Bag Girl Goes: 1770s

14449872_658838130948512_934382809995711808_n

25 September 1775

Father took Mother and I, along with my friend Jasmine, who was visiting with us this week, to the faire in Sudbury yesterday. The weather was perfect, a quintessential, crisp fall day. It was cool in the shade but hot in the sun.  The sky was cloudy with some patches of blue. Sudbury Fair was held in a common near the village inn. After we set up our blanket, they played several contra dances, which Jasmine and I joined in on. It was something like a ball and I’m glad that I wore my finest gown.

After the dancing, we went to have a look in the vendor’s tents. I’m getting over a cold and have a nasty cough, so I bought horehound candy, a honey stick, and maple sugar cake to share with Jasmine. Next, we went to a tent set up by milliner and I bought a pinner cap. Then we paid a visit to Mr. Lawson, a friend of my parents, who was there selling some of the baskets he wove; my mother must have bought at least several of them. 

14463196_658838010948524_8400773016549314030_n

 We poked around several of the tents and ran into my father. He was looking into buying a new waistcoat but did not have enough money at the moment. Father then went to speak with some gentlemen of his acquaintance about the muster of the militia which was to take place that afternoon. 

After I stopped at a haberdashery tent to buy a new pincushion, and admired some beautiful hats which unfortunately cost more money than I had, Jasmine and I looked at these exotic beasts from the Andes Mountains called Alpacas. They look something a goat but with a longer neck and covered with wool like a sheep which you weave into cloth like sheep’s wool. 

After looking around the fair, we returned to where our blanket was set up and enjoyed our candy and the kettle corn which Jasmine bought. We were joined by Mr. and Mrs. Belyea and Mr. and Mrs. Nichipor, some friends of my parents. The Nichipors brought their little dog, Fritz, who is rather spritely. Jasmine, who is not fond of dogs, was not pleased.  Mother brought a lunch of her famous sally lunn bread and cold meats and some rarebits. 

The muster began in the afternoon with militias from all over the Colony of Massachusetts marching into the commons with fife and drums playing. There were so many of them that the muster seemed to go one for hours. 

My parents and their friends talked amongst themselves, another lady of my mother’s acquaintance joined us and sermonized about the sinfulness of gambling, I worked on my embroidery, and Jasmine napped in the grass. The muster got exciting when His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot arrived and began berating the crowd for attending this illegal assembly.  The Colonel of one of the militias was arrested by the lobsterbacks and things did not look good for him.  

14448892_658838124281846_3898501943798558737_n

Today, Jasmine and I went into Sandy Bay to do some shopping. Mother Nature treated us to another beautiful autumn day. I showed Jasmine some of my favorite shops on Bearskin Neck. I bought some fine soap imported from France and Jasmine picked up a book to give as a gift to her sweetheart. When we were finished, we returned home and enjoyed some tea brewed from mint and lemon balm from our garden.  

Advertisements

Woman Crush Wednesday (One Day Late): Why I Love Eliza Schuyler Hamilton

Like most of the world, I am some degree of obsessed with the musical Hamilton. Alexander Hamilton’s tale of rags to riches and later pride before a fall has all the elements of a great drama and I am surprised that it is not better known and there were not more fictional adaptations prior to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s recent rap musical catapulted A. Ham. into a pop culture icon. But the character who fascinated me the most was Alex’s better half, Eliza Schuyler.

Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, known as Eliza or Betsey, was born in 1757 to wealthy and politically influential New York Dutch family. Her father, Philip Schuyler, was one of the richest men in the colony of New York and later a general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Throughout her life, Eliza would meet many of the greats of the Revolutionary era, including Benjamin Franklin, and George and Martha Washington, whom she and husband Alexander Hamilton were very close friends with. What struck me the most when I looked her up was that she seems like the quintessential period romance heroine: the beautiful and spirited girl from a wealthy family with whom a penniless but gift falls in love.  Hamilton described  in a letter to Eliza’s sister, Angelica Schuyler Church, that “She is most unmercifully handsome and so perverse that she has none of those pretty affectations which are the prerogatives of beauty…She has good nature, affability and vivacity unembellished with that charming frivolousness which is justly deemed one of the principal accomplishments of a belle. In short she is so strange a creature, that she possesses all the beauties, virtues and graces of her sex without any of those amiable defects which from their general prevalence are esteemed by connoisseurs necessary shades in the character of a fine woman.” Eliza married the dashing Alexander in 1780 after a whirlwind wartime romance and they went on to have eight children and remained happily married for twenty-four years until his untimely death in 1804.  She survived her husband by fifty years and died in 1854 at the age of 97.

Among Eliza’s accomplishments during her lifetime included helping her husband with his thousands of pages of writings, she is believed to have helped him write George Washington’s farewell address, and helping preserve those writings, raising money for the Washington Monument, and helping found the Orphan Asylum Society, the first private orphanage in New York City.

A large part of the plot of Hamilton focuses on Hamilton’s complicate relationships with women: his romance and marriage with Eliza, his intellectual flirtation with her older feisty older sister, Angelica, and his disastrous and humiliating affair with the vampish Maria Reynolds. Hamilton and Angelica have an unresolved mutual attraction throughout the story but Angelica selflessly steps aside to let her beloved baby sister, Eliza, have him, which backfires years later when he cheats on Eliza with Maria, resulting in an embarrassing sex scandal. Eliza and Hamilton are eventually reconciled after their eldest son dies defending his father’s honor. If Angelica’s most noble moment is when she puts the happiness of her sister over her own, Eliza’s is when she forgives her husband when when she would be perfectly justified in kicking his philandering ass to the curve and later preserving his legacy after his famously fatal duel with Aaron Burr.

The demure and proper Eliza, and not the more outspoken and seemingly more interesting Angelica , emerges as the story’s heroine and a possible interpretation of Hamilton is that though Alexander is the central character, it is Eliza’s story, her being the one kept all of her husband’s writings and made sure he was remembered after his death, and that the title Hamilton, could also refer to her as well as him.

Bag Girl Reviews: Carousel

images

Wednesday night, I decided to show my room mate Jasmine the film version of one of my favorite musicals, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Strangely, I do not like Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals that much, with Carousel and Cinderella being notable exceptions, and prefer more contemporary musicals but there is something about Carousel which struck me when I first watched it.

I first watched the 1956 film version starring Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones when I was in Middle School, but a couple of years ago, I decided to go back and watch it again after hearing there was to be an off-Broadway production of Carousel starring Laura Osnes, one of my favorite musical theater actresses. The story and music have a bittersweet, haunting quality which was perhaps what had first struck me. Carousel’s score contains some of what is considered Rodgers and Hammerstein’s best music, specifically the songs If I loved You and You’ll Never Walk Alone and the calyopy-esque waltz which serves as the main musical theme.

The plot involves Billy Bigelow (Gordon MacRae), a barker for a carousel, which gives the musical its name, and tough talking lady’s man who falls in love with Julie Jordan (Shirley Jones), an innocent young girl who works at a nearby cotton mill. The two get married but this causes Billy to be fired from his job by his jealous employer, Mrs. Mullin. Frustrated by his unemployment, Billy begins to become abusive towards Julie but decides to clean up his act when she announces that she is pregnant. That is, after he obtains money to support his wife and child by getting involved with a robbery on Julie’s former boss. Billy is accidently killed during the robbery and ends up in purgatory, where he spends the next fifteen years atoning for his sins: his cruelty towards Julie and his abandonment of her and their child. He is given an opportunity to return to earth to make amends with Julie and their teenaged daughter, Louise.

One of the best parts of the film are the performances of its two lead actors, Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones. MacRae’s impressive singing chops are part of what sell him in the part of Billy Bigelow; he allows the audience to see beyond the character’s tough guy facade and see Billy’s insecurity and vulnerable. A casual viewer might dismiss Jones’s Julie as a weak-willed, doormat heroine but her performance has a quiet sort of dignity. There is something almost noble in her devotion to Billy.

A common criticism of Carousel is that it romanticizes and condones domestic abuse in how Billy’s abusive tendencies are a bit too easily excused by his feelings of unhappiness and frustration. In the play’s defence, Billy’s treatment of Julie is not shown as something that is okay; it is the mistake that he has to spend fifteen years atoning for in purgatory. But that plot point is a bit too romanticized and clumsily handled.

A criticism I have with the film version is that some of dance sequences, as impressive as they are, run a little long and should have been cut down for the medium of film. But despite this, one of my favorite scenes is a dance number: the Sea Ballet scene with Susan Luckey as Louise.

Jasmine also enjoyed Carousel but we had to stop it halfway through because her mom told her that American Horror Story was on. She regretted this because in her opinion the premise of this season of AHS is stupid. Thursday night we finally got to finish the movie.

The Robber Bridegroom

robber_bridegroom_original_poster_art

I went into New York City back in April with my mom and my friend Jasmine and we had lunch at a Ruby Tuesday’s near Time Square. Outside of the restaurant, I saw a poster for an off-Broadway production of a show called The Robber Bridegroom. The title stuck with me and I decided to look it up at some point; I read the Wikipedia article and decided that the story sounded interesting.  Back in August, I searched through Youtube for a video of the show. All I could find were clips of the musical numbers from regional productions. What I did get to see, I liked; I even brought some of the songs off of Itunes.

On Monday, I found a video of the entire show in my Youtube recommended column and my roommate Jasmine and I checked it out that evening. I thought Jasmine, being a fan of country music, might enjoy the show’s catchy bluegrass score. With some chocolate fudge pop tarts, cheez curls, and barbeque chips, we sat down to finally watch the thing.

The Robber Bridegroom is musical written by Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman which premiered on Broadway in 1975 and ran until 1976 and has since been a staple of regional theaters. The poster I saw in New York was for the off-Broadway revival which opened back in March. What Jasmine and I saw on Youtube was a professionally videotaped production from 1980.

The production we saw was filmed in what appeared to be barn where some of the citizens of the Natchez Trace in Mississippi have gathered to have a square dance and to talk about some of their eccentric ancestors: Jamie Lockhart, a dashing bandit and the titular “Robber Bridegroom”,  Rosamund, a famous beauty and Jamie Lockhart’s love, Clement Musgrove, the wealthiest planter in the area and Rosamund’s father, Salome, Musgrove’s notoriously ugly and vicious second wife, the Harps, a bloodthirsty gang of robbers, and Goat, the village idiot.

The plot proper takes place in the Natchez Trace of the late 18th century and involves Jamie Lockhart, a daring gentleman thief known as The Bandit of the Woods, who is trying to gain the fortune of  Clement Musgrove, the richest man in the territory of Mississippi by marrying his  daughter, Rosamund but falls in love with a beautiful girl in the forest, who he does not know is Rosamund and only knows him as his Bandit of the Woods alter ego. More complications ensue involving Rosamund’s jealous stepmother Salome, the villainous Harp gang, and the a simple minded boy named Goat. The Robber Bridegroom is very much Americana folklore/tall tale with some elements taken from legends and fairytales such as mistaken identity, evil stepmothers, and dashing and noble thieves. The Harp gang, the story’s main antagonists, were inspired by a real life Harp gang, who are credited with being America’s first serial killers: Big Harp, the older of the two Harp brothers, is a talking, decapitated head which is carried around in a chest.

Jasmine and I enjoyed our viewing of The Robber Bridegroom. It’s plot is a bit silly and tall tale-ish but has all of the enjoyment of that genre. The catchy, country score is one of its highlights. Looking this little known gem up on Youtube is definitely worth the time.