In the depths of 2020, we better drag out and polish up those memories....to keep us going! More to come soon.
Here it is the Autumn of 2020 and I have not seen a theatrical performance or a concert since last March. On the other hand there have been a plethora of presentations from all over the world online. Not sufficient but it helps. One of my favorite sources is Turner Classic Movies, where yesterday I watched the charming comedy Private Lives starring Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery, base on the play by Noel Coward.
Coward published the play in 1930 and starred in the first stage performances opposite Gertrude Lawrence. The play was an instant success and an international hit. It soon was made into a film in 1931 starring two of the hottest young stars in Hollywood.
The stage play is performed frequently and has starred many of the world's most respected actors and actresses, such as Maggie Smith, Kim Cantrall, Laurence Olivier, and Alan Rickman, as well as a host of summer stock, community theatre and student productions.
More to come soonWay back in 1983, my husband and I saw the play in Chicago with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, two of the most famous actors and double divorcees of their day. The show played in several cities, where critics panned it mercilessly. But most of the audience loved it, full of Noel Coward's wit and not-very-subtle references to the stormy Burton Taylor marriages.
In the depths of 2020, we better drag out and polish up those memories....to keep us going! More to come soon.
My novella, A Hero for Harriet, is included in Regency Summer: Secrets and Soirees, an anthology of stories by seven authors published by Dreamstone Press and available on Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.
Here is a description of A Hero for Harriet by Victoria Hinshaw:
A young woman whose family want her to marry well; a gentleman, nobly born but uninterested in society; two matchmaking aunts; assumptions and misconceptions; the intervention of a donkey: true love is found despite it all.
Above, a caricature entitled 'News from Worthing,' created by Isaac Cruikshank in 1807, from the collection of the U.S Library of Congress.
To order, go to
I have now seen it many times, both live and streaming on my computer. I love it more each time. We saw it first in July 2015 when it was in Broadway Previews, almost entirely by chance.
I was in New York, staying at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square for the 2015 RWA Conference. Author Shari Anton and I got last minute tickets for the show which had already revved up a lot of fame. It was a knock-out, as everyone who has seen it agrees.
Based on a serious biography by historian Ron Chernow, the life story of Alexander Hamilton (2004) seemed an odd subject for a Broadway smash hit. Well before it became a musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda had performed the opening number at a White House concert for a distinguished audience. Reviewing that tape, you can hear a lot of laughter--at the very thought of a hip-hop version of a founding father's life. It is said that President Obama said, when Miranda voiced his plans for the project, "Good luck with that."
The Obamas and many more civic, governmental, and show business leaders fell in love with the show, just as the public did. In turns poignant, hilarious, and thought-provoking, Hamilton excels on every level. Besides a lot of hip hop, there are ballads, love songs, jazz, and British 70's pop. It opened at New York's Off-Broadway Public Theater to enthusiastic reviews and ticket demand. When it moved to Broadway, I was one of the lucky ones who attended a preview performance.
Besides the poetry and music, the costuming and casting are creative and precedent-breaking. The choreography and stagecraft excel. Guess you can tell I loved it. After New York, I saw it again on the road and will watch the film again and again. Not throwing away my shot.
Bravo, Lin-Manuel Miranda. You've won all the awards and set all the records, every one well-deserved.
A few weeks ago I wrote about remembering some classic children's literature more from the movies and/or television versions than the books, and I admitted that embarrassed me to the core. But here is one film I loved as a child that stands alone and treasured in my memory.
I have seen Fantasia numerous times on the big screen and in television versions. I always love it, however they change this and that within various re-issues over eighty years.
The original version came out in 1940 and featured segments of classical music and animated stories. The music was performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra led by Leopold Stokowski. It was a tour de force of the Disney Company and its animation artists, with famed composer Deems Taylor as narrator. The opening segment is Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue, showing the orchestra in fanciful colors turning into abstract designs in tune with the music.
The second episode brings selections from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Suite from his ballet The Nutcracker. Various dances from the score are performed by imaginative characters.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice brings us Mickey Mouse as the young helper who tries to improve on his master's magic with disastrous results. Paul Dukas composed this piece in 1897 based on a poem by Goethe from 1797.
