Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Happy New Year!

Today the salon closes as my rakish colonial gent and I go off for a gad about to see in the new year, so I will leave you with my post about the New Year's Eve signing of a 9,000 year lease for a gentleman named Guinness!

The doors will reopen once more on 2nd January 2015; I do hope you will have a wonderful new year, however you spend it, and a prosperous and happy 2015!

An Elegant Party in the Park by Frans Breydel
An Elegant Party in the Park by Frans Breydel

Monday, 29 December 2014

Dining Al Fresco, Georgian Style

It is a little chilly for picnics at the moment and if it were, no doubt my colonial gentleman and I  would pack our hamper and trot off to some far flung part of the countryside to enjoy the fresh air and some good food. Our hamper is a rather nice on but it is nothing compared to this fabulous travelling canteen that has caught my eye today, just a few months after we cast our eye over Bonnie Prince Charlie's very own canteen.

1779 canteen

Samuel Bardet was born in Switzerland in 1719. He became a silversmith of some renown and created pieces for the gentry, who would pay handsomely own his work. From his base in Augsburg, Germany, Bardet built an illustrious client base and one of his creations is this remarkably beautiful travelling set, which is perfectly Georgian.

The hallmark of this set suggests it was completed in 1779 and it contains a variety of items to ensure that the well-tooled traveller might have all they need to dine in style. There are utensils for carving and serving, eating and drinking and even tiny holders for spice, all beautifully protected in a custom-fit travelling case. The occasion on which this might have been used is suggested by the engraving of a male and female hunter on the glassware and no doubt the hunters who carried it were a fine pair indeed!

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Salon Digest

Once again, it's time for the salon week in review. Settle with a cup of tea, a slice of something nice and gad back through the week just gone. Christmas has seen us enjoying a smaller number of posts but I hope you will find my new feature, The Best of the Georgian Web, entertaining!

The Brontë Sisters
On Monday I welcomed Chrissy Boulton to the salon, with her take on the Brontës, theatre and what writing means to her.

Marie Antoinette's Prayer Book
A poignant artefact of the late queen was our conversation-starting focus on Tuesday.

Merry Christmas!
On Christmas Eve, the salon closed for the festivities, with a rather fetching painting!

The Best of the Georgian Web
Last but not least, Saturday found the first entry in my new series, showcasing the best of the 18th century web.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Best of the Georgian Web

Today I am really pleased to announce a brand new feature here at the Guide. As I gad about the web, I have been fortunate enough to find a host of wonderful long 18th century tweeters, bloggers and writers. Although I try to share as many of these as I can, I thought a more formal effort might be an idea.

Each Saturday from now on, unless I have a guest blogger at the salon, I will be publishing a digest of my favourite posts from around the long 18th century web. I am also working on my blogroll so if you have any recommendations, please do get in touch!

I hope you will discover some wonderful new stories and sites to enjoy; the festivities have kept me away from the web, so the first selection is short but hopefully sweet!

Chimes at Midnight
A ghostly tale from the Royal Society.

A Regency Christmas
What did it take to enjoy a true Regency Christmas?

Remade Brocade: From Wedding Dress to Wedding Shoes
How a wedding gown found a new life as wedding shoes!

Who was the man in the Duke and Duchess of Angoulême?
A look at an eventful life and a noble marriage by Shannon Selin.

Old Q
The life of the inimitable William Douglas, Third Earl March and Fourth Duke of Queensbury, known for his love of gambling and the ladies.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas!

Today the salon doors close for Christmas as my rakish colonial gent and I devote ourselves to the festivities. Normal service shall be resumed with a brand new post on 27th December!

I hope you have a wonderfully merry Christmas, however you choose to spend it; if you have a hankering for some 18th century festive cheer, do read my story of Silent Night, and I wish you a most pleasant few days. 

Christmas Eve by William Allan
Christmas Eve by William Allan

Don't forget: the salon doors open again on 27th December!

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Marie Antoinette's Prayer Book

My post on the execution of Marie Antoinette continues to be one of the most popular here at the Guide, as do all posts concerning the unfortunate queen. On several occasions I have been contacted by people who enquire about the prayer book in which Marie Antoinette penned her final words and whether it still exists.

I am pleased to report that it does indeed still exist, though it has not weathered the years well. Printed in 1757, the book remained with the queen during her incarceration and as she waited for the sun to rise on the day of her death, the condemned woman penned a few final, pitiful lines in the small book book. 

"My God, have pity on me! My eyes have no more tears to cry for you my poor children; adieu! adieu!"

The book was later claimed by Robespierre and after his death was found tucked in with his private papers and concealed beneath a a hidden compartment in his bedchamber, a personal keepsake of the end of the monarchy.

