Tristram And Fox

Thomas Gainsborough, the famous English painter, loved dogs and often included them in his paintings. Sometimes, they were even the main subject, like in this picture, above, titled Tristram and Fox. Tristram and Fox were two very special dogs: they were Gainsborough's. After painting their portrait, the artist hung it in the place of honour in the house, over the chimney piece.

Gainsborough had a sense of humour and he showed it when naming the dogs. A staunch Tory, the painter named Fox after the Whig politician Charles James Fox. The slightly fox-like appearance of the dog may have had something to do with it as well. Tristram instead was named after the hero of the novel "The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman" by Laurence Sterne.

It is difficult to say which breeds the dogs belong to as modern breeds can look quite different from eighteenth century ones. By looking at the portrait, we may surmise that Fox, with its pointed ears and white frilled collar, belongs to a collie-like breed. Tristram instead is a spaniel.

The dogs didn't just keep Gainsborough and his wife company, but would also help them make up whenever they rowed. In his biography of the artist, G.W. Fulcher writes: "Whenever he spoke crossly to his wife, a remarkably sweet-tempered woman, he would write a note of repentance, sign it with the name of his favorite dog, 'Fox', and address it to his Margaret's pet spaniel, 'Tristram'. Fox would take the note in his mouth and duly deliver it to Tristram. Margaret would then answer: 'My own dear Fox, you are always loving and good, and I am a naughty little female ever to worry you as I too often do, so we will kiss and say no more about it; your own affectionate, Tris'."

Further reading:
Life of Thomas Gainsborough, RA by George Williams Fulcher

A Firework Display Gone Wrong

To celebrate the wedding of the Dauphin Louis to the young archduchess Marie Antoinette, a firework display was given on the place de la Concorde. Unfortunately, it ended in tragedy. In his biography of Marie Antoinette, Charles Duke Yonge recalls the accident and how the royal couple tried to help the victims:

Little as was the good-will which subsisted between Louis XV. and the Parisians, the civic authorities thought their own credit at stake in doing appropriate honor to an occasion so important as the marriage of the heir of the monarchy, and on the 30th of May they closed a succession of balls and banquets by a display of fire-works, in which the ingenuity of the most celebrated artists had been exhausted to outshine all previous displays of the sort. Three sides of the Place Louis XV. were filled up with pyramids and colonnades. Here dolphins darted out many-colored flames from their ever-open mouths. There, rivers of fire poured forth cascades spangled with all the variegated brilliancy with which the chemist's art can embellish the work of the pyrotechnist.

The centre was occupied with a gorgeous Temple of Hymen, which seemed to lean for support on the well-known statue of the king, in front of which it was constructed; and which was, as it were, to be carried up to the skies by above three thousand rockets and fire-balls into which it was intended to dissolve. The whole square was packed with spectators, the pedestrians in front, the carriages in the rear, when one of the explosions set fire to a portion of the platforms on which the different figures had been constructed. At first the increase of the blaze was regarded only as an ingenious surprise on the part of the artist. But soon it became clear that the conflagration was undesigned and real; panic-succeeded to delight, and the terror-stricken crowd, seeing themselves surrounded with flames, began to make frantic efforts to escape from the danger; but there was only one side of the square uninclosed, and that was blocked up by carriages.

The uproar and the glare made the horses unmanageable, and in a few moments the whole mass, human beings and animals, was mingled in helpless confusion, making flight impossible by their very eagerness to fly, and trampling one another underfoot in bewildered misery. Of those who did succeed in extricating themselves from the square, half made their way to the road which runs along the bank of the river, and found that they had only exchanged one danger for another, which, though of an opposite character, was equally destructive. Still overwhelmed with terror, though the first peril was over, the fugitives pushed one another into the stream, in which great numbers were drowned. The number of the killed could never be accurately ascertained: but no calculation estimated the number of those who perished at less than six hundred, while those who were grievously injured were at least as many more.

The dauphin and dauphiness were deeply shocked by a disaster so painfully at variance with their own happiness, which, in one sense, had caused it. Their first thought was, as far as they might be able, to mitigate it. Most of the victims were of the poorer class, the grief of whose surviving relatives was, in many instances, aggravated by the loss of the means of livelihood which the labors of those who had been cut off had hitherto supplied; and, to give temporary succor to this distress, the dauphin and dauphiness at once drew out from the royal treasury the sums allowed to them for their private expenses for the month, and sent the money to the municipal authorities to be applied to the relief of the sufferers. But Marie Antoinette did more. She felt that to give money only was but cold benevolence; and she made personal visits to many of those families which had been most grievously afflicted, showing the sincerity of her sympathy by the touching kindness of her language, and by the tears which she mingled with those of the widow and the orphan.

Further reading:
The Life of Marie Antoinette, Queen of France by Charles Duke Yonge

Historical Reads: Gadgets And Gimmicks Of The Civil War

What gadgets and gimmicks were available to soldiers and civilians during the American Civil War? Wonders And Marvels investigates. To quote:

During the first few weeks of April 1861, even before the smoke of Fort Sumter had faded, the greatest assemblage of hucksters in the nation’s young history began hawking an eclectic variety of wares. The mid-19th century, with its rapid proliferation of daily newspapers and the penny press, marked the first time people recognized the opportunity to commercialize a war effort, to infuse patriotism with the spirit of consumerism, and advertisements were typically more imaginative than true. While many inventors and pitchmen genuinely hoped to improve soldiers’ comfort and convenience, others took advantage of an unsophisticated public caught up in jingoistic fervor. Below, a sampling of goods and gadgets available to both soldiers on the front lines and those cheering them on:

• A number of products promised to ease the hardship and privations of camp life. If a solider could handle the extra 15 pounds he might carry Milligan’s Patent Mess Kettle, complete with its 18 cooking utensils. There was also Strong’s Patent Army Trunk and Portable Bedstead, one of many brands of a combination folding cot, lounge, and camp chair that could be neatly collapsed into a two-foot bundle. John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, the men behind Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce, hoped to make their product a staple at camps by vowing it would “add greatly to the health of the soldier!” The makers of Dr. Holloway’s Ointment promoted their product’s ability to heal everything from smallpox to saber cuts to gunshot wounds. Soldiers seeking a temporary escape partook of “hasheesh candy,” 25 cents per piece or $1 per box, which purported to be “a most wonderful Medicinal Agent for the cure of Nervousness, Weakness, Melancholy, Confusion of thoughts, etc. Under its influence all classes seem to gather new inspiration and energy.”

