WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Colquarron

It seemed a travesty to do a hit-and-run on Regency era cravats last week, so this week I wanted to look at them more in depth. To do that, I needed a somewhat relevant slang term. The one I chose is about as old and obscure a Cant term that can be found.

Colquarron

A man’s neck. CANT.

So, let’s get our supplies. According to MY Mr. Knightley, there are two ways to make a Regency cravat:

  1. Cut a long strip of cotton or linen material about 4 to 8 inches wide and at least 60 to 80 inches long, depending on the types of ties you will make. If you want your cravat to go twice around the neck then 80 inches is best.
  2. Cut a triangular piece of material, with the base of the triangle 60 to 80 inches long and against the selvedge. The height or point of the triangle should be centred in the middle and measure 10 inches high.

Next, there’s a handy pamphlet entitled Neckclothitania or, Tietania : an essay on starchers and collars / by One of the cloth, published in 1820 and illustrated by George Cruikshank, that details the popular styles of men’s neck attire of the era. After reading the complicated and constricting instructions for each design, it’s no wonder we authors have heroines’ hearts flutter at the sight of a bared skin, and take delight in unwrapping inch after delicious inch of linen from our heroes’ confined necks.

Let’s explore.

Reproduction of Neckclothania’s illustration of Cravats of 1820, from Jennifer Forest, Jane Austen’s Sewing Box: Craft Projects and Stores from Jane Austen’s World, Murdoch Press, 2009.

The Oriental

“…is made with a very stiff and rigid cloth… Care should be taken, that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface…”. The cloth is laid without crease on the front of the neck and wrapped around so the ends come to the front again for tying in a knot.

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), Tamworth Boroug.h Council

The Mathematical

“is far less severe than The Oriental – there are three creases in it.” Whereas the Oriental is smooth on the neck, the Mathematical is deliberately creased along the neck. It doesn’t look terribly less stiff to me, however.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles by George Francis Joseph, 1817, National Portrait Gallery.

The Osbaldeston

“This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck, the ends brought forward, and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches, and two inches deep. This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.”

I could not find any contemporaneous examples that I was sure of being an Osbaldeston. So I present this anonymous gentleman whose presence in a picture puts him in the Victorian era, but who is wearing an Osbaldeston cravat.

The Napoleon

“It is first laid … on the back of the neck, the ends being brought forwards and crossed, without tying, and then fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amorous look.”

Anonymous “languishingly amorous” gent.

The American

“differs little from the Mathematical, except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear [the diagonal crease between the ear and the knot are not as long], and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it.”

Robert Stewart (1769-1822), Viscount Castlereagh, later second Marquess of Londonderry, by Sir Thomas Lawrence, Royal Collection Trust, Waterloo Chamber, Windsor Castle.

The Mailcoach/Waterfall

“is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly”…. “A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.”

Portrait of a Gentleman by Francois Mulard, 1805, York Museums Trust.

Let me just pause the historical portrait examples right here and give a shout-out to the dresser of Rupert Penry-Jones in 2007’s Persuasion adaptation for having the most perfect Mailcoach/Waterfall I’ve ever seen.

Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth, Persuasion, 2007.

The Trone d’Amour

“is the most austere after the Oriental Tie – It must be extremely well stiffened with starch.” Its only ornament is “one single horizontal dent in the middle.”

Portrait of Frederick H. Hemming by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1824-25, Kimball Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

The Irish

“This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indenture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases instead of being above.” If you squint you can see that the diagonal creases meet at the point under the middle dent, just above the knot.

Thomas Campbell by Sir Thomas Lawrence, before 1830, National Portrait Gallery. I never thought I’d find an Irish cravat where you could actually see the two diagonal creases framing the center horizontal crease.

The Ballroom

“it unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones… It has no knot, but is fastened as the Napoleon.” In other words, just keep wrapping, just keep wrapping.

Joshua Tevis by Jacob Eichholtz, 1827, Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The Horse Collar

“It is certainly the worst and most vulgar… It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar.” But you can tuck a double-chin behind it!

Portrait of the Artist John Vanderlyn, 1800, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Hunting

“is formed by two collateral dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones.”

Other Archer, Earl of Plymouth by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1817, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Those horizontal creases are everywhere!

The Maharatta/Nabob

“is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths – It is first placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain-link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind.”

