FREE Book: Profiles of the Past

February 26, 2017 at 11:45 am (entertainment, fashion, history, news) (, , , )

The University of Brighton has available online its publication, Profiles of the Past: Silhouette, Fashion and Image, 1760-1960.

profiles-of-the-past

It features

  • Annebella Pollen: Peering into the Shadows: Researching Silhouettes.
  • Bridget Millmore: ‘To turn sideways’ – an Examination of the Depiction of Hair and Head Dresses in late eighteen century Women’s Silhouettes.
  • Johanna Lance: Cutting an Elegant Figure: the Fashionable Male Silhouette, c1790-1820.
  • E-J Scott and Lou Taylor: The Impact of Neoclassicism on Silhouette Art in the late eighteenth century.
  • Suzanne Rowland: Fashion, Ageing and Identity in Regency Silhouettes, 1810-20.
  • Pallavi Patke: The Silhouette as Portrait and Conservation Piece, late 1830-1840s.
  • Gabriella Mihok: Shadow, Dress and Identity, 1890-1914
  • Jaclyn Pyper: The Material Culture of Nostalgia: Hubert Leslie, Baron Scotford and Twentieth Century Silhouette Portraiture.
  • Annebella Pollen: Silhouettes into the twenty-first century.

Click on the “cover” to obtain download options.

The website itself, discussing 250 years of British Portrait Silhouette history, is also worth exploring. See this page on Silhouette Methods and Materials. Costume enthusiasts and Regency Reenactors will welcome the generous Gallery of silhouettes.

The website also brought me (again) to The Regency Town House website. The link provides information on touring the house, which opens again in April 2017. “The House at 13 Brunswick Square, Hove [UK], is a Regency town house built in the 1820’s as part of Charles Busby’s Brunswick Estate.  We are creating an archive and museum focused on the history of Brighton & Hove between the 1780’s and 1840’s.”

I found them both while looking for MORE information about the Smith & Gosling silhouettes done by Auguste Edouart (they may have been among those that Edouart lost in a shipwreck! oh, wouldn’t you know…); see my past post entitled The Shades of Pemberley.

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An Agreeable Tyrant

October 31, 2016 at 3:41 pm (books, fashion) (, )

To follow up on the DAR post, for those who may be interested in the EXHIBITION catalogue of their costume installation:

tyrant-catalogue-cover

“An Agreeable Tyrant”: Fashion after the Revolution – What’s a patriotic American to wear? is described as: “Paperback, 196 color pages, lavishly illustrated with portraits and fashion plates of the period as well as the garments on display. In addition to the extensive catalog entries, there are five essays by leading experts in the field, a selected bibliography for further reference, and over twenty scaled patterns of men’s and women’s garments seen in  the exhibit.”

$35 (plus shipping, which I didn’t look up) from the DAR Store’s website.

To SEE the exhibit, you only need to get to Washington DC before it closes in 2017.

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At Home – with Jane & Lucy

July 5, 2016 at 8:06 pm (books, entertainment, history, jane austen, news) (, , , , )

2017 – the bicentennial of Jane Austen’s death – will see a *new* biography published by none other than Lucy Worsley.

Worsley

We all know Worsley’s work from her many TV specials – “Tales from the Royal Wardrobe”, “Tales from the Royal Bedchamber”, “The First Georgians”, “A Very British Murder”, “Harlots, Housewives & Heroines”, etc. etc. I have certainly enjoyed her book The Courtiers: Splendour and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace, which brought some refreshing storytelling.

courtiers

In its early stage provisionally entitled AT HOME WITH JANE AUSTEN (which already exists among the “Jane Austen” series of books by Kim Wilson), the biography tell Jane Austen’s “story through the rooms, spaces, possessions and places which mattered to her”. Says Worsley’s  editor: “Lucy’s knowledge of the period makes her the perfect biographer and her wonderful writing style will truly bring Jane Austen and her world to life.”

Worsley used a Kensington Palace painting to open the oft-told history of the first Hanoverian King George. What will she use for Jane Austen? Will it look at Steventon, which is no longer existing, as well as Chawton and Bath? Chawton is a source for many items that belonged to Austen – for instance, her jewelry. Her writing slope is also on public display.

