In three months, Glamour in Glass, will hit the book stores. The first chapter is in the trade paperback of Shades of Milk and Honey, so you’ve already had a little bit of a teaser. Since one of the things that attracts me to the Regency are the pretty, pretty clothes, I’m going to offer you pictorial teasers over the next twelve weeks.
Of what? You’ll get a picture of a dress and the line that accompanies it.
This is Jane’s dress from Shades of Milk and Honey. It appeared in that novel like this:
“Her fingers danced in the air, pulling folds together in a small simulacrum of Jane. This tiny manikin wore Jane’s beloved dove silk, but with a open pelisse of the pink. A high waist with a sash of that same pale pink gave the illusion of height and slenderness to her figure. Softening Jane’s face, Madame Beaulieu had added a turban à la Oriental which cupped her hair with cunningly wrought silk roses. A simple shawl completed the picture with elegant grace.”
How does it fare in Glamour in Glass?
The dove silk which had seemed so fine when she had commissioned it last summer now seemed dingy by comparison…
Yesterday, I showed you a sneak peek of Glamour in Glass through a picture of Jane’s dove grey silk dress. She thought it seemed dingy by comparison… to what?
To this dress.
The dove silk which had seemed so fine when
she had commissioned it last summer now seemed dingy by comparison to gowns such as Lady Hertford’s rich claret velvet, which had long sleeves slashed to allow glimpses of a cloth of silver.
This painting is actually Jane, Lady Munro by Sir Martin Archer Shee but I thought it was lovely and gave it to Lady Hertford.
Lady Hertford is a historical figure who I am using in Glamour in Glass. In fact, unlike Shades of Milk and Honey, I use a number of real people and places.
What did the real Lady Hertford look like?
At her side now stood the inimitable Lady Hertford, who also gazed at the painting. This celebrated beauty’s very presence lent the room an additional elegance. Her claret velvet dress might have been chosen as a deliberate complement to the blue walls. The line of her neck would have been a welcome subject for any artist.
Today’s teaser for Glamour in Glass is a scenic location. The Carlton House Red drawing room, which appears in Chapter 1.
As the Prince Regent led her out of the Red Room, Jane felt all the eyes of those assembled fall upon her, and under their gaze the unequal nature of her station magnified.
The Carlton House was the Prince Regent’s London residence. It was a magnificent building that showed his fondness for sumptuous elegance. The history of the royal residences by William Henry Pyne (London: 1819) describes this room as:
On entering this spacious apartment, the eye is agreeably struck with the happy combination of splendid materials tastefully arranged; consisting of a profusion of rich draperies, large pier glasses, grand chandeliers of brilliant cut glass, massive furniture richly gilt, candelabra, tripods, bronzes, elegant vases, and other corresponding decorations, displaying at once the improved taste of the arts and manufactures of Great Britain. To these are added some valuable original pictures by English and foreign masters.
It is always a bit unnerving to use real historical figures in fiction, especially someone as well-known as The Prince Regent. Because the Regency period is named after him, it is easy to think that he was an admirable figure in the same way that Queen Victoria was. Alas…
He was regarded as self-indulgent, extravagant, and an adulterer. With good reason, since he made no secret of his mistresses and was constantly living well beyond his means to the point of needing to ask Parliament for more money. He spent 10,000 pounds per anum just on clothing.
He was, however, a great patron of the arts and encouraged much of the look of the Regency period. Among the people he was a fan of was Jane Austen.
The admiration was not returned. In a letter to Martha Lloyd, Miss Austen wrote:
“I suppose all the World is sitting in Judgement upon the Princess of Wales’s Letter. Poor woman, I shall support her as long as I can, because she is a Woman, & because I hate her Husband — but I can hardly forgive her for calling herself “attached & affectionate” to a Man whom she must detest — & the intimacy said to subsist between her & Lady Oxford is bad — I do not know what to do about it; but if I must give up the Princess, I am resolved at least always to think that she would have been respectable, if the Prince had behaved only tolerably by her at first. –“
So how does he appear in Glamour in Glass?
The Prince Regent smiled and patted her hand where it lay on the dark blue cloth of his sleeve.
The portrait above is from 1814, the year that Shades of Milk and Honey, takes place. Glamour in Glass begins on December 30, 1814 so he would look very much like that.
In this mixed media figure, you get a sense of how he would appear in the style popularized by Beau Brummell. Buckskin trousers and a blue coat.
Smiling, the Prince Regent adjusted the sleeve of his coat, which was, Jane was startled to note, cut from superfine cloth. [1. Superfine is a general fabric term related to quality, but during the Regency it invariably referred to the woolen broadcloth used in coats.]
This is one of my favorite dresses in the Glamourist Histories, so I wanted to show it to you. It appears in Shades of Milk and Honey and belongs to Miss Dunkirk.
She offered Miss Dunkirk her arm and led her to a bolt of white lawn, the fabric most appropriate to a debutante. Then Jane suggested a deep green velvet which she thought might set off Miss Dunkirk’s hair to advantage… Between the two of them, they selected a lace which complemented the cloth as well.
