Metropolitan Opera (NYC) nightly streams

March 23, 2020 at 6:00 pm (entertainment, news) (, , , )

The Met

From the vaults of the Metropolitan Live in HD broadcasts come NIGHTLY Met Opera streams. Tonight (beginning 7:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time in the US) is TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, starting off a week of Wagner. New opera every day at the same time; each available for 23 hours.

Homebound opera-lovers take note!

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Dress in the Age of Jane Austen (review)

March 21, 2020 at 7:56 pm (books, entertainment, fashion, history, jane austen) (, , , )

Hilary Davidson‘s exploration of Jane Austen’s silk pelisse fascinated (when first read in 2015) because of the thoroughness of its details. Her book, Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion, grew out of this initial research.

Upon receipt, even quickly flipping through the book, I could see this wasn’t the typical “soft soap” about Regency dress. It has text (plenty of it), political cartoons and portraits, and, most importantly, photographs of actual garments. I also liked the inherent progression indicated by the outline of chapters – Self, Home, Village, Country, City, etc. A VERY GOOD out-of-the-box reaction.

Davidson_Dress

First Impressions – a (long) preamble…

I quickly emailed a friend, and included a link to the google preview. We both had similar thoughts: ANY illustration on the cover but “Mrs. Q”!

  • “Mrs. Q” has been put forward as the work Austen referred to when commenting: “I was very well pleased (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy. …

Never judge a book by its cover, BUT the hackneyed illustration did put me off when Dress in the Age of Jane Austen turned up in a search for upcoming releases, months before receiving the book in the mail. There are so many books about “costume” and “Jane Austen.”

  • for instance: read an old review of Penelope Byrde‘s book (reprint edition)

My friend, looking at the text online, was the first to point out “the font is so pale, more suitable to captions than main text. Or is that my eyes??”

I had to reply, that it wasn’t her eyes playing tricks, or a bad scan into google books. When I first got the book, the evening was dark and the lights were on in the house, but I needed different light to read. Instead, I looked at the pretty pictures. The paper (very nice paper) is slightly shiny, which combined with the font’s SIZE and WEIGHT does not make this volume easy to read. My friend’s later response was, “The author hasn’t been well served by the book designer.”

Another blogger’s review (Austenprose) brought up the same difficulty: “My one disappointment will be minor to some and troublesome to others. The small text is difficult to read, amplified by the choice of swirly font in gray color. I struggled to read smoothly, even with glasses.”

Illustration captions are even smaller and greyer than the main text.

In early December I read some of the book. I wasn’t making much headway with the opening chapter (“Introduction”), but did get more out of the chapter (“Home”) on underwear.

***

A little ‘Sense’ please

Along with the font, my other complaint is the bare-bones information in the endnotes. Citations list author name and publication date, which means to really look up the source, the reader has to flip from the Notes to the Bibliography. Several times I had to flip from “Secondary” to “Primary” (or vice-versa), for the Bibliography is divided into two sections (no footer or header indicates the specific section).

For instance: pp. 102/103 had in the notes “Burney, 1905” [note 20; ‘Village’] and three notes later “Edgeworth, 1971”. The Burney is an early edition of Fanny Burney’s Diary and Letters; therefore, it is found in the Bibliography under ‘Primary’ Sources. The Edgeworth, also a ‘Primary’ source, is Christine Colvin’s edition of Maria Edgeworth, Letters from England, 1813-1844. I looked under secondary sources both times, because of the dates.

An intrusion on the reading experience.

Other than ease of accessibility (a 1905 book being online), I would have thought the authoritative Oxford University Press / McGill-Queens University Press series of Burney journals and letters preferable. I finally hunted down volume V of the 1905 edition (edited by Charlotte Barrett); the quote is on page 200 (not page 199, as cited), and, finally, the pertinent information: in a letter to Mrs Lock, dated 1793. BUT: in looking up this citation I now am bothered because the story is inaccurately retold…

This is Davidson (p. 102):

davidson p102 quote

Davidson’s 1905 source; Burney’s letter to Mrs. Lock (sic: Locke):

davidson p200 barrett quote

Miss Kitty and Mrs. Hamilton clearly are two different people!  They are ID’ed in Oxford’s Additional Journals and Letters (vol. 1), p. 60, as Mrs. Sarah Hamilton and her niece Miss Kitty Cooke, managers of Chessington Hall, Surrey, a boarding house. ‘Miss’ Kitty and ‘Mrs.’ Hamilton (both, unmarried ladies) were, in 1793, approximately 63- and 88-years-old. I had pictured the Captain following young Miss Kitty from room to room, when in actuality he followed the maid “too quick” and caught sight of the not-forewarned Mrs. Hamilton.

