Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More Fear Factor food.

Or the person who finds the eyes wins?

Calf’s Head Pie.

Chuse a young Head that has fine white Meat upon it, clean it perfectly well, and then boil it in a large Quantity of Water till it is fit for eating ; take it up, let it drain and cool, then carefully cut off all the Flesh, and divide it into long Pieces of the Breadth of two Fingers.

Take out the Eyes, and cut them crossway into four Pieces each; slice the Tongue into Slices as thick as a Crown Piece, and when all is thus mixed, dust over it some Pepper and Salt.

Make a very good Puff-paste Crust, and cover a Dish with it, lay in the Yolks of’ four hard Eggs, and a few Truffles, then put in some Pieces of the Tongue: After this lay in the Meat of the Head, and then the Eyes in different Places, mixed with the Pieces of the Tongue that remain; dust on very care­fully some Cayan-Pepper, mixed with Basket Salt, to make it spread evenly, then dash over the whole, Half a Gill of Madeira Wine ; then pour in Half a Pint of Veal Gravy, and covering up the Pie, send it to the Oven.

[As she later speaks of the pie coming home, she seems to be assuming it will go out to be baked. Good, large baking ovens were often no available in the house.]

While it is baking, boil the Bones of’ the Head in two Quarts of Water, let them boil till there is but a Pint left ; and as they are boiling, put in a Couple of whole Cloves, an Onion, and some Winter Savoury; let these boil to the small Quantity just named, and then strain the liquor off; put it into a saucepan, and add a little Cayan-Pepper, two spoonfuls of Catchup, Half a Gill of red Wine, and a Piece of Butter rolled in Flour, thicken it up in this Manner, arid have it ready when the Pie comes in.

Boil the Brains with a Dozen Leaves of red Sage; chop the Brains and Sage both very fine, and dust over them a very little Cayan-Pepper, and a Spoon­ful of Madeira Wine; add a little Lemon-peel, and some grated Nutmeg: When all this is thus mixed, stir in a little of it into the thickened Gravy, and heat up the rest with some Yolks of Eggs and fry it in Cakes.Boil the Eggs hard, and take out the Yolks.

All these Things being ready when the Pie comes home, heat Half a Gill of Madeira Wine with a Blade of Mace; take out the Mace, lift off the Lid of the Pie whole, and first of all sprinkle in the hot Madeira Wine. Then lay in the Yolks of Eggs, and the Cakes of Brains one among another, and then pour in the hot Gravy, and send it up without the Lid.

This is one of the finest Pies that can be made. Every one who eats it commends it, and I have heard many who were very well acquainted with the Taste of Turtle say, it was a Turtle Pie. The Reason of this is, partly that the Flesh of a Calf’s Head is really like Turtle, and partly because the Madeira Wine and Cayan-Pepper give it the same Flavour that a Turtle gets in the dressing, these being the two prin­cipal Ingredients.

I have my Christmas page up on my website, along with a free story, but the story doesn't use any weird historical data, unless you think the word "haberdashery" is weird.


Jo :)

Christmas Food

Some tid-bits from The British Housewife, or the Cook, Housekeeper’s, and Gardiner’s Companion, by Martha Bradley. 1756.
A facsimile edition is available from Prospect Books, Allaleigh House, Blackawton, Totnes, Devon, UK TQ9 7DL ISBN 0907325637

This edition covers the twelve months, and under December, we have the following.
“BUTCHERS Meat in general is never in better Season than at this Time of the Year, and Beef in particular may now appear in the largest Pieces at the best Tables: The French Fashions have carried it a great Way against us, [Ah, the never-ending competition with the French!]but they are not arrived yet so far as to banish the Sirloin of Beef from a Christmas Dinner; that will always be received with Honour.
The Rump makes to the full as good an Appear­ance roasted: The Sirloin is particular to the roast Way of dressing, but the Rump may also be boiled, and it is one Way as genteel as the other.”

A little later we have the puzzling statement: “Lamb is now in prime Season; it is small and delicate, and nothing looks handsomer at a Table: The common Way is to cut the hind Quarter, boiling the Leg, and frying the Loin in Chops round it; but in this Case they spoil one another, and the polite Tables have banished this Method.”

I would have thought December young for lamb, but perhaps this has changed over time.

December was a time of limited fresh vegetables, but without freezing or importation, there was still variety. There was asparagus, and “From the Hot-beds also there is at this Season Plenty of young Salleting, Raddish and Cress, Rape and Mustard, and young Lettuces; the Hot-beds we also ordered to be planted last Month with Mint will now afford Crop after Crop of it, to be cut young, and eat with the Lamb, which is at this Time so great a Delicacy.

The common Ground affords also Abundance of the more ordinary Products, which from their own Hardyness, or the careful Manner of planting, escape the Frost; the Savoy is in good Order, and there are common and red Cabbages. The more usual Kinds of Roots are very properly taken up before this Time, and kept in Sand, but such as remain in the Ground, except the Potatoe, will be very good; and when the Frost will give the Gardiner Leave to get at them, he may take up Car­rots, Parsnips, and Dutch Parsley, as also Turnips, Salsify, and Scorzonera:
[Salsify and scorzonera are slender rooted vegetables said to taste like oysters when fried.] The red and white Beet is also very good now, and the red Kind makes an agreea­ble Figure at Table: Celeri is in Perfection, and Chardoons are very good; Endive also continues in very good Order, and there are Dutch Lettuces from under Glasses. All the Onion and Leek Kind are in very good Order, as is also Garlick; the Shalot and Rocambole also are fit for Use. Thus in the deadest Season of the whole Year the Care and Industry of the Gardiner supplies the Kitchen in the Country, and in London, where there is a Demand for every Thing, every Thing is ready to answer it; the Markets are supplied with these, and all in their Perfection, as in Summer.”

They wasted little of the animal. Consider “Roasted ox palates.” A suitable dish for Fear Factor! Mind you, this strikes me as one of those “stone soup” recipes, where the stated ingredient is only an excuse for many other more edible ones. “This is an extreamly elegant Dish,” Mistress Bradley assures us.

"Pick and perfectly clean Some fine Ox Palates; throw them into a Saucepan of Water with a little Salt, and two Spoonfuls of Vinegar, and boil them unti1 they are tender; then lay them on a Sieve to drain and cool.

Pick, draw, and truss three Pigeons for roasting; lard one half of each Pigeon with thin square Pieces of Bacon, and fill the Bodies with good Forcemeat made as we have directed in a foregoing Chapter. [Chicken, veal, bread, eggs, seasoning and spices. In other words, sausage meat.]

