Archive for March, 2011

Copyright @ Jane Austen’s World.  Looking back 200 years (the precise date that the formal Regency era began was 1811) we tend to view Jane Austen’s Regency world wearing rose-tinted glasses.

Early 19th century London street scene

Imagine the traffic in London back then:

In July 1811,

it appears that there passed over Blackfriars bridge in one day: 61,069 foot passengers, 533 waggons, 1,502 carts and drays, 990 coaches, 500 gigs and taxed carts, and 822 horses. On the same day, July 1811, there passed over London bridge: 89,640 foot passengers, 1,240 coaches, 485 gigs and taxed carts, 769 waggons, 2,924 carts and drays, and 764 horses.  – Leigh’s new picture of London: or A view of the political, religious, medical, literary, municipal, commercial, and moral state of the British metropolis (Google eBook), 1827, p. 251

Then imagine the animal droppings. I have not the mathematical wherewithal to calculate how much manure and urine these vast numbers of animals traversing London’s streets would generate on an average day, but I do know this: when a horse feels the need to relieve itself, it does so on the spot, releasing the end result of its digestion in a most spectacular fashion.

London, detail of Islington toll gate

And thus London’s streets were littered with dung. Not only did horses generously contribute their feces to London’s throroughfares, but so did the vast number of feral dogs and cats roaming the streets, and the cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, and fowl that were driven to London’s markets. Add on a hot summer’s day the smell of slops that were carelessly tossed out of windows, and the stench of contaminated water, backed-up sewers, over-filled privies, and rotting garbage, and you get the drift. The assault on one’s olfactory nerves must have been overpowering.

The rich had a choice – they left London in droves at the end of the Season to wile away the summer on their country estates. But those who were left behind had to suffer the fetid stench of thousands of evacuations that cooked in the heat and turned into gaseous rot. (I traveled through a similar malodorous area when driving past the slums of Jakarta one summer.)

Streetsweeper assists a lady crossing the street, 1818, after Vernet. Image @Wikimedia.

Rain showers did not help much to relieve the situation. By 1841, when the metropolis was vastly larger, Henry Mayhew calculated that the refuse from butchers that washed into rain water approximated 24,000,000,000 gallons per annum. As for dung, let’s face it, wet poo sticks like glue, and once the offending substance adhered to boots and shoes, the unfortunate wearer would trod the vile stuff into carriages and on door stoops, which is why boot scrapers were essential.

Sunny weather was not much more helpful, for when poo baked and dried on dusty streets, it tended to crumble and turn into dust. A brisk wind would blow odiforous grit under door crevaces and through open windows, landing on furniture, floors, curtains, rugs, and hanging laundry. A person walking along the streets on a blustery day, would have it blown onto their clothes and in their hair. (Let’s not even imagine how much of these offensive granules landed on their faces and inside their mouths and noses! Achoo!)

Carle Vernet, detail of a gust of wind

As for hygienic habits, if English Regency gentlemen felt comfortable urinating in chamberpots in the diningroom after dinner in full view of their companions, one can imagine that they thought nothing of relieving themselves in back alleys. And where were the poor urchins who lived on the streets supposed to “go”? Or the individuals crammed into overcrowded tenements who shared a common privy with hundreds of others and who, due to pressing circumstances, could NOT wait?

If peeing in front of others (left) near food stuffs inside one's home was permissable, one can only imagine the habits of this gentleman outside of a tavern.

There were attempts to combat these continual eliminations and excretions by animals and humans, which will be discussed in the next Fawlty Regency London post. Until next time, gentle reader, I am signing off. I hope I have not offended your tender sensibilities (or activated your gag reflexes) too much. Part 2 of this fascinating series will discuss The Removers, or those who worked tirelessly to keep London smelling as fresh as a daisy (well, at least like day old cat litter).

For those who are equally as fascinated with topics of an earthy nature as I am, here’s another post: Urea, a 17th & 18th Spot Remover, or Pee as a Cleansing Agent

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A Review by Lady Anne, Vic’s most excellent friend.

Miss Dido Kent is an unmarried gentlewoman of some 35 years. In this second book of the series set in 1806 and showing the lifestyles of the gentry and their dependents, the young relative whom she is visiting is foolish and therefore, to Dido, slightly boring. Visiting a succession of relatives is Dido’s fate, and the vehicle through which she can continue her mystery solving. Her fate, because she is unmarried and without money. Her relatives invite her to stay with them either when they have need of her. Pretty, empty-headed cousin Flora’s husband is away on business, and it will be a comfort to the young woman (as well as, we do not doubt, her husband) to have her clever cousin Dido to keep her company. Author Anna Dean, hereby presents a credible way to offer Dido new mysterious events to solve without having her audience need to suspend its disbelief too very much about all the murder and mayhem she encounters. The events of the series will not all occur in the one family, one small village, or neighborhood.

The mystery in this book concerns the assisted departure from this life of one Mrs. Lansdale. By all accounts, she was a difficult woman. However, she left behind a lovely fortune and a most attractive young nephew to inherit it. Richmond, the charming and proper new suburb of London where all this takes place, also harbors Mrs. Midgely, a disagreeably gossiping harridan who seems determined to bring the young man to book. Cousin Flora wants her clever cousin Dido to clear his name, because no one that attractive and charming could possibly be guilty of murder. Mrs. Midgely is recently widowed and has, in addition to a paid companion living in her household, her husband’s ward, a lovely young woman whom she is recently determined to place as a governess. The neighborhood also evinces a very lively interest in the recent marriage of their old friend Sir Joshua Carisbrooke to a lovely, talented, and very much younger woman.

