Saturday, 28 February 2015

The Best of the Georgian Web

It's that time again, so settle back and enjoy the best of the Georgian web this week!

When Haydn Met Herschel
A tale of a remarkable meeting.

Not Just Waterloo
Six great defeats for Napoleon.

Early Maps of London
A great resource if, like me, you are a map-lover!

The Dawn of the Regency
A potted history!

Shoes for a Gentleman
A closer look at some gorgeous shoes...

Why People Rioted, 1816
Some civil unrest, Regency style.

The Chapel of the Tolpuddle Martyrs
News on a new Trust dedicated to the preservation of the chapel.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Whoring Drunkards, Killer Cosmetics and More... The Top 5 of February

Settle back with a cup of tea, wrap up warm and enjoy the most popular posts of February 2015!

Marie Antoinette's Fauteuil de Toilette
A closer look at the late French queen's make up chair...

A Salon Guest: The Hampden Clubs
A club for Regency gentlemen with a difference by Charlotte Russell!

Fashion Dolls
Jacki Delecki spills the beans on fashion dolls in the Regency. 

"A drunken whoring soul": The Life of William Wotton
The tale of a most singular holy man.

The Art of Deception
Monica Hall uncovers the sometimes grim truth of 18th century beauty.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Astronomy vs. Astrology: Science vs. Superstition in the 18th Century

It's a pleasure to welcome Monica Hall to the blog once again with a post on astronomy versus astrology... 


Science vs. Superstition in the 18th Century

The 18th century is acknowledged to be the beginning of ‘big’ science in many areas – chemistry, physics, biology, mathematics etc. It was also an era of improving optics thanks originally to Newton’s reflecting telescope.  Great minds included Edmund Halley (1656-1742), who followed in the footsteps of Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), and devoted much effort to coordinating the extraordinary opportunity for astronomers to observe two transits of Venus during the 18th century, in 1761 and 1769, which he never saw.  Halley had calculated the dates of these event in 1716, and warned fellow scientists that it would not happen again for a century, so they had plenty of time to plan for this unmissable opportunity to calculate the size of the solar system.  This was definitely big science, at a time when accurate map-making here on earth was in its infancy.  It took over 200 worldwide observers of the transits to provide the data from both events to calculate the distance from Venus to the Sun, and then to extrapolate the size of the solar system from Kepler’s calculations of the orbits of the other planets.  This was a huge achievement, and their accuracy was not exceeded until the 20thC, and then not by so much.  

Used as we now are to stupendous distances in space and time, it is difficult to imagine how astounding these calculations were.  And to compound the mystery was the Milky Way, also an object of intense observation and curiosity in the 18th century.  The works of William Herschel (1738-1822) and Thomas Wright (1711-1786) convinced other scientists that it was a flattened disc comprising untold suns similar to ours, the stars in the galaxy.  Below is Herschel’s ‘Universe’ (Milky Way) with our sun at the centre-left, naturally, but Wright spotted faint nebulae much farther away which he (correctly) thought were other galaxies.  Cue religious tremors.

The rather odd notion that our lives might be influenced by the stars has persisted, it seems, since time immemorial.  Without very much knowledge about such things as radiation or gravity, even during the exploding Enlightenment, people thought that the Heavens exerted a power, which it obviously does, but hardly extending to whether it is a good day to wage war, ask your boss for a raise, or invest in the South Sea Bubble (burst 1720).

Prognostication has always been good business, from the Oracles onwards that we actually know about, but surely long before that.  Croesus allegedly consulted the Delphic Oracle before waging war on the Persians, and was told that a great empire would fall (the Oracle was taking no chances, as usual).  Croesus optimistically assumed it would be the opposition’s empire, but sadly it was his.  One would think this might have put a crimp in the Oracle’s reputation, but everybody just blamed Croesus.  

The progress of the Enlightenment during the 18th century did put a crimp into belief in astrology.  It was still very popular, however, as it had been in previous centuries, despite Church disapproval and associations with witchcraft and, weirdly, the credulous had to be educated; they had to be literate in order to read the Almanacs and pamphlets.   One such writer was John Partridge who was born the son of a shoemaker in Covent Garden, but who educated himself to the degree necessary to study medicine in Holland.  He also believed in astrology, and wrote assiduously of the need to return to the Ptolemaic system of interpretation, instead of the Arabic, and broadcast his views.  This sort of conflict between science and what we would call superstition was not uncommon in the 17th/18th centuries.  Newton, himself, apparently spent an inordinate time on alchemy, and rather less on gravity, optics, and mathematics.  

