The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman

georgian gentlemanI love the accidental meeting of a reader (yours truly) and a book. Most of the time I find a title I want to read from the usual sources, a book review, a friend’s recommendation, maybe a bookstore display, but every once in a while I find a great book from a more circuitous route, ‘The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman, the Life and Times of Richard Hall 1729-1801′, is that book.

One day I was doing an internet search for blogs about London and I stumbled upon The London Historians’ blog. If you enjoy history and London in particular you must check it out. In their right hand margin, they have a list of links to other history blogs, and one of them really struck my fancy, Georgian Gentleman.

The author of the blog and the book, Mike Rendell, inherited a treasure trove of papers, diaries and journals belonging to his ancestor Richard Hall, a hosiery merchant and farmer living during Great Britain’s Georgian era. I don’t know which was more fortuitous, the fact that Richard Hall wrote down numerous lists and notes on topics as varied as household inventories and prices, to recipes and the weather or that these papers were preserved by  generations of his descendants. Truly incredible!

After enjoying Rendell’s posts I decided that I would really love to read the book that inspired the blog. Lucky for me he was traveling to the US and offered to bring some books with him and mail them to any American readers who wanted to purchase them. I was in on that offer and bought myself one for Christmas! I used my limited self-control and managed not to begin reading it until Christmas day, but it was hard not to pounce on it.

In the wrong hands this correlation of scraps of notes and jottings, journals and diaries might have been dry and boring, and only of interest to other ancestors of Richard Hall, but Rendell has managed to pull all of it together and give us a fascinating and entertaining  glimpse into life in Georgian England.

I wish I hadn’t read it so quickly! I’m just glad that the Georgian Gentleman blog is updated frequently so I can keep reading and learning more about this great period of history.

I’m going to leave you with my one of my favorite passages. It’s interesting, repulsive and kind of funny all at the same time:

“One of the risks of eating undercooked pork was the risk of ingesting worms. Tape worms could spread to the brain, causing blackouts. The risk was to rich and poor alike, and so we see Richard (Hall) copying out the tale of the physician who prescribed a particular snuff to Princess Elizabeth – ‘the second day she voided a worm from the Nose, since which the complaint has totally ceased’.”

Literary Maps

Today I saw that London’s Guardian Newspaper has launched an interactive literary map of the UK on their website. It’s really pretty cool. It shows bookshops, literary events and other book related locations. That got me thinking whether there was something similar for the states, but I couldn’t really find anything like it. But I did find this fantastic map on a terrific website called The Literary Gift Company.

USA literary Map: designed by Geoff Sawers and Bridget Hannigan

Literary Locales

Today I opened an email from sending me to a link on their site where they’ve listed towns with literary names. These towns weren’t named intentionally for a famous author but coincidentally bear the same name.

This got me to thinking about places I’ve visited in my lifetime that actually did have a literary connection.

Malabar Farm

The historical home I remember visiting when I was a kid was Malabar Farm in Monroe County, Ohio just south of Mansfield. It was the home of author Louis Bromfield, a Pulitzer Prize winner, hollywood screenwriter and conservationist.

I’m sure we went for a visit because of my mother’s love for literature although I remember being much more excited to see the living room in the old farm house where Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart were married. That’s what sticks out in my mind, the black and white photo of Bogie and Bacall taken right in the same spot where I was standing. It didn’t get much cooler than that for a gawky, movie star obsessed teenager like me!

Bogie and Bacall wedding day

I’m embarrassed to admit it but I have yet to read one of Mr. Bromfield’s novels. I own at least one of them but it’s buried away on some shelf with the rest of the books filed under “one day I will read this book…promise”. Maybe when I get home I will dig it out and crack it open but I’m not holding my breath!

Charles Dickens Museum

The only other author’s residence I’ve been inside is one that Charles Dickens lived in for only two years, 1837-39.

I visited The Charles Dickens Museum way back in the 70’s when I was on a trip with a couple of college friends. I remember writing this house on our list of “must see” sights when we were in London and then being sorely disappointed when we finally managed to find it.  I recall that most of the items in the museum were not original to the home or even owned by Charles Dickens and the cost of admission was pretty steep for a couple of broke students. But as I go back and look at their current website I see that they’ve closed the museum for a major refurbishment, so maybe on my next journey across the pond I will give it another go!

Other places I’ve visited that have literary associations:

Gramercy Park in New York City ~~ associated with Edith Wharton and setting for many of my favorite novels.

–Hannibal, Missouri~~Mark Twain

–Key West, Florida~~Earnest Hemingway

One of many watering holes claiming that Papa Hemingway drank here! We made sure to honor him with a toast!

Langham Hotel London~~Oscar Wilde, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Noel Coward,
W. Somerset Maugham 

Langham Hotel

Our fancy schmancy hotel room in the Langham

–Oak Park, Illinois~~Earnest Hemingway

Washington Square Park/ Greenwich Village~~Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, Bob Dylan

Okay, the next couple of pictures might be a bit of a cheat for those that don’t consider J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter series to be literature, but I will humbly disagree and thus will conclude this post with two of my all time favorite book related visits!

Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter

jumped in the queue at King's Cross Station with lots of kiddos to take this snap! My hubby has the patience of a saint 🙂

What literary related haunts have you visited or are there any on your bucket list? I can’t be the only book nerd that loves this kind of stuff….well then again maybe I am! 🙂

Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

You’ve probably already heard that 200 years ago today Charles Dickens was born. Dickens was one of the first authors I read as a teenager so that might be why he holds a special place in my heart. Like most kids I was most familiar with A Christmas Carol in its various forms. I still think the Scrooge McDuck version is my favorite, what sacrilege!

Nicholas Nickelby took me an entire summer to read while I was in high school, Little Dorrit is still my favorite, and I’ve yet to crack open My Mutual Friend. Hey I’ve got to save something for a rainy day! But the whole Victorian atmosphere is what makes me love Dickens. It’s what I think of most when I’ve traveled to London. Even though I love other time periods of English history, it’s Dickens’ London that I think of when I wander through the streets of London. It’s probably his descriptive prose and those spectacular PBS mini-series’ that have seared that time period in my brain.

The 200th anniversary is being celebrated in a variety of ways all across the globe in 2012.  I have a done a little celebrating myself with a couple of fun purchases. I was very excited about the iPad app I found, Dickens Dark Museum,  from the Museum of London.  It’s a series of interactive, graphic novels that takes you through the darker side of Dickens’ London. Actor, Mark Strong, narrates these journeys as Charles Dickens and gives a great description of Victorian London. Very cool app!

I also splurged on a book, Dickens’s Victorian London, again put out by the Museum of London to coincide with their exhibition. It’s a terrific book, chock full of photos taken during the lifetime of Charles Dickens.  It is very cool to see photos of Newgate Prison, Gray’s Inn and Whitehall during the Victorian era. I love this book!

So maybe today, to honor Mr. Dickens, I will finally crack open my copy of Our Mutual Friend.