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Scholarly looks at Trafalgar and Waterloo

Trafalgar : The Biography of a Battle
by Roy Adkins

Truly a biography of this battle – a pivotal event in European history.

This seems to be the same book as the American Published one entitled “Trafalgar, a battle which changed the world” – which seems a much overblown title. I liked the “Biography of the battle” which was chosen for the British Edition as it more accurately describes exactly what this book is.

I would highly recommend this book to others who have not read much about sea battles of this period before. Adkins is enormously readable, his prose flows and is neatly interspersed with quotes of contemporaries both describing the battle, and everyday life where appropriate

The first part of the book is very much about the basics. There is a short introduction to Nelson’s colourful life and career, a lot about the life and times of a seaman, and much useful information about life onboard ship during this period, specifically what it was like to serve in the Navy of George III. It was easy to understand the hardships and deprivation when reading this including the shortage of good food – which was generally maggoty or mouldy or both, the smells from the lack of good sanitation, the terrible water which was unfiltered and stored in uncleaned barrels so that it soon became noxious and full of algae.

It was a hard life for anyone, and even Nelson did not touch land once for at least 2 years. The difference in life for officers and enlisted men was significant though. Conditions, food, clothing, position on board all played a significant role.

So the first part of this book sets the stage for the battle – it also dwells in excellent detail on the political situation, the pending Napoleonic invasion of Britain, the reaction, the blockades by British ships of French and Spanish ports, the lead up battles, such as that of the Nile, and so on.

The battle itself lasted but six hours, and is discussed almost cannon blow by cannon blow. It is a confusing battle but Adkins is very clear with his detail and makes it enormously interesting. The aftermath of the battle, the messengers attempts to get to London, and the ‘fruits’ of trafalgar make up the last chapters.

It is a thoughtful book, written, I believe, with an eye on the novice reader. I did not find that it talked-down to the reader though. Rather, it used the social and military information to compliment the build up of the battle, as a reminder to the context it was fought in.

There are extremely useful and easily referenced illustrations and some maps to help the reader.

Overall I loved this book and will be recommending it to others. Given that we have just passed the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, it was published at a significant time and makes excellent reading.

Paperback, 416 pages (May 5, 2005)
Publisher: Abacus
ISBN: 0349116326
List Price: £8.99

Waterloo : June 18, 1815
The Battle for Modern Europe
by Andrew Roberts

This is not my favourite account of the battle of Waterloo, and Roberts nails his colours to the mast early on by acknowledging Peter Hofshroer (a revisionist of the first order) in his introduction. There are only so many sources of the battle and it is always a matter of reinterpreting what is said to be mistinterpreted in the first place.

The main problem is that because the allied forces won the battle and therefore wrote the final account (including, it seems, naming it) this must mean that there needs to be a reinterpretation of how it has been written. I don’t necessarily agree with this premise so maybe I am not the best person to read revisionist accounts with an open mind. However I definitely don’t believe that this account does revisionism any justice. For a short book it seems to have a number of unforgiveable errors in it.

I think for an original account, David Howarth’s book, Waterloo, Day of Battle is an excellent and very personal account of the event. I know that John Keegan argued in his book ‘Face of Battle’ that while Howarth’s book gives the best personal account of the battle there was still room for another account of the movements etc, I don’t believe Robert’s book really adds to the body of work available – either on the personal or the military.

The advantage is that it is a short and punchy book, you can read it in an afternoon without too much effort.

Paperback, 160 pages (January 2006)
Publisher: Harper Perennial
ISBN: 0060762152
Price: $14.93

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites, the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.

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Create a Pineapple Centrepiece

Pineapples, notoriously fickle and difficult to grow, have long been a symbol of hospitality and extravagance–in fact, Georgian confectioners were known to have rented pineapples by the day, to less wealthy customers, before selling them to be eaten by their more well-to-do clientele. The same pineapple might show up on several tables before finally being consumed.

Pineapples are especially noticeable at the Colonial Williamsburg living history settlement in Willliamsburg, Virginia, where costumed interpreters reenact all aspects of life in a British Colony during the mid 1700’s. Here, you will find the pineapple represented on everything from painted Wedgwood china to architectural details. Nowhere is the pineapple more evident, however, than in the stunning centerpieces and floral displays created daily for the governor’s dining room.

These types of centerpieces would have been familiar sights on the tables of the privileged class in Austen’s Regency England as well. To create your own version of the welcoming Williamsburg centerpiece featured here, follow Julie Mulligan’s simple instructions.

  1. Tape a piece of wet floral foam to a low shallow dish.
  2. Insert a 4” floral or craft stick about 2” into the bottom of the pineapple and insert into the top of the foam.
  3. Insert fresh cut greens, such as magnolia or balsam, into the bottom of the foam to form the base of the arrangement.
  4. Using the 4” sticks insert a row of apples on top of the greenery base.
  5. The next row that will be between the pineapple and the apples will be made with lush red roses. Give each rose a fresh cut on an angle (stem length should be about 5”) and insert into the foam.
  6. You can add sprigs of filler flower, such as the blupernum that I used here, or add another variety of evergreen for additional texture.

    After more than 25 years as an innovative floral designer, Julie Mulligan has expanded her career to that of a floral lifestyle expert. Taking a creative approach with all her work, Julie designs unique containers, vases and packaging to complement and enhance the breathtaking beauty of her floral designs, including many 1-800-FLOWERS.COM® signature arrangements.

    Julie and her designs have appeared on numerous television shows as a floral lifestyle expert, including The Montel Williams Show, Extra, WABC Eyewitness News, and NBC’s Weekend Today. She’s also been featured in high-circulation national magazines like People, US Weekly, Star, Family Circle and Women’s Day, among numerous others.

