Tuesday, March 31, 2015

George Washington's Rules for Gentlemanly Behavior, 1748

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Recently Loretta shared an 1873 guide to etiquette for a Victorian gentleman. Suggested rules for good manners weren't new then, however. From Baldassare Castiglone's The Book of the Courtier, first published in 1508, through Emily Post and Miss Manners, advice has been available for those who wish to improve their manners, and aspire to appear as well-bred gentlemen or ladies.

Long before George Washington became America's first president and the Father of Our Country, he was a sixteen-year-old Virginian acutely aware of his lack of the formal education and cultured manners that he observed in the wealthiest planters and other English gentleman of the Georgian era. At some point, young George must have come across Youths Behaviour, or Decency in Conversation Among Men, a 17th c. English translation of a guidebook first published by French Jesuits in 1595. The maxims in Youths Behaviour covered not only basic manners and general courtesies, but also larger issues of character and moral judgement, with suggestions for how a gentleman should respect others and conduct himself in the world.

The numbered maxims must have struck a chord with George, because around 1748 he carefully copied them into the back of a notebook - his commonplace book - for future reference. Titled The Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior, he referred to them throughout his life, and they formed the backbone of his own personal code of behavior. There are 110 rules in his list; here are only the first seven of them. Although centuries old, most of the rules are still quite applicable. Modern sixteen-year-olds should take note.

1st. Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.

2nd. When in Company, put not your Hands to any Part of the Body, not usually Discovered.

3rd.  Show Nothing to your Friend that may affright him.

4th.  In the Presence of Others, Sing not to yourself with a humming Noise, nor Drum with your Fingers or Feet.

5th.  If you Cough, Sneeze, Sigh, or Yawn, do it not Loud, but Privately; and Speak not in your Yawning, but put Your Handkerchief or Hand before your face and turn aside.

6th.  Sleep not while others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.

7th.  Put not off your Clothes in the presence of Others, nor go out your Chamber half Dressed....

The original handwritten version George Washington's Rules of Civility is now in the Library of Congress. If you enjoy the challenge of 18th c. penmanship, you can read it in its entirety online here, or transcribed here.

Left: Colonel George Washington, by Charles Wilson Peale, c. 1772.
Right: The first manuscript page of George Washington's Rules of Civility, Library of Congress.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Family Tea Party in Earthenware

Monday, March 30, 2015
Tee Total Family Group
Loretta reports:

A recent visit to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta  offered disappointment on one hand and delightful surprises on the other.  The disappointment was in discovering that the one floor I wished to visit was closed for refurbishing.  From the ramp, we had tantalizing glimpses of 19th C European works as well as boxes filled with paintings and other items under wraps.

The delightful surprise was a charming collection of18th and 19th C ceramic works, which included this family party.

The card information was sparse, and I know next to nothing about Staffordshire work, but diligent searching led me to a similar group at Case Antiques
The latter has sustained some damage while the High Museum’s “Tee total” seemed to be in pristine condition (but obviously we were not examining it under a black light, so it might have been repainted)—as were some other pieces I will show at another time.

Here it is again at the V& A.

For an entertaining and informative overview of Staffordshire figures (including this charming scene), I recommend you spend a few minutes reading Touching the Past: Staffordshire Figures 1780 to 1840.

*"Figural Group, ca. 1820**, Earthenware, Staffordshire Factory, Staffordshire, England.  Bequest of Mrs. Norman Powell Pendley, 1988.148.1"

**Other sites cite an 1830s date or "early 19th century."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 22, 2015

Saturday, March 28, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, images, and articles via Twitter.
• 18th c. Masquerade balls.
• Shocking! "Leading actresses in men's togs": it's a 1903 issue of Vanity Fair's Bifurcated Girls!
• About those infamous 18th c. mouse-skin eyebrows: maybe not.
• DIY: how to knit your own ancient Egyptian Coptic socks.
• John Ruskin's romantic mid-19th c. daguerreotypes of Venice.
Image: The early 14th c. architecture at Wells Cathedral was a high-point of civilization. You search for words.
• In 1777, Abigail Adams wrote to John about "Rout and Noise in the Town": the female food riots of the American Revolutions
• Imagine "accidentally" inheriting a 500-year-old manor with a 50-room mansion.
• Goethe's Theory of Colors: The 1810 treatise that inspired Kandinsky and early abstract painting.
Image: Painted stockings, c. 1920.
• New museums to discover in Washington, DC: the George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum opened this weekend.
• Self-control and the manly body, 1760-1860.
• The suffocation death of an orphaned chimney sweep in Somers Town, 1788.
• Early 19th c. cheating valets and the tricks of the trade.
• The tragic story of the last UK men hung for gay sex. Dickens wrote about them.
• The turbulent reign of Henry IV.
Image: After the Great Reform Act, Wellington was lampooned for being out of touch with the mood of the era.
• Beware of goblins bearing gifts: the Morristown Ghost.
• Not so prim Pilgrims: Sexual propositions in the Plymouth Colony Court Records, 1633-86.
Bedlam burial ground dig in London could unearth more than 3,000 bodies.
• The growing legend of Lydia Taft: did she really vote in an Uxbridge town meeting in 1756?
• Startling portraits of early English Royals.
• Meet Doris Raymond, the fairy godmother of vintage clothing.
Image: Exquisite wedding bonnet of silk net and blonde lace, c1825-29.
Women, plumbers, and doctors: Advice for American housewives regarding sanitation in the home, 1885.
• For lovers of historical maps: beautiful 17th c. Speed maps of Great Britian.
• Revolutionary women artists, 15th-19th c.
• Hunting for - and finding - medieval people of color in paintings at the Gemaldgalerie, Berlin.
Image: A delicate sight over Greenwich: the young Moon and Venus meet in the west.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friday Video: A Day at Versailles