"Lay these ready, the Palates will by this Time be cold and fit for preparing for the Spit; cut them out into long slices, and lard them with long slices of bacon.”

The above are all threaded on spits and roasted with the addition of oysters, cock’s combs while basted with egg yolks.
"Meanwhile, cook some sweetbreads and artichokes, and a sauce of rich veal gravy and red wine."
So let's see. We have pigeons, bacon, sausage meat, more bacon, oysters, cock's combs, eggs, sweetbreads, artichokes, veal gravy and red wine. I suspect finding the ox palates in the dish might be a trick!

To broil a Lamb’s Head.
A tasty dish from the past that might also scare people on Fear Factor.
“Chuse a moderately large Lamb’s Head and split it, clean it very carefully, and then put it into a Pot with a little water to boil till it is half done. In the mean Time pick some Leaves of Sweet Herbs clean from the Stalks; add to them some grated Bread, some Pepper and Salt, and a little Nutmeg. Take up the Head and fet it to drain.

When it is half dry dust it very well over with the Seasoning we have just directed to be made, and set a Gridiron over a fine clear Fire; throw in some Salt, and when the Fire is in perfect fine Order, lay on the head; turn it occasionally, and see that it gets a fine brown.”

It is served with a mushroom gravy.

She concludes with: “There is but little upon the Head thus done, but what there is, is fine. There is not a prettier dish for a person of delicate stomach.”

Which only goes to prove that stomach delicacy changes over time.

Monday, December 19, 2005

On my list, I posted this:
From a Gutenberg edition ofTitle: The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction, No. 290Volume X. No. 290. Saturday, December 29, 1827.

The order of taking wine at dinner has not been sufficiently observed in this country. "There is," as the immortal bard beautifully expresses it,"a reason in roasting eggs;" and if there is a rationale of eating, why should there not be a system of drinking? The red wines should always precede the white, except in the case of a French dinner, when the oysters should have a libation of Chablis, or Sauterne.I do not approve of white Hermitage with oysters.

The Burgundies should follow--the purple Chambertin or odorous Romanee. A single glass of Champagne or Hock, or any other white wine, may then intervene between the Cote Rotie and Hermitage; and last, not least in our dear love, should come the cool and sweet-scented Claret. With the creams and the ices should come the Malaga, Rivesaltes, or Grenache; nor with these will Sherry or Madeira harmonize ill. Last of all, should Champagne boil up in argent foam, and be sanctified by an offering of Tokay, poured from a glass so small, that you might fancy it formed of diamond. Literary Pocket-Book.

I commented, "I don't know why a romanee should be odorous, but it doesn't sound good. And why is claret sweet-scented and cool? And is the last bit suggesting that the Tokay is added to the champagne?"

My friend, Bibiana, a wine expert, replied:
I don't think odourous in this text means more than having a pleasant odour that is: smell. Am I correct in thinking that "odour" has a bit of "badsmell"-meaning in it nowadays? It doesn't in French, where the word derives from.

The list of precedence surely reads strange for the reader of today, but it has a certain logic in it, when you think about what kind of wines the writer is writing.Just remember that modern methods of winemaking did not exist. EG the cooling during fermentation. Thus, to stabilize wines for transport etc. one needed a much longer fermentation for white wines. These were not dry and refreshing but rather a bit musty and preferably sweet.The areas where Hock, Chablis and Champagne were grown (The Rheingau areaof Germany for Hock, the region north of Dijon in an elevated part of Northern Burgundy for Chablis and the region around Reims/Epernayin Northern France for Champagne) belong to the coolest winegrowing regions of Europe. Thus their wines contain a strong acidity which then tamed the sweetness to an acceptable level as a tongue-refresher.

As you see in the text, these wines take the place of the sorbet in the menu à la tradition Francaise.Red wines OTOH were dryer than the whites, because the fermentation with their skins did not only extract the red colour but added tannin to the wine which got even more of that from the cask in which it was fermented and aged. So a red wine surely was the better choice with food at that time, especially in a time when eating seafood was considered only for a dietor not noble at all. Most dishes contained of meat - preferably venison. So these recommendations make total sense for me .

Today we still drink the Burgundy-style wines before the Bordeaux (Claret)-style wines.It's quite a rich audience which is addressed here: Chambertin and LaRomanee are two of the Grand-Cru-vineyards in Burgundy's most noble Coted'Or area: top of the tops - still today!! Interesting that the author prefers Muscat de Rivesaltes to Sauternes: he knew his stuff, really!!As for the Champagne & Tokay: in 1827 Tokay was still the "wine of the Emperor" because most wineyards in the Tokay area of Hungaria belonged tothe imperial house of Hapsburg and were served only in Vienna on grand ocassions. I believe that the British got to know the wine during theCongress of Vienna. Because it was and is one of the most intense sweet wines, it makes sense for me to present this extremely rare wine in small,valuable glasses and to use it to lace the Champagne with it.

I have some Christmas food posts to come in the next days.


Friday, November 11, 2005

pigs to poetry

On a list someone asked about hairstyles, which led to pig-tails. Two braids worn by girls, someone said.

Not necessarily, I replied. The original pig tail was a single plait which was quite short and stiff (hence more like a pig's tail) worn in the 18th century when men had shoulder-length hair by simpler folk, especially sailors.

I'm not sure English people use pigtails for plaits, which is what the girls' style would be. Or a plait if it was one down the back.

Since I happened to have my facsimile edition of the 1771 Enc. Britannica right here (truly!) I looked up pig. Nothing about pig tails, but a pig of lead is "the eighth part of a fother amounting to 250 lbs weight."

All right, what's a fother, apart from being 2,000 lbs?

On that hunt I came to this site.
Usages governing the collection of tolls at Torksey in 1228 where we learn that the toll for a fother of lead is 4d. (Four pence. You know that the d comes from the Roman denarii, don't you? It makes sense really.)

What about a frail of woad, a bale of alum, and a pack of mailede?

A frail is apparently a large wicker basket and mailede is uncertain.

Elsewhere, I find that a fother is equal to 30 fotmals, which is defined as 70 "mercantile" pounds in this wonderful dictionary of units of measurement.

Where we also find the fardel meaning a fourth part, used sometimes as a unit of land area equal to 1/4 virgate, 1/2 nook, or about 8-10 acres. (There's also the firkin, the firlot and the fistmele. You can look them up for yourself.)

And fardels, of course, crops up in Shakespeare, in Hamlet's To be or not to be.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life....

