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Inquiring readers, I first read Pride and Prejudice when I was fourteen years old. The novel was a Christmas gift from my parents. One of the first Christmas songs this Dutch girl learned in English was “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” a song that was popularized in an arrangement by Frederic Austin in 1909. We all know the tune, but do we know the words as Jane Austen wrote them? After singing the song, please stay to answer a few questions.–Enjoy & Merry Christmas! Vic

Image of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy, 1995[Verse 1]

On the first day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 2]

Image of Lizzy and Jane Bennet from Jennifer Ehle BlogspotOn the second day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 3]

Pride_and_Prejudice_CH_19-collins proposalOn the third day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 4]

Hugh Thomson illustration of Mr. Bingley entering the Meryton Assembly Ball with his guestsOn the fourth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy

[Verse 5]

Hugh Thomson image of the five Bennet girlsOn the fifth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 6]

Image of Mary Crawford playing harp-C.E.BrockOn the sixth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 7]

On the seventh day of ChristImage of the Colinses visiting Lady Catherine de Bourg, 1995 Pride and Prejudice filmmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 8]

Image of Adrian Lucas as Mr. Bingley, 1995 P&POn the eighth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 9]

On the ninth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to meQuadrille_RegencyW
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 10]

Image of Lydia and Mr. Wickham eloping-she happy, he bored, P&P 1995On the tenth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 11]

Image of Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet falling for Mr. Darcy at Pemberley, 1995 film of Pride and PrejudiceOn the eleventh day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

[Verse 12]

LadyCatherine_&_ElisabethOn the twelfth day of Christmas, Jane Austen sent to me
L C’s condescensions
Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening
Lydia eloping
Nine ladies dancing
Eight charms of Wickham
Seven days at Hunsford
Six accomplished women
FIVE S.I.N.G.L.E GIRLS!

Four Bingley dances,
Three various suitors,
Two wise Bennet girls, and
A HERO named Mister Darcy!

________________

Now, Gentle Readers, I shall pose a few questions. How do you respond to Pride and Prejudice? How are you disposed towards a few characters? (Your opinions are most welcome.) As you can see, I favor the 1995 Firth/Ehle film version of P&P! So, don’t be shy in sharing your thoughts.

  1. L C’s condescension:  In your estimation, what is the most memorable Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s condescending statement?
  2. Lizzy’s eyes a’ opening: What events changed Elizabeth’s attitude towards Mr. Darcy? Which one stands out in your mind?
  3. Lydia eloping: How old was Lydia when she ran off with Mr. Wickham? What, in her naivete, did she hope her life would have been like with him, away from her family?
  4. Nine ladies dancing: Think of the ladies Austen mentioned in Pride and Prejudice. Which women would have most likely danced at the Netherfield Ball?
  5. Eight charms of Wickham: Can you name Mr. Wickham’s charms, be they true or false, as Austen described them?
  6. Seven days at Hunsford: How did Lizzy spend her days at Hunsford? What memorable scenes occurred during this time?
  7. Six accomplished women: Who first mentioned six accomplished women? How did the conversation come up and where?
  8. Please name all the five single girls and their primary characteristic (in your opinion).
  9. Four Bingley dances: This phrase refers to an event at the beginning of the novel.
  10. Three various suitors: Name all the suitors you can think of in the novel. Who had three? Who are they?
  11. Two wise Bennet girls: Who are they? How would you personally describe them?
  12. A HERO named Mister Darcy! Why are we so mesmerized by Austen’s most memorable hero? What are the characteristics that make him stand out to you?

After this C.E. Brock composite image of Pride and Prejudice, I’ve added my own observations to a few of the questions. Thank you for participating. May you have a lovely holiday season. Please love and take care of each other in your family, your neighbors, and your community.

1024px-Scenes_from_Pride_and_Prejudice

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Gentle Readers, author Colette Saucier has written a description of her journey on writing Pulse and Prejudice, a vampire adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Those of us who are fascinated with the vampire myth can relate to her journey! You can find more information about Colette and her book on Colette Saucier.com

This is a story of Mr. Darcy, Lord Byron, and vampires.

