from China into Europe and people cautiously began to take an interest in the new hot beverage.

It was the many coffee houses that were strewn about England that got the British addicted to tea. Once the coffee houses introduced tea into their menu it became a big hit! Some say this was because tea was patriotic since it was harvested in British colonies unlike coffee. This popularity surge was actually a problem, believe it or not. King Charles II, anticipating the popularity of the newly imported good heavily taxed it so as to hinder its popularity. This tax reached its height by the middle 18th century when it was a whopping 119%. And you thought the colonists had it bad! This meant only the richest people could afford tea for their own home and everyone else was stuck scouring for a coffee house which sold their favourite beverage.

With the insane tea tax a new market emerged: the tea smuggling market. Dutch traders would smuggle tea in to England, and it would be sold at a cheaper price, but was still very pricey. Someone needed to put a stop to the tea madness. You may be surprised at who did. William Pitt introduced the Commutation Act in 1784, which dropped the tea tax down to a reasonable 12.5%, obliterating the smuggling market. Now tea could healthy grow into British culture as it had been trying to do for a century.

In the following century tea houses were introduced and it was Anna, Duchess of Bedford who would come to invent Afternoon Tea so as we could have a small meal to hold us over until supper. And of course there's the old favorite, Earl Grey, which graces many a teacup in the morning. The tea was named after Georgiana's old lover and the future prime minister. However, it remains a bit a mystery as to how the bergamot tea got its name seeing a Pitt really had nothing to do with it.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Tea Time!

Be sure to hold your teacups correctly and have your best tea set out! Only the families of the best taste had tea, so it would quite worthwhile to pose with it to exude your wealth. Oh and you'll be happy to note Wedgwood is having a "sale" on this tea set which actually does come with a handgrip on the teacup.

Richard Collins, A Family of Three at Tea, 1727

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Two Nerdy History Girls

I have been very late in giving a proper shout-out to a new blog that I am quite taken with, Two Nerdy History Girls (blame Twitter, it's so easy to just post links on that!). Believe it or not those two gals are not (for once), Lauren and myself. Loretta Chase, authoress of historical romance, and Susan Holloway, authoress of historical novels, teamed up to form a delightful duo just brimming over with fun 18th century facts. The results are the fun, Williamsburg-based blog, Two Nerdy History Girls.

The series that makes me put everything down when I see it come up on my blogroll: Men Behaving Badly of course! As we all know, there were very few men of the 18th century who actually behaved themselves! Go check out their site now!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Just Dance

Queue the music. Dancing is something humans have done since we could walk upright and beat a rhythm on a tree trunk. It is something people will do regardless of social class or skill. In the great history of dance, the 18th century is far from being omitted as a time period that wasn't big on boogieing down. After all, balls were always a big deal and, if you were in the upper classes, your grace at dancing was a major aspect of how you were judged in multiple areas! Marie Antoinette and Harriet Ponsonby were both known to be exceptional dancers and were also noted for having graceful mannerisms and airs. Of course, when you couldn't dance you could light up the room with some artwork portraying the pastime.

David Wilkie, The Penny Wedding, 1818

David Allan, The Highland Dance, 1780

Johann Georg Weickert, Marie Antoinette and Family Dancing, 1765

Johann Zoffany, The Minuet, ca. 1780-83

William Hogarth, The Dance from The Happy Marriage, 1745

From Wilson's Analysis of Country Dancing instruction manual, 1811

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs. William Moseley

Truly we have a most English crowd. Queen Charlotte was met with a resounding Yay for her state portrait gown. This week we shall examine a garment that is usually foreign to formal portraits: the riding habit.

Ralph Earl paints Mrs. William Moseley (1791) in her navy riding habit, accented in gold and topped with a cream-colored hat.

[Yale University Art Gallery]

Friday, February 12, 2010


Ralph Earl, Marianne Drake, 1783

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Washerwomen and Laundresses

While you wait at the nauseatingly retro laundromat, praying for your clothing to be fully dried so you can get home before 1:00 am, I hope I can enlighten you as to the convenience of these coin-operated communal cleaning devices. Clean clothing was a lot more inconvenient in the past which is why many people went without. A woman of wealth had many fine articles of clothing and a man of taste requires at least seven clean shirts a week. That is unless you were Charles James Fox, in which case you were lucky if he even made it outside his house in something other than his nightshirt. But for those who enjoy good hygiene, an essential article of your household would have to be a laundress or a washerwoman in the least.

