Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2012

Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 by Sarah Jane Downing was published this month by Shire Library.  Small and compact, as Shire publications tend to be, this wonderfully illustrated book describes the standards of beauty popular in each era, from 1550 when alabaster brows were highly prized, to the black eyebrows that were favored by 18th century women.  As with her best-selling Fashion in the Time of Jane Austen, Ms. Downing provides the reader with a comprehensive overview of the topic. She begins with the Tudor Court and ends with the delightful cosmetic advertisements of the first half of the 20th century.

Marriage à-la-mode: The Countess's Morning Levee, William Hogarth, c. 1745

Because my blog’s theme centers on the Georgian and Regency eras, I will confine much of my recap to those years.

A woman applying beauty patches, Boucher

Mirrors, once only possessed by the rich, became so popular in London in the mid-16th century that British manufacturers petitioned Parliament to ban foreign imports. The ritual of the dressing table became quite elaborate and ladies began to entertain guests as they prepared themselves for the day.

French mop gold boite a mouche patch box with brush, 1730. Images @ Etsy

Decorative patches covered skin blemishes and blotches, sometimes to such an extent that a face could be covered with a variety of dots, half-moon crescents, stars and even a coach and horses! The popularity of using patches began in the mid-17th century and did not wane until the end of the 18th century.

Woman with patches, pale skin and rouged cheeks. Thomas Gainsborough

Porcelain skin was highly prized and created with white lead-based skin cream. Blush was then applied to create a doll-like look. Cosmetics were created in a variety of ways. Here are the ingredients for one recipe for lead face powder that did not come from this book: several thin plates of lead, a big pot of vinegar, a bed of horse manure, water, perfume & tinting agent. Once can only guess how this concoction was put together and at its smell.

Marquise the Pompadour applying face powder with a brush. Boucher, 1758.

Ms. Downing describes in her book:

lead sheets were unrolled and beaten with battledores until all the flakes of white lead came off. These were gathered and ground into a very fine powder… p. 24

Gainsboroughs portrait of Grace Dalrymple Elliot in 1782 shows the craze for dark eyebrows.

For a while during the third quarter of the 18th century, dark eyebrows became all the rage. Lead-based cosmetics, used over time, caused hair-loss at the forehead and over the brows, resulting in a receding hair-line and a bare brow. For those who lost their eyebrows, it became the custom as early as 1703  to trap mice and use their fur for artificial eyebrows. Sadly, the glue did not always adhere well, and a lady could be caught with her brows out of kilter. This hilarious poem was written by Matthew Prior in 1718:

On little things, as sages write,

Depends our human joy or sorrow;

If we don’t catch a mouse to-night,

Alas! no eyebrows for to-morrow. – p.28

Aging beauties staved off the ravages of time with sponge fillers and rouge (sound familiar?), while many women risked poisonous side effects from using their deadly cosmetics. Maria, one of the Gunning sisters who went on to become Lady Coventry, was so addicted to her lead-based paints that she died in 1760 at the age of 27 knowing full well that she was at risk.

Maria, Countess of Coventry

The French Revolution swept away the widespread use of makeup, which was associated with the aristocracy. Defiantly, some aristocratic ladies went to their doom wearing a  full complement of make-up: pale skin, patches, rouged cheeks and rosy lips.

The more natural look of the regency woman. Note that the cheeks are still rouged.

Rousseau influenced the concept of nature and a more natural Romantic look took hold, aided by the blockade of cosmetics during the Napoleonic Wars. The death of many soldiers resulted in widespread melancholia and the affectation of a consumptive look. Ladies, nevertheless, were never far from their rouge pot.

Another Regency portrait with subtle makeup. The flower basket adds to the natural look.

As with all Shire books, Sarah Jane Downing’s trip through time provides us with brilliant insights, in this instance it is via cosmetics and how society viewed beauty in each era. By the 1950s, the success of a marriage was defined by how well a woman took care of herself. This included makeup. Beauty, as Ms. Downing wrote, “was switched from a pleasure to an obligation.”  Oh, my. I give the delightful Beauty and Cosmetics 1550-1950 four out of five Regency tea cups.


Product Details

Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Shire (February 21, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0747808392
ISBN-13: 978-0747808398
Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.2 x 8.2 inches

More on the topic:

Read Full Post »

Gentle Readers: Amanda Millay on New Noblewoman has found modern fashions inspired by Downton Abbey. She has graciously allowed me to reproduce her article for this blog. It will lead you to her blog, The New Noblewoman, which features all things fashion.

Downton Abbey is not just successful as good entertainment. Women everywhere are clamoring for clothing inspired by the show, and finding that modern-day retail wear is not even as pretty as the show’s most simple dresses.

The longing for Downton Abbey-inspired fashions, and the very few options available at the retail level, indicate that a change is needed in women’s fashion. Most women can’t afford a $1,000 dress, and designers and manufacturers will continue to make cheap, ugly, throwaway clothing until people stop buying it. But there is one option remaining for turning the fashion tide: Making or buying only top-quality, beautiful clothes, and making do with a limited wardrobe . . . like most people did for centuries. We should bring the emphasis in fashion back to having a few quality items, rather than amassing a huge quantity of synthetic items that we grow weary of or that go out of style after a few months. Women are already realizing this, and have started searching out homemade clothing (and making their own) in the quest to bring some true style back into fashion.

So can women today find anything that’s comparable to Downton Abbey fashion (without making it, or wearing an evening gown during the day)? I’ve scoured online women’s boutiques and department stores, and after looking through thousands of dresses, here are the best options I’ve found for Downton Abbey-inspired style. There are some great dresses at exorbitant prices, but in this list, everything is less than $200.

(If you’re looking for authentic vintage style, check out the Ladies Emporium,Recollections, Etsy, or this list of retailers from Sense & Sensibility Patterns.)

Long Dresses for a Look That’s Casual or Elegant

The ladies of Downton Abbey are usually dressed to impress. But it’s possible to find empire-waist dresses and long dresses in a variety of styles that have a bit of pre-World War I British flair. Click here for the rest of the article on New Noblewoman.

