Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Duke of Puppies

As we all know the Duke of Devonshire was the definition of socially awkward.  We also know he  preferred the company of dogs to men ( no blame there!) which is why he was known as Canis to his close friends.  This was an affection that did not wane with age, according to his daughter, Harryo (probably the most opinionated of the Devonshire brood).  After Georgiana's death, the duke was more aware of his mortality and put in a last-ditch effort to get to know his adult children.  The olive branch he extended to Harryo came in the form of a puppy, which must have had the middle-child rolling her eyes at her senile old dad.  She wrote,
he really thinks of little else [besides puppies] and the whole time of dinner and supper he feeds and watches them, laughs excessively every time they squeak or run and listens to no conversation with half the pleasure as he does when these puppies are the subject.
Despite his many, many flaws, there are just some aspects of the duke that I can't help but relate to.  Puppies > Dinner conversation.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wimpole Hall

This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Wimpole Estate which was all decked out for Christmas.  Construction begun on the house in 1640 and saw a multitude of architects in the eighteenth century include John Soane.  The end result is a really big Georgian mansion just outside of Cambridge.

The last picture I took from the garden and as I found out later the tower is called Wimpole's Folly.  Thanks to craze for the gothic, Lord Hardwicke (the owner at the time) had ruins of what looked to be an old medieval castle built on the estate, because as we all know, there aren't enough old (actual) ruins just hanging about England! 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Toils of Celebrity

Mobs of fans swarming around celebrities in the streets is no new concept.  Just ask the gorgeous Gunning sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who could barely go anywhere in public without being stared at.  This extreme facet from the new culture of celebrity took many by shock, prompting some amusing poetry.  After being mobbed in the park for the umpteenth time a satirist imagined Maria petitioning the king for protection from her fans:

'Shut, shut up the Park I beseech you;
Lay a Tax upon staring so hard;
Or, if you're afraid to do that, Sir,
I'm sure you will grant me a Guard!'

The Boon thus requested was granted:
The Warriors were drawn up with care;
'With my slaves and my Guards I'm surrounded,
Come, stare at me now if you dare!'

The poem puts me in mind of the ever-obnoxious TMZ, I like to think of it as a predecessor.  In the end Maria did end up having to hire body guards in the form of the (very official) Brigade of Guards.  However, her personal escorts only served to attract more attention.  No surprise there!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Put this in the Medical Books

As we all well know, women fight a constant battle with themselves...not to faint.  Hysterics as they were called, were an expectant problem of women - not because of tightly-laced stays, this malady was the cause of those emotions women are forced to deal with or, rather to contain.  An expert at the time explained:
The entire female body is riddled by obscure but strangely direct oaths of sympathy...from one extremity of its organic space to the other, it encloses a perpetual possibility of hysteria.  The sympathetic sensibilities of her organism...condemns woman to...diseases of the nerves.
Why thank you for that elucidation, "doctor."

Yes indeed, it was believed that all those pent-up emotions of amorous affection that women contained had no way of escaping and therefore built up in a lady's womb as some sort of massive heat-bomb ready to explode.  And when it did explode?  Hysterics.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


"I've received your letter, my Dear Lady Strafford, & am sorry for your vexations; I feel for them; dogs are faithful; I wish I cou'd say as much for the human species."
-Lady Mary Coke

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Minuet or Morgan?

1661 it most certainly is not, but an eighteenth century commercial it is!  It's about time that the dashing pirate from the bottle was personified.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Talks on Daniel Gardner's The Three Witches from Macbeth

In a bit of shameless self-promoting news I will be giving papers in both the US and UK on Daniel Gardner's amazing portrait of Georgiana, Lady Melbourne, and Anne Damer; The Three Witches from Macbeth

I'll be in Middleton, CT, USA on October 13 at the NEASECS conference chatting away and then on December 3-4 I will be at Cambridge University for the very exciting conference, Charming Intentions: Occultism, Magic and the History of Art.  If anyone is in the neighborhood I would love to see you there!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hunk Akert: Luke Gardiner, 1st Viscount Mountjoy

SWM, Politician
Likes: Travel, marriage, Catholics, mythology, and history

Having received the most enlightened of educations on my recent Grand Tour, you will find me to be quite a sensible man of feeling.  Being Irish, I (unlike that stupid stupid Burke) think that we've been a little harsh on Catholics lately.  Sexy Catholics shouldn't be prevented from marrying Sexy Protestants, I mean, c'mon; that's just silly.  But I digress.  Any interested lady will find me to be most devoted to King, country....and you.

I'd love to meet a pretty, virginal maiden with equally pretty sisters.  Gardening skills a major plus.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On Lady Sarah Bunbury

 "Lady Sarah never did sacrifice to the Graces. Her beauty was in her face, which had few equals; but she was a cricket player, and ate beefsteaks..."
-Hester Thrale

Friday, August 24, 2012

On the Duchess of Rutland

"The life she leads is enough to kill her..."
-Lady Clermont to Lady Spencer, 1784

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Barefoot Duchessa

Georgiana is known mostly for the circus that was the Westminster Election of 1784 despite the fact that she was an experienced campaigner.  She, her mother and her sister were known to canvass in the Spencer-claimed, St Albans.  A lovely anecdote from one of the St Albans campaigns shows both how at ease Georgiana was with all classes and also why she appealed to so many.  While visiting a butcher (how ironic) to appeal for his vote she stepped out of her carriage and tore her shoe so much that it wouldn't stay on, to which she kicked it off and with a smile said, "I gladly serve my friends, even bare-footed."

