Book Review: La Vita Di Napoleone Bonaparte by Lorenzo Vincenti


I've been debating for a while now on whether I should review La Vita Di Napoleone Bonaparte: L'Uomo Che Cambiò Il Volto Dell'Europa (The Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte: The Man Who Changed The Face Of Europe) because this book has now become incredibly hard to find (hence why the "available at" section of the review is missing; I just couldn't find it anywhere for sale online, apart from the occasional ebay listing) and I'm not even sure it is available in any other language than Italian. I just happened to find it by a stroke of luck and I though I'd write a review anyway in case you, too, should come across it in a language you can understand.

Love him or hate it, Napoleon Bonaparte is a very fascinating figure and I was very curious to find out more about him. Sadly, this biography didn't tell me all I wanted to know. Rather than a full biography where every aspect of his life, both personal and professional, are discussed, this book focuses mostly on the many battles and wars Napoleon fought during his career. Lorenzo Vincenti takes the reader on the battlefield to witness Napoleon fighting his first battles in the Revolutionary army, conquering half Europe and losing it all in the end, showing us what a great military genius he was, how he was able to exploit his enemy's weaknesses and what fatal mistakes he made in his last campaigns that cost him his crown.

If you love your military history, you should try and track down this book. Otherwise, it will just bore you. Personally, I'm more interested in his relationships with his wives Josephine and Marie Louise, his sister Pauline and the rest of his family, in his personal tastes, his habits, his quirks and all the little things that make you understand who a person really is. Even the political happenings of his time, save for the many declaration of wars and things like that, aren't explored, nor the author talks much about the social, cultural and economic aspects of French society at the time.

The book is simply a never-ending (or so it seems to those not particularly interested solely in this subject) list of battles. But the style is very straightforward and easy-to-understand, making the book flow very easily. It is also short, so none of the battles are explored too in-depth, although you would probably get more information about his military career here than in most books that would explore, for lack of space, most of those same battles in much less detail, if not completely skip some of them. Although La Vita Di Napoleone explores only a part of Napoleon's wife, it is still an interesting read that I recommend to all fans of the subject.

Summary:
La Vita Di Napoleone Bonaparte by Lorenzo Vincenti is a hard-to-track-down book about the military career of and battles fought by Napoleon. Every other aspect of his life and the times he lived in are only briefly mentioned. The book is short, written in a simple and straightforward style and flows easily. If military history is your thing, you will enjoy this. Otherwise, you can just skip it.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Best Confessor That Ever Woman In My Position Had


In the period between Arthur’s death and her marriage to Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon had grown very close to, even dependent on, her new confessor, Fray Diego Fernández, whom she described as the "best confessor that ever woman in my position had, with respect to his life as well as to his holy doctrine and proficiency in letters". She said that he "was serving me faithfully, giving me good advice and a good example, and nothing grieved me more than that my poverty did not permit me to reward him as he deserved."

However, not everyone at court liked the new confessor. Fray Diego had gained such a hold over the princess that she obeyed him in everything. Here's an example:

Fuensalida describes Fray Diego Fernandez as a monk having neither learning nor appearance, nor manners, nor competency, nor credit. He was light, haughty, and licentious to an extreme degree. On another occasion the ambassador calls him a "pestiferous" person who could not too soon be removed from the presence of the Princess. But, on the other hand, he was young, and does not seem to have been deficient in aptitude for the despatch of business, as he discharged not only the duties of confessor but also those of chancellor to the Princess. He gained her confidence and her affection. The most effectual weapon in the hands of a priest is the belief of others that he is the dispenser of rewards and punishments in future life. Of this Fray Diego made a most unscrupulous use, declaring everything to be a mortal sin which displeased him, however innocent it might be.

Fuensalida gives us one striking illustration. King Henry had asked the Princess Katharine and Princess Mary to go to Richmond, where he intended to meet them. When the Princess Katharine was ready to start, the friar came into her room, and said to her, "You shall not go today." The Princess, it is true, had vomited that night, but was again perfectly well, and the distance she had to travel was at the utmost less than one league. She therefore protested that she was not ill, and did not like to be left behind alone. The friar, however, overruled her objections in a high-handed manner by his categorical command, "I tell you that upon pain of mortal sin you shall not go today." The Princess, "not daring to displease him," had no choice left, and underwent the humiliation of telling the Princess Mary, who had been waiting for her more than two hours, that she was unable to go.

It is easy to imagine the feelings of the English gentlemen who, having been appointed to escort the two princesses, rode off with the Princess Mary alone, leaving their future queen behind in the company of a young Spanish monk of bad repute and a few servants, one of whom had arrived by mere chance. They could not have been deceived by her pretext of indisposition, as they had seen her at mass and at dinner in perfect health. When, on the following day, she went to Richmond, accompanied by no other living creature than three women on horseback, her maestre sala, a chamberlain, and Fray Diego, King Henry was so much incensed, that for several weeks he did not take the slightest notice of her, although during that time she really fell ill. "May God forgive me," exclaimed the ambassador, "but since I have known so well the affairs of the Princess' household, I acquit the King of England of a great and very great portion of the blame which I hitherto laid on him, and do not wonder at what he has done, but at what he does not do."

Fray Diego made the infatuation of the Princess a means of obtaining pecuniary advantages. She was living in absolute poverty, and her father had strictly forbidden her to sell any portion of her plate and jewels, which were to be given in part payment of her dower to the King of England. In spite of these injunctions she sold some plate, and would have sold more had she not been prevented by her servants, in order to "satisfy the follies" of the friar; and, unmindful of her own wants, she employed the money in buying books and other things for him.


Further reading:
Calendar of State Papers, Spain: Supplement to Volumes 1 and 2: Queen Katherine; Intended Marriage of King Henry VII to Queen Juana

A Modest And Unconceited Princess

 
Unlike many princesses, Princess Augusta, the second daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte wasn't vain and didn't care much about her appearance. English novelist Fanny Burney thus recalled how the princess let her hairdresser do what he pleased with her locks:

She "let the hairdresser proceed upon her head, without comment and without examination, just as if it was solely his affair, and she only supported a block to be dressed for his service... And when he begged she would say whether she would have any ribbons, or other things, mixed with the feathers and jewels, she said, "You understand all that best, Mr Robinson, I'm sure - there are the things - so take what you please."
 

Augusta also didn't understand why her younger sister Sophia, who was near-sighted, stubbornly refused to wear glasses for fear of what people would say. Fanny Burney, who went to visit Sophia on her twentieth birthday, thus recalled how self-conscious the younger princess was:

She had a pair of spectacles on, which, with her uncommonly young face - its shape being as round as a baby's, and its colour as rosy - had a most comic and grotesque appearance... She is so near-sighted, that she is almost blind; and the Queen now permits her always to wear spectacles. "And I want her", said Princess Augusta, "to wear them at the play, where we are going tonight; but she is afraid, she says, of some paragraph in the newspapers; but what, I ask her, can they say? That the Princess Sophia wears spectacles! Well, and what harm can that do her? Would it not be better they should say it, than she should lose all sight of the performers?"

Further reading:
Princesses: The Six Daughters Of George III by Flora Fraser

Historical Reads: Why Did Men Stop Wearing High Heels?



The BBC has an interesting article about the history of high heels. To quote:

And high heels don't tend to be very comfortable. It is almost as though they just weren't designed for walking in.

Originally, they weren't.

