Friday, 6 March 2015

A Life in Miniature: Anna Claypoole Peale

Anna Claypoole Peale (Philadelphia, America, 6th March 1791 - Philadelphia, America, 25th December 1878)

Anna Claypoole Peale, by James Peale, c. 1805
By James Peale, 1805 
Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Anna Claypoole Peale, one of a tiny number of 19th century women who were professional painters. She is not as famous as her male counterparts yet in her day, this celebrated lady was in high demand in north America thanks to her unerring skill for miniature work.

Anna was the daughter of artist, James Peale, and his wife, Mary Chambers Claypoole Peale. It is, perhaps, unsurprising that Anna made her name in the world of miniature painting since this was the field in which her father, James Peale, had enjoyed his most resounding success and it was he who taught the young lady and her sisters the skills for which Anna would become famous. She could claim another artist in the family too, as niece of Charles Willson Peale, who enjoyed great success for his portraits.

Anna’s first sales came at the age of fourteen and by the time she travelled to Washington in 1818, she was accepting commissions. Whilst in Washington, she produced miniatures of a number of politicians and found herself in high demand, becoming an academician of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1824. In fact, she and her sister, Sarah, were the first female academicians  of that illustrious institution!

Five years later Anna married but was, sadly, widowed within just three months. She returned to painting and continued her career until her second marriage in 1841, when she permanently retired from the world of professional art. Although she continued to paint as a hobby, she was forced to abandon miniature work by failing eyesight and for the rest of her days, worked at an easel.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Salon Guests: The Bluestocking Belles

Today I welcome the Bluestocking Belles, here to share news of an exciting new writing initiative (in which you might meet a couple of my very own leading men and a nightmarish Dowager Viscountess!) and their charity drive!

Storytellers create fun out of chaos

Have you ever wondered what would happen if characters from one fictional Regency world could wander into another? If Georgette Heyer’s Lady Sherringham had benefitted from the support and wisdom of Stephanie Lauren’s extended family of Cynster matriarchs? If Grace Burrowes’ Duke of Mercia had been able to spend time with Mary Balogh’s Survivor’s Club? Or if the rakes and rogues of countless stories stopped to exchange a flirtatious word with the protected sisters and daughters of others?

There’s lots of room at the inn

Such an interactive collision of fictional worlds is currently happening at the Bluestocking Belles’ pre-housewarming party (until March 12). We can’t promise such illustrious guests (though one of us is swoony-eyed at the rumor that the Duke of Roxton may drop by). However, an assortment of characters from the books of the Bluestocking Belles have gathered at an inn (with guests and their characters) to flirt, fight, chat, and behave according to their various natures.

It started in a small way, when a couple of us turned up at a Facebook party escorted by our characters, and they began to chat with one another and the guests. When we realized we were in danger of turning into that cheerful drunk who dominates the whole affair and stops the hostess from running her own party, we took the chat onto the page we’d set up for our own Housewarming Party, and the Bluestocking Belles’ fictional-world- and time-spanning, infinitely expandable inn was born.

Meet the Bluestocking Belles

Backing up yet another step, let me introduce you to the Bluestocking Belles. We are a group of authors who write books set in or around the Regency. By getting to know us, readers can ‘taste’ the writing of eight very different authors, and decide whether they want more. We’ll be posting blogs, running a book club chat, hosting Facebook events, and publishing boxed sets of our work. And we hope to improve the universe a little on the way; we’ve agreed that income we earn jointly will go to the Malala Fund, a non-profit associated with Malala Yousafzai, the young girl—now Nobel Peace Prize winner—assaulted by extremists because she claimed her right to an education.

Relax and have fun

Back at the inn, what started as a way to while away a pleasant evening has become an exercise in interactive story building, and our guests are warned to be careful about reading our threads at work if they don’t want to explain why they’re laughing.

Mariana Gabrielle’s Duke and Duchess of Wellbridge (from Royal Regard) are hosting the party, having taken over the inn for the purpose. His Grace hopes his budget expands as rapidly as the inn’s guest list and its walls. He also hopes (somewhat forlornly) that his niece, Lady Anne, will make it through the party with her virtue intact.

Wellbridge specifically invited his old friend Aldridge, Jude Knight’s dissolute rake. We’re not sure whether Wellbridge wants to recover his lost youth, or simply avenge himself on Aldridge for the incident that saw the two of them banned from an entire town when they were young rakes racketing around England.

