Monday, May 25, 2009

Period Dramas

Period Dramas
TV mini-series

A Room With a View based on the novel by E.M. Forester Society girl Lucy Honeychurch and her chaperone embark on a tour of Europe in 1912 and meet a group of colorful characters and experience an adventure that will change Lucy's life forever. There are two screen adaptations: one starring Helen Bonham Carter and Maggie Smith and the other from PBS Masterpiece written by Andrew Davies. They are both very similar and tell the story of a young woman's struggling with the expectations placed on a woman of her time and social status. The PBS version is framed as a flashback and moves the story along much more quickly. The Bonham Carter version is more cinematic and sweeping but it makes the story a bit more confusing. The PBS version is much more succinct. I'm not sure I really liked this story though. I think it could have been longer than the PBS version but shorter and more clear than the earlier version. I wanted to really feel for Lucy but neither movie gives much attention to developing her character and showing how she really feels. I think I would skip the movies and read the book instead if I could do it over.

Pollyanna based on the novel by Eleanor H. Porter This story about an optimistic orphan has been loved by children for nearly 100 years. There are three movie versions I have seen: a classic Disney film featuring Haley Mills, a 1950s update starring Cosby kid Keisha Knight and Mrs. Huxatble herself, Phylicia Rashad and a PBS Masterpiece version which aired in 2005. Pollyanna comes to live with her wealthy, strict spinster aunt Polly after the death of her missionary minister father. Pollyanna's cheerful optimism annoys her aunt but charms the stodgiest of townspeople. When tragedy strikes Pollyanna, the townspeople, and Aunt Polly, realize how much the little girl means to them. The PBS version moves the setting to Great Britain, but the core of the story remains the same. This Pollyanna reminds me a lot of Anne of Green Gables, another beloved early 20th century heroine. My favorite version is Polly, a toe tapping musical set in the 1950s against a backdrop of racial tension.

He Knew He Was Right based on a novel by Anthony Trollope
Set in t
he mid-19th century, this drama revolves around the wealthy Louis Trevelayn and his beautiful wife Emily. When Emily's rakish godfather, Col. Osborne arrives for a visit, Louis forbids his wife to see him and spirited Emily disobeys him which sets off Louis into a fit of jealously and as the plot thickens, Louis descends into madness. This is an extemely depressing period drama. The acting was excellent but I didn't care for the dark storyline.

Under the Greenwood Tree based on a novel by Thomas Hardy
Set in a small English village in the 19th century, new school teacher Fancy Day is the subject of much attention and the object of a romantic rivalry. This story is very cheerful for Hardy but rather slow and uninteresting and unmemorable.

Daniel Deronda based on a novel by George Eliot
The title character is a young man in Victorian Engla
nd searching for a purpose in life. His quest brings him to the rescue of a young Jewish woman and the search for her family which leads him to unexpected places as his own story becomes intertwined with Mirah's. A secondary story arc deals with the beautiful and spoiled Gwendolen whose family is in reduced circumstances. Gwendolen needs to marry well in order to help her family but she doesn't wish to marry. When her family's circumstances become more dire, she is forced into marriage with the proud, cold Henleigh Grandcourt. Tragic circumstances cause the young protaginists to grow up and discover who they are and who they want to be. While the costumes in this production are very lavish and beautiful, the story left me somewhat confused. Much of the story centers around Jews, yet their history and treatment in London is never fully explained and I was confused. Gwendolen is entirely unlikeable though marvelously acted by Romola Garai. Mirah was not a fleshed out enough character to like or dislike and I thought Daniel was rather broodish and unappealing. Perhaps this is a story better left on the page.

The Way We Live Now based on a novel by Anthony Trollope
When Eastern European finance wizard A
ugustus Melmotte arrives with his timid wife and heiress daughter in the most fashionable part of London he causes quite a stir. The young Sir Felix Carbury, having lost much of the dwindling family fortune, decides to court Melmotte's daughter, whom he expects will succumb easily to his charms. Marie Melmotte falls into his arms and into love but she has a mind of her own and grand schemes to get revenge on her oppressive father. Carbury isn't so sure he wants to go along with Marie's plans. Lord Carbury's sister Hetta is also of marriageble age and has her own romantic dilema choosing between her kindly older relative Roger and handsome businessman Paul Montague. As Hetta becomes more enamoured with Paul, his fierce Southern belle American fiance shows up in London to make trouble. Paul and his American business partner approach Melmotte with a plan for a railway in America and Melmotte takes charge of the shares. A subplot revolves around the spoiled, bratty Georgiana Longestaffe who is desperate for a London husband and also becomes entangled with the Melmottes. Soon the enitre upper crust of London is involved with Melmotte for better or for worse! This is an amusing and modern look at the desire for money and how it affects people. There are some really great funny moments involving Marie Melmotte, played by Shirley Henderson (Harry Potter's Moaning Myrtle) and Lord Felix Carbury played by Matthew McFadyen (Mr. Darcy). There are also darker and more dramatic moments and a predictable end for Melmotte but I enjoyed this production.