"The high heel was worn for centuries throughout the near east as a form of riding footwear," says Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto.
Good horsemanship was essential to the fighting styles of Persia - the historical name for modern-day Iran.

"When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively," says Semmelhack.

To read the entire article, click here.

Princess Charlotte's Will


Princess Charlotte of Wales was only 10 years old when she made her will. No, the princess wasn't ill. She simply chanced to walk into a room where Mrs Campbell, one of her sub-governesses, was sitting at a table, writing her will. Charlotte then decided to make hers too. Here it is:

I make my will. First I leave all my best books, and all my books, to the Rev. Mr. Nott*.
Secondly, to Mrs. Campbell my three watches and half my jewels.
Thirdly, I beg Mr. Nott, whatever money he finds me in possession of, to distribute to the poor, and all my money I leave to the poor to them. I leave with Mr. Nott all my papers which he knows of, and I beg him to burn those which he sealed up. I beg the Prayer Book which Lady Elgin* gave me may be given to the Bishop of Exeter*, and the Bible Lady Elgin gave me may be given to him also. Also all my playthings the Miss Fishers are to have. And lastly, concerning Mrs. Gagarin* and Mrs. Louis*, I beg that they may be very handsomly paid, and that they may have a house. Lady de Clifford* the rest of my jewels, except those that are most valuable, and those I beg my father and mother, the Prince and Princess of Wales, to take. Nothing to Mrs. Udney*, for reasons. I have done my will, and trust that after I am dead a great deal may be done for Mr. Nott. I hope the King will make him a Bishop.

Charlotte

March, 1806.
My birds to Mrs. Gagarin and my dog or dogs to Mrs. Anna Hatton my chambermaid.

Later, on Mr. Nott's suggestion, Charlotte decided to leave something to Mrs Udney, whom she greatly disliked, something too. However, this innocent will, made on the spur of the moment, got Mrs Campbell fired. The Prince of Wales, Charlotte's father, believed it was written under the influence of the sub-governess and asked her to resign. To Charlotte, who was very attached to her, was told she quit for health reasons.

Notes:
*Rev. Mr. Nott: Charlotte's chaplain and preceptor
*Lady Elgin: Charlotte's governess
*Bishop of Exeter: he was hired to teach Charlotte religion
*Mrs Gagarin: Charlotte's dresser
*Mrs Louis: Charlotte's personal maid
*Lady de Clifford: she replaced Lady Elgin as Charlotte's governess
*Mrs Udney: one of Charlotte's sub-governesses

Further reading:
Charlotte & Leopold: The True Story of The Original People's Princess by James Chambers

Fashions For 1829 (Part 2)

Hello everyone,

let's continue our foray into the fashions of the year 1829, with new prints of ball, dinner and masquerade dresses:

MARCH 


COSTUME OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY 

This dress is composed of transparent French tulle over a slip of rich white satin: the skirt is of a moderate length and ornamented round the edge by two full flounces of tulle, embroidered in silks in imitation of natural flowers; the upper flounce is disposed in waves beaded by pipings of white satin; at the top of each wave is placed a bunch of Provins roses and forget-me-not. The corsage is of white satin lined in front a la paysanne; it is cut a moderate height round the figure, and is richly trimmed with French blond. Head-dress: a full plume of white ostrich feathers, and rows of pearl intermingled with the hair, which is dressed in light ringlets; ear-rings and necklace of pearl, with antique cameo clasp, and brooch to match; gold chain and locket; shoes and gloves of white kid. 

 SECOND FIGURE 

This elegant costume represents the dress worn in the beginning of the sixteenth century; it consists of a full train of the softest white satin, which reaches in folds to the ground. Over this is worn a short tunic of palé pink silk damask, woven in an elegant pattern of flowers. The boddice is of dark blue velvet, and fits close to the figure in the stomacher shape; the sleeves are short and very full, ornamented with bands of white satin; with this is worn a fichu of rich vandyke lace so formed that the corsage laces over it behind, while in front it is finished by tassels of pearls, and hangs as low as the waist. The necklace and armlets are of large pearls; in addition to which a rosary and cross of richly wrought gold, is suspended from the right side. Over the whole of this rich dress is worn a long veil à mantilla, of transparent gauze, bordered with silver fringe, which falls in graceful folds to the feet of the wearer, and adds greatly to the elegance of this becoming costume.

APRIL


ENGLISH DINNER DRESS

Dress of lilac gros de Naples, the corsage en draperie regulated in the centre by a perpendicular corded band, and ornamented with a trimming of Spanish points corded, meeting at the commencement in front, and widening as it extends to the shoulders, where the trimming is considerably deeper than at the waist. The back is made to correspond. Short white satin sleeves and long full ones over them of white crepe lisse, confined by broad gold bracelets, with gothic clasps at the wrist. The skirt is simply decorated by a deep Mais of the same material as the dress, headed by a row of corded Spanish points falling over it. Ceinture of pink satin, corded at the edge, and a rosette bow behind.
Spanish hat, of white gros de Naples, placed rather on the right side, ornamented with lilac ostrich feathers, one placed beneath the brim on the left side and brought over to the crown; others very tastefully disposed and falling in different directions; long loose strings of tulle, trimmed with narrow blond. Earings and necklace of emeralds, set in gold; white kid gloves; white satin shoes.


BALL DRESS

Rose colour Parisian gauze dress over a slip of the same colour; the body is longitudinally full at the upper part and plain beneath; it is very low on the shoulders and straight across the bust, a perpendicular rose colour satin rouleau, entwined with narrow black velvet, ornaments the front, and a similar cordon rises from the centre of the waist, and spreads over the shoulders at the edge of a beautiful trimming of plumes de paon, formed of feathers and spiral gauze riband. The sleeves are short and full and finished with a satin rouleau entwined with black velvet and a triple bow of black and rose colour gauze riband. The skirt is set on full, and has two flounces of the same light material as the dress, nearly a quarter of a yard in depth, ornamented en plumes de paon, headed by a double rose colour satin rouleau twined by narrow black velvet. The flounces commence about half way up the skirt and nearly in front with a rosette bow of black and rose colour gauze riband, and strings of the same attach it to the ceinture; the flounces have a very graceful effect as they turn off circularly to the left side of the dress; satin rouleau at the termination of the skirt.
Hair dressed in ringlets in front, and drawn up behind to the top of the head, where it is arranged in large bows, and interspersed with bows of silvered rose colour riband.
Pearl ear-rings and necklace, with a diamond clasp in front; bracelets en suite, and small gold ones beneath, both worn outside the gloves which are of white kid.
Rose colour satin shoes and sandals.


FRENCH FASHIONS

STANDING FIGURE

A topaz coloured satin slip finished round the bottom of the skirt with a very broad rouleau of the same material, and stiffened so as to stand out considerably. The gown is of white blond lace, the ground covered with a running pattern in leaves, disposed in lozenges. Corsage tight to the shape, cut very low and square; a piece of the same material is let in and disposed in drapery folds across the bosom; they are less full than usual, and are confined on each shoulder by a gold clasp with a diamond in the middle; a gold brooch ornamented in a similar manner, and having five diamonds pendant, fastens them in the centre of the bosom, which is marked by a rouleau of white satin. Short sleeve of blond over satin, puffed as much as usual on the shoulder, confined to the arm by a white satin rouleau, finished by a row of narrow blond, and surmounted by a fall of broad blond lace. Cordeliere of white silk richly wrought. The trimming of the skirt consists of a single flounce of broad blond lace, laid on rather full, and in such a manner that the edge forms a heading. The hair is arranged in full clusters of curls on the temples, and dressed very high behind in full bows; a gold star, with a diamond in the middle, ornaments the braid that crosses the forehead; a gold comb set with diamonds is placed in the centre of the bows in front; three long blue ostrich feathers are placed behind the bows so as to droop a little over, and two others at the left side. Diamond ear-rings; white gros de Naples sandals ; white kid gloves; cedar fan.


SITTING FIGURE

An under dress of light green gros de Naples, over which is a gown of tulle to correspond in colour. Corsage uni, cut square, very low behind, but rather high in front; the back broad between the shoulders, but considerably sloped at the sides and narrow at the bottom, forms the shape in a very becoming manner. Blond lace tucker a l'enfant. Short full sleeve of tulle over satin. Cordeliere of silver twist a gros grains. The bottom of the skirt is trimmed with a very broad biais, headed by a rouleau of satin and tulle, the last spotted with silver; a rich embroidery of bouquets of flowers in silver ornaments the biais. The hair is dressed full on the temples; the hind hair, drawn up to the crown of the head, is arranged in bows, except a single tress, which is plaited and brought round the back of the head and across the forehead; pink feathers, tipped with white, are disposed among the bows of hair; and a butterfly, composed of various coloured gems, ornaments the centre of the forehead. Ear-rings and bracelets, gold and sapphires; white kid gloves; white satin shoes.


SULTANA: MASQUERADE, OR FANCY BALL DRESS

The print represents a full Turkish costume, as used on state occasions; and from its rich effect is well calculated to give variety to the Fancy Ball. The tunic is of rich yellow brocade, made very full and reaches to the knees, where it is ornamented by a trimming of white fur, laid round the hem. Under this are worn very full trowsers of white silk, striped with amber satin, and drawn round the ankle. The waistcoast is composed of celestial blue satin, striped with gold; it is very high behind, and cut low in front, to display the under-vest of fine muslin or rich lace, made full and confined round the throat by strings of pearl. The sleeves of the dress, which are very wide, are lined with yellow satin and trimmed with fur, to correspond with the tunic.
The turban is formed of numerous folds of the finest Indian muslin, divided in front by a tiara of wrought gold, ornamented by a large emerald in the centre, over which is placed an aigrette of amethysts and pearls, surmounted by a full plume of the feathers of the bird of paradise. The turban is richly ornamented by strings of Oriental pearls, disposed in various directions.
A rich cashmere shawl of a bright orange colour completes this superb dress.

What do you think of these dresses? Would you have worn them?

Further reading:
R. Ackermann's Repository of fashions, 1829

Book Review: Henry VIII: The King And His Court


Alison Weir is one of those authors who manages to make history accessible to anyone. Her style is engaging, and her books usually read more like novels. So I was surprised to discover that her book, Henry VIII: The King And His Court is quite dry and, at times, even boring. Even the author at the beginning claims that some of the descriptions are dull and tedious, but begs the reader to read them anyway because they help us to better understand the world (and palaces) in which Henry VIII lived. And I'm gonna make you the same request. This may not be the most entertaining history book ever written, but its subject is still very interesting and gives us an in-depth insight into the Tudor court and his most famous King.

Weird describes every aspect of Tudor court life: the beautiful palaces the king and courtiers inhabited, the clothes they wore, their pastimes, the music they listened to, the sports they played, the food they ate, the intrigues and plots they hatched to gain ascendancy over the king and bring enemy factions down... Weir also focuses on the numerous people who lived and worked at court. Henry employed many servants to keep his palaces working properly and many people came to court every year to try their luck: cooks, pages, painters, musicians, gardeners, builders, officials... all the roles of the many inhabitants are described in detail.

And of course, the author also examines the relationships Henry had with his family, his wives (although not in great detail as Weir has already written another book devoted to this subject), members of the Privy Council, ambassadors and everyone else he came in contact with. This also allows the reader to see how Henry transformed from a handsome, happy, accomplished king with a love for women and sports into a fat and ruthless tyrant who didn't hesitate to condemn even his closest friends or family members to death when it suited him.

Many people will undoubtedly be disappointed that the main events of Henry's life, such as the Reformation, Anne Boleyn's execution, the Pilgrimage of Grace and the many wars he waged, are only briefly mentioned. But, in my opinion, that's to be expected. This is not your usual biography of a king. The subject of the book is to portray what life at court really was, and that Weir does wonderfully. The book is meticulously researched, full of intricate details, and, if at times it's dry, it's only because the descriptions of the most trivial aspects of life and the many rules that governed a court simply aren't as interesting as the personal lives of kings, and especially a king like Henry VIII, who married six women and ruthlessly ditched half of them.

Summary:
Henry VIII: The King And His Court by Alison Weir minutely describes what life at the court of Henry VIII was like, and the relationships the king had with those around him. Although interesting and meticulously researched, some of the descriptions are kinda boring and dry and thus, the book doesn't always flow smoothly. Also, those interested in the main events of Henry's life and reign will be disappointed. The book will tell you all you want to know about his court, but it's not a full biography of the Tudor monarch.

Available at: Amazon UK, Amazon USA and Barnes & Noble

Rating: 3.5/5

The Empress Kissed Me


In 1762, Mozart went to the Austrian court, where he meet the royal family, including Marie Antoinette, and played for them. The story of Mozart proposing to the young archduchess is just a legend, but the little child prodigy did get a kiss from the Empress. Here's how Antonia Fraser recollects the visit in her book Marie Antoinette: The Journey:

On 13 October 1762 “the little child from Salzburg”—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—came with his father and sister Nannerl to Schönbrunn. He played the harpsichord in the presence of the Empress, the Emperor, the court composer Georg Christoph Wagenseil and various of Maria Teresa’s offspring, including Antoine who was three months older than the prodigy. The child played “marvellously,” was the verdict, and he was rewarded with an honorarium of 100 ducats and presents from other nobles. He was also presented with a fine outfit that had belonged to the Archduke Max, a coat of lilac colour and a moiré waistcoat, all trimmed with gold braid. The concert was repeated, again at Schönbrunn, a week later.

Perhaps it is not true that the young Mozart flung himself at the young Marie Antoinette and declared that he would marry her when he grew up (an apocryphal story which, if it had in some amazing way come true, would certainly have altered the course of history). But his impetuosity was certainly in evidence; Antoine was present when he rushed up to the Empress and jumped on her lap, receiving a kiss in return. Mozart also responded to the Emperor’s teasing by accurately playing with one finger on a covered keyboard, and showed his own playfulness by demanding that Wagenseil should turn over his music for him, as he played the court composer’s own work. Shortly afterwards Mozart travelled on to France, where the French King’s daughter Madame Victoire became his patron, receiving a dedication of some piano sonatas in return. The Marquise de Pompadour was, however, less welcoming. “Who is this that will not kiss me?” enquired the “little Orpheus” of the haughty mistress: “The Empress kissed me.”

