Intervista-chiacchierata tra Federica Soprani e Alessandra Micheli di Les fleurs du mal- Blog letterario del 4-6-2020. Si parla di Victorian Solstice – GDN (DARK ZONE edizioni), di Victorian Vigilante (Nero Press Edizioni), del Cammino del Sapiente (Triskell Edizioni) e di Quello che sulla Terra sapete (Edizioni Il Vento Antico).
Cosa indossavano le ragazze della metà del XIX secolo? E com’erano le loro pettinature? Queste fantastiche foto vi daranno un’idea di come fossero le adolescenti del 1850.
What did the mid-19th century girls wear? And how did their hairstyles look like? These cool pics that show you a glimpse of teenage girls from the 1850s.
One house in Fournier St has wallpapers dating from 1690 until 1960. This oldest piece of wallpaper was already thirty years old when it was pasted onto the walls of the new house built by joiner William Taylor in 1721, providing evidence – as if it were ever needed – that people have always prized beautiful old things.
John Nicolson, the current owner of the house, keeps his treasured collection of wallpaper preserved between layers of tissue in chronological order, revealing both the history and tastes of his predecessors. First, there were the wealthy Huguenot silk weavers who lived in the house until they left for Scotland in the nineteenth century, when it was subdivided as rented dwellings for Jewish people fleeing the pogroms in Eastern Europe. Yet, as well as illustrating the precise social history of this location in Spitalfields, the wider significance of the collection is that it tells the story of English wallpaper – through examples from a single house.
When John Nicolson bought it in 1995, the house had been uninhabited since the nineteen thirties, becoming a Jewish tailoring workshop and then an Asian sweatshop before reaching the low point of dereliction, repossessed and rotting. John undertook a ten year renovation programme, moving into the attic and then colonising the rooms as they became habitable, one by one. Behind layers of cladding applied to the walls, the original fabric of the house was uncovered and John ensured that no materials left the building, removing nothing that predated 1970. A leaky roof had destroyed the plaster which came off the walls as he uncovered them, but John painstakingly salvaged all the fragments of wallpaper and all the curios lost by the previous inhabitants between the floorboards too.
“I wanted it to look like a three hundred year old house that had been lovingly cared for and aged gracefully over three centuries,” said John, outlining his ambition for the endeavour, “- but it had been trashed, so the challenge was to avoid either the falsification of history or a slavish recreation of one particular era.” The house had undergone two earlier renovations, to update the style of the panelling in the seventeen-eighties and to add a shopfront in the eighteen-twenties. John chose to restore the facade as a domestic frontage, but elsewhere his work has been that of careful repair to create a home that retains its modest domesticity and humane proportions, appreciating the qualities that make these Spitalfields houses distinctive.
The ancient wallpaper fragments are as delicate as butterfly wings now, but each one was once a backdrop to life as it was played out through the ages in this tottering old house. I can envisage the seventeenth century wallpaper with its golden lozenges framing dog roses would have gleamed by candlelight and brightened a dark drawing room through the Winter months with its images of Summer flowers, and I can also imagine the warm glow of the brown-hued Victorian designs under gaslight in the tiny rented rooms, a century later within the same house. When I think of the countless hours I have spent staring at the wallpaper in my time, I can only wonder at the number of day dreams that were once projected upon these three centuries of wallpaper.
Flowers and foliage are the constant motifs throughout all these papers, confirming that the popular fashion for floral designs on the wall has extended for over three hundred years already. Sometimes the flowers are sparser, sometimes more stylised but, in general, I think we may surmise that, when it comes to choosing wallpaper, people like to surround themselves with flowers. Wallpaper offers an opportunity to inhabit an everlasting bower, a garden that never fades or requires maintenance. And maybe a pattern of flowers is more forgiving than a geometric design? When it comes to concealing the damp patches, or where the baby vomited, or where the mistress threw the wine glass at the wall, floral is the perfect English compromise of the bucolic and the practical.
Two surprises in this collection of wallpaper contradict the assumed history of Spitalfields. One is a specimen from 1895 that has been traced through the Victoria & Albert Museum archive and discovered to be very expensive – sixpence a yard, equivalent to week’s salary – entirely at odds with the assumption that these rented rooms were inhabited exclusively by the poor at that time. It seems that then, as now, there were those prepared to scrimp for the sake of enjoying exhorbitant wallpaper. The other surprise is a modernist Scandanavian design by Eliel Saarinen from the nineteen twenties – we shall never know how this got there. John Nicolson likes to think that people who appreciate good design have always recognised the beauty of these exemplary old houses in Fournier St, which would account for the presence of both the expensive 1895 paper and the Saarinen pattern from 1920, and I see no reason to discount this theory.
I leave you to take a look at this selection of fragments from John’s archive and imagine for yourself the human dramas witnessed by these humble wallpapers of Fournier St.
