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. "

Following another thread I find that the famous Rabbit Woman (see below) was lodged there in 1726. Make of it what you will.

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.”