Sunday, July 31, 2011

Yay or Nay? Mrs James Peale

Last week Mrs Gage was up for judgement and our panel spied (heh heh heh) a big Yay. A la Turque gowns must have been quite the show-stoppers at American events, so I can't blame Mrs. Gage for opting to being painted in the style.  This week's selection is no longer in the Turkish style but we have another American fashionista to judge.

James Peale paints his family (1795) and shows off his wife in her simple grey and white robe a l'anglais which she has accessorized with her yellow shawl.  Yay or Nay?

[Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts]

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trouble with Travel: Hats

While scouring for pictures of the royal wedding in Edinburgh today I cam across this gem, which I found rather adorable.

 Get in the back, Kate! 

Then I looked at it again and realized poor Katie Cambridge is hunched over due to her rather large hat (been there, Honey)! 

That instantly brought to mind a satirical print from Matthew Darly in 1776 when hair heights were at their largest.  Elegant females were constantly forced to sit on the floor due to their hair; there was no other way to get around it aside from sticking your head out the window.  Here's hoping that someday we will have vehicles to accommodate fashion!

Books For Sale

Ladies and Gents,

There are catladies and bookladies.  Both collect something until their house is overrun with it, and the only solution is to send those things out to better, more loving homes.  I am a booklady.  My shelf is overrun and I sadly have to give up some books in anticipation of a move to come later in the year.  But I hate the thought of trading them in to my local Book Barn without giving you readers a look through them first.  That way, I would know they'd be going to a good home!

Most of these books are barely broken into (by me at least) and some I received as gifts or promotional items (for those I only charge shipping).  The prices listed include shipping within the US; for overseas orders I will have to tack on a couple extra dollars.  If you are interested in any of the books (or have questions about them) please email me at and make sure you have a valid paypal account.

Up for grabs (in a wonky layout)


Audiobook, $7



$3, Please note, different cover

English Painting by R. H. Wilenski (a very old, fat book) $7

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bess: More of a Hervey than a Foster

It was two hundred and twenty years ago that Fanny Burney met Georgiana and her family for the first time, despite the two women being in the celebrity spotlight for over a decade. 

The truth of the matter is that Fanny had no interest in Georgiana and her group.  To her, it would be like the modern equivalent of having the opportunity to meet a tabloid celebrity who was famous for no good reason (ie: Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian), Fanny was disgusted and just not interested.  However, no one was as surprised as herself when, with little effort, Georgiana won Fanny over, "it is impossible to view...this celebrated woman without feeling the strongest disposition to admire and like her."  Fanny found that Georgiana's sister, Harriet, whom her pre-conceived notions were even harsher on, was surprisingly equally likable.  However, she found Lady Spencer to be a bore, the Devonshire nanny (Selina Trimmer) to be full of herself, and Bess and the Duke's daughter, Caroline to be a brat.  As for Bess herself, Fanny reserved her harshest criticisms.  "To the tales told about her, scandal is nothing - INFAMY enwraps them."  Fanny found herself smothered by the sycophantic Bess, whose efforts made it almost impossible to socialize with anyone else. 

In the end Fanny decided that after talking to Bess, "Lady Elizabeth has the general character of inheriting all the wit, all the subtlety, all les agréments [charms], and all the wickedness of the Herveys.  While I can't imagine Bess would be too pleased with this assessment, I have a feeling her relative John Hervey, would have found it quite flattering.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Voices from the Old Bailey

I am a little late in reporting a great radio program that UK peeps have the privilege of listening to.  Fabulous historian extraordinaire, Amanda Vickery presents Voices from the Old Bailey a radio-documentary on the scandalous court cases of Georgian London.  The first part of this four-part series has already aired but you can (and should) catch the next one at 9:00am (9:30 pm is your second chance).  BBC has a fun preview which everyone can check out here.

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Stanky Subject

Fashion and wit may have been more of a priority than hygiene in the age of Enlightenment, with the subjects of Britain having a reputation for being...well, rather gross.  Casanova's sensibilities were shaken as he toured St James's Park and saw, "hinder parts of persons relieving nature in the bushes..." Casanova was rather shocked at the Bosh-like qualities of the metropolis and went on to say that people were even relieving themselves in the middles of the street rather than hiding themselves to do their business.  Visitors to the royal court would find much of the same behavior.  The French ambassador's wife was known to use the court chamber pots in view of everyone, " least ten times a day amongst a cloud of witnesses."  Yup, England had no shame.  The little shame that they did have could easily be covered up with powder and perhaps a few patches.

