29/04/2010

THROWBACK THURSDAY - REGENERATION by PAT BARKER (1991)

For this event hosted by Jenny at TakeMeAway this week, I've chosen this historical novel set in WWI  by Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991). Throwback Thursday is a  corner to write about good reads from the past. Those books we so much loved and we don't want to forget .

Survivors

No doubt they'll soon get well; the shock and strain
Have caused their stammering, disconnected talk.
Of course they're "longing to go out again,"--
These boys with old, scared faces, learning to walk,
They'll soon forget their haunted nights; their cowed
Subjection to the ghosts of friends who died,--
Their dreams that drip with murder; and they'll be proud
Of glorious war that shatter'd all their pride ...
Men who went out to battle, grim and glad;
Children, with eyes that hate you, broken and mad.
(CRAIGLOCKART,Oct. 1917)

This poem was written at Craiglockhart War Hospital, Edinburgh, by one of the most influential war poets. It describes the young men he met there, the patients of that mental asylum.

Regeneration, Pat Barker's first novel in her Great War trilogy, is a work of historical fiction focusing on Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland in 1917.
Though Barker traces her interest in World War I back to her early childhood, she attributes the immediate inspiration for Regeneration to her husband, a neurologist, who was familiar with Dr. W.H.R. Rivers's experiments on nerve regeneration in the early twentieth century.

POETS AT WAR
At least three of the novel's characters are based on real individuals who knew each other while they were at Craiglockhart. Siegfried Sassoon, a soldier and famous poet, protested the war in 1917, and for this, he was sent to the mental hospital. Wilfred Owen, perhaps the most famous war poet of his era, was also at Craiglockhart, and was greatly influenced by his older and more experienced fellow patient, Sassoon. Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, a scientist known originally for anthropological studies, served as a psychiatrist at the hospital for a short period near the end of the war; nevertheless, his influence on Sassoon was substantial. Sassoon mentioned or referred to Rivers in several publications after his "treatment." Although Barker bases her characters on real individuals, her work is a fictional account of the period they spent together at Craiglockhart.

Sigfried Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart for his declaration against the war, in order  to escape being courtmarshalled. His words open Pat Barker's first chapter of Regeneration (1991):

I am making this statement as an act of wilful defiance of military authority, because I believe that the War is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that this War, on which I entered as a war of defence and liberation, has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purpose for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them, and that, had this been done, the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation. I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops, and I can no longer be a party to prolong these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed. On behalf of those who are suffering now I make this protest against the deception which is being practised on them; also I believe that I may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the contrivance of agonies which they do not, and which they have not sufficient imagination to realize.

(Plot summary HERE)

(Wilfred Owen)
FROM THE BOOK TO THE MOVIE
At Craiglockhart hospital, Sassoon met Wilfred Owen who loved poetry but didn't dare write about the horrors he had experienced in the trenches. Owen  was convinced poetry had nothing to do with the ugliness of the war. Sassoon suggested him to write war poems and Owen started doing it just in that military hospital. This is how Gillies Mackinnon (director) imagined their meeting in  1997  adaptation of Pat Barker's novel.


(Watch the video Owen meets Sassoon on my Utube Channel)

REGENERATION   is a beautiful war movie with excellent actors as well as Pat Barker's omonymous novel is one of the best fiction work about WWI I've ever read. Before leaving you with another clip from the film, in which the director imagines the composition of Owen's DULCE ET DECORUM EST at Craiglockhart, let's read the famous poem again:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime. . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.



28/04/2010

WHAT I HAVE BEEN WATCHING - 19th CENTURY HEROINES

1. FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE  - DVD (2008)

This BBC drama (2008) explores the emotional and spiritual trauma suffered by Florence Nightingale on her return from the Crimean War. After witnessing the horrors of the war first hand, Florence Nightingale (Laura Fraser) campaigned strongly for an investigation when she finally returned to England. The findings however, that many of the soldiers in her care died as a result of her own failings, caused her to re-evaluate her life's mission, breaking her in mind and spirit.