Which makes me doubt the definition. Who would 8 acres bear?

Ah well, back to the research.

Jo :)
Out now. The Shattered Rose, with the skull of John the Baptist as a child.
And, the reissue of The Brides of Christmas anthology. "They've stolen the Blessed Virgin Mary!"

Saturday, November 05, 2005

We've all known dancers like this...

On the quadrille in Regency society. "the principal male dancer, Mr. North, reminds one of a gibbeted malefactor, moved to and fro by the winds, but from no personal exertion."

Here's the full entry and the web page. Lots of interesting information there.

"The author of “Memoirs of the Times of George IV.” favours us with the following curious comments on quadrilles, then (1811) newly exhibited in England: --- “We had much waltzing and quadrilling, the last of which is certainly very abominable. I am not prude enough to be offended with waltzing, in which I can see no other harm than that it disorders the stomach, and sometimes makes people look very ridiculous; but after all, moralists, with the Duchess of Gordon at their head, who never had a moral in her life, exclaim dreadfully against it. Nay, I am told that these magical wheelings have already roused poor Lord Dartmouth from his grave to suppress them. Alas! after all, people act about it as gravely as a company of dervishes, and seem to be paying adoration to Pluto rather than Cupid. But the quadrilles I can by no means endure; for till ladies and gentlemen have joints at their ankles, which is impossible, it is worst than impudent to make such exhibitions, more particularly in a place where there are public ballets every Tuesday and Saturday. When people dance to be looked at, they surely should dance to perfection. Even the Duchess of Bedford, who is the Angiolini of the group, who make an indifferent figurante at the opera; and the principal male dancer, Mr. North, reminds one of a gibbeted malefactor, moved to and fro by the winds, but from no personal exertion.” In July, 1821, a splendid ball was given here in honour of the coronation of George IV by the special Ambassador from France, the Duc de Grammont. The King himself was present, attended by some of his royal brothers, the Duke of Wellington, and a numerous circle of courtiers. “Whatever French taste, directed by a Grammont, could do,” writes Mr. Rush in his “Court of London,” “to render the night agreeable, was witnessed. His suite of young gentlemen from Paris stood ready to receive the British fair on their approach to the rooms, and from baskets of flowers presented them with rich bouquets. Each lady thus entered the ball-room with one in her hand; and a thousand posies of sweet flowers displayed their hues, and exhaled their fragrance as the dancing commenced.”


The waltz in this period was not the whirling waltz of later times, though it did involve a bit of a whirl as noted above. It was like a regular line dance of the time but with a section in which the couple turned together, in one another's arms so to speak. It also, as best I can tell, kept the couple together throughout, which was different to the usual country dance in which the dancers moved among others. Far too much intimacy. Bound to lead to ruin!

Even Byron, who could hardly be called stuffy, railed against it.
"Endearing Waltz!—to thy more melting tune
Bow Irish Jig, and ancient Rigadoon.
Scotch reels, avaunt! and Country-dance forego
Your future claims to each fantastic toe!
Waltz—Waltz alone—both legs and arms demands,
Liberal of feet, and lavish of her hands;
Hands which may freely range in public sight
Where ne’er before—but—pray “put out the light.”
Methinks the glare of yonder chandelier
Shines much too far—or I am much too near;
And true, though strange—Waltz whispers this remark,
“My slippery steps are safest in the dark!”
But here the Muse with due decorum halts,
And lends her longest petticoat to “Waltz.”

Later he goes on....
"The Ball begins—the honours of the house
First duly done by daughter or by spouse,
Some Potentate—or royal or serene—
With Kent’s gay grace, or sapient Gloster’s mien,
Leads forth the ready dame, whose rising flush
Might once have been mistaken for a blush.
From where the garb just leaves the bosom free,
That spot where hearts were once supposed to be;
Round all the confines of the yielded waist,
The strangest hand may wander undisplaced:
The lady’s in return may grasp as much
As princely paunches offer to her touch.
Pleased round the chalky floor how well they trip
One hand reposing on the royal hip!
The other to the shoulder no less royal
Ascending with affection truly loyal!
Thus front to front the partners move or stand,
The foot may rest, but none withdraw the hand;*
And all in turn may follow in their rank,
The Earl of—Asterisk—and Lady—Blank;
Sir—Such-a-one—with those of fashion’s host,
For whose blest surnames—vide “Morning Post.”
(Or if for that impartial print too late,
Search Doctors’ Commons six months from my date)
—Thus all and each, in movement swift or slow,
The genial contact gently undergo;
Till some might marvel, with the modest Turk,
If “nothing follows all this palming work?”
True, honest Mirza!—you may trust my rhyme—
Something does follow at a fitter time;
The breast thus publicly resigned to man,
In private may resist him—if it can."

It's amazing what twaddle a great poet can write, isn't it, both in style and content, but clearly he believed that the intimacies of the waltz would ruin women.

*This is interesting because it implies that the couple stayed in waltz position even when standing by as others danced, which isn't how I understand it.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Muggles, not just for Harry Potter?

More from the old Encyclopedia Britannica.

A religious sect which arose in England about the year 1657; so denomiated from their leader Lodowick Muggleton, a journeyman taylor, who with his associate Reeves, setup for great prophets, pretending, it is said, to have an absolute powe of saving or damning who they pleased; anf givig out that they were two of the last witnesses of God that should appear before the end of the world."

It caught my eye because I invented the Cotterites in my novel Secrets of the Night, but also because it's such an uninspirational name. Or perhaps it was just shades of Harry Potter. I suppose the big hook for my curiosity was that it made the encyclopedia a 100 years after.

That sent me researching on the web, where I found that the Muggletonians were a bigger deal than I'd thought. Many google hits.

I liked this bit. First kill your Reverend....

"Muggleton was arrested and imprisoned on charges of blasphemy in 1653. Both Reeve and Muggleton were sentenced to six months in Bridewell Prison in 1654 for cursing the Reverend Mr. Goffin who died very shortly after having been cursed. This was a widely reported event of the period that helped to spread the mystic of the Muggletonians."

Only six months for cursing a vicar to death. Those were the days! And note the date discrepancy with the Enc. entry. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica isn't always right.

From the above page we have:

" Common themes of Muggletonians were: the soul was mortal; Hell existed within Man; no need for formal religious ceremonies. A private gathering at a local inn or tavern with a reading or two from the Bible, and the singing of the "Divine Songs" to traditional tunes over a few beers would be considered a "service". (No wonder it was popular!)

