Friday, September 28, 2012

Name That Baby

Ah, babies. They can be so cute! But anyone who’s tried to take a baby to church services knows the dangers inherent. If something doesn’t come out of one end, it will likely come out of the other, and none too quietly either! But in the nineteenth century in England, babies were baptized generally in church services in the first or second Sunday after birth. Talk about chances for embarrassing the older brothers and sisters!

Most babies in nineteenth century England were baptized into the Anglican church, at either the morning or evening service. Parents dressed them in long gowns (regardless of whether they were a boy or a girl), and much care went into embroidering the little outfits. In fact, some booklets of the day advised young mothers-to-be to spend their nine months of “confinement” in embroidering and lace making, preparing for the big day. However, if the child was baptized as early as a few days after birth, sometimes the mother was still in bed recovering from labor and missed the ceremony entirely!

On the given Sunday, after the last lesson of the service, godparents and anyone brought along to hold the child (parents, presumably) would approach the baptismal font, which would have been filled with water. Boys had two godfathers and a godmother; girls had two godmothers and a godfather. The minister would ask the godparents to name the child. (I wonder what would have happened if they chose a name the parents didn’t like? “Mortimer. I had a hunting dog by that name.”)

The Book of Common Prayer advises that if the child was healthy, the minister should dip it in the water of the baptismal font “discreetly and warily.” I wonder who he was supposed to be wary of, the child or the mother who’d just spent nine months on that dress only to have it dunked in water? If the child was weak, the vicar would dribble water over its head instead. A particularly sickly child could be baptized at home. The minister then carefully noted the baptism in the parish register. That record was sometimes the only thing that showed a child belonged to a certain family.

That and the highly embroidered, slightly damp christening gown, which was sometimes passed down for generations.

And why am I thinking of babies, you might wonder? I present to you my grandson, Liam—15 days old in this picture. See? I told you babies can be cute!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema

Welcome to Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema!

Do you like to read? To think? To talk? Then you're a Young Bluestocking!

And because Young Bluestockings enjoy attending the cinema (wearing white gloves, of course), NineteenTeen's Young Bluestockings have decided to have an online "cinema club" as well as a book club.  You are invited!

All you need to do is watch the 2005 "Pride and Prejudice" (the one with Keira Knightley) sometime during the next month. (You can find it through Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and quite possibly your local library.) Then on the fourth Tuesday of October (October 23), you get to chat about what you liked (or didn't like) about it, with others here who also watched it!  

(Of course, if you've already seen it, you are welcome to join our chat without rewatching the the film, if you'd rather!)

Now, for those of you who don't know the story, and aren't sure if you'd find it interesting, here's the set-up:

Our heroine is Lizzy Bennet (played by Keira Knightley, of "Pirates of the Carribean" fame). Here she is, in brown.

She's smart. She's fun.

But there are some folks around her who think a young lady in Regency England should not be quite so smart, or laugh quite so much...unless she has a lot more money than Lizzy's family does.

So what is she to do?

Lizzy's older sister, Jane, is the pretty one.

Jane's also really sweet, and everyone loves her.

But it's possible that she's just a little too trusting....

Lizzy's youngest sister, Lydia, is an absolute brat...

....and their mother likes her best, and spoils her rotten.

You'd think it was Lydia's mission in life to humiliate Lizzy in front of people.

And by people, I mean....

cute guys!

Ahem.  I mean...handsome gentlemen.

(As you might guess, I failed my deportment lessons.  My apologies.)

And these handsome gentlemen are dressed ever so nicely....

and have courtly manners....

and they ride horses...

and dance well...

and did I mention that some of them are fabulously wealthy?

(Not that such things matter, of course. Ahem!)

And some of these utterly fabulous men are dashing soldiers....

in uniform...

with brooding stares...

and cheekbones to die for....


(I apologize for coughing repeatedly.  Dreadful manners, I know.  It's just that every now and then I get a bit...carried away.)

So be sure to stop by here on October 23 to discuss the movie!  Your hostesses, Regina Scott and Marissa Doyle, have asked me (Cara King) to lead the discussion, probably because I love historical movies almost as much as I do historical books.  (And, as I'm sure you've guessed from all the coughing and exclamation points, I get very enthusiastic about things!)