Other links:

Read Full Post »

Gentle Readers, these fantastic images are by Tony Grant from London Calling. The text are quotations from the fabulous Chawton House Library site.  This site is rich with information and history. I am so impressed with the section on chickens, which were rescued and given a chicken-friendly coop for roosting and free ranging. The horses are magnificent as well. Sandy Lerner has done a magnificent job of turning this once ruin of a house into an historic library and museum. As Tony’s images show, this house is a world treasure .

Drive leading to Chawton House. Image @Tony Grant

In April 1551, the land was sold for £180 to John Knight, whose family had been tenant farmers in Chawton since the thirteenth century and who had prospered sufficiently to wish to acquire a large estate.

Front entrance. Image @Tony Grant

The medieval manor house was replaced by John Knight’s grandson, also called John, with the largely Elizabethan house that can be seen today.  - History

Window detail. Image @Tony Grant

Eaves. Image @Tony Grant

Climbing shrub. Image @Tony Grant

Side view with side door. Image @Tony Grant

In 1781, Thomas Knight II inherited, but when he and his wife Catherine showed no sign of having children of their own, they adopted a son of the Reverend George Austen, who was a cousin of Thomas Knight’s.

Edward is introduced to the Knights. Image @Chawton House Library

Edward Austen Knight eventually took over management of the estates at Godmersham and Chawton in 1797, living mostly at Godmersham and letting the Great House at Chawton to gentlemen tenants.

Chawton Cottage, where Jane Austen lived. Image@Tony Grant

In 1809 he offered a house in the village to his mother and two sisters Cassandra and Jane, and it was there that Jane Austen began the most prolific period of her writing life.

Image @Tony Grant

Sandy Lerner. Image @The Telegraph

By 1987, when Richard Knight inherited, parts of the house were derelict, the roof leaked, timbers were rotting and the gardens were overgrown with scrub. The decline was halted in 1993 with the sale of a 125 year lease to a new charity, Chawton House Library, founded by the American entrepreneur and philanthropist, Sandy Lerner, via the charitable foundation established by her and her husband Leonard Bosack, the Leonard X. Bosack and Bette M. Kruger Foundation.

Kitchen garden entrance. Image @Tony Grant

The grounds and gardens at Chawton House Library continue to be in the process of restoration although a great deal has already been achieved. The focus of the restoration is the English landscape period of the eighteenth century together with Edward Austen Knight’s early nineteenth-century additions of walled kitchen garden, shrubberies and parkland. – The estate

Kitchen gardens. Image @Tony Grant

The Library Terrace was built between 1896 and 1910 (probably in 1904-05) by Montagu Knight (1844-1914). The terrace was actually an Arts & Crafts addition and almost certainly influenced by Edwin Lutyens.

Going round the back of the house. Image @Tony Grant

View from the gardens. Image @Tony Grant

Gravel paths are not typical of the English Landscape period and were probably introduced by Edward Knight II (1794-1879).

View from one of the gravel paths. Image @Tony Grant

According to Montagu Knight, the brick Upper Terrace was built in 1901. In the early twentieth century this was a broad grass terrace with a central gravel path, recently uncovered.

Image @Chawton House Library

In Jane Austen’s time, the kitchen garden was located to the north of the Rectory (opposite the current entrance to Chawton House). Edward Austen Knight had the idea to build a new walled garden during his sister’s lifetime: in 1813, Jane Austen wrote to her brother Frank:

‘[h]e [Edward Austen Knight] talks of making a new Garden; the present is a bad one & ill situated, near Mr Papillon’s; — he means to have the new, at the top of the Lawn behind his own house’.

However, her brother’s plans did not come to fruition until after her death in 1817. - The estate

The grounds. Image @Tony Grant

The farm buildings. Image @Tony Grant

The fields. One can see the horses. Image @Tony Grant

The Wilderness dates from the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and was originally set out geometrically with trees in straight rows, a practice which was later dropped. It survived the English Landscape improvements.

St. Nicholas Church. Image @Tony Grant

Church Copse. This area to the rear of St. Nicholas Church was cleared between 1999 and 2000, revealing the Knight family pet cemetery and the rear lychgate into the churchyard. Of particular interest in this area are the several large, important eighteenth-century lime trees and a yew tree, probably from the same period. - The estate

Image @Tony Grant

Read Full Post »

Wedding dress, 1742, Image @Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Anyone who had the opportunity to see “At Home With the Georgians” with Amanda Vickery was in for a treat. The BBC series, based upon her fabulous book, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England, covered courtship and marriages in the 18th century in great detail. The perspectives of bachelors, spinsters, and married couples were taken into account.

One of the most intriguing portions of the series occurred when Amanda Vickery introduced A Master-Key to the Rich Ladies Treasury or The Widower and Batchelor’s Directory by a Younger Brother, published in 1742.

The witty saying on the frontispiece describes perfectly why this book of lists was compiled:

“He took his Stand

Upon a Widow’s Jointure Land.”

The author, a younger brother who had to make his way in the world by working or marrying rich, writes these shameless words to the woman of fortune he is courting:

“Begin then Madam, hasten to begin — Bless the thrice happy Compiler, make the Happiness of a Younger Brother equal to that of his Elder, — Let the Honourable Mrs. M——n in the Connubial State shine with Splendour equal to Miss F———n in the Maiden, and tell a mistaken World that the Appellation Wife bears with it every Sound of Dignity and demands an universal Reverence;…”

This book was compiled for those  men who were unlucky to follow in their elder brothers’ shadows, for the laws of primogeniture dictated that the eldest son would inherit everything. The ladies are described in its pages with their names, where they live, the largeness of their reputed fortunes and of the stocks held in their names.

Marriage was the only option for ladies during the Georgian era, since they could not control their own fortunes or possess lands. All they “owned” was held in trust for them. Many a rich spinster or widow preferred choosing marriage over living a life alone.