If such important, albeit slight, details got away from Davidson, I wonder about other statements, conclusions, and examples. Page 102 was picked at random, today, in an effort to finish this review today (21 March 2020). I wish I hadn’t unearthed this….

  • The same 1793 letter (snippet only) in Joyce Hemlow’s 1972 Clarendon Press edition, which I piece together and note that it is given the date 30 May 1793.

***

In need of some ‘Persuasion’

Davidson gives a LOT of information, but I don’t always find material well-presented. Sometimes a position is taken, but isn’t followed by explanation, enlargement, or argument/counter-argument. She moves on to another quote, another topic. I can’t call it going off on “tangents.” More, “Why include this here?”

For instance, Davidson talks about needing the services of a maid to make one’s dress “tight,” and includes a quote about the “looseness of … morning dress” when, at breakfast.

Davidson, p. 78:

davidson p79

I can see someone being “loose” in the Scarlett O’Hara corset sense, but I’m still unsure about being “tight.” I wanted more than just quote(s). After the novel heroine speaks of PINS — “I was again forced to comply, and stick pins into my cloaths.” — I hoped for answers. WHAT did Regency women DO with all those pins? My diarist Emma Smith (later Emma Austen Leigh) purchased many pincushions… I have images of women being as prickly as porcupines, done up with so many straight pins.

  • Regency Redingote” composed a lengthy discourse on pins – and, although it doesn’t clarify Davidson‘s commentary about being “tight” in one’s clothing, it does say what all those pins were used for during the Regency!

A stockingless, unbuttoned William Wordsworth creates its own, clear picture of a man’s “undress”; Miss Weeton, on the other hand, I determined to look up. I own the two-volume set (Miss Weeton’s Journal of a Governess), as well as the newer single-volume, Miss Weeton: Governess and Traveller, by Alan Roby.

Miss Weeton had spent the NIGHT aboard ship. She had loosened garments because she slept in them. The quote continues, “I wrapped my coat round me, and threw my shawl over it; my hair uncombed, uncurled, my face wan, and eyes sunken. I presented no very beautiful picture.” Looking like something the cat dragged in, poor Miss Weeton needed to pass muster when asking for a room at an inn. Miss Weeton’s distress is missed; the poignancy of the original, lost. This reader became no more enlightened about Davidson’s point. The long communication was best presented by words in her first paragraph.

  • Re-reading these exacts, and comparing them, I’m confused: Did visitors wear “walking or visiting dresses” as mentioned on page 102, or were they in a state of “undress” when “paying morning visits,” as on page 78?

Another instance: In the chapter “Country,” which discusses outerwear and clothing adapted from the “field” or the “hunt,” there is, on the left-hand page, a full-page-wide (color) illustration of Alexander Carse’s “The Arrival of the Country Relations” (c1812). The text on the right-hand page (p. 145), referring to this, claims that the painting “contrasts two family groups, of urban and rural origins, through subtle clothing cues [endnote].” Davidson then quotes from a novel (Caroline Lismore).

I wanted to know more about the “subtle clothing cues”!

I looked up the citation – an author name and date; I looked up the Bibliography: a journal article…. I have no access to it.

Is the caption below the illustration meant to substitute for or enlarge upon the main text? “An elegant urban Edinburgh family welcomes relatives from the country. The differences in their styles of dress are subtle, but distinctly realized, the rural visitors favouring simpler, more covered clothing.

The directive of “look at this painting; see these clues” felt unfulfilled and under-developed.

  • Without seeing the SOURCE article, I can only theorize, from reading travel diaries, that “Covered” helped people stay warm, “Simpler” enabled them to shed road dust more easily; both may have benefited them at dubious coaching yards or in warding off highwaymen.