It is Dido’s task to solve the mysteries: the death of Mrs. Lansdale, the reason for Mrs. Midgely’s determination to find Mr. Landsdale guilty, the identity of Mrs. Midgely’s ward, the mystery surrounding her companion, and an explanation of the quick and romantic Carisbrooke marriage. Dido’s skills in observation and in understanding the ramifications of what she has seen allow her to clear all these entangled mysteries large and small. The interconnection of all the puzzles of the neighborhood is very cleverly done, although one of the strands probably does not bear close scrutiny. Her reasoning abilities allow her to resolve everything in a timely manner; she not only solves the mystery of the death, she also clears the other problems without scandal, thereby depriving Mrs. Midgely of further nastiness.

It is this same clever mind that has kept Dido single: determined not to marry where she does not love, she has avoided or turned down several proposals. But without money of her own, she is continuously dependent upon the kindness of her family, and the story shows that this dependence could have a shaky foundation. Mr. Lomax, the steward she met at Belfield Hall in the book of that name, is able once again to provide some assistance as well as romantic interest for Dido, but his wishes to protect her from harm and to keep her from meddling she cannot bear. However, Mr. Lomax is not going to be easily deterred, we readers have the feeling that he will overcome her concerns and waverings over the course of the next few books. We can all look forward to Dido’s clearing more suspicious events in other interesting stately homes and neighborhoods.

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One of a pair of card racks made of decorated cardboard, French, c. 1820, at Attingham. ©National Trust/Claire Reeves

About two weeks ago, The National Trust asked a question about card racks: How were they used? The organization had acquired a number of beautiful examples of 1820’s card racks from Attingham, an estate in Shropshire.  Laurel Ann from Austenprose referred me to the site and to Emile de Bruijn, who had asked the question. I jumped right in, only to discover how little I (or anyone, really) knew about the topic. There was much lively speculation about these beautiful items.

Card racks are small, only large enough to hold visiting cards or small notes. They were designed to be hung somewhere, perhaps on a wall, or over a fireplace mantle. Many were made from cardboard, yet sturdier porcelain examples exist. Their true purpose is now obscure and has faded from memory.

These facts came out as I researched the topic:

It seems that young ladies decorated these card racks from the turn of the 19th c. until at least 1830. Mary Russel Mitford wrote in Our village: sketches of rural character and scenery, Volume 4, 1830:

With regard to accomplishments she knew what was commonly taught in a country school above twenty years ago, and nothing more: played a little, sang a little, talked a little, indifferent French, painted shells; and roses, not particularly like nature, on card-racks and hand screens; danced admirably; and was the best player at battledore, and shuttlecock, hunt the slipper, and blind man’s buff in the county.” p. 131

French emigres made card racks to earn a living:

During the period when the French emigres were so numerous in this country, he (Rudolph Ackermann) was one of the first to relieve their distress by liberal employment. He had seldom less than fifty nobles priests and ladies engaged in manufacturing screens, card racks, flower stands, and other ornaments.” – English coloured books, 1906, Martin Hardie

Rudolph Ackermann kept on hand in his Repository the supplies ladies needed for making hand made items:

No. 3 is a new embossed gold seed-paper. It is used, in a variety of ways, for ladies’ fancy work — in card-racks, hand and fire-screens, chimney ornaments, boxes, watch–stands and cases, &c. It is manufactured by Mr. S. Solomon, and sold, wholesale and retail, at R. Ackermann’s Repository, No., 101, Strand.” – From The Repository of arts, literature, commerce, manufactures, fashions and politics (1809)

And of course I found a Jane Austen connection. In Persuasion, Mrs. Smith makes pin money by creating hand made items:

One might argue that perhaps Nurse Rooke’s patients themselves are practicing charity by buying the thread-cases, pin-cushions, and card-racks. One finds, however, that they do not do so willingly. Nurse Rooke is skilled not only in invalid care, but also in sales. In the case of Mrs. Wallis, Nurse Rooke’s current invalid, Mrs. Smith says, “‘I mean to make my profit of Mrs. Wallis . . . . She has plenty of money, and I intend she shall buy all the high-priced things I have in hand now’” Thread-cases, Pin-cushions, and Card-racks: Women’s Work in the City in Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Susan E. Jones, Persuasions Online

Ironstone ware card rack. Image @Christie's

More speculation and information about card racks can be found in the comment section of the National Trust post. (I have included only my own findings.) It is fascinating to learn how quickly a once popular pasttime has lost its meaning. If anyone can help the staff at The National Trust, do go over and leave a comment.

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A Review From the desk of Shelley DeWees…of The Uprising.

I am thinking of enlisting. One of my acquaintances happened to recommend his regiment to me this morning, and as I have nothing better to do I believe I will join. It will get me away from London, where my creditors are once again pressing me, and take me into Hertfordshire, a place where I am not known. Then I can begin again, and at the very least, run up some new bills. And at the most…There will be impressionable young women in Meryton, no doubt, and they will all be susceptible to a charming and handsome young man in a red coat.”

So says that feisty George Wickham, with such a feisty future ahead of him, in the quazi-coming-of-age tale Wickham’s Diary by Amanda Grange. Although you may think this little novella is going to give a sneaky glimpse into the wooing of Lydia Bennet or perhaps a strange view of Wickham’s wicked scheming, alas, it doesn’t. In fact, Wickham’s Diary has next to zero connection the Bennet tale (you know the one I mean) and can be more easily likened to the history of George Wickham and his family.

