Thursday, June 30, 2011

Evelina, Volume 3, Letters 11- 23 (72-84)

Evelina is on a mission and that mission is to avoid Lord Orville at all costs. In the past this mission would be more easily accomplished but since being guests together, Lord Orville is difficult to avoid and Evelina is finding it difficult to come up with excuses out of his invitations. Evelina is further upset when she finds that she is included in an anonymous poem, Beauties of the Wells as the most beautiful woman in town. Lord Orville’s polite jealousy is further revealed when she returns with Sir Clement who accosted her during a walk.
Lord Orville finally confronts Evelina about recent avoidance of him which has been driving him bonkers. When she reveals that she had no attachment to Sir Clement Lord Orville is relieved and eventually admits his love for her and Evelina can’t help but admit her similar feelings, hurray! But we still have more letters to go!
In rapid succession many mysteries are solved. Mr. Macartney finds out that his father is Sir Belmont (the same person who is the father of his great love) and Evelina happily informs him that they are then brother and sister. After many attempts from the determined Mrs Selwyn, Sir Belmont finally comes face to face with Evelina and instantly recognizes his wife’s face in Evelina. It is then determined that the nursemaid switched baby Evelina with her own daughter who Belmont raised and who Macartney fell in love with.
Everything is wrapped up nice and neatly in the end. Sir Clement admits to writing the letter which had set Evelina against Orville. Sir John grants both Evelinas (true and imposter) joint heiresses.  Mr Macartney marries Miss Belmont and the reverend sends Evelina his blessing to marry her Lord Orville.

Oh my goodness our salons are at an end already!

Did anyone else find it ironic how Lord Orville and especially Sir Clement keep ending up in the same place as Evelina? Of course we’re discussing a fictional story here but it makes one wonder just how realistic that possibility could be. Fashionable/Aristocratic circles did travel to migrate a predictably as Monarch Butterflies so I did find myself wondering about how when it came to the ton, would the scenery change yet the people remain the same? Goodness, it’s like taking a vacation to Disney World and seeing all your coworkers there!

The whole incestuous situation of the Evelina, Mr Macartney, Miss Belmont affair is a bit confusing, especially when the pieces begin falling together. For we know about the unrequited love Mr Macartney had for a daughter of a baronet but her name was never mentioned. Once Evelina sees Mr Macartney’s reaction when “Miss Belmont” enters the pump room, almost all is revealed. Mr Macartney is the son of Sir Belmont making him half-brother to Evelina. He couldn’t marry Miss Belmont since he would be marrying a sister…however since she was a fraudulent daughter, in the overplayed words of Celine Dion, their "love will go on." Poor Miss Belmont. She may be getting the man she loves but she’s headed straight for a mental breakdown with all the adjustments she’s bound to encounter. That’s quite a transition to the middle class.

Meanwhile, Evelina and Lord Orville were able to admit their love of each other in a sigh-worthy scene in the Library of all places. It sets my nerdy heart all a flutter! How is this not yet a movie!

I’m sure many found the ending of Evelina a bit perplexing. For we have the end…or what should be the end, where we all find out we can get married and live happily ever after. But once again Captain Mirvin barges into the story and, finding there to be a genuine lack of Madame Duvals to torture, goes right ahead and delivers one last crowning prank on the foppish Mr Lovel, involving a monkey. As out of place this little side story seemed to be, I did enjoy the prank; there’s a few New York hipsters that could be humbled with that same prank nowadays, however I think they’d be in much better humor about it.

Through our many salons, I have loved hearing the opinions of everyone since they were so vast and different. The same is true of when the book was freshly released. According to the editor of the Broadview editions, Susan Howard, “The violence of several scenes disconcerted some readers but entertained others: Dr Burney and Samuel Crisp both found Lovel too harshly dealt with by Captain Mirvin and the monkey, but Mrs. Thrale and Dr Johnson were amused by Captain Mirvan’s practical jokes.” Aren’t we a literary circle of equivocal cleverness?!

I believe the best way to voice my final thoughts would be through the ingenious method presented by the site, Better Book Titles (Check out their version of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women). Here are two of my suggestions:

A big thank you to all who participated! Thursday was my favorite day of the week in June, I was absolutely delighted by the colorful conversation you all brought to the table. With that said, what are your final thoughts on Evelina?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Other Duchess

The White Swan may sound like a pure sot of establishment but anyone who would have walked into it in the late 18th and early 19th centuries would probably know that was not the case. It seems as though the tavern had a reputation as a seedy motel where one could conduct an illicit affair, away from prying eyes. The White Swan offered more services than just a rendezvous point, though. If you didn’t have a prearranged partner to meet up with, there were plenty of males mulling about on the second floor to entertain you...for a price.

