Sunday, May 11, 2014

Old Trade Cards of London

Once again, The Gentle Author offers an extraordinary post on his Spitalfields Life blog. The Gentle Author posts every day (earning my admiration) and each post is filled with stories and artwork that inspire. Some of his posts have made me cry, while others have made me laugh; but always, they cause me to slow down and take time to dwell on the beauty of the images he shares.


His May 3 post is no exception. The topic is old trade cards of London. I’ve spent the last twenty minutes studying and admiring the art, language and lettering of the old trade cards he shared. You can view the full post here. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to The Gentle Author’s blog, Spitalfields Life so you don’t miss any of his wonderful posts. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The London Coffee House

I'd like to share with you one of my favorite blogs: Spitalfields Life. The author posts info about living in Spitalfields in the heart of London; but what makes this blog special is the way the author mixes the history of the area with modern times.

One of this week's posts is a good example of that past-and-present mix. It features a marvelous map of historic coffee houses by artist Adam Dant, which, combined with text and accompanying photos, provides a thorough history and comfortable tour of London coffee houses.
Map copyright © Adam Dant

Click on the map above to visit the site; and be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see some of Adam Dant's other maps. I particularly love the maps of Clerkenwall, as seen in Tudor, Georgian, Victorian, and modern times.

If you visit the Spitalfields Life home page, you'll see that the author posts a new entry every day. I read each one for their charm, the history they impart, and the extraordinary stories they tell. I've read every one and have high hopes of feeling just like a Spitalfields native before too much longer.

If you love London history and you're fascinated by the modern London lifestyle, you'll find something to enjoy at Spitalfields Life.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Regency Bonnets and Caps

January 17 is Wear a Hat Day. Hats are not much in vogue in our modern times, but in Regency England, a stylish bonnet was an essential part of any lady's ensemble when she stepped out of doors. Married women and ladies of a certain age (late twenties and older) wore caps indoors. Shopping for hats and caps and keeping up with trims and colors was de rigeur for ladies.

In Northanger Abbey, Isabella Thorpe told Catherine Morland, "I saw the prettiest hat you can imagine in a shop window in Milsom-Street just nowvery like yours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it."

Perhaps Miss Thorpe passed a shop that looked like the one represented in The Milliner's Shop by Alonzo Perez:
Alonzo Perez
In the first ten years of the 19th Century, the poke-bonnet gained popularity. In an 1801 letter, Jane Austen wrote that she had a new bonnet, trimmed with white ribbon:
"I find my straw bonnet looking very much like
other people's, and quite as smart."

Alfred Glendening

Artist Unknown

Leghorn hats were popular, featuring a large brim in front, and turned up behind in a soft roll in the French style, such as this bonnet:

Annie Henniker
Here are different Regency-era bonnets, as depicted by various artists:

Carl Thomsen
A. R. Kemplen
F. Sydney Muschamp

Carlton Alfred Smith

Charles Haigh-Wood
George Goodwin Kilburne
George Engleheart

Frederick Kaemmerer

Frederic Soulacroix
Daniel Hernandez Morillo
 In Emma, Mrs. Elton accepts Mr. Knightley's invitation to be part of the party that will pick strawberries at Donwell:
"It is to be a morning scheme, you know, Knightley; quite
a simple thing. I shall wear a large bonnet, and bring
one of my little baskets hanging on my arm. Here, —probably
this basket with pink ribbon. Nothing can be more simple, you see."

Edmund Blair Leighton

In her letters, Jane Austen wrote about re-trimming a cap:

I shall venture to retain the narrow silver
round it, put twice round without any bow,
and instead of the black military feather shall
put in the coquelicot one, as being smarter.

 This cap is trimmed with lace and black ribbon:

Edmund Blair Leighton
By 1810 the plain cottage bonnet became more elaborate. Hats became higher and were decorated with more than fabric and ribbon. Hats sported flowers, puffed gauze, feathers, and gathered or plaited fabric.