Friday, March 27, 2015

Isabella reporting,

This week on Twitter, museums and historic buildings around the world shared behind-the-scenes glimpses of their treasures with the hashtag #SecretsMW (Secrets of Museum Week.) This video was posted by the Chateau de Versailles as their contribution, and surely there must be no grander place in Europe for secrets. I love how this "tour" travels from the Baroque state rooms of Louis XIV to the much lighter, more feminine apartments of Marie-Antoinette, built nearly a century later. Of course there's also the Hall of Mirrors, spouting fountains, astonishing formal gardens, and fireworks to end the day. Just beautiful!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Do English Gentlemen Make Good Husbands?

Thursday, March 26, 2015
General George S. Patton
Loretta reports:

General George S. Patton was a complicated, controversial man.  His military career, however, is not our topic.  The Two Nerdy History Girls focus on social history—people and their everyday lives, mainly—rather than politics and wars.  If you want more information about his triumphs and his not-so-stellar moments, you’ll find an abundance of material online, along with the many thousands of pages written about him.

Instead, I present him here between the wars (during the 1920s) as a father, explaining his reasons for declining a position in London in the office of the military attaché:

“We have two marriageable daughters who ... will be rich someday.  If we go to London it stands to reason that one or both of them will marry an Englishman.  Englishmen, well-bred Englishmen, are the most attractive bastards in the world, and they always need all the money they can lay their hands on to keep up the castle, or the grouse moor, or the stud farm, or whatever it is they have inherited.  I served with the British in the war*, and I heard their talk.  They are men’s men, and they are totally inconsiderate of their wives and daughters; everything goes to their sons, nothing to the girls.  I just can’t see Little Bee, or Ruth Ellie in that role.  Someday, just tell them what I did for them and maybe they won’t think I’m such an old bastard after all.”—Carlo D’Este, Patton: A Genius for War
*The Great War/WWI

Image:  George S. Patton signed photo by U.S. Army. Scanned from a file in Patton's personnel record available at the Military Personnel Records Center

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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

From the Archives: For Royal Relaxing: The Prince of Wales Banyan, c. 1785

Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Because today is a travel day for me, I'm sharing one of my favorite posts from our archives, featuring a banyan, or dressing gown, worn by a stylish English prince.

In 2013, I had the great good fortune to see the exhibition Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion at the RISD Museum in Providence, RI.

Men's wear is often sadly under-represented in fashion collections, making this exhibition of historical and contemporary male clothing that made a bold personal statement for the wearer even more exciting (at least for Nerdy History People, anyway.) There was one room after another of fantastic clothes, from the beautiful linen shirts favored by Beau Brummell to Fred Astaire's tuxedo to Andy Warhol's paint-splattered Ferragamo oxfords.

While the exhibition has long since closed, highlights are still on line here, and the splendid hardcover companion book is available here.

One of the special pieces for me was this 18th c. banyan once worn by George IV (1762-1830) while he was Prince of Wales. (The banyan was making a rare appearance state-side, on loan from the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery.) Banyans were a kind of dressing-gown or robe worn by Georgian gentlemen as informal attire (for more information and other examples, see our blogs herehere, and here.) The elaborately patterned cotton chintz would not only have been comfortable - a welcome break from the formal silks of court life - but as a costly textile imported from India, the cotton would also have made a luxurious statement fit for a royal prince.

This banyan was quilted for extra warmth, and the braided closures and high collar, left, add to its exotic appeal. We tend to think of George IV in his later portly days as the Prince Regent, but this banyan, made between 1780-1790, proves that he cut a much less substantial figure as a young man in his twenties – although apparently there are interior panels that prove that the banyan was let out over time to accommodate his growing girth.

I particularly liked the quote that accompanied the banyan. Attributed to George "Beau" Brummell, it perfectly sums up the life around the Prince of Wales and his circle in late 18th c. Brighton, with young gentlemen elegantly lounging in banyans like this one: "Come to Brighton, my dear fellow. Let us be off tomorrow; we'll eat currant-tart, and live in chintz and salt-water."

Banyan, maker unrecorded, c. 1780-90. From the collection of Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Top photo: RISD Museum. Lower photo: Brighton & Hove Museum.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

What are Quarter Days?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015
The Severe Steward
Loretta reports:

In my book Lord of Scoundrels, Lord Dain refers to an event occurring on Lady-Day.  He does not mean the singer Billie Holiday.

He’s referring to a Quarter Day, as do characters in many books.  These are important dates in the British calendar, as the following page illustrates.  It’s from a little instruction manual, The Guide to General Information on Common Things (1868).

Quarter Days
According to Hone’s Every-day Book, Vol 1,  “Lady Day is a holiday at the Public Offices, except the Excise, Stamp, and Custom.”  He describes various religious festivals associated with the day, then goes on to note:  “In England, Lady Day is only remembered as the first quarter-day of the year, and is therefore only kept by tenants who truly pay rent to their landlords.”

