Eglantine Wallace, Jane Gordon's Wilder Sister

Eglantine, Lady Wallace, was the younger sister of Jane, Duchess of Gordon, the Tory version and rival of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. But she wasn't one to hide in her famous sister's shadow. If Jane didn't stop at anything to achieve her aims (she even kidnapped a man once to secure a political seat for one of her friends!), Eglantine had a fiery temper that often got her in trouble (and in a court of law).

Their father, Sir William Maxwell, was a poor baronet who had to sell most of his lands to pay his debts. He was also an alcoholic, so it was his wife, Magdalene Blair, who took care of their children and educated them, in a rented apartment in Edinburgh. Apparently this was a common practise that allowed noble Scottish land owning families to introduce their daughters to society once their education was concluded.

The two sisters were very wild, even riding pigs down the streets (normal for most children, but shocking for daughters of a baronet, even if an impoverished one). Jane, as she got older and married well, learned to tame her personality somewhat. Eglantine didn't.

In 1770, she married Thomas Dunlop, soon-to-be Baronet of Wallace. The marriage was very unhappy and, after 8 years, the couple, who had two sons, legally separated on the grounds of Thomas's cruelty. But Thomas was also deeply indebted and, shortly before their separation, had to sell his property, Craigie, to pay off his creditors. So, it's possible that their pecuniary problems were a contributing factor in the demise of their marriage.

In any case, Eglantine could be pretty nasty too. Twice she was brought to court to answer charges of assault. Her first victim was a female companion, the second a servant. She also got in trouble for sneaking into the House of Common dressed as a man to listen to a debate (women were banned from them).

After her separation, Eglantine went to London, where she started writing plays. Most of her works were well-received, although The Whim: A Comedy was banned by the licenser. In disgust, she left London.

She also must have suffered some health problems because in 1789, she decided to go to France to take the spa waters. Her mouth and temper got her in trouble there too. She wasn't afraid to let people know what she thought of the current French political situation to anyone who listened, which led to her being accused of espionage. Luckily, she managed to escape (barely!) with her head still firmly on her shoulders.

After leaving France, Lady Wallace kept travelling throughout Europe. In 1792 she was in Brussels, and in 1803 in Munich, where she died on 28th March.

Further reading:
The Duchess Of Devonshire's Gossip Guide To The 18th Century

Madame Campan On Louis XVI

The features of Louis XVI were noble enough, though somewhat melancholy in expression; his walk was heavy and unmajestic; his person greatly neglected; his hair, whatever might be the skill of his hairdresser, was soon in disorder. His voice, without being harsh, was not agreeable; if he grew animated in speaking he often got above his natural pitch, and became shrill.

The Abbe de Radonvilliers, his preceptor, one of the Forty of the French Academy, a learned and amiable man, had given him and Monsieur a taste for study. The King had continued to instruct himself; he knew the English language perfectly; I have often heard him translate some of the most difficult passages in Milton's poems.

He was a skilful geographer, and was fond of drawing and colouring maps; he was well versed in history, but had not perhaps sufficiently studied the spirit of it. He appreciated dramatic beauties, and judged them accurately. At Choisy, one day, several ladies expressed their dissatisfaction because the French actors were going to perform one of Moliere's pieces.

The King inquired why they disapproved of the choice. One of them answered that everybody must admit that Moliere had very bad taste; the King replied that many things might be found in Moliere contrary to fashion, but that it appeared to him difficult to point out any in bad taste?

This Prince combined with his attainments the attributes of a good husband, a tender father, and an indulgent master.

Unfortunately he showed too much predilection for the mechanical arts; masonry and lock-making so delighted him that he admitted into his private apartment a common locksmith, with whom he made keys and locks; and his hands, blackened by that sort of work, were often, in my presence, the subject of remonstrances and even sharp reproaches from the Queen, who would have chosen other amusements for her husband.

Austere and rigid with regard to himself alone, the King observed the laws of the Church with scrupulous exactness. He fasted and abstained throughout the whole of Lent. He thought it right that the queen should not observe these customs with the same strictness.

Though sincerely pious, the spirit of the age had disposed his mind to toleration. Turgot, Malesherbes, and Necker judged that this Prince, modest and simple in his habits, would willingly sacrifice the royal prerogative to the solid greatness of his people. His heart, in truth, disposed him towards reforms; but his prejudices and fears, and the clamours of pious and privileged persons, intimidated him, and made him abandon plans which his love for the people had suggested.

