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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jane Austen in Portland OR

JASNA in Oregon

Victoria here with just time for a moment on line before I attend  the closing event of the 2010 JASNA AGM. It has been a wonderful conference, started off with a day and a half at the Burney Society conference. I've heard so many excellent presentations that my head is spinning.  I promise a full report next week, including lots of photos of last night's Bal Masque, a combination of fabulous regency gowns and men's apparel with some extremely creative costumes, including the Phantom of the Opera, Bottom from Midsummer Night's Dream, and many many more.

This is my first visit to Portland, a lovely city, with some excellent restaurants.  Next year JASNA goes to Ft. Worth, TX, and I hope everyone can come.  I will be speaking on Regency Weddings at a pre-conference gala.

Depp to Star in Remake of Dark Shadows

Keeping in the Halloween spirit, I'll tell you that it's been announced that the legendary, and slightly mad, director Tim Burton has signed Pride And Prejudice And Zombies writer Seth Grahame-Smith to adapt the late '60s horror-soap-opera Dark Shadow into a film starring the slightly mad Johnny Depp. Apparently, Grahame-Smith was offered the job because Burton enjoyed his lesser known zombie-history novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In fact, Burton liked it so much that he bought the rights and Burton is currently in pre-production on the film version of that novel.

In the movie version of the of Dark Shadows, the cult vampire daytime soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971, Depp is set to play the lead Barnabas Collins, who throughout the show's 1200 episodes experienced storyarcs including time travel, parallel universes, and encounters with many things that went bump in the night. Shooting on the film is slated to begin in January 2011 and this project will be the eighth collaboration for Depp/Burton, who last teamed up on Alice in Wonderland, a film not meant to be viewed without 3-D glasses and/or copious amounts of mind altering substances. Meanwhile, Depp is currently filming the next Pirates of the Caribbean installment.

Amazingly, actor Jonathan Frid, who played Barnabas Collins in the television show, is still alive and kicking and has his own website. And here I thought he'd only played a vampire.

Trick or Treat . . . . . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Victorian Mourning Photography

There was a period of a few years when I couldn't go anywhere without falling over mourning related items. In an antique shop in Nassau in the Bahamas (!?) I found a complete issue of the London Illustrated News covering the Duke of Wellington's funeral.

A drawing from the Illustrated London News of the Duke's funeral procession.

And I found the issue below focused on the death of Queen Victoria while in England.

In addition, I regularly found mourning photographs, or postcards, featuring royal figures. The advent of photographs, and especially daguerreotypes in 1839, made portraiture available to everyone and it was soon adapted for mourning purposes, with Queen Victoria embracing the medium wholeheartedly. Due to published images of Queen Victoria and her family in mourning for Prince Albert like those below, it soon became the vogue to have photos made of oneself in mourning.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


One day, I shall have a Grade I listed home in England that will come complete with a typical English garden. This garden will include a multitude of roses, fountains, statuary, a maze, a grotto, a Ha Ha and even, perhaps, a hermit. Ha! Seriously, I always think a Ha Ha gives a property a substantial feel, as though it were absolutely necessary in order to separate your Georgian pile from the multitude of cows and sheep one is wealthy enough to allow to graze on one's vast acreage. It is thought that their name, Ha-Ha, is derived from the sound persons made upon first encountering them. Ha-Has were both unexpected and amusing.

From Wikipedia: "The Ha-Ha is an expression in garden design that refers to a trench, in which is a fence concealed from view. Alternatively it can be used to mean a ditch the one side of which is vertical and faced with stone, the other face sloped and turfed, making the trench, in effect, a retaining wall (this is also sometimes known as a deer leap). The ha-ha is designed not to interrupt the view from a garden, pleasure-ground, or park, while maintaining a physical barrier at least in one direction."

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Wellington Connection: The Charge of the Light Brigade

The Duke of Wellington is connected to the Charge of the Light Brigade through his association with Lord  Fitzroy Somerset (at left), who was both his military secretary and his nephew by marriage.

