Women Reading Letters

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window by Johannes Vermeer, 1657

Woman Reading a Letter by Gabriël Metsu, mid-1660s

An Elegantly Dressed Lady Seated at a Table, Reading a Letter by Pierre-Alexandre Wille, 1776

The Letter Print by Vittorio Reggianini

The Letter by Vittorio Reggianini

A Woman Reading A Letter by Francisco De Goya, 1812-14

The Love Letter by Petrus van Schendel

The Love Letter by Alexander Mark Rossi

Woman Reading a Love Letter by Auguste Toulmouche

The St.Valentine letter by Georges van den Bos

Confidences by Carlton Alfred Smith, 1904

Love Letters by Delphin Enjolras

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany


After giving birth to seven children, Queen Victoria didn't look forward to go through all that pain again. So, when on 7 April 1853 she went into labour again and her doctor suggested the use of chloroform, the Queen was only too willing to try it. Thanks to the anaesthesia, the birth of her son Leopold caused her considerably less pain, and she became a staunch advocate of this new, controversial practice. The medical establishment of the time, convinced that God wanted women to excruciatingly suffer during childbirth, were horrified. But the Queen knew better, and would use chloroform again during her next and last delivery too.


Although the birth of Prince Leopold George Duncan Albert was easy, the rest of his life would be plagued by ill health. Shortly after his second birth, the little prince showed signs of hemophilia, and even suffered from occasional epileptic seizures. This obviously worried his parents exceedingly. Albert, and especially, Victoria, wanted to protect him and keep him safe. But Prince Leopold wasn't having it. He was lively, active, and adventurous, and wanted to live his life to the full, which would often lead to wounds that, albeit small, required bed rest and took a long time to heal.


An intelligent boy, Leopold wanted to attend Oxford. With the help of his brothers, he got his wish, although he was never allowed to complete a full course of study, but had to make due with a honorary degree. Still, the prince enjoyed the university life and made a lot friends. One of these was Alice Liddell, who inspired Alice in Wonderland. His cleverness, though, meant that he was prone to argue. As a result, he never got along too well with his mother.


This didn't prevent the Queen from employing her argumentative son as her private secretary, a job that allowed him the opportunity to frequently meet with ministers and that he came to love. But there was a part of the job he hated. Being at her mother's disposal, always available whenever she needed him really grated on him. He wanted to break free, become independent, and get married.


It took a lot of persuasion, but the Queen eventually consented. Getting the consent of an eligible marriageable princess was just as arduous. Because of his illness, poor Leopold was rejected by a few before Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont agreed to marry him. The couple tied the knot in 1882. Although when they married they barely knew each other, they soon grew to love, and became very devoted to, each other. The following year, Helen gave birth to a child, Alice.


Unfortunately, Leopold didn't get to spend a lot of time with his beloved family. In March 1884, he went, alone (his wife was pregnant and couldn't travel) to the south of France, something he always did to escape the cold English winters. While there, he slipped, bruising his knee and hitting his head. That night, he died. The cause is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage. Four months later, Helen gave birth to their second child, a boy named Charles Edward.

Further reading:
Queen Victoria's Children by John Van der Kiste
Queen Victoria's Youngest Son: The Untold Story of Prince Leopold by Charlotte Zeepvat

Twenty Hints To Strangers On Their First Arrival In Paris 1830


Before travelling abroad, it is always good to do your research. That way, you'll be sure to see everything worthy of a visit, avoid unnecessary trouble, and know what to do should you have any problems. In the pre-internet era, travel guides were one of the best sources for all this information. Here's the advice one gave to British people eager to visit the French capital in 1830:

1. Be careful of being out in the streets after the shops are closed, nor prolong your stay at the Cafe, or Restaurateurs till you are in danger of describing something more than a straight line in walking to your hotel.

2. Never join a crowd in the street, nor answer the questions of those who stop you at a late hour under pretext of enquiring the time,—the pickpockets of Europe are not confined to London.