Portrait of Sir Edward Pellew by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1797, National Maritme Museum.

Want to see some neck cloths in action? Head over to Townsends, and 18th century reproduction clothing and accessories house. It’s American, but it’s a nice place to lose some time. They have a nice little video on neckwear, too.

 

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WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 2)

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Bufe (Part 2)

As promised, this week’s post is a continuation of popular dogs of the Regency era (Part 1 can be found here). As a reminder, dogs in general were not pets during this time period. There were always exceptions, especially in several of the breeds profiled in this post, but these dogs still had duties, that of companions. Until the Victorian period brought about standards and shows, dogs of the Regency were prized for their abilities and skills – their value lay in their work. And since the Victorians shifted the focus to dogs’ looks, don’t be surprised to notice some of the breeds looked very different in the early 19th century from what we recognize today.

Bufe

A dog. CANT.

The Newfoundland

This breed originated exactly where you’d think – Newfoundland, Canada. Their webbed feet and thick, waterproof double coat made them ideally suited to swimming in cold waters, hauling fishing gear, and pulling smaller boats to shore. Its ancestry can be traced to that of the Mastiffs and Great Pyrenees, and they are thought to have made the trek from Europe to Canada with Portugese fisherman who fished the Grand Banks as early as 1610. They received their name from George Cartwright in 1775, who named his large dogs after his beloved island home.

Although selective breeding has created the 130-150 pound behemoths we know today, Regency Newfoundland dogs were bulky and brawny as well. They were first documented in print in British Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick in 1790 (a great book to research many animals present during the Georgian era, by the by). Despite living his whole life in Northern England, Sir Thomas made engravings and wrote biographies of all things animal: the only Newfoundland he ever saw was a large black and white dog with smooth hair and a curled tail from Eslington, Northumberland.

The Newfoundland Dog from A General History of Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick, 1790.

Colors of Newfoundland coats are black, brown, or gray on a body of mostly white. The typical black and white coloring we most associate with the breed was made popular by the artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer; consequently, his name is now synonymous with that color scheme, the Landseer Newfoundland.

Lion: A Newfoundland Dog by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, 1824, Victoria & Albert Museum.

Fun facts: A Newfoundland accompanied Lewis and Clark on their exploration of the western United States, and legend has it when Napoleon escaped Elba in 1815, rough seas washed him out of his boat, where he was soon rescued by a Newfoundland dog who jumped in and kept him afloat. By the way, don’t call them Newfies; that moniker dates to 1942.

The English Pointer

The history of the English Pointer can be traced in both paintings and writings from the middle 17th century. The first Pointer hailed from Spain, but the breed came into its own in England, where it was crossed with Foxhounds for scenting, Greyhounds for speed, and English Bulldogs for strength and stamina. The English Pointer did exactly what its named implied: pointing out game for hunters or foxhounds to flush and chase. During the Regency era, this breed featured a long, blunt-shaped head, half-length tail, and brown and white coloring. Pointers were dogged in their pursuit of game, especially birds, and never gave up the hunt.

The Pointer by George Stubbs, 1766, Neue Pinakothek Art Museum, Munich.

The Pomeranian

These are not your Grandmother’s Poms. Or in my case, your cool Aunt Paulette’s. History’s Pomeranians were solid white, weighed in around thirty pounds, pulled sleds (or more accurately, sledges), and herded other animals. They were robust workers and weren’t bred down to become “companions” until the latter end of the Regency. James Boswell wrote in his diary on 2 November 1764 that while traveling through Mainz, Germany, he met a French traveler, “a merchant of fine stuffs at Lyons…The Frenchman had a Pomeranian dog called Pomer, whom he was mighty fond of…a great lubbery dog with a head like a British tar.” Queen Charlotte even brought Pomeranians in her entourage to England in 1767. Although their name is derived from the region of Pomerania along the Baltic Sea in northern Poland and Germany, the breed itself did not originate here – only its name. This area gave rise to the Spitz, an ancestor of the Pomeranian, which means there is wolf blood in this breed. I kid you not. This could go a long way to explaining why this breed is now typically known as a “big dog in a little body.”

Fino and Tiny by George Stubbs, 1791. Royal Collection Trust. These dogs belonged to the Prince of Wales, future Prince Regent.

