Tag Archives: 19th century

Peach and Persimmon

Craving fresh peaches this time of year is dangerous.  Fortunately, persimmons are available through the rest of February, but these peaches and persimmons (including one dapper duke with cheetah cuffs) are tasty all year long.

Baroness de Neubourg-Cromiere – Alexander Roslin  (1756)

 Portrait of Grand Duchess Maria Fiodorovna – Alexander Roslin  (1777)

Princess Anna Alexandrovna Galitzin – Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun  (1797)

Johann Joachim Winckelmann – Anton von Maron (1768)

 Varvara Ladomirsky – Elizabeth Vigée Le Brun

 Madame Bouret as Diana – Jean Marc Nattier (1745)

 Victor de Rochechouart, Duc de Mortemart – Jean-Marc Nattier (1756)

Portrait of a Woman, possibly Madame Claude Lambert de Thorigny – Nicolas de Largillierre (1696)

 Grand Prince Pavel Petrovich – Virgilius Erichsen

 Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante – George Romney (1784)

Lady Caro Crops Her Hair

The worst I can say about Lady Caroline Lamb is that she suffered from erotomania.  This is the medical euphemism for saying she was sexually, intellectually, and psychically besotted with Lord Byron to a degree that made him squirm in his trousers.

Lady Caroline Lamb – Thomas Phillips

Their short affair lasted from March to August of 1812 and made an indelible impression on his poetry.  A number are direct rejoinders to Caro’s immoderate behavior.  (*Sigh* All the years I spent at university learning about Romantic poets and never once encountered Byron’s “Remember Thee”.  The poem was a stab at his ex-lover when, in a fit of desperation, she descended upon his household and scribbled in the flyleaf of one of his books “Remember thee!”)

 Lord Byron – Thomas Phillips

For the man she had initially spurned as “mad, bad, and dangerous to know,” Caro had it bad.  She is credited with being the first celebrity stalker, running her sprightly self around London trying to enflame Byron by Any Means Necessary.  She even impersonated Byron in writing, requesting his favorite miniature portrait of himself from his publishers.

Mimicry was nothing new for Caro.  As Lady Morgan recounts in her memoirs, Caro’s childhood at the Duchess of Devonshire’s household:

Caro’s unconventional education was her solace amid the madness of the aristocracy.  Her perspective turned her into a novelist and poet, and to Byron’s annoyance, a damn good copyist.  He criticized her for modeling the great originals in her work, lamenting over her ability to capture voice—especially his own.

Although history relegates her to the archives of the sexually diseased, she was witty and singular.  Her work and legacy deserve a closer look.  Dickens called her “One of the most interesting stories of fashionable life . . . [a] really clever woman—a heroine in a way. . .”  Byron recognized her eccentricity saying, “I do not at all know how to deal with her, because she is unlike everyone else.” (BLJ 2:222)

Lady Caroline Lamb – Sir Thomas Lawrence (1805)

Caro’s reputation, through much her own fault, was defamed by her peers.  In a letter of November 1824 written to Captain Thomas Medwin, Byron’s biographer and close friend, she imparts her version of a salacious tale following their breakup:

“. . . unhappily, we continued occasionally to meet. Lord Byron liked others, I only him–The scene at Lady Heathcote’s is nearly true–he had made me swear I was never to Waltz. Lady Heathcote said, Come, Lady Caroline, you must begin, & I bitterly answered–oh yes! I am in a merry humour. I did so–but whispered to Lord Byron ‘I conclude I may waltz _now_’ and he answered sarcastically, ‘with every body in turn–you always did it better than any one.  I shall have a pleasure in seeing you.”–I did so you may judge with what feelings.  After this, feeling ill, I went into a small inner room where supper was prepared; Lord Byron & Lady Rancliffe entered after; seeing me, he said, ‘I have been admiring your dexterity.’ I clasped a knife, not intending anything. ‘Do, my dear,’ he said. ‘But if you mean to act a Roman’s part, mind which way you strike with your knife–be it at your own heart, not mine–you have struck there already.’ ‘Byron,’ I said, and ran away with the knife. I never stabbed myself. It is false.”

Take the tale out of context and Caro does seem crazy, but if we are to trust her word, Byron taunted her nearly as much as she harassed him.  They were that broken couple, terrible together, terrible apart.

