The Character of Cats: Depictions in Georgian and Regency Literature

Un Chat Angora by Jean-Jacques Bachelier, (1724–1806).
Un Chat Angora by Jean-Jacques Bachelier, (1724–1806).

As popular a pet as cats are in modern day households, it was the dog that dominated the home and hearth of the 18th and early 19th century.  Cats had their admirers, of course, amongst whom were such literary luminaries as Samuel Johnson and Lord Byron, but in general, their primary value lay in their ability to keep the premises free from vermin.

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A Soldier Writes Home: Letters from the Georgian Era through World War II

“The field of battle is a festival of honour; a sublime pageant.  But this is war!”
Sir Robert Ker Porter, 1809.

Summoned to Waterloo by Hillingford 1897
Summoned to Waterloo by Robert Alexander Hillingford, 1897.

Whether it is touched upon in conversation between those characters safe on the home front or dealt with directly via a character who has been in the military or is still serving abroad, war is a part of many historical novels.  Indeed, there aren’t many fans of Georgian and Regency fiction who could not recite to you the salient facts of the Battles of Trafalgar or Waterloo.  However, what makes us, as readers, invested in the characters does not come down to a mere recitation of facts on a timeline.  It comes down to emotional authenticity.[…]Continue Reading

“Be Not Alarmed, Madam, On Receiving This Letter…”

Penning a Letter by George Goodwin Kilburne
Penning a Letter by George Goodwin Kilburne, 1839-1924.

The reading and writing of letters plays an important role in many of our most beloved nineteenth century novels.  And it is no wonder why.  In an era defined by its social constraints, a well-written letter can achieve what the characters cannot accomplish through ordinary dialogue. […]Continue Reading

Helen of Hearst Castle: Beloved Dachshund of William Randolph Hearst

With their short legs, long bodies, and oversized personalities, the Dachshund is one of the most easily recognizable of all dog breeds – as well as one of the most popular.  Developed in Germany more than 500 years ago for hunting badgers (dachs is German for badger), the Dachshund has since won its way into the hearts and homes of such historical luminaries as Queen Victoria, Pablo Picasso, and newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

William Randolph Hearst and one of his Dachshunds
William Randolph Hearst and Helena, Helen’s successor.

Hearst was not the most well-liked man of his time, but as hardnosed as he could be when it came to his business, he always had a soft spot for his dogs.  His favorites were the Dachshunds he bred at Hearst Castle, his palatial estate in San Simeon, California.  […]Continue Reading

Wolf Hall, Thomas Cromwell, and the Power of Popular Fiction

Mark Rylance portrays Thomas Cromwell in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Photograph: BBC
Mark Rylance portrays Thomas Cromwell in the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Photograph: BBC

It is fascinating to see the effect that a popular work of historical fiction can have on revising the public’s beliefs about a traditionally reviled figure like Thomas Cromwell.  Of course, one would like to believe that the average everyday reader of historical novels knows the difference between fact and fiction – and the reality is that most of us do.  Nevertheless, popular novels, such as Wolf Hall and The Da Vinci Code, do have a profound impact on how once settled history is perceived by both the general public and even by some historians and scholars.[…]Continue Reading