To read the entire article, click here.

Le Bon Genre

Originally published in 1817, Le Bon Genre is a series of prints depicting the lives and rise of the Parisian middle-class, giving us an invaluable insight into their customs, fashions and pastimes, in Post-Revolutionary France. And of course, given the rivalry that has always existed between France and England, there are also plates ridiculing the English mores and fashions!

Millia Davcenport, in her The Book Of Costume, II, gives us more details about this work: "The Bon Genre’s first edition, 104 plates, appeared in 1817. The 1822 edition included eleven additional plates; a third edition was published in 1827. Its illustrations are lively and witty statements of the life of Paris since the beginning of XIXc., with a text of explanatory paragraphs, rather than fashion plates”.

Here are a few of the plates. Click on them to enlarge them.

Les Glaces

Plate 4. Three women are eating ice cream. A water is bringing them a menu.I wonder what flavours they chose?

 La Toilette

Plate 5. Two, not very attractive, women are dressed by their beautiful maids. The couples are separated by a mirror.

Leur credulité fait toute sa science

Plate 6: an old woman is using a pack of cards to predict the future of the two women in front of her.

La rencontre au bal

Plate 8. A masquered ball. A young woman wearing a mask is dancing with a man when she is greeted by a gentleman dressed as a Turk.

La Trénis, contredanse

Plate 19. two women and a man are executing "La Trénis" figure of the Contredanse, while another man, who finds it too complicated, watches. Looks like a lively and fun dance, doesn't it?

Le vieux style

Plate 31. an old woman is showing a lantern projection of four scenes of a virtuous and laborous life to two fashionable ladies and a young gentlemen, who don't seem to appreciate them much.

Récréation maternelle

Plate 36. A mother is playing with her children at the park. Lovely, isn't it?

Les Parisiennes à Montmorency

Plate 41: Two Parisian women having fun at Montmorency. One is picking cherries, while the other is swinging in a basket.

Faut apprendre à souffrir pour être belle

Plate 64. As many women know, one must suffer to be beautiful. And the lady in this plate is definitely suffering while her hairdresser, who is standing on stilts to reach the top her hairdo, is arranging her hair.

Le contraste, ou le chapeau couleur de rose

Plate 76. An old woman is trying on a hat in a milliner's shop. She' assisted by three girls. Judging by the look on their faces, she mustn't be an easy customer!

Les petites marionnettes

Plate 84. A man and three women watch a young street entertainer playing pipe and tabor while making three marionettes dance by a string attached to his knee.

La corbeille de mariage

Plate 94. Two women pull out of a giant amphora the presents by the bride for the groom. Although, I think she's gonna enjoy them herself a lot more.


Plate 96. A boy dances a gig, an acrobat stands on his head on a table and a man, sitting on a tree stump, fiddles, while spectators look on. The plate shows the similarities, and the differences, of Parisian and London fashions. The woman on the right, wearing a white dress and a dark spencer over which she's wrapped a striped shawl, is English. Her nationality is given away by her bonnet, which is decorated with roses instead of the long feathers preferred by Parisian women.

La Ramasse

Plate 99. A man helps his wife and daughter get off a cart as they reached the bottom of a helter-skelter. Judging from the lamp posts on both side, you could probably ride it at night too.

Luxe et indigence

Plate 104. A young woman is sleeping in a bed in her garret. She's spent the night at a party, as we can infer from her luxurious ball gown now resting over a chair. She must have come home late as she's still asleep despite the sunlight streaming in, announcing the morning has arrived.

Queen Victoria On The King Of Sardinia

In 1855, King Victor Emmanuel of Sardinia visited England. Queen Victoria wrote to her uncle, King Leopold I of the Belgians, about this visit, sharing her opinion on their royal colleague. The last part of the letter is, instead, about her eldest daughter Victoria, who is about to marry Friedrich Wilhelm Nikolaus Karl, known informally as Fritz, heir to the new German empire. In a previous letter, the Queen had asked for his blessing for the match.

Windsor Castle, 5th December 1855.

My dearest Uncle,—I must make many excuses for not writing to you yesterday, to thank you for your kind letter of the 30th, as on Friday and Saturday my time was entirely taken up with my Royal brother, the King of Sardinia*, and I had to make up for loss of time these last days. He leaves us to-morrow at an extraordinary hour—four o'clock in the morning (which you did once or twice)—wishing to be at Compiègne to-morrow night, and at Turin on Tuesday. He is eine ganz besondere, abenteuerliche Erscheinung, startling in the extreme in appearance and manner when you first see him, but, just as Aumale says, il faut l'aimer quand on le connaît bien. He is so frank, open, just, straightforward, liberal and tolerant, with much sound good sense. He never breaks his word, and you may rely on him, but wild and extravagant, courting adventures and dangers, and with a very strange, short, rough manner, an exaggeration of that short manner of speaking which his poor brother had. He is shy in society, which makes him still more brusque, and he does not know (never having been out of his own country or even out in Society) what to say to the number of people who are presented to him here, and which is, I know from experience, a most odious thing. He is truly attached to the Orleans family, particularly to Aumale, and will be a friend and adviser to them. To-day he will be invested with the Order of the Garter. He is more like a Knight or King of the Middle Ages than anything one knows nowadays.

