A Latter-day Bluestocking

For the love of reading

Category: History

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition by Paul Watson

Paul Watson has given us a page turner of a tale!

Ice Ghosts: The Epic Hunt for the Lost Franklin Expedition begins with the preparations and 1845 departure of the Franklin Expedition to the Arctic in its quest to find the Northern Passage.  The author paints a vivid portrait of the type of men who embarked upon a journey of daring and discovery hoping to return  to a triumphant hero’s welcome.  The expedition had the blessing of the Queen and was enthusiastically followed by the British public but by 1848 it was clear that HMS Erebus and HMS Terror had run into trouble as they had disappeared without a trace.  129 men perished in one of the greatest naval mysteries of all time. Ice Ghosts

For more than 160 years, numerous missions were sent to find evidence of survivors or ascertain what had happened to the two ships and the men aboard.  Lady Franklin, Sir John Franklin’s widow, skirted around madness and nearly bankrupted herself in her single-minded crusade to find out what happened to her husband.  It was nearly a decade before she even acknowledged he was dead.  And for over a century it continued to be an obsession to find the two wrecks.

The story is frustrating not in its telling but because of the arrogance and overconfidence of the white men.  The poor response by the Admiralty, the condescending and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the expertise of the Inuit who had been surviving in those unforgiving conditions for centuries, and the conceit and sole reliance on modern technology of 20th century explorers.

And then the story becomes even more interesting.  Soon after the disappearance of the expedition the Inuit began telling stories of mysterious ships that would appear on the horizon, contact with men crossing the ice with makeshift sleds, of groups of men (and a dog) living on a ship, and burial sites.   It is a fact, that the Inuit have known of the fate of the doomed Franklin Expedition for over a century. And yet no explorer took any of the stories, so important to the oral tradition of the indigenous peoples living above the Arctic Circle, seriously; they were dismissed as the superstitious yarns of a primitive race.  The real hero of this story, in my opinion, is Louie Kamookak, the man who connected the Inuit oral history to the known facts of the Franklin expedition.  Check out his website https://www.louiekamookak.com/.  He tenaciously continues to document the oral histories and Inuit place names so they will not be lost!  (Follow his blog and social media; he’s amazing!)

It wasn’t until the 21st century that explorers, scientists, marine archaeologists, and Inuit historians, and others began to combine their efforts leading to the eventual discovery of HMS Erebus and HMS Terror.

Watson gives vivid descriptions of the extreme cold, hostile, and isolated environment of the far north with its unceasing whiteness and where the atmosphere can play tricks on a person’s senses.  He depicts the lure of overcoming odds and the testing of endurance that mankind has sought in this unforgiving environment.  This is a story that weaves all the nuances of past and present together and brings closer the divide between disparate groups of people to tell a heroic tale of sacrifice, boldness, and persistence.

Remembrance of 9/11

WorldTradeCenterLookingUpAlthough it has been 14 years since the events of 9/11 the feelings of fear and horror are still there, beneath the surface. It doesn’t take much to set me crying about the lives needlessly lost that day, the heroic efforts of our first responders, the destruction, and those who continue to be impacted by that tragic day.  As a New Yorker I was determined to bounce back, to carry on without fear despite having lost my compass bearing.  In the days and weeks after those iconic buildings fell there was a feeling of loss and confusion, the posters and pictures of the missing contradicting the beautiful sunny and crisp fall weather we experienced that year, the blank spot where those buildings stood was a constant reminder that life was not normal for a lot of people.

I was lucky, I did not have a loved one downtown that day, Edward and I were not on the 4 and 5 train under lower Manhattan at the time the planes hit, my Mother was not on one of the planes although she was flying that day.  A colleague called to tell us of the first plane hitting the North Tower, someone had a radio in the office and we heard the tragedy play out.  I still get goose pimples remembering the shock in the voice of the reporter as she screamed that the South Tower was falling.  After the North Tower collapsed the Museum was evacuated.  Before we left the building we already knew of the plane that slammed into the Pentagon and the one that had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

I did not panic but I was terrified.  All I knew was that I had to pick up my 9 month old son from daycare and walk 9 miles home to Brooklyn.  A walk taken trying to avoid seeing the large plume of smoke and debris emanating from downtown, trying to ignore the ominous lack of triage whenever we passed a hospital, making the concerted decision to skirt around large landmarks such as the United Nations, and always with one eye on the sky.  You see, we did not know if it was over    I know I say this every year but I will be forever grateful for my colleagues Fred Caruso and Ted Hunter who walked with me to Brooklyn and selflessly stayed with a scared new mother when I had to stop to breastfeed my baby.  It was this, and perhaps, beautifully innocent Edward, oblivious to the horror all around him, who kept me going.