The Poodle

According to the Georgian Index, there are two theories on the poodle’s origins:

  1. The breed developed from rugged Asian herding dogs brought to Europe by the Moors in the 8th Century.
  2. The breed descended from the dogs that the Goths, a federation of German tribes, brought with them in their migration into Europe.

Since the name Poodle is a derivative of the German pudeln (puddle) and/or Pudelhund (water dog), I’m inclined toward option number two. Poodles were workers, in occupations as varied as sporting dogs who retrieved birds while on the hunt, to circus performers in traveling troupes. Just like the aforementioned Pomeranian, their keen intelligence and disposition were such that owners began to selectively breed them down as companion dogs for the nobility.

A Favorite Poodle and Monkey (belonging to Thomas Osborne, 4th Duke of Leeds) by John Wootton.

The Pug

The Pug is considered one of the oldest breeds in the world, documented by none other than Confucius (known as Lo-Sze in Chinese) in 551 BC. According to Georgian England’s Top Dogs, they were valued for their “small size, short coat, and their Prince Mark – three wrinkles on the forehead and a vertical bar form a marking that repeats the Chinese character for Prince.” By the early 16th century, direct trade to China brought notice of the noble Pug to Europe; they were said to have arrived in England via the Glorious Revolution of William and Mary in 1688. This breed is the quintessential lap dog of yesteryear as well as today. Although their legs were not as short as now, they have always been compact and muscular, and have always been companion dogs, a sign of wealth and possibly indolence, as they are usually seen in family portraits as being quite chubby.

A Pug by Thomas Gainesborough, 1780, Private Collection.

The Curly Coated Retriever

The Curly Coated Retriever is considered the oldest documented retriever breed, esteemed by both gamekeepers and poachers alike for its intelligence, commitment to the hunt, strength, and tenacity in pursing both game and fowl. Historians place their best guesses as to the origins of this breed in the late 18th century England, with traces of Labradors and Poodles found in its ancestry. Curlies have short, thick, solid black or brown coats that are tightly curled everywhere except the face.

Wyndham, from A General History of Quadrupeds by Sir Thomas Bewick, 1790.

The Spaniel

Spaniels were the workhorses of the hunt. They flushed game, their medium build and height allowing them to hug low to the ground, dive under bushes, and retrieve kills after the hunter shot. They were slower than other game dogs, so they were ideally matched to the owner who hunted on foot rather than horse, which made them a breed suited to the “common man.” Historically, spaniels were categorized by the game they flushed: Cockers (woodcocks), Springers (patridge, pheasants, and rabbits), and Water (ducks, geese). A breed developed in the late 19th and early 19th century was known as the Sussex Spaniel, and was characterized by a wavy, golden-brown coat with fringe on the ears and underside, and a docked tail. It had no speed and no nose for well-hidden game, so it quickly evolved into a pet.

Quaille, an English Water Spaniel by Henry Bernard Chalon, 1797, Public Domain.

The Terrier

‘Terrier’ is a catch-all term for dogs bred to flush small game and critters from their burrows; several varieties were bred to actually enter burrows and kill their quarry. There are no over-arching characteristics in coat or looks distinctive to the name Terrier, so the grouping of dogs in this broad group is completely dependent on their job. Terrier comes from the Latin Terra, meaning earth. The list of Terrier breeds is long:

  1. Airedale – the largest of the group, also called Bingley and Waterside.
  2. Bedlington – small dog bred to hunt vermin in the mines of Northumberland.
  3. Border – small dog with long legs bred to hunt foxes and vermin in packs.
  4. Bull – medium-sized dog with egg-shapped, flattened muzzle; stubborn and independent, with white-coated version prone to deafness.
  5. Cairn – one of the oldest Scottish breeds, left-pawed which indicates strong scenting abilities.
  6. Dandie Dinmont – small dog with short legs and elongated body, named for a character in Sir Walter Scott’s novel Guy Mannering.
  7. Fox – two versions (Smooth Fox and Wire Fox), looks like small versions of the Airedale.
  8. Irish – one of the oldest Terrier breeds, has a distinctive reddish coat, worked on farms and in cities in Ireland.
  9. Kerry Blue – also known as Irish Blue Terrier, bred chiefly to control vermin (rats, rabbits, badgers, foxes).
  10. Lakeland – named for the Lake District, breed is friendly, bold, and confident.
  11. Manchester – smooth-coated Terrier bred to control rats in Manchester, were used in rat-baiting “sport.”
  12. Scottish – also known as Aberdeen Terrier, one of the five Scottish Terrier breeds, very independent and rugged.
  13. Sealyham – rare Welsh breed, not developed until the Victorian era, bred for pest control.
  14. Skye – small, short-legged, long-haired terrier bred for hunting but with a constitution suited for indoor living.
  15. Staffordshire – medium-sized dog with look of a Bull Mastiff, must be exercised and worked or develops destructive habits.
  16. Welsh – second Welsh breed developed to hunt foxes, rodents, and badgers; notable for not shedding.
  17. West Highland White – small Terrier with longer legs, first seen during reign of James VI of Scotland.
  18. Yorkshire – breed that arose in the mid-19th century to root out vermin in Yorkshire mills.

