Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October, 2011

Gentle readers, this incredible panorama was found in an attic in Rhinebeck, New York. Forgotten and neglected in a barrel, filthy, and badly torn, this painting c. 1810 revealed itself to be over eight feet long when it was unrolled. Click here to see a magnified version of the painting. The details are staggering. I even see a fire! Can you spot other details? Like cannon fire? Or is this my imagination?

London panorama, unknown artist, c. 1810

The ‘Rhinebeck’ Panorama of London, c.1810. Facsimile publication (no.125) of the London Topographical Society, 1981. Stk ++ DA 683 RF396.
 

Read Full Post »

Gentle readers, this poem in a mid-19th century children’s family circle book perfectly describes the long and arduous day of an ordinary family cook.

The Discontented Cook. Image @Forrester's pictorial miscellany for the family circle edited by Mark Forrester, 1855

Oh, who would wish to be a cook,
To live in such a broil!

With all one’s pains, to cook one’s brains,
And lead a Life of toil?

“Tis, Stir the pudding, Peggy,
And give those ducks a turn;

Be quick, be quick, you lazy jade!
Else one or both will burn.

An hour before the rising sun
I’m forced to leave my bed,

To make the fires, and fry the cakes,

And get the table spread.
‘Tis, Stir the pudding, Peggy,

And give those ducks a turn;
Be quick, be quick, you lazy jade!

Else one or both will burn.

The breakfast’s scarely over,

And all things set to rights,
Before the savory haunch, or fowl,

My skill and care invites.
‘T is, Stir the pudding, Peggy,

And give those ducks a turn;
Be quick, be quick, you lazy jade!

Else one or both will burn.

And here I stand before the fire,

And turn them round and round;
And keep the kettle boiling —

I hate their very sound!
‘T is, Stir the pudding, Peggy,

And give those ducks a turn;
Be quick, be quick, you lazy jade!

Else one or both will burn.

And long before the day is spent,

I ‘m all in such a toast,
You scarce could tell which’s done the most

Myself, or what I roast!
‘Tis, Stir the pudding, Peggy,

And give those ducks a turn;
Be quick, be quick, you lazy jade’.

Else one or both will burn.

From Forrester’s Pictorial Miscellany for the Family Circle, 1855

Read Full Post »

Gentle Readers, Patty of Brandy Parfums frequently contributes articles of interest to this blog. Her latest post is about Anonymous, the film about the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, which recently opened in theatres.

Film Poster

Introduction  – Instead of writing a traditional plot-spoiler review of Anonymous, which can be found in many newspapers and magazines, I’ve written what I think will be more useful – a short guide to Shakespeare authorship. Enjoy! – Patricia Saffran

Jamie Campbell Bower as the young earl of Oxford

A Guide to Shakespeare Authorship

Jane Austen knew Shakespeare’s plays well and based a number of her novels on Shakespeare’s characters and plot devices. Stephen Derry writes about these many references in his paper for the Jane Austen Society of North America, ‘Jane Austen’s Use of Measure for Measure in Sense and Sensibility.’ Derry begins his paper by saying -In Mansfield Park, Edmund Bertram declares that one is familiar with Shakespeare in a degree from one’s earliest years. His celebrated passages are quoted by everybody we all talk Shakespeare, use his similes, and describe with his descriptions.

Tudor England

Knowing of Jane Austen’s profound knowledge of Shakespeare should give those who love her works a keen interest in all things Shakespeare – and in this new movie, which brings the Elizabethan period to life. This is the first time a major movie studio has taken a leap, with an elaborate period production, costumes, and star-studded cast, to delve into the question plaguing scholars for centuries, as to who the author of  Shakespeare’s plays really was.

Joely Richardson as a young Elizabeth I and Jamie Campbell Bower as a young Earl of Oxford

The gamble has payed off, as this is a truly sensational
movie. It takes place during the succession of Queen Elizabeth I, and the Essex Rebellion against her – a period of turmoil and political instability. During this period, being the author of a play with politically loaded or satirical material was dangerous. Some authors chose anonymity………

Shakespeare authorship as an area of inquiry is not new. While making a list of the greatest Elizabethan poets, Henry Peacham in The Compleat Gentleman published in 1622, when the First Folio was being created, lists Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, first on his list and does not include Shakespeare at all. Many believe that this was Peacham’s way of hinting that Edward de Vere, not William Shakespeare, wrote the plays and poetry.

