Monday, September 30, 2013

Return Engagement: Hare Townsend, Ladies' Man of the early 19th Century

Monday, September 30, 2013
Loretta reports:

(A rerun of a post that originally appeared in September 2010, from a humor magazine of the 1820s.)

From The Rambler's magazine: or, Fashionable emporium of polite literature, Volume 2, 1823

ANECDOTES OF HARE T—N—D—MR.HARE T—N—D the M.P. is celebrated for his gallantry, and there are many anecdotes related of his amours, which shew him to be a very singular lover, and always a liberal one.

At a meeting of governors, to consider the funds of the Liverpool Lying-in Hospital, Mr. Hare sent a donation of £50; upon which, a governor remarked : " This is very liberal, for, if I mistake not, Mr. Hare is an annual subscriber." That I do not know, said the attendant accoucheur,* but I am certain he is an annual supplyer, and furnishes us with more practice than all the room besides.

A cockney who had long wished for a family, and had a wife more inclined to breed mischief than any thing else, removed her into Lancashire, not many miles from W—l—n, the seat of Mr. Hare T—n—d. There, to his great joy, she conceived and brought forth twins. The Reverend and witty Jack Pigot was in company with the citizen, when a friend remarked how extraordinary it was that the lady should bear children when she had been ten years married, without ever giving signs if such a happy event before. I think, said the husband, it is all owing to this country air.—No doubt, replied Jack Pigot, we are blessed with a fine Hare in this country that makes every woman breed like a rabbit. ——

Meeting once a little ragged urchin begging, he stopt to relieve him, and remarked: You are a fine boy, where is your mother — In the workhouse, please your worship. And who was your father, my little fellow !—I never had a father, said the child. Ah! muttered T—n—d as he walked away: 'Tis the first time I ever knew a child to be fatherless, and me in the parish.

A man and a woman were brought before him and some other magistrates. The woman was very great with child, and the bench suggested the man's commitment to gaol. Let me question them first, said Mr. Hare T—n—d. A pretty pair you are, said he, to get children without being married, how comes this ? Please your worship, replied the trembling sinners: We could'nt help it. Ah! observed he, and it were a sin to punish people for what they can't help; and as for once I did not help to get this child, I'll help you to get through the world with it. I have a fellow-feeling for you, as God knows I myself am often condemned for what I could not help.


Saturday, September 28, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of September 23, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013
Served up fresh just for you! This week's collection of Breakfast Links is ready and waiting, offering our fav links of the week to other blogs, web sites, tumblrs, articles, and images, all gathered from around the Twitterverse.
• Victorian skirt lifter - or is it a dress holder? c. 1878
• Women playing soccer in 1880s: The Honeyballers, women who fought to play football in Scotland.
• Inside the crystal cave: enchanting 18th c. grotto at Painshill Park unveiled after year-long restoration.
• Recreated 16th-17th c. "banqueting stuffe" for a lavish table.
• The touching story of Mary Rand's pincushion: "Welcome little stranger...though the port is block't up 1774.)
Golf and the Gilded Age at the Newport, RI Golf Club.
St. Augustine's Tower, a 13th c. structure that has survived in the middle of London for over 600 years.
• Speaking of favorite teas - who was Earl Grey?
• Sir John Malcom and the diamonds at the court of the Shah of Persia, 1810.
• Manly slang from the 19th c.
Love tokens: how to tell her you love her, in the style of a true Georgian gentleman.
• Early 19th c. schoolgirl maps.
• Why drunken women don't make good sweethearts, 1795.
• Bring on the shoulder pads: the culture of 1980s power dressing & the movie Working Girl.
Radical rogues in the Regency period - revisiting a classic article & some dirty rotten scoundrels.
Gender testing in antiquity.
• How original is this original source? Timothy Dwight's Journal of Madam Knight - 1704 or 1824?
• For the first day of autumn: 1953 photos of kids playing in the leaves.
• The extravagant Oak Room from the New River Company: 17th c. painted ceiling and Grinling Gibbons woodwork.
• Lt. Polhill of the 95th, profile from Our Heroes of the Crimea, 1855.
• On-line exhibition: Recipes for Domesticity: Cookery, Household Management, & the Notion of Expertise.
Berengaria of Navarre, the long-suffering wife of Richard the Lionheart.
• T-shirt power: a short history of the man's white undershirt.
• More about the real Madame de Pompadour, the most powerful courtesan of her day.
• This 17th c. lady's vizard mask, worn to protect the face, was discovered hidden in the wall.
• The lost Whitney Mansion on Fifth Avenue in NYC saw its share of millionaire drama.
Mournful creatures: animals, death, and animal grief.
• When did people start calling Revolutionary War General John Burgoyne "Gentleman Johnny"? Umm, early 1900s.
• What's for lunch? 18th c. recipe for favorite Georgian dish of pickled pork and pease pudding.
• How would you have died in 1810? Play this interactive game and risk dropsy, quinsy, consumption, and worms.
• Pineapples and earthquakes: a visit to 17th c. Jamaica with Hans Sloane.
• Revealed: the violent world of the young J.S. Bach, complete with gang warfare, bullying, sadism, and sodomy.
• Book go bang! A novelty book from 1910, with a cap pistol mechanism tucked inside the covers.
• Just for fun: the Oxford Dictionaries take on the lyrics of Led Zeppelin.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twiter @2nerdyhistgirls for daily updates.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Video: Baryshnikov Dances as "Vestris"

Friday, September 27, 2013

Isabella reporting,

This week I've been mildly obsessed with the great 18th c. father and son dancers Gaeton and Auguste Vestris, writing about them here and here. (And yes, after going off on this true Nerdy History Girl tangent, I can pretty much guarantee that a fictionalized version of the family will be turning up soon in one of my books.) One of our Anonymous commenters wrote that it was a shame that we had no video of Auguste, so that we could enjoy his dancing today.

