Apr 192018
 

My ancestor Richard Hall loved lists – even lists of lists. Quite why some of these lists have survived the centuries is a bit of a mystery. OK, it has helped that the males in my family have all been inveterate hoarders, but I still find it strange that at no stage  have any of the women in the family come along and binned the whole lot, as being a load of rubbish. Only now, 250 years, can you say that they have any historic value!

Take Richard’s shopping lists: I have dozens of them. This is an example, showing two sets of purchases from ‘Messrs Johnson’ – which I take to be the name of a shopping emporium in Burford in the Cotswolds (the nearest large town to where Richard lived).  Decipher it yourselves – and let me know if you hit any stumbling blocks and I will give you a transcription!

Apr 172018
 

My idea of packing for a few days away is to put a few things in a suitcase and hope that I have remembered something waterproof. My Dear Lady’s Wife has a rather different approach: she sits down and makes a list. (Boring!)

She would therefore empathise with ancestor Richard Hall: he never went anywhere without making a list – of how far the journey was, what it cost, how long it took, where he stayed, what he ate – and what he needed to pack for the journey. Take a five day trip, made in May 1784. Here is his packing list:

I will refrain from spoiling the fun by translating the handwriting. Suffice to say I like the idea that you had a silk waistcoat for evening-wear, quite separate from the white dining waistcoat, and from the cloth (‘cloath’) waistcoat and coat for outdoor wear.

The list ends with muflatees – fingerless gloves to help keep the hands warm in an unheated post chaise. And I am glad he remembered his night-caps – two of them!

Apr 142018
 

I am always amazed at how much it cost to travel in the Georgian era – at least, if you wanted to do it in style rather than in the back of a hay waggon. In 1784 Richard Hall and his wife set off for Bourton on the Water from London – a two-day trip involving meals and accommodation along the way. This is his note of the expenses:

So, he got a hackney carriage to take him from London Bridge to the coaching Inn (cost so far 1/6d) where he would have caught the Post Coach to Oxford, going via Maidenhead. The coach cost seventeen shillings per person, hence £1/14/-  for the pair of them. That would have included the cost of the overnight stop. He paid the coach man 4/- and tipped the porters for loading his luggage on and off the coach 4pence and 8pence. The Post Chaise to Burford set him back the odd sum of 15/7d with another 1/9d going to the driver. The stage to Bourton from Burford cost another 9/2d, plus a shilling for the driver and turnpike fees of 3/2d. In all, the actual cost of travel was £3/11/8d.

By the time you add on Dinner at Maidenhead and Supper at Oxford and what looks like a top-up of probably bread and cheese at Burford, the entire journey cost Richard £4/10/7d. Multiply that by perhaps eighty to allow for inflation and you get a total of just over £350 in modern money – making it comparable with  two first class rail tickets today!

Richard, being Richard, noted how many bags and cases accompanied him on the journey (eight items) and even lists all the clothes he required whenever he travelled away from home.

Travel costs were all duly entered in Richard’s expenses book – £24/3/2d in 1780 being the highest (because that was the year he got married and was making repeat journeys to woo his soon-to-be second wife). The expenses dropped to £7/17/10d the next year, £3/19/4 the year after  that and then went back up to £16/18/4d in 1783. In all, he records paying out  just under £65 over a four year period. It just goes to show, travel was never cheap….

Mar 222018
 

I am delighted to be giving a talk on Saturday 24 March at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. I have entitled my segment “Quakers, Quacks and Quadrilles”, and I will be one of three speakers covering aspects of life in Bath in the 1780s. In particular it links in with the publication of journals kept by a Quaker visitor to Bath by the name of Edmund Rack. He went on to start an agricultural show, which eventually grew into the Bath and West Show, attracting thousands of visitors every year to its site at Shepton Mallet. Back in the late 1700s it was held on a farm on the outskirts of Bath, and my ancestor Richard Hall used to visit the area and stay at the Bear Inn, next to the farm in question.

