May 312014

Any of you who have bought my book on Astley’s Circus will know that I am a fan of the delightful  drawings by Thomas Rowlandson, made available by the excellent Yale Centre for British Art. I am intending to use more with my latest venture, an illustrated introduction to the Georgian era, due for publication later this year.


While researching Rowlandson’s work I came across this delightful watercolour (undated) entitled “New Shoes” and it shows a young man – presumably a student judging by the mortar board which he is holding in his hand. And what is he studying? The finely turned ankles of the young maid, who has proudly invited him to inspect her new shoes.

I love the background details – the cat licking from the bowl of milk on the sideboard, the older man leering in at the scene from outside the window, and the girl herself, who appears to be about to fall out of the front of her dress.

It is such a simple scene of everyday life – young man chats up girl;  girl enjoying flattery and attention.  Love it!

May 272014

My 5xGreat Grandfather Francis Hall was a hosier in Red Lyon Street, Southwark. His own apprenticeship (as a haberdasher) lasted seven years and he qualified in 1728. A few years later he appears to have taken on his own apprentice and I recently stumbled across the Indenture.

“Indenture” refers to the fact that the document is indented, leaving room in the margin for the stamp duty to be paid. The blue stamps were validated with a tiny square of silver sewn through the front page, and you can just make  this out, up at the top on the left hand side.

The indenture is on parchment, and would have been prepared in duplicate. The wavy line across the top was cut with a sharp knife as a way of stopping forgery. Both copies of the deed were cut at the same time with the same wavy line, as a way of ensuring both versions were identical – no-one could substitute the front page or add a second page because they would not be able to match the original border  exactly.

The indentured man was Henry Keene, and it appears that he (or rather his father) paid twenty pounds for the privilege of being trained how to make silk stockings. I rather like the prohibition on fornication  or getting married during the seven year training!  “He shall not  haunt Taverns or Playhouses” sounds fair enough, but seven years of no nookie sounds a tad Draconian! Especially as he was also banned from playing Cards, Dice or the Tables…

For all I know Master Keene completed his training and qualified, in 1741. Not all apprentices were prepared to buckle down for so long, and it is interesting reading in the newspapers of the day the reports of apprentices who had done a runner. One such is this one from the Leeds Intelligencer of 25th October 1774:a2

I love the woodcut image of the man on the run! It is interesting that there is no mention of a reward for anyone handing in Mark Whittaker – more a warning that anyone harbouring him would be prosecuted.

Post script: I am grateful to Philip Allfrey for pointing out my error in describing the Indenture as getting its name  from the indented margin. He helpfully points out that the wavy line was the indenture, not the margin. As evidence he  has referred me to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Indent (v. 1) II 2
To sever the two halves of a document, drawn up in duplicate, by a toothed, zigzag, or wavy line, so that the two parts exactly tally with each other; to cut the top or edge of two or more copies of a legal document in such an exactly corresponding shape; hence, to draw up (a document) in two or more exactly corresponding copies.
Thanks for putting me right on that one, Philip. I stand corrected.


May 162014

Looking at 18th Century trade cards is a fascinating reminder of how new trades cropped up, or were combined with others, to give rise to a shopping medley which to our eyes is somewhat unexpected.


Take, for instance,  John Lockington who had premises at Saville Passage, Burlington Street, London. He advertised as  an engraver,  producing shop bills, bills of parcels, compliment cards, and book plates, but combined this with being a  “hair worker”  and also a toy manufacturer. Rather stylish, but I cannot think that many people slipped in to his shop for a quick coat of arms to be engraved, and while they were there decided to buy a few toys or purchase a wotnot woven from hair.


But what a litany of delights greeted the shopper at the premises of Thomas Smith, mercer, at the Queen’s Head, opposite Somerset House, in the London’s Strand. Who could possibly resist the collection of wondrous fabrics which included “Genoa & Dutch Velvets. Brocades. Damasks, paduasoys, rasdemores, sattins, tabbys, armozeens, ducapes, sergedusoys, mantuas, strip’d & plain lustrings, Sarsenets, Persians, poplins, broglios, strip’d & plain Irish stuffs, Venetian and Dresden poplins, stuff damasks, camblets, callimanco’s &c. Norwich crapes & bombazeens, variety of silk hatts [sic] capuchins and shades &c.” ?

A3I would certainly have liked to visit the Worcester China-Warehouse when it opened in Aldersgate Street – it created a huge amount of interest because  previously fine porcelain was not offered for sale in shops, but by individual samples being hawked around by travelling salesmen. The idea of being able to go into a single shop and see an entire dinner service displayed, and “Would Modom like it in white… or white?” was entirely new.

A4House clearance may lack excitement and style, but I rather like the promotion of Thomas Skinner, “successor to the late Mr. Wm Hills Deceas’d, at the Crown in Goswell Street, near Aldersgate Barrs, London”. Not only would he buy and sell surplus household items but could also knock you up a cabinet, and do a spot of upholstery “at reasonable rates.”  The fact that he had a supply of “Coffins & shrouds ready made” would have been a considerable bonus for the shopper who likes to be prepared for every eventuality.


But a well-fitting shoe is always needed if you are traipsing around the streets of London and I suspect I would have popped in to the emporium of Thomas Coe, shoemaker, at the corner of St. Martin’s Le Grand near Newgate Street. Here I would have been overwhelmed with the selection of “boots, shoes, slippers & spatterdashes, double & single channell’d pumps, womens rich silk shoes, clogs &c turnd pumps, & shoes for children, of the neatest work, and genteelest fashion, wholesale & retail. Where merchants & country shopkeepers may be furnish’d with expedition, at reasonable rates.”


Sounds an absolute bargain, before heading off for Bussey & Co., scowerers and silk-dyers, at the Rain Bow & Dove in Dartmouth Street, near the Broad Way, Westminster (or,  helpfully, if that was too far to walk, at the Peacock in South Molten Street, Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square).There you could be sure to find someone who could “Scower and dye all sorts of silks and sattins, rich brocades, wrought beds, tapestry, carpets, and all sorts of bedding”. He was your man if you wanted “Painted taffitys discharg’d and dyed of any colour. N.B. Linen beds & negligees or gowns clean’d and glazed whole & gentlemens cloaths cleand wet or dry.”

But no shopping trip was complete without the opportunity to buy a leather bucket – a house could never have too many. So  let us finish by heading off to Thomas Dobson, leather pipe & bucket maker, No. 427 Oxford Street, near Soho Square and purchase “leather pipes for brewers, & engines, buckets, jacks, canns, portmanteaus, fire caps, shoes, boots, and all other articles in the leather way: where gentlemen, merchants, captains, & others, may be supplied with any quantity for home consumption or exportation”.


These cards give a fascinating insight into everyday life 250 years ago, and give a hint of the extraordinary range of goods being  offered for sale in the capital. They all appear on the incomparable Lewis Walpole Library site.

P.S. Because my ancestor Richard Hall was a hosier, I will close with a look at a trade card from someone in the same line of business: Mr George Bannister.

George Bannister, hosier, late apprentice & succesor to Mr. G Carter, at the Bird in the Hand, the corner of Bedford & Shandois Street, Covent Garden. Makes & sells all sorts of men, women, and children’s silk, worsted, cotton & thread hose, both knit and wove, likewise pieces for gentlemens wastecoats [sic] & breeches, such as scarlets, blacks grays &c., muffatees, cotton & thread gloves, cotton caps, cotton and thread socks and all sorts of hosiery ware, wholesale or retail at the lowest prices.

NB Silk Hose stock’d & Dyed, and all sorts of Double Heel’d Hose made to any pattern.”

I had not appreciated that muffatees (fingerless mittens) were sold alongside stockings, but thinking about it, why not? Have digit, will clothe…

May 122014

As a gentleman who is follicly challenged I do rather miss living in the Eighteenth Century, because then  (like everyone else) I would have had a whole-head shave every day. That way, there was less itching, a better fit to the wig, and fewer predations from the dreaded head-lice!

A2I would have started my day with a trip to the barber, as in this splendid print by Richard Newton, who lived between 1777 and 1798. Then, bald as a coot, I would have I would have paid a visit to D. Cook, peruke-maker, hair cutter & dresser, at the Star & Peruke in Carey Street near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London.


And while we are on the subject, how wonderfully evocative all the names are of the different shops, all with their own hanging signs!

Topped off with my new peruke I would have been ready to strut my stuff about Town. Well, almost. I would have been faced with a choice: to powder or not to powder. A tax on powder was introduced in May 1795, hence this lovely Gillray print:


Entitled “Leaving off powder, or a Frugal Family saving the Guinea” it appears, as do all the other images, courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library site.

I particularly like the oleaginous French wig-maker on the left, complete with a hole in his stocking, and as usual, shown looking like a monkey! Or Mick Jagger…

Her Ladyship, with a head as smooth as a baby’s bottom, throws up her hands in horror at the coloured monstrosity which is about to be placed on her head. In the background the glamourous daughter looks forlornly at her image in the glass, her fashionable white locks replaced with brown curls. There is an interesting contrast between the picture on the wall of  King Charles II, resplendent in his full-bottomed wig, and the young blade looking at his reflection in the mirror, his short crop no doubt feeling somewhat chilly on a May morning… Only Dad, warming himself by the fire, seems unconcerned by all the fuss: he is happy with the brown rug sitting atop his pate and he certainly isn’t about to dish out a guinea for anyone else in the household!

The Duty on Hair Powder Act of 1795 had come into force on 5th May of that year. From that date wig-wearers who wished to powder their tresses had to go to the  stamp office; fill in a form with their name; and apply for an annual certificate at a cost of one guinea (twenty-one shillings – the equivalent of perhaps £80). Various exemptions applied – for instance for poorer clergymen and certain classes of  the armed forces.The Royal Family and their servants were of course exempt from this iniquitous tax, which had the effect of ruining trade for the poor periwig makers of the day. The Act was repealed in 1869, by which time fewer than a thousand annual licences were being granted – and most of them were for servants.

If there was a household consisting of more than two unmarried daughters, good old dad could pay over his two guineas and write down the names of all his daughters to be included in the one certificate. Similarly, an employer could buy a licence for a servant, and extend it if the servant was replaced during the year.

The wearing of wigs became unfashionable almost immediately, but as we have just had the anniversary of this obscure example of the government meddling with our individual freedoms with an absurd fiscal measure, I thought it worth remembering!

Clearly there must have been discussions about what other products might be used to dress a wig without incurring the powder-tax. Hence this etching by Isaac Cruikshank, also from 1795, entitled “Debating Society : (substitute for hair powder)”. Beneath the picture of the braying ass the learned gentlemen are all shouting at once extolling the virtues of … honey, or mustard. (I think I might pass on that one!).

The organizer of the debate cries out “Silence gentlemen! To order, only ten speak at a time …”A6

And to end with, a print by Carrington Bowles engraved by John Collett, showing an Englishman in Paris, with the Frenchie hairdresser applying a liberal dusting of powder everywhere:

O.K. two more…. the  first one from the Old Master William Hogarth – not my favourite artist because he could be a trifle too moralistic for my liking, but here he is parodying all those pseudo-scientific treatises and manuals, talking about the wigs worn at the previous coronation:wigsIt is entitled the “Five Orders of Perriwigs…” and shows ‘Episcopal or Parsonic’ as well as ‘Old Peer-ian or Aldermanic’, ‘Lexonic”, and ‘Composite or Half Natural’ and ‘Queerinthian.’ Lots of in-jokes and digs at  contemporary scientific discoveries – nice one, Billy-boy!

Yet again, finally, here is another Richard Newton engraving, from 1798, illustrating the debate about wearing a wig:. As usual it comes courtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library:


May 092014

a1111While doing some research for my book on Astley and his circus* I was intrigued by some of the newspaper advertisements – especially this one dating from May 1796, appearing in the Oxford Gazette. For a start it actually uses the  name “circus” – whereas Astley normally referred to the performance area as an “amphitheatre” – so much so that he was given the derogatory name of “Amphi-Philip.”

It is intriguing to see that there were no fewer than fourteen different firework ‘divisions’. Some of the fireworks look pretty impressive, with suns, wheels pyramids and ‘bombs.’ Astley promised the good burghers of Oxford an amusing and interesting spectacle, the like of which had never been seen  “Ranelagh Gardens only excepted”

aaqaaaqwI like the warning that Ladies and Gentlemen should not expect to be able to change gold at the door –  a reminder that change was in very short supply in the latter half of the Eighteenth Century. At one shilling a head for admission even to the “second places” (i.e. those towards the back) it was never cheap! But it gives an interesting insight into the popularity for anything “new” and  dramatic – and also demonstrates the clever way Astley used different spectacular entertainments to promote the actual circus. He would arrive in town on an afternoon and start assembling his temporary staging etc. He would then put on the firework display – and the next evening he would  invite the public back again – this time to see the horse riding, the clowns, and the juggling acts.

* If you are interested, the book is called ‘Astleys Circus – the story of an English Hussar’ and is available in Europe here and in the States here.

front 1200dpi 001Astley's Circus cover 001


May 052014

AAA mezzotint from 1787  entitled The Angelic Angler, and published by Robert Sayer, gives us a picture of a lady in an alarming hat, fishing. The caption makes it clear that the dear lady is of course fishing for men’s hearts as well as for something to accompany a nice plate of chips and mushy peas…

“At once Victorious, with your hands and eyes,

You make the fishes and the Men your prize,

And while the pleasing Slavery we Court,

I fear you Captivate us both for Sport.”

And while we are on the subject of improbable attire, here is an old favourite of mine – Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger


“Miss Wicket and Miss Trigger. Miss Trigger you see is an excellent shot, And forty five notches Miss Wicket’s just got.”

Playing cricket, shooting, my goodness they will be after our vote ‘ere long! Another picture by John Collet, again with a splendid hat, and with the lady pulling heartily on the oars:


Staying with Collet, who lived between 1725 and 1780, here is another one in which the ladies presume to muscle in on a male preserve, in this case bowling. Only she seems to have forgotten to let go of the ball, and appears intent on demolishing the pins manually…. The image is copyright of the British Museum. Just clock those hats! Splendid!


And to end with another sexist view of a woman’s place….behind the bar down at the pub! Once more it is by John Collet.



May 032014

John Gay wrote The Beggar’s Opera in 1728 and it was an immediate success. Various different productions appeared down the years, but perhaps none stranger than the “gender reversed” performances where female actresses took the male parts – and vice versa. Michelle Holman has kindly agreed to do a blog-post for me about these productions, as follows:

I am delighted to have been asked to write a guest blog post for the Georgian Gent, and so here I present the story of The Beggar’s Opera in Reverse. In a celebratory adjunct to the guest spot, please raise a glass for the relaunch of my website about theatre history, and Handel’s favourite trumpeter, Abraham Adcock.


‘The manager’s appetite must have been extremely keen when the ‘sacred hunger for gold’ induced him to bring upon the stage the indecorous catchpenny of the reversed Beggars’ Opera.’ ­­

Memoirs of the Colman family, edited by Richard Brinsley Peake, Vol. II

1a1a1a                                                                 Hogarth’s The Enraged Musician

So wrote George Colman the Younger regarding the raucous production of The Beggar’s Opera in reverse staged at the Haymarket Theatre in the summer of 1781. It began its long residence in early August and continued to entertain a full house up until the season closed at the end of September, thereby immortalising its success for Colman the elder. There is no doubt it was a cash cow for Colman, he must have laid down his head each night to the sound of ‘ker-ching’ reverberating in his coffers, thinking of how brilliant an idea it was to have female characters played by males and male characters by females. And success always breeds imitators or flatterers; in the October of the same year, Harris the manager of the Covent Garden Theatre, went one step further with an all female cast. Even though the novelty of ‘the appearance of Ladies without petticoats’ (London Chronicle, 16 Oct 1781) began to wane [the Covent Garden performance only lasted two nights according to some sources], it seems in the regions it had ‘spread so universally, that it now rages through every barn company in the remotest corners of the island!’ (Morning Herald and Daily Advertiser 20 Oct 1781).

The Morning Chronicle looked charitably upon Colman’s entertainment suggesting he had merely returned the opera to it satirical roots with cross­dressing and the addition of a preludio, writing:

‘Powerful as the satire originally was, it gradually lost its efficacy, in proportion as the mode of representation because injudiciously refined, till at length what was meant as a piece of comic ridicule, was converted into a serious sentimental performance, and instead of its being attended as dramatic satire, the sole allurement to the Theatre whenever it was represented, was a new or favourite singer in one or other of the principal characters. Finding it in this state, Mr Colman wisely lent wings to the author’s original intention…’

Colman junior accuses ‘the manager’ of the Haymarket of despotism and coercion, suggestion some of the performers were forced into the performances:

‘Many of the actresses for instance, must have been conscious of their want of symmetry for male attire; trowsers were not then in fashion; nor were boots furnished for gentlewomen upon low salaries; those females, therefore, who could not afford the last articles appeared not only en culottes, but in silk stockings; and certes among the she­ highwaymen belonging to Macheath’s gang, thus accoutred, there were, to quote the song of Jenny Jumps, in ‘The Farmer’,

               ‘Six feet ladies,

Three feet ladies,

Small legg’d ladies,

Thick legg’d ladies,

all with horse­pistols in the hands screaming, ‘let us take the road!’ a feminine phalanx which constituted, as Macheath himself says of the Judges in the Old Bailey, ‘a terrible show!”

It is worth referencing the Biographia Dramatica, Vol. 3 for an account of the Preludio before heading straight for the death from too much laughter, elopements, satire, indignation, and letters signed by Fly­Flap &c.:

‘This trifle was produced merely to usher to the public the representation of The Beggar’s Opera, with the characters reversed. — We have seen it called The School of Shakespeare [Genest, in Some Account of the English Stage, vol. VI, calls this an error]. It consisted of three scenes of dialogue ; the first of which was between Townly and the Beggar; the former insisting that the very essence of opera consisted in absurdity; to which the Beggar acceded, and informed Townly, in order to make it appear the more strongly in that light, he had contrived that the “ladies’ characters” should be all acted by men,” and the “men” represented by “ladies:” that as the Beggar’s Opera originally owed its existence to the “feminine” rage for Italian Operas, such a risible travestie could not fail of heightening the satirical burlesque ; and this scene was concluded by the Beggar giving an account of a party of Italian chiefs having assembled at a neighbouring coffeehouse [i.e. the Orange Coffee house] to condemn the performance.

‘The second scene was in a coffeehouse, which was rendered exceedingly laughable from the groupe of characters that were discovered; namely, a musical composer, a French dancer, a John Bull of an Englishman, &c. A better idea of this scene cannot be given, than Hogarth’s Enraged Musician, to which it bore a considerable resemblance.

‘The last scene discovered Townly, the Beggar, and Prompter [played by Bannister, who also took on the role of Polly]. The Beggar asking the Prompter why he did not ring to begin, as the sticks were at work in the gallery, was answered, that “Polly” was but “half shaved;” and besides, Mr, Bannister’s “jumps” were so tight, that the Carpenter was not able to lace them; that they had disappointed Mr. Edwin in his “cork rump” for “Lucy;” that the Taylor had made Mrs. Webb’s “coat” and “waistcoat” so tight, that she could hardly get them on, and was not able to button her “breeches;” that the present state of their house was worse than the political state of the nation; — for here both “sexes” were in the “opposition” Townly saying, he began to “smell powder;” the Beggar replied, “For Heaven’s sake, don’t mention the ‘powder;’ the very name is become to my ears as terrible as an earthquake, since a very capital powder­mill was lately blown up in the ‘neighbourhood’.

After the Prelude was seemingly concluded, the Carpenter popped up his head through a “trap,” which occasioned a great roar of laughter. The Prompter came on, and asked him, what he meant by opening the trap; and was answered, that it was the place for him to prompt the opera, as they did on the other side of the Haymarket [i.e. at the King’s Theatre where all that Italian opera stuff was going on]. “Psha!” replied the Prompter, “none of your Italian tricks for me! Put up the trap again! I shall prompt in my old place; for we ‘won’t’ do ‘all’ they ‘do’ on the other side of the way till they can do all we do on ours’.

” This concluded the Preludio ; which, considered as a few light scenes, written merely as a sort of “prose prologue” to the “travestie” of “characters” in the Opera, was very well handled, neatly pointed, and highly laughable.’

Charles Bannister as Polly Peachum

Charles Bannister as Polly Peachum

The audiences flocked to the performances and the account of Bannister’s triumph as Polly in Genest’s Some Account of the English Stage, VI, is worth quoting to see why:

‘…any person who can recollect old Bannister, tho’ he never saw him in Polly, can easily imagine how his rough manly face must look in a woman’s gown ­ his first appearance excited a tumultuous roar of laughter, and his fine low courtesies, with his grave modest looks, conspired to keep it up for a considerable time… he did not disguise his natural voice either in speaking or singing when he acted Polly; nor except in holding up his train rather too high when he went off the stage sometimes, did he seem wilfully to burlesque the character ­ when he sang the songs all was silent attention and the travestie was forgotten…’

Bannister’s performance was so hilarious, a woman actually died from too much laughter. The Derby Mercury ran this story on the 4th Oct 1781:
‘… On Wednesday evening [Mrs. Fitzherbert] went to the Drury Lane Theatre*, in company with some friends, to see the Beggar’s Opera. On Mr. Bannister’s making his appearance in the character of Polly, the whole audience were thrown into an uproar of laughter. Unfortunately the actor’s whimsical appearance had a fatal effect on Mrs. Fitzherbert; she could not suppress the laugh that seized her on the first view of this enormous representation; and before the second act was over, she was obliged to leave the Theatre.
Mrs Fitzherbert, not being able to banish the figure from her memory thrown into hystericks, which continue without intermission till Friday morning, when she expired.’

*I think this is an error and should read Hay

This was not the only incident to befall the production; it was during the run at the Hay, Mrs Cargill who played the leading role of Macheath, eloped to Bath ‘with a young gentleman somewhat allied to the theatre’ (Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser 14th Sept 1781) and was eventually replaced by the very capable Mrs Wells.
Of course it was not long before the satirists got to work. Almost immediately after the first night at the Hay the St James’s Chronicle ran the preposterous story of women taking over roles in government and men taking roles at court:

‘The success of the Beggar’s Opera, since the Parts of the Men have been performed by Women, and those of the Women by Men, has determined his Majesty to have Recourse to the same Species of Management; and we are told from good Authority, the following Management is speedily to take Place:
‘… Lady Charlotte Finch, to be Lord Chancellor, vice Lord Thurlow, who is, as Governess, to document the younger Princesses… ‘The Duchess of Devonshire, to be Commander in Chief, vice Lord Amherst, Mistress of her Majesty’s Wardrobe… ‘Mrs. Yates, the Actress, to be Prime Minister, vice Lord North, who is to be Mistress of the Queen’s Privy Purse… ‘…It is not doubted, when this Change has taken Place, but our combined Enemies will tremble; and the American Congress, having Faith and Confidence in our Women, will immediately submit to them, even unconditionally.’

After the satire came letters of indignation to newspaper editors, ‘Fly­Flap’ writing in the Morning Herald on 17th August 1781 directed much of his ire at Mr Wilson in the role of Mrs Peachum:
‘Mr. Wilson did Mrs. Peachum. He had not been taught that the extravagance of burlesque has no affinity to blackguardism. The hissing he received for his indecencies was, perhaps, the only mode of instruction he is capable of understanding. His acting was as defective as his behaviour was reproachable; the want of sense can be no matter of wonder where there is total defection of decency.’

Finally, by far the best piece is the ‘speech’ from ‘The Beggar’ himself, as it appeared in the Morning Chronicle on the 22nd October 1781, following on from Miss Catley’s and Mrs Wilson’s performances in the all female production at Covent Garden:

‘Executed last week, pursuant to his sentence, the Beggar’s Opera; when arrived at Covent Garden, the place of execution. he made the following speech and confession:
“I was born of honest Aristotle fearing parents, who gave me a good education, and taught me to sing and dance. I continued for many years as a reputable tradesman, and was much in service in London, Dublin, and Edinburgh, where I had interest enough to fill houses, when nothing else would. I kept my character till last summer, when getting acquainted with one George Colman, helped me into the company of women, which soon proved my ruin. His reason was, that he might make money of me. Let me warn all other Operas, especially the young, to beware of bad women. I forgive both fidlers and door­ keepers , and die in peace with all men. May Aristotle bless Mr Sheridan, for he was very kind to me, and took me into his house often. But all would not do. As a dying play, I advise Mr. Harris to repent of his many sins, and particularly the injuries he has done to me. I forgive Miss Catley and Mrs. Webb, and hope they receive mercy at the day of benefits ­ So prays the dying Beggar’s Opera…”‘

MJ Holman

Thanks, Michelle. If you haven’t already visited her newly re-launched website about Abraham Adcock, do have a look at it here:

Michelle is on Twitter as and on Facebook here.  

She  is a historical researcher and author of The Guinea Ghost, a paranormal short story set in 18th century Yorkshire, and the forthcoming book, The Sea Of Conscience, released 28 May 2014.

May 012014

A short post to remind us of one of the delights of warm weather in the Eighteenth Century – especially when staying at roadside inns – bed bugs!

No vacuum cleaners, no weekly washday where the bed linen gets washed at sixty degrees, no concept of hygiene and personal cleanliness – the result must have been itchingly apparent to all, high or low!

I came across this print on the Library of Congress site here. It is entitled “Summer Amusements – bugg hunting”. It dates from 1782 and is by Isaac Cruikshank.

Bugg Hunting LoCThe gentleman on his hands and knees seems engrossed in  picking up the little blighters between finger and thumb with a view to dropping them into the chamber pot. I am not sure what his ‘charming, gorgeous, wife’  is up to – presumably brushing the perishers off the bed drapes. It makes me want to scratch just looking at it! On the other hand, being a sexist male chauvinist I think I would prefer sharing  a bed with the bugs than with the wife …

P.S. On a slightly similar topic I came across a Rowlandson sketch with the title “Is this your Louse?” It appears amongst prints for sale on the site of the late Graham Saville here. It also features in colour on the Royal Collection site, where the description states that it is the King (George III) who is showing the louse to the cook, looking suitably aghast. The Queen and other members of the Royal family look on, with some concern. I love the look on the faces of the two servants as they slink away, unable to turn the heads away from the offending louse.  Somehow, it makes you feel itchy, doesn’t it?!