Sunday, July 31, 2011

Upcoming Release! To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn by Sandra Byrd

Publish Date: August, 2011
Format: Paperback edition, 352 pages

Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review

Book Synopsis

What would you sacrifice for your best friend?
Would you die for her?

Meg Wyatt has been Anne Boleyn's closest friend ever since they grew up together on neighboring manors in Kent. So when twenty-five year old Anne's star begins to ascend, of course she takes Meg along for the ride.
Life in court of Henry VIII is first. Meg is made mistress of Anne's wardrobe, and she enjoys the spoils of this privileged orbit and uses her influence for good. She is young and beautiful and in favor; everyone at court assumes that being close to her is being close to Anne.
But favor is fickle and envy is often laced with venom. As Anne falls, so does Meg, and it becomes nearly impossible for her to discern ally from enemy. Suddenly life's unwelcome surprises rub against the court's sheen to reveal the tarnished brass of false affections and the bona fide gold of those that are true. Both Anne and Meg may lose everything. When your best friend is married to fearsome Henry VIII, you may soon find yourself not only friendless but headless as well.
A rich alchemy of fact and fiction, To Die For chronicles the glittering court life, the sweeping romance, and the heartbreaking fall from grace of a forsaken queen and Meg her closest companion, who was forgotten by the ages but who is destined to live in our hearts forever.

This review will be a tricky one since the novel To Die For is soon to be published. I will not give away nor go into too many historical details so no spoiler warnings are needed! Suffice it to say, author, Sandra Byrd, stays as close to accurate in historical detail allowing for a writer's imagination to fill in the gaps where history has left us curious!

Psalter ("Psalter of Anne Boleyn"), in French
France, Rouen, 1529–32
The Wormsley Library, United Kingdom

National Portrait Gallery Portrait of Anne Boleyn

Although, this is the historical Margaret Wyatt painted by Hans Holbein, for purposes of the novel, Sandra Byrd writes a different Meg Wyatt.

Remember me, when you do pray, that hope doth lead from day to day

Nihilo quo tui meminerim mihi opus est, I need nothing to remember you by

Those words said between friends, set the scene for the friendship between two teenaged girls whose families live near each other on neighboring estates in Kent, England. What happens when one of them becomes Queen of England? How do you maintain a friendship, keep those ties that bind, when those loyalties get tested during the tumultous English Reformation?

Sandra Byrd has a descriptive and humorous writing style that captures the readers attention and maintains it throughout the lives of these two important women, their families, their loves, and their commitments to land, love, religion, and each other.

I am no historian but I am very well versed in Tudor history, especially Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII and various factions of Sixteenth Century England. What a wonderful surprise to have Sandra Byrd begin the first part of the novel by introducing you to a teenage Meg Wyatt and Anne Boleyn living in the Kent countryside, going about their busy days walking, talking, and cajoling. Getting on together as any two close girlfriends would.

There are recognizable historical families: The Boleyns, The Wyatts, The Howards amongst others.
Religion is quoted and discussed throughout. However, Sandra Byrd does not use religion as a soapbox for her characters, rather as a useful tool or support between friends and even enemies, a sort of comfort during trying times if you will. A rather good move I think. This keeps the reader interested even curious perhaps to learn more either about religion or history.

I hope you are curious enough to meet the young girl who grows up to be Queen of England and those around her who loved her. Some who shouldn't have and some who should!

To Die For is the first novel in a trilogy. I hope you will read and enjoy it as much as I have. It is a joyful story of hope, friendship, and love that does not disappoint!

For more information about visit the website of author, Sandra Byrd

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments,

Remembering Emily Bronte & Wuthering Heights

Emily Bronte painted by her brother

I have dreamed in my life, dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they have gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind~ Emily Brontë

July 30, 1818 was Emily Bronte's birthday. Although, I am a day late, I wanted to remember her through the one novel she ever wrote, Wuthering Heights! I wonder, if there is any girl out there who hasn't read this beautiful novel. Well, I implore you, regardless of age, read it immediately. Clear your schedule, make a pot of tea, a snack, curl up on the sofa, or get tucked up in bed and meet Cathy and Heathcliff on the moors in Yorkshire...

