WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Waspish

Bitter and rancorous feelings can twist even the prettiest countenance or heart into an ugly thing. Some are more predisposed than others to unkind thoughts and actions, while others are warped by circumstance and hardship. Whatever the cause, the results are as nasty as the names: harpy, shrew, witch, harridan.

Waspish

Peevish, spiteful.

When I think waspish, I immediately conjure two images: Lady Catherine de Bourgh and the Real Housewives of *insert city here.* No one likes to be the object of tittle-tattle or meanness, but many like to be in on the hearing and observation of it, and television has brought the most specious, intriguing, and sometimes salacious news and imaginings straight into our homes.

When a stroll through the interwebs turns up Jane Austen/RHOetc. mashup, well, heaven help us.

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ape Leader

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Ape Leader

It could be argued that Jane Austen had a soft spot for spinsters, possibly since she was essentially one herself; spinsters feature prominently in four of her six novels. Tellingly, her spinsters are sympathetic and honorable characters, worthy of friendship and respect, and certainly not to be punished for their lack of husbands: Elinor Dashwood (Sense and Sensibility), Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice, until she marries far beneath her intellect to prevent spinsterhood),  Anne Elliot (Persuasion), and Miss Bates (Emma).

In Mansfield Park, the weak characters and morals of Maria Bertram Rushworth and Mary Crawford leave them both without a match at the conclusion of the story, the implication being that these deficiencies will likely lead them either to further ruinous behavior or soon to be past the age of interest. Maria is banished to “another country” with her Aunt Norris (and if two people ever deserved the other more…).

The same outcome could likewise be argued for Isabella Thorpe in Northanger Abbey. She played all angles to no positive effect, having presumed incorrectly that the Morlands had fortune, that Captain Tilney would make her an offer, and that Catherine would remain her trusty trout despite all the passive aggressive machinations.

So the two Austen novels without spinsters have sinu viperam habere – literally a snake in the breast. I daresay no one feels sorry for the likes of Maria Bertram Rushworth, Mary Crawford, or Isabella Thorpe, so I hypothesize that Austen refrained from placing them firmly on the shelf in the course of her stories. These ladies (and I use the term anatomically rather than dispositionally), are likely to get what they deserve in censure from society, and are unworthy to be lumped in with the genteel victims-of-circumstance that are spinsters.

Ape Leader

An old maid; their punishment after death, for neglecting increase and multiply, will be, it is said, leading apes in hell.

Portrait of Alexandra Nicolai Sicily (1787-1824) by Christian Albrecht Jenson (1792-1870), 1824, Hermitage Museum.

Because there’s nothing like finding a contemporaneous source to support your research, I give you an excerpt from The Repository of Arts, Literature, Fashions, Manufactures, &c., 1816, in which The Female Tattler relates a letter she received on the validity and suitability of use of the term ape leader. Fair warning: the “curious inquirer” author of said letter is a real dicked-in-the-nob peach.

 

Nadezhda Dubovitskaya by Vladimir Lukich Borovikovsky (1757-1825), 1809.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Balum Rancum

This week’s word deals with dancing prostitutes, so as you can imagine, period illustrations were a bit hard to find. Thank goodness the upper classes had no compunction about acting a bit shamefully on occasion. Or at least enough to satirize.

Exhibition Stare Case, print made by Thomas Rowlandson, 1811 (?), British Museum. Visitors to the Royal Academy struggle up and down the steeply curving staircase of Somerset House. The wild display of bare legs brings delight to the spectators.

Blaum Rancum

A hop or dance, where the women are all prostitutes. N. B. The company dance in their birthday suits.

Waltzing! or a peep into the Royal Brothel Spring Gardens dedicated with propriety to the Lord Chamberlain, 1816, British Museum.

Far from an illustration of prostitutes, but based on the description of the engraving, there is a definite spirit of balum rancum afoot.

