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My good Mother told me earlier about a book she’d heard discussed on the radio at the weekend, as it was about the 18th century, she thought I might be interested.

(My Mother is very good – she also listens out for interesting names and saves them for me to use.  Isn’t she wonderful?)

Well, I’ve looked up the book and it’s shot to the top of my wish-list:

I also like the sound of her other book, Cavalier, about a 17th century gent.  I use the term gent in the loosest sense (that of being a member of the nobility) as the subtitle of the paperback version is ‘The story of a seventeenth century playboy’.  I don’t think playboys count as gentlemen, but they do count as generally rather interesting reading material.

Not least because the style that comes from Lucy Worsley’s website is overwhelmingly not what most would expect from a history book – she has a sense of humour, a sense of fun and a nose for those intriguing little details of life.

Don’t believe me?  Well, go and check out her article from BBC History Magazine: A Survival Manual for Georgian Courtiers.

As for me, well, I need to win the lottery so I can give up work and spend all my time buying, reading and writing books…

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HMS Victory, dry-docked in Portsmouth

I’m going to be away for most of next week – I’m visiting the seaside, and this first-rate ship of the line,* huzzah! – and I didn’t want to leave my lovely readers adrift, so here is some recommended reading:

For Readers (AKA everyone!)

  • Want a tip on how to maintain your 18th century love affair?  Lauren over at Marie Antoinette’s Gossip Guide has just the thing – a fab, fun post that looks like it might become part of a series!  (I certainly hope so!).
  • I do enjoy a bit of gender inversion and Rowenna of Hyaline Prosaic has posted a saucy 18th century print showing just that.  Be sure to read the comments, too, there are some interesting ideas going on about the symbolism of the parrot and dog in the image.

For Writers

  • Picture the scene – you’ve found yourself in a lift with a literary agent, you’re chatting, the topic of your finished manuscript comes up, you’ve got 2 minutes to wow them and get them wanting more – GO!  Does this scenario fill you with dread?  Me too.  Thankfully, help is at hand from a very successful agent: Rachelle Gardner tells us the Secrets of a Great Pitch to help us prepare for just such a moment and even has some advice for agents and editors to remember when us poor writers garble over our pitches!
  • I am as guilty of this as any other writer – saying and thinking I don’t have time to write.  Funnily enough, I read two posts relating to this over the past week or so.  First Rachelle Gardner wrote on What We Give Up, raising some hard-hitting points – us writers can’t do everything, we have to prioritise and sometimes we have to give things up.  So often modern life encourages us to ‘have everything’ that we forget that in order to have the things we really want, we have to bid farewell to the less important things.  And just today, Kim from What Women Write wrote about excuses not to write – we all make them and fool ourselves into believing them.  We all need to overcome them.  I desperately need to get over those excuses, cut down on the excess and give up some things in order to get on with the important thing: writing. 
  • Something to think about and discuss – how do you Pick your Perfect Title?  Go and join in with the writers at Let the Words Flow.

For Stitchers

And as for what I’ll be reading while I’m gone?  I’ve got half a manuscript to go over with my red pen and get back to writing.

So, I wish you adieu, my dears – when I return from Portsmouth, it’s The Boy’s Birthday and his parents are visiting, I should be back and a-posting around the 24th May.  Wishing you all happy writing, pretty stitching and fun in the sun in the meantime!

* HMS Victory is dry-docked in Portsmouth – ’tis a rather pretty ship (am I allowed to say ‘pretty’ about a ship?) launched in 1765, so it’s from the century everyone loves!

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17th Century Love


While the 18th Century might be my favourite period in history, it does have a plucky young rival strutting about in crimson heels.

Ah, the 17th Century, had we but world enough and time

As a recent discussion on Isis’ Wardrobe’s Blog points out, it is a sorely neglected age, probably for various reasons (do go and read the post – yummy 17th C gowns and interesting comments on why this era seems so out of favour), but everyone’s favourite Duchess of the Americas has made a very good point indeed – why not create the interest and whip up our own blog buzz for us Early Modern Millies and Baroque belles?

So these are a few of my favourite (17th Century) things:

Masks as everyday wear, as blogged far more eloquently and informatively than I could manage by everyone’s favourite Nerdy History Girls.  This is one of my favourite mask images, in fact.

Earrings with stories, again, thanks to those Two Nerdy History Girls – really, go subscribe to their blog, right now.

Angelique, the indomitable heroine of over a dozen novels and wearer of some of the most glamourous 17th century gowns ever written.

Pretty damask patterns (need I say more?).

Stand and deliver!  Everyone’s favourite outlaws have strong associations with the era: highwaymen and pirates!  The word highwayman comes into use in the first quarter of the century and the golden age of piracy began in the 1650s.  Yarrr!

Literary loveliness – To His Coy Mistress is one of my favourite poems of all times; Moll Flanders, the queen of thieves; and the emergence of some distinguished female writers, such as Lady Mary Wroth and Aphra Behn, one of the first English women to earn her way by her pen.

