Happy New Year!


A heartfelt thank you to all of my lovely readers. Your support means a lot to me. I wish you all a very happy new year! May all your wishes come true!

Madame Vigée Lebrun On Lady Hamilton


Lady Emma Hamilton, born Amy Lyons, lead a very interesting life. She was a maid, an artist's model, a courtesan, but is best remembered as the mistress and love of Lord Nelson. French artist Madame Vigée Lebrun met and painted her when she visited Italy. Here's what she says about Lady Hamilton in her memoirs:

Count Skavronska had made me promise to do his wife's portrait before any one else's, and, having agreed, I began this portrait two days after my arrival. After the first session, Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador at Naples, came to me and begged that my first portrait in this town should be that of the splendid woman he presented to me. This was Mme. Harte, who soon after became Lady Hamilton, and who was famous for her beauty. After the promise to my amiable neighbours, I could not begin the other portrait until Countess Skavronska's was well advanced. I then painted Mme. Harte as a bacchante reclining by the edge of the sea, holding a goblet in her hand. Her beautiful face had much animation, and was a complete contrast to the Countess's. She had a great quantity of fine chestnut hair, sufficient to cover her entirely, and thus, as a bacchante with flying hair, she was admirable to behold.

The life of Lady Hamilton is a romance. Her maiden name was Emma Lyon. Her mother, it is said, was a poor servant, and there is some disagreement as to her birthplace. At the age of thirteen she entered the service of an honest townsman of Hawarden as a nurse, but, tired of the dull life she led, and believing that she could obtain a more agreeable situation in London, she betook herself thither. The Prince of Wales told me that he had seen her at that time in wooden shoes at the stall of a fruit vender, and that, although she was very meanly clad, her pretty face attracted attention. A shopkeeper took her into his service, but she soon left him to become housemaid under a lady of decent family – a very respectable person. In her house she acquired a taste for novels, and then for the play. She studied the gestures and vocal inflections of the actors, and rendered them with remarkable facility. These talents, neither of which pleased her mistress in the very least, were the cause of her dismissal. It was then that, having heard of a tavern where painters were in the habit of meeting, she conceived the idea of going there to look for employment. Her beauty was then at its height.



She was rescued from this pitfall by a strange chance. Doctor Graham took her to exhibit her at his house, covered with a light veil, as the goddess Hygeia (the goddess of health). A number of curious people and amateurs went to see her, and the painters were especially delighted. Some time after this exhibition, a painter secured her as a model; he made her pose in a thousand graceful attitudes, which he reproduced on canvas. She now perfected herself in this new sort of talent which made her famous. Nothing, indeed, was more remarkable than the ease Lady Hamilton acquired in spontaneously giving her features an expression of sorrow or of joy, and of posing marvelously to represent different people. Her eyes a-kindle, her hair flying, she showed you a bewitching bacchante; then, all of a sudden, her face expressed grief, and you saw a magnificent repentant Magdalen. The day her husband presented her to me, she insisted on my seeing her in a pose. I was delighted, but she was dressed in every-day clothes, which gave me a shock. I had gowns made for her such as I wore in order to paint in comfort, and which consisted of a kind of loose tunic. She also took some shawls to drape herself with, which she understood very well, and then was ready to render enough different positions and expressions to fill a whole picture gallery. There is, in fact, a collection drawn by Frederic Reimberg, which has been engraved.

To return to the romance of Emma Lyon. It was while she was with the painter I have mentioned that Lord Greville fell so desperately in love with her that he intended to marry her, when he suddenly lost his official place and was ruined. He at once left for Naples in the hope of obtaining help from his Uncle Hamilton, and took Emma with him so that she might plead his cause. The uncle, indeed, consented to pay all his nephew's debts, but also decided to marry Emma Lyon in spite of his family's remonstrances. Lady Hamilton became as great a lady as can be imagined. It is asserted that the Queen of Naples was on an intimate footing with her. Certain it is that the Queen saw her often – politically, might perhaps be said. Lady Hamilton, being a most indiscreet woman, betrayed a number of little diplomatic secrets to the Queen, of which she made use to the advantage of her country.

Lady Hamilton was not at all clever, though she was extremely supercilious and disdainful, so much so that these two defects were conspicuous in all her conversation. But she also possessed considerable craftiness, of which she made use in order to bring about her marriage. She wanted in style, and dressed very badly when it was a question of every-day dress. I remember that when I did my first picture of her, as a sibyl, she was living at Caserta, whither I went every day, desiring to progress quickly with the picture. The Duchess de Fleury and the Princess de Joseph Monaco were present at the third sitting, which was the last. I had wound a scarf round her head in the shape of a turban, one end hanging down in graceful folds. This head-dress so beautified her that the ladies declared she looked ravishing. Her husband having invited us all to dinner, she went to her apartment to change, and when she came back to meet us in the drawing-room, her new costume, which was a very ordinary one indeed, had so altered her to her disadvantage that the two ladies had all the difficulty in the world in recognising her.



When I went to London in 1802 Lady Hamilton had just lost her husband. I left a card for her, and she soon came to see me, wearing deep mourning, with a dense black veil surrounding her, and she had had her splendid hair cut off to follow the new "Titus" fashion. I found this Andromache enormous, for she had become terribly fat. She said that she was very much to be pitied, that in her husband she had lost a friend and a father, and that she would never be consoled. I confess that her grief made little impression upon me, since it seemed to me that she was playing a part. I was evidently not mistaken, because a few minutes later, having noticed some music lying on my piano, she took up a lively tune and began to sing it.

As is well known, Lord Nelson had been in love with her at Naples; she had maintained a very tender correspondence with him. When I went to return her visit one morning, I found her radiant with joy, and besides she had put a rose in her hair, like Nina. I could not help asking her what the rose signified. "It is because I have just received a letter from Lord Nelson," she answered.

The Duke de Bern and the Duke de Bourbon, having heard of her poses, very much desired to witness a spectacle which she had never been willing to offer in London. I requested her to give me an evening for the two Princes, and she consented. I also invited some other French people, who I was aware would be anxious to see this sight. On the day appointed I placed in the middle of my drawing-room a very large frame, with a screen on either side of it. I had had a strong limelight prepared and disposed so that it could not be seen, but which would light up Lady Hamilton as though she were a picture. All the invited guests having arrived, Lady Hamilton assumed various attitudes in this frame in a truly admirable way. She had brought a little girl with her, who might have been seven or eight years old, and who resembled her strikingly. One group they made together reminded me of Poussin's "Rape of the Sabines." She changed from grief to joy and from joy to terror so rapidly and effectively that we were all enchanted. As I kept her for supper, the Duke de Bourbon, who sat next to me at table, called my attention to the quantity of porter she drank. I am sure she must have been used to it, for she was not tipsy after two or three bottles. Long after leaving London, in 1815, I heard that Lady Hamilton had ended her days at Calais, dying there neglected and forsaken in the most awful poverty.


Further reading:
Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun

A Mother's Advice To Her Son


Anne-Thérèse de Marguenat de Courcelles was the daughter of an officer of the fiscal court of Paris and his wife Monique Passart. She lost her father when she was only a little girl and was raised by her mother and her second husband, François Le Coigneux de Bachaumont, who transmitted to her his love for literature. In 1766, she married Henri de Lambert, becoming Madame de Lambert, Marquise de Saint-Bris (although she was known as Marquise de Lambert). The couple had two children: a boy called Henri-François, and a daughter named Marie-Thérèse.

Interested in education, in 1726 she published A Mother's Advice To Her Son, in which she talks about the precepts she gave to her son. Despite being such an old book, most of the advice given in it is still very valid even though the language is not always politically correct (but then this was written in the eighteenth century after all). For instance, in n.16, I don't like the expressions "his superiors" or "his inferiors", but apart from this choice of words that sounds wrong to modern readers, the advice is still useful and can be adapted to how we should behave with our boss, or employee if we happen to be the boss for example. Without further ado, here are a few of the precepts extracted from the book:

16. The order of those duties (of men) is: the knowledge how to live with his superiors - his equals - his inferiors - and with himself. With his superiors, to please without servility; with his equals, to evince esteem and friendship; with his inferiors, to save them from feeling the weigh of his superiority; with himself, to preserve dignity and self-respect.