To add insult to injury, defecating in public was the least of England's hygiene problems.  Bathing tended to only include the washing of hands and the face.  Most everything else was neglected, resulting in course commentary about the sort of odors emitted from body parts.  As much as sex was enjoyed as a recreational activity, the appendages needed for the act didn't get much love from the bath tub.  Due to this transgression 18th-century lovers tended to avoid putting their mouth on anything they didn't have to, and clothing tended to stay on in the bedroom.  If that doesn't leave horrible enough images in your imagination, just ask John Wilkes who was especially harsh on poor Scottish girls,
"it is shocking how much of [the vagina] is neglected, especially in the Northern part of this Island.  The Face, the neck, the Hands, I owe are clean, but of a Whiteness which would rival Leda's lover.  All the rest, alas! is hid in mysterious Sluttishness."  
Wilkes was also known to famously say, "the nobler parts are never in this island washed by women; they are left to be lathered by men." This naturally leaves one to wonder how clean Mr. Wilkes' gentlemen-bits were.

In the last quarter of the century bath basins became slightly more widespread, at least in the homes of the more well-to-do.  Dr James Graham who would be dismissed as a quack (and was Scottish) for his work in the sexual field was a strong advocate of frequent bathing.  When childless couples came to him for help in the bedroom, a relaxing bath was usually part of the procedure.  Graham's novel advice seemed to catch on, for one of the prostitutes in Harris' List of Covent Garden Ladies's trademark was her hygiene which, "from a practical knowledge of its increase of pleasure, from motives of cleanliness, or as a certain preventative we will not pretend to say; but we know it makes her the more desirable bed-fellow."  Based on this evidence it is safe to say that there were prostitutes that were cleaner than heads of state, yikes!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yay or Nay? Margaret Gage

"Nix the chapeau, Pompadour," cried our panel last week.  That silly small hat looked foolish on such a haute outfit, which earned the royal mistress as Yay. This week we are going to trade in straw hats for turbans.

John Singleton Copley paints Mrs. Thomas Gage (1771) in her Turkish-inspired peach gown.  Yay or Nay?

[Timken Museum of Art]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fordyce's Sermons to Young Women, Sermon III, Page 77

"Yes those more accomplished ensnarers are sufficiently aware that there is no allurement equal to that of maiden virtue and therefore having lost the reality they study to retain the appearance.  In this instance no doubt as in numberless others the operations of Nature may be counteracted by violence and her most speaking features silenced by dissimulation.   But ah! how much more easy pleasant noble and happy to be virtuous than only to seem so!"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bookspotting: Mistress of My Fate

Some of you may be well aware of my love for Hallie Rubenhold's biography on the scandalous Lady Worsley, Lady Worsley's Whim (The Lady in Red, in the US) which I just couldn't put down.  Fans of Rubenhold's work and historical fiction lovers alike should be pleased to know that Ms Rubenhold has taken a small break from her nonfiction writing to pen a novel set in our favorite century, Mistress of My Fate: The Confessions of Henrietta Lightfoot.  Says the author:
"[Mistress of My Fate] the first in a series of French Revolutionary / Napoleonic era novels which features the adventures of Henrietta Lightfoot, accidental courtesan, card sharp, actress - and later - spy, governess and art forger as she winds her way through a Europe in upheaval."
Accidental courtesan and spy? No, that doesn't sound like something this group of polite readers would enjoy at all! To further whet your appetite the book has a fun website that has 18th century recipes, beauty tips, and a quiz to find out what kind of courtesan of the time you would be. 

What has my curiosity going is that some of our favorite tart-ish friends make appearances in the book.  From my examinations of the website, Lady Lade and Gertrude Mahon are characters that appear in the book, and given Ms Rubenhold's excellent grip on the century, I am sure she will paint a fabulous portrayal of these most colorful and interesting women of the time.