Musketeers!  Nuff said.

Bucket-top boots – iconic and versatile, wear them high or folded down.

Poofy sleeves and bare shoulders – a prize-winning combo:

Big, swishy-skirted justaucorps – oh yes!  Perfect for the swaggering gent about town!

I could probably go on longer, but I fear I have rambled on too long.  Now, I throw the ball into your court, dear reader – whatever should I do with this fabric?

2.6m x 1.25m of cotton (perhaps a blend) damask

I want to make something 17th century with it, but now I have it (and it is so lovely), I’m at a bit of a loss, which isn’t helped by the fact that I’ve found it quite difficult to get hold of resources from this century, nevermind patterns.  I’m hoping that with your help, I can focus my search and get some fresh inspiration.

(And yes, I know I’ve been quite rubbish indeed – two weeks without a post?!  How lame!  I’ve been busy, though I don’t seem to have actually got anything done, I’ve had flu (which has left me quite exhausted – must get healthy and fit to avoid this happening again) and we do now finally have the internet at home.  I’m afraid I don’t have anything more exciting to report.  I’ve just been feeling mentally tired and uninspired – I haven’t even been reading my favourite blogs (until a mega catch up today) but hopefully my mood is on the up!  Thank you for bearing with me, my lovelies. x)

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For the Love of Damask


Squeeee!  Please excuse my excited and brief post, but I just won this gorgeous fabric on eBay:

Pink cotton damask, 2.6m by 1.25m.

OK, I know it’s not 18th century, but I thought it looked rather 17th Century and I love it. 

Oh, and did I mention I got it for £1.04?

Yaaaaaaaay! 

I want to make a 17th century gown at some point and when I saw this fabric I knew it was The One for the bodice (with a plan petticoat, probably) … Of course, it’s likely that I’ll do some proper research on 17th century fabric and find that it’s completely wrong, but nevermind – in that case I’ll make it into a 17th C inspired jacket (cropped with toned down poofy sleeves). 

What is with my obsession with jackets?

Anyway, I think I’m going to have to be quite cunning in getting a bodice out of this stuff – I might have to go for a non-poofy-sleeved era or at least a smaller-poofy-sleeved era! 

Either way, I’m all kinds of pleased!

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For the triumphant (?) return of the Saturday Shoe, what better theme than the queen of triumphant returns (and falls from grace, but we’ll skirt over that for now) – Angelique.  Now, if you don’t know Angelique, then I think you should get acquainted post haste!  Here’s Wikipedia’s very brief summary, while the official website can be found here.

My Mum read these books in her teens/twenties and I can remember their rather buxom covers being on our bookshelves throughout my childhood.  When she recommended them to me, I’ll admit I was put off by their pulpy, prurient covers and so it wasn’t until this year that I finally read them.

And what an adventure they have taken me on.

Pirates, thieves, princes, poisoners, whores, child-killers, Sultans and the Sun King himself – no one escapes the thrill that Angelique brings to 17th century France (and, in later books, Canada and the east Mediterranean).  Anne Golon and her late husband, Serge, take the reader on a wild adventure full of romance, intrigue and even philosophy and alchemy – their depth of research is not overwhelming and instead it renders the period utterly real.

Sadly these books are out of print (though there are possible plans to re-print them now the legal battle between Anne Golon and her former publishers has been settled), but if you can get your hands on them (at the library, a second hand bookshop or a kind friend who’s willing to lend them out) I heartily recommend them.

(Though I’ll give a couple of warnings: there are different translations and I’ve noticed this makes a big difference to the quality of the writing in English; the beginning might not seem so promising, bear in mind that the novel was written before we became so demanding of our gripping openings and trust me when I say that it becomes utterly enthralling.)

Yes, yes, yes, Clare, but where do shoes come into this? Well, these spangly silken creations are from the height of the Sun King’s reign and with those dizzying heels in red leather, I’d suggest these are shoes fit for our indomitable Angelique.

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Well, not a slapper in that sense, but a slap sole shoe.

Slap sole shoe

These are from the Northampton Museum, which has the world’s largest collection of footwear.  How handy, then, that my mum lives in Northampton!  When I have a new camera, I’ll be paying another visit to the museum, but back to the shoes…

It is believed that they were a gift from Charles II to Lady Hereford in the mid 17th century and originally they were decorated with braid.  Apparently you can still see the stitch lines – it’d be great to get a closer look to try to imagine how they looked originally – I bet they were stunning (and shimmering!).

I love the slap-sole for its ingenious solution to a problem most women will have encountered – a problem even our 17th century ancestors were not immune to – that sinking feeling of walking over grass or dirt in heels.  Check out Bata Shoe Museum’s brilliant podcast/article on this unique style.

I like to think of them as the grandmother of the wedge:

Wedges

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