25. Titles and honours are not the bonds which unite us to men, nor which attract them to us: if we do not add merit and goodness, they easily escape: they will seek only to indemnify themselves for an homage which they are forced to pay to the situation rather than to the man, whom, in his absence, they will freely judge and condemn. If, however, through envy, we seek to lesson the good qualities of the great, we should resist this inclination, and do justice to their merit. We frequently fancy that our murmurs are only levelled at the men, while, in truth, they are aimed at their places. Those who occupy a post are. never in the world's eye, the fit persons: justice is never done them till they have relinquished the situation. Envy, in spite of herself, pays homage to grandeur, though she pretends to despise it; for she honours the places which she envies. Let us not, out of discontent, condemn agreeable situations which have no fault: but that we want them.

33. If you would be a perfectly virtuous man, strive to regulate your self love, and to give it a proper object. Virtue consists in occasionally waving our own rights, and respecting those of others. If you seek happiness only for yourself, you will never find it; every body will dispute your good fortune with you: if you are willing that every both should partake of it, they will assist you to obtain it. All the vices favour self-love, and all the virtues join to oppose it - valour exposes it - modesty humbles it - generosity strips it - moderation mortifies it - and zeal for the public welfare sacrifices it at once. Self-love is the preference of self to others; and virtue is the preference of others to self. We distinguish two sorts of self-love: one, natural, lawful, legitimate, and regulated by justice and by reason; the other, vicious and corrupt. Our first object is ourselves: and we return to justice only through reflection. We know not how to love ourselves: we love ourselves too much, or we love ourselves improperly. To love ourselves as we ought, is to love virtue: to love vice, is to love ourselves with a blind and mistaken love.



36. Politeness is the quality most necessary to intercourse; it is the art of bringing into action the exterior manners, which give us no security concerning the real character. Politeness is an imitation of virtue, which shows the outside of man such as he ought to be within: it discovers itself in every thing; in the air, language, and in actions. There is a politeness of the mind, and a politeness of the manners: that of the mind consists in saying fine and delicate things; that of the manners in saying flattering and agreeable things. I do not confine politeness merely to that intercourse of civilities and compliments which custom has sanctioned: these are said without feeling, and received without gratitude: people overdo in this sort of commerce, and fall short upon more serious trial. Politeness is a desire to please the persons with whom we are obliged to live; and to behave so that everybody may be satisfied with us; our superiors with our respects - our equals with our esteem - and our inferiors with our kindness. In a word, it consists in due care to please, and to say what is proper to every one. It values their good qualities, and acknowledges their superiority: when you thus elevate others, they will value you in your turn; they will give you the same place over others which you would yield to them; it is to the interest of their own self love. The way to please is, not to make others feel your superiority, but to conceal it. There is a skill in politeness for the exercise of which you will be amply recompensed.

41. We should know how to live with competitors: nothing is more common than striving to rise above, or to destroy them; but there is a mode of conduct more noble than this: it is, never to attack them, and to endeavour to surpass them only in merit: it is excellent to yield to them the place which you believe to be theirs.

44. The table and the dice are their exercises and their dangers: love has his own: beauty is not always to be played with; it sometimes commands imperiously. Nothing is more shameful than to sacrifice to wine, reason, which ought to be the guide of man. To give yourself up to voluptuousness is degradation: the best security is in not accustoming yourself to it: it should seem that the very soul of the voluptuous man is in its keeping. As to gaming, it is an overthrow of all decorum. The prince forgets his dignity, and the female her modesty. Absolute gambling has within itself all the evils of society. It gives license to certain hours for the unbridled domination of ruin and hatred: it is a hard ordeal for probity: few people keep themselves pure in this respect at play.

46. Keep yourself from envy: it is the lowest and most shameful passion in the world: it is always disavowed. Envy is the shadow of glory, as glory is the shadow of virtue. The most distinguishing sign that we are born with great qualities, is that we can live without envying.


Further reading:
A mother's advice to her son and daughter by Anne Thérèse de Marguenat de Courcelles Lambert (marquise de)

Short Book Reviews: Pollyanna, Heidi, and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

Hello everyone,

as you know I am a very avid reader and it would be impossible for me to write a full review of every book I read. I won't stop writing full reviews entirely but, from time to time, I will write several short ones in a single post. The books thus reviewed will have a common theme or belong to the same genre. So let's start with the reviews of three classic children's books, shall we?

Pollyanna by Eleanor H Porter
Pollyanna has the undeserved reputation of being a boring book with an annoying protagonist that is always happy even when it seems that there really isn't anything to be happy about. I approached it hesitatingly, but ended up loving it. It's the story of a little girl who, after the death of her parents, goes to live with her bitter aunt. Here she will make numerous friends thanks to her cheerful disposition and the ability to find a good side to anything. Pollyanna plays the "glad game", which was taught her by her minister father (he was inspired by the amount of times the Bible tells us to be glad and rejoice, which is 800!), with the entire town and soon people start to realise that no matter how bad you think your life is, there is always something to be thankful for and we should face everything with a positive attitude. But that's not always easy, even for Pollyanna. When she has an accident and is told she will never walk again, the poor little girl doesn't have the heart to play the game anymore. When the news spreads, everyone rallies around Pollyanna to play the game and show her how what huge impact she had on everyone's life. The book is not a sermon and it doesn't preach, despite being deep and very Christian. It's just a wonderful, uplifting story with a simple but extremely important message we too often tend to forget. I highly recommend it to anyone, bold children and adults alike.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 4/5

Heidi by Johanna Spyri
After the death of her parents when she was only an infant, Heidi went to live with her aunt. But the young woman can't take care of her niece anymore and she literally dumps her at her grandfather's footsteps. The grandfather is an old, grumpy man who lives all alone on the Alps, but Heidi's sweetness soon wins him over and the two become really close. Heidi also makes friends with Peter, a young boy who takes care of the goats, and his family, especially his sick and blind grandmother. Heidi is blooming on the Alps but after a couple of years, her aunt is back and takes her to Frankfurt to be a companion for Clara, an invalid young girl. The two little girls quickly becomes friends but Heidi is homesick. She misses her friends back home and doesn't like living in the city. When her health begins to decline, she is finally given permission to go back home, where Clara will visit her. Heidi is a nice story. This little girl is very sweet and always sees the good in people. However, I didn't enjoy the book very much. There is a good dose of religion in it too, which I usually don't mind (after all, there is in Pollyanna too and I loved that book), but in this case the book gets pretty preachy at times, which can be tedious. The characters are quite boring too and the language may not appeal to modern readers.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz by L. Frank Baum
This is one of the rare cases when I enjoyed the various movies and cartoons inspired by the book more than the book itself. Maybe it is because the book is somewhat different from the version we all know and love, but I didn't love it. I did like it though. Dorothy too is an orphan. She lives in a farm in Kansas with her aunt and uncle when one day a cyclone sweeps her and her house into the land of Oz. The house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her. The Good Witch of the North congratulates Dorothy for ridding them all of that evil witch and sends her on her way to see the Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, the only one who could send her back home. And so, she starts striding along the yellow brick road where she makes three friends: the Scarecrow who wants a brain, The Tin Woodsman who want a heart, and The Lion who wants courage. Only they don't need them because, during their journey, they prove they already possess them, which is the message of the book. But they haven't realised it yet so they continue their journey. When they arrive to the Emerald City and manage to get an audience with the Wizard of Oz he tells them he's willing to grant their wishes only if they kill the Wicked Witch of the West. And so, they set out on their mission. There were a couple of things I didn't like about the book. First of all, all the witches and wizards are pretty much useless. Oz may be a fake, but even the real witches aren't that powerful. The Good Witch of the North can't send Dorothy home and the Wicked Witch of The East can't seem to do anything without her army of Winged Monkeys. Secondly, Baum claims he wanted to create an innovative fairytale without the gruesome and gory things found in most children's stories. Yet, the Scarecrow kills a bunch of wolves with an ax, and later on is dismantled. Even the Tin Woodsman doesn't hesitate to chop off a cat's head for chasing a mouse. I don't really get what the moral here is. Cats chased mice to eat them in the days when canned food wasn't available (and sometimes still do nowadays), yet the Tin Man thinks that's wrong. You can't kill a mouse to feed yourself but you can kill a cat for following its nature. Go figure. However, I like the fantasy world Baum has created and I applaud his idea and effort to create a different, innovate fairytale.
Available at: Amazon.com
Rating: 3/5

What do you think of my idea of writing short books reviews? And have you read the ones I reviewed today? If so, what did you think of them?