One can almost hear this shameless Younger Brother courting his future bride (and plying her with gifts and poesies) as he charms her into marriage and publicly worships her with these words:

I could for ever dwell on the Repetion of your Charms, if I were not in immediate Expectation of the Possession of them: Whatever Pleasures, whatever Joys we earnestly covet, we surely anticipate of; when alone I am for ever repeating one Line of Dryden’s,

Happy, Happy Pair!”

Today many a suitor would be laughed off his knees if he said such a thing, but back then marriage was a serious business. An engagement represented the best financial arrangement that the pair could finagle. A gentleman had only a few means of making a fortune, one of which was by marrying rich, and a lady had only one means of supervising her own household, and that was in attaining the status of a wife. The Marriage Mart, as the pages in A Master Key imply, was strictly business. Oh, it helped if the people involved had pleasing countenances, good manners, and gentle hearts, but none of these attributes are discussed in this short list of women on the marriage mart in 1742.

I can imagine that many younger sons found comfort in these lists and made elaborate plans to be introduced to the women described so coolly inside of them. To these gentlemen the Younger Brother writes:

Whoever has read the Advertisements in the public Papers of Mr. C—-x, and the unknown Lady who accepted of his Proposals, will instantly acknowledge the Usefulness of the following Directory: The Dilemma that Gentleman was reduced for a Partner, determined the Compiler to set about it: He resolved to spare no Pains: He carefully examined every List of the Proprietors of the public Funds; and made afterwards the best Enquiry he was capable of, into their Fortunes exclusive: As it was impossible to give the exact Fortune of every lady in so large a List as the following, he thought proper to make in his Kalender, one Column under the Title of Reputed Fortunes.”

The Younger Brother’s advice is quite straightforward and required little embellishing:

Thus Gentlemen, have I in the following Sheets I think, opened a fair Field for Action for you; a fine Choice and a fine Collection of Ladies; — Open the Campaign directly then yourselves, that my next may be a new Sett. I have one favour to beg of you, and then I take my Leave; that no one of you, of what Degree soever, presume to attempt the Lovely Charmer I dedicate to; as to the Rest, I heartily wish you all Success …”

The Marriage Mart, I imagine, was a dance of the sexes, with the younger sons finding the best situation their charms were capable of, and the women choosing among the pool of men, hoping that their choice of mate will remain charming, moral, and kind  and not turn into a selfish, wife-beating monster.

Read Full Post »

Last night PBS showcased the Christmas special of Downton Abbey. Did you find the finale of Season 2 satisfying? Too cliched? Did you encounter unexpected twists? Or did you guess just about every plot point as my neighbor did? Warning to those who have not seen the Christmas special: This post contains nothing but plot spoilers!

Julian Fellowes with Dan Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern.

Julian Fellowes with Dan Stevens and Elizabeth McGovern. Credit courtesy Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

I found the details of how the Crawleys treated the servants at Christmas quite interesting, giving them gifts and allowing them a free day.  Sir Richard’s response to the Crawleys’ generosity towards the servants told much about him and foreshadowed the difficulties he would encounter with Mary. They are constantly at loggerheads and his jealousy towards her real feelings for Matthew bubbled over.Sir Richard’s jealousy of Matthew bubbles over. He and Mary are constantly at loggerheads. While he seemed a harsh man, in the end it turns out that he truly cared for the eldest Crawley sister. Even as they make googoo eyes at each other, an upright and uptight Matthew informs Lady Mary that they can never be together because of his guilt trip over Lavinia’s death. Her reply, “Didn’t they teach you never to make promises?” This story line, ending in their engagement, finally gives the viewer a happy ending

With Mr. Bates in prison, the viewer is beginning to wonder if things will ever go right for him and Anna.  I am beginning not to care. The trial was over the top and melodramatic, but it did showcase O’Brien’s attempts to say and do the right thing. As for Anna’s reaction to hubby’s impending life/death sentence in prison – violin strings please.

This viewer sorely missed seeing Sybil and Tom. Their absence created a glaring hole in the story line, although their good news about her pregnancy meant joy for Cora and a Fenian grandchild for the skeptical earl.

It was a delight to see Edith boldly cast her hook and line at Sir Anthony Strallan, one of the few able bodied single men left standing after the war, albeit a little long in the tooth.

In order to be thought a hero,Thomas absconded with the earl’s dog, Isis, a most foul deed that backfired. With this act he entered the pantheon of  the ten most dastardly villains in entertainment history. Isis escapes from the shack

The story of Mr. Mason, William’s father, and Daisy provided a sweet sub plot. Daisy talks to William via the ouija board and Mrs. Patmore.

Many plot points were tied up during the finale, which redeemed Season 2. I do hope that Sybil and Branson will return, for I felt their absence keenly. As for Bates and Anna, their down-in-the-luck story line is getting a little old. While a happy couple makes for boring fiction, the relentless bad luck that this couple experiences has entered the realm of the absurd. It is also time that Edith enjoys her moment in the spotlight. She’s changed this year. While she still gives Mary a couple of good digs, she has become a more rounded character. What did you think of the last episode? Alas we will have to wait 11 months before Season 3 airs. Can we even stand it?

Today I conclude this year’s coverage of Downton Abbey. Future posts will return to the Georgian and Regency eras, where this blog ideally resides. Thank you, readers, for your patience as my Downton Abbey fever ran its course.

Read Full Post »

Season Two of Downton Abbey is winding down on PBS tonight with the Christmas Special. Americans can watch previous episodes online through March 6, 2012. All I can say is – it’s about time. I don’t know about you, but this season seems a bit long and dragged out. I don’t think the one-hour airings between 2-hour book-ended shows helped. Several of us talked over the water cooler at work and felt that the one-hour airings were too short and ended abruptly. Plus some of the plot lines were a bit predictable. Be that as it may, I still prefer this series heads and shoulders above almost anything shown on cable these days.

To assuage your Downton Abbey cravings before Season 3 airs (Yesss!), an excellent artist named Kyle Hilton has created a series of paper dolls for you to download and play with. (The concept was by Willa Paskin. Vulture commissioned the four sets of paper dolls.) Perhaps you could even create your own story lines. Matthew and Mary come with a surprise, and Violet’s been given a range of expressions! Or not.