2. MISS POTTER - DVD ( 2007)


The life and story of the woman who created Peter Rabbit, Jeremy Fisher and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle shows that Beatrix Potter was a headstrong pioneer in Edwardian England who had to fight for success in a man's world. She became a celebrity whose secret love affair with her publisher Norman Warne, haunted her throughout her life. Both funny and sad, this makes great use of the beautiful Lake District landscape and stars Renee Zellweger as Beatrix and Ewan McGregor as Norman.

3. THE GOVERNESS - DVD (1998)


 Rosina da Silva (Minnie Driver) is well-educated and unusually curious for a female in an era (1830s) when a woman's primary focus is keeping house and attending to the needs of her family. So when her Jewish father is murdered on the street and leaves behind numerous debts, she forsakes an arranged marriage to an older suitor, transforms herself into Mary Blackchurch - a Protestant of partial Italian descent - in order to conceal her heritage, and accepts a position as a governess for a Scottish family living on the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides


Why I saw these movies
I'm keenly interested in the woman question from Austen to the Victorian Age, from the beginning of the Suffragette Movement to Virginia Woolf's writings. I take an eager interest  in reading books and watch films that can help me to understand and know more about it.

The idealised,  stereotyped Victorian "angel of the hearth" model was refused and defied by the protagonists of these stories.
These three different women lived more or less in the same period and experienced the same men's society full of prejudices and obstacles against their freedom and independence.
They fought against them, strongly believing in their right to freedom and to the acknowldegement of their talent and intelligence.
For instance, both in Florence Nightingale and in Miss Potter there are scenes in which the protagonist,  arguing with her mother,  states her  refusal of  marriage , her right not to make a living becoming a man's wife and his childern's mother. Miss Potter renounced  her freedom only for love, Miss Nightingale renounced  love to be free to follow her ideals.

In a touching scene of the 2008 TV movie (based on letters, diaries and autobiographical writings), young FlorenceNightingale refuses a marriage proposal by an affectionate friend and persistent wooer, Richard Monckton Milnes , and that -  she would say  later on - almost broke her heart every time she thought of him. But she had to prevent herself from becoming like her mother or sister . In her essay Cassandra (part of her Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truth) she  - through Cassandra's voice - protests the over-feminization of women into near helplessness,what she recognized in her mother's and older sister's lethargic lifestyle, despite their education. She rejected their life of thoughtless comfort for the world of social service.  Elaine Showalter called Nightingale's writing "a major text of English feminism, a link between Wollstonecraft and Woolf.
Beatrix Potter,  instead,  fought against her family to be free not to marry,  first. Then, at the age of 32, after meeting Norman Warne her publisher, she claimed the right  to marry the man she loved. But her upper class family  considered him unsuitable for being  a tradesman. Though there are some historical inaccuracies in this biopic, though many people didn't like Renée Zellweger's cast for the role, I found  it is a delightful Victorian fairy -  tale-  like movie and I was glad to see it,  also for the appeal of its romance, settings and social implications.

I didn't like Florence Nightingale 2008 DVD as much. This BBC drama has got a very confused storyline, the continuous shifts in time are rather displacing and puzzling and prevented me from feeling involved. Moreover, the biographical account is often interrupted by a popular stage perfomance , a music hall dedicated to Nightingale, that I found quite fastidious and out of place.
The third film, The Governess (1998) is an accomplished, touching and original movie, beautifully craft with a good cast including a brilliant Minnie Driver and a very young Jonathan Rhys Meyers (as Henry Cavendish). Also Rosina /Mary finds her way to indepence, in the end: she  becomes  a photographer noted for her distinct images of Jewish people, a very modern woman with a very modern profession.