I will be looking at what it was like to visit Bath – the roads, the coaching inns and so on – as well as considering the entertainment available – from dancing to gambling, from promenading to eating. I will look at the spats between members of the medical profession, each vying with  the other to attract custom from the wealthy visitors, who were often riddled with gout or suffered from hypochondria.

If you are interested in what life was like in Fun City in the Georgian era and can get to Bath this Saturday, do come along to 16 Queen Square Bath BA1 2HN. The fun starts at 10.30 and the box office can be contacted by telephone on 01225  463362. Other contact details appear at the foot of the advertisement.

Mar 192018
 

Yup, I am a sucker for 18th Century boxes, and a trip to the website of Mark Goodger Antiques never disappoints. Here he has a fascinating apothecary’s box, manufactured by Ireland & Hollier in the last decade of the eighteenth century. The label has the details: Ireland & Hollier, Apothecaries & Chemists, N22 Pall Mall. Family Medicine Chests complete and genuine. Patent Medicines etc” 

The site describes the cabinet as being an antique ‘Duke of York’ medicine chest, made of mahogany with a brass escutcheon and door latches. It has doors to the front and back, secured by brass latches and also by a special locking mechanism  which engages when the lid is closed. I had not heard of the ‘Duke of York’ as a type of medicine cabinet before. Mark’s site description says this of it: “In the early years of the nineteenth century the so-called Duke of York medicine chest became popular…The name derives from a medicine chest in the Wellcome Collection originally thought to have belonged to the Duke of York, younger brother of George III.”

However it turns out that the name was a misnomer, because the chest in the Wellcome collection was made in 1789, whereas the Grand Old Duke died in 1763. But the name stuck and there are all sorts of variants – some with double doors front and back, some with extra doors at one or both of the sides. This one is lovely, with four drawers inside, one of which contains two lidded pill compartments. It also contains three glass bottles. Opening the rear compartment reveals eight bottle compartments complete with bottles, some of them still containing traces of their original contents. Some are labelled and reveal a fascinating cornucopia of exotic ingredients. There is ‘James Powder’, Best Indian Rhubarb, Carbonate of Potash, Colocynth and Dr Gregory’s Pills, Calomel,  Dover Powder and Jalap Powder. No home should be without them!

Sir William Forbes, Copyright Glasgow Museums.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding to the interest is that the owner of the box has been identified as Sir William Forbes, a prominent Scottish banker who lived between 1739 and 1806. His wife had a weak constitution, having had 13 children over an 18 year period, and Sir William decided to embark on a Grand Tour in the hope that the Mediterranean climate would prove to have restorative qualities. The couple set off in June 1792, returning to Edinburgh exactly a year later. His diaries even record encountering a problem in Naples when he ran out of ‘bark’ – presumably Jesuit’s Bark (ie quinine). As Mark says on his site it is tempting to think that the chest which is now for sale was the same one which was carted round Europe during their tour. As it happened Lady Forbes soldiered on for another ten years, dying in 1802.

 

William Forbes Bank One Guinea proof note (1825).

 

Sir Willam was a partner in the Scottish banking house known as Forbes, Hunter, & Co, later becoming part of the Union Bank of Scotland. It issued its own bank notes and was well-respected. Sir William was highly regarded by the Government, advising Prime Minister William Pitt on such varied matters as bills of exchange, the need for a new Bankruptcy Act, and so on. In 1803 he published his “Memoirs of a Banking House” and after he died he was buried at Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The Union Bank developed  and flourished with other take-overs and mergers,  and eventually it joined up with the Bank of Scotland, ending up as part of the Lloyds Bank group. 

 

Mar 152018
 

It was a strange feeling, being thousands of miles away in India (where International Women’s Day is widely celebrated) to realize that back in the UK Pen & Sword were releasing my latest book “Trailblazing Women of the Georgian Era – the 18th Century struggle for female success in a Man’s World” – onto an unsuspecting public. It was  slightly odd  returning to the UK and seeing the book for the very first time – always an exciting moment for an author, and realizing that I wasn’t the first person to have a look at it!