Obviously, there isn't any video from 1781. However, I did discover a performance by one of the modern era's greatest dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov, dancing in a style inspired by Auguste Vestris. This video itself almost qualifies as historical: it dates from 1969 when Baryshnikov was only 21 - the same age as Vestris when he took London by storm in 1781.

I believe the video is from Russian television. It begins with a brief segment entirely in Russian, showing Baryshnikov working with the ballet's choreographer, Leonid Jakobson, to develop characterization. I don't begin to understand what is being said (and if anyone out there does, please let me know!) but it's still fascinating to watch. The Vestris ballet was first presented at the International Dance Competition in Moscow; Baryshnikov earned a gold medal for his performance. The entire ballet follows at approximately 2:25 if you want to skip ahead.

Auguste Vestris was an innovator in several ways. He was one of the first dancers to rely on his own facial expressions instead of a mask, and amazed audiences by how swiftly he could change from one character to the next. Baryshnikov does this as well, and it's astonishing. Vestris was also famous for the athleticism of his leaps and spins, another talent that Baryshnikov shares. Most of all, both dancers delighted their audiences with their performances. I hope you enjoy this, too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Horseless Carriages of the 1820s

Thursday, September 26, 2013
Mr. Gurney's New Steam Carriage (1827)
Loretta reports:

While researching something else altogether, I stumbled on this description of an "Improved Steam Carriage" in a magazine published on this date in 1829. 

Not being good with matters mechanical, I’m not at all clear on the two-vehicle approach or what makes the 1829 version an improvement over the 1827 model. I post both for you to compare and contrast, as well as links to the descriptions.  If like me you find the prose less than enlightening, you might simply enjoy looking at the pictures of early horseless carriages.

From The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, & Instruction, Saturday, September 26, 1829.
Descriptions of Mr. Gurney's carriage have been so often before the public, that extended detail is unnecessary. Besides, all our liege subscribers will turn to the account in our No. 287.

The recent improvements have been perspicuously stated by Mr. Herapath, of Cranford, in a letter in the Times newspaper, and we cannot do better than adopt and abridge a portion of his communication.
Mr. Gurney's Improved Steam Carriage (1829)

"The present differs from the earlier carriage, in several improvements in the machinery, suggested by experiment; also in having no propellers; and in having only four wheels instead of six; the apparatus for guiding being applied immediately to the two fore-wheels, bearing a part of the weight, instead of two extra leading wheels bearing little or none. No person can conceive the absolute control this apparatus gives to the director of the carriage, unless he has had the same opportunities of observing it which I had in a ride with Mr. Gurney. Whilst the wheels obey the slightest motions of the hand, a trifling pressure of the foot keeps them inflexibly steady, however rough the ground... (Read the full description here.)

The Mystery of the Missing Blog Posts

A Study in Scarlet
Loretta & Isabella report:

Readers who get our blog via email will notice it’s started cutting off abruptly.  And the pictures have disappeared.  Not really, though.  If you click on the title, you’ll be magically transported to the blog online, where you’ll see the whole post plus pictures.  And where you can communicate via the Comments section with other Nerdy History persons.  And search for posts on a topic of your choice.  And see more pictures. And ask us questions we’ll probably answer eventually.

We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.

Illustration: D. H. Friston, (1887) Sherlock Holmes's first appearance, courtesy Wikipedia.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

When Politics Made a Performer a Fox, 1781

Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Isabella reporting,

In my last post, I shared an elegant portrait of the celebrated dancer Auguste Vestris (1760-1842). There are, however, a good many more images of both Auguste and his father, Gaëtan (1729-1808), from the time, and they're far less flattering.

There was much about the two dancers that made them the perfect targets for the infamous satiric caricaturists of late 18th c. London: they were extremely popular on the stage, they were handsome, athletic, and fashionable, they made a great deal of money, and, most of all, they were foreigners (Gaëtan was a Florentine with a German wife, while his illegitimate son Auguste had been born in Paris to a French mother). It didn't matter that father and son weren't particularly politically inclined, or that they traveled from one country to the next for work, much as performers do today. To the English caricaturists they were plundering FRENCH, and since England was perpetually at war with France during the 18th c., that was enough.

It's interesting that in several caricatures, it's not Gaëtan or Auguste who are the ridiculed the most, but the English audiences who supported them. Both of the drawings here are accompanied with long, scolding verses that liken the Vestris supporters to not-very-bright geese.

The print, above, shows Gaëtan giving dancing lessons to a goose. He's dressed like a stylish macaroni, complete with an exaggerated wig, and the extra-dark brows and large nostrils show he is Not English (though to be fair, Gaëtan's portrait by Thomas Gainsborough shows a certain haughtiness as well). Ten verses question how England has come to value Vestris and dancing over everything else (you can read them all here):

  Of all the fine Accomplishments, sure Dancing far the best is,
  But if a doubt with you remains, behold the Goose and Vestris....
  Poor Milton wrote the most Sublime, 'gainst Satan, Death, and Vice,
  But very few would quit a Dance to purchase Paradise....
  The Soldier risks Health, Life, and Limbs, his Fortune to advance,
  While Pique and Vestris Fortunes make by one Night's single dance....

