“Baroque Explorations” is a blog about my research into 17th century life and the era of the Court of Louis XIV, the Sun King in particular. I’m beginning to sneak back into the 18th century Napoleonic era from time to time as well.
For my blog on (surviving) the writing life, click here.
Quote of the moment: ”The future is the past, returning through another gate.” —from a poem by Victoria Chang
I just this moment sent off the first draft of The Game of Love, the current working title of my first young adult novel about Josephine’s daughter Hortense. (It went to free-lance editor Allison McCabe, my first reader and editor.)
This morning I checked spelling before sending it off. In consulting Google on how to spell the name of Josephine and Napoleon’s little house in Paris, I discovered that there is now an exhibit at Malmaison about this house, providing information that is very hard to come by. Information I badly need! Plus this tempting bit: “Computer reconstructions and models bring this residence to life and let visitors view it on all sides.”
Torture! I so want to see it!
Luckily, with a little tenacious searching, I found an extensive pdf about the exhibition which one can read on Google Play. It reveals a great deal:
A map shows it’s location and the very long drive down to the house from the rue de la Victoire.
Another map shows the locations of other properties in the neighbourhood—but does not show a house belonging to Napoleon’s sister Pauline and her husband, although it is often claimed that they bought a house close-by. (Note to self: more research needed.)
But here is a treasure of a find: a table that becomes Josephine’s desk. A desk features significantly in my novel, and this may well be it.
The excitement of research!
This is an excellent article: What it’s like to wear Victorian corsets and underwear today.
And here’s the book, which I’ve yet to read by will definitely have a look at: Victorian Secrets: What a Corset Taught Me about the Past, the Present, and Myself.
Another book to look into, one that goes into the history of the corset, which is of most interest to me, is The Corset, a Cultural History, by Valerie Steele, and published by Yale University Press.
Now you know!
One of my favourite blogs is BibliOdyssey, which I’ve mentioned a few times before. It’s a visual historical blog, and it invariably takes my breath away. The entry on “Noble Country Living” is especially rich.
It shows illustrations from Georgica Curiosa, a 3-volume work published in 1682 by Wolf Helmhardt von Hohberg, covering all aspects of daily rural life.
What a feast for a historian! Here are only a few of the illustrations:
This is fascinating! I’ve just ordered Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing by Melissa Mohr.
For the Young Adult novel I’m writing now, I’ve been trying to figure out what obscenity Caroline Bonaparte might throw out as an emotional and angry teen. “Turd in your teeth!” might well be a contender.
I find these virtual history tours enchanting.
And this award-winning virtual tour of 17th century London before the fire of 1666:
Also have a look at History in Colour, another experiment in bringing history to life. It’s surprising what a difference colour makes.
Enjoy! If you know of other virtual tours, let me know.
I’ve just sent out a newsletter, and already I’ve heard from some amazing people.
Please share the link to Facebook, Twitter etc.if you are at all inclined.
One of my closest friends—Jude Holland—and Napoleon Bonaparte share the same birthday: today, August 15. I’m not going to get all woo-woo about this, but the truth is that I am, in fact, surrounded by friends, family and historical obsessions of the lion persuasion. (I’m a Scorpio: I can handle it. ;-)
It’s curiously refreshing to have Napoleon back in my life. (I keep wanting to call him ”Bonaparte,” as Josephine did.) Louis XIV, the Sun King, has been a sympathetic and admirable man to spend a decade with: he was an athlete , not mentally quick, but a hard-working, man who strived to do the right thing. Born to rule, he was always careful, always on stage (and thus hard to read). His one obsession was sex (and perhaps that was because it was the only private realm of his existence where he could be free). Ah, and yes: he was also fairly attached to glory. He may not have been a literary man, but he was handsome, invariably polite, a fine dancer and horseman—and how romantic is that?
Now: Bonaparte. Not much of a looker, not a dancer (pas du tout!), and not much of a horseman (he went one speed—full gallop—and not infrequently fell off). He was blunt, socially rude—if not an embarrassment—and likely not much in the sack, either, given his general impatience with life. Like the Sun King, he was hard-working, a man who wanted to do the right thing, but as for self-control? Forget it. The world was his stage, and he was, who he was, who he was. And that was: volcanic.
You never really had to ask: what is Bonaparte thinking? His heart, as one says, was on his sleeve, as well as his mind, which was mercurial, lightening quick. He wasn’t literary, either, at least not in the classical sense, but he was moody and had a poetic imagination: ideas infused him.
So: who would you prefer to spend a decade with?
Here are some interesting articles I recently came upon:
A Napoleon theme-park to be built near Disneyland in France? (Is this a joke?)
On film historian Kevin Brownlow’s restoration of Abel Gance’s silent epic Napoleon. (The film versions of Napoleon is an interesting subject: another blog post perhaps.)