Rafe Spall as William Shakespeare

More recently, in the past 150 years, there have been many notable actors, writers, and Supreme Court judges who have questioned William Shakespeare as the author of the plays. Among them are Mark Twain, Leslie Howard, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles, Sigmund Freud, Charles Dickens, Walt Whitman, Henry James, J. Thomas Looney, Michael York, Sandra Day O’Connor, Harry A. Blackmun, and John Paul Stevens. Besides de Vere and William Shakespeare, the other main candidates to have written the plays are Bacon, Marlowe, and Neville.

Rhys Ifans as the mature Earl of Oxford

A fantastic short video by the director of Anonymous, Roland Emmerich, summarizes ten reasons why it is implausible that the Stratford William Shakespeare wrote the plays. For some, the main reason is that unlike all other great authors of the period, no letters exist either to or from Shakespeare.

Preview: Was Shakespeare a Fraud?

A new book coming out November 8th continues to examine the question of Shakespeare authorship – The Shakespeare Guide to Italy by Richard Paul Roe, paints the Stratford man who never left England as an improbable author of the many distinctively Italian plays.

Vanessa Redgrave as the mature Elizabeth I

Current scholars, and by extension many of their now journalist proteges, who defend William Shakespeare as the author of the plays, are extremely defensive and say there is no room for doubt. Time will likely make the world more receptive to exploring Shakespeare authorship, but for now Anonymous will inspire interest in this fascinating field. I highly recommend this film.

For more on Shakespeare and Shakespeare Authorship:

About the film:

Anonymous, the new movie about Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. With Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave, David Thewlis, and along with those who actively support authorship studies, Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance. Directed and produced by Roland Emmerich, released by Columbia.

Read Full Post »

One of the most pivotal decisions in Pride and Prejudice was when Elizabeth Bennet agreed to visit Pemberley’s gardens and grounds with the Gardiners, only to suddenly encounter Mr. Darcy, who was not slated to return until the next day.

Such a visit to grand estates by the well-heeled and more common folk like Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle were quite common in the 18th century. They would have purchased an inexpensive guide book at a local inn or town, and read information about the paintings and objects inside the great houses, and a description of the gardens and their rustic buildings and ornaments.

Prospect of Stowe House by Benton Seeley

Stowe in particular was a destination point for visitors. Its magnificent gardens and grounds were a model and inspiration for other gardens of the Romantic era, which echoed the movement’s reverence for nature and aesthetic ideals. The blog of the current Duke of Buckingham and Chandos contains this passage:

“The house and gardens at Stowe, my family seat, were tourist attractions from around 1724, when my ancestor Lord Cobham set out the gardens. People came to visit the gardens and house, sometimes invited, often not. Topographical notes and poems were written. And in 1744 the first full guidebook to the house and grounds was published by Benton Seeley, a writing master in Buckingham. The guidebooks continued for a further 70 years and Seeley went on to become a printer and publisher, founding a business that wound up only in 1978.” – Duke of Buckingham and Chandos 

Seeley's plan of the house and gardens at Stowe.

Benton Seeley’s guidebook, Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens of The Right Honourable Richard Grenville Temple, Earl Temple… Embellished with a General Plan of the Gardens, and also a separate Plan of each Building, with Perspective Views of the same, was published in the same year that Elizabeth Montague described Stowe’s gardens as “beyond description, it gives the best idea of Paradise that can be.” Visitors came away from viewing Stowe’s natural gardens inspired to implement changes to their own grounds. Seeley’s guidebook helped to spread Stowe’s influence throughout the 18th century as the model for the ideal English garden. (Today the original guidebook sells for close to $2,000.)

