15 Minutes With Isabella Bradford (aka Susan Holloway Scott)

After years of writing historical fiction, Susan Holloway Scott has gone back to penning historical romances under the name Isabella Bradford. Her latest work, A Sinful Deception, tells the story of Miss Serena Palmer, a noble-born heiress raised in India with a dangerous secret that could destroy her.

When she doesn't write books, Isabella, who lives in a book-filled house outside of Philadelphia, is busy publishing a blog, Two Nerdy History Girls, with her friend and fellow historical romance author Loretta Chase. Filled with all kinds of interesting tidbits about daily life in the past, it's one of my daily must reads.

Want to know more about Isabella? Read on:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
I’d choose the second half of the 18th c., in either England or America. Those are exciting times intellectually and culturally, and as the past goes, it wasn’t the worst time to be a woman. And the clothes are fantastic!

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
When asked that question, most people assume that they’d belong to the elite classes, and choose dinner companions who are likewise rich, titled, or famous. I’ll go the other route, and choose three self-made individuals who, by all reports, were amusing and opinionated: Nell Gwyn, William Hogarth, and Mark Twain. That would be the liveliest, most entertaining dinner conversation EVER.

3. Three books everyone should read?
I’m not that dictatorial. As long as people are reading something, anything, then I’m happy.

4. Who's your style icon?
Hmmm….like most writers, my everyday “uniform” is sadly dependent on yoga pants and t-shirts, but my imaginary closet would be filled with vintage Alexander McQueen. You know, to go with my imaginary life.

5. What are you watching on TV?
I’m not too proud to admit that I have a real weakness for Sleepy Hollow, Top Chef, Call the Midwife, and Project Runway. I also watch a lot of sports: football, hockey, and baseball, depending on the season.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
Top Forty/Dance Pop all the way. Musically, I’ve never outgrown my seventeen-year-old self.

7. What's your favorite holiday destination, and why?
Every year I go to Cape Cod every summer with my family. Because it’s so familiar, the moment we arrive I can instantly begin to relax and recharge, and let the sea work its magic. Best part: no internet. Ahhhh….

8. What inspires you?
History, and art. My latest book, A SINFUL DECEPTION (written as Isabella Bradfor), features a heroine who was born in 18thc. India, the daughter of a nobleman stationed there. Brought to England as an adolescent, she must learn to adapt to the rules of Georgian society while not forgetting her Indian past. For the story, I was influenced by so many things – from the growing British presence in India at the time, to the clothing my characters would have worn, Punch & Judy puppet shows, Mughal jewels, the rules for riding in Hyde Park…the list goes on and on. I’m always trying to work interesting historical details in my books to make them richer.

9. One thing on your bucket list?

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I was a hard-core hockey mom. Really. Both my son and daughter played ice hockey, and for many years I felt as if I was always driving to one rink or another. But I knew how to multi-task: I continued to write on my laptop during practices, sitting on those cold aluminum bleachers.

Thank you Isabella!

For more about what inspires Isabella/Susan and her books, please check out her website and on her Facebook page, plus her blog (written with writer BFF Loretta Chase) Two Nerdy History Girls, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Marie Of Edinburgh, The Last Queen Consort Of Romania

Princess Marie of Edinburgh was the last Queen Consort of Romania. Born on 29 October 1875 in Kent she was the daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and second son of Queen Victoria, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Her father was a service officer in the Royal Navy, so the young princess spent many years of her childhood abroad, most of them in Malta, whose strategic position was vital for the interests of Great Britain.

Marie grew into a beautiful young woman. She had a lot of admirers, including the future King George V. He was so smitten he proposed marriage, but Victorian's Russian mother, never a big fan of the British despite having married one (they were too liberal for her tastes), was totally against the match, so nothing came of it.

Instead, at the tender age of 17, Marie married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, a man she never liked and only grew to hate as the years passed. Their marriage never stood a chance and, after giving her husband three children, Marie embarked on a series of affairs. She had three more children, but Ferdinand is unlikely to have fathered them too.

Marie herself told her father-in-law that her daughter, Mignon, future Queen of Yugoslavia, was fathered by a Russian Grand Duke, but her husband accepted paternity anyway. He did the same for Nicholas, whose real father is believed to have been Waldorf Astor. Instead, her affair with an army lieutenant was stopped by her father-in-law, and the child she gave birth to following the affair disappeared. Maybe it was given up for adoption, but it is also possible the baby was stillborn.

In 1914, Ferdinand and Marie became King and Queen of Romania. Ever pro-British, the Queen helped to stir up support for the war and sympathy for the Allies, hoping Romania would enter the conflict at their side and thus gain a big chunk of Hungarian territory. However, the Romanian army was no match for its enemies and was soon overpowered by an Austro-German offensive.

Bucharest was occupied by the Central Powers and Marie and her family fled to Moldavia. There, the Queen and her three daughters nursed and cared the wounded and sick in hospital. But the country had chosen the right side to fight on, so, when the end to the hostilities was finally announced, the Queen went to Paris to demand more territory. Her wishes were granted, and the Kingdom of Romania almost doubled in size.

Her private life, however, wasn't going so well. Initially very close, Marie and her eldest son Carol, who was spoiled and mentally unstable, grew apart over the years, as they tried to interfere in each other's love lives (Carol had run away and illegally married a commoner during the war). By 1927, when her husband died and her son accessed the throne, the two were estranged.

She dedicated the rest of her life to writing books (fairy tales, travelogues, and her memoirs) and to her religion, Baha’i. According to her words, Marie found in this obscure sect that had originated out of Shia Islam the true spirit of God. She died on 18 July 1938, and was buried next to her much despised husband.

Further reading:
The Last Romantic by Hannah Pakula
The Mad Monarchist

The Dauphin's Character

After the Duchess de Polignac had fled France at the beginning of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette appointed the Marchioness de Tourze as governess to her children. "Madame," said she, "I formerly intrusted my children to friendship; to-day I intrust them to virtue." She then wrote her a letter in which she candidly and honestly described the character of her son, the dauphin Louis Charles, and her own principles and method of education:

July 25th, 1789

My son is four years and four months old, all but two days. I say nothing of his size nor of his general appearance; it is only necessary to see him. His health has always been good, but even in his cradle we perceived that his nerves were very delicate…. This delicacy of his nerves is such that any noise to which he is not accustomed frightens him. For instance, he is afraid of dogs because he once heard one bark close to him; and I have never obliged him to see one, because I believe that, as his reason grows stronger, his fears will pass away. Like all children who are strong and healthy, he is very giddy, very volatile, and violent in his passions; but he is a good child, tender, and even caressing, when his giddiness does not run away with him.

