Oct 272015
 

1 YorkI recall doing a blog once before on Fairfax House in York (here) but felt it was time to update the post, having been to see round the house last week. Fairfax House had kindly hosted the conference on “Retail Shopping in the Eighteenth Century” and in addition to a highly enjoyable reception at Fairfax House we were able to look round the exhibition linked to the symposium. It was small, but it was beautifully formed, with display cabinets full of the minutiae of  the retail world – samples, advertisements, trade cards, shop signs and so on.

York 2The house is likewise on a ‘human’ scale: it has been described as “the most perfect example of an eighteenth century townhouse … anywhere in England”. Certainly you will come across larger and more impressive stately piles, but this was a townhouse, to be lived in by the family of Viscount Fairfax of Gilling Castle during the winter months. York 3It is compact, beautifully decorated and furnished, and there is little to remind you of the fact that for years the building was used as a dance hall and local cinema. As the guide book helpfully shows you, the bedroom of Viscount Fairfax  was at one stage used as the men’s loo. Thankfully the urinals have gone and the room is restored to its former glory! Much of the elaborate ceiling work was buried under layers of bright red paint, but the pains-taking restoration work in the 1980s has polished up this little gem so that it gleams like an emerald.

York 4Much of the furniture comes from the collection of Noel Terry (he of Terry’s chocolate fame) and it sits perfectly in the beautifully restored rooms. I was particularly impressed with all the staff – helpful, informative and enthusiastic, but also quite willing to leave you alone if you just wanted to soak up the atmosphere.

York 5I cannot show images of the actual exhibition for  copyright reasons: suffice to say that if you are in York, go see it. I skipped on the chance to see the Jorvik Centre, which I am sure is excellent, but instead wandered round the Shambles, saw York Minster, and went round the Castle Museum with its fine and evocative re-creation of a Victorian street scene. Oh, and I stumbled across a most excellent antiquarian bookshop in Micklegate Street, and came away with several  fascinating tomes on Hogarth, Rowlandson, Gillray and Constable. Mind you, I did feel a bit like  someone who buys books by the yard – I had a weight allowance on my return flight to Spain and therefore had to buy the books according to weight. It meant that there was no room for Sir Joshua Reynolds, but then, hey, that was no great loss as I am not his greatest fan…

York 6

York 7

And finally, because I am a Fairfax myself, descended on the wrong side of the blanket from the dear old Viscount, a picture of my own and only memento of the family – a tinder box kept by my ancestor Richard Fairfax.Fairfax tinder box 1 002

Oct 262015
 

6I have just returned to Spain after a fascinating couple of days in York, courtesy of Fairfax House (more of whom in the next day or so). Fairfax House had organized a very successful symposium (a fancy word for a conference….) spread over two days, looking at “the retail realm”.

I hope that my talk managed to be something of a counter-balance to the rather more academic approach of some of the other speakers. I confess that I found that the “gender agenda” got in the way of some of the papers: why not simply accept that 18th century society was extraordinarily unfair and unequal, and that women rarely had the chance to do anything apart from act as breeding stock? Yes, it was an appalling, obscene, waste of talent but it happened, and no amount of research into what women might have been thinking “behind closed doors”, or in literature, can alter the injustice. Indeed the harder some of the papers seemed to emphasize female involvement and importance, the more they seemed to show the exact opposite. It merely reinforced my view that I don’t think that I would enjoy going back to  university to do a course on History in the Eighteenth Century. If one or two of the speakers, who came from both sides of the Atlantic, are anything to go by, I would rather take up wearing a hair shirt by way of penance for being male, or else practice trepanning on myself as a DIY hobby.

