Netflix is now presenting the eight episodes of Bridgerton's first season, with more to come in the future. The story is based on Julia Quinn's regency-set novels about the Bridgerton family, their relatives and friends.
Left, Rene-Jean Page as Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, and right, Phoebe Dynevor as Daphne Bridgerton Their romance took place in the first book, The Duke and I, and followed up in several more novels. The first season centers on them, with subsequent romances to be followed as the series continues, or so we hope.
I spent more time, the first run through, trying to identify the settings. I had to watch all eight episodes again to enjoy the story. Did you recognise the room above as the Wilton House Double Cube Room? See my post of December 1, 2020, for previous sightings of the room in period dramas. Here are several more from Bridgerton.
Above, also the Double Cube Room in Wilton House, with the young ladies waiting to be presented to Queen Charlotte.
The Bridgerton family supposedly lives in London but the exterior of their house is actually in Greenwich, the Ranger's House, below as it appears in the series on the left, and right, as it looks usually. Click on the pictures for larger versions
Most of the street scenes in what the story called London were shot in Bath where 8th century architecture still reigns. Below, on the lawn before Bath's Royal Crescent.
Lady Danbury's London home was played by Bath's Holburne Museum, which was the Sydney Gardens Hotel in the days of the Regency.
Keeping track of which set served as which family's home must have been a logistical tangle for the crew and editors. Below, left, a ball was staged in the gallery of Hatfield House in Hertforshire, and right, the duke and duchess arriving at their country estate, played by the elegant facade of Castle Howard in Yorkshire.
Among other country house settings used for Bridgerton scenes were Badminton, Stowe, and several more. The latest I have heard is they are contemplating eight seasons of Bridgerton, and I am cheering. All those sights to identify!!!
Now that Christmas and New Year's are behind us, the stores are filling up with hearts and candy for Valentine's Day, just right for my novella "The Valentine Poem."
The protagonists are a young woman who yearns to visit Italy and a gentleman of English and Italian heritage who's leading a double life as a sort of spy for the British government, keeping track of the many Italians in England. The setting is January and February of 1814 in London, a few months before the first fall and abdication of Napoleon and his exile to Elba. Italy is a patchwork of city states, principalities, and anarchy in the wake of Napoleon's short-lived attempt to unify the peninsula under his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat (1767-1815) following decades of Italian discontent when mostly ruled by the Austrian Hapsburgs for most of the 18th century. Seething with political machinations, many of the exiles intrigued to plot changes in the Italian states, a potential threat to British interests. But the British loved Italy and Italian artists too.
Above, two of the Italian artists who captured accolades from Londoners in the the early 19th century; Left, Angelica Catalini (1780-1849), famed soprano; right, Antonio Canova (1757-1822), renowned sculptor.
All through the long 18th century, Italian composers, musicians, artists, writers, and teachers found welcomes from British audiences for their work.
Below, Angelica Kauffman, RA (1741-1807) self-portrait; Antonio Zucchi, RA (1726-1795), by Angelica Kauffman, his wife. They worked both individually and together on many projects in England, particularly wall and ceiling panels in buildings inspired by neoclassical architect/designer Robert Adam and his family.
Above, left, "Design" by Kauffman, in the Royal Academy of Art; right, "Spring" a medallion by Zucchi in Kenwood House, London. Kauffman was one of only two women among the founders of the Royal Academy of Art.
Not only the gifted found their way to England. The many wars and the crazy quilt of shifting political allegiances -- kingdoms, duchies, princpalities, domination by other nations -- led thousands of Italians north. Farmers, street peddlers, skilled artisans, seamen, and restauranteurs were a few of their occupations. Many of the exiles were conspiring to promote schemes for the unification of the Italian peninsula, activities the British government wanted to keep tabs upon.
Above, Rome, 1757, by Giovanni Paolo Panini Travel went in both directions with Italy often the destination of young men on their Grand Tour. Also, entire families sometimes moved from chilly England for health reasons as well as the culture. British museums are replete with Italian art treasures purchased and brought back by English tourists.
Above, The Portland Vase, c. lst century BC, The British Museum. This precious vase was discovered in the 16th century and loaned, then sold to the museum by the Duke of Portland. In 1845 it was shattered by a drunken visitor and painstakingly reassembed from the fragments by museum personnel and further repaired in in 1989, a tour de force of restoration. The Portland vase inspired many other artists, perhaps most notably Josiah Wedgewood (1730-95), who reproduced versions and used the cameo themes widely in his ceramics.
Above left, Maria Cosway, self-potrait,1787; right, Maria Cosway, portrait of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire as Cynthia in Spenser's The Fairie Queen, c. 1781, at Chatsworth House.