I love Pride and Prejudice. I have read it so many times, I cannot even remember a time before it was not part of my consciousness. Of course, I like all of Jane Austen’s novels, but the story of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth speaks to me in a way the others do not. I do not believe I am alone in this, as it set the standard for every romance novel and romantic comedy since its publication 200 years ago: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, girl hates boy, girl and boy like each other, misunderstanding/outside forces tear them apart, reunion, reconciliation, happily ever after.

Quite a number of years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing what I refer to as the Pride and Prejudice mutilation, the 1940 film starring Laurence Olivier and Greer Garson. Not only did they dress all of the Bennet girls as Southern Belles, Greer Garson was thirty-six. THIRTY-SIX! Three years older than Olivier. I won’t even go into the plot except to say they had no right to call it Pride and Prejudice. After that, I decided never again would I subject myself to any adaptation of my beloved Austen. I did not even see the BBC miniseries with Colin Firth when it premiered.

So what changed? First, I saw the movie Clueless. I enjoyed every moment of it, all the while thinking to myself, “This is Emma!” Sure enough, Amy Heckerling had updated my second favorite Jane Austen novel. Then, without knowing Helen Fielding had written it as a modern variation on Pride and Prejudice, I read Bridget Jones’s Diary. Well, after that, I had to see Colin Firth’s Pride and Prejudice, and now I had a face to go with my Mr. Darcy. Thus ended my boycott of all things not-quite-Austen.

All of this, of course, occurred some fifteen years ago. Although my mind had been opened to the possibilities, I had no intention of writing any Austen adaptations myself. Then a little book called Pride and Prejudice and Zombies took off like wildfire and landed near the top of the New York Times bestseller list. I have never been a zombie fan myself, but I did love the film Shaun of the Dead. When I stumbled upon the zombie book in my daughter’s bedroom, I knew it was a parody, and I had hoped its approach would be similar to that film. I had never heard of a “mash-up” before, but now I know I do not like them. The (co)author had taken the complete text of Pride and Prejudice and just stuck zombies and ninjas between the paragraphs. Not impressed. The zombie book did, however, introduce me to the genre of Austen adaptations and variations, and an addiction was born. I ate them up like potato chips. Some were good, some were horrid, but many I found completely delightful. All of them allowed me to continue my literary love affair with Mr. Darcy.

Now to back up a bit, somewhere in the middle of my multiple readings of Pride and Prejudice (actual Austen, not adaptations), I learned about Lord George Gordon Byron. I had read some of his poems over the years, but after seeing the film Gothic, I became more interested in the man behind the words. That he was portrayed by a young Gabriel Byrne didn’t hurt! This film depicts the summer night when Byron and his pal Percy Shelley gathered with friends in Switzerland and told each other ghost stories, one of which became Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

That evening also inspired John Polidori to write The Vampyre – the original gentleman vampire. Although I never cared for zombies or werewolves or other monsters, I have always been a vampire fan. (To all of those publishers who rejected my manuscript because they believed the “vampire trend is over,” allow me to say, vampires will never of out of style. They’re immortal, after all!) I refer to the sensual, suave, and seductive variety of vampire, or the tortured souls such as Gary Oldman’s depiction in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. That image of the mysterious and charismatic vampire originated that night in 1816 with Polidori and Lord Byron.

Austen’s Mr. Darcy struck me as a Byronic figure – intelligent but arrogant, sophisticated and cynical, introspective and conflicted. “That man of loneliness and mystery, Scarce seen to smile, and seldom heard to sigh.” (The Corsair, I, VIII) Knowing that Polidori had based his Vampyre on Byron cultivated in my mind the idea that Darcy as a character – as well as Pride and Prejudice as a whole – lent itself well to a vampire adaptation; however, when I looked, I could not find the adaptation I envisioned. Yes, someone had published a vampire “mash-up,” but I have already expressed my opinion on those. I also found a vampire sequel told in gothic style. Regina Jeffers had written a fascinating novel inspired by Pride and Prejudice with Mr. Darcy as dhampir, battling against vampires while resisting the urge to become one himself.