These meetings generally went unnoticed as simply private parties rather than as religious meetings. Not the high profile of other dissident groups after the Conventicle Act (1664) which declared religious meetings of five or more illegal.


Muggletonians included large numbers of women who actively participated in the society. The Muggletonians simple message and traditions found supporters in the countryside, and in the factory towns of England into the twentieth century.

As a group the Muggletonians never commanded large numbers of believers. As the Gnostics before them, their membership slowly dwindled away by attrition by the mid-twentieth century when the last reported member died. The Muggletonians were unique in their message, and their longevity."

My, my. They lasted quite a while, didn't they?

There's even art associated.

So much weird history, so little time

All the best,


Wednesday, October 19, 2005

What's good for the fly...?

Truly, I'm not obsessed by food and drink. Perhaps that's where the weird stuff lies.

I was looking in my facsimile of the 1771 Enc. Britannia (originally for Scottish counties, but that's another story) for Hrothgar. One of my most popular heroes is the Marquess of Rothgar, and on my maillist people were talking about the origin of the name. I got it from Beowulf so I was curious as to whether it would be in there, being a recent literary find at the time.

No, but my eye wandered to:
ROS-SOLIS, sundew, an agreeable spiritous liquor composed of burnt brandy, sugar, cinnamon, and milk water; and sometimes perfumed with a little musk: it is so called as being at first prepared wholly of the juice of the plant ros-solis, or drosera.

That is, sundew.

My first question is, where does anyone get that much sundew juice?

My first speculation is whether there's something in sundew juice with interesting properties.

This sent me on a google search.
"It is said that sundew juice can curdle milk, remove warts, and relieve chronic coughs. Some report the juice acts as an aphrodisiac; others say it just puts them to sleep."

19th century medicinal info here.

Modern here.


Friday, September 16, 2005

On maple sugar

From an Immigration Handbook of 1820

"It is very hard, and requires to be scraped with a knife when used for tea, otherwise the lumps would be a considerable time dissolving. Its flavour strongly resembles the candied borehound sold by the druggists in England, and the Canadians say that it possesses medicinal qualities, for which they eat it in large lumps. It very possibly acts as a corrective to the vast quantity of fat pork which they consume, as it possesses a greater degree of acidity than the West-India sugar. Before salt was in use, sugar was eat with meat, in order to correct its putrescency. Hence probably the custom of eating sweet apple sauce with pork and goose; and currant jelly with hare and venison."

I'm not sure how putrescency is corrected! Disguised, perhaps. Acidity with fat is an old belief, however, and is behind the use of vinegar or lemon with fried foods. It's supposed to break down the fat before the body has to deal with it.

But then, people have had many funny ideas about food. There was a strong movement in the early 19th century in support of toast being much more digestible than bread. Who knows, they could be correct.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I'll just follow this little thread.....

This is a homile about the unwisdom of borrowing from friends, but the vignette of fashionable life fascinated me, and I decided to see what else I could find in quick google searches.

THE WORLD #3, Thursday, January 18th, 1753

"You are to know, sir, that I am a curate of a parish within ten miles of town, at forty pounds per annum: that I am five-and-thirty years old and that I have a wife and two children. My father, who was a clergyman of some note in the country, unfortunately died soon after I came from college and left me master of seventeen hundred pounds.With this sum, which I thought a very great one, I came up to town, took lodgings in Leicester Fields(1), put a narrow lace upon my frock, learnt to dance of Denoyer (2), bought my shoes of Tull(3), my sword of Becket,(4) my hat of’ Wagner (5), and my snuff box of Deard (6). In short I entered into the spirit of taste, and was looked upon as a fashionable young fellow.

I do not mean that I was really so, according to the town-acceptation of the term; for I had as great an aversion to infidelity, libertinism, gaming, and drunkenness, as the most unfashionable man alive. All that my enemies, or what is more, all that my friends can say against me, is, that in my dress I rather imitated the coxcomb than the sloven; that I preferred good company to reading the fathers; that I liked a dinner at the tavern better than one at a private house; that I was oftener at the play than at evening prayers; that I usually went from the play to the tavern again; and that in five years time I spent every shilling of my fortune.

They may also add, if they please, as the climax of my follies, that when I was worth nothnig myself, I married the most amiable woman in the world, without a penny to her fortune, only because we loved each other to distraction, and were miserable asunder."

(Side note here. This business of marrying sensibly is the basis of a short article I wrote for a collection called FLIRTING WITH PRIDE AND PREJUDICE from Ben Bella Books. On sale now.

So I set out to find more about the details above.
1. Leicester Fields became LEICESTER SQUARE. "Few spots in London have such interesting associations as Leicester Square. It takes its name from Leicester House, more than once the residence of royalty; and Leicester Fields, as the place used to be styled, were a favourite resort of duellists. From early in the seventeenth century foreigners have patronised the Square. "http://www.victorianlondon.org/districts/leicestersquare.htm

Following another thread I find that the famous Rabbit Woman (see below) was lodged there in 1726. Make of it what you will. http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/grub/rabbit.htm

2. Unfortunately for me there is a a current dancing Denoyer which makes quick searching difficult. If anyone knows about the early 18th century dance master Denoyer, please let me know.

3. Tull. I can't find anything about this apparently fashionable shoe maker, but I stumbled across this fascinating court case from 1732, with homosexuality, transvestism and all sorts of confusions!

4. Nothing about a sword maker called Becket.

5. From a 1794 directory. Wagner M. H., Hatter, 95, Pall Mall.

6. Deard, however, was obviously famous and part of a dynasty.The name first threw up this interesting ad.
"THE most excellent Spirit of Ground-lvy, distill'd to its Perfection: which infallibly cools and sweetens the Blood, and keeps the Stomach in order. It hath a more than ordinary Effect upon the Lungs, by preventing and wearing off short husking Coughs; immediately stops any violent Fit of Coughing. In any Case where the Blood wants rectifying, (especially Consumptions) it is of great Benefit. It easeth all griping Pains, windy and cholerick Humours in the Stomach, Spleen, or Belly, helps against the Yellow-Jaundice and Melancholy. To be taken according to Directions given with it. Seal'd with the Scotch Sold Wholesale by Mrs. Garway, at the Royal Exchange Gate in Cornhill, and Retail by Mr. Stone, Stationer, next to Gate on London-bridge, Mr. Deard, Toyshop, under it....
at 1 s. a bottle."

The ad is at the end of the record of Old Bailey cases. Note the woman sentenced to be burned for "petty treason", that is , murdering her husband -- her lord and master.

