oursin: Photograph of small impressionistic metal figurine seated reading a book (Reader)
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What I read

Margery Sharp, Britannia Mews (1946). I find Sharp's work interesting enough that I look out for it to acquire in a haphazard way, but I find it sufficiently uneven that I'm hesitant to go out and deliberately expand my collection. This is sort of midwayish - it's not for me one of her really amazing books, but it doesn't plumb the depths of the one about the dog-photographer (looking it up, this was Something Light).

Colin Cotterill, The Coroner's Lunch (2004), first in a series which someone or other recommended to me ages ago. Quite good, would read another, think the comparisons with McCall Smith are entirely about setting it in a culture which can be presumed strange to the intended readership, as it comes over a good deal less twee (though that was really something that developed as that series continued). I think I have another one in the series around somewhere but there has been a great deal of reshuffling of book piles with recent domestic upheavals.

Hercule Poirot's Christmas (1938), or, the one in which the Spanish Civil War contributes a plot point... Also, perhaps too many people pretending to be someone they're not? Feel that one instance per book should be enough.

On the go

As it turns out that my e-reader is an ex-reader and has joined the heavenly library, and I am still waiting for the replacement I ordered, The Corner That Held Them is still on the go.

Kate O'Brien, That Lady (1948) - this is the historical novel about the Princess d'Eboli and Philip II of Spain, and I am slightly bogging down in the mid-sections as people endlessly discuss various intrigues going on involving Philip II's advisors and powerful families in the kingdom and how they impact on our heroine. Prefer her more contemporary, or at least, more recent history in Ireland, works. Daresay I shall persist because I do have some desire to know what happens, it's just moving very slowly.

Jane Smiley, Secret Horse (2010, aka A Good Horse) because I had some interest in reading at least one of Smiley's YA books about geegees, and I found this one in a charity shop.

Up Next

The new Barbara Hambly is on order.

(no subject)

Jul. 29th, 2015 10:17 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] opusculasedfera!

The concerns of a woman of property

Jul. 29th, 2015 08:58 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

I receive a letter from Mr Q- saying that the tenants of the Surrey property that I inherited from dear General Y- intend to leave at the next quarter-day, having fallen heir to a very pretty property in another part of the country.

I consult my accounts, and determine that altho' I receive a pleasing sum from this property, in my present state (between the rest of General Y-'s bequest, Biffle's very kind provision, and Mr F-'s generosity and excellent advice on investment) the temporary loss will not greatly affect myself or the household. However, it is a matter I must give my mind to and I therefore send a little note by Titus to R- House desiring a meeting with Mr MacD-.

Arrives Sandy with more flowers from the R- House conservatory and conveying Lord G- R-'s regards. Should I ever desire a ride into the country, His Lordship has some new conveyance - Sandy sighs and says he knows nothing of these matters, but apparently it is very fine and will cause much envy among the set that appreciates these things? by which I understand that it is no mere utilitarian carriage - and would be most happy to put it through its paces with me.

I say that that would sure be very pleasant, and proceed to the matter of my property. You do not intend to live there yourself? asks Sandy.

What would I do in Surrey? say I. I daresay it is agreeable enough to those that like life out of Town but not too distant, and I hear that the place is very pretty.

You have never been there? O, say I, I did not think it prudent to call upon my tenants, but indeed, I should quite like to see it some time. I should also like to see if there are any of General Y-'s hunting trophies that I might bring here. Sir B- W- remembers seeing some very fine tiger skins when the General us'd to hold bachelor house-parties there.

Mr MacD- looks about my pretty parlour and remarks that he cannot suppose that a tiger skin, however fine, would really be in keeping. I smile and say that I should have to do over the entire scheme were I to introduce such an object to the parlour, but I was thinking that it might appear very fine in my boudoir. This produces a violent blush in him, because I can see that he marks what is in my mind concerning a pleasing conjunction of myself and the skin.

