Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 6: New Forest and Brighton

Our next destination on the Doyle family tour of southern England was the seaside town of Lymington, from which we planned to spend the next day visiting the Isle of Wight. “Ferry reservations?” we cluelessly trilled. “Who’ll be going to the Isle of Wight on a Thursday morning?”

Um...well, as it turned out, a lot of people. The ferry was book solid until 4 pm, which meant our plans to see Cowes and Queen Victoria’s Osborne House were shot. It was time for Plan B. And you know what? As much as I was bummed to miss Osborne House, Plan B wasn’t so bad...not when it included a visit to a handsome stately home, Beaulieu (that’s pronounced “Bew-lee”, just so you know).

In addition to the current house, Beaulieu includes the remains of a large medieval monastery (here's a section of garden with bits of original stonework that have been found) and some lovely plantings (I especially loved this laburnum tunnel...as did hundreds of bees!)

We also did a lot of driving around the New Forest, another royal hunting preserve (this time dating to the time of William the Conqueror). Though much smaller and tamer than Dartmoor, there were small moors, also inhabited by lots of sheep and ponies. And while wandering around a section of forest, I heard my first cuckoo call.

The next day we were off to another long-awaited destination: Brighton, home of the Prince Regent's beloved Pavilion, where he would spend the summer enjoying the breezes off the English Channel. He first discovered Brighton (or Brighthelmstone, its original name as noted in the Domesday Book) in the early 1780s, when sea-bathing had become the latest health fad. Prinny was charmed and bought a modest farmhouse, which he commissioned architect Henry Holland to turn into a home worthy of the Prince of Wales. Holland built him one...but evidently it wasn't grand enough, for in 1815 Prinny hired architect John Nash for an upgrade. And what an upgrade he got!

The exterior of the Pavilion is made of chastely cream colored stone, in a fantastical dreamlike Mughal style with onion domes, pierced screens, and minarets--rather a contrast to the Georgian classicalism that had been the prevailing building style in the town for the last fifty years. And while it's beautiful in a fanciful way, it's only the beginning.

The interior is, quite simply, jaw-dropping. Where Indo-Islamic style prevails on the outside, within the decor is fantasy Chinese. There are dragons everywhere (include one of silver gilt clinging to the chandelier in the Banqyueting Room that must be at least ten feet long). In the Music Room, the central done is covered with hundreds of thousands of gilt cockles shells, which look like dragon scales. The colors are rich and saturated, and every surface is decorated; even the kitchens, which were state of the art in 1820, are beautiful.

What's even cooler about the Pavilion, though, is its history. After Prinny's (now King George IV) death in 1830, his brother King William used the Pavilion. But when Victoria came to the throne, she was not amused by the Pavilion and by Brighton in general, finding it far too crowded and the palace itself too small and lacking in privacy. She bought land on the Isle of Wight for her summer retreat of Osborne House, and the Pavilion was sold to the city of Brighton (after Victoria carried off anything that wasn't nailed down.) Decades of decline followed; Nash's creation was not built to last. But after World War I, partly spurred by the interest of Queen Mary (who began to donate back to the Pavilion things that Victoria had carried off) and a full-scale restoration of the Regency era palace was begun, hugely helped by the fact that all of Nash's original plans and detailed paintings of the rooms were available. Since then, despite fires and other calamities, work has been ongoing, and the result is just breathtaking. We sure as heck enjoyed it! If you ever, ever have a chance to see it--go!

Our hotel was also worth mentioning; Brighton remained a popular watering hole long after Prinny went to the great Assembly Room in the sky, and a series of elegant hotels were built right along the shore, rather like a Victorian Miami Beach. The grand Brighton was indeed a grand old place, a little shabby in spots but oh so atmospheric.  We ate dinner at the Old Ship Hotel, mentioned in at least one Georgette Heyer novel that I remember, and then after dark looked out at the Brighton Pier, which is basically a small amusement park built over the water (it dates to 1899) before going to sleep for the last night of our trip.

