The Etiquette Of Visiting Cards


The personal, or visiting, card is the representative of the individual whose name it bears. It goes where he himself would be entitled to appear, and in his absence it is equivalent to his presence. It is his "double," delegated to fill all social spaces which his variously-occupied life would otherwise compel him to leave vacant. Since the card is to be received as the equivalent of one's self, it is important that it shall be discreetly sent upon its embassy. In every case where personal cards are correctly used the owner is accredited with having performed de facto whatever the card expresses for him, be it a "call," a "regret," a "congratulation," an "apology," an "introduction," a "farewell-taking," or whatever. A card sent at a wrong time suggests the possibility that the owner might blunder similarly in his personal appearing. The neglect to send a card at a proper time is equivalent to a personal neglect. The man who comes himself and hands you his card also is apt to have too many elbows at a dinner, too many feet at a ball. He has about him a suggestion of awkward superfluousness that is subtly consistent with his duplicate announcement of himself.

STYLE OF CARDS

The prevailing shape of cards for women is nearly square (about 2 1/2 x 3 inches). A fine dull-finished card-board of medium weight and stiffness is used.
A man's card is smaller, and narrower proportionately; and is of slightly heavier card-board.
The color is pearl white, not cream. Tinted cards are not admissible.
The engraving is plain script, or elaborate text; as the fashion may for the time decree.



THE ENGRAVING OF VISITING CARDS

CARDS FOR MEN

If the surname is short, the full name may be engraved. If the names are long, and the space does not admit of their full extension, the initials of given names may be used. The former style is preferred, when practicable. In the absence of any special title properly accompanying the name--as "Rev.," "Dr.," "Col.," etc.,--"Mr." is always prefixed. Good form requires this on an engraved card. If in any emergency a man writes his own name on a card he does not prefix "Mr." The rule should be, to omit from visiting-cards all titles that signify transient offices, or occupations not related to social life; using such titles only as indicate a rank or profession that is for life; and which has become a part of the man's identity, or which is distinctly allied to his social conditions.

To illustrate:--The rank of an officer in the army or the navy should be indicated by title on his card, his connection with the service being for life, and a part of his identity. Officers on the retired list, and veteran officers of the late war who rose from the volunteer ranks, retain their titles by courtesy. The official cards of political officers and ambassadors, which bear the title and office of the man--with or without his name--should be used only on official or State occasions, and during the term of office. In strictly social life, the personal card of the ex-Governor is like that of any other private citizen, subject to the same rules. Similarly, professional or business cards that bear ever so slight an advertisement of occupations are not allowable for social purposes.The three "learned" professions, theology, medicine, and law, are equally "for life." But the occupation of the lawyer is distinctly related to business matters, and not at all to social affairs. His title, or sub-title, Esquire, is properly ignored on his visiting-card, and socially he is simply "Mr. John Livingstone." On the other hand, the callings of the clergyman and the physician respectively, are closely allied to the social side of life, closely identified with the man himself. Therefore "Rev.," or "Dr." may with propriety be considered as forming an inseparable compound with the name. "Office hours" are not announced on a physician's social card.

A man's address may be engraved beneath his name at the lower right corner, the street and number only if in a city, or the name of a country-seat if out of town; as, "The Leasowes." Bachelors who belong to a club may add the club address in the lower left corner; or, if they live altogether at the club, this address occupies the lower right corner. An engraved address implies some permanency of location. Those who are liable to frequent changes of address would better omit this addition to the visiting-card, writing the address in any emergency that requires it. No messages are written on a man's card, and no penciling is allowed, except as above, to give (or correct) the address, or in the case of "P. p. c." cards, sent by post.



CARDS FOR WOMEN
A woman's name should never appear on a visiting-card without either "Mrs." or "Miss" prefixed. The exception would be in the case of women who have regularly graduated in theology or medicine. Such are entitled, like their brothers, to prefix "Rev." or "Dr." to their names. A married woman's card is engraved with her husband's name, with the prefix "Mrs." No matter how "titled" the husband may be, his titles do not appear on his wife's visiting-card. The wife of the President is not "Mrs. President Harrison," but "Mrs. Benjamin Harrison." She is the wife of the man, not the wife of his office or his rank. A widow may, if she prefers, retain the card engraved during her husband's lifetime, unless by so doing she confuses her identity with that of some other "Mrs. John Brown," whose husband is still living. It is more strictly correct for a widow to resume her own given name, and to have her card engraved "Mrs. Mary Brown," or, if she chooses to indicate her own patronymic, "Mrs. Mary Dexter Brown." An unmarried woman's card is engraved with her full name, or the initials of given names, as she prefers, but always with the prefix "Miss" (unless one of the professional titles referred to takes its place).

The address may be engraved or written in the lower right corner.If a society woman has a particular day for receiving calls, that fact is announced in the lower left corner. If this is engraved, it is understood to be a fixed custom; if written, it may be a transient arrangement. If a weekly "at home" day is observed, the name of the day is engraved, as "Tuesdays." This means that during "calling hours" on any Tuesday the hostess will be found at home. If hours are limited, that is also indicated, as "from 4 to 6." Further limitations may be specified, as "Tuesdays in February," "Tuesdays until Lent," "Tuesdays after October," etc. Any definite idea of time may be given to meet the facts, the wording being made as terse as possible. If the regular "at home" day is Tuesday (unlimited), and the card is so engraved, any of the special limitations may be penciled in to meet special conditions. Sometimes an informal invitation is thus conveyed; as, by the addition, "Tea, 4 to 6," etc.

Other penciling.--Cards left or sent, before leaving town, have "P. p. c."--(Pour prendrè congé)--penciled in the lower left corner. A holiday, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, or other event in a friend's life may be remembered by sending a card, upon which is penciled "Greeting," "Congratulations," "Best wishes," or some similar expression. Such cards may be sent alone, or may accompany gifts. Any brief message may be penciled on a woman's card, provided the message is sufficiently personal to partake of the nature of a social courtesy. But the card message should not be sent when courtesy requires the more explicit and respectful form of a note.


CARDS FOR YOUNG WOMEN

In strictly formal circles a young woman, during her first year in society, pays no visits alone. She accompanies her mother or chaperon. She has no separate card, but her name is engraved, or may be written, beneath that of her mother (or chaperon) on a card employed for these joint visits. After a year or so of social experience (the period being governed by the youth or maturity of the debutante, or by the exigency of making way for a younger sister to be chaperoned), the young woman becomes an identity socially, and has her separate card, subject to the general rules for women's cards, even though she continues to pay her most formal visits in company with her mother.

AFTER MARRIAGE CARDS

During the first year after marriage cards engraved thus: "Mr. and Mrs. Henry Bell Joyce," may be used by the couple in paying calls, or returning wedding civilities. Such cards are also used when jointly sending presents at any time. For general visiting, after the first year, husband and wife have separate cards.

CALLING IN PERSON

When one calls in person the name of the caller is given verbally to the servant who opens the door. The card is not usually sent up, except by a stranger. But sometimes there is difficulty in making the servant understand the name or properly distinguish it from some other similar name. In this case to avoid mistakes the card is sent up. If the hostess is not at home a card is left by the disappointed caller. On the occasion of a first call a card is left on the hall table, or other place provided, even though the caller has been received by the hostess. This serves as a reminder that the acquaintance has been duly and formally begun. On the occasion of subsequent calls, when the hostess is at home, no cards are employed, except, as before stated, to avert servants' mistakes.