The print, below, is even more direct: A Vestrician Dish, or, Caper Sauce for a Goose Pye. Auguste is shown dancing gracefully on the stage of the Opera-House in the Haymarket, but the artist has replaced his head with that of a wily fox, and given him a fox's tail as well. His English audience hasn't fared any better: they're all shown as a flock of too-trusting, admiring geese under his spell. Here's part of the caption; read the rest here.

  If a Fox should appear from a pilfering band,
  Who has rifl'd your Roots and have damag'd your Land,
  What Loons would allow such a Thing still to fleece,
  If they were not a mere Set of Cackling Geese.

  Shall he gull us, because he can caper and reel,
  And wreathe his fine Body, like any Thames Eel,
  Such a Thing was ne'er heard of in Rome or in Greece,
  As a Fox well supported and courted by Geese....

  I now have a Guess at the Reason, I vow;
  So the longer we live, still the wiser we grow;
  It is a French Fox, all Pomatum and Grease,
  That so prettily tickles our English Geese.

Top: Detail, Six guineas entrance and a guinea a lesson, print by Paul Sandby, c. 1782-84. The British Museum.
Below: Detail, A Vestrician dish, or a caper sauce for a goose-pye, published by F. Assen & J. Jones, c. 1781. The British Museum.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Changing Horses in the Early 19th Century

Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Mail Changing Horses at the Falcon Inn
Loretta reports:

In the Comments section of a recent Casual Friday blog, Anonymous asked:

"Could you clarify how horses were switched out at posting houses? I can't seem to find out what happened to the horses that an owner left at the first stop. Were these privately owned horses boarded until the owner returned and took possession? After reading your blog and the Jane Austen's World blog it really opened my eyes to what a huge operation owning a posting house could be. I believe I read that there could be something like 2000 horses boarded and made ready for the mail coaches. Thanks for any insight!"

As one who loves to write road books, I’ve had a good excuse to acquire works on early 19th C travel, as mentioned here.

It's helpful to remember that the hired horses traveled only between stages, back and forth, and the stages averaged about ten miles apart (short stages over challenging terrain, longer stages over easier ground, generally speaking).  Then the horses would go back to the place they came from. A Regency writer once used the U-Haul concept as an analogy.

So your fictional person’s horses probably wouldn’t have gone more than a dozen or so miles from home on the first stage.  (Books Like Paterson’s Roads show the coaching routes and the places where one changed horses.)  In short, the horses would be easy enough for a servant to retrieve, if the owner isn’t returning soon.
The Runaway Coach

According to Cecil Aldin's The Romance of the Road, "The more wealthy sent on relays of horses for the shorter journeys, or might hire post-horses where necessary." Gentlemen who constantly traveled the same route might have their own teams stabled along the way.  A good alternative is to hire horses from the outset.  In the case you describe, while it’s possible that a gentleman would use his fine carriage horses for the first stage of a long journey, it's equally possible he preferred to use hired animals.

I invite our horse and carriage experts to weigh in on this interesting topic!

Illustration credits
Above left: James Pollard, Mail Changing Horses at the Falcon Inn, Waltham Cross, courtesy Wikipedia.  Below right: Thomas Rowlandson, The Runaway Coach, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Dandy Dancer, or a Dancing Dandy, 1793

Sunday, September 22, 2013
Isabella reporting,

This well-dressed gentleman was the first portrait that greeted visitors in the recent Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion exhibition at the RISD Museum (another post about the show here). His name is Auguste Vestris (1760-1842), and he was (obviously) included in the exhibition for his remarkably stylish appearance – clearly a born dandy.

Monsieur Vestris also reflects the dramatic change in men's clothing that would be embraced by gentlemen like Beau Brummell. Gone are the bright colors, extravagant wigs, embroidered waistcoats, and full-skirted coats of earlier 18th c. gentlemen. Stylish young men like Vestris now preferred a more subdued effect overall, with a new emphasis on the finer details of fit and fabric. His high-collared grey broadcloth coat is closely tailored to display his lean and athletic body. His waistcoat is pale yellow silk, barely containing his voluminous cravat of immaculate white linen. His shaggy fur hat is tipped at a jaunty angle, and he wears yellow gloves with a bamboo walking stick tucked beneath his arm. He wears his own hair, not an old-fashioned wig, and for extra dash, gold hoop earrings.

But as wonderful as this portrait is as a fashion statement, I was still curious to learn more about the sitter. Turns out Auguste Vestris was an acclaimed professional dancer and teacher with a colorful history to match his wardrobe. He was born into a dancing family: his Italian father was Gaëtan Apolline Balthazar Vestris, the most celebrated dancer of his generation in Europe and Louis XVI's ballet-master, and his mother was a much-younger French dancer, Marie Allard. Auguste followed his parents to the stage, making his dancing debut at aged 12.