I needed something more. I wanted Mr. Darcy to be an honest-to-goodness neck-biting, blood-drinking, night-walking vampire who could be healed in the moonlight as in the Polidori story. I felt the story must be told from Mr. Darcy’s point of view to explore that Byronic Hero aspect of his nature, which we only glimpse in Austen’s narrative, and allow the curse of vampirism to reveal further depths of character – an outcast, suffering, jaded . Because this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice did not exist, I had no choice but to write it myself.

I threw myself full-force into researching Regency England, vampire folklore, and Pride and Prejudice itself. This paranormal adaptation had to remain faithful to Austen in style, plot, and characters. How would Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet react to vampires? That itself required a thorough analysis of Elizabeth to ensure in this adaptation she remained true to the original character under remarkable circumstances. The novel had to be historically accurate and free of any anachronisms. I wanted it to be as if Jane Austen herself had written the story of Mr. Darcy as vampire, and I think I have succeeded. Well, except I did add another section – Beyond Pride and Prejudice – to peek into the passion, lust, and desire between Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy that simmers just under the surface in the original. Jane Austen teases us with hints of Darcy’s attraction to Elizabeth, and I could not leave that territory uncharted.

Thus, after fifteen years gestation, Pulse and Prejudice was born – an authentic vampire variation of the beloved classic. I hope I have written the paranormal adaptation others want to read as well.

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In 1993 Colin Firth starred opposite Jemma Redgrave (Lady Betram, Mansfield Park) in Chatsky, in which the hero of the play tells the truth and is mistaken for a lunatic.  It is amazing to see the images from that play,  for, since it is set during Regency times, Colin in full costume could easily be mistaken as Mr. Darcy, a role he would play two years later. Jemma played Lady Bertram in 2007′s Mansfield Park. Although the part was written against type (at the end of the film, Lady Bertram energetically unites Fanny with Edmund), her portrayal of that indolent lady was fresh and memorable.

Image @The AFirthionado Archive

To see more pictures of Chatsky and to read about the play, go to: The AFirthionado

Colin in 1993. Image @The AFirthionado Archive

Colin in 1995

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From the desk of Shelley DeWees…The Uprising.

If Elizabeth had not known better, she would have sworn he was deliberately throwing himself in her way, but she did know better. Whenever they were in company together, Darcy was usually cool and aloof, yet he chose to stare at her constantly, and with a level of intensity that had begun to make her uncomfortable. Sure such a handsome, wealthy, intelligent man, who was used to nothing but the very finest in society, could not deign to look upon a woman of her inferior station and circumstances in life unless it was to find fault; and, indeed, she knew he had found fault with her, almost from the very first moment of their acquaintance at the assembly in Meryton some weeks ago.”

A departure from P&P while still calling itself a re-telling, The Truth About Mr. Darcy is a middle-of-the-road revisit to the beloved land of Jane’s Hertfordshire….it’s not stupendous, it’s not terrible. It starts slow. It ends slow. But the middle is a moderately interesting take on Darcy and Elizabeth’s path to matrimony, with all its major ups (money money everywhere) and smallish downs (minor disagreements followed by make-up sex).

The back of the book poses a question to Mr. Darcy. Should he tell the truth about his old nemesis George Wickham in order to protect the good citizens of Meryton from Wickham’s lies and secrets? Well, in a word, yes. He should. And does within the first two chapters, employing a moment of self-truth that would, had it occurred in the original P&P, caused all measure of heartache and sadness to be averted. What to do now? Especially since Elizabeth immediately follows suit in working out her out neurosis with prejudice right away, denying his first proposal but agreeing to a courtship that she reasons (admirably and in a drastic departure from Ms. Austen’s typical character attributes) will help her actually know this guy, this supposed husband/lover/friend/parent/guardian person she’s to spend her life attached to. Thus, the relationship begins, burgeoning passions ensue, then the wedding, and before you know it the book is over.