In a piece about Horace Walpole, I find that the tenent of Strawberry Hill before him was "Mrs. Chenevix (nee Deard) was the wife of Paul Daniel Chenevix and the owner of a fashionable London toyshop which, in the Daily Advertiser of 1739, was described as being "on the corner of Warwick Street near Pall Mall".

Elsewhere.25 March 1760:MISS FORD’s second Subscription Concert will be This Day the 25th Instant, at the Little Theatre in theHaymarket. The Vocal Parts by Miss FORD, who will play a Solo on the Viol di Gambo, and a Concerto on the Guittar. Pit and Boxes are laid together, at Half a Guinea each Ticket; Gallery 5s. / Tickets to be had at Mr. Deard’s Toy-shop, at Mr. Garden’s in Saint Paul’s Church-yard; and at Mr. Walsh’s in Catharine-street./ To begin at Seven o’Clock.—The Public Advertiser, Tuesday, 25 March 1760;

Then I also found a Deard in Bath in a poem by Lady Wortley Montague.
"Farewell to Deard's, and all her toys,
Which glitter in her shop,
Deluding traps to girls and boys,
The warehouse of the fop."
That would seem to cover snuffboxes. A toy shop was not what we would consider one, but would sell things like clocks and watches, mechanical devices, musical boxes, and small items like snuffboxes. So Deards of this 18th century poem, and the London one of 1713, and Mrs. Chenevix of 1739 were probably from the same family as the one mentioned in the original piece.

Clearly they sold walking sticks, too. In the novel, Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding, we have: No sooner did Joseph Andrews perceive the distress of his friend, when first the quick-scenting dogs attacked him, than he grasped his cudgel in his right hand—a cudgel which his father had of his grandfather, to whom a mighty strong
man of Kent had given it for a present in that day when he broke three heads on the stage. It was a cudgel of mighty strength and wonderful art, made by one of Mr Deard's best workmen, whom no other artificer can equal, and who hath made all those sticks which the beaus have lately walked with about the Park in a morning; but this was far his masterpiece. On its head was engraved a nose and chin, which might have been mistaken for a pair of nutcrackers.

Once I start following research threads, I never know where I'll end up, which is the fun of it. It's essential as well, however, because for a historical novelist these threads are the raw materials of our fictional worlds.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fashionable visiting

From Volume XXII of The British Essayists. Published 1823
Which reproduces THE WORLD described by the editors as a vehicle to address the opinions of the writers, as opposed to complete and thoughtful essays on subjects. In this respect it seems to me to be a lot like a blog. How these guys would have loved today’s technology, even though they would have railed on about all the ways it did not suit their particular way of looking at the world.

The editor says: “The design, as professed in the first paper, was, to ridicule, with novelty and good humour, the fashions, foibles, vices, and absurdities of that part of the human species which calls itself The World; and this the principal writers were enabled to execute with facility, from the knowledge incident to their rank in life, the elevated sphere in which they moved, their intercourse with a part of society not easily accessible to authors in general, and the good sense which prevented them from being blinded by the glare, or enslaved by the authority of fashion.”

It was mostly the work of Edward Moore, (1711 to 1754) but he also was the front man for eminent men of society who wanted to take pot shots at things that irritated them. Once that was known, it became a must-read. It was a weekly publication with about 2,500 copies printed.

Some of the pieces were doubtless shocking or biting in their time. They have no effect on us except in giving a window into that world both in what is considered worth writing about and in how it is regarded. But always remember, this is a biased, and generally cynical, point of view.

This is on fashionable visiting. (The practice of going from house to house to leave a card, to show respect, or in return for a card left at one’s own house. Rarely did people actually go in. In fact, it would probably have ruined their planned afternoon.)
Published on Thursday, March 14th, 1754.

“Among the polite and idle, there are none whom I behold with more compassion than those meagre and half-famished souls whom I meet every day, in fine clothes and gay equipages, going about from door to door, like common beggars: and, like beggars too, as commonly turned away; with this difference, that the porter gives the ragged stroller a surley “no”, and a civil dismission to the vagrant in embroidery. The former to excuse his idleness says, ‘Nobody will employ me:’ the latter does as good as say, ‘I cannot employ myself.’

This in high life is called visiting; which does not imply any friendship, esteem, or the least regard towards the person who is visited, but is the effect of pure generosity in the visitor, who, having more time upon his hands than be knows what to do with, prodigally bestows some of it upon those, whom he cares not one farthing for.

I look upon visiting to be the art of squandering away time with the least loss of reputation: a very great invention indeed! and as the other ingenious arts have been produced by hungry bellies, so this owes its rise to the emptiness of the mind.”


Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Ages in history

I've decided to occasionally post my thoughts and ideas about historical matters, especially what I see as errors.

As I mentioned at the beginning, one misleading piece of information is that the life expectancy in the past was something like 35 years. "How terrible," people say. "No wonder they married young, but even so, they wouldn't see many of their children reach adulthood."

A glance at real people immediately shows this to be ridiculous. (They didn't marry that young, either, but that's for another day.) My own family tree shows most of them living beyond that age and in fact into what we consider late middle age or later, and they weren't particularly privileged people.

I remember one tour of a historical site in which the guide put great weight on the short life expectancy in the 18th century, then led us through a graveyard full of stones recording death in the 50s, 60s, and older. She even told stories of famous people who died in old age, but didn't seem to see any conflict. She swallowed facts without digestion.

Why the discrepancy? Statistics. If we take all the births and divide by all the deaths, we can come up with a short life expectancy, but there was a tragically high death rate among the young. In those days babies and children were vulnerable to many diseases and accidents so the number of people who survived to adulthood was much reduced.

However, if someone reached 21, their chances of living to 60 and ever older were not much reduced from modern times, especially as the survivors tended to be sturdy and with good immune systems.

So when writing, we're not fantasizing to have our characters see their children into adulthood, and possibly even their grandchildren, and people in the past wouldn't have been amazed at the sight of a 60 year old. Someone who reached a 100, yes, but there were some of those, too.


Saturday, August 13, 2005

Jane Austen's ghoulish sisters....

I admire Jane Austen and her works, but she does create in the modern mind an image of an early 19th century England full of sense and decorum. This even with sensibility contrasted with sense, and Lydia in Pride and Prejudice to demonstrate how wild young ladies could be, not to mention the outrageous behaviour of many real people of the time.

