Touching Mrs. Dalloway

May 15, 2018 at 9:23 am (books, history, jane austen, london's landscape) (, , , )

Join the London Evening Standard in a “Behind the Scenes” look at the British Library. Yes, this is where you can see Jane Austen’s writing desk (on permanent loan).

NPG 3630; Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen

In the midst of the article comes the question: Why they let us touch “Mrs. Dalloway” (Woolf’s manuscript) without gloves?

I hate to say, but Have you ever LOOKED at the gloves typically handed out to handle materials? Rather disgustingly DIRTY! And, big. (I have neither small nor large hands).

Clean, dry hands is key.

In the article, not only is “Mrs. Dalloway” discussed, but also the “scary literary dungeons” – those areas DEEP in the bowels (six stories below!) of the facility – where manuscripts are kept in “special chambers filled with nitrogen, carbon dioxide and argon.”

A rotating exhibition of “treasures” from the vault gives even frequent visitors to the British Library something *new* to see.

[I confess, I cannot see where there is a video, of the curators; I only see “today’s headlines and highlights”, but perhaps a different browser would help]

“Experience a sense of history,” says one curator; and that indeed is a well-expressed summation. To touch, to read, to digest the information culled from a manuscript (like the letters, diaries, and drawings I work from) is “to experience” in the highest sense of the phrase.

Click on Jane’s eyes to Look Behind the Scenes. And, if you’re heading to London (or lucky enough to BE in London), check out the Standard’s “London’s prettiest and most Instagrammable BOOKSHOPS” article for some “treasures” you can bring home.

(I think my favorite to seek out next time is the Dutch barge bookshop, Word on the Watermoored on Regent’s Canal.)

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Criminal Broadsides

March 29, 2018 at 11:30 am (history, london's landscape, places) (, , , )

It’s not often that I write of the dark underside of life in 19th Century Britain… but when I came across this “deposit” at Kent State University, I had to share.

Kent’s archival holdings contains BROADSIDES – those oh-so-ephemeral handouts that we all toss away. But these have miraculously been saved from the dust bin!

Wm Shaw

Imagine: one of the London printers of broadsides in the early 19th century had the intriguing name (nom de plume?) of Jimmy Catnach.

Among their criminal broadsides are some broadcasting the “unusual”, such as THE WILD AND HAIRY MAN, or THE WANDERING LADY. Although the veracity of the execution broadsides are called into question, the details are fascinating – and the website provides many instances of the contents of those. You can get your fill of Murderers, Horse Thieves, and Confessions (from the guilty or the wrongly-convicted) by reading through the 139 “cases” presented for your perusal. Dates covered 1800s, 1810s, 1820s, 1830s up to the 1870s.

Some EXTRAS:

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The Postman Always Rings

January 28, 2018 at 9:43 am (history, london's landscape, World of Two Teens) (, , )

In the *first* of a series of posts (not necessarily all in a row), culling useful information about the World of Two Teens in the Time of Austen, is a short tidbit on the English Postal System.

So many times the Smiths and Goslings query each other:

  • When did you mail this letter? I received it only today.
  • How long did my letter take to reach you?
  • Should I use the route X rather than Y? Is it faster?
  • This letter took three days to reach me – why?
  • When did you post it?
  • I find, Today is not a post day.
  • The Postman is here, I must finish.

It, of course, is obvious that letters can travel through the hands of relatives – servants – as enclosures – via the family solicitor or banker, etc. etc. Some are franked; others hand-delivered next door or even inside the same house! Imagine yourself without your email…. “Why isn’t so-and-so answering me?” Things have not changed, it’s just the manner of the communication that differs.

(As well, the “historical” trail left behind! I Pity anyone studying the early 21st century 200 years from now…)

The Smiths and Goslings were as eager for news, as happy with a bit of a gossipy chat, as anxious about travelling loved-ones, as YOU are today. I was counting last night, and given the period from 1770s through the 1940s (stray letters at the beginning and the end, in a bell-curve fashion), and even discounting for wrappers alone or free-fronts (ie, NO letter inside) and for those copied from books, I have transcribed over two thousand letters. A *major* feat; though perhaps on par with finding them in the first place! The life stories that roll across the amassed pages is astounding. No wonder it’s taken ten years to come to grips with it all – and to see the materials for myself, when they are scattered from England to Italy, from Canada and the U.S. to Australia.

If I read a letter a day, EVERY day, it would take SIX-and-a-half YEARS to go through them, and that wouldn’t be counting any that are still out there, in someone’s closet or shoebox. And that doesn’t count the family diaries.

bright star_letter

So, what did I find? A schedule for the London Two-Penny Post in the year 1835, information among the printed matter at the front of “The Commercial LedgerAnnual Memorandum Book, used as a daily diary:

REGULATIONS OF THE TWOPENNY POST.