Overall, I am pleased with it because  the book marked the conclusion of a fascinating voyage of discovery – until I started the research I hadn’t appreciated  the obstacles faced by women 300 years ago – obstacles such as a general lack of proper education, and obstacles of a legal nature (coverture reduced married women  to a state little better than slavery). I was intrigued to see that some women pushed the door ajar – only for it to be slammed shut immediately afterwards. It is almost as if the public recoiled from the whole idea of change – the Terror which followed the French Revolution was a clear example of how change could get out of control. And people only had to consider the scandalous behaviour of Mary Wollstonecraft – that fascinating proto-feminist – to see how female emancipation could so easily lead to disaster (she had, after all, been an unmarried mother, had attempted suicide on more than one occasion, and was readily dismissed as a rotten role model and, as Horace Walpole said, as a ‘painted hyena’). There is a certain irony in finding that a pioneer actually set-back the cause which she so fiercely espoused. Nowadays, her ideas are back in fashion, but she certainly went out of favour in the Victorian era!

The book looks at some of the  “petticoat pioneers” who started to break the mould – who refused to take a back seat and let the men take all the credit. The 18th Century is, when all is said and done, a century dominated by the roar of male success – men headed the Industrial Revolution, men spearheaded the growth of the British Empire, men explored, discovered, invented – and ruled. But that did not mean that women threw in the towel, and the book looks at pioneers such as Elizabeth Raffald (cook, delicatessen owner, employment-exchange owner, newspaper proprietor, and highly successful author) and Eleanor Coade (who set up a factory making products out of artificial stone). It includes the silversmith Hester Bateman, the formidable chocolatier Anna Fry, and also my favourite paradigm-shifter, the remarkable Hester Pinney. Here was a woman who enjoyed great success as a financial adviser, dealing in stocks and shares – and who preceded the first woman to cross the floor of the Stock Exchange by 250 years. I look at pioneering artists, novelists and actresses, as well as reformers and educationalists such as Elizabeth Fry, Hannah More and the anti-slavery firebrand Margaret Lady Middleton. There are one or two scientists, inventors and teachers (Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, Jane Mercer and Sarah Guppy) and, perhaps standing out for all the wrong reasons, the astonishing tale of Teresia ‘Con’ Phillips. She was a bigamist, a sex worker – and a woman who never gave up in her pursuit for justice through the courts, inspiring men such as Jeremy Bentham to advocate reform of our arcane legal system, and leading directly to the 1753 Marriage Act of Lord Hardwicke. Here was a woman who just wouldn’t give up, and her life was certainly a roller-coaster!

One of the things I discovered was the often over-looked influence of the Quakers. I had not appreciated that the Quaker belief in equality not only meant that they opposed slavery, but also that they treated boys and girls equally, and generally refused to follow conventional ideas about primogeniture. I was intrigued to see the Quaker introduction of fixed prices for a product – no haggling. Their word was their bond- and the book considers how Quakers “punched above their weight” in the market place. They may have been few in number, but just think of the industries they dominated – not just chocolate-making (Fry’s, Cadbury’s Rowntree’s etc) but also banking (Lloyds, Barclays, Friends Provident). Think Clarke’s shoes, Bryant and May matches, Huntley & Palmer biscuits, and the iron and steel-makers of the Darby family at Coalbrookdale, to name just a handful. And what distinguished these Quaker businesses was that women played an active part in the decision-making process – making it all the more remarkable that 250 years later there are still only seven companies in the Footsie Top 100 which have a woman as CEO. 7% doesn’t look like equality to me!

The book ends with a look at some of the areas where women still have not made a significant breakthrough – such as the miserable 3% of airline pilots who are female, or the unequal percentage of female surgeons, consultants, judges and senior partners in legal firms. But the emphasis is not intended to be on where we are now – it tries to look at how people fought injustice, poor education and legal opposition three centuries ago. I thoroughly enjoyed researching the book  – it isn’t intended to be academic, but hopefully it will contain something of interest to general readers. Let me know!

It is available direct from the publishers here, and (in the U.K.) on Amazon.co.uk   Those of you who are readers in the States will have to wait until 3 July before it is available on Amazon.com – apparently it takes that long for the copies to float across the Atlantic on a slow paddle steamer….

