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Showing posts from July, 2018

Jane Austen's Immortal Legacy

Cassandra Austen's watercolor portrait of her sister Jane, painted in 1804 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. Anot

Downton Abbey: The New Movie and Its Inspiration

Poster from Season 1 ( ) 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 &qu

Beau Brummell and Famous Snubs

Issac Cruikshank's 1824 satiric sketch of the Cyprian's Ball at the Argyle Rooms, where 13 years earlier Brummell snubbed the Prince Regent ("Cyprian" is a Regency term for high-class prostitute) This July is the anniversary of one of the most famous snubs in history, or at least in British history. George Cruikshank's 1819 caricature of Prinny 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