On Monday we go to Osborne till the 21st.

One word about Vicky. I must say that she has a quick discernment of character, and I have never seen her take any predilection for a person which was not motivé by personal amiability, goodness, or distinction of some kind or other. You need be under no apprehension whatever on this subject; and she has, moreover, great tact and esprit de conduite. It is quite extraordinary how popular she is in Society—and again now, all these Foreigners are so struck with her sense and conversation for her age.

Hoping soon to hear from you again, and wishing that naughty Stockmar may yet be brought to come, believe me ever your devoted Niece,

Victoria R.

* Footnote 97: King Victor Emmanuel was received with great cordiality by the English people, grateful for his co-operation and for the gallantry of his soldiers at the Tchernaya. Count Cavour accompanied him, and drafted the reply read by the King at Guildhall to the address of the Corporation.

Further reading:
The Letters of Queen Victoria, Volume III (of 3), 1854-1861

Book Review: The Riddle Of St. Leonard by Candace Robb

Medieval York is wrapped in a dangerous riddle that only Owen Archer can unfurl. The fetid summer heat of 1369 has the citizens of York besieging Owen Archer's apothecary wife, Lucie, for physicks against noxious vapors. But more than pestilence is in the air. Owen is summoned to investigate the theft of rare treasures from St. Leonard's Hospital and the untimely deaths of aging patients.
What links a brutal robbery, a fatal fire, a lay sister some still call whore, and a homeless urchin who shoots an arrow as straight as Owen himself? Country lore and town gossip lead him deep into the past, toward a killer with a heart blacker than the plague itself.

York, 1369. For the third time, an outbreak of pestilence has hit the city. People are dying everywhere, but not all deaths are natural. Some of the old patients of the St. Leonard's Hospital have died prematurely, and their deaths seem to be connected with a series of thefts. Owen Archer is called to investigate...

Unfurling such a mystery isn't easy, and even less so at a time where there were very few tools to discover the truth... no DNA, no fingerprints... instead Owen has to rely on gossip and country lore to figure out the truth. And it's surprisingly remarkably easy both for him and reader to do so. Despite the plot being quite complicated, the author has just shared too many hints along the way for the reader not to realise halfway trough who the culprit is, which kinda spoils the story somewhat.

However, what I really enjoyed was the historical background. Robb did a wonderful job at describing what living in a city besieged by pestilence was like. The panic of the people, their running away, their desire to help the sick and the utter fear that often held them back from doing so, the remedies those who stayed employed to ward off and cure this disease, the way that pestilence affected the daily life of all the inhabitants...This book is well-worth a read just for that.

Although The Riddle Of St. Leonard has a complicated plot, the solution of the mystery and the identification of the culprit are particularly easily. The reader will easily solve the puzzle before the end of the book, which can put some people off. But the best part of the book is the social background. Set in York during an outbreak of pestilence, the author skillfully shows how people dealt with it. And it is well-written too.

Available at: Amazon UK, Amazon USA and Barnes and Noble

Rating: 3.5/5

Catherine Of Aragon Arrives In London

On 12 November 1501, Catherine of Aragon entered London. She was welcomed by cheering crowds while the King had organized a magnificent spectacle that was meant to awe the populace, charm the princess and herald a bright future for the country. Catherine was betrothed to the heir to the throne, Prince Arthur, and their marriage was supposed to legitimize the Tudor dynasty and bring stability and prosperity to England.

As usual in these occasions, there were several pageants. First, a young girl representing "Saint Catherine" appeared on London Bridge, carrying her wheel*. Next to her stood Saint Ursula, the daughter of a King of Brittany who had converted to Christianity. The second depicted Catherine as Hesperia (or western land; it was the name given to Spain by the ancient Romans), a bright evening star, and Arthur as Arcturus, the star that accompanied the birth of the Prince.

In the third pageant, the Archangel Raphael and King Alfonso of Castile, from whom both the bride and groom descended, announced a bright future for the couple. Other pageants compared the Tudor court to the celestial one. King Henry VII was compared to God, while Arthur to the "Son of Justice", one of the many names given to Christ. Humility wasn't really a Tudor characteristic. But people were also reminded that Catherine had English royal blood in her veins as she descended from John of Gaunt, from the House of Lancaster.

The ceremony ended with Honour addressing Catherine thus**:

Noble princess, if this you'll purse
together with your excellent spouse, then
with us you'll reign in eternal prosperity

Catherine married Arthur two days later. But despite these happy and prosperous wishes, the marriage would be short-lived. Arthur would die a few months later, leaving Catherine a widow, and a virtual prisoner in England as the King refused to pay her dowry back to her father and kept postponing her marriage to his other son, the future King Henry VIII. The marriage would eventually take place, to end in a bitter divorce.

*Saint Catherine was condemned to die on the wheel, but that shattered when she touched it. So, she was beheaded instead.
** Translation from Italian is mine

Further reading:
The Wives Of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

Boy Jones, Queen Victoria's Stalker

Did you know that Queen Victoria had a stalker? His name was Edward Jones, although he was nicknamed Boy Jones, probably on account of his young age (he was about 14 when he was first arrested), and he frequently broke into Buckingham Palace. In her book, Queen Victoria, her girlhood and womanhood, Grace Greenwood recalls his "career":

The next sensation in connection with the Court was the discovery of the famous "boy Jones" in Buckingham Palace. This singular young personage was by no means a stranger in the Palace. He had made himself very familiar with, and at home in that august mansion, about two years before. He was then arrested, and had lived an exceedingly retired life ever since. On that first occasion he was discovered by one of the porters, very early one morning, leisurely surveying one of the apartments. He was caught and searched; nothing of any consequence was found on him, but in a hall was a bundle, evidently made up by him, containing such incongruous articles as old letters, a sword, and a pot of bear's grease.

He had he appearance of a sweep, being very sooty, but disclaimed the chimney-cleaning profession. He had occupied, for a while, the vacant room of one of the Equerries, leaving in the bed the impress of his sooty figure. He declared that he had not entered the Palace for the purpose of theft, but only to gratify his curiosity, as to how royal people and "great swells" like royal footmen, lived. The young rascal's examination before the Magistrate caused much amusement. In answer to questions, he admitted, or boasted that he had been in the Palace previously, and for days at a time—in fact, had "put up" there—adding, "And a very comfortable place I found it. I used to hide behind the furniture and up the chimneys, in the day-time; when night came, I walked about, went into the kitchen, and got my food, I have seen the Queen and her ministers in Council, and heard all they had to say."

Magistrate: "Do you mean to say you have worn but one shirt all the time?"
Prisoner: "Yes; when it was dirty, I washed it out in the kitchen. The apartment I like best is the drawing-room."
Magistrate: "You are a sweep, are you?"
Prisoner: "Oh, no; it's only my face and hands that are dirty; that's from sleeping in the chimneys…. I know my way all over the Palace, and have been all over it, the Queen's apartments and all. The Queen is very fond of politics."

He was such an amusing vagabond, with his jolly ways and boundless impudence, and so young, that no very serious punishment was then meted out to him, nor even on his second "intrusion," as it was mildly denominated, when he was found crouched in a recess, dragged forth, and taken to the police-station. This time he said he had hidden under a sofa in one of the Queen's private apartments, and had listened to a long conversation between her and Prince Albert. He was sent to the House of Correction for a few months, in the hope of curing him of his "Palace- breaking mania"; but immediately on his liberation, he was found prowling about the Palace, drawing nearer and nearer, as though it had been built of loadstone. But finally he was induced to go to Australia, where, it is said, he grew up to be a well-to-do colonist.

Further reading:
Queen Victoria, her girlhood and womanhood by Grace Greenwood

Historical Reads: London In War-Time

Edwardian Promenade has shared an interesting article about London in war-time. To quote:

London in war-time is quite a different London, although at the station there were taxis and small boys to carry our luggage. As usual, the first thing to do was to visit the police, and this time, the Consul, too, for we had to arrange for our passage home and acquire meat tickets as well. As these were for only a week’s ration and we had guests for dinner, they were at once used up, but we didn’t seem to care and got on very well without the meat.

The hotels were gay with people and music as in peace days, but the servants did not answer the bells unless they felt like it. Bread was given at meals, but no sugar was served. Even saccharine could not be procured in its place as in Paris, so we simply didn’t have any until about a week after our arrival sugar suddenly appeared on the breakfast tray. The waiter volunteered the explanation that after a week it was supplied to guests, but I always suspected he gave it or not as his fancy dictated, for he sometimes presented us with matches, but generally did not. Matches were very scarce in London. We were blessed with coal fires and hot baths, however, so what more could we want?

To read the entire post, click here.

A Naughty Little Princess

George Thomas Keppel, 6th Earl of Albemarle, was a childhood friend of the unfortunate Princess Charlotte of Wales. He was actually chosen as a playmate for the princess by her governess, who was also his grandmother, Lady De Clifford. In his memoirs, Fifty Years Of My Life, he recalls a few anecdotes from their childhood:

On Saturdays I was generally the guest of the Princess. The Sundays she used to spend either at Lady de Clifford's villa at Paddington, or at my father's house at Earl's Court, Brompton.

Once outside her own gates, the Princess was like a bird escaped from a cage, or rather, like Sir Boyle Eoche's bird "in two places at once." Into whatsoever house she entered she would fly from top to bottom, one moment in the garret, and almost in the same moment in the kitchen.

Mrs. Durham, to whom the Princess Charlotte so frequently alludes in her letters, was at this time cook to my grandmother. She was such an artiste in her business that the Prince of Wales, who occasionally honoured Lady de Clifford with his company at dinner, used to flatter her by asking her how she could afford to keep a man-cook. One day, however, at the hour of luncheon, things went ill; the Dowager's bell rang violently: the mutton-chop was so ill dressed and so well peppered as to be uneatable. On inquiry it was discovered that the good old lady's royal charge had acted as cook, and her favourite grandson as scullery-maid.

I have a living witness to this mutton-chop scene in the person of my kinsman, Dr. Thomas Gamier, Dean of Winchester, who was on a visit to Lady de Clifford that same morning. He assures me, through my sister, Lady Caroline Gamier, that I said, " A pretty Queen you'll make ! " I do not remember this flippant speech, but the frank, hearty manner of the Princess made it difficult for her young associates to preserve that decorum due to her station. [...]

Warwick House was so short a distance from my school that in the summer months I frequently made it "a skip out of bounds." I fear there was too much of "cupboard love" in these visits, for I was blessed with an excellent appetite, and Mother Grant's food was execrable. The Princess, aware of this, used to bring me sandwiches of her own making. I once fancied that I must needs have a sharer in the good fare. So I took with me my chief crony, Robert Tyrwhitt, a gentleman whose name, in more recent times, has been frequently before the public as Chief Magistrate of Bow Street. My quondam sodalis is still living, and well remembers the joint adventure I am about to record.

As I was a privileged person at Warwick House, I passed with my companion unquestioned by the porter's lodge, and through a small door which opened from the court-yard into the garden. The Princess greeted us with a hearty welcome. In the garden was a swing, into which Princess Charlotte stepped, and I set it in motion. Unfortunately it came in contact with Bob Tyrwhitt's mouth and knocked him over. He forthwith set up a hideous howl. Out came subgoverness, page, dressers, and footmen. Before they reached us, the Princess had descended from the swing, had assumed an air of offended dignity, and was found lecturing me on the extreme impropriety of my conduct in bringing a boy into her garden without her privity and consent. The marvel is how she or I could either of us keep our countenance.

Further reading:
Fifty years of my life by George Thomas, Earl Of Albermarle

Walking Dresses For 1814

In the past, walking dresses were used to pay calls on friends, walking through the park or go shopping. Despite their name, they weren't more comfortable than other dresses nor was it easier to walk in them either. They were simply dresses that were meant to be seen by everyone (as opposed to simple morning dresses that were worn only in front of close family members), so they featured beautiful trimmings and were made in fashionable styles. Here are a few examples from 1814:

MARCH 1814

A white cambric robe, with full long sleeves, unornamented at the feet. Deep double Vandyke frill of lace, tied with a white cord and tassel at the throat; a deep Vandyke cuff of the same. The Austrian shawl cloak, composed of pale dove-coloured cloth, lined throughout with rose-coloured satin or sarsnet, trimmed entirely round with abroad sable fur; a fancy cape or hood terminating in front of the bosom, and tied with a rose-coloured ribbon. A Circassian turban cap, composed of crimson velvet, ornamented with tufts of rose-coloured satin; a rich silk cord round the edge, terminated on one side with correspondent tassels. Hair in full curls on each side, much divided in front of the forehead. Halfboots of crimson velvet. Gloves of lemon-coloured kid, or pale tan colour.


A FINE cambric round robe, with high bodice and long sleeves, not so full as of late; embroidered stomacher front and high collar, trimmed with muslin or lace; a Tuscan border of needle-work at the feet. A Cossack mantle of pale ruby, or blossom-coloured velvet, lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed entirely round with a broad skin of light sable, ermine, seal, or the American squirrel; a short tippet of the-same: the mantle confined at the throat with a rich correspondent silk cord and tassels, very long. A mountain hat of velvet, the colour of the mantle, finished round the verge with a narrow vandyke trimming: a small flower placed in the hair beneath, on the left side. Half-boots the colour of the mantle; and gloves of primrose kid or pale tan.


A high dress, of short walking length, composed of French cambric or mull muslin, plain buttons, and unornamented in the front; a military collar, with an edging of , embroidery ; a full fan frill of lace, or a single fluted ruff of the same; the bottom of the dress ornamented with a full flounce, confined by two, borders of embroidery corresponding with the collar; plain long sleeve, with a military worked cuff. White silk shawl handkerchief, the corners richly embossed with the fleur de lis, tied carelessly over the bosom with a bow of satin ribband. The hair worn much over the face in loose curls. The Blucher, something resembling the Spanish hat, has a square and low crow, is formed of sea-green satin, lined with white velvet, and trimmed with richly cut velvet ribband: it is ornamented in front with a drooping plume of ostrich feathers. The scarf mantle, corresponding in colour with the Blacher, is composed either of velvet or satin, has neither cape nor hood; it is rounded at one end, and brought to a point at the other, with a deep long slope in the neck, and is trimmed all round with a broad white lace. Slippers of green kid: gloves to correspond, or Limerick.

Do you like these dresses? I think they are nice, but it's the hats I'm in love with.

Further reading:
The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, 1814

Vintage Books, Vol.4

Hello everyone,

today I have some more book gems from the past to remind you about. Let's get started:

In Russian And French Prisons by Peter Kropotkin
Prince Pyotr Alexeyevich Kropotkin was a Russian anarcho-communist who spent years in Russian and French prisons for political crimes. In his book, he shares his experiences (but without mentioning his crimes) in these prisons, discussing how they were conducted, how the convicts lived and any other aspect of daily life. The conditions in Russian prisons in particular were horrific and appalling, and prisoners were treated worse than beasts. It's really heartbreaking to read. Kropotkin also offers suggestions on how to improve the conditions and rules of prisons so as to make the life of prisoners easier and give them a better chance of getting an honest job once out of it. If you're interested in the history of prisons, this is definitely worth a read.
Available at:

Soap-Making Manual: A Practical Handbook on the Raw Materials, Their Manipulation, Analysis and Control in the Modern Soap Plant by Edgar G Thomssen 
Wow, what a mouthful! Well, the title says it all really so I will just add that this is a very detailed and technical read so you'd have to be very interested in how soap was made in the past (the book was published in 1922) to enjoy it. Otherwise, it'll just bore you to death.
Available at:

My Cave Life in Vicksburg by Mary Ann Loughborough
During the American Civil War, the civilian inhabitants of Vicksburg had to abandon their homes and move into makeshift caves. Mary Ann Loughborough was the wife of a Confederate officer at Vicksburg and, together with their two year old daughter, had to move into one of these caves, where they lived in constant fear of being bombarded and came very close to death more than once. She wrote down her harrowing and trying experience in this book, which gives us a very interesting insight into how the life of civilians was affected during the civil war. If you're interested in this sort of things, you must read this moving book.
Available at:

Etiquette by Agnes H Morton
A book on etiquette written in 1892, covering all kinds of topics such as how to write and use visiting cards, luncheons, breakfasts, dinners, gift giving, behaviour in private and public occasions, greetings, dress style, chaperones and much more. It strongly emphasizes the benefits of etiquette, good manners and chivalry while also pointing out that people shouldn't be judged solely on the punctilious observance of these conventional rules.
Available at:

The Mother's Manual Of Children Diseases by Charles West
Published in 1885, the manual explains what causes children diseases, what their symptoms are and how to treat them. All kinds of diseases are discussed: diseases of the chest, of the organs of digestion, of the brain and nervous system and many more. Of course we now know that not all the information written in here is accurate, but it is still interesting to discover how diseases were treated in the past. If medical history is your thing, make sure you check out this book.
Available at:

Have you read these books or are you planning to?

Marie Antoinette's French Blood

Although Marie Antoinette was hated by the French for her foreign origins (they blamed her Austrian influence for the problems of the country and nicknamed her L'Autrichienne), she actually had more French blood in her veins than her royal husband Louis XVI. Two of Marie Antoinette's grandparents were French, while Louis only had one, King Louis XV. The royal couple were also cousins as they were both descended from the French King Louis XIII.

Marie Antoinette inherited her French blood from her father, the charming Francois Stephen of Lorraine. Born in Lorraine, he was the son of Leopold Joseph, duke of Lorraine, and his wife the French Princess Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans, daughter of Philippe, duc d'Orléans, Louis XIV's brother, and granddaughter of Louis XIII. Francois inherited the duchy in 1729 upon his father's death, but was obliged to exchange it for that of Tuscany, something he did very reluctantly, when he married the young Empress Maria Theresa of Austria in 1735. Despite this, all his children bore the name Hapsburg-Lorraine and were brought up to think of themselves as not only Austrian but Lorrainers.

I think that this qualifies Marie Antoinette as being as French as every other Frenchmen. Sadly, they didn't.

Further reading:
Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser

Readers' Feeback Survey

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Historical Reads: The Trench Talk That Is Now Entrenched In The English Language

The Telegraph shares the findings of a new study about the impact the First World War had on the English language and the words it introduced into it. To quote:

The brutality of life at the front also gave rise to many euphemisms, to describe death and fear. Comrades who were killed were said to be “pushing up daisies”, or to have “gone west” “snuffed it”, “been skittled” or “become a landowner”. Those who were afraid were said to have “got the wind up”.

Many terms which were particular to one region or social class before the war, entered common usage afterwards. Examples include “scrounging” - to describe foraging for food, such as wild rabbits - which is thought to have derived from a northern dialect, and “binge” - to describe overindulgence in alcohol - previously just used in Lancashire. “Blotto” was another term for drunk popularised during the war.

Lower class words like “gasper” or “fag” and “bloke” - which previously referred just to a gentleman - moved from their narrow social roots.

Several phrases from the criminal underworld also entered wider use, among them “chum” - formerly slang for an accomplice - “rumbled” (to be found out) and “knocked off” (stolen).

Many more new terms came from the mix of nationalities thrown together by the war. The French term souvenir replaced keepsake as the primary word for a memento, following exchanges with the locals, while officers being sacked were said to have “come ungummed” - from the French “dégommér”, to dismiss. This quickly developed into “come unstuck”.

To read the entire article, click here.

Mon Coeur Est Tout A Toi

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, may have had an unhappy marriage, but her parents' union was a different story altogether. Margaret Georgiana Poyntz first met the dashing but shy John Spencer in 1754. He was tall, with deep-set eyes and thin lips, and Georgiana soon fell for him. Luckily for her, the feeling was mutual. John soon began courting the auburn-haired, brown-eyed seventeen year old Georgiana, but was too timid to pop the question.

The occasion presented itself a year later. It was almost summer and both the Spencers and the Poyntzs had decided to spend a week at Wimbledon Park. Everyone was eagerly waiting for John to propose, but he was too scared of being refused. Of course everyone else knew that Georgiana would happily say yes, but lovers are always nervous when about to propose.

He waited until the very last moment, when the carriage was ready to leave. He draw her aside and gave her a diamond and ruby golden ring inscribed with the words "Mon Coeur Est Tout A Toi. Garde Le Bien Pour A Moi*". How sweet is that? Georgiana enthusiastically accepted both the ring and the proposal and for the rest of their lives they never "for one instant repented**" their lot.

* My heart is all yours. Guard it well for me.
** Years later, Lady Spencer told David Garrick, "I verily believe we have neither of us for one instant repented our lot from that time to this."

Further reading:
Georgiana: Duchess Of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman

Caca Dauphin And Other Disgusting Fashions

Men have always criticized the amount of time (and money) women dedicate to their toilet, deeming makeup unnecessary, fashion shallow and many trends over-the-top and absurd (only to consider us lazy and unattractive when we're not well-put together...). However, sometimes they have a point. Some of the fashion styles worn by women were (and still are) not only ridiculous but also in bad taste, as the author of this piece, which appeared in the March 1807 issue of the Belle Assemblee, emphatically points out:

I must not conclude this chapter without showing how obscure, vile, disgusting or atrocious, the origin of many of our fashions has been. Circumstances of every kind have furnished some fashion or other, and things which only tended to perpetuate the remembrance of fatal accidents have been adapted for dress. Thus, the opera-house having been formerly consumed by a fire, in which a great number of unfortunate people lost their lives, a few days afterwards no other colour was to be seen but that called feu d'opera. They dressed themselves out with the recollection of human creatures burned alive! But the feu d'opera was a handsome colour! Have we not seen women wear rings in which were set stones of the Bastille? These they called bijoux a la constitution. But what is all this in comparison with what follows! My pen almost refuses to record the atrocious fashion—women have worn in their ears golden guillotines!' What then is fashion!

But enough of these horrid subjects! Fashion has seldom exhibited this degree of atrocity; but how often has she not appeared abject and debased! Have we not seen her raking even in filth to pick up the brilliant chimeras which governed opinion and seduced the sex! The soft colour of the heavens, the carnation of the rose, or the verdant carpet of our meads had grown too common and were left for the lower classes. The mud of Paris, the soot of our chimneys, and the rags of Savoyards became the fashionable colours. Finally, have we not seen, and this undoubtedly is the height of ignominy, have we not seen the fair sex seeking the colour of their ribbons in the very excrement of the royal infant! The colour caca dauphin adorned every dress, and this word, which I cannot now write without repugnance, was then in the mouths of all the best bred women! What a ridiculous taste, that would attempt to dress beauty in disgusting images!

Further reading:
La Belle Assemble, March 1807

Book Review: Vanquished by Hope Tarr

Known as The Maid of Mayfair for her unassailable virtue, unwavering resolve, and quiet dignity, suffragette leader, Caledonia —Callie — Rivers is the perfect counter for detractors' portrayal of the women as rabble rousers, lunatics, even whores. But a high-ranking enemy within the government will stop at nothing to ensure that the Parliamentary bill to grant the vote to females dies in the Commons — including ruining the reputation of the Movement's chief spokeswoman. After a streak of disastrous luck at the gaming tables threatens to land him at the bottom of the Thames, photographer Hadrian St. Claire reluctantly agrees to seduce the beautiful suffragist leader and then use his camera to capture her fall from grace. Posing as the photographer commissioned to make her portrait for the upcoming march on Parliament, Hadrian infiltrates Callie's inner circle. But lovely, soft-spoken Callie hardly fits his mental image of a dowdy, man-hating spinster. And as the passion between them flares from spark to full-on flame, Hadrian is the one in danger of being vanquished.

If you're tired of the usual bodice-ripper romances, with poor plots and irritating characters, then get yourself a copy of Vanquished by Hope Tarr. Set in Victorian England at the time of the suffragette movement, this romance is definitely different from anything you're used to. It's erotic alright but it is also dark, gritty and gives you an insight into a very important time in history, especially for women.

Hadrian St. Claire, son of a prostitute, spent his first years living in a brothel. One day he escaped and managed to attract the interest of a patron, the then prime minister William Gladstone, who helped him to become a portrait photographer. Hadrian specializes in women portraits and, very often, he beds his models too. But his shop isn't too successful, and, in addition, Hadrian has a bad gambling habit. He owns a huge amount of money to Bull Boyle, whom sends two henchman to extract the money from him with any means necessary. In the end, they agree to give him a few days to come up with the money, but how to raise it?

A mysterious customer enters his shop one day and offers him the huge sum of five thousand pounds to vanquish Caledonia Rivers, the leader of the London suffragette movement, by taking an exposed photograph of her. Caledonia is a determined, strong and decent spinster who lives with her aunt. Hadrian doesn't like the job, but he can't afford to turn it down either. So he simply hopes that behind her proper facade, Caledonia isn't too nice after all. Of course Hadrian and Caledonia are, from the start, very attracted to each other and soon, the game of seduction begins. But when the moment comes, will Hadrian be able to fulfill his end of the bargain?

Both Callie and Hadrian are very interesting characters. Callie is not considered particularly pretty by the standards of her time, and because of it, she suffers from low self-esteem that makes her act awkward and clumsy in public. But she's also very clever and, when she's fighting for her cause, she's very determined and firm. Hadrian is a rogue with a good heart. He comes from the poorer class of society and has known misery, abuse and exploitation. He's a bit of an user, but at the same time, he feels compassionate towards the other poor people of the country and he will be the one to teach Callie that, as important as getting the vote for women is, the poorer women of society don't need it as much as they do better working conditions and housing, for instance.

The love scenes between them are very sensual. Hadrian seduces her slowly and their relationship becomes more and more erotic with each encounter. However, there is a disturbing, non-consensual sex scene in the book that some people may have a problem with. I wouldn’t wanna say more though as I'd just be giving too much away. But the best thing in the book for me was the rich historical background. The author skilfully portrays the social, economic and cultural conditions of the poorer classes in the Victorian era, giving the reader a better understanding of what struggles and hardships they had to face daily. The suffragette issue is, too, explored in-depth, but not so in­­­­­­­-depth as to sound like a boring history lesson.

However, there were a couple of things I didn't like about this book. Although the main story line is quite interesting, there is something slightly predictable in every chapter. It may be an unusual historical romance, but it still has quite a few of the cliche of the genre. The ending was a bit contrived in my opinion as well, but well-written and, overall, it fit the story quite well. But overall, Vanquished, with its nice characters, rich historical tapestry, good writing and enough interesting twists to make up for the cliches, is a winner.

Vanquished is an unusual romance novel. The plot, although predictable, is captivating and well-executed, the hero and heroines are interesting, and the writing style engaging. But what really makes this book shine is the rich and vivid description of Victorian London and its population. The author highlights issues, such as the deep poverty of the lower classes, factory strikes, suffragette movement and prostitution, that very few romance authors have the courage to tackle. I definitely recommend it to those who are tired of the usual bodice-ripping novels (although there's a lot of sex here too, and it's not always consensual) with silly heroines and full-of-cliche plots.

Available at: Amazon UK and Amazon US

Rating: 3.5/5

The Scullery Maid

In large households, scullery maids were hired to assist the cook. Scullery maids, who were usually very young girls, were also the lowest-ranked of the female servants. As such they were the first to wake up in the morning and the last to go to bed, worked very hard and were looked down upon even by the other servants. They didn't even eat at the communal servants' dining hall table, because they had to stay in the kitchen to keep an eye on the food that was still cooking. But what were her duties?

In their book, The complete servant, Samuel and Sarah Adams write:

It is the business of this servant to light the fires in the kitchen range, and under the copper or boilers, and stew-holes—to wash up all the plates and dishes—scour and clean all the sauce-pans, stew-pans, kettles, pots, and all other kitchen utensils; and to take care that all the latter are always kept clean, dry, and fit for use. She is to assist the kitchen-maid in picking, trimming, washing and boiling the vegetables, cleaning the kitchen and offices, the servants'-hall, housekeeper's room, and steward's room; and to clean the steps of the front door and the area. She makes the beds for the stable men—and generally fetches, carries, and clears away for the cook and kitchenmaid, and otherwise assists in all the laborious parts of the kitchen business. [Wages from 8 to 12 guineas a year.]

But that's not all. The scullery maid was sometimes also required to do other heavy tasks such helping with the laundry and pumping water. It certainly wasn't an enviable position but, like Mrs Beeton pointed out in her The Book of Household Management, scullery maids could sometimes be promoted to kitchen maid and eventually up to a cook:

The position of scullery-maid is not, of course, one of high rank, nor is the payment for her services large. But if she be fortunate enough to have over her a good kitchen-maid and clever cook, she may very soon learn to perform various little duties connected with cooking operations, which may be of considerable service in fitting her for a more responsible place. Now, it will be doubtless thought by the majority of our readers, that the fascinations connected with the position of the scullery-maid, are not so great as to induce many people to leave a comfortable home in order to work in a scullery.

A Life of Service, a BBC Radio Scotland programme, has interviewed a woman who worked as a scullery maid in the 1930s. You can hear her describing her job, which boarded on slavery, here.

Further reading:
The Book of Household Management by Mrs Beeton
The complete servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams

A Singular Way Of Stealing Wigs

I was browsing the Anecdotes of the Manner and Customs of London During the Eighteenth Century book by James Peller Malcolm, when I came across this curious piece of news about a singular method of stealing wigs. The author presented it verbatim from the Weekly Journal of March 30 1717:

"The Thieves have got such a villainous way now of robbing gentlemen, that they cut holes through the backs of Hackney coaches, and take away their wigs, or fine headdresses of gentlewomen; so a gentleman was served last Sunday in Tooley-street, and another but last Tuesday in Fenchurch-street; wherefore, this may serve for a caution to gentlemen or gentlewomen that ride single in the night-time, to sit on the fore-seat, which will prevent that way of robbing."

Further reading:
Anecdotes of the Manner and Customs of London During the Eighteenth Century

Historical Reads: Bad Baby Advice

The Slate has a very interesting article about all kinds of bad baby advice given to parents throughout the centuries. To quote:

Before Spock’s 1946 book, a strict approach dominated baby advice books. Experts advised mothers to keep infants on schedules for feeding and sleeping. Holding them just for the sake of it was considered a sure way to produce what a 1911 text termed a “little tyrant.” As the U.S. Department of Labor observed in an “Infant Care” pamphlet in 1929, “a baby should learn that such habitual crying will only cause his parents to ignore him.”

Under the behaviorist thinking pioneered by psychologist John B. Watson and others, spoiling a baby was an immoral act that could forever curdle a child’s character. Watson advised parents “never” to “hug and kiss” their children. A 1916 book warned parents not to bounce babies on their knees, as it would spoil babies and lead to “wrecked nerves.” In general, wrote physician L. Emmett Holt in 1894, playing with babies was a bad idea: “Never until four months, and better not until six months.”

As late as 1962, well after Spock’s kinder, gentler approach had become a staple of nightstands across the country, a Miami pediatrician named Walter W. Sackett Jr. came out with a book called Bringing Up Babies, in which he implied that parents who failed to impose strict schedules on their babies were downright unpatriotic. Absolutely no night feedings, he wrote, no matter how young the baby, nor how much it cried. “If we teach our offspring to expect everything to be provided on demand, we must admit the possibility that we are sowing the seeds of socialism,” Sackett warned, likening overindulgent parents to Hitler and Stalin.

After World War II, commercial baby food producers as well as pediatricians drastically lowered the age at which they recommended babies start solids. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, much to the delight of Gerber and Beech-Nut, the average age at which parents introduced solids plummeted from 7 months to four to 6 weeks, according to various surveys. Sackett, the same guy who feared insufficient strictness would lead to socialist babies, was at the leading edge of this trend, writing in 1962 that breast milk and formula were “deficient,” and therefore babies should be started on cereal at 2 days of age. At 10 days, they could have strained vegetables, and by 9 weeks old, the little one would be eating “bacon and eggs, just like Dad!” Sackett also recommended giving babies black coffee starting at 6 months of age, to get them used to “the normal eating habits of the family.”

Poor babies! To read the entire article, click here.

Royal Coffee Set

This beautiful coffee set is decorated with portraits of members of the French royal family and was made around 1778-1779. Isn't it absolutely gorgeous? Here are more pictures:

Coffee-pot with portraits of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Milk jug with images of the Count and Countess of Provence.

A covered sugar-pot decorated with images of the Count and Countess of Artois.

Saucer and coffee cup with the portrait of Madame Elizabeth.

Saucer and coffee cup with the image of Madame Clothilde.

Saucer and coffee cup with the image of Madame Louise of France, who was a nun.

The Ladies' Receipt Book, Volume 3

The Ladies' Receipt Book was a column in The Ladies' Pocket Magazine that gave advice to women on all kinds of household matters. Here's an extract:


Put a chafing-dish, with some lighted charcoal, into a close room, or large box; then strew an ounce or two of powdered brimstone on the hot coals. Hang the articles in the room, or box, make the door fast, and let them hang some hours. Fine colored woolens are thus sulphured before dyed, and straw bonnets are thus bleached.


To half a pint of milk, put an equal quantity of vinegar, in order to curdle it; then separate the curd from the whey, and mix the whey with the whites of four or five eggs, beating the whole well together. When it is well mixed, add a little quick lime, through a sieve, until it has acquired the consistency of a thick paste. With this cement, broken vessels, and cracks of all kinds, may be mended. It dries quickly, and resists the action of fire and water.


Boil a calf's foot in four quarts of river water, till it is reduced to half the quantity; add half a pound of rice, and boil it with crumb of white bread steeped in milk, a pound of fresh butter, and the whites of five fresh eggs; mix with them a small quantity of camphor and alum; and distil the whole. These ingredients are best distilled by being put in a bottle, and placed in boiling water. Eau de Veau is used as a wash to soften the skin.


Take of calomel (or submuriate of mercury;) precipitated sulphuret of antimony, each one scruple; powder of gum guaiacum, two scruples; Spanish soap, as much as will be sufficient to form into twenty pills, which are to be taken night and morning.

Further reading:
The Ladies' pocket magazine, 1829