By the time he followed his father to London in 1780, young Auguste had become the kind of celebrity that's usually associated with modern singers named Justin. He was called "le Dieu de la Danse" - "the God of the Dance." His performances were packed, and the ladies in particular found him and his dancing irresistible. The buzz around him was so great that on the night of a special benefit performance in 1781, the House of Commons adjourned early so the members would be able to attend; Vestris himself earned over fourteen hundred pounds that evening, an astounding amount for any 18th c. performer.

 Here's Horace Walpole's droll description of Auguste-Vestris-mania:

"The theatre was brimful in expectation of Vestris. At the end of the second act [of the ballet Ricimero] he appeared; but with so much grace, agility and strength, that the whole audience fell into convulsions of applause: the men thundered, the ladies forgetting their delicacy and weakness, clapped with such vehemence, that seventeen broke their arms, sixty-nine sprained their wrists, and three cried bravo! bravissimo! so rashly, that they have not been able to utter so much as a no since, any more than both Houses of Parliament."

The satiric print of a performance, right, seems to focus on Auguste's very tight breeches as well as his success. In his right hand he holds his hat, filled with bank-notes, and in the other is a full purse. The print's title Oh qui goose-toe [O che gusto] is an unsubtle allusion to Vestris's Italian heritage, while the caption below is equally mocking:  "He Danc'd like a Monkey, his Pockets well-crammed,/Capered off with a Grin, 'Kiss my A--- & be D–––d.'"

Still, he who laughs last, laughs best. It's no wonder Auguste Vestris projects such attitude in his portrait – he obviously earned it.

For comparison - here's another, earlier portrait of Auguste, painted when he was twenty-ish, by Thomas Gainsborough c. 1780.

Above: Portrait of Auguste Vestris, by Adèle Romany, 1793. RISD Museum. 
Below: Oh qui goose-toe! (Auguste Vestris Dancing), print made by Francesco Bartolozzi, after Nathaniel Dance; published in London by W. Humphrey, 1781.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of September 20, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013
Served up fresh - our round up of this week's fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, gathered for you from around the Twitterverse.
• Resplendent gentleman's dressing gown with repeating pattern of foliage and mytical beasts, c. 1905-15.
• "The true and beloved lady of the English": Ealhswith, Wife of King Alfred the Great.
• "My Sweetheart Went Down with the Ship": Titanic related piano music.
• These 19th c. women helped map the universe - yet still couldn't get any respect and were dubbed the "Harvard Harem."
• September 15, 1813: Jane Austen writes from London to her older sister Cassandra.
• The evil of beans - just ask any ghost or vampire.
• Prince Albert's cultural legacy: Albertopolis.
• The last of a once-princely 18th c. Anglo-Mughal dynasty: a peasant farmer in Northern India, heir to an English barony.
Fanny Campbell: or, The Female Pirate Captain, 1844.
* The top ten restaurants in London - in the 1890s.
• "The true Arte of Defence": Elizabethan fencing and a video demonstrating Renaissance combat from the !595 Club.
• An East India Company merchant's belongings in 1618: pistol, teapot, soap, and a satin doublet.
• A short history of the birthing chair.
• Did that historical costume look familiar in the last film you saw? It's most likely recycled - over and over and over.
• Georgians had to pay tax on their hair powder - and now the tax certificates are a historical research tool.
• The very practical "yard" in the design of Early American gardens and landscapes.
• The spoil of mariners: in 1780 alone, scurvy killed 1,600 men in a fleet of 12,000 while enemy action killed only sixty.
• A 1903 undertaker muses about the curious garb and strange shrouds his clients choose to be buried in.
• Young, smart, & brave - and possibly the worst spy ever: Nathan Hale, captured this week in 1775.
• Did Hollywood give the 1920s a boob job in latest The Great Gatsby remake?
• The serious and the smirk: the smile in portraiture through history.
• OK, so this is silly: Ikea instructions for Stonehenge.
• Nineteen famous Thomas Jefferson "quotes" that he actually never said at all.
• Long-gone houses of a millionaire's family: the lost George J. Gould Mansions at 857 Fifth Avenue, New York.
• Shopping on the move: the street traders of Georgian London.
• Godey's Lady's Book outlined exactly how to make a dress in 1851.
• Jane Mecom writes to her brother Benjamin Franklin about the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775.
• Fascinating site devoted to forgotten bookmarks - the things discovered tucked inside used books.
• A landmark Victorian Temple of Relief in Birmingham.
• "Take middling rabbits, neither too young nor old": 18th c. recipe for Ragoo of Rabbits.
• Hogwarts in Manhattan! The 1,000+ weird and wonderful gargoyles of City College.
• Late-medieval recipes for making ink.
• A sad victim of eighteenth-century debauchery: "The Ruined Girl", 1786.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Casual Friday Horrible Histories explain WWI

Friday, September 20, 2013
View online here
Loretta reports:

With Russia looming large again in a debate about military action in the Mideast, I thought this Horrible Histories explanation of the origins of WWI offered an opportunity to compare and contrast alliances and the complications they create.

Or, you can ignore current politics and just enjoy the clip on its own merits.*

Image: British Navy at War (1915) courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

*Readers who receive our blog via email might see only a rectangle or blank where the video ought to be.  To watch the video, please click on the title to this post.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Arrows in the Hair, 1805-1830

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Isabella reporting,

If you followed Loretta's directions for creating a fashionable early 19th c. hair style and the hair pomade to keep it in place, you're now ready to finish off your Apollo's Knot coiffure with a trendy ornament. Flowers, jewels, and plumes were most customary, but according to fashion plates and portraits, another popular option was an arrow.

