Man must be pleased; but him to please is woman's pleasure

Another quote from The Angel out of the House (p. 40):

“The figure of the ‘old maid’ attracted such opprobrium because, like the poor, she was both too dependent and too independent. Without adequate economic resources, unmarried women of almost all classes could drain the finances of their families or, in the case of spinsters of the lower classes, the parish ratepayers. If women were of age and not married, however, they were legally independent. Similarly, the laboring classes were also economically at risk and a burden because they were dependent on the resources of ‘their betters’; Ogle recognized that it was often the lot of the poor to ‘patiently submit to…Misery.’ As the poor seemed to become more numerous and more destitute than ever before, the problems of dealing with poverty became more troublesome and received more attention, as the concern devoted to reforming the poor laws suggests. The laboring classes were also, though, as another philanthropic writer worried, more independent than ever before; the English common people, writes Josiah Tucker, ‘having been growing up into Freedom for several Generations back, and are now become entirely independent, and Masters of themselves and their own Actions’–no longer subject to ‘discipline.’ Domestic ideology, however, made it possible to displace such concerns onto the figure of the ‘old maid’ or the prostitute, both of whose situations, like that of the poor, combined economic independence with a threatening legal independence.”

Oh, and I did a little art project I’m rather proud of–if you like Remington Steele and Iron Man, check it out. What if Pepper Potts was a private investigator with an imaginary boss and Tony Stark was a charming, neurotic con artist looking to make a change?

One of the most magnificent speeches ever made in this or any other country

[Content warning: discussion of sexism and rape.]

Well, it’s been a while since I really posted anything here…I just got out of the habit while the blog was in maintenance, and now…I’m familiar with the phenomenon from my years on livejournal: the longer I don’t post, the more of a curious resistance I build up to posting. It’s partly that I start to feel like I can’t post unless I’ve got something really special to say, but mostly it’s just a mysterious reluctance that I can’t adequately explain.

HOWEVER I have been reading lots of great research books and have built up a huge backlog of interesting and/or funny quotes to share with you, and so, here is the first of them, from Dorice William Elliott’s The Angel out of the House: Philanthropy and Gender in Nineteenth-Century England

from an 1859 article in Fraser’s Magazine, titled “A Fear for the Future, That Women Will Cease to be Womanly,” talking about girls who are unsexed by their philanthropic work:

Any of my sons, I am quite sure, would as soon think of making love to Lord Brougham or the statue of Mr. Canning, as of uttering a word of anything sentimental to these ladies.

This is extra funny to me as I have a bit of a crush on Lord Brougham, a big-deal Whig politician and lawyer who, among other things, was Queen Caroline’s attorney at her adultery trial and made a two-full-day opening statement described by Thomas Denman as “one of the most powerful orations that ever proceeded from human lips,” by Charles Greville as the “most magnificent display of argument and oratory that has been heard in years[…E]ven his most violent opponents were struck with admiration and astonishment,” and by William Vizard as “one of the most magnificent speeches ever made in this or any other country.”

Henry Brougham, painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence, image courtesy of Wikipedia.

SUCH good eyebrows. And that nose! IJS probably that guy’s sons DID think equally of both but that doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking! The statue of Lord Canning would probably be more difficult. Hard to get to, for one thing. But it has an unquestionably alluring tilt to the hips, wouldn’t you say?

Photo by Runcorn at Wikipedia.

That “A Fear for the Future, That Women Will Cease to be Womanly,” gives me a thought about all those 60s and 70s science fiction stories about a dystopian future where people no longer have sex. Why on earth would society evolve to do away with sex?

It always struck me as a completely random cultural panic with no obvious cause–unlike, say, the fear of nuclear-radiation-caused monsters, the fear of a future run by powerful corporations, or the fear that machines will revolt and make war on their former masters, which all have a clear emotional logic. The best I could come up with was that it was some kind of fear of a return to 1950s repression…but that doesn’t quite mesh, does it? The dystopian futures portrayed rarely seem 50s-like (or Victorian, or puritanical, or religious, or…) at all: they’re far more likely to be ultra-sanitary minimalist monochrome futures with unisex-coverall-type fashion.

Yet despite its strangeness, it was such a popular trope that Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and Stephen Fry parodied it in their “Crystal Cube” pilot.

Do you think it could actually be a disguised fear of feminism? The idea being that when men no longer have power over women, women will no longer be safe/passive sexual objects, and therefore will either no longer be attractive to men or will no longer be willing to “provide” sex for them?

It certainly brings the “necessary” rape in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Welcome to the Monkey House” (one of the most famous of the genre, not insignificantly originally published in “Playboy”) into sudden sharp symbolic focus…

Wow. Eureka. Well, that’s just depressing.

FLESH-BAG: a shirt

New History Hoydens post up! Part 1 of 2, excerpts from James Hardy Vaux’s 1819 Dictionary of the Flash Language (i.e. criminal slang).

BEST: to get your money at the best, signifies to live by dishonest or fraudulent practices, without labour or industry, according to the general acceptation of the latter word; but, certainly, no persons have more occasion to be industrious, and in a state of perpetual action than cross-coves [criminals, as opposed to square-coves, honest men]; and experience has proved, when too late, to many of them, that honesty is the best policy; and consequently, that the above phrase is by no means à-propos.