Marie Antoinette's Prayer Book inscription
Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Monday, 22 December 2014

A Salon Guest: The Brontë Sisters

Today it is my pleasure to share with you a guest post by a most estimable lady and writer, Chrissy Boulton, in a guest post regarding the Brontë sisters, We are Three Sisters and what it takes to make a writer.
Everyone has heard of them. Not all of those people have read their work. In fact, many will not have, especially readers of my generation, myself included. But their legacy is so pervasive, so ingrained into popular culture, that their fame has transcended their work and entered the global consciousness. Even if you have never read their stories, you know of them, they are cultural icons. 
Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë by Patrick Branwell  Brontë, 1834
Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë by Patrick Branwell Brontë, 1834

So I was intrigued to see a play about them. Not one of their novels, not another re-working of Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, but about them. Their life stories. Blake Morrison’s script is loosely based on Chekov’s Three Sisters, which helps to put their story into a structured format. And choosing Northern Broadsides to perform a play about these three Yorkshire writers was a stroke of genius. You do not get more ‘Yorkshire’ than Broadsides. Fact!
The eerie and sombre backdrop of Haworth and the moors, lends to the audience a greater understanding of the Brontës'  world, and this environment was clearly a great influence on their creativity. As Morrison has Emily observe ‘Listen. There. It’s the mason with his chisel, chipping out another headstone’/ ‘They’re the two sounds we grew up with. The chip-chip-chip of the mason. And the wind whistling off the tops.’* I visited the Brontës'  former home many years ago, and the old parsonage does have an odd air about it, the creepy gravestones which line the floor of the hill adding to the Gothic ambiance of the place. Morrison clearly presents to us the idea that lives were short and disease was rife when the Brontës were around, and this gives their story a sense of urgency, a sense that they were trying to exist whilst they could.
Again, despite my never having read their work, although familiar with the plots of the more famous stories, We are Three Sisters manages to strongly evoke the personality of each sister. Charlotte Brontë is portrayed as motherly and protective of her sisters, pragmatic and grounded in her approach to love and life. Emily Brontë is presented as being a deep thinker, more melodramatic and romantic in her world view. Anne Brontë is shown to be an innocent yet ambitious soul and the tragic figure of their brother Branwell serves as a sharp juxtaposition to their characters. He is portrayed as a man cursed by expectations. The play demonstrates how the expectation of greatness without effort, along with his lust and predisposition to gamble and boast, is ultimately the reason why there is no ‘Branwell Brontë , the great author and poet.
After watching this play, I feel that the sisters’ education and love of reading were key to their talent. Their eccentric father, after the loss of his wife, chose to educate his girls and indulge them in literature and learning. It was through their love of reading, their analysis of the world around them, and opportunity to philosophise and think that they produced work of such skill and perception. That is why their words still resonate with readers today.
‘You know nothing of men, nothing of life, nothing of love, nothing worth knowing at all.’** Branwell shouts at his sisters. Whilst their lives were seemingly quite sheltered (they travelled little and spent their lives in the same quiet and closeted community) I truly believe that people can be inspired by whatever is around them. It does not matter whether you know only a handful of people or a thousand, you can still become an adept observer of human behaviour and relationships, and the rest you can imagine.
Sharing the love of writing by reading their stories to each other is demonstrated as being a powerful source of mutual inspiration, a great incentive to continue expressing themselves. I remember when I was 13, 14, and 15 years old, I would come home from school and my Mum would read her stories to me. The Boggart’s Convention and Sal’s Wizard, two of the first books that my Mum wrote, and still amongst my favourites. I remember being blown away by the magic of them, transported to another world through her words. That these characters had come not from some stranger but my own Mum’s imagination, made them more compelling and real to me. My Mum is excellent at conveying emotion in characters. She makes you, as the reader, empathise deeply with them. For me that is the key to writing. To make your reader feel what you want them to feel, think about what you want them to think about. Grammar, spelling, and all that jazz, can be taught, but the ability to make a connection with the reader cannot be, that’s where talent comes in. You’ve either got it, or you ain’t. And by all accounts, the Brontës had it.
Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights was re-edited by her sister Charlotte in the years following her death. Presumably, this was to improve the grammar and narrative structure. But given the impact that this story has had on people throughout the decades, it occurs to me that it is the emotions of the characters which strike a chord within the readers, not the grammatical structure of the novel. As if to reinforce this, Morrison gives Emily the following lines when speaking of the sort of man that she would fall in love with ‘he’ll be darker and stranger, like a twisted mirror image, someone more myself than I am, and I’ll love him not from choice or through pleasure, but because he is inside me, like my own being.’*** To me, these words are a perfect description of how it feels to be in love. He gives these lines to Emily, who, by all accounts, was never in love. This tells us how powerful imagination and understanding of yourself and others can be. You do not have to have experienced something to understand how it might feel. That is what being a writer is all about.
The lives of Emily, Charlotte and Anne were scared by suffering and loss. This kind of life experience I feel develops self analysis and emotional development. The sense of the transience of life, the brief and brutal nature of it, looms over their life story. They are presented as being not afraid of death, but afraid of being forgotten. An idea we can all relate to. What is the meaning of our lives?
This is a play about what it is to be inspired, be creative, and the concept of legacy. What will we leave behind us when we go? I myself am terrified that I will leave before I have learnt to write, before I have had opportunity to express all the ideas and stories that are whizzing around my head. And so, it would seem, were the Brontës. Charlotte and Anne’s determination to share their stories, and Emily’s, with the world through publication, even if it had to be under male pseudonyms, is the reason why their work is still in print today.
In conclusion there are two things I would like to say. One, I urge you to go to see this play if you get the chance. This may in turn lead you, as it did me, to the second point, to go and read their work. This play has inspired me to actually, finally, pick up these famous novels. After seeing this, I feel I owe it to the three sisters.
*Morrison, B. We are Three Sisters, 2011, Act 2, pg 27
** Morrison, B. We are Three Sisters, 2011, Act 4, pg 64
*** Morrison, B. We are Three Sisters, 2011, Act 3, pg 53.