So I am not entirely sure what some of the residents of la-la land made of my paper, which looked at the shopping experience from the point of view of the shopkeeper. Some of my ancestor’s customers were women, some were not, but what interested Richard Hall was not their gender, but whether they paid him in good, hard, currency. He worried about clipped coinage, about customers defaulting on their debts, about shop-lifting and damaged stock. He agonized over the risk of fire, worried about whether his customers were small-pox carriers, and dreaded periods of royal mourning because it meant that his brightly coloured fabrics strayed on the roll while he had to endure eight, sometimes twelve, weeks of selling nothing but black satin and black lace. Richard was simply a product of his time, and branding him as a misogynist or a bigot surely misses the point: this was his world. He accepted it, because he knew no other, and while feminists can argue that he kept each of his two wives in the background, as second class citizens, that is not the way he saw it. Nor, I suspect, is it how his wives saw it…

A Milliner's Shop, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

A Milliner’s Shop, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Certain aspects of the conference were fascinating, not least the evolution of the shop as a physical structure: from market stall to dedicated shop. It was interesting to see how glass changed the display concept; how bow-fronts to the shops developed, how trade descriptions evolved, and how trade cards and bill-heads helped differentiate one supplier from another. There was a  splendid contribution from Vanessa Brett on the Deards family toy-shops in Bath, London and elsewhere, and fascinating accounts from others about tea-smuggling from Gothenburg, about Josiah Wedgwood’s skills  as a salesman, and about how foreigners marvelled at our shops and our shopping habits. I certainly learned a lot, met some lovely people, and thoroughly enjoyed presenting a  paper to people who knew an awful lot more than I do about certain aspects of life two centuries ago. They received me kindly, and for that I am grateful. It was good to be able to produce the diaries and journals of Richard Hall to people who could appreciate and understand them.

The Bum Shop, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The Bum Shop, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The Virgin Shape Warehouse, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

The Virgin Shape Warehouse, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library

Diatribe over: what of the shops themselves? Here are a few images to remind you of the eighteenth century shopping experience, both exaggerated and real. I have used the Bumshop and the Virgin Shape Warehouse images before, but they are interesting simply as confirmation that shop assistants (usually male) would be scurrying around, obsequiously reassuring  customers and tempting them to buy. There were mirrors, there were trade counters, and there were facilities for trying on (though not, of course, in full view of other shoppers!).

The image  at the start of this piece is a Rowlandson, showing a gentleman sampling snuff in a tobacconists. Again, it is interesting for its array of storage jars and containers, separated from the customer by the long wooden counter. I had not appreciated that so many Georgian shops were simply ‘carved out’ of residential buildings, meaning that their frontage was often only one half of the building, but stretching back to at least two rooms deep. It meant that for many shoppers, they would enter a room 7 to 10 feet wide, separated in its entire length by a long counter, so that the shoppers would enter in single file on one side, looking across the counter at the goods which would then be presented to them for inspection by the shopkeeper. The Wedgwood-inspired idea of shops where customers could wander round inspecting the goods must have been revolutionary, to say nothing of supplying goods on approval, free delivery, BOGOF and money-back guarantees. Poor Richard must have despaired at such extravagance! Until 1768, shopping was far less of a window-shopping experience, although I rather liked the description by Newcastle University’s  Professor Helen Berry of  ‘women who ramble’ going by the cant name of “silkworms”.

4To end with, a couple of the images I used in my talk, showing the interior of a haberdasher’s shop.  This one, dating from 1810 (shortly after Richard died, and therefore highly likely to be representative of his shop at One London Bridge) shows the counter, the innumerable drawers for bits and bobs, the shelves for material, and the  lace and ribbons hanging across the window.

 

5The other shows a young lady apprehended as she tries to leave a haberdasher’s shop when she is stopped because she has been hiding lace and ribbons up under her skirt. The constable is called, and stands at the doorway, as an eager young lad ferrets around to see what else she has pilfered…

I have also added two of Richard’s actual display cards. You can just imagine them sitting discreetly on a pile of velvet and of cotton wadding, ready to catch the eye of the eager shopper…

 

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Oct 232015
 

In researching for my next book “In bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal and Satire” I came across a book by Richard King  which came out in 1771,  entitled ‘The New London Spy: or, A Twenty-Four Hours Ramble through the Bills of Mortality’. Its full title offered readers:

…a true picture of modern high and low life; from the splendid mansions in St. James’s to the subterraneous habitations of St. Giles’s, wherein are displayed the various scenes of Covent-Garden, and its environs, the theatres, Jelly-houses, Gaming-houses, Night-houses, Cottages, Masquerades, Mock-Masquerades, Public-gardens, and other places of entertainments.