Wives and Daughters based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell
Set in the pre-Victorian
English countryside, Molly Gibson is happy being the daughter of a country doctor, caring for her father and being kind to the neighbors. Her world changes for good when her father brings home a new wife, a former governess with a beautiful, polished daughter Molly's age. Molly learns to deal with bitter unhappiness and life's unfairness for the first time as her social climbing step-mother and dashing step-sister turn Molly's life around by bringing romance, scandal and intregue into Molly's previously sheltered life. I found Molly to be a dull heroine. She was too nice for my tastes and too passive, though I didn't like her step-sister either because she was too flighty. Molly's step-mother was awful and I felt bad for Molly and Mr. Gibson was a typical clueless man who let his wife take charge and take over. I was really interested in the plot involving Squire Hamley and his two sons. The Squire was marvellously acted by Michael Gambon (Best known to me for inadequately playing Harry Potter's Dumbledore). Mr. Gambon is the stand out in this production. Another wonderful actor is Tom Hollander as Osborne Hamley. Osborne is the black sheep of the family with a deep secret that will change the way the viewer sees him. He was my favorite character. This mini-series is well worth watching for the fine acting and pretty dresses. The plot was good in some parts and uninteresting in others.

Lorna Doone based on a novel by R.D. Blackmore
Romeo and Juliet set in 17th century Scotland! Farmer Jack Ridd is murdered in front of his young son by the lawless Doones, a former noble family in exile who are a law unto themselves. When young John nearly drowns while out fishing he is rescued by a beautiful girl and the two become friends. John can not get the beautiful girl out of his head. When the former friends become reaquainted many years later, they fall passionately in love. Unfortunately for John, his newfound love is none other than the granddaughter, and future queen of the Doone clan. John takes it upon himself to rescue Lorna from an unwanted marriage with her evil kinsman and learn the secrets her family has been keeping from her. Set during a time of religious turmoil, the subplot revolves around the war between Protestants and Catholics. Much of the mini-series is also taken up with the lives of John's family and friends on the farm and their feelings towards his relationship with Lorna. This story resembles Romeo & Juliet in nature and in violence. The scenery is gorgeous and the music is beautiful and haunting. I liked this mini-series but not knowing about the politics of the time took a little bit away from the story. The love story has many twists and turns and needs a box of Kleenex before it's all over!

North and South based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell
Pride and Prejudice set in northern industrial England during the mid-19th century. Margaret Hale and her parents move from the idyllic countryside of southern England to the industrial northern city when her clergyman father can no longer agree with the established religious doctrine. The Hales have a difficul
t time adapting to the gritty industrial city. The only other women of their social class are the mother and sister of John Thorton, a local factory owner. Margaret takes Mr. Thorton into immediate dislike and is prejudiced against the north and northerners. The Thortons are proud of their middle-class origins and Mr. Thorton is a tough businessman. Margaret tries to help the poor factory workers by performing good works as her religious beliefs tell her to do. She befriends a local girl who works in Mr. Thorton's mill and her predjudices begin to be chipped away. The workers are unhappy with the way they are being treated and in this pre-union age they resort to mob rule to deal with their problems. Margaret soon finds herself in the middle of an industrial problem and the middle of a romance she doesn't even suspect. In the end, the tables are turned and Margaret becomes the businesswoman and takes control of their professional and personal relationships, which I greatly admire and appreciate. No simpering misses in this story! I love love loved this production! I don't remember the novel being so much of a love story or following the Pride and Prejudce model so I think the screenwriter enhanced the plot a little. It doesn't detract from the modern issues between the mill owners and mill workers. This story educates and informs as well as entertains. The romance is an added bonus, especially since Mr. Thorton resembles Mr. Darcy and is quite good looking with piercing blue eyes - a proper romantic hero!