    For a brief history of how the pineapple has served as both a food and a symbol throughout the human history of the Americas, go to

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Kensington Gardens

Your lilacs are in leaf, ours are in bloom. The horse-chestnuts are quite out, and the elms almost. I had a pleasant walk in Kensington Gardens on Sunday with Henry, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Tilson; everything was fresh and beautiful.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
April 25, 1811

The following article is excerpted from Old and new London: a narrative of its history, its people, and its places …, which was printed in 1898. Here you will find a history of the Gardens up to that point, a great deal of which is drawn from historical documents of Jane Austen’s time, 1802-1806, specifically. Here is a period look at the Garden Jane Austen knew and enjoyed!

Kensington Gardens
The gardens attached to Kensington Palace, when purchased by William III., did not exceed twentysix acres. They were immediately laid out according to the royal taste; and this being entirely military, the consequence was that closely-cropped yews, and prim holly hedges, were taught, under the auspices of Loudon and Wise, the royal gardeners, to imitate the lines, angles, bastions, scarps and counter-scarps of regular fortifications. This curious upper garden, we are told, was long “the admiration of every lover of that kind of horticultural embellishment,” and, indeed, influenced the general taste of the age…Addison, in No. 477 of the Spectator, thus speaks of the horticultural improvements of this period :—” I think there are as many kinds of gardening as of poetry: your makers of pastures and flower-gardens are epigrammatists and sonneteers in this art; contrivers of bowers and grottoes, treillages and cascades, are romantic writers; Wise and Loudon are our heroic poets ; and if, as a critic, I may single out any passage of their works to commend, I shall take notice of that part in the upper garden at Kensington which was at first nothing but a gravel-pit. It must have been a fine genius for gardening that could have thought of forming such an unsightly hollow into so beautiful an area, and to have hit the eye with so uncommon and agreeable a scene as that which it is now wrought into.”

In 1691 these gardens are thus described:— ” They are not great, nor abounding with fine plants. The orange, lemon, myrtle, and what other trees they had there in summer, were all removed to London, or to Mr. Wise’s greenhouse at Brompton Park, a little mile from there. But the walks and grass were very fine, and they were digging up a plot of four or five acres to enlarge their gardens.” Queen Anne added some thirty acres more, which were laid out by her gardener, Wise. Bowack, in 1705, describes here “a noble collection of foreign plants, and fine neat greens, which makes it pleasant all the year. . . . Her Majesty has been pleased lately to plant near thirty acres more to the north, separated from the rest only by a stately greenhouse, not yet finished.” It appears from this passage that, previous to the above date, Kensington Gardens did not extend further to the north than the conservatory, which, as stated in the previous chapter, was originally built for a banqueting-house, and was frequently used as such by Queen Anne. This banquetinghouse was completed in the year 1705, and is considered a fine specimen of brickwork. The south front has rusticated columns supporting a Doric pediment, and the ends have semi-circular recesses. ” The interior, decorated with Corinthian columns,” Mr. John Timbs tells us in his ” Curiosities,” ” was fitted up as a drawing-room, music room, and ball-room ; and thither the queen was conveyed in her chair from the western end of the palace. Here were given full-dress fêtes à la Watteau, with a profusion of ‘ brocaded robes, hoops, fly-caps, and fans,’ songs by the court lyrists, &c.” When the Court left Kensington, this building was converted into an orangery and greenhouse.

Just within the boundary of the gardens at the south-eastern corner, on slightly rising ground, is the Albert Memorial, which we have already described, and not far distant is the statue of Dr. Jenner, the originator of vaccination. This statue, which is of bronze, represents the venerable doctor in a sitting posture. It is the work of William Calder Marshall, and was originally set up in Trafalgar Square in 1858, but was removed hither about four years afterwards.

The eastern boundary of the gardens would seem to have been in Queen Anne’s time nearly in the line of the broad walk which crosses them on the east side of the palace. The kitchen- gardens, which extended north of the palace, towards the gravel-pits, but are now occupied by some elegant villas and mansions, and the thirty acres lying north of the conservatory, added by Queen Anne to the pleasure-gardens, may have been the fifty-five acres “detached and severed from the park, lying in the north-west corner thereof,” granted in the reign of Charles II. to Hamilton, the Ranger of Hyde Park, and Birch, the auditor of excise, ” to be walled and planted with ‘pippins and redstreaks,’ on condition of their furnishing apples or cider for the king’s use.”

At the end of the avenue leading from the south part of the palace to the wall on the Kensington Road is an alcove built by Queen Anne’s orders ; so that the palace, in her reign, seems to have stood in the midst of fruit and pleasure gardens, with pleasant alcoves on the west and south, and the stately banqueting-house on the east, the whole confined between the Kensington and Uxbridge Roads on the north and south, with Palace Green on the west ; the line of demarcation on the east being the broad walk before the east front of the palace. Bridgeman, who succeeded Wise as the fashionable designer of gardens, was employed by Queen Caroline, consort of George II., to plant and lay out, on a larger scale than had hitherto been attempted, the ground which had been added to the gardens by encroaching upon Hyde Park. Bridgeman’s idea of the picturesque led him to abandon ” verdant sculpture,” and he succeeded in effecting a complete revolution in the formal and square precision of the foregoing age, although he adhered in parts to the formal Dutch style of straight walks and clipped hedges. A plan of the gardens, published in 1762, shows on the north-east side a low wall and fosse, reaching from the Uxbridge Road to the Serpentine, and effectually shutting in the gardens. Across the park, to the east of Queen Anne’s Gardens, immediately in front of the palace, a reservoir was formed with the ” round pond ; ” thence, as from a centre, long vistas or avenues were carried through the wood that encircled the water—one as far as the head of the Serpentine ; another to the wall and fosse above mentioned, affording a view of the park ; a third avenue led to a mount on the south-east side, which was raised with the soil dug in the formation of the adjoining canal, and planted with evergreens by Queen Anne. This mount, which has since been levelled again, or, at all events, considerably reduced, had on the top a revolving “prospect house.” There was also in the gardens a ” hermitage : ” a print of it is to be seen in the British Museum.

