Wonderful Book, Wonderful Reading

July 30, 2010 at 9:04 am (books) (, , , , , )

I am always on the hunt for new books relevant to this project — therefore, I am especially interested in published accounts of letters and diary and yes sketches.

It was great recently to be reintroduced to a book I had seen in the hands of a friend many years ago (the book even older: published in 1987!): Sophie du Pont: A Young Lady in America – Sketches, Diaries, and Letters, 1823-1833.

Unlike what is currently known about the drawings of Fanny Smith Seymour (see previous post on her topographical drawings at Oxford University), little Sophie excelled in drawing “carics”, cartoons of her home-life — although, from the samples included here, her etymological and topographical drawings weren’t too shabby either!

In many ways, Sophie’s “topics of conversation” are oh so similar to the lovely drawings of Diana Sperling (her book: Mrs Hurst Dancing). And that is where the interest lies: even across the pond, life for Young Ladies was similar in so many ways! Bathing houses, log see-saws, shoes lost in squelching mud – Diana and Sophie both tell these tales of everyday.

The one thing that draws me into this book are the letters. Just the most comical turns of phrase one would ever hope to read! Sophie’s recipients were lucky indeed. If Jane Austen could write to Cassandra that her letters showed her to be one of the comic geniuses, then Jane would have loved corresponding with young Sophie (born in 1810, she lived until 1888).

Sophie’s age puts her right in line with the younger sisters of Mary and Emma — both (coincidentally) named Charlotte: Charlotte Gosling and Charlotte Smith. Charlotte Gosling, I now know, had a couple reasons for being named Charlotte: her mother was a Charlotte (the Hon. Charlotte de Grey) and her sponsor at her christening was another : Charlotte, the Queen of England.

Watch here for some samples!

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Women’s Work is Never Done

July 8, 2010 at 11:56 pm (a day in the life, books, fashion) (, , , , , , , , )

“Women’s work,” in 19th century parlance, meant their needlework. And thanks to Craig in Australia (who gave me access to some vital library material), I have come across a most fascinating article on this subject — Amy Boyce Osaki’s 1988 article in Winterthur Portfolio (vol. 23, no. 4, winter) entitled “A ‘truly feminine employment’: Sewing and the early nineteenth century Woman.”

Osaki’s study is on the du Pont women of Winterthur (Delaware), but what she says holds equally well for those, like Emma, Mary and their sisters, living in England about the same time as the du Ponts. In fact, there is one letter, at the Essex Record Office, in which Mary traced out the embroidery done on a cap for Charles by her sister Elizabeth.

I am a dab hand myself at embroidery; though some illustrating Osaki’s article are done on impossibly-sheer muslin. Just contemplating the amount of time required to complete such a project boggles the mind! (I once crocheted a German townscape window curtain, using crochet cotton and a OO crochet hook; it took about an hour to complete ONE ROW! It hangs in my upstairs hallway window.)

The Ackermann volumes (see page link at right) are rich in lovely embroidery designs; check them out! Even Augusta Smith (mother and daughter) writes of using thimble, scissors and thread to come up with collars and hems that the du Pont sisters would undoubtedly marvel at. Jane Austen, too, used to embroider during her “free” time…. Her work is on display at Chawton Cottage.

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