So please join us!  We will all have a delightful time...

All images, copyright Focus Features.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grand Tour, Part 10: The Music of Palermo

The mainland of Italy has faded behind us as our packet heads across the blue, blue waters toward Sicily. Even a half hour out we can see Mount Aetna rising from the sea, steam obscuring its summit. Who knows, we might even witness an eruption while we’re visiting!

However, we don’t need a volcano to be hot. Even this late in the season the sun beats down unmercifully. We are cautioned to keep a good sturdy bonnet on our heads anytime we are out of doors. Yet how can we be concerned in such a charming place? As we near the island, we can see the city, cupped by lofty and barren hills with Mount Pellegrino standing on its headland. Palm trees and weeping cedar overhang the shore. And flowers are everywhere.

The harbor is crowded as we enter, yet all we can hear is music. A boat full of musicians has come to greet us, playing us right up to the quay. And close to hand is the best hotel in Palermo, the Prince of Wales, run by Mr. and Mrs. Page. She speaks faultless English even after years in this exotic locale.

We have only one night in Palermo, alas, so we must make every moment count. Mrs. Page advises a trip to the Marina, an amphitheatre with marble seats where the nobles of Palermo gather to listen to music. On the way we pass along the Toledo, the main street on Palermo, where cloistered beauties watch from overhanging balconies. A mustachioed gentleman approaches, one of the famed Storytellers, offering to beguile us with tales of Arabia. For a silver coin, he tells us about the giant skeletons found nearby. Surely they are the Cyclops!

Down in the Marina we are given a further taste of Arabia. We listen to the music, harp and flute, in lilting songs so foreign to the precise music we were taught at home. Then it’s up the stairs into the public gardens for a promenade. Oh, I do believe those gentlemen are staring. Quick, put up your parasol!

Another Storyteller draws nearer. Perhaps the adventuresome young ladies might like a tour of the catacombs? Usually it is forbidden for women, but for the right price . . . . A few of our number, who shall be nameless, decide to throw caution to the winds and accompany him deep under the cathedral, where more than the chill air raises gooseflesh. And there seems to be music here as well. Is that the wind moving past the boxes and statues or the voices of those long gone? Hand me my shawl, will you?

Thankfully, we all return in time for a dinner replete with delicacies from the sea. How sad we only have night here! Normally we would tarry among the mountains of Sicily, but the nights are getting longer, and soon it will be difficult to reach home. So, tomorrow it’s overland by litter to Catania, and then on to Athens!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand…Wikipedia Entries?

Long-time readers of Nineteenteen know that one of my hobbies is collecting early 19th century fashion plates, which I feature in our Fashion Forecast posts. I recently acquired a new plate from Ackermann’s Repository, which while delightful in itself, has a lot more of interest in it apart from the clothes.

Here it is: a Promenade Dress from the September 1809 edition of Ackermann's Repository:
The dress appears to be of a lightweight fabric--muslin, perhaps, with soutache trim on the bodice and at the hem and a high neck finished with lace insets and a dagged ruffle; the hat is a close bonnet of straw, decorated with blue and white ostrich tips and tying under the chin; accessories include a lovely dark blue shawl with a red pattern picked out at the ends, a dark blue sunshade with a deep fringe, York tan gloves, and terribly impractical (at least for beach-strolling) yellow kid slippers. The hem appears to be a little high, or maybe she's holding it up slightly--it's difficult to tell. A perfectly charming dress--and I love the fringed parasol!

But look a little more closely. Our young lady stands on some oddly-drawn rocks while she gazes out at the scene below her. To her right, we see this:There's a man, not elegantly dressed: it looks like he's wearing a belted smock--standard laborer's wear--with leggings, boots (or perhaps high stocking and sabots), and perhaps a stocking cap on his head, carrying what looks like a fishing net of some description on his shoulder. Beyond him we see a pair on horseback: evidently, riding on beaches at low tide was considered just as much fun in 1809 as it is now. And beyond them is a two-masted ship--a coastal merchant ship, perhaps?