He has a great sense of what is due to himself, which, if he be well managed, one may some day turn to his good. Till he is entirely at his ease with any one, he can restrain himself, and even stifle his impatience and his inclination to anger, in order to appear gentle and amiable. He is admirably faithful when once he has promised any thing, but he is very indiscreet; he is thoughtless in repeating any thing that he has heard; and often, without in the least intending to tell stories, he adds circumstances which his own imagination has put into his head. This is his greatest fault, and it is one for which he must be corrected.

However, taken altogether, I say again, he is a good child; and by treating him with allowance, and at the same time with firmness, which must be kept clear of severity, we shall always be able to do all that we can wish with him. But severity would revolt him, for he has a great deal of resolution for his age. To give you an instance: from his very earliest childhood the word pardon has always offended him. He will say and do all that you can wish when he is wrong, but as for the word pardon, he never pronounces it without tears and infinite difficulty.

I have always accustomed my children to have great confidence in me, and, when they have done wrong, to tell me themselves; and then, when I scold them, this enables me to appear pained and afflicted at what they have done rather than angry. I have accustomed them all to regard 'yes' or 'no,' once uttered by me, as irrevocable; but I always give them reasons for my decision, suitable to their ages, to prevent their thinking that my decision comes from ill-humor. My son can not read, and he is very slow at learning; but he is too giddy to apply. He has no pride in his heart, and I am very anxious that he should continue to feel so.

Our children always learn soon enough what they are. He is very fond of his sister, and has a good heart. Whenever any thing gives him pleasure, whether it be the going anywhere, or that any one gives him any thing, his first movement always is to ask that his sister may have the same. He is light-hearted by nature. It is necessary for his health that he should be a great deal in the open air; and I think it is better to let him play and work in the garden on the terrace, than to take him longer walks. The exercise which children take in running about and playing in the open air is much more healthy than forcing them to walk, which often makes their backs ache.

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Book Reviews: Wicked Women, After Acts, Andy Warhol, & Plucked

Hello everyone,

what have you been reading lately? Here are my picks:

Wicked Women: Notorious, Mischievous, and Wayward Ladies from the Old West by Chris Enss
During the late nineteenth century, while men were rushing to the Old West in search of gold and land, women of easy virtue, prostitutes, and gamblers, knowing there was a lot of money to be made, followed suit. Treated as outcasts and despised by polite society, these fallen women led tragic and adventurous lives, marred by crime and violence. Few chose the lives they led. Single women were very vulnerable back then, and many turned to a life of prostitution, professional gambling, and crime only after they were widowed, left orphaned, or were abandoned by their husbands. Resourceful and bold, a lot of them found ways to thrive in the Old West, but they all paid a high price for it.
The book introduces us to many wicked women, from the infamous Calamity Jane and Belle Starr, to lesser-known figures such as Josie Washburn, Nebraska's Reluctant Madame, and Ella Watson, Wyoming Cattle Baroness. Their stories make some fascinating and interesting reading. It's true that after a while, they tend to look somewhat similar, but that's no fault of the author. On the contrary, the similarities just bring home how few options these women had.
Very engaging, this short book flows easily, holding the reader's interest till the end. If you're interested in the wicked women of the Old West, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles by Bryan Litfin
What happened to the disciples of Jesus once the Bible was finished? Did Luke really write the Gospel that bears his name and signature? Did Thomas found the Indian Church? Was Peter really crucified upside down? New Testament scholar Dr. Bryan Litfin takes a hard, long, and clear look at all the available sources to try and answer these, and more, questions. Drawing mostly from contemporary sources, Liftin explores the myths and legends about these historical figures, and sets them straight.
Although an interesting and fascinating read, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the lack of personal information about each disciple. The chapters about the Evangelists, for example, focus on confirming their authorship of their works, but very little is mentioned about the rest of their lives. I'm not sure Liftin is to blame for that, though. These people lived so long ago that, most of the traces they've left behind, have sadly been destroyed by time. That's certainly the case for some of the lesser known apostles who, here, are just bundled up together in their own chapter, "The Other Apostles".
Despite its scholarly character, the book is very accessible even to casual readers. Informative and straightforward, After Acts is a great introduction to the earliest days of Christinity. Once it's over, you'll want to delve further into the early history of the Church.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Andy Warhol: A Biography by Wayne Koestenbaum
I'm not sure Koestenbaum's new book can be called a biography, at least not in the traditional sense of the term. Personal information about Warhol is intertwined into the narrative, but it always takes a back seat to his work. It's his art, his aesthetic and revolutionary vision, and the influences and impulses behind it that are the main focus of this book.
The book is divided in three parts. The first is dedicated to his early year and his work as illustrator and pop artist. The second, and longest, part focuses on the Factory, the people who were part of it, and the sexually charged movies they shot. The last part deals with the last years of the artist's life and his fear that he had lost his creativity.
Koenstenbaum skilfully brings the real Andy Warhol, with all his many contradictions back to life. And there were many contradictions. His art sizzles with sexuality, yet he was ashamed of his body. He loved the rock'n'roll lifestyle, yet he chose to live with his mother. He was a painter, but automated his working process as much as possible. He was afraid of aging, but started wearing a silver wig when he was still young.
Koestenbaum also makes Warhol's art accessible to everyone. He explains how Warhol's personal experiences shaped his art, where his obsessions with celebrity, money, death, sex, and time, which permeates all his work, came from, and why, still now, he remains a very controversial artist. If you've never been a fan, you may become one afterwards. If not, you'll get a better sense of how and why this weird and controversial man managed to revolutionize the art world.
Insightful and engaging, I recommend it to all those interested in Andy Warhol and modern art.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M Herzig
Who knew the history of hair removal in the US was so interesting? Removing body hair is a common, widespread practice that we all take for granted, but it wasn't always like this. This practice is not even 100 years old! Once upon a time, smooth, shaved skin was a sign of inferiority. The Europeans who both settled and visited America were surprised to find Indians had no hair on their bodies, and wondered whether it was due to nature or artifice. But pretty much all of them considered it weird, and just further proof of their innate superiority over the Native Americans. Back then, a big beard was a sign of masculinity and pride for a man, and those who married Indian women encouraged them to stop shaving below the neck. Only women with too much hair on their faces shaved, often with concoctions that were dangerous.
Then, things changed. As the evolutionary theory took old, an abundance of hair became associated with some deep, violent, animal instinct, insanity, and criminality (scientists even tried to prove a link between hirsutism and madness!). Smooth skin was now in. There was a lot of money to be made in this new business, so soon new methods of hair removal emerged. Pastes and waxes, which often left women scarred, became widely available in shops. Razors were improved to make them more effective and less dangerous. And when people realised x-rays made hair fall, salons started offering this treatment all over the country. Then, lasers were invented. But since then, research into new hair removal methods has stalled.
In Plucked, Herzig skilfully described how science, medicine, industry, and even porn shifted and shaped Americans' attitudes to body hair and the lengths they go to get rid of it. The topic may not be that pleasant, but Herzig makes it engaging. And this, despite the fact she writes in an academic tone. If you'd like to know more about why you (or the women in your life) are removing body hair, and why, despite the technological advances of the past decades, hair removal methods have remained quite rudimentary, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Does any of these books intrigue you?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Was The Dark Countess Really Marie Therese Of France?