While male prostitution isn’t so wholly unusual in this place and time, the names these men picked for themselves is. Like our modern-day strippers with names like “Sapphire,” the White Swan prostitutes went by names that their mothers obviously did not give them: Miss Selina, Harriet, and even Kitty Fisher (a nod to the original, perhaps) could be found loitering about the tavern looking for customers. But perhaps the most grandiose of these gay prostitutes was one man who must have been pretty confident in his abilities for he went by the name, the Duchess of Devonshire.

Perhaps the most delightful bit of this juicy gossip is that these colorful tavern workers only took this role by night. If you needed to find the Duchess of Devonshire before the sun set, you could find her (or him) at her day job as a blacksmith.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Book Review: Royal Pains and Giveaway!

Royals are the ultimate level of the privileged sect.  Their lives are notoriously unavailable and therefore theoretically private to us small folk.  Perhaps that is why we have always found them so interesting...especially when they are so badly behaved.  Leslie Carroll (no relation) is no stranger to the tantalizing, and perhaps more scandalous, tales of royals throughout the ages.  Her newest book, Royal Pains: A Rogues' Gallery of Brats, Brutes, and Bad Seeds is a collection of tales of royal family member all over the world, and throughout history who were, well, a big pain!

Beginning with King John of England and ending with the current sovereign of that country's late sister, Princess Margaret, Carroll covers both well known royal pains and not-so-well known pains.  For example, I had previously been unaware of how emo Archduke Rudolf of Austria was; it would be the cause of his untimely end.  Her expertise and love of English history is very apparent, with many of the chapters being dedicated to the badly behaved family members of the British monarchy so anglophiles will surely enjoy this read.  However, variety is the name of the game with this collection of royal biographies; not only are the subjects from different families and times they also distinct themselves in their uniquely painful behavior.  Some are pains in their love of mutilating those they rule over while others are painful in their willful pursuit of hedonism.  So who are these guilty parties lucky enough to be honored in Royal Pains you may ask?   Carroll has quite an intriguing selection: King John, Vlad the Impaler, George Duke of Clarence, Richard III, Ivan the Terrible, Lettice Knollys, Elizabeth Bathory, Henry Duke of Cumberland, Pauline Bonaparte, Archduke Rudolf, Prince Albert Victor, and Princess Margaret.

Royal Pains is one of those lovely reads that you either can't put down or you can read at your leisure, picking it up when you are in the mood for some Richard III gossip.  As a fellow enthusiast of English history I actually found myself enjoying the non-British royals' stories more.  Perhaps this was due to their stories being more foreign to me.  I also guiltily relished in all the gross and gruesome details of the lives of Vlad the Impaler and Elizabeth Bartgory* Bathory.  Those who already know of the pain-inducing antics of these royals may want to skip over this one but those who have yet to be introduced will likely enjoy this introduction to those who wore crowns or coronets on their unworthy heads.  Just don't get any ideas!

Want a copy of Leslie Carroll's Royal Pains?  Leave a comment describing how you would be a simply delectable royal pain.  Winners will be drawn at random and announced Tuesday July 5 and have 5 days to claim their prize.  Good luck!

*Freudian slip?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Yay or Nay? Sarah Siddons

Mary Boteler wow most with her look over overflowing ribbons and bows, earning her a Yay.  This week we have another hat in a very theatrical selection.

Thomas Beach paints Sarah Siddons (1786) in theatrical dress for the character of Lady MacBeth.  Yay or Nay?

[Garrick Club]

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Evelina, Volume 2, Letter 23- Volume 3 Letter 9 (54-71)

Buckle up kiddos, a lot happened!

While on an outing to Kensington gardens with the Branghtons and Madame Duval Evelina is horrified to once again spy Lord Orville also enjoying the gardens and tries to avoid him for fear of her party making spectacles of themselves again. Her efforts have to opposite effect and when her party realizes her connection to a rich man they insist on taking his coach home by using her name. Evelina wants to melt into the ground and die. The next day Evelina finds out that Tom Branghton broke one of the windows after she left the coach and he went to Lord Orville himself to apologize as well as promote his father’s service as a silversmith. So humiliated by the turn of events, Evelina breaks etiquette by initiating written contact to Lord Orville in order to apologize and explain what brought about the impropriety.
Rev Villars sends his friend Mrs. Clinton to pick up Evelina to bring her back home. The timing could not have been better since Madame Duval just stumbled upon M. Dubois proclaiming his love for the shocked Evelina.
Evelina is overjoyed to be back home with Rev Villars and following her arrival is a letter from Lord Orville assuring her that her actions didn’t offend and hinting that he has strong feelings for her. Initially Evelina is relieved but upon a second reading she is embarrassed for Lord Orville, realizing that the letter is uncharacteristically improper. She grows gloomy over her crush’s impropriety and goes to Bristol with a family friend, Mrs. Selwyn to regain her health.
While in Bristol Evelina meets another rake, Lord Merton, and finds Lord Orville is there as well. Much to Evelina’s surprise Lord Orville doesn’t bring up the letter and acts as he did before the written exchange. Mrs. Selwyn and Evelina then take up Mrs. Beaumont’s invitation to stay at her home where Lord Orville is a guest as well. One morning during her garden stroll Evelina runs into Mr. Macartney who wants advice about his love life. Lord Orville runs into the two and shows his jealous side, but still in a gentleman-like manner.