The point and shaft of the arrow was thrust through the top of the hair, like a narrow miss by William Tell (though in the fashion plate right, the arrow must have been made in two pieces, to make both ends stick out the front of the hair. An ornament that likely began as a Neo-Classical whim - think an arrow from the quiver of the huntress-goddess Diana - seemed to slide into the Romantic Era with more sentimental connotations. The ornaments were called Cupid's Arrows or Cupid's Darts, and most appear to be brass or other gold-toned metal.

I say "appear" because I haven't been able to find any examples in on-line museum collections. My guess is that the arrows were the kind of fast-fashion hair accessory that wasn't made to last, and wasn't kept. Still, if any of you have come across a Cupid's Arrow hair ornament, I hope you'll share it – Loretta and I would love to see it!

Top left: Detail, Portrait of Nanette Kaula, by Joseph Karl Stieler, c 1829. Schönheitengalerie.
Top right: Detail, women's fashions plate, 1831.
Bottom left: Detail, Mme. Giuseppina Grassini, by Louise Élisabeth Vigee Le Brun, c. 1805. Private collection.
Bottom right: Detail from La Reunion, fashion plate, c. 1832.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Pomatum or Pomade for Glossy Hair

Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Loretta reports:

Isabella and I have had a few discussions about what women might have used to keep in place those complicated coiffures I showed last week.

Part of my problem in pinning things down, I realized, was thinking in terms of a specific product for a specific purpose, as we have today:  hair sprays, gels, lotions, creams, mousses, Moroccan oils, and so on.

What they had in the early 19th century were hair oils and pomades/pomatums.  Bear grease was a popular pomade, but it seems that not all bear grease in England came from bears.  If you want to make your own bear grease, though, Wild Edible will tell you how.

My recent research tells me the most popular pomatums were made from lard.  Certainly the exact same recipe appears in one publication after another.  As our loyal readers are aware, copyright was not protected, and publications stole freely from one another.

Parisian Pomatum was one I came across again and again, in all kinds of books and magazines.  I'm listing several here, to show both variations and the extent of "borrowing."

A New Supplement to the Pharmacopoeias of London, Edinburgh, Dublin, and Paris: Forming a Complete Dispensatory and Conspectus; Including the New French Medicines and Poisons (1833).  Recipe here.

The Complete Servant, by Samuel and Sarah Adams (1826).  Recipe here.

The Art of Preserving the Hair (1825) Recipe here.

The Art of Beauty (1825). Recipe here.

The Duties of a Lady's Maid (1825).  Recipe here.

Finally, in the London Magazine (1826) you’ll find this lovely rant about the advice offered in The Duties of a Lady's Maid.


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

When Reading Became Fashionable

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Isabella reporting,

The Age of Enlightenment wasn't just about Diderot's encyclopedia and Johnson's dictionary. The 18th c. is also the first time when English and French women began to read.

Yes, I know, there had always been educated women in the elite classes who read and wrote and spoke languages both ancient and modern, but the 1700s mark the beginning of more and more women reading for pleasure (and not just the pleasure of the over-wrought romance reader I featured last week.)

Novels were still a relatively new invention, and an increasingly popular one, too. A growing middle class had the money and leisure for books, and though the men might twit the women about reading romantic novels, they still paid the bookseller bills of their wives and daughters along with their own. Women of fashion weren't afraid of being considered bluestockings because they read, and the perils of heroines like Clarissa, Evelina, and Serena were as avidly discussed over silver tea pots as they were in shops.

Where earlier generations of ladies might have held a nosegay or a bit of needlework when they sat for their portraits, 18th c. women were now shown reading, or with an open book as if they'd just been interrupted. From peeresses to young girls in the new United States of America, these ladies were proudly painted with their books.

When even Mme. du Pompadour, the royal favorite of Louis XV, was painted repeatedly with a book in her hand, you know books were one fashion that was here to stay. Jane Austen is just around the corner of the 19th century. .  .  .

Here are a handful of 18th c. ladies reading; I hope you'll click on the images to enlarge them.

Top to bottom:
Portrait of Madame du Pompadour, by François Boucher, c.1750-58. Scottish National Gallery.
Woman Reading by a Paper-bell Shade, by Henry Robert Morland, c. 1766.
Young Girl Reading, by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c. 1770. National Gallery of Art.
Sophia Drake, by Ralph Earl, c. 1784. Private Collection.
Emily, Marchioness of Kildare, by Allan Ramsay, c. 1764-66. National Museums Liverpool.
Serena Reading, by George Romney, c.1782, Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ornamental Air Stove for September 1825

Monday, September 16, 2013
View online here

Loretta reports:

Though Isabella and I have posted about stoves and other warming devices before, and we know that several methods of heating were used, I was nonetheless taken aback by this "air stove" shown in Ackermann's Repository for September 1825.