This hat bears the fashionable poppy-red color Isabella Thorpe called "coquelicot" in Northanger Abbey:
Edmund Blair Leighton

Daniel Hernandez Morillo
 In Mansfield Park, Miss Crawford explains to Edmund how easy it is to tell whether a woman is out in society based on her manners and her attire:

"Till now, I could not have supposed it possible to be
mistaken as to a girl's being out or not. A girl not out has
always the same sort of dress: a close bonnet, for instance."

Frederick Kaemmerer

George Sheridan Knowles

Sunday, January 12, 2014

London Calling

My latest find is a 1953 magazine featuring information on the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II:

I was minding my own business, browsing through one of my favorite used book stores, when I was drawn to a stack of old National Geographic magazines. None of the NGs were very old, so I can't account for the reason I started digging through them, but wedged into the middle of a stack was this treasure!

Dated May, 1953, the cover features an illustration of the gold state coach. Inside is the BBC broadcast schedule so people could use it to follow the procession and coronation ceremony. I love it! It's now a little bit of English ephemera residing on my coffee table.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving day spent with family and friends. May your feast be delicious!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's All Hallows' Eve

Halloween is here and I'm ready to go. I have three of those big, warehouse-sized bags of candy to distribute to trick-or-treaters. Naturally, I've removed all of the Almond Joys; I need them to keep up my strength while I hand out the rest of the candy to the kids who knock on my door.

Like most holidays, Halloween can be inspiring to a writer. A few years ago, I wrote a Halloween-themed short story about a Regency kitten with some supernatural powers . . . at least, that's what the heroine believed. It was a fun story to write, with a doubting lord, an over-imaginative heroine, and things that go bump in the night (literally!)

Originally included in a Zebra Regency anthology, the story is now available on Amazon, Nook, and other e-book outlets. Click on the book cover to read more or scroll down to read a preview.

I hope today's celebration fires your imagination to write, dream of romance, create a great costume, or do what you love to do best!

Here's the promised preview:

A Bewitching Minx

Sebastian Camerford, Lord Byefield looked into her eyes and knew he could not resist her. He had never been able to refuse her anything; not when she looked at him just so, with the light of anticipation in her eyes; not when she looked at him with that soft expression of pleading that had the power to melt his resolve as nothing else on earth could.

He should have scolded her. He should have explained to her in no uncertain terms that no female of his acquaintance was ever allowed to disrupt the solitude of his library. He should have told her how audacious and unladylike she was for daring to sit on his desktop, bringing her head level with his, looking him straight in the eye, as if she thought by doing so she could bend him to her will.

He should have done all those things, but he didn't. Instead, his stern, gray eyes met her blue eyes and he forced his brows together in a slight frown. "A kitten?" he repeated, discouragingly.

His gruff demeanor didn't fool her for a moment. She smiled slightly and returned his gaze with wide, unblinking eyes. "Yes, Uncle."

"And what, may I ask, makes you think I wish to spend my afternoon looking for a stray kitten?"

"Because it is the dearest little thing," she responded, with all the reasoning of a five-year-old. "I found it in your garden earlier and Mama said I might keep it, but when I tried to dress it properly for tea, it scampered away and I cannot find it anywhere!"

Since Sebastian was well acquainted with his niece's penchant for dressing in human attire any animal unfortunate enough to come within her orbit, it came as no surprise to him that one of the poor creatures had tried to escape. "The kitten sounds a very ill-mannered guest. Perhaps you should consider having your tea without it, Mary."

"No, Uncle, I cannot." There was the merest trace of a pout about her lips. "Truly, it is the prettiest little kitten I have ever seen, with white hair and blue eyes. I've never seen a kitten with blue eyes before, so I know it must be very special. Please help me find it. Please?"

Her voice held that pleading tone again; the same tone that, in one fell swoop, held the power to make him abandon all his plans for the afternoon and believe with all his heart that nothing was as important at that very moment as finding a kitten possessed of white hair and blue eyes.

Click here to read more with Amazon's "Look Inside" feature . . .