The introduction on the back of the book explains, “He wasn’t always this cold-hearted.” But…um…well, according to this, he actually was. He grows up, as you, a learned reader, already know, in the shadow of Darcy and his sweet sister Georgiana, as the son of the steward with nearly nothing to his own name. Childhood almost-friendship with Darcy withers away in favor of rabid jealously, and Wickham decides at a young age that the situation just isn’t fair. “Why should I be beneath him?” he asks. “I am just as handsome as he is; I am just as intelligent, even though he works harder at his books; and I am just as amusing; in fact, I dare say I am a great deal more amusing, for Fitzwilliam is so proud and he will not take the trouble to entertain other people. Yet altogether he is no better than me, when he grows up he will inherit Pemberley and I will inherit nothing.” Tough break Georgie, but hey, that’s life. Regency life. Now of course he could take what he’s been given, which is truly not a bad situation, and apply himself toward a worthy, amiable path and a generally secure future. But as we know, he’s the villain and must therefore take the lowest possible road: planning, scheming, and plotting against everyone and everything, never blaming himself when things go awry. He looks around every corner for someone to exploit, usually while still experiencing success with his last victim, pocketing their money and breaking their hearts with no qualms. He’s conniving and rude. He’s spoiled and foolhardy. He is, naturally, a scoundrel.

I’d say that’s pretty cold-hearted behavior.

The reader is briefly shown the world of George Wickham as he works his way up the “Biggest Jerk in the Universe” ladder, tossing people aside who stand in the way of his ultimate goal to marry an heiress and be done with it. Darcy has long taken his own path, only reappearing to pay Wickham the value of the living he’s denounced and then quickly evaporating out of the picture, never to be seen again. Though I enjoyed the interesting and albeit unhealthy relationship Wickham has with his mother, I found myself disappointed that this teeny weeny 12-dollar novel ended without exploring Wickham’s character in any in-depth sense. The reader learns a bit about his motivations for villainy, yes, but nothing much about him as a person. No one commits a crime against humanity without some measure of mental back-and-forth…didn’t he ever have second thoughts? Blank pages abound in the book itself, and the type is shamefully over-sized.

The phrase that comes to mind with Wickham’s Diary is “hastily-written.” It’s a fair read and represents some of the author’s good attributes. But considering the 2 hours you’ll spend with it, you might want to save your 12 dollars.

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Inquiring readers: Patrick Baty of Papers and Paints is noted for his analysis of paint colours of the interiors and exteriors of buildings of architectural significance. He is consulted on both sides of the Atlantic. Mr. Baty has graciously allowed me to reproduce his blog post about exterior paint colours in the city of Bath. A link to more detailed articles sit at the bottom of this post.

Patrick was commissioned to carry out an analysis of the paint on a number of buildings in the City. The purpose was to establish the decorative history of representative doors, windows and railings and to see whether one colour predominated on each element.

How had external painted surfaces appeared when Jane Austen lived there in the early 19th century, for example?

Royal Crescent

The Royal Crescent was built between 1767 and 1774. When the railings were sampled, 27 individual schemes were found, which suggests an average repainting cycle of about eight years. The first scheme was a pale lead (grey) colour. This kind of colour was used on the next fifteen occasions – probably until the end of the 19th century. Dark green and red-brown has been used subsequently, with black employed twice and then only since the 1970s.

Lead Colour

7 Alfred Street

Alfred Street is believed to have been built in 1772. When the railings of No 7 were sampled approximately 45 individual schemes were found, which suggests a repainting cycle of about five years. A stone colour was employed initially and variants of this appeared until the 1810s, when lead colour was introduced. Dark green appears to have been used from the middle of the 19th century, before giving way to red-brown. Black was only applied on the last three occasions.

Bronze Green

Pierrepont House

36 schemes were encountered on the railings of Pierrepont House. Lead colour was employed until the middle of the 19th century, when dark green was introduced. Black has never been used on these railings.

Chapel House

Chapel House railing

The railings of Chapel House, behind the Countess of Huntingdon’s Chapel, displayed approximately 38 decorative schemes. As the Chapel was built in 1765 this suggests a repainting cycle of about six years. The first two schemes were in lead colour and the third was in a stone colour. Unusually blue was employed on the fourth occasion. The remainder of the sequence consisted of variants of stone colour and dark green. Black had only been adopted in the 1980s.

As will be seen from the few examples cited here, grey and stone colours were employed on railings in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Dark green seems to have been generally adopted from about 1850 and, perhaps surprisingly, black only made its appearance in the late 20th century. Its use has nothing to do with being a sign of mourning for the death of Prince Albert – a belief held by many of the cognoscenti. This has been borne out by examining numerous examples of external ironwork across the country.

Specialist Profile, Patrick Baty

Patrick Baty provides more fascinating information about exterior paint colors on his blog, Patrick Baty, in three downloadable Scribd documents: External Paintwork, The Colour of Chelsea, and The Use of Colour on Architectural Ironwork, 1660 – 1960. You can also read an article about him,Specialist Profile, on the blog.

Please note: I place no ads on my blog, nor do I collect revenue from them. The ads you see in the comment section were placed there by WordPress.

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“What? Do I really have to read another Pride and Prejudice and Zombies review by Vic?”, you are asking yourself. Blame it on Quirk books, who recently sent me Dreadfully Ever After, the sequel to P&P&Zombies.

