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Imagine Classic Literary Characters living in the Modern World. Read Jane Eyre Gets Real, a Novel by Annabelle Troy, available on Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/Jane-Eyre-Gets-Real-Annabelle-ebook/dp/B00FAS3I7O

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Queen Victoria

Mrs. Brown, With Mangoes

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Jane Eyre, living now in NYC courtesy of the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, was surprised recently when she saw a coming attraction for Victoria and Abdul. The movie, starring Judi Dench and Ali Fazal, has just opened in New York. It tells the true story of the aging queen and how she makes an Indian butler her Muslim adviser. Directed by Stephen Frears, of Philomena fame, the film has a stellar cast and lavish production values. Normally it would be right up Jane’s alley–except it all seems to be suspiciously like the 1997 movie Mrs. Brown. 

Mrs. Brown also starred Judi Dench as Queen Victoria who, extremely saddened by the death of Prince Albert, emerges from depression with the help of her Scottish servant (played by Billy Connolly). Both films revolve around the premise of a melancholy old queen, draped in black and out of touch, who is brought back to life with the aid of a “foreign” man of lowly social stature. As reward, said man is elevated to high rank and given the queen’s royal devotion. In Mrs. Brown, Billy the gillie serves Victoria whisky, encourages her to ride out in rough temperatures and to interact with peasants. In Victoria and Abdul, Abdul endeavors to present the Queen with a perfect mango: symbol of her Eastern kingdoms, too far away for her to visit yet glowing with refracted exoticism. Same difference.

Victoria and Abdul, Jane imagines, is a treat as predictable and delicious as Victoria sponge cake. She’s sure it will be easy to watch, and will offer what American audiences seem to crave: the ability to savor the beauty of empire while remaining smug in their liberal beliefs. After all, even the prim and proper queen comes to love her Indian servant, “Munshi”, valuing him over prime minister Lord Salisbury (Michael Gambon) and her other po-faced courtiers. Meaning, in theory, that the film is supporting the virtues of the “humble.” In fact, apart from being a showcase for Dench’s amazing talent, Jane fears it’s just another opportunity to feature gleaming silks in jeweled colors, plummy accents, and endless green lawns beneath a watery English sun. Nothing wrong with that; just be honest about what exactly Victoria and Abdul is celebrating.

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Queen Victoria’s Tramp Stamp

 

OK, Queen Victoria getting a tattoo may be a rumor started by Annabelle Troy…BUT, Alice in Wonderland, a character in Jane Eyre Gets Real, knows that tattooing was all the rage amongst grand ladies in the 1880s. The practice was first popularized in high society when that playboy trend setter the Prince of Wales got a cross tattoo in Jerusalem (Alice is not sure where on the body); his sons copied the cross design on their own flesh. Thus the rage for tattoos was born. After Czar Nicholas II. and Kaiser Wilhelm succumbed, aristocratic women started to get designs from the tattoo machine as well. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Jennie, had a serpent tattoo encircling her wrist–which she covered in public with bracelets. To have ornate designs inscribed on the skin, which only husbands or lovers would see, was definitely a Victorian lady’s well-guarded secret.

Late in the 19th century “tattooed ladies”,  sometimes inked from head to slipper, became a circus staple. These ladies were definitely NOT aristocrats. Eventually, when the rage for tattooing spread to the lower classes,  along with methods for procuring them on the cheap, “real” ladies began to forego them. If Kate Middleton has one, she’s not telling…though she does have “permanent makeup”–liner etched onto her eyes so that she will always look presentable. Still, it’s no serpent.

 

 

 

 

Who Needs A Flying Car?

Last week Google co-founder Larry Page debuted his flying car. The vehicle, which can be driven vertically over open water, is rather unimaginatively called The Flyer, and is expected to be on the market by the end of 2017. Operators will NOT need a pilot’s license though they may want to keep a lifejacket handy.

As far as David Copperfield (the Dickens character featured in Annabelle Troy’s Jane Eyre Gets Real) is concerned, Larry Page can keep the d–d contraption! Copperfield fondly recalls the carriages of his youth. There’s the popular phaeton, the sports car of its day, a light open vehicle with a folding top, four snazzy wheels, and a seat, reached by a ladder, on top of jaunty springs. Those wishing a more elegant ride might try a victoria, introduced to England from France in 1869 by that rebel the Prince of Wales. He named it in honor of his mother. Low and light, it boasts a forward-facing, open seat for two–good way to show off your outfits–as well as a graceful shape. And there’s always the brougham, not unlike a victoria, but with an enclosed passenger seat, for those days when you’re not feeling good about yourself, or if you only have one horse available.

Of course, if you want the opinion of Mr. Darcy, the only way to get about town is on the back of a thoroughbred. Never fly when you can ride.

 

 

Very Victorian Christmas Problems

It’s that time of year again. Happy Yule from Annabelle Troy and the characters of Jane Eyre Gets Real.

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Victoria and Albert got a Christmas tree…so now you have to get a Christmas tree

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Plum Pudding Too Dry

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Extremely Disturbing Greeting Cards

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Um, kids, that’s not really Santa…

 

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Angels Keep Dropping By While You’re Trying To Sleep

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Sherlock Holmes & The Mystery of Ponyhenge

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On a grassy field in the town of Lincoln, Massachusetts rocking horses keep appearing. They started showing up on the field as early as 30 years ago, when kids used to run a lemonade stand there. The stand vanished but the horses stayed and their number has steadily grown, as if the wooden steeds are reproducing themselves. (Actually, not all the horses are wooden. There are also plastic models.) As of 9/2016, more than 30 hobby horses stand in Lincoln, arranged in a semi-circle. They have been given the name of “Ponyhenge.” At Christmas lights are draped around them. Sometimes they are rearranged to look like a static merry-go-round without music or motion. At other times, like the Kentucky Derby, they are put into “racing” positions. No one knows who originally placed them there or who moves them. For the locals it’s like a community art project, tinged with the allure of mystery. Nobody ever steals or damages the horses. Their population is always replenished, never decreased.