Website update

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Mar 112018
 

My latest book, on female pioneers in the Eighteenth Century, was published in March 2018 (to mark International Women’s Day) and is available from the publishers Pen & Sword here and of course on Amazon. Sorry, but if you are in the States you will not be able to get hold of it until 3 July 2018 at Amazon.com

My previous book, from the same publisher, was “In Bed with the Georgians – Sex, Scandal & Satire” and it can be found (here) and of course at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.ukIn Bed with the Georgians

And if you want to know what comes next, it will be about Pirates, Privateers and plunder, but you will have to wait until later in 2018…

 

 

 

To find earlier blogs please put the title (or part of it) in the search box in the sidebar and that will take you to the appropriate post. Thanks!

Mar 022018
 

It strikes me that we are in a similar position, viewing the arrival of Artificial Intelligence and trying to guess what impact robotics and so on will have on our daily lives, to our ancestors in the late 1700s and early 1800s looking at the way steam power was revolutionising their lives. Then, and now, we can see change coming – but no-one knows where it will end. Uncertainty – and the fear of change – is always a fertile ground in which caricaturists can operate, and so here are a few prints showing the sort of alarmist concerns.

First up, a fascinating William Heath caricature entitled The March of Intellect – which I have featured before (see here), just to set the tone. It first appeared in 1829 and shows the endless opportunities offered by the March of Progress – for castles in the air, for steam powered iron horses, for bellow-driven personal transporters, and even a postman wearing what looks like a Red Bull flying suit:

Next, one featured on the British Museum site and published by Thomas McLeod in 1829 and entitled The Steam King- suggesting that steam-powered Members of Parliament would soon be generating Acts of Parliament for the Statute Book by the thousand, churning out legislation to match the needs of the growing populace.

And then a  handful shown  on the delightful Lewis Walpole Library site:

First up, Locomotion by Robert Seymour, dating from 1830 (and once more, published by Thomas McLeod).The man standing in the steam-powered exo-skeleton/mechanical stilts is complaining that the fire has gone out, while the lad with the bellows is doing his best to fan the flames. As its says, nothing is perfect. I like the various flying jalopies and delivery vehicles careering around in the background, creating havoc – and, interestingly, pollution!Next up, another McLean print from 1830, entitled New principles, or, The march of invention:

The clear message is that horse-drawn may be slow, but it is a darned less likely to blow up than your average steam-car!

The opportunities for change must have seemed endless, as here with a G Humphrey print from 1829 called ‘Pat’s Comment on Steam Carriages’ by someone calling themselves ‘A Sharpshooter’ – with the message that ‘ere long Pat would be going a-hunting before breakfast, not on his horse but atop his modified tea kettle…

Shaving by Steam, again by Robert Seymour and published in 1828, suggests that the days of the cut-throat razor would soon be over (ridiculous idea!):

And finally, a nice one about riding your own personal rocket, by George Edward Madeley and dating from 1830. It is called  ‘The flight of intellect : Portrait of Mr. Golightly experimenting on Mess. Quick & Speed’s new patent, high pressure steam riding rocket’

I guess it all goes to show: progress will happen with Artificial Intelligence, just as it did with steam power, whether we like it or not, but how those changes will affect us, goodness only knows…

In this context I quote from Erasmus Darwin, that great polymath and poet, who said of steam power in around 1790:

“Soon shall they arm UNCONQUER’D STEAM afar!

Drag the slow barge, or drive the rapid car;

Or on wide-waving wings expanded bear

The flying chariot through the fields of air.

Fair crews triumphant, leaning from above,

Shall wave their fluttering kerchiefs as thy move;

Or warrior bands alarm the gaping crowd

And armies shrink beneath the shadowy cloud.”

Well, he also said that “there seems no probable method of flying conveniently but by the power of steam, or some other explosive material which another half century may probably discover.” OK, he was out by another half century in terms of forecasting the discovery of petrol-driven locomotion, but you cannot fault his analysis of the possibilities of speeding vehicles, or of attack aircraft bombing from a shadowy cloud. It reflects the confidence of the Georgian Age – they were starting to master the universe – everything was possible.