Even more interesting is what's going on beside our model's left shin: First are what appears to be a fashionable couple, strolling on the sand: he wears a coat with rather brief tails, and she's wearing something that looks remarkably like this outfit, don't you think?--another 1809 offering from Ackermann's: Beyond them is another woman (mom, or a nanny, perhaps), pulling what appears to be a small wheeled cart that looks remarkably like those you see today attached to bicycles pedaled by cycling enthusiast moms...and judging by her posture, it can't be too easy to tug Junior down the sand!

Beyond her is another elegantly dressed woman--probably mom this time--with more children in tow...but it can't have been easy to juggle her sunshade and two children who both seem set on galloping down the beach themselves.

We can't, of course, know that this is an absolutely accurate picture of an afternoon at a fashionable beachside resort town in 1809...but one does get the feeling that the artist who drew this had seen such a scene sometime...and now, over two hundred years later, is giving us a peek at that same scene. Horseback riding on the beach...canopied pull-carts for infants...children aching to run down the sand as children do today--some things don't change all that much, do they?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nineteenteen’s Fifth Birthday Ball: A Nice Coze and One Last Dance

Goodness, but I think I’ve worn a hole in my slipper! I haven’t danced this much in ages (okay, at least since the Harlequin party in July). Supper was most congenial, and I didn’t even spill syllabub on my gown (my gowns seem to have as much an affinity for syllabub as I do!). The musicians are taking a well deserved break, so we have an opportunity to chat before the final set begins.

I must tell you some lovely things happening soon on Nineteenteen. The delightful Cara King, whom many of you know from her witty comments on our blog, has agreed to join us for a new adventure, the Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema. Oh, the cinema? It’s like the theatre only the players are on little moving pictures. Terribly forward-thinking, but then we do tend to live dangerously here at Nineteenteen. What you may not know is that Lady Cara is quite educated in the theatre arts and has been known to tread the boards herself. Shocking, I know. Marissa and I are quite looking forward to her first post later this month, on the 25th. I’m sure she’ll acquaint us with the idea further then.

Marissa is also working on a few new authors to introduce to you as well as more on dits about the royal household. And I will be finishing up our Grand Tour before moving on to some rather dashing young scientists you must meet.

But I should not be doing all the talking! We have noticed that you’ve been quiet lately. We hope that’s simply because you are so delighted with our brilliant ramblings. We do like to hear from you. We recently removed those pesky conventions that hindered commenting. So, if you have suggestions on things you’d like to see us discuss in the coming year, please share.

Ah, here come the musicians. I do believe that’s the Sir Roger De Coverly I hear. That is the traditional final dance at many balls. Join me for one last dance, and then good night, my dears, good night!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nineteenteen's Fifth Birthday Ball: Wear out your Dancing Slippers!

Have we found our partners? The musicians (did you know Regina hired an orchestra that plays regularly at Carlton House? Shocking expense, but oh so worth it!) are ready to open with a delightful cotillion waltz that offers multiple opportunities for some genteel flirtation...and aren't all the dancers most elegantly attired?:

Now, perhaps a sprightly country dance?

Or another cotillion?

And do check out this last set of dances--held in the Music Room at the Prince Regent's Pavilion in Brighton!

But after a few hours of dancing, it's time to go in for supper. A dance supper is meant to refresh and sustain after all that dancing and impress the guests...oh yes, and be easily served and eaten in a crowded, busy setting. Rather analogous to what we call heavy hors d'oeuvres at an evening event--so, think small cakes, both savory and sweet, thinly sliced meats, individual servings of ices or syllabub like our young lady at right is enjoying, and beverages, from champagne and punches to lemonade. I'm not a big sweets eater, so we have an assortment of cold sliced ham and beef, lobster patties, savory cheese biscuits, jellied sliced chicken, fruit trays, and both whipped syllabub and cherry and pineapple ices. And of course, champagne! This is a birthday ball, after all!

There! Are we ready for more dancing?


Having too much fun? For your further viewing pleasure, I highly recommend a visit here: where there are videos of period dances as well as several demo clips of several figures used in Regency period dancing--an excellent primer! And for general Regency-era listening try this channel on Pandora--the Regency Era Reading Channel!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Fifth Birthday Ball: May I Introduce the Gentlemen?

