Saturday, January 22, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: Queen Mary’s Emerald and Diamond Brooch

Emerald and Diamond Brooch
Bequeathed to Queen Elizabeth II, 1953
The Royal Collection
As I’ve mentioned before Queen Mary (Mary of Teck) had a habit of collecting things that she liked. She was also the frequent recipient of gifts—really nice gifts. This was one of them.

Presented to Queen Mary at the Delhi Durbar, by “The Ladies of India,” this gorgeous brooch was created specifically for the Queen by those wonderful fellows at Garrards. The brooch sports an enormous emerald which is carved with a rose on the front and a rose bush on the back. The entire piece is surrounded in stunning brilliant-cut diamonds, set in gold.

Upon Queen Mary’s passing, she bequeathed this eye-popper to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

The Art of Play: A Pelham Puppet Poodle, 1950

String Puppet Poodle
Pelham Puppets
Britain, 1950
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
The marionette has had a long and interesting evolution. Early marionettes usually only featured one long string, connected to a handle which allowed the puppeteer to make the puppet bounce around, and little more. Over time, marionettes became more complicated with the addition of more strings, a cross-shaped controller and articulated limbs. By the Eighteenth Century, marionettes had evolved into the form we know today and became a highly popular form of entertainment, especially in Italy. In Venice, for example, marionettes had a hey-day for a period of several decades. Theatrical companies often preferred using marionettes over live actors whom they found to be considerably more difficult and expensive. Lavish puppet stages were constructed and plays were written expressly for wooden performers. Our beloved Mr. Punch, in fact, began his existence as a marionette before his own personal evolution into the more easily-operated glove puppet we know today.

Though they were traditionally theatrical tools used by adults, by the Twentieth Century, puppets had become kid-stuff. Marionettes were designed in a smaller scale with relatively easy controllers. In Britain, one puppet-maker seemed to dominate the market, Pelham Puppets. Their line of marionettes was quite popular. This poodle, for example, with articulated limbs and a curiously complicated system of strings was a best-seller between 1950 and 1959.

Masterpiece of the Week: Queen Charlotte’s Jewel Casket, 1737

Jewel Casket
Emanuel Eichel I, 1737
Gold, Ivory, Tortoiseshell,
Mother-of-Pearl, Enamel, Diamonds,
Made for Emperor Charles VI
Owned by Queen Charlotte
The Royal Collection
No one is quite sure how Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III, came to own this jewel casket, however, it was among those possessions of hers which were auctioned off in 1819. It didn’t reenter The Royal Collection again until 1872, at which time a thorough investigation was made of the piece, identifying it as being more historically significant than even originally thought.

To begin with, the casket is exceptionally fine. Piqué panels of tortoise shell inlaid with gold and mother of pearl form the casket itself which is surmounted by a tinted ivory and gold figure of Victory which is set with stunning rubies and diamonds. It is signed on the reverse by Augsburg’s Emanuel Eichel I who was known for his intricate gold-work and jewelry, particularly his mastery of designs featuring tortoiseshell and ivory.

The inlaid scenes depict the victory of Prince Eugene of Savoy over the Ottoman Empire (1716). The records of Emperor Charles VI from the time period indicate that he commissioned Eichel to create a work commemorating Prince Eugene’s triumph. The completed work—a magnificent jewel box of tortoiseshell, ivory and diamonds, was said to be Eichel’s greatest masterpiece. A mention of this casket made in 1752 indicates that it was unaccounted for.

Clearly, this is the same casket. How or why it came into the possession of Queen Charlotte remains a mystery.

At the Music Hall, “Tiggerty Boo!” 1940

Put your thumbs up! And, say it’s “tiggerty boo.” We’re going to show the world who’s who.

“Tiggerty Boo!” also known as “The Forces Thumbs Up Song,” was a popular number during the Second World War. The phrase, “Tiggerty Boo,” (alternately “Tickety Boo”) simply means, “everything’s all right” and dates to the late Nineteenth Century, possibly coming from the Hindi word “thik tai” meaning, “fine,” and considered the source of the phrase, “That’s the ticket.”

During the Second World War, the people of England needed to reminded (or at least convinced) that everything was “tiggerty boo,” so this rousing song became all the more popular. Written by Hal Hallifax, the song was performed by a number of artists.

This recording features the celebrated performer, Jack Hylton (not “Hilton,” as the clip is entitled), but it was also famously recorded by Joe Loss and His Orchestra.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 151

Not so fast,” Edward Cage barked at Cecil as he, Robert and Adrienne tried to leave the ballroom.

“Please, Edward.” Cecil said firmly, “Step aside.”

“No.” Edward shook his head. “Not until you explain yourself.”

“There’s nothing to explain.” Cecil responded.

“No?” Edward growled. “Did you three not just cause a scene? What was that spectacle? And, getting Iolanthe Evangeline all riled up! Marie Laveau! In my museum! The whole crowd is in an uproar, people are leaving. This was supposed to be a grand affair, not a freak show. And, it all started with your little panto! What were you thinking?”

“Damn it!” Robert spat. “Don’t you realize that the Duke of Fallbridge has been abducted by those two witches? Stop your belligerence, and let us pass, you self-important imbecile!”

“Cecil, you’d do well to remind your brother to whom he’s speaking!” Edward grunted.

“My brother doesn’t need to be reminded of anything,” Cecil answered steadily. “Listen to me, Edward. I know you have some sort of arrangement with Iolanthe. Deny it all you want, but we all know that the child that you call ‘Holt’ was purchased from that woman. But, you also know what other sins she’s committed. She’s hurt my family for too long, and we had hoped that by exposing her tonight, in front of all of these people, we’d finally capture her. We did not expect Marie Laveau. That wasn’t part of the plan.”

“So, it was justice that you were after?” Edward Cage muttered. “Well, did you have to do it here? Did you have to turn my ball into a circus?”

“It was the only way. We figured that we’d have safety in the crowd.” Adrienne argued.

“This is for the men to discuss, Mrs. Halifax,” Edward said dismissively.

“Why?” Adrienne asked. “It involves me. It involved your wife, and, frankly, every woman in this room. All of us are potential victims of Iolanthe’s cruelty.”

“Fine, Mrs. Halifax,” Edward grinned. “Since you want to be involved, perhaps you can pass a message on to your husband.”

“Stop it, Edward.” Cecil grumbled.

“No, no.” Edward shook his head. “Mrs. Halifax, you can tell your husband that his services are no longer required. As of this moment, his employment with me is terminated.”

“Good,” Cecil laughed.

“Thank God,” Adrienne nodded. “I wouldn’t like to think that my family would have a further association with yours.”

“When you go home tonight,” Robert added, “Mr. Cage, when you stop to glance in on your ‘son,’ you can tell him that the woman from whom you purchased him murdered his natural grandmother, and quite possibly is torturing his uncle right now!”

“Good evening, Dr. Halifax!” Edward spat, walking away.

“Mon Dieu,” Adrienne sighed. “Where could they have taken Mr. Punch?”

“I don’t know.” Cecil said, taking his wife by the arm and hurrying toward the museum’s exit. Robert followed closely behind. “I’d guess back to Iolanthe’s.”

“We’ve got to get to him before…” Adrienne began.

“Don’t say it,” Robert interrupted her, pulling the wig from his head. “Don’t.”

Once outside, Cecil signaled for their carriage driver, but found that he’d already left. Little did he know that another couple had bribed the driver to take them to Iolanthe’s house.

While Edward Cage had been chastising them, Ulrika and Arthur had already gone off to search for Mr. Punch. Their reasons for wanting to find him, however, were much different than those of Robert, Cecil and Adrienne.

“We’ll walk,” Robert said quickly. “Perhaps we can find a cab along the way.”

“Adrienne,” Cecil said, “Darling, perhaps you should stay here.”

“No.” Adrienne protested.

“You’re wasting time,” Robert shouted. “Just come along!”

“Steady on, old man.” Cecil answered firmly.

“Steady on?” Robert groaned. “This—this is…” She moaned loudly. “If anything happens to him…I don’t know. I promised him that I wouldn’t let any harm come to him. I’m supposed to be protecting him!”

“He’s quite resourceful,” Cecil said reassuringly. “I’m sure he can outwit Iolanthe.”

“And Marie Laveau?” Robert screamed angrily. “Really? He’s a child! Mr. Punch is a child! And, Julian is not equipped for this! I swear to God, if anything has happened to him, I will…”

“Please, dear Robert,” Adrienne said gently as they hurried along. “Don’t…”

“I’m sorry for shouting,” Robert whispered.

“I understand,” Adrienne responded softly.

“It’s just that…” Robert began, his eyes welling up with tears.

“No.” Adrienne shook her head. “Robert, I understand.”

At that very moment, Mr. Punch looked up at Barbara Allen helplessly. “All you gotta do is open the door, Barbara.”

“And, then what?” Barbara laughed anxiously. “Wait for her to murder me? Wait for her to find you again? She will find you again, Julian.”

Mr. Punch shook his head. “You don’t have to stay here neither.”

“But, I do.” Barbara smiled.

“I don’t understand.” Mr. Punch mumbled.

“I know you don’t.”

“She killed our mother. She’ll do the same to you if you stay. Open the door and we’ll both go. We been here before, we have. You chose to stay then. You and Her Grace both! And look what it’s got ya!”

“It’s more complicated than you realize.” Barbara sighed.

“It don’t have to be!” Mr. Punch shouted.

“Quiet, Julian.” Barbara whispered. “Someone’s coming.”

They heard the door to the room jiggle before it creaked open.

Silhouetted in the dim light from the passage, two figures entered the room.

“Miss Iolanthe, can’t you see in your heart that…” Barbara began.

“Barbara,” A deep voice responded as the two people came into the room. It was then that Julian and Barbara realized that it wasn’t Iolanthe and one of her henchmen who’d entered.

“Isn’t this nice?” Ulrika Rittenhouse smiled. “It’s a reunion! Husband and wife. Valet and master. Friends and enemies.”

“How did you get in here?” Barbara asked.

“Please,” Ulrika laughed. “You don’t think that the homely woman at the door is immune to Arthur’s charm, do you?”

“I’ve missed you, Pet,” Arthur smiled at Barbara.

“I’m sure you have.” Barbara sniffed.

Mr. Punch rose, eyeing the open door.

“Really, you don’t think that you’re leaving, do you?” Ulrika smiled.

“Well, yes,” Mr. Punch responded.

“Why are you here?” Barbara asked wildly.

“Because, Iolanthe’s got some things that belong to me. My diamond, you, and your lunatic brother.”

“I don’t belong to you. I don’t belong to no one!” Mr. Punch shouted.

“Not for long,” Ulrika smiled. “Arthur?”

“Yes,” Arthur grinned, pulling a pistol from his coat and aiming it at Mr. Punch.

“Now’s as good a time as any.” Ulrika nodded.

As Arthur pulled the trigger, Barbara leapt forward. The sound of the shot rang throughout the brick walls of the room as both Barbara and Mr. Punch fell to the ground.

Did you miss Chapters 1-150? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, January 24, 2011 for Chapter 152 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Listen to Your Body

Our bodies talk to us. Most of the time, we ignore the signals. We’re usually too preoccupied with what we’re thinking and doing to pay attention to the impulses from the rest of our body. Yet, we should try to pay better attention. Your body communicates with you in a number of ways. It tells you when it’s hungry, tired, thirsty or in pain. Each feeling has a meaning. When we ignore those feelings, we are basically injuring ourselves.

If your body says it’s thirsty, drink some water. If your body is hungry, have a light snack. If you’re tired, stop what you’re doing and rest. Admittedly, I’m not very good about listening to my body. I come from the school of thought that stipulates, “You must carry on with what you’re doing, no matter what.” But, I’m beginning to realize that if I pay better attention to what my body needs, then I’m more likely to feel better, to have more energy and to have a clearer mind.

We live in very complicated machines which are programmed to survive. We have a better chance of comfortable survival, if we just listen to our natural instincts.

Object of the Day: An Antique Fauteuil Chair

A fauteuil is an open-armed style of chair which rose to prominence during the Eighteenth Century in France and is most often associated with the furniture style of French King Louis XV. With an upholstered seat, back and arms (in roundels called “manchettes’), a fauteuil’s wooden frame is usually ornately carved, often with natural motifs such as flowers or shells.

This maple French fauteuil dates to the 1840-1860 and features fluted Sheraton legs, a deeply carved crest, dentil carving around the base and scrolled arms. While the chair has been reupholstered in a gold and green damask, it still retains its original horsehair stuffing. The chair’s back hints at the balloon-back shape which would soon dominate French furnishings in the 1870’s and 1880’s.

It’s likely that this chair was made for export from France to the U.K. where a demand for French-style furnishings was rapidly growing. The chair was purchased in London and brought to Texas for resale. It was the first in my collection of “chairs I don’t sit in.”

Friday, January 21, 2011

Antique Image of the Day: A Menu from HMY Victoria & Albert, 1905

Menu from HMY Victoria & Albert
Signed by all those in
attendance, including Mac
and the cat.
The Royal Collection
Among the possessions of Princess Victoria of Wales, this menu was found. At a dinner party aboard Her Majesty’s Yacht, The Victoria & Albert, in 1905, each person in attendance signed the menu. At the top of the page, someone—presumably Queen Alexandra herself—has sketched two of the most frequent guests aboard the yacht, Mac the Terrier and Queen Alexandra’s cat.

Mac and the cat were constantly at odds. Their rocky relationship is demonstrated in the sketch by the fact that the cat is hissing (as indicated by the red flames coming from his mouth) at the intrepid terrier. The two sketches are labeled, “My Cat –Mother Dear” and “Mac.”

I find this souvenir of a fun dinner (and, by the looks of the menu, quite tasty) to be extremely charming. I’m glad the Princess Victoria saved it.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: A Punch & Judy Mechanical Bank

Our friend Mr. Punch has a lot to carry on his hunched shoulders. It’s not easy being an icon. Not only is he a symbol of centuries of puppet artistry, but he’s also iconic of Britain itself. Mr. Punch has found his visage on everything from magazines to candy. His countenance has been rendered in every conceivable medium. So, why not cast iron.

This Punch & Judy Bank was recently given to me by my good friend, Whirligig. It’s a spot-on reproduction of the mechanical Punch & Judy Banks of the Nineteenth Century. Put a coin in Judy’s dish, and push down on the lever. With a quick smack, Mr. punch lowers his famous slapstick and Judy deposits the coin in the bank at the reverse of the “tent.” Beautifully painted and heavy as can be, this bank makes me smile because it reminds me of many of my favorite things.

Friday Fun: A “Magical” Automaton, circa 1920

I’ve always been fascinated by automata.  For all of our technology, we have yet to duplicate the robotics of those clockwork figures of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.  This particular automaton is quite interesting.  A multi-figure piece of monumental proportions, the group performs a “magic act” which is particularly fascinating.  This item was auctioned off in 2007.

Pets of the Belle Époque: A Fabergé West Highland White Terrier, 1907

West Highland White Terrier
Carl Fabergé, 1907
Created for Edward VII
Agate, Rose Diamonds
The Royal Collection
Having learned to appreciate animals from his mother, King Edward VII was, by all accounts, quite attached to the Royal pets. Queen Alexandra was similarly fond of animals, and enjoyed collecting figures of dogs and other beasties.

This beautiful agate sculpture by Carl Fabergé depicts a West Highland White Terrier. Westies were first kept in the kennels at Sandringham House by King George V, however, Edward VII also had a fondness for the inquisitive terriers. Edward VII commissioned this sculpture personally.

Fabergé has masterfully captured the Westie’s natural bright eyes by setting them with rose-cut diamonds. Of course, the reason I find it appealing is quite obvious.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 150

The cabinet felt cramped to Mr. Punch who was, at once, comforted by the confinement and terrified by it. Though his neck was stiff, he tried to turn his head—for it was his head, not Julian’s—which sat upon that neck. He felt as though someone else was with him in the cabinet. Yet, he could not quite tell who it was.

It wasn’t the cabinet to which he’d become accustomed. It wasn’t the cabinet in which he’d sat in Fallbridge Hall for thirty years—excepting the time he spent in Julian’s townhouse in Belgravia. This cabinet had no glass. Or did it? Punch couldn’t see out. There were mullions, yes. But, the glass had been replaced with angry wood—painted a brilliant red, the red of his coat, the red of his hat, the red of his mouth. No, it wasn’t the same cabinet. Or was it?

How did he come to be returned to his cabinet?

“Mr. Punch,” a voice called out from nearby. Yet, Punch could not turn his head—his head.

“What’s that?” Punch asked. “Yes, I’m Mr. Punch.”

“Mr. Punch,” the voice repeated.

“Master?” Punch asked frantically. “Where are we?”

“We?” The voice laughed. “Where are you?”

“That’s not me master.” Mr. Punch grunted. “Who’s talkin’ to Mr. Punch?”

Punch strained to turn his head. The hot breath of another body tickled his ears. First from the left, then from the right. He wasn’t alone. The cabinet was well-lit. But, how? Surely there was no lamp, no wick, no candle in with him to light it. But, there it was, aglow in red. Red, red, red. It was hot, but cold.

Distant shouting made Mr. Punch tremble. Female voices. Angry voices, despondent voices. Moaning, screaming, angry voices.

“Mr. Punch,” Another voice called. A man’s voice. A familiar voice, not unlike Julian’s, but not Julian’s. A formal voice, a voice of wisdom, of dreams.

“Father?” Mr. Punch said.

“Chin up, my boy,” The voice said. “It’s not as bad as all that.”

“It is, Father,” Mr. Punch moaned. “I failed. Locked in the cabinet, I am.”

“No.” The voice responded. “You’re not. Look around.”

Punch shut his eyes and when he opened them again, he was in Covent Garden, in the arms of a little boy with pale cheeks and dark auburn hair which curled at the sides. The boy panted. Punch looked up at him. “Master?”

“Quiet, Mr. Punch.” the boy whispered. “They mustn’t know that we talk. The Duchess must never know.”

“What are you muttering to yourself,” Agnes Rittenhouse asked. Mr. Punch could not see her, but he knew her voice. “Such a peculiar lad. You must stop your talking, you know. Little boys who talk too much find their mouths sewn shut. Do you want that? Do you want to be like a puppet, relying on others to talk for you?”

“No.” Mr. Punch said.

“No,” the little boy said.

“Pay no attention to her.” The male voice responded from somewhere in the distance. “Talk all you want.” Who was speaking? Was it Julian’s father? Mr. Punch couldn’t tell. All he could see was the face of the ruddy-haired little boy.

“Now, close your eyes and go to sleep.” Agnes said.

Mr. Punch closed his eyes. But, he did not dare to go to sleep. He opened them again and he was no longer in Covent Garden, but rather in the skeleton of Julian’s rooms at Fallbridge Hall, in the reliquary that served as his home. He looked out and saw Julian slouched over his table, studying something closely. Something sparkling.

“Master!” Mr. Punch shouted.

Julian looked up, “We must be quiet, Mr. Punch.”

“No.” Mr. Punch answered.

The scene changed before him, melting into a muddy puddle and, again, Punch was returned to the redness. Again, his ears tickled from warm, angry breath.

“I will not bend to your will, Marie.” A woman’s voice said from faraway, but close enough that it sounded like a scream. “Not again.”

“You have no choice,” Another woman replied.

The female voices startled Mr. Punch so that his whole body shook, and in shaking, it loosened his neck so that he could turn his head. And, turn it, he did. Turned it so much that it stuck. To his left, the Duchess stared at him. Her face slack with death, her eyes cloudy and pained.

“You left me, Julian.” The Duchess moaned. “You left me to die.”

“No.” Mr. Punch cried. “You didn’t want to go. You left yourself.”

“Now, you must come with me, Julian.” The Duchess answered without moving her lips—her chin touching her clavicles.

“I ain’t Julian!” Mr. Punch screamed. “I’m another man all together. You got the wrong man.”

“Come with me, Julian.” The Duchess repeated.

Mr. Punch hollered. The force of his screams jolted his head into the other direction where it locked again. Naasir sat on the other side of him in the cabinet. It was Naasir as he once was, before Iolanthe burned him. Naasir spoke, but the voice that rose from his chest was not his own, it was the voice of Sir Colin—the voice of Julian’s father.

“Pay her no mind, Great Man of the Rocks, my boy. You are on the path of beauty. Follow your own path and protect what really matters.”

“Naasir, you’re whole again.” Mr. Punch sobbed. “You’re whole!”

“I’m not Naasir,” The man responded.

“Who are you, then?”

“I’m you.”

“I don’t understand!” Mr. Punch screamed.

“Stop talking,” Naasir said, this time in his own voice.

“Listen to him,” Another voice echoed throughout the crimson cabinet.

“Marjani!” Mr. Punch shouted.

“Yes, I done found you. Follow me.” Marjani’s voice answered.

“I can’t.” Mr. Punch said. “I’m locked in.”

“You can.” Marjani’s voice giggled. “You can.”

“Don’t do it!” Julian said. Yes, it was Julian’s voice. “Don’t let her fool you! Stop talking! Silence!”

“I don’t understand!” Mr. Punch repeated.

Suddenly, his face stung. Mr. Punch winced, clenching his eyes shut. When he opened them, he was in a gray brick room, slumped against a wall. Barbara Allen stood over him.

“Quiet,” She whispered.

“I’m not really here.” Mr. Punch said.

“Listen to me,” Barbara said softly. “I don’t know what they’ve given you, but you must stop your chatter.”

Mr. Punch took a deep breath. He could smell oil and smoke. He could smell Barbara’s scent—sweat and lavender.

“There now,” Barbara whispered. “Are you waking up?”

“I’m not sure.” Mr. Punch muttered. “Where am I?”

“Iolanthe’s.” Barbara said.

“Is it real?” Mr. Punch asked.

“All too real.” Barbara nodded. “I’ve been told to guard you.”

“By what party?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Iolanthe.” Barbara responded softly. “And, Marie Laveau.”

“Are you sure it’s real?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Would you dream of me?” Barbara smiled.

“You’d be surprised.” Mr. Punch grunted. “How’d I get here?”

“I don’t know exactly,” Barbara knelt down next to Mr. Punch. “All I know is that Iolanthe’s men carried you in.”

“I was at the ball.” Mr. Punch responded. “Where’s Robert?”

“Shhhh…” Barbara said. “You must be quiet.”

“She killed our mother.” Mr. Punch whispered.

“I know.” Barbara nodded slowly.

“Does she aim to kill me?” Mr. Punch asked.

“Probably.” Barbara sighed. “Presently, she’s struggling with Marie Laveau.”

They sat in silence for a few moments.

“I thought I was in a cabinet.” Mr. Punch sighed after awhile.

“They gave you something—some kind of potion. You were rambling like mad.” Barbara said in a hushed voice. “You called out to Father.”

“I thought he was here.” Mr. Punch said in a trembling voice.

“He isn’t.” Barbara muttered.

“But, you are.” Mr. Punch croaked.

“Julian,” Barbara began. She studied her brother’s face. “But, you’re not Julian are you? You’re someone else.”


“You’re not mad.” Barbara sighed. “You’re just…different. Aren’t you?”


“I’ve misjudged you.” Barbara sighed. “At least you accept who and what you are—even if there are two of you in one body.”

“I can’t change it. Nor do I want to.” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“I had a person inside of me once.” Barbara said weakly. “My child.”

“I know.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“Will God ever forgive me?” Barbara asked, touching Julian’s hand.

“I think so.” Mr. Punch responded. “But, you’ve got to show you’re worth forgivin’.”

Barbara nodded.

“Are you gonna let Iolanthe kill me?” Mr. Punch asked.

“She might not kill you.” Barbara squinted. “She doesn’t kill everyone. Sometimes she sells men—overseas. She’ll sell a strong man to a foreign ship’s captain.”

“That’s not much better.” Mr. Punch frowned.

“We’re all that’s left, you know.” Barbara mumbled. “Mother and Father are gone. My child belongs to someone else now. So does my husband. And, now, Iolanthe has both of us. Well, she has me, and how ever many people you are. I set this in motion, didn’t I?”

“Yes.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“If I let you go, she’ll kill me.” Barbara sighed.

“Probably.” Mr. Punch answered.

“Would that be such a loss?” Barbara laughed to herself.

Did you miss Chapters 1-149? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Take Comfort in the Small Things

Though each day is filled with myriad frustrations, we don’t have to allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by them. There’s infinite comfort to be found in the simplest of things. Just the act of walking into your home at the end of a long day should be comforting. The companionship of those we love—both human and animal—is enough to sustain us. The inherent beauty of the items with which we’re surrounded should inspire us.

So many of us become obsessed with the things that we don’t have. Not everyone will achieve ideal beauty, wealth and fame. We won’t always get everything that we crave. That’s, actually, one of the most wonderful things about life. We can, however, take comfort in what we already possess—our wit, our intellect, and the ability to be happy.

Object of the Day: An Antique Silver Pillbox

This pillbox was given to me by my parents upon their return from a trip to London. Dating to the late Nineteenth Century, it reminds me of the presentation boxes given by King George IV to his favored courtiers. Crafted of sterling silver, this small round case is chased with a radiant pattern surrounded by a band of laurel leaves. The sides of the box are delicately etched with a fluted pattern which makes the whole piece shimmer like a cut jewel. The inside of the box is lined with gold.

Objects such as this remind me to pay attention to every-day details. Our predecessors gave importance to everyday items. Even something as simple as a case for pills was made as beautiful and as precious as possible. There’s no reason that, today, we can’t find the beauty in everything we use.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Painting of the Day: “The Lory” by Sir Edwin Landseer, 1837

The Lory
Sir Edwin Landseer
The Royal Collection
“The Lory” was a frequent sitter for Sir Edwin Landseer.  The parrot’s amiable nature made him a suitable subject and an easy one to work with.  Queen Victoria described the bird as “so tame that is remains in your hand, and you may put your finger into its beak, or do anything with it, without it ever attempting to bite.”  Lory was a gift from Queen Victoria’s uncle, Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha upon his May, 1836 visit to London. As thanks for the Queen’s hospitality and her generosity to his two sons, he presented her with the friendly parrot who never ceased to delight Victoria. 

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Byam Family with Bertie

“What’s with the hat?  Are you trying to catch a bird?”
Image: The Byam Family, Thomas Gainsborough, 1762-6, The National Gallery, London, On loan from The Andrew Brownsword Arts Foundation

Mastery of Design: Queen Victoria’s Match Holder, 1848

Match Holder
Silver, Enamel, Rubies
Froment-Meurice, 1848
The Royal Collection
At the Great Exhibition, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert where seen frequenting the exhibits of French goldsmith François-Désiré Froment-Meurice whose bejeweled masterpieces were the cause of much celebration at the Exhibition. Known for his Gothic Revival gold-work, Froment-Meurice had already made an impression on the Royal Couple several years earlier with works which were decidedly naturalistic in style.

In 1848, Victoria purchased a gem-set, enameled match holder from Froment-Meurice. The enameled case is set with rubies and silver plaques depicting mythological scenes. The whole of the piece is painted with silver volutes. The handles feature delicately molded birds of paradise which mirror the graceful lines of the figure who perches atop the globe which surmounts the cover. Though this piece is not signed, it has been attributed to Froment-Meurice for several reasons. The globe upon which the languid figure stands is surrounded by a banner depicting the signs of the zodiac. This was a hallmark of Froment-Meurice’s work. Furthermore, the birds of paradise are identical to a pair of earrings created by the artist in 1849.

Unfolding Pictures: A Portrait Fan, 1787

While fans which featured portraits of loved ones were not uncommon, this one is quite exceptional inasmuch as it bears the images of the three eldest sons of King George III and was presumably made for Queen Charlotte. Here, we see portraits of Prince William, Duke of Clarence (later King William IV), George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), and Prince Frederick, Duke of York.

The other factor which makes this hand fan so special is one of the earliest uses of jasper-ware plaques from Wedgwood. Wedgwood had only perfected the process of creating jasper-ware in the 1770’s. The white and blue ornaments quickly fell into the favor of the Royal court and were incorporated into this fan by applying them to the ivory guards. The fan also features marquisites and steel-cut beads which give an added element of sparkle to an already opulent piece.

At some point in the Nineteenth Century, this fan was no longer in the possession of the Royal Family. In 1933, it was purchased at an auction for Queen Mary who had a pleasant habit of returning items to The Royal Collection.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 149

Let her go,” Mr. Punch said firmly. “Take me. This woman’s got a child what needs her. You can understand that.”

Iolanthe’s lip quivered.

“Take me,” Mr. Punch repeated. “No sense punishin’ a child what’s done nothin’ to no one.”

Iolanthe released Adrienne and grabbed Mr. Punch by the arm, holding the dagger to his chest.

Cecil rushed to Adrienne and put his arms around his wife who sobbed into his chest.

“Everyone’d better step aside.” Iolanthe shouted to the frightened crowd. “Let me pass.”

“Don’t do this,” Robert demanded.

“No more talking,” Iolanthe hissed. She reared her head back and howled. “Everyone’s always talkin’.” She shook her head. “It’s easy for all of you, ain’t it? Easy to call me a monster. Easy to damn me for what I’ve done. What about what all of you have done? Sure, you go on with your lives and you make your judgements. You call me “ogress” and label me a murderess. There’s a murder far worse than death. There are sins far greater than mine!”

Iolanthe pulled the hat from Julian’s head and grabbed a fistful of his hair, jerking his head upward. Mr. Punch yelped. “Look at this one! Look at him! You think he’s so fine just because he’s got a fancy title and a handsome face? He’s a lunatic! But, everyone thinks he’s charming because there’s gold in his coffers. Ain’t he a sinner?”

“What harm has he ever done to you?” Robert shouted. “He saved you. He carried you from that burning stable!”

“That’s his sin!” Iolanthe growled. “He should have let me burn. That’s what he’s done to me.”

“Release him at once!” Robert demanded.

“Quiet, Chum.” Mr. Punch whispered.

Iolanthe released Mr. Punch’s hair, but still held firmly to his arm. “I suggest you all examine your own souls before you start makin’ judgments about mine.”

“Soul?” A woman’s voice said clearly from deep within the crowd. “You have no soul, Iolanthe Evangeline. Maybe you done had one once, but you ain’t no more.”

The crowd parted as a dark-skinned woman in a bright pink turban walked forward.

“Take your hands off that poor fool,” The woman ordered.

“Who dares to give me orders?” Iolanthe squinted into the crowd.

“Don’t you know my voice?” The woman laughed as she came closer.

Iolanthe gasped. “Marie!”

The people in the ballroom scattered to the perimeters of the room like leaves in a windstorm, fueled by whispers of “Marie Laveau. The Voodoo Queen!”

“Don’t come no closer, Marie.” Iolanthe barked.

“Iolanthe Evangeline,” Marie Laveau smiled. “I told you when you broke away from me that one day, I’d get you back.”

“Not this day,” Iolanthe laughed wildly.

“That sad simpleton ain’t gonna be no good to ya,” Marie said clearly and firmly, “let him go.”

With one quick motion, Iolanthe cut a button from Mr. Punch’s coat. “Not until my hands are warmed by his blood.”

Marie Laveau climbed up onto the platform.

“I’m telling you, Marie,” Iolanthe spat. “If you come closer, I’ll kill him.”

“If you wanted to kill him, you’d have done so already.” Marie shook her head. “Let the fool be free.”

“Why are you here?” Iolanthe stammered.

“I come for you.” Marie grinned. “Do you forget that I hear the words in the air?”

“These people aim to destroy me.” Iolanthe hissed.

“Yes.” Marie smiled. “It would give them great pleasure. But, that pleasure shall not be theirs.”

From the folds of her multi-colored gown, Marie Laveau retrieved a red leather pouch. She held it aloft and hurled it to the floor. With a flash of light, the room filled with gray smoke.

The party-goers screamed, coughing and sputtering. Cecil reached for Adrienne and pulled her off of the stage. Robert shouted for Mr. Punch as the smoke filled his lungs.

As the smoke began to dissipate, Robert looked up to see that not only had Iolanthe and Marie Laveau disappeared, but so had Mr. Punch.

“Dear God!” Robert bellowed. “Cecil!”

Cecil and Adrienne hurried back to Robert. “They’ve taken him.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-148? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Stay Interested

In reality, much of what we do on a daily basis can be quite dull. Our daily tasks are often repetitive, and sometimes we settle into a robotic pattern in which we just carry out the same motions at the same times.

However, in the midst of that routine, there’s still much in which to be interested. Today, as you go about your usual business, think about why you’re doing it, recall what’s important and find reasons to be excited. There’s always something to engage us, to make us think and to keep us entertained. Even the most mundane of exercises can be all the more enjoyable if you keep your mind active.

Object of the Day: An Antique Bristol Glass Vase

The beauty of Bristol glass vases and other objects is emblematic of the design sensibilities of the late Nineteenth Century. Delicacy of shape and vibrant colors defined this time period. Bristol glass afforded a richness of color which was only heightened when illuminated. Being somewhat opaque, Bristol glass provides an uninterrupted evenness of color which is lost in more translucent glass. Furthermore, the relatively sturdy nature of the medium gave rise to delicate shapes which mimicked the curvilinear furniture styles which had become so prevalent.

This Bristol glass vase dates to the 1860’s-1870’s. Its pale rose color is somewhat unusual inasmuch as the majority of Bristol glass pieces of the era where white or blue. The vase features wide “shoulders” and a slender neck which gives the piece a neoclassical flavor. Decorated simply with swags of “lily of the valley” and elegant crests, the vase relies on shape more than it does on ornament. While many Bristol glass objects are heavily painted with naturalistic scenes, this one creates a statement with its rich color and striking silhouette.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Precious Time: An Exceptional Biscuit and Bronze Clock, 1789

Temple-form Mantel Clock
Benjamin Vulliamy
Commissioned by Queen Charlotte
The Royal Collection
In the late Eighteenth Century, a friendly rivalry arose between French and English makers of porcelain figures. English craftsmen began to create biscuit (parian) figures that rivaled those of French makers. One of the main proponents of this new effort was Benjamin Vulliamy, clockmaker to King George III, who employed the finest sculptors in creating exceptional clock cases which featured high quality biscuit figures.

Pleased with Vulliamy’s efforts, George III’s wife, Queen Charlotte, commissioned this clock case in the Neoclassical style which was popular at the time. The temple-form clock case features a figure of Euterpe—the Muse of Lyric Poetry. Surmounted by a delicately enameled clock face, the entire piece is supported by biscuit columns with gilt bronze capitals and adorned with finely turned finials.

Building of the Week: The Castle on the Hudson

In Tarrytown, New York, very close, in fact, to Lyndhurst, stands “The Castle on the Hudson” which is also known as “Tarrytown Castle.”

This medieval style mansion was built between 1897 and 1910 by one General Carroll who originally called the house, “Carrollcliffe.” Carrollcliffe was designed by famed New York architect, Henry Kilburn, who took his inspiration from images of the fortifications of Scotland, England and Wales. The result of his vision is this monumental stone building with its seventy-five foot tower (the highest building is Westchester County) and forty-five opulent rooms.

The mansion was given a large addition in 1910 when the great hall was expanded to include a new dining room and ballroom. Since then, the mansion has changed very little, retaining most of its original décor and furnishings even after a brief stint in the 1980’s as a private boys’ school.

Now, the mansion is a boutique hotel featuring opulent suites. The original house has been renovated and maintained in the style in which it was initially built. Since the building is a historical landmark, the structure, thankfully, can’t be changed. The hotel, however, does boast a twenty-four room additional building which blends beautifully with the original structure.

To learn more about The Castle on the Hudson, visit their Web site.

Sculpture of the Day: A Bust of King George V, 1935

King George V
Kathleen Scott
Bronze on marble plinth
The Royal Collection
Kathleen Scott, The Baroness Kennet, was overshadowed by the fame of her husband, Antarctic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott. However, she was quite an important artist of the time and was considered the top female sculpture of the era. Scott was often hired to create portrait sculptures of the most important men of the era because of her ability to create sensitive, yet masculine figures.

This bronze bust on a marble plinth depicts King George V and was given as a gift to his wife, Queen Mary in 1935.

Unusual Artifacts: Nécessaire and Watch, 1770

James Cox, 1770
 Nécessaire and Watch
Gold, Silver, Enamel, Paste Gems, Pearls, Glass
The Royal Collection
James Cox, an Eighteenth Century jeweler and clockmaker, was responsible for creating some of the most unique and exceptional watches and automata of the period. For instance, he crafted a terribly realistic, life-size automaton of a swan with silver plumage which became one of the most viewed objects in London at the time. Cox opened a museum of automata in Spring Gardens, Charing Cross which instantly became a popular attraction.

Cox created several unusual watch cases. This one, for instance, is a combination nécessaire and watch case. A nécessaire is exactly what it sounds like—a case for necessary things. In this instance, perfume bottles and other cosmetic items. The case is adorned with enamel, fanciful gold work of animal figures, silver, colored paste, glass and pearls. When opened, a watch and automaton are revealed. Ten jeweled bands spin around the face of the watch as the watch’s frame spins in the opposite direction. This was a favorite trick of James Cox who employed the same mechanism in a series of other watches and clocks.

Mary of Teck was a tremendous fan of Cox’s work—quite antique by her lifetime—and collected several pieces of his design. This one was gifted to her by King George V, her husband, in 1925.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 148

Ulrika Rittenhouse grumbled as she paced back and forth in front of a scene of Christ on the cross. Arthur sat at Christ’s wax feet, his back resting against the wood of the cross. He’d long since taken off the mask that Ulrika had given him and he fiddled with it in his lap as he watched her furious pacing.

“Are you listening?” Ulrika growled.

“’Course I am,” Arthur nodded. “You’re talkin’ ‘bout getting’ the diamond back from that Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“And, do you have anything to add?” Ulrika narrowed her eyes.

“You’re the one with all the ideas,” Arthur sighed.

“A lot of good you are.” Ulrika snarled.

“Well, what would you have me do?” Arthur snapped. “Now that Nellie’s gone back to Iolanthe’s, we ain’t got no help.”

“No.” Ulrika frowned. “And, I don’t suppose we can count on your precious wife.”

“You leave Barbara out of this.” Arthur said forcefully.

“I intend to make sure that Barbara stays out of this.” Ulrika grunted. She paused, listening to the faint roar which echoed through the museum’s corridor.

“What goes on out there?” Ulrika asked. “That doesn’t sound like a ball, it sounds like an angry mob.”

“Dunno.” Arthur shrugged.

“Put your mask on,” Ulrika wagged her finger at Arthur. “Go see what’s happening.”

“Orders, orders…” Arthur grumbled, doing as instructed.

“That’s right,” Ulrika laughed. “Now, hurry.”

Arthur wandered off down the corridor, following the sound of the ruckus. He slowly approached the entrance to the ballroom and was surprised to see the crowd shouting at a woman on the raised platform.

At first, Arthur couldn’t tell who it was, but he immediately recognized Julian/Punch, Cecil, Adrienne and Robert. Very quickly, Arthur realized that the crowd was screaming at Iolanthe Evangeline who was shouting back at them.

“How fast all of you have turned on me!” Iolanthe hollered. “Considering how well I know most of you gentlemen! You there! Mr. Bienville! Does your wife know how you spend her money? You! Mr. Hollister! Perhaps your devoted missus would like to know what you say about her when you lie in my arms! You’re all hypocrites!”

Cecil shouted over her, “Help us. I implore you! See that this woman is brought to justice!”

Several of the men in the audience came forward. As they were about to climb onto the platform, Iolanthe spun around. As part of her St. Joan costume, she wore what appeared to be a prop dagger. But, in fact, the dagger was not false. She quickly pulled the gleaming blade from its sheath and, with the other arm grabbed Adrienne, pulling the woman close to her.

“No one move,” Iolanthe shouted. “Or you’ll find yourself bathed in this woman’s blood.”

Iolanthe held the dagger to Adrienne’s throat.

“No!” Mr. Punch shouted. “Let her go! Kill me instead!”

Robert put his arm around Mr. Punch. “Quiet, dear man.”

“Let my wife go!” Cecil demanded.

“If any of you comes any nearer to me, I’ll slice her throat.” Iolanthe hissed. “So, you all think you’ve outsmarted me? What is it that you want? A confession? Yes, I’ve done all of the things of which you’ve accused me this night! I’ve done many more things than that, and I’ll do more still! I don’t want you thinkin’ that I won’t. I’m exactly what you say I am. And, what’s more, I’m proud of it! But, the only justice that will come right now is my own justice! You see, the world is mine!”

Adrienne struggled to get away, but Iolanthe held on tight.

Arthur—who had been watching the whole scene—smiled and hurried back to tell Ulrika what he’d seen.

“No more,” Mr. Punch muttered to himself. “No more suffering.”

“Steady on.” Robert whispered. “We can manage this.”

“No!” Mr. Punch said. “It’s time for this to end…” With that, he lunged forward toward Iolanthe who raised her dagger to Adrienne’s throat.

“You stupid lunatic,” Iolanthe laughed as Mr. Punch grabbed for her. “Someone has got to die now—would you prefer that it’s you or this woman?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-147? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Start off on the Right Foot

I’ve always believed that we can learn a lot from our pets. Something I’ve noticed over my years with Bertie is that when we wake up in the morning, if I make a fuss over him—first thing in the morning—and get him to wag his tail, he stays more energetic and cheerful throughout the day.

I think the same thing applies to human beings—except for the tail wagging, of course. If we put ourselves in a good mood and try to be enthusiastic—before our feet even hit the floor in the morning—we’re more likely to have more energy and a better outlook throughout the day. When we wake up cranky and further root ourselves into that crankiness, there’s nowhere for the day to go but down.

So, tomorrow morning, when you wake up, make a fuss over yourself. Tell yourself it’s going to be a good day. Even if we don’t have tails to wag, starting the day off with a positive attitude will usually work in our favor.

Object of the Day: A Bunnykins Dish

Since 1934, Royal Doulton’s “Bunnykins” china and figurines have been delighting children and adults alike. In the early 1930’s, Royal Doulton’s general manager, Cuthbert Bailey, introduced a line of chinaware featuring the artwork of his daughter, Mary Barbara Bailey. Miss Bailey’s drawings of a family of rabbits dressed in human clothes and in a variety of domestic scenes delighted the public. Several different scenes of Mr. and Mrs. Bunnykins and their children were produced in a range of different china objects. Little did the public know, but Miss Bailey wasn’t a professional artist at all, but rather, a nun.

When Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) and Princess Margaret began using Bunnykins dishes in the 1930’s, the line really became popular, making the perfect gift for the special events in a child’s life. And, so, the line has remained popular to this day.

This dish comes from my very own set of Bunnykins china, dating to my childhood—so, sometime in the early 1970’s. They are delightful dishes, and I hope they continue to amuse both children and adults for a long time to come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Film of the Week: All About Eve, 1950

Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.
-Margo Channing

Joseph Mankiewicz wrote and directed this 1950 triumph which not only revived the career of Bette Davis, but also inspired generations of writers and filmmakers. Based on “The Wisdom of Eve,” a 1946 short story by Mary Orr, All About Eve tells the tale of an aging Broadway star and the young woman who tries to take her place in the spotlight.

Mary Orr’s story was actually inspired by the real-life tale of stage actress Elisabeth Bergner. While starring in the Broadway production of The Two Mrs. Carrols (later made into a film with Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck), Bergner found herself taking pity on a young fan whom she invited into her home and employed as her personal assistant. Her generosity was punished when the young woman tried to undermine Bergner’s career. “The Wisdom of Eve” is based on Bergner’s story.

Mankiewicz had already planned on writing a screenplay about an aging actress when he read “The Wisdom of Eve,” and realized that the addition of a conniving younger character would heighten the drama. Changing the name of the main character from Margola Cranston to Margo Channing, adding new characters and removing others, Mankiewicz crafted an intelligent and sophisticated retelling of the story. He presented the idea to Daryl F. Zanuck at Twentieth Century Fox who liked the plot, but thought it was too long and lacking in dramatic punch in some areas. Zanuck cut the script by fifty pages and gave the project the green light.

As Mankiewicz was writing the film he called Best Performance (which Zanuck changed to All About Eve, taking the title from one of the film’s opening lines), he envisioned Susan Hayward as Margo Channing. Executives at Fox thought that Hayward was too young to play the forty-something Margo. The leading choice was Claudette Colbert. Unfortunately, Colbert badly injured her back and had to step out of the production. Several names were thrown about to replace her: Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Ingrid Bergman, Gertrude Lawrence, Marlene Deitrich and Bette Davis. Even Donna Reed was considered for the role of Margo! But, the clear favorite was Bette Davis. The character of Margo was re-envisioned to accommodate Davis’ more abrasive overtones, and a legend was born.

The film was an important one to Davis, not only reinvigorating her sagging career, but also introducing her to her next husband—Gary Merrill who played Margo’s lover, Bill Samson. Jeanne Crain had been the original choice to play the treacherous Eve, but Crain couldn’t shoot the film because of her pregnancy. Anne Baxter won the part that transformed her career. Hugh Marlowe was cast as Lloyd Richards, the author of Margo’s plays, and Celeste Holm was cast as his supportive wife who is taken in by Eve’s seeming helplessness. Rounding out the cast is Thelma Ritter as Margo’s faithful maid, Birdie, George Sanders as the unctuous theater critic Addison DeWitt and a young Marilyn Monroe in one of her first film appearances as Miss Caswell, a tarty starlet from “The Copacabana School of Dramatic Art.”

All About Eve is a tale of treachery and triumph. It’s a story about love—not just the love between people, but the love that one feels for one’s career. It makes you question what’s really important in life, and casts a light on the natural fears all of us have about our place in the world as we age.

With crisp, brilliant writing, top-notch performances and some of the most quotable lines in film history, All About Eve is a film that we should know all about.

Her Majesty’s Furniture: Queen Charlotte’s Sedan Chair, 1763

Sedan Chair
Samuel Vaughan, 1763
Oak, Leather, Gilt Metal, Glass
and Silk
The Royal Collection
As was befitting the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte preferred to be carried around in a Sedan Chair—a task for which she kept four strong men on retainer for many years. While, I can’t imagine that riding in a chair being carried by four men would be the smoothest means of transportation, there is something undeniably regal about it.

This particular chair was purchased along with a simpler model—both created in 1763 by Samuel Vaughan of the Piccadilly firm of Vaughan, Holmes, Griffin & Co. This chair is particularly fine with glass windows and beautiful ornamental metal work. Covered in red Moroccan leather, the chair’s gilt ornamentation depicts the Lion and Unicorn of Britain along with a variety of other symbolic mythological scenes.

Queen Charlotte used the chair until her death after which it was bequeathed to the Duke of Teck. In 1883, Queen Victoria purchased the chair so that it would remain in The Royal Collection.

Humanitarian of the Week: Celeste Holm

The lovely Celeste Holm has shared the stage and screen with some of the most scintillating performers in recent history: Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra, Olivia de Havilland, Gary Merrill, Anne Baxter, Gene Kelly, Jane Wyman, and many others.

Holm’s theatrical career began in the late 1930’s when she starred in a stage production of Hamlet opposite Leslie Howard. Her Broadway debut would soon follow, and she quickly became a highly sought-after stage actress, acting with Gene Kelly in The Time of Your Life, and in 1943 creating the role of Ado Annie in the premiere of Rodger’s and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma.

By 1946, she’d been signed to a contract with Twentieth Century Fox, making such pictures as Gentleman’s Agreement (for which she won an Academy Award), The Snake Pit, Chicken Every Sunday, and Road House. The film that would define her career was 1950’s All About Eve in which she played the too-generous and loyal wife of a playwright.

Despite her success in pictures, Holm found that she preferred the stage and soon began accepting fewer film roles in favor of theatrical work. Throughout this time, Holm also offered her time and talents to causes such as The Creative Arts Rehabilitation Center for which she served as president.

Holm has also had a long association with UNICEF, working with the organization since 1951. Her passion for UNICEF is so great that she’s been known to request that autograph seekers donate fifty cents to the organization in exchange for her signature. Miss Holm, always looking for ways to help people in need, has served on the governing board of the Mental Health Association, and is the chairperson of Arts Horizon—an organization which brings the arts and music to children across the Eastern United States. In addition to these other activities, Miss Holm is a board member of The Actors’ Fund and has served as Chairperson of the New Jersey Film Commission.

Whether you are familiar with Celeste Holm from her classic film work (a career which continues to this day) or her work on television shows such as Loving or Falcon Crest, you can’t help but be struck by the tremendous sense of warmth that she shows. This is the natural glow of a generous spirit. For this reason, Celeste Holm is our Humanitarian of the Week.

What’s Bertie Watching? USA’s “White Collar”

Created by Jeff Eastin for the USA Network, White Collar stars Matt Bomer as up-market con-man, Neal Caffrey and Tim DeKay as his unlikely ally, FBI Special Angent, Peter Burke. After a too-long hiatus, White Collar begins with new episodes tonight at 10:00 P.M. Eastern on USA.

USA Network

Neal Caffery is not just your average conman. He’s an art forger and thief. After eluding the FBI for four years, Caffrey is caught and sent to prison. Of course, with his superior intellect and charm, he manages to escape so that he might find his erstwhile girlfriend, Kate. Apprehended once again, Neal offers some valuable information to Agent Burke, but not without a price. In exchange for his services in catching other high-profile criminals, Neal wants to be released from prison. Burke reluctantly agrees, arranging lodging for Caffrey at the Manhattan loft of a wealthy widow named June (Diahann Carroll). June takes an immediate liking to Neal and offers him the use of her late husband’s gorgeous vintage wardrobe.

USA Network
Neal and Burke work well, if not awkwardly, together, and soon, the team has managed to successfully capture many elusive criminals. However, Neal’s girlfriend, Kate—who also has had her fair share of questionable pursuits, appears to have been murdered, sending Neal into a period of confusion and a desire to find answers. Do the answers to his questions lie in an unusual antique music box? Will Neal hold true to his promise to Burke?

This is a smart, sophisticated drama which is superbly written and acted. It’s made all the better by elegant locations and the fantastic wardrobe worn by the impossibly handsome Matt Bomer. The cast is excellent, also including Tiffani Thiessen as Agent Burke’s wife, Willie Garson as Neal’s peculiar close friend and confidant “Mozzie,” and Marsha Thomason as Agent Diana Barrigan.

USA Network
If you’ve not seen White Collar, Bertie and I strongly recommend it. It’s mentally, emotionally, and visually stimulating in ways which have been lost as of late on Primetime television.


Punch's Cousin, Chapter 147

The crowd hissed and booed at Iolanthe Evangeline as she shouted toward the platform where Mr. Punch and Adrienne were performing their pointed pantomime.

“Let them finish,” One man shouted.

Realizing that she’d do well not to draw attention to herself any further than she already had, Iolanthe quieted down, shooting darts with her eyes toward Cecil and Robert who stood nervously at attention.

Mr. Punch took a deep breath, feeling an unaccustomed queasiness in his stomach as if he’d eaten a fistful of mud wriggling with earthworms. He continued.

“Blood, beautiful lady?” Mr. Punch said, still affecting a voice akin to that of his puppet cousins. “What would a gorgeous flower such as yourself want with blood? It’s water what gives flowers their drink.”

“But, water is not my nature,” Adrienne continued as they had rehearsed it. “My spirit is fire and fire is my companion. Fire has done well by me, and the fire in my heart is fueled by blood.”

“I have no blood to give,” Mr. Punch answered theatrically, trying to remember exactly what he’d been told to say. “I am, as I said, a man of wood.”

“Then, you shall burn for me for wood burns, does it not?” Adrienne said.

“It does, but I am not the likes of one to be burned.”

“I can burn all men. And, burn them I shall.”

“Have you burned a man before?” Mr. Punch went on.

“I have.” Adrienne said. “A man from Africa who did no one any harm. I burned him to feed my desires.”

Iolanthe grunted from the audience, feeling beads of sweat drip from beneath her tight wig.

“Have there been others?” Mr. Punch said.

“What do you think?” Adrienne purred as Iolanthe might.

“I think you should give us kiss, fair maiden.”

“I stand before you, confessing of my thirst of blood and souls, yet you call me fair?” Adrienne bowed.

The crowd laughed—partly out of confusion, partly out of legitimate delight.

“You are fair of face and of figure.” Mr. Punch said.

“All the better to trick a man.” Adrienne replied coyly. “Or a woman.”

“A woman?” Mr. Punch gave an appropriately dramatic expression of shock, “For why would you wish to deceive a woman?”

“So that I might convince her to do my bidding. Many a young woman has come to me and been charmed. In exchange, I offer their bodies and their children for my pleasure and gain.”

“This must stop at once,” Edward Cage growled at his wife.

“Then, stop it.” Corliss murmured weakly, thinking of the baby who waited for her at their Royal Street mansion—the child that she purchased from Iolanthe Evangeline.

“How? Without embarrassing our family?” Edward grumbled to himself.

“You could gain a kiss from me, then.” Mr. Punch said, unsure if that was what he was to say next.

“You wish a kiss from one who trades in the flesh of women and children?”

“It is not my flesh you trade in, for I have none to trade. So, what harm is it to me?” Mr. Punch said quickly, getting himself back on track.

“What harm to you?” Adrienne continued. “You are a wily man, Mr. Punch. I should not be surprised. You who have been known to hit and maim.”

“Ah, but when I do it, it isn’t permanent. You see, Judy and the baby return for each and every show.”

“Then, you are ineffective.” Adrienne responded comically.

The audience laughed uneasily.

“For when I murder, it is forever.”

“I don’t believe you,” Mr. Punch answered flatly, becoming increasingly nervous as he watched—from the corner of Julian’s eye—Iolanthe’s face grow harder and more threatening.

“But, it is true. I have murdered many a person. Why even this very night, I took the life of the Duchess of Fallbridge. Did you know her?”

Uncontrollably, Julian’s body spasmed and Mr. Punch groaned.

Adrienne glanced quickly and helplessly toward Cecil and Robert who came forward.

“What this man needs is a doctor!” Robert said, in character.

“A doctor, Sir?” Adrienne said as humorously as she could. “Whatever for?”

“For he is stricken with fear.” Robert adlibbed.

“And, what this woman needs,” Cecil declared, climbing onto the platform. “Is the embrace of the hangman’s knot.”

“Around my lovely throat? I think not,” Adrienne punned.

“For your crimes against humanity,” Cecil continued, “for your monstrous, murderous ways, Iolanthe Evangeline,” he said her name loudly, “you should be brought to justice.”

“Oh, it’s all very amusing, isn’t it?” Iolanthe screamed as she cut through the gasping crowd and walked toward the platform. “Making your fun out of me!” She tore off her wig and let her dark hair fall in knots around her shoulders. “Am I to be sacrificed on this night?”

“Ladies and gentlemen,” Edward Cage shouted, coming forward.

“Stop there, Mr. Cage,” Cecil called. “Ladies and gentleman, the woman who stands before you—the woman dressed as St. Joan—is a murderess, a flesh peddler and the seller of children. I implore you, light upon her so that she will not escape. Join us in bringing this woman to justice!”

The crowd roared.

“If anyone dares to touch me,” Iolanthe screamed, “their flesh will fall burning from their bones.”

“Get her!” A man shouted.

“Come one step closer and it’ll mean the death of all of you!” Iolanthe bellowed.

Did you miss Chapters 1-146? If so, you can read them here.