However, servants were customarily paid on quarter days as well.  Though we tend not to use religious holidays as the marking points nowadays, we do continue to to divide the year into quarters for various financial transactions, e.g. quarterly reports.

Image: William Redmore Bigg,The Severe Steward, or Unfortunate Tenant (1800-01), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon 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.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Clogs for Keeping an 18th c. Lady's Shoes Clean

Sunday, March 22, 2015
Isabella reporting,

While I was visiting Colonial Williamsburg last week, I had a most interesting discussion there with interpreter Nicole Rudolph of the Margaret Hunter Shop about what 18th c. English ladies used to protect their shoes. With their high curving heels and uppers covered in silk or silk brocade, the footwear worn by Georgian ladies is among the most elegant and dainty in the history of female shoes. Keeping such shoes clean in the streets of London must have been quite a challenge.

The most likely truth, of course, is that the stylish shoes that survive in museums today most likely never ventured into the city's mean streets, but were worn only indoors. Still, there were those few steps to cross between a carriage or sedan chair into the house where the ball was being held, and this is where some kind of sole-saving overshoe was necessary.

Modern collections refer to these by various names: clogs, pattens, overshoes all appear. I've always thought of pattens as more heavy-duty protection, like the ones I wrote about here. Clogs seem generally to refer to the lighter, less substantial companions to dress shoes, like the ones worn over the shoes, above left. (The buckles have been removed from the shoes.)

Often made in a matching or complimentary fabric to the shoes they would protect, most mid-18th c. clogs like these, right, protected the shoe's sole and little else. Some scholars also suggest that the clogs might also have acted as a kind of arch support, making it easier to walk in the high heels (think of it as an early version of a wedge heel.) The clog tied on over the toe of the shoe, and fitted beneath or around the heel. Surviving examples show the shoe and clog as a matched set, one made for the other, and it's likely that when a lady bespoke a pair of new shoes, she also ordered the matching clogs at the same time. There are as many variations in clogs as there are shoes, including how much (or how little) of the shoe is protected. Here is yet another pair in an earlier blog post.

In addition to her duties as a mantua-maker and seamstress, Nicole has studied 18th c. shoes, and has made replicas using 18th c. techniques. Recently she made this pair of clogs, lower left, based on extant examples, to fit a pair of of her silk satin shoes. (The buckles on her shoes have been removed.) These clogs and shoes are in the style of the late 1770s, and, since Nicole does not have a carriage, the clogs offer a more substantial protection when she walks to work on wet days. The clogs are made from leather, and cover not only the toes of her shoes, but fit entirely, and snugly, over the heels as well. The laces on the front help to keep them in place. Nicole reports they work quite well, and definitely have helped keep the white leather heels of her shoes white.

Hmm...perhaps this is another fashion that could be ripe for revival?

Many thanks to Nicole Rudolph - visit her blog here.

Above left: Pair of silk-covered leather shoes with velvet-covered leather clogs, Great Britain, 1730-40. Victoria & Albert Museum.
Right: Pair of silk brocade shoes with overshoes, England, 1740-50. Powerhouse Museum.
Bottom left: Pair of silk-satin covered shoes with leather clogs, made by Nicole Rudolph, 2014. Photograph © 2015 Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 15, 2015

Saturday, March 21, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images, all collected for you via Twitter.
• Seven-year-itch: evidence suggests Henry VIII was considering taking a seventh wife.
• This British temperance bar doesn't serve beer, but you can try blood tonic.
• Anne Mee, 18th c. portrait artist.
• Math, knitting, and feminism: how knitting is being reclaimed in the modern age.
• Image: An entire garden, complete with butterflies, embroidered in silk on this 18thc. gentleman's waistcoat.
• From the 18thc. garden: broccoli and cardoon uncovered.
• George Washington jumping rope and sharing his bed with a black soldier? Maybe not.
• Growing up Duke.
• Fishwives and firestarters: a guide to old Billingsgate.
• An introduction to hairwork.
• Image: A view of Chiswick House gardens with bagnio and domed building alleys, by Pieter Rysbrack, 1729.
• An alternative Japanese Cinderella: the girl with the kneading bowl (not the pearl earring.)
• Gallery of exceptional marbelized papers.
• Twenty-one dresses: a treasure trove of early 20thc. Callot Soeurs dresses. More here.
• Hidden on a downtown Manhattan Street, a small Federal-style house has survived since 1826.
• St. Patrick's Day and green street names in London.
• Image: The Channonier Cordiforme, a French heart-shaped manuscript of music and songs, c. 1470.
• Learn about the over 200 Irish manuscripts in the British Library.
ª "Everyone is badminton mad here!" A sporting craze sweeps 1870s British India.
• The Masonic Female Orphan School of Dublin, Ireland, 1792-1892.
• Seven things you might not know about the Duke of Wellington.
• A real-life Tudor mystery: why did the cook try to poison Bishop John Fisher?
• This 1915 postcard emphasized the femininity of the suffragists.
• Image: A little scary: there IS such a thing as a Samuel Johnson gif.
• View a slideshow of the work of artist Mary Cassatt.
• For the next time you watch Outlander - here's a recipe for 18th c. shortbread.
• Founded in 1889, the Thirteen Club aimed to end superstition.
• "Ranked among the incurables": a late 19th c. brotherly warning.
• Image: Awesome faces: Scottish beards in the Crimea.
• "Bring beauty into your bathroom": a stylish 1930s vanity.
• Gervase Thompson: a most unfortunate death, 1781.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Friday video: A Stately Home at War

Friday, March 20, 2015
Loretta reports:

As many of our readers are aware, a number of Great Britain’s stately homes were requisitioned for government use during WWII. 

