Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Tenniel's artistic license

Dearest Emily,

We begin with your favourite artist Millais...

                                                'A dream of the past.'   Or 'Sir Isumbrus at the Ford'
                                                           John Everett Millais 1857

( Not too much of my un-favourite Pre-Raph flattening of perspective here- but maybe that's why he's your favourite, Em's! )

Anyhow, my little one- our tale today concerns 'The White Knight' in 'Through the Looking Glass'.
I am convinced ( as have others been before me ) that the White Knight is Dodgson's 'Hitchcock' moment, where he appears in a cameo-role. He even directs Alice's feelings about the whole adventure-

Of all the strange things that Alice saw in her journey Through The Looking Glass, this was the one she always remembered most clearly. Years afterwards she could bring the whole scene back again, as if it were only yesterday- the mild blue eyes and the kindly smile of the Knight- the setting sun gleaming through his hair, and shining on his armour in a blaze of light that quite dazzled her."

Fast-forward though to post-manuscript when the reluctant Tenniel finally agreed to illustrate the sequel, ( he was quoted as saying how difficult to work with Dodgson had been. ) Tenniel had pulled ranking on Dodgson previously, refusing to model Alice on the original 'Muse' and making her a blonde long-haired child instead. He had even had all copies of the first edition of Alice recalled, declaring himself unhappy with the quality of printing his illustrations.
This time, he appears to be quite cheeky, and not only place a cariacature of himself as the White Knight, but also to base it loosely as a parody of Millais painting above. This I interpret as his idea and not Dodgsons, especially as 'Sir Isumbras' is more akin to the visage of Mr T, than Mr D!

Whether or not Mr Dodgson then did a little re-write to redress the balance can only be conjecture- but a clue to this could be-

"The Knight looked proudly down at his helmet, which hung from the saddle. 'Yes', he said; but I've invented a better one than that- like a sugar-loaf'. When I used to wear it, if I fell off the horse, it always touched the ground directly. So I had a very little way to fall, you see- But there was a danger of falling into it, to be sure. That happened to me once- and the worst of it was, before I could get out again, the other White Knight came and put it on. He thought it was his own helmet."

I think it is likely Emily. And he uses the duality theme right the way through the book as we have discovered before.

I rather like Tenniels sense of humour and his 'battles' with Dodgson. It's a nice side story to look at while we ponder away at the sub-texts...

Back to Sir Isumbras, he had been parodied earlier.

This one from 1857 was by Frederick Sandys.  

'Sandys' famous parody of Sir John Everett Millais's A Dream of the Past -- Sir Isumbras at the Ford (1857) features Ruskin as an ass on which Millais (the knight) rises while holding his two children, Rossetti and Hunt. Note The paint bucket and peacock feathers. Ironically, after creating this famous skit of the PRB, Sandys himself became a friend and associate of the Pre-Raphaelites.'

And last but not least Emily, is GiGi's parody for you! Here's us riding the 'Old Heritage Donkey' at Dimbola, Mary 'House Maman', Brian 'Chairman' and Granny clinging on for dear life at the back.


Signing off, your ever loving Grandmother GiGi xxxx

Saturday, 26 January 2013

MacDonald Intertextuality

Dearest Emily,

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear —
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?

Lewis Carroll's poem at the end of 'Through the Looking Glass' spelling out his muse's name at the beginning of each line  ( and is considered to be inspiration by 'row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream...Life is but a dream." )

We recently alighted at Christchurch Oxford where we discovered the White Rabbit's identity, so let's stay on the mainland for a bit whilst we see how Charles worked his threads all together.

We are currently looking at 1860 and at a time in Dodgson's life where as we have previously seen he was in the habit of using his camera as an entree to society and to befriend families, photographing their off-spring profusely.

The MacDonalds were key players in our story thus far.

