J.M.W. TURNER AT 70 – AN OLD ARTIST WITH SOME NEW TRICKS

The Fighting Temeraire (1839)

Joseph Mallord William Turner was born on 23 April 1775 at 21 Maiden Lane, Covent Garden, London, the son of William Turner (1745–1829), a barber and wig-maker, and his wife Mary, née Marshall (1739–1804).

Joseph Mallord William Turner Self-Portrait c.1799

From these humble beginnings, one of the greatest artists of the early nineteenth century rose to straddle the art world of Regency England like a Colossus. From his earliest watercolors and sketches to perhaps his most lauded painting, The Fighting Temeraire, his work was admired for his incredible use of color and technique to evoke the sense of movement and realism touched by the shimmer of magic few artists before him had managed.

View in the Avon Gorge 1791

At the age of fourteen he entered the Royal Academy. In addition to his studies, he worked with architects and architectural draughtsmen and even painted scenery for the London stage. The latter probably accounted for his lifelong love of opera and the theatre. By the time he was fifteen he was funding his education selling prints and watercolors of his work. The rest, as they say, is history. Again and again he stunned and delighted the artistic world and the Royal Academy with signature works of art. And with a rather rough, sometimes caustic personality.

Turner remained a Londoner and kept a Cockney accent all his life, avoiding the veneer of social polish acquired by many artists of the time as they climbed the professional ladder. It did not matter. His work was sought out by the highest ranks of the aristocracy and the wealthiest of the nouveau riche.

By the time he reached the age of 70 it was assumed his style was established and people knew exactly what to expect from his work. Until the Royal Academy exhibition of 1845 when two of the six canvases he exhibited stunned visitors and caused quite a stir in the art community. These two paintings, both titled Whalers, would join two more paintings, Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! and Whalers (Boiling Blubber) Entangled in Flaw Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves in 1846 to form a quartet of paintings one might never attribute to Turner if one did not know they were indeed his work.

Whalers 1845

I had long been a fan of his work, what Regency romance writer isn’t, but I must confess I had neither seen nor heard of these late works. It took a trip to New York and at visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for me to come face to face with these amazing and forward thinking examples of Turner’s artistic talent and vision. Three of the four Whaling paintings are part of the Turner Bequest to the Tate in London. The third is part of the Wolfe Collection at the Met. Fortunately, during the time I was in New York the four paintings were reunited in an exhibit at the Met through a generous temporary loan by the Tate.

Whalers 1845

I cannot begin to explain the striking allure of these paintings simply walking into the same room with them evokes. The color palette and the motion in each of them immediately plunges the viewer into a world of feeling the ocean, the energy of the waves, the salty spray, the depth and breadth of the ships and the courage and smallness of the men. There is both mystery and clarity in each painting. The struggle between man and beast and the forces of nature come together on the canvas in a form never seen before this.

Whalers (Boiling Blubber) : Entangled in Flow Ice, Endeavouring to Extricate Themselves 1846

I sat for a long time before each of the paintings, studying them, and pondering the forward progression, the provocative and new ideas of an artist nearing the end of his life. Turner blazed across the artistic world of England, and as a result the world, from the humblest of beginnings to the pinnacle of artistic fame and never stopped learning, never stopped pushing the boundaries. This old artist taught the artistic world some new tricks that hinted at the world of Impressionism, but maintained always the mark of the brilliant young artist from the poor side of London.