Others, however, were rather more sceptical.  Jonathon Swift (1667-1745) sharpened his satirical quill and created the fictional ‘astrologer’ Isaac Bickerstaff Esq., which was a direct attack upon Partridge, but not quite why you might expect.  Swift was devout, whereas Partridge was not, so both these educated men attacked each other’s supernatural beliefs.  Swift’s most successful spoof was Bickerstaff’s prediction of the death of Partridge by a ‘raging fever’, which dogged the latter until his actual death.

Here, five Foot deep, lies on his Back,
A Cobler, Starmonger, and Quack;
Who to the Stars in pure Good–will,
Does to his best look upward still.
Weep all you Customers that use
His Pills, his Almanacks, or Shoes;

Before Swift, in the 17th century, an unknown genius created Poor Robin’s Prophecies.  This was a savage satire on almanacs and religion, lampooning astrological forecasts by predicting the totally obvious, and creating bogus saints’ days.  It sounds fun.  It is alleged to have lost its sharpest satirical edge by the early 18th century, but nonetheless gained an international reputation for parody, being published in the USA as well as here, and lasting until 1776.  An appreciative commentator remarked that the Prophesies were enough, for men and women of sense, to ‘break their twatling-strings’.  Sadly, we do not seem to know what these were.  I, for one, want to.  

But before you come over all 21st century, read this extract from the Independent (24.10.05) about one of our world’s most successful astrologers, Jonathan Cainer.

He claims a vast army of "at least 12 million people" who devour his planetary musings in various forms - syndicated newspaper columns, books, phonelines and the net. Small wonder then that his worldwide businesses turn over £2m annually and employ 30 staff. There's little doubt why newspapers fight for his services. "Horoscopes," he says, "have turned out to sell papers, just like the cartoon, the sudoku or crosswords. They are a little bit of reader glue. And a good astrologer will do two things for a newspaper: bring in new people and keep the ones you've already got because it becomes a matter of familiarity."

But the last words on this subject should be from one who was there at the time, and not avidly reading an Almanac to discover what the stars held in terms of romance, finances and fate, but a true scientist. 

It is said that Kepler’s belief in astrology informed his entire scientific career, so one cannot simply write off such beliefs as mere superstition.  They were understandable in their time but, more importantly, became a springboard of curiosity from which we have so benefited.


Patrick Curry, Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1989) 
Wardhaugh, B. (2012), Poor Robin’s Prophecies:  A curious Almanac, and the everyday mathematics of Georgian Britain, OUP

About the Author

Retired after a working life in business and management, Monica thankfully pursues her interest in both philosophy and the history of our Industrial Revolution.

Written content of this post copyright © Monica Hall, 2015.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

A Salon Guest: Contraception in Early Modern England

It's an absolute pleasure to welcome my guest, Sheila Dalton, author of Stolen, to the Guide today with a fascinating post on contraception!

“Take bear's foot and savin boiled, and drink it in milk, and likewise, hay madder chopt, and boiled in beer ...”:  Contraception in Early Modern England
In the course of writing my novel, Stolen, set in 17th century England and Morocco, I had to find out about birth control methods of the time. My heroine, Lizbet Warren, ends up ‘in keeping’ with a French privateer who works for the English crown. Needless to say, children were not on the agenda. So how would he go about preventing pregnancy?
The information I read was conflicting. Some articles and books maintained that not much was known about birth control methods in the 17th and 18th centuries. Historical records were scarce. 
Even the known facts led to different conclusions. The rate of birth within marriage was much lower than expected if fertility was allowed its natural expression (at least until the 1520’s in England; more about that later). This led many historians to believe that coitus interruptus was widespread. Others argued that different factors were behind a low birth rate: menstruation was not as regular as it is now - stress such as illness, food scarcities and wars would naturally make a woman less fertile. Also, other than amongst the nobility, it was not uncommon for women to marry around age 26 to 30, which meant up to 10 years of fertility were lost. Long periods of abstinence within marriage, such as in Lent, were common. And breastfeeding was a natural contraceptive, whether people were aware of it or not.
Others said that that even the churches and confessors tolerated abortion until after quickening, 
Yet other accounts gave information on herbal abortifacients that were used early in pregnancy.
It made sense to have my French privateer knowledgeable about contraception, even as early as 1633, when my book begins, because, historically, the French were thought to use birth control more than their English counterparts. The different rate of population growth in the two countries was used as evidence of this. Birth control was hotly debated in France by the 18th century, when the birthrate dropped so dramatically it became worrisome.
Whereas, in England, the population nearly doubled between 1520 and 1630. Poverty and homelessness became so widespread that people were picked up almost randomly to be transported overseas to the  colonies in the Americas and the Caribbean where labour was desperately needed.
So I decided that my privateer would have Lizbet drink herbal concoctions of tansy, willow leaves, savin, ivy and the leaves of white poplar, all known abortifacients of the time. He also introduces the use of brandy-soaked sponges and has her pass water hard after lovemaking - two methods mentioned in the literature, no matter than they were not proven effective.
Lizbet is not at first a willing participant in the use of these methods. She does, however, come round, realizing that she does not, at this point in her life, wish to have a child. Not while her life is controlled by a man who saved her from a public whipping, but at a price. 
Later, when she is freer to make her own decisions, thoughts of forming a new family must still be put aside, as she sets out on a quest to free her mother from slavery in Morocco. The book opens with a raid by Barbary Corsairs, active in the white slave trade of the time, who destroy her village and leave her to fend for herself in a hostile world.