CARD-LEAVING IN LIEU OF PERSONAL CALLS

When personal calls are not practicable, nor desirable, the leaving of cards is accepted as an equivalent. A few years ago, fashion demanded that all visiting-cards expressing or acknowledging social civilities should be left in person; the alternative in emergencies being to send them by the hand of a private messenger, never through the post-office. There was good excuse for this fashion in our grandmother's day, when the post was a slow coach, or a storm-stayed postillion; but the admirable system of our postal service to-day leaves no excuse for the prejudice in favor of the private messenger; and it is not surprising that fashion has yielded to common sense in allowing that many of these cards of courtesy may, with perfect propriety, be sent by post.



CASES IN WHICH PERSONAL CARD-LEAVING IS REQUIRED

After a first hospitality, whether accepted or not.
Calls of condolence.
After-dinner calls by cards.
Alternative.--In such cases, when personal card-leaving is impossible, the card is sent by a private messenger, and an explanation, or apology, is sent by note.
Cards of condolence may be sent by post by friends at a distance; but not by persons residing in the near vicinity.

CARDS BY MESSENGER, OR BY POST

In all cases where personal card-leaving is not imperative, cards may be sent either by messenger or by post.

CARD-LEAVING BY PROXY

One of the peculiar permissions of "good form" is that which allows a man to delegate the distribution of his visiting-cards to a near female relative, whenever it becomes impracticable for him to attend to the matter personally. Only the women of his own household, or a relative with whom he habitually pays visits, can thus represent a man by proxy. In case a man is legitimately prevented, by business cares, from paying calls or leaving his cards in person, it is proper for his wife or mother or sister, or other near relative, to leave or send his card with her own. When a woman calls upon another woman she leaves her husband's card. If the hostess is married, a second card is left for the host. She may leave the cards of a son, a brother, or other relative, if such responsibility rests upon her. This formality should be observed when paying the first call of the season.



SOME FURTHER ILLUSTRATIONS OF CARD USAGE

When a married, or elderly woman tacitly invites a man to call on her by telling him what are her "at home" days or hours, it is obligatory upon him to acknowledge the courtesy. If unable to call personally he should explain that fact and express regret, and should be particular to send a card on her next receiving day during the hours that she has mentioned. It is a special courtesy to send also a card for her husband, if he is a venerable man, or if, by reason of ill health, he is usually at home.

A woman older, or busier, or occupying some position of acknowledged distinction, may send her card, indicating her receiving days and hours, to a younger or less occupied woman. This is accepted as a call, and an invitation to return the same. If the recipient chooses she may respond in person. If she does not care to establish a calling acquaintance she may respond by sending one of her own cards on the receiving day. In case opportunity occurs for explanation some polite reason may be given for not adding to one's visiting list; but unless one has the tact to do this without snobbishness, it were better to keep silence.

Cards of introduction are simply visiting-cards upon which the owner writes, above his own name, "Introducing Mr. ----." The card is inclosed in an unsealed envelope, addressed to the person to whom the introduction is to be made, and with the words "Introducing Mr. ----," written in the lower left corner. It is a delicate matter to refuse a card or letter of introduction, but it is a far more delicate matter to take the liberty to give one. If one is in doubt about the readiness of the third party to receive the person introduced it is better to find some polite excuse for declining to be the medium of the introduction. Fortunately, if the blunder is made of introducing uncongenial people they can easily drift apart again without rudeness on the part of either.

When any one is invited to a church wedding and cannot attend it is proper to send, on the day of the marriage, a card or cards to those who issued the invitations; one card, if one parent, or a guardian, invites; if the invitation is sent in the names of both parents, a card for each, inclosed in an envelope and addressed to both. If the invited guest attends the wedding he leaves or sends cards within a week, similarly addressed. A personal call is allowable if intimacy warrants it. Those friends of the groom who are not acquainted with the bride's family should merely send cards.


When a man wishes to make the acquaintance of another man he may call and send in his card. This may or may not be accompanied with some explanatory message. If the man on whom the call is made does not wish to receive the caller he will express some polite reason for declining, or suggest another time for receiving the visitor. Usually a man will receive another man who makes polite overtures; but if the host does not wish to continue the acquaintance he will not return the call in person, but simply send his card by post. This distant rejoinder practically ends the brief acquaintance without any discourteous rebuff. It is one of the mistakes of the vulgar to be rude and gruff in order to repel an undesired acquaintance. In reality, nothing freezes out a bore more effectually than the icy calm of dignified courtesy. There are exquisitely polite ways of sending every undesirable person to limbo. The perfect self-command of the well-bred man enables him to do this to perfection, but without giving offense. Moreover, as most people worth seeking are men and women of earnest lives and crowded occupations, no one need feel personally chagrined by the failure to establish a coveted acquaintance with some gifted man or woman.

Cards of condolence are left as soon as possible after learning of the affliction. If in town, cards are left in person or sent by a messenger with a message. If out of town a card is sent by the first post. Nothing is written upon these cards.

A visiting card, with "Congratulations" written upon it, is sent to felicitate a friend upon any happy event in which friends may sympathize. Such cards are sent by messenger or by post. If a card is left in person with a kind message, nothing is written upon the card.

When a man calls and sees his hostess, but not the host, he should leave a card for the latter. If the hostess is not at home, two cards should be left.

When a man entertains formally, each man invited, whether he accepts or not, should acknowledge the courtesy within a week. He may call in person, or leave a card, or send a card by mail, or write a note of thanks, whichever he prefers. This is one of the important formalities between men, and the neglect of it argues either ignorance or insolence.

When a man calls upon a woman while she is the guest of a family with whom he is not acquainted, he inquires for both his friend and her hostess, and, as he is a stranger in the house, he sends up a card for each (instead of announcing himself verbally, as at the house of a friend). If the hostess receives him on this occasion, but extends no further hospitality, he has no claim upon her recognition beyond the hour. If the hostess subsequently offers him any hospitality during the time his friend is her guest he must call upon her; but if he defers this until after the departure of the guest, he must leave a card for the hostess without intruding a personal call, unless he has been distinctly invited to continue the acquaintance. If the man who pays the call does not wish to continue the acquaintance with his friend's hostess, after she has offered him hospitality, he must at least call and leave a card for her, with a polite inquiry for her health. This is obligatory; but nothing further is required.


A visiting card is employed in sending informal invitations to a tea or afternoon reception. The care of the hostess is used, and in addition to the name of the regular receiving day the special date, as "January 19," and some other specific words, as "Tea, 4 to 6," are written in the lower left corner. (In this informal written message numbers are indicate by figures, where formal invitations require the words to be written in full.) This card is accepted by the recipients as equivalent to a call paid by the sender, and they respond in person at the time indicated, leaving cards with the servant as they enter, and also, on their departure, leaving the cards of such male members of their respective families as have been invited, but are unable to attend. As few men can leave business at this hour these occasions become prominent illustrations of "proxy" card-leaving. If any one invited cannot be present (and in case of a man no female relative is there authorized to represent him) a card must be sent by post or messenger on the receiving day.

After a change of residence, or after a prolonged absence from home, cards of the entire family are sent to notify an acquaintance of their re-establishment and of their readiness to resume the social interchange.

It is customary for the younger society men to pay a round of calls after returning from the usual summer "outing," or to leave cards in lieu of a call.

When leaving for a long absence, or when parting from transient, but agreeable acquaintances, as companion tourists, etc., when time does not admit of farewell calls, visiting-cards are sent by post with "P. p. c." (Pour prendrè congé--to take leave) written upon them. This is equivalent to saying, "If ever we meet again we will meet on the footing of friends, not strangers." It is a pleasant way of showing appreciation of the pleasure afforded by another's society, and the formality should not be neglected by one who would be esteemed thoughtfully polite and kind.

Only people who cling to old-fashioned customs still fold over the right side of a visiting-card to show that the card was left in person, and also fold over the left side to show that the call was intended for all the women of the household. This custom is practically obsolete. Another fashion that has had its day was that of leaving a separate card for each of the women of the household. Now, one card answers the purpose, the inquiry accompanying it indicates whether the call was intended for one or for all of the family. In case a guest of the household is included in the call a separate card is left for her.