The paper dolls that are missing whose story line I would like to change are those for Mr. Bates and Anna. Perhaps Kyle is studying up on prison uniforms of the time, or figuring out how to place those two dolls in their marital bed. I also miss having the earl and his countess.

I quibble, however. These are such fun! Click on the links below to print out the paper dolls. You will have to cut them out the old-fashioned way – with scissors.

Meanwhile, I shall be on tenterhooks all night long waiting for the Christmas finale. See you there and at the twitter party with moi and one of your favorite Janeite friends, Laurel Ann Natress, editor of the anthology, Jane Austen Made Me Do It. Hash tag: #DowntonPBS

Paper dolls courtesy of Kyle Hilton

Links:

Kyle writes about his paper dolls and why they are free:
Personally, I think artists selling artwork that is largely someone else’s intellectual property is wrong.  It may not be a clear, black and white illegal issue, but the selling designs of t-shirts, posters, or even something like these paper dolls that are based off something someone else created (like tv shows, movies, etc) is to me, a cheap and easy way to make money.  There are a ton of shirts and posters out there that get around the issue by not directly showing a character or a logo, but in my opinion are still depending on the intellectual property of someone else’s creation.  I know not every illustrator sees it the same way, but for me, I’d rather make these dolls because I love doing it, share them for free at the highest resolution Tumblr allows and not get involved in trying to make money that for the most part belongs to people like Vince Gilligan, Mitch Hurwitz and Tim and Eric.  Plus, how often is stuff free? Not getting money for these means I’m free to make terrible, terrible mistakes!

All ads are placed here by WordPress. I make no money from my blog.

Read Full Post »

Canaletto's view of Vauxhall Gardens and the Grand Walk

Vauxhall Gardens opened in 1661. The most famous of London’s diarist’s, Samuel Pepys, recorded in his diary that he visited Vauxhall Gardens no less than twenty four times. The first time he recorded a visit to the gardens was on 29th March 1662, when Vauxhall it really was just a country inn set within a pleasant garden setting with walks and flower beds. It was approached from a path from the Thames and the Vauxhall stairs. Visitors would cross the Thames in a boat from the north bank. They generally would bring their own picnics.

Map of Vauxhall Gardens in 1800. Click on image to enlarge. Image @Ideal Homes: History of South East Suburbs (see link below).

Amateur musicians would perform in the gardens and sometimes the visitors themselves would provide their own entertainment.  This was the first time that ordinary people could enjoy gardens like this, which was a unique social aspect at the time of Pepys. It was a freeing of social codes. Such gardens were usually found in the country estates of the nobility.

A view of the Temple of Comus at Vauxhall Gardens. Image @1st Gallery.com

People from different levels of society could meet freely and strangers could meet within the gardens. In the usual course of their lives there were strong social codes about friendships and who could talk to whom. The gardens were a place to be free of many social constraints, where males and females could meet. It was also an ideal place for the business of prostitutes.

Interior view of the elegant music room at Vauxhall Gardens. Engraving by H. Roberts, 1752. Image @1st Gallery.com

Over the centuries various owners and managers oversaw Vauxhall gardens . The greatest of these was Jonathan Tyers. He came from a family of fellmongers from Bermondsey in the east End. Fellmongers were dealers in leather hides.

Jonathan Tyers and his family by Hayman. Image @Wikimedia Commons

Tyers was a shrewd businessman and understood how to advertise and popularise the gardens. He was also good at reinventing himself as a gentleman, landowner, wit, urbane host, and patron of the arts. He owned the gardens from 1729 to his death in 1767 and saw Vauxhall gardens at the height of its fame and popularity. His most important guest was The Prince of Wales, who had his own booth within the gardens.

Pleasure gardens poster at The Museum of London. Image @Tony Grant

All of society, from the aristocracy, to landowners, to the ordinary working people came to Vauxhall. For special events Tyeres would raise the price to attract only certain people but generally the price was one shilling and this price remained the same for sixty years. He offered season tickets for a guinea.

Vauxhall Garden silver pass, c. 1760

The season ticket comprised a metal tag embossed on one side with a scene of classical mythology and the other side was printed with the ticket holders name. There is quite a selection of these season tickets in various collections.

Water gate entrance to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens

In 1740 a Vauxhall evening would begin at 7pm.The visitors would get into a boat from Westminster and alight at the Vauxhall Stairs on the south bank, very close to where Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, was located. Visitors would walk through the main entrance which fronted the River Thames and proceed along The Grove with the supper boxes lining the walkway on either side.

Chinese Pavillions at Vauxhall

In front of the boxes stood the orchestra building.

Statue of Handel by Louis-François Roubiliac, 1738. Image @V&A Museum

A statue of the composer Handel could be seen in front of this. The gardens were famous at this time for giving performances of new pieces composed by Handel or other composers well known at the time, such as Arne and Boyce.

The orchestra at Vauxhall, Canaletto.

Visitors would have the chance to see wealthy people promenading through the gardens wearing the latest expensive fashions.

One of the surviving Vauxhall genre paintings. Image @ V&A

The fifty large supper boxes were able to entertain up to ten people to supper. Each box was decorated with an original painting. Surprisingly fourteen of these paintings still survive.

Vauxhall Gardens, Rowlandson

The Grand Walk led to the golden statue of Aurora or the Rural Downs where there was a life size statue of Milton. This reminds me of the 18th century gardens at Painshill in Surrey which have been restored very much to their former glories. At Painshill there are grand vistas, a Turkish tent, mysterious grottos near the lake, a ruined Abbey, a hermits lodging and a Roman temple as well as many large statues from Greek mythology set within groves.

Tom and Jerry at Vauxhall

The Vauxhall experience therefore is still possible to experience. If Vauxhall was intended, as the gardens at Painshill were, then each setting was meant to create a different mood or spiritual experience. There is no record of Jane Austen visiting Vauxhall but she obviously knew about it. She stayed with her brother Henry at Hans Place which is almost directly across the Thames from Vauxhall.