Like Evelina, I was horrified that she was the only person in the party to see how inappropriate it was to borrow Lord Orville’s coach (what is wrong with these people!). The icing on the cake however was when young Branghton sticks his head out the closed window like idiot he is and breaks the coach window! However, I also enjoyed how, when hearing this, Evelina acted her age and ran away in a temper tantrum. She also did something else her age and impulsively wrote a note explaining herself to Lord Orville. Ah I remember doing something like that in middle school; it’s never a good decision. Evelina realizes this only after the letter has been sent. As you can probably judge by Evelina’s hindsight, a woman initiating written contact to a man outside the family is most improper, and a proper man such as Lord Orville should chose to ignore the impropriety. Like Evelina, I was both initially excited by Orville’s written response. But her fearful recollection of the impropriety had me going “No, no, no, no!” and putting my hands up slowly as if to avoid an accident (Can you tell I just want these two to end up together?). However, I see the logic and am also a little suspicious of the letter.

Soon the letter becomes this mammoth issue that almost seems blown out of proportion.  In a past salon (I can't recall which, now!) someone compared Evelina with Jersey Shore.  Anyone who has suffered through the second season of that show (aka Miami Shore) should know that the whole season revolved around a letter as well.  I can't help but compare!

So of course, Evelina should only run into Lord Orville again, in Bristol of all places, after swearing him off. At first she attempts to avoid him as best she can but the fact that he seems more attentive to her than ever in a company of haughty people has Evelina finding it difficult to avoid Lord Orville. After mistaking Mr Macartney for Evelina’s potential love-interest Lord Orville becomes a bit pesky. Could he be jealous? He then tells Evelina he sees her as a little sister, which adds a bit of some creep points to my personal Lord Orville roster. Do you believe that sister crap? I’m not convinced. Now that Evelina is more aloof with him it seems to bring out his true feelings for her.

This section of letters also introduces us to a new character. Mrs Selwyn. I am curious as to everyone’s thoughts on the lady. Evelina doesn’t seem too fond of her, and Mr Villars is known to not be much a fan (despite letting his daughter go with her). I however enjoy the woman’s intelligence and bluntness. She actually reminds me a bit of the author herself!  Many have noted how Burney was quite shy, however her letters were always full of strong opinions.  I like to think of Mrs Selwyn as Burney's inner-dialogue personified.  However, if questioned, I wonder if Burney would agree! What do you think?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Despite my tendency to be a detail-oriented person, I tend to take fashion in as a whole.  But just as the accessories can make an outfit, so too can the minute details.  Take embroidery for example.  Embroidery was such an important aspect of high fashion of the 18th century yet it is often lost to us in paintings of the time.  Luckily we have surviving examples of the amazing embroidered work of the time, which are better appreciated on their own.

 A woman's jacket, circa 1620.  The black and white style of embroidery actually reminds me of black and white tattoos (example).

Women's smock, England, circa 1630.  A simplistic pattern but don't you just love the smiling snails?  You would never catch that from far away. 

Man's waistcoat, 1780s. Monkeys!  Even if you don't like the mischievous little fellows you have to appreciate this amazing piece of embroidery.  Although I wouldn't get to close to rake sporting this waistcoat.  For more on the monkey craze, check out Susan's post.

Mantua and petticoat, England, 1740s.  What can you say about such breathtaking work?  The only problem with it is that you would draw an excessive amount of unnecessary attention to your backside.

Mantua petticoat, England, 1740-5.  Can you image walking into a room with a rectangular skirt?  How about a rectangular skirt like this?  Would many people bend over to examine the awesome needlework?

Gown, England, circa 1780.  Simple yet gorgeous.  I love how so many of these patterns have birds hiding in them.  This bird reminds me of some of the imagery I recall seeing in Arizona.  If I saw it by itself I probably wouldn't have guessed it to be of English origin. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

As if You Needed Advertising Louboutin!

The Christian Louboutin Fall lookbook is out and boy, does it look fab!  This season Louboutin has recreated great paintings from history to display these most fabulous of shoes.  Honestly, though, didn't they know we'd be drooling over them as it is?

