Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Medical Advice About Bathing in 1813

Tuesday, June 30, 2015
Warm Bath

Loretta reports:

Recently, I posted about shower baths in the 1800s.

Those of you who’ve followed our various posts on bathing are aware that our ancestors were not necessarily filthy and smelly, although they did not generally take full baths or showers every day.

But cleanliness wasn’t the only reason for bathing. In 1800s medical literature, one encounters discussions about the medicinal value of baths, of various temperatures. My post on the Royal Waterloo Bath included the quote, “Bathing is so essentially connected with health ...”

Going to Bath or another spa town to take the waters might include bathing in as well as drinking the healthful waters.

This Medical Report, a monthly item—at least for a time—in Ackermann’s Repository, offers both a glimpse at the ailments a physician encountered and his thoughts on bathing. Please note the last several lines, where he describes what bathing cures and what dangers it holds.

1813 Medical Report
Image from Poetical Sketches of Scarborough in 1813, courtesy Internet Archive.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Georgian Photoshop? One Princess, Two Portraits, and a Mystery

Sunday, June 28, 2015
Isabella reporting,

Today we're accustomed to celebrities carefully crafting their public image with a hefty dose of Photoshop. Whether on Instagram or a magazine cover, what the public sees is seldom reality.

In the days before photography, portrait painters performed much the same service. A successful portraitist was one who flattered the sitter to conform with the contemporary sense of beauty, smoothing out the complexion, narrowing the waist, adding grace or gravity where perhaps there was none.

The portraits of royalty are especially prone to "improvement," for these are not just powerful (and vain) people, but people who embodied the country they ruled. There's often a stunning disconnect between how a king or prince was portrayed in official portraits, and how he appeared in popular caricatures or was described by contemporaries. Just compare the official portraits of the George IV (more usually remembered as the Prince Regent) by Thomas Lawrence with the cruelly satiric drawings by James Gillray.

Most discrepancies in portraits can be attributed to different portraitists; every artist sees a face differently. But the two portraits shown here of HRH Princess Caroline Elizabeth (1713-1757), daughter of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, were painted by the same artist, Jacopo Amigoni (1682-1752.) Both portraits were painted in the early 1730s, when the princess was a young woman, and when Amigoni painted several portraits of the royal family. Both portraits show the princess wearing the same clothes, and sitting in much the same pose.

And yet the portraits are markedly different. The presumably earlier portrait, above left, shows the princess with a strong resemblance to other members of the Hanover royal family, with heavy-lidded eyes, small, full mouth, and a softness beneath her chin. The other portrait, right, shows a much more refined version of the princess's face. Her eyes and mouth are wider, and her chin as been firmed. She's overall more graceful and more appealing (at least to modern eyes.)

The changes are subtle, but different enough to have been intentional. An engraving made for popular distribution (lower left) appears to be almost a composite of the two paintings: there's the coronet on the table from the first painting, but the face seems to have more of the elegance of the second, and the hands are the same, too.

So what is the story behind the two portraits? I must confess that I do not know. If the royal family was unhappy with the first painting, then it would have been reworked or destroyed, so it's unlikely that the second painting was created with directions to "improve" the lady's face. Was Amigoni making a copy of the first painting (a common practice) for a patron outside of the family who wished her to be more of a beauty?

Or was it Amigoni himself who couldn't resist altering the lady's face, or perhaps his own skills evolved? Before coming to England, he had been known primarily for his religious scenes and large-scale decorative paintings, and he switched to portraits to suit the English market; the second painting does seem to have more of an artistic assurance and sophistication that is lacking in the first. There's also a chance that the more flattering portrait doesn't even show the princess, but is the portrait of another noble lady entirely, who requested that she be painted in the same pose (which would explain the absence of the coronet.)

If anyone out there has another theory, or knows for certain, I'd love to hear your explanation. Ahh, the mysteries of the past!

Many thanks to Lucinda Brant for the inspiration for this post. 

Above left: Portrait of Caroline Elizabeth, by Jacopo Amigoni, c. 1730s. Most recently sold by Christie's auction house, now in a private collection.
Right: Princess Caroline Elizabeth, after a portrait by Jacopo Amigoni, c. 1735. ©National Portrait Gallery, London.
Lower left: Princess Caroline Elizabeth, by Jacopo Amigoni, 1732. National Trust Collections, Ickworth, Suffolk.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of June 22, 2015

Saturday, June 27, 2015
Ready for your Sunday browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, collected via Twitter.
• The Battle of Waterloo is hiding on the edge of this beautifully bound book by Robert Southey.
• How did Marie-Antoinette celebrate her twenty-first birthday?
• Finding a new life: a young German Jewish bride among the roustabouts of 1860s Santa Fe, NM.
• Glorious Renaissance altarpieces, and how they came about.
• Image: Twenty-two-year-old fighter ace P/O A.G. Lewis with his Hawker Hurricane, 1940.
• The feminist past – and present – of culottes.
• Uncovering the stories of the women in an iconic WWII VE Day photo.
• The iconic Heavy Cavalry sword, "the" sword of the Napoleonic Wars.
Wedding history (and advice) from the Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1822.
Thomas Kemble: kissing his wife earned him a trip to the stocks in Puritan Massachusetts.
Image: Another sword: this one belonged to Oliver Cromwell, c1650, and it's a beauty.
• The agony of the wedding night for a bashful bridegroom from Tennessee, 1831.
• A short history of men's boot-heels, and their purpose.
• The curative powers of beer and rhubarb.
• What were day-rooms?
• How Outlander's costume designer Terry Dresbach brings history to life.
• Or how to dress like a true 18thc. Highlander: wearing a plaid.
• Image: Napoleon's cloak, captured on the battlefield at Waterloo with the rest of his baggage.
Bibliotherapy: can reading make you happier?
• Fifty shades of chambray? Lurid 19thc cautionary novels featuring New England factory girls.
• Twenty hauntingly beautiful photographs of Victorian London.
Image: Patriotic beefcake in 1944 advertisement for Cannon towels.
• Not for the faint-hearted: medicine and surgery at the Battle of Waterloo
• Achoo! An historical look at the humble sneeze.
• Creating a beautifully pattern textile by "undoing" it.
Ackermann and the celebration of Waterloo.
• A beautifully embroidered 16thc. sleeve fragment, found hidden in a wall.
• A Lowland witch: the legend of Gyre Carline.
• F. Scott Fitzgerald conjugates "to cocktail," the ultimate Jazz Age verb, 1928.

Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.
Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday Video: A Musical Interlude

Friday, June 26, 2015
Zoffany, Self-Portrait with his daughter & others
Loretta reports:

For today, I present a short musical interlude, with a little something unexpected.







Image: Johan Joseph Zoffany, Self-Portrait with His Daughter Maria Theresa, James Cervetto, and Giacobbe Cervetto (ca 1780), courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.


Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.
 

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Light Summer Cloathing", 1801

Thursday, June 25, 2015
Isabella reporting,

With summer officially here, it's time to spruce up the warm-weather wardrobes. Here are some suggestions from one of our favorite Georgian caricaturists, Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827), showing what the trendiest Londoners might have been sporting in 1801.

Well, maybe not exactly like this. But while these are surely current styles exaggerated for comic effect, there still are elements in these outfits that would have been practical for summer weather.

The lady's scoop-brim bonnet and parasol would have kept away the sun from her face in those pre-SPF summers, with that added flap protecting her neck. Her dress appears to be a lightweight cotton muslin, and she's clearly wearing it without heavy petticoats underneath. The oversized, lightweight scarf (which is also in style for 2015) would also help keep the sun from her decolletage, and those flat shoes would be perfect for summer strolls. As for the poufs on the top of her hat: I can think of no excuse or explanation for those except that they're there to amuse.

I can't imagine that the man's twisted walking stick would be of much use on any serious hike, but his wide-brimmed hat would definitely offer plenty of shade, plus it would have the added advantage of being made from breathable woven straw. While his close-fitting jacket and waistcoat might have been of cooler linen instead of the more usual wool, I can't see much summer-time relief in a neckcloth wrapped that tightly around his neck.

But his flapping white linen trousers would have been wonderfully cool in comparison to the tight-fitting knee-length breeches that had long been in style. Adapted from the full trousers worn by planters in the Caribbean, traders in the East Indies, and sailors around the world - all men who knew how to keep cool and easy - they must have been both comfortable and jaunty. Keeping them snowy-white must have been impossible, but that's another blog post....

Above: Light summer cloathing for the year 1801. 
Below: Light Summer Hat and Fashionable Walking Stick for the Year 1801.
Both by Thomas Rowlandson, published 1801 by R. Ackermann. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Gentlemen's Fashions for June 1872

Wednesday, June 24, 2015
Men's daytime fashions

Loretta reports:

Men’s fashion magazines are far less numerous than women’s. So you may imagine my excitement when I came upon some Gentleman’s Magazines for the 1870s, complete with color fashion plates.

Each month shows several sets of fashions, rather like the Victorian-era Godey’s and Peterson’s magazines I’ve featured before. Like the women's magazines, they include detailed descriptions. However, since they offer patterns, and men weren't likely to be making their own clothes, I thought these magazines must have been aimed at tailors. The fact that they include nothing but fashion seems strong evidence. Very likely, the elegant gentleman would not be caught dead reading a men’s fashion magazine. He'd rely on his tailor's expert's judgment, as well as his own taste, observation of other well-dressed men, and imagination. Or maybe he'd just follow the Prince of Wales's (later King Edward VII) lead. Of course, it could be that the tailor would keep the magazine on hand to show his clients the latest fashions.

Would a gentlemen buy the magazine and bring it to his tailor? I can't conceive of this happening in the Regency era, but the Victorians were different, and frankly, I don't know for sure.

Historical dress experts, please feel free to enlighten us.
Fashion description

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A One-of-a-Kind Pair of Wedding Shoes, 1764

Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Isabella reporting,

In the world of fashion history, it's usually the materials or the creator that contribute to an item's rarity. But with these shoes, it's the wearer herself - and the adjustments that were done for her - that make them truly one-of-a-kind.

When Mary Wise (1741-1792) of Chebacco (now Essex), MA, was preparing for her 1764 wedding to John Farley, she must have wanted the same thing that every bride wants: to look her very best on her wedding day. No doubt she wore a gown that might have been made of the same floral silk brocade as these shoes. But because skirts in the 1760s were short enough to show a lady's feet, the shoes would have made their own fashion-statement, perhaps with a glittering pair of silver or paste buckles to catch the light with every step.

But in Mary's case, the shoes must have had extra significance. From illness, accident, or birth, one of Mary's legs was significantly shorter than the other.  In 18th c. parlance, she would have been considered halt, or lame. Her wedding shoes - imported from London, or the work of an expert colonial shoemaker - were either especially made for her, or customized to accommodate her needs. The left shoe is built up with a higher heel and a platform sitting on an extended sole for extra stability. The platform is covered with more of the same silk as the shoes, and beautifully finished. The difference between the two shoes is nearly 1-1/2", but the solution is as elegant as possible.