About Sheila Dalton and Stolen
Sheila was born in Hillingdon, England, but has spent most of her life in Canada. She has written over a dozen books, including poetry, fiction, children’s picture books, and non-fiction about animals. Her YA mystery, Trial by Fire, was shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis, Canada’s major crime writers’ award. The Girl in the Box, a literary mystery from Dundurn Press, was voted a Giller People’s Choice Top Ten.
She lives in Newmarket, Ontario. In addition to writing, Sheila likes to drum, meditate, draw, garden and spend time in nature.

Devon, England, 1633: Lizbet Warren’s parents are captured by Barbary Corsairs and carried off to the slave markets in Morocco. Desperate to help them, Lizbet sets out for London with the only other survivor of the raid, the red-haired orphan, Elinor, from the Workhouse for Abandoned and Unwanted Children. The pair soon separate, and Lizbet is arrested for vagrancy. Rescued from a public whipping by a mysterious French privateer, Jean, she is taken to his Manor House in Dorchester, where he keeps her under lock and key. Later, Lizbet is captured at sea by the pirate Gentleman Jake, and forced to join his crew. She forms complex bonds with both her captors; and uses all her skills to enlist their aid in finding her parents.  Her quest leads her to the fabled courts and harems of Morocco and the tropical paradise of Barbados.
Buy the Book

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Tuneful Tuesday: Marc-Antoine Charpentier

Marc-Antoine Charpentier (Paris, France, 1643 – Paris, France, 24th February 1704)

On this day, composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier died. 

His career was long and varied, taking in theatrical music, sonatas, sacred compositions and more. A court favourite, those of you who like a little Eurovision might hear something rather familiar in the opening seconds of his Te Deum, below.

This rather short post will, I hope, allow you plenty of time to listen to the wonderful twenty five minute clip that accompanies it!

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Digest of Sir Joshua Reynolds

Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA (Plympton, Devon, England, 16th July 1723 – London, England, 23rd February 1792)

Sir Joshua Reynolds, Self portrait, 1776
Self Portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1776
Today marks the anniversary of the death of Sir Joshua Reynolds who is, as regular visitors know, my absolute favourite artist. Reynolds and his works have featured here at the Guide a number of times. It is my pleasure to present to you a digest of those posts; I hope you will find something to interest you!

"One of the most memorable men of his Time": Sir Joshua Reynolds
The life of Reynolds.

A closer look at The Age of Innocence
An investigation of a painting of a unknown child.

A closer look at The Ladies Waldegrave
A painting of three ladies, each looking for a husband!

A closer look at A Child’s Portrait in Different Views: Angel’s Heads
A most unusual portrait of a child.

Posts illustrated by works by Reynolds

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at the week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

Musical Monday: Pierre Rode
Enjoy some wonderful music from violinist, Pierre Rode.
The Art of Deception: Georgian Cosmetics
A fantastic guest post, complete with Georgian cosmetic recipes!

The Death of Anna Maria de' Medici
The death and exhumation of a famous name.

The Discovery of the South Shetland Islands
An unexpected delivery around Cape Horn.

The Execution of Andreas Hofer
The death of a hero of the Tyrol.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Best of the Georgian Web

It's that time again, so settle back and enjoy the best of the Georgian web this week!

Sorrowful spaces: more on the material culture of emotions
Mary Robinson's memoirs.

Maneuvering London's Streets in the Regency Era
Getting around the city...

The remarkable Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
A fascinating portrait of a remarkable woman.

‘A love sick fool no more': the perils of the honey-moon
Newlyweds beware!

Joshua Reynolds and Fashion
A video for younger viewers.

Sir Thomas Tyrwhitt: a man, a dream and a prison
The absorbing tale of a singular chap.

Lord Chatham in Colchester
Chatham's travels continue...

The Bedlam Burial Ground Register
An invaluable resource for researchers!

A Regency Era Breakfast: Various Times to Eat
Tuck in!