Thomas Jefferson owned at least two of Seeley’s guidebooks. In fact, Stowe’s reputation as a gardening attraction had spread beyond the British Isles:

“When well-heeled Americans traveled to England in the late eighteenth century, they often sought out famous gardens to inspire their own designs at home. As Benton Seeley’s Stowe: A Description of the Magnificent House and Gardens shows, the gardens at Stowe were particularly large and ornate, featuring temples, pavilions, and statues strewn about the grounds. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams visited Stowe together in 1786 in what Abigail Adams called their “journey into the country.”- Better Homes and Gardens, Stanford University

Corinthian Arch

Seeley’s Guide Book became historically significant. It went through seventeen editions between 1744 and 1797, continually undergoing improvements and revisions. The book’s influence was such that it helped to make the Stowe gardens among the most publicized and copied of the English landscape model. However, Seeley’s was not the only guidebook written for the famed Stowe gardens. In 1732 Lord Cobham’s nephew Gilbert West wrote a lengthy poem The Gardens of the Right Honourable Richard Viscount Cobham that is actually a guide to the gardens in verse form. Charles Bridgeman commissioned 15 engravings of the gardens from Jacques Rigaud, and these were published in 1739 (Wikipedia), five years before Seeley’s guide.

The Stowe gardens and grounds were extensive, offering planned vistas along a winding path, parterres, canals, large swaths of meadows, places for isolation and retreat, rustic buildings, and an emphasis on natural grandeur over formal symmetry. The 4th Baronet, Viscount Cobham, who married a rich brewery heiress, implemented the garden changes at Stowe in 1711. By 1724, the gardens rested on 24 acres and required the labor of 30 men. Garden maintenance cost the family 827 pounds in 1749-1750. Multiply that amount by 50, and you gain a quick idea of the cost in today’s terms. This sum represented almost all the spare money Lord Cobham could afford on the house and grounds.

The grotto was originally designed by William Kent in the late 1730s as a symmetrical, freestanding structure decorated with flints, colored glass, and shells. Soon covered over with earth, it was then described as a “romantic retirement.” By the 1780s, it was more deeply buried, resurfaced with tufa, and planted with vines and conifers for a cavernous effect.- Romantic Gardens: Nature, Art, and Landscape Design, 2010, The Morgan Library Museum

In “A fine house richly furnished: pemberley and the visiting of country houses,” Stephen Clarke, a London lawyer and architectural historian discusses the kind of information a guidebook owner could expect. A New Description of Blenheim by Mayor, 1811, offered the following General Information in its preface:

“BLENHEIM may be seen every afternoon, from three till five o’Clock, except on Sundays and public Days. On Fair days at Woodstock, likewise, it can be seen only by particular permission.

COMPANY who arrive in the morning may take the ride of the Park, or the walk of the Gardens, before dinner, and after that visit the Palace.

The CHINA GALLERY, PARK, and GARDENS, will, on proper application, be shewn at any hour of the day, except during the time of Divine Service on Sundays.”

In 1776, the Wilton visitors book showed 2, 324 visitors in the last year.

The housekeeper guides Elizabeth and the Gardiners through Pemberley's interior

As discussed on this blog in another post, The Housekeeper as a Guide to a Great Country Estate, housekeepers and other servants stood to make a great deal of extra money from tourists.

“The rapacity of housekeepers-and, in the larger houses, of the other staff–was a common complaint. At Blenheim during his tour of 1810-1811, Louis Simond was required to pay the porter at the gate, the woman showing the china collection, the woman showing the theatre, the woman showing the pleasure grounds, the gardener showing the park, and the upper servant showing the house–at a total cost of 19s. (qtd. in Ousby 81). There are similar complaints of Woburn, Chatsworth, and other great houses. Horace Walpole wryly remarked that he should have married his own housekeeper, who had grown rich on showing Strawberry Hill, as the only way of recouping some of his expense on the house (Walpole Correspondence 33, 411) -

At most houses, the traveller would send in his name to the porter or housekeeper to request access–at Hagley in 1800 Mrs. Lybbe Powys, (5) a perceptive visitor of country houses, noted that “we sent in our names for leave to walk round Lord Curzon’s [actually Lord Lyttelton's] grounds, and he desired we would go into any part of it we chose, without being attended by his gardener” (Lybbe Powys 339). Elizabeth and the Gardiners were of course accompanied by the gardener in the park at Pemberley, as was normal. – A fine house richly furnished: pemberley and the visiting of country houses, Stephen Clarke

In the YouTube video below, one can get a sense of Stowe’s grounds and gardens in the first 3 ½ minutes. Enjoy the tour!