There are Six Collections and Deliveries of the Letters in Town, daily, (Sundays excepted), and there are Two Dispatches from, and Three Deliveries at, most Places in the Country, within the Limits of this Office.

The Hours by which Letters should be put into the Receiving Houses in town, for each Delivery, are as follow [sic]:

For Delivery in TOWN.
Over Night by 8 for the First
Morning ……… 8 …………. Second
                         10 ………… Third
                         12 ………… Fourth
Afternoon ……. 2 …………. Fifth
                          5 ………….. Sixth

For Delivery in the COUNTRY.
The preceding Even. by 5 for the First.
Morning ……………………… 8 …………… Second
Afternoon ……………………. 2 …………… Third.

But Letters, whether for Town or Country, may be put in at either of the Two Principal Offices an Hour later for each Dispatch.

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Marylebone: the Art of Painting

September 4, 2017 at 8:08 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape) (, , )

Watching a recent episode of “Who Do You Think You Are?,” featuring Charles Dance, there came an intriguing moment for _me_ when he chased after an ancestor who had a shop at No. 83 High Street, Marylebone.

It began when Charles Dance encountered a husband/wife pair of portraits. Knowing the husband was officially “an artist,” he simply had to track down some of his work (which he secretly hoped would lead back to the portraits, i.e., a portrait of his wife by the artist and a self-portrait).

His ancestor, Charles François FUTVOYE caused a LOT of comment. “Unusual name” was the gist of the consternation. When the following turned up in one of the London papers which _I_ have often consulted, MY ears perked up!

futvoye_ad

Charles Dance was related to a man who taught “Japanning” to the “Nobility and Gentry”. The above ad ran in 1829. Could any of my Smiths & Goslings visited his shop at No. 83 High-street??

For the older girls, married or marrying by 1829, some of them with young children, their desire for Japanning may have been lessening. And, like Charles Dance, I could well imagine that SUCH an unusual name (the man had emigrated from Spa, Belgium) would have caused me no end of consternation during transcription. So, even if he’s there, his name could be misspelled!

I did search, with no luck, Emma’s diaries from the 1820s; I’ll go back further – and also take a look through all the letters, to see if anything turns up. No. 83 High-street would have been a ten- to fifteen-minute walk from Portland Place. Mr. Futvoye also sold art materials. Anything is possible, therefore.

Today the premises is a lovely bookshop: Daunt Books for Travellers.

futvoye_shop

Recent fans will join Charles Dance’s newly-found kin in wanting to hear about Game of Thrones (his role: Tywin Lannister); I remember him most fondly for The Jewel in the Crown (his role: Guy Perron).

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Capability Brown @ the Royal Horticultural Society, London

October 17, 2016 at 12:59 pm (estates, history, london's landscape, people) (, , )

If you missed the installation “A CAPABLE BUSINESSMAN” at London’s Lindley LibraryRoyal Horticultural Society, you’re in luck: the internet is able to help.

Back in August 2016, the RHS posted this press release, alerting fans of Capability Brown that the Society’s copy of Brown’s Account Book was going on public display.

account-book

Calling Brown “one of the 18th century’s most successful and pioneering businessmen,” the research into this account book has revealed the “astonishing amounts” paid to Brown – and I can say, for Castle Ashby, by one of the Earls of Northampton! (the 9th Earl being uncle to my diarist, Emma Austen)

“Mostly written in his own hand,” Brown’s clientele numbered 125 individuals in this book alone (dating from 1759 until his death in 1783).

The book descended through family, and – though loaned to the Society in the 1950s – has now been donated to the Society.

The display coincided with the (ongoing) 300th Anniversary of the birth of Lancelot “Capability” Brown.

Clicking on the photo above will bring you to the online “copy” of Brown’s Account Book.

The London Parks & Gardens Trust also featured Capability Brown in its newsletter; some articles are found online.

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Hamilton at Work in London

October 8, 2016 at 4:31 pm (books, entertainment, london's landscape, news, travel) (, , , )

This was the scene Last Sunday, at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London:

vic-hamilton1

As you can see, the refurbishment – HAMILTON is to open in October of 2017 – is underway, yet also under-wraps. This (below) was the street scene in the past:

victoria_palace-2011

This past summer, stories ran about the refurbishment, including this article in The Guardian, which claims a £30 million price tag.

vic-hamilton2

I must admit, having been in New Jersey (near the site of the Hamilton/Burr duel), and taking in the lyrics so in praise of New York City (“in the greatest city in the world”), it feels as if a little will be lost in translation. NOT that I think fans won’t be queuing for MILES to get tickets.