Friday, 20 February 2015

The Execution of Andreas Hofer

Andreas Hofer (St Leonhard, Tyrol, 22nd November 1767 – Mantua, Italy, 20th February 1810)

On this day in 1810 Andreas Hofer, Tyrolean innkeeper, cattle drover and former soldier, was executed for his pivotal role in the rebellion against the French and Bavarian forces who had occupied his land during the War of the Fifth Coalition.

Hofer was so incensed at the occupation of Tyrol that he organised a resistance force in the Passeier Valley and, when the rebellion broke out on 9th April 1809, Hofer was ready as leader of a militia force. The rebels knew that the time to act had come when the agreed signal was received in Innsbruck of sawdust floating down the river. Church bells sounded over the city calling the people to arms and they attacked the occupying soldiers with all they could muster.

The shooting of Andreas Hofer in Mantua by Anonymous, 1810
The Shooting of Andreas Hofer in Mantua by Anonymous, 1810
As the rebels gained ground, Hofer led a force some twenty thousand strong in defence of his homeland, driving back the Bavarian and French occupying forces time and again yet as the tide of battle turned against Austria and in favour of Napoleon, so too did the tide begin to turn against the Tyrolean rebels. Austrian troops were forced to retreat from Tyrol, leaving the rebels hopelessly outgunned and they in turn fled to the mountains to regroup as the city of Innsbruck fell to Bavarian occupation.

By now there was a price on Hofer’s head and he took refuge in Hofburg, where he declared himself the de facto ruler of the Tyrol, even going so far as to introduce his own currency. The Emperor promised him time and again that he would never abandon Tyrol to opposing forces yet the hope was a faint one. As French and Bavarian troops swarmed into the country, it was only a matter of time before the rich reward on offer for Hofer’s capture found a foothold and it was Franz Raffl, a neighbour of Hofer, who eventually gave him away.

The captured rebel leader was taken to Mantua to face a court martial where officers found themselves unable to agree on a sentence. They claimed to have received a communication from Napoleon himself telling them to "give him a fair trial and then shoot him" though Napoleon claimed later that he had never wanted Hofer dead. Whatever the truth of the sentence, Hofer went before a firing Squad on 20th February 1810. He told the gunmen to be sure they shot straight and refused to either wear a blindfold or kneel before the firing squad. Indeed, when the time came to give the order to fire, it was Hofer who did, a man in charge to the bitter end.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Discovery of the South Shetland Islands

Today we take to the seas for a little exploring in the company of William Smith, an explorer and adventurer from Northumberland. On this day in 1819, whilst sailing around Cape Horn, he spotted a brand new land mass and later claimed it for George III.

Williams Point, South Shetland Islands
Smith was captain of the merchant brig Williams and was bound for Valparaíso, Chile. Sailing around Cape Horn, he was confronted with the unexpected site of an undiscovered island  though was unable to make landfall on this occasion. When Smith informed the authorities they doubted his discovery, believing that the captain was mistaken or romancing his voyage but he was not to be deterred.

Instead, in October of that same year, Smith returned to the site of his discovery  and made landfall. He named the island on which he landed King George Island and surrounding archipelago, the South Shetland Islands. This was the first land discovered south of 60° south latitude and was, of course, a major nautical discovery. Later that year the brig was used to map the islands as England laid claim to its newest land.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The Death of Anna Maria de' Medici

Anna Maria Luisa de' Medici (Pitti, Florence, Tuscany, 11th August 1667 – Pitti, Florence, Tuscany, 18th February 1743)

The Electress by Jan Frans van Douven
The Electress by Jan Frans van Douven
Medici is a name that has become somewhat notorious over the years. Immensely powerful, with banking, religion and politics second nature, the family’s reputation resonates even today and in the last few years members of the Medici clan have featured in film, literature and even computer games. The royal line of the house of Medici became extinct on this day in 1743 with the death of Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici, wife of Johann Wilhelm II, Elector Palatine, a  marriage that remained childless.

The cause of Anna Maria’s death has never been satisfactorily established and was, depending on who is telling the tale, a long and drawn out affair or a sudden, unexpected fever that culminated in an “oppression on the breast”. Upon hearing this last explanation when I first encountered Anna Maria many years ago, I assumed that the unfortunate lady must have succumbed to breast cancer but received wisdom for many years was that Anna Maria actually died as a result of syphilis, contracted from her own husband, who predeceased her by almost three decades.

In the last years of her life, Anna Maria lived a secluded life devoted to amassing a collection of art and donating the vast majority of her fortune to charity. However, on 18th February, as wild winds raged in the skies above Tuscany, the Electress of Palatine died. Her remains were laid to rest in the crypt at the Basilica of San Lorenzo, a structure that she had financed and championed throughout her life and that she even remembered in her will.