Further reading:
Etiquette by Agnes H. Morton

Photos sources:
http://www.americanantiquarian.org/
DrBacchus

Short Book Reviews: The Grey Room, The Avenger & The Step On The Stair

Hello everyone,
today I'm reviewing three old detective stories, written by three masters of the genre: Edgar Wallace, Anna Katherine Green and Eden Phillpotts. I was familiar only with Wallace's works, which I think are nicely-plotted and well-written, but his book turned out to be the one I liked less! Instead, I don't think I've read the best works by Phillpotts ad Green. Their books were just ok but still left me curious to read more of their works. So, what books did I read?

The Grey Room by Eden Phillpotts
The story takes place in England, at the manor house on Dartmoor, the ancestral home of Sir Walter Lennox, in the 1920s. At a dinner party, the guests start talking about the Grey Room, a bedroom in which several people have died. These deaths seem all natural but Sir Lennox doesn't allow anyone to sleep there just in case. His son-in-law, though, thinks this is all silly superstition and decides to sleep in the room to prove to the others that there's nothing wrong with it. The next day, he's found dead. He was young and healthy and his death is inexplicable. And he won't be the only one to die before the detective called to investigate will solve the mystery. What's in the Grey Room that causes the death of so many people over the course of decades? It was this mystery that kept me reading the book until the end. In fact, even though the writing style is pleasant, it is also verbose at times and the characters are quite boring. The plot, which has a nice historical twist, is the only interesting thing about the book. Still, I think it will be a nice and quick read for fans of the genre.
Available at: Project Gutenberg
Rating: 3/5

The Avenger by Edgar Wallace
The avenger has killed twelve victims in seven years. He decapitates them and then sends a note to the police to tell them where they can find their heads. All his victims have something in common: they had all committed some crimes. When the head of a certain Elmer is found, Michael Brixan is called to investigate and he starts by interrogating the victim's niece, the young actress Adele Leamington. Brixan follows her around on the set for several days, without an apparent good reason to do so, but he's actually investigating. Will he discover the culprit? Personally, I didn't enjoy this book much. The characters were really boring and one of them, a very intelligent monkey capable of doing stuff that you wouldn't think possible for an animal to do, is very creepy, and just added an unrealistic touch to the story imo. The story too wasn't that engrossing and honestly, I didn't even care much to find out who the avenger was (although that wasn't too hard to guess). I guess that's because I find it really hard to get into a story if I don't like any of the characters much. The only interesting part was a brief reference to the French Revolution and Marie Antoinette (well, I am a history geek after all). I would recommend this book only to fans of Edgar Wallace but frankly, he has written much better books.
Available at: Abe Books
Rating: 2/5

The Step On The Stair by Anna Katherine Green
Edgar Quenton Bartholomew, an American millionaire, has decided to nominate his nephew, named Edgar Quenton Bartolomew after him, his heir. But shortly before he dies, another nephew, who's name is also Edgar Quenton Bartolomew, arrives from England to meet him and his daughter. Around the same time, the old man finds out something about his first, beloved nephew that makes him doubt his choice of leaving everything to him. He rewrites his will but, after his death, no one can find it. It has disappeared. Where is this will? Who will benefit from it? And who killed the old Lord Bartholomew? I was afraid, when I picked up this book, that the story, which is well-plotted and interesting, would be hard to follow due to the fact that three men share the same exact name, but luckily my fears were unfounded. It is always clear to what Edgar the author is referring to, something made easier by the fact that the story is narrated by the English Edgar. However, the pace is quite slow, especially at the beginning, and I've found the writing style quite boring at times. Still, the mystery was intriguing enough for me to want to keep reading to find out who the culprit was. Again, another nice read for fans of the genre.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

Have you read these books? What do you think of them?

Roman Thermae


When we think of ancient Rome, one of the first images that comes into our minds is men and women bathing in the thermae. Bathing was an important part of Roman life and culture. The Ancient Romans didn't go to the thermae just to take a bath, but also to socialize, conduct business, dine with their friends and talk politics. The big thermal complexes were, in fact, a city within a city. The water was supplied by a river or stream, or more commonly, by an aqueduct, and was then heated with a log fire under the floor by slaves. But have you ever wondered who invented the thermae? It was Caio Sergio Orata, a rich and enterprising businessman who got the idea at the beginning of the I century AC.

He knew that near the Vesuvio there were some natural thermal springs that emitted very hot vapours where people went to cure themselves. The Romans, in fact, thought that sweating would get the body rid of the humours that caused diseases. Caio Sergio Orata thought that these hot vapours could be artificially created by lighting fires under buildings. And these buildings could be located anywhere. Thus, the first thermae was born. Actually, the first bath houses were called balneum, and they were quite small and frequent (there were an average of five bath houses per block in a city.) These bath houses were so popular that the Emperor Agrippa decided to build a colossal one. In the following years, more and more emperors followed his example.


These huge buildings were called thermae (from the Greek word, thermos, meaning "hot"). They were big bath complexes that included several types of baths, sports halls, parks, restaurants and sometimes even a library and a little theatre. But of course the main attraction was the different types of baths: cold baths, hot bath, and hot-air baths. You'd probably think that going to such a majestic place could be very expensive but instead the entrance fee was so cheap that anyone, rich and poor, men and women, slaves and free men could enter. But of course there was a catch. Once inside Romans had to pay for all the services they wanted to use, such as bathing in pools and custody of clothes, massages etc. Rich Patricians usually brought their own equipment, such as brushes and oil flaks, with them and were accompanied by slaves who would perform massages on their masters and guard their clothes while they were bathing so that they wouldn't be stolen like it sometimes happened to those who couldn't pay for custody of clothes.


Once inside the thermae, you could stop at the entrance, where there usually was a natatio, ie a swimming pool, and chat with your friends, discuss business deals.. there were even prostitutes looking for clients. Next, you'd go to the apodyterium, a room for undressing. Most people kept on a subligaculum, an undergarment in the shape of either shorts or a loincloth, others kept even their tunic on, while others still only wore a small black thong. If you wanted to go into the main complex of the thermae and bathe (never swim as most Romans just weren't able to), you needed to pay another fee, which was actually higher for women! It has been speculated that this was because they didn't go to the thermae as often as men did. The entrance for slaves, soldiers and children, instead was free.


Usually, the first stop was the palestra (gym) or courtyard where men and men would play ball games or wrestle with a heavy sack filled with sand suspended from the ceiling. This workout was meant to stimulate the circulation and make people start sweating, getting them ready for the baths. From here, the bathers moved to the tepidarium, a large room where the temperature was only moderately hot. A lot of people skipped this room because they were already quite hot from the exercise they did in the palestra. They went straight to the calidarium, a steamy room with a pool with hot water. Here the temperature was so hot people needed to wear wooden sandals to protect their feet from the burning floor and sweated profusely. And yet this wasn't the hottest room in the thermal complex. That was the next room called laconicum.


Here the temperature reached 60°C! This was a hot bath air, similar to our saunas nowadays, made possible by heating the marble floor, raised on pillars, with a log fire. The hot air was then channelled through earthenware pipes in the walls. Here too people had to wear sandals and towels/clothes if they didn't want the floor or walls to burn their skin.People didn't stay long in the laconicum. Next, bathers would get a massage and then their skin was exfoliated, getting rid of all that sweat, dirt and dead skin cells, with the help of a strigil (a small and curved metal tool). The last stop was the frigidarium, where people could take cold baths in the pool. Women usually skipped this step cos it was believed that these sudden temperature changes were dangerous for them. And they could be dangerous indeed. It sometimes happened that people had strokes because of the temperature changes, and sometimes they even slipped and fell on the slippery floor, breaking a few bones. Spending a lot of time in this room could even cause hearing problems and deafness. Once refreshed, people would proceed to one of the relaxing areas, such as the library or restaurants, and keep socializing.

