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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Continuing Story of "Mad Jack" Mytton

From Famous Racing Men by Willmott-Dixon Thormanby (1882):

The incidents of Mytton's romantic and eventful life have been narrated with tolerable fidelity but questionable taste by his friend, C. J. Apperley (the famous "Nimrod") . . . . John Mytton was born on the 30th of September, 1796, at the family seat of Halston, in Shropshire, three miles from Oswestry, and was left fatherless at two years of age. His mother spoiled him, and by the time he was ten years of age the young heir was what is called a regular pickle. He was expelled from Westminster and Harrow in succession. At the former school he spent £800 a-year, exactly double his allowance, and wrote, when he was only fourteen years of age, to Lord Eldon, the then Lord Chancellor, requesting an increase of income, as he was going to be married. The Lord Chancellor replied—" Sir, if you cannot live on your income you may starve, and if you marry I will commit you to prison." At the age of nineteen he entered, as a cornet, the 7th Hussars, and joined that regiment in France with the army of occupation. But as there was no more fighting, Cornet Mytton was at leisure to enter into all kinds of youthful mischief. One of his feats was borrowing £3,000 of a banker at St. Omer one day and losing half of it at an E. 0. table in Calais the next.

John Scott, 1st Lord Eldon

He also lost 16,000 napoleons to a certain captain at billiards, which sum he was unable to pay at the moment. But this score was wiped off in a more agreeable manner. The colonel of Mytton's regiment, the then Earl of Uxbridge, forbade his paying the money, and the captain in question was afterwards implicated in a transaction which went far to prove that Lord Uxbridge was morally right. When Mytton came of age he found himself possessed of an estate of about £10,000 a-year and £60,000 of accumulated cash, but a large portion of the latter had to go towards liquidating his already numerous debts. Quitting the army, he married, at the age of twenty-three, Harriet, the eldest daughter of the then lately deceased Sir Tyrrwhitt Jones, Bart., of Stanley Hall, Shropshire. The bridegroom was attended by the Earl of Uxbridge and the Earl of Denbigh, K.G., and the wedding was one of the events of the season. The issue of their union was only one daughter. Mrs. Mytton died a few years after her marriage, and there can be no doubt that her death was accelerated, if not actually caused, by her husband's insane conduct and cruel neglect.

                                                            Henry Paget, Lord Uxbridge

John Mytton was physically a fine animal: in height about 5ft. 9in., in weight 12st., with magnificent shoulders, a splendid chest, and an arm the biceps muscle of which was larger than that of Jackson's, the celebrated pugilist, who was believed to be the most powerful man of his time in England. He was fond of displaying his strength, but it was perhaps fortunate that he steadily refused to learn boxing.

In dress Mytton was peculiar, not to say eccentric. He never wore any but the thinnest and finest silk stockings, with very thin boots or shoes, so that in winter he very rarely had dry feet. To flannel he was a stranger from the time he left off petticoats. Even his hunting-breeches were without lining; he wore one small waistcoat, always open in the front from the second of the lower buttons, and about home he was as often without a hat as with one. His winter shooting gear was a light jacket, white linen trousers without lining or drawers; and in frost and snow he waded through all water that came in his way. These, however, are not exceptional marks of hardihood, we know men of the present day who go as lightly clad through all the seasons. But Mytton went further than this. He would sometimes strip to his shirt to follow wildfowl in hard weather, and once actually laid himself down in the snow with absolutely not a stitch on him but his shirt to await the arrival of the ducks at dusk.

