Sunday, February 7, 2016

Advice for Writers of Romantic Fiction, 1790 - and 2016

Sunday, February 7, 2016
Isabella reporting,

Publishers, editors, and critics have always been ready with suggestions for writers - handy rules that, if followed, are sure to guarantee a story that readers will devour. The advice in the clipping, below right, comes from an 18thc newspaper, The World, appearing in the September 17, 1790 edition. Although nearly 250 years old, modern writers and readers of romantic fiction may find these rules surprisingly (or perhaps depressingly) current.

I've transcribed them below:

"It is absolutely necessary for female NAMES to be culled with delicacy, that they may be more interesting – HARRIET, ISABELLA, LEONORA, AUGUSTA, INDAMORA, FLORINDA, WILHEMINA, ALMERIA, SOPHONISBA, &C. And as for surnames, take the NEVILLES, the GRENVILLES, the BELVILLES, the SAVILLES, the HOWARDS, the GODOLPHINS, the MOWBRAYS, and the MONTGOMERIES; be particularly careful, that they are all Honourable, or Right Honourable, or Dutchesses, or Countesses, or Baronesses, or Baronetesses, by which means the dignity of the story is preserved; for who could with any decency be supposed to love HANNAH GRIMES,  or MARTHA DICKENS, or MARGARET SIMS! As for the MEN, they must all be Lords, Knights, Captains, Colonels, or Counts, and should generally keep phaetons and four, or elegant little gigs; they must have fought duels without end, and be fond of deep play; and if, from excess of sensibility, they have occasioned a FEW DIVORCES, it makes the work infinitely more interesting.

The more things change....

Many thanks to another of our friends of the blog, writer/historian Emily Brand, who spotted this item for us.

Above: Young Girl Writing a Love Letter, by Pietro Antonio Rotari, c1755, Norton Simon Art Foundation.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Breakfast Links: Week of February 1, 2016

Saturday, February 6, 2016
Breakfast Links are served - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images via Twitter.
• The history of resourceful 20thc clothing made from printed flour and feed sacks.
• Fascinating new site from the Newberry Library highlighting historical paleography (history of handwriting.)
• "Like swallowes", or what happens when a 17thc poem meets a recipe for face cream.
• An 1851 chemise for comfort.
• Drunkard, Merryboy, Younker: some popular names for 17thc dogs.
Image: Women from India, Syria, and Japan who completed their medical education in Philadelphia, 1885.
• Ten fabulous French chateaux for sale in case you win the lottery.
• Do you have an "open head"? Mrs. Corlyn's unique headache remedies can address that.
Image: Animation showing how Boston's Old State House - and its setting - has changed over the centuries.
• Elite dining in early 1900s Manhattan: frogs legs and potato chips.
• Eight classic novels reduced to their punctuation.
• Ancient Romans once filled the Colosseum with water and staged a mock sea battle.
• Victorian cat funerals. 
Image: The blue-and-white dishes in this 17thc Dutch doll house are Chinese export ware.
Transportation and love tokens.
Napoleon was a popular subject for 19thc chess sets.
• Eight words that reveal the sexism at the heart of the English language.
• Historical sheet music: dancing Downton-style.
• London's Duke of Monmouth street names.
• "Laura had a feeling": Fascinating interpretation of Little House on the Prairie.
Image: A tartan treat for celebrating Burns Night - Royal Stuart tartan kilt ensemble, 1822.
• The queen mother's rebel cousin.
• London's Sailortown: servicing the Royal Navy in the 18th-19th centuries.
• Rare painted cloth banner celebrating Thomas Jefferson's election over John Adams, 1800.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Video: Boston by Streetcar, c1903

Friday, February 5, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Some of our most popular Friday Videos have featured turn-of-the-20th-century cities captured by early outdoor cameramen, usually from a streetcar. Here is Paris, and here's New York (in a blizzard) - and now we have these street scenes of Boston, c1903.

For those familiar with the city, this short film includes views of North Station, South Station, Atlantic Avenue, Copley Square, and Huntingdon Avenue. It's also a chronicle of urban transportation: while most people are traveling by foot, there are plenty of horse-drawn vehicles as well as streetcars, plus the newer trolleys and elevated cars whose tunnels are seen under construction.  It's also a time without crosswalks or traffic lights, with pedestrians jaywalking with bravado. I love seeing how formally everyone is dressed, too, with almost every man and woman wearing a hat. For more about the film, see this article by the New England Historical Society.

This video was shared with me almost simultaneously by two of the blog's New England friends, Kimberly Alexander and Andrea Cawelti. Thank you both!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Hairdresser, 1827

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Loretta reports:

The Book of English Trades was a guide aimed mainly at a young audience, explaining what people did and what they were paid. It continued to appear, year after year, and you can find it online in many editions. The clippings here are from the 1827 edition.

You can read the full entry online beginning here.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Men in Kilts in Paris, 1815

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Isabella reporting,

Some things never change. While there can be no doubt as to the courage shown by Highlanders in battle over the centuries, the fascination with what they're wearing (or not) beneath their kilts appears to be at least two hundred years old, if this this print is any indication. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.)

In October, 1815, when this print was made, the Treaty of Paris that ended the Napoleonic Wars had yet to be signed, but Paris and much of France was already occupied by soldiers from the Coalition countries that had defeated Napoleon. Among these countries was Great Britain, who contributed soldiers from Ireland, Wales, and Scotland as well as England.

Apparently the Highlanders shown here were among those soldiers occupying Paris. Strolling together through a park, they've paused to buy fruit from a vendor. As they bend down to complete their purchase, the two fashionably dressed women behind them are making not-so-subtle excuses to bend over themselves - one to retrieve the child's toy, the other to adjust the laces on her shoe - and thereby gain a, ahem, better view. The print's title, Le Prétexte, (The Pretense) says it all, doesn't it?

A small observation: while it's difficult to identify the gender of children in this era since both small boys and girls were dressed in much the same garments, I'm guessing that the toddler in the print, right, is male since he's playing with a ball, and not a doll, and the ribbon sash is red, a masculine color for the time. If you look closely, you'll see that beneath the child's gown he is is wearing gathered pantalettes, intended to keep him decent while he plays. The pantalettes appear to be plaid, much like the tartan of the soldiers' kilts. Hmm....

Above: Le Prétexte  published by Aaron Martinet, Paris, October, 1815. The British Museum.

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