Further reading:
A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome: Daily Life, Mysteries, and Curiosities by Alberto Angela

Photo source:
Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

Stocks & Neckcloths


Thanks to the influence of Beau Brammel, the arbiter of fashion in Regency England, finely-arranged neckcloths became a must for any fashionable gentlemen. But not everyone was a fan. There were those who still preferred to wear stocks, an ancient and more uncomfortable type of cravat, usually quite wide, which were fastened in the back by a knot or hook, while in the front, they had a sort of pre-tied bowtie. Both neckclothes and stocks could be worn in lots of different ways. A cavalry officer, writing in 1830, shows us some fashionable ways of arranging neckwear, in his book The Art Of Dress:

The origin of stocks is very ancient, though for the last half-century they have been worn almost exclusively by the army, navy, and marines, until first revived into public notice by his late Majesty, in the year 1822, when they immediately became an universal fashion. Though at first viewed with a prejudiced and jealous eye by friends of the old school, after some opposition from the petits maitres tribe, they at length found their way into the opera and ball-room, and became a portion of full-dress costume. But this has only occurred since his Majesty was pleased to display one at Drury-lane theatre, composed of velvet and satin, from whence the present full-dress stock takes its name. Habit still, however, in some degree, reflects upon stocks for evening costume, and the adoption, though increasing, is by no means at present popular among the ton. I now proceed to describe the three fashions I have classed them under.


THE ROYAL GEORGE

or Full Dress. This stock the shape of which is left in a great degree to the wearer's pleasure, is composed of the richest black Genoa velvet and satin, the latter of which, sloping down each side of the velvet, terminates in the centre with a very handsome tie, representing a small gordian knot, with short broad ends. From the beautiful and lively contrast, of the velvet and satin, this stock is peculiarly becoming to dark complexions, as nothing can afford a stronger relief than the deep sable of its exterior. His Majesty and his royal brothers were always remarkable for wearing them extremely high on the cheek, so that the sides came close under the ears, extending to the utmost verge of the chin. Though this certainly gives a very noble and fine effect to some countenances, the rage for it has passed away and is now deemed singular.


THE PLAIN BOW

is nearly straight-sided, very pliant, and composed entirely of black silk, with a common bow in front. Though of an humble aspect beside its more haughty and aristocratical contemporaries, its appearance is unassuming and businesslike. Fashion decidedly Oriental.


THE MILITARY

is remarkable for the plain stiff elegance of its form, which is composed of corded silk, edged with kid and lined with crimson; unlike the two former fashions it has no tie. The shape or stiffner should be made of a thick whity-brown leather, which is beaten into shape upon a proper block, it should then be of so unyielding a nature that no force of the neck can bend it. A good shape ought to bear new covering at least a dozen times. The tout ensemble of this fashion expresses plainness and dignity with neatness and hauteur in an infinite degree.

Of stocks in general, it may be observed, that they are both handsome and economical, and are not attended with half the trouble of cravats, to which they become a pleasing change, more especially so in dark or gloomy weather, when light-coloured neckerchiefs have a very forlorn appearance. Of course it need scarcely be said that the military and plain beau should never be assumed for full dress. A large sable-coloured hook and eye, will be found an excellent and easy substitute for a buckle behind, the arrangement of which is frequently tiresome in the extreme.

With regard to Neckcloths, it is first indispensably necessary to premise, that previous to putting into execution the fashions here developed, the utmost attention should be paid to their washing, bleaching, and starching; the latter of which must generally be used in such proportion as to stiffen the cloth to the consistence of fine writing-paper.


BALL ROOM

This, perhaps, of all the following ties is, when well executed, the most exquisite, and requires the greatest practice. The cloth, of virgin white, well starched, and folded to the proper depth, should be made to sit easy and graceful upon the neck, neither too tight nor loose, but with a gentle pressure, curving inwards, from the further extension of the chin, down the throat, to the centre dent in the middle of the neck. This should be the point for a slight dent, extending from under each ear, between which, more immediately under the chin, there should be another slight horizontal dent, just above the former one. It has no tie; the ends, crossing each other in broad folds in front, are secured to the braces, or behind the back by means of a piece of white tape. A brilliant brooch or pin is generally made use of to secure more effectually the crossing, as well as to give an additional effect to the neckcloth.


THE CORSICAN

or Napoleon, is most simple, but by no means inelegant, being nothing more than the neckcloth first placed on the back of the neck, brought round in front, and the ends crossed and fastened as in the preceding method.
This, like some of the ensuing fashions, when the cloth first comes from the back of the neck, is decidedly a summer wear, consequently most in vogue during June, July, and August, when it is delightfully cool and refreshing. A plain gold pin I recommend as the most handsome fasten for the front. Cerulean blue is the greatest favourite in this form; but this, with other colours that may be named, are only submitted to the reader's fancy.


HIBERNIAN TIE

This somewhat resembles the Ball-room, having a collateral dent coming from under each ear, but has only one horizontal. A small gordian knot is the fasten. Colour, emerald green.


EASTERN TIE 

This is very plain and neat. As there should not be the slightest crease visible, the greatest regard should be paid to having the cloth starched as stiffly as possible, without which it is very liable to bend. The sides should be quite straight and smooth, rather larger below than above, with a square knot in front.
White is almost the only colour exhibited in this fashion.


HUNTING TIE

This is most conspicuous for its height and tightness, and from the three creases on either side. Like the Corsican, the ends should be crossed and placed out of sight. A pin or brooch, bearing the representation of a fox's head, or some apposite emblem, is generally worn. Favourite colours, white, bright buff, or white spots on a blue ground.


YANKEE TIE

This tie is alone original, from the slight perpendicular crease it has on either side of the chin. A slight collateral dent should likewise be on each side, but extending very little forwards, while the folds of the cloth should come close under the ears. A small, flat, gordian knot is the general accompaniment to this, though I have known them worn with the ends plainly crossed over the breast. Colour, light brimstone.


OSBALDISTON TIE

The fold of this should be extremely narrow, for, like the Corsican, it is first brought from the back of the neck, consequently chiefly intended for summer. The tie, which is remarkable, is an enormous barrel-knot, at least four inches in length, and two deep. As this is entirely a fancy tie, and chiefly worn by sporting characters, any fancy colour is appropriate.


MAIL-COACH TIE

Two things are absolutely requisite, rather out of the common course, to form this tie, which should resemble a waterfall. In the first place, the cloth should be immensely large; in the second, it should have no starch. The tie is made by folding the cloth loosely round the neck, and fastening it with a common knot, over which the folds of the cloth should be spread, so as entirely to conceal it. This is the fashion most in repute among all professional swell drivers, from the mail-coach down to the hack or cabriolet. Colour, generally white, but not unfrequently various, as suits the taste of its numerous wearers.


INDIAN TIE

Of all summer fashions, this, as its name may signify, is most in celebrity for its coolness, from being composed of the finest muslin. The ends are brought round the neck in front, linked transversely, and fastened. This, forming part of a nabob's costume, is worn generally under the tropics, for its uncommon ease and coolness, where I have seen it receive a very handsome and showy effect by the introduction of a ring as a slide, instead of the previous method. Colours may be various, but always light - chequered are, perhaps, most adopted.

HINTS

When a starched neckcloth is brought home from the wash, it will be immediately seen that one side is smooth and shining, the other more rough; this is occasioned by the one being ironed and the other not. I do it myself, and consequently recommend it to others, that the rough side should be worn outside during the day, but that on putting on a cloth for the evening, the smooth side should be the visible one.

