Tag: Literature

Tommie, the Beloved Scotch Terrier of 19th Century Author Wilkie Collins

“…there are periods in a man’s life when he finds the society that walks on four feet a welcome relief from the society that walks on two.” The Fallen Leaves, 1879.

Vixen, a Thoroughbred Scotch Terrier, by Edwin Landseer, engraved by Thomas Landseer, 1853.
Vixen, a Thoroughbred Scotch Terrier, by Edwin Henry Landseer, 1853.

Victorian author Wilkie Collins is often referred to as the father of the detective story.  His novels, such as The Woman in White and The Moonstone, are counted among the first mystery novels ever written and are still some of the finest examples of mystery fiction you can read today.  In addition to being a fantastically talented writer, Collins was also a great lover of animals.  His favorite pet was his dog, a Scotch terrier named Tommie.  Tommie featured prominently in many letters that Collins wrote to his friends.  He was also depicted in Collins’ 1879 book, My Lady’s Money, wherein one character explains the unique spelling of the little dog’s name:

“His name is Tommie.  We are obliged to call him by it, because he won’t answer to any other than the name he had when my Lady bought him.  But we spell it with an i e at the end, which makes it less vulgar than Tommy with a y.”  

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From Chancery Court to Mansfield Park: A One Year Anniversary Digest

Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.
Young Lady in a Boat by James Tissot, 1870.

Last March, a questionnaire from my literary agent about my social media presence prompted me to finally join Facebook and Twitter.  The very next day on March 23, 2015, I started this blog.  Initially, I wasn’t sure which direction I would go in, however, in real life I’m a crackerjack researcher and—according to my last boss—I write exceptionally compelling briefs.  Since my latest book hadn’t sold yet and I had no blurbs or buy links to post, I decided to focus my skills on the subjects I love best: 19th century Romance, Literature, and History.

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The Origins of the Unicorn

The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.
The Maiden and the Unicorn by Domenichino, 1602.

According to historians, the legend of the unicorn first emerged in 398 BC courtesy of the Greek physician Ctesias.  Ctesias wrote an account of India, titled Indica.  He attests that all recorded within his account are things that he has witnessed himself or that he has had related to him by credible witnesses.  This account of India, though largely lost, has been preserved in a fragmentary abstract made in the 9th century by Photios I of Constantinople.  In the twenty-fifth fragment, Ctesias writes of the unicorn, stating:[…]Continue Reading

Riding Habits of the 19th Century

Equestrian Portrait of Mademoiselle Croizette by Carolus-Duran, 1876.
Equestrian Portrait of Mademoiselle Croizette by Carolus-Duran, 1876.

Riding habits of the 19th century were both fashionable and functional.  They were designed to flatter the figure, camouflage the dirt, and withstand the physical rigors of horseback riding.  These basic, practical considerations did not change a great deal from season to season.  As a result, the favored fabrics, cuts, and colors of riding habits at the end of the century were, in general, not hugely dissimilar from those at the beginning.  As an 1842 issue of The Lady’s Companion states:

 “While carriage and walking-dresses are continually changing in fashion, there occurs but little or no variation in the style of riding habits.”

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Shawls and Wraps in 19th Century Art, Literature, and Fashion History

(Portrait of Olimpia Łosiowa, 1818-1820.)
Portrait of Olimpia Losiowa, 1818-1820.

From the Regency era to the end of the 1860s, there was no fashion accessory as versatile and ubiquitous as the shawl.  Available in all weights of fabrics, including silk, lace, muslin, and cashmere wool, and priced for all budgets, shawls graced the shoulders of women in every strata of society.  They were no less well-represented in art and literature of the day.  Shawls were referenced in the novels of such literary luminaries as Elizabeth Gaskell and William Makepeace Thackeray.  They were also featured in countless portrait paintings, draping the figures of fashionable 19th century ladies of every age.[…]Continue Reading