It’s a lovely story in all actuality, and Adriani tells it well. There seem to be a lot of modern flavors working here, including the aforementioned “let’s get to know that dude over there before agreeing to marriage” thing and the departure from the “let’s not have any sexual contact before the big day” thing. Having always suspected that many people in Regency England were guilty of violations of propriety in the name of love and/or passion, I found that rather refreshing and, frankly, long overdue in Austen spin offs. That Adriani should take a modern view of relationships and graft it onto Darcy and Elizabeth I found impressive and inspiring! Go you, Ms. Adriani! The courtship is honest and communicative, and paves the way for many heartfelt conversations and even more heartfelt turns in the sack (which were all super sexy but got to be little gratuitous by the end).

Spoiler Alert in this paragraph:

The rest of the experience in The Truth About Mr. Darcy was good-ish, not great, not horrific. There was, however, one moment where my hand went to my forehead, accompanied by an outspoken “Oh come ON!” and an exasperated sigh when Mr. Wickham’s nature was explored. Not only is he a debt-ridden scoundrel mired in controversy, he’s a near-rapist, and one sly wink away from a serial killer. Really? I mean, he’s a snotty spoiled dandy, but a rapist? It seemed like the dichotomy of good vs. bad was just a wee bit overused, both with Wickham and with Mr. Collins, whose refused proposal sparks a deluge of conceit and even revenge. In The Truth About Mr. Darcy, it seems as though you’re either a shining paradigm of virtue or the scum on the bottom rung of the ladder of humanity. A little bit of creative character development would’ve been a better choice.

Still, Susan Adriani’s debut novel is not entirely without success. It’s well written and fairly engaging, sexy, and compelling in a conventional sort of way. Those of you gentle readers whose hearts go aflutter at the notion of revisiting P&P won’t be disappointed. If you’re on the fence about these sorts of things, you might be better off skipping this one.

Be aware that this book is for mature readers only.

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Inquiring Readers, Carolyn McDowall of The Culture Concept Circle has graciously allowed me to recreate Part One of her Two Part series. Find Part Two of Vanity Fair, but where is Mr Darcy? at this link.

Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously…pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us” … Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, 1811

William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen by Thomas Gainsborough, courtesy National Gallery at London

By the close of the eighteenth century archaeological investigations in Europe and Egypt were revealing more and more about the ‘antique’ past. The expansion of knowledge about antiquity revealed that ancient artists and writers had been accustomed to free expression in their work, with religion and honour paramount to any society’s daily existence. This revelation began changing the social and moral values and concerns of the many English, American and European societies who were all now ardently in search of truth.

Author Jane Austen lived in one of the most eventful, colourful and turbulent epochs in the history of England and Europe. The scenes of this extraordinary era were well recorded by many talented painters and sculptors of the day. In England this included the renowned painter Thomas Gainsborough.

In 1785, when Jane Austen was just 10 years old, he captured William Hallett and Elizabeth Stephen stepping out in style together for a morning walk. They were an elegant young couple, both 21 years of age and bound by their social status and the rules it imposed. They were due to be married in the summer of 1785.

They epitomize the stylish quality of the people who starred in Jane’s novels. He is discreetly dashing in a well fitting black velvet riding coat, an aspect of a gentleman’s costume that reflected his desire to be seen as ‘informal’, approachable, someone in touch with the political scene and social set of his day. He has the quiet confidence of a compleat gentleman.

She looks lovely in her softly floating silk dress, a smart black band accentuating her small waist and balancing perfectly with the simple black straw hat tied with a ribbon and feathers and placed at a jaunty modern angle on her very bouffant hair.

Strolling happily through a woodland landscape with an adoring dog at the lady’s heel they both appear full of hope in love and eagerly looking forward to a July wedding and a happy life together into the new millennium.

