Friday, March 27, 2015

Belle: The Rest of the Story

You are very quiet, my dears, but I thought you would want to know a least a part of the rest of the story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the heroine of the movie Belle, which our own Cara King presented to us this week. My thanks to those who commented.  Please feel free to continue doing so. 

As Cara and QNPoohBear pointed out, the movie was a fictionalized version of Dido’s life.  In reality, she was no dewy-eyed youth when she married; she was more than 30, and she did not marry John Davinier until Lord Mansfield had died. They had three sons, twins two years after they’d married and another son later.  Sadly, she did not live to see her 44th birthday. John later remarried and had two more children with his second wife. 

Her cousin Elizabeth ended up marrying George Finch-Hatton when she was 25 and he was 38.  George was the nephew to Lady Elizabeth, “Mama” in the movie, so we can imagine she must have made the introductions.  George was the oldest son of respectable family, but his father was the fifth son of the 7th Earl of Winchilsea, so ascending to a title was highly likely.  Elizabeth’s George did, however, have not one but two estates, and he was elected to Parliament and served for 12 years, so conceivably Elizabeth and he did rather well. It didn’t hurt that Lord Mansfield left her 10,000 pounds on his death.  

They had a number of children (some sources say three, others five).  Interestingly enough, their oldest son, another George Finch-Hatton, beat all the odds and became the 10th Earl of Winchilsea when his father and all four of his uncles preceded him to the grave. That’s him in the portrait (and it struck me he looked a bit like an older, portlier Tom Felton). Unfortunately, Elizabeth also preceded him in death, so she did not have the opportunity to enjoy her son’s elevation in status.

Want more details about what happened after the movie ended?  See this fabulous post from English Heritage.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Young Bluestockings Attend the Cinema: BELLE

Here at NineteenTeen, we occasionally gather for a virtual tea-party, and discuss a historical film.  Please join us today as we discuss the gorgeous drama "Belle"!

Filmed in several of England's stately homes as well as Pinewood Studios, "Belle" has a true story as its kernel.  Dido Elizabeth Belle, the mixed-race daughter of a captain in the British Royal Navy, is orphaned, and then sent to be raised by her grandparents.   An ordinary-enough story, except that her grandparents are aristocrats -- and they live in an England which still had the slavery in its overseas colonies, and made great profits off the slave trade.

"Belle" starts with the few facts known about the real Dido Belle, and then creates a fascinating story of what her experiences growing up in England might have been.

The cast is full of well-known names.  Here are a few, to help your memory during the discussion!

Belle:  Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Lord Mansfield:  Tom Wilkinson
Lady Mansfield:  Emily Watson
Lady Ashford:  Miranda Richardson
James Ashford:  Tom Felton  (beware Slytherin!)
John Davinier (the love interest):  Sam Reid
Elizabeth Murray (the cousin):  Sarah Gadon

This film deals with issues of race, of class, of women's freedom and power, of justice, family, and love.  And of course it has those costumes!  And those gorgeous gardens and country houses.  Pretty much everything a person could want in a movie, if you ask me!


But we're not asking me, we're asking you!  Have you seen Belle?  What did you think?  What did you like, not like, want more of?  Did you like the way it handled serious issues?  And which hat would you like to wear?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Nineteenth Century Today: The Dreams of Port Townsend

One of the things I love about my new home is all the history surrounding it.  Anglo-history was a little scarce where I came from, with most of the structures dating to no earlier than WWII.  That’s why it was such a treat recently to visit Port Townsend.

Located at the northwest corner of Puget Sound, Port Townsend was original named in 1792 by Captain George Vancouver for his friend the Marquis of Townshend.  Its sheltered, deep harbor welcomed the sailing ships of the day and inspired the first settlers in 1851 to dream of its being the largest harbor on the West Coast.  In fact, the early settlers called it the City of Dreams for the prosperity they hoped would follow.

The town saw rapid growth throughout the 1800s in anticipation of being the terminus for the Northern Pacific Railroad.  Dozens of homes were built along the hillside overlooking Puget Sound, along with many civic buildings.  Fort Worden was built along one end to protect the entrance of Puget Sound from hostile forces. 

But Port Townsend’s dreams were dashed when Tacoma, more than 80 miles and on the other side of the Sound, was chosen as the end of the rail line. People began leaving down in droves.  Only the opening of a paper mill kept Port Townsend alive.  Now, the town thrives on boat building and a growing tourist trade.

My cousin once removed (known as Aunt Mary to my brother and me) lives in the area and took us on what she called her nickel tour.  Everywhere I looked were fine examples of Victorian architecture.  Like this.

And this.

And this, the district courthouse.

And it doesn’t hurt that the deer come right down into the city and roam, even in broad daylight!

