Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Etiquette

Some tips (from Miss Janice, of course.)

Also, a brief history of Halloween in America from Edwardian Promenade. Recta Ratio explains the origins as well. Share

Helen Keller the Socialist

Yes, I was a bit surprised myself. Share

Friday, October 30, 2009

Teachers of the Past

Under the Gables explores what it was like to be a teacher long ago. (More HERE.) Many teenagers, including some of my grandparents, earned money for college by teaching elementary school. To quote:
According to the National Gallery of Art, where this watercolor resides, scholars were long perplexed about the shapes on the blackboard, whose corner holds Homer's signature in "chalk." Art historians have since discovered that the shapes signify that the young woman is teaching "drawing," which was considered a necessity for children, since it enabled industrial design and construction of buildings and presumably also furniture.

The composition echoes the shapes on the blackboard in the angularity of the teacher's apron and the checks of the gingham, the stacked rectangles of the background, the symmetrical placement of the blackboard and teacher, and the slate monochrome of the entire painting. The one contrast is the teacher's fresh and very young face. In fact, so young does her expression seem that if she were not holding the pointer, we would think she was a student.
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Witchcraft in Africa

It is a matter for some concern, and seems to be aimed at children. Share

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hans Christian Andersen

The author of some of the most beloved fairy tales and yet, according to The Sword and the Sea, he had a troubled life.To quote Petri Liukkonen:

Hans Christian Andersen was born in the slums of Odense. His father, Hans Andersen, was a poor shoemaker and literate, who believed he was of aristocratic origin. Andersen's mother, Anne Marie Andersdatter, worked as washerwoman. Although she was uneducated and superstitious, she opened for his son the world of folklore. Later Andersen depicted her in his novels and in the story 'Hun duede ikke'. Anne Marie declined into alcoholism and died in 1833 in a charitable old people's home. Andersen's half-sister Karen Marie may have worked as a prostitute for a time; she contacted her famous brother only a few times before dying in 1846.

Andersen received little education. As a child he was highly emotional, suffering all kinds of fears and humiliations because of his tallness and effeminate interests. Andersen's hysterical attacks of cramps were falsely diagnosed as epileptic fits. Encouraged by his parents he composed his own fairy tales and arrange puppet theatre shows. His father loved literatuire and took Andersen often to the playhouse. "My father gratified me in all my wishes," wrote Andersen in The True Story of My Life (1846). "I possessed his whole heart; he lived for me. On Sundays, he made me perspective glasses, theatres, and pictures which could be changed; he read to me from Holberg's plays and the Arabian Tales; it was only in such moments as these that I can remember to have seen him really cheerful, for he never felt himself happy in his life and as a handicrafts-man."

In 1816 his father died and Andersen was forced to go to work. He was for a short time apprenticed to a weaver and tailor, and he also worked at a tobacco factory. Once his trousers were pulled down when other workers suspected that he was a girl. At the age of 14 Andersen moved to Copenhagen to start a career as a singer, dancer or an actor - he had a beautiful soprano voice. The following three years were full of hardships although he found supporters who paved his way to the theatre. Andersen succeeded in becoming associated with the Royal Theater, but he had to leave it when his voice began to change. When he was casually referred as a poet it changed his plans: "It went through me, body and soul, and tears filled my eyes. I knew that, from this very moment, my mind was awake to writing and poetry." He then began to write plays, all of which were rejected.

In 1822 Jonas Collin, one of the directors of the Royal Theatre and an influential government official, gave Andersen a grant to enter the grammar school at Slagelse. He lived in the home of the school headmaster Meisling, who was annoyed at the oversensitive student and tried to harden his character. Other pupils were much younger, 11-year-olds, among whom six years older Andersen was definitely overgrown. His appearance drew also unvanted attention - he had a long nose and close-set eyes.

Collin arranged in 1827 a private tuition for Andersen. He gained admission to Copenhagen University, where he completed his education. In 1828 Andersen wrote a travel sketch, Fodreise fra Holmens Kanal Til Østpynten af Amager, a fantastic tale in the style of the German Romantic writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's Children's and Household Tales had appeared between 1812 and 1815, but they were based on original folktales. Andersen's poem 'The Dying Child', was published in a Copenhagen journal and the Royal Theatre produced in 1829 his musical drama. PHANTASIER OG SKISSER, a collection of poems, was born when Andersen fell in love with Riborg Voigt, who was secretly engaged to the local chemist's son. "She has a lovely, pious face, quite child-like, but her eyes looker clever and thoughtful, they were brown and very vivid," Andersen remembered in The Book of My Life. Riborg married the chemists's son, Poul Bøving, in 1831. A leather pouch containing a letter from Riborg was found round Andersen's neck when he died. Also Edvard, Jonas Collin's son, and Henrik Stempe in the 1840s were for Andersen other objects of unfulfilled dreams.

"I do wish that I were dead," Andersen said to one of his friends in 1831, expressing not his feelings about his failed love for Riborg but also echoing the melancholy of Goethe's Werther from The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). Andersen never met Goethe, who was still alive when Andersen made his first journey to Germany. The visit inspired the first of his many travel sketches. From 1831 onwards he travelled widely in Europe, and remained a passionate traveller all his life. Andersen wrote sketches about Sweden, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the Middle East. During his journeys Andersen met in Paris among others Victor Hugo, Heinrich Heine, Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas. A Poet's Day Dreams (1853) Andersen dedicated to Charles Dickens, whom he met in London in 1847. And in Rome he met the young Norwegian writer Björnson.

As a novelist Andersen made his breakthrough with The Improvisatore (1835), using Italy as the setting. The story was autobiographical and depicted a poor boy's integration into society, an Ugly Duckling theme of self-discovery in which Andersen returned in several of his works. The book gained international success and during his life it remained the most widely read of all his works. E.B. Browning wrote warmly to her future husband of the novel and her last poem was written for Andersen in 1861, shortly before her death. Only a Fiddler (1837), Andersen's novel, was attacked by the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard in his book Af En endnu Levendes Papirer (1838, From the Papers of a Person Still Alive, Published Against his Will). "The joyless struggle that is Andersen's in real life now repeats itself in his writing," he wrote. Kierkegaard, the 'Ugly Duckling' of Danish philosophy, used a number of pseudonyms, none of whom 'agreed' with one another. A little later, Andersen took his revenge with the play En Comedie i det Grønne (1840), which included an unpractical philosopher.

Andersen's fame rests on his Fairy Tales and Stories, written between 1835 and 1872. Tales, Told for Children, appeared in a small, cheap booklet in 1835. In this and following early collections, which were published in every Christmas, Andersen returned to the stories which he had heard as a child, but gradually he started to create his own tales. The third volume, published in 1837, contained 'The Little Mermaid' and 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' Among Andersen's other best known tales are 'Little Ugly Duckling,' 'The Tinderbox,' 'Little Claus and Big Claus,' 'Princess and the Pea,' 'The Snow Queen,' The Nightingale,' and 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier.' With these collections, inspired by the great tradition of the Arabian Nights on the other hand, and Household Tales, collected by the brothers Grimm, Andersen became known as the father of the modern fairytale. Moreover, Andersen's works were original. Only 12 of his 156 know fairy stories drew on folktales.

Andersen broke new ground in both style and content, and employed the idioms and constructions of spoken language in a way that was new in Danish writing. When fairy tales at his time were didactic, he brought into them ambiguity. Children and misfits often speak truth; they serve as Andersen's mouthpiece in moral questions: ""But he has nothing on at all," said a little child at last. "Good heavens! listen to the voice of an innocent child," said the father, and one whispered to the other what the child had said. "But he has nothing on at all," cried at last the whole people. That made a deep impression upon the emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought to himself, "Now I must bear up to the end." And the chamberlains walked with still greater dignity, as if they carried train which did not exist." (from 'The Emperor's New Suit,' 1837) Ugliness of the hero or heroine often conceals great beauty, which is revealed after misfortunes. In psychoanalysis this kind of figure is sometimes interpreted as a symbol of the inner self of soul, which has to be released from its prison.