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

Marie Bashkirtseff

 Self-portrait

Marie Bashkirtseff was born on 24 November 1858 in Gavrontsi, Ukraina (then Russia) into a noble and wealthy family. When she was little, her mother left her husband and went to live with her parents near Cherniakhivka with her two children. Later, she decided to travel across Europe and brought her daughter with her. They lived in Germany, Italy and France. Marie was educated privately. Like many other girls of her social class, she was taught drawing at a young age, but didn't really show a big passion for it. That all changed when, at 14, she visited Florence. The Italian capital of art, with its beautiful statues, monuments, palaces and paintings fascinated Marie, and soon she started spending hours in the gallery, roaming from room to room looking at all the different works of art, without ever sitting down or taking a break. "So long as there are pictures and, better still, statues to be seen, I am made of iron," she said.

 Jeune Femme Au Bouquet De Lilas

Marie loved those works of art which resembled nature and, instead, didn't appreciate Raphael much. In her journal, which she started keeping at 13, she wrote: "I don't like the Madonna della Sedia of Raphael. The countenance of the Virgin is pale, the color is not natural, the expression is that of a waiting-maid rather than of a Madonna. Ah, but there is a Magdalen of Titian that enchanted me. Only—there must always be an only—her wrists are too thick and her hands are too plump—beautiful hands they would be on a woman of fifty. There are things of Rubens and Vandyck that are ravishing. The 'Mensonge' of Salvator Rosa is very natural. I do not speak as a connoisseur; what most resembles nature pleases me most. Is it not the aim of painting to copy nature? I like very much the full, fresh countenance of the wife of Paul Veronese, painted by him. I like the style of his faces. I adore Titian and Vandyck; but that poor Raphael! Provided only no one knows what I write; people would take me for a fool; I do not criticise Raphael; I do not understand him; in time I shall no doubt learn to appreciate his beauties. The portrait of Pope Leo X.—I think it is—is admirable, however."

 Atelier Julian - The Studio

Once ignited, her love for art kept growing, much to the chagrin of her family, who wanted her to be part of the fashionable society of the time. But Marie had other ideas and, eventually, she got her way. At about 18, she started studying at the Julian Academy, in France, and worked up to 8 or 9 hours every day. Her masters, including Julian recognized her talent and encouraged her in her artistic endeavours. After a year of study, Marie won the second prize in the Academy. In 1879, she took a studio and the year later exhibited at the Salon a portrait of her sister.

Le Printemps

That summer, she first had some problems with her eyes and then an attack of deafness. She was advised to go to Mont-Dore for treatment. Her hearing got better, although she didn't heal completely. Here, she was also diagnosed with tuberculosis. She started to avoid people as she couldn't hear them well, she didn't read much because her eyes were not strong enough to both read and paint, had problems breathing and coughed a lot. She was very ill the following year, but in 1882, once recovered, went to Spain, where one of her works, a copy of "Vulcan" by Velasquez, was greatly admired.

Autumn

The trip also benefited her inspiration. She wrote down in her journal: "I am wrapped up in my art. I think I caught the sacred fire in Spain at the same time that I caught the pleurisy. From being a student I now begin to be an artist. This sudden influx of power puts me beside myself with joy. I sketch future pictures; I dream of painting an Ophelia. Potain has promised to take me to Saint-Anne to study faces of the mad women there, and then I am full of the idea of painting an old man, an Arab, sitting down singing to the accompaniment of a kind of guitar; and I am thinking also of a large affair for the coming Salon—a view of the Carnival; but for this it would be necessary that I should go to Nice—to Naples first for the Carnival, and then to Nice, where I have my villa, to paint it in open air."

 The Meeting

Although her illness was progressing, Marie kept working, prodded on by her desire to do something worthwhile and special in art that would live after her. Around this time, she also tried sculpture, but did only very little in this art. In 1884, she exhibited what became her most famous painting at the Salon. It was called "The Meeting" and shows seven gamins talking together before a wooden fence at the corner of a street. The picture was received with praise by the critics and brought her to the attention of the public, who greatly admired it too. Was Marie happy of her success? She wrote: "Am I satisfied? It is easy to answer that question; I am neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. My success is just enough to keep me from being unhappy. That is all."

 Jean Et Jacques

And continued: "I have just returned from the Salon. We remained a long time seated on a bench before the picture. It attracted a good deal of attention, and I smiled to myself at the thought that no one would ever imagine the elegantly dressed young girl seated before it, showing the tips of her little boots, to be the artist. Ah, all this is a great deal better than last year! Have I achieved a success, in the true, serious meaning of the word? I almost think so." Marie now received many requests from people who wanted to reproduce and photograph "The Meeting" and from connoisseurs wishing to visit her study.

 Dina

The following year she wasn't so lucky. She didn't receive any medals for her work "Spring", which she had gone to Sevres to paint. Many people thought this was due, rather than to the quality of the picture, to a comment Marie had made publicly the year before: she had called the committee "idiots". Yet, her success didn't wane. People still kept buying her works. However, the artist didn't seem to believe she had achieved much. She wrote: "I have spent six years, working ten hours a day, to gain what? The knowledge of all I have yet to learn in my art, and a fatal disease!"

 Woman with hat adorned with a blue feather

The artist had become friends with the great artist Bastien-Lepage. Like her, he was ill and dying. Yet, they kept visiting each other as often as they could. Marie died on 31 October 1884, aged only 25, in Paris. She was buried in Cimetière de Passy and her monument, which represents an artist studio, has been declared a historic monument by the French Government. Marie Bashkirtseff had produced a staggering amount of art works in her short life, but sadly a large number of them was destroyed during World War II by the Nazis.

Further reading:
I Am the Most Interesting Book of All: The Diary of Marie Bashkirtseff
Women in the fine arts, from the Seventh Century B.C. to the Twentieth Century

Historical Reads: Katherine Howard And The Importance Of Gender History

 
Over at The History Files, Conor Byrne explains why, to fully understand Henry VIII's fifth wife, the young Catherine Howard, we need to take into consideration her genre. To quote:

As has been noted, none of the four males involved in Katherine’s sexual life assumed responsibility for his actions; in all, she was portrayed as a whore. The likelihood was that in the spring of 1541, when the king was suddenly taken ill, the queen experienced mounting worry, even a spell of loneliness, and turned to her family relation Culpeper for comfort. Yet they never passed beyond talk, as has been suggested by some historians. Court politics and gender intertwined at this time, as Katherine sought the assistance of Lady Rochford, as Lady of the Bedchamber the closest female attendant to the queen, to communicate with her relative. The arrival of Dereham at court in the summer proved dangerous for the queen’s security, as he boasted that he was “of her counsel” before she married the king, probably viewing her as his lawful wife. A comment made by Mary Lascelles, Katherine’s childhood companion, to her brother about the queen’s childhood led to Archbishop Cranmer becoming aware of Katherine’s pre-marital indiscretions. If she had been married to Dereham, then she was never the king’s wife and could merely have been divorced. Probably viewing that period as a regrettable time, Katherine stated that they had never been married. When pressure was put on the queen’s ladies by the Council about her night time meetings with Culpeper, they emotionally claimed that noises of lovemaking had been heard, almost certainly fabrications desired by the Council who viewed the queen as a harlot.

Tragically, Katherine and Lady Rochford were both executed in February 1542, the queen aged around eighteen and her attendant about thirty-six. These followed the brutal executions of Culpeper and Dereham; surprisingly, Culpeper suffered the more merciful method of beheading, despite the fact that he had committed the worse crime of supposedly intending to pass off his bastard as the king’s, while Dereham was hanged, drawn and quartered, probably because with knowledge to his earlier relationship with the queen, the Council implied that they had intended to resume carnal relations. It is possible that both ladies suffered mental breakdowns when imprisoned, while the queen was reported to be extremely physically weak on the day of her execution, although film adaptations which portray her as screaming with fear are probably inaccurate.