The nod to the 18th century features a Boucher-like image.  I can't believe they actually found a model with enough meat on her face!  The result is photoshopped, but lovely all the same.

More after the jump (one is NSFW)

Mozart on View

Music aficionados who find themselves in New York City this summer will not want to miss the newest papers pulled out of the archives of The Morgan Library. 

In celebration of their Music Manuscripts Online, a project displaying the music manuscripts of some of the greatest composers, The Morgan is displaying two of their most valued manuscripts. 
The Mozart compositions were originally part of a music notebook belonging to his sister, Nannerl. On view are two pages; along a margin, Leopold, their father, teacher, and the transcriber, wrote "compositions by Wolfgangerl in the first 3 months of his 5th year of life." These are the earliest documented works by Mozart anywhere and an indication of the genius that would soon change music history.
How fabulous; rock star relics! 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yay or Nay? Mary Boteler

What a daring crowd we have Naying an empress!  Maria Theresa's lace extravagance was not appreciated, or perhaps it was the color that truly killed it, either way she ended up with a Nay.  This week there has been much talk about the Royal Ascot and the hats that appeared with it.  So I can't help but put forth a selection this week that includes a hat fit for Ascot.

John Hoppner paints Mary Boteler (1786) in her double buckle picture hat complete with gown of ribbons and gauze and classic black choker.  Yay or Nay?

[Cecil Higgins Art Gallery]

Friday, June 17, 2011

Society Sisters

Ever since the royal wedding in April, Pippa Middleton has become a star.  The newly dubbed Duchess of Cambridge has been no stranger to the spotlight for some time now but as soon as her sister, Pippa stepped out in that famous McQueen gown, she too was turning heads.

Now whenever the two Middleton sisters step out together it's a double-duo of celebrity, paparazzi and fabulosity.  So of course, I am reminded of two other society sisters who became celebrities once one married a duke.  Photographs may not have existed in the 1770's but the press and satirical images certainly did.  Georgiana was almost always portrayed with her sister, Harriet who became a celebrity for her associations with her elder sister.  Once again, history repeats itself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Evelina, Volume 2, Letters 7-22 (38-53)

Reverend Villars reluctantly agrees to let Evelina stay with Madame Duval and the Branghtons in London for a month rather than let her allow her to return to France with the estranged grandmother. Evelina meets the Branghton’s boarder, Mr. Macartney, a poor Scottish poet. Later, Evelina comes across Mr. Macartney attempting, what she believes to be, suicide and she stops him. When Mr. Macartney recovers he is touched by Evelina’s kindness and is forever indebted to her.
While at Vauxhall with the Branghton brood and her new unwanted suitor, Mr. Smith, Evelina and the Miss Branghtons separate from the group. They are accosted by a group of brutes who manhandle Evelina. She is then saved by none other than Sir Clement. The persistent lover then manages to scheme his way into sharing a coach with Evelina so he can find out where she is staying.
Evelina finds herself back with the Branghtons in a pleasure garden, this time, Marybone-Gardens (aka Marylebone Gardens). Once again she becomes separated from the group and is rescued by two prostitutes. When Evelina and her two new friends find the party Evelina is horrified when the prostitutes decide to also join the party. Queue Lord Orville’s arrival to witness the motley crew. The next day Lord Orville arrives in Holborn to ask Evelina about the two women he saw her with and is relieved to find out that they aren’t normal acquaintances.

The name of the game this week is “trashy” because that is all I can think of whenever the Branghtons are in the picture. They are so socially unaware of what is acceptable. If I were to travel back in time, I know I would make a few social faux-pas due to the contemporary rules of etiquette but the Branghtons crass-ness transcends time to the point where I am aghast. When the awful Madame Duval told them her sad tale of the Captain’s haywire prank the Branghtons all laugh at her! I think we all know what they really think of their French relative now.

Evelina’s letter from June 10 (XXII) is packed with all sort of juice. It begins with an invitation from Mr. Smith to the Hampstead assembly which Evelina must decline as it would not be proper for her to attend unchaperoned (plus, ew!). Mr Smith has let on that he is more refined than the trashy Branghtons but hillbillies tend to habitate with other hillbillies, and Smith reveals himself as just as unrefined as them by not understanding the impropriety in inviting Evelina.

In a letter dated the following day Evelina writes to the Reverend with some disturbing news. The Scottish lodger made a suicide attempt virtually before Evelina’s eyes and had she not been there, he would have probably succeeded. The character of Macartney is a bit mysterious (I personally picture him to look somewhat like John Keats) and these major events cement him in Burney’s tale. But we as readers haven’t the faintest idea what Burney has in store for us with regards to Mr. Macartney just yet.