Curiously enough, extravagant though he was in other respects, Mr. Mytton made no great show in his establishment at Halston. There was every comfort but no display, and had he conducted all his affairs with the same regularity and simplicity as his menage at his ancestral seat he would never have run through upwards of half-amillion of money in less than fifteen years as he did. But it was not difficult to find where the screw was loose in his expenditure. His foxhounds were kept by himself and upon a very extensive scale, with the additional expenses of hunting two countries. His racing establishment was on a still larger scale, for he often had from fifteen to twenty horses in training at the same time, and seldom less than eight. His average number, indeed, of thoroughbred stock at home and from home, including brood mares and yearlings, was about thirty-six, which probably cost him something like £6,000 a-year. His game preserves, too, were a severe drain upon his income; for besides such items as £1,500 in one bill to a London dealer for pheasants and foxes alone, there was the formation of miles of plantations which this game went in part to stock, and which he employed a staff of fifty labourers to keep in order. He was a great friend, too, to the tailors, having frequently in his wardrobes as many as a hundred and fifty pairs of breeches and trousers, with a proportionate number of coats and waistcoats. In his cellars there were "hogsheads of ale, standing like soldiers in close column, and wine enough in wood and bottle for a Roman emperor." He made his own malt, and "John Mytton, Licensed Maltster," was painted in large letters over the malt house door. How much he spent on post horses it is impossible to guess; but almost every post boy in England knew "Squire Mytton" and lamented his fall. He never stayed at an inn without giving the waiter a guinea, and he would never pay a tradesman's bill until he had received a writ. A strange unaccountable creature he was, who though always making a great pretence of "enjoying life," seems really never to have derived enjoyment from anything.

A summary of Mr. Mytton's actual racing career may be comprised in a few words. He had too many horses in the first place, and too many of them not good enough to pay their way. It isevident he was anxious to have good ones from the prices he paid; but he bought several of that sort after their day had gone by; for example, Comte d'Artois, Banker, Longwaist, &c. He had, however, several good winners, old Euphrates at their head, and Whittington, Oswestry and Halston were esteemed very "smart" horses in the racing world. Indeed, it is believed that in some hands they would have proved trump cards. As for himself as a racing man he was too severe upon his horses: they rarely came out fresh after Chester and one or two other places. He seldom backed his horses to any serious amount, generally not at all. His stables were upon Delamere Forest, in Cheshire; his home-stud groom, Tinkler, was a careful nurser of young racing stock, but do what he would, Mr. Mytton was never able to breed a good racehorse.

It would be out of place to discuss here Mr. Mytton's conduct towards his wives, of whom the second fared no better than the first. His brutality was inexcusable, and the most charitable supposition is that it was the result of a morbid insanity. For the last twelve years of his life it may safely be stated that he was never sober. His daily quantum of port wine was from four to six bottles; but even in spite of this excess he would probably have lived far longer than he did had he not in an evil hour discarded port for brandy. Even his adamantine constitution, "perhaps the hardiest ever bestowed upon man," as " Nimrod" says, was not proof against that. He went from bad to worse, till in the year 1830 the world heard without surprise that "it was all up with Jack Mytton." Everything that could be sold was sold, and he retired to Calais with just a small pittance sufficient to keep body and soul together. There he completed the wreck of his magnificent physique by drinking brandy till he really was a raving lunatic. On partially recovering his senses, he came over to England, when he was arrested and thrown into the King's Bench Prison, beyond the gates of which he was destined never to pass alive. For there he died in misery and squalor in the thirtyeighth year of his age. And so ended the mournfullest, the maddest, the most utterly wasted career of which the annals of the turf contain any record.
The (very sad) End

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Story of "Mad Jack" Mytton

A true Regency eccentric, John 'Mad Jack' Mytton was born at Halston in 1796. He inherited a fortune worth about £500,000 a year by today’s standards, but died in 1828 at the King's Bench debtors' prison in Southwark at the age of just thirty-seven. Alas, we are getting ahead of ourselves . . . .

Young Squire Mytton, expelled from both Westminster and Harrow, arrived for studies at Cambridge University with “2,000 bottles of port to sustain him during his studies.” You will not be surrpised to learn that he failed to graduate. Mytton went on to drink six bottles of port a day, although he was known to drink eau de cologne when brandy was not readily available. Mytton enjoyed country pursuits such as racing, driving and hunting, but he was also civic minded - he 'invested' £10,000 to become MP for Shrewsbury by paying ten pounds each for votes, but once elected he spent less that half an hour in the House of Commons.