Vauxhall pleasure gardens by Cruikshank, 1813

It is about half a mile from the river bank but the lights, the sounds of the music and fire works exploding would easily have been noticed from miles around. In Mansfield Park the walk in the park at Sotherton owned by Mr Rushworth have echoes of Painshill and Vauxhall.

Night scene in a supper box at Vauxhall

The Vauxhall Supper began about 9pm as dusk fell. It comprised of Vauxhall ham, cold meats, salad, cheeses custards, tarts, cheesecakes and other puddings. As night fell during the supper a whistle was blown. Servants lit thousands of lamps positioned strategically about the gardens and illuminated the scene. The effect was sensational.

The installation at The Museum of London recreated how the costumes in Vauxhall would look at night. Hats in this exhibit by contemporary milliner Philip Treacy.

By the mid 18th century semi circular piazzas had been opened in the north and south ranges of boxes. Behind the north range of boxes Tyeres had the Rotunda built. This was a covered concert room for wet weather.

Costumes of the Vauxhall pleasure gardens, installation at The Museum of London

More costumes from the pleasure garden. This man is obviously a waiter.

Female costume. Note how the yellow light (from oil globes or candles) affected the colors of the costumes. Some colors would not show up well. People kept this effect in mind when choosing evening wear. Image @Tony Grant

Costume of one of the entertainers. Image @Tony Grant

Exotic costume from the exhibit. Image @Tony Grant

Later a Pillared Saloon was added to the eastern side of the Rotunda. Within the Rotunda, Tyers got Francis Hayman to paint four huge canvases showing Britain’s victories in the Seven Years War. Each canvas was 12 feet by 15 feet. Only two oil sketches remain of the originals and an engraving is still in existence. The paintings have disappeared. Jonathan Tyers and Francis Hayman gave British art in the 1760’s its direction.

Vauxhall was also famous for its music. Many famous songs, some still known and sung today, were commissioned for the gardens. The most famous of which is, Lass of Richmond Hill. The singers became the superstars of their day, Thomas Lowe, Cecilia Arne, Joseph Vernon and Charles Dignum.

Miss Leary singing at Vauxhall, 1793-4

In 1758 the orchestra building was replaced by a neo gothic structure. The famous architect, Robert Adam, wrote to his brother:

“ I am now scheming another thing, which is a temple of Venus for Vauxhall which Mr Tyers proposes to lay £5000 upon……”

David Coke, author of a recent book on Vauxhall Gardens, wrote that this building was probably never built. Jonathen Tyers died in1767 and his children took over who themselves were followed by their children until 1822.

Photograph of Vauxhall in 1859. Image @The Guardian

The gardens closed finally closed on 25th July 1859. By this time Vauxhall had become run down and dilapidated. Its popularity had waned. Vauxhall railway station is situated opposite to where the entrance to Vauxhall gardens was. It epitomises the changes that were occurring in the world and society. People were able to travel about the country easily. The ordinary people preferred to go to the seaside and the new entertainments that were provided at these holiday resorts. If you go to Brighton on the south coast in Sussex you can experience the delights of Brighton Pier.

Brighton Pier. Image @Tony Grant

It is a Victorian construction and many of the buildings on it date back to Victorian times. The pier has more than an echo of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. These Victorian piers built at popular resorts have been described as Vauxhall piers.

Map in Vauxhall Station showing the pleasure gardens. Image @Tony Grant

Recently I was looking at an old map showing the layout and design of Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. I could see Kennington Road marked clearly on the map bordering the southern border of where the pleasure gardens had been. It showed the road curving slightly. It struck me that I know that part of Kennington Road well. Vauxhall is part of the London Borough of Lambeth. My wife Marilyn worked for over ten years in schools in Lambeth and often got off the train at Vauxhall and walked to her inner city school in Walnut Tree Walk next to the Lambeth Walk that is of Charley Chaplin and that song, fame. We decided that we would go for a walk around Vauxhall and see if we could find any signs or remains of the pleasure gardens.

Marilyn and Abi reading the information board in the gardens

Marilyn, myself and Abigail, our youngest daughter, got off the train at Vauxhall and walked across the road to a pub which has its windows blacked out. This pub is now famous for the performance of strippers. This must be reminiscent of the courtesans who sold their bodies in the pleasure gardens of the 18th century perhaps.

Looking across where the gardens were situated. Image @Tony Grant

Behind the pub is a small park called Spring Park. This area was covered in Victorian terraced housing up to the second World War and then during the Blitz on London many were destroyed. After the war, to commemorate the old pleasure gardens, Lambeth Council decided to make the area into a park again. This was the site of the original pleasure gardens. We had found it. To one side you can see the green glass and concrete structure that is MI6.The entrance to the park announces that this is Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, although it is officially called Spring Gardens. When I researched the old gardens I discovered that indeed it used to called Vauxhall Spring Gardens when it first began. There is a large sign board as you walk into Spring Gardens which provides a display of old pictures of the gardens and a history of the site.

Tyers Road along the top of the present Spring Gardens

To the north of the park is Tyers Road commemorating Jonathen Tyers. There is a city farm called Vauxhall City farm on the site where the battle of Waterloo was re-enacted. In the far right eastern corner there is situated St Peter’s Church, which is reputedly on the very site of the Neptune Fountain that was placed at the end of The Grand Walk.

St. Peter's Church, Kennington Lane, on the site of the Neptune Fountain at the end of the Grand Walk. Image@Tony Grant

There are no remains of the actual pleasure gardens to be seen in the new park. Because it is an open area with walkways and grassy mounds within the park you can get a sense of the size and feel of the original pleasure gardens.

Vauxhall city farm; the site of the Waterloo grounds

Here are some quotations from people who visited the gardens at different times during its existence.

An article in The Spectator 1712:

We were now arrived at Spring-Garden, which is exquisitely pleasant at this time of the Year. When I considered the Fragrancy of the Walks and Bowers, with the Choirs of Birds that sung upon the Trees, and the loose Tribe of People that walked under their Shades, I could not but look upon the Place as a kind of Mahometan Paradise. Sir Roger told me it put him in mind of a little Coppice by his House in the Country, which his Chaplain used to call an Aviary of Nightingales.