Davidson, sure and informative when discussing clothing styles, fabrics, construction, has a tendency to jump from quote to statement in a manner that did not always sweep this reader along. Often I found myself back-tracking, re-reading for something I might have missed.

Under the heading GETTING AND ALTERING CLOTHES (p. 116), the first paragraph brings up the following points:

  • clothes had a high valuation
  • clothes were “a considerable, infrequent investment” for the “middling and upper ranks”
  • clothes were planned and discussed (i.e., mentioned in letters)
  • garments were generally “bespoke”, but some were off-the-rack
  • towns and villages had tailors
  • for men who had “no woman to sew their linens,” ready-made or professionally-made articles “filled the gap”
  • a tailor from Preston, bankrupted in 1821, had an inventory of “645 garments and accessories, 219 were men’s shirts”
  • Women rarely undertook sewing “men’s outer clothing” because the skills required were not obtained by “sewing linens”
  • Mary Wordsworth, working on her husband’s “‘woolen waistcoat'” may have been “knitting or working on a flannel-type garment”
  • The Wordsworth women “spent a day” picking apart “his old coats for the tailor” (to serve as patterns for new garments).

There are so many topics within this single paragraph, many of which would have served the author well, if sorted out for more in-depth explanation – be it the cost of clothes (either through tailor/client records; or through criminal prosecution valuations); the use of tailors, seamstresses and others versus homemade; bespoke clothing versus the reuse of clothing (re-constructed by owner, as well as second-hand purchases) versus the good fit of a client’s well-worn piece (ie, used as patterns). Much outlined here does appear at greater length in various chapters. So why jumble, sentence upon sentence, everything in one paragraph? A red pencil, judicious rearrangement, and (self-)editing would have resolved many such annoyances.

A lack of argumentative development is especially true when a blanket historical statement is presented. If underlying, supportive facts are missing, such statements appear as generalizations, less ‘authoritative’ in tone, than the same statements supported and expanded upon.

Convoluted word order (clauses within clauses) would have benefited from being more carefully crafted: (p. 33) “Not only the bodies of Grant Tourists, but also print media – increasingly popular – disseminated ideas about classical form across Britain.” I know what the author wants to say, and means, but Davidson’s phrasing, in addition to the grey, swirly font, increased this reader’s frustration.

Long “lists,” like this on page 145, made my eyes skip lines:

“Farmers, ploughmen, carters, milkmaids, blacksmiths, beggars, ragmen, tinkers, pedlars, fishermen, thatchers, drovers, field hands, harvesters, millers, stone-cutters and -crushers, miners, coopers, masons, carpenters, chair-menders, joiners, fencers, cottagers, washerwomen and all the multitude of tradespeople…”

I usually give “less personal opinion” in a book review; there will be readers who find the authorial voice satisfactory, but I struggled, wishing for writing as engaging as the topic. Biographers sometimes pour between the covers every morsel of research unearthed, and I do wonder if the fractured flow I quibble over is a result of such “cramming.” Does it really matter what a street vendor cries out to attract customers?

If some of the verbiage had been cut, the font size could have been increased, and content and design would have united in a superior book. As it stands, it’s a bit of a Missed Opportunity. Wanting to be “all” to all comers and about all classes, from tinker to servant, from farm to manor, from city-dweller to court-regular, males and females, young and old, I do think Dress in the Age of Jane Austen an ambitious attempt. Who am I to criticize? It has so much going for it, that the pluses should outweigh the minuses.

If historical costume at all interests you, you might wish to put this book on your radar. Yale presents a 16-second “introduction”, but the best is the Google preview. Dress in the Age of Jane Austen: Regency Fashion is a sumptuous book, on a fascinating topic, filled with valuable information. It covers a broad geography and moves from intimate undergarments to all-weather outerwear. The Annie Burr Lewis Fund probably helped fund publication fees associated with the multitudinous illustrations, as well as the full-color printing. A suggested retail of US$40, Amazon currently sells it for $27 and change, which is a hardcover bargain.

