Thursday, May 29, 2008

Meet a Publicist

Danielle the publicist for sourcebooks is blogging at the Casablanca Authors blog today.

She is talking with the authors about attending the RWA conference in San Franscisco at the end of July. Drop by and say hello.

On Monday, we will be doing fashions for June!

Until then. Happy Rambles.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Regency Style - Thomas Hope 1769 - 1831

Robin watch is over. Baby flew off yesterday morning. My planter now has a plant in it.

While in England I was fortunate to be there for a very special exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. We got up early and went up to London on the train.
a great way to travel I might add. And the V & A does a lovely lunch too.

Thomas Hope pictured here in Turkish Costume helped define the Regency style. He was fascinated with classical purity. A son of a rich banker, he went on the Grand Tour and was much taken with the architecture and the arts of the Ottoman Empire.

On his return, his family having moved to London to escape the French, he set out to improve modern design. He opened his house in Duchess Street, off Portland Place, with a view transforming modern British taste. Very kind of him, I'm sure, being a Dutchman! The Prince of Wales attended the opening. Hope then issued tickets to the house in 1804 to members of the Royal Academy and other notables in society, artists, scholars and designers.

The styles he employed included Egyptian Greek, Roman and Indian as well as a version of French Empire. It really is quite a mismash and is all rather heavy looking, but fascinating.

The house was divided into rooms, to display furniture, sculptures and vases. this is one of the vase rooms, a popular addition to many homes in the era. The Egyptian Room displayed Hope's belief that the ancient Egyptians were the origin of western culture. The walls were of pale yellow and bluish green relieved by masses of black and gold. There is heavy black and gold settee with arms carved with sphinx for example.

The Aurora Room contained a statue of the Aurora, Goddes of Dawn surrounded by mirrors and scarlet curtains, so the statue could be viewed from all sides at once. it is really quite lovely.

He created his own designs in a book called Household Furniture and Interior Decoration in 1807 and provided measurements to help furniture makers make their own copies. This is the first time the words "interior decoration" were used. Sounds far more moderns that that, wouldn't you say. Some of the furniture is almost art deco in appearance.

Much of his furniture from this period can be found at Deepdene, the country estate he bought in Dorking in Surrey. The exhibition shows how this originally red brick Georgian mansion was adapted to blend into its irregular landscape.

If you get a chance to visit, I am sure you will be delighted with this exhibition. I am definitely going to try to visit Deepdene when I am next in England. And I have ordered Hope's book, so I am sure I will be sharing some more of it with you.

I leave you with a picture of his wife, wearing what Hope saw as the quintessential attire for woman, it is of course the Regency gown.

Until next time, happy rambles.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sherborne Castle, Dorset Part II

Terradactyl is doing well, growing by the day, and now has feathers -- just in case you wanted to know. lol

Shorborne castle was modernized starting in 1757, so it really very Georgian. George III visited the house with the Queen and three of the Princesses in August 1789, pending the day riding in the park and staying for dinner. The house remained unchanged.

I spent quite a long time looking at the furniture in this house, since so much of it was contemporary to the Regency.
We often read about the commode, this is a George III version made of tulip and rosewood and was one of a pair. They are in the serpentine shape that was very popular through this period. They are attributed to Pierre Langlois. These chests were drawing room furniture, and would hold candelabra while the drawers might contain a writing slide or a reading stand.

Another interesting piece of furniture was an adjustible gout stool similar to that pictured here.

The hall chairs, similar to these, looked very uncomfortable and no doubt the footman waiting outside the door was unlikely to fall asleep, even if he was permitted to sit down.

The house also boasts a set of Henry Alken prints showing what is purported to be the first steeple chase on record. that is a race from one church stteple to the other. These were officers, and note they are in their night clothes, and they are racing from Ipswich Barracks to Nacturn Village. Hilarious.

One thing I did want to describe to you was the clothes press, made of mahogany from the Regency period which was a little different to most I have seen, it had a cupboard in the middle and drawers on each side. And by the way did you know that the word cupboard stems back to the middle ages when a lord would put his cups out on a board between two trestles to show his wealth? Eventually the board was closed in with doors, but it retains its original word. You probably did know that, but I only discovered it recently.

Well that is it for today. Sherborne Castle which is not really a castle is simply a treasure trove of wonderful things. If you ever get a chance to visit. I highly recommend it.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Today is Victoria Day. Yes, each year Canada celebrates Queen Victoria's birthday with a long week end and fireworks. We also have Canada Day for fireworks, and if I had my way we would have Guy Fawkes day as well!

Our baby bird is doing well, he/she is called Terradactyl, because that is what he/she looks like. The other eggs have not hatched, but at least one baby has survived so far. We are still using our back door and creeping around, but the mother bird is quite used to us, and spends quite a bit of time searching for food. We are thinking there is no daddy bird, but it is really hard to tell, because they look alike.

Big news, I have a cover for my next book. Always exciting and of course you will be hearing lots about it over the coming months as we move to release day.

We will continue our roam around Sherborne Castle on Thursday. Until then Happy Rambles.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sherbourne Castle, Dorset

Robin update.
It looks as if we will only have one baby. The rest of the eggs are still sitting in the nest while our Mothers Day baby grows apace. He has a few straggly feathers and
we can still see right through his skin, but he is getting big. I have a feeling we only have a mommy bird, and not a pair. But we will see. I am going to try to sneak a picture next time she leaves the nest.

I apologize for being late today, but my internet was down first thing this morning and thus I got engrossed in my next project--yes the book after The Lady Flees Her Lord is already going full steam ahead, and by the time I looked up, here we were, nearly midnight and I had wanted to tell you all about our next stop after Kent.

We went to Dorset, Thomas Hardy country, and also once the home of Sir Walter Raleigh.

This house deserved more time than the afternoon we spent there, first because it has been in the Digby family since poor old Raleigh lost his head and secondly it has furniture from all down the ages.
So I am going to talk about some of it now, and again after my next visit, next year.The town of Sherborne itself is another place on my list
I know, already planning to go again, but there is just so much to see.

While it is called a castle, it is a manor house, originally a hunting lodge. In this second picture, you can see the face of the original lodge across the courtyard and one of the wings which was added later. but added in keeping with the original building, so it is hard to tell it is an addition.

Because we are focussing on the Regency, I am not going to get into much detail about poor old Sir Walter, who was beloved of Elizabeth the first - she gave him this lodge -- and charged with treason by King James I. He was int the Tower from 1603 to 1618 when he was beheaded and he forfeited his house to the crown, who then sold it to the family who owns it now.

Breathtaking history.

This house was a deer park, and still has deer in the park.

This is a view of the park, taken by me. As you can see, the weather while cool has improved dramatically from our snowy Easter weekend. Imagine having a view like that from your bedroom window.

I am going to stop here, because we will get to the Regency part of the house next day.

Until then, Happy Rambles.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Searching for Regency England IV

I am excited and nervous. My robin hatched a chick sometime overnight - didn't quite make Mothers Day. I do hope you all had a wonderful day. We spent the day at home, very much a family time. Now we are once more trying to think of ways not to use the front door.

Otford is another of those English villages in Kent that reminds us how rural England was in the Regency. Otford is a Kent village on the river Darent two miles north of Sevenoaks and twenty-five miles south east of London. The Pilgrim's Way passes through the village and its centre is the spring-filled duck pond. The pond is in fact in the middle of a modern day roundabout, when I am sure originally it would have been the village green.

One of the buildings facing the pond is chantry cottage dating back to 1150. Pilgrim's Way by the way is the historic route supposed to have been taken by pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire, England, to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury in Kent.

Another feature of English villages in Kent around Sevenoaks is the oast house. They are farm buildings used for drying hops in preparation for the brewing process. They consist of two or three storeys on which the hops were spread out to be dried by hot air from a wood or charcoal-fired kiln at the bottom. The drying floors were thin and perforated to permit the heat to pass through and it escaped through a cowl in the roof which turned with the wind. The freshly picked hops from the fields were raked in to dry and then raked out to cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery.