Setting for Wuthering Heights, The Yorkshire Moors

The Moors in Haworth where The Brontes grew up

What I loved about Wuthering Heights are its Gothic qualities, and the lack of moral comment from its author. The presence of ghosts and visions, the prevalence of storms and darkness (echoing the characters' turbulent emotions) and at the core Heathcliff's diabolical nature, combine with the melodramatic plot to create a violent nightmare into which the reader is sucked. The wild, stormy landscape, and Wuthering Heights itself, with its air of faded grandeur and atmosphere of spiritual gloom owe much to the Gothic novels of the late eighteenth century. What is exceptional for the period is the absence of condemnation by Emily of Heathcliff's conduct, or any suggestion that evil might bring its own punishment. The novel is morally ambiguous, the author leaving us to draw our own conclusions. This led to criticism by many early readers, but is an important aspect of its contemporary appeal.

When Wuthering Heights was first published, it was rejected. Publishers didn’t understand the book, or the author. They didn’t understand the complexities and messages in the story or the true strength of character its author possessed.

Emily Bronte was not a typical Victorian woman. She was very reclusive and didn’t have much interest in the outside world. She had pastimes that weren’t proper for women during those times and her views on religion were not what you would expect from a clergyman’s daughter. And, she was in possession of a wonderful imagination that wouldn’t quit.

Because of her lack of contact with the outside world, people know very little about her. What they do know is a striking picture. Emily enjoyed whistling like a man and even practiced pistol shooting with her father, an unheard of pastime for a woman in that era. She dressed oddly for that time and was nicknamed “the Mayor”.

Her love of nature is very apparent in her writing. She enjoyed walking on the moors and loved animals of all kinds. She drew pleasure from watching the seasons change. A neighbor of the Bronte’s claimed that after Emily returned one night from a walk, her face was lit “with the divine light of happiness”. She appreciated courage and showed immense courage herself.

Emily also was a very loyal and caring person. When an old family servant, Tabby, broke her leg, Emily left home to care for her until she healed. And when Emily’s terrible Aunt Elizabeth died, she brought Tabby to her own home to live with her until the end of her days. Branwell Bronte, Emily's brother, was another example of Emily’s extreme loyalty. Although Branwell died very early as a result of excessive drinking, Emily never stopped caring about him. It is widely believed that Emily waited up for him every night and carried him up to his room when he was too drunk to get there himself.

Heathcliff and Catherine
When Catherine took ill with a brain fever, Heathcliff was heartbroken. And the part of him that died when she died was the capacity to love. After Catherine was gone, he became ruthless, calculating and conquering to have revenge on Edgar and Hindley. He set out to acquire all the property of both families, by kidnapping and plotting. He became a very dark and evil person, with no real redeeming qualities, except you never really hate him. Other critics have said that the character of Heathcliff evokes pity in readers, but I never really pitied him. I more sympathized with his character, because he lost his love. It was not good that he took the path of evil and cruel temperament, but it can be understood when you understand that he lost his love when Catherine died. After she was gone, he really had nothing but his revenge to live for, and so he lived for his revenge. He threw himself into revenge and made it his life. And when he was finished with his revenge, and had acquired all of the property, his life was done. Heathcliff gave up living and welcomed death, so that he could once again be with Catherine.

Catherine’s death was a very emotional point for Heathcliff and the story. It is the time when Heathcliff loses all love he has in the physical world and inside himself. In that scene, Heathcliff displays more emotions than in the rest of the book.

“Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace her; he attempted to rise, but she seized his hair, and kept him down.
‘I wish I could hold you,’ she continued bitterly, ‘till we were both dead! I shouldn’t care what you suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings. Why shouldn’t you suffer. I do! Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, “That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago and was wretched to lose her; but it is past. I’ve loved many others since: my children are dearer to me than she was; and at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her: I shall be sorry that I must leave them!” Will you say so Heathcliff?’

‘Don’t torture me till I am as mad as yourself,’ cried he, wrenching his head free and grinding his teeth.

‘Are you possessed with a devil,’ he pursued savagely, ‘to talk in that manner to me when you are dying? Do you reflect that all those words will be branded on my memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? You know you lie to say I have killed you: and, Catherine, you know that I could soon forget you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell?’