A good book to ‘dip into’, I tried reading it cover-to-cover, which only increased the stress of articulating my negative thoughts about it. Very useful appendices (Austen family tree and list of characters for each novel plus two fragments, for those without other resources or prior knowledge); a stylistic Timeline of women’s gowns; a glossary. The index is almost too detailed – many entries have only one page number; for instance, I don’t foresee a need to look up hairstyle, blond. Austen’s characters should have been indexed on the page that outlines them.

Blonde, by the way, leads the reader to “Mrs. Q,” which cycles us back to the beginning of this far too long review.

three-and-a-half slightly leaking inkwells

 

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Women’s History 2020

March 8, 2020 at 12:33 pm (history, news, people, research) (, )

This month, the U.S. celebrates WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH – touching on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the right for Women to Vote. Today, 8 March 2020, being celebrated as the INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY.

Ann Lewis fecit2

Women make up the bulk of my research (mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts), and certainly remain the focus of my interest.

Just last night I came across several young women whom Emma Smith meets, in 1821, in Wells – the Misses Frankland. Emma doesn’t specify how many of them, but her use of the word “some” is definitely more than two. She notes that they are daughters of one of the Canons – he being the Reverend Roger Frankland. And he is definitely the brother of the artist whose work illustrates this post, Ann(e) Frankland Lewis (though by 1821, she had married her second husband, Mr. Hare).

So many women, hidden from history and lost to posterity, right under our noses.

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Australian Dress Register

March 4, 2020 at 12:46 pm (fashion) (, , , )

What IS the Australian Dress Register?

“The Australian Dress Register is a collaborative, online project about dress with Australian provenance. It includes men’s, women’s and children’s clothing ranging from the special occasion to the everyday. Museums and private collectors are encouraged to research their garments and share the stories and photographs while the information is still available and within living memory. The Register encourages people to consider their collections very broadly and share what they know about members of their community, what they wore and life in the past. This provides access to a world-wide audience while keeping their garments in their relevant location.”

I looked at ONE garment, in-depth, to be better able to tell you about the site:

A Silver & Blue shot silk dress, English (Devonshire); c1810-1813

dress_silver-blue c1810

It’s believed to have been brought from England to Australia by Ann Deane, “who arrived in Sydney in 1838 with her son Robert, daughters Ann and Mary, and nephew Edgar.”

A description of the piece gives the following useful information:

A one-piece dress in silver and blue shot silk, with a pattern of dark blue flowers. The dress has a high waist, with a square back neckline and a dropdown bib-front. The bodice interior is lined with cream cotton panels. The full-length sleeves has a gathered sleeve head and extended cuffs over hands, with silk floss-corded trim at the band. The five-panelled skirt is gathered at the centre back and designed to be worn over a small back bustle pad. A cotton tape drawstring is attached to the interior of the bodice, and there are blue silk ribbon ties at back (not the original ties).

The site answered a question I had: Why would she bring this to Australia, and not “recut” it to a more modern style? (ie, How ‘original’ is its state?) “Made of valuable silk, the dress ‘along with other items of apparel’ was bequeathed to Ann’s eldest daughter and it became a treasured family heirloom.”

Sections of the webpage are dedicated to:

  • zoomable photographs – front, back, side views; as well as several showing the interior construction [note: the number of photographs differs from piece to piece; this garment was well-represented]
  • a “significance” statement
  • history & provenance (including any exhibition history)
  • trimmings & decorations
  • fiber/weave; manufacture details (hand vs machine sewn, for instance); etc.
  • measurements (GIRTH: chest, waist, hem; VERTICAL: neck to hem, sleeve length; HORIZONTAL: neck opening, across back, underarm) [in millimeters, site converts to inches at the click of a link]
  • garment condition
  • articles & further information
dress_silver-blue c1810 closeup
(note: I could not get the ‘full screen’ to toggle; ‘home’ reverts back to entire photo)

Ann Deane is known to have been christened in Devon in November 1772. Ann (née Pidsley) married Thomas Deane in Devon in 1807. So she was a young married woman (and four of her six children were born by 1813) during the period, 1810-1813, when this dress would have been worn.

Ann Deane must have been TINY! A chest measurement less than 24 ½-inches; the back neck to hem length is just 54 ¾-inches (she probably stood under 5’5″); the sleeves, at 27 ½-inches, are already seen to go beyond the wrist.

