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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Favorite UK Christmas Movies

As far as we're concerned, any time is a good time to steep oneself in all things British, but Christmas is a particularly grand time to do so. While the US has produced many more, and more recent, Christmas movies, we thought we'd share some of our favorites from across the pond with you.

Scrooge (UK) or A Christmas Carol (US) - The 1951 Alastair Sim version remains the best version of Charles Dickens's yuletide tale. The film also features Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge's charwoman, and George Cole as a young Scrooge. Hermoine Baddeley plays Mrs. Cratchit. Now a Christmas staple, it was slated to premiere stateside at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, but theatre management thought the film was too grim and somber and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall. The fact that it was filmed in black and white gives a period feel. The film stands out because of its perfect balance of dark and light, which is what Dickens intended in his ghost story of misery, terror, loneliness and redemption, all serving to draw the viewer into the authentically bleak world of London during the early Industrial Revolution. You can buy it here.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Number Two London - by Guest Blogger Amy Myers

It is my very great pleasure to introduce you to Amy Myers, author of a Victorian mystery series featuring bandy legged chimney sweep Tom Wasp and his young apprentice, Ned.  By night, the pair live in the dark and dangerous world of London's underbelly. By day, they clean upscale chimneys and meet with toffs, mayhem and murder. Click on either book title below to learn more.

Amy's writing is a seamless and atmospheric blend of mystery, pathos, humour and historical detail that will leave you wanting more, as I did upon finishing Tom Wasp and the Murdered Stunner. This is historical fiction at its best. I was so thrilled to see the second book in the series on the shelf that I picked it up immediately, read it straight through and then got in touch with Amy to ask her to do a guest blog for us. Fortunately, she said yes.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Costume Parade and Final Panel at the JASNA AGM

Victoria here with a passle of pictures from the Portland OR meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America on Halloween  weekend. Be sure to scroll down to the end to experience the piece de resistance of the final panel.

As befits the elegance of the members, a Bal Masque brought out the finest of our costumes. Below, the best of my shots (which probably isn't saying much).

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sotheby's to Auction the Duchess of Windsor's Jewels - Again

Twenty-three years after the legendary auction of the "Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor" - still the most valuable single-owner jewelry collection ever sold - Sotheby's will offer 20 pieces for sale in London on Nov. 30, 2010 that include renowned examples formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor and King Edward VIII. An unidentified owner is selling the items, which were acquired at the Sotheby's sale in Geneva in April 1987.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas Shopping in England - Part Three

Still don't know what to get for a few people on your Christmas list? Not to worry, we're here to help. Seeing as money is no object in the current economy (ha!), we thought we'd tempt you with luxuries that are sure to please any good little girl or boy at holiday time. Never mind Neiman Marcus and Tiffany's, Number One London has put together it's very own luxury gift catalogue. After all, one can dream . . . . . .

Red Letter Days offers a champagne flight for two over London for £299

After a short pre-flight briefing you'll board a Piper Seneca twin-engine light aircraft for a fantastic half hour sightseeing trip. From take off in Essex you'll follow the Thames west into the heart of the city, getting a view of the capital that most people only see on the opening titles of EastEnders. You'll see the Millennium Dome, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, the towers at Canary Wharf, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament, then turn north to fly over Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and the royal parks, before heading back east to land in Essex. You'll get an amazing perspective on the geography of the city and a bottle of champagne to enjoy once back on terra firma.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in London

When you think about it, it's amazing that celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday in England took so long to catch on. After all, the pilgrims were English. Nowadays, many venues in the City are serving Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings. The Reading Room at Claridge’s and the Hard Rock Cafe in Old Park Lane (in the building that used to house Coutts Bank) are just two London restaurants that traditionally put on Thanksgiving menus. Here are a few others:

Babylon at the Roof Gardens (Kensington) - Overlooking the spectacular London skyline 100ft above Kensington High Street, diners at Babylon on Thanksgiving night (Thursday 26th November) can enjoy an evening of live American jazz whilst dining on a selection of sumptuous, seasonal dishes from the mouth-watering menu, with one or two extra special Thanksgiving themed dishes on offer. The talented vocalists and musicians from resident jazz band ‘The Ben Matthews Trio’ will be performing world-famous tracks from The Great American Song Book for an authentic and celebratory evening. From Cole Porter classics including ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ to Harold Arlen’s ‘Stormy Weather’ and Rodgers and Hart’s ‘My Funny Valentine,’ Babylon diners will be transported to the smoky basement New York jazz clubs of the 1930s and 40s.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