Anyhow, he says after a moment, to business (but that is business for me, I murmur gently): unless it is a matter of urgency to get in new tenants immediately, I think you should authorise an inspection of the property and the undertaking of any necessary repairs &C, before advertizing it. Perhaps you might even visit the place?

I might indeed, I agree. Perhaps we can put together a letter to Mr Q- to set forth these intentions. But I had another matter I wisht to discuss with you, which is perhaps a matter of female philosophy. He raises his eyebrows and invites me to speak on.

I daresay, I begin, that you are aware that there are many women in the world who, were they men, would be making some considerable mark, but because of their sex, do not have the opportunities to use their talents. Indeed, he agrees, and it is a sad waste of abilities. I suppose, he adds, you are not talking of some woman that has domestic cares to occupy her. Exactly, I say, I have a particular case in mind of a lady - whom, of course, I do not know but is known among my circle - that could cry fie upon this quiet life, I want occupation! but finds nothing to her hand except to interfere with those that can well manage their own business without her intervention.

Sandy snorts. She cannot have considered the very many philanthropic endeavours in which ladies are engaging in this age: I do not mean the going around with baskets of comforts for the poor as doubtless her grandmother did, but such valuable work as the Quaker Mrs Fry is about to relieve women and children that are in desperate condition in prisons. The Quakers indeed are oft an example to us all in action towards humane yet practical ends.

Providing she does not begin to go about rescuing fallen women, which is a thing I cannot like, that might well answer, I concede: sure it can be a very harsh life for those that have not had my good fortune in the trade but I cannot approve what I hear of Magdalene Asylums and do not think them any remedy. But did you provide me with some further intelligence upon such endeavours of other kinds I think I have the means to direct them to the right place.

He promises to do so, and we turn to to compose a letter for Mr Q-.

After he has departed - casting, I see from the window, many a backward glance, for there is a good deal of coming and going in the street at this hour - I turn to writing to Her Grace the Duchess of M- and bespeaking a discreet chamber at Madame Lisette's establishment (for although I do not go there to be dresst myself, Bessie Wilson owes me some favours for the business Docket and I have lately put her way).

I receive a most expeditious response from Her Grace, who says that Lady J- is already making a to-do about her own presentation at Court which sure cannot happen for many months yet, and if she hears much more about it she will become an entire sans-culotte and commit arson upon St James' Palace (perhaps, she adds, you could burn this letter when read - I feel it improper to complain overmuch to dear Biffle my husband His Grace about his sister, and if I do not sometimes express my feelings think I shall burst from holding 'em in: I do very much miss dear Lady W-, and envy her abilities in evading that dreadfull crocodile her mother-in-law. Unfortunately Lady J- is not in the least hypochondriackal but enjoys abounding health so there is no hope of sending her somewhere to take the waters.).

oursin: Photograph of James Miranda Barry, c. 1850 (James M Barry)
[personal profile] oursin

Do admit, this is of a certain relevance to things I'm doing elsewhere:

Queers, Homosexuals, and Activists in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain?

Fascinating stuff, as is the poem Don Leon itself and the notes thereunto as mentioned in that post.*

What particular intrigues me is that the notes to that poem specifically allude to the relationship depicted in this print as concerning a lesbian relationship, because I've never been sure what to make of it and whether it's actually about one or other of the husbands or both of them.

(Yes! some time I must do MOAR RESEARCH about those ladies.)

*Though a bit icked by the attacks on Lady Byron, though one knows that the disaster of their marriage was A Thing and had parties drawn up and embattled on both sides.

Town is becoming a desert

Jul. 28th, 2015 10:03 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

After entirely too short a visit, Mr F- departs for the W- estate and Sir B- W-'s house-party. He is in hopes of reaching a mutually beneficial arrangement to improve the workings of the quarry, for the management of the operation was let slide for many years. I advise him to consult with Lady W- on the matter, as he will receive no decision from Sir B- W- until he has done so, furthermore, Lady W-, that has had the command of her own fortune since she came of age, has a very good head for business. Though, I remark, I daresay at the moment she will be preoccupied by other matters. (For Mr H- says he has his bag packed and his instruments in order daily awaiting the call to her lying-in.)

I am rendered quite ridiculous melancholy at his departure. Anyone would think, I tell myself, that you had been left desolate like Dido among the flaming towers of Carthage (Mr G- D- has introduced Miss McK- to a most touching lament from an opera on the subject by Purcell). Whereas Major W- is still in Town though has hopes that the regiment may finally depart for Canada. He has not told me himself, but I have discovered roundabout, that he was close to fighting a duel with a fellow-officer who had seen Mr O'C-'s nasty squib and repeated it to him. But with the intervention of Sir B- W-, and the other fellow-officer who had spoke to me in the Park and seen my blooming health, it was brought to an apology at repeating scurrilous libel and the meeting was called off.

Furthermore, although many of the little notes desiring better acquaintance with antipodean Flora came from aspirants quite out of consideration, there are a few where I think I may at least proceed to a preliminary meeting.

Dear Admiral K-, however, has now been ordered still further away on a mission along the shores of the Southern Americas and I know not when I shall see him again.

I get occasional letters from Miss A- on tour, which are full of the trials and even catastrophes of such an enterprise (the rustick nature of provincial theatres, the cart with costumes and scenery going astray and getting bogged down in mud, &C), but nonetheless I can discern that the tour is being a roaring success. I also wonder do I discern, or am I being unduly suspicious, that she and Mr J- are finding consolation with one another in their separation from their dearer loves.

I do not of course open this possibility to Miss D- when she calls with her usual budget of gossip, and to collect the letters to herself from Mr J- which he prudently sends under cover to my address. She tells me that Mr N- has been persuaded that the business of the nation will survive his absence from the Home Office for a few weeks, and he is planning an excursion to Margate, which his own physician deems far more suited to his constitution than Brighton. It will probably be a dead bore, she says, but at least a change.

Mr H- tells me that pressure of business is like to keep him in Town for most of the summer, for a fine crop of babies is in prospect: but my dear, he says, should you wish to recruit by the seaside (though really, as he pinches my cheek, you are looking remarkably well) my little Sussex place is ever at your disposal and I have indeed instructed the servants to that effect. That is most kind, I respond, and I may well take your kind offer, for there is always some point in the summer at which London becomes a desert as far as one's circle is concerned. Sir Z- R-, I am given to understand, plans a sketching holiday in Wales, though I have no intelligence as to whether the wombatt will accompany him. Mr B- takes Miss McK- to Brighton as usual, and I hear that Signor V- has obtained some very excellent engagements in Bath for himself and Miss L-. Really, I say, our set will be quite scattered for a while.

I am therefore most exceeding chear'd to receive a note from Mrs F- to say that she has contrived a way to visit and if I can keep a certain afternoon clear of visitors, hopes to be able to call upon me, have a sight of Julius, obtain Seraphine's receipt for kedgeree, &C.

Thus we are all entirely happy when she arrives. She and I fly to one another's embrace. O, my dear Mrs F-, I say, however did you contrive this stratagem? I thought surely Lady J- would have you fastened up tight.

Ah, says Mrs F-, I was able to persuade her that it would not be at all fitting, indeed quite unsuitable, to interview governesses at M- House, which would give an entirely misleading impression of the standing of the household they will be entering. I also managed to reject her offer of, at least take one of the carriages, by saying I did not want to convey any suggestion that we were in fine society and raise their expectations. I have therefore, my dearest, managed, once my business was despatched, to come to Islington Green.

O, you wicked creature, I say, as Euphemia comes in with the tea-tray, to thus mislead Her Ladyship.

Mrs F- sits down and laughs. One does need to manage the lady, I find, for although she has a good heart and ever desires the best for others, she will always suppose that she knows best. I see His Grace leaning heavily upon his training in the Diplomatick, and Her Grace biting her lip.

But, she says eagerly, may we go and see Seraphine and Julius? So we proceed down to the kitchen, where Seraphine makes effusive thanks for the baby-clothes, and offers to let Mrs F- hold Julius.

Mrs F- takes him in a practised grasp (unlike myself, who always fears to drop him or do some other mischief) and looks down at him. What a fine boy, she says, and I see a kind of yearning in her face. She blinks several times as if to disperse tears. What a very fine boy, may I hold him for a little? My own dear little Quintus is now come to the toddling stage. Seraphine poses several questions to Mrs F- as from the new mother of a child to one that has borne and raised several.

They then proceed to an exchange of receipts, Mrs F- still holding Julius, until he stirs and begins to whimper, and she passes him back so that Seraphine may feed him. Mrs F- commends this practice very highly, saying that because she was left so weakly after little Quintus's birth they had been oblig'd to find a wet-nurse, which caus'd her some sadness for she had fed all the others herself. But they had found a good healthy country-girl, that now stays on as nursery maid.

We return to the parlour and Mrs F- remarks that it must be sadly tedious for me to hear all this discourse of babies. She hardly dares ask, but have I ever -? I miscarry'd once, I say, in a manner which I hope indicates that it is a matter I had rather not talk of, even to my dearest friend, adding, it was a very long time ago.

oursin: image of hedgehogs having sex (bonking hedgehogs)
[personal profile] oursin

I.e.
13 Little Things That Can Make a Man Fall Hard for You*

Good tips for making sure that the kind of man who likes this sort of infantilising/dog-training approach to relationships stays far far away - do the opposite.

Quite apart from, what on earth does the woman get back from all this?

Also, I think the compiler has missed one important point:

Keep young and beautiful, if you wanna be loved

(I have eschewed the actual clip of Eddie Cantor, in blackface, in Roman Scandals, 1933, which adds a significantly racist element to this sexist claptrap.)

*Is she SERIOUS? Plz 2 B telling me it's a spoof, or the reprint of something from 1955 or so, please, please.

(no subject)

Jul. 27th, 2015 10:08 am
oursin: Brush the Wandering Hedgehog by the fire (Default)
[personal profile] oursin
Happy birthday, [personal profile] fjm and [personal profile] wildroot!

On the education of daughters

Jul. 27th, 2015 09:43 am
the_comfortable_courtesan: image of a fan c. 1810 (Default)
[personal profile] the_comfortable_courtesan

Mr F- looks upon the table set for breakfast and says, my love, are we expecting guests? O no, I say, it is entirely a demonstration of Seraphine's pleasure at having a gentleman in the house that appreciates a good table before him to cook for. Also, I am sure it will all get eat up by someone or other even if you do not consume everything, for there are young folk in the household that are still getting their growth.

He lifts the covers and helps himself to the devill'd kidneys, some bacon and eggs, and - what is this, my dear? - it is kedgeree, say I, I will take a little myself for it is really very good. He butters a pikelet and I pour coffee as he sets to upon his plateful.

This is rather more than I normally take at breakfast, but I think that I am in requirement of unusual sustenance after an unwontedly active night.

Mr F- concedes that there is still plenty left for the young people, drinks his coffee, and takes out his little memorandum book. Today he has made arrangement to interview three ladies that have been advanc'd to his notice as possible governesses. He says that he and Mrs F- visited the school recommended by Mr MacD- and consider that it will answer admirably for the boys. Although Mr M- is in orders, he reminds Mr F- very much of Mr T-, as one that loves learning and the study of the beauties of creation though doubtless would not be approved by the evangelical interest. His wife is an excellent woman and their household includes her sister who is a lady of very remarkable learning, tho' crippled and in a wheeled chair. There is a good homely feel to their establishment and the boys look happy and well-fed, and their own two could readily come home at weekends. Mrs F- was entirely satisfied by the housekeeping.

Would, he says, that there were similar establishments for girls but we have as yet not heard of any which are along those lines rather than about ladylike accomplishments. Many would doubtless think his dear girls sad hoydens, though they are well-advanced with their needle and made themselves most useful about the house when their mother was so very pull'd down, but he would rather that than fearful missish creatures that squeak yes and no and tremble to dirty their clothes.

Lord, he says, when I think of my first meeting with the future Mrs F-, in her nightgown with a shotgun on her arm at the farmhouse door, because she had heard the dogs and thought there was a fox in the henhouse (her father was sleeping off market-day). I was a foolishly wild boy - I did not even have the excuse of filling the family pot by going out of nights, it was purely to show off that I was as bold as any other of the lads even if I was my uncle's heir to the works - but then I saw her there, looking most greatly unimpresst by me and in two minds whether to tell the dogs to chase me off, and she was the finest woman I had ever seen. I had rather my girls of that metal.

Sure but they must be, I remark. And I am sure any governess that comes with Mr MacD-'s recommendation will be entirely suited to your ideas of their training, fitting them to be rational companions to their future husbands or competent to earn a respectable living if necessary. I have the very greatest confidence in his judgement.

Perhaps there is a particular warmth in my tone, for Mr F- raises his eyebrows for a moment and says with a smile that he hopes he has no reason for any jealousy concerning Mr MacD-. I assure him that the rumour of his hopeless passion is one I have put about to draw the sting of a malicious tale set about to cause trouble with Lord G- R-. I am indeed most exceeding grateful to Mr MacD- for his most helpful services on legal matters &C, but as Mr F- has himself observed, I look upon him as a dear brother and he returns the sentiment.

He laughs and says that it is just that after hearing Mrs F- describe the stir her dear friend caused in Harrogate he is surpriz'd that any young man that spends as much time in my company as Mr MacD- remains completely unmoved. O, I say, but you know that he conducts himself on entirely rational principles and to sigh for me would be quite irrational.

Mr F- then goes on to say that once he has seen the governesses, he intends to defer any final decision until Mrs F- has also had a chance to consider them face to face. To come up from the W- estate is no great matter, and she has a standing invitation to stay at M- House whenever she chuses, being such a great favourite with Lady J- and also with Her Grace. O, I say, I would most happily have her here, but I do see that it would really not do. I am sure, he says, she would greatly prefer that, but alas, indeed it would not do. I sigh. For if she is staying at M- House I am sure that there will be little opportunity for her to pay me a visit.

He departs for his encounter with the prospective governesses, and I sit down at my desk to deal with my accounts, correspondence &C.

Comes in Docket to say that she has had a very delightful letter from Williams, enclosing a generous compliment from Her Grace, and an inner letter addressed to you, madame. She hands this over and I turn it over once or twice in my hands examining the hand. It is sealed with a plain blob of wax.

Once Docket has gone I break the seal and discover that it is a letter to me from Her Grace the Duchess, who writes in a very pretty well-formed hand. The burden of her message is that she would greatly desire another meeting with me, in hopes that I may be able to advise her on a family matter, that is, that she and Biffle His Grace are like to be sent to the madhouse for the quality that is in Sussex if something is not done about Lady J-, who is the best and kindest of sisters and making their lives quite intolerable.

Particularly in the absence of Miss A-, Lady J-, I consider, has far too much time upon her hands. At N- she had the running of the estate generally as well as her particular interest in dairying to keep her busy, but now she lacks occupation and is not one that can sit with folded hands. She also has, I consider, though perhaps it is not my place to be searchingly critickal about a duke's daughter, something of a conceit in her own judgement, and while her judgement is often excellent, in some cases her confidence in her own rightness is misplaced: although she has demonstrated the admirable quality of mending her opinions on certain matters.

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