There's no way of knowing now if the special shoes helped Mary walk without a limp, or if she might still have had to lean on the arm of her new husband for support. Nor do we know if the rest of Mary's shoes were similarly modified, since none of them survived. But I'm sure that on her wedding day, Mary must have felt beautiful and special, and that's what matters most to every bride.

These shoes were included in the recent exhibition Cosmopolitan Consumption at the Portsmouth, NH, Atheneum. (I've already shared other shoes from the show here and here.) Many thanks to our good friend Kimberly Alexander for a personal tour, and for assistance with this post. For more information about these shoes and many others, stayed tuned for Kimberly's upcoming book Georgian Shoe Stories From Early America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016.) In the meantime, please check out her blog, Silk Damask, for more fascinating fashion and textile history.

Above: Silk brocade wedding shoes, worn by Mary (Wise) Farley, 1764. Maker unknown. Collection, Ipswich Museum. 
Top photo: ©2015 Susan Holloway Scott
Bottom photo: ©2015 Kimberly Alexander

Monday, June 22, 2015

Taking a shower in the 1800s

Monday, June 22, 2015


Loretta reports:

Shower-bath at Scarborough
Recently, Isabella sent me to the website for the House of Dun in Scotland to look at this shower bath (please scroll down the left side of page), thereby reminding me I’d seen some 19th century shower-baths before, and setting off a nerdy historical search.

I distinctly remembered seeing one in the TV series, Regency House Party, and the connected book. When you view the image (second one down) at Jane Austen’s World, you may understand why it sticks in my memory. The blog post offers detailed information, which I won’t repeat.

Domestic Sanitary Regulations
But I will call your attention to the quotation from Godey’s, regarding the “high-peaked or extinguisher caps.” (Please see Leech caricature at left.)These were made of oil cloth.  As we’ve discussed before, hair washing wasn’t as frequent in the past (and we’re debating now whether we wash our hair too often nowadays), and there was strong disagreement about whether it was a dangerous practice. There did seem to be agreement about not having a large amount of water pour down on your head.

Christina Hardyment’s Behind the Scenes shows the Erdigg Shower Room.

This image from the Wimpole Hall Bath House, allows you to use a directional to view the shower-bath from all angles.

This page, at item 2485, explains how a certain shower bath works. This may enlighten us a little about the Scarborough picture at top.

The Mechanics Magazine, Volume 40, 1844, offers a diagram of a shower-bath.

New shower-bath from Paris
The clipping at left, from the 1830 Spirit of the English Magazines, notes the latest thing from Paris.

In 1839, the author calls daily bathing "indispensable."

For more about past bathing practices, you might want to read our Annals of Bathing:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

As well as posts here and here, as well as some others I've probably missed.

Image upper left from J.B. Papworth, F. Wrangham, and W. Combe's  Poetical sketches of Scarborough  (1813).

Caricature, Domestic Sanitary Regulations, from John Leech’s Pictures of Life and Character, Volume 1

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of June 15, 2015

Saturday, June 20, 2015
It's time for Breakfast Links - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you via Twitter.
• The Major Oak: Did this tree once shelter Robin Hood and Maid Marion?
• Recreating the Duke of Wellington's victory banquet.
• The world of Charles I and Henrietta Marie is revealed in this wonderfully intricate raised embroidery.
• The 400 arrests of Annie Parker, 1873.
• Needled: The needles and knitting sticks used by 18th-19th c. knitters.
Image: 17th Lancers - officer's czapka.
• Following up on one of our own posts: illustrated news from the Crimean War, c1853.
• The history of a 1789 linen tablecloth.
• A new life in Australia for prisoner Sarah Bird (1763-1842).
• Discovering more about Jane Austen from her c1812 pelisse.
• Were there Canadians at the Battle of Waterloo?
Image: Decorative wax fruit: creating arrangements was a fashionable 19thc. pastime for ladies.
• The development and the dangers of the stirrup.
• The "Pulpit Bridge": an 1877 railway bridge designed by a peer who was also a lay rector.
• Recipe for making sambocade, a medieval elderflower cheesecake (and it looks DELICIOUS.)
• Seventeenth-century children in portraits, almost out of doors.
• Not all American First Ladies have been married to presidents.
Image: Street sign proving that the Lewes District Council shows neither fear nor favor.
• Rome's international community of the dead: the cemetery where both Shelley and Keats are buried.
• The magnificent House of Dun near Montrose in Angus, a perfect Scottish Georgian country house.
• Gawk: 25 of fashion's most famous (and handsome) male models.
Image: Queen Elizabeth II took part in her first Trooping the Color parade in 1947 as Princess Elizabeth - riding side-saddle.
• Cooking with glass: How Pyrex transformed every kitchen into a home-ec laboratory.
• Dive in to six historic swimming pools.
Image: Draft of Angelina Grimke's 1838 wedding invitation.
Fitzroy Somerset gave his right arm for Wellington - but was it reciprocated?
• What to wear when you don't have a halo: women's headdresses in medieval manuscripts.
Image: Just for fun: what to do when the news is old.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Video: Up-close with a Beautiful Georgian Dress, c.1760

Friday, June 19, 2015

Isabella reporting,

It's not often we have a video devoted to a single dress – but then this is no ordinary dress. Its white silk woven with multi-colored sprigs of flowers and embellished with bright coordinated trimming, this is a spectacular example of a 1760s sack-back dress with matching petticoat, and clearly the work of a talented mantua-maker. This is Georgian high-fashion at its most stylish.