Three couples dance immodestly in a space bordered by a red rope behind which are many spectators. The breasts and shoulders, and sometimes the arms, of the women are bare, their skirts short and edged with transparent lace. A fourth couple stand arm-in-arm on the extreme right, inspecting a lady seated on a bench. A corner of the musicians’ gallery is on the left. The men’s costume also is caricatured. All wear tail-coats and high collars; one wears very tight and short pantaloons, another loose baggy trousers resembling plus-fours (cf. No. 12825). There is a carpet with a large lyre for centre-piece (or perhaps this represents the designs then chalked on ball-room floors). Above is a gas-chandelier with many jets. On the wall are three pictures. (1) ‘Naked, but not ashamed’: three women with bare breasts and short petticoats, two wearing hats, and two having a grotesque stoop (cf. No. 12840). (2) Two men raising their hats; one wears short loose trousers, the other tight breeches with top-boots. (3) ‘Tobacco Pipe imitations of Female Dress—or Smoking the Fashions of 1816.’

The Royal Joke, -or- Black Jacks Delight by James Gillray, published by Samuel William Fores 25 April 1788, National Portrait Gallery.

Fiddling, dancing, royalty, gawkers, and a whip – who needs prostitutes?! And while the colorized etching is held at the National Portrait Gallery, the description is pure British Museum:

A scene in Carlton House. The Prince of Wales, seated in a chair, holds a stout, good-looking lady (Mrs. Sawbridge) across his knees and chastises her with upraised hand; she holds out her arms imploringly. Alderman Sawbridge (right) faces her in profile to the left, playing a fiddle and dancing; from his pocket hangs a piece of music inscribed ‘The Reform’, a new Motion. On the extreme left Lady Archer stands in profile to the right, holding a driving-whip, and pointing angrily at the injured lady. A little girl (Sawbridge) stands full-face, clasping her hands in horror at the treatment of her mother. Behind are a number of onlookers: a very fat lady in profile to the left is Miss Vanneck; Mrs. Fitzherbert watches, not displeased; Fox, his arm round her shoulder, gazes amorously at her…

 

Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Monks and Friars

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Monks and Friars

It’s the unofficial beginning of summer and the official beginning of reading season! I thought this week’s term was especially appropriate.

Monks and Friars

Terms used by printers: monks are sheets where the letters are blotted, or printed too black; friars, those letters where the ink has failed touching the type, which are therefore white or faint.

So what would Regency ladies have to read under the shade of a yew tree, or beside the bubbling fountain in their fragrant garden?

Glad you asked.

Author and historian Rachel Knowles compiled a list of novels – yes, those horrid things – that the gentle reader might pick up for her delectation from her circulating library. How many have you read?

Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe -1719

Captain Singleton – Daniel Defoe – 1720

Captain Jack – Daniel Defoe – 1722

Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe – 1722

Roxanda – Daniel Defoe – 1724

Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – 1726

Pamela or Virtue Rewarded – Samuel Richardson – 1740

The Adventures of Joseph Andrews – Henry Fielding – 1742

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady – Samuel Richardson – 1747-8 (epistolary novel)

Tom Jones – Henry Fielding – 1749

Amelia – Henry Fielding – 1751

The History of Sir Charles Grandison – Samuel Richardson – 1753-4

Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith – 1766

Evelina or The History of a Young Lady’s Entrance into the World – Fanny Burney – 1778

Cecilia or Memoirs of an Heiress – Fanny Burney – 1782

The Sylph – Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1788)

The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne – Mrs Radcliffe – 1789

A Sicilian Romance – Mrs Radcliffe – 1790

The Romance of the Forest – Mrs Radcliffe – 1791

The Monk – Matthew Gregory Lewis – 1792

The Mysteries of Udolpho – Mrs Radcliffe -1794

Camilla or A Picture of Youth – Fanny Burney – 1796

The Italian – Mrs Radcliffe – 1797

Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth – 1800

Memoirs of Modern Philosophers – Elizabeth Hamilton – 1800

Belinda – Maria Edgeworth – 1801

Popular Tales – Maria Edgeworth – 1804

The Modern Griselda – Maria Edgeworth – 1805

Leonora – Maria Edgeworth – 1806

Corinne – Madame de Stael – 1807

Tales from Fashionable Life – Maria Edgeworth – 1809/1812 (6 volumes) including The Absentee

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen – 30 October 1811

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – 28 January 1813

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen – 9 May 1814

The Wanderer or Female Difficulties – Fanny Burney – 1814

Waverley – Sir Walter Scott – 1814 (first of the Waverley novels)

