Tags: history

e. st v. millay

On Fiction

This season of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is just ... not working for me? I think the problem is that everyone has become way too well-adjusted - what made this show fun over the first three seasons is that just about every character was some level of mess, and Rebecca of course made terrible decisions that drove the plot. The songs were incisive and satirical, and they're still kind of satirical but definitely don't feel like they're poking as hard. I want to see everyone end up happy and well-adjusted, but like I want them to get there in the last few episodes, not just a couple of episodes into the last season.

Also, New Greg. New Greg was a BAD idea. Combining his self-improvement (which is again something one wants to see so the character can be happy, but also removes the dark, self-loathing edge that made him interesting) with a super bland-looking/sounding actor is just ... they shouldn't have brought him back! I wanted them to be together when he left in S2, but I've emotionally moved on, so just let this unmanned ship float out into the Arctic ice, okay? Nathaniel is the man now.

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I meant to write a whole bunch of Yuletide treats (since I missed the signup window), and of course I have failed. :( I have one started but I will likely not get to finish it in time. Maybe tomorrow I can really pull out all the stops and get it done? It's a really cool prompt ... at least maybe I can do it as a Madness short.

"People are going to complain about Joyce thoughtlessly!!! writing on Walky's shirt," I thought, and sure enough.

Some more answers:
When did American women begin to wear stockings and when did they switch to tights. Is there any evidence as to why?
What's the difference between an heir apparent and heir presumptive?
A bit on Jewish communities in the Catskills to round out the answers we got to a question about rich people summering
A stereotypical item of medieval women's clothing is a very tall conical hat with a wisp of gauzy cloth attached to the top. How long was this actually fashionable for?
In Lady And The Tramp, there is a line from Lady's neighbors that boils down to 'one of us has to marry her to preserve her honor' after she's been hanging around Tramp too long. Was this mindset ever widespread in the U.S. (the movie's set in 1911)?
When Isabella and Ferdinand joined the houses of Castile and Aragon, they ruled as practically equals. Was it unusual for a queen to wield such political power and influence in 15th Century Europe; and what did contemporaries write about the extent of Isabella’s power and influence over Spain?

It's been a busy week.

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e. st v. millay

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I wore my frumpy dress today and it looked pretty good! It's a bit tight in the chest (and shoulders, and upper arms - I should not have taken so much in at the shoulder seam), and it does need a petticoat because the fabric's so thin. So I cut out the pieces for one from a thrift-store sheet this evening. That's it, I did enough sewing for one day. Basically sewing. Sewing prep.

A deer's been coming back to the field behind my building, and today she has a TINY FAWN with her! They mowed most of the field, so they were sticking to the edge of the tall grass and then went in it. Someone just did a firework and she ran off across the mowed section to the woods, leaving the baby. I guess drawing off a potential predator? Come back, deer, your baby is scared. :(

I found a pin in my bra yesterday. Inside the cup, pointing up, with the tip sunk into the foam. Gave me kind of a shock to realize it had been there all day.

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e. st v. millay


I was thinking about (obsessing over) my feelings on death, life, time, history last night, and it occurred to me that probably the reason I got into history in the first place is that I started having this anxiety when I was little. Because if you think that much about how quickly time moves, it's natural to be interested in history.

The local Delhi paper or some kind of newsletter published a picture of my stepfather, his father, my step-brother, and his son, Wyatt, with the caption that Wyatt is the 9th generation of the family in that area, the first moving there in the late 18th century. Which blows my mind, because that means that if Will had had a similar picture taken when he was a newborn (in the ... mid 1920s, I think?), the great-grandfather in that would have been the original Gideon's grandson.

I don't know what I'm trying to say. I think most people tend to feel unconsciously that the past wasn't really real, that it's a setting for fiction - and when watching or reading a piece of historical fiction, that gets applied to it (so you wonder more about where they're going than about what happened to them before), which is why I always wish historical pieces would include decent flashbacks to remind the audience that it just keeps going back and back, the past always influencing the present, no matter when the present is. You know what would be interesting? A series where each progressive book was set further back in time, following the generation back. It would be an interesting exercise in characterization, for one thing; instead of naturally aging characters, you'd write them as fully-formed older adults and extrapolate what they would have been like when younger.

I realize this sounds like I'm high. It's just nightblogging - in the morning!

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e. st v. millay

Ghoulish, I say

Is it weird of me that the main thing about THG that seems to bother everyone else - that Katniss never had to choose to kill someone who didn't "deserve" it - doesn't bother me a bit? Yes, it makes things easier on her than another author could've been. But not only would that have been much darker than YA might allow for, the point of her story is that she was trying to survive rather than win, and that she has a sense of justice.