The silk shows enough wear to prove the dress was worn more than once, but it still must have been a family treasure, carefully packed away by members of the Dalrymple family, where it has remained ever since. It's possible that it was worn by Anne Broun, right, as her wedding dress when she married Sir David Dalrymple, Lord Hailes, in 1763. She died only five years later in 1768, and the dress might have been set aside in her memory. Miraculously it escaped the fate of so many 18th c. dresses, and was never cut apart and remodeled for later wear, or modified into a fancy dress costume.

The multi-colored floss fringe trim (and plenty of it!) is particularly noteworthy. See this blog post  for more about such trime, and how it was made.

Recently restored and conserved, the dress is currently on display for the first time at Newhailes, a National Trust of Scotland property near Edinburgh, until June 29, 2015. Alas, a trip to Scotland this month isn't on our schedule, but Emma Inglis of the National Trust of Scotland was kind enough to share this short video with us - and now with you.

Right: Anne Brown (of Coalstoun), by Allan Ramsay, c.1761, private collection.

If you received this post via email, you may be seeing only an empty space or black box where the video should be. To view, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Colonel Ponsonby's Waterloo Ordeal (from the Archives)

Thursday, June 18, 2015
Sadler, The Battle of Waterloo
Loretta reports:

Today is the 200th Anniversary of the battle known as Waterloo, a major event in European history, in which an army of allies led by the Duke of Wellington & Gebhard von Blücher defeated Napoleon once and for all (this was his comeback attempt). Though we Nerdy History Girls prefer to focus on social history rather than the politics and wars so many associate (and not happily) with the study of history, this, like posts dealing with remembrance days, touches on the human side of war, and thus falls well within our purview. I didn’t think I could do better than re-posting the following.
~~~

Some years ago, in Miss Wonderful, I had a hero suffering from what’s now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This was a result of my sticking him in the middle of the Battle of Waterloo and subjecting him to something very like the ordeal that Colonel Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, against all odds, survived.

Since, over the years, Colonel Ponsonby turned up more than once in my reading, I can’t say exactly when or in what book he first caught my attention.  In Richard Rush’s A Residence at the Court of London,  a gentleman “tall but limping” is identified thus:  "Colonel Ponsonby; he was left for dead at Waterloo; the cavalry it was thought had trampled upon him.”  Elizabeth Longford’s Wellington: The Years of the Sword,  summed up in a few unforgettable lines what Ponsonby endured: “Frederick Ponsonby, desperately wounded first by French sabres and then by Polish lances, ridden over and tossed by the Prussians, robbed, used as a musket-rest by a tirailleur and as a place to die on by a mortally wounded soldier, but later found alive by a British infantryman who mounted guard over him till morning...”

I added a bit of another officer's experience to my hero’s, and made up my own account of how he survived injuries that should have killed him several times over (no antibiotics!!!—he'd been stabbed all over the place, & the doctors treated him by bleeding him some more!!!)—but the great kernel of truth is there, and the credit belongs to Colonel Ponsonby (later a General and Sir Frederick), one tough gentleman. 

Ye of the Nerdy History persuasion can easily imagine how thrilled I was recently to find, not a summary of his experience in a book by or about someone else, but his very own account—all thanks to the magic of Google books— in Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, fashions of 1817.     You can read the whole story here.

I think the just-the-facts, ma'am approach makes it all the more poignant, and conveys in a powerful way the experience of being in the middle of that battle.  What with the rumors flying about who was winning, who was losing, who was dead, who wasn’t, I wondered all the more how anybody knew what the devil was going on anywhere.
Loretta reports:

Some years ago, in Miss Wonderful, I had a hero suffering from what’s now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This was a result of my sticking him in the middle of the Battle of Waterloo and subjecting him to something very like the ordeal that Colonel Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, against all odds, survived.

Since, over the years, Colonel Ponsonby turned up more than once in my reading, I can’t say exactly when or in what book he first caught my attention.  In Richard Rush’s A Residence at the Court of London,  a gentleman “tall but limping” is identified thusly:   "Colonel Ponsonby; he was left for dead at Waterloo; the cavalry it was thought had trampled upon him.”  Elizabeth Longford’s Wellington: The Years of the Sword,  summed up in a few unforgettable lines what Ponsonby endured: “Frederick Ponsonby, desperately wounded first by French sabres and then by Polish lances, ridden over and tossed by the Prussians, robbed, used as a musket-rest by a tirailleur and as a place to die on by a mortally wounded soldier, but later found alive by a British infantryman who mounted guard over him till morning...”

I added a bit of another officer's experience to my hero’s, and made up my own account of how he survived injuries that should have killed him several times over (no antibiotics!!!—he'd been stabbed all over the place, & the doctors treated him by bleeding him some more!!!)—but the great kernel of truth is there, and the credit belongs to Colonel Ponsonby (later a General and Sir Frederick), one tough gentleman. 

Ye of the Nerdy History persuasion can easily imagine how thrilled I was recently to find, not a summary of his experience in a book by or about someone else, but his very own account—all thanks to the magic of Google books— in Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, fashions of 1817.     You can read the whole story here.

I think the just-the-facts, ma'am approach makes it all the more poignant, and conveys in a powerful way the experience of being in the middle of that battle.  What with the rumors flying about who was winning, who was losing, who was dead, who wasn’t, I wondered all the more how anybody knew what the devil was going on anywhere. - See more at: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2010/10/colonel-ponsonbys-waterloo-ordeal.html#sthash.0KWCrnSp.dpuf