Prioritising gender history in relation to Katherine’s life clarifies both her and her circumstances. She was almost certainly not the oversexed adolescent she is frequently depicted as being, but a naive young woman who desired to forget her regrettable childhood and genuinely fulfil her role as queen successfully, largely through bearing a son. Viewing her life narrowly through a political and masculine focus obscures reality. If this is done, then one is left with the interpretation put forward in accounts by historians such as Baldwin Smith who, through relying on the Council’s interrogations and court documents, ultimately agree with those interrogators that Katherine was a manipulative harlot who exploited her sexual fascination mercilessly over Dereham, Culpeper and, worst of all, the king, in order to achieve her sinful goals. Yet if gender is interpreted too radically in the feminist direction, a similarly incorrect portrayal of the queen sees her as a modern young woman who listened to her body’s yearnings: “She was willing to risk whatever it took to be true to herself… that her image remains so tarnished says more about our failure to accept female sexuality than about Kathryn Howard’s morality”.

Correct attention to contemporary mores about female sexuality and gender, intertwined with court politics, suggests that fertility was the centralising factor in both Katherine’s rise and fall. She became queen in order to fulfil the king’s hope that she would produce a second male heir, should anything compromise the safety of his prince, and she lost her crown because she was unable to produce that heir and because her almost certainly innocent meetings with Culpeper, and past relations with Dereham, were construed as evidence that she intended to resume carnal relations with both, thus jeopardising the Tudor succession.


To read the entire article, click here.

William Cavendish, Duke Of Devonshire


William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire, who married the lively socialite Georgiana Spencer, was a reserved and distant man. Here's how Whig politician Nathaniel Wraxhall describes him:

"Constitutional apathy formed his distinguished characteristic. His figure was tall and manly, though not animated or graceful, his manners, always calm and unruffled. He seemed to be incapable of any strong emotion, and destitute of all energy or activity of mind. As play became indispensable in order to arouse him from his lethargic habit, and to awaken his torpid faculties, he passed his evenings usually at Brooke's, engaged at whist or faro."

The Duke kept his distance from his children too. But he was very fond of dogs and it was through them that he communicated with his offspring, like one of his daughters jokingly recollected:

The whole of tea and again at supper, we talked of no one subject but the puppies... I quite rejoice at having one in my possession, for it is never a failing method of calling his attention and attracting his notice.

Further reading:
Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

The Pouf Aux Sentiments Replaces The Ques Aco


Fashions changed very quickly in eighteenth century France, and were one more extravagant than the other. No matter how ridiculous or uncomfortable these trends were, women would rush to their milliners and spend a fortune to always look "fashionable". One of the most extravagant hairstyles was The Pouf Aux Sentiments, which replaced the simpler Ques Aco:

The winter of 1774 was approaching its end, when a new fashion of hairdress made its appearance, and was baptized the Ques aco. "It consisted of a panache in plumes, which the elegant ladies wore at the back of their heads." The name Ques aco is supposed to have been taken from a memoire by Beaumarchais, directed against a certain Marin, whom the author had ridiculized. The memoire of Beaumarchais had an enormous success, and the expression of Ques aco became very popular.

Marie-Antoinette had taken an interest in this event, the name of Beaumarchais being mentioned at Court very often, and she had asked for an explanation of the Provencial expression. When she understood it, she frequently happened to make use of it. Among her intimates, Rose Bertin, who was always au courant of big and little events, always in search of new ideas and new creations, and names by which to baptize the latter, was quick enough to make use of the incident, and soon imagined a new hairdress known as the Ques aco. Generally speaking, everything relating to fashion is of ephemeral character, but the headgears of those days were prodigiously so.

A month after the introduction of the Ques aco a new invention took its place; it was the famous pouf aux sentiments. "The pouf aux sentiments," writes the continuator of Bachaumont on April 26, 1774, "is a new hairdress which has succeeded the Ques aco, and is infinitely superior to the former, on account of the numerous things which were required for its composition, and the genius employed to vary it artistically. It is called pouf on account of the numerous objects which it can contain, and aux sentiments because these objects must have a certain relation to what one loves best, and express one's preferences. Every woman is madly anxious to have a pouf."



Leonard Antid is supposed to have excelled in the art of placing poufs of gauze, which were introduced between the locks, and one day he employed for that purpose about 14 yards of gauze for one hairdress. But all these poufs differed greatly from the pouf aux sentiments owing to their simplicity; they also required no assistance from the milliner. The pouf aux sentiments could contain such various objects as fruit, flowers, vegetables, stuffed birds, dolls, and many other things giving expression to the tastes, the preferences, and the sentiments, of the wearer.

The continuator of the memoires of Bachaumont has left us a description of a pouf aux sentiments worn by the Duchesse de Chartres: "In the background was the image of a woman carrying an infant in arms; it referred to the Duc de Valois and his nurse. To the right was a parrot picking a cherry; the parrot was the Duchess's pet bird. To the left was a little nigger — the image of him whom she loved very much. All this was ornamented with locks from the hair of the Duc de Chartres, the husband, the Due de Penthievre, the father, and the Duc d' Orleans, the father-in-law, of the lady." [...]

Another famous pouf was that of the Duchesse de Lauzun. The Duchesse one day appeared at a reception of the Marquise du Deffant's wearing a most delicious pouf. It contained a stormy sea, ducks swimming near the shore, someone on the point of
shooting one of them; on the top of the head there was a mill, the miller's wife being made love to by an abbé whilst near the ear the miller could be seen leading a donkey. [...]

The death of the King put an end to the pouf aux sentiments. "The mourning for the King," writes the Baroness d'Oberkirch in her memoirs, "put an end to a very ridiculous fashion which usurped the place of the Ques aco. This was the pouf aux sentiments. It was a head-dress into which may be introduced the likeness of any person or thing for which one may feel affection, such as a miniature of one's daughter or mother, a picture of a canary or a dog, etc., adorned with the hair of a father or of a beloved friend. It was a most incredible piece of extravagance. We were determined to follow the fashion, and the Princess Dorothea once amused herself for an entire day by wearing on her ear the picture of a woman holding a bunch of keys, and which, she declared, was Mme. Hendel. The femme de charge thought it a striking likeness, and was almost out of her senses with pride and joy". This Mme. Hendel was femme de charge of Princess Dorothea at the Castle of Montbeliard. [...]


Further reading:
Rose Bertin, the creator of fashion at the court of Marie-Antoinette by Laglande and Rappaport

Book Review: Queen Victoria Her Girlhood And Womanhood By Grace Greenwood


Queen Victoria: Her Girlhood And Womanhood by Grace Greenwood is an unusual biography. It was written by an American contemporary of the Queen, while she was still alive, and is vastly based on the recollections of people who knew her. Greenwood herself happened to meet the Queen on one occasion, which she relates in the book. A staunch republican, Greenwood however admired Queen Victoria and believed that "her example as a daughter, wife and mother, and as the honored head of English society could but have, if told simply, yet sympathetically, a happy and ennobling influence on the hearts and minds of my young countrywomen".