3. Ask some French friend to shew you the morgue in the morning, and to give you the history, —you will never pass the quays after dark.

4. Always notice and remember the number of the cabriolet or fiacre which you may hire, even when you have not any thing with you which you are in danger of leaving behind.

5. Never make an unnecessary display of your present riches in a Cafe or other house of entertainment.

6. If you have lost your road, enter some respectable shop for the purpose of making the necessary enquiries; you will always be politely directed. If, with this precaution, you cannot readily find your way home, and no coaches are at hand, request the master or mistress of the house or shop to allow some one to conduct you—a franc is often well bestowed on such a guide; never, on any account, make these enquiries in the street or at a public-house.

7. If wantonly insulted or molested in the street, knock the party down (if you can), and, in nine instances out of ten, you may walk on without interruption.

8. Be careful that the charms of your blanchisseuse (washerwoman) do not cause you to neglect the necessary inspection of your linen on its return from the wash—changes are not always for the best.

9. Beware of purchasing dearly, cheap bargains at the perambulating shops which infest the Boulevards.

10. Never be tempted to enter the gaming-room, even out of curiosity; many a young man has been ruined by "only just taking a peep to see how they play."

11. Pay your bill at your hotel weekly.

12. Talk not of politics in France, it is not political.

13. Leave every thing under lock and key when you go out.

14. Be cautious of forming indiscriminate acquaintances, even with your own countrymen, in France.

15. If you are a man of large fortune, do as you like; if not, dine not at Very's, and be content with apartments on the third or fourth story of your hotel.

16. Make your purchases for home at the best shops,—they are the cheapest in the end.

17. In travelling post, be cautious of answering or accepting the offers of advertising companions.

18. Always carry your passport or license of residence in your pocket.

19. Make a point of seeing the following places before you quit Paris :—

The Interiour of the Tuileries,
The Exteriour of the Morgue,
The Louvre,
The Chamber of Peers,
The Chamber of Deputies,
The several Fountains,
The Hospital of Invalids,
The Gobelins,
The Cathedral of Notre-dame,
The Garden of Plants,
The several Gates of Paris,
The Flower and other Markets, especially the Corn Market,
The Place Vendome,
All the Bridges,
The Catacombs (if not of a nervous habit),
The Canal de 'Ourcq,
The Floating Baths,
The Swimming Schools,
The public Libraries,
The Deaf and Dumb Institution,
The Blind ditto,
The Museum of French Monuments,
The Luxembourg Gallery,
All the Theatres,
Some of the Balls,
The Porcelain manufactory, and a thousand other things, which the preceding list is sufficient to make you acquainted with, though it seems a paradox.

20. Recommend this little Manual to all your friends and acquaintance.

Further reading:
A Guide to France, Explaining Every Form and Expense from London to Paris

Book Reviews: The Financially Confident Woman, The Self-made Billionaire Effect, Sticky Branding, & The Curious One

Hello everyone,

are you wondering what I've been reading recently? Read on:

The Financially Confident Woman: What You Need to Know to Take Charge of Your Money by Mary Hunt
Like most women, Mary Hunt was told that it was the man's job to take care of the finances. She never worried where the money came from, and she and her husband kept spending everything they earned, until they found themselves deep into debt. That's when Mary decided to turn her life around. In this book, she shares her journey and the techniques she used to finally take control of her finances, get out of debt, and develop good money habits.
According to Mary, women's biggest problem is a lack of confidence. They see money as something bad and learn to delegate all financial matters to the men in their lives. They simply aren't comfortable dealing with it on their own. But, unless they want to get deep into trouble, it is essential that they learn how to manage it themselves. After debunking the most common myths about women and money, Hunt shares the nine habits of a finally confident woman. They include giving, saving, becoming an investor, preparing for emergencies, and more.
Hunt also shares a six-week plan of action that'll allow you to implement her advice easily, and keep you on the right track. At the end of the book, you'll also find a glossary with all the most important financial terms you need to be familiar with to be able to make the best decisions money-wise.
Although none of her advice is new or ground-breaking, it is still valuable and useful. Her personal experiences makes this an honest and refreshing read. You'll be able to relate to her story and learn money management without being bored or preached to. I highly recommend it to all women who are struggling financially.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Self-made Billionaire Effect: How Extreme Producers Create Massive Value by John Sviokla, Mitch Cohen
Steve Jobs. Michael Bloomberg. Steve Case. They are just some of the entrepreneurs that became self-made billionaires when they left the corporations they worked for (and had even founded) before and built one or more businesses. Businesses that are now some of the most popular brands around. Why did this happen? What traits do these people have in common? And what would have happened if they had stayed in their previous jobs? How can corporations recognize and nurture, rather than kick out, these men and women?
In their study on self-made billionaires, John Sviokla and Mitch Kohen answer these questions and more. Drawing on research, studies, and personal interviews, the authors are able to debunk common myths about self-made billionaires, such as that they're smarter, luckier, and take more dangerous risks. Instead, their success, the authors argue, is due to their Producer mentality.
Corporations usually reward employees with a Performer mentality. They are people who specialize in one area, get really good at it, are able to meet the goals set by their bosses, and conform to the way things have always been done. Producers, on the other hand, are disruptors. Armed with creativity, imagination, and good judgement, they are able to think up new products, strategies, and business models. They don't do things the way they've always been done, but are constantly trying to come up with new and better ways to do them.
A corporation, to succeed, needs both performers and producers. If you are a business executive, this book will teach you how to recognize performers and help them thrive, so that they'll put their talents at your service and make your corporation even more successful. But it's also a great read for entrepreneurs. To them this guide will provide some valuable insights on what traits and talents they need to develop to create successful businesses. Engaging, informative, and inspirational, this is a must read for business owners, executives, and entrepreneurs.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

Sticky Branding: 12.5 Ways to Stand Out, Attract Customers, and Grow an Incredible Brand by Jeremy Miller
Every business, no matter how small, is a brand. And, to succeed and thrive, that brand must become "sticky", instantly recognizable by your consumer. Think that's something only big corporations with massive budget can afford? This book will prove you wrong. It will teach techniques that even more business operating locally can use to make an impact in their marketplaces.
These strategies includes figuring out what your mission and values are, who your customers are and need, engage their eyes with your marketing, over-deliver on your promises and more.
Each chapter is full of tips, backed up by personal experiences and case studies, and exercises that will help you put the advice in practice so you can create a brand, and a business, that keeps making old clients come back again and again and always attracts new ones. Sometimes, this will mean making big changes in your company, such as change its culture, values, and even offerings, but the pain will be worth it. One example cited in the book is a logistics company that transitioned from a general company to an industry leader in retail and fashion. It was a long process that took 18 months, and involved turning away some of their clients and look for new ones, and even layoffs, but now the company is thriving and more successful than ever.
Sticky Branding doesn't promise you overnight success, but, if you follow its tips, you will create a business that attracts more customers, inspires employees, earns more and won't be badly affected by the competition. Engaging, honest, and easy-to-read, I highly recommend it to all business owners who want to make their brands sticky.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 4/5

The Curious One: From Food Stamps to CEO - One Woman's Journey through Struggle, Tragedy, Success and Love by Chelsea Berler
I love biographies. In particular, biographies of female entrepreneurs who have overcome difficult odds to create successful businesses and live life on their own terms. Even if you're not interested in becoming an entrepreneur yourself, these women possess qualities such as resilience, confidence, and intuition that anyone should develop, and that helped them take on hard challenges and make their dreams come true. Their stories are inspirational and motivational.
So, I was eager to read the story of Chelsea Berler, a young woman who often felt judged for being curious and different. Her childhood wasn't easy. So many bad things happened to her while she was still very young that some would consider it a miracle that she was able to function at all, let alone become a successful business owner married to her soulmate. But she did it. It took a lot of work, mistakes, and confidence in herself, but now Chelsea is the CEO of a marketing agency that supports businesses around the world, and a successful author who inspires people to live life on their own terms. And her passion for it shines through every page of the book.
Problem is, I didn't find her style of writing very inspirational. The book is very short, and thus feel very rushed. Each chapter only skims the surface of her life, never analysing things in depth. As such, if you're feeling sorry for yourself and unhappy with your life, and just need to know that you too have what it takes to turn your life around, you'll find this book inspiring. But if you're looking for practical tips on what to do to make that happen, then the book falls short. Had it been longer, and provided more information, it would have been a much better read.
Available at: Amazon
Rating: 3/5

What do you think of these books?

