OMGLondon2 – The Official Trailer

Well, my lovelies, we leave for London in just three short days, and let me tell you, we are all a-quiver with anticipation. We leave on the red eye Wednesday night, and arrive in Heathrow far too early on Thursday morning. After a few action-packed days in London, we move west and take up temporary residence in Bath.

And just how long have I been dying to say that?

If you were with us last year for OMGLondon (original flavor), you’ll recall that we stayed on the South Bank last time, so that every morning when we woke up and walked into town, this is what we saw:

IMG_2122

Pretty sweet, right? Well, just WAIT until you see where we are staying this year.

No, I said WAIT.

Hee hee! I love suspense, don’t you?

In short, we fell in love with at least two really big things while we were there last year:

  1. The Victoria and Albert Museum
  2. Bath

I mean, besides the Everything Else about London that we loved. Besides that.

So this trip is kind of built around spending a whole lot more time with those two places. For one thing, we’ll be staying within walking distance of the V&A this time (look at that! A hint!), so that we can wander in and out at will, and really roll around shamelessly in all the unending delights therein.

VandA

In fact, we fully intend to treat the William Morris Room in the V&A as our own personal drawing room while we’re in town. We will be receiving callers during select hours in the afternoon, and would be honored by the pleasure of your company if you should happen to stop by.

In fact, can you keep a secret? Because we actually already expect to have one or two Very Special Guests stop by and join us for tea in the William Morris Room one of the days we are there.

WHO COULD IT BE? I GUESS YOU WILL JUST HAVE TO STAY TUNED.

IMG_2272

IMG_2242

But fear not, for we will also be finding new adventures, as well as revisiting old ones.

For instance, we will be taking at least one walk out of Louise Allen’s Walks Through Regency London book, most likely the extensive meander she has laid out through St. James Square, so that we can visit the site of so much of the Regency tomfoolery there, what with all the gentlemen’s clubs, coffee shops, boot makers, and other Regency-era delights to be found there.

Not least of which, of course, involves this fine gentleman:

Beau Brummell statue

We even plan to have a Very Special Guest accompany us for this walk.

OMG WHO COULD IT BE? WE STRONGLY SUGGEST THAT YOU STAY TUNED.

And of course we will be visiting the Threads of Feeling exhibit at The Foundling Museum, because it sounds absolutely perfect in every possible way.

And we’re going back to the Old Vic, this time to see Tom Hollander in A Flea in Her Ear.

Old Vic

Last year, we saw Toby Stephens perform the lead role in The Real Thing. And we ran into a few other friends, too. We hope for nothing less than a repeat of this delightful experience this time around.

You might also recall that we only went on an extremely brief day trip to Bath last time. It was the first time to that lovely city for both of us, and the fact that we had to leave again after just two short hours made us extremely sad.

Which resulted in the picture below, forever after known as “Sad Bath Face.”

This is what two ladies who love Bath look like when they have been told that they must leave Bath in just a few minutes, after far too brief a visit:

Sad Bath Face

So this time we will be making “Happy Bath Face” for three whole days. At least, that is the plan.

IMG_2178

We’ll be staying just a scone’s throw from the Royal Crescent when we’re in Bath, so one of the main events that we have planned for our stay is a tour of that terribly august Georgian house museum, No. 1 Royal Crescent.

And you guessed it, we’ve lined up yet another Very Special Guest for this museum visit, as well, so you know the drill by now…

STAY TUNED.

Such fun!

Other than that, and of course other than all the usual other sights to be seen in Bath, we expect to do a fair bit of wandering, poking around, aimless meandering… you get the idea.

IMG_2198

And of course, we promise we’ll come back and tell you all about it.

Always in Love and Always in Debt

It’s here.

The National Portrait Gallery in London has finally packed up and shipped off the exhibit that has had me gasping with longing for months.

Thomas Lawrence: Regency Power and Brilliance opens this week at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut.

