Category Archives: Victorian

Happy birthday, Queen Victoria!

Victoria, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Queen, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, was born on 24 May 1819, 200 years ago today.

That was “Victoria” by the Kinks, from the album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Queen Victoria had been dead for 68 years when the Kinks recorded the song in 1969. Another couple of decades, and “Victoria” will be closer in time to the Victorian Age than to our own brave new world. Boats against the current….

“Canada to India
Australia to Cornwall
Singapore to Hong Kong
From the West to the East
From to the rich to the poor
Victoria loved them all.”

If you pay close attention to the lyrics, you might catch hints of the band’s signature working-class rage peeking through all the exaltation, but we’ll ignore that for now. Victoria’s bicentennial gives good Anglophiles everywhere a reason to celebrate, from the West to the East.


Home Again

In lesser news, I’m back from beautifully gloomy Budapest, and ready to resume posting.

I dined well, and you’re gonna hear all about it.

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New Tales of the City

“When I first got off the bus years ago, I had the strangest feeling that I’d come home.”
—Laura Linney as Mary Ann Singleton in Tales of the City

Oh, yes, Mary Ann, in this you are not unique. The first time I was in San Francisco, I had exactly the same feeling.*

And now, thanks to Netflix, we’re going home again.

“inspired by the books of Armistead Maupin, the new Netflix Limited Series Tales of the City begins a new chapter in the beloved story. Mary Ann (Laura Linney) returns to present-day San Francisco and is reunited with her daughter Shawna (Ellen Page) and ex-husband Brian (Paul Gross), twenty years after leaving them behind to pursue her career. Fleeing the midlife crisis that her picture-perfect Connecticut life created, Mary Ann is quickly drawn back into the orbit of Anna Madrigal (Olympia Dukakis), her chosen family and a new generation of queer young residents living at 28 Barbary Lane.”

Tales of the City had its start as a three-times-a-week serial in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Author Armistead Maupin mixed real and (mainly) fictional characters to capture the essence of San Francisco in the 1970s.  Maupin succeeded in doing for The City what Tom Wolfe failed to do for New York in Bonfire of the Vanities, probably the most overrated novel of the late 20th century. The column became must-read material, and a cult was born.

The first novelization of the serial was published in 1978, followed by five more volumes published at two-year intervals, with three more books released after a 20-year gap.

In 1993, Channel 4 (UK) turned the first book into a superb miniseries, which was shown on PBS in the US in early 1994. Here’s the trailer:

Good news! That original series is currently streaming on Acorn.

The new series will be released on Netflix on 7  June  2019.


Bonus Track

The great Laura Linney makes an uncredited appearance in this video for the also-great Aimee Mann. Watch closely, and see if you can spot her.


* Granted, I also had exactly the same feeling the first time I was in London, and the first time I was in Paris. Never had it in my own hometown,  though, for some reason….

Another Tiffany Masterpiece

Damn, that’s beautiful. It captures autumn, doesn’t it?

It’s a Tiffany Studios drop head Dragonfly lamp, c. 1910, with a verdigris patinated leaded glass shade.

It was sold in the Andrew Jones Auctions gallery in Los Angeles last week, for $200,000 (€170,100). I hold Tiffany in the v highest regard, but the real thing is so far outside my budget—which barely covers my semi-annual haircut and the occasional purchase of a fresh turnip—that I make do with modern imitations.

I wish I lived in a Tiffany world.


Here’s the full auction catalog

The Happy Prince Official Trailer

Rupert Everett’s film about the sad end of Oscar Wilde’s life takes its name from one of Wilde’s short stories. Everett wrote, directed, and starred in The Happy Prince. Also appearing are Colin Firth, Emily Watson, Anna Chancellor, and Tom Wilkinson. Colin Morgan, TV’s Merlin, plays Lord Alfred (Bosie) Douglas.

The Guardian gave it five stars, but other reviews have been less positive.

The film is scheduled for a 15 June 2018 release date in the UK. The Happy Prince played at Sundance, but there’s no date yet for a wider US release.

The Arab Hall in Lord Leighton’s House

“Of all the Arab Halls in all the towns in all the world…”

…this is my favorite.

I’ve spent hours in this room, in what was once the Holland Park home of Sir Frederic Leighton. The house is a museum now—I’ve posted about the current Alma-Tadema exhibition, which is taking place there—and I visit it whenever I’m in London, which is never often enough.

And now you can visit too, in a way. I’ve just found some gorgeous 360-degrees panoramic views of many of the rooms in the Leighton House Museum.

Clicking this link will take you to the museum’s Reception area.  From there, you can travel directly to the Arab Hall, or take a narrated tour through the rest of the house.

It’s a great place to visit, and I’d really love to live there.

Lady Macbeth Trailer

First of all, no, it’s not the Scottish play, the name of which must never be mentioned.

This Lady Macbeth is an adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. It finally opened in five US theatres this weekend, after making the rounds on the festival circuit and getting rave reviews in the UK. The Tomatometer has it at 89%.

The movie has gotten high praise, especially for what’s been called “an amazing performance” by Florence Pugh, who plays Katherine. At 21, it’s only her second feature film.

What first drew my attention to Lady Macbeth was the subheading for Eric Kohn’s IndieWire review: “Imagine Alfred Hitchcock directing Wuthering Heights and you’ll get an idea of William Oldroyd’s tense period drama.” Pretty irresistible.

More theatres will be added in the weeks to come.

Alma-Tadema at Leighton House Museum — A Brief Follow-Up

The Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity exhibition opened in London today, and the Leighton House Museum has just released this teaser.

I posted an item with some background information about Alma-Tadema, Lord Leighton, and this exhibition a few days ago, but, as my grandmother used to say, one video is worth a thousand words. Especially when the video is this well done.

The show will run from 7 July 2017 through 29 October 2017.