Disclaimer: this book was sent by PR for consideration. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.

5 Fashion Trends Inspired By The French Revolution


Once the Terror was finally over, the survivors felt the need to celebrate and live life to the full. The following years were marked by an outbreak of luxury, decadence, and even silliness. But the past couldn't be easily forgotten.

Perhaps it was the need to exorcise it that prompted many women to create and wear fashions inspired by the Terror. These women were called Merveilleuses and, among their leaders, were fashion trendsetters Theresia Tallien and Rose de Beauharnais, both of which had narrowly escaped the guillotine thanks to Robespierre’s fall.

Here are five of the Terror inspired trends they made popular:


1. WHITE MUSLIN GOWNS
A lot of victims, including Marie Antoinette, went to their deaths dressed in plain white dresses and chemises. After the Terror, white muslin and gauze gowns, low cut and almost transparent, became very popular. Some women, to make the loose dresses better adhere to their curves, liked to damp them with water! Others finished off the look with a generous dusting of white powder to their faces and decolletes to look like corpses or ghosts.


2. RED SCARF
This trend was inspired by the tragic execution of Emilie de Sainte-Amaranthe, who was condemned with her family on trumped up charges of murder. They were accused of plotting to kill Robespierre, but it was their royalist sympathies that sealed their fate. At their execution, Emilie and her family wore red, the colour of murderers, or would be murderers. Her beauty and her courage made an impression on the crowd and soon, women started sporting red scarves.


3. COIFFURE A' LA TITUS
To facilitate the truculent job of the guillotine's blade, victims' hair was cut short. The practice inspired the coiffure à la Titus, a hairdo that was long at the front but cut very short at the nape of the neck. Tendrils of hair were, with the use of scented pomades, messed up for a chic, dishevelled look.


4. GRECIAN SANDALS
White muslin gowns and scarves loosely wrapped around their bodies were reminiscent of the tunics worn by the ancient Greeks and Romans. So it was only natural that shoes followed the same trend. Greek-style sandals, tied above the ankle with either crossed ribbons or, if you were wealthy, a string of pearls, became all the rage.


5. RED CHOCKER
The award for the most macabre and distasteful trend inspired by the Terror was the thin red chocker. Made of ribbon (if you were poor) or rubies (if you were rich), it was meant to imitate the droplets of blood around a severed head!

What do you think of these trends? Would you have worn them?

Interview With Greer Macallister, Author Of The Magician's Lie


It's a great pleasure today that I welcome to HAOT Greer Macallister, the author of The Magician's Lie. Raised in the Midwest but now living on the East Coast with her family, Macallister is a poet, short story writer, playwright and novelist! She has just published her first novel, which tells the story of the Amazing Arden, a female illusionist accused of killing her husband. She has just one night to convince a police officer of her innocence. Will she succeed?

To find out what inspired Macallister to write The Magician's Lie, what's next for her, and a lot more, read on:

1. What inspired you to write The Magician's Lie?
I was inspired by an absence. I realized one day that I’d seen countless references to a male magician cutting a woman in half, but never once seen anything about a female magician cutting a man in half. The image of stage magicians in our culture is almost completely male-dominated, but as with other male-dominated fields, there were definitely women who carved out their place in that world, against the odds. So I wanted to write about a female magician whose most famous illusion involved cutting a man in half, and decided to set it in a time when that would have been almost unbelievably shocking. The late 1890s and early 1900s turned out to be just the right setting.