Of course, in Northanger Abbey she spoofed the "horrid" novels of her time, but that proves she read the novels, and we shouldn't forget just how popular they were. People of all kinds were eagerly gobbling up the gothic novels.

Foreign settings perhaps made the extreme believable.

Koenigsmark the Robber; or, the Terror ofBohemia: In Which Is Included, theAffecting History of Rosenberg and Adelaide

The Cavern of Horrors; or, Miseries of Miranda: A Neapolitan Tale

Included in foreign, of course, was Catholicism with monks, nuns, and convents, always fertile ground for the horrid imagination.

The Bleeding Nun of the Castle of Lindenberg.

The Convent of St. Michael or the Unfortunate Emilia

Father Innocent, Abbot of the Capuchins; or the Crimes of Cloisters

The Midnight Assassin: Or, Confession of the Monk Rinaldi; Containing a Complete History of His Diabolical Machinations and Unparalleled Ferocity

Then there are the novels about sex:

Conscience; or, the Bridal Night: A Tragedy, in Five Acts

The Southern Tower; or, Conjugal Sacrifice and Retribution

Much more can be learned about the popular reading of the time here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

How the novelist found a husband

Jane Loudon wrote one of the popular gothic novels of the early 19th century, "The Mummy!". I find this below rather charming, especially as they seem to have had a happy marriage.

"Like Mary Shelley, Jane Loudon did not, at the time when she produced her most famous work, bear the name by which she would later become better known. She was born Jane Webb; her father, Thomas Webb, was initially wealthy, but fell on hard times, which appears to have provided the initial stimulus for his daughter to write. (Her particular choice of topic was no doubt influenced by the great interest in Egypt generated by the Napoleonic campaigns there.)

She did not, however, have a long literary career, for her imagined invention in The Mummy! of a mechanical milking machine attracted the attention of the agricultural and horticultural writer John Claudius Loudon, who requested an introduction and subsequently proposed to her, after which she concentrated entirely on gardening, publishing a number of books with titles like The Ladies’ Flower Garden. Apart from The Mummy!, her only other work of fiction was Stories of a Bride, published in 1829.

More at http://www.cf.ac.uk/encap/corvey/articles/cc09_n01.html

And more to come about those gothic novels and the reviews of them.

Monday, August 08, 2005

An elixir of egg.

Ah-ha! Perhaps the disgusting practice of using eggs to whiten tea is explained by there being very little of it. Louis Simond, early 19th century traveler to England wrote this.

"Milk-women, with their pails perfectly neat, suspended at the two extremities of a yoke, carefully shaped to fit theshoulders, and surrounded with small tin measures of cream, ring at everydoor, with reiterated pulls, to hasten the maid-servants, who come half asleep to receive a measure as big as an egg, being the allowance of a family; for it is necessary to explain, that milk is not here either food or drink, but a tincture, an elixir exhibited in drops, five or six at most, in a cup of tea, morning and evening. It would be difficult to say what taste or what quality these drops may impart; but so it is; and nobody thinks of questioning the propriety of the custom."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Even geniuses can get fooled

In the early 18th century there was the South Sea Bubble, an investment mania rather like the dot.com fiasco, and the tulip mania. (If you haven't heard of that one, look it up!)

As proof that not only fools get caught by these things, consider the lament of Sir Isaac Newton. "I can calculate the motions of the heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people."

Um. Doesn't "what goes up must come down" apply here?


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Missing in action

I'm very sorry for letting this lapse. It certainly showed me people were reading and enjoying, though! Thank you for being pleasant in your requests for more.

I want to explain what happened to show why this may be sporadic. I started minepast while doing intensive research and daily coming across strange things I wanted to share. Unfortunately, before realizing I could do something with them I didn't save most of them, but I had a few and came across a few more.

But then the writer's life took over. I had to switch to writing, especially to get a proposal off for a new book. Then I had to prepare my talk for the Romance Writers' national conference in Reno. Then go there. At the same time I should have been doing some promo for the reissue of one of my older books that's on the shelves now. (Risque Celtic statue, misogynistic parrot, eccentric hero, bizarre plot. Forbidden Magic. Buy now!)

BTW, not entirely from the past, but part of my research for my talk was Dr. Helen Fisher's fascinating book WHY WE LOVE. (I strongly recommend this. It's fascinating and readable. Also Malcolm Gladwell's BLINK!) In it she reports that a study over time and cultures shows a distinct preference for women with a waist that is 70% of their hips. This applies to the junoesque and the Twiggies and reflects the optimum balance of estrogen and testosterone for reproduction.

I have to say that my first thought was, bring back crinolines! If we can't fix our waists, we can spread our hips. Probably explains a lot of fashion. Then I wondered about the waist-concealing style of the Regency. Perhaps there's a reason high waisted fashion has rarely taken hold. But that's probably the reason that in fashion plates at least, Regency dresses often emphasise the breasts to a shocking degree. As in the picture above.

People sometimes think the Regency was a period of prim propriety, but the fashion doesn't bear that out. After all, it's also the time when men chose to wear form-fitting pantaloons AND cut their waistcoats and jackets up to the waist.

History -- it's not always what it seems to be.

I'll try to put up more tomorrow, and again, thanks for the assurances that there are people as fascinated by strange trivia as I am.

If you don't read romance, you don't know what you're missing -- and you certainly shouldn't criticize it!

All the best,


Sunday, July 03, 2005

Bathing for your health.

From the BATH AND BRISTOL GUIDE undated, probably late 18th century.

A description of the various baths available in the city of Bath, famous, of course, for its natural springs. Note the ways of measuring. We'd left hogsheads behind by my youth, but arithmetic was still an interesting challenge before the metric system was introduced.

"In the South-West part of the City are three other baths, viz (1) The Hot Bath, which is not much inferior to the King's Bath, and contains 53 Tons 2 Hogsheads and 11 gallons of water. (2) The Cross Bath, which contains 52 tons, 3 hogsheads, and 11 gallons. (3) The Leper's Bath, which is not so much frequented as the othes are."

Why am I not surprised?!?

Jo :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Truth can be stranger than fiction

In my next year's novel, The Rogue's Return, I decided to send my characters back home from Canada on a real ship, the Eweretta. She was a fur ship that arrived every spring and sailed in the fall, taking just a few passengers.

In 1820 she arrived on May 19th, having taken 47 days for the crossing from London, carrying a general cargo for Forsythe, Richardson and Co. But look at her passenger list.
Messrs. Cameron & Son, Capt. Snuff, Lady & family, J. Joseph & Son, Mr Walker, Mrs Mutton & Son, and Mr Summers

If I'd peopled my Eweretta of 1816 with a Captain Snuff and and Mrs. Mutton, everyone would have thought I was playing Clue!