Loretta reports:

Some years ago, in Miss Wonderful, I had a hero suffering from what’s now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  This was a result of my sticking him in the middle of the Battle of Waterloo and subjecting him to something very like the ordeal that Colonel Frederick Cavendish Ponsonby, against all odds, survived.

Since, over the years, Colonel Ponsonby turned up more than once in my reading, I can’t say exactly when or in what book he first caught my attention.  In Richard Rush’s A Residence at the Court of London,  a gentleman “tall but limping” is identified thusly:   "Colonel Ponsonby; he was left for dead at Waterloo; the cavalry it was thought had trampled upon him.”  Elizabeth Longford’s Wellington: The Years of the Sword,  summed up in a few unforgettable lines what Ponsonby endured: “Frederick Ponsonby, desperately wounded first by French sabres and then by Polish lances, ridden over and tossed by the Prussians, robbed, used as a musket-rest by a tirailleur and as a place to die on by a mortally wounded soldier, but later found alive by a British infantryman who mounted guard over him till morning...”

I added a bit of another officer's experience to my hero’s, and made up my own account of how he survived injuries that should have killed him several times over (no antibiotics!!!—he'd been stabbed all over the place, & the doctors treated him by bleeding him some more!!!)—but the great kernel of truth is there, and the credit belongs to Colonel Ponsonby (later a General and Sir Frederick), one tough gentleman. 

Ye of the Nerdy History persuasion can easily imagine how thrilled I was recently to find, not a summary of his experience in a book by or about someone else, but his very own account—all thanks to the magic of Google books— in Ackermann’s Repository of arts, literature, fashions of 1817.     You can read the whole story here.

I think the just-the-facts, ma'am approach makes it all the more poignant, and conveys in a powerful way the experience of being in the middle of that battle.  What with the rumors flying about who was winning, who was losing, who was dead, who wasn’t, I wondered all the more how anybody knew what the devil was going on anywhere. - See more at: http://twonerdyhistorygirls.blogspot.com/2010/10/colonel-ponsonbys-waterloo-ordeal.html#sthash.0KWCrnSp.dpuf

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Aftermath: Turner's "The Field of Waterloo", 1818

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Isabella reporting,

As every Nerdy History person must know by now, this week marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. Social media is awash with gallantry and glory, featuring gallant charges, commanding generals, and the indefatigable soldiers who fought in one of the most momentous battles - and victories -  in history.

But the cost of Waterloo in terms of casualties is staggering, and almost beyond comprehension. The Anglo-Allied forces led by the Duke of Wellington counted more than 15,000 dead or wounded, while the Prussians under Gebhard von Blücher lost over 7,000 men. Napoleon's French army suffered the greatest losses, with estimates of those killed and wounded as high as 26,000. All told, that's approximately 48,000 men killed and wounded in the final great battle of a war that had dragged on for an entire generation.

While those at home in Britain cheered the victory, they also struggled to come to both emotional and intellectual terms with those losses. Among them was painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851.) In August, 1817, Turner traveled to Waterloo himself; the battlefield had by then become so popular with visitors that guidebooks were being published to assist those who came in homage, respect, or curiosity. One day was apparently inspiration enough for Turner, who then returned home to create The Field of Waterloo, above. (Click on the image to enlarge for detail.)

Instead of the heroics of a great victory, Turner chose to depict the horrors of the battlefield after the fighting was done. This is the era before ambulances, and the wounded were left on the field together with the dead, to be found by family or friends, or become the victims of looters. Turner focuses on a group of these women searching for missing loved ones through the night, their light washing over the twisted, bloody bodies of men and horses. Echoing their small light is one of the signal rockets in the distance that were lit to discourage looting, a brighter light that also serves to show the vast desolation of the field. There are no patriotic flags or standards here in the darkness. Instead it's impossible to tell enemies apart, with all now unified in death and suffering.

One of the reviews of the painting (in The Examiner, 24 May 1818) aptly described it as:

"...the fiery explosions and carnage after the battle, when the wives and brothers and daughters and sons of the slain came, with anxious eyes and agonised hearts, to look at Ambition's charnel-house after the slaughtered victims of legitimate selfishness and wickedness."

More telling is that for the painting's first exhibition in 1818, Turner chose the following passage from Lord Byron's Childe Harold to accompany it. This is Byron's own response to Waterloo, from the gaiety of the Duchess of Richmond's ball, through the battle, to the final, harrowing outcome. Linked together, these two great artists made a single, powerful statement about war.

  "Last noon behold them full of lusty life;
   Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay;
   The midnight brought the signal – sound of strife;
   The morn the marshalling of arms – the day,
   Battle's magnificently stern array!
   The thunder clouds close o'er it, which when rent,
   The earth is covered thick with other clay
   Which her own clay shall cover, heaped and pent,
   Rider and horse – friend, foe, in one red burial blent!"

Above: The Field of Waterloo, by J.M.W. Turner, 1818. Tate, Britain.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Royal Waterloo Bath—from the Archives

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Royal Waterloo Bath, London
Loretta reports:

A great many structures were named after the 18 June 1815 Battle of Waterloo, whose 200th anniversary we commemorate this week. Many still exist.  This doesn't.
~~~

