Friday, December 18, 2015

Happy Christmas!

The wonderful day is only a week away. Marissa and I will be spending the next two weeks with family and friends, but we wanted to start our holiday by wishing you and yours all the best.

And to give you Christmas presents. J

First, if you need inspiration for decorations (or you simply like to ooh and ah), check out these pages showing the 2015 decorations at Windsor Castle. The decorators went with a Regency theme, with a nod to the Battle of Waterloo on the year of its 200th anniversary. Squee! 

Then, while you’re waiting to eat your roast goose, you might play this fun online memory game featuring characters from Jane Austen’s novels. 

Finally, as you’re relaxing at the end of the day, you might wonder about which novel to read next. The Bluestocking League has put together a collection of long excerpts (not the full novels, just enough of each story to whet your appetite) from our books. It’s available free online in a variety of formats. 

Happy Christmas, my dears! Here’s to a New Year filled with good stories and great friends to share them with. We will see you on January 5 when we celebrate the launch of Instant Frontier Family.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What to Give your Favorite History Geek for Christmas

A few weeks ago, Regina gave us her Literary holiday shopping list (I lurve the red dress!) Now, 2015 was quite a year for us history geeks, seeing as it did the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, and 2014-2015 saw the publication of several excellent history books on life ca. 1815. If you’re looking for the perfect gift for yourself or for the history geek in your life, have a look at a few of these:

In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815 by Jenny Uglow; published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015 An amazingly detailed snapshot (though at over 800 pages, that may not be the right word) of life in England over twenty plus years after the end of the Peace of Amiens. The book covers everything from politics and economics to art and literature to how ordinary people, both city and country, lived their daily lives. Extensively illustrated (especially with a lot of Gilray and Rowlandson cartoons of the time) and very readable.

Jane Austen's England: Daily Life in the Georgian and Regency Periods by Roy and Lesley Adkins; published by Penguin Books, 2014 Here on NineteenTeen we will confess to something of a bias toward writing about life in aristocratic circles, because (let’s face it) it’s just so darned much escapist fun to twitter on about ball gowns and court presentations and that sort of thing. Of course, historically speaking, the “upper ten thousand” made up a very small percentage of the population. So if you’d like a clearer view of how the middle and lower classes lived--the people, in fact, who appear in Jane Austen’s novels--then this book is for you. Again, exemplary research, with useful illustrations, maps, and timelines.

Of course, in this 200th anniversary year of the Battle of Waterloo, a definitive biography of Napoleon Bonaparte would seem to be just the thing, and Napoleon: A Life by Andrew Roberts (Penguin Books, 2014) precisely fits the bill. It’s a doorstop of a book at 800 pages, but they’re very readable pages (yes, I read them) and paint a balanced picture of one of history’s more controversial figures.

For a definitive look at Waterloo itself, popular historical novelist Bernard Cornwell has brought us his first work of non-fiction in Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles (Harper, 2015), I’ve not had a chance to read it, but its reviews are outstanding and I intend to get my mitts on it as soon as possible.

And for you historical foodies out there (I'm raising my hand), Dining with the Georgians by Emma Kay; Amberley Publishing, 2014 is a delight. Covering the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it covers an important time in gastronomic history when many of our own eating habits were being established and foods we love today were establishing themselves as part of regular diets (hello, chocolate!) There appears to be a soon-to-be-released follow-up as well, Dining with the Victorians, which I think I’ll have to go see about...

Feel free to print this entry out and leave it lying about somewhere conspicuous. ☺ Are there any history books published in the last few years that you’d recommend to NineteenTeen readers?

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Surefire Way to Weed Out Books

I would wager you have too many books. I certainly do. They overflow my shelves even though I stack them as tightly as I can. They congregate under my dresser and crowd my beside table. I am fortunate that my family allows me to take up copious amounts of space (“It’s research for my writing, really!”) with all the books I’ve read, hope to read, and plan to read again.  But sometimes, you simply have to let some go.  (Shock!  Noooo!)

When my wonderful critique partner had to move across the country for a two-year assignment (and pay for every pound each direction), she asked my help in coming up with a way to determine which books made the cut, and which were to be left behind.  What follows is a surefire way to cull your precious copies down to something more manageable.

Here’s hoping you make enough room on the shelves for the books you’ll be getting for Christmas. J

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fashion Forecast: 1835, Part two

What was the well-dressed young woman wearing in the second half of 1835? (I’ll give you a hint—big sleeves. Helium may have been involved. ☺)

I’m sure she would have turned heads in this vibrant Walking Dress. I unfortunately don’t have access to the description of this dress, because I would love to know what’s up with the fabric—is it a print? The sleeves are enormous (a trend in this second half of the year) and slightly drooping so it’s hard to see the cuffs. The bodice has crossed pleats and a small lace pelerine collar, all topped by a lace cap and bonnet trimmed with green ribbons and flowers. (August, Court Magazine):

Prints are once again to the fore in these Breakfast and Dinner Dresses; I’ve not seen the appellation “breakfast dress” before. I’m guessing the fabrics are muslins; the breakfast dress has matching trim in what might be chenille, more enormous sleeves and a self-fabric pelerine plus lace ruffles at the neck. The Dinner Dress has a pleated wrap bodice over a lace tucker at the breast and wide lace epaulette-like capped sleeves with voluminous gauze oversleeves. Both ensembles are finished with bonnets; the Breakfast one with a lace cap beneath, and the Dinner Dress with trailing ties. (September, Court Magazine):

A similar look to the Dinner Dress above can be seen in this Evening Dress from October’s Court Magazine—a print fabric and similar wide gauze oversleeves, but the bodice is not wrap-style. Note the handsome shawl, probably from India:

I have one question about these Morning Dresses, also from October’s Court Magazine: how could anyone move their arms in these? The print dress at left has an enormous tiered pelerine that extends below the elbows and ends in a lace flounce over fully inflated sleeves (hence my wondering about helium!) The dress at right has an equally oversized pelerine that actually looks like it might restrict movement. It’s interesting to note the scarf that seems to go through the pelerine and belt to flutter down in front. Extreme dresses!