Emma – Jane Austen – December 1815

Guy Mannering –Sir Walter Scott – 1815 (a Waverley novel)

The Antiquary – Sir Walter Scott -1816 (a Waverley novel)

Mandeville – William Godwin – 1817

Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen – December 1817

Persuasion – Jane Austen – December 1817

Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott – 1817 (a Waverly novel)

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley – 1818

Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott – 1819

Kenilworth – Sir Walter Scott – 1821 (a Waverley novel)

Peveril of the Peak – Sir Walter Scott – 1822 (a Waverley novel)

The Pirate – Sir Walter Scott -1822 (a Waverley novel)

Quentin Durward – Sir Walter Scott – 1823 (a Waverley novel)

St Ronan’s Well – Sir Walter Scott – 1824 (a Waverley novel)

The Betrothed – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

Redgauntlet – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

The Talisman – Sir Walter Scott – 1825 (a Waverley novel)

Gaston de Blondeville – Mrs Radcliffe – 1826

Woodstock – Sir Walter Scott – 1826

The Fair Maid of Perth – Sir Walter Scott – 1828 (a Waverley novel)

Anne of Geierstein – Sir Walter Scott – 1829 (a Waverley novel)

Cloudesley – William Godwin – 1830

As we binge read this summer, may the monks be legible and the friars visible.

 

If you’d like to meet a boatload of romance authors and have multiple chances to win free books, consider heading over to Romance Writers Gone Wild this week. I’m participating in the Historical Romance group on Friday, but Monday through Thursday are filled with authors who write contemporary, paranormal, suspense, inspirational, urban fantasy, and everything in between. Just click the picture below to join us!

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Brother of the Blade

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Brother of the Blade

From the archives . . . originally published 25 May, 2015.

As today is Memorial Day, a holiday in the United States instituted to remember the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces, the Word of the Week seemed to pick itself.

Richard Sharpe and His Chosen Men, from the ITV series Sharpe, by Bernard Cornwell.

Richard Sharpe and His Chosen Men, from the ITV series Sharpe, by Bernard Cornwell.

Brother of the Blade

Swordsman or soldier; a fellow soldier in a shared struggle.

Brothers at Dunkirk 1814, from War Against Napoleon, 2002.

Brothers at Dunkirk 1814, from War Against Napoleon, 2002.

Here’s a news flash: No soldier gives his life. That’s not the way it works. Most soldiers who make a conscious decision to place themselves in harm’s way do it to protect their buddies. They do it because of the bonds of friendship – and it goes so much deeper than friendship.  ~ Eric Massa

In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one.  ~ H.L. Mencken

Neither soldiers nor money can defend a king but only friends won by good deeds, merit, and honesty.  ~ Sallust

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Contra Dance

I could have danced all night
I could have danced all night
And still have begged for more
I could have spread my wings
And done a thousand things
I’ve never done before

My Fair Lady, I Could Have Danced All Night, music written by Frederick Loewe and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, published 1956.

Contra Dance

A dance where the dancers of the different sexes stand opposite each other, instead of side by side, as in the minuet, rigadoon, louvre, &c. and now corruptly called a country dance.

Those of us familiar with the Regency era are well acquainted with dancing at balls and the obligatory appearance(s) at Almacks for a young marriage-minded miss, and we’ve heard the terms ‘minuet,’ ‘highland reel,’ and ‘quadrille,’ but what about those other dances mentioned by the estimable Mr. Grose?

Contra Dance

Popular since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the contra dance consisted of couples lining up opposite each other with men on one side and ladies on the other. The dance began at the top with the first couple, and they worked their way down the lines, weaving in and out. They were followed by the next top couple, until all couples had worked the line. As everyone had the chance to be the lead couple, the set could last a long, long time. A beautiful (albeit abbreviated) example of the contra dance is Mr. Beveridge’s Maggot from the cinematic version of Emma, 1995.

Minuet

Whether the dance as it was during the Regency period derived from the Italian or French versions, the minuet was so named due to its small steps. It was danced by couples in three-quarter time. This set opened balls as everyone knew how to navigate its steps, despite the fact the footwork was intricate. The dance was steeped in tradition and held with near reverence by the older crowd, likely because it quickly displayed a person’s grace (or lack thereof). It’s popularity began to wane in the Regency as the waltz gained popularity and eventual acceptance. (On a side note, the good Regency historian remembers that the waltz during this time was nothing like the waltz of the Victorian or current eras. This is the Viennese Waltz, with couples not dancing in the closed position, but rather semi-closed, side-by-side, then facing each other, as seen in the following illustration. Couples are very much embracing, but not tightly, bosoms brushing, as some might wish.)