Sherlock Holmes, a character in Annabelle Troy’s novel Jane Eyre Gets Real, has spent hours mulling over Ponyhenge. He has ruled out bored housewives, drugged-out kids, former carnival owners, even space aliens. Just this morning he came up with a solution. Holmes knows precisely who is behind the hobby horse circle and their motive. So here it is–but wait! Sherlock has been known to keep secrets even from Dr. Watson and Queen Victoria. It has occurred to him that the lovely wooden and plastic horses so artlessly arranged, protected within their circle as if by magic, should stay a mystery. Alone, each horse is only a discarded piece of junk. But together they form a hopeful message of beauty, unity and delight. As only the greatest detectives know, some mysteries are better left unsolved.

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Child’s Play

 

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Is childhood a real psychological state or simply a creation of society–and a sentimental one at that? We tend to take for granted that children think and feel differently than adults, as well as that they exist in a better, purer realm. But throughout society this has not been the case. In the medieval ages, and before, children were treated like incomplete, somewhat defective adults. Only in the 18th century did ideas about kids undergo a significant change. Largely responsible for this was philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who equated children with nature and innocence; he believed education should be linked not just to knowledge, work and social duties but to preserving what was untainted in the soul.

Childhood really got going in the Victorian era (1837-1901). Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert had nine children and idealized the idea of family. Though poor children often lead horrible lives, working at very early ages in mills and as chimney sweeps and unpaid servants, life for rich kids included nannies, toy soldiers, rocking horses, wax dolls, even elaborate toy shops complete with tiny goods for sale.  Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in 1865 and it quickly became one of the most popular children’s stories–though how many kids today could read it (in its real, un-Disney form?). Picture books illustrated by Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane and William Nicholson were full of charming pictures of rosy-cheeked “good” little children indulging in ring-around-the rosy, hopscotch and hoop bowling. All of this perpetuated the idea–maybe a fantasy?–that children–at least those of wealthy parentage–inhabited their own reality, free from worry or any true unhappiness.

Later on, Freudian theories of burgeoning infant sexuality would dispel the notion of pre-pubescent innocence and upset the kinder applecart. Psychological tales such as The Bad Seed and Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour, in which spoiled little girls deliberately lie and ruin the lives of their caretakers, would perpetrate the image of kids as potential demons, hiding behind frilly skirts, knee socks and toys. Long before Freud, Jane Eyre speaks up to her Aunt Reed, accusing her of of unkindness and hypocrisy in a manner the early Victorians found shocking. She was a passionate child, a rebel, daring to be heard–and cruelly punished for it. Heidi, written by Johanna Spyri in 1881, decades after Jane Eyre, reverts back to an earlier prototype: a joyous child brings delight and miraculous health to all those who know her, simply by existing.

Which idea of childhood do you find the most compelling? Are children miniature grown-ups struggling with many of the same problems as their parents, albeit in different forms? Or did they exist in their own universe, discrete and uncorrupted (at least before they get on the internet?).

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Was Jack the Ripper A Tormented Poet?

Sherlock Holmes is reading A Cure for Cecily by Annabelle Troy. It’s a dark Victorian tale of romance, insanity and passion. Cecily, a young artist, is locked away in an asylum by her wealthy husband; she rebels by running away with a sympathetic doctor–but at what price? The book is available for free on Amazon Nov. 13-17:

http://www.amazon.com/Cure-Cecily-Annabelle-Troy-ebook/dp/B00P85OB66/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447372976&sr=8-1&keywords=A+Cure+for+Cecily

Now back to Jack. For obvious reasons, Sherlock has had a lifelong fascination with this case. There’s even a movie called Murder by Decree, in which Christopher Plummer plays Holmes tracking down the Ripper, who turns out to be the son of Queen Victoria. In real life, Australian author Richard Patterson has spent decades positing the theory that Jack was poet Francis Thompson, born a doctor’s son, December 1859. After failing to become a priest he spent six years studying surgery–but even after three attempts was unable to pass his exams. He started to write poetry and, in 1879, became addicted to opium, which was prescribed to him for a lung infection. (Were there any Victorian poets who did NOT have weak lungs?) Drug-addicted, he became a vagrant who lived mostly in the Dockland area of London, expiring unmourned in 1907; at the time of his death he weighed only 70 pounds. His poem, The Hound of Heaven, beloved by Oxford theologian types, would ultimately sell 50,000 copies.

The Ripper murders would have happened when Francis–incidentally, he was named for St. Francis of Assisi by his mother, a convert to Catholicism–was 29 years old. It was said he always carried a scalpel around with him which he used, Sweeney Todd-like, to shave. Though The Hound of Heaven depicts a soul pursued by God, he also wrote poems about women being murdered under creepy circumstances, and he was known to have once lived with his lover, an East End prostitute. If Patterson’s theory is correct the 1888 killing spree of five ladies of the night would have been undertaken right after Francis’s lover left him. Patterson has thought Francis was Jack since the 1990’s but his theory has only recently been taken seriously. To quote from The Hound of Heaven:

“I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I fled HIm, down the arches of the years;

I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways

Of my own mind…”  Do you think Thompson was Jack the Ripper? And if so who will play him in the inevitable movie?

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