PS: Ok one more caricature: I rather like this one of the well-dressed ladies appalled at the passing oik in his steam powered velocipede, with its horse-like rear end spewing forth excrement/pollution! It was called The Progress of Steam and also came out in 1829 – a rich year for satirists lampooning steam locomotion.

Feb 252018
 

aa1As obituaries go, this one from the 1821 edition of the Gentleman’s Magazine is perhaps the least revealing: the Countess of Jersey, mother of ten children, died on 25th July. “She was very unpopular at the period of the unhappy marriage of our present Sovereign.” The “why” is not explained, but actually there is an awful lot more to the story of Frances, Dowager Countess of Jersey, than appears in this death notice.

For a start, look at the circumstances of her birth. Her father the Right Reverend Philip Twysden was well-connected and had been made Bishop – O.K., an Irish bishopric, but a Bishop nonetheless. But as rough diamonds go, he was quite something. Unfortunately, successful and solvent he was not – he became bankrupt. Unlike other bishops, he decided to do something about his parlous financial straits – not for him hand-wringing and whingeing. He took his destiny into his own hands – and turned to …. highway robbery!

ac1

Apparently he was staying the night of 1st November 1752 at Royden Hall in Kent, where he met a doctor. The good medic was apparently engrossed in treating a sick man, while the Bishop surreptitiously contrived to remove the charge from the doctor’s pistol. Unfortunately for his Right Reverence, the manoeuvre was noticed by the patient. Later, the patient alerted the doctor – who therefore re-loaded his pistol and on the next day set forth for Wrotham Heath. There, in some remote spot, the Bishop suddenly appeared from the undergrowth and demanded that the medicine man should hand over his valuables, while advancing towards him with all the menace that comes from knowing that the victim was unarmed. Bad mistake! The doctor shot the Bishop dead, which, as ways to go and meet your Maker, is an unusual ending for a man of the cloth. Not good news for his unfortunate widow, who was already pregnant and who later gave birth to a girl destined to make her mark in the gossip columns of the nation.

Frances, Countess of Jersey, by Thomas Watson after Daniel Gardner, mezzotint published in 1774

Fast forward from 1752 to 1780 and  an attractive young lady is about to make her mark on the world…

It seems strange that with her infamous father she ever made it down the aisle with anyone respectable, let alone on the arm of the 34 year-old  (4th) Earl of Jersey, George Villiers. She was just seventeen years old.

George Villiers, 4th Earl of Jersey by Ozias Humphry RA. © National Trust, Osterley Park

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There then followed the baby-farming years – ten sprogs in the period between 1771 and 1788. To outward appearances, all seemed respectable, but having hit her fortieth year and become a grandmother she cut the traces and began an affair with the Prince of Wales. Well, in fairness she had already been “romantically linked” to one or two (well, four or five) other members of the aristocracy, but clearly the son of the reigning monarch was a better catch, even if he was “married” to his long-term mistress Maria Fitzherbert. Within a year this rocking granny had prised the Prince away from Maria. She helped push the Prince into a marriage with his cousin Caroline of Brunswick (1794). As the Queen Consort hated her new husband, and had very little to do with him once she had produced an heir, it left the way clear for Lady Jersey to tighten her grip on the Prince, and she became “the paramount paramour” for at least five years.

'A lady putting on her cap, - June 1795' by James Gillray © National Portrait Gallery, London

‘A lady putting on her cap, – June 1795’  by James Gillray, showing the Countess of Jersey putting on her head-dress/ setting her cap at the Prince.      © National Portrait Gallery, London

What of her husband? Well, in 1795 he was no doubt consoled by the fact that he was rewarded with being made up to Master of the Horse to the Prince of Wales. “Cuckold-in-Chief, more like.