Plate 34.—ROYAL WATERLOO BATH.
This very elegant floating bath is stationed near the north end of the Waterloo-bridge, and has recently been built and completed with entirely new and substantial materials, in a style of superior accommodation, at a very considerable expense: it contains a plunging-bath, 24 feet long by 8 feet wide, and two private baths, 10 feet long by 8 feet wide. The depth may be regulated at pleasure by machinery, which raises or depresses the bottom as required, secured by cross timbers, and bound with iron. To each of the baths are attached small dressing-rooms, commodiously fitted up, with proper persons to attend upon visitors. These baths are so constructed, that the water, being a running stream, is changed every two minutes. The advantage of bathing in a flowing stream is obvious, and gives a decided preference over a cold still bath, which is frequently dangerous from the violence of the shock. The terms of bathing, as our readers will see, are extremely moderate: they are—

                                             £     s.    d.
In the plunging-bath .  0     1     0
For the season . . . . . .  1    11    6
In the private baths .   0     1     6
For the season. . . . . .    2     2     0

Constant attendance at Waterloo-bridge to convey visitors to and from the bath.

Bathing is so essentially connected with health, that we cannot but congratulate the public on this new establishment. It is singular that so few of the kind should be known in London, while there is scarcely a street in the French metropolis that has not its cold, warm, vapour, Chinese, and Tuscan baths, with a variety of others, suiting the capricious tastes of the inhabitants. Yet how deficient they are in the most important article connected with bathing everybody knows, while we have a noble river filled with the purest and most wholesome waters in the world. The want of baths in London has led to the incommodious and indecorous practice of public exposure in the Thames.
~~~
Ackermann's Repository, Vol. 7, June 1819

You can expect more about 19th century bathing in a future post.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

From the archives: The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, 1815

Sunday, June 14, 2015
Isabella reporting,

This week Loretta and I will be posting blogs related to the 1815 Battle of Waterloo - including this one from our archives about the grand party given the night before the battle. 


This week marks the two hundredth anniversary of what has been called the "most famous ball in history," and I can't think of any other with a better claim to the title.

Given as an entertainment for the officers of the Duke of Wellington's army stationed in Brussels, it was in fact a glittering social affair - until Wellington received the news during the ball that the French forces under Napoleon had unexpectedly begun their march. Some officers immediately left the ball to return to their troops, while others stayed so long that they did not change their clothes, and ended up fighting in their evening clothes. By the next morning, all the farewells had been said and the last bugles sounded, and the Anglo-Dutch army was on its way to fight the French at the Battle of Quatre Bras, the first step towards the monumental Battle of Waterloo.

There are numerous first-person accounts of the ball and the combination of excitement, anticipation, foreboding, and bravado that marked its tumultuous end. One of the best was written by Georgiana, Dowager Lady de Ros, and a daughter of the Duchess of Richmond; you can read it here. Another excellent account comes from the Hon. Katherine Arden, daughter of the first Lord Alvanley, who was living in Brussels at the time; read her letter here.

The inherent drama of the ball - music and gaiety poignantly give way to the impending carnage of battle - has appealed to several writers. It figures prominently in William Thackery's Vanity Fair (and the several film versions of the novel) and in Canto the Third of Lord Byron's narrative great poem, Child Harold's Pilgrimage, which can be read here. Most of our readers, however, will remember it from An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer.

The ball also inspired the two paintings shown here. Above is Before Waterloo, painted in 1868 by Henry Nelson O'Neil. Below is The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, by Robert Alexander Hillingford, c. 1870. Both are often used as illustrations in histories of Waterloo. The two artists specialized in painting historical subjects, and while both were well-regarded in their lifetimes, their reputations have diminished considerably over time.

Astute Nerdy History Folk will be quick to point out the problems in both these pictures. First off, of course, the dresses and hairstyles of the women are much more fashionable for the 1860s-70s than 1815. The grandly appointed settings are at odds with Lady de Ros's description of the ball taking place in a "large room on the ground floor...[that]had been used by the coach-builder, from whom the house was hired, to put carriages in." Both paintings, too, are highly romanticized, from the golden glow of the light to the over-the-top nobility of every painted face.

But much like another painting of a similar scene, The Black Brunswickers (which I've already blogged about here) by John Everett Millais, painted in 1859, these Victorian artists weren't interested in precisely documenting a historical scene. Instead they were using the past to appeal to their contemporary audience. The underlying theme of all three paintings is a strong, somber sense of duty and patriotism, of men willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their countries.

Britain in the 1860s was changing rapidly, moving away from it agricultural heritage and evolving into an industrial, imperial power. Old ways and values were fading away. The Napoleonic Wars were fifty years ago, a sufficient distance to sentimentalize and revere as a lost era of gallantry, another kind of Camelot. The whole effect in these paintings is more histrionic than historical, striving for an emotional response - which they most likely received from Victorian gallery-goers. The Hillingford painting had the additional burden of having been commissioned by the descendants of the Duchess of Richmond (it remains in the collection of the current duke at Goodwood), who likely wished the scene to be shown to its most decorous advantage.