Caroline Warfield’s Glenaire has arrived at the party with Jamie Ross (both from Dangerous Works). Glenaire is working with Jude Knight’s thief taker, David Wakefield (from the upcoming Farewell to Kindness), to work out whether new guests Arnaut de Montailhac and Louise Fauriel are foreign spies. Jamie divides his time between drinking, flirting, and finding cats to distract Lady Anne from her husband hunt.

Sherry Ewing’s medieval knight, Sir Dristan, and his lady, Amira (from If My Heart Could See You), are at the inn, which sits outside of time and can be entered from any era. They have spent some time closeted with their descendants, while Sherry’s Margaret Templeton was defending her innocence from Aldridge.

Nicole Zoltack’s Lady Vanessa, daughter of the Duke of Honcaster (from Love Before Honor), is playing the pianoforte for the delight of ladies from a dozen novels. The Duchess of Wellbridge having expressed the desire to dance, His Grace added a ballroom to the inn forthwith.

Lady Beauchamp, Amy Rose Bennett’s heroine (from Lady Beauchamp’s Proposal), is fleeing from her evil husband in the guise of a widow, and has sought refuge in the inn on her way north to work as a governess. The Duke of Wellbridge has ordered that she be left alone, but Her Grace may not be able to keep herself to herself when faced with a lady in distress.
Meanwhile, Amy Rose Bennett’s Lady Bianca has flirted with a handsome dragoon major penned by Jude Knight and kissed an itinerant artist introduced by one of our guests. Much to her dismay, her erstwhile paramour has been stolen by Mariana Gabrielle’s Lady Anne, who is determined to discover whether kisses are as delightful as they sound.

Susana Ellis has brought her heroine, Lucy Barlow (from A Twelfth Night Tale), and Glenaire’s attentions threaten to derail the young lady’s expected romance with a retired and maimed Peninsular veteran, let alone her engagement to a respectable middle-aged gentleman.

Anne Townsend, Eileen Richards’ heroine, has arrived at the inn under the influence of a wish. Her earnest suitor, Mr. Nathaniel Matthews (both from the upcoming An Unexpected Wish), is concerned she will be tempted by the number of eligible men in the inn.

Please join us

These are just a few of the characters running amok at the inn. With several from each Belle, and characters, dialogue, and storylines from many of our guests (most likely including some of your favorites—Madame Gilflurt included), who knows what could happen?

The party is running until March 12, with a “Bluestocking Ball” planned for March 14, from noon to 8 pm EDT, on Facebook, Twitter (#BellesInBlue), and in our own chatroom (open on the day of the Ball).

Almost anyone could turn up, and when it’s over, we may find ourselves with the world’s first crowd-sourced, post-modern, extempore Regency novel, all to benefit bluestockings everywhere through the Malala Fund. 

Written content of this post copyright © Mari Christie, 2015.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

A Salon Guest: The King’s Palaces

It is an honour to welcome Laura Purcell to the salon today. Laura, author of the marvellous Queen of Bedlam, is here to share the tale of George III's palaces.


When we think of the British royal family, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle immediately spring to mind. But it’s interesting to discover both these iconic residences owe much of their modern prominence to a relatively recent king: George III.

George III came to the throne in 1760, determined to live in a different style from his forebears. He disliked the formal, stately palaces of Kensington and Hampton Court, which he associated with his hated grandfather. While he was happy to perform ceremonial duties in St. James’s Palace, he wanted a peaceful home for his wife and children. To this end he purchased a modest red brick house from the Duke of Buckingham, informing his Prime Minister it was “not meant for a palace, but a retreat”.

Naturally, Buckingham House required some remodelling to become “Queen’s House” – the name it went by during George III’s reign. But rather than vamping it up, George actually had the house toned down. Grand iron screens were replaced by simple railing, while the elaborate formal gardens were simplified.

This was in keeping with George’s modest tastes. His apartments, on the ground floor were sparsely decorated by royal standards, painted green-grey “without the smallest affectation, ostentation or meanness.” The grandest rooms were the King’s great libraries; the two storey octagon library that could only be entered through his bedchamber and the west library, connected directly to the weather-vane so the King could see how his fleet fared at sea.