Andersen's identification with the unfortunate and outcast made his tales very compelling. Some of Andersen's tales revealed an optimistic belief in the triumph of the good, among them 'The Snow Queen' and 'Little Ugly Duckling', and some ended unhappily, like 'The Little Match Girl.' In 'The Little Mermaid' the author expressed a longing for ordinary life - he never had such. In the story the youngest of six mermaid precesses longs after the land above the sea, but the fulfillment of the dream causes her much pain. "She knew this was the last evening she would ever see him for whom she had forsaken her kindred and her home, given up her lovely voice, and daily suffered unending torment - and he had no idea of it. This was the last night she would breathe the same air as he, or look upon the deep sea and the starry blue sky; an everlasting night without thoughts or dreams waited her, for she had no soul and could not gain one." (trans. L.W. Kingsland) Andersen's tales were translated throughout Europe, with four editions appearing in the UK in 1846 alone. His works influenced among others Charles Dickens ('A Christmas Carol in Prose,' 'The Chimes,' 'The Cricket on the Hearth.' 'The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain'), Willam Thackeray and Oscar Wilde ('The Happy Prince,' 'The Nightingale and the Rose,' 'The Fisherman and His Soul'), C.S. Lewis, Isak Dinesen, P.O. Enquist, whose play, Rainsnakes, was about Andersen, Cees Noteboom, and a number of other writers. Elias Bredsdorff has complained in his book Hans Christian Andersen: The Story of His Life and Work (1975), that Andersen's tales have been bowdlerized and sweetened by Victorian British translators.

Andersen's last unfilled love was the Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, whom he met first time in 1840. Jenny was the illegitimate daughter of a schoolmistress. According to her own words, she was at the age of nine "a small, ugly, broad-nosed, shy, gauche, altogether undergrown girl". At eighteen, she had made her breakthrough as a singer with her powerful soprano. 'The Ugly Duckling' become Jenny's favorite among Andersen's stories. However, 'Andersen's 'The Nightingale' is considered a tribute to Jenny, or "the Swedish Nightingale" as she was called. "Farewell," she wrote him in 1844, "God bless and protect my brother is the sincere wish of his affectionate sister, Jenny." Andersen never married.

Between the years 1840 and 1857 Andersen made journeys throughout Europa, Asia Minor, and Africa, recording his impressions and adventures in a number of travel books. He wrote and rewrote his memoirs, The Fairy Tale of My Life, but the standard edition is generally considered the 1855 edition. During his travels abroad, Andersen was able to be more relaxed and take more liberties than in Copenhagen, where everybody knew him. At the age of sixty-two Andersen went to Paris, where he visited a brothel - it was not his first visit or last. "Then went suddenly up into a meat market - one of them was covered with powder; a second, common; a third, quite the lady. I talked with her, paid twelve francs and left, without having sinned in deed, though I dare say I did in my thoughts. She asked me to come back, said I was indeed very innocent for a man." (from Hans Christian Andersen: The Life of a Storyteller by Jackie Wullschlager, 2001) Andersen died in his home in Rolighed on August 4, 1875. Edvard Collin and his wife were later buried with Andersen. However, their family members moved the Collins' bodies after some years to the family plot in another cemetery.

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Was Oswald a CIA Agent?

More facts are brought to light. Share

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Pre-Raphaelites

Since the art of the pre-Raphaelites is featured so often on this blog, I was glad to find an article about them. (Via Pre-Raphaelite Art) According to The Guardian:

Few dead white male artists are as popular as Rossetti and co, despite a near total condemnation by modern critics. Even a senior curator at Tate Britain recently expressed to me his dislike of these artists - but what can Tate Britain do? As he said, if they don't show the pre-Raphaelites they get complaints from "teenage girls".

Well, I've decided to take my name off the petition calling for the pre-Raphaelites to be erased from history. After all, what was their crime? Not to be Manet. And yet just because their version of the avant-garde turned out to have little to do with the future of art doesn't mean these idealistic painters were without merit.

They were very literary artists, in a literary nation. They told stories that moved and seduced their public - and still do. In the end, liking a picture because it reminds you of the imaginative worlds of Tennyson, Dante, Keats and Shakespeare - to take some authors the pre-Raphaelites illustrated - is commendable. There are far worse reasons to like art than because it feeds a passion for literature. It is not even true that modern art owes nothing to the pre-Raphaelites. Their fascination with poetry, romance and dream came into its own in the late 19th century when the Symbolists emulated, and deepened, their sensuality. There is a line from Burne-Jones to Gustave Moreau and Odilon Redon.

This is why the pre-Raphaelites are famous all over the world, not just in Britain. We can't escape them, and we shouldn't deny them. They epitomise the worst of British art - and the best.

(Artwork: Rossetti's Helen of Troy)

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Beyond the Mantilla: Other Veils

Sancta Sanctis has more thoughts to share on veiling. In the Middle Ages, during the nuptial blessing, both bride and groom would be covered with a veil, a ritual which endures in many traditional cultures. Share

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Lost DaVinci

It has now been recognized through finding a fingerprint of the artist. Here is more from the Times Online:

The ghost of a fingerprint in the top left corner of an obscure portrait appears to have confirmed one of the most extraordinary art discoveries.

The 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) picture, in chalk, pen and ink, appeared at auction at Christie’s, New York, in 1998, catalogued as “German school, early 19th century”. It sold for $19,000 (£11,400). Now a growing number of leading art experts agree that it is almost certainly by Leonardo da Vinci and worth about £100 million.

Carbon dating and infra-red analysis of the artist’s technique are consistent with such a conclusion, but the most compelling evidence is that fragment of a fingerprint.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, found it while examining images captured by the revolutionary multispectral camera from the Lumière Technology company, Antiques Trade Gazette reports today....

Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford, is convinced and recently completed a book about the find (as yet unpublished). He said that his first reaction was that “it sounded too good to be true — after 40 years in the business, I thought I’d seen it all”. But gradually, “all the bits fell into place.”

Professor Kemp has rechristened the picture, sold as Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress, as La Bella Principessa after identifying her, “by a process of elimination”, as Bianca Sforza, daughter of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (1452-1508), and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis. He described the profile as “subtle to an inexpressible degree”, as befits the artist best known for the Mona Lisa.

If it is by Leonardo, it would be the only known work by the artist on vellum although Professor Kemp points out that Leonardo asked the French court painter Jean Perréal about the technique of using coloured chalks on vellum in 1494.

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The Relics of the Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalen's relics are coming to the USA for the first time in history. We need her now more than ever. Share

Weaving in New Orleans

Art, water and music in a New Orleans cottage. Share

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Bullet that Killed Nine Million

Histatic! gives the tragic details of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Countess Sophie which led directly to the horrors of the First World War. Share

Birth Control Pills

They change women's taste in men. Share

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beethoven, My Brother

From Pentimento:
"Beethoven is not my friend . . . and I don’t always like him. He can infuriate me with his scorn, his pettiness, his arrogant and cruel moods – he’s not a person who, if I did not know, I would pursue a friendship with. That doesn’t matter, though, because I do know him, and he knows me. He’s my brother, and so I will always love him."
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Ideology and Literature Revisited

How literature has attempted to heal to the cultural crisis of the West. To quote:
The corrosive doctrine called multiculturalism, for example, has an ancestry traceable to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s proto-revolutionary rejection of modern European civilization and his notion of “the Noble Savage.” Herman Melville’s South-Sea novel Typee (1848) engages Rousseau keenly. Indirectly, as fiction typically does, but incisively, Typee suggests the gross inadequacy of Rousseau’s “rejectionist” argument and its accompanying “Noble Savage” theory. We may therefore say of Melville’s novel that, in addition to its fascination as a story, it has a cognitive function: in reading it we participate with Melville in careful consideration of the question, answered in the prejudicial affirmative by the author of The Social Contract, whether savagery is preferable to civilization. When Melville’s contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne brings the psychological structure of fanaticism under scrutiny in The Blithedale Romance (1852), his narrative too is a deflationary analysis of socialism, which he regards as misplaced crusading religiosity.
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Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Call to Dinner