Field Marshal FitzRoy James Henry Somerset, Baron Raglan (1788 - 1855), was a British soldier who distinguished himself particularly in the Spanish parts of the Napoleonic campaign. He was badly wounded by five stab wounds to the shoulder at the Battle of Buçaco, after Fuentes de Onoro became brevet-major, as a volunteer helped storm Ciudad Rodrigo, and subsequently led the storming of Badajoz, and personally secured and quickly held one of the gates before the French could respond.

He was the eighth and youngest son of Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort, by Elizabeth, daughter of Admiral the Hon. Edward Boscawen. His elder brother, General Lord Edward Somerset (1776–1842), distinguished himself as the leader of the Household Cavalry brigade at the Battle of Waterloo. Fitzroy Somerset was commissioned onto the 4th Light Dragoons on 9 June 1804, being promoted to Lieutenant on 30 May 1805. In 1807 he was attached to the Hon. Sir Arthur Paget's (later Marquess of Angelsey) embassy to Turkey, and the same year he was selected to serve on the staff of Sir Arthur Wellesley in the expedition to Copenhagen. In the following year he accompanied Wellesley to Portugal, and during the whole of the Peninsular War was at his right hand, first as aide-de-camp and then as military secretary. Lord Hardinge later remarked that he had first become acquainted with Lord FitzRoy Somerset at the battle of Vimiera, "when we of the same age were astonished at the admirable manner in which he then performed the duties of aide-de-camp, and at the great respect with which he was treated by Sir Arthur Wellesley. It was remarked on all occasions that if there was a word of advice to which that great man would listen with unusual patience, it was that which proceeded from Lord FitzRoy Somerset. During the whole period that the Duke of Wellington was in the Peninsula—with the exception, I believe, of a short time when he was in England for the benefit of his health—Lord FitzRoy Somerset was at his right hand. He was present at every one of those actions which illustrate the career of our great commander; on every occasion he was foremost in the field, and he displayed the same valour and courage which have so conspicuously marked his conduct in the Crimea."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The King's Speech

Colin Firth will be playing King George VI in a new film called The King's Speech. Set to open in November, Geoffrey Rush plays royal speech therapist Lionel Logue, while Helena Bonham Carter will play the Queen Mum.

The King's Speech tells the story of the man who would become King George VI, the father of the current Queen, Elizabeth II. After his brother abdicates, George 'Bertie' VI (Firth) reluctantly assumes the throne. Plagued by a dreaded nervous stammer and considered unfit to be King, Bertie engages the help of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Rush). Through a set of unexpected techniques, and as a result of an unlikely friendship, Bertie is able to find his voice and boldly lead the country into war.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rex Whistler, Imaginative Painter, Romantic Hero...

First, know that English artist Rex Whistler (1905-1944) was no relation at all to American artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834–1903), however amusing it would be to link their work. 

Rex Whistler, self-portrait, 1934

Rex Whistler was born in Kent and showed enormous talent while still in his teens. However, he did not do well in school, nor at the Royal Academy where he was expelled.  More successful was his stay at the Slade School of Art where he made friends with the Honourable Stephen Tennant, and later with Tennant's friend poet Siegfried Sassoon.

While still at Slade, at age 22, he was hired to paint a mural in the basement cafe of the Tate Gallery. He worked with novelist Edith Olivier (1872–1948) on illustrating the story of seven people who search for exotic fare: Expedition in Search of Rare Meats.

According to the publications of the restaurant,  "They leave on bicycles, carts and horses from the 'Duchy of Epicurania', and travel through strange and wonderful lands encountering unicorns, truffle dogs and two giant gluttons guarding the entrance to a cave. The story ends with the travellers returning to a joyful homecoming, and the diet of the people, which had previously consisted of dry biscuits, is transformed."

The mural still decorates the restaurant in the Tate Britain, where we have occasionally dined. Once I saw John Malkovich also enjoying the excellent food and renowned wine list. Here is a link to the restaurant.