I love the idea of a “Jelly house” and recalled the image of a Jelly-house macaroni on the Lewis Walpole site.

a Jelly houseThe print, by Carington Bowles, came out in 1772 and shows a young rake making amorous advances to a lady of the town. The jelly house was not so much a brothel as a meeting place – somewhere a young blade would go to in order to pick up a prostitute. In order to ‘heighten the coming pleasure in the amorous contest’ the couple might build up their appetites, and strength, by feasting on jellies and other delicacies, before retiring to a nearby room for a spot of how’s-your-father.

It seems that  the idea of jellies having aphrodisiac qualities has never entirely gone out of fashion – I see that there is a website called The Spicy Wench which offers to purvey Aphrodisiac Jelly containing Sugar, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Mojito Mint,and Pectin. Others nowadays may swear by Royal Jelly, but my guess is that the amorous couple in the Jelly house were more likely to slurp a wobbling plate of ribbon jelly (contrasting layers of different coloured jellies  served in a tall glass). It may have worked – though rumour has it that  Casanova swore by the combination of red wine and stilton. Mind you, other reports say that he knocked back fifty oysters before each and every assignation, so I don’t suppose he would have been seen dead in a jelly-house. Nor would Madame du Barry, mistress of Louis XV of France, who swore by cauliflower soup, made to her own recipe. As an alternative she would offer her royal paramour a cup of hot chocolate …

Of course there has long been a belief that  food can have “potency potential”  if it combines the qualities of being smooth, rich, creamy, exotic and spicy. So at first I thought that my 18th century rake would have chosen a flummery  (like a blancmange) flavoured with either cinnamon or ginger. It would have come out of a mould shaped like a beehive, no doubt made by Wedgwood, and it would have wobbled suggestively as each of the participants endeavoured to take a spoonful. Or maybe they would have opted for a quince jelly or quiddany (similar to the membrillo you get in Spain). Quinces had long been used for their aphrodisiac qualities, made into a sort of marmalade. It is not a fruit we often encounter today, but old recipe books were full of them – so much so that in the 17th Century prostitutes were apparently termed ‘marmalade madams’  because they would entice customers with a spoonful or two of quince marmalade. (The Historic Food site here has some splendid recipes and images of quince moulds and jellies). However, the more I looked for recipes for jellies which were believed to have the right properties to encourage a night of hanky-panky, the more I was drawn back to the idea of it being a (savoury) jellified broth. Many of the recipes were none too subtle (“Take four cocks…”). So perhaps the young lovers had a plateful of those delicious gelatinous juices you get on the bottom of the roasting tray when you roast a chicken – no doubt flavoured with red wine and herbs….

Mind you, looking again at the picture it appears as if he has already got his hands on her jellies, so perhaps they would have dispensed with the preliminaries and just gone upstairs!

Oct 162015
 

As the artist J M W Turner was strolling along the south bank of the River Thames on 16 October 1834 he saw flames erupting from the Houses of Parliament. Out came his sketchbook, and he hastily scribbled the unfolding scene as flames enveloped the building and lit up the night sky. Apparently he even hired a rowing boat in order to get nearer to the action.

Joseph_Mallord_William_Turner,_English_-_The_Burning_of_the_Houses_of_Lords_and_Commons,_October_16,_1834_-_Google_Art_ProjectMonths later he used the studies to do two paintings, both called The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, and this is the first of the two. It was first exhibited at the British Institution in 1835. The original is now held by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, so thanks to them for the image. It shows Westminster Bridge on the right, leading to the north side of the river where flames have engulfed the the chamber of the House of Commons in St Stephen’s Hall. The twin towers of Westminster Abbey are illuminated by the flames.