Under the Gables discusses the painting The Dinner Horn by American artist Winslow Homer, saying:
Here we see in The Dinner Horn a young woman calling to her father, brothers, husband, or sons to the family dinner table. In rural America in the 19th century, dinner was the largest meal of the day and usually featured meat, but it was eaten in the middle of the day, between 1 and 2 p.m. That's why there is no hint of dusk in the painting but only full sun. The sound of the horn is most welcome to her men folk, since it means that it is time to lay aside the plough, the scythe, or the hoe and come to back to the house for a good full meal, before trekking out again to the fields to finish the day's work at sundown.
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The Fiction of Ian McEwan

Author Debra Murphy offers some piercing insights. Share

Friday, October 23, 2009

Marie-Thérèse of Spain

The Mad Monarchist reports on the Queen of Louis XIV.
It should also be noted that Maria Theresa is (possibly) the Queen who actually said, “Let them eat cake” which is often attributed to Queen Marie Antoinette. However, the actual quote was an innocent remark, taken out of context and referred to a simple sweet bread that the peasants usually had plenty of and it was that; not an elaborate frosted cake which would have been eaten by the nobility, to which the Queen referred.
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The Forgotten Depression

Of the 1920's. I remember my grandparents talking about hard times in the '20's. Share

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008)

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is an escapade right out of the era of the 1930's in which it takes place. Honestly, I do not remember when I was last so entertained as when watching Guinevere Pettigrew and Delysia Lafosse (what names!) gallivant around London on the edge of the blitz. Based upon the 1938 novel by Winifred Watson, it took seventy years for the book to materialize into a film.

Although there are a few vulgarities that would not have been in a film of the thirties, it was fun to see the luxurious art deco apartment where Delysia (Amy Adams) carries on as both an aspiring actress and a kept woman, as well as the Savoy Hotel, in the full array of an elegant fashion show luncheon. Having already seen Amy Adams in her later film Doubt, in which she played a nun, I am impressed more than ever by her range as an actress. She reminded me of a young Jean Arthur, except much prettier. Frances McDormand's performance as Guinevere was both humorous and deep, fraught with pathos without being overly sentimental. McDormand's Miss Pettigrew transforms a light-hearted farce into a searing look at the preciousness of true love, as well as the ability of genuine love to see the inner beauty of the beloved.

According to Variety:

As [the] pic's deficient farcical elements begin to recede, its moral and emotional underpinnings come gently to the fore. A woman that life has mostly passed by, Guinevere still possesses a very proper sense of right and wrong that makes her the ideal momentary cohort for the self-absorbed Delysia; as Guinevere observes, "I am an expert on the lack of love." Without putting too fine a point on it, script by David Magee ("Finding Neverland") and Simon Beaufoy ("The Full Monty") offers a quiet critique of self-delusion in immediate pre-war Britain and, more generally, of opportunistic behavior at the expense of long-term benefits.

McDormand's performance slowly builds a solid integrity, and contrasts well with Adams' more flamboyant turn, which initially accentuates Delysia's constant role playing but eventually flowers into a gratifyingly full-fledged portrayal of a woman with a past she wishes to escape. Hinds puts real feeling into his work as a self-made gentleman who instantly recognizes Guinevere's fine human qualities.

Shot almost entirely at the Ealing Studios, pic has a luxuriantly upholstered look, fostered by production designer Sarah Greenwood, costume designer Michael O'Connor and lenser John de Borman, that sumptuously expresses the transition from one era to another.

"I am not an expert on love, I am an expert on the lack of love, Delysia, and that is a fate from which I wish more fervently to save you." Miss Pettigrew's words to Delysia set her apart from those who wish to exploit the young woman. Her gentle attempts at moral guidance give a mooring to Delysia; such are the markings of a true friend. In spite of the effervescent glamor of the film, one comes away with an overwhelming sense that in this fleeting life, riches are to be found in the intangible qualities of authentic love and friendship.

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Halloween in America

Scott Richert explores the history and on-going controversy. Share

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte

A story which always intrigued me growing up in Maryland was the story of Elizabeth Patterson, a young Baltimore lady who married one of Napoleon's brothers. The Pattersons were one of the wealthiest families in Maryland, second only to the Carrolls. Like many old families of Maryland and Virgina, the Pattersons certainly deemed one of their daughters worthy of a Bonaparte; whether an upstart Bonaparte would be worthy of a Patterson was another story. In spite of being married by Bishop John Carroll, Jerome Bonaparte deserted Elizabeth. It was not entirely his fault; his brother Napoleon threatened him with poverty and exile. Jerome preferred his prestige as a Bonaparte prince to being with his beloved wife. At Napoleon's command, he married a fat German princess. Since the Bonaparte rule was short-lived, the sacrifice was for nothing. Elizabeth lived to be a feisty, rich old lady, full of stories of her naughty and handsome husband. She attempted to marry her son to a European princess, but Bo preferred a Maryland girl. Share

The History of Coffee

Author Mirella Patzer explores a rich and aromatic history. Share

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Court Attire for Gentlemen

Catherine Delors has a fascinating post on men's attire at Versailles, which was imitated by all the other courts of Europe. (Check out the jeweled shoe buckles.) To quote:
....The male three-piece suit (coat, waistcoat, breeches) followed the same cut as the clothing worn by noblemen and bourgeois alike in regular settings. The major difference between gentlemen's Court attire and ordinary clothes was in the embroidery and of course the quality and cost of the fabric. It was literally ruinous.
The Comte de Tilly, who was a Page to Marie-Antoinette, admits to spendthrift habits in his youth. In his Memoirs, he recalls that, when he appeared before the Queen in yet another new embroidered suit, she expressed a motherly concern in the sad state of his finances.
Even hunting clothes were richly embroidered. The Royal Hunt took place in the woods that surrounded Versailles and other royal residences. It was an official event as any other.
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Redecorating the White House

The Obamas have some decorating plans. According to Hello! magazine:
Michelle and her husband teamed up with a Californian decorator and the White House's curator William Allman to choose the works, which include both paintings and sculptures.

"The first lady had clear ideas about what they were aiming for," William revealed. "They knew their tastes."

Among the art pieces, which can only be hung in private rooms and offices rather than historic public spaces, is a bold canvas by Edward Ruscha titled I Think I'll….

It shows a painted red sunset with phrases such as "I' think I'll" and "maybe…no" inscribed on top.

There are also paintings by contemporary American print maker Jasper Johns and Alma Thomas, an African-American abstract painter.

Sculptures chosen by the president and his first lady include a steam boat paddle wheel, a patent model for a gear cutter and bronze figurines.

Their choices are "great art to live with," said the curator of modern and contemporary art at the National Gallery – where many of the items come from.

"A lot of it is challenging. There are different styles: figurative art, abstract art."
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Monday, October 19, 2009

Horatio Hornblower and Madame Royale

Awhile ago I read Lord Hornblower by C.S. Forester, found in the library of an old friend. I had no idea that the novel, which comes towards the end of the series about the British maritime hero, deals with the Bourbon Restoration in 1814-15. The Duchesse d'Angoulême, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, is a character in the novel, whom Horatio assists in spite of her obtuse husband. Marie-Thérèse-Charlotte is described thus:
She was a high-spirited and lovely creature, and running over with excitement at this new adventure. Hornblower watched her curiously. Her infancy had been passed in the most splendid court in Europe; her childhood as a prisoner of the revolutionaries. Her father and mother, the King and Queen, had died under the guillotine; her brother had died in prison. She herslf had been exchanged for a parcel of captive generals, and married to her cousin, had wondered through Europe as wife of the heir to a penniless but haughty Pretender. Her experience had left her human-- or was it that the formalities of shabby, genteel royalty had not succeeded in dehumanising her? She was the only living child of Marie-Antoinette, whose charm and vivacity and indiscretion had been proverbial. That might explain it.
Forester is a first-rate novelist and while his books are often categorized at junior fiction there is enough inner conflict to make them an interesting read for adults. The descriptions are so vivid that one can feel the ship rocking on the waves. Horatio realizes that he is a hero in spite of himself and has survived the Napoleonic Wars by a miracle. He is fascinated with the French and with Catholics, possibly because of Marie de Gracay, the great love of his life, who reappears in Lord Hornblower. Marie's presence throws a wrench into Horatio's already tumultuous relationship with his strong-willed wife, Lady Barbara. Barbara is as cold and ambitious as Marie is warm and self-sacrificing. Horatio is torn, but events happen quickly and choices are made for him.