About the Author
Chrissy Boulton muses away about ponchos, life and literature at chrissy-wordsandthoughts.blogspot.co.uk/. She is currently working on her first novel.

Written content of this post copyright © Chrissy Boulton, 2014.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Sunday Digest

Once again, it's time for the salon week in review. Settle with a cup of tea, a slice of something nice and gad back through the week just gone.

The Death of the "Swedish Mozart"
On Monday we visited a dramatic torchlight funeral for the sad death of Joseph Martin Kraus, the man known as the Swedish Mozart.

The Rice Portrait
In honour of the birthday of Jane Austen, Tuesday found us investigating an artistic mystery, with a closer look at a portrait that the owners believe shows a young Jane.

The Invention of the Davy Lamp
It was back to my mining heritage on Wednesday, and the story of the innovative Davy Lamp, a Georgian safety innovation!

Prelude to Revolution: Sultan Mahmud II and Ali Pasha of Ioannina
On Thursday, it was an honour to host Kathryn Gauci, author of The Embroiderer.

To close the week on Friday, I shared news of an exciting new literary award in honour of a talented and unique lady, MM Bennetts.

Last but not least, Saturday found me welcoming Willow C Winsham to the salon to tell us of Welshmen and their mermaids!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

A Salon Guest: Of Welshmen and Mermaids

It is my pleasure to welcome Willow C Winsham to the salon once more. A blogger on the witch, the weird and the wonderful, Willow is my much-valued writing partner in crime and today delights us with tales of mermaids!


The image of the mermaid is one of enduring popularity; from the sirens of Homer's Odyssey to the more modern incarnation in the Starbucks logo, the beautiful, other-worldly,  and very often deadly maid of the sea has received a mixed press throughout the centuries. Intriguing sightings of such creatures can be found from around Britain's coastline, and today I bring to the salon two tales from Wales during the Long Eighteenth Century. 

The first story was recorded by Mary Morgan in 1791 in her Tour to Milford Haven. She recounts a tale taken from a paper by a pupil of Hannah Moore, in turn told to a Dr. George Philips by Henry Reynolds, a farmer from that area. 

Reynolds was walking one morning near his home when he spotted someone out in the water. Despite the depth of the sea there, the bather was visible from the waist up, raising his curiosity enough to take him up to the nearby cliffs for a closer look. From there he could see that the  person looked, to all intents and purposes, as though they were sitting in a tub.


When he was about twelve yards away, he was able to make out the figure of someone between sixteen and eighteen years of age, with very white skin. From the waist down, there was a “a large brown substance,” under the water,  on which the creature seemed to float. When the figure moved, it was clear that this substance was attached to it, and from the bottom a tail could be seen, moving in a circular fashion. Where arms and body were concerned, the figure was, according to Reynolds, most certainly human, although the arms and hands were shorter and thicker than might be expected. The head, although  again  human  in appearance, was also not quite right, with a high, long nose. As with the body, the skin of the face was remarkably white, all visible skin completely hairless.  

Far from being the stereotypical beautiful siren, therefore, this creature was somewhat less delightful, though just as fascinating, as the captivated farmer looked on for the best part of an hour. 


From his close distance, he was able to make out that “From its forehead there arose a brownish substance of three or four fingers breadth, which turned up over its head, and went down over its back, and reached quite into the water.”This apparently was not hair-like, but thin and flat, “ribbon-like”, though Reynolds seems to suggest that it was attached to the figure, which spent a great deal of time washing, lifting the ribbon substance to wash underneath and also over the body and arms. The rest of the time was spent in swimming, moving quickly through the water.  

Rather than being oblivious to her audience, Reynolds felt that the creature  was clearly aware of his presence, sometimes looking at him, sometimes at the sky, birds and cliffs as she paused. There was no expression to the face, but Reynolds took her to appear, on the whole, “wild and fierce”. 

When Reynolds went to fetch others to look at the sight, the figure was about a hundred yards away from him, but when they returned it was gone.  Such a sighting could, perhaps, be put down to either an exaggeration of what he had seen or an outright fabrication, but Reynolds was, by all accounts, a man of good character and not given to flights of fancy such as  inventing sea creatures. 

In Folklore of West and Mid-Wales, there is a similar tale reported from Aberystwyth in 1826. It again involved a farmer who lived close to the shore, who, early one morning, spied a woman bathing in the nearby sea. Like with the previous case, the water where the woman was sighted was known by the farmer to be deep, but this did not bother her as she seemed to be standing. The farmer lay down on the edge of the cliff, watching for over half an hour as she continued to bathe and swim. He then decided to go back to bring his family out to see;  many of the household came out and watched for ten minutes, thereby corroborating the tale.  

