Monday, May 31, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 54-61

It's our last Salon, can you believe it! I am so sad to see it go. But enough of that, pass the sugar and let's get on with the discussion!

Louisa, who had previously written of Mr. Spencer’s friend and their own childhood acquaintance, Henry Woodley, writes again to announce Mr. Woodley has been open in declaring his love for Julia. Julia dramatically writes back to hush her sister, for she has always had feelings for this childhood sweetheart yet can’t entertain the thought of marrying again or marrying without the Sylph’s consent which she had promised. The sisters argue back and forth over Julia’s reintroduction to Mr. Woodley.

Julia goes to sulk in the garden and think about her lost loves when a letter from her Sylph drops at her feet. She asks aloud to see the Sylph and Baron Tonhausen appears. Julia is shocked and delighted but is surprised even further when this “Proteus” reveals that he is the grown up version of her childhood sweetheart, Henry Woodley. Now all of Julia’s troubles have left her and she can be with both men she had loved, both being the true Henry Woodley. She writes to Miss Finch, now Lady Brudenel to share both her and Mr. Woodley’s new love of life and “saucy assurance.” The book ends with Lady Brudenel’s final thoughts on the happy ending.

I just love happy endings, don’t you! There were actually many things I liked about these last few letters. I enjoyed when the Grenville sisters finally dropped their stoicism and had a sisterly squabble. For me, that finally made Julia relate-able. And look how quickly Julia’s promise to the Sylph came back to haunt her! Not only does another unhappy marriage frighten her but she also feels indebted to the Sylph’s generosity which now seems more of a burden than when she first made the promise to let him decide her next husband.

In the long-run, Julia held true to her promise, and married the Sylph’s choice. Was anyone surprised by the outcome? I suspected Woodley being the Sylph but must admit was surprised when Tonhausen was also the Sylph. I love being surprised! How about everyone else? Julia was the most surprised of all! Delighted, relieved, elated. But then again if my high school crush and my, oh let’s say celebrity crush turn out to be the same person who happened to be in love with me, I think I would be happy to jump into another relationship too.

Julia often refers to Henry or Harry as her Proteus for his “treple” identities. Proteus was a sea god in Greek mythology mostly known for his shape-shifting ability. I’d have to say I agree with the comparison.

I found it appropriate and satisfying that the last letter was that Maria’s. I would have to say she is my favorite character although I cannot touch on the exact reason why. Perhaps I am drawn to Maria because I cannot relate to Julia’s saintly ways. Maria seems more real and therefore more likable. Perhaps the 18th century version of one of the girls from Sex and the City? Plus an unfortunate heroine always needs a good girlfriend to help her through a scrap.

This is a time for any final thoughts. Was anyone disappointed with the ending or even the book? One might call this a Cinderella tale, would you?

On a final note, thank you to all who participated in the group read! I had a fabulous time discussing the book among such extraordinary minds!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Yay or Nay? Robespierre

This happy crowd surprises me! Although many seemed on the fence, you also seemed to be in another generous mood and Mrs. Edmund Morton Pleydell was given a pass, or in our case, a Yay! Now before we sharpen our scythes let me preference this Yay or Nay with: remember we're looking at the fashion, keep politics out of it! Or at least just Yay or Nay the fashion, since I know it's impossible to keep politics out of it.

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard draws Maximilien Robespierre (1786) in his tailored black getup. Yay or Nay?


Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Review: Rival Queens

One of the many enchanting things that draws people to the eighteenth century is the theater. The venues, the actors, the audience; there is just so many captivating aspects to this period in theater history. But perhaps the aspect that drew the most people into the theaters at the time and what still catches our modern-day interest is the actresses. It is the British actress that caught Felicity Nussbaum's interest which culminated in her newly released book, Rival Queens: Actresses, Performance, and the Eighteenth-Century British Theater.

Rival Queens is an analysis of the celebrated English actress in the long eighteenth century. As Nussbaum makes clear in her introduction, her mission is not to give a historical account of her subject but to "focus on the exceptional actresses who changed theater history and afforded unprecedented models of public display as they confronted the social and theatrical strictures that traditional femininity imposed." Nussbaum does just that, with finesse. She does this all while drawing a comparison of the world these actresses encompassed with Nathaniel Lee's popular play, The Rival Queens, the story of Alexander the Great's wives, Roxana and Statira's jealousy for each other. Among the many topics Nussbaum covers is the actress' relationship with the audience, how the eighteenth century actress infiltrated the caste system, and how the actress would play up their personal life (which was of interest to the public) in her work.