Evelina is unfortunate enough to have two negative pleasure garden experiences. These London gardens aren’t very pleasurable for her (ba-dum dish)! In the first, she is mistaken for an actress, aka prostitute, by some ruffians, and once again has no choice but to be saved by Sir Clement. The free license these men take with Evelina was pretty eye-opening to how women, particularly those alone were treated by men. At Marylebone it is those “actresses” whom Evelina was previously mistaken for who now save Evelina from men with ill-intentions (no wonder women didn’t go anywhere by themselves). It seems like this occasion was the one time Sir Clement didn’t happen to be around; but I did just die for Evelina when Lord Orville appeared. The poor thing. I am sure she wants him back in her life just as much as I, but not like this, no not at all. However, the fact that he checked in on her the day after their reunion had my hopes up. I was also quite impressed that he was able to find her despite only knowing she was in Holborn. It brought to mind Pride and Prejudice 1995 when Mr. Darcy was scouring the streets of London for Lydia and Wickham. Now where’s that fainting sofa?

Evelina’s time with her dear grandmamma is almost up. That means no more London no more Branghtons. Madame Duval still thinks that she can manage to bring Evelina to Paris, but neither she nor her guardian are going to let that happen. Yet we are halfway through the book. What are your predictions for when Evelina is freed from this trashy crowd? And more importantly, Evelina just reunited with Lord Orville, what will become of the two’s relationship when Evelina leaves London?  And do we even care? I know I do but it seems many of our readers just aren't as smitten with Lord Orville as I.

In this grouping of chapters we are also introduced to many of the attractions of London of the time, many of which are gone now.  All the famous pleasure gardens Evelina manages to visit yet she also manages to have a bad experience there.  Has this book changed your view on  the highly romanticized London pleasure gardens?   (I'd still go!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The London Tourist

While visiting with the Branghtons in London, Evelina is introduced to a variety of sites that tourists of the time enjoyed seeing.  Some like the Tower of London are an attraction that is still a must-see for London tourists centuries years later.  Others have been lost to the ages.  So let's use the Braghntons' suggestions to guide us through the amusements that amused 18th century London.

One of the first suggestions was Don Saltero's coffee shop which was more a curiosity cabinet than a coffeeshop.

Sadler's Wells was founded in 1683 when a surveyor discovered a mineral spring there.  It became a fashionable resort for high society but declined in popularity.  It also served as a music hall before becoming a theater and today is a dance house of which there is no mention of any mineral springs on the site. For shame!

"The Monument" is another tourist attraction tourists flock to today.  Erected in 1677 by Christopher Wren, it marks where the Great Fire of London is said to have started.  Visitors could climb to the top to gain an impressive view of the city.  Visitors now can do the same, with the help of a fence around the platform, which was added in the 19th century due to multiple suicides.  Goodness, I wouldn't want to be on that platform without that fence, especially in panniers!

Of course there were the famous pleasure gardens which had both residents and tourists alike flocking to.  Evelina is fortune (or perhaps unfortunate) enough to visit the most famous ones.  Vauxhall, Ranelagh, Marylebone, and Kensington Gardens drew both the upper echelons of society and the prostitutes that fed off them.  Every garden had endless amusements, both in the gardens and in watching the people in attendance at them.

Remember when there were no new television shows during the summer and you had to wait until fall for all the premieres?  So was the case for theater-goers in London.  The theater season began in September and ended in June.  That is, if your theater wasn't "Foote's."  Samuel Foote's theater took advantage of the off season to stage plays for those who remained in London for the summer.

At King's Cross Road one could visit Bagnigge Wells, another fashionable spa which brought the country to London.  One could roam in a honeysuckle covered tea arbour, visit the gardens and fish ponds, skittle alley, bowling green, or bun house.  Just as with any fashionable pump room you could rub shoulders with the elite as well as attend concerts. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Frances Burney

The exceptional life of Frances Burney is a bit of Cinderella tale with the exception of Fanny's intelligence and talent saving her from a stepmother and life of drudgery rather than a handsome prince.

Fanny was born June 13, 1752 to Dr Charles Burney and his wife, Esther.  Dr Burney was an esteemed musical historian and Mrs Burney was the daughter of a French emigrant with the familiar name of DuBois.  The Burneys had six children, Fanny the third-born and subjugated to middle-child injustices.  Her sisters, Susanna and Esther were sent to be educated in Paris while at the age of eight, Fanny still didn't know the alphabet.  However, two years later Fanny had learned to read and couldn't stop writing stories which she secretly did on scraps of papers; for to be caught would surely earn her a punishment for not contributing to helping out around the house.  It was at this age that Fanny suffered the loss of her mother, a loss she would never fully heal from. 