Between the world wars, Rex Whistler knew, socialized and painted many of  London's social elite, sometimes known as the "Bright Young Things". 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Thomas Lawrence Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery

Princess Sophia

 The National Portrait Gallery in London is staging an exhibition called, "Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance" from 21 October 2010 - 23 January 2011. Thomas Lawrence was the greatest British portrait painter of his generation., and this exhibition, the first to focus on Lawrence's work in the UK for over thirty years, explores his development into the most celebrated and influential artist in Europe at the start of the nineteenth century. Featuring over fifty works, it showcases the artist's greatest paintings and drawings alongside lesser known works, drawn from public and private collections around the world. When it closes in London, the exhhibition will move to the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut from 24 February to 5 June 2011. This will be the first exhibition in the United Kingdom since 1979 to examine Lawrence’s work and the first substantial presentation of this artist in the United States. It will present Lawrence as the most important British portrait painter of his generation and will explore his development as one of the most celebrated and influential European artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By his untimely death in 1830 Lawrence had achieved the greatest international reach and reputation of any British artist.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Do You Know About Midsomer Murders?

Midsomer Murders debuted on television in the U.K. on March 23, 1997 and to date there are about 85 episodes of the hugely popular series and counting. Midsomer Murders follows the investigations of Detective Chief Tom Barnaby (John Nettles) in the fictional English county of Midsomer. In the early seasons, his junior is Sergeant Gavin Troy (Daniel Casey), a mildly bumbling foil.  In later seasons, DCI Barnaby was assisted by DS Dan Scott, and currently by DS Ben Jones. Midsomer Murders is notable for its carefully crafted stories that revolve around the facade of a seemingly peaceful countryside that conceal all manners of vice and crime, including, but by no means limited to - blackmail, sexual deviances, suicide and murder.  The Queen herself is rumoured to be a fan of the show, while John Nettles was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) this past June during the Queen's birthday honours.

Jane Wymark (above right) plays Barnaby’s patient wife Joyce, who occassionally finds herself unwittingly near the scene of a crime. Laura Howard (above left) plays Barnaby’s daughter Cully, an aspiring actress.

Midsomer Murder is based on the novels by Caroline Graham, with scripts written by some of Britain's best television writers. John Nettles said: “There’s something warped about the nature of our writers, they come up with extraordinary ways of killing people."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Excerpts from The Court Journal: Court Circular & Fashionable Gazette, Volume 5


King William IV

— On Sunday morning, the King and Queen, the Princess Augusta, and the Royal Suite and Household, attended Divine Service in the Chapel of the Castle. The Bishop of Worcester officiated.

In the evening Captain Ross and his nephew arrived at the Castle to pay their respects to his Majesty. They were received by the King in a very flattering and gracious manner, and had the honour of being introduced to the Queen and Royal visitors, with whom they dined and spent the evening. Captain Ross appeared in excellent health, and wore a Swedish Order.

— On Monday the King honoured the Earl and Countess of Albemarle with his company, at Hampton Court Palace. His Majesty arrived at Bushey about ten o'clock, where he was received by the Noble Earl; and after inspecting the paddocks and the Royal stud, returned to the Stud house, where his Majesty partook of a magnificent dejeuner a lafouchette. At half-past three o'clock, the King, attended by some of the distinguished visitors who were invited to meet his Majesty, visited the Palace at Hampton Court; and, at five o'clock, his Majesty returned to Windsor Castle.

