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Laurence Sterne: Giving Voice to Tristram Shandy

Laurence Sterne, a contemporary of Jane Austen’s own clerical father, George Austen (1731-1805) was a well known voice to the Austen family. Letters both to and from Jane allude to his writings, and Maria Bertram actually quotes from his Sentimental Journey in chapter 10 of Mansfield Park. Sterne’s most familiar work The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1759) shares themes with another famously comic novel, Henry Fielding’s 1749 The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, which Jane Austen was also familiar with. How these two (sometimes shocking) novels influenced her own writing is difficult to say. Portrait of Laurence Sterne by Joshua Reynolds, 1760 Laurence Sterne (24 November 1713 – 18 March 1768) was an Anglo-Irish novelist and an Anglican clergyman. He is best known for his novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy; but he also published many sermons, wrote memoirs, and was involved in local politics. Sterne died in London after years of fighting consumption. Sterne was born in Clonmel, County Tipperary. His father, Roger Sterne, was an ensign in a British regiment recently returned from Dunkirk, which was disbanded on the day of Sterne’s birth. Within six months the family had returned to Yorkshire, and in July 1715 they moved back to Ireland, having “decamped with Bag & Baggage for Dublin”, in Sterne’s words. The first decade of Sterne’s life was spent moving from place to place as his father was reassigned throughout Ireland. During (more…)
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François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand

François-René, Vicomte de Chateaubriand ( September 4, 1768 in Saint-Malo – July 4, 1848 in Paris) was a French writer, politician, diplomat, and historian, who is considered the founder of Romanticism in French literature. Descended from an old aristocratic family from Brittany, Chateaubriand was a royalist by political disposition; in an age when a number of intellectuals turned against the Church, he authored the Génie du christianisme in defense of the Catholic faith. His autobiography Mémoires d’outre-tombe (“Memoirs from Beyond the Grave'”, published posthumously in 1849–1850), is nowadays generally considered his most accomplished work. Born in Saint-Malo, the last of 10 children, Chateaubriand grew up in his family’s castle in Combourg, Brittany. His father, René de Chateaubriand (1718–86), was a former sea captain turned ship owner and slave trader. His mother’s maiden name was Apolline de Bedée. Chateaubriand’s father was a morose, uncommunicative man, and the young Chateaubriand grew up in an atmosphere of gloomy solitude, only broken by long walks in the Breton countryside and an intense friendship with his sister Lucile. Combourg by Targut – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons Chateaubriand was educated in Dol, Rennes and Dinan. For a time he could not make up his mind whether he wanted to be a naval officer or a priest, but at the age of seventeen, he decided on a military career and gained a commission as a second lieutenant in the French Army based at Navarre. Within two years, he had been promoted to (more…)
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Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême

Antonin Carême, one of the first “celebrity” chefs. Marie Antoine (Antonin) Carême (8 June 1784 – 12 January 1833) was an early practitioner and exponent of the elaborate style of cooking known as grande cuisine, the “high art” of French cooking: a grandiose style of cookery favoured by both international royalty and by the newly rich of Paris. Carême is often considered as one of the first internationally renowned celebrity chefs. Abandoned by his parents in Paris in 1794 at the height of the French Revolution, he worked as a kitchen boy at a cheap Parisian chophouse in exchange for room and board. In 1798, he was formally apprenticed to Sylvain Bailly, a famous pâtissier with a shop near the Palais-Royal. The post-revolutionary Palais Royal was a high profile, fashionable neighborhood filled with vibrant life and bustling crowds. Bailly recognized his talent and ambition. By the time he was prepared to leave Bailly, he could stipulate that he should be free to leave his new employer when a better offer came along. He opened his shop, the Pâtisserie de la rue de la Paix, which he maintained until 1813. A few of Careme’s complicated designs. Carême gained fame in Paris for his pièces montées, elaborate constructions used as centerpieces, which Bailly displayed in the pâtisserie window. He made these confections, which were sometimes several feet high, entirely out of foodstuffs such as sugar, marzipan, and pastry. He modeled them on temples, pyramids, and ancient ruins, taking ideas from architectural history books (more…)
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Pierre-Joseph Redouté: “The Raphael of flowers”

O my Luve is like a red, red rose That’s newly sprung in June; O my Luve is like the melody That’s sweetly played in tune. -Robert Burns, 1794 Robert Burns might compare his love to a beautiful rose, but when it comes to flowers of the Regency era, no painter could compare to Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759 –1840). A painter and botanist from the Southern Netherlands, known for his watercolours of roses, lilies and other flowers at Malmaison, he has been called “the Raphael of flowers”. Redouté was an official court artist of Queen Marie Antoinette, and he continued painting through the French Revolution and Reign of Terror. Redouté survived the turbulent political upheaval to gain international recognition for his precise renderings of plants, which remain as fresh in the early 21st century as when first painted. He collaborated with the greatest botanists of his day and participated in nearly fifty publications depicting both the familiar flowers of the French court and plants from places as distant as Japan, America, South Africa, and Australia. He was painting during a period in botanical illustration (1798 – 1837) that is noted for the publication of outstanding folio editions with coloured plates. Redouté produced over 2,100 published plates depicting over 1,800 different species, many never rendered before. Today he is seen as an important heir to the tradition of the Flemish and Dutch flower painters Brueghel, Ruysch, van Huysum and de Heem. Flowers by the artist (Rosa centifolia, anemone, and clematis) Redouté was (more…)
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Thomas Gray: Far From the Madding Crowd