Rival Queens is an exceptionally researched and thought-out book. I really enjoyed the information and research Naussbaum presented and especially appreciated her creative comparisons throughout the book. She consistently proves her expertise on gender-roles in the eighteenth century while drawing various arguments from other researchers to support her theories. Great actresses, many of whom have been discussed here, are examined in great detail. Like Naussbaum warns in the beginning of the book, this is not a history lesson text. Even though I learned much from this book, readers are expected to have somewhat of a background knowledge before reading it. This is an academic book, abundant with theories so it is not a book for every eighteenth century enthusiast. This doesn't mean it's a bad read; far from it, in fact! Rival Queens is an excellent book and I can see it soon gracing many a library and bibliography.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 36-53

Julia finds her home overrun with bailiffs collecting her possessions. To add to her distress Lord Biddluph pays her a visit to collect what was promised to him from Sir William. Julia is in disbelief at Lord Biddluph’s proposal to exchange sex for paying off her husband’s debts and tries to turn him away but upon seeing the signed contract, feels defeated. Unable to show fortitude in such a situation she gives into her raw emotions and Lord Biddluph seems moved by her tears and apologizes for the offense. She is finally able to get him out of the house by promising to see him the following day and immediately begins packing to run away with the help of Miss Finch. She writes a farewell note to Sir William telling him, “Remember, this is the first instance in which I ever disobeyed your will.”

Lord Biddluph’s show of sympathy was apparently a farce, as he now writes to Colonel Montague excited for his intended victory of Julia the next day. His letter is interrupted when he has to attend on Sir William at a tavern. His letter continues in distress to say that after receiving Julia’s letter Sir William shot himself in the head and is now dead. He renounces all his evil-doing and is traumatized by the affect of his plots.

Julia is accompanied by Mr. Stanley (her “uncle”) and Miss Finch back to her family. She will now live half the year with her father and the other half with Mr. Stanley whom she has built up a good relationship with. For once in a long time, Julia is contented with her life.

You can’t help but feel bad for Julia. Just when she thought her husband couldn’t get any lower, the person she hates most in the world comes bearing that contract. I wonder if she would have been more accommodating if it was Baron Tonhausen who came with the indecent proposition. Yes, of course, I know she wouldn’t; I just couldn’t resist! Did anyone buy that Biddluph was actually moved by her display of distress? That he genuinely felt remorse for his shameful actions? I know I did. That made me even more disgusted in the following letter when Biddluph admitted his act was just a farce so that he could get what Sir William signed over to him whether Julia was willing or not.

I also noted something of interest that some of you may have picked up as well. After Biddluph leaves Julia’s faithful servant, Win comes into the room and Julia, “forgetting the distance betwixt us (but misery makes us all equal), I threw my arms around her and shed floods of tears into her faithful bosom.” When Win is mentioned in the book all other times it is with the most grateful affection. Yet, even though Win has served Julia as both friend and servant, Julia is in the state of mind that hugging Win is beneath her. For someone such as the saintly Julia to think that, makes you realize the sort of distance between servant and master/mistress.
The Georgiana Connection
Sir William’s suicide due to mounting debts was inspired by the death of John Damer which occurred two years previous to The Sylph’s release. Damer was the husband of Anne Damer a talented sculptor and friend to Georgiana. Damer was known to be a drunk and gambler, who couldn’t hold on to a shilling. When his debts amounted to obscene amounts of money he, like Sir William, shot himself in the upstairs of a tavern. This left his wife to deal with the debts, but luckily she, like Julia had a fairy god uncle; in Anne’s case it was Horace Walpole who helped her get on her feet again.

The last few chapters end with everyone hooking up. Miss Finch and Sir George Brundenel seemed to of formed an attachment and even Louisa has found love in the form of James Spencer. Love is in the air!

With a few more chapters to go, does anyone have any predictions? Will Julia happily live out her widowhood with Mr. Stanley or is there something else in the cards.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Fork with a Pouf

Via Domestic Sluttery I was alerted to Tina Tsang's Wonderland Cutlery this morning. While trying to figure out why it is named as such with the exception of the rabbit, I noticed the pure awesome-ness of the fork in the set. That sold me right there! Then, just to add to the already fabulous silverware, there is a magnifying glass in each handle- just in case you need to see the food better or perhaps check your fellow diner's teeth for any food bits that are stuck.

The utensils are £42.50 each on Hidden Art Shop.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mr Franklin Teaches us How to Make a Clock

The ever-resourceful Benjamin Franklin in one of his many efforts to make life easier, came up with a genius plan in making a "Striking Sundial" by which, not only would the owner know the time but also his "Neighbours for ten miles around." For your convenience I have broken down the process step by step.

1. Find a large, flat space in your garden on which the sun can shine directly with no shadows of trees, buildings &c. interfering.
2. Mark out your hour lines with "room enough for the guns."
3. Place one cannon without ball but with powder on one o' clock, two cannons on two o' clock, and so on and so forth.
4. Place twelve burning glasses around gnomon so that when the sun shines directly on the glasses they alight.
5. Create a gunpowder trail along each hour line that leads from the burning glass to cannon(s).

