Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: Badge of the Order of Victoria & Albert, 1864

Badge of the Order of Victoria & Albert
Sardonyx with Diamonds, Silver, Enamel, Rubies
and Emeralds.
The Royal Collection
This magnificent badge with its cameo of the jugate heads (two portraits set side-by-side) of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was given to Princess Alexandra of Denmark by Queen Victoria on the day of Alexandra’s wedding to the Prince of Wales (later, King Edward VII). Alexandra proudly wore the badge on her wedding gown. Not only was it a sign of approval from her future mother-in-law, the Queen of England, but it also marked her appointment to the Royal Order of Victoria & Albert, an important achievement.

The cameo of sardonyx was created in 1862 by Tommaso Saulini, and Italian artist known for his exquisite cameo work. The frame, made in 1864, features a row of small diamonds around the cameo which is surrounded by a border of twenty-one very large brilliant cuts. The frame is surmounted by a diamond-set suspension loop atop a royal crown of red enamel set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds.

This piece retains the original ribbon from which Queen Alexandra wore it on her wedding day.

Painting of the Day: A Pendant with a Miniature of Queen Elizabeth I, 1585-1600

Pendant with Portrait of
Queen Elizabeth I
Nicholas Hilliard, 1585
Case, 1600
Gold, Enamel, Rubies, Diamond
The Royal Collection
Within this small case of gold, enamel, rubies and an old table-cut diamond, lies an unexpected treasure. The case was constructed in 1600 expressly to house this miniature portrait of Elizabeth I which had been painted fifteen years earlier.

The painting on ivory was created by Nicholas Hilliard presumably to be eventually set into an item of jewelry. Elizabeth I was fond of giving lavish gifts of jewelry which often featured her image. No doubt, this was one of them. To whom she made the gift is uncertain, however, in the Nineteenth Century, the pendant was sold to the jewelers Rundell, Bridge & Rundell who quickly sold it to King George IV in 1816.

The Art of Play: An English Peddler Doll, 1830

Peddler Doll
English, 1830
Fabric, Leather, Paint, Cotton
The Museum of Childhood
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Today, we see toys which represent items and characters which are familiar, and therefore attractive, to children. Such was the case nearly two-hundred years ago. In fact, toys have always borrowed ideas from a child’s everyday life.

This English doll was created in London in 1830 and depicts a flower peddler—the sort that could be seen in any London square, singing sweetly to entreat passersby to offer her a coin in exchange for a bundle of violets.

The doll features a fabric body and a leather face with painted features which has been topped by hair of cotton wool. Well-loved, she’s still recognizable in the costume of many a flower merchant and would have been a comforting character for any little girl of the era.

At the Music Hall: It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, 1912

It's a long way to Tipperary,
It's a long way to go.
It's a long way to Tipperary
To the sweetest girl I know!
Goodbye, Piccadilly,
Farewell, Leicester Square!
It's a long long way to Tipperary,
But my heart's right there.

One of the most popular songs of World War I, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, was written as the result of a bet in 1912. On January 30, 1912, Jack Judge and Henry James “Harry” Williams of Stalybridge (Cheshire, England), were bet five shillings that they couldn’t write a song overnight. Judge did, in fact write the song (which was co-credited to Williams though he didn’t have anything to do with it) and it was performed the following day. The rousing song was inspired by Judge’s Irish family who hailed from Tipperary.

It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, like other songs of World War I, does not focus on the battles or even the “glory” of war, but rather about coming home and acts as a reminder of the reason to fight in order to protect a way of life.

The song was popularized in 1913 by Florrie Forde who made the anthem one of the most beloved music hall songs of the time. In fact, it’s still a celebrated song and one which quickly brings to mind the First World War.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 199

Barbara Allen?” Edward Cage screamed at Odo.

“Yes, Sir.” Odo smirked.

“Are we singing pub songs now, Boy?” Edward bellowed. “What in blazes are you talking about?”

“The woman that was here.” Odo grinned. “Her name was Barbara Allen. She came to see Miss Ulrika.”

“I should have known!” Edward howled. “Get that little bitch down here immediately!”

“No need, Odo.” Ulrika grunted as she descended the staircase. “The little bitch is already here.”

“Who is this Barbara Allen?” Edward growled.

“She’s my former maid.” Ulrika smiled. “Why do you ask?”

“She’s taken my child!” Edward spat.

“Ah—you mean her child?” Ulrika laughed.

“What?” Corliss Cage gasped.

“We all know that you bought that boy.” Ulrika grinned. “You don’t think that he was found in a cabbage patch, do you?” She chuckled. “He had to have a mother. Well, that was she.”

Edward’s face turned bright red as he recalled the visit he received from Adrienne and Cecil Halifax several weeks before while they were still in Marionneaux. “Of course.” He panted. “Of course!”

“You’re putting things together, Mr. Cage?” Ulrika said tauntingly.

“Close your mouth, you…” Edward barked.

“Are you sure you want me to?” Ulrika winked. “Really, I could be helpful.”

“How?” Edward asked, fumbling with his coat.

“She’s the fallen sister of the Duke of Fallbridge.” Ulrika replied cheerfully. “And, very much in my way.”

“You have been helpful.” Edward growled. “How surprising.” He headed for the door.

“Edward!” Corliss sobbed. “Where are you going?”

“To fetch our child.” Edward said firmly.

“I’ll come with you,” Ulrika hurried after him.

“No.” Edward grunted. “You’ve been enough help.”

“Really, Mr. Cage, if you think I’m going to miss this, you’re more of an old fool than I thought.” Ulrika cooed.

At that very moment, Adrienne, Cecil, Robert, Charles and Barbara entered the nursery.

Barbara smiled when she saw her son nestled next to Fuller in Julian’s lap. Columbia still sat next to Julian with her head on his arm. The puppet leaned against Julian’s other side and Toby sat in front of them with his four legs outstretched.

“I see you’ve made friends with your nephew, Mr. Punch.” Cecil smiled.

“Comment beau. Je détesterais voir il fin.” Adrienne purred.

“Pourquoi aurait-il à la fin, Adrienne?” Mr. Punch asked, raising an eyebrow.

“That’s what we’ve come to talk with you about, dear Punch,” Robert said gently.

“Go on,” Punch narrowed his eyes.

“We’ve decided to send Barbara and her son back to England. She’ll stay in my flat in London until it’s safe for her to go elsewhere. Adrienne knows a place where she can go in France. She has friends in Dinan to whom she’’ll write. They’ll happily take Barbara and the boy in.”

“No.” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“Julian,” Barbara interrupted. “I’ll be quite safe. Charles will go with me.”

“I will, Sir.” Charles nodded.

“No.” Mr. Punch repeated.

“It’s already decided, Punch.” Cecil said.

“I can’t let that happen.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Do you think I’m gonna let this baby stay with the woman what put him in a sack and sold him?”

“I’m his mother!” Barbara yelped.

“Now that it suits you!” Mr. Punch answered sharply. “But, what ‘bout when you grow weary of it? What ‘bout when you find somethin’ what interests you more?”

“He’s mine.” Barbara hissed.

“He ain’t!” Mr. Punch replied. “He’s my heir. He’s mine. Mine and Robert’s.” Punch looked to Charles. “You’re goin’ to England, Carlo. And, Barbara can go, too. But, we’re goin’ with our child. I’m not gonna let anything happen to him!”

They were interrupted by pounding on the front door. Even from the nursery, they could hear the shouting from outside.

“I’ll get it.” Meridian stood up from the rocking chair where she’d been sitting.

“No, Girl.” Marjani shook her head.

“Marjani’s correct.” Cecil said excitedly. “Let me deal with this.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-198? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, March 21, 2011 for Chapter 200 of Punch’s Cousin as well as a special recap of the first two hundred chapters.

Goal for the Day: Mind Your Own Business

It’s easy to become interested in things that don’t concern us. Most of us live in relatively close proximity to other people, so it’s hard to avoid becoming involved in what other people are doing. Let’s say, for example, that your neighbors still haven’t taken down their Christmas decorations. It’s March! Every time you leave you house, it might be irritating to you to see those horrible icicle lights fluttering in the Spring breeze. Troublesome though it might be, it doesn’t really concern you.

It’s our lot in life to be unconcerned with the activities of other people. If the people around us are behaving in ways that we wouldn’t, but are nonetheless harmless, just ignore them. Instead, focus your energy on your own home and family. You have the power to make your world whatever you want it to be. All you have to do is leave the rest of the world to itself.

Object of the Day: Sepia Ink Drawings of Dinan, 1865

Several years ago, I happened upon a collection of pages from the folio of an unknown mid-Nineteenth Century English artist. The folio had long been disassembled and sold in pieces. I purchased this page which features two labeled drawings in sepia-toned ink.

The uppermost drawing is labeled “Dinan from the Rue d’ l’Ecole. June 1st, 1865.” Dinan, a walled Breton town and commune in north-western France, is unusual in that it was not built in the valley like other towns, but rather into the hillside overlooking the River Rance. The drawing shows how the town was constructed at levels into the hill over centuries. Towers and crenellations dating from the Thirteenth Century are visible poking up across the skyline.

The lower drawing which is dated May 27th, 1865, shows “La Garage near Dinan” which appears to be some sort of carriage house.

Dinan’s landscape has not changed considerably since these drawings were created. They’re in exceptionally good condition. It makes me wonder what the others in the folio must have looked like.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Royal Pets: The Three Eldest Children of King Charles I, and Two Spaniels, 1635

The Three Eldest Children of King Charles I
and Two King Charles Spaniels
Sir Charles Van Dyke, 1635
The Royal Collection
In 1635, Sir Anthony Van Dyke painted the three eldest children of King Charles I. King Charles was said to have become enraged when seeing the portrait because his son, Prince Charles, was depicted wearing skirts (as young boys of the time did) as opposed to the more grown-up attire of breeches. King Charles insisted that the painting be completely redone.

This is the second version, and, as instructed, Prince Charles is shown in breeches. Another important point that King Charles wanted included was his children’s beloved pets—a pair of King Charles Spaniels. Appropriate—no?

Mr. Punch in the Arts: An Article from Routledge's Every Boy's Annual , 1873

Chris van der Craats
Mr. Punch has been inspiring people in all of the arts for centuries. This article by Charles H. Ross from an edition of the periodical Every Boy’s Journal (1873) describes the allure of Punch as well as the sense of mystery and excitement that surrounded Punch & Judy Men.

It’s a really fascinating bit of antique writing. I found this via Melbourne Punch & Judy Man Chris van der Craats (Professor Whatsit).



THERE were three of them if you counted the dog. Three of the most woebegone vagabonds I ever set eyes on. There was, first, a short man, with a long and solemn face; then there was a tall man, with a wrinkled face and dull, weary eyes; and the dog- was the saddest, dullest, most undoglike dog I ever came across.

It was pouring with rain, and the three had sought shelter in an archway leading to a mews, in one of those hopeless-looking streets in the neighbourhood of Mecklenburgh Square. They, the men, were Punch showmen, and the dog was a comedian: he was Toby.

The long man carried the drum and pipes, and the short man the " frame " and figures - the latter in a box swung frorn his shoulder by a strap.

I asked how trade was, and the short man replied, "Not over bloomin'."

I said, "This wet weather doesn't suit your business, I suppose?"

"Not when it's as bad as this," he replied; "but drizzlin's good for us."

I asked why, and he said it kept the children indoors, and that an order to play before a window was a more likely speculation than a chance "pitch" at a street corner.

The presentation of a fusee and a pipeful of tobacco led to further confidences, and I inquired after the call. Without changing his countenance, he obliged me with a specimen of Mr. Punch's well-known vocalization. He had had his speaking instrument stowed away in his cheek all the while, and I had not noticed it, and he produced it now for my inspection. It was a small flat thing, made of two curved pieces of metal bound together with black thread. He said, I think by way of a hint, that gents had been glad to give a pound for one before now, and that the happy possessor of the coveted article derived much amusement from it, as well as imparting equal pleasure to his friends.

"You don't sell many, I suppose," said I, " at that price? "

"We've time to make 'em between the orders," he replied.

I've seen them selling in the streets, though, at a penny each," I said.

A "Piccini" Punch
Chris van der Craats
"They ain't the right thing," he answered, "they're got up as a swindle. This one's a secret, and it's not known out of the trade. The right ones aren't made of tin or zinc, or they would hurt your tongue if you kept on at it all day. See here between the metals. Looks like silk, but it isn't. That's another of the secrets. You couldn't get a proper one under half a pound, and then that would be a favour."

I intimated politely that I would not like to put myself under an obligation in the matter, and asked, by way of changing the subject, whether he could drink when he had the call in his mouth without swallowing it. He replied laconically, "Try me," and I tried him. with some beer that his partner, the long man, fetched with a run from an adjacent tavern.

"And he could take his bread and cheese the same," the long man casually observed; but we did not try the experiment.

The short man then told me something about the "Slumareys"' by which he meant the figures, scenes, frame, and properties. A good frame, with baize, proscenium, one scene, two wings, and act-drop, or lettercloth, cost about three pounds. A set of new figures, properly dressed, came to from twelve to fifteen pounds. You could not get properly carved heads under five shillings each, and a figure took about a yard of stuff to dress it, besides tinsel, Dutch metal, and other ornamental etceteras. There is a man who gets his living, or part of it, by the figure carving ; he lives in a street off the Westminster Bridge Road. "Most likely he does other things as well," the short man said.

The trade is not now anything like it used to be. Porsini, the very first original Punch showman, made his ten pounds a day quite easily, and went home to a dinner of chickens and sherry wine. The short man had known a day when be and his partner had not taken tenpence. It wasn't as bad as that though as a rule. Not likely. How could he live else ? The man he took this show of did very well not over twenty years ago - six or seven shillings taken at one pitch, and not more than half a dozen pitches in a day. He himself had often not taken a single halfpenny at a pitch, and played over twentv minutes too, thinking, the luck might come. He didn't know how it was exactly or what was wrong, but things were not what they used to be, that was sure.

He let me have a look at the figures, holding them up one by one, and as he did so explaining their characteristics.

"This one is Punch himself; he's the principal figure, you know. It wouldn't be rightly the play of Punch if he was left out. His dress is just the same, or very nearly, what Porsini's Punch was, or Pike's Punch. Pike was Porsini's apprentice. They made a heap of money in them days, but spent it all squandering like.

Both on 'em died in the workhouse. All Punch showmen die there at last; they wouldn't be Punch showmen if they didn't.".

We got on to the next figure.

"This one is Judy. She's Punch's wife. She used to be jealous of Nancy, but we've done away with Nancy. Judy quarrels with Punch because he won't nurse the baby the right way, but throws it out of window. You will notice Judy's face is much like Punch's, and has the same sort of nose and chin, but their dispositions is other. Punch is part fool and part knave. When he has killed the baby he kills her. That's why they come to hang him in the end."

All this story was told with intense seriousness.

"This one is the beadle. He comes to take Punch up for murder. I don't think that's quite life, you know, but we've never had no policeman in the play. Perhaps it's old style, the same as when Porsini did it. Punch and the beadle has a fight, and Punch knocks him down, and he knocks Punch down and at last Punch conquers and sings a song."

After this, the small man explained how the Merry Clown makes his appearance, and Punch exhausts his ingenuity in endeavoring to hit him on the head, which he does at last, and the clown goes down below.

Then comes Jim Crow. "We have the Perfect Cure instead sometimes, as it's more newer." Jim Crow sings a song, and Punch beats time on his head. Jim Crow does not like this, so Punch knocks him down. Then Jim Crow kicks Punch in the eye and vanishes.

After this, the ghost of Judy appears, and nearly frightens Punch into a fit. Punch is found fainting by the doctor, who says he will give him some physic. In return for this, Punch, as usual, knocks him down.

The doctor, however, returns, and administers a dose of what he calls "stick liquorish." Punch, getting away the stick, lavs it about the doctor, and says, when the latter cries for mercy, "Ah, the doctor don't like his physic." Upon this, the doctor closes with him and calls for help. Then enter the beadle and Jim Crow, and there is a general scrimmage, ending by Punch being dragged off to prison.

"I haven't a prison scene," the showman said. " I had one with bars and everything regular, but it's got broke up now. You see we mostly do only short pitches in the streets for want of patronage, so we do the first bit over and over again."

The " second bit," however, he assured me, was much the best, and gave me a long account of it, which I will run through as briefly as possible.

A "Piccini" Jack Ketch
Chris van der Craats
Punch discovered in jail with his head and arms lying out through the prison window. Enter Calcraft, otherwise Jack Ketch, otherwise Mr. Graball. Jack Ketch says -

"Come with me, you are to be hung till you're dead-dead-dead."

"What, three times over ? " says Punch.

"No, only once, says Jack Ketch; "but when you're as dead as that, you'll be defunct."

"Bless me," says Punch, " I should never have believed it if you'd told me so."

Jack Ketch then prepares the gallows, and tells Punch to put his bead into the noose. Punch can't do it. He can't see straight. He puts it over it and under it, and everywhere but where it ought to be.

"What a fool you are," says Jack Ketch.

" Please sir," says Punch, "' it's my ignorance. I ain't never been hung before. Will you show me how it's done."

Antique Image of the Day: Frame and Photograph of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, 1905

Frame by Fabergé, 1903
Two-color gold, silver-gilt, guilloché enamel,
pearls, and mother-of-pearl
Photograph: Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna
Purchased by Tsar Nicholas II
The Royal Collection
In this frame of two-color gold, silver-gilt, guilloché enamel, pearls, and mother-of-pearl (by Fabergé), lies a curious photograph of a woman with a noble face in the guise of a cleric. Is it a souvenir of a fancy dress ball? No, it’s an actual photograph of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna (Grand Duchess Sergei) from around 1905.

After the assassination of her husband, Grand Duke Sergei, Governor of Moscow in 1905, Elizabeth, along with her sister, founded a religious order which they called The Community of Martha and Mary. She appointed herself the abbess—as one does.

During the First World War, The Community of Martha and Mary tended to wounded soliders. The frame (which actually dates to 1903) was purchased by Tsar Nicholas II who later used it to display this photo.

Friday Fun: Mr. Punch and the Doctor

Geoff Felix
This delightful clip from a Punch & Judy show depicts an updated version of a traditional scene between Mr. Punch and the character of “the Doctor.”  This video is the culmination of efforts between two of the best Punch & Judy Men of this generation.  The puppet work is by the wonderful Geoff Felix and the video was recorded by Chris van der Cratts of Australia—a notable Punch & Judy Man in his own right who performs under the name, “Professor Whatsit.” 

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 198

Mr. Punch was already at the bottom of the stairs as Robert, Marjani and Charles started down.

“Where’s me nephew?” Punch shouted as he rushed into the parlor, his dressing gown fluttering out behind him like a red cape.

“Mr. Punch!” Adrienne rose.

“Hullo, Lady Chum!” Mr. Punch chirped. “Where’s the boy?” He glanced at Barbara and remarked stiffly, “I see you finally done somethin’ right.”

“I’m glad someone thinks so.” Barbara muttered.

“So?” Punch moaned, hopping up and down on one foot.

“The child has been taken to the nursery. Meridian is watching him with Fuller and Columbia.” Cecil smiled.

“Right!” Mr. Punch said, hurrying out of the room.

“Goodbye, Julian.” Barbara chuckled. “Or whomever you are presently.”

“Perhaps I’d better go with him.” Adrienne said.

“I’ll go,” Marjani shook her head as she came into the parlor with Charles and Robert. “Ya’ll talk this out.”

“Thank you, Marjani.” Robert smiled.

“’Course, Doctor.” Marjani winked.

“Oh, Charles,” Barbara sighed, extending her hand toward the man.

Charles walked over and took Barbara’s hand.

Cecil nodded at him, and Charles sat next to Barbara.

“I’ve done it now.” Barbara murumured.

“I’d say so.” Charles nodded.

‘Do you hate me?” Barbara asked.

“I haven’t thus far.” Charles smiled.

Barbara blushed.

“Very well, now.” Robert grunted. “What are we going to do about this?”

“We’ve got to get Miss Allen and the child out of Louisiana as quickly as possible.”

“I agree,” Adrienne nodded.

“As do I, but where?” Robert asked.

“I think the safest place for her—presently, is somewhere familiar for her. So, England.” Cecil said.

“But, she can’t go back to Fallbridge Hall.” Robert said. “She’s sure to be found there.”

“True.” Cecil nodded.

“Where else do I have to go?” Barbara asked. “I have no money. I have nothing!”

“Don’t worry about that, Miss Allen.” Cecil shook his head. “We’ll see that you have all you need.”

“I couldn’t!” Barbara argued. “I couldn’t take anything else from you. I’ve already taken so much.”

“What choice do you have?” Cecil spat angrily.

Barbara’s cheeks turned pink.

“She could go to my flat. I’ve paid up for months in advance.” Robert suggested. “Furthermore, neither the Cages nor Iolanthe would think to look for her there because my animosity for the woman is well known.” He glanced at Barbara. “Sorry.”

“No bother.” Barbara shrugged. “I know you’re not fond of me.”

Robert nodded.

“I’ve sent one of the men to the docks for a schedule.” Cecil said. “We’ll soon know when she can depart. Now, we only have to worry what to do with them in the interim.”

“Cecil, I can’t help but wonder if it would be unwise for a woman and child to travel across the sea alone.” Adrienne spoke up.

“It’s not as though I can take my husband with me.” Barbara grumbled.

“Not your legal husband.” Charles said. “But, the other passengers wouldn’t need to know that I’m not actually your husband.”

“You?” Barbara’s eyes widened.

“Why not?”

“You couldn’t!” Barbara said quickly.

“It’s not a bad idea.” Cecil replied thoughtfully.

“But, what of your employment?” Barbara asked. “You’ve only just started with Julian.”

“His efforts would be better spent on this, I think.” Robert nodded—secretly relieved at the thought of being rid of Charles.

“What say you, Miss Allen?” Charles asked.

Meanwhile, Mr. Punch and Marjani quietly made his way into the nursery.

Meridian looked up and smiled.

“Coo!” Mr. Punch gasped when he saw his nephew playing happily with Fuller Halifax and Columbia. “Look at him!”

“You wanna meet our guest, Mr. Punch?” Meridian asked.

Punch looked at Marjani.

“Go on,” Marjani smiled.

Punch walked slowly toward the children and sat on the floor next to them.

“Hullo, Columbia.” Mr. Punch smiled.

Columbia smiled and responded sheepishly, “Hullo.”

“You like playin’ with these fine boys?” Mr. Punch asked.

“I do.” Columbia nodded.

“Do you know who they are?”

“Sho’.” Columbia giggled. “That’s Fuller and this is Colin.”

“Colin?” Mr. Punch whispered, his eyes welling up with tears. “Like me pa.”

“Was that what they called your pa?” Columbia asked.

“Yes.” Mr. Punch nodded, wiping his eyes.

Meridian and Columbia looked at one another and smiled.

“See, these boys are me nephews.” Mr. Punch said to Columbia. “Fuller’s me nephew cuz he’s me Lady Chum’s son and Robert’s nephew. And…Colin…” Mr. Punch gulped, “is me nephew cuz he’s me master’s sister’s son.”

“You got a master?” Columbia asked—her eye’s wide.

“Columbia, Honey, everyone’s got a master o’ one kind or another.” Marjani said softly.

“Oh.” Columbia nodded, looking lovingly at her grandmother.

Mr. Punch reached over and picked up Colin, burying his nose in the child’s thick chestnut hair. “Hullo, Colin. Do ya know me? I’m yer Uncle Punch. And, I’m also yer Uncle Julian. But, you don’t need to worry ‘bout that right now.” The baby giggled as Mr. Punch held him high in the air.

“You look like yer mama did when she were a little babe. Guess you look like me, too.” Punch continued. “I just want you to know you got folk what love you. See, I’m gonna see to it that you get everything that’s yours. There’s a big house far away from here. It’s a fine house—grand and wide with many, many rooms and lots of land. Horses and trees and game and a big pond full o’ fish with duckies and swans floatin’ on it. And, there’s a fine, fine house in a city called London. It’s tall and white and clean with stairs what seem to go on forever. Someday, that’ll be yours, too. Someday folk will know what a good man you are and they’ll respect you and call you by your right name. And, they’ll call you, ‘Your Grace’ like what they do me—or me master—and you’ll be a Duke. Someday. See, Colin, I aim to see that you get all what you deserve. Your Uncle Punch is gonna do whatever he can to protect you and keep you safe and happy.”

Colin reached for a clump of Julian’s hair as Fuller climbed up on his lap, feeling a little left out.

Mr. Punch sat with both babies on his lap as Columbia came over and put her head on Julian’s arm.

“Meridian?” Mr. Punch said softly.

“Yes, Sir?” Meridian smiled at the pleasant scene in front of her.

“Would you do somethin’ for me?”

“Sure.” Meridian nodded.

“Would you get me dog and me puppet?” Mr. Punch asked.

“’Course,” Meridian chuckled. “You done want your whole family with ya?”

“I do.” Mr. Punch sniffed. “I do. For as long as I can.”

At that very moment, Edward Cage threw a ceramic pitcher across the kitchen. His wife, Corliss, flinched as tears darkened her dress.

“You stupid, stupid girl!” Edward raged at Zettie who sobbed openly. “How could you leave him with a stranger?”

“She seemed so nice! Holt done liked her!” Zettie wept.

Edward slapped her hard against her ears. Zettie screamed.

“Who was she?” Edward screamed. “What was her name?!”

“I don’t know!” Zettie stumbled backward.

“I know, Mr. Cage.” Odo said, creeping down the stairs like a puff of smoke.

“You know?” Edward spun around. What do you know?”

“Her name was Barbara Allen.” Odo smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-197? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Adapt

We’re called upon to be adaptable every day. We have to bend to work with other people. We have to amend our desires to be realistic. We must change our plans to fit with reality. But, we can also adapt in more interesting ways. Not only are we able to adapt ourselves, we are able to adapt ideas.

There’s not a moment—hopefully—that passes where something doesn’t catch your attention. Very often the things that attract us aren’t attainable in their pure and original forms, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take the concept and turn it into something that is achievable.

Flipping through magazines, watching TV, or searching online, you’ll come across ideas which you’ll find appealing from décor to fashion to cuisine. While you may not be able to fill your home with original Seventeenth Century paintings, you can take the idea of them and create something which has a similar feeling and importance to you. You may not be able to afford the high-end couture looks in magazines, but you can adapt the look into your own wardrobe. Truffles and caviar may not be on your lunch menu every day, but you can always find a way to incorporate those flavors into even the most banal of meals. Use your imagination and adapt your passions and desires into something that you can enjoy every day.

Object of the Day: Ter Borch’s “The Letter”

This is obviously not the original “The Letter” by Gerard Ter Borch (also known as Terburg or Terboch). The original was painted between 1660 and 1662 and was purchased in 1814 by King George IV. It remains in the Royal Collection with another similar painting by the much beloved Dutch painter whose tenderly rendered genre scenes of domestic life were highly prized for centuries.

This is a late Nineteenth Century to early Twentieth Century reproduction of the famous painting. Expertly reproduced on board, this shows the increasing ability of Nineteenth Century printing companies to accurately depict the colors and textures of original paintings. Displayed in a hand-stenciled, ebonized wooden frame, it may not be the original, but it’s an interesting look into the history of the decorative arts.

I found this object several years ago while on a trip to Louisiana with my family and Bertie.

The original in The Royal Collection.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Apple Bertie

“You just had to go and eat all the egg salad, didn’t you, Goldenrod?”

Image: Spring (Apple Blossoms), Sir John Everett Millais, 1859, The Lady Lever Gallery, Liverpool, England.

Mastery of Design: Mary of Teck’s Silver Jubilee Necklace and Earrings

Necklace and Earrings
Sixteenth to Nineteenth Century
Gold, Enamel, Pearls, Rubies, Emeralds
The Royal Collection
This necklace and earrings (part of a parure which also includes a brooch) is actually a culmination of over three hundred years of workmanship. A masterpiece of gold, delicately-colored enamel, pearls, rubies and emeralds in a pattern of scrolls and snakes, the original links of the necklace date to the Sixteenth Century.

The necklace’s original owner was Mary, Queen of Scots who passed it to her attendant, Mary Seton. Over the centuries, the necklace was passed from family to family and altered considerably, though always with careful consideration in keeping the style of the necklace cohesive. The necklace was extended and the brooch was added in the Eighteenth Century. In the Nineteenth Century, the matching earrings were created.

Bu the 1930’s the parure was in possession of the Countess Bathurst where it was noticed by Queen Mary who admired it greatly. In 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of George V and Mary of Teck, the parure was presented as a gift to the Queen.

Painting of the Day: “Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante” by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1790

Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1790
Lady Lever Art Gallery
Liverpool, England
Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun was the foremost female painter of the Eighteenth Century. Her lavish Rococo paintings with Neoclassical overtones were favored by the French court and she was quickly appointed as the official portrait painter of Marie Antoinette. Later, Le Brun worked in Italy, Austria, Germany and Russia.

This unusual portrait in the artist’s characteristic style dates to Le Brun’s later career in Europe. The subject is Lady Hamilton (Emma Hart) who was a beautiful and outgoing working class girl whose friendly personality, good looks and charm made her a popular mistress of many a wealthy and important gentleman. She was shuffled from man to man over decades and ended up the wife of the much older Sir William Hamilton. During her marriage, in order to keep herself busy, she started entertaining her friends with her “attitudes.” These “attitudes” were a series of tableau-like theatrical poses wherein Lady Hamilton dressed as a variety of historical or mythological characters.

Le Brun has depicted Lady Hamilton in one of her more popular “attitudes,” that of a Bacchante or a mythical companion of Dionysus, god of wine and mystic ecstasy. Behind her, a smoking Mount Vesuvius can be seen and refers to Lady Hamilton’s time in Naples.

This is one of several portraits Le Brun painted of Lady Hamilton in her attitudes. Always an agreeable model, Lady Hamilton sat for a variety of artists.

Unfolding Pictures: Queen Alexandra’s Hummingbird Fan, 1870

Hummingbird Fan
Brazil, 1871
Turkey and Chicken Fathers on a Gauze Base
Mounted Brazilian Ruby Hummingbird
Turned Bone Handle
The Royal Collection
A lady was never without a hand fan—especially at a lavish function where fans were considered important accessories. Then, as today, fashions and trends tended to be a little silly, but were nonetheless popular. Novelty fans of many varieties were often produced as collectables. One such novelty fan featured a taxidermy bird mounted on a face screen of feathers.

Fan-makers in Brazil—who had easy access to hummingbirds—produced these fans by the boxful. Curiously, these fans didn’t come into England directly from Brazil. Instead, they were imported to Canada where they came to the attention to British nationals who quickly shipped them home to England.

The Princess of Wales, Alexandra (later, Queen Alexandra, wife of King Edward VII), was always one to keep up with fashions and was enthusiastic about this face screen of chicken and turkey feathers with its deceased ornament of a ruby hummingbird. Because she had one, of course, everyone had to have one. And, soon, the Royal court was infested with an army of mounted hummingbird carcasses.

In a strange bit of incongruity, many noble ladies carried fans like this one to the 1871 Waverley Ball in honor of the centenary birth of Sir Walter Scott. The theme of this fancy dress ball was to see all of the attendants dress as characters from Scott’s novels. Alexandra dressed as Mary, Queen of Scots and carried this fan which would have made a lot less sense than it already did, if almost every woman in the room wasn’t also carrying one.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 197

“Bleedin’ sow!” Mr. Punch shouted, bursting out of Julian with his usual eagerness and passion.

Charles flinched, looking nervously at Robert who smiled at the young man’s confusion, unaccustomed as he was to Julian’s often abrupt shift in personalities.

“Charles, I believe you know our Mr. Punch.” Robert grinned.

“Yes, Sir.” Charles nodded.

“That witch!” Punch ranted. “That monster! In league with ‘The Professor!’ You two don’t know what that man done!”

“I know some of it.” Robert said. “He is the very same man who perished in the fire in the stable in Marionneaux.”

“He sure is!” Punch yelped. “The man from the ship what was a chum of Arthur’s! That weren’t all he was. Didn’t want to put it all together, but…” Punch moaned, putting his hand on Julian’s chest and leaning back.

“Let’s not overextend ourselves, dear Punch,” Robert said softly. “Julian was doing rather well at keeping calm, let’s try to keep that up. Shall we?”

“Don’t want to be calm,” Mr. Punch muttered.

“We must.” Robert replied softly.

“Shall I leave?” Charles asked cautiously, still looking confused.

“No.” Robert shook his head. “You’ll need to become acquainted with the way in which we function.”

“Yes, Dr. Halifax.”

“You!” Punch bellowed. “Boy! You’re tellin’ us your brother and this “Professor” worked for me master’s dead mum to kill our pa?”

Charles fluttered his eyes and blushed, looking again to Robert.

“I believe Mr. Punch asked you a question.” Robert winked.

“Yes…I mean, I know.” Charles stuttered.

Mr. Punch sat up quickly. “’Yes,’ that’s what you’re sayin’ or, ‘yes,’ you know I’m askin’ a question?”

“I…” Charles took a deep breath. “Yes, I know you’re asking me a question. And, yes, I do believe that Giovanni worked for the Duchess of Fallbridge to have Sir Colin Molliner murdered.”

“Coo.” Mr. Punch grunted.

“Have you any proof of that?” Robert asked.

“Not exactly, no.” Charles answered.

Mr. Punch frowned. “Then, why are you sayin’ it?”

“Well, Your Grace…errrr…Sir…Mr. Punch….”

A knock on the door interrupted Charles’ stammering.

Marjani opened the door just wide enough to stick her head in. “Pardon me for interruptin’, gents, but Mr. Halifax done asked me to fetch Dr. Halifax and Charles.”

“What ‘bout me?” Mr. Punch grumbled. “Why ain’t I bein’ fetched?”

“Because, Mr. Punch, you’re supposed to be restin’. Remember, you done been shot?”

“Tired of restin’.” Punch growled.

“Did my brother say why he wants us?” Robert asked.

“We done got somethin’ of a situation, as Mr. Halifax would say.” Marjani answered.

“What kind of situation?” Robert asked.

“Maybe you’d jus’ better come on downstairs, Sir.” Marjani said quickly. “Charles, too.”

“But, not ol’ Mr. Punch.” Punch mumbled. “Nobody wants Mr. Punch. No, he gotta stay in bed like he were some kind o’ child what can’t stay up late.”

“Now, let’s be reasonable, Punch.” Robert said. “Cecil, I’m sure, is just looking out for your best interest.”

“Sure, cuz I’m some kind of china-headed doll.” Mr. Punch barked.

“Oh, I say, you are in a mood.” Robert smiled, patting Julian’s shoulder.

Punch chuckled. “Maybe.”

“I don’t suppose I should treat you like a child.” Robert sighed. “Charles, get His Grace’s dressing gown so that Mr. Punch can come downstairs.” He pointed to the wardrobe.

Charles rose quickly and went to the wardrobe. Opening it, he paused.

“It’s right there.” Robert nodded.

“I know, Sir. Only…”

“What is it, Charles?” Robert asked.

“Only does Mr. Punch…well, I mean do they wear the same clothes, Mr. Punch and His Grace? Or do they have their own wardrobes?”

“Oh,” Robert chuckled. “I see. No, we’ve not gotten around to getting Mr. Punch his own wardrobe. They share.”

Charles nodded.

Marjani entered the room and walked to the wardrobe. She whispered to Charles. “It’s gonna be fine, honey. Don’t you be nervous. They’re different fellas, but they’re both gentle and sweet.”

Charles smiled at Marjani.

“Now,” she whispered. “I happen to know that Mr. Punch prefers the red one to the blue one.”

“Thank you,” Charles said softly.

“Any time, Chil’.” Marjani winked.

Robert helped Mr. Punch out of the bed and Charles assisted him into the red dressing gown.

“Mr. Punch, I’m only going to say this once,” Robert smiled sweetly. “If you overexert yourself, it’s back to bed with you. For your own good.”

“I know, I know.” Mr. Punch grumbled.

“Charles,” Robert said, “Will you, please, support Mr. Punch’s other arm while I take this one?”

“Certainly.” Charles nodded.

“I ain’t no invalid!” Mr. Punch spat. “I can go on me own!”

“Very well.” Robert nodded.

Charles bit his cheeks so he wouldn’t laugh.

“Marjani,” Robert began, “Can you tell me what this is all about? What’s this situation?”

“I ‘spose I should tell ya a bit before ya go on down.” Marjani sighed. “It’s Barbara Allen, Sir.”

“What ‘bout her?” Punch frowned. “Did she rob us again?”

“No.” Marjani laughed. “She did take somethin’ though.”

“What?” Robert winced.

“Her son.” Marjani whispered.

“Dear God.” Robert shook his head.

“She didn’t.” Charles muttered.

“Me nephew!” Mr. Punch’s eyes brightened. He rushed toward the door.

“Punch!” Robert shouted after his friend.

“Let him go, Mr. Halifax.” Marjani said. “He’s excited.”

“I know,” Robert exhaled. “but, we’re all going to need our total strength to get through this.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-196? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Celebrate Anniversaries

Not a month goes by that doesn’t mark the anniversary of some event.  Even the most trivial anniversaries are worth celebrating—the day you started your job, the day you met your significant other, the day you adopted your pet, the day you bought your home.  You can think of a dozen great events that are worth remembering.  But, let’s also remember the not-so-good events.  You can celebrate those anniversaries as well—not to pay homage to something negative, but to remember that you survived and that you’re strong and well.  Part of living beautifully is recognizing how fortunate we are.  It’s not difficult to count the ways. 

Object of the Day: A Mug Commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary, 1935

In my growing collection of Royal commemorative mugs, only one of them wasn’t created in honor of a coronation. This mug is a souvenir of the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary (of Teck), celebrating twenty-five years (1910-1935) of their reign.

Regular readers of Stalking the Belle Époque know that I have a particular fondness for Mary of Teck. She’s my favorite of the deceased Royals. Mary of Teck was responsible for amassing a large portion of the exceptional items in the Royal Collection. She was a consummate collector who had a wide range of methods of obtaining attractive objects. Historians and lovers of beautiful things owe Mary of Teck a debt of gratitude. Without her, we would not have access to many of these remarkable works of art.

King George V—especially when compared with the lives of the peculiar George III and the wild George IV—was a conventional man who preferred to stay at home with his family and amuse himself with his stamp collection. He tirelessly led his country through World War I and worried about the rise of Adolf Hitler. Though he was considered a trifle grumpy by his children, and though he didn’t care much for technology, he made the first Royal radio broadcast and led England into a new age. George was concerned about what would happen to Britain after his death. He was said to have little to no respect for his eldest son, Prince Edward, whom he considered a philanderer and rogue, and, though he wasn’t overly demonstrative, much preferred his son, Prince Albert whom he called, “Bertie,” (later King George VI). George V was especially fond of his eldest granddaughter whom he called “Lilibet.” Today, we know “Lilibet” as Queen Elizabeth II. She showed her fondness for her grandfather by calling him, “Grandpa England.”

George worried that chaos would ensue if Prince Edward took the throne, saying, "After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months.” Conversely, he was recorded as saying, "I pray to God my eldest son (Edward) will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne."

George was correct. After George V’s death—shortly following his Silver Jubilee—in 1935, King Edward VIII ascended to the throne and then quickly abdicated so that he could marry his “love,” Wallis Simpson. “Bertie” took the throne on the day that would have been his brother’s coronation. This allowed “Lilibet” to become Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.

King George V and Queen Mary
(while still Duke of York and Princess Victoria
Mary of Teck) shortly before their marriage
in 1893.
The Royal Collection
Mary of Teck outlived her husband and three of her children. She spent her later years aggressively adding art and artifacts to the Royal Collection. In 1952, after the death of King George VI (her son), she realized that she had lung cancer and that she would not live much longer. Eager to see Elizabeth take the throne, she insisted that in the event of her death, the coronation was not to be postponed. Mary died in 1953 at age 85—ten weeks before Elizabeth’s coronation. The coronation proceeded as planned.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Precious Time: A Guilloché Enamel and Diamond Desk Clock, Before 1896

Desk Clock
Michael Perchin
Silver, guilloché enamel, rose diamonds, pearls.
Before 1896
The Royal Collection
Queen Victoria—sometime prior to 1896—commissioned Michael Perchin of Fabergé to create this elegant desk clock of blue guilloché enamel, rose-cut diamonds and pearls. The diamonds are set in a fleur-de-lis pattern. It is believed that the clock was meant to be a gift from Victoria to the French Royal Family. However, it doesn’t seem to have made its way there.

In fact, it kind of disappeared for awhile until Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother, not Queen Elizabeth II) purchased it sometime in the late 1930’s. Now, it sits happily with its other Fabergé and variously enameled and jewel-encrusted brethren in the Royal Collection. It has a cousin who was designed to lie flat instead of to sit upright which can be found in the Forbes Collection.

Sculpture of the Day: “Irish Peasant Woman” by Edward Onslow Ford, 1881

Irish Peasant Woman
Edward Onslow Ford, 1881
Lady Lever Art Gallery
In the 1880’s art was finding a push toward realism. This was especially evident in the style of sculpture known as “New Sculpture.” One had to be careful, however. As an artist, it’s never a good idea to be too realistic when sculpting members of one’s own family.

Such was the case with sculptor Edward Onslow Ford who cast the bronze bust of an aged relative. He was quite proud of himself for showing the natural deterioration of old age. However, according to Ford’s daughter, the sitter “recoiled in horror” when she saw it for the first time.

The realistic trend didn’t last terribly long. Ford gave it up and focused on sculpting ideal busts of perfect young beauties. It’s just a pity that whomever this “Irish Peasant Woman” is, didn’t get the same treatment—at least for her sake.

Unusual Artifacts: Cast of the Skull of King Robert the Bruce, 1819

Cast of the Skull of King
Robert I (the Bruce)
William Scouler, 1819
The Royal Collection
Scottish King Robert I (known as Robert the Bruce) began life as Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick. Robert was initially a staunch supporter of English King Edward I. However, due to a rather complicated series of decisions, he switched his allegiance to the Scots. But, he had some difficulty there, too. So, he murdered his remaining Scottish rival, John Comyn, in 1306 and claimed the throne of Scotland as his own (his argument was that he was the great-great-grandson of Scottish King David I). Few agreed—at the time—with Robert the Bruce’s usurping of the throne, but nonetheless, he was crowned at Scone.

The Bruce then proceeded to fight—well, everyone. He fought the Scots, he fought the English and he killed a lot of people. After booting most of the English out of Scotland, Robert had become such a pest that King Edward III, in 1328, finally gave in and agreed that Robert was the King of Scotland, and that his heirs would remain royal. Fair enough. It didn’t last. But, it satisfied Robert for awhile. He died in 1329 and was buried in the crypt at Dunfermline Abbey.

Robert the Bruce lay quite peacefully—for the first time ever, really—for just about five centuries before the Abbey’s great tower collapsed in 1818. Well, this didn’t do good things to the abbey’s foundation and a lot of deceased folks had to be disinterred. That’s never fun. Among them was our friend Robert I. Understandably, people were quite chuffed to stumble upon good ol’ Bruce and took a great deal of time studying what was left of him—measuring him, and taking plaster casts of his various remaining parts. Here’s his skull! To be accurate, this is a plaster cast of his skull which was completed by William Scouler in 1819. The cast was rather cleverly displayed on this jaunty red-velvet-covered stand atop a rosewood plinth with brass inlay. The plinth also doubles as a convenient storage container. The plaque reads: Cast in plaster by Wm Scouler 1819. Interred 1329. Re-interred 1819.

As the inscription would have us believe, Robert the Bruce was, in fact, re-interred at the Abbey. But, not before much rejoicing and Scottish patriotism. He’s remained relatively trouble-free since 1819.

Building of the Week: Villa Mantin, Moulins, France

BBC News
When wealthy art collector and gentleman of leisure Louis Mantin passed away in 1905, his last will and testament stated his desire to leave his elegantly appointed mansion to the City of Moulins so that the public could be admitted to view his impressive and unusual collection of artifacts and art. The only stipulation, it seemed, was that the spacious townhouse would have to remain sealed and untouched for one hundred years. In reality, there was some misinterpretation of the terms of his will. He had stated only that after one hundred years, the house was to become a museum. He didn’t specifically state what should happen in the interim. At the time, officials believed his desire was that the house should remain unopened. And, so it was. Largely forgotten and unnoticed for a century, when city officials entered the house, they were unsure of what to do with it. Soon, the spirit of the place overtook them, and the answer was clear. Mantin’s wishes had to be carried out.

BBC News
Mantin spent most of his adult life working in civil service. He never married, and preferred to keep to himself. In his forty-second year, he inherited a substantial fortune which he immediately put to good use. Purchasing a sizeable plot of land in the center of Moulins—land upon which a palace of the Dukes of Bourbon once stood—Matin set about having a beautiful mansion constructed. From that moment onward, Matin’s life was devoted to his passions—the pursuit of pleasure, supporting the arts and his keen interest in science.

BBC News
The townhouse was a marvel of turrets and stained glass. Filled with the finest fabrics, tapestries, paintings and sculptures, the house was not just a museum. It was also a technological masterpiece which represented the triumphs of the day—electricity, hot and cold running water and even a towel warmer. Magnificent crystal chandeliers glittered in the reception rooms and shone brilliantly against the ornate woodwork, carvings and antiquities from the around the world.

An unsullied treasure chest filled with art and glorious architecture, the house sat abandoned in the center of Moulins for a century. People walked by it and didn’t think much of it. It had always been there. It had always been untouched. After seeing it every day, it just began to blend into the scenery. Meanwhile, the structure was beginning to crumble. Who would know? It’s not as if anyone was really keeping an eye on it.

BBC News
Well, sort of. One person was paying attention-- Isabelle de Chavagnac, Mantin’s last remaining descendant. Technically, the house and its contents would have legally reverted to her after the passage of one hundred years. However, she was not tempted by the possibility of inheriting the mansion and its priceless inventory. Instead, she wanted to see that her ancestor’s last wishes were carried out. De Chavagnac pressed the city of Moulins to take action. Soon, money was raised to restore the mansion which had long since fallen into disrepair. The restoration of the property took five years. However, thanks to Matin’s detailed notes and careful lists of the placement of each item, the house was reassembled to the condition it was in when Matin died in 1905. Opening its doors in 2010 (five years later than Matin would have liked), the Villa Matin is, indeed, the museum that its owner had envisioned. A veritable time capsule in the middle of the city, Villa Matin will enchant visitors for centuries to come.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 196

Marjani,” Cecil repeated, narrowing his eyes. His tone was calm, but his expression indicated that he was not interested in wasting any time. “Who is this child?”

“He’s Barbara Allen’s son.” Marjani answered honestly.

“Barbara Allen’s…?” Cecil grunted. “Don’t you mean that he’s Edward and Corliss Cage’s son?”

“You could say that.” Marjani flinched.

“This is where I expect you to tell me that Mr. and Mrs. Cage have paid us a call and have brought their child to play with Fuller. Perhaps Edward has come to offer me my position again.” Cecil grumbled—a sound which faded into a chuckle. “But, no, that’s not what you’re going to tell me. Is it?”

“No, Sir.” Marjani sighed.

“So, if I go into the parlor, I’m going to find a quivering Miss Allen in there. Aren’t I?”

“Yes, Sir.” Marjani answered.

“And, of course, my big-hearted wife has already agreed to help her abduct this child?”

“Yes, Sir.” Marjani replied again.

Cecil took a deep breath. “And, just what is your part in all of this?”

“Right now,” Marjani smiled. “I’m the one holdin’ the baby.”

“Bring him to the nursery, then.” Cecil shook his head and pressed his hands together. “And, then, come back to the parlor so that you might join me and Mrs. Halifax as we sort this out with Miss Allen.”

“I will do so, Sir.” Marjani nodded. “But, first I gotta give Gamilla her tonic.”

“Of course.” Cecil answered.

Marjani went on her way, but Cecil called after her. “Marjani?”

“Mr. Halifax.”

“Thank you.” Cecil grinned.

“For what, Sir?”

“For always being so honest with me—with all of us.”

“I don’t know how to be no other way,” Marjani shrugged.

Cecil chortled, and then grunted as he considered their situation.

He straightened his coat and walked briskly into the parlor.

“Ladies,” He began.

“Cecil!” Adrienne responded with wide eyes.

“Good evening, Miss Allen.” Cecil nodded toward Barbara.

“Good evening,” Barbara whispered nervously.

Cecil sat upon the settee in the center of the room and inhaled. “Now, ladies,” Cecil began. “I think it’s safe to say that I might be considered a patient man?”

“Yes, darling, certainly.” Adrienne answered quickly, sitting by her husband.

“But, I should tell you, my dear, that my patience is not limitless.”

“I know,” Adrienne nodded.

“So, imagine my surprise to find Marjani holding Edward Cage’s son.” Cecil continued.

“My son.” Barbara interrupted.

“Edward Cage’s son!” Cecil spat.

Barbara flushed.

“Is it necessary for me to ask why that baby is in this house?” Cecil asked.

Adrienne began to speak, but stopped herself. She shook her head. “You know why.”

“Yes, I do.” Cecil nodded.

“Mr. Halifax…” Barbara began.

“No.” Cecil held up his hand. “I don’t wish to hear you arguments and explanations.”

“Darling,” Adrienne patted her husband’s leg.

“Simply tell me what you need me to do to assist you.” Cecil smiled.

Meanwhile, Julian rubbed his temples as Robert continued to question Charles.

“Do you mean to tell me that you know for certain that your brother was involved in schemes to murder people?” Robert asked.

“Not just people,” Charles shook his head. “Wealthy people. He was hired by several prominent families to…well, to help them erase problems.”

“I believe you,” Julian nodded, still rubbing his temples. He was having a difficult time hearing what was going on the room. From within, Mr. Punch was chattering away excitedly. Julian felt as though he could feel Punch hopping around in his stomach.

“Thank you, Your Grace.” Charles sighed with relief.

“If this is the case,” Robert nodded. “You’re quite right to have fled his influence.”

“Gentlemen,” Charles said cautiously. “There is something I feel I should tell you.”

“I don’t think I want to know.” Julian said—trying to ignore Mr. Punch’s pleas to be released.

“I think you should know, Your Grace.” Charles answered quickly. “My brother has ties to this country as well. He has had considerable correspondence with Iolanthe Evangeline. They were connected by one of her associates—a man known as ‘The Professor.’”

Julian shuddered as Mr. Punch’s voice grew stronger.

“You see, Your Grace,” Charles continued. “This man was known to have had considerable contact with the Duchess of Fallbridge.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-195? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Enjoy Your Mistakes

Each day, we make errors. It’s inevitable. Instead of becoming overly frustrated when things don’t go your way or you take a wrong turn, try to find the humor in the situation. Very often, the mistakes we make can be quite amusing.

Think about it. What’s a more helpful approach? On one hand you can become enraged and curse up a storm. On the other, you can simply shake your head, chuckle and try again. The answer is quite simple. Approaching each situation with humor and hope will always get you past it faster and in better spirits.

Object of the Day: An Antique Engraving of a Domestic Scene, 1860-1870

From the mid to late Nineteenth Century, especially in middle class English households, genre paintings showing domestic scenes were quite popular. These often took the form of intergenerational compositions which showed families in their kitchens engaged in everyday activities. With the rise of readily available engravings and reproductions, families could afford to bring such scenes into their homes.

This engraving from circa 1860-1870 depicts a domestic scene wherein a grandmother sits by the hearth, tending to her sewing, as her grandchildren play with paper boats in a large wooden washtub. Such scenes were considered tender reminders of the importance of home and family and allowed families who previously had little access to art to add something both endearing and attractive to their homes.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Her Majesty’s Furniture: A "Turkey Work" Chair, 1685

Turkey Work Chair
Wool, 1685
Purchased by James II
The Royal Collection
I confess that I selected this chair as Stalking the Belle Époque’s weekly furniture highlight for the simple fact that I like the phrase, “turkey work.” Say it out loud. Go on. See, it’s fun. Not only that, but it’s a nice looking chair with an important lineage.

To begin with, let’s talk about what “turkey work” is. Now, I’m biting my tongue because I want to make jokes. But, I won’t. Turkey work refers to a type of upholstery fabric which features a thick, knotted pile and a highly intricate floral pattern on a dark ground. Why is it called “turkey work?” Because it was meant to imitate the look of Turkish carpets.

This particular chair is one of the few survivors of an impressive set of chairs purchased for use in the Privy Council Chamber at Holyroodhouse (Holyrood Palace) in Scotland. The first lot of chairs was purchased in 1668 and was of the same style, but featured simple green upholstery. In 1685 the chamber was redecorated and additional chairs were purchased. These featured the “turkey work” we see today. It is said that King James II selected them himself. He just had his hand in everything, didn’t he?

Over time, this collection of chairs was shuttled from palace to palace, and to the occasional cathedral. So, it’s fair to say that most of them gave up the ghost due to use and natural causes. Therefore, it’s rather remarkable that this survivor is in such remarkably good condition. It must have been in the back corner of the room.

Humanitarian of the Week: Sigourney Weaver

Some call her “The Sci-Fi Queen,” but there’s a lot more to Sigourney Weaver than battling intergalactic beasties. This multi-award winning actress is, in fact, battling to protect our planet, but not from aliens—from ourselves.

Weaver was born in Manhattan to Elizabeth Inglis, an actress, and NBC executive and champion of early television, Sylvester “Pat” Weaver. Throughout the 1970’s Miss Weaver performed in a host of “Off-Broadway” shows which brought her to the attention of director Woody Allen who cast her in a small, but noticeable, role in his 1977 film Annie Hall. What would follow would be the series of films which would define Weaver’s career and public persona. In 1979, she starred in Ridley Scott’s Alien—winning rave reviews and a permanent place in popular culture. Weaver would go on to star in the next three installments in this franchise.

Meanwhile, Sigourney Weaver was impressing people with her exceptional talent in films such as The Year of Living Dangerously, Ghostbusters, Gorillas in the Mist, Working Girl and Ghostbusters II.

It was her work on Gorillas in the Mist, wherein she played Dian Fossey, that led Weaver to become a supporter of the protection of gorillas. She worked closely with The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund and now serves as its chairperson. Weaver is infinitely interested in preserving our planet and is a stauch environmentalist. Of special concern to her is the preservation of ocean habitats—a matter which she addressed in a 2006 news conference at the United Nations General Assembly.

Sigourney Weaver also supports “Trickle Up” an organization which is dedicated to assisting women and disabled persons who are living in extreme poverty.

Her career continues to go strong with films such as Avatar and Prayers for Bobby. We look forward to see much more of Miss Weaver in the future. For all of her work—both entertaining and enlightening—Sigourney Weaver is our “Humanitarian of the Week.”