A third Dinner Dress with those wide gauze oversleeves, but this time the gauze is “figured” (patterned) which I expect was rather pretty. The Morning Dress at right is in a print with a multicolored rainbow ruffled trim up the skirt and around the edge of the pelerine, which is finished with a lace collar...and gosh, more big sleeves. The hairstyles and millnery in this print are a little different—the Dinner Dress coiffure is a simple braided bun with short side ringlets, unlike some of the loopier hairstyles we’ve seen this decade, and the Morning Dress cap is an unusual style with lace ruffles and lavender ribbons. (November ?, Court Magazine):

November also brings a Carriage Dress, in what looks like black satin discreetly trimmed with ruffles and a demure white lace collar...and a red bonnet and vibrant flowered scarf to liven things up. The Dinner Dress at right is also more restrained, except for the deep lace flounces and a very Dr. Seuss-ish hairstyle. (Court Magazine):

For December, more severe styles (except for the pelerines and sleeves, of course) prevail, with a beige Morning Dress trimmed in a double row of scallops around the hem, down the front of the skirt, and around the pelerine. A surprisingly casually tied pastel scarf lends a little color to the whole. The Carriage Dress features a purple mantle belted close to the waist over the green dress and odd sort of caped sleeves, built large to accommodate the inevitably large sleeves of the underlying dress. And I’m not quite sure why, with a green dress and a purple habit, her hat is trimmed in red... (Court Magazine):

What do you think of the second half of 1835’s fashions? Hold on to your hats, fashion lovers: 1836 is going to see some big changes!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Literary Christmas Wish List, 2015

Some people hate Christmas shopping. I love it. Every year, I am amazed by the myriad of choices available to delight my friends and family, particularly those of a literary bent. So, in case you need inspiration for yourself (or to suggest to others for yourself), allow me to point out a few items.

Perhaps you or your loved one favors jewelry. You might invest in the Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw, which proves the owner is endowed with the characteristics of this noble house of Hogwarts: intelligence, wit, and wisdom. 
Lost Diadem Costume cosplay Tiara Crown Hogwarts Jewelry

Or maybe it would just be nice to have a book hanging around.

Book Necklace, Book Jewelry, Miniature Book Mini Journal Necklace, Book Lover Gift, Literature Jewelry, Medieval Edwardian Victorian Jewelry

Then there’s the modern rivalry between e-books and print, spelled out on this coffee cup

My Book Smells Better Than Your Tablet Mug - Quote Mug - Unique Gift Coffee Cup - Book lover - Library - Funny Gift - Book Cup

And of course many would covet this adventuresome journal to write down thoughts.
Bombay Brown Leather Wrap Journal with Tie (4

Have a special gentleman in your life? Help him to dress like Darcy. J

Jane Austen Gift Men's Light Pajamas

Or maybe you’re the one who prefers to dress with a more historical flare

And don’t forget the books! Here are a few that looked interesting and were reasonable:

Deadly Victorian Remedies, 12 cases of medicine gone bad. 

Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, that 1800s classic that we’ve quoted on Nineteenteen. 

Dandy Poems: The Dandy in Poetry and Song, a compilation of satirical poems written in the nineteenth century about dandies.

Hm. I think I need to add a few more things to my own Christmas list. How about you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

In Which I Natter on for a Bit about Writing

This past Sunday I was happy to attend the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah by the Handel & Haydn Society of Boston. My DH and I been doing this long enough to get to know some of the returning soloists, and I was pleased that this year’s tenor soloist was James Gilchrist, whom we first heard in the Messiah a few years back. I love his voice; it has a mobile, conversational tone of great sweetness—and I don’t mean icky saccharine sweetness, but a gentle strength that conveys emotion beautifully. And his phrasing and enunciation are perfect—his every word is audible, and never gets lost. That’s a hallmark of the H&H Society’s choir as well—their diction is never, ever muddy, but always crystal clear. That clarity—that precision—makes for an amazing listening experience.

So I spent a very happy two-and-a-half hours on Sunday afternoon, listening to an exquisitely sung performance...and it got me thinking about writing (because hey, in my world, everything leads back to that.) Earlier this fall I had the privilege of getting a critique from a brilliant editor of the first twenty pages of a work in progress, and it made an enormous impression on me—enough that I’m re-editing the rest of the book based on her feedback. Her suggestion? Stripping away anything—unnecessary narrative or dialogue, too much explanation, down to one too many words in a sentence—that might get in the way of each moment when telling a story. In other words, precision and clarity.

And sitting there listening to the crystalline singing in that darkened hall, I itched for my computer so I could chip away at the extraneous matter in my stories, and achieve that same crystalline quality. And was delighted that listening to music in a dim concert hall could inform putting words on a page. Clarity. Precision. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to my edits. ☺