All together, Mr Franklin explains, there will be 78 guns. Won't the neighbors be pleased to know it is 8am when they hear the eight cannon shots go off? Mr Franklin goes on to explain that the chief expense will be in the powder since with proper upkeep the cannon will be good for at least 100 years. He also notes how cloudy days will also curtail costs.

But let me give Mr Franklin the last word, for this is his creation:
"Kind Reader, Methinks I hear thee say, 'That it is indeed a good Thing to know how Time passes, but this Kind of Dial, notwithstanding the mentioned Savings, would be very expensive; and the Cost greater than the Advantage.' Thou art wise, my Friend, to be so considerate beforehand; some Fools would not have found out so much, till they have made the Dial and tried it. Let all such learn that many a private and many a publick Project, are like this Striking Dial, great Cost for little Profit."

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 36-45

Julia writes a very distressed letter to Louisa after a fight with Sir William. Sir William must settle his gambling debts with Lord Biddluph because of Julia’s request to not associate with him any more. He blames Julia for this inconvenience and forces her to give up the last of her marriage articles (a house) to pay off the debts. Julia is very frightened by the discovery of the violent side of Sir William. The Sylph writes to chastise her for giving up the last of her securities and Julia is upset further.

Things get worse for Julia when she finds that Lady Anne’s tongue has been wagging. The nasty nobless has been spreading rumors about Julia having a more than platonic relationship with Baron Tonhausen and that this is causing a rift in her friendship with Miss Finch. The rumor causes Baron Tonhausen to flee in order to protect Julia’s reputation. To disprove Lady Anne’s gossip, Miss Finch forces a depressed Julia to go out with her instead of moping at home.

While at breakfast, Sir William receives a letter informing him that he has no claim to the house he attempted to sell to pay off the debts; it goes to his uncle after Julia’s death. He then admits to Julia just how far into ruin he is and how he has already sold her diamonds and replaced them with false ones in order to pay debts. He leaves Julia to discuss the issue with Lord Biddluph who proposes to Sir William an exchange of sleeping with Julia in order to repay his debts. Sir William is aghast at the proposal and Lord Biddluph then explains that he can divorce Julia and make back his money in suing for crim con. After much debate Sir William signs a contract allowing Lord Biddluph marital rights to Julia.

Is your jaw on the floor? I know mine is. Poor Julia! But before we get to the obvious, let’s reflect on the series of unfortunate events that our heroine just went through.
There’s nothing like getting a guilt trip from your husband for not allowing him to associate with the man who attempted to rape you. But then again, should I really be surprised that Sir William blames Julia for his gambling debts? It makes one wonder just how many society ladies may have been date raped and how their husbands reacted. No wonder there were duels.

Just when you thought Lady Anne had gone away, she appears welding different weapons. Apparently Julia’s secret crush on Tonhausen is not as secret as she thought. So for as moralistic as she is, her true feeling have betrayed her and appeared on the vindictive Lady Anne’s radar. I thought Miss Finch was very smart to deal with the rumors the way that she did. But wouldn’t Tonhausen leaving London confirm the malicious gossip about him?

And what can one even begin to say about the horrible deal that Sir William just struck with Lord Biddluph. It seemed as if Sir William was more worried about being cuckolded than he was about Julia’s feelings and well being. I was relieved for him to say his only unselfish line in the whole novel, “Julia is virtuous, and deserves a better fate than she has met with me,” which shows that he is aware of things that aren't Sir William. In fact, up until this point I really was questioning whether Sir William actually loved his wife, or if she was merely a prize (just as she is to Lord Biddluph who also claims to “love” her) but I think this shows that he does have some, if even just a little love for his wife.
The Georgiana Connection
Although Georgiana’s husband, also named William, has gone down as sort of a bad guy because of his indifference to her, Sir William doesn’t share too many of the Duke of Devonshire’s qualities. While they were both members of the ton, were older than their wives, had various mistresses, and mistreated their wives, their personalities are extremely different. The Duke of Devonshire was introverted and was not as conscious of what was fashionable or socially acceptable as Sir William. While he may have enjoyed gambling he didn’t suffer from the crippling addiction that his wife did. Although the duke wasn’t the best of husbands to Georgiana he was known to come to her defense. He also was very close to Georgiana’s sister, Harriet and helped her out of a scrap or two. If you recall, Julia complains, about the cruelty of Sir William not allowing Louisa to visit, luckily that wasn’t a problem Georgiana had to deal with.

I believe that Sir William is a creation of multiple personalities from Georgiana’s life. I see a lot of Richard Sheridan in him, who was a notoriously awful to his wife, Eliza. He also has a lot of Harriet’s husband’s unlikeable qualities in him but Harriet was still single at the publication of The Sylph, making him a grim foreshadowing of much of what Harriet would go through.

For those who have seen The Duchess and found Georgiana portrayed quite differently than she was in Amanda Foreman's biography, do you notice many similarities between Julia and The Duchess' version of Georgiana? Do you think The Sylph influenced the screenwriter?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs. Anne Pleydell

Despite the many watermelon comments (is anyone else hungry now?) Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina was met with an overall Yay from the panel. This week let us examine an outfit that isn't so fruity-tootie. Perhaps the gown will be a little sweeter or maybe it will just leave you with a rotten taste in your mouth.

Thomas Gainsborough paints Mrs. Edmund Morton Pleydell (1765) in her puffy ivory and blue ensemble. Yay or Nay?

[Boston Museum of Fine Arts]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 31-35

Louisa writes to commend Julia for resisting the various dangers and seductions of the beau monde. She commends Julia on not acting on her feelings for Baron Tonhausen and reminds her of the results if she did indeed act upon them.

Julia writes to the Sylph asking for his advice on going to a masquerade at the Pantheon which Sir William is adamant that she attend. He gives her his blessing and is flattered that she asks his opinion. He tells her he will attend as well to watch over her since it is likely her husband will not.

At the masquerade Julia manages to steal away from Baron Tonhausen and Miss Finch and meet the Sylph in a side room. She is very pleased with his appearance, at least, what she can see since he is masked. He asks her that if the occasion should arise, would she opt to ask his advice for a second choice of husband and she quickly agrees, which he is delighted by.

After Julia’s meeting with the Sylph she asks Sir William to accompany her home and is surprised when he agrees. She notices how more amorous he is and assumes that he his drunk but when they get to her bedroom she knocks off his masks only to find it is Lord Biddluph in disguise. She kicks him out of the house and is traumatized and scared by the event. When she relates the events to Sir William the next morning he is "chagrined” and promises to never associate with Lord Biddluph again.

A lot happens in Letter 35. Not only does Julia meet her sylph in person and then give him the rights to choose her next husband, Lord Biddluph reaches a new low and thankfully fails in trying to possess Julia. He must have finally realized that she wouldn’t be seduced and therefore could only be tricked into sleeping with him. These men of the ton! What pigs!

I also think Julia is quite foolish to so quickly give the Sylph permission to chose her next husband. Perhaps she is thinking that he would automatically select himself. But you would think, someone who is in such a miserable marriage after only knowing their current husband for a small amount of time before marriage wouldn’t jump into another one so quickly. Considering especially, this could be another marriage with a short courtship. But as I type this I am thinking of fellow foolish female friends today who are guilty of such things. When will we ever learn! I am very uncomfortable with Julia putting so much blind trust into her Sylph, which has already been brought up in our discussion. She is very submissive to him, even more so than with her husband I feel, which just seems dangerous.

Was anyone surprised by Sir William’s reaction? I almost expected him to call her a silly rustic, although he didn’t take Lord Biddluph’s attempted rape as seriously as I would want my husband to! Do you think he will hold true to his word and not associate with Lord Biddluph any more, or would that be too unfashionable for him? Something smells fishy to me when it comes to Lord Biddluph and Sir William and I wonder if you all smell it too.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


John Hoppner, The Franklin Sisters, 1795

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Portraits in the Grand Manner

The dominating style in late eighteenth century British portraiture is known as "Grand Manner." Some credit the invention of the style with Joshua Reynolds refined and defined the style in his Discourses on Art and would discuss it in his lectures at the Royal Academy. Reynolds actually would refer to it as "great style" or "great style" but names were not important, it was the concept of the style.

So how we do we know what is Grand Manner? Well, most of the portraits that have graced this blog over the years are done in this style, for the blog's author has a preference to this style which shows her Enlightenment. That is the intention of Grand Manner: to show the sitter's Enlightenment. The sitter is made to look noble, smart, and with purpose. "That isn't as easy as you may think." you might say. Luckily, I have a a quick reference guide to how to piece together a portrait in the grand manner style:

1. Paint a full length life size or larger.

2. Put the sitter in a Classical pose (extra points for a gesture)

3. Paint an Arcadian landscape, more fantasy than reality.

4. Include a Classical prop: urn, fragment of architecture, or even Laocoon statue (if you are in Rome)

5. Dog is a charming touch but optional

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 24-30

Julia is able to acquire the address by which she can contact the Sylph and directly seek his advice. She tells Louisa that about her friendship with Miss Maria Finch and how she prefers her company to that of Lady Besford and Lady Anne.

Miss Finch pays Julia a visit one day and admits her crush on Baron Tonhausen, to which Julia tries to hide her distress. It is now more than apparent Julia has strong feelings for the Baron that she wishes to hide. Miss Finch relays a story of how she became smitten with the Baron involving him saving a poor young girl from the clutches of Colonel Montague.
Julia and the Sylph are quite regular pen pals now and she thanks him with a locket of her hair.