However, Anna Maria’s story does not end there and in 2012, Anna Maria’s remains were exhumed for research purposes. Samples of her bones were taken, in addition to a full 3D scan of the skeleton and the contents of the coffin. Subsequent studies on the biological materials recovered from the grave have not conclusively proved the cause of Anna Maria’s death, and to this day, it remains a mystery. 

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Art of Deception: Georgian Cosmetics

It's a pleasure to welcome Monica Hall to the blog today with a post on the dangers of Georigan cosmetics... What did it take to achieve that 18th century look?


And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!                  
She Walks in Beauty, Byron (1788-1824)

Mmm.  Well, not everyone agreed with this, and the fear of entrapment by make-up was so widespread that Parliament was obliged to pass an Act in 1770 which stated that

….  all women, of whatever age, rank, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce or betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty’s subjects, by the scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes, bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.

To be fair to Lord Byron, he was writing after the most extraordinary excesses of Georgian self-adornment had been replaced by somewhat less wild cosmetic fashions and, indeed, his appreciation of his lovely lady may have owed a good deal to both the Act and the French Revolution, which understandably reduced the popularity of wearing ostentatious wigs among the aristocracy.   Thomas Rowlandson’s 1792 Six Stages of Mending a Face splendidly illustrated just how bad things could be, and was rather ambiguously dedicated to the Rt. Hon. Lady Archer.  Her response, if any, is not recorded.

Mending a Face
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 None of this was new, of course.  Since Tudor times, at least, women had been resorting to artifice to repair the ravages of diet, disease, and time.  The growing fondness for ‘white gold’ (sugar) played havoc with the teeth of those who could afford it, smallpox left scarring, and venereal disease was often signalled to the observant by significant hair loss.  Pepys wrote, somewhat unfeelingly, about the shame he felt about his syphilitic brother’s pate, although one cannot help but feel sympathy for those who were suffering from premature baldness for innocent genetic reasons.  However, the wig provided a solution for that, and the bigger the better. 

The Georgian preference was for ghostly whiteness, both in wigs and on the faces of the fashionable of both sexes, and the liberal powdering of both was de rigeur amongst the well to-do.  Some ingredients were innocent enough, such as flour or chalk, but others certainly were not.  Still in use in Georgian times, although its detrimental effects must have been known, was lead in face powder.  The unappetising facial recipe also included vinegar, horse manure, and (presumably strong) perfume.  As a contrast to the desired pallor, both sexes used carmine rouge on their cheeks, and not subtly; to our mind; they would have looked like Dutch dolls.  Wigs needed something to stick the whitening flour in place, and that something was lard and, when wigs went out of fashion, they used the same recipe on their own hair.  At least, one supposes, it might have suffocated the ubiquitous headlice.  It was not until the time of Jane Austen that the more natural look became truly fashionable and men could be reasonably sure that, come the wedding night, they weren’t in for a dreadful shock.  One’s sympathy is limited, of course, as in Georgian times, men were quite as capable of employing artifice as were women.  But it was a man’s world, so the women could legally be accused of witchcraft while the men carried on powdering their wigs and putting on makeup, and deceiving ladies, as usual.  The notion of witchcraft, however, was rapidly losing its force in the Enlightenment, and there seem to be no successful prosecutions of witchcraft-by-cosmetics extant.  Not before time. 

So who, in such times, made these cosmetics? 

The notion of non-industrial cosmetic production actually survives until the 1870s and beyond.  Industrial production certainly became possible, thanks to Max Factor (b. 1872) and others in the early 20thC, thanks largely to the nascent movie industry.  But people a hundred years earlier still relied upon themselves, or their local apothecary, who had a recipe book for drugs, cosmetics, pest extermination, inks, domestic cleaning compounds, perfumes etc., the Formulary.  Popular widespread adoption, however, always lags behind invention  -  the first cylinder stick lipstick was actually made in the USA in 1915, but brush or finger-applied lipsticks date from possibly 5,000 years ago and from the Middle Ages onwards included such exotic (or off-putting) ingredients as pig fats, gold leaf, animal marrow, the ubiquitous carmines, and fish scales for that alluring glittery look. 

Meanwhile, in the 18thC, women were still knocking up cosmetics themselves.  However, the chemists themselves were beginning to understand that many ingredients were lethal or, at the least, very detrimental.  And in the 19thC, scientists began to proscribe some cosmetic procedures.  They weren’t very happy about lead.  Lead attacks the bodies and brains of the young particularly, but it took into the 20thC for its use to be regulated although, in 2007, the US authorities discovered that 70% of lipsticks contained lead, some in illegal amounts.  Such is the power of cosmetics.

