I was researching an old book by E Beresford Chancellor (trying to find if anyone had read it before I spend money buying a copy) when I came across a new book out this year (I’ll have to get) titled “Literary Celebrity, Gender, and Victorian Authorship, 1850–1914″ by Alexis Easley about literary tourism in the Victorian age and how that affected the wider culture. The page that popped up mentioned a poet named Christina Rossetti. My brain came to a stop as it tried to compute a female name before Rossetti (the famous painter Dante Gabriel who apparently was also a poet - I missed that somehow, but then he’s not one of my favorite artists). I had no idea he had a sister who was a famous poet. Being a curious wench, I had to look up her work. It’s very Victorian! For all curious people who love glimpses into the forgotten past I highly recommend her poem A Bird’s Eye View. I imagine the author (an aging spinster dressed in black silk - the stiff bombazine sighing with every slight movement) sat in some room made dark by heavy blood red velvet curtains half drawn; her corset holding her so rigidly straight only her head can bend down over the small desk holding her paper and ink well. How could she not write depressing poetry with a neck ache?
I’m now off to read more!
Today I’ve been researching England’s Holy Wells (you never know where the curse of curiosity will lead or what insanities it will breed) and I came across a text by a R.R. Rawlins written in the year 1823 titled; On the Ancient Custom of Decorating Wells with Flowers etc. In capturing a custom, Rawlins unwittingly captures a moment in the lives of ordinary people. As I was reading his descriptions of making the floral decorations I stopped and thought about the men and women who, after exhausting daily chores, gathered flowers and constructed these elaborate decorations for their local Holy Wells. The time and energy that went into creating these decorations must have been considerable. Rawlins was some sort of churchman so there’s a religious flavor to his reminisces, but that too is very Regency.
This event was a big deal; his text closes with, “The day concluded by the visitors partaking of the hospitality of the inhabitants, and being gratified with a well-arranged band, playing appropriate pieces of music at each other’s houses; and had the day been more favourable, and free from rain, a greater attendance at Church and the Wells would have been witnessed.”
It’s only three pages long. I highly recommend reading all three pages to get the full flavor (he starts out with a brief history of May Day), but if you just want to read about Holy Wells…start the fifth paragraph down where it reads: “The flowers used on this day…’
Morning sunlight is burning through a passing patchy blanket of clouds. My corner of England is forecast rain later today. I haven’t decided whether I should return my library books or wait another day. I suspect in either case it will rain. Hello November! The perfect day for ‘November Skies’ (by the Danish artist Tomas Barfod). I LOVE this song (listen till the lady starts singing before deciding whether you’ll like it or not - there’s something about the layers of sound - it makes me feel like I’m snuggled up inside where it’s warm while the rain lashes the windows. Lovely!
What better subject for All Hallow’s Eve than a real Regency murder/ghost story? The following comes from a book titled ‘Haunted Inns’ by Marc Alexander (haunted English inns - published in 1973).
The Voyeur and The Sun.
If you have visited Holland and enjoyed the small canal-side villages, you will recognise something of the same atmosphere at Saxilby in Lincolnshire. The village, which is only about four miles from Lincoln, runs parallel with the Fossdyke, along whose banks in summertime are moored lines of pleasure cruisers. Opposite the canal stands The Sun, an inn which was the subject of a most extraordinary haunting at the beginning of the last century.
On 3rd of November 1805, a certain Thomas Otter got married, evidently much against his will. On the same day a casual labourer by the name of John Dunkerly, after enjoying some drinks with his friends in The Sun bar, decided at six o’clock to return to his own village, Doddington, which was about five miles away. As he neared Drisney Nook on the way to Doddington, he met three friends who said as they passed: “You’ll have company, John,” and told him Tom Otter and hi new wife were walking down the lane. They laughed, knowing that Dunkerly had the reputation for being a peeping Tom.