image from Richard Armitage online

Lost in Austen

Lost in Austen mini-series

Lost in Austen is a British TV mini-series that aired on cable in the USA in the spring of 2009. Amanda Price is a modern, London single woman who is obsessed with the romance, manners and courtesy of Jane Austen's World and finds herself switching places with Elizabeth Bennet through a door in Amanda's bathroom/Mr. Bennet's house. (Don't overthink it!) Soon Amanda is a character in Pride and Prejudice and nothing seems to go the way Jane Austen planned it and Amanda has some wild adventures trying to get things to go right! A friend recommended I watch this mini-series and though I figured I would probably hate it, I watched anyway and was pleasantly surprised. The cast is spectacular and all the Austen actors were spot-on for their characters. The mini-series doesn't take itself seriously as a costume drama or an Austen adaptation which makes for a delightful romp through Pride and Prejudice and an absolutely hilarious tongue-in-cheek, but loving, tribute to Jane Austen. If she were alive today, I think she would absolutely approve!


This scene made me laugh so hard and it's worth the price of the DVD to see that iconic scene recreated!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What I've Read This Week

What I've Read This Week . . .

Back in Society: Poor Relation #6 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
The Poor Relation has finally achieved success and the hoteliers notoriety, however all might be undone if Lady Jane Fremny has her way. Lady Jane has run away from home to escape a brutal father, a nasty governess/companion and an arranged marriage. Jane has plans to take her own life in the hotel. Fortunately for everyone, the poor relations thwart Jane's plans and offer to help her by introducing her to their former partner, Harriet, the Duchess of Rowcester who will give Jane a Season under an alias. Jane befriends Frances Haggard, a determined young lady and they become entangled in romantic adventures with an exiled French Comte and his charming friend, James Ferguson. Soon the entanglement involves danger and adventure as well. After they settle Jane's affairs, the poor relations must decide their futures, either together or apart. All ends happily and predictably, just as it should. I felt the affair of the necklace was way too easily resolved and I hated all the secrecy and dishonesty involving it. I wasn't crazy about Jane, who was rather a wet blanket, but I enjoyed her friend and wish Frances were the heroine instead. I liked the choices the poor relations made and was happy that my favorite, Miss Tonks, got what she always wanted. This was a good end to the series. Overall, though, I did not find this series as amusing or charming as School for Manners.

Belinda Goes to Bath: The Traveling Matchmaker #2 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance 

Miss Hannah Pym so enjoyed her adventure on the stage coach, she decides she's not done traveling and wishes to have another voyage. On this trip she meets the Judds, a married couple who are always bickering, Miss Belinda Earle, whose family sent her away for running off with a footman and Belinda's self-righteous moralizing companion Miss Whipple. A terrible accident leaves the coach passengers injured and stranded at Baddell Castle, the home of the Marquess of Frenton. Hannah decides to play matchmaker and determines that Belinda and the Marquess would suit, however, the Marquess is entertaining Penelope Jordan and her parents, who hope to match her with the Marquess. The Marquess has a reputation for being cool and disliking visitors and Belinda takes him into dislike until her chaperone's loose tongue sends the Marquess chasing after her. Meanwhile, Hannah also seeks to repair the relationship of the Judds and help them on the path to a better life. Hannah also has her own romantic subplot involving her former employer's brother, Sir George Clarence. I didn't care for this story. I liked Belinda, who was a very modern heroine, but the Marquess was snobby, cold and driven by lust. He was one of Chesney's most unappealing heroes.

Beatrice Goes to Brighton: The Traveling Matchmaker #4 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
In this fourth volume, Miss Pym is on her way to Brighton to see the sea again and becomes involved in another wild adventure. Traveling on the coach is one Lady Beatrice Marsham, who at first seems very cold and distant. When Lady Beatrice is taken away by a rough gentleman, Hannah becomes convinced that Lady Beatrice was taken by force and not of her own free will as Lady Beatrice insisted. With the help of Lord Alistair Munro, a guest at the coaching inn, and her clever, sneaky footman, Hannah sets off for Brighton and becomes involved in her wildest adventure yet as she tries to help Lady Beatrice and match the lady with Lord Alistair despite numerous obstacles, including the fact that the lady and the gentleman hate each other. All the while Hannah struggles with her feelings for Sir George Clarence, trying to convince herself that what she feels is friendship. Upon returning home, Sir George has an unhappy surprise for Hannah and it's up to Benjamin to rescue his employer from a broken heart. This novel has some lighthearted funny moments mixed with dangerous adventure. The romance plot is as usual unrealistic as the lady and the gentleman barely know each other, though it's better than most of Chesney's unrealistic romantic plots. I liked this novel better than the previous one I read and look forward to reading more about Hannah Pym.

