Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Edwardian Renaissance Style

An excellent article with some examples of splendid Edwardian architecture in London.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sunderland in Edwardian Times

Watch Edwardian scenes from 'Auld Sunderland' in North East England here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Mother Passed Away Last Week

My beloved mother passed away last week. I may not feel like writing any blog posts for a while.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Syrie and Mr Selfridge

Beaton, Cecil, Syrie Maugham, Wikipedia

One of my favourite shows on TV now is the costume drama "Mr Selfridge," based on the larger-than-life Harry Selfridge who founded the huge London department store Selfridges.  Selfridge introduced several great innovations, including placing the cosmetics section on the first floor and spectacular store windows.  One of these was a tribute to ballerina Anna Pavlova.  Unfortunately, even though the store-owner was married with four children, he enjoyed the company of women and gambling rather too much! Syrie Wellcome (later Maugham) was one of his many girlfriends.

Syrie Barnardo, born on July 10, 1879, had an extremely unhappy childhood.  Her father, who started Dr Barnado's homes for slum children in London's East End, kept strict control over the household.  He banned smoking and alcohol in his house, and he didn't even let the children go to the theatre.  He also liked them to read the Bible and 'good books'. 

The family home was quite luxurious, however, and the children went to expensive schools, so it wasn't all bad.  Syrie, who was a striking young woman, wanted to escape her restricted life, This probably caused her to marry the wealthy and much older pharmacist and businessman, Henry Wellcome when she was only 21.

There are many different stories about the marriage.  According to one, he beat her and he was generally very cruel, even making her ride camels in the Egyptian heat when she was pregnant.  He needed to travel for his business and Syrie often got sick.  They did have a son, who was probably dyslexic and physically delicate.  I have read that Henry Wellcome was kind to the son, supporting his decision to become a farmer.  This is hard to reconcile with the accusation of the beatings.

The marriage broke up after ten years but Wellcome didn't want a divorce.  Syrie could continue to mix in society in spite of the scandal because she was chaperoned by her widowed mother. Sophisticated and intelligent, she soon caught the eye of Harry Selfridge.  He even bought her a lovely house in Regent's Park and paid to have it lavishly furnished. She lived there with her mother.

Some people apparently thought that Syrie wasn't all that keen on Harry.  However, her friend Rebecca West wrote that it was 'certainly a love affair. But they were only lovers when it suited'.

Syrie eventually obtained a divorce from Wellcome because she was pregnant to gay writer, Somerset Maugham! She had a miscarriage but she later married him, two years after having his daughter Liza, named after the character in Maugham's novel, Liza of Lambeth.

Poor Syrie had no luck with the men, and Maugham was rotten to her and Liza, because he concentrated on his gay lovers.  She is still famous, however, because she began her own extremely fashionable interior design business frequented by clients, such as the Duchess of Windsor, and popularised the 'all-white' room.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Popular Australian Song Written in a Cemetery

Caroline wondered why the muse visited her at such strange times.  Nevertheless, she was thankful.  She had decided to enter the competition for a national song run by the Gawler Institute, but she had failed to find inspiration until today.  It was so peaceful here in the cemetery while she sat and watched her children play nearby that she took out her notebook and started to write...

The lyrics that Caroline Carleton composed that day won the competition in 1859, and it remained one of the most popular Australian songs for over 100 years, especially in Mrs Carleton's native state South Australia. The stirring music written by German immigrant Carl Linger helped convince the judges. "The Song of Australia" as even shortlisted for the National Anthem in 1977, but "Advance Australia Fair" won the day.  Some people still think that this is a pity.

Although not many people know of the song today, it played a small role in the moving love story of the tomboy Olive and Pat Dooley in the Australian series "Anzac Girls".  I especially enjoyed the scene in which Olive plays the song on the gramophone when she is conflicted about whether she should marry Pat!

Born near London in 1819, Caroline was well-educated, especially in languages and music. She spoke French and she played the piano and the harp.  Caroline married Charles James Carleton in 1836, and the couple migrated to Australia three years later with their two young children on the Prince Regent.  The two children died during the harsh voyage, but the couple had two more children. Charles Carleton was the ship's surgeon and worked as a medical officer in South Australia. Carleton died in 1861.

Caroline taught at private schools after her husband's death, but she also wrote poems and articles for newspapers. She died when she was only 54.

The song was one of famous singer Peter Dawson's favourite songs.  Here is a clip of him singing it:

Here are the lyrics:

THE SONG OF AUSTRALIAThere is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies;
And grassy knoll, and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above is azure bright -
There is a land where honey flows,
Where laughing corn luxuriant grows,
Land of the myrtle and the rose,
On hill and plain the clust'ring vine,
Is gushing out with purple wine,
And cups are quaffed to thee and thine -
There is a land where treasures shine
Deep in the dark unfathomed mine,
For worshippers at Mammon's shrine,
Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam,
And fabled wealth no more doth seem
The idle fancy of a dream -
There is a land where homesteads peep
From sunny plain and woodland steep,
And love and joy bright vigils keep,
Where the glad voice of childish glee
Is mingling with the melody
Of nature's hidden minstrelsy -
There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly,
And freedom's sons the banner bear,
No shackled slave can breathe the air,
Fairest of Britain's daughters fair -