, ,



Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Legacy of Needlework - Mrs. Delany

Mary Granville, or Mrs. Delany, is remembered for her letters and for her elaborate paper flower work and her magnificent needlework. What's most remarkable about Mrs. Delany is the fact that she only hit her artistic stride after reaching the age of 72! Twice widowed with no children, Mrs. Delany became a royal favorite and sought after by society, numbering Handel, Jonathan Swift, the Duchess of Portland, Fanny Burney and the king and queen of England among her closest friends, all while executing an astonishing body of work that includes the Flora Delanica - almost 1,000 botanical collages that took a decade to complete.

Mary Granville was married at seventeen to the Cornish squire, Alexander Pendarves of Roscrow, who was more than forty years older than she and described by a contemporary as being 'ugly, disagreeable and gouty'. After he died in 1724, Mary discovered that she'd been left annuity in the hundreds of pounds, far less than she'd anticipated, yet enough to allow her travel amongst relatives and forge ties and friendships that would serve her well in later life.
In the following years, Mary designed an unusual court dress of intricately detailed floral embroidery on black satin. Portions of the dress, preserved in frames by her heirs, reveal the sort of attention to detail that would later be the hallmark of her lifelike floral collages.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Tale of Lady Hertford, Prinny, Audubon and Chinese Wallpaper

A current exhibit at Temple Newsam in Leeds entitled ‘A House of Birds: American Birds in a Chinese Garden’ is running to the end of November. The exhibit tells the amazing story of what happened when the former owner of Temple Newsam House, Isabella Ingram (known as Lady Hertford), decided to get creative with the décor in her sitting room in 1827. Once upon a time, Prinny (the future King George IV) was courting Isabella, and after a visit to the house in 1806 he gifted her mother, Frances, Lady Irwin, several rolls of blue, handpainted Chinese wallpaper.

This wallpaper was hand-painted in China for the export market. It dates from c.1800 and was intended to form a panoramic view of an Oriental garden. The garden is planted with flowering trees and shrubs in vases, and the viewer looks out over an alabaster balustrade.

These wallpapers were made in panels about four feet square and were shipped in this form to Europe. When an upholsterer like Thomas Chippendale was employed to redecorate a room, he expected the owner to supply the Chinese paper himself. In this case, Lady Irwin apparently had no liking, or use, for the paper, which mouldered away in a closet for the next twenty-one years.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's a Dog's Life - Part Three

Suspense by Sir Edwin Landseer

As we have seen, the British, both royal and non, love their dogs, so it should be no wonder that they turned their minds to the benefit of canines at large. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed in a coffee shop in 1824 by a group of men that included the anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce. It was the first animal welfare charity to be founded in the world and sought to prevent the abuse of working animals, entertainments (cock-fighting), and slaughterhouse conditions. In its first year, the Society brought sixty three offenders before the Courts. It was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840 to become the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

One of the RSPCA's members, Mary Tealby, went on to found the world's first successful animal sanctuary, the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year (find special issue stamps here). The institution both responded to and influenced the British public's attitude towards animal welfare during its early years. Mary Tealby, who had separated from her husband and moved to London in 1860, first resolved to found a "canine asylum" after the death of a starving dog she had attempted to nurse back to health. Struck by the plight of London's strays, she established the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in a stable in an Islington mews.

Low Life by Sir Edwin Landseer

The Times launched a scathing attack on the Home on 18 October 1860 - "From the sublime to the ridiculous – from the reasonable inspirations of humanity to the fantastic exhibitions of ridiculous sentimentalism – there is but a single step... When we hear of a 'Home for Dogs', we venture to doubt if the originators and supporters of such an institution have not taken leave of their sober senses."

  This dog collar once belonged to Charles Dickens and was sold at auction for $11,590 by Bonhams, NY.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's a Dog's Life - Part Two

Queen Victoria owned many breeds of dogs over her long lifetime, including Pugs and Dachsunds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

The Royal Collection © 2010,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
RCIN 2105644

Looty, the first Pekingese dog in Britain, brought by Captain Dunne, 99th Regiment, from Yuanming Yuan, the Summer Palace near Beijing, as a gift for Queen Victoria in April 1861. Dunne had found Looty in the burned out remains of the Summer Palace at Pekin, curled up amongst soft shawls and rugs in one of the wardrobes.