This Gillray from 1796 shows Caroline bursting in onto the  embedded Prince and  the Countess, in a print called “The Jersey smuggler detected; – or – good causes for discontent [separation]”

© British Museum

© British Museum

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes her as “a scintillating society woman, a heady mix of charm, beauty, and sarcasm”. That barely does justice to a woman renowned for her scheming. In the Journal of Mary Frampton she is described as being “a clever, unprincipled, but beautiful and fascinating woman, though with scarcely any retrieving really good quality.” To Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, she was “la Peste” – in other words “the Plague.”

Her ability to spend money – buckets and buckets of it – was legendary and she made no effort to reduce her extravagance even when the Prince ended their affair in 1799. She was a constant thorn in his side, continuing to meddle and manipulate, causing mischief at every turn. The Prince responded by referring to her as “that infernal jezebel.”

Throughout this time her husband continued to put up with her shenanigans even though her extravagance led to him being threatened with imprisonment on account of his debts.

On 22 August 1805, the Earl of Jersey died. The impoverished Frances had the bare-faced cheek to apply to the Prince for a pension. Reluctantly he eventually agreed. Still her debts mounted, but from time to time her son the 5th Earl would wipe the slate clean, as well as allowing her a jointure of £3,500 a year. So, she struggled by into her 69th year, when she died at Cheltenham on 23 July 1821. Her obituary really doesn’t do justice to her, so instead  I will finish with another caricature from Gillray…

NPG D13025; 'Fashionable-jockeyship' by James Gillray, published by Hannah Humphrey

The Prince is shown holding up two fingers while being carried  by the Earl towards  the figure of the Countess of Jersey, who is attempting to hide under the bedclothes. “Buck, Buck, how many Horns do I hold up?” enquires our fashionable jockey, to which the cuckolded Earl replies “E’en as many as you please!”  On the wall a picture shows a fat old sow dancing to an angelic tune…

Feb 202018
 

1212One of the phenomena of the Georgian era was the popularity of the masked ball. It appealed to all social classes, and people did rather more than just put on a ‘Lone Ranger’ pair of eye-goggles; they dressed up as clowns, shepherdesses, allegorical figures vegetables – whatever took their fancy. They cross-dressed, and, liberated by their apparent anonymity, abandoned all propriety and sense of inhibition.

Probably for that reason they were often frequented by prostitutes on the pull. Which is where my interest came in, because I had been looking  at masquerades in context of my book “Sex, Scandal and Satire – In bed with the Georgians”.

The image at the top comes from the ever-excellent Lewis Walpole Library site, and shows all the principal characters at a masquerade in 1789 at the Rotunda. As you can see, the people attending theses balls went to a lot of trouble with their costumes. The same site gives us “The Beauty Unmask’d” (left) and “Lady Betty Bustle and her Maid Lucy preparing for the Masquerade at The Pantheon” on the right.

1313    1515

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The one on the left, with her ermine-lined cape, dates from 1770, and the elegant lady dolled up to the nines on the right is from two years later. Somehow I don’t see them as bestowing their favours on the young gallants for less than a fortune. On the other hand, this one from the British Museum site, is clearly ready for a bit of horizontal jogging – her swain has already removed his mask and is absolutely sure that he is on to a good thing. It dates from 1771.

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As the verse underneath puts it, ‘Our Buck unmasks and makes his wishes known, … No Art can curb, no Mask can hide desire.’

Here is a more ‘tasteful’ image, once more from Lewis Walpole, showing a masquerade at the Argyll Rooms in 1826:

1414It all seems a bit staid to me, so to end with, a view from the raucous, joyful, over-the-top Thomas Rowlandson in his 1790 picture entitled “Dressing for a masquerade”

171717A group of happy hookers are getting ready for the ball, decolletages to the fore. I love all the action, with the hairdresser, the maid holding up a mirror, the stocking being rolled up, the masquerade head-dress with its discreet veil, and the dog barking at all the excitement. The masked lady on the right is gazing at her reflection as she struggles with the lacing on the back on her outfit, and as ever with Rowlandson, the figures are either rather beautiful or incredibly ugly!  Somehow you know that their evening will revolve around pleasure – and that someone is going to have to pay for it!

(First posted in modified form 2014)