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.
From the website: "Hardwick is internationally renowned for its collections, most notably its textiles, largely sourced and collected by Bess of Hardwick in the later years of the sixteenth century. Four years after Bess moved into Hardwick she compiled a list of all the objects in the house, giving a unique insight into the furnishings of an Elizabethan house."
Below, Bess of Hardwick, c. 1567.
Below, the recently conserved 'Lucretia,' one of four Noble Women embroideries mmade for and at Hardwick. Perhaps history honors Lucretia as the inspiration for the transition from monarchy to the Roman Republic, but it took her rape and subsequent suicide to accomplish the feat. Sort of a difficult inspiration IMHO, but meaningful to history (they say). She is an important character in the writings of Livy, Ovid, Dante, and Chaucer, among others.
Below left, a photograph of rehanging the embroidery at Hardwick Hall, from the National Trust. Right, NT's photo of another of the Noble Women, 'Penelope', from The Odyssey, the faithful wife of Odysseus, a symbol of fidelity.
More from the website: "By the mid-1590s when Hardwick was taking shape, Bess had already furnished her great house at Chatsworth but could only bring a small proportion of the contents with her when she moved back to Hardwick, so in the winter of 1592-3 Bess went on a shopping spree while in London. Amongst her purchases were the Gideon set of tapestries purchased from the estate of Sir Christopher Hatton for the huge sum of £326 15s 9d (from which £5 was deducted because Bess had to change the Hatton coat of arms to her own). Below, one of the thirteen Gideon tapestries telling the story from the Old Testament Bookof Judges.
In the Long Gallery, many of the tapestries are seen behind the portrait collection.
Of the more than one hundred textiles at Hardwick Hall, my favorite also recently conserved, is the Birds with Foliage beside one of the staircases. Perhaps this is because the conservators have restored the brilliant colors of the original piece, which they discover during the process of restoration. Within the very tight stitches of the tapestry, the colors are still vivid.
In the Great High Chamber, Bess hung her purchase of the Ulysses tapestries, telling the story from Homer's The Oddyssey.
Bess also purchased a smaller set of tapestries that now hang in the Drawing Room and a set of tapestries that hang in the Green Velvet Bedroom, as below.
I wish I had more carefully noted the names of all the tapestries, but perhaps I had fallen under their spell and just gazed in appreciation. Ah, what more does one have to say than, The Lovers, below.
Next time, the last resident of Hardwick Hall, Evelyn, Duchess of Devonshire, who lived from 1890 to 1960.
Hardwick Hall on a rainy day in Derbyshire, September, 2017. Last time, I wrote about the magnificent Bess of Hardwick, who built this house beginning when she was four times widowed, at age seventy. And lived in it for 18 years until she died in 1608. It is often admired as one of the finest of the Elizabethan prodigy houses, alongside houses such as Longleat and Burghley House, below.
About Prodigy Houses, Wikipedia writes, "...there was an Elizabethan building boom, with large houses built in the most modern styles by courtiers, wealthy from acquired monastic estates, who wished to display their wealth and status. A characteristic was the large area of glass – a new feature that superseded the need for easily defended external walls and announced the owners' wealth. Hardwick Hall, for example was proverbially described as "Hardwick Hall, more glass than wall."
Among the other 'firsts' for Hardwick Hall was the knowledge of its architect, Robert Smythson, (1535 – 1614) who may have also worked on Longleat. Up to this time, houses were built by master masons and their workers, whose names were not recorded. The house was built of stone from a quarry owned by Bess, and the glass was made in her glass factory, thanks to the fortunes she acquired throughout her life and marriages.
By the time her fourth husband died, Bess had arranged the marriages of many of her children, grandchildren, stepchildren and other relatives. She was an immensely rich woman and the guardian of her granddaughter Arabella Stuart, a potential heir to the throne. She was known as a capable manager and businesswoman, a worthy companion of both the Queens she knew so well: Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.
Above, left: The Hardwick Coat of Arms above the fireplace in the Hall, which is where the young attendants would wait to be called. On the right, decorative weapons in the Hall. Below, views of the kitchen.
Wide, tapestry-lined stairways led to the upper two floors where Bess received her guests and entertained. The booklet about the house, acquired on the site, describes Bess as formidable: “managing, acquisitive, an indefatigable collector, tough, emotional, fond of intrigue and (of) amazing vitality.”
The house is filled with portraits and precious objects including furniture such as the cabinet below.
The portrait of Arbella, left, shows her at 13 years old. Her long hair left untied means she is unmarried. The books indicate her good education and her pearls denote purity.
The cabinet, right, is a French 'du Cerceau', probably once a possession of Mary Queen of Scots, also known as the 'spice cabinet' a.k.a. a private altar for Mary.
Below, the Great High Chamber. The magnificent friezes and tapestries have faded to near monochromatic tans. The frieze represents the forest and court of the goddess Diana. This room would used to entertain guests and for dining.
After the meal, guests would go up to the roof where dessert was served in one or more of the six banqueting pavilions and the guests could stroll the roofs to "survey the Prospect." The pavilions were crowned with fretwork bearing the initias E.S. for Elizabeth Shrewsbury.
The Long Gallery is decorted with tapestries, portraits, and dcorative artwork for strollers to enjoy. One formal occasions, Bess, the Dowager Countess, would receive while sitting beneath the great canopy, impressively throne-like.
Below, two more views of the Long Gallery:
Two rooms below, are furnished as bedchambers. In the Green Velvet Room, Bess would sometimes receive her most intimate friends and family,surrounded by her magnificent and priceless tapestries.
According to the website, "This blue bed originally belonged to the wife of the 2nd earl of Devonshire, Christian Cavendish. Made of oak and hung with embroidered blue damask the back of the bed bears the coats of arms of Christian Cavendish herself plus the original year of the bed, 1629. However, it also bears a second coat of arms and the date 1852. These arms are that of the 6th Duke. Under the Duke’s instruction a matching roll of blue damask was commissioned, the original embroidery removed, re-applied to the new silk and the entire bed was rehung."
The damp weather kept us from exploring the gardens as fully as we would have wished.
Bess of Hardwick died in 1608. Her son William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire, and his family lived nearby at Chatsworth built by Bess and his father. Their descendants remain at Chatsworth today. Remarkably, as a secondary residence for the family, Hardwick retained most of its original character, much to the advantage of visitors and scholars, well maintained by the National Trust.
Next time, the Hardwick Tapestries and a modern apartment for the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in the 1950's.
Victoria Hinshaw, Author