As for the inaccurate costumes: dressing the figures in a variation of contemporary clothing is a long-standing practice to gain an audiences' empathy through the familiar. People respond to what the recognize. It's the reason why Keira Knightly has bangs and smokey eye makeup as Elizabeth Bennett, and why, too, the heroines painted on romance covers always have long, flowing, modern hair and no stays or corsets.

Thanks to Jo Bourne, Miranda Neville, and Patrick Baty for their thoughts via Twitter regarding this post.

Above: Before Waterloo, by Henry Nelson O'Neil, 1868.
Below: The Duchess of Richmond's Ball, by Robert Alexander Hillingford, c. 1870.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Breakfast Links: Week of June 8, 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015
Fresh for your weekend browsing - our weekly round-up of fav links to other web sites, articles, blogs, and images, gathered for  you via Twitter.
• On the way to masculinity: women in trousers, 1914.
• Beautiful photographs of a visit to Dr. Johnson's house in London.
• How ritual vessels from China's Bronze Age have influenced various modern objects.
• The nightwalker and the nocturnal picaresque: 17thc. London at night.
• Two late 19thc. albums lead to the story of an African-American family in North Adams, MA.
• Now digitized and online thanks to Cornell University: Harper's Bazaar, 1867-1900.
Images: Advertisements from the 1960s: "When boredom and fatigue bring on Housewife Headache."
Knitting and sewing for girls at an 18thc. charity school.
• Defining the abstract concept of deep nerdery: the definitive post on James Bond's suits.
• The New York Female Giants: briefly a league of their own, c 1913.
• Preserved and full-dressed corpse of 350-year-old French noblewoman discovered.
• William Anthony, the last of the Charlies.
Image: Fleet Market was built on the culverted Fleet River in 1736, in turn was cleared in 1829 to build Farringdon Street in London.
• The complicated history of the tampon.
• Useful historical textile booklet "toolkits" to download free from UK's Design & Textile Specialists.
• Dear Librarian: the New York Public Library reveals some of its quirkiest inquiries.
• Twenty-one morbidly fascinating things from Scotland Yard's crime museum.
Image: Autographed seating plan for an 1877 dinner with many literary luminaries: Longfellow, Emerson, Howell, more.
• Hodge, Samuel Johnson's favorite cat.
Etheldreda Laing: portraits by a pioneering early 20thc. color photographer.
• Death by hair.
• The Victorian fraudster who unwittingly acquired Henry VII's marital bed.
Image: Oxford's High Street has changed very little in 200 years: Turner's 1810 painting & a modern photograph.
• Ancient gladiator school linked to the Colosseum in Rome to be restored.
• Poignant photographs of suitcases & belongings of incoming patients of Willard (NY) Psychiatric Center, 1910-1960; most never left.
• Georgian actor David Garrick's homage to Shakespeare in the form of a garden folly.
Image: See how your country estate will look before and after improvements.
• True blue: A brief history of the color ultramarine.
• Queer as folk: the fantastical costumes of old English festivals.
• The sad fate of William Pitt the Younger's childhood home.
• A wealthy NYC dry goods merchant gave his son this lavish mansion as a holiday gift in 1908.
Medicine and surgery at Waterloo.
• Novelist Georgette Heyer's birthplace now honored with an English Heritage Blue Plaque.
Image: Just for fun: Who needs an editor, anyway?
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Above: At Breakfast by Laurits Andersen Ring. Private collection.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Friday Video: Battle of Waterloo in Legos

Friday, June 12, 2015
Loretta reports:

I was a little surprised, not long ago, to read the following:
“A recent survey of 2,070 people conducted by the National Army Museum indicated that 73 per cent of Britons had little or no knowledge of the Battle of Waterloo, believing variously that it was won by the French, involved Winston Churchill or the wizard Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter books.” It appeared in this piece on the recreation, for the 200th anniversary of the battle, of the Duke of Wellington’s victory banquet.

Still, I know that those of us who've written Regency and Romantic era fiction aren't the only ones for whom the battle of 18 June 1815 looms large. Here is the Battle of Hougoumont in Legos.

Here is a man who’s painted thousands of soldiers. Books and films and videos abound. But if you aren't clear about what happened and why it mattered, you might want to spend a few minutes watching this Epic History: Battle of Waterloo.

Update: Mea culpa!  I failed to give credit to Number One London, who called the Legos battle (and many other Waterloo objects of interest) to my attention.

Readers who receive our blog via email might see a rectangle, square, or nothing where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Queen Victoria, a Polka, & 8,000 Soldiers, 1853

Thursday, June 11, 2015
Isabella reporting,

The most popular image of Queen Victoria today is the one shown in late 19th c. photographs: a short, stout, elderly woman in widow's weeds, staring grimly away from the camera.

But it was a much different queen that captivated her subjects early in her reign. Victoria was only 18 when she was crowned queen in 1837, and 21 when she married Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. She was painted, drawn, and engraved to show her to flattering advantage as a small, slender, and pretty young woman. The majority of the country would never see her in person, and in those days long before television, this image of the elegant queen was the one that was accepted and revered.

It was also an image used to sell everything from fashionable clothing to soap. The young queen's reign coincided with technological advancements in wood engraving, and color printing (chromolithography) in the 1840s that made illustrated news and culture magazines like the Illustrated London News and Harper's Weekly  both more affordable and more lavish. Gone were the days when prints were laboriously and often crudely colored by hand. Now consumers wanted color illustrations on everything, and publishers were happy to oblige.

These same middle-class consumers were also buying pianos for their parlors and sheet music to play on those pianos. There was an explosion of new social dances to learn - waltzes, polkas, and quadrilles - plus themes from popular plays and arias from the latest operas. To entice buyers, sheet music for these pieces was titled with names that would tie them to popular public figures, political events, exotic locations, and even scientific discoveries, and printed with beautiful illustrations on the covers.