Cassandra's portrait of her sister, Jane Austen. National Portrait Gallery

One of Jane Austen’s peers, renowned Scottish author of romantic novels Sir Walter Scott (1771 – 1832) said of Jane (1775-1817) that he believed the secret of her success was that she had chosen to write about ‘ordinary people doing things that happen in every day life’.Born at Steventon, Hampshire on 16th December 1775. The seventh child and second daughter of a scholar-clergyman and rector of the small country parishes of Steventon and Deane, Jane Austen’s family were members of the wealthy merchant class on her father’s side and aristocrats on her mother’s side. She was brought up in a country rectory and was, from contemporary descriptions, without pretension, her demeanour more ‘in a homely rather than grand manner’. Another way of saying that she was plain.

Captain Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones)

She and her family enjoyed amateur dramatics in the barn, playing charades, literary readings and musical evenings. While her older brothers hunted and shot game her mother industriously managed a small herd of cows, a dairy and, as a woman of sensibility and of some station in life, looked to the wellbeing of the local poor. Her father, as a rector, was regarded as a ‘gentleman’. He was an affable, courteous man welcomed by all the local landed gentry, and their well off tenants, as was her brother Edward, who just happened to be the heir to his cousin Mr. Thomas Knight’s estates. This meant Jane was able to move comfortably out and about in society and become a respectable observer in the luxurious world of the leisured classes.

A Georgian Rectory

It seems that her family more than likely fell into a category of middling people, a term coined by literary wit and social commentator Horace Walpole on his return from the continent in 1741 “I have before discovered that there was nowhere but in England the distinction of being middling people. I perceive now that there is peculiar to us middling houses; how snug they are” The country gentry actively supported the ruling and upper classes by cultivating an ambience of politeness, a keen, though delicate sensibility, which was always balanced by displaying a great deal of practical common sense.

Their gentrification was reflected in how they dressed, dined, performed and were entertained, in a selection of social settings. They rotated from the socially competitive atmosphere of London’s elegant drawing rooms to the cheerful gaiety of Bath’s assembly’s room and they also enjoyed the more robust attractions of popular coastal resorts like Brighton, which were after 1792 was also frequented by the Prince Regent and his entourage.

They strove for aesthetic perfection urged on by their awareness of the ‘antique’, while striving to emulate the ideal – classical perfection, The classical ideal had flowed over into the landscape during the eighteenth century and small temples originally designed as refuges from the hot Mediterranean sun, became focal points of beauty.

View of the Hall at Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill 1788 Watercolour by John Carte

At the time of Jane’s birth Horace Walpole, for whom literacy mattered, was using decorative ornament inspired by a literary and pictorial interest in Gothic architecture at his house Strawberry Hill.

He and his peers benchmarked standards for excellence in taste and style well recognised by Jane and the burgeoning middle classes, who wished to emulate them.

Horry took what he liked and used it the way he wanted and his character seemingly enjoyed total satisfaction by ‘imprinting the gloomth of abbeys and cathedrals on one’s house.’

Godmersham Park.

Jane’s brother Edward Austen Knight eventually inherited the very gentrified Godmersham Park in Kent and two of her other brother’s Francis and Charles had distinguished careers in the British navy. Francis received a knighthood and the much coveted order of Bath and Jane’s brother Charles bought topaz crosses for his two sisters, going without to purchase them.

In the Christian understanding perfect love makes no demands and seeks nothing for itself, and this was the quality of the people that abounded in so many of the characters in Jane Austen’s life and in her novels. Jane enjoyed what she herself called ‘life a la Godmersham”.

Emma (Gwynneth Paltrow) and Mr Knightley (Jeremy Northam) dance

Her brothers hunted in Edward’s park, played billiards and entertained in a style that amused Jane. Writing from Godmersham in 1813 she commented “at this present time I have five tables, eight and twenty chairs and two fires all to myself”.

