Considering how much of the Northern Hemisphere is wallowing in snow, sleet, and Arctic Vortex, this pair of prints from 1834 seems particularly appropriate. (As always, please click on the image to enlarge.)
Although they're ostensibly for the Christmas holidays – the caption below the man reads "A merry Christmas & a happy new year in London" while the woman's caption replies "The same to you, sir, & many of 'em" – they're more portraits in weather-related misery than any seasonal good cheer. Without the modern protection of down coats and waterproof boots, these two are not happy. The wind is blowing and the snow is wet, umbrellas are sprung and noses are red, and it's altogether clear that they would much rather be anywhere else, thank you very much.
The winter miseries also continue in the backgrounds. Here in the 21st century, we can't wait for the plows to arrive after a heavy snow, for a passable street is the first step back towards normalcy after a storm. But there were no snow-plows in 1825, and as these prints show, streets would have remained a snowy, slushy mess. Not only do other pedestrians slip and slide, but the horses do as well, no matter how the drivers exhort them to do otherwise. Up above, other men struggle to clear the rooftops, shoveling snow onto the hapless passersby below. Brrrrr!
Above: Detail, The same to you, sir, & many of 'em, George Hunt, printmaker. c. 1825, London. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University. Below:Detail, A merry Christmas & a happy new year in London, George Hunt, printmaker. c. 1825, London. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.
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.