Life has gone on, the city has re-built on the site of devastation, the daily fear is largely forgotten, and Edward is now 14 without recollection of the day, but memory is long.

My Christmas Wish List 2013

fezziwig-all-night-raveDear Santa,

I’ve been very good this year. Especially when it comes to reading, I’ve been reading voraciously all year. And I’ve been especially good because I have tried very hard to save my pennies by borrowing from the library as well as from family and friends rather than buying the books.

So all I want for Christmas this year are the following titles:

Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince by Jane Ridley

Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset

Servants: A Downstairs History of Britain from the Nineteenth-Century to Modern Times by Lucy Lethbridge

A History of Britain in Thirty-six Postage Stamps by Chris West

Reprobates: The Cavaliers of the English Civil War by John Stubbs

Thanks for considering my list.

Love,

A Latter-day Bluestocking

PS. Cookies and milk will be left on the table as always. As well as carrots for the reindeer.

 

Wherein I ponder Saint Crispin’s Day, the Battle of Agincourt, Henry V, and Tom Hiddleston

Agincourt

Upon Saint Crispin’s Day
Fought was this noble fray
Which fame did not relay
To England to carry.
O when shall English men
With such acts fill a pen?
Or England breed again
Such a King Harry?

hollowcrownSometimes my passions for history and literature feed one another and ultimately leads to obsession.  This is the predicament I find myself in now.  It all started with the PBS airing of The Hollow Crown, the three Shakespearian history plays of Richard II; Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2; and Henry V.  These BBC produced productions have all that one has come to expect from British history/costume drama:  spectacular scenery, lavish costumes, and superb acting.  This production has the latter in spades with a cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Ben Whishaw, Simon Russell Beale, Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart, and Tom Hiddleston to name a few.  But Tom Hiddleston who plays Prince Hal/Henry V is the one responsible for my current fascination with the Lancasters and their usurpation of the Plantagenet throne, the re-launching of the Hundreds Years’ War with France, and the eventual overthrow of this dynasty by the House of York which would lead to the War of the Roses, a tumultuous period that would only come to an end with the accession of the Tudors in 1485.

But let’s get back to Tom Hiddleston for a moment.  This man who has acting talent to match his wonderful aristocratic good looks was able to move me to laughter and then to tears in this version of the plays.  He lifted my spirit and made me feel I would do my all for King and country.  He truly encapsulated the character of Prince Hal/Henry V.  the-hollow-crown-bbc-henry-vHis portrayal of the rapscallion Prince of Wales who hangs out with miscreants and purposefully antagonizes his father is nonetheless charming and fun and sexy but upon the death of his father, Henry IV, leaves his wayward conduct behind him to become one of English history’s greatest warrior kings and the one who, had he not died at the age of 32, would have returned most of France to English dominion.  His Henry V is a man with the common touch and an excellent commander and tactician who can rally his men, high and low, to his cause.  But, of course, the history plays are not true history and Shakespeare takes artistic license where it suits him in his need to honor the Tudor monarchs who were his patrons.

So even as I sat fantasizing about Tom/Henry going once more unto the breach at Harfleur and rousing his men with the “band of brothers/St. Crispin’s Day” speech at the Battle of Agincourt I began to consider the real history.  And so, I began to read about this fascinating man and king.  I work in a place that has a terrific library at my disposal so I began with Rosemary Hawley Jarman’s short and straightforward Crispin’s Day:  The Glory of AgincourtCrispinsDayI finished it in two days and it left me thirsty for more.  I had read years ago The Hollow Crown: A History of Britain in the Late Middle Ages by Miri Rubin which chronicles the undeniably extraordinary thehollowcrownbookand brutal period in British history.  Set amongst the backdrop of the Black Death, The Peasants Revolt, the Battle of Agincourt, and the Wars of the Roses were the reigns of exceptional kings, from Edward I to Richard III.  It was a time of great turmoil, brutality, as well as great artistic achievements.  During this latest obsession I found myself going back to this book again and again.

