Heather Carroll remembers actress Elizabeth Campbell, nee Gunning, who went on to marry the richest men in Scotland. To quote:
Elizabeth and her sister may not have necessarily been good actors, but they did become very popular and were soon known as "The Beauties." Even Peg Woffington was seen with the Gunning sisters. As proof of just how popular Elizabeth was, when James Duke of Hamilton (who had just been jilted by Elizabeth Chudleigh) met Elizabeth he wanted to marry her that night, and marry her he did. He called a local parson who refused to marry the couple without a license or even a ring. This didn't deter the lovestruck duke who brought Elizabeth to Mayfair Chapel and with a bed curtain ring, made her his duchess in a clandestine ceremony. Oh the scandal! It all seemed way to easy. A mere actress who couldn't even afford her own trousseau was now one of the grandest Duchesses in Scotland.
Born Anne-Rosalie Bouquet in Paris in 1753, she was the daughter of Blaise Bouquet, the owner of a bric-a-brac shop and an ornamental painter. Rosalie inherited a talent for art, which she showed at a very early age. Her favourite medium was pastels, because of their fresh and delicate colours. In the 1770s, when she was only in her teens, Rosalie began exhibiting her works and soon became a very popular pastellist.
A beautiful girl, Rosalie attracted attention also for looks, not just her talent. She had several suitors but, on 1st October 1777, she married Louis Besne Filleul, who was much older than her. He was the Superintendent of the royal Chateau of Muette, one of Marie Antoinette's favourite residences, and the couple moved in the nearby Hôtel de Travers. Soon, she attracted the attention of the royal family, who commissioned her to paint several portraits, the most well-known of which depicts the children of the Comte d’Artois.
Rosalie became a widow in 1788, but was allowed to remain in her own home, because the Queen had decided to pass her late husband's office onto her. She lived there with her eight year old son Louis-August and her friend Marguerite-Émilie Chalgrin, daughter of the artist Vernet. Rosalie was also friends with other artists of her time, such as Madame Vigee-Lebrun, and could count among her admirers even Benjamin Franklin, whom she painted too. But her tranquil existence was soon to come at an end.
When the revolution broke out in 1789, Rosalie welcomed it and the freedom she thought it would bring to the country. But she turned against it as the revolutionaries began to suppress the Christian religion and then imprisoned the royal family. By then, demonstrating any sympathy towards the royals had become an offense punishable with death and so, when Rosalie wore mourning on the first anniversary of the King's execution and then, later, tried to auction some old pieces of furniture, which bore the royal insignia, from Muette, she inevitably attracted the attention of the Committee of Public Safety. Rosalie was duly arrested and found guilty. She was executed on the 24th June 1794 at the Place du Trône-Renversé.
Madame Vigée-Lebrun remembered her friends, and her lost hopes, in her memoirs:
"How well I remember Mme. Filleul saying to me, on the eve of my departure from France, when I was to escape from the horrors I foresaw: 'You are wrong to go. I intend to stay, because I believe in the happiness the Revolution is to bring us.' And that Revolution took her to the scaffold! Before she quitted La Muette the Terror had begun. Mme. Chalgrin, a daughter of Joseph Vernet, and Mme. Filleul’s bosom friend, came to the castle to celebrate her daughter’s wedding – quietly, as a matter of course. However, the next day the Jacobins none the less proceeded to arrest Mme. Filleul and Mme. Chalgrin, who, they said, had wasted the candles of the nation. A few days later they were both guillotined."
Madame Bertin wasn't the only popular dressmaker in France. Monsier Beaular was a talented designer with a lively imagination too. He was often criticised for it, but his clients loved his artistic and unusal creations:
The following lines written by Meister in his'Correspond ance Litteraire" for November, 1774, are a proof: "If ever a book of morals is written for our young Parisian ladies, I beg the author to attack fiercely the extravagant head-dresses, and above all the bad taste of Beaulard, inventor of all these absurdities. This man racks his brains to represent on the heads of young women all the most important events recorded in the newspapers.
One may see a bonnet portraying the opening of Parliament, another the Battle of Ivry and Henry IV., another an English garden — in fact, all historical events, ancient and modern. It so happens that head-dresses are no longer in keeping with the costumes of the day, and so more picturesque ones are being invented, and presently women will unconsciously find themselves dressing so theatrically that for ball dresses, which must differ from ordinary dress, there will be nothing left but nightcaps and bed-gowns."
These censures, however, did not interfere with Beaulard, nor with Mile. Bertin, to whom they could be well applied, as she was capable of just such extravagant inventions. Mile. Bertin did not look with pleasure upon the fame of her rival Beaulard. She came to the Queen one day, and complained, with tears in her eyes, of the favour shown him by certain great ladies. She had cause to be alarmed at his success ; he was a man of great imagination, and during the days of the poufs aux sentiments invented some very original ones, capable of rivalling the confections of the Rue Saint-Honoré. His fame was considerably increased by his invention of a curious bonnet called à la bonne maman — granny bonnets.
The Comtesse d'Adhemar, in her 'Souvenirs sur Marie-Antoinette', relates the following anecdote of Beaulard: "A foreigner came to him. 'Monsieur,' she said, 'I wish you to invent a stylish hat for me. I am English, the widow of an Admiral; I need say no more, your taste will do the rest.' The skilful milliner set to work after some meditation, and two days later he brought the haughty islander a bonnet that was truly divine.
