Lizzy Bennet’s Doppleganger

I have a short post to share with you today, and it fits in nicely with my crusade to prove that not all my time spent on the Internet is wasted time (although, admittedly, some of it is).

I was scrolling through an online art site and came across this image:

It’s a 1799 portrait titled “Girl with Portfolio” by artist Guillaume Guillon-Lethiere.

As I gazed at the portrait, marveling over the artist’s skill, I got the feeling I’d seen that image before.

And then it hit me.

Actress Keira Knightley was made to look very similar to the sitter in the portrait when she played the role of Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 movie version of Pride and Prejudice.

You see the similarities, too, don’t you? They both have striking dark eyes, their lips have the same shape, and they’re dressed similarly in dark coats with high collars.

Eerie coincidence? I think not. They say everyone has a doppelganger, and I think I just found Keira Knightley’s.

Should Darcy Stay . . . or Should He Go?

Good morning, and a happy Saturday to you!

Before you get too far into your day, I hope you’ll join me on the Austen Authors blog. I have a post there today about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and what she might have envisioned for her characters after she wrote “The End” on the last page of her manuscript.

Click on the Austen Authors icon to read my post!

How England Learned of the Battle of Trafalgar

On October 21, 1805 the Battle of Trafalgar was fought between the English Navy and the combined fleets of France and Spain.

The Battle of Trafalgar, by George Clarkson Stanfield.

England’s chances for victory were slim. The British force had twenty-seven ships; the enemy had thirty-three.

But England’s secret weapon was the gallant Lord Nelson, commander of the fleet.

Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson, 1st Duke of Bronte.

The engagement lasted four hours, and in the end, twenty Spanish and French ships were sunk or destroyed, the French commander-in-chief was captured, and two Spanish admirals were taken prisoners by the English.

It was a decisive victory, but it came at a cost. Nelson was wounded midway through the action and died nearly at its close.

The Evening after Trafalgar, by Claude Thomas Stanfield Moore.

But the victory forever removed any threat that Napoleon Bonaparte might invade England.

So if the battle was waged and won on October 21, why am I telling you about it on November 6?

Because November 6 is the day news of the victory finally reached England.

In our modern world of instant newsfeeds and alerts it’s sometimes easy to lose perspective about the speed with which information traveled during Jane Austen’s time. News traveled slowly, and, in this case, Mother Nature added to the fifteen-day delay.

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought and won on October 21. No sooner was victory assured, than “a gale of wind” blew in. The storm that followed was of such ferocity, the fleet had no choice but to hunker down. They were so busy ensuring the safety of their own and captured ships, they had no chance to send word to England, or even count their casualties.

The storm lasted five days. Finally, on October 26, the British commander despatched a ship to England. On board, Lieutenant John Richards Lapenotiere carried written reports of the battle.

A miniature, believed to be of John Richards Lapenotiere

Nine days later, Lapenotiere arrived at the harbor at Falmouth. From there he traveled overland to London by “express in a post chaise and four.”

He covered the distance of 271 miles in 38 hours, making 21 stops to change horses.

A fast-traveling post-chaise and four upsets a gig.

His overland journey was well documented, and today, there are plaques along route—now known as The Trafalgar Way—that commemorate Lapenotiere’s journey, as well as the men from each location who fought in that decisive battle.

One of the Trafalgar Plaques, this one in Salisbury.

On November 6, Lapenotiere finally delivered reports of England’s victory into the hands of the Admiralty and the King.

That very day, newspapers printed the story. Click here to read one of those newspaper stories.

And if you’re interested, Wikepedia has an interesting page about The Trafalgar Way that documents the distance, horse-changes, and cost of Lapenotiere’s travels.

I love reading all the details about Lapenotiere’s journey. It’s a reminder to me to be mindful of the limitations of Regency-era travel when I write my own stories set during that time period.

It’s also a fascinating true-life story of heroic men who always kept duty to country uppermost in mind, and risked all to serve their country and its citizens. I applaud them.

A Place of Comfort and Rest

I consider myself a pretty lucky person. I have a wonderful family, great friends, enough home improvements projects on my list of things to do to keep me out of trouble, and a job I love.

Still, there are times when life gets a little crazy; and sometimes it seems like there’s a lot of commotion and noise in the world that’s unsettling and troublesome.