Lawrence is interesting to me not just because he is one of the foremost chroniclers of aristocratic Regency life, but because he lived such a fascinating Regency-era life.

Born in Bristol, he moved with his family to Bath when he was still a young child. And by the time he was ten, it seemed like the pattern of his life was already set.

He was already supporting his family with his art. And he was already laboring to dig them out from under staggering debt.

Really, the only element that was missing as a theme in his life was thwarted passion.

That would come later, in spades.

Lawrence enjoyed powerful patronage from an early age. Even when he was still a young producer of fashionable pastel miniature portraits, he counted such august personages as the Duchess of Devonshire and Sarah Siddons among his sitters. Later, he would become a favorite of the Prince Regent himself, and would go on to paint the portraits of military heroes, politicians, actresses, and the cream of the aristocracy in general.

He was always, always in debt. Nobody seems to know why. He wasn’t a gambler, he didn’t live an ostentatious life. He did have a habit of buying up Old Master paintings, apparently, but evidently this wasn’t enough to account for his chronic money problems.

And his tortured love life is pretty well documented, too. His main passions seem to have been split between the two daughters of his old client, the actress Sarah Siddons.

That must have been an utterly delightful little love triangle. Can you imagine being one of the sisters?

Well, I certainly can. But then, I have a bit of a fevered imagination, don’t I?

You can read more about charming, humble, talented, lovelorn old Thomas Lawrence here, for free, or you can go nuts and buy the exhibit book. It looks dreamy, doesn’t it? I strongly suspect that I will be shelling out for that book before long.

Or you can just gaze at all the painfully human faces from the past that he captured for us, via the magic of the internet.

Sad eyed men in history

What is it about old portrait photography that reaches out and grabs me by the throat?

This image to the right has had me in a death grip for days now.

It’s a self portrait. The very first “light picture,” as it says on the back. Robert Cornelius, a chemist and silversmith in Philadephia, snapped this image of himself outside his father’s shop one afternoon in October, 1839.

That’s 1839, in case you missed it.

Our man Robert here was a sort of consulting scientist to an early daguerreotype enthusiast who wanted to find a way to shorten the length of exposure needed to create a lasting image. At the time, folks thought you couldn’t take human portraits using this emerging bit of technology, because you needed an exposure time of an hour or more.

Not only was it highly unlikely that a human subject could sit still for that long, and avoid the ubiquitous blurring seen in images from this time, but given the amount of light needed on the subject’s face, there were concerns of causing blindness.

Robert devised a solution to the problem, then tested it out in the bright sun of a Philadelphia street.

I love the immediacy of his pose, the wind ruffling his hair, the impatience in his eyes and in his crossed arms.

Let’s get this over with, let’s just see if this works. If it doesn’t then I’ll try something else.

I think that’s one reason why I love this image so much. He’s not interested in the slightest in how he looks in the resulting photograph. He’s got other things on his mind.

Will this work? I’ve got a million other things to do. Let’s get this done.

I think that’s the thing that draws me in so hard. There’s no vanity, no stilted pose, no barely concealed fear of the camera and its all-seeing gaze.

The man’s got other things on his mind. And it makes you wonder what they are.

In contrast, think about the stiff, formal photography of the Victorian-era carte de visite that we’re all familiar with. People sat for portraits for cartes de visites because they needed to, because it was a social necessity. The vast majority of them clearly dreaded the experience. And you can see their discomfort in every carefully held head, every awkwardly averted glance, every sucked-in, corseted gut and plastered down strand of hair.

There’s still a lot of that in portrait photography today, in fact.

But the historical photographs that speak the most to me are of people who clearly have more important things on their minds. Usually this takes the form of a politician, or a war general, or something of that sort. These gentlemen had much more pressing matters to concern them, and the emotional toll of these pressing matters easily overcomes any fear or formalism in their poses.

For instance, I have a long-standing and well-documented love affair with Ulysses S. Grant.