Ann’s husband had died about a decade before her emigration.

There are MANY ways to search the Australian Dress Register site, by garment-type; by time period; by gender. There are uniforms and wedding dresses; clothing originated in many countries (Australia predominant). More being added, of course, as the site grows.

After viewing a uniform dress coat and hat once belonging to a Royal Navy Officer, 1832-1853, and because they ask people to “share”, I wondered: Do other countries offer such a REGISTRY?

What a Fabulous (online) idea! Let’s hope other countries jump on the bandwagon.

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Amelia Rauser’s The Age of Undress

March 3, 2020 at 9:12 am (books, entertainment, fashion, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

In yesterday’s mail, a new book that will hit stores on St. Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2020: The Age of Undress: Art, Fashion, and the Classical Ideal in the 1790s, by Amelia Rauser (Yale University Press).

Age of Undress216 pages; 180 color illustrations

We’ve all seen the sheer muslin gowns – marveled over the audacity of such ‘nakedness’ – and laughed at the “cartoons” Gillray, Cruickshank, or Dent produced that ridiculed the latest fashion extreme. Rauser brings together portraits and sculpture, cartoons and fashion plates to pose questions and reveal answers about the relationship between Neoclassicism, Hellenistic ideals of the sculpted female form, and fashion trends that quickly surged (and subsided) in such fashion-forward places as Naples, Paris, and London, in the 1790s.

Very welcome is the concentration on a small timeline, an in-depth exploration of clothing seen (and probably worn) by the mothers and maternal aunts of my diarists, Mary Gosling and Emma Smith (also known by their married names: Lady Smith and Emma Austen Leigh), my Two Teens in the Time of Austen. This “parent generation,” the four Erle Stoke Sisters and their friends, were single women and young marrieds in the very time period Rauser discusses.

A full review in the near future.

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Austen Leigh’s Memoir in Woolfs’ Library

February 25, 2020 at 8:56 am (books, entertainment, jane austen, people) (, , )

Given the chapter on Virginia Woolf in the book Square Haunting [see previous post], it was a *thrill* to find this “Short Title Catalog” of books in the Library of Leonard and Virginia Woolf.

Square Haunting

The thrill comes from seeing so many Jane Austen-related titles, including a 1926 “review copy” of Chapman’s edition of James Edward Austen Leigh‘s A Memoir of Jane Austen.

The Austen titles become quite the revelation. The list has several copies of Pride and Prejudice; also some tantalizing early 20th-century publications, like “Five Letters from Jane Austen to her Niece Fanny Knight” (1924); “Two Chapters of Persuasion … with a Facsimile” (1926) [one of the two copies on handmade paper]; “Volume the First” (1933); and even “Lady Susan” (1925).

Of course, the whole list of the Woolfs’ library is what gives a great deal of food for thought. Someone’s “library” drops so many clues about the interests of that person.

 

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Mary Hardy Commentaries – 2020 release date

February 11, 2020 at 9:56 am (books, diaries, history, news, people) (, , , )

mary-hardy

The Diary of Mary Hardy, covering the years 1773-1809, has been edited by Margaret Bird and published in four volumes (plus a “Remaining” volume). Burnham Press has announced the four companion volumes of commentary, under the title MARY HARDY AND HER WORLD, is to be released on 23 April 2020.

Mary Hardy and Her World offers more than 3000 pages (not including their indexes!) and covers topics relevant to the main diaries. See the Burnham Press for information on each volume:

Mary Hardy and Her World comprise the following:

The commentary will be available as a set or individually (as are the main Mary Hardy Diary volumes). The Burnham Press homepage has cover images of all Mary Hardy volumes.

You can keep up with the “Mary Hardy” news on this page.

To read more about Margaret Bird, the editor of the diary / author of the commentaries.

To read a sample of life as lived by Mary Hardy and her family, see Margaret Bird’s article “Supplying the Beer: Life on the road in late-eighteenth-century Norfolk” (The Local Historian – Journal of the British Association for Local History) [Oct, 2015]

Margaret Bird joined me in “conversation” in the early days of this blog, soon after publication of the Mary Hardy Diaries.