Madcap pranks made Mytton a legend in his own lifetime and it was said that as a whole, Mytton's life amounted to a "series of suicide attempts." A drunken friend was put to bed with two bulldogs and a bear. Mytton went duck shooting by moonlight on Halston's frozen lake, dressed in only his nightshirt. Disguised as a highwayman, complete with his blazing pistols, he ambushed departing guests on the Oswestry road. In 1826, after winning a bet, he rode his horse into the Bedford Hotel in Leamington Spa, up the grand staircase and onto the balcony, from which he jumped, still seated on his horse, over the diners in the restaurant below, and out through the window onto the Parade. During a visit to France, Mytton set fire to his night shirt in an effort to cure himself of the hiccups. The drastic step did end the hiccups, but left Mytton with serious burns to his upper body.

Mytton once rode a bear into his drawing room in full hunting costume

One biographer notes that Mytton once rode a bear into his drawing room in full hunting costume. "The bear carried him very quietly for a time; but on being pricked by the spur he bit his rider through the calf of his leg." Mytton owned thousands of dogs and cats during his lifetime, some of which he had dressed in costumes. Perhaps his favorite pet was a horse named Baronet, who had full run of the Hall and who often lay down and napped before the fire.

Friday, January 27, 2012

In Residence at Ickworth, Suffolk

Yes, dear readers, I have indeed lived at Ickworth -- that is, I've stayed at the hotel in one wing of the estate -- for a few  days.  Victoria here, with a few words about this amazing National Trust property which houses a family hotel as well as the handsomely maintained State Rooms in the Rotunda and a fine park.  And there are some fascinating characters and family stories (even scandals) to go along with your tour.

The National Trust has a lovely slide show of Ickworth here.  They are in the process of developing more insights into the individuals both above and below stairs who occupied this unique spot for several centuries.
I admit that while I think I can appreciate life long ago, I do enjoy the mod cons of our contemporary lives.

This east wing of Ickworth houses the hotel, which has a website here. I wish we could have stayed longer because the amenities were excellent, the food delicious, and for ambiance, it excelled! I should point out that my photo was taken from behind the buildings.  The other wing, the West Wing, has been developed for conferences, weddings and other events. The east wing was first used as the Hervey family residence. The west wing was empty, built only for the symmetry of the architecture.  For a time, it was used as a conservatory.

This is the entrance to the rotunda, the galleries and rooms housing the NT collections.  The Hervey family lived at the Ickworth estate for centuries, though this building was not completed until the 19th century.

 Not far from this lonely sheep there is a walled garden, now a vineyard. Here is more information on their output. It is very tasty.

Ickworth as it stands today was the creation of an eccentric and passionate collector, the Earl Bishop, as he is popularly known.  Frederick Augustus Hervey (1739-1803) was a younger son but succeeded to the title of  4th Earl of Bristol, following two of his brothers.  Though he had originally chosen a legal career, he took orders and was eventually named Bishop of Cloyne (1767) and of  Derry (1768) in Ireland.  He grew rich on the proceeds of this and other offices and built a great house in Ballyscullion, which he had designed by Mario Aspucci, an Italian architect, for throughout his life the Earl Bishop traveled and collected in Italy, hoping to furnish his magnificent houses with the finest art and furnishings. He was partial to the rotunda style of building in the great Roman tradition.

Above is a drawing of the house at Ballyscullion. It did not last long, for it was demolished in the early 19th century, never completely finished and already deteriorating.  However, the handsome portico was saved and can be seen today as part of St.George's Church, Belfast. Notice how it resembles the portico of the rotunda, above.

The Bishop succeeded his brother in 1779 as 4th Earl of Bristol and became known as the Earl-Bishop. He also inherited the properties at Ickworth, an old manor which had a relatively small lodge to house the family. The Earl Bishop used something very similar to the plans for his Ballyscullion house to build Ickworth. The project began in 1795.

