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.