— On Tuesday evening the marriage of the Hon. Mr Wellesley with the Hon. Olivia de Roos, was solemnized at Windsor Castle. The ceremony was performed by the Bishop of Worcester, assisted by the Rev. Isaac Gosset, Chaplain to their Majesties, in the private chapel, which was fitted up with crimson velvet for the occasion. There were present the King and Queen, the Duke of Wellington, Lady Sydney, Lord and Lady and Miss Cowley, Colonel and Lady and Miss de Roos, Lord and Lady Errol, Sir Herbert and Lady Taylor, and the Hon. Misses Mitchell, Johnstone, Eden, Boyle, and Bagot, Maids of Honour, and many of the Household. The bride was dressed in white satin and lace, and wore a beautiful head-dress of diamonds. His Majesty gave her away, and Lady Georgina Howe and Miss Taylor were the bridesmaids. At nine o'clock in the evening the bride and bridegroom left for Bushey; and early next week they take their departure for Germany.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Legacy of Needlework - Part Five

The Art Needlepoint Company

Repose by John White Alexander

The Calmady Children by Sir Thomas Lawrence

Eos by Sir Edwin Landseer

To end our series of needlepoint blogs, and because I'm an avid needlepointer myself, I am so happy to be able to tell you about The Art Needlepoint Company, who offer canvases available in various sizes and using either wool or silk threads depicting art quality designs including old master paintings, iconic portraits and some of the most celebrated animal paintings by English painters. What a delight it was to have found a source who sells canvases that break the mold. Yes - all of the art pictured above is available in needlepoint canvas.

Following is an interview with Doreen Finkel of The Art Needlepoint Company about their history, their stock and their passion for needlework.

Kristine: In Part Three of this series we met Mary Linwood who specialised in working full size copies of old master paintings using her needle and thread. When I learned of Mary and others of her day who did "needle painting" I longed to be able to create the same sort work - and having found you, now I can. What inspired you to go outside the box, so to speak, and to design a company around the idea of offering canvases that recreate famous artwork instead of simply offering the traditional needlepoint kits found elsewhere?

Friday, October 15, 2010

O'Brien the Irish Giant

An engraving by A. Van Assen, 1804

Patrick Cotter O'Brien (1760-1806) was at one time the tallest man in the world, reported to stand anywhere from 8' 1" to 8' 6" tall. Patrick Cotter was born at Kinsale, County Cork in either the year 1760 or 1761. When he was a teenager, a travelling showman discovered him working as a bricklayer and brought him to England to star in his 'freak of nature' show. He added the stage name 'O'Brien' to his own to connect himself with the legendary Celtic giants. The showman who'd discovered Patrick and paid him fiftypounds per annum also obtained the right to exhibit him for three years in England. Details become sketchy, but it appears as if the showman then attempted to sublet the right to show Patrick to another and Patrick objected. The showman then charged Patrick with a fictitous debt and he was thrown into a sponging house in Bristol. Soon after, a visitor to the Sheriff, a man of means, met Patrick, heard his tale and succeeded in having him freed from jail and, more importantly, from any obligation he might have had to the showman - shades of Dickens!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The British Garden - Hanover Square - New York City

The British Garden in Hanover Square, New York City was created to honor the memories of the 67 British citizens who lost their lives during the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. The garden, situated in Lower Manhattan, also celebrates the historic ties of friendship between the U.S. and the UK and aims to bring British heritage and arts initiatives into the community and city of New York.

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip and Mayor Bloomberg of NYC

Here, the Queen cut the ribbon and formally open the British Garden at Hanover Square on June 6, 2010 and she also met families of the 67 Britons who died in the September 11 attacks. “We’re very honored that Her Majesty should take time,” Rodney Johnson, vice-chairman of the garden’s board said. The families meeting her are particularly thrilled.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Like a Fine Wine

Like a fine wine, actor Ian McShane continues to age beautifully, stepping into the limelight at intervals in order to remind us just how delicious he is - especially when playing the bad boy. Villianous roles, it seems, suit McShane right down to the ground and at age sixty-eight, they keep coming his way.

Born in Blackburn, England, McShane is the son of professional soccer player Harry McShane, who played  for Manchester United, and Irene McShane. He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Having starred in more than thirty films, McShane made his debut in 1962’s The Wild and the Willing that led to other roles in The Battle of Britain, The Last of Sheila (at right), Villain (co-starring Richard Burton), Exposed, and Agent Cody Banks.

His TV resumé includes any number of TV-movies and miniseries: he played Judas in the internationally produced Jesus of Nazareth (1977) and was seen as the title character in the British miniseries Disraeli (1979). In America, he was a regular on the 1989-90 season of Dallas, playing Don Lockwood.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Legacy of Needlework - Part Four - Keeping the Art Alive

Women have been turning their hands to needlework for centuries, both for pleasure and necessity. To be an accomplished needlewoman was one of the hallmarks of being a well bred lady and Englishwomen displayed their work on everything from clothing to linens to decorative objects such as rugs, firescreens and draperies. Depending on the age and skill level of the artist, these objects ranged from the simple to the level of true artwork.



Monday, October 11, 2010

Queen Elizabeth to Launch New Cunard Ship

Cunard Line has announced that Her Majesty The Queen will name the company's new Queen Elizabeth, the third Cunard ship to bear the name, at a ceremony to take place in Southampton today. The Queen Elizabeth, a 2092-passenger ocean liner, will set sail on her maiden voyage tomorrow - the voyage sold out in a record 29 minutes. The 13-night maiden voyage will depart from Southampton with ports of call including Vigo, Lisbon, Seville, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Palma and Madeira.

The Queen at the launch of the QE2 in 1967

"The naming of a Cunard Queen is a very special occasion and this will be an historic event in the true sense of the word. The Queen launched Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967 and named our current flagship Queen Mary 2 in 2004," said Peter Shanks, President and Managing Director. "We are both honoured and proud that Her Majesty will name our new liner Queen Elizabeth," he added.

Her Majesty was also present at the age of 12 at the launch of the first Queen Elizabeth on 27 September 1938 when she accompanied her mother, Queen Elizabeth, to Clydebank for the launch. The Queen Elizabeth will be the second largest Cunarder ever built and will join her sisters, Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, as part of the youngest fleet in the world.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Wellington Connection: Shoes, Rather Than Boots

The French, the Prince of Wales, gunfire, political upheaval . . . really, you'd have thought the Duke of Wellington had enough on his plate, but more often than not it was left to His Grace to attend to a hundred myriad details each week regarding the military, politics, his social and his family life. Everyone turned to the Duke of Wellington for assistance and perhaps this was at least in part because he was so good at seeing to the details of a thing, as evidenced in the thread of dispatches below that deal with shoes for both human and horse. As we read, it becomes evident that Wellington had a knack for looking at a problem from every angle and for finding it's most expedient solution. He always offered explanation and gave the whys and wherefores behind his requests in order to stress the practicalities surrounding them. Unfortunately, not everyone at the war office was as efficient, or as concerned about the day to day running of a vast army who traveled both on their stomachs and their feet.

The Dispatches of Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington:
To the Earl of Liverpool. Cartaxo, 7th Dec. 1810.

I enclose a return of the number of men and horses required to complete the regiments of British cavalry in this country. As the appointments of the heavy cavalry are so much more weighty than those of the light dragoons, and the larger horses of the former are with difficulty kept in condition, it would have been desirable to have a larger proportion of the light dragoons, or hussars, with this army; but as the officers, the men, and their horses, are now accustomed to the food they receive, and to the climate, I do not recommend that the regiments should be changed, or that any additional regiments should be sent out, excepting possibly the remaining 2 squadrons of the 3d hussars, K.G.L., of which 2 squadrons are already at Cadiz.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