More on the topic:

Read Full Post »

Gentle Readers, Nicola Hyman, one of the authors of The Pump Room Orchestra, Three Centuries of Music and Social History, a book that she co-wrote with her musician husband, Robert, sent me this information about music in the Pump Room. The book is available at Hobnob Press in the UK.

The Pump Room Orchestra is believed to be the first resident band in the country to play in an assembly room in the early 1700s. The book chronicles the three hundred year old history of this Band, from its inception to today. Beau Nash founded the Band and, during his sojourn, his supremacy over its management was unequalled. However, over the decades municipal philistinism, wars, economic slumps and the appeal of (usually Italian), virtuosi in Bath threatened its almost unbroken continuity. Handel visited Bath in 1749 and collaborated with Thomas Chilcot whose support of the Pump Room Band leader, during one of its most intense conflicts, is explored in the book. Thomas Linley and William Herschel both played in the Band in the 1760s. Haydn enthused over the progress of the new Grand Pump Room built in 1795 where the present Trio play. The glamorous backdrop of eighteenth century Bath was underpinned by a climate of fierce rivalry and partisan affiliations among many musicians, many who struggled to survive.

Several fine German musicians were directors or members of the Pump Room Orchestra during the nineteenth century, including up to the Great War, the great grandfather of Bristol based composer Richard Barnard. Bath was now a more sober city, its appeal as a resort diminishing and the Corporation’s control of the Pump Room Orchestra a constant challenge. During bleak pre Great War years, Holst conducted the Orchestra for the first performance of his Somerset Rhapsody.

During the Spa hey day of the 1920s ‘cellist Gilhermina Suggia, contralto Edna Thornton , violinist Daniel Melsa, Arthur Rubenstein and Solomon are just a few of the well known guest soloists who played with the Orchestra. Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the Orchestra several times during this period. Elgar was another guest conductor. As Spa Director, John Hatton’s progressive style of marketing revived Bath as a tourist attraction. A thriving Pump Room Orchestra reflected the unique collaboration Hatton had with Jan Hurst, the Orchestra’s director.

In the late 1930s the Orchestra was directed by the distinguished Maurice Miles and concerts were regularly aired on the BBC. His predecessor, the brilliant and popular ‘showman’ Edward Dunn, had emigrated to South Africa. Dunn’s role as Durban’s Director of Music led him after the War to build up an International Arts League of Youth Festivals across South Africa. While, after the Second World War, the direction of the Yorkshire Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra were among Maurice Miles’s later roles.

However, it is the forgotten army of predominantly rank and file players in the Orchestra which is a central theme in the book. Many of these players were given solo roles and played in chamber ensembles in the Pump Room. Our research has divulged fascinating cameos, many tragic but many invested with astonishing devotion to music in the Pump Room and to Bath. One example was Lawrence Lackland who switched, at Lionel Tertis’ suggestion, to viola, and whose father was a violinist in St Helens under Thomas Beecham’s early orchestra.

The Pump Room Trio at the fountain

A piano trio was the phoenix from the ashes of the Second World War, an unbroken legacy to this day. Now two violinists share the role dividing the 363 days of music in the Pump Room between them. All four members of the Trio are experienced, conservatoire trained musicians (RCM, RAM, RNCM, the Juilliard School).
People from all over Britain and the world come to the Pump Room. For many the visit is a regular pilgrimage, whether they be tourists or academics; their awe of the building enhanced by the music. Many writers, researchers and musicians have shared their expertise and knowledge in the development of this book. It is a departure from the many histories of Bath which are usually focussed on its architecture and archaeology. As such it covers unchartered territory – the people who played in the Pump Room. Trevor Fawcett, the eminent social historian and 18th century expert on Bath, has kindly helped with editing and other suggestions. The book will be marketed in Bath and other Spa towns in Britain as well as other independent book shops in this country and overseas. The publisher John Chandler (see http://www.hobnobpress.co.uk) will oversee distribution and contributes to on-line sales sites, such as Amazon. The book is eagerly awaited by the many contributors, either as a relative of an Orchestra member, regular visitor to the Pump Room, research contributor or musician.
© Nicola and Robert Hyman