The original dress is from Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, the March 1814 edition.
A white crape, or fine muslin petticoat, worn over white satin, embroidered in silver lama round the bottom. A bodice of olive or spring-green satin, ornamented with a silver stomacher. Short, full sleeve, and rounded bosom, trimmed with a full silver border to correspond. A fan frill of fluted lace, continued round the back, and terminating in front at the corner of the bosom. A silver fringe round the bottom of the waist. The hair in irregular curls in front, falling low on each side, drawn smoothly on the crown of the head, and brought in a small bunch of curls at the back. A bandeau of pearl, twisted round the curls behind. Necklace and cross of pearl eardrops, and bracelets to correspond. Occasional scarf of white silk, richly embroidered in silver and coloured silks. Gloves of white kid. Slippers of green satin, with silver rosettes.
Just to be clear, when they refer to “a fine muslin petticoat” they aren’t talking about modern muslin. In the Regency muslin could be so fine as to be translucent, like this example of a hand-embroidered Regency dress. See how the paper shows through it? (Here are more photos of this lovely extant dress.)
When I was researching the Prince Regent’s set, I ran across Sir Lumley St. George Skeffington who went by the nickname “Skiffy.”
How could I not use him?
Skiffy was a baronet and a playwright who had some success with his play “The Sleeping Beauty” but was cheifly known for being a dandy.
The Letter Bag of Lady Elizabeth Stanhope includes this account of him.
`He,’ Gronow mentions, ‘used to paint his face like a French toy. He dressed d la Robespierre and practised other follies, although the consummate old fop was a man of literary attainments, remarkable for his politeness and courtly manners, in fact, he was invited everywhere. You always knew of his approach by an avant courier (sic) of sweet smells, and as he advanced a little nearer, you might suppose yourself in the atmosphere of a barber’s shop.'”
I had a good deal of fun including Skiffy.
Here is an engraving of what he is supposed to have looked like. Of the real Sir Lumley, we have an account by John Stanhope:
Poor Skeffington was the Dandy of the day, par excellence. Remarkable for his ugliness, his dress was so exaggerated as to render his lack of beauty the more marked. He was a very goodnatured man, and had nothing of the impertinence of manner of the fops who succeeded him. Moreover, he was a bel-esprit, writing epilogues and prologues, and was at one time the observed of all observers. I have seen him at an assembly literally surrounded by a group of admiring ladies.
“Oh! Horrid. Horrid, I tell you. I have never seen a man with less understanding of the nature of cloth than he displays. Why, did you know that I went in on the recommendation of a friend, whose advice I shall not favour henceforth, and M. Lecomte had the temerity to suggest superfine cloth? To me?” He took out a perfumed handkerchief and patted his forehead. “I turned on my heel and left without another sign. It was clear he was not current.”
After the overt glamour of the ballroom, the Blue Room seemed positively staid, though it was appointed in the best manner. The walls were covered in blue damask, which matched the upholstery. Gilt frames bordered the walls, with cleverly rendered oysters on the half shell in each corner. By the very absence of glamour, the Prince Regent displayed his taste and means here as much as in the ballroom, because everything from the elaborate carpet to the massive crystal chandelier was real.
Real gold gilded the arms of the chairs. Real candles stood in the sconces instead of fairy lights, so rather than the faint glow of glamoured light, the room truly was bright and airy.
The only glamour in the room adorned the ceiling, which had a glamural of sky and clouds drifting in a simple repeating pattern. The clouds circled the chandelier so that the crystals would not catch and diff ract their glamoured folds. The effect seemed one part dance, one part storm— very like life at court itself.
InShades of Milk and Honey, when Jane first sees the professional glamourist, Mr. Vincent, she describes him as, “Tall, and very broad of chest. His hair was chestnut and curled about his head like Bacon’s portrait of Jean- Baptiste Isabey.”
His brown curls were tousled in the fashionable wind- swept look which so many men struggled to attain, but which came naturally to him.He swept his hands through his hair so much, knotting them in place while he thought, that it was permanently dishevelled.
Note the word wind-swept? It is one of three places I knowingly cheated with the language. That word does not get coined until 1932, but the description for the hairstyle from the period was… not particularly helpful to a modern reader.
Would you have known what I meant by the “frightened owl” hairstyle?
Today’s preview does not contain a description of the dress, but the circumstances in which one would wear such item.
The January wind whipped off the coast and lifted sails and skirts alike. Despite the chill, Jane stood at the rail of the Dolphin, feeling as if a series of stays were releasing their laces with each length they moved away from the shore.
So what does one wear aboard a ship? A carriage dress like this would meet your needs while traveling.
I have to thank Madeleine Robins for pointing out that the carriages in French and Belgium at this point were called dilligence. By the way, if you have not read her truly excellent The Sarah Tolerance Mysteries, allow me to recommend them. If Jane Austen writes comedy of manners, Madeleine Robins writes mystery of manners. It’s an alternate Regency, good mystery and a thoroughly charming heroine who is an Agent of Inquiry.