On King William taking up his abode in the palace, the neighbouring town of Kensington and the outskirts of Hyde Park became the abode of fashion and of the hangers-on at the Court, whilst the gardens themselves became the scene of a plot for assassinating William, and replacing James II. on the throne. The large gardens laid out by Queen Caroline were opened to the public on Saturdays, when the King and Court went to Richmond, and on these occasions all visitors were required to appear in full dress. When the Court ceased to reside here, the gardens were thrown open in the spring and summer ; they, nevertheless, long continued to retain much of their stately seclusion. The gardens are mentioned in the following terms by the poet Crabbe, in his ” Diary : “—” Drove to Kensington Gardens : … effect new and striking. Kensington Gardens have a very peculiar effect ; not exhilarating, I think, yet alive [lively] and pleasant.”

According to Sir Richard Phillips, in ” Modern London,” published in 1804, the gardens were open to the public at that time only from spring to autumn ; and, curiously enough, servants in livery were excluded, as also were dogs. Thirty years later the gardens are described as being open ” all the year round, to all respectably-dressed persons, from sunrise till sunset.” About that time, when it happened that the hour for closing the gates was eight o’clock, the following lines, purporting to have been written ” by a young lady aged nineteen,” were discovered affixed to one of the seats :—

“Poor Adam and Eve were from Eden turned out,
As a punishment due to their sin ;
But here after eight, if you loiter about,
As a punishment you’ll be locked in.

It may be added that now, on stated days during the ” London season,” the scene in these gardens is enlivened by the exhilarating strains of military bands. It is stated by Count de Melfort, in his ” Impressions of England,” published in the reign of William IV., that the Duke of St. Albans—we suppose, as Grand Falconer of England—is the only subject, except members of the royal family, who has the right of entering Kensington Palace Gardens in his carriage. The fact may be true, but it wants verifying.

Of the Bridge over the Serpentine, at the northeast corner of the Gardens, we have already given an illustration [elsewhere in the book]. At some distance on the west side of this bridge, as it leaves the Uxbridge Road, the Serpentine has been divided into a series of four large basins or reservoirs, of octangular form, each of which has a small fountain in the centre, encompassed with marble. In the central pathway, above the water-level. At the other end of the reservoirs is an engine-house, containing engines for working the fountains. This building is of Italian design, and roofed with red Italian tiles. It stands just within the Gardens, at a short distance from the Bayswater Road.

Kensington Gardens have been celebrated by [Thomas] Tickell in the poem which bears their name, and from which we have quoted above ; ” verses,” says Charles Knight, ” full of fairies and their dwarfs, and Dryads and Naiads ; verses made to order, and which have wholly perished as they deserve to perish.” His poem on ‘ Kensington Gardens,’ with the fairy tale introduced, is much admired; the versification is smooth and elegant . He is said to have been a man of gay conversation, but in his domestic relations without censure.” Kensington Palace and its Gardens were the first places where the hooped petticoats of our greatgrandmother’s days were displayed by ladies of fashion and ” quality.” We do not purpose giving here a history of Englishwomen’s dress; but it may be as well to record the fact that the hoop appears to have been the invention of a Mrs. Selby, whose novelty is made the subject of a pamphlet, published at Bath, under the title of ” The Farthingale Reviewed; or, more Work for the Cooper:a “Panegyrick on the late but most admirable invention of the Hooped Petticoat.” The talented lady who invented it died in 1717, and is thus mentioned by a Mrs. Stone, in the ” Chronicles of Fashion :” ” How we yearn to know something more of Mrs. Selby, her personal appearance, her whereabouts, her habits, and her thoughts. Can no more be said of her, whose inventive genius influenced the empire for well-nigh a century, who, by the potency of a rib of whalebone, held the universal realm of fashion against the censures’ of the press, the admonitions of the pulpit, and the common sense of the whole nation ? Mrs. Tempest, the milliner, had her portrait taken by Kent, and painted on the staircase of Kensington Palace ; and what was Mrs. Tempest that her lineaments should be preserved, whilst those of Mrs. Selby, the inventor of the hoop, are suffered to fall into oblivion ? ” It was during the reign of George I. that the fashionable promenades in the Gardens became so popular, and the glittering skirts, which still lived in the recollection of our grandparents, would seem to have made their first appearance. Caroline of Anspach, the Prince of Wales’s consort, probably introduced them, when she came with her bevy of maidens to Court. People would throng to see them ; the ladies would take the opportunity of showing themselves, like pea-hens, in the walks ; persons of fashion, privileged to enter the Gardens, would avail themselves of the privilege ; and at last the public would obtain admission, and the raree-show would be complete. The full-dress promenade, it seems, was at first confined to Saturdays ; it was afterwards changed to Sundays, and continued on that day till the custom went out with the closing days of George III.