To order The Pump Room Orchestra, Bath: Three Centuries of Music and Social History

US customers can order the book at Amazon.com at this link.

Please find attached the website http://www.hobnobpress.co.uk for an order form for those readers who would like to purchase The Pump Room Orchestra, Bath: Three Centuries of Music and Social History. Robert Hyman, (who studied at the Juilliard School, New York) is a violinist in the Pump Room Trio in Bath. Together he and his wife Nicola have researched and written this history. The book has a Foreward by Tom Conti. Colour plates include a photo ‘Leaving the Pump Room’ of ladies dressed in costume for the annual Jane Austen Festival. Two chapters in the book explore music in the Pump Room when Austen first visited Bath. They are ‘When Jane Austen Came to Bath’ and ‘After Rauzzini’. There is also a chapter called Screen and Stage which chronicles movies filmed in and around the Pump Room; actors who visit or have visited the Pump Room, some because they are performing at the Theatre Royal in Bath, and also TV productions of Jane Austen’s novels, where many of the scenes were filmed in the Pump Room. UK customers can order the book directly from the publisher. 

November 2011, 214 pages + 8 pages of colour, £14.95. ISBN 978-0-946418-74-9.

Read Full Post »

One regret I have in my busy life is the lack of leisure time I have for reading. Right now there are four stacks of books on the floor of my office, all waiting to be read. So many books! So little time. Given my schedule, I am glad I set aside the required hours to read Jane Austen Made Me Do It, an anthology of Jane Austen-inspired stories by published Jane Austen sequel authors and edited by Laurel Ann Nattress.

I rarely read anthologies front to back, but flit here and there, landing instead on a story with an intriguing title or by a favorite author. In this instance I began with Stephanie Barron’s tale of Jane And the Gentleman Rogue: Being a fragment of a Jane Austen mystery. I am so glad I did, for it prompted me to linger longer over dinner and read another short story. Beth Pattillo’s  When Only a Darcy Will Do was a delight, as was Margaret C. Sullivan’s Heard of You, which I read just before going to bed. The list of authors in this anthology is impressive: Pamela Aidan • Elizabeth Aston • Brenna Aubrey • Stephanie Barron • Carrie Bebris • Jo Beverley • Diana Birchall • Frank Delaney & Diane Meier • Monica Fairview • Amanda Grange • Syrie James • Janet Mullany • Jane Odiwe • Beth Pattillo • Alexandra Potter • Myretta Robens • Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino Bradway • Maya Slater • Margaret Sullivan • Adriana Trigiani • Laurie Viera Rigler • Lauren Willig.

I’ve always enjoyed reading anthologies. They allow one to pick and choose on a whim, and finish a story in a short space of time. Anthology stories serve as literary versions of amuse bouches, those tasty bites served at the start of dinner. Even the most the discerning reader is bound to find selections and authors they will love. (Or discover a new author!) Click here to read a short synopsis of each story.

I favored some stories over others, but won’t share them with you for the simple reason that some of the stories I disliked received rave reviews on other blogs. Anthologies appeal to a variety of tastes, and I found it remarkable how many in Jane Austen Made Me Do It captivated me.  If you decide to purchase this book, I can guarantee that you will discover new authors and stories that you will want to reread.

This is due, no doubt, to the hard work that editor Laurel Ann Nattress put into the project. As a blogger, I can’t imagine how much of her time was spent in contacting the authors and working with them, overseeing a contest for an  unpublished author (the honor went to Brenna Aubrey), working with her publishing house in editing the stories, and now publicizing the book. I tip my hat to Laurel Ann for overseeing this ambitious and very worthwhile project, for this is her first book.  I give Jane Austen Made Me Do It  five out of five Regency tea cups!