Henry V

Henry V

I knew that Henry V believed his conquest of France was virtuous by divine right but also discovered that he was also opportunistic.  He exploited the divisions of the French and used diplomacy to make sure France’s  usual allies stayed away.  The French believed they would win.  They can be excused for such presumptuous feelings for on the morning of October 25, 1415 they outnumbered the English by 4 to 1 (although some historians say 6 to 1), they were healthy, well-fed, and positioned upon their own turf were a majority of France’s great military commanders and royal nobility.  In extreme contrast the English army were far from home, exhausted, malnourished, and sick, many still feeling the effects of the dysentery that had killed more men than any actual battle had.  Some of the men were barely clothed.  A mere four hours later after the battle’s start the field was strewn with the dead, the majority being French with almost all of their nobility wiped out.

Agincourt bookIt is fascinating stuff and I have several other titles in my reading queue because once the preoccupation grabs me it has to be sustained to the end.  So I have borrowed from my public library, Agincourt:  Henry V and the Battle that Made England by Juliet Barker (she of the tome-licious The Brontes), History of the Battle of Agincourt, and the expedition of Henry the Fifth into France, to which is added the roll of men at arms, in the English army published in 1832 by Sir Nicholas Harris and An historical account of the reign of Henry the  Fifth, intended as a companion to the great historical picture of the memorable battle of Agincourt painted by Robert Ker Porter, Esq. now exhibiting at the Lyceum, Strand published in 1805.

And because I like to share my passions I have suggested to my book club the historical novel, Good King Harry by Denise Giardina.  It is a story told as an autobiography with the great man himself describing his tumultuous youth, difficult relationship with his father, his victory at Agincourt, hopes for his own son, and eventual death from dysentery on the battle fields of France in 1422.  Hopefully it is a good read but we’ll see.  I suspect that I will have to follow-up with Bernard Cornwell’s treatment of this particular episode in history.  That guy does his research!!

Tom HIddleston as Henry V

Tom Hiddleston as Henry V

On this Saint Crispin’s Day, I would personally like to thank Tom Hiddleston for his brilliant performance which inspired me to read up on the real history and learn about the real man who was Henry V.

The Regal Rules for Girls by Jerramy Fine

regal rulesI picked up The Regal Rules for Girls:  How to Find Love, a Life – and maybe even a Lord – in London by Jerramy Fine because I figured it would be a fun book, especially since as a young girl I had fantasies of being whisked off to Balmoral by the Prince of my dreams and even kept pictures of eligible royal bachelors scotch-taped to my bedroom wall:  Prince Andrew and Prince Edward of the UK and Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.  Yes, I always wanted to be a Princess and truth be told I still do despite the fact that I now know that the fairytale is an illusion and more bother (perhaps) than it’s worth.  There’s more to being a Royal than fabulous hats, tiaras, and riding horses.

The cover is cheesy to say the least but includes some amusing tips.  Ms. Fine explains how to begin making your dream of meeting the royals and the aristocracy come true.  Rule number 1 you need to go to the UK, specifically London, to hang where you are most likely to rub elbows with the Castle Crew.  Rule number 2 one must learn their manners and the rules of etiquette.  Manners is something which unfortunately gets short-shrift in the US but is absolutely essential in the UK.  It goes on about what to do if one is introduced to the Queen, how to dress, how to RSVP to a wedding invitation (hand-written please), where it is appropriate to wear hats, to avoid anything other than the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, and the ins and outs of the British Season.  Most importantly:  Do not fake a British accent!