Earl Waltz Steps from Thomas Wilson’s Treatise on Waltzing, 1816.

But I digress. A beautiful example of the minuet is presented by the Jane Austen Society of Florence and L’Atelier de Danse at the Grand Napoleonic Ball in Florence, in May of 2010, at the Villa del Poggio Imperiale, imperial residence of Napoleon’s sister, Elisa Baciocchi from 1809 till 1814 while she was Grand Duchess of Tuscany.

Rigadoon

This dance stumped me until I discovered it is a version of a more well-known dance group, the cotillion, which came to England from France in the mid-18th Century. The cotillion was another lengthy dance and the rigadoon was merely one step variation that could be showcased by the hostess. The rigadoon was a set a continuous steps and swirls with the pattern increasing in difficulty as the set progressed. I found a beautifully executed version of A New Rigadoon based on Mr. Isaac’s Rigadoon of 1706, performed at the 2012 Ottawa English Country Dance Ball.

 

If your map-reading and deciphering skills are especially acute, please feel free to interpret the original sketches of Mr. Isaac, the Rigadoon, from 1706. They are beautiful, and beyond my ken.

Mr. Isaac, The Rigadoon, 1706, plate one.

A Supplement of Steps by Raoul Auger Feuillet and translated by John Weaver, Orchesography, 1706.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louvre

This is actually a “nickname” for the Aimable Vainqueur Danse, a ballroom dance choreographed by Louis Pécour that premiered in December of 1700. It’s also documented with the ‘Loure’ spelling, making it somewhat difficult to discover in the depths of Google. It became one of the popular historical dances to include at balls through the early 19th Century because of its stately movements and traditional elegance. Once again, the steps are intricate and the pace is steady without any breaks, very similar to the Allemande. Giovanni-Andrea Gallini’s A Treatise on the Art of Dancing in 1778 states the Louvre and Minuet as the two dances most in fashion throughout Europe, and that the Louvre “pleases particularly” with the “just concert of motions” exhibited by the couple. It’s important again for the Regency historian to remember that dance was also another language of diplomacy, and that the most exclusive balls and routs would feature dances that all the European ambassadors and attachés would know well. A very baroque example of this dance is performed by Thomas Baird and Suzanne Paterson for La Belle Danse, exhibiting the original 1701 choreography by L.G. Pécour. The tune is from André Campra’s 1700 opera Hésione.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Dining Room Post

This week’s phrase comes courtesy the dedicated thief who’s in it for the art of the deception, with the Rube Goldberg-esque planning and implementation of the steal.

Dining Room Post

A mode of stealing in houses that let lodgings, by rogues pretending to be postmen, who send up sham letters to the lodgers, and, whilst waiting in the entry for the postage, go into the first room they see open, and rob it.

Arrest of a Woman at Night by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown, The Samuel Courtauld Trust at The Courtauld Gallery, London.

As we all know, however, crime rarely pays, or at least fails to pay for the long run. It can be argued that the Regency era gave rise to the (more) modern  and organized police man. During this time, criminals were pursued by constables, the night watch, thief-takers, and Bow Street Runners. The Metropolitan Police themselves were formed in 1829, a few years removed from the Regency but during the reign of George IV (the former Prince Regent). These various officials of law enforcement were notoriously tough and dogged in their pursuit of criminals (or at least the payment at the end of the pursuit). Some lawmen were fresh from lives of crime themselves, and used their considerable knowledge and connections to ferret out criminals.

The Night Watchman Picking Up a Wayward Girl by Thomas Rowlandson, Bonhams, New York.

Interestingly, when searching for period graphics to illustrate this post, the majority I found were of women being arrested rather than men. I’m not sure if there’s a less-than-subtle message to be inferred here, but at least one engraving by Thomas Rowlandson showed they didn’t all go down quietly.

Attacking the Night Watchman by Thomas Rowlandson, date unknown.