In fact, during the last century the broad walk in Kensington Gardens had become almost as fashionable a promenade as the Mall in St. James’s Park had been a century earlier, under Charles II. There might, probably, have been seen here, on one and the same day, during the portentous year 1791, Wilkes and Wilberforce ; George Rose and Mr. Holcroft ; Mr. Reeve and Mr. Godwin ; Burke, Warren Hastings, and Tom Paine ; Horace Walpole and Hannah More (whom he introduced to the Duke of Queensberry) ; Mary Wollstonecraft and Miss Burney (Madame d’Arblay), the latter avoiding the former with all her might ; the Countess of Albany (the widow of the Pretender); the Margravine of Anspach ; Mrs. Montagu ; Mrs. Barbauld ; Mrs. Trimmer ; Emma Harte (Lady Hamilton), accompanied by her adoring portrait painter, Romney ; and poor Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV., come to look after some jewels of which she has been robbed, and little thinking she would return to be guillotined. The fashions of this half century, with the exception of an occasional broad-brimmed hat worn both by gentlemen and ladies, comprised the ugliest that ever were seen in the old Court suburb. Headdresses became monstrous compounds of pasteboard, flowers, feathers, and pomatum ; the hoop degenerated into little panniers ; and about the year 1770, a set of travelled fops came up, calling themselves Macaronis (from their intimacy with the Italian eatable so called), who wore ridiculously little hats, large pigtails, and tight-fitting clothes of striped colours. The lesser pigtail, long or , curly, prevailed for a long time among elderly , gentlemen, making a powdered semicircle between the shoulders ; a plain cocked-hat adorned their heads ; and, on a sudden, at the beginning of the new century, some of the ladies took to wearing turbans, surmounted with ostrich feathers, and bodies literally without a waist, the girdle coming directly under the arms.

Lady Brownlow, in her ” Reminiscences of a Septuagenarian,” tells us that after the Peace of Amiens, in 1802, she here met the celebrated Madame Recamier, who created a sensation at the West-end, partly by her beauty, but still more by her dress, which was vastly unlike the unsophisticated style and poke bonnets of the English ladies. “She appeared in Kensington Gardens à l’antique, a muslin gown clinging to her form like the folds of drapery on a statue ; her hair in a plait at the back, and falling in small ringlets round her face, and greasy with huile antique; a large veil thrown over her head completed her attire, which not unnaturally caused her to be followed and stared at.” No doubt, dressed in such a costume, and at such a period, Madame Recamier might well have been the “cynosure of neighbouring eyes.”

In an article on Kensington Palace and Gardens, in the Monthly Register for September, 1802, the writer somewhat critically remarks : — “All the views from the south and east façades of the edifice suffer from the absurdity of the early inspectors of these grounds. The three vistas opening from the latter, without a single wave in the outline, without a clump or a few insulated trees to soften the glare of the champagne, or diminish the oppressive weight of the incumbent grove, are among the greatest deformities. The most exquisite view in the Gardens is near the north-east angle ; at the ingress of the Serpentine river, which takes an easy wind towards the park, and is ornamented on either side by sloping banks, with scenery of a different character. To the left the wood presses boldly on the water, whose polished bosom seems timidly to recede from the dark intruder ; to the right, a few truant foresters interrupt the uniformity of the parent grove, which rises at some distance on the more elevated part of the shore ; and through the boles of the trees are discovered minute tracts of landscape, in which the eye of taste can observe sufficient variety of light and shade of vegetable and animal life to gratify the imagination, and disappoint the torpor, which the more sombre scenery to the east is accustomed to invite.

“The pencil of Claude and Poussin was employed on general landscape ; and the transport inspired by their works is from the composition and general effect, not from the exact resemblance of objects, to which Swanevelt and Watteau were so scrupulously attentive. In the landscape of nature, as well as in the feeble imitations of the artist, individuals deserve some attention. The largest and most beautiful of all the productions of the earth is a tree. As the effulgent tints of the insect must yield to the elegance and proportion of the other orders of animals, when contemplated by our imperfect optics, so the gorgeous radiance of the flower must bend its coronal honours to this gigantic offspring of nature, whose ample foliage receives all the splendid effects of light and shade, and gives arrangement and composition to landscape. The trees that conduce to the sublime in scenery are the oak, the ash, the elm, and the beech. It is a defect in the gardens at Kensington that, excepting the elm, the whole of this beautiful fraternity is excluded, so that all the variety of tint in the spring and autumn is lost, and the gardens burst into the luxuriance of summer, and hasten to the disgrace of winter, without those gradations which indulgent Nature has contrived to moderate our transport on the approach of the one, and to soften our griefs on the appearance of the other. The dusky fir is the only melancholy companion the elm is here permitted to possess, who seems to raise his tall funereal head to insult his more lively associate with approaching decay. If in spring we have not here all the colours of the rainbow, in the forms of nascent existence ; if in autumn the yellow of the elm, the orange of the beech, and the glowing brown of the oak do not blend their fading honours, it must be acknowledged that the elm is one of the noblest ornaments of the forest ; it is the medium between the massive unyielding arm of the oak and the versatile pliancy of the ash ; it out- tops the venerable parent of the grove, and seems to extend its mighty limbs towards heaven, in bold defiance of the awful monarch of the wood.

Excerpted from Old and new London: a narrative of its history, its people, and its places … By Walter Thornbury; 1892

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British Ballooning

British ballooning is born

British Ballooning

Vincenzo Lunardi was only 22 when he came to England as Secretary to Prince Caramanico, the Neapolitan Ambassador. Born in Lucca, Italy, then part of the Kingdom of Naples in 1759, Vicenzo was one of three children. His family were of minor Neapolitan nobility, and his father had married late in life. He travelled in France in his early years before being called home, where he was put into the diplomatic service.