Spetchley House is one of these.  Here's  a short, poignant video about its wartime experience. 

Photo of Spetchley House by Philip Halling.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

More Secrets of 18th c. Big Hair

Thursday, March 19, 2015
Isabella reporting,

I've written on the blog several times before about the elaborate hairstyles of fashionable 18th c. ladies, as well as sharing how the mantua-makers of Colonial Williamsburg are studying and copying the intracacies of power and pomade (including herehere, and here.)

One of the last sessions of the textile symposium (Stitching Together a National Identity) that I've attended here in Colonial Williamsburg this week included several beautifully dressed and coifed ladies in the fashions of around 1770. Their hair was dressed by apprentice mantua-maker Abby Cox. Here are the back and side views of one of the artfully arranged styles, inspired by fashion plates of the time. This was all done without any modern hairspray, mousse, or gel. Everything was held in place with 18th c. powder, pomade, and pins, plus a few strategic silk flowers, and took about 45 minutes to achieve.

Today Abby showed me one of her newest replica hairdressing tools, bottom left. This small tin cup was copied from an illustration in the 1780 French Encyclopédie méthodique par ordre des matiéres, and was made by journeyman tinsmith Steve Delise, another member of Colonial Williamsburg's historic trades program.

The three compartments of the cup keep the major ingredients for an 18th c. hairstyle together in a single place. The large main cup holds finely ground hair powder, while the two smaller cups hold the two different kinds of pomade. Common pomade is the softer pomade used for everyday, while hard pomade includes beeswax, and is used for full, frizzed styles as well as for creating the large side curls shown here. Consider it the "extra-hold" pomade.

The silk puff sitting in the powder is an educated guess. Although silk puffs are mentioned in 18th c. descriptions of hairdressing, their descriptions are sketchy. This one is made of unspun silk filament, which Abby has found holds the fine particles of the powder for dusting onto the hair. Pretty handy!

Because Who Doesn't Love Nerdy History Newlyweds?

Isabella reporting,

As I've mentioned before, I'm spending this week in Colonial Williamsburg. I was visiting with the mantua-makers upstairs in their shop when I was summoned downstairs to meet a pair of special visitors. This is Laura and Sam Barnett from Birmingham, Alabama, just married, and visiting Colonial Williamsburg on their honeymoon. Laura told tailor Mark Hutter that she had especially wanted to visit the Margaret Hunter shop after seeing it featured so often right here on The Two Nerdy History Girls. Much mutual excitement all around at this unexpected coincidence! As Loretta and I have said before, we're always thrilled to meet fellow Nerdy History Folk, but I think Laura and Sam were our first Nerdy History Newlyweds. We wish them all the very best, and a long, happy life together. Huzzah!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Drawing Room Seating 1828

Wednesday, March 18, 2015
Drawing Room Seating
Loretta reports:

We novelists not only have to dress our heroes & heroines, but we must give them places to live as well as furnish those places and determine where best to set a rendezvous, argument, or eavesdropping scene.  Can we arrange a tête-à-tête in a drawing room?  Certainly, and here are some ways to seat our characters. Please note the comment about the lion.
Furniture description

Furniture description

Images from Ackermann’s Repository for March 1828, courtesy Philadelphia Museum of Art via Internet Archive.

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 17, 2015

St. Giles House: An English Country House Reborn

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Isabella reporting,

The twentieth century was not kind to the great English country house. After flourishing for generations and (in some cases) hundreds of years, many such houses fell prey to two world wars, a economic depression, death duties, development, and a permanent cultural changes. Interest in British heritage sites fell, to be replaced with a post-war desire for the new and modern. The once-beautiful and imposing country seats became faded white elephants that were impossible to staff and maintain. Shuttered and empty, many became derelict, were burned by arsonists, or simply were torn down.

I've written other blog posts about one country house that is in melancholy ruin (Mavisbank), another saved by a TV show (Highclere Castle), and yet another that's begun a new life welcoming brides, hunting parties, and corporate retreats (Ugbrooke Park). Last week I learned about one more, St. Giles House, whose once-bleak future has been turned around by its enterprising young owner.

That owner is Nicholas Ashley-Cooper, the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, left, who recently made the long trip to Winterthur Museum to share the story of his family's country house, and a bit of his own life, too. St. Giles House is both a legacy and a sizable responsibility, neither of which Lord Shaftesbury, as the younger son, expected to be his. After finishing his education, he followed his passion for music and relocated to New York, where he found success as a d.j. But a double tragedy changed everything: within a six-month span in 2005, his father was murdered (by his father's estranged wife and her brother), and his older brother died of a heart attack. At twenty-six, he was suddenly the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury, a title that dates back to the 17th century.

Along with the earldom came St. Giles House and the surrounding 5,500 acre estate. The land had been in the family for over 400 years. The present house replaced an earlier manor house, and was built by the first earl beginning in 1650. Successive generations of Ashley-Coopers added on to the house and remodeled it to suit their times and tastes. The most aggressive improvements (and perhaps the least sensitive) came in the 19th c., right, when two pointed towers and outsized bay windows were added to the classically proportioned facade, and the warm red brick was covered with cement render, a damaging process that trapped water in the walls.