Deborah Goes to Dover: The Traveling Matchmaker #5 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Miss Hannah Pym is off on another adventure, lovesick herself and not noticing the other passengers, she is soon involved in an adventure when her footman enters a prize fight in order to pay his gambling debts. Hannah makes the acquaintance of Lord Ashton and his nineteen year old twin neighbors, mischievous William and Deborah, a tomboy who prefers dressing in men's clothes. Hannah's matchmaking instincts flare again with hopes of influencing Lady Deborah to act more ladylike and find her a suitable husband. Lord Ashton challenges Lady Deborah to a horse race in order to teach her a lesson. The wager, 10 guineas if she wins, a kiss if she loses, changes Deborah's feelings about her sex and her neighbor! Hannah and Benjamin's old enemy Lady Carsey seeks revenge, Lord Ashton tries to protect them and Hannah plays matchmaker once again for two fellow coach passengers. William takes notice of his sister's changes and jealously tries to prevent his sister from leaving him by embroiling her adventures that will hopefully save Hannah and Benjamin and keep Lady Deborah a tomboy and Hannah must undo the mischief. Hannah returns home with a broken heart, thinking Sir George will never see her as anything other than a friend because of their differences in class. Reckless Benjamin, hating to see his employer so down, takes matters into his own hands! This story didn't follow the usual model: the romance was believable and there were a lot of really funny moments. This was by far the best of the series, so far.

Yvonne Goes to York: The Traveling Matchmaker #6 by Marion Chesney -- Regency Romance
Hannah Pym decides to go on one last adventure on the stage to York, where her former employer Mrs. Clarence may be residing. Also traveling on the coach and beautiful French emigre Yvonne Grenier, searching for her father, the friendly Mr. Giles, and the sinister looking Mr. Smith. Not everyone is who they seem and soon Hannah is smack in the middle of another adventure involving French spies and a budding romance between her traveling companions, as well as her very own romantic adventure. The story comes to a satisfying conclusion tying up loose ends and romantic entanglements. The plot was a little slow to get going and not as interesting as previous plots. The ending felt rushed and I wished it was a little longer. Still, if you've read the whole series, you must read this one to find out how it all ends!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg
One year ago I was on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War era from the actor/interpreters who portray the citizens of Williamsburg. You can read more about Williamsburg and learn about the real people of the town on their fabulous website at I am going to blog my journal and some photos in hopes that you will learn something as well.

Monday Day 5

I first toured the Wythe House and property. It belonged to George Wythe, a lawyer, a leader of the patriot movement in Virginia, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and Virginia’s first signer of the D
eclaration of Independence. The house also served as General George Washington's headquarters just before the British siege of Yorktown, and French General Rochambeau made the home his headquarters after victory at Yorktown. In 1776, the house accommodated Virginia General Assembly delegate Thomas Jefferson and his family. The grounds are beautiful. The Wythes had a small farm with chickens and horses. They also had basketmaking and spinning and weaving outbuildings. The house is very large and lovely. It is two stories with 4 rooms of each floor and furnished very nicely.

Next stop was the Peyton Randolph house. Peyton Randolph was the Speaker of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, first president of the Continental Congress, an enorm
ously popular man referred to as "the father of our country" and probably would have been our first president if he had not died in 1775. The Randolphs owned 27 slaves who lived and worked on the property. The Randolphs had no children but many nieces and nephews stayed with them at times. Our guide handed us tags with the names of people who lived on the property and a brief biography of each. As we toured the house, the guide explained what the role of each person in the household was. Peyton Randolph and his wife both had personal slaves to attend to them. We learned about the slaves in the slave quarters. Many of the slaves learned to read and write. It made them more valuable. Our guide told us about a slave who understood "Scots" and could song "Scots songs." We learned that after Peyton Randolph's death, his slave John ran away. The runaway slave ad described him as light skinned, gray eyed and straight haired. Our guide thought John may have gone to Philadelphia and passed as a free man because he had been there with his master and may have had contacts there.

My last visit was to the Governor's Palace. It is set up as the home of the last royal governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmor
e who was forced to flee for his life in 1775. He lived there with his wife and their two daughters, infant daughter and two sons who usually lived at school at William & Mary Grammar School. It is huge and beautiful. There is a lady's dressing room for Lady Dunmore where she could spend time with her children. The ballroom has a brand new instrument like a piano and features an adjoining supper room. The grounds are extensive and I didn't get a chance to explore it all.

