Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to Us, and Nineteen Reasons Why We Love the Nineteenth Century

One year ago this week I logged into Blogspot and wrote about 19th century girls defending themselves with fans, not knowing if anyone would actually read it. To my surprise and delight, somebody did. Regina and I were thrilled…could it be that others shared our preoccupation with all things nineteenth century?

So in celebration of our first birthday, we’re going to take a week or three to talk about just what it is we love about those hundred years…and we invite you to chime in with your love notes to the century of the Prince Regent and the Queen-Empress. All of you who post a comment to tell us why YOU love the nineteenth century during our birthday celebrations will be entered in a drawing to win a genuine 19th century fashion plate from my collection, matted to a standard frame size. Put on your history geek hat (mine is a Regency-period amethyst purple silk turban with feathers, like this one) and write in.

Now about those nineteen reasons why…

1. It had Queen Victoria
Does it amaze you as much as it does me that this tiny woman (not even five feet tall) towered over this century? That a female so influenced a time when men still held all the power? That a monarch who “reigned” rather than held decisive ruling power so shaped the course of her country?

2. The gorgeous clothes for women
One of the cool things about 19th century women’s clothing is the wide variation in style across time. From the opening years of the century when women aspired to look like Grecian columns to the huge bell-shaped skirts of the fifties and sixties to the enormous projecting bustles of the seventies and back to a narrow profile in the late nineties, it’s one long kaleidoscopic parade of change. You may hate some of it (those enormous bustles just look plain goofy to me) but you can’t help being fascinated and (generally) charmed.

3. The different pace of life
Just think about it for a minute. No computers and Internet. No TV or radio. No telephone until well into the end of the century. Ditto for cars. If you wanted to talk to a friend, you didn’t text her. You wrote a note inviting her to call and had the footman deliver it (if you were wealthy and lived in town, that is) and if she were home she might scribble a reply for him to carry back to you. If you were about to explode because you wanted to tell her about the outrageous thing Lord Roderick said to you during the intermission at the opera last night, you asked the footman to tell the stables to prepare the carriage and you dragged your mother (or your maid, if you had permissive parents) to come out with you to call on her. Which meant changing into a suitable dress first, of course.

But maybe living life at a slower pace wasn't such a bad thing. After all, you would have been used to it. And there’s something to be said for delayed gratification. No, really. I can’t help thinking that it would have been nice to live more slowly and have more time and opportunity to think and observe and appreciate. But I’m kind of weird that way.

I’ll stop there for now and let Regina chime in with some of hers on Friday. The other thing we want to do at this one-year point is to ask you how we’re doing. Is there something that you’d like to see discussed on NineteenTeen that we haven’t yet covered? Please post a comment with your suggestion for future topics…as incentive, everyone who sends in a idea for something we haven’t yet talked about will be entered in a drawing to receive a gift certificate from Barnes & Noble. So think about it, and let us know.

I’m off to eat cake and ice cream.


Amee said...

Congrats guys! Here's to another year. :)

I don't know what to suggest. I only just discovered your blog a couple weeks ago so I'm still reading all the great stuff you've posted this last year. I say keep on doing what your doing because I'm loving it. ;)

Addie said...

I just love the clothes of that century. The styles changed so often, and each and every one of them were so interesting. Queen Victoria is another one of the wonderful things I love. She was so strong and ruled behind Albert's back, even if he didn't know it. I would love to see some more about her family. Oh, and a great bio about her is, "Her Little Majesty: The Life of Queen Victoria". It has lots of details about the side of her we don't often hear about. Keep up the great work!

Gillian Layne said...

Haaaapppy Birthdayyyyy!

What about a ballooning post? Or a post on the ice fairs? (Of course, age is gaining on me and you might have already done these....)

This is a great blog. I agree, just keep doing what you're doing.

Marissa Doyle said...

Oh, excellent suggestions, Gillian!
Thank you!

Anonymous said...

How I love the 19th century
Let me count the ways...

The literature, especially women's novels and children's books. Nothing really compares. People were also far more literate than we are now and authors referenced all kinds of works that most people today have never heard of

The fashions

The language: people spoke and wrote much more politely and used more words that sound so elegant.

The paintings: I love the Impressionists and the Pre-Raphaelites.

Queen Victoria: though she did a lot to set back women, she was a strong female monarch which is way cool.

The morals: Some people were very hypocritical and I don't agree with the code of rules for women but I like bowing and curtsying and polite language.

The music: none of the blaring thump thump thump and crude lyrics we hear today.

The museums, libraries and cultural institutions

The #1 thing I love about the 19th century are bluestockings!

Tia Nevitt said...

I love the language, at least the language as recorded by the authors of the time.

I have a question for authors at Fantasy Debut and I'd love for you both to take part.

Anonymous said...

I love the clothes, jewelry, even the hats that they wore. I love reading about how they ate and talked and how they wore the makeup and hair. It's so interesting.