Read online here

Read online here

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of September 9, 2013

Saturday, September 14, 2013
We survived Friday the Thirteenth unscathed, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of surprises in this week's Breakfast Links - our fav links to other web sites, blogs, articles, and images, all gathered for you from around the Twitterverse.
• Untangling the tale of the seven Sutherland sisters and their 37 feet of hair.
• Inside a Regency haberdashery shop.
• Storming the castle of love - a great scene on the remains of a medieval ivory mirror case from the 14th century.
• Recipes for 18th c. dogs.
• The WWII propaganda campaign that popularized the myth that carrots help you see in the dark.
• Nottingham in 1796: overrun with giggling, gambling spinsters?
Ladies at the Columbian Exposition see Samoans (and bare flesh?) for the first time, 1893, Chicago.
• Turquoise, belts, buckles and garters tell a tale of chivalry & love in 19th c. mourning & sentimental jewelry.
• The sad tale of the body of James IV, killed at the Battle of Flodden September 9, 1513.
Ale and beer in Shakespeare's time.
• Rapper's delight: a "spirit-rapping" humbug in Bridgeport, CT, 1865.
Tansy time: an old medicinal and culinary herb used for everything from repelling flies to curing hysteria.
• First-person account of Sarah Deming, making her way out of besieged Boston in 1775.
• In honor of Fashion Week, fifty dresses that changed fashion history.
• "We had previously decided to jump into the water before she actually went down": Titanic escape plans.
• Likely as weighty as it sounds: 18th c. recipe for lumber pie.
• Here's a photo of a modern-made lumber pie, plus examples and recipes of historical "bake metes and mince pies."
• "I ought to have the right to control that window!" Etiquette in trains in 1878 and 1929.
• Whatever happened to snuff, that 18th c. vice? Apparently it never went away.
• A 1938 wedding in this NYC mansion features music by operatic stars, including diva Lily Pons.
• When did "chicken" become synonymous with being afraid/terrified?
• "A story of human wrong, suffering, sorrow, & succor": unwanted children of the 19th c.
• Why do some American college campuses look so Gothic?
• Pretty pincushions embroidered by British soldiers in WWI and sent to sweethearts back home.
• "Boil 20-25 minutes": taste-testing a mac & cheese recipe from 1894.
• From long-gone London: four streets off Hockley Hole.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for fresh updates daily!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Friday Video: If "Monty Python & the Holy Grail" Were Marketed Like "Game of Thrones"

Friday, September 13, 2013

Isabella reporting,

Today's video clip has been whipping around the internet all week, but it's just too amusing not to share here as well - and besides, Loretta and I are die-hard Monty Python fans. This fake trailer gives the classic 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail the big-budget-Hollywood treatment reserved for an Epic Historical Blockbuster: all the swirling smoke, slow-motion tortured faces, sudden violence, and huge slashing swords. Yet every bit of it comes from the supremely silly Holy Grail. Hats (or helmets) off to Stéphane Bouley for this great way to begin the weekend!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Creating Fashionable Coiffures in 1828

Thursday, September 12, 2013
Loretta reports:

Regular readers will be aware of my delight in Romantic Era dress, especially the extravagant sleeves and nutty hairstyles.  Isabella/Susan very recently sent me a link to a site where historical hairstyles are recreated.  This inspired me to investigate how it was done and what hair products they used.  So I turned to my trusty The Lady’s Stratagem.

One style we see again and again involves two or more big loops sprouting from the top of the head.  In fashion plates, these present an interesting hairstyling puzzle, which the recreations (Photo 2, top row.  Photos 1 & 2, second row) help solve.  According to The Lady’s Stratagem, the hair can be tied first or:

“Just as commonly, the hair is not tied:  you gather it and hold it very firmly In your left hand, twist it with this same hand, and immediately place the comb on it to hold it.  Then you make nœuds d’Apollon or Apollo knots; so are called the large loops of hair on the summit of the head.  This style has been in fashion for a long time; every one says that it will last.”

And it did, well into the 1830s, until about 1836-7, when fashion went droopy.
View online here

Since the instructions quoted in The Lady’s Stratagem are lengthy, I can only refer you to that book for the details on creating this style—or, if your French is better than mine, you can follow the directions in Arte de se coiffer soi-même, enseigné aux dames (1828) (here or here).

From what I can determine, one of the hair oils we’ve seen advertised or similar product or a pomade was used to keep hair smoothly in place.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Shameful Effects of Reading a Romance, 1760

Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Eighteenth-century women enjoyed reading romances. Just like many of their romance-reading sisters today, they were often ridiculed for doing so.

But while the sighing, novel-reading miss was an easy target, there were also sterner critics who went much farther than simply dismissing romances as a waste of time. To them, reading romantic fiction corrupted virtuous women, and made them more susceptible to seduction and ruin. It's no surprise that the loudest voices were male, certain that female readers needed protecting because they did not possess the ability to read critically or to differentiate between fiction and reality.

Conduct books warned against the dangers of the roman d'amour. In the popular Manuel de la toilette & de la mode by Conrad Salomon Walther, published in 1771, the author claimed that romantic novels played to "the depravity of the reader." Not surprisingly, he disapproved of honest women reading such books: "There are books that one must not read in order to remain virtuous and out of respect for public opinion, which quite correctly esteems that a young woman should remain ignorant about certain things."

All of which explains the state of the young woman, left. Despite her noble intentions to higher learning indicated by the globe and scholarly books on the table, she has succumbed to reading a ::horrors:: romantic novel. Still open beside her, this book has reduced her to a near-swoon, flushed, limp, and spent, with her clothes in disarray. The book has debauched her as surely as a real lover might, here in the intimacy of her own bedchamber. Even her little dog in his brocade kennel seems exhausted by so much literary passion.