Fanny continued her writing in secret, even beginning a draft of a novel, The History of Carolyn Evelyn, what would become a prequel to Evelina.  Although scholarly, Dr Burney only had one novel in his home, and frowned upon writing.  At the same time Fanny was plagued with guilt for her dirty habit of writing which was "unladylike" and only acceptable in society if a woman was in desperate financial need for money based on her writing.  On her fifteenth birthday she attempted to forever extinguish her dirty habit by burning all her writing in a bonfire, including the ill-fated The History of Carolyn Evelyn.   But we all know that didn't work.  Fanny already had the story of Evelina in her head, she just hadn't written in down yet.

The Burney brood soon grew larger.  The same year Fanny made her resolution not to write, her father remarried a woman with three children from her previous marriage and who wasn't kind to her new stepchildren.  The situation, however unfortunate, did serve to make the Burney children closer to one-another.  Fanny spent her teenage years acting as her father's secretary.  Her urge to write could no longer be suppressed and she began writing Evelina in secret.

Evelina was published in secret too.  To preserve her decency it was published anonymously.  Fanny's younger brother, Charles even dropped off the manuscript to publishers disguised as an older gentleman.  By 1778 the novel was on bookshelves in three volumes and many were singing the unknown twenty-five year old's praises.  One of those who sung the book's praises was Dr Burney who read it after stumbling upon the truth of the author and proudly proclaimed it, "...the best Novel I know except Fielding's..."*

When the author's true identity was revealed, she was quickly swept up in the creme de la creme of London.  She became very close with Hester Thrale and was introduced to other great minds of the time.  In 1782 she published Cecilia which also received praises.  Four years later Fanny found herself in employment to the queen (a huge fan of Evelina) as a Keeper of the Robes.  Fanny was hesitant to accept the position, worried that it would interfere with her time to write but felt obligated to accept.  After four years in the position Fanny decided it was time for her to move on and resigned, yet continued her friendship with the queen and princesses.

It was now 1791, the French Revolution was in full-swing and Fanny was nearly forty.  In Fanny's many circles she became acquainted with a number of French exiles but one in particular caught her attention. General Alexandre D'Arblay was an artillery officer who fought alongside Lafayette.  Fanny was smitten with him and in 1793 the two were married.  The following year the D'Arblays welcomed a son, Alexander.

In 1801 Alexandre was offered a position with Napoleon's government.  The family moved to Paris, expecting to live there for a year, but instead remained there for ten years.  While still in France Fanny underwent a mastectomy to remove a cancerous breast.  She documented the ordeal and it remains one of the most compelling accounts of a successful early mastectomy, although many who read it find themselves surprised she survived the ordeal at all!

Fanny continued to live and to write for many years after her surgery.  She outlived both her husband and son, whom she was buried with when she eventually died at the age of 87 in Bath, 1840.  The posthumous publishing of her journals and letters only served to earn her a greater appreciation, almost downplaying her novels.  Today she is considered one of the great writers of the 18th century who continues to delight many with her real and fictional accounts of English life in the Age of Reason.

*Probably Amelia since that was the only novel in the house!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Yay or Nay? Maria Theresa

Mrs. Turner's midnight blue gown met with a Yay although accessorizing it with the pink and white ruff choker did raise many eyebrows.  This week we will get out of the Colonies and evaluate the fashion decisions of a queen, nay, empress...if we dare.

Martin van Meytens paints Empress Maria Theresa (1744) in pink and lace. Yay or Nay?

[Ghent Town Hall]

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Coming Exhibitions: The First Actresses

I nearly jumped out of my seat in excitement when I read this announcement from the Nation Portrait Gallery today:

The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons
20 October 2011 - 8 January 2012

Wolfson Gallery
Tickets £11/£10/£9
The First Actresses will explore the vibrant and sometimes controversial relationship between art, gender and the theatre in eighteenth-century England. Combining much-loved masterpieces with newly-discovered works, the exhibition will look at the ways in which actresses used portraiture to enhance their reputations, deflect scandal and increase their popularity and professional status.

The exhibition features portraits by artists such as Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Hoppner and James Gillray, with highlights including Reynolds’s famous portrait of Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, Hogarth’s The Beggar’s Opera and Gainsborough’s portrait of Elizabeth Linley. Visitors will discover the fascinating stories of actresses including Nell Gwyn, Kitty Clive, Hester Booth, Lavinia Fenton, Sarah Siddons and Dorothy Jordan.

Starting with the emergence of the actress’s profession in the late seventeenth century, The First Actresses will show how women performers were key figures in celebrity culture. Fuelled by gossipy theatre and art reviews, satirical prints and the growing taste for biography, eighteenth-century society engaged in heated debate about the moral and sexual decorum of women on stage and revelled in the traditional association between actress and prostitute. The exhibition will also look at the resonances with modern celebrity culture and the enduring notion of the actress as fashion icon.