“… an everyday object that had been
important to her writing life.”

Paula Byrne’s book, The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things, sought a similar approach away from the typical cradle-to-grave biography. It will be *fun* to see how Worsley works out the lack of any new discoveries. Will she recreate some of the homes, spaces, and places that Austen knew? Perhaps readers of If Walls Could Talk will have advance knowledge of the Worsley’s approach. Worsley has already been caught rubbing elbows with Regency dandies. And she’s even got a work of fiction, as well as her TV-tie-ins, on bookstore shelves. Lucy Worsley is one of four writers who back in April (2016) discussed Lizzy & Darcy and themselves.

The Hodder & Stoughton website gives the following information:

  • title (revised from above): Jane Austen at Home
  • projected pagination (nicely hefty): 352 pages
  • release date (it’ll be here before we know it): 18 May 2017

 

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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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Burney, Evelina, Thomson

May 19, 2016 at 8:11 pm (books, entertainment) (, , , )

The LIBRARY TIME MACHINE travels through EVELINA, in a wonderful blog post that celebrates the artistry of Hugh Thomson. I was especially struck by the idea that drawings in 19th century books seem akin to today’s graphic novels!

If you’ve little time for Fanny Burney’s “classic” novel, Dave Walker will lead you through a sampling of the Thomson drawings and Burney’s “History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World”.

evelina_thomson

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A trove of old letters

April 27, 2016 at 9:41 pm (books, history) (, , , )

Gotta love a book that begins,

“Years ago I found a trove of old letters. I found them in a broken-down steamer trunk buried under moldy blankets in a dilapidated shed attached to a decrepit row house.”

These words open the 2014 book Nina Sankovitch entitled, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing.

Although I’ve heard of her Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, it was a blog post about LETTERS that brought me to this later book. For the Love of Bookshops wrote about the genesis of Sankovitch’s “next” book:

old letters

Like Erin (the bookstore-loving blogger), I too cannot believe the “luck” of such a treasure trove. And, it’s addictive! The more I find on my Smiths & Goslings, the more I want to find.

Sankovitch’s “find” rather reminds me of the beginning of Célestine. Although Gillian Tindall’s trove was a handful of letters, the fascinating history of young Célestine, a French woman, made for a stupendous read and an enthralling untangling of someone’s past. Nina Sankovitch’s stash turned out to be early 20th century: a mother & son correspondence. Thanks goodness the letters found a home!

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Celebrating UNDER-RATED Women!

March 6, 2016 at 8:55 pm (books, europe, history, people) (, , , )

March is Women’s History Month – and author Charlotte Frost has given me a boot in the rear by giving me notice of a New Book and a hitherto unseen History Blog.

The Blog is History in the Margins. “A Blog about History, Writing, and Writing about History.” Recent posts have discussed “Confederate Nurses”, new books (including a tie-in with the PBS series Mercy Street), and of course the New Book I mentioned at the top of the page.

marie von clausewitzMarie von Clausewitz:
The Woman Behind the Making of On War

What is MOST striking, is the informative interview with the author Vanya Eftimova Bellinger, on History in the Margins. Some wonderful moments, like seeing she has a connection to Norwich University (a short-ish drive from where I live) to the vicarious *THRILL* of some letters just turning up! She also touches upon the thoughts that resonate with ME about the “why” behind such thing as Women’s History Month.

Women from the past MATTER. And the more women whose lives are dusted off and introduced, the more the realization will grow that WOMEN have voices, and they have IMPORTANT things to say.

Marie von Clausewitz sounds a woman so like the Smiths & Goslings: she SAVED everything. But: a miracle when one realized (200 years later) that these items STILL exist!

My Sunday today began with remembering a Clephane relative of Margaret (Lady Compton, Emma’s cousin-in-law) was fighting on the British side during the American Revolutionary War. Today ends with anticipating a good read about a German woman, a patron of the arts, a writer whose best known work has only her husband’s name on the cover.

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In Conversation with Peter Ardern, author

February 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm (books, entertainment, history) (, , )

dorothyOur guest today is Peter Ardern, author of Dorothy’s Dream: A Historical Romance.  With personal ties to Hettie, a woman healer, and Aunt Annie, who nursed in the Crimea, Dorothy Martin decides upon a career in nursing – a newly-formed profession for women. Fans of season two (WWI) of Downton Abbey or the (U.S.) Civil War era series Mercy Street will thrill at this glimpse of British nursing life in the Victorian era.