Mistress of My Fate is now available to UK readers, but never-fear US readers, this tartly tale is due to hhit shelves next year.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Smiling Chamber Pots

We all know the 18th century was time that predated indoor plumbing.  That meant chamber pots, lots and lots of chamber pots.  These chamber pots can now be found housed in some of the greatest museums and private collections and range from the crude clay pottery used by the lower classes to the fanciest silver (brr!) used by the upper echelons of society.  But there are some chamber pots that stand out among the rest.

Pretend, for example, you are a guest in someone's house and nature calls.  You politely excuse yourself to make a dash for the chamber pot, shuffle your various layers and...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Yay or Nay? Madame Pompadour

It's a Yay or Nay first.  For once we are split right down the center and cannot come to a decision of whether Lady Egremont is in or out.  To be honest I am a little stunned!  However, this week I think we shall have no trouble deciding whether we like this selection or not!

François-Hubert Drouais paints Jeanne Antoinette Poisson in a warm grey day dress and small straw hat.  Yay or Nay?

[Chateau de Champs-sur-Marne]

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Teatro Argentina

The Teatro Argentina is a grand rococo theater in Rome.  It was built in the 1730s and is where the opera, The Barber of Seville first premiered.  But when one looks at the impressive interior you get the sense that The Argentina is a true reflection of its time.  Sure, it has all the rococo grandeur in the form of cupids and pastels, but remember, going to the theater in the 18th century was less about going to see the play and more about seeing the attendees.  In order to accommodate this essential detail the Teatro Argentina was built with six stories of opera boxes, which makes viewing and gossiping all the easier.

Like Canaletto and his views of London, although times have changed we can still look upon the same structure.  The Argentina has gone through many alterations through the years, which has stripped it of its rococo look and replaced it with a more simple one.  But luckily for us Giovanni Paolo Panini painted the theater in 1747, leaving us with the grand spectacle that it once was when it was filled with all its gossiping guests.
Giovanni Paolo Panini, Feast at the Teatro Argentina in Rome in Honor of the Second Marriage of the French Dauphin, 1747

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Hamilton Burr Duel: A Tale of New York Politicians Suitable for MTV Reality Programing

Many know that Alexander Hamilton was killed by Aaron Burr in duel and yet do not know the particulars of the circumstances.  For example, Burr was actually serving as vice president at the time when he killed Hamilton in the duel which sheds some light on just how far a political squabble can go.

The Duelers 
Alexander Hamilton- Federalist, Guy on $10 bill, New Yorker, Columbia graduate, war hero, politician and first ever Secretary of Treasury. 
Aaron Burr- Republican, Jersey boy, New York politician, Princeton graduate, Mary Wollstonecraft fan and femenist, and third Vice President.

The Deal
Here's the skinny.  Aaron Burr, like Benedict Arnold gets painted in impressionable little American children's heads as this bad guy when they learn their fundamental history.  Yes, you can easily counter with the fact that he is a murderer but one must look at the background before they cast any stones.  Burr and Hamilton had it out for each other from the start.  The two New York politicians were very competitive with each other and had a long history of taking (figurative) punches at one another.  Burr saw that Hamilton's true opinion on John Adams was published (obtained from papers that were supposed to be secret) and Hamilton saw that Burr didn't receive the presidency when he tied with Thomas Jefferson in votes.  So both founding fathers had questionable conduct in the workplace but outside it were pretty decent guys (Burr loved Wollstonecraft so much he had her portrait hung above his mantel and had his daughter taught based on her teachings, along with how to shoot on horseback, so he was actually quite awesome.)

The Duel
Everything came to a head more than a decade after the two began officially hating each other.  The year was 1804 and the race for New York governor was on.  Burr wanted the position so badly that he ran as an independent and the thought of Burr running his beloved New York state was sickening to Hamilton.  Once again Hamilton did everything in his power to dissuade the voting in favor of Burr and was pleased when things turned out in his favor.  But Hamilton couldn't just leave things as they were; nope, he was just as much of a grudge-queen as I, and continued to bad mouth the defeated Burr.  These ramblings were published in an Albany newspaper.

Embarrassed, ticked-off, and hoping that a duel would revive his political career, Burr demanded satisfaction.  Hamilton didn't want to fight, but what could he do? If he didn't duel it would be like saying Burr was right, and he (Hamilton) had no honor.  No that wouldn't do at all!  So at dawn on July 11, 1804 the two met on the dueling grounds of Weehawken, New Jersey on which, three years previously, Hamilton's son had died in a duel.  The two shot, Hamilton's bullet hit a branch above Burr and Burr's bullet hit Hamilton.  Much debate has carried on through the ages about whether Hamilton misfired on purpose (a common dueling practice) but Burr would tell you that would be, "Contemptible, if true."

Hamilton died of the abdominal wound the on the following day, July 12.   Burr was charged with two counts of murder and treason.  Needless to say, after his term as Vice President ended he never held a political office again.  Burr shot his career dead along with Hamilton, so one could easily argue that Hamilton got the last word in this famous political rivalry.

For a drunken recap of the story check out the 4th video on this post.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Antoine Raspal, The Couturier's Workshop, Arles, 1760

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yay or Nay? Alicia Maria Countess of Egremont

Despite some comparisons to wallpaper, das Baron Thure Leonard Klinckowström managed to come out with a Yay for his handsome blue coat.  Speaking of interior decorating elements, I have a great selection for this week!

Arthur Devis paints Alicia Maria Carpenter (1745) in gold trim and ruched ivory silk.  Yay or Nay?

[The California Palace of the Legion of Honor]

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The American Kings

In 1710 Queen Anne received royal visitors.  These four unique visitors were not from the gilded courts of Europe but from the rustic forests of the New World.

"The Four Kings" as they were called, were originally five, and were chiefs and representatives of their respected tribes.  The MC or tour organizer of this momentous event was Peter Schuyler, a Dutch-American and governor of New York.  Schuyler recruited the "chiefs" to ask the queen for military support against the French who were becoming too close for the Dutch and natives to be comfortable.  The three Mohawks and one Mahican* (all of the Iroquois Nation) received the royal treatment and were taken about in royal carriages to see the sights of London including the Tower of London and St Paul's.

The kings were given scarlet cloaks as gifts and Queen Anne commissioned portraits of them in their new cloaks to commemorate the visit.  Prints were made of the portraits and were popular due to the curiosity evoked by the unusual foreigners.  The portraits hung in Kensington Palace for centuries before Queen Elizabeth II decided it would be more appropriate for they to be moved to Canada, despite all the sitters' all being from New York.   The oil paintings are small but quite captivating, and one can look on them in wonder today in perhaps the same wonder they were looked upon when Jan Verelst first painted them.  Each man stands in and gestures in the common Western style of the time, but were portrayed in their native clothing.

Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow of the Bear Clan, "King of the Maquas" (recognize that name from Last of the Mohicans?) was not an actual chief.  He proudly shows his tattoos which must have looked quite fierce to the Londoners who beheld him.  The Mohawk is depicted with a rifle with his hatchet at his feet, perhaps symbolizing his openness to his tribe's relationship with Great Britain.  The creature behind him is actually a bear (we can assume Verelst never saw one) representing his clan.  Sa Ga Yeath Qua Pieth Tow would take the Christian name of Peter Brant and was the grandfather of Joseph Brant who would later trump his grandfather's fame.

Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row (literally, "great boiling pot") was another non-chief from the Mohawk. he would later be known as John of Canojaharie.  He is depicted holding a bow that looks too incredibly small to be accurate.  Behind him is a ferocious wolf representing Ho Nee Yeath Taw No Row's clan.

Tee Yee Neen Ho Ga Row  (literally, "double life") was also of the Wolf Clan (although not born into), as can be determined by the wolf behind him.  He was actually the son of a Mohawk woman and Mohegan (not Mahican) father, born in what is now Massachusetts.  He wears the clothing of the Dutch settlers and holds up a wampum belt. Theyanoguin (ahhh, isn't it so much easier to read that way!) was a sachem and would take the Christian name of Hendrick Peters.  He would later be known as "King Hendrick" and was devoted to the crown, dying while fighting with the English in a French and Indian War battle in Lake George.  Later portrayals of him depict him in the emblematic red coat of the English Army.

Etow Oh Koam King of the River Nation was the only non-Mohawk (and therefore non-Iroquois) of the group.  The Mahicans considered themselves the people of the River Nation and this representative hailed from the Turtle Clan as Verelst struggled depicting with the awkward turtle sulking on the ground.  Etow Oh Koam holds a tomahawk and wears an English saber around his waist to show his connection to the two nations.

*Not to be confused with the Mohegan tribe of which would be represented twelve years later in a royal visit requesting the English settlers not take so much of their land in modern-day Connecticut

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Royal Pains Winner

The randomly-selected winner of the copy of Royal Pains by Leslie Carroll is....


Congratulations!  Email: with your address to claim your prize!  Thank you to all the royal pains who participated.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Monaco Bridesmaids

Did anyone watch the Monaco wedding this weekend?  Despite being home very little, I did manage to catch some of it.  Honestly, the newly married couple would have done better holding off on the wedding until next year, since it just couldn't match the previous royal wedding in April.  Yes, yes I know that is quite a superficial statement.  However, I couldn't help but compare the two weddings, the later of which was missing some major magic.  What it did have, though, was super-cute bridesmaids!

The bridesmaids were wearing "traditional" Monaco costumes, which Princess Caroline directed and had the director of the Ballets de Monte-Carlo create.  Look at how cute they are!  Each one of the little 18th century candy-striper outfits took 120 hours to create.  Now stripes are usually the last choice of a bride for her wedding party (not to mention 18th century dresses) but I like the effect that they had walking behind Princess

Another adorable thing about these little cupcakes is that they were not personally connected to the royal couple.  The girls are local girls from all around Monaco (all .76 square miles of it) and embroidered on each of their aprons they had the couple's monogram and the the area (neighborhood?) where the girl is from.  I think if I were a royal I would have these little maids follow me around all the time!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Yay or Nay? Baron Thure Leonard Klinckowström

Poor Sarah Siddons, she threw on a Lady Macbeth gown and got a big Nay for it.  Honestly, I think the hair was what really killed this Lady MacBeth.  We haven't had a male selection for some time, I wonder how this one will fair.

Alexander Roslin paints Baron Thure Leonard Klinckowström (1758) in blue flower-patterned coat.  Yay or Nay?

[Sinebrychoffin taidemuseo]

Friday, July 1, 2011

Book Review: Silksound Audio Books' Evelina

By now I am sure most of you know of my affinity for Fanny Burney's Evelina.   Some of you may even know of my fondness for audiobooks; despite my lack of reviews of them appearing here.  I have already reviewed Evelina, which only a select few publishers have released and is virtually impossible to find in a hardcover edition.  However, Silksound Books, whose tagline is, "Audiobooks read by star performers" has a most delectable version of Evelina which was as enjoyable to listen to as it was to read the first time.

Burney's premier book is written as an epistolary novel beginning with correspondence between Evelina's guardian, Mr. Villars and his friend, Lady Howard about the possibility of Evelina spending time with Lady Howard's family.  After Mr. Villars gives his consent so begins the correspondence of Evelina to him describing her various adventures in London and so forth.  Given there are multiple letter-writers in Evelina, Sourcebooks recruited a cast for the reading of the book, an unusual move for an audiobook.  And what a cast it is!  Listeners will hear none other Dame Judi Dench in the opening pages.  Her daughter, Finty Williams reads the letters of Evelina.  Geoffrey Palmer is responsible for the male authored-letters. 

One of the things that make an audiobook (both fiction and nonfiction) successful is the reader's ability to distinguish voices in quotations.  Williams narrated all of Evelina's letters but these letters are littered with the voices of the various characters she meets, which she distinguishes like a pro.  Madame Duval has the obnoxious French accent, the Captain sounds like a pompous buffoon and Sir Clement like the slimey sycophant you would expect.  I was shocked that Palmer, responsible for the male-authored letters was the same person when I heard his Mr. Villars and Sir Clement.  Mr. Villars voice was that of a lecturing old professor, easy to doze off to while he's in the middle of a lecture, while Sir Clement's sounded magically thirty years younger!  My only criticism with the narration would be that it could alter the listener's opinion of characters before they could form it themselves.  However, this is a trifle that comes with listening to any audiobook.

I enjoyed Silksounds' Evelina as a previous reader of the book and I do believe it will also appeal to those who haven't had the time to pick up the book who still would like to read it.  The talented narrators capture the feel of the book, giving voice to Burney's masterpiece.
This form of audiobook is only available in downloadable format; so you get your book instantly.  If you don't have an mp3 player, I believe you have the option of burning them onto CDs.  Evelina can be purchased here.