Category: 18th Century

The History of the Lorgnette

Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.
Lady with Lorgnette by Unknown Artist, 1830s.

A lorgnette is, quite simply, a pair of spectacles mounted on a handle.  The precursor to modern opera glasses, lorgnettes were a common sight during the 19th century at the theater as well as the opera.  And since the name lorgnette derives from the French word lorgner – meaning “to ogle” or “to eye furtively” – one can only imagine the many uses to which a curious socialite in the balcony might have put them.  Whether employed to sneakily spy on a rival across the way, stealthily investigate a young gentleman down in the pit, or to merely watch the action on the stage, a lorgnette was an indispensable accessory for the 19th century lady about town.[…]Continue Reading

Napoleon vs. Wellington: The Art of the Passionate Love Letter

Napoleon and Wellington Love LetterRanging from the desperately passionate to the treacly sweet, historical love letters are as informative as they are entertaining.  But who amongst our favorite figures of the 19th century penned the most heart melting missives?  Naturally, one would assume the honors for this would go to Byron, Keats, or Shelley.  Their love letters were sublime, there is no doubt.  However, if you have a yen to read truly smoldering love letters, might I suggest a gentleman who, when not busy conquering the world, expended his time writing scorching hot letters to his wife?[…]Continue Reading

The Pet Parrot: As Depicted in 18th and 19th Century Art, Literature, & History

Woman at the Piano with Cockatoo by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1870).
Woman at the Piano with Cockatoo by Gustave Léonard de Jonghe, (1870).

When thinking of 18th and 19th century pets, we inevitably imagine dogs or cats or small, caged canaries.  Large and colorful exotic birds are not generally the type of animal we envision inhabiting the pages of a Georgian or Regency novel, much less an actual Georgian or Regency home.  It may surprise you to learn that parrots were, in fact, quite popular as pets during the 18th and 19th centuries.[…]Continue Reading

Chaucer, Robert Burns, and Lassie: The Collie in Literature and History

No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).
No Walk Today by Wright Barker, (1864–1941).

The Rough Collie is one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world.  This is largely due to English author Eric Knight who, in a 1938 short story, created what is arguably the greatest literary heroine of all time – Lassie.[…]Continue Reading

Miniature Portraits in the Works of Radcliffe, Austen, Brontë, and Dickens

Princess Helena by Anton Hähnisch, 1861. (Royal Trust Collection.)
Princess Helena by Anton Hähnisch, 1861.
(Royal Trust Collection.)

Miniature portraits first appeared in England during the 16th century.  Small, portable, and easily displayed or concealed on one’s person, their popularity flourished – both in life and in literature.  By the 19th century, their presence in romance novels and Gothics was practically de-rigueur.

Ann Radcliffe uses miniatures to great effect in several of her novels, including The Mysteries of Udolfo (1794) and The Italian (1797).  In the following passage from The Italian, we get a glimpse of the enormous dramatic impact a miniature can have if produced at the right moment in the story.[…]Continue Reading

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