Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Advertising for a Wife in 1835

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
1835 Bridal Dress

Loretta reports:

Some time ago I posted a letter from 1810 whose author deplored at some length and with great vehemence the practice of advertising for a spouse .

Apparently, nobody paid attention because, 25 years later, they were still at it.

Advertisement from Court Journal, 12 December 1835

Bridal Dress, from May 1835 Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, courtesy Los Angeles Public Library, Casey Fashion Plates Collection

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

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Cast Across the Sea: 18th c. Children Born in India, Raised in Britain

Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Isabella reporting,

I've already heard from a couple of readers who have wondered why the sickly young heroine of my new book, A Sinful Deception, was sent all the way from India, where she was born, to relatives she'd never met in London. Considering the perils (shipwreck, pirates, war) of a voyage that took the better part of a year in the 18th c., wouldn't it have been safer for her to remain in India?

Perhaps. But India, too, was an unhealthy place for Europeans, and it was notoriously true that many failed to survive two monsoons, or two years. Yet for English parents of means living in India, the strongest reason for sending their children half a world away was an almost desperate desire that they be raised as English, attending English schools with English customs and friends.

This was a serious (and costly) step. Often the parents never saw their children again, or at least not for many years. But despite how deeply my heroine's father had embraced India, he still wished her to return to London and ultimately marry an English gentleman.

One of the saddest (to me, anyway) examples of a family torn asunder in this way is described in William Dalrymple's wonderful history, White Mughals: Love & Betrayal in Eighteenth-Century India. At the core of this book is the love story of an unlikely couple: James Achilles Kirkpatrick, the British Resident at the Court of the Nizam of Hyderabad, and the beautiful, high-born Khair un-Nissa, niece of the Nizam's prime minister. Love at first sight swiftly gave way to seduction, scandal, outrage, and finally marriage. (It really is an amazing story, and I can't recommend this book enough.) Yet as thoroughly immersed as Kirkpatrick became in his wife's Mughal way of life - he even converted to Islam for her sake – he still insisted that their two young children be sent to England to be raised by his family.

Their portrait, above, by George Chinnery, was painted in Calcutta, shortly before the children sailed in 1805. Shown in the elegant, rich clothing of the Mughal court, they are achingly young for such a journey: the boy, Sahib Allum, is around five, while his sister, Sahib Begum, is only three. In the care of attendants, they left behind a father who was dying of hepatitis, and a grief-stricken mother who could not understand why her children must be sent away. They never saw either parent again. Kirkpatrick died soon after; his broken-hearted wife died ten years later at 29.

Once in England, their grandfather swiftly had them baptized as Christians. They were put into English clothes, and addressed by their English names of William George and Katherine Aurora. They were told to speak only English, and forbidden to write to their mother or her extended family. Their old lives were done, and their new ones were the only ones that mattered.

I cannot imagine the anguish that all of them, parents and children, must have suffered from what to us today seems an unspeakably cruel decision. Yet somehow William and Kitty survived, as children do, and both grew to adulthood, although William died young at 29. Kitty lived until 1889, the wife of an English army captain and the mother of seven children.

When Kitty was nearly 40, she finally was able to locate her Indian grandmother and write to her. Decades after she'd sailed from Calcutta as a child, the pain of that separation was still fresh:

"When I dream of my mother, I am in such joy to have found her again that I awake, or else am pained in finding that she cannot understand the English I speak. I can well recollect her cries when we left her and I can now see the place where we sat when we parted, and her tearing her long hair – what worlds would I give to possess one lock of that beautiful and much loved hair! How dreadful to think that so many, many years have passed when it would have done my heart such good to think that you loved me, and when I longed to write to you and tell you these feelings that I was never able to express, a letter which I am sure would have been detained, and now how wonderful it is that after thirty-five years, that I am able for the first time to hear that you think of me, and love me."

How could I not be inspired by that?