George MacDonald was the Father of eleven children ( the wrong side of a dozen, he is quoted as quipping. ) We see here from the left his wife Louisa along with Greville, Mary, Irene and Grace. Dodgson himself appears in the picture and is thought to have taken it with an early form of self-timing device.
George and Charles met in 1860 when both had sought help in London for their respective stammers. Two years prior to this, George had published 'Phantastes' ('The story concerns a young man who is pulled into a dreamlike world and there hunts for his ideal of female beauty, embodied by the "Marble Lady". Anodos lives through many adventures and temptations while in the other world, until he is finally ready to give up his ideals' -  Methinks Dodgson knew this work quite well Em's. )

That same year, Charles friend Alexander Munro was creating a sculpture "The Boy and the Dolphin" ( which can be seen to this day in Hyde Park ) of which, Greville ( pictured above ) was the sitter. Watched by his sister Mary, an excerpt from Dodgsons diary sums up the beginning of their friendship-
" They were a girl and a boy, about six and seven years old- I claimed their acquaintance and began at once proving to the boy, Greville, that he had better take the opportunity of having his head changed for a marble one. The effect was that in about two minutes they had entirely forgotten that I was a total stranger, and were earnestly arguing the question as if we were old acquaintances ."

At Christmas 1860, Queen Victoria was visiting Christchurch and Dodgson was taken aback by her short and dumpy figure. The next year was spent getting ordained, publishing an algebraeic pamphlet, and socially favouring croquet on the Deanery lawns, playing cards with the Liddell children, and punting on the river with them.

On July 5th 1862 ( having this year moved to Tom Quad just across from the Deanery ) Dodgson set off up the Isis on a punt, and famously told young Alice a tale. It began ( he says ) with a Rabbit disappearing down a hole, followed by the heroine- but at that point he wasn't sure what was about to happen.

But happen it did, and now it happened fast. Dodgson worked away at the manuscript, running it by the MacDonalds who were encouraging him. Greville recounts-
" My mother read the story to us.When she came to an end, I being aged six, exclaimed that there ought to be sixty thousand volumes of it " ( What is that saying Emily about the truth that comes out of the mouths of babes and sucklings?)

By 1863, it's not too hard to put together Alice, croquet ( flamingo being the puck ) the living cards being the playing cards, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert making an appearance and the fantasy tales written by his contemporaries as driving Dodgson's first children's book.

The MacDonalds continued their encouragement and may possibly have assisted Dodgson's first meeting with Macmillan publishers who had recently published 'The Water Babies' by the Reverend Charles Kingsley ( an early praiser of Darwins 'Origin of the Species'. ) A year later all was ready for publication.

There is no record I have yet come across of Dodgson falling out and parodying MacDonald. Whatever it was he did, this one did right by the oft criticized as 'hyper-critical' Dodgson.

Towards the end of Dodgson's life he retained a great interest in children's books and their writers, recommending titles to his children friends.

George MacDonalds children's books still hold a high esteem and re-sale value to this day dans le book-world- though not as high as Lewis Carroll's it's nice to see someone ( I think so far in my research ), escaped his squib!

As usual, your ever-loving Grand-mother GiGi xxx

Much of this post I have derived from 'The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, and most helpfully from Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass By Angelica Shirley Carpenter, which I have just ordered on Amazon-yey!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Fathers and Time.

Dearest Emily,

Without allowing my Pagan soul too much reign in this post, I begin with a curious tale...
Back in 2007, my lovely friend Lotty and I were persuing a quest in button-making. We wanted to take a mould off of an old 1950's button, cast it in resin and encapsulate the Weardowney logo inside it.
Lotty and I were oft at this quest, inspired by my Father ( your paternal Great-Grandfather Derek ) who was a plastics manufacturer and technical designer at a time when plastics were booming as a 'new' material. Sadly my Dad died too young, and I still miss him greatly.
Do you remember I told you it was he who brought me to Freshwater Bay first when I was seven, and that I had forgotten this, until my Auntie reminded me at our wedding? Dad had loved Freshwater and Yarmouth particularly, and maybe that's why it felt so like 'home' to me the first time Grumpa and I came here in 2005.
Anyhow, I had a few design bees in my bonnet, and Lotty is fab for working away at those bees.
We didn't achieve success though. Busy organising Grumpa and GiGi's up-coming wedding ( at Dimbola and Farringford ) the project was shelved, as we couldn't centre up the logo. Being a 'throw the baby out with the bathwater' sort of person, I promptly binned the failure.