Fireworks Vauxhall Gardens, 1800

A letter to a Lord describing the Spring gardens in 1751:

These Gardens, containing about twenty Acres and a Half, make part of a Mannor, belonging to His Royal Highness the PRINCE OF WALES, as Earl of Kennington; the famous black Prince, son to our immortal Edward III, having anciently had a Palace there. —But leaving Antiquity, I shall proceed to the present State of the Spot, which is the Subject of your Lordship’s obliging Command; after observing, that the Hint of this rational and elegant Entertainment, was given by a Gentleman, whose Paintings exhibit the most useful Lessons of Morality, blended with the happiest Strokes of Humour.
Being advanc’d up the Avenue, by which we enter into the Spring-Gardens; the first Scene that catches the Eye, is a grand Visto or Alley about 900 Feet long, formed by exceedingly lofty Sycamore, Elm, and other Trees. At the Extremity of this Visto, stands a gilded Statue of Aurora, with a Ha ha; over which is a View into the adjacent Meads; where Haycocks, and Haymakers sporting, during the mowing Season, add a Beauty to the Landskip. This Alley (a noble Gravel Walk throughout) is intersected, at right Angles, by two others. One of these Alleys (at the Extremity whereof, to the Left, a [p.3] fine Picture of Ruins is seen) extends about 600 Feet; being the whole Breadth of the Garden, or Spring-Gardens, as they are commonly called, which Terms I shall use indiscriminately.

These are the thoughts of a German Prince in 1827:

Yesterday evening I went for the first time to Vauxhall, a public garden in the style of Tivoli at Paris, but on a far grander and more brilliant scale. The illumination with thousands of lamps of the most dazzling[157] colours is uncommonly splendid. Especially beautiful were large bouquets of flowers hung in the trees, formed of red, blue, yellow, and violet lamps, and the leaves and stalks of green; there were also chandeliers of a gay Turkish sort of pattern of various hues, and a temple for the music, surmounted with the royal arms and crest. Several triumphal arches were not of wood, but of cast-iron, of light transparent patterns, infinitely more elegant, and quite as rich as the former. Beyond this the gardens extended with all their variety and their exhibitions, the most remarkable of which was the battle of Waterloo.

Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens entrance today. Image @Tony Grant

Here is part of a satirical poem written for the PUNCH magazine in 1859 and depicts the decline of the gardens before they were finally closed:

Comrades, you may leave me sitting in the mouldy arbour here,
With the chicken-bones before me and the empty punch-bowl near.
‘Rack’ they called the punch that in it fiercely fumed, and freely flowed:
By the pains that rack my temples, sure the name was well bestowed.
Leave me comrades, to my musings, ‘mid the mildewed timber-damps,
While from sooty branches round me splutter out the stinking lamps.
While through rent and rotten canvas sighs the bone-mill laden breeze;
And the drip-damp statues glimmer through the gaunt and ghastly trees.

And the ode goes on and on. It has become a depressing place.

Vauxhall Park looking towards the Thames. Image @Tony Grant

Written by Tony Grant, London Calling

More on the topic:

Read Full Post »

King's College, London

Emma Newport is running a three week summer course at King’s College London, exploring Austen’s England as well as her place in the literary pantheon. It is open to all who wish to study Austen in an academic environment at a Russell Group university in England.

Studying Austen in London gives students access to an extensive range of original resources held at the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and others. The course will include visits to a range of locations with cultural and historical relevance to Austen, including trips to Bath and Alton and a guided walk tracing Regency London. Throughout the course, there will be film screenings of all six major novels when we will examine in depth Austen’s heroes and villains and the England in which they lived.

KEY FACTS
Course start date, 02-07-2012
Course duration, Three weeks
Course type, Summer School
Course available session(s), Session 1
Course times, Between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Thursday
Course recurrence, 3 weeks
Entry requirements
See the general Summer School admission requirements for details
Academic Lead, Emma Newport

Read Full Post »

Twists and turns keep the plot of Downton Abbey rolling. One twist was unsurprising – the arrival of Spanish flu just as the war was winding down. The flu pandemic that swept around the world and killed an estimated 40 million people (some scientists estimate that as many as 100 million died globally) in three waves in 1918,  1919, and 1920 spread quickly via troop movements and global transportation. One major problem in containing the pandemic was that in 1918 governments were primarily concerned with the war and were caught flat-footed in containing the pandemic when it struck. The first wave of the pandemic was the most deadly.

Flu pandemic image @Wikipedia

Flu pandemic image @Wikipedia

The Spanish flu resulted in a particularly virulent and lethal pandemic. At the time people did not yet understand how flu was spread or how to take precautions against it. All they could do was stay indoors and wear masks when venturing outside. Two age groups that were especially susceptible were babies less than a year old and healthy young adults between the ages of 15 and 35. The flu usually killed the very young and the very old, but this virus strain attacked teens and young adults with robust immune systems. Immune cells were activated by the virus, increasing the number of immune cells circulating in the blood and overwhelming the lungs with fluids.

Healthy young adults essentially drowned from within. Some patients died only a few hours after their first symptoms appeared; others died in a matter of days. Patients would turn blue, suffocating from a lack of oxygen as lungs filled with a frothy, bloody substance.

In the US, twenty five percent of the population was afflicted by the flu. More remarkably, in only one year the average life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by 12%.

As happened in real life, a number of Downton Abbey’s inhabitants contracted the flu. Some survived and others did not. Edwardian Promenade has written a more detailed account on this topic.

Please note: Advertisements on this blog are placed here by WordPress. I make no money from this blog.

Read Full Post »

One can imagine that during her final illness, Jane Austen was no stranger to leeches. This method of bloodletting was so common in Great Britain (Wales especially) and France that by the 1830′s Hirudo medicinal leeches (common in Europe) were hard to find and had to be imported or home grown .

Leech finders, 1814. George Havell, Costumes of Yorkshire.