Ballantine Books
Trade paperback (464) pages
ISBN: 978-0345524966

Order the Book

• Barnes & Noble
• Amazon
• IndieBound
• Book Depository
• Random House

Read Full Post »

Gentle Readers, Frequent contributor, Tony Grant from London Calling, has been on a hiatus. But he has returned with a vengeance. Please enjoy his observations about Hogarth’s breathtaking series, The Rake’s Progress, and the modern pictures he took as he went on a quest to search for The Rake’s London.

In 1733 William Hogarth began a new series of progress pictures. He had already created The Harlott’s Progress which had been very popular. He now began a series called The Rake’s Progress.

A Rake's Progress at the Sir John Soane's Museum

A rake was a stylised type of young man that had a literary tradition already before Hogarth began his series. He was generally regarded as a very impressionable young man, usually born and bred in the countryside to a wealthy father who had gained his riches by working hard and amassing a fortune which he had inevitably hoarded and not spent. The young man, cut off from society in the countryside during his childhood and not needing to work because of his inherited wealth, embarks on a dissolute life in the fleshpots of London. His fate usually includes the squandering of his fortune, venereal disease, prison and eventual death. Hogarth keeps to this format but also adds in a few other nuisances.

Anthony Andrews as the Scarlet Pimpernel, the quintessential 18th century fop.

Hogarth shows Tom Rakewell as aspiring to be cultured like a young well-educated aristocrat, commissioning and sponsoring poets and musicians with no idea about what has merit. He has no taste. He is not cultured or educated to any high standard. The popular name for this type of upstart in the 18th century was a ,”cit.” Tom also tries to create an outward show of elegance and sophistication. He is self deluded and fits the term “fop” exactly.

Fallstaff and Doll Tearsheet, Thomas Rowlandson. Image@Huntington Library

Tom’s surname, Rakewell, describes him. Hogarth is drawing again on a long comic and literary tradition. Many of Shakespeare’s lower class characters have names which describe them – ‘Doll Tearsheet’, in Henry IV part 1 and 2. ‘Bullcalf’, or somebody recruited by Falstaff in the same plays. Dickens often uses the same convention: Mould, the undertaker in Martin Chuzzlewit and Mr Choakumchild in Hard Times are prime examples. English comedians still play with these names to this day.

Inherited wealth is not so prevalent in the 21st century,  but these days the spoilt, glossy, manicured characters who seem to do no work and have as much money to squander as they wish, as portrayed in the docudrama series, E4’s “Made In Chelsea,” fit the rake, male and now, female version.

Scene 1.

We are introduced to Tom Rakewell standing in the dingy dark parlour of his inherited country house, a red-capped gentleman measuring him up for a new suit. We can be sure it will be made from the most expensive silks and have the most garish designs. His old steward looks furtive, hunched behind him, trying to fiddle the books and put some cash into his own pocket. A weeping pregnant girl, Sarah Young, is being rejected by Tom and he tries to pay off her mother with a desultory sum. Tom is breaking his mould. We can see the wrong he is doing immediately although Tom is oblivious of the road he has set out upon.

Brunswick House

There are many fine Georgian houses in the English Countryside. I found this one in Nine Elms on the South Bank opposite Vauxhall Tube Station and next to the great green glass edifice of MI5. It is called Brunswick House and it is the home of Lassco antique dealers. I thought this particular Georgian house fitted The Rake’s Progress nicely as standing in for Tom’s inherited home.The house would have been in the countryside on the outskirts of London during the 18th century. Today the house is a grade I listed building and a fine example of the Georgian Houses that used to be in Nine Elms. It stands alone now, surrounded by high rise modern flats and offices. The Nine Elms road junction is before it, awash with cars, buses and lorries at all times of the day, every day. It is an anomaly, as indeed Tom Rakewell’s life became an anomaly.

Scene 2.