‘I shall not be at peace,’ moaned Catherine, recalled to a sense of physical weakness by the violent, unequal throbbing of her heart, which beat visibly and audibly under this excess of agitation. She said nothing further till the paroxysm was over; then she continued more kindly -

‘I’m not wishing you greater torment than I have, Heathcliff. I only wish us never to be parted: and should a word of mine distress you hereafter, think I feel the same distress underground, and for my own sake, forgive me! Come here and kneel down again! You never harmed me in your life. Nay, if you nurse anger, that will be worse to remember than my harsh words! Won’t you come here again? Do!’

‘Oh, you see, Ellen, he would not relent a moment to keep me out of the grave. That is how I’m loved! Well, never mind. That is not my Heathcliff. I shall love mine yet; and take him with me: he’s in my soul. And’, added she musingly, ‘the thing that irks me most in this shattered prison, after all. I’m, tired, tired of being enclosed here. I’m wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart; but really with it, and in it. Ellen, you think you are better and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength: you are sorry for me - very soon that will be altered. I shall be sorry for you. I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all. I wonder he won’t be near me!’ She went on to herself. ‘I thought he wished it. Heathcliff, dear! you should not be sullen now. Do come to me, Heathcliff.’

‘You teach me how cruel you’ve been - cruel and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and ring out my kisses and tears: they’ll blight you - they’ll damn you. You loved me - then what right had you to leave me? What right - answer me - for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because of misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart - you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you - oh, God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave?’

‘Let me alone. Let me alone,’ sobbed Catherine. ‘If I have done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is enough! You left me too: but I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you. Forgive me!

‘It is hard to forgive, and to look at those eyes, and feel those wasted hands,’ he answered. ‘Kiss me again; and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer - but yours! How can I?’”

This excerpt illustrates many things about both the author’s style and the characters in it.
Toward the beginning of the passage, Catherine pulled Heathcliff in by the hair, but he broke free. Catherine still had some of his hair in her hands. In way, I think this is symbolic of the fact that they could never be parted. They were one mind, one soul and one love and whether they were mad at each other, or separated, they were always together. Along these same lines, Catherine said, “You have never harmed me.” Catherine was probably the only person Heathcliff had never harmed. He had been proven to be a very loveless character, quite capable of hurting people, and yet he had never harmed Catherine.

Midway through, Catherine talked about her prison and about how she wanted to break free and go to the glorious place. To me, prison has many meanings in this place. One meaning is Catherine’s room. She had been ill and cooped up in her room for a long time. She wanted to be able to walk on the moors again, like she used to. She wanted to be among people again and stop being an invalid who relied on others to do things for her. Another meaning, is the prison of her mortal body. She is close to death, and wanted to go to heaven. Again, she was tired of being sick and an invalid, and she just wanted it to be done. Catherine wanted to make a graceful exit from the physical world to the heavens. She was tired of living. The last meaning I see, is the prison of loving Heathcliff and not being able to be with him. She had lived many years and through them all, she has loved Heathcliff. Her own love for him has imprisoned her and made her miserable. She just wanted to break free and be able to love Heathcliff without the extra baggage of Edgar Linton.

At the very end, Heathcliff said, “I love my murderer, but yours? How can I?” This quote expresses Heathcliff’s sorrow perfectly. He refers to Catherine as breaking his heart and killing him, and he says that he loves her, even if she has killed a part of his soul. But, he can never forgive her murderer, which is himself. Throughout the rest of the book, it can be seen how much he longs for Catherine. He saw her in Catherine’s daughter and Hareton. He prayed for her to haunt him and he could sense her with him all the time. And he never forgave himself for “killing” her, until he dies.

Everyone had a hardship of love. Heathcliff loved Catherine and Catherine loved him, but they couldn’t be together because he was nothing but a beggar. Edgar loved Catherine and married her, but never really got love in return from her. Hindley loved his wife Frances, but she died at a young age. Isabella loved Heathcliff, and they were married, but she discovered that her husband was not the caring man she thought he was. Cathy loved Linton, but then discovered he was nothing but a sickly, spoiled brat. Linton loved Cathy but felt he was too weak to do anything about it. And Hareton loved Cathy, but at the beginning, he was too uneducated to be worthy of her. Everyone in the book loved someone, and was hurt by that love.