This was in Marylebone at the old Weardowney HQ. We have moved house four times since then.

Fast forward to now. Two weeks ago, at Dimbola Towers before all the snow, I've nipped outside for a cheeky gasper and my eye catches something on the pathway, just to the left of the bush on the right as you go up the stairs. It is my failed sample button!

I suppose there are lots of ways it could have got there. The most likely is that though I thought I had binned them all, one came down to Dimbola with me, around the time of my wedding. Curious serendipity had it work its way out of the land and onto the path-way in front of me that day.
Which ever way Em, to me is a special talisman that again reminds me of my Fathers influence on my life, and now I carry it with me always.

Alice Liddell, who influenced Dodgson to write his first childrens book- 'Alice in Wonderland' was one of seven children. Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ-Church Oxford was their father, who effected many changes there. Bringing his whole family to live at the Deanery, the previously masculine domain now entered a new phase where children played out on the lawns and accompanied their parents to Oxford tea-parties, punting and social gatherings. Our Dodgson first met them on one of his new-fangled photographic sessions at the Cathedral in 1856, a year after he bought his first camera. Befriending the family, the children became over the next five years his favourite photographic subjects, play-mates and Dodgson as the storyteller, made up fantastical stories for their delight.

Dean Liddell, pictured above seemed happy with the children and his Wife's association with Dodgson- at least up until 1865 when the first publication of 'Alice in Wonderland' appeared.
However, our Dodgson had a problem with some of his peers at Oxford. One particular issue he had was that the then Greek Professor- our Benjamin Jowett, had suddenly been granted a massive stipend of £500 a year. Dodgson penned his spite in two mock-mathematical essays, one being  'The Dynamics of a Particle' which though published anonymously was well-known as Dodgson's work.
Part of Henry Liddell's Greek/English lexicon had included the below under the same title.

πλάσμα , ατοςτό,
A. anything formed or moulded, image, figure, “πλάσματα πηλοῦ” Ar.Av.686 ;κήρινον . . οὐκ οἶδ᾽  τι π. as it were a piece of wax-workPl.Tht.197d, cf. 200c,Sph.239e ; of figures made by bakers, Men.113 : pl., cakes of incense, POxy.2144.29(iii A.D.).
b. the body, as fashioned by the Creator, PMag.Par.1.212.
II. counterfeit, forgery, “πὅλον ἐστὶν  διαθήκη” D.45.29.
b. figment, fiction, “πλάσματα τῶν προτέρων” Xenoph.1.22, cf.Arist.Cael. 289a6Str.1.2.36J.BJ1.1.2Plu.Thes.28, etc. ; of a story which is fictitious but possible, opp. “ἱστορία” 11 and “μῦθος” 11.3, S.E.M.1.263Aus. Prof.21.26, cf. Ph.1.528.
c. pretencePhld.Vit.p.38 J.Plu.Mar. 43.
2. delusionPhld.Lib.p.56O.

Who knows exactly what their wars were Emily, but Dodgson did fall out with Liddell big-time.
The Dean, who was always late ( for his very important dates- his lectures ) on account of his having to cross two quads after leaving home at the Deanery, as he never quite got it together to organise a key to the next building that would shorten his journey.
His white haired scurrying figure was a regular scene at Oxford, and quite possibly how Dodgson described him to Tenniel...

Loosely-based Em, one Daddy immortalised in a Rabbit, and I've made mine into a button today!
Anyhow, back on topic. As our study is about 'Through the Looking Glass' and not Alice right now- I'd best explain our White Rabbit moment.
In 'Through the Looking Glass' we meet two characters who morph our Rabbit with the Hatter, and then divide them again. So I needed to show you first, where I thought the White Rabbit had originated. We'll visit his morph-dom later my sweet.
Time for work now- off to Dimbola for me!

Until next time Em,

Your ever-loving Grandmother, GiGi xxxxx

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Freshwater Bay Through the Looking Glass. The story so far...

Dearest Em,

As GiGi gets further into the story and nearer to the day of having a completed manuscript, I thought it might be a good time to tell you how this all came about. It kind of began as a bit of a joke...

It was spring 2012, and the good old trustees of Dimbola were fighting again. The war this time was about plans for increasing the tearoom and Gift Shop turnover. This is GiGi's area and committee, and our chairman put forward a fab new design and revamp centred around Lewis Carroll's 'Mad Hatter'.

Someone commented that our Julia could be the Queen of Hearts! Someone else said- 'Oh no she couldn't, someone else 'Oh yes she could', and so it went in true trusty trustees style. In one ear for GiGi, but not quite out the other. Something was ringing bells...

That night I went home and read 'Alice' and then 'Through the Looking Glass' and the bells got louder.
The clue was in the Tenniel illustration. It was said of John Tenniel that he could see a photograph, or someone just once, and then cariacaturise them. Well there it was...

Our Jules was not only there in the illustrated cariacature, but also references to her in the text. I looked further, more characters became unmasked- but surely someone must have made the connection before? Handy working at the Bookroom Em's. Especially when there's a heap of stuff Victorian and Island-based. My research library could not have been better stocked! Yes, there had been some tenous links to Tweedledum and Tweedledee being the Tennyson boys, and Lynn Truss's Tennysons Gift, put Dodgson firmly in the Freshwater spotlight. However, it hadn't all been uncovered and put together as to what I increasingly knew it was. Also lucky for me, there were some of the most wonderful and respected Academic bods to confer with right here under my nose about the researched ( and hitherto unresearched ) history of its real-life counterparts.

'Through the Looking Glass' was not only a satire of characters here, but it was set here too. Walking those two characters Milly and Marley Middleton up Tennyson Down and through 'The Wilderness', I was fortunate in being able to see the twists and turns of each chapter daily, right in front of me.

Then there was the poetry parodies to unravel ( most of these have been discovered. ) Then, good old Professor Jowett Master of Balliol ( who regularly stayed her at GiGI's house when translating Plato during his Easter, summer and Christmas holidays- when he taught the Tennyson boys how to play chess ) cropped up as another character, and introduced me to the Oxford Movement and what had preceeded the book.

Such fun Emily, and lots been done and yet to do! Nights sat working on my bibliography, 'colouring in' ( as Grumpa calls my artwork ) and reading, reading, reading.

The even lovelier thing is the symbiosis of this at good old Dimbola. The board decided in September to widen their articles to encompass the incredible 'Freshwater Circle' and lovely Bob two doors down is writing a publication to sell at the House, accompanying his lectures ( you've got to come and hear him Em, he's such a good speaker! ) It's all rather exciting. This area is an incredibly rich part of our National Heritage, it's landscape enticed Tennyson, yes, and then Julia to Dimbola, but more Em and more and more.

My part is the Dodgson study and I'm playing with my cover today, what do you think?

Back to Dimbola and our entree. We did revamp the tearoom. We moved the shop into a better space and cleared the hall-way ( Julia's old ballroom ) of its earlier clutter. The lovely waitresses started serving us coffee with a smile stencilled on. The wonderful volunteers got together to enter for an award this year ( they had all worked their free of charge at Christmas to help the Trust. ) Visitors began to get louder, and relax more over their Sunday lunches, using the hallway as a gathering space.
Julia's former home began to feel cosier and more friendly. I like to think Julia approves of all this somewhere. We aren't even due to launch the changes until Easter, but already there's a vibrant and positive aura emanating from its walls. The new Freshwater Circle is alive and kicking. Dimbola has a history of vital and unique characters populating it's halls, and a new chapter begins to evolve.

I'm really honoured to be a part of all this team-work Emily, I hope you enjoy it when you come again at Easter.
Do you think I found the discoveries, or do you think they found me? I think I know, and I'll tell you why next time!

There you are today with Daddy off on your 'Winter Wonderland walks' today, my little muse.

Can't wait to see you again! Your ever-loving Grandmother GiGi xxxxx

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Come into the Garden ( of live flowers ) Maud...

'There has fallen a splendid tear
        From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
        She is coming, my life, my fate;
The red rose cries, 'She is near, she is near;'
       And the white rose weeps, 'She is late;'
The larkspur listens, 'I hear, I hear;'
       And the lily whispers, 'I wait.'

'Come into the garden Maud'
a parlour song from 'Maude and other poems'Tennyson 

Dearest Emily,

Our long deceased neighbour penned his 'scandalous' poem in 1855. Living here at the Bay, and wandering across the Down in his wide brimmed hat and long cloak, he strode and composed, often using flavours from the uncompromising and beautiful natural landscapes around him. Birds, flowers, rocks all influenced his narratives.

Maud is a long and complicated work, touching on an ambivalent attitude to the Crimean War- and this is probably why it had its detractors. It's a heavy piece about love, insanity and death.

It made Ally a heap of money though- enough to exercise his option to buy his beloved Farringford ( and three years later build our house! )

Dodgy Dodgson fell out with Alfred big-time in 1870. Previously their discourse had been cordial ( though as we have seen Emily may well have had certain concerns over how Dodgson had behaved around the family. ) He certainly wasn't a warmly appreciated friend or a part of their circle and hardly ever cropped up in any of Emily's lengthy and wide correspondences.
This time though- Alfred saw red over Dodgson repeatedly requesting permission to keep and show to friends two private and unpublished works that Tennyson had allowed a young composer to set one of to music.
Emily fired off a letter ending "A gentleman should understand that when an author does not give his works to the public he has his own reasons for it".

Dodgson fired back- but as we are increasingly finding usual behaviour for him- his ultimate revenge was parody. His satisfaction appears evermore to me to ' be clever, and so clever, that only you know the secret '. From our focus of investigation- Through the Looking Glass, and the chapter entitled 'The Garden of Live Flowers'.

'She's coming!' cried the Larkspur. 'I hear her footstep, thump,thump, along the gravel-walk!'

Only this time, it wasn't Maud- it was our own 'Red Queen'!

Until next time my little one,

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxx


Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Lion and the Unicorn

Dearest Em,

Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister and Statesman (1804-1881) wrote "The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it." So now he crops up in ours.

The Chap here on the left is William Ewart Gladstone. Born in 1809, and from a wealthy upper middle class family, and educated at  Christchurch Oxford, where he from 1828- matriculating in 1831 ( twenty years before Dodgson matriculated there. ) In 1847, he was elected at Oxford to represent the MA  Graduates. Gladstone entered Parliament as a High Tory in 1832, having been given Office by Lord Peel. When the Conservatives split- Gladstone became a 'Peelite' and henceforth, a Liberal Statesman.

Queen Victoria was not amused with him, and is on record as saying " He always addresses me as if he were at a public meeting".

Famously short-sighted, he is mentioned in Lord Eversley's book 'Gladstone and Ireland' thus..
" He missed his way to the trench, in Sebastapol, and found himself in the lines of the enemy ".

Another arch-enemy was the fellow on the right- Benjamin Disreali. Born in 1804, this Italian Jew was not of high-born stock. Educated in Walthamstow, writing books to pay off creditors, and then suffering a nervous break-down, Disraeli married a rich woman and sought a career in Politics as a Tory. Being passed over by Peel in 1832 for a place at Parliament in favour of Gladstone, their vitriolic feud began- and it never ended.
The first Prime Minister of Jewish ethnicity he served from 27 February to 1st December 1868, when Gladstone succeeded him, and again in 1874, until 1880 ( when Gladstone succeeded him again! )

A Dandy and a keen horseman one of his many sayings was " A canter is a cure for all evil ".

Queen Victoria was amused by Disraeli. When he died, it was not correct for her to attend his funeral. So she visited privately and took flowers instead.

The lion and the unicorn
Were fighting for the crown
The lion beat the unicorn
All around the town.
Some gave them white bread,
And some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake
and drummed them out of town

Lewis Carroll's Lion wears glasses, and the Unicorn with his long spike in the centre of his forehead is part-horse. 

What do you think Em? Likely suspects Gladstone and Disreali? I reckon so...
This is such fun!

Your ever-loving Grand-mother, GiGi xxx

Friday, 4 January 2013

Knowing 'one's place' in the Kitchen

Dearest Emily,

Today we are to fly off on a tangent from my tangled tales of investigation.

As we have seen from Dodgson's works, we can all use a bit of a 'Muse'.

I'm no exception, and felt in need of a bit of inspiration. As you know following your Christmas visit, I'm busying away at Julia Margaret Cameron's former home. We've done a bit of decorating, cosied it up a bit, and re-located the Gift Shop, all good- but prettying up doth not a good business make, and it's time to focus on the Tearooms.

Your Grand-mother GiGi might know how to play shop, but I don't know my R.S from my elbow in the Tearoom business...

So I stalled a bit and listened and looked. Even so, it's no good steaming in when you aren't sure of what you are doing. Especially when we are 'pas beaucoup d'argent'.

Back at the Bookroom on Sunday, serendipity struck again as I picked up a book- The Duchess of Jermyn St. A couple of pages into the book I read "Through the big double doors of the Cavendish, painted Guardi green, past the porch where an enormous hooded leather chair stood like a monument, I found an Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass world that enchanted me, where the faster one ran the more one stayed in the same place. Here Rosa reigned, both as Red and White Queen, with her 'off with her head' manner to anyone she didn't like and her trailing scarf slipping off her shoulders." 

Born in 1867 in Leyton, Essex, Rosa Ovenden was one of nine children ( who all survived- not a usual state of affairs for Victorian off-spring. ) Daddy was a Watchmaker who also moonlighted as an Undertaker.
Rosa was educated at school from ages 8-12, at which time she was considered old enough to earn a living. She started out as a maid locally and managed 4 years before handing in her notice and setting off for London with a good reference.
Next stop was Sheen House in Mortlake where she scrubbed floors for several months- then being promoted to:- washing up/ gutting poultry/ and then to making tea and coffee.
Once she had achieved the dizzying heights of toast-making she began to enter a realm that she was to dance expertly between for the rest of her life- both 'Upstairs and Downstairs'.
The Comte and Comtesse de Paris entertained a good deal, and Rosa came to the attention of the Prince of Wales who complemented her on the excellence of her ptarmigian pie. Rosa did not take the credit for this explaining that she 'only took the innards out of the birds, sir'.
Soon Rosa was 'lent-out' to various households. Acquiring skills along the way, Rosa struck out again, achieving an excellent reference to seek her next post with.

Lady Randolph Churchill had long been a heroine to Rosa as the young American heiress Jenny Jerome, and it is likely that the Churchills had dined at Sheen House and were aware of the talented cook's reputation. In any case, Rosa was hired, and her first big dinner party an unqualified success. It seems that one of her strengths was to perform wonders without any fuss. She merely let off steam by swearing.
Once again, Rosa's employer deigned to lend her out to friends, and Rosa flourished, cooking for many of the big houses in London society. She commanded high fees, and sent much of her wages home to her family.
Age 25, her parents increased pressure on her marrying. It's not clear why the indomitable Rosa bent to her parents wishes, indeed it's never quite clear factually as to why Rosa did or didn't do things. She was adept at not answering questions directly, and a dab-hand at red-herrings. Anyway marry she did, taking a whole afternoon off work, and wearing her day-clothes. The unfortunate Excelsior Lewis must have felt that her heart wasn't quite in it from the off.
Moving to the suburbs with the addition of Excelsior's disapproving sister, did nothing to improve matters. Rosa dutifully stayed at home for a while- eventually setting off on daily 'cycling trips' back to her favourite hunting-ground in London. The sister's sniffy disapproval didn't help, and one day Rosa announced that she was going back to work- having asked her hard-drinking spouse why he didn't get a job.
She threw herself back into her first love with aplomb, and her success now allowed her to surround herself with a team of pretty-kitchen maids all in a row. Then, she teamed up with a grocer called Jackson in Piccadilly, selling him her prepared cured hams. Parties were announced as 'Rosa Lewis is going to do the supper' which became the accustomed forecast of a good party.
Excelsior became jealous, and morose.

An opportunity presented itself to Rosa, when she heard that the nearby Cavendish Hotel in Jermyn St was to come up for rent. She calculated that she could afford it, and intended for Excelsior and the dreaded sister to live at the property and run it as an Hotel, thus killing three birds with one stone. Hubby nearby, Hubby busy working, and Hubby earning money.
Hubby didn't. Lonely and drunk most of the time, Jackson the grocer alerted Rosa to the fact that bills were not being paid and her husband was taking solace in the arms of late night drinking buddies.
Rosa asked Excelsior for the accounts. There weren't any. He was unmethodical, extravagant and lazy.

Mrs Lewis had had enough. Taking the cash-box out of its hiding place in the oven, and apparently brandishing a kitchen knife, she drove both Mr Lewis and sister Laura out of the establishment, hurling a valley of pots and pans terrifying the pair sufficiently never to return. Lawyers provided evidence of his adultery and the divorce was made final.
She spent the next sixteen months quietly busying away and paying off each of the creditors owed by her husbands mis-management.

Now Rosa put all she had learned thus far together and set about furnishing the Cavendish in a comfortable 'Country-home' style. She built suites with bathrooms where Prince's and Lords could entertai privately ( with Rosa Lewis doing the supper of course. ) The reputation of her establishment rapidly spread, and excellently situated in Mayfair near St James Palace, it became quite the place to stay. Rosa being her unique self- ran it according to her own rules. Rich guests often picked up the drinks bills for other guests, and it was not unusual to find guests that couldn't pay, working off their debt washing dishes in the kitchen.
A donkey occupied one of the rooms upstairs.
If Rosa did not like the look of someone or other- they were refused a room. On one infamous occasion, the friend of one of Rosa's dislikes was inscensed by her illogical decision against a Gent she deemed a 'writer, and you know we don't have their sort here' ( he wasn't, but Rosa used this as her term for the lowest of the low- never accepting any difference between a historian/novelist or hack. )
So, the friend decided to make a protracted game of getting the disliked young man into the Cavendish whenever he could. This involved coming in through the laundry, or under cover of darkness, through a window or other smuggling activities. He was caught and thrown out several times. Eventually both tired of the game, giving it up for several months. Their swan-song after an interval was an elaborate ruse, booking the fellow in as a Portuguese Man of War, and holding a drinks party for him. Rosa was introduced to the Military Man, complete with facial hair disguise and accent. Immediately she took against him, calling him a 'writer' and throwing him out for the last time.

Rosa has Island credentials too. For her own reasons, she decided that 'Castle Rock', a house next door to the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes, was to be her 'little house'. She paid way over the odds to secure it, bidding against the heavyweight Squadron. She won. The house was bought from Emma Cust's estate. Mrs Cust had entertained Rosa's sometime employer Edward VII there. It had a separate
Ball-room or Pavilion ( which were the remains of Hippsley House, which  was once owned by George II.)

The Royal Yacht Squadron were embarrassed into accepting Ladies onto their lawns in the racy twenties. All well and good, but there were no 'conveniences' available for females. Mrs Lewis drove a very hard bargain indeed, eventually selling the Ball-room to the Squadron so the Ladies might be comfortable.

I like Rosa, just as I like Julia. Two 'forces of nature' likened to the Red and White Queens in Lewis Carroll's work. Agatha Raisin in the M.C, Beaton books is another. Idiosyncratic Women, who beat to their own drums, following their own paths- right or wrong, and taking their mistakes on the chin. I think they all smiled easily, cried easily, and picked themselves up just as easily.

What will you do, my little 'hiding in my push-chair' Grand-daughter?

The World is your Lobster...

Your ever-loving Grand-mother GiGi, xxx