                                                               Ickworth from the Park

However, his extraordinary life ran into some bad karma. In 1798, the invading Napoleonic troops in Italy overran and confiscated his collection, destined for the new house at Ickworth.  He himself died in 1803 and was succeeded by the youngest of his sons, another Frederick (1769-1859), who spend his lifetime trying to complete the great mansion at Ickworth. It was finished in 1841, though the Pompeiian Room was not decorated until 1879. In the Rotunda, operated as a museum by the NT, the Earl Bishop's surviving collections are exhibited, including a few pieces purchased much later from the stolen cache.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Birthday of Robert Burns, January 25, 1759

Did you notice around last New Year's Eve all the coverage of Auld Lang Syne -- and how we all sang it at midnight to welcome the new year, but few of us actually knew the words -- or where the song originated?  I think I saw or heard  similar stories on all of the major networks and news channels.

Why, I wondered, when this song had been a tradition for so long, was everyone talking about it this year?  The answer is that the Morgan Library in New York City has an exhibition about Auld Lang Syne and its author, Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796), whose birthday we celebrate on the 25th of January. For more information about the exhibition, soon to conclude at the Morgan Library, click here.

Of course, we remember Burns for much more than just this one song, however often we sing it on New Year's Eve. 

Burns Nights, on January 25, are celebrated all over the world.  If you have one in the planning, you can find some guidance here.  I have attended only one Burns Night Supper, which I enjoyed very much, though I admit I ate sparingly of the Haggis.  It generally tastes delicious, until you remember what the ingredients are. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Wellington Connection: Theme Parks

There are plans afoot to build "Napoleonland" in France. And, no, before you ask . . . I'm not kidding.

Funding is as yet unsecured, but preliminary plans are for the theme park to be built at the site where Napoleon defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Montereau in 1814 in Montereau-Fault-Yonne just south of Paris. The six-day battle was the nation's last military victory over the Austrians.

Having apparently not gotten the memo telling the organizers of the park that Napoleon lost at Waterloo, they plan to re-create the Battle of Waterloo on a daily basis and visitors may even be able to take part in the reenactments. They will also be able to take in a water show recreating the Battle of Trafalgar, a la the entertainments once staged at London's Vauxhall Gardens.

A museum, a hotel, shops, restaurants and a congress are all expected to be built at the theme park. French politician Yves Jego, who is backing the project, hopes that construction work can get underway in 2014 and that the park will open its doors in 2017. One has to assume that Jego will not be seeking re-election, as things go from bad to worse in the bad taste department with further plans to include a re-creation of the killing of Louis XVI, France's last King, who died after being guillotined during the Revolution and. . . . . . . yet another attraction which will allow visitors to ski around the bodies of soldiers and horses frozen on the battlefield.

Why are there no plans to build Artie World instead?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Byron's Birthday, January 22, 1788

Byron by Richard Westall
To celebrate the birthday of George Gordon, Lord Byron, the renowned poet, we present an account of him by Captain Gronow, from his Reminiscences, published in 1862, written long after the events he describes.  Rees Howell Gronow (1794-1865) was  a captain in the Welsh Grenadier Guards.

From Gronow's Reminiscences:
I knew very little of Lord Byron personally, but lived much with two of his intimate friends, Scrope Davis and Wedderburn Webster; from whom I frequently heard many anecdotes of him.  I regret that I remember so few; and wish that I had written down those told me by poor Scrope Davis, one of the most agreeable men I ever met.
When Byron was at Cambridge, he was introduced to Scrope Davis by their mutual friend, Matthews, who was afterwards drowned in the river Cam. After Matthews's death, Davis became Byron's particular friend, and was admitted to his rooms at all hours.  Upon one occasion he found the poet in bed with his hair en papillote, upon which Scrope cried, "Ha, ha!  Byron, I have at last caught you acting the part of the Sleeping Beauty."
Byron  by Thomas Philipps (1770-1845)

Byron, in a rage, exclaimed, "No, Scrope; the part of a d----d fool, you should have said."
"Well, then, anything you please; but you have succeeded admirably in deceiving your friends, for it was my conviction that your hair curled naturally."