* * *

Q: Congratulations on your most recent publication, Dorothy’s Dream: A Historical Romance. Tell readers a bit about yourself, and, of course, your novel.

Peter: I trained as a nurse in Sheffield, England in the early 1960’s in both mental health and general nursing, choosing mental health for my nursing career. I retired from nursing in 1994 the year I was awarded United Kingdom Nurse of the Year. I then studied full time for a PhD in social studies. I followed this by publishing nursing histories and subsequently my current novel  Dorothy’s Dream. I see these writings as a direct result of my chosen career and the person-centered approach (mainly interviews) I used throughout my research.

Q: Your Twitter feed mentions (and has a photo of) your psychiatric training hospital, Sheffield’s Middlewood Hospital, being turned into housing. Have you been able to visit Middlewood, and if so, what do you think of the transformation? (and what memories did your visit bring up?)

Peter: I visited the hospital site after nearly forty years. I prepared myself for some sort of disappointment while driving towards the new estate. On reaching one of the old entrances, I was pleased to find that the gate house, The Lodge, still stood. This is now used as a children’s nursery. I then travelled along unfamiliar roads and got quite lost until I found (what was) the main entrance to the old hospital. It is now the frontage of a block of flats. I was pleased that this façade had been preserved, but also somewhat disappointed. It just felt very strange. What to me had been a very welcoming entrance was now unapproachable. I was a stranger, I almost felt like an intruder.

Q: You found more of the hospital still existed?

Peter: I travelled to what I remembered was a block called Kingswood Building and to my surprise there it was. I was delighted that another building had been preserved. Unfortunately the church that I had been so familiar with was derelict.

I know we have to move on and it’s important that we reuse what would otherwise be ruins but surely we should not almost obliterate the past along with it. I hope I am being clear when I say that these buildings are only preserved because the frontages come under the “Listed Building Act,” not because they honour the former patients and the decent and worthy work that was performed in these hospitals over the previous century. Apart from the name, there is little to give any indication that this site was a former mental hospital.

Regarding this visit to Middlewood, I think what surprised and shocked me most was that when the buildings were converted the insides were completely ripped out, thus destroying the whole history of the building. They had stripped the heart out of the old hospital.

when matronQ: Your previous books focused on nursing, especially in hospital wards – When Matron Ruled (2002), The Nursing Sister (2005) and When Sister Ruled (2009). Please tell us about your research, and why you began publishing your findings.

Peter: As I mention on English Historical Fiction Authors, I had the privilege of commencing my nurse training at the time of the traditional matron and ward sister. I developed a huge respect, and still hold fond memories of learning from these highly skilled ladies. Their professional demise in the 1970s led me, twenty years later, to meet with and write about many of their lives; and subsequently to examine the history of women in nursing.

I spent a good two years travelling the country and interviewing a number of these traditional but elusive matrons and sisters. I say elusive because many were quite private people who did not seek publicity. I wondered, and still wonder, if this personal privacy was an instilled/inherent tradition from the Victorian era? When I was interviewing the matrons and sisters I always took my wife, June, with me, as both note taker and chaperon. It undoubtedly proved very helpful as most of the ladies lived on their own, I am sure, I know, it made them more relaxed.

My histories are I hope a tribute to their selfless dedication to nursing.

Q: And now this background has contributed to your novel!

Peter: Yes. My new novel, Dorothy’s Dream, is set in the Victorian period just following the Crimean War when Florence Nightingale returned to England to introduce her reforms to nursing. The book combines many facets of this history and also sees the demise of the woman healer.

Q: Please tell readers about the characters.

Peter: As a child, Dorothy had been fascinated by the local healer Hettie Ferries, after all, Hettie had been the midwife at her birth.

Hettie is regarded as invaluable in this midlands rural area. In the absence of an accessible doctor, the villagers rely on Hettie for her many and varied cures. She is highly respected and sought after, her remedies and skills giving comfort, even to Poacher Bill. But the medical profession is advancing and a renewed intolerance for these notable ladies begins. This was to totally change Hettie’s life.