Billowy gauze represented a rough sea, and by means of ribbon and ornaments he had managed to portray a fleet carrying a mourning flag in sign of the widowhood of the lady. When she appeared with this marvellous work of art, just cries of admiration were heard on all sides; but Beaulard's vogue was brought to its zenith by his creation of the bonnet a la bonne maman. To appreciate it, one must know that grandmothers, in fact all the old Court, disapproved of the height of the modern head-dress.
Consequently bonnets a la bonne maman were raised to a fashionable height by means of a spring, and lowered when a bad-tempered grandmamma appeared on the scene. All young women wished for one, and Mile. Bertin never pardoned any of her clients for their temporary infidelity to her, caused by the rage for Beaulard's confections."
Unfortunately, I couldn't find any pictures of his creations, but they must have really been something to behold!
today I'm reviewing a classic historical romance written by the queen of the "romantic suspence" genre Victoria Holt, and a new nonfiction book about the history of Western music. Enjoy!
The Pride Of The Peacock by Victoria Holt
Turn-of-the-century England. Jessica Clavering is born into an old but impoverished family. One day, she meets Ben Hennicker, the new owner of the Clavering's old family home. Her family hates him, but Jessica doesn't care and becomes close friends with him. But when Ben falls ill, he makes her an unusual offer. If she marries his proud son, the owner of an opal mine in Australia, she will inherit half his fortune. If she refuses, they both will get nothing, which would condemn Jessica to a spinster life with her cold family. Always the gambler, Jessica takes a chance that will lead her to the other side of the world, where she'll find love and danger as she tries to unfurl the mystery surrounding one of the greatest opals ever found.
This is a charming, if a bit unusual, romance. To start with, the hero makes his appearance after 100 pages! Before, it's all about Jessica and the mystery about her family. This, coupled with the endless discussions about opals, makes the book a bit dry and slow at times. Yet, it has so many twists and turns that will keep you glued to the page, and guessing at who the villain is, till the end, anyway.
There also aren't any passionate kissing or sex scenes, which may disappoint some people. I, instead, found it refreshing. It just better allows readers to see how the relationship between Jessica and her husband turns from one of convenience to one of love, and reminds us that while sex is a part of love, it's not the be all and end all.
Although the book could have been shorter, it's still a lovely historical romance that I recommend to all fans of the genre. Available at:amazon.com Rating: 4/5
The Story Of Music by Howard Goodall
An interesting and great overview of Western music, from its origin in the Prehistoric era, the innovations of the Middle Ages, the great composers of the 17th and 18th centuries, to our present day. Notions such as harmony, notation, opera, orchestra and even recording may be obvious to us, but someone had to come up with those ideas at some point, and when they did, they sparked a musical revolution.
Sometimes, to show how music evolved, it is necessary to delve into the complexities of music theory. This can be quite boring and complicated for someone who is new to the subject, but Goodall writes in such a readable and simple way that makes it accessible to everyone. The book is also filled of intriguing anecdotes and interesting observations. If you think, for instance, that classical music is dead, think again. It's evolved, but it's as alive as ever.
The author also discusses all kinds of music and musical forms, from classical to rock n'roll, from jazz to pop, from operas to Broadway musicals. He doesn't consider any type of music to be too insignificant to be included. There are also the occasional references to musical traditions of other parts of the world, which shows how differently music has evolved in different continents.
If you are a music lover that has extensive knowledge of the history of music and music theory, you probably won't find anything new here. But if you're just a music fan that would like to know more about how music changed and evolved throughout the centuries, then this would be a great introduction. Available at: amazon Rating: 4/5
Are you planning to read these books, or have done so already? If so, what did you think of them?
Disclaimer: I received these book in exchange for my honest opinion. In addition, this post contains affiliate links.
I love wedding dresses. I've been fantasizing about what I'd wear to walk down the aisle (not that that's gonna happen anytime soon) ever since I was a little girl and Yes To The Dress is one of the few TV shows that I devour these days. My tastes veer towards romantic, feminine and vintage dresses, but with a fun and quirky touch, rather than the tight and strapless style that is so popular at the moment, despite the fact that very few body types can pull that off.
If you're here, you probably feel the same or, at least, can appreciate a beautiful vintage wedding dress. So, here are a few Victorian ones to feast our eyes on:
1855-1862, from The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
1865, made by Frederick Worth, from the Museum Of The City Of New York
1870, from The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
1874, from The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
1875, from the Indianapolis Museum Of Art
1880, from The Metropolitan Museum Of Art
1884, from the Mint Museum
1885, from the Victoria and Albert Museum
c.1890, from the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum
Which one is your favourite? Mine is the last one, with the gorgeous butterfly bodice, but I also like the princessy style of the first dress and the simpler elegance of the 1875 outfit from the Indianapolis Museum Of Art.
In 1773, the Hotel-Dieu, the most ancient hospital in Paris, was burnt down. Marie Antoinette donated money to the sufferers, as she told her mother in a letter:
"All the newspapers have spoken of the terrible fire at the Hotel-Dieu. They were obliged to remove the patients into the cathedral and the archbishop's palace. There are generally from five to six thousand patients in the hospital. In spite of all the exertions that were made, it was impossible to prevent the destruction of a great part of the building; and, though it is now a fortnight since the accident happened, the tire is still smoldering in the cellars. The archbishop has enjoined a collection to be made for the sufferers, and I have sent him a thousand crowns. I said nothing of my having done so to any one, and the compliments which they have paid me on it have been embarrassing to me; but they have said it was right to let it be known that I had sent this money, for the sake of the example."