There was a flying craze in France and Scotland with James Tytler, Scotland’s first aeronaut and the first Briton to fly (and, incidentally, an editor of the Encyclopædia Britannica), but even so and after a year since the invention of the balloon, the English were still skeptical, and so George Biggin and ‘Vincent’ Lunardi, “The Daredevil Aeronaut”, together decided to demonstrate a hydrogen balloon flight at the Artillery Ground of the Honourable Artillery Company in London on 15 September 1784. His balloon was later exhibited at the Pantheon in Oxford Street.

However, because 200,000 strong crowd (which included eminent statesmen and the Prince of Wales) had grown very impatient, the young Italian had to take-off without his friend Biggin, and with a bag that was not completely inflated, but he was accompanied by a dog, a cat and a caged pigeon. The flight from the Artillery Ground travelled in a northerly direction towards Hertfordshire, with Lunardi making a stop in Welham Green, before eventually bringing the balloon to rest in Standon Green End. The road junction in Welham Green near to the site Lunardi made his first stop is called Balloon Corner to this day to commemorate the landing.

The 24 mile flight brought Lunardi fame and began the British ballooning fad that inspired fashions of the day — Lunardi skirts were decorated with balloon styles, and in Scotland, the Lunardi Bonnet was named after him (balloon-shaped and standing some 600 mm tall), and is even mentioned by Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns (1759-96), in his poem ‘To a Louse’, written about a young woman called Jenny, who had a louse scampering in her Lunardi bonnet, “But Miss’s fine Lunardi, fye”.

In October the following year (in 1785), a large and excited crowd filled the grounds of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh to see Lunardi’s first Scottish hydrogen-filled balloon take off. The 46 mile flight over the Firth of Forth ended at Coaltown of Callange in the parish of Ceres, Fife. There is today a plaque commemorating this feat of British ballooning nearby. At the time, The Scots Magazine reported:

‘The beauty and grandeur of the spectacle could only be exceeded by the cool, intrepid manner in which the adventurer conducted himself; and indeed he seemed infinitely more at ease than the greater part of his spectators.’

The Glasgow Mercury newspaper ran adverts the following month announcing Lunardi’s intention to ‘gratify the curiosity of the public of Glasgow, by ascending in his Grand Air Balloon from a conspicuous place in the city’.

Vincenzo made five flights in Scotland in his Grand Air Balloon — which was made of 140m² of green, pink and yellow silk, and which was exhibited, ‘suspended in its floating state’ in the choir of St. Mungo’s Cathedral in Glasgow for the admission charge of one shilling.

The weather was fine at about 14:00 on 23 November 1785 when The Daredevil Aeronaut ‘ascended into the atmosphere with majestic grandeur, to the astonishment and admiration of the spectators’ from St. Andrew’s Square in Glasgow. The two-hour flight covered 110 miles, and passed over Hamilton and Lanark before landing at the feet of ‘trembling shepherds’ in Hawick near the border with England.

A couple of weeks later, in early December, a local ‘character’ called Lothian Tam managed to get entangled in the ropes and as the balloon ascended — again from St. Andrew’s Square in Glasgow, Tam was lifted 6 metres before being cut loose and falling, with apparently no serious injury. The weather was worse on this flight — which had to end after just 20 minutes, with the Grand Balloon landing in Campsie Glen in Milton of Campsie — just over 10 miles from Glasgow. His landing, on 5 December 1785, is commemorated by a small plaque in the village.

However, the next flight on 20 December 1785, was a disaster. Seventy minutes after the ascent from the grounds of Heriot’s Hospital in Edinburgh, Lunardi was forced down in the sea. He spent a long time in the North Sea until rescued by a passing fishing boat which docked at North Berwick. The diary of the Rev John Mill from Shetland states:

‘A French man called Lunardi fled over the Firth of Forth in a Balloon, and lighted in Ceres parish, not far from Cupar, in Fife; and O! how much are the thoughtless multitude set on these and like foolish vanities to the neglect of the one thing needful. Afterwards, ’tis said, when soaring upwards in the foresaid machine, he was driven by the wind down the Firth of Forth, and tumbled down into the sea near the little Isle of May, where he had perished had not a boat been near who saved him and his machine.’

A short time later, (in 1786) Lunardi published An Account of five Aerial Voyages in Scotland in a Series of Letters to his Guardian, Gherardo Campagni.

Lunardi would subsequently also invent a life saving device for shipwrecked people. Called by the inventor his “acquatic machine” it was like a one man lifeboat with an oar for steering. He actually successfully tested the machine in 1787.

After his return to the continent Lunardi would make an assent by balloon near Mt. Vesuvius in September 1789. He also made the first successful ascent by balloon in Sicily in July 1790. It lasted two hours.

Lunardi never married. He died in Lisbon, Portugal in 1806.

A more in-depth history of ballooning can be found at, Flights of Fancy:
A short history, or overview, of British ballooning during the Georgian and Regency, eras: together with interesting eye-witness accounts, to which are added numerous woodcuts and descriptions of the various balloons
can be found at

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Here’s To You: A History of the Toast

His leave of absence will soon expire, and he must return to his regiment. And what will then be their acquaintance? The mess-room will drink Isabella Thorpe for a fortnight, and she will laugh with your brother over poor Tilney’s passion for a month.”
-Northanger Abbey

The term “Toast” didn’t come into being until the 16th century, and possibly earlier (our original source said 17th, but Shakespeare mentions it in Merry Wives of Windsor, so thpbbtt to them!), when it became customary to put a piece of toasted bread or crouton into the drink to either improve flavor, or as sort of a built-in snack. Adding flavorings to wine was nothing new.

