Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sniff, Sniff

No, I’m not crying…this is just an obscure way to tell you what last week’s Mystery Object was. But before we get into that, let me announce the winner from among the nine correct guesses… Congratulations to Tricia Tighe!

Tricia, please contact me through the e-mail form on my website (http://www.marissadoyle.com/contact.php) so we can arrange for you to receive your prize.

So, what was it?

Those of you who said, “a vinaigrette” were spot on, but I accepted “a container for smelling salts” as being close enough, since the function was the same. However, smelling salts were usually contained in a small bottle, rather than in a vinaigrette box. A snuff box lacks the grille and is generally larger (it had to be, to allow the user to reach their thumb and forefinger in to get a pinch). Patch boxes also lacked the grille and were larger, since they usually sat on one’s dressing table. Pills did exist—I have an advertising supplement from the February 1808 edition of the magazine La Belle Assemblee which lists “Hope’s Hectic Pills” (love the name!) which were purported to cure consumption, and “The Rev. Mr. Barclay’s Patent Anti-Bilious Pills”, as recommended by The Right Hon. Viscount Dillon and The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells—but a pill box would also not have a grille. Card cases and jewelry boxes would be much larger—remember, this measures a little longer than an inch. And ladies did not carry make-up with them much before the last decades of the century—few would admit to using it, as only actresses and ladies of dubious virtue used “paint”.

So what was a vinaigrette, and what was it for?

A vinaigrette was a box that held a small piece of sponge, soaked in vinegar in which various strong aromatics (herbs or other substances) had been dissolved. It’s not unheard of to run across vinaigrettes today that still have their original piece of sponge intact. A common component in both vinaigrettes and in smelling salts was hartshorn, which was what it sounds like—a distillate made from the rendered horns of certain deer, which was high in ammonia. If you’ve ever opened a bottle of ammonia and caught a whiff, you’ll know just how aromatic it is!

Vinaigrettes were used mainly to ward off faintness or headache, and if necessary could also be used to sniff to ward off bad smells (though I’m not sure if sniffing ammonia is all that much preferable!). If you read Georgette Heyer or other Regency period stories, you’ll usually bump into one being used by an overly dramatic dowager or two. But it does seem like 19th century ladies had a propensity to fainting. I have to wonder if some ladies affected it, as it made them look like creatures of heightened sensibility, fluttery, ethereal beings easily moved to excesses of emotion by anything shocking or sad or exciting or even just pretty…a tendency which, believe it or not, was admired in females. The wonderful picture above shows a lady supposedly overcome by the excitement of just having waltzed with this dashing fellow (I'm not kidding!) In later times I wonder too if tight corset lacing wasn’t responsible for making women more susceptible to fainting.

I hope you had fun with this!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Bathing Beauties

Summer is officially here, and, for many of us, that means time at the beach or around the municipal pool. Laying around in bathing suits and eying the opposite sex is as much part of the fun as actually cooling down in the water. Nineteenth century young folks flocked to water too, and for not-too-different reasons.

For one thing, bathing in salt water was supposed to be good for you. You’d pay a fellow with a specially designed cart covered in canvas to drive you out into the gentle surf. Inside you could change into your bathing costume, then dunk yourself in the water, safely hidden inside your little canvas tent.

If you look at some of the earliest costumes like these, you can see they aren’t much different from day dress. In fact, the caption on the one above reads “Evening promenade or sea bathing costume.” Later the bathing suits began to differentiate themselves from daily wear. For girls, they generally consisted of a short dress of cotton or flannel and flannel bloomers. Boys wore flannel one-piece units that looked a bit like long underwear. And forget any spandex. These babies sagged and bagged and dragged when they got wet. So there might have been some use to those private carts after all.

Of course, the main reason for seaside entertainment was to meet other young people. Many of the seaside towns hosted assemblies in the evenings, and the visiting families would throw balls or card parties or host picnics or teas. So if your Great-Aunt Ermintrude decided it absolutely necessary to treat her gout with a dip in the sea, why of course you’d accompany her for the chance to have a little fun too!