The evolution of the world is the focus of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (1913) from the beginning of the Earth to the age of the dinosaurs.
After an intermission of jazz music, Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (No. 6 in F major) is the soundtrack for a mythological figures to cavort with Bacchus, only to be reprimanded by Zeus and Vulcan.
Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours (from his 1876 opera La Gioconda) has four parts, each more hilarious than the last, representing morning (Madame Upanova and Ostriches) , afternoon (Hyacinth Hippo), evening (Elephantine and the bubbles), and night (Ben Ali Gator), followed by a mash-up finale.
As laughable as the last segment was, the final piece is very frightening. Modeste Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain begins with the devil emerging from the stone but ends with Franz Schubert's Ave Maria as a troupe of monks with torches enter a ruined cathedral.
If you haven't seen Fantasia lately or if you haven't shown it to your kids or grandkids, prepare them for a stunning presentation! Many of the segments are on YouTube and the DVD is available. That new Disney streaming service might have it too.
It has certainly been one of the influential films of my life.
I've skipped a few weeks in this blog as I prepared Ask Jane for re-issue as an e-book. But I've been thinking about my favorite books from childhood, and I am motivated to list a few more. Let's start with two favorites I also read to my children. Please click on the images for a better view.
The indomitable Little Engine That Could -- who among us didn't have frequent prompts from our parents: I think I can, I think I can. And it was good advice! The Poky Little Puppy, oh yes, better mind, children. Were we excused when we wanted to have the attributes of both the brave engine and the rebellious pup?
Paddle to the Sea is a Newberry Award winner written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holland (1900-73) who wrote several excellent stories I shared with my kids such as Minn of the Mississippi and Pagoo the Hermit Crab. Very fine in all regards.
Flicka, Ricka and Dicka were three Swedish girls, triplets, I loved. As I did Pan and Peter...though I don't remember my kids being bowled over by these. I wonder if anyone remembers Uncle Wiggily? Howard R. Garis (1873-1962) wrote hundreds of stories widely published in paper and hard cover, and even turned into a board game.
Among some of the classic children's books I loved were Wind in the Willows, the story of Frog, Toad, Rat, and Badger by Kenneth Grahame (1859-1932); The Winnie-the-Pooh books by A. A Milne (1882-1956) with illustrations by Ernest H. Shepard (1879-1976)--not those awful Disney versions. And Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) again needing the original illustrations by John Tenniel (1820-1914).
Of course there are many more children's stories I love, but I have an embarrassing confession. For quite a few, I REALLY recall the movies or television versions more than the books. Among those I include Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and The Secret Garden. What a dreadful admission for an author. But I suppose current and future generations of youngsters will be even more in my shoes!
Continuing with some of the books I loved as a kid, I find I recall fewer of the classic kids books than some of the popular fiction sold for eager young readers. Naturally, it was the horse stories that most captured me as a pre-teen. The series of novels by Walter Farley about The Black Stallion and other super-horses were among my favorites
Author Walter Farley (1915-1989) wrote The Black Stallion in 1941 and followed it with many sequels, all adored by kids like me. Below one of my favorites, when I was in my American Saddlebred phase: a pinto that won the five-gaited championship, the wonderful Harlequin Hullabaloo.
Well before my horsey years, I loved the Bobbsey Twins series. Burt and Nan (12) and Freddie and Flossie (6) were delightful characters, two sets of twins, in stories written by various authors using the name Laura Lee Hope. The Stratemeyer Syndicate had numerous multi-volume series sold nationwide and I gobbled up many of them. There were eventually 72 Bobbseys from the first in 1904 until 1992. Like many of their series, they were updated as styles and popular culture evolved over nearly a century. I devoured these books and loved them, though I did mix in the classics too: Twain, Kipling, Dickens, etc.
I'll bet you could have predicted that I was a faithful devotee of the Nancy Drew Mysteries. I actually preferred the early editions in which Nancy and Bess talked of their frocks and drove roadsters. Again, there were several authors, all using the penname of Carolyn Keene. Again, they were updated every few years and given new covers. Movies and tv series were based on Nancy's exploits, as well as on the Hardy Boys, all original products of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
To polish off my humble and quite low-brow childhood reading, I recall one of my favorite early romance novels, Palomino by Danielle Steel published in 1981. Must have been the horse connection!
At some point, I began to read adult books, other than horse stories, and fell in love with historical novels along with the classics of British and American literature. Count me among those authors who credit Jane Austen with great inspiration, but also the Regency Romance novels of Georgette Heyer which certainly figured in my favorite reads, someplace between the Bobbseys and William Makepeace Thackery. So there you have it, my secret guilty pleasures...what are your favorite reads from long ago? Are they favorites of the literature professors....or guilty pleasures??
I'm afraid I started something I won't be able to stop!! Last week I wrote about the book Misty of Chincoteague, a childhood favorite of many of us. And I can't stop thinking about the books I adored years ago (don't you dare ask how many). But as May arrives, I think of the wonderful gardens that Raggedy Ann and Andy cavorted in, just where I want to be these days.
Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938) wrote the books and illustrated them, after creating the doll before the first book was published in 1918. And more followed, bringing us wonderful characters such as the Camel With the Wrinkled Knees, Beloved Belindy and the Snoopwiggly (at least that's how I spell it now), the two-armed, four-legged creature below.
I particularly love the trees and flowers Gruelle painted...his views of nature were often stylized, always unique. Below a few examples culled from the web. Please remember to click on the images for larger versions.
One of my favorite traits of Raggedy Ann was the way she did dishes...since they were made of powdered sugar, they disappeared into the mouths of the diners. And do you remember their wind sandwiches? They took slices of wind and placed them around fillings of wind...how delicious.
Did you have a Raggedy Ann doll? I had several, and made both Ann and Andy for my kids...What are your favorite memories of the Raggedys?
My friend Maria Clark recently posted a picture of wild horses on the Outer Banks beach which brought back memories of one of my favorite childhood books, Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry. Do you remember this book with the same fondness I do?
According to Wikipedia, Ms Henry (1902 – 1997) wrote fifty-nine books "based on true stories of horses and other animals. She won the Newbery Medal for one of her books about horses and she was a runner-up for two others."
She followed up Misty's story,based on the ponies that annually swim from Assateague Island off Virginia to Chincotegue Island where they are auctioned, with two sequels, Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague, and
Below, a picture of Marguerite Henry with Misty, probably at her farm in Wayne, Illinois, where she lived, wrote, and hosted parties for children who loved Misty and all her books.
One of the reasons for her success, in addition to the excellence of her writing and appeal to children of all ages, was her partnership with artist Wesley Dennis (1903-1966). His brilliant illustrations for Henry's books, as well as more than a hundred others, were the source of many hours of dreaming for kids like me, hopelessly horse-crazy.
Above, they hold King of the Wind, winner of the prestigious Newbery medal in 1959. Below, the cover which captured my adoration of King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian. Any lover of horses, thoroughbred racing and/or Britain should not miss it.
Perhaps my favorite of their sixteen joint ventures was Album of Horses, first published in 1951. Both King of the Wind and Album of Horses remain on my bookshelves today, as do several others of their works.
Album of Horses is the easiest to read and most beautiful of the research books you will ever encounter. Henry describes the origin of many breeds of horses and Dennis illustrates each one in his brilliant style. Below, a few of the illustrations; please click on each to expand.
Marguerite Henry and Wesley Dennis collaborated on many other books, all of which placed high on my Christmas list, and Santa always obliged. Here are a few.
What other books from your childhood do you remember? can think of many more, and lots included horses.
Here we are in April 2020 in the middle of a global pandemic...and what am I doing??
Why, starting a new adventure in publishing. I've found some stellar aides in my quest to get the rest of my work out as e-books and well marketed. What better time for escaping today's concerns and finding yourself back in the elegant days of Regency England?
Please click for full images. Above An Ideal Match and The Fontainebleau Fan, two of my six books already available on Amazon and Kindle, all formerly published in paperback by Kensington Zebra Regency Romances. In the coming months, I will be presenting two more of my former Kensington novels in e-book format, Ask Jane and Least Likely Lovers. Below are the original covers. They will have new covers since the previous ones actually belong to the publisher and/or the artist. I have a wonderful new cover artist and I am thrilled with the new versions, which I will REVEAL soon.
I published three novellas with Kensington Zebra in anthologies. "The Tables Turned" appears in My Favorite Rogue; "The Valentine Poem" is part of My Only Valentine; and "The Muddled Matchmakers" is in A Match for Papa.
All five of these works will get new covers for their introduction on Amazon, Kindle, and Kindle Unlimited. And that's not all. I've also published novellas and short stories on line with several publishers and all of these will eventually be available in e-book format.
In 2015, I was one of a group of authors who wrote stories to honor the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo.
"Folie Bleu" is the story of Aimée and her Robert, who fell in love in Brussels on the eve of the Battle. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary dinner at the home of the Duke of Wellington, Aimée recalls their desperate romance.
Above, the 2008 Christmas Anthology from Dreamstone Publishing, Christmas Ever After. My contribution is "Miss Hadley's Holly."
In Summer 2019, Dreamstone published Regency Summer Escape containing my novella "Sarah's Summer Surprise.'
There will be more to come, so please go to Welcome, above left, and sign up for my newsletter to keep up with the news. You will receive a free copy of my award-winning short story "The Boxford Legacy." I hope you will enjoy it.
Below, Evelyn Fitzmaurice, Duchess of Devonshire (1870-1960), painted in Hardwick Hall, 1950, by Edward Irvine Halliday (1902–1984).
Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, is shown working on one of the tapestries. She is attributed with preserving the Hardwick Collection, which is one of the finest in Britain, now cared for by the National Trust.
Below, Lady Evelyn Cavendish portrayed by John Singer Sargent in 1902 before her husband Victor Cavendish inherited the ducal title from his uncle Spencer Cavendish, 8th Duke of Devonsire, in 1908. Widowed in 1938, Evelyn lived for many years at Hardwick Hall after her son, Edward, eldest of her seven children, inherited the dukdom as the 10th Duke of Devonshire.
Below, left, Victor Cavendish, 9th Duke of Devonshire, and Duchess Evelyn. Right, Queen Mary, seated, and Evelyn, center rear, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary. Click to enlarge.
Lady Evelyn Emily Mary Petty-Fitzmaurice was born in 1870, daughter of the Marquess of Lansdowne. She married Victor Cavendish in 1892 when he was a newly-seated member of the House of Commons. Both members of distinguished British families, they led busy lives of service, bringing seven children into the world as well. Victor succeeded to the dukedom in 1909. Below left, Duchess Evelyn with three of her children, before 1909; right, Duchess Evelyn with her grandchildren, 1929.
The 9th Duke of Devonshire, below left, was Governor General of Canada from 1916 to 1921 and his family accompanied him. He was a member of the Cabinet before retiring in 1925, after a severe stroke; He died in 1938. Right, Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, Mistress of the Robes to Queen Mary, 1908.
In addition to many other activites, Duchess Evelyn founded the Derbyshire branch of the Red Cross. She served as Queen Mary's Mistress of the Robes from 1910 to 1916 and after her stay in Canada, from 1921 to Queen Marys death in 1953.
After her husbands death, the Dowager Duchess moved into Hardwick Hall, becoming the last resident of Bess of Hardwick's mansion. She was an accomplished needlewoman and spent a great deal of time mending and repairing the textiles as Hardwick.
Her son, the 10th Duke, served in WWI and was a member of Churchill's Cabinet during WWII. He and his wife had five children. William, eldest son and heir appparent, married Katherine "Kick" Kennedy in 1944. Her brother John F, Kennedy was elected president of the United States in 1960. Below, left to right, Deborah Mitford Cavendish (eventually Duchess of Devonshire), Duchess Evelyn, Kick Kennedy.
Only a few months after the wedding, William was killed in action in September 1944. His brother Andrew became the heir and in 1950. the 11th Duke of Devonshire. As part of the more than £7 million (nearly 80 per cent of the value of the estate) inheritance taxes he had to pay, Hardwick Hall became the government's property, eventually part of the National Trust which operates the estate today.
Duchess Evelyn occupied rooms in Hardwick Hall from 1938 to her death in 1960. In the past few years, they have been opened to visitors, displaying even more of her treasured textiles from the Hardwick Collection.
Victoria Hinshaw, Author