The Scottish Deerhound

Known for centuries as the Scotch Greyhound and Rough Greyhound, it’s not hard to fathom Scottish Deerhounds traced their ancestry to the Greyhound. They looked like bigger, hairier Greyhounds, with long legs, long hair, and sleek lines. They were first bred in the mid-16th century for their deer hunting abilities, and were often known as Staghounds; as this game could only be pursued by earls and above, they were the dogs of aristocrats during the Regency. The Scottish Deerhound was also known for its quiet, dignified personality, as long as furry beasties weren’t around to chase.

Four Dogs from Tweedale, a Scots Deerhound, an Otter Terrier, and a Scots Terrier by William Shiels (1783-1857), National Museums, Scotland.

The Irish Wolfhound

Another descendant of the Greyhound, the Irish Wolfhound is the tallest of the dogs (but not the heaviest, like the Great Dane or Bull Mastiff). They are one of the oldest breeds, with references being found in Roman records from 391 AD. Wolfhounds were bred for endurance to hunt with their masters, strength to fight beside them in battle, bravery to guard their homes, and calmness to play with their children. An old Irish proverb says, “Gentle when stroked, Fierce when provoked.”

They were considered the dogs of the wealthy for many reasons: they hunted large game, a sport only allowed to aristocrats; their large size meant large amounts of food were necessary for their feed, and; they needed ample space to run and exercise. Wolfhounds were so skilled at hunting that they succeeded in rooting out their quarry from Ireland by the late 18th century; the Wolfhounds were subsequently shipped to England, where they enjoyed a resurgence in usefulness.

The Irish Wolfhound by A. Baker, 1887, Public Domain.

That concludes our drive through history of the popular dog breeds of the Regency. I’ll conclude with a just-for-laughs clip of Charlie the Dog, from the Looney Tunes of my Saturday morning youth. The recording is straight out of 1992 via camcorder and TV screen, but crank up the volume because Charlie’s truly a one-of-a-dozen-breeds kind of dog.

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Jaw-Me-Dead

Several weeks ago, a Word of the Week featured the quotes of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet. I received this hilarious Twitter shout-out from Dolores of Course:

Anytime a person is impelled to Jane Austen, it’s a good thing. My goal this week is to invoke the urge toward Sense and Sensibility; specifically, Mrs. Charlotte Palmer, and her incessant chatter, and her husband’s priceless reactions to it.

And really, does one need an excuse to watch a period version of Dr. House?

Jaw-Me-Dead

A jaw-me-dead is a talkative fellow; jaw being speech, discourse.

Mrs. Charlotte Palmer is a giggly, silly, chatterbox…but also essentially a nice person. Just like her mother, Mrs. Jennings, she loves gossip – and sharing it as soon as possible with all her friends. Mr. Palmer, on the surface, is a dour sourpuss whose only conversation seems to be one-liners delivered in passive aggressive rebuttal of his wife’s pronouncements. He’s quiet where she is exuberant. When the action moves to his home, we see he is really serious and concerned about the health of his guest (Marianne) and his family, and that his acerbity is more posture than truth.

Mr. Palmer’s role as straight man to his wife’s Jaw-Me-Dead is pure entertainment.

Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her sister’s, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed, and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and continued to read it as long as he staid.

Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated before her admiration of the parlour and every thing in it burst forth.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

Only look, sister, how delightful every thing is! How I should like such a house for myself! Should not you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes from the newspaper.