Apparently some hapless individual called Richard Weobley, the Clerk of Works, had been a tad careless in disposing of two cartloads of old tally sticks, used in the voting process up until 1826. By 1834 they were totally obsolete and therefore surplus to requirements. Instead of being burnt safely inside two furnaces in the basement, they set fire to the chimney which ran up through the ancient building, and the flames then spread rapidly throughout the royal palace. The result was catastrophic. Mind you, people had been warning for years that the place was a fire trap, with totally inadequate party walls, and saying that it was an accident waiting to happen. And so it proved.

Perhaps it wasn’t really wobbly Weobly’s fault – after all, he delegated the task of loading the tally sticks in to the furnaces to two Irish labourers, Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong. They were supposed to feed the sticks in to the furnace one at a time, and Weobly looked in on a couple of occasions to make sure all was OK. Eventually Cross and Furlong thought “Blow this for a waste of time” and stuffed the whole pile of highly combustible old tally sticks into the furnaces, shut the furnace doors and wandered off to the Star and Garter public house for a pint or two of beer (thirsty work, burning tally sticks).

Josh, Paddy, you shouldn’t have done that! The next thing anyone knew, crump, the whole shebang was burned to the ground. In its place we got the current building,  designed by architect Charles Barry, and which opened in 1847 for their Lordships and in 1852 for those Common M.P.s. Ironically the building may have to be closed for five years while major works are carried out to make it safe into the twenty-second century. The cost is going to run into billions, but apparently without it the place will fall down. Besides it is riddled with asbestos, is subsiding, and has ancient electrical wiring in its 1100+ rooms. Oh how those Victorians loved jerry-buildings! Last time around, His Maj. (William IV) offered “homeless” M.P.s the use of Buck Palace  (declined). I wonder where we shall put the M.P.s up this time around? Dartmoor Prison springs to mind…

In the meantime, let’s hear it for Joshua Cross and Patrick Furlong, the stars of the show this day in 1834. You succeeded where both Guido Fawkes and the Luftwaffe failed, so we raise a glass of Guinness to a job well done!

Oct 132015
 

b2b1I still have many of Richard Hall’s fossils, which he avidly collected. At the end of February 1790 he appears to have had a “job lot” sent down from London to his home in the Cotswolds.

I suspect it was all part of his “thirst for knowledge” which caused him to collect and draw them. He had a separate notebook entitled “Fossils” and inside he would draw various specimens.

I rather like the way that he assumed that the ammonite – or ‘Ammon’s Horn’ was actually a long worm with its head in the centre, turned to stone after it died.

b5

 

 

 

 

Richard construed the word ‘fossil’ as meaning anything which was dug up out of the ground, so the expression included emeralds and other precious stones.

 

 

b4

b3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                          It looks like a fossilized sea urchin to me…

Anyway, it gives me a chance to repeat a blog I did a couple of years ago about Mary Anning, a woman who so dramatically changed our understanding of fossils and the ancient world:

The spotlight is therefore turned not on a well-educated man, or a wealthy daughter with aristocratic connections, but on a girl who was amongst the poorest of the poor; who in many ways led a miserably hard and short life; who could barely read and write, and yet was someone who amazed the scientific world in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Her name was Mary Anning, born in Lyme Regis in Dorset on 21st May 1799. She cannot be said to have had an auspicious start in life. She was one of ten children – but eight died in childhood. An elder sister had already been called Mary but she had perished in a fire when her clothes were ignited from some burning wood shavings. Our heroine was born five months after this tragic death, and was named Mary in memory of her dead sibling.