These two themes also occur in many of Emily Bronte’s poems, especially the hardships of love. In an untitled poem, she wrote:

If grief for grief can touch thee,
If answering woe for woe,
If any ruth can melt thee,
Come to me now!

I cannot be more lonely,
More drear I cannot be!
My worn heart throbs so wildly
‘Twill break for thee.

And when the world despises-
When heaven repels my prayer,
Will not mine angel comfort?
Mine idol hear?

Yes by the tears I’ve poured,
My all my hours of pain,
O I shall surely win thee
Beloved, again!
(Wuthering Heights and Poems)

In this poem, the narrator is mourning the loss of a loved one. From the ending phrase, “I shall surely win thee/Beloved again!”, I think she was trying to convey that her love is alive and has left her, but that she will win him back. Again, it is the theme of “love hurts”.

Another reccurring theme in her poems is death. In a poem entitled merely “A.G.A”, she wrote:

Sleep brings no joy to me,
Remembrance never dies;
My soul is given to misery
And lives in sighs.

Sleep brings no rest to me;
The shadows of the dead
My waking eyes may never see
Surround my bed.

Sleep brings no hope to me;
In sounder sleep they come.
And with their doleful imagery
Deepen the gloom

Sleep brings no strength to me,
No power renewed to brave:
I only sail a wilder sea,
A darker wave.

Sleep brings no friend to me
To soothe and aid to bear;
They all gaze, oh, how scornfully,
And I despair.

Sleep brings no wish to knit
My harassed heart beneath:
My only wish is to forget
In the sleep of death.
(Wuthering Heights and Poems)

This poem is all about life and how she had tired of it. She wanted to leave this life and go on to death. She was ready and wanted to move on.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions,

Monday, July 25, 2011

Elizabeth Siddal 25 July 1829 – 11 February 1862

On this day in 1829 was born a girl who would change the lives of four men known as The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. One in particular, would fall madly in love with her bringing him to the point of delirious grief and madness. Who was Elizabeth Siddal 'Lizzie' to most who knew her?
Her husband the great Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet knew best. So, for all intent purposes, my tribute to Lizzie will focus on her marriage to husband D.G. Rossetti.

So, how did Lizzie and Rossetti meet...

Twelfth Night by William Deverell

There she was 'discovered' by Walter Deverell, a young, good-looking associate of the recently founded Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and asked to model for the figure of Viola in the picture he was currently painting, Twelfth Night. Rossetti was also sitting for the picture, taking the part of the jester Feste, and it was in Deverell's studio that he and Lizzie met.

Deverell was in raptures over Lizzie's appearance, describing her to Holman Hunt as 'a stupendously beautiful creature...By Jove! She's like a queen, magnificently tall, with a lovely figure, a stately neck, and a face of the most delicate and finished modelling...; she has grey eyes, and her hair is like dazzling copper.'
It was not long before she was sitting to other artists too, appearing in Hunt's Christian Missionary (1850; Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) and Valentine rescuing Silvia (1851; Manchester), and most famously of all in Millais' Ophelia (1852; Tate Britain).

Shortly after this, however, she ceased to model for anyone but Rossetti. From the moment he saw her, he later told Madox Brown, he felt that 'his destiny was defined'.
Intensely romantic, he recognised his ideal woman in her statuesque beauty and regal carriage, her natural distinction overlaying a profound shyness, and her subtle, unusual colouring - her straight, loosely fastened auburn hair, her pale skin and grey-green eyes, slightly protruberent and veiled by heavy lids. Her preference for simple, unconventional dresses of dove-grey or black material only enhanced her air of ethereal, almost spiritual, elegance. But if Rossetti had met his 'destiny', Lizzie too was enslaved by this ardent and brilliant young artist of almost wholly Italian blood, so different from anyone she had hitherto encountered in her restricted life. No wonder they fell in love. Lizzie, or 'Guggum' as Rossetti called her, was constantly at his bohemian 'crib' in Chatham Place, Blackfriars. They were soon engaged, and throughout the 1850s she was his unrivalled muse, inspiring endless drawings and appearing in all his work of the period, whether the religious and Dantesque subjects to which he was so drawn during the early part of the decade, or the 'Froissartian' themes that tended to take over following his meeting with William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in 1856.
Lizzie herself had ambitions to become an artist, and Rossetti encouraged her efforts both in painting and poetry. He even declared that she was a better artist than he was, and while this is patently untrue, her work does have a touching sincerity, reflecting his in style but speaking with a faltering voice of its own. Ruskin was another admirer of her drawings, and paid her a regular income in an attempt to help them both.