Welcome, welcome! Oh, but you look delightful in your beautiful gowns. Marissa and I are so glad you could join us for our ball celebrating our fifth birthday here at Nineteenteen. We’re honored by your company today, and every time we blog. Please feel free to introduce yourself, say hello, comment, and generally have fun.

We’ve been preparing for our ball for weeks, cleaning house, ordering food and extra staff to see to your every need. We even brought in a dance master so we could practice.

Now our guests are here, friends and family alike. Do be kind to Uncle and Aunt Troglington. They are terribly old fashioned, but such dears. How thoughtful of them to warm up the dance floor for us as we promenade about, greeting old friends, making new ones.

I am quite pleased to be able to introduce to you an excellent selection of dancing partners this evening. Take the Earl of Winterhoven—mature, bruising rider, avid gamester. But there’s something wistful about his face, as if he were looking for just the right lady to make his life complete.

And then there’s our cousin Dashiell, Dash for short. Fresh from Oxford, ready to start his career as a barrister, studious, serious, never met a book he didn’t like. I do think a waltz would prove the mettle of the man.

But if you like more adventuresome types, I did convince Marissa to invite Geoffrey Lewellen. Yes, I know, shocking that we allow such a renowned rake into our company. He looks so young and innocent! Personally, I think all he needs is a lady of uncommon sense and uncompromising intelligence to set him on the path to redemption.

Perhaps you like the more artistic type. Maximus Decampter paints the most glorious sunsets. Can’t you just see the sensitivity pouring from his eyes? He’ll lay his heart at your feet given the least provocation. Mind where you step!

But for me, there’s nothing like a strapping military man, broad shoulders, commanding attitude. Major Lord Michaelson is already taken for the first dance, but I will share. After all, it wouldn’t do to dance more than twice with anyone gentleman. And we have so many to choose from!

So, who’s your favorite hero? Find a partner quickly! I hear the musicians tuning up!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Celebrating Nineteenteen’s Fifth Birthday: Let’s Have a Ball!

It’s hard for Regina and me to believe that we’re celebrating Nineteenteen’s fifth birthday this week. That’s over 500 posts, averaging between 5500 and 7500 pageviews per month, on hundreds of topics (I tried to count our post tags, and was over a hundred by the time I hit the Bs). So you know what? We're in a party mood…and what better way for us to party than with a birthday ball?

First things first—we must decide what we’re going to wear! I've combed through my fashion print collection to find a selection of the prettiest dresses.

Feeling early 19th century? There's this slinky number from 1809:
Or this one from 1810:There's this very girly dress from 1816: Or this very demure one from 1817: From the next decade, there's this pretty number from 1823: And this one from 1825: In the 1830s, we get into some extreme ballgowns, like this (or perhaps it's just the hair that's extreme): But also some charmingly frou-frou ones, like these (the one on the left is for a costume ball): Or this:
We'll need dancing slipper, often made with ribbons to lace about the ankles, rather like today's ballet slippers: And a fan, to cool down after a lively set (and, of course, flirt with!):
Gloves are a must--perhaps with ruffles at the edge: As is a quizzing glass, to check out what everone else is wearing and speculate on which mantua-maker created it: And if we're going in an 1830s dress, a dance card is definitely in order now that most dances are done in, of course, the waltz: There! Are we ready to go? Then let the ball begin!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Objects Deserving Notice, September, Including This Very Month!

[Forgive the lack of pictures.  Blogger is refusing to accept any uploads from me today.  I will continue to try to track down the problem, but in the meantime, I didn't want you to wait any longer for today's post.  If I can figure out what's wrong, I'll add the pictures later and update the post.]

Normally, I would wax poetic (well, as poetic as I get!) about the various spectacles, amusements, and objects deserving notice of interest to young ladies and gentlemen in September in England and London in particular.  September is a lovely month in England, weather still good enough for rowing matches on the Thames, speeches and posturing as a new Lord-Mayor of London is elected.  But excitement truly begins growing mid-month when Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres open.  They start out at three performances a week in the evenings, then go to four nights a week, then five, until they play every night.  Even young ladies and gentlemen attended, and it was a bet whether the tearful dramatic performances of such luminaries as Sarah Siddons were more popular than the comedic stylings of the clowns.  And for a small fee, during the day, you could go behind the scenes for a tour.