Mary had luck, of a sort, on her side. When she was eighteen months old she was being held in the arms of a neighbour called Elizabeth Haskings who was in a group of women watching a travelling show. A storm sprang up and the group took shelter beneath an elm tree, but a bolt of lightning struck the tree, killing three of the women including Elizabeth. Yet Mary was apparently unscathed. Fate had something quite remarkable in store for the young girl…

Mary’s parents were Dissenters, meaning that education opportunities were limited and the family were subject to legal discrimination. A member of the Congregationalist Church, she attended Sunday School and here learned the rudiments of reading and writing. The Congregational Church, unlike the Anglican Church, attached great importance to education, particularly for young girls, and she was encouraged in her development by the pastor Revd James Wheaton. Her prized possession was apparently a copy of the Dissenters’ Theological Magazine and Review in which the good Reverend had apparently written two articles; one reiterated the importance of understanding that the world was created by God in seven days, and the other, somewhat curiously, suggested that a study of the new science of geology was to be encouraged.

Father was a carpenter and cabinet maker and business was tough. Even worse, her father died when Mary was eleven, leaving the family without any apparent means of support.

After the father’s death the destitute family eked a living finding fossils along what is now termed the Jurassic coast in Dorset. In 1811 Mary’s elder brother Joseph found a fossilized skull of what was thought to be a crocodile protruding from the crumbling cliffs of Blue Lias. Mary was given the task of slowly exposing the ancient creature, uncovering not just the skull but 60 vertebrae. It was difficult work, scrambling to reach the exposed rock face, at risk from the tides and rock falls, but the young girl showed an aptitude for the work. Besides, there were rewards: the skeleton was bought by the local Lord of the Manor called Henry Hoste Henley for £23. He in turn sold it to a private collector called William Bullock, and he exhibited it in London with the rest of his fossil collection in his Museum of Natural Curiosities. In 1819 it was bought as a ‘crocodile in a fossil state’ by the British Museum, for £45. The creature was eventually called Ichthyosaurus (‘fish lizard’) by the scientists Henry de la Beche and William Conybeare. It was the first specimen of Ichthyosaurus ever recorded, and both men went on to make their name on the back of Mary’s efforts.

The find was to change Mary’s life and, in time, her studies of anatomy, geology, paleontology and scientific illustration were to propel her to considerable fame (but never fortune). The world of scientific discovery was not just dominated by men, it was dominated by Anglicans, people of good education and usually privilege. An ill-educated, impecunious, girl from her background was never going to find acceptance easy.

She did however have supporters. Her big break came in 1820. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas James Birch had previously got to know Mary and her brother Joseph and had bought a number of items from them. He decided to auction off some of these specimens and the sale generated huge interest from all over the country and indeed throughout Europe. The specimens were sold for £400, a huge sum at the time, and the generous Lieutenant-Colonel handed the entire proceeds over to Mary.

 

In time she became the focus of attention – not just collectors and scientists would visit her tiny beach-front shop, but also socialites keen to see and speak with this witty, knowledgeable but poorly-educated woman.

 

Throughout the 1820’s and 30’s she hammered away, discovering the long-necked plesiosaurus or sea dragon in 1823, a ‘flying dragon’ i.e. the pterodactyl (in 1828) and hundreds, upon hundreds of other fossils. Squaloraia a cross between a shark and a ray, was discovered in 1829. In the winter of 1830, she found a new, large-headed Plesiosaurus, and sold it for £210. She became an expert on the delightful subject of bezoar stones (now known as coprolites, that is to say, fossilized faeces!). She also proved that belemnite fossils contained fossilized ink sacs, by grinding up the fossilized remains and mixing them with water to produce an inky substance similar to sepia ink in squids. Her brother Joseph demonstrated this with his drawing of one of Mary´s fossils, shown here.

She helped show the astonished world what marine life looked like in the Jurassic period, some 140 to 200 million years ago, before mammals ruled the earth. Scientists such as Henry de la Beche helped her financially when he handed to her the proceeds of sale from his engraving entitled Duria Antiquior, a more ancient Dorset – a scene of prehistoric life based upon fossils which she had found and identified.

