Archive for July, 2015

Summer Romance: Celebrity Culture in the Romantic Era

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

This Summer we’re posting about the Romantic era. Today’s post is about the birth of modern fame.


The Romantic era, which championed the individual and personal over reason and the communal, created modern fame and everything that came with it.

The modern publishing industry began in the Romantic era. Books, newspapers and magazines became universally available in ways they hadn’t before. And along with the spread of writing came the spread of celebrity culture.

Writers stopped publishing anonymously, and individual voices started to emerge from a wider and more competitive literary field. Literature became more personal in the romantic era, and therefore readers believed they had a personal connection with the author through his work (and yes, authors were still usually “him”). And many romantic-era authors encouraged that line of thinking.

Criticism started to take off during this time as well, which led to more and more people following the work and careers of specific artists. People grew to anticipate the latest work by Goethe, or the latest Beethoven symphony, and audiences and critics were ready to pass judgment.

In addition, after the French Revolution, writers and artists began tailoring their work towards the common man, rather than towards the aristocracy. Many more people from all levels of society began to access literature and attend concerts.

Lord Byron was one of the greatest superstars to emerge in the romantic era. Women swooned over the poet, sending him fan letters and hounding him in public.


Goethe became a literary celebrity by the age of 25 thanks to his Sorrows of Young Werther (the subject of a future post in this series).


And musicians such as Niccolo Paganini and Franz Liszt courted celebrity in new ways. Liszt in particular developed a show off-y style of performing that drove crowds wild, and he made a show of pretending to fend off droves of high-class women. There were so many adoring women at Liszt’s concerts that Heinrich Heine (another literary celebrity) dubbed the phenomenon “Lisztomania.” Women fought over Liszt’s handkerchiefs and gloves and collected his coffee dregs and discarded cigars. The atmosphere at his concerts was described as “mystical ecstasy.”

In a way this was a birth of the brand – artists had specific marketable styles and certain expectations from their audience. So the next time you despair at today’s over-marketing and over-hyping of, well, everything, you can thank the Romantic era for it.

Summer Romance: Signature Drink #1

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015

Summer romances are notoriously fleeting, so this summer we’re flirting with the Romantic Era, a time that embraced overwhelming sensation — a time that deserves its own signature drinks.

Over the course of an evening that embodied the sprawling excesses of the period, we convened a salon of dedicated romantics to create not one, but four signature drinks. While every formulation didn’t always hit the mark, our team swung wide, accompanied by the barbaric yawp of a Romantic Era poet.

Our incomparable mistress of ceremonies, Miriam Leuchter, presided. She was joined by celebrated cognac cognoscente Therese McNally, proponent of unsettled weather Heather Quist, and UPG’s own blog bon vivants, Jay and Meg.

Heather commenced the proceedings with a reading from Horace Walpole’s masterpiece, The Castle of Otranto. Written in 1764, this book is considered to be the first gothic novel, sparking a genre that would last throughout the Romantic Era. The reading did not disappoint, filled with tormented haunting, including a portrait that came to life with much heaving of its breast. (People just don’t heave their breasts like they used to.)


Heather, appropriately scandalized by reading Romantic Era literature.

On to the concocting!

The first drink of the evening — and the topic of today’s entry — was the Sturm und Drang. This drink had two inspirations: the popular highball known as the “Dark and Stormy” and the late 18th century German movement that brought extremes of emotion to literature and music.

Whereas the typical Dark and Stormy consists of rum (the dark) and ginger beer (the stormy), Miriam wanted to bring a bit more darkness to honor the moody Romantics. She replaced the ginger beer with stout beer and added a secret ingredient detailed below…

And so, without further ado, we present:

The Sturm und Drang


4 parts Belgian-style stout
2 parts rum
½ part Patrón XO Cafe chocolate chile liqueur
stirred and served over rocks


The ingredients.

This drink benefits chiefly from the complex flavors of a good Belgian-style stout (we used Allagash black but other brands would suffice). The addition of the Patrón XO Cafe, a unique liqueur with a tequila base and a chocolate chile kick, adds a hot/sweet quality to the drink.

We used a dark rum. The Romantics liked things dark.

We used a dark rum. The Romantics liked things dark.

Adding the stout makes it nice and frothy.

Adding the stout makes it nice and frothy.

The finished product.

The finished product.

As we sipped our libations, we talked about Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave and imagined we were on the rocky coasts of Scotland, heaving our breasts and baring our souls.

And the verdict?

“So much more bitter than you would expect.” – Miriam

That was just the start of a long and stormy evening. Stay tuned for further drink recipes of the modern Romantics…

Shared Birthdays: Gustav Klimt and Gerald Ford

Tuesday, July 14th, 2015


Austrian painter Gustav Klimt and U.S. President Gerald Ford were both born on July 14th. Here are some facts about the two men:

Gustav Klimt was born in Baumgarten, Austria. Gerald Ford was born in Omaha, Nebraska.

Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but when Ford’s mother left her abusive husband and remarried, Ford adopted his stepfather’s name. Gustav Klimt was Klimt’s real name.

Gustav Klimt became a painter at a young age. Gerald Ford worked in the family paint business as a young man.

Klimt’s primary subject was the female body. Gerald Ford was a politician.

Klimt was a member of the Succession Movement. Ford was a member of the Republican Party.

Gustav Klimt received the Golden Order of Merit from Emperor Franz Joseph I. Gerald Ford received the nomination for president from the Republican Party.

Klimt met Emilie Flöge in the 1890s and she remained his companion for the rest of his life although they never married and Klimt had relationships with numerous women. Ford married Elizabeth Bloomer Warren in 1948 and they remained together until the end of his life.

Gerald and Betty had three children. Klimt had 14 children by several women.

Neither courted scandal, but both had their share of it. Klimt’s paintings were criticized as pornographic. Ford’s pardon of Nixon was criticized as “a profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act” by The New York Times.

Neither Gustav Klimt or Gerald Ford ever painted a self-portrait.

Neither Gustav Klimt nor Gerald Ford were elected President.

Gustav Klimt produced one of the century’s most significant bodies of erotic art. Ford is the only U.S. President to have been an Eagle Scout.

Klimt was the greatest decorative painter of his era. Ford was the star of the football team at the University of Michigan and received offers to play with the Detroit Lions and the Green Bay Packers.

Gustav Klimt died at age 55 during the influenza epidemic of 1918. At the time of his death, Gerald Ford had lived longer than any other U.S. president.

Summer Romance: Romantic Poet = Bad Boyfriend

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

This Summer we’re posting about the Romantic era. Today’s post is about the dating lives of Romantic poets.

If you were dating a Romantic era poet, odds are you had a bad boyfriend.


Novalis (nom de plume of Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hartenberch) became engaged to Sophie von Kühn when she was 13 and he was 23. Her early death at age 15 was the source of some great poetry for Novalis. But it’s possible any passion was only felt by him, if her diary entries are any indication:

March 1. Today Hartenberch visited again nothing happened.
March 11. We were alone today and nothing at all happened.
March 12. Today was like yesterday nothing at all happened.
March 13. Today was repentance day and Hartenb. was here.
March 14. Today Hartenber. was still here.


William Wordsworth fell in love with Annette Vallon when he was visiting Revolutionary France. They had a child together, but when Wordsworth ran out of money he returned to England without her. He made arrangements to support the child financially and then married a childhood friend.


Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an unpleasant person, suffering from anxiety and depression, and in terrible physical shape, leading to a crippling opium addiction. He and his friend Robert Southey married a pair of sisters, but Coleridge detested his wife, only marrying her for social purposes.


Lord Byron was described as “mad, bad and dangerous to know” by one of his lovers, and that was probably fairly accurate. Byron loved intensely and often. His first romance was at age 8, when he passionately fell in love with a cousin. Then he passionately fell in love with another cousin. Then he started going after married women. He ended his scandalous relationship with Lady Caroline Lamb, only to be stalked by her. Around this time, Byron had possibly started an incestuous relationship with his half-sister.

By the time Byron reached the point of marrying, he was an expert at treating women poorly. His first marriage, to Anne Isabella Milbanke, a cousin of his stalking lover Caroline Lamb, was rumored to be rife with violence and infidelity. She left him and took their daughter (who went on to become the first computer programmer). Lady Caroline got her revenge through her caricature of Byron in her tell-all novel Glenarvon. Meanwhile, Byron left England and slept his way across Europe.


Percy Bysshe Shelley is considered to be one of the greatest lyric poets, but he certainly wasn’t one of the world’s greatest boyfriends. At age 19, after an unsuccessful romance with a cousin (what is it with these Romantic poets and their cousins?) he decided to “save” a suicidal 16-year-old girl and ran away with her to Scotland. As this marriage disintegrated, Shelley fell for a 28-year-old schoolteacher and a few other women while he was at it. When he met 16-year-old Mary Godwin, this time Shelley was the one to threaten suicide to win someone over. And it worked. Shelley left his pregnant wife and ran off to Switzerland with Mary. Unfortunately there were some real suicides left in the wake: Mary’s half-sister Fanny Imlay killed herself, dismayed that Shelley didn’t run away with her instead, and his pregnant wife was shortly found drowned in Hyde Park. Three weeks later, Percy and Mary were married. No doubt Shelley would have made Mary miserable too, but he died shortly later.


Robert Burns had a child with his mother’s servant while he was having an affair with another woman who became pregnant with second and third children (twins). In the end he married the other woman, who bore him seven more children, but he was also carrying on a relationship with a third woman who he met in church.


John Keats “befriended” a series of ladies, writing to one: “My love has made me selfish.” Yep.