Start with waistlines.  Drop-waist dresses are my new favorite thing.  It’s like spending summer in West Egg.  And what can I say–I am a supporter of the romper, and romping writ larger, but I’m a dress-for-every-season sort of girl. I like dresses.  Indulge me, indulge with me.  A few of my favorites…

The Breakers Dress from Modcloth, $58

Tiny stripes, the nautical variety.

Continue reading ‘It’s Summer. Drop Everything.’


Fact:  I sometimes do late-night Pic Click searches semi-relevant to whatever I happen to be obsessing over.  Lately, as you might imagine, I’m the only person (probably) on the internet going visual searches for handmade and vintage items tagged Brontë, Gaskell, etc.  300 years ago, I’m a perfect example of why women should read novels; in this day and age, good things come to those who pander to more-or-less healthy addictions to fiction.  At least that’s how I came across Frantic Meercat, my new favorite internet place for old-fashion epistolary wit and whimsy.

Frantic Meercat Card, $3.50

Inside reads:  “Or, how Colin Firth ruined our ability to have a normal relationship.”  That’s right: costume drama humor.  If you think for a second that I didn’t already send this to Emily, you’d better think again.

Continue reading ‘Unstartling Confessions’

The surviving Jane Austen manuscripts have been digitalized and are now online! Live! For you and me! Dig in to this project by Oxford University and King’s College London. There’s nothing quite as intriguing as the hand-printed word (and since her sister took it upon herself to destroy hundreds and hundreds of her letters, we don’t have much from Austen). I will now commence to spend my day speculating on Austen’s writing and revision processes…. If you need me, I’ll be here.

Thanks to AustenBlog for alerting.  Get addicted to AustenBlog, if you aren’t already.

I can’t stop reading the Brontës, and in a study of those ladies, undisciplined as it is, Gaskell seems to be required reading as well.  Like Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley, North and South deals with the social implications of economic decline for manufacturers and laborers during the first half of the 19th century, and as in Brontë’s Villette, Gaskell’s heroine Margaret Hale suffers paralyzing affliction, but maintains grace, authority, and fortitude despite all.  Which is to say, oh my god, this book is so sad.  But while I’ve been known to mock heroines for their foibles and failures in judgment, Margaret Hale is above critique.  Looooove this book.  And John Thornton.  John Thornton is the Heathcliff of the working class, a Mr. Darcy with Dickensian grittiness.  It’s a beautiful, fantastic novel.  And here are my contemporary pairings for some of the beautiful, fantastic descriptions.

Camilla Dress from Anthropogie, $138

[Edith] lay curled up on the sofa in the back drawing-room in Harley Street, looking very lovely in her white muslin and blue ribbons.  If Titania had ever been dressed in white muslin and blue ribbons, and had fallen asleep on a crimson damask sofa in a back drawing-room, Edith might be taken for her.

Continue reading ‘Living in the Book: North and South’

I felt compelled last week to revisit Maria Edgeworth’s Belinda and this novel only gets better in rereading.  Somehow, miraculously, Belinda was more rational and impervious, Clarence Hervey more coxcombical and quixotic, Lord Delacour more of a drunken buffoon, and Lady Delacour more doped out of her god damned mind than I remembered.  Over the course of the 500ish pages, plot twists are revealed in some absurd epiphanic moments for all of the characters, but throughout, Lady Delacour’s boudoir remains a source of scandal, mystery, and fascination.  And naturally, I got caught up in the idea of the space, and thus put together a few items that are boudoir appropriate.

Items for the vanity are not necessarily vain items…

Vanity Hand Mirror, Atty’s Vintage on Etsy, $24

Continue reading ‘Lady Delacour’s Boudoir’

More from Villette, as promised…

Vintage Handkerhief, Linen Closet on Etsy $10

She even paused, laid on my shoulder her gloved hand, holding an embroidered and perfumed handkerchief, and confided to my ear a sarcasm on the other teachers (whom she had just been complimenting to their faces).

Continue reading ‘Living in the book: Villette (2 of 2)’

Charlotte Brontë, you are my favorite.  My favorite Brontë, at any rate.

You tart, you.

After a few very long days with Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, I wanted a Brontë break from the page-long, overdetermined character descriptions from phrenology (ok, Anne, we get it:  dark features, disagreeable character) and the embedded polemics on female virtue that rival some of Richardson’s longer passages for tiresome.  And Villette is incredible.  While it is perhaps not so narratively artful and precise as Jane Eyre, Villette gives us so much more to grapple with — romance plot after twisted romance plot, complicated by deceitful and jealous school girls, servants, and overly officious aunts; measured insinuations of Gothic danger emerging from French Catholic discipline; and intelligent but relenting discourses on the education of women, protestantism and Catholicism, and French and British culture.

I hesitate to go on in these generalities, but suffice it all to say that the novel is gorgeous and sad–not the irritatingly maudlin tragic-female sort of stuff, Lucy Snowe is continually heartbroken.  Written after the deaths of her siblings in the late 1840s, Villette‘s undercurrent of acknowledged but unspecified tragedy endows this heroine with a rare sort of bravery wrought from necessity, uncultivated intelligence, and resignation to a perpetually hapless life.  And yet, she’s entirely without self-pity or unwarranted ambition.  Villette, I suspect, will never be an Oprah Book.  Thank God.

And it’s full beautiful things, ranging from modest to ostentatious.  So this book’s getting two posts.  Here’s one of two.

Continue reading ‘Living in the Book: Villette’



Anne, Emily, and Charlotte with the smudge of their rakish brother, Branwell (Branwell Brontë, c.1834). Which one of these chicks are you not going to hang out with?

Last Tuesday, I arrived at the startling conclusion that I’ve never given Anne Brontë much of a chance.  Two days and 400ish pages later, I came to the conclusion that I’d given her too much of one.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by all basic descriptions, is exactly my sort of book–a touch of Gothic mystery (the secret identity of a young widow living in the dilapidated Wildfell Hall), not only is it an epistolary novel, but there’s a massive epistolary narrative within the primary epistolary narrative (sort of similar to that in Frankenstein–but instead of a fascinating monster, the diary writer is our hyper-virtuous heroine who writes like she’s contending with Clarissa Harlowe for paragon status), and all of the great R/romantic nuances of a novel written in the Victorian era but set in the late Romantic.

Honestly though, it was a bit of a drag.  For anyone who’s read Wuthering Heights and/or Jane Eyre (that’s everyone, right?), this following essentially depicts the reason, for me anyway, Anne will always be my third-favorite Brontë sister.

Continue reading ‘Brontëism’

I recently read Gaskell’s Cranford and after a few days spent dwelling in the gossip, dramatics, and social codes of the anachronistic little place, I fell in love with all of the proper old maids and widows, as well as with the objects of their peculiar, unfashionable, consumer fetishes.

Angelique Red Parasol, £34.95, Umbrella Heaven

I can testify to a magnificent family red silk umbrella, under which a gentle little spinster, left alone of many brothers and sisters, used to patter to church on rainy days.  Have you any red silk umbrellas in London?  We had a tradition of the first that had ever been seen in Cranford; and the little boys mobbed it, and called it ‘a stick in petticoats.’

Continue reading ‘Living in the book: Cranford’

The Bees Knees


Letterpress Notecard Set, $15 at Lucky Bee Press

A couple of months ago, on a severely rainy San Francisco day, I needed thank-you notes in a hurry and, being too lazy to walk more than two blocks in the torrent, I remembered the little rack of postcards and the like at Jeremy’s just down the street.  Laziness pays.  Continue reading ‘The Bees Knees’

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