Spices, aromatics, honey, raisins, saffron, mint, sea water, rose petals, pepper, violets, resin and a multitude of other additives had been used to alter or improve the flavor of wine (which makes me think that the modern day fruit-flavored wine producers aren’t being all that original . . . but I digress). The toast craze, however, caught on, and soon anything found floating in a drink was called a toast.

“Drinking a toast” to someone or something became immensely popular in the 17th and 18th centuries, to the point of excess. When a gathering would run out of attendees to toast, it became custom to toast absent friends, thus prolonging the drinking. It was during this period, the heyday of the toast, that the position of Toastmaster came into being. A sort of party referee, the Toastmaster’s duty was to make sure that everyone got a fair chance and equal opportunity to offer toasts. Elaborate drinking games and toasting competitions became popular, as well as some rather gruesome customs. Impressing the ladies (or perhaps the other guys) seemed to be the motivation for most of these. Young men would sometimes stab themselves in the arm, mix their blood with their wine and drink it to the their wine when toasting a young woman to prove their devotion and prowess (hmm . . . students haven’t changed much, have they?), and the practice of drinking to a lady’s beauty from her shoe came into being, though I can’t imagine any lady being particularly amused by that.

Predictably, this excess eventually led to a backlash. Anti-toasting movements and laws began to appear, although they were largely unsuccessful. Eventually, the boisterous excess calmed down and toasting became once more an intellectual affair. Toasting clubs began to emerge and toasting evolved into a way to promote moral doctrine and patriotism, making toasting a social custom instead of a drinking one. William Jennings Bryan, a teetotaler himself, once toasted the British Navy with a glass of water, saying, “Gentlemen, I believe your victories were won on water.” British Ambassador rose and toasted, “George the Third, who, like the sun in its meridian spreads a luster throughout and enlightens the world.” He was followed by the French minister, who toasted, “The illustrious Louis the Sixteenth who, like the moon, sheds his mild and benevolent rays on and influences the globe.” Franklin then rose and toasted, “George Washington, commander of the American armies, who, like Joshua of old, commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, and both obeyed.”

We just don’t get great toasts like that anymore. Then again, nobody is asking you to thrust a bayonet in your arm to prove your manhood, so perhaps we should count our blessings.

Reprinted with permission from Scheid Vineyards: The Twisted Vine, Holiday 1999

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Officer’s Uniforms of the British Navy

Dressing Captain Wentworth

Ah! Who can resist the thought of a man in uniform? Certainly not Mrs. Bennet (“I remember the time when I liked a red coat myself very well — and indeed, so I do still at my heart…”) From her ever warm admiration, Jane must have had similar feelings for Naval Officers. She would have been surrounded by them during her stay in Portsmouth, living with her brother, Captain Francis Austen. There, she would have had firsthand knowledge of “the character of the navy; their friendliness, their brotherliness, their openness, their uprightness… convinced of sailors having more worth and warmth than any other set of men in England; that they only knew how to live, and they only deserved to be respected and loved.”

What then, made up the uniform of a Captain in the British Navy?

British Naval Uniform Regulations were first implemented by Lord Anson in 1748. They were, reportedly, lobbied for by the officers, themselves, who “wished to be recognized as being in the service of the Crown.” The color blue, while seemingly a natural one for the Navy to choose was actually decided upon by the then monarch, George II, who, seeing the Duchess of Bedford ride out in a habit of blue faced with white, was so taken by the combination that he chose the same for his officers’ uniforms.

The “best uniform”, consisting of an embroidered blue coat with white facings, worn unbuttoned with white breeches and stockings, was worn for ceremonial occasions; the “working rig” was a simpler, less embroidered uniform for day-to-day use. In 1767 the best uniform was abolished and replaced by the working rig, with a simpler “undress” uniform for day-to-day use. By 1795, as a result of the French Revolutionary Wars, a plain blue “undress” coat had been introduced for everyday use, and epaulettes were officially introduced.*

According to the National Maritime Museum, “With undress uniform, [Officers] wore a plain hat, and epaulettes only some of the time. Captains with less than three years seniority wore only one epaulette on the right shoulder. Commanders wore one epaulette on the left shoulder. Lieutenants wore the uniform with white lapels introduced in 1787 until 1812. Warrant officers’ uniform was unchanged from 1787 until 1807 (this rank included pursers, gunners, boatswains, carpenters and, until 1805, surgeons).” The white collar patch of the Midshipman first appeared about 1758 and their uniform did not change after the modifications introduced in 1787.

By 1846 all officers wore epaulettes. The white facings came and went over the years, briefly becoming scarlet (1830-1843). Though stripes of lace on the cuffs had been used to distinguish the different ranks of admiral since 1795, the first version of current rank insignia, consisting of stripes with a “curl” in the top one, was introduced for all officers in 1856.

Again, the NMM offers, “Admirals had three silver stars on each epaulette and three rows of lace on the coat sleeve, vice-admirals two and rear-admirals one, worn with both dress and undress uniform. In practice, as opposed to the regulations, the sleeve lace seems to have been sewn on the cuff.

A flag officer’s full dress blue coat had one row of gold lace round the lapels, buttonholes, tails, pockets and pocket flaps. There was an extra row on the cuffs in addition to the distinction lace. It had a white lining and was worn with a gold laced hat, white waistcoat and breeches. The buttons remained those introduced in 1787. The undress uniform was similar but without lace on the lapels, pockets, buttonholes and the extra row on the cuff.

Captains’ dress uniform was similar to that of flag officers but without laced buttonholes and with two rows of lace on cuffs. Epaulettes were plain.”