It didn’t help that Caro refused to shrug off her individuality.  Her inability to comport like other ladies made the ton jittery and even estranged her friends.  She possessed an artful way of living but was artless, by her own account “not a woman of the world.”

Physical and emotional hardships persisted throughout her life.  At age 19, she married William Lamb for love.  By 26, she’d lost a daughter and tried to raise her mentally handicapped son.  She’d turned from her former piety, aped the ton’s moral ambiguities, and taken Byron as a lover.  She was a woman like no other, cropping her hair when hair, no matter how tightly wound upon the head during the day, was long and heavy against the neck at night.  As she said about herself once:

“…everybody wishes to run down and suppress the vital spark of genius I have, and in truth, it is but small (about what one sees a maid gets by excessive beating on a tinder-box). I am not vain, believe me, nor selfish, nor in love with my authorship; but I am independent, as far as a mite and bit of dust can be.” *

Further Information:

The Magnificient Cheek of Harriette Wilson

Harriette Wilson liked to insult her suitors.  Early on in her career she discovered the fastest way to get a man on his knees was to show him how little he could succeed the first go around.  Courtesans, of course, were famous for this.

For a certain caliber of female, hardships birth wit, and to the gentleman trapped in a stratum of dull, mannered ladies, wit was an aphrodisiac.  So, it seems, was cheek.

Harriette’s method was ridiculously simple.  She laid siege to powerful men by writing queries like the one she “half in humour” dashed off to the Prince of Wales: “I am told that I am very beautiful, so perhaps you would like to see me. . .”  When his  reply was returned to her in the affirmative, she further wrote,

This sauciness inspired the ardor of many influential men during her reign, including the Duke of Wellington, the Marquess of Worcester, the Duke of Argyll, and Lord Melbourne’s son, the Honorable Frederick Lamb.  One can scarcely leave out her first lover, the Earl of Craven.

At the age of 15, Craven introduced her to the pursuits of pleasure, but she was no more enamored of him than of his cocoa trees from the West Indies.  By her own account, he would amuse her by drawing pictures of his “fellows” along with the dreaded trees, a practice Harriette called a “dead bore.”  It didn’t help that she despaired of his cotton night cap.  “Surely,”  [she] would say, “all men do not wear those shocking nightcaps; else all women’s illusions had been destroyed on the first night of their marriage.”

Harriette Wilson’s dismal opinion of marriage was borne from early experience: “. . .my dear mother’s marriage had proved to me so forcibly the miseries of two people of contrary opinions and character torturing each other to the end of their natural lives, that, before I was ten years old, I decided in my own mind to live free as air from any restraint but that of my own conscience.”

Although Harriette forbore blaming her parent’s marriage, and indeed stressed that her dear mother did not influence her choice in profession, an unhappy home life seemed to affect the family at large.  Among her sisters, three of them turned Cyprian—Amy, Sophia, and Fanny.

The closest in age, Harriette and Amy spent their careers competing for affections with the latter sister stealing lovers from the former.  Harriette blamed Amy for instigating the strain between them, once stating, “Amy’s virtue was something like the nine lives of a cat.”  Amy later bore a son by the Duke of Argyll, Harriette’s third lover.

Fanny and Sophia are, by degrees, less interesting.  Fanny was described by a mutual acquaintance as “. . .the sweetest creature on earth.”  Harriette had nothing but affection for her, saying she was “. . . the most popular woman I ever met with.  The most ill-natured and spiteful of her sex could never find it in their hearts to abuse one who, in their absence, warmly fought all their battles . . .”  Settled for seven years after the death of her lover and the father of her three children, Fanny died young after a three week illness.

The youngest sister, Sophia, endowed the family with honor by marrying her protector, Lord Berwick, in 1812.  She, however, inspired much exasperation in Harriette before she retired into matrimonial bliss.  On one occasion, her sisters were in hysterics when the 14 year old Sophia “…went away with Lord Deerhurst [that prince of hypocrites], being innocent as an infant as to the nature of seduction and its consequence . . . Sophie was a child, and not a very clever one…”  The situation sounds strikingly similar to Lydia’s flight with Mr. Wickham in Pride and Prejudice.