Above: The Kirkpatrick Children, by George Chinnery, 1805. Collection, Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fashions for March 1836

Monday, March 2, 2015
Velvet walking dress
Loretta reports:

According to some fashion magazines, the ginormous sleeves of the 1830s start slimming down late in 1835.  And yet not everybody got the message or liked it, because we continue to see big sleeves into 1836, as illustrated here.  This dress caught my eye because it seems a fairly sane choice for changeable March weather in London or in Paris and because it must have looked and felt so luxurious.

What puzzles me in this picture is the clock.  It looks vaguely familiar.  Does anybody know what it is?

Dress description

Fashions & description from The Lady’s Magazine & Museum, March 1836

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

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of February 23, 2015

Saturday, February 28, 2015
Fresh for your morning reading - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web-sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you via Twitter.
Mary Robinson, 18th c. writer and actress, and the solace of sorrow.
• A tribute to the ferocious ladies of the 19th c. Illustrated Police News.
Fascinating story about Charlotte Bronte, Currer Bell, and a bird book.
Image: Cut steel fan, c. 1810, depicting Diana's Temple, with original leather and cardboard box.
• See the work that goes in to conserving a 1920s beaded flapper dress.
• Some of the world's most interesting independent bookstores.
• Quiz: which Impressionist artist are you?
• An 18th c. toy kitchen and its modern counterpart.
• Regency advice: how to prevent cold feet in bed.
Monopoly's inventor: a Progressive woman who didn't pass 'Go.'
• Juvenile genius: the school boys and girls who wrote for the 18th c. Lady's Magazine.
• Arthur Wellesley repackaged: the birth of "Wellington."
Video: A heritage walk with author William Dalrymple in Mehrauli, Delhi's hidden gem.
• An expression of Victorian prudery, an aid to thieves, or just an awkward fashion statement? The crinoline and its caricaturists.
Image: Light brown pelisse worn by Lady Byron (Arabella Millbanke) on her wedding day in 1815.
• The problem with historical fiction: fiction needs heroes. History doesn't.
• Seriously - how did the most beautiful library in America get demolished?
• From opera tiers and tiaras to tatters on the bread line: slice of life reporting from New York, 1904.
• In 1771, Henry Barnes took his slave Prince Demah to London for art lessons.
• Even great writers get panned: one-star reviews for ten classic books.
Image: Ticket for the dress ball at Versailles on the occasion of the marriage of the Dauphin, February 24, 1745.
• Rare photos from the Selma March take you into the thick of history.
• Cornelius Vanderbilt's private stables in 19th c. NYC resembled a Moorish temple.
Downton Abbey's wedding dress will brighten your day.
• A hoard of fan letters reveals that Agatha Christie's books inspired devotion from the darkest places.
Image: After Waterloo, the Gordon Highlanders marched through Paris, precipitating a fashion for tartan.
• Where New Yorkers met for coffee in the 1790s.
• Confessions of a comma queen: learning to love life in the house of style.
• The first shoemakers arrived in America in 1610 - but just don't call them cobblers.
• Sally Smith, the 18th c. "ghost" of Brumby Wood Hall.
• Unraveling the evidence on the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn, Queen of England.
• Great question: how was the Revolutionary War paid for?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Video: Blenheim Palace on a Frosty Morning

Friday, February 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

I love how new technology can be combined with centuries-old history to create dazzling results. Cameras mounted on high-flying drones are offering view of historical landmarks that were previously unimaginable (like our recent Friday video of the Palais Garnier in Paris.)

Today's short clip captures one of Britain's most famous county houses, Blenheim Palace, on a frosty January morning. Located in Oxfordshire, Blenheim is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and was built in the early 18th c. in gratitude by the country for the military accomplishments of the first duke, John Churchill. Those of you who have read my historical novel, Duchess, written as Susan Holloway Scott, will recall the trials of the poor architects attempting to please the demanding first duchess Sarah Churchill, as well as the political infighting that the house's costly twenty-year-long construction caused.

But that, like the Battle of Blenheim that gave its name to the house, is all long in the past.  What we have today is a magnificent palace of a house, and from the lawns and gardens glistening with frost to the impressive silhouettes of the roof, this is truly an impressive bird's eye view.

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