Linen was to the 18th century as cotton is today. Not only was it what men's shirts were made with but also many undergarments and linens. Cleaning the pure white material was not as simple as throwing it in the wash on a warm/cold setting. Linen particularly had to be boiled in vats. Clothing also couldn't be considered clean until you had scrubbed it until your knuckles were raw. Soap, bleach, lye, and starch were used in the laundering process. The various materials also had to be dried and ironed. Some garments had to literally taken apart and sewn together again to prevent damage in the washing process. The whole process was back-breaking and extremely time consuming. If normal household servants took on the laundry for the whole house, you could depend on none of the regular tasks of the day being completed.

Due to the overall hassle of "doing the laundry" washerwomen were quite the essential. Just as our contemporary colleges provide launderettes for students to learn firsthand about mixing colors and whites, men going to university in the 18th century were provided with a laundress to keep their bed linens and clothing clean and mended. Of course this meant any young laundresses with easy access to bachelors' dorms were common victims to upper class charms and would find themselves doing more than laundering.

But beside resisting the charms of dashing young students, being a laundress or washerwoman wasn't the worst way for a woman to make a living. There was always a steady stream of work, and although it was difficult and time consuming it would feed you and your children. Washing and mending clothing for a living was one of the top occupations for women for around 600 years. Of course those statistics exclude the most ancient of female professions, but that was for those who couldn't take the (steaming) heat!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Hunk Alert: Paul Sandby

SWM, cartographer, artist, and member of the Royal Academy looking for woman who enjoys the great outdoors.
Likes: Landscapes, gardening, Scotland, and carictures.

I think I am a great example of the Enlightened man. Hiking through the Scottish Highlands, sketching along the way, and even adding little notes about improvements. What better way could a man make due with his time? When I am not creating maps you might find me painting landscapes of the king's properties or heckling William Hogarth. Oops did I say that out loud? So yes, landscapes, painting, Enlightened and so on.

I am looking for a lady who doesn't tire out easily; you must be sturdy enough for long walks. You also must love to travel and know when to give me time to myself to work. Please write back soon before I become too much of a lonesome mountain man!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Adam Buck and his Sideline Art

The print market was a hugely successful market in England in the the 18th century. It supplied rich and poor alike with artwork for their residences and places of business. Mezzotint prints would be made of the most popular portraits of the time. Satirical Images by the likes of Gillray and Rowlandson would be sold alongside them in the print shop windows, and were also eagerly scooped up by consumers. Satirical images tended to have a raunchier side, and frequently displayed titillating imagery to mix with humor.

Adam Buck was a miniaturist who felt especially home when the Classical came in style during the last few years of the 1700s. We can thank him for this portrait of the tart, Mary Anne Clarke. We can also thank Mr. Buck for what some now consider to be "pin-ups." Buck published some prints which border between the formal reproductions of fine art portraits and satirical images. Take the lovely print, Archers for example. Upon initial analysis we see ladies in the latest fashion practicing a sport en vogue for women of the time. However this print would be considered somewhat inappropriate to display in a formal setting among ladies of respect. Ladies of the time would have their hair pulled back or hidden under some form of bonnet, therefore the display of these ladies' free-flowing hair was rendered with the purpose of titillation. Also, the archer's positioning, being so liberal, could be considered quite exciting, as well as the closeness of the two women; lesbian pornography was not foreign to the 18th century. If you are still not convinced of Buck's intentions with the Archers, there is always his print, Sophia Western which is a little more forward with its intentions. Psst, Sophia your umm is uh... you need to adjust your top.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bon Jovi on the High Seas

Our scout in Finland, CenturyLydia, just notified me of another sudo-18th century commercial. Not only does it have tri-corn hats, it has pirates and Bon Jovi! Or at least, Bon Jovi songs. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Yay or Nay? Queen Charlotte

Sorry, Lis, close but no cigar! Although the votes were split down the center, Elisabeth of Brunswick was give a Nay. Her offense? The pink "bowtie." These foreign queens just don't have any taste, do they? Active yay or nayer, rileyp suggested we try someone who might appeal to our more English sensibilities.

Nathaniel Dance paints the Queen of England (1769) in glitzy gold and white accented by many, many pearls. Be sure to click on the picture to see it in all its glory. Yay or Nay?