1816 was the "year without a summer" due largely to the eruption of the volcano Tambora in Indonesia in 1815. The shipping record makes some mentions early in the year, when the situation hadn't truly sunk in.

Quebec, late May, 1816.
"The accounts received by the first arrivals at Quebec, this season, which stated that vast and unusual fields of ice were seen floating in the Gulph and along the coasts of Newfoundland, made us naturally apprehensive for the safety of the shipping bound to the St. Lawrence; the long list of so many vessels arrived since, without suffering much injury, must therefore be very gratifying.

The refreshing rains which have fallen lately, have occasioned a very favorable change in our fields and gardens, and give us room to hope, there will be yet abundance for man and beast in all our borders.–Who knows but that the chilly weather experienced at the beginning of this season, preserved the productions of the earth from the ravages of those insects which have so much injured the crops to the southward?"

The "year without a summer" wasn't literal, and the effects varied, but it came close in some areas, ruining crops and causing great hardship.
More here.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Instant Soup

I'm not actually obsessed by food, but it is often so different to what we expect. Instant soup in the 18th century. Who knew?

To make Veal-Glue, or Cake-Soup, to be carried in the Pocket.(!)

Take a Leg of Veal, strip it of the Skin and the Fat, then take all the muscular or Fleshy Parts from the Bones; boil this Flesh gently in such a
quantity of Water, and so long a time, till the Liquor will make a strong
Jelly when 'tis cold: this you may try by taking out a small Spoonful now
and then, and letting it cool. Here it is to be supposed, that tho' it will jelly presently in small quantities, yet all the juice of the Meat may not be extracted, however, when you find it very strong, strain the Liquor thro' a Sieve, and let it settle; then provide a large Stew-pan with Water, and some China-Cups, or glazed Earthen-Ware; fill these Cups with the Jelly taken clear from the Settling, and set them in the Stew-pan of Water, and let the Water boil gently till the Jelly becomes thick as Glue: after which, let them stand to cool, and then turn out the Glue upon a piece of new Flannel, which will draw out the Moisture; turn them in six or eight hours, and put them upon a fresh Flannel, and so continue to do till they are quite dry, and keep it in a dry warm Place: this will harden so much, that it will be stiff and hard as Glue in a little time, and may be carry'd in the Pocket without Inconvenience.

[Note - glue at this time was sold in hard cakes that were melted in hot water and needed to be kept hot for use. Fish glue. Pungent stuff, but strong when set.]

We are to use this by boiling about a Pint of Water, and pouring it upon a piece of the Glue or Cake, of the bigness of a small Walnut, and stirring it with a Spoon till the Cake dissolves, which will make very strong good Broth. As for the Seasoning Part, every one may add Pepper and Salt as they please, for there must be nothing of that kind put among the Veal when we make the Glue, for any thing of that sort would make it mouldy. Some of this sort of Cake-Gravey has lately been sold, as I am inform'd, at some of the Taverns near Temple-Bar, where, I suppose, it may now be had.

[It probably isn't necessary to think that the heads of the Scottish lords beheaded after the Jacobite rebellion were still on display at Temple Bar. No connection at all. None.]

As I have observ'd above, that there is nothing of Seasoning in this Soup, so there may be always added what we desire, either of Spices or Herbs, to make it savoury to the Palate; but it must be noted, that all the Herbs that are used on this occasion, must be boiled tender in plain Water, and that Water must be used to pour upon the Cake Gravey instead of simple Water: so may a Dish of good Soup be made without trouble, only allowing the Proportion of Cake-Gravey answering to the above said Direction. Or if Gravey be wanted for Sauce, double the Quantity may be used that is prescribed for Broth or Soup. I am inform'd by a Person of Honour, that upon this Foundation, there has been made a Cake-Gravey of Beef, which for high Sauces and strong Stomachs, is still of good use; and therefore I shall here give the Method of it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

I want my mummy.

"Mummies were of several kinds, and were all of great use in magnetic medicine. Paracelsus enumerates six kinds of mummies; the first four only differing in the composition used by different people for preserving their dead, are the Egyption, Arabian, Pesasphalton, and Lybian. The fifth mummy of particular power was made from criminals that had been hanged: 'for from such there is a gentle siccation that expungeth the watery humor without dentroying the oil and sprirituall, which is cherished by the heavenly luminaries and strengthened continually by the affluence and impulses of the celestial spirits; whence it may properly be called by the name of constellated or celestial mummic."

The sixth kind of mummy was made of corpuscles, or spiritual effluences, radiated from the living body; though we cannot get a very clear idea on this head, or respecting the manner in which they were caught."

Footnote in the section on magnetic medicine in Mackay's MEMOIRS OF EXTRAORDINARY POPULAR DELUSIONS, The Office of the National Illustrated Library, London, 1852

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Jane Austen -- fashionista!

Now that Jane Austen has achieved literary acceptance (which mean, of course, that she can't possibly be a romance writer) many people seem to want to think of her as above frivolity.

Her letters often refer to fashion, as here, from 1813.
"Miss Hare had some pretty caps, and is to make me one like one of them, only white satin instead of blue. It will be white satin and lace, and a little white flower perking out of the left ear, like Harriot Byron's feather. I have allowed her to go as far as L1. 16s. My gown is to be trimmed everywhere with white ribbon plaited on somehow or other. She says it will look well. I am not sanguine. They trim with white very much.[In London.]

I learnt from Mrs. Tickars's young lady, to my high amusement, that the stays now are not made to force the bosom up at all; that was a very unbecoming, unnatural fashion. I was really glad to hear that they are not to be so much off the shoulders as they were.

My cap is come home, and I like it very much. Fanny has one also; hers is white sarsenet and lace, of a different shape from mine, more fit for morning carriage wear, which is what it is intended for, and is in shape exceedingly like our own satin and lace of last winter; shaped round the face exactly like it, with pipes and more fulness, and a round crown inserted behind. My cap has a peak in front. Large full bows of very narrow ribbon (old twopenny) are the thing. One over the right temple, perhaps, and another at the left ear."

Thursday, June 09, 2005

More weird food.