After having folded the neckcloth, and made out the depth, &c, according to the wearer's taste, as I have previously said, the ends should first be folded as in the annexed engraving, the right-hand end of the cloth turned down, and, vice versa, the end on the left, turned up. The second method, perhaps, is the most general in use, more particularly when a handsome knot is in request. This is effected by gradually deepening both sides of the cloth, commencing from that part touching the back of the neck to the extreme ends. These first folds, by the way, should invariably be ironed out by the washer, and never attempted by the common vulgar method of turning down with the hand.

The advantages of these rules will soon be discovered. It removes the awkward appearance caused by crossing the ends behind; the ends are also by this means brought forward in a smooth and uncrumpled state, and fit to make the knot. It also makes the neckcloth lay smooth and even behind a thing which hitherto has been much neglected. The same care almost should be given to the back as the front part.

After the knot is made, take a piece of white tape and tie one end of it tight to one end of your neckcloth; then carry the tape under your arm, behind your back, under the other arm, and fasten it tightly to the other end of the neckcloth. The tape must not be visible. This way prevents the knot from flying up, which would thereby shorten the length of the cloth, and, in short, greatly injure its appearance. On putting on the neckcloth, take that part which is immediately under the ears with your thumb and finger, and pull it up till it reaches the ear, and contrive to make it maintain permanently that position. Nothing displays more mauvais gout than seeing a cloth forming a straight line from the chin to the ear. Let the front part of the cloth be brought in a line with the extremity of the chin. Nothing gives a person more the appearance of a goose than to see a long part of the jaw and chin projecting over the neckcloth.

Great attention is requisite in starching of neckcloths, or they will turn yellowish, which gives the idea of having a dirty cloth on. Starched neckcloths, independently of their superior look when compared with those which are not so, are also equally comfortable both in summer and winter. The indentures of a starcher, and which, of course, when received inside, are projections, prevent the whole mass of linen touching the cheek. And in some (the eastern for example) no part, except the extreme top and bottom edges, ever in any way touch the neck, which consequently leaves that part free and cool, thereby preventing in summer that overpowering heat occasioned by unstarched linen surrounding and closely clasping the neck on all sides. In winter also it has its advantages; for the starch completely fills up all the smallest and most minute holes (I do not mean holes occasioned by wear, &c, but those which exist in all linen from the nature of its construction). and thereby effectually prevents the admission of the least portion of cold air.

Neckcloths should always (except those worn in the evening and even then they may in ordinary be worn, if the ribs or chequers are not too visible), be made of ribbed or chequered materials, as it makes far better ties than when the stuff is plain. Muslin makes beautiful ties, especially for evenings. I had forgotten in its proper place to mention, that after the neckcloth is finished, you should pass your finger along the upper ridge, in order to make it lay smooth, and look thin and neat.

Further reading:
The Art Of Dress by A Cavalry Officer

Historical Reads: Marie Antoinette's Favourite Foods


Did Marie Antoinette really eat lots of macaroons and sweet pastries like portrayed in the Sofia Coppola's movie? Or did she have simpler tastes? Viva La Reine shares what the Queen's favourite foods were:

In the mornings, Marie Antoinette preferred coffee or hot chocolate, sometimes accompanied by simple bread. The bread she ate was possibly kipfel, a type of Austrian bread which is considered an early form of the croissant or it may have been an earlier form of kaisersemmel, more commonly known today as a Kaiser roll. Although popular legend has it that Marie Antoinette brought the croissant to France from her native Austria in the form of comfort food, this is likely a simple legend, because the croissant was not mentioned in records of French cuisine until the mid 19th century.

When Marie Antoinette was obliged to dine in public, which was the custom for the royalty at Versailles, she hardly touched the food presented to her. Typically, the food served during these ceremonial meals were elaborate court dishes which were meant to illustrate the majesty and wealth commanded by French monarchy. Although her husband ate at these public meals with gusto, Marie Antoinette often waited until she was able to retreat to her private apartments to eat her meals.

Privately, Marie Antoinette preferred foods which were much less extravagent than the court meals served at the grand couvert. She enjoyed meals of boiled or roasted white meat, especially chicken or fowl, accompanied by cooked vegetables. She was also fond of broths and simpler soups. She did not drink alcohol with much frequency, if at all, and preferred lemonade or water imported from Ville d’Avray for its purity. She also liked to dip small biscuits in her water or lemonade. She sometimes drank cow or donkey’s milk, especially for health purposes.


To read the entire article, click here.

Book Review: Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr


Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr is one of those books that everyone, young and old, will enjoy even if they are not history geeks. Waldherr briefly sketches the lives of 50 royal women, from biblical to modern times, who have met bad ends. Some of these women are still very famous such as Marie Antoinette and Anne Boleyn, while others have become footnotes in some history book such as Blanche of Bourbon and Thessalonike, and other still are not royal at all like Evita Peron, but they all have one thing in common: "their femaleness was - and is - considered a liability in their quest for power".

Only 2 or 3 pages are dedicated to each woman and yet their stories are throughout told. While it is true that you won't get an in-depth look at their lives, you still get a very concise and complete summery of their stories and of what led them to their deaths, which is the main subject of the book anyway. Despite the macabre topic, the book isn't depressive at all. Waldherr writes about these women in a very amusing, witty and tongue-in-cheek way. I suppose some people may find this humorous way of dealing with the tragic stories and deaths of these women offensive, but the author doesn't mean any disrespect and I really enjoyed her writing style.

At the top of every story, there is a small graphic representing the way of death, so if you don't know how someone died and want it to be a surprise, cover that bit with a piece of paper or something. Throughout the book there are also sidebars filled with information about the different ways of death such as poison, starvation and even childbirth, the dynasty the unfortunate female belonged to, legends that surround her and lots more. At the end of every story, there is also a "cautionary moral" that wittily and precisely shows what these tragic queens and their fate can teach us.

The book is also beautifully illustrated. Waldherr is not just a writer, she's an illustrator as well and the book is full of contemporary portraits of the queens and her gorgeous drawings, pictures and graphics that enhance the reading experience. I've heard that a lot of these graphics are missing in the ebook version so I highly recommend you get the paperback one for a more enjoyable experience. But this book is not only informative to read and pretty to look at, it is also interactive. At the end of every section, there are quizzes to test what you have learned up until that point. And the book also comes with six paper dolls you can cut out and play with! Doomed Queens is definitely an informative and fun read and a wonderful way to capture the interest of both children and newbies in the lives and deaths of these unfortunate historical figures.

Summary:
Doomed Queens by Kris Waldherr is a very informative and fun read. The book briefly but throughout sketches the lives of 50 royal women, from biblical to modern times, who have met grisly and tragic ends. Although the topic is sad and macabre, Waldherr's tells the stories in an humorous and witty way that will not depress you (although such a light way of dealing with a topic like this may offend some people). The book is also beautifully illustrated, full of interesting tidbits and contains both quizzes to test your knowledge and paper dolls to play with. Overall, this is a wonderful way to introduce children and adults who may not be into history, into the lives of these unfortunate royal women.