The last installment: Hampton Court Palace, and where I'm going next time!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Cover Reveal: Instant Frontier Family

When I started writing my Frontier Bachelors series, I envisioned following the stories of three friends on the Mercer Expedition to Seattle, young ladies fleeing heartache to forge a new future in wilderness Seattle. Allegra Banks Howard found her footing in The Bride Ship. Catherine Stanway met her match in Would-Be Wilderness Wife. Then Drew Wallin and his brothers intervened, demanding stories as well, so the third friend, Maddie O’Rourke, had to wait.

At least part of the wait is over.

Behold the cover for Instant Frontier Family, due out in January. It is the tale of the spunky, talented Maddie and the man she didn’t expect.  Here’s the blurb:

Maddie O’Rourke’s orphaned half brother and half sister have arrived safely in Seattle—with a man they hope she’ll wed! Though Michael Haggerty’s not the escort she planned for, Maddie allows him to work off his passage by assisting in her bakery…and helping care for her siblings. But she’ll never risk her newfound independence by marrying the strapping Irishman—or anyone else.

In New York, Michael ran afoul of a notorious gang. Traveling west was a necessity, not a choice. The longshoreman grew fond of his young charges, and now he’s quickly becoming partial to their beautiful sister, too. So when danger follows him, threatening Maddie and the children, he’ll do anything to protect them—and the future he hopes to build. 

Following a Nineteen Teen tradition, perhaps you’d like to guess who I had in mind as the physical models when I was writing the book. I admit up front that though I like the cover, it fits the feel of the story more than the actual details. Nevertheless, the woman I had in mind for Maddie is a red-headed actress who has traveled in time and space in a blue box and recently went looking for a couple Guardians herself when she took to the Galaxy. The actor I had in mind for Michael is one super man, though he started out in Tudor and Roman days rather than nineteenth century Seattle.

Anyone? Anyone?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Regency Fabrics, Part 6

Here’s another post in our ongoing series on Regency fabrics.

As I have in previous posts, I’ll be examining actual fabric samples glued into several earlier editions of Ackermann’s Repository, samples supplied by the manufacturers and published by Ackermann in order to boost the British cloth-making industry at a time when exporting British goods to Europe was almost impossible because of the Napoleonic war. I'll give you a close-up scan of each sample, the published description if available, and my own observations of the color, weight, condition, and similarity to present-day materials, to give you as close a picture as possible of what these fabrics are like. So here we go!

We have four fabrics from October 1809; overall condition is very good, considering their age, apart from some browning on sample one where it was glued to the page.

No. 1. An entirely new corded muslin for morning and afternoon dresses, particularly adapted for the intermediate style of decoration for the morning wrap, or simple evening frock. Footing lace, or beading, is better calculated to ornament this article than needle-work. Many ladies, indeed, wear it without any embellishment, the rich and striking contrast of the cord being of itself a sufficient relief. Children’s trowsers, formed of this material, have a very neat and appropriate effect. It is sold by Messrs. Brisco and Powley, 103, New-bond-street, at 6s. per yard.

My comments: This is a very fine, lightweight fabric, but I expect that with the cording it will drape nicely. Because of its sheerness, it definitely requires a lining and/or a petticoat underneath.

No. 2. The Brazilian corded sarsnet, for robes, pelisses, and spencers. This article is also of novel production, and possesses a richness and consequence, which advance it, in point of elegance, beyond the plain sarsenet. The weight of the cord occasions it to fall with graceful adhesiveness over the figure, and divests it of that liability to crease, which is generally complained of in the plain sarsnet. We have seen Circassian robes, and short dancing dresses, formed of this tasteful article, to produce a most pleasing and attractive costume. It is half a yard wide, and 7s. 6d. per yard, and is sold by Mr. J. George, 19, Holywell-street, Strand.

My comments: I wish my scan had reproduced it better--this is lovely stuff indeed! It’s heavier and more opaque than the first sarsnet, with a soft sheen and very attractive pale buff color. But at only a half-yard wide, it would take a lot of it to make a gown—at 7definitely an upscale item.