2. Have you always been fascinated by magicians and illusionists? If so, why? Or was it just a coincidence that you ended up writing about one?
I do find magicians fascinating, although much of that is because of the parallel with writers – we’re creating something out of nothing, and we’re trying to get the audience (or reader) to care about something that they absolutely know isn’t true. If we do our jobs, people believe us even though they know we’re lying. It takes a special kind of talent to pull that off – a talent which I definitely don’t have in the stage magic department, but I hope I’ve been able to do with my words. That I ended up getting to explore the parallel between magic and fiction by writing a novel about an illusionist was kind of a happy accident.

3. Part of the story is based in Janesville, the Midwest city you grew up in. What has changed, and has anything stayed the same, since 1905, when the Amazing Arden visited it?
Because of the way the book is structured – many of the Janesville scenes are set in the police station, with just two characters present – readers don’t get to see a whole lot of the Janesville of the time. I can tell you one thing that’s absolutely the same, though: when I was growing up there, our police department was a single officer. That’s key to why I set the story up the way I did. Virgil Holt, who captures and interrogates The Amazing Arden, is the only police officer in the town. I wanted Virgil to be completely alone, and that makes him do all sorts of things he might not otherwise do.

4. Have you made any fascinating discoveries while doing your research that didn't make it into the book?
I tried to pack as much of the fascinating stuff into the actual pages as I could! But there was so much about Adelaide Herrmann that just didn’t fit. If I was going to keep the book focused on Arden, I couldn’t get distracted with Adelaide’s real exploits, but there were many. Especially in the time before she enters Arden’s story, when she was traveling with her husband as his assistant. She was doing things that women of the time just didn’t do, like performing at the Russian court, and getting fired out of a cannon in South America. Totally crazy stuff.

5. What was most enjoyable, and what instead more difficult, about writing The Magician's Lie?
I loved picking out historical details to include, and using them to draw readers into the world of the book. The way New York City would have smelled, for example. What dishes would have been served to visitors at the Biltmore. Real illusions that were done onstage at the time. I really love how historical fiction can just take you away to a time and place you know nothing about, and as a writer, I enjoyed creating that experience. As far as what was more difficult, there’s a not very nice central character in The Magician’s Lie, and spending time in his head was pretty unpleasant. You want your villains to be as richly imagined and three-dimensional as your heroes, but in order to do that, you need to think like they think. And that’s not always fun.

6. What is your writing process like?
Oh, it’s a mess. I tend to write a really fast first draft and then spend epic amounts of time revising it. And I’m not talking little revisions, either – throwing out thousands of words, ditching characters, inventing new ways to get from point A to point B, moving revelations from Chapter 20 to Chapter 2. It’s a very sloppy way to write a very structured book. I’m hoping I’ve learned enough to not do it next time, but we’ll see.

7. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite and why?
I’m absolutely paralyzed by choice if I let myself consider the whole wide-open field, so let me tell you which three magicians I’d invite to dinner. First, Neil Patrick Harris, because he is hilarious and sharp-witted and because I will never get over Doogie Howser, M.D. Also, Adelaide Herrmann, because she was so ahead of her time as a female stage magician, I’d love to ask her about her adventures, and I also want to know how much of her memoir is fact vs. fiction. Third, I’d invite Ricky Jay, who is an amazing sleight-of-hand magician who absolutely blew my mind when I saw him perform a few years ago. I’m sure he wouldn’t tell me any of the secrets of his act but I could just watch in rapture.

8. And, finally, what's next for you?
Right now it’s mostly the planes, trains and automobiles of book tour, which I’m really enjoying. It’s wonderful to get to talk to real readers about the book after having it be just mine for so long. Book two is coming along – some of that plane and train time is good for writing – and hopefully it won’t be another five years before we see that one on the shelves. But I’m deep into the research and having a great time.

Thank you Greer!

You can purchase The Magician's Lie on Amazon. You can also keep up with Macallister on her blog and on twitter.