26/04/2010

MISCELLANEOUS MONDAY POSTING

1. WINNERS OF LAUREL ANN'S DOUBLE GIVEAWAY

Last week's guest at My Blogger Buddies weekly event was Laurel Ann at Austenprose. Did you miss my interview? I hope you didn't. Laurel Ann generously decided to give away two Austen based books the winners could choose from a rich and intersting list of titles.
The two lucky winners are
1.  Meredith
2. Alexa Adams
Congratulations!!!
Could you e-mail me back picking up your favourite title from the list and adding your address?
Thanks  Laurel Ann for taking the time to answer my questions, for being my guest and for this great giveaway!

2. A TRIP TO A NEO - GOTHIC CASTLE

(Castello Massimo di Arsoli - Rome)

Yesterday it was a warm sunny spring Sunday and in the afteroon I went on a very pleasant trip, to a small old town nearby, surrounded by green mountains and towered by an old renaissance palace later on re-stylished as a gothic castle in the 19th century. It is an impressive place, owned by the heirs of an ancient noble Italian family, the Massimos. It is usually closed but yesterday it was opened to the public with free entrance. How could I miss the chance? Many thanks to the dear friend who invited me to join her there. It has been a unique picturesque afternoon walk.




It'd the perfect location for a period movie. Any idea? Have a look at the pictures and at the official site  ... which title would you suggest?

3. MANSFIELD PARK AT MY JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB

I've posted the solution of the game on Edmund Bertram's timeline and some notes I've been preparing for our next meeting on Friday. Mansfield Park is a controversial novel, maybe one of the least loved among Austen's works, anyhow very interesting each time I happen to leaf through it. I've listed some of the themes I'd like to discuss with my mates. Have you got any other suggestion?


25/04/2010

MY BLOGGER BUDDIES - MEET CHERYL, CHARLEYBROWN AT ENCHANTED SERENITY OF PERIOD FILMS


First of all, Charleybrown, tell us something about yourself. Just as much as you want to reveal, of course.
I live in Ottawa, Canada’s capital and love my city! My name is Cheryl (derived from Charles, hence the name Charleybrown) I have one daughter and I’m pleased that she enjoys period dramas as well – I’m not sure what I would do if she didn’t! My hobbies used to include knitting, cross-stitch and killer sudokus before I started blogging but now it seems they’ve taken a backseat!

So, Cheryl - I love this name! - let’s start with blogging. Your beautiful site, Enchanted Serenity of Period Films , is a precious and rich archive for period drama and film lovers. When did you start it and how hard is to keep it updated?


Thanks for the compliment Maria Grazia! I’m so honoured that you asked me to join you as your blogger buddy. I like that you call it an archive since I did intend for it to be used more like an archive than as a personal blog. I began Enchanted Serenity in December of 2007 and I had no idea that it would have enabled me to meet so many interesting people online! I simply started it as a means of organizing my favourite period films and tracking other items of interest pertaining to each film! When I began, I also had no idea how many films were out there (Eras of Elegance convinced me of that)! I thought that it would be fun to highlight my favourite older films as well as keep up with the few (or so I thought) new films that came out each year. Ha ha, little did I know that there were more than just a few new period films each year and plenty of information about each of them to keep me busy! There's currently over 100 movies listed in my section of recent and Upcoming Films. I find it exciting to learn about projects in the works however I've been disappointed when we've heard that a film has been planned and then cancelled.


 When and how did your fondness of costume movies and drama begin?

I grew up watching family based dramas like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, Christy and the wonderful Road to Avonlea! I would say that my interest in period films was cemented in 1995 when I watched Sense and Sensibility. I had heard of the name of Jane Austen and knew that she was a British author but that was about it. After being mesmerized by that film, I came across scenes of Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle on a French channel and with my limited French, wanted to fully understand what was going on in the particular scene! (It turned out to be when Lizzie receives the letter from Jane telling her about Lydia's disgrace.) Those few scenes inspired me to find and read Pride and Prejudice before watching the 1995 miniseries which I consider to be one of the best period dramas out there! My fascination with Austen led me to look up film adaptations by other British authors: Dickens, Hardy, Henry James, etc and my public library proved to be a godsend in finding more dramas to savour based on these authors.