I can't conclude until I acknowledge the incredible Maria Coasway, a composer and muscian as well as a renowned painter who exhibited her work at the Royal Academy. She is almost equally famous for her relationship with Thomas Jefferson, begun in 1786 Paris when he was envoy to France, and documented in numerous letters archived at the University of Virginia, the topic of both books and films. This well-known love affair should not dim our respect for her excellence in artistic fields rarely achieved by women in her time. Brava, Maria!
The Crown is bringing us some wonderful scenes of stately homes and other settings which stand in for Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Ten Downing Street, and many many more. After I binge watch for the story, I watch it all over again to see if I can recognize the settings.
When I saw this shot of Prince Philip and the Queen in an earlier season of The Crown, I immediately recognized that room. Most definitely Wilton House. Below, the Double Cube Room, this time from Season Four.
Below, also in Season Four, Diana dances in the palace, aka Wilton's Double Cube room.
The Double Cube Room is 30x30x60, reflecting its neoclassic roots, and is probably the work of architect Inigo Jones (1573-1652), though the room's decoration shows the baroque influences of later artists.
The great portrait by Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) portrays Philip Herbert, 4th Earl of Pembroke (1584-1650) with his Countess and his children, painted in 1634-35.
Below, the 'family piece' portrait is clearly visible in its entirety for this scene of the young princesses from Season One of The Queen.
Wilton House has played roles in many films. Below, a scene in the Double Cube Room with Director Autumn de Wilde and the cast of the 2020 version of Jane Austen's Emma.
Wilton House played the role of Mr. Knightley's estate, Donwell Abbey. Here is actor Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley striding across the lawn after crossing the Palladian Bridge with the house in the background.
Below, my 2018 photo of the Palladian Bridge, built 1736-37, over the River Nadder with the house at far right. Supposedly there are four such bridges in the world, three in Britain and one in Russia.
Back in the Double Cube Room, we see Emma and Harriet sitting on the custom-made sofa under the Van Dyke portrait.
In the 1995 version of Austen's Pride & Prejudice, a pianoforte was placed in front of the portrait and Mr. Darcy listened to his sister, Georgina, play.
Here is the brown-clad Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) in the center of the room, meeting Georgiana Darcy.
And as our last view of the Double Cube Room, here it stands in for the Palace of Versailles in an episode of The Outlander's Season Two. You can't miss that portrait in the background.
These are not the only films that give us views of Wilton House. And while we watch The Queen, we'll see many more interesting settings playing roles in the story. What's your favorite?
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My latest novella in trade paperback and/or e-book format is The Muddled Matchmakers, set in Weymouth, Dorset.
In the story, widow Dawn Neville and widower Hugh, Lord Grayson, devote their lives to their small children. When their elderly fathers conspire to bring them together at the Weymouth seaside, Dawn and Hugh agree to pretend compliance with the matchmakers’ objective. But their pretense just might diminish sad memories and inspire a fresh promise of a loving future together.
Weymouth was a favorite spa for the Royals. King George III, his brothers, and his children often came for recreation. First presented in Kensington Zebra’s Father’s Day Anthology A Match For Papa in 2003, The Muddled Matchmakers tells the story of a summer stay in Weymouth.
Jane Austen mentions many seaside resorts in her novels and letters. Darcy’s young sister Georgiana in Pride and Prejudice is almost seduced by George Wickham in Ramsgate, Kent. Lydia Bennet indeed is carried off from Brighton by that same miscreant, though one can say he receives his just desserts by having her company for the rest of his life. Beware the temptations of the seaside! True as well for Lyme Regis in Mansfield Park.
The Austen family often journeyed to the seaside, visiting places such as Sidmouth, Teignmouth, and Dawlish. In the fragment of a novel Austen left unfinished at her death at age 41 in 1817, we find the story of Sanditon, a village being transformed into a resort for the amusement of city dwellers.
Sanditon was used as the basis of a television series in 2020 with screenplays by Andrew Davies and others, which went a long way off from Jane Austen's fragment. Whether or not the series will be continued is not known yet. I guess it was not enthusiastically received on either wide of the pond.
I chose Worthing, in Sussex, as the setting for two of my novellas in the Regency Summer Anthologies in 2019 and 2020 published by Dreamstone Publishing. Like other coastal resort towns, the beach held many bathing machines for the ladies, donkeys to be ridden by the children, and promenades bordered by colorful gardens. The towns boasted churches, hotels, shops, tea rooms, even some theatres and assembly rooms. Below, the covers for the stories flank one of the anthology covers. Click on the thumbnail for larger pictures.
Below, summer 2020 from the BBC. Tourism grew during the Georgian era and rapidly expanded with the coming of the railroads in the early Victorian years. Today, British beaches resorts are as popular as ever, with their long piers dotted with shops, restaurants and carnival-type rides, and rows of rainbow-hued beach huts. Today, the therapeutic concerns of drinking sea-water and immersing oneself in cold saltwater are no longer the attraction. But as an island nation it is no surprise that the seashore is always popular. Below, Summer 2020 from the BBC.
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.
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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??
Victoria Hinshaw, Author