Fragments from the seventeen-twenties
Hand-painted wallpaper from the seventeen-eighties
Printed wallpaper from the seventeen-eighties
Mid-nineteenth century fake wood panelling wallpaper, as papered over real wooden panelling
Wallpaper by William Morris, 1880
Expensive wallpaper at sixpence a yard from 1885
Late nineteenth century, in a lugubrious Arts & Crafts style
A frieze dating from 1900
In an Art Nouveau style c. 1900
Modernist design by Finnish designer Eliel Saarinen from the nineteen-twenties
Vinyl wallpaper from the nineteen-sixties
Items that John Nicolson found under the floorboards of his eighteenth-century house in Fournier St, including a wedding ring, pipes, buttons, coins, cotton reels, spinning tops, marbles, broken china and children’s toys. Note the child’s leather boot, the pair of jacks found under the front step, and the blue bottle of poison complete with syringe discovered in a sealed-up medicine cupboard which had been papered over. Horseshoes were found hidden throughout the fabric of the house to bring good luck, and the jacks and child’s shoe may also have been placed there for similar reasons.
The Forgotten Corners of Old London
Who knows what you might find lurking in the forgotten corners of old London? Like this lonely old waxwork of Charles II who once adorned a side aisle of Westminster Abbey, peering out through a haze of graffiti engraved upon his pane by mischievous tourists with diamond rings.
As one with a pathological devotion to walking through London’s sidestreets and byways, seeking to avoid the main roads wherever possible, these glass slides of the forgotten corners of London – used long ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute – hold a special appeal for me. I have elaborate routes across the city which permit me to walk from one side to the other exclusively by way of the back streets and I discover all manner of delights neglected by those who solely inhabit the broad thoroughfares.
And so it is with many of these extraordinary pictures that show us the things which usually nobody bothers to photograph. There are a lot of glass slides of the exterior of Buckingham Palace in the collection but, personally, I am much more interested in the roof space above Richard III’s palace of Crosby Hall that once stood in Bishopsgate, and in the unlikely paraphernalia which accumulated in the crypt of the Carmelite Monastery or the Cow Shed at the Tower of London, a hundred years ago. These pictures satisfy my perverse curiosity to visit the spaces closed off to visitors at historic buildings, in preference to seeing the public rooms.
Within these forgotten corners, there are always further mysteries to be explored. I wonder who pitched a teepee in the undergrowth next to the moat at Fulham Palace in 192o. I wonder if that is a cannon or a chimney pot abandoned in the crypt at the Carmelite monastery. I wonder why that man had a bucket, a piece of string and a plank inside the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. I wonder what those fat books were next to the stove in the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ shop. I wonder who was pulling that girl out of the photograph in Woolwich Gardens. I wonder who put that dish in the roof of Crosby Hall. I wonder why Charles II had no legs. The pictures set me wondering.
It is what we cannot know that endows these photographs with such poignancy. Like errant pieces from lost jigsaws, they inspire us to imagine the full picture that we shall never be party to.
Tiltyard Gate, Eltham Palace, c. 1930
Refuse collecting at London Zoo, c. 1910
Passage in Highgate, c. 1910
Westminster Dust Carts, c. 1910
The Jewel Tower, Westminster, 1921
Fifteenth century brickwork at Charterhouse Wash House, c1910
Middle Temple Lane, c. 1910
Carmelite monastery crypt, c. 1910
The Moat at Fulham Palace, c. 1920
Clifford’s Inn, c. 1910
Top of inner dome at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920
Apothecaries’ Hall Quadrangle, c. 1920
Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ Shop, c.1920
Unidentified destroyed building near St Paul’s, c. 1940
Merchant Taylors’ Hall, c. 1920
Crouch End Old Baptist Chapel, c. 1900
Woolwich Gardens, c. 1910
The roof of Crosby Hall, Richard III’s palace in Bishopsgate , c. 1910
Refreshment stall in St James’ Park, c. 1910
River Wandle at Wandsworth, c. 1920
Corridor at Battersea Rise House, c. 1900
Tram emerging from the Kingsway Tunnel, c. 1920
Between the interior and exterior domes at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920
Fossilised tree trunk on Tooting Common, c. 1920
St Dunstan-in-the-East, 1911
Cow shed at the Queen’s House, Tower of London, c. 1910
Boundary marks for St Benet Gracechurch, St Andrew Hubbard and St Dionis Backchurch in Talbot Court, c. 1910
Lincoln’s Inn gateway seen from Old Hall, c. 1910
St Bride’s Fleet St, c. 1920
Glass slides copyright © Bishopsgate Institute
Londonderry House Demolished 1965
Lansdowne House is a building to the southwest of Berkeley Square in central London, England. It was designed by Robert Adam as a private house and for most of its time as a residence it belonged to the Petty-FitzMaurice family, Marquesses of Lansdowne.
In between his two Grand Tours of Italy (1714 and 1719) young Lord Burlington’s taste was transformed by the publication of Giacomo Leoni‘s Palladio. In 1717 or 1718, Colen Campbell was appointed to replace Gibbs, who was working in the Baroque style of Sir Christopher Wren, to recast the work in a new manner, on the old foundations. This was a key moment in the history of English architecture, as Campbell’s work was in a strict Palladian style, and the aesthetic preferences of Campbell and Burlington soon joined by their close associate William Kent, who worked on interiors at Burlington House, were to provide the leading strain in English architecture and interior decoration for two generations.