JASNA in Portland OR, Part Three

 Victoria here, reporting on the final three break-out sessions I attended at the JASNA AGM. Mary Hafner-Laney's (right) topic was "I was tempted by a pretty-colored muslin": Jane Austen and the Art of Being Fashionable.  A capacity audience enjoyed her talk about fabrics and fashions of the regency era, the dresmakers and home-sewers, period patterns and costs.Mary had assembled collections of fabrics and excrpts from a fashion magazine, La Belle Assemblee, and showed her fashion doll, one of the techniques used by dressmakers to suggest styles to their customers. We had rather a mad dash at the conclusion of her talk for the excellent hand-outs she had assembled. Some of us will share ours at the December birthday luncheon.

 Next, I went to hear Sarah Parry, of the Chawton House Library, whose topic was "This roof was to be the roof of an abbey!": What is Northanger Abbey?  Ms. Parry's entertaining talk described a number of stately homes built out of abbeys, some of which Jane Austen certainly saw. The school she attended in Reading was housed in part of a former abbey.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Death of Elizabeth, 5th Duchess of Rutland

John Hoppner - Lady Elizabeth Howard, Duchess of Rutland

From The Gentleman's Magazine, December 1825

Duchess Of Rutland. Nov. 23. At Belvoir Cattle, in consequence of an inflammation of the chest, aged 45, Elizabeth Duchess of Rutland. Her Grace so lately as Friday the 18th was engaged in inspecting the progress of the numerous workmen employed in completing the splendid decorations of the grand drawing-room at Belvoir, which it was intended should have been first opened on the occasion of the Duke's approaching birth-day: she also took her accustomed exercise, and wrote several letters. In the evening symptoms of the disease, with which she was severely attacked a year ago, began to manifest themselves; but on the following day they appeared to have abated very considerably. At two o'clock on Sunday morning, Mr. Catlett, surgeon to the family, who sleeps in the castle, was hastily summoned to her Grace's apartment, and found her state so extremely dangerous as to excite the most alarming appreheusions. Expresses were instantly sent off to Dr. Wilson, of Grantham, Dr. Pennington, of Nottingham, Dr. Arnold, of Leicester, and Sir Henry Halford. The three first promptly obeyed the summons; Sir Henry arrived at the castle from London at 5 o'clock on Tuesday morning, but the hand of death was already on the Duchess; all the efforts of the faculty had been unremittingly exerted to arrest the progress of the disorder, but in vain. Her Grace, whose self-possession was remarkable, felt perfectly alive to the imminence of her danger, and the fortitude with which she bore her acute sufferings, and viewed her approaching fate, was in the highest degree affecting. The Duke never quitted the bed-side till she had ceased to breathe. Dispatches were immediately forwarded, announcing the afflicting event, to his Majesty, to his Royal Highness the Duke of York, and to the various branches of the Rutland and Carlisle families.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Fanny Burney and the Emperor of all Maladies

Author and oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee's debut book charts the history of cancer treatment over the centuries. Amazon said that the book is  " . . . .  a sweeping epic of obsession, brilliant researchers, dramatic new treatments, euphoric success and tragic failure, and the relentless battle by scientists and patients alike against an equally relentless, wily, and elusive enemy. From the first chemotherapy developed from textile dyes to the possibilities emerging from our understanding of cancer cells, Mukherjee shapes a massive amount of history into a coherent story with a roller-coaster trajectory: the discovery of a new treatment--surgery, radiation, chemotherapy--followed by the notion that if a little is good, more must be better, ending in disfiguring radical mastectomy and multidrug chemo so toxic the treatment ended up being almost worse than the disease."

It is impossible to consider the history of the treatment of cancer without recalling Fanny Burney's harrowing account of the mastectomy she underwent during the Regency period. It is compelling, horrifying and immediate in its very personal nature. We reprint it for you here . . .

Sunday, November 21, 2010

JASNA in Portland OR, Part Two

Victoria here with a short post on the break-out session I co-presented on Friday, October 29, 2010, at the JASNA AGM in Portland, OR. Kim Wilson, author of Tea with Jane Austen and In the Garden with Jane Austen, (right) and I spoke on "About Those Abbeys: In fact, literature and landscape."
Starting with a brief history of monasticism in England and the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, we then focussed on what happend to the former abbey buildings and why they were considered so spooky -- and/or picturesque.