That concludes my visit to Williamsburg. I had so much fun and hope to return again some day! I hope you had fun following along! To see all of my Williamsburg and Jamestown photos, visit my Williamsburg and Jamestown album on Kodak.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

One year ago I was on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War era from the actor/interpreters who portray the citizens of Williamsburg. You can read more about Williamsburg and learn about the real people of the town on their fabulous website at I am going to blog my journal and some photos in hopes that you will learn something as well.

Day 4 Part 2 Revolutionary City
July 25, 1776:Great excitement in Williamsburg! News of the Declaration of Independence arrives only a few weeks after Virginia's representatives have passed their own Declaration of Rights and a Constitution for their new state.

I waited under a shady tree on a bench and listened to the conversations with the townspeople. Mr. Nicholas, the treasurer, was entertaining the guests by explaining some thin
gs that were happening. He said the Declaration of Independence was superfluous, a word which he first heard his wife use, she used it about him, and he looked it up in Dr. Johnson's dictionary and it means unnecessary! He said we know we are free and the document doesn't really make us free we are already free. While he was chatting with us, he was absentmindedly practicing his golf swing with his walking stick. He said "Darn those Scots! They invented this game... well didn't invent it because the Romans played it... but the Scots have this new game... they have a ball filled with feathers and they hide it and when they find it, they hit it with a stick. He said "It will never catch on... don't worry yourselves about it... it's like the piano - dreadful noisy box."

The mayor and citizens of the town read the Declaration of Independence and listed the grievances against the king.

Then, one of the women of the town, Miss Edith, a free black woman, got up on a
tree stump and started calling out the women in the audience for cheering during the Declaration of Independence. She hated politicians and kept saying "Poly means many and tick is a blood sucker. So you have many blood suckers!" She asked the women "You think they mean YOU? NO! They don't mean you, or me and what about the Indians? Weren't they here first? They don't mean anybody but rich white men." She then encouraged women to leave off their house hold chores for 6 months until the men start to notice them! She kept going on angrily about how they don't mean liberty for all until she was called away by some of the slave women. I ran into her while visiting the Raleigh Tavern and she expressed her dislike for "politickin' men" as she led us inside. She's a great character and has a charming Jamaican accent.

September 15, 1780 In Desperate Circumstances
Barbry Hoy, a local woman who followed her husband southward with the army, returns to Williamsburg. She walked all the way from Charleston where she believed her husband was captured. She now seeks work at a tavern and help reading a paper which lists the names of the men on prison ships. She told the story of the war in South Caroline and the terrible defeats of the Patriot Army and how her husband's army pension is being denied her while her husband is missing. She had to sell their farm, their slave and divide up her children. She is desperate to find her husband and provide for her family. It was very moving and emotional.

April 20, 1781 The Town is Taken: The British Occupy Williamsburg
News came to the town that the British army is marching into Williamsburg led by that turncoat Benedict Arnold. Unfortunately, while we waited for Arnold to come riding up, it started to pour and all Revolutionary City programs were canceled for the rest of the day.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

One year ago I was on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War era from the actor/interpreters who portray the citizens of Williamsburg. You can read more about Williamsburg and learn about the real people of the town on their fabulous website at I am going to blog my journal and some photos in hopes that you will learn something as well.

Day 4 Part 1

Went to Declaration of Rights at the Raleigh. Met George Mason and Robert Carter Nicholas to discuss the new Virginia Declaration of Rights. This document became the basis of the Constitution. They encouraged us to tell them what we thought of it and someone asked what about rights for indentures and slaves. Mason said indentures have very few rights but at the end of their indenture, they'l
l have full rights. Slaves are property. They have no rights. Then he explained that the laws are made to be changed. People change. 200 years from now people will be different and Virginia will be different and if the people wish to change the law, the law was made to be changed. They also said that government employees should not be paid. It is an honor to give back and serve your country (by country they mean Virginia). They explained they are very wealthy men and have the time to do this work. Once a man is paid for government work, he serves only the interest of money instead of the best interest. They also did not believe that the government should take care of the poor. They had no way of knowing if someone far off in another county really needed help. It was expensive and time consuming to send a rider out to investigate. They believed that since everyone paid taxes to the church whether they belonged or not, the church should provide. Another thing they said was that a man should not refrain from running for office because it would take a toll on his family. The Founding Fathers believed it was an honor to serve.

Next, to the wigmak
er. They can make wigs out of goat hair, yak hair or human hair. People shaved their heads in summer and the sweat stuck the wig on their heads. In the winter, the stubble gripped the wig to their heads like sandpaper. They could also dress a lady's hair if it is waist length or longer. If not, they had ladies wigs as well. It was advised to make an appointment far enough in advance of a special event. They also performed barbering.