I won’t go into all the details of why I feel so deeply for him. We can talk about that another time, if you’d like.

But can you look into those eyes, and then away again, without knowing something of what weighs him down?

He is not thinking about the camera. He is not thinking about how he looks.

Even in his more formal White House portraits, where he has clearly been posed to within an inch of his life, he is already out the door and down the street, in his mind. Off doing other things.

But despite my well-known predilection for men in emotional pain, I have readily enough made space in my heart for the impatient, preoccupied, and ultimately mysterious Robert Cornelius.

In the photo, he is thirty years old. In a year or two, he will open one, then another daguerreotype studio in Philadelphia, before moving on to other pursuits and withdrawing entirely from view.

But he still glares at us ferociously from that one sunny afternoon in the autumn of 1839.

And he is so real to me.

Hat tip to Two Nerdy History Girls for introducing me to Robert Cornelius in the first place. What have you done.

Happy Regency Day, Lovers

Prince RegentWell, I couldn’t very well let today pass by without remark, could I?

It’s Regency Day, as everyone knows, of course. On this day in 1811, The Prince of Wales became Prince Regent by the signing of the Regency Act of 1811, thus ushering in the Regency era.

The Regency era only lasted a brief nine years, ending when Prinny finally ascended the throne, as King George IV, upon his father’s death in 1820.

It is an amazingly short period of time, considering the vast and towering mountain of romance novels that have been set in this period, beginning with Georgette Heyer’s invention of the genre and continuing to the present day.

And you all know that I am proposing to add my own contributions to the mountain, as well.

Well, you didn’t expect me to sit out the opportunity to write an entire novel about rakes and rogues, young ladies and dowagers, meticulously tied cravats and scandalously low-cut ball gowns forever, did you? I mean honestly. A girl can only show so much self-restraint.

And I have never been famous for my self-restraint, I can assure you.

Which means that I feel a certain… affection… for the not terribly likeable Prince Regent. He was, after all, famously fond of excess, in his dress, in furnishings, in architecture, in his love life, in his consumption of food and drink…

And nowhere is this rather endearing love of overdoing absolutely everything more evident than in his favorite vacation cottage, The Royal Pavilion in Brighton.

And to celebrate, The Royal Pavilion is mounting a year-long exhibit, Dress for Excess: Fashion in Regency England. One full year of gawping at Prinny’s fantastically over-the-top coronation robe, with its 16-foot-long train that required eight supporters to carry behind his Royal Awesomeness.

Julie over at Austen Only has some fabulous photos of what you’ll be able to see in the Dress for Excess exhibit. You should check it out.

I’ll only be an hour and a half away from Brighton in just one short month, for my annual OMGLondon jaunt with my dear fiend Melissa. So we shall see how inspired we are to make the trip to the seaside and pay our respects at this monumental monument to extravagance. (If you missed OMGLondon 2010, you can read all about it on the OMGLondon 2010 archive page. Oh yes. There is an archive page.)

Regardless, I suggest that we all celebrate Regency Day today in whatever way seems best. Read up on the man himself, in all his glory, or take in a Regency romance. You can try a Georgette Heyer for the original flavor, or opt for a spicier version by one of my two favorites, Julia Quinn and Loretta Chase.

Or watch this utterly splendid movie about the Prince Regent’s sometime best friend, Beau Brummel. Hugh Bonneville, whom you may know as Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, does a delightful turn as the Prince Regent therein, and there’s even a racy little interlude with Lord Byron involved, too. Well worth your time.

Or you can do as I have been doing these last few nights, and sigh over Regency romance author Louise Allen’s wonderfully rich, detailed, and charmingly illustrated Walks Through Regency London, and make your own extravagant plans for stalking all your favorite Regency figures — fictional and otherwise — through the smoky streets of London.

Whatever you do, do it to the hilt. And then keep going. In honor of Prinny, who really never knew when to stop.