Edda Ciano Mussolini: Edda's loves


As a teenager, Edda Mussolini wasn't a beauty but she had a strong personality. She was confident, bold and always looked into a man's eyes when talking to him. She was also one of the first Italian women to drive a car, would wear makeup, trousers and, at the beach, skimpy swimsuits. She was different from most women of her era and, because of this, men would find her very charming. And she was now old enough to date. But her father kept a very close eye on her, which became easier when the entire family, after the birth of the Mussolinis' youngest daughter Anna Maria, moved with him in Rome. Despite Benito and Rachele living in different parts of the same house, this gave the children the opportunity to spend more time with their father. But Mussolini had also ordered the police to watch over Edda and keep him informed on her relationships. Whenever she dated someone he considered unsuitable, he would put an end to the relationship.

Edda liked to flirt with men but this wasn't the appropriate behaviour for a young girl and could damage her father's political position too. To put an end to it, it was decided Edda should get married. She first got engaged to Pier Francesco Orsi Mangelli, the young son of a noble and rich industrialist. At first the couple seemed happy but pretty soon they realised they weren't made for each other. Pier Francesco didn't like Edda flirting with men and she found him boring and pedant. Despite her engagement, Edda started dating another man. He was a Jew. At same point, Edda even wanted to marry him. When Mussolini found out, he was outraged and furious. He ordered Edda to stop seeing him but she didn't obey and kept seeing him in secret, at times using her chaffeur-driven car to go and meet up with him. Mussolini then threatened to stop allowing her to use the car and she finally gave in and damped her lover. It seemed that she could live without him but not without her car. But her engagement came to end too when Pier Francesco asked Mussolini how big Edda's dowry would be. Benito furiously replied her daughter wouldn't have a dowry and told him he never wanted to see him again.

The search for an appropriate husband for Edda started again. Who would she marry? At some point, some American newspapers suggested she was engaged to the Italian crown prince Umberto, but if this match was really ever even considered, nothing came of it. Instead, the choice fell upon Gian Galeazzo Ciano, the son of Costanzo Ciano, the minister of Communications and a follower of Mussolini. The Ciano family was both powerful and rich. Galeazzo and Edda were introduced by a common friend, Resy Medici, at a party. The couple danced for the entire night. It was clear they liked each other and decided to meet again. Three days later they went to the cinema. While watching White Shadows Of The South Sea by Robert J Flaherty, Galeazzo all of a sudden declared his love to Edda and proposed. She accepted. Her father was really happy when she told him she was engaged while her mother Rachele wasn't very enthusiastic. On 15th February 1930, Galeazzo officially asked Mussolini for his daughter's hand in marriage. The wedding took place only three months later on 24th April. Edda was now Countess Ciano.

Further reading:
Edda, Una Tragedia Italiana by Antonio Spinosa

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you all have a wonderful day filled with joy, love and happiness!

Fashions For January 1832

Today I want to show you some more prints of dresses women would have worn in January 1832. Unfortunately, they are in black and white but I think they are very beautiful anyway. The day dresses of this period still have sleeves that are insanely big at the top and very narrow at the wrist, which is a style I really dislike, but the evening dresses are gorgeous. The sleeves are big, but not ridiculously big, and short. What do you think of these dresses?


WALKING DRESS

Walking dress of crimson and Adelaide blue shot silk, made very full in the skirt, and trimmed round the bottom with a deep flounce of sable. The body is made quite plain, with a narrow cape, which is cut nearly through on the shoulder, and falls in two points over the top of the sleeve. The cape is continued to the waist, and meets in a point under the ceinture. The sleeve is extremely full at top, and very small at the waist. A full collarette of quilled tulle supplies the place of a collar to the dress. Hat of white moire, trimmed with lilac gauze ribbon, and small bunches of pansies. The inside of the brim is ornamented with nauds of gauze ribbon. Muff and boa of sable. Boots of dark brown silk.

CARRIAGE DRESS

Carriage dress of rich satin, of a beautiful green. The skirt is trimmed at the bottom with a very rich border of ermine, headed by two rouleaux of satin. The corsage is made en schall, and laid in large folds across the bust. Collar of ermine, of a square shape, and very large size. The sleeve is large, and is plaited in round the top of the arm, with a second plaiting at some distance down the sleeve. A band of green velvet finishes the bottom of the sleeve. Hat of pale lilac satin, superbly trimmed with white satin, ribbon blonde and half-blown moss roses. Girandole earrings, and buckle of pale gold. Gloves of white kid. Boots of green silk.



EVENING COSTUME

Dress of bleu celeste. The skirt is made rather longer than last month, and very full, without gores. The garniture at bottom is a very deep flounce, set out in detached masses of fullness, each headed by four narrow-pointed leaves, placed so as to droop over the plain parts of the flounce. The corsage is cut square across the bust, and has a double cape surrounding the neck, the upper part of which is cut narrow in front and on the shoulders, but deeper and pointed on the bust. The lower part of the cape is also cut narrow in front, but very deep and full on the shoulders, falling halfway down the sleeve in long folds, in each of which is a tie of indented satin ribbon, to correspond with the ceinture. A tucker of narrow blonde finishes the top of the corsage. The hair is arranged in full curls on either temple, and in two large bows on the summit of the head. One bow is crossed by a plait of hair, which is further continued, under the other bow, and round to the back of the bead. Each bow is surmounted by a full-blown rose. Earrings and agraffe of topaz and gold. Shoes of blue satin.

EVENING DRESS

Evening dress of gold-coloured satin, very rich and soft. The skirt has the bottom trimming placed rather low. The trimming itself is composed of fan-shaped pieces, placed at regular intervals, and held together by double bouffants. The corsage and sleeves are as simple as possible. The most beautiful part of this dress is the apron, which is of white crepe lisse, richly embroidered in crimson floss silk. From the shoulder-straps proceed deep jockeys, edged with blonde, and reaching nearly to the elbow, elegantly finishing the otherwise plain corsage. The hair is dressed in full coques, intermingled with bouffonts of amber and gold tissue on the crown of the head, and in soft full curls on each side. A Ferroniere of small brilliants is bound round the head by a delicate gold chain. Pearl earrings. Neck-chain of gold, fastened by an agraffe of rubies and pear-shaped pearls. Bracelets of gold and rubies. Shoes of crimson. satin.


Further reading:
The Royal lady's magazine, and archives of the court of St. James's, 1832

Historical Reads: Maria Carolina Of Austria, Queen Of Naples


The Mad Monarchist has a very interesting post about Maria Carolina of Austria, Marie Antoinette's favourite sister. To quote:

Particularly after the birth of her son Francis she became extremely influential in Naples and ran the place to large extent. She kept an eye on being a help to Austria but she was also much taken with the fashionable trend of the liberalism of the “Enlightenment”. She employed the Englishman John Acton in reforming the Neapolitan army, finances and he finally became prime minister all amidst gossip that Acton and the Queen were having an affair. She supported the work of many liberal thinkers, artists and so on and even when trouble began brewing in France she was originally supportive of many of the ideals of the revolutionaries. However, that all changed of course when the monarchy was abolished and seeing the results of the ideas she had once championed, she totally reversed herself. It became worse when poor Marie Antoinette was executed and forever after Maria Carolina carried a portrait of her sister with her and vowed to avenge her death. It was due to her influence that her husband put the Kingdom of Naples in the First Coalition of European powers against the French republic.

