Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Women's History Month: "They ruled society..."

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history.

"They ruled society, as women of the world; the empire of letters, as patronesses of the fine arts; the state, as favorites and advisers of kings. They gave the tone to feeling, philosophy and thought. Their caprice made wars, and signed treaties of peace. They hastened the fall of a Monarchy, and the outbreak of the greatest Revolution of modern times. They could attempt to check or direct that Revolution in its rapid and fearful course; they shared to the fullest extent its errors, its crimes, and its heroic virtues.
… Though the historians of the period have never fully or willingly acknowledged its existence, their silence cannot efface that which has been; and without that rule of woman, so reluctantly recognized, many of their pages of statesman’s policy, court intrigue, civil strife, or foreign war, need never have been written."

–Julia Kavanagh, Woman in France During the Eighteenth century, 1850

Monday, March 30, 2020

Women's History Month: A poem by Mah Laqa Bai (1768-1824)

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history.

[image: Mah Laqa Bai singing in the presence of Raja Rao Rambha Bahadur, 1799. Unknown artist.]

Mah Laqa Bai (originally Chanda Bibi) (1768-1824) was a respected, influential poet and courtesan. As a young girl, she was given an exemplary education and was invited into the inner circles of high ranking officials. She accompanied the second Nizam of the Hyderabad State into three wars, where she was well-known for her horseriding and archery skills; she was routinely awarded with lands, appointed to the highest circle of nobility, and given the honorary title Mah Laqa--which means "Visage of the Moon."

One of Mah Laqa Bai's most notable accomplishments was her poetry, which was well-received and published in several different collections. One collection, titled Diwan e Chanda, contained a stunning 125 ghazals. She became the first women to read her poems at a mushaira, or spoken poetic symposium, which was traditionally reserved for men. In some cases, she sung her poetry or sung poetry and songs written by other prominent courtiers and nobility. 

Upon her death, she left all her properties (which included copious amounts of jewelry, silver, gold and lands) to homeless women in Hyderabad.

This poem
is from Gulzar-e-Mahlaqa, a collection of 39 ghazals written by Mah Laqa Bai; the collection was published in 1824, after her death.
 Hoping to blossom (one day) into a flower

Hoping to blossom (one day) into a flower,
Every bud sits, holding its soul in its fist.

Between the fear of the fowler and (approaching) autumn,
The bulbul’s life hangs by a thread.

Thy sly glance is more murderous than arrow or sword;
It has shed the blood of many lover.

How can I like a candle to thy (glowing) cheek?
The candle is blind with the fat in its eyes.

How can Chanda be dry-lipped. O Saqi of the heavenly wine!
She has drained the cup of thy love

Friday, March 27, 2020

Film Friday: Marie Antoinette (1938) Poster

Film Friday: a day for sharing movie stills, production art, film analysis and anything film related!

 One of the many lobby posters created for an international screening of MGM's Marie Antoinette (1938).

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

4 (More) Novels Inspired by Real 18th-Century Women

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history.

4 (More) Novels Inspired by Real 18th-Century Women

If you've already read these 5 novels based on real 18th-century women and are looking for something different, check out these new (and old) novels based on the real lives and times of women living in the 18th century.

The Stargazer's Sister: A Novel by Carrie Brown 
Inspiration: Caroline Herschel (1750-1848)

The Stargazer's Sister: A Novel explores the life of Caroline Hershel, her extensive work alongside her brother, and the marriage that caused her once assured place in her brother's life (and alongside him in the conservatory) to be shaken.

Finding Emilie by Laurel Corona 
Inspiration: Lili and Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749)

 The real Émilie du Châtelet died several days after giving birth, and her daughter Lili died before she was 2. In Finding Emilie, Laurel Corona has imagined what life might be have been for Lili, had she survived into adulthood, accompanied by excerpts from her mother Émilie's past.

Becoming Lisette by Rebecca Glenn 
Inspiration: Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755-1842)

 Becoming Lisette is a fictionalized look at the youth and career of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun, from her early youth through her rise in fame as the favorite painter of Marie Antoinette.

The Lost Queen by Norah Lofts 
Inspiration: Princess Caroline-Matilda (1751-1775)

The Lost Queen is based on the tumultuous life of Caroline-Matilda, whose marriage to Christian VII led to a secret affair, behind the scenes political machinations, and ultimately disaster.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Women's History Month: "A Petition To April" by Susanna Blamire (1747-1794)

[image: A portrait of Susanna Blamire by Giacomo Cambruzzi, 18th century]

Susanna Blamire (1747-1794) was an English poet whose prolific and well-regarded poetry earned her the nickname the "Muse of Cumberland." Most of her poetry was publsihed after her death, but she did submit some of her works to public view. In addition to poetry, Blamire worte songs, including a song ("The Siller Croun") which was referenced in Charles Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop. In 1947, Scottish literary figure Hugh MacDiarmid said that Blamire's songs "can be set beside the best that have ever been produced by Scotsmen writing in their own tongue."

Blamire was frequently ill due to recurrent rheumatic heart disease. A few of her poems were marked as being written during periods of illness, including the below work which--fittingly, for Blamire and many of us in the world today--hopes for a renewed future in the coming spring.

A Petition to April, Written During Sickness, 1793

Sweet April! month of all the year
That loves to shed the dewy tear,
And with a soft but chilly hand
The silken leaves of flowers expand;
Thy tear--set eye shall I ne'er see
Weep o'er a sickly plant like me?
Thou art the nurse of infant flowers,
The parent of relenting showers;
Thy tears and smiles when newly born
Hang on the cheek of weeping Morn,
While Evening sighs in seeming grief
O'er frost--nipp'd bud or bursting leaf.
Once Pity held thee in her arms,
And, breathing all her gentle charms,
Bade thy meek smile o'ertake the tear,
And Hope break loose from trembling Fear;
Bade clouds that load the breast of Day
On melting Twilight weep away;
She bade thee, when the breezy Morn
Kiss'd the sweet gem that deck'd the thorn,
O'er the pale primrose softly pour
The nectar of a balmy shower;
And is the primrose dear to thee?
And wilt thou not give health to me?
See how I droop! my strength decays,
And life wears out a thousand ways;
Supporting friends their cordials give,
And wish, and hope, and bid me live;
With this short breath it may not be,
Unless thou lend'st a sigh to me.
O! fan me with a gentler breeze;
Invite me forth with busy bees;
And bid me trip the dewy lawn
Adorn'd with wild flowers newly blown;
O! do not sternly bid me try
The influence of a milder sky;
I know that May can weave her bower,
And spot, and paint, a richer flower;
Nor is her cheek so wan as thine;
Nor is her hand so cold as mine;
Nor bears she thy unconstant mind,
But ah! to me she ne'er was kind.
To thee I'll rear a mossy throne,
And bring the violet yet unblown;
Then teach it just to ope its eye,
And on thy bosom fondly die;
Embalm it in thy tears, and see
If thou hast one more left for me.
In thy pale noon no roses blow,
Nor lilies spread their summer snow;
Nor would I wish this time--worn cheek
In all the blush of health to break;
No; give me ease and cheerful hours,
And take away thy fairer flowers;
So may the rude gales cease to blow,
And every breeze yet milder grow,
Till I in slumber softly sleep,
Or wake but to grow calm and weep;
And o'er thy flowers in pity bend,
Like the soft sorrows of a friend. 



Thursday, March 19, 2020

Women's History Month: 'Plum Flowers' by Seo Yeongsuhap (1753-1823)

 [image: Plum Tree Blooms by ForestWander/CC BY-SA 3.0 US, no changes]

Seo Yeongsuhap (1753-1823) was the daughter of a provincial governor and the wife of a royal official. She had three sons and one daughter; Yeongsuhap, her husband and all of her children were writers and much of their correspondence included or was done entirely in verse.

Yeongsuhap began writing poetry when she and her husband started to exchange correspondence in verse, during a period when he was posted in a rural province. Before her marriage, Yeongsuhap was already a lover of literature: by the time she was 15, she had already read many works, particularly Confucian classics. Her oldest son, Seokju, would later recall that "even by the bed she would speak of the ancients' proverbs and their beautiful deeds as if she were telling a story, and teach verses from the classics."

A collection of 192 poems written by Yeongsuhap was published after her death; the poems were included in the appendix of her husband's book, which also contained recollections from her sons about their mother.

The following poem, Plum Flowers, recalls a moment when as a young girl, Yeongsuhap saw beautiful plum flowers upon entering the house of a high government official.

Plum Flowers
[translation: The Poetic World of Classic Korean Women Writers, Volume 9]
My first step through the gate as a child
Plum flowers ready to bloom near the wall
Fragile pistils hung by the red rail
Here and there thin branches drooping over the green steps

I thought it was an official's splendid mansion
Yet it was as plain as a scholar's hut
Time has passed and speaks of ageing
Fragile flowers bloom on the remaining branches
You can read more about Yeongsuhap along with several of her poems in The Poetic World of Classic Korean Women Writers, Volume 9.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Women's History Month: Anastasia Robinson

Women's History Month: A month celebrating women of history! I will be posting media and book recommendations, highlighting women from (mostly) the 18th century, and otherwise sharing content with an emphasis on women in history.

[image: Engraving proof of Anastasia Robinson by John Faber the Younger, after a portrait bo John Vanderbgank. Circa 1727.]

Anastasia Robinson (c.1692-1755) was an English singer who became well-known for her work with the famous composer George Handel.

Robinson was the daughter of Thomas Robinson, a portrait painter. She received private musical tutoring from an early age and performed primarily at private concerts, where she would both play and sing. By the time she was in her early 20s, she was already associated with George Handel; in 1714, he wrote a solo soprano role in his composition 'Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne' specifically for Robinson. She joined Handel's company in 1714 and made an official debut in 'Creso,' a pasticcio (a type of composite performance).

In 1719, an unknown factor caused Robinson's voice to change. It was during this year that she began singing contralto roles, rather than her former soprano music. It was also during this period that her father's eyesight began failing and she decided to turn her talent into a profession that would bring in an income for herself and her family. She was hired into Handel's Royal Academy of Music, founded in 1720, and began earning £1000 a year for her work. She originated numerous roles in Handel's most famous operas. In 1722 or 173, she secretly married Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough; although they were married, he did not acknowledge her publicly as his wife, and she was viewed as his mistress until 1735 when he finally acknowledged their marriage.

Her most famous role was that of Cornelia in Handel's dramatic Giulio Cesare, which would become his most well-regarded and today, most frequently performed work. Cornelia's arias and music for this work are some of the most moving in Handel's entire repertoire, and one must imagine the faith Handel had in Robinson to

Although it would be her most famous role, Robinson retired shortly after the premiere of Giulio Cesare. Although she retired from the professional stage, she was still involved in the world of music and theater; her home in Parsons Green, which she lived on with her retirement earnigs as well as money from her secret husband, became a hub for musicians to train and perform.

After the death of her husband in 1735, she began living at his family residence; she died in 1755.

One of the most moving moments in for Cornelia in Giulio Cesare is Priva son d'ogni conforto, her Act I aria. Cornelia was foiled in her attempted suicide, which she attempted after the murder of her husband, and in this aria expresses her sadness and grief.