And speaking of fun, don’t forget to take a guess at Marissa’s mystery object in the post below. Correct guesses will be entered in a drawing for an autographed review copy of her upcoming release, Betraying Season, as well as a nifty tote bag that you can take with you to, um, the beach!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

It's Mystery Object Time Again!

Are you ready for a new Mystery Object? I love doing these.

Isn’t this latest one adorable? Not to mention tiny—its dimensions are a mere 1 ¼ inches by 7/8 inches by 5/16 inches, as you can see in the photo below.

The material is silver, and the workmanship is lovely, with elaborate engraved scrollwork on top, sides, and bottom. On the top is a cartouche where the original owner’s initials—MMH—are engraved.
As you can see in the photo above , the object is hinged, and opens to reveal more scrollwork, this time with pierced cut-outs. This piece is also hinged, but on the side, and also lifts up, as shown below. The interior of both the top and bottom are polished and undecorated, apart from the silversmith’s marks. Sorry about the color change--this really is a nice shiny silver as seen in the first photo, but I changed lighting in order to get the focus better.
So what is this cute little thing, commonly carried by 19th century ladies?

If you think you know, post your guess in the comments section. If you know you know, post your answer also…but please, don’t post links to pictures to prove that you know. That tends to bring the guessing to a screeching halt, which isn’t much fun for anyone. All correct guesses will be entered in a drawing to receive an autographed review copy of Betraying Season and, just for fun, a Leland Sister tote bag (perfect for summer beach/pool going!) featuring the yummy covers of both Bewitching Season and Betraying Season.

I’ll accept guesses through next Monday evening and post the answer—and the name of the winner—on Tuesday. Have fun!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dancing Queen's Waterloo

Yesterday marked the 194th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Over 22,000 Englishmen and their allies and 40,000 Frenchmen died in that epic battle outside Brussels, Belgium. But almost as famous is a ball that was given just a few days earlier in Brussels by the Duchess of Richmond.

Why is it famous? Well, for one thing, the very fact that it happened seems amazing to many of us today. Only 100 days before, the worst threat to English sovereignty and European peace, Napoleon Bonaparte, had been imprisoned on the island of Elba, and representatives from the countries who had beaten him were meeting in Vienna to carve up all the land he had conquered. What does he do but escape, rally the French, and start a march across Europe once more! The best in British military leadership rushed to meet him.

And their friends rushed to watch.

Yes, watch. British nobility and gentry were so certain of a quick, decisive win by their hero Wellington that they actually traveled to the battlefields to watch the action. By day, the British officers planned their campaigns, by night they joined their friends and campaigned for the right to dance with the prettiest girl at the ball.

On the night of June 15, the Duchess of Richmond held such a ball (shown in the painting) and invited only the very best of the families present. The guest list reads like the Who’s Who of the early nineteenth century, with royal princes, aristocracy, and military leadership in attendance. But the ball had barely begun when Wellington received news: Napoleon had moved faster than anyone expected and would likely arrive to meet them by morning!

You would think that such news would have put a swift end to the Duchess’ grand ball. But that’s another reason this ball is famous. Most people just kept partying! Some of the officers went off to prepare, but many danced the night away and went to meet Napoleon in their evening clothes instead of their uniforms. The Duchess’ daughter, Lady Georgiana, was 19 at the time, and had this to say about the event:
“I went with my eldest brother (Aide de Camp to the Prince of Orange) to his house, which stood in our garden, to help him to pack up, after which we returned to the ballroom, where we found some energetic and heartless young ladies still dancing . . . It was a dreadful evening, taking leave of friends and acquaintances, many never to be seen again. The Duke of Brunswick, as he took leave of me in the ante-room adjoining the ballroom, made me a civil speech as to the Brunswickers being sure to distinguish themselves after "the honor" done them by my having accompanied the Duke of Wellington to their review! I remember being quite provoked with poor Lord Hay, a dashing merry youth, full of military ardor, whom I knew very well, for his delight at the idea of going into action, and of all the honors he was to gain; and the first news we had on the 16th was that he and the Duke of Brunswick were killed.”

During the battles that followed, the British visitors stayed in Brussels, listening to shots fired in the distance, wondering who would be next trundled through town on litters either dead or wounded. Napoleon met his Waterloo on the 18th, but the Duchess met hers shortly thereafter, when the society newspapers of the time sneered at her efforts to be a good hostess and claimed that she had not done the ball well at all.