Not everyone accepted her without question: the French anatomist Georges Cuvier dismissed one of her finds as a fake, but Mary was able to refute the allegation of forgery and, in fairness, Cuvier acknowledged his error and became a fan of hers. For some, they simply couldn’t bring themselves to give credit to the achievements of a mere woman – and a poorly educated one at that. Even her own gender seemed amazed at her skill and knowledge, as in this diary entry, made in 1824, by Lady Harriet Sivester, after visiting Mary Anning:

“. . . the extraordinary thing in this young woman is that she has made herself so thoroughly acquainted with the science that the moment she finds any bones she knows to what tribe they belong. She fixes the bones on a frame with cement and then makes drawings and has them engraved. . . It is certainly a wonderful instance of divine favour – that this poor, ignorant girl should be so blessed, for by reading and application she has arrived to that degree of knowledge as to be in the habit of writing and talking with professors and other clever men on the subject, and they all acknowledge that she understands more of the science than anyone else in this kingdom.”

Ah, so that was it: Divine favour, not skill and hard work ….

For years she carried on chipping away at rocks with her hammer, accompanied by her faithful dog Troy, who always appears beside her in paintings of the day. Eventually in 1833 Troy was killed in a rock-fall when the tide undermined the ledge he was standing on, but Mary was unharmed. She was however distraught at the loss of her constant companion. She knew only too well the irony that it was the really high tides in winter which revealed the fossil deposits, just as it was the same tides which made the rock face unstable and liable to collapse.

Hers was not to be a long and happy life. She died of breast cancer at the age of 47 on 9th March 1847. In her lifetime success and recognition evaded her. She had been barred from admission to the Geological Society on account of her gender (women were not admitted to their ranks until 1904). At one stage she wrote “The world has used me so unkindly, I fear it has made me suspicious of everyone” and only one journal ever published anything from her – and that a letter to the editor, not an article. And one, only one, other geologist named a specimen after her in her lifetime, when the Swiss-American naturalist Louis Agassiz named two fossil fish after her, Acrodus anningiae and Belenstomus anningiae.

In fairness to the Geographical Society they did help her financially through her final illness. She was buried in St Michael’s Church in Lyme Regis.

Recognition came after her death: three years later the Geographical Society paid for a stained glass window at the church in her honour. The inscription reads “This window is sacred to the memory of Mary Anning of this parish, who died 9 March AD 1847 and is erected by the vicar and some members of the Geological Society of London in commemoration of her usefulness in furthering the science of geology, as also of her benevolence of heart and integrity of life.”

Finally, more than a hundred and fifty years after she died, the Royal Society included her in their 2010 list of the ten British women who have most influenced the history of science. Some might say: better late than never.

Oct 102015
 

SSS  B Mus Love in her eye sits playingI am putting the finishing touches to the manuscript for “Sex, Scandal and Satire – in bed with the Georgians”, due to be published next year by Pen & Sword books. One of the hardest decisions has been the selection of images. I had chosen a short-list  of 120 but had to whittle that down to a finished list of 70. I thought  that I would look at a few which did not make the cut.

First up was the wonderfully suggestive “Love in her eye sits playing” which says it all in terms of  “if you want it, come and get it”. And although I would  like to have included this example of female  lustfulness I had to reject it because I couldn’t afford her price! More particularly, it is only available on the British Museum site. It appears here subject to their copyright, and if I had wanted it in the book I understand that it might have cost an up-front payment of around £120. Multiply that up by seventy and the whole project collapses, so, sorry, no “Love in her eye sits playing”.

SSS BelindaInstead I will use the portrait on the left by the same artist, available from the Yale Center for British Art, called “Belinda”. Helpfully, they make no charge, even though it is not currently digitised and they are having to prepare it for me specially. Thanks, Yale, much appreciated!