The folks at Quirk Books have been such good sports about the tongue-in-cheek barbs that I have slung in their direction, that I simply could not resist reviewing this latest zombies installment. I have slowly been finessed by their cagey publicists – who keep tossing books, and posters, and zombie paraphenalia my way – and whose understanding of promoting and branding a product in today’s tech savvy world could teach a marketing professor a thing or two.

Dreadfully ever After is Steve Hockensmith’s second foray into Regency England, land of the dead. After Seth Grahame-Smith’s record smashing P&P&Zombies, Hockensmith wrote the prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, explaining how the undead plague invaded England and how those darling Bennet girls were trained to become fierce Shaolin warriors, able to lop off the heads of marauding dreadfuls with an economy of movement that Steven Seagal can only dream about.

After reviewing P&P& Zombies two years ago, I outsourced the Dawn prequel to another reviewer, who has hardly spoken to me since. And so, wishing to keep the few friends I still have, I decided to tackle this book on my own. I kept putting off Dreadfully Ever After, but the review’s deadline was looming. I then drank a bottle of wine or two and began to slowly read the book.

Well, the joke is on me, for as I read it I kept going. Wisely, Hockensmith made no effort to write like Jane Austen. He created a rousing tale using his own words and Jane’s familiar characters in a setting that is both familiar (Regency England) and unfamiliar (filled with zombie slayers and the undead).

Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for four blissful years when he is bitten in the neck by young master Brayles, a freshly made zombie. Unfortunately, Lizzie cannot lop off the affected limb, for that would mean beheading her husband and result in a book that ends after two chapters. Fortunately, Lady Catherine de Bourgh reputedly has access to an antidote that might save her nephew’s life, however she does not possess a cure that might reverse the deadly effects of a zombie bite.

She sends Elizabeth on a dangerous mission to London, saying, “If I told you there was but one path to this salvation—and it was also the path to your utter degradation—would you, I wonder, be able to bend that stiff neck of yours and do what you must?” Without hesitation a stoic Lizzie hands Darcy’s care over to her nemesis and sets off for London with her warrior father and sister, Kitty to look for a physician who holds the cure to the strange plague. Her sister, Mary, is left behind. But she is no namby pamby miss and scurries after them, knowing her skills as a warrior might be of use.

And so the stage is set for a rousing zombie tale. While Darcy exists in a twilight world and experiences unspeakable urges, the troupe in London follows the few leads they’ve been given. The city has been divided into a series of quadrants and is surrounded by fortress walls and watchtowers. Much like airports today, travelers must wait to go through security:

A line of coaches and wagons more than a mile long stretched from the Northern Guard Tower, and it took hours just to be near enough to spot the red-coated soldiers stationed at the gate. The queue was full of merchants and peddlers and performers, all drawn to town by the upcoming recoronation of George III. The king, finally cured of his “nervous exhaution” (otherwise known as “insanity” when it afflicts those of lower rank), was about to reclaim his throne.”

This short passage explains why prepubescent boys and fans of gory mash-ups love the P&P&Zombies series – except for the plague of the undead, lack of electricity and running water, and a smattering of history, Regency England is not so very different from our dangerous world today. And so the plot moves swiftly on, prompting the reader to ask: Will Darcy be saved in time, or will Lizzie, Kitty, Mary, and Mr. Bennet dawdle in London so long that he will turn into a slobbering, mouldering, flesh-eating mess?

Steve Hockensmith’s way with a phrase can be a hoot. On page 158, Kitty declares of Nezu, Lady C de B’s ninja warrior: “He’s like a male Mary!” To which Mr. Bennet retorts, “Mary’s like a male Mary.”

Steve Hockensmith

Parents who worry that these mash-ups will liquify their childrens’ brains  need not worry, for these books, while exposing their offspring to plenty of gore and carnage, provide no untoward exposure to gooey sex scenes or slimy kisses. And so I leave it to you, gentle reader, to decide whether you should subject yourself and your progeny to a zombified England, or gently turn your backs to a series of runaway bestsellers whose ability to generate an impressive stream of revenue would make even Nora Roberts jealous.

Dreadfully Ever After, generously illustrated as all Quirk mash-ups are,  goes on sale today.


Carnage rating: 5 out of 5 severed limbs
Romance rating: 1 out of 5 torn-out hearts
Humor rating: 5 out of 5 brainless zombies

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It is not often that a much-hyped book or film lives up to its reputation, as with The King’s Speech and Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen conquered the world , the book by Claire Harman and the subject of this review. I’ll admit to being a wee bit partial to any book that mentions my blogs – Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today – but this is not the sole reasons for my gushing over Ms. Harman’s lucid and accessible account of the slow rise of Jane’s Austen’s literary fame in the 19th century to her near rock-star status as a popular cultural icon today.

Jane’s Fame was published in 2009 amidst much controversy. Accusations of heavy borrowing and plagiarism flew from the mouth and pen of Ms. Harman’s former friend,  Kathryn Sutherland, who had published Jane Austen’s Textual Lives, from Aeschylus to Bollywood in 2005. Ms. Harman countered the accusations with equally strong words, saying she had followed the standard practice of sourcing all quotes and citing the earliest sources for her information. With this controversy in mind, I read Jane’s Fame with the same morbid curiosity that Two and a Half Men fans are reading articles about Charlie Sheen’s downward spiraling career today. I am delighted to announce that I think Jane’s Fame stands on its own, paying due homage to Jane Austen’s Textual Lives, but making what could have been a dry tale into an exciting read  for the modern audience.