Then to the milliner. I saw a pin cushion pillow spelling out "Welcome Little Stranger" in pins, a child's dress, several fashion dolls, undergarments hanging from the ceiling and lots of sumptuous clothing and beautiful fabric.

My next stop was the apothecary. The lady showed me the garlic syrup given to colonial people for coughs. Sounds disgusting! Then she showed me a few other remedies and how the apothecar
y would grind medicines with a mortal and pestle. The apothecary also did surgery and set bones and made house calls for general medical care. The apothecary also sold licorice root to the colonial citizens. They boiled it and peeled down the bark and used it as a toothbrush with Cream of Tartar.

Then I toured the Capitol and learned about the justice system. Only major crimes were tried at the Capitol twice a year and were punishable by branding or death. Their legal system was very much like ours is today. When creating our legal system, they took what worked from the English legal system and borrowed from the Romans as well.

Next was supposed to be a public audience with George Washington but we were greeted by the Marquis de Lafayette who explained Gen. Washington had been whisked away to a meeting with Count Rochaembeau. We listened to Lafayette talk about himself. His father was killed in battle with the English when he was a baby and he came into his title as a very young man and served in the French army. He married the daughter of the Colonel who owned the regiment and was given a commission in the army.
When he learned about the American cause of liberty, he wanted to join the cause. He applied to the French king for permission but the king said no because it was one of the rare times the French were not at war with the English. Lafayette ignored the king, bought a ship and sailed to America. When he arrived in Philadelphia and asked the Continental Congress to join their army as an aide-de-camp or something, they said they couldn't afford to pay him. He offered to serve at his own expense so they made him a Major General. He talked about his experiences in the army, his relationship with Washington and the other army officers and his hopes for the future. He hoped to take some of the reforms from America back to France and he felt that there would not be a revolution in France like there is in America!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

One year ago
I was on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War era from the actor/interpreters who portray the citizens of Williamsburg. You can read more about Williamsburg and learn about the real people of the town on their fabulous website at I am going to blog my journal and some photos in hopes that you will learn something as well.

Night Three - May 16th

After visiting Jamestowne, I returned to Williamsburg in the evening to watch the end of Revolutionary City: September 28, 1781 On to Yorktown and Victory.
Guests and townspeople march to the Courthouse and the militia gives a demonstration and the fife and drum corps play for us.

Day Three - May 17th
Went to Colonial Williamsburg to see a program called Business as Usual at the Raleigh. The Raleigh Tavern serves history, it is only used for programming. We, the guests, had a chat with a man whose occupation is head usher at William and Mary. I don't remember what that means but he gets free tuition and I think looks after the boys. He was youngish and a middling class type guy. He said he had never been out of Virginia and wanted news of the outside world, but the guests weren't very talkative.

Then I viewed the largest gathering of fife and drum corps assembled anywhere. There were groups from all over North America a
nd they marched to the green. It was very entertaining and they were all excellent.

My next
stop was the jail for a tour of Mr. Pelham's house, which was attached to the jail, and the jail cells. Mr. Pelham, his wife and several children lived in only a few rooms. The cells are really tiny and dark and the jail wasn't usually crowded. They either branded thieves and murderers if they were given a second chance or hanged the really unrepentant criminals. The jail was full of Loyalists during the war. The whole building was so dark, even on a beautiful spring day. I can't imagine how dreary it must have been to live there, let alone how difficult it must have been to be a prisoner.

In the afternoon I met up with a friend and strolled around the Palace gardens a bit. The gardens are so beautiful this time of year and there are many different types of flowers arranged neatly into various flower beds and paths lined with shells, because there is no natural stone in that part of Virginian.

Our next stop was the Everard House, built in 1717 for a gunsmith and later enlarged and embellished by Thomas Everard, a count
y clerk who was wealthy and well respected. He and his family were considered lower gentry (upper-class). The house reflects their position as wealthy land owners and slave owners.

We learned that young children slept on spindle beds rather than in the high four-poster beds one commonly sees in historic homes. Also, the daughters of the house had their own personal slaves and the slaves slept on pallets next to their beds. Down
stairs was the father's bedroom. His bed is the fanciest type of four-poster bed with compass style hangings. He also has a wing backed chair in his room known as an "easy chair" because it concealed a chamber pot inside! The parlour is painted a striking bright green color, which would have made the room brighter in winter. It also has a large mirror on one wall to reflect the sunlight and lighten the room.
Inside this room is a brand new (in the 1770s) instrument called a spinet (an ancestor of the piano). Also downstairs is an office/family room, where the family would congregate. Outside is the kitchen building and a reconstructed smokehouse. We strolled the small kitchen garden before leaving.

Next stop was the Bruton Parish Church, the Episcopal church in town. It was the only church, the official chu
rch and everyone paid taxes to the church. We sat in the high walled pews to rest our feet. Each pew was owned by a family; the wealthiest families had pews right up front and the poorest folk sat in the back. Slaves sat up in the gallery.

We visited the courthouse and learned about how they tried small crimes there. Sorry, I didn't take any notes. We just stopped in to rest our feet!

To the Revolutionary City, July 27, 1775: Miss Elizabeth Nicholas is waiting for her boyfriend, Edmund Randolph to propose marriage. They consider themselves "modern" Romeo and Juliet for his father is a Loyalist and her father is a Patriot. Unfortunately, Elizabeth learns from a stranger that Edmund's father is planning to take the family to England. Elizabeth was angry at Edmund at first but he assured her of his love and his difficult decision to stay in America. Alas for poor Elizabeth for another stranger accidentally mentions that Edmund is due to leave for Philadelphia NOW! Edmund explained that he has received a commission in General Washington's army and is planning to fight for independence. Elizabeth was heartbroken and Edmund debated postponing the question he w
as going to ask her, but . . . he decided to ask her to be his wife! She accepted his proposal and he gave her a choker necklace as a token of his love.

September 3, 1775
A man from the tavern is accused of being a traitor to the Patriot cause. The Committee of Safety is determined to bring him to justice and the townspeople stand on the street to watch the impromptu trial and offer their opinions.

November 17, 1775
The slaves learn that Governor Dunmore has issued a proclamation that any slaves belonging to rebels (Patriots) will be free if they can get to Norfolk and serve in the British army. The slaves debate whether to run or not. The women were unsure whether there would be a place for them but really wanted to be free.

May 15, 1776 to the Capitol

The citizens of the town come out to hear the final vote on independence. They are anxious to be free and independent and establish a Republican form of government. Everyone gathered at the Capitol and waited for the vote... Mrs. Peyton Randolph was standing behind me and she was as much a Patriot as her husband, who was the president of the First Continental Congress, and she remarked to her slave, Eve, that if Mr. Nicholas voted NAY for independence, she would personally hit him over the head with her parasol! Mr. Robert Carter Nicholas, the treasurer for Virginia, gave a little speech about how he had been on the fence about independence because he had hoped to avoid bloodshed. Mrs. Randolph muttered "Too late Mr. Nicholas, they're already firing at us!" Mr. Nicholas finally voted for independence and the crowd cheered Huzzah as they raised the new American flag over the Capitol.

In the evening, I returned to the Capitol for an evening program called Crime and Punishment. Our guide was is an interpreter, a modern person in period costume. She explained the court system to us and gave us an overview of the punishments of the day. Most small crimes were tried at the courthouse and punished by stocks or pillory. More serious crimes were tried twice a year at the Capitol. Criminals could ask for mercy and thieves and murderers could be branded. Serious crimes were punishable by hanging which was done outside of the city. Then we went to the Capitol and met Jack Scratch, an 18th century man who was the sheriff or some sort of law enforcement. He related a story about a bloody street brawl that resulted in a whipping. He enjoyed giving us the gory details! We then went to the jailer's house and met the jailer's apprentice, a grizzled old man who REALLY enjoyed his work. He talked with glee about job branding thieves and murderers. He showed us his branding iron and showed us his brand on his hand! He also demonstrated branding on a piece of cow hide. Our last stop was the exercise yard where we met a woman who had a very sad story to tell. I won't spoil it for anyone but go see this program if you're in Williamsburg!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Historic Jamestowne

Historic Jamestowne

One year ago today I visited Historic Jamestowne, the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America. I learned a lot and I am going to share my journal and photos with you and hopefully you will learn and enjoy Jamestowne too.

Jamestown Island is the site of the original Jamestown settlement. Since 1994 they have been excavating and found the original site of the original 1607 fort. They have a Visitor's Center where I learned about the history of Jamestown.

Then I wandered around to see the original fort area and the archeological excavations. It was originally a one acre triangular-shaped fortification and log pallisades have been placed on top of the original site to mark the boundaries.

I also viewed the reconstructed church where the Jamestown planters worshiped. The church tower is the oldest part that survives from the 17th century. Under the floor you can see the original foundation.

The sign says "T
he original framed church of 1617 was the first church on this site, and Jamestown's third church. It was within the 1617 structure that the first representative legislative assembly in North America convened from July 30-August 4, 1619. The first all brick church (of which the Old Tower was a part and whose foundations the present Memorial Church in a large part rests) was begun in 1639. The present Memorial Church was built in 1907."