A connection between Jane Austen and Harriette’s first lover, Lord Craven, can be found here.

 S.W. Fores of Piccadilly printed a caricature by H. Heath in 1825 called “La Coterie Debauché”  

Harriette is writing while her cadre of lovers watch on.

Although a well-known courtesan in Regency times, we have Harriette’s memoirs to thank for her enduring legacy in ours.  The memoirs were published in 1825, a move she describes as a “desperate effort to live by my wits.”  This is a marked contrast from the manner in which she formerly earned her living.  The memoirs gained her a reputation far exceeding that of a demimondaine.  Rather than earning admiration for her enterprise in a sticky situation, she was scorned by her methods.

Harriette was nearing old age–in truth, her thirties–when her protectors decided she wasn’t worth the jangle in their pockets.  Denied the annuity promised by the Duke of Beaufort upon her agreement to forsake his heir, the Marquess of Worcester, Harriette was left penniless.  Her beauty diminishing along with her funds, the woman who later wrote, “I will be the mere instrument of pleasure to no man.  He must make a friend and companion of me, or he will lose me,” dared blackmail the feckless gentlemen who had thrown her off.  The famous reply by the Duke of Wellington, “publish, and be damned,” arises from Harriette’s request for funds in exchange to leave his name out of her memoirs.

Regardless of who paid up, the suprisingly tasteful history of her love life earned her a small fortune.  Her publisher, John Stockdale, was forced to queue the crowds that stormed his shop upon the latest print installments.  This nail biting manuever served Harriette well.  The installments tested the nerves of her former lovers while they awaited the appearance of their names in the next issue.  How many cried off at the last minute, we can only imagine.  From the date of their publication, her memoirs increased in notoriety and exceeded Harriette’s hope of twenty editions. reaching thirty in its first year as well as the six volume French version.

Even today they are great reading.  Harriette may have resorted to blackmailing and thereby acquired a reputation for unreliability, but she has an intelligent wit.  She vilified some of her lovers, yes, but treated others with a fair pen.  And she did not always spare herself in the telling.

The eBook format for Harriette’s memoirs can be downloaded free here.

Various plates from a set of eight satirical illustrations to the memoirs of Harriette Wilson from The British Museum

Further Sources:

The Gorgeous Fairy Tale Illustrations of Anne Anderson

During the last decade of Victoria’s reign up until the end of the Edwardian era, women worked as illustrators in near equal number as men.  A number of these talented ladies were Scottish, including the notable Jessie M. King and today’s lady, Anne Anderson.  Although she is little known outside collectors, Anne was famous during her time.  A well-respected artist who etched, watercolored, and designed greeting cards, she worked on over 100 books and made a living off her illustrations.

Anne was born in Scotland in 1874, the eldest daughter of Scottish Lowlanders James and Grace Anderson.  Her father’s work had already taken the Anderson’s to South America before Anne’s birth and soon after, the family returned to Argentina where Anne would live until her teenage years.  She would later marry the illustrator Alan Wright, an Englishman, and make her home in Berkshire.  As they collaborated on many projects, their partnership was a private and public endeavor, and a profitable one at that.

Prior to their marriage in 1912, Wright had been an esteemed illustrator in his own right.  His work on the 1898 “How I was Buried Alive” by the self-styled Baron Corvo (otherwise known as Frederick Rolfe) changed all that.  In addition to the work being considered ridiculous (Corvo claimed he was buried alive while studying for the priesthood), Corvo was also unabashedly homosexual.  The book produced a scandal and Wright’s reputation went to dust.  Because of Wright’s ensuing lack of work, Anne  supported the family, although her work became almost indistinguishable from her husband’s.  He apparently drew the animals and she worked on the rest.

Below is a very small collection of her work.  For a full listing, see her bibliography.

Beauty and the Beast

Cinderella

Briar Rose

Strong Hans


The Frog Prince

The Little Mermaid

The Swan Princes

Ringling Museum: Ladies’ Fans, Part 2

Earlier last week I posted pics of 18th century fans, circa 1750 to be precise, from France and the Netherlands. After a few days lolling around Sarasota and wondering whether a series of postings to a) show additional pics of their C18-19 fan collection and b) extend my current Water for Elephants/Ringling Circus preoccupation would be appropriate for a site mostly devoted to Georgian England and Revolutionary France tidbits, I’ve decided that a week’s deviation from the usual topic might just be diverting.  You agree?  Good.  If not, I’ll see you next week!