In this scene Tom is still at his country house. He is adapting to his new lifestyle. This scene shows a levee taking place. A levee consisted of the Lord or Duke holding a meeting every morning, as he dressed in his bedchamber with local tradesmen showing their wares and the Lord purchasing his requirements. Here Tom is following this tradition, and beginning to spend his money.

Tom doesn’t realise what he is doing. The gentry who follow this fashion of the levee were very wealthy people who owned lands , trading ships and industries that were creating more and more wealth for them. They spent money within their means. Tom has inherited amount of money, which he has no intention or wherewithal to add to. He knows not what he does. He appears to be what we might term, rather stupid. He is a prodigal son.

Scene 3.

This is The Rose Tavern in Covent Garden. It was situated on the corner of Drury Lane just opposite The Drury Lane Theatre.

Rose Tavern site, corner of Drury Lane. Image @Tony Grant

What is happening in this picture is a scene of debauchery. Tom is sitting to the right, his clothing loosened and being administered to by two prostitutes. A girl is removing her stockings in the foreground. Eventually she will be naked. A male servant is bringing in a silver platter for her to dance on. The tradition for new members of the trade, presumably still virgins, was to strip naked and perform a lewd dance on a silver plate high on a table for the wealthy clientele to view. She and her virginity would go to the highest bidder. A virgin could bring a very high price.

Site of 18th century brothels. Image @Tony Grant

The reason many of the brothels were situated in and around Covent Garden was because it was there all the produce from the countryside was brought into London. With the farm carts young country lasses seeking their fortune would arrive in London too. The market was not just for fruit and vegetables. Old prostitutes, too old to ply their trade, would become madams. They would meet these young girls arriving in Covent Garden Market and befriend them, offering them warm lodgings and work. One such madam was called Elizabeth Needham. She features in Hogarths picture of Moll Flanders arriving in Covent Garden at the start of Daniel Defoe’s story.

Covent Garden. Image @Tony Grant

Many of the authorities and the public were so incensed by her activities she was put into the stocks and stoned to death. At the height of prostitution in the 18th century it was said that one in five women in London were prostitutes. London was the most licentious city in Europe. After these girls fresh from the countryside had settled in at the madams house, they soon found out what the work they were to do. The madam would start to ask for rent and the cost of food. Of course the girls had no other means of paying. They could be threatened with their lives. Many did have, on the surface, respectable trades. They might be taught to be seamstresses or servants in the pubs around Covent Garden. but they would also provide certain other services. It was attractive because they could earn a lot more money than the ordinary servant or maid. The down side was that they would get diseases, such as gonorea and syphilis, and their lives and careers could be short. The black dots shown on many portraits of these girls were placed there to cover the ravages of syphilis.

Drury Lane Theatre. Image @Tony Grant

Some of the establishments that were pubs cum brothels were owned by supposedly reputable people. The Nell Gwyn, which exists today, opposite The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. was partly owned at one time by Sherridan, the great playwright, who also owned and ran The Theatre Royal.

Nell Gwyn's hang out. Image @Tony Grant

It appears he had shares in the prostitution trade. Whether the Church of England owned brothels I am not sure. It was such a lucrative market and comprised a sizeable share of London’s economy, that I would not be surprised. The church needed money too.

There are shops on the site of The Rose Tavern today. Whether they are the original building I am not sure.

Scene 4.

This scene show’s St James’s Street. In the background is St James’s Palace on the corner with Pall Mall. Tom is being apprehended by a bailiff requesting payment of his debts. He is obviously bereft of finances at the precise moment he is about to achieve one of his pretentious ambitions, being presented at court. He is in his rich finery and being taken to St James’s Palace in a sedan chair. He doesn’t want to get his expensive shoes dirty. Sarah Young is there again willing and ready to pay his debts for him. It is a heartbreaking scene in many ways.

St. James's palace. Image@Tony Grant

I tried to get a photograph of the same scene from the position Hogarth aligned his picture. It meant I had to stand in the middle of the road with cars buses and vans roaring past.

Scene 5.