In 1825, the white breeches were replaced by trousers for officers serving in the United Kingdom. Throughout the nineteenth century, there was great variation in uniform; officers paid for their own uniform, and often adapted it to fit civilian fashion of the time, as the Admiralty regulations governing uniform were not highly prescriptive.*

Headgear tended to follow the fashion of the times. Even a brief review of the period will show a number of variations on a theme, though the bi-corn was quite popular. Other items, such as vests and cravats or neck stocks were, to a certain extent left to the discretion of the wearer. A review of Lord Nelson’s wardrobe shows a number of “non-regulation” items including hose, waistcoat and black velvet stock.

The question is often asked as to why Captain Wentworth is not portrayed thus in most story illustrations and films. In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen, herself, answers the question:

William had obtained a ten days’ leave of absence, to be given to Northamptonshire, and was coming, the happiest of lieutenants, because the latest made, to shew his happiness and describe his uniform.

He came; and he would have been delighted to shew his uniform there too, had not cruel custom prohibited its appearance except on duty.

So the uniform remained at Portsmouth, and Edmund conjectured that before Fanny had any chance of seeing it, all its own freshness and all the freshness of its wearer’s feelings must be worn away.

According to Navy Regulations in 1861, “Officers on furlough will not wear their uniform, and officers are strictly prohibited from wearing any part of it while suspended from duty by sentence of a court martial.” Another portion of the regultions state that ” A person who is discharged honorably or under honorable conditions from the…Navy…may wear his uniform while going from the place of discharge to his home, within three months after his discharge.” Coupled with Jane’s suggestion of “cruel custom” it is clear that while on shore, Captains Wentoworth, Harville and Benwick would have been in civilian dress, as modeled by the newest version of Persuasion. A pity, but a historical necessity. Still, I cannot fault any costume department for desiring to change history. Wouldn’t we all like to imagine the dashing Captain in his gold laced coat, sweeping Anne off her feet and carrying her away?

Why not browse our costume section at our online giftshop for costume, patterns and accessories?

*Historical Information from: Wikipedia, the Online Encyclopedia, with additional material from The National Maritime Museum. Visit their site for further information on Regency Sailors’ dress as well as photographs of actual Georgian era uniforms, including that of Admiral Lord Nelson.

A complete description of United States Navy Uniform Regulations from 1814 can be found here. The details found in this document would strongly resemble those in the British Regulations.

Minature portrait of Capt. Francis Austen, by kind permission of owner. All other reproduction prohibited.

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A History of Love Letters

The history of love letters

A History of Love Letters

Poor soul! I am sure if I had had a notion of it, I would not have joked her about it for all my money. But then, you know, how should I guess such a thing? I made sure of its being nothing but a common love letter, and you know young people like to be laughed at about them.
Sense and Sensibility

The love letter has been composed and treasured for centuries. Through the years, the letter’s form, media, and content have changed. Its purpose, however, remains the same–to communicate via written word the true and raw emotion of human passion.

The history of love letters begins early on. The love letter’s earliest manifestation may perhaps be the Bible’s Song of Solomon. Letter writing was furthered by Cicero and Pliny, turn-of-the-century Romans who affectionately wrote letters to their wives. As a literary form, the history of love letters probably began in the early Renaissance. The Age of Chivalry produced a series of discreet correspondences that were based on the chaste compliments and excessive self-deprecation of courtly love.

In the early eighteenth century, love letters became much more personal and pure. Missives from this period showed tenderness, charm, and even humor.

As the eighteenth century progressed and romantic ideals were cast aside, love letters, too, were changing. Intellectuals applied their ideas to the art, which they considered not to be trivial, but rather essential to the search for self-knowledge and happiness.

The nineteenth century spawned the great private love letters of Beethovan to his “Immortal Beloved”, as well as the literary romance of poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett.

Computers, fax machines, and modern transportation have not outdated the art of the love letter. Instead, they have fueled its interest and effect. The history of love letters continues to write itself. Love letters can now be emailed, faxed, and even sent overnight to lovers separated by oceans and continents. Clearly, the love letter has evolved through the ages, still to be treasured and meaningful in the present day.

Although letters play pivotal roles in all of Jane Austen’s works, she rarely attempts to actually spell out the contents of a love letter. One exception to this is Captain Wentworth’s immortal letter to Anne Elliot, in Persuasion, Austen’s final work. Not only does it quickly turn the plot and bring about a satisfactory resolution to the story, it remains today, a standard by which all other love letters can be measured. On par with Mr. Darcy’s passionate proposal, Captain Wentworth’s heartfelt words stand out as some of the most memorable lines, not only in Austen’s novels, but in all of literature.

The private letters of many of Jane Austen’s contemporaries have been published, among them, these, from Regency notables. Written from the battlefield, from a foreign country–even from next door, the theme is the same–love, longing, desire for reunion. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death.

General Napoleon Bonaparte To Citizeness Joséphine Bonaparte:

A few days ago I thought I loved you; but since I last saw you I feel I love you a thousand times more. All the time I have known you, I adore you more each day; that just shows how wrong was La Bruyére’s maxim that love comes all at once. Everything in nature has its own life and different stages of growth. I beg you, let me see some of your faults: be less beautiful, less graceful, less kind, less good…

My one and only Josephine, apart from you there is no joy; away from you the world is a desert where I am alone and cannot open my heart. You have taken more than my soul; you are the one thought of my life. When I am tired of the worry of work, when I fear the outcome, when men annoy me, when I am ready to curse being alive, I put my hand on my heart; your portrait hangs there, I look at it, and love brings me perfect happiness…Oh, my adorable wife! I don’t know what fate has in store for me, but if it keeps me apart from you any longer, it will be unbearable! My courage is not enough for that.