The actual loss to government by the sudden destruction of the Custom House cannot be calculated

History Hoydens post up on the London Customs House fire of 1814! The fire destroyed not only the Customs House and all the records of the Revenue Service (including the irreplaceable notebooks kept by revenue officers stationed all over England), but also many of the surrounding buildings—partly because a rumor started that there were barrels of gunpowder stored in the building and the firemen refused to get near it…

Come and tell me about your favorite disaster!

The Art of Governing a Wife

Today went to the local used bookstore in my uncle’s town. The bookstore has two parts–the regular second-hand bookstore and a rare bookroom across the street. Today the rare bookroom had two Rowlandson prints! I couldn’t tell if they were original, but one of them was priced at $250 so maybe. My uncle said they make a lot of their money in lending out old books for movie sets–if you need 200 feet of matching bindings, they are your guys. Neat! I bought:

Many Thousands Gone: the First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America by Ira Berlin

Ladies of the Grand Tour: British Women in Pursuit of Enlightenment and Adventure in Eighteenth-Century Europe by Brian Nolan, which I think is going to be a little too exceptionalist, but maybe that was just the back-cover copy writer: “According to the 1747 publication The Art of Governing a Wife, women in Georgian England were to ‘lay up and save, look to the house; talk to few and take of all within.’ However, some women broke from these directives and took up the distinctly male privilege of traveling to the Continent to develop mind, spirit, and body.” I just feel there’s a way to talk about restrictions on women without (a) overgeneralizing and (b) making women who follow those restrictions sound like their lives are meaningless wastes.

The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier by Jakob Walter

Boredom: the Literary History of a State of Mind by Patricia Meyer Spacks. This one looks really cool, it’s about how before the 18th century, boredom was a personal failing: if you’re bored, you aren’t working hard enough. But later that became complicated. It also talks about how boredom was gendered and women’s lives were equated with boredom in both feminist (“It’s not fair women can’t do more interesting things”) and misogynistic (“Women are so flighty and easily bored and also reading novels has made them impatient of real life”) ways.

I also got an essay collection called Transforming a Rape Culture which may be outdated since it’s from 1993…but sadly I’m guessing not TOO dated. Rape culture is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, especially because it’s important to Sweet Disorder and possibly to my next book as well, so I think it’s time for some reading.

Rogues' Gallery

It’s research time again! I’m still revising Sweet Disorder, but I’m researching my next project too. It’s tentatively titled “The Spare Heir” and takes place in Orkney! You might remember my trip to Orkney a couple years ago and how I fell madly in love with it.

Orkney sky
Photo credit: me.

I was originally planning to set this book in Cornwall, but as soon as I started thinking about Orkney, it just felt right. It’ll make the research harder, I think, but luckily my friend whom I was visiting works fowhere everyone has leg-of-mutton sleevesr Historic Scotland and might be able to help me out with contacts. The heroine is a governess and the hero is a revenue officer, and I’ve got two villains: the tyrannical local laird (the heroine’s employer and the hero’s biological father) and a ghost. Yes, a ghost. I know it’s a little different from my previous books but I’m really excited about it!

I’ll be posting a lot more about my research for that soon, but right now, I’m excited about my haul from the library book sale! I got:

Rites of Peace: the Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna by Adam Zamoyski
The Exchange Artist: a Tale of High-Flying Speculation and America’s First Banking Collapse by Jane Kamensky (the collapse was 1809)
Daumier: 120 Great Lithographs (I LOVE Daumier)
Mob Girl: A Woman’s Life in the Underworld by Teresa Carpenter, about a woman who was involved with many important mafiosos and became an FBI informer
Mrs. Adams in Winter: A Journey in the Last Days of Napoleon by Michael O’Brien, about Louisa Adams (JQ Adams’s wife) traveling from St. Petersburg to France in early 1815
Rogues’ Gallery: A Secret History of the Moguls and the Money that Made the Metropolitan Museum by Michael Gross (this book gets about 200 points right off the bat for that title)
Scots Cooking: the best traditional and contemporary Scottish recipes by Sue Lawrence

A great haul, amirite?

What’s the best nonfiction book you’ve read recently? Anything amazing on your nonfiction TBR pile?

“Imposing on the Compassion and Credulity of different Persons in Town and Country”

Today over at History Hoydens I’m talking about an eighteenth-century con-woman I discovered while reading a book about newspapers…

Before the fatal Discovery, the Company were greatly pleased with the Woman’s behavior, as she was not only very sprightly and engaging in Conversation, but sang and played on the Guitar to Perfection.

Come on over and let me know whether you think she’s romance heroine material!

TOL-LOL, adj. Tolerably well.

Today at History Hoydens I’m talking about nineteenth century Sussex slang I think should be brought back into common usage! Example:

“LAWRENCE, s. A kind of imaginary saint or fairy, whose influence produces indolence, thus, ‘I caunt get up, for Lawrence ha’e completely got holt an me,’–“I ha’e got a touch o’ ol’ Lawrence to-dee; I be troubled to git ane wud me work.’ This person is also known in Dorsetshire, &c.”