The Royal navy were winning great victories on the continent at the time. For the leisured classes in Jane’s novels the war was something that happened in the newspapers or far out at sea. Although her brothers were involved, many of these events seemed very remote and Jane and her peers continued to pursue their daily activities such as music, painting, playing games and writing with great enthusiasm comforted in the knowledge that England had the best navy in the world.

Trafalgar Chair, 1810, courtesy V & A Museum, London

The Duke of Wellington’s victories and Admiral Nelson’s death at the Battle of Trafalgar caused a nation to mourn as well as celebrate wildly for twenty years afterward. And all manner of goods were named for him including “Trafalgar chairs”, which along with the sofa table were two very popular pieces of furniture during the Regency period.

Rosewood Regency period Sofa Table c1810, courtesy Mallett Antiques, London

Country houses and their beautiful parks were not simply the expressions of a wealthy ruling class for Jane and her contemporaries. They represented an ideal civilization with a mixture of self-esteem, national pride and uncompromising good taste. For the rest of the population they reflected the unequal structure of a society where a third of the nation’s population faced a daily struggle to survive. From the monarch to the poorest of the land there was a pyramid of patronage and property. At the base of which in 1803 a third were the labouring poor, the cottagers, the seamen, the soldiers, the paupers and the vagrants who lived at subsistence level.

Jane’s letter to her sister Cassandra in 1799 highlights the point, when a horse her brother purchased cost sixty guineas and the boy hired to look after him four pounds a year. Those employed in service counted they lucky, but even in well off household’s service conditions were still fairly primitive. Jane said “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can”. The contrast of the battlefield and the ballroom are apt as a reminder of the powerfully opposed elements that made up the England into which Jane was born and in which she grew to maturity.

Beau Brummell - The Fashionable dress of a Gentleman

George, Prince of Wales, the future George IV was the very active, central focus of the style we now know as the Regency period. His personality was complex and he often indulged in fantastic flights of fantasy.

George, Prince of Wales in 1792

As a young man he had fair hair, blue eyes and pink and white complexion, and a tendency to corpulence. As he grew to maturity he gained considerably in popularity due to his good looks, high spirits and agreeable manners.

He was the darling of the fashionable world. George Bryan Brummell (England, 1778-1840) became the most famous of all the dashing young men of the Regency. He was not of aristocratic birth, but the son of the secretary to Lord North.(George III’s Prime Minister who played a major role in the American Revolution). Educated at Eton, the Beau became known as Buck and was extremely well liked by the other boys. He spent a short period at Oriel College, which has the distinction of being the oldest royal foundation in Oxford, dating from 1324.

Sartorial splendour - shades of Mr Darcy? (Colin Firth)

The Prince Regent was told that Brummell was a witty fellow, so he obtained an appointment for him in his regiment (1794). Brummell became a Captain of the Tenth Hussars and was constantly in the Prince’s company.

Military sartorial splendour...must be Mr Wickham! (Rupert Friend)

In the circles around the Prince he was known as a virtual oracle on matters related to dress and etiquette. As the new dictator of taste he established a code of costume.

A typical Regency outfit for day wear was a jacket cut away in front and with tails at the back. There was no waist seam, a feature present in Victorian coats. The open area around the hip had a distinctive curve pulling slightly around the waist.

Even more notably, the sleeves were particularly long and seated high on the shoulder. There are virtually no shoulder pads. Normally jackets had fabric-covered buttons. An exception was blue jackets with brass metal buttons–an association with military styles.

At night it was all sartorial splendour, rich textiles velvet, brocades, silks, all combined with a great deal of elegance, the costume for a gentlemen including a black coat.

Today we would say the Beau was very well connected, an important part of an influential network and a man to know.

Entrance Hall, Carlton House, 1819 by W.H.Pyn

It was in 1784 when the Prince of Wales took one look at Maria Fitzherbert standing on the steps of the Opera and fell instantly in love with her. He was totally besotted and would only attend parties and events if the hostess assured him Maria would be both there – and sat next to him!

Maria Fitzherbert

Following a dedicated and unsuccessful pursuit of Mrs. Fitzherbert, Maria was surprised one evening by a visit from some of the Prince’s men. They had found him weak and bleeding in his home Carlton House, whose interiors were among the wonders of the age.

They told her the Prince had tried to commit suicide and Mrs. Fitzherbert, accompanied by the Duchess of Devonshire, rushed to his side whereupon he persuaded Maria to marry him. In 1785 George, Prince of Wales Prince married Mrs. Fitzherbert (1756 –1837) a Roman Catholic who had been married twice before. The couple was happy and while society seemingly accepted the unconventional pair the marriage rocked court circles, which could not cope with the thought that a Prince might marry a divorced woman.

Bedford Square Brighton built 1801

Eventually the Prince would be forced to put her aside and it did not help his cause that his friend Beau Brummell, to whom Maria took a pronounced dislike, disapproved of the liaison.

Brighton-Marine-Pavilion

Initially the Prince spent a great deal of time and effort building Maria his bride a house nearby his home Carlton House in Pall Mall and decorating his own home. He ran up such huge debts the only way his father, the King would agree to help him out and pay them was if he put aside Maria and marry Caroline of Brunswick, for political reasons, which he did.

In 1793 George, Prince of Wales visited the seaside town of Brighton, and ordered the subsequent renovation of a small house he purchased from one of his footman. Architect, Henry Holland, well known for his refined Francophile tastes, fashioned it into a splendid marine villa with gentle curving bays, wrought iron balconies and long sash windows, and it was much admired and set a standard for marine villas for many years to come. Mrs. Fitzherbert and the Prince parted company upon the marriage to Princess Caroline, however following the birth of his daughter; the Prince recommenced his pursuit of Maria.

Mathematical Tiles on Regency House, Brighton

Maria was wary, however and upon asking the Pope for guidance she was informed that she was the only true wife of the Prince so she returned to him. Again the couple spent a lot of time entertaining at Brighton and London.

Sea Bathing England C19

Bathing in the sea had become very popular, with the Prince’s own physician recommending he bathe daily and bathing machines were set up especially for that purpose. All over Brighton, rows of small villas were built, echoing the Pavilion’s shape.

Some of the newly popular ‘seaside’ villas in Brighton were glazed with a smart material called ‘mathematical tiles’ which enabled villa houses to be built of less expensive brick and then ‘faced’. Introduced into the English architectural system after 1700 in England they were hung on buildings originally built of timber to give the appearance of higher quality brick walls. Today they are still not easy to recognise and are often mistaken for conventional brickwork. Black, glazed mathematical tiles are easy to discern, however, and may be seen at many locations in Brighton.

Chair designed by Thomas Hope, London in 1807 and made in 1892

Painted furniture and at wall decoration ‘Etruscan style’ at Osterley House. The interiors were designed by Scottish Architect Robert Adam
Interior arrangements whose design focus was based on classical order reached the height of its popularity through the neoclassical style of Scottish architect Robert Adam between 1760 and 1793. The expansion of the neo-classical style was fuelled in the last half of the eighteenth century because of the interests of English Grand Tourists in the new discoveries being made at Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy.

Etruscan room, Osterly House, Robert Adam.

Not only the shapes of the furniture were greatly influenced – for instance in the use of animal forms as supports for tables and chairs – but also the colour and decoration used for painted furniture, which was to be found in grand houses as well as much simpler gentry houses. Much of the charm of collecting such pieces lies in the rather primitive way the decoration was thought out and executed and many examples of very sophisticated simulated bamboo pieces were destined for important rooms.

Adam’s interiors could have easily been the inspiration for those of the formidable Lady Catherine de Burgh. Her country house Rosings in Pride and Prejudice was described by Jane as an interior of ‘fine proportion and finished ornaments’

Vanity fair, but where is Mr Darcy? – Part 2

Carolyn McDowall, April 2011 ©The Culture Concept Circle

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