Smooth as the silk (on her torn shoe), that duchess!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Annie Lennox Does it Again

Did anyone watch the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremonies last night?  If you missed it you also missed one of our fav lovers of the eighteenth century singing on a pirate ship in Elizabethan-esque garb while ship-wrecked Georgians minuet-ted beneath her.  It was a definitive diva performance as you would expect.  For those who missed it, check it out below.

Annie Lennox - live - London 2012 - Closing Ceremony - Summer Olympics from Suczka Lesba on Vimeo.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Review: Austentatious

Anyone in town for the Edinburgh Festival this year are in for a real treat; and no, I don't mean wrestling with a bunch of slow-moving dim-witted crowds sort of treat.  Take six funny improvisational comedians with a love for Jane Austen, a few helpful Austenesque title suggestions, and an hour and you have a divinely droll good time.  Austentatious perform every day for free, so there is really no excuse not to go, aside from geological ones!

As mentioned, when you walk in, you're expected to give title suggestions, which will be drawn out of a hat (or basket) for the talented comedians to perform.  This afternoon's selection was, Pride and Pigeons although unfortunately that meant we missed out on other 'clever' suggestions like Midgets and The Pony that Lost its Hat.  The ridiculous plot mixed with the regency language, the players' occasional snafus with names that they came up with on the fly, and the unavoidable sexual innuendos had the audience's stays loosened from laughter.  All in all, the Austenites I attended with all enjoyed themselves, and I think with 18 more shows left, I may just have to go back!

Austentatious: An Improvised Jane Austen Novel is at The Counting House, Edinburgh daily at 1:30 until 26 August.  See the website here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Out of the Salon: The Peak District

I'm out of the salon this long weekend for what my friends have been calling my 'Jane Austen vacation.' I will be breezing through the Lake District and then spending a few days in the Peak District. Of course you know this means, Chatsworth! It's been a long five years since I got to visit Georgiana's home and since then the wonderful house had been restored and even had it's own show! I plan on live-tweeting my adventure so I can share it with everyone. Check out my updates via twitter:

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


We are all going to Heaven, and Vandyke is of the company.
-Thomas Gainsborough

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Assassin's Creed 3 Choses the 18th Century for it's new Setting

Gamers are eagerly anticipating the release of the third installment in the video game series, Assassin's Creed, and after seeing the trailer (at the cinema, my goodness!) I joined the multitudes of those eagerly waiting for the October release.  Assassin's Creed is no stranger to art history/history blogs.  With Assassin's Creed II being set in renaissance Florence, and with plenty artistic detail, I recall tweeting (or blogging, who can remember!) about it and the wonderful Three Pipe Problem was more than happy to give a thorough analysis of the game since it combined two of his favourite things.  I was forced to read on in envy.  But luckily this third installment takes place in Colonial America, and although void of famous works of art, still hold much promise.  As can be seen from the trailer:

Ooo looks awesome!  According to this preview video from the makers, the cities hold historical accuracy (because, goodness knows the protagonist's outfit could use some!) due to the designers consulting  eighteenth-century maps.  Those who have been to Boston will recognize some familiar sites that still remain there today.  According to the wikipedia page, the story is,
set before, during and after the American Revolution from 1753 to 1783, featuring a new protagonist: half-English and half-Native American, Connor Kenway, birth name Ratonhnhaké:ton (pronounced "Ra-doon-ha-gay-doon").
Hmm looks like this is as close to a Last of the Mohicans video game as I'll ever get!

But then UbiSoft said, "wait a minute, we have tall ships, redcoats, and major ass-kicking; maybe that just won't be enough for some people."
"By some people do you mean lady-gamers who like whipping out their handhelds on the afternoon commute?"
"Why yes, let's make another version of Assassin's Creed that takes place in eighteenth-century New Orleans and have a kick-ass chica with an awesome tricorn.  Who wouldn't want to play that?"*

Set in 18th Century New Orleans between 1765 and 1780, which is the time between the end of the French and Indian War up to the middle of the American Revolution, the game follows the story of Aveline de Grandpré, a female Assassin of French and African descent. Aveline is recruited to the Assassin Brotherhood by Agate, an escaped slave, who acts as her mentor. The plot of the game involves the cultural practice of plaçage, where wealthy French and Spanish men have an arranged marriage with a woman of African, Indian or Creole descent, thus allowing those women and their children to gain power, wealth and positions of power in society. 
Sounds awesome! Now if only I had the consoles to test these games out and report back...although October gives one ample time....

*obviously this conversation didn't happen.

Monday, July 16, 2012

An Open Letter to HBO

Eighteenth-Century France has written an open letter to HBO.  I have to say, I agree with everything it says.  I have a feeling all you will too!  Check it out here.