If you don't like boring history lessons, don't worry. You won't find any here. Greenwood's aim is to make the real Queen Victoria come to life, showing the person behind the crown and manages to do so very well. The emphasis in this book is placed on the Queen and her personal life, rather than on the politics of the time or the society she lived in, although those are mentioned too. Thus, in this book we find many personal anecdotes regarding the Queen, giving us an interesting insight into her personal life and personality.

We thus discover the Queen loved animals and the arts, what subjects she studied, what her relationship with her family was like, the interesting people she met, the state visits she went on, and how she dealt with those around her. The Queen always had, since her childhood, a kind, compassionate and caring disposition and was thus loved by everyone that met her. We then see her fall passionately in love with her cousin Albert, become a devoted wife and mother, and cry with her when her spouse dies prematurely, leaving her to face a long widowhood.

The writing style is obviously archaic and old-fashioned, but still the book flows smoothly and is easy to follow. If you're interested in the personal lives of royals and their family dynamics and care more about little anecdotes than the political, economical and social aspects of their reigns, then I highly recommend you this book. It will captivate you. If, on the other hand, you want a more complete picture of the Victorian era, the political issues the country was involved in and how the Queen dealt with them, you may want to give this one a miss. Keep in mind that, because the book was written while the Queen was alive, the author didn't have access to all the information and documents available to modern historians. Still, it's a very charming read.

Summary:
Queen Victoria by Grace Greenwood is a charming biography of this British sovereign, written while she was still alive. The biography focuses mostly on Victoria's personal life and character, while the political, social and economical issues of the time aren't analyzed in-depth. The writing style is archaic but easy to follow. Overall, this is an enchanting biography for those interested in the person behind the crown.

Available at: archive.org

Rating: 3.5/5

Fashion Monstrosities

George Cruikshank (1792-1878), was an English caricaturist and book illustrator. Dubbed the "modern Hogarth", he became famous for his social caricatures of English life. Among his most renowned works are the "Monstrosities", a series of prints, which were published annually from 1816 to 1828, ridiculing the fashions of his time. Here are a few of the prints. As always, click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Monstrosities of 1818 

At the time, women wore large bonnets and dresses that created a conical, angular silhouette, while the men showcased tall cravats and tailcoats with narrow tails. All these trends are exaggerated in this print. In addition, Cruikshank also makes the skirts shorter than they actually were.

Monstrosities of 1819 and 1820

This plate is similar, only the bonnets have now become so large you can't see women's faces anymore!

Monstrosities of 1821

The black poodle is a symbol of dandysm. It seems to be derived from the French custom of shouting "French dog" to men who wore exaggerated fashions.

Monstrosities of 1822
The men wore trousers that were large at the hips and gathered at the ankle. Stripes seem to have been popular too..

Monstrosities of 1825-26
The wind is playing with the ribbons that are decorating the huge straw hats. The women also sport pinched waistlines.

Napoleon On The Deaths Of Captain Wright And The Duke Of Enghien


In 1815, William Warden, a naval surgeon, was appointed to the Northumberland and ordered to take Napoleon, now a prisoner, to St. Helena. During the voyage, and in the few months he spent on the island, Warden spent a lot of time with the ex-emperor of the French and talked freely with him about many subjects. Here's what Napoleon told him about the deaths of Captain John Wesley Wright and the Duke of Enghien:


He asked me, to my great surprise, if I remembered the history of Captain Wright. I answered, "Perfectly well; and it is a prevailing opinion in England, that you ordered him to be murdered in the Temple." With the utmost rapidity of speech, he replied, "For what object? Of all men he was the person whom I should have most desired to live. Whence could I have procured so valuable an evidence as he would have proved on the trial of the conspirators in and about Paris. The Heads of it he himself had landed on the French coast." My curiosity was at this moment such as to be betrayed in my looks.

"Listen," continued Napoleon, "and you shall hear. 'The English brig of war, commanded by Captain Wright, was employed by your government in landing traitors and spies on the West coast of France. Seventy of the number had actually reached Paris; and, so mysterious were their proceedings, so veiled in impenetrable concealment, that although General Ryal, of the Police, gave me this information, the name or place of their resort could not be discovered. I received daily assurances that my life would be attempted, and though I did not give entire credit to them, I took every precaution for my preservation. The Brig was afterwards taken near L'Orient, with Captain Wright, its commander, who was carried before the Prefect of the Department of Morbeau, at Vannes: General Julian, then Prefect, had accompanied me in the expedition to Egypt, and recognised Captain Wright on the first view of him.

Intelligence of this circumstance was instantly transmitted to Paris; and instructions were expeditiously returned to interrogate the crew, separately, and transfer their testimonies to the Minister of Police. The purport of their examination was at first very unsatisfactory; but, at length, on the examination of one of the crew, some light was thrown on the subject. He stated that the Brig had landed several Frenchmen, and among them he particularly remembered one, a very merry fellow, who was called Pichegru. Thus a clue was found that led to the discovery of a plot, which, had it succeeded, would have thrown the French nation, a second time, into a state of revolution.

Captain Wright was accordingly conveyed to Paris, and confined in the Temple; there to remain till it was found convenient to bring the formidable accessaries of this treasonable design to trial. The law of France would have subjected Wright to the punishment of death: but he was of minor consideration. My grand object was to secure the principals, and I considered the English Captain's evidence of the utmost consequence towards completing my object." He again and again, most solemnly asserted, that Captain Wright died in the Temple, by his own hand, as described in the Moniteur, and at a much earlier period than has been generally believed.
[...]

Napoleon then read some passages from a publication of Mr. Goldsmith's, which reported extracts from the Moniteur, about the time Captain Wright spent in the Temple. He then acknowledged that many of the reports in this publication were genuine, but also that there were a lot of errors in it.


But he did not stop here; and continually desired to know whether I perfectly comprehended his meaning, as that was his most earnest wish. And now, to my utter astonishment, he entered upon the event of the Duke D'Enghiens death. This was a topic that could not be expected; and particularly by me, as there appeared even among his followers, who were always on tip-toe to be his apologists, an evasive silence or contradictory statements, whenever this afflicting event became the subject of enquiry, which had occasionally happened, during the course of our voyage. Here Napoleon became very animated, and often raised himself on the sofa where he had hitherto remained in a reclining posture. The interest attached to the subject, and the energy of his delivery, combined to impress the tenor of his narrative so strongly on my mind, that you need not doubt the accuracy of this repetition of it. He began as follows:

"At this eventful period of my life, I had succeeded in restoring order and tranquillity to a kingdom torn asunder by faction, and deluged in blood. That nation had placed me at their head. I came not as your Cromwell did, or your Third Richard. No such thing. I found a crown in the kennel; I cleansed it from its filth, and placed it on my head. My safety now became necessary, to preserve that tranquillity so recently restored; and, hitherto, so satisfactorily preserved, as the leading characters of the nation well know. At the same time, reports were every night brought me (I think, he said, by General Ryal,) that conspiracies were in agitation; that meetings were held in particular houses in Paris, and names even were mentioned; at the same time, no satisfactory proofs could be obtained, and the utmost vigilance and ceaseless pursuit of the Police was evaded.

