Friday, 27 March 2015

A Gallery of Vien

Joseph-Marie Vien (Montpellier, France, 18th June 1716 – Paris, France, 27th March 1809)

Joseph-Marie Vien was a painter of some renown. The last person to be named Peintre du Roi, whilst the Revolution may have ended this particular office, it did little to blemish Vien's record even though it did much to damage his finances! 

After training in Italy and winning a stable of illustrious patrons, Vien returned to France and acclaim, welcomed to the Bourbon court where he enjoyed enormous favour. Indeed, though the Revolution cut something of a dash through his achievements, the patronage of a certain gentleman named Napoleon saw him restored to prominence and, at his death, he was laid to rest in the Panthéon, his place in history assured.

Sultane Reine, 1748
Sultane Reine, 1748

L'Amour fuyant l'esclavage, 1789
L'Amour fuyant l'esclavage, 1789

The Oath of Catiline
The Oath of Catiline

Sweet Melancholy, 1756
Sweet Melancholy, 1756

Study of the Head of an Old Bearded Man
Study of the Head of an Old Bearded Man

La Sultan Noi, 1748
La Sultan Noir, 1748

Saint Louis, roi de France, remettant la regence a sa mere Blanche de Castille
Saint Louis, roi de France, remettant la regence a sa mere Blanche de Castille

Thursday, 26 March 2015

"Pity, Pity - Too Late!": The Death of Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (Bonn, Electorate of Cologne, 17th December 1770 – Vienna, Austria, 26th March 1827)

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820
Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820

On this day in 1827, Ludwig van Beethoven died. A musical legend, his name and compositions are feted throughout the world and used across a variety of media. Even if you don't think you know any of Beethoven's work, the chances are that you definitely do. By the time Beethoven died he had lived a life of great triumph and tragedy and even his death was not without some drama!

In the final years of his life, Beethoven’s health had been somewhat precarious and for the three months preceding his death, he had been overcome with vomiting and diarrhoea that caused him to take to his bed. Although he had experienced such episodes before, it soon became apparent to the composer’s friends that this time he would not recover. The efforts of doctors including Andreas Wawruch to relieve his suffering proved fruitless and those who cared for the composer were instructed to visit and pay their last respects, as time was growing short. Still lucid, though weak, the last words spoken by Beethoven were "pity, pity - too late!", when the ailing composer was told that a gift of wine he had been expecting had finally arrived.

Beethoven received the last rites on 24th March, just two days before he lost consciousness. Throughout his final days he was attended by his friend, the composer Anselm Hüttenbrenner, and he recorded his memories of those fateful hours, when a violent thunderstorm raged overhead. In the moments before his death, a thunderclap sounded directly over his Vienna home and Beethoven, for a moment, regained his senses.  He lifted his head and stretched out his arm for a second before the breath deserted him and, sinking back onto the bed, the great composer died.

Beethoven's death mask by Josef Danhauser
Beethoven's death mask by Josef Danhauser
Beethoven had been so distressed by his own illness that he requested that an autopsy be performed and this procedure took place on 27th March. Under the direction of Doctor Johann Wagner, it was revealed that the composer’s liver had suffered severe damage and showed signs of advanced cirrhosis. High levels of metal and lead were found in his blood, presumably having been consumed whilst drinking contaminated alcohol and throughout his organs there were signs of advanced and serious illness. Whether the cirrhosis was a result of alcoholism or other illness has never been adequately proven and explanations including hepatitis and syphilis have been put forward over the years.

Beethoven was laid to rest in the Währing cemetery on 29th March amid scenes of intense public mourning; though the composer was dead, however, his music lived on and continues to sound to this very day.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Necessity of Atheism

I always like a little literary controversy to start the day and if it features one Percy Bysshe Shelley, then all the better! Shelley was not a man who shied away from causing shock and, as a nineteen year old student of University College, Oxford, he made something of publishing splash!

The Necessity of Atheism

On this day in 1811, Shelley was expelled from Oxford. One might be forgiven for thinking that the cause might be something typically undergraduate, such as a prank gone awry or a little light misconduct but in fact, it was something far more scholarly than that.

