The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is a web project of Curious Recipes and Hidden Histories taken from a book in the collection of London's Westminster Archives Centre, and for Thanksgiving (or the day after), what could be better than a pudding made with bog, i.e., cranberries? A transcription is given at A Bog Berry Pudding. Looks to me like mixing together whole sweetened cranberry sauce, egg yolks, pumpkin pie spices, rose water (if you can find it), sherry, lemon peel and a whole lot of butter, then baking it should do the trick of giving you a taste not unlike something that might have appeared on an18th C table. Even if you only describe it in an historical fiction story, you might have mouths watering. Happy Thanksgiving!
Picturing a World
In these fraught, puzzling, polarizing times, a what-if novel from before WWI is an oddly affecting picture of how citizens come to make peace with a new political order and their own violations of conscience. It offers shrewdly observed answers to the question, How could they?!? Set in an England that has been conquered after a one-week war with Kaiser Wilhelm's Germany, it is the work of a novelist, H. H. Munro (Saki) who knows human behavior too well and writes too slyly to produce simple-minded propaganda.
Writers jot down thoughts; artists jot down images. As a follow-up to my previous post on Edward Ardizzone's war paintings, here's a drawing from the same year, 1944, by Victor Alfred Lundy, a soldier who kept a notebook all through his service during WWII. He donated it to the Library of Congress, which has digitized the whole thing and made it available to the public. This particular page reminded me of Félix Bracquemond's etching of Bastion 84, the post where Parisian artists including Carolus-Duran served during the Franco-Prussian seventy-five years earlier. Like letters home, off-the-cuff drawings have an immediacy that historical fiction writers can plumb—but sometimes you also have to stand back and observe in silence. Six from L Company hurt here, six killed.
Thanks, James Gurney.
For Veterans Day: Ever since I was a child and loved Eleanor Farjeon's Little Bookroom, Edward Ardizzone has been one of my favorite illustrators of children's books. And now Art and Artists has shown me a whole new dimension in his work. This watercolor from the Second World War is nothing like any other war pictures I've ever seen, and it's just one of many by Ardizzone. Check out this post on Ardizzone at Art and Artists. (It's the fifth of fifteen installments! Believe me, I'll be exploring them one by one.)
Website tip: Restoration of a much-damaged Renaissance mural brings to light the work of Plautilla Nelli, a nun whose work was often commissioned through her convent, where she trained other women painters as her assistants. Read more about it in Restored to Glory in the Guardian.
Although the contrast is supposedly between trains of 1837 and 1897, I love the way the speed of "Now" is transferred to the cartoonishly running passengers. Somehow it works visually to suggest surging energy from the oncoming (stationary) engine. And note the two classes of cars in Then, the Pullman car in the background of Now. The whole page might supply an older character's memory. Each vignette might yield a story or a plot point. Small details can add just the needed authentic touch. What would you do with it?
Blog post tip: As a follow-up to my previous post on Myrioramas, see the Princeton University Library's post Polyorama or Endless Changes of Landscapes. Different name, same idea, more examples.
In Philip Pullman's new novel, The Secret Commonwealth, while on board a train, our heroine Lyra Silvertonguewatches an old man use a pack of pictorial cards to tell a story to a little boy. After a while, he tells the child to draw a card from the pack. "As before, the picture seamlessly continued the landscape of the previous one, and Lyra saw that the whole pack must be like that, and it must be possible to put them together in an uncountable number of ways" (p. 534). What a wonderful device! I thought when I read the passage. Had Pullman made it up? No: he names that kind of card pack on the next page: MYRIORAMA. Read More
Reviewing some old files, I found these sketches by Edgar Degas, which I had labeled "Effie studies." It made me smile. Ordinarily, I like to highlight female artists in this blog, but who can resist the occasional work by the other sex? In this case, I remember thinking that it was as if I were seeing dimensions of my own character revealed to me by an artist who had seen her in a slightly different way. The seated woman in the middle one is, self-effacing, but not unintelligent. The one on the right—unself-consciously clutching her bag or a book and her umbrella—catches aspects of the Cousin Effie who made her way around Paris on her own while Jeanette was in class in Where the Light Falls. And, of course, they really pertain to Degas' depiction of Mary Cassatt in the Louvre (ca. 1880).
I love it when (a) I find a new woman artist; (b) a picture widens my imaginary world; or (c) there's an overlap between my stories via an illustration. This etching by Mary Nimmo Moran shows me a possibility in the New York City that Jeanette visits when she goes to her Aunt Maude in Where the Light Falls. Since it seems to be up a hill, it may also illustrate a view Mattie might have up in Morningside Heights in "Anonymity"—although by 1908, the farm would likely have vanished. Best of all, I have learned that Mary Nimmo Moran was a female artist who was actually encouraged in her work by the artist husband who had been her teacher. Three cheers!