Thursday, March 12, 2009

Historical Wit

I finally watched The Duchess, which inspired me to grab Amanda Foreman's biography Georgiana: The Duchess of Devonshire off my TBR shelf and read it.

The biography far richer in detail and interest, imho, so if you did not enjoy the movie, I would encourage you to read Foreman's book (read it even if you did like the movie). I realize that movies have to truncate for time, but the movie concentrated on only one small soap-opera of Georgiana's life (there were several).

I was going to go into detail about what I would have liked to see portrayed (more about her desperate struggle to conceive at all; her circle, including Beau Brummell; and other things), but I'll just say that the movie left out *a lot.*

Not to say it isn't worth watching. It did get me to pick up Amanda Foreman's biography to "learn more."

Also if you're into historical costumes and interiors, it's a must see. I drooled over the interiors (I'm into period architecture and interior design), and the DVD has extras about the costumes, the period, the houses, and Georgiana's letters.

And this leads me to.....

With my current immersion into the 18th century, I've started remembering my fondness for the literature of the time (Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne is one of my favorite; Fanny Burney's Evilina another).

Those people were so witty! They could turn a phrase like nobody's business. Jane Austen grew up reading and hearing all this stuff--no wonder she endures.

For example, from a discussion about snobbery in the ton in a Fanny Burney novel: "There's nothing in the world so fashionable as taking no notice of things, and not seeing people, and saying nothing at all . . . ."

Or a comment about Devonshire house on Piccadilly, the exterior of which Londoners found unattractive: "It is spacious, and so are the East India Company warehouses . . . ."

Those are both from Amanda Foreman's book, and then there was the great putdown someone mentioned on Talk of the Nation (show date: 7/16/08). During a heated Parliamentary debate between John Wilkes and John Montagu, Lord Sandwich:

Montagu: "You sir, will either die on the gallows or of the pox!"

Wilkes: "That depends on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress."

Great stuff.


Bonnie Vanak March 12, 2009 at 12:24 PM  

Wow, look at that hat! I want a hat like that with dead animal tails on it. All I have are baseball caps. Darn.

Great post! Love the pox/mistress snarky remark.

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner March 12, 2009 at 6:21 PM  

The hat is supposed to represent Charles James Fox, one of the MPs she was trying to get elected. Fox...get it?? :-)

EmilyBryan March 13, 2009 at 6:12 AM  

Delicious post, Jenn!

You'll also want to check out Jo Manning's MY LADY SCANDALOUS for a look inside the life of one of the premier courtesans of the period--Grace Dalrymple Elliot, also known as "Dally the Tall." One of her larger-than-life portraits hangs in the Museum of Fine Art in NYC. Not the greatest beauty of the age, but witty and possessed of a courageous heart. (She saved a French nobleman from the guillotine-mad mobs by hiding him between her mattresses--a trick I borrowed for PLEASURING THE PIRATE!)

Jennifer Ashley/ Allyson James / Ashley Gardner March 14, 2009 at 4:13 PM  

Good recommend, Diana. I've seen the portrait and heard a little about Grace Elliot, but I don't know near enough. I will check out the book. (I like scandalous ladies!)

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