But you can still make your own  … and not die as a result, although they hardly sound subtle.  My father’s 1930s Formulary has pages of cosmetic recipes, many of which date from Victorian times, and would have been recognisable 100 years earlier.  The ‘mascaras’ sound frankly eye-watering, being made of soap and lamp-black.


Syrupy lactic acid 40 oz., Glycerin 80 oz., Tincture of benzoin 3 oz., Carmine No. 40 40 gr., Glycerine 1 oz., Ammonia solution 0.5 oz., Water 3 oz., perfume.

For fastening the wig to the head.
Isinglass 1 part, Rose water 8 parts, Tincture of benzoin 2 parts, Oil of Turpentine 2 parts, Alcohol 4 parts.

And for the really adventurous, I have a 1930s recipe for a drain rocket  …. sounds much more fun than Dyno-Rod!  No, no, don’t try this at home.  Don’t

Potassium nitrate … 4oz. Powdered resin 2 oz.  Manganese dioxide 2 oz.  Powdered asphaltum 1 oz.   Mix and use to pack into cartridge cylinders, with a suitable fuse.  What do they mean?  Suitable fuse?  This apparently didn’t really work well in blocked drains, but it could certainly blow the wig off your head.

About the Author

Retired after a working life in business and management, Monica thankfully pursues her interest in both philosophy and the history of our Industrial Revolution.

 Written content of this post copyright © Monica Hall, 2015.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Musical Monday: Pierre Rode

Jacques Pierre Joseph Rode (Bordeau, France, 16th February 1774 – Damazon, France, 25th November 1830)

Pierre Rode

Today marks the anniversary of the birth of Pierre Rode, a child musical prodigy so talented that the famed Giovanni Battista Viotti tutored him on the violin without charging any fee, so impressed was he by the natural skill he detected in the boy.

Rode's career was stratospheric and glittering and, as the personal violist to a certain Napoleon, he travelled Europe garnering such acclaim in Russia that he remained there for more than half a decae. However, these years away from his homeland would come back to haunt Rode when he returned to France and found that his star had faded somewhat.

French audiences detected rather too much Russian style to Rode's playing and, though he continued to enjoy plaudits elsewhere in Europe and Beethoven wrote music for Rode to play, music fans in his adopted home of Paris continued to greet his work with indifference. He died aged fifty six without ever recapturing their adoration yet I hope you will find much to enjoy in his work on this musical Monday. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Salon Digest

Once again it's time to take a look back at a very pleasingly guest-filled week here in the salon, so settle back with a cup of tea and enjoy!

A Musical Monday: Henri-Joseph Rigel
The wonderful music of Rigel.

A Salon Guest: The Hampden Clubs
Charlotte Russell shares the story of a very unusual club.

Fashion Dolls
Jacki Delecki tells us of a fascinating way to spread the Regency fashion trends!

Georgian Dining Academy Inaugural Dinner
Join Kitty Pridden for a Georgian dining experience in the heart of 21st century London!

"A drunken whoring soul": The Life of William Wotton
The wild life of a scholarly minister!

Friday, 13 February 2015

"A drunken whoring soul": The Life of William Wotton

William Wotton (Wrentham, Suffolk, England, 13th August 1666 – Buxted, Sussex, England, 13th February 1727)

On this day a gentleman died who was, in his time, a scholar known for extraordinary ability to master languages, a man of god, the first translator of the ancient Welsh text later published as Leges Wallicae, a debtor, a reprobate and a reformed character.

By the age of thirteen, Wootton was a graduate of Cambridge and had mastered seven languages, in addition to excelling in all areas of study. A precociously intelligent child, he grew into an adult of fierce intellect with a passion for history that he indulged whilst serving as the church  in Milton Keynes. However, this prodigiously intelligent man was not quite as serious about good behaviour as he was about his studies. Despite having a wife and child, Wotton was after anything but the quiet life one might expect of a cleric and scholar.

Leges Wallicae
Leges Wallicae

As good friends with William Wake, the Bishop of Lincoln, Wotton found that he had an open line of credit at his disposal and when he got his hands on money, he spent all of it and more besides. His rectory grew into a sprawling mansion, he forgot the rigours of scholarly research by spending long hours in brothels and, when women weren’t enough to distract him, he turned to drink and on more than one occasion was found wandering drunkenly by the people of his parish. Of course, when word reached Wake of his friend’s behaviour, the Bishop was unimpressed and the all-important credit dried up.

