Vigee LeBrun Mythic Portraits

Making the Move to Medium

Saxon Henry on Medium
I’m thrilled to say I’ve become a top writer in Reading, Books, History and Travel on Medium so I’m making the move to the platform.

Rather than let this precious (to me) blog seem abandoned, I want to alert everyone who stops by here to read my ramblings that I’m making the move to Medium, as I am excited about the opportunity to build an audience there and to enjoy camaraderie with other writers. I want to thank everyone who continues to support me as a writer by showing up here and taking the time to read my work. As I am composing new material, my intent is to gather it all into a book. I’m not sure how long it will take but it’s an exciting process to watch the essays add up. Because I am a stickler for SEO (it is my “day job” after all!), I need a minimum of 300 words here so I’m going to tell you a bit about three of my favorite essays on Medium so far.

 

The Funeral of Shelley painting
Louis Édouard Fournier’s “The Funeral of Shelley.”

 

In A Fairy Tale King Holding Court, I present the decorating exploits of Leigh Hunt, an essayist, critic, poet and editor of The Examiner. He was a close friend of Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth and Byron, quite a hip crowd to hang with during his time. As he was serving a two-year sentence in Surrey Gaol after being convicted of libeling the Prince Regent in 1813, he was granted the use of two rooms in the old prison infirmary because his health had begun failing in the cold, damp cell he had been inhabiting. This cheered him up immensely and he made quick work of renovating his digs.In her book Young RomanticsDaisy Hay gives us a hint of the action that resulted: “The tradesmen who traipsed in and out of the prison selling their wares to its unfortunate inmates were joined by a team of decorators, who set about transforming the infirmary into accommodations fit for a gentleman. Six weeks after the beginning of his sentence, Hunt was ready to receive visitors.” I loved this strangely wonderful anecdote that inspired me to write this piece!

 

1803 Edition of the novel Delphine
The 1803 edition of Delphine. Image courtesy WikiMedia and Coyau.

 

In Forty Leagues from Paris, I present one of the examples that the pen may not be mightier than the sword, a duel that took place between Germaine de Staël and Napoléon. The author’s war of words with the Emperor cost her her most fervent desire—to stay in Paris and hobnob with the literary set. She had just published her novel Delphine in which she portrayed well-known society darlings as politically charged characters, a brazen act in 1802. In spite of the fact that the book was a howling success, its contents had her banished 40 leagues from Paris. With this sentence,she was “stricken as by a thunderbolt,” notes Henry Dwight Sedgewick, who wrote a lively biography chronicling the flirtatious life of Juliette Récamier, de Staël’s best friend. The pain is clear in this excerpt from a letter she wrote to Récamier: “I had counted on the effect of my book to support me. And now six years of effort, of study, of travel are almost wholly lost…” She would eventually make it back to Paris but would only have three years in her beloved town before she died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

 

Vigee LeBrun Mythic Portraits
Two portraits by Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun: Lady Hamilton as a Bacchante and the painter’s daughter Julie.

 

And in Singing Hymns to Bacchus, you’ll find Marie Antoinette’s portrait painter Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun fuming that disappointed courtiers who had not been invited to her “antique dinner” had started rumors that she spent a fortune on the affair. The painter opens her account of “the most brilliant supper I ever gave in the days when people were always talking about my luxurious and magnificent mode of life” by sharing how the idea for the soirée came about. She explains that her brother Étienne Vigée was reading aloud from the Travels of Anacharsis the Younger,a fictional journal of an imaginary wanderjahr written by Jean Jacques Barthelemy. It that had just been published and was all the rage with the intellectual set in Paris at the time. When he came to the passage describing how to make several Grecian sauces, Étienne suggested that she have the cook prepare them for dinner that evening. She loved the idea and let her creative spirit reign as she planned a themed evening that would result in the transformation of all her guests. I was able to find the recipes for the sauces and included them in the essay. It’s such fun to be able to share a dish made in ancient Greece with readers, which is what makes me enjoy research so much!

Again, thank you for your support of me as a writer. I hope to see you on Medium. The Modern Salonnière and Making the Move to Medium © Saxon Henry, all rights reserved. Saxon is an author, poet and strategist whose books include Anywhere But Here, Stranded on the Road to Promise and Four Florida ModernsShe is also a top writer in History, Travel Reading and Books on Medium.

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4 thoughts on “Making the Move to Medium

  1. Aw, shucks, Gary! You’re so sweet to say so. I will indeed be there. Let’s get lunch on the books and hopefully no stomach flu for me this time! Look forward to seeing you!

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