You want elegant costumes? Check. Candelabras? Check. Beautiful women with moles? Check and check. I'm packed full of cool stuff. You could slot me in on, say, Sunday nights at nine and probably get a 2.5 Nielsen rating, easy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Butcher Kissing Duchess of...Gordon?

The Tory Queen, Jane Gordon was known for doing as she damn-well pleased as a little girl and marrying into the aristocracy and becoming a duchess didn't change that at all.  One of the things Jane would never compromise on was her love of Scotland.  She spoke in a brogue, encouraged social events in the Highlands, and encouraged her children to share her love for their country as well.  When her son, the Marquess of Huntly raised a company for the Black Watch, a regiment of Highland soldiers, Jane could have died of pride. 

Like a soccer mom on a mission, Jane wanted to help her wee one with his big project.  She appeared at public events and offered to men willing to join the regiment a King's Shilling from between her teeth for enlisting.  That way they got paid and got to say they kissed a duchess.  Funnily, eight years prior, her rival, Georgiana was accused of both bribing and kissing butchers in exchange for votes for Charles James Fox.  The Tories created the rumors in order to curtail Georgiana's success and force her to hide in shame and yet here was Jane obstinately doing exactly what her rival was only rumored to do.  Ballsy!  But Jane wasn't quite done with her parade yet.

At a London Ball in 1792 Jane barged in dressed head to foot in Black Watch tartan taffeta, which I can only imagine looking absolutely amazing.  Well, it must have looked amazing, because Jane started a trend for tartan with her bold look.  Soon it was reported that 'scarce a respectable female but wore a tartan waist to her gown at least, and there was hardly a waiter at any inn in London but appeared in his tartan waistcoat.' Hmm, perhaps that was an exaggeration, but as a life-long fan of plaid, I can't blame the fad!  Not bad to be a trend-setter in your 40s!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hoppner's Drawings of Ladies

I haven't written extensive on John Hoppner before, which is a shame because he is one of very talented artists to come out of the late eighteenth century.  His parents emigrated to England from Germany to be attendants in the London palaces of Hanovers.  Hoppner's talent as a tot gained the notice of George III who continued to encourage the boy and was his first patron.  George's interest in the boy caused whispers to fly that Hoppner was an illegitimate son of the king, but it is highly unlikely.  Hoppner painted some of the great personalities of the time but it is his drawings that I find particularly captivating. 

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire, 1784
Sarah, Countess of Tyrconnell, 1792
Mary 'Perdita' Robinson, c1783
Unknown Lady, 1785
Lavinia Banks
Catherine Bulteel, 1781

A Standing Woman
Mrs Houlton, 1801
Lady Charlotte Maria Waldegrave, 1780
Jane Douce, 1804-6

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Duke of Bedford Causes a Stir

"Indeed we are all undone,"

These were Georgiana's distressed words to Lady Melbourne in 1802.  Political catastrophe was first thing on the two ladies minds; she continued, "no possible event could have so thoroughly overtuned the habit of our society as this.'

The Duke of Bedford was considering, do I dare say it? 'tis truly horrible...a Tory for a wife. 

Yes, the prominent Whig was not just crossing over to the dark side, he was crossing over to the deep-dark side; he was considering the Duchess of Gordon's daughter as a wife.  That would mean having Tories for in-laws.  Georgiana saw him as good as turned just from mere proximity to that Tory temptress!

She also blamed herself for this whole debacle. Bedford had once been after her eldest daughter, Little G but she instead ended up marrying Lord Morpeth.  He had also been canoodling with the widely available Lady Melbourne for fun.  Although Little G marrying some other dude didn't hurt Bedford's feelings, Georgiana not paying him back money she owed him when he was short on cash did.  He refused to speak to her, and not long after was courting Georgina Gordon. 

Georgiana and Lady Melbourne expected the worst but they certainly didn't expect the duke to suddenly drop dead while playing tennis three weeks later.  Neither did the notorious husband-hunter Duchess of Gordon; she and her daughter were severely lampooned by satirical artists for their fruitless labour of love.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Museum Exhibition: Panniers, Stays and Jabots

I was lucky enough to be in Brussels this weekend, and even luckier still that their costume museum happened to be holding an exhibition on 18th-century clothing called, Panniers, Stays, and Jabots.  I was even luckier still when they told me I could take pictures (without flash, of course).  This naturally meant I went crazy taking as many pictures as I could for your viewing pleasure.  The quality isn't amazing but the clothing and their condition certainly is!

Just check out that gorgeous bow on the back!

Sparkly-edge sleeves

A purse, a familiar face, and a fan

The detail on some of the gentleman's clothing was fantastic


I had to wonder if the edging was original because of its pristine condition

Late 18th C shoes

Embroidered flower detail on the heel

These would slip on a delicate pair of heels to avoid muddying them

Perhaps my favorite garment in the show

A calash bonnet- a rare sight!

Ivory fan

I would buy a blouse like this now!

The back of said favorite dress

These fans needed labels so badly! A fan made entirely of feathers

Ostrich feather fan- again I need a date of origin so badly!