Without the money provided by his generous benefactor, Wotton’s outgoings vastly exceeded his income and, beset by creditors, he fled Milton Keynes and lived under a pseudonym in Wales. Here the renegade cleric rediscovered the virtues of the religious life and, as a reformed character, appealed to his former friend, Wake, to renew their friendship. By now Wake was the Archbishop of Canterbury and his initial scepticism at Wotton’s reformed character soon thawed, with the two men once again becoming good friends.

Over the years that followed, Wotton proved himself more than the man he now claimed to be. Embarked on the Leges Wallicae, he worked tirelessly to settle the debts he had hoped to abandon and, happily, avoided debtor’s prison by the skin of his teeth.

With his character and reputation reformed, Wotton left Wales for a new home in Bath in 1721, before moving to live with his daughter and her husband in Sussex. It was here that he died, leaving behind an impressive body of work that, at times, was just a little overshadowed by his hellraising lifestyle.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A Salon Guest: Georgian Dining Academy Inaugural Dinner

A Georgian dining experience in 21st century London? Read on as my guest, Kitty Pridden, tells all...


If you had found yourself passing through the ancient alleyways off Cornhill within the City of London on the eve' 13th November you may have stumbled upon a small Georgian microcosm. Set within the historic surroundings of Simpson's Tavern and under flickering candlelight the inaugural dinner of the Georgian Dining Academy was under way….

City of London guides and champions of the 18th Century, Miss Tina Baxter and Miss Kitty Pridden are your energetic and entertaining hosts for the evening. They have created a dining event themed and inspired by Georgian London. Bespoke traditional menus have been devised with the head chef of Simpson's Tavern to offer a delicious and hearty three course meal. The large, wood panelled booths are a fantastic way for likeminded guests and lovers of history to mingle and share this unique experience. Inspired by the entertainments of the 18th Century they have imagined an event that draws elements of the past into an evening of fine fare, merriment and music.

Established in 1757, Simpson's Tavern has a firm stake in the history of the City of London. Situated within the same complex of alleyways as the notorious George & Vulture with its links to the Hell Fire Club, and a mere stone's throw from the birth of the London Stock Exchange at Jonathan's Coffee House. Even the grandfather of the coffee shop Pasque Rosee set up London's first coffee house there in 1652. So it was an obvious choice when seeking out a venue. Simpson's Tavern is usually only open until the afternoon so it is a rare sight to see the place candle-lit and alive during the evening.

As dusk descended and the guests arrived they were greeted by the hosts with a warm welcome and a glass of gin punch served from a large punch bowl, all to the lively tunes from a Fiddler in the corner of the bar. To suit this Georgian themed evening the gin was provided by Berry Bros & Rudd, whose premises on St James's Street have been selling wines and spirits to the London public since 1698. 

Some of the guests are dressed like the hosts, in full Georgian dress while others have taken the opportunity to be simply inspired by the 18th Century fashions. Dressing up is always encouraged but never mandatory. 

As the guests took their places at their candlelit tables they found a curious collection of items waiting for them at their tables, and as the evening progressed their purposes became clear. Guests were invited to be involved in the tales told by the hosts which created a great immersive atmosphere and with the throw of a dice piles of chocolate coins could be won or lost between courses. The hosts regaled their audience with topical talks on historic foods, traditions and 18th Century characters that would have graced Simpson's Tavern during Its infant years. With a background as City of London guides a colourful and exciting picture of Georgian London is brought to life through this series of brief and enlightening talks between courses.

The menu had been inspired by dishes popular within the Georgian period; a delicately cooked salmon dish, a rich and hearty beef stew, a juicy apple pie and the evening finished with an ample serving of stilton washed down with a glass of port. Regular guests to the Georgian Dining Academy will find the menu changes throughout the seasons, always taking inspiration from the 18th Century.

The relaxed and jovial atmosphere encouraged guests to add their own flare to the evening, and not just with their outfits. Renditions of 18th Century drinking songs could be heard emanating from the Tavern after the wine had been flowing, which under candle-light created a scene that Hogarth may well have recognised!

The Georgian Dining Academy was set up by City of London guides Tina Baxter and Kitty Pridden as an immersive, historical dining experience. After the success and feedback from the first dinner plans are now underway for the next, taking place on Thursday 26th February, tickets are available via the link below. 

Follow the progress and see more pictures on Facebook or Twitter. Both hosts are active tweeters and will be delighted to give more information or answer any questions you may have.

Twitter; @GeorgianDining @18thCent_Kitty @MissBTakesAWalk


Written content of this post copyright © Kitty Pridden, 2015
Photographs © Andrea Liu and Kitty Pridden, 2015

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Fashion Dolls: Helping showcase Regency fashion around the world

Once again it's my pleasure to welcome Jacki Delecki to the blog today, with a fascinating look at fashion dolls!


