Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Enlightening Video Game?

I know the chances of many of the readers who grace this blog being gamers are pretty low. However I am clever enough to know you are out there. Lauren and I, ourselves are closet gamers when we're not sipping our champagne, gossiping, or the billion other things we have on our to-do lists. I've often been thinking, why aren't there enough games set in the 18th century? And before any laughing snarls come out of the true gamers who have stumbled upon this post I would like to direct you to other video-game junkies who are asking the same question.

At the beginning of the month, BitMob posted, 4 Places Rockstar Should Set Their Next Game. Two of those suggestions were in the 18th century, one setting being England. Listen to this convincing plea,
"This period also encapsulated the heyday of highwaymen, robbers on horseback who were often romanticized in stories...This rich history of folklore from the time would make this an incredibly interesting setting for Rockstar to explore. The Grand Theft Auto series and Red Dead Redemption have successfully paid homage to cinema history, and by setting a game during 18th-century England they could do the same thing for the written word."
Sign me up!

I have found a few video games set in the era, mostly war strategy games and pirate crusades. I guess attempting to bring a monarch's downfall with gossip and rumors while putting together the perfect masquerade costume hasn't come out yet. A girl can dream... In the meantime here is what I have found. Do you know of any good games set in our most favorite of centuries? What would you like to see in terms of a game set in the 18th century?

East India Company PC Strategy

Empire: Total War PC Strategy

Anno 1701 PC and DS RPG

Pirates of the Burning Sea PC MMO

The soon to be released Harker, which looks pretty cool, XBox Action

Age of Empires III PC RTS (I used to love Age of Empires, I'm tempted to buy this one!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Am I Not A Man And A Brother?

Josiah Wedgwood was not just famous for being quite the potter, he was also known for being a fervent abolitionist. He managed to use his artwork to bring attention to the cause he was so passionate about. In 1787 the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade formed, their logo was a slave in chains kneeling with the words, "Am I Not a Man and a Brother?" underneath. Wedgwood took the seal and created it in cameo-form, making a large amount to be distributed.

Luckily, the enlightened appeal was a big hit. Ladies would set the medallions in bracelets or set them in hair pins. Wedgwood's cameo was the 18th century version of the Livestrong bracelet, it was fashionable to show your support for a cause.

Like many fashions for a cause, though, the medallion's longevity meant a loss in meaning for many wearers. However, Wedgwood's effort did help in the abolitionist movement and in 1807 Parliament voted to abolish slave trade.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yay or Nay? Juliana Maria of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

Enough of all these pleasing Russians! Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova continued with the tradition of pleasing everyone with her frock, earning her a Yay. Time to skip off the Russian runway and check out what the Danes have to offer. But can they give us the glitz and glamour we crave?

Johann Georg Ziesenis paints the Queen of Denmark (1766) as she shows off her son in her conservative gown and sheer shoulder shawl. Yay or Nay?

[Frederiksborg Castle]

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dueling Rakes

The year was 1772 and Richard Brinsley Sheridan had just read an advertisement by Captain Thomas Mathews in the Bath Chronicle. The advertisement stated that "S" was a "L and treacherous s."

How dare you, sir!

Well S or Sheridan knew exactly what those strong letters meant and he wasn't going to let Mathews get away with calling him an l and an s! (Liar, scoundrel, by the way)

What brought Mathews to this alarming language? Mathews has recently discovered Sheridan's marriage to his crush, Elizabeth Linley, whom he had pursued to no avail. Miss Eliza was not interested in being a teenage mistress to a married man and had rejected his advances

Sheridan demanded satisfaction for Mathews insulting his lady-love (wait, I didn't see any strong letters defaming her?), and a duel with swords was settled upon. First they were to meet in Hyde Park but it was too crowded. They settled for a tavern in Covent Garden and slapped each other around in what sounded like a true macaroni fight; no blood despite the use of swords.

Apparently the enraged Irishman had disarmed the military man and made him promise to retract his statements via an additional newspaper advertisement. Mathews agreed but was none too pleased when the new talk of the town was his impotence in the dueling field.

Mathews counter-challenged Sheridan, and this time he meant business. The second duel was more gruesome and left both significantly bloody and bruised. Sheridan was left hanging on for survival but recovered a little over a week later. Mathews apparently escaped in shame in his carriage. Lucky for us too! Who else would we have to write scandalous plays, womanize intelligent ladies, and mingle in politics?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Magdalen Hospital

In the effort to better their society, the English instated many state-of-the-art improvements which showed an honest interest in helping society. On the coattails of the Foundling Hospital the Magdalen Hospital was founded in 1758 with the aim of 'curing' prostitutes.

Magdalen hospitals were not a new or English concept. These hospitals had been developed by Catholics in other countries hence being named after the famous reformed prostitute from the Bible. When the London Magdalen Hospital was founded it was created with the aim of giving young women a better life, knowing that prostitution was a last resort in a society with not many opportunities for women.

The establishment was run as more of a rehabilitation center. The penitent prostitutes entered into the hospital and were taught decorum and cleanliness and then given an education. Good behavior and improvement were rewarded with being moved to different wards and then being allowed more independence. Basically, the women were trained to make a living without having to whore themselves. The Magdalen Hospital was like a My Fair Lady factory: slob streetwalker goes in, civilized citizen walks out. There were even punishments for swearing - 6 hours confinement to your room or more with repeated offense. I have a feeling I would have spent a lot of solitary hours if I was a patient!

The hospital was deemed a success which helped in not having to scrounge for charitable contributions. In fact, society was so enamored with the enlightened idea of a penitent prostitute hospital was there was plenty of money pouring in. The chapel collections even drew in more money than the Foundling Hospital. I blame that on the spectacle. Why donate to orphan children when there are reformed whores singing hymns?

Thousands of wayward girls entered the hospital through the years. Soon, some of the patients were just girls who needed a head start and hadn't actually sold their body. Why not? The hospital trained you to start and honest living, out a roof over your head, and fed you.

Although we could never tell you if the hospital was a true success in its ability to rehabilitate, its heart was in the right place. It didn't punish prostitution but gave women a safer alternative to their original career path. Over the years the hospital expanded and changed. Its original location was by Blackfriars Bridge but it was moved to Streatham in 1866. By the 1930s the hospital was transformed into a school for 'juvie' girls. In 1966 what remained of the hospital closed for good with the original 18th century mission having long been forgotten. Although nothing remains of the site today you can still walk down the Magdalen Passage, an alleyway which lays on where the Magdalen Hospital foundation used to be.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Preventing Any Other 'Great Fires' in London

The threat of fire was always looming in the days of fireplaces and chimneys. That threat was always particularly high when it came to cities with their narrow streets and congested layout. Firefighting was not a new concept, for it has logically been around for as long as fires and houses have been. However, like it is today, those in the 18th century felt firefighting was something that could always be improved upon.

The fire hose was a fairly new invention but the fire engine, or at least the pump aspect of it, had been around since the 3rd century. Engines in the 18th century were being improved upon. They had the teeter totter-like handles in order to draw water through the pump and out water through the hose which had to be manned by at least four people. They were also built in order to navigate the narrow city streets. Of course you had to find a water source to hook the engine up to or you also required the help of volunteers with buckets. Engines also had a tank with water in them but that would only last for so long.

If you were worried about the threat of fire you had the option of buying fire insurance. This meant you got a special fire brigade would arrive at your home. Houses with fire insurance would have to a fire mark displayed on them. These were lead signs with the insurance company's name on them and the policy number. It was kind of like those stickers you used to have on your window as a kid so fire fighters knew which room to go to first. Of course if you had this fire mark you needed to put it high enough on your home so that it wouldn't be nicked by someone to put on their house.

For the most part, fire fighting was a group effort. Nothing brought a neighborhood together like putting out Old Mrs. Abbott's fire in the middle of the night. After all, houses were touching each other and fires can spread very quickly. As you can see in Hogarth's print above, neighbors are putting out the fire from their windows with water guns. These were designed, not for soaking your brother on a hot day but specifically for putting out fires. With a little luck, and a big group effort, a neighborhood fire could be put at bay.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gossip Inspired Jewelery

*Blush* The Gossip Guide has inspired a jewelery piece! The ever-fabulous Renata & Jonathan wrote to tell me of their newest necklace, the Gainsborough and Sheridan Locket. Check it out at their shop.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Yay or Nay? Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova

Everyone seemed to be quite taken with Sara Fermor's blue gown and she got a big Yay from the panel although Girlfriend needs to hire a new hairdresser! Yikes! Since we all seemed to enjoy the Russian runway I selected another victim contender for a full-on fashion evaluation. This one comes to us from the Empress School for Noble Maidens, but hopefully that won't bias you!

Dmitry Levitzky paints Ekaterina Ivanovna Nelidova (1773) who seems rather pleased with her pink trimmed gray/green pastoral gown. Yay or Nay?

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Hervey Files: John 2nd Baron Hervey

"When God created the human race he created men, women, and Herveys"
- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Upon first glance, John Hervey was your run of the mill Georgian aristocrat. He gambled, drank, and could be found both at the horse races and in between the sheets of a young lady's bed. He was a fop, or macaroni, who wore the most extreme and effeminate fashions, even opting to whiten his face as was fashionable for ladies to do. To complicate the normally complicated practice of sleeping with many women, Hervey's appetite called for more, so men tended to also be on the menu.

Yes, Hervey's appetite knew no bounds. His own marriage was the result of a secret courtship followed by a secret ceremony. He was said to have affairs with both Lady Mary Wortly Montagu and the king's own daughter, Princess Caroline. When Hervey died, Caroline retreated from society and was so depressed she wanted to die. But slimy Hervey was not averse to keeping his affairs in the family; it is also rumored that he slept with Caroline's own brother, Frederick Prince of Wales. That is what should have put her in a depression! Hervey didn't stop there with his family affairs! He had a relationship with Henry Fox (yes, Charles James' father) and then tossed him aside for his older brother, Stephen whom he had a long-standing relationship with. He even signed his letters to Stephen, "your wife."

Alexander Pope hated Hervey (perhaps because he was in love with Lady Hervey at one point) and his nickname for him was "Sporus," whom was the youth Emperor Nero castrated so that he could marry him. Pope went as far as writing a poetic dedication to his enemy:
...Amphibious Thing! that acting either Part,
The trifling Head, or the corrupting Heart!
Fop at the Toilet, Flatt'rer at the Board,
Now trips a Lady, and now struts a Lord.
Apparently, Hervey's wooings couldn't attract everyone.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Redcoats' Last Stand

With all the crappy American Revolution-themed commercials I keep seeing on my television (cough cough Citizens Bank) I was leery when this commercial came on.

But as you can see, it is a worthy 18th century-themed commercial. Enjoy!

Proverbs of the Time

What can you expect from a pig but a grunt.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Where did Lady Abbington Go? Oh. Oh Yes, Nevermind

I must point everyone in the direction of Two Nerdy History Girls today because they have a fun article on bourdaloues. What's a boudaloue you may ask; well just image you are a lady at a fabulous 18th century function and nature calls. Many grand houses were not equipped with the proper plumbing, shall we say, (Chatsworth only had three bathrooms when Georgiana lived there) so it would be a pity to leave a party on account of a full bladder. That's where bourdaloues come in handy, yet they're not just any old chamber pot. But I'll let the history girls give you all the dirty details which can be found here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Modern Muses- Samuel's Painted Collection of Lady Greats

As, perhaps, a tribute to England's respect toward their learned women, little-known artist Richard Samuel painted the now-famous, Portraits in the Characters of the Muses in the Temple of Apollo, better known as The Nine Living Muses of Great Britain. Keeping with the tradition of the group portraits of the Dutch golden age, Samuel painted his sitters naturally in their environment...well, naturally might not be the best word for it since I doubt there was a temple of Apollo for the girls to hop in and play dress up (how else are we supposed to get the illusion to the nine muses?). The ladies interact with each other while still serving the painting's chief goals: portray these notable women and do it in a means which tells the viewers that these women deserve your respect. Isn't the eighteenth century great?

When looking at this painting, I find not enough time is dedicated to pointing out the whose who. I almost want to brush my mouse arrow over it to see if the facebook tags will come up. Wouldn't that be nice? While I am not techie enough to put something like that on a blogger platform, I can still give you the whose who report.

Elizabeth Carter is shown (far left in painting) in conversation with Anna Laetitia Barbauld. Described as a "fine old slut" by Lord nappier, Carter was, of course, more than that. She was a bluestocking and linguist, who translated the works of Epictetus in English for the first time in history. Being a friend of Samuel Johnson, she would help him edit some of his works. Barbauld has a long resume of achievements which make her difficult to categorize; a poet, political commentator, teacher, and in her later life, a children's book author.

The woman at the easel is none other than one of the founders of the Royal Academy, Angelica Kauffman.

Regaling everyone with a song on the lyre is the songbird, Elizabeth Linley Sheridan.

Surrounded by ladies, and visibly entranced by the music is Elizabeth Griffith. Griffith was born in theater royalty in Dublin and became and actress. Her husband wanted to take her as a mistress but she refused, resulting in the marriage. Not surprisingly, he had a roaming eye, and when he wouldn't return to home for extended periods it was Griffith who supported the family with her writing.

To Elizabeth's right is Catherine Macauly, whom I will be so cruel as to say Samuel was quite generous in her portrayal; it looks nothing like her!

Staring to the heavens is the queen of the bluestockings herself, Elizabeth Montagu. Once again, I have to wonder if Samuel had even laid eyes on her, Montagu being 59 when this portrait was painted. She was one of the wealthiest women of England and she used her wealth to foster British and Scottish literature.

The other lady musician, is Charlotte Lennox, taking up the cithara. This prop is misleading for Charlotte was not known for any musical skills but was a celebrated author, playwright, and poet as well as failed actress. Among her circle were Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Johnson, ans Samuel Richardson.

The figure who can't be bothered to look up from her reading to enjoy the music is Hannah Moore who was a playwright, religious writer, social reformer and philanthropist. Moore lived a long, fulfilling life, dying at age 88.

There are a few faults with the painting. The first being, the sitters are not accurately rendered. Perhaps in the quest to becoming an allegorical figure, your very image itself becomes, well, allegorical. Or, as I am inclined to believe: the painter just wanted pretty ladies. Samuel did not paint from live models. The other fault is that each of the ladies is supposedly representing one of the muses, however many have pointed out, it can't be determined which muses they are representing. Who is supposed to be Melpomene? Urania?

One side of me thinks this is a desperate attempt of an artist to feed into the celebrity craze of 18th century England. Making a tributary painting of famous women is bound to make a guinea or two, right? If that is the case the plan worked, for the painting made it into the Royal Academy exhibition of 1779. But the other side of me knows that I could be looking at the painting the wrong way. I should see these women as they are presented: as muses, inspirations. And that is, without a doubt what these women are, people to be inspired by and to look up to in one's own personal goals. For that, they were most deserved of being named the nine living muses.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Baseball, not so Much America's Pastime as a Gentleman's Pastime?

Uh-oh, this is going to ruffle some feathers.

A diary from Surrey native, William Bray is getting some attention recently for its references to playing "Base Ball" 1755. This discovery conveniently coincided with the MCC Museum's current exhibition: Swinging Away: How Cricket and Baseball Connect. Looks like the Baseball Hall of Fame might have some displays to update after this! Even non-sport lovers will get a kick out of CNN's article on baseball's 18th century English origins (video below). It now appears we need to delve deeper into baseball's exact origins!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Yay or Nay? Sarah Eleanor Fermor

It was another close one for Maria Luisa, but the queen managed to come out on top with a Yay. Those last minute votes saved her from fashion excommunication. This week, I couldn't resist another go at panniers although it isn't the panniers that drew me in, it is the unusual color to see in a formal portrait.

Ivan Vishnyakov paints Sarah Fermor (1750) in her baby blue gown. Yay or Nay?

[The Russian Museum]

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thomas Gainsborough's Portraits of George III's Family

In 1782 King George and Queen Charlotte decided they couldn't get enough of their large family and commissioned their favorite artist, Thomas Gainsborough, to paint individual portraits of everyone. It is kind of like those old school portraits your mother still has on display, right down to the bland background. Awkward smiles are absent and I think the outfits are quite fashionable unlike my school portraits.

Queen Charlotte
George Prince of Wales
William IV
Princess Royal (Charlotte)
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent
Princess Augusta
Princess Elizabeth
Prince Ernest, Duke of Cumberland late King of Hanover
Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge

Princess Mary

Princess Sophia

Prince Octavius

Prince Alfred

Some of you may have noticed two family members are missing. First of all, I'm impressed if that is the case. Princess Amelia was not portrayed for she was still a twinkle in her father's eye. The second-born Prince Frederick is also missing from portrayals. This is not due to his parents' dislike of him but because the prince was vacationing on the continent. However, some art historians can't believe that Gainsborough would go without completing the family and think there is a long lost Frederick portrait.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Book Review: Fanny Hill

Disclaimer: The following review speaks openly on issues of a sexual nature in relationship to an 18th century erotica book. Those sensitive to this sort of discussion may choose to skip over this review.

erhaps you recall a short while ago when I was deliberating over which edition of Fanny Hill to read. I ended up buying this edition with illustrations by Talia Felix and was not disappointed.
Fanny Hill or Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure by John Cleland, is the story of a young woman (teenager, really) who moves to the bustle of London and quickly is scooped up by a madame to become a prostitute. Her virginity is sold and Fanny is very near being raped if it weren't for the client's impotence. Fanny is safe for the time being until a new danger appears in the form of falling in love with one of the young men visiting the brothel. They run away together where she does indeed loose her virginity and becomes head over heels in love with him. Unfortunately the two young lovers are separated and Fanny is forced into a life of a kept mistress and later, prostitute. Although she seems to enjoy her profession, her mind always wanders back to her lost love.

Let me first be clear about this book. It is smut. It was written with the intention to titillate and therefore has very little plot yet a large amount of detail when it comes to talking about sex. If you are looking for great literature of the 18th century, you won't find it in Fanny Hill, you will find, however, what tickles a 18th century gentleman's fancy. That in itself is interesting.

What one part of me (the sarcastic, bitter, feminist side) was thinking was, Well, not much has evolved in men's tastes. Penises had to be described in great detail, and size was a big topic. But that is just a detail I have come to expect when it comes to males and topics of sex. One of the first sexual scenes was girl-on-girl, so once again I was thinking about how men are creatures of routine and their tastes haven't evolved much in 200 years, and so on and so forth. But then there was something that I did notice which I found interesting: there was no oral sex. Oral sex was considered to be something the French favored throughout the centuries, and in page after page of the sexual scenes in Fanny Hill, its absence was obvious. It seemed as though this article of foreplay wasn't even a thought, or perhaps it just wasn't attractive to bedroom frolickers in 18th century England, or perhaps that was just Cleland's taste. Another noticeable difference was in the attention to pubic hair Cleland included in his details. The same things we, in the modern age, take great care to hide away, was a real turn-on for both men and women, if we are to believe what Cleland has to say!

As for the edition itself, I was pleased with my selection. I knew I wanted an illustrated version since I'm a visual person [feel free to begin snickering and making comments in context to the book]. I enjoyed Felix's illustrations which were reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley's style and added some fun to a text which can get redundant. Yes, redundant; you might find yourself skipping through the sex scenes once you get halfway through the book. But despite the little plot and large amount of redundant sex scenes I still found myself enjoying Fanny Hill.

That's what she said.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Name that Gainsborough

Now that the easy one is out of the way I know I can truly challenge you!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Happy Birthday/Aniversary Georgie!

It's Georgiana's birthday today! I hope everyone is celebrating accordingly. For the past two years I've merely announced the 7 June holiday but lately I've been thinking about how I've neglected to mention 7 June also being her wedding anniversary. It's about time I discussed that festive occasion.

Now, the wedding between Lady Georgiana and the Duke of Devonshire was not supposed to be on the bride's seventeenth birthday, it was supposed to be two days afterward. However, like the high-profile celebrity weddings of today, there was much buzz about the Duke getting married. Georgiana was not even a celebrity yet, but the anticipation of her marriage to the most eligible (and rich) bachelor in England probably gave her a boost into celebrity-dom. To avoid the crowds, the wedding had to be earlier so no one would know. The Spencers spared no expense and Georgiana's trousseau was fit for a queen. No less than 65 shoes were included and I am confident that they were all fabulous.

The shoes Georgiana walked down the aisle with were silver slippers. Her dress was white and gold and she accessorized with pearl drops in her hair. Despite being dressed to the nines in full splendor, the wedding only had five attendees due to it being a "secret" rush marriage. The wedding scene in The Duchess may have been filmed in the chapel of Chatsworth but it was in the Spencers' Wimbledon Park parish church that the wedding actually took place. The couple remained at Wimbledon Park for ten days after the wedding (there's nothing as romantic as staying with your in laws) and then were presented to the court.

Now one can only wonder if Georgiana got twice the amount of presents on this day.