 No.3. A pomona green shawl print, in imitation of Indian silk, calculated for morning wraps or pelisses, as well as for gowns and robes. We beg leave to call the attention of our correspondents, not only to the taste and union of its pattern and shades, but also to the peculiar delicacy and silky softness of its fabric. It is ell-wide, and from 5s. to 5s. 6d. per yard; and may be purchased at Messrs. Brisco and Powley’s, 103, New-Bond-street.

My comments: Ah, pomona green, that most Regency of colors (if you're a Georgette Heyer fan, that is!) Again, the pattern reminds me of nothing so much as 1930s quilt fabric; what isn't as visible in this scan is that the fabric is finely diagonally ribbed. It's a little heavier in weight and indeed has a very silky hand due to the fineness of its threads and the tight weave.

No. 4. A rose-colored printed book-muslin, best calculated for the ball-room or evening party. It is formed in simple round dresses, or French frocks, trimmed with lace, white beads, or blended-white satin, and must be worn over white sarsnet, satin, or glazed cambric. This simple article will recommend itself, as well from the reasonableness of its price, as from its lively and animated effect. It is ell-wide, and 4s. per yard, and may be had at any respectable linen-drapers at the west end of this town.

My comments: This is nowhere as nice a fabric as the print above, being of  a coarser weave (though the threads are finely woven)--no wonder readers are cautioned it must be worn over another fabric! It does not strike me as a fabric for a ball or evening dress, but evidently tastes have changed!

Friday, September 18, 2015

What We Want for Our Birthday—Your Comments!

Wow, where did the time go? This month Marissa and I begin our ninth year blogging at Nineteen Teen. Happy birthday to us! And thank you for your comments, your subscriptions, and your suggestions, encouragement, and commiserations. May we have more of the same?

In short, this is your chance to tell us what you like.

What would you like to see more of in the coming year? More posts on historical tidbits we uncover? More insights into the life of a writer who sometimes dabbles in the nineteenth century? More pictures of Marissa’s bunnies? Regina’s beloved sailing ships?

Shall we watch another movie together? Read another book? Which ones?

What guest authors would you like to have visit? (Yes, we tried for Marion Chesney. Alas, she was too busy to respond. L)

At the very least, stop by, have a slice of virtual cake and punch (ours is much better than ratafia, we promise!), and wish us happy birthday as we hop (or sail) into a new blog year.

Happy birthday, Nineteen Teen!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Green and Pleasant Land, Part 5: Lyme Regis

We hated to leave Dartmoor. We really did. But I’d promised Daughter #2 some fossil-hunting on the beach in Lyme Regis. Those of you who are Jane Austen fans will recognize that name, I’m sure...so we once again set forth, this time for the shore.

Best pub name spotted en route: The Salty Monk. ☺

Lyme Regis itself is a charming little town, clinging closely to the shore. And I don’t use the term “clinging” lightly—there’s a heck of a drop from the main road through town to the beach itself. Blessedly, there’s plenty of visitor parking, though it did involve a very steep walk down to the shore—not bad on the way down, but uphill was definitely a challenge. Thank goodness for all those hours I’ve spent on the elliptical!

The climate of the immediate south coast of England is amazingly mild. We hardy New Englanders were astonished to see fuchsia grown as a hedge, rather than a summer-time potted plant doomed to death in the first good October frost!

As we trundled down the hill, we were delighted with this view of the famous Cobb... famous, of course, as the location of an important scene in Persuasion—where Louisa Musgrove imprudently jumps the stairs leading down from its top. The Cobb is a partial breakwater, creating a small, protected harbor for the local fishing fleet—though now, the main denizens appear to be pleasure craft.

What I found interesting about the Cobb was the angle at which it was built: good for allowing breaking waves to run off, but a little unnerving to walk on, especially in a brisk breeze (that's Daughter #1, walking at an angle!) But even more interesting was the thought that Jane Austen knew this town and this very place—a bit of a shiver down the spine moment!

Being good Jane Austen fans, my son and husband and I spent a good long time debating which of the stairs leading down from the Cobb were the ones that Louisa jumped from. In the end, we decided it must be these (also known by the name "Granny's Teeth"!), as they were the most suitably archaic and untrustworthy looking (honestly, if I’d been Louisa, I might have preferred jumping rather than trying to negotiate them in a stiff breeze in a long skirt!