When the abbeys and priories were closed, their land (about one-fourth of all of the nation's arable land -- the REAL reason Henry seized them) was sold and most of the buildings adapted for other uses or semi-destroyed. At right, Lacock Abbey, converted into a stately home and now run by the National Trust.

Ruined abbeys, castles and wild landscapes appealed to the writers of gothic fiction, so popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  Mrs. Radcliffe's Mysteries of Udolpho is the novel Jane Austen parodied in Northanger Abbey.  Terrible secrets are hidden in the ruins, dangerous forces threaten the innocent heroine, but all comes to a happy ending when she is rescued by a worthy hero.  Such stories were all the rage in JA's day and many were set among the imagined clanking chains, ghostly moans and dark passages of ruined abbeys.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Christmas Shopping in England - Part Two

Still can't decide on the perfect Anglophile Christmas gift? The gift of a subscription keeps giving throughout the year. Each time an issue arrives, your recipient will think of you. And the ease of giving a subscription may put an end to your shopping dilemna and some Fa-La-La-La back in your holiday outlook.

$29.95 for 6 issues per year

Learn more about our kings and queens, the heroes and villains, soldiers and statesmen who made our nation great. Join us as we visit castles and cathedrals, stately homes and gardens. Journey with us to proud cities and secret villages, rugged coastline and lush countryside. Listen in while we talk to dukes and designers, artists and actors, courtiers and craftsmen.
Each issue is packed with features that showcase the many beauties of BRITAIN, as well as suggestions about where to go, where to stay and what to see.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Meet Benedict Cumberbatch

In a perfect world, thirty-four year old, London born actor Benedict Cumberbatch would be lauded simply for using his real name professionally - he is the son of actors Timothy Carlton (birth name Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch) and Wanda Ventham. As this has not yet happened, it's a good thing that Cumberbatch has instead been receiving accolades for his acting talents.

Cumberbatch was educated first at Brambletye School in West Sussex, and then at the prestigious Harrow School in northwest London, where he began performing as an actor. After graduation, he took a gap year to teach English in a Tibetan monastery. He then attended the University of Manchester, where he studied drama. At the university, he met his longtime girlfriend, actress Olivia Poulet. After graduating, Cumberbatch trained further in acting at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

Cumberbatch told an interviewer that his parents had "worked incredibly hard to give me a very privileged education, so I could do anything but be as stupid as them and become an actor. Unfortunately, I didn’t pay any notice, like a lot of children, to my parents’ wise words. For awhile, I did toy with being a criminal barrister. I thought that would be quite fun. Then an awful lot of people dissuaded me from that path, basically saying, `It’s unpredictable. You don’t know where your next job is coming from. You have to travel up and down the country to God-forsaken holes of depravity, and it’s very lowly, incredibly hard work.' I thought, “This sounds a bit like acting, so I’ll stick with that.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

At the JASNA AGM, Portland OR, October 2010

It was an exhilarating experience to be with 600+ Jane Austen fans in Portland OR from October 27-31, 2010, for the yearly AGM on the topic of "Jane Austen and the Abbey: Mystery, Mayhem and Muslin." At right, a collection of costumes on exhibit in the Milsom Street Emporium.  Frankly, I was much more interested in all the books on sale -- but I tried to be judicious in my choices.
Team Tilney
 A pre-conference offering was the presentation:
 "Team Tilney Explains It All," a light-hearted look at the (beloved) hero (center) of Northanger Abbey.

Our hero

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Camel's Sad Tale

Camel Conveying a Bride to Her Husband by Captain Lyon

From Sophy Bagot's Journal, published in Links with the Past (1901)