She advises American girls who want to nab an Englishman, royal or not, that it is good to brush up on one’s history.  It’s probably a good idea to know that Queen Victoria is Prince Harry’s great-great-great-grandmother if you plan on walking down the aisle at Westminster Abbey.  I think that if you don’t even know this commonplace detail you are not worth your Wellies.  I found myself giggling over this book and how it brought back memories of all my lovely fantasies of becoming royal.  I was amused right up until she answers the question, “Why are Roman Catholics excluded from the line of succession?” I nearly lost it!  This book states that this exclusion dates to the time of Henry VIII’s failed attempts to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and his eventual establishment of the Church of England when the Pope would not grant what he wanted.  This is not true; not by a long-shot.  Henry VIII’s daughter Mary Tudor  reigned after the death of her brother Edward VI and was a Catholic.  She was nicknamed “Bloody Mary” for her penchant of persecuting Protestants.  Catholics were not formally excluded from the succession until the passing of the Act of Settlement in 1701.  Thanks, James II (look it up, it’s riveting history).  Up until that time it was preferred that no Catholic ascend the throne but they were not officially excluded.  She adds further insult to injury by suggesting that one read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory to gain more insight into Henry’s break from Rome.  Really, she actually suggests that an American girl read an historical fiction that takes severe liberties with “actual” events to learn about royal history?  This is ghastly advice!  We, Americans already have a bad rap when it comes to historical knowledge and this recommendation of the well-meaning author is too much to be borne.

Listen, young ladies, I am not professing that one stop dreaming of becoming a royal, it is fun to fantasize (I, myself, still have delusions of grandeur) but if you want to become knowledgeable about British and royal history pick up a history book.  The real stuff is so much more interesting than the fiction.  And even if you don’t bag a Prince you’ll be amazed at how impressed Englishmen can be when a cute American girl is informed about English history.  I recommend reading a biography of Henry VIII while practicing your curtsy.  Ms. Fine insists that you keep your heels, head, and standards high.  I agree but those high standards should also be directed to the books you use to gain knowledge.  Trust me, even if Prince Harry is not impressed by your knowledge of his family history you can bet your future father-in-law and Harry’s grandmother will be.standards high

Fallen Women of the Regency: Mistresses, Courtesans, and Prostitutes

A Harlot’s Progress: The Harlot Deceiving Her Jewish Protector by William Hogarth, 1732

“I could not trace her beyond her first seducer, and there was every reason to fear that she had removed from him only to sink deeper in a life of sin.” (Sense and Sensibility, ch. 31)

As a writer, Jane Austen does not shy away from the topic of sexual indiscretion and its consequences for women.  Three of her six published novels, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, and Mansfield Park, tell of the risks that befall females who step outside the bounds of social propriety.  Whether they pursued, without thought of consequence, the rousing attentions of men or were unsuspecting impressionable victims of exploitative rakes, a woman’s position was precarious, their sexual purity a commodity in the marriage market, and any stain upon that reputation devastating in its ramifications on inheritance, status, and prospects.  Regency society pardoned and even tacitly condoned licentious behavior in men yet censured “fallen” women, labeling them mistresses, courtesans, and prostitutes.

Colonel Brandon’s description of the tragic story of Eliza Williams in Sense and Sensibility suggests a realm not usually associated with Jane Austen.  A study of Austen’s novels and letters, biographies of courtesans and mistresses of the period, as well as contemporary documents it is possible to illuminate a world that exists upon the periphery of Austen’s writing.  In an era when women had no social authority or control and were susceptible to the power of the men around them, the women of the Regency demi-monde ranged from poverty-stricken to very powerful. Accruing wealth, running their own households, obtaining the trappings of society without ever gaining access to “polite” society, those women at the fortunate end of the spectrum dominated the realm of the “half world” and, despite their scandalous existences, became arbiters of style and fashion.

On October 5, at the 2012 AGM of the Jane Austen Society of North America, I will present my research which investigates the position of mistresses, courtesans, and prostitutes of the Regency.  Any one of Jane Austen’s heroines could have ended up in a career of vice had they succumbed to sexual recklessness.  The unthinking, like Lydia (had Mr. Darcy not intervened) might have ended up a darling of Covent Garden with an entry in Harris’s List .  Others, like Elizabeth, may have used their charms to gain the adoration of powerful men, playing them against one another to gain wealth, power and control.  It is this parallel world to Jane Austen’s well-mannered drawing rooms, existing yet hidden, a very real possibility for any woman, that will form the basis of my lecture.