Of course this painting isn't a warning, but a sly exaggeration. It's a scene intended to titillate, not serve as a cautionary tale. The artist, Pierre-Antoine Baudoin, painted many such knowing pictures, and this was probably intended to amuse a worldly male patron. Either way, the message is still clear: romance novels are powerful stuff. But we knew that all along, didn't we?

Above: La Lecture, by Pierre-Antoine Baudoin, c. 1760. Musée des Arts décoratifs, Paris.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NHG Library features Vauxhall Gardens: A History

Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Loretta reports:

I’ve been wanting to write about this book ever since I bought it.  The trouble is, we try to keep these posts short, and it’s hard (for me, at any rate) to keep from raving endlessly.  In a nutshell, Vauxhall Gardens: a History, is a wonderfully exhaustive study of Lambeth's famous pleasure gardens, from their beginnings in 1661 as the New Spring Gardens to their demise 200 years later.

Since I hadn't needed to research it, what I knew about Vauxhall was mainly what I’d gleaned from reading traditional Regency romances.  I've now learned how much more Vauxhall had to offer in the Regency than taking chances with rakes in dark walks or eating thin ham or dancing at a masquerade.

Here’s a description of the first Vauxhall appearance of Madame Saqui, the tight and slack rope performer, in 1816:

"[She ascended] to a considerable elevation, and running with wonderful velocity upon a rope extending half down one of the walks, in the face of a tempest of fireworks, and a change of blue lights, which suddenly converted the shades of evening to the brightness of noon.”

The book includes an evocative illustration of this feat amid the "tempest of fireworks."  You'll find as well engravings of other garden attractions, like the Submarine Cave, balloon ascents (and catastrophes), fetes, and performers.  Among other wonderful images is Louis Jullien holding an umbrella while he sings for a packed audience, all under umbrellas.  As is the orchestra.
View online here

If you want to learn about all the “modern” art that was on display, or see what a season ticket looked like, or learn when Paganini played there, or find out when the Hermitage finally got its hermit, this is the book for you.  The appendices offer the kinds of minutiae Nerdy History Persons dote upon:  detailed catalog of the paintings and what became of them, a chronology of important events, and—be still my heart—maps of the gardens, with locations of various buildings and features, for 1742, 1751, 1818, and 1850.

With the book’s help, I was able to locate some of the images, which you can find on our Pinterest Pages here, hereand here.

Vauxhall broadside courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 US

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Even More About Buckskin Breeches

Sunday, September 8, 2013
Isabella reporting,

I've written twice before (here and here) about buckskin breeches, the favorite comfortable and stylish breeches of choice for 18th-early19th c. males, from stable-boys to the sporting noblemen. The photographs illustrating those blog posts show breeches that were modern replicas of ones worn in the 1770s, and made by hand using 18th c. methods as part of the historic trades program of Colonial Williamsburg.

On one of the hottest days of this past summer, I had the opportunity to chat with the maker of those breeches. Jay Howlett is a journeyman saddler in CW's historic trades program, and is not only skilled in working with leather, but also possesses the tailoring necessary to make buckskin breeches. While I was close to expiring from the steamy heat of Tidewater Virginia, Jay was perfectly at ease seated on a stool beneath a tree in 18th c. attire, making the most of the dappled sunlight while he stitched and chatted with visitors. His project that day was a pair of breeches that were a commission for an Englishman who would be wearing them for Regency-era re-enactments. The difference between the buckskin breeches worn by gentlemen in 1770 and 1810 would have been slight; the later ones would likely have a higher rise and waist to reflect the changing styles in menswear as waistcoats became shorter and coats were cut away in the front.

While leather breeches were made from hides ranging from sheepskin to moose, this pair was in fact
traditional deerskin. As Jay explained, buckskin can be made from any leather. "Bucking" is the a mechanical process that breaks the grain surface and produces a soft, irregular nap. The skin was incredibly soft, almost like modern chamois. Processing the deerskin to achieve this would been an involved process in the 18th c.. A paste of cod liver oil and bran was spread on the skins. Then the skins were stacked, creating heat and oxidation that transformed the surfaces. Finally the skins were were rubbed with stiff wire brushes to remove the rough outer surface, revealing the softer leather beneath.

Jay estimated that it takes him about thirty hours to make a pair of breeches. I was impressed by the care that he put into the seams, matching and enclosing all edges. Not only would this have made a stronger seam, but a more comfortable one as well, smooth and without raw edges. His seams were a neat twelve stitches to the inch - though Jay said he'd seen an original 18th c. pair that was sewn at an astonishing gauge of twenty-five stitches to the inch!