1829.—Captain (George Francis) Lyon, on his return from his African travels, obtained a white dromedary of extraordinary beauty, and from its colour, which is very uncommon, it was very valuable. He was also very spirited, but Captain Lyon treated him kindly and judiciously, and frequently he said he was indebted for his life to that animal's speed and exertions; and his great wish was to present it to the King on his arrival in England. This was done, and the dromedary, in the finest possible order, was placed in the Royal Mews, exact orders having been also transmitted as to how it ought to be treated. Some time afterwards, Captain Lyon went with a party to see his old friend, and was told by the keeper it had become very fierce. Captain L went up to the noble animal, who was holding its head very high, as they do when displeased, but he instantly recognised his master, and without the slightest opposition suffered him to mount. Captain Lyon soon discovered his favourite was nearly starved, and remonstrated strongly and it may be supposed angrily. The next morning he received a note requesting him to remove the dromedary, as his Majesty could not afford to keep it. This order was promptly obeyed, and not without indignation, and the poor animal under kind treatment soon regained its flesh and its temper. The fame of his beauty spread, and the Master of Exeter Change, having seen and greatly admired it, said to Captain Lyon, " You are going abroad, and cannot want this creature, and I will gladly give you 500 pounds for it." " No," said Lyon, " the King cannot afford to keep it; of course, no one else can." After putting his arms round the dromedary's neck and kissing it, he shot it to the heart. It may now be seen stuffed in the British Museum.

You can read more about the interesting life and travels of Captain Lyon here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's Official!

Clarence House has just issued the official engagement announcement - read about it here.

Christmas Shopping in England - Part One

Once again, Christmas is right around the corner and it's time we Anglophiles made a crack at checking those names off our lists. After all, Harrod's and Selfridge's have had their Christmas Departments up and running since August (!?). While some of us can't actually do our Xmas shopping in England, we've rounded up some fabulous items found on websites across Britain that would be perfect for gift giving - or keeping - and we're bringing them to you early enough to take shipping times into consideration.

These lovely pillows from the Jan Constantine Collection can be found at Sugar and Spice Furnishings. Do be sure to browse for more English themed pillows on their site, as well as  for charming cottage-type decorative items.  

Or go directly to the Jan Constantine website for even more London themed gifts

Everyone needs a solar powered waving QEII figurine, available from Findgift.com, who also purveys Xmas ornaments and a wide range of other British themed goods.

At Thebritishshoppe.com you'll find everything for the tea drinker on your list, including authentic Brown Betty teapots, sugar tongs and strainers.

Don't forget the digestives!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Return of Napoleon

Al Pacino is set to hit the big screen as everyone's favorite despot, Napoleon Bonaparte. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pacino has been eager to play the infamous French emperor for years, and is now getting his chance by signing on to play Bonaparte in "Betsy and the Emperor," a film based on a children's book of the same name written by Staton Rabin.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Happy 62nd Birthday, Prince Charles

On this day a few years back Prince Charles became the oldest of all Princes of Wales since the title was attributed. In January 2008 Charles became the world's longest serving heir apparent, passing the record of 59 years and 73 days previously held by King Edward VII, when he succeeded his mother Queen Victoria and ruled for just nine years.

In 2008, a former aide told The Sunday Times, "Charles realised long ago that he would spend most of his life as heir, not as king. His is a family marked by longevity and his mother is in good health. He has made the most of it. He has enjoyed more freedom (than if he had been king) and achieved a tremendous amount in terms of charity and public life."

You can watch a CBS retrospective of the Prince and his wait for the throne that was broadcast on this day two years ago here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Regency Interiors - Do Not Try This At Home

Interior, Royal Pavilion, Brighton

Ah, the Regency and it's interiors . . . a style so captivating that it's essence has been re-vamped, re-thought and re-invented to this day. In his quintessential book on the topic, Regency Style, author Steven Parissien writes, "The Regency was a marvelous period for the visual arts. It was a time in architecture when Palladian grandeur was fused with Neo-Classical academicism and with the vivid visions of gifted designers such as Soane and Hope. Colours were more exotic and vibrant than they had been for centuries . . . "

Nowhere was the Regency more exotic or vibrant than at George IV's Brighton Pavilion. Awash in period fabrics and paints and filled with global geegaws and every concievable architectural embellishment, it still stands as an ode to excess.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

An Account of a Duel at Bath

The following is an extract from "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds" by Charles Mackay (1841):

A barbarous and fiercely-contested duel was fought in November 1778, between two foreign adventurers, at Bath, named Count Rice and the Vicomte du Barri. Some dispute arose relative to a gambling transaction, in the course of which Du Barri contradicted an assertion of the other, by saying, "That is not true!" Count Rice immediately asked him if he knew the very disagreeable meaning of the words he had employed. Du Barri said he was perfectly well aware of their meaning, and that Rice might interpret them just as he pleased. A challenge was immediately given and accepted. Seconds were sent for, who, arriving with but little delay, the whole party, though it was not long after midnight, proceeded to a place called Claverton Down, where they remained with a surgeon until daylight. They then prepared for the encounter, each being armed with two pistols and a sword.