Knights of the Sea

In the midst of my beach reading I opted for something more serious, a history book.  Knights of the Sea:  The True Story of the Boxer and the Enterprise and the War of 1812 stands out amongst history books in that it was a page-turner.  David Hanna has the gift for making history come alive, there is not a dull moment throughout the narrative.  The War of 1812 is not a greatly understood war, aside from certain high points like the British burning Washington, the USS Constitution’s defeat of the HMS Guerriere, and the Battle of New Orleans I did not know too much about “Mr. Madison’s War.”  This book clearly states the reasons for the war (impressment of American sailors and expansion of American territory) while focusing on two captains of the American and Royal Navies and how their destinies came together in one sea battle fought off the coast of Maine and the brotherhood and genuine respect of sea-going men.   It was a war that the fledgling United States had no business declaring and that Britain, amidst their war with France, underestimated.

Highly enjoyable book from which I gained much knowledge.  It reads like fiction and presents history as powerful and vibrant.

Killing Time…in a bookstore

I found myself with a couple of hours to kill before picking my son up from Chess Team, and not enough time to go home, so I decided to haunt my local (Park Slope, Brooklyn) Barnes and Noble.  This can be a very dangerous thing to do but with no spare cash I decided it would be harmless to peruse the books and snap them on my mobile phone; an easy illustrated want list.

1) I love to eat; therefore I love to cook.  So how can I resist The Great American Cookbook?  It has regional recipes from all 50 states and a must have even if it includes a recipe for “Long Island” Clam Chowder.*

*Most New Englanders (myself included) refuse to believe there is any such thing; to add tomatoes is unholy.  There is only one kind of “chowdah” and the sobriquet “New England Clam Chowder” is superfluous.

2) Since its publication I’ve been dying to read this tome,  The Autobiography of Mark Twain:  Volume 1.   He is the quintessential American humorist and this book demands to be read despite its daunting size.

Now I’ve moved to the History shelves…

3 & 4) 2012 is the Bicentennial of the War of 1812, so both, Mr. and Mrs, Madison’s War:  America’s First Couple and the Second War of Independence and Knights of the Sea:  The True Story of The Boxer and The Enterprise and the War of 1812 are probably necessary reading (at least for me and one other person, Dad).  The War of 1812 is usually glossed over in history classes and needs to be re-examined.  My understanding of this war is weak but it seems to me that this war ended in a stalemate because both the US and Britain were not fully prepared for this conflict; the US being a fledgling nation and Britain’s preoccupation by the shadow of Napoleon’s greater threat to the British Isles.

5, 6, & 7) Of course, this led me right to the section of English history.  Explorers of the Nile:  The Triumph and Tragedy of a Great Victorian Adventure intrigues me because of the very “English” ideal of exploration and empire.  The romance of Mr. Henry Morton Stanley finding Dr. David Livingstone in their quest to discover the source of the Nile is still potent and one defined by folly, courage, heroism, and endurance.  Ghosts of Empire:  Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World shows the rise and fall of Britain’s once mighty empire and how its policies and its inconsistencies shaped the problems of the modern world from Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Hong Kong (to name a few).  And combining American and British history, Tories:  Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War.  This is particularly interesting to me because as a child touring all those [American] historical places (Philadelphia, Williamsburg, Boston) I was intrigued by the loyalists and always felt an affinity for them, so much so that Dad believed I would have been tarred and feathered.

8) Partially because of my Downton Abbey obsession, The Beauty and the Sorrow:  An Intimate History of the First World War.

9) My son’s dentist has been trying to get me to read this for years so I’ve added it to the list:  A Thousand Splendid Suns by the author of the Kite Runner.

10) Any book by Isabel Allende is a treat and a joy to read so Island Beneath the Sea is included.

11 & 12) And full circle back to food again because one cannot live on books alone:  Feeding the Dragon:  A Travelogue Through China with Recipes (I am half Chinese and love Chinese cuisine) and The Vegetable Dishes I Can’t Live Without by Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood fame) because how does one cook fennel and braising greens?  A dilemma I’ve brought home because of the vegetables acquired from my farm share.  Although, disappointingly, does not discuss kohlrabi.

I must have realized time was up...time to go.

