Give them back their future

If you were young, how would you be feeling about your future, decided by your elders in a badly informed opinion poll last year?

Past and Present, No. 2 1858 by Augustus Leopold Egg 1816-1863Augustus Leopold Egg Past and Present, No 2 1858. Image: Tate

Two orphaned sisters are reduced to poverty and despair because of the actions of their parents. The elder girl is now responsible for both their fates, and neither she nor we see any hope for her as she looks yearningly at the moon.

On Saturday’s Unite For Europe march, the intelligence and passion of three speakers (Ismaeel Yaqoob, Elin Smith, Felix Milbank) representing Students for EU moved the crowd in Parliament Square and along Whitehall as in turn they pleaded eloquently for isolationist, zenophobic Brexit to be reversed so they can have their futures back.

The New Cosette, marching to Unite for Europe on 25 March, 2017 © Martin Hübscher

In 1858, Egg told another tale of an older generation’s betrayal of the young. A whole family, father, mother and two children, are victims of unfair, unnatural social rules designed by patriarchy to benefit itself.

Continue reading

A Regency Romance

What explains the enduring appeal of the Regency Romance? (Question arises from the latest audio book I’ve narrated, already successfully released in USA 10 days ago, by a subsidiary of over-mighty Amazon).

Why has that period in history lent itself more than any other to our fantasies about courtship and social acceptance? The origins of its potency lie older and deeper than the comedies of manners written prolifically by Georgette Heyer, the doyenne of Regency Romance fiction, and the costume rom-coms of the film and movie industries of the last hundred years.

Regency Romance is written to a winning formula nowadays, some of it blissfully unconcerned with syntax or history, but millions of women had fallen in love with Classic Literature’s Mr Darcy for nearly two centuries before the BBC got him wet.  Members of all sexes have obsessed over the period’s dead poets with a sense of connection that felt stronger than many real relationships. Many a girl and boy have thrilled to Byron’s “mad, bad and dangerous” celebrity, or pined to be the one to soothe Keats’ fevered forehead, rather than inadequate Fanny Brawne.

We are all touched by the Regency, even those of us who have never read a romantic novel or would know a pelisse if it arrested us.

John_Arthur_Douglas_Bloomfield,_2nd_Baron_Bloomfield_by_Sir_Thomas_Lawrence

John Arthur Douglas Bloomfield, 2nd Baron Bloomfield, already a career diplomat at the age of seventeen, a pillar of the Establishment trying desperately to look like poet, libertarian political writer and social outcast Lord Byron, painted at full Romantic throttle by Thomas Lawrence, 1819. (National Portrait Gallery. Image: Wikipedia).
The Regency created its own romantically sexy myth long before it was appropriated by later generations.

The Regency period looks more modern to us than either the preceding 18th century age or the following Victorian age. The style of clothes and short hairstyles are still around – even the men’s tight-fitting trousers have been revived as jeggings.

Regency architecture, interior and garden design still provide some of the most elegant home improvement options available today.

EdmundBlairLeightonOntheThreshold
Edmund Leighton: On the Threshold (1900). Manchester Art Gallery. Image source: Wikipedia
Love the wrought iron and lead roofed porch. And his boots….

A late Victorian nostalgia for Regency style packaged the romance of consumerism, in which props and set dressing are more prominent than feelings. You’d never guess from later illustrations that there had been a war going on, in fact several wars, about ideology, trade, territory and ideas.

Women’s clothes in the neoclassical Regency period, for three decades after the French Revolution, were more comfortable, more symbolic of personal freedom, than later 19th and early 20th century fashions. By the late 1820s, tight lacing was back and got tighter. (Traditional stays had never really gone away for every woman in Regency times, and were superseded by the much-maligned corset which, correctly fitted, is far more comfortable and good for posture than its reputation allows. And some of us are comfortable and happier in high heels, just as some people have sea legs – but that’s for another battle at the Last Post.)

The female body of the following four generations was squeezed in and padded out, satisfying somebody or other’s fetishes, some of them as weird as Comic Con costumes.

At the time Edmund Leighton was turning out his chocolate box historical genre scenes, and C.E. Brock was producing his fairytale illustrations to Jane Austen, fashionable women’s bodies were trapped in S-shaped cages which they only started getting out of shortly before World War I. The Regency looked like a time of rationality and enlightenment in comparison.

