The Story of the “Black Gazelle” of the Paris Hippodrome: Sarah L’Africaine

A new essay on an equestrian stuntwoman who set Second Empire Paris alight: Sarah l’Africaine, following on from an earlier piece about the mystery horsewoman Selika Lazevski. Here’s some information about my sources: Most of the firsthand material is combed from Gallica, the incredible, searchable digital collection of the French national library. The quotations in […]

Everything I Don’t Know About Selika Lazevski

This blog post is about the research behind an essay I published on Paris Review Daily on 9 February 2018 (accessible here). I first blogged about Selika when her image went viral in 2012. The best source of information was a commenter called Marie (her profile has since been deleted), who pointed out the source […]

Women Who Spend Too Much Money On Horses #265372

A COUNTESS IN THE RING She Is to Make Her Debut in a Paris Circus A Countess of ancient lineage, and who for many years has been one of the ornaments of the Austrian court, is about to make her debut as a circus-rider of “Haute Ecole” at the “Nouveau Cirque” at Paris. She is […]

Who is the woman in Sir Edwin Landseer’s The Shrew Tamed?

The more I’ve learned about research over the last decade, the more I’ve realised how easy it is to slip up. I’ve seen how one writer’s creative suggestion becomes “fact” in the next book down the line, and I’ve made that mistake myself. I’ve also endeavoured, when possible, to have the issues corrected in reprints. […]

A Crown of Feathers and a Fine, Blue-Nosed Horse

American Woman Riding Side-Saddle on the Road at Hommoku, Motomura, Yokohama, by Utagawa Hiroshige II (Japanese, 1829–1869). This woodblock print dates from 1861. It belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, who have generously made many of their public domain images free for anyone to use.

Unbridled Dressage, Brushes with Scandal and a Tragic End: Adèle Drouin

Scores or maybe even hundreds of women in nineteenth century Europe performed as haute-école riders in circuses and hippodromes* before audiences from all classes. A handful of them became famous, as the expansion of the newspaper market meant that they were the first women to be widely celebrated for their equestrian skills (other than the […]

May 2017 Bring You Obedient White Horses

Therese Renz of the famous Renz circus dynasty, c. 1895. I’ve seen wonderful pictures of her in action (have you see the one where she and her horse are jumping rope?) but didn’t realise that she was a Berliner, and is buried just up the road from me in St Hedwig’s cemetery in Weissensee. She […]