 

 

 

 

 

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Putting a Face to a Name: Mr. Dixon

February 10, 2020 at 2:57 pm (people, places, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

About a month ago I bought a letter online. Written from the estate Chicksands Priory, in December 1825, it happened to have been sent days after Mrs. Smith and her daughters Augusta and Emma left! Alas, no mention of the Smiths…. But I hadn’t expected to be THAT lucky, to be truthful.

Still, it made me do a little digging about Chicksands Priory itself, and that was when I turned up this portrait of Charles Dixon of Stansted (the estate he later purchased).

Charles Dixon of Stansted

Read about the portrait’s “recent” history (from 2016): “Rediscovered” this lost portrait returned to Stansted.

In the 1820s, however, he and his first wife, Harriet (née Wilder), were tenanting Chicksands Priory. Harriet Dixon was paternal aunt to Henry Wilder, who would marry Augusta Smith at the end of the decade.

Dixon 22Aug1801 marriageThe Dixons’ marriage announcement;
they married on 22 August 1801
(Gentleman’s Magazine)

Once the face of someone who had been only a name is seen, they take on new life in the mind of the researcher. Prior to this I had only seen a silhouette, which possible was produced by Augusta, who was adept at “taking shades.” But more amazing than seeing Dixon’s face, was reading about his philanthropy. Here are a few online articles that I found of interest:

Charles Dixon married, as his second wife, the widow of his former brother-in-law, George-Lodowick Wilder. You will find all the Wilder generations here, in Burke’s Landed Gentry.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two new biographies

January 22, 2020 at 4:18 pm (books, entertainment, jane austen, Uncategorized) (, , , )

I am always thrilled to find biographies that concentrate on women. These two (one from mid-2019 and one just released – in Britain – January 2020) center on four sisters, in one case, and, in the other case, five women writers between the wars who lived in Mecklenburgh Square (Bloomsbury, London).

Noble Savages

Sarah Watling’s Noble Savages: The Olivier Sisters – Four Lives in Seven Fragments grabbed my attention from page one: The opening introduction describes a 1962 meeting between Noel Oliver (the youngest sister) and an intent Rupert Brooke biographer, Christopher Hassell. What did Hassell hanker after? Noel Olivier’s letters from Brooke, which, in nearly fifty years, she had not offered up to ANY writer on Brooke.

They were private, and kept until after Noel Olivier’s death; subsequent publication (in 1991) was by a grand-daughter.

I can see BOTH sides…

Noel’s property was Noel’s property; why should she have to yield it up to anyone, especially knowing it would be impossible to refuse publication once the letters got into Hassell’s hands.

And yet, to a researcher, to _know_ that something MORE exists, and to have no access to even a glimpse of it, is an exquisite torment.

It was a situation even James Edward Austen Leigh went through, when letters his aunt Cassandra Austen had saved (written to her by her sister Jane Austen – and given to a niece), could no longer be located. And no one else was offering up their Jane Austen memorabilia, beyond his own two sisters (Anna Lefroy and Caroline Austen). Edward’s Memoir of Jane Austen was published without accessing at least two batches of letters (one of which ceased to exist about this time); he died before his cousin’s son published Jane Austen’s Letters.

Square Haunting

Francesca Wade’s biography Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars features one of my all-time favorite authors: Dorothy L. Sayers. The five women sharing Mecklenburgh Square as an address (not necessarily at the same time) include poet H.D.; Jane Harrison; Eileen Power; and Virginia Woolf. The book opens with the 1940 bombing of the area. As someone who works with diaries, it was an absolute *thrill* to read that Woolf dug out her diaries (evidently uninjured) from the rubble of her apartment.

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Sanditon purloins “Lord Compton” portrait

January 13, 2020 at 11:25 am (entertainment, jane austen, portraits and paintings) (, , , )

Last night, the heroine of ITV’s Sanditon Charlotte Heywood (and viewers peeking over her shoulder) first encounter love interest Sidney Parker by gazing upon this portrait:

Sanditon

I had to do a double-take!

This isn’t any fictional character – it’s Spencer, Lord Compton (Emma’s cousin).

This well-known portrait that has already graced the cover of a Georgette Heyer novel. Now it’s purloined for the Andrew Davies television series.

You judge the similarities for yourself:

Spencer-Sidney Sanditon

 

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