Paris has been the epicenter of fashion for hundreds of years, radiating its influence around the world to set trends and dictate style. In today’s world, cutting-edge fashion comes at us via television, the internet and on the gloss pages of magazines. Yet even before such methods of mass communication existed, Paris was showcasing fashion designs through the use of fashion dolls.

Most of the earliest references to fashion dolls pertain to European royalty. Life-size dolls were elaborately outfitted in French fashion, including jewelry and accessories, and sent to queens in Spain, England and other countries. These three-dimensional figures were often handcrafted and configured to match the measurements of a specific individual. These dolls also served as “models” for local dressmakers who carefully studied each detail so they could re-create the stylish garments for local aristocrats. 

Fashion Dolls

During the eighteenth century, fashion dolls increased in popularity and demand. Both French and English fashion dolls were exported to the U.S., popularizing European haute couture in America. Precursors to today’s mannequins, fashion dolls allowed milliners and modistes to display merchandise, and because the garments were fitted to life-size figures, made it possible for couturiers to sell clothing without fittings or pre-orders. The fascination with fashion often started at a young age, so small-scale fashion dolls were designed for the daughters of royal families and aristocracy.

While doing research in preparation for my next book in The Code Breakers series, a Regency-era romantic mystery series, I learned that fashion dolls were of such importance that even during times of hostility between England and France, concessions were made to allow the continued exchange of fashion dolls. That seemed to hold the potential to become a part of my plot for A CODE OF THE HEART, and indeed, it did, as the heroine, Amelia Bonnington works in a modiste shop.

The Regency era offers a wealth of fascinating details that make it so easy to enrich a romance with elements of intrigue, excitement and adventure. I hope you’ll read A CODE OF THE HEART to see how I included fashion dolls into the story. To celebrate my upcoming release, I am giving away an audiobook version of A CODE OF LOVE, book 1 in the Code Breakers series, and a digital copy of A CHRISTMAS CODE, book 2 in the series. Please comment for a chance to win.

About Jacki Delecki

Jackie Delecki
Descended from a long line of storytellers, Jacki spins adventures filled with mystery, healing and romance. 

Jacki’s love affair with the arts began at a young age and inspired her to train as a jazz singer and dancer. She has performed many acting roles with Seattle Opera Company and Pacific Northwest Ballet. Her travels to London and Paris ignited a deep-seated passion to write the Regency Code Breaker Series. Jacki is certain she spent at least one lifetime dancing in the Moulin Rouge.

Jacki has set her Grayce Walters Mystery Series in Seattle, her long-time home. The city’s unique and colorful locations are a backdrop for her thrilling romantic suspense. Although writing now fills much of her day, she continues to volunteer for Seattle’s Ballet and Opera Companies and leads children’s tours of Pike Street Market. Her volunteer work with Seattle’s homeless shelters influenced one of her main characters in An Inner Fire and Women Under Fire

Jacki’s two Golden Labs, Gus and Talley, were her constant companions. Their years of devotion and intuition inspired her to write dogs as main characters alongside her strong heroines. A geek at heart, Jacki loves superhero movies—a hero’s battle against insurmountable odds. But her heroines don’t have to wear a unitard to fight injustice and battle for the underdog.

Look for more heart-pounding adventure, intrigue, and romance in Jacki’s Code Breakers Series. A Code of Love is the first book in the series. A Christmas Code—A Regency Novella, is now available at all retail sites.  A Code of the Heart will be released on February 12, 2015.

To learn more about Jacki and her books and to be the first to hear about contests and giveaways join her newsletter found on her website: Follow her on Facebook—Jacki Delecki; Twitter @jackidelecki.

A Code of the Heart 

Miss Amelia Bonnington has been in love with her childhood hero since she was eleven years old… or so she thought until a not-so proper impassioned and unyielding kiss from the not-so honorable and equally disreputable Lord Derrick Brinsley, gave her reason to question the feelings of the heart. 

Lord Brinsley, shunned from society for running off with his brother’s fiancée, hasn’t cared about or questioned his lack of acceptance until meeting the beguiling Amelia Bonnington. One passionate moment with the fiery Miss Bonnington has him more than willing to play by society’s rules to possess the breathtaking, red-haired woman.

Amelia unwittingly becomes embroiled in espionage when she stumbles upon a smuggling ring in the modiste shop of her good friend. To prove her French friend’s innocence, she dangerously jumps into the fray, jeopardizing more than her life. 

On undercover assignment to prevent the French from stealing the Royal Navy’s deadly weapon, Derrick must fight to protect British secrets from falling into the hands of foreign agents, and the chance at love with the only woman capable of redeeming him.

Written content of this post copyright © Jackie Delecki, 2015.