 

Hurrah! for the Whaler Erebus! Another Fish! 1846

 

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE – Part Three

Suspense by Sir Edwin Landseer

As we have seen, the British, both royal and non, love their dogs, so it should be no wonder that they turned their minds to the benefit of canines at large. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed in a coffee shop in 1824 by a group of men that included the anti-slavery activist William Wilberforce. It was the first animal welfare charity to be founded in the world and sought to prevent the abuse of working animals, entertainments (cock-fighting), and slaughterhouse conditions. In its first year, the Society brought sixty three offenders before the Courts. It was granted its royal status by Queen Victoria in 1840 to become the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

One of the RSPCA’s members, Mary Tealby, went on to found the world’s first successful animal sanctuary, the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year (find special issue stamps here). The institution both responded to and influenced the British public’s attitude towards animal welfare during its early years. Mary Tealby, who had separated from her husband and moved to London in 1860, first resolved to found a “canine asylum” after the death of a starving dog she had attempted to nurse back to health. Struck by the plight of London’s strays, she established the Temporary Home for Lost and Starving Dogs in a stable in an Islington mews.

Low Life by Sir Edwin Landseer
This dog collar once belonged to Charles Dickens and was sold at auction for $11,590 by Bonhams, NY.

The Times launched a scathing attack on the Home on 18 October 1860 – “From the sublime to the ridiculous – from the reasonable inspirations of humanity to the fantastic exhibitions of ridiculous sentimentalism – there is but a single step… When we hear of a ‘Home for Dogs’, we venture to doubt if the originators and supporters of such an institution have not taken leave of their sober senses.”

However, other Victorians were ready to support the cause, including Charles Dickens. He published a piece in the magazine All the Year Round in 1862 about the home, calling it an “extraordinary monument of the remarkable affection with which the English people regard the race of dogs.” His sentimental prose gave the home a much-needed seal of approval: “It is the kind of institution which a very sensitive person who has suffered acutely from witnessing the misery of a starving animal would wish for, without imagining for a moment that it would ever seriously exist. It does seriously exist, though.”

Dickens was not alone in supporting the cause and the Society and Home flourished and expanded despite society’s jeers. The following reports were listed in a publication called The Animals Friend in 1897:

The Committee of the Battersea Dogs’ Home have purchased the freehold of a large and picturesque piece of ground at Hackbridge, in Surrey, to be used as a sanatorium for the better dogs passing through their hands. When funds permit it is intended to erect kennels, and establish the dogs under thoroughly comfortable and healthy conditions. It will be a real home for them, where they will have the best of treatment and plenty of daily exercise. This is a step in the right direction, and we trust it will meet with the support it deserves. Our readers will be glad to learn that the deed of conveyance contains a clause binding the managers of the Home never; at any time, to sell dogs for vivisection or any experimental purpose whatever.

On January 22nd, 1896, Mrs. Williams opened the London Home for Lost and Starving Cats at 80, Park Road, Hampstead, and in the first year received, sheltered, and humanely disposed of 2,450 wretched, homeless cats ; some were sent to good homes, but 80 per cent, went to their last and long sleep in the Battersea lethel chamber. The number has reached now the large figure of 3,923, making an average of from 90 to 106 homeless cats received weekly. Mrs. Williams has pursued her work in the face of all sorts of sneers and laughs, but is deeply grateful for the progress of her rescue work in such a short time. The Home is under the patronage of their Graces the Duke of Portland and the Duchesses of Bedford, Wellington, Sutherland, and others, but the funds are very low, as the expenses average £8 weekly, and help is earnestly solicited. Inspection of the Home is invited. The report is sent free.

For the 100th anniversary of the RSPCA, Thomas Hardy wrote an ode entitled Compassion: “Cries still are heard in secret nooks/ Till hushed with gag or slit or thud… But here, in battlings, patient, slow/ Much has been won – more, maybe than we know.” In 1885, Queen Victoria became Patron of the Home, and it has remained under Royal Patronage ever since. Currently, Queen Elizabeth is the Patron and Prince Michael of Kent serves as President.

There’s No Place Like Home by Sir Edwin Landseer

By the end of the 19th century, animal charities were no longer the subject of ridicule and additional institutions had joined their ranks. The Kennel Club was founded in 1873, and Frances Power Cobbe set up the Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection in 1875. The National Canine Defence League was founded in 1891, while 1903 saw a Swedish countess, Emily Augusta Louise Lind-af-Hageby, establish the Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society in London.

IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR ONCE MORE !

 

CHRISTMAS REVELS VI – Four Regency Novellas

Hannah Meredith

Anna D. Allen

Louisa Cornell

Kate Parker

 

Come Revel with four award-winning authors for Christmas tales filled with laughter, tears, and love…

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree – A pagan custom leads to an unexpected attraction.

“The Play’s the Thing…” – Going off script prompts a surprise ending.

Yuletide Treachery – Two lonely people find a traitor—and love.

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas – An accident brings redemption and homecoming.

 

Each year around this time, three of my fellow Regency romance authors and I begin the long Christmas season by putting our annual anthology of Christmas novellas up for pre order. Mixing my favorite time of year with my favorite romance genre is some of the greatest fun I have as a writer. It is the next best thing to celebrating a Regency Christmas myself.

I invite you to find your most comfortable chair, pour yourself a cup of tea, have a mince pie or two, and revel in these holiday tales of Christmas, good will and love.

EXCERPTS

Her Ladyship Orders a Christmas Tree

By Anna D. Allen

The falling snow could not stop Mrs. Treadwell from her rounds in the village… or from relaying her bit of news. Basket in hand, shawl wrapped tight about her plump figure, she hurried across the green, now ankle-deep white, past the great equestrian statue of Richard the Roundhead, and headed straight to the butcher shop.

“Her Ladyship has ordered a Christmas tree!” announced Mrs. Treadwell without preamble to the assembled customers as she entered the shop.

Everyone stopped their chatter and stared at her. After a silence lasting the space of several heartbeats, a small voice spoke up.

“A what?”

“A Christmas tree,” repeated Mrs. Treadwell. “There we were, in the kitchen, having our breakfast, when who should come walking in without so much as a by-your-leave or a knock at the door but Sam the potboy from up at the Hall with a note telling the new man he was to find a Christmas tree for Her Ladyship.”

Everyone spoke at once.

“Well, I never.”

“What’s she want to go and do a thing like that for?”

“Humph.” That was Old Mr. Phelps.

From behind the counter, Mrs. Cunningham, the butcher’s wife asked, “So Her Ladyship has returned home?”

“No, no.” Mrs. Treadwell waved aside the question as a ridiculous notion. “She’s still in Cheltenham. But the Coburgs are coming home with her and will be stopping by on their way to Brighton for Christmas with the Prince Regent.”

Murmurs of shock, surprise, and approval rippled through the clutch of customers, the Coburgs being common parlance for the heir to the British Crown, Princess Charlotte of Wales and her new husband, the German Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Something-or-Other that no one in the shop could quite remember. Nor in the nation, for that matter.

Now the butcher piped up. “Don’t you think that should’ve been the first thing you said, woman?”

“No. I don’t, Henry Cunningham,” replied Mrs. Treadwell with her fists on her ample hips. “Everyone up at the Hall will be worrying over the Coburgs, but it’ll be left up to us to find this… this Christmas tree to impress them.”

“‘Tis true,” observed Old Man Phelps, “Not like we’ll be the ones wining and dining with the toffs up at the Hall. We’ll just be expected to line up and cheer, tugging our forelocks and waving our handkerchiefs. God save the King. La dee da.”

In the midst of glares directed at Old Man Phelps—practically treasonous, that one—a small voice asked, “What’s a Christmas tree?” It came in the nick of time, as Mr. Cunningham was about to come around the counter and box Old Man Phelps’s ears and toss him out. But thankfully, answers came in rapid course.

“Pagan idolatry.”

“A papist plot. That’s what it is.”

“Surely not?” asked the quiet voice.

“I don’t like it. Not one bit.”

“The Coburgs are not papists,” Mr. Cunningham attempted to explain, with little success, “They’re proper Protestants, like the rest of us.”

“Where is Coburg anyway?”

“Does the vicar know about this?”