Photographs copyright Susan Holloway Scott.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Breakfast Links: Week of September 2, 2013

Saturday, September 7, 2013
Back to school, and back to Breakfast Links - our tastiest links to other blogs, sites, articles, and images, all gathered fresh for you each week from around the Twitterverse.
• Beyond the grave: diagnosing a 10th c. Viking poet and warrior who had a legendarily hard head.
• A lady typist's ghost on Wall Street, 1901.
• Turning heads in 1916 & 1917: fashionable images from the Bellas Hess & Co catalogue.
Tight-ropes over the Thames: a precarious history.
• This week in 1813, Lord Byron cannot bear to give up Annabella Milbanke, and writes a very long letter to her to prove it.
• The ritual of the morning toilette is another of Louis XIV's contributions to fashion.
• The inspiration Jane Austen found in Chawton.
• "Am I too square?" How a boy asked a girl to dance in 1955.
• How to elope in style, 1793.
• New York's 1883 Hotel Gerlach boasted a rooftop kennel with treadmill, stained woodwork, and "green walls with pictures hung."
Emily Dickinson's personal collection of sheet music.
• "Sorry-for-sin Coupard": 20 of the worst and 20 of the most strangely pleasant Puritan names.
• Inside Manchester's historic Victoria Baths.
• "You will then know how to talke to me": in 1864, an ex-slave wrote to his former owner and told her he was returning with an army to rescue his children.
• Not for faint-hearted cooks: 18th c. recipe for potting a wild fowl.
• Rare color photographs of Imperial Russia, 1909-1915.
• A colonial Virgina tale of sex and betrayal: Bartholomew Dandridge sets a trap, c 1760.
• Ten buildings that survived the Great Fire of London in 1666.
• The Eidophusikon, an 18th c. animated miniature theatre which "held the mirror up to nature."
• It's a secret to everyone: a tiny landscape painting hidden until you bend the pages of this 19th c. book.
• Medford, MA home recognized for bringing to life the history of slavery in colonial Massachusetts.
• Why you should visit the Times Square Visitor Center (even if you live in New York.)
• The infamous Hellfire Club is reduced to a 19th c. tourist attraction in West Wycombe.
Goat suet & goose grease are some of the unusual ingredients for 18th c. lip salves and other beauty products.
• A very sympathetic husband suffers from male morning sickness and labor pains, c 1690.
Hungry for more? Follow us on Twitter @2nerdyhistgirls for updates daily.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Casual Friday: Late Victorian Travel Films

Friday, September 6, 2013
Courtesy Library of Congress
Loretta reports:

Some early travel films, set to rather sad music.  Yes, as some of the YouTube comments point out, everyone in these films is dead.  However, those people were very much alive when they were being filmed.  So you might wish to choose your own music to accompany it—and have fun, as I did, trying to guess the locales.  I was delightfully surprised to see early film footage of a locale featured in Mr. Impossible.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

"Curls Frizzed Out with Laborious Nicety", 1747

Thursday, September 5, 2013
Isabella reporting,

Whenever I write books set in the 17th-18th c., the question of wigs always makes my editors very nervous. If I were to be true to the times, all my noble-born characters would be wearing hair other than their own. Apparently, however, this is too horrifying a concept for modern readers to accept, so I have to be very discreet whenever mentioning wigs or other false hair. No matter that nearly every modern Hollywood celebrity sports a full head of glued-on extensions....but I digress.

Still, while wig-wearing was very popular in Georgian London, it wasn't above being ridiculed as a fashionable frivolity, and there are scores of caricatures such as this and this poking fun at the style. The following passage begins with a brief history of wig-wearing, but soon lapses in scornful criticism. It's from a description of the peruke (wig) maker's trade from The London Tradesman, written by Robert Campbell in 1747. He might have had the exaggerated pair, above, in mind.

Our Forefathers were contented with their own Hair, and never dreamed of thatching their Skulls with false-curls. It is a foreign Invention, but of what Country I cannot learn, and appeared among us at the Restoration...It was originally but rude and simple, but kept a nearer Resemblance to Nature than it does at present; the Fashion was to wear Wigs nearly resembling the natural Colour of our Hair, and shaped in such manner as to make the artificial Locks appear like a natural Production; but in Process of Time full-bottomed Wiggs became the Mode; and the Heads of our Beaus and Men of Fashion were loaded with Hair...and the Natural Colour was laid aside for Silver Locks. The Bobb, the Pig-tail, Tuppe, Ramilie, and a Number of Shapes, are now become the Mode. Sometimes the Beaus appear plaistered all over with Powder and Pomatum, and their Curls frizzled out with laborious Nicety; at other Times the Powder Puff is laid aside, and they affect to dress in Wanton Ringlets. Originally Wiggs were confined to the Male Part of the Species, but of late, that usurping Sex the Ladies, are grown ashamed of the Natural Production of their own Heads, and lay Snares for our Hearts in artificial...Têtes de Mouton [sheep's heads]. The Black, the Brown, the Fair and Carroty, appear now all in one Livery; and you can no more judge of your Mistress's natural Complexion by the Colour of her Hair, than by that of her Ribbons. The whole Species of our Modern Beaus and Belles appear in a perpetual Masquerade, and seem contending with one another who shall deviate most from Nature, and the ancient Simplicity of their Forefathers.

Above: Modern Refinement, or, The Two Macaronis, published 1772 by Francis Adams. Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fashions for September 1815

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Loretta reports:

You may find the description of the dinner dress confusing.  I’ve always associated the color primrose with yellow, and my research seems to agree, although the Smithsonian’s botany page offers a variety whose petals are “rose-purple to white, rarely cream-yellow, or rarely orange-red.”

The dress in the plate is not yellow, and might have been intended to be purple, though I suspect not.  I decided the artist in charge of coloring the plate misunderstood.  If those of you who’ve made a closer study of 19th century women’s magazines can solve the mystery, all of us nerdy history persons will be fascinated and grateful.


Read online here

From Ackermann's Repository, September 1815
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