The earliest surviving oast house is that at Cranbrook near Tunbridge Wells which dates to 1750 but the process is documented from soon after the introduction of hops into England in the early 16th century. Early oast houses were simply adapted barns but, by the early 19th century, the distinctive circular buildings with conical roofs had been developed in response to the increased demand for beer. So very much a Regency era building for a very popular form of entertainment. Beer Drinking.

Hop picking by hand is a most labour intensive business and once the acreage began to grow it was necessary to bring in pickers from outside the immediate area. Oh, and while the hops were grown in fields they were called hop gardens.

The migration of town to country to pick hops continued for more than two and a half centuries – it is first mentioned in an Act of 1710. Ellis in his Modern Husbandman 1750 refers to a Kent grower who was providing a small hut or shed for his pickers furnishing it with wheat straw for bedding, and a cask of small beer ‘so that they may not lose time in a quest for drink’. Each morning he gave each picker a quartern (1/6 of a pint) of gin which he thought to be a preservative against the Kentish Ague that generally has the greatest power to seize those who live the poorest. Another Mr Ellis, a grower from Barming, the largest grower in Kent in the 1830s, employed between 3,000 and 4,000 pickers each year. Kentish Ague was in fact Cholera. Gypsies, who were migrant workers, also picked hops during Regency times.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Searching for Regency England III

We arrived in England just before Easter, and on Easter Sunday we went for a drive. I actually went to take photographs of primroses, but they were covered in snow. Still, it was a lovely day to drive around and the roads were quiet. We took the biways along the Dart valley.

You never know what you are gong to discover in England. In Kemsing, a small village, we sighted this house. It is called St Clere and from 1630, modernized in 1700. Much of the garden layout seems to date from early 18th century and features include: orangery, terraces, exotic plants, and a 19th Century kitchen garden. Sir John Sedley, who owned it during Cromwell's time was known at the time as ‘the hottest Parliamentarian in the county’.

This house then looks exactly as it did in the Regency. It is currently a working farm. One can walk on the estate on a prescribed route and if the weather is better next time I go, I certainly plan to do so. However, had we passed by when the trees were in leaf, we would not have seen it. And of course I had to spend quite a long time looking for information on it. This house is definitely going to end up in a story, along with the village.

The village of Kemsing also proved to be interesting. It was the birthplace in AD 961 of Saint Edith of Wilton; and one of the focal points of the village is St. Edith's Well. People used to come to this well for eye problems. The village church, which I picture here, Saxon in origin. I will make sure I visit it next time I am there.

Kemsing is another of those English villages that one cannot resist.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Regency Fashion for May

Fashion is one of my favorite part of this blog and with Spring well underway, we can
start to see the lighter fabrics. This is an evening gown from May 1811. It is so very classical, one could almost see a Roman lady wearing it. The white wrap gown with the gold scroll, or leaf edging is exceedingly simple in style. The cloak is draped from one shoulder and wraps around also. The turban is also typical of this time period. The square neckline would be exceeding difficult to wear I should think, but I do very much like her necklace. I also like the way her hair is curled to frame her face, softening the turban. The train is very long, and if she wanted to dance, she would need to pick it up. I can see this one going to the opera or the theatre.

I could not resist showing this next one with is from May 1812 from the Ladies Monthly Museum.

A real Andalusian dress, formed of a bodice of pink or rose coloured velvet with a puff sleeve of white satin; the rest of the dress being of the same materials and edged at the bottom a la Vandyke, and ornamented with tab fringe; the bodice is terminated in a jacket behind and edged with the same fringe as the dress; the stomacher crossed with white lacing, in braid, fastened at each lacing with a diamond or paste button; ridicule of rose or pink coloured velvet; white gloves and shoes of white with the quarters the colour of the bodice; ear-rings of plain pearl. The Sevigne curl is the most prominent fashion for the head dress.
While this is labelled as an afternoon dress it is described as an evening dress. I think it would do well for either.

In the same article, the Ladies Monthly Museum tells us quite strictly I might add:
"The ridicule is no longer worn except at the evening party; and the demi-botte, with gold fringe, is nearly exploded, from its inconvenience; it catches at the dress and causes the leg to be shown in an indecorous and inelegant manner." This last I believe refers to half-boots.

Well that was fun. More fashion next month, in the meantime we will continue on with some of my discoveries, earlier this spring.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.