The last to arrive with their youngest child, the  farmer's wife did not crawl like the others but remained upright, in full view of the swimming creature.   Upon seeing her, the mermaid, if that was what she was,  dived into the water and swam further away – the farmer, his family and servants followed along the shoreline for over half a mile, keeping pace with the fascinating creature. 

Upon reaching a large rock in the water, the figure stopped and stood upon it; from the waist up her body was clearly visible, and it was unanimously agreed that she appeared as a young woman of around eighteen years of age. She had a handsome face, strikingly white skin, with short dark hair and arms and neck the same as any woman. However, as she bent herself in the water, a black, tail-like shape showed itself, visible as she finally swam away. 

What then is behind these tales of strange semi-human creatures off the coast?  Some of course say that mermaids are exactly that – girls of the sea, the creatures that have inspired legend way back into the mists of time. 


Others seek more mundane explanations.  The Welsh farmers were not the only ones to encounter this less than exotic version of the popular myth. In January 1493, Columbus complained that mermaids were “not half as beautiful as they are painted, though they have something of a human face,” and it is widely believed that what he actually encountered was the manatee or dugong. These marine mammals can appear to have human-like characteristics, including carrying their young in a similar fashion to a human mother with her child; a manatee might, at a distance, be mistaken as woman-like in appearance. Similarly, it has been suggested that a mermaid's “hair” is in fact seaweed, sticking to the creature's head when the manatee surfaces beneath it.  Found in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, Amazon Basin and West Africa, the manatee  is, however, not a plausible explanation for what the two farmers saw off the coast of Wales. Another similar explanation though is that the creatures seen were actually seals, the appearance of which, could, with a little poetic license, account for what the Welshmen saw. 

Mermaid and manatee

The rare medical condition of Sironemelia or mermaid syndrome, is a congenital deformity that causes the legs to fuse together, giving an appearance similar to a mermaid's tale.  Usually resulting in stillbirth and at best fatal within a week after birth due to complications with kidney and bladder, there are only a handful of examples of those born with the condition surviving longer than a few years. It is not likely therefore that this could account for mermaid sightings.    

About the author:

Willow is an author and blogger, currently working on her first series, The Virginia Dewhurst Trilogy. Visit her witchy blog at http://winsham.blogspot.co.uk/ or find her on Twitter!

Written content of this post copyright © Willow C Winsham, 2014.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The MM Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction

I am pleased to share news of a new annual award for the best in historical fiction, in honour of the late M.M. Bennetts, author of May 1812 and Of Honest Fame. 

You can read all about the award and how to take part at http://mmbaward.blogspot.com and the call for submissions follows. Please share far and wide and, should you decide to enter, I wish you the very best of luck!


Call for Submissions

English Historical Fiction Authors Announces the first annual M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction.

Entries are being accepted for works published in 2014.

The prize of $500 will be announced at the Historical Novel Society Conference in June, 2015.

For further details and to submit an application visit http://mmbaward.blogspot.com

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Prelude to Revolution: Sultan Mahmud II and Ali Pasha of Ioannina

Today I am joined by the wonderful Kathryn Gauci, author of The Embroiderer. Without further ado I shall leave you in her estimable company and do enjoy the extract that follows this post!

The Embroiderer


Prelude to Revolution: Sultan Mahmud II and Ali Pasha of Ioannina

In the prologue to The Embroiderer, the heavily pregnant Artemis and her maid, Euphrosyne, fearing for their lives at the hands of the Turkish soldiers, head for sanctuary in the Monastery of Nea Moni on the Greek island of Chios. The year is 1822, almost a year after the outbreak of The Greek War of Independence. This act of desperation proves futile. Turkish soldiers break open the doors to the monastery and amidst a scene reminiscent of Dante’s inferno, the beautiful Artemis takes her own life by plunging a dagger into her heart whilst Euphrosyne throws herself over the monastery wall onto the rocks below. In the nearby village of Anavatos perched high on a precipitous cliff, villagers do the same thing, taking their children with them.  

Today it is hard for us to imagine the circumstances that engender such fear in a population that these women should choose to commit suicide rather than subjugate themselves to the wrath of the Turks. But in the year 1822, the Greeks were in open rebellion against their Ottoman overlords and no-one was in any doubt about what the Sultan’s forces were capable of to quell the insurrection. Prior to the outbreak of The Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Empire seemed to be on the verge of disintegration. The Sultan, Mahmud II, is remembered as a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant. It is said that he ordered all the females of his brother’s harem to be thrown into the Bosphorus and few travellers entered the Topkapi Palace without seeing a pile of ears and noses exposed in the niches at the gate. Dead bodies hanging from shop fronts or lying across the narrow streets were a common occurrence suggesting indifference to human suffering. Yet Sultan Mahmud II was neither cruel nor bloodthirsty. The terrible punishments he inflicted, not only on the Christian population but on Moslems as well, were simply the result of habit and policy. According to the historian, George Finley, whose accounts of the period were written shortly after the revolution, Mahmud actually restrained and subdued the “Oriental ferocity” which had for so long formed a characteristic of the government of the Sublime Porte. He went on to say that Mahmud was a thoughtful, stern and obstinate man with an inflexible will and not given to violent passions. Instead, he was a man shaped by the dangers of his time.