With the new film adaptation of “Far from the Madding Crowd”, Thomas Hardy’s novel gets a new look and a new audience, but where did this Victorian author get his inspiration, and what does this have to do with Jane Austen? First page of Dodsley’s illustrated edition of Gray’s Elegy with illustration by Richard Bentley Thomas Gray (26 December 1716 – 30 July 1771) was an English poet, letter-writer, classical scholar and professor at Cambridge University. He is widely known for his Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, published in 1751. This poem includes the line that inspired Hardy, “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife, Their sober wishes never learned to stray;” Hardy, however, was far from the first to be impressed by the work, and many imitations of this poem both serious and parody were published during Jane’s lifetime alone. Jane Austen’s brother James, was often considered the “author” of the family and while at Oxford penned several (unpublished) poems “in the style of” Thomas Gray. What was it about this poet that appealed to so many and gave rise to “probably still today the best-known and best-loved poem in English.”* Portrait by John Giles Eccardt, 1747–1748 Thomas Gray was born in Cornhill, London. His father, Philip Gray, was a scrivener and his mother, Dorothy Antrobus, was a milliner He was the fifth of 12 children, and the only child of Philip and Dorothy Gray to survive infancy. He lived with his mother after she left his abusive (more…)
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J. M. W. Turner: Painter of Light

Self portrait, oil on canvas, circa 1799 Joseph Mallord William “J. M. W.” Turner, RA (baptised 14 May 1775 – 19 December 1851) was an English Romanticist landscape painter, water-colourist, and printmaker. Turner was considered a controversial figure in his day, but is now regarded as the artist who elevated landscape painting to an eminence rivalling history painting.Although renowned for his oil paintings, Turner is also one of the greatest masters of British watercolour landscape painting. He is commonly known as “the painter of light”and his work is regarded as a Romantic preface to Impressionism. Some of his works are cited as examples of abstract art prior to its recognition in the early 20th century. Joseph Mallord William Turner was baptised on 14 May 1775, but his date of birth is unknown. It is generally believed he was born between late April and early May. Turner himself claimed he was born on 23 April, but there is no proof. He was born in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, in London, England. His father, William Turner (1745–21 September 1829), was a barber and wig maker, His mother, Mary Marshall, came from a family of butchers. A younger sister, Mary Ann, was born in September 1778 but died in August 1783. Eighteenth century Bethlem was most notably portrayed in a scene from William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1735), the story of a rich merchant’s son, Tom Rakewell whose immoral living causes him to end up in Bethlem. In 1785, due to his mother (more…)
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Madame Marie Tussaud

Anna Maria “Marie” Tussaud (née Grosholtz; 1 December 1761 – 16 April 1850) was a French born artist of German descent, who became known for her wax sculptures and Madame Tussauds, the wax museum that she founded in London. Madame Tussaud “at the age of 42, when she left France for Great Britain”. Portrait study (1921) by John Theodore Tussaud. Marie Tussaud was born 1 December 1761 in Strasbourg, France. Her father, Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years’ War just two months before Marie was born. Her mother, Anne-Marie Walder, took her to Bern where she worked as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius (1741–1794), a physician and wax sculptor who Marie would call her uncle. Curtius initially used his talent for wax modeling to illustrate anatomy. Later, he did portraits. The oldest waxwork on display is that of the “Sleeping Beauty”, Madame Du Barry. Curtius moved to Paris in 1765 to establish a cabinet de portraits en cire (wax portrait exhibition). In that year, he made a waxwork of Louis XV’s last mistress, Madame du Barry, a cast that is the oldest work currently on display. A year later, Tussaud and her mother joined Curtius in Paris. The first exhibition of Curtius’ waxworks was shown in 1770 and attracted a large crowd. In 1776, the exhibition was moved to the Palais Royal and, in 1782, Curtius opened a second exhibit, the Caverne des Grands Voleurs, a precursor to the later chamber of horrors, on Boulevard du Temple. (more…)
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Thomas Hope: Banker, Author, Adventurer

Thomas Hope (30 August 1769 – 3 February 1830/1831), was a Dutch and British merchant banker, author, philosopher and art collector, best known for his novel Anastasius a work which many experts considered a rival to the writings of Lord Byron. His sons included Henry Thomas Hope and Alexander Beresford Hope. Hope in oriental dress; colour print after the portrait of 1798 by William Beechey. The eldest son of Jan Hope, Thomas was descended from a branch of an old Scottish family who for several generations were merchant bankers known as the Hopes of Amsterdam, or Hope & Co. He inherited from his mother a love of the arts, which the efforts of his father and grandfather made possible by acquiring an enormous wealth. His father spent his final years turning his summer home Groenendaal Park in Heemstede into a grand park of sculpture open to the public. After he fled to London with his brothers to avoid the French occupation of the Netherlands from 1795–1810, he never returned. The Hope Dionysus is a statue of Dionysus, the god of wine, wearing a panther skin and casually stretching his left arm over a smaller figure of a woman, in a Neo Attic or archaic pose. This statue, 821⁄4 in. (2.1 m) high, dates to between 27 BC and 68 AD. It was once owned by the 18th Century English antiquities collector Thomas Hope (hence the name), and later belonged to a descendant of Benjamin Franklin, before being acquired by the (more…)