Well, there was a war going on, ya know? I’m just saying.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

No Slang Like Old Slang, Part 2

Since it’s nearly (or already) the end of the school year, I thought it was about time for another little quiz here on Nineteenteen. So sharpen your pencils (or your quill pens!) and get ready to tell me which of the following words, expressions, or exclamations were commonly used in the 19th century, and which are more modern (post 1900). Answers will be listed in the comments section. Cheaters who peek first will have their hands slapped with a ruler and be forced to copy the sentence "I will not cheat at quizzes on Nineteenteen" fifty times on the finest foolscap with peacock-blue ink.

Are you ready?

1. Mad as a wet hen (very angry): Cynthia was as mad as a wet hen when Augustus accidentally spilled his tea down her back.

2. Birthday suit (naked): Our youngest brother William was sent down from Cambridge for punting down the Cam at noon on Sunday wearing only his birthday suit.

3. Dimwit (foolish or stupid person): Gerald is not known for his perspicacity, but how could he have been such a dimwit as to bring Jane a posy of dandelions?

4. Mind your Ps and Qs (be careful or well-behaved): Grandmama exhorted Augustus to mind his Ps and Qs when the Duchess of Hitherfore came to lunch.

5. Oh, brother! (exclamation indicating exasperation): Oh, brother! Purple satin turbans are all the rage at Almack's this season.

6. Swept off one’s feet (be infatuated): Alice was quite swept off her feet by Sir Vincent, but we were all appalled by his bald spot and flannel waistcoat.

7. Hang out (to spend a lot of time somewhere): Henry is hanging out far too frequently at the Opera House; the reason why is a dancer named Agnes Nottle with legs up to her neck.

8. Munch (to eat or chew): Don’t wear a hat with feathers if you go driving with Alfred; one of his matched bays like to munch them.

9. On the go (in constant motion, busy): Louisa is so on the go for the first few weeks of the season that she’ll surely waltz her way into a decline.

10. In a tizzy (state of agitation): Don’t tell Eliza that Lord Arbuthnot came to speak to Papa today or she’ll be in a tizzy for the next week wondering if he'll propose.

And be sure to stop by next Tuesday, when I'll be posting another Mystery Object and giving someone a chance to win a signed ARC of Betraying Season!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Not Exactly Fast Food

Please give a warm Nineteen Teen welcome to Mandy Hubbard, author of the adorable Prada and Prejudice, which hit stores this week! Mandy offers us insight into some of the more interesting aspects of mealtime. Enjoy!

First of all, thanks so much to Regina and Marissa for hosting me! Research is never my favorite part of writing (unless it’s watching a movie like Pride and Prejudice and drooling over Colin Firth) so I love Nineteen Teen, because I can get a little research in at a time.

In Prada and Prejudice, Callie Montgomery is a modern girl who ends up in 1815. One of her biggest challenges is navigating meal times, because she’s never sure what it is on her plate! I myself am not a very adventurous person when it comes to food—I’d be out of place at a fine dining establishment, never mind 1815!

While writing, I saved a number of recipes that I thought might disgust Callie, so I thought I’d share one of the more, em, interesting ones. (Courtesy of: http://homepages.ihug.co.nz/~awoodley/recipes/order.html)

A Calves Head Hash
Your calves head being slit and cleansed half boiled, cold cut one side into thin slices, fry it in a pan of brown butter then toss pan on the stove with a pt of gravy, as much strong broth, a quarter of a pt of claret, as much white wine, a handful of savory balls, 2 or 3 shivered pallats, a pt of oysters, cocks combs, lambstones, and sweet breads boiled and blanched, sliced with mushroom truffles, Murrells, 2 or 3 anchovies, as many shallots, and faggot of sweet herbs tossed up, stewed together. Season it with savory spice, then scotch. Ye other side cross, cross flour baste, and broil it.

The Hash being thickened with brown butter, put it in the dish. Lay over and about it fried balls of the tongue sliced, larded with bacon, lemon peel, and beetroot, then fry in batter of eggs sliced sweetbreads, sippets, and oysters and lay in the head and place these on and about the dish and garnish it with sliced orange and lemon.