Come and join me; before we die let us at least be able to say: “We had so many happy days!”

Percy Bysshe Shelley To Mary Godwin Shelley
Bagni di Lucca, Sunday, 23rd August, 1818

My dearest Mary,
We arrived here last night at twelve o’clock, and it is now before breakfast the next morning. I can of course tell you nothing of the future, and though I shall not close this letter till post-time, yet I do not know exactly when that is. Yet, if you are still very impatient, look along the letter, and you will see another date, when I may have something to relate…Well, but the time presses. I am now going to the banker’s to send you money for the journey, which I shall address to you at Florence, Post Office. Pray come instantly to Este, where I shall be waiting in the utmost anxiety for your arrival… Do you know, dearest, how this letter was written? By scrap and patches and interrupted every minute. The gondola is now coming to take me to the banker’s. Este is a little place and the house found without difficulty. I shall count four days for this letter, one day for packing, four for coming here–and the ninth or tenth day we shall meet.

I am too late for the post, but I send an express to overtake it. Enclosed is an order for fifty pounds. If you know all that I have to do! Dearest love, be well, be happy, come to me. Confide in your own constant and affectionate

P.S. Kiss the blue eyed darlings* for me, and do not let William forget me. Clara cannot
recollect me.

*Their son and baby daughter

John Keats to Fanny Brawne
25 College Street, 13 October 1819

My dearest Girl,
This moment I have set myself to copy some verses out fair. I cannot proceed with any degree of content. I must write you a line or two and see if that will assist in dismissing you from my mind for ever so short a time. Upon my soul I can think of nothing else. The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of my Life. My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again–my life seems to stop there–I see no further. You have absorbed me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving–I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change? My love, will it? I have no limit now to my love…

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Women’s Lives in Georgian England

The Gentleman’s Daughter:

Women’s Lives in Georgian England
Written by Amanda Vickery

Women's Lives in Georgian England
What was the life of an eighteenth-century British genteel woman like? This lively book, based on letters, diaries, and account books of over one hundred middle class women, transforms our understanding of the position of women in Georgian England. These women were not confined in their homes but enjoyed expanding horizons and an array of emerging public arenas, the author shows.

Amanda Vickery’s The Gentleman’s Daughter: Women’s Lives in Georgian England (winner of the Longman History Today Prize in 1998) is an outstanding study of a crucial period in modern women’s history. Roy Porter described this book as “the most important thing in English feminist history in the last ten years.” While the writing style at times reminds one of a doctoral dissertation, the book does fill a niche often left underresearched. As one reader noted, “I appreciated this book because it broke me of my misconceptions about any kind of “romantic” life of the women of this “almost leisure” class, as another reviewer called it. They were at the mercy of their husbands, their social situation and fate. Very thought provoking for a Jane Austen fan like myself.”

What would the lives of these women- women like Elizabeth Bennet, Emma Woodhouse, and even Austen, herself, to a lesser extent, have been like? Readers familiar with the feminist analysis of women’s lives in the late 18th to mid-19th century will find some of the commonplaces of that viewpoint called into question. Rife with personal examples, this history brings Georgian society to life through what Vickery identifies as the “terms set out in their own letters by genteel women.” The seven sections of the book are labeled: “Gentility”, “Love and Duty’, “Fortitude and Resignation” (which includes a noteworthy discussion on pregnancy), “Prudent Economy”, “Elegance”, “Civility and Vulgarity”, and “Propriety”. “Our battles were not necessarily theirs,” Vickery reminds us as she draws a fine profile of these women’s lives and their ways of finding meaning and pleasure amid the strictures of Georgian culture.

Yale Univ Press
ISBN: 0300080026;
Published: September 1999
List Price: $19.00 (paperback)

Ladies of the Grand Tour:

British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe
Written by Brian Dolan

Ladies of the Grand Tour

Life in the eighteenth century for women was a strange mixture of education, enlightenment and restriction. The fact that some could travel so freely seems an anomaly given their general position in society legally – yet travel many did – and write about – they did too. Dolan has used mostly diaries and letters of female travellers for this large and well-researched book.

There is a lot of material which sheds new light (for me anyway) on the life of women travelling during this time but he tends to use the diaries and letters of those women who are already very well written about simply because there is such a wealth of material about them so Lady Bessborough, Lady Holland, Mary Montagu, Mary Wollstonecraft and Marianna Starke (to name the main ones) dominate the book. Perhaps there just isn’t the same wealth of material about travel undiscovered and so the main writers are returned to. These women have certainly been used to define this age.

The advantage of this book is it really does illustrate (and very well) the life of the traveller, the difficulties and how they travelled etc – without getting caught up in all the other issues that litter their diaries/letters – so you have travel unadulterated. He has also split the book up into nine topical chapters including travel of Education and Improvement, Fashionable Society and Foreign Affairs – and my favourite chapter – Sea Breezes and Sanity.

There are also a number of good illustrations used – although I rather question some of the captions used – For instance using Vermeer’s picture “Woman in Blue” – a picture of a woman reading a letter – to caption it “A woman absorbed in a letter from an absent lover…” seems to be both pushing the pathos and the aesthetic art interpretation a bit far…. couldn’t it just as easily have been a note from the grocer? …or her sister in the next town….or her mother?

Those niggles aside I think this is a great book to add depth to a library of anyone who is interested in this period.

ISBN: 0060185430
1st edition, November 6, 2001
List Price: $27.00 (hardcover)

Anne Woodley is an Amazon top 500 reviewer as well as the patroness of Janeites,
the Internet discussion, as well as mistress of the Regency Ring. Her excellent page, The Regency Collection is a treasure trove of information.