London Cocktail Week October 11 - 17

Oh, boy - London and liquor? Sign me up! London Cocktail Week is a new concept happening across London this year to celebrate the capital of cocktail culture. Seminars, cocktail classes, bar tours and parties will be hosted throughout the week for cocktail enthusiasts and professionals alike. Selfridges has confirmed as the central hub for all information during London Cocktail Week and the event headquarters will be located within Gordons Bar on the first floor.  Events begin every day at 9 a.m. with various venues offering full English breakfasts and Grey Goose Bloody Marys (are there any other kind!?). In addition, 50 of the City's finest bars will offer £4 discounted cocktails to those who sign up online to receive LCW wristbands. And, from Monday to Friday, 6 p.m. – midnight there will be special LCW buses to take you home (brilliant!). Check out the event website for more details. AND, the UK Rumfest will be happening simultaneously at London's Olympia Hotel October 16-17th. There'll be over 400 rums to sample and buy, cocktail demonstrations and live music including salsa, soca, reggae, zouk and samba. Over two days, visitors to the festival will be able to explore rums from countries such as Antigua, Barbados, Mauritius and Venezula as well as meet master blenders, discover the secrets of rum-based cocktails (I can't stand it!).

In order to redeem myself and justify this post which, thus far, has been solely about lapping up liquor, I'll throw in some useful historic cocktail facts -

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Legacy of Needlework - Part Three - Mary Linwood

Mary Linwood by Hoppner

Born in Birmingham, needlewoman Mary Linwood moved to Leicester with her family when she was nine, where her mother opened a private boarding school for young ladies in Belgrave Gate, and where Mary herself became a schoolmistress and later headmistress. Mary worked her first needlework picture at the age of 13 and went on to produce a collection of 64 pictures, specialising in full size copies of old master paintings that were worked worked using a combination of irregular and sloping stitches to more closely resemble paint.

By the age of 31, Mary had attracted the notice of many, including the royal family and in particular that of  especially Queen Charlotte, who had been such a champion of Mrs. Delany's needlework. Mary moved to London and opened an exhibition of her work at The Panthenon, Oxford Street and in 1776 and 1778 her pictures were displayed at the exhibition of the Society of Artists. In 1785 she was summoned to court at Windsor by George III to show her work and according to the Morning Post there were 'several pieces of needlework wrought in a style superior to anything of the kind yet attempted' for which she received the Queen's 'highest encomiums.' In the following year Mary sent examples of her work to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts and was awarded a medal. Word of her work spread and in 1783 the Empress Catherine of Russia accepted an example of her work, whilst the King of Poland was also numbered amongst her supporters.

An Exhibition of Mary Linwood's needlework at Savile House, Leicester Square, London

Mary's 1798 "needle painting" Partridges, after the painting by Moses Haughton,
Exhibited at the Hanover Square Rooms

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Morning at the Milwaukee Art Museum

 Victoria here, welcoming you to the Milwaukee Art Museum, one of my favorite hang-outs. In fact, I used to work here writing grant proposals for exhibitions and conservation projects. The building is the iconic winged structure on the shore of Lake Michigan designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, opened in 2001 as the second major addition to the original building by Eero Saarinen (1910–1961), a Finnish-American architect.
One of the current exhibitions on view at the MAM is Intimate Images of Love and Loss: Portrait Miniatures which continues through October 31, 2010. The Koss Gallery is filled with miniatures by British, American, French, Austrian and Argentinian artists and photographers.  Click here for more information.

One of my favorites is this portrait, A Young Girl, with her hair unbound and blowing in the wind.  It was painted by John Barry (British, active 1784–1827) ca. 1790. The gift of Richard and Erna Flagg, it is part of the museum's permanent collection.  Other examples come from the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, the Charles Allis Art Museum and other local collectors, but cannot be displayed here under the terms of the loans. Sorry, but that is standard operating procedure for borrowed works in an exhibition.

Text panels explain how the works were created, usually painted on thin slices of ivory as illustrated on the left. Because of the nature of the surface, the painting was done with tiny brushstrokes or dots, which can be seen in the gallery in the enlarged photos, right of the slice.
Other text panels show uses of the miniatures for jewelry or bibelots. To the right, Queen Elizabeth II wears two portrait miniatures of her predecessors on her shoulder.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Legacy of Needlework - Part Two - Mrs. Delaney Continued

Tiffany and Company were inspired to create a china pattern called "Mrs. Delany's Flowers."