During a trip to Italy in 1888, the Queen purchased a sable red Pomeranian she named Marco and brought him back to England. Marco weighed only 12 pounds and many dog historians point to him as being the instigator of the desire to breed smaller Pomeranians. Marco went on to compete under the Queen's name in many dog shows and he won many honors. Victoria also bought three other Poms on the same trip to Florence in 1888 and the most famous next to Marco was a cute little female named Gina who also became a champion at London dog shows.

Queen Victoria and a favorite Pom, Turi

Saturday, September 25, 2010

22nd Wellington Lecture - October 27th 2010

Imagining Wellington: From "Punch" to Pantheon

Southampton University, which holds the Wellington Papers in their collections, is hosting the 22nd Wellington Lecture with Dr. David Howarth on October 27th.  Established in 1989, from an endowment from the Spanish Ambassador, the Wellington Lecture is given each year on aspects of the life and times of the first Duke of Wellington.

Over the years, the University of Southampton has welcomed a host of distinguished speakers to present the lecture. This year they've selected Dr David Howarth, Head of History of Art at the University of Edinburgh, who will present his lecture entitled ‘Imagining Wellington: From "Punch" to Pantheon.’

Refreshments will be served from 5:30 p.m. before the lecture begins at 6:00pm. This event is open to the public and free to attend. More information is available here.

Dr. Howarth's first book was a study of the pioneer collector in England, Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel (1585-1646): Lord Arundel and his Circle (Yale, 1985), published in conjunction with an exhibition on Arundel held at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford which Howarth co-curated with Nicholas Penny: Howarth's Images of Rule (London and Berkeley, 1997), provided an overview of the relationship of art and politics in early modern Britain and it has become established as a standard work on the cultural history of Renaissance Britain. Complemntary to this publication was his editorship of Art and Patronage in Caroline England. More recently, Howarth has specialized in cultural relations between Great Britain and Iberia. Following the publication of his book, The Invention of Spain, he was Chief Guest Curator for the National Galleries of Scotland Edinburgh Festival exhibition for 2009, The Discovery of Spain. He is currently writing a biography of Rubens, commissioned by Oxford University Press.

There is no shortage of caricatures featuring the Duke of Wellington. Below are just a sampling of the prints that were published during his lifetime.

Friday, September 24, 2010

It's a Dog's Life

Queen Victoria was a devoted dog lover and owner throughout her life and raised more than 15 different breeds of canines.

Perhaps the most famous of these dogs remains Dash, who was her faithful companion during her childhood. The artist Sir Edwin Landeer first won Victoria's favour when he painted Dash, a King Charles spaniel. Dash had been presented to Princess Victoria in 1833 by the vile Sir John Conroy, personal secretary to her mother, the Duchess of Kent. No doubt Conroy hoped that Dash would mitigate the ill feelings Princess Victoria harbored towards him due to his machinations. Princess Victoria and Dash were soon inseparable and he lived by her side, with the Princess dressing him in scarlet jacket and blue trousers, and at Christmas she gave him three India-rubber balls and two bits of gingerbread decorated with holly and candles. There is a scene in the movie, Young Victoria, which illustrates how the newly crowned Queen returned home from her coronation in order to bathe Dash. Dash also appears in a garden scene in the film.

When Dash died in 1840, three years after she became Queen, Victoria buried him herself at Adelaide Cottage, and had inscribed on his tombstone: `Profit by the example of Dash, whose attachment was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, and his fidelity without deceit.'

A bronze statue of Islay stands in Sydney, Australia

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do You Need a London fix?

Victoria here. Unexpectedly the other night, without any Netflix on hand, I found myself looking through the tv listings -- 700 channels and nothing to watch -- but WAIT!!!  What  about a good evening in London?

There it was -- Notting Hill. I saw it long ago (released in 1999), and was disappointed because Julia was SO beautifully Julia and Hugh was SO stutteringly Hugh. But this time, expecting nothing but watching London on my screen, I really enjoyed it. The reverse Cinderella story I guess. But I'd rather run a bookshop on Portobello Road than be an actress!

Now I am looking forward to some other movies set in London that are fun to watch just because of the scenery.  How about Last Chance Harvey (2008)? That one was a little below par too, but just to see them walking along the Thames -- well, this time I'd probably love it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do You Know About Collectibles Direct and Acorn Media?

There are two great catalogues every Anglophile should be aware of, Collectibles Direct and Acorn Media. Each offer a variety of books, videos and more that will keep you connected to your favorite British shows and movies.