In 1811, C and W Phillips printed Shelley’s work, The Necessity of Atheism. This treatise on atheism put forth a simple enough argument and that is, that one cannot believe in God without first-hand experience of that God or the irrefutable first hand statements of others. He argued that one should not believe in God simply because one is told that a creator must exist to have facilitated creation. At the time of the work’s publication, this was a hugely shocking statement for anyone to put forward in print. The work was published anonymously but Shelley and his co-author, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, were soon identified as the authors.

When copies of The Necessity of Atheism found their ways to the university authorities, it was greeted with shock. Soon rumour spread that the authors were Hogg and Shelley and when both refused to deny authorship, the outcry was enormous. Both Shelley and Hogg were expelled from Oxford as the book gained in notoriety and popularity, eventually being reprinted two years after its original publication; it remains in print to this day.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A Salon Guest: Tracy Edingfield on Inspiration

Today it's my pleasure to welcome Tracy Edingfield, author of His Sunshine Girl. As a divorce attorney, Tracy is uniquely placed to share her thoughts on happy ever after!


Thank you for inviting me to the salon to discuss the inspiration behind His Sunshine Girl!

The main reason I chose to write this particular story is that I am drawn to the Regency period. I like the rules of etiquette, the whole idea of “if you kiss her, you have to marry her” that means the stakes are that much higher. Reading about the dresses, the horses, the carriages, the tenants are thrilling for me, although I certainly am glad to live in modern times. 

As a divorce attorney, I think I’m also drawn to the beginning of the romance after having seen so many endings. I like the idea of ‘Happily Ever After’ in stories and in life. Happiness in marriage owes a great deal to chance, but it also takes a concentrated, joint effort. I know I failed to appreciate this when I fell in love and married. 

When I read a love story, I scour the pages for clues from the author regarding  the secrets of how this particular couple will stay married. I’m interested in how they communicate with one another and whether they sufficiently appreciate their partner’s unique qualities. If these components are met, then by the time I’ve finished the novel, I can believe that the characters’ love story is an enduring success and what’s not to like about that?

About the Author
Raised in Wichita, Kansas, Tracy graduated with honors from the University of Kansas and the School of Law from K.U. She practiced criminal defense, probate and family law and currently resides with her husband and two children in Valley Center, Kansas.

About the Book
His Sunshine Girl is the story of Anthony Courtenay, Lord Devon, returning to England after a five-year banishment. During the voyage home, he encounters Reverend Spencer, his delectable daughter, Chastity, and his shrewish niece, Mary Fellingham. Chastity is too innocent for a shipboard romance and too low-born for the earl to consider marrying, but neither of those facts deter Anthony from desiring her.

His Sunshine Girl, is available for $1.99 at or

Written content of this post copyright © Tracy Edingfield, 2015.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Musical Monday: Johannes Matthias Sperger

Johannes Matthias Sperger (Feldsberg, Lower Austria, 23rd March 1750 – Schwerin, Germany, 13th May 1812)

Today is our semi-regular Monday appointment with a composer of the long eighteenth century and Johannes Matthias Sperger is a gentleman I have only encountered in the last six months.

In his long career, Sperger proved himself to be a highly prolific composer who wrote concertos, choral pieces, symphonies and more. He enjoyed a highly successful career in Europe and it is my pleasure to share his work with you today.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at the week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

The Amazing Kembles

Salon guest, William Savage, looks at a theatrical dynasty!

Richard Bridgens, the Grand Tour, and Expanding Understanding
Caroline Warfield lifts the lid on the wonders of the grand tour!

A Musical Interlude: Francesco Gasparini
A chance to hear some fabulous Georgian music.

A Gallery of Largillière
In honour of a great artist.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Best of the Georgian Web

It's time to take a peek at the best of the Georgian web this week; settle back and have a browse!

The story of Louis Bazalgette, tailor to George, Prince of Bling.

What became of MacHeath's Jenny?

A cautionary tale...

Tales of the Bonaparte family.

Creating the ideal posture in 18th-century Britain.

The tale of Mary Ann Stanley and Edward Trant Bontein.

The historic dockyard at Chatham reveals all...