Bingley&Jane. Brock

One of the later (1907) watercolour versions of C.E. Brock’s original 1895 illustrations to Pride and Prejudice: the sugary colours signal the export of Jane Austen’s “two inches of ivory” world to the arch land of Regency Romance.

to be continued

The AUDIO VERSION of THE CAPTAIN’S WALLFLOWER – A Regency Romance by Audrey Harrison, read by Pippa Rathborne – is available now on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

Jane Austen’s feather

Reblogged from Margaret Eleanor Leigh’s blog. Ms Leigh is the author of several novels and the humorous travel memoir The Wrong Shade of Yellow, all available on Amazon.

margaret eleanor leigh

Jane Austen - public domain image. Jane Austen – public domain image.

When Romance Writing was Restrained

You may or may not be surprised to learn that in a recent article in the Guardian, the sexiest scene in literature was identified as coming not from E L James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, but from Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
It takes a fair bit of imagination to appreciate the erotic content in the Austen scene in question, but perhaps that’s the whole point. It goes like this:“Captain Wentworth, without saying a word, turned to her, and quietly obliged her to be assisted into the carriage. Yes, he had done it. She was in the carriage, and felt that he had placed her there, that his will and his hands had done it…”
Obviously the scene was written in a particular era, the early nineteenth century, a time when authors were tightly constrained in terms of what could and…

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A Woman’s Travels with Tongue in Cheek

wsy

New audiobook available on iTunes, Audible and Amazon

Pippa Rathborne narrates Margaret Eleanor Leigh‘s recent picaresque adventures across three continents in search of personal Utopia which turns out to be….

THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW

marathonMarathon by Carl Rottmann. Encaustic on stone, 1848. Neue Pinakothek, Munich. Image: WGA

The isles of Greece, the Isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!

(from “The Isles of Greece” by Byron)

MethonicastleBurtziBurtzi and the Castle of Methoni, Messinia, Greece by Flyax (Creative Commons 3.0 Licence) via Wikimedia Commons

THE WRONG SHADE OF YELLOW is available as an audiobook on iTunes, Audible and Amazon.wsy

If you would like a complimentary review copy, please leave a message in the comments section.

Margaret Eleanor Leigh follows the tradition of intrepid solo female travellers and recounts her misadventures with wry humour and relentless self-examination.

NellieBlyjournalist

Nellie Bly, journalist, industrialist and inventor, on the eve of her journey around the world, 1889.
Image: Wikipedia

Noir

“FOR MY PART I KNOW NOTHING WITH ANY CERTAINTY BUT THE SIGHT OF THE STARS MAKES ME DREAM” (Vincent van Gogh)

Pippa RathborneWoman reading Vickie Lester’s novel “It’s In His Kiss”  at night. Photo © Martin Hübscher

LISTEN TO THE FIRST CHAPTER OF It’s In His Kiss
on Vickie Lester’s brilliant blog
Beguiling Hollywood

on which each apparently effortless post strikes deep behind the razzle-dazzle to give insight into the design and inspiration, humour and human cost that go into creating the glamour of classic film-making.

All these qualities are evident in Vickie Lester’s fiction.

It is easy to dream when we look at a starlit sky, more difficult to represent it, even harder to understand how it was made.

“IT SHOULD BE CLEAR THAT PUTTING LITTLE WHITE DOTS
ON A BLUE-BLACK SURFACE IS NOT ENOUGH””
(Vincent van Gogh)

The most comprehensive and authoritative site I know about dramatic and comedic arts in all media, from historic to present times, is Sarah Vernon’s Rogues and Vagabonds, rich in articles and illustrations, edited by someone who understands theatre through and through.

Another recommended site dedicated to classic movies, combining charm with informed criticism, is Silver Screenings.

For down-to-earth reviews of popular films, I enjoy the wisdom of Pete Johnson (who is wise about everything) and Vinnieh.

“A life larger than the sentence” (2)

THE DRAGON AND THE UNICORN: THE PERILOUS ORDER OF CAMELOT (Volume 1) by A. A. Attanasio is available as an audiobook on Audible, iTunes and Amazon

Pippa Rathborne

The audiobook of THE DRAGON AND THE UNICORN: The Perilous Order of Camelot (Volume 1) by A. A. Attanasio, read by Pippa Rathborne,
is available for sale on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

The Dragon and the Unicorn is a work of high fantasy which blends Arthurian myths and legends with philosophy, history, theology and science fiction. At the heart of the book is the story of Ygrane, who triumphs over adversity in multiple roles, as maiden-sacrifice, witch-queen, wife and mother, whose emotional life seems so vividly real to readers that she rises out of fantasy as a real woman, a once and future heroine.

The author, A. A. Attanasio, has described his delight that through the audio version his novel “now wholly partakes of the larger life of performance art”.

“I am mesmerized by the voice you’ve given this novel.”

“A tremendous dramatic experience”; “a virtuoso performance!”; “creative…

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