I mean, it's a game set up to kill children. Plenty of them are said to die from natural factors, sickness, starvation, etc. Annie won by treading water, not by taking out the competition. It's "unrealistic" for Katniss to have played the way she did only in the sense that ASOIAF is especially "realistic" for always having the worst thing happen. It may not be the most likely thing, but it's plausible and possible.


I'm now listening to a Yale Open University course on Early Modern England. It's perhaps even better than the Early Middle Ages one, although it might just be that I have a bit more interest and knowledge of this period. (I really wish there were a corresponding High/Late Middle Ages podcast.) I had to take a short break, though, because the discussion of Henry's reign and the Reformation led me to some great thinking re: my own writing, but I got too attached to the comparison and trying to incorporate it as time went on. I had to stop for a while and then come back with it just about history. Protip: deciding that your hero should die youngish so your heroine can be regent for their daughter and she can be a young queen like Elizabeth and do all sorts of stuff after both of your main characters are dead is sort of ghoulish.


Carrie Underwood is NOT a satisfactory Maria von Trapp. Who cast this and why? OTOH it is amusing to watch this as I still know all the lines.

But they went with the stage show's score instead of the movie, so that's very good.

Later note: she got better as it went on. I don't know why she was so awkward at first.

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e. st v. millay

WWII London Blitz Diary, vol. II

This is an excellent historical document I found on Amazon while browsing for free stuff - I should get the rest. They're the actual, extensive diaries of Ruby Side Thompson, of her life during the war, put into book form by her great-granddaughter (this volume is just 1941). I don't really understand the people who hated it in the reviews - of course it's not as gripping as a novel, it's not written with that kind of structure, or even for an audience. There are several commenters who complain about the author and "protagonist" and "diary concept" who didn't get the memo. (The reviews are interesting. I think if I hadn't been looking at the book as a record rather than complete entertainment I might have been as annoyed with her constant venting about her husband, but man, the judginess about her not leaving him, and the outrage that she dared to cry in the Blitz!)

Often what I was the most interested in was not about her life in the war, but her memories of her younger years, such as:

and our parents were contemporaries. He and I lived in the same world at the same time and I say he doesn't know what he is talking about. I say that in those days children were regarded as disasters, practically the greatest disasters that could befall a woman. I say that when fathers were unjustly angry with the mothers, and the mothers were fretful and snappy with the father, it was mainly and hugely because of the incessant child bearing and child supporting they were involved in, and had brought upon themselves. I say, most deliberately, that the knowledge of birth control has been the greatest boon to women (and to men) since time began.

It is true that when we were children large families were the rule, but it was because nobody knew how not to have large families. Nobody wanted them, I am quite sure of that. The average number of children in a family seemed to be eight, but many families had nine or ten living children, even more. My mother brought ten children to birth, of which only six of us survived infancy. Ted's mother gave birth to seventeen children, of whom only six grew to be adult, whilst of those six three died before the age of forty, and one at forty four. Of those seventeen children only two survive today, Bert and Ted. I do not know if Mrs. Thompson had any miscarriages, but I presume she did, as all the women I ever heard of had miscarriages. More often than not these were not miscarriages at all, but direct or induced abortions. They used to call them "misses", and would speak openly of them. "Oh Yes! I've had another "miss" Thank God!" or "I've had nine and five misses." Or "How many children have you? Any misses?"

If I do read the other volumes, I hope somewhere she explains what the deal was with moving to America when they were married and then they left suddenly because of Reasons and left all their grown children behind.

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There are some good dressmaking portions I need to type out.
e. st v. millay

I saw a buttload of medical crap today

I have to wonder what was wrong with all the past curators who just took in any old tat someone threw at them. SO MANY CLAMPS. SO MANY SPECULA. SO MANY FORCEPS. SO MANY SCALPELS.

I'm going to come back later with all the bookmarked quotes from Mme Campan that made me sit up and go "oh!" but for now I just have to say that

1) This is probably the best book I've ever read on the lead-up to the French Revolution. I think it's because it's more personal, and maybe because it's got a more social bent - more episodes of crazy crap that happened to Marie Antoinette to slander her, more social background on what led to various situations. Highly recommend it.

2) At some point in the past couple of years, I was reading something or other about Marie Antoinette and I had this idea for a pseudo-historical novel set in a similar situation, with the heroine as a minor lady at court who an anti-queen faction tries to use. At some other point I had an idea for a story that was more on-the-ground, so to speak, with an aristocratic heroine that got unwillingly mixed up in intrigue and had to hide out with a group of revolutionaries that want a republic but without killing lots of people. I wrote several chapters of the latter, but because the opening was so fast-paced - her getting out of prison when she's about to be poisoned - I stalled out; I couldn't think what action! would happen next. But then it occurred to me while I was eating lunch that OMG I could combine the two and have the book start at court and work its way up to revolutionary hijinks. Which would also give me time to set up the whole missing-prince-falsely-accused-of-murder bit, instead of bringing it up when she figures out who the guy is. I feel so stupid.
e. st v. millay

History stuffs

While I was looking through files about wedding dresses yesterday I came across a good number of names and dates - wedding dresses generally have good provenances, sometimes with family trees. And the ones with dates showed people of the same age at marriage, which I find interesting as there's the whole trope of young women marrying older men. Exaggerated into bad/desperate parents trying to get an 18yo girl to marry a 40yo man, but represented normally with a six or seven year difference. And I find the same similar ages (or older women) on my Ancestry tree. (Examples are birth years of couples, shown m/f.)

1928/1930. 1891/1884. 1902/1902. 1904/1903. 1875/1875. 1876/1872. 1873/1877. 1872/1873. 1848/1849. 1850/1844. 1849/1851. 1808/1808. 1797/1794. 1790/1794. 1771/1771. 1771/1773. 1786/1788. 1754/1758. 1746/1745. 1720/1722. 1715/1717. 1709/1710. 1709/1708. 1703/1703. 1696/1700. 1682/1685. 1681/1680. 1673/1673. 1668/1667. 1645/1648. 1632/1636. 1600/1580. 1600/1564.

I mean, my point's not that everything is a lie!!! because there are plenty of examples of five-to-ten year age differences, and even a handful of "whoa, seriously, he was HOW MUCH older than her?" (1845/1863, 1824/1845, 1617/1636.) It probably does average out to the stereotypical 6-7 year age difference. What I'm saying is, it's worth a thought. ETA: I'm also noting how old many of the women were when they died - I'm not noticing many deaths in childbirth. I mean, my grandmother is 82 this year. Her mother lived to be 93. Going back maternally, the ages run: unknown, 84, 80, 64. (The next one has no given death date and I can't find her parents.) The ages do tend to go down as you go further back in time, but there are still plenty living into their 70s and 80s in the 18th and 17th centuries. (Supposedly even a 119yo - Elizabeth Tyrer, 1571-1690 - but who knows if the death record is right.) I'm not sure what to make of it, but I think "if you survived your first child you were likely to survive the others as well" is probably a good rule of thumb.

Completely unrelated, but I've had a strange fascination with early 20th century burlesque for the past few weeks, probably since I caught the 1960s Gypsy at Melissa's. I think I find it interesting because it was so much more like vaudeville than modern strip clubs. Right now I'm watching Lady of Burlesque and it seems like quite a good look at what they were like and what sort of acts were common/popular (though I do wonder how much was cleaned up for the film). Some of the comics' things seem to have influenced cartoons as well.
e. st v. millay

Shakespeare's Sister

I find this article on the exhibition Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700 very interesting. Partially because it sounds like an interesting exhibition, but also because of what they seem to have found. The title comes from A Room of One's Own, of course, where Virginia Woolf speculated that women must have been exceptionally oppressed and pushed aside if they had dared to try to be writers - but the exhibition shows that there were many female writers who had been popular in their own time but were later forgotten.
Far from being shunned, deprived and dismissed, these are women whose learning and ambition were nurtured by families, who established networks of friendships and taste, and who eventually influenced religious and cultural life as public figures.
And what may be more surprising for generations who have lived with Woolf’s vision of Judith Shakespeare and her contemporaries: there is almost no evidence of oppression, none of stifled talents, little sign of beings “so thwarted and hindered” that they contemplate suicide. Only immensely talented women, writing.

Not to stomp on Virginia Woolf, I suspect that she was under the spell of Victorian idea of progress - that things always improve over time. It runs through a lot of twentieth century feminism, in that since women's rights did improve in pretty much a straight line through the century, it's assumed that the line can be continued backwards in time, that the same oppressions existed in the past and were pushed more strongly. Historians like my ladycrush Laurel Ulrich Thatcher have done a lot to show that the world is more complicated than that, and I hope that they continue to do so.
e. st v. millay

blogger blog

I haven't posted any links to my other blog lately. I think I get worried that nobody cares so I don't want to post them too often or something?

Anyway, under the pretext of trying to determine the exact places of wool and linen in the fabric (ho ho) of society for my thesis, I put up posts on both of them, each containing a chronological list of quotes from eighteenth century sources that refer to linen or wool stuff (that's a thing, "wool stuff"). I need to do silk, cotton, and muslin, and try to find some references to finer wool, like glazed or brocaded or something.

The post I just put up this evening is a ridiculously long one on Elizabeth Canning, who came up in the wool stuff post and a print of whom I noticed on the wall in a painting. Writing up an essay on her seemed like a really good idea at the time but man I'm super tired now. Tl;dr version: she claimed to have been abducted but it turned out that the people she accused had nothing to do with it and she was convicted and transported for perjury, and nobody knows what actually happened to her.