According to the inscription, the subject and composition for this picture were conceived by Elizabeth Siddal, and the work was executed by both Elizabeth and DGR. The subject is taken from Tennyson's poem Sir Galahad.

Mentioned in Marillier's DGR: An Illustrated Memorial, 'Oil. In a water-filled sepulcher, a young knight kneels in a small boat, flanked by two young female angels. He has just washed his hands in a basin held by one of the angels, and he gazes at the grail held by the other.'
'Miss Siddal's failing health, however, shortly afterwards put an end to her productiveness, and with the exception of one or two small water-colours, very much in Rossetti's own style as regards colouring, she painted no pictures. Her designs are, however, of great interest, both on their own account, for the imaginative insight they display, and because Rossetti often worked on them, and occasionally even borrowed her ideas.'

AFTER the tragic death of his wife, on February 11th, 1862, Rossetti could no longer bear to occupy the rooms they had inhabited at Chatham Place, and began to look for others. He finally decided on No. 16, Cheyne Walk.
It is in this residence where widowed Rossetti sketched and painted his memorial work to his 'Guggum' entitled, 'Beata Beatrix'.

Oil. At center Beatrice sits, her head leaned back and eyes closed as if in a trance, her hands resting on her knees. In the background the figures of Love and Dante gaze at each other; Dante stands beside a well, Love in vermillion holds a burning heart; the Ponte Vecchio stretches across the river Arno and the Duomo stands silhouetted against the sky.

Into the Beata Beatrix he has put the very best of himself: imagination, feeling, colour, beauty, and perfect harmony. Not a flaw, not an ugly touch mars the repose of that upturned face in trance, the purest of all the images that have made his wife immortal.

In a letter describing the Beata Beatrix , which has often been wrongly named The Dead or the Dying Beatrice—a title more fitly to be applied to Dante's Dream Rossetti explains:

“The picture illustrates the Vita Nuova , embodying symbolically the death of Beatrice as treated in that work. The picture is not intended at all to represent death, but to render it under the semblance of a trance, in which Beatrice, seated at a balcony overlooking the city, is suddenly rapt from earth to heaven.

“You will remember how Dante dwells on the desolation of the city in connection with the incident of her death, and for this reason I have introduced it as my background, and made the figures of Dante and Love passing through the street and gazing ominously on one another, conscious of the event; while the bird, a messenger of death, drops the poppy between the hands of Beatrice. She, through her shut lids, is conscious of a new world, as expressed in the last words of the Vita Nuova—That blessed Beatrice who now gazeth continually on His countenance qui est per omnia sæcula benedictus.”

The picture is so familiar that it is probably unnecessary to say much about the colouring, which is soft and mysterious as befits the subject. The figure of Beatrice, with a misty aureole playing about her golden auburn hair, is robed above in the purest green, with faint purple sleeves and a fainter purple below. A crimson dove bears the grey death poppy in its bill, and in the distance watching her are dimly seen Dante and the crimson figure of Love. A dial marks the fateful hour which was to bear her, on that 9th of June, 1290, “to be glorious under the banner of the blessed Queen Mary.” On the frame, designed by Rossetti himself, as was usually the case with his later and more important pictures, are the first words of that quotation from Jeremiah which Dante uttered when Beatrice's death had “despoiled the city,” as he said, “of all dignity”: Quomodo sedet sola civitas.“How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people; how is she become as a widow, that was great among the nations!”

The Final Painting Beata Beatrix 1864

Rossetti's relationship with Elizabeth Siddal is also explored by his sister Christina Rossetti in her poem "In an Artist's Studio":

One face looks out from all his canvases,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans:
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness.
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens,
A saint, an angel -- every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him,
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light:
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.

Happy Birthday Elizabeth Siddal, may you rest in peace!