3. Do you prefer watching films at the theatres or alone at home on a DVD? What about period drama on TV? How much do they broadcast of it in your country?
I’m fortunate to have TVOntario, a public funded channel that shows many period dramas. That is where I discovered a little series called North & South before I knew of the RA fandom that exists out there! But we certainly don’t seem to have as many dramas as in the UK. We usually get them a few months later through PBS in the States. (Considering moving across the pond so the wait will not have to be endured!) I do prefer watching them at home but not alone! If only I could transport my friends from Manchester, Yakima, Little Rock, Rome, etc. to watch them with me!

4. Give us a list of your most loved period dramas/costume films.

It’s so difficult to narrow it down to just a few favourites! I made a list of my Top 150 Period Films and tried to trim it down to My Top 30 out of those. For the longest time, the 1995 P&P was on top but eventually I realized that Wives & Daughters had become my new sentimental favourite. The other adaptations based on Gaskell’s novels - North & South and Cranford, are also highly treasured! Another one that I think should not be missed is Anne of Green Gables and I love seeing the world through Anne Shirley’s eyes!
I think that my favourite dramas tend to fall under these categories: biopics (Bright Star, Gandhi), based on novels (Gaskell, Austen, Dickens), musicals (The Sound of Music, Les Miserables), focused on British Royals (The Young Victoria, Elizabeth, The Lost Prince) or depicting a particular time in history (Iron Jawed Angels, 1492, John Adams).

5. You often discuss about the fact that they always remake the same classics on TV never daring to propose new titles. For instance, how many Jane Eyre do we have, how many Austen or Dickens adaptations? What classics would you like to watch on screen which have never been adapted? Where do I begin?! As much as I’ve enjoyed watching Austen adaptations, I really wish producers would be more original! I was incredulous when I heard yet another David Copperfield was planned and I wrote an Open Letter to the BBC to vent my frustration. I did take some comfort knowing that there were many others out there with great suggestions for period dramas to be adapted and I now also have a list of books to read based on their ideas! I would love to see something like Villette by Charlotte Brontë (which was suggested by many) or a decent biopic of the Brontës . How about anything by Georgette Heyer? I’m stunned that such a beloved and prolific author has been overlooked. (BBC, are you listening?) Considering that this year is the bicentennial of Elizabeth Gaskell’s birth, it would have been lovely to see a biopic done on her or an attempted adaptation of Mary Barton.

 I love reading a book first and then, only after that,   watching its adaptations. I'm fond of looking and analyzing any difference or I simply like to recognize a good transposition of the author’s intentions. What do you usually do when a classic or a literary text in general is adapted?
I’m not as avid a reader as yourself Maria Grazia but I do love reading a book knowing that I will have the chance to see it played out on screen! Hearing of upcoming adaptations has often motivated me to finally sit down and read a book on my list. I don’t generally like to dissect and analyze the film but just hope that it’s essentially faithful to the author’s work. I would love to join a book/movie club one day so that I could chat with other fans in person!

 What are you most eagerly waiting for among the upcoming films and series?


Knowing that Matthew Macfadyen was cast in Pillars of the Earth, I could easily imagine his voice while reading it and look forward to that series. The King’s Speech with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush looks promising! I think that Julian Fellowes (screenwriter for Gosford Park) has the Midas touch and I’m eagerly awaiting his upcoming series Downton Abbey or I would love to see his film From Time to Time which was released last year but seems to be awaiting wider distribution. The remake of My Fair Lady with Emma Thompson as screenwriter has piqued my interest although I still wonder how they’ll pull it off! I’m curious about adaptations of novels of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (Lisa See), The Help (Kathryn Stockett) and Outlander (Diana Gabaldon). I also heard of planned biopics for Taj (with Ben Kingsley) and Banking on Mr. Toad (Kenneth Grahame played by Ioan Gruffudd) which I’d like to see move forward.

 Now, your favourite period drama hero and heroine.

Maria Grazia, you’re forcing me to choose? I usually love all the leading ladies and their gents but I think I would have to say Elinor and Edward from S&S since I relate to their romance the most. I wouldn’t mind marrying someone as kind and gentle like Edward and becoming a parson’s wife! I also have to mention Victoria & Albert. I love how their real-life romance was played out so wonderfully in The Young Victoria.



 If you could travel back in time, in which historical period would you like to live and why?
Although most of the dramas I watch happen to be set in the Regency period, I think I would choose to live in Victorian times. I love the fashion of that era even though I’m sure I like the look more than I would enjoy the discomfort of a corset! I also think there were many exciting changes during that time and there were enough technological advances so that everyday living wasn’t totally impossible.

 Am I wrong or I see Mr Armitage dance any time I visit your blog? Is it a hallucination of mine?
 Maria Grazia, if only Margaret Hale knew the competition she has on her hands with the many fans of Mr.T! I saw the ‘dancing RA’ on a messageboard and just had to share it! Luckily, bluecabochon who gave him his dancing feet, agreed to share it with the rest of us! I see by your Armitage posts that you’ve fallen under his charms. Now if only the BBC would cast him in another period drama, all would be well!

Thanks a lot, Cheryl,  for being my guest here. You've been a terrific buddy! It's been great to know more about you and to talk about period drama with someone  as fond as you. Have you got any final questions for  my readers here at Fly High?
Thank you, Maria Grazia! Yes, I would love to know how they got interested in period films? Which ones are their top dramas?


Let's see who among us is the best at Period Drama Cravats!
This is  a quiz I found yesterday, linked to a post by Traxy at The Squeee. Are you an expert in period drama? Do you love men in cravat? Let's see how good you are at recognizing them! My score was sufficiently good 60%. But I don't consider myself an expert. Here's the quiz, The Period Drama Cravats Quiz.  Enjoy it and have a great Sunday!

24/04/2010

SATURDAY LINKS - STEVENSON & AUSTEN

I've just posted materials on LEARNONLINE and MY JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB. If any of you is interested in Robert Louis Stevenson just follow the link under the picture below and you'll find a short post leading you to some of my notes and materials about the Scottish writer and his Jekyll & Hyde : a short posting about Calvino & Stevenson ,  a compared analysis of Frankenstein and Jekyll  ,  two Power Point Presentations.


On My JA Book Club, instead, you'll find some reflections about the character of Edmund Bertram, THIS MONTH'S HERO in our reading group.  You'll also find  a game. Do you want to have a  try? 

Click on the link under the picture below.

23/04/2010

RA FRIDAY - SOMETHING DISTURBING, SOMETHING I DEEPLY APPRECIATE & SOMETHING WORRYING

1. SOMETHING DISTURBING

I saw this ad on the left and  felt rather uneasy, quite puzzled. Richard doesn’t seem human. I’ve already said (HERE) I don’t like hammering advertising , more precisely I just hate advertising. And this Strike Back campaign seems a heavy one. At Sky, they keep their hopes high on this production, they want to compete with the Americans. And I’m trying to focus on the positive aspect in it: new pics and interviews.
Another thing I hate: war videogames, the ones most of my male students love. And this picture here, with an unnerving tough armed hero, though bearing the handsome look of Richard Armitage, disturbs me. I’m being honest, you see. I can keep my objectivity even before charming Mr Armitage (hard task!)
War is not a videogame: it breaks men, destroys lives.The survivors have harder tasks than the dead who rest in peace paradoxically, they have to cope with their sense of guilt and with the memories of the slaughter they witnessed. I really hope SB won’t be anything like those videogames where the more you kill the better you are.
Shell shocked soldiers they were lebelled during WWI; post war trauma is another term used to describe what broken men coming back from the front suffered from.

But it seems John Porter will share that kind of background in  this 6-part drama. I mean, he is a broken man, shattered by war . He is a discharged- in - disgrace SAS officer. He is haunted by a sense of atonement and redemption. Richard says: "He's a damaged hero - but he's got to be. If he's all hero, then he's not appealing. You have to look for the hero and then find what makes him weak. The failings are what make him human." This makes me feel a little better. Maybe they must publicize the drama highlighting the brave tough hero aspect of the character but Richard promises his audience something more.


Reading Richard’s words about John Porter, reading his analysis of his new character (HERE) reassured me a bit. Yes, of course he knows he must act as a modern super-hero all muscles, guns and machine guns, boys’ toys and action. He knows the male part of his audience will want a hero with the guts, expect their dose of violence, risk, chase, thrilling action and sex but, as usual, he tries to give his character a soul, a backstory of reasons and motivations, a complex personality. He did his best to look great (read HERE) but he did his bestest at conveying the human being’s suffering and torment. I’m happy of that, I really hope this new drama won’t be only a high quality videogamelike war series. As I told you at the beginning, we must always remember war not only kills human beings but it also breaks down their minds and hearts, shatters their dreams and future lives. It is not a game for brave kids. It is not fun.




2. SOMETHING I DEEPLY APPRECIATE


I don’t know a single man who has read at least some of the books I like. Actually, I know few men who really love reading. Yes, I know,  I am unlucky because they do exist, don't they,  but where ?
So when I discovered that Richard is  the “literary” type, one who reads not only for his job,  I admired him deeply. Anyway, in his acting career, he read North and South before auditioning for the part of John Thornton, re-read (he said he had already read it several times) Wuthering Heights before interpreting John Standring , acted in a Shakespearean company, read Ted Hughes, read Georgette Heyer,  would love to play in more classic stage plays, acted as Richardson’s Lovelace.  His interview at Vulpes Libris regarding reading books ( and much more ) was great.

Now in this interview for THE STAGE ( see picture above) he says he is probably going to act on stage in a Restoration comedy, The Rover by Aphra Behn. Reading the plot of this 17th century play,  I guess he will be Willmore, a romp. Was Robert Lovelace just rehearsal for this other rake?
As for reading and Richard,  his newest Georgette Heyer's audiobook, THE CONVENIENT MARRIAGE,  can be pre-ordered at Amazon UK or The Book Depository.
Here's its brand new cover (above on the left)



3. SOMETHING WORRYING

I have already expressed my perplexity for some indiscretions which came out in  the press regarding Lucas North's fate in SPOOKS 9. Now reading this article , I'm even more perplexed.

LESS ACTION FOR LUCAS NORTH?
Richard says: "what's really interesting about Lucas this year is he's much less physical than he has been in the past..." What does that mean? Not that I'm that interested in action or physicality but ... It sounds  like ... he's going to be relegated to a background role. I really hope to be completely wrong. Wasn't it enough to hear that Lucas in series 9" becomes embroiled in what bosses say is a dark secret that leads to the ultimate betrayal"?

Final question. Which is your favourite Richard?

The glamorous star-like featured in this picture



or the more natural one below

22/04/2010

AT A MASKED BALL WITH LORD ARMITAGE

If you remember, not long ago,  I told you I had been invited to a Masked Ball on May  1st (HERE). This Masked Ball will be hold at Mesmered's Blog. It is , of course, a great virtual event and Mesmered (Australian writer Prue Batten - have a look at  her guest post on Fly High!) in her first story introducing her heroine, Lucia Brabante,  decided she would leave her  Ser Armitage to me.  Lucia  is, in fact,  going to the Ball with a different partner now. So, how could I waste the chance to take part in a grand event like that with such an amazing escort?
It was not that easy though. To say "Yes, I will. I will go to the party with your Ser Armitage" was not enough. I had to create a heroine and a backstory . You know I'm not English. I scribble in English on my blog/s but writing historical fiction in a foreign language is totally different. So I have to thank the friends who supported and advised me in my attempt to create a female 18th century beautiful young character who might be Lord Armitàge 's  (Lord and with a French pronunciation in my story) partner for that night: Gaia De Blanche. Here is my story. I hope you'll like it.

GAIA DE BLANCHE 

The dizzying blend of anxiety, joy and longing made my heart beat faster and my breathing irregular. I was ready, I had been preparing myself for hours. My blue muslin dress was as perfect as I had wished it to be, done up in the shade that haunted my mind, the material the same crystal blue as those eyes I saw in my dreams.

Madame Jeancourt had promised I would look pretty in her creation but I felt so unsure. I loved the dress and its lovely laces around the plunging neckline .
That neckline. Was it daring too much? I had never wore such a dress and looking at my naked white skin embarassed me. To imagine those piercing blue eyes on it made me even breathless.
But Madame Jeancourt had assured me men appreciated those details in a young woman’s attire. I wished it might be  true.
I had also carefully combed my desperately straight hair and set it with curlers with the help of Nelly . Now they were nicely dangling down, partly restrained by a delicate pin, formed in the shape of a flower, that sparkled in the candle light . Regardless, I simply could not calm down . I was worried that I would not meet Lord Armitage's expectations.
I had seen him at my previous - indeed, my first - ball proudly walking through the admiring crowd, escorting a tall, elegant, amazingly beautiful dark-haired woman. What would he think tonight of the tiny slim fair-haired girl he had invited to the Masked Ball?
Why did he ask? I had been flattered and honoured at his invitation, but after accepting it , I had gone through a deeply troubled time. I started feeling uneasy at the thought of being among an unknown crowd with a handsome stranger ... because that he was, a stranger to me.
A fascinating stranger I had been thinking of, over and over, during the last three days. That was the most worrying feeling to me. Why did he have such an effect on me? Again I looked at my reflection ... Tolerably pretty in my blue dress but not divine as I wanted to be for such a tall god-like gentleman. Were I but older and more experienced of the world, though not a beauty, I could at least make him proud of me . At 20 , that was only my second ball and my first time with a gentleman as an escort.

I recalled the moment he had come to me, three days earlier. I was sitting alone and bored in the great hall at Palazzo Galati. All the guests there seemed pleased and cheerful, dancing or conversing. I knew no one. I had reached Veniche with my Aunt, Lady Catherine and my cousin Stella the previous day . Now they were sitting nearby, talking with some of their many acquaintances. I felt completely forgotten, almost invisible . Unexpectedly, Lord Armitage had approached with old Lord Brainwood who was commissioned by my aunt with the task of introducing me. Lord Brainwood spoke first, he uttered a few formal quick sentences, and left briskly. Lord Armitage bowed again , moving elegantly and in total confidence as if he had known me for a long time. I only actually saw him when he started speaking . His velvety voice made me startle and, soon after, shiver:
"May I have the honour of the dance? I have already asked your aunt for permission and she kindly consented. She told Lord Brainwood to introduce me to you. Would you please do me the honour , Miss De Blanche?" .

I foolishly stared up at his incredibly magnetic blue eyes and even gasped. Getting no answer, he went on :
"Miss De Blanche, I know this is your first ball, your aunt told me. But I am sure you are an excellent dancer.Shall we dance , then?”
I looked inquiringly at my aunt but she was so engaged in her lively conversation she did not notice what was happening. What should I do? It was appropriate and decent to give such a genltle request my assent. And I accepted. My legs almost failed me, so nervous was I as his cool hands led me to the floor. I was sure he could feel my pulse jumping. I found myself among the animated dancing crowd I had been idly observing from my seat . I thought I should be unable to move a step. I felt my legs so heavy and they were trembling even. Why had I always been so shy? Lord Armitage spoke again:
"Will you let me lead you? Are you ready?"
I smiled at him and , incredibly, I started dancing. I could move, I could follow the music . I felt his warm look on me and I started feeling more confident , almost at ease, I forgot all the rest. The reassuring tone of his voice caressed my timidity. He went on smiling down at me all the time.

“So, Miss De Blanche, you see? Not so unpleasant after all.”
“Yes, Lord Armitage, forgive me. It is just that this is my very first ball and I am so excited , I cannot restrain my anxiety...But it is much better now. Thank you”
“Do you like it here at Palazzo Galati?”
“Yes, very much. Only I know no one here. And there are so many people.”
“But you know me , now!”
“Yes, and you are my first partner tonight . Well... my first partner at a ball ever, actually”
“I am honoured. This means I shall have a very special place in your memories, I hope. ”
I could feel my cheeks flushing and hoped he wouldn't notice such a sign of shyness from me. He would think I was an ingenue. I wished I had my cousin’s readiness for proper witty comments, but he went on:
“What have you seen and done in Veniche so far, Miss De Blanche?”
Yes, I thought, he was totally and utterly convinced I was an ingenue at that point.
“Very little. I have just arrived with my aunt and cousin. We got here yesterday morning and spent thenight at Countess Galati’s residence. She is such a kind refined lady. She invited us to this ball and ... here I am glad of dancing and making your acquaintance, Lord Armitage . You see, I wish I could see every corner, square and alley of this delightful town in the following days.”
I was astonished. I had stated several sensed thoughts, one after another, without any hesitation at all and with a joyful tone. And his smile had become even more luminous when he had responded:
“And I would love to show all the best of Veniche to you, if you please”
Again, how was I supposed to respond? I could not just accept, though that was what I wanted. So I tried with
“Well, I would be very glad indeed but, I do not know if ...”
And he immediately suggested:
"I shall invite your cousin to join us and require your aunt’s consent, of course. I shall be your personal chaperone in your errands in the city”
When the music subsided , I felt as if I had woken up from a dream and felt embarassed at the many curious looks directed to us while he led me back to my seat at his arm. I had the awful impression everybody was staring at us.
"Thanks, Miss De Blanche. It's been delightful. You are an enchanting dancer. Will you consider me cheeky if I invite you to another ball? A Masked Ball on May the first? Iwould be honoured if your aunt let you and your cousin join my sister, Margaret, and me there."
I had been tremendously dull and awkward and yet he insisted in inviting me, and to another ball.
Curious indeed. Even stranger than that, my aunt seemed very pleased to accept Lord Armitage’s requirements. She let Stella and I go visiting the city and even let us go, escorted by Lord Armitage and without her , to tonight’s ball at the Museo di Veniche. Did Lord Armitage always so easily obtain what he wished for? Moreover, why did he want me to join him at this elegant party?

Someone was knocking at the door. Lord Armitage had arrived and would soon be announced. My cousin was already with him. Why was I so dreadfully worried? In those few days I had tried to control my tendency to flush when he stared at or talked to me. I had even begun to talk more and more in his presence, getting to know him slightly  better. I had also found a trick to escape my anxiety: I just had to look right into his eyes and my fears disappeared. I would do the same that night. How would those piercing blue eyes gaze at me from behind a mask? They would be enchanting, magic . Those eyes had the colour of my dreams.


 
Do you want to join us? Fancy a masked ball accompanied by
a Sir Guy , a Lord Lucas...or whoever you'd like to go with?
Click on the invitation on my right sidebar. 

P.S. In the end , I must apologize with all my blogger friends who write as their profession or their ambition, who publish or published books . I don't mean to offend your art which I truly admire. It has been a game. Don't worry,  I do not intend to become a writer, neither a Fan Fiction writer. I will go on reading  books ( especially yours) and ... I 'd like to  go on scribbling posts  for my blogs.