In 1807, a mysterious couple arrived in Hildburghausen, Germany. The young, blonde-haired woman always wore a veil to cover her face. Her companion, an older man, had an aristocratic air, and acted as her protector. His name, the one scribbled on the letters he received, was Count Vavel de Versay. He was later identified as Dutch diplomat Leonardus Cornelius van der Valck. The woman had no name. Only after her death, the Count referred to her as "Sophie Batta", a "poor orphan". But her true identity still remains a mystery.

The young woman was soon nicknamed the Dark Countess by the townsfolk. Rumours started spreading that the poor orphan was none other than Marie Therese of France, daughter of the unfortunate Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and the only member of her immediate family to have survived the revolution. According to this theory, the young princess had been raped and impregnated while in prison, and so was sent to the small German town, while her place next to her uncle, Louis XVIII was taken by her "half-sister" Ernestine, the illegitimate daughter of Louis XVI.

What made people think that the Dark Countess and Marie Therese were the same person? For starters, the couple were heard talking in French. Servants at the castle they resided at claimed her laundry was embroidered with the fleur-de-lys, a symbol of the Bourbons. One of them even boasted of catching a glimpse of the countess' face and recognizing the French princess. And the Marie Therese that was restored to her family after her imprisonment simply wasn't as pretty and charming as her mother Marie Antoinette had been. So, she had to be an impostor. But was she?

No. The Dark Countess theory may be intriguing, but it's also easy to debunk. Too many things jut don't add up and are easily disproved. Here are the most glaring problems with this theory:

1. Louis XVI had no illegitimate children
Louis XVI was a deeply pious man, with a high sense of duty and moral standards. He was very devoted both to his Catholic religion and his wife. The idea that such a man would betray his religious beliefs and marriage vows is preposterous. There is no evidence that he was ever unfaithful to his wife, but there is plenty that he rebuffed all his courtiers' attempts to provide him with mistresses so that, through these women, they could exercise control over matters of governments.

Some historians, such as Dr Nagel, author of Marie-Therese: The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter, believe that Louis XVI, curious to find out "who would be at fault if his wife did not conceive", had an affair with a young chambermaid called Philippine de Lambriquet, and got her pregnant with Ernestine.

This theory just doesn't make sense, and not only because it would have been totally out of character for Louis XVI to have an affair. Philippine was married and, as Nagel herself admitted, because of that "Louis was still not certain of his own fertility". If you wanted to be sure that you could get a woman pregnant, why would you choose a married one? That totally defies the purpose.

Especially because Louis had a virgin wife. Wouldn't it have made more sense for the King to try and conceive a child with Marie Antoinette and, only if that failed, test who was at fault (although I personally highly doubt that, even in that case, he would have committed adultery)? Once the marriage was consummated, Marie Antoinette conceived fairly quickly, so there was no need to test anything at all.

So, who was Ernestine? The child of servants. When her parents died, Marie Antoinette adopted her. Marie Antoinette loved children, and adopted at least two more. Ernestine and Marie Therese grew up together and were very close, but they weren't half-sisters.

2. Ernestine remained in France
Historical records show that Ernestine married widower Jean-Charles-Germain Prempain in Paris on 7 December 1810. She died in the same city three years later, aged only 35. Therefore, she couldn't have been the Dark Countess.

3. Different personalities and experiences
One of the main reasons why the substitution theory always had many supporters is due to Marie Therese's sad and morose character and her lack of beauty. A lot of people just couldn't believe that this broken woman was the daughter of the beautiful and charming Marie Antoinette. But Marie Antoinette and Marie Therese were different people. Just because they were mother and daughter doesn't mean that Marie Therese had to automatically inherit her Marie Antoinette's most famous qualities.

Most importantly, Marie Antoinette didn't have to endure imprisonment and the assassinations of all her immediately family during her most formative years (although, had she survived the revolution, she would have been left very scarred too). Marie Antoinette's life, once she set her dainty little foot in France, certainly wasn't easy, but it wasn't, until the revolution broke out, even overly traumatic. Marie Therese was barely a teenager when her family was imprisoned. One by one, she saw all the members of her family taken away by the revolutionaries, never to see them again. She had to endure all sorts of deprivations, insults and abuse.

We know now that experiencing traumatic events like this as a child or adolescent can, according to scientific studies, cause changes in the brain. Marie Therese, after her release, showed signs of post traumatic stress disorder, whose symptoms include anxiety attacks, memory problems (blocking out certain events resulting in incongruities in the victims' own stories) and avoidance of certain people and places (she never liked being in a crowd and always avoided passing by the site where her parents were guillotined).

Although PTSD wasn't known at the time (at least not with this name), a lot of people who had gone through harrowing experiences suffered from it. That such events left scars difficult or impossible to heal would hardly have surprised anyone. What's surprising, then but especially now, is that people still expected Marie Therese to grow up into a lively and gay woman. In the past, people may have believed that you could simply grow out of it, but now we know it just doesn't work that way. So, why is this still used as "proof" of the substitution?

4. An impossible hoax to pull off

To successfully pull off the substitution, Ernestine would have had to be an amazing actress. Apparently, she fooled all the members of the Bourbon family and loyal friends and supporters who had known the real Marie Therese since birth, as well as everyone else who had met the princess. For no one to question her identity, she must have never slipped up or made a mistake. That's highly unlikely. And if someone suspected something, why didn't they say anything? Were they bought off? With what money? After the Revolution, the Bourbons spent many years in exile, living off other people's charity. And what political purpose would this charade have served anyway?

In 2013, the body of Sophie Batta was exhumed so that DNA tests could be carried out. The mysterious woman has since then been reburied, but I couldn't find any information on whether the tests were performed and, if so, with what results. I hope that, when they will be made public, we can finally put this myth to rest forever.

Further reading:
Marie-Therese: The Fate Of Marie Antoinette's Daughter by Susan Nagel

Historical Reads: Anne Boleyn Portraits – Which is the True Face of Anne Boleyn?

Anne Boleyn is one of the most important women in English history. She was the catalyst for the Reformation, which changed the history of the country forever. Yet, we know so little about her. We ignore her date of birth and who was really responsible for her death, and don't even know what she looked like.