Collectibles Direct offers audio, video and books, including Mapping London which explores more than six centuries of London maps. And they've got unique gifts, such as the Jane Austen Writer's Companion Set - a 160-page Address Book populated with quotes and illustrations,  beautifully designed Notecards - 16 total, with 4 separate designs - and a 128-page Journal peppered with humorous pairings of illustrations and quotes from her novels.


Acorn Media also offers videos, books and gifts for him, her and the garden. And many items perfect for your favorite Anglophile, such as the mugs below - even if that person is yourself.

Between the two catalogues, you're sure to find all of your favorite films and t.v. shows!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Wellington Connection - The Battle of Hastings

Oh, dear. The historians at the town of Hastings made a major blunder in their PR copy in 2008, when the Battle Town Map and Guide, a brief introduction to the East Sussex town, described how the Duke of Wellington crossed the Channel in preparation for the famous showdown at Hastings - which took place on 14 October 1066. Apparently, no one caught the error and the guides were widely distributed. The irony continues in a Daily Mail article covering the mistake, which makes a blunder of its own, calling Wellington a "18th century commander." While he may have been born in the 18th century, most of Wellington's victories occurred in the 19th century.

For an entirely irreverant and often profane (warning!) take on the (real) accomplishments of the Duke of Wellington, check out this entry on a site which named the Duke Badass of the Week and applauds Wellington's "asskickery." Here's just a sample: "Once again, it was up to Wellesley to kick more balls than Manchester United. At the battle of Assaye in 1803, Wellesley's small force of about 7,000 soldiers launched an unexpected surprise assault on an Indian force numbering over 40,000 men, and somehow managed to drive them from the field and capture 98 of their cannons. This is pretty goddamned impressive, considering that the British only brought 20 artillery pieces to the battlefield that day, but it's all in a day's work for this hardcore badass. The British marched on, crushed the Indians, and Wellesley returned to England as a conquering awesome war hero. When he got home, Wellesley went to the home of Kitty Pakenham, pimp-slapped her brother until he was unconscious, and asked her to marry him. She pretty much tore her dress off right on the spot."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sotheby's Chatsworth Sale

What with Christmas just around the corner, we thought we'd let you know that you can probably pick up gifts for most of the lucky on your list at the upcoming Chatsworth Attic Sale to be held by Sotheby's London on October 5-7, 2010. More than 1,000 lots and 20,000 objects will be on offer from October 5 to 7, with estimates ranging from an alluring £20 to £200,000 for William Kent chimneypieces removed from Devonshire House in London before it was demolished in the 1920s. Here are the details from their press release:

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement have instructed Sotheby’s to hold an auction of treasures gathered from the attics and stores at Chatsworth. The sale comprises 20,000 objects in well over 1,000 lots which will be on view in a series of marquees in the grounds of the house from October 1st. The house and grounds will be open to the public as usual during the period of the sale and view. Coming from the great houses of Chatsworth, Chiswick House, Bolton Abbey, Compton Place, Devonshire House, Hardwick Hall, Holker Hall and Lismore Castle, the sale includes works from almost every conceivable area: Architectural fittings, Books, Carriages and Cars, Ceramics and Glass, Collectables, Continental Furniture, English Furniture, European Sculpture, Garden Statuary, Natural History, Jewellery, Old Master and British Pictures, Oriental Works of Art, Silver and Plate, Objects of Vertu, Prints, Rugs and Carpets, Textiles, Tapestries and Wine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Visit to Chiswick House, Part Two

Chiswick House, London

 Chiswick House is one of the most influential buildings in the history of British architecture. It re-introduced the Palladian style of neo-classicism and had a lasting effect on the future of buildings in Europe and the Americas. 

 To reiterate just a little from the previous post on Chiswick, the youthful Richard Boyle, Lord Burlington (1694-1753), together with a group of powerful and/or brilliant gentlemen and artists, created a magnificent villa based on the ideas and structures of Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), an Italian Renaissance architect.

The beauty of the house is in its symmetry, its proportions. Geometric shapes, circles, squares, octagons, all combine to create perfect balance. Based on the principles of ancient Greek architecture as reinterpreted by the Romans and Renaissance Italians, it is a pleasingly human scale which brings comfort and satisfaction in merely looking at the plans.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot

Victoria here.  Kristine did a post on the wonderful actress Margaret Rutherford on August 17, 2010, and it got me thinking. Which actress is my favorite Miss Marple?  And which is my favorite Hercule Poirot.