Every once in a while I have to tune out all that noise and find my own way to bring balance back into my life.

Portrait of a Lady at a Pianoforte Holding a Manuscript, by Adele Romany.

For Mary Bennet, in my novel Mary and the Captain, her way of coping when things looked dark was to play the pianoforte. Playing music was the one satisfying outlet she had for expressing her emotions when things went wrong.

Were Mary alone she would have given vent to her feelings with crashing chords in a storm of correct and incorrect notes; but despite her heightened emotions, she had enough mastery of herself to know that she could not play the beautiful pianoforte at Netherfield as she was used to playing her old spinet at Longbourn. She was compelled to play with restraint, yet she still found solace in her music. Soon she began to feel better and her music softened in turn.

My method for drowning out the noise and bad news in the world is much different from Mary Bennet’s.

I take a break. I unplug for a day or two—no television, no social media, and, most importantly, no political ads!

That’s what I did last week; and I have to say, it’s surprising how much less stress I feel by simply “getting away from it all” and spending some quiet time with family, friends, and a couple of books.

What about you? Is there a place you escape to in order to shut out the world’s noise? A place of quiet and peace where you can hear yourself think? Or is there an activity—like Mary’s piano playing—that calms you and helps you feel centered?

I hope you’ll leave a comment and let me know how you cope when technology, world events, and life in general get to be a little too much.

And if you’re interested in learning more about my Jane Austen inspired novel Mary and the Captain, just click on the book cover.

Halloween and Hyde Park

It’s October! That means it’s time for me to buy bags of Halloween candy and pick out all the Almond Joy bars so I can hide them to eat later in private.

October also means getting ready to dress up in costumes, tour haunted houses, and choose the foggiest night of the month to whistle through a graveyard.

A crush of fashionable Victorians at Hyde Park.

In reality, I’m not spooked by graveyards. In fact, there’s a graveyard in the heart of London that has always intrigued me.

Marble Arch, Hyde Park, near the pet cemetery.

It’s a graveyard that was created specifically for pets. It dates back to the 1880s, with grave markers that span three centuries.

Hyde Park Pet Cemetery, photographed early 19th Century.

Since I’m an animal lover who has all too often suffered the loss of a beloved pet, I find myself drawn to the Hyde Park cemetery. If I ever doubted that I had anything in common with the Victorians, all I have to do is look at the grave markers to feel a kinship with them and the devotion they had for their furry (or feathered) friends.

A grave marker for Zulu, at Hyde Park pet cemetery.

The cemetery has hundreds of markers, all loving tributes to Brownie, Jack, Spot and Josie.

Some epitaphs are simple and heart felt, like one for Josie that reads: “In loving gratitude for his sweet affection.”

And for Pompey, who was “loyaler than any of my husbands.”

But my favorite is a tall headstone for a dog named Prince, who served in the military: “Marine Commando of Anisor. He asked for so little and gave so much.”

There are hundreds of pet cemeteries around the world; but for me, there’s something special about this pet cemetery tucked away near a corner of Hyde Park. It’s a well-cared-for, loving tribute to generations of mankind’s beloved animal companions. And there’s nothing spooky about that.

My little Byron. R.I.P.

 

On My Bookshelf: Beau Brocade

I own several copies of each of Jane Austen’s novels, but my favorite edition is a compilation of Austen’s novels that include wonderful illustrations by C. E. Brock and Hugh Thomson.

Hugh Thomson created the illustrations for another book I own: The Ballad of Beau Brocade by Austin Dobson.

Beau Brocade was published in 1893. It’s a light-hearted collection of poems about imaginary characters of the Georgian era. Here’s the title page, designed by Hugh Thomson:

One of the poems is titled “A Chapter of Froissart.” Hugh Thomson’s whimsical illustrations grace the first page:

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The language of this poem is a sometimes difficult to follow, but I love all the sly little references to Hogarth, Murray, Bonaparte, and Ann Radcliffe.

Although I’ve had the book for many years, it was very well read by the time I gave it a home. The pages are yellowed and loose, and there’s some foxing here and there; but this slim little book is definitely one of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed reading an excerpt.

How about you? Have you seen Hugh Thomson’s illustrations in other books? Did you enjoy this poem?