Can you imagine a girl who is used to McDonald’s and pizza sitting down and seeing a calf’s head staring back at her? EWWW.

Another interesting thing to note is that wealthy households cooked far more than they could ever eat—at least at the main table. It wasn’t uncommon to have ten items in each course! Callie had to learn to pace herself throughout the meal, picking at each course as she waited for the next one to arrive.

Lastly, I found it interesting that the kitchen and the dining room were never adjacent. Aristocrats did not want to smell the scents wafting in from the kitchen or hear the clanging of pots and plates. Servants had to race from the kitchen to the table to ensure it didn’t get cold before they served it!

I never envied the poor footmen trying to keep things warm and still get there on time! Thanks for joining us, Mandy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Introducing the Duke of Harksbury

Today we are joined by Miss Priscilla Tate, the most fashionable member of La Petite Four, who is interviewing a very special guest. Miss Tate, I shall leave things in your capable hands.

PT: Thank you. I am thrilled to be given this prestigious honor of interviewing Alexander Thornton-Hawke, Duke of Harksbury. Welcome to Nineteen Teen, Your Grace! I must say you are the most presentable gentleman we’ve had to visit. Lady Emily reminded me that you are the only gentleman who has visited, but that is beside the point. I have researched the aristocracy quite extensively, and I can safely say that no one has your unique set of credentials.

How exactly did you manage to be so handsome er so young and still be a duke?

ATH: I must thank you for your kindness, for not all are awed by my title. Miss Rebecca, an American visitor at Harksbury, was rather unmoved by my credentials. She seems to think inheriting a title is unimpressive. I have to confess I was flummoxed by her reaction.

PT: I should think so! Imagine not being impressed by your muscles, er title. And you have quite an estate too. Please tell us about Harksbury and what you love most it.

ATH: Harksbury is a grand estate of 12,000 acres. Much if it is rolling meadows, but there is also quite a bit of forested land ripe for hunting, a favorite pastime of mine.

The home itself is made of exquisite stonework, though much of the eastern wing is covered in ivy. It is nestled on a hill and centered around a large courtyard. My mother enjoys roses, and the courts are positively brimming with them. If you asked her, she would say her favorite part is the large ballroom, for she is constantly finding occasions to host a dance or ball. As for me, I prefer the grounds rather than the home, and I intend to ride every acre of the estate before I turn twenty.

PT: And where do you get those stunningly handsome jackets of yours made?

ATH: I employ a very talented tailor, of course. He is in high demand but worth his exorbitant prices.

PT: I am rather impressed with how seriously you take your duties. What do you think a duke’s most important duty might be?

ATH: I must take my duties seriously, for it is my responsibility to see that Harksbury prospers. It is vital that I make the correct investments and choices. I am the seventh Duke of Harksbury, and I must ensure that there will be a eighth and ninth.

PT: Your dear cousin, I believe, was recently threatened with an arranged marriage. Do you have an idea of the young lady you would see as your duchess? And is she by any chance blond?

ATH: Oh, I am far too busy to think of such matters, though my mother would like to disagree. Perhaps in another few years I’ll enter the marriage mart. For now, I indulge her whims by dancing with an eligible lady or two, but I do not intend to settle just yet.

PT: [Grumbling is heard in the background, something to the effect of the good ones being unwilling to commit.] Ahem, well, I understand you are considered an expert horseman. What is your favorite mount and why?

ATH: I have a new and spirited thoroughbred stallion named Ghost. He is a challenge, but faster than any other horse at Harksbury. I’ll be taking him on his first hunt soon.

PT: Now, I must know, when Rebecca returned to Harksbury for the first time in years, what did you think?

ATH: She seemed quite out of place! Her English accent had disappeared. I’ve not had the chance to meet many Americans, but I have to wonder if the rest are like her. She’s quite outspoken. Is that the way of Americans? I must confess that the two of us did not get along well in the beginning.

PT: No, no, no. What did you think of her shoes? I understand they were amazing!

ATH: She does have odd taste in shoes, does she not? I’d never seen anything like them.