“Mr. Palmer does not hear me,” said she, laughing; “he never does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 19

“But indeed you must and shall come. I am sure you will like it of all things. The Westons will be with us, and it will be quite delightful. You cannot think what a sweet place Cleveland is; and we are so gay now, for Mr. Palmer is always going about the country canvassing against the election; and so many people came to dine with us that I never saw before, it is quite charming! But, poor fellow! it is very fatiguing to him! for he is forced to make every body like him.”

Elinor could hardly keep her countenance as she assented to the hardship of such an obligation.

“How charming it will be,” said Charlotte, “when he is in Parliament!–won’t it? How I shall laugh! It will be so ridiculous to see all his letters directed to him with an M.P.–But do you know, he says, he will never frank for me? He declares he won’t. Don’t you, Mr. Palmer?”

Mr. Palmer took no notice of her.

“He cannot bear writing, you know,” she continued–“he says it is quite shocking.”

“No,” said he, “I never said any thing so irrational. Don’t palm all your abuses of languages upon me.”

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 20

“Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,” said she; “What do you think he said when he heard of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now, but it was something so droll!”

After an hour or two spent in what her mother called comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings’s side, and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer’s, it was proposed by the latter that they should all accompany her to some shops where she had business that morning…

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 26

Nothing was wanting on Mrs. Palmer’s side that constant and friendly good humour could do, to make them feel themselves welcome. The openness and heartiness of her manner more than atoned for that want of recollection and elegance which made her often deficient in the forms of politeness; her kindness, recommended by so pretty a face, was engaging; her folly, though evident was not disgusting, because it was not conceited; and Elinor could have forgiven every thing but her laugh.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 42

He came, examined his patient, and though encouraging Miss Dashwood to expect that a very few days would restore her sister to health, yet, by pronouncing her disorder to have a putrid tendency, and allowing the word “infection” to pass his lips, gave instant alarm to Mrs. Palmer, on her baby’s account. Mrs. Jennings, who had been inclined from the first to think Marianne’s complaint more serious than Elinor, now looked very grave on Mr. Harris’s report, and confirming Charlotte’s fears and caution, urged the necessity of her immediate removal with her infant; and Mr. Palmer, though treating their apprehensions as idle, found the anxiety and importunity of his wife too great to be withstood. Her departure, therefore, was fixed on; and within an hour after Mr. Harris’s arrival, she set off, with her little boy and his nurse, for the house of a near relation of Mr. Palmer’s, who lived a few miles on the other side of Bath; whither her husband promised, at her earnest entreaty, to join her in a day or two; and whither she was almost equally urgent with her mother to accompany her.

Sense and Sensibility, Chapter 43

Emma Thompson’s faithful and Oscar-winning adaptation of Sense and Sensibility in 1995 showcases the quirky banter of the Palmers to perfection. How many of us could keep our cool and droll sense of humor in the face of such a steadfast Jaw-Me-Dead as Mrs. Palmer?

 

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fee, Faw, Fum

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Fee, Faw, Fum

I really enjoy a spooky story. Not gross, just good, old fashioned, huddle-under-the-covers-so-the-thing-under-the-bed-doesn’t-get-you scary.

Most of the time, the movies that give me chills are those that could happen in real life: the determined killer (the original Halloween, Psycho), the vulnerability of being alone (The Strangers), the isolation and fear of the unknown in the woods (Deliverance), and natural circumstances beyond your control (The Birds). I can even stomach a bit of blood when it’s relieved by comedy, like Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland (and it’s usually pretty easy to know when to hide your eyes).

Occasionally a thriller with supernatural overtones will give me the heebie jeebies, even though I’m 99.9% sure it could never happen: The Ring, Event Horizon, Insidious, the original Night of the Living Dead. And my personal favorite, Nosferatu (Max Schreck is unnerving and terrifying). Seriously, if you haven’t see this movie because it was made in 1922 and it’s silent, treat yourself. Watch it alone, in the dark. I dare you.

To the rest of the movies – like Saw, Cabin Fever, or Night of 1000 Corpses – I turn a blind eye (and don’t do links). There’s nothing frightening to me in gore, just shock. There’s no scare; it’s pure nausea. It’s to those movies I apply the Word of the Week.