This is the second time in the novel where there has been a situation in which a supposed gentleman has attempted to force a woman into sleeping with them in exchange for getting out of a scrap. Sure, it is common enough to see that sort of drama in historical movies, but when it comes up more than once by an author who is writing about the same sort of people she interact with daily, it makes you think about just how often this depravity surfaced. Obviously it was frowned upon, but it has been happening to frequently for me to be comfortable!
The Georgiana Connection
In these last few letters we get better acquainted with Miss Finch who was briefly mentioned in Letter 14. Julia has finally seems to find a comrade in the beau monde with whom she gets along with. While Miss Finch isn’t a clone of Julia she is kind and a fun age-mate for her. I believe that this character is inspired by Georgiana’s own best friend from the time, Mary Graham. Like Miss Finch, Mary was close in age with Georgiana and kept her moral ground upon her entrance into society. When Mary was away she and Georgiana kept a regular acquaintance through letters and Mary filled her letters with that advice Georgiana craved.

There was also some girl dramz in this chapter. We finally see just how much of a crush Julia has on Tonhausen. She isn’t the only one! Ah, the age-old issue of having a crush on the same guy your best friend has a crush on. Only problem is, Julia has no claim to him. How do you think this situation will pan out? If Tonhausen and Miss Finch end up together how will that effect Julia and Tonhausen’s relationship?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Yay or Nay? Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina

Although dear Mrs. Weller may be guilty of having a simple face she has quite the fabulous gown; she was given a big, fat Yay! Can we be so lucky this week? Or will your opinions soon sour when you see this week's selection?

Johann Georg Ziesenis paints Princess Frederika Sophia Wilhelmina (c. 1768) in her quilted green coat with pink crisscross stomacher. Yay or Nay?


Friday, May 14, 2010

And the winner is...

Thank you for all the well-wishes that you left on the Blogiversary post! A big *mwah* to all of you! Now is the time to announce the winners of the giveaways. Thanks to a random number generator, here are the results.

The winner of The Sylph is

The Winner of Wedlock is
Emily J

Congratulations! Email with your mailing address by May 21 so I can send you your new book. Thank you all who participated!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 15-23

We are finally introduced to the character in which the book is named after, the Sylph. He enters Julia’s life in the form of a mysterious letter offering advice and comfort in the environment that Julia is still so very uncomfortable in. He also warns her to be wary of the men she is frequently in the presence of, particularly Lord Biddluph. Both Julia and her sister welcome the guardian angel’s presence.

Julia writes again in a state of distress after finding a letter to Lord Stanley from Lucy Gardiner. Lucy’s letter reveals that Lord Stanley is also having an affair with the very woman he put Julia in the protection of, Lady Anne. The letter goes on to reveal that Lucy left Lord Biddluph to be with Sir William and Julia keenly notes that this makes Lord Biddluph eager for revenge.

To ease her stress, Julia begins a fondness for gambling and writes to her sister to tell her of a victorious comeback in a card game. She receives another letter from the Sylph warning her of the dangers of gambling and as a further example tells the story of a Lady D- who was blackmailed into sleeping with Lord L- to repay her gambling losses.

In the meantime Sir William admits his debts to Julia and she signs over marital assets to him. Lord Biddluph writes to Colonel Montague to complain that Julia suddenly had no interest in playing cards.

Susan R. was correct! Sir William cannot handle a woman in his own set. Although Lucy is not a member of the ton per se, she obviously has a lot of experience with spending time with them and ahem knowing their ways.
The Georgiana Connection
One of the means that The Sylph could be identified to be Georgiana’s work was also one of the reasons for its popularity. Just like Richard Sheridan’s play, The School for Scandal, fans amused themselves by trying to pick out which notorious celebrity was represented in each character. Lady Besford may not have a large role in The Sylph but it is likely that she take upon the characteristics of Georgiana’s close friend and mentor, Lady Melbourne. Lady Melbourne was also known to be frank yet graceful, and carried on many affairs, but wasn’t as sloppy in them as other young aristocrats. In fact she remained on amiable terms with many of her old lovers.

Lady Anne Parker, the real jerk of the two companions, without a doubt in my mind is the insufferable Lady Jersey. This vindictive lass was known to be cruel to her friends for the fun of it, which is what Lady Anne did to Julia by purposely inviting her to an opera, knowing Lord Stanley would be there with his mistress. Lady Jersey had an affair with the Duke of Devonshire and made no secret of it to Georgiana and this was also incorporated into the novel with Lady Anne’s affair with Lord Stanley.

Georgiana was always searching for helpful advice to guide her into making the correct decisions. Her mother was her chief adviser although Georgiana would have probably liked to have a more neutral adviser such as the Sylph. In her letters to her mother there is always a tone of insecurity and apprehension in her actions.

