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Showing posts from July, 2018

Jane Austen's Immortal Legacy

This past week is the 201st anniversary of Jane Austen's death. She died on July 18, 1817, at age 41 after about a year of suffering from a degenerative disease.
Although her illness was undiagnosed at the time, most scholars think she had Addison’s disease (a disorder of the adrenal glands), though some believe that it was Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer involving the body’s lymph nodes, which finally took her life. 
Both of these conditions are treatable today.
By contemporary standards, Jane Austen's life was relatively short. Yet she left us with six novels and a novella that have become classics in English literature, along with two unfinished books and a host of other works. 
However, despite this prodigious literary output, there’s no mention of her writing in the epitaph her brother James composed for her memorial gravestone in Winchester Cathedral, her burial site.
Instead, her brother, who like his father was the rector at Steventon, commemorates the “extraordinary endowment…

Downton Abbey: The New Movie and Its Inspiration

Good news travels fast, so by now, you may have heard that a feature-length movie continuing the Crawley family saga from the popular BBC television series Downton Abbey has officially been given the green light. Filming is set to begin this summer, with a release likely to take place sometime next year.
Julian Fellowes, the creator of the original series (which I've discussed in an earlier post), is working on the script. Most, though not all of the primary characters in the series, including the Dowager Duchess (Maggie Smith) have signed on for the film.
What’s interesting to history lovers like me is that there’s a real person behind the story at the heart of Downton Abbey. Cora Levinson, the fictional daughter of a dry goods millionaire from Cincinnati in the series owes much to Mary Leiter, the real-life daughter of a dry goods millionaire from Chicago. Both Cora and Mary were part of a group who became known as the "Buccaneers" - rich American girls brought to Engla…

Beau Brummell and Famous Snubs

This July is the anniversary of one of the most famous snubs in history, or at least in British history.
For it was in July of 1813 that Beau Brummell snubbed the Prince Regent at London’s Argyle Rooms. And that snub, for whatever momentary satisfaction it may have given Brummell, marked the beginning of the end of his career as the most famous dandy in Regency England.
Brummell and a trio of his aristocratic chums (Lord Alvanley, Sir Henry Mildmay, and Henry Pierrepoint) were hosting a ball to celebrate the money they’d won gambling at Watier’s Club.
The four dandies reluctantly invited the Prince Regent to their party, primarily because His Royal Highness was determined to attend despite the fact that he'd recently quarreled with Brummell. So when he arrived at the ball, Prinny greeted Brummell’s friends but ignored the Beau.
Brummell retaliated by inquiring in a high-pitched voice that penetrated the room's din:
“Alvanley, who is your fat friend?”
Now, the Prince was extremely …