Some portraits and sketches that allegedly represent Anne Boleyn have emerged, but no one knows for sure which one, if any, is accurate. Over at The Anne Boleyn Files, Claire Ridgway examines them all and shares her own conclusions. To quote:

Argument for Holbein’s Sketch

In their article “An old tradition reasserted: Holbein’s portrait of Queen Anne Boleyn”, John Rowlands and David Starkey argue that the chalk drawing by Hans Holbein, inscribed “Anna Bollein Queen”, is the true face of Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey state that although this sketch has been rejected in the past by the likes of K T Parker, who argued that “the features show . .. no resemblance whatever with the well authenticated drawing of Anne Boleyn in Lord Bradford’s possession”, the Holbein drawing could be Anne because:-

  • It matches some contemporary descriptions of Anne Boleyn, e.g. a French account of Anne’s entry into London on the 31st May 1533 (her coronation) described her as scrofulous (scrofula is s form of tuberculosis affecting the lymph nodes, especially of the neck) and wearing a dress which was fastened high up on the throat to hide this swelling. Starkey and Rowlands note that “in the drawing her double chin is so pronounced as to suggest such a swelling of the throat glands, which is indeed partly hidden by a high neckline.”
  • The sitter’s dress – Rowlands and Starkey note that the sitter is in a state of undress and is just wearing a chemise with a furred nightgown and an undercap. They believe that “only a woman of the very highest rank could have taken such a liberty in court circles” and that it speaks of the “royalty” of the sitter.
  • The inscription “Anna Bollein Queen” – They state that, according to the Lumley Inventory, this inscription was “subscribed” by Sir John Cheke, Edward VI’s tutor and friend of William Butts, Henry VIII’s physician and a man whose patron was Anne Boleyn. Rowlands and Starkey write “Cheke must have known Anne, and most of those he lived and worked with at court would have known her too. Of all the identifications he made it seems inconceivable that he could have been mistaken about this one.”

Arguments Against Holbein’s Sketch

In his article “A Reassessment of Queen Anne Boleyn’s Portraiture”, Roland Hui argues that “it seems unlikely that Anne with her much commented upon sense of style would have permitted to be depicted as such” and that “to believe that Anne was goitrous (not to mention deformed by a large wart says the writer), one would also have to accept the ridiculous fiction that at her crowning she also wore a dress covered with a sinister motif of tongues pierced with nails ‘to show the treatment which those who spoke against her might expect.’ ” I have to agree with Hui, I cannot believe that a man like Henry VIII would wait 7 years and break with Rome for the woman pictured in that chalk sketch. I know that Anne was not a classic beauty but she was known for her magnetism and her style, which is sadly lacking in that sketch.

In “The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn”, Eric Ives points out that Sir John Cheke, who was said to have identified the sketch as Anne Boleyn, was incorrect in several of his identifications of other portraits, so “the Cheke story is suspect”. Ives also argues against the British museum Holbein sketch and the chalk drawing being Anne Boleyn because the portrait medal of 1534, the only contemporary likeness of Anne Boleyn, shows a long and oval face with high cheekbones, features that just aren’t there in the sketches.

To read the entire article, click here.

Anne Marie D'Orléans, First Queen Of Sardinia

Little remembered today Anne Marie d'Orléans was the first Queen consort of Sardinia, the maternal grandmother of Louis XV of France, and an important figure in British history.

Born on August 27, 1669, at the Chateau de Saint-Cloud, France, Anne Marie was the daughter of Duke Philippe I of Orleans, the younger brother of King Louis XIV, and his wife Princess Henrietta of England, youngest child of the unfortunate Charles I of England. Anne Marie barely knew her mother. Princess Henrietta died the following year, leaving all those who knew her, but her husband, devastated. Philippe didn't waste any time to remarry. A year later, he tied the knot with Princess Palatine Elizabeth Charlotte. Elizabeth was a good stepmother to Anne Marie, whom she described as "one of the most amiable and virtuous of women." The two soon became very close.

When Marie was 14, the King, with the help of the comtesse de Verrué, the bridegroom's mistress and mother of his two children, arranged her marriage to Duke Victor Amadeus II of Savoy, hoping the alliance would help maintain French influence in the north of Italy. In May 1684, the princess said goodbye to her family and left her native country to start a new life with her husband. Two years later, she gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Princess Maria Adelaide, (she would later become Dauphine of France and mother of Louis XV). The birth was so traumatic that, for a while, it was thought Anne Marie would die. She even received the last rights before, thankfully, she recovered. But the experience didn't stop her from fulfilling her conjugal duties, and she gave her husband five more children. She would also devotedly nurse him back to health when he contracted smallpox.

Anne Marie was very close to her pro-French mother-in-law, Marie Jeanne, much to her husband's chagrin. Marie Jeanne had relinquished her position and power as regent only after Victor Amadeus' marriage, and he now saw the friendship between his mother and wife as a political threat. Still, that didn't prevent him from fighting against France in the War of the Spanish succession. It must have been a very difficult time for Anne Marie, who had relatives fighting on both sides. Eventually, the war was brought directly on her doorstep. Anne Marie, together with her younger sons, was forced to flee Turin while her husband stayed behind to defend the city besieged by her French and Spanish troops led by her half-brother, the Duke of Orléans, and her son-in-law, King Philip V of Spain.

It seemed an impossible task, but Victor Amadeus managed to hold out long enough for the Prussians and Russians troops to come to his rescue. For his effort, he was rewarded with a crown. When the war ended in 1713, Victor Amadeus became king of the Kingdom of Sicily, formerly a Spanish possession, but was forced to trade it in 1720 for the less prestigious Kingdom of Sardinia. By then his eldest son had died. His loss had plunged his parents into a severe depression.

In 1714, when Queen Anne of England died, Anne Marie, thanks to the Stuart blood of her mother, became the heiress presumptive to the Jacobite claim to the thrones of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The crown had passed to the Protestant George I, but Prince James Francis Edward Stuart, son of the deposed King James II, still had hopes to regain his father's throne. Anne Marie was his heir but was displaced in 1720 with the birth of James' son Prince Charles Edward Stuart, better known to history as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Queen Anne Marie died of heart failure at her villa on 26 August 1728, one day before turning 59. She was buried at the Basilica of Superga in Turin, where all her children but two also rest.

Further reading:
A Rose of Savoy, Marie Adelaide of Savoy, duchesse de Bourgogne , Mother of Louis XV by H Noel Williams
The Mad Monarchist

Fashions For 1855

During the years I showed you a lot of fashion prints that appeared in old magazines to give you an idea of what fashionable ladies would have once worn, but they mostly were from the Regency period. So, when I came across this print of Victorian fashions, I just had the share it:

Blue glacé silk dress, with the moss fringe terminating the flounces and heading the top. Black moire antique polka, made en bretelle - the skirt of the basquine trimmed with a black lace, three quarters in depth. White bonnet, trimmed with short white feathers.