Fee, Faw, Fum

Nonsensical words, supposed in childish story-books to be spoken by giants. I am not to be frighted by fee, faw, fum; I am not to be scared by nonsense.

The entire Georgian era has many fearful stories to recommend, but I especially love the tale of the Wynyard Ghost. The story concerns four English officers encamped at Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, during the American War of Independence. Like the cliché portends, it was a dark and stormy night . . . and a brother of one of the gentlemen was soon to make an unexplainable visit. You really should read the whole story, and historian and author Geri Walton tells it much better than I ever could in her blog post Wynyard Ghost Story.

If you’d like to get your seasonal, Halloween-y historical chills via the small screen, I recommend two period dramas to keep you wide awake. The first has a truly awful trailer, nothing like the mini-motion picture teasers we have come to expect – but don’t let that put you off. The film is nothing like its cheesy promo: Director Martin Scorsese ranks this film as one of the top ten horror movies of all time. Creepy setting, creepy music, and creepy children: what more could you ask for?

The Innocents (1961)
An adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw

And from the long list of “Don’t Trust Your Husband” films of the 1940s, like Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Notorious, comes my favorite. It’s the story of a woman whose husband is trying to slowly drive her mad. Another sad little trailer, but Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, and Angela Lansbury will make it worth your while.

Gaslight (1944)
Based on the stage play of the same name, Gas Light

 

  • Slang term definition found in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
  • The BBC released an another adaptation of The Turn of the Screw at Christmas in 2009. It’s well shot and very well acted (you’ll see Matthew, Mary, and Denker from Downton Abbey), but some critics took exception to the fact that the setting was changed from 1840 to Edwardian England, and that it was much more sexualized than the novel. Personally, I thought it had way too many horror movie clichés, spilling the plot over into the predictable rather than the disturbing. And this story should definitely disturb. Find the trailer here.
WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Coxcomb

Last week’s word – Cokes – might have been a contraction of this week’s word:

Coxcomb (noun)

Anciently, a fool. Fools, in great families, wore a cap with bells, on the top of which was a piece of red cloth, in the shape of a cock’s comb. At present, coxcomb signifies a fop, or vain self-conceited fellow.

William Combe wrote a vivid and eloquent description of the coxcomb in The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Canto XXXV of The Third Tour of Dr. Syntax, In Search of a Wife. A Poem. William Combe. 1828.

Georgette Heyer, the grande dame and instigator originator of the Regency romance, also illustrated quite vividly the coxcomb in her novel, Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle.

Beside Sylvester’s quiet elegance and Major Newbury’s military cut she had been thinking that Sir Nugent presented all the appearance of a coxcomb. He was a tall man, rather willowy in build, by no means unhandsome, but so tightly laced-in at the waist, so exaggeratedly padded at the shoulders, that he looked a little ridiculous. From the striking hat set rakishly on his Corinthian crop (he had already divulged that it was the New Dash, and the latest hit of fashion) to his gleaming boots, everything he wore seemed to have been chosen for the purpose of making him conspicuous. His extravagantly cut coat was embellished with very large and bright buttons; a glimpse of exotic colour hinted at a splended waistcoat beneath it; his breeches were of white corduroy; a diamond pin was stuck in the folds of his preposterous neckcloth; and he wore so many rings on his fingers, and so many fobs and seals dangling at his waist, that he might have been taken for a jeweller advertising his wares. (Chapter 16)

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

Dandies of 1817, Isaac Cruikshank, British Museum.

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

Read what romance author Barbara Bettis thought of Sylvester, or The Wicked Uncle at The Beau Monde’s Regency Turns 80 celebration article here.

Learn more about Regency coxcombs/dandies and all things fussily masculine at Geri Walton’s unique histories of the 18th and 19th centuries here.

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ April Fool

WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ April Fool

Last Friday was April 1st, the date known practically the world over as April Fool’s Day. The one day when pranksters can get away with various and sundry harassments and plagues. A celebration of the worldwide “Kick Me” sign.

APRIL FOOL (noun)

Any one imposed on, or sent on a bootless errand, on the first of April; which day it is the custom among the lower people, children, and servants, by dropping empty papers carefully doubled up, sending persons on absurd messages, and such like contrivances, to impose on every one they can, and then to salute them with the title of April Fool. This is also practised in Scotland under the title of Hunting the Gowke.