Forester does not glamorize Napoleon but exposes him for the dictator he was, with an emphasis on the loss of life caused by the wars of conquest. The restoration of the Bourbons is shown as an event to be celebrated, while not minimizing their shortcomings. Forester's research is flawless and his writing is entertaining. I highly recommend his novels. Share

The Chinese General

The man whom some claim discovered America. The recent novel The Map Thief discusses this as well. Share

Sunday, October 18, 2009

On Being Prissy

Miss Janice has a fun post for ladies who are frequently labeled as being "prissy." I never thought of myself as being prissy, but nowadays you can be labeled as such merely for wanting to maintain basic politeness. Yes, if you insist that the "F" word be avoided in the course of a conversation, or that God's name not be taken in vain, or that people not wipe their noses with their fingers, then I guess it makes you "prissy." Oh, well.... Share

St. Patrick and the Chieftains

Life is always a struggle between light and darkness.
St. Patrick made his presence known opposite Tara on the summit of the hill of Slane where he kindled the Easter fire. The druid priests responded by appealing to Leoghaire: ”O King, live for ever. This fire, which has been lighted in defiance of the royal edict, will blaze for ever in this land unless it be this very night extinguished.” By order of the king the druids were sent to the hill of Slane to put out Patrick’s fire and slay him, but by miraculous intervention, both the fire and the saint were protected from all harm, much to the consternation of the pagans.
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Audacity of Ideas

High events as these
Strike those that make them; and their story is

No less in pity than his glory which

Brought them to be lamented.
~William Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Act V, Scene II
My friend Irish playwright and actor Gareth Russell wrote an article some years ago about his creation of the drama All Those Who Suffered, first performed in Belfast in January 2004 when the author was seventeen. It is a play which delves into many of the same themes which I tried to develop in the novel Madame Royale. What is it like to go on living when one's world has been destroyed, and one's family killed? Where is meaning found, the meaning to go on? While the Gareth's play focuses on the tragedy of the French Royal family, such human emotions in the face of loss are universal, especially in the violent world in which we live. It impresses me that Gareth tackled such controversial historical episodes with authenticity and insight at such a young age. To quote from Gareth's article:

On 3 July 1793, Louis XVII, the imprisoned boy-king of France, was brutally seized from his mother’s care and virtually immured alive until his tragic death two years later. The child’s mysterious death spawned a cult of pretenders that plagued the surviving French royals for decades to come. Having already acted in a production exploring the deaths of a family of Russian aristocrats at the height of the Red Terror in 1918, exploring the Bourbon tragedy became my next priority. Upon reading of the boy-king’s heartbreaking story in Deborah Cadbury’s wonderful The Lost King of France, I was determined to write a play which would not only tell the Royal Family’s story but also transmit royalist experiences to the audience. Cadbury’s book cannot be recommended too highly, and I would also urge interested parties to read Dr. Munro Price’s splendid book The Fall of the French Monarchy (sometimes titled The Road from Versailles.)

The play was entitled All Those Who Suffered and the script was completed in October 2003, when I was seventeen. I gathered together a group of fellow students who were interested in performing the story. We took some historical liberties – namely by having the Dauphin surviving prison and returning to see his family after the Restoration – but we put disclaimers in the programme and went to work. From the beginning, as playwright, director and actor, I was determined that “All Those Who Suffered” should present as realistic a presentation as possible of life in post-revolutionary France. I also wanted it to transmit royalist values and a Christian message, something I feel has been neglected by drama, since so many popular productions today are left-wing....

The plot began with the news that the French Monarchy had been restored, and Charles X’s reflections on how the country has fared under Bonaparte’s rule. We then moved to Paris where there is a heated discussion between Madam Simon and Rosalie, provoked by Simon’s callous delight in describing Marie-Antoinette’s execution. (Simon’s remarks were based upon the perfectly disgusting comments I have heard from several supposedly educated people, delighting in joking about the murder of various royal families.)

We then move forward several years, when the three Parisian women discuss the scandal over the Dauphin’s disappearance and the various pretenders. The next scene is between the two female aristocrats, who discuss the current political situation and the psychological damage caused by the Revolution. Whilst the two ladies continue to talk, Rosalie (who is now working for Tourzel) is approached by a sincere young gentleman, claiming to have vital news about the Royal Family. The Marquise reluctantly agrees to see him, but is outraged at his claim to be Louis XVII. The gentleman then describes his love for his mother and several intimate anecdotes from life at Versailles, which eventually convince the Marquise that this is “her beloved ward.”

She then interviews Madam Simon, who confirms Louis’s story, albeit reluctantly and only in return for an exorbitant fee. King Charles then meets the young man, determined to put a stop to sensationalist scandal-mongering (as he sees it.) However, he is eventually convinced by Louis’s demeanour and mannerisms but the two men quarrel and Charles orders Louis to be detained, fearing that his emotions have overcome his reason.

In Act II, the three women discuss the mysterious gentleman’s detention, whilst the King persuades his niece, the Princess, that this scandal is potentially harmful to The Monarchy. However, after meeting with the Marquise de Tourzel, the Princess Royal visits Louis, whereupon she is convinced of his identity. Finally, there is a touching farewell scene between Charles and his nephew – when they agree to part company.

In 2006 Gareth's second play The Audacity of Ideas debuted in Belfast and will soon be performed on BBC radio. It deals with the French royal family on the verge of the Revolution. As Gareth writes in the introduction to the script of The Audacity of Ideas (which he kindly forwarded to me):
The Audacity of Ideas is not... a comedy of manners. It is, purposefully, a political play. One about a period in European history when something fundamentally important happened – ideology burst successfully onto the stage for the first time. The costs, of course, were tragic a thousand times over. They were not uniformly tragic, but certainly the sheer Terror of those ideas stalked, brutalised and defined what one historian has called “the generation of 1789.”

I make no secret of my antipathy towards the French Revolution and if I do not quite take the same stance as the Baroness Orczy, it does seem to me that the Revolution was essentially driven by a lethally naïve and unbending idealism in partnership with frequent, hysterical mob violence. It began with lynching, evolved to street violence, prison massacres, genocide, civil war and Terror. Its glib catchphrases of Liberty and Equality had already entered the common political vocabulary, thanks to the events in England in 1688 and America in 1776, so they did not need nor warrant the hundreds of thousands of lives lost (and millions ruined) in France and beyond between 1789 and 1804. Whilst hopefully not too polemical which, looking back on it, its sequel All Those Who Suffered undoubtedly was, The Audacity of Ideas’ tone does take much from the memoirs of those who survived the Revolution. A passage which particularly moves me comes from the writings of a lady called the Vicomtesse de Fars-Fausselandry, who lost several members of her family to the Revolution and much of her psychological well-being: -
Those who have seen only from a distance the bloody scenes of the revolutionary regime … will not understand why the voice of revenge makes itself heard so imperiously in my heart; but those who grieve for their lost father, mother, their dearest relatives, for those who were sacrificed on the scaffold, shot down at Lyons, drowned at Nantes; who during months longer than years, have seen death hover over their heads, those people will understand the exultation of a soul … In memory of my uncle and my mother, my heart cries out once more.
In any production of The Audacity of Ideas, the tragedy and the politics must sit side-by-side with the intrigue of the Court. Marie-Antoinette’s charm, the Comte d’Artois’ charisma and the beauty of Gabrielle de Polignac are not mere appendages – they are fundamentally important parts of the story. Before 1789, an entire way of life had evolved in which glamour was politics. Thus I don’t envisage that it will ever be a particularly cheap production to pull off, unless it is re-imagined in a particularly unusual way. Appropriate costumes and props must sit alongside good casting and an attention to detail if the play is to work.

