Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hampton Court Maze

The Tudors have always been interesting to me and here is something Tudor-related by way of Henry the Eighth; the maze at Hampton Court. Here is information from wikipedia about the maze:

from wikipedia
"Hampton Court maze is a hedge Maze; planted sometime between 1689 and 1695 by George London and Henry Wise for William III of Orange at Hampton Court Palace. The maze covers a third of an acre and contains half a mile of paths. It is possible that the current design replaced an earlier maze planted for Thomas Cardinal Wolsey. It was originally planted with hornbeam, although it has been repaired using many different types of hedge.
A diagram of the maze's layout and the correct path to the centre.

The maze is in 60 acres (0.2 km2) of riverside gardens. It has been described by many authors, including Defoe, and the humorist Jerome K. Jerome, who wrote in Three Men in a Boat:

"We'll just go in here, so that you can say you've been, but it's very simple. It's absurd to call it a maze. You keep on taking the first turning to the right. We'll just walk round for ten minutes, and then go and get some lunch."

...Harris kept on turning to the right, but it seemed a long way, and his cousin said he supposed it was a very big maze.

"Oh, one of the largest in Europe," said Rachael.

"Yes, it must be," replied the cousin, "because we've walked a good two miles already!"

Harris began to think it rather strange himself, but he held on until, at last, they passed the half of a penny bun on the ground that Harris's cousin swore he had noticed there seven minutes ago.

Jerome exaggerates the hazards of the maze. The maze has relatively few places at which the path forks and at all but one fork (in Jerome's time) the wrong choice led to a dead end at the end of a short corridor. There are many larger and more elaborate mazes nowadays. Recently, three new forking places (not shown on the plan displayed just outside the entrance) have introduced more possibilities of walking closed loops within the maze. The maze can still, as Harris stated, be threaded from entrance to centre and back by the method of always remaining in contact with the wall on one's right. This method guides the traveller into (and then out of) some dead ends and is thus not the shortest path. Topologically, this is a depth first search algorithm.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bramwell 5 Part Series

"The first episode of the Bramwell series debuted on Masterpiece Theatre in April of 1996. Since that time, the life and loves of the unconventional Dr. Eleanor Bramwell in Victorian London have amazed, engaged, and, occasionally, dismayed us. Herewith, a definitive overview of each episode of each of the previous five series which have appeared on Masterpiece Theatre.

Bramwell, Series I

Young Dr. Eleanor Bramwell is caring, talented, and passionate about medicine -- yet the doctor is barely tolerated by the medical establishment. In 1895 a woman was not expected to display new ideas, boundless energy, and a driving ambition to become a leading surgeon. With the odds stacked against her, Eleanor is determined to pursue her dream. But is society ready for Eleanor?

Bramwell, Series II
Dr. Eleanor Bramwell continues to devote her hard-won medical skills to the poor in London's East End.

Bramwell, Series III

Set in upper-class Victorian London, another series following the struggles of Eleanor Bramwell as she endeavors to become one of England's first women doctors and to provide medical care for the poor.

Bramwell, Series IV
Jemma Redgrave returns as Dr. Eleanor Bramwell pursues public health and private amours, more adventures in turn-of-the-century London.

Bramwell, Series V
Bramwell is back with four new episodes in the lovelorn life of Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, the public health heroine of 1890s London and her society doctor dad, Dr. Robert Bramwell. Eleanor's treacherous fiancé, Dr. Finn O'Neill, is also back--briefly--along with the stalwart gang at the Thrift Free Infirmary for the Deserving Poor."

(from Masterpiece Theater) For a complete episode listing, go here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Barnes & Noble Has Free Wifi

They also have a yummy cafe!

Period Reality Shows

There were a number of period reality television shows in the 1990's and early 2000's that showed on PBS. This post is meant to be a guide to what is available.

Modern families and individuals step back into history for these period reality shows. Click the links for more information:

Regency House Party

Edwardian Manor House
Texas Ranch House
Colonial House
Frontier House
1940's House
1900's House

Virtual Literary Tour of Authors Homes

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kings College Choir

Christmas is three months away, but here I am posting about Christmas music. I discovered The Cambridge Kings College Choir three or four years ago when a friend gave me their "O Come All Ye Faithful" CD as a gift. I highly recommend this CD, it truly adds to the peace of the Christmas season, or anytime.

Here is a short description and history of the Choir, from their official website.