The King was born weak and delicate; but from the age of twenty-four he possessed a robust constitution, inherited from his mother, who was of the House of Saxe, celebrated for generations for its robustness. There were two men in Louis XVI, the man of knowledge and the man of will.

The King knew the history of his own family and of the first houses of France perfectly. He composed the instructions for M. de la Peyrouse's voyage round the world, which the minister thought were drawn up by several members of the Academy of Sciences. His memory retained an infinite number of names and situations. He remembered quantities and numbers wonderfully.

One day an account was presented to him in which the minister had ranked among the expenses an item inserted in the account of the preceding year. "There is a double charge," said the King; "bring me last year's account, and I will show it yet there." When the King was perfectly master of the details of any matter, and saw injustice, he was obdurate even to harshness. Then he would be obeyed instantly, in order to be sure that he was obeyed.

Further reading:
Memoirs Of Marie Antoinette by Campan

Book Review: Mind Change By Susan Greenfield

Did you know that our brain adapts to whatever environment it is placed in? And our modern environment is vastly different from the environment in which our brain evolved. Technology has created a world unimaginable only decades ago. A world where we are constantly connected to a screen, can instantly communicate with people on the other side of the world, and have access to the entire extent of human knowledge with the click of the mouse.

Technology offers us incredible opportunities but, like all things, it has a dark side too. It bombards at all times with an excess of audiovisual stimuli. It satisfies our appetite for instant gratification. And it even allows us to take on a completely different identity that gives us the confidence to be and do online what we aren't and would never do in the real world.

How is this brand new world shaping our minds? Are we becoming smarter and more efficient, or are we losing the abilities to think critically and empathize with others? Drawing from scientific studies, news events, and cultural criticism, neuroscientist Susan Greenfield, known in her native United Kingdom for challenging conventional views, tries to answer this question in her new book, Mind Change.

Mind Change is a very thought-provoking read, and a depressing one at times. Data is showing how the brain of a video gamer is similar to that of a gambling addict, how excess use of social media can reduce empathy, and how the internet, while making it easier for us to do research and look up all kinds of facts, could hinder our ability to connect the dots and gain a deeper understanding of the topic we're studying.

But it's not all bad. Video games also help improve vision and motor control, and using tablets is a huge help for students with developmental disabilities. New apps (Greenfield proposes a few at the end of the book) could also help us fix the problems technology is causing, and help us, for instance, become even more emphatic.

Still, Greenfield is negatively biased against technology. So much so, that at times it is difficult to take some of her ideas seriously. But, while I don't agree with everything Greenfield says, I appreciate her pessimism. She may too often focus on the worst case scenarios, but, sometimes, that's just what we need to take problems seriously and fixing them in time, so that they never become that bad.

My main problem with the book, though, is the writing style. Mind Change is full of fascinating insights and interesting ideas that we all need to ponder, but the academic style doesn't make it that accessible to casual readers. I found quite a few passages quite dry and boring, and often wished she had chosen a more engaging style. That, imo, would have helped to prompt those who need to read it the most (who undoubtedly are those who have the least interest in it) to pick up a copy. Even so, I do encourage you to check it out.

Although written in an academic, sometimes dry, style, Mind Change By Susan Greenfield is a thought-provoking read full of fascinating insights about how our modern environment is shaping our minds.

Available at: Amazon

Rating: 4/5

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

Regency Slang (Part 4)

It's been ages since I wrote one of these posts. High time to remedy that, I think! So, here are a few Regency words and expressions that may puzzle you if you come across them in an old book. Enjoy!

Beau-nasty: finely dressed but dirty

Canterbury Story: a long roundabout tale

Cloud: tobacco

Gallipot: a nickname for an apothecary

Hog Grubber: a mean stingy fellow

Horse-godmother: large, muscular woman

Jason's Fleece: a citizen cheated of his gold

King’s Bad Bargain: a malingeror, or soldier who shirks his duty

Leaky: someone who can't keep a secret

Lully Triggers: thieves who steal wet linen

Mouse: to speak like a mouse in a cheese; i.e. faintly or indistinctly

Poisoned: big with child

Red rag: the tongue

Slubberdegullion: dirty, nasty fellow

Strip Me Naked: gin

Wiper Drawer: a pickpocket, one who steals handkerchiefs.

How many did you know?