Sultan Mahmud II
Sultan Mahmud II

Sultan Mahmud II’s cousin, Selim III, who was dethroned in 1807, attempted to reform public administration and introduce military discipline in the Janissary Corps. Selim’s successor, Mustapha IV, lost his crown and his life after murdering Selim in order to retain them by a revolution which resulted in seating his younger brother, Mahmud, on the throne. The fate of his cousin and his brother warned him of the dangers in attempting reform, yet if they remained unchecked, the empire would disintegrate. Thus began a campaign of centralization. Sultan Mahmud II, the 30th Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ascended the throne in 1808 at the age of twenty-five. According to portraits of him, he wore an expression of sombre melancholy rather than stern severity. His face was sallow, and his naturally dark beard was artificially stained to a shining black. He was of medium build with short legs yet appeared tall when seated or on horseback. The government of the day was still locked a feudal system of government and with a lack of judicial administration, corruption was rife. Throughout the empire, lawless pashas and tribes lived in open rebellion. Everyone was looking out for himself and none more so than the infamous Ali Pasha of Ioannina. It was inevitable that these two rulers would clash.   

Ali Pasha was an Albanian who exhibited the qualities of an astute Albanian chieftain corrupted by exercising the despotic authority of a Turkish Pasha. His ancestors were Christians who converted to the Moslem faith in the fifteenth century. His father, Veli, was accused of poisoning his two eldest brothers to secure the chieftainship. Restless in mind and body, Ali grew up in the care of his mother. He was a man of contradictions. “By turns he was mild and cruel, and to gratify it there was no crime which he was not willing to perpetuate”. Cunning and ambitious, he set out to court foreign diplomats with the aim of ruling Northern Greece singlehandedly. Under his watch, Ioannina became the literary capital of the Greek nation; libraries, colleges and schools flourished and he protected priests who intrigued against the Sultan. But Ali’s cruelty horrified civilised Europe and the greatest compliment anyone could pay him was to praise his cruelty to his face, shuddering at his low, demoniacal laugh when his secretaries reminded him of how he had hung one man, impaled another and tortured a third. His vices were notorious and cruelty was metered out to both men and women. When the beautiful and elegant Euphrosyne – a woman who dismissed his passions – and fourteen other women were taken onto the lake at Ioannina and thrown overboard, public sympathy turned.

Ali Pasha and Kira Vassiliki by Paul Emil Jacobs
Ali Pasha and Kira Vassiliki by Paul Emil Jacobs

Deeply offended by the conduct of Ali and his sons who ruled over other pashaliks in Greece, Sultan Mahmud II demanded the annihilation of the traitor and sent out his army to retake Ali’s government. Eventually, after several years of battle, Ali was surrounded. On 5th February 1822, a meeting took place between Ali and Mohammed Pasha who had been appointed successor to the pashalik of the Morea (Peloponnese). When Ali rose to depart, the two viziers, being of equal rank, moved together towards the door with all the ceremonious politeness of Ottoman etiquette. Ali bowed to his visitor and seizing the moment, Mohammed drew out his hanjar – the long dagger worn in the girdle – and plunged it into Ali’s heart. Stepping calmly outside onto the gallery, he announced “Ali of Tebelin is dead” wherein the Capidji of the Porte entered the room, severed the head and carried it to the citadel where it was exhibited to the troops before being sent to Constantinople. Everywhere, the Albanians and Turks shouted “The dog, Kara Ali, is dead. Long live Khursid Pasha”. Ali’s head was exposed at the gate of the Topkapi for all to see. A few weeks later, four more heads occupied the same niche. They were the heads of his four sons and one grandson. 

As a consequence of internal struggles the Greeks seized the moment to rebel. With an army already fighting Ali Pasha, Sultan Mahmud brought over troops from Asia. On the third day of the outbreak and hearing about the Greek massacres against Moslems in Greece, he beheaded the dragoman of the Porte, several notables and finally, in an act which would turn all Orthodox Christians against him, hanged Patriarch Gregorius on Easter Sunday, 1821. Several other bishops were also executed. Resorting to the only way he knew how, Sultan Mahmud unleashed a reign of terror to crush the rebellion. The Greeks had nothing to lose. Their battle cry of “Freedom or Death” would be heard throughout Greece culminating six years later with the most decisive battle of the war – The Battle of Navarino – in which the Turkish fleet was defeated by the combined British, Russian and French fleets. 

Ali. Pasha's head being presented to Sultam Mahmud II
Ali. Pasha's head being presented to Sultam Mahmud II

Sultan Mahmud II died in 1839 but not before implementing major reforms. In 1828, he disbanded the hated Janissary Corps; in 1931 he abolished military fiefdoms and established a new army under his control trained by German instruction; and along with other major administrative reforms, he introduced compulsory primary education, established a medical school and sent students to Europe. Western dress was also introduced to the court during this time.  