Available at: Amazon USA, Barnes & Noble and Book Depository

Rating: 4/5

Fashions For July And August 1817

Hello everyone,

are you curious to see what dress styles were fashionable in the summer of 1817? Unfortunately the images below are in black and white, but I hope you will enjoy them anyway. I think the evening dress is very pretty and I love the bonnets too. They're delightful and it's such a shame they aren't worn anymore, don't you think? Without further ado, here are the pictures:

JULY FASHIONS

DINNER DRESS

A round dress, composed of jaconot muslin, embroidered in small roses. The skirt is finished round the bottom with a profusion of rouleaus of clear muslin, which are fancifully wreathed with white satin. The body fastens behind; it comes high on the shoulder, but is cut very low round the bosom and back of the neck. The front forms the shape in a most becoming manner. Plain long sleeve, finished at the wrist to correspond with the skirt. Head-dress, cornette a la Ninon, composed of tulle and rouleaus of pale green satin. The crown is decorated with a wreath of leaves in pale green satin, to correspond with the rouleaus, and a broad lace set on very full. The cornette fastens under the chin, and has a full quilling of lace all round. The hair is parted so as to display the forehead and eyebrows, and dressed very light at the sides. Necklace and ear-rings, white cornelian mixed with gold. White kid slippers and gloves.


EVENING DRESS

A plain rich white gauze dress over a white satin slip. The form, a frock made to fasten behind; it is cut very low all round the bust, and the body and sleeves are ornamented, in a style of uncommon novelty and taste, with blond and moss-roses. The skirt is elegantly trimmed with gauze draperies, each of which is finished with a rose. Head-dress, the chapeau a la Infanta; it is composed of white satin; the crown a moderate height, elegantly ornamented with satin round the top. The front, which turns up all round, is of a novel and becoming shape. A beautiful plume of feathers droops a little to the left side. The hair is dressed in loose curls on the forehead, parted in front, and very low at the sides. Necklace and ear-ings, diamonds. White kid gloves, and white satin slippers. White crape fan, richly embroidered in silver.

AUGUST FASHIONS


THE MOST FASHIONABLE PARISIAN BONNETS

No. 1. White straw bonnet, round crown, a moderate height; the brim is very deep. The trimming is plain ribbon, of which there is a large knot on the summit of the crown, and a bunch of fancy flowers placed on one side.
No. 2. A capote of cambric muslin, of a similar shape to the one just described; it is trimmed very elegantly with rich worked muslin. The brim is edged with two rows, set on rather full. The lower part of the crown is finished by van dykes of work, and the top is ornamented with a fulness of work before and behind. A full band of soft muslin ties it under the chin.
No. 3. A second capote of perkale, which is laid on in plaits. The crown very low. The brim a moderate breadth, but very wide. Both brim and crown are trimmed with a double row of pointed work. White sarsnet strings, fastened inside the bonnet, tie it under the chin.
No. 4. White straw bonnet, trimmed with a scarf of dark green silk, with a stripe of coquelicot in the border. This scarf is disposed in a very full rosette, and finished by long ends. A green and coquelicot striped ribbon ties this bonnet, the form of which resembles the one we first described, under the chin.
No. 5. A capote composed of striped muslin. The crown is oval and low; the front is deep, and comes down square at the sides. At the back of the crown is a piece of the same material set in very full, which quite shades the back of the neck; it is tied with soft white ribbon, and ornamented with bunch of wild flowers.
No. 6. A bonnet, composed of yellow crape, the crown of which is very low, and the front enormously large; it is trimmed round the brim with a fulness of yellow crape, ornamented with a bunch of yellow crape roses and a very large knot of yellow ribbons: it ties under the chin with ribbon to correspond.
The small bunch of flowers consists of tulips, pinks, narcissus, and roses. The large bunch is composed of roses, narcissus, blue-bells, and poppies. all of which are at present in high estimation among the Parisian elegantes.



WALKING DRESS

A jaconot muslin round dress; the bottom of the skirt trimmed with five rows of embroidery, in a running pattern of leaves. The body is full; it is cut low round the bust, and the fulness is gathered in there and at the bottom of the waist by a narrow band of muslin. Plain long sleeve, almost tight to the arm, and finished at the wrist with work. The fichu worn with this dress comes up very high on the shoulders, and partially displays the neck; a pink and white net silk handkerchief is fastened in a large bow and long ends before. Head-dress a bonnet composed of white satin, and lined with the same material: the brim, which is very large, turns up entirely in front; the edge is ornamented with intermingled rolls of pink and white satin. The crown is also adorned with rolls of pink satin, displayed in a very novel and tasteful style; it fastens under the chin with a knot of pink satin at the left side, and is finished by a rich plume of down feathers. Blue kid sandals, and white kid gloves.

Further reading:
Repository of arts, literature, fashions &c, 1817

Book Review: The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender


Synopsis:
On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein bites into her mother's homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the slice. To her horror, she finds that her cheerful mother tastes of despair. Soon, she’s privy to the secret knowledge that most families keep hidden: her father’s detachment, her mother’s transgression, her brother’s increasing retreat from the world. But there are some family secrets that even her cursed taste buds can’t discern.


ALERT: The following review contains spoilers. If you don't want to know them, stop reading now or just skip to the summary.

When I finished reading The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender, I didn't quite know what to make of it. If I had to describe the book in three words, I'd say it is weird, unfinished and selfish. Weird because the plot is crazy, at times completely absurd. Unfinished because both the characters and themes in the novel are underdeveloped, and a lot of things left unexplained, and when I finished it I just couldn't believe there was no more to read; in fact, it made the book feel even more weird. And selfish because all the main characters are a bunch of selfish, self-absorbed brats who only think about themselves. And this is what really spoiled the book for me.

All the members of the Eldelstein family (apart from the mother) have a different magical gift (or a curse as they seem to view it). Rose discovers hers when she's 9: she can feel what other people are feeling by eating the food they cook. And that's how she discovers first that her mother is unhappy and then that she has an affair. Distressed, she tries to confront her mother, who denies anything's wrong. And so Rose notes, "I was having trouble trusting her cheer. I knew if I ate anything of hers again it would likely give me the same message: Help me, I am not happy ... And now my job was to pretend I did not get the message." And she will pretend that for most of her life. She starts to eat only foods made in factories so that she can eat without feeling other people's emotions. Once grown up Rose uses her ability to become a chef and is hired by a girl who works with teenagers to help her out with them, but is all too quick to point out that she’s willing to help only once in a while! That's still more that can be sad for the other members of her family though.

Her grandfather could smell people’s feelings and so he went around with a strap on his nose. Her brother, a nerd who doesn't know how to live in the real world, instead than trying to overcome his fears and the obstacles life inevitably throws at you, and just grow up, prefers to turn himself permanently into a chair. WTH? Excuse the expression, but seriously, a chair? One day he just becomes one, leaving his parents completely devastated. Only Rose knows the truth but she doesn't reveal it anyone, probably because it is so absurd no one would believe her anyway. Finally, her father thinks he could discover his power if he went into a hospital and so refuses to go into one even when his kids are born or seriously ill.

Because these gifts are passed onto each generation by her father's side of the family, Rose's mother is normal. But that doesn't make her any less selfish. She met her husband at the garage sale he was holding and, disappointed at not having what she was looking for, he offers to take her to other yard sales while his friend, upon his request, tries to procure the desired object. And when they return and she sees it, she thinks it is fate. They date, get married and on her wedding day she's told that it wasn't fate after all, but her new husband's doing. Instead than being pleased at what lengths he went to win her, she's disappointed. She believes in signs and because that wasn't one, she starts to think she's made a mistake and views her husband differently. In time she cheats on him, and when her daughter nonchalantly reveals she knows about it, she offers to give her man up. But because Rose doesn't seem to be too bothered by the affair, she doesn't and keeps seeing her man for years and years, which just isn't fair on anyone involved including her lover.

If you're looking for a morale, you won't find it here. What you'll find is a lot of wasted possibilities and opportunities. What really irked me was the fact that no one seems interested that their gifts, if used properly, could help a lot of people and do a lot of good. I realise that having such a gift can be hard and that there will be times when you just want to be left alone, but it seems that the Eldenstein family just concentrates on its negative sides. Their only care is that their gifts, or curses, don't interfere with their daily life and if someone could benefit from them, well hard luck. They won't help you. Well, Rose will, but only once in a while. I honestly don't get it. What's the point of having a gift, magical or not, if you're not gonna use it by sharing it with other people and making their life better?