"Yes, naturally, every night," returned the poet; "but do not, my dear Scrope, let the cat out of the bag, for I am as vain of my curls as a girl of sixteen."
When in London, Byron used to go to Manton's shooting-gallery, in Davis street, to try his hand, as he said, at a wafer.  Wedderburn Webster was present when the poet, intensely delighted with his own skill, boasted to Joe Manton that he considered himself the best shot in London. "No, my lord," replied Manton, "not the best; but your shooting, to-day, was respectable;" upon which Byron waxed wroth, and left the shop in a violent passion.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Death of King George V, January 20, 1936

King George V
King George V died 76 years ago of lung disease.  Grandson of Queen Victoria and grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II, his death was expected (he had been a heavy smoker and ill for some time).  However, controversy surrounding his death surfaced a few decades ago when the diary of his lead attending physician, Lord Dawson of Penn, was revealed.  In his notes after the death, Dawson wrote he administered to the king a lethal dose of drugs, morphine and cocaine, ensuring that George V would die before midnight. Dawson  was motivated by a desire to preserve the King's dignity, protect the family (and realm) from a long period of confusion, and probably to allow the announcement of the King's death to be made in the morning newspapers instead of the afternoon press, the latter considered less authoritative and more sensational.

Prince George, age 5, 1870

 George Frederick Ernest Albert was born in 1865, the second son of Albert, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII, 1841-1910), and Princess Alexandra (1844-1925).  Throughout his early life, he did not expect to inherit the throne, but in 1892,  his elder brother, Prince Albert Victor, died of pneumonia and George became second in line to the throne, after his father, and was named Duke of York.  Albert had recently become engaged to Princess Mary of Teck (1867-1953), known as May, and after a suitable period of mourning for him, May and George became engaged with the approval of Queen Victoria. The wedding took place in 1893.

 After the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her son Edward VII ruled for just over nine years before he suffered fatal heart disease. George, during his father's reign, was Prince of Wales. When  he took the throne as George V, the troubles in Europe which led to World War I were already well underway.  George V was a first cousin of both German Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia.  Family ties, sadly, did not prevent the catastrophe to come.

The war and its aftermath occasioned many changes in Great Britain  and the Empire. The family name of the royals was changed from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Stirrings in Ireland and other territories had long-reaching consequences, not to mention the rush of technological change.  George V was the first King to address his people by radio, as recently portrayed in the film The King's Speech, the story of George V's son, George VI. Below, King George V as portrayed in the film by famed British actor Michael Gambon.

Michael Gambon as George V

In the film, George V is portrayed as a stern father, intolerant of the shortcomings of his sons.  His eldest son, known as David, succeeded him as Edward VIII, but reigned for less than a year, abdicating to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.  In turn, George V's second son became King George VI.  In many stories about George V's life, we learn he expressed his hope that David would never marry and have children, because he (Geroge V) wanted nothing to come between the throne and his granddaughter Elizabeth, the present Queen, called Lilibet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Captain Cook Reaches Hawaii

On the 18th of January, 1778, Captain James Cook (1728-1779), leading an expedition on HMS Resolution and HMS Discovery, became the first European to discover the territory of what we now know as the Hawaiian Islands. Victoria here, now resident in her own little paradise in Florida, writing about a place she has never been!

Captain Cook, c. 1775

Cook led several voyages of discovery to Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand and throughout the Pacific Islands.  After his career in the British Navy in North America, the famed cartographer and navigator sailed through vast uncharted territories. On his ships, he carried scientists such as Joseph Banks and others who collected specimens of unusual plants, insects, animals and fossils which greatly expanded contemporary knowledge of natural history.  The tales of resident peoples and their customs fascinated Europe.

Hawaiian Beaches, a touch of paradise

Cook named the "new" cluster of islands the Sandwich Islands, after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who was a sponsor of the voyage.

4th Earl of Sandwich

The 4th Earl of Sandwich is, perhaps, even more famous for his invention of the meat and bread combination named after him.  It is said that he wanted his meat wrapped in bread so that he could munch while staying in place at the gambling table; if that legend is not the truth, I sincerely doubt that it will ever be disproved.