"The Choir owes its existence to King Henry VI, who envisaged the daily singing of services in his magnificent chapel. This remains the Choir's raison d'être, and is an important part of the lives of its 16 choristers, who are educated on generous scholarships at King's College School, and the 14 choral scholars and two organ scholars, who study a variety of subjects in the College."

The Pemberley Shoppe

If you are a Jane Austen lover, you have no doubt heard of The Republic of Pemberley. They are the best Jane Austen site on the web, and have a nice shop there with all kinds of Austen gifts and novelties like totes, books, calendars, shirts, stationary, and more. Check them out.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The World of the Brontes

I bought this book off Amazon recently and it came in the mail yesterday. I have only skimmed through it so far, but it is an excellent book with headings such as, "Who Were the Brontes, The Work of the Brontes, The landscapes of the Brontes," etc. Looks like no Bronte stone was left unturned.
There are also stunning photographs of items belonging to the siblings, a chronology, reprints of diary pages, and it goes on and on.
If you like the Brontes, get this book, it is excellent!

Austenish Craft

I bought this heart craft at an antique store and it really reminds me of Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth from Jane Austen's "Persuasion." Wonder if the person who made it had them in mind, too.

"You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight and a half years ago. Dare not say that a man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant."
- Jane Austen, Persuasion, Ch. 23

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Master of the Moor

This came on tv a year or so ago, and I was interested in it for two reasons. 1) The Bronte-type moors and intriguing title, and 2) Colin Firth was in it. It is based on the book by Ruth Rendell.

It's a televison movie of the week type thing, (Ruth Rendell Mysteries), but if you like moors, you might be interested in it. I confess I watched it once and then recorded over it.

Here is a glimpse:

Abroad In Britain - Salisbury Cathedral

Jonathan Meades did a documentary in 1990 for BBC2 called "Abroad In Britain." In the series, he sets out to take a look at various places in Great Britain. "Further Abroad" followed in 1994, and "Even Further Abroad" in 1996. In 2005, he reprized the series with "Abroad Again In Britain," and "Abroad Again," in 2007.

Below is the 2005 visit to Salisbury Cathedral. It is presented in six parts. I've searched for DVDs of the series on Amazon, but sadly found none. If you go to UK Amazon, however, there is a DVD called, "The Jonathan Meades Collection" that has samplings from some of the series. This is a UK dvd, not playable on US only DVD players.

Jonathan Meades TV Works (from Wikipedia):

TV works
* The Victorian House (1986) Channel 4
* Abroad in Britain with Jonathan Meades (1990) BBC Two
* Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades (1994) BBC Two
* Jerry Building — Unholy Relics of the Third Reich (1994) BBC Two
* Without Walls: J'Accuse — Vegetarians (1995) Channel 4
* Even Further Abroad with Jonathan Meades (1996) BBC Two
* Heart By-Pass, Jonathan Meades in Birmingham (1998) BBC Two
* Travels with Pevsner (1998) BBC Two
* Queen Victoria died in 1901 but is alive and well today! (2001) BBC Two
* Surrealism (2001) BBC Knowledge
* Pevsner Revisited (2001) BBC Four
* Meades Eats (2003) BBC Four
* Abroad Again in Britain (2005) BBC Four
* Joe Building: The Stalin Memorial Lecture (2006) BBC Four
* Abroad Again (2007) BBC Two
* Jonathan Meades: Magnetic North (2008) BBC Four
* Jonathan Meades: Off Kilter (2009) BBC Four

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Path To Moors

The Bronte Family Website has some great pictures of the moors, the parsonage, and such. Click the link above for more pictures. Here is one of my favorites that shows the path to the moors from the parsonage. (photo courtesy of Dr. Susan Oldrieve)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Branwell Bronte

One of my favorite paintings is this portrait of the Bronte sisters, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte, who sat for their brother, Branwell, who was aspiring to be an artist. Not for the beauty or scale of it, but because of my fascination and admiration for the Bronte family themselves.
If you look closely, you will see the remnants of a fourth person in the painting, who was subsequently rubbed out. Branwell had put himself beside his sisters during the process, only to finally take his likeness out altogether. Perhaps a self-statement from a brilliant brother with three equaly brilliant sisters who overshadowed him?
All four siblings have become famous since their deaths, Branwell because of his life choices, more than anything else.

I was glad to have discovered this book about Branwell. A review of the book is posted below.

Brother Unkept
by K.M. Ferebee
Douglas Martin, Branwell: A Novel of the Brontë Brother (Soft Skull Press, 2006)

An understandable mystique surrounds the Brontë household. From the small parsonage of this close-knit family, nestled on the windswept moors, would come three of the nineteenth century’s most acclaimed novelists: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë. Their books made the name Brontë synonymous with a certain kind of passionate isolation, and even the titles (Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights) evoke a dark and powerful landscape tense with desires denied. The aura of mystery created by these women’s short lives and tragic deaths is amplified by their bond as siblings. Yet another sibling shared that bond as well: Patrick Branwell Brontë, who failed as spectacularly as his three sisters succeeded, and who in 1848 would die of consumption after a long and shattering decline into alcohol and opium abuse. In Branwell, his luminous, cameo-like new novel, Douglas Martin (Outline of My Lover) pays homage to this unlikely subject, creating a moving and evocative portrait of a boy doomed to enter history as a sad footnote to his sisters’ lives.

There are dangers in writing historical fiction of finding details more interesting than characters, of surrendering to the inevitability of what has already happened and in doing so forfeiting the element of suspense. Fortunately, these are dangers that Martin avoids. Branwell is not a novel about a particular time, or place, or set of circumstances; it confines itself almost claustrophobically to the emotional details of one life and in doing so creates a world that is both intensely personal and remarkably transcendent. The nineteenth century Yorkshire depicted here feels as close and immediate as the present day. There is nothing exotic in the people or locales depicted, and Branwell’s gradual downfall is achingly familiar and emotionally real. At the same time, the prose here is so finely wrought that the novel has an otherworldly feel. Rather than commit to a straightforward narrative, Martin communicates Branwell’s story in brief anecdotes that are as blurred and fragile as dreams. These anecdotes traverse the fantastic worlds of the Brontë children and the cruel disappointments of adult life in equal measure, and without distinction. The effect thus produced is profoundly beautiful.

This kaleidoscopic structure does not, however, lend itself very easily to straightforward storytelling, and the one area in which Martin seems to falter is in conveying the less-than-poetic stuff of everyday history. Little actual information manages to break through the novel’s vague, poetic fugue. Events and personages come and go without explanation, and a reader who does not understand the unelaborated references to the Brontë sisters’ various literary attempts, to their journeys and infatuations and failures, might find the novel overly cryptic. Likewise, no clear map (temporal or otherwise) is provided upon which to chart Branwell’s hazy, impressionistically described wanderings. What seems to be the novel’s most central episode, in which Branwell is dismissed from his post as tutor to a boy with whom he has possibly fallen in love, is also its murkiest: allusions, euphemisms, and fantasies combine in a way that is lovely and sinister, yet also totally baffling. It could be argued that this mysteriousness has its merits, contributing as it does to an overall atmosphere of darkness and uncertainty, but at times one wishes for a little less lyricism and a little more clarity.

Yet ultimately, such criticisms are futile. Branwell is not a history, relating an objective chain of events, nor in any sense a biography, attempting to shed light on its subject. Instead, it invites the reader to join Douglas Martin in his dream of Branwell Brontë—a dream so enchantingly and hypnotically rendered that the invitation is a pleasure to accept.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Man From Snowy River - Poem

The Man From Snowy River

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses - he was worth a thousand pound,
So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up -
He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand -
He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast;
He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony - three parts thoroughbred at least -
And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry - just the sort that won't say die -
There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his quick and fiery eye,
And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
And the old man said, "That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop - lad, you'd better stop away,
These hills are far too rough for such as you."
So he waited, sad and wistful - only Clancy stood his friend -
"I think we ought to let him come," he said;
"I warrant he'll be with us when he's wanted at the end,
For both his horse and he are mountain bred.

"He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko's side,
Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough;
Where a horse's hooves strike firelight from the flintstones every stride,
The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy river riders on the mountains make their home,
Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen."

So he went: they found the horses by the big mimosa clump,
They raced away towards the mountain's brow,
And the old man gave his orders, "Boys, go at them from the jump,
No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
Ride boldly lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
If once they gain the shelter of those hills."

So Clancy rode to wheel them - he was racing on the wing
Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them and he made the ranges ring
With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black,
Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
NO man can hold them down the other side."

When they reached the mountain's summit, even Clancy took a pull -
It well might make the boldest hold their breath;
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint-stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat -
It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringybarks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound
At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the farther hill,
And the watchers on the mountain, standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely; he was right among them still,
As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
In the ranges - but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam;
He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted, cowed and beaten; then he turned their heads for home,
And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reed-beds sweep and sway
To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The Man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.

- A.B. "Banjo" Paterson

The Man Who Cried & Catherine Cookson

(Ciaran Hinds in "The Man Who Cried")

In the late 1990's, I went through a Catherine Cookson phase and rented all of the vhs tapes of the movies based on her books, from my local library.

I have two favorites from the movies -- "The Moth", (starring Justine Waddell), and "The Man Who Cried," (with Ciaran Hinds), who is one of my favorite British actors.

I've never read any of her nearly 100 novels, most of which are listed below, but her body of work is interesting and versatile, at least that is what I gather from the settings and stories of the movies. Cookson was also a "quiet philanthropist" sharing the wealth she acquired with those in need, which is quite nice.

Here is a sampling of her book titles, (from Wikipedia):
* The Fifteen Streets (1952)
* Colour Blind (1953)
* Maggie Rowan (1954)
* Rooney (1957)
* The Menagerie (1958)
* Fanny McBride (1959)
* Fenwick Houses (1960)
* The Garment (1962)
* The Blind Miller (1963)
* The Wingless Bird (1964)
* Hannah Massey (1964)
* The Long Corridor (1965)
* The Unbaited Trap (1966)
* Slinky Jane (1967)
* Katie Mulholland (1967)
* The Round Tower (1968)
* The Husband (1969)
* The Nice Bloke (1969)
* The Glass Virgin (1969)
* The Invitation (1970)
* The Dwelling Place (1971)
* Feathers in the Fire (1971)
* Pure as the Lily (1972)
* The Invisible Cord (1975)
* The Gambling Man (1975)
* The Tide of Life (1976)
* The Girl (1977)
* The Cinder Path (1978)
* The Man Who Cried (1979)
* The Whip (1983)
* The Black Velvet Gown (1984)
* A Dinner of Herbs (1985)
* The Bannaman Legacy (1985)
* The Moth (1986)
* The Parson's Daughter (1987)
* The Harrogate Secret (1988)
* The Cultured Handmaiden (1988)
* The Black Candle (1989)
* The Gillyvors (1990)
* My Beloved Son (1991)
* The Rag Nymph (1991)
* The House of Women (1992)
* The Maltese Angel (1992)
* The Golden Straw (1993)
* The Forester Girl (1993)
* The Year of the Virgins (1993)
* The Tinker's Girl (1995)
* Justice Is a Woman (1995)
* The Bonny Dawn (1996)
* The Branded Man (1996)
* The Obsession (1997)
* The Upstart (1998)
* The Blind Years (1998)
* Riley (1998)
* Solace of Sin (1998)
* The Desert Crop (1999)
* The Thursday Friend (1999)
* My Land of the North (1999)
* Desert Crop (1999)
* A House Divided (2000)
* Rosie of the River (2000)
* Silent Lady (2002)

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Back Home

This movie stars Hayley Mills and Hayley Carr from 1990.

Rusty, a British girl, is sent away from home to stay with friends in America, during WW2. She returns Americanized after the war and struggles to adjust to her new life with the family and boarding school.

Back Home is based on the book by Michelle Magorian.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Charles Dickens England

I was quite excited when I discovered this documentary, (which aired this summer in the UK), about Charles Dickens, a few weeks ago. My excitement diminished a little when I read some of the reviews that said it is a horrible documentary. So be it, but I am still going to watch it when I finally get my hands on a DVD copy.

"The DVD is available in PAL for all of Europe/ Australia/ New Zealand
And in NTSC for North America/ Japan
All the DVD’s are Region 0"
(official site)
Go to the official website for more information here.

Chasing Churchill

This program about Winston Churchill, someone I highly admire, re-airs on some PBS stations, (first episode tonight). It is available on DVD, too.
Here is a website about the cabinet war rooms, fascinating for history lovers. And if you're really interested, go here to buy the History Channel's video about the cabinet war rooms.

Here is the writeup for "Chasing Churchill" from PBS:

"Chasing Churchill: In Search of My Grandfather

Winston Churchill's public life was a remarkable journey. Starting as a Second Lieutenant in the Army, he rose through the political world to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and lead Britain to victory against the Axis powers. But Churchill's life involved another, much more private journey. It was a journey in search of himself. The three-part series examines Churchill's quest for his inner self. Hosted by his granddaughter Celia Sandys, the program follows Churchill's footsteps to re-live his dreams, understand his anxieties and examine his inner-most thoughts."