Laurie Kaplan, who reviewed Sutherland’s book for the Jane Austen Society of Northern America, wrote:

Through an examination of biographies, portraits, manuscripts, films, and editions of the novels, Sutherland tracks the creation of Jane Austen as “a special cultural commodity.” From James Edward Austen- Leigh’s Memoir of Jane Austen (1870), which presents a “family-managed” biography of his relation, to the films, which sometimes bear only a passing relation to the novels, biographers, editors, and directors have “marketed” their own versions of “Jane Austen” to the public.”

I agree with this assessment of Sutherland’s book. Several years back I had read portions of Jane Austen’s Textual Lives and from it learned much about Jane’s slow rise in literary reputation and in the estimation of her peers. However, in my opinion Dr. Kathryn Sutherland’s revelations were not entirely new. Any Janeite who has read a number of Jane Austen biographies would have known that Jane’s literary reputation stagnated in the years after her death. The facts were scattered in a number of sources and Dr. Sutherland was astute enough to pull them together. She chronicled Jane’s rise in academic order, and had her efforts rewarded with the publication of her book by Oxford University Press. While her richly footnoted tome is perfectly suited for the shelves of a university library, her professorial writing style would in no way appeal to Mr & Mrs John Q Public.

Enter Ms. Harman.

One cardinal rule of copyright laws is that facts and historical events belong to the public domain. One cannot patent the dates of a person’s life or historic events. Ms. Harman, with her easy and accessible writing style and her academic knowledge, pounced on the Jane Austen bandwagon and came up with a runaway hit. In fact, Ms. Harman makes the rise of Jane’s fame seem exciting. Here is an excerpt of her description of James Edward Austen-Leigh’s attempt to take a look at Fanny Knatchbull’s letters from her Aunt Jane:

In 1869 Fanny’s sister Elizabeth Rice warned him not to wait for a sight of the letters, as there was virtually no chance of it. Lady Knatchbull, she said, was prone to giddiness and confusion, an impression of advancing senility confirmed by fanny’s daughter Louisa, who protested that her mother would have been only too delighted to assist James Edward ten years earlier, but it was too late now.”

Chris Riddell's cover from the April 2009 issue of The Literary Review

It is universally acknowledged that Edward Austen-Leigh’s Memoirs of his aunt in 1869 (and quickly again in 1871) piqued the Victorian public’s curiosity, and that his biography prompted the buying public to purchase Jane’s novels in droves. In the first half of the 20th century, academics and the public alike discovered the rich literary minefield that Jane’s novels represented. Film adaptations only served to boost her reputation, and by 1995, when A&E presented a 6-part series of Pride and Prejudice and the Internet began to be embraced by non-geek users, the stage had been set for world-wide Austen adoration.

My major complaint about Jane’s Fame is that I suspect this book was written to meet a publisher’s deadline. The first 2/3 of its pages are rich with facts and anecdotes, with fully developed topics that satisfied my curiosity about Jane’s rise in popularity. But then the book’s pace speeds up and the last few chapters seemed rushed and thin. The most recent years of Jane’s popularity are barely covered, as if the author (and publisher) lost focus. Be that as it may, I read Jane’s Fame in two or three sittings and recommended it to my Janeite book club. They LOVED it. I am confident that you will too.

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Image @Colonial Williamsburg Official Site

The blog, Two Nerdy History Girls, featured Janea Whitacre, mistress of the millinery & mantua-making trades in Williamsburg in their last post about Accessories: Head to Toe, a symposium that was recently held in that historic city.   Accessories Head to Toe: Beautiful Fashion From 1760 to 1830 showcases some images from the people of the Margaret Hunter Shop, where milliners and mantua makers still plie their craft.

An interview with Ms. Whitacre illuminates how fashion was made in those days, and how fashion and economics are tied together.

Janea: Mantua-making – that’s gown-making, so we’re the 18th-century dressmaker, and what we do is cut the gown to the person, so the lady is her own mannequin or her own dress form. So I don’t need to take measurements, I don’t do patterns. We cut to the person.

Lloyd: Okay, so at the risk of getting this wrong, what you are is what in a male version a tailor would be.

Janea: There’s a lot of overlap between the trades. The tailor is going to claim that stay-making and making ladies riding habits is his trade. I’m going to claim that it’s my trade. But the difference between the trades is really how we cut the fabric out. He takes measurements and does patterns. We usually don’t, because our customers are perfection in their stays. So as long as they have the stays, we’re ready to cut.  Click here to read the rest of the interview on history.org

Handiwork: The Colonial Williamsburg Official Site

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Carlton House was the town house of the Prince Regent for several decades from 1783 until it was demolished forty years later. It faced the south side of Pall Mall, and its gardens abutted St. James’s Park in the St James’s district of London. The location of the house, now replaced by Carlton House Terrace, was a main reason for the creation of John Nash’s ceremonial route from St James’s to Regent’s Park via Regent Street, All Souls, Langham Place and Park Square. Lower Regent Street and Waterloo Place were originally laid out to form the approach to its front entrance

An existing early eighteenth century house had been sold in 1732 to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and son of George I. William Kent had been employed to lay out the garden of which no trace remains. Frederick’s widow, Augusta, enlarged the house, had the entrance gates and porter’s lodge redesigned and a colonnaded porch built. She died in 1772 and for some years the house was unoccupied.

Portrait of The Prince of Wales, later King George IV (1762 – 1830) 1790. John Russell RA

In 1783 George III handed the house over, with £60,000 to refurbish it, to George, Prince of Wales on his coming of age. During the following years the interiors were remodelled and refurnished on a palatial scale.