Here is a link to a blog post from a Marple fan, in the Birdie's Nest.

I saw the Margaret Rutherford films at an impressionable age, I suppose. She looked nothing like I had imagined Jane Marple from the novels, but she was a delight.  All four of the films made by MGM between 1961 and 1964 were black and white, which means they probably don't get as much attention as they deserve.  My favorite is the first one, Murder, She Said, based on the Christie's novel 4:50 from Paddington.  It was a wonderful vehicle for Rutherford, a blend of commedy and suspense (if I recall it correctly).

Joan Hickson

 Geraldine McEwan

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Larry King Show Goes British

Piers Morgan has given up his seat on the Britain's Got Talent judging panel in order to fill the nightly interview seat held by Larry King on CNN for 25 years, but will remain on America's Got Talent as a judge. King's last show is set to air on December 16th. Speaking to Forbes.com, King said that, although he's had Morgan on his show a couple of times, he knows virtually nothing about him. While King's choice for his replacement would have been Ryan Seacrest, King did say about Morgan, “I like him very much. I wish him nothing but the best – he’s going to guest on my show in October. I want him to do well. It’s funny, my wife met him before I did, at a Dodger game.” King's final guest will be former NY Governor Mario Cuomo, who was King's first guest when the show began.

 Morgan told Entertainment Weekly that he’ll be shooting for the stars where his guests are concerned. “I’m going to go for the biggest targets on the planet,” he says. “I want to get the biggest names, the biggest people, go after the biggest stories. There’s nothing I like more than breaking big stories with big interviews, and creating headlines. It’s what I do best . . Why don’t you come up with a list of the 20 biggest names in the world,” he says, “and I’ll confirm I’m definitely interested in talking to them. I wouldn’t rule anybody in, and anybody out. You can take your pick.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

William Huskisson - England's First Railroad Fatality

William Huskisson PC (11 March 1770 – 15 September 1830) was a British statesman, financier, and Member of Parliament for several constituencies, including Liverpool. He is best known today, however, as the world's first widely reported railway casualty -  he was run over by George Stephenson's locomotive engine Rocket.

Huskisson entered the cabinet in April 1822 when Lord Liverpool appointed him as President of the Board of Trade. The following year Huskisson became MP for Liverpool. Huskisson worked closely with the merchants from the city and soon developed a reputation as the leading representative of mercantile interests in Parliament. This was reflected in the drafting and passing of several new bills that related to trade, including the Merchant Vessels' Apprenticeship Act and the Registration of Ships Act. Huskisson also took measures towards a policy of free trade. He reduced duties on cotton, sugar, glass, paper, bottles, copper, zinc and lead.

Although Huskisson admitted in debate that he was having doubts about duties on corn, he advocated a delay in their repeal. He finally introduced new measures to reform the Corn Laws in 1826 but the bill was abandoned after the opposition of the Duke of Wellington and other leading Tories in the House of Lords.

When the Duke of Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, Huskisson refused to serve under him and resigned from office. Huskisson became unpopular with some members of the Tory Party when he made a speech in the House of Commons claiming that Wellington had forced him to leave the government.

Two years later, both the Duke of Wellington and Huskisson were among the celebrities invited to the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. At 10.40 a.m. on September 15, 1830, eight locomotives drawing carriages designed after the fashion of stage coaches, and containing 732 people, left the mouth of the Great Tunnel at Liverpool to go to Manchester, the thirty mile route being lined with fully half a million people. On the north line was a gorgeous, circus-like carriage whose principal occupant was the Duke of Wellington. In front of it was a carriage containing a band. The other seven trains were on the south line. At Eccles, seventeen miles from Liverpool, it was planned that the procession should stop for the engines to take in water, and the printed programme specially requested that guests should not leave their carriages.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Death of Wellington - Long Live the Duke

An image of the arms of the Dukes of Wellington, shamelessly stolen from author Lesley-Anne McLeod's blog.
Thanks, Lesley-Anne!

On 14 September 1852 Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, PC, FRS died both quite suddenly and peacefully at his rooms at Walmer Castle, Kent. It is hardly necessary for me to take up further room on this blog in extolling the myriad virtues, accomplishments and glories attached to the first Duke. There are a wealth of stories about his funeral, the largest ever held in London until that held for Princess Diana, in books, on the web, etc. Rather, I thought it might be interesting instead to turn our attention on this day to the man who became the second Duke upon his father's death.