From: Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo, by Way of Lisbon, Athens, Constantinople, and Jerusalem: Performed in the Steamers of the Peninsular and Oriental Company. Contributors: M. A. Titmarsh - author. Publisher: Wiley & Putnam. Place of Publication: New York. Publication Year: 1846

"It was agreed that a party of us should land for half an hour, and taste real Spanish chocolate on Spanish ground. We followed Lieutenant Bundy, but humbly in the providor's boat; that officer going on shore to purchase fresh eggs, milk for tea (in place of the slimy substitute of whipped yolk of egg, which we had been using for our morning and evening meal), and, if possible, oysters, for which it is said the rocks of Vigo are famous."

Now the English have a strong preference for tea with milk, but if I had no alternative I'd drink it black rather than with whipped egg yolk. Ew!

And they already knew of a way of preserving milk for voyages by sealing it in a container then heating it, because I've come across that 50 years earlier.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

How to....

How to books have always been popular.

[The prices are shillings and pence. There were, of course, 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pennies to the shilling.]

The Art of Angling for Rock and Sea Fish 2 6
The Art of being easy at all Times and in all Places 2 0
The Art of pleasing in Conversation, Fr. and Eng. 6 0
The Art of Ringing 1 6
The Art of Painting in Miniature 1 6
The Art of Preserving Health 1 6
The Art of Speaking in Public 2 6
The Art of Speaking 4 6
The Art of Poetry, on a new Plan 6 0
The Art of Thinking (Introduction to) 2 6
The Art of Letter-writing 2 6

But in the middle of this innocuous list was:
The Art of Tormenting 3 6
What or earth was this? A torture manual?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Stone Soup

I trust you're familiar with the folk tale about stone soup, where someone offers to make soup from a stone, but persuades people to add a little of this and a little of that?

Well -- Egg Soup, or actually "dressed eggs", from a cookery book on Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext05/hwife10.txt

I'd put it in the early 19th century, but I couldn't find a date.

Boil your Eggs till they are hard, and cut the Whites only into Rings or large pieces; then cut some Parsley and Onions small, and stew them with a little Salt, Pepper, and Nutmeg in half a Pint of Water, till the Onion andParsley is tender; when this is done, put in your Eggs [whites only, note] well flower'd, and as soon as they are hot, put half a Pint of Cream to them, and thicken them for serving at the Table.

The Yolks may be fry'd to garnish the Dish.

Or may not. I wonder if this was a plot to keep the good bits for the servants. There's another recipe for battered egg whites in gravy.... Ick. No mention of the yolks there at all.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Picture this next time there's a Jane Austen movie.

"There are some customs here not quite consistent with the scrupulous delicacy of which the English pique themselves. Towards the end of dinner, and before the ladies retire, bowls of coloured glass full of water are placed before each person. All (women as well as men) stoop over, sucking up some water, and returning it, perhaps more than once, and, with a spitting and washing sort of noise, quite charming -- the operation frequently assisted by a finger elegantly thrust in the mouth! This done, and the hands dipped also, the napkins, and sometimes the table-cloth, are used to wipe hand and mouth."

From Journal of a Tour and Residence in Great Britain (1810-1811) by Louis Simond, a French born American.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

More from Leclerc

"The interior of our ship abounds with mice. Now and then we see some running here and there. From time to time we kill some, and every day we hear them cry in their holes. They make a horrible ravage among our effects. They gnaw our books, papers, linen, clothes, provisions, etc. We have a cat, it is true, but she is so little that she cannot make war on them, and even if she were larger she would not know how to catch them, because she is spoiled and because she is nourished deliciously. She thus loses the taste of the most of the mice. Some one lately presented her with a dead mouse which she smelled and disdained. By way of retaliation our ducks are more warlike and courageous. We once threw a dead mouse upon deck and they pounced upon it, tore it in pieces, disputed over it and endeavored to eat it. And another time they swallowed, in a trice, several little mice which were put before them. I was extremely surprised at seeing that and I said that since ducks eat mice dead or live, doubtless we also eat mice when we eat ducks. I requested, therefore, that I should no more be served duck at dinner."

This vaguely reminds me of a man in the 19th century who decided to eat his way through the arnimal kingdom and once served guests battered mice for breakfast!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

A life on the ocean waves....

In 1816, Laurent Leclerc, a young deaf man, sailed from France to America and kept a diary in English in order to improve his use of the language. I found some of the events startling. So did he!

"I have forgotten to say in the beginning of my journal that we have in our ship different species of living animals for our daily nourishment, among which are six hogs, several ducks and several cocks and hens. We have also some canary birds to tickle the ears of the passengers by the agreeable sound of their singing. Ah well!! After dinner I was told that one was now going to kill a hog.

In truth, I saw two strong sailors seize the poor animal by his feet, throw him down and thrust a large knife in his neck. The blood flew and gushed-such a spectacle caused too much pain."


Saturday, May 28, 2005

Breakfast isn't always good for you.

I'm researching the Barons' War of the mid 13th century, when Simon de Montfort was leading an attempt to control the power of the monarchy and bring it under the partial control of the barons. At this time, Edward I was heir to his father, Henry III, but he was at times a supporter of reform. Even so, his relationship with Richard de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, one of the reforming barons, was instable, let us say.

From EDWARD I by Michael Prestwich, Methuen, 1988

"In late July 1258, at Winchester, Edward breakfasted with the earl of Gloucester and his brother William, an indication that he was ready to co-operate with the reforming barons. The meal was a disastrous one, however, for both the de Clare brothers were extremely ill afterwards. William never recovered, and died shortly afterwards, and Earl Richard’s hair fell out, as did his finger- and toe-nails. It was probably a simple case of food-poisoning [you think?], but in the excited atmosphere of the time rumours of plots abounded [you're not kidding!], and Gloucester’s steward, Walter de Scoteny, was accused of poisoning his masters. He was duly found guilty, drawn and hanged. [No comment.]

He was a tenant of Edward’s, and in the following year the prince was granted the proceeds of his lands. [Yet more lack of commentary.]

The fateful breakfast did not, it seems, poison relations between Edward and the earl of Gloucester. An important document shows that on 14 March 1259 a formal alliance was made between Edward and his supporters on the one hand, and Richard de Clare with his on the other. "

Richard died in 1262 at only age 40* -- possibly of poison. At breakfast again?

*The statistics that imply that most people died at about 35 are highly misleading. More on that another time.

Starting With Underthings

I intend this blog for instant display of my random findings, but to get it going I'm sharing some more conventional information.

Many of my novels are set in the English Regency -- Jane Austen's time -- and people often think that the high waisted gowns of the time freed women from corsets, but it isn't so. In fact the fashion for extremely high breasts made a strong corset essential for most fashionable women.
This site sells patterns.

There's more here.

More another day!