General Moreau, indeed, became suspected, and I was seriously importuned to issue an order for his arrest; but his character was such, his name stood so high, and the estimation of him so great in the public mind, that, as it appeared to me, he had nothing to gain, and every thing to lose, by becoming a conspirator against me: I, therefore, could not but exonerate him from such a suspicion. I accordingly refused an order for the proposed arrest, by the following intimation to the Minister of Police. 'You have named Pichegru, Georges, and Moreau: convince me that the former is in Paris, and I will immediately cause the latter to be arrested.' Another and a very singular circumstance led to the developement of the plot. One night, as I lay agitated and wakeful, I rose from my bed, and examined the list of suspected traitors; and Chance, which rules the world, occasioned my stumbling, as it were, on the name of a surgeon, who had lately returned from an English prison.

This man's age, education, and experience in life, induced me to believe, that his conduct must be attributed to any other motive than that of youthful fanaticism in favour of a Bourbon: as far as circumstances qualified me to judge, money appeared to be his object. I accordingly gave orders for this man to be arrested; when a summary mock trial was instituted, by which he was found guilty, sentenced to die, and informed he had but six hours to live. This stratagem had the desired effect: he was terrified into confession. It was now known that Pichegru had a brother, a monastic Priest, then residing in Paris. I ordered a party of Gens d'Armes to visit this man, and if he had quitted his house, I conceived there would be good ground for suspicion. The old Monk was secured, and, in the act of his arrest, his fears betrayed what I most wanted to know. 'Is it,' he exclaimed, 'because I afforded shelter to a brother that I am thus treated'.

The object of the plot was to destroy me; and the success of it would, of course, have been my destruction. It emanated from the capital of your country, with the Count d'Artois at the head of it. To the West he sent the Duke de Berri, and to the East the Duke D'Enghein. To France your vessels conveyed underlings of the plot, and Moreau became a convert to the cause. The moment was big with evil: I felt myself on a tottering eminence, and, I resolved to hurl the thunder back upon the Bourbons even in the metropolis of the British empire. My Minister vehemently urged the seizure of the Duke though in a neutral territory. But I still hesitated, and Prince Benevento brought the order twice, and urged the measure with all his powers of persuasion: It was not, however, till I was fully convinced of its necessity, that I sanctioned it by my signature.

The matter could be easily arranged between me and the Duke of Baden. Why, indeed, should I suffer a man residing on the very confines of my kingdom, to commit a crime which, within the distance of a mile, by the ordinary course of law, Justice herself would condemn to the scaffold. And now answer me;—Did I do more than adopt the principle of your government, when it ordered the capture of the Danish fleet, which was thought to threaten mischief to your country? It had been urged to me again and again, as a sound political opinion, that the new dynasty could not be secure, while the Bourbons remained. Talleyrand never deviated from this principle: it was a fixed, unchangeable article in his political creed.

But I did not become a ready or a willing convert. I examined the opinion with care and with caution: and the result was a perfect conviction of its necessity. The Duke D'Enghein was accessary to the Confederacy; and although the resident of a neutral territory, the urgency of the case, in which my safety and the public tranquillity, to use no stronger expression, were involved, justified the proceeding. I accordingly ordered him to be seized and tried: He was found guilty, and sentenced to be shot. The sentence was immediately executed; and the same fate would have followed had it been Louis the Eighteenth. For I again declare that I found it necessary to roll the thunder back on the metropolis of England, as from thence, with the Count d'Artois at their head, did the assasins assail me. [...]

I replied. "There may, perhaps, be persons in England, who are disposed to acknowledge the necessity of rigorous measures at this important period of your history; but none, I believe, are to be found who would attempt to justify the precipitate manner in which the young Prince was seized, tried, sentenced, and shot." He instantly answered, "I was justified in my own mind; and I repeat the declaration which I have already made, that I would have ordered the execution of Louis the Eighteenth. At the same time, I solemnly affirm, that no message or letter from the Duke reached me after sentence of death had been passed upon him*." [...]

Napoleon continued to speak of the Bourbon Family—"Had I," he said, "been anxious to get any, or all the Bourbons into my possession, I could have accomplished the object. Your Smugglers offered me a Bourbon for a stated sum (I think he named 40,000 francs) but, on coming to a more precise explanation, they entertained a doubt of fulfilling the engagement as it was originally proposed. They would not undertake to possess themselves of any of the Bourbon family absolutely alive: though, with the alternative, alive or dead, they had no doubt of completing it. But it was not my wish merely to deprive them of life. Besides, circumstances had taken a turn which then fixed me without fear of change or chance on the throne I possessed. I felt my security, and left the Bourbons undisturbed. Wanton, useless murder, whatever has been said and thought of me in England, has never been my practice: to what end or purpose could I have indulged the horrible propensity.—When Sir George Rumbold and Mr. Drake, who had been carrying on a correspondence with conspirators in Paris, were seized, they were not murdered."


Note:
* The Duke Of Enghien wrote Napoleon a letter in which he, recognizing the Bourbon cause was completely lost, offered him his services. Talleyrand, however, didn't show the letter to Napoleon until after the Duke's death.

Further reading:
Letters written on board His Majesty's ship the Northumberland, and at St. Helena by William Warden

Historical Reads: Edwardian hat-pin self defence


The Bartitsu Society reveals how hatpins were used by Edwardian women as self-defence weapons. To quote:

A wealth of evidence from the period demonstrates that hatpins were popularly regarded as secret weapons, and indeed as “every woman’s weapon” against the depredations of hooligans and ill-mannered brutes. Laws against hatpins of “excessive length”, or the wearing of hatpins without protective stoppers, were proposed in Hamburg, Berlin and New York among other cities. At least ostensibly, these laws were intended not so much to ban the use of hatpins in self-defence as to mitigate the incidence of accidental hatpin related injuries inflicted upon blameless fellow passengers in crowded tram-cars.

In newspaper articles and medical journals of the time, we find reports of women wounding male attackers via well-placed jabs with their hatpins. For example, according to a story in the New York Times of January 10, 1898, a Miss Sadie Hawkins assisted a Chicago tram-car conductor named Symington in fending off two determined would-be robbers by stabbing them both repeatedly in the arms and legs with her hatpin, causing the aggressors so much grief that they jumped off the moving tram to escape the onslaught.


To read the entire article, click here.

Female Harpists

Music “is certainly a very great Accomplishment to the LADIES; it refines the Taste, polishes the Mind; and is an Entertainment, without other Views, that preserves them from the Rust of Idleness, that most pernicious Enemy to Virtue.” John Essex, 1722. 

Young ladies, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, were expected to be musically accomplished and know how play at least an instrument, so they could entertain their guests in the evening. One of the most popular was the harp. Not only is this beautiful and ancient instrument easy to master, but it also allows women to show off their pretty hands, the nimbleness of their fingers, and even their dainty little feet and ankles. Both Marie Antoinette and her English friend, Georgiana of Devonshire were skilled harpists.

Here are a few paintings depicting female harpists:

Countess of Eglinton by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1777

Marie Antoinette playing the harp at the French Court by Jean-Baptiste Gautier Dagoty, 1777

Madame Elisabeth playing the harp by Charles Leclercq

Georgiana, Duchess Of Devonshire by Francesco Bartolozzi

The Music Lesson by Michel Garnier, 1788

Rose-Adelaide Ducreux, Self-Portrait with a Harp, ca. 1790

Lady with a Harp, portrait of Eliza Ridgely by Thomas Sully, 1818

The Harp lesson by Joseph Geimaert, 1820

The Marchioness of Northampton, Playing a Harp, c.1820 by Sir Henry Raeburn

Harp Audition by Moritz von Schwind, ca. 1855

Fashions For 1829 (Part 1)

Hello everyone,

today we're gonna take a look at the fashion styles of 1829. I really love the big hats decorated with feathers and ribbons and the bright hues of some of these outfits. And, if you've ever wondered what costumes fashionable women wore at masquerade balls, here's a fashion plate with a nice suggestion. Enjoy!