Q: The Smiths & Goslings used monthly nurses (after “confinement”), did Hettie just deliver babies?

Peter: To the poor villagers, Hettie is the midwife and the monthly nurse. Only the artisan-class and above could afford such a luxury.

Q: The “Lady of Lamp” must have been a wonderful influence.

Peter: Dorothy’s Aunt Annie was one of the brave nurses who accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea. The stories of her experiences had an enormous influence on Dorothy’s desire to nurse. Prior to Nightingale’s reforms, nursing was not a respected profession; hospitals were certainly no place for a young lady from a respectable family.

Q: Has Dorothy a love interest? She seems to have to make the choice of a profession or a husband.

Peter: Frederick’s life was to change radically after the tragic accident and death of his father, Ben. But through a stroke of good fortune he is able to achieve an education. Thinking this sufficient to win Dorothy’s heart, he spends much of his life in disappointment.

Dorothy is such a young lady. She has to withstand the pain of her father’s anger (he had other ambitions for her), and travel to London to become a trainee nurse.

So Dorothy achieves this dream, only to discover that she is still a woman in a man’s world.

Q: Why? What happens to her?

Peter: Suffice it to say that in hospitals and the medical profession, as elsewhere in Victorian society, men dominated. For Dorothy the essential question is going to be, ‘Who would believe a woman’s word against that of a man?’

Q: From a writing standpoint, surely it felt “freeing” to create fiction rather than recreate lives based on interviews. Are you pleased enough with the work and the result to want to stay writing fiction, or will you go back?

Peter: I think you are right, I did find it freeing but at the same time more challenging. Freeing in the sense that you are not constantly having to be aware of being rigidly evidence based. Challenging because you are working with unknown boundaries.

For example, I wanted Dorothy to conform within the acceptable norms of the ‘Victorian’ era, and at the same time to have the freedom, as an individual, to respond as she chose to unexpected events.

I set the parameters, Dorothy made the choices.

Q: Over email, you mentioned the “Diggers” were “part of the reason for the previous books and certainly part of the inspiration for Dorothy”. What are/is “Diggers” – I’m imagining all sorts of things!

Peter: The True Levelers or Diggers were a 17th century religious group that advocated absolute equality, a ‘common storehouse for all.’ The leader was Gerrard Winstanley. Our Diggers group in a more loosely structured group acting as a forum for presentations and discussion of new areas of members’ work in a friendly, non-threatening environment. The group consists of 7 – 9 members who meet once a month for two hours.

Members are expected to (a) participate regularly, (b) provide regular critical feedback, and (c) demonstrate a commitment to productive research.

Q: The Diggers are a great resource to you, then. How lucky you are to have such a supportive group. How did you find them?

Peter: New membership is by invitation of a majority of existing members. I was introduced by Richard Brooks a published author, we were both learning German at the time.

Q: You’re in Portsmouth, England (which also figures in the Smith & Gosling world). Has location played a role in your writings?

Peter: I wonder if my chosen profession of nursing has had more influence on my writing than the location. As you know, it is said that it is best to write about what you know, and in my case it is true. Nursing has been such a large part of my life and the influences have been many.

It may be interesting to note that I started writing Dorothy using third voice, but I felt compelled to change to first voice. After all it was Dorothy’s story, and I felt that Dorothy should be narrating the story. To date I have not met any criticism to this.

Q: Dorothy’s Dream is published through Publish Nation and printed with Lulu. Why did you go that route for this book?

Peter: I was somewhat spoiled the first time when Robert Hale published my books, but at that time I did not know it. I forwarded the first chapters of Dorothy and they asked for more, but then returned it because they said it had too much historical content for a novel. Bit weird? It was then I decided take the route of self-publishing. I felt I was too old to go through the ritual of submitting and being rejected by endless publishers and agents.

Thanks, Peter, for taking the time to talk with us! and good luck with Dorothy’s Dream.

* * *

Click here Dorothy’s Dream (at Amazon.uk) for a preview of the book. Available on Kindle and paperback; or, print-on-demand paperback through Lulu – which company has really impressed me with well-bound and well-packaged (for shipping) books.