Dress of gray silk, trimmed with three flounces, ornamented with violet velvet; bretelles of the same, on the waist - which is made high, and has a deep frill round it. Undersleeves and collar of Honiton; cap composed of several rows of narrow Maltese lace, with rosettes of narrow inch wide scarlet velvet.

Do you like these outfits? Would you have worn them?

Further reading:
Graham's American Monthly Magazine of Literature, Art, and Fashion, Volumi 46-47

Book Reviews: The Match Girl And The Heiress, The Many Faces Of Josephine Baker, Saved By The Bang, & Lewis Carroll The Man And His Circle

Hello everyone,

curious to see what I've been reading lately? Let's get started then:

The Match Girl and the Heiress by Seth Koven
Nellie Dowell, the daughter of a sailor who drowned at sea when she was only 5, was taken away from her mother, who couldn't afford to keep her anymore, and sent to live in a poorhouse. She never had a childhood. Muriel Lester, the daughter of a well-off ship-builder, never lacked for anything. Her childhood was peaceful and full of love. Nellie started working in the match-making industry at an early age and, thanks to her job, was able to travel to New Zealand and Sweden. Muriel travelled the world too, but as a Christian peacemaker and humanitarian. Nellie struggled financially all her life. Muriel considered her wealth a burden and wanted to be free of it.
The match girl and the heiress met, and became friends, in the slums of East London, where they created Kingsley Hall, Britain's first "people's house" founded on the Christian principles of social sharing and pacifism and Gandhi's home while in London, and tried to bring about economic and social justice, using the Sermon on the Mount as their guide.
This book is a wonderful account of the very different lives of these women, their close friendship, and their hard work for a common ideal they strongly believed in, in a world torn apart by war, imperialism, and industrial capitalism.
Although not a light read, the book is fascinating and engrossing, and provides valuable insights into a little known aspect of turn of the century history in England and London. Well-written and researched, I highly recommend it to those who are interested in this historical period, the lives of the working classes, and anyone who wants to understand our modern world better.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Many Faces of Josephine Baker: Dancer, Singer, Activist, Spy by Peggy Caravantes
Young adults know Josephine Baker as a cabaret performer and jazz singer, if at all. But Josephine Baker was so much more than that. She worked as a spy, at a great risk for her safety, during World War II, and became a civil rights and human rights activist. Her belief that people of all races and religions could live peacefully together led her to adopt 12 children from different parts of the world. They were known as the Rainbow Tribe.
But Josephine was no saint. She had a fiery temper, little education, too much pride, no idea how to manager her money, and didn't hesitate to dump people when she didn't need them anymore. She often comes across as unpleasant, but her shortcomings were more the result of a difficult childhood and poor education than meaniness. An example? She allowed Peron to use her as a propaganda tool, making statements that outraged the Western World. Although her heart was in the right place, her lack of education left her vulnerable and didn't always allow her to see things clearly. But her faults make her all the more human and relatable.
Despite being written for a young adult audience, the book is not dumbed down. It doesn't gloss over her flaws, nor over the many challenges, racism and abuse Josephine had to face in her life. But it deals with them in a way that is suitable for this age group.
Well-written and researched, the book also features beautiful pictures, informative sidebars on relevant topics such as 1917 East St. Louis riot, and an appendix that updates readers on what happened to the Rainbow Tribe. Overall, it's a wonderful introduction to this remarkable woman that I highly recommend to all those who aren't very familiar with her life and work.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Saved By The Bang by Marina Julie Neary
Belarus, 1980s. Antonia Olenski, PhD, a catty half-Jewish pianist, is married to local celebrity and composer Joseph, but is enjoying the attentions of the dashing tenor Nicholas. Their love triangle is broken up by the Chernobyl disaster, which forces Antonia to evacuate the city with her daughter Maryana. When she returns to the Gomel Music Academy, she discovers her job has been given to someone else. She's been demoted, but is determined to regain her crown.
Saved By The Bang is a dark nuclear comedy. The characters continually struggle with adversity, in a world where abuse, adultery, and deceit are common, even normal. Even the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl and its aftermath don't faze them. People are falling ill and babies born with disabilities, but they get on with life as if nothing had happened. Their reactions to events are often absurd... or not? Although they don't react as you expect them to, their reactions are realistic. Getting on with life despite everything, cheating, adapting, and fighting back, are all ways to survive in a world where you are often on your own.
The novel is very politically incorrect, sharp, and laced with dark humour that portrays the human condition in all its rawness, misery, absurdity, and glory. If that's your thing, you'll love this.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Lewis Carroll: The Man and his Circle by Edward Wakeling
For most people, Lewis Carroll is simply the author of Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. But Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, his real name and the one Wakeling uses throughout his biography, was a very complex man. Blessed with a vivid imagination which he used to create stories to entertain first his siblings and then the world, Dodgson was also an Anglican deacon, mathematician, logician, amateur photographer, artist, and supporter of the arts. He was also a devoted son and brother who took care of his unmarried sisters, a loyal friend and a man who enjoyed a vast social circle.
It's the people he cared about and associated with - his family, his friends, his colleagues, his associates, and his acquaintances - that are the real focus of this book. These included his parents, child friend Alice Liddell, artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Millais, poet Alfred Tennyson, publisher MacMillan, and a lot more. Drawing upon his personal database of nearly 6,000 letters, mostly never before published, Wakeling examines the relationships Dodgson had with the people he knew, loved, admired, and worked with. Because each chapter is dedicated to a different group of people (one for his family, one for his child friends, and so on) the book doesn't follow a strict chronological order. Yet, the reader never becomes confused about dates and events.
Lewis Carroll: The Man And His Circle provides fascinating insights that improve our understanding of the life of this Victorian man and the time he lived in and help us debunk common myths. But it is no easy read. I found the writing style often dry, especially when new characters are introduced. Making genealogical information sound interesting is always challenging, but it's like the author never even tried to make such passages readable.
But I had a bigger problem with the book. Wakeling is obviously passionate about Dodgson, and I can easily see why. His love for the Victorian author permeates the book, but also turns Dodgson into a one dimensional, positive, character. Wakeling is so busy defending him from all the nasty, unfounded charges that have been thrown at him throughout the centuries that he never mentions any of his flaws. While I don't believe he was the monster some people believe he was, he wasn't a saint either. Not one is perfect, and mentioning his flaws would have allowed the reader to better relate to Dodgson.
So, would I recommend this book? If you don't know much about Lewis Carroll and are looking for a full biography of the author, nope. This ain't it. But if you want to know more about the people he associated with, then, despite his flaws, you'll find this book a treasure trove of valuable information. And if you're a die-hard Carroll fan, this book is a must.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3.5/5

What do you think of these books? Will you pick up one or two?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Can I Ask You A Favour?