Gathering leeches was a traditional female occupation, although there are always exceptions to the rule. Take this passage about leech-fishers in France from the Gazette des Hopitaux:

Man leech fishing in a marsh in Bretagne. 1857. Image @Shutter Stock

If ever you pass through La Brenne, you will see a man, pale and straight-haired with a woollen cap on his head, and his legs and arms naked; he walks along the borders of a marsh, among the spots left dry by the surrounding waters. This man is a leech- fisher. To see him from a distance,—his wo-begone aspect, his hollow eyes, his livid lips, his singular gestures,—you would take him for a maniac. If you observe him every now and then raising his legs and examining them one after another, you might suppose him a fool ; but he is an intelligent leech-fisher. The leeches attach themselves to his legs and feet as he moves among their haunts; he feels their bite, and gathers them as they cluster about the roots of the bulrushes and aquatic weeds, or beneath the stones covered with a green and slimy moss. He may thus collect, ten or twelve dozen in three or four hours. In summer, when the leeches retire into deep water, the fishers move about upon rafts made of twigs and rushes.”  - Excerpt taken from Curiosities of Medical Experience (1838) by John Gideon Millingen, via The Condenser: Hunting Down Good Bits

Despite the many strides that were made in medicine regarding human anatomy and diseases, the knowledge about treatments lagged behind. Lack of anesthetics made surgery an excruciating experience, and there were no antibiotics. Useful plants, such as digitalis, were discovered more by luck than by science. Bloodletting or ‘breathing a vein’ was one way in which a patient could be treated by a physician who had few options. Applying leeches often resulted  in a severe loss of blood, which was more detrimental to the patient’s condition than not. A human with a poor immune response could suffer from wound infections, diarrhea and septicemia, all influenced by the bacterium, Aeromonas veronii, carried in the leeche’s gut.

19th century leech advertisement

Regardless of adverse consequences, bloodletting has been practiced for at least 2,500 years. The earliest instruments, or lancets, were sharpened pieces of wood or stone, but it is leeches that I want to write about. (I am more repulsed by their sight than a snake’s, and had a hard time searching for an image that did not make me gag.)  The ancient Greeks believed in the humoral theory, which proposed that when the four humors, blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile in the human body were in balance, good health was guaranteed. An unbalance in these four humors led to ill health. Fast forward to the middle ages, when superstition and religion gave weight to the art of bleeding. If you recall, the earliest surgeons were barbers as well. Their leeches cured anything from headaches to gout!

Bloodletting with leeches is an ancient tradition

Leeches are commonly affixed by inverting a wine-glass containing as many as may be required, upon the part affected. The great disadvantage of this practice is, that some of them frequently retire to the upper part of the glass and remain at rest, defying all attempts to dislodge them, without incurring the risk of removing those that may have fastened.” – James Rawlins Johnson, A Treatise on the Medicinal Leech

Francois Broussais proposed in  his Histoire des phlegmasies ou inflammations chroniques (1808) that all disease resulted from excess build up of blood. The alleviation of this condition required heavy leeching and starvation. Leeches subsequently became the most prevalent way of treating a patient, especially in France, where tens of million of leeches were used per year, resulting in a drastic leech shortage. The British were equally enamored with this form of therapy. It is conjectured that Princess Charlotte’s death in childbirth in 1817 was exacerbated by her physician, who prescribed a rigorous course of blood letting and starvation diet during her pregnancy, weakening her before her agonizing 50+ hours of labor. (Read my article on this topic.)

In 1833, bloodletting became so popular in Europe, that the commercial trade in leeches became a major industry. France, suffering a deficiency, had to import 41.5 million leeches. The medicinal leech almost became extinct in Europe due to the extremely high demand for them. Leeches were collected in a particularly creepy way. Leech collectors would wade in leech infested waters allowing the leeches to attach themselves to the collector’s legs. In this way as many as 2,500 leeches could be gathered per day. When the numbers became insufficient, the French and Germans started the practice of leech farming. Elderly horses were used as leech feed where they would be sent into the water and would later die of blood loss. – Maggots and Leeches Make a Comeback

Oh, how I pity those elderly horses!

 

Large leech collector jar.

Intestinal tract of the hirudo leech

Leeches are quite extraordinary in that they have 31 brains and can gorge themselves up to five times their body weight before falling off their host. Afterward they require no feeding for another 6 months. There are over 650 known species of leeches, not all of which are bloodsuckers (some eat earthworms, for example). Placing leeches onto a patient (making sure the frontal sucker with teeth was directed to the skin) is relatively pain free, for their bite releases an anaesthetic. During feeding they secrete compounds, such as a vasodilator that dilates blood vessels and anticoagulant that prevents the blood from clotting. The worms are hermaphrodites, functioning as both the male and female sex. Even after being frozen, leeches can be coaxed back to life!  Needless to say, these creatures must provide an endless source of interest to scientists.

Early 19th century rare cobalt blue transportable leech jar. These were mostly made of clear glass. Cloth covered the everted lip to prevent escapees.

People (meaning mostly women) stood in fresh water marshes, lakes, pools, and the edges of river banks, and allowed the leeches to attach to their legs. (I shudder as I type this.) Once the leeches were gathered, they were placed in a basket, ceramic pot with breathing holes, or a reservoir.

One of these traders was known to collect, with the aid of his children, seventeen thousand five hundred leeches in the course of a few months; these he had deposited in a reservoir, where, in one night, they were all frozen en masse.” But congelation does not kill them, and they can easily be thawed into life, by melting the ice that surrounds them. Leeches, it appears, can bear much rougher usage than one might imagine: they are packed up closely in wet bags, carried on pack-saddles, and it is well known that they will attach themselves with more avidity when rubbed in a dry napkin previous to their application. Leech-gatherers are in general short-lived, and become early victims to agues, and other diseases brought on by the damp and noxious air that constantly surrounds them ; the effects of which they seek to counteract by the use of strong liquors.”  Excerpt taken from Curiosities of Medical Experience (1838) by John Gideon Millingen, via The Condenser: Hunting Down Good Bits

Pewter box for transporting leeches. Image @Science Museum of london

Leeches were carried in a variety of containers made of glass, silver, or pewter. Small bowls were portable, and the larger ones were probably kept in an apothecary’s shop or pharmacy. The everted lips were used to attach a cloth, which prevented the hapless creatures from escaping.