By now darkness had fallen and the labourer, whose reputation was well deserved, decided to shadow the newly-married couple in the hope of being able to spy upon some amorous activity. Creeping up behind them, he heard Tom Otter say to his wife: “Sit down, you can rest here.” (more…)
Cari’s addendum: A big thanks to all of you who listened to my brother’s song! The contest closed Nov. 9th. He started the contest a month in, but still manged to get 2189 points which I think was brilliant. Who knows what may or may not happen next, but he got lots of lovely feed back so I’m hoping it inspires him to keep writing music and playing his guitar. If you’re curious to hear him there’s a link below.
My little brother Jason has entered a singer/songwriter contest on line (with a seriously great prize - which I of course think he deserves - though I am admittedly biased). The first round is judged solely by how many different people listen to the whole song. He only discovered the contest a month in so he’s got a lot of catching up to do. Have a listen and tell me if you think I’m crazy! This is Jason with his guitar (he’s self taught) playing and singing his own songs. I rocked him as a baby for countless hours playing (and singing) Elton John songs hoping it would influence his taste in music, but it didn’t work!
Jane Austen wasn’t a woman who lived life wrapped in tissue paper. Sex, scandals, thoughtless abusive parents; these things weren’t just subjects of salacious prints, they were realities.
Frances Wilson (the author of a biography on Regency courtesan, Harriet Wilson) revealed in her book (The Courtesan’s Revenge) that Jane actually mentioned the very young Harriet in a letter (though not by name) because Harriet’s (first admitted) named lover was connected to the Austen family circle. How many of us think of Jane as someone who’d pass on gossip about a mutual acquaintance stabling his young mistress at his country pile? Knowing this about Jane, it’s easy to see how she could write her short story, “Lady Susan”.
Lady Susan, the main character, is a despicable selfish woman. We’ve all met people like her (or found ourselves cursed to endure them for the sake of family or friends) lying sociopaths who use good looks and charm to ensnare anyone they might find useful (or to their benefit). Lady Susan, a beautiful young widow of 35, is forced by straightened means (and her failed scheming) to retreat to her brother-in-law’s home where she causes more unhappiness. After the first few letters I was glued to my computer screen. It’s a brilliant short story and one you can read on line or download for free HERE (thanks to Project Gutenberg). I highly recommend it!
Sadly, the contest is over and the winners chosen (the necklace won by Coleen, the Scarf by someone known as Jo’s Daughter, and the ring was won by Heather). Congratulations to all the winners! The contest centered around the 1995 BBC version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (the one with Colin Firth as Darcy). The singer-songwriter Jasmine Kyle (a devoted Janeite) wrote a song inspired by the movie and wanted to share it…ie give it away to other Janeites. It’s too late to enter, but you can still…Download a free copy of Jasmine Kyle’s song “Dear Jane”.
Three lucky people won (along with an autographed album) one of these…(one prize per person)…
I apologise for my sparse blogging. In mid March I went to the doctors with a number of symptoms. The blood tests revealed an over active thyroid (which is an auto immune disorder). That’s the one where you die if you don’t take medication to sort it out. After a month I heard back from the specialist and my GP put me on some pills. My poor brain felt like a worn tire being driven at speed down a gravel road. By the time I started taking the medication I’d developed a weird brain slur which made talking and writing a challenge (it’s now better, but my brain is still not quite right). After a couple weeks of the pills I was feeling so much better I forgot I wasn’t “healthy”. I’ll never forget the day I decided to weed the flower beds. My garden is small and the flower beds edge the back of the garden. Since I’d started, I wanted to get them all done…so I pushed myself. I think it was all the bending over and standing up (I should have been kneeling). When I finished I felt like I was going to throw up. I had an awful feeling in my chest. I sat down in the garden chair and thought I was going to have a heart attack and die. (more…)
Last week the sun came out so even though a Siberian wind was chilling England I bundled up and went for a walk. I think I overdid it, but it was lovely to escape the house. I found some interesting photographs in the shadows on the frozen ditch water. The light shimmered through the hedgerow and glinted off the rough skin of ice. I haven’t retouched the colour in the photos. The hazy pink and green…up close it was like a nebula exploding. Here are my favorite shots… (Click on the photos to see a larger image) (more…)