Five-Fold Happiness

恭喜发财!  Gong Xi Fa Cai! Wishing You Prosperity in the New Year!

It is the Chinese Lunar New Year and I would like to share with you two books that have proved very helpful to me in understanding the Chinese part of my culture and will help celebrate this most auspicious of holidays.

Five-Fold Happiness: Chinese Concepts of Luck, Prosperity, Longevity, Happiness, and Wealth by Vivien Sung and Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, & The Children’s Museum, Boston

The celebration of the Chinese New year is marked by parades, firecrackers, and dragon and lion dances but the underlying traditions and rituals have a far more profound meaning. The holiday takes place in the first lunar month, generally falling between January 19 and February 23. It begins on the new moon and ends 15 days later with the full moon. Traditionally known as the Spring Festival, it is celebrated annually by billions of Chinese.

It is a time of throwing out the old and welcoming the new and the days leading up to the holiday are busy.

Wishing you Luck, Prosperity, Longevity, Happiness, and Wealth!

Downton Abbey Inspired Reading

Downton Abbey

Image via Wikipedia

Today the New York Times published the article, If You’re Mad for ‘Downton,’ Publishers Have Reading List which describes the phenomena of “Downton Fever” and how booksellers and publishers hope to cash in with Downton-related books convinced that viewers of the program are likely to be great book readers as well.

I am one of those mad people who when I become obsessed with something I tend to run out and devour every book I can lay my hands on, whether it be history, fiction, or pictorial.  I enjoy reading the contemporary authors of the time.  The period covered in Downton Abbey is an especially fruitful period in English literature with such authors as Arthur Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, Ford Madox Ford, James Barrie, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, E.M. Forster, Kenneth Grahame, and A.A. Milne leading the pack.

But the books I really love to read are the books on the history of a certain period.  I religiously buy or borrow books to enhance my experience of a work of fiction or film or to learn more.  For example my shelves are filled with books on the Regency because of my love of Jane Austen and I read any book that crosses my path on Tudor history because of my admiration for Elizabeth I.  Downton Abbey has had a similar effect with one small twist; I already own many books about the period.  Of course, I can always use more and I have recently placed on my “to-get” list:  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey:  The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the Dutchess of Carnarvon, Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate, Parade’s Endby Ford Madox Ford, and The Great Silence:  Britain From the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age by Juliet Nicolson.

Inspired by the article in the Times I thought it would be fun to share some of the books from my personal library that I think will bring enjoyment and understanding of the society, politics, and history of the period inhabited by the characters of Downton Abbey.

The Proud Tower and The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman are two tome-like volumes which wonderfully describe the world during the years 1890–1914 and the years during World War I.  They are highly readable despite their daunting size and I recommend them highly.

The Perfect Summer by Juliet Nicolson is a well-written history of the English summer of 1911 before the world changed forever with the advent of World War I.

The Decline and Fall of the British Empire 1781–1997 by Piers Brendon a book which describes how after the loss of the American colonies Britain rebuilt itself to become one of the greatest and most diverse empires the world has ever seen.  It is the Empire that the aristocratic families of the Downton Abbey era would have known and would have believed to be unassailable in world authority and power.

The Long Week-End:  A Social History of Great Britain 1918–1939 by Robert Graves and Alan Hodge is a book describing the social history of Britain between the wars.

The Edwardians by Roy Hattersley is about the brief but golden period during the reign of Edward VII (r. 1901–1910).  It was an era of stellar personalities, social and political change, advances in technology, and flourishing literature and music.  A perfect back-drop to Downton Abbey.

The Polite Tourist:  Four Centuries of Country House Visiting by Adrian Tinniswood recounts the history of tourism to England’s country homes.

The history of housekeeping in a large country house is the topic of Behind the Scenes:  Domestic Arrangements in Historic Houses by Christina Hardyment.  Many of the details in this book would be quite familiar to Mr. Carson, Mrs. Hughes, Anna and the other servants of Downton Abbey.

The conventions of country house lifestyle and culture fill a few very informative chapters in British Tradition and Interior Design by Claudia Piras and Bernhard Roetzel.

And for an enticing smorgasbord of beautiful images and information about Seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey and its era The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes is a must!

Happy Reading!

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