Portable leech carriers made of glass, silver and pewter. Small leech tubes directed the worm to difficult to reach places in the mouth, larynx, ear, conjunctiva, rectum and vagina, begging this question: How did one retrieve the engorged leech?

After the 1830s, the practice of leeching began to decline as medical diagnostic skills improved. Physicians realized that patients who were leeched did not often recover more fully than those who were not, and other, more beneficial treatments,  including pharmaceutical and homeopathic remedies, began to replace leeching

Red and cream Staffordshire leech jar

More on the Topic

Leech bowl

Read Full Post »

This summer Professor Devoney Looser will be directing a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Teachers, “Jane Austen and Her Contemporaries.”

The seminar’s 16 participants will seek significant new insights about Jane Austen by reading her closely alongside now understudied (but once well-known) writers of her own day. The class will meet from June 18-July 20, 2012, at the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO.

Despite valuable scholarship that considers Austen alongside Sir Walter Scott, Frances Burney, Mary Wollstonecraft, Maria Edgeworth, or the so-called “big six” Romantic poets (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron, and Keats), there remains a tendency to write and teach about Austen in a restricted frame of reference, in single-author studies or major author courses.
These seminars, which come with a stipend of $3,900, are designed primarily for those who teach American undergraduate students, although qualified independent scholars are also eligible to apply. Two spaces in the seminar are reserved for graduate students.

The need to deepen our claims about Austen has arisen at least in part because, in recent years, the scholarly landscape for Austen studies (and, indeed, for most eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers) has changed radically. We will work together to make sense of when to use emerging digital technologies to attempt to answer scholarly questions and when to seek out paper-based materials, both print and manuscript.

For further details see the program website (http://nehseminar.missouri.edu)for further information about the program, to determine your eligibility, and for directions about how to apply.

The deadline for application is 1 March 2012. Please don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Looser with any questions you may have:

Devoney Looser, Professor of English
Co-Editor, Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies
Tate Hall 114
Department of English
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO 65211
573-884-7791
FAX: 573-882-5785
looserd@missouri.edu

Read Full Post »

My regular Jane Austen readers have been patient as I succumbed to Downton Abbey fever and began to cover events 100 years after Jane Austen’s death. Customs changed during that intervening century. Take the matter of dress. While proper Regency ladies changed their outfits from morning gowns to walking gowns when they went out, and changed into dinner dress when dining, by Victorian and Edwardian times the custom of a lady changing her clothes throughout the day had turned into a fine art.  One could get by with no less than 4-5 changes per day. A woman who packed to visit a country estate was sure not to be seen in the same outfit twice. This meant that for a 4-day visit she would need at the very minimum to have her maid pack 16 changes of outfits. One can only imagine the work of a lady’s maid to keep all the clothes and unmentionables in perfect (and clean) condition. Such attention to detail required quite a bit of organization.

Morning dress, 1815. Ackermann plate. While she looked proper in her at home attire, this morning dress looks stodgy compared to the Edwardian teagown.

Corsets were worn all through the 19th century and into the early part of the 20th century. Women were constricted into these garments for most of their waking day, but there were times when they were free from these tight-laced garments.  During the early 19th century, upper class women at home would wear comfortable (but beautiful) morning gowns. Dressing gowns were also worn. Such gowns were meant to be seen by the family and close relatives only. The moment a woman expected to be seen, she would change into more proper dress.

Cora, the Countess of Grantham, lived during a time when teagowns were all the rage. These beautiful ornate gowns had the advantage of being simply cut and worn without a corset. It was possible that for just a few hours she could relax comfortably before dinner.

They were generally loose-fitting and elaborately trimmed, and gave full vent to the dressmaker’s or couturier’s skill and taste for theatricality. Tea-gowns were influenced by historical styles from eighteenth century Watteau-pleats, to renaissance hanging sleeves and empire waistlines and quite often, all of them at the same time. Never has so much love and art been invested in such an arguably unnecessary garment. All kinds of informal garments including tea jackets, peignoirs, dressing gowns, combing sacques, morning robes and dressing jackets also had their place in the leisured Edwardian lady’s wardrobe, all of them beautifully decorated and almost all of them now obsolete. 1900-1919: The Last Age of Elegance 

American dancer and actress Irene Castle wearing a teagown, 1913

It had long been the custom for a lady to entertain both male and female visitors in her boudoir. (Read my article on this topic.) During the Regency era, dressing gowns were quite plain and simple compared to teagowns.

1810-23 dresssing gown. Image @Met Museum

At times the teagown gave rise to temptation, for a woman could entertain in private and not need the services of her maid:

Worn between five and seven oclock,  gave rise to the French phrase ‘cinq à sept‘. This referred to the hours when lovers were received, the only time of day when a maid wouldn’t need to be there to help you undress and therefore discover your secret. – “Style”, The World of Downton Abbey, Jessica Fellowes

Early 19th century dressing gown. Image @Met Museum

Attired in her tea-gown, a soft flowing robe of filmy chiffon or fine silk, trimmed with an abundance of lace and often free of corsetry, the hostess must have been a tempting prospect for many men. Such loose gowns afforded women great comfort, ease of access and a tremendous sense of femininity. Little wonder then that whilst hemlines rose and fell the tea-gown, which had appeared in England as early as 1875 lingered on until the 1920s. – Edwardian tea gowns, fashion era

This Lingerie-style dress embellished with Irish crochet, c.1905 (below) can be seen in more detail on Vintage Texiles. Made of sheer cotton decorated with lace and ruffles, this sheer dress required a slip.

Edwardian teagown, 1905. Image @Vintage Textile

More on the topic:

Read more on the topic: Tea Gowns, Edwardian Promenade

Image of an early 19th century dressing gown at the Met Museum

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,299 other followers