18th century clothing, 19th century clothing, authenticity, British Museum, Charlotte Smith, common dress, common people, early novels, maids, Research, watercolors
I was looking for images of maids in 1800, and came across this in the British Museum. Having no idea what Maria Temple meant by Vide Young Philosopher, I went searching. Turns out the answer is surprisingly easy: It’s a novel published in 1798 by Charlotte Smith. So it seems that what Maria Caroline Temple did was to draw a scene from a novel she’d read. I was delighted by this, as something I used to do a long time ago was to draw scenes from books I had read and loved.
With a publication date of 1798, I think we can feel pretty confident in the British Museum’s ca. 1800 date; what I was looking for was a non-satirical illustration of a maid in 1800: what did she wear, how did she comport herself? not because I haven’t been a maid in 1800 before, but because I need to be a better maid in 1800.
The things to love in this image, aside from the clothes, are the checked slipcover and window drape, the brass lock on the heavy wooden door, and the view through those wavy panes of glass. I don’t love the wallpaper, but I appreciate the evidence of it– but not as much as I appreciate the hint of drape matching that raucous slipcover.
Now I just need to hunt down an affordable copy of this clearly dramatic and romantic work of early fiction, and to find out exactly what books were being read in 1800 Rhode Island.