As with so many country houses, St. Giles began a slow decline throughout the 20th c., serving as a wartime hospital and a girl's school, each adding another layer of wear and tear. Death duties forced the gradual sale of parcels of the original 15,500 estate, reducing it by nearly two-thirds. By the time the 10th earl inherited the estate in 1961, the house itself was suffering from dry rot and an aging roof, and had become impractical for living. The earl moved his family to the dower house, and began to tackle the repair and restoration of the main house.

He began with enthusiasm, tearing down the Victorian towers and repairing the most obvious needs. But the challenges and expense of the project proved too great, and in frustration he finally abandoned it, sealing off exposed walls and leaving the house empty. Many of the original furnishings and works of art were sold to pay expenses. By the time the present earl inherited the house, lower left, the grounds were overgrown and the house had further deteriorated, and the recent deaths of his father and brother had mired the estate in further death duties.

He was faced with an obvious choice. He could sell the house and land, or he could finish the restoration that his father had begun. He decided, in his words, to "go for it."

In preparation for the financial battles the house would require, he attended the London Business School and earned a Masters in Business Administration. A serious riding accident that nearly left him paralyzed only served to increase his resolve. After marrying in 2010, he and his wife decided the best way to become truly part of the restoration was to live in St. Giles House. An architect managed to carve out a modest but livable space for them in the house, and the project began in earnest.

With funding from extensive loans and grants secured, a team of master craftspeople and artisans, construction specialists, architects, and historians worked first to stabilize the house, and then to restore the first floor rooms one by one. The library was the first room finished; in a major triumph, the first earl's books were discovered in long-ago storage, and returned to the newly restored shelves. Carved woodwork was reclaimed, elaborate plasterwork repaired, and custom woven silk damask hung on the walls. It's a painstaking, on-going process, and while the principal rooms are finished, the second floor of the house remains to be done, as well as other, smaller buildings on the grounds.

Working with Natural England, plans were also undertaken to restore the neglected grounds around the house. The goal is to return to the 18th c. parkland, including serpentine lakes and streams, grottoes, and follies, and to recreate the landscape in a way that's both beautiful and welcoming.

At the same time, the estate began to support itself in more modern ways. About half of the land is now commercially farmed. Systems to heat and cool the house are supplied through renewable energy solutions and other new technology, including solar panels and water source heat pumps from the estate's lake. There are sponsored events on the grounds as diverse as music festivals, a half-marathon, and a chili festival, as well as weddings and corporate events. The goal is not to isolate the estate, but to make the grounds and house a part of the community.

Yet for Lord Shaftesbury and his young family - which now includes a son and daughter - St. Giles House is home. While their ancestors would have maintained a sizable household, today there are no legions of footmen, parlor-maids, or gardeners. Instead there is only one "amazing" cleaner in charge of the principal rooms, one groundsman to mow the grass, and a part-time gardener.

"I want St. Giles House to be an inviting place," Lord Shaftesbury says proudly. "I want people to come here to take time out, to reflect, and to be inspired."

For more information and photographs of St. Giles House, see the website here.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Etiquette for the Victorian Gentleman

Monday, March 16, 2015
Tissot, The Bridesmaid
Loretta reports:

The following is from Mr. Cecil B. Hartley’s “One Hundred Hints for Gentlemanly Deportment,” Chapter 10 of The Gentleman’s Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness.

This is is from the 1873 edition, but earlier and later editions repeat the list.  Space doesn't permit including the full 100, but I recommend you click on this link and keep reading.
1. ALWAYS avoid any rude or boisterous action, especially when in the presence of ladies. It is not necessary to be stiff, indolent, or sullenly silent, neither is perfect gravity always required, but if you jest let it be with quiet, gentlemanly wit, never depending upon clownish gestures for the effect of a story. Nothing marks the gentleman so soon and so decidedly as quiet, refined ease of manner.

2. Never allow a lady to get a chair for herself, ring a bell, pick up a handkerchief or glove she may have dropped, or, in short, perform any service for herself which you can perform for her, when you are in the room. By extending such courtesies to your mother, sisters, or other members of your family, they become habitual, and are thus more gracefully performed when abroad.

3. Never perform any little service for another with a formal bow or manner as if conferring a favor, but with a quiet gentlemanly ease as if it were, not a ceremonious, unaccustomed performance, but a matter of course, for you to be courteous.

4. It is not necessary to tell all that you know; that were mere folly; but what a man says must be what he believes himself, else he violates the first rule for a gentleman's speech—Truth.

5. Avoid gambling as you would poison.  ...

6. Cultivate tact! In society it will be an invaluable aid. Talent is something, but tact is everything. Talent is serious, sober, grave, and respectable; tact is all that  and more too. It is not a sixth sense, but it is the life  of all the five. It is the open eye, the quick ear, the  judging taste, the keen smell, and the lively touch; it is  the interpreter of all riddles—the surmounter of all difficulties—the remover of all obstacles. It is useful in all  places, and at all times; it is useful in solitude, for it  shows a man his way into the world; it is useful in society, for it shows him his way through the world. Talent  is power—tact is skill; talent is weight—tact is momentum; talent knows what to do—tact knows how to do it;  talent makes a man respectable—tact will make him respected; talent is wealth—tact is ready money. For all the practical purposes of society tact carries against talent ten to one. 

Image: James Tissot, The Bridesmaid (between 1883 and 1885), collection of Leeds Art Gallery.

