Art and Inspiration: The Paintings of Auguste Toulmouche

The Love Letter by Auguste Toulmouche, 1863.
The Love Letter by Auguste Toulmouche, 1863.

Fashionable 19th century Parisian painter Auguste Toulmouche is best known for his depictions of richly clad women set against the backdrop of luxurious interiors.  His paintings have been called “elegant trifles” and the ladies who feature in them have been referred to as “Toulmouche’s delicious dolls.”  One critic even compared the interiors of a Toulmouche painting to daintily decorated jewel boxes.  Unsurprisingly, the 19th century public had a great appetite for these visual treats.  Toulmouche’s paintings were popular, both with the upper and middle classes, and even with post-Civil War Americans.[…]Continue Reading

Elizabeth Bennet, La Belle Assemblée, and Early 19th Century Fashion

“Votaries and observers of fashion, but not her slaves, we follow her through her versatile path; catch her varied attractions, and present her changes to our readers as they pass before us in gay succession.” La Belle Assemblée, 1812.

Portrait of Elizabeth, Mrs Horsley Palmer, by Thomas Lawrence, early 19th century.
Portrait of Elizabeth, Mrs Horsley Palmer, by Thomas Lawrence, early 19th century.

Somehow, I cannot picture Elizabeth Bennet reclining on the drawing room sofa, idly flipping through the pages of the latest issue of La Belle Assemblée or The Lady’s Magazine.  And yet, if she had indulged in a bit of frivolous fashion magazine perusal, what advice might she have read there and what images might she have seen?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813.  The story itself begins in the year 1811 and concludes at the close of 1812.  In June of 1812, Elizabeth Bennet is home at Longbourn, anxiously awaiting the July arrival of her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner, who are to take her travelling in Derbyshire.  Whenever Mrs. Gardiner visits Longbourn, she delivers to her country relatives “an account of the present fashions” in London.[…]Continue Reading

The Plight of the Pet Monkey in 19th century Literature and History

“Properly trained and looked after, there is no pet which can be so interesting or amusing as a monkey.”  Hardwicke’s Science Gossip, 1889. 

The Monkey Who Had Seen the Word by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1827.
The Monkey Who Had Seen the World by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1827.

Throughout most of the 19th century, it was not at all uncommon for a family to keep a monkey as a household pet.  Monkeys were playful, mischievous, and adept at mimicry.  In short, they were amusing.  They were also human-like enough to be regarded by some affectionate owners as no more than naughty children.  Indeed, for some, the pet monkey may even have filled the vacant role of child in a childless family.[…]Continue Reading

Art and Inspiration: The Paintings of Gustave Léonard de Jonghe

Vanity by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe.
Vanity by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe.

As a writer and art lover, I often find inspiration in the artwork of the general period in which I am writing.  18th and 19th century paintings, especially, can evoke a particular thought or feeling that is helpful to me in my creative process.  Perhaps an expression in a portrait triggers an idea for a trait in one of my heroines.  Or perhaps a landscape inspires me to set a scene in a park.  Often, inspiration is triggered by nothing more than a particular color – a red scarf or a pair of blue shoes.[…]Continue Reading

Venetia and the Byronic Hero

A Garden Stroll by George Goodwin Kilburne, 1924.
A Garden Stroll by George Goodwin Kilburne, 1924.

(*Author’s Note: The following article was originally published in the April edition of The Regency Reader.  I thought it was time to have it here in its entirety.  Enjoy!)

As romance writers and readers, we are all intimately acquainted with the Byronic hero.  That particular brand of brooding, mysterious, misunderstood – and did I mention handsome? – Regency rogue that has stolen the heart of many a sheltered young Regency heroine.  He is Captain Conrad in The Corsair, Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights, and Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre.  And as dark and dangerous as he is, he makes the honorable, morally upright gentlemen with whom he shares the page seem downright unappealing.[…]Continue Reading

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