However, George and his young wife Charlotte were not adverse to a little splendour. The Queen’s rooms, on the next floor, were a show case for her collections of watches and curiosities. Mrs Powys notes the queen had “the most capital pictures, the finest Dresden…besides the gilt plate, innumerable nick-nacks”.It seems that then, as today, decorative touches and fashionable décor were considered part of the women’s realm. We can glimpse red damask walls and marble chimney pieces in paintings of Charlotte with her young children, as well as black and gold “japanned” panels in her breakfast room. Antique roman ceilings and crystal chandeliers blocked out the next storey, which held the nursery and the servants. Rather usefully, the upper storey had “floors so contrived as to prevent all noise” from disturbing the queen.

Although George and Charlotte succeeded in making Queen’s House a family home, where the majority of their children were born, it didn’t fulfill their need to improve and develop. Windsor Castle was another project taken up by the royal couple. Long disused, the castle itself was unfit for habitation, so they bought up two lodges nearby, one of which used to belong to Queen Anne, the other to Charles II’s mistress Nell Gwynn. Vast extensions were made to accommodate George and Charlotte’s swelling family, giving the buildings the look of a barracks. Nonetheless, only the finest decorations were to be found inside; paper hangings, carved gilt frames, curtains of white dimity with cotton fringes, Portland stone staircases and chairs knotted with floss silk.

Once more, Windsor became a focal point of royal life, as it was in the Stuart days. George liked the country life at Windsor, building his own mill and miniature farm. I get the feeling that Charlotte was less keen, staying indoors with a migraine while her husband took the children on long, muddy, “barbaric” walks about the countryside.

Between 1781 and 1804 renovation work took place at the castle. While apartments remained unfinished, courtiers often urged one another to bring warm cloaks for the drafty corridors and thick boots for the gravel of the terrace. Even when building was complete, the rooms remained cold. Charlotte complained of needing to huddle up with her daughters in furs beside the fire. She was not allowed carpets as the King said they harboured dust. I imagine she would have rather stayed in her lodge, but alas it was demolished. Luckily for Charlotte, she was able to buy Frogmore House as her little retreat within the grounds of Windsor, and decorate it more to her own taste.

Charlotte and George’s son, George IV, remodelled Queen’s House into Buckingham Palace and restored Windsor Castle to a state of pure opulence, making them the grand houses we know today. However, amongst these success stories for the family there is one poignant project that was never finished: George III’s “Castellated Palace” at Kew. A gothic wonder of turrets, the Castellated Palace was conceived in one of George’s many bouts of illness. He was to make “Ludlow Castle, improved”, a fortress in stone. But with an eccentric, sick king, an architect with “a certain lack of diligence” and a shortage of workmen, the plan was doomed to failure. Running up bills of £100,000 – over twice its original estimate- the Castellated Palace was finally abandoned when George became incurable in 1810. The shell remained, “an image of distempered reason”, until George IV demolished it in the late 1820s, using the building materials for other projects.

About the Author

Laura Purcell is a writer, history fan and guinea pig lover living in Colchester. She is writing a series of novels about the women who loved (and hated!) the Hanoverian monarchs. 

Visit Laura's website, connect with her on Facebook and gad over to say hello on Twitter. Better yet, do treat yourself to her marvellous novel, Queen of Bedlam!

Written content of this post copyright © Laura Purcell, 2015.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tuneful Tuesday: Niccolò Porpora

Niccolò Porpora (Niccolò Antonio Porpora; Naples, Italy, 17th August 1686 – Naples, Italy, 3rd March 1768)

Composer Niccolò Porpora died on this day; to read the story of his remarkable life, click here; otherwise, enjoy a wonderful musical interlude courtesy of this most talented Italian gent!

This is a very long extract but is really a collection of fine pieces, so you can dip in and out...

Monday, 2 March 2015

The Salon Digest

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

A look at the life and works of my favourite artist!

Georgian meets Eurovision in this tuneful tale.

Sheila Dalton visits the salon!

Monica Hall joins us for another tale.

A Salon Guest: The Middle Class in Regency England
Georgie Lee returns to the salon!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Salon Guest: The Middle Class in Regency England

It is my pleasure to welcome Georgie Lee back to the salon, on the matter of class!