Lt.-General Arthur Richard Wellesley, 2nd Duke of Wellington KG PC (3 February 1807 – 13 August 1884), was the eldest son of the 1st Duke of Wellington and Kitty Pakenham. In 1853 he was made a Privy Councillor and a Knight of the Garter in 1858 and in 1863 he inherited the Irish title of Earl of Mornington from his cousin. In 1839 he had married Lady Elizabeth Hay, but they had no children, so at his death he was succeeded in his titles by his nephew, Henry.

Arthur was 45 years of age when his father died and while the Duke had been proud of both Arthur and his younger son, Charles, they never enjoyed what might be remotely called a warm family bond. The 2nd Duke was known to have said that his father often treated himself and his younger brother as "duffers." There are many anecdotes that back up this fact, but I'll use the following as being illustrative of the coolness between father and son(s).  When the 2nd Duke was still Lord Douro, he was in the Rifle Brigade and stationed at Dover, in which neighborhood his father also resided, at Walmer Castle, as Lord of the Cinque Ports. It was the Duke's habit to invite all the officers quartered in the town to dinner at the Castle. On one particular occassion, the Duke invited every officer on the spot, with the exception of his son, prompting him to send his father the following note: "The Marquis of Douro presents his compliments to F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., and would be glad to know why, alone among the officers of his regiment, he has not been invited to dinner at Walmer Castle." The Duke replied by return of post: "F.M. the Duke of Wellington, K.G., presents his compliments to the Marquis of Douro, and begs to inform him that the reason why he was never invited to dine at Walmer Castle is that he never called there." 

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Visit to Chiswick House, Part One

Victoria here, taking you today to the London suburbs to see a benchmark in the evolution of English architecture. Chiswick House was built by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington (1694-1753) in the second quarter of the 18th century. Not only is it a lovely jewel-box of a structure, it had a widespread and lasting influence on subsequent buildings in Britain.

First we must step back a century or so to Inigo Jones (1573–1652), architect of the Queen's House, Greenwich (left), the Banqueting House in Whithall (below), and many other neo-classical buildings in London and the countryside.

 The neo-classical style, however, temporarily was overtaken in most building projects by baroque influences such as the styles of Sir Christopher Wren, John Vanbrugh, and Nicolas Hawksmoor.  However, the style would return and dominate British architecture in the late 18th century and onwards, largely due to the influence of a young nobleman.

Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington, 4th Earl of Cork and Baron Clifford (1694–1753), inherited a great deal of money and property upon the death of his father, Charles Boyle, in 1704.  A few years later, young Richard made several Grand Tours of Europe during which he became especially interested in the designs of Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio (1508–1580). Lord Burlington also met William Kent (1685–1748),  a painter born in England, who also took up architectural, furniture, and garden design.

When he returned from Italy, Burlington set about building Burlington House in Piccadilly in London. At right, the elevations by architect Colen Campbell, of 1725. Today's Burlington House, the home of the Royal Academy of Art, looks quite different, having been greatly modified in the 19th century, though some of the original work can be seen, particularly in the John Madejski Fine Rooms inside.

Lord Burlington was an eager amateur architect, meaning no disrespect, in the same way the aristocrats of his time encouraged and participated in music, the arts, and sciences. One of his first projects, now demolished, was the Bagnio or Casino in the gardens of Chiswick, left.  He designed and built it with Colen Campbell in between his trips to Italy, where he studied the buildings of Palladio. It had several rooms, but was in the nature of a garden folly or decoration.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Leading Man News

Emma Thompson received her star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame last month
and showed up at the unveiling with a pig and a pint.

Yipppeee for Emma Thompson. Yes, I know Emma's not a leading man, but she is working on a new project, a remake of My Fair Lady, to star Carey Mulligan as Eliza Doolittle and rumour is that she's tapped Colin Firth to play Henry Higgins, with Hugh Grant in a supporting role. Emma has said in interviews that she was dissatisfied with the original film version's sugary take on the storyline of Pygmalion which, however one slices it, revolves around a father's having sold his daughter to an older man in a form of prostitution. Emma has said:
"It's a very terrible thing [Eliza Doolittle's father] does, selling his daughter into sexual slavery for a fiver. I suppose my cheekiness is in saying, "This is a very serious story about the usage of women at a particular time in our history. And it's still going on today." 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy 50th to Colin Firth, Actor Extraordinaire

Victoria here, wishing many happy returns to Colin Firth, another actor that fascinates me -- handsome, talented, versatile and all the other adjectives one can apply to British actors in the tradition of Olivier,  Gielgud, and so many others.  I wonder if Firth ever realized what a heart-throb he would become by playing Jane Austen's memorable hero in the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice, with a screenplay by Andrew Davies, produced by Sue Birtwistle and directed by Simon Langton for the BBC and A and E.