The sheet music for The Camp Polka, above, combines several trends. Printed in London in 1853, the illustration shows the summer camp on Chobham Common in Surrey. The Chobham Camp was the scene of the first large-scale military maneuvers in England since the Napoleonic Wars. Patriotic fervor is usually at its highest right before a war. With the Crimean Wars looming in the future, the spectacle of 8,000 men and 1,500 horses drew crowds of spectators - including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Here the stylishly uniformed queen and prince, riding on spirited steeds, are shown surveying the camp in a neatly arranged show of British might and military prowess. Patriotism, royal celebrities, and horses: what better way to market a polka?

Many thanks to Andrea Cawelti, Ward Music Cataloger, Houghton Library, Harvard University, for her assistance with this post.

Above: The Camp Polka by Chas. d'Albert, sheet music for solo piano. Lithographed by John Brandard, published in London: Chappell, 1853, by M.& N. Hanhart. Harvard University Library. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

London Traffic Rules of the 1800s

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Temple Bar 1830
Loretta reports:

Recently, I explored the mystery of Rotten Row's rules of the road.

Today, I thought we’d look at some general rules of the road for 19th century London.

To being with, there weren’t any. Right. Through most of the 1800s, with a few exceptions, you drove or rode on whatever side of the road you wanted to.

“For much of the century there were, legally, no rules for traffic in most streets.  In the 1840s, buses were equipped with two straps that ran along the roof and ended in two rings hooked to the driver’s arms. When passengers wanted to get down on the left side of the road, they pulled the left strap, for the right, the right strap, and the buses veered across the roads to stop as requested.  Some street had informal traffic arrangements.” One example was Paternoster Row, home of booksellers, publishers, news agents, etc. Here, One day a month, on “Magazine Day,” “‘the carts and vehicles ... enter the Row from the western end, and draw up with horses’ heads towards Cheapside.’”*

In 1852, because of traffic jams at Marble Arch, the police issued the following notice: “‘Metropolitan stage-carriages are to keep to the left, or proper side, according to the direction in which they are going, and must set down their company on that side. No metropolitan stage–carriage, can be allowed to cross the street or road to take up or set down passengers.’”

These rules are the exceptions to the lack of rules. So let’s picture the traffic.

Temple Bar Gate, which seems rather spacious in the above 1830s painting, was a little more than 20 feet across. It stood in one of London’s three main east-west routes. “Carriages were more than six feet wide, and carts often much more.” Now imagine carts, wagons, carriages (including hackneys), riders, pedestrians, all trying to get from St. Paul’s to Pall Mall, arriving at Temple Bar and making a stupendous bottleneck. The 1870 illustration below shows how much room coaches took up.
Temple Bar 1870
The gate wasn’t taken down until 1878.  Fortunately for nerdy historians, Christopher Wren’s handsome arch wasn’t destroyed, but re-erected in 1880 in Theobolds park in Hertfordshire, then eventually re-erected in London in 2004 in Paternoster Row, where you can see it restored to its former glory, and not getting in anybody's way.

*All quotations from Judith Flanders, The Victorian City.  (The book's time span actually reaches to pre-Victorian London.)

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will allow you to read at the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three 18th c. Gentlemen & One Red Velvet Coat: Who Wore It Best?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Isabella reporting,

For 18th c. British gentlemen on their leisurely Grand Tour of Italy, there were certain "must-see" items on their agendas: the Colosseum by moonlight, Venice during Carnival, Naples when Mt. Vesuvius was shooting sparks into the sky...and a stop at the studio in Rome of the painter Pompeo Batoni (1708-1787) for an elegant portrait to ship back home.

While Batoni painted historical and Biblical scenes as well as portraits of Italian clerics and ladies, he had his greatest success painting lush, life-sized portraits of young foreigners in classically-inspired settings. These are only three of the many, many that survive in collections around the world and on the walls of British country houses.

While indulgent parents back home might grumble at the cost of sending their scions oversees for (supposedly) educational trips that might last a year or more, they must have proudly hung these portraits in their libraries and drawing rooms.  Here was the painted proof that their sons were worldly gentleman of learning and accomplishment, of confidence and self-assurance. And, much like a modern selfie, a portrait by Batoni was also proof that the gentleman had actually *been* to Italy.

Batoni knew his patrons' tastes well. In addition to trappings like maps, busts of ancient emperors, weighty tomes, a looming column, and a faithful dog, he also must have offered the suitably exotic "foreign" costume for the portrait. Whether the costume worn in each of these portraits - a fur-lined red velvet coat (worn or draped over the shoulders like a cloak) and red velvet breeches, a white silk satin waistcoat, and a black silk ribbon from the wearer's queue trailing nonchalantly forward around his collar – actually existed in the studio to be worn while posing, or was simply painted in by Batoni doesn't really matter. The beautifully textured velvet and fur indicate a rich, luxurious experience that could only be had in Rome.

So here are three portraits, three gentlemen, one costume, and one painter. Which painting do you think best captures the spirit of the Georgian gentleman having his Roman Moment? (As always, click on the images to enlarge them.)

Top left: Portrait of Richard Milles (1735-1820), by Pompeo Batoni, c. 1760s. National Gallery, London.
Right: Charles Compton, 7th Earl of Northampton (1737-1763), by Pompeo Batoni, 1758. Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.
Bottom left: Portrait of Edward Dring, by Pompeo Batoni, 1758. Private Collection.
 
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