Devonshire House (1896) Demolished
Devonshire House in Piccadilly was the London residence of the Dukes of Devonshirein the 18th and 19th centuries. It was built for William Cavendish, 3rd Duke of Devonshire in the Palladian style, to designs by William Kent. Completed circa 1740, empty after World War I, it was demolished in 1924.
(tratto e tradotto da http://etiquipedia.blogspot.it/2013/02/victorian-and-edwardian-era-etiquette.html)
Compiti dello Chaperon
La necessità di avere uno “chaperon” è riconosciuta come particolarmente importante nelle comunità più grandi e popolose, dove le persone appartengono a classi sociali molto diverse e non si conoscono affatto.
Lo “chaperon” è il custode eletto di ragazze molto giovani, e prende il ruolo della governante, in quanto a sorveglianza, nella loro vita sociale una volta che le bambine sono cresciute e diventate ragazze. Lo “chaperon” è solo un ben povero sostituto delle cure di una madre, ma prende il posto della madre quando questa non può essere presente. Le ragazze non dovrebbero mai uscire di casa senza essere accompagnate da una persona anziana o da una cameriera. Questa regola non serve tanto per la protezione fisica, quanto per dimostrare come una condotta virtuosa e discreta prevenga la possibilità di esperienze spiacevoli.
Quando un gruppo di giovani si reca in qualche luogo pubblico per divertimento o istruzione, una persona adulta dovrebbe sempre accompagnarli. Tale figura , che dovrebbe essere uno dei padri o delle madri dei giovani in questione, se possibile, dovrebbe trovarsi simpatetica con lo spirito del gruppo tanto che la sua presenza non rovini lo spirito dell’uscita o imponga un controllo troppo rigido, ma freni comunque comportamenti poco dignitosi, e fornisca una protezioni da eventuali critiche al comportamento dei ragazzi.
Fino a non molto tempo fa, ci si sarebbe ancora aspettati che, se una figlia avesse intrattenuto un giovane in salotto, il padre (o la madre) avrebbe dovuto essere presente durante tutta la visita. Per le figlie debuttanti l’usanza è ancora valida. Per una figlia che è già stata in società per una o più stagioni, quest’usanza è considerata alquanto rigorosa e inutile, in quanto la presenza del padre o della madre solo per una parte della visita basta e avanza, e dà così ai giovani la possibilità di parlare liberamente. Il padre e la madre saggia o lo chaperon sanno quando fidarsi dei ragazzi, e quando è meglio contare sul loro senso dell’onore. Solo avendo la responsabilità delle proprie azioni, i giovani possono raggiungere dignità e autosufficienza.
A volte è consentito ad una giovane donna di essere accompagnata “da sola” a una festa o un ricevimento da un giovane uomo, ma solo da un giovane ben conosciuto dalla famiglia di lei, tanto conosciuto da potersi fidare ad affidargli la figlia. Possono però andare solo a ricevimenti e intrattenimenti presieduti da signore adulte e responsabili. E tuttavia vero che anche la ragazza più indipendente deve provvedere da sé ad uno chaperon in certe occasioni, o potrebbe perdere considerazione in società.
Nella vita di società nelle grandi città, lo “chaperon” è un personaggio importante e sempre presente. Ovunque la giovane débutante vada: in società, in ogni luogo di divertimento, oppure al parco, durante lo shopping o durante le visite di carattere sociale, lo “chaperon” è al suo fianco .
I rapporti con la propria “chaperon” dovrebbero essere i più intimi, affidabili e degni di fiducia nella vita di una ragazza, ma possono anche rivelarsi una mera farsa e rappresenteranno quindi solo un’occasione di evasione. Come regola generale, tuttavia, una stretta osservanza dei dettami della società a questo proposito è meglio di un’interpretazione troppo lassista.
Il modo trascurato in cui molti genitori permettono ai loro figli di uscire con un gruppo di ragazzi e ragazze della loro età, non presidiati da alcun adulto, è deplorevole. Tra i genitori di questo gruppo di ragazzi deve per forza esserci qualche genitore che si preoccupa abbastanza dei suoi figli e dei loro amici per ricoprire il ruolo di supervisore, ed essere allo stesso tempo un esempio di un più maturo modo di pensare e di un determinato sistema di valori, una salvaguardia contro l’irresponsabilità dei giovani.
Fino a quando una ragazza non fa il suo debutto in società, non presenzierà ad intrattenimenti formali con adulti tranne che in casa sua, a meno che non si tratti di una festa di compleanno, un matrimonio, o un battesimo. Anche dopo che il suo fidanzamento è stato annunciato, lo chaperon sarà ancora l’assistente della giovane coppia in circoli alla moda, e quando questi si recano in un luogo di divertimento pubblico.