The Fans

The left fan I must not have thought much of while at the museum because I have no picture of it in my possession.  Oops! The middle fan (2) caught my eye right away.

It’s of Napoleon and Marie Louise, the Duchess of Parma and Napoleon’s second wife.  The fan is circa 1810, made just prior to her becoming Empress in 1811.  I wonder if they were all the rage to carry or more of a promotional campaign on the Empire’s part?  My French isn’t exactly amazing; otherwise I would take the pains to translate the inscription on either side of the fans.  My guess without translation is that the fan commemorates the uniting of two empires, namely the French and the Austrian-Habsburg.  Oh, well look at that little bit of irony!  Vive la révolution!

 I find this fan visually pretty in a pale, ephemeral sort of way.  It’s the color of tea-stained rags with hints of relief in white and dove gray.  The scene presented to us is a wine festival with musicians and dancers, families and couples, all enjoying an evening out.  Odd color scheme for for what’s being staged, but it is an old fan dating to 1710.  It’s also Italian.  As with many fine fans, the paper is vellum and the sticks are ivory.  This contrasts with the Napoleon and Marie Louise fan whose sticks are wood.

The last fan in the bunch is another French one from 1750.  It’s typical of the period, ivory sticks, watercolor on paper leaf, and a tranquil peasant scene.

 The Making of Fans from the Ringling Museum

“The main components of a folding fan consist of two end sticks, called guards sticks, that protect the painted leaf within.  Typically, the painting was done in watercolor after which the shaped leaf was carefully scored and pleated, allowing the fan to unfold as it was opened.  The interior sticks and spine supporting the fans leaf,  made of materials as varied as elephant ivory, tortoise shell, mother-of-pearl, exotics woods or bone, are joined at the base of the sticks with a single rivet.  The most expensive examples would then have gold or silver leaf applied to the carved decoration.  Handmade paper, woven silk, and vellum were all used to fashion the leaf.”

On tap for tomorrow:  Pictures of Ca’ d’Zan, the Ringling Family Mansion

Handsome Devils and Their Digs: Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe

If a strong, serious profile makes the man, Lord Stratford Canning is made.  A bit stern of lip, perhaps, and knife sharp of nose, but this fellow has an intensity about him that draws the eye.  Most amusing to me, he actually looks uncannily like an ex of mine, which if I had no respect for his privacy, I would share.  Strange to look at a 19th century face and see a likeness–you would be dumbstruck by the resemblance, I’m telling you!

Lord Stratford Canning, 1st Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe, is 29 in this 1814  portrait and didn’t ascend to the peerage until 1852.  During his lifetime, he was most distinguished as a diplomat wherein he traveled as far as Washington and Constantinople.  He served as ambassador to the Ottoman Empires three times, his first appointment commencing during the Napoleonic wars, and although he was appointed Russian ambassador in 1832, Tsar Nicholas I didn’t think kindly to meeting him.  He was never received and the snub affronted all of England.  England’s foreign office subsequently refused to appoint a new ambassador, assigning the lowlier position of charge d’affaires instead.  The reasons for the Tsar Nicholas’s resistance can be explained by the danger the viscount posed.  As ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, he was well seasoned regarding Russian’s interests in the East.  Russia, fearing his politcal influence, prefered to work with a gentleman who had less intelligence on her foreign affairs.  The strength of the viscount’s personality was also a knock against him.  He was known for his “quick feelings” and “outspoken frankness” which had made him unpopular, among others, with the Russian ambassador’s wife.

Anglican Church, aka Crimean Church, in Istanbul of which Viscount Stratford de Redcliffe laid the foundation

As a result of his career, the viscount was infrequently in England.  He owned a townhouse in Grosvenor and called London home.  Based on what I found in the Gentleman’s Magazine, it appears the viscount was short-changed by his grandfather in regard to inheriting the family estate of Garvagh.  The estate was unentailed, the process of which I am very much in the dark about, and passed to the viscount’s uncle–a younger son–instead of directly to his father.  His father, Stratford Canning, was an Irish member of a banking and mercantile firm, but the family was by no means without any aristocratic relations, if still green around the edges.  His first cousin (the fellow who inherited Garvagh in Londonderry, Ireland) became 1st Baron of Garvagh in 1818 and had a mesalliance with the actress Mary Costello, whom he eventually married.  He later served as prime minister.