Today, however, I am all atwitter for two reasons.  First, perhaps by the time you read this, I will be a grandmother!  Shocking, I know.  I’m not entirely sure how that happened.  But I am delighted and excited and clinging to that new-fangled contraption called the cell phone as I await word of the birth.  It’s making it deucedly hard to type!

Second, it is my pleasure on behalf of both Marissa and me to invite you to our birthday ball!  The chosing of ball gowns will commence on Tuesday, September 11, followed by dances, dalliances, and delights through Friday, September 14.

Please join us next week for fun and frolic as we celebrate another year of Nineteenteen!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Victoria’s Grandchildren, Part 1: Kaiser Wilhelm II

Queen Victoria’s most famous (or perhaps infamous) grandchild was probably her first one, son of eldest daughter Vicky and her husband Fritz (Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia). I am speaking, of course, of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, who led his country into the maelstrom of World War I, and lost his throne as a result.

Friedrich Wilhelm Viktor Albert was born on January 27, 1859, in Berlin. It was a long and difficult labor for his 18-year-old mother; a clumsy delivery injured the baby’s left arm, which would be weak and withered his entire life. Some historians conjecture that his difficult birth (he was not breathing and had to be rubbed and slapped into drawing breath) and physical imperfection had a profound effect on the boy; from an early age it was noted that he was clever but hyperactive, aggressive and emotionally unstable.

Willy’s parents loved him dearly (that's him with his father on a visit to Balmoral in 1863), but few of the decisions around the boy’s upbringing were left to Vicky and Fritz. As third in line to the throne of Prussia (and eventually, to the imperial throne of Germany), Willy’s care and education were dictated by his grandfather, the arch-conservative Wilhelm, and indirectly by his Grandfather’s chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, who did not want the child influenced by Fritz’s and especially Vicky’s well-known liberalism. Nor was Vicky necessarily the best parent of a difficult child: herself the child of hypercritical parents, Vicky in turn was a hypercritical mother. Trapped between her and the sycophantic courtiers who surrounded him, there is little wonder that Willy had a deeply confused relationship with her that lasted until her death. He respected his father’s sterling record as a soldier, but it was his reactionary grandfather he idolized, and his grandfather’s reactionary view of the world he adopted…though all his life he was fascinated by his English grandmother, Queen Victoria, and by England’s global domination (which he felt should have belonged to Germany).

The Prussian royal family was a strongly military one, and Willy was no exception. Though he spent a few years dabbling at Bonn University (where most of his time was spent at the Borussa, the university’s most exclusive drinking and dueling club), Willy’s main love was the army, in which he was enrolled at age 18; it seems, however, that he was more concerned with the niceties of uniforms and decorations than of actual military science. An Englishwoman who had married into a prominent German family described him as “a high spirited, sensitive boy who had a ready brain and a quick but not profound intelligence…He always thought he knew everything and no one dared to tell him he was sometimes wrong. He hated to be told the truth and seldom, perhaps, never, forgave those who insisted on telling him.”

At the age of 22 he married a distant cousin, Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sondersburg-Glucksburg, a rather lackluster young woman who worshipped Willy and obeyed him unquestioningly. They had seven children together—six sons and a daughter.

In 1888, his grandfather Wilhelm I died, to be followed only 99 days later by his father Fritz, who died of throat cancer...and at age 29, Willy became Emperor Wilhelm II. Though he had long been a disciple of his grandfather’s chancellor, Bismarck, a few short years later he dismissed Bismarck to rule on his own, with weak chancellors to serve as yesmen.

Willy’s obsession with England continued; he longed to have a navy and colonial possessions to rival England’s and spent the next decades trying to building both up, to England’s dismay. He also became increasingly paranoid, sure that England, in the form of his uncle, Edward VII, was out to grind him and Germany into the dust. It was this paranoia, combined with the militarism of the Prussian ruling class, that would lead down the road to the first world war.

This is, necessarily, a very brief overview of a complex person and complicated times. For a deeper and fascinating (and very readable!) look at Willy’s life and how it led to the war, I highly recommend Miranda Carter’s George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. Happy reading!