Friday, July 25, 2014

Tart of the Week: Eglantine, Lady Wallace

Like many little sisters of celebrated big sisters, Lady Wallace was stuck in the shadow of her elder sister, Jane, Duchess of Gordon.  However, just like the Harriet to Jane's Georgiana, Eglantine, or Betty as she was known, proved to be just as interesting of a character.

Betty and her sisters were brought up by their mother, Lady Maxwell in a tenement in Edinburgh.  The girls were known to be a bit wild (especially for daughters of a baronet) and rode pigs down the street with all the local children (hence the term 'piggy-back rides').  While Jane seemed to have curtailed the majority of her wild personality as she successful moved up the social ranks, Betty never seemed to lose her fire.  She married Thomas Dunlop in 1770 who was made the 5th Baronet of Wallace shortly afterward.  The marriage only lasted eight years; the couple legally separated on the grounds of Thomas's cruelty.  However, I wouldn't be too surprised if Betty didn't give back as good as she got.  Around this time she was summoned before a magistrate to answer for assaulting a female companion.  She had to answer the same charges in 1793 when she assaulted a servant.  Lady Wallace was a honey badger.

In 1793 she snuck into the House of Commons to watch a debate.  Since women were forbidden from the public gallery Betty disguised herself in mens' clothing and managed to see much of the debate before she was discovered and consequentially kicked out.  After her separation, she moved to London and took up the playwrights' pen.  Three of her plays seemed fairly well-received in the late 1780s, with Sarah Siddons even taking up one of the roles.  Her 1795 play, The Whim: A Comedy, however was banned by the licenser for an unknown reason.  One can only hope it was because it was too racy.

Betty had a few close calls in her adventurous life.  In 1789 she decided to travel to France to take the spa waters for her health, not thinking, perhaps this wasn't the best time to do so.  After speaking her mind about the current political situation to, erm, the wrong people, she was arrested and accused of espionage - a crazy accusation considering Betty would have been the worst spy ever.  She luckily managed to escape the situation with her head intact. 

Not deterred by the continent after that experience, Lady Wallace seems to have spent the remainder of her life traveling in London through Europe.  She died in Munich in 1803. 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Movie Review: Belle

I feel as though I am possibly the last person to see Belle so this review is late in coming.  Luckily it just came to my local theatre recently so I was finally able to see it.

In summary, Belle is based on the true story of Dido Belle Lindsay, the mixed-race daughter of the Navy officer, John Lindsay.  The film opens with Lindsay, a melodramatic man of feeling 'rescuing' Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) from a slum and dropping her off at his uncle's (Tom Wilkinson) house after being very, very preachy about family duty.  She is thus raised with her sister-cousin, and fellow-unwanted daughter, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon).  The film centres around issues of race, class, and privilege.  The plot thickens when Dido's father (who she never met again) dies, leaving her an heiress.  Meanwhile her sister-cousin must find a husband or risk being penniless.  Moral of the story: it sucks to be an elite, eighteenth-century woman.
My love interest: that green gown

I enjoyed the movie: it was a good story, full of pretty, and the historical inaccuracies were at a minimum.  However the writing was very black and white, which left me wanting more nuance.  So many things were explained blatantly, as if it was in a school report.  This meant there was very little character development.  Dido and Elizabeth's close relationship was established through a shot of them laughing together and then substantiated by a lot of conversation about how close they were; yet it was rarely felt (from a viewer's point of view).  Dido's close relationship with her adoptive parents was much in the same way.  The love story was very 'meh,' possibly because her love interest (Sam Reid) was in the same ilk as Dido's father, a man of feeling.  If you haven't gathered already, that meant I was not in love

with him either.  Boyfriend needed to put a little more effort into his hair as well.  There was also an overarching issue of race vs illegitimacy.  Throughout the film Dido is told her race has put her in an inferior state of limbo, however many of the social issues she faces realistically stem from her illegitimacy. 
Lord Malfoy the Devonshire doppelganger

The acting was great from the more senior members of the cast.  I found Reid's performance melodramatic and although Mbatha-Raw was very talented, she definitely studies under the school of Kiera historical acting.  Oh and did I mention that the baddy in the film was played by Malfoy?  I kept waiting for him to spit 'Potter!' at Dido.  Lord Malfoy's brother was also the spitting image of Batoni's portrait of the Duke of Devonshire.

Belle was a lovely film in which you could easily lose yourself however it left me wanting more in terms of the writing.  What did everyone else thing?

For those who have already seen it you may be interested in this article, What Happened to Dido After the Film Ended?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Gossip on Bloglovin

Thames Waterman, Lewis Walpole Library
Sorry for my horrible blogging absence! There has been a lot going on behind the blog recently including blog upgrades (coming soon), a potential academic publication in the works, and a pesky personal life getting in the way.  In the meantime I've just entered 2014 and have registered with Bloglovin which is what all the hip kids are doing nowadays so when I finally get my posts going again, you will instantly know!  In the meantime I still manage to update in 140 characters or less on twitter.

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