Macabre or beautiful? ~ mourning treasures

I’m going backwards again and sharing another inspiration behind the story of Entangled. I mentioned yesterday, my leaning toward the macarbe (it is definitely no wonder that I’ve ended up moving into writing thrillers). Like I said, I’d prefer to stand on Lyme Regis harbour wall watching a threatening, storming sea thrashing the stone wall, than laying flat on a sunbed on a tropical beach.

So the fascination I have with antique mourning jewellry shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Although, I don’t think I’ve shared that on my blog before. By the time of the regency period many people wore jewellry with an artfully placed lock of hair held in place by glass, to remember a loved one. It might be to remember a living person, but more often it was to remember someone who had passed. It may sound strange today, but it’s not really, they didn’t have a stack of albums or computer folders full of photographs. Perhaps they had a minature portrait, it they were lucky, often just one. Employing artists was a more expensive luxury than jewellry. There were more jewellers than artists because you can’t just learn to be a painter who can precisely capture someone’s appearance as you can learn to manipulate metals, there has to be some rarer natural skill. Therfore, a jeweller’s time was less expensive than a good artist’s. The phrase ‘paying an arm and a leg’ for something comes from the fact that a full portrait was expensive and most people, even the upperclass, would only pay for the head and shoulders. But also, someone’s hair means you retain a part of their presence.

There’s a mourning brooch at Jane Austen’s cottage museum at Chawton containing her father’s hair. If you look out for peices of jewellry in museums and antiques shops, you’ll see a lot, and some, like those in the heading images are really beautiful. I think it’s brilliant. I imagine people regularly looking at their pieces or touching them, rubbing a finger or a thumb over the glass as they think of their missing loved one. It would bring the memories and the good emotions back. Wearing a brooch or a ring with a loved one’s hair inside, meant you always had a part of the person with you.

Of course, because I love mourning jewellry, I had to weave it into the story of atleast one book ( 😉 ). Remember also that last week I told you about Ed Sheeran’s song Photograph, which is about a locket, inspiring aspects of Entangled. James, one of my Wickedly Romantic Poets, is a lover of keeping hair, and that is also an intergral part of the story which links the first book in the series to the last. He cuts a lock of Clio’s hair in the prologue of the Thread of Destiny, and he’s already wearing a ring containing the hair of his deceased mother.

I have recently discovered that I have dyspraxia as well as dyslexia and the way my mind works perhaps makes a little more sense now, because I litterally look at a piece of mourning jewellry and my mind races with questions and the desire to see and know that person. So when I saw this minature with what I think must be a lock of his hair, I had to buy it. It makes the image of him more real, giving it a 3D context.

I’ve tried to find out who this gentleman is, without any luck unfortunately, nor can I tell who owned this, his wife, mother, lover … I don’t know. It must be someone who wanted to keep him close while he was distant, because I assume it was made when he was alive, due to the painting. But then the thing with not knowing is that I have to make it up, and that’s a joy and exactly where stories begin …

I didn’t say above, but this bracelt in Beatrix Potter’s cottage is not only displaying human hair, the actual braclet is woven peices of human hair.

Oh and one more cheeky fact before I end this post, I have said it before in my Scandalous Women posts, but I’ll share it again. Lady Caroline Lamb and Lord Byron shared pubic hair, so, I’m sure a lot of that went on too. I didn’t put that act of his in my poets novels, though. 😀

Inspirations for the Wickedly Romantic Poets Series

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Emma (2020 film)

 

Emma (2020 Film)

‘This adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel is so well researched… they have made it look like real country life at that time.’

Following the antics of a young woman, Emma Woodhouse, who lives in Georgian- and Regency-era England and occupies herself with matchmaking – in a sometimes misguided, often meddlesome fashion- in the lives of her friends and family.

Watch the trailer on You Tube

‘I write about country life,’ Jane Austen said once in a letter. Much of women’s lives were taken up with finding a match at that time. Something Jane Austen was never successful at, but I know she considered. She certainly appreciated a man’s ‘fine eyes,’ at least once in a letter to her sister, which she funnily enough then used as Darcy’s description for Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. I don’t know who the real Emma was, but knowing so many of her characters were inspired by the people she met I  imagine she had a friend, or a combined set of friends, who wanted to help and brought the concept of Emma to her mind.

I particularly love this adaption of Jane Austen’s novel because it is so well researched it absolutely expresses that country way of life that Jane loved to capture. I remember reading an interview with a writer once who said, ‘Jane Austen did not put a date to her books, and I want to follow that.’ Well for Jane Austen these novels were contemporary, inspired by the life she lived and the lives she observed, of course she did not record a date it was today’s date for her – and so we know that the setting was in her lifetime in Georgian- and Regency-era England . A fantastically brilliant time for a life of fashion and flourish. But Jane does not describe the fashions in her books (apart from the price of muslins) in great detail because people knew the fashions. She was a follower of fashion, though, she often wrote to her sister about fashions, for instance commenting on the use of fruit to decorate hats rather than flowers and the change from short sleeves to long sleeves.

A few years ago when I was researching that era I learned not only about the men’s fashions, like those pointed, stand-up shirt collars (which are commonly known about), but the sudden flares of fashion at the time, and one of those was the scarlet red cloaks. They were a fashion for young women. Everyone, everywhere, with money enough to buy them, wore white dresses (a well known fashion) but with vivid red cloaks.

Years ago when I was researching my own books set in that era I came across these paintings made by a young woman, Diana Sperling, who drew country life as impressively as Jane Austen wrote about it. It was brilliant to see through the eyes of someone living in the time, and it has helped me capture a more real sense of the time in my books. This is why I can see the team researching the sets and costumes for Emma have been carefully considering the details. Most people would not know the details, so they did not have to do more complex research to enhance the film, but I am very impressed that they have made it look so like real country life at that time. It’s wonderful, and I think Jane Austen would have loved it.

What a brilliant adaptation, it is definitely one to watch.

You can also see in Diana’s pictures, the introduction of Wellington Boots 🙂 . A fashion for boots started by the Duke of Wellington, of course. These were boots that could more easily be pulled on and off, and they were worn by men and women. Of course they are a fashion that has lasted.

Read the novel that is a story about Jane Austen’s life as she discovers the final inspirations that made Pride and Prejudice the book we know and love.

More information here  on the print book here

ebook

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