Pauline Fourès, Napoleon's First Mistress


During the first years of their marriage, an infatuated Napoleon constantly begged his wife to accompany him on campaign trips, be they in the lively city of Milan or the unforgivable deserts of Egypt. Josephine always refused. She didn't want to leave her comforts, her friends, her fun, and her lovers in Paris, to go on a boring campaign trip with a husband she wasn't that fond of. Much better to stay behind, in the arms of the dashing and elegant Hussar lieutenant Hippolyte Charles.

It wasn't long before one of Napoleon's siblings, all of which hated Josephine, told him what she was up to when he was away. Napoleon was devastated. And furious. He soon decided to take a mistress too. But who? He was in Egypt at the time, and the plump and voluptuous local women weren't to his taste, which leant towards tall and slender figures. Then, one day, as he was taking a stroll though the Tivoli gardens he had had created in Cairo to please his officers, he saw a beautiful young woman playing a game of cards. Her name was Pauline Foures.

Pauline shouldn't have been there. An ex-milliner, she had married the soldier Jean-Noel Foures and, when told she couldn't accompany him to Egypt (no soldier’s wife was allowed to come), she simply put on an uniform and hid on board the ship La Ducette, which was headed to Alexandria. Only when she arrived safe and sound at her destination, she discarded her disguised and donned dresses again. Her courage and audacious spirit quickly gained her many fans. Everyone loved Pauline, and no one was surprised when she caught Napoleon's eye.


Napoleon started sending the beautiful Pauline many gifts, and even had many officers plead his cause, but she always refused him. So, he took a more drastic measure. He sent her husband away on some mission, so that he wouldn't spoil their fun. Then, he invited Pauline to lunch. While they were eating, Napoleon "accidentally" spilled some water over Pauline, and took her to another room to fix the mess. But when they returned, Pauline was even more dishevelled than before. It was clear to anyone what had happened between the two.

The next day, Pauline moved into her own private villa, where she and Napoleon could spend a lot of time together, away from prying eyes. It was no secret, though, that they were having an affair. Pauline, dressed in a general's uniform, her hair tied up with a tricolour sash, was often seen riding beside him. She also acted as hostess when he received dignitaries and officers. She soon gained the nicknames of La Generale and Cleopatre.

But Jean-Noel Foures, who during his mission had been briefly captured by the English, couldn't stay away for long. When he returned, he was furtious to discover his wife had become Napoleon's mistress. He threw a scene, demanding she leave Napoleon, but she refused, and declared she wanted a divcorce instead. Everything moved quickly when Napoleon was in charge and, just a few days later, Pauline had her divorce. She was now Napelon's official mistress.


But her reign only lasted two more months. Then, Napoleon went off to Syria with his troops, leaving Pauline behind. Although he wrote her passionate love letters, and the two hooked up again when he returned, things between them just were never the same again. Napoleon wanted to return to France. Alone. When Pauline said goodbye to Napoleon in August 1799, she didn't know she would never see him again.

Before leaving, Napoleon entrusted Pauline to the care of General Kleber, and the two soon became lovers. Pauline arrived in Paris a year later and tried to see Napoleon, but he always refused. Although at the time of their affair, he had hoped that rumours of it would reach the unfaithful Josephine's ears, the couple had now reconciled and Napoleon wanted no trouble. But he granted her an allowance and a house on the outskirts of Paris.

Pauline would never cease to scandalise polite society. She smoked, took her dog into church, and read the Paris gazettes sitting outside the door of her solicitor. During the Russian campaign, she was sent to the provinces for being too friendly with some Russian aristocrats. Under the Restoration, she frequently travelled to South America, where she sold furniture made in France and bought precious woods. Once her fortune was restored, she returned to France permanently. Pauline was a decent painter who loved to collect art, and also wrote three novels Lord Wenworth (1813), Aloïze de Mespres. Nouvelle tirée des chroniques du XIIeme siècle (1814), and Une chatelaine du XIIeme siècle (1834). She died in March 1869.