Any production must also avoid pandering to the staid and inaccurate stereotype which holds that pre-Revolutionary France was just that – a society destined for destruction. Professor Jones writes of it:
In many senses, the eighteenth century was France’s century… Socially and economically, the century witnessed one of France’s most buoyant and prosperous periods: though the benefits of economic growth were far from evenly distributed, the quality of life as measured by life-chances, income levels and material possessions marked a considerable improvement. Culturally, France was the storm-centre of the movement of intellectual and artistic renewal known as the Enlightenment… Many historians have chosen to write as though the years prior to 1789 are only interesting insofar as they illuminate and help explain 1789. Digging for Revolutionary origins, they have tended not to look up and see the sources of strength as well as the problems and tensions within French pre-revolutionary society…. The neglect of high politics which resulted from the hegemony of social history meant that pre-Revolutionary political history did not attract young scholars and consequentially lacked sparkle or dynamicism…. However, there have been signs of growing interest in politics…. It has been characterised by the renewal of old approaches to high politics and also by the exploration of new ways of thinking about the political…. The Bourbon monarchy looks very different now…. This new, more dispassionate perspective on the eighteenth century involves us rejecting the French Revolutionaries’ version of what preceded them….
There were ‘problems and tensions’, all of which came to a violent and surprising head in 1789, but nothing about it was predestined or even, when the year began, particularly likely. As de Tocqueville reminds us – there is no such thing as historical inevitability.
(Photo: Gareth Russell as the Comte d'Artois in the dress rehearsal for The Audacity of Ideas.) Share

History of the Crinoline

There's a lot I did not know. More HERE. Share

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Forgiveness of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette

The hallmark of a Christian is charity involves the ability to forgive. Whatever faults and flaws Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette may have had, there can be no doubt that they bore wrongs patiently and forgave their enemies in a Christ-like manner. As Louis XVI stated in his Last Will and Testament, written on Christmas Day, 1792, less than a month before he was killed:
I pardon with all my heart those who made themselves my enemies, without my having given them any cause, and I pray God to pardon them, as well as those who, through false or misunderstood zeal, did me much harm.
The king did not want to be avenged.
I exhort my son, should he have the misfortune of becoming king, to remember he owes himself wholly to the happiness of his fellow citizens; that he should forget all hates and all grudges, particularly those connected with the misfortunes and sorrows which I am experiencing....
Marie-Antoinette's forgiveness has an especially supernatural aura. When the queen wrote her last letter to her sister-in-law, she was hours away from death. She had been put through the ordeal of a humiliating trial, designed to break her will. Her little son had been dragged from her arms and tormented into accusing his own mother of unnatural crimes. That Marie-Antoinette was able to forgive the monsters who had tried to destroy her by corrupting her little boy surely required a special grace from God. Here are her words:
I beg pardon of all whom I know, and especially of you, my sister, for all the vexations which, without intending it, I may have caused you. I pardon all my enemies the evils that they have done me.
Not only does the queen forgive but she asks forgiveness. Humility and compunction drown any bitterness or recriminations, although certainly in her agony she experienced the full range of emotions. Christian love overcomes hatred; only someone who sincerely believed in and loved Jesus Christ could make that leap from hellish circumstances to the heights of courage, love, and martyrdom.
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To Lie or Not to Lie

Honesty is still the best policy, even in the workplace. Share

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Marie-Antoinette on Trial

One of the jurors rose. "Citizen President, the accused has not fully replied concerning the incident mentioned by Citizen Hébert, regarding what allegedly happened between herself and her son."
Antoinette found herself rising to her feet. She gazed steadily at her accusers, and not a few of them squirmed.

"If I did not reply, it was because nature recoils at such an accusation against a mother." She turned to the galleries, her sweet, quavering voice resounded to the ceilings. "I appeal to all the mothers who may be here!"


A stir broke out among the spectators....


~ from Trianon by Elena Maria Vidal, Chapter Seven, "The Sacrifice"

Here is an excerpt from Thomas Carlyle's essay, "The Trial of Marie-Antoinette":
Marie-Antoinette, in this her utter abandonment, and hour of extreme need, is not wanting to herself, the imperial woman. Her look, they say, as that hideous Indictment was reading, continued calm; 'she was sometimes observed moving her fingers, as when one plays on the piano'. You discern, not without interest, across that dim Révolutionary Bulletin itself, how she bears herself queenlike. Her answers are prompt, clear, often of Laconic brevity; resolution, which has grown contemptuous without ceasing to be dignified, veils itself in calm words. 'You persist, then, in denial?' -- 'My plan is not denial: it is the truth I have said, and I persist in that.' Scandalous Hébert has borne his testimony as to many things: as to one thing, concerning Marie-Antoinette and her little Son, -- wherewith Human Speech had better not further be soiled. She has answered Hébert; a Juryman begs to observe that she has not answered as to this. 'I have not answered', she exclaims with noble emotion, ' because Nature refuses to answer such a charge brought against a Mother, I appeal to all the Mothers that are here.' Robespierre, when he heard of it, broke out into something almost like swearing at the brutish blockheadism of this Hébert; on whose foul head his foul lie has recoiled. At four o'clock on Wednesday morning, after two days and two nights of interrogating, jury-charging, and other darkening of counsel, the result comes out: sentence of Death. 'Have you anything to say?' The Accused shook her head, without speech. Night's candles are burning out; and with her too Time is finishing, and it will be Eternity and Day. This Hall of Tinville's is dark, ill-lighted except where she stands. Silently she withdraws from it, to die.

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"Don't"

Years ago my husband bought me a book about manners, originally published in 1880, called Don't: A Manual of Mistakes and Improprieties more or less prevalent in Conduct and Speech by Oliver Bell Bunce. It is humorous and entertaining to read, but full of a great deal of common sense about social situations. The following is advice on proper deportment in "the drawing room:"
~ Don't always make yourself the hero of your own stories.

~Don't show a disposition to find fault or depreciate. Indiscriminate praise is nauseating; but, on the other hand, indiscriminate condemnation is irritating....


~Don't be sulky if you imagine yourself neglected. Think only of pleasing; and try to please. You will end by being pleased.


~Don't show repugnance even to a bore. A supreme test of politeness is submission to various social inflictions without a wince.


~Don't fail in proper attention to elderly people. Young persons are often scandalously neglectful of the aged, especially if they are deaf or otherwise afflicted. Nothing shows a better heart, or a nicer sense of true politeness, than kindly attention to those advanced in years.


~Don't wear out your welcome by too long a stay; on the other hand, don't break up the company by a premature departure. A little observation and good sense will enable you to detect the right time to say "Good-night."
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prince Rupert of the Rhine

The nephew of King Charles I. He had a "diverse and colorful career," according to The Mad Monarchist :
Prince Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, had a very diverse and colorful career though he is most known for commanding the royalist cavalry during the English Civil War. However, he was also an inventor, an artist, a businessman and even something of a pirate. Prince Rupert was born in Prague during the 30 Year War but grew up in the Netherlands after the conflict forced his family out of Bohemia. He was a grandson of the Stuart King James VI & I and a nephew of King Charles I. Prince Rupert took to soldiering early on, first fighting with the Dutch against the Spanish. He later fought for the Protestant alliance in the 30 Years War.

In 1642, at the age of only 23, he went to England to fight for his uncle Charles and was given command of the royalist cavalry. He cut a dashing, though somewhat bizarre figure with his flamboyant clothes, long hair and his pet poodle trotting alongside him. The roundheads of Parliament called him the “Mad Cavalier” and believed his dog was bewitched, though their fears were relieved when the poodle was killed at the battle of Marston Moor. As a cavalry commander Prince Rupert was definitely bold, brave and daring but like many with those qualities he often seemed to lack sober common sense and foresight.

At the battle of Edgehill Prince Rupert rode off half-cocked and left the royalist forces vulnerable and they were defeated. The Mad Cavalier was blamed for this but he also urged an immediate follow-up attack on the Earl of Essex which might have all but won them the war but his advice was not followed. Prince Rupert also showed his ability in taking Bristol, relieving Newark and York and led the attack on Liverpool. However, the defeat at Marston Moor hurt his image and many thought it a mistake when King Charles made him his top general. The Mad Cavalier’s victory at Leicester helped but was followed by the terrible defeat at Naseby.

With that, Prince Rupert gave up all hope of victory and advised the King to sue for peace. Charles refused and when Prince Rupert surrendered Bristol to Parliament he was dismissed and left the country. After that he fought with English exiles in the French army, raided Cromwellian English ships in the Caribbean. His exploits as a pirate must have served him well for after the restoration he was made an admiral and won some great victories for England in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. However, again, he did not fare so well in a third war against the Dutch. In 1670 he was made the first Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He continued to dabble in art and inventing and held several high offices before his death in 1682.
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The Shrine of St. John Neumann

It has been de-modernized and looks beautiful. Share

Wikio Ranking

I am delighted to announce that Tea at Trianon has been ranked among the top forty Literature blogs according to Wikio, a blog-indexing website in Europe, indexing nearly 200,000 English-language sources. My thanks to them for such an honor! Share

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Novel

I am happy to announce that my new historical novel will be released in mid-November, about a month away. Sorry it has taken so long; there have been several revisions accompanied by additional research from the time I started writing the story eight years ago. Set amid the turmoil of the Albigensian Crusade in thirteenth century southern France, The Night's Dark Shade tells of heresy versus orthodoxy and of forbidden love versus fidelity. Heiress of her father's estates in Auvergne, the orphaned Lady Raphaëlle leaves her home to marry a nobleman in a remote castle in the Pyrenees. There she encounters the mysterious Cathar sect, who challenge her most deeply held beliefs. In her struggle to find her true calling, she discovers hatred and betrayal as well as abiding friendship and unexpected love.

Although I studied the Cathars in graduate school, I was inspired to write the novel during a pilgrimage to Lourdes; the castle there had been a Cathar stronghold at one time. I am now editing the final draft and will let everybody know as soon as we are ready to take orders.

(Artwork: Meeting on the turret stairs by Frederick Burton) Share

Manners for Fun

Emily's Everyday Manners is more than an etiquette book for children; it entertains as well, according to the following review:
What Parents Should Know
Parents need to know that this is a funny little book to teach kids about good manners.

Families can talk about good and bad manners. Can you think of times when you had nice manners and times when you didn't? What happened when you didn't? Parents might also want to arrange a social time for kids to practice good manners, like a tea party with a friend or a special outing with a beloved relative.

Common Sense Media Review
The spirit of manners maven Emily Post lives on in the efforts of her family. Great-granddaughter-in-law Peggy Post and great-granddaughter Dr. Cindy Post Senning take their family heritage seriously, but with a liveliness that suits a kids' picture book.

Emily and Ethan are best friends with a passion for etiquette. Throughout their day -- swinging on the playground, eating cookies, and even visiting the president -- they remember to say "please" and "thank you" and when to use a napkin.

There's a lot of information here, and not every child is going to grasp all of the lessons. But the book has enough entertainment value to be read just for fun, too.

Cheery pen-and-ink illustrations keep pages busy and engaging, and lots of dialogue moves the book along quickly. Children will like identifying with familiar situations. They will also get a kick out of "Emily's Don'ts" -- small pictures that show up in the corner occasionally illustrating Emily getting it wrong.

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Monday, October 12, 2009

All This and Heaven, Too (1940)

Most books are better than their film renditions, with a few exceptions. I personally enjoy the movie based upon Rachel Field's All This and Heaven, Too more than I ever liked the original novel. Not that the book is dull; it is based upon a true event. Rachel's great uncle married the infamous Henriette Deluzy-Desportes. Mademoiselle Deluzy was accused of complicity in a murder which rocked France and ignited the Revolution of 1848. After her release from the Conciergerie she fled to America where she married the Protestant minister Mr. Field.

The film, however, brings all the characters and their vying passions to life far better than does the novel. Charles Boyer wavers on the brink of insanity as the honorable but tormented Duc de Choiseul-Praslin. Scion of an ancient but impoverished family, the Duc has married the nouvelle-riche Fanny Sebastiani, daughter of one of Napoleon's generals. Barbara O'Neill, who played Scarlett O'Hara's saintly and refined mother, demonstrates her range as the hysterical, paranoid, oversexed Fanny, dripping with venom and religiosity. She would have stolen the show from any other female actress but Bette Davis. Bette is the restrained Huguenot governess Mademoiselle Deluzy, who brings order and dignity into the chaotic household, winning the hearts of the Duc and his children, thus earning for herself the Fanny's hatred. Davis simmers along as Mademoiselle Deluzy, who must face the stigma of sins she did not commit for, as so often happens, people are more incensed by the platonic friendship between the Duc and the governess than they would have been by a full blown love affair. Perhaps it is because such romantic but chaste relationships are sometimes more intense and longer lasting than sexual flings.

At any rate, Henriette pays a high price for the Duc's admiration and devotion. It is a most bitter tragedy, made all the more so by the reality of the actual story. The family of the Duc de Praslin-Choiseul was destroyed by Fanny's violent murder. Henriette found peace in a faraway land, where she passed on the story which became an American novel and classic film. Share

Dinner Party Conversation

Jay Remer has some advice on how to keep the conversation lively and interesting while avoiding heated arguments...and indigestion. It can be a challenge to take a firm but polite stand on certain vital issues of faith and morals, if they arise during the conversation at a formal dinner. In fact, I can hardly even imagine a meal at our house without the forbidden topics of politics or religion coming up. According to Mr. Remer:

- Keep the subject focused on the person to whom one is speaking rather than on oneself....

- Talk about virtues and avoiding faults or potential sore points is also good. The ego cloaks itself in passive aggression sometimes and can be cruel and certainly inappropriate at the table where digestion is important.

- Small talk (speaking about subjects which are often surface and don’t really “matter”) is always a fall back position and often times a good place to begin.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Reader (2008)

I watched The Reader the night before last. It is not so much a film about the Holocaust, like Schindler's List or Sophie's Choice, but a film about the the repercussions of the Holocaust on the generation that followed. As Ayn Rand penned in the film Love Letters: "A murder goes on being a murder...." A crime, especially a crime of mass murder of apocalyptic proportions, goes on being a crime, and keeps affecting people for many many years to come. According to ScreenWize:
A complex and unusually structured film that spans three time periods, The Reader is an intriguing journey – love story without love, war story without war, and ultimately a meditation upon our inability to normalise an understanding of what life would have been like for those living in Nazi Germany. The love story is a one-sided affair between a young boy of 15 named Michael Berg (David Kross) and an unimaginative – almost simple – woman working as a tram conductor in the late 1950’s in Heidelberg. She is Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslett), who seduces Michael and then has him read to her as a ritual of their love-making. Michael – an innocent escaping the stiflingly loveless family he has grown up in - is devasted when he finds one day that she has disappeared.
The war story is of the trial of Hanna, some eight years later, when Michael – now a law student – is forced to watch Hanna convicted to life imprisonment for crimes she was involved in when she worked as a guard in Auschwitz. Although Michael has information that could help save Hanna, he is unable to act, a guilt he adds to his lost love to torture himself for the rest of his life. Years later, Michael (now Ralph Fiennes) tries to find some way to re-connect with Hanna and resolve both the part she played in Germany’s dark past and, by association, his involvement.
To me The Reader is a story of various levels of abuse and its repercussions, both on the cosmic scale of the Holocaust and on the private scale of Hanna's relationship with Michael. Hanna was a professional abuser (and murderess). I have to say that I agree with Thelma Adams completely (via Catherine Delors) when she says:
I'm curious about the pass the disturbingly intimate relationship between a mature woman and an adolescent boy seems to be getting in David Hare's adaptation of Bernard Schlink's novel, as directed by Stephen Daldry. Pivotal to the romantic tragedy is the passionate post-war affair between a 36.year-old female German tram conductor Hanna (Winslet) and a dewy 15-year-old virgin Michael (David Kross)....
Ultimately what's curiously disturbing about The Reader has little to do with Nazis. As Michael grows up and Ralph Fiennes replaces David Kross in the role, the adult suffers from the kind of failure at mature sexual and intimate relationships - with his wife, daughter, and mother - that often typifies abuse victims. He's distant and at least his daughter believes the culpability is hers; he doesn't love her because of who she is, not his adolescent secret. When we first see the adult Michael, he's having an affair of the bed - but clearly not of the heart - with a gorgeous woman nearly young enough to be his daughter. And, as the mistress complains that Michael won't let her in to his life, he clearly can't wait until she leaves his apartment so that he can be alone with himself and his memories. It's textbook abused behavior - and all the movie's ambiguities about Nazis, hidden secrets, and admitting culpability don't fully address the fact that Michael is both the victim of abuse, and lost in his continued love for his abuser, because nothing since has come close to that intensity. Emotionally, he stopped growing at 15.
Michael is a victim of abuse, and his abuser just happened to have been a luscious retired Auschwitz guard. You can call their tryst and its consequences a metaphor of two generations of Germans passing guilt from one to the next, but that doesn't explain why filmmakers Daldry and Hare luxuriated in the sex scenes -- and why it's so tastefully done audiences won't see it for the child pornography it is.


Read more at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thelma-adams/reading-between-the-lines_b_147631.htmlI found the seduction scenes to be sickening. Hanna abused young Michael by becoming physically involved with a boy young enough to be her own son, and then she psychologically abused him as well with her coldness and manipulation. He never got over it but was haunted by the abusive relationship all his life, unable to see it for what it was, and unable to connect with another woman.
I found the seduction scenes to be sickening. Hanna abused young Michael by becoming physically involved with a boy young enough to be her own son, and then she psychologically abused him as well with her coldness and manipulation. He never got over it but was haunted by the abusive relationship all his life, unable to see it for what it was, and unable to ever again emotionally connect with women, including his wife and daughter.

The protagonists in the film seem to be unable to see the great crimes committed, but rather focus instead on Hanna's illiteracy. On one hand she is cruel as only a complete imbecile can be cruel, and on the other hand she delights in Homer and Chekov, which shows she has a brain somewhere. But the deliberate manner in which conscience is blinded and put to rest, by the German people, by Hanna, and by Michael, is something which still goes on all the time about some of the major issues of our own day. I am thinking particularly of abortion. Everyone knows about it, but most of us look the other way, lulling our consciences to sleep.

I am left pondering many questions. Did Hanna kill herself because she finally felt the weight of her crimes, or because Michael was cold and reserved when he visited her in prison? And what was the point of Michael ultimately telling his daughter about his sordid and sick relationship with Hanna? Was it so he could psychologically connect with his daughter at last? A strange ending to a strange yet thought provoking film. Share

Saturday, October 10, 2009

On Teaching Manners to Children

Parents cannot endow their children with beauty or brains, but, with patience, they can assure the personal grace and ease that stem from beautiful manners. Attractive behavior and all that it implies-- courtesy, poise, consideration--can outlive beauty and enhance brains.

While many people spend large sums of many to have their children's teeth straightened and a small fortune to have their brains developed, the inculcating of manners represents an investment of a different, more personal, and sometimes more difficult, sort. It requires not only the patience for years of persistent training, but the patience to be a continuous example oneself, the patience to be consistent, day in and day out. One cannot expect a child automatically to say "Excuse me" when he bumps into someone on the street, if it has never occurred to his mother to say "Excuse me" to him when she bumps into him in the house. Nor is he likely to listen to his mother if she habitually ignores him when he tries to talk to her....A child needs constant, gentle reminders and explanations, but if he is treated with respect and courtesy, he will absorb much of these qualities by osmosis....

If a child is not pushed too hard or nagged, if you do not expect behavior of him that is beyond the capabilities at his age, his natural urge to act like an adult and to earn your approval will lead him, sooner or later, to want to learn good manners. But a child who is put under too many pressures may rebel and develop a mental block that is almost impossible to overcome.

If a child is going to be in a social situation, you should try to explain to him beforehand what you expect of him. If he does not live up to your expectations, you should not humiliate him by correcting him in public. When you are alone, ask him why he behaved as he did, and tell him it was not a grownup way to act and that you hope he will do differently the next time. If a child is tired or upset, however, or if an occasion is simply too exciting or too confusing for him to remember his manners, too much should not be expected of him.

~ Vogue's Book of Etiquette and Good Manners (1969)
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Friday, October 9, 2009

The Castle at Lourdes



Aside from being the site of the famous apparitions of 1858, Lourdes has an interesting history, surprisingly turbulent at times for a place that is truly in the middle of nowhere. Most of the events were focused on the Château-Fort de Lourdes, the old castle which was at one time a Moorish stronghold, although its origins go back to antiquity. According to a traveler's guide:
The Gauls, Roman, Barbars and Moors successively took turns to strengthen the Lourdes rock on which the castle stands. This antique fortress is clothed in legend. In 778, Charlemagne and his army besieged the castle which was occupied at the time by Mirat, the Saracen, and his Moors. Despite attacks by the Francs and the onslaught of famine, Lourdes castle remained impenetrable.

Suddenly an eagle appeared in the sky. It flew around the fort and dropped an enormous trout from its beak, which landed at Mirat's feet. The clever Moor grabbed the fish and took it to Charlemagne to make him believe that he still had plenty of food reserves.

Charlemagne was just preparing to lift the siege when Turpin, his friend and Bishop of Puy-en-Velay, became inspired and was granted permission to go and talk to the besieged. He suggested that Mirat surrender, not to the sovereign but to the Queen of the skies.

This proposal pleased the Moor leader who promptly set down his weapons at the foot of the Black Virgin of Puy and was baptized. On the day of his baptism, Mirat was given the name "Lorus". This name was transferred to the village, which, in time, became Lourdes.
When I first visited Lourdes in April 1994 the castle intrigued me almost as much as did the shrines. I had never heard of it until arriving there, and when our guide took us up inside, the view of the Pyrenees was breathtaking. There are all kinds of legends and mysteries associated with the castle, including the caves which lie underneath the edifice. I decided to make it the setting for a novel about the Cathars, since for a time it had been a Cathar fortress. In spite of heresy and turmoil, it is a spot favored by the Mother of God. Share

The History of Beer, Part 1

The ancient drink of the common man. (See also Parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) To quote:

Beer was also consumed by many other ancient peoples, including the Hittites, Hebrews, Philistines, Thracians, Illyrians, Phrygians and Scythians. Some peoples, like the Nubians and the Ethiopians, would appear to have developed their own methods of brewing, making use of indigenous raw materials. The Eskimos drank chiefly iced water and warm blood before they were confronted by Europeans and their alcoholic drinks.

Wine has frequently throughout recorded history enjoyed greater prestige than beer and has often been the preferred choice of the wealthy and the privileged. It is difficult to say why. Maybe it was because wine was usually stronger than beer or that it kept longer. We cannot say with certainty that it always tasted better. Regardless of the reason for this, it is a fact that wine was often valued more highly. This attitude arguably still exists today, when beer is often viewed as the drink of the "common man," while those eating at expensive restaurants will normally prefer a glass of fine wine rather than a glass of beer to accompany their food.

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This Is Important

There are new rules for book bloggers, having to do with payments and endorsements. All my book review blogging friends in the USA, please read carefully. To quote from Christian Fiction:
What the new FTC Rules mean?
Book Bloggers who receive payment or in-kind payment for a book review must disclose their relationship with the payor.

What is in-kind payment?

A book of retail value is considered in-kind. An ARC is not, because it cannot be sold and holds no value. The ARC or loose bound manuscript cannot be sold.

What if I do receive the actual book to review?
It's cool. However, in your review you need to add your relationship to the payor. You can write something simple as, "Disclosure: I was provided with this free product by ."

What if I was paid for the review?

You must disclose that you were paid a fee to write the endorsement.

Will this affect my credibility?

Read my next post to find out my answer. It's twofold.

If I don't disclose what will happen to me?
Fines for violating the new rule will run up to $11,000 per post.

I can say that quite honestly I have never received monetary compensation for a book review, and often have either had to buy the book myself or get it from the library. In the past, sometimes a friend and or fellow writer has sent me a copy of their book as a gift, to review if I like it. From what I understand from the new law, if an author friend now sends me a copy of their book, and if I like it and want to share it with my readers, I will have to disclose in the review that it was indeed a gift from the author.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Louis XVI: A King Maligned


Some biographers, in seeking to change public opinion about Marie-Antoinette, attempt to redeem her at the expense of her husband, King Louis XVI. Louis-Auguste is portrayed as a repressed, impotent, dull-witted, indifferent husband, who drove his wife to gambling, dancing and spending exorbitant amounts of money as an outlet for her thwarted impulses. Stefan Zweig, a disciple of Sigmund Freud, was one of the first to impart to the public the image of the sexually frustrated teenage princess, which successive authors continue to promote to this day. 

The drawback of the Freudian theory is that it does not explain why others at the French court, who were enjoying unmitigated pleasures of the flesh, were spending much more money than eighteen year old Marie-Antoinette. In vindicating Marie-Antoinette, still falsely perceived as the queen who took lovers and who danced while the people starved, it is necessary to gain a true perspective of her spouse, beyond the archetype of the fat, indolent husband, spoiling a wife he could not satisfy. One must look behind the myths, deliberately propagated and perpetuated in order to sell books and movies about alleged extramarital love affairs, as well as to justify the excesses of the French Revolution. The reality about this tragic royal couple may not be as sensational as some biographies tell it, but it is as exciting, heart-rending and beautiful as any make-believe romance.

Louis XVI is systematically shown as being ugly, obese, smelly, and stupid. By contemporary standards, however, he was considered handsome, with his aquiline nose, deep set blue-grey eyes, and full sensual mouth. As a youth he was tall and thin, the tallest man at Court, and enjoyed intense physical exercise, such as hunting and hammering at his forge (he was a locksmith by hobby.) His physical strength was legendary; he could lift a shovel to shoulder height with a young boy standing on the end of it. Possessing the hardy Bourbon appetite, he developed a paunch as he approached his thirties. He was awkward and shy in his manner although not without dignity in his bearing. The efforts of his detractors to make him unattractive and therefore unlovable serves the purpose of giving his wife an "excuse" for chronic infidelity, another highly-popularized myth. 

Likewise, Louis is presented as being dirty and malodorous. Granted that he was an active man, not a powdered and pampered courtier, and working with metal was not clean work; neither was his daily riding and hunting, as anyone who has ever been around horses will agree. However, he had two tubs of which he made daily use, one for washing and one for rinsing. 

As for his intellect, all one has to do is read anything he wrote to see that Louis XVI was an intelligent man. He could read and speak several foreign languages, knew Latin as well as his native tongue, was a skilled amateur cartographer, enjoyed the tragedies of Shakespeare as well as of the great French dramatists Corneille and Racine. He was fascinated with scientific inventions, which he encouraged, and with geography, outfitting a sea voyage of discovery in the Pacific ocean. He would read his mail as his ministers delivered their reports, without missing a word of what his ministers said. He subscribed to several international newspapers, as a means of keeping informed of events and of the opinions of others.
Louis XVI is always portrayed as politically inept and indifferent, and yet he built up the French navy and army so that Great Britain was defeated in the war for American independence. The ships and soldiers outfitted by King Louis were later used by Napoleon Bonaparte to conquer Europe. During the Revolution, he tried to avoid bloodshed at all costs and would not escape because he did not want to abandon his people to the fanatic minority which had seized power. His calm in the face of the calamities is usually interpreted as phlegmatic indifference, but by remaining composed, he was often able to regain control of situations where the mob was thirsting for blood. 

Louis was a dedicated Roman Catholic, keeping track of his regular Confession and Communion days in his journal. After the French revolutionary government seized control of the Church, he eventually refused to receive Communion from a priest not in union with Rome. He also vetoed the law forcing priests to be deported for not denying the papal supremacy, even though it brought the angry populace upon the palace in June 1792. As Simon Schama points out in his book Citizens, Louis XVI was more and more torn between his duties as father of his people and father of his family. He tried early in the Revolution to try to persuade the queen to escape with their children, but she refused to leave his side, much to her credit.

Since so many books have speculated about the details of Louis' intimate relations with his wife, I did not touch upon it in my novel, wanting to respect the sacred privacy which should exist between spouses. However, because of the misunderstandings which continue to circulate in books, films and articles I have found it necessary to clarify matters on this blog. Let it be made clear that Louis was not impotent, nor did he have any physical defects which would have prevented him from consummating his marriage, according to the court medical records and affirmed by scholars Bernard Faÿ, Vincent Cronin, and Simone Bertière.
Another rehashed error is that Louis XVI was sexually indifferent and refused to consummate his marriage for seven years. In the beginning of the marriage, as I said above, Marie-Antoinette looked as if she were twelve. Louis should be praised for not wanting to rush upon a child. 

Furthermore, Louis belonged to the political clique at Versailles that had been against the Austrian alliance. Austria was the traditional enemy of France, and had leveled a humiliating defeat upon the Bourbons in the Seven Years War. The defeat was blamed upon the mistress of Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, who had also been behind arranging the marriage with the Habsburg Archduchess Antonia. Louis' aunt and godmother, the feisty old maid Madame Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, never let him forget that his bride was not only an enemy of France, but that she had been brought over by a courtesan, Madame de Pompadour, who also had reddish hair and was named "Antoinette." With visions in his mind of the notorious Pompadour, who had led both his grandfather and his country astray, Louis approached his Austrian bride with caution and reserve. (See Vincent Cronin's Louis and Antoinette.) 

Since his bride was fourteen years old but looked as if she were twelve, I think it speaks well for Louis that he did not wish to deflower a child. According to the letters written by the Queen to her mother the Empress Maria Theresa, the young couple began to attempt to consummate the marriage as early as 1773, when Marie-Antoinette was seventeen and Louis eighteen. Author Simone Bertiere, in her superb biography L'Insoumise, maintains that Marie-Antoinette had a "narrowness of passage" which made consummating the marriage difficult and painful. 

Louis waited for his wife to mature and their first child was born when Antoinette was twenty-two, the first of four, including some miscarriages. Louis XVI was a devoted husband and father, who mingled tears of joy and sorrow with his wife at the births and deaths of their children. Their marriage had problems just like any marriage, but they strove for it to work, and it did work. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were forged into a devoted couple who would be separated only by death.
Sources:
Bertière, Simone. Marie-Antoinette l'insoumise. Paris: Editions de Fallois, 2002.
Cronin, Vincent. Louis and Antoinette. New York: Morrow, 1974
Faÿ, Bernard. Louis XVI ou la fin d'un Monde. Paris: Perrin, 1966.
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