And now, here is how the dilligence appears in Glamour in Glass.
Despite the charming name of France’s national system of carriages, the dilligence was too crowded for comfort, and the views out the windows— though of unfamiliar scenery— were only glimpsed by twisting one’s neck. The dilligence exchanged passengers at inns, crossings, and stables so that they had an unending variety of new travel companions.
As you might imagine, we’ll be meeting some new characters in Glamour in Glass. Allow me to introduce you to one of them, or at least to her dress.
When Jane was introduced to Mme Meynard, she had a moment of coveting the belle’s beautiful Pomona green gown with blond lace embellishments.
The original dress was Published in Ackermann’s Repository of Arts, September 1815 and described thus:
A white satin slip, worn under a dress made in pomona green French gauze, terminating at the feet with a full flounce of blond lace, headed with a double border of the same, gathered in full, and confined with folds of satin, of corresponding colour to the dress; handkerchief-front, trimmed with white satin, and a falling collar of blond lace; long sleeve of white satin, the fulness upon the shoulder confined under an epaulet of the French gauze, trimmed with white satin; the sleeve drawn alternately across the arm with the pomona green satin ribbon. Long white sash of white satin, tied in front.
The ends of the hind hair brought forward, to fall in ringlets over the temple, confined with a plain white satin ribbon, and ornamented with a tiara of pearl. Necklace to correspond. Gloves, French kid. Slippers, white satin.
The current Battersea Bridge crosses the Thames and is an iron structure. In the days of The Glamourist Histories, it was still a wooden bridge and the oldest remaining wooden bridge crossing the Thames. This painting is from 1840, so twenty-five years after the events in Glamour in Glass, but looking very much the same. It does give you a sense of how much more rustic certain parts of London were.
An excerpt from Glamour in Glass
The following morning, Jane rose with the intention of visiting her family before their mutual journeys separated them. Vincent declined the opportunity to accompany her, saying that he wanted to paint the Battersea Bridge and catch the morning light. After the fi asco of the previous evening, Jane could hardly blame him for wanting to escape under the thinnest pretence.
I’ll tell you a secret. I tend to give characters that I’m fond of things that I covet. Vincent’s writing desk is one of these items. Here’s how it appears in Glamour in Glass
When in transit, it folded neatly in half to present an unassuming box. Once opened, it contained a comfortable sloped surface, faced in red leather. Cunningly concealed within were compartments to store correspondence and writing supplies. The battered wooden sides attested to the constant travelling Vincent had done in his life as an itinerant glamourist.
For my birthday, my father gave me a writing slope almost identical to this one. The leather, which is called a skiver, is in bad condition, but it turns out that you can order them online. I’ve done that, but have been using this desk almost non-stop during the Month of Letters. As soon as it is over, I’m pulling the battered old leather off and replacing it.
It is nice to have something that I coveted in fiction turn up in real life.
In 1815, people flocked to the Continent which was safe for the first time in years. Jane travels abroad as well.
The town of Binché, in Belgium, is one of the places she goes while on the Continent. Here’s how it looks in Glamour in Glass.
They arose with dawn the next morning and set off as the sun started to warm the winter fi elds. They arrived in Binché a few hours later as the village clock struck ten, bells chiming as if celebrating the Vincents’ arrival. The sun painted the stucco walls of the village a pale red- gold that belied the chill of the season. Passing through into the town proper, the Vincents were charmed by the neat houses and tidy window box gardens which crowded the streets. The chaise set them down at the carriage post outside the A l’Aube d’un Hôtel near the centre of town.
As Jane is traveling about in Europe, she’s in need of an appropriate dress for walking. I found this one, to serve as a model, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art online catalog. One fo the interesting features, if you enlarge it, are the buttons down the front. To my eye, they look like shell and seem very modern in style.
The museum says, “This dress presents a lively and engaging textile with its overall small prints. This style of print was in high demand in the teens and although it could have been made in New England by this time, it was probably imported from England, which shipped large quantities throughout the period.”
The polka-dots are also much more contemporary in feel than I would have expected, but the ruffled collar and the overall simplicty of the dress would have appealed to Jane.
Dressing herself in her high-collared walking suit, Jane marvelled at what it was to be hungry again. It had been so long since the thought of food had not turned her stomach that she had not at first recognised the pricking in her middle as hunger.
I imagine you might be wondering why food turned her stomach… If I told you that this line comes from Chapter Fifteen? No. I suppose that is not helpful. Well, April 10th isn’t that far away. Really.
(Tor Books — August 21, 2018) Continuing the grand sweep of alternate history laid out in The Calculating Stars, The Fated Sky looks forward to 1961, when mankind is well-established on the moon and looking forward to its next step: journeying to, and eventually colonizing, Mars. Of course, the noted Lady Astronaut Elma York would like to go, […]