The Hawaiian Islands are the northern-most islands of Polynesia, formed eons ago of volcanoes erupting through the Pacific waters.  After Cook's first visit, he explored further northward, looking for that fabled northwest passge from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  Unsuccessful, the ships returned to the "Sandwich Islands" in 1779. While their first visit had been peaceful, the second soon descended into trouble, ending with the death of some of the natives and Europeans, including Cook.

More pretty pictures

Following publications of the journals of Cook's voyage and other accounts of the islands, more European explorers, whalers, and traders arrived, bringing with them the germs of deadly diseases such as influenza, measles and smallpox, and causing a precipitous decline in the native population.

I will not attept to catalogue all the events in Hawaiian history. Suffice it to say that after a period of consolidation, the islands became a kingdom and eventually were annexed to the United States as a territory in 1898.  In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th (and last) state of the union.  The role of the British in the development of the islands is commemorated in the Hawaiian flag, with the design of the Union Jack in the upper left corner.

I admit I have always wanted to visit the Hawaiian Islands, but every time I consider the amount of time it would take to fly there, I realize that in the same number of hours, I could be back in England.  Guess where I go!  But someday -- I'll make it.  If you have been to Hawaii, please share your impressions of the islands and convince me to book it!!

Or maybe I should just go to see George Clooney in The Descendants????

Monday, January 16, 2012

Visiting Belton House

Victoria, here, inviting you to come along on a visit to Belton House, sometimes chosen as the penultimate example of the perfect English Country House.

Belton House in Lincolnshire (south  front, above) was built in the late 17th century for Sir John Brownlow (1659-97); although the house was once attributed to Sir Christopher Wren, the architect was probably William Winde (d. 1722). The house resembles the now-demolished Clarendon House, Piccadilly, built by Sir Roger Pratt for the Lord Chancellor a decade or so before Belton was designed.

Clarendon House (drawing above) was very influential in Restoration architecture; but it lasted just a few decades before it was pulled down for the creation of several Mayfair streets.

In various remodelings during the centuries, Belton lost its first cupola, but it was replaced in the 1870's when the 3rd Earl Brownlow restored the house to its original appearance.

                                                              ©National Trust
Belton remained in the Brownlow-Cust family for three hundred years before Edward John
Peregrine Cust, 7th Baron Brownlow, gave the house to the National Trust in 1985. Above is the charming conversation piece portrait of the family by Philippe Mercier, c. 1725, showing the family in the park with the house in the background.

 For more information in Belton House, click here.   For more about the collections and interiors, click here.  The park and gardens at Belton are beautifully laid out and maintained.

The Orangery, above and below, was designed by Sir Jeffry Wyatttville in 1811-19. Wyattville is probably best known as the architect for the George IV's remodeling of Windsor Castle.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Hester and the Queen

As many of our loyal readers will know, we have had a link to the new Windsor and Royal Borough in our sidebar for some time now. Our dear friend and frequent blog post contributor, Hester Davenport, was a moving force in making the Museum a reality and on Friday, December 9th, the Queen officially opened the museum, located in the Berkshire town guildhall where Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles in 2005. The £300,000 museum is housed in the Maidenhead room of the 17th Century Grade I listed Windsor Guildhall.

After the official ceremony, the Queen was shown a selection of displays and was introduced to our Hester, who actually got to touch the Royal Glove, above.

The foundation stone of the Guildhall was laid on 5 September 1687 and the extension in which the museum is housed was completed in 1830. Markets were held there until 1901 when the ground floor was enclosed. Sixty years ago, in 1951 the Queen, who was then Princess Elizabeth, opened the refurbished Windsor Guildhall.

You may recall that it was Hester who acted as our guide during the visit Vicky and I made to Windsor, but if not, you can read our blog post about the day here. It was due to Hester's Royal knowledge that Vicky and I were able to see the Queen up close as her procession left Windsor Castle for the Ascot Races. Vicky and I are dead chuffed that Hester was able to top herself and to get thisclose to the Queen, who Hester told us confidentially seemed very nice as well as very interested in the Museum. As Hester keeps one upping herself in the Royal stakes, Vicky and I can only imagine what she'll have in store for us on our next visit - tea at the Palace, perhaps?