Today, Ali Pasha’s cruelty is still talked about in Ioannina. Visitors are taken across the lake where the hapless women lost their lives and his body lies in a tomb in the old citadel. On the Island of Chios, reminders of Sultan Mahmud II’s revenge are everywhere. After so much tyranny and bloodshed, it is little wonder that these women chose to take their own lives. Had I lived then, I may well have done the same thing.

About the Author

Kathryn Gauci was born in Leicestershire, England, and studied textile design at Loughborough College of Art and later at Kidderminster College of Art and Design where she specialised in carpet design and technology. After graduating, Kathryn spent a year in Vienna, Austria before moving to Greece where she worked as a carpet designer in Athens for six years. There followed another brief period in New Zealand before eventually settling in Melbourne, Australia.

Before turning to writing full-time, Kathryn ran her own textile design studio in Melbourne for over fifteen years, work which she enjoyed tremendously as it allowed her the luxury of travelling worldwide, often taking her off the beaten track and exploring other cultures. The Embroiderer is her first novel; a culmination of those wonderful years of design and travel, and especially of those glorious years in her youth living and working in Greece – a place that she is proud to call her spiritual home.

Visit Kathryn at www.kathryngauci.com
Kathryn on Twitter
Kathryn on Facebook

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The Embroiderer - An Extract

A glorious silver moon hangs over the Straits of Chios and the sea shines like a silver mirror. The Turkish fleet lies in the harbor and beyond on the horizon is the dark shadow of the Turkish mainland. Flashes of red light tinged with yellow illuminate the sky over Chios town, and a thin column of smoke ascends into the heavens. A screech owl swoops overhead, flapping his wings, disappearing into the shadows.

‘Look, Artemis,’ cries Euphrosyne. ‘The messenger of the Goddess Athena; it is a good omen.’

Artemis forces a smile. The light in her amethyst eyes intensifies.

‘It is not the destiny of this child to be born here,’ Euphrosyne adds. ‘Remember that the miraculous icon of the Virgin was found hanging from a myrtle bush nearby. It is she who will guide us to safety.’

The two women struggle in silence until finally, from the brow of the hill they see the monastery nestling amongst the cypress trees, protecting itself from the outside world. As they approach, they hear a soft humming noise. Gradually the noise becomes louder and they recognize the pitiful sound of wailing. The great wooden doors open to reveal a scene of abject human misery. Women, half-crazed with terror, shriek and cry; desperate children clutch their mother’s skirts, trembling in fear. A monk helps Artemis across the cobblestones, pushing his way through the desperate throng. Two thousand souls awaiting salvation are crammed inside the walls of this great Byzantine monastery.

‘Pray for us,’ they cry. ‘Pray to the Virgin.’

Finding a place in the church, Euphrosyne spreads out her woollen cloak on the ancient marble floor in preparation for the birth. Artemis sinks to her knees as the monk lays her down, blessing her forehead with the sign of the cross. With not a moment to spare, under the splendor of the eleventh century domes ablaze with gold mosaics, the child is born. The Christ Pantocrator and holy saints of the spiritual world gaze down on mother and child. Artemis looks up at the Virgin dressed in her shimmering blue robe, as Euphrosyne wraps the child in her warm shawl and hands it to her.

‘You see, Artemis,’ Euphrosyne says. ‘It was not her destiny to be born on a hillside. Look above you. In such pitiful conditions, to be born with all the saints of Christendom looking down on you for protection is something miraculous. God will watch over this child.’

The church door flies open. ‘They are here, the Turks are here,’ a woman screams.

Panic and fear grip everyone. A mother of two small children who are cowering against the wall faints, leaving her little ones crying helplessly. The monks reach for their guns.

‘Courage, my children, courage,’ they cry, as they run towards the gate. Artemis clasps Euphrosyne’s hand. ‘You must take the child and escape while there is still a chance.’

Euphrosyne looks at Artemis in horror. How can she leave her here alone, and to such a terrible fate? She had watched this woman grow from a child and blossom into the most beautiful woman in Chios. She owed her life to this family. Rescued from the slave market by Artemis’s father, that family was all she had in the world. Her own family had perished at the hands of the Turks in reprisals for Greek freedom fighters attacking a Turkish village. It was unthinkable to leave.

‘Euphrosyne,’ Artemis pleads. ‘I am begging you. I am too weak to move. My end is near but the child must live. You said that she is the child of destiny. Her life is in your hands.’

Artemis unties the embroidered silk sash from around her hair and secures it around the tiny bundle. Taking the precious locket from around her neck, she kisses it and places it over the child’s head, securing it between the folds of silk.

‘Go. Run as fast as you can; don’t look back. God be with you.’

Euphrosyne gathers the child in her arms and in a sea of tears runs to the door. Against Artemis’s wishes, she turns and takes one final look. Artemis seems to be searching for something in her clothing. She catches Euphrosyne’s eye.

‘Run,’ Artemis urges, ‘while there is time.’