UPDATE 2/16/2016 – Peter was interviewed today on ANGEL RADIO (try the “radio player” link) from Havant, Hampshire, England, a fabulous find: it broadcasts “nostalgic” music from 1900 to the 1960s. If they ever post it, I’ll link Peter’s interview here. Just wonderful to hear about Peter’s childhood, military service (in Germany in the 1950s), and his thoughts on the early days of his chosen profession of nursing. Of course Tony (the host) asked about the books, towards the end. But for those of you on the lookout for alternative music – take a listen! Highly Recommended!!

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Simon Callow remarks on his Orson Welles biographies

January 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm (books) (, , )

After a quarter-century AND with a fourth volume projected for the series, actor/writer Simon Callow‘s comments, thoughts, frustrations, and triumphs are a revelation! Actually make ME FEEL GOOD about my own work (though can two unknown English girls compare to the world-famous Welles?).

SO MANY “bells” going off, as I read:

  • “Multi-volume biographies are by no means encouraged in the trade…” [_I_ LOVE them; and the BIGGER the better (as long as the bio is GOOD…)]
  • “I [Callow] was determined that, unlike the Laughton book – for which I had simply seen all the films, read all the available published sources and interviewed a few easily accessible people – the Welles biography would be a work of serious scholarship.” [my emphasis]
  • “I crossed the US plundering archives, libraries and museums, obsessively photocopying and microfiching, peering at blurred and fuzzy documents which took long and painful months to decipher; I went through the European collections, I tracked down obscure doctoral theses, again painstakingly photocopied – no internet, no email, back then, of course.” [1989 marked the inception of the project]
  • “If I had carried on, the book would have been hernia-inducingly heavy, and it would have been a gabble.” [Callow on WHY there’s to be a fourth volume]
  • “He [Welles] was fearless in his experiments, and he never did any of it for the money, just for the sheer joy of making films. Because of this, he has inspired more directors than any other film-maker, but he leaves no legacy” [that is a SAD thought to have about such an artist]

Click on book to read The Guardian‘s article

welles_callow

“Lives don’t have plots, they have
only movements and phases. The good biographer tries
to resist the rut of merely telling one thing after another…”
— reviewer, Anthony Quinn

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“Independent” choices in Biography

December 12, 2015 at 6:32 pm (books, entertainment, news) (, , , )

Reading the monthly newsletter of BIOGRAPHERS INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION (BIO) is always informative, and often quite a delight, biography being a favorite area of shelf space (at home and in the stores).

Being the end of the year, ” BEST OF LISTS” are of course beginning to turn up. And the newsletter mentioned biographies that had made “the list” of the Independent. I was QUITE surprised to read that TWO Charlotte Brontë biographies were on the list! The first one was listed on the first line – ah, Claire Harmon has a new book! (NB: not out in the States until Spring 2016.) Although she was already known to me thanks to her biography of Fanny Burney (2000), Harmon undoubtedly gained LOTS of press when she published Jane’s Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World (2011) – especially in light of Harmon’s treatise being called a populist take on the earlier “scholarly” Jane Austen’s Textural Lives: from Aeschylus to Bollywood (2005) by Kathlryn Sutherland. I’ll leave it to readers of both books to comment (should you so wish).

As my eyes scanned the rest of the *short* list (six book), it settled upon the second Brontë biography. It is HARDLY “new”: Catherine Gaskell’s biography! Frankly, reading the original article (though the headline says “six”) I’m stymied: Gaskell’s work seems there merely to introduce Harmon’s biography of the same person, using the “same papers”. Was the Independent really THAT hard up to name a sixth worthy biography to recommend for Christmas giving?

Another thing hard not to notice: Harmon’s book in the U.K. is titled, Charlotte Brontë: A Life – whereas the U.S. has been given a much more dramatic subtitle — Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart. The covers even look hot and cold, with their blue versus red motifs:

bronte

bronte_UK

Must admit, I don’t always understand the marketing strategies of the two countries, nor the time-lag in offering the same book to another English-speaking country. NB: where’s Harmon on Canada’s Amazon site??

For anyone waiting until the U.S. release – or wanting the rest of the clan too, might I recommend a duo by Juliet BarkerThe Brontës: A Life in Letters and her hefty biography of the family unit (even heftier in a 2013 updating), The Brontës.

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