James Gillray, "The April Fool Consigned to Infamy and Ridicule," 1801, Victoria and Albert Museum.

James Gillray, “The April Fool Consigned to Infamy and Ridicule,” 1801, Victoria and Albert Museum.

Whether its origins can truly be traced back to the Roman Festival of Hilaria or the Medieval Feast of Fools, the first known documented reference to an April Fool is by Geoffrey Chaucer, in the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale” story of his Canterbury Tales in 1392. A wily fox plays on the vanity and conceit of the cock Chauntecleer, and nearly succeeds in having him for dinner.

When that the monthe in which the world bigan
That highte March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and passed were also
Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two

Much scholarly debate has centered around whether Chaucer actually meant April 1st or May 3rd; an argument can be made for both interpretations. For the purposes of celebrating all things April Fool, I choose to believe Chaucer went for the historical reference in his tale of torment of the easily gulled.

In 1508, French choirmaster and composter Eloy d’Amerval composed a poem containing a line that roughly translated means “Infamous Mackerel, of many man and many woman, April Fools.” To this day, people shout out “Poisson d’Avril!” Children do so while sticking a picture of a fish on each other’s backs.

maquereau infâme de main d’homme
et de mainte femme,
poisson d’avril.

In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene penned a poem entitled Refereyn Vp verzendekens dach/Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach. Easy for me to type. The closest meaning translates from late Medieval Dutch means to “Refrain on errand-day/which is the first of April.” In these verses, a nobleman makes his servants run fools’ errands on the first of April. These servants, however, are perhaps less fools and more loyal help: each stanza closes with a servant stating, “I am afraid … that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.”

1561dedene

The first British reference to April Fool’s Day appeared in 1686, when John Aubrey in Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme simply wrote of “Fooles Holy Day – We observe it on ye first of April.” My favorite documentation of British observance of April trickery comes in the form of invitations to the Annual Ceremony of the Washing of the Lions at the Tower of London. Never mind the fact that there were no lions kept there any longer. Nor were they ever washed.

The premier April Fool's Event - the annual washing of the Tower lions, 1856.

The premier April Fool’s Event – the annual washing of the Tower lions, 1856.

Want to know more about the history of April Fool’s? Check out these fascinating blog posts, and follow them while you’re there!

Origins of April Fools’ Day or France’s April Fish by Geri Walton
The Origin of April Fool’s Day by Regina Jeffers
All About April – Fools and Showers at Jane Austen’s London

 

Slang definition from 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. All other sources used are clickable links in the above text.

We’re Beautiful.

Beautiful.  What does that word even mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines beautiful as “excelling in grace of form, charm of colouring, and other qualities which delight the eye, and call forth admiration.”  Yikes.

look great see no one

The most popular definition at Urban Dictionary says, “Beautiful is a woman who has a distinctive personality, one who can laugh at anything, including themselves, who is especially kind and caring to others.”  Now this definition, I love.

sweat pants cheerleader

Different cultures have different standards of beauty, and those standards have evolved over hundreds of years under the such diverse influences as economics, norms, fashion, and even religious beliefs.

Author, historian, researcher, and all-around Wonder Woman, Geri Walton, blogged this week about Ideas of Female Beauty in the 1700s and 1800s.  It’s a fascinatingly specific essay on what people – and especially men – considered beautiful two and three hundred years ago.  Some ideals seem a touch odd today, like round knees, white shoulders, an unaffected air, or a smooth, high forehead.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the majority of the characteristics called beautiful are still used as measures today: youth, smooth skin, straight teeth, and plenty of bosom.

If there’s one thing history can teach us about beauty, it’s that someone will always be around to judge who they think is or isn’t qualified to wear the adjective.  So it’s up to us to set our own standards, create our own definitions, and find what fits for us.

It’s just like Mr. Knightly said: “Perhaps it is our imperfections that make us perfect for one another.”  (For the purists: I know it was 1996 movie Mr. Knightly, or rather screenwriter Douglas McGrath, and not Jane Austen who gave us these words . . . but I’ll take them.  And Jeremy Northam.)

Do the clicky thingy and head over to read Geri’s post at 2Romance, and check out the beauty standards of yesteryear.  You might be surprised to see that a  few of the things we search for in our mirrors were the same things searched for in a foggy pier glass in a Georgian town house.

beauty isnt perfect