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit an exhibition called “Mrs. Delany and Her Circle,” at the Yale Center for British Art. The show, organized by the Center for British Art and Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, included work in every conceivable medium.

One of the items included in the exhibition was the needlework Mrs. Delany executed on a black ground for the court dress mentioned in a previous post and shown here.

The piece of fabric was placed between two panes of glass, allowing visitors to examine it closely. I have been doing crewel, embroidery and needlepoint for decades and must say that I've never seen anything so astonishing. Mrs. Delany's stitches were neat and well placed, but that was only the beginning. The reverse of the fabric had been as neatly wrought as the front, with nary a knot in sight. The threads were as vibrantly coloured today as they must have been two hundred years ago, showing the detail of the design and the subtlety of color variations throughout the work. It is astonishing to realize that the designs for Mrs. Delany's work originated in her own mind. Perhaps she worked her pieces directly from that picture in her mind's eye. However, she was also able to translate those designs onto other pieces of fabrics and to write instructions and colour directions down, thus making needlework "kits" for her friends and family to execute.

In 1861, Augusta Hall (Baroness Llanover) edited a volume called The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs. Delany. In the appendix, the editor wrote:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We've Won the Vetcy Award!

Huzza! Previously, Number One London had won the Vetcy Award for Blog Excellence in the Historical Category. This blog, along with three others in various categories, then vied for the place of overall blog winner and we are now pleased to announce that we've won the Grand Prize.

Of course, none of this would have happened without your support and votes over the past month and we once again offer a hearty `thank you' to Patty Suchy, who brought us to the attention of the Vetcy Award judges.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Upstairs, Downstairs - The Remake

PBS and BBC will be offering what PBS is calling a "new production" of "Upstairs Downstairs" for debut in 2011 as part of the 40th anniversary season of "Masterpiece Theatre." Winning seven Emmys, the 1970's series was a landmark event that defined excellence in dramatic story telling on television. Dame Eileen Atkins (at right in a scene from Cranford), one of the creators of the orginal version, will star this time around, along with Jean Marsh, who will be reprising her role as Rose, the parlor maid/now housekeeper, in the new series. Marsh won an Emmy as best actress for her work in the original version. The new series will again be set in the house at 165 Eaton Place, this time in 1936 on the eve of World War II and will follow a different family, the Hollands, now living in the house. The house has been inherited by the wealthy Sir Hallam Holland, a young and well-connected diplomat, ­following the unexpected death of his Baronet father.

Holland is played by 35-year-old Ed Stoppard, the son of playwright Sir Tom, and takes up residence with his wife and his imposing mother Lady Maud, a free-thinking intellectual played by Dame Eileen who keeps a pet monkey called Solomon.

The series will see two new 90 minute scripts penned by writer Heidi Thomas (Cranford, Madame Bovary, Ballet Shoes). Actress Keeley Hawes will play Lady Agnes Holland and you can follow her blog here. Actress Claire Foy will appear as her temptress sister, Lady Persie.

Art Malik, Anne Reid, Ed Stoppard, Adrian Scarborough, Ellie Kendrick and Nico Mirallegro are also part of the cast. BBC is planning to screen the drama as early as autumn and it will be broadcast on Masterpiece in the US shortly after it makes its British debut. They hope to find similar success to the original, which was broadcast in more than 70 countries to an audience of more than a billion.

Writer Heidi Thomas, who also scripted the successful BBC’s drama Cranford, said: ‘The series will be shot through with sensuality. This is a drama very much about warm-blooded human beings. In a house like Eaton Place, there is a limit to what you can keep behind closed doors. The place is a pressure cooker and the tensions continue to rise and rise until they boil over. Whether the characters are upstairs or downstairs they are ­living in close proximity to each other and these are the dramas that will engage viewers.’

Oh, joy!

By the way, the setting for Upstairs, Downstairs, 165 Eaton Place, is in actuality the house standing at 65 Eaton Place (above). For the new series, a full-scale replica of Eaton Place has been built at studios in Cardiff, where filming began in August.