Victoria here -- just checking the mail for the invitation to that tea.  Not here yet!   I had another wonderful day with Hester last June, 2011, at the Museum. All the details are here.  Hester and I had a wonderful time discussing, in addition to the museum, the Queen and many other topics, our favorite authors Fanny Burney, Jane Austen, and Perdita aka Mary Robinson. 

Happy 2012 to Hester and all of our readers!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Fashions of 1812

Victoria here, looking through my collection of regency-era fashion plates to see what was worn 200 years ago. I find I have five plates from 1812, two framed on the wall of my office, the others filed away in notebooks.  So here, in case you want to be entirely up to date two centuries ago:

Fashions of 1812

Ackermann's Repository of Arts    Half Dress, January 1812

A Roman round robe of stone colour or pale olive cloth embroidered in a variegated chenille border; long sleeves finished at the wrist to correspond and lined with pink sarsnet. Pomeranian mantle of silk, the colour of the robe and finished with deep Chinese silk fringe. Cap of black or colored velvet, ornamented with a rich silk tassel, and curled ostrich feathers placed towards the left side. High standing collar of muslin or net, edged with lace or needle work, rising above the robe at the throat. Pink embroidered ridicule. Gloves a pale lemon colour, and half boots of pink kid, trimmed with narrow sable fur.

Ladies Magazine January 1812  London Morning and Evening Dresses

Morning dress. – Pelisse of maroon silk, lined throughout with fur, which when buttoned, forms a sort of lappel: standing collar, to turn over; and very deep cuffs. – A hat of the same silk, trimmed with ribbon and feathers.

Evening dress, of green satin, with epaulettes of lace.– Cap of the same, trimmed with lace and a flower.

Ackermann's Repository of Arts  Morning Dress, May 1812

A French frock of fine plain India muslin, with demi-train, and long full bishop's sleeves. Waggoners' cuffs, with gaged front, and shoulders to correspond. Tucker of double-rolled muslin, which also finishes the cuffs round the hands.

A Parisian mob cap of fine lace, confined round the head, and terminating on one side with a celestial blue or silver grey ribbon. Sash of the same, tied in small bows and ends in front. Hair in waved curls, divided in the center of the forehead. Spanish slippers of lemon-colored kid, and gloves of the same material.

The peculiar taste and elegant simplicity of these habiliments are further specimens of the graceful invention of the celebrated Mrs. Gill, of Cork-streeet, Burlington-gardens, from whom we have obtained them.

Ackermann's Repository of Arts November 1812  Evening Dress

A white crape or mull muslin petticoat, worn over white satin, finished round the bottom with a ball fringe of gold; a crimson velvet or satin bodice, formed so as partially to expose the bosom and shoulders. A short bishop's sleeve, edged with ball fringe, and ornamented with the same round the bosom, and shoulders. A short sash of shaded ribband, to correspond with the colour of the bodice, tied in short bows and ends in front of the figure.

A shepherdess's hat, composed of crimson velvet and white satin; a curled ostrich feather placed entirely on one side, and waving towards the back of the neck. The hair divided on the forehead, and curled on each side, rather lower than of late. Treble neck-chain, and amulet of wrought gold; short drop ear rings, and bracelets en suite. Crimson velvet or satin slippers trimmed with gold rosettes or fringe. White kid gloves, just avoiding the elbow. Fan of white and silver embossed crape or carved ivory. Occasional scarf of white French silk, with embroidered ends and border.

La Belle Assemblee  February, 1812 --A Winter Walking Dress

A scarlet Merino cloth pelisse, lined with straw coloured sarsnet, trimmed with light coloured spotted fur, and attached with loops of black silk cordon and rich frog tassels; the broad fur in front, forming a tippet, pointed at the back. A narrow fur passes from the top of the sleeve, is brought down the side seams, and relieved by fastenings of black silk cordon; four loops with frogs ornament the shoulders and cuffs; plain standing up collar tied with cordon: a fine cashemire shawl, with brown ground, and richly variegated border, is generally thrown over the dress, in which is united both comfort and elegance. A Swedish hat of the same material as the pelisse, lined with straw colour, and fastened up one side; the crown trimmed with two rows of narrow spotted fur, and one still narrower at the edge of the hat; a bunch of the Christmas holly in front, and two tassels falling from the summit of the crown, of black, to answer the pelisse, with is worn over a white round dress, either of plain or corded cambric. Beaver gloves, and demi-broquins of scarlet Morocco, laced with black, and lined with fur, complete the dress.

Of all the outfits pictured here, I think I'd choose the evening dress with the shepherdess hat!  Just the thing for the next ball I attend.  Though since I am still in Wisconsin, I suppose I'd be wise to choose that fur-trimmed winter walking dress, which looks like it would be comfy on a windy, chilly day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Wellington Connection: War Horse

I went to see War Horse in the movies recently and got a few surprises. Firstly, I was under the impression that no one recognizable was in the cast. Imagine my surprise when I saw Benedict Cumberbatch on screen as Major Jamie Stewart who, by the way, is the antithesis of the Duke of Wellington as far as military strategy is concerned.

Tom Hiddleston, who first came to my notice in the 2001 version of Nicholas Nickleby, played Captain Nicholls in War Horse. He is the officer who first takes possession of Joey, or the War Horse, when he's intially sold to the Army. He vows to keep the horse safe and to return him at the end of the war.

Worth an honourable mention is Eddie Marsan as Sgt. Fry.

Another surprising thing about War Horse - I found myself crying at odd moments when no one else did. My first tear was shed at the opening when they showed wide shots of the hedgerows and fields of the English countryside. Next, I choked up when I saw the village in the scene where Joey is led away with the Army.

It was so iconically English. Turns out that the scene was shot in Water Street, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, below.

Then there was the scene where Cumberbatch and Hiddleston race for the gold ring during a practice charge. The entire regiment draws their swords and gallops forward, the ground thundering beneath them as thousands of hooves tear up the turf. It was so reminiscent of Waterloo that I couldn't help tearing up. Not that I was actually at Waterloo, mind you. Well, I was at Waterloo, but not during the battle. Well, okay, I was at Waterloo during a battle, but not during the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Catching Up on 2011

Victoria, here. In the early days of 2012, I find myself sorting some books I acquired in the last year and some I still have to find, many of them concerned with Jane Austen.  Gee, isn't that a shock!

Two are short story collections.

I enjoyed many of the stories in these two collections and admired the creative ways in which Jane
Austen inspired these writers.  I recommend both.

My friend and consummate author, Carrie Bebris, published Deception at Lyme, or The Peril of Persuasion, the sixth in her Mr and Mrs. Darcy mystery series.   See her website here.  Elizabeth and Darcy have solved a number of puzzles since their first outing in  2004's Pride and Prescience (or, A Truth Universally Acknowledged).  And more are in the works.

Here is a book I haven't read yet, and have receive conflicting reports about: P.D. James version of Carrie's idea of having the Darcys investigate murder: Death Comes to Pemberley.

Of course, Baroness James gets a great deal of attention from the media, and no one can say she has not had a distinguished career.  I have had many hours of delight from her books. But this one? Somehow, it smacks of jumping on the Austen bandwagon unnecessarily, but that could be unfair. I would love to hear from readers who have tried it out.  I have a copy waiting for me next month, I think, when I get to the sunny south of Florida.  I'll report back. (Note from Kristine: Yes, it's here waiting for you. I love James and so gave it a shot when Jo sent it to me. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it past Chapter Two).

Another book I will read soon is The Mysterious Death of Miss Austen by Lindsay Ashford. I met Ms. Ashford at the JASNA-AGM in Fort Worth TX in October 2011, but I must have been extremely distracted since her authorship of this book, talked of widely at the AGM, escaped me when we met.