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Author Archives: Nicola Stevens

Why I Write – Thanks to George Orwell

I’m having a bit of sabbatical from writing about Arnold, Joseph and Alexander van Aken (Heacken).  Instead I’m reflecting on some of those niggling questions  – which of the several spellings of the brothers’ name to use, is Arnold truly one of the brothers, where did the three recurring dates of birth come from and … Continue reading »

Categories: Books we've read, How we write, Legacies | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Using Literature as a Historical Resource

Finding myself unexpectedly stranded at Eastbourne Railway Station I was seduced by a WH Smith’s book promotion of ‘buy one get one half price’.   I gathered up ‘The Soldier’s Wife’ by Joanna Trollope, herself a piece of history as a descendent of the famous 19th century writer Anthony Trollope who was quoted as saying: “What … Continue reading »

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Mrs T & Me.

Yesterday felt like the end of a chapter I did not even know needed closing.   Margaret Thatcher’s funeral brought back so many memories.   For one, the fact I refuse to call her anything but ‘Mrs T’ because that was how we knew her in our family.   My mother first got to know when she … Continue reading »

Categories: Legacies, Strong Women | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Portraying the Family

I am currently reading Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace – The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale.  It is an investigation into the sad, frustrating and desperate string of events that lead to the very public, and in the 19th century, notorious divorce of Henry and Isabella Robinson. As with Summerscale’s other non-fiction books, … Continue reading »

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Save, Save, Save……

…… No it’s not an end of the financial year piece of advice – it is to remind me to save documents WITH PURPOSE. I was asked by the Eastbourne Towner Gallery yesterday to write a short piece to accompany a painting they own by Joseph van Aken’s called The Music Party; a delightful ‘Conversation piece’ … Continue reading »

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Less is more

I have been sidetracked the last week or so by a book called The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell.   It is a story of a man who owns a lace factory in post-warFrance, but was a former SS intelligence officer in World War II.  This is his memoir.  It is a fictional tale, but reads like … Continue reading »

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Mothers, Families and Springtime

The theme we have chosen for the blogs this month is Mothers (along with anything else that the theme inspires).  Thanks to the sterling help of Annie in our group I now know that the van Aken brothers, Joseph and Alexander, had both their mother and father, Barbara and Peter van Haecken, living in London … Continue reading »

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18th Century Romance – The Bride in the Kitchen

The month of romance, February, is coming come to an end.   It hosts St Valentine Day[i] and every fourth year has an extra day to create a leap year and the opportunity for women to ask men to marry them.   Hopefully, having following the advice by Dr Trusler and other authors of eighteenth century etiquette[ii], … Continue reading »

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Romance: Instructions Peculiarly adapted to Young Women

It never ceases to amaze me how many books were printed in the eighteenth century on the subject of etiquette; for children, apprentices, young men, but mainly for young women and new wives[i].   These books seem to combine instructions for a bewildering variety of different subjects. Dr John Trusler[ii] who had published a book about … Continue reading »

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18th Century Romance – The way to a Man’s Heart

In the eighteenth century, romance was a story and marriage was comfort and security; a sentiment that Thomas Fuller seemed to promote in his book Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, published in 1732:  ‘Of soup and love, the first is the best’. My Mum always told me the way to a … Continue reading »

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