Ironically the artist later became a vicar and was then somewhat apologetic for having specialised in painting  sex-hungry ladies. I don’t think he had anything to apologise for, and the images exemplify eighteenth century attitudes towards sex in general, and sex for sale in particular.

Another image I would liked to have used is Military Mantrap, available at the Lewis Walpole Library site. My problem is that it is too generic and also not colourful enough. It will have to stay on the cutting room  floor until I can wheel it out on some subsequent occasion.

SSS Miltary Mantrap

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflecting on these images I notice that they are all based on ladies showing a fair amount of cleavage: just to redress the balance here are two others which did not make the grade. They  share the identical title, and both can be found at the Lewis Walpole Library site.

SSS Prodigal lwlSSS Prodigal2The first of these prints entitled “The Prodigal Son revelling with Harlots” was published by Carington Bowles, after Dighton, in 1792. The lower mezzotint  came out five years later, and both of them deal with those multiple evils of whoring, gambling and drinking. I particularly like  the cat in the foreground (signifying female lust). The print might yet get a reprieve if I choose it for the cover illustration: we will have to wait and see!

I am pleased to say that  two of the images which do make the  cut are by Thomas Rowlandson (part of his decidedly ‘top shelf’ output) but I am not going to spoil the anticipation – you will have to wait until you can buy the book! Meanwhile one of these “discarded” images featured here might just make it as the cover image on the book….

Oct 082015
 

1 stu  100 facts imageToday you don’t just get one lot of one hundred facts, you get two! I was delighted to see that my own book “One Hundred Facts about the Georgians” has been joined on the book-shelves by a companion volume: “One Hundred Facts about the Stuarts” by Andrea Zuvich. I think I speak for us both when I say it was quite a challenge coming up with a hundred facts from our chosen period of history – some of them quirky, some of them mainstream – and then writing them up within a very precise word count laid down by the publishers (Amberley).

The end result consists of two complementary volumes which are designed for readers to be able to nip in and out of. There is nothing heavyweight about them. They are fun, and each of the one hundred sections will only take a couple of minutes to read, so they are ideal for waiting at bus stops, or for slipping into your pocket in case your partner is late. Well, maybe not the latter, or you might get through the entire volume…

The point is: I think Amberley had a cracking idea with this series. It is not all about mainstream political history, and both The Stuarts and The Georgians reflect the personal whims and interests of their respective authors!

Andrea’s  “One Hundred Facts about the Stuarts” is  available here and my “One Hundred Facts about the Georgians”  is available here through the dotco.uk version of Amazon. I see that it takes a little longer for the printed version to be available on Amazon.com (I believe the date for mine is mid-October, Andrea’s is shown as 19 November).

What this means is that for all you lovely history aficionados, you can do all of your Christmas shopping in a matter of a couple of clicks! It’s not so much a case of the Stuarts VERSUS the Georgians, as the Stuarts AND the Georgians.What are you waiting for?!

Oct 062015
 

I came across this nice engraving of a horseless carriage on the Library of Congress site. It was originally included as a plate in the Political Register for 1769, and shows the king (George III) and Liberty riding along in ‘the family compact’ called the Magna Charta. Liberty is holding up her liberty cap on a pole. The four wheels represent Great Britain, Ireland, America and India, and the machine-without-asses is managing very well, while riding roughshod over a quartet of eminent lordships. The people falling beneath the wheels are the  Duke of Grafton, the Earl of Bute, Lord Holland, and the Lord Chief Justice (William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield).

No asses

The carriage of state can obviously manage very well without constitutional lawyers or politicians (the Asses). I like the way that the monarch can steer with a sort of rudder, and the wheels have gear cogs and leaf springs. As far as I can make out the rudder is inscribed with the words ‘The Rights of the People.’ It reminds me of the picture of a children’s pram designed by the architect/garden designer William Kent in 1732 with a similar shell-shaped carapace (only this one has a harness, designed for a goat to provide the motive force).

Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees