A lively Rowlandson illustration of a London street scene sent me to the material it illustrated, from one of my favorite books from the Regency era, James Beresford’s, The Miseries of Human Life. Though written in 1807, it proves that some aspects of human life haven't changed. The wait in a public office might, for instance, remind some of us of our last visit to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, while others might relate to the “hurry and ferment” of a recent visit to, say New York City. And who hasn’t dropped money in a taxicab?
While on a short visit to London—the hurry and ferment— the crossing and jostling—the missing and marring—which incessantly happen among all your engagements, purposes, and promises, both of business and pleasure—at home and abroad—from morning till midnight;—obstacles equally perverse, unexpected, unaccountable, innumerable, and intolerable, springing up like mushrooms through every step of your progress. Then, (when you are at last leaving London,) on asking yourself the question whether any thing 'has been neglected, or forgotten, receiving for answer—"Almost every thing!"
In going out to dinner, (already too late,) your carriage delayed by a jam of coaches which choke up the whole street, and allow you at least an hour more than you require, to sharpen your wits for table talk.
In attempting to pay money in the street—emptying your purse into the kennel—the wind taking care of all the paper money.
The unintermitting fever into which you are thrown by being obliged to linger, the whole morning long, amongst a crew of " greasy rogues," in the outer room of a public office, from which you are called out the last—if, indeed, you are called out at all!
In taking out your money in a hackney-coach—dropping the greatest part of it (and all the gold) in the straw then, After grubbing and fumbling after it for an hour, finding nothing but the gaping crevices through which it must have escaped.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.