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Movie Review: Northanger Abbey (1986)

I always thought that, out of all Jane Austen's works, Northanger Abbey was the easiest to adapt in a movie. It is the most faced-paced, light-hearted, and features a Gothic element that works really well on screen. Yet, the 1986 film adaptation of this work falls short on so many levels. Where to start?

The movie is told through Catherine Morley's eyes. As she fantasises a lot, we are treated to a lot of Gothic scenes, in which a helpless Catherine is saved from her enemies by a dashing hero. This scary element could have really added to the story, but it is so overused here to make the whole movie almost look like a cheap horror flick. That's even more true because these fantasy scenes take up so much time that there just isn't enough left to dedicate to the rest of the plot, which has been horribly cut and mangled.

Catherine meets Henry Tilney at a ball. But the whole occasion is cut so short that the viewer is left wondering what Catherine sees in him. John Thorpe, on the other hand, is present even too much at the beginning. The way he follows Catherine around everywhere, both with his eyes and body, is more reminiscent of a stalker than a suitor. And then, all of a sudden, he disappears. The friendship between Catherine and Isabella was developed too quickly too. One day they meet, the next Isabella reveals her love for James, and then the young man rushes to his parents to obtain their permission to marry.

I could cite many more examples, but these are enough to give you an idea of how many important scenes were removed to make room for Catherine's Gothic dreams. They are a huge part of her personality, but if the movie-makers thought them so important, then they should have made the movie longer to fit everything in nicely. As it is, those who haven't read the book are left wondering why the characters are acting the way they are. Why is Catherine interested in Henry? Why is John Thorpe interested in Catherine? Why is General Tilney so eager for Catherine to marry his son? Good luck figuring that out just by watching the movie.

A lot of the humour that makes Northanger Abbey such a wonderful satire of Gothic novels and pre-Regency society is also missing in the movie. The most obvious example of this? Henry Tilney's characterization. A witty and charming young man, he's a total bore in this movie. He spends more time preaching than charming Catherine, which is why it is so difficult to see what she finds in him. But at least Peter Firth did a decent job with the material he was given. He's a great actor, and it's not his fault if his Henry isn't as brilliant as the Henry Austen penned.

What to say of the setting, costumes, and music? They are as beautiful as they are out of place. How could anyone think it was a good idea to choose Bodiam Castle as the location for the Northanger Abbey? Were there no abbeys available? The costumes are quite pretty, but a lot of characters wear things I doubt they would have been able to afford. And the ladies wear way too much makeup. The effect is nice, just not realistic. Ilona Sekacs' score is a mixture of period music, new age, and synthesizers. Pretty and haunting, but hardly evokes the time period. I like the music, but I don't think it is right for this movie.

So, didn't I like anything about it? Well, I think all the actors, not just Firth, did their best with what they had to work with. The whole cast was excellent, but not enough to save the movie. Overall, this was a huge disappointment.

Did you see this adaptation? If so, what do you think of it?

Humphry Davy

When we think of a scientist, we conjure up images of a very smart, but sad, serious man who never laughs nor smiles. Well, not Humphry Davy. He had a penchant for laughing gas and often inhaled it with his friends for fun. In his defence, he also thought the gas could have some beneficial properties that, when discovered, could be used to perform surgical operations and relieve hangovers. But he experimented so much with it that he became addicted. It was said that the experiment room in his house was built just so that he and his friends could throw laughing gas parties!

But I'm getting ahead of the story. Humphrey Davy was born at Penzance in Cornwall, on 17 December 1778. When he was 9, the family moved to Varfell, near Ludgvan, but during the school term, the young boy boarded with John Tonkin, his mother's godfather. He finished his education at Truro Grammar School, but no one there realised just how bright he was. Maybe it's because the education he received wasn't that great. He later said: "I consider it fortunate I was left much to myself as a child, and put upon no particular plan of study... What I am I made myself."

Davy dabbled for a while in poetry, and even painted a bit but, after he was apprenticed to a surgeon, his passion for science bloomed. He love conducting experiments, much to everyone else's vexation. He almost blew up his house several times, and the ladies also lamented the chemicals he used would ruin their dresses beyond repair. But, through his job, Davy also met other men interested in the sciences.

One of these, Dr Thomas Beddoes, offered him a position as his assistant at the Pneumatic Institution, an organization that studied the medical properties of gases. It's here that Davy became fascinated with laughing gas. During this period, he also became friends with other famous and influential people of his time, such as the inventor James Watt and poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. He also conducted experiments on galvanisms, and managed, through chemistry, to generate electric light. A pioneer in the field of electrolysis, he used the voltaic pile to split compounds, and thus discovered new elements, such as potassium, sodium, and calcium.

Davy soon attracted the attention of the Royal Institution. He started working there as assistant lecturer in chemistry. Maybe it was because he was goodlooking, or because he liked to perform experiments in front of his audience, but his lectures on galvanism and agricultural chemistry were very popular, even among the ladies. A year after his arrival, he was appointed full lecturer. In November 1804, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, over which he would later preside. He also founded, with other learned gentleman, the Geological Society in 1807 and was even elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1810.

In 1812, the scientist was knighted. That year, he left the Royal Institution and married a wealthy widow, Jane Apreece. The two soon started travelling across Europe. They first went to France, where Napoleon gave him a medal for his electro-chemical work, and then visited Italy, Germany, and Austria. They were planning to go to Greece next, but Napoleon's escape from Elba forced them to change their plans and return hastily to England. Here, he continued his experiments, inventing a lamp that helped coal miners do their job but didn't, unlike the lamps previously used, cause explosions.

In 1819, Davy was awarded a baronetcy, and the following year became President of the Royal Society. He also wrote Consolations in Travel, a compendium of poetry, thoughts on science and philosophy, which, published posthumously, became very popular. In February 1829, while in Italy, he had a stroke. He went to Switzerland, where he died, in Geneva, on 29 May 1829.

Further reading:
Humphry Davy: Science and Power by Knight, David

The Royal Wedding Cake

The 1840 edition of the Mirror Of Literature features a description of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's wedding cake:

This Royal Cake weighed nearly three hundred pounds. It was three yards in circumference, and about fourteen inches in depth, or thickness. It was covered with sugar of the purest white; on the top was the figure of Britannia, in the act of blessing the illustrious bride and bridegroom—somewhat incongruously in the costume of ancient Rome. These figures were eleven inches in height; at the feet of his Serene Highness was the effigy of a dog, to denote fidelity; and, at the feet of the Queen, a pair of turtle-doves, denoting the felicities of the marriage state.

A Cupid, writing in a volume expanded on his knees, the date of the day of the marriage, and various other Cupids sporting and enjoying themselves, as such interesting little individuals generally do. These little figures were well modelled. On the top of the Cake were numerous bouquets of white flowers, tied with true lovers' knots of white satin riband, intended for presents to the guests at the nuptial breakfast.

This important adjunct to the festivities of the Royal Nuptials, was the result of the labours and taste of Mr. J. C. Mauditt, the yeoman confectioner of the Royal Household, and evidenced talents of a superior order.

Book Reviews: Rewire Your Anxious Brain, Uncovering Happiness, The Altruistic Brain, & The Like Switch

Hello everyone,

it's that time of the week again. Yep, time for some book reviews. Enjoy!

Rewire Your Anxious Brain: How to Use the Neuroscience of Fear to End Anxiety, Panic, and Worry by Catherine M. Pittman, Elizabeth M. Karle
I've been suffering with anxiety issues since I was a little girl, and I have read a lot of books on this topic in the past few years, hoping to learn new techniques to help me cope with anxiety every time it rears its ugly head. Rewire Your Anxious Brain is by far the best one I've come across.
As the authors explain, there are two pathways to anxiety. The first is through the amygdala, which acts as a primal response. If you are scared or anxious but don't know why exactly, that's the culprit. The amygdala takes over the part of the brain that makes conscious decisions, so telling someone to get a grip just doesn't work. The other pathway is through the cortex, the center of "worry", which creates anxiety by thinking about all the things that may go wrong in the future. These types of anxieties are different and need to be treated with different techniques. Here, you'll find quite a few. They include meditation, exercise, mindfulness, and planning.
It's true none of these are new and can easily be found in most books about anxiety. But most books don't help you figure out what type of anxiety you have, and explain which techniques will work best for you and which ones won't at all. This one does. That's its strength. If you suffer from anxiety or know someone who does, I highly recommend you pick up a copy. It has the potential to change your life.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Elisha Goldstein
I've suffered from depression on and off for most of my life. Although I'm well now, I always thought I will suffer from more bouts in the future. Dr Elisha Goldstein gave me hope that won't happen. According to him, it is possible to live depression-free. You just have to become more resilient to adversities by helping the brain release its natural antidepressants (who even knew the brain had its own antidepressants?!). How? Mindfulness and compassion.
But, before you can use these techniques, you need to figure out what triggers depression for you. Goldstein will help you figure it out in the first part of the book. In the second part, he introduces the five natural antidepressants produced by our brains, which can be a great alternative, or supplement, to medication. These include mindfulness (the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one's attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment), self-compassion (a state of mind in which you understand your own suffering with an inclination to support yourself), and play (all those activities that don't seem to have a practical purposes but are fun and makes us feel good). Goldstein, with the help of scientific studies, explains how all these techniques are good for us, and teaches us how to use them. Finally, the third and last part, titled The Natural Antidepressant Tool Kit, features lots of practical tips on how to implement everything you've learnt in the book. They include yoga poses, exercises to change your mindset from one of fear to one of growth and purpose, and strategies to stick to healthy habits.
Golstein explains everything clearly. He writes in an engaging, compassionate, and straightforward way that makes the book a pleasure to read. Informative and insightful, Uncovering Happiness is one of the best books that I've read about depression. I highly recommend it to all those who are suffering from it, their families, and their therapists too.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4.5/5

The Altruistic Brain: How We Are Naturally Good by Donald W Pfaff
The media love bad, negative stories. Every day we are bombarded with news of wars, rapes, murders, frauds, and all sorts of crimes. TV shows portray friends, family members, and significant others constantly hurting each other for personal gain to make their storylines more interesting. In this negative environment, it is easy to believe that human beings are intrinsically bad and need a police state and strict rules to behave and not harm others. Most religions believe this too. But not science. The latest research in neuroscience hints at the exact opposite. Humans are hard-wired to be kind to others.
Human beings are social animals. Therefore, to survive, we need to collaborate and empathize with one another. That's why we developed hormones and neural mechanisms that help promote prosocial behaviour. These mechanisms help explain why some people risk their lives to save perfect strangers, but also why we do small favours to those around us. Such behaviours are spontaneous. We do these things without even thinking about them.
Although scientific research in this area is still in its infancy, Pfaff's theory is very fascinating and could, as suggested in the second part of the book, provide new approaches on how people, from all walks of life and cultures and with very different opinion could collaborate to solve problems that affect all of us.
My only problem with the book is that Pfaff pays a lot of attention to nature and very little to nurture. As he's a neuroscientist, I guess that's to be expected. But it is undeniable the environment in which you are raised as a huge influence on your behaviour. That's why I look forward to further research that links both nature and nurture to provide a more complete picture.
Even so, the book is a very interesting read. And a very engaging one too. Don't let the term neuroscience scare you. There are no difficult words or concepts here to put off those without a scientific background. Pfaff writes in a very straightforward and simple way that makes his theory accessible to anyone. Highly recommended.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over by Jack Schafer, Marvin Karlins
As a Special Agent for the FBI, Dr. Jack Schafer profiled and interrogated terrorists and created strategies to detect deception. A big part of his job was to study human behaviour to figure out how to get criminals to trust him so they would confess their crimes and how to tell when they weren't completely honest with him. A lot of the things he learned can be applied to daily life to make friends, ace job interviews, and just start conversations with strangers without being awkward.
The book starts with the friendship formula, which explains what factors create and cement friendships. Then, Schafer focuses on body language and tone of voice, showing us how important it is to be able to read the non-verbal cues in a conversation so that, if something is wrong, we can fix it. But he also focuses on text messages and online communications when you can't see the other person's face. Communication then is trickier, but there are ways to make it work smoothly, and also to figure out if the other person is not being honest with us, even without reading his/her body language.
Written in an engaging, simple way, The Like Switch is an interesting and fascinating read that will help you better communicate and become friends with anyone.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

Industry And Idleness

Industry and Idleness was a common theme for many prints in the 18th century. The most famous example is Hogarth's. His series features 12 plates, which were just engraved and never painted, each of which has a Biblical quotation relevant to the scene:


"The drunkard shall come to poverty, and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags." - Proverbs, chap. xxiii. verse 21.

"The hand of the diligent maketh rich." — Proverbs, chap. x. verse 4.

A silk-weaver of Spitalfields has hired two apprentices. Although their work is the same, their personalities and attitudes couldn't be more different. Francis is hard-working and diligent. He's completely absorbed in his work, which he learnt how to do well by reading the "'Prentice's Guide," which lies pristine at his feet. By the wholesome ballads of the London "Prentice, Whittingham the Mayor, eyc" that hang behind him, we understand that, when he's not working, he's employed in activities that improve his mind and spirit.

Thomas, on the other hand, likes his drink and dislikes his work. Overpowered by beer, he has fallen asleep right in front of his masters' eyes. His copy of the "'Prentice Guide", which lies on the floor, is all torn and ruined, and not by excessive perusal but by neglect. On the wall behind him he hanged "The Ballad of Moll Flanders", which shows us that, when he's not working, he's spending his free time in bad company, doing bad things that will bring him to his ruin.


"O how I love thy law; it is my meditation all the day." — Psalm cxix. verse 97.

A devout Christian, the industrious apprentice is attending divine service in the same pew with his master's daughter. Their singing out a hymnal. Next to them, a man is falling asleep, but is still "adding" to the music with his snoring.


"Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools." - Proverbs, chap. xix. verse 29.

Thomas has gone to church too, but not to pray. In fact, he hasn't even set foot inside. He's in the church-yard with a bunch of friends, gambling on a tomb-stone. The game they are playing is called hustle-cap, which was very popular at the time. Thomas is trying to cheat by concealing some of the half-pence under the broad brim of his hat. Not even the skulls and bones at his feet, or the beadle behind him, about to strike him with a cane for his tardiness and insolence can distract him from the game.


"Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things." - Matthew, chap. xxv. verse 21.

Thanks to his strong work ethic, deep piety, and steady conduct, Francis becomes a favourite with his master. He's been promoted and is now in the counting-house, entrusted with the books, and receiving and giving orders. His master obviously trusts him with his money and gold, knowing Francis won't cheat nor steal from him. The master is behind him, and has a hand on his shoulder, a pose that shows the two men like each other and get along well. The good feelings between the two men are also represented by the gloves on the desk. A plate of Industry Taking Time by the fore-lock reminds the viewer to make the best use of time before it quickly slips away.


"A foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." - Proverbs, chap. x. verse 1.

Tired of his idle apprentice, the master has fired him. Thomas has then been sent to sea, where, removed from his wicked friends and their evil influence, he'll be able to reform his ways. In the plate, he's making his way to the vessel in which he is to embark. His poor widowed mother, who has come to say goodbye, is sad at his departure. The waterman directs his attention to a figure on a gibbet, which will be his fate if he doesn't change his ways. A body is showing him a cat-o'-nine-tails, which was used on ships to enforce discipline. But Thomas, rather than being moved by their sorrow and admonitions, makes fun of them, and even casts his indenture in the water.


"The virtuous woman is a crown to her husband." - Proverbs, chap. xiii. verse 4.

Francis has been rewarded for his virtue. Not only has he become partner with his master, but has even married his daughter. It's the day after the wedding, as we can infer from Francis paying their drummers who, according to ancient custom, have come to congratulate the couple. Leftovers from the wedding feast are given to the poor.


"The sound of a shaken leaf shall chase him." - Leviticus, chap. xxvi. verse 26.

Thomas has returned from sea, but his long voyage has done nothing to change him for the better. On the contrary, rather than finding an honest job, he has become a highwayman.He is in bed with his partner, a prostitute, when the noise made by a few bricks dislodged from the chimney by the cat, which he mistakes for his pursuers, wakes him up. He's scared, unlike his woman, who is too busy admiring a ring they have stolen to notice anything else. They're hiding, as can be inferred by the planks against the door and lack of fire in the chimney. On the mantle-piece, we see a few bottle, which remind us of the diseases ever attendant on prostitution.


"With all thy gettings get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her." - Proverbs, chap. iv. verse 7, 8.

This plate is a both a satire on gluttony and an example of the opulence hard work is rewarded with. The industrious and honest Francis has become sheriff of London, and is now dining with the different companies in Guildhall. Everyone is eating with gusto and enjoying their food. Musicians are playing to entertain the diners. The Chamberlain is reading a letter addressed to Francis Goodchild, Esq. Sheriff of London.


"The adulteress will hunt for precious life." - Proverbs, chap. vi. verse 26.

The idle apprentice turned highwayman is in Blood-Bowl House, a then famous house in Chick Lane, Smithfield, frequented by prostitutes, thieves, and murderers. Thomas and his accomplices have just killed a man, and while one of them is hiding his body underground, the others are dividing the booty. But he won't be able to enjoy it. The prostitute we met in the previous plate is betraying him to a constable for one coin. Meanwhile, in the tavern, men are fighting in a brawl and a syphilitic woman without a nose is serving a mug of something. From the ceiling hangs a rope, an ominous reminder of the destiny that awaits the wicked.


"Thou shalt do no unrighteousness in judgment." - Leviticus, chap. xix. verse 15.

"The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands." - Psalms, chap. ix. verse 16.

The two old apprentices meet again. Thomas is brought before the sitting magistrate, who turns out to be none other than Francis. Now that he is afraid for his life, he seems to repent his actions and the wicked company he kept, and is begging the magistrate for mercy. But the law is clear. There is no mercy for murderers. Only death. Thomas's mother is pleading for his life too, but to no avail. In the meantime, a clerk is taking a bribe not to notice that a witness is swearing his oath with the wrong hand, thus making his testimony worthless.


"When fear cometh as desolation, and their destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress cometh upon them, then shall they call upon God, but he will not answer." - Proverbs, chapter i. verse 7, 8.

Thomas is being brought to the scaffold in a cart that also carries his coffin. He's followed by the sheriff's officers on horseback and an Ordinary in a coach, who is not very attentive to his duty. The crowd come to assist the execution is full of wicked folks too. A man picks the pocket of a man selling cakes. An old woman is drinking gin. A man is indecently helping up a girl into a cart. A solider sank up to his knees in a bog, while two boys are laughing at him. People are getting trampled over and hurt. A woman is beating a man for throwing down her child. The executioner is smoking up a pipe without giving a second thought to what he is about to do. A pigeon, which was bred at the goal, is let off and is flying back to Newgate. That was an old custom to give an early notice to the keeper and others, of the turning off or death of the criminal.


"Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour." Proverbs, chap. iii. ver. 16.

Francis' fortunes keep rising. He's now made Lord Mayor of London, the greatest reward that city can bestow upon him. He is riding in the Lord Mayor's carriage, holding the sword of state and wearing an outsized top hat. The Prince and Princess of Wales are there too to assist at the ceremony. The crowd is drunken and rowdy. A boy is holding "A full and true account of the ghost of Thomas Idle,", a reminder that both industry and idleness have got their reward.

Further reading:
The Works of William Hogarth: In a Series of Engravings With Descriptions, and a Comment on Their Moral Tendency by John Trusler