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Tag Archives: Herschel

Three years…a lifetime in the blogosphere, and thanks to you–our lurkers and readers and commenters–for your great comments and for dropping by so often. And extra special thanks to your employers for so generously lending us your time.

I’ve learned so much from everyone here–it’s been a real education. And I’ve been humbled and amazed, too, by the smart, knowledgeable, funny people who have joined the Riskies family.

With little originality, I’m going to remind you of my favorite posts over the last year.

In my tireless campaign against gratuitous mantitty, I counterattacked with a post about Hot Old Men like the lovely and talented Alan Rickman: Women swooned at his imcomprehensible upperclass mumble and the slow crawl of his jowls seeking freedom from his high collar. And I promise, I will post about Hot Old Women sometime, too.

I love our interviews too, and this year I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive with Cupid on Valentine’s Day. The Regency wasn’t bad, all things considered. Not too much whalebone, and no steel–that was tough, dealing with Victorian corsets. You wouldn’t believe the number of arrows I ruined. …

You might think blogging on holidays is easy, but how on earth do you relate an American holiday, such as Thanksgiving, to the Regency? Fortunately, Thanksgiving 2007 was also George Eliot’s birthday and I pondered on why one of my favorite, flawed novels, Daniel Deronda, is like a turkey dinner.

I also enjoyed our week celebrating the birthday of Jane Austen, and chose Mansfield Park–mainly because I suspected none of the other Riskies wanted it. I wasn’t even sure I wanted it myself. What a revelation, to read this sexy, difficult, daring book, and what a great discussion. Did anyone read it as a result? Tell us what you thought.

I find there are topics we return to again and again, because they’re fascinating and influential, and we discover new facts we have to share. I blogged about the great astronomer William Herschel on March 13, the anniversary of the day he discovered the planet Uranus. I’m sure one of us will mention him again soon. I revisited another favorite topic, servants, in response to an email from a blog visitor who highly recommended Mrs. Woolf and the Servants by Alison Blight, and wondered how Woolf’s attitude to her servants was like or unlike that of Regency-era masters.

Please tell us if there’s a topic you’d like to talk about–we love to hear from you! And if you’re a lurker, come by and make your first comment. Don’t be shy!

Prizes? Oh yes, prizes.

If you’re a writer, I’ll offer a critique of your first chapter and synopsis.

If you’re a reader, you can win a signed copy of each of my books, Dedication, The Rules of Gentility, and Forbidden Shores (the last written as Jane Lockwood).

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I found out just today, that (1) it was a Thursday and therefore my day to post and (2) on March 13, 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus. This is very fortuitous, because the Herschel Museum of Astronomy in Bath is one of my very favorite places–I blogged about it long ago on September 8, 2005, when we were all brand spanking new here; and Elena blogged about Herschel’s sister Charlotte a couple of years ago. Search the blog for Herschel and you’ll find all sorts of references–his name just keeps coming up.

So who was Herschel and why was he so important? In the words of Patrick Moore, patron of the Herschel Museum, William Herschel was the first man to give a reasonably correct picture of the shape of our star-system or galaxy; he was the best telescope-maker of his time, and possibly the greatest observer who ever lived.

And his achievements were all the more impressive because Herschel, a refugee from Hanover (Germany) was self-taught and became an astronomer more or less by accident. He was a musician by training, who received a telescope in lieu of payment, looked the instrument over and decided he could create a better one.

The Museum, at 19 New King Street in Bath, is a modest building in the sort of street where artisans lived. It’s beautifully and faithfully restored to the period, and filled with Herschel’s telescopes and books. Sadly, the Octagon Chapel nearby, one of Bath’s most fashionable churches in the eighteenth century, where Herschel held the position of organist, was closed and badly in need of restoration. (Or at least it was when I last visited two years ago. The organ itself, pictured here, no longer exists. And people in the museum were hopping mad that the city was pouring money into the new Thermae Bath Spa.) Does anyone know what the latest on the Octagon Chapel is? Jane Austen–you may have heard of her–was one of the many visitors to Bath who attended services there.

But back to Herschel. The small house on New King Street was flooded with visitors including the King, after whom Herschel named the new planet, Georgium Sidus, but the name never caught on. He was awarded the Copley medal and elected a member of the Royal Society, and then appointed Astronomer Royal in 1782, which necessitated a move to Slough, near Windsor. His descendants, some of whom were also astronomers, lived in the same house until the mid-twentieth century. Guess what happened to the house…

How do you feel about preservation vs. modernization? If you were in charge of a historic city, what would your priorities be? How would you reconcile commerce with history?

And has anyone visited the Thermae Spa? When I was in Bath they were selling very expensive products connected with it, but it wasn’t yet open.

Can you pronounce Uranus with a straight face? (The official museum pronunciation is you-RIN-us which isn’t much better).

Send an e-mail to with NEWSLETTER in the subject line to be apprised of the movements of the Planet Risky.

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