Friday, February 5, 2010

Tart of the Week: Anna Maria Crouch

For many years there was a thin line between actress and whore, which was entirely unfair considering there were some fabulous actresses out there who worked hard on stage for their living. But then again, this was the eighteenth century, actresses tended to come from the lower classes where it was dog-eat-dog, and stereotypes don't just appear out of thin air. While the fabulous Mrs. Crouch never took to the streets (as far as we know) she was no stranger to scandal, or rich men's bedrooms.

Born Anna Maria Phillips, in 1763, Anna Maria was destined to be a famous actress, starting her stage career while still a child. She broke into the London scene at the tender age of sixteen, performing at Drury Lane, which was then under the management of Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Thomas Linley (Eliza's father). Not only was Anna Maria not bad on stage, she had a lovely singing voice. Her singing talent naturally landed her many singing rolls, most notably Polly Peachum in The Beggar's Opera.

Not long after Anna Maria began at Drury Lane, she was already flouncing off with rakes. In 1783 it was reported that she eloped with a certain Irish peer, but we cannot confirm who. The fling must not have lasted long for the following year she married a naval lieutenant by the name of Crouch. Right after the marriage, she returned to the stage. Now that Anna Maria was married, she could go by Mrs. Crouch which many actresses would title themselves, whether married or not, so they would look like chaste married women instead of floozies. It was once Anna Maria returned to acting in London that she met her great love.

Michael Kelly was a Dublin-born musician and singer who had been giving performances all over Europe and had also dabbled in acting. He arrived in London from Vienna with Nancy Storace, looking to making it big in England's capital city. A mere three years after her marriage, Anna Maria began an affair with Kelly. The two were not only sleeping together but also acting together, which as we all know, made great whisperings around London. To further delve into infidelity, Mrs. Crouch caught the eye of the Prince of Wales (he always did have a thing for actresses) and she had a brief affair with him. Let us examine how very tartly this was: Anna Maria was married and having an affair, and possibly hadn't cut things off with Kelly yet. The Prince, was also married at this time albeit, illegally to Maria Fitzherbert. Although the affair was brief, Anna Maria still managed to make off with a £10,000 bond from the silly prince, which probably ticked Perdita Robinson off royally because of all trouble she went through to get some of the prince's money!

After jumbling all these men around in 1791, Anna Maria reorganized herself. She separated from her husband and moved in with Kelly. The two divided their time between their home in London and their other home in Brighton. Sadly, Anna Maria's life was cut short in 1805 when she suddenly died. The 42 year old's cause of death is unknown and it sounds as if it wasn't a pretty situation, for rumors suggest she died from either drinking or a tragic carriage accident. Kelly was heartbroken and the monument he errected in her memory still stands today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Whiggery in the Hunt

Hunting was quite the popular sport among the gentry in 18th century. There was nothing the boys loved more than racing around on horses in the woods with a pack of hounds. Then of course you could have a party afterward. There was also the hunting lodge which would allow for a more masculine decor to counter-balance the main house's feminine interiors. See, there was just so many fun aspects of the sport! France preferred the stag hunt, but England was becoming quite enamored with something that would come to be quintessentially English, the fox hunt.

As you probably well know, the fox hunt wasn't merely going out in the woods with a gun, oh no. You got all dressed up in your riding gear, got a bunch of buddies together with suitable mounts, collected your multitudes of baying dogs, and set out into the woods. Once the dogs caught the scent of a fox, or quarry, the hunt was on its way.

The people who became the most fond of foxhunting tended to be the more conservative crowd. The Whig party was quick to point this out, painting fox hunters as stuffy Tories who amused themselves with these trivial activities because they were rich men with nothing constructive to do. As historian Jane Ridley puts it, "The Whig caricature stuck. Country gentleman equals Tory equals fox hunting equals stupid is an association of ideas which still persists." Well, as with the typical Whig-Tory fight, the Tories had their own spunky comeback. They began referring to the quarry as "Charlie," named after the one any only, Charles James Fox. Fitting, no?

The Tories got the last laugh, though. To this day in English fox hunting, the fox is referred to as "Charlie."

Monday, February 1, 2010


Benjamin West, Queen Charlotte, 1779

Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, Sermon VI, Page 123

" 'What should we then do when together [instead of gambling]?' Do! Why, converse or hold your tongues, as good sense and unaffected nature prompts to either. Do! Why, work, read, sing, dance, laugh, and look grave by turns, as occasion serves; any thing in the world that is innocent, rather than eternal play."