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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Announcing This & That

Sunday, March 15, 2015
Isabella & Loretta reporting,

We're both venturing away from our respective keyboards in the next weeks, and would love to meet any fellow Nerdy History Folk who are in the area. Don't be shy!

• Loretta will be a speaker at the annual "Let Your Imagination Take Flight" conference hosted by the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America. The conference will take place April 24-25 at the Boston Marriott in Burlington, MA. She will also be taking part in the multi-author booksigning on April 25 that will be open to the public. Click here for more information and registration.

• Isabella will also be in the Boston area. Her talk about 18th c. lovers as part of the Valentine's Day program hosted by the Bostonian Society last month was one of the casualties of the monumental snow storms this winter. The even has been rescheduled for Thursday, March 26; click here for more information and tickets. There will be refreshments, plus a chance to meet Dolly and John Hancock (yes, really). Bonus: the Society will be giving away copies of Isabella's historical romance A Wicked Pursuit with every ticket, and she will also be signing copies of A Sinful Deception.

• More news: unable to resist, Isabella has jumped onto one more social media platform. You can now find her on Instagram as IsabellaBradfordAuthor; if you enjoy the Breakfast Links and the TNHG twitter feed (both of which, in modern parlance, Isabella "curates"), then there's much more of the same waiting for you on Instagram. This week Isabella is in Colonial Williamsburg, so look for plenty of pictures from 18th c. Virginia.

• And as a general announcement: we're both also on Facebook – here's Loretta's page, and here's Isabella's page - if you'd like to give us a Like. You can also find us in our Two Nerdy History Girl guise over on Pinterest, with lots of images that have inspired our books, more historical clothes & shoes, and other stuff we just plain like.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 8, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing pleasure - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you via Twitter.
• "The tricycle offers to women the charm of country runs...and the blessing of added strength."
• You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family: the feuding Pearce family.
• Before Walt Disney: five pioneers of early animation.
• "The Alchemist's Desire": 16th c. recipes for health and beauty from Caterina Sforza.
• A 2,000-year-old gladiator's helmet is discovered in Pompeii's ruins.
• The letters that reveal Horatio Nelson's secrets.
• From Orient to Occident: Victorian acupuncture.
Image: Born this week in 1959, the impossibly proportioned, perfectly dressed Barbie.
• A round-up of Regency heart-throbs.
• Good question: Why can't romance novels get any love?
• "To be tightly laced is the most superb sensation": the 19th c. corset controversy.
Mary Anning, the 19thc. carpenter's daughter who changed our view of the history of life.
Film fonts from the 1930s.
• A wooden rowhouse survives (mostly) on bustling E. 29th Street in New York.
• "People of Color in European Art History" is one of my fav Tumblrs - this post on 16th-17thc. black Flemish shows why.
• The Bank of England's 5£ note, Elizabeth Fry, and the women of Newgate Prison.
Image: Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana as Honorary Colonels of Russian Cavalry regiments.
• Take a virtual tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington's home.
Watches in the 18th c. : elegant, affordable, stylish, but not very good timepieces.
• Who's that girl? Early Kodak ads show women as adventurous shutterbugs.
• Why London should revive 19th c. plans for a "Death Pyramid."
Royal residences of the Georgian kings, then and now.
You Asked For It: the original title of Ian Fleming's first James Bond ("Jimmy Bond" in the blurb) novel published in America - with a prime pulp cover.
Image: The interior of the Chelsea Bun House, 1838.
James Gillray, prince of caricaturists.
• Stuff of childhood nightmares: 1870s jigsaw puzzle featuring animated fruit.
• General Charles Lallemand, Napoleon's invader of Texas.
• What art did George IV hang on the walls of Carlton House?
• Top fifty most amazing American college and university libraries.
• The final resting place of the Bishops of London.
• Picking up the torch: the golden age of the continuation novel.
• It's that season: 18th c. taxes.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday Video: Hints for Making a Quick Evening Dress, 1926

Friday, March 13, 2015

Isabella reporting,

Thriftiness and making-over aren't traits associated with modern fashionistas, but in this silent clip, a resourceful mother and daughter from the 1920s demonstrate exactly how to remake a morning dress into one fit for an evening out. Of course, they're helped by the straight lines and simple constructions of 1920s fashions; I can't imagine many at-home seamstresses would have been able to achieve the same speedy transformation with a dress from a generation or two before, like these from the 1870s.

The clip is from a 1920s British how-to series called "Hints and Hobbies" that offered quick suggestions for everything from driving etiquette to ballroom dancing to amusing your guests at dinner with sugar cubes. These were shown in movie theaters as entertaining information (aka filler) along with more general newsreels before the main attraction. I wonder if anyone in the audience actually thought the hints offered useful, usable ideas, or if they were viewed strictly as amusement. I find it hard to imagine a woman watching this and going home to take her scissors with such vigor to a perfectly good day dress for a dinner party. Or am I being too sensible?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Waterloo Bridge 1826

Thursday, March 12, 2015
Prospect of London 1826
Loretta reports:

Online you can find many editions of Prince Pückler-Muskau’s account of his travels in the U.K.  Open any one at random, and I think you’ll be captivated.  I have no idea what his writing was like in the original language, but Sarah Austin gives us a very lively and very readable translation.  “Readable” is not something you can always say of the majority of early 19th C English prose works.

Many of the sites he writes about exist today, but in a very different setting.  This painting of Waterloo Bridge captures a part of the London he would have known.