The ground having been marked out by the seconds, Du Barri fired first, and wounded his opponent in the thigh. Count Rice then levelled his pistol, and shot Du Barri mortally in the breast. So angry were the combatants, that they refused to desist; both stepped back a few paces, and then rushing forward, discharged their second pistols at each other. Neither shot took effect, and both throwing away their pistols, prepared to finish the sanguinary struggle by the sword. They took their places, and were advancing towards each other, when the Vicomte du Barri suddenly staggered, grew pale, and, falling to the ground, exclaimed, "Je vous demande ma vie." His opponent had but just time to answer, that he granted it, when the unfortunate Du Barri turned upon the grass, and expired with a heavy groan. The survivor of this savage conflict was then removed to his lodgings, where he lay for some weeks in a dangerous state.

The coroner's jury, in the mean while, sat upon the body of Du Barri, and disgraced themselves by returning a verdict of manslaughter only. Count Rice, upon his recovery, was indicted for the murder notwithstanding this verdict. On his trial he entered into a long defence of his conduct, pleading the fairness of the duel, and its unpremeditated nature; and, at the same time, expressing his deep regret for the unfortunate death of Du Barri, with whom for many years he had been bound in ties of the strictest friendship. These considerations appear to have weighed with the jury, and this fierce duellist was again found guilty of manslaughter only, and escaped with a merely nominal punishment.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Curiosity Corner - We Have a Winner!

Diane Gaston is the winner. Oh, Lord, Diane. I know just how you found out and I could kick myself. Sigh. You're the winner, no matter your methods. Your loyalty to our blog excuses all and you're certainly a clever puss. A wine cork retriever it is. And you can bet I won't make THAT mistake again! Email me your snail mail and I'll get the dvd out to you pronto. . . good guesses, Kat!  Thanks for playing everyone! Look for a brand new type of contest coming soon. Hint: Sharpen your pencils. 

The first person to correctly identify this item will win a DVD of the Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version of Persuasion. Please place your guess by using the "comments" link below this post.  

Please Note: Only registered followers of this blog shall be eligible to win. You may register now by using the link in the right sidebar under "Those Who Call Number One London Home."

Good Luck!

Monday, November 8, 2010

London A - Z

The London A-Z, that indispensable guide to the streets and landmarks of the City, has been used by countless numbers of people seeking to navigate London's streets. Everyone has heard of the London A-Z, though most have no clue as to it's origins.
Meet Phyllis Pearsall - the eccentric British artist who single-handedly mapped London's A-Z and created a publishing phenomenon. Born Phyllis Isobella Gross, her lifelong nickname was PIG. The artist daughter of a flamboyant Hungarian Jewish immigrant, and an Irish Italian mother, her bizarre and often traumatic childhood did not keep her from becoming one of Britain's most intriguing entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires. Pearsall was left to her own devices as a teenager, especially after her father had gone bankrupt and fled to the U.S. Pearsall herself told an interviewer that one day soonafter, she returned home to find the door was answered by the fully decked-out Maharajah of Patiala, who was in the midst of having his portrait painted by Alfred Orr, Phyllis's mother's lover. ''Then mother said: 'Alfred has an artistic temperament and couldn't possibly have a little girl in the house. Get a live-in job,' '' Mrs. Pearsall related.

Displaying much pluck, at the age of 14 Pearsall went to France to teach English at a girls school at Fecamp. With French as her second language she went on to study at the Sorbonne in Paris, always living on the edge of poverty, sleeping on the street under a newspaper blanket and drying her laundry on library radiators.

Eventually earning a meagre living by painting portraits and writing articles for various magazines and newspapers, Pearsall returned to England and in 1926 met and married Richard Pearsall. The marriage lasted for about eight years, during which time she had established a reputation for her writing and for her etchings and painting and the couple moved to Spain. Eight years later, the 30-year-old Pearsall became a divorcee, returned to London and turned to full-time portrait painting in order to support herself.  

Some accounts say that it was the difficulty Pearsall had in finding the homes of her portrait sitters in London that prompted her to create the A-Z. Others that she couldn't find the address of a party she wanted to attend in Belgravia. Still other accounts relate that Pearsall's father, Alexander Gross, wrote to ask her to publish in England a map of the world produced by the map company he'd built in the United States - after losing the map company he had originally established in Fleet Street. Reluctantly she agreed, and had to learn all the technical jargon involved in reproduction and printing before setting about selling direct to the customer. It was on one of these selling expeditions that she got lost because of the out-of-date London street map she was using. This was the beginning of her idea of how useful an up-to-date map would be - a map that all could use for business and pleasure.