This sounds like an exhibition not to be missed since no museum has ever housed so many tarts at once!  I have never had the pleasure of seeing my favorite portrait of Perdita Robinson (by Hoppner) and it appears it will be one of the highlights of the collection.  Time to begin counting down the days until October.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Evelina, Letters 21- Volume 2, Letter 6 (21- 37)

This series of letters opens with Evelina’s account of her humiliating trip to the opera with the pushy Branghton family. To escape the public humiliation she allows Sir Clement to bring her home but instantly regrets her decision when Lord Orville sees them together. On the carriage ride back Sir Clement makes advances on Evelina causing her to almost jump out of the carriage. She is further embarrassed when she arrives safely to the Mirvins to find Lord Orville had arrived earlier out of concern for her.
The group returns to Howard Grove this time with Captain Mirvan and Madame Duval, who are making the atmosphere uncomfortable for everyone else, especially Evelina who feels responsibility for the presence of her grandmother. Madame Duval comes up with a scheme to sue Evelina's estranged father, Sir Belmont so that he will acknowledge Evelina as his daughter, a crass move that everyone except Madame Duval can see will have embarrassing effects. Lady Howard manages to stop Madame Duval by writing to the gentleman herself but Sir Belmont’s response returns, rejecting the proposal of meeting with Evelina.
In the meantime Evelina is very displeased when Sir Clement comes to visit, invited by Captain Mirvin in order to jointly make Madame Duval’s stay miserable. The two proceed with a complicated prank of faking a robbery and a kidnapping of her companion, M. DuBois.

Is it any surprise to you that Madame Duval and the Braghtons are related? Their behavior leading up to and at the opera was just insane. Had Mr. Braghton but read the Gossip Guide he would know not to leave during the first act. I honestly couldn’t blame Evelina for running away with Sir Clement, even I subsided my hate for him and silently encouraged her to get away from that awful company. But boy were we both deceived! We all know about riding in cars with boys and must remember those rules apply to carriages as well. As Susan Howard notes in my edition of Evelina, Willoughby had ordered the driver to drive east rather than to the West End where Queen-ann-street is. I was genuinely concerned for our Evelina…we all know what happened to Clarissa!

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Captain Mirvin and Sir Clement are their own little fraternity? That extravagant prank with Madame Duval confirmed it my mind. Which gets me thinking: there are movie adaptions of Shakespeare’s and Austen’s works set in modern times. Could Evelina be set in our times? Sir Clement is that privileged frat boy and Lord Orville is that cool guy you’re always flustered in front of.  But I digress.  The prank also leaves Evelina, once again, alone in a carriage with Sir Clement who continues his efforts to desperately seduce her. But the part of this haywire prank what really got me was Madame Duval's reaction afterward, “Her feet were soon disentangled; and then, though with great difficulty, I assisted her to rise. But what was my astonishment, when, the moment she was up, she hit me a violent slap on the face!” Bitch! I would have told her to have fun finding her way back home (although I would have been equally upset to lose a wig). That would have been the last straw for me.

Our weekly salon draws to a close with the news that Sir Belmont will not see Evelina which is more of a relief to her than anything. But what I am left wondering is just how much more Madame Duval can Evelina take? Why oh why does she still put up with her, and why doesn't the Reverend do more when he finds out about the new level of abuse Evelina has dealt with?  Last week (when Evelina's stories were not nearly as horrifying) many were surprised that the Reverand didn't quickly bring Evelina home.  Honestly, Mrs Mirvin is a saint for having Duval as a guest. Also, were you excited that Lord Orville came to see Evelina off and just as quickly disappointed by the utter lack of courtesy he had to endure?

My lingering question is, why does Sir Clement persist in attempting to seduce Evelina.  He has already made it clear that his interest in her isn't honorable; so why bother.  It seems like a hopeless cause in my mind.  Could he possibly and actually be in love with her?

...and Congratulations to Erin Blakemore whose name I drew for a copy of the book! Email me with your address and I'll mail it off to you!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Collection of Insults, Care of Captain Mirvan

Our favorite century was, by no means, well behaved.  Yet the language and culture of the time put a certain panache on describing things of a bawdy or crass nature.  Take for example this small except from Rambler's Magazine, 1823 about discovering two people in compromising positions: "What he did behind the lady, we do not pretend to know; but this we know, that he had not any business there with his friend's wife."  Dare I proclaim that curses and insults were more works of art than they are now? Perhaps that is simply due to their exotic nature.

Those who are reading or have read Fanny Burney's Evelina know that the character of Captain Mirvan is not short of insults for the high-strung Frenchwoman Madame Duval.  Being a member of the British Navy one might expect the Captain to have a mouth on him, although the saying back then was He/She "swears like Lady Lade" rather than a sailor.  I've been quite enjoying his insults and name-calling so I thought I would arrange a collection here for everyone's enjoyment and use.