Ok, the Eldensteins are a very dysfunctional family where all problems are hidden and everyone pretends everything is fine all the time, and growing up in such a family mustn't have been easy for the children, especially with the powers they have. But they must have met someone else outside the family that needed help and realised that, despite the situation at home, there is a lot of good they can do. But noone, apart from Rose and even then only a little, tries. To me, the book just shows how selfish our modern society encourages us to be. Life is difficult for everyone, which is why we should all try to help one another instead than just focusing on ourselves and our own problems, or better trying to carry on as normal as possible not to face them.

It is true that Bender's writing is charming at times, and I have heard lots of great things about this book, but I just couldn't like it. Because it is unfinished. Of all the issues mentioned (their powers, the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, the hypocrisy in the family, her mother’s affair…), none is fully developed and has a definitive answer at the end. And the characters never really grow up. If only the issues had been explored more in-depth or the characters developed more, then this would have been a wonderful book.

Summary:
The Particular Sadness Of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender has the potential to be a wonderful book, but instead it turns out to be quite disappointing simply because it isn't finished. A lot of important and interesting issues such as the hypocrisy of middle class families and the difficulties of having magical powers are not-explored in depth, the characters are a bunch of selfish people who never grow up and prefer to retract from life instead than facing its challenges, and there is no definite answer or message at the end. The writing style is charming though.

Available at: amazon UK, amazon US and Barnes & Noble

Rating: 2/5

Madame Vigée LeBrun Meets Empress Catherine II


In 1795, famous portraitist Elizabeth Vigée LeBrun travelled to St. Petersburg, where she was introduced to the Empress Catherine The Great. Here's how the painter recalls their meeting in her memoirs:

I was far from recovered from all my fatigue – since the term of my residence in St. Petersburg had been only twenty-four hours – when a visitor was announced in the person of the French Ambassador, Count Esterhazy. He congratulated me on my arrival at St. Petersburg, telling me that he was about to inform the Empress of it and at the same time to take her orders for my presentation. Very little later I received a visit from the Count de Choiseul-Gouffier. While conversing with him I confessed what happiness it would give me to see the great Catherine, but I did not dissemble the fright and embarrassment I expected to undergo when I should be presented to that powerful Princess. "You will find it quite easy," he replied. "when you see the Empress you will be surprised at her good nature; she is really an excellent woman." I acknowledge that I was astonished by his remark, the justice of which I could scarcely believe, in view of what I had heard up to that time. It is true that the Prince de Ligne, during the charming narration of his journey in the Crimea, had recounted several facts proving that this great Princess had manners that were as gracious as they were simple, but an excellent woman was hardly the thing to call her.

However, the same evening Count Esterhazy, on returning from Czarskoiesielo, where the Empress was living, came to tell me that Her Majesty would receive me the next day at one o'clock. Such a quick presentation, which I had not hoped for, put me into a very awkward position. I had nothing but very plain muslin dresses, as I usually wore no others, and it was impossible to have an ornamental gown made from one day to the next, even at St. Petersburg. Count Esterhazy had said he would call for me at ten o'clock precisely and take me to breakfast with his wife, who also lived at Czarskoiesielo, so that when the appointed hour struck I started with serious apprehensions about my dress, which certainly was no court dress. On arriving at Mme. d'Esterhazy's, I, in fact, took note of her amazement. Her obliging civility did not prevent her from asking me, "Have you not brought another gown?" I turned crimson at her question, and explained how time had been wanting to have a more suitable gown made. Her displeased looks increased my anxiety to such a degree that I needed to summon up all my courage when the moment came to go before the Empress. [...]



A few minutes later I was alone with the autocrat of all the Russias. The Ambassador had told me I must kiss her hand, in accordance with which custom she drew off one of her gloves, and this ought to have reminded me what to do. But I forgot all about it. The truth is, that the sight of this famous woman made such an impression upon me that I could not possibly think of anything else but to look at her. I was at first extremely surprised to find her short; I had imagined her a great height – something like her renown. She was very stout, but still had a handsome face, which her white hair framed to perfection. Genius seemed to have its seat on her broad, high forehead. Her eyes were soft and small, her nose was quite Greek, her complexion lively, and her features very mobile. She at once said in a voice that was soft though rather thick: "I am delighted, madame, to see you here; your reputation had preceded you. I am fond of the arts and especially of painting. I am not an adept, but a fancier." Everything else she said during this interview, which was rather long, in reference to her wish that I might like Russia well enough to remain a long time, bore the stamp of such great amiability that my shyness vanished, and by the time I took leave of Her Majesty I was entirely reassured. Only I could not forgive myself for not having kissed her hand, which was very beautiful and very white, and I deplored that oversight the more as Count Esterhazy reproached me with it. As for what I was wearing, she did not seem to have paid the least attention to it. Or else perhaps she may have been easier to please than our Ambassadress.

I went over part of the gardens at Czarskoiesielo, which are a veritable little fairyland. The Empress had a terrace from them communicating with her apartment, and on this terrace she kept a large number of birds. I was told that every morning she went out to feed them, and that this was one of her chief pleasures.

Directly after my audience Her Majesty testified her wish to have me spend the summer in that beautiful region. She commanded her stewards, of whom the old Prince Bariatinski was one, to give me an apartment in the castle, as she desired to have me near her, so that she might see me paint. But I afterward found out that these gentlemen took no pains to put me near the Empress, and that in spite of her repeated orders they always maintained that they had no lodgings at their disposal. What astonished me most of all, when I was informed of this matter, was that these courtiers, suspecting me to belong to the party of the Count d'Artois, were afraid lest I had come to get Esterhazy replaced by another Ambassador. It is probable that the Count was in connivance with them about all this, but anybody was surely little acquainted with me who did not know that I was too busy with my art to give any time to politics, even if I had not always felt an aversion to everything smacking of intrigue. Moreover, aside from the honour of being lodged with the Empress and the pleasure of inhabiting such a fine place, everything would have been stiff and irksome for me at Czarskoiesielo. I have always had the greatest need to enjoy my liberty, and, for the sake of following my own inclination, I have always infinitely preferred living in my own house.


Further reading:
The Memoirs of Madame Vigée Le Brun

Life In French Prisons


A few days ago, we talked about what life was like in the hospital wards of English prisons. Today I've thought it'd be interesting to take a look at how French prisoners lived. Here's how Peter Kropotkin, a Russian revolutionary and anarcho-communist that spent 5 years in a French prison, recalled his experience in his book, In French And Russian Prisons:

The central prison of Clairvaux occupies the site of what formerly was the Abbey of St. Bernard. [...] During the great Revolution the abbey was confiscated by the State, and its then extensive and solid buildings became, in the earlier years of our century, a Depot de Mendicite. Later on, their destination was changed, and now the former abbey is a "Maison de Detention et de Correction," which shelters about 1400 and occasionally 2000 inmates. It is one of the largest in France; its outer wall the mur d'enceinte a formidable masonry some twenty feet high, incloses, besides the prison proper, a wide area occupied by the buildings of the administration, barracks of the soldiers, orchards, and even corn-fields, and has an aggregate length of nearly three miles. The buildings of the prison proper, with its numerous workshops, cover a square about 400 yards wide, inclosed by another still higher wall the mur de ronde.

