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The Lord Chancellor and the Resort

The town of Cannes on the French Riviera,  playground of the rich and famous, home to a world-famous film festival, is noted for the wealth an glamour of its visitors. Somewhat unexpectedly, on the waterfront, and right across from the Palais des Festival that hosts the Cannes Film Festival, is a statue of  Lord Brougham.

Romance on the Orient Express

It is 1889. The fabulous Orient Express, only a few years old, hurtles through the darkness en route from Paris to Istanbul. A terrified young woman runs frantically through the corridor, searching for an unlocked stateroom. At last she finds one, and throws herself into the room.

Murder by Mistake, a Restoration Tragedy

“The good-looking, melodious-voiced William Mountfort played both tragic and comic lovers to perfection, and was mourned by theatergoers and colleagues alike when he died, the innocent victim of a swordfight over Mrs. Bracegirdle.”

I came across that sentence in a history of the English theater. That was it. No further explanation.

The Accidental Archaeologist

If you come across a portrait or photograph of the famous archaeologist, author and politician Austen Henry Layard, it is most often of him as an old gentleman with an enormous white beard. That beard is so big and white that he seems to be all beard and no person. But long before that he was a young man working in an office and longing for something—anything—more exciting.

Of Safety and Snobbery

George Stephenson was an English engineer who has been called “The Father of the Railways” of the 19th century. He was a brilliant and visionary man, but success wasn’t easy for him.The scientific establishment of his day had difficulty believeing that anything good or important could come from a man who wasn't a "gentleman" and who didn't have the benefit of a univeristy education. 

Escape!

All is prepared for the execution. The blade of the guillotine has been sharpened, or the hangman’s noose is ready, or firing squad awaits, and then, at the last minute, it is discovered that the prisoner has escaped!

A Romantic Tale and a Screwball Comedy

In the early 19th century there were four Tree sisters, all of whom went on the stage. (If there were three of them, one could probably create a nice tongue twister, but there were four.) Ellen Tree, who married the noted actor Charles Kean, was the only one who remained in the theater, performing with her husband as Mrs. Charles Kean until his death.

A Dickensian Childhood

A Dickensian childhood. The phrase conjures up images of small children working in coal mines or cotton mills, ragged urchins huddled in a doorway, Oliver Twist asking for more gruel. But you didn’t have to be poor to have a Dickensian childhood. Consider Augustus Hare.

The Worth of Fashion

Since Fashion Week is almost here, thoughts turn to fabulous clothes and their designers, people with names like Balenciaga, Givenchy, Dior, Versace, Saint Laurent, Armani.

Do you notice anything odd about that list? They are all men. Well, all right, Chanel ought to be there too, but that doesn’t change the fact that for the past hundred years and more, the famous couturiers have been men.

A-Banting We Will Go

William Banting was huffing and puffing by the time he reached the top of the first flight of stairs, or so the story goes. He said to himself, “I need to lose some weight.”

He was probably right about that.

At five feet five inches, Banting was not a tall man—but in his mid-60s he weighed in at about 200 pounds.

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