That question—or more precisely, the pondering of the possible answer—silenced everyone, glances passing amongst them. An instant later, the customers tumbled out into the lane, leaving behind a baffled Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham and a grateful Mrs. Morris—she of the small voice—who no longer had to wait to purchase a bit of mutton for her dinner.

The clutch of customers—now transformed more properly to a gaggle of gossips—marched their way down the slushy thoroughfare to the vicarage and presented themselves at the doorstep of the Reverend Mr. Elijah Haywood.

 

“The Play’s the Thing… ”

by Hannah Meredith

 ACT ONE

 Scene One

An opulent bedchamber at the Duke of Newley’s estate. A gentleman holds a bedpost while his valet attempts to lace up his corset.

Harris gave another mighty pull, and Captain Lord Alexander Kingston decided he had had enough. “Bloody hell, leave off. You’re not reefing the topsail before a blow. I have to be able to breathe.” The last word came out as more of a grunt as Harris gave a final mighty tug and started tying off the tapes.

“Captain, if I’m supposed to get you into any of these fancy clothes, then you’ve got to be trussed up like this.” Harris backed up to survey his work. “This is no tighter than it was earlier.”

Alexander released his hold and wondered if the elaborate carving on the bedpost had left a matching imprint on his hands. His estimation of the fair sex had risen in the last few minutes. Ladies had to endure this torture daily, proving unequivocally they were the stronger gender. “Harris, remember to call me Mr. Kingston, or this charade will be for naught.”

“Right you are, Ca… eh, Mr. Kingston.” Harris held out a shirt the size of a sail. “But I must say, all of this padding you up and then slimming you down seems a bit unnecessary.”

Alexander could not have agreed more. But then, this entire assignment was ridiculous. The Admiralty had unceremoniously jerked him off the Wheatley and plopped him here in the middle of Lancashire tasked to determine if any of the guests at the Duke of Newley’s holiday gathering were secretly supporting the American cause. He was chagrined that his superiors thought this was the best use of his abilities. That he had been personally chosen by Melville, the First Lord of the Admiralty, did nothing to assuage his irritation.

The Wheatley had been his first command of a ship of the line. Yes, she carried only eighty-four guns, but he’d been proud of every one of them and had looked forward to meeting the French with those guns blazing. Instead, he was sent back to London where he was given the honor of spying on British peers who may or may not be aiding the fractious former colonials in what was, to his thinking, a minor campaign. Alexander felt this was a waste of his experience, proving once again the dry-foot sailors at the Admiralty were asses.

Those fools in London felt he had the necessary qualifications—he would be unknown to the other guests and he would understand implications of merchant ship movements if they were discussed. These were qualifications? They would apply to half of the serving officers in the Royal Navy. His name must have been drawn from a hat.

 

Yuletide Treachery

by Kate Parker

Miss Frances Smith-Pressley opened the door that had been pointed out to her and slipped inside. The others were dressing for dinner; she didn’t have much time to start exploring the Wolfbrook library.

The light filtering in through the shutters showed a high, ornate ceiling over two levels of filled bookcases, the second of which rose upward from a wrought iron balcony that encircled the room. She twirled around in the center of the space, her soft slippers skimming over the thick Aubusson carpet as she drank in the smells of old leather and dry parchment.

The library was every bit as thrilling as she’d heard. It would take her the whole Christmas holiday to study even a fraction of the works assembled here.

She started to skim the stacks. Astronomy. No. Natural sciences. Not today. And then… Was it even possible? Illuminated texts written in Latin. She’d only seen them in museums under glass. Here she could touch them. Study them. Read them.

Taking out the white cotton gloves she always carried hidden in the pocket of her skirt, she slipped them on before taking one of the medieval manuscripts from its place. She carried it over to a desk and sat down to open its vellum pages.

She could almost believe lightning sprang from the book and energized her fingers, her heart, her mind. Her Latin was equal to the task, and she was soon immersed in the Gospel of St. Matthew. There before her was the Christmas story, written out by monks centuries before.