— Hermann Pückler-Muskau , Tour in England, Ireland, and France: in the years 1826, 1827, 1828, and 1829. With remarks on the manners and customs of the inhabitants, and anecdotes of distinguished public characters. In a series of letters. (1833)

Image: Alexander Nasmyth, A Prospect of London, seen from the Earl of Cassilis' Privy Garden, with Waterloo Bridge, courtesy Wikipedia.

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 10, 2015

Hair care in 1918

Tuesday, March 10, 2015
1914 hair extremes & normal
Loretta reports:

The Two Nerdy History Girls have blogged extensively about hair styles, hair washing pros and cons, and other top-of-the-head matters.  (You'll find a couple of examples here and here; for more, please search "hair").  To add to your collection of historical attitudes about hair care, I present some excerpts from Mary Brooks Picken’s book, The Secrets of Distinctive Dress (1918).

Hair Care

Image:  Just to be conspicuous (edited), Puck Magazine, February 1914, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

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.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Jane Austen's Surprising Aunt Philadelphia

Sunday, March 8, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Because my newest book features a heroine who was born in India and came to England, my last few posts (here and here) have featured the English in 18th c. India. But it wasn't only younger sons who went out to India in search of fortune and adventure. English women also made the arduous journey in the hopes of finding fortune, adventure, and, most importantly, husbands in a male-dominated land where the odds would be much in their favor.

One of these adventuresome women was Philadelphia Austen Hancock, who in her later years became a favorite aunt to novelist Jane Austen. As a child, however, Philadelphia was no one's favorite. Born in 1730, she soon lost her mother in 1733, and her father in 1737. Her stepmother had no interest in raising either Philadelphia or her younger brother and sister, and as was common at the time, the three young siblings were separated and sent to live with other relatives.

While the two younger children were sent to Austen family members, Philadelphia was given to members of her mother's family, the Hampsons. The Hampsons had both money and position - Philadelphia's uncle was a baronet - but they seemed to have shared little of it with the inconvenient little girl. While Philadelphia's brother George was sent to Oxford to become a clergyman, Philadelphia was apprenticed at fifteen to a London milliner named Hester Cole. No doubt the Hampsons considered their familial obligations done.

Some modern Austen-fans choose to interpret Philadelphia's occupation as a euphemism for prostitution, jumping to the conclusion that because many milliners (and seamstresses, and mantua-makers, and parlor-maids, and just about every other trade that a young woman might attempt in 18thc. London) were so underpaid that they turned to prostitution to support themselves. The fact that Mrs. Cole's shop was in Covent Garden also makes it tempting to speculate about Philadelphia's real trade. But however disinterested the Hampsons may have been in her, it seems unlikely they'd send her to a bawdy house, nor is there any historical proof of Philadelphia earning her living in any less-than-honorable way.

Whatever the case, Philadelphia must not have found millinery to her taste, because at twenty she sailed for India, her passage paid by a relative. No one knows if she went boldly on her own, or was perhaps sent away by the Hampsons (another hint of scandal?) Either way, it must not have been an easy decision, and it's hard to imagine a young woman making such a desperate journey alone, and without any real prospects or friends waiting for her in a very foreign land. Without a dowry, her face really would have been her only fortune.

But Philadelphia's gamble paid off.  After a short time in India, she did marry, quite respectably, to Tysoe Saul Hancock, who was a surgeon with the East India Company. They had one daughter, Eliza. Again the centuries-old whispers appear, hinting that Eliza's real father was her wealthy godfather Warren Hastings, the future Governor General of India. Again, too, there is no real proof to substantiate the rumors, but Philadelphia had chosen her daughter's godfather - or her own lover - well: Hastings provided Eliza with a substantial legacy of £10,000.

In any event, Philadelphia and her daughter returned to London, while Hancock continued to toil in India. Eliza was raised as a lady, with a full compliment of lessons in dancing, French, and the harp, and all the advantages that Philadelphia hadn't had for herself. When Dr. Hancock died, the two women found London too expensive for the fashionable life they wished to live, and they went instead to Paris, where they were quickly swept up into the gay life of the French society in the last days before the Revolution. Wanting the security for Eliza that she couldn't provide herself, Philadelphia urged her towards a marriage with a French count, who died on the guillotine. (Eliza's second marriage, to her cousin Henry Austen, was both longer and happier.) While Philadelphia's decisions might not always seem today to have been the wisest for her or her daughter, she made them as a woman of her time, with limited options and resources.

Regardless of the shadows in her past, Phila (as she was known in the family) was welcomed at the home of her brother George, now a clergyman, and she was with George's wife when their daughter Jane was born. It's easy to imagine why Aunt Phila became Jane's favorite aunt: not only was she a trusted member of the family, but she also carried with her that hint of mystery and scandal, along with the exoticism of India and the sophistication of Paris - all in short supply in the home of a country clergyman.

When I look at the little miniature of Philadelphia shown here, I see only an elegantly attractive lady, with a fashionable hairstyle and a genteel smile. That little half-smile only makes me long to know the truth about her personal history, and to fill in all those scandalous gaps that time (and perhaps the well-meaning and more respectable George) have glossed over. Ahh, Jane, if only you'd written your aunt's story!

Top: Miniature portrait ring of Philadelphia Austen Hancock, by John Smart, c1768. Private collection. Photograph copyright Rowan & Rowan.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of March 2, 2015

Saturday, March 7, 2015
Fresh for your weekend reading - our weekly round-up of fav links to other blogs, web sites, articles, and images, gathered for you via twitter.
• Some strikingly modern faces in this collection of Victorian cartes de viste.
• The gorgeous typeface that drove men mad and sparked a hundred-year-old mystery.
• Don't spare the rum: 18th c. summer punch recipe for fortifying gentlemen in South Carolina.
• A glimpse into the not-so-secret diary of two-year-old Victor Cavendish, late 9th Duke of Devonshire.
• How to invent palindromes.
• Early 20th c. posters that warned of the horrors of a world with women's rights.
• Here piggy, piggy: George Washington's hogs at Mount Vernon.
• Beware the fish mousse: how all the food on Downton Abbey gets made.
Image: Elegant, finely crafted Balmoral boot, c. 1900-1910.
• Mary Driscoll, the "matchgirl" who fought for workers' rights.
• Smugglers, spies, and privateers: the Isle of Jersey during the Napoleonic Wars.
• Zounds, how you scrape! Being shaved in Georgian Britain.
• Ravages of war: what a spruce British soldier would have looked like at the beginning of the American Revolution, and what he looked like at the end.
• When Anton Mesmer arrived in Paris in 1778, women rushed to his house to be put under his spell.
• First lady Louisa Adams, social charmer.
• Retro fails: ten unhealthy advertising campaigns - and a hoax or two - from (thankfully) times gone by.
• Mrs. Sarah Siddons, the greatest tragic actress of the Georgian stage.
Image: Red and gold glamour: embroidered coat from 19th c. Turkey.
• The tragic and heart-breaking history of Victorian "murder bottles" for children.
• Unfinished portrait of Wellington by Lawrence to be shown for the first time.
• The sham ghosts of the Georgian era.
• "My servants really live like kings & queens": below stairs intruding on above stairs, 1774.
Image: London poster from WWI admonishing women against extravagance in dress.
• Magnificent 16th c. pendant of a swan, whose body is a single baroque pearl.
• Royal reputations rise and fall, but King John's deserves to remain at the bottom as England's worst king.
Treadmills for prisoners, 1823.
Image: 18th c. French box for storing wigs.
• Seventeenth century widow Lydia Scottow's wardrobe as described in her estate accounts.
• An 18th c. boxing match between two women for the hand of a farm lad.
• Which of these foods were available in 15th c. England?
• The ancient Greeks lived in a world of limited colors: black, white, metallic, with flashes of red or yellow.
• The fur trade in North America: observations of an 18th c. traveller.
Image: Medieval London in a manuscript, c. 1500.
• War of the Roses skeletons, possibly of executed soldiers, unearthed in York.
• A tragic catalogue of a hundred mostly-miserable 19th c. marriages.
• Just for fun: the Mean Girls of Wolf Hall.
More just for fun, or perhaps a SERIOUS WARNING: the dangers of reading romance novels, 1858.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Friday Video: Jane Eyre by Thug Notes

Friday, March 6, 2015
Loretta reports:

A while back, I offered Pride & Prejudice by Thug Notes.

In today’s video, he takes on another classic by a woman, Jane Eyre.

Image:  Portrait (edited) of Charlotte Bronte from 1898 edition of Jane Eyre.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Heels or Flats? Two Pairs of 18thc. Women's Floral Shoes

Thursday, March 5, 2015
Isabella reporting,

All the fashion pundits are predicting that floral-patterned shoes will be big for spring. We agree - and offer these shoes from the 1730s-1750s to prove that flowered footwear is always in style.

The heeled shoe, above, is from the 1730s; only one of the pair survives. I love how it's all swooping curves, from the white leather heel to the slightly upturned, pointed toe with a metal tip. It would have been worn with ribbons or laces, now missing, and probably a pair of brightly colored stockings.

What's amazing to me is that all those swirling flowers are embroidered in tent stitch, the diagonal stitch that's used for needlepoint. This is worked at a very fine gauge – from the photograph, I'm guessing it's about 20 stitches to the inch – to create the flowered fabric of the shoe. The description suggests that this needlework was done by the owner herself, and then made up by a professional shoemaker. What a delightful stitching project that must have been!

The shoes, below, likely date from the 1740s-1750s, and in an era when most women's shoes had heels, these are flats. (For another look at mid-18th c. flat shoes, see these reproductions made by the craftspeople of  Colonial Williamsburg.) Their rarity implies that they were bespoke to suit a particular lady's taste; perhaps she was an older lady who wanted the stability of a flat shoe. These shoes would have been fastened with a decorative buckle through the latchets. They are made from a costly ribbed silk fabric, lavishly embroidered with a floral design in shades of pink and green silk with silver threads. As shoes of any vintage go, these achieve that rarest of qualities: they managed to be both comfortable, and beautiful.

Unlike shoes that we've shared from various museums, these shoes are currently for sale on this dealer's site, which also has more photographs and information. If the shoes are bought by a museum, then we can hope that once they're studied, catalogued, and preserved, they'll still be available via a web site. But if they're purchased by a private collector (perhaps one of our readers?) they may disappear entirely from public view - so enjoy them now, and think of their long-ago first owners who wanted to welcome spring with a pair of flowered shoes.

Above: Embroidered women's shoe, 1730s.
Below: Embroidered women's flat shoes, 1740s-1750s.
Both from Meg Andrews; photographs copyright Meg Andrews.
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