How do you feel about Julia’s latest decisions? There were many in these letters which she faced. Should she have confronted her husband about the letter, perhaps tried gambling a little more, or even refused to sign over what little assets she had?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Twitter, an 18th Century Creation?

Enfilde had an interesting post go up yesterday discussing Twitter and the 18th Century. The two subjects don't usually go hand in hand. So it may surprise you to hear that The Wall Street Journal is reporting about how they do. How delightful! Curious? Check out:

Tome Tweet Tome?

Twitter Updates, the 18th Century Edition

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Duchess With Fire in her Eyes

One of the many famous stories about Georgiana is about an exchange she had with a Irishman.

While stepping out of her carriage one day, the working-class Irishman who was standing before her as she exited, was quite taken by her appearance. Although the actual quote differs from source to source, as well as the man's occupation and sobriety, the man blessed her and said, "let me light my pipe at your eyes." Instead of being affronted by the unusual compliment, Georgiana was quite taken with it, liking the idea of someone seeing a fire in her eyes. Sadly, her eyes would fail her in the future which would cruelly take away that flame.

Georgiana was known to state, that of all the compliments she ever received this one far exceeded all others which were insipid in comparison.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 10-14

Julia reflects on her father’s long letter to her and questions her potential for happiness in her own marriage. She tiptoes around her Sir William so as not to offend him. Julia also reveals that she doesn’t like her two protectors, Lady Anne and Lady Besford. In a discussion with Lady Besford, Julia is disgusted by her frank honesty of the ton lifestyle and how her happiness cannot be attributed to her marriage, “Happy! Why yes, probably I am; but do not suppose my happiness proceeds from my being married…” A new character is also introduced, Baron Tonhausen, a new member of Sir William’s friend circle. Julia notes how this foreign noble seems out of place in the set because he seems to have a similar moral outlook to her own.

Julia writes again to her sister to tell her that she had the pleasure of running into an old acquaintance from their childhood, a Lady Melford. Although nobility, Lady Melford is a fresh breath of air for Julia, being different from Sir William’s hedonistic set. Sadly though, after delivering some helpful advice she leaves for her estate.

After remarking about the lack of her husband’s presence to her sister, Julia is invited to the opera by Lady Anne, only to discover her Sir William is already there, with another woman, a Lucy Gardiner. After Julia retreats with Lady Anne and the usual group her coiffure catches on fire but is put out by Baron Tonhausen. That night when Julia meets up with Sir William in her dressing room he is very affectionate to her, and then later admits to what he knows Julia already knows. He is not ashamed of being with Miss Gardiner and passes the dalliance off as something not to be worried about; Julia is too submissive and exhausted to argue with him about it.

A few days later a riot erupts at the play that Julia is seeing and Baron Tonhausen rescues her from the stampede of people fleeing. Julia faints on the carriage-ride home and then later looses the child she was carrying.

While I wasn’t surprised by Julia’s reaction to Lady Besford’s revealing conversation about married life in the ton I found Julia unnecessarily rude to her ladyship. Lady Besford is frank and a result of the society she lives in, so I was quite shocked that the docile Julia’s morals were so wounded as to be well, bitchy, to Lady Besford. I am all for woman to speak her mind, but for some reason I was bothered by Julia’s sudden decision to abruptly begin doing so with Lady Besford. It seemed out of character, perhaps. Or maybe I just want to see her standing up to her husband and not her companion.
The Georgiana Connection
Being raised in a household where her parents were continuously together, Georgiana, like her protagonist, was perplexed by her husband’s solidarity. The scene in which Julia’s hair caught on fire is another hint Georgiana gives to her readers to reveal the anonymous author’s true identity. Georgiana popularized the four-foot hair tower, which concerned many over the fire risks. While many rumors went around that Georgiana’s pouf caught on fire it is likely that the duchess managed to avoid the mishap Julia experienced.

I would like to know how do you feel about Julia? Do you like her or is she too extreme of a foil to the ton to be a relatable character?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yay or Nay? Mrs Weller

It was another close call with last week's Yay or Nay but the Duchess of Alba survived with a Yay, amongst much debate. Honestly, I was surprised how much flack her hair got. I was thinking of asking her where she got her extensions! This week we are going to jump back into some classic dress of the century and some more contained hair.

Francis Hayman paints Mrs John Badger Weller in her classic open gown of pink and pearl. Yay or Nay?

[UK National Collections]

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Gossip Guides Second Blogiversary!

Huzzah! Would you believe it's been two years now since Lauren and I have been filling your ears with gossip? I'll be expecting all your cotton and straw gifts by my door tomorrow. Just kidding! You can nix the straw gift, cotton will be just fine!

Oh I know, I should be giving the gifts out. After all, I am more than appreciative of all the wonderful people who have strolled through here whether they are just passing through, or leaving their comments daily! Thank you so very much to all of you! Without you, I would be gossiping to myself, and that isn't nearly as fun. As a small token of my appreciation, let's have a giveaway!