Carlton House ca.1825. As published in Britton and Pugin, Public Buildings of London. 1825. Patrick has worked on elements from the areas marked with a cross

Initially Sir William Chambers was appointed as architect, but he was quickly replaced by Henry Holland. Both Chambers and Holland were proponents of the French neoclassical style of architecture, and Carlton House would be extremely influential in introducing the Louis XVI style to England.

The Grand Staircase

Holland began working first on the State Apartments along the south (garden) front, the principal reception rooms of the house. Construction commenced in 1784. By the time of his marriage to Mrs Fitzherbert in December 1785, however, construction at Carlton House came to a halt because of the Prince of Wales’ mounting debts. Costs continued to soar and more money had to be found by the Prince…  Continue to read this post on Patrick Baty’s blog.

Inquiring Readers, Patrick Baty is one of the foremost authorities on architectural paint and colour on historic architecture and interiors. These days, the majority of Patrick’s time is spent as a historic paint consultant, sampling paint layers on buildings, bridges and architectural details to produce a forensic history of the decoration from creation to the present day. He has graciously allowed me to link to his post about Carlton House.

Other posts by Patrick Baty on this blog:

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Only Mr. Darcy Will Do: An Austenesque book reviewer’s life is so romantic. They get to visit the world of Jane Austen over and over again, absorbing more and more of the sighs and oohs and aahs that come from her settings and characters, and they often times get to do it before anyone else does (“Have you read __________? I’m so totally into it that I stayed up till 3 a.m. just to finish! You know? Have you seen it?” The silent stare your friend gives you will then make it clear…You’ve read it. She has not.). When the doorbell rings, the book reviewer runs down to greet the mailman, her eyes sparkling with curious delight. What did I get this time? Ripping open the box is like Christmas, and it takes everything they’ve got not to plop down on the couch and start, right then and there, dinner be damned.

There is also, unfortunately, a time in a book reviewer’s life that isn’t so rosy. Normally, reading a book you’re not particularly fond of is a matter between you and you (or between you and the person who recommended it to you) but for the book reviewer, it’s different.

That being said, this particular reviewer also has opinions of her own about what constitutes a good book. It is in Austenesque literature that I look for something original, something imaginative, something that hooks me into Regency England with the devotion and fortitude of a forklift. I don’t think I’m alone when I vehemently say…the same old story of Elizabeth and Darcy is not something I want to read: the push-pull of courtship, the misunderstandings between the two of them, their marriage followed by a perfect existence where all is copacetic and no problems arise, ever. Money, parenting, family, health, societal dilemmas simply aren’t there, and are often times not even alluded to. And while I realize that this fantasy is one in which we could all swim in for a certain amount of time, my swimming time is over. What would true Darcy/Elizabeth love look like if they actually had to fight to stay together forever? Would it last? Moving in with someone, married or not, Regency England or not, is tricky (to say the least). What would that experience be like? Societal upheaval back then was surging out of control…does it really leave them completely alone, untouched and unharmed for the rest of eternity?

I say this because Only Mr. Darcy Will Do, despite having been written with wondrous care and expertise, pushed me into the deep end of a pool I’m through swimming in. In Kara Louise’s story, Elizabeth finds herself at a crossroads when her father passes away soon after she’s refused Darcy. Unable to support herself, she’s forced to take a job as a governess to make ends meet, and thus loses all hope of every traveling within the Darcy social circle again. But, lo and behold, she ends up seeing him again through a string of well-timed circumstances, and after spending months brooding over whether she should’ve accepted him. Again, the push-pull of courtship proceeds. Again. “How will it end?” is a question you’d never have to ask.

In its current form, Only Mr. Darcy Will Do cannot exist as a stand-alone story while the characters remain so undeveloped, relying so heavily on Jane Austen’s pen. Of course, deviating wildly from the character pattern would not have been allowed for a “retelling” novel, but perhaps it would’ve been more interesting. Huge pieces of potential plot points were skipped over in order to return the reader to the dull Darcy/Elizabeth back-and-forth. Perhaps in this instance, adherence to the original should’ve been secondary to expanding Louise’s idea (which truly had potential).

It’s disappointing, especially when Kara Louise’s prose is so beautifully formed, her style so elegant and charming!  I would love to see her write something else, something less predictable.  She can write like an angel, and for that she’s got a mountain of respect from her readers.  But next time, can we please have something besides the same old story?

The Reviewer: From the desk of Shelley DeWees, of the blog, The Uprising, and reviewer for Jane Austen’s World and Jane Austen Today. This is Shelley’s fifth post for this blog.

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There is an old 18th century white washed house in The High Street of Kingston upon Thames that backs on to the river. On the road side there is a large circular green plaque positioned on the outside wall of this house that reads:

“ Cesar Picton
A native of Senegal
West Coast of Africa.
Brought to England in 1761
as servant to Sir John Philips of Norbiton
Kingston upon Thames.
Later a coal merchant and gentleman.
Lived here 1788 – 1807.”

Cesar Picton's house, front. Image @Tony Grant

Cesar Picton was a slave in the ownership of Sir John Philips, and was made a freed man. It is interesting to note that 1807, the last year Cesar Picton lived in this house, before he moved to Thames Ditton, a few miles away,  the year the slave trade was abolished in Britain. It would be another twenty-six years before slavery itself would be abolished.