It wasn’t hard for the City of Dreams to set me dreaming about owning one of these homes.  In fact, I picked the perfect house for me.  This beauty stands on a bluff alongside Puget Sound, with a commanding view of Port Townsend Bay and Marrowstone Island.  Can’t you just see me sitting in my office, gazing out at the blue, blue waters, the passing ships?

Hm.  Maybe I ought to stay in my little cottage.  At least then my dreams are more likely to get down on paper as books!

What about you?  Any of these houses set you to dreaming?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Accessories, Part 2: More Reticules

Are you writing a Regency-set story or a reenactor thinking about whipping up the perfect costume for an 1815-set ball? Following up on the first post in our new series on women’s fashion accessories in the Regency era, here are more reticules for your viewing pleasure.

Once again, all images are from my Ackermann’s Repository collection, with a few contributions from the Lady’s Magazine, noted below. Lots more cute little drawstring closure-type bags, but some surprisingly modern looking ones as well. Happy accessorizing!

Walking Dress, March 1815:

Carriage Dress, December 1816:

Carriage Dress, January 1818 (from a mourning dress, incidentally--the full image is here:

Walking Dress, November 1819:

Walking Dress November 1820:

Evening Dress, February 1821:

Walking Dress, December 1821:

Walking Dress, March 1822:

Promenade Dress, January 1824--I love the shell shape!:

Evening Dress, March 1824 (Lady’s Magazine):

Promenade Dress, July 1824:

Morning Dress, May 1826:

Carriage Costume, September 1826--though I think this is more a change purse than a reticule, don't you think?

Walking Dress, December 1827 (Lady’s Magazine):

Dinner Dress, March 1828:

Carriage Costume, April 1828:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Asa Mercer and Mea Culpa

No, those aren't the names of Hollywood’s latest It couple.  As I've written  before, Asa Mercer was the first president of the University of Washington, then the Washington Territorial University.  He figured large in the first book of my Frontier Bachelor series, The Bride Ship, as the real-life “Emigration Agent” who persuaded dozens of women to travel from the East Coast to civilize pioneer Seattle.  I tried to depict Mr. Mercer as a shrewd fellow who was focused on a goal:  bringing brides for bachelors.  I read any number of biographies on him.  And they all confirmed his claim to be the first president of the Territorial University. 

What they didn't mention was when he stopped being president.

Perhaps it was the dizzying delight of finally getting to write about the Mercer Belles, a dream I've had since I was a girl. Perhaps it was the many things I wanted to research in these, my first books set outside early nineteenth century England.  Either way, it never dawned on me that Mr. Mercer might have moved on in his profession before he made his fateful second voyage around which my stories are set.

This week, while trying to determine the school year at the Territorial University for a plot point in the fourth book, I delved more deeply into University of Washington history. It seems Mr. Mercer was only president from 1861 to 1863.  In 1866, when the first four stories are set, William Edward Barnard was president of the university for the first part of the year and George Fred Whitworth (who founded Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington) was president the second half of the year.

Oh, but I hate to get things wrong!  The mistake, unfortunately, affects three books. Mr. Mercer’s role as current president is mentioned not only in The Bride Ship, but in this month’s Would-Be Wilderness Wife and August’s Frontier Engagement.  My deepest apologies, dear readers.

And I must apologize to another.  You see, I am a graduate of the University of Washington.  Mea culpa, alma mater, mea culpa.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Fashion Forecast: 1833, Part 1

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in the first half of 1833? I'm dividing this year in half just because I have a lovely selection of prints to share, and don't want to leave anything out!

In January, she might be wearing a Morning Dress or Walking Dress as shown in The Court Magazine. I have the original text for these: "Morning Dress—Dress of chaly [challis], printed à colonnes, high body, with crossed plaits, plain back, laced; large full sleeves, tight to the elbow. Apron of black gros de Naples, embroidered with a wreath of sweet peas; epaulettes on the shoulders embroidered also; cap of Brussels lace, trimmed with maïs gauze riband. Walking Dress—Dress of blue saphire satin, plain body; tippet of black velvet à godets, and long ends; blonde ruff, with a bow of maïs gauze riband; capote of maïs terry velvet, lined with black velvet, and plait of velver to mix in the curls; trimmed with a maïs and black cerbère feather and maïs gauze riband." "Maïs" here indicates a pale yellow, like maize or corn.

Also in January’s Court Magazine, this elegant Evening Dress. The text reads, "Dress of white Cachemire [cashmere] à colonnes, alternately high corsage drapé, with borders to corespond with the pattern of the dress; short sleeves of white gros de Naples under long crapelisse sleeves; hat of grenat velvet, trimmed with torsades of velvet and a green bird of Paradise."