To read the entire article, click here.

Book Review: Georgiana Duchess Of Devonshire By Amanda Foreman


Lady Georgiana Cavendish, nee Spencer, is a very fascinating historical figure. She was so charming and privileged yet her life was tragic, even more so because most of her problems were brought on by herself and thus, avoidable. But who was Georgiana? She was born in a rich and influential family and received a good education for her time. She went through some traumas in her childhood (some of her siblings died, her parents left her with her grandmother and travelled abroad alone), but these were quite common occurrences at the time. More unusual, she came from a loving family. Her parents loved each other and their children very much.

Georgiana married William, Duke of Devonshire and become one of the most popular figures of her time, a fashion icon and the Queen of the Ton. She was also very active in politics. Women could not vote at the time, but this didn't mean that they didn't have any power at all. Georgiana understood the importance of public relations and used her money, popularity and charm to advance the cause of the Whig party. But her marriage was unhappy. It seems that everyone was in love with Georgiana, except her husband, who didn't pay much attention to his wife and only expected two things from her: a heir and not gambling his fortune away. For a long time, it seemed like Georgiana couldn't do either.

To console herself, she started partying, drinking, spending huge amounts of money on clothes and gambling, accumulating huge debts which forced her to ask loans from her friends (which she couldn't return) because she was too scared to confess the truth to her husband. She had several miscarriages but eventually gave birth to three children: first two daughter and then the long-awaited heir. Her self-esteem was so low, and the need for love and acceptance so big that she became totally dependent on her friend Elizabeth Foster, who lived with her. She wouldn't break off their friendship even after she became her husband's mistress.

The book is extremely well-research and really brings to life the times and society Georgiana lived in, with its obsession for appearances, the rivals and intrigues, the cheating and gambling. Yet, the book is written in a straightforward style that is very easy to follow and understand. The only "dry" parts are those that focus on the political situation of the era, which Foreman describes in great detail (politics was a big part of Georgiana's life after all). I actually enjoyed those but if you don't care about politics, you may find these parts boring. Foreman also portrayed the Duchess in a honest and objective way, showing both her good qualities and her faults and allowing the readers to draw their own conclusions. Overall, this is a great read for both the scholar and the casual reader.

Summary:
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman is a wonderful read both for scholars and casual readers. Foreman draws a honest portrait of Georgiana showing her good qualities and her faults, her charms and lack of self-esteem that made her life so unnecessarily tragic. The book is well-research with lots of information on the politics and the society of the time, which is presented in a straightforward, easy-to-follow way.

Available at: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble

Rating: 4/5

18th Century Scandal: The Trial of Capt. George Bisset for Crim Con with Lady Worsley


In 1782, London society was scandalized by and eagerly followed the sensational trial of George Bisset for criminal conversation with Lady Worsley. It was one of the first celeb divorce cases and was brought about by Sir Richard Worsley, who demanded £20.000 in damages. He won the case, but he only got one shilling. The transcript of the trial was so popular that it reached seven printings in just one year and satirical prints abounded everywhere. So, what happened?

Sir Richard Worsley was a MP and governor of the Isle of Wight. In 1775, he married Seymour Fleming, a rich heiress and a lady popular in good society, and the couple had two children: a boy named Robert Edwin born shortly after their marriage and a daughter, Jane, born in 1871. On the outside, they seemed like the perfect family. But appearances can be deceiving. Sir Richard wasn't very interested in his wife and so Lady Worsley started having affairs with a number of men. According to the rumours, not less than 27.


And then, while on the Isle of White, she met George Bisset, a friend of her husband. Things between the pair got serious. Lady Worsley gave birth to George's daughter, whom Sir Richard recognized as his own, and in 1781, the two lovers eloped together. This was too much to bear for Sir Richard. Humiliated, instead than granting his wife a quick divorce, he sued Bisset for an enormous sum which would have ruined him. Lady Worsley and George Bisset were discovered in London and there was no doubt of their guilt. But he defended himself saying that Sir Richard not only knew about his wife's infidelities but that he also approved and encouraged them!

And so the trial started and several men gave evidence about their relationship with Lady Worsley. But what caused the biggest scandal was the evidence given by a woman working at the baths at the Coxheath military camps. She claimed that while Lady Worsley was bathing, Sir Richard informed her that Bisset was looking at her. And he could only have done so by standing on Sir Richard's shoulders! Here's her testimony:

Mary Marriott deposed, that Lady Worsley used to come to the cold bath, near Maidstone, to bathe, and that she used to attend her; that Sir Richard and Mr. Bissett were generally with her; and that the last time she came, which was about noon, in September last, and at the latter end of the hop-season, Sir Richard and Mr. Bissett staid at the door without, while she bathed; that after she had bathed, she retired into a corner to put on her shift, as Ladies usually do after bathing, and then returned to dress herself, and sat herself down on the seat: that there is a window over the door of the building in which the bath is, and which is the only inlet for light into the bath, and from which any person, who is sitting down on the seat, may be seen, but not when retired into the corner; that when she had almost finished dressing herself, Sir Richard tapped at the door, and said, "Seymour! Seymour! Bissett is going to get up to look at you," or words to that effect; and looking round, she saw his face at the window: that he continued there about five minutes; that she did not see the Plaintiff on the outside, but believes he must help the Defendant up; and that after Lady Worsley had dressed herself, she went out, and they were all merry and laughing together: that, excepting this, she never saw any improper conduct or behaviour in the said three persons, unless what is above stated may be thought so.
In addition to this, there was another Affidavit read, in which she believed that Mr Bisset could not have got up to the window, unless he had been assisted by Sir Richard, or stood upon his shoulders; and that Sir Richard might easily have pulled him down if he pleased.

Cartoonist had a field day with it, as you can well imagine! The jury debated for nearly an hour before reaching a verdict. Sir Richard won but because he had been practically prostituting his wife, he was only given one shilling in damages. After this, he refused to divorce his wife, seeking only a separation. Because they could not marry, Lady Worsley and Bisset split up. Seymour was left with very little money, no jewelry and no access to her children. To survive, she became the mistress of several rich men. She regained control of her fortune only after Sir Richard's death. By then, though, her two children had already died. Lady Worsley eventually got married again, this time to a much younger man.

Further reading:
Lady Worsley's Whim by Hallie Rubenfield
Transcript of The Trial of Capt. George Bisset for Criminal Conversation with Lady Worsley.

Book Review: True Crime by Andrew Klavan


Synopsis:
In the heat of the city, a man is out of time: speeding in a beat-up Ford Tempo, blasting easy-listening music. Reporter Steve Everett drinks too much, makes love to his boss's wife, and has just stumbled upon a shocking truth: a convicted killer is about to be executed for a crime he didn't commit.
In the cold confines of Death Row, Frank Beachum is also out of time. Ready to say good-bye to the wife and child he loves and hello to the God he still believes in, Beachum knows he did not kill a convenience store clerk six years ago. But in a few hours—if Steve Everett can't find the evidence to stop it—a needle is going to pierce Frank Beachum's skin.
The killing machine is primed. The executioner is waiting. And so is the priest. Now the clock is ticking down and the race is on—between the reporter and his demons, between the system and its lethal flaws, between the last innocent man and society's ultimate crime . . . .


Steve Everett is a reporter working for the St. Louis News. He's arrogant, drinks and smokes too much and pretty much everyone can't stand him. His job, just like his marriage, is hanging by a thread after he's been caught sleeping with the newspaper's editor's wife. Steve is enjoying his day off when one of his colleagues, a young girl named Michelle, is involved in a car crash and he's called back to work to cover her assignment: a last interview with Frank Beachum, a man sentenced to death for killing a pregnant cashier at his local convenience store six years earlier. Frank has always pleaded his innocence but, apart from his wife, no one, not even his lawyers, have ever believed him. All his appeals has been rejected and all is left for him to do now is talk to the reporter, say goodbye to his wife and daughter, and die.