Next, it was time to go fossil hunting. This whole 95-mile section of the south coast is called England’s “Jurassic Coast”. Going east from Orcombe Point to Old Harry Rocks is like traveling in time, from the early Triassic period onward. Lyme Regis is located in the oldest part of the coast, its formations dating to 200 to 195 million years ago. Down the beach from the Cobb a great cliff face looms up, made of very crumbly black shale, the remains of an ancient ocean bed (you can see it in the pictures above of the Cobb.) And as gravity and the weather erode it, the fossils of creatures that died and left their remains in the oozy black mud of that old ocean end up on the beach, where they can be picked up from amongst the clitter of rocks and flints by geeky American tourists like us.

Here's part of our haul.
What you see here are ammonite fossils, distant and extinct relatives of today’s squid and nautiluses; the little star-shaped one is possibly an echinoid, a relative of today’s starfish and sea urchins. It was a lot of fun, actually, and reminded me of my long-ago days as an archaeology student doing field surface surveys. We had a lovely if late lunch at a pub close to the Cobb, then dragged ourselves back up the hill to our car, to go to our next destination. But I’ll be back to the Jurassic Coast some day.

Next installment: Not the Isle of Wight, sadly, but a few other sites of interest.

Friday, September 11, 2015

On Wings Like the Eagle

Some of you who follow my Facebook page know I’m fond of sailing ships, going so far as to post pictures on Sailing Ship Saturdays. I’ll admit I’m a die-hard tall ship fan, going aboard any chance I get. I’ve spent the day sailing on my state’s tall ship, Lady Washington. I’ve walked the decks of the Constitution. But some years ago now, I had the privilege of touring America’s tall ship, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter, Eagle.

Eagle is the largest tall ship sailing out of an American port and the only square-rigger in U.S. government service. The steel-hulled barque was built in 1936 in Germany, where she was used as a training ship for Nazi cadets. At the end of the war, she was brought to America as a war prize. According to the Coast Guard site, the German crew actually helped U.S. Coast Guardsmen bring her into her new homeport in New London, Connecticut.

A few things surprised me about her:
  • Though she is made of metal, her decks are actually covered with teak.
  • The massive wheel that is her helm is nearly as big as I am!
  • She can go faster under full sail than she can under more modern power (and her “tank” holds more than 23,000 gallons—how’d you like to fill her up?).
  • Her rigging is 6 miles long, and she boast more than 22,000 square feet of sail.

Today, she serves as a training ship again, taking crews from among the 1,000 men and women who attend the Coast Guard Academy each year. Right now, she just made berth at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore for some R&R (renovation and repair). But she generally takes a summer schedule, May through August. If you’re on the East Coast between Boston and Florida, keep a weather eye peeled for tall sails in your neck of the woods next year.

You just might become a fan too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mr. Pocock Rides Again (Sort of)

It’s amazing what you can find when you clean out a bookcase.

Recently my mother was doing just that, and found an old issue of Heritage, the British history magazine, from February/March 1990. Naturally she saved it for me so that I could put it in my overburdened bookshelves...and while flipping through it, I ran across an article entitled “Pocock’s Flying Carriage”. The story was wonderful, and the name was familiar. Hmm, yes, we have met a Mr. Pocock before, haven't we...however, it seems to have been a different Mr. P.

That Mr. Pocock (William) was, it seems, a London furniture-maker and known for his interest in patent furniture—designs that involved clever, ingenious mechanizations, as we saw with his Reclining Patent Chair. Perhaps there’s something to the name that dooms its bearers to be inveterate tinkerers, because another Mr. Pocock, this time a George, was inventing at the same time...and went far beyond furniture. You see, that Mr. Pocock was the proud inventor, in the 1820s, of the Charvolant, or Flying Car.