The road outside Cesar Picton's house. Image @Tony Grant

Cesar Picton

But Cesar Picton was a freed man long before this  event and already a prosperous merchant. His freedom had to do with Sir John Philips and what he and his family believed. Jane Austen would have passed through Kingston at the time Cesar Picton was a gentleman and merchant there. I wonder if she saw him in the streets? Jane’s family must have had close connections with slavery. Her brother Henry was a banker. Most of the wealth of Britain at the time came from slavery. Her brother Charles was a Royal Naval captain and was stationed on the North American station, often calling into Bermuda. His ship must have been used to protect the slaving ships that the fictional SirThomas Bertram, in Mansfield Park, relied on for his wealth in the plantations.

Slave ship, Bristol

Apart from this oblique reference in Mansfield Park, Jane never mentions slavery or her views about it. During her lifetime the slave trade was abolished but not slavery itself. But change was happening, and by the time Cassandra died slavery was seen as a repugnant thing and was abolished. Was it one of the reasons Jane’s letters were culled by Cassandra in later life? Did she try to hide Jane’s – perhaps – unpopular views in the tide of anti slavery? We will never know.

The year 1761, when Cesar Picton was brought to Britain by Captain Parr of the British Army especially for Sir John Phillips,  is an interesting one. Senegal had been British up to 1677, when the French took it over. France and Britain had been at war in the late18th and early 19th centuries. Goree, the island just off Senegal that was used for trading slaves, changed hands briefly during these wars back and forth between the British and French. It could well have been during one of these brief spells in charge by the British that Cesar Picton was bought as a promising servant for a wealthy man back in England.

There must have always been an element in British religious and moral sensibilities that saw these African slaves as equal human beings and at a high government level. In 1788 Britain set up a settlement for freed slaves further along the coast from Senegal to accommodate slaves from the plantations of Virginia and Carolina. They had helped the British fight The War of Independence against the Americans, and a place for them to live had to be found after the British retreated from America. Nova Scotia was their first settlement, but the climate was too cold.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, 1803

Sierra Leone on the West African coast was set up for them, and Freetown, the capital, was established. But slavery was a vital element in the Empire for trade and financial wealth. It couldn’t be given up that easily, no matter how much it pricked certain people’s consciences, and the majority of people in England were kept ignorant of what went on in the slave plantations.

Sir John Philipps

Sir John Philipps (1666 – 1773), the gentleman who obtained Cesar Picton, was a member of an illustrious family whose main seat was Picton Castle, near Haverfordwest in Pembrokeshire, South Wales. In the 18th century, the Philips family was the most powerful family in the political, social, and economic arenas  in Pembrokeshire. Sir John Philips, who owned large areas of land in Wales, was a philanthropist who supported the building of schools. He built twentythree of them in Pembrokeshire alone. He also built schools in Camarthenshire.

Fort Nassau, Senegal, 1760

It was to Picton Castle in Wales that Cesar Picton was first brought from Senegal. He then took the name of the castle as his surname.

Picton Castle, Pembrokeshire, 1865

Sir John Philipps attended Westminster public school in 1679 when he was 13 years of age. He went on to Trinity College, Cambridge between 1662 to 1664, and was admitted to Lincolns Inn in 1683. He did not complete his degree at Cambridge, and he was not called to the bar either. Sir John appears to have wasted his time and seemed to have enjoyed a frivolous life style when he was young. However by 1695 he became the Member of Parliament for Pembrokeshire. He remained a Member of Parliament until 1702. He then later returned to parliament for Haverfordwest and remained there until 1772. On the 18th January, 1697, Sir John’s father died, and he became the 4th baronet. In the same year he married Mary, the daughter and heiress of Anthony Smith, a rich East India merchant. Sir John had influential friends and great wealth. His sister Elizabeth’s daughter married Horace Walpole in 1700.

The Oxford Holy Club

From 1695 to 1737, Sir John was a leading figure in many religious and philanthropic movements. Most important of all, in relation to Cesar Picton, Sir John was a member of The Holy Club. The Holy Club had many religious reformers amongst its numbers, A.H. Francke, A.W. Boehme, J.F. Osterwald, John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. These were Evangelists, Methodists and Quakers. It was from amongst these religious colleagues that the anti slavery movement found it’s strength and became an unstoppable force. Sir John was part of a group therefore that constructed the legislation to abolish the save trade and eventually abolish slavery. In his treatment of Cesar Picton we can see these beliefs in early action. It might have been that Sir John Picton actively sought a slave from Senegal with the express purpose of freeing him once back in England and supporting him to become a wealthy esteemed member of society. Maybe Cesar Picton was his proof that slaves were his equal. This is what happened to Cesar Picton.

Cesar Picton's coal wharf site. Image @Tony Grant

Cesar Picton was six years old when he was brought to England by Captain Parr , an British Army officer who had been serving in Senegal.. He was given to Sir John Philips along with a parakeet. Cesar was born a Muslim but soon after arriving in Sir John’s household at Picton Castle he was baptised and given the name of Cesar on the 6th December 1761. He was dressed as a servant wearing a velvet turban, which cost 10 shillings and sixpence. It was fashionable for black servants to be richly dressed. There were very few black servants in England. Only very rich merchants and the wealthy aristocracy would have them. They were not treated the same as slaves which were used in their tens of thousands on the sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations of the West Indies and the mainland coast of America. Normally a black servant would have been the personal servant of the male head of the household but Cesar became the favourite of Lady Philips. He mixed with the family on equal terms. Sir John’s philanthropic and religious beliefs were applied to the treatment of Cesar.

Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole, the younger son of the first British Prime Minister Robert Walpole. who married Elizabeth the sister of Sir John, wrote in a letter to a friend in 1788,

“I was in Kingston with the sisters of Lady Milford; they have a favourite black, who has been with them a great many years and is remarkably sensible.”

Sir John died in 1764 and his son became Lord Milford. Milford is the area in Wales where Picton Castle is situated. Lady Milford made a new will in which she left Cesar £100. Her son sold Norbiton Place near Kingston. With the money he was given, Cesar was able to rent a coach house and stables next to the Thames in Kingston. This building today is called Picton House.

Kingston Upon Thames, 18th century

After paying a corporation tax of £10 to trade, Picton set himself up as a coal merchant. By 1795 he had made enough money to buy Picton House, a wharf for his coal barges, and a malt house for brewing beer. In 1801, one of the Philips daughters died and left him a further £100. He was wealthy by now on his own terms. In 1807,when he was 52, he let his properties in Kingston and lived in Tolworth neaby to Kingston for a while.

Picton House, Thames Ditton

In February 1816 he bought a house in Thames Ditton, down river from Kingston, for the then massive sum of £4000. He lived there for the next twenty years until his death. When he died the list of the contents of his house included a horse and chaise, two watches, with gold chains, seals, brooches, gold rings, a tortoiseshell tea chest, silver spoons and tongs. There were also paintings of his friends hanging in his house including a portrait of himself.

While Picton was living in Thames Ditton, the other two Philips daughters died in Hampton Court. Joyce left him £100 and Katherine left him £50 and a legacy of £30 per year for life. Cesar himself died in 1836 aged 81. He did not marry and had no heirs,  and was buried in All Saints Church, Kingston upon Thames on the 16th June, 1836. He had become very fat in his old age and his body had to be taken to the church on a four-wheeled trolley.

Cesar Picton Gravestone. Image @Find a Grave

Unlike some of the other freed slaves in England at the time, Cesar did not make his thoughts known about slavery and the slave trade. He was happy to lead a comfortable life. Olaudah Equiano wrote a book about his experiences and actively took part in the campaigning of William Wilberforce and Thomas Clarkson. Others, like Briton Hammon and Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, made oral accounts that were transcribed. Letters were written by Ignatius Sancho to help bolster the anti slavery cause.

Jane Austen wrote in Mansfield Park,

These opinions had been hardly canvassed a year, before another event arose of such importance in the family, as might fairly claim some place in the thoughts and conversation of the ladies. Sir Thomas had found it expedient to go to Antigua himself, for the better arrangement of his affairs, and he took his eldest son with him in the hope of detaching him from some bad connections at home. They left England with the probability of being nearly a twelve month absent.”

Slaves digging the cane holes, Antiqua, 1823

Sir Thomas Bertram’s affairs in Antigua could only have referred to his sugar plantations, the source of all his wealth and the financial source of Mansfield Park itself.

Slave cutting sugar cane, 1799

Jane’s own brothers, Frank and Charles would have been amongst the captains with their warships used to protect the likes of Sir Thomas Bertram’s trading ventures, which must have included slaves for his plantations in Antigua. Henry, Jane’s favorite brother, would have invested the proceeds of this trade through his bank. It is very possible that Jane caught sight of the famous Cesar Picton, wealthy merchant and freed man, walking in the streets of Kingston upon Thames. I wonder what her opinion was?

Kingston Upon Thames, Thomas Hornor, 1813

Post written by Tony Grant, London Calling.

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Bandeau: in clothing and fashion, the term means a narrow band of ribbon, velvet, etc., worn round the head. A wide range of materials make up a hair bandeau, including jewels, ribbons, cloth, and flowers. In some cases, a tiara can be said to be an elaborate form of the bandeau. This head band has been popular since the beginning of recorded history, for the decoration is flattering for almost any hair style. The bandeau provides an instant frame for curls, adds color, and can hold unruly hair in place. Bandeaux were quite popular during the Regency era as both formal and informal head wear.

Structured bandeau with feathers. Northanger Abbey (Cassie Stuart and Greg Hicks) 1986

In the image above, Isabella Thorpe’s bandeau resembles an open turban. It play an integral part in the hair design.

Court gown, 1799. This bandeau, worn for a formal event, also holds feathers, as in the above photo.

Bandeau made of ribbon, similar to the illustration below, but with the bow to the side. This is an informal use of a bandeau, which carries enough "weight" to serve as a headcover. Emma (Gwynneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam) 1996

1812 La Belle Assemblee, evening dress and bandeau, which frames the curls beautifully.

Felicity as Catherine Morland (2007) wears a thin bandeau. This image is inaccurate in that ladies in those days did not venture outdoors without a head cover. We can tell that Isabella (Carey Mulligan) is “fast” for she reveals more of her bosom during the day than is ladylike and wears no hat while strolling through Bath.

Woman wearing a chemise dress (1799) and thin bandeau, and contemplating a hat.

The Countess of Oxford wears a thin ribbon bandeau. Painted by John Hoppner, 1797.

Rolinda Sharples painted a flower bandeau for the lady at front and center of this detail.

Thin satin or silk ribbon bandeau woven into the hair on the righ;, bandeaux made with pearls in the center two images; and gold ornamental combs in the hairstyle on the left.

Bandeau with long lace streamers. 1818 French court dress, La Belle Assemblee.

Bandeaux have been popular throughout the ages, and continue to be so.

Pompeii couple. The woman at left wears a thin bandeau.

Beaded bandeau from the Edwardian Era

Haley Steinfeld, 2011 Oscars

Gallery of Fashion – Women’s bandeaux

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