Euphrosyne runs as fast as her weary bones can carry her. With blind determination, she makes her way to the far side of the monastery. Behind the monks’ houses stands a narrow stone stairway leading to the top of the outer wall. Behind her is Dante’s inferno. The screams of slaughter ring in her ears and the sounds of gunshots grow nearer. Reaching the upper ledge, Euphrosyne makes a rope from her sash and ties it to the small bundle. Carefully lowering it over the outer wall onto a soft patch of wild thyme, partially obscured from view by the bough of a wild fig tree, she lets the sash go. Turning around, she freezes. At the bottom of the stairs stands a Turk, yataghan in one hand and scimitar in the other. Euphrosyne runs along the ledge until she can run no more. Leaning against the wall, she turns her head. The Turk, his face and clothes smeared with blood, laughs at her. In defiance, she spits in his face.

‘The devil take you,’ she curses. 

Angrily, he raises his bloodied scimitar to strike but defiant to the end, Euphrosyne throws herself over the monastery wall. She falls to her death on the rocks. The remaining souls barricade themselves inside the church. Finally, the doors break open and the Turks, showing no mercy, slaughter all except for the young women destined for the slave markets. In the center of the church, under the Christ Pantocrator, lies Artemis, as if asleep, a cover pulled over her body. A Turkish officer stands over her and in the midst of so much devastation he pauses, catching his breath at such beauty. 

Korkma kadin. Sen benimsin! Fear not! You are mine,’ he leers, tearing
away the cover only to reveal her blood-soaked clothing. 

Like Euphrosyne, Artemis has cheated them out of killing her. She has plunged the jade dagger once given to her for protection by Yasim-Ali into her heart.

As the sun rises the next day, the sound of hoof beats galloping through the scrub becomes louder and louder. A blood-bay stallion approaches the thicket of wild fig. The horseman is agile. In an instant, he lifts the tiny bundle onto his saddle and gallops away through the trees. A Painted Lady butterfly flutters over the ground where the infant had lain. Nearby, the bright red wild tulips unfurl their petals to the morning sun and a quiet peace descends over the monastery.

This post copyright © Kathryn Gauci, 2014.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Invention of the Davy Lamp

Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet (Penzance, Cornwall, England, 17th December 1778 – Geneva, Switzerland, 29th May 1829)

Sir Humphry Davy by Thomas Phillips
Sir Humphry Davy by Thomas Phillips

Coal mining goes back many generations in my family and is a heritage I am extremely proud of. I grew up in Nottinghamshire and the headstocks of a pit were a common feature on the landscape, though of course those days are long since gone. Since today marks the anniversary of the birth of chemist and inventor, Sir Humphry Davy, I thought I would offer a closer look at the Davy lamp, an iconic bit of Georgian engineering and one that is familiar to anyone who knows mining history!

Like all of England, Davy was horrified by the severity and impact of mining explosions caused by the fatal cocktail of open flame and the methane gas prevalent in the mines. Davy hit upon the idea that a shielded lamp would be the ideal answer, as it would contain the flame and massive reduce the risk of explosions. To this end, he developed an iron gauze that would shield the lamp, dramatically cutting the risk of disaster. 

Davy Lamp

When news spread of the new invention, Davy's lamp swiftly became the subject of no small amount of controversy as other inventors claimed that they had reached the solution of shielding the flame ahead of the Cornish inventor. Other safety lamps were certainly  in use prior to the 1816 trial of the Davy lamp and though in theory the invention was sound, in practice it was far from ideal. Even minor damage to the lamp could result in its effectiveness being drastically reduced yet miners, who had to buy their own safety lamps, were happy to put their trust in it, no doubt hoping that the odds were at least better than with flame alone!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Rice Portrait

On this day in 1775, Jane Austen was born. She has, of course, gone on to become a literary legend, her works beloved the world over and her name feted so it is of no surprise that the owners of the portrait below are keen to prove that the young girl captured on canvas is none other than Austen as a child.

The Rice Portrait

This is the Rice portrait; it has been owned by members of the Rice family for generations and they have long claimed that it shows the 13 year old Jane Austen and is a work commissioned by Jane's uncle, Francis Austen, in 1788. Through letters and family papers, the family believe that the painting is the work of Ozias Humphry, Painter in Crayons to the King.

The portrait has long been the subject of dispute as its supporters and detractors argue back and forth as to whether it truly is of Jane Austen. In 1948, Dr RW Chapman drew attention to the costume of the young lady in the portrait and argued that such clothes were not popular until the early nineteenth century, so the girl could not possibly by Austen, nor could the artist be Humphry, who had been forced by blindness to give up painting by this point.

Although others have disputed this and pointed to other similar costumes in apparently earlier paintings, this remains one of the major sticking points in the dating of the work.

In 2012, a 1910 photograph of the painting held in the Heinz Archive and Library was examined in forensic detail and appeared to show both the signature of Humphry and the name Jane Austen. The Rice family claim that restoration destroyed these inscriptions but the Naitonal Portrait Gallery have disputed these findings and state that the inscriptions were not visible in 1985, when they had the painting photographed.

Today the family continue to petition the National Portrait Gallery to accept the authenticity of the painting and the Gallery  in its turn restates its position that this is not a Humphry, nor does it show Jane Austen.