This print from Court Magazine’s February edition does something that Ackermann’s prints didn’t: show a front and back view, but slightly varied (a different fabric, perhaps.) This is a charming Dinner or Evening Dress, with an elegant turban headdress:

March’s Court Magazine has two wonderful Ball Dresses, one of them for a costume ball as it called "Catherine Seton", after one of Mary Queen of Scots ladies-in-waiting. Text reads: Catherine Seton--Dress of white satin, trimmed with blue velvet and pearls. Tunique of the same, and cordelière in pearls. Cherusse of blond; head dress of pearls, and a veil. Ball Dress—Dress of cerise gauze “à damier,” trimmed with gauze ribands and flowers. Plain body with bouffantes short sleeves “à côtes,” with sabots. Wreath of small flowers same as the dress."

One thing I especially enjoy about these prints from Court Magazine are the attention lavished on backgrounds as well as on the dresses themselves, making them even more eye-candyish. April's Court Dress definitely qualifies as eye-candy, by the way--the description reads: "White satin dress embroidered à tablier, in gold lama [lamè]; train and body à l’antique, in violet velvet embroidered in gold; sleeves à pointes, in velvet fastened with brilliants, blonde mantilla and sabots. Plume of ostrich feathers, and blond lappets."

Also in April's edition is a Carriage Dress—again, we have a front and back view, with slight variations: "Pelisse of green rayé watered silk, trimmed in front, cape of the same with epaulets; frill in plain blond net. Bonnet of mauve satin with one white ostrich feather."

Another Court Dress features in May's Court Magazine, this time in cherry-pink and white, with a bow-decorated train and sleeves, an emerald parure, and the requisite ostrich feathers and lappets:

And lastly, for June, a restrained yet still wildly romantic Evening Dress, all of the same fabric but with a scalloped overskirt, gathered bouffant sleeves, and a few outrageously large bows to finish things off. And again, the background art is as pretty as the dress:

What do you think of 1833's fashions?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hearing from a Hero: Drew Wallin from Would-Be Wilderness Wife

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something about a broad-shouldered man, ready to take on the world and protect those he loves.  That’s Drew Wallin from my March release, Would-Be Wilderness Wife.  Drew has a lot on his hands, logging the massive trees around Seattle, managing his family’s wilderness farm, and improving his own claim along the shores of Lake Union.  But Drew’s driving goal is to see all of his younger brothers and sisters safely grown. He’s definitely the strong, silent type, and it takes a lot to get a rise out of him.  That’s why I enlisted his second brother, the dapper, witty James Wallin, to interview him for us.

James Wallin:  Well, you’ve finally done it this time, brother.  Gone and kidnapped yourself a bride.

Drew WallinI didn’t kidnap her.  I went to Seattle trying to find medical help for Ma, and Doc Maynard couldn’t leave town. I didn’t plan on taking his nurse.  I knew what the rest of you would think.

James:  Of course!  We took one look at Catherine’s pretty face and heard wedding bells.  Better you than the rest of us.  I just bless Levi for having the brains to grab her when you wouldn’t.

Drew:  I wouldn’t call that brains.  More like stupidity.  Just be glad Catherine agreed to stay until Ma was well.

James:  Oh, I am. Even if she is the bossy sort.

Drew:  You call it bossy, I call it organization.  She herded us all into line.  We needed it.

James:  Speak for yourself. 

Drew, groaning:  Not again.

James:  Ha!  Just like when Simon tricked you into reading that poem with Catherine in front of us all.  You were playing John Alden, and she was playing Priscilla Mullins, and she asked you to speak for yourself in courting her.

Drew, smile playing about his mouth:  She turned so red when she’d realized what she’d said. 

James: And you wore that loopy grin for hours.  Scared the daylights out of the oxen.  What I don’t understand is why you don’t take her up on the offer.  She’s smart, organized, and pretty.  What more do you want, man?

Drew, smile fading:  I have enough to do trying to raise you all to take on a wife, particularly one who doesn’t know her way around the wilderness.

James:  In case you hadn’t noticed, Simon, John, and I are grown.  We don’t exactly need your tender care.

Drew:  And Levi?  Beth?  Should I just run off and leave them to fend for themselves?

James:  You won’t be far.  I can spit and hit your cabin from the main house.  You know what I think?  (Lowers his voice)  I think you’re scared.

Drew:  Terrified.  So, leave be, brother.  Besides, I don’t need to marry to carry on Pa’s name.  There are four more of you to do that.

James, raising his hands:  Don’t look at me!  I don’t intend to marry, ever.  Life’s too short to spend it worrying about the people you love.

Hm, sounds like both Wallin men need to find the right bride to help them see the beauty of love.  What do you think?