JANUARY

WALKING DRESS

Gros de Naples pelisse of Byron brown, wadded and lined with white sarsnet, and fastened in front. The body is made extremely full, with long shoulder-straps, and nearly two inches in width; they are corded on each side. The collar is stiffened, and falls back, admitting an embroidered cambric ruff. The sleeves are large to the gauntlet cuffs, which are very broad, and button close to the wrists; they are corded, and the upper part pointed. The skirt is very full, and terminated with a plain deep biais trimming of the same material as the pelisse, and turned under so as not to give any indication of a hem: it is headed by three rouleaux.
Hat of Byron brown terry velvet, lined with rose-colour satin, and a deep curtain veil of black blond. The crown is rounded at the top, and ornamented in front with large spreading bows of rose-colour satin riband, edged with black, and several large velvet leaves. The strings are long, and of rose-colour satin. Squirrel muff and long tippet; primrose-colour gloves, and black shoes.



EVENING DRESS

Dress of white satin, the bodice made rather low, and the front formed into longitudinal drapery, and confined in the centre by a gold-colour satin corded band; the remainder of the bodice is quite plain, and close to the shape. The sleeves are short and full, and set in a gold-colour satin corded" hand; the extreme fulness is regulated by a band passing through the centre round the arm. A circular cape emanates from the front of the shoulder, and is ornamented with a wreath of leaves formed of gold-colour gauze riband. The skirt is plaited in full round the waist, and has a border of white tulle of double-reversed plaitings, nearly half a yard deep, headed by a wreath of gold riband leaves, similar to those on the cape. Sash to correspond.
Toque of cherry-colour blond tulle; the frame open, and of gold-colour satin, pointed all round the head, with bands crossing the crown, and admitting the hair, which is dressed in hows, between, and in large curls in front. The blond tulle is in several plaits on one side of the centre point, and plain on the other; it spreads very wide, and is supported by broad gold riband loops, commencing with gold acorns, and is terminated on the left side by two bows and an end; on the right, the gold loop extends over the tulle to the crown, and is inserted by a gold acorn, with which every point is ornamented: long strings of gold gauze riband. Necklace, an entwined chain of gold and ornamented locket. Long gold ear-rings terminating in the form of a coronet. White kid gloves; cherry-colour satin shoes and sandals.


FEBRUARY

DINNER DRESS

Dress of ethereal gros de Naples, the corsage a Venfant, set in a satin band of the same colour; the sleeves are long and full, with a stiffened gauntlet cuff of ethereal satin: the skirt, made extremely wide and slightly plaited in at the front and sides and very full behind, is trimmed with a deep garniture of tulle, having at the lower edge a broad stiffened band of ethereal satin, and headed by a corded biais band of the same, ornamented at regular distances by triplets of the Carniola Saxifragia corded.
The hair is in the picturesque style of Charles the Second, the forehead being displayed and ringlets arranged on each side; the hind, hair is tied at the back, and a cluster of ringlets fall gracefully behind.
Necklace of turquoise, set in a delicate wreath of dead and burnished gold; earrings en suite; broad gold bracelets with medallion clasps placed at the upper edge of the cuff, and smaller fancy ones nearer the hand.
White kid gloves, stamped and tied at the wrist; shoes and sandals of ethereal satin.


MASQUERADE DRESSES

COSTUME OF THE ISLE OF PROCIDA, NAPLES: Dress of twilled sarsnet of a bright emerald colour, made high and plain, with a stomacher of gold lace, the skirt terminated by a broad border of scarlet cloth; the pelisse or surtout en militaire of scarlet cloth, lined with white satin and edged with gold lace, the skirt is open in front and reaches only to the border of the under dress; it is turned back, and the corners fastened together behind by a gold clasp. The body and sleeves are made close to the shape and ornamented at the seams with gold lace; bands of scarlet edged with gold hang loose from the waist, which is encircled by a gold belt with a splendid clasp in front; epaulettes to correspond: triangular cuffs of Tyrian blue velvet edged with gold; ruffles of the finest lace.
The hair is confined, except a few curls on the temples, by a scarlet and gold checquered silk fazzoletto, tied in front near the top of the head and concealing the corner of a green silk barege fazzoletto, which is edged with gold lace: the opposite corner reaches nearly as low as the waist and is ornamented with a gold tassel; the other corners tie in a knot with long ends under the chin; lace apron, white silk stockings, gold colour satin shoes, pointed on the instep, lilac kid gloves.

COSTUME OF OSTIA, ROME: Camisole of fine lawn made very full, and arranged in perpendicular plaits ; the sleeves wide and set in wristbands ; stiffened bodice of green cashmere, bordered and trimmed with geranium colour riband, open at the side, and laced with green cord, displaying the camisole beneath. The shoulder-straps are very long bands of geranium colour, and from the centre of each descends a similar band reaching to a green cashmere; close upper sleeve, which extends half way between the shoulder and the elbow, and is decorated by a bow of geranium colour riband; the cuff is turned back, and has square corners, ornamented by two rows Of riband; geranium colour petticoat of Swiss stuff bordered by two rows of narrow black velvet; apron of white lawn. Hair dressed a la Madonna, entirely concealed by the head-dress, which is formed of a delicate transparent white shawl, enlivened by ends embroidered in rows of the brightest colours, and a deep fringe to correspond. Michael Angelo has beautifully introduced this headdress frequently in his paintings; the half of the shawl is rolled up and placed on the top of the head, the other half spreading wide over the shoulders, and when the fair wearer chooses, closes in front, and conceals the face; grey stockings, green shoes, with scarlet heels.


MARCH


OPERA DRESS

White tulle dress, over a white satin slip; the body en draperie, regulated in the centre by a perpendicular white satin rouleau; the drapery rises in a point from the waist, and spreads very full, in small regular folds, across the bust as far as the shoulders, which are a good deal displayed; the sleeves being placed low, they are very large to the wrist, where they are terminated by broad gold Egyptian bracelets, confining the white kid gloves. In the centre of the bust is an elegant Egyptian brooch, with pendant drops, corresponding in delicate workmanship with the ear-rings, which are also of gold; the skirt has tucks to within a quarter of a yard of the waist, they are placed close to each other, and are about a finger's length in depth; the fulness of the skirt is principally at the back, but it is slightly continued at the front and sides. White satin sash.
Large black velvet hat, with a white satin bow, just within the brim on the left side; a plume of white ostrich feathers placed behind, are arranged with the greatest taste; one extends to the front, where it is attached to the crown, and turned for the end to play freely; a second is fastened to the top of the crown, twisted, and falls over to the front; two more, twisted half way, fall gracefully towards the right shoulder.
Cloak of striped lilac satin, with an elegant border, formed by a perpendicular embroidered sprig being placed between each stripe; the cloak is wadded, and lined with white satin, and fastened by a gold-colour silk cord and tassels; it has a large square collar, and a larger square cape, reaching below the elbow. White satin shoes.

What do you think of these outfits?

Further reading:
R. Ackermann's Repository of fashions