George P. (1774-1843) was a schoolmaster in Bristol who liked to invent things on the side. One of his inventions, a spanking machine (the “Royal Patent Self-acting Ferule”) which could punish several misbehaving schoolboys at once, had something to do with his teaching vocation (I wish I could find a picture of it!)...but evidently, Mr. Pocock was also fascinated by kites. He spent his youth experimenting with the power of kites, and induced a trusting friend to squat on a makeshift sled attached to kites. The friend ended up dragged away faster than George could follow on foot and was eventually tumbled into a quarry (uninjured, fortunately) but young George was even more hooked by kite power.

More experimentation followed, fortunately with no fatalities—that included launching his own daughter 300 feet into the air in a kite-drawn chair. Of course, you knew what would come next: kite-powered carriages. He spent several years working on his Charvolants, and finally in 1826 registered a patent. In 1828 he demonstrated a Charvolant at Ascot to King George IV, and was soon running demonstration races, beating the London coach in a race from Bristol to Marlborough by twenty-five minutes (after giving the coach a 15 minute head-start.) His Charvolant could travel as fast as twenty miles per hour, and the ride was much smoother and quieter than a horse-drawn vehicle—in fact, a Charvolant driver blew a bugle to warn vehicles it was overtaking, because of its quietness.

Charvolant travel was also much cheaper than travel utilizing horses: wind was free, after all, while horses were expensive to maintain and had to be changed on journeys of more than fifteen to twenty miles. And, amusingly, Charvolants could travel the turnpikes free. Tolls were charged at toll-gates based on the number of animals drawing any given vehicle...and Charvolants were notably draft animal-free. Though critics scoffed that a Charvolant would be grounded on a windless day, Mr. Pocock remained unruffled and replied, “Ships might be objected to on this principle—that there were sometimes calms, or contrary winds.”

Alas for Mr. Pocock, though, his timing was bad. Despite the interest his Charvolants generated, another new mode of transportation generated even more interest and would soon doom the Charvolant to a sidenote in transportation history: the railway.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Last Retro Blast of the Summer: Looking Out for Pedestrians

[In May 2012, I originally published this post after attending a track meet. One of the comments on the post came from our own QNPoohBear, alerting me to a mother/daughter team from my state who took pedestrianism to a whole new length (pardon the pun). I’ve included some details on them at the end of the post.]

A certain young man of my acquaintance thoroughly enjoys competing in track and field events and recently made it to the regional level of competition.  While running as a competition has been around since the early Olympic games, we don’t often think of the young ladies and gentlemen of nineteenth century England spending time rushing about a track.  Instead, they might become Pedestrians.

A Pedestrian was a professional walker.  He either competed against other pedestrians for a prize or worked for the winnings from wagers on his/her ability to walk a certain distance in a certain amount of time.  A popular feat was to walk 100 miles in less than 24 hours; those who succeeded were called Centurions.  Crowds of up to 10,000 people lined the roads to watch, and cheer. 

One of the most famous Pedestrians of nineteenth century England was Captain Barclay (Robert Barclay Allardice).  In 1809, he set a record that became the one to beat for nearly a century:  He walked for 1 mile an hour for 1,000 hours without stopping, starting on June 1 and ending on July 12.  And all this dressed like a gentleman in top hat, cravat, and wool suit!

But it wasn’t just the men who got into the act.  As a young girl, Mary Wilkinson of Yorkshire walked 250 miles to London in less than four days.  She repeated the feat at age 90 with a keg of gin and provisions strapped on her back, but in five days and three hours.  (Must have been the gin.)  In 1823, at only 8 years of age, Emma Matilda Freeman walked 30 miles in 7 hours and 57 minutes through pouring rain.  Her feat was reported as far away as America. Now there’s a determined young lady!

But I will admit complete admiration for two Pedestrians from my home state of Washington. Helga Etsby and her teenage daughter Clara walked from Spokane, Washington, to New York City over the course of many months in 1896 to claim a prize of $10,000 that would save their mortgaged farm. Although their family story didn’t end happily, and the sponsor reneged on the prize, that doesn’t diminish their accomplishment. Their story can be read in Bold Spirit by Linda Lawrence Hunt, now available in e-book.   

I’d stand in the rain and cheer for them.