For once, the BRITISH look forward to something AMERICAN coming to them after being a ‘hit’ in the States (the shoe is usually on the other foot).

vic-hamilton3

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Founding Father in London

July 4, 2016 at 1:35 pm (books, history, london's landscape, travel) (, , )

Franklin in LondonA perfect “4th of July” read for anyone interested in the “founding fathers” and the ties that continue to bind the U.S. to the U.K. : George Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London.

I have acquired and enjoyed books on Franklin’s sister – Jill Lepore’s 2014 Book of Ages and Carl Van Doren’s 1950 Jane Mecom – so Franklin in London seemed a good off-shoot (as Jane’s life is typically told through the remnants that exist, and they pretty much deal with her famous brother).

Also, not too long ago, I saw a FASCINATING PBS show, part of the series SECRETS OF THE DEAD, entitled Ben Franklin’s Bones – which uncovered the ‘secret’ behind skeletal remains unearthed in Franklin’s Craven Street House (now a Franklin Museum, which offers architectural tours and also “historical experience” tours).

There is a ‘bridge’ section in Goodwin’s book between the voyage to England Franklin took as a young man and the long stay later in life. So readers do get a rounded idea of Franklin throughout life, not just the years lived abroad.

One source for Goodwin is the 3-volumes of biography by J.A. Leo Lemay; the full “life of Franklin,” in twice as many volumes, was cut short by Lemay’s death in 2008.

Franklin’s stay in Craven Street gives a slice of life in London not often gleaned – he was an important personage who was sought after by many. For those of us with an affinity to the European years (ie, Abigail Adams in France & England), Goodwin’s Benjamin Franklin in London is an excellent addition to any bibliophile’s library.

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The Pad Fad

February 10, 2016 at 6:18 pm (entertainment, fashion, history, london's landscape) (, , )

Kleidung um 1800 has a FASCINATING discussion, centering on a Fashion Fad circa 1793.

mode_1785-1793

Sabine has found evidence of a CRAZE (which she believes helped “raise” the waistlines of ladies’ dresses thereafter), whereby young girls and women used padding to look pregnant. My favorite thing about the cartoon (above): the “‘Virgin’ Shape” in the middle. Having lived thru the crazes of Pet Rocks and Mood Rings, anything is a possible fad. But I do find myself shaking my head and chuckling over the Pad Fad. Click on picture to find out MORE!

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Roehampton Grove – a brief video

July 29, 2015 at 10:35 am (estates, history, london's landscape, research) (, , )

Always on the lookout for something different, I was DE-LIGHT-ED to find a brief (1.40) video, mainly outside, but a few glimpses at the interior, of ROEHAMPTON GROVE. The Gosling estate from mid-1790s to the 1850s (it sold out of the family following Bennett Gosling’s death), Roehampton lies at the very CENTER of my research. One day I’ll visit it…

Although not quite two minutes’ long, the history of the house is nice — so if you watch, do turn on the sound!

roehampton stairs

Of course, interiorly, the house the Goslings knew – especially NOW that the building belongs to Roehampton University and is used as an “academic building” – is maybe present, maybe gone in any given room. Still, this once was Mary’s HOME!

roehampton fireplace

 

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FABULOUS Thames Trip (online)

April 24, 2015 at 9:57 am (london's landscape, places, portraits and paintings, research, travel) (, , , , )

Last night, searching for biographical information about the Sharpe family, as well as trying to RE-find a book on London Bankers (which I had had to interlibrary loan, once upon a time… Thanks, Internet!!), I came across this WONDERFULLY evocative Trip down (or up) the Thames.

This is what I first stumbled upon, notice of Rothbury House “now” [in 1829] occupied by “Benjamin Sharpe, a wealthy banker, and his family.” There were at least TWO Benjamin Sharpe partners at Goslings & Sharpe (not sure how much they overlapped) – father and son.

thames2

I hadn’t noticed last night that the image darkens everything EXCEPT the dwelling being considered. (VERY useful.) What _I_ noticed was the FABULOUS “painting” of the villas and woods and scenes that I could “sail” past. Like this Chiswick vista,

thames

I strongly recommend the website and project, Panorama of the Thames. A digitized 1829 panorama from London to Richmond, you can catch a whole ride on the river (press the “restart” button on the screen), or dip in at any point you wish to see (press the “Back to River Map” button). Historians will appreciate the Georgian London tour. ALL travellers and London-fans will thoroughly enjoy the 2014 panorama in photos! Although it’s hard not to lament when one sees side-by-side Battersea Church surrounded by trees and Battersea Church overtaken by tower blocks!

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