With its lofty chimneys, which day and night send their smoke towards a mostly cloudy sky, and the rhythmical throbbing of its machinery, which is heard late in the night, it has the aspect of a little manufacturing town. In fact, there are within its walls more manufactures than in many small towns. There are a big manufacture of iron beds and iron furniture, lighted by electricity, and employing more than 400 men; workshops for weaving velvet, cloth, and linen; for making frames to pictures, looking-glasses, and meters; for cutting glass and fabricating all kinds of ladies' attire in pearl-shell; yards for cutting stone; flour-mills, and a variety of smaller workshops; all dress for the inmates is made by the men themselves. The whole machinery is set in motion by four powerful steam-engines and one turbine. An immense orchard and a corn-field, as also small orchards allotted to each warder and employe, are also comprised within the outer wall and cultivated by the prisoners. [...]



Leaving aside the political prisoners who are occasionally sent thither, there are at Clairvaux two different categories of inmates. The great number are common-law prisoners condemned to more than one year of imprisonment but not to hard labour (these last being transported to New Caledonia); and there are, besides, a few dozen of soldiers condemned by martial courts the so-called detentionnaires. These last are a sad product of our system of militarism. A soldier who has assaulted his corporal, or officer, is usually condemned to death; but if he has been provoked which is mostly the case- the penalty is commuted into a twenty years' imprisonment, and he is sent to Clairvaux. [...]

Te detention aires are not submitted to the usual regimen of the common-law prisoners. They are not constrained to compulsory labour, and they enter a workshop only if they like. They wear a better grey dress than other prisoners, and are permitted to take wine at the canteen. Those who do not go to the workshops occupy a separate quarter, and spend years and years in doing absolutely nothing. It is easy to conceive what some thirty soldiers, who have spent several years in barracks, may do when they are locked up for twenty years or so in a prison, and have no occupation of any kind, either intellectual or physical. Their quarter has so bad a reputation that the rains of brim stone which destroyed the two Biblical town are invoked upon it by the administration.

As to the common-law prisoners, they are submitted to a regimen of compulsory labour, and of absolute silence. This last, however, is so adverse to human nature that it has in fact been given up. It is simply impossible to prevent people from speaking when at work in the workshops; and, without trebling the number of warders and resorting to ferocious punishments, it is not easy to prevent prisoners from exchanging words during the hours of rest, or from chattering in dormitories. During our stay at Clairvaux we saw the system abandoned more and more, and I suppose that the watchword is now merely to prohibit loud speaking and quarrels.



Early in the morning at five in the summer, and at six in the winter a bell rings,: The prisoners must immediately rise, roll up their beds, and descend into the yards, where they stand in racks, the men of each workshop separately under the command of a warder. On his order, they march in Indian file, at a slow pace, towards their respective workshops, the warder loudly crying out, un, deux! un, deux! and the heavy wooden shoes answering in cadence to the word of command. A few minutes later, the steam-engines sound their call, and the machines run at full speed. At nine (half-past eight in the summer) the work is stopped for an hour, and the prisoners are marched to the refectories. There they are seated on benches, all faces turned in one direction, so as to see only the backs of the men on the next bench, and they take their breakfast. At ten they return to the workshops, and the work is interrupted only at twelve, for ten minutes, and at half-past two, when all men less than thirty-five years old, and having received no instruction, are sent for an hour to the school.

At four the prisoners go to take their dinner; it lasts for half-an-hour, and a walk in the yards follows. The same Indian files are made up, and they slowly march in a circle, the warder always crying his cadenced, un, deux! They call that "faire la queue de saucissons". At five the work begins again and lasts until eight in the winter, and until nightfall during the other seasons.

As soon as the machinery is stopped which is done at six, or even earlier in September or March the prisoners are locked up in the dormitories. There they must lie in their beds from half-past six until six the next morning, and I suppose that these hours of enforced rest must be the most painful hours of the day. Certainly, they are permitted to read in their beds until nine, but the permission is effective only for those whose beds are close to the gas-burners. At nine the lights are diminished. During the night each dormitory remains under the supervision of prevosts who are nominated from among the prisoners and who have the more red lace on their sleeves, as they are the more assiduous in spying and denouncing their comrades.



On Sundays the work is suspended. The prisoners spend the day in the yards, if the weather permits, or in the workshops, where they may read, or talk but not too louder in the school-rooms, where they write letters. A band composed of some thirty prisoners plays in the yard, and for half-an-hour goes out of the interior walls to play in the cour d'honneur a yard occupied by the lodgings of the administration while the fire-brigade takes some exercise. At six all must be in their beds.

Besides the men who are at work in the workshops, there is also a brigade exterieure, the men of which do various work outside the prison proper, but still within its outer wall such as repairs, painting, sawing wood, and so on. They also cultivate the orchards of the house and those of the warders, for salaries reaching but a few pence per day. Some of them are also sent to the forest for cutting wood, cleaning a canal, and so on. No escape is to be feared, because only such men are admitted to the exterior brigade as have but one or two months more to remain at Clairvaux.

As to us, the "politicals" we had a special regimen namely, that of prisoners submitted to preventive incarceration. We kept our own dress; we were not compelled to be shaved, and we could smoke. We occupied three spacious rooms, with a separate small room for myself, and had a little garden, some fifty yards long and ten yards wide, where we did some gardening on a narrow strip of earth along the wall, and could appreciate, from our own experience, the benefits of an "intensive culture." One would suspect me of exaggeration if I enumerated all crops of -vegetables we made in our kitchen-garden, less than fifty square yards. No compulsory work was imposed upon us; and my comrades all work men who had left at home their families without support never could obtain any regular employment. [...] Reading and the study of languages were thus the chief occupations of my comrades.



A special warder was always kept in our quarter, and as soon as some of us were in the yard, he regularly took his seat on the steps at tee door. In the night we were locked up under at least six or seven locks, and, more over, a round of warders passed each two hours, and approached each bed in order to ascertain that nobody had vanished. [...] No newspapers penetrated into our rooms, excepting scientific periodicals or illustrated weekly papers. [...] As to writing, the most severe control was exercised on the manuscripts I intended to send out of the prison. Nothing dealing with social questions, and still less with Russian affairs, was permitted to issue from the prison-walls. The common-law prisoners are permitted to write letters only once a month, and only to their nearest relatives. As to us, we could correspond with friends as much as we liked, but all letters sent or received were submitted to a severe censorship, which was the cause of repeated conflicts with the administration.

The food of the prisoners is, in my opinion, quite insufficient. The daily allowance consists chiefly of bread, 850 grammes per day (one pound and nine-tenths). It is grey, but very good, and if a prisoner complains of having not enough of it, one loaf, or two, per week are added to the above. The breakfast consists of a soup which is made with a few vegetables, water, and American lard this last very often rancid and bitter. At dinner the same soup is given, and a plate of two ounces of kidney beans, rice, lentils, or potatoes is added. Twice a week, the soup is made with meat, and then it is served only at breakfast, two ounces of boiled meat being given instead of it at dinner. The men are thus compelled to purchase additional food at the canteen, where they have for very honest prices, varying from three farthings to twopence, small rations of cheese, or sausage, pork-meat, and sometimes tripe, as also milk, and small rations of figs, jams or fruits in the summer. Without this supplementary food the men obviously could not maintain their strength; but many of them, and especially old people, earn so little that, after deducting the percentage-money raised by the State*, they cannot spend at the canteen even twopence per day. I really wonder how they manage to keep body and soul together.


Note:
* Here's how the State supplied food, dress and other necessaries to the prisoners: "the State raises a certain percentage, varying from three to nine-tenths on the payment due to the prisoner for the work he has done in prison, either for the State, or for private undertakers; three-tenths of the wages are retained if the prisoner is under preventive incarceration; five tenths if he is condemned for the first time; and six, seven, eight, or nine-tenths if he has had one, two, three, four, or more previous condemnations; one tenth of the salary always remaining for the prisoner, whatever the number of condemnations".

Further reading:
In Russian And French Prisons by Peter Kropotkin