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text 2013-11-17 23:29
Georgian England, Amanda Vickery, and History Documentaries
Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England - Amanda Vickery
The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England - Amanda Vickery

Authors should never dismiss the odd youtube video as a means for helping discover their book. Or in my case, remind me of a book. So this week (Nov. 2013) I've been having a delightful addiction to random BBC documentaries, specifically history.


I'm not entirely sure of the title of this video (youtube link, "Contemporaries of Jane Austen, 18th/early 19th Century Britain"), but it's where I first bumped into Amanda Vickery, and then I spent a bit of time wondering why her name was familiar - until I gave in and Googled. And here's why I should remember her - I've had her book Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England on my wish list for years. No exaggeration - years. It's just never been put out in ebook format (and I'm trying to conserve shelf space these days). But after I watched that documentary I gave in and bought it in paper. (After I read it we'll see if I'll give in and get The Gentleman's Daughter.)


In that video I also learned about cousins Jane and Mary Parminter and the Devon house they designed for themselves: A La Ronde. Vickery walks through the house - which is indeed round - and shows you all the cousins' nicknacks which are still there. I really loved the art made with tiny shells - the cousins created some of it themselves, still attached to the walls/ceiling and very fragile. So far I haven't found a biography of the cousins and their house - but there really should be one, shouldn't there? I love that they decided to live alone and on their own terms, and then enjoy doing crafts/art together.


From an article in the Guardian about A La Ronde:

At home with the first feminists: the eccentric Devon home built by women

Emma Kennedy, The Guardian, 16 November 2012


"The 1790s were not a particularly dazzling time for feminists but in a small corner of Devon some signs of female independence were burning bright. Jane Parminter and her younger cousin Mary, both unmarried, decided, after a 10-year Grand Tour of Europe, that they were going to build their own house, one inspired by their travels that would stamp their intention to remain a force for female freedom long after they were gone.


...The house is rammed with trinkets. It's nick-nack nirvana. Everywhere you look there are odd bits and bobs collected from their travels, such as miniature children's books with grand names (The History of Beasts and The Gigantic History of Two Famous Giants) and the beautiful silhouette pictures so favoured by the cousins. But it's the crafting that really catches the eye.


"Look at that frieze," Salli says pointing to the ceiling of the drawing room, "that's made entirely from feathers."


I can barely believe my eyes. The Parminters had taken feathers from birds culled on the estate (mostly native game birds and chickens) and stuck them into a series of concentric circular patterns. It's reminiscent of the Damien Hirst butterfly paintings and it's beautiful."


Doesn't that just beg for a full biography and book of photos? Not a mere 15 page book of the kind sold in museum giftshops though - something meaty with a bibliography. It would be odd if Jane and Mary didn't write diaries or letters - but then I suppose they might not have been kept. If I lived in the UK I'd be planning a trip to Devon, and be ready to pester some docents with questions!


I should warn you that I've found a few more documentaries, one or two of which are Austen related. So there's probably more video linkage to come!

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