What do you think?

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Death of the "Swedish Mozart"

Joseph Martin Kraus (Miltenberg am Main, Germany, 20th June 1756 – Stockholm, Sweden, 15th December 1792)

Joseph Martin Kraus, 1775

On more than one occasion, we have crossed to the beautiful land of Sweden to spend time in the company of Gustav III, who died at the hands of assassins. Today, however, marks the anniversary of the death of Joseph Martin Kraus, the composer responsible for Gustav's monumental Funeral Cantata, which can be heard by clicking on the video below.

Kraus was a favourite of King Gustav III and under his patronage, the young composer flourished. He undertook a tour of Europe, assumed high academic office and composed stirring music to accompany state occasions for the king and court, earning himself a daunting reputation in his adopted land.

By the time Gustav breathed his last, his composer of choice was already beginning to suffer from the symptoms of tuberculosis and, as the year wore on, those symptoms become ever more debilitating until the composer was forced to take to his bed.

Kraus did not leave his bed as the winter set in and, on 15th December 1792. he died. As family and friends gathered to mourn, the composer's body was placed in a casket and carried by torchlight across the frozen expanse of the Brunnsviken  lake and then on to Tivoli. Here he was laid to rest, yet the Swedish Mozart's music lives on.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

A Sunday Salon Digest

As regular visitors to the salon will know, I post a new article on an aspect of Georgian or Regency life here every day and it is, of course, my pleasure to do so!

However, I know that not everyone can make a daily stop and although the blog archives are listed on the right hand side of the page, a few regular readers have been in touch to ask if a weekly digest might be a possibility.

I am always an amenable sort and so, starting this week for a trial period, Sunday will be digest day. I will post a very brief precis of the posts of that week and a link to each. 

I am always happy to listen to feedback and act on it wherever appropriate, so I hope this proves useful!

Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle: Death of a Mistress
On Monday, we met Marie Anne de Mailly-Nesle; this celebrated royal mistress replaced her own sister at Versailles, but her triumph was as short-lived as she was!

The Georgian Art of Gambling
Tuesday found me turning my attention to The Georgian Art of Gambling, a charming little book. Do read my review and see if it takes your fancy!

Marie Antoinette Playing the Harp at the French Court
On Wednesday, I took a closer look at one of my favourite paintings, Marie Antoinette Playing the Harp at the French Court, a magnificent work with one or two in-jokes!

Edmund Curll: A Saucy Publisher!
For Thursday, where better than the erotic topography of Merryland, in the company of the book's saucy published, Edmund Curll!

Nelson's Silk Purse
On Friday, we made a stop at Trafalgar to examine the poignant, bloodstained silk purse Nelson was carrying at the moment he suffered the fatal shot.

"I have seen as much of life as the world can show" The Death of Dr Johnson
Finally, on Saturday, we peeked in at the death of the legendary Dr Johnson, after long months of melancholy.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

"I have seen as much of life as the world can show": The Death of Dr Johnson

Samuel Johnson (Lichfield, Staffordshire, England, 18th September 1709 - London, England, 13th December 1784)

Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772
Samuel Johnson by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1772
When Gareth Southwell and I launched the Gallimaufry earlier this year, for our first subject we selected the estimable Dr Samuel Johnson and the story of his dictionary. Today marks the anniversary of the death of this great man of letters, and it seemed only right that we should mark this occasion.

As he entered his seventy fifth year, Samuel Johnson was not in the best of health. He had spent many months battling ill health and was in low spirits, having lost close friends to death during the preceding years.

Frail and growing weaker, Johnson suffered from bronchitis and circulatory problems and, on 17th June 1783, he suffered a debilitating stroke. As he took to his bed in the care of his doctors, Johnson concluded that he was entering the final months of his life and prepared for death.

Johnson wrote to confidantes of his beliefs and London began to chatter of the poor condition of the great man, wondering whether he was correct in his suspicion that he was not long for this world. Although the stroke temporarily robbed him of his ability to speak, Johnson wrote of the black dog that plagued him from dawn to dusk, this spectre of doom banished only when Johnson was in company. When his ability to speak returned the melancholy did not life and Johnson continued to set his affairs in order.

As Johnson recuperated from the stroke, his always serious gout flared up mercilessly and he underwent painful surgery to ease the condition. Visited by friends, he took to his bed in December 1783 and remained there until the following spring. As the weather grew brighter though, so too did Johnson and in May 1784, he emerged from his home and joined Boswell on a trip to Oxford.

However, Johnson found the excursion exhausting and when he returned to London and Boswell went on to Scotland, he felt the absence of his friend keenly and lamented once more the return of the black dog. Once more Johnson took to his bed and once more his mood grew dark but this time, he would not recover and despite the care of his doctor, Thomas Warren, he declared again that he would soon be dead.

This time Johnson was right. He received visitors to his bedside and said his goodbyes to them one last time  before, on 13th December, he slipped into unconsciousness. Johnson did not linger then and passed away at seven o'clock that evening; fittingly he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, though his name lived on through the centuries, an icon of Georgian England.