Frog- French. A term derived from impoverished people's habit of eating frogs. Letter 14
Spark- a boyfriend or suitor. Letter 16
Beldame- When used in condensation, an old witch. Letter 16
Trumpery- "Showy but unsubstantial apparel; worthless finery." (OED) Letter 16
Draggle-tailed- "A woman whose skirts are wet, and draggled, or whose dress hangs about her untidily and dirty; a slut." (OED) Letter 19
Mrs. Turkey-Cock Letter 21
Canaille- The mob, commoners. Letter 23
Dish-clout- dish cloth. Vol 2 Letter 2
Dangler- "One who hangs or hovers about a woman,; a dallying follower." (OED) Vol 3, Letter 15
Bantling- "A young or small child, a brat." (OED) Vol 3, Letter 18
Old Tabby- Old lady. Vol 3, Letter 21

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Mother Knows Best, Birthday Edition

Tomorrow, my dearest Georgiana, you will have been born 28 years, and yesterday* you have been married 11.  The first of these events was attended with almost every advantageous circumstance that birth could give. and the latter set you up in so elevated a situation that you must always be liable to the censures or approbation of the world.  I bless God it is not yet too late, if you will exert yourself in earnest, of those who know you, and I must add that if you have any regard for your own peace of mind or mine, you will set about doing it immediately.

Lady Spencer
6 June 1785

*In Amanda Foreman's biography of Georgiana she states that the Duchess was married on her birthday, June 7. I am now very curious as to where this confusion came about and how it came about!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Evelina Character Guide

There are many characters we come across in Evelina, some of which disappear and reappear. Some may find it a bit helpful to have a bit of a guide in telling everyone apart.

Miss Evelina Anville is the daughter of Lady Caroline Belmont (nee Evelyn) and Sir John Belmont whom she has been estranged from. She has been raised by her guardian, Reverend Villars, who is like a father to her. She is pretty, with a good heart, but considered naïve due to living a safe and sheltered childhood.
Reverend Arthur Villars is Evelina’s father-figure. He is very protective of his adoptive daughter and has shielded her from many of the world’s evils. It is the Reverend Villars whom Evelina address most of her letters.
Lady Howard is the good friend of Reverend Villars and mother of Mrs. Mirvan. She lives at Howard Grove.
Mrs. Mirvan is like a mother to Evelina. She invites Evelina to stay with her in London and introduce her to society.
Miss Maria Mirvan is Evelina’s best friend.
Captain Mirvan is a retired captain in the navy who is the father of Evelina’s friend Maria. He is the comedic representation of John Bull, the average French-hating, humor-loving Englishman.
Sir Clement Willoughby is an egotistical baronet who represents the personality of many aristocrats of the time. He makes it his personal mission to seduce the naïve young country girl, Evelina who finds his personality repugnant.
Lord Orville is an earl who stands out to Evelina due his good morals and non-foppish or hedonistic ways. He is handsome and noble and Evelina finds herself flustering her words every time she is in his presence.
Mr. Lovel is the definition of a fop. He makes Evelina’s life miserable after she declines a dance invitation from him, not knowing it is social suicide.
Madame Duval is Evelina’s estranged maternal grandmother from France. She disapproves of Evelina’s raising and wants to take over her care.
M. Dubois is the male companion of Madam Duval.
The Branghtons are a low-bred family who Madame Duval introduces to Evelina as more estranged relations. They own a silversmith's shop in High Holborn. Despite Evelina’s naivety to society she is embarrassed by their lack of class.
Mr. Macartney is poor Scottish poet, who boards with the Branghtons. Evelina takes pity on him and befriends him.
Lord Merton is another rakish peer who remains a bit of a mystery until Evelina finally learns his name. Based on her past experiences with aristocrats of the same personality Evelina is untrusting of him.
Mrs. Selwyn A neighbor to Berry Hill, Mrs Selwyn is very opinionated but lady of society who means well
Mrs. Beaumont an elderly lady of the upper class and friend to Mrs. Selwyn

Berry Hill Home of Evelina and Rev Villars
Howard Grove Home of Lady Howard and occasionally the Mirvan family
Clifton Hill Home of Mrs. Beaumont

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Yay or Nay? Mary Turner Sargent

Dolce and Gabbana was right in taking a cue from Madame Adelaide who earned many Yays for her starry peach gown.  Of course many, like myself, wouldn't like the gown at all if not for the stars.  Perhaps if they were on this week's gown...

John Singleton Copley paints Mrs Sargent in a midnight blue robe a la francaise.  Yay or Nay?

[Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco]