Saturday, June 2, 2012

Long May She Reign!

Today begins the Central Weekend of the festivities in honor of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.  It is also the anniversary of her June 2, 1953 coronation.  We wish Her Majesty all the best on this very special day!

If you'd like to show your support of Her Majesty, visit our online store to view our special "Diamond Jubilee" designs.  

Mastery of Design: The Falize Cloisonné Necklace, 1867

Enamel Necklace
In the Japanese Style
Alexis Falize
France, 1867
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the 1860’s, Parisian jewelers became enamored of the Japanese style and tried to replicate Asian enamels. Prior to the 1850s, and since the 1820’s, Japanese style was barely recognized in Paris. However, the Japanese Court at the London Exhibition of 1862 and similar displays at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1867 caused quite a stir amongst the artistic community. Designers of all types were inspired by what they had seen.

This is a great example of the intricate technique of costly cloisonné enamel wherein the precise outlines of the design are the result of the tiny 'cloisons' or cells that hold the enamel and which have to be individually shaped from thin gold strips. The flower and bird motifs that we see in this 1867 example by Alexis Falize (1811-1898) are taken from Japanese prints, although the vibrant shades show the influence of Chinese work. The necklace of cloisonné enamel and gold shows Alexis Falize’s expert eye as well as the skill of Falize’s chief enameller, Antoine Tard. The circlet is made up of ten long panels of enameled gold which are punctuated with gold rosettes. Five circular pendants hang from the lower edge of the piece. 

Drawing of the Day: George Cooke's Harry Lauder, 1905

The Safest of the Family
Harry Lauder
by George Cooke, 1905
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Here, we have another of George Cooke’s fantastic caricatures of Edwardian Music Hall celebrities. This example depicts the great entertainer Harry Lauder performing his song “The Saftest of the Family” at the Grand Theatre of Varieties, Hanley, during the week of August 18, 1905. While performing this song, Lauder dressed as an overgrown schoolboy who recounted to his instructor the reasons for his awful behavior. 

Lauder sang most of the songs for which he was famous while at Hanley, including: “She’s ma Daisy’”and “Stop yer Tickling Jock.” Hmmm…

At the Music Hall: “She’s My Daisy,” Sir Harry Lauder

She is my Daisy, my bonnie Daisy,
she's the sweetest sugar candy and she's very fond of Sandy,
And I weary 
For my dearie,
I would rather lose my spurs than lose my Daisy.

Scottish performer and songwriter, Sir Harry Lauder, popularized Scottish-themed songs as he trod the boards of U.K. music halls. Many of his songs concerned fair Scottish ladies and were rousing ballads about the joys of loving these plucky lasses.

His song, “She’s My Daisy,” became instantly popular and was featured in many films. Here’s a clip of Greer Garson singing the song in her 1942 film, Random Harvest.

History's Runway: The Miss Wethered Gown, 1785

France, 1785
Worn by one Miss Weathered
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Made in France in 1785, this gown boasts a skirt of printed cotton and an exquisite silk bodice which appears to be two separate garments, although the two are sewn together. The light cotton is printed with a pattern of pine trees, lilacs, dianthus, convolvulus and daisy trails.  The bodice, typical of the 1780s,  is tight fitting at the back and closes in front.

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 52

Chapter 52: 

God Save the Queen 

Speaight!” Robert called across the foyer of the great house.

“Yes, Sir.” The butler replied, pausing on his way to the morning room.

“I’ve a letter to post.” Robert shook his head. “Have Gerard and Charles returned?”

“Not yet, Sir.” Speaight smiled. “I trust they’ll be back shortly. I can take it for you.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Robert replied. “You’re needed here.” He sighed. “We’re going to need to get a new page quickly. We still haven’t replaced Hortence. I’m afraid that you and the others are being over-worked.”

“We’re managing quite well, Dr. Halifax.” Speaight answered brightly. “Not to worry. If you like, I can send Vi to post this for you.”

“I’m afraid we’ll have to—for now—though I don’t like the idea of sending one of the girls out. It’s not appropriate.”

“The postbox is just on the corner, Sir. I imagine Violet would welcome the chance to get out. It’s a fine day.”

“Very well.” Robert smiled. “Thank you.”

“When would you like me to gather the staff, Sir?” Speaight answered, taking the letter from Robert.

“As soon as Charles, Gerard and Hutchinson return from getting Mr. Barrett settled. If you’ll just gather them in the servants’ hall, His Grace and I will address everyone there.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Where is His Grace?” Robert asked. “In the morning room?”

“No, Sir.” Speaight furrowed his brow. “He’s in the library. I tried to convince him to use the morning room since the fire was already lit in there, but, you know how His Grace prefers to work in the library.”

“It’s too cold for him in there.” Robert shook his head. “I’ll talk with him.”

“I’m afraid you’ll find he won’t budge, Sir.” Speaight answered. “His Grace has gotten himself quite comfortable with his colors and paper. The last I saw him, Dr. Halifax, he had wedged himself with his tools behind the screen in the corner of the room. Dog Toby is at his side. In fact, Sir, I think he’s quite content. He was humming cheerfully when I left him.”

“Isn’t it remarkable?” Robert couldn’t help but smile. “The whole household is at sixes and sevens waiting for the inspector from Whitehall and our master is able to keep his spirits up in such a way.”

Speaight grinned. “His Grace is an inspiration to us all. However, if you’ll pardon me, Sir, His Grace may be my master, but he’s not yours. You are his equal.”

“I shall never be his equal, Speaight.” Robert chuckled slightly. “He is as much my master as he is yours.”

Speaight nodded, looking with admiration at the doctor, as the front door bell rang.

“Good Heavens!” Robert’s eyes widened. “That can’t be the inspector so early?”

“I hope not, Sir.” Speaight sighed, tucking the letter Robert had given him into his side pocket. “I’ll see who it is.”

Robert watched as Speaight hurried across the grand foyer and into the vestibule. When the butler opened the door, Robert’s jaw dropped—as did Speaight’s.

“Your Majesty,” Speaight gasped, bowing deeply at the incredibly pregnant Queen who stood outside the door of No. 65 Belgrave Square. On one side of the Queen was the Baroness Lehzen and, on the other, a burly, well-muscled man dressed in livery.

The Queen swept into the house as gracefully as a small woman in the late stages of pregnancy could. Louise Lehzen and the guard/footman trailed behind. She aimed herself for Robert.

Robert bowed deeply. “Your Majesty.”

“You’re the doctor?” Queen Victoria asked imperiously.

“I am, Your Majesty.” Robert replied nervously.

“My husband said you were a perfect male specimen. I see that he was correct. You’re a sculpture by Michelangelo. I see why Fallbridge keeps you.” The Queen continued rather plainly.

“Thank you,” Robert replied hesitantly as the Queen continued to study him.

“Quite lovely.” Queen Victoria nodded her approval. “Now, Dr. Halifax—that is your name, yes?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Robert nodded, still shocked that the Queen had not only left the palace in her condition—a condition in which she despised being despite the frequency with which she was in it—but was also in their foyer.

“Very well, Dr. Halifax, what is all of this nonsense I hear from Lehzen about Fallbridge murdering a man?”

Robert’s body spasmed with terror momentarily.


“Your Majesty,” Robert began. He looked helplessly at Speaight who stood at the front door in shock. “Perhaps we should retire to the drawing room to discuss this.”

“Sir,” Speaight said quickly, coming to his senses. “The fire is not lit. Pardon me, Your Majesty.”

“What are you thinking, Doctor? It’s too early for a drawing room fire. Where’s your morning room?” Victoria bellowed.

Robert absent-mindedly pointed to his right to the columned and pedimented entrance to the sunny morning room.

“Well?” The Queen repeated.

“Of course, Your Majesty.” Robert said quickly. He looked to Speaight who rushed past to open the morning room door for them.

“The baroness and Maximilian will wait here, if you don’t mind.” Her Majesty pointed to the low-upholstered settee which was nestled in the ornately papered crook of the looping staircase.

“Certainly.” Robert forced a smile.

Speaight bowed as the Queen and Robert passed him, looking up to catch Robert’s expression of sheer terror. Standing at the entrance of the room, the butler awaited his orders.

“Speaight, would you please alert His Grace that Her Majesty has paid us a visit?” Robert asked.

“Yes, Dr. Halifax.”

“And, then…” Robert added quickly. “Ask Mrs. Pepper to arrange a special tray for Her Majesty.”

“Oh, please, no.” The Queen said graciously as she arranged herself in Punch’s favorite yellow toile chair. “I could not eat. Thank you.”

Speaight bowed again, shutting the door behind him and flitted toward the staircase, trying to appear calm in front of the Baroness Lehzen and the muscle-bound man.

Alone in the morning room with the Queen, Robert stood uneasily near the mantel.

“Dr. Halifax, you may be seated now.” The Queen smiled.

“Yes, ma’am.” Robert nodded, taking the chair across from her.

“You need not be so nervous, Doctor.” The Queen continued. “You do not fear your queen. Do you?”

“No, Your Majesty. Please pardon me. Simply put, if I seem uneasy it is simply because I have little experience in the presence of Royalty.”

“You live with the Duke of Fallbridge.” The Queen grinned. “You have some experience with the aristocracy, at least. While Fallbridge is not a Duke of the Blood Royal, he is at the apex of the nobility.”

“That is true, Your Majesty.”

“This is why I find it so hard to imagine that Fallbridge has murdered someone. I’ve always found him rather timid, in fact. I’m terribly fond of Fallbridge. My husband is also. Thus, my visit. When I heard there was trouble, I knew that I must come myself even if it meant exposing my horrible condition to all of Belgravia. There are few people for whom I would leave the comfort of my rooms while burdened with this awful affliction.” She glanced down at her pregnant belly.

“I cannot imagine, Your Majesty, how truly uncomfortable in every way your condition must be. No man could ever comprehend it, and I feel for you very deeply.”

“I believe that you do.” The Queen smiled slightly. “Most men are quick to dismiss a woman who is great with child because they dare not imagine the utter pain of it all. You are different.”

“Ma’am, I have attended many a woman in Your Majesty’s condition, and, I must say, that of all of the afflictions which I have witnessed, none could be as painful as childbirth. It is a pain which to me is incomprehensible, and, so, I feel it all the more important to treat it with that much more respect.”

“I see why Fallbridge finds you so appealing.” Queen Victoria nodded. “It is not simply your charming appearance.”

“I hope, Your Majesty, that I have not spoken too plainly.”

“Not at all.” The Queen waved a hand. “Tell me, Doctor. How is Fallbridge?”

“He is quite well, Your Majesty.”

“I’m told he is changed.” The Queen shook her head. “My husband says that he is bolder, different… In fact, the Prince Consort informs me that Fallbridge even appears different—more robust, healthier. This, I suspect, is your doing?”

“I could not say, Your Majesty,” Robert replied slowly. “My only wish is that His Grace remains in good health and good spirits for many years.”

“Is he in a good humor, then?” The Queen sniffed.

“More often than not, Your Majesty.” Robert answered.

“And, yet, he claims to have murdered a man?”

Robert took a deep breath.

“This makes you nervous? Just the statement?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“And, yet, is this not what Fallbridge has claimed? He has stated to an officer of the constabulary that he murdered the man who was found outside this very house.”

“That…yes…Your Majesty, yes, that is what His Grace claims.”

“This man…this man I have found so timid in the past.” The Queen replied thoughtfully. “This very gentle, reserved, quiet genius. Regardless of how he has changed from your influence, I cannot fathom that he’s taken the life of another man.”

“His Grace would not do so about provocation, Your Majesty.”

“This foolishness about protecting a secret of mine is poppycock.” The Queen smiled. “You know that as well as I.”

Robert was silent.

“Your Queen addresses you, Doctor.”

“I do not know what to say, Your Majesty.” Robert nodded, glancing at the door and hoping that Punch would appear immediately.

“Doctor, you do know that Fallbridge is a favorite of mine?”

“Yes, Your Majesty. As you said, you would not have paid a personal visit presently were he not. His Grace is a favorite of mine as well.” Robert hoped the last comment would be found as humorous.

The Queen did not laugh nor even smile. Instead, she seemed to find the comment touching.

“Isn’t it time,” the Queen nodded, “that you tell Your Queen the truth, Doctor?”

Meanwhile, upstairs, Speaight searched frantically for Mr. Punch/the Duke. He wasn’t where the butler had left him in the library. Speaight finally found his master in his bedroom—seated under the writing desk. Punch lay on his stomach—his legs extended behind him. In front of him was his drawing pad and Punch was feverishly coloring the detail of a drawing of a brooch. Dog Toby lay next to the Duke, watching the man’s every move.

“Hullo, Speaight!” Punch chirped as Speaight rushed into the room.

“Your Grace,” Speaight panted. “I’ve been looking for you…”

“Lost me blue…what’s it called?. Thing. The blue thing.” Punch muttered. “Found it up here, so I thought I’d just draw in here. Light’s not as strong, but this is where I am, so here I’ll stay.”

“Your Grace…” Speaight snorted.

“Did ya want me?” Mr. Punch looked up cheerfully.

Speaight found the Duke’s childish expression quite enchanting and couldn’t help but smile.

“Well, yes, Your Grace. We’ve a visitor.”

“Bugger!” Punch muttered. “Ain’t the inspector, is it?”

“No…it’s the Queen.” Speaight answered.

“Sure it is.” Punch laughed.

“No. Sir—the Queen is in the morning room with Dr. Halifax.”

“The Queen?” Punch grinned. “Sure, she dragged her big pregnant self all the way to Belgrave Square to have sausages with me.” Punch’s eyes widened. “By the way, when’s breakfast.”

“Your Grace,” Speaight yelped. “The Queen is downstairs.”

“Which queen?” Punch narrowed his eyes.

“Victoria Regina, Sir.” Speaight trembled.

Punch’s eyes widened. “Here! You’re serious!”

Mr. Punch sat up quickly, belting his head on the bottom of the desk. “Bugger!” He howled, rolling out from under the writing table. Dog Toby wagged his tail. “You mean to tell me that Her Majesty Queen Victoria is downstairs with me chum?”

“Yes, Sir.” Speaight nodded anxiously. “Baroness Lehzen and some male servant are waiting in the hall.”

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…” Punch mumbled frantically. “Whatever would make her come here? She don’t like to be out when she’s with-child. She don’t like to do anything when she’s…she don’t’ even like to breathe! Oh, Hell! Oh, she’s in a foul humor, ain’t she? She’s always in a foul humor when she’s heavy with child. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!”

“Please, Sir, we must remain calm.” Speaight said, helping Mr. Punch up.

“And…and…you say Robert’s with Her Majesty. Bother! He must be dyin’!” Punch squealed, rushing to put on his jacket. He raced to the door.

Pausing, Punch looked squarely at the butler. “Tell me, do I look like a Duke or do I look like a mad puppet man?”


“Speaight, this ain’t the time for indecision!” Punch chirped.

“Your Grace might wish to arrange his hair differently.” Speaight said hesitantly.

Punch hurried to the mirror and studied his reflection. “Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I look like I been drowned." He ran his fingers through his wavy auburn hair, trying to brush the fringe from his forehead. Turning around quickly, he asked. “How’s that?”

“Better, Sir.” Speaight nodded.

“Good.” Punch snorted, rushing from the door.

“Sir!” Speaight called after Punch.

“What?” Punch snapped.

“Your hands, sir.” Speaight pointed at Punch’s hands—the fingertips of which were smeared with charcoal and pastel.

“Bullox!” Punch yelped, hurrying to the water basin. He scrubbed his hands hurriedly. “Did she say why she came?”

“I heard Her Majesty ask about the murder, Sir.” Speaight answered, drying the Duke’s hands with a nearby flannel.

“Oh, ain’t that a treat!” Punch howled. He looked squarely at the butler. “I gotta go down. Dr. Halifax is probably soaked with nervous sweat. Tell me—is there anything else what might offend Her Majesty.”

Speaight quickly studied his master. “I don’t think so.”

Punch snorted again.

Speaight’s eyes widened.

“Don’t worry, butler chum, I ain’t gonna do that with the Queen. I’ll play the Duke.”

With that, Punch rushed down the stairs, pausing outside the morning room door to catch his breath and smooth his hair again.

Opening the door, Punch stood dramatically at the entrance to the room, bowing theatrically. “Your Majesty, what a pleasant surprise.” He said in his best Julian voice.

“Fallbridge.” The Queen nodded as Punch entered. “You do look quite changed. I don’t recall you being so…masculine before.”

Punch blinked rapidly a few times, unsure how to respond.

“I’ve come,” The Queen continued, “about this murder business.”

“A tragic affair, indeed, Your Majesty.” Punch nodded.

“Your companion tells me that you lied to the authorities. That you didn’t have anything at all to do with this foolishness.” The Queen smiled.

Punch’s eyes widened as he looked to Robert.

“Your Majesty…I…” Robert began.

“Why would you do such a thing, Fallbridge?” The Queen interrupted.

“I had no choice, Your Majesty,” Punch replied humbly, yet still as Julian might. “I don’t know why my companion felt the need to involve you in my deception…”

“He didn’t.” The Queen grinned. “He stuck to your tale. You, however, just gave yourself away.”

“I…” Punch’s face fell.

“Now, now, Fallbridge. You mustn’t look so glum. Your queen is here to help you.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-51? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday for Chapter 53 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square.

Unusual Artifacts: The Mrs. Church Hat, c. 1960

Straw Hat
Aage Thaarup
c. 1965
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Inspired by casual Victorian designs, this natural straw broad-brimmed hat is adorned with fabric poppies, cornflowers, daisies, and wheat stalks. The hat was made in the mid-to-late 1960s by the celebrated milliner Aage Thaarup (1906 - 1987).

The hat was once worn by one Mrs. Blair Cook whose sister Mrs. B. Church donated the hat to the V&A. A hat such as this was perfect for a warm day in country. When it was made, softer, more feminine styles were taking the place of the more severe looks which preceded it in the post-World War II years.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for G. Schindler & Co.

A pretty little girl graces the front of this Victorian trade card. Again, we most likely have a stock card which the retailer selected from a catalog to have printed with his information. 

She’s dressed cheerfully for springtime in a casual hat trimmed with little daisies. She has pinned flowers to her white shirt front and she wears large glass beads which blend with the golden curls of hair that cascade over her shoulders.

The reverse of the card reads:

G. Shindler & Co., 
165 & 167 FIRST STREET

Portland, Ogn.,……………….188
Dear Sir;
     As you may soon be in need of
goods in our line, we most respectfully
call your attention to our large and varied
stock of parlor, bedroom, dining,
library and office furniture. Lace and
Nottingham curtains, carpets, oil-
Cloths, mats, rugs, wall paper &c.
     It will be a pleasure to us to show
you through our warerooms, giving
prices, or making estimates for work
to be done.
               G. Shindler & C0.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mastery of Design: The Sixteen Leaf Necklace, 1880

Necklace or Horse Collar
India, Before 1880
The Victoria & Albert Museum

This handsome necklace heralds from India and was made before 1880. Sixteen leaf-shaped plaques are strung on red silk which has been covered with gold wire.

The front of each plaque is adorned in floral ornament in low relief. The design is decorated with turquoises and rock-crystal set over red foil to simulate rubies. The reverse of each of these sixteen plaques is chased with designs of flowering plants.

The necklace was purchased in India for the Victoria & Albert Museum by Casper Purdon Clarke in 1880-2. It has been suggested that this is not a necklace meant for a human, but rather, was made as a collar for a horse. Lucky horse!

Mr. Punch's Puzzles: The Riddle of the Week

Once, again, Mr. Punch, with my help, is offering up a true Victorian riddle.  The first person to answer correctly--by posting in the comments--will receive public congratulations.  

So, here's this week's riddle.  We ask that you don't Google the answer.  Mr. Punch would not find that sporting at all.  Give it a shot and see what you can come up with.  Here we go... No cheating...

Who is the first male character mentioned in any book?

And, the answer is CHAP I.  As in "chap(ter) number one."  Get it?  A chap is a man, or, as drug-addicted farm animals would say, "a dude."  Oh, for fun!  Thanks to all of you who answered!  You're a creative lot, indeed.  In honor of our friend, April, we may wish to consider starting a support program for friends and families of methadone-addicted sheep.  Or not.  I don't care.  I have puppets to feed.  Come back next week for another of Mr. Punch's Puzzles.  It promises to be a fun and, evidently, educational (as in ovine "After School Special" ) time.  

Mr. Punch wants you to always know “the way to do it,” so why not check out our “That’s the way to do it!” products which are available only at our online store?

At the Music Hall: The Punch & Judy Polka by Oscar Barrett, 1889

Sheet Music Cover for Punch and Judy Polka by Oscar Barrett
J. Marriot for Packer and Griffin
Published by Francis Bros. and Day
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mr. Punch, as we know, has inspired a good many musical works, but no more so than during the Nineteenth Century. Here, we see a sheet music cover for “Punch & Judy Polka” by Oscar Barrett.

The polka was famously danced by Signor Francesco's Juvenile Dancers. It was imilarly performed by music hall troupes. This sheet music cover was published by Francis Bros & Day in 1889.

The image depicts a typical domestic scene in the Punch household. Mr. Punch stands with Judy who holds “the baby.” Ever the proud father, Punch has decided it’s best to poke the child in the head with his cudgel. The drawing was created by J. Marriot and Packer and Griffin acted as lithographers.

Antique Image of the Day: Pulcinella, 1622

Pulliciniello (Pulcinella)
Jacques Callot, 1622
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Despite the rather queer spelling of the inscription, Pulliciniello (which can be forgiven since words foreign to Britain were usually spelled phonetically in the Seventeenth Century), we know this print depicts the Commedia dell’Arte character Pulcinella—the forebear of our Mr. Punch. 

The print, published in 1622, is based on an original drawing by Jacques Callot (1592-1635). 

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 51

Chapter 51: 

The Unexpected Houseguest 

Mr. Punch took a deep breath as he climbed the final few stairs to the attics of his Belgrave Square townhouse. Even though every room in the house technically belonged to him, he was always uncomfortable going to the attics. In fact, he had only done so a few times. To Punch, those rooms belonged to the staff. They were their homes, their private spaces—the only place in the house where they were the master of something entirely unique to them. Mr. Punch, being sensitive to such things, was always shy to bother the servants when they were in their rooms.

Still, he had no choice. As the sun yawned to cast dusty, sooty rays across the white, columned facades of Belgrave Square, Punch had already been awake all night. He hadn’t even tried to sleep. He stayed at Robert’s side, watching as his companion fell into a fitful sleep. And once the man was slumbering, Punch stroked Robert’s dark hair and whispered soothing things. At one point, just for a few moments, Punch rose from his spot next to Robert—making sure to move Dog Toby to Robert’s side so that the rattled man would not feel alone. During those brief minutes, Punch had crept to the floor above to look-in on the nursery where he saw Colin sleeping peacefully with Gamilla snoozing in a chair by the fire. Satisfied, Punch returned to Robert and Dog Toby and remained there until Gerard came to help them dress.

Gerard showed he was cheerful, but groggy. Punch couldn’t tell if it was the injury Gerard had sustained to his head which caused Robert’s valet’s listlessness or the medication which Robert had prescribed for the pain. Briefly, Punch thought that Gerard had been acting peculiar ever since Charles had fallen down the service stairs, but he didn’t think anything of it—his mind was elsewhere. Gerard tried his best to help his two masters with their morning routine. He truly did, but clearly looking after the Duke and the Doctor both was too much for him.

“I’m sorry for bein’ so clumsy, Sir.” Punch had heard Gerard say to Robert. “We’ll get everything back in regular order when Charles is free again.”

Robert mumbled something in response about it being important for Charles to stay at Ellen’s side while Mr. Barrett was still in the house. And, this—this was the problem. Mr. Barrett was still in the house. Not only that, but he had long-ago awakened from the heavy drugs Robert had given him. Mr. Barrett was alert and confused, and Punch didn’t care much for this. The idea that this man—this poor, sad, ill man—was in the same home as Punch’s son, companion and friends, bothered and concerned Mr. Punch endlessly.

One characteristic shared by Punch and the Duke with whom he shared his body (among many others which typically went unnoticed and unexplored) was a distinct fear of the unknown. While Julian was crippled by this fear, Punch found it motivating. And, so, once Punch was content that Robert was being looked-after by Gerard, he slipped from his bedchamber and tip-toed up the two flights to the attic room where Charles and Ellen guarded their unexpected houseguest.

He knocked gently on the door to the room which once belonged to Hortence and smiled when Charles opened it.

“Mornin’, Charles.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“Good morning, Your Grace. Was Gerard able to take up my duties today?”

“Fairly well.” Mr. Punch shrugged. “Dr. Halifax is dressing now. I come up here to visit with you and Miss and Mr. Barrett.”

“Who’s that?” a voice asked from inside. Punch knew that the voice came from Mr. Barrett, yet it was a voice which Punch had not heard before. How many people lived within that man?

“Roger, it’s His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge.” Punch heard Ellen explain.

“Who’s that?” Roger asked.

“My employer. The man to whom this house belongs. You know him. He’s been so kind these past weeks, helping to look after you.” Ellen answered.

“Come in, Your Grace.” Charles whispered.

“Is he…” Punch began.

“He’s calm, Sir.” Charles nodded.

Punch entered the small room and smiled a greeting at Roger Barrett.

“What are you smiling at?” Mr. Barrett asked.

“I typically try to greet my houseguests with a smile.” Punch responded, feeling the need to speak as Julian might instead of in his usual manner.

Roger narrowed his eyes and studied Mr. Punch. “I know you. You’re the puppet man.” This time when he spoke his voice was more familiar to Punch. “Where are they? The puppets?”

“It’s too early for them,” Punch replied.

“I see,” Roger Barrett nodded considerately. “Well, I understand that.”

“How is your head, Mr. Barrett?”

“My head?” Roger squinted. “What’s wrong with my head?”

“You were injured.” Ellen whispered.

“No, I wasn’t.” Mr. Barrett replied. He reached up and felt his forehead. “Oh—well…maybe…” He yelped in panic. “How…who did that? When? How…”

“Mr. Barrett,” Mr. Punch smiled. “You need not fear anything. You’re quite safe. My companion, Dr. Halifax, has tended to your wounds and you’re quite well now. You just need rest.”

“Who are you?” Mr. Barrett mumbled.

“I’m the Duke of Fallbridge,” Punch smiled.

“Right.” Mr. Barrett nodded.

“Roger…” Ellen began.

“What?” Mr. Barrett grunted. “What’s this woman talking about?”

“Might I ask what you’re called?” Mr. Punch said, continuing to smile.

“Lawrence.” The man replied.

“So, you’re Lawrence?” Punch nodded.

“Well, of course I am!” The man spat.

“Very well, Lawrence.” Mr. Punch replied. “Are you hungry?”

“No.” Mr. Barrett smirked. “Are you?”

“Well, yes.” Mr. Punch chuckled. “Usually.”

“That must be difficult for you.” Mr. Barrett sighed.

Punch looked at Charles and chuckled.

“What’s funny?” Mr. Barrett snapped.

“Nothing at all.” Mr. Punch replied. “Now, Lawrence, I think it’s time that you go home to your apartments and rest.”

“Isn’t this my flat?” Mr. Barrett asked.

“No, this is a room in the attics of my house.”

“Oh.” Mr. Barrett nodded. “Oh! You’re the puppet man! Where are they? Where are the puppets.”

“Roger…” Ellen whispered again.

“Who is this woman?” Mr. Barrett growled.

“She’s your sister, mate!” Charles snapped.

“I have no sister, Sir.” Mr. Barrett sighed.

A knock on the door made them all turn as Robert quietly entered the room.

“Another man!” Mr. Barrett barked.

“Good morning,” Robert nodded. “How are we today?” Robert added softly to Punch, “And who?”

“Dunno, chum.” Punch whispered. “He’s been four different blokes since I been in here.”

“Stop speaking about me as if I wasn’t here.” Mr. Barrett moaned.

“My apologies.” Robert nodded. “Sir, are you up for a carriage ride?”

“That depends…” Mr. Barrett squinted. “Where’m I goin’?”

“Back to your rooms.” Robert smiled.

“Sir?” Ellen rose. “Is it wise to send him back?”

“We have no choice, Miss Barrett.” Robert answered irritably. “We have an inspector from Whitehall coming this morning. Or didn’t you know?”

“Charles told me all that happened here last night,” Ellen nodded slowly.

“So, I’m sure you can agree that your brother must return to his rooms.” Robert replied curtly.

“Why do you keep sayin’ this woman’s my sister?”

“Because she is, mate.” Charles grumbled.

“Is she?” Mr. Barrett asked. “Are you my brother, then?”

“No.” Charles shook his head.

“What of them two?” Mr. Barrett asked. “I like the looks of the one with the dark ginger hair. He’s some Scotch in ‘im. Right? Maybe he’s my brother.”

“No. Well, yes. I…I do have some Scottish blood. On my father’s side.” Mr. Punch replied quickly. “However, I’m not your brother, but I like to think that I’m your friend.”


“Yes.” Mr. Punch nodded.

“Oh…yes, you’re the puppet man.”

“I am.” Mr. Punch answered patiently. “I have a proposal for you. You see, my companion here…”

“Who’s he?”

“He’s my companion.”


“Yes.” Mr. Punch snorted. “He lives here with me. He’s a fine gentleman who has spent his life helping other people. He’s your friend, too.”

“You don’t say?”

“I do.”

“How nice for me, then.” Mr. Barrett smiled.

“I don’t know how you manage it.” Robert whispered.

“Chum…” Punch shrugged. He smiled again at Mr. Barrett. “My companion has sent a letter this morning to a very kind man. This man will be at your rooms when you arrive and he’s also going to be your friend. He is called James.”

“Why will he be at my rooms?”

“So that you always have a friend with you.” Punch forced a smile.

“Oh.” Mr. Barrett nodded. “I think that would be lovely.” He paused and his expression changed. “What do you think, Ellen?” 

click "read more" below to read the rest of this entry.

Print of the Day: Four Punchinellos Embracing a Female

Four Punchinellos Embracing a Female
Reproduction, 1953 of an original by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo
The Harry Beard Collection at:
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We have looked at two drawings by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo which dated to 1751. These drawings depicted one of Tiepolo’s favorite subjects—Punchinello. To be exact…Punchinellos, many, hump-backed Punchinellos up to no good.

Here, dating to 1953 (the year of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II who celebrates her Diamond Jubilee in coming days), we see a reproduction of a pen and grey wash image in which four Punchinellos are embracing a female. Clearly this is a reproduction of one of the Eighteenth Century words of Tiepolo.

All of the plucky Punchinellos are dressed identically in tall, conical hats and loose fitting tunics and trousers which are belted at the waist. The object of their ominous affections wears an equally tall hat trimmed with lace at the brim and a loose belted dress with collar. 

We all know how much I like Punchinellos. Many live here with me. However, I don’t really think I’d like to be embraced by them. No. In fact, I know that I would not.

Object of the Day: Rubber Baby Punch Puppet or “Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head”

As you might have guessed, this isn’t the usual North Texas household. We have a lot of interesting things here. Between the fact that families of doves have made nests above the columns of the front porch, the fact that the Bertie Dog is in control of the running of the property and the fact that I’ve elected Mr. Punch as “Mayor” of “The Dovecote,” (formally known as “Thornfield,” it’s safe to say that ours is unlike other homes in this historical district. 

Recently, I made an eBay purchase. Why? I’m not quite sure. Honestly, I thought, “Huh—well that needs a home, and besides Punch would like to play with it.” I should note that I don’t really believe that the official puppet representative of the house is sentient, but a man must amuse himself somehow. 

It’s a puppet head. A rubber puppet head. It dates to the late 1950s to early 1960s. It was found in a warehouse of puppet parts—in perfect condition, just left there for decades with no explanation. The head represents Mr. Punch in a style which is entirely unique to the 1950s-1960s. He has googly eyes. This is the work of the Pelham Puppet Company, formerly Wonky Toys, Ltd., which was founded in Britain in 1947.

Now—what do I intend to do with it? Though I’m sure Punch fancies carrying him around in a rather grim Hitchcockian manner, I think a puppet head without a body is rather sad. So, with the help of my mother and father, we’re going to build him a proper body, and, thus, after fifty years, this large-nosed fellow will have a more complete life. And, that’s why I bought him. He’s suffered enough. Until then, the utter creepiness of it is undoubtedly appealing. 

Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of a They Might Be Giants song from my high school years. Yes, I’m that old.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: The Bertie Match

"Stop it!  Stop looking at mud!  You’re boring me!”

Image:  A Sailing Match, William Mulready, 1831, The Victoria and Albert Museum.

Bertie enjoys his romps through art history, and he'd also like to romp into your home.  Since he can't visit everyone, he suggests you take a look at our online store to see how you can bring a gratuitous Bertie dog into each day.

Mastery of Design: The Life Began In Water Necklace, 1950

"Life Began in Water"
Sah Oved, c. 1950
The Victoria & Albert Museum

In the years following the Second World War, more so than in any other era, jewelry began to be viewed as a type of “wearable art,” which allowed the wearer to express his or her character as well as that of the designer. Designers played with the conventions of jewelry-making to produce untraditional, often abstract, pieces which looked to the modernist principles of the Bauhaus as well as to earlier avant-garde art movements such as Surrealism, Cubism and Constructivism. Though designs may have nodded to conventional and traditional designs, jewelers felt free to play with proportion and material, employing stones with unusual shapes which were presented in arrangements which were often asymmetrical.

Sah Oved became known for such pieces. Here’s an example of her work, made in England around 1950. “Life began in Water,” features a playful title which is alluding to the creation of life. This jewel is considered an iconic piece of its period.

The central ornament of the necklace is positioned off-center, the fishes and water birds are abstract, and the cuts of the agates, jasper and aquamarines are unconventional. The wholly odd, asymmetrical design became a benchmark for other designers wishing to emulate her work. 

Unfolding Pictures: The Houghton Boating Fan, 1890-1900

Click image to enlarge.
Mother-of-Pearl Guards and Sticks
Francis Houghton
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Francis Houghton was known throughout late Nineteenth Century Britain as a prolific and highly-talented fan painter, yet know very little about the details of his life except that a number of his fans survive.

The dramatic scene the leaf of this handsome fan is typical of his work. Depicted is a man leaning over the side of the boat. He is presumably saving a girl, who is stranded out at sea in a rowing boat.

The fan is unusually large compared to others by Houghton and, oddly, he has painted the sea over the mother-of-pearl sticks to give the impression of the water stretching out to infinity. He made the fan between 1890 and 1900.  The mother-of-pearl guard is in excellent condition.

Painting of the Day: Going to Sea

Click image to enlarge
"Going to Sea"
Samuel Palmer, 1858
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Two adults and two children stand on a sandy shoreline.  They are gesturing to three figures in a wooden rowing boat near to the shore. On the horizon, the spectator views a large sailing vessel which can be seen to the right of the image.

Painted in 1858 by Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), this painting of watercolor and ink is marked:

'Going to India the Blessing'
'No 60 return from India S. Palmer E'
'Mr. Palmer wished it to be named 'Going to Sea' as it now is'

Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square, Chapter 50

Chapter 50: 
Aim to Fight 

You gotta try to be calm,” Punch said, wrestling Robert to the bed.

“How can I?” Robert moaned, tears running down his face—his nose running.

Punch plopped down on the bed next to his companion. They were alone in Punch’s chamber after sending Charles back to watch Mr. Barrett with Ellen, Gerard back to his room to rest his head and Speaight to wherever Speaight went within the bowels of the mansion at night.

“Because it’s gonna turn out fine.” Punch smiled brightly.

“You perjured yourself to an officer of the law. You and Charles and Gerard and Speaight. You lied about the Crown, you claimed to have committed a murder that you did not commit and you…”

“We all did it to protect you.”


“Well, then,” Mr. Punch rose angrily, pacing to the mantel across the room. He bent over slightly and leveled his eyes at Robert. “If you gotta ask that, I been doin’ somethin’ wrong this last year.”

“You know what I mean.” Robert whispered.

“No.” Punch snapped. “I don’t.” He raised his left hand. “You see this hand?”

“Yes.” Robert mumbled.

“What’s on it?”

“Two rings.”

“And what do they mean?”


“What do they mean, Robert?” Punch shot back.

“The diamond on your index finger was the first ring you…well, Julian…ever made.”

“Yes.” Punch nodded. “Why do I wear it—every day?”

“To remind you of Julian, of your heritage, of the Molliner name and what it means to be the Duke of Fallbridge.”

“That’s right.” Punch sighed. “And, the other? On me third finger?”

“That’s the ring I gave you for your birthday.”

“And…what’s it mean?”

“It means…”

“It means that we’re in this life together. You and me, chum. Robert and Punch. Together. Forever. You and me—lookin’ out for our boy, Colin! Takin’ care of this household! Together! Them stones spell out, ‘dearest.’ Yes?”


“Because I’m your dearest. And, you’re mine. You and me and Colin and Dog Toby and them folks what live in the attic and work in the bottom of this house so that we can all be happy. That’s why I lied. I done it to make sure we’re all together and that we’re all safe and happy. Them three—Tom and Hortence and the other one—they came into this house with threats. I ain’t gonna take no threats in me own home, especially when they’re threats to my dearest! You hear me. I done what I had to do and Charles and Gerry and Speaight—they backed me up because they love you too—sure, maybe not the way I do, but they love you all the same. We’re happy here! We aim to stay happy and ain’t nothin’ I won’t do to make sure that’s so!”

Robert nodded.

“Now, you’re makin’ me shout and I don’t like it.” Punch scowled.

“Come sit by me.” Robert said softly.

“Don’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“I’m angry, I am.”

“With me?”

“Sure, I am. You’re not bein’ Robert Henry Halifax like I know ‘im. You’re bein’ strange and scared. Why?”

“I’m afraid of losing what we have.”

“We ain’t gonna!” Punch yelped. “Chum, we ain’t gonna. But, I gotta have your help.”

“You’re right. Yes, of course, you’re correct.”

“Don’t forget. We spent weeks in America together. Were that a pleasure trip?”

“No.” Robert smiled slightly.

“No. It were not. We fought Voodoo Queens and cruel ladies and murderers and a man who wanted to steal our son. We went through fever and fire and gun shots and blood and…all manner of queer magic what I—to this day—still don’t understand. But, we was together—through all the treachery and all the meanness, we got through it. And, what did we get from it? We got here! We got here with our Colin! And, we came out of it with friends, chum. Gerry and Charles and Gamilla. Buggery Bullox! By the end, we even called the very Voodoo Queen what tried to kill us our friend! Ain’t that what you’d call triumph?”

“I should say so.”

“Then, this is nothin’.” Punch sniffed. “Yes, I lied. I told the copper that I killed William. The reason I gave was good ‘nough. Nothin’s gonna happen. By doin’ it, I stopped them folks from talkin’ and I took ‘way any doubt what could have plagued us. It’s over, chum. And, once ‘gain, what have we got?”

“Us. Colin…and our household.”

“Yes.” Punch grinned.

“Yes.” Robert nodded.

“So, why are you cryin’?”



“I’m haunted. When we were in America, no one knew me—no one except you. Well, of course, Cecil, my brother. But, I mean, no one’s opinion of me was colored by anything. Here, it’s easy to know who I am. My father—the debtor. My mother—the lunatic. It’s easily discovered. People judge you based on these things. They judge and they make decisions based on it.”

“Don’t I know it?” Punch sighed, sitting next to his companion. “Who am I?”

“The Duke of Fallbridge.” Robert shook his head.

“Rumored to be mad, I might add.” Punch winked. “And, not too far-fetched a rumor. Sure, the body is the Duke’s. And, sure, he’s in here. But, we know who I am and it ain’t no Duke. But, even were that not the case, even if I were just Julian Molliner, Duke of Fallbridge, don’t you think people’d judge me the same way. Julian’s mum—there was a witch if there ever was one. And, what became of her? Who knows? Right? We know. Sure, we know she were killed by a whore in New Orleans. But, what do folk here know? Nothin’. She went to America and never came back. Don’t you think folk talk? Do you think they believe when I say she lost her life to fever? No. They don’t. They know she were a horrible person who surely met a bad end. And, me sister. Or, Julian’s sister. Either way—same awful girl. All set to marry a baron and then she’s gone! Where’s she? Didn’t come back either? Lost to the same fever? Who believes that? Whether or not folk think she’s dead or know she’s really alive in Louisiana livin’ as a prostitute, all folk see is that the Duke came back with an ‘adopted’ son who looks an awful lot like a Fallbridge. Don’t you see? No matter what we do, folk are gonna talk, they’re gonna talk and judge and point. No matter what we do, chum, they’re gonna point. And, if for no other reason than that we’re different, you and I. We ain’t a Duke and Duchess livin’ in this fine house. We’re two men and folk know what we’re ‘bout. Nothin’ we do is gonna stop people talkin’ and judgin’. Can’t stop that, we can’t. It just can’t be done. So, we can always live in fear and let folk beat us down or we can fight. I aim to fight. But, I won’t do it alone. You gotta fight with me.”

“I will, dear Punch.”

“Promise me.”

“I promise.” Robert smiled.

“Sure, I know what I done tonight were wrong. It ain’t the first time I done somethin’ wrong and it ain’t the last I ever will. But, this time I did it for a good reason. I done it to protect you—to protect us. And, even to protect them others what live in this house. And, especially our Colin. We can’t control what anyone outside of here does, but, coo! We can make what happens at No. 65 Belgrave Square as safe and happy as possible for as long as possible!”

Robert nodded.

“Now, smile.”

Robert did as instructed—a large, relieved, genuine smile.

“You gonna fight at my side?”

“Always.” Robert stood up.

“That’s all I ask.” Punch grinned.

“I will always be at your side.”

“That’s the way to do it.” Punch whooped.

“I just hope you realize that this evening was not the end of this William Stover problem.”

“I know it.” Mr. Punch laughed. “But, it’s the end of it for the day, and that’s ‘nough for me.”

“For me, too, dear Punch. For me, too.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-49 of Mr. Punch of Belgrave Square? If so, you can read them here. Come back tomorrow for Chapter 51.

History's Runway: A Boating Suit, 1890-1900

Gentleman's Boating Suit
The Victoria & Albert Museum

Light-colored suits such as the one pictured above became fashionable for gents from the 1890s. Matching coats, trousers and waistcoats (these were known as “dittos”) in pin-striped flannel were acceptable casual dress for summer sports and holidays. An outfit like this was often completed with a straw boater hat. I would like to dress this way, I think. But, people might stare.

Cricket, tennis and rowing were very fashionable seaside pursuits during the summer. Suits like this would have been perfect for these events. Since social conventions were relaxing a tad during the end of the Nineteenth Century, a gentleman only had to sweat through these light layers instead of the usual heavy, dark wool outfit he’d previously have been forced to wear. One gentlemen's etiquette book, “Manners for Men,” by Mrs. Humphry (known as “Madge of Truth”) was published in 1897. In it, Mrs. Humprhry writes that:

'There are special suits for all kinds of outdoor amusements, such as shooting, golfing, tennis, boating, driving, riding, bicycling, fishing, hunting, &c., but into the details of these it is unnecessary to enter. It may be remarked, however, that it is easy to stultify the whole effect of these, however perfectly they may be built 'by the tailor' by the addition of a single incongruous article of attire; such as a silk hat or patent boots with a shooting-suit.'

The example that we see here was made between 1890-1900 by an unknown English tailor and consists of cream wool with blue pinstripe. It is both hand- and machine-sewn.

Object of the Day: A Trade Card for the Great China and Japan Tea Co.

Today we have a handsome Victorian trade card which boasts a peaceful chromolithograph of a scene of an attractive couple being shuttled in a boat on a calm lake. This sort of stock card with a fashionable scene would have been purchased in bulk from a catalog by a retailer who had his own information printed on the reverse.

In this instance, the card was used by The Great China and Japan Tea Company of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The reverse reads:



Opera House Building, Harrisburg, Pa. 


If you wish to taste a TEA in perfection 


It is a blend of several Teas, each one in such proportion as not to destroy the flavor of either. 



At 20 and 25 cents per pound, beat anything in the market 


Please give us a call, as we consider it not only a pleasure, but a privilege to serve you. DON’T MISS THE PLACE. 


The Great China and Japan Tea Co.