The Rossetti Archive
Christie's, British and Irish Art Department, London, King Street

Please feel free to leave any comments,

Friday, July 22, 2011

Stirling Castle Refurbishment & Durer to Holbein Exhibit at Holyrood Palace

The Royal Palace
A Childhood Mary Queen of Scots

The Palace at Stirling Castle allows visitors to step into the astonishing richness of royal life in the 1500s.

Mary of Guise, James V of Scotland, (Parents of Mary Queen of Scots)

James V’s Palace at Stirling is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in Great Britain. Following a major programme of research and re-presentation, it can now be seen by visitors much as it may have looked on completion around 1545.

The decoration of the Palace’s six main rooms is overwhelmingly colourful, rich and elaborate. James and his French wife Mary of Guise aimed to present themselves as wealthy, learned and sophisticated.

The decorative style belongs to the Renaissance – a great flowering in arts, literature and philosophy that revolutionised Europe in the 1400s and 1500s. Bright colours, expensive fabics and ornate patterns were essential elements.

But this was not flamboyance for its own sake. The decorative scheme was filled with messages about power, prosperity and plenty. It was not limited to the interior chambers but also extended to the exterior walls, embellished with hundreds of statues and other stone-carvings.

As you will notice in the video above, now housed inside the palace of Stirling Castle is something near and dear to my heart...The Stirling Tapestries...

The Stirling Tapestries

As part of the project to re-represent Stirling Palace, Historic Scotland has commissioned a set of seven hand-made tapestries. Four of them now hang in the Queen’s Inner Hall; the remaining three will be completed and hung by 2013.

The New York Tapestries
The designs are closely based on a set of Renaissance tapestries held at the Cloisters Museum in New York. These were woven in the Low Countries around 1500. At that time, tapestries were very fashionable and extremely expensive.

The project to produce replica tapestries has been part-funded by the Quinque Foundation of the United States.

The Story of the Unicorn
Taken together, the seven tapestries tell the story of a unicorn huntedand killed by a group of huntsmen and dogs. This can be read as both as an allegory of love, and as a Christian parable.

The unicorn was an important mythical beast from Roman times and perhaps earlier. It was believed to be both powerful and pure, and could only be tamed by a maiden.

In the late-medieval period, the unicorn was adopted as the supporter of the Scottish royal coat of arms. We know that James V owned two sets of tapestries featuring a unicorn.

For more information and further details on the refurbishment of, Stirling Castle

SECOND EXHIBIT: The Northern Renaissance: Dürer to Holbein Exhibit
17 June 2011 - 15 January 2012

While there can be no doubt that the aesthetic and intellectual epicentre of the Renaissance was Italy, the traffic was not all one way.

Developments in northern Europe (most obviously the use of oil paint) had consequences for Italian art, the patronage of northern rulers extended to tramontane artists, and rivalries between the Valois and Habsburg dynasties added a competitive edge to commissions.

This show of 100 paintings, prints and drawings from the Royal Collection underscores this point. The works are distributed according to a geo-political plan.

Netherlandish haute bourgeois and humanist patronage is exemplified by works by Hugo van der Goes and Hans Memling; art production in the Holy Roman Empire is illustrated by Hans Baldung Grien, Ulrich Apt the Elder and Lucas Cranach; Louis XII, Francis I and Catherine de Médicis
commissioned French and Italian artists, represented by the Clouets, Jean Perréal and Leonardo.

Albrecht Dürer and Hans Holbein are ­allotted their own sections.

For more exhibit information, Holyrood Palace

Please feel free to leave any comments,

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Review: The Lady and the Poet by Maeve Haran

Product Details
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (March 15, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0312671156
ISBN-13: 978-0312671150

The unlikely yet enduring love between Jacobean poet John Donne and Ann More inspires British writer Maeve Haran to write her first historical novel:

Set against the sumptuousness and intrigues of Queen Elizabeth I’s court, this powerful novel reveals the untold love affair between the famous poet John Donne and Ann More, the passionate woman who, against all odds, became his wife.

Ann More, fiery and spirited daughter of the Mores of Loseley House in Surrey, came to London destined for a life at the court of Queen Elizabeth and an advantageous marriage. There she encountered John Donne, the darkly attractive young poet who was secretary to her uncle, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. He was unlike any man she had ever met—angry, clever, witty, and in her eyes, insufferably arrogant and careless of women. Yet as they were thrown together, Donne opened Ann’s eyes to a new world of passion and sensuality. However, John Donne—Catholic by background in an age when it was deadly dangerous, tainted by an alluring hint of scandal—was the kind of man her status-conscious father distrusted and despised.

The Lady and the Poet tells the story of the forbidden love between one of our most admired poets and a girl who dared to rebel against her family and the conventions of her time. They gave up everything to be together and their love knew no bounds.

This is a love story for the ages, yes, but this is not your typical fairy tale 'once upon a time' 'they lived happily ever after' stories.

It is not uncommon for there to be a large age difference between married couples during the sixteenth century. In John Donne's case, this did not work in his favor. Upon hearing of their marriage, George More, Ann's father, puts his son-in-law into Fleet Prison along with the priest who married them and the man who acted as a witness to the wedding. Upon his release, Ann's dowry was taken away leaving them reliant on their in-laws and his job as a law clerk for income. Ann never being far from his thoughts, a surviving letter to her reads only:
John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done.

It is obvious from John Donne's poetry how much he loved and honored his wife. Together they were married for sixteen years until Ann's death in 1617; they had 12 children together, ten of whom survived. John Donne never remarried which was unusual for its day considering the large family he had.

Author, Maeve Haran throughout her novel uses samples of John Donne's poems to illustrate the romantic aspect of his relationship with his wife, an undying example of his love for her.
It must be understood that John Donne was not your typical sixteenth century British poet. No, he was what you would deem a metaphysical poet. Metaphysical poetry is often difficult for the reader to comprehend, analyze, and understand. The use of literary devices to help with the understanding of metaphysical poetry was commonplace during the Renaissance. John Donne, being a Renaissance artist, used literary devices such as imagery, arguments, and conceits to prove the points and themes he set out to achieve. However Donne took the use of the literary elements a step farther, Donne used these elements to express his own feelings and beliefs in his poetry.

John Donne National Portrait Gallery Portrait. 
This is how he would have looked during his marriage.

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning is about two lovers whom are soon to be separated for an extensive period of time. In this poem Donne describes the long separation as something not to be viewed as upsetting, but rather something that should be viewed as a testament of love. Donne achieves this theme by describing the separation using images.

So let us melt and make no noise,
No tear-floods nor sigh-tempests move;
Twere profanation of our joys
To tell laity our love.

Tear-floods and sigh-tempests, or storms, shall be shed in the departure of these two lovers. Donne's use of storms as images suggest that his moral beliefs contain that of an enduring relationship that can stand the test of time and the test of a long separation.
In order for a reader to correctly understand the themes that Donne set out to achieve comparisons must be made. Donne achieves these comparisons using metaphysical
comparisons known as conceits.

Our two souls, therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to airy thinness beat

In this passage Donne compares the connection of the two lover's souls with that of gold leaf, thin pieces of gold beaten down from thicker pieces of gold. This comparison describes to the reader the potential growth and expansion potential of the lovers' relationship. The lovers' relationship will not fall easily, it will continue to grow and prosper in authenticity despite the long journey of one of its members. The conceit further unveils Donne's belief in an everlasting relationship. Donne describes his own favor to love in the quote, "I am two fools, I know, for loving, and for saying so in whining poetry."
Donne uses logic and reason to try and influence the reader's ideas and actions by using arguments. Arguments help reader's to develop and understand themes of poetry.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two:
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth if the other do.

Donne uses the image of a two legged compass to describe the relationship of the two lovers. As well as using imagery in this excerpt Donne uses an argument to influence the reader's opinion of the relationship of the two persons in love. An argument uses logic and reason to influence the reader; moreover, Donne uses the compass to prove his point. The soul is the fixed foot of the compass which the other foot revolves around to make a perfect circle. The fixed foot represents the lover who is staying still as the other lover makes a long journey, in effect, creating a circle of perfection representing the feelings the two lovers feel for each other.

It is commonly believed for one to be something, or be with something, one must always remain physically close to that someone or something; however, Donne realized that one did not have to be physically close to another person to feel a very deep compassion for them.

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