Of course, some of that had to do with the famous wet shirt scene, at which one might swoon -- over what Jane Austen would have made of it!! 

But it also had to do with the smoky, sexy looks Darcy cast Elizabeth's way -- sigh!  Talk about "fine eyes."  Firth made an excellent Darcy, looking suitably grim and bored at the beginning, and changing over the six episodes to recognize his love for Lizzy. This did not preclude his continued arrogance and his reluctance to share the real story of Mr. Wickham. But in the end, was anyone in doubt of the happy- ever-after ending?  Not I.

Firth did a sort of reprise of his P and P role when he played Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movies in 2001 and 2004.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Note From Kristine and Victoria

Windsor June 2010

As we approach our six month anniversary, Victoria and I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for their support of Number One London. Judging by the comments and emails we receive, you're enjoying this site, but not half as much as we enjoy blogging! It's really been a labour of love.

When we first started Number One London, one of our goals was to have a place where like minded Georgian, Regency and Victorian history addicts could share research and interesting stories they'd uncovered. We'd like to once more extend the invitation for you to become a guest blogger. Is there a particular area of history you're fascinated by? An unforgettable personality? A little known fact regarding daily life? If so, please share it with the rest of us! We've all got our own particular interests so it's rather nice to have a place to learn about things we wouldn't necesarily research on our own. You might also submit a film or book review or a piece about your own visit to a stately home, museum or other location within the UK.

Furthering the effort to get connected, we've begun running a "real time" Recent Comments list in our left sidebar. Without having to open individual posts and click on the comments links, you can immediately see who's been to Number One London and what they had to say. And we hope you've enjoyed the reaction boxes we added below each post, enabling you to leave a quick reaction with just the tick of a box.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Mack the Knife

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it … ah … out of sight.

Ya know when that shark bites, with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, though, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there’s nevah, nevah a trace of red.

Now on the sidewalk … uuh, huh … whoo … sunny mornin’ … uuh, huh
Lies a body just oozin' life … eeek!
And someone’s sneakin' ‘round the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

Don't you love Mack the Knife? I do. I've added Bobby Darin's version of the song to nearly every cd I've burned. Imagine my surprise when I learned that Mack the Knife has it's roots in England . . . . .  The character of Macheath, later to become Mack the Knife, first appeared in The Beggar's Opera by John Gay (1685-1732). The Beggar's Opera, a comic ballad opera, took London by storm with it's portrayal of the lower-class criminals satirizing the government and upper-class society. The main character of The Beggar's Opera is a swashbuckling thief called Macheath who is polite to the people he robs, shuns violence, and shows impeccable good manners while cheating on his wife. The character is usually understood as partly a satire of Sir Robert Walpole, a leading British politician of the time. The Beggar's Opera was a success from its first production in 1728, and continued to be performed for many years. It was the first musical play produced in colonial New York and legend has it that George Washington enjoyed it very much.

The Beggar's Opera by Hogarth

The play was so popular that it prompted Hogarth to fashion a painting upon it. Here is the description of the above painting from the Tate Britain website: "Between 1728 and 1731 Hogarth painted numerous versions of a climactic scene from John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera, the great theatrical sensation of the period. Hogarth concentrated on a scene set in Newgate prison in which the play’s leading character, a condemned highwayman called Captain Macheath, is shown at the centre of a tug-of-love. The characters of Lucy Lockit and Polly Peachum, both of whom believe themselves married to Macheath, plead with their fathers – respectively a corrupt prison-warden and a crooked lawyer - to set him free. In both versions of A Beggar’s Opera displayed here, Hogarth included the stage trappings and protagonists of the theatrical environment in which Gay’s work was first staged. An elaborate curtain hangs over the proceedings, and Hogarth paints recognisable portraits of such actors as Lavinia Fenton (dressed in white), who famously played Polly Peachum. Furthermore, Hogarth depicts the most fashionable members of the theatre audience sitting on the stage, as was commonplace at this time."