Further reading:
1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue by Francis Grose
Regency Slang
Regency Slang (Part 2)
Regency Slang (Part 3)

15 Minutes With Isabella Bradford (aka Susan Holloway Scott)

After years of writing historical fiction, Susan Holloway Scott has gone back to penning historical romances under the name Isabella Bradford. Her latest work, A Sinful Deception, tells the story of Miss Serena Palmer, a noble-born heiress raised in India with a dangerous secret that could destroy her.

When she doesn't write books, Isabella, who lives in a book-filled house outside of Philadelphia, is busy publishing a blog, Two Nerdy History Girls, with her friend and fellow historical romance author Loretta Chase. Filled with all kinds of interesting tidbits about daily life in the past, it's one of my daily must reads.

Want to know more about Isabella? Read on:

1. If you could live in any era, what would it be and why?
I’d choose the second half of the 18th c., in either England or America. Those are exciting times intellectually and culturally, and as the past goes, it wasn’t the worst time to be a woman. And the clothes are fantastic!

2. If you could invite three people, dead or alive, to dinner, who would you invite, and why?
When asked that question, most people assume that they’d belong to the elite classes, and choose dinner companions who are likewise rich, titled, or famous. I’ll go the other route, and choose three self-made individuals who, by all reports, were amusing and opinionated: Nell Gwyn, William Hogarth, and Mark Twain. That would be the liveliest, most entertaining dinner conversation EVER.

3. Three books everyone should read?
I’m not that dictatorial. As long as people are reading something, anything, then I’m happy.

4. Who's your style icon?
Hmmm….like most writers, my everyday “uniform” is sadly dependent on yoga pants and t-shirts, but my imaginary closet would be filled with vintage Alexander McQueen. You know, to go with my imaginary life.

5. What are you watching on TV?
I’m not too proud to admit that I have a real weakness for Sleepy Hollow, Top Chef, Call the Midwife, and Project Runway. I also watch a lot of sports: football, hockey, and baseball, depending on the season.

6. What's the soundtrack of your life?
Top Forty/Dance Pop all the way. Musically, I’ve never outgrown my seventeen-year-old self.

7. What's your favorite holiday destination, and why?
Every year I go to Cape Cod every summer with my family. Because it’s so familiar, the moment we arrive I can instantly begin to relax and recharge, and let the sea work its magic. Best part: no internet. Ahhhh….

8. What inspires you?
History, and art. My latest book, A SINFUL DECEPTION (written as Isabella Bradfor), features a heroine who was born in 18thc. India, the daughter of a nobleman stationed there. Brought to England as an adolescent, she must learn to adapt to the rules of Georgian society while not forgetting her Indian past. For the story, I was influenced by so many things – from the growing British presence in India at the time, to the clothing my characters would have worn, Punch & Judy puppet shows, Mughal jewels, the rules for riding in Hyde Park…the list goes on and on. I’m always trying to work interesting historical details in my books to make them richer.

9. One thing on your bucket list?

10. Something about you that would surprise us?
I was a hard-core hockey mom. Really. Both my son and daughter played ice hockey, and for many years I felt as if I was always driving to one rink or another. But I knew how to multi-task: I continued to write on my laptop during practices, sitting on those cold aluminum bleachers.

Thank you Isabella!

For more about what inspires Isabella/Susan and her books, please check out her website and on her Facebook page, plus her blog (written with writer BFF Loretta Chase) Two Nerdy History Girls, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Marie Of Edinburgh, The Last Queen Consort Of Romania

Princess Marie of Edinburgh was the last Queen Consort of Romania. Born on 29 October 1875 in Kent she was the daughter of Prince Albert, Duke of Edinburgh and second son of Queen Victoria, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Her father was a service officer in the Royal Navy, so the young princess spent many years of her childhood abroad, most of them in Malta, whose strategic position was vital for the interests of Great Britain.

Marie grew into a beautiful young woman. She had a lot of admirers, including the future King George V. He was so smitten he proposed marriage, but Victorian's Russian mother, never a big fan of the British despite having married one (they were too liberal for her tastes), was totally against the match, so nothing came of it.

Instead, at the tender age of 17, Marie married Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, a man she never liked and only grew to hate as the years passed. Their marriage never stood a chance and, after giving her husband three children, Marie embarked on a series of affairs. She had three more children, but Ferdinand is unlikely to have fathered them too.

Marie herself told her father-in-law that her daughter, Mignon, future Queen of Yugoslavia, was fathered by a Russian Grand Duke, but her husband accepted paternity anyway. He did the same for Nicholas, whose real father is believed to have been Waldorf Astor. Instead, her affair with an army lieutenant was stopped by her father-in-law, and the child she gave birth to following the affair disappeared. Maybe it was given up for adoption, but it is also possible the baby was stillborn.

In 1914, Ferdinand and Marie became King and Queen of Romania. Ever pro-British, the Queen helped to stir up support for the war and sympathy for the Allies, hoping Romania would enter the conflict at their side and thus gain a big chunk of Hungarian territory. However, the Romanian army was no match for its enemies and was soon overpowered by an Austro-German offensive.

Bucharest was occupied by the Central Powers and Marie and her family fled to Moldavia. There, the Queen and her three daughters nursed and cared the wounded and sick in hospital. But the country had chosen the right side to fight on, so, when the end to the hostilities was finally announced, the Queen went to Paris to demand more territory. Her wishes were granted, and the Kingdom of Romania almost doubled in size.

Her private life, however, wasn't going so well. Initially very close, Marie and her eldest son Carol, who was spoiled and mentally unstable, grew apart over the years, as they tried to interfere in each other's love lives (Carol had run away and illegally married a commoner during the war). By 1927, when her husband died and her son accessed the throne, the two were estranged.

She dedicated the rest of her life to writing books (fairy tales, travelogues, and her memoirs) and to her religion, Baha’i. According to her words, Marie found in this obscure sect that had originated out of Shia Islam the true spirit of God. She died on 18 July 1938, and was buried next to her much despised husband.

Further reading:
The Last Romantic by Hannah Pakula
The Mad Monarchist

The Dauphin's Character

After the Duchess de Polignac had fled France at the beginning of the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette appointed the Marchioness de Tourze as governess to her children. "Madame," said she, "I formerly intrusted my children to friendship; to-day I intrust them to virtue." She then wrote her a letter in which she candidly and honestly described the character of her son, the dauphin Louis Charles, and her own principles and method of education:

July 25th, 1789

My son is four years and four months old, all but two days. I say nothing of his size nor of his general appearance; it is only necessary to see him. His health has always been good, but even in his cradle we perceived that his nerves were very delicate…. This delicacy of his nerves is such that any noise to which he is not accustomed frightens him. For instance, he is afraid of dogs because he once heard one bark close to him; and I have never obliged him to see one, because I believe that, as his reason grows stronger, his fears will pass away. Like all children who are strong and healthy, he is very giddy, very volatile, and violent in his passions; but he is a good child, tender, and even caressing, when his giddiness does not run away with him.

He has a great sense of what is due to himself, which, if he be well managed, one may some day turn to his good. Till he is entirely at his ease with any one, he can restrain himself, and even stifle his impatience and his inclination to anger, in order to appear gentle and amiable. He is admirably faithful when once he has promised any thing, but he is very indiscreet; he is thoughtless in repeating any thing that he has heard; and often, without in the least intending to tell stories, he adds circumstances which his own imagination has put into his head. This is his greatest fault, and it is one for which he must be corrected.

However, taken altogether, I say again, he is a good child; and by treating him with allowance, and at the same time with firmness, which must be kept clear of severity, we shall always be able to do all that we can wish with him. But severity would revolt him, for he has a great deal of resolution for his age. To give you an instance: from his very earliest childhood the word pardon has always offended him. He will say and do all that you can wish when he is wrong, but as for the word pardon, he never pronounces it without tears and infinite difficulty.

I have always accustomed my children to have great confidence in me, and, when they have done wrong, to tell me themselves; and then, when I scold them, this enables me to appear pained and afflicted at what they have done rather than angry. I have accustomed them all to regard 'yes' or 'no,' once uttered by me, as irrevocable; but I always give them reasons for my decision, suitable to their ages, to prevent their thinking that my decision comes from ill-humor. My son can not read, and he is very slow at learning; but he is too giddy to apply. He has no pride in his heart, and I am very anxious that he should continue to feel so.

Our children always learn soon enough what they are. He is very fond of his sister, and has a good heart. Whenever any thing gives him pleasure, whether it be the going anywhere, or that any one gives him any thing, his first movement always is to ask that his sister may have the same. He is light-hearted by nature. It is necessary for his health that he should be a great deal in the open air; and I think it is better to let him play and work in the garden on the terrace, than to take him longer walks. The exercise which children take in running about and playing in the open air is much more healthy than forcing them to walk, which often makes their backs ache.

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge