Jan 282013

Few fashion statements were more ludicrous than those worn by the macaronis in the 1770’s. I like this rather fine portrait of an elderly man admiring his reflection in the mirror, content with the ministrations of the Mr Teasy-Weasy who has just added the finishing touches to his crowning glory. The picture hanging at the back is of Narcissus admiring his reflection in the river (thereby mirroring the central figure). Our Hero is  still wearing his banyan (dressing gown) although  the clock suggests that it is already ten minutes to midday.

The picture is entitled  ‘The Old Beau in an Extasy’ and the verse beneath it reads:

“Behold this Wretch! A Fop at Sixty two,

A true conceited, ugly worn out Beau

Whose Toilet boasts of every scarce Perfume

With Chinese Paint for Artificial Bloom

A half starv’d paltry Thing – so strange all o’er

That England ne’er beheld his like before

The Girls all hate him, and at their request

Up hangs the cap they think will suit him best.”

(The latter a reference to the window curtain tassel in the shape of a fool’s cap hanging immediately above the macaroni’s wig – a toupe with a long queue or tail).

The etching was published in 1773 and is by John Dixon.

The fashion for towering wigs was not of course confined to the male of the species and I recently came across this fine piece of rudery – apparently French (published in 1775)  aimed at the prevailing  tastes. It shows the lady so top-heavy that she is keeling over backwards, in the company of the pair of macaronis. A gardener looks down from above. while a dog cocks his leg and widdles over the lady’s dress. Says it all really!

And finally, one I came across while researching a talk on 200 years of British Gardening, 1600 to 1800, a splendiferous wig with half the hedgerow in it, dating from 1787 and also appearing on the Lewis Walpole site. “Shown half length, a fashionably dressed woman faces right, her enormous hair occupying most of the image. At the top of her hair is a formal flower garden surrounded by hedges and tended by a diminutive gardener with a rake. On the sides are sausage-like curls and several trailing garlands of flowers”.


Jan 252013

This caricature on manners revolves around the fact that in polite company you indicated when you had had a sufficiency of tea by placing the teaspoon in the cup when putting it down on the table. Not to do so was an invitation to the hostess to pour another cup.

The text beneath reads:

“A Frenchman not aware of the custom, constantly returned his cup without the spoon in it, which being immediately replenished by the lady of the house, he thought it a point of politeness to drink the contents which he continued to do, to the great surprise of the company until he perceived the lady pouring out the 14th cup, when he rose in great agony and cried, ‘Ah! Madame excuse me I can take no more’.

As befits such an image it contains  a picture of a dog. It is by Robert Cruikshank and appeared in 1835, and is shown courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library. And that will be the last of my doggy-themed posts for this week – I promise!

Jan 232013

Maintaining the theme of having a dog in each caricature, a quick look at fashion for the year 1807: Isaac Cruikshank’s ‘A hint to the ladies, or, A visit from Dr. Flannel!!’

The doctor announces to Her Ladyship “ Mrs Jenny said your Ladyship complained of being cold about the loins – so I have just stept in with a warm flannel petticoat”.

Her horrified reply: “ I have no loins fellow! Do you want to make a monster of me?”

He holds out an ugly, shapeless, coarse petticoat while a small dog, standing on a parquet floor, tugs at the hem of her dress. A tea urn stands beside her cup and saucer, knocked over by the flailing arms raised in horror at the fashion abomination.

I cannot help but compare it with my own feeble attempts to avoid having to turn the central heating up in the cold weather: in vain I suggest that My Dear Lady Wife might consent to the wearing of a vest, or condescend  to don a warm woolly jumper. It seems that fashion and keeping warm have never been in complete harmony…

The print appears courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library site.

Jan 212013

It seems to me that there are far too many blogs featuring cats – and certainly a disproportionate number of my Twitter Followers are feline rather than canine supporters. So, at the risk of earning displeasure from some, I am determined to show engravings featuring dogs wherever possible…

Today’s offering from the splendid Lewis Walpole Library site is entitled “A morning ramble, or, The milliners shop” and dates from 1782. It offers a rather fine glimpse into the fashions of the day and, as the site states, it features “Shop interior with three milliners in frilled caps behind the counter, one seated and two sewing. Behind them the window to the left displays their work, while to the right shelves hold boxes labelled Feathers, Love, Coxcomb and Mode. Two fashionable men and a Pomeranian dog are before the counter, one man seated upon it and the other handing the ladies a Masquerade Ticket.”

I just rather like the idea that these two gentlemen have said to each other “What shall we do this fine morning?”  “Why, let’s go down to the Milliner’s Shop and chat up a couple of the young ladies – you never know we might pull, and get them to come to the Masquerade Ball, and we both know what that means!”

For me the engraving would be all the poorer without the dog, and besides if there had been a cat in the picture it would have given it a quite different meaning!

Jan 182013

I recently came across the bill submitted to my ancestor Richard Hall by the Funeral Director on the occasion of the death of his first wife Eleanor in 1780. The undertakers (that is to say, the company which undertook the arrangements….) were John Cooper & Co. Here is the bill:

I have included it because it gives some idea of what was involved in a funeral in the Georgian Era in the latter part of the 18th Century. Eleanor Hall had died in her 47th year – she got up and had breakfast as normal on 11th January 1780 at her home at One London Bridge, had a splitting headache at midday, and was dead by six in the evening. In all probability she suffered a brain haemorrhage. It must have been a terrible shock for Richard, who had married Eleanor nearly 27 years earlier, and for their three grown-up children, who all lived at the property.

Richard records her death in his diary “Oh the affliction of this Day. My Dear and Affectionate Wife was suddenly seiz’d with a pain in her head after Twelve at Noon, which issued in a Fit; no Prescription of Physician Avail’d”

Richard was devastated and made this beautiful cut-out in paper as a memorial. The memento is only just over one inch across and is extraordinarily delicate.

He would have employed the firm of John Cooper & Co to make all the arrangements for the actual funeral, which was to take place at Bunhill Burial Grounds (where many Dissenters were buried). Richard and Eleanor were both Baptists and as an additional incentive to choose Bunhill, it was where both her parents had been buried back in 1754. The expenses even included opening up the family vault and constructing a tent over it so as to keep prying eyes at bay.

The invoice starts by showing the actual funeral as taking place on January 18th (exactly one week after Eleanor’s death) 233 years ago today.

To start with the actual coffin and furniture:

An inside Elm Coffin lined and ruffled with fine Crape and a mattress (£1/11/6)

A Superfine Sheet, Shroud and Pillow (£1/15/00)

An outside lead coffin with plate of Inscription (£4/10/00)

An Elm case covered with fine Black Cloth, finish’d in the best Manner with black nails and drape, Lead Plate Cherubim handles, lead plate and wrought Gripes (that is to say, grips) (£5/10/00).

Then there were the extras:

4 Men going in with Lead Coffin and Case (10/-)

7 Tickets and Delivering   –  7 shillings.  (These would have been official invitations to attend the funeral service, sent out to close friends and often in the form of Memento Mori like this one, shown courtesy of the University of Missouri ).

Hanging the Shop and Stair-case in Mourning (in other words, draping black cloth over the entire ground floor and stairs of One London Bridge, from where the funeral procession started its sad and solemn journey)

Use  of 16 double silver’d sconces and Wax Lights for ditto

2 Porters with Gowns and Staves with Silk cover & hats & gloves

The best Pall


There then follow a few items which are hard to decipher. What looks like:

A coffin lid of black feathers and man in hatband and gloves

Crape hatbands

Silk ditto

Rich three-quarter Armozeen scarves[a form of black silk used at funerals] for a Minister

12 Pairs of Men’s laced kid gloves

2 Pairs of Women’s ditto

6 Pairs of Men’s and Women’s plain and one pair Mitts

Use of 11 Gent Cloaks

A Hearse and 4 coaches with Setts of horses

Velvet Coverings and black feathers for hearse and six

10 Hearse pages with truncheons , 6 of ye bearers

10 Pairs of gloves and favours for ditto

Eight coach pages with Hatbands and gloves

Use of 5 Coachmans cloaks

10 pairs of gloves for ditto and Postillion

Paid at Bunhill for opening the Vault and for Tent

Fetch and carrying Company

Turnpike and drink for the Men

A total of £51/8/6 which you would need to multiply by perhaps seventy to give a modern-day equivalent i.e £3500 or $5250

It must have made a sombre and imposing sight as the funeral cortege wended its way north of the Hall household on its one mile journey to the graveside. As Richard noted in his diary that night, it had been “a very damp day, some part Foggy, not very Cold” You can almost see the black horses with their black plumes, attended by page boys dressed from tip to toe in black, the heavy coats of the pall bearers, the coffin lined with black velvet….

(This blog is a reprise of a post I did in September 2012 for London Historians)

Jan 162013

In his diaries Richard Hall mentions when he paid for his children’s schooling – and what it cost for them to have dancing lessons. So what did the children get for their one guinea’s worth of dancing tuition?

It was crucial to learn dancing because at its core it was about learning etiquette – how to enter a room, how to bow or curtsy, how to move gracefully, and so on. There was far more to dancing than learning the steps to the Minuet!

“Grown ladies taught to dance  by Monsieur Allemande from Paris”  (18thC, British School, courtesy of The Tate).

But for sheer dancing delight I don’t think you can improve on these lovely images drawn by William Bunbury (shown courtesy of the Tate Museum):


I also like the detail in this print entitled ‘Grown Gentlemen taught to Dance’ dating from 1768.

Moving forward to the 1830’s George Cruikshank published a series entitled Dancing Lessons:


















No post is complete without a Gillray: here, his 1810 print called La Walse – Le Bon Genre. I love the way he has captured movement!

And to end with, courtesy of an image saved by  my Twitter friend @Dezilvereneeuw, “Takes Lesson in Dancing” from 1821, by John Careless – and it doesn’t look as though the student is particularly enjoying the experience. Ah, shades of learning country dancing at boarding school fifty years ago!


Jan 132013

Rowlandson sums up many of the dangers facing a lad from the country, up in Town, in this lovely etching entitled  ‘A Cake in Danger’ It was published in 1806 and shows the night watchman half-asleep on the doorway of his box, indifferent or unaware of the scene alongside: the yokel has ben ‘befriended’ by a couple of whores, one of whom is busy picking  his pocket. The words beneath the print say ‘Careful observers, studious of the town, shun the misfortunes that disgrace the clown.’

Another cartoon showing the same  dangers befalling a drink-sodden and lecherous man seeking his Pleasure with two young Ladies of the Night is this one entitled ‘A Fool and his Money’s soon Parted’ It is by Isaac Cruikshank and appeared in 1790 with the verse underneath reading:

The Old Booby half Muzzy to a Bagnio Reel’d

In hopes the sweet kiss of delight to have seal’d

He seal’d it ye Gods! When Oh to his Cost

His Money was squandered & Pocket Book lost.

Both prints appear at the excellent Lewis Walpole Library site. It also has this splendid scene outside a Covent Garden bagnio, entitled ‘An evenings invitation, with a wink from the bagnio’ dating from 1773. Somehow I fear the gentleman is about to lose more than he bargained for…


Jan 112013

There is no escaping the fact: Richard’s eldest son William was a bit of a hooligan. As it happened he turned out O.K. in the long run, ending up as Master of the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, but, as a youngster, he was by all accounts a feral child!

Poor Richard’s diaries are full of entries about having to pay for mending glass windows in passing carriages, broken by William throwing stones! Time and time again Richard seems to have been forced to take the boy out of one school or another because he was a trouble maker. I bet Richard must have had second thoughts about taking William on as an apprentice when the lad reached fifteen…

Every school holidays the young William had been packed off to the country, where the air was healthier. Usually he stayed with his aunt and uncle at Bourton on the Water but presumably his boisterousness tired his relatives, as evidenced by this elaborately written invitation:

The letter is written from Hempsted, then a small hamlet situated just South West of Gloucester, and barely half a day’s horse-ride from the rest of the family who continued to stay at Bourton. It would appear that young Master William, aged 8 at the time, spent Christmas with the Morgan Jones household. I imagine that they were happy to supplement their income by taking in a lodger to keep ‘Master Robarts’ company. I know nothing of Master Robarts but the inviation to send William back to stay with the family at Whitsuntide was presumably taken up, and Richard filed the letter with his other papers.

The writing really is beautifully done. It is only a guess, but I suspect that Morgan Jones may have been a legal clerk in a Solicitor’s Office in Gloucester, because his hand is so reminiscent of contemporary legal documents, especially with the emboldened writing and curlicues around the signature.

I have to think that life in the country must have seemed like heaven to young William – how he must have dreaded returning to London, and to school, which he loathed!

Jan 072013

A marvellous  cartoon from the Lewis Walpole site:

The cartoon is by William Heath, and is part of a series  called “Man with Umbrella” (see image at bottom left hand corner). I think it is a lovely parody of the fashion for tightly cinched waists and hugely padded sleeves of the time (1829)

I like to see it as a sign of mechanisation – here by way of contrast is a similar subject drawn by John Collet in 1797 (from the Colonial Williamsburg collection.)


I thought I would also show the Monstrosities of 1827 (part of a series I have mentioned in earlier blogs) – again, with the pin heads, monstrous hats, dainty hands and feet and miniscule waists – both for the men and the women!


Jan 042013

On the day that Lord Horatio Nelson took his seat in the House of Lords for the very first time a splendid caricature by Isaac Cruikshank was published, entitled “A Mansion House Treat, or Smoking Attitudes”. The date was 18th November 1800 and the print appears courtesy of the National Maritime Museum .

On the left the figure in a brown jacket and striped waistcoat, holding a ludicrously long and twisted pipe culminating in a bowl marked “a present from Egupt,” is the Lord Mayor Sir William Staines. He is accompanied by a dog sitting on its hind legs investigating three tins of Hardman’s Tobacco. The speech bubble from the Lord Mayor exclaims “Yes Sir Dilbery, these fighting tars make a curs’d deal more smoke than we do.”

The man seated next to him is the elderly figure of Sir William Hamilton, the man being cuckolded by Nelson. He responds:“Aye my Lord but then they have a cursed deal more fire too – twig the Admiral” The standing figure offering to re-light Hamilton’s pipe states, full of innuendo “Why Sir Dilbery, your pipe is too short.’ Tis quite worn out. It needs a new tip”

In the centre, smoking a ‘Churchwarden’ clay pipe with a stem some thirty inches long, sits William Pitt. He is saying “I’ll smoke the cits again with another loan very soon. – Very fine Virginia My Lord!”

Sitting with her back to the assembled company is Emma Hamilton, recognizable in one of her famous ‘Attitudes’. She too smokes a Churchwarden pipe and says lasciviously to Nelson on the extreme right “Pho, the old mans pipe is always out, but yours burns with full vigour”

In response Nelson, who is smoking a pipe which stretches down to the ground with a phallic tip, replies “Yes, yes, I’ll give you such a smoke I’ll pour a whole broadside into you.”

Apart from lampooning the Hamilton’s and being coarse about Lord Nelson, the print also mocks the behaviour of the rich and famous, lolling around smoking tobacco. In fact it was far more fashionable to take snuff by this date. In my ancestor’s diaries he mentions when he ‘smoaked a pipe’ and almost certainly this would have been a Churchwarden, like the one shown in this detail from Hogarth’s ‘A Midnight Modern Conversation’ dated 1733.

If clay pipes are your interest look no further than the wonderful and informative site operated by Heather Coleman . She makes them, collects them, sells them, writes books about them and, as she says on her website, gives details about ‘Almost everything you could wish to know about Clay Tobacco Pipes’

Women are occasionally shown smoking a clay pipe in paintings of the time – certainly it was far more prevalent than nowadays, when a pipe-smoking female is something of a rarity. This one appears on the Ramshorn Studio site and apparently shows the Marquise de Pompadour,  who was a passionate smoker and owned more than three hundred pipes! Mind you, the pipe stems broke constantly, and  she could probably have got through several dozen while waiting for Louis XV to call on her, even though she was his favourite mistress!

And when did the smoking of tobacco spread to Europe? One Jean Nicot is credited with bringing the tobacco plant into France when he returned from Portugal in 1560.The Portuguese had earlier brought it back from the Americas. Nicot was a diplomat who had gone to Portugal to arrange the marriage of Princess Marguerite de Valois (aged six) to the five year old Portuguese King Sebastian. He also introduced snuff, made from dried and powdered tobacco leaves, to the French Court. Its popularity spread along with rumours of it fine medicinal properties.

From France it quickly spread to England, and in time Nicot’s name became synonymous both with the plant (nicotiana) and to the chemical contained in the tobacco (nicotine).

Caricatures of the Eighteenth Century often showed the ‘innocent pleasures’ of smoking, as in this one from  H W Bunbury from 1794:

To end with, a remarkably modern looking image, taken from Wikipedia, entitled “Skull with a Burning Cigarette” – Vincent van Gogh, 1885. Says it all, really!