There are two books up for grabs.
Book the first: The Sylph by our patron duchess, Georgiana Devonshire and foreword by some gossipy old spinster.
Book the second: Wedlock by Wendy Moore which tells the amazing story of Mary Eleanor Bowes.

What You need to do.
Leave a comment telling us what you like most about the 18th century and stating which book you would like to win.
Winners will be drawn at random for each book and announced a week from now, next Friday.

The blogiversary celebration continues over at Marie Antoinette's Gossip Guide where Lauren also has a fab giveaway going on. Good luck!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Sylph, Letter 9

Mr. Grenville writes to Julia to see how she is adjusting to married life. He is concerned that he was too hasty in giving his permission for the union seeing as the couple barely knew each other. Grenville himself married Julia and Louisa’s mother for love and feels that element is an essential aspect of marriage. He then goes into history.

Grenville was married first to an heiress whom suffered an unfortunate dancing accident which left her prematurely in the throws of death. Her sudden death prevented her from signing over her estate to Grenville and instead it went to a Mr. Maynard’s daughter. When Grenville goes to explain to Mr. Maynard the estate is supposed to go to him he is treated quite badly, “He upbraided me with stealing an heiress and with meanly taking every method of obliging a dying woman to injure her relations, In short, his behaviour was rude, unmanly, and indecent.” Another daughter of Maynard tries to intercede on Grenville behalf but all in vain. A friendship soon blooms between Grenville and Miss (Maria) Maynard in the midst of these trials and he soon falls in love with her.

To cover debts Grenville enrolls himself in the military service and keeps up his love letters with Maria. The correspondence is suddenly cut off so he willingly looks toward an oncoming battle since he no longer has anything to live for. A messenger comes to tell him Maria is dead and he despairs but then it is revealed that the messenger is Maria in disguise. They profess their undying love for each other and then enter the battle side by side. After surviving the battle the two marry but Maria dies after her daughters' births. Grenville is devastated and recedes from society to raise his daughters as a single father.

Did UPS have to deliver this letter to Julia!? Good grief Mr. Grenville, that was long-winded! This detailed account serves to give us an idea of Julia’s background.
The Georgiana Connection
Georgiana has her protagonist coming from a union between two people very much in love, as was the case with Georgiana’s own childhood. This opens a window into how Georgiana felt in the early stages of her marriage: she was also confused by the lack of love in her marriage which was very apparent in her parents relationship. Georgiana did not have the background knowledge of how to deal with that sort of situation. Will Julia face the same conundrum?

The theme of an attractive woman cross-dressing, as Maria did, was not foreign to the 18th century audience. “Breeches roles” were often written into plays for the prettiest actresses as an excuse to show of their legs. However in the case of Maria disguising herself in order to find out her lover’s devotion, I was reminded of the traditional Irish folktune, The Banks of Claudy. The song tells the story of a sailor who disguises himself and approaches his lady-love to see if she is still dedicated to him after their time apart. It is unknown how old the song is but it seems to have been in existence in the early 19th century. Perhaps its origins go back even further? Then again, them theme isn’t that uncommon! The Grenville's romantic tale is far-fetched and seems the most unrealistic of all the events of the book. Georgiana's daydreaming sense of romanticism is apparent from this long letter.

Don't worry, Mr. Grenville doesn't write any further letters to his daughter. He must have overexerted himself with this one! What are your thoughts on this (rather long) letter?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Georgiana Drinks

This weekend Lauren, Vic and I began a conversation on Twitter about drinks themed after our favourite icons. Being the lush that I am, I proclaimed I would come up with a Georgiana-inspired drink (or two) just in time for Cinco de Mayo.

Devonshire Brown Martini
Drizzle chocolate syrup into empty martini glass
1 oz VanGough chocolate vodka
1/2 Godiva chocolate liqueur
1 oz Devonshire Irish Cream
Top with whipped cream and or cherry

Kisses For Votes aka Blue and Buff
Champagne of your choice
A dash of Blue Curacao liqueur
Top with cherry

Duchess of D--
3 oz Everclear
8 oz Sprite
6 oz Strawberry Margarita Mix
Blend together with ice and serve in chilled glass

Mother Knows Best

"Many thanks for your invitation to Althorp, indeed I have a great pleasure in going to see you there or elsewhere sometime or other, but I always resolved not to visit that place till your father's monument should be put up - as I hate to have (what so often has happened) those sort of things talked of and not done."

Lady Spencer to John 2nd Earl Spencer
September 1786

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Hunk Alert: Douglas 8th Duke of Hamilton

SWM, Duke, Scotsman, looking for an attractive young lady
Likes: Travel, girls, horses, fashion

You can consider me your average entitled man of the age. I like my clothes fabulous, my horses fast, and my women faster. Obviously I am funny too. When I am finished traveling the world with my companion Dr. John Moore I would like to settle down with a woman who can keep up with me.