“Who gave you permission to invade the library?”

The baritone voice broke through her concentration. She looked up at an apparition. Her breath caught in her throat before she realized this was a normal man. He wore a normal man’s evening wear, displaying broad shoulders, a flat stomach, and long legs. But where his face should be, piercing blue eyes stared at her out of a brown leather mask.

She took a deep breath, closed the gospel with a dejected sigh, and rose to face the figure. “I was led to believe it was allowed.”

As the masked man strode toward her, every muscle tensed. It was all she could do not to step back or fall into the chair.

“By whom?” His voice was quieter. Menacing.

 

A Perfectly Unexpected Christmas

by Louisa Cornell

“Lady Portia?” His voice, though nearly devoid of sound, startled her. His eyes fluttered open, as much as they could, that is. One was well on its way to sporting a black eye any pugilist in Britain might envy.

“I am here.” Well that was an obvious thing to say. “The doctor should be here any moment.” She gave his bare shoulder an awkward pat.

“Don’t need a doctor,” he mumbled even as his eyes fell closed once more. “A bit under the hatches is all. Be right… as rain… in the morning. Tell Pearce not to forget… the ring.” His head lolled to one side.

“What ring?” She gave him a shake. “What ring, my lord?”

“Wedding ring. Tying the parson’s knot… in the morning. Didn’t… forget.”

“Well, that is hardly a good sign.”

Portia looked over her shoulder to find Dr. Pratt directly behind her, a somber expression on his normally affable countenance. She stood and allowed the physician to take her place.

“Correct me if I am wrong, my lady, but your nuptials were nearly a year ago,” Dr. Pratt said calmly, even as he examined St John, and furrowed his brow more deeply with each passing moment.

 

Links:

Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Y2DQCG3/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_U_M2QGDb67KWA59?fbclid=IwAR3eF0MIl21XjyCojQVrIILcU3gsy3gfSGkoEHc5rzVHH0SsnMyH0c4UgmY

 

Kobo

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/christmas-revels-vi

 

Apple

https://books.apple.com/us/book/christmas-revels-vi/id1480859471

 

Barnes and Noble

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1133695857

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE – Part Two

Queen Victoria owned many breeds of dogs over her long lifetime, including Pugs and Dachsunds and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
The Royal Collection © 2010,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
RCIN 2105644

Looty, the first Pekingese dog in Britain, brought by Captain Dunne, 99th Regiment, from Yuanming Yuan, the Summer Palace near Beijing, as a gift for Queen Victoria in April 1861. Dunne had found Looty in the burned out remains of the Summer Palace at Pekin, curled up amongst soft shawls and rugs in one of the wardrobes.

 

During a trip to Italy in 1888, the Queen purchased a sable red Pomeranian she named Marco and brought him back to England. Marco weighed only 12 pounds and many dog historians point to him as being the instigator of the desire to breed smaller Pomeranians. Marco went on to compete under the Queen’s name in many dog shows and he won many honors. Victoria also bought three other Poms on the same trip to Florence in 1888 and the most famous next to Marco was a cute little female named Gina who also became a champion at London dog shows.

 

 

Queen Victoria and a favorite Pom, Turi


Dogs and dog shows nowadays seem such a large part of British life but it wasn’t until 1803 that the first Great International Dog Show was held at the Agricultural Hall, Islington, two classes being provided for Bulldogs, while the first Crystal Palace Show was held in 1870.

 

Crufts Dog Show, now a British institution, dates back to 1891. Its founder, Charles Cruft, managed a dog biscuit manufactury and eventually held a sales position for the firm that allowed him to travel and gain valuable exposure to many different dogs and dog enthusiasts. In 1878 he was asked to promote and organize the canine portion of the Paris Exhibition, and became involved with dog breeds shortly thereafter. His debut dog show took place in Islington, North London in 1886.
Queen Victoria had Poms bred at the kennels at Windsor, which prompted English dog fanciers to begin breeding smaller and smaller Poms, and when the adult dogs began to hit below eight pounds they were called Toy Pomeranians. In 1891, Queen Victoria showed six Poms at the Cruft’s Dog Show. In 1888 the first American Pom was entered into the American Kennel Club’s stud book, and in 1892 the first Pom to be shown in America was entered in a dog show in New York.