Without hesitation she covered London's 23,000 streets on foot during the course of one year, often leaving her Horseferry Road bedsit at dawn. Pearsall collected street names, house numbers along main roads, bus and tram routes, stations, buildings, museums, palaces etc, in addition compiling the street index in alphabetical order.To publish the map, and in light of its enormous success, she set up her own company, The Geographer's Trust, which still publishes the London A-Z and that of every major British city. The first A-Z was published in 1936. She abandoned the traditional design of the large fold out map in favour of a book format where each page was a small section of a large-scale map. All of the streets were coded to enable them to be referenced, indexed and searched for. Pearsall printed 10,000 copies of her maps, selling them as indefatigably as she had compiled them. She persuaded a reluctant buyer at W. H. Smith, the British bookseller, to place an order for 250 copies, promising a refund if they went unsold. The maps were an instant success, and have sold countless millions of copies since.

Pearsall ran her publishing company successfully for many years and reported to work well into her 80's, arriving in a red Mercedes that she bought at the age of 59, when she passed her driving test after taking more than 200 lessons.
Mrs. Pearsall wrote several books, including an account of her trips through Spain, a collection of short stories, a company history and a volume describing her business philosophy, in which she advocated generosity (''bonuses to everyone''), courtesy (''no aggressive selling'') and frugality (''Micawber housekeeping''). In 1986 she was made a Member of the British Empire.
Phyllis Pearsall died at Shoreham-by-Sea, Sussex on 28 August 1996 at age 89.
What a dame.

Blue Plaque at Pearsall's former home in Court Gardens Lane, London 

To read further on the subject, we suggest Mrs.P's Journey: The Remarkable Story of the Woman Who Created the A-Z Map by Sarah Hartley.

Victoria here, chiming in to remind readers of the historical A to Z series, of special value to researchers and writers.  You can acquire them from several sources - just Google it.  I bought my copy of The A to Z of Regency London at the Guildhall in the City of London.  Good research library there too! The six versions of the A to Z's of historic London are: Elizabethan, Restoration, Georgian, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian.  Make your choice(s) according to the focus of your interests.

Here is the London Topgraphical Society description: "Our A to Z series consists of six books, which provide fully-indexed maps of London at roughly 100 year intervals. Each reproduces a key map of the period. The indexes allow users to identify the position of streets and buildings, in some cases right down to small courts and alleys. They appeal to anyone interested in the development of London and are invaluable for those researching family history. The A to Z volumes are published in association with Harry Margary and the Guildhall Library."

Section of the Map from
The A to Z of Regency London

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Will They or Won't They?

Amazing, is it not, how the Star already knows what Kate will be wearing when she marries Prince William when the rest of the world hasn't yet heard that they'd become engaged? William and Kate: A Royal Love Story premiers tonight at 10 p.m. on TLC and seeks to answer that burning question - when is Prince William going to get engaged to Kate Middleton? TLC's press release reads:

“Showcasing the definitive love story between a Prince who will be King and the woman who may one day be his Queen, this brand new documentary unveils Prince William and Kate Middleton’s intriguing royal courtship that began in college eight years ago. Theirs is an unlikely story – Kate is an attractive young woman, but grew up well outside the realm of royalty. William is the embodiment of centuries of royal breeding and tradition. As he is being groomed for kingship with Kate at his side, this special reveals the added pressures William will face as he is expected to restore the reputation of the tarnished House of Windsor, a royal house severely damaged by his parents’ broken marriage and his mother Princess Diana’s untimely and tragic death.”

One would think that TLC, and the press at large, would have learned their lesson by now and, in order to avoid a repeat of the mad dog-like press attention given to Diana, they'd lighten up on William. But as he's the future king, that's doubtful. And to be honest, if they put the show on t.v., we'll watch it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Death of Princess Charlotte

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales
(b. 7 January 1796 d. 6 November 1817)
Had she lived, Charlotte would have been Queen of the United Kingdom.

Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales was the only daughter of George IV, then Prince of Wales, and his wife and first cousin, Caroline of Brunswick, who loathed one another and who separated soon after Charlotte's birth, never to live together, nor indeed be civil to one another, again.

A protracted battle of wills went on for years concerning Princess Charlotte. The prince was willing to accede to the wishes of his father, King George III, but wanted Caroline to have no influence in her daughter's education, while the king wanted Queen Caroline to be party to decisions about her daughter. In the end, Charlotte remained in the care of her father and the the Princess of Wales was forbidden to see her daughter and in 1799 she went abroad, inviting scandal by taking lovers and running up vast debts. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Burney Society in Portland, Oregon

Victoria here, just back from the meetings of The Burney Society and the Jane Austen Society in Portland, OR.  We went out a day early in order to take in the Columbia River Gorge.  Sadly, it was raining, but not very hard. In fact, it reminded me of most English rain, not quite a mist but not a downpour either.  At right is Multnomah Falls, most spectacular of the many waterfalls along the gorge.
Fanny Burney (1752-1840) was the daughter of a celebrated musician and composer Dr. Charles Burney.  Her half sister, Sarah Harriet Burney, was also a successful author of seven novels.  Fanny Burney grew up in a household that often hosted brilliant circle of artistic and literary leaders. She kept a famous journal throughout most of her life and wrote four novels, many plays and other works.

Our friend Hester Davenport, (see our posts about visiting her in Windsor last June) is a leading member of the UK's Burney society and the author of Faithful Handmaid, which relates the story of Burney's position as a Keeper of the Robes for Queen Charlotte from 1786 to 1791.  The position, while prestigious, gave Burney little time to pursue her writing career. We reported on our days with Hester Davenport on July 16 and 18, 2010 posts.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Prize Fighter Buried in Westminster Abbey

A prize fighter buried in Westminster Abbey? Can this be true? The pugilist in question is no other than Jack Broughton (at left), who is often described as the founder of the British School of Boxing. "Broughton's Rules " were long held sacred in the prize-ring, and are still regarded as the alphabet of pugilistic law.

Born in I704, Broughton began his career as a Thames waterman, and he was the first man who won Doggett's Coat and Badge. He made his appearance as a professor of self defence at George Taylor's famous booth at the "Adam and Eve " at the head of the Tottenham Court Road. There he defeated his master, and was encouraged to set up a larger and more convenient amphitheatre on his own account. Seceding from the Tottenham Court Road establishment, he rapidly built a new prize-ring adjoining the Oxford Road, near the spot where Hanway Street, Oxford Street, now stands, and opened it on March 10, I743. From prints in the British Museum, it appears that this building was somewhat similar to Astley's original circus and riding school in the Westminster Road; there were boxes, pit, and a gallery; a stage for the combatants in the centre of the ring, and the tout ensemble bore some resemblance to the pictures of the Old Fives Court in Windmill Street.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heads Up On Downton Abbey

ITV will be broadcasing a new costume drama series, Downton Abbey, written and created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes and starring Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham and Elizabeth McGovern as Robert’s wife, Cora, Countess of Grantham. By the way, there was a real-life Earl of Grantham, a cousin of William III, but the title became extinct when he died in 1754.

The new series, very much a la Upstairs, Downstairs, is set in an Edwardian country house in 1912 and follows the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. The Earl is married to an American and they have three daughters - a fact which presents all manner of problems when it comes to the vexed question of who will continue the Crawley line.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

An Evening with Ian Kelly

Whilst in New York recently, I finally had to opportunity to meet with actor/author Ian Kelly. I was introduced to Ian through our mutual friend, Jo Manning. Ian and I had previously spoken on the telephone and emailed, but we'd never actually met as the fates inevitably ruined any plans we'd made to get together on either side of the pond. Therefore, it was a decided pleasure to actually take in a performance of Ian's new play, The Pitmen Painters, and to finally have a drink and a chat with Ian afterwards.

Christopher Connel, from left, David Whitaker, Deka Walmsley, Michael Hodgson and Ian Kelly

Direct from a sold-out engagement at London’s National Theatre, this fascinating new play by Tony Award winner Lee Hall (writer of Broadway’s mega-hit Billy Elliot) comes to Broadway with its entire original London cast intact. The Pitmen Painters is based on the triumphant true story of a group of British miners who discover a new way to express themselves and unexpectedly become art-world sensations. Ian plays Robert Lyon, who was hired to teach the men about art appreciation and whose efforts afford the group an entirely new way of looking at both art and their lives.