A sturdy and beautiful woman who shares a love of horses is who I am looking for. Warning: must be mother-approved.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Sylph, Letters 1-8

Salon 1, Welcome, get cozy, and let's get chatting!

Our novel opens with Sir William Stanley’s letter to his friend, Lord Biddluph telling him that on his trip to Wales he acquired a wife. Sir William knows that this news will shock most, but as he puts it, “Don’t every body marry?” His new wife is Julia Grenville, a country-girl, who although is “rustic” in Sir William’s opinion is beautiful enough to tempt him into the shackles of matrimony. Beside being young and naïve we find that Julia is also “Mild, passive, duteous, and innocent” which excites Sir William. Sir William is quite the opposite.

We are also introduced to two other players: Sir William’s pen pal, Lord Biddluph and a man from Julia’s past, Henry Woodley. Lord Biddluph reveals the competitive nature that exists between him and Sir William and confirms that they both lead a rake’s life. Woodley writes to his friend to bemoan the loss of Julia, whom he has been in love with since they were children. Freshly returned, from making his fortune, he went to her father’s house to propose only to find he was too late.

Julia’s letters to her sister talk of the difficult adjustments to life in the ton. The bustle of London frightens her and she is perplexed by the grand fashions. She is constantly being scrutinized by her husband and those around her for the social faux-pas that she commits due to the how foreign her new lifestyle is. To aid in the adjustment Sir William has recruited Lady Anne and Lady Besford to be Julia’s companions, which as Lord Biddluph hinted at, could not be the best match for the naïve newlywed.

Sir William’s introductory letters may not be the most interesting way to begin the novel but serve to give us an idea of how different he is from his new wife; they are foil characters. I found Letter 3 very interesting in that it gives a wonderful description of Piccadilly Circus and the change of lifestyle as Julia transitions into the life of an aristocrat. Letter 8 continues to give these great eye-witness accounts of high society.
The Georgiana Connection
Julia brings up Puce, the color that Marie Antoinette popularized and which Georgiana and her mother talk of in their personal letters to each other around the same time (some excerpts here). This is the same chapter where Georgiana sneaks in a reference to herself, “He had run the risk of disobliging the Duchess of D--, by giving me the preference of the finest bundles of radishes that had yet come over; but this it was to degrade himself by dressing commoners.” She couldn’t resist sneaking a clue into her anonymously-published novel, oh which there are several hunts throughout the book. In the same stroke, she pokes fun at herself for her own outlandish fashions.
Throughout the book Julia frequently refers to a “vortex of dissipation.” In her letters dating from the same time, Georgiana often uses this phrase to describe her own life. Those lucky enough to read both would undoubtedly catch the frequency of this Georgiana turn-of-phrase, if you will.

Georgiana is also very black and white with her characters. Those from the aristocracy come off as pernicious while those from Wales (The Grenvilles, Woodley) are very innocent. Woodley himself seems like the ideal Enlightened man, embroidering his tear-stained letters with poems and such.

If you were suddenly thrown into London ton life like Julia do you think you’d cope better than she? Does one only need an open-mind to survive this lifestyle or does it take more of a cunning personality? Do her descriptions of her life scare you as much as they scare her or are they more intriguing than terror-inducing?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Yay or Nay? Duchess of Alba

Bosoms were on everyone's mind when Robertine Tourteau showed off her casual ensemble. But was it too casual and not fashionable enough? According to our panel it was and Robertine was given a big Yay! It is time now to journey back to Spain, a country that hasn't had the best of luck in past Yay or Nays. But perhaps a little luck will be on their side today?

Francisco Goya paints "The White Duchess" (1795) in her gualle gown and dark coral accents. Yay or Nay?

[The Alba Collection]

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy May Day!

May 1 marks May Day, a joyous celebration of spring, for Georgiana's Gossip Guide, though, May 1 marks the beginning of our month reading Georgiana's second novel, The Sylph. Ladies and Gentlemen start your reading!

Just a reminder, only discuss up to the chapters we are on in the group so as not to ruin the plot for anyone!

Once again here is our salon schedule. So you can begin leaving your comments/discussion beginning at midnight EST on these days.
  • May 3, Letters 1-8
  • May 6, Letter 9
  • May 10, Letters 10-14
  • May 14, Letters 15-23
  • May 17, Letters 24-30
  • May 20, Letters 31-35
  • May 24, Letters 36-45
  • May 27, Letters 46-53
  • May 31, Letters 54-61
As suggested by Amina, here is a Google calendar with the schedule on it if you would like to add it to your own calendar for a reminder; just click the botton below.

Happy Reading! See you in the salon on Monday!