Of course, Queen Victoria was not the only Royal to have been fond of dogs. Elizabeth of York, mother of King Henry VIII, was known to have bred and kept greyhounds. There was King Charles and his spaniels, which were also kept by King Edward VII and George V, while Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, kept pugs.  In 2009, British news outlets reported that Prince William gifted his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, with a chocolate Labrador. And then there is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi . . . . . . . .

 

Part Three Coming Soon!

IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

Queen Victoria was a devoted dog lover and owner throughout her life and raised more than 15 different breeds of canines.

Perhaps the most famous of these dogs remains Dash, who was her faithful companion during her childhood. The artist Sir Edwin Landseer first won Victoria’s favour when he painted Dash, a King Charles spaniel. Dash had been presented to Princess Victoria in 1833 by the vile Sir John Conroy, personal secretary to her mother, the Duchess of Kent. No doubt Conroy hoped that Dash would mitigate the ill feelings Princess Victoria harbored towards him due to his machinations. Princess Victoria and Dash were soon inseparable and he lived by her side, with the Princess dressing him in scarlet jacket and blue trousers, and at Christmas she gave him three India-rubber balls and two bits of gingerbread decorated with holly and candles. There is a scene in the movie, Young Victoria, which illustrates how the newly crowned Queen returned home from her coronation in order to bathe Dash. Dash also appears in a garden scene in the film.

 

When Dash died in 1840, three years after she became Queen, Victoria buried him herself at Adelaide Cottage, and had inscribed on his tombstone: `Profit by the example of Dash, whose attachment was without selfishness, his playfulness without malice, and his fidelity without deceit.’

 

A bronze statue of Islay stands in Sydney, Australia

Then there was a Skye terrier called Islay, the little dog Victoria came to love most of all. She taught him to beg for treats. Combined with a pair of wet, soulful eyes, Islay’s gentle begging earned him treats galore from the household and visitors alike. Once again, Landseer was inspired to capture one of the Queen’s dogs, sometimes in the act of gathering tasty morsels.

 

Islay was the inspiration for Landseer’s painting entitled `Dignity and Impudence‘, one of his most successful works.

 

Islay also features prominently in a painting Landseer created in order to amuse the Queen at Balmoral. It shows the terrier doing his begging act before a macaw, who sits high on his perch holding a large biscuit, which he is feeding two lovebirds. Next to Islay at the bottom of the painting is Tilco, a Sussex spaniel, who nurses a wound on his nose inflicted upon him by the macaw after he’d tried to take the biscuit away. When Landseer unveiled the work before the Queen at Balmoral, Lord Melbourne was said to have commented, “Good God! How like!”

 

“Queen Victoria at Osborne” painted by Sir Edwin Landseer
Queen Victoria and Sharp

In later years, Queen Victoria’s favorite dog and constant companion was Sharp, a smooth-coated Border Collie, born in 1854.  A statuette of Sharp in silver gilt dominated her dining table.

 

Sharp lived for 15 years. A statue of him stands over his grave in Windsor Home Park, Berkshire, England. After Sharp, Queen Victoria was given another Collie named Noble.

From Queen Victoria’s Journal of a Life in the Highlands – Sunday, September 14, 1873:

My favorite collie Noble is always downstairs when we take our meals, and was so good, Brown making him lie on a chair or couch, and he never attempted to come down without permission, and even held a piece of cake in his mouth without eating it, till told he might. He is the most “biddable” dog I ever saw, and so affectionate and kind; if he thinks you are not pleased with him, he puts out his paws, and begs in such an affectionate way.

Part Two Coming Soon!