Life in an Eighteenth Century Country House, by Peter and Carolyn Hammond – A Review

Life in a Eighteenth Century Country House Peter and Carolyn Hammond x 200From the desk of Tracy Hickman:

The Grove was a large country house and estate in Chiswick, England owned by Humphrey Morice, the son a highly successful London merchant and slave trader. Morice was an animal lover, and in contrast to the common practices of his day, did not destroy animals that were unable to work any longer. He kept a number of horses, dogs, and other animals at Grove House, causing many of his contemporaries to consider him an eccentric.

The main attraction of Life in an Eighteenth-Century Country House is the series of letters written by head groom Will Bishop to Morice during his stay in Italy from 1782-1785. Bishop wrote regularly to his employer, sending detailed accounts of all the bills for the house and stables for Morice’s approval. This was unusual, as most estate owners employed a “man of business” to handle these matters. As head groom, Bishop was mostly concerned with the welfare of the animals of the estate and wrote extensively about them, especially those that were unwell. He also kept Morice abreast of the personal lives of the staff, recounting their illnesses and conflicts with other workers, as well as general news about local people Morice would have known. One of my favorites was the “he said, she said” battle in the kitchen between the cook and stable lads: Continue reading

My Christmas Loot

So, I intimated that I had been a good girl this year and Santa listened. Even though the Pride and Prejudice Film Location tour did not materialize, books and DVD’s did, which I am happy to share. Not bragging here, just looking forward to many hours of reading and viewing enjoyment. 

And in this corner weighing in at a hefty 7 pounds and 484 pages is … the ultimate English country home eye candy coffee table book, The English Country House: From the Archives of Country Life, by Mary Miers. Not only are the photographs of some of the most beautiful homes ever created absolutely stunning, the text is as equally rewarding offering detailed descriptions and historical anecdotes. Squee! My meager description can not even begin to give this book the justice it deserves. I implore all Anglophiles and architectural geeks to seek this one out and peruse in awe. 

Publisher’s description: The English Country House takes a look at the architecture and interiors of sixty-two stunning houses in a range of architectural styles spanning seven centuries—from the medieval Stokesay Castle to the newly built, Lutyens-inspired Corfe Farm—brought to life through the world-renowned photography library of Country Life. More than four hundred color and black and white illustrations provide an insight into the architecture, decoration, gardens, and landscape settings of these houses, which are set into their architectural and historical context by the accompanying text and extended captions. Rizzoli, ISBN: 978-0847830572 

In November my co-blogger Vic (Ms. Place) at Jane Austen Today wrote an excellent post on French botanical artist Pierre Joseph Redoute (1759-1840) at her blog Jane Austen’s World. It reminded me how much I cherish this artist. Having studied botanical illustration and landscape design in an earlier life, I have long been enchanted by Monsieur Redoute’s floral illustrations and decided I needed a good reference book of his artwork. The Roses by Pierre Joseph Redoute (2000) by Tachen is the ultimate indulgence. A milestone in the history of illustration, this book is a complete reprint of the famous Les Roses, created around 1817 by Redoute, the master French flower painter and includes 195 full color reproductions of the original pen, ink and watercolor illustrations.  

Publisher’s description: Art teacher to French royalty including Queen Marie Antoinette and both of Napoleon’s wives, Pierre-Joseph Redoute had come from an artistic family in the Ardennes and, prior to discovering flower portraits, specialized in religious frescoes. It was during a visit to the Netherlands that he came across the work of Van Huysum. So entranced was he by the Dutch floral paintings that, despite working for his brother painting theatre sets during a lean period in his life, he managed to find time to paint small floral water-colours which soon attracted the attention of leading botanists of the time. Inspired by Empress Josephine’s garden at Malmaison Chateau in Paris, he collaborated with botanist Claude-Antoine Thory to produce “Les Roses“, originally intended as a scientific work but which soon became, due to Redoute’s illustrations, a collectors item which captured the public’s imagination with its beauty. Printed in sections between 1817 and 1824 it soon sold out and unfortunately the actual paintings were destroyed in a fire in the Library of the Louvre. However, the prints have been reproduced time and time again to perpetuate their beauty and inspire future generations. This concise edition, with close-ups of many of the prints, is prettily presented in a boxed set which includes 12 notelets of Redoute’s paintings making it the perfect gift for any rose lover. Tachen, ISBN: 978-3822866290 

When I read my dear friend Julie at Austenonly’s beaming book review of Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England, I knew that I must read Amanda Vickery’s new tome on Regency social culture even though it has an unbecoming cover! Ahem. 

Publisher’s description: In this brilliant new work, Amanda Vickery unlocks the homes of Georgian England to examine the lives of the people who lived there. Writing with her customary wit and verve, she introduces us to men and women from all walks of life: gentlewoman Anne Dormer in her stately Oxfordshire mansion, bachelor clerk and future novelist Anthony Trollope in his dreary London lodgings, genteel spinsters keeping up appearances in two rooms with yellow wallpaper, servants with only a locking box to call their own.  

Vickery makes ingenious use of upholsterer’s ledgers, burglary trials, and other unusual sources to reveal the roles of house and home in economic survival, social success, and political representation during the long eighteenth century. Through the spread of formal visiting, the proliferation of affordable ornamental furnishings, the commercial celebration of feminine artistry at home, and the currency of the language of taste, even modest homes turned into arenas of social campaign and exhibition. Yale University Press, ISBN: 978-0300154535 

Besides my consuming passion for author Jane Austen – I do have a few other guilty pleasures, namely British television and films, and especially detective mysteries. The Morse scion Lewis, or Inspector Lewis as it is called on Masterpiece Mystery in the US, is my recent favorite. Just released on DVD this last summer is Lewis: The Collection: Series 1, 2 & 3.  The irresistible combination of down-to-earth seasoned Detective Inspector Robbie Lewis (Kevin Whatley) and his acerbic, cerebrally smug side-kick Detective Sergeant James Hathaway (Laurence Fox) sleuthing out intriguing murder mysteries set in the idyllic surroundings of Oxford and its University campus is enough to send this Anglophile into a deep swoon. This 13 disc collection contains every full unedited episode broadcast on ITV in the UK so far and runs a whopping 1,114 minutes. You will need a region 2 DVD player for this edition, but honestly, what true Brit – comedy – drama – mystery freak does not have one? ITV DVD, ASIN: B002DH909K 

Wishing you all equally enjoyable reading and viewing in the New Year.