The Middle Class in Regency England

The plot of my latest novel, A Debt Paid in Marriage, involves the daily lives of the middle class of London. The middle class consisted of prosperous tradesmen, merchants, bankers, solicitors, shop owners and anyone else who wasn’t among the laboring classes, the poor or the aristocracy. It wasn’t easy doing research, or uncovering the details of their everyday lives. The public’s fascination with the rich and titled, which hasn’t changed much in the two hundred years since the Regency, meant the scandals and habits of the ton were well documented in letters, newspaper articles, diaries and biographies. The newspapers weren’t as interested in the lives of drapers, unless there was something scandalous going on, which wasn’t usually the case. Teasing out the details of how the merchants of London spent their days was difficult but fun.

In many ways, the habits of the upper echelons of the middle class mimicked those of the wealthy. They had nice houses, they sent their sons to school, owned fancy coaches, and employed servants including footmen, cooks and a butler. It wasn’t just the manners of the upper class they mimicked but their vices too. Prosperous merchants were known to frequent the gambling house of George Smith, George Po and Co in St. James’ Street. Here they could spend their hard earned money and risk landing themselves in debtor’s prison. In a time when ruin could mean a severe drop in the quality of life, or death by jail fever, and without the great manor houses, land and titles to prop up their fortunes, gambling was a risky habit for a merchant to acquire. Another expensive pastime was keeping a mistress, which men of the upper middle class, and sometimes even a solicitor’s apprentice, sometimes did.

While the above pastimes were enjoyed by those of the middle class who possessed a great deal of money, the more middling sort lived much simpler lives. They worked for a living and had to concern themselves with matters of business if they wanted to remain in the middle class and not slip into poverty. Women played a much larger role in the merchant class, helping their husbands at the counters of shops and often running the business in the event of his death. The famous wine merchant Berry Bros. and Rudd was not only founded by a woman, but her daughter, Elizabeth Pickering, ran the business after her husband’s death. Men who owned and ran inns expected their wives and daughters to help, as the famed country beauty Mary Butterworth in the North of England did before she fell prey to the charms of a bigamist.

A merchant’s life could be an arduous one. Those in trade often began their careers at a young age, somewhere between eleven and fourteen, through an apprenticeship which could last up to seven years. This wasn’t an idyllic time, but one of hard work and toil where they not only learned the business but did most of the menial dirty work. The tradesmen who took in apprentices had to look after them and provide room and board. These duties were on top of their numerous other responsibilities and worries, and they had a lot to worry about. Clients often failed to pay their bills, thieves were a constant problem and bankruptcy an ever present threat. Even if all went well where bills and shoplifters were concerned, the merchant’s day was a long one. Shops often opened early and might remain open until nearly ten o’clock at night. It wasn’t an easy life, but it offered more prosperity than those in previous generations had known. Industrious people in the middle class could do well for themselves and their families, provide opportunities for women, and if they made enough money, allow them to live like the other half.

A Debt Paid in Marriage by Georgie Lee

Available from Harlequin Historical March 1, 2015

Laura Townsend's plan to reclaim her family's merchandise backfires when she creeps into moneylender Philip Rathbone's house and threatens him with a pistol, only to find him reclining naked in his bath! 

The last thing she expects is to see this guarded widower on her doorstep a couple of days later armed with a very surprising proposal. A marriage of convenience may be Laura's chance to reclaim her future, but she won't settle for anything less than true passion. Can she hope to find it in Philip's arms? 

Buy Links

About the Author
A lifelong history buff, award winning author Georgie Lee hasn’t given up hope that she will one day inherit a title and a manor house. Until then, she fulfills her dreams of lords, ladies and a season in London through her stories. When not writing, she can be found reading non-fiction history or watching any movie with a costume and an accent. Please visit to learn more about Georgie and her books.

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 Written content of this post copyright © Georgie Lee, 2015.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A Georgian Digest

It's that time again, so settle back and enjoy the best of the Georgian web this week!

When Haydn Met Herschel
A tale of a remarkable meeting.

Not Just Waterloo
Six great defeats for Napoleon.

Early Maps of London
A great resource if, like me, you are a map-lover!

The Dawn of the Regency
A potted history!

Shoes for a Gentleman
A closer look at some gorgeous shoes...

Why People Rioted, 1816
Some civil unrest, Regency style.

The Chapel of the Tolpuddle Martyrs
News on a new Trust dedicated to the preservation of the chapel.