PT: Neither had I! Ah, well, our time has gone all too quickly. Thank you so much for this interview. If you, dear reader, would like to know more about our delightful duke and the shoes that brought a certain young lady to his attention, please look for him in Mandy Hubbard’s Prada and Prejudice, out this week from Penguin Razorbill!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Getting an Education

The school year is drawing to a close in the states. Most students I know can’t wait for the freedom of summer vacation. But schooling was a very different animal in nineteenth century England, especially if you were a girl.

Marissa has talked about how things changed through the century when it comes to etiquette and knowing who was in your class and who wasn’t. At the beginning of the century, life was also more predictable. You were born in a location, you took up your father’s occupation or became a wife like your mother, you married someone else who lived nearby, your children took up your occupation, and you died in the same location, sometimes never even having seen the next village two miles away! The most education you needed was the ability to read the Bible (or have someone read it to you), and you could get that in Sunday School.

But the Industrial Revolution and the rise of a middle class changed all that. People who could read and write and speak intelligently had opportunities, so the middle class mamas and papas wanted to invest in education. Private schools, especially for young ladies, sprang up to accommodate them. The government realized that people needed to read and write to work in the new economy, so they sponsored schools too. Whole “teaching colleges” arose where people of all walks of life could apprentice to become teachers of the next generation.

So, if you were a young lady in a family of some means, your education might include

  • Instruction from your mother on how to behave as a young lady

  • A private school with other young ladies to learn the basics and fit you for an occupation as a shop keeper or seamstress

  • A governess trained in reading, writing, math, perhaps a foreign language, and definitely needlepoint

  • A select academy or finishing school to “finish” you for your debut in society.

Early in the century, most families opted for the first; the second wasn’t much available and you were more likely to be apprenticed into a trade, if you were lucky; and only the most wealthy took advantage of the last two. By the end of the century, many of the middle class were taking advantage of the select academy, and duke’s daughters were rubbing elbows with the daughters of wealthy merchants. And life was never quite the same again!

So, for all those who are graduating this year, here’s to the Class of 2009, especially Ted and Nathaniel! Your lives are changing too. May the future be yours! Carpe Diem!

Please come back next week, when we have a special set of guest posts by up-and-coming YA author, Mandy Hubbard, whose Prada and Prejudice hits stores June 12! Boy, does her heroine get an education when she’s transported back to the nineteenth century!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Flirting with Props, Part 4

I must say that I regret that parasols are no longer in fashion—a pity, as they have a long history stretching back to the ancient world (yes, Babylonian and Greek women—and men!—used parasols to fend off the fierce middle eastern sun.) The thing is, they’re just incredibly useful: you can carry around some shade with you on a hot summer day, create your own flattering lighting by carrying a parasol of just the right color, or make a decided fashion statement by coordinating your parasol with the rest of your ensemble. And when furled, a parasol makes a fine instrument of self-defense that doesn’t require a license to carry!

And of course, they’re such fun to flirt with—peeking coyly from underneath them, or swinging them insouciantly at one’s side…the possibilities are endless! Daniel Shafer certainly recognized this fact, and furnishes the following tips on how to flirt with parasols:

Like the Handkerchief, Glove, and Fan, the "Parasol" has its important part to play in flirtations, and we give the following rules regulating the same:

Carrying it elevated in left hand: Desiring acquaintance
Carrying it elevated in right hand: You are too willing
Carrying it closed in left hand: Meet on the first crossing
Carrying it closed in right hand by the side: Follow me
Carrying it over the right shoulder: You can speak to me
Carrying it over the left shoulder: You are too cruel
Closing up: I wish to speak to you
Dropping it: I love you
End of tips to lips: Do you love me?
Folding it up: Get rid of your company
Letting it rest on the right cheek: Yes
Letting it rest on the left cheek: No
Striking it on the hand: I am very displeased
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on left side: I am engaged
Swinging it to and fro by the handle on the right side: I am married
Tapping the chin gently: I am in love with another
Twirling it around: Be careful; we are watched
Using it as a fan: Introduce me to your company
With handle to lips: Kiss me

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on how to secretly communicate with fans, gloves, handkerchiefs, and parasols…it’s rather like a 19th century form of texting, isn’t it?