This is the interior of Marylebone Old Church. It was outside the city, towards Hyde Park. In the 18th century it became notorious for clandestine weddings. In this picture Hogarth shows Tom marrying an aging, overweight, one-eyed heiress undoubtedly for her money. He had to go to drastic lengths to pay his debtors and obtain more wealth. She may have lost her eye because of syphilis. Tom looks down on her as though she is a necessary evil, a bad smell under his nose that he must endure. She, undoubtedly, is looking forward to the wedding night. Two dogs show more love and affection than Tom shows for his bride. In the background a churchwarden refuses entry to Sarah Young and the child Tom has fathered with her.

Interior, Marylebone church. Image@Tony Grant

I cycled into London to try and find Marylebone Old Church. There are a number of elegant 18th-century and early Victorian churches in Marylebone. I thought it would be easy to find but I was mistaken. I spoke to two workmen decorating a church just off Old Marylebone Road. They hadn’t heard of it. One very kindly did an internet search on his i-phone for me and found it with a map attached. I was a mere half mile away, so off I peddled in the London traffic. Yes, I took my life in my hands for this project.

Marylebone church entrance. Image@Tony Grant

I found it!!! It was situated next to the park gates leading into Regent’s Park. It was beautifully ornate with balconies and a magnificent organ playing. The church organist was practicing. I discovered that Charles Dickens had lived in a house close by before he left his wife and family; he used to frequent St Marylebone Old Church. Then I found that this was not the church that Tom married his heiress in.

St. Marylebone parish church

The original had been demolished in the 1920’s. This church, near Regent’s Park, had taken over as the parish church of Marylebone. Anyway, it is a beautiful church and worth visiting and seeing.

Scene 6.

Here is Tom just having gambled away his second fortune provided by his new wife. He is railing against God and bad fortune. It is a shame he doesn’t realise it is his own fault. Smoke is spiralling up to show that the club is on fire but nobody notices they are so intent on gambling. This is symbolic of how they lead their lives. They don’t notice the destruction they are heaping on themselves. This is White’s Club. It was a place to drink the new sources of traded wealth, tea and chocolate. Many famous people at the time were members of White’s or one of the other well-known men’s clubs in the St James’s area.

White's club. Image@Tony Grant

St James is still full of gentleman’s clubs today. They are an 18th century invention but are still going strong. Many wealthy people, industrialists, famous actors,politicians, members of the Royal family and Lords and Dukes still frequent them. They are male preserves. They provide a room, servants, fine dining, a library very often, and a place to meet people of equal status in a social and friendly situation. Not anybody can join. You have to be invited by one of the members.You have to be right sort.

Betting book, 1817. Image @The Long Now Foundation

A couple of interesting points about White’s. The bow window at the front was the reserve of the most famous member of the club at one time. He was permitted to sit in the bay window for the world to see and for him to see the world. Beau Brummell, the great 18th century arbiter of fashion and master of ceremonies at Bath and Royal Tunbridge Wells was the first to sit there. You could almost bet on anything at White’s. The most famous bet being a wager on two rain drops falling down one of the pains of glass in the bow window. Which one would reach the bottom first? So it was here that Tom lost his second fortune.

Scene 7.

This scene leads to the finale. Tom is in The Fleet Prison in Farringdon Street because of his debts. It was named after The Fleet River which flowed into the Thames before it.

Fleet Prison

His now emaciated wife that was so plump at their wedding, shows the depths to which Tom has brought them. He has no money even for food. With his wig askew on top of his head Tom is attempting to write a play. He thinks he can make money this way. His delusion is now complete. Madness has come upon him.

One interesting piece of information about The Fleet is that it had a raquets court for the inmates to keep themselves presumably fit and occupied.

Scene 8.

And finally here is Tom in Bedlam. The Bethlehem Hospital for the insane in Moorefields, just north of St Pauls and The City. He lies there almost naked stripped of everything including his clothes and his sanity. Wealthy ladies from the aristocracy look on.

Bedlam

People were allowed to come and gawp at the strange antics of the inmates. Tom and the other people incarcerated are the entertainment. The people he aspired to be like and live like, are now mocking him. Sarah is there at the last, weeping.

Such a sad story.

More about this topic:

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,509 other followers