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DOWNDATING PATIENCE

LOUIS WERNICK: One thing that is an enigma about Patience is the time period in which it is set. One wonders if it is not around 1815, when Scott, Byron and Jane Austen all seem to have had works published. Some clues, though not conclusive, are:

"When I first put this uniform on" what Jane Austen would have considered in this time period the very dated men's fashion term of cockscomb.

"Such a judge of blue and white and other kinds of pottery" bone china had not yet been manufactured in England, while the rage seems to have been the Spode earthenware pattern: "Blue Italian". Furthermore, for Wedgwood, some of the earthenware patterns sold in this time period were still in the shops in Gilbert's day and indeed can still be purchased today. There is one, as a matter of fact, marked for 2Oth century purchasers as having been used by Napoleon, which perfectly matches the delightful line: "Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine".

How about the concept of the puling milkmaid having more traditional poetry than the poets themselves, such doublets as:

"If love is a nettle that makes you smart Then why do you wear it next your heart?" or "Imposture to contempt must lead... Blind Vanity's dissension's seed" - certainly writing closer to Austen than to Swinburne.

If this time period were reasonable (and I am not sure), think of the anachronistic delight of having the 35th Dragoon guards competing with images of Whistler, Wilde and Swinburne onstage while Colonel Calvary makes anachronistic references to Bismarck and the lot. "Take of these elements all that is fusible, Melt them all down in a pipkin or crucible Set 'em to simmer" and you may have the perfectly ridiculous and perfectly preposterous anachronistic characters in a much older setting of Patience.

JANICE DALLAS: Speaking as a costumer, it doesn't make sense to place Patience in the time period of the early 1800's. "Everyone" (female, that is) is in comfortable, aesthetic dress then. There's no contrasting dress to change back into! Given the long, tight corsets of the later 1870-80's, it would be a relief to put on Grecian, or Regency dresses. This is why Aesthetic Dress had its Popularity then. People were starting to emphasize healthier living, and tight corsets were known to create breathing problems, and suspected of damaging other bodily organs. Not to mention how it held one back at sports!

Unfortunately, the dress was tied to the morally inadequate members of the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood and loose dress (and the lack of corsets) was equated with loose women. To a certain extent, it still is. As you said, "Art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine", and it took a long time before we threw off our corsets again.

LOUIS WERNICK: As I have mentioned before, it is possible that although Patience has endless dialogue references to England during the 1880's poetic craze, many of the accessory references refer to a totally different period of English history. With nothing to go on and no evidence, I am suggesting (and may ultimately even convince myself that I am wrong) about 1815, which is exactly when gentlemen dressed as cockscombs would have taken tea on blue and white earthenware settings while listening to a real Jane Fairfax or Marianne Dashwood do songs that sounded exactly like "Twenty Lovesick Maidens". Indeed, don't many designers of the modern Austen films and videos give their women wigs that could have come right off the chorus of an 188l production of Patience?

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