Downhill Demesne

Yesterday we visited Downhill (or what’s left of it!), which is in County Londonderry in Northern Ireland.

Built by the bizarre English aristocrat Frederick, 4th Earl of Bristol and Lord Bishop of Derry – yes, he was both – the house is now a ruin, but the Mussenden Temple perched on the cliff at the edge of the estate survives. It is said he kept his mistress there.

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Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style

Fashion Plates 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword).

Fashion Plates: 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword).

I saw this book in Barcelona just over a month ago, and decided there was no way I was lugging something this big and heavy all the way home! I was glad to find it on The Book Depository, both in paperback and hardcover. Of course, if you buy from there you get the book with free shipping (I shudder to think how much it would be to Australia otherwise!).

Fashion Plates 150 Years of Style by April Calahan (Editor), Karen Trivette Cannell (Editor), Anna Sui (Foreword)..

This is one of those books that will appeal to history nerds, historical fiction and romance readers, etc.

On this day: the Battle of Castlebar

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On the 27th of August, 1798, a rebellion took place in Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland.

In what would come to be known either as the Battle of Castlebar or the Castlebar Races, a force of two-thousand Irish rebels and French troops defeated six-thousand British troops.

This event was part of the larger failed Irish Rebellion of that year.

On this day…

This early 1900s postcard is of the Battle of Alamance, a pre-American Revolution battle that took place in North Carolina on the 16th of May, 1771.

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The Battle of the Saintes

The caption for this painting reads:
Lord Rodney’s flagship ‘Formidable’ breaking through the French line at the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782, painted between 1784 and 1787 by Lieutenant William Elliott of the Royal Navy.
Taking place in the West Indies, the Battle of the Saintes was part of the American Revolutionary War, and took place between the 9th and 12th of April, resulting in a decisive victory for Britain.
Lord Rodney_s flagship ‘Formidable_ breaking through the French line at the battle of the Saintes, 12th April 1782, painted between 1784 and 1787 by Lieutenant William Elliott of t

On this day: the premiere of Handel’s Messiah

The Musick Hall in Fishacre Street, Dublin, where Messiah was first performed.

Musick Hall in Fishacre Street, where the first performance took place.

George Frideric Handel’s English-language oratorio, Messiah, premiered in Dublin, Ireland on the 13th of April, 1742.

Messiah was composed over a period of only twenty-four days. Handel worked on the music while in London, where he had been living for some years.

George Frideric Handel in 1733, by Balthasar Denner (1685–1749).

Handel in 1733

The premiere in Dublin came during a series of concerts Handel presented in Ireland, and the first performance used the cathedral choirs of St Patrick’s and Christ Church.

On this day: the Great New Orleans Fire

On the 21st of March, 1788, a fire broke out in a home in New Orleans, present-day Louisiana.

856 of the 1100 buildings in the town were destroyed.

Because the fire happened on Good Friday, priests wouldn’t allow church bells to be rung as a warning to residents.

Below is a map of the destroyed area, published in 1886. X

New Orleans Map of 1788 fire, published in 1886.

A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes

A Visitor's Guide To Jane Austen's England by Sue Wilkes

Discover Jane Austen’s England

Immerse yourself in the vanished world inhabited by Austen’s contemporaries. Packed with detail, and anecdotes, this is an intimate exploration of how the middle and upper classes lived from 1775, the year of Austen’s birth, to the coronation of George IV in 1820. Sue Wilkes skilfully conjures up all aspects of daily life within the period, drawing on contemporary diaries, illustrations, letters, novels, travel literature and archives.

•Were all unmarried affluent men really ‘in want of a wife’?
•Where would a young lady seek adventures?
•Would ‘taking the waters’ at Bath and other spas kill or cure you?
•Was Lizzy Bennet bitten by bed-bugs while travelling?
•What would you wear to a country ball, or a dance at Almack’s?
•Would Mr Darcy have worn a corset?
•What hidden horrors lurked in elegant Regency houses?

Put on your dancing gloves and embrace a lost era of corsets and courtship!

A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England by Sue Wilkes

There are many books like this one, a “travel guide” of sorts through the day to day events of Georgian, Regency and Victorian England. However, there aren’t many that pack as much information in as this one does, and so I really enjoyed it.

The thing the author of A Visitor’s Guide To Jane Austen’s England does right is that she uses primary sources for her information, and quotes letters and journal entries of the time from all sorts of people. There’s no guessing about things here; everything we’re told comes from something recorded back in the day.

The anecdotes taken from day to day life in the Georgian and Regency days Jane Austen lived are interesting, taught me more than a few things, and painted a stronger picture from the era than pretty much any book I’ve read.

Any historical fiction reader worth their salt is going to know quite a bit of what is in here, especially so for fans of Jane Austen. However, there was so much I learnt that I even found the rehashing of more commonly-known facts interesting all over again.

If more authors consulted primary sources rather than learning the world of the Regency from other Regency romances, there would be far fewer mistakes (with language, for example) turning up in books, and there would be a much more historical “feel” to the stories.

An interesting read for fans of history and historical fiction.