While getting ready for his interview with the convict, Steve notices several inconsistencies in the stories which have been overlooked. But only eighteen hours remain before Beachum is executed. Will Steve be able to prove Beachum's innocence and save his job at the same time? It's no easy task and not just because of lack of time. The inconsistencies are so small and they all seem to have such a logical explanation that at times Steve too wonders if the only reason why he believes Beachum to be innocent is because he wants to believe it so that he can save the day, become a hero and keep his job (and maybe his wife too). And the reader is left desperate to turn the page wondering, "Is he really guilty or not?" and "will he be executed or not"?.

However, while the reader is eager to follow Everett on his mission, the scenes in Beachum's cell become more and more difficult to read as the day progresses and could even make you shed a few tears (I know I did). We follow him while getting ready to say goodbye to his family, writing a heart-rending letter to his little girl and wrestle with his emotions - anguish, fear, desperation, horror - at what is about to happen. Even religion, which had supported him for the past six years, doesn't seem to offer him much consolation anymore as his execution nears.

The book is well-written, full of suspence and full of coarse language but I don't mind that. I know I complained about the rude language in Spencerville by Nelson DeMille just a few days ago but that's because in the book it was mostly unnecessary. Here it just makes the story more real as that's exactly the language the characters would have used in real life. It fits their personalities and the situation they are in. I'm sure the language will bother some people, but I hope it won't put them off from reading this book cos it is a good, fast-paced thriller that you won't be able to put down.

Summary:
I really enjoyed True Crime by Andrew Klavan. It is a well-written, fast-paced, can't-put-it down thriller. It tells the story of a reporter, Everett, trying to prove the innocence of a man sentenced to death for committing a murder. And he only has 18 hours to do it. It is a very emotional read, full of suspence, twists and turns, with characters you can identify with. The language is very coarse at times though.

Available at: Amazon US, Amazon UK and Barnes & Nobles

Rating: 4/5

In Mourning Wise Since Daily I Increase by Thomas Wyatt


In Mourning Wise Since Daily I Increase is a poem written by Thomas Wyatt about the five men (Rochford, Norris, Brereton, Weston and Smeaton) who were executed for adultery with Queen Anne Boleyn and the sorrow he felt for their deaths. There is no mention of Anne though. It may seem strange considering the poet had loved the unfortunate Queen but he probably thought it would be too dangerous to include her in the poem too.


IN MOURNING WISE SINCE DAILY I INCREASE

In Mourning wise since daily I increase,
Thus should I cloak the cause of all my grief;
So pensive mind with tongue to hold his peace’
My reason sayeth there can be no relief:
Wherefore give ear, I humbly you require,
The affect to know that thus doth make me moan.
The cause is great of all my doleful cheer
For those that were, and now be dead and gone.
What thought to death desert be now their call.
As by their faults it doth appear right plain?
Of force I must lament that such a fall should light on those so wealthily did reign,
Though some perchance will say, of cruel heart,
A traitor’s death why should we thus bemoan?
But I alas, set this offence apart,
Must needs bewail the death of some be gone.

As for them all I do not thus lament,
But as of right my reason doth me bind;
But as the most doth all their deaths repent,
Even so do I by force of mourning mind.
Some say, ‘Rochford, haddest thou been not so proud,
For thy great wit each man would thee bemoan,
Since as it is so, many cry aloud
It is great loss that thou art dead and gone.’

Ah! Norris, Norris, my tears begin to run
To think what hap did thee so lead or guide
Whereby thou hast both thee and thine undone
That is bewailed in court of every side;
In place also where thou hast never been
Both man and child doth piteously thee moan.
They say, ‘Alas, thou art far overseen
By thine offences to be thus deat and gone.’

Ah! Weston, Weston, that pleasant was and young,
In active things who might with thee compare?
All words accept that thou diddest speak with tongue,
So well esteemed with each where thou diddest fare.
And we that now in court doth lead our life
Most part in mind doth thee lament and moan;
But that thy faults we daily hear so rife,
All we should weep that thou are dead and gone.

Brereton farewell, as one that least I knew.
Great was thy love with divers as I hear,
But common voice doth not so sore thee rue
As other twain that doth before appear;
But yet no doubt but they friends thee lament
And other hear their piteous cry and moan.
So doth eah heart for thee likewise relent
That thou givest cause thus to be dead and gone.

Ah! Mark, what moan should I for thee make more,
Since that thy death thou hast deserved best,
Save only that mine eye is forced sore
With piteous plaint to moan thee with the rest?
A time thou haddest above thy poor degree,
The fall whereof thy friends may well bemoan:
A rotten twig upon so high a tree
Hath slipped thy hold, and thou art dead and gone.

And thus farewell each one in hearty wise!
The axe is home, your heads be in the street;
The trickling tears doth fall so from my eyes
I scarce may write, my paper is so wet.
But what can hope when death hath played his part,
Though nature’s course will thus lament and moan?
Leave sobs therefore, and every Christian heart
Pray for the souls of those be dead and gone.

What Did Peter The Great Look Like?


Peter The Great is one of the best known Russian Tsars. He ruled Russia from 1682 to his death in 1725. During his reign, Peter modernized Russia and transformed it into a major European country. But what did this remarkable ruler looked like? Filippo Baltari, a young Italian visitor to his court, described him thus:

"Tsar Petr Alekseevic was of great height, more thin than fat. he had thick, short, dark chestnut hair and big, black eyes with long eyelashes. His mouth was well formed, except for his lower lip. His face was handsome, inspiring respect at first glance. Given his great height, his legs seemed to me to be very thin. His head often jerked convulsively to the right."

Peter was a giant, almost seven feet tall (or about 2 metres!), and a whole head taller than anyone else at court. However, it seems that his hands, feet and head were quite small for such a short man. Peter was also very strong and wasn't afraid of physical labour. But he was also too fond of drinking and led an irregular lifestyle, which eventually weakened his body.

Further reading:
The Emperors and Empresses of Russia: Rediscovering the Romanovs by Donald J. Raleigh

Historical Reads: Alicia Meynell


Regina Scott, over at Nineteenth Teen, has written an interest post about Alicia Meynell, the first woman jockey in England. To quote:

One day while she was visiting her sister, Alicia and her brother-in-law went riding. She was on her husband’s favorite horse, a brute named Vingarillo. Flint was riding his favorite, a brown hunter named Thornville. As they argued good naturedly about which horse was better, they decided to race to prove the point.

Alicia won. Twice.

Nettled, Flint challenged her to a real race, at the Newmarket Race Track, and named a princely prize of 1,000 guineas (which would be equivalent to over $30,000 today!). I’m betting he thought she’d decline. Alicia accepted.

Immediately word spread far and wide. A woman? Racing? Who wouldn’t want to see that! They met on the last day of the York meet in August 1804. The York Herald reported that 100,000 people crowded the race track to watch, more than ten times the number that had assembled for the last “big” race between more famous horses. Even the military in the form of the 6th Light Dragoons was called in for crowd control. The total amount betted ran over 200,000 pounds (over $6M)!


To read the entire article, click here.

Book Review: Breve Storia Del Fascismo by Renzo De Felice


Fascism is a complex and controversial subject. There are those who condemn it, there are even those who admire it and Mussolini (can't personally see why) but most of these opinions are acritical and based on emotions. Very few people know what Fascism really was and understand its causes, its consequences, its motives, its nature and its rise to power. Being Italian, this is a topic that has obviously always interested me and I've been reading everything I could get my hands on on the subject. A book I would recommend to those who are just starting out to study fascism is Breve Storia Del Fascismo (Short History Of Fascism) by Renzo De Felice (I'm not sure if the book has ever been translated into English or other languages, but I found a French version on Amazon.com).

Renzo De Felice was an Italian historian, specializing in the Fascist era. Anyone who is familiar with his work knows that it's no easy read. The sentences are very long and the language quite complicated and no always clear. You need to read his books very carefully, which can put some people off. You'll be happy to know that this book is written in a much simpler style and is easy to follow. There are some complicated passages (but then Fascism is a complicated matter) but the book flows easily and is not so hard to understand. That's because the book was born from a series of documentaries about the history of Italy on which De Felice was working shortly before his death, so the style is more similar to that of a journalist than that of a historian. 

However, being born out of a documentary series has its cons too. The book covers all the main aspects and events of fascism, from its origins, the March on Rome, the alliance with Hitler, the war.. but all these subjects are treated briefly and not in detail. In a nutshell, the book is a good introduction to fascism but if you want to explore the topic in detail, this book is not for you. I was also disappointed that the book doesn't talk at all about what life was like under the regime and it only very briefly touches on the subjects of racial laws. I think this is just fundamental to understand its rise to power and how such horrors could have happened.

Summary:
If you are looking for a book that provides a quick introduction to fascism, its story, its events, its causes and nature, I recommend Breve Storia Del Fascismo by Renzo De Felice. Unlike most other De Felice books, the language is simple and, apart from a few passages, easy to follow and understand. However, if you want to know about fascism in detail, this book will disappoint because every topic is only treated briefly and important ones such as what life under fascism was like aren't covered.

Available at: Amazon.it and Amazon.com

Rating: 3.5/5

Nineteenth Century Remedies For Ulcerated Sore Throats, Burns And Scalds



The October 1817 issue of the Repository of arts, literature, fashions &c, offered some advice to its readers about how to treat ulcerated sore throats, burns and scalds:

REMEDY FOR ULCERATED SORE THROAT

Drop some good brandy on a piece of refined-lump sugar, till it has absorbed as much as it will contain, which suffer to remain in the mouth till it be gradually dissolved. Repeat the same four or five times a day, and in the course of a few days the ulcers will wholly disappear.

BURNS AND SCALDS

A medical writer in one of the Bath papers, in speaking of the best remedies for burns and scalds, which are to be procured instantly in most houses, states, that oil of turpentine is an excellent application; but this is not always at hand. Next to this in effect are the strongest spirits that can be procured, as aether, spirits of wine, brandy, rum, gin, &c. or, in the absence of these, vinegar. These should be applied by means of folded linen cloths to every kind of burn, and to scalds before the skin begins to rise. Soap dissolved in water is likewise a good application.

In proof of the efficacy of spirits, the following case is given: - At a respectable inn in the neighbourhood of Bath, a female servant, in taking a ham from the boiler, fell down, and was scalded in a dreadful manner, her neck and body being literally scarified: applications of cloths well soaked in brandy were immediately resorted to, and proved almost miraculously efficacious, so much so, that when a surgeon, who had been sent for, arrived in about an hour after the accident happened, he said nothing could improve the appearances; he declined ordering any thing but a continuance in the same process, and in a few days the poor girl was quite recovered, and soon after scarcely a vestige, or even appearance of the accident remained.

Pulverised chalk, mixed with whites of eggs to the consistence of cream, frequently applied to prevent its congealing, is also declared to be an excellent remedy for burns or scalds.

Further reading:
Repository of arts, literature, fashions &c, October 1817

Image:
http://www.ancestryimages.com/

Book Review: Spencerville by Nelson DeMille


Synopsis:
The cold war is over, and Keith Landry, one of the nation's top intelligence officers, is forced into early and unwanted retirement. Restless, Landry returns to Spencerville, the small Midwestern town where he grew up. The place has changed in the quarter century since Landry stepped off his front porch into the world, but two important people from his past are still there: Annie Prentis, his first love, and Cliff Baxter, the high school bully who became the police chief of Spencerville and Annie's possessive husband. They're all about to come together again-and rip Spencerville apart with violence, vengeance, and renewed passion.


I've often heard rave reviews and praises about Nelson DeMille's books so, when I found a copy of Spencerville in my mother's library, I decided to read it and see what the hype was all about.Unfortunately, it was only after I've finished it that I realized that even DeMille fans think this is the worst book the author has ever published. Had I known that before, I probably would have read some other work of his because Spencerville doesn't do this author any favours. And it left me hesitant to read anything else from him.. Yes, I disliked it that much.

Spencerville is both a romance and a thriller but somehow manages to be really bad at both genres. Keith Landry, an ex CIA agent forced into early retirement, returns to his native town, Spencerville. His ex-girlfriend, Annie Prentis, still lives there too and he hopes to rekindle his romance with her. But Annie is (unhappily) married to Cliff Baxter, the police chief of the town, who is a bully with a sadistic streak and no redeeming quality. From the moment Cliff learns that Keith is back in town, he decides that Spencerville isn't being enough for both of them and decides, with the help of the corrupt officers, to make his life hell, hoping this way to force him away of the town again. Can you see where this is heading?

Keith and Annie eventually get back together and decide to flee Spencerville. But their departure is delayed to the very last minute and Cliff is soon on their tracks. Being an ex CIA agent, you'd think that it'd be easy for Cliff to escape (after all DeMille keeps telling us how intelligent and good at his job he is and that he's been in worse situations in more dangerous parts of the world), but he just keeps making one mistake after the other. The character of Cliff isn't well-developed either. Actually it's not developed at all. He's just a charicture of evil. And what about the last person in the triangle? Annie is portrayed as a goodie-two-shoes and very religious, yet she doesn't hesitate to sleep with Keith. I understand she comes from an abusive marriage but that just seems out of character to me. It seems to me that DeMille wants us to believe his characters are a certain way, and then makes them act the opposite!

The story itself is not that compelling either. There are a couple of suspensful moments, but most of it is quite predictable. The book is also too long and that's because the characters often reminisce about the past, especially their years at collage, and reflect on how senseless the Vietnam war was. I would have loved it if there had been some flashback of the characters actively taking part in the war and relate its horrors, instead DeMille simply keeps repeating his opinion of the war throughout the book. I may agree with him, but after a while it starts sounding like a broken record and becomes boring. There are also a lot of swear words and vulgar language in the book, which annoyed me a little. I know that some people talk like that and if it suits the character, I don't mind. But every character in the book seems to talk like that! It may not be anything major but I just thought I'd point it out for people who, like me, hate that kind of language, especially when used just for the sake of it.

Summary:
Spencerville by Nelson DeMille is both a romance and a thriller but fails miserably at both. The main characters aren't well-built and often act out of character. In addition, the story is predictable and flows very slowly and the reflections about the past and about how senseless the Vietnam war was makes it a lot longer than it should have been. The language is crude and vulgar too.

Available at: Amazon US and Amazon UK

Rating: 1/5

Amastris


Amastris, also called Amastrine, was the daughter of Oxyathres, the brother of Darius III, King of the Persians. Her date of birth is lost to history and we don't know anything about her childhood either. But we can imagine how her world must have been shaken when her uncle was defeated by Alexander the Great. Alexander ordered a mass wedding to unite the Persian and Macedonian people and cultures and Amastris was one of the brides. Alexander gave her in marriage to his favourite general Craterus. The wedding took place in 324 BCE. But the marriage didn't last long. Alexander died the following year and Craterus decided to leave Amastris to marry the woman he loved, Phila, the daughter of Antipater.

Amastris, with the blessing of her ex-husband, married again in 322 BCE. The groom was Dyonisus, tyrant of Heraclea Pontica (Bithynia). She brought a big dowry to her husband, which helped sustain the luxurious lifestyle of the court and the lavish banquets. To say that Dionysus loved food is probably an understatement. He grew so fat that, at some point, he couldn't actually eat anymore but had to be artificially fed. He finally chocked in his own fat, but not before having conceived three children with his wife: Clearchus, Oxyathres and Amastris. Amastris became their guardian and ruled during their minority.

Because of her position, Amastris now had several suitors eager for her hand in marriage. Eventually, she chose Lysimachus, king of Macedon. The couple married in 302 BCE. It seems that Lysimachus really cared for Amastris but that didn't stop him from abandoning her shortly after her wedding for a more advantageous match: Arsinoe, daughter of the king of Egypt. Amastris now returned to Heraclea, where she ruled on her own. She also founded a city, called Amastris after her, on the sea-coast of Paphagonia (a region now in modern Turkey). She was also the first woman to issue coins in her own name. Amastris' sons were now old enough to rule. Soon after they took over power in 284 BCE, they arranged their mother's murder. When on board a ship, Amastris was drowned. But her sons rule was short. Their mother's murder brought upon them the vengeance of Lysimachus. He killed both Clearchus and Oxyathres, and then proclaimed himself ruler of Heraclea. 

Further reading:
A Dictionary Of Greek And Roman Biography And Mythology
Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr
Wikipedia

Image:
Didrachm of Amastris. The Queen was the first woman to issue coins in her own name.

Fashions For August 1831

Hello everyone,

this has been a very busy week for me so far so I haven't had much time to blog. So, while I finish writing a couple of book reviews and put the finishing touches to a post about Queen Amastris (which should go live tomorrow if anything goes as planned), I thought I may post a few more pictures of pretty dresses. I hope you'll enjoy them and if not, please bear with me for a little while. More interesting posts will follow soon..

Here are a few examples of what fashionable ladies were wearing in August 1831. It seems that in France huge sleeves were still very popular. Honestly, I'm not digging this trend at all, those sleeves look just weird and cheapen the dress somewhat. Such a shame as the patterns of the dresses and the head wear is gorgeous! I think the English fashion of this period is prettier tbh. How about you?

ENGLISH FASHIONS


MORNING DRESS

A white jaconot muslin dress; the corsage square, and gathered round the top into a band, which is lightly embroidered at each edge; the fullness disposed in small plaits, arranged en coeur. The sleeve is an improvement on the imbecille form, very large at top, and wide, but not extravagantly so at the wrist. Two deep flounces of rich embroidery, placed one immediately above the other, go round the border, and reach rather above the knee. The apron is of changeable gros de Naples, lilac shot with white: it is arranged in bands, disposed en coeur before and behind, and ornamented on each shoulder, and at the back of the ceinture, with noeuds of ribbon to correspond. English lace cap; the caul of moderate height; the trimming of the front light, short at the ears, and partially drooping over the left side of the forehead: it is trimmed with knots of cut ribbon to correspond with the apron; the brides fasten in bows and ends on the right side.

EVENING DRESS

A dress of mousseline de soie, white figured in gold colour; the corsage cut plain and square behind, and in crossed drapery and very low in front. A guimpe, that is a plain standing up tucker of blond lace, is seen in the centre of the bosom only. Beret sleeves, of the usual form. The hair is turned back in a low soft bow on each side of the forehead, which is ornamented with a gold ferroniere, and disposed in full bows on the summit of the head. A blond lace scarf is arranged in the lappet style round the bows: it is attached by a bouquet of roses placed in front, and another behind. Neck chain, bracelets, &c, gold, of rich but light workmanship.

FRENCH FASHIONS


OPERA DRESS

A dress composed of a new material called gaze favorite; figured in perpendicular wreaths of small blue and yellow flowers alternately, on a white ground. Plain corsage, cut bias, very low and square. The sleeve is of the usual size at the top, but diminishes gradually, so as to sit close to the arm at the wrist. The jockeys are deep, open on the shoulders, and edged with a fancy silk trimming of a very light and novel kind. Hat composed of white moire, trimmed on the inside of the brim with coques of gris Mas gauze ribbon, in the centre of which is a sprig of fancy flowers to correspond. A full bouquet of flowers, surrounded by light bows of ribbon, ornaments the crown. The jewellery worn with this dress should be pearls.

RURAL BALL DRESS

A gaze de laine dress; a white ground figured in columns of lilac flowers between bright green stripes. Corsage very low and square, draped in the Grecian style across the front; the back is plain. The chemisette is of embroidered tulle, trimmed with the same material: the trimming falls over the corsage. A lappel, narrow at the bottom, but broad on the shoulders and back, forms the bust, en coeur, and is arranged in the pelerine style behind: it is edged with white fancy trimming. The sleeve is quite tight to the fore part of the arm, and very large at top. Hat of citron-coloured moire, trimmed under the brim with coques of bright green gauze ribbon, and a panache of cocks feathers' the colour of the ribbon, placed on the left side. The front of the crown is trimmed with a knot composed of long light bows of ribbon, and a panache drooping to the right side. Fancy jewellery must be worn with this dress.

WALKING DRESS

A printed muslin dress, rose-coloured and white stripes figured in a running pattern of green. Plain high corsage, and sleeves of the Medicis form. Cambric canezou, with a double trimming of the same material, lightly scolloped at the edges; it has a deep-falling collar cut in points, which are also scolloped at the edges. Bonnet of rice straw, trimmed on the inside of the brim with cut ends of figured rose-colour and brown gauze ribbon; two bouquets, each consisting of a full-blown rose, with buds and foliage, decorate the crown; the one is placed on the left side near the top, the other on the right, at the bottom. The shawl is printed cachemire, disposed en echarpe.

What do you think of these dresses? Do you prefer the English or French fashions?

Further reading:
LA Belle Assemblée, Vol.14

Historical Reads: Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury


Stephanie Mann, author of Supremacy And Survival Blog, has written an interesting post about Matthew Parker, chaplain of Anne Boleyn and later Archbishop of Canterbury. It was to Parker that Anne Boleyn asked to make sure her daughter Elizabeth was well-looked after should anything happen to her. To quote:

When Henry VIII died, Parker got married; under Edward VI he supported the efforts of John Dudley, the Duke of Northumberland to continue the reformation. He became friends with Martin Bucer and preached his funeral sermon in 1551. When Mary I came to the throne, Parker lost all his benefices because he was married, but he was otherwise free and did not seek exile. Even though he had been close to Northumberland he was not arrested or harrassed in any way during Mary's reign.

Elizabeth I named him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1559; he was never involved in matters of state and never part of her Privy Counsel. He struggled throughout his tenure to maintain uniformity in the Church of England and against the puritan reformers who wished to eliminate any vestiges of Catholicism in the established Church. For instance, the issue of clerical vestments during Book of Common Prayer services involved Parker in controversy that he thought interferred with the true course of reform.


To read the entire post, click here.

Napoleon Meets His Sister Paulette For The First Time


Nowadays, when a baby is born and the proud parents want to share their joy with relatives who live far away, they send them pictures via email, or upload them on facebook, or even chat via Skype. Technology has given us endless possibilities to keep in touch with our loved ones who live in a different city or country. But things were very different in the nineteenth century. If a relative lived far away from home, they would receive a letter with the news of the happy event and, if the family was well-off, maybe even a small miniature. But years might have passed before a father or brother, for instance, had the chance to meet their new born child and sibling. This was the case with Napoleon and his favourite sister Pauline.

In 1779, when he was about 10 years old, Napoleon had left his family and his native Corsica to go to school in mainland France and, once finished his studies, he joined the army. Because of this, he didn't return home until 1786 and by then, the family had grown. Napoleon had three new siblings: Paulette, Gerolamo and Caroline. But it was six years old Paulette who captured his heart. And she wasn't even at home to greet him when he arrived! She had actually gone to run and play in the fields. Finally, Paulette returned home to meet her seventeenth year old brother.

Napoleon was wearing his uniform of Second Lieutenant of Louis XVI's army and seemed to be very proud of it. His family seemed happy to finally see him again but were also in awe of him. Not Paulette. She was barefoot, her skin was tanned, her dress worn out but her big blue eyes were very sweet. Although a little girl, she already had a somewhat feminine air. Napoleon was smitten. She was the one who would make him laugh and smile. The two siblings become really close from the start and Napoleon realised that the little girl had a disinterested love for him. And she would show that in the years to come. When Napoleon's star started to fade, it was Pauline who did all she could to help him. But that's a topic for another post.

Further reading:
Paolina Bonaparte: L'Amante Imperiale by Antonio Spinosa

Fashions For January 1819

Hello everyone,

here is an example of a mourning dinner dress a lady of fashion would have worn in January 1819. I think the dress is beautiful and I love the black feathers in her hair. What do you think about it? Would you have worn it?


FANCY MOURNING DINNER DRESS

White crape frock with pointed festoons of the same, fastened at each point by black rosettes, and folds of black satin placed above and below the festoons. Black satin Canezou spenser, elegantly ornamented with white crape. Frederica hat of white crape, surmounted by a plume of black feathers. Necklace of jet; black gloves and slippers.

Further reading:
LA Belle Assemblée, Vol.18

Book Review: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks


Synopsis:
North Carolina, October 1946. Noah Calhoun has recently returned from war: he tried to forget the horrors he has seen and experienced by restoring an old plantation home. But though his days are spent working, his nights too often give way to dreams of his past. Fourteen years ago Noah fell in love with a girl, and he is still haunted by his memory but convinced he will never find her again. But when the past slips into the present, Noah realises his ghosts are never far away.


The Notebook is Nicholas Spark's debut novel. When it first came out in 1996 I paid no notice to it cos I thought it would be just another cheesy and boring love story. Then, a few years later, I saw the movie and completely loved it. And because books are (almost) always better than the movies they inspire, I decided to read the book too. And it didn't disappoint at all. The basic idea of the story is just so beautiful: an old man, Noah, reads to his wife Allie, who is suffering from Alzheimer's, the story of how they fell in love and got together, hoping this would bring her back to a lucid state, even if for just a few seconds. That alone is enough to pull at your heart's strings.

This book just proves that love conquers all. Allie's illness is just the last hardship the two lovers have to face. They were separated by World War II and spent years apart, not knowing anything about the other, when Allie came back into Noah's life. Engaged to another man. Everything seems to be against them and you can feel their dilemmas, just as you can feel the deep, everlasting love they have for each other. I also liked that, unlike it happens in many romance novels, sex is not a predominant theme in the book. Yes, there are some sex scenes, but theirs is a union of souls first and foremost, not just of body. That's so refreshing, and so is the fact that the main protagonists are now old. Romance in elderly years is not something you find very often in books these days.

I also love the way Nicholas Sparks writes. Before reading his books, I was convinced men couldn't write about romance and love. I've read lots of love stories written by men but I found them cold, like something was missing.. Spark's writing style is, instead, almost poetical and he has the ability to make even the smallest things seem special. He also really gets into the head of the protagonists, beautifully expressing their personalities and feelings. There really is nothing that I didn't enjoy about this book but if I really have to find a fault with it, I'd say that sometimes the pace is quite slow, which is something that some people may find irritating. I thought it suited the story perfectly though.

Summary:
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks is one of my favourite books ever. It tells the story of an old man that's reading from a notebook their love story, and the hardships they had to face to be together, to his Alzheimer's-suffering wife. The story is very moving and it often brought a tear to my eyes. The writing style is beautiful, almost poetical, yet the story is realistic. However, the pace is slow.

Available at: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Nobles

Rating: 5/5

Madame Vigee Lebrun On Madame Du Barry


Madame Du Barry was the last mistress of King Louis XV. After the King's death, she retired to the Château de Louveciennes and it is here that, a few years before the start of the French Revolution, Madame Vigée LeBrun, one of the most famous and successful portraitists of her time, painted the former courtesan. It is also here that she was arrested during the Terror. On 8 December 1793, Madame Du Barry was guillotined. Madame Vigee Lebrun remembers her famous model in her Memoirs:

It was in 1786 that I went for the first time to Louveciennes, where I had promised to paint Mme. Du Barry. She might then have been about forty-five years old. She was tall without being too much so; she had a certain roundness, her throat being rather pronounced but very beautiful; her face was still attractive, her features were regular and graceful; her hair was ashy, and curly like a child's. But her complexion was beginning to fade. She received me with much courtesy, and seemed to me very well behaved, but I found her more spontaneous in mind than in manner: her glance was that of a coquette, for her long eyes were never quite open, and her pronunciation had something childish which no longer suited her age.

She lodged me in a part of the building where I was greatly put out by the continual noise. Under my room was a gallery, sadly neglected, in which busts, vases, columns, the rarest marbles, and a quantity of other valuable articles were displayed without system or order. These remains of luxury contrasted with the simplicity adopted by the mistress of the house, with her dress and her mode of life. Summer and winter Mme. Du Barry wore only a dressing-robe of cotton cambric or white muslin, and every day, whatever the weather might be, she walked in her park, or outside of it, without ever incurring disastrous consequences, so sturdy had her health become through her life in the country. She had maintained no relations with the numerous court that surrounded her so long. In the evening we were usually alone at the fireside, Mme. Du Barry and I. She sometimes talked to me about Louis XV. and his court. She showed herself a worthy person by her actions as well as her words, and did a great deal of good at Louvecienes, where she helped all the poor. Every day after dinner we took coffee in the pavilion which was so famous for its rich and tasteful decorations. The first time Mme. Du Barry showed it to me she said: "It is here that Louis XV. did me the honour of coming to dinner. There was a gallery above for musicians and singers who performed during the meal.


When Mme. Du Barry went to England, before the Terror, to get back her stolen diamonds, which, in fact, she recovered there, the English received her very well. They did all they could to prevent her from returning to but France. But it was not long before she succumbed to the fate in store for everybody who had some possessions. She was informed against and betrayed by a little Negro called Zamore, who is mentioned in all the memoirs of the period as having been overwhelmed with kindness by her and Louis XV. Being arrested and thrown into prison, Mme. Du Barry was tried and condemned to death by the Revolutionary tribunal at the end of 1793. She was the only woman, among all who perished in those dreadful days, unable to face the scaffold with firmness; she screamed, she sued for pardon to the hideous mob surrounding her, and that mob became moved to such a degree that the executioner hastened to finish his task. This has always confirmed my belief that if the victims of that period of execrable memory had not had the noble pride of dying with fortitude the Terror would have ceased long before it did.

I made three portraits of Mme. Du Barry. In the first I painted her at half length, in a dressing-gown and straw hat. In the second she is dressed in white satin; she holds a wreath in one hand, and one of her arms is leaning on a pedestal. The third portrait I made of Mme. Du Barry is in my own possession. I began it about the middle of September, 1789. From Louveciennes we could hear shooting in the distance, and I remember the poor woman saying, "If Louis XV. were alive I am sure this would not be happening." I had done the head, and outlined the body and arms, when I was obliged to make an expedition to Paris. I hoped to be able to return to Louveciennes to finish my work, but heard that Berthier and Foulon had been murdered. I was now frightened beyond measure, and thenceforth thought of nothing but leaving France. 


Further reading:
Memoirs of Madame Vigée Lebrun

Philip De Laszlo Paints Princess Victoria


Philip Alexius de László was a painter born in Budapest in 1869. He became one of the most prolific and famous artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, painting portraits of the powerful, rich and famous of his time, from Kings and Queens to Presidents and Indian chiefs, from musicians to military heroes and even the Pope! He received so many commissions that Lord Selborne, talking about the portraitist asked: "Has any one painter ever before painted so many interesting and historical personages?". In 1907 the painter moved to England.

That year he was summoned to Buckingham Palace to paint the portrait of Princess Victoria, King Edward VII's daughter. One day, the king was present during a sitting and noticed something unusual. On the opposite side of the board De Laszlo was painting on was the portrait of a man he knew! De Laszlo was horrified. He couldn't believe he had been so careless! But the King was amused and said that future historians, when examining the double portrait, would probably assume his daughter and the man had been in love but he had kept them apart! "At least they had the gratification of being on the same board", concluded the King!

Further reading:
DE LA'SZLO': A Brush with Grandeur by Sandra De Laszlo