“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

Outlander, Austen, and Quick: The Emotionally Vulnerable Hero

“In vain I have struggled.  It will not do.  My feelings will not be repressed.  You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

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Pride and Prejudice (1995). Photograph: BBC

So says Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennett in what is not only one of the most famous scenes in Pride and Prejudice but arguably one of the most beloved in all of English Literature.  […]Continue Reading

Austen, Heyer, & the Prince of Orange: Pugs in Literature and History

Pietro Benvenuti Ritratto di Elena Mastiani Brunacci 1809
Portrait of Elena Mastiani Brunacci by Pietro Benvenuti, 1809.
(Palazzo Pitti)

Pugs feature in many of our favorite Regency novels and, in most of them, the cheerful little dog, which currently ranks 32nd most popular breed in the United States, is not portrayed in a very flattering light.  […]Continue Reading