Near the church is a 17th century burial site. According to the sign: "S
ince there is little natural stone in tidewater Virginia, tombstones were rare in 17th and 18th centuries. Almost all had to be imported, usually from England. Many people buried here after the 1680s were wealthy and their families could have afforded tombstones.

Nineteenth century reports indicate that many did and the graveyard contained man
y tombstones. Sadly, most of these have been lost, stolen or destroyed by ravages of time. " Only twenty-five tombstones remain. Some of these are not really tombstones merely grave markers erected in 1901 when excavations were conducted and the gave sites were found. The epitaphs are either from the original or from nineteenth century reports. It was pretty awe inspiring to see the final resting place of the men and women who founded Jamestown.

Other burial sites are close to the shore and the museum. There are grave sites of those men and women who died in the first year and a memorial to the early settlers.

Along the sho
re I viewed the site of the first landing.
Since 1607, the shoreline has eroded about 25 acres of this part of Jamestown Island. The original shoreline was close to the present edge of the river channel, somewhat more than 100 yeards offshore from the seawall.

Then to the Archearium museum to see the results of the excavations. It was very interesting to see all the objects they have found - including two full skeletons!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

One year ago
I was on vacation to Colonial Williamsburg. I had a wonderful time and learned an incredible amount about the Revolutionary War era from the actor/interpreters who portray the citizens of Williamsburg. You can read more about Williamsburg and learn about the real people of the town on their fabulous website at I am going to blog my journal and some photos in hopes that you will learn something as well.

Day One - May 15th

I followed around the Revolutionary Citizens programs where actor/interpreters act out the events leading up to the Revolution and Independence.

Lady Dunmore Prepares for the Ball

May 1774: Lady Dunmore and the children had just joined Lord Dunmore in Virginia in February after an absence of several years. She was expecting Mrs. John Randolph to tea and her housekeeper was working hard to make sure everything was perfect but the slave man couldn't do anything right. He made fun of the minuet was generally very silly. Lady Dunmore and Mrs. Randolph came out and had tea and discussed politics and the upcoming ball at the Capitol. After tea, Lord Dunmore and some other men came out and the Governor was very angry because the House of Burgesses (elected representatives) declared a day of fasting and prayer in response to the port of Boston being closed as punishment for the Boston tea party. The governor was angry because only the king or his representative can declare a day of fasting and prayer. The governor resolved to speak to the House of Burgesses at 3 of the clock at the Capitol.

I took a break from Revolutionary Citizens to view Shakespeare on the Green.

Shakespeare was very popular in the 18th century only it wasn't Shakespeare
as we know him! They added music and singing and changed the endings to make the good characters rewarded and the bad punished. Breeches roles for women were becoming popular at that time. We were treated to a scene from Twelfth Night.

Next, a
dancing lesson. English country dances were popular and they are the great-great grandmother of country square dancing. If you have seen Pride and Prejudice or other Austen adaptations, the dancing was very much the same style. There were differences in the steps, which could be varied.

Then I attended a public audience with Thomas Jefferson.

He was an excellent speaker and a really brilliant man. He had some great ideas for society based on French and English philosophers as well as Rhode Island's Roger Williams. Jefferson believed in education for all -even women and he believed in freedom for religion. He had once tried to pass a motion to abolish the slave trade, but was shot down because the Virginia economy was so rooted in slavery. There were more slaves than whites! He did not believe women should get involved in politics but be there to nurture the future generation.

At 3:15 to the Capitol. The Governor gave a speech and dissolved the House of Burgesses.

Everyone was shocked that he would do that, especially Patrick Henry. Dissolving the Burgesses took away the right of assembly for Virginians which gave Virginians the push towards Independence.

Jefferson (left), Patrick Henry (right)

Night Two

I went to another ghost tour that night. The Tavern ghost walk about the unexplained happenings some of the tavern employees have seen and heard. It was quite good and I was hoping to experience something but I never did.

Then on to the Capitol ball. While we waited for it to begin, an 18th century woman entertained us and told us a bit about etiquette. She commented on our peculiar apparel. Then we went inside and saw a silly puppet show on the British navy conquering Tahiti. Next we were led upstairs and sang some spirit lifting songs with some of the former Burgesses. Back downstairs to the other side of the Capitol, we were treated to a demonstration of some of the latest dance steps. Audience participation was requested but most people, including myself, were reluctant to try out the complicated dances!