In regard to romance and marriage, the viscount wedded twice.  By all accounts, he loved his first wife,

Although he had children, the viscountcy went extinct with his death.  His first wife died without producing an heir and his only son with his second wife failed to have children and died before his father.

For an in depth look at the viscount’s fascinating life, including 19th century political matters and selections from his personal memoirs and letters, see The Life of Lord Stratford de Redcliffe.

The Dashing David Lyon

Sir Thomas Lawrence’s portrait of David Lyon, 1825

I couldn’t help but pause upon seeing this picture of the dashing David Lyon and thinking there was a bit of Mr. Darcy in him.  He has the refined air, the pride instilled down to his slender musculature and elegant, chiseled face.  His richly nuanced clothes, from the fur lining his coat to the ever so slight cane and dandyish hankerchief, speak of high position and wealth in society.  And yet, David Lyon is no peer.  He is part of the landed gentry.

Hailing from Goring Hall, Sussex and Balintore Castle in Forfarshire, Scotland, David Lyon’s family descends from one of the sons of Patrick Lyon, 1st Lord Glamis, a Scottish nobleman whose origins date back to the mid-fifteenth century.  The last of the Goring branch of Lyons died in 1934.  David’s father, Lyon senior, was reportedly worth around £600,000 at the time of his death.  Although a second son, upon his elder brother’s demise, he inherited a family fortune rich in Jamaican sugar plantations, including exports of  rum, and business investments closer to home.  David Lyon junior (our portrait sitter and a third son) possessed business savvy of his own accord, however, amassing a fortune as a merchant in the Antilles.

A considerable marriage prize, if I may be at the liberty to call him so, Lyon remained a bachelor well into middle age.  Before his marriage, he was an MP of Beeralston from 1831-2.  Afterwards, in 1851, he was High Sheriff of Sussex.  At around age 55 in 1848, he married the 29 year old Blanche Augusta Bury (b. 1819), daughter of Rev. Edward and the well-known novelist Lady Charlotte Bury.  Lady Bury had numerous daughters from two marriages, all of them considered talented and beautiful, Blanche being “not less handsome than the daughters of her first marriage.”1  From Mrs. Grant Laggan’s Memoirs and Correspondence, Mrs. Laggan recalls of the young Blanche:

As niece to the Duke of Argyle on her mother’s side, her dowry likely substantial given her father’s “very superior endowments and worth,”2 it seems Blanche was no Elizabeth Bennett.  But Pride and Prejudice be damned; you still want hear the story, right?

The couple made their home at Lyon’s 600 acre estate Goring Hall in Sussex.  Rebuilt on the grounds of a tear down, the new Goring Hall (below) was completed in 1840, eight years prior to the wedding.  Lyon also kept a townhouse in London at 31 South Street, Grosvenor Square, a prestigious area of London near Hyde Park.

Wrought-iron gates stood at the eastern and western entries to the Goring property until 1940 when they were removed during the war.  The mediterranean holm oaks that still line the drive and road, known as Ilex Way or Avenue of Holm Oaks, were planted by David Lyon.

At the time of his death on April 8, 1872 at the age of 78, the Lyons had no children.  The estate passed to  David’s brother, William Lyon, and remained in the family until 1934.  David Lyon’s portrait now resides at the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza  in Madrid Spain.

Sources:

1 New Monthly Magazine, Volume 11

2 Memoirs and Correspondence of Mrs. Grant Laggan, Volume 3

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid Spain

Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Landed Gentry…, Sir Bernard Burke

The Harrow School Register, 1801-1900, First Edition, 1894

Thursday’s Obsession – Eugene Atget

A 19th century French photographer with an eye for the secret, mist driven Paris, Atget was a master of brume and shadow